Infomotions, Inc.Without Prejudice / Zangwill, Israel, 1864-1926



Author: Zangwill, Israel, 1864-1926
Title: Without Prejudice
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Title: Without Prejudice

Author: Israel Zangwill

Release Date: August, 2004  [EBook #6304]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on November 22, 2002]
[Date last updated: August 15, 2003]

Edition: 10

Language: English

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*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK, WITHOUT PREJUDICE ***




William Fishburne, Charles Aldarondo, and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team.


WITHOUT PREJUDICE

BY I. ZANGWILL

Author Of "The Master," "Children Of The Ghetto" Etc., Etc.

       *       *       *       *       *

TO YOU

       *       *       *       *       *

_NOTE_

_This book is a selection, slightly revised, from my miscellaneous work
during the last four or five years, and the title is that under which the
bulk of it has appeared, month by month, in the "Pall Mall Magazine." In
selecting, I have omitted those pieces which hang upon other people's
books, plays, or pictures--a process of exclusion which, while giving
unity to a possible collection of my critical writings in another volume,
leaves the first selection exclusively egoistic._

_I.Z._

       *       *       *       *       *

CONTENTS


I

GOSSIPS AND FANTASIES


I. A VISION OF THE BURDEN OF MAN: WHICH MAY SERVE TO INTRODUCE THE
     INTRODUCTION
II. TUNING UP
III. ART IN ENGLAND
IV. BOHEMIA AND VERLAINE
V. THE INDESTRUCTIBLES
VI. CONCERNING GENERAL ELECTIONS
VII. THE REALISTIC NOVEL
VIII. IN DEFENCE OF GAMBLING
IX. TRULY RURAL
X. OPINIONS OF THE YOUNG FOGEY
XI. CRITICS AND PEOPLE
XII. TABLE-TALK
XIII. THE ABOLITION OF MONEY
XIV. MODERN MYTH-MAKING
XV. THE PHILOSOPHY OF TOPSY-TURVYDOM
XVI. GHOST-STORIES
XVII. A THEORY OF TABLE-TURNING
XVIII. SOCIETIES TO FOUND
XIX. INDECENCY ON THE ENGLISH STAGE
XX. LOVE IN LIFE AND LITERATURE
XXI. DEATH AND MARRIAGE
XXII. THE CHOICE OF PARENTS
XXIII. PATER AND PROSE
XXIV. THE INFLUENCE OF NAMES
XXV. AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS
XXVI. THE PENALTIES OF FAME
XXVII. ON FINISHING A BOOK



II

HERE, THERE, AND SOMEWHERE ELSE: Philosophic Excursions


I. ABERDEEN
II. ANTWERP
III. BROADSTAIRS AND RAMSGATE
IV. BUDAPEST
V. CHICAGO
VI. EDINBURGH
VII. FIESOLE AND FLORENCE
VIII. GLASGOW
IX. HASLEMERE
X. PARIS
XL SLAPTON SANDS
XII. VENICE
XIII. VENTNOR
XIV. SOMEWHERE ELSE



III

AFTERTHOUGHTS: A Bundle of Brevities


MOONSHINE
CAPITAL
CREDIT
THE SMALL BOY
A DAY IN TOWN
THE PROFESSION OF CHARITY
THE PRIVILEGES OF POVERTY
SALVATION FOR THE SERAPHIM
TRUTH--LOCAL AND TEMPORAL
THE CREED OF DESPAIR
SOCIAL BUGBEARS
MARTYRS
THE LONDON SEASON
THE ACADEMY
PORTRAITS OF GENTLEMEN
PHOTOGRAPHY AND REALISM
THE GREAT UNHUNG
THE ABOLITION OF CATALOGUES
THE ARTISTIC TEMPERAMENT
PROFESSIONAL ETHICS
LAY CONFESSORS
Q. E. D. NOVELS
THE MOUSE WHO DIED
THEOLOGIC NOVELS
MUDIE MEASURE
THE PROP OF LETTERS
THE LATTER-DAY POET
AN ATTACK OF ALLITERATION
THE HUMOROUS
THE DISCOUNT FARCE
THE FRANCHISE FARCE
THE MODERN WAR FARCE
FIREWORKS
TIME'S FORELOCK
DIARIES
"LOOKING BACKWARD"
LONG LIVES
VIVE LA MORT!
MEN AND BOOKMEN
JAMES I. ON TOBACCO
A COUNTERBLAST TO JAMES I.
VALEDICTORY

       *       *       *       *       *

PART I

GOSSIPS AND FANTASIES




I

A VISION OF THE BURDEN OF MAN

And it came to pass that my soul was vexed with the problems of life, so
that I could not sleep. So I opened a book by a lady novelist, and fell
to reading therein. And of a sudden I looked up, and lo! a great host of
women filled the chamber, which had become as the Albert Hall for
magnitude--women of all complexions, countries, times, ages, and sexes.
Some were bewitching and beautiful, some wan and flat-breasted, some
elegant and stately, some ugly and squat, some plain and whitewashed, and
some painted and decorated; women in silk gowns, and women in divided
skirts, and women in widows' weeds, and women in knickerbockers, and
women in ulsters, and women in furs, and women in crinolines, and women
in tights, and women in rags; but every woman of them all in tears. The
great chamber was full of a mighty babel; shouts and ululations, groans
and moans, weeping and wailing and gnashing of false and genuine teeth,
and tearing of hair both artificial and natural; and therewith the
flutter of a myriad fans, and the rustle of a million powder-puffs. And
the air reeked with a thousand indescribable scents--patchouli and attar
of roses and cherry blossom, and the heavy odours of hair-oil and dyes
and cosmetics and patent medicines innumerable.

Now when the women perceived me on my reading-chair in their midst, the
shrill babel swelled to a savage thunder of menace, so that I deemed they
were wroth with me for intruding upon them in mine own house; but as mine
ear grew accustomed to the babel of tongues, I became aware of the true
import of their ejaculations.

"O son of man!" they cried, in various voices: "thy cruel reign is over,
thy long tyranny is done; thou hast glutted thyself with victims, thou
hast got drunken on our hearts' blood, we have made sport for thee in our
blindness. But the Light is come at last, the slow night has budded into
the rose of dawn, the masculine monster is in his death-throes, the
kingdom of justice is at hand, the Doll's House has been condemned by the
sanitary inspector."

I strove to deprecate their wrath, but my voice was as the twitter of a
sparrow in a hurricane. At length I ruffled my long hair to a leonine
mane, and seated myself at the piano. And lo! straightway there fell a
deep silence--you could have heard a hairpin drop.

"What would you have me do, O daughters of Eve?" I cried. "What is my
sin? what my iniquity?" Then the clamour recommenced with tenfold
violence, disappointment at the loss of a free performance augmenting
their anger.

"Give me a husband," shrieked one.

"Give me a profession," shrieked another.

"Give me a divorce," shrieked a third.

"Give me free union," shrieked a fourth.

"Give me an income," shrieked a fifth.

"Give me my deceased sister's husband," shrieked a sixth.

"Give me my divorced husband's children," shrieked a seventh.

"Give me the right to paint from the nude in the Academy schools,"
shrieked an eighth.

"Give me an Oxford degree," shrieked a ninth.

"Give me a cigar," shrieked a tenth.

"Give me a vote," shrieked an eleventh.

"Give me a pair of trousers," shrieked a twelfth.

"Give me a seat in the House," shrieked a thirteenth.

"Daughters of the horse-leech," I made answer, taking advantage of a
momentary lull, "I am not in a position to give away any of these things.
You had better ask at the Stores." But the tempest out-thundered me.

"I want to ride bareback in the Row in tights and spangles at 1 p. m. on
Sundays," shrieked a soberly clad suburban lady, who sported a
wedding-ring. "I want to move the world with my pen or the point of my
toe; I want to write, dance, sing, act, paint, sculpt, fence, row, ride,
swim, hunt, shoot, fish, love all men from young rustic farmers to old
town _roues_, lead the Commons, keep a salon, a restaurant, and a
zoological garden, row a boat in boy's costume, with a tenor by moonlight
alone, and deluge Europe and Asia with blood shed for my intoxicating
beauty. I am primeval, savage, unlicensed, unchartered, unfathomable,
unpetticoated, tumultuous, inexpressible, irrepressible, overpowering,
crude, mordant, pugnacious, polyandrous, sensual, fiery, chaste, modest,
married, and misunderstood."

"But, madam," I remarked--for in her excitement she approached within
earshot of me--"I understand thee quite well, and I really am not
responsible for thy emotions." Her literary style beguiled me into the
responsive archaicism of the second person singular.

"Coward!" she snapped. "Coward and satyr! For centuries thou hast
trampled upon my sisters, and desecrated womanhood."

"I beg thy pardon," I rejoined mildly.

"Thou dost not deserve it," she interrupted.

"Thou art substituting hysteria for history," I went on. "I was not born
yesterday, but I have only scored a few years more than a quarter of one
century, and seeing that my own mother was a woman, I must refuse to be
held accountable for the position of the sex."

"Sophist!" she shrieked. "It is thy apathy and selfishness that
perpetuate the evil."

Then I bethought me of my long vigils of work and thought, the slow,
bitter years in which I "ate my bread with tears, and sat weeping on my
bed," and I remembered that some of those tears were for the sorrows of
that very sex which was now accusing me of organised injustice. But I
replied gently: "I am no tyrant; I am a simple, peaceful citizen, and it
is as much as I can do to earn my bread and the bread of some of thy sex.
Life is hard enough for both sexes, without setting one against the
other. We are both the outcome of the same great forces, and both of us
have our special selfishnesses, advantages, and drawbacks. If there is
any cruelty, it is Nature's handiwork, not man's. So far from trampling
on womanhood, we have let a woman reign over us for more than half a
century. We worship womanhood, we have celebrated woman in song, picture,
and poem, and half civilisation has adored the Madonna. Let us have
woman's point of view and the truth about her psychology, by all means.
But beware lest she provoke us too far. The _Ewigweibliche_ has become
too literal a fact, and in our reaction against this everlasting woman
question we shall develop in unexpected directions. Her cry for equal
purity will but end in the formal institution of the polygamy of the
Orient--"

As I spoke the figure before me appeared to be undergoing a
transformation, and, ere I had finished, I perceived I was talking to an
angry, seedy man in a red muffler.

"Thee keeps down the proletariat," he interrupted venomously. "Thee lives
on the sweat of his brow, while thee fattens at ease. Thee plants thy
foot on his neck."

"Do I?" I exclaimed, lifting up my foot involuntarily.

Mistaking the motion, he disappeared, and in his stead I saw a withered
old pauper with the Victoria Cross on his breast. "I went to the mouth of
hell for thee," he said, with large reproachful eyes; "and thou leavest
me to rot in the workhouse."

"I am awfully sorry!" I said. "I never heard of thee. It is the nation--"

"The nation!" he cried scornfully. "_Thou_ art the nation; the nation is
only a collection of individuals. Thou art responsible. Thou art the
man."

"Thou art the man," echoed a thousand voices: "Society is only an
abstraction." And, looking round, I saw, to my horror, that the women had
quite disappeared, and their places were filled by men of all
complexions, countries, times, ages, and sexes.

"I died in the streets," shouted an old cripple in the background--"round
the corner from thy house, in thy wealthy parish--I died of starvation in
this nineteenth century of the Christian era, and a generation after
Dickens's 'Christmas Carol.'"

"If I had only known!" I murmured, while my eyes grew moist. "Why didst
thou not come to me?"

"I was too proud to beg," he answered. "The really poor never beg."

"Then how am I responsible?" I retorted.

"How art thou responsible?" cried the voices indignantly; and one
dominating the rest added: "I want work and can't get it. Dost thou call
thyself civilised?"

"Civilised?" echoed a weedy young man scornfully.  "I am a genius, yet I
have had nothing to eat all day. Thy congeners killed Keats and
Chatterton, and when I am dead thou wilt be sorry for what thou hast not
done."

"But hast thou published anything?" I asked.

"How could I publish?" he replied, indignantly.

"Then how could I be aware of thee?" I inquired.

"But my great-grandfather _did_ publish," said another.  "Thou goest into
ecstacies over him, and his books have sold by tens of thousands; but me
thou leavest pensionless, to earn my living as a cooper. Bah!"

"And thou didst put _my_ father in prison," said another, "for publishing
the works of a Continental novelist; but when the novelist himself comes
here, thou puttest him in the place of honour."

I was fast growing overwhelmed with shame.

"Where is thy patriotism! Thou art letting some of the most unique
British birds become extinct!" "Yes, and thou lettest Christmas cards be
made in Germany, and thou deridest Whistler, and refusest to read Dod
Grile, and thou lettest books be published with the sheets pinned instead
of sewn. And the way thou neglectest Coleridge's grave----"

"Coleridge's grave?" interrupted a sad-eyed enthusiast. "Why, thou hast
put no stone at all to mark where James Thomson lies!"

"Thou Hun, thou Vandal!" shrieked a fresh contingent of voices in
defiance of the late Professor Freeman. "Thou hast allowed the Emanuel
Hospital to be knocked down, thou hast whitewashed the oaken ceiling of
King Charles's room at Dartmouth, and threatened to destroy the view from
Richmond Hill. Thou hast smashed cathedral windows, or scratched thy name
on them, hast pulled down Roman walls, and allowed commons to be
inclosed. Thou coverest the Lake District with advertisements of pills,
and the blue heaven itself with sky-signs; and in thy passion for cheap
and nasty pictorial journalism thou art allowing the art of
wood-engraving to die out, even as thou acceptest photogravures instead
of etchings."

I cowered before their wrath, while renewed cries of "Thou art
responsible! Thou! Thou!" resounded from all sides.

"A pretty Christian _thou_ art!" exclaimed another voice in unthinking
vituperation. "Thou decimatest savage tribes with rum and Maxim guns,
thou makest money by corrupting the East with opium. Thou allowest the
Armenians to be done to death, and thou wilt not put a stop to
child-marriages in India."

"But for thee I should have been alive to-day," broke in a venerable
spirit hovering near the ceiling. "If thou hadst refused to sell poison
except in specially shaped bottles----"

"What canst thou expect of a man who allows anybody to carry firearms?"
interrupted another voice.

"Or who fills his newspaper with divorce cases?"

"Is it any wonder the rising generation is cynical, and the young maiden
of fifteen has ceased to be bashful?"

"Shame on thee!" hissed the chorus, and advanced upon me so threateningly
that I seized my hat and rushed from the room. But a burly being with a
Blue Book blocked my way.

"Where didst thou get that hat?" he cried. "Doubtless from some sweating
establishment. And those clothes; didst thou investigate where they were
made?  didst thou inquire how much thy tailor paid his hands?  didst thou
engage an accountant to examine his books?"

"I--I am so busy," I stammered feebly.

"Shuffler! How knowest thou thou art not spreading to the world the germs
of scarlet fever and typhoid picked up in the sweaters' dens?"

"What cares _he_?" cried a tall, thin man, with a slight stoop and gold
spectacles. "Does he not poison the air every day with the smoke of his
coal fires?"

"Pison the air!" repeated a battered, blear-eyed reprobate. "He pisoned
my soul. He ruined me with promiskus charity. Whenever I was stoney-broke
'e give me doles in aid, 'e did. 'E wos werry bad to me, 'e wos. 'E
destroyed my self-respeck, druv me to drink, broke up my home, and druv
my darters on the streets."

"This is what comes of undisciplined compassion," observed the
gold-spectacled gentleman, glowering at me. "The integrity and virtue of
a whole family sacrificed to the gratification of thy altruistic
emotions!"

"Stand out of the way!" I cried to the burly man; "I wish to leave my own
house."

"And carry thy rudeness abroad?" he retorted indignantly. "Perchance thou
wouldst like to go to the Continent, and swagger through Europe clad in
thy loud-patterned checks and thine insular self-sufficiency."

I tried to move him out of the way by brute force, and we wrestled, and
he threw me. I heard myself strike the floor with a thud.

Rubbing my eyes, instead of my back, I discovered that I was safe in my
reading-chair, and that it was the lady novelist's novel that had made
the noise. I picked it up, but I still seemed to see the reproachful eyes
of a thousand tormentors, and hear their objurgations. Yet I had none of
the emotions of Scrooge, no prickings of conscience, no ferment of good
resolutions. Instead, I felt a wave of bitterness and indignation
flooding my soul.

"I will _not_ be responsible for the universe!" I cried to the ceiling.
"I am sick of the woman question, and the problem of man makes my gorge
rise. Is there one question in the world that can really be settled? No,
not one, except by superficial thinkers. Just as the comprehensive
explanation of 'the flower in the crannied wall' is the explanation of
the whole universe, so every question is but a thin layer of ice over
infinite depths. You may touch it lightly, you may skate over it; but
press it at all, and you sink into bottomless abysses. The simplest
interrogation is a doorway to chaos, to endless perspectives of winding
paths perpetually turning upon themselves in a blind maze. Suppose one is
besought to sign a petition against capital punishment. A really
conscientious and logical person, pursuing truth after the manner
recommended by Descartes, and professed by Huxley, could not settle this
question for himself without going into the endless question of Free-will
_versus_ Necessity, and studying the various systems of philosophy and
ethics. Murder may be due to insane impulse: Insanity must therefore be
studied. Moreover, ought not hanging to be abolished in cases of murder
and reserved for more noxious crimes, such as those of fraudulent
directors? This opens up new perspectives and new lines of study. The
whole theory of Punishment would also have to be gone into: should it be
restrictive, or revengeful, or reformative? (See Aristotle, Bentham,
Owen, etc.) Incidentally great tracts of the science of Psychology are
involved. And what right have we to interfere with our fellow-creatures
at all? This opens up the vast domains of Law and Government, and
requires the perusal of Montesquieu, Bodin, Rousseau, Mill, etc., etc.
Sociology would also be called in to determine the beneficent or
maleficent influence of the death-punishment upon the popular mind; and
statistics would be required to trace the operation of the systems of
punishment in various countries. History would be consulted to the same
effect. The sanctity of human life being a religious dogma, the religions
of the world would have to be studied, to see under what conditions it
has been thought permissible to destroy life. One ought not to rely on
translations: Confucius should be read in Chinese, the Koran in Arabic,
and the few years spent in the acquisition of Persian would be rewarded
by a first-hand familiarity with the Zend Avesta. The Old Testament
enjoins capital punishment. On what grounds, then, if one is leaning the
other way, may a text be set aside that seems to settle the matter
positively?  Here comes in the vast army of Bible commentators and
theologians. But perhaps the text is of late origin, interpolated. The
Dutch and German savants rise in their might, with their ingenious
theories and microscopic scholarship. But there are other scientists who
bid us not heed the Bible at all, because it contradicts the latest
editions of their primers. Is, then, science strictly accurate? To answer
this you must have a thorough acquaintance with biology, geology,
astronomy, besides deciding for yourself between the conflicting views at
nearly every point. By the time you have made up your mind as to whether
capital punishment should be abolished, it has passed out of the
statute-book, and you are dead, or mad, or murdered.

"But were this the only question a man has to settle in his short span of
years, he might cheerfully engage in its solution. But life bristles with
a hundred questions equally capital, and with a thousand-and-one minor
problems on which he is expected to have an opinion, and about which he
is asked at one time or other, if only at dinner."

At this moment the Poet who shares my chambers came in--later than he
should have done--and interrupted my soliloquy. But I was still hot, and
enlisted his interest in my vision and my apologia, and began drawing up
a list of the questions, in which after a while he became so interested
that he started adding to it. Hours flew like minutes, and only the
splitting headache we both brought upon ourselves drove us to desist.
Here is our first rough list of the questions that confront the modern
man--a disorderly, deficient, and tautological list, no doubt, to which
any reader can add many hundred more.


    VEXED QUESTIONS

    Queen Mary and Bothwell. Shakespeare and Bacon. Correct
    transliteration of Greek; pronunciation of Latin. Sunday opening of
    museums; of theatres. The English Sunday; Bank Holiday. Darwinism. Is
    there spontaneous creation? or spontaneous combustion? The germ
    theory; Pasteur's cures; Mattei's cures; Virchow's cell theory. Unity
    of Homer; of the Bible. Dickens v. Thackeray. Shall we ever fly? or
    steer balloons? The credit system; the discount system.
    Impressionism, decadence, Japanese art, the _plein air_ school.
    Realism _v._ romance; Gothic _v._ Greek art. Russian fiction, Dutch,
    Bulgarian, Norwegian, American, etc., etc.: opinion of every novel
    ever written, of every school, in every language (you must read them
    in the original); ditto of every opera and piece of music, with
    supplementary opinions about every vocalist and performer; ditto of
    every play, with supplementary opinions about every actor, dancer,
    etc.; ditto of every poem; ditto of every picture ever painted, with
    estimates of every artist in every one of his manners at every stage
    of his development and decisions as to which pictures are not
    genuine; also of every critic of literature, drama, art, and music
    (in all of which departments certain names are equal to an appalling
    plexus of questions--Wagner, Ibsen, Meredith, Browning, Comte,
    Goethe, Shakespeare, Dante, Degas, Rousseau, Tolstoi, Maeterlinck,
    Strindberg, Zola, Whistler, Leopardi, Emerson, Carlyle, Swedenborg,
    Rabelais). Socialism, its various schools, its past and its future;
    Anarchism: bombs. Labour questions: the Eight Hours' Day, the
    Unemployed, the Living Wage, etc., etc. Mr. Gladstone's career. Shall
    members of Parliament be paid? Chamberlain's position; ditto for
    every statesman in every country, to-day and in all past ages. South
    Africa, Rhodes, Captain Jim. The English girl _v._ the French or the
    American. Invidious comparisons of every people from every point of
    view, physical, moral, intellectual, and aesthetic. Vizetelly.
    Vivisection. First love _v._ later love; French marriage system _v._
    the English. The corrupt choruses in the Greek dramas (also in modern
    burlesque--with the question of the Church and Stage Guild, Zaeo's
    back, the County Council, etc.). How to make London beautiful. Fogs.
    Bi-metallism. Secondary Education. Volunteer or conscript? Anonymity
    in journalism. Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Mohammedanism:
    their mutual superiorities, their past and their future. Plato,
    Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, and all philosophers and philosophies. The
    Independent Theatre. The origin of language, Where do the Aryans come
    from? Was Mrs. Maybrick guilty? Same question for every great
    murderer. The Tichborne case, and every other _cause celebre_,
    including divorce cases. Crime and punishment. Music-hall songs.
    Heredity: are acquired qualities inherited? Is tobacco a mistake? Is
    drink? Is marriage? Is the high hat? Polygamy; the social evil. Are
    the planets inhabited? Is the English concert pitch too high? The
    divided skirt. The antiquity of man. Geology: is the story of the
    rocks short, or long, or true? Geology _v._ Genesis; Genesis _v._
    Kuenen. Was Pope a poet? Was Whitman? Was Poe a drunkard, or Griswold
    a liar? Was Hamlet mad? Was Blake? Is waltzing immoral? Is humour
    declining? Is there a modern British drama? Corporal punishment in
    schools. Compulsory vaccination. What shall we do with our daughters?
    or our sons?  or our criminals? or our paupers? or ourselves? Female
    franchise. Republicanism. Which is the best soap? or tooth-powder? Is
    Morris's printing really good? Is the race progressing? Is our navy
    fit? Should dynamite be used in war? or in peace? What persons should
    be buried in Westminster Abbey? Origin of every fairy-tale. Who made
    our proverbs and ballads? Cold baths _v._ hot or Turkish. Home Rule.
    Should the Royal Academy be abolished? and who should be the next
    R.A.? Should there be an Academy of Literature? or a Channel Tunnel?
    Was De Lesseps to blame? Should we not patronise English
    watering-places? Should there be pianos in board schools? or
    theology? Authors and publishers; artists and authors. Is literature
    a trade? Should pauper aliens be admitted? or pauper couples
    separated? Bank Holiday. Irving _v._ Tree. The world's politics,
    present, future, and even past--retrospective questions being
    constantly re-agitated: as, Should the American slaves have been
    emancipated? or Was the French Revolution a Folly? _Apropos_, which
    is the best history of it? Who is the rightful Queen of England? Is
    cycling injurious to the cyclist? or the public? Who was the Man in
    the Iron Mask? Is the Stock Exchange immoral? What is influenza?
    Ought we to give cabmen more than their fare? Tips generally. Should
    dogs be muzzled? Have we a right to extend our empire? or to keep it?
    Should we federate it? Are there ghosts? Is spiritualism a fraud? Is
    theosophy? Was Madame Blavatsky? Was Jezebel a wretch, or a
    Hellenist? The abuse of the quarantine. Should ladies ride astride?
    Amateurs _v_. professionals in sports. Is prize-fighting beneficial?
    Is trial by jury played out? The cost of law: Chancery. Abuses of the
    Universities. The Cambridge Spinning House. Compulsory Greek. The
    endowment of research. A teaching university in London. Is there a
    sea-serpent? Servants _v._ mistresses. Shall the Jews have Palestine?
    Classical _v._ modern side in schools. Should we abolish the
    censorship of plays? or fees? or found a dramatic academy? or a State
    theatre? Should gambling be legal? Should potatoes be boiled in their
    skins? should dynamiters? Should newspapers publish racing tips? or
    divorce cases? or comment? The New Journalism. What is the best ninth
    move in the Evans gambit? Would Morphy have been a first-class
    chess-player to-day? Is the Steinitz gambit sound? Do plants dream?
    Ought we to fill up income-tax papers accurately? Shelley and Harriet
    and Mary. Swift and Vanessa and Stella. Lord and Lady Byron. Did Mrs.
    Carlyle deserve it? The limits of biography; of photography in
    painting; of the spot-stroke in billiards. Did Shakespeare hold
    horses? Should girls be brought up like boys, or boys like girls, or
    both like one another? Are animals automata? Have they reason? or do
    they live without reason? Will Brighton A's fall? or Peruvians rise?
    Is it cruel to cage birds and animals? What is the best breed of
    horses? Did Wellington say "Up, Guards, and at 'em"? Cremation _v._
    Burial. Should immoral men be allowed to retain office? Is suicide
    immoral? Opinion of the character of Elizabeth, Parnell, Catherine,
    Cleopatra, Rousseau, Jack the Ripper, Semiramis, Lucrezia Borgia,
    etc., etc. The present state of the Libel Law; and of the Game Laws.
    Is vegetarianism higher? or healthier? Do actors feel their parts?
    Should German type be abolished? or book-edges cut? or editions
    artificially limited? or organ-grinders? How about
    church-and-muffin-bells? Peasant proprietorship. Deer or Highlanders?
    Were our ancestors taller than we? Is fruit or market-gardening or
    cattle-farming more profitable? Dutch _v._ Italian gardening. What is
    an etching? Do dreams come true? Is freemasonry a fraud? or
    champagne? are Havanas? Best brand of whiskey? Ought Building and
    Friendly Societies to be supervised? Smoking in theatres. Should
    gentlemen pay ladies' cab-fares? Genius and insanity. Are cigarettes
    poisonous? Is luxury a boon? Thirteen at table, and all other
    superstitions--are they foolish? Why young men don't marry. Shall we
    ever reach the Pole? How soon will England and the States be at war?
    The real sites and people in Thackeray's novels. A universal penny
    post? Cheap telegrams and telephones? Is the Bank of England safe?
    Are the planets inhabited? Should girls have more liberty? Should
    they propose? or wear crinolines? Why not have an unlimited paper
    currency? or a decimal system and coinage? or a one-pound note?
    Should we abolish the Lords? or preserve the Commons? Why not
    euthanasia? Should dramatic critics write plays? Who built the
    Pyramids? Are the English the Lost Ten Tribes? Should we send
    missions to the heathen? How long will our coal hold out? Who
    executed Charles I.? Are the tablets of Tel-el-Amarna trustworthy?
    are hieroglyphic readers? Will war ever die? or people live to a
    hundred? The best moustache-forcer, bicycle, typewriter, and system
    of shorthand or of teaching the blind? Was Sam Weller possible? Who
    was the original of Becky Sharp? Of Dodo? Does tea hurt? Do
    gutta-percha shoes? or cork soles? Shall we disestablish the church?
    or tolerate a reredos in St. Paul's? Is Euclid played out? Is there a
    fourth dimension of space? Which is the real old Curiosity Shop? Is
    the Continental man better educated than the Briton? Why can't we
    square the circle? or solve equations to the _n_th degree? or
    colour-print in England? What is the use of South Kensington? Is
    paraffin good for baldness? or eucalyptus for influenza? How many
    elements are there? Should cousins marry? or the House be adjourned
    on Derby Day? Do water-colours fade? Will the ether theory live? or
    Stanley's reputation? Is Free Trade fair? Is a Free Press? Is
    fox-hunting cruel? or pigeon-shooting? How about the Queen's
    staghounds? Should not each railway station bear its name in big
    letters? and have better refreshments? Should we permit sky-signs?
    Limits of advertisement. Preservation of historic buildings and
    beautiful views _v_. utilitarianism. Is the coinage ugly? Should we
    not get letters on Sunday? Who really wrote the "Marseillaise"? Are
    examinations any real test? Promotion in the Army or the Civil
    Service. Is logic or mathematics the primal science? and what is the
    best system of symbolic logic? Should curates be paid more and
    archbishops less? Should postmen knock? or combine? Are they under
    military regime? or underpaid? Should Board School children be taught
    religion? The future of China and Japan. Is Anglo-Indian society
    immoral? Style or matter? Have we one personality or many?--with a
    hundred other questions of psychology and ethics. A graduated income
    tax--with a hundred other questions of political economy. Asphalt for
    horses. Will the French republic endure? Will America have an
    aristocracy? Shall Welsh perish? Is Platonic love possible? Did
    Shakespeare write "Coriolanus"? Is there a skull in Holbein's
    "Ambassadors"? What is the meaning of Dryden's line, "He was and is
    the Captain of the Test"? or of the horny projection under the left
    wing of the sub-parasite of the third leg of a black-beetle? Was Orme
    poisoned? Are there fresh-water jelly-fishes? Is physiognomy true? or
    phrenology? or graphology? or cheiromancy? If so, what are their
    laws? Opinions on Guelphs and Ghibellines, fasting displays,
    infanticide, the genealogy of the peerage, the origin of public-house
    signs, Siberia, the author of Junius, of the Sibylline Books,
    werewolves, dyeing one's hair, coffin-ships, standing armies, the
    mediaeval monasteries, Church Brotherhoods, state insurance of the
    poor, promiscuous almsgiving, the rights of animals, the C. D. Acts,
    the Kernoozer Club, emigration, book-plates, the Psychical Society,
    Kindergarten, Henry George, Positivism, Chevalier's Coster,
    colour-blindness, Total Abstinence, Arbitration, the best hundred
    books, Local Option, Women's Rights, the Wandering Jew, the Flying
    Dutchman, the Neanderthal skull, the Early Closing movement, the
    Prince of Wales, and the Tonic Sol-fa notation. Is there an English
    hexameter? Is a perfect translation impossible? Will the coloured
    races conquer? Is consumption curable? Is celibacy possible? Can
    novels be really dramatised? Is the French school of acting superior
    to ours? Should literary men be offered peerages? or refuse them?
    Should quack-doctors be prosecuted? Should critics practise without a
    license? Are the poor happier or unhappier than the rich? or is Paley
    right? Did Paley steal his celebrated watch? Did Milton steal from
    Vondel? Is the Salon dead in England? Should duelling be revived?
    What is the right thing in dados, hall-lamps, dressing-gowns, etc.?
    Should ladies smoke? Is there a Ghetto in England? Anti-Semitism. Why
    should London wait? or German waiters? Mr. Stead's revival of
    pilgrimages. Is Grimm's Law universal? The abuses of the Civil
    Service; of the Pension List. Dr. Barnardo. Grievances of
    match-girls; of elementary teachers. Are our police reliable? Is
    Stevenson's Scotch accurate? Is our lifeboat service efficient? The
    Eastern Question. What is an English fairy-tale? What are the spots
    on the sun? Have they anything to do with commercial crises? Should
    we spoil the Court if we spared the Black Rod? or the City if we
    spared the Lord Mayor? Is chloroforming dangerous? Should armorial
    bearings be taxed? or a tradesman's holiday use of his cart? Should
    classical texts be Bowdlerised for school-boys? Is the confessional
    of value? Is red the best colour for a soldier's uniform or for a
    target? Will it rain to-morrow? Ought any one to carry firearms? Do
    we permit the cancan on the English stage? or aerial flights without
    nets? Where are the lost Tales of Miletus? Should lawyers wear their
    own hair? Was the Silent System so bad? Should a novel have a
    purpose? Was the _Victoria_ Fund rightly distributed? What is the
    origin of Egyptian civilisation? Is it allowable to say, "It's me"?
    Every other doubtful point of grammar and--worse still--of
    pronunciation; also of etymology. May we say "Give an ovation"? Is
    the German Emperor a genius, or a fool? Should bachelors be taxed?
    Will the family be abolished? Ensilage. Why was Ovid banished from
    Rome? Is the soul immortal? Is our art-pottery bad? Is the Revised
    Version of the Bible superior to the Old? Who stole Gainsborough's
    picture? Which are the rarest coins and stamps? Is there any sugar in
    the blood? Blondes or brunettes? Do monkeys talk? What should you
    lead at whist? Should directors of insolvent companies be prosecuted?
    Or classics be annotated? Was Boswell a fool? Do I exist? Does
    anybody else exist? Is England declining? Shall the costers stand in
    Farringdon Street? Do green wall-papers contain arsenic? Shall we
    adopt phonetic spelling? Is life worth living?


The last question at least I thought I could answer, as I bore to bed
with me that headache which you have doubtless acquired if you have been
foolish enough to read the list. If only one were a journalist, one would
have definite opinions on all these points.

And to these questions every day brings a fresh quota. You are expected
to have read the latest paragraph in the latest paper, and the newest
novel, and not to have missed such and such an article in such and such a
quarterly. And all the while you are fulfilling the duties of, and
solving the problems of, son, brother, cousin, husband, father, friend,
parishioner, citizen, patriot, all complicated by specific religious and
social relations, and earning your living by some business that has its
own hosts of special problems, and you are answering letters from
everybody about everything, and deciding as to the genuineness of begging
appeals, and wrestling with some form or forms of disease, pain, and
sorrow.

"Truly, we are imperfect instruments for determining truth," I said to
the Poet. "The sane person acts from impulse, and only pretends to give a
reason. Reason is only called in to justify the verdict of prejudice.
Sometimes the impulse is sentiment--which is prejudice touched with
emotion. We cannot judge anything on pure, abstract grounds, because the
balance is biassed. A human being is born a bundle of prejudices, a group
of instincts and intuitions and emotions that precede judgment.
Patriotism is prejudice touched with pride, and politics is prejudice
touched with spite. Philosophy is prejudice put into propositions, and
art is prejudice put into paint or sound, and religion is a pious
opinion. Every man is born a Platonist or an Aristotelian, a Romanticist,
or a Realist, or an Impressionist, and usually erects his own limitations
into a creed. Every country, town, district, family, individual, has a
special set of prejudices along the lines of which it moves, and which it
mistakes for exclusive truths or reasoned conclusions. Touch human
society anywhere, it is rotten, it crumbles into a myriad notes of
interrogation; the acid of analysis dissolves every ideal. Humanity only
keeps alive and sound by going on in faith and hope,--_solvitur
ambulando_,--if it sat down to ask questions, it would freeze like the
traveller in the Polar regions. The world is saved by bad logic."

"And by good feeling," added my friend the Poet.

"And in the face of all these questions," I cried, surveying the list
ruefully again, "we go on accumulating researches and multiplying books
without end, vituperating the benefactors who destroyed the library of
Alexandria, and exhuming the civilisations that the earthquakes of Time
have swallowed under. The Hamlet of centuries, 'sicklied o'er with the
pale cast of thought,' the nineteenth of that ilk mouches along,
soliloquising about more things in heaven and earth than were dreamt of
in any of its predecessors' philosophies. Ah me! Analysis is paralysis
and introspection is vivisection and culture drives one mad. What will be
the end of it all?"

"The end will be," answered the Poet, "that the overstrung nerves of the
century will give way, and that we shall fall into the simple old faith
of Omar Khayyam:

  "A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
   A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou
   Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
   O Wilderness were Paradise enow."

"Yes," said I, "the only wisdom is to live. Action is substance and
thought shadow." And so--paradoxically enough--I began to think out

  A WORKING PHILOSOPHY

  The solar system turns without thine aid.
  Live, die! The universe is not afraid.
  What is is right! If aught seems wrong below,
  Then wrong it is--of thee to leave it so.
  Then wrong it first becomes for human thought,
  Which else would die of dieting on naught.
  Tied down by race and sex and creed and station,
  Go, learn to find thy strength in limitation,
  To do the little good that comes to hand,
  Content to love and not to understand;
  Faithful to friends and country, work and dreams,
  Knowing the Real is the thing that seems.
  While reverencing every nobleness,
  In whatsoever tongue or shape or dress,
  Speak out the word that to _thy_ soul seems right,
  Strike out thy path by individual light:
  'Tis contradictory rays that give the White.

"The ideas are good. But what a pity you are not a poet!" said my friend
the Poet.

But, though I recognise that prejudice in the deepest sense supplies the
matter of judgment, while logic is only regulative of the form, yet in
the more work-a-day sense of the word in which prejudice is taken to mean
an opinion formed without reasoning and maintained in despite of it, I
claim to write absolutely without prejudice. The syllogism is my lord and
king. A kind-hearted lady said I had a cruel face. It is true. I am
absolutely remorseless in tracking down a _non sequitur_, pitiless in
forcing data to yield up their implicit conclusions. "Logic! Logic!"
snorted my friend the Poet. "Life is not logical. We cannot be logical."
"Of course not," said I; "I should not dream of asking men to live
logically: all I ask is that they should argue logically."

But to be unprejudiced does not mean to have no convictions. The
superficial confuse definiteness with prejudice, forgetting that definite
opinions may be the result of careful judgment. Post-judiced I trust I
am. But prejudiced? Heaven forfend! Why, 'tis because I do not wish to
bind myself to anything that I may say in them that I mark these personal
communications "Without Prejudice"! For I do not at all mind
contradicting myself. If it were some one of reverend years or superior
talents I might hesitate, but between equals----! Contradiction is the
privilege of _camaraderie_ and the essence of _causerie_. We agree to
differ--I and myself. I am none of your dogmatic fellows with
pigeon-holes for minds, and whatever I say I do not stick to. And I will
tell you why. There is hardly a pretty woman of my acquaintance who has
not asked for my hand. Owing to this passion for palmistry in polite
circles, I have discovered that I possess as many characters as there are
palmists. Do you wonder, therefore, if, with such a posse of
personalities to pick from, I am never alike two days running? With so
varied a psychological wardrobe at command, it would be mere self-denial
to be faithful to one's self. I leave that to the one-I'd who can see
only one side of a question. Said Tennyson to a friend (who printed it):
"'In Memoriam' is more optimistic than I am"; and there is more of the
real man in that little remark than in all the biographies. The published
prophet has to live up to his public halo. So have I seen an actress on
tour slip from a third-class railway carriage into a brougham. Tennyson
was not mealy-mouthed, but then he did not bargain for an audience of
phonographs. Nowadays it is difficult to distinguish your friends from
your biographers. The worst of it is that the land is thick with fools
who think nothing of a great man the moment they discover he was a man.
Tennyson was all the greater for his honest doubt. The cocksure centuries
are passed for ever. In these hard times we have to work for our
opinions; we cannot rely on inheriting them from our fathers.

I write with a capital I at the risk of being accused of egotism.
Apparently it is more modest to be conceited in the third person, like
the child who says "Tommy is a good boy," or in the first person plural,
like the leader-writer of "The Times," who bids the Continent tremble at
his frown. By a singular fallacy, which ought scarcely to deceive
children, it is forgotten that everything that has ever been written
since the world began has been written by some one person, by an "I,"
though that "I" might have been omitted from the composition or replaced
by the journalistic "we." To some extent the journalist does sink his
personality in that imaginary personality of his paper, a personality
built up, like the human personality, by its past; and the result is a
pompous, colourless, lifeless simulacrum. But in every other department
of letters the trail of the "I" is over every page and every sentence.
The most impersonal essays and poems are all in a sense egoistic.
Everything should really be between inverted commas with an introductory
_Thus say I_. But as these are omitted, as being understood, they come at
last to be _mis_understood.

In the days ere writing was invented, this elementary error was not
possible. The words were heard issuing from the lips of a single man;
every opinion, every law of conduct, must have been at first formulated
through the lips of some one man. And to this day, in spite of the
wilderness of tradition and authority by which we are overgrown, the
voice of the one man is still our only living source of inspiration and
help. Every new thought must pass through the brain, every moral ideal
through the conscience, of an individual. Voices, voices, we want--not
echoes. Better the mistaken voice of honest individuality than the
soulless bleat of the flock. There are too many of Kipling's Tomlinsons
in the world, whose consciences are wholly compact of _on dits_, on whom
the devil himself, sinned they never so sadly, would refuse to waste his
good pit-coal. "Bad taste"--that opprobrious phrase which, worse than the
accusation of a crime, cannot be refuted, for it is the king of the
question-beggars,--"bad taste" is responsible for half the reticence that
marks current writing, for the failure to prick the bladders of every
species that bloat themselves all around us. "Good taste" is the
staunchest ally of hypocrisy, and corruption is the obverse side of
civilisation. I do not believe in these general truths that rule the
market. What is "true for all" is false for each. It is the business of
every man to speak out, to be himself, to contribute his own thought to
the world's thinking--to be egoistic. To be egoistic is not to be
egotistic. Egoism should be distinguished from egotism. The egoist thinks
for himself, the egotist about himself. Mr. Meredith's Sir Willoughby
should not have been styled the _Egoist_. The egoist offers his thought
to his fellow-men, the egotist thinks it is the only thought worth their
acceptance. These papers of mine joyously plead guilty to egoism, but not
to egotism. If they, for instance, pretend to appraise the powers of my
contemporaries, they do not pretend to be more than an individual
appraisal. Whoever wants another opinion can go somewhere else. There is
no lack of practitioners in criticism, more or less skilful. There must
be a struggle for existence among opinions, as among all other things,
and the egoist is content to send the children of his thought into the
thick of the fray, confident that the fittest will survive. Only he is
not so childish as to make-believe that an impersonal dignified
something-not-himself that makes for the ink-pot is speaking--and not he
himself, he "with his little I." The affectation of modesty is perhaps
the most ludicrous of all human shams. I am reminded of the two Jews who
quarrelled in synagogue, during the procession of palm-branches, because
each wanted to be last, as befitted the humblest man in Israel, which
each claimed to be. This is indeed "the pride that apes humility." There
is a good deal of this sort of pride in the careful and conscientious
suppression of the egoistic in books and speeches. I have nothing of this
modesty to be proud of. I know that I am cleverer than the man in the
street, though I take no credit to myself for it, as it is a mere
accident of birth, and on the whole a regrettable one. It was this
absence of modesty from my composition that recently enabled me to
propose the toast of literature coupled with the name of Mr. Zangwill. I
said that I could wish that some one more competent and distinguished
than myself had been chosen to do justice to such a toast and to such a
distinguished man of letters, but I did my best to pay him the tribute he
deserved ere I sat down amid universal applause. When I rose amid renewed
cheers to reply, I began by saying that I could wish that some one more
competent and distinguished than myself had been chosen to respond to so
important a toast--the last speaker had considerably overrated my humble
achievements in the fields of literature. So that you see I could easily
master the modest manner, if I took any pains or set any store by it. But
in my articles of faith the "I" is just what I would accentuate most, the
"I" through which for each of us the universe flows, by which any truth
must be perceived in order to be true, and which is not to be replaced by
that false abstraction, the communal mind. Here are a laughing
philosopher's definitions of some cardinal things:

    Philosophy--All my I.
    Art--All my Eye.
    Religion--All my Ay.

Also at the outset let it be distinctly understood that I write without
any prejudice in favour of grammar. The fear of the critics is the
beginning of pedantry. I detest your scholiast whose footnotes would take
Thackeray to task for his "and whiches," and your professor who disdains
the voice of the people, which is the voice of the god of grammar. I know
all the scholiast has to say (surely he is the silly [Greek:
scholastikos] of Greek anecdote), and indeed I owe all my own notions of
diction to a work on "Style" written by him. It was from the style of
this work that I learnt what to avoid. The book reminded me of my old
schoolmaster, who grew very angry with me for using the word "ain't," and
vociferated "Ain't! How often am I to tell you ain't ain't a word?" I
suppose one may take it for granted that the greater the writer the worse
the grammar. "Fools follow rules. Wise men precede them." (Query: this
being a quotation from myself, was I bound to put the inverted commas?)
Shakespeare has violated every rule of the schoolroom, and the more
self-conscious stylist of our own day--Stevenson--would be caned for
composition. I find him writing "They are not us," which is almost as
blasphemous as "It's me." His reputation has closed the critics' eyes to
such sentences as these in his essay on "Some Portraits by Raeburn":
"Each of his portraits are not only a piece of history ..."; "Neither of
the portraits of Sir Walter Scott were very agreeable to look upon."
Stevenson is a master, but not a schoolmaster, of English. Of course bad
grammar does not make a genius, any more than bad morals. (Note how much
this sentence would lose in crispness if I made it grammatical by tacking
on "do.") My friend the musician complained to me that when he studied
harmony and form he was told he must not do this, that and the other;
whereas, when he came to look into the works of the great composers he
found they made a practice of all the three. "Am I a genius?" he queried
pathetically. "If so, I could do as I please. I wish I knew." Every
author who can read and write is in the same predicament: on the one hand
his own instinct for a phrase or a sentence, on the other the contempt of
every honest critic. The guardians of the laws of English have a stock of
taboos; but unlike the guardians of the laws of England they credit every
disregard of them to ignorance. They cannot conceive of malice
aforethought. We are forbidden, for example, to use the word "phenomenal"
in the sense of "extraordinary." But, with Mr. Crummles's Infant
Phenomenon in everybody's mind, can we expect the adjective to shake off
the old associations of its parent noun?

Last year I culled an amusing sentence from a "Standard" criticism of a
tale of adventure: "The story is a well-told, and in spite of the word
'unreliable,' a well-written one." Now just as many foolish persons
object to "a ... one" as to "unreliable." As for the first phrase, I am
sure so great a writer as Tom Hood would have pronounced it A1, while
"unreliable" is defended with unusual warmth by Webster's Dictionary. The
contention that "reliable" should be "reli-on-able," is ridiculous, and
Webster's argument is "laughable," which should obviously be
"laugh-at-able." These remarks are made quite without prejudice, for
personally I have little to complain of. (By the way, this sentence is as
open to blame as that of the professor who told his pupils "You must not
use a preposition to end a sentence with.") Though I have sat under an
army of critics, I have but once been accused of inelegant English, and
then it was only by a lady who wrote that my slipshod style "aggravated"
her.

Finally it will be remarked that by dispensing with illustrations I
preserve intact my egoism and the dignity of a rival art. Nothing can be
more absurd than the conventional illustration which merely attempts to
picture over again what the writer has already pictured in words. Not
only is the effort superfluous, a waste of force, but the artist's
picture is too often in flat contradiction of the text. Whom are you to
believe, the author or the artist? the man who tells you that the heroine
is ethereal, or the man who plainly demonstrates that she is podgy? How
often, too, do the people dress differently in the words and in the
picture, not to speak of the shifting backgrounds! Dickens had so much
difficulty with his illustrations because he saw his characters so much
more clearly than any other novelist; the sight of his inner eye was so
good. And one can understand, too, how Cruikshank came to fancy he had
created Oliver Twist, much as an actor imagines he "creates" a character.
The true collaboration between author and artist requires that the work
should be divided between them, not reduplicated. Those parts of the
story which need the intervention of words should be allotted to the
writer, while to the artist should be entrusted the parts better told by
pencil. Neither need trench on the other's province. Description--which
so many readers skip already--would be abolished. Even incidents--such as
murder--could be caught by the artist in the act. And after the artist
had killed a character, the author could preach over his corpse. Thus
there would be an agreeable reversion to picture-language, the earliest
way of writing, and the latest. The ends of the ages would meet in a
romance written on these lines:--

"Sick at heart we watched till the grey dawn stole in through the
diamond-paned casements of the Grange, and then, at last, when we had
given up all hope, we saw coming up the gravel pathway----"

[_Illustration._[*]]

After which the author proceeds: "Fascinated by the blood that dripped
from the edges of the eight umbrellas, we stood silent; then, throwing
off our coats, we----

[_Illustration._[*]]

"So that was how I won the sweetest little bride I ever wedded. But if I
live to wed a hundred, I shall never forget that terrible night in
Grewsome Grange.

"THE END."

[* Transcriber's note: So in original. These are _not_ placeholders for
actual illustrations in the book.]

My friend the artist once collaborated with me in an experiment of this
sort, but we did not pursue it, discovering how feeble an advance ours
would be after all; for there were points at which both of us felt we
ought to give way to the tone-poet. When the emotions became too
intangible for intellectual expression I asked my friend the musician to
insert paragraphs in a minor key. The love-scenes I was particularly
anxious to have written in musical phrases. But he shrank from so
unconventional a form, not being sure he was a genius. I was also
disheartened by the disappointing behaviour of the diverse scents with
which I had expressed myself on certain blank pages. They would not
remain in their places.




II

TUNING UP

They were "tuning up" in a wooden hall, stupidly built on the pier to
shut off the sea and the night (a penny to pay for the privation), and in
that strange cacophony of desolate violin strings, tuneless trombones,
and doleful double basses, in that homeless wail of forlorn brass and
lost catgut, I found a music sweeter than a Beethoven symphony; for
memory's tricksy finger touched of a sudden the source of tears, and
flashed before the inner eye a rainbow-lit panorama of the early joys of
the theatre--the joys that are no more. Was it even at a theatre--was it
even more than an interlude in a diorama?--that divine singing of "The
Last Rose of Summer" by a lady in evening dress, whose bust is, perhaps
for me alone in all the world, still youthful? Was it from this hall of
the siren, or was it from some later enchantment, that I, an infant
Ulysses, struggled home by night along a sea road, athwart a gale that
well-nigh blew me out to sea? How fierce that salt wind blew, a-yearn to
drive me to the shore's edge and whirl me over! How fresh and tameless it
beats against me yet, blowing the cobwebs from my brain as that real
breeze outside the pier could never do! When my monitory friends gabble
of change of air I inhale that wind and am strong. For the child is of
the elements, elemental, and the man of the complexities, complex. And so
that good salt wind blows across my childhood still, though it cannot
sweep away the mist that hovers thereover.

For who shall say whether 't was I or my sister who was borne shrieking
with fear from the theatre when the black man, "Othello," appeared on the
boards! The first clear memory of things dramatic is of an amateur
performance--alas! I have seen few others. 'T was a farce--when was an
amateur performance other? There was much play of snuff-boxes passed
punctiliously 'twixt irascible old gentlemen with coloured handkerchiefs.
Also there was dinner beforehand--my first experience of chicken and
champagne. And then there is a great break till the real theatre rises
stately and splendid, like Britannia ruling the waves--nay, Britannia
herself, or, as they call it lovingly down Shoreditch way, "the Brit."

When to my fashionable friends I have held forth on the glories and the
humours of "the Brit.," they have taken it for granted, and I have lacked
the courage or the energy to undeceive them, that my visits to this
temple of the people were expeditions of Haroun Al Raschid in the back
streets of Bagdad or adventures of Prince Florizel in Rupert Street; but
of a truth I have climbed the gallery stairs in sober boyish earnestness,
elbowed of the gods, and elbowing, and if I did not yield to the
seductions of "ginger-beer and Banbury" that filled up clamantly the
entr'actes, 't was that I had not the coppers. "Guy Fawkes" was my first
piece, in the days when the drama's "fireworks" were not epigrams, and so
the smell of the sulphur still purifies the air. All the long series of
"London successes," with their array of genius and furniture, have faded
like insubstantial pageants, but the rude vault piled with flour-barrels
for the desperado's torch is fixed as by chemic process. Consider the
preparation of the brain for that memory. What! I should actually go to a
play--that far-off wonder! "The Miller and his Men" cut in cardboard
should no longer stave off my longing for the living passion of the
theatre. 'T was a very elongated young man who took me, a young
cigar-maker fond of reciting, spouting Shakespeare from a sixpenny
edition, playing Hamlet mentally as he rolled the tobacco-leaf. There was
a halo about his head, for he was on speaking terms with the low comedian
of the "Brit.," and, I understood, was permitted upon occasion to pay for
a pint of half-and-half. Alas! all this did not avail to save him from an
early tomb. Poor worshipper of the green room, perchance thy ghost still
walks there. Or is there room in some other world for thy baffled
aspirations?

In such clouds of glory did the drama first come to me, sulphurously
splendid. In the "Brit." I made my first acquaintance with the limelit
humanity that, magnificent in its crimes and in its virtues, sins or
suffers in false eyebrows or white muslin to the sound of soft music.
Here I met that strange creation, the villain--a being as mythic,
meseems, as the centaur, and, like it, more beast than man. The "Brit."
was a hot place for villains, the gallery accepting none but the highest
principles of speech and conduct, and ginger-beer were not too weighty a
form of expressing detestation of the more comprehensive breaches of the
decalogue. Hisses the villain never escaped, and I was puzzled to know
how the poor actor could discriminate betwixt the hiss ethical and the
hiss aesthetic. But perhaps no player ever received the latter; the house
was very loyal to its favourites, all of whom had their well-defined
roles in every play, which spared the playwrights the task of indicating
character. Before the heroine had come on we knew that she was young and
virtuous--had she not been so for the last five and twenty years?--the
comic man had not to open his mouth for us to begin to laugh; a latent
sibilance foreran the villain. Least mutable of all, the hero swaggered
on, virtuous without mawkishness, pugnacious without brutality. How
sublime a destiny, to stand for morals and muscle to the generations of
Hoxton, to incarnate the copy-book crossed with the "Sporting Times!"
Were they bearable in private life, these monsters of virtue?

J. B. Howe was long this paragon of men--affectionately curtailed to
Jabey. Once, when the villain was about to club him, "Look out, Jabey!"
cried an agonised female voice. It followed from the happy understanding
on both sides of the curtain that--give ear, O envious lessees!--no play
ever failed. How could it? It was always the same play.

Of like kidney was the Grecian Theatre, where one went out between the
acts to dance, or to see the dancing, upon a great illuminated platform.
'T was the drama brought back to its primitive origins in the Bacchic
dances--the Grecian Theatre, in good sooth! How they footed it under the
stars, those regiments of romping couples, giggling, flirting, munching!
Alas! _Fuit Troja!_ The Grecian is "saved." Its dancing days are over, it
is become the Headquarters of Salvation. But it is still gay with music,
virtue triumphs on, and vice grovels at the penitent form. In such quaint
wise hath the "Eagle" renewed its youth, for the Grecian began life as
the Eagle, and was Satan's deadliest lure to the 'prentices of
Clerkenwell and their lasses:

  Up and down the City Road,
    In and out the Eagle;
  That's the way the money goes!
    Pop goes the weasel.

Concerning which immortal lines one of your grammatical pedants has
observed, "There ain't no rhyme to City Road, there ain't no rhyme to
Eagle." Great pantomimes have I seen at the Grecian--a happy gallery boy
at three pence--pantomimes compact of fun and fantasy, far surpassing,
even to the man's eye, the gilded dullnesses of Drury Lane. The
pantomimes of the Pavilion, too, were frolicsome and wondrous, marred
only by the fact that I knew one of the fairies in real life, a
good-natured girl who sewed carpet-slippers for a living. The Pavilion,
by the way, is in the Whitechapel Road, not a mile from the People's
Palace, in the region where, according to the late Mr. Walter Besant,
nobody ever laughs. The Pavilion, like the "Brit.," had its stock
company, and when the leading lady appeared for her Benefit as "Portia,"
she was not the less applauded for being drunk. The quality of mercy is
_not_ strained. And what more natural than that one should celebrate
one's benefit by getting drunk? Sufficient that "Shylock" was sober!

In Music-Halls, the East-End was as rich as the West,--was it not the
same talent that appeared at both, like Sir Boyle Roche's bird, winging
its way from one to t' other in cabs? Those were the days of the great
Macdermott, who gave Jingoism to English history, of the great Vance, of
the lion comiques, in impeccable shirt-fronts and crush hats. There was
still a chairman with a hammer, who accepted champagne from favoured
mortals, stout gentlemen with gold chains, who might even aspire to
conversation with the comiques themselves. _Sic itur ad astra_. Now there
is only a chairman of directors who may, perhaps, scorn to be seen in a
music-hall: a grave and potent seignior whose relations with the
footlights may be purely financial. There were still improvisatori who
would turn you topical verses on any subject, and who, on the very
evening of Derby-day, could rhyme the winner when unexpectedly asked by
the audience to do so. A verse of Fred Coyne's--let me recall the name
from the early oblivion which gathers over the graves of those who live
amid the shouts of worshippers--still lingers in my memory, bearing in
itself its own chronology:

  And though we could wish, some beneficent fairy
    Had preserved the life of the Prince so dear,
  Yet we WON'T lay the blame on Lieutenant Carey;
    And these are the latest events of the year.

With what an answering pandemonium we refused to hold the lieutenant
accountable for the death of the victim of the African assegais! And the
ladies! How ravishingly they flashed upon the boards, in frocks that,
like Charles Lamb at the India Office, made up for beginning late by
finishing early! How I used to agree with the bewitching creature who
sang that lovely lyric strangely omitted from the Anthologies:

  What a nice place to be in!
  What a nice place, I 'm sure!
  Such a very jolly place,
  I've never seen before.
  It gives me, oh! such pleasure,
  And it fills my heart with bliss,
  I could stay here for ever:
  What a nice place is this!

Such eyes she made at me--at whom else?--aloft in the balcony; and oh,
what arch smiles, what a play of white teeth! If we could only have met!
Yester-year at a provincial town some one offered to introduce her to me.
She was still playing principal boy in the pantomime--a gay, gallant
Prince, in plumed cap and tights. But I declined. Another of the great
comic singers of my childhood--a man--I met on a Margate steamboat. He
told me of the lost glories of the ancient days _quorum pars magna fuit_,
and of the after-histories of his great rivals. One, I recollect, had
retired with a fortune, opened a magnificent Temperance Hotel at the
seaside, and then broken his neck by falling down his own splendid
staircase, drunk. "Ah," said the veteran, sighing at an overcrowded
profession, "there were only two or three comic singers in those days."
"There are only two or three now," quoth I. And the old man beamed.
Another ancient hero of the halls, long since translated to the theatres,
whom I first saw at a music-hall in St. Giles', buttonholed me the other
night in St. James', in the halls of a Duchess: a curious meeting. That I
should have ever reverenced him seemed as strange as that there should be
still people to reverence the coronet of the Duchess. Yes, it is very far
off, that magic time when the world was full of splendid things and
splendid men and women, a great Fair, and I, like the child in Henley's
poem, wandered about, enjoying, desiring, possessing. Now I know there is
nothing worth wanting, and nothing but poor flesh and blood, despite all
the costumes and accessories. For there is no sense in which I have not
been "behind the scenes." And as for the literal theatric sense, I have
flirted with the goddesses at the wings till they have missed their cues,
I have supped at the Garrick Club of a Saturday night, when all the stars
come out, I have toured with a travelling company, I have had words of my
own spoken by dainty lips,--nay, I have even played myself, _en amateur_,
the irascible old gentleman with the snuff-box and the coloured
handkerchief. And what is there to say of the human spectacle, but that
perhaps the pains and the crimes are necessary to the show, and that
without a blood-and-thunder plot human life would not run, drying up of
its own dullness? "All the world's a stage," and we are all cast for
stock roles. Some of us have the luck to be heroes, the complacent centre
of eternal plaudits, some are born for villainy and the brickbat. And
while others have had to play goodness knows what--mediaeval Italian
princesses, Cockney cabmen, old Greek hetairae, German cuirassiers,
American presidents, burglars, South Sea Islanders--I find myself--for
the first time on any stage--in the applauded role of man of letters, if
with little option of throwing up the part. They have an optimistic
phrase, those happy-go-lucky creatures of the footlights, when, on the
very day of production, nobody knows his words or his business, the scene
will not shape itself, and chaos is lord. "It will be all right at
night," they say. And we, who play our parts gropingly on this confused
and noisy scene, wondering what is the plot, and where is the manager,
and straining our ears for the prompter's whisper, can but echo with
another significance their cheery hope: "It will be all right at night."
Perhaps, when the long day's work has drawn to its end, and the curtain,
has fallen upon the plaudits and the hisses, we shall all sit down to
supper after the play, complimented by the Author, smiling at the
seriousness with which we took our roles of hero or villain, and glad to
be done with, the make-up and the paint. And in the music that shall
hover about our table, we may perhaps find a celestial restfulness,
compared to which the most exquisite orchestras of this earth shall sound
but as "tuning up."




III

ART IN ENGLAND

My friend the Apostle was in hot haste, and would not stay to be
contradicted. "Not going to-night!" he cried, in horror-struck accents.
"Why, to-night is the turning-point in the history of the British drama!
To-night is the test-battle of the old and the new; it is the shock of
schools, the clash of nature against convention. This play will decide
the fate of our drama for the rest of the century. Here you have a play
by a leader of the old school produced at a leading theatre. If it
succeeds, the old drama may linger on for a year or two more; but if it
fails, it will be the death-blow of the old gang. They may pack up!" The
Apostle was at the other end of the street ere I had taken in the full
import of these brave words. What! there was a crisis in the drama, and
I, living in the heart of art, had heard nothing about it! Fortunately it
was not too late. I could still make amends for my ignorance. It was
still open to me to assist at this historic contest, for the arena was to
be the Haymarket, where I am a _persona gratis_. Visions of the great
first night of "Hernani" thronged tumultuously before me; my blood pulsed
with something of its ancient youthful ardour as I girded my loins with
black trousers for the fray, and adjusted my white tie with faltering
fingers. I had half a mind to don a _gilet rouge_, but the reflection
that my wardrobe did not boast of coloured waistcoats gave the victory to
the other half. I dashed up to the theatre. All was placid. The stalls
were packed with a brilliant audience in correct and unemotional costume.
There were classic faces, and romantic faces, and faces that were
realistic, but each and all blank of the consciousness of a crisis. The
talk was of everything save art and literature. The critics did not even
sharpen their pencils. They looked bored to a man. In vain my eye roved
the arm-chairs in search of a fighting figure. I could not even see the
musical iconoclast who had carried his pepper-and-salt suit into the holy
of holies of the Italian opera. My heart sank within me. When the
orchestra ceased I gave one last despairing glance all round the theatre
in search of my friend the Apostle. _He was not there!_

The play was "The Charlatan,"--the work of that other apostle, whose
outspoken Epistles to the English chronically relieve the dull decorum of
London journalism; the man of whom Tennyson came near writing--

  Buchanan to right of him,
  Buchanan to left of him,
  Buchanan in front of him,
         Volleyed and thundered.

But that night it was the audience that volleyed and thundered, in
unanimous applause. Hisses or party-cries were not. During the intense
episodes, when the house was wrapt in silence, and you could have heard a
programme drop, no opposition partisan as much as laughed. The author was
called at curtain-fall, and retired uninjured. Next morning the critics
were scrupulously suave, with no sign of the battle they had been
through. Most wonderful to relate, Mr. William Archer, the risen hope of
the stern and unbending Radicals, launched into unwonted praise, and gave
an airing to some of the eulogistic adjectives that had been mouldering
in his dictionary; nor did he even appear to be aware that he had gone
over to the enemy!

For one thing, Bard Buchanan had given us neither old school nor new, but
a blend of both--nay, a blend of all forms of both--a structure at once
modern and mediaeval, with a Norwegian wing. It combined the common-sense
of England with the glamour of the East, the physiology of the hypnotist
with the psychology of Ibsen. More! It was an epitome of all the
Haymarket plays, a _resume_ of all Mr. Tree's successes. The heroine was
a mixture of Ophelia and hysteria, the hero was a combination of Captain
Swift, Hamlet, and the Tempter; the paradoxical pessimist was a reminder
of Mr. Wilde's comedies, the bishop and scientist were in the manner of
Mr. Jones. How clever! Social satire _a la Savoy_, seance _a la salle
Egyptienne_, sleep-walking _a la Bellini_, moonlight poetry _a la
Christabel_, a touch of spice _a la Francaise_, and copious confession _a
la Norvegienne_, all baked into one pie. How characteristic! And
characteristic, mark you, not only of Mr. Buchanan's chaotic cleverness,
but of Mr. Tree's experimental eclecticism. Did I say an epitome of the
Haymarket plays? This is but another way of saying an abstract and brief
chronicle of the time, to whose age and body Mr. Tree so shrewdly holds
up the mirror. For this dying century of ours is all things to all men.
We are living in the most picturesque confusion of the old and new known
to history--in a cross-road of chronology where all the ages meet. 'T is
a confusion of tongues outbabbling Babel, a simultaneous chattering of
the centuries. And, more troubled than the Tower-builders, we understand,
one another better than we understand ourselves; again, like "The
Charlatan," half odic force, half fraud, who is never so honest as when
he confesses himself charlatan.

But this is not what I set out to say. There was a moral to the tale of
my friend the absentee Apostle who was so cocksure about the crisis. This
moral is that he has Continental blood in his veins. To these foreign
corpuscles he owes the floridness of his outlook, his conception of the
excited Englishman. The Englishman takes his authors placidly; he is
never in a ferment or a frenzy about anything save politics, religion, or
sport: these are the poles and the axis of his life's pivot; he is not an
artistic person. Art has never yet taken the centre of the stage in his
consciousness; it has never even been accepted as a serious factor of
life. All the pother about plays, poems and pictures is made by small
circles. Our art has never been national art: I cannot imagine our making
the fuss about a great writer that is made about a second-rate journalist
in Paris. It is Grace the cricketer for whom the hundred thousand
subscribe their shilling: fancy a writer thus rewarded, even after
scoring his century of popular novels. The winning of the Derby gives a
new fillip to the monarchy itself. A Victor Hugo in London is a thought
_a faire rire_. A Goethe at the court of Victoria, or directing Drury
Lane Theatre, is of a comic-opera incongruity. Our neighbours across the
border have a national celebration of Burns' birthday--they think as much
of him as of the Battle of Bannockburn. We English, who have produced the
man whom the whole world acknowledges its greatest poet, have not even a
Shakespeare Day. Surely Shakespeare Sunday would do as much good to the
nation as Hospital Saturday or Shrove Tuesday! Charles Lamb wanted to say
grace before reading Shakespeare, but the Puritans who make England so
great and so dull are only thankful for stomachic mercies.

I cannot easily conceive our working ourselves up to such enthusiasm as
the Hungarians lately displayed over the jubilee of Jokai, an enthusiasm
that resounded even unto this country, and shook the _lacunar aureum_ of
the Holborn Restaurant with shouts of "Eljen."

The peculiarity of the Hungarian temperament does not, however, entirely
explain their joy in Jokai. He is so much more than a mere novelist, poet
and dramatist, with three or four hundred volumes (one need not be
particular to a hundred with this modern Lope de Vega) to his credit. He
is also a soldier and a politician, skilful with the sword as well as the
pen, and with the tongue as well as the sword. He has drawn blood with
each and all of these weapons, and though nowadays he often votes in the
House without inquiring what he is voting for till he has recorded his
vote, this does not diminish his claims to practical wisdom. He married
the leading actress of Hungary, who, without waiting for an introduction,
rushed forward from the audience to present him with a bunch of flowers
when a play of his made a hit. Fancy Ellen Terry rushing forward to
present Pinero with a bunch of flowers at the conclusion of "The Second
Mrs. Tanqueray"! No, the thing is as impossible in England as the
combination of roles in Jokai himself. The idea of letting a man be at
once man of letters and man of action! Why, we scarcely allow that a man
of letters may occupy more than one pigeonhole! If he is a poet, we will
not admit he can write prose--forgetting that is just what most poets do.
If he is a novelist, he cannot write plays,--the truth being, of course,
that it is the playwrights who cannot write plays. If he is a humourist
he can never be taken seriously, and if he is accepted seriously he must
be careful to conceal his sense of the humour of the position. Not only
so, but we insist on the sub-sub-specialisation which Adam Smith showed
to be so profitable in the making of pins, and which, passing from the
factory to the laboratory, now threatens to pass from science into
literature. Having analysed away the infinitely great, we are now
devoting ourselves to the apotheosis of the infinitely little.

_A priori_, one would think action the salvation of the literary man, the
corrective of "the fallacies of the den," the provider of that experience
which is the raw material of literature, and prevents it from being spun
out of the emptiness of one's own entrails. But the practical Briton
knows better. He has never forgiven John Morley for going into politics
(though I doubt not "honest John" would now find much to revise in his
essay on "Compromise"); and he finds Socialism ever so much more Utopian
since William Morris went into it. Can you imagine a true-born Briton
following the flag of Swinburne, or throwing up a barricade with George
Meredith? To the last Beaconsfield was suspected of persiflage because he
wrote novels and was witty. America makes her authors ministers and
envoys, but England insists that brains are a disqualification for
practical life. "Authors are so unpractical: we don't want them to
act--we only want them to teach us how to act." A chemist or an
astronomer must needs isolate himself from the world to supply the pure
theory on which the practical arts are founded, and so the _litterateur_,
too, is expected to live out of the world in order to teach it how to
live. But the analogy is false.

You can work out your mathematical calculations by the week, and hand
over the results to the navigator. But the navigation of the stream of
time is another matter. There is no abstract theory of life that can be
studied without living oneself. Life is always concrete; it is built up
of emotions, and you cannot have the emotions brought into your study, as
you can order in your hydrochloric acid or your frog's leg. As well
expect anchorites to set the tune for men in the thick of the fight! They
will chant Masses when they should be shouting Marseillaises. In despair
our men of letters leave the country, and become politicians in little
savage islands; or they leave the town and become invisible behind their
haloes; or they take to golf in small Scotch cities, and pretend that
this satisfies their thirst for activity. Sometimes they turn
market-gardeners and fob off the interviewer with remarks about
caterpillars. Browning was reduced to dining out. It may be contended
that the writer must sequester himself to cultivate the Beautiful. But
the Beautiful that has not its roots in the True is not the Good. Or it
maybe urged that active life would limit the writer's output. Exactly:
that is one of the reasons that make active life so advisable. Every
writer would write less and feel more. The crop of literature should only
be grown in alternate years. As it is, a writer is a barrel-organ who
comes to the end of his tunes, clicks, and starts afresh, just as a
scholar is a revolving bookcase. Consider, too, how a holiday of action
would disenthral the writer from the pettiness of cliques and coteries,
with their pedantic atmosphere and false perspectives. I would have every
University don work in the docks six months a year (six months' idleness
is surely quite enough for any man); every platonic essayist should
attend a course of music-halls; and if I could afford it I would set up
all the superfine critics in nice little grocers' shops, with the cosiest
of back parlours. Why, bless my soul! it is your man of culture, your
author, your leader of thought, who is parochial, suburban, _borne_, and
the rest of it! It is a commonplace that the Londoner is the most
provincial of all Englishmen, living in sublime ignorance of what is
thought and done in the rest of the kingdom; and in similar wise, when a
man sneers at the _bourgeoisie_, I never think of looking up his pedigree
in Debrett. It is, no doubt, extremely exasperating that the world was
not created for the convenience and to the taste of artistic persons, but
unfortunately the thing had to be turned out before their advice could be
obtained.

That young England--bless its stupid healthy soul--is more interested in
life and football than in literature and art, was amply proved by the
lethargy about the Laureateship. On the Continent the claims of the
rivals would have set the students brawling and the journalists duelling;
here it barely caused a ripple in the five o'clock teacup. My friend the
Apostle was not wholly wrong; there is a development of native drama
ahead of us; only it will come about peaceably,--we shall not hear the
noise of the captains and the shouting. And the old conventions have a
long run yet before them. They cling even to the skirts of "The Second
Mrs. Tanqueray." Indeed, the new school can scarcely be said to have
appeared. The literary quality of our plays has improved, thanks to Jones
and Pinero, and not forgetting Grundy. And that is all. The old school is
as vigorous as ever. In the person of "Charley's Aunt" it is alive and
kicking up its petticoats, and the audience rolls in helpless laughter at
Mr. Penley's slightest movement. Talk of literature, indeed! Why, the
fortunate comedian assured me that if he chose he could spin out
"Charley's Aunt" from a two-hours' play to a four-hours' play, merely by
eking out his own "business." Think of this, aspiring Sheridans, ye who
polish the dialogue with midnight oil; realise the true inwardness of the
drama, and go burn me your epigrams!

In literature, where the clash of new and old is more audible, it is
still the same story. On the conservative side, the real fighting is done
by Messrs. Smith, who refuse to sell the too daring publication. The
radicals are crippled by the timidity of editors, and cajoled by the
fatness of their purses. A gifted young story-teller has been lecturing
on the Revolt of the Authors. But it seems to me our literature has
already as wide a charter as is desirable. The two bulwarks of the
British library are Shakespeare and the Bible, and both treat human life
comprehensively, not with the onesidedness of self-styled Realism. I
would advise my young literary friends to emblazon on their banner
"Shakespeare and the Bible." Real Realism is what English literature
needs. The one undoubted development in recent English literature is the
short story. But this is less due to any advance in artistic aspiration
than to the fact that there is a good serial market for short stories,
and the turnover is quicker for the trader than if he turned out long
novels. Small stories, quick returns! In verity, this much-vaunted
efflorescence of the _conte_ is due to the _compte_. It is quite
characteristic of our nation to arrive at a new art-form through this
practical channel. But if you want a proof of the half-heartedness of our
literary battles, turn to the "Fogey's" article on "The Young Men" in a
recent _Contemporary Review_. What a chance for a much-needed onslaught
on our minor prophets! It might have been "English bards and Scotch
reviewers" over again. But no! the Scotch reviewer's weapon is merely a
rose-water squirt. The only thing that perturbates him (as Mr. Francis
Thompson would say) is my assertion that a ray of hopefulness is stealing
again into English poetry. Since the days of Jeffrey we have only had one
really "first-class fighting man" (Henley); but even with him there is no
real party fighting, for he is catholic in his antipathies, and those
whom he chastises love him, and swear that his is the least jaded Pegasus
of the day. You see, therefore, how well-balanced we are in this "happy
isle, set in a silver sea." The Fogeys are respectful to the young men,
and the young men actually admire the Fogeys. That the young men admire
one another goes without saying. Here surely is "the atmosphere of
praise" of Mr. Pinero's hortation.

And while I do not believe that art is best nourished in this "atmosphere
of praise," preferring to read instead "an atmosphere of appraisal," I
believe that of this appraisal the more important element is "praise."
Criticism with the praise left out savours of the counsel for the
prosecution rather than of the judge,--and indeed some critics assume
that every author is guilty till he is proved good: if he is popular the
presumption of his guilt is almost irresistible. A Henley young man once
explained to me that the function of the critic was to guard the gates of
literature, keeping at bay the bulk of print, for it would surely not be
literature. This last is true enough; yet the watch-dog attitude
generates a delight to bark and bite, and turns critic literally into
cynic. Should not the true critic be an interpreter? For bad work let him
award the damnation of silence. "It is better to fight for the good than
to rail at the ill."

It is a great privilege to praise. It is a great joy to give an artist
the joy of being understood. Not every artist arrives at the divine
standpoint: "And God saw all that He made, and behold it was very good."
The human creator is not always content with the rapture of creation. He
sits lonely amid his worlds. Neglect may be the nurse of strength, but as
often it is the handmaid of idleness. The artist without an audience will
smoke the enchanted cigarettes of Balzac. The rough labour of execution
is largely the labour of conveying to others what the artist already
feels and sees. Why should he toil thanklessly? It is sweeter to dream.
Even the money that art produces may be a valuable incentive. Not, of
course, if the artist aims at the money; but art wrought for love may
bring in money, like a woman married for love. In so far as the lover has
his eye on the dowry, in so far his love is vitiated; and in so far as
the artist has his eye on the profits, in so far is he untrue to a
mistress who demands undivided allegiance. Natheless, the _auri sacra
fames_ may be his salvation. What subtle sympathy connects _fama_ with
_fames_? The butcher's bill may drive him from the dreamland of luxurious
meditation to the practical embodiment of his dreams. Only, while he is
at work, the laws of art alone must be his masters; he must not alter or
abate a jot by way of concession to the great cash question. When he has
completed his work, then indeed he may sell it in the best market. But
the least preliminary paltering with the spirit of commerce is a
degradation. Does this seem an ideal demand? Let us remember, then,
ideals are goads and goals, counsels of perfection. No one expects people
to come quite up to them, but it is better for human nature that they
should be there. For there is something in hero-worship, despite
Carlyle's grandiosities, provided you choose your hero wisely. We do, in
this valley of doubt and confusion, touched with false sparkles, follow
men who speak from their souls sincerely, who work from their hearts.
Instinctively we feel it degrading and disillusionising that inspiration
shall be paid in hard cash, and genius entered on the credit side of a
ledger. Does a man plead that he has to support his wife and children?
Well, in the first place, he need not have got them. In the second, one
may be admirable as a man, but as an artist abominable. Still it is
better that a man should write Adelphi dramas than that his starving
family should qualify for scenes in them. All honour to the artist who
lives on bread and water in a garret rather than prostitute his art! but
less honour to the man who lives on _my_ bread, and adds somebody else's
whisky to his water, rather than earn an honest living by dishonest books
and plays. This was the question that split up the Bohemians of Murger.
While the majority did odd jobs for the Philistines, to have the time for
real art, the very poet consenting to write Alexandrines for a dentist at
fifteen sous a dozen--vastly cheaper than oysters--there was an inner
band of the faithful who preferred starvation to the desecration of their
genius for the unsaleable. Even so among the vegetarians there is a
holier circle that eats only nuts and fruits. The sensible artist will
compromise. There is in political economy a region called "the margin of
subsistence." It is a sort of purgatory. Above it, we enter the heaven of
superfluities; below it, lies the dread Hades of hunger. It is here that
the impecunious artist--with a family (and, alas! the artist is nearly
always impecunious--with a family) should pitch his tent. He may be
allowed to prostitute himself, if need be, sufficiently to pay the
ground-rent. He must not be driven lower down by his devotion to the
Muses: an artist who dies of starvation is simply a dead donkey. Rather
than play a false note, he stops his music for ever. It is sublime--but
silly. He had better black boots. There is no reason on earth why a
shoeblack should not read Schiller, or moralise as he does in Bret
Harte's parody of Bulwer Lytton. A bachelor artist might do worse than
get locked up for some simple offence, and thus throw himself upon the
nation. Remember what Sir Walter Raleigh did in prison. The poet can rise
superior to the sordidness of skilly. Only he must be careful to preserve
his seclusion. Leigh Hunt made his cell the artistic centre of London,
but I doubt if he got through much work; and more recently, when Jokai
was in gaol, he was compelled to insist on two hours' privacy and
confinement per day. To be a "first-class misdemeanant" seems to me the
height of happiness for a literary man.

Unfortunately there are few honest opportunities for going to gaol. The
most honest way of all would be to write the truth about men and things;
but this editors will not print. So one has to live at one's own expense.
Nevertheless, the Hotel of the Black Maria remains an ideal.




IV

BOHEMIA AND VERLAINE

It is one of the pleasures of my life that I never saw Tennyson. Hence I
am still able to think of him as a poet, for even his photograph is not
disillusionising, and he dressed for the part almost as well as Beerbohm
Tree would have done. Why one's idea of a poet is a fine frenzied being,
I do not quite know. One seems to pick it up in the very nursery, and
even the London _gamin_ knows a poet when he doesn't see one. Probably it
rests upon the ancient tradition of oracles and sibyls, foaming at the
mouth like champagne bottles. Inspiration meant originally demoniac
possession, and to "modern thought" prophecy and poetry are both
epileptic. "Genius is a degenerative psychosis of the epileptoid order."
A large experience of poets has convinced me as little of this as of the
old view summed up in _genus irritabile vatum_. Poets seem to me the
homeliest and most hardworking of mankind--'t is a man in possession, not
a _daimon_ nor a disease. Of course they have their mad moods, but they
don't write in them. Writing demands serenity, steadiness, patience; and
of all kinds of writing, poetry demands the steadiest pen. Complex metres
and curious rhyme-schemes are not to be achieved without pain and
patience. Prose is a path, but poetry is a tight-rope, and to walk on it
demands the nicest dexterity. You may scribble off prose in the fieriest
frenzy--who so fiery and frenzied as your journalist with the printer's
devil at his elbow?--but if you would aspire to Parnassus, you must go
slow and steady. Fancy inditing a sonnet with the compositors waiting for
"copy"! Pegasus were more truly figured as a drayhorse than a steed with
wings; he jogs along trot-trot, and occasionally he stands at an
obstinate pause. The splendid and passionate lyrics of Swinburne, with
their structural involutions and complicacies, must have been "a dem'd
grind." The English language does not easily lend itself to so much
"linked sweetness long drawn out." Even the manuscript of Pope's easy
meandering verse is disfigured by ceaseless corrections. As he himself
says:

  True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
  As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.

Probably these very lines run in the original manuscript somewhat as
follows:

[Illustration: Handwriting sample]

Shelley is the ideal of a poet, a soul of white fire, fed by bread and
raisins; yet Shelley's last manuscripts are full of lacunae and erasures,
some of which have had to be reproduced perforce in the printed editions.

  Clothed with the ... as with light,
  And the shadows of the night,
  Like ... next, Hypocrisy,
  On a crocodile rode by.

It reads like a puzzle set by a Competition Editor. Here is another one,
which begins as beautifully as Hedda Gabler could desire, and ends in
blankness.

  Within the surface of the fleeting river
  The wrinkled image of the city lay,
  Immovably unquiet, and for ever
  It trembles, but it never fades away;
  Go to the [                        ]
  You, being changed, will find it then as now.

The fact is, of course, that inspiration is no guarantee of perfection.
The limitations of inspiration vary with the limitations of the writer--a
proposition that may be commended to the theologians. Genius can no more
safeguard a man against his own ignorance than it can find a rhyme to
"silver." Inspiration could not save Keats from his Cockney rhymes nor
Mrs. Browning from her rhymeless rhymes. I met a poet in a London
suburb--it seemed odd to see one out of Fleet Street--but after a few
bewildered instants I recognised him. There was on his brow the burden of
a brooding sorrow. I sought delicately to probe the cause of his grief,
and he confessed at last that in a much-praised poem just published he
had made a monosyllable dissyllabic. He had never got over a youthful
mispronunciation, and in an unguarded moment of inspiration it had
slipped in.

This prosaic view of poetry is distasteful to many, who like to think
that "Paradise Lost" came out in a jet. But all these grandiose
conceptions belong to the obscurantist view of human life, which is
popular with all who hate, in Matthew Arnold's phrase, "to think clear
and see straight." People fancy that the dignity of human life demands
that artists at least should be Ouidaesque, but the true dignity of the
artist is to be sublimely simple rather than simply sublime. The finest
art--be it literature, music, or painting--is, after all that inspiration
can do has been done, a matter of painful pegging away; and the finest
artists will be found quietly occupying themselves with their art without
pose or fuss. That side of the business is largely monopolised by the
little men. But even the big men sometimes fall victims to the popular
conception, as when a Byron stagily takes the centre of the universe, and
looms lurid like the spirit of the Brocken. We do not need biographical
scandal-mongers to tell us what "the real Lord Byron" was like. He was
like "Don Juan," his own poem; shrewd, cynical, worldly, with flashes of
exquisite feeling. The poem which is cut out of young ladies' editions of
Byron is the one that represents him most truly in his blend of
sensualism and idealism, whereas the Brocken figure is but Byron as he
appeared to himself in his stormiest and gloomiest moments, and even that
phantasm artistically draped and limelit by a poet's imagination. If
people realised how much Byron wrote in his pitiable span of thirty-six
years, how much hard labour went to make those cleverly-rhymed stanzas of
"Childe Harold" or "Don Juan," despite Swinburne's accusation of
botchery, they would see that he really had very little time to be
wicked. They would understand that art--even the most decadent--is based
on strenuous labour.

                     Young, gay,
  Radiant, adorned outside; a hidden ground
  Of thought and of austerity within.

Even in poetically declaring himself a decadent, the artist must take as
many pains as fall to the prosiest bourgeois. This is the paradox of the
position. Just as the pyrrhonist in maintaining that there is no truth
asserts one, so the literary pessimist partly contradicts his contention
of the futility of existence by his anxiety to express himself elegantly.
Leopardi's Italian and Schopenhauer's German are far superior to those of
the optimistic philosophers; and one of the most polished poems of our
day is poor Thomson's "City of Dreadful Night." So, too, the poet who
declares himself an idler and a vagabond gives the lie to his pretensions
by the labour he takes to clothe them in unimpeachable verse. The other
morning I looked out of my study window after breakfast and discovered
that the weather was heavenly. I had lingered over the meal, reading the
beautiful political speeches, from which I gathered there was a Crisis at
hand. I knew that Crisis. I had heard about it ever since I learnt to
hear. Nevertheless, the newspapers were still devoting as much space to
it as if it were brand-new, and beguiling me to take interest in it. I
felt quite annoyed when I looked at the blue sky after breakfast and took
deep breaths of ambrosial air, and thought how I had wasted my time.
Thrilled by the sunshine, a cosmic rapture seized me, and I wondered that
men should fritter away their time in politics and other serious
occupations. The inspiration grew and grew, and I felt that my lips had
been touched by the sacred fire, and that I had been called to preach a
great moral lesson to mankind. So I took up my pen and wrote:

  Bright the sun this lovely May-day;
  Youth and love should have their heyday;
  Every day should be a play-day.

  Yet mankind will work and worry,
  Over trifles fuss and flurry,
  Getting hot as Indian curry.

  Orators, in such a season,
  How unreasonable is reason!
  'Gainst the sunshine't is a treason.

  What care I for Gladstone's glories?
  Hang the Radicals and Tories!
  Give me hammocks, pipes and stories!

  What's the use of all this wrangling,
  Grammar and emotions mangling?
  Up the river let's go angling.

  Sweet are walks and swimming nice is,
  Bring me lemon-squash and ices,
  Bother that eternal Crisis!

I was called away to lunch in the middle of the attack of inspiration.
Inspiration is of course very useful, but it has a way of suggesting
words that won't rhyme, and luring you off into all sorts of false
tracks. Moreover, it affords no help whatever in polishing. After lunch I
set to work with renewed zeal, licking the lines into their present
perfection. At last they were finished, and as I lit the gas to enable me
to see to make a fair copy, I realised that the beautiful blue day was
gone.

Yes, the busy bee is a fraud by the side of the irresponsible artistic
butterfly.

Sims Reeves tells an amusing anecdote of Mario the singer. Being brought
one Thursday night by an eminent composer to sing at a big fashionable
party, he found so great a line of carriages in front of his own that it
was past midnight ere he arrived at the door. The thought that it was
already Friday, and that he was about to sing in a new house, whose
hostess he did not even know, had already dismayed the superstitious
singer. But when he saw the number on the door was 13, no power on earth
and no amount of argument could induce him to enter. "Ah, yes," said the
hostess, smiling pleasantly, when the composer explained, "a very
ingenious excuse, for which Mario ought to be grateful to you. Of course
he was intoxicated, and after a long argumentation you at last persuaded
him to go home."

Poe was doubtless occasionally drunk; but think of the years of sober
labour, of stooping over desks, that must have gone to make those
wonderful tales! Which is the true Poe, the hard drinker or the hard
worker? That the artist must get drunk is, indeed, the belief of certain
schools of young men even to-day; but is it not based on the old eternal
false-logic, that because some artists have got drunk, therefore to get
drunk is to be artistic? It was Murger who invented the Bohemian artist,
poor and gay and of an easy morality. "Musette and Mimi!" says Sarcey.
"The image of those ideal beings shone on every man who was twenty-one
about 1848. 'La Vie de Boheme' was youth's breviary--fifty years ago."
The great dramatic critic goes on to complain of the onslaught made upon
him because he wrote against this "idleness of disposition, this
heedlessness for the morrow, this inclination to look for the day's
tobacco and the quarter's rent from loans and debts rather than from
honest work, this witty contempt for current morality." But this is
scarcely the teaching of the ever delightful book, which catches the
spirit of youth and gaiety and irresponsibility wedded to artistic ardour
as no other book has done before or since, and for which one might put in
the plea that Charles Lamb made for the dramatists of the Restoration.
Its world is only a pleasing fiction, and the ordinary rules of morality
do not carry over into it. It is the East of Suez of literature, "where
there ain't no Ten Commandments, and a man may raise a thirst." The real
Bohemia, as Jules Valdes showed in "Refractaires," is a world of misery
and discontent. Still more sordid is the English Bohemia expounded by Mr.
Gissing in "New Grub Street." Mr. Robert Buchanan indeed writes as if
there had been a Murgerian Bohemia in England in his young days. "_Et ego
fui in Bohemia_. There were inky fellows and bouncing girls, _then_;
_now_ there are only fine ladies, and respectable God-fearing men of
letters." Really! Surely there are plenty of bouncing girls and inky
fellows still, just as there were respectable God-fearing men of letters
and fine ladies even in the roaring forties. I doubt if Bohemia was ever
so amusing as Mr. Buchanan imagines now, and I suspect the bouncing girls
were "gey ill to live with." What is true in the immortal Bohemian myth,
what appeals to the universal human instinct, is the eternal contrast
between the dreams and aspirations of youth and the sobrieties of success
and middle age. As Jeffery Prowse sang:

  I dwelt in a city enchanted,
    And lonely, indeed, was my lot;
  Two guineas a week, all I wanted,
    Was certainly all that I got.
  Well, somehow I found it was plenty,
    Perhaps you may find it the same,
  If--_if_ you are just five-and-twenty,
    With industry, hope, and an aim;
  Though the latitude's rather uncertain,
    And the longitude also is vague,
  The persons I pity who know not the City,
    The beautiful City of Prague!

This Bohemia will never disappear, because every generation of youth
reconstructs it afresh, to migrate from it into the world of
respectability above or the world of shame below. "Qu'on est bien a vingt
ans!" will always be a cry to fill the breast of portly respectability
with tender regret. As Thackeray put it in that delightful poem, which is
almost an improvement on Beranger:

  With pensive eyes the little room I view,
    Where, in my youth, I weathered it so long;
  With a wild mistress, a staunch friend or two,
    And a light heart still breaking into song;
  Making a mock of life and all its cares,
    Rich in the glory of my rising sun,
  Lightly I vaulted up four pair of stairs
    In the brave days when I was twenty-one.

What a pity that life is so stern and severe, that for the light morality
of Bohemia somebody must pay, some life be wrecked! Nature fills us with
youth and romance, but for her own purposes only. She is the great
matrimonial agent, and heavy is the penalty she exacts from those who
would escape her books, and extract from life more poetry than it holds.
And so the beautiful roselight of Bohemia veils many a tragedy, many a
treachery. Yet will the _grisette_ be ever a gracious memory, and
literature will always embalm the "Mimi Pinson" of De Musset.

She is dead now, _la grisette_, even in Paris, and "hic jacet" may be
written over the bonnet she threw _pardessus les moulins_.

  Ah, Clemence! When I saw thee last
    Trip down the rue de Seine,
  And turning, when thy form had pass'd,
    I said, "We meet again,"
  I dreamed not in that idle glance
    Thy latest image came,
  And only left to Memory's trance
    A shadow and a name.

That is how she affected even the Puritan Oliver Wendell Holmes. Yes,
there is something in the Bohemian tradition that touches the sternest of
us--not the roystering, dissolute, dishonourable, shady Bohemia that is
always with us, bounded by the greenroom, the racecourse, the gambling
club, and the Bankruptcy Court, but the Bohemia that is as unreal as
Shakespeare's "desert country near the sea," the land of light purses and
light loves, set against the spiritual blight that sometimes follows on
pecuniary and connubial blessedness. For, after all, morality is larger
than a single virtue, and Charles Surface is always more agreeable than
Joseph or Tom Jones than Blifil, even when Joseph or Blifil is as proper
as he pretends. And if Tom or Charles is a poet to boot, what can we not
forgive him? The poet must have his experiences--be sure that nine tenths
of them are purely of the imagination. For the other tenth--well, if
Burns had been strictly temperate, "the world had wanted many an idle
song," and we should not have celebrated his centenary so
enthusiastically. The poet expresses the joy and sorrow of the race whose
silent emotions become vocal in him, and it is necessary that he should
have a full and varied life, from which "nihil humanum" is alien. Mr.
Barry Pain once wrote a subtle story, which only three persons
understood, to show that a great poet might be an elegant egotist, of
unruffled life and linen. If so, I should say that such a poet's genius
would largely consist of hereditary experience; he would, in language
that is not so unscientific as it sounds, be a reincarnation of a soul
that had "sinned and suffered." But as a rule the poet does his own
sinning and suffering, and catches for himself that haunting sense of the
glory and futility of life which is the undertone of the modern poet's
song, and which finds such magical expression in Heine's verses:

  I have loved, oh, many a maiden kind,
    And many a right good fellow,--
  Where are they all? So pipes the wind,
    So foams and wanders the billow.

But the poet's morals are maligned. The fierce light which beats upon the
throne of song reveals the nooks and crannies of the singers' lives,
which for the rest they themselves expose rather than conceal. I should
say that the average morality of the poet is much superior to the average
morality of the man of the world who sins in well-bred silence. The poet
gloats over his sins--is musically remorseful or swingingly defiant; he
hints or exaggerates or invents. That is where the poet's imagination
comes in--to give to airy nothings a local habitation and a name. The
poet's imagination is often far more licentious than his life; the
"poet's licence" is rightly understood to be limited to his language. To
have written erotic verses is almost a certificate of respectability: the
energy that might have been expended in action has run to rhyme.  _Qui
ose tout dire arrive a tout faire_, say the French. Arrives _at_,
perhaps, though even this is doubtful, but certainly does not start from
that platform. Much less questionable were it to say: _Qui ose tout faire
arrive a ne rien dire._

The late M. Verlaine will be cited as a substantiation of the popular
idea of the vagabond poet. The Verlaine legend has now been consecrated
by his death; and for all time, I suppose, Verlaine will rank with Villon
as an impossible person. He may have been all that is said, all that is
hinted, even in Mr. George Moore's famous description of him. "I once saw
Verlaine. I shall not forget the bald prominent forehead (_une tete
glabre_), the cavernous eyes, the macabre expression of burnt-out lust
smouldering upon his face."

But there is another side to him, and it is perhaps because I do not go
about the world with Mr. Moore's "macabresque" eye, which to-day happily
sees things in a soberer colouring, that I saw this other side of
Verlaine when, like Mr. George Moore, I hunted him up on his native
heath. For one thing, I was not prepared to see anything very lurid and
_diabolique_: life is really not so picturesque as all that. I knew
besides that he had been a schoolmaster in England; and can you imagine
anything more tedious and toilsome than to be the "French master," the
poor, despised, "frog-eating Mounseer Jacques" of boys' stories, the butt
of all their facetious brutality? If ever anything was calculated to make
a man _diabolique_! I trust biographers will not forget to place all this
depressing drudgery to our "vagabond's" credit. Think of it! The first
poet of France correcting French exercises! The poet of the passions
conjugating the verb _aimer_ in its hideous grammatical reality!

  Fumons philosophiquement,
      Promenons-nous
        Paisiblement:
    Rien faire est doux.

So might Verlaine write, though contradicting himself by doing something
in so doing; but in the absurd actual he had to earn his bread and
butter, and man cannot live by poetry alone, unless one sings the joys
and sorrows of the middle classes. It was rather late at night before,
having vainly hunted for him in his favourite restaurants, I found the
narrow, poverty-stricken _rue_ in which Verlaine was living a year or so
ago. Passing through a dark courtyard, I had to mount interminable stone
stairs, lighting foul French matches as I went, to relieve the blackness.
At last I arrived outside his door, very near the sky. I knocked. A voice
called out, "I've gone to bed." I explained my lateness and said I would
call to-morrow.

"No, no! _Attendez!_" I heard him jump out of bed, stumble and grope
about, and then strike a match; and in another instant the door opened,
and in the interstice appeared a homely nightcapped _bourgeois_ pulling
on his trousers. There flashed on me incongruously the thought of our
English laureate's stately home by the sea, in which, jealously guarded
by hedges and flunkeys, the poet chiselled his calm stanzas; and all the
vagabond in me leapt out to meet the unpretentious child of Paris. He
greeted me with simple cordiality; and, ugly and coarse though his face
was, it was lit up throughout by a pleasant smile. His notorious leg was
bandaged, but not repulsively. No, "homely" is the only impression I
shall ever have of Verlaine, the man. Even in that much maligned
"macabresque" head of his, there was more of the _bonhomme_ than of the
poet or the satyr. The little garret was his all in all; a bed took up
half the space. On the table stood the remains of supper. A few shelves
of books, a sketch or two, and a bird-cage with a canary were the only
attempts at ornament.

Such was Verlaine at the climax of his fame, when he had won a sure
immortality; simple and childlike, and with a child's unshamed acceptance
of any money one might leave behind on the mantelpiece. He seems to have
made very little by his verses. He spoke English quite well, having
probably acquired it when teaching French; and he was perhaps more proud
of it than of his poems. Mr. Moore says he wished to translate Tennyson.
He read aloud a poem he had just written in celebration of his own
fiftieth birthday. There was an allusion to a "crystal goblet." "_Ce
verre-la!_" he interpolated, with a humorous smile, pointing to a cheap
glass with the dregs of absinthe that stood on the table. There was also
an allusion to a "blue-bird," a sort of symbol of the magic of spring, I
fancy, that flutters through many of his poems. (The "_plumage bleute de
l'orgueil_" figures in one of his very last verses.) When he arrived at
this "blue-bird" he pointed to the cage with the same droll twinkle:
"_Cet oiseau-ci._" When I left him he stood at the head of the gloomy
stone stairs to light me down, and the image of him in his red cotton
nightcap is still vivid. And now he is only an immortal name. Ah, well!
after the English school-rooms, the French prisons, the Parisian garrets
and hospitals, the tomb is not so bad. _Rien faire est doux_.

In giving him place with the immortals I feel no hesitation. An English
clergyman found immortality by writing one poem,--"The Burial of Sir John
Moore,"--and, however posterity may appraise Verlaine's work as a whole,
he has left three or four lyrics which can die only if the French
language dies, or if mankind in its latter end undergoes a paralysis of
the poetic sense such as Darwin suffered from in his old age. Much of his
verse--especially his later verse--is to me, at least, as obscure as
Mallarme. But

  Il pleut dans mon coeur
  Comme il pleut dans la rue

can never be surpassed for the fidelity with which it renders the endless
drip, drip of melancholia, unless it is by that other magical lyric:

  Les sanglots longs
  Des violons
    De l'automne
  Blessent mon coeur
  D'une langueur
    Monotone.

He is the poet of rhythm, of the nuance, of personal emotion. French
poetry has always leant to the frigid, the academic, the rhetorical--in a
word, to the prosaic. The spirit of Boileau has ruled it from his cold
marble urn. It has always lacked "soul," the haunting, elusive magic of
wistful words set to the music of their own rhythm, the "finer light in
light," that are of the essence of poetry. This subtle and delicate echo
of far-off celestial music, together with some of the most spiritual
poems that Catholicism has ever inspired, have been added to French
literature by the gross-souled, gross-bodied vagrant of the prisons and
the hospitals! Which is a mystery to the Philistine. But did not our own
artistic prisoner once sing:

  Surely there was a time I might have trod
  The sunlit heights, and from life's dissonance
  Struck one clear chord to reach the ears of God?

Was ever more devout Catholic than Benvenuto Cellini, who murdered his
enemies and counted his beads equal gusto?




V

THE INDESTRUCTIBLES

I wonder if you have ever been struck by the catholicity--not to say the
self-contradictoriness--of the constant correspondent. The creature will
enter with zest into any discussion; there is no topic too small for it,
and certainly none too great. The following letters, carefully culled
from the annual contributions of a lady whose epistolary career I have
followed with interest, will indicate the delicious inconsequence that
has made them for me such grateful reading:

1888.

    SIR,--There is nothing in life worth purchasing by pulsations and
    respirations. The world is a dank, malarious marsh, with fitful
    Will-o'-the-Wisp flashes of false radiance--a vast cemetery waiting
    for our corpses. There is no such thing as happiness.

      Nature, red in tooth and claw
      With ravin, shrieks against

    the idea. Youth is an illusion, maturity a regret, and old age an
    apprehension. Fortunately Providence has sent us a panacea--Universal
    Suicide.

    I am, Sir,
    Yours obediently,
    AGATHA P. ROBINS.

1889.

    SIR,--Surely "A Mad Englishman" and "Dorothy X.," who maintain so
    glibly that country life is more enjoyable than town life, fail to
    realise how much of our pleasure depends on human intercourse. It is
    given only to poets to talk with trees. Nor can ordinary mortals find

      Sermons in stones,
      Books in the running brooks.

    We need the cathedrals and the libraries that are to be found only in
    the great centres of national life--yes, and also the art galleries
    and the theatres. Of course, if people will martyr themselves to keep
    up appearances, and want to live in a fashionable neighbourhood, they
    will not find town life either cheap or pleasant. But if they are
    content to live outside the aristocratic radius, they can find many a
    comfortable villa, with baths (hot and cold), and back gardens which
    may easily be converted into rustic retreats (I would especially
    recommend rhododendrons). If you are also not above omnibuses (taking
    a cab only when it rains, and selecting a driver who does not look as
    if he would swear), and are satisfied to go to the pit, then I feel
    sure London is not only as cheap as the obscurest village, but gives
    you a far greater return for your money. Newly-married couples in
    especial often make a great mistake in settling in the country for
    the sake of economy. It is only in the town that they can really lead
    a tranquil, happy life, enriched with all the resources of culture
    and civilisation.

    I am, Sir,
    Yours obediently,
    AGATHA P. ROBINS.

1890.

    SIR,--The failure of marriage is too apparent to be glossed over any
    longer. "A.Y.Z." and "A Woman of No Importance" deserve the thanks of
    every honest heart for their brave outspokenness. Too long has this
    mediaeval monstrosity cramped our lives. The beautiful word "Home"
    conceals a doll's house or whitewashes a sepulchre. Marriage is
    misery in two syllables. How can people be happy chained together
    like galley-slaves? It contradicts all we know of human nature.

      Love, free as air, at sight of human ties
      Spreads his light wings and in a moment flies.

    Away with this effete Pharisaism! Let us realise the infinite
    possibilities of happiness latent in the blessing of existence. The
    world is longing for freedom to love truly, nobly, wisely, many.

    I am, Sir,
    Yours obediently,
    AGATHA P. ROBINS.

1891.

    SIR,--I can testify by personal experience to the fact that the
    manners of our children are deteriorating. Coming up to the
    Metropolis for a day's excursion last Bank Holiday, I could not walk
    anywhere without overhearing ribald remarks--and, what was worse, at
    my own expense--even from respectably dressed children. Let those
    look to it who

      Teach the young idea how to shoot.

    I thank Heaven my lot has always been cast in a sweet Devonshire
    village, where the contagion of ill-conduct has not yet spread among
    the juvenile population.

    I am, Sir,
    Yours obediently,
    AGATHA P. ROBINS.

1892.

    SIR,--Have your flippant correspondents, "Polygamist" and "Illegal
    Brother-in-Law," any conception of the thousands (ay, tens of
    thousands) of hearts that are, languishing in misery because they
    cannot marry their deceased sisters' husbands? And all because of a
    text which is not to be found in the Bible! Fie upon you, ye
    so-called Bishops,

      Dressed in a little brief authority.

    Abolish this unrighteous law, I say, and let floods of sunshine and
    happiness into a million darkened homes.

    I am, Sir,
    Yours obediently,
    AGATHA P. ROBINS.

But, after all, is it fair to juxtaposit Agatha's letters? What if one
were to collect the leaders of any newspaper on any given subject, before
or after any event? I have met Agatha P. Robins in many other places at
many other times. Sometimes she is interested in the best substitute for
shirt-buttons or for Christianity, sometimes in the problem of living on
a thousand a year, sometimes in the abolition of stag-hunting.

  SIGNS OF THE SILLY SEASON.

  A gooseberry that groweth green and great,
    A serpent round the sea serenely curled,
  A lonely soul that fails to find a mate,
    A boy redundant in a teeming world,

  A sister yearning for dead sisters' shoes,
    A life that longs for death, or after-life,
  A ghost, a mistress whom her maids abuse,
    An erring judge, a French or German wife,

  A child's long ear or holiday, a slum,
    A man gone bald, or drunk, a coin's design--
  Should things like these across your paper come,
    Conclude the Silly Season will be fine.

It is difficult to trace exactly when "The Season" ends and "The Silly
Season" begins. It needs the finest discrimination to know when the
adjective comes in--without a worldly training, indeed, you cannot tell
the one from the other. But the past masters of the social art proclaim
that "The Season" is dead, and we bow our heads in reverence. Yes, it is
vanished, that focus of futilities, that wonderful Season, that
phantasmagoria of absurdities, of abortive ambitions, over which a
hundred humourists have made merry: it is dead, with its splendours and
jubilations and processions--dead as the ropes of roses in St. James's
street. Often have I debated the potency of satire, again and again have
I suggested to learned friends a scientific and historical investigation
of the popular belief that satire moves mountains or even molehills. But
they agree only in shrinking from the task. To take only the last
half-century: we have had one supreme satirist who harped eternally on
the failings of fashion and the vanity of things. In his novels society
saw itself reflected in all its attitudes and postures and posings. Not
one meanness or folly escaped. What Professor Huxley has done for the
crayfish, that Thackeray did for the Snob. He studied him lovingly, he
dissected him, he classified every variety of him. A thousand disciples,
less gifted but equally remorseless, followed in the Master's footsteps.
"Punch" took up the tale, and week by week repeated the joke. It was
heard in drawing-room recitations to the accompaniment of pianos; it even
went on the stage. Ladies rushed into print to expose foibles men never
guessed, and to say of the sex at large what less gifted women say only
of their personal friends. For years we have never ceased for a moment to
hear the lash of the whip, the swish of the birch, the whizz of the
arrow, the ping of the bullet, the thwack of the flail, the thud of the
hammer, the buzzing of the hornet. And what does it all amount to? How
much execution has been done? Is society purer or nobler? Have less
daughters been sold at Vanity Fair, or more invitations been sent to poor
relatives? Has Jones got better manners or champagne? Is Mrs. Ponsonby de
Tomkins more distant to duchesses? Did my Lady Clara Vere de Vere
consider whether Hood's seamstress was at work on her court gown? Is any
one wiser or kinder or honester for all the literary pother? Are the
diplomatic corps less maculate than in the days of Grenville Murray? Have
we not, on the contrary, cast on our own imperfections the complaisance
of an eye educated in the superior imperfections of our neighbours?

Lo, here is a new satirist arisen, Sarah Jeannette Duncan, who, in "The
Simple Adventures of a Memsahib," sketches Anglo-Indian society in a
manner that would not discredit Thackeray--and with something, too, of
Thackeray's haunting sense of the pathos of the dead Past and the flying
Present. But will the memsahib of to-morrow take warning by the fate of
Helen Peachey, who went out to India in all her bridal bravery, in all
her youth and freshness? Will she escape exchanging the placidity of Fra
Angelico's piping cherubim for the petulance and ring-shadowed eyes of
the seasoned matron? Will she be on her guard against shrinking to the
prejudices and flirtations of a coterie, dying to all finer and higher
issues? Will she worship virtue more and viceroys less? Alas, I fear me
not--no more than Pagett, M. P., will leave off talking solar myths, or
foolish things cease to be done under the deodars. Will Hogarth keep
wine-bibbers from the bottle, or can you make men sober by acts of
"L'Assommoir"? Will "Madame Bovary" stay a sister's fall, or "Sapho"
repel an eligible young man? Will "The Dunciad" keep one dunce from
scribbling, or "Le Tartufe" elevate a single ecclesiastic? As well expect
"long firms" to run short, and the moths to avoid the footlights, and the
fool to cease from the land. "How gay they were, and how luxurious, and
how important in their little day! How gorgeous were the attendants of
their circumstances, on the box with a crest upon their turbans!--there
is a firm in Calcutta that supplies beautiful crests. And now, let me
think! some of them in the Circular Road Cemetery--cholera, fever,
heat-apoplexy; some of them under the Christian daisies of
England--probably abscess of the liver." Yes, madam, we know it all, we
recognize the Thackeray touch. "And soon, very soon, our brief day, too,
will have died in a red sunset behind clustering palms, and all its
little doings and graspings and pushings, all its petty scandals and
surmises and sensations, will echo further and further back into the
night." True, most true, and pity 't is 't is true. But meantime we will
go on with our little doings and graspings and pushings--yes, madam, even
you and I who have realised the vanity of all things; for the knowledge
thereof--this, too, is vanity. "And it was all a striving and a striving,
and an ending in nothing, and no one knew what they had lived and worked
for." Yea, so it is, Frau Schreiner. And still we are living on--and oh!
how hard we work (on African farms or otherwhere) to express artistically
our sense of the futility of life!

  VANITAS VANITATUM.

  A rich voluptuous languor of dim pain,
    A dreamy sense of passionate regret,
  Delicious tears and some sweet, sad refrain,
    Some throbbing, vague, and tender canzonet,
  That mourns for life so real and so vain,
    Wherein we glory while our eyes are wet.

I am afraid, if I pursue this investigation, I shall end by believing
that satire is simply an aesthetic satisfaction--the last luxury of the
sinful. Ridicule, we are always told, is a tremendous destructive--an
atmosphere in which nothing can live. But is it? Christianity, Kings, and
War are little the worse for the jets of mockery that have been playing
on them for two centuries. In Swift's day the wits at the coffee-houses
regarded religion as a farce that even the Augurs could not keep up any
longer without public winking; yet Diderot and the Encyclopaedia are
dead, and the bishops we have always with us! It was thought War could
not survive Voltaire's remark that a monarch picks up a parcel of men who
have nothing to do, dresses them in blue cloth at two shillings a yard,
and marches away with them to glory--but here is our Henley singing a
song of the sword, while all our novelists are looking to their weapons.
Despite Heine's sarcasm, the collection of English kings is as incomplete
as ever. A passing fad can, perhaps, be made to pass along a little
faster, but it only makes room for another. True, "Punch" killed the
craze for sunflowers and long necks; but then "Punch" invented it. It was
merely made to be destroyed brilliantly, like a Chinese cracker or a
Roman candle. Folly is older than "Punch's" jokes, and will survive them.
Snobbery and self-seeking, pettiness and stupidity, envy, hate, and all
uncharitableness, were no secret to the mummies in the British Museum.
"Unto the place whither the rivers go, thither they go again." Are there
not a hundred sayings in Ecclesiastes and Menander, in Horace and
Moliere, as apt to-day as though fresh from the typewriter? One of the
learned friends to whom I proposed the thesis contended that Perseus and
Juvenal at least are out of date. But this was merely my learned friend's
ignorance. Is it not the truest piety to conclude that those things which
the ridicule of the ages cannot kill deserve their immortality--that
Kings, War, and Christianity play a part in the scheme of creation, and
that even snobbery and jobbery, folly and fraud, rouge and
respectability, and horse-racing, bounders and politicians, the
prize-ring and the marriage market, are all necessary to the fun of
Vanity Fair! They are thrown up by the flux of things for Honesty to set
his heel on. So houp-la! On with the dance! louder, ye fiddlers! faster,
O merry-go-round! Nay, not so glum, ye moralists and satirists,
philanthropists and preachers; link hands all--_ducdame, ducdame!_--and
thank the gods for keeping you in occupation. What should we do without
our fools? The question seems pat for a Silly Season correspondence.
Come, gather, fools all. Ye could not be better employed than in
answering it. For, mark, brother-satirists mine, you cannot kill the
Silly Season correspondence.

And you cannot kill Ghosts. Perhaps because they do not exist. No other
dead thing is so tenacious of life as your ghost. If ridicule were really
fatal, we should have given up the ghost long since. Consider the fires
of burlesque through which he has passed unscathed. What indignity has
been spared him? Now at last he is to encounter the supreme test--he is
to be taken seriously. The Psychical Society has the matter in hand--or
should one say, the spirit? And Mr. Stead, who believes in himself in a
way that is refreshing in these atheistic times, proposes either to
rehabilitate the ghost or to lay him for ever. But this latter is beyond
the might of man or society.

And you cannot kill Grouse. At least I can't. I sometimes suspect there
are others of the population equally incompetent, and perhaps still less
interested in battues; though the Twelfth figures in everybody's calendar
like a Church festival, and the newspapers devote leaders to it, and the
comic papers have pictures, and sometimes even jokes about it, and you
would think the whole population of these islands struck work and went
a-shooting with gillies and dogs and appropriate costume. But that is the
craftiness of the editors, from Mr. Buckle and Mr. Yates down to the
editor of the _Halfpenny Democrat_--they make the humblest of us feel we
are in the best sets, so we all come up to town for the season, and are
seen at three parties a night, and we ride in the Park, and we go to
Henley and Goodwood to a man; and we yacht at Cowes, and pot grouse in
Scotland--still with the same wonderful unanimity; and we hunt with the
hounds, and run with the salmon, and keep our Christmas in country
houses, and come up smiling for the New Year, ready to recommence the
same old Sisyphean round. I suppose the people who really do these things
could be exhibited in the National Gallery, but the space their doings
fill is incalculable.

And you cannot kill Adelphi Melodrama. But I have a piece of advice to
offer to the Italian gentlemen who have done so much for our stage. It
is, that they run their theatre on a principal of duality befitting their
joint management. Let it be the home of Melodrama and Burlesque, the same
play serving for both _genres_. Let, say, Mr. Sims--who is so clever in
either species--write the pieces--each melodrama being its own burlesque.
An extra dash of colour here, an ambiguous line there, with a serious
meaning in the melodrama and a droll in the burlesque, will secure the
brothers two audiences, and after eight o'clock I guarantee standing room
only. The simple will come to weep and thrill, the cynics to laugh and
chuckle. And everybody will be happy.

In sooth, is not the world divided into those who take the great cosmic
drama seriously, and those who treat it as farce? On the one hand the
workers and the fighters, on the other the journalists, politicians, and
men about town. Yet have the workers and the fighters the nobler part. A
genuine emotion, an earnest conviction, vitalises life. The day-dreams of
hungry youth are better than the dinners of prosaic maturity, and a
simple maiden in her flower is worth a hundred epigrams. I had rather be
an Adelphi god than a smoking-room satyr.

Who shall blame the melodramatist? He writes for those to whom literature
makes no appeal. Literature is a freemasonry of the highest minds, and
that poetry is Greek to the masses I should scarcely have thought a
"Question at Issue" demanding substantiation from Mr. George Gissing. Mr.
Gosse must know that the eclipse which darkened England at the passing of
Alfred Tennyson was invented by the newspapers and the poets who outraced
one another to weep upon his tomb. Look upon Mr. Booth's map of East
London, with its coloured lines showing the swarms of human beings who
live ignobly and die obscurely, and realise for yourself of what import
the cult of beautiful form is to these human ant-heaps. Walk down the
populous Whitechapel Road of a Saturday night, or traverse the long slimy
alleys of Rotherhithe among the timber wharves, and discover how many of
your countrymen and contemporaries are living neither in your country nor
in your century. To Mr. Henry James, the dull undertone of pain and
sorrow is part of the music of London--such harmony is in aesthetic
souls. But the dull and the gross, who only suffer and endure, the muddy
vesture of decay closes them in and they cannot hear it.

What shall literature do for these? In a great smoky Midland town, on
dreary pavements, under sloppy skies, I saw a girl who was a greater
argument for melodrama than all the cheques of all the managers. She was
going to her work in the raw dawn, her lunch in a package under her arm;
the back was bent and the face was pale and pinched, but there was a
slumbering fire of romance in the deep-fringed eyes, and suggestions of
poetry lurked in the shadows of her hair; and at once my breast was full
of stirrings to write for her--only for her--a book full of beauty and
happiness and sunshine, and, oh! such false views of life, such
inaccurate pictures of the pleasures of a society she would never know.
The hero should be handsome and brave and good, with a curling moustache;
and the heroine should be beautiful and true, with an extensive wardrobe;
and the clouds would come only to roll by, and the story should die away
in an odour of orange-blossom, and in a music of marriage-bells. And
there should be lots of money for everybody, and any amount of laughter
and gaiety, and I would give dances twice a volume, and see that all the
girls had partners, delightful waltzers with good conversation. And there
would be garden-parties (weather permitting invariably), and picnics
without green spiders, and sails without sea-sickness. And as for truth
and realism--fie on them! We can create a much nicer world than nature's.
Why be plagiarists, when we can make universes of our own?




VI

CONCERNING GENERAL ELECTIONS

Twice in succession has it befallen me to be privately busy in a
backwater when the main stream was spuming and ramping with the great
bore of a general election. I have been able to hear the swallows twitter
at sunrise in serene unconsciousness of the crisis, to watch the rooks
homing at twilight, as though the course of Nature were still the same,
and to see the moonlight rippling over the sombre water at midnight in
unaffected tranquillity. Myself was scarcely better informed of the tidal
flood: stray echoes of speech, odd fragments of newspaper floated down to
me, and at intervals some visitant from the greater deep held, like a
sea-shell, the rumour of its sounding waters.

And, indeed, where shall we find a better metaphor for party-government
than this of the tide, of the ebb and flow of political
power--remorseless, inevitable, regardless of those who, tossed high on
the stream, imagine they direct it? And in this metaphor the People must
play Moon, like the clown in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." But, as Juliet
says:

  O swear not by the moon, th' inconstant moon.

The cause of this inconstancy has not escaped even the philosophers. The
Whig and the Tory, rival lovers of Luna,--moonstruck ravers,--woo her
with honeyed words and dulcet promises, and she inclines her coquettish
ear--most of the month she is all ear--to the highest bidder. But when
she comes to her full--and is all eye--then she perceives her swain
faithless and empty-handed, and straightway she plights her troth to his
clamorous and expostulant fellow, who dangles his untried promises before
her disappointed vision. And the days pass, and she rises and sets; but
lo! the bridal gifts linger still, and the horn of plenty is an empty
trumpet, and, forgetful of her first lover's failure, she turns to him
again. And so for ever, in a fickle quest of fidelity, pathetic enough.
Perhaps she--with the two strings to her bow--shares the just fate of
coquettes, happy with neither; perhaps she were wiser to give herself to
a single lover, and be rid for ever of these hesitancies. And yet, would
she profit by the change? Endymion, the one youth whose beauty drew her
from heaven, remained perpetually asleep. Is there not some profound
significance in the ancient myth, some truth that would have pleased
Francis Bacon, Baron Verulam (as the pedants will have us call the man
who did not write Shakespeare).

But the philosophers, who have understood the levity of mind that
underlies changes of Cabinets, have not always understood the numerical
pettiness of the voting power by which the change is effected. Just as
every philosopher is born a Platonist or an Aristotelian, so, as Mr.
Gilbert sings, is every Englishman born a little Liberal or a little
Conservative: even if his politics be not original sin, it is early
acquired. Thus, then, the nation consists of two great camps--the
Liberals and the Conservatives--which are practically fixed; standing
armies that may be relied upon. A born Liberal may wax fat and kick at
his ancient principles: a born Conservative may change his coat and turn
Whig. But these exceptions are rare. For the most part men stick to their
party and die as foolish as they were born--which is called consistency.
Convinced sometimes against their will, they are of the same opinion
still. Loyalty and obstinacy will look facts in the face and never
blench, and every one remains truer to his social circle than to his
private judgments. People's politics are their prejudices at a masked
ball, and the Conservatives will vote Conservative and the Liberals
Liberal, through a cannonade of unanswerable cartoons. Apart from these
two great standing armies, there is a shifting body of free-lances,
guerrillas, Jacks-o'-both-sides, call them what you will--waverers who
have too much conscience or too little, who are swayed by their reason or
their pocket, or who are gullible enough to believe that the opposition
will do better, or sportsmen enough to desire fair play and a chance for
the other side, and who are found fighting now in this camp, now in that.
The camps themselves are fairly matched: Rads and Tories--the sexes of
politics--are as evenly created as men and women. They are like ten-pound
weights standing on either scale of a balance. What, then, determines the
oscillation this way or that? Evidently the miserable little half-ounce
weight placed sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other. In
fine,'tisthe tiny squadron of free-lances that wins general elections,
the voters who think or who don't think, or who veer to be with the
majority. The Jacks-o'-both-sides rule England, even as the Parnell
brigade ruled Parliament. To this floating population is it given to make
or unmake Cabinets; theirs is the righteous indignation that sweeps the
country like a new broom, and sweeps Ministries into limbo; to them is
made the magniloquent "appeal to the country!" _L'etat, c'est nous!_
might be the motto of this third party, were it but conscious of itself
as a party.

"The majority is never right," cries Dr. Stockmann in "The Enemy of the
People." "Never, I say. That is one of those conventional lies against
which a free, thoughtful man must rebel. Who are they that make up the
majority of a country? Is it the wise men or the foolish? I think we must
agree that the foolish folk are, at present, in a terribly overwhelming
majority all around and about us the wide world over. But, devil take it,
it can surely never be right that the foolish should rule over the
wise.... The majority has might--unhappily--but right it has not. I and a
few others are right." But how if "I and a few others" organised
themselves after the fashion of the Parnellites? how if the wise men made
up their minds that the world should no longer be governed with the
proverbial minimum of wisdom, and, taking advantage of the natural
balance of parties, resolved that they should be the ones to supply the
principle of movement to the equilibrated social machine? Surely the
Millennium could not long resist the Philosophers' party. But, alas!
would the wise men agree? Would not they also split up into two factions?
And even if philosophers were kings and kings philosophers, _would_ the
kingdom of Plato be at hand?

Popular suffrage is much maligned. "Think," says Bouvard, one of the
tragi-comic twain who serve for title to that saddest of all humorous
books, Flaubert's "Bouvard et Pecuchet," "think of all those who buy
pomades and patent medicines. These blockheads form the electorate and we
submit to their will. Why can't one make three thousand a year by
breeding rabbits? Because too much crowding together is fatal to them. In
like manner, by the mere coming together of a crowd the germs of
stupidity which it contains get developed and the consequences are
incalculable." But popular suffrage does not operate like this at all.
One might almost say that half the stupidity contradicts and annihilates
the other half: in practice the franchise carries its own antidote,--the
"germs of stupidity" do not get developed, but destroyed. The metaphor of
germs would be more appropriate if applied to the ideas of the
party-programmes, for these ideas are introduced by a few wise or foolish
men and disseminated epidemically throughout their respective parties.
Democracy never escapes aristocracy, for the people never invents ideas;
its whole power is that of choice between the ideas offered by its
would-be leaders, and even these ideas it accepts less as a philosopher
than as a patient, rather as "germs" than as thoughts. And when once it
has accepted its leaders or its representatives, the beautiful
parliamentary system deprives it of all further rights of interference
for a term of years, and the policy of the country is far more dependent
on the intestine rivalries and manoeuvrings of the representatives than
on the desires and demands of the represented. In a really democratic
system there would be a central bureau of statesmen not necessarily
elected by the voice of the people, and this bureau should have for
object not the wrangling over measures, but the mere proposition of them.
These trained thinkers and diplomatists--accepting advice freely from the
great newspapers and the chiefs of factions--would propose whatever
measures seemed necessary from time to time for the preservation, the
elevation, and the dignity of the commonweal, and these propositions
would be submitted officially to every franchise-holder, just as the
inquisitive census-paper or the parochial voting-paper is to-day. The
"Ayes" or "Noes" of the people would have it, not of those who represent
them, save the mark! The details could be drafted by specialists, as
to-day. That this would be a better or even a feasible system I do not
say; but I do maintain that any other democracy than this is a fraud. To
have the ten-thousandth part of a voice in selecting among the varying
policies of sundry ambitious gentlemen, all of whom have been foisted on
me by committees, and of whom the successful one--whose professed views
may be quite antithetical to mine and can at best only roughly represent
them--will have, when he is not absent or manoeuvred into silence, the
six-hundred-and-seventieth part of a voice in accepting or rejecting the
ideas of half a dozen very ambitious gentlemen, whose measures are
themselves liable to be quashed at the eleventh hour by an Upper House
that sits without my will or consent, and which is in its turn legally
liable to be superseded by the Sovereign, whose government is all the
while being really carried on in silence by permanent officials whose
very names I do not know and who have no connection with me beyond
accepting, in ignorance of my existence, my dole towards their
salaries,--this is not a form of democracy that appeals very attractively
to me as an individual member of Demos.

And, moreover, the position of my Member of Parliament is scarcely less
paradoxical than my own role of free and independent elector. He is the
mouthpiece of his constituents, and yet he is expected to have a will and
conscience of his own. Why? Why should he be any more honest than a
lawyer or a journalist? Each of these classes is paid to maintain certain
propositions, and the most successful in these lines are those with the
highest powers of persuasion. The constituency wishes certain opinions
and desires put forward in Parliament,--why should the man who offers to
execute the job be presumed to share those opinions and desires? The
point is, can he represent them more forcibly than the rival candidates?
I do not for a moment imagine that the M. P. invariably agrees with the
politics of his electors; I only inquire why he should have to profess
to,--why should he pay this homage of hypocrisy to an illogical ideal?
Theoretically we do not elect our M. P. because _he_ wants to get on, but
because _we_ want to get on or the country to get on; because _we_ want
certain measures carried, not because _he_ wants certain measures
carried. Therefore it is to our interest to get the most skilled advocate
at our command; his personal opinions are no concern of ours. A fig for
his ambitions and aspirations! This may not be a dignified position for
the M. P., but it is the one logically implicated in the democratic
notion of universal suffrage; and when the gentleman honestly asserts
himself and his private ambitions and his private conscience, he is
deucedly dishonest to his constituents.

To be strictly logical, indeed, M. P.'s should confine themselves to
stating the wishes of the people they represent: they might as well be
mechanical dolls, moved through the lobbies by the respective
wire-pullers and fitted with inarticulate noises. Or, for the matter of
that, they might be superseded altogether by written summaries of the
opinions of the winning majority in each constituency on all the points
at issue in the current session. The chiefs of the party could play the
game with markers. But indeed what is the use of dealing the cards at
all, when the Prime Minister holds all the trumps in advance, not up his
sleeve, but openly on the table? As for the speeches in the House, they
have as much effect upon the issue as the conversations at the
card-table. They are an obsolete survival from the times when members
were liable to come to the House with open minds, instead of having them
closed by their constituencies. Indeed, I can suggest a simple device by
which, without any departure from the ancient forms of the House, most of
the evils of Party Government could be swept away. By the system of
"pairing" a Tory may neutralize a Radical, and both go on together
without interfering with the good of the country. Let therefore the
entire minority pair off with members of the opposite party, leaving the
bare majority in possession of the floor. Being agreed on their policy,
these would not want to make speeches, but would simply spend their time
walking through the "Ayes" lobby. A few afternoons of pleasant
promenading would provide the country with enough legislation for a
lifetime. _Solvitur ambulando._ The party leaders would be enabled to
husband their energies for the hustings, since like all the agreeable
members they would easily find "partners." It is only the bores who would
be left to walk the House. It will be observed that this incalculable
gain of time, temper, money, and Acts of Parliament would be secured
without revolution, on constitutional lines, and by a mere extension of
an existing practice. I am convinced the salvation of the country depends
on the universal adoption of the system of Parliamentary "pairing," or
legislation by walking "wall-flowers."

A further advantage of this system deserves to be noted. As it takes
forty members to make a House, should the Governmental majority fall
below this number no business could be transacted. Thus it would become
impossible, when the country was almost equally divided, for one party to
impose its will on the nation by force of a bare majority. Again,
therefore, a very necessary reform would be achieved on strictly
constitutional lines.

In so confused a constitution, or so constitutional a confusion, it ill
becomes one to inquire why pre-eminence in Parliament is attained by
dexterity in the word-duel, and why a John Stuart Mill, who gave his life
to the study of sociological questions, is a failure in the House, while
a Randolph Churchill, who confessedly found politics more exciting than
any other form of sport, including even horse-racing, should be a
success. As in Athens of old, the rhetorician is master of the field.
Does it not seem ridiculous that a man shall be allowed to legislate who
has not passed an examination in political philosophy, political economy,
and universal history? As absurd as that men should be able to set up as
critics merely by purchasing reviews, that they should be permitted to
ply without a license. Still, monstrous as is the mischief wrought by the
quack critic, his sphere of influence is limited. But this question of
government touches us all. No one ought to be allowed in the House who
has not satisfactorily grappled with papers like the following.

1. Explain the use of the following phrases: "Home Rule," "Liberty,"
"Well-being of the Masses," "G. O. M.," "Good of the State," "The
Constitution." What meaning do you attach to them, if any?

2. "The Function of an Opposition Is To Oppose." Criticise this statement
from the point of view of the Party in Power, and trace carefully the
modification in its view produced by a change of government.

3. What is a good electoral address? Is there any relation between it and
its owner's votes in the House?

4. (a) Prove that Female Franchise is demanded not only by the women of
England, but by every consideration of reason and justice.

(b) Disprove the same.

5. The leader of your party suddenly reverses his policy.

(a) What would you think?

(b) What would you say?

(c) How would you vote?

Give no reasons for your answer.

6. If C represents Conscience, and C1 the Constituency, show that C1 will
always be represented by C2[*].

[Transcriber's note: So in original.]

7. What is a working-man? Explain why professional men who work sixteen
hours a day are excluded from this category.

8. Define a political victory, and distinguish between a political
victory and a moral victory.

But perhaps the discrepancy is less than meets the eye. The House of
Commons is a _Representative_ Assembly; the rhetoricians and fencers
represent the unreason and the pugnacity of the partisans. A country has
the politicians it deserves. I have heard the most ignorant girls rage
against Mr. Gladstone; damsels in their teens who knew nothing of life or
its problems, nor could have studied any question for themselves; pretty
girls withal, but who at the mention of the veteran statesman took on the
avenging aspect of the Eumenides.

It was a girl of quite another temper who replied to me when, talking
over old times and old discussions, I said I had not yet become a
Socialist: "I don't think you ever knew what you were." I winced as at a
just reproach, yet when I had left her the retort occurred to me (as
retorts will, when too late) that there was no particular merit in being
a "what," that men were not necessarily "'ists" or "'ites," that thoughts
did not fit into pigeonholes, and that if there was any merit in the
matter it consisted rather in preserving free play and elasticity of
mind. Because certain men had put certain ideas into the world it did not
follow that every other man had definitely to accept or reject each and
all of them, and to become an "'ite" or an "anti-'ite" in so doing.
Plague take great men! What right had they to force one into the
jury-box? Still less was it compulsory to return a verdict if, as the
vulgar were apt to think, the acceptance of any one "'ism" precluded the
acceptance of another, so that to be an Ibsenite was synonymous with
detesting the dramas of Sardou, and to be a Wagnerite involved a horror
of Mendelssohn. It was only the uncultured who held their artistic and
political creeds with the narrowness of Little Bethel, importing into
thought and aesthetics the zealotry they had lost in religion. The book
of Experience, thought I, is not an Encyclopaedia, with every possible
topic neatly ranged in alphabetical order; 'tis no A B C Time Table, with
the trains docketed for the enlightenment of the simple,'t is rather an
Encyclopaedia torn into a million million fragments by kittens and pasted
together again by infants, so that all possible things are inextricably
interfused, every one with every other; 't is a Bradshaw edited by a
maniac, where the trains that start but don't arrive are not even
distinguished from the trains that arrive but don't start. Wherever
persons are conscious of the infinite complexities of things, they will
be found cautious of creed and timid of assertion. You have probably
noted that at Waterloo Station, in London, no porter will ever bind
himself to a definite statement concerning any train. It is only the
inartistic who hold that black is black and white is white,
unconditionally, irretrievably; and who have invented the proverb "He'd
say black's white" to express the Sophist _in excelsis_. It must be true,
as Ruskin contends, that not one man in fifteen thousand has ever
observed anything, else how account for this wide-spread fallacy? The
"wit of one," instead of crystallising this "wisdom of the many," should
have flatly contradicted it. For, take two blackboards and place them at
right angles to each other: let a ray of bright sunlight fall upon them,
so that one cast a shadow on the other. The portion of blackboard
overshadowed will indeed be blackish, but the portion illuminated by full
sunlight will be comparatively white, although it is still thought of as
a "_black_-board." So, too, ask the man in the street for the colour of
trees, and he will reply "green." If I may permit myself a vulgar
locution, the green is in his eye. Trees are, of course, all colours of
the rainbow, according to kind and season; and grass, too, is by no means
always so green as people think it. We start in our childhood with
prejudices on these subjects--what is education but the systematic
imparting of prejudice?--and we rarely recover. Even the primitive rhymes
of childhood fix ideas unalterably in our minds:

  The rose is red, the violet's blue,
  Sugar is sweet and so are you.

Tea-roses are not red nor Neapolitan violets blue; sugar is only sweet to
those unversed in metaphysics, and sugar of lead not even to them. As for
the compliment to the juvenile petticoat, let it remain. But the
blackness of black is a superstition that deserves no such courteous
concessions. There is, in fact, no black and no white at all, as any
black-and-white artist will tell you. Black is not a colour: it is merely
the negation of light. By day nothing is ever black--it always contains
reflected light from some surrounding object or objects: if you look at a
"black" thing by day, you see its details, which convincingly proves that
light is not absent. If there were such a thing as a black object, it
could only prove its existence by being seen; but if it is seen it is no
longer black, and if it is black it is no longer seen. The mourners at a
funeral no more wear black than the bridesmaids at a wedding wear white.
To be white, a thing would have to escape all reflected light; and even
if this were possible, the sunlight itself, the source of all light and
colour, would tinge it with yellow, or red, or pink, according to the
time of day. "What!" the injudicious reader will cry, "is not snow white?
Does not the Dictionary boast even a double-barreled epithet
'snow-white'! How about the 'great white sea' that stretches round the
Pole?" I cannot help it: these adjectives, these expressions were
invented before artists had taught men to see: hastily, as by men falling
in love at first sight, who are destined to make many discoveries
concerning their idol later on. Snow is never white, any more than the
beloved is absolutely blameless. For snow to be "snow-white," the sky
would have to be white, whereas in those arctic circles it should be
either blue or grey. Moreover, the snow being only semi-opaque must be
tinctured by the shadow of the darkness of its own depths; as for
icebergs, well, you may see green, brown, and even deep-grey ice, whilst
the whitest have pinnacles and crags that must break the light like
prisms into all the colours of the spectrum, and all these hues, again,
do not fail to tint the snow. Nor will the white bear improve the
situation, for, to judge by the specimen in our London Zoological
Gardens, white bears are dirty yellow, just as black bears are dirty
brown.

But, so far from realising that black may be white, your average voter
seems to imagine that neither is ever even tempered: that his party is
purest white, and the opposition party impurest black. That the other
side reverses this colouring does not trouble him: it is merely due to
the aforesaid sophistical faculty of proving black white. I once knew a
man--no average voter he--who owned two comic papers, the one Radical,
the other Conservative. How he must have chuckled as he planned the
cartoons and settled the chiaroscuro! What blacks for the Tories to be
answered by counter-blacks for the Radicals! Beaconsfield as a sweep,
Gladstone as an Angel of Light; Beaconsfield as Ormuzd, Gladstone as
Ahriman; each in turn Lucifer, Son of the Morning, and Satan, the
discomfited demon. I tremble to think what would have happened if, by one
of those _contretemps_ which sometimes occur even in real life, the
cartoons had got interchanged. And caricatures such as these influence
the elections! The most childish nonsense, written in the
picture-language so dear to children! And on such ineptitudes the
destinies of the nation are supposed to turn! 'T is a comforting
reflection, then, that the whole thing is so largely a farce, that the
real axis of events is elsewhere--by no means a thing to grieve over. If
the British Constitution is a paradox not to be fathomed by human
intellect, why, that is a quality which it shares with Space and Time and
all deep and elemental things. Your deep thinker is invariably a
paradox-monger, because everything when probed to its bottom proves
illusive, and is found to contain its own contradiction. Truth is not a
dead butterfly, to be transfixed with a pin and labelled, but a living,
airy, evasive butterfly. Perhaps that is the inner meaning of the
Whistlerian motto. The Hegelian self-contradictoriness of the British
Constitution will not, therefore, affright us. To Tennyson the fact that
it is a "crowned republic" seemed a source of security. The English have
abolished the Crown, though they are too loyal to inform the Sovereign of
his deposition; in like manner they have evaded Democracy by conceding
universal suffrage. The strength of the British Constitution lies in its
inherent absurdity, its audacious paradoxicalness. It exists by force of
not being carried out. And the reason of this illogicality is clear: our
Constitution, like Topsy, was not made but "growed," and that which grows
is never logically perfect; it is like an old tree, strangely gnarled,
with countless abrasions and mutilations, and sometimes even curious
grafts. Here the lightning struck it, and yonder branch was snapped in
the great gale. Machine-made schemes may be theoretically perfect, but
they will never suit human nature, which is a soil for living growths,
not a concrete foundation for elegant architecture. This is the truth
which trips up Comte, and Fourier, and St. Simon, and all the
system-makers and utopia-builders. Perfect things are dead things: the
law of life is imperfection and movement. Life is never logical, it is
only alive. If man had been made by machinery his body would not have
been erratically hairy; his toes would long since have been improved away
or welded together by an American patentee; nor would there have
remained, for our humiliation, those traces of a caudal appendage which
some osteologists have thought to perceive in our distinguished anatomy;
our brotherhood to the beasts would have been betrayed only by our
behaviour.

So that, though Politics be as absurd as the Constitution, God bless her,
it may yet fulfil as useful a function. Who would deprive the hosts of
working-men of their generous enthusiasms, even though these be to the
profit of the professional politician? Who would narrow their horizon
back to the public-house and the workshop or the clerical desk and the
music-hall, by assuring them that all these great national and
international questions will be no penny the worse or the better for
their interest in them? For it is they, not the State, that will be
benefited. Politics is a great educative force: it teaches history,
geography, and the art of debate, and is not without relation to
Shakespeare and the musical glasses. The flies on the wheel are not
moving the wheel, but they are travelling and seeing the world, whereas
they might otherwise be buzzing around the dust-bin. Politics sets the
humblest at the centre of great cross-roads of history: it promotes clubs
and all manner of fellowship, and enables the poorest--on polling-day at
least--to know himself the equal of the greatest. Even the most
illiterate is spared the mortification of being reminded that he cannot
sign his name. And finally, and most of all, it preserves among us the
lost art of fighting. The long and oft-vaunted immunity of England from
the foot of a foreign foe has its drawbacks: we have forgotten what war
really means, we have delegated our courage and patriotism to an army of
mercenaries, who represent us in the field as a nobleman's carriage
represents him at a funeral; we are valiant vicariously and sublime by
deputy; we take the war-fever in its pleasant heats, and contract out the
chills and the blood-letting. And so the blood-letting fails to purge us
as before: the evil humours are still in the system. All those seething,
restless spirits which generate in the blood of a once warlike race clog
us up and turn to bile and dyspeptic distempers. Our militant instincts,
suppressed by a too-secure civilization, break out in sordid maladies of
the social organism. As a vent-hole for the envy, hatred and
uncharitableness of mankind, politics cannot be overestimated. In the
absence of real battles on our soil these sham fights of the
polling-booth--sham because they determine nothing, because the great
silent forces are working behind all the noises--are the national purge
for "our present discontents"; no more truly efficacious than that
ancient therapeutics of the lancet, a General Election yet comforts the
patient, he takes a lease of fresh hope, the sun leaps out, the clouds
pack, the sky is blue, the grass is dew-pearled, God's in his heaven, and
all's right with the world. Even the beaten party feels that it has won a
moral victory, and confidently looks forward to victory without morality
at the next turn of the wheel. And so all these diseased humours of the
body politic pass harmlessly off.

No one but a confirmed cynic would wish to do away with all this harmless
dissipation, all the innocent fun of electioneering, the speeches,
riotings, mud-throwings, everybody happy as sandboys or mudlarks. What a
great day that was--Plancus being M. P. and I a boy in a provincial
town--when the Blues and the Reds meant broken heads, and the flowing
tide of beer, and spruce carriages with beribboned horses, and jocund
waggonettes, and bands and banners, and "hoorays," and shuttered shops,
and an outpour of citizens; a day festive, yet solemn, pregnant with
mysterious dooms and destinies, fatal, ineluctable, if victory fell to
the wrong-coloured ribbons. I remember when my father went to poll his
vote--a strange, weird article that had to be carried carefully concealed
on the person, lest the roughs of the opposition should catch a glimpse
of the tip of it and bash in the holder's head--with what awed
imagination we followed his course, as of a hero gone to storm a redoubt
or lead a forlorn hope! with what anxiety we waited at home with the
bandages! For the civil war, which our constitution foments, was less of
a sham then than now, and the polling-booths vied with the playing-fields
of Eton as the nursery of England's heroes. Ah, the brave old times! An
anaemic age languishes for want of you, and finds its solace in "bluggy"
tales. For just as politics supplies the shadow, the simulacrum of
fighting, so art supplies the shadows of life to those who lack the
substance. We herd in towns, and take the country in dashes of
water-colour framed in gilt. We marry for money, and satiate our baulked
sense of romance with concoctions from Mudie's. We lie and haggle and
cheat only the better to apprehend the subtleties of spiritual discourse
in fashionable churches, and our generous appreciation of the consummate
chivalry of the hero of melodrama is the reward we owe ourselves for the
pain it gave us to kick our wives. Practical joking is banished from
reputable circles--even Bob Sawyer is ranging himself; and so this
primitive appetite seeks its satisfaction in farcical comedies. Poetic
tragedies owe their attraction to the dominance in real life of the drab
and the unlovely, and the overstrain of the intellect in modern life
gives a peculiar flavour to the ineptitudes of Gaiety burlesque. All the
primal instincts and passions are still in us, though distorted,
exaggerated, diminished, modified, applied to different objects and
purposes. The man with vagabond instincts becomes an explorer, Ishmael
writes social dramas, the happier son of a defalcating cashier rises to
be a minister of finance, the born liar turns novelist, the man with
murder in his soul hunts big game in foreign lands or settles down at
home as a critic. And so, too, the born warrior becomes a political
leader; and politics, if it does not do any of the things it professes to
do, plays yet an invaluable part in modern life, bridging over,
perchance, the transition from the bellicose ages to those belauded days
when the war-drum shall throb no longer, "and the kindly earth shall
slumber, lapt in universal law."

That this is confusedly and sub-consciously understood, even by
politicians, is shown by their very vocabulary. The Salvation Army itself
boasts no more militant a phraseology than the profession whose business
it is to administer peacefully the affairs of the realm. That which
should be, and sometimes is, expressed by nautical metaphors--the ship of
state, guiding the helm, and the rest of it--is much more frequently
expressed by military metaphors. Even the posts of duty are the "spoils"
of office. The State which to Plato was a deliberately harmonised music
is to us a deliberate discord, and the acme of politics, whose crowning
glory should be a peaceful measure, is by the vulgar not so inaccurately
regarded as attained at a General Election, the nomenclature of which
positively bristles with bayonets. Seats are won as towns were of old,
and, as in the days of Joshua, victory is achieved by walking round the
town and blowing your own trumpets. Great organs shamelessly lament that
their side has no good grievance to go to the country with,--as if the
absence of grievances were not the very object of government! A stirring
war-cry--that is the indispensable. If good government were really the
object of a General Election, it would all be over and done with in a
day. Election day would everywhere be as simultaneous as Christmas, and
votes would be polled with the punctuality with which puddings are eaten.
But this would be to contract a campaign into a battle--to make a short
story out of a great military serial, peppered with exciting incidents,
to be continued in our next. We want our vicissitudes, our sharpshooting,
our skirmishing, our days of triumph for the Whigs, and our days of
triumph for the Tories. What we like best of all is when the fighting is
so level that the Election progresses as breathlessly as a good
University boat race. Failing that, we like to see one side swamping the
other, like a great flood, the stream rising daily higher and higher,
with a crescendo roar, till the vanquished are swept away in a thunderous
mountain of waters. So for a full moon the waters rage, the noise of
battle roars, till our suppressed fighting instincts have been deluded
into repose and satisfaction, till the champing war-horses have been
quieted by being allowed to snort and cry "Ha! ha!" to see the glitter of
stage spears, and to hear the noise of the supers and the shouting. This
is the real end masked beneath all those interminable phrases. And it is
achieved at any and every cost. For does not everybody complain that a
General Election upsets everything? The publishers groan, the theatrical
managers tear their wigs. Englishmen cannot think of two things at once;
they are like heavy, solid craft, sound of timber but slow of turning.
"One thing at a time" is a national proverb. They cannot even read two
books at once, and if two classics should be published on the same day
one would be a failure. There is the book of the week, and the book of
the season, and the book of the year. This applies even to our
appreciation of past periods, and because Shakespeare is the first of the
Elizabethan dramatists, the rest are nowhere. Wherefore one would suppose
that everybody would make haste to get the Election out of the way; but,
on the contrary, it is allowed to linger on, till sometimes our
overstrained suspense snaps, and the Election dribbles out in unregarded
issues. No, the fight's the thing! War, if not dead, is banished from our
shores; the duello has been laughed to death; cock-fighting and
bull-baiting have ceased to charm: politics alone remains to gratify the
pugnacity and cruelty that civilisation has robbed of their due objects.
How we brighten up again at a bye-election, when duels which passed
unregarded in the big battle, when towns scarcely noted at the fag-end of
the great campaign, become the cynosure of every eye. Through Slocum or
Eatonswill the hub of the universe temporarily passes: to its population
of four thousand, mostly fools, are entrusted the destinies of the
Empire; it is theirs to make or mar. The duel is watched by a breathless
nation. The party leaders on each side cheer on their men; their careers
and claims and countenances fill up the papers, and they cross swords in
a shower of telegrams. Advice to those about to enter Parliament: Elect
for a bye-election. Why be a nonentity, a mere M.P., when by a little
patience you may hold the centre of the stage, if only for a week? Better
almost to be beaten at a bye-election than to be successful at a General.

In case I should ever seek the suffrages of electors myself, I would
venture to remind opposition agents and private secretaries that these
random criticisms of the glorious constitution (hear, hear!) of that
great Empire on which the sun never sets (cheers), over which the Union
Jack waves (loud cheers)--a thousand years the battle and the
breeze--hem!--I--I--ahem!--Lord Salisbury (loud and prolonged cheers)--I
mean that I trust they will not forget that all this is set down without
prejudice.




VII

THE REALISTIC NOVEL

The realistic novel, we know from Zola, that apostle of insufficient
insight, is based on "human documents," and "human documents" are made up
of "facts." _But in human life there are no facts._

This is not a paradox, but a "fact." Life is in the eye of the observer.
The humour or the pity of it belongs entirely to the spectator, and
depends upon the gift of vision he brings. There are no facts, like
bricks, to build stories with. What, pray, in the realm of human life
_is_ a fact? By no means a stubborn thing, as the proverb pretends. On
the contrary, a most pliant, shifting, chameleon-coloured thing, as
flexible as figures in the hands of the statistician. What is commonly
called a fact is merely a one-sided piece of information, a dead thing,
not the series of complex, mutually inter-working relations that
constitutes a fact as it exhibits itself to the literary vivisectionist.
I walked with a friend in a shabby district of central London, a region
that had once been genteel, but was now broken up into apartments.
Squalid babies, with wan, pathetic faces, pullulated on the doorsteps;
they showed from behind dingy windows at the breasts of haggard women.
The fronts of the houses were black, the plaster had crumbled away, the
paint had peeled off. It was the ruins of a minor Carthage, and, like
Marius, I was lost in mournful reverie; my companion remarked, "These
houses are going up; they now pay 7 per cent." He was perfectly
justified. There are a hundred ways of looking at any fact. The
historian, the scientist, the economist, the poet, the philanthropist,
the novelist, the anarchist, the intelligent foreigner,--each would take
away a different impression from the street, and all these impressions
would be facts, all equally valid, all equally true, and all equally
false. Life, I repeat, is in the eye of the observer. What is farce to
you is often tragedy to the actual performer. The man who slips over a
piece of orange peel, or chases his hat along the muddy pavement, is
rarely conscious of the humour of the situation. On the other hand, you
shall see persons involved in heartrending tragedies to whom the thing
shows as farce, like little children playing in churchyards or riding
tombstones astride. To the little imps of comedy, who, according to Mr.
Meredith, sit up aloft, holding their sides at the spectacle of mankind,
to the

         Spirit of the world,
  Beholding the absurdities of men,
  Their vaunts, their feats, ...

human life must be a very different matter from what we poor players on
the scene imagine it; we are cutting a very different figure, not only
from that which faces us from the mirror of vanity, but from that which
is "as ithers see us." Not only, then, may our tragedy be comedy; our
comedy may be tragedy. The play of humour at least suggests these
alternatives. Life is Janus-faced, and the humourist invests his
characters with a double mask; they stand for comedy as well as for
tragedy; Don Quixote wears the buskin as well as the sock. Humour, whose
definition has always eluded analysis, may, perhaps (to attempt a
definition _currente calamo_), be that subtle flashing from one aspect to
another, that turning the coin so rapidly that one seems to see
simultaneously the face and the reverse, the pity and the humour of life,
and knows not whether to laugh or weep. Humour is, then, the simultaneous
revelation of the dual aspects of life; the synthetical fusion of
opposites; the gift of writing with a double pen, of saying two things in
one, of showing shine and shadow together. This is why the humourist has
always the gift of pathos; though the gift of pathos does not equally
imply the gift of humour. The tragic writer must always produce one-sided
work, so must the "funnyman" who were only a "funny man" and not a
humourist (though this is rarer). Each can only show one side of life at
a time; the humourist alone can show both. Great novels of romance and
adventure, great works of imagination, great poems, may be written by
persons without humour; but only the humourist can reproduce life. Milton
is great; but the poet of life is Shakespeare. Thus the whole case of
"realism" falls to the ground. There being no "facts," Zola's laborious
series is futile; it may be true to art, but it is not true to life. His
vision is incomplete, is inexhaustive; it lacks humour, and to the
scientific novelist the lack of humour is fatal. He is the one novelist
who cannot succeed without it. Leave out humour, and you may get art and
many other fine things, but you do not get the lights and shadows or the
"values" of life.

All novels are written from the novelist's point of view. They are his
vision of the world. They are not life, but individual refractions of it.
The ironical pessimism of Thomas Hardy is as false as the sentimental
optimism of Walter Besant or the miso-androus meliorism of Sarah Grand.
What Hall Caine happily calls "the scenic view of life" of Dickens is no
more true than the philosophic view of Mrs. Humphry Ward. Each is
existence viewing itself through a single medium. "Tess of the
D'Urbervilles" is as false as "Lorna Doone" or "Plain Tales from the
Hills." Life, large, chaotic, inexpressible, not to be bound down by a
formula, peeps at itself through the brain of each artist, but eludes
photography. This is the true inwardness of the Proteus myth. The
humourist alone, by presenting life in its own eternal contradictoriness,
by not being tied down to one point of view, like his less gifted
brother, comes nearest to expressing its elusive essence. The great
novelists are Fielding, Cervantes, Flaubert, Thackeray. But all the
novelists supplement one another, and relatively-true single impressions
of life go to make up a true picture of

  Life, like a dome of many coloured glass.

It is because there are all novels and every aspect of existence in
Shakespeare that he sits supreme, the throned sovereign of the literature
of life.

All this is writ to console those who suffer too poignantly from
book-tragedies and "pictures of life." The artist selects, he studies
tone and composition, whereas in real life tragedies are often
accompanied by "extenuating circumstances." The unloved girl temporarily
forgets her sorrow in the last new novel, or a picnic up the river; the
broken-hearted hero betakes himself to billiards and brandy-and-soda, or
toys with a beefsteak. Again, many pathetic tales are the outcome of
imperfect insight. The novelist imagines how he would feel in the shoes
of his characters, and cries out with the pain of hypothetic bunions.
This mistake better deserves the name of "the pathetic fallacy" than the
poetic misreading of Nature to which Buskin has annexed it. A good novel
may be made of bad psychology; indeed, this is what most novels are made
of. Yet the gentle reader, misled by the simulation of life, makes
himself miserable over dabs of black ink on white paper. The failure of
two imaginary beings to unite their lives in wedlock brings unhappiness
into myriad homes. How delicious is that story of the German novelist
who, having failed to unite his leading couple at the conclusion of a
newspaper serial, saw no way of appeasing the grief and indignation of
his vast audience save by inserting in the advertisement columns of a
later issue of the journal an announcement of their union under the usual
head of "Marriages"!




VIII

IN DEFENCE OF GAMBLING

Without gambling life would lose its salt in many a humble household. The
humdrum, deadening routine of monotonous daily toil finds relief by this
creation of an outside interest; to have a shilling on the favourite
enlarges and colours existence, gives it a wider and vaguer horizon.
Imagine the delicious anguish of suspense, the excitement of hearing the
result, the exultation of winning. And the beauty of gambling is that you
cannot lose. Gambling is really a disguised system of purchase. One buys
excitement, a most valuable emotion, for which even the members of the
Anti-Gambling League are prepared to pay heavily in other forms! And the
advantage of gambling over all these other forms is the possibility that
you may not be called upon to pay for your purchase after all--nay, that
_you_ may even be paid instead! You get not only excitement, but a
possible bonus. Is there any earthly transaction that offers such
advantages? Why, 't is always "heads I win, tails you lose." Who speaks
of losing at cards? As well speak of losing at play-going or
novel-reading; what is called loss is simply payment for excitement. You
cannot lose at cards, though you may win; unless it be in games where
skill preponderates, and then loss means penalty for lack of skill. The
mere transfer of money from hand to hand leaves the wealth of the world
what it was before. 'T is redistribution, not destruction. It is scarcely
relevant to look for the evils of gambling in its effects--to point to
ruined reputations and ruined homes. Everything is capable of abuse, from
love to religion. The evil of gambling lies in the fact that it is an
unworthy form of excitement--that it is possible to colour life more
intellectually. The Anti-Gambling League, for all its recent prospectus,
will not put down gambling among the poorer classes, except by widening
their outlook otherwise, by creating other interests outside the dull
daily groove. For the well-to-do classes there is less excuse. With all
the arts and amenities of life at their command, it is degrading to use
up time and nervous energy in so brainless a pursuit. The gambling that
is inherent in the constitution of modern civilization is another affair:
that is pursued for the sake of gain; or for a livelihood. The Stock
Exchange is an unhappy consequence of the joint-stock company; credit in
business is an equally inevitable outcome of the ramified mechanism of
exchange. We are all gamblers to-day, insomuch as there is no stable
relation between work and reward, and the failure of a bank in Calcutta
may impoverish a shopkeeper in Camden Town. Our investments may rise or
fall in value through the obscure machinations of unknown millionaires.
And even the Anti-Gambling League has no word to say against those great
gambling concerns, Life and Fire Assurance Societies, which bet you that
you will not die or be burnt out within a certain number of years, or
those journals which offer you large odds that you won't be smashed up
while reading them. The prudential considerations behind these forms of
gambling seem quite to moralise them: indeed, to refuse to accept the bet
of the Life Assurance Companies is now considered immoral; a man is
expected to amend on his marriage at the very latest.

There is a form of gambling to which I must myself plead guilty. A
forlorn, shabby creature, pathetically spruced up, arrives from a
ten-mile tramp. He has been a journalist or a poet, but owing to this or
that he is on his beam-ends. He has eaten nothing for two days. His wife
is dying, his children are weeping for food. His voice breaks beautifully
as he tells me I am his last hope. What is to be done? According to
Charles Lamb, the solution is to give, to give always. For either the man
is in need and speaks truth, or he is a liar and therefore a consummate
actor. We pay for stage representations: why deny our obolus to the
histrionics of the beggar? So artistic a make up, an elocution with such
moving notes of pathos, surely deserve our tribute. Nay (and this Elia
forgot to note), the beggar-actor is frequently the author of his own
piece; that consistent argument, those tragical episodes, those touches
of nature, that minute detail, all are his. For my part, this view does
not touch me; I scarcely ever pay for the play, so I expect even the
beggar to perform to me as to one of "the press." If I give to beggars,
it is purely from the gambling spirit. What are the odds against the man
being a scamp? If they are short, or if the betting is level, I incline
to the side of mercy. The money is of so much more consequence to him
than to me, if the beggar is genuine, that the speculation is well
warranted. I know how wrong it is from the point of view of the Charity
Organization Society, but I am a man, not a bureau of beneficence. Few of
us, I fancy, escape this godly gambling.

How ill Society is ordered! We pay poor rates and support hospitals and
orphan asylums; but is there any thinking man who can banquet with the
assurance that nobody is starving? It spoils the dinner of Dives to
meditate on the longings of Lazarus, and this is the true skeleton at the
feast. The business of philanthropy seems but a mockery, and Government
takes charitable toll from us without pacifying our consciences. There is
something rotten in the state of Denmark. Cannot the intellect of man
devise a means of guaranteeing the deserving poor against starvation?

Novel-reading is the woman's substitute for gambling--the thing that
takes her outside her narrow circle of interests. Her ravenous appetite
for new novels is amazing; children are not so gluttonous of cream-tarts.
To supply this demand sequestered spinsters in suburban or rustic bowens
sit spinning the woof and warp of life as it never was on sea or land.
Bound goes the wheel, to and fro glides the shuttle, and the long,
endless pattern unwinds itself in all its wealth of imaginative device
and all its glory of fanciful colour. Poor things! What are they to do?
They have not the means to study the life they depict; they cannot mix in
the circles they describe. Fortunately their ignorance is their
salvation; the pretty patterns please the young ladies, the brave notes
of colour set them a-dreaming. And now in the revolt against the
three-volume novel these simple scribblers are to be swept away; the
country parcels will know them no more, and the three-deckers they built
of yore will be dismantled in the dry dock of the fourpenny box. Poor
creatures! Some will take to typewriting and some to drink, some will be
driven to the workhouse and some to literature.




IX

TRULY RURAL

    "ENGINEER AND SURVEYOR'S DEPARTMENT.

    "_5 & 6 Wm. IV., cap. 50, sect. 65._

    "SIR,

    "I am directed to call your attention to the present condition of
    trees within your premises, which now overhang the public footpath
    adjoining, and thereby cause considerable inconvenience to the
    public. I shall be glad if you will kindly give the matter your best
    attention, with a view to lopping or cutting the trees in such a
    manner as to obviate the inconvenience at present complained of.

    "Yours obediently,
    "P. LEONARDO MACREADY,
    "_Engineer to the Board._"

Amid the cosmopolitan medley of letters on my metropolitan
breakfast-table--the long and formal-looking, the fat and foreign, and
the over-scrawled and the underpaid (the last mainly requests for
autographs)--this delightful home-grown epistle came with refreshing
piquancy. It brought a breath of summer into the grey chillness of a
London winter, a suggestion of rustling foliage about the chandelier, and
the scent of the hay over the gaslights. "My dear!" I exclaimed to the
partner of my bosom (a tame white rat that likes to perch there), "_Have
we any trees?_"

My partner gave a little plaintive squeak. That is her idea of
conversation. She screams at everything. She would scream at the sight of
a mouse.

I pushed away my plate. I had sat down hungry as a hunter, and had had
two helpings of everything; but now I could eat no more. Excitement had
taken away my appetite. The prospect of rural discoveries agitated me. I
hastened to the window and looked at the front garden. To my astonishment
and joy there was vegetation in it. There was a dwarf evergreen bush and
a fragment of vine stretching itself sleepily, and a tall thin tree--they
might all have got comfortably into one bed, but they had been planted in
three far apart, and this gave the garden a desolate Ramsgate-in-winter
air of "Beds to let." The tall thin tree was absolutely naked, without an
inch of foliage to cover its wooden limbs; a mere mass of dry sticks. I
looked hard at the tree to see where it offended, determined to pluck it
out. But it returned my gaze with the stolidity of conscious
innocence--it held up its wooden arms in deprecation. I re-read Mr. P.
Leonardo Macready's letter. "Which now overhang the public footpath"! Ah!
that was what was the matter with my trees. It was raining, but I am an
Englishman and the law is sacred, and I went outside into the public
highway and looked at the tall thin tree from the new point of view. Sure
enough--very far up--there _was_ a bough overhanging the public footpath.

I looked up at it and shook my fist menacingly, but it waved its twigs in
response with an irritating amiability. I began to understand what an
annoyance it must be to have a bough up there that you couldn't flick at
with your stick as you passed by, and that even when weighed down by its
summer greenery would bemock you if you made a casual clutch at its
foliage, and laugh at you in its leaves. I went inside and returned with
a step-ladder and an umbrella and a carving-knife, and I stood on the
summit of the ladder and made abortive slashes at space with my right
hand, while the open umbrella in my left made equally abortive efforts to
soar with me skywards. After nearly stabbing the partner of my bosom I
went in, both of us wet like drowned rats, and as I settled myself again
to coffee and correspondence, I could not help wishing that Chang, the
Chinese giant, had remained alive to triumph over my tantalising trees.
Nor could I help wishing that the activity of the local engineers and
surveyors had been directed by His Gracious Majesty King William IV. into
quite a contrary channel.

  William, spare that tree,
  Touch not a single bough;
  If you had planted three,
  They would protect me now.

If, instead of being requested to amputate a beautiful overhanging arm of
foliage, every citizen of London were served with a notice to plant a
tree in front of his demesne, the face of the great stony city would be
transformed. It would become a _rus in urbe_. Why not? Everybody knows
what the late Duke of Devonshire made of Eastbourne; and the beauty of
Bournemouth is mainly an affair of trees. Why should we not walk under
the boughs of Oxford Street? What law of nature or William IV. ordains an
eternal divorce between shops and trees? Why should one not hear the
birds sing in the Strand as well as in the Inns of Court? Let us have
trees instead of lamp-posts--with electric lights twinkling from their
leaves. Already there are London streets quite well-wooded. Even in the
Whitechapel Road it is possible to read--

  A book of verses underneath a bough;

but I shall not be content till Matthew Arnold's exquisite quatrain comes
literally true of London--

  Roses that down the _alleys_ shine afar,
  And open jasmine-muffled lattices,
  And groups under the dreaming garden-trees,
  And the full moon and the white evening star.

It might be well if we could transplant to our more prosaic city ways the
beautiful old custom of planting a tree on the birth of a child. It is
true that ladies might object to having their age recorded by the growth
of rings on the trunk; but then they could easily pass the tree on to an
elder sister when they got beyond the average wedding-ring age. Besides,
people would quickly forget whose birth it marked, and the town trees
would soon become anonymous. I would therefore suggest the formation of a
tree-planting party, pledged not to support any candidate for Parliament
who would not vote for the ruralisation of the Metropolis. To the Home
Rule of Mr. Gladstone, with his weakness for cutting down trees, must be
opposed Home Ruralisation. What a fine platform cry--"a truly rural
London!"--with the unique advantage of being unpronounceable by
demagogues in drink. The poor would welcome the policy as a boon. They
are not by any means so unpoetical as Gissing would make out. Only the
other day a baby was found buried in a window flower-box; which is
practically the idea of Keats' "Isabella, or the Pot of Basil," an idea
which was itself a graft from the stock of Boccaccio.

If the parish dignitaries became thus associated in our minds with the
Beautiful instead of with bills and blue papers, one might be able to
whip up some enthusiasm for the civic life, and contemplate even
income-tax schedules with a Platonic or Aristotelian rapture. It is not
everybody who can rhapsodise with Mr. Bernard Shaw or the Fabian Society
over sewer rates, and find in the contemplation of communal gas and water
something of the inspiration and ecstasy that the late Professor Tyndall
found in the thought of the conservation of energy.

In firing us to local patriotism by the example of provincial cities, the
enthusiast does not allow sufficiently for the size of London. It
swallows us all up; there are twenty provincial cities in its maw: it is
not a city, but a province. We cannot rouse ourselves to an interest in
Brixton and Camberwell, in Poplar and Highbury. There is no glory in
being a dweller in so amorphous a city, whose motley floating population
is alone sufficient to stock a town; there can be no sense of brotherhood
in meeting a Londoner abroad, still less a Middlesex or Surrey man.
Devonians may feast off junkets and cream, in touching fellowship, and
the hearts of Edinburgh men stir with common memories of Princes Street;
but a Cockney, who has far more to be proud of, is overwhelmed into
apathy. It is only in a compact city that one can develop that sense of
special belonging which George Eliot contends is at the root of so many
virtues. I might just as well be taxed to beautify Dublin as Canonbury,
for all the difference it would make in my grumblings. And if our city is
too large to inspire us, our parish is too small. And so to most of us, I
fear, parochialism is a bore. Theoretically, we know that the parish we
live in is greater than many a provincial town. We know that we ought to
take an interest in its history, and be proud of its great men. But
somehow, despite Mr. Frederic Harrison, our suburb leaves us cold. Our
real life does not centre about our own parish at all. We circle about
the great thoroughfares that radiate from Charing Cross, and the pivot of
our lives is Piccadilly. Born to the Metropolis, we cannot narrow our
minds to a district, nor to parish give up what was meant for London. We
refuse to become provincials. We do not even know that we boast of a Town
Hall, till we are compelled to attend and show cause why we have not paid
the rates, or any part thereof, the same having been lawfully demanded.
If there are any other great men in the neighbourhood, we do not know
their addresses. They are shy and retiring. It is only the retired who
are not shy. That sort of great man comes forth in his tens. He _has_
been a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker, and he _is_--a bore.
Once he solicited your patronage, to-day he solicits your vote. Having
given up making profits, he now wishes to make by-laws, and finds a gleam
of his old delight in sending out heavy bills to the neighbourhood. You
get a list of him, which policemen announce their intention of calling
for. You are asked to decide among a column of him, uniformly obscure,
but divided invidiously enough into tradesmen and gentlemen. Who compiled
this list or nominated these gentlemen and tradesmen, you have not the
ghost of a notion. They are sprung upon you as imperiously and
mysteriously as their own demand-notes. You look down the column and make
random crosses by the wayside. You select a sanitary engineer in
preference to an undertaker, forgetting that he is the deadlier of the
two, and you vote for your retired wine-dealer to prevent him going back
into business. But most of the names convey nothing to you, and give you
the sensation of a donkey between two heaps of straw, or of a straw
between two heaps of donkeys. And having thus exercised that high English
privilege, for which you would shed your blood if it were taken away, you
are content for the rest of the year to grumble at the doings of your
representatives. It does not occur to you that public duty calls upon you
to comprehend the parochial mysteries and solicit the parochial
dignities. They seem too petty for a man of any stature--a sort of small
beer for babes and sucklings.

May it not be that the voice of public duty, when it calls upon you to be
a citizen and a parishioner, calls with too piping a voice? There is no
rousing note, nothing of the resonance of a clarion call. A suggestion of
poverty and the workhouse clings to everything parochial, something of
drab and joyless. Is there no way of infusing colour into this depressing
greyness, a martial _timbre_ into this anaemic note? If we are to pay the
piper let us hear him. Let the tax-collector go his rounds at the head of
a brass band, playing patriotic airs. Let brocaded standard-bearers raise
aloft a banner with the soul-stirring insignia, "England expects every
man to pay his duty." Let the hollow roll of the drum thrill the dull
suburban street, and animate the areas of semi-detached villas. No longer
shall the devil and General Booth have all the good tunes, and the ragged
rearguard of urchins keeping time with their bare feet shall follow the
drum to the surer and saner goal of civic salvation. The music of the
streets will become a joy instead of a terror, and English performers
will find a new market. See paterfamilias prick up his ears as the
distant strains of national music impinge upon his tympanum, see his
heart heaving his shirt-front with patriotic ardour, while, with a joyous
cry "The Collectors are coming, hurrah, hurrah!" he rushes to his
cheque-book as the soldier rushes to arms. Is he not serving his country
as much as the soldier, and without pay--or even discount? Nay, why
should the idea of patriotic duty be so emphatically connected with the
shedding of blood, and all the pomp and pageantry reserved for the
profession of Destruction? Why should not the lifeboat be launched, or
the coal dug, or the drain-pipe laid, or the taxes paid, to a musical
accompaniment, and under the shadow of the national flag? Great is the
power of the Symbol: for a few inches of rag at elevenpence
three-farthings a yard (warranted not to shrink) men will give their
lives. And greater still is the power of music.

  Dear to the London housemaid,
    The fife of fusilier,
  And to the Cockney urchin
    The drum of Booth is dear;
  Sweet sounds the barrel-organ
    Where'er the cits parade;
  But the dearest of all music
    The Tax-Collectors played.

You will be glad to hear that scarcely had this grumble appeared in print
when I saw a procession that made me think Birnam wood had come to
Dunsinane. Soon either pavement was planted with ready-made trees, all
a-blowing and a-growing. If it had happened in the night, I should have
rubbed my eyes and imagined some good genius had transported me to the
Boulevards. I hastened to place a little _gueridon_ outside the garden
gate, and to decorate it with glasses of absinthe and vermouth; but a
gendarme came along and asked me to move on.




X

OPINIONS OF THE YOUNG FOGEY

When I first met the Young Fogey I thought him very brilliant. His
philosophical pose, too, of combining the caution of age with the daring
of youth was fascinating. "I have evolved," he used to say. "Once I would
not attach sanctity to ideas because they were old: now I attach no
sanctity to ideas because they are new." But I soon discovered that the
Young Fogey was one of that large class of persons who do not evolve but
revolve, whose brilliancy is that of the fixed star. They give out
arrestive thoughts, and you are vastly impressed, but on longer
acquaintance, or on returning to them after an interval, you find that it
is they who have been arrested by their thoughts. Such persons do not
last you more than one or two years: they require a succession of new
audiences to keep up their reputation, like a witty play, which all the
world goes to see in turn, but which it would be deucedly dull to see
night after night, year in, year out. The cleverest of them know this
need of new ears, and of making provincial and foreign tours when they
have exhausted London. But when the Young Fogey chanced upon me drinking
lager beer at the Austrian Derby, during a tedious interval between the
races, he was probably confused by the distance from Piccadilly into a
sense of originality, and perceiving a couple of books on my table:
"What! do you _read_ the books you review?" he asked in feigned
astonishment; adding, with an impromptu air, "I always _write_ the books
_I_ review. Criticism of other people is waste of time. An artist who is
worth his salt knows his value better than anybody else; and an artist
who is not worth his salt is not worth your criticism, and will learn
nothing from it in any case. There is immeasurably too much book-making,
as it is."

"But criticism tends to keep down book-making," I observed meekly.

"Quite the contrary. Criticism encourages it. Most books are not read.
Who can possibly read ninety-nine of the worst hundred books published
every week? If they were not even criticised, the writers would shut up
their inkstands. Publicity is their aim, but publication does not supply
it. Most publishers are rather privateers. It is the critics who supply
fame to fools. It's even worse with plays. Why should every trumpery
farce that can get itself badly produced by a moneyless manager who
decamps the day after, be allotted a space in every morning, evening, and
weekly newspaper, Fame blowing simultaneously a hundred trumps? My
greatest book never got half as much notice as a wretched little
curtain-raiser which took me a morning to knock off, and the news of
which was flashed from China to Peru immediately, whereas the eulogies of
my book were dribbled out in monthly instalments, and belated
testimonials kept straggling in long after its successor had been
published. In those days I belonged to a Press-cutting Agency, and I
discovered that--to measure Fame by the square inch--you may get many
more yards of reputation by the most flippant playlet than by your
literary _magnum opus_; to say nothing of the pictures and interviews of
your actors and actresses. That your silliest player--especially if it be
a pretty she--gets photographed in the papers sixteen times to your once,
goes without saying. The only real recipe for Fame nowadays is to be a
pretty girl and exhibit yourself publicly. The modern editor has got it
into the paste-brush he calls his head that the public is infinitely
greedy for the minutest theatrical details. It is really too idiotic,
this fuss over our parrots. If there were only plays for them to talk!
The decline of the British drama----"

"By which you mean that they decline your plays," I interrupted.

"Granted," said the Young Fogey; "but even when they give us Shakespeare,
they play the patron, and literary critics argue deferentially with them
as to the treatment of the text, and beg them not to put William's head
under the pump. Did you see that monumental headline in the 'Daily
Chronicle,' the paper that poses as the organ of sweetness and light?--

    'MR. TREE'S NEW PLAY.
    'Henry IV. At The Haymarket.'

"So Mr. Tree 'created' Falstaff in more than the conventional sense of
that arrogant stage-verb! Act? Anybody can act! We're all acting, always,
in every phase of our social life. Every back drawing-room is a theatre
royal. A child can act, and the 'infant phenomenon' cannot be
distinguished from the leading lady or gentleman except by size. But no
child ever wrote a play. Acting is the lowest of the arts. And even if it
were the highest, it would be brought low again by its infinite
self-repetition. Imagine playing one part for a season, a year, a decade.
Actors are not even parrots--they are automatic puppets that move their
limbs in fixed fashions, and make squeaking sounds at prescribed moments.
There was a French Minister of Education who drew up a most rigid
Time-Code, which hung in his bureau; and it was the joy of his life to
take out his watch and say 'Half-past three! Ha! every boy in France is
now learning geography'; or, 'A quarter to twelve! Ha! every French
schoolgirl is now writing in a copy-book.' I have the same sort of
feeling about my actor-acquaintances. 'Half-past nine? Ah! What is
Herbert doing? He is taking poison.' 'A quarter to eleven! Dear me! Rose
is crawling under a table.'

"And these creatures want every privilege, forsooth! Fame, gold,
champagne, the best society and the worst. To be of Bohemia and
Belgravia, to make the best of both worlds. If things don't mend, to sit
in a stall will soon become an index of imbecility. It will be like being
seen at the Academy.

"And, talking of the Academy, did ever any more infantile idea enter the
human brain than that a couple of thousand pictures worth seeing can be
painted every year? Why, since the beginning of the world there haven't
been two thousand pictures painted worth seeing! Imagine two thousand
manuscript novels being scattered around on two thousand desks, a
shilling admission! Do we get one good novel a year? Scarcely. One good
symphony or opera? Of course not. Then why expect to get a picture worth
hanging? And every picture should hang by itself--it's an artistic
entity, self-complete. To crowd it among a lot of others is like
conducting an orchestra every instrument of which is playing a different
tune. 'T isn't even as if the poor painters got anything out of the show.
People won't buy pictures--prices are monstrously inflated to an
artificial point: the artists would take less, only they don't like to
come down from their pedestal, and so they starve up there in dignity.
Artists have played a foolish game. They have gone nap on gentility and
high prices, and gentility has failed them.

"When great prices are given for pictures, it is generally with a view to
selling them again: a dubious compliment to the artist. No man gets a
thousand pounds' worth of pure art joy out of any picture. He can spend
his thousand pounds to much more of aesthetic advantage. But there is no
inherent sacredness in prices. A picture is worth only what it will
fetch. Let our artists be satisfied with a fair day's wage for a fair
day's work, like any other species of craftsman. After all, they were all
craftsmen--Michael Angelo, Titian, Donatello, Canova--wall-decorators,
door-painters, ceiling-colourers, tomb-builders, stone-masons, working to
contract and to measure. When our artists are content with the pay of
manual labourers and the joy of art, taste may be stimulated in the
masses, and original work be going at the price of lithographs. Why
shouldn't artists even paint public-house signs? Beer being the national
religion, why shouldn't it find adequate expression in Art?

"Not that it matters much whether our artists live or die,--Art seems
about over. It seems to be an accident that happened once or twice in the
Past,--among the Greeks, at the Renaissance, in Spain, in Holland,--which
no amount of art-schools and art-publications can coax back. To found
Academies and R.A.-ships is to spur a dead horse. Look at the Greek
sculptures, look at the Italian pictures, and ask yourself what we have
to put beside them after all our endless exhibitions! Modern
improvements! _Plein air!_ Bah! Where can you show me more 'atmosphere'
than in Carpaccio, or in Jacques d'Arthois. Impressionism? Look at that
snow-effect by old Van Valckenborch here! But we do the modern, the
contemporary, you cry----"

"No, I don't," I interrupted feebly, more to let him take breath than for
the jest's sake. But he ignored the opportunity.

"But they've all done the contemporary! Only _their_ contemporary, not
yours. The fallacy almost amounts to an Irish bull. The ancients _were_
the moderns--to themselves--just as we shall be the ancients to our
successors. The Renaissance people all did contemporary work, under
pretence of doing historical: contemporary types for Madonnas, local
landscapes for Oriental scenery, up-to-date dresses for New Testament
episodes, portraits of their patrons for patron-saints and apostles. Did
you ever see a more modern figure than Tintoretto's portrait of himself,
the elderly man in a frock-coat who looks on at his own wonderful picture
of St. Mark descending to rescue a Christian slave? An Academician or a
new English Art Clubbite who had done only one tiny corner of this
picture would so swell as to the head that his laurel-wreath wouldn't fit
him any longer. There's no ambition nowadays--Degas, Whistler, yes. But
for the rest--dwarfs. Modern improvements indeed! Science may improve,
but not art. Art, like religion, is an absolute in life--nobody will ever
paint better than Velasquez, write better than Shakespeare, or pray
better than the Psalmist. Science is the variable--always on the go; and
when we think of progress it is just as well that we foolishly keep our
eye on the machine-room."

"Won't you have a drink?" I broke in, seizing the first opportunity.

"Thanks! What's that book?"

"'Olympia's Journal'! It's all about Olympia's husband, she married him
to write about him--he was such 'good copy.'"

I had unchained a torrent. "Novelists ought never to be introduced into
novels," burst forth the Young Fogey. "The subject-matter of novelists is
real normal life, and novelists are neither real nor normal. They are
monsters whose function in life is to observe other people's lives. For
one novelist to make copy of another is like cannibalism.

"If the psychology of the novelist, who is the student of other people's
psychology, is to be studied, where are you to stop? Why not study the
peculiarities of the novelist who studies the novelist, of the reflector
of life who reflects the reflector of life--nay, of the critic who
reflects upon the reflection of the reflector? This modern mania for
picking ourselves to pieces is only the old childish desire 'to see the
wheels go wound.' People were much better in the old days when they
didn't bother so much how their wheels went round. I always sympathised
with the indignant old lady who came to my schoolmaster when our class
began to take up physiology, and protested that she wasn't going to have
her boy learn what was in his inside--it was indecent. People are not
made healthier by knowing how their functions work; animals never study
physiology, and plants blossom without knowing anything at all about
anything. Knowledge only generates a morbid fussiness, as with Mr.
Jerome's celebrated Cockney who discovered himself to be possessed of
every ailment in the medical dictionary except housemaid's knee. And to
learn what is in your mental inside is equally indecent and equally
discomposing. 'I have never thought about thinking,' said the wise
Goethe. No one can go through a treatise on insanity and come out as sane
as he started. And there is an even more insidious way in which this
human vivisection operates for evil. People now forgive their
friends--they call their eccentricities 'pathological,' and endure
instead of discouraging them. I had two letters this very morning.  'Poor
A!' said B.: 'his vanity has ceased to offend me--I feel it is
pathological.' 'Poor B!' said A.: 'it is impossible to resent his
egotism--it is simply pathological.'

"This scientific Christianity wouldn't be so bad if people didn't condone
their own faults, too. They can't get up early--it's heredity. The early
bird who caught the worm must have had a grandparent who stayed out late.
Are they lazy? Their uncle was a country parson. They are like the man
who refused to give charity because he had such expensive tastes. To
acquiesce in your own weaknesses because they are hereditary, without
making an effort to eradicate them, is bad science as well as bad morals.
Among the items given you by heredity do not forget the potentiality of
self-improvement by inward struggle. No one says, 'I can't speak French,
and I sha'n't try, because my father was an illiterate Irishman.'
Self-knowledge tends to weaken self-discipline, foster self-indulgence,
and corrode character."

"But what of the old Greek maxim 'Know thyself'?"

"Old Greek sophistry! Knowing requires a subject to know and an object to
be known. You can't be subject and object too--introspection is a
self-contradiction. Hasn't every one noticed that everybody else fails to
discover himself in a novel or a sermon, though his lineaments are
painted down to the minutest details of wart and mole? And it's quite
natural. Every soul is to itself the centre of the universe--through
which the infinite panorama passes; nothing exists but in relation to it:
to its standards of beauty, of right and wrong, of humour, of admiration,
everything is brought. There's no man so low or so ridiculous but he
finds somebody else more so, and the London street-boy who sneers at the
long-haired poet is exalted to a sense of superiority. I once met a human
monstrosity--hunch-backed, cross-eyed, palsied, and wooden-legged. My
soul sickened with pity, but his face brightened in a smile of contempt
and his cross-eyes danced with glee. I appealed to his sense of the
ridiculous. Listen to the comments of people upon one another after a
party, and confess that a coterie is often but a mutual contempt society.
That is what makes life livable--every living creature is an amused eye
upon the universe. Terence said as much long ago. We amuse one another,
and exist to gratify one another's sense of superiority, like the
islanders who live by taking in one another's washing. It will be a
thousand pities if the spread of travelling removes the mutual
superiorities of Englishmen and Frenchmen, Chinamen and Hindoos. I went
to a dinner-party the other day. The host and hostess were
impossible--like spiteful studies by Thackeray caricatured by Dickens.
Yet there were they arrogating to themselves every privilege of judgment
and jurisdiction that the most fashionable peers or the sublimest souls
could claim; to their own minds the arbiters of elegance, the patrons of
the arts, the flagellators of vice and snobbery, the gracious laudators
of virtue, the easy fomenters of scandal.

"Prithee, was ever one of us capable of not lecturing on ethics or not
preaching a sermon? Did not Sir Barnes Newcome lecture on the Family? Do
we not all hold forth on the condition of the poor, the morality of the
mining-market; the inferior ethics of the coloured races, and a hundred
other lofty topics, warming our coat-tails at the glow of our own virtue?
'T is the fault of language which enables arrant scoundrels to use fine
words that they have never felt. Humility, self-sacrifice,
noble-mindedness, are phrases easily picked up by people for whom their
only meaning is in the dictionary, and who know it is the correct thing
to admire them. They are like students of chemistry who babble of H2SO4
and NH3 by book without ever having seen a laboratory or a retort, or
tone-deaf people raving over Beethoven. And these lip-servants of virtue
are unconscious that they have never known the real thing. Every
discussion between civilised persons presupposes moral perfection all
round--a common elevated platform from which one surveys the age and its
problems, and considers how to bring the world at large up to one's own
level. You cannot discuss anything with a person who has ever been
publicly imperfect--at any point you may tread on his corns. Has he been
bankrupt? The slightest reference to honesty, finance, or business may
seem an insult. Has he figured in the Divorce Court? How are you to talk
about the last new play without seeming personal? This explains why
exposed persons are cut: they have made conversation impossible by
cutting away the common ground of it, the hypothesis of perfection. Even
with persons who have merely lost relatives one has to be careful to
avoid references to mortality. The complete diner-out has to be equipped
with a knowledge of his fellows to the third and fourth generation, so as
to avoid giving offence. To say that late marriages are a mistake or
second marriages a folly may be to make enemies for life. Which, by the
way, is absurd: all conversation should be regarded as privileged and
impersonal. 'T is brain meeting brain, not foot treading gingerly among
irrelevant personal considerations. And just as we are all willing to
preach, we are all willing to be preached at--it gives us such an
opportunity of gauging the preacher's morality and ability. The Scotch
peasants who denounce their meenister's orthodoxy are an extreme case,
but if we were not really judging our judges we should go to opposition
churches. What we demand from preaching--as from newspapers--is an echo
of our own voices, and when the preacher or the newspaper leads it is
only by pretending to follow. Opportunity makes the politician. Watch the
crowd streaming out of church after a sermon. Do they wear an air of
edification or humiliation? Are they bowed down with the consciousness of
their backslidings? No: they are aesthetes come from a literary and
oratorical performance. They are not thinking of themselves at all, but
of the quality of the sermon. Yes, around each of us the world turns, and
each soul is the hub of the universe. Popular suffrage is the recognition
of this great fact: not one of us but is competent to arrange the affairs
of the country. Every man Jack and woman Jill is a standard, a test, an
imperial weight and measure, and the universe must endure our verdict as
it goes round us. To expect this central standard to turn back on itself
and become aware of its own defects and distortions is like expecting a
pair of scales to weigh itself; or--more absurd still--expecting a false
pair of scales to weigh itself truly. 'All men think all men mortal but
themselves,' and so all men find all men wanting except themselves. If
they ever for a moment suspect that they are not perfect--whether the
suspicion leak in through reflection or reprobation--'t is but for a
moment. We cannot live on bad terms with ourselves, nor with a
consciousness which doubts and despises us--whether it be our own
consciousness or a friend's. Our nature throws up earthworks against a
contemptuous opinion. Just as a bodily wound is repaired by the wonderful
normal processes of circulation and nutrition, so our self-love tends to
repair the wounds of the soul. We feel that even if we are not perfect,
we are as perfect as possible _under the circumstances_. If so-and-so and
so-and-so had had to go through our sufferings or our temptations, he or
she would have acted no better. And even in our wildest remorse we are
self-satisfied with our self-dissatisfaction. Nor is this need of our
nature for self-reconcilement wholly without spiritual significance. It
points to an incurable morality in the human soul, and to the truth that
if we mainly use our ideals to condemn other people by, we are bound to
condemn ourselves by them if we can once be got to perceive that we
_have_ violated them ourselves, though we at once seek peace in
extenuating circumstances. Peace of mind is the homage which vice pays to
virtue. Nor, though it matters immensely to society what ideals people
have, and that they have the right ones, to the people themselves it
matters only that they _have_ ideals, right or wrong. Where there is
honour among thieves, a thief may have a fine sense of self-respect."

"Plato agrees with you," said I. "He points out that if thieves were
utter scoundrels they could not act in concert."

"Ah!" said the Young Fogey, "Plato was a great thinker. In truth, the
only incorrigible rogue is he who is devoid of ideals, who has allowed
his ethical nature to disintegrate. Such a one ceases to be a _person_.
He has lost the integrating factor--the moral--which binds human
personality together. He is a mere aggregation of random impulses. The
last stage of moral decay is impersonality. Impersonality sums up 'the
daughters of joy,' with their indifference to aught but the moment.

"But it is wonderful what shreds of personality, what tags and rags of
the ideal, the most degraded may retain. Was there ever a soul that did
not think some one action beneath its dignity? An absolutely unscrupulous
person is a contradiction in terms. To be unscrupulous were to cease to
be a person, to have become a bundle of instincts and impulses. But no
one is so good or so bad as he appears. The chronicler of the 'Book of
Snobs' was himself a bit of a snob, and the poet who sought for the
spiritual where Thackeray had looked for the snobbish, who bade us note

      "All the world's coarse thumb
      And finger failed to plumb,
  So passed in making up the main account;
      All instincts immature,
      All purposes unsure,
  That weighed not as his work, yet swelled the man's amount,

was almost as weak as the satirist in that respect for titles and riches
which is the veritable 'last infirmity of noble minds.'

"Still, Browning's is the truer view of human life, and till we see our
neighbours as Omniscience sees them, our kindest and cruellest estimates
will be equally wide of the mark.

"And conversely, unless you develop a personality, you cannot be moral,
or even immoral. You can be social or anti-social--that is, your actions
can make for the good or the ill of society. But moral or immoral it is
not given to everybody to be. For I do not agree with those who would
substitute social and anti-social for those ancient adjectives. We are
concerned with the quality of acts as well as with their effects, with
the soul as well as its environment. And it takes a real live soul to do
good or evil. That is the point of Mr. Kipling's Tomlinson--a mere bundle
of hearsays--who could win neither hell nor heaven. It is also the
teaching of Ibsen. You must not shrink from wrong because you are told it
is wrong, but because you see it is wrong. But few people can expect to
develop a personality of their own. Current morality is the automatic
application of misunderstood principles. And so it must always be. For
the function of the average man is to obey. Was it not Napoleon who said
that men are meant either to lead or to obey, and those who can do
neither should be killed off? Ethics is the conscience of the best
regulating the conduct of the worst. Hence there are no immutable rules
of morality:

  "For the wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Khatmandoo,
  And the crimes of Clapham chaste at Martaban.

But there are immutable _principles_. To spit in a guest's face is with
some savage tribes a mark of respect. But this does not invalidate the
principle that to guests should be shown courtesy. Rules vary with time
and place, principles are eternal; and even if unmentionable things are
done in Africa and Polynesia, if 'the dark places of the earth are full
of cruelty,' that does not invalidate the principles of morality, as our
modern blood-and-thunder young man affects to believe. For that the
principles of right and justice have not yet been discovered in barbarous
countries no more destroys their universality and legitimacy than the
principles of the differential calculus are affected by the primitive
practice of counting on the fingers. And while the ethical geniuses--the
senior wranglers of the soul--are groping towards further truths and
finer shades of feeling, deeper reaches of pity and subtler perceptions
of justice, the rank and file and the wooden spoons must needs apply the
old ethics, even against the new teachers themselves. Every truth has to
fight for recognition, to prove itself not a lie. The brilliant and
impatient young men who scoff at conventions because the people who hold
them are unreal--not persons, feeling and passing moral truths through
their own soul, but parrots--forget that just because the people are
unreal, their maxims are real; that they do not represent the people who
mouth them, but the great moralists and thinkers behind. Against the
brilliant rushlights of contemporary cleverness shine the stars of the
ages. 'T is the immemorial mistake of iconoclasts--even granted they are
taller than their fellow-men--to be ever conscious of the extra inches,
instead of the common feet. Nevertheless" (and here the Young Fogey put
on his most judicial manner) "the extra inches must tell. For because
real ethics resides not in rules but in principles, obedience to the
letter may mean falsity to the spirit, if the circumstances that dictated
the rules have changed. This is not casuistry. 'T is a concept not to be
found in Panaetius or Cicero or the Jesuit Fathers. It means that we are
not to wear our boyhood's waistcoats, but to be measured for manhood's.
Tight-lacing is bad for the spiritual circulation. 'Get rid of the Hebrew
old clo', cried that curious Carlyle, the chief dealer in them. Amen, say
I: but do not let us therefore go naked. And since we have stumbled upon
'Sartor Resartus,' permit me a comparison in keeping. I once saw a tailor
measuring the boys in a charity school. He drew a chalk line five feet up
a wall, and dividing the upper part of the line by horizontal
chalk-marks, stood the boys beside it, one after another, and according
to the chalk-mark which the crown of the unfortunate creature's head
grazed, Master Snip called out 'Fours,' 'Ones,' 'Fives.' Fat boys or lean
boys, big-bodied or big-legged, narrow-chested or broad-shouldered, 't
was all ones--or twos--to him. Did they agree in height, the same
clothes--tight or loose--for all! Thus is it with our moral maxims.
Genius or goose, saint or sinner--your head to the chalk-mark! And
rightly. When one has to deal with great masses one cannot consider
little details. The principles of morality must be broad and simple, and
the world is right to apply them sternly and undiscriminatingly. The
general cannot consider the peculiarities of a particular soldier, though
the corporal of the regiment may make allowances for him. And so with
breaches of morals. The world at large should condemn; but the private
friends, who know the circumstances in every petty involution, who know
the temptations and the extenuating factors, should form as it were a
court of appeal. If they elected to stand by the offender, the world at
large should reconsider its verdict. This is what practically took place
in the George Eliot and Lewes instance. Weighed, not by the steelyard of
general principle, but by the delicate chemical balance of special
detail, they were not found wanting. The Magna Charta is still only a
pious aspiration. 'Every man shall be tried by a jury of his peers.' How
profound! For only our equals can know our travails and temptations. How,
now, if we had to try Shakespeare! which of us would dare sit on the
panel? Yet we 'chatter about Shelley.' He did wrong--granted. But was it
wrong of him to do it? That is another question altogether. Subjective
morality and objective morality are two different things. But the whole
subject of the sexes is wrapped in hypocrisy, and the breaches of
morality are committed less by the celebrated than by the obscure. The
savage sarcasm of Schopenhauer's refusal to discuss monogamy because it
had never yet come within the range of practical politics is still
justified. I remember once reading an anecdote about a besieged town. The
defenders resolved to make a sortie on a certain day, only, in dread of
their plan somehow leaking out beyond the gates, or of their womankind
dissuading some from the perilous enterprise, they administered a solemn
oath to one another that none of them should tell his wife, nor speak of
it again even to another man, till the moment arrived. But each
individual man told the partner of his bosom, only binding her by most
fearsome oaths to say nothing to any other woman or man. All the women
kept their oaths, each going about with the proud sense of being the only
woman in the great secret. And so the women all met in the market-place,
chattering about every subject on earth but that which was nearest their
hearts, and the men moved among them, mutually silent. The whole
community knew the secret whereof no one spoke. You perceive the
parallel? Sex is the secret we are all in. Why shouldn't we talk openly?
Why shouldn't we face facts? The marriage laws should be made as
flexible, not as inflexible, as possible. Why? Because the bad people
will evade everything and the good people endure anything. The bad people
will break the best laws and the good people will respect the worst laws.
Hence, stringency squeezes the saint and lets the sinner slip. Harsh
legislation puts a penalty on virtue: the vicious skirt round it
surreptitiously, or are openly happy in despite of it. The only thing
immutable in sexual morality is the principle of regulating it with a
view to the highest ends of the soul and the state: the regulations
themselves are mutable, and we should not sacrifice too many human beings
to gratify the idealism of the happily married. At the same time do not
suspect me of Hilltopsy-turveydom, which seems to me based on bad
physiology and worse psychology. Mr. Grant Allen, man of science as he is
in his spare moments, is more like Matthew Arnold's Shelley, a beautiful
and ineffectual angel beating in the void his luminous wings in vain. So
complex is the problem which seems to him so simple, that it is not
improbable that the present monogamy (tempered by polygamy) is the best
of all possible arrangements. This is not to belaud the present system,
any more than it is optimistic to say this is the best of all possible
worlds. It may be so, but it remains a pity that no better was possible.
And Mrs. Grundy herself seems to me as over-abused as marriage. The
celerity with which she became a byword, from the moment she made her
accidental appearance in Tom Morton's 'Speed the Plough,' shows how the
popular instinct needed some such incarnation of our neighbours'
opinions. She stands, the representative of the ethical level of the age,
not of fixed pruderies. She is by no means the staid old soul her
maligners imagine--never was there creature more changeable. As we move
on, so will she move on with us. Once she allowed our squires to get
drunk after dinner, now she is shocked at a one-bottle man. You will
never shake her off, you brilliant young gentlemen. For as you
established your own ethics, she would still be there to see that your
ideas were carried out. Granted she is a scandal-monger. But scandal is
the sewer-system of society: the dirty work must be done somehow. Mrs.
Grundy is your scavenger. Americans don't talk scandal, but I fail to see
how they will keep their homes clean without it. The scandal-mongers may
be inspired by no lofty motives, but they make a wonderful unpaid
detective force. Sheridan was not a philosopher. Ubiquitous and
omniscient, Mrs. Grundy is always with you. Once you might have escaped
her by making the grand tour, but now she has a Cook's circular ticket
and watches you from the Pyramids or the temples of Japan,--especially
if, like myself, you have the misfortune to be a celebrity. The only way
to escape her is to be photographed widely. Wasn't it Adam Smith who said
that conscience was only the reflection in ourselves of our neighbours'
opinions? If we didn't value their opinions there would be no morality.
Foreign travel makes you feel there is something in the idea. Who cares
what a parcel of jabbering strangers think about his actions? The moment
you lose touch with your environment, the moment you cease to vibrate to
its nuances, your morality is in a parlous condition. Better go home and
sit down on the well-known couch of Catullus, and feel once more that
people are real and life is earnest and the horizon is not its goal. What
is this mania for movement? If you travel unintelligently you see nothing
that you couldn't have seen more comfortably in a panorama--the world
going round you. If you travel intelligently, you discover the relativity
of all customs and ideas, you distrust your own beliefs, your backbone is
relaxed, your vitality snapped, and you come home a molluscous
cosmopolitan. It is the same thing that happens if you travel mentally
instead of by mileage--if you go in for that modern curse, 'Culture.' You
are not meant to absorb the art and literature of foreigners and dead
peoples, fluttering like a bee from flower to flower. These things were
made by men for their own race and age; they never thought of you,--you
are an eavesdropper. Cathedrals were built for Christians to pray in, not
for connoisseurs to gloat over. You should develop along your own lines,
strong and simple, not be a many-sided nullity. The true Englishmen are
ploughmen and sailors and shopkeepers, not culture-snobs.

"The greatest poets in every language are those who know only their own
language. Shakespeare and Keats handled English as a million Professors
of Poetry cooperating could never handle it. The greatest Art has always
sprung from the direct pressure of the real world upon the souls of the
artists. To be cultured is to lose that vivid sense of the reality of the
life around you, to see it intellectually rather than to feel it
intuitively. Hence art that is too self-conscious misses the throb of
life. George Eliot failed as soon as she began to substitute intellectual
concepts for the vivid impressions of early memories. The moment people
begin to prate about Art, the day of Art is over, and decadence is set
in. Art should be the natural semi-unconscious enhancement of other
things. The speaker wishing to convince becomes artistically oratorical,
the prophet becomes artistically poetic, the church-builder artistically
architectural, the painter of Madonnas artistically picturesque, the
composer of prayer-chants artistically musical. Art was the child of
Religion, but it has long since abandoned its mother. Portrait and
landscape painting arose as accessories to sacred pictures; the origin of
the opera is to be sought in the Mass; literature developed from
religious writings. But gradually it was discovered that you might paint
noblemen as well as sages, and that scenery could be dissociated from the
backgrounds of Crucifixions and Marriages at Cana. And from seeing that
Art needn't have a religious meaning or content, men came to see that it
needn't have any meaning or content at all. Art, indeed, presents
possibilities of a divorce from intellect and morals of which artists
have eagerly availed themselves. But Art for Art's sake is Dead-Sea
fruit--rosy without, ashes within. Socrates was not perhaps quite right
in saying that the Beautiful was the Useful, but it doesn't follow that
the Beautiful should be the Useless. Even crockery, cutlery, and
furniture should never be Beautiful at the cost of utility. Their Beauty
should be implicated with their natural shapes, inblent with and
inseparable from their uses, not a monstrous accretion from without. The
most artistic knife is the quintessence of knifehood."

"But that is my idea of Art for Art's sake," I interrupted, for he had
now got his second wind. "Art has always to express the quintessence of
something--be it a street, a life, a national movement, a----"

"Art for Art's sake means making beautiful knives that won't cut and
beautiful glasses that won't hold water, and beautiful pictures and poems
that say nothing. The people who want their Art dissociated from their
morals are in danger of spiritual blight, and inhabiting a universe of
empty nothings. Too much self-consciousness is as sterile as too little.
Look at these modern Renaissances! They all----"

"Yes, I know: I have written about that," I said. "And now there is
another one, the Jewish. Have you read the plan for 'A Jewish State,' by
Dr. Herzl, of Vienna? No dreamer he, but wonderfully sane, despite his
lofty conception of a moralised, rationalised, modern State. Too
'modern,' indeed, this idea of Messiah as a joint-stock company! I
predicted years ago we should come to that. But methinks the Doctor----"

"They are starting the Grand Prix," hastily interrupted the Young Fogey.
"Good-bye! Such a delightful talk!" And turning his back on the horses,
he hurried off the field to lose himself and perhaps find a new pair of
English ears among the parasols and equipages of the sunlit Prater.




XI

CRITICS AND PEOPLE

What is the critic's duty at the play? Does he represent Art, or does he
represent the Public? If he represent Art, then he is but a refracting
medium between the purveyor and the public, which will therefore be
wofully mistaken if it seek in his critiques a guide to its play-going,
as it to some extent does. For while people do not always like a play
because they are told it is good, they often refrain from going to see
one because they are told it is bad. When I was a dramatic critic--a
phrase that merely means I did not pay for my seat--nothing struck me
more forcibly than the frequent discrepancy between the opinions of the
audience at a _premiere_ and the opinions of the papers. Again and again
have I seen an audience moved to laughter and cheers and tears by a play
which the great outside public would be informed the next morning was
indifferent or worse. The discrepancy was sometimes explicable by
_claques_, which are almost as discreditable to managements as the
keeping of tame critics, who eat food out of their hand. Sometimes it was
not professional _claques_, but amateurs come to see a friend's play _en
masse_, and applauding out of all proportion to its merits, not so much
perhaps from friendship as from simple astonishment at finding any
merits. But putting aside _claques_, it remains true that an audience
will often heartily enjoy what a critic will heartily damn--sometimes in
half a dozen papers, your capable critic being like a six-barrelled
revolver. And so--often enough--the piece, after futile efforts to
masquerade in the advertisement columns in a turned garment of favourable
phrases, dies in an odour of burnt paper; the treasury is robbed of its
due returns; and numerous worthy persons to whom it would have given
boundless pleasure are deprived of their just enjoyment. The obvious
truth is that the public and the critics--the people who pay to see plays
and the people who are paid to see plays--have different canons of
criticism. Sometimes their judgments coincide, but quite as frequently
they disagree. It is the same with popular books. And the reason of this
is not far to seek. The critic is not only more cultured than the average
playgoer, he is more _blase_. He knows the stock situations, the stage
tricks, the farcical misunderstandings, the machine-made pathos, the dull
mechanic round of repartee, the innocent infant who intervenes in a
divorce suit (like the Queen's Proctor), the misprised mother-in-law, the
bearded spinster sighing like a furnace, the ingenuous and slangy young
person of fifteen with the well-known cheek, and the even more
stereotyped personages preserved in Mr. Jerome's "Stage-land." They all
come, if not from Sheffield, from a perpetual tour in the provinces. The
critic knows, too, which plays are taken from the French and which from
the English, where the actor is gagging and when he is "fluffy." A good
deal of the disillusionment of the scene is also his: he knows that the
hero is not young nor the heroine beautiful, nor the villain as vicious
as either.

How different the attitude of the occasional playgoer! Seeing only a
tithe of the plays of the day, he neither knows nor cares whether they
repeat one another. The most hackneyed device may seem brilliantly
original to him, the stalest stage trick as fresh as if just hot from the
brain; and jokes that deterred the dove from returning to the ark arride
him vastly. _Per contra_, for his unjaded imagination absolutely new
scenes and dialogues have no more novelty than the comparatively aged.
Probability or truth to life he demands not, perfection of form were
thrown away upon him. His soul melts before the simplest pathos, he is
made happy by a happy ending, and when Momus sits on a hat "he openeth
his mouth and saith Ha! ha!" He is a flute upon which you may play what
false notes you will. In some versions of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" he placidly
accepts two Topsies. I s'pec's one growed out of t' other. He hath a
passion for the real as well as the ideal, and in order to see a
fire-engine, or Westminster Bridge, or a snow-storm, he will perspire you
two hours at the pit's mouth. He could see them any day in the street,
but it gives him wondrous joy to see them in their wrong places. How
absurd, then, for the average critic to be play-taster to the occasional
playgoer! He no more represents him than an M. P. represents the baby he
kisses. As well might one ask a connoisseur to choose the claret for a
back-parlour supper-party. Thus the critic cannot honestly represent the
Public. That he cannot represent Art without injuring the Theatre as well
as the Public, has already been shown. The conclusion one is driven to is
that the critic has no _raison d'etre_ at all in the topical press. There
he should be replaced by the reporter. The influence of cultivated
criticism should be brought to bear on the drama only from the columns of
high-class magazines or books.

Nor am I more certain of the use of the art critic. He is far too
conflicting to be of any practical value, and he as often contradicts
himself as his fellows. He hides his ignorance in elegant English,
sometimes illuminated by epigram, and from his dogmatic verdicts there is
no appeal. Not infrequently he is resolved to be a critic "in spite of
nature," as Sir Joshua has it in a delicious phrase which was possibly
given him by his friend "the great lexicographer." In a letter to the
"Idler," the painter recommends those devoid of eye or taste, and with no
great disposition to reading and study, to "assume the character of a
connoisseur, which may be purchased at a much cheaper rate than that of a
critic in poetry." "The remembrance of a few names of painters, with
their general characters," says Sir Joshua, "and a few rules of the
Academy, which they may pick up among the Painters, will go a great way
towards making a very notable Connoisseur." He goes on to describe a
gentleman of this cast, whose mouth was full of the cant of Criticism,
"which he emitted with that volubility which generally those orators have
who annex no ideas to their words."

When I once expressed to Mr. Whistler my conviction that, with the single
exception of religion, more nonsense was talked on the subject of art
than on any other topic in the world, that great authority refused to
allow religion any such precedence. Certainly during the season when, for
the middle-class Londoner, art "happens," the claims of art to that proud
pre-eminence become overwhelming, if only temporarily so. Everybody gives
his opinion freely, and it is worth the price. To criticise painting is
only less difficult than to execute it. Fifty per cent. of art is sheer
science, the rigid, accurate science of form and perspective, I do not
say that accuracy is necessary to art. Still it is what most people
presume to judge. But does one person in a hundred know the true
proportions of things, or possess the eye to gauge the anatomy of a
figure? Owing to the neglect in schools of the rudiments of drawing, our
eyes barely note the commonest objects; we remark just enough of their
characteristics to identify them. "Consider!" as Mr. John Davidson writes
in his "Random Itinerary": "did you ever see a sparrow? You have heard
and read about sparrows. The streets are full of them; you know they
exist. But you could not describe one, or say what like is its note. You
have never seen a sparrow, any more than you have seen the
thousand-and-one men and women you passed in Fleet street the last time
you walked through it. _Did_ you ever see a sparrow?" And then there is
colour. Do you really know what the colour of that landscape is, or what
complex hues mantle the surface of yonder all-mirroring pool? Do you know
that, the appearance of nature is constantly varying with every change of
light and every passing cloud? Do you know how Primrose Hill looks at
night? Perhaps you think you know how a haystack looks in the sunlight;
yet across the Channel the illustrious Monet devoted months to painting
one haystack, making fresh discoveries daily. I do not believe you know
how many Roman figures there are on your watch-dial. You probably think
there are twelve. But what is far more important, you may be quite devoid
of artistic sensibility. Yet you would not hesitate to criticise the
Academy or even to be paid for it. I had occasion to buy a doll the other
day. It was a she-doll. There seems, by the way, a tremendous
preponderance of the fair sex in dolls: what difficult social problems
must agitate the Dolls' Houses! This was a pretty doll, with wide blue
eyes, and a wealth of golden tow, and an expression of aristocratic
innocence on its waxen cheek, faintly flushed with paint, and I bore it
home with pride. But when I came to examine it, I found it was but a
sawdust abomination. Oh the modelling of the arm, oh the anatomy of the
leg, oh the patella proximate to the ankle! I felt that if I gave that
doll to the expectant infant, she might grow up to be an art critic.
Thus, then, mused I sorrowfully, is the nation's taste made in Germany.
We are corrupted from the cradle, even as upon our tombs badly carved
angels balance themselves dolefully. Let me make a nation's dolls: I care
not who makes its pictures. Was it of these dolls a late President of the
Royal Academy was thinking, when he said that the German genius did not
find its best expression in plastic art? The Academy will not be
permanently improved until we improve our dolls.




XII

TABLE-TALK

Now that the world is so full of free dinners for the well-fed, it
behoves hostesses to reconsider their methods. With so many dinner-tables
open to the lion, or even to the cub, they must do their spiriting
dexterously if they would feed him. In these days when seven hostesses
pluck hold of the swallow-tails of one man, and the form of grace before
meals must be, "For those we are about to receive, Lord make us truly
thankful," something more than the average attraction is needed to induce
the noble animal to dine at your expense. There is one improvement in the
great dinner function for which I would respectfully solicit the
attention of ladies who entertain but do not amuse. "It is a great point
in a gallery how you hang your pictures," says the sage of Concord, "and
not less in society how you seat your party. When a man meets his
accurate mate, Society begins and life is delicious." Yes, but how rarely
does a man meet his accurate mate in these minor marriages of the
dinner-table! How often is he chained for hours to an unsympathetic soul
he has not even made the mistake of selecting. The terrible length of the
modern dinner makes the grievance very real, and in a society already
vibrant with the demand for easier divorce it is curious that there has
arisen no Sarah Grand of the dining-room to protest against this diurnal
evil. Suppose that at a dance you were told off to one perpetual partner,
who would ever don pumps? Is it not obvious that at a dinner you should
have the same privilege as at a dance--the privilege of choosing your
partner for each course? It could be done during the drawing-room wait. I
give an example of an ordinary menu, marked after the fashion of a
gentleman's dance programme, from which it will the seen at a glance how
much more delightful a dinner would become if you could change your
partner as often as your plate.

    MENU, JUNE 15th, 1894.

       Plats.               Engagements.
    1. Hors d'oeuvres . . . . S. S.
    2. Soup . . . . . . . . . A. P. S.
    3. Poisson . . . . . . .  Pinky.
    4. Poisson . . . . . . .  L. R.
    5. Entree . . . . . . . . Blue Bow.
    6. Entree . . . . . . . . Red Hair.
    7. Joint . . . . . . . .  W.
    8. Sweet . . . . . . . .  Minnie.
    9. Sweet . . . . . . . .  Minnie.
    10. Cheese . . . . . . .  Long Arms.
    11. Dessert . . . . . . . I. V.

    (Interval before ladies rise.)

    Extra Entree . . . . . .  Agnes.
    Extra Joint . . . . . . . Eyeglasses.
    Extra Sweet . . . . . . . Minnie.

You perceive at once that you would always put your idol _pro tem_, down
for the sweets, which would become as fertile a source of flirtation as
"love" in tennis. Of course the same tact and discretion would be needed
in filling your menu as in filling your programme. Some ladies who are
excellent at the entree may be inadvisable for the joint, which they may
sit out, expecting to monopolise your attention to the detriment of your
meal. Others who are dull at the soup may be agreeably vivacious towards
the later items. A new series of formulae would be added to the language:

"May I have the pleasure of seeing your menu?"

"Will you give me one sweet?"

"Can you spare me the joint?"

"I am so sorry: I have just given it away."

"See me eat the poisson, as Grossmith says."

"Will you put me down for a fish?"

"This is our entree, I think."

"May I have my dessert, Minnie?"

"Are you engaged for the cheese?"

"Yes; but you can have the second entree."

"Don't forget to keep the soup for me!"

"If you don't mind sitting it out!"

"Are you open for the extra joint?"

"Thank you: I am full up."

For hostesses who shrink from such a revolution, a beginning might be
made by an automatic change of seats by the gentlemen, say one to the
right as in the _chasse-croise_ of the Caledonians. Failing this, the
only remaining method of avoiding monotony and the chilling separation of
the extremes of the board is to follow the example of King Arthur and
employ a round table. The round dinner-table is the only way of making
both ends meet.

Having got your round table, what are you to eat upon it? There is hardly
any edible known to the menu which some sect or other would not banish
from the kitchen, while if you were to follow the "Lancet" you would eat
nothing at all, starving like Tantalus amid a wealth of provisions. Of
these sects of the stomach I was aware of many. But it is only recently
that the claims of "natural food" have been brought within my heathen
ken. The apostle of the new creed is an American lady doctor, whose
gospel, however, is somewhat vitiated by her championship of Mrs.
Maybrick, so that one cannot resist the temptation of suspecting that she
thinks the jury would never have found that interesting lady guilty if
they had fed upon starchless food. For this is the creed of the new
teaching. All starch foods are chiefly digested in the intestines instead
of in the main stomach, and hence are unnatural and morbiferous, and the
chief cause of the nervous prostration and broken-down health that abound
on all sides. (Herr Nordau gives quite a different explanation of the
general breakdown, but no matter.) "The 'Natural Food Society,'" says its
official organ, "is founded in the belief that the food of primeval man
consisted of fruit and nuts of sub-tropical climes, spontaneously
produced; that on these foods man was, and may again become, at least as
free from disease as the animals are in a state of nature." How curiously
apposite seem Dryden's lines, written in a very different connection!

  This was the fruit the private spirit brought,
  Occasioned by great zeal and little thought.
  While crowds unlearned, with rude devotion warm,
  About the sacred viands buzz and swarm.

And this couplet of his, too, might be commended to the devotees:

  A thousand daily sects rise up and die;
  A thousand more the perished race supply.

What does it matter what primeval man ate? It is not even certain that he
was a member of the Natural Food Society. The savage, as we know him,
lives on the game he hunts and shoots, and prefers his fellow-man to
vegetarianism. No one ever accused the red Indian of nervous prostration,
"when wild in woods the noble savage ran"; nor are leopards and tigers
usually in broken-down health. But, in justice to the Natural Food
Society, I must admit that it displays a pleasant absence of fanaticism,
for there is a proviso in italics: "_All persons about to experiment with
the non-starch food system are urged at first not to use nuts, but to use
instead whatever animal food they have been accustomed to._" The central
feature of the system is abstention from bread, cereals, pulses, and
starchy vegetables, for which food fruits are to be substituted. All this
seems a mighty poor excuse for the formation of a new sect. Fortunately
the Society uses up its superfluous energies "in working for the higher
life," and in its coupling of health and holiness is sound in its
psychology, whatever it may be in its physiology.

You never heard of Peterkin's pudding, by the way, but there is a fine
moral baked in it. Johannes came to his wife one day and said, "_Liebes_
Gretchen, could you not make me a pudding such as Peterkin is always
boasting his wife makes him? I am dying of envy to taste it. Every time
he talks of it my chops water." "It is not impossible I could make you
one," said Gretchen good-naturedly; "I will go and ask Frau Peterkin how
she makes it." When Johannes returned that evening from the workshop,
where Peterkin had been raving more than ever over his wife's pudding,
Gretchen said gleefully, "I have been to Frau Peterkin: she has a good
heart, and she gave me the whole recipe for Peterkin's pudding." Johannes
rubbed his hands, and his mouth watered already in anticipation. "It is
made with raisins," began Gretchen. Johannes's jaw fell. "We can scarcely
afford raisins," he interrupted: "couldn't you manage without raisins?"
"Oh, I dare say," said Gretchen, doubtfully. "There is also candied
lemon-peel." Johannes whistled. "Ach, we can't run to that," he said.
"No, indeed," assented Gretchen; "but we must have suet and yeast." "I
don't see the necessity," quoth Johannes. "A good cook like you"--here he
gave her a sounding kiss--"can get along without such trifles as those."
"Well, I will try," said the good Gretchen, as cheerfully as she could;
and so next morning Johannes went to work light-hearted and gay. When he
returned home, lo! the long-desired dainty stood on the supper-table,
beautifully brown. He ran to embrace his wife in gratitude and joy; then
he tremblingly broke off a hunch of pudding and took a huge bite. His
wife, anxiously watching his face, saw it assume a look of perplexity,
followed by one of disgust. Johannes gave a great snort of contempt.
"_Lieber Gott!_" he cried, "and _this_ is what Peterkin is always
bragging about!"




XIII

THE ABOLITION OF MONEY

The Cynic was very old and very wise and very unpopular. I was the only
person at his "At Home" that afternoon. I gave him my views on
Bi-metallism, having just read the leader in the "Times." He yawned
obtrusively, and growled, "Bi-metallism, indeed! The only remedy for
modern civilisation is A-metallism. Money must be abolished. The root of
all evil must be pulled up."

"Money abolished!" I echoed in amaze. "Why, any student of political
economy will tell you we could not live without it. Lacking a common
measure of value, we----"

"So it has always been held by students when answering political-economy
papers," he interrupted impatiently. "Yet I dreamt once of a land where
the currency was called in, and the morning stars sang together."

"But the exchange of commodities----" I began.

"Was effected by the sublime simplicity of barter. At one sweep were
swept away all that monstrous credit system which had created an army of
accountants and a Court of bankruptcy; all that chaos of single and
double-faced entry--all that sleight-of-hand abracadabra of
signatures--all those paper phantoms of capital. The Stock Exchange and
other gambling-hells shrivelled up. There was a vast saving of clerical
labour, and there were few loopholes for fraud. Everything was too
simple. Swift retribution overtook the man who shirked his obligations to
his fellows. Nobody could juggle with bits of paper at the North Pole and
ruin people at the South. The windows of human Society were cleared of
the gigantic complex cobweb full of dead flies. One could look inside and
see what was going on. 'Gentlemen' could not flourish in the light. They
were like the fungi that grew in cellars. Every man became both a worker
and a trader."

"Not an unmixed gain, that," I protested.

"I grant you," said the Cynic. "Some of the finer shades of fine
gentlemanliness were lost: the honourable feeling of cheating one's
tradesmen, the noble scorn of tailors, the lofty despisal of duns. When
all men were tradesmen, these higher class distinctions fused into one
another. There arose a clannish feeling which prevented the tradesman
from defrauding one of his own class. But there was an even graver evil
to be placed to the debit side of the new system. For the professors of
political economy (who had thrown up their posts as a conscientious
protest against the abolition of money and of salaries) proved to be
right. So clumsy was the mechanism of exchange that men were actually
driven to doing more than one kind of work. All those advantages of
specialisation which Adam Smith, supplemented by Babbage, had so
laboriously pointed out were completely lost to a wasteful world. Rather
than be without certain luxuries and necessaries men gave up moving their
legs all day up and down in time with iron treadles, or feeding machines
with bits of material exactly alike, or remaining doubled up underground,
or making marks from hour to hour and from year to year on pieces of
ruled paper. The waste by friction became enormous. Some of the least
thrifty even made their own furniture, and wove their own clothes, and
carved out rude ornaments for themselves. Whether from a natural want of
economy, or from an unwillingness to encounter the difficulties of
traffic, or from a mere spirit of independence, these men deliberately
reverted to the condition from which mankind had so painfully emerged.

"Some even pretended to enjoy it, and, rather paradoxically, asserted
that the abolition of gold had brought about the golden age of primitive
legend. Others who felt keenly the falling-off in production, and the
absence of those huge stores of unsold commodities which glutted the
ancient markets, and gave a nation a sense of wealth in the midst of
poverty; the aesthetic spirits who lamented the disappearance of the
ancient mansions and palaces, which, although they were empty three parts
of the year, yet afforded men the consolation of knowing that they were
ample enough to shelter the majority of the homeless--men of this stamp
were chagrined by the cumbersome mechanism of exchange, which made these
glories of the past impracticable, and they were for introducing
counters. But counters, although they had the advantage of lacking
intrinsic value, would be quite as bad as actual coins if men could
entirely trust one another never to repudiate their obligations.
Unfortunately Society had grown so honest under the new _regime_ that
this condition was fulfilled, and the operation of counters would have
been identical with that of money. Moreover, counters would have brought
back card-playing, horse-racing, fire and life assurance, and other forms
of gambling, which without them involved such complex calculations and
valuations of loaves and fishes that all the pleasure was spoilt. When
these things were pointed out to the aesthetic and the economical, they
were convinced and remained of the same opinion.

"But even with all these deficits, the balance in favour of the _status
quo_ was eminently satisfactory. It was rediscovered that man really
wanted very little here below, and that it was better for all to get it
than for some to continue to want it; and, taking into account also the
general freedom from war, newspapers, and other evils of a moneyed
civilisation, it must be conceded that the common people had very little
to grumble at."

"But what of the uncommon people?" I interrupted at last. "They must have
been martyred."

"Certainly, for the good of the common people. You see, everything was
topsy-turvey. Besides, they suffered only during the earlier stages of
transition. There was, for instance, the poet who went round among the
workmen to chaffer verses. But there were few willing to barter solid
goods for poetry. Here and there an intelligent artisan in love purchased
a serenade, and an occasional lunatic (for Nature hath her aberrations
under any system) became the proprietor of an epic. But the sons of toil
drove few bargains or hard with the sons of the Muses. The best poets
fared worst, for the crowd sympathised not with their temper, nor with
their diction, and they were like to die of starvation and so achieve
speedy recognition. But the minor poets, too, were in sore strait. The
market was exceedingly limited. Sellers were many and buyers few.
Rondeaux were hawked about from butcher to baker, at ten to the joint, or
three to the four-pound loaf, and triolets were going at a
hollow-toothful of brandy. A ballade-worth of butter would hardly cover a
luncheon biscuit, while a five-act blank-verse tragedy was given away for
a pound of tea, and that only when the characters were incestuous and the
caesuras irreproachable. A famous female poet was reduced to pawning her
best sonnet for a glass of lemonade and a bun.

"Times were no less hard for the comic writer. Hitherto he had only to
outrage his mother-tongue, or to debase the moral currency, to find the
land ready to accord him of the fat thereof. He used to sit in a room in
Fleet street and make or steal jokes in return for gold. By the wonderful
mechanism of the old Society other men and women, in whatever part of the
world he might stray, would rush to feed and clothe and house him, and
play and sing and dance to him, and physic him, and drive him about in
carriages, and tell him the news and shave him, and press upon him
aromatic mixtures to smoke, and love him, and kowtow to him, and beg of
him, and even laugh at his jokes, all in return for making or stealing
jokes in Fleet street. Some of these men and women would detest jokes, or
have a blindness to their points; nevertheless, not one but would be
eager to express in the most practical form his or her sense of the
services rendered to Society by the joker. But now that people saw with
open eyes through the transparent mechanism of exchange, they were
extremely loth to part with their tangible commodities in return for mere
flashes of wit or vulgarity. Previously they had only half realised that
they were soberly and seriously making coats, or working machines, or
smelting iron, while these jesters were merely cudgelling their brains or
consulting back files. The complexity of the thing had disguised the
facts. But now that they saw exactly what was going on, they became
suddenly callous to numerous vested interests, and their new-found desire
to know why they should give up the fruits of their labour pressed very
cruelly upon innocent individuals. The comic writer found it no joke to
live with 'I'd Rajah not's' going at seventy-five to the cigarette, or
mockeries of the mother-in-law yielding but a ton of coals to the
thousand. Puns were barely vendible, and even comic pictures could only
be sold at a great sacrifice of decency.

"The heir was a type of sufferer. When he came around asking for
champagne and chicken, the working-man said, 'What are you offering us in
exchange?' and he replied, 'My relationship to my father.' But they would
not buy.

"Antiquarians and scholars, too, found it a hard task to live. No one
needed the things they raked up from the dust-heap of the past. Critics
were in an exceptionally critical condition. No one cared to exchange his
productions with a man who in return had to offer only his opinion of
somebody else's! As this opinion was usually worthless even under the old
_regime_, people soon began to turn up their noses at it, and nobody
would give a rusk for the information that Turner was a better artist
than Nature, or that hanging was too good for Whistler. Remarks about the
Italian Renaissance were accounted paltry equivalents for green peas,
invidious comparisons among the Lake poets were not easily negotiable for
alpaca umbrellas, and the subtlest misreadings of Shakespeare were
considered trivial substitutes for small-clothes. The artists were
reduced to borrowing half-rolls from their models, partly because people
had gone back to Nature and liked their scenery free from oil, and drank
in the Spirit of Beauty without water, and partly because it was so
difficult to assess the value of a picture now that critics had been
starved out and speculation had died away. Allegorical painters continued
a much-misunderstood race, and the fusion of classes had reacted fatally
on the brisk trade in 'Portraits of a Gentleman.' People who, in their
celestial aspirations after the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, had
forgotten that they ate and drank and required food, warmth, and shelter
to hatch all these sublime things with Capital Letters--people who had
heretofore poured lofty scorn on those who could not forget that a man
was a being with a body--these were now the most clamant demanders of the
material. Only by the withdrawal of physical necessaries and luxuries did
they come to realise how much they had depended on such, or to perceive
the impossibility of the Worship of Truth on an empty stomach. Alas!
under this crude system of barter the most ardent expression of their
sentiments concerning the ideal and the _Kalokagathon_ would not keep
them in cigars. The professional paradoxist went about with holes in his
boots. Epigrams in hand, sickness at heart, and emptiness at stomach, he
crawled through the town in search of a buyer. He offered a dozen of the
choicest apothegms for a pair of hob-nailed boots, conjuring the cobbler
like the veriest 'commercial' to note the superiority of the manufacture.
He pointed out that he travelled with the latest novelties in
Impressionist Ethics, perfect unfitness guaranteed. He even offered to
make a reduction if the cobbler would take a quantity. The worthy
craftsman, stung by the prospect of a cheap job lot of epigrams, was
prevailed upon to look at the goods. But when he read that 'Vice is the
foundation of all virtue,' that 'Self-sacrifice is the quintessence of
selfishness,' and that 'The Good of Evil outweighs the Evil of Good,' he
felt that he could do much better with his boots, even if he only
employed them to kick the epigrammatist. The poor wretch thought himself
lucky when he succeeded in purchasing two epigramsworth of tobacco and a
paradoxworth of potatoes. To cap his misfortunes, the nation suffered
from a sudden invasion of immigrant epigrammatists, so that cynicisms
went a-begging at ten for a sausage-roll. Nor was the dull but moral
maxim at less discount than the witty but improper epigram. Essays
inculcating the most superior virtues failed to counterbalance a day's
charing, and the finest spiritualistic soft soap would not wash clothes.
Even the washerwoman deemed her work more real and valuable than the
manufacture of moralities too fine for use, and the deliberate effusion
of sentiments too good to be true.

"In those days, too, a complete political platform, comprising a score of
first-class articles of faith, sold at a pair of second-hand
slop-trousers, and a speech of three hours and three hundred parentheses
could not fetch more than a pot of jam in the open market. The workhouses
were crowded with politicians, critics, poets, novelists, bishops,
sporting tipsters, scholars, heirs, soldiers, dudes, painters,
journalists, peers, bookmakers, landlords, punsters, idealists, and other
incorrigible persons. Nothing was more curious and heartrending in the
history of this transition to a new stage than the rapidity with which
those who had been most exigent towards life bated their terms. Men who,
in their aspirations after the Good and the Beautiful and the True, had
unwittingly wasted an intolerable deal of the world's substance in
riotous idealising,--men who had so long breathed the atmosphere of
ottomans and rose-leaves that they were barely conscious of their
privileges,--now found themselves clamouring for bread wherewith to stay
the cravings of their inner selves, and accounted themselves happy if
they found a roof to shelter them. The pathos of it was that they felt it
all too intensely to see the pathos of it, or to express it in poem,
picture, or song.

"It was, of course, the current political economy to which was due this
immense depreciation in the exchange value of the higher kinds of
intellectual and artistic work. In the old Socialistic system which had
been swept away by the abolition of money, men had purchased literary and
musical commodities in common, each consumer paying his quota for his
share of an unconsumable and infinitely divisible whole. But now few
individuals cared or could afford to purchase whole works for their
private edification; and so it came to pass that men of talent suffered
as much as men of genius in the olden days. And when it began to be
understood of the people that the times were other, and that Art and
Letters and Apostleship would not pay, men turned in resignation to work
with their hands, and they made all kinds of useful things.

"And the bookmakers returned not to their pens, nor the pot-boiling
painters to their palettes, nor the apostles to their prophesying, being
otherwise engaged and not thereto driven by inward necessity.

"And the Society of Authors perished!

"But the great poets, and the prophets, and the workers in colour and
form, upon whom the spirit rested, these wrought on when their daily
labour for a livelihood was at an end, for joy of their art and for the
religious fire that was in them, giving freely of their best to their
fellow-men, and exempt for evermore from all taint of trade."

The Cynic paused, and I sat silent, deeply impressed by what he had said,
and striving to imprint every word of it upon my memory, so that I might
sell it to a magazine.




XIV

MODERN MYTH-MAKING

So far as I can gather from the publications of the Folklore Society, the
science of Folklore is in a promising condition. The doctors seem to be
agreed neither about the facts nor the methods nor the conclusions, but
otherwise their unanimity is wonderful. Originally the science was made
in Germany, where it still flourishes, like all sciences that require
infinite pains and inexhaustible dulness. All that can be done with any
fruitfulness is apparently the collection and classification of stories,
songs and superstitions. Hypotheses and theories are mainly bricks
without straw, and the only certain conclusion that may be drawn from the
prevalence of folk-tales all over the world is that all men are liars.
This was the first contribution to the science, and the Psalmist may be
regarded as the founder of Folklore. Herder made an advance when he
collected the folk-songs of many nations; and Grimm as a collector was
truly scientific, but when he brought in his mythological explanations he
brought in mythology. Benfey's celebrated theory that European folk-tales
are Oriental in origin and comparatively recent in date seems to be
bearing up well.

But no one seems to study the mythopoetic instinct as it manifests itself
in modern life, in the daily refraction of fact through the medium of
imagination (a medium whose power of refraction is far greater than that
of water). Because we no longer create gods and goddesses, or people the
woods and brooks with fairies and nymphs, and the forest with gnomes and
the hills with hobgoblins--because we do not soften our lives with an
atmosphere of gracious supernaturalism, and fresco our azure ceiling with
angels--it is assumed that the mythopoetic instinct is dead. Far from it!
It is as lively as ever, and we may watch it at play in the building up
of legends, in the creation of mythical figures; in the shaping of the
Boulanger legend, the Napoleonic legend, the Beaconsfield legend with its
poetical machinery of the primrose, the Booth legend, the Blavatsky
legend; in the fathering of epigrams upon typical wits like Sheridan, or
the attribution of all jokes to "Punch"; in the creation of non-existent
bodies like the AEsthetes, and in the private circulation of scandals
about public personages; in the perpetual revival of the Blood Accusation
against the Jews, or the pathetic clinging to the miracles of exposed
Spiritualists and Theosophists; in the Gladstone of Tory imaginations and
the Balfour of Radical; in the Irish patriot of oratory; in the
big-footed Englishwoman of French fancy, and the English conception of
the Scotchman who cannot see a joke; in the persistence of traditional
beliefs or prejudices that would be destroyed by one inspection.

Apotheosis is still with us, and diabolification (if I may coin a word).
We canonise as prodigally as in the mediaeval ages, and are as keen as
ever about relics. We are still looking out for dead King Arthur: he will
return by way of the County Council. _Plus ca change plus c'est la
meme[*] chose_--probably the profoundest observation ever made by a
Frenchman. Our mythopoetic instinct is as active as of yore, only the
mode of its expression is changed. It works on modern lines, has taken to
prose instead of poetry, and only occasionally unfurls wings. Why does
not the Folklore Society investigate the origin of our modern myths? Why
not seize on the instinct as it is seen at play in our midst, moulding
movements and fashioning faiths? Why not catch it in the act--employ
vivisection, so to speak, instead of dissecting dead remains? Why not try
to extract from the living present the laws of the creation and
development of myths and the conditions of their persistence, so that by
applying these laws retrospectively we may come to understand our
heritage of tradition? Ah! but this would require insight into life,
which your scientist has no mind for. Besides, dry-as-dust
work--collation and classification--may be distributed among the members
of a society; but how require of them fresh vision? There is dispute as
to how folklore arose: one school talks vaguely of creation by the clan,
the community, the race; another insists that the germ at least must
always have sprung from some one individual mind, just as a proverb may
be the wisdom of many but must be the wit of one; that ideas that are "in
the air," like a tree whose branches are everywhere and whose trunk
nowhere, had a single root once; and that every _on dit_ was literally
"_one says_" originally. But if we watch the process of mythopoetising in
our daily life, we shall see both theories illustrated. Consider the myth
of Lord Randolph's small stature: it may be traced easily enough to Mr.
Furaiss's pencil. Many people who have the impression forget whence they
derived it; and many who never saw Punch had the idea conveyed to them by
London letter-writing journalists who never saw Churchill. Yet there is
no doubt that the myth is the creation of a single man. In this instance
the genesis is clear, and it makes for the one-man theory. In other
instances, I can quite imagine myths arising from a spectacle witnessed
in common by a multitude, or an incident developing itself under the eyes
of many. No single reporter of the doings in Sherwood Forest built up the
Robin Hood legend.

[* Transcriber's note: So in original. One would rather expect an accent
circonflexe on the first 'e', not an accent aigu.]

Doubtless every ballad was the work of an individual; crowds do not
spontaneously burst out into identical remarks, except on the stage. But
the crowd was ready for the individual's ballad; it furnished him with
his theme and his inspiration, so that he "gave back in rain what he
received in mist." Thus, most folklore would owe its birth to the
co-operation of the individual and the community--the former the creative
or male factor, the latter the receptive or feminine factor. The one man
launches his jest, his caricature, his story, his melody, into a
sympathetic but inarticulate environment. Then it is taken up, it is
transformed, it grows mighty. The "Times" is something very different
from the total of the contributors' manuscripts.

Perhaps the most interesting field of folklore work, from the point of
view of mere literature, was that opened up by Von Hahn's classification
of the stories of the world according to their original elements, their
bare plots. There are about seventy main types of stories to which all
the wandering tales of the world may be reduced. As thus:


GRATEFUL BEASTS' TYPE

1. A man saves some beasts and a man from a pit.

2. The beasts somehow make him rich, and the man somehow tries to ruin
him.

I have little doubt that these might be fined down to seventeen on a very
broad basis of classification. I should like to see an analysis of the
world's novels similar to that which Polti has made for the drama.
Probably it would need a Society to do it, though it would be easy enough
to keep pace with the output when once the arrears were cleared off.
There are only twenty novels published every week in England, omitting
serials, and probably only two or three hundred in the whole world. By a
division of labour these could be easily taken to pieces and their plots
dissected. In time this might lead to a copyright in incidents as well as
in words and titles, and the stock situations would be stocked no more,
and the conventional novelists would be killed off. Even if Parliament
did not see its way to copyrighting incidents, for fear good ideas
spoiled by weak writers should be lost to use by the strong, the
publication of a catalogue of the motives of fiction already treated
would deter all but the most shameless from changing infants at nurse, or
rescuing young ladies from bulls, or mistaking brother and sister for
lovers, or having to do with wills lost, stolen, or strayed. Colossal as
the task looks, a first rough analysis would sweep away half the new
novels of the month and include three-fourths of the fiction of the past.
Here is the broadest and most general formula of English fiction as she
is wrote for the young person: _A young man meets a young woman under
unpropitious conditions which delay their union._

Nine-tenths of the novels of the day may be dissected under the following
heads: (_a_) Description of Hero; (_b_) Of Heroine; (_c_) How they first
met; (_d_) Why they did not marry till the last chapter.

There! Quite unintentionally I have given away the secret of
novel-writing. It is, for all the world, like the parlour game of
Consequences, wherein each person fills up a form unknown to the others.
The muscular John Jones met the beautiful Princess of Portman Square in
the Old Kent Road, and said to her, "Oh, 'Arriet, I'm waitin' for you,"
and she replied, "You must wait till the end of the third volume," and
the consequences were that they got married, and the world said, "We must
get this from Mudie's." After this lesson in fiction any one may rival
the masters, provided he can hold a pen and doesn't mind leaving the
spelling to the compositors. You may perhaps think that the real value of
a book lies in the accessories before the marriage, in the pictures of
life and character; but I can assure you, unless you turn everything
round this axis, the critics will tell you you can't construct. For my
part, I would rather have "The Story of an African Farm," two-storied as
it really is, than a hundred bungalow romances. Better genius without art
than art without genius.

For French fiction the formula would have to be varied. It would run:
(_a_)Hero; (_b_)Heroine; (_c_)How they first loved; (_d_)What the hero's
wife or the heroine's husband did; (_e_)Who died?

Another piece of work I should like to see done is a census of the
population of novels. Then we should see clearly how far they are a
reflection of life. In England I warrant the professional men would
outnumber all others; the aristocracy would come next, and the urban
working-man would be swamped by the villagers. The nation of shopkeepers
would be poorly represented, and artisans would be few in the land. There
would be more perfectly beautiful English girls than there are girls in
England, more American millionaires than even the States can raise, and
more penniless lords than if Debrett were a charity list of paupers; more
satanic guardsmen than ever wore "the widow's uniform," more briefless
barristers than all the men who have eaten dinners in vegetarian
restaurants, and more murderers than have ever been caught since the days
of Jonathan Wild. Indeed, I am not certain but what the population of
English novels would come out thirteen millions, mostly criminals. The
relative proportions of blondes and brunettes would also be brought out,
and whether there is a run on any especial colour of hair. Plain heroines
came in with Jane Eyre. It would be interesting to ascertain if they are
still worn or still weary.




CHAPTER XV

THE PHILOSOPHY OF TOPSY-TURVEYDOM

My friends, topsy-turveydom is not so easy as it looks. The trouble is
not in inverting, but in finding _what to invert_. Our language is full
of ancient saws, but it takes wit to discover which to turn upside down.
Anybody can stand anything on its head, but it is only the real humourist
who knows which thing can stand on its head without falling or looking
foolish. 'T is the same in stage dialogue. Many a man of moderate wit can
find a repartee when the joke is unconsciously led up to by another
speaker. It is the preparation for the joke that is the dramatist's
difficulty. To borrow a term from the Greek grammars, the protasis of the
repartee is more troublesome than the apodosis. The puzzle is, therefore,
find the protasis. When Barry Pain says that sometimes the glowing fire
in the grate stares at you from behind its bars, as if it could read
pictures in you, you cannot help laughing. If he had given you the
protasis, "You gaze into the fire as if you could read pictures in it,"
even you could have invented the inversion. Topsy-turveydom is, I repeat,
no laughing matter. It is an art--and must be studied. When Besant's
School of Literature is founded, there will be


EXERCISES IN TOPSY-TURVEYDOM

1. Invert the following commonplaces humorously:

    Honesty is the best policy.
    The cup that cheers but not inebriates.
    Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
    Like a child in its mother's arms.
          (_Not so easy, you see!_)

2. Invert the following _motifs_ humorously:

    (_a_) A parted husband and wife reconciled by their little child.
    (Stock Poetry.)

    (_b_) A patient marrying his nurse on recovery. (Stock Story.)

    (_c_) A mother-in-law who comes to stay six months. (The Old Humour.)

Inversion may be applied, you see, both to ideas and to phrases. Let me
contribute a specimen of either sort to the literary primer of the
future:


THE ECONOMY OF SMOKING

I must really give up not smoking, at least till the American Copyright
Act works smoothly, and I am in a position to afford luxuries. At present
this habit of not smoking is a drain upon my resources which I can ill
support. Whenever a man comes to my house, I have to give him cigars, or
else gain the reputation of a churly and ill-mannered host. In the olden
days, when I was economical and smoked all day long, I could go to that
man's house and get those cigars back. Very often, too, I used to get the
best of the bargain, and thus effect considerable economies in the
purchase of good tobacco. Nowadays, not only have I got to give away
cigars for nothing, but they must be good ones. Formerly if I gave my
friends bad cigars, it was from a box I was obviously smoking myself, and
therefore they had at least the consolation of knowing I was a companion
in misfortune. But to give others "evils from which you are yourself
exempt" (to quote Lucretius) would be a terrible blend of bad taste and
inhospitality. Under such circumstances a man looks on a bad cigar as an
insult, and the greater insult because it is a gratuitous one. But my
losses from these sources are trivial compared with the item for
theatres. In the pure, innocent days, when I could not bear to let my
pipe out of my mouth even for a moment, I was unable to go to theatres;
but now that I have taken to not smoking, I have fallen a victim to my
other craving--the passion for the play. Three stalls a week tot up
frightfully in a year. No, decidedly I must check this extravagant habit
of not smoking before I am irretrievably ruined.

This is forced, but Truth often dwells the bottom of a paradox.


THE DANGER OF LEARNING TO SWIM

The danger of drowning arises mainly from being able to swim. The ability
to swim is of little use as a safeguard against drowning, for it is only
in a minority of cases that the accident thoughtfully allows you every
facility for displaying your powers of natation; you are not conceded
calm stream, a calm mind, and a bathing-costume; usually you are
disorganised, _ab initio_, by the unexpectedness of the thing, you are
weighed down by your clothes and your purse, you are entangled with
sails, or clutched at by fellow-passengers, or sucked into vortices. In a
big steamer accident, what chance is there for those who can swim? Only
an occasional Hercules can keep afloat in a heavy sea, and he not for
long. The most that swimming can do for you is to enable you to save
yourself in circumstances where you would very probably be saved by
somebody else. On the other hand, the ability to swim exposes you to many
risks you w|uld never have run had you been helpless in the water. You
swim in perilous places, you go out too far and cannot get back, you
expose yourself to the possibilities of cramp, you try to save other
people's lives and lose your own. There is also the temptation to go to
the Bath Club in Piccadilly and die of a too luxurious lunch. On the
whole, I believe as many swimmers are drowned as non-swimmers when a
general accident occurs, while the swimmers invite special accidents of
their own. Do you deduce from this that I advise you not to learn to
swim? Quite the contrary: it is a delightful and invigorating exercise.
Only you must not imagine you are thereby armed against fate. Swimming
for amusement is as different from swimming for life as yachting on the
Thames is from crossing the Atlantic.


For my example of phrase-inversion I cannot do better than reprint the
open letter addressed by me--in the height of his success, and in parody
of his manner--to the great _phraseur_ and _farunix_ of his little day;
especially as some have thought to see in it proof that prophecy has not
yet died out of Israel.


MY DEAR SIR: I have never for one moment doubted that you are a thinker,
a poet, an art critic, a dramatist, a novelist, a wit, an Athenian, and
whatever else you say you are. You are all these things--I confess it to
your shame. I have always looked down upon you with admiration. As an
epigrammatist I consider you only second to myself, though I admit that
in the sentiment, "to be intelligible is to be found out," I had the
disadvantage of prior publication. When you point out that Art is
infinitely superior to Nature, I feel that you are cribbing from my
unpublished poems, and I am quite at one with you in regarding the sunset
as a plagiarism. Nature is undoubtedly a trespasser, and should be warned
off without the option of a fine. I say these things to make it quite
clear that I speak to you more in anger than in sorrow. You are much too
important to be discussed seriously, and if I take the trouble to give
you advice, it is only because I am so much younger than you. I am
certain you are ruining yourself by cigarette cynicism; far better the
rough, clay-pipe cynicism of a Swift. There is no smoke without fire, but
it requires very little fire to keep a cigarette going. The art of
advertising oneself by playful puffs is not superior to Nature. But you
are not really playful and innocent; it would be ungracious to deny that
you have all the corruption which the Stage has so truly connected with
the cigarette. Still, isn't it about time you got divorced and settled
down? At present there are only two good plays in the world--"The Second
Book of Samuel" and "Lady Windermere's Fan"; surely you have power to add
to their number. Try a quiet life of artistic production, and don't talk
so much about Art. We are tired of missionaries, whether they wear the
white tie of the Church or of Society, and it is a great pity we have not
the simple remedy of the savages, who eat theirs. These few words of
admonition would be incomplete if I did not impress upon you that policy
is the only honesty. Art is short and life is long, and a stitch in time
debars one from having a new coat. You can take a drink to the horse, but
you can't make him well; and nothing succeeds like failure. Vice is the
only perfect form of virtue, and virtue---- Easy there! Steady! Avast!
Belay! Which!

The Boeotians are dull folk, no doubt, but life would be dull without
them. Imagine a wilderness of Wildes! It would be like a sky all
rainbows. Then what beautiful whetstones the Boeotians are! Abuse them,
by all means, so long as they will pay for it. But what a blessing that
the minds capable of taking the artistic view of life are rare enough to
keep the race sane! The coarser forms of egotism seem less baneful to the
brain-tissue. You claim to be an Athenian, but the Athenians did not
smoke cigarettes. It is true that tobacco had not been invented, but this
is a sordid detail If Athens stands for anything in the history of
culture, it is for sanity, balance, strength. Aristotle, at least as much
an Athenian as any native of Ireland, meditated about aesthetics, but he
meditated also about politics, logic, philosophy, political economy,
ethics--everything. Socrates was a _causeur_, but he was also a martyr.
No, after all the Beautiful is _not_ so important as you imagine you are.
No doubt for a few billion years painters and musicians and
epigrammatists will remain the centre cf creation; but when the sun grows
cold it is conceivable that invaluable canvases may be used up as fuel,
and that humanity may sacrifice even your printed paradoxes to keep
warmth a little longer in its decrepit bones. The fact is, you are too
_borne_, too one-sided, to be accepted as as a "king of men." You take
such broad views that you grow narrow. What you want is a little
knowledge of life, and twelve months' hard labour.


But though topsy-turveydom may be attained with comparative ease, it
performs a lofty philosophical function. Everything rusts by use. Our
moral ideals grow mouldy if preached too much; our stories stale if told
too often. Conventionality is but a living death. The other side of
everything must be shown, the reverse of the medal, the silver side of
the shield as well as the golden. Convex things are equally concave, and
concave things convex. The world was made round so that one man's "up"
should be another man's "down." The world is the Earthly Paradox, with
four cardinal points of mutual contradiction, all equally N., S., E., and
W. 'T is thus a symbol of all paradoxes, of all propositions in which
mutually contradictory things are true. Nay, paradox is the only truth,
for it cannot be denied; including, like the world, its own
contradiction. Topsy-turveydom unfolds our musty ideas to the sun and
spreads them out the other way. The man who reverses the Fifth
Commandment and says that parents should honour their children is not a
flippant jester, but a philosophic thinker. This is the true inwardness
of the topsy-turvey humourist.

Topsy-turveydom has played a prodigious part in the progress of thought.
The history of philosophy and science is merely a tale of development by
topsy-turveydom, every new thinker simply contradicting his predecessor.
Thales said water was the primitive principle of all things; so
Anaximander said it was air, whereupon Anaximenes said it was matter.
This made Pythagoras maintain it was not concrete matter but abstract
number; whereupon Xenophanes would have it that it was not number but
pure monistic being, and his disciple Zeno invented some delightful and
immortal paradoxes to prove that time and motion and number and change
have no existence, and only existence exists. Up comes Heraclitus,
proving that existence doesn't exist, and there is nothing in the world
but becoming: that so far from change not existing, nothing exists but
change. It was now about time to return to earth, and so Empedocles and
Democritus came along with their Atoms; thereby provoking Anaxagoras into
bringing in Soul to explain things. Things were going on thus
satisfactorily when the Sophists appeared on the scene to say that we
didn't really know anything, because all our knowledge was subjective, so
Socrates insisted that it didn't matter, because conduct was
three-fourths of life. Plato retorted that it did matter, and he invented
an archetypal universe of which this was a faint and distorted copy.
Naturally Aristotle must contradict him by founding empirical science,
which concerns itself only with this world. On his heels came the Stoics,
who would have nothing to do with science except in so far as it made men
virtuous, and who wanted to live soberly and severely. This provoked the
neo-Platonists into craving for ecstatic union with the supernatural. The
transition period from ancient philosophy to modern was one long fight
between Nominalists and Realises, the one school teaching the exact
opposite of the other.

But it is in the history of Modern Philosophy and Modern Science that one
finds the strongest examples of this progress by paradox. The triumph of
topsy-turveydom was when Galileo, the Oscar Wilde of Astronomy, declared
that the earth went round the sun--a sheer piece of inversion. Darwin,
the Barry Pain of Biology, asserted that man rose from the brutes, and
that, instead of creatures being adapted to conditions, conditions
adapted creatures. Berkeley, the Lewis Carroll of Metaphysics,
demonstrated that our bodies are in our minds, and Kant, the W. S.
Gilbert of Philosophy, showed that space and time live in us. In
Literature it is the same story. To credit the scholars, Homer is no
longer a man, nor the Bible a book. As for Zechariah, it was written
before Genesis. This topsy-turveydom is a valuable organon of scientific
discovery. Take any accepted proposition, invert it, and you get a New
Truth. Any historian who wishes to make a name has but to state that Ahab
was a saint and Elijah a Philistine--that Ananias was a realist and
George Washington a liar--that Charles I. was a Republican hampered by
his official position, and that the Armada defeated Drake--that Socrates
died of drinking, and that hemlock was what he gave Xantippe. In fact,
there is no domain of intellect in which a judicious cultivation of
topsy-turveydom may not be recommended. Ask why R. A.'s are invariably
colour-blind, and you become a great art critic, while a random regret
that Mendelssohn had no ear for music will bring you to the very front in
musical circles. For the tail shall always wag the dog in the end, and
Aristides will never be able to remain in Athens if men will call him
"the Just." _Tout passe, tout casse, tout lasse._ We are bored--and then
comes the topsy-turveyist's opportunity. "To every action there is an
equal and contrary reaction" is a sure law of motion, and in the seesaw
of speculation the "down" of to-day is the "up" of to-morrow. Next
century we shall be sick of science; and indeed the spooks are already
returning for the funeral of this. I shall end with

  AN APOLOGY TO A CELEBRATED CHARACTER

  As a synonym for sin,
               Jezebel,
  I 'll no longer drag you in,
               Jezebel.
  Now I know your glorious mission was to spread
       the truths Phoenician,
  Metaphoric life anew you shall begin,
               Jezebel;
  Metaphoric life anew you shall begin,

  Cultured Baalite, loyal wife,
              Jezebel,
  Martyr in a noble strife,
              Jezebel;
  Protestant for light and sweetness 'gainst the
      narrow incompleteness
  Of Elijah and Elisha's view of life,
              Jezebel;
  Of Elijah and Elisha's view of life.




XVI

GHOST-STORIES

Why do ghosts walk at Christmas? What seduction hath Yule Tide for these
phantastic fellows, that it lures them from their warm fireplaces? Is it
that the cool snow is grateful after the fervours of their torrid zone,
where even the pyrometer would fail to record the temperature? Is it that
Dickens is responsible for the season, and that Marley's ghost has set
the fashion among the younger spooks? The ghost of Hamlet's father was
not so timed: he walked in all weathers. Perhaps it is the supernatural
associations of Christmas that create the atmosphere in which ghosts live
and move and have their being. Or perchance it is at the season of family
reunion that the thoughts turn most naturally to vacant chairs and the
presences that once filled them. Or is it that the ghosts walk for me
alone, by reason that Christmas always brings me haunting thoughts of
them? For my youth was nursed upon the "penny dreadfuls" of an age that
knew not "Chums," nor the "Boys' Own Paper." They were not so very
dreadful, those "penny dreadfuls," though dreadfully disrespectful to
schoolmasters, who were wont to rend them in pieces in revenge. The
heroes of the stories began to urge on their wild career in the
school-room, where they executed practical jokes that would have
gladdened the heart of Mr. Gilbert's merry Governor; the jokers were
never found out unless they confessed to spare another boy's feelings,
and then the schoolmaster was so touched that he spared theirs. After
passing through five forms and upsetting them all, they arrived at the
sixth form, which demanded a new volume to itself, called, let us say,
"Tom Tiddler's School-days Continued," and mainly devoted to cigars and
flirtation. "Tom Tiddler at College" followed--all "wines" and
proctor-baiting, with Tom Tiddler as stroke in the victorious 'Varsity
eight. "Tom Tiddler Abroad" was the next title, for the chronicle of a
popular hero would run on for years and years; and in this section red
Indians and wild beasts were rampant. 'T were long to trace the fortunes
of Tom Tiddler in all their thrilling involutions; but when he had
painted the globe red he married and settled down. And then began "Young
Tom Tiddler's School-days," "Young Tom Tiddler's Schooldays Continued,"
"Young Tom Tiddler Abroad," and all the weekly round of breathlessness;
and never was proverb truer than that the young cock cackles as the old
cock crows. By the time interest palled in the son a new generation of
readers had arisen, and the unblushing paper commenced to run "Tom
Tiddler's School-days" again. So went the whirligig. But at Christmas,
when the blue-nosed waifs carol in the cold and boys have extra pennies,
Tom Tiddler himself slunk into the background, lost in the ample folds of
a "Double Number," the same blazoned impudently, as though it did not
demand double money. But the extra pennyworth was all ghosts: ghosts,
ghosts, ghosts; full measure, pressed down and running over; not your
Ibsenian shadows of heredity, but real live ghosts, handsomely appointed,
with chains and groans and wavy wardrobes. They lived in moated granges
and ivy-wreathed castles, and paced snowy terraces or dark, desolate
corridors. There was no talk then of psychic manifestations, or auras, or
telepathy, or spiritual aether. Ghosts were solid realities in those days
of the double number.

"To every man upon this earth death cometh soon or late," as Macaulay
sings, and it is no less impossible to escape spirit-rapping and all the
fascinating _menu_ of the Psychical Society. The epidemic, which is
contagious to the last degree, seizes its victims when they are off
guard, under pretense of amusing an idle hour, and ends by robbing them
of sleep and health; some it drives into lunatic asylums and some into
newspaper correspondence. That thought-reading is not necessarily
delusion or collusion is now generally recognised; a _protegee_ of Mr. F.
W. Myers convinced me of the possibility of simple feats, though not of
her explanation of them. She credited them to spirits, and wicked spirits
to boot. In vain, I pointed out that spirits who occupied themselves so
docilely about matters so trivial must be harmless creatures with no more
guile than the village idiot: she would concede no grain of goodness in
their composition. Table-turning I had never seen. Ghosts I had never
met, though I had met plenty of persons who had their acquaintance. Like
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu--or is it Madame de Staeel[*]?--I did not
believe in them, but I was afraid of them. Premonitions I had often had,
but they had scarcely ever come true. But now I am prepared to believe
anything and everything, and to come up to the Penitent Form--if there be
one--of the Psychical Society and to declare myself saved. I am already
preparing a waxen image of a notorious critic, to stick pins thereinto.
Not that I did not always believe the Spook Society was doing necessary
work in supplementing the crude treatises of our psychologists, who are
the most fatuous and self-complacent scientists going.

[* Transcriber's note: So in original. One would rather expect the accent
trema on the 'e', not on the 'a'.]

My conversion to a deeper interest in the obscurer psychic phenomena
befell through encountering a theatrical touring company in a dull
provincial town. The barber told me about it--a dapper young Englishman
of twenty-five, with an unimpeachable necktie.

BARBER. "They're playing 'Macbeth' to-night, sir."

AUTHOR. (growling). "Indeed?"

B. "Yes, sir; I'm told it's pretty thick."

A. "What's pretty thick?"

B. "'Macbeth.'"

A. "What do you mean by 'thick'?"

B. "Full of gore, sir. I don't like those sort o' pieces. I like
opera--'Utopia' and that sort o' thing. You can see plenty o' thick
things in real life. I don't want to go to the theatre to get the creeps
and horrors. But I've seen 'Othello' and 'Virginius.'"

A. "Ha! Do you know who wrote 'Othello'?"

B. "No, that I don't."

A. "Do you know who wrote 'Macbeth'?"

B. "Now you ask me something!"

A. (speculating sadly on the vanity of fame and the absurdity of being a
national bard, but determined to vindicate a brother author) "'Othello'
and 'Macbeth' were written by Shakespeare."

B. (unmoved) "Ah! that's the man that wrote 'Taming of the Shrew,' isn't
it?"

A. (astonished) "Yes."

So the Author went to see the thick play, and found he knew Lady Macbeth,
nay, had--by an odd episode--first seen her in dressing-gown and
curl-papers; so, presuming upon this intimate acquaintanceship, he got
himself bidden to the Banquet--in less Shakespearian language, he went to
supper. The Banquet was uninterrupted by Banquos or other bogies. Lady
Macbeth--in a Parisian art-gown--sipped milk after her bloody exertions,
and listened graciously, her fair young head haloed in smoke, to her
guest's comparison of herself with Mrs. Siddons. But Lady Macbeth's
Chaperon was a Medium, self-made, and when the compliments and the supper
had been cleared away, the Medium kindly proposed to exhibit her
newly-discovered prowess with the Planchette. The Planchette, as
everybody knows, and as I didn't know myself till I saw it, is a wooden
heart that runs on two hind wheels, and has a pencil stuck through the
centre of its apex. The Medium gracefully places her hand upon the heart,
which after an interval of Quaker-like meditation begins to write, as
abruptly as a Quaker is moved by the Spirit, and as abruptly finishes.

AUTHOR. "What do I want to do early to-morrow morning?"

What was in his mind was: "Send a wire to Manchester." The Planchette
almost instantly scribbled: "Send a telegram to your brother." Now, his
brother _was_ connected with the matter; and although at the time he
considered the Planchette half wrong, yet in the morning, after
reconsidering the question, the Author actually did send the wire to his
brother instead. Sundry other things did the Planchette write, mostly
wise, but sometimes foolish. It did not hesitate, for example, over the
publisher of a certain anonymous book, but failed to give the title,
though it wrote glibly, "Children of Night." These results were
sufficiently startling to invite further investigation, so the trio next
proceeded to "call spirits from the vasty deep" by making a circle of
their thirty fingers upon a wooden table. Very soon the table gave signs
of upheaval, while some cobbling sprite fell to tapping merrily at his
trade within its ligneous recesses. Lady Macbeth said that these taps
denoted its readiness to hold communion with the grosser earth, and
constituted its sole vocabulary. As in the game of Animal, Vegetable, and
Mineral, its information was to be extracted by a series of queries
admitting of "yes" or "no" in answer. One tap denoted "no," three "yes,"
and two "doubtful." It could also give numerical replies. The table or
the sprite, having indicated its acquiescence in this code, proceeded to
give a most satisfactory account of itself. It told the Author his age,
the time of day, the date of the month, carefully allowing for its being
past midnight (which none of the human trio had thought of); it was
excellently posted on his private concerns, knowing the date of his
projected visit to America, and the name of his past work and his future
wife. Its orthography was impeccable, though its method was somewhat
todious, for the Author had to run through the alphabet to provoke the
sprite into tapping at any particular letter. But one soon grew
reconciled to its cumbrous methods, as though holding converse with a
foreigner; and its remarks made up in emphasis what they lacked in
brevity, and were given with exemplary promptitude. Interrogated as to
its own personality, it declared it was an unborn spirit, destined to be
born in ten years. "Do you know what makes you be born?" inquired the
Author. "Yes," it replied. "Will you tell us?" "Yes." "Tell us, then."
"F-O-R-C-E." "Is it God's force?" "No." "Is He not omnipotent, then?"
"No." "What is the true religion?" "Buddhism." "Do you mean Madame
Blavatsky was right?" "Yes." "Is there a heaven?" "Yes." "A Hell?" "No."
To hear a small still voice rapping, rapping in the silence of the small
hours, rapping out the secrets of the universe, was weird enough. It was
as though Milton's words were indeed inspired, and--

  Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
  Unseen.

"What!" thought the Author, "shall the Great Secret which has puzzled so
many heads--heads in caps and heads in turbans, heads in bonnets and
heads in berettas, as Heine hath it--shall the explanation of the
Universe, which baffled Aristotle, and puzzled Hegel, and still more his
readers, be the property of this wretched little unborn babe, this infant
rapping in the night, and with no language but a rap? Was, then,
Wordsworth right, and is our birth 'but a sleep and a forgetting'?" And,
mingled with these questionings, a sort of compassion for the poor orphan
spirit, inarticulate and misunderstood, beating humbly at the gates of
speech. Natheless was the Author quite incredulous, and even while he was
listening reverently to these voices from Steadland, his cold cynic brain
was revolving a scientific theory to account for the striking
manifestations.

In the course of two or three _seances_, with lights turned low, but
honesty burning high--for Lady Macbeth was guileless, and her Chaperon
above suspicion,--various other "spirits" hastened to be interviewed.
There was "Ma," who afterwards turned out to be the Chaperon's "Pa,"
whose name--a queer French name--it gave in full. The Chaperon's "Pa,"
who was dead, announced he was no longer a widower, for his relief had
just rejoined him on Wednesday--the 10th. This news of her mother's death
was unknown to the Chaperon. In truth, "Pa" is still a widower.

Another "spirit"--a woman (who refused to give her age)--predicted that
the amount of money taken at the theatre the next night would be L44. The
actual returns on the morrow were L44 0_s_. 6_d_. But when, elated by its
success, it prophesied L43, the returns were only L34. But this same
creature, that gave only an inverted truth--perhaps it was momentarily
controlled by the spirit of Oscar Wilde--displayed remarkable knowledge
in other directions. Asked if it knew what piece had been played the week
before in the theatre--a question that none of the three could have
answered--it replied, "'The Road to ----'" "Do you mean 'The Road to
Ruin'?" the Author interrupted eagerly, tired of its tedious
letter-by-letter methods. "No," it responded vehemently; and finished,
"'F-o-r-t-u-n-e.'" Lady Macbeth consulted the "Era," and sure enough "The
Road to Fortune" had preceded her own company. "Can you tell us the piece
to follow?" the author asked; and the "spirit" responded readily "'The
Pro----'" "Do you mean 'The Professor's Love Story'?" the Author again
interrupted. "No; 'The Prodigal,'" answered the table. "Ah! 'The
Prodigal,'" echoed the Author, confounding it temporarily with "The
Profligate"; but the spirit dissented, and added, "'Daughter.'" There
being no means of verifying this for the moment, the Author proceeded to
inquire for the piece to follow that, and was unhesitatingly informed
that it was "The Bauble Shop." "Where is 'The Bauble Shop' now?" he
inquired. The spirit amiably rapped out "Eastbourne." This was correct
according to the "Era." Consulting the hoardings after leaving the house,
the Author discovered that the other replies were quite exact, save for
the fact that "The Bauble Shop" was to come first and "The Prodigal
Daughter" second. Here was the paradoxical humour of this Oscar Wilde-ish
"spirit" again.

Endless was the information vouchsafed by these disembodied
intelligences, in any language one pleased; and, although they at times
displayed remarkable obstinacy, refusing to answer, or breaking off
abruptly in the middle of a most interesting communication, as though
they had been betrayed into indiscretion: yet, to speak generally, there
was scarcely any topic on which they were not ready to discourse--past,
present, or to come--and their remarks, whether accurate or not, were
invariably logical, bearing an intelligible relation to the question.
Even sporting tips were obtainable without a fee, and Avington was given
as the winner of the Liverpool Cup, though the Author had never heard of
him, and the other two were not aware he was booked for the race, still
less that he was the favourite. In the sequel he only came second. Real
tips did the "spirits" give, tipping the table vehemently. They were also
very obedient to commands, moving or lifting the table in whatsoever
direction the Author ordered, much as though they were men from Maple's;
and when he willed them to raise it, the united forces of Lady Macbeth
and Lady Macbeth's Chaperon could not easily depress its spirits. Nor did
they contradict one another. There was a cheerful unanimity about the
Author's dying at fifty-seven. But this did not perturb the Author, whose
questions were all cunningly contrived to test his theory of the
"spiritual world." For instance, he set them naming cards, placed on the
table with faces downwards and _unknown to anybody_; arguing that with
their bloated omniscience they could scarcely fail to name a card shoved
under their very noses. Nor did they--altogether. Most began well, but
were spoiled by success. However, here is the record performance--eight
consecutive attempts of the table to give the "correct card" under the
imposition of the hands of the Chaperon and the Author only, neither
knowing the card till it was turned up to verify the table's assertion:

     TABLE'S CARD.             ACTUAL CARD.

1. Jack of Diamonds .  .  . Queen of Spades.

2. Jack of Diamonds .  .  . Jack of Diamonds.

3. Three of Clubs  .   .  . Jack of Spades.

4. Jack of Diamonds .  .  . Jack of Diamonds.

5. Seven of Clubs   .  .  . Five of Diamonds.

6. Three of Spades  .  .  . Three of Spades.

7. Ten of Hearts    .  .  . Ten of Hearts.

8. Nine of Clubs    .  .  . Nine of Clubs.

Here are five bull's-eyes out of eight shots! The name of the performer
deserves record. It was the spirit of a German woman, named Gretehen, who
died three years ago, but refused to say at what age. She was wrong
sometimes, but then it may have been her feminine instinct for fibbing.
"The spirits play tricks," say the spiritualists. "Sometimes they are
wicked spirits, who tell lies." The Planchette also wrote out the names
of unseen cards placed upon it face downwards. The artistic spirit of the
Author now bids him pause: the narrative has now reached a point of
interest at which recollections of "Tom Tiddler's Schooldays" urge him to
pen the breathless motto: "To be continued in our next."




XVII

A THEORY OF TABLE-TURNING

The yearning of humanity for the supernatural, even for the
pseudo-supernatural, is as pathetic as it is profound. Wherefore I regret
that I can make no concessions to it. The following theory of
table-turning came to me as I experimented, from my general knowledge of
psychology. I have not compared it with the theories of the Psychical
Society, which I have never read, preferring to jot down the impressions
of an independent observer, which, if they should at all coincide with
the explanations of the spook-hunters, will irrefutably demonstrate that
their Society was founded in vain. If, moreover, as Mr. Andrew Lang has
since pointed out, it coincides largely with the theory of Dr. Carpenter,
so much the better.

What are the facts? If two or more people (according to the size of the
table) place their hands in circular contact around a table, and possess
their souls in patience for a delightfully uncertain period, sundry
strange manifestations will occur. Even after the first few moments the
more imaginative will feel the table throbbing, unsuspicious of the fact
that it is the blood at their finger-tips. Presently, too, an uncanny
wave of cold air will pass underneath the arch of their palms. This is,
according to the professional witches of Endor, the frigid flitting of
the spirits, but the most superficial meteorologist will expound it you
learnedly. Your hand, passive and in a fixed position, heats the air
under it, which, becoming lighter, is constantly displaced by the colder
circumambient air. Finally, when everybody is wrought up to an exalted
expectation of the supernatural, the table begins to oscillate, to move
slowly to and fro, to waltz, and even to raise itself partially or wholly
off the ground. Sometimes it taps instead of moving. Nor are these
motions and these taps merely the intoxicated irregularities of an
exuberant energy. They are coherent responses (according to a code agreed
upon with the "spirit" in possession) to questions asked by one of the
sitters. They are the expression of infinite and ungrudging information
on almost every subject. Through this wooden language, through this music
of the tables and this dancing movement of their legs, tabular
information respecting your past or other people's past and future lives,
together with full details of the doings of the departed in those other
spheres of heaven or hell which they adorn or illumine respectively, may
be obtained at the lowest rates, and with only that reasonable delay
which results from the exigencies of a letter-code. For the "spirits" of
the table, be it understood, are unable to communicate with earth except
by taps and movements for "yes" or "no," or by rapping out numbers; so
that they have to signify their meaning, snailwise, letter by letter. The
"spirit" of the Planchette will indeed write you out sentences; but to
that, like the actor in melodrama, I will return anon. In the stock
_seances_, I know, spirits materialise themselves and glide white-sheeted
through darkened rooms. But as my own _seances_ and "spirits" were
personally conducted by myself, the optical illusions of Messrs.
Maskelyne & Cook, the Pepper's Ghost of the dear old Polytechnic, had no
opportunity of putting in an appearance. My spooks did nothing but answer
questions, so that the very suggestion that they were spirits came
entirely from me. In fact, they do but dance to the "medium's" piping;
and should he suggest that they are methylated, the chances are that not
a few would cheerfully acquiesce in this description of themselves. In
short, it is only the prepossession, the pathetic prejudice, in favour of
visitors from other worlds that leads at all to the thought of "spirits,"
drawing such a red herring across the track that the average observer,
who is nothing if not unobservant, has all his partisan faculties of
mis-observation brought into full play on behalf of the spirit-world.
Doubtless the actual presence of "spirits" is the cheapest way of
accounting for the phenomena. But one might as well call in "spirits" to
explain the dancing of a kettle-lid. Not till every natural hypothesis
has been exhausted is the scientific observer entitled to call in the
supernatural. And in reality all that has to be explained is the
mechanical movements of tables under certain specified conditions, the
said movements having an apparent relation to will and intelligence.

First of all, what moves the table?

Well, the slightest exercise of the finger or wrist muscles is sufficient
to move the small, light round table which is usually the subject of
experiment; and when once the slightest movement is established--by the
involuntary contraction of a single muscle--all the other persons'
muscles, in accommodating themselves to the movement of the table, cannot
help helping it, either by pulling or pushing in the direction in which
it is going. It is, in fact, almost impossible to follow the movement of
a moving table and yet keep your superimposed hands perfectly passive;
and with ninety-nine persons out of a hundred the startled interest in
the movement even begets an unconscious desire to help it, which at times
almost rises to a curious semi-conscious self-deception, a voluntary
exaggeration of the marvellous. Yet nothing makes the ordinary sitter
angrier than to be told he has helped to move the table. It is as though
he were accused of cheating at whist, or worse, of playing a foolish
card. Take half a dozen persons at random, and there are sure to be one
or two so impressionable and emotional that they cannot help contributing
the slight initial impulse which gathers force as it goes. These nervous
subjects cannot sit a quarter of an hour perfectly still without a
twitching of the muscles, while the tense state of expectation which
subtly transforms itself into a wish to see the table move and not have
the experiment in vain, finally compels them, despite themselves, to
start the "manifestations." Indeed, to think of a thing is half to do it.
Every idea has a tendency to project itself in action. If you think
strongly, for instance, of lifting your hand, it is difficult not to do
it, for the idea of motion is motion in embryo. The wish is father to the
thought, and the thought to the deed. The wish to see the table move is
the grandfather of its motion. Even with the most sceptical, when the
table is requested to go in a particular direction the muscles
involuntarily tend thither. All the deepest analyses of scientific
psychology are involved in this wretched little episode of table-turning,
and it is not marvellous that the ordinary observer should perceive only
the marvellous.

So much for the movements. But how about the raps? How about those
mysterious tappings which come from the very heart of the table, as
eloquent of the preternatural as those immortal taps heard by Poe ere the
raven stepped into his chamber? I should be more impressed by these taps
if I were not capable of manufacturing them myself _ad lib._ without
detection, by secretly manipulating the ball of my thumb. One is
therefore justified in assuming that, where these raps are not produced
by conscious fraud, they are the involuntary result of the same motions
that produced them voluntarily. Even wood has a certain elasticity, and
an imperceptible increase followed by an imperceptible relaxation of
pressure on the surface of the table will alter the tension of the wood,
the molecules of which in springing back to their prior position will
emit a creak or a tap, just as a piece of extended elastic will when let
go again. Both the raps and the movements, then, are in essence phenomena
of the same order: simple results of muscular pressure, conscious,
sub-conscious, or unconscious.

It now only remains to explain the answers themselves, to account not
only for their almost invariably logical form, but also for their
occasionally astonishing content. For the table is not infrequently wiser
than anybody in the room; also it knows the past and is ready to predict
the future.

The whole thing is really an excellent object-lesson in Psychology. For
the solution is obvious. The table being unconscious, _you answer
yourself_--you not only produce the raps and movements, but you regulate
them.

The connection between mind and body is, it seems to me, admirably
illustrated by table-turning. According to the latest philosophic view,
the connection itself defies human comprehension. It is simply a case of
_non possumus intelligere_. But the connection itself may be expressed
thus: No idea or feeling without physical disturbance, no physical
disturbance without feeling or idea. Mind and body are as related as the
tune to the violin-string. Every state of mind tends to set up nervous
vibration, and every nervous vibration tends to set up a state of mind.
In either case the tendency may be, and usually is, counteracted. The
average member of a spiritualistic circle cannot prevent the thought in
his brain taking on bodily expression to the extent of a muscular
contraction stimulating the very sensitive tips of the fingers. You
cannot think of a joke or see the humour of anything without wanting to
smile, though you may suppress your smile in obedience to other
considerations. Nor can you put your features into smiling position,
without experiencing a latent sense of amusement, though you would not
know what you were smiling at. But if six cool scientific intellects,
acquainted with the tricks of their own organisms and determined to
dissever thought from motion, were to sit round a table, they might sit
till doomsday without the "spirit" turning up. This is what the
spiritualists mean by unsympathetic persons, persons obnoxious to the
spirits, persons with antipathetic auras, and all the rest of the jargon.
But six intellects taken at random, being anything but cool and
scientific, are not able to prevent their ideas passing over into action
in the shape of muscular twitches; though if even the unscientific were
to look up at the ceiling and forget all about the table, the table would
probably forget to move. Now the majority of the replies of the table
deal with matters actively present to the consciousness of at least one
of the six owners of the superimposed hands. When the table raps out
something known only to this one person, and the startled person admits
that the table is right, an uncanny feeling is produced; the table seems
at least to be a thought-reader, and on this wave of astonishment the
hypothesis of "spirits" rides up triumphantly. When the topic is one of
which nobody knows anything--_e.g._, whether the supposed spirit is a man
or woman--chance, or a vague idea floating up in the mind of one of the
party, determines the reply.

But what of those replies in which some striking truth is told of which
none of the party was conscious, as for instance in the examples I gave
in my last, when the table informed us that Mr. Jones's "Bauble Shop" was
then playing at Eastbourne, or that "The Road to Fortune" had been
playing in the town in which we were the week before we arrived? To clear
up this most remarkable aspect of the whole matter we must go still
deeper into Psychology.

What we are pleased to call our Mind is made up of two parts--our
Consciousness and--what I shall call loosely yet sufficingly and without
prejudice to Metaphysics--our Sub-Consciousness. The latter is
immeasurably the vaster portion. It is a tossing ocean of thoughts which
feeds the narrow little fountain of Consciousness. It holds all our
memories. We cannot be conscious of all ourselves and all our past at
once--that way madness lies, or divinity. We may know ten languages, but
we can only think in the mould of one at a time. Our thoughts and
memories can only come up into clear Consciousness by ones or twos--to be
dealt with and then dismissed. They spirit from the great deep of
Sub-Consciousness into the thin fountain-stream of Consciousness, and
fall back again into the great deep. And this great deep is never still,
though we know nothing of its churning save by its tossing up through the
fountain some new mental combination of which it had received only the
elements--as when the mathematician has the solution of a problem flashed
upon him at the moment of waking, or as the author has the development of
his plot thrust upon him when he is playing billiards, or as the wit
finds repartees invented for him by his brilliant but unknown
collaborator. This is what the crowd calls "inspiration," the late Mr.
Stevenson "Brownies," and the scientist "unconscious cerebration." A man
of talent has a good Working Consciousness, a man of genius a good
Working Sub-Consciousness. Hence the frequent mental instability of
genius. The Infant Prodigy's feats are done by his Sub-Consciousness.
Instinct is Racial Genius, Genius is Individual Instinct. The highest
Genius is sane. A Shakespeare or a Goethe has both a good Working
Consciousness and a good Working Sub-Consciousness, with the former so
self-balanced that it regulates the products of the latter. The
cultivation of the Working Consciousness may either improve or impair the
products of its bigger brother. Education, the cultivation of the
critical faculty, would be fatal to some writers, actors, painters, and
musicians; it would but spoil the Working Sub-Consciousness. Others--more
sanely balanced--would gain in art more than they lost in nature.

Now, what are the elements with which our Sub-Consciousness works?--what
does this ocean contain? It would be easier to discover what it does not
contain. Wrecks and argosies and dead faces, mermaidens and subterranean
palaces, and the traces of vanished generations; these are but a
millionth part of its treasures: the Sub-Consciousness were perhaps
better likened to the property-room and scene-dock of the Great Cosmic
Theatre, holding infinite wardrobes and scenes ready-painted, parks and
seas and libraries, and ruined cottages and whitewashed attics, to say
naught of an army of supers ready to put on all the faces we have ever
seen. In our Sub-Consciousness, moreover, are stored up all the voices
and sounds and scents we have ever perceived, and to all these
reminiscences of our own sensations are perhaps added the shadows of our
ancestors' sensations--episodes that perchance we re-experience only in
dreamland--so that part of the vivid vision of genius, of the poet's eye
bodying forth the shapes of things unknown, may be inherited Memory. And
thus Imagination, when it is not a mere fresh combination of elements
experienced, may be only a peculiar variety of atavism.

From this boundless reservoir, then, which holds our heredity and our
experience, go forth the battalions of dreams--the infinitely possible
permutations and combinations of its elements, wrought by the Working
Sub-Consciousness when the poor Working Consciousness cannot get sound
asleep, but must watch perforce with half an eye the procession of
thoughts and images over which it has lost control. For it is the duty of
Consciousness to control the stream sent up by Sub-Consciousness. When it
is awake but unable to do this, we have Insanity; when asleep, Dreams. In
Somnambulism the Working Sub-Consciousness is seen in an accentuated
phase. It does all the work of its little brother, even to exercising its
owner's muscles. To be "possessed" by a popular song is a species of
insanity--Consciousness ridden by a singing Sub-Consciousness.

Between our Consciousness and our Sub-Consciousness there is more or less
easy communication. It is not perfect. You cannot draw up what you will
from the ocean: you cannot always directly remember a name or a date that
you know--you can only set an indirect train of thought at work. _Per
contra_, it is not easy to transfer certain conscious states to the
storehouse of Sub-Consciousness--to learn a page of prose, or deposit the
memory of a piece of music, which you are forced to play slowly and
thoughtfully before the digital dexterity is added to the treasures of
your Sub-Consciousness. Under exceptional conditions, exceptional flotsam
and jetsam is tossed up into Consciousness, as in the case of that
servant girl who spoke Latin, Greek, and Hebrew in her delirium, having
unconsciously absorbed the same from overhearing the studies of her
learned master many years before.

Now, just as a conscious thought has an accompaniment of physical motion,
so has a sub-conscious thought. Thus, then, a thought which does not pass
through the thin fountain-stream of Consciousness may yet produce the
same muscular twitches as if it were clearly present to the presiding
Ego. In the case of the "Road to Fortune," the name must have really sunk
into my brain, although I was unaware of it, and probably could not have
consciously recalled it to save my life. The stage-manager subsequently
reminded me that he had in my presence regretted that the "Road to
Fortune" had done such good business, since there would probably be a
reaction. _I_ have only a recollection of his telling me that the success
of the preceding piece would hurt his--my Consciousness had grasped at
the intellectual side of his remark, my Sub-Consciousness had absorbed
the irrelevant fact of the name of the piece. In examining the "Era," to
verify this item, Lady Macbeth's eye must have unconsciously noted that
"The Bauble Shop" was at Eastbourne; but the information was not
registered in her Consciousness, for there is a struggle of thoughts to
catch the thinker's I--that is to say the Central Consciousness--and only
the fittest can survive. We are indeed wiser than we know. Our
Sub-Consciousness knows all we know, and all we have forgotten, and all
that our mental sponge sucked in without spirting it through
Consciousness. In fact, attention or inattention often determines whether
a thought or a feeling shall come up into clear Consciousness or not. You
can feel a pain in your big toe if you want to. Conversely, in the
excitement of battle soldiers do not always feel their wounds.

When the table prophesies or delivers "a message from the other world,"
the result is a compound of fluke with expectation or with apprehension.
Fears or hopes dimly in the mind get accentuated, or transmuted, or
distorted as in dreams; and when the "spirits" are proved wrong, as in
the matter of the Chaperon's mother, the spiritualists tell you that you
have got hold of a "lying spirit." Verily a cheap explanation! "They play
tricks sometimes," say their apologists. The true explanation is that
your Sub-Consciousness was ignorant of the reply your Consciousness asked
for. Endless as its contents seem, there are limits; and when it does not
know, your Sub-Consciousness will rarely confess it. It makes a brazen
guess, keeping the logical form of the answer, because your
Sub-Consciousness knows that, but blundering deplorably in the matter.
Sometimes it will not speak at all, but when it does it is cocksure to
the last degree. Its humour is the humour of the stock joke, the Old
Humour--as when it will not tell a woman's age. Its sulkiness and
eccentricity and occasional indecency are just what one would expect from
a Sub-Consciousness, whose thoughts have no central I to keep them in
order. (Compare Goethe's explanation of the obscenities of Ophelia.)
Sometimes, too, there are Obstructive Associations, which account for its
inability to make up its want of mind; and as there are usually several
persons at table, the result is complicated by their separate
Sub-Consciousnesses. In brief, table-turning is a method of interrogating
your Sub-Consciousness. It is, so to speak, objective introspection. The
table enables you to peep at your Sub-Consciousness, to know your larger
self. It is an external medium on which you may see registered visibly
and audibly (through the vibrations you sub-consciously communicate to
it) that Sub-Consciousness which _ex hypothesi_ you cannot peep at
directly. The moving table may be considered the objectification of
Sub-Consciousness, or a mirror in which Sub-Consciousness is reflected to
the gaze of Consciousness (to the great benefit of the science of
Psychology, which may be revolutionised by table-turning). By humouring
your Sub-Consciousness, by addressing it as though it were a separate
identity utterly unconnected with you, by asking a "spirit" to answer
you, you help to break your Mind in two, to detach the Sub-Consciousness
from the Consciousness, and so to get results which astonish yourself. So
divided is mind against itself that (as when I thought "The Pro--" was to
be "The Professor's Love Story") even a conscious expectation of
something different does not turn the Sub-Consciousness from its first
dogged determination; or it may be that somebody else's Sub-Consciousness
was in the ascendant. The "mediums" who excuse the "spirits" on the
ground of their mendacity are not necessarily frauds: they are themselves
deceived; they do not know that if the "spirits" lie, it is because a
true reply was not latent in any one of the _human_ Consciousnesses or
Sub-Consciousnesses present. But the conclusion of the whole matter seems
to be this: there is a germ of scientific truth which the professional
spiritualists doctor and wrap round with complex trickery in order to
extract backsheesh from poor old women of both sexes anxious for
information about deceased relatives. Circles are formed with pretentious
mysticism, and no self-respecting "spirit" will appear without being
received in state with extinguished lights and creepy accompaniments. The
unconscious revelations made by the sitters are the sole genuine
foundation of the spiritualists' influence. Consciousness holds converse
with deceased relatives, and Sub-Consciousness, which knows all about
them, answers for them. "I can call spirits from the vasty deep" myself,
and they will come when I call them, but the "vasty deep" is the deep of
my own Sub-Consciousness. We seem to hear voices from spirit-land; but as
when we hold a sea-shell to our ear and seem to hear the ocean it is only
the blood in our own veins, so--to continue Eugene Lee-Hamilton's fine
sonnet--

  Lo! in my heart I hear, as in a shell,
  The murmur of a world beyond the grave,
  Distinct, distinct, though faint and far it be.
  Thou fool! this echo is a cheat as well,--
  The hum of earthly instincts,--and we crave
  A world unreal as the shell-heard sea.

Tables might be "turned" to various purposes. Criminals might be
compelled to yield up their secrets to them in uncontrollable muscular
vibrations, their Sub-Consciousness being tapped. For students under
examination table-turning would be very useful for recalling forgotten
knowledge. The Planchette would be the most convenient form. For
obviously the _modus operandi_ of the Planchette is exactly the same as
the table's. The medium's Sub-Consciousness arrives at an answer by
guesswork, reminiscence, etc., and produces the muscular movements of
writing without first passing the message through the writer's
Consciousness. Mr. Stead has, I believe, a familiar spirit called Julia.
This is merely a projection of his own Sub-Consciousness, the Planchette
being the artificial instrument for enabling him to give
pseudo-objectivity to his thought, to detach a shred of his mind. Even
so, many a dramatist marshals toy figures on a mimic stage. The external
image is a help to weak imaginations. The process of novel-writing
involves breaking up your mind into bits--one for each character. And
when the characters are said to take the reins into their own hands, it
means that the bits are developing an independent existence. If Mr. Stead
is not careful, Julia will get the upper hand of him, his
Sub-Consciousness will dominate his Consciousness, and then he will be
mad. This detachment of bits of mind is dangerous; the monster may
overpower Frankenstein. Julia is literally a child of Mr. Stead's brain,
a psychical daughter embodied in a Planchette. Double Consciousness,
Double Identity, are well-known forms of insanity. In a mild degree they
consist with sanity. Landseer could paint different heads simultaneously
with both hands.

Hypnotism, on this theory, would be the lulling of the patient's
Consciousness, the closing of his central I, and the setting of his
Sub-Consciousness to work in accordance with suggestions.
Thought-transference seems a superfluous hypothesis here. Death is the
cessation of both Consciousness and Sub-Consciousness; and when a drowned
man is resuscitated his Sub-Consciousness can never have ceased. Do you
fail to understand Sub-Consciousness? So do I--as much as that our
digestion operates and our blood circulates without asking our
permission. It is not unreasonable to suppose that Sub-Consciousness is
simply the psychical side of the molecular changes that are going on in
our nervous system. There is more than "metaphysical conceit" in that
elegy of Donne's:

            Her pure and eloquent blood
    Spoke in her cheeks, and so distinctly wrought
    That one might almost say her body thought.

Sub-Consciousness is a greater marvel in itself than any that it
explains, and beats the spooks hollower than they are. Just consider the
phenomena of dreams, what things we do, what sights we see. It is only
the commonness of dreams that blinds us to the fact that they are more
marvellous than ghost-stories. Mr. Lang thinks the theory of the
sub-conscious self that uses our muscles for its own ends is "the most
startling thing ever offered to the public; and that it should be
regarded as true by a sceptic is staggering to our judicial faculties."
But why? Our noble selves--are they not already exposed to the indignity
of dreams? What matters another insult? We need not be greatly put out if
Sub-Consciousness is busy in the day-time too. And what about
Somnambulism? What about musical or literary creation? Are not our ideas
made for us in the kitchen of our Sub-Consciousness? Our Consciousness is
only a small part of ourselves. What produced De Quincey's opium dreams
was certainly not Consciousness. I can see visions, myself, without
opium. In certain excited states of the brain I can travel in my chair,
or bed, perfectly awake, through an endless and variegated series of
scenes--domestic interiors with people talking or eating or playing
cards, battle-fields with glittering phalanxes, beautiful tossing seas,
gorgeous forests, melancholy hospitals, busy newspaper offices, etc.,
etc. These are almost entirely detached from my will, and the chief
interest of the spectacle is the unexpectedness of its episodes. The
scenes and the people have all the concreteness and detail of actuality,
although I never forget that I am observing my own hallucinations. Just
fancy what ghosts I could see in the dark if I lost my central control
and let my Sub-Consciousness get the upper hand! Sociologists say, the
seeing of dead people in dreams gave rise to the idea of ghosts. I would
suggest that the same process as that of dreaming gives rise to the
ghosts themselves. Great is the Sub-Consciousness! Who shall say what it
does not contain, either _in esse_ or _in posse!_ Till we have exhausted
the Sub-Consciousness let us not talk of spooks.

Two things alone remain to be considered. One is how the Planchette or
the table is able to read cards placed face downwards upon it; the second
is, is telepathy or thought-transference a possibility? As to the first
point I have never yet been able to satisfy myself whether the results
are more than Chance would account for; for Chance has strange
vagaries--themselves part of the doctrine of Chances--and in order to
decide, one would have to make a far more extended induction than I have
had time for. But if the mathematical probabilities are really exceeded,
one would be driven to the suspicion that there resides in the
Sub-Consciousness a sense of which we are unaware, perhaps an extra way
of perceiving by the tips of the fingers, which may be either a new
embryonic sense, not yet developed by the struggle for existence, or the
rudimentary survival of an old sense eliminated in the struggle, perhaps
a relic from those primeval homogeneous organisms in which every part of
the body did every kind of work. After all, the senses are all
developments of the sense of touch. This suspicion is strengthened by the
fact that the correct card is often given at the first trial, and not
after, as if this unused sense were soon exhausted. By the way, though
the "spirits" mostly failed to tell a card placed face down, and unknown
to any one in the room, they were invariably successful when it was
placed face up: a sufficient proof--is it not?--that there could be
nothing in the replies which was not already in some one's mind.

With regard to the question of telepathy, though I am tempted to believe
in it, I have not yet met with any convincing instance of it.
Thought-reading _a la_ Stuart Cumberland almost any one could do who
practised it. The thought-reader merely takes the place of the table as a
receiver of muscular vibrations. What tempts me to believe in the
transfer of thought without physical connection is that, given telepathy,
all the mysterious phenomena that have persisted in popular belief
through the centuries could be swept away at one fell swoop. By
telepathy, working mainly through the Sub-Consciousness, I will explain
you Clairvoyance (that is, not the mere seeing of pictures, which is a
phenomenon akin to dreaming, but the vision of other people's
Sub-Consciousnesses), ghosts, witchcraft, possession, wraiths, Mahatmas,
astral bodies, etc., etc. But it is rather absurd to call in a new
mystery to explain what may not even be facts. And so, till I am
convinced either of ghosts or of telepathy, I must accord an impartial
incredulousness to both. _Credat Christianus_, F. W. Myers or W. T.
Stead! For I gather that the Psychical Society assert that they _must_
exist. But as yet--_je n'en vois pas la necessite_. If it is indeed
possible to telegraph without fees and to put a psychical girdle round
the earth in twenty seconds, by all means let the noses of those
extortionate cable companies be put out of joint. To me it is just as
wonderful that mind can communicate with mind by letter or even by
speech. One more puzzle adds no light to our darkness. And as for ghosts,
I have more than a lurking sympathy with the farrier in "Silas Marner."

"'If ghos'es want me to believe in 'em, let 'em leave off skulking i' the
dark and i' lone places--let 'em come where there's company and candles!'

"'As if ghos'es 'u'd want to be believed in by anybody so ignorant!' said
Mr. Macey, in deep disgust at the farrier's crass incompetence to
apprehend the conditions of ghostly phenomena."

And supposing "ghos'es" do exist--the moment the Supernatural is attested
and classified it becomes as natural as anything else. Such spooks would
add nothing to the dignity and sanctity of the scheme of creation, and
are no friends to religion. The world would only be made to look more
ridiculous if our deceased friends really rapped tables and pulled off
bedclothes, as Miss Florence Marryat's do. Mrs. Besant (who up to the
moment of going to press is still a Theosophist), in her latest reading
of the riddle of this painful earth, does but explain _obscurum per
obscurius_. Where is the point of a progression through stages, if there
is no continuous consciousness? What does it matter if I am not myself,
but somebody else in his fifth plane or her nineteenth incarnation?
Decidedly it is better to bear the religions we have, than fly to others
that we know not of. If Mr. F. W. Myers hears that some ill-trained
observers have seen ghosts, he becomes Dantesque and dithyrambic about
"the love that rules the world and all the stars." For my part, I fail to
draw the moral. I am content to look nearer home--at coal-heavers and
costermongers, poets and engineers--and to found my theory of life on
less deniable data. A fig for your ghosts! What! Here have I been living
and working and thinking nigh half a lifetime, and only now these gentry
should deign to give me cognisance of their existence. Dame Nature would
have indeed treated me scurvily had she reduced me to such absurd
oracles. The phenomena seem so rare and so irregular, the vast majority
of mankind having to go through life only afraid of ghosts, but never
seeing them, that no general law of posthumous existence could be based
on these obscure and erratic accidents. There may be only a survival of
the fittest. It is not in the aberrations, but in the constant factors of
human life that we must seek for light, and the attitude of these
smellers after immortality is precisely that of the mediaevals who sought
for the workings of divinity in eccentric variations from its own habits,
till miracles became so commonplace that, as Charles Reade deliciously
sums it up, a man in "The Cloister and the Hearth" could reply to his
fellow, who was anxious to know why the market-place was black with
groups, "Ye born fool! it is only a miracle." If I am to seek for
"intimations of immortality," let me find them not in the haphazard
freaks of disembodied intelligence, but where Wordsworth found them, and
where Mr. Myers was once content to find them, in

    Those obstinate questionings
    Of sense and outward things,
    Fallings from us, vanishings!
    Blank misgivings of a creature
  Moving about in worlds not realised,
  High instincts before which our mortal nature
  Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised.

If Moses came to London he would be very disgusted with Mr. Stead and the
correspondents of "Borderland" who collect "facts" for him. For that
supremely sane and sage legislator made one clean sweep of all the
festering superstitions that fascinate the silly and the sentimental
to-day as much as they did three thousand years ago. Mr. Stead is a
Puritan, and the Old Testament should be his impregnable rock. Yet
Deuteronomy is most definite about "Julia." "There shall not be found
with thee ... a consulter with a familiar spirit. For whosoever doeth
these things is an abomination unto the Lord." His organisation of
research is a delusion; science is not to be thus syndicated. The
ordinary observer has no idea of scientific sifting, and in ten minutes I
exposed a gentleman who impressed a large London club as "the most
wonderful thought-reader in Europe."

"Nature has many methods of producing the same effect," says Henry
James's greater brother. "She may make our ears ring by the sound of a
bell, or by a dose of quinine; make us see yellow by spreading a field of
buttercups before our eyes, or by mixing a little Santonine powder with
our food." Probably not ten per cent. of the correspondents of
"orderland" are aware of the existence of such "subjective sensations,"
or realize, despite their nightly experience of dreams, that it does not
take an actual external object to give you the sensation of something
outside yourself. And passing optical illusions may have all the
substantiality of ghosts. When Benvenuto Cellini went to consult a
wizard, as he relates in his "Memoirs," countless spirits were raised for
his behoof, dancing amid the voluminous smoke of a kindled fire. He
actually _saw_ them: it was a splendid case for "Borderland." Yet the
probabilities are that the cunning magician merely projected
magic-lantern pictures on the background of the vapour. My brother woke
up one morning, and accidentally directing his eyes to the ceiling,
beheld there a couple of monsters--uncouth, amorphous creatures with
ramifying conformations and deep purple veins. After a few moments they
passed away; but the next morning, lo! they were there again, and the
next, and the next, till at last, in alarm, off he goes to a specialist
in eyes and unfolds his tale of woe. Is he, perhaps, going blind? "So
you've discovered them at last!" laughs the eminent oculist. "These
things are Purkinje's Figures--the shadows of the network of
blood-vessels of the retina microscopically magnified on the ceiling:
everybody ought to see them--it's a sign the eye is a good working lens.
But they don't notice them except by accident, when the light slants
sideways, and when there's a specially good background for them to be
projected and magnified upon." And, taking him into his mystic chamber,
and reconstituting the conditions, "Look!" says he, "there are your old
friends again!" And there they were, sure enough, in all their amorphous
horror. It is, in fact, not so much the actual external object that
determines our perception, as attention or inattention; and with wise
unconsciousness we ignore all that it is not necessary for us to see at
the moment. If our organism were always in perfect health, if our senses
were not deceivers ever, if we did not dream as solid a world as that
which we inhabit by day, then, indeed, a single appearance of a ghost
would settle the question; but as things are, our own eyes are just what
we mustn't believe.

As Helmholtz pointed out, we ought to see everything double, except the
few objects in the centre of vision; and as a matter of fact we do get
double images, but the prejudiced intelligence perceives them as one. The
drunken man is thus your only true seer. Genius, which has always been
suspected of affinity with drunkenness, is really a faculty for seeing
abnormally--that is to say, veraciously. Andrew Lang, who thinks that all
children have genius, is thus partially justified; for till they have
been taught to see conventionally, they see with fresh insight. Hence the
awkwardness of their questions. Mr. Bernard Shaw recently wrote an
article on "How to Become a Genius," but he omitted to supply the recipe.
It is simply this: see what you do see, and not what everybody tells you
you see. To think what everybody says is to be a Philistine, and to say
what everybody thinks is to be a genius. Every healthy eye sees
Purkinje's Figures when the conditions are present; but only a rare eye
perceives them consciously. That is the eye of genius, but the
Philistines cry, "Disease! Degeneration!"




XVIII

SOCIETIES TO FOUND

I have noted in my Sancho Panza moments a number of deficiencies in the
commonweal which can only be remedied--in our modern manner--by
societies. Let me start with a few of the most needed.


1. SOCIETY FOR PROVIDING NEW OATHS

The present currency is badly worn and was always nasty. Swear-words are
a necessity. They are the safety-valves of the soul. Why not have them
nice and innocent--the kind of oath a girl can use to her mother? It is
unfair men should monopolise the bad language. I wonder the Women's
Rights women have not sworn about it. I have already suggested that
Wellington's "twopenny damn" be replaced by "I don't care a double-blank
domino." This gives a compound or twopenny sensation of the unspeakable,
combined with absolute innocuity, like a vegetarian chop or a temperance
champagne. A milder form (the penny plain) would be "a blank cheque." The
society ought to offer prizes for the best suggestions.


2. SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING READINGS AMONG REVIEWERS

It is a notorious fact that critics are the most ill-read class in the
community. There are few occupations so laborious, exhaustive, and
inadequately remunerated, as reviewing; and who can wonder if the
wretched reviewer never finds time to read a book from one week's end to
the other. It is a cruel anomaly that men, some of whom may have souls as
much as we have, should be shut out from all the pleasures of literature,
and all the possibilities of self-culture that books contain. The poor
critic goes to his grave, picking up a smattering of cant phrases that
are in the air--"Zolaism,"--"Ibsenites," "Decadents," "Symbolism," "the
new humour," "the strong-man poetry," and what not--but to become
acquainted at first hand with the meaning or meaninglessness of these
phrases is denied him by the hard conditions of his life. Publishers
would greatly help the proposed society by sending out books cut.


3. SOCIETY FOR THE SUPPRESSION OF CELEBRITIES

"Mankind's available stock of admiration is not large enough for all the
demands made upon it," wrote Professor Bain, with the one flash of humour
I have noticed in his big treatises. If, as Wordsworth contends,

  We live by Admiration, Hope, and Love,

a certain number of objects of admiration is indispensable. But the
surplusage of celebrities in this age is simply overwhelming. Celebrity
is cheap to-day. You may arrive at it by a million avenues. It is almost
impossible to keep your name out of the papers. Culture is so catholic
that celebrities who in the old days would have been monopolised by
esoteric cliques are common property. The paleographer and the
coleopterist claim a share of our admiration equally with the serpentine
dancer and the record-breaking cyclist, and the judicious editor prints
their "interviews" at equal length. We have an impartial acquaintance
with the tastes and views of cardinals and comic singers; and the future
of the papacy is given almost as much space as Little Tich's talent for
water-colour, and his fondness for the 'cello and his baby. Moreover,
that coil of cable which makes the whole world kin has burdened us with
the celebrities of the universe. When to these are added the celebrities
of the past, of every period, country, and variety, the brain reels. Too
many cooks spoil the broth, and too many celebrities numb our faculty of
wonder. The vivid feeling that is possible when heroes are few fades into
a faint reflection of emotion. The celebrity's name calls up not
admiration, but only a shadowy consciousness that admiration is due. We
never pause to get the emotion. I am afraid the first proceeding of the
society will have to be the suppression of the illustrated weeklies,
which manufacture celebrities artificially to fill up their pages, and,
in order to have pretty pictures, give every actress that makes a little
hit a prominence which Shakespeare did not deserve. If there is no
celebrity of the week it is necessary to create one, is the editorial
motto. If a man is a celebrity you interview him, and if you interview
him he is a celebrity.

You will not believe me (though I don't care a double-blank domino if you
don't, for it is true) when I tell you that an opposition society already
exists--a society for the manufacture of celebrities. Self-puffery has
always gone on in a sporadic fashion, most people sending their own puffs
to the papers, and rolling their own logs, on the principle that if you
want a thing done well you must do it yourself. But the idea of the
society is the organisation of self-puffery. It is done through an
association which undertakes (for a fee) to insert anything you choose to
send it about yourself in a hundred native papers, and a hundred
Colonial, Indian, and American papers, as well as to get special articles
written thereon, and to organise press receptions, luncheons, journeys,
dinners, etc., etc. _O tempora! O mores!_ What an exposure of the lower
journalism! Oh the crush of celebrities there will be when the society
has been at work a few years!


4. THE CHARITY OF CHARITIES

The begging-letters and circulars are enough to light your fires the
whole year, and it is a pity they are not sent to the poor, to whom they
would be of more value. Still, not to have the worry of receiving and
discriminating among these appeals is another of the many compensations
of poverty. There are a thousand varieties of Charity (some beginning at
a Home and others going abroad), and the most munificent can support only
a few, and perhaps will select the wrong few. And most of these Charities
are struggling along painfully, their resources taxed to the utmost by
the severe winter and the coal strike; many can scarcely make both ends
meet. There is nothing to prevent the weaker dying of want, and our
Charities suffering from a heavy mortality. And of course it will be the
best and most retiring Charities that will starve to death rather than
beg of the first comer, while the brazen Charities will perambulate the
streets with strident clamour, rattling full money-boxes.

Do we not therefore need another Charity? Nay, blaspheme not, nor clench
thy purse-strings. One other Charity--just one more--is a social
necessity. I would call it "The Charity of Charities." 'T is a central
bureau of beneficence, to which each doubting philanthropist should send
such sums as he knows not how to dispense. The bureau should inquire into
the circumstances of each Charity, and grant or refuse relief strictly in
accordance with its needs or merits. The Charity Organisation Society is
another affair altogether. Perhaps people are afraid of pauperising the
Charities assisted, but there is no reason why these should not continue
to be self-supporting as far as possible. Such as could not manage to
exist in this country could be assisted to emigrate, while every help
would be given to exiled or persecuted Charities to gain a sphere of
activity in this country. Fortunately, there are always large-minded men
among us who will receive any Charity, however despised, with open arms!
There would be visitation committees to call at the offices of the
Charities, to see that they were not pleading poverty when the officials
were drawing big salaries; a loan society to help them over bad times, so
as not to destroy their self-respect by doles in aid; while a cookery
school for accounts and a sanatorium for those that failed to keep their
balance might also be annexes of this grand institution.




XIX

INDECENCY ON THE ENGLISH STAGE

[_This protest was dated Jan. 1, 1891. Things are rather better now._]

I am not a young person. Nothing ever brings a blush to my cheek except
the rouge-pencil or the exposure of my stealthy deeds of good I can read
the Elizabethan dramatists or Rabelais with equanimity, and the only
thing that mars my enjoyment of Juvenal is the occasional obscurity of
the Latin. I like the immoral passages in "Mademoiselle de Maupin," even
if I do not go so far as Swinburne and call it "the holy book of beauty."
Ibsen refreshes me like a tonic, and I even believe in Zola. And yet, if
I were State censor of the English stage--which fortunately I am not--I
should suppress half of our plays for their indecency. The other half I
should suppress for their fatuity. But that is another story.

That vice loses half its evil by losing all its grossness, is a maxim for
which the world cannot be too thankful to Burke; for though the point of
view be not true, an important aspect of the truth is undoubtedly
exhibited. Now, what we get on the English stage is the grossness without
the vice--or, to put it more accurately, the vulgarity without the open
presentation of the vice. You may mean anything, so long as you say
something else. Almost every farcical comedy or comic opera--to leave the
music-hall alone--is vitiated by a vein of vulgar indecency which is
simply despicable. The aim of the artist is not to conceal art--there is
none to conceal--but to conceal his indecencies decently, and yet in the
most readily discoverable manner. The successful stage-piece is too often
but a symphony in blue. What the English, with their fashion of spoiling
French importations, incorrectly term _doubles entendres_, are almost
indispensable items in the fare of some London theatres of good repute.
And the references to things sexual are usually as stupid as they are
superfluous to the development of the plot or the characters. There is
not the shadow of an excuse for their introduction. They are simply silly
accretions on the play, quite unimplicated with the spirit of the scene,
and losing all meaning in their effort to have two. One can enjoy the
sparkle of wit and the rich halo of comedy playing around situations
unaffectedly "improper"; even the farces of the Palais Royal amuse with
the broad foolery of their _esprit gaulois_; but the English endeavour to
make the best of both worlds, the English author who combines the prude
and the pimp--for these one can have nothing but contempt. And the
measure of one's longing for a sane and virile view and presentation of
life will be the measure of one's abhorrence of immorality which has not
even the decency to be indecent.

The French dramatist gives us characters living in "a state of sin" (one
of the United States not recognised at the Court of St. James's). The
English dramatist conveys the plot, conveys the situations which spring
out of the "state of sin," but leaves out the basis on which the whole
rests. Thus, instead of situations intelligibly indecent, we get
situations unintelligibly indecent. Eros, like an Indian conjuror, is
left suspended from nothing. As the English playgoer does not ask for
intelligible situations, he is satisfied with the residuum. The
dramatist's uneasy striving to account for the behaviour of his
personages only renders the latent character of the residuum more
glaring.

The truth is, that everything depends on treatment and atmosphere. Lord
Houghton has treated the difficult theme of a mother's and daughter's
love for the same man with tenderness and grace; a foreign writer would
lay bare and anatomise with more of scalpel and less of sentiment. The
former satisfies our aesthetic instincts; the latter would, in addition,
appeal to our intellectual curiosity. To the English dramatist the whole
story would be _tabu_; but if the Continental man had got some striking
situations out of it, the Briton's soul would hanker after those
situations. So he would make the mother a maiden aunt, and give us the
familiar spectacle of the aged spinster languishing for matrimony, as
incarnated for the nonce in the person of her niece's lover. Miss Sophie
Larkin would play the part, and it would be intended to be a comic one.
There is more suggestiveness in the conventional stage figure of the
amorous old maid than in all Congreve's comedies. And yet what figure is
more certain to please, in the whole gallery of puppets? Scenes and
characters of this sort you may have by the dozen; but to build a moral
play upon an "immoral" basis is to court damnation. To construct a noble
piece of work on the basis of "improper" relations between your chief
characters is to show the cloven hoof. Once the initial scheme granted,
the rest may be as bracing as an Alpine breeze; but the critics will
scent brimstone. But to build an immoral play upon a "moral" basis--that
way gladness lies. Critics, who would rage at the delineation of a
character remotely resembling a human being's, will pat you on the back
with a good-humoured smile, and at most a laughing word of reprobation
for your azure audacities. Ladies, who, whether they are married or
unmarried, are in England presumed to be agnostics in sexual matters,
will roar themselves hoarse over farces whose stories could only be told
to the ultramarines. Ibsen may not untie a shoe-latchet in the interest
of truth, while English burlesque managers may put an army of girls into
tights. One dramatist may steal a horse-laugh by a tawdry vulgarity,
while another may not look over an ankle. It is the same with literature.
We look askance at "The Kreutzer Sonata," but tolerate the vulgar
anecdotal indecencies of the sporting journal. The artist's eye may not
see life steadily, and see it whole; but it is licensed to wink and ogle
at will from behind its blinker. If the artist's "immorality" is the
artistic embodiment of a frank Paganism, or is inspired by an ethical or
a scientific purpose, he is a filthy-minded fellow. Seriousness is the
unpardonable sin. Coarseness can be condoned, if it is only flippant and
frivolous enough. In short, the only excuse for indecency is to have
none.

Unfortunately, practical considerations are so involved with artistic
that it may be imprudent to accord the artist as wide a charter as he
would wish. The ideals of sincerity and honesty may in the present social
environment be so potential for harm that it is for the common interest
that they should not be gratified. This may be so, though I do not
believe it. But whether it be so or not, of one thing I am certain,--and
that is that the half-hearted dallying with things sexual is wholly an
evil; that the prurient sniffing and sniggering round the subject is more
fraught with peril to a community, more debasing to the emotional
currency, more blighting to the higher sexual feelings of the race, than
the most shameless public repudiation of all moral restraints. Evil cures
itself in the sunlight; it grows and flourishes in the darkness. Vice
looks fascinating in the gloaming; the morning shows up the tawdriness
and the paint.




XX

LOVE IN LIFE AND LITERATURE

Love! Love! Love! The air is full of it as I write, though the autumn
leaves are falling. Shakespeare's immortal love-poem is playing amid the
cynicism of modern London, like that famous fountain of Dickens's in the
Temple gardens. The "largest circulation" has barely ceased to flutter
the middle-class breakfast-table with discussions on "the Age of Love"
and Little Billee and Trilby--America's "Romeo and Juliet"--loom large at
the Haymarket. Mr. T. P. O'Connor, forgetting even Napoleon, his King
Charles's head, is ruling high at the libraries with _rechauffes_ of
"Some Old Love Stories," and the "way of a man with a maid" is still the
unfailing topic of books and plays. One would almost think that Coleridge
was to be taken "at the foot of the letter"--

  All thoughts, all passions, all delights
    Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
  All are but ministers of Love,
    And feed his sacred flame.

But alas! suffer me to be as sceptical as Stevenson in "Virginibus
Puerisque." In how many lives does Love really play a dominant part? The
average taxpayer is no more capable of a "grand passion" than of a grand
opera. "Man's love is of man's life a thing apart." Ay, my Lord Byron,
but 'tis not "woman's whole existence," neither. Focussed in books or
plays to a factitious unity, the rays are sadly scattered in life.
Natheless Love remains an interest, an ideal, to all but the hopeless
Gradgrinds. Many a sedate citizen's pulse will leap with Romeo's when
Forbes-Robertson's eye first lights upon the Southern child "whose beauty
hangs upon the cheek of night like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear." Many
a fashionable maid, with an eye for an establishment, will shed tears
when Mrs. Patrick Campbell, martyr to unchaffering love, makes her
quietus with a bare dagger.

For the traces left by Love in life are so numerous and diverse that even
the cynic--which is often bad language for the unprejudiced
observer--cannot quite doubt it away. There seems to be no other way of
accounting for the facts. When you start learning a new language you
always find yourself confronted with the verb "to love"--invariably the
normal type of the first conjugation. In every language on earth the
student may be heard declaring, with more zeal than discretion, that he
and you and they and every other person, singular or plural, have loved,
and do love, and will love. "To love" is the model verb, expressing the
archetype of activity. Once you can love grammatically there is a world
of things you may do without stumbling. For, strange to say, "to love,"
which in real life is associated with so much that is bizarre and
violent, is always "regular" in grammar. Ancient and modern tongues tell
the same tale--from Hebrew to street-Arabic, from Greek to the
elephantine language that was "made in Germany." Not only is "to love"
deficient in no language (as _home_ is deficient in French, and _Geist_
in English), but it is never even "defective." No mood or tense is ever
wanting--a proof of how it has been conjugated in every mood and tense of
life, in association with every variety of proper and improper noun, and
every pronoun at all personal. Not merely have people loved
unconditionally in every language, but there is none in which they would
not have loved, or might not have loved, had circumstances permitted;
none in which they have not been loved, or (for hope springs eternal in
the human breast) have been about to be loved. Even woman has an Active
Voice in the matter; indeed, "to love" is so perfect that, compared with
it, "to marry" is quite irregular. For, while "to love" is sufficient for
both sexes, directly you get to marriage you find in some languages that
division has crept in, and that there is one word for the use of ladies
and another for gentlemen only. Turning from the evidence enshrined in
language to the records of history, the same truth meets us at any date
we appoint. Everywhere "'T is love that makes the world go round." It is
dizzying to think what would have happened if Eve had not accepted Adam.
What could have attracted her if it was not love? Surely not his money,
nor his family. For these she couldn't have cared a fig-leaf.
Unfortunately, the daughters of Eve have not always taken after their
mother. The statistics of crime and insanity testify eloquently to the
reality of love, arithmetic teaching the same lesson as history and
grammar. Consider, too, the piles of love at Mudie's! A million
story-tellers in all periods and at all places cannot have all told
stories, though they have all, alas! told the same story. They must have
had mole-hills for their mountains, if not straw for their bricks. There
are those who, with Bacon, consider love a variety of insanity; but it is
more often merely a form of misunderstanding. When the misunderstanding
is mutual, it may even lead to marriage. As a rule Beauty begets man's
love, Power woman's. At least, so women tell me. But then, I am not
beautiful. It must be said for the man that every lover is a species of
Platonist--he identifies the Beautiful with the Good and the True. The
woman's admiration has less of the ethical quality; she is dazzled, and
too often feels, "If he be but true to me, what care I how false he be."

"The Stage is more beholding to Love than the life of man," says Bacon.
The "Daily Telegraph" is perhaps even more "beholding" to it. The
ingenuity with which this great organ raises the cloyless topic every
silly season under another name, is beyond all praise. No conclusion will
ever be arrived at, of course, because "Love" means a different thing
with each correspondent, and it is difficult to lay down general truths
about a relation that varies with each of the countless couples that have
ever experienced it, or have fancied they experienced it. The set theme
of a newspaper correspondence always reminds me of a nervous old lady
crossing the roadway: she runs this way and that way, gets splashed by
every passing wheel, jumps back, jumps forward again, finds temporary
harbour on a crossing-stage under a lamp, darts sideways, and ends by
arriving in another street altogether. So that the heading of a
correspondence is scant guide as to what is being discussed under it; and
no one would be surprised to find a recipe against baldness under the
title of "The Age of Love." But then "The Age of Love" is an absurd and
answerless question. Experience shows that all ages fall in love--and out
again; so that, to quote the pithy Bacon again, "a man may have a quarrel
to marry when he will." Octogenarians elope, and Mr. Gilbert's elderly
baby died a _blase_ old _roue_ of five.

Romeo's passion was a second, not a first, love: he had already loved
Rosaline. Juliet's first--and only--love came to her only eleven years
after she had been weaned, "come Lammas." Save that the "Age of Love" may
be said to be "Youth"--for Love aye rejuvenates--there is nothing to be
said. Wherefore the German gentleman who protested against the _cliches_
of novel-writers in the matter of the eternity of passion was well within
the wilderness of the subject. The _cliche_ metaphor, by the way, is
itself becoming a _cliche_, so stereotyped do we grow in protesting
against the stereotyped. Germans are, perhaps, not the best authorities
on passion: they are too sentimental for love and too domestic for
romance. Still, our German is justified in his complaint: the love-scenes
in our novels and dramas correspond very little to human nature. In works
of pure romance this is no drawback to artistic beauty; but in much
modern work purporting to mirror contemporary life, the love-making has
neither the beauty that springs from idealisation, nor that which springs
from reality. Property-speeches and stock-sentiments still do duty for
what really takes place in modern love-making. We have played with the
traditional puppets so long that we have come to believe they are alive.
They may have been alive once--when life was more elemental; they still
exist, perchance, in those primitive conditions which are really the past
surviving into the present. But in no field of human life is there
greater need of fresh observation than in this of love. The
ever-increasing subtlety and complexity of modern love have not yet found
adequate registration and interpretation in art. Art always seems to me a
magic mirror in which the shapes of the past are held long after they
have passed away. The author of to-day looks not into his heart--but into
the mirror--and writes. Primitive Love found its poet in Longus the
Greek, with his "Daphnis and Chloe"; but who has given us Modern Love?
Not Meredith himself, despite his sonnets; though "The Egoist" is a
terrible analysis of a modern lover, as saddening as the "Modern Lover"
of George Moore. The poets are ill guides to love. Their passions are
half-fantastic, if not of imagination all compact. Shelley's
"Epipsychidion" was the expression of a passing mood; Tennyson's "Come
into the Garden, Maud," a lyric exaltation that must have died down when
Maud appeared, and could in any case scarce have survived its fiftieth
rewriting; Rossetti's interpretation of "The House of Life" is as purely
individual as Patmore's "Angel in the House"; Swinburne sings of
phantasms; we can no more take our poets for types of modern lovers than
we can accept Dante or Petrarch as representatives of the mediaeval
lover. These poets used their goddesses as mystic inspirers. Dante was
not in love with Beatrice, the daughter of Portinari, but with his own
imagination: she married Simone as he Gemma, and thus he was still able
to worship her. The devotion of Petrarch to Laura did not prevent his
having children by another lady. If we turn to modern prose-writers, we
fail to find any really subtle treatment of Modern Love. Henry James
himself shrinks from analysing it, even allusively and insinuatingly.
Zola's handling of the love-theme is as primary as Pierre Loti's, for
Zola has the eye for masses, not for individual subtleties. Tolstoi,
informed by something of the rage of the old ascetics, is too iconoclast;
Maupassant's stories sometimes suggest a cynicism as profound as
Chamfort's or that old French poet's who wrote:

  Femme, plaisir de demye heure,
  Et ennuy qui sans fin demeure.

Ibsen is as idealistic as Strindberg is materialist. Shall we seek light
in the modern lady-novelist, with her demand for phases of passion suited
to every stage of existence? Shall we fall in with the agnosticism of
John Davidson, and admit that no man has ever understood a woman, a man,
or himself, and _vice versa_? 'T is seemingly the opinion of Nordau that,
after the first flush of youth, we do but play "The Comedy of Sentiment,"
feigning and making believe to recapture

  That first lyric rapture.

And his friend Auguste Dietrich writes:

    Se faire vivement desirer et paraitre refuser alors ce qu'elle brule
    d'accorder ... voila la comedie que de tout temps ont jouee les
    femmes.

Not quite a fair analysis, this: like all cynicism, it is crude. Juliet
for one did not play this comedy, though she was aware of the role.

  Or, if thou think'st I am too quickly won,
  I'll frown and be perverse and say thee nay,
  So thou wilt woo.

Nor is it always comedy, even when played. Darwin, in his "Descent of
Man," recognizes a real innate coyness, and that not merely of the female
sex, which has been a great factor in improving the race. And, since we
are come to the scientific standpoint, let it be admitted that marriage
is a racial safeguard which does not exhaust the possibilities of
romantic passion. Nature, as Schopenhauer would say, has over-baited the
hook. Our capacities for romance are far in excess of the needs of the
race: we have a surplus of emotion, and Satan finds mischievous vent for
it. We are confronted with a curious dualism of soul and body, with two
streams of tendency that will not always run parallel: _hinc illae
lachrymae_. This it is that makes M. Bourget's "Cruel Enigme." Perhaps
the ancients were wiser, with whom the woman had no right of choice,
passing without will from father to husband. When the Romans evolved
their concept of the marriage-contract between man and woman instead of
between father and son-in-law, the trouble began. Emancipated woman
developed soul and sentiment, and when Roman Law conquered the world, it
spread everywhere the seeds of romance. Romance--the very etymology
carries its history, for 't is only natural that the first love-stories
should have been written in the language of Rome. Nor is it inapt that
the typical lover should recall Rome by his name:

  O, Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou. Romeo?

Romantic Love is the rose Evolution has grown on earthly soil. _Floreat!_
Strange that Nordau, in his "Conventional Lies of Civilisation," should
echo this aspiration and gush over the Goethean _Wahlverwandtschaft_--the
elective affinity of souls--almost with the rapture of a Platonist,
conceiving love as the soul finding its pre-natal half. Surely, to his
way of thinking, scientific selection were better for the race than such
natural selection, especially as natural selection cannot operate in our
complicated civilisation, where at every turn the poetry of life dashes
itself against the dead wall of prose. The miracle has happened. Edwin
loves Angelina, and by a strange coincidence Angelina also loves Edwin.
But then come the countless questions of income, position, family. Adam
and Eve were the only couple that started free from relatives. Else,
perhaps, had their garden not been "Paradise." All later lovers have had
to consult other people's tastes as well as their own, and there has
probably never been a marriage that has pleased all parties unconcerned.
And even when the course of true love runs smooth, do the lovers marry
whom they were in love with? Alas! marriage is a parlous business: one
loves one's ideal, but the beloved is always real. The wiser sort take a
leaf out of Dante's book or Petrarch's, and retain their illusions. "The
poets call it love--we doctors give it another name," says a kindly old
character in one of Echegaray's comedies: "How is it cured? This very day
with the aid of the priest; and so excellent a specific is this, that
after a month's appliance, neither of the wedded pair retains a vestige
of remembrance of the fatal sickness."

There is a kind of scientific selection in the intermarriage of persons
of quality, which is at the bottom of their supposed superciliousness and
disdain of trade, though blood does not infallibly produce breeding.
There is the same tribal instinct in the aversion of Jews from exogamy,
and it is this sort of scientific selection which is subconsciously going
on when parents and guardians, sisters, cousins, and aunts, interfere
with the "elective affinities." Money, too, is really a security for the
due rearing of offspring. It is to be hoped there is a tear beneath the
sneers of Sudermann's comedy, "Die Schmetterlingschlacht," for the
sorrows of moneyless mothers with unmarriageable girls.

  Doaen't thou marry for munny, but goae wheer munny is,

said Tennyson's Northern Farmer--a sentiment which was anticipated or
plagiarised by Wendell Holmes as "Don't marry for money, but take care
the girl you love has money." Few people may marry directly for money, or
even for position, but few marriages are uncomplicated by considerations
of money and position. Little wonder if

  Love, light as air, at sight of human ties
  Spreads his light wings and in a moment flies.

Lovers may thrust such thoughts into the background, but is not this
wilful blindness as much "The Comedy of Sentiment" as that which supplies
the theme of Nordau's novel? It weighed upon Walter Bagehot that
"immortal souls" should have to think of tare and tret and the price of
butter; but "sich is life"--prose and poetry intertangled. The cloud may
have a silver lining, but clouds are not all silver. Wherefore Nordau's
glorification of the love-match is curiously unscientific; it belongs to
silver-cloudland; it might work among the birds of [Greek:
Nephelo-kokkugia]. Loveless marriages may beget happiness, if not
ecstacy; and love-matches may be neither for the interest of the
individuals nor of the race. They serve, however, to feed Art, and one
real love-match will justify a hundred novels and plays, just as one good
ghost will supply a hundred ghost-stories. Considering how many dead
people there are, the percentage of those permitted to play ghost is so
infinitesimal as to be incredible _a priori_; nevertheless, how we snatch
at the possibility of ghosts! Even so we like to connect love and
marriage, two things naturally divorced, and to fancy that wedding bells
are rung by Cupid. But, after all, what is love? In lawn-tennis it counts
for nothing. In the dictionary it figures, _inter alia_, as "a kind of
light silken stuff." And, as Dumas _fils_ sagely sums it up in "Le
Demi-Monde": "Dans le mariage, quand l'amour existe, l'habitude le tue,
et quand il n'existe pas elle le fait naitre."




XXI

DEATH AND MARRIAGE

It was with melancholy amusement that I read in the scientific journals
that sewer-gas was comparatively innocuous. After the hundreds of
sanitary tracts in which the deadliness of sewer-gas has been an axiom of
faith, after the thousand-and-one deaths from it in the contemporary
novel, it is grimly diverting to learn that sewer-gas may be welcomed
without fear to our hearths and homes. The same process appears to be
overtaking science with which we are familiar in the sphere of
history--all the bad gases are getting purified and the good spirits
vilified. The invincible solids are being liquefied, and the aery
nothings are being given solid habitations. The Professor tells me that
liquid oxygen is obtainable only under great pressure, and at a colossal
cost. I beg respectfully to suggest to the millionaires the advisability
of laying in quarts of it for their dinner-parties. This sparkling
beverage--essence of oxygen, mark you--would not need to be iced, for the
North Pole is as a red-hot poker compared with it. Such a beverage would
make a sensation and provide paragraphs for the society journals and the
"Times" obituary. It is true the guests would not like it, but they would
be anxious to quaff it. Have you never noticed the innocent joy which the
pop and froth of cheap champagne gives to suburban souls? There is a
magic halo about champagne--an aroma of aristocracy--which sanctifies it
for people who would be happier with lemonade. Wherefore I doubt not
there would be a public to adventure on liquid oxygen, though it were
congealed in the attempt. The imbibition thereof might indeed replace
suicide and cremation--it would both kill and cure, and our frozen bodies
might be preserved in family ice-safes for the edification of scientific
posterity. I should not marvel if liquid air or oxygen became an article
of the euthanasian creed. As for sewer-gas, we may yet live to see it
manufactured artificially for the improvement of the public health, and
conveyed to our overcrowded drawing-rooms with all the paraphernalia of
pipes and the mendacious meter. Science has turned so many somersaults
even in my short lifetime that I am prepared for anything. I have even
serious doubts as to the stability of Darwinism, I have seen so many
immortal truths die young. I verily believe that the cocksureness of our
century is destined to be the amusement of the next, which may not
impossibly believe that the ape is descended from man by retrogression.

  Our little systems have their day,
  They have their day--and come again.

The science of medicine in particular seems to be always in a critical
condition, and the bacillus bobs up and down in a manner that is "painful
and free." Like Hamlet's father's ghost, it eludes our question: we know
not if it is "a spirit of health or goblin damned," angel or demon or
delusion. The microbe of to-day is the myth of to-morrow. Surgery is the
only department of medicine which has made real advances in our century.
The rest is guesswork and experiment on vile bodies. I do not know why
the Peculiar People should be persecuted for refusing vivi-injection.
Tolstoi, a friend of his told me, breathes fire and fury against the
doctors, and will have none of their drugs or their doctrines, and he is
not alone in believing that every tombstone is a monument to some
doctor's skill. "When doctors disagree," says the proverb. But do they
ever agree--unless they consult? I went to an eminent oculist once, who
anointed my eyes with cocaine in order to make the pupils dilate. But my
pupils refused to obey. He was dumfoundered, and said that such a refusal
was unheard of: it contradicted all experience and all the books. I felt
quite conscience-stricken. He tried again and again, but my pupils
remained obdurately small. I apologised for my originality, and he peered
at my eyes minutely, evidently expecting to find the new humour. So I
suggested he might try Horror, which I understood from the novelists made
the pupils dilate; but he replied that that would not be professional. He
told me, however, a fact which I thought well worth his fee. An erudite
scientist had devoted a monograph to cocaine, but failed to discover the
one fact about it which was worth knowing, and which had raised cocaine
to the first rank--to wit, that applied externally it was an anaesthetic,
so that if you put a drop on your tongue you might bite your tongue
without hurting yourself. Doubtless the poor man was ready enough to bite
his tongue when his book was spoilt by the discovery. But I cannot help
thinking that his case was typical of science--which is appallingly
exhaustive and self-satisfied, but seems just to miss the one essential
thing.

Have you heard the legend of the Marriage of the Angel of Death with a
mortal woman? He was aweary of his cheerless professional round, and
longed for domestic joys to brighten his scanty leisure. It did not
strike him to "domesticate the Recording Angel"; but one day, being sent
to despatch a beautiful woman, he fell in love with her instead, and
married her. But dire was the punishment of his disobedience. The
beautiful woman turned out a shrew, who made Death's life not worth
living, and as he had refused to kill her when her hour sounded, she was
now immortal. In despair he deserted her and her child, and would never
go near her, so that her neighbourhood was always healthy, and she
unconsciously made the fortune of several insanitary watering-places. In
course of time Death's son grew up, and with that curious filial
perversity (which has been especially remarked in the children of
clergymen) he became a physician. And his fame as a physician spread far
and wide, inasmuch as he knew the secret of Death, that uxorious and
henpecked Angel having revealed it to his wife in a weak moment. If the
Angel stood at the foot of the bed, he was only terrifying the patient;
if, however, he took up his position at the head of the bed, he was in
deadly earnest, and hope was vain. Inheriting sufficient of his father's
nature to see him when he was invisible to others, the physician was
naturally able to prophesy with undeviating accuracy, though the cunning
rascal made great play with stethoscopes and syringes and what not, and
felt pulses and thumped chests before he gave judgment, and was
solicitous in administering drugs when he foresaw the patient was
destined to recover. Now, it befell one day that the Princess of
Paphlagonia (of whom I have told elsewhere) fell grievously sick, and
none of the physicians could do aught to relieve her. So the king issued
a proclamation that whosoever could cure her could have her to wife. Now,
the fame of the beauty of the princess had travelled as far as the renown
of the mighty physician, so that desire was kindled in his heart to try
for the grand prize. And so Death's son set out and travelled over land
and sea, comforting the sick everywhere as he passed by, and curing all
those that were fated not to die. And at last he arrived in the capital
of Paphlagonia, and was received with great joy by the king and all his
court, and ushered into the sick-chamber. A great warmth gathered at his
heart as his eyes fell upon the marvellous fairness of the princess; but
the next moment his heart was turned to ice, for lo! he perceived the
Angel of Death standing at the head of the bed. After a moment of agony
the physician commanded all present to leave the chamber; then for the
first time he broke the silence his mother had imposed upon him.
"Father," he said, "have you no pity upon me--you who once loved a woman
yourself?" Then Death answered, in a hollow voice: "I must do my duty. I
disobeyed once, and my punishment was greater than I could bear."
"Father," pleaded the physician again, "will you not move to the foot of
the bed?" "Nay, I cannot," answered Death harshly: "I was commanded to
stay here, and here I must stay." "And thou wilt stay there whatever I
say or do?" asked the physician plaintively. "Yea," answered Death
stoutly. Then, wrought up to desperation, the physician called the
attendants in again and bade them turn the bed round, so that Death was
left standing at the foot. But the Angel, seeing himself outwitted,
rushed back to the head. The physician thereupon dismissed the attendants
and upbraided him with his broken promise, but Death stood firm. At last
the physician lost his temper and all his good bedside manner, and cried
furiously: "If you're not gone instantly, I'll send for mother!" And the
Angel of Death vanished in the twinkling of the bedpost.

Till we can marry off Azrael to a termagant, I do not believe we shall
ever really turn the tables upon him. Nothing is more surprising to a
reader of advertisement columns than that people still continue to die.
An army of alchemists has discovered the Elixir of Life, and retails it
at one-and-three-halfpence a phial. Paracelsus has turned pill-maker, and
prospers exceedingly, and sells out to a joint-stock company. But the
great procession gravewards goes on, the "thin black lines" creeping
along all day long, and there is no falling off in the consumption of
sherry and biscuits. The scythe of the Black Angel shines--_opus
fervet_--and it is always the mowing season. Sometimes he stands at the
foot of the bed, and then there is triumph for the pharmacopoeia;
sometimes he stands at the head, and then the bed becomes a grave and he
a tombstone. Alas! his marriage is but a pleasant myth, and his
infallible son a dream. Azrael is still a bachelor, and science is not
shrew enough to drive him away. Perhaps 't is as well the leeches cannot
avert him; perhaps 't is a blessing that they blunder, and the kindly
grass grows over their mistakes. As it is, too many people are an
unconscionable long time in dying. Their habit of procrastination is with
them to the last. They linger on--a misery to themselves, and a thorn to
those anxious to mourn their loss. They do not know how to retire
gracefully. The art of leaving a world should be taught as a branch of
deportment.

An American philanthropist who died recently was in the habit of girding
at the arrangements of the universe, which did not seem to him organised
after the fashion of a bureau of beneficence. He was wont to regret that
he had not been present at the creation, so as to give a few hints.
"Well, what would you have advised?" a friend once challenged him to say.
"I would have advised," he retorted, "that health be made catching
instead of disease." At first hearing, this sounds taking, but its
plausibility diminishes under investigation. Health is the normal state
of an organism, the perfect working of its parts,--it is not something
superadded, as disease is. You might as well expect one watch to catch
the right time from another. The philanthropist would have been more
within the bounds of the reasonable if he had demanded that disease
should be more egotistic and less epidemic. Every organism ought to
consume its own smoke, and not communicate its misfortunes to its
neighbours. And this it does satisfactorily enough in organic disease; it
is only when those impish germs, microbes and bacilli, mix themselves up
with the matter that we get pathological socialism. I confess that the
whole germ business seems to me an illogical element in the scheme of
destruction, though 't is of a piece with the structure of things. And
yet there is a sense in which health _is_ catching. There is a contagion
of confidence as well as of panic, and the surest way to escape epidemics
is to disbelieve them. Radiant people radiate health. The mind is a big
factor in things hygienic. 'T is a poor medicine that takes no account of
the soul. We are not earthen receptacles for drugs, but breathing clay
vivified by thoughts and passions. And in the universe of morals, at any
rate, health is catching just as much as disease. We are ennobled by
noble souls, and uplifted by righteousness. We pattern ourselves
unconsciously upon our friends. Character is contagious, and emotion
epidemic, and good-humour has its germs; copy-book maxims are null and
void: packets of propositions leave us cold. Morality can only be taught
by object-lessons; they err egregiously who would teach it by the card. A
fine character in a play or a novel outweighs a sermon; and in real life
the preacher pales before the practiser. It is a great day when a man
discovers for himself that honesty is the best policy. Morality is a
matter of feeling and will, not of intellect. Handbooks of ethics may
edify the intellect, and "Cicero de Officiis" be the favourite reading of
rogues. I knew a university student who at his examination cribbed Kant's
panegyric of the moral law from a concealed text-book.

The legend of Death's marriage recalls to me that of John L. Sullivan's.
It is said that the famous bruiser was in like grievous plight. His wife
beat him, and he had to sue for a divorce on the ground of cruelty! There
is something deliciously pathetic about the insignificance of a great man
to his wife--his valet feels small at least on pay-day. "The Schoolmaster
Abroad" is a rampant divinity with a ferocious ferule; at home he is a
meek person in slippers. The policeman who stands majestically at the
cross-roads, waving the white glove of authority, nods in the
chimney-corner without a helmet. Bishop Proudie was not much of a hero to
Mrs. Proudie, and even a beadle is, I fear, but moderately imposing in
the domestic sanctum. That a prophet is not without honour save in his
own country, we know; but even if he travel abroad, he must leave his
wife behind him,--else will he never continuously contemplate his own
greatness. This is why so many great men remain bachelors. It perhaps
also explains why the others are so unhappy in their marriages. Perhaps
there ought to be a training-school for the supply of great men's wives.




XXII

THE CHOICE OF PARENTS

"Yes," said Marindin quietly, "they may say they write for Posterity, but
what living author besides myself does write for Posterity?"

This sounded so unlike Marindin's modesty that I wondered if the port and
the paradoxes of our Christmas dinner had got into his head at last. The
veteran man of letters had talked brilliantly _more suo_ of many things,
most of all perhaps of his dead friend, Charles Dickens. Who seemed more
surely to have been writing Christmas stories for Posterity? we had asked
ourselves musingly, as we discussed the change of temper since the days
when Dickens or Father Christmas might have stood for the Time-Spirit.
Many good things had Marindin said of Ibsen and Nietzsche and the modern
apostles of self-development who sneered at the Gospel of self-sacrifice,
and at all the amiable virtues our infancy had drawn from "The Fairchild
Family" with its engaging references to Jeremiah xvii. 9. But now he was
breaking out in a new way, and I missed the reassuring twinkle in his
eye.

"I think I may without arrogance claim to be the one author who really
has considerable influence with Posterity," he went on, drawing serenely
at his cigar and adjusting his right leg more comfortably across the arm
of his easy-chair. "Is there any one else whom Posterity listens to?"

I shifted uneasily in my own arm-chair. "What do you mean?" I inquired
baldly.

"Don't you know I write for the unborn?" he counter-queried.

"But they don't read you--yet," I said, trying to smile.

"My dear fellow! Why, I'm the best-read man in Ante-land. The unborn
swear by me! My publishers, Fore and Futurus, are simply rolling in
promissory notes."

"You've become a Theosophist!" I cried in alarm, for that familiar
twinkle in his eye had been replaced by a strange exaltation.

"And what if I have?"

"Theosophy!" I cried scornfully--"Theology for Atheists! The main
contemporary form of the Higher Foolishness."

"The Higher Foolishness!" echoed Marindin indignantly.

"Yes, the Foolishness of the fool with brains. The brainless fool fulfils
himself in low ways--in alcoholic saturnalia, in salvation carnivals, in
freethought hysterics, in political bombs. The Higher Foolishness
expresses itself in aberrations of poetry and art, in table-rapping and
theosophy, in vegetarianism, and in mystic calculations about the Beast."

"It is you who are the fool," he replied shortly. "Theosophy is
true--that is, my form of it. Birth is but the name for the entry upon
this particular form of existence.

  "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.
    The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
  Hath had elsewhere its setting,
    And cometh from afar.

"The unborn pre-exist, even as the dead persist; and instead of
addressing Posterity posthumously and circuitously, I have anticipated
its verdict. I have written for the unborn, direct. I have been the
apostle of the New Ethics among the pre-natal populations, the prophet of
individualism among the unborn."

"What! You have propagated the teaching that free choice must be the
battle-cry of the future, that the only genuine morality is that which is
the spontaneous outcome of an emancipated individuality!"

"Precisely."

"But what has free choice to do with the unborn?"

"What has it to do? Great heavens! Everything. The battle-cry of the
future will be Free Birth."

"Free Birth!" I echoed.

"Yes--this is what I have been preaching to the unborn--the choice of
their parents before consenting to be born! Compulsory birth must be
swept away. What! would you sweep away all checks upon the individuality
of the individual--once he is born would you tear asunder all the
swaddling-bands of our baby civilisation; would you replace the rules of
the nursery by the orderly anarchy of manhood and womanhood, and yet
retain such an incoherent anachronism as compulsory birth--a disability
which often cripples a man upon the very threshold of his career? Without
this initial reform the individualism of your Ibsens and Auberon Herberts
becomes a mere simulacrum, a hollow mockery. If you are to develop your
individuality, it must be your own individuality that you develop, not an
individuality thrust upon you by a couple of outsiders."

"And you have preached this with success?"

"With unheard-of success."

"Unheard-of, indeed!" I muttered sarcastically.

"In _your_ plane of existence!" he retorted. "In Ante-land the movement
has spread widely; scarcely a soul but has become convinced of the evils
of compulsion in this most personal matter, and of the necessity of
having a voice in its own incarnation. And it is I, _moi qui vous parle_,
who have sown the seeds of the revolt against our present social
arrangements. Too long had parents presumed upon the ignorance and
helplessness of the unborn and upon their failure to combine. But now the
great wave of emancipation which is lifting us all off our feet has
reached the coming race. And soon the old ideal will be nothing but a
strangled snake by the cradle of Hercules."

"Why, I never heard of such a thing in all my born days!" I cried
helplessly.

"Of course not; you are more ignorant than the babe unborn. You trouble
yourself about the next world, but as to what may be going on in the last
world, that never enters your head. But for the tyranny of outward social
forms you and I might have deferred our birth till a serener century.
Henceforth the dreamer of dreams will have only himself to blame if he is
born out of his due time and called upon to set the crooked straight. Job
himself would have escaped his misfortunes if he had only had the
patience to wait. In future any one who is born in a hurry will be a born
idiot."

"What! Will the unborn choose the time of birth as well as their
parents?"

"One is implicated in the other. Suppose the soul wished to be the son of
an American Duke, naturally it would have to wait till aristocracy was
developed across the Atlantic, say some time in the next century."

"I see. And is there a public opinion in Ante-land that regulates private
action?"

"Yes, but I have now educated it to the higher ethics. It used to be the
respectable thing to be born of strangers without one's own consent,
though at the bottom of their souls many persons believed this to be
sheer immorality, and cursed the day they were led to the cradle, and
became the mere playthings of the parents who acquired them--pretty toys
to be dandled and caressed, just a larger variety of doll. But all this
is almost over. Henceforth birth will be considered immoral unless it is
spontaneous--the outcome of an intelligent selection of parents, based on
love."

"On love?"

"Yes; should not a child love its father and mother? and how can we
expect it to love people it has never seen, to whom it is tied in the
most brutal way, without a voice in the control of its destinies at the
absolutely most important turning-point of its whole existence?"

"True, a child should love its parents," I conceded. "But is not the
quiet, sober affection that springs up after birth, an affection founded
on mutual association and mutual esteem, better than all the tempestuous
ardours of pre-natal passion that may not survive the christening?"

"Ah, that is the good old orthodox cant!" cried Marindin, puffing out a
great cloud of smoke. "What certainty is there this post-natal love would
spring up? And, at any rate, a man would no longer be able to blame
Providence if he found himself tied for life to a couple for whom he had
nothing but loathing and contempt. Even the adherents of the old
conception of compulsory childship begin to see that the stringency of
the filial tie needs relaxation. Already it is recognised that in cases
of cruelty the child may be divorced from the parent. But there is a
hopeless incompatibility of temper and temperament which is not
necessarily attended with cruelty. Drunkenness, lunacy, and criminality
should also be regarded as valid grounds for divorce, the parent being no
longer allowed to bear the name of the child it has dishonoured."

"But who shall say," I asked sceptically, "that the new self-appointed
generation will be happier than the old? What guarantee is there that the
choice of parents will be made with taste and discretion?"

Marindin shrugged his shoulders impatiently.

"Come and interview the unborn," he said, and fixed his unsmiling eye on
mine, as though to hypnotise me. What happened then I shall never be able
to explain. I was translated into another scale of being, into the last
world in fact; and just as it is impossible to describe a symphony to a
deaf mute or a sunset to a man born blind, so it is impossible for me to
put down in terms of our present consciousness the experiences I went
through in that earlier pre-natal stage of existence. What I perceived in
Ante-land must needs be expressed through the language of this world, to
which in effect it bears as true and constant a relation as the vibration
of a violin string to its music. I soon gathered that, as Marindin had
claimed, his doctrines had made considerable incursions in the last
world, and, what was more surprising, in this. There seemed to be quite a
considerable sect of parents spread all through Europe and America,
pledged to respect the rights of the unborn, and it was in co-operation
with this enlightened minority--destined, no doubt, in time to become the
Universal Church--that the unborn worked. The sect embraced many couples
of wealth and position, and, as was to be expected, at the start there
had been a rush among the unborn for millionaire parents. But it was soon
discovered that birth for money was a mistake, that it too often led to a
spendthrift youth and a bankrupt age, and that there was not seldom a
legacy duty to pay in the shape of hereditary diseases, sometimes
amounting to as much as two pains in the pound; the gold rush was
therefore abating. Birth for beauty had also been popular till experience
demonstrated the insubstantiality of good looks as a panoply throughout
life. Gradually the real conditions of earthly happiness were coming to
be understood. Unborn preachers in their unbuilt churches tried in their
unspoken sermons to lead souls to the higher bodies or to save souls from
precipitate incarnation. Marindin's own unwritten books sustained Paley's
thesis of the essentially equal distribution of happiness among all
classes, and left it for the individual soul to decide between the
realities of toil and the unrealities of prosperity, Marindin took the
opportunity of our presence in Ante-land to pay a visit to his
publishers, Fore and Futurus, of whose honesty and generosity he spoke in
glowing terms. Fore received us; he seemed to be a thorough gentleman,
this unborn publisher. He showed us the design for a cover to a new
"Guide to the Selection of Parents," which he was about to bring out, and
which he hoped would become the standard work on the subject. I gathered
that these "Guides" were very popular as birthday presents, enabling, as
they did, those just about to be born to think once more before making
the final plunge. The feature of the Fore and Futurus "Guide" was the
appendix of contributions from souls already born, whose mistakes might
serve to benefit those still unattached.

"But how can there be a guide to such a frightful labyrinth?" I inquired
curiously. "Japhet in search of a father had a light task before him
compared with the selection of one. And it is not only the selection of a
father, but of a mother! To take the outside variations only: the father
may be handsome, good-looking, plain or ugly; the mother may be
beautiful, pretty, plain or ugly. Any of these types of fathers may be
paired with any of these types of mothers, which makes sixteen
complications. Then there is complexion--fair or dark--which makes
sixty-four, for you know how, by algebraic calculations, every new
possibility multiplies into all the others. If one turns to mental and
moral characteristics, one's brain swims to think of the new
complications incalculably numerous and all multiplying into the old
physical combinations. Multiply furthermore by all the combinations
arising from considerations of health, money, position, nationality,
religion, order of birth--whether as first, second, or thirteenth
child--and the strongest intellect reels and breaks down. Even now I have
not enumerated all the possibilities; for the total would have to be
doubled for the contingency of sex, since I presume birth would not be
absolutely free, unless it included the right of choosing one's sex.

"To take a concrete instance of the embarrassment which Free Birth would
bring, and of the invidious distinctions that would have to be made:
which is the better lot?--to be the third daughter of a
nineteenth-century, healthy, ugly, penniless, clever, middle-aged, moral,
free-thinking German Baron by a beautiful, rich, stupid, plebeian Spanish
dancer, with one child by a previous marriage, and a tendency to
consumption; or the second son of a twentieth-century American Duke,
unhealthy, uncultured, handsome, chaste, Ritualist, elderly and poor, by
an English heiress, ugly, low-born, Low Church, ill-bred, intellectual,
with a silly and only semi-detached mother? But this would be a problem
of unreal simplicity, bearing as much relation to actuality as the first
law of motion to the flight of a bird, for your choice would lie not
between one pair and another, but among all possible pairs."

"All existing pairs possible to you," corrected Marindin. "People manage
to choose husbands and wives, though according to your computation the
whole of the opposite sex would have to be examined and selected from. In
practice the choice is narrowed down to a few individuals. So with the
choice of parents--most are already snapped up, monopolised or mortgaged,
or contracted for, and you have either to choose from the leavings or
postpone your birth, and bide your time a century or two. But the problem
is greatly simplified by the P. C."

"What is the P. C.?" I murmured.

"The Parental Certificate, of course. Throughout the terrestrial branch
of our sect no one is eligible for parentage who does not possess it. It
is given only to those who have passed the P. D. or Parents' Degree
examination, and supplements the old P. L. or Parents' Licence, which was
openly bought and sold."

"And the qualifications?"

"Oh, very elementary. The candidate is required to pass an exam, (both
written and oral) in the training of the young, and to be certified of
sound mind in sound body. The P. L. itself has been transformed into a
licence to keep one, two or more children, according to means."

"You see our 'Guide' deals merely with the great typical pairs,"
explained the publisher. "What Aristotle did for Logic our author has
done for Birth. He only pretends to give general categories. Aristotle
could not guarantee a man shall properly reason, nor can any individual
be infallibly inspired to the wisest choice of parentage. Of course the
photographs of parents are of great service to the unborn who are
thinking of settling down."

"How do they get to see them?"

"Oh, as soon as a couple passes the P. D. and receives the P. C. they
appear in the illustrated papers--especially the ladies' papers.
'Graduates of the Week' is the heading. And then there is the P. T.--the
Pathological Tree."

I looked at the publisher in perplexity.

"Gracious! I forget this is your first visit to Ante-land," he said,
apologetically. "Look! Here are some P. Ts. my lawyer has just been
looking over for me, the property of parents whose advertisements for
children I have been answering. My friends are rather anxious I should
incarnate."

I surveyed the parchment roll with curiosity. It was a tree, on the model
of a genealogical tree, but tracing the hygienic record of the family.

"In our sect," said Marindin impressively, "it will become the pride of
the family to have an unblemished pedigree, and any child who gets
himself born into such a family will do so with the responsibility of
carrying on the noble tradition of the house and living up to the
sanitary scutcheon--_sante oblige_. When children begin to be fastidious
about the families they are born into, parents will have to improve, or
die childless. And, as the love of offspring springs eternal in the human
breast, this will have an immense influence upon the evolution of the
race to higher goals. I do not know any force of the future on which we
can count more hopefully than on the refinement resulting from the
struggle for offspring and the survival of the fittest to be parents.
Undesirable families will become extinct. The unborn will subtly mould
the born to higher things. Childlessness will become again what it was in
the Orient--a shame and a reproach."

"Yes," asserted the publisher, smoothing out the P. Ts.; "the old
unreasoned instinct and repugnance will be put on a true basis when it is
seen that childlessness is a proof of unworthiness--a brand of failure."

"As old-maidenhood is, less justly, to-day," I put in.

"Quite so," said Marindin eagerly. "In their anxiety to be worthy of
selection by Posterity, parents will rise to heights of health and
holiness of which our sick generation does not dream. If they do not, woe
to them! They will be remorselessly left to die out without issue.

"The change has begun; our sect is spreading fast. In the course of a
century or two physical and mental deformities will vanish from the
earth." His eye flashed prophetic fire.

"So soon?" I said, with a sceptical smile.

"How could they survive?" Marindin inquired scathingly.

"Is it likely any of us would consent to be born hunchbacks?" broke in
the publisher; "or to enter families with hereditary gout? Would any sane
Antelander put himself under the yoke of animal instincts or tendencies
to drink? Ah, here is a bibulous grandfather!" and he tossed one of the
P. Ts. disdainfully aside, though I observed that the old gentleman in
question had been an English Earl.

"But, Mr. Fore," I protested, "will all the unborn attach such importance
to the pathological pedigree as you do? What power will make them train
up their parents in the way they should go?"

"The greatest power on earth," broke in Marindin; "the power of
selfishness, backed by education. Enlightened selfishness is all that is
needed to bring about the millennium. The selfishness of to-day is so
stupid. Let the unborn care only for their own skins, and they will
improve the parents, and be well brought up themselves by the good
parents they have selected."

"But come now, Mr. Fore," I said; "the new system has been partially at
work, I understand, for some time. Do you assure me, on your word of
honor as an unborn publisher, that the filial franchise has been
invariably exercised wisely and well?"

"Of course not," interrupted Marindin. "Haven't I already told you there
has been much fumbling and experimentation, some souls being born for
money and some for beauty and some for position? But pioneers must always
suffer--for the benefit of those who come after."

"Certainly there have been rash and improvident births," admitted the
publisher. "Hasty births, premature births, secret births, morganatic
births, illegitimate births, and every variety of infelicitous intrusion
upon your planet. The rash are born too early, the cautious too late;
some even repent on the very brink of birth and elect to be stillborn.
But in the majority of cases birth is the outcome of mature deliberation;
a contract entered into with a full sense of the responsibilities of the
situation."

"But what do you understand by illegitimate birth?" I asked.

"The selection of parents not possessing the P. C. There are always
eccentric spirits who would defy the dearest and most sacred institutions
organised by society for its own protection. We are gradually creating a
public opinion to discountenance such breaches of the law, and such
perils to the commonweal, subversive as they are of all our efforts to
promote the general happiness and holiness. Even in your uncivilised
communities," continued the publisher, "these unlicensed and illegitimate
immigrants are stamped with life-long opprobrium and subjected to
degrading disabilities; how much infamy should then attach to them when
the sin they are born in is their own!"

"A lesser degree of illegitimacy," added Marindin, "is to be born into a
family already containing the full number it is licensed for. This
happens particularly in rich families, introductions into which are
naturally most sought after. It is still a moot point whether the birth
should be legitimatised on the death of one of the other children."

"But it is the indirect results that I look forward to most," he went on
after a pause. "For example, the solution of Nihilism in Russia."

"What has that to do with the unborn?" I asked, quite puzzled.

"Don't you see that the czarship will die out?"

"How so?"

"No one will risk being born into the Imperial family. I should say that
birth within four degrees of consanguinity of the Czar would be so rare
that it would come to be regarded as criminal."

"Yes, that and many another question will be solved quite peaceably,"
said the publisher. "You saw me reject a noble grandfather; the growth of
democratic ideals among us must ultimately abolish hereditary
aristocracy. So, too, the question of second marriages and the deceased
wife's sister may be left to the taste and ethical standards of the
unborn, who can easily, if they choose, set their faces against such
unions."

"You see the centre of gravity would be shifted to the pre-natal period,"
explained Marindin, "when the soul is more liable to noble influences.
The moment the human being is born it is definitely moulded; all your
training can only modify the congenital cast. But the real potentialities
are in the unborn. While there is not life there is hope. When you
commence to educate the child it is already too late. But if the great
forces of education are brought to bear upon the unformed, you may bring
all Itigh qualities to birth. Think, for instance, how this will
contribute to the cause of religion. The unborn will simply eliminate the
false religions by refusing to be born into them. Persuade the unborn,
touch _them_, convert _them_! You, I am sure, Mr. Fore," he said, turning
to the worthy publisher, "would never consent to be born into the wrong
religion!"

"Not if hell-fire was the penalty of an unhappy selection," replied Mr.
Fore.

"Of course not," said Marindin. "Missionaries have always flown in the
face of psychology. Henceforward, moreover, Jews will be converted at a
period more convenient for baptism."

"We hope to mould politics, too," added the publisher, "by boycotting
certain races and replenishing others."

"Yes," cried Marindin; "it is my hope that by impregnating the unborn
with a specific set of prejudices, they might be induced to settle in
particular countries, and I cannot help thinking that patriotism would be
more intelligent when it was voluntary; self-imposed from admiration of
the ideals and history of a particular people. Indeed this seems to me
absolutely the only way in which, reason can be brought to bear on the
great war question, for in lieu of that loud eloquence of Woolwich
infants there would be exercised the silent pressure of the unborn, who
could simply annihilate an undesirable nation, or decimate an offensive
district by refusing to be born in it. Surely this would be the most
rational way of settling the ever-menacing Franco-Prussian quarrel."

"I observe already a certain anti-Gallic feeling in Ante-land," put in
the publisher. "A growing disinclination to be born in France, if not a
preference for being made in Germany. But these things belong to _la
haute politique_"

"My own suspicion is," I ventured to suggest, "that there is a growing
disinclination to be born anywhere, and this new privilege of free choice
will simply bring matters to a climax. Your folks, confronted by the
endless problem of choosing their own country and century, their own
family and their own religion, will dilly-dally and shilly-shally and put
off birth so long that they will never change their condition at all.
They will come to the conviction that it is better not to be born; better
to bear the evils that they know than fly to others that they know not
of. What if the immigration of destitute little aliens into our planet
ceased altogether?"

Marindin shrugged his shoulders, and there came into his face that
indescribable look of the hopeless mystic.

"Then humanity would have reached its goal: it would come naturally and
gently to an end. The euthanasia of the race would be accomplished, and
the glorified planet, cleansed of wickedness at last, would take up its
part again in the chorus of the spheres. But like most ideals, I fear
this is but a pleasant dream." Then, as the publisher turned away to
replace the P. Ts. in a safe, he added softly: "Intelligence is never
likely to be so widely diffused in Ante-land that the masses would fight
shy of birth. There would always be a sufficient proportion of unborn
fools left who would prefer the palpabilities of bodily form to the
insubstantialities of pre-natal existence. Between you and me, our friend
the publisher is extremely anxious to be published."

"And yet he seems intelligent enough," I argued.

"Ah, well, it cannot be denied that there are _some_ lives decidedly
worth living, and our friend Fore will probably bring up his parents to
the same profession as himself."

"No doubt there would always be competition for the best _births_," I
observed, smiling.

"Yes," replied Marindin sadly; "the struggle for existence will always
continue among the unborn."

Suddenly a thought set me a-grin. "Why, what difference can the choice of
parents make after all?" I cried. "Suppose you had picked my parents--you
would have been I, and I should be somebody else, and somebody else would
be you. And there would be the three of us, just the same as now," and I
chuckled aloud.

"You seem to have had pleasant dreams, old man," replied Marindin. But
his voice sounded strange and far away.

       *       *       *       *       *

I opened my eyes wide in astonishment, and saw him buried in an
easy-chair, with a book in his hand and two tears rolling down his
cheeks.

"I've been reading of Tiny Tim while you snoozed," he said
apologetically.




XXIII

PATER AND PROSE

It seems only yesterday--and it is only yesteryear--since Walter Pater
sat by my side in a Club garden, and listened eloquently to my
after-lunch _causerie_, and now he is gone

  To where, beyond the Voices, there is Peace.

You grasp that his eloquence was oracular, silent. He had an air. There
was in him--as in his work--a suggestion of aloofness from the homespun
world. I suspect he had never heard Chevalier. I should not wonder if he
had never even heard of him. He was wrapped in the atmosphere of Oxford,
and though "the last enchantments of the Middle Ages" in no wise threw
their glamour over his thought, there was a cloistral distinction in his
attitude. He reminded me of my friend the Cambridge professor, who, when
the O'Shea business was filling eight columns daily of the papers that
deprecate honest art, innocently asked me if there was anything new about
Parnell. Pater did not probably carry detachment from the contemporary so
far as that, but he was in harmony with his hedonistic creed in
permitting only a select fraction of the cosmos to have the entry to his
consciousness. A delightful, elegantly-furnished consciousness it was,
with the latest improvements, and with every justification for
exclusiveness. But there is in men of Mr. Pater's stamp something of what
might be termed the higher Pod-snappery. They put things aside with the
wave of a white-gloved hand: this and that do not exist, Mr. Podsnap
himself--O the irony of it!--among them. Like Mr. Podsnap, though on a
different plane, they take themselves and their view of life too
seriously. When I told Mr. Pater that there was a pun in his "Plato and
Platonism," he asked anxiously for its precise locality, so that he might
remove it. This I could not remember, but I told him I did not see why he
should remove one of the best things in the book. But my assurances that
the pun was excellent did not seem to tranquillise him. Now, why should
not a philosopher make a pun? Shakespeare was an incorrigible punster.
Why should a man's life be divided into little artificial sections, like
the labelled heads in the phrenologist's window? I do not want to see a
man put on his Sunday clothes to talk about religion. But a congenital
inelasticity is fostered in the atmosphere of common-rooms, there where
solemn-footed serving-men present the port with sacerdotal ceremonies,
and where, if the dons are no longer (in the classic phrase of Gibbon)
"sunk in port and superstition," the port is still a superstition. This
absence of humour, this superhuman seriousness bred of heavy traditions
peculiarly English, this sobriety nourished by sacerdotal port, give the
victim quite a wrong sense of values and proportions. He mistakes
University for Universe. His tastes become the measure of a creation of
which he is the centre. Hence an abiding gravity that is ever on the
brink of dulness. The Englishman cannot afford to be grave, the bore is
so close at hand.

And yet, if one did not take oneself seriously, I suppose nothing would
ever be done. A kindly illusion about their importance in the scheme of
things is Nature's instrument for getting work out of men. "Don't you
think Flaubert took himself too seriously?" I heard a lady novelist ask a
gentleman practitioner. Certainly his correspondence with George Sand
reveals an anchorite of letters, who tortured the phrase and sacrificed
sleep to the adjective, and the brothers De Goncourt--themselves very
serious gentlemen--have recorded how he considered his book as good as
finished because he had invented the "dying falls" of the music of his
periods. But if Flaubert had sufficiently contemplated the infinities,
the immense indifference of things, if, like the astronomer in search of
a creed, he had concentrated his vision on the point to which the whole
solar system is drifting, French prose would have lost some of its most
wonderful pages; and had the late Mr. Pater been less troubled by the
rose-leaf of style and more by the thorns of the time, English prose
would have been the poorer by harmonies and felicities unsurpassed and
unsurpassable. This is to ignore Pater the Philosopher and Pater the
Critic. Of these persons there will be varying estimates. They have even
in a sense, through the extravagances of a disciple, been subjected to
the verdict of a British jury--a sufficiently ironic revenge upon the
fastidious shrinker from the Philistines; and though, of course, it was
not theories of art and philosophy that were being "tried by jury," yet
these side-issues contributed to prejudice the twelve good men and true.
But it is only congruous with the trend of democratic thought that
everything should come under the censorship of the crowd, and the only
wonder is that long ere this the vexed questions of our troubled time
have not been solved by _plebiscite_.

A leading New York paper is commended for its patronage of literature,
because it offers large prizes for stories, the prizes to be awarded by
the votes of its readers. If the crowd is capable of appraising
literature, there is no reason why it should not take science and art
similarly into its hands, nor why the counting of heads should not
replace the marshalling of arguments in philosophy and ethics. In
politics the mob has a right to be heard, because it has a right to
express its grievances. Could an aristocracy be trusted to do justly by
Demos, democracy would have no reason to be. But this right of the
many-headed monster to a control of the governmental agencies that affect
its own happiness, does not involve the ability to decide less selfish
problems; and when, as rarely happens, abstract problems find themselves
in the witness-box, then the "Palladium of British liberty" becomes a
mockery of justice. "Legal judgment of his peers," says Magna Charta; but
when an exceptional man blunders into the dock, is he ever accorded a
panel of his equals? Things are no better in France. When Flaubert was
arraigned for his "Madame Bovary," he did not get a box of men of
letters, though there is so much more sense of art in the citizens of
Paris, that even by the bourgeois jury he was acquitted without a stain
on the character of his book. The central figure of our English episode
had nothing so creditable as an immoral book to his charge, but
indirectly the relations of art and morality came into question, and he
declared that he followed Pater, the one critic he recognised, in
believing that there were no relations between art and morality, that a
book could not be immoral, but might be something worse--badly written.
Now, this is the favourite doctrine of Chelsea, and doubtless something
may be said for it; but to put it forth, as the doctrine of Pater is a
libel--almost a criminal libel--on that great writer. These young men who
live for the Beautiful have only understood as much of Pater as would
justify epicurean existence.

Let us examine this pretension of the prophet of the importance of being
flippant, to be a disciple of Pater.

No doubt Pater was something of an Impressionist in his philosophy of
life. An eloquent expounder of the Heracletian flux, [Greek: panta rei],
of the relativity of systems of thought and conduct, and of the duty of
seizing the flying moments--"failure in life is to form habits,"--he did
not omit, like his one-sided disciples, to consider the quality of those
moments. It was the _highest_ quality you were to give to your moments as
they passed; to fail to do this was "on this short day of frost and sun
to sleep before evening." ("The Renaissance.") "Marius the Epicurean" was
not an Epicurean in the sense in which the doctrines of Epicurus have
been travestied through the ages: he turned away sickened from the
barbarities of the gladiatorial combats, longing for the time when the
forces of the future would create a heart that would make it impossible
to be thus pleasured. If "_Carpe diem_" is Pater's motto, the hour is not
to be plucked ignobly; if style is his watchword in art, style alone
cannot make great Art, though it may make good Art. The distinction,
between good Art and great Art depends immediately _not on its form_ but
on its matter. "It is on the quality of the matter it informs or
controls, its compass, its variety, its alliance to great ends, or the
depth of the note of revolt, or the largeness of hope in it, that the
greatness of literary art depends, as 'The Divine Comedy,' 'Paradise
Lost,' 'Les Miserables,' the English Bible, are great art." ("Essay on
Style.") Your Chelsea manikin would never dream of these things as great
art: his whole soul is expressed in ballads and canzonets, in strange
esoteric contes, in nocturnes and colour-symphonies, in the bric-a-brac
of aesthetics. Furthermore let the _soi-disant_ disciples ponder this
explicit statement of the Master: "Given the conditions I haye tried to
explain as constituting good art,--then, if it be devoted further to the
increase of men's happiness, to the redemption of the oppressed, or the
enlargement of our sympathies with each other, or to such presentment of
new or old truth about ourselves and our relation to the world as may
ennoble and fortify us in our sojourn here, or immediately, as with
Dante, to the glory of God, it will also be great Art." Yes, if Pater
protested against "the vulgarity which is dead to form," he was no less
contemptuous of "the stupidity which is dead to the substance."
("Postscript to Appreciations.") If he fought shy of the Absolute, if he
denied "fixed principles," and repudiated "every formula less living and
flexible than life" ("Essay on Coleridge"), he could still sympathise
passionately with Coleridge's hunger for the Eternal.

So much for the literary art. But even in painting, where the
self-sufficiency of style is proclaimed somewhat more speciously, the
purveyor of Chelsea ware will find scant countenance in the adored
Master. Nowhere can I find him preaching "Art for Art's sake," in the
jejune sense of the empty-headed acolytes of the aesthetic. With him the
formula was for the _spectator_ of art; it has been misapplied to the
_maker_ of art. Pater's studies of the great pictures of the Renaissance
are, if anything, rather too much taken up with their intellectual
content, and their latent revelation of the temper of the time and the
artist. No, these young men are no disciples of Pater. In their
resoluteness to live in the Beautiful (which is not always
distinguishable from the Bestial), they have forgotten the other items of
the trinity of Goethe, they have lost sight of the True and the Whole. It
is Whistler who is the prophet of the divorce of Art from Life, of the
antithesis of Art and Nature. When Whistler said, "Another foolish
sunset," he spake the word that called into being all these "degenerate"
paradoxes, though I am not sure but what Mr. Sydney Grundy was before him
in creating a stage-manager who thinks meanly of the moons and the scenic
backgrounds of real life. It is a good joke, this of Nature paling before
Art, or reduced to plagiarising Art,--"Where, if not from the
Impressionists, do we get those wonderful brown fogs that come creeping
down our streets, blurring the gas lamps and changing the houses into
monstrous shadows?"--but as the basis of a philosophy of Art it palls.
The germ of truth in it is that metaphysically these effects may be said
not to have existed till artists taught us to see and to look for them.
But, after all, wise old Shakespeare has the last word:

        Nature is made better by no mean
  But Nature makes that mean: so o'er that Art,
  Which you say adds to Nature, is an Art
  That Nature makes.

But these things are not for the British jury. Pater, the literary
artist, however, one is more driven to praise than to appraise. This
exquisite care for words has something of moral purity--as well as
physical daintiness in it. There is indeed something priestly in this
consecration of language, in this reverent ablution of the counters of
thought, those poor counters so overcrusted with the dirt of travel, so
loosely interchangeable among the vulgar; the figure of the stooping
devotee shows sublime in a garrulous world. What a heap of mischief M.
Jourdain has done by his discovery that he was talking prose all his
life! Prose, indeed! Moliere has much to answer for. The rough,
shuffling, slipshod, down-at-heel, clipped, frayed talk of every-day life
bears as much relation to prose as a music-hall ditty to poetry. The name
"prose" must be reserved for the fine art of language--that fine art
whose other branch is poetry. It is a grammarians' term, "prose," and
belongs not to the herd. They do not need it, and it would never have
come into M. Jourdain's head or out of his mouth, had he not taken a
tutor. And yet the delusion is common enough--even with those to whom
Moliere is Greek--that prose is anything which is not poetry. As well say
that poetry is anything which is not prose. Of the two branches of the
art of language, prose is the more difficult. This is not the opinion of
those who know nothing about it. They fancy a difficulty about rhymes and
metres. 'T is all the other way. Rhymes are the rudders of thought; they
steer the poet's bark. He cannot get to Heaven itself without striking
"seven," or mixing up his meaning with foreign "leaven." His shifts to
avoid these shifts are pathetic to a degree. He flounders about twixt
"given" and "levin," and has been known to snatch desperately at
"reaven." Of all fraudulent crafts commend me to the poet's. He is a
paragon of deceit and quackery, a jingling knave. 'T is a game of _bouts
rimes_, and he calls it "inspiration." No wonder Plato would have none of
him in his Republic, even though Plato's poets were guiltless of rhyme
and slaves only to metre. But the metre of verse, too, is a friend to
thought, and its enemy. It is like wheels to a cart; not unsagaciously is
Pegasus figured with wings. He flies away with you, and you are lulled by
the regular flap, flap of his pinions, and his goal concerns you little.
The swing and the rush of the verse compensate for reason, and it is
wonderful how far a little sense will fly when tricked out with fine
feathers. Even in stately, rhymeless decasyllabics the march and music of
the verse help a limping thought along like a sore-footed soldier
striding to the band. But the prose-writer has none of these advantages.
He is like an actor without properties. His thoughts do not go along with
a flutter of flags and a blare of trombones. Nor do they glide upon
castors. They must needs lumber on after a fashion of their own, and if
there is a music to their ambulation it must be individual, neither in
common nor in three-eight time, but winding and quickening at will, with
no strait symmetry of antiphonal bars. There is nothing to tell you the
writer has made "prose"--as the spacing and the capital letters invite
you to look for poetry. He has to depend only upon himself. This is why
blank verse--which approaches prose most nearly--is so much more
difficult to write than rhymed verse, though it looks so much easier and
more tempting to the amateur. Are we not justified, then, in taking the
logical step further, and saying that prose, which strips itself of the
last rags of adventitious ornament, and which tempts the amateur most of
all, is the highest of all literary forms, the most difficult of all to
handle triumphantly? May we not compare the music of it--that music which
we get in Ruskin and in Pater--to the larger rhythms to which the savage
drum-beat has developed? Rhythm is undoubtedly an instinct, but
civilisation brings complexity. From the tom-tom to the tune, from the
tune to the symphony. In the vaster reaches and sweeps of the rhythm of
prose there is a massive music as of Wagnerian orchestras. Anybody can
enjoy the castanet-play of rhymes; half your popular proverbs clash at
the ends; "the jigging of our rhyming mother-wits" is on everybody's
lips. But for the blank verse of "Paradise Lost" there is only "audience
fit, though few"; and as for the music of prose, so little is it
understood that critics vaguely aware of it had to invent the term "prose
poet" when they found the stress of passion and imagination effervescing
into resonant utterance. On the other hand, there are those who do not
acknowledge Pope as a poet. The essence of the long-standing quarrel is a
confusion. From the point of view of form there is only one kind of
writer to be recognised--the artist in words. Of him there are two
varieties: the artist who uses rhyme and metre, and the artist
who--wilfully or through impotence--dispenses with them. From the point
of view of matter there is the artist with "soul" and the artist without
"soul." "Soul" is shorthand for that mysterious something the absence of
which urges people to deny Pope the title of poet. They feel the
intangible something is not there, "the consecration and the poet's
dream." But with the conventional distinctions, there is no name left for
Pope, if he is not a poet. The truth is that he was an artist in
words--as masterly as the Mantuan himself, though without that golden
cadence and charm which keep Virgil a poet by any classification. On the
other hand, Carlyle, who had such scorn of the rhyming crew, was himself
a poet to the popular imagination, though to us he will be an artist in
prose _plus_ soul. There are, thus, really two classes of writers:

    I. Prose-Artists.
    II. Verse-Artists.

Each of these splits up into two kinds, according as the writer has or
lacks "soul." Or, if you think "soul" the more important differentia, we
will say there are artists with "soul" and artists without "soul," and
that some of each sort work in prose and some in verse. But the
classification is a crass one, and the English language unfortunately
does not possess words to express the distinctions, while the ambiguous
associations of the word "prose" increase the difficulty of inventing
them. We do not even possess any equivalent of the French "prosateur,"
though I see no reason why "prosator" should not be used. Without
neologisms, and avoiding the ambiguous adjective "prosaic," and using
"poetic" to express "soulfulness" and not the handling of metres, we get


1. Poetic Verse-Artists. (Poets.)

2. Non-Poetic Verse-Artists. (Verse-Writers.)

3. Poetic Prose-Artists. (Prose Poets.)

4. Non-Poetic Prose-Artists. (Prose Writers.)


Keats is a verse poet, Pope a verse writer, Buskin a prose poet, and
Hallam a prose writer.

       *       *       *       *       *

The two great writers of our day who have sinned most against the laws of
writing are Browning and Meredith, the one in verse, the other in prose.
I speak not merely of obscurities, to perpetrate which is in
every sense to stand in one's own light, but of sheer fatuities,
tweakings-of-the-nose to our reverend mother-tongue, as either might have
expressed it. But what I am most concerned to suggest here is that the
distinction between prose and poetry (using prose to mean artistically
wrought language) will not survive investigation. The popular instinct
has long ago seen that the vital thing is the _matter_--that it is
profanity to call that "poetry" which is only verse; it remains to be
recognised that even the distinction of form rests only on the
non-recognition of the rhythm of "prose,"--a rhythm that is not metre in
so far as metre has the sense of regular measure, but may for all that
have laws of its own, which await the discoverer and the systematiser.

The affinity of prose-rhythms is, I have hinted, with the higher
developments of music, which, compared with the simple tunes of the
street, are as apparently lawless and unlicensed as is prose compared to
verse. And as it is not poets who follow laws, but precede them--as
trochee and iambic, alcaic and hexameter, are the inventions of
grammarians following on the trail of genius--so it behoves the Aristotle
who would discover the laws of the rhythm of prose to study the masters
of the art, masters by instinct and a faultless ear and the grace of God,
and endeavour by patient induction to wrest from their sentences the
secrets of their harmonies. Who will write the prosody of prose?

It is sad to have to declare that the bulk of contemporary writers lie
outside all these classifications. They are artists neither in prose nor
verse, and though they may have "soul," they cannot make it visible. For
"soul" may be expressed equally through painting and sculpture and music
and acting, audits dimly discerned presence can scarcely convert slipshod
writing into literature. No one would accept as art a picture in which a
gleam of imagination struggled against the draughtsmanship of the
schoolboy to whom arms are toasting-forks, or applaud an actor who might
be brimming over with sensibility but could command neither his voice nor
his face. No one has any business to come before the public who has not
studied the medium through which he proposes to exhibit his "soul":
unfortunately this is the age and England is the country of the amateur,
and in every department we are deluged with the crude. The fault lies
less with the amateur than with the public before which he presents
himself, and which, incompetent to distinguish art from amateurishness,
is as likely to bless the one as the other. Of all forms of art
literature suffers most; for the pity is, and pity'tis't is true,
everybody learns to talk and write at an early age. This makes the
transition to literature so fatally easy. _Facilis descensus Averni!_ To
paint, one must at least know how to mix colours and handle a brush; to
compose, one must be familiar with the meaning of strayed spiders' legs
on curious parallel bars, and there are strange disconcerting rumours of
"orchestration." But to produce literature you have simply to dip pen in
ink or open your mouth and see what God will give you. Hence particularly
the flood of novels, hence the low position of the novel; although, as
Theodore Watts has pointed out, it is practically the modern Epic. I have
met distinguished students of Greek texts who have never conceived of the
novel as a work of art, or as anything beyond the amusement of an idle
hour--something for the women and the children. One such told me he would
not read "The Mill on the Floss" because it ended unhappily. I must
conclude he has only read Aeschylus for his examinations. Acting stands
next to literature in its seductiveness. The actor's instrument is his
body, and everybody has a body. If, in addition to a "body," the creature
conceives himself to possess a "soul," the odds are there will be
laughter for the "gods." I tremble for the time when the popular
educationist shall have had his way and every child be seised of the
rudiments of drawing. We shall see sights then. At present, despite the
horrors of the galleries and the widespread ignorance of art, painting
cannot compete with literature as a misunderstood art. For the
public--which is the only critic that counts in the long run--does not
demand grammar, much less style; and the novel of the season may bristle
with passages that could be set for correction at examinations in
English. It is a little thing, but it seems to me significant, that the
announcement of terms of the local branch of Mudie's, in the little town
at which I am writing these lines, runs thus:

    The subscription for one set entitles the subscriber to one complete
    work at a time, whether in one, two, or three volumes, and can be
    exchanged as often as desired.




XXIV

THE INFLUENCE OF NAMES

Far-fetched as the idea seems that names and characters have any
interconnection, yet no great writer but has felt that one name, and one
alone, would suit each particular creation. The tortures and travels that
Balzac went through till he found "Z. Marcas" are well known. So is the
agony of Flaubert on hearing that Zola was anticipating him in the name
of Bouvard, which it had cost Flaubert six years' search to find. Zola's
magnanimity in parting with it deserves a _fauteuil_. Somebody in the
provinces told me that his minister had preached upon the subject of
names, laying it down that in every name lurked a subtle virtue,--or
vice; the former the bearer of the name was in duty bound to cultivate,
the latter to root out. Fantastic as this speculation be, even for a
minister, no one doubts that people's names may have an influence upon
their lives; and, in the case of the Christian name at least, children
ought to be protected by the State against the bad taste and the cruelty
of their parents. More certainly than the stars our names control our
destinies, for they are no meaningless collocation of syllables, but have
deep-rooted relations with the history and manner of life of our
ancestors. The Smiths were once smiths, the Browns dark in complexion;
and so, if we could only trace it, every name would reveal some inner
significance, from Adam (red earth) downwards. Why do publishers tend to
"n" in their names'? Some of the chief London publishers run to a final
"n"--Macmillan, Longman, Chapman; Hodder & Stoughton; Hutchinson & Co.;
Sampson Low, Marston & Co.; Lawrence & Bullen; Fisher Unwin; Heinemann.
The last, indeed, is nothing but "n" sounds; such a name could not escape
taking to publishing. I find also in the publishers' lists T. Nelson &
Co.; Eden, Remington & Co.; Henry Sotheran; John Lane; Effingham Wilson;
Innes & Co. (as fatal as Heinemann); George Allen & Co.; Osgood,
McIlvaine & Co.; Gardner, Darton & Co. Sometimes the "n" is prominent at
the beginning or in the middle, as in Henry & Co.; Ward & Downey;
Constable & Co.; Digby, Long & Co.; Arnold; G. P. Putnam's Sons; Kegan
Paul, Trench, Truebner & Co. (wherein each partner boasts his separate
"n"); Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier (wherein there are at least three
"n"s); John C. Nimmo; Edward Stanford; Gibbings & Co.; Chatto & Windus;
Nisbet & Co. When the "n" is not in the surname, at least the Christian
contains the indispensable letter, as John Murray, Elkin Matthew.

Even when it can find refuge nowhere else the "n" creeps into the "and"
of the firm or into the "Sons." The very Clarendon Press has the
trademark. Who is the stock publisher of the eighteenth century? Tonson!
Who were the first publishers of Shakespeare? Condell & Heminge.

And while publishers run mysteriously to "n," authors run with equal
persistency to "r"--in their surnames for the most part, but at least
somehow or somewhere.

Who are our professors of fiction to-day? Hardy, Meredith, Blackmore,
Barrie, Rudyard Kipling, Walter Besant (and James Rice), George Moore,
Frankfort Moore, Olive Schreiner, George Fleming, Henry James, Hamlin
Garland, Henry B. Fuller, Harold Frederic, Frank Harris, Marion Crawford,
Arthur Conan Doyle, Rider Haggard, Miss Braddon, Sarah Grand, Mrs. Parr,
George Egerton, Rhoda Broughton, H. D. Traill, Jerome K. Jerome, Barry
Pain, W. E. Norris, Crockett, Ian Maclaren, Robert Barr, Ashby Sterry,
Morley Roberts, Mabel Robinson, F. W. Robinson, John Strange Winter, Du
Maurier (late but not least to follow his lucky "r"), Helen Mathers,
Henry Seton Merriman, etc., etc.

Who were the giants of the last generation? Thackeray, Charles Dickens,
Charles Reade, George Eliot, Bulwer Lytton, Charlotte Bronte, Trollope,
Disraeli.

Who are our prophets and thinkers? Carlyle, Ruskin, Emerson, Darwin, John
Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, Froude, Freeman.

Who are the poets of the Victorian era? Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson,
Algernon Charles Swinburne ("r"-ed throughout), D. Gabriel Rossetti,
Christina Rossetti, Matthew Arnold, William Morris, Robert Buchanan,
Andrew Lang, Robert Bridges, Lewis Morris, Edwin Arnold, Alfred Austin,
Norman Gale, Richard Le Gallienne, Philip Bourke Marston, Mary F.
Robinson, Theodore Watts, etc., etc.

Who are the dramatists of to-day? Grundy, Pinero, Henry Arthur Jones, W.
S. Gilbert, Haddon Chambers, Comyns Carr, Carton, Raleigh, George E. Sims
(mark the virtue of that long-mysterious "r").

And who in the past have done anything for our prose dramatic literature?
Sheridan and Oliver Goldsmith, and, earlier still, Congreve, Wycherley,
Farquhar, and Vanbrugh. Nay, which are the mighty names in our
literature? Chaucer, Spenser, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Herrick, Dryden,
Alexander Pope, Butler, Sterne, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Walter
Scott, Robert Burns.

You may even look at the greatest names in the world's literature. Homer,
Virgil (Maro), Horace, Firdusi, Omar Khayyam, Cervantes, Calderon,
Petrarch, Rabelais, Dante Alighieri, Schiller, Voltaire, Rousseau,
Moliere, Corneille, Racine, Honore de Balzac, Flaubert, Victor Hugo,
Verlaine, Heinrich Heine.

Of course there are not a few minus the "r," as Milton, Keats, Goethe,
Swift, etc., etc.

There seems indeed to be a sub-species of "sons"--Ben Jonson, Dr.
Johnson, William Watson, John Davidson, Austin Dobson. Nevertheless there
is an overwhelming preponderance of "r" sounds in the names of the
world's authors. What is the underlying reason? Is there a certain rugged
virility in the letter, which made it somehow expressive of the nature of
the original owners? "N" is certainly suave and plausible in comparison,
and might well produce a posterity of publishers. What adds some colour
to the suspicion is that, when writers have chosen _noms de guerre_, they
have frequently--though all unconsciously--taken names in "r." This
explains why all the lady novelists run to "George." Publisher _versus_
author may now be expressed symbolically as N/R, N over R, the N of money
over the R of art.

With our artists I find a less strong tendency to "l's" as well as to
"r's," and it is therefore only appropriate that a Leighton should long
preside over the Royal Academy, a Millais be its chief ornament, and
finally its head, and a Whistler its chief omission; that constable and
Walker should be the glory of English art, that Reynolds should be our
national portrait-painter, and Landseer our animal-painter, and Wilkie
our domestic painter. Turner made up for his surname by the superfluity
of "l's" in his William Mallord, Raphael starts as an R. A., while
Michael Angelo, with his predominance in "l's," is rightly king of art.
The absence of "l" in Hogarth's name and the strong presence of "r" of
course denotes that the satirist was more of a literary man than an
artist. The "r" in Whistler, on the other hand, clearly indicates the
literary faculty of the author of "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies." And
if Du Maurier's real future was hinted in his orthography, Leech and
Tenniel and Phil May and Linley Sambourne have vindicated their "l's." So
have Luke Fildes, Alma Tadema, H. T. Wells, G. D. Leslie, John Collier,
Val Prinsep, Solomon J. Solomon, Frank Bramley, Phil Morris, Calderon,
Leader, Nettleship, Seymour Lucas, Waterlow, William Strutt, Albert
Moore, W. W. Ouless, C. W. Wyllie, Sir John Gilbert, Louise Jopling,
Onslow Ford, and even W. C. Horsley. There are only three foreign
Academicians at the time of writing, but they all boast the "l."

With musicians there is a tendency to "m's" and "n's," which sounds
harmonious enough, Mendelssohn, Massenet, Mascagni, Mackenzie, Schumann,
have both letters; Mozart but one. Haydn, Beethoven, Chopin, Saint-Saens,
Sullivan, Charles Salaman, Edward Solomon, Frederic Cowen, run "n"-wards
with the unanimity of publishers, while Gounod, Stanford, Audran,
Sebastian Bach, Donizetti, work in the "n" otherwise, and Wagner has the
librettist's "r" in addition. Would you play the piano? You must have the
"n" of the piano, like Pachmann, Rubinstein, Rosenthal, Hofmann,
Frederick Dawson, Madame Schumann, Fanny Davies, Agnes Zimmermann,
Leonard Borwick, Nathalie Janotha, Sapellnikoff, Sophie Menter. Even for
other instruments, including the human voice divine, the "n" is
advisable. Paganini, Jenny Lind, Norman Neruda, Christine Nilsson--all
patronized it largely. Adelina Patti, Johannes Wolf, and many others make
a "Christian" use of it. If, on the other hand, you wish to manufacture
pianos your chance of founding a first-class firm will be largely
enhanced if your name begins with "b."

Actors, like authors, roll their "r's"; and if their names are
pseudonyms, so much the greater proof that some occult instinct makes
them elect for that virile letter. Who are our leading actors and
actor-managers? The double-r's: Henry Irving, Herbert Beerbohm Tree (two
pairs), Forbes-Robertson, George Alexander, Arthur Roberts, Edward S.
Willard, Edward Terry, Charles Brookfield, Wilson Barrett, Fred Terry,
Fred Kerr, Charles Warner, W. Terriss, George Grossmith, Charles Hawtrey,
Arthur Bourchier (two pairs). Scarcely any leading actor lacks one "r,"
as Charles Wyndham, Cyril Maude, Louis Waller, etc., etc. Those without
any "r's" may console themselves with the memory of Edmund Kean, though
Garrick--a name almost wholly compact of "r"--is the patron saint of the
stage.

The ladies follow the gentlemen. From Ellen Terry and Winifred Emery to
Ada Rehan and Mrs. Patrick Campbell, from Rose Leclercq and Marie
Bancroft to Marion Terry and Irene Vanbrugh, few dare dispense with the
"r."

But I have said enough. I have opened up new perspectives for the curious
and the philosophic, which they may follow up for themselves. Here is a
fresh field for faddists and mystagogues. Already I have proved as much
as many systems of mediaeval philosophy which strove to extract the
essence of things from the study of words and letters. Already I have
collected more evidence than the sectarians of the Shakespeare-Bacon.
Bacon write Shakespeare, indeed! A man without an "r" to his name,
pointed out by his "n" for a publisher, and, indeed, not without some of
the characteristics of the class. Seriously, the truth is that l, m, n,
and r are the leading letters in name-making; but still there does seem
to be more in the coincidence to which I have drawn attention than mere
accident explains.




XXV

AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS

It is done. The publishers have formed a League. The poor sweated victims
of the author's greed have at last turned upon the oppressor. Mr. Gosse,
on a memorable occasion, confusedly blending the tones of the prophet of
righteousness with the accents of the political economist, admonished the
greedy author that he was killing the goose with the golden eggs. And now
the goose has resolved to be a goose no longer. The Authors' Society, a
sort of trade union, has been answered by the creation of a Publishers'
Union, with all the delightful potentialities of a literary lock-out. It
is time, therefore, for a person without prejudice to say a word to both
sides.

With the spirit which prompted the creation of the Authors' Society,
Literature has nothing to do. To define Literature exactly is not easy.
To say at what point words become or cease to be literature is a problem
similar in kind to the sophistical Greek puzzle of saying at what point
the few become many. Perhaps we shall find a solution by looking at the
genesis and history of written words. Literature, we find, began as
religion. The earliest books of every nation are sacred books. Herbert
Spencer dwells on the veneration which the average person feels for the
printed word, his almost touching belief in books and newspapers. "I read
it in a book" is equivalent to saying "It is certainly true." The great
philosopher has failed to see that this instinct is a survival from the
times when the only books were holy books. The first book published in
Europe, as soon as printing was invented, was the Latin Bible--the
Mazarin Bible as it is called; and it is the Bible which is responsible
for the belief in print. Despite the degradation of the printed word
to-day, there is something fine in this tenacious popular instinct, as
there is something ignoble in all Literature which palters with it. The
Literature of every country is still sacred. The books of its sages and
seers should still be holy books to it. The true man of letters always
was and must always be a lay priest, even though he seem neither to
preach nor to be religious in the popular sense of those terms. The
qualities to be sought for in Literature are therefore inspiration and
sincerity. The man of letters is born, not made. His place is in the
Temple, and it is not his fault that the moneychangers have set up their
stalls there. But, in addition to these few chosen spirits, born in every
age to be its teachers, there is an overwhelming multitude of writers
called into being by the conditions of the time. These are the artists
whom Stevenson likened to the "Daughters of Joy." They are cunning
craftsmen, turning out what the public demands, without any priestly
consciousness, and sometimes even without conscience, mere tradesmen
with--at bottom--the souls of tradesmen. Their work has charm, but lacks
significance. They write essays which are merely amusing, histories which
are only facts, and stories which are only lies.

The capacity of the world for reading the uninspired is truly
astonishing, and the hundred worst books may be found in every
bookseller's window. Would that it were of books that Occam had written:
"Non sunt multiplicandi praeter necessitatem"! The men who produce these
unnecessary books perform a necessary function, as things are. Why should
they be less well treated than bootmakers or tailors, butchers or bakers
or candlestick makers? Why should they not get as much as possible for
their labours? Why should they not, like every other kind of working-man,
found a Labour Union? Indeed, instead of censuring these authors for
trying to obtain a fair wage, I feel rather inclined to reproach them for
not having more closely imitated the methods of Trades-Unionism, for not
having welded the whole writing body into a strong association for the
enforcement of fair prices and the suppression of sweating, which is more
monstrous and wide-spread in the literary than in any other profession
whatever. Such an organisation would be met by many difficulties, for
writing differs from other species of skilled labour by the immense
differences of individual talent, while from professions in which there
are parallel variations of skill, _e.g._, law and medicine, it differs by
the fact that there is no initial qualification (by examination)
attesting a minimum amount of skill. Not even grammar is necessary for
authorship, or even for successful authorship. Besides which, writing is
done by innumerable persons in their spare time--Literature is a world of
inky-fingered blacklegs. Thus, writing admits neither of the union-fixed
minimum wage of the manual labourer, nor of the etiquette-fixed fee of
the professional; so that the methods of the trade union are only
partially applicable to the ink-horny-handed sons of toil. But even the
possible has not yet been achieved, so that the current idea of an
organization of the writing classes, against which publishers have had to
gird up their loins to fight, has very little foundation. There is
nothing but a registered disorganisation. What the publishers are really
afraid of is not a Society, but a man, and that man a middle-man? no
other than that terrible bogey, the agent, who drinks champagne out of
their skulls.

So much for the author-craftsman. But what of the author-priest? Do the
commercial conditions apply to him? Certainly they do--with this
important modification, that, while with the author-craftsman the
commercial conditions may justly regulate the matter and manner of his
work, with the author-priest the commercial conditions do not begin until
he has completed his work. The state of the market, the condition of the
public mind--these will have no influence on the work itself. Not a comma
nor a syllable will he alter for all the gold of Afric[*]. But, the
manuscript once finished, the commercial considerations begin. The
prophet has written his message, but the world has yet to hear it. Now,
we cannot easily conceive Isaiah or Jeremiah hawking round his prophecies
at the houses of publishers, or permitting a smart Yankee to syndicate
them through the world, or even allowing popular magazines to dribble
them out by monthly instalments. But the modern prophet has no housetop,
and it is as difficult to imagine him moving his nation by voice alone as
arranging with a local brother-seer to trumpet forth the great tidings
simultaneously at New York in order to obtain the American copyright.
Even if he should try to teach the people by word of mouth, there will be
bare benches unless he charges for admission, as all lecturers will tell
you. People value at nothing what they can get for nothing; and, as
Stevenson suggested, "if we were charged so much a head for sunsets, or
if God sent round a drum before the hawthorns came in flower, what a work
should we not make about their beauty!" No, the prophet cannot escape the
commercial question. For, in order that his message may reach his age, it
must be published, and publication cannot be achieved without expense.

[* Transcriber's note: So in original.]

Tolstoi himself, who gives his books freely to the world, cannot really
save the public the expense of buying them. All he sacrifices is that
comparatively small proportion of the returns which is claimed by the
author in royalties; he cannot eliminate the profits of the publisher,
the bookseller, etc., etc. For between the message and its hearers come a
great number of intermediaries, many of them inevitable. We will assume
for the purposes of our analysis that our prophet is already popular. The
hearers are waiting eagerly. Here is the manuscript, there are the
readers. Problem--to bring them together. This is the task of the
publisher. Incidentally, the publisher employs the printer, bookbinder,
etc.; but this part of the business, though usually undertaken by the
publisher, does not necessarily belong to him. He is essentially only the
distributor. In return for this function of distribution, whether it
includes supervising mechanical production or not, the publisher is
entitled to his payment. How much? Evidently, exactly as much as is made
by capital and personal service in business generally. The shillings of
the public are the gross returns for the book. These have to be divided
between all the agents employed in producing the book--author, printer,
binder, publisher, bookseller, etc. This is not literally what happens,
but it is arithmetically true in the long run. How much for each?
Evidently just as much as they can each get, for there is no right but
might and nothing but tug-of-war. There is nothing absolute in the
partition of profits: infinite action and reaction. While the costs of
the mechanical part are comparatively stable, the relation of author and
publisher oscillates ceaselessly; and while the cautious publisher by the
multiplicity of his transactions may rely upon an average of profits,
like all business men plucking stability out of the heart of vicissitude,
the author has no such surety. Between merit and reward there is in
literature no relation. Just as the music-hall singer may earn a larger
income than the statesman, so may the tawdry tale-teller drive the
thinker and artist out of the market.

The artistic value of a book is therefore absolutely unrelated to the
commercial value; but such commercial value as there is--to whom should
it fall if not to the author? Like the other parties, he has a right to
all he can get. You will say it is very sordid to think of money; you
will speak of divine inspiration; you would rather see him go on the
rates; to save him from base reward you even borrow his books instead of
buying them; you cannot understand why he should prefer an honest
Copyright Act to a halo. Good! Put it that I agree with you. It is sordid
to sell one's muse. One should be like Mr. Harold Skimpole, and let the
butcher and the baker go howl. The thought of money sullies the fairest
manuscript. The touch of a cheque taints. Good again! _Only_, when the
great poem is written, when the great novel is done, _there is money in
it_! Who is to have this money? The author? Certainly not. We are agreed
his soul must be kept virgin. _But why the publisher?_ (Above all, why
the American publisher?) Why not the printer? Why not the binder or the
bookseller? Why not the deserving poor? None of these will be defiled by
the profits. Why should the money not be used to found a Lying-in
Hospital, or an Asylum for Decayed Authors, or a Museum to keep Honest
Publishers in? Why should not authors have the _kudos_ of paying off the
National Debt? If they are to be the only Socialists in a world of
individualists, let them at least have the satisfaction of knowing their
money is applied to worthy public purposes.

But I do _not_ agree with you. "The best work at the best prices" is no
unworthy motto. The Authors' Society, indeed, tries to put this non-moral
principle of valuation upon an ethical basis. It says, for instance, that
if the publisher reckons his office expenses in the cost of production,
then the author has a right to reckon his, even including any journeys or
researches he may have had to make in order to write his book. But this
right is not only an ethical fallacy: it is a politico-economical one,
because the economical question is only concerned with the _distribution_
of the work, and the money or the heart's blood that went to make it has
nothing to do with the question, while the publisher's office expenses
are of the essence of the question. Some authors also claim that the
publisher has no right to make successful books pay for unsuccessful. But
here again he has every right. The publisher is not a piece-worker; he
has to keep a large organization going, involving ramifications in every
town. It is the existence of this network, of this distributive
mechanism, that enables the successful book to be sold everywhere; and
the publisher, like every business man, must allow percentages for bad
debts and unprofitable speculations. Publishers have a right to capture
the bulk of the profits of authors' first books, because they largely
supply the author with his public. It is surprising how even good books
have to be pressed on an unwilling world, much as cards are forced by
conjurers. The number of people that select their books by their own
free-will is incredibly small. On the other hand, when a popular author
brings a publisher a book, it is he who improves the publisher's
distributing agency, by bringing him new clients, and even sometimes
strengthening his position with booksellers and libraries, by enabling
him, armed with a book universally in demand, to fight against deductions
and discounts throughout his business generally. And, just as the
publisher may rightly depress the profits of an unknown author, so the
popular author has a moral right to larger royalties--which right,
however, would avail him nothing were it not backed by might. It is in
the competition of rival publishers that his strength lies.

And here comes in the question of the agent. Publishers may rave as they
will, but authors have every right to employ agents to save them from the
unpleasant task of chaffering and of speaking highly of themselves. And
it is the author who pays the agent, not the publishers, their whinings
notwithstanding. The agent may indeed squeeze out larger sums than
publishers like to disgorge, but how can he obtain more than the
market-value? Political economy is dead against the possibility. He
cannot, in fact, obtain more than the author may and frequently does
obtain for himself. If a competing publisher offers a larger sum than
will pay him in coin, at any rate he will not offer more than will pay
him in reputation, or in the extension of his _clientele_ on the lines
indicated above. It is still only the market-value. If the reputation
honourably built up by the labours of years comes to have a monetary
value outside the monetary value of the particular book--a sort of
goodwill value, in fact,--why should the author or his agent be abused
for obtaining it? Will not the publisher in his turn grind down the
unknown man to the lowest possible penny? The prostration of the
publisher before the celebrity is only equalled by his insolence toward
the obscure. Is there any author who has not suffered in his beginnings
from the greed of publishers? Far from making money at the start, how
many authors have got a hearing without having had to pay for it out of
their own pockets? "The wrongs of publishers" is a good red-herring to
draw across the track, a smart counter-cry. But publishers have still the
game in their hands all along the line. Not a few still keep their
accounts secret, still recklessly supply themselves with that opportunity
which, the proverb says, makes even honest men thieves. As for
America--what goes on across that week of ocean who dares conjecture? And
now, what with rumors of wars and free silver--ah me!

In forming a Masters' Union, the publishers have at last abandoned the
pretence of being swayed by any but pecuniary considerations in the
exercise of their high function. There is something refreshing in this
clearing of the air, in this abandonment of the Joseph Surface manner.
And yet, I confess, my heart shelters a regret for the old style of
publisher, as for the old style of author. Something of picturesque
clings even to Jacob Tonson, with "his two left legs." The publisher as
the patron of genius, the nurser of young talent, the re-inspirer of old,
the scholar and gentleman, at once the friend and the banker of his
authors, makes a pleasing figure. It was perhaps more ideal than real,
for even of Murray we read in "Lord Beaconsfield's Letters ": "Washington
Irving demanded a large price. Murray murmured. Irving talked of
posterity and the badness of the public taste, and Murray said that
authors who wrote for posterity must publish on their own account."
Still, if the publisher would live up to this ideal, his would remain an
honorable profession, instead of sinking to a trade. He would rank with
the rare theatrical manager to whom art is dearer than profit--if such a
one still survives. But the trail of business is over the age: the
theatrical manager is a shameless tradesman, and more and more the
publisher will become the mere distributer, if indeed he be not
eliminated by a mechanical organisation. The popular author needs only a
central store to supply the trade with his printed writings, the cost of
production of which is covered by the first day's sales. This is, of
course, to ignore the publisher in his aspect of initiator of series, art
books and encyclopaedias. But to originate is to depart from publishing
proper and to become entitled to the profits of the inventor; nay, almost
to step over into the province of authorship and the dignity thereof.

But if we can forgive the publisher for succumbing to the business spirit
of the age, we cannot as readily acquiesce in the huckstering spirit that
has crept over literature. The "battle of the books" has become one of
account-books, and the literary columns of the newspapers bristle with
pecuniary paragraphs. Even the "chatter about Shelley" was better than
the contemporary gossip about the takings of authors, for the most part
vastly exaggerated. A paragraph which must have inflated him with pride
led to a friend of mine being haled up before the Income Tax
Commissioners. "How long have you been an author?" he was asked in
addition. "Six years," he replied. "And you have only paid income tax for
five!" was the horrified exclamation. Here is the nemesis of all this
foolish fuss about _L. S. D._ The British mind now supposes authorship to
be a trade, like any other. You go into it, and you at once begin to make
a regular income; and, once successful, you go on steadily earning large
sums, automatically. The thing works itself. You are never ill or
uninspired; you are never to let your mind lie fallow, never to travel
and gather new inspiration, never to shut up shop and loaf. You simply go
on making so much a year--for do not the papers say so? And that you
should cherish the immoral sentiments contained in the following stanzas,
as at least two authors of my acquaintance do, is simply incredible to
the envious Philistine.

  THE AUTHOR TO THE SYNDICATOR.

  Thou lord, of bloated syndicates,
    Thou master of the mint,
  Who payest at the highest rates
    And takest without stint,
      Go back, go back to wild New York,
        Go back across the sea;
      Go, corners make in beans and pork,
        No corners make in me.

  For thou art 'cute and thou art smart,
    No dead flies hang on thee;
  Thou carest not one jot for Art,
    But only _L. S. D._
      Go 'back, go back, etc.

  Thy aims are low, thy profits high;
    Thy mind is only bent,
  Whatever live, whatever die,
    To scoop in cent per cent.
      Go back, go back, etc.

  To thee the greatest authors are
    Those who most greatly sell;
  But he whose soul is as a Star--
    Why, he may go to H-ll!
      Go back, go back to wild New York,
        Go back across the sea;
      Go, corners make in beans and pork,
        No corners make in me.

An author's income must be indeed difficult to adjudge. He is the
manufacturer of a patent article--which only he can turn out. But he is
also the vendor thereof, and his transactions involve sales of serial--as
well as of book-rights synchronised in two or more countries--a tedious
and delicate task. And a great part of his business--"the tributes that
take up his time," the MSS. he has to read, etc., etc.--must be conducted
entirely without profit, or rather must be run at a loss. Who can
determine what are the working expenses of so complex an industrial
enterprise? An artist subtracts the cost of his models: may an author
subtract the cost of the experiences which supply him with his material,
and, if so, how are they to be estimated? Mr. Conan Doyle and Mr. Anthony
Hope both write historical novels; but while the former buys and studies
large quantities of books, and travels to see castles and battlefields,
the latter professedly works from intuition. Are both these men's incomes
to be treated alike? Goethe deliberately fell in love so as to write
poems when the passion had subsided: how much should be deducted from his
gross returns to cover the working expenses of his love-affairs? And even
when we do not go about it in such cold blood, our art--is it not woven
of our pain and our passion, our "emotions recollected in tranquility"?
Do these emotions cost us nothing? Do they not "wear and tear" our
system, justifying us in writing off 5 per cent. for depreciation in our
machinery? Countless are the problems that arise out of this new view of
authorship as an exact trade. Scientifically speaking, the author is a
pieceworker, whose productiveness is fitful and temporary. However widely
the fame of his business extend, he cannot extend it; he cannot increase
his output by adding new clerks or new branches: every order received
means work for his own brain and his own hands. If he keep other hands
they are called ghosts, and such ghosts are frowned upon even by the
Psychical Society.

No, the more I think of it, the more it is borne in upon me that authors
should be exempted from income tax altogether--if, indeed, the income
itself should not rather be provided for them (free of duty) by a
grateful Government. Carlyle is said to have claimed exemption on the
ground that the earnings of a writer are incalculable: it seems to me
that it is rather the working expenses which are incalculable. "I
sometimes sit and yearn for anything in the shape of an income that would
come in," wrote poor sick Stevenson on a languorous summer afternoon,--by
the way, I hope his doctors' expenses were deducted from his gross
returns, as incurred in order to keep the writing machinery going; or did
he perchance fly to Samoa to escape the tax altogether?--"Mine has all
got to be gone and fished for with the immortal mind of man. What I want
is the income that really comes in of itself, while all you have to do is
just to blossom and exist, and sit on chairs." Poor R. L. S.!--does it
not make you think of "mighty poets in their misery dead"? Does it
not--if you are more prosaic--bring home to you the absurdity of taxing
professional incomes as though they were akin to those which "come in" to
the happy folk who have but "to blossom and exist and sit on chairs"? And
will you not, whoever you are, rejoice that the work done with so much
art and conscience and suffering, obtained, in Stevenson's latter days,
its highest possible money-reward through the much-abhorred Agent? Why do
not millionaires hear of the woes of authors and send them anonymous
bank-notes? Why do not "national testimonials" happen in the author's
lifetime in the shape of purses of gold? They are more digestible than
posthumous stones. Alas! the author's path is thorny enough. And it is
against this jaded, unhappy creature that the publishers have had to make
a Union! Well, well, there will soon be no Authors' Union except the
Workhouse.




XXVI

THE PENALTIES OF FAME

There is one form of persecution to which celebrity or notoriety is
subject, which Ouida has omitted in her impassioned protest. It is
interviewing carried one step further--from the ridiculous to the sublime
of audacity. The auto-interview, one might christen it, if the
officiating purist would pass the hybrid name. Yon are asked to supply
information about yourself by post, prepaid. The ordinary interview,
whatever may be said against it, is at least painless; and, annoying as
it is to after-reflection to have had your brain picked of its ideas by a
stranger who gets paid for them, still the mechanical vexations of
literature are entirely taken over by the journalist who hangs on your
lips; though, if I may betray the secrets of the prison-house, he often
expects you to supply the questions as well as the answers. But when you
are asked to write your life for a biographical dictionary, or to
communicate particulars about yourself to a newspaper, it is difficult,
however equable your temperament, not to feel a modicum of irritation. It
is not only the labour of writing and the cost of stamps that anger you.
Your innate modesty is outraged. How is it possible for you to say all
those nice things about yourself which you know to be your due, and which
a third person might even exaggerate? What business have editors to
expose you to such inner conflict? A scholar I knew suffered agonies from
this source. He was constantly making learned discoveries which nobody
understood but himself, and so editors were always pestering him to write
leaderettes about them. He got over the difficulty by leaving blanks for
the eulogistic adjectives, which the editors had to fill in. As thus:
"Mr. Theophilus Rogers, the ---- savant, has unearthed another papyrus in
Asia Minor which throws a flood of light on the primitive seismology of
Syria." Once a careless editor forgot to fill in the lacuna, and the
paper lost a lot of subscribers by reason of its improper language,
whilst the friends of Theophilus wanted him to bring an action for libel,
unconscious that it would lie against himself.

But perhaps the climax of irritation is reached when, having troubled to
write down autobiographical details, having wrestled with your modesty
and overthrown it, having posted your letter and prepaid it, the ----
editor rejects your contribution without thanks. This hard fate overtook
me--_moi qui vous parle_--not very long ago. The conductor of a penny
journal, not unconnected with literary tit-bits, honoured me with a
triple interrogatory. This professional Rosa Dartle wanted to know--

    (1) The conditions under which you write your novels.

    (2) How you get your plots and characters.

    (3) How you find your titles.

I was very busy. I was very modest. But the accompanying assurance that
an anxious world was on the _qui vive_ for the information appealed to my
higher self, and I took up my pen and wrote:--

    (1) The conditions under which I write my novels can be better
    imagined than described.

    (2) My plots and characters I get from the MSS, submitted to me by
    young authors, whose clever but crude ideas I hate to see wasted. I
    always read everything sent to me, and would advise young authors to
    encourage younger authors to send them their efforts.

    (3) As for my titles, they are the only things I work out myself, and
    you will therefore excuse me if I preserve a measure of reticence as
    to the method by which I get them.

"What is being interviewed like?" a young lady once asked me, unconscious
she was subjecting me to the process. "It is being asked what you
drink--and not getting it," I explained to her. The curiosity of the
interviewer is indeed boundless. He even asks which is your favourite
author, so that you are forced to advertise some other fellow. And yet
there is another side to the question, which Ouida ignores. There are two
periods in the life of successful persons--the first when they are
anxious to be interviewed, the second when people are anxious to
interview them. With some there thus arrives a third period, in which
they are anxious not to be interviewed, but this is rare. Doubtless there
are superior persons who never craved for fame even in their callow
youth, and possibly Ouida herself may have taken to authorship as an
elaborate means of diverting attention from herself. But the majority of
mortals, being fools by edict of Puck and Carlyle, are pleased to fly
through the lips of men. Even Tennyson, whose horror of the interviewer
almost reached insanity, whose later life was one long "We are observed:
let us dissemble," is said to have been disappointed when the casual
pedestrian took no notice of him at all. A lady in the Isle of Wight told
me that the great poet was wont to put his handkerchief over his face if
he met anybody. Naturally this would make the most illiterate person stop
and gaze and wonder who this merry-andrew might be. Assuredly this is not
the fine simplicity of manners one expects from a great man. "Earl, do
you wear one of these?" asked an American democrat of an English peer at
his table, as he produced a coronet from a cupboard and stuck the
pudding-dish upon the inverted spikes. Tennyson seemed to be always
conscious of his laurel crown. The nobler course had been to deck his
puddings with the sprigs.

  Kind hearts are more than laurel crowns,
  And simple mien than Saxon song.

Ouida does a public service by insisting that it is presumptuous of the
crowd to judge the conduct of men of genius, whose life is pitched in
quite a different key, and runs very frequently in the melancholy minor
mode. The travail of soul, the workings of the mind, the agonies and the
raptures of genius must be so remote from the common ken, that it is
unjust to apply to it the vulgar meteyard; and so, far be it from me to
blame the inspired singer of "Crossing the Bar," or to imagine that he
could have been other than he was! All the same, it is permissible to
regret that he should have throughout his life pandered to the popular
conception of a poet. There was something of a robuster quality in
Browning, who managed to be a seer and a mystic in despite of afternoon
teas. Ouida beats the tom-tom far too loudly. From one point of view the
post-mortem revelations of great men's friends, which kindle her ire,
perform a public good, even if at the expense of a private wrong. The
attempt to apotheosise human nature, to invest our kindred clay with
theatrical glamour and to drape it from the property-room, this mythical
creation of "a magnified non-natural man," what is it all but the
perpetuation of the false psychology of the past? There is no durable
good in this childish "make-believe." It is time for humanity to outgrow
this puerile self-deception about its powers and characteristics and
limitations. A great man is a man as well as great, and he may be all the
wonderful things that Carlyle claimed without ceasing to be human and
therefore erring. And if he would go about simply and naturally, without
developing a self-consciousness as vast and unhealthy as the liver of a
goose intended for _pate_, he would be happier and wiser, and secure the
inattention he yearns for. Moreover, while Ouida is rightly intolerant of
the abuse of genius by the bourgeois, the dictionary scarcely affords her
own genius sufficient vituperation for the bourgeois. I am at a loss to
understand by what logic genius gains the right to hate the bourgeois. It
has not the excuse of the bourgeois--stupidity. That the crowd hates
superiority and is venomously anxious to degrade it to its own level, is
one of Ouida's many delusions about life. Discounting vulgar curiosity, a
good deal of the crowd's interest in genius, however annoying and
ridiculous the shapes it takes, springs at bottom from a sense of
reverence and admiration; and surely it is sheer priggishness, if it be
not rank midsummer madness, on the part of genius to regard itself as
persecuted by foolish and malicious persons. Methinks the lady doth
protest too much. Still it would be unjust to deny her perfect seclusion
from the world, if she feels she needs it.

Perhaps the mildest form of persecution is that of the autographomaniacs.
"They send me my own books," one of the most popular authors in England
complained to me pathetically the other day, "and they ask me to write in
them. But to write in them is all that you can do for the books of your
friends. If you do this for strangers, what is there left for your
friends?" Although far less beloved of the book-buyer than the
illustrious novelist, I could yet offer him the sympathy of a minor
fellow-sufferer. It is the American reader who is the main persecutor. He
is not "gentle," forsooth--a very bully, rather. But why do I say "he,"
when it is generally "she"? "You have eluded all my wiles hitherto," she
wrote me the other day: "now I ask you straight out for your autograph."
This honesty would have softened me had I not just had to pay fivepence
on the letter--and for the second time that day! Of course her request
was not accompanied by a stamped envelope either, though, if it had been,
the stamp would have been an American; invalid, a pictorial irony. She
has a trick, moreover, of addressing you--most economically--care of your
American publishers, who expedite the letter with vengeful
_empressement_, so that you pay double at your end of the Atlantic. And
when everything else is in order, her epistle is insufficiently stamped,
and your income is frittered away in futile fivepences. It is too much.
The cup is full. We must no longer bow our necks beneath the oppressor's
yoke, no longer tremble at the postman's knock. _We_ must strike,
instead--we other men of letters. For authors, too, are human: manual
labourers, overworked and underpaid, with no hope of an eight hours' day.
Their pay must not be still further reduced by this monstrous stamp-tax.
Will not some Burns--more poetical than John--raise the banner of revolt?
Perhaps William Morris may reconcile his hitherto contradictory _roles_
by placing himself at the head of the movement. Henceforward no author is
to despatch his autograph to an admirer, charm she never so cunningly.
Beshrew these admirers! a man's personality is in his books, not in his
scrawl. Whosoever violates this prescription shall be accounted a
blackleg. On one condition only shall autographs be sent--to wit, that
they be paid for.

I do not, indeed, propose that the author shall pocket the money, though
I see no shame in the deed: everything is worth what it can fetch, and if
an adventitious value comes to attach to a signature, the author were
amply justified in pocketing this legitimate supplement to the scanty
rewards of his travail of soul and body--just as he were justified,
should locks of his hair come into demand, in alternating the scissors
and the hair-restorer. But as a suspicion still prevails that authors
live on ambrosia and nectar (carriage paid), that the butcher, the baker,
and the candlestick maker tumble over one another in their eagerness to
offer their goods at the shrine of genius, it may be unwise to shock
one's admirers too much by pocketing their oboli; and I would suggest--in
all seriousness--that a charge be made in the future for all autographs:
each celebrity could fix it according to the special demand, and the
returns should go for charitable purposes. An "Autograph Fund" should be
founded in every profession admitting of notoriety. Among actors the fund
could be devoted to that excellent charity the Dramatic and Musical
Benevolent Fund; among writers, to the support of decayed critics and
neglected novelists. Why not? In days when men cannot bear to see even
Niagara wasting its energies in misdirected roars, why should so prolific
a source of profit as autographomania be neglected? The authors' strike
must be initiated at once: the Autograph Fund demands an instant
Treasurer. I don't mind contributing ten signatures to start it, if
twelve other writers, of equal eminence and illegibility, will guarantee
a like amount.

What profits it to woo the thankless Muse, or to appeal to the
autograph-huntress? In a foolish moment of unpardonable sentimentality, I
suggested that she should pay for her treasure by a charity contribution;
at the very least let her refrain, I prayed, from American stamps. But
she does not read me, alas! though my writings are the sole solace of her
days and nights; there is no way of attracting her attention. Still,
still her stamps flow in. I cry _Oyez, Oyez_, but she is bent over
"Trilby," and I am but the shadow of a name--of a name that is
interesting enough tacked on to my favourite motto or a brief
autobiography, and may serve to round off her autographic alphabet. Will
not Mr. Du Maurier cry aloud to her on behalf of his brother-authors, he
whose housetop is the sun, whose voice reaches from the summits of the
Rockies to the pampas of La Plata, and echoes from the ice-floes of
Labrador to the cliffs of Cape Horn? Will he not tell her that even as
"the crimes of Clapham" are "chaste in Martaban," so the stamps of the
States are the waste-paper of the London mails. Mr. Kipling, whom I have
just quoted, is more fortunate. Breathing the air of Brattleboro',
Vermont, he is supplied with native stamps to carry on his correspondence
withal. For Mr. Kipling--so he has confided to me in an amusing narrative
of his autograph experiences, designed for the warning of
fellow-craftsmen to whom my project may have sounded seductive--had
actually anticipated my plan: he had sent out two hundred circulars to
the admiring crew who ranked him before Shakespeare, proposing that they
should send him a donation for a charity in return for his signature.
Then the flood-gates--not of heaven--were opened. For weeks abuse rained
in upon him, and "thief" seems to have been the mildest rebuke he
received. To be asked for an autograph was an honour (even with the
stamps omitted). He bowed his head beneath the deluge, praying perhaps--

  Of the two hundred grant but two
  To take a charitable view.

But no, as one man and one woman they cast him out of grace.

And yet he seems to persevere--for 't is indeed an excellent way of
circumventing the wily. In the Chicago _Record_ I read that he wrote to
an autograph-beggar that he would send his autograph on receiving proof
that the autograph-hunter had deposited two and a half dollars in a
certain New York fresh air fund. This is an ingenious variation of the
original scheme, for it puts aside the possibility of personal
peculation; but I doubt whether it answers. Each celebrity must solve for
himself this harassing problem: there be those who simply stick to the
stamps ... great free spirits, these, the Napoleons of the pen, _Jenseits
von Gut und Boese_, whose names it is not for me to bewray. Others, like
myself, stricken with the paralysis of a Puritan conscience, waver and
vex themselves. One ought not to encourage this craze for the external
accidents of greatness--the appeal may be fraudulent--and yet what right
have you to the stamps?--and after all 't is flattering to be adored from
Terra del Fuego; it argues taste--and taste should not go unrecognized in
a Philistine world. _Eureka!_ I have found the solution. Don't stick to
the stamps, but send _them_ to the funds of a charity.

These views of mine on autographs have greatly distressed the unfair sex.
The ladies--God bless them--resent a severely logical view of anything,
and to disturb their small sentimentalities is to be cold-blooded and
cynical. Once, when I wasj imprudent enough to wonder if the "young
person" with the well-known cheek, to which blushes were brought, existed
any longer in this age of neurotic novels written by ladies for
gentlemen, I received a delicious communication from an Australian damsel
informing me that she had been in love with me up till the fatal day on
which she read my cynical conception of her sex,--which reminds me of
another well-meaning young lady who wrote me the other day from America
that her epistle was prompted "neither by love nor admiration." If I hint
that popular lady novelists do not invariably produce masterpieces of
style and syntax, I am accused of inflicting the "tarantulous bites of
envious detractors." I am driven--most reluctantly--to a suspicion that
has long been faintly glimmering in my bosom, a suspicion that ladies
have no sense of humour. It is gravely pointed out to me by incensed
writers of incense-laden letters that the demand for a writer's autograph
is a mark of veneration; that his letter is reverentially handed about on
special occasions quite without a thought of its possible commercial
value and that often--though here the argument itself becomes cunningly
commercial--it becomes the focus of a local hero-worship that expresses
itself outwardly in increased purchases of the author's books. Now, of
course every author is only too aware that requests for his autographs
are manifestations of reverence, and is only too apt to disregard the
supposition of crude curiosity. He knows that it is only natural that
people, forewarned by the scarcity of autographs of Shakespeare, should
be anxious to safeguard posterity against a similar calamity. But that
any author should have humour enough to see the absurdity of the
autograph mania, this is what his fair _clientele_ has not humour enough
to understand. Anthony Hope--who, by the way, told me he had received a
letter from an unknown lady, the object of which was to abuse _me_ for my
heresy on this heart-burning question--says that if to write his name on
slips of paper adds to the sum of the world's pleasure, he is ready to do
it. This is a noble attitude; but the good people do not always do the
most good. Ought one to pamper this interest in mere externals? Here are
the man's books, pictures, symphonies: if these have profited you, be
content--you have had enough. He has shown you his soul,--why should he
show you his hand? One knows into what this sort of thing
degenerates--into the exploitation of celebrities by smart American
journalists, to whom genius and notoriety are equally alike mere
possibilities of sensational copy with screaming head-lines. A. Z. has
written the opera of the century: the public is dying to know the cut of
his trousers and the proportion of milk in his _cafe au lait_. X. Y. has
murdered his uncle and vivisected his grandmother: how interesting to
ascertain his favourite novel, and whether he approves of the bicycle for
ladies! For one person who knows anything of the artistic output of the
day there are ten who know all about the producers and how much money
they are making. Even when our interest in artistic work is intellectual,
we are more likely to read criticisms of it than to place ourselves
_vis-a-vis_ with the work. Not the truest criticism, not the subtlest
misinterpretation, can give us anything like the sensation or the
stimulus that results from direct contact with the work itself. As well
enjoy the "Moonlight Sonata" through a technical analysis of its form.
But this is a venial vice compared with taking your Sonata through the
medium of a paragraph about Beethoven's shoe-buckles.

The autograph craze is, I maintain, only another aspect of this modern
mania for irrelevant gossip; just as the tit-bits breed of papers is but
the outer manifestation of an inner disgrace. We no longer tackle great
works and ordered trains of thought: everything must be snappy and spicy;
and we open our books and papers, awaiting, like the criminal in "The
Mikado," "the sensation of a short sharp shock." To possess a man's
autograph may as easily become a substitute for studying his work as an
incentive to purchasing it. The critique displaces the book itself: the
autograph may displace even the critique. All this without reference to
the trouble and expense entailed by an aggregation of the trivial
taskwork of signing one's name, addressing envelopes, sticking on stamps,
and occasionally paying for them, and not infrequently defraying the
extra postage on insufficiently stamped admiration. Henry James, in his
latest story in "The Yellow Book," says deliciously: "Lambert's novels
appeared to have brought him no money: they had only brought him, so far
as I could make out, tributes that took up his time." The earnings of the
most popular authors are, I fear me, sadly exaggerated, and their own
anticipations seldom realised. As the other American novelist--Mr.
Howells--humourously puts it: "I never get a cheque from my publisher
without feeling distinctly poorer." The average author is indeed very
much in the position of a cabman surveying a shilling. And the even less
substantial "tributes," be it noted, are not limited to aspirations after
autographs. That would be little to grumble at. But everybody knows that
the demands made upon a celebrity--and especially upon an author--are
"peculiar and extensive." He is expected to be not only an author--and
even, according to the more high-minded among the unsuccessful critics,
to be that without fee or reward--but also to officiate gratuitously as
publisher's reader to the universe at large--unprinted; as author's
agent, hawking unknown MSS. about among his friends the publishers, and
placing unknown young men on the staff of the leading journals; as
dramatic agent, introducing plays and players to his friends the
managers--who will not produce his own works; and, in fine, to act as
general adviser to aspirants of every species. Nay, was not Hall Caine
recently asked by a lady admirer in poor health, about to visit the Isle
of Man, to find lodgings for her? Heavens! who knows what scandal might
have arisen had the author of "The Manxman" inconsiderately turned
himself into a house-agent! The famous tale of the Nova Scotian sheep in
"The School for Scandal" might have been eclipsed by the sequel. Now, the
poor lady meant well enough: she may even have thought to show how deep
her faith in the novelist's domestic genius and financial impeccability!
It simply did not occur to her that she was not the only call upon Mr.
Caine's time; and she may have felt as resentful at his reluctance as the
beggar who stigmatises Rothschild as niggard because he cannot wheedle a
share in his bounty. It may be that I am incapable of envisaging this
whole matter fairly, because--to make a clean breast of it--I am one of
those Philistine persons who shock Americans by never having been to
Stratford-on-Avon. It is true that I have read Shakespeare--and even his
commentators, which gives me the pull over Shakespeare himself; it is
true that I agree with the persons who haven't read him that he is the
greatest poet the world has ever seen or is likely to see; it is true
that Shakespeare is part of my life and thought; but somehow my interest
in him does not extend to his second-best bed, and I do not greatly yearn
to see the room in which Bacon was not born. I do not even care whether
Shakespeare was written by Shakespeare or "by another man of the same
name." Do you remember that poem of Amy Levy's, telling of how she sat
listening to people chattering about a dead, poet they had known, his
looks and ways, and thinking to herself--

  I, who had never seen your face,
  Perhaps I knew you best.

It is this flaw in an otherwise well regulated mind, this "blind spot" in
my spiritual eye, that perhaps makes me attach undue unimportance to the
attraction of autographs. There is an eminent actress who invariably
refuses to send her autograph; but the eminent actor who is her husband
invariably sends a letter of apology to the disappointed correspondent.
Since I am in the mood for confessions, let me candidly admit that my own
attitude has a somewhat similar duality. Though I curse in these pages, I
bless like Balaam when it comes to the point. Never have I omitted to
return a sufficiently stamped, envelope with the coveted
sign-manual--never twice alike. Never have I failed to put my name in a
birthday book under a specific date--never twice alike. And though I hate
to answer applications for autographs, I should be still more annoyed not
to receive them. And as for sneering at the ladies, they have, I vow, no
more constant admirer. I could, indeed, desire that when they are next
angry with me they would read me before they criticise me; that they
would base their denunciations on my text, and my whole text, rather than
on some paper's mistaken comment upon another paper's inaccurate extract.
But nothing that they can say of me, however harsh, shall, I protest,
abate a jot of my respect for them or myself.




XXVII

ON FINISHING A BOOK

Between three and four of the morning the last words of the book were
written, and, putting down my pen--without falling asleep, as I should
have done had my task been to read the book, instead of to write it--I
began to muse on the emotions I ought to have felt, and on the emotions
other and greater authors had felt. There was a time, "in the days that
were earlier," when the writing of a book was a rare and solemn task, to
be approached--like the writing of "Paradise Lost"--after years of devout
and arduous preparation, under the "great Taskmaster's eye." Now it is
all a rush and a fever and a fret, and the mad breathlessness of the New
York newspaper office has spread from journalism to literature, and
novelists cheerfully contract to write books in the next century, quite
unregardful of whether there will be any books in them by then. That was
a very leisurely prescription in the Old Testament: "When a man taketh a
new wife he shall not go out in the host, neither shall he be charged
with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer his
wife which he hath taken." Delightful honeymoon of those pastoral days!
Now the honeymoon has dwindled to a week, or in the case of actors and
actresses to a matinee (for they appear at night as usual), and few of us
possess sufficient oxen and sheep and manservants and maidservants to
strike work for a year. If only our authors would produce but one book a
year, instead of yielding two or three harvests to make hay withal while
the sun shines! Nor do they do these things much better in France. From
the patient parturition of a Flaubert--the father of the Realists--we
have come down to the mechanical annual crop of his degenerate
descendant, Zola. Perhaps the age of great works--like the age of great
folios--is over, so that none will ever have again those fine sensations
that made Gibbon chronicle how he finished his monumental history between
the hours of eleven and twelve at night in the summer-house at Lausanne,
or that dictated the stately sentiment of Hallam's wind-up of his
"Introduction to the Literature of Europe": "I hereby terminate a work
which has furnished, the occupation of not very few years.... I cannot
affect to doubt that I have contributed something to the general
literature of my country, something to the honourable estimation of my
own name and to the inheritance of those, if it is for me still to
cherish that hope, to whom I have to bequeath it."

Thackeray must have felt something of this fine glow when he finished
"Vanity Fair," despite his genial simulation of "Come, children, let us
shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out." Dickens,
who had not humour enough for such self-mockery, took his endings very
seriously indeed, and even in the middle of his books had all the
emotions of parting when some favourite character had to quit the stage,
some poor Dombey or Little Nell. You remember what he wrote in the
preface to "David Copperfield" of "how sorrowfully the pen is laid down
at the close of a two-years' imaginative task, or how an author feels as
if he were dismissing some portion of himself into the shadowy world,
when a crowd of the creatures of his brain are going from him for ever."
And contrast his superfluously solemn asseveration, "No one can ever
believe this narrative in the reading more than I believed it in the
writing," with the whimsical melancholy of the "Vanity Fair" preface, the
references to the Becky doll and the Amelia puppet. One feels that
Thackeray was the greater Master, in that he took himself less seriously,
and had the finer sense of proportion. But that he lived with his
characters quite as much as his great contemporary may be seen from that
charming Roundabout Paper "De Finibus," where he describes the loneliness
of his study after all those people had gone who had been boarding and
lodging with him for twenty months. They had plagued him and bored him at
all sorts of uncomfortable hours, and yet now he would be almost glad if
one of them would walk in and chat with him as of yore--"an odd,
pleasant, humourous, melancholy feeling." In how much more solemn a mood
Dickens finishes "Our Mutual Friend," congratulating himself on having
been saved--with Mr. and Mrs. Boffin and the Lammles, with Bella Wilfer
and Rogue Riderhood--from a destructive railway accident, so that he
cannot help thinking of the time when the words with which he closes the
book will be written against his life--"The End." Thackeray needed no
railway accident to remind him of "The End," and two lines before the
close of "Vanity Fair" we find him writing--in the prime of his life,
"Ah, _vanitas vanitatum_! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us
has his desire, or, having it, is satisfied?" That thought occurred to
Gibbon, too, for he had not taken many turns under the silver moon in
that coveted walk of acacias, enjoying the spectacle of the lake and the
mountains, and the recovery of his freedom and the establishment of his
fame, before a sober melancholy was spread over his mind by the idea that
he "had taken an everlasting leave of an old and agreeable companion, and
that whatsoever might be the future fate of his history, the life of the
historian must be short and precarious." When George Eliot put the last
stroke to "Romola," the book which "ploughed into her more than any of
her books," which she "began as a young woman and finished as an old
woman," she exclaimed in her diary--"_Ebenezer!_" O unpredictable
ejaculation! _Ebenezer!_ 'T is true the erudite Miss Evans had Hebrew an
knew that it meant "a stone of help." And in the evening she went to her
"La Gazza Ladra." Let us hope that some false persuasion of the
immortality of "Romola" counteracted that bodily malaise and suffering of
which she complained to Sara Hennell. Such pleasant persuasion buoyed up
Fielding, as he wrote the beginning of the end of "Tom Jones,"--that
almost endless epic,--for with a last fling at the critics he cries: "All
these works, however, I am well convinced, will be dead long before this
page shall offer itself to thy perusal; for however short the period may
be of my own performances, they will most probably outlive their own
infirm author, and the weakly productions of his abusive cotemporaries."

But it is rather the tradition of Trollope that rules to-day--Trollope,
that canny craftsman who wrote every day for a stated number of hours,
and who, if he finished a novel twenty minutes before the end of his
term, would take up a clean sheet of paper and commence another. Did I
say the canny Trollope? Nay, this is rather uncanny, unearthly, unhuman.
What! You have lived with your characters day and night for months and
months, have thought their thoughts and been racked by their passions,
and you can calmly wind up their affairs and turn instanter to a new
circle of acquaintances? 'T is the very coquetry of composition, the
heartless flirtation of fiction-mongering. Thackeray, indeed, confesses
to liking to begin another piece of work after one piece is out of hand,
were it only to write half a dozen lines; but "that is something towards
Number the Next," not towards Book the Next, for these old giants wrote
from hand to mouth. I have always figured to myself Trollope's novels as
all written on a long endless scroll of paper rolled on an iron axis,
nailed up in his study. The publishers approach to buy so many yards of
fiction, and shopman Anthony, scissors in hand, unrolls the scroll and
snips it off at the desired point. This counter-jumping conception of the
Muses prevails with the customers to-day, with the editors who buy
fiction at so much a thousand words. Carlyle--Heaven preserve me from
finishing a book as he did his "French Revolution," to lose it and write
it all over again!--had the truer idea when he suggested that authors
should be paid by what they do _not_ write. But it was reserved for the
libraries to reach the lowest conception of literature. Their clients
enjoy the privilege of having so many books at a time, a book being a
book just as an orange is an orange. If the book the reader wants is not
there, why, there is another book for him to take; by which beautiful
system the good writer reaps very little advantage over the mediocre, for
indifferent books are forced upon the public as the conjuror forces cards
on people who think they are choosing them. It is a wonder the libraries
do not purvey their literature by the pound.




PART II.

HERE, THERE, AND SOMEWHERE ELSE: PHILOSOPHIC EXCURSIONS.

[The following pages are not intended as a substitute for Baedeker or
Murray. Nor can I solicit your interest on the ground of new places and
strange discoveries. To the philosophic tourist all places are equally
good to soliloquise in; and in inviting you to accompany my excursions I
need scarcely explain that the route is not according to Bradshaw but to
the A. B. C., and that you may break the journey at any point.]




ABERDEEN

Critics of London allow too little for the charm of irregularity and
historical association--for odd bits and queer views coming unexpectedly
round the corner to meet one, for strange ancient gardens and fragments
of field in the backways of Holborn, for quaint waterside alleys and
old-world churches in out-of-the-way turnings--for everything, in fact,
that has the charm of natural growth. If I had my way, I would not give
up Booksellers' Row for a thousand improvements in the Strand. Where
shall you find a more piquant peace than in the shady quadrangles that
branch out of the bustle of Fleet Street, and flash a memory of Oxford
spires or Cambridge gardens on the inner eye? What spot in the world has
inspired a nobler sonnet than Wordsworth's on Westminster Bridge? Who
would exchange our happy incongruity for the mechanical regularity of the
mushroom cities of the States? Paris has, no doubt, made herself
beautiful; but she could have afforded not to be, much better than she
can afford to be. The theorist holds up Glasgow as a model city--a
pioneer--and the splendour of its municipal buildings is as the justice
of Aristides. But if an ugly woman does not dress well, who should? With
all its civic spirit, Glasgow remains grey, prosaic, intolerable--the
champion platitude of commercial civilisation. Aberdeen would have been a
far finer example of the schematic city of which theorists dream. There
is something heroic about the spaciousness of its streets, the loftiness
of the buildings, and the omnipresence of granite--a Tyrtaean spirit,
which finds its supreme embodiment in the noble statue of Wallace poised
on rough craglets of unpolished granite, and of General Gordon with his
martial cloak around him. If Edinburgh be the Athens of Scotland,
Aberdeen is its Sparta. And yet after a while Aberdeen becomes a
weariness and an abomination. For you discover that it is one endless
series of geometrical diagrams. The pavements run in parallel lines, the
houses are rectilineal, the gardens are squares or oblongs; if by chance
the land sprawls in billocks and hollows, nevertheless is it partitioned
in rigid lines. The architecture is equally austere. The very curves
demonstrate the theorem that a curve is made up of little straight lines,
the arches are stiff and unbending, and wherever a public building
demands an ornament, a fir-shaped cone of straight lines rises in stoic
severity. In vain one seeks for a refuge from Euclid--for an odd turning
or a crooked by-way. To match the straight-ness of their streets and the
granite of their structures the Aberdonians are hard-headed,
close-fisted, and logical (there is a proverb that no Jew can settle
among them), and when they die they are laid out neatly in a rectangular
cemetery with parallel rows of graves. Even when they stand about
gossiping they fall naturally into geometric figures: if two disconnected
men are smoking silently in the roadway, they trisect it; and if another
man arrives he converts the company into an equilateral triangle. I am
convinced the moon shrinks from appearing in Union Street except it is in
perfect quarters, and hides timidly behind a cloud unless its arcs are
presentable. Professor Bain was born in Aberdeen. This accounts for much
in our British metaphysics. Aberdeen produced the man who vivisected
Shelley's "Skylark," and explained away the human mind and all that is
therein; Aberdeen educated him, graduated him, married him, gave him the
chair of Logic in her University, and finally made him Lord Rector. Bain
thinks entirely in straight lines. He is the apotheosis of the
Aberdonian. Which is a warning against regular cities.

According to the Rev. W. A. Cornaby in "The Contemporary Review," the
straight line is an abomination to the Chinese; they avoid it by curves
and zigzags, and they think in curves and zigzags. Hence it seems the
Chinese suffer from a spurious idealism, just as my Aberdonians suffer
from a spurious materialism. If only the maidens of Aberdeen would marry
the mandarins of the too Flowery Land, what a perfect race we might
expect!




ANTWERP

This is the era of Exhibitions. An epidemic of Exhibitions traverses the
world, breaking out now at Paris, now at Chicago, now at Antwerp. To
visit them is our modern Pilgrimage; they force us to make the Grand
Tour, as our little wars teach us geography. They are supposed to give a
fillip to the prosperity of their town, and to nourish the pride and
pocket of the citizens. What other function they fulfil is dubious. Time
was when "the long laborious miles" of the Crystal Palace were acclaimed
as the dawn of the Golden Age, when swords should be turned into the most
improved substitute for pruning-hooks, and each man

      find his own in all men's good,
  And all men work in noble brotherhood.

Unhappily, that millennial vision is still far away,--

   Far, how far, no tongue can say,

as the canny Tennyson did not forget, even in his rapt prophetic strain.
And we have grown chiller. We no longer raise the song of praise because
manufacturers of all nations send specimens of their work to a common
centre in quest of medals. The world is already federated by the chains
of commerce; international barter is an inseparable part of the movement
of life, and infinite intertangled threads of union stretch across the
seas from shipping office to shipping office. Wherefore the millennium is
as likely to arrive _via_ Bayreuth or Lourdes, or any other centre of
Pilgrimage, as by way of an International Exhibition. No, we must take
our Exhibitions more humbly: they are amusing and instructive; they earn
dividends or lose capital; they stimulate orders for the goods on view,
and they end in a shower of medals. In France, according to Mark Twain,
few men escape the Legion of Honor. Is there any artificial product that
has escaped a medal at some Exhibition or the other? I cannot recall
eating or drinking anything undecorated. They grow on every bush, those
medals, copious as the Queen's Arms over the shop-windows of the High
Street. No store, however lowly, but the Queen deals there; no article,
however poor, but has earned golden opinions, or at least silver and
bronze. For the industrial or Gradgrind mind an Exhibition is doubtless a
riot, an orgy; for the exhibitors it is a sensational battle-field; for
the average spectator it is as exciting as a walk through Whiteley's, or
a stroll down Oxford Street. From the Antwerp Exhibition proper I bear
away nothing but an impression of a wonderful paper-making machine, at
one end of which the paper enters as liquid pulp, to issue at the other
as a solid sheet. A pity the process was not carried one step farther, to
the printed newspaper stage--so that what went in as rags should come out
as mendacity. Such success as the Antwerp Exhibition has won is a success
of side-shows; a panorama of camels and dancing-girls defiles before my
eyes, my ears are yet ringing with the barbarous music and incantations
of the Orient. Old Antwerp rises picturesque, with its burghers and
warriors; the glorious picture galleries stretch away, overladen with
artistic treasure; the mimic elephant mounts, mammoth-like, to the skies;
the grounds and the facades of the buildings gleam fairy-like in the soft
night air, with a million illuminations; and lo! there in the German
restaurant the beautiful daughters of the Fatherland smile, in coifs and
tuckers and short skirts, Katti and Luisa and Nina, dulciferous names
that trip off the tongue as the gentle creatures trip from table to table
with flasks of Rhenish wine; the mellifluous voice of Sarah cries
cigarettes at her booth in the Rue du Caire--Sarah, the Egyptian Jewess,
whose ancestors went back to the land of Pharaoh in defiance of Rabbinic
decree--Sarah, with the charm of her eighteen summers and her graceful
virginal figure and her sweet unconscious coquetry, as different from the
barmaid's as Rosalind's from Audrey's; and Sarah's brother, briskest of
business boys, resurges with his polyglot solicitations to buy nougat: a
mannish swashbuckler without, a cherubic infant within: I see the Congo
negroes, mere frauds from the States, in your opinion, daintiest of
American friends, who came all the way from Paris to meet me. But soft!
what has all this to do with the Industrial Exhibition?

_Rien, absolument rien._ Give us these things anywhere, give us lights
and gardens and music, give us dances and damsels, give us Congo
encampments and "_ballons dirigeables_," and thither will we troop to
make us merry. Ah! but the incurable conscientiousness of the human race
insists on pills with its jam. Or is it that it has never yet dawned upon
humanity that jam may be taken without pills? There was a time--it lasted
seventy thousand ages according to the Chinese manuscript which Elia
saw--when mankind ate their meat raw. Then, one day, as every schoolboy
knows, Bo-bo carelessly set his father's cottage on fire, and, burning
the litter of new-farrowed pigs it held, accidentally invented
_crackling_. So delicious was burnt pig discovered to be that everybody
fell to setting his house on fire to obtain it. "Thus this custom of
firing houses continued, till in process of time a sage arose, like our
Locke, who made a discovery that the flesh of swine, or indeed of any
other animal, might be cooked (_burnt_, as they called it) without the
necessity of consuming a whole house to dress it.... By such slow degrees
do the most useful and seemingly the most obvious arts make their way
among mankind." For seventy thousand ages mankind did without _al fresco_
entertainments. Then some one invented Exhibitions, and mankind found it
delicious to promenade the grounds amid twinkling lights and joyous
music. But no Locke has yet discovered that musical promenades may be had
without elevating a whole Exhibition in the background. At Earl's Court
they still keep up a pretence of Industrial Exhibition, though we have
long since lost interest in the pretext, and no longer inquire whether
the painted scenery that walls in the grounds is called the Alps or the
Apennines or the Champs-Elysees. And yet methinks mankind did discover
the open-air entertainment, as perchance roast pig was known and
forgotten again long centuries before Bo-bo. For what was Ranelagh, what
Vauxhall? Were not the gardens of Vauxhall "made illustrious by a
thousand lights finely disposed," or, as Thackeray puts it, by a "hundred
thousand _extra_ lamps, which were always lighted"? Were not "concerts of
musick" given nightly by fiddlers in cocked hats, ensconced in a "gilded
cockleshell," and was not the price of admission a shilling? "Vauxhall
must ever be an estate to its proprietor," wrote Boswell, "as it is
peculiarly adapted to the taste of the English nation; there being a
mixture of curious show--gay exhibition--music, vocal and instrumental,
not too refined for the general ear; and, though last not least, good
eating and drinking for those who choose to purchase that regale." But
Boswell prophesied ill. Public gardens were always distasteful to English
Puritanism, because they lent themselves to rendezvous; and though
Boswell, in protesting against the rise of price to two shillings,
certifies to the elegance and innocence of the entertainment, and though
Mr. Osborne and Miss Amelia walked unharmed in its groves and glades, and
it was not Rebecca Sharp's fault that Jos. Sedley got drunk on the bowl
of rack punch, still Vauxhall, like Ranelagh and Cremorne, has come down
to us with tainted reputation. It died in the odour of brimstone, and
only in the magical ink-pool of literature can we still behold the
heralded gallants in the boxes junketing with low-bodiced ladies of
quality whose patches show piquantly on their damask cheeks. Rosherville
remains in ignoble respectability, the place to spend an h-less day, our
one uninstructive institution, for even "Constantinople" and "Venice"
have a specious background of geographical and even of industrial
information: Rosherville, which only once flowered into poetry, and then
under another name,--when Mr. Anstey's barber wedded the Tinted Venus
with a ring.

And in the magical ink-pool I see you and me still sitting, O
Transatlantic Parisienne, as we sat that sunny afternoon--three hundred
years ago--in ancient Antwerp, in _oud Antwerpen_, niched in the
windowseat of that quaint hostelry which gives on the great market-place,
and watching the festive procession. Do you remember the gorgeous
costumes of our fellow-burghers, and the trappings of their prancing
chargers in those days when life was not plain, but coloured, and
existence was one vast fancy-dress ball? How glad we were to welcome the
Archduke Martinias of Austria, our sovereign elect, or was it Francois
Sonnius, our first Bishop, coming to be installed in our glorious
Cathedral, amid the joyous carillons of its bells! Can you not still see
the Angels hovering over the Virgin, and the Golden Calf,
flower-wreathed, and the Flight into Egypt, on that naive donkey, and
"the Flying Dutchman," tugged by a horse, and the gilded galley rowed in
make-believe by little children in their Sunday clothes, catching crabs
in air, and the incongruous camels bestridden by Arab sheikhs with
African pages, and the Persians on ponies, and the Crusaders in their
fine foolish coats-of-mail, and the gay courtiers, with clanking swords,
and the halberdiers, and the particoloured arquebusiers, and the archers
in green and red, and the spearsmen in sugarloaf hats, and the cherubs
riding on dolphins? Can you not hear the beating of the drum, and the Ave
Maria of the white-robed chorus-boys, and the irrelevant strains of the
Danish national anthem, and the japes of the jester with his cap and
bells? What happy times for butchers and bakers and candlestick-makers
when, instead of working, they could go in processions, bearing aloft the
insignia of their guilds, and when middle-class girls, ignorant of the
New Womanhood, could loll on triumphal cars with roses in their hair! Do
you remember how the topmost divinity smiled to me from her perilous
perch, too high to rouse your jealousy, and how the little cherub that
sat up aloft besprinkled us mischievously with eau de cologne? Ah, shall
we ever again be as happy as we were three hundred years ago? will the
wine be ever as red, the potato salad as appetising, or the cheese (did
they really enjoy Gorgonzola and Camembert in the sixteenth century?) as
delicious as in that ancient Flemish hostelry with its Lutheran motto:

  Wie nikt mint Wijn, Wijf en Sangh,
  Blijft een Geck sijn Leven langh!

Was it from its inscribed beams that Shelley borrowed his famous lyric
"Love's Philosophy"? for did we not read:

  Den Hemel drinckt, en d'Aerde drinckt:
  Waerom souden wij niet drinckt?

("Heaven drinks, and earth drinks: why shouldn't we drink?") At any rate
it pleased us to recall the delectable lines:

  And the sunlight clasps the earth,
  And the moonbeams kiss the sea;
  What are all these kissings worth
      If thou kiss not me?

But what does it matter what one did three hundred years ago?

Or, what does it matter what one did that dim Arabian night when we set
out with the cavalcade of camels in the marriage procession, and the
bride cowered veiled in her corner of the coach, and the plump mother
smiled archly at us, and the brother and the bridegroom, mounted on Arab
steeds, smacked each other's faces in ceremonial solemnity, exactly like
"the two Macs" in the music-hall? Was it then, or in the nineteenth
century, that we rode the camel together, I on the hindmost peak? "Oh,
the oont, oh, the oont, oh, the gawdforsaken oont!" as the poet of the
barrack-room sings. He seems to double up like a garden-chair to receive
one; then his knees unfold and the rider shoots up; then the camel rises
to his full height, and one ducks instinctively for fear of striking the
stars. "_Salaam Aleikhoom_," I cried to the drivers, airing my Arabic,
which I make by mispronouncing Hebrew; and they answered effusively,
"Yankee Doodle! Chicago!" Alas for the glamour of the Orient! They had
all come from the greater fair, perhaps spent their lives in traveling
from fair to fair, mercenaries of some latter-day Barnum.

There was a fine stalwart Egyptian, who stood beating a gong to summon
the faithful to improper dances. I gave him a cup of coffee, and he held
it on high, and with gratitude effusing from every pore of his dusky
face, cried, "Columbus!" Then he mounted a flight of stairs and shouted
beamingly, "1492!"

He took a sip, and then his wife called him chidingly, and he fled to
her. But he returned to drain the cup in my presence, crying between each
sip "Columbus" or "1492." Never before have I bought so much gratitude
for ten centimes. Henceforward I found "Columbus" a watchword, and "1492"
a magic talisman, causing dusky eyes to kindle and turbaned heads to nod
beamingly.

The town-barber of _Alt Antwerpen_, who was wont to shave me in the
sixteenth century, had a beautiful motto:--

  I am Hair-dresser, Barber, and Surgeon,
   I shave with, soap and much delight,
  Although there are barbers who do it
    As though they were in a fright.

But it is surpassed by a hundred delightful things in "The Visitor's
Handybook," which the touts in New Antwerp, ignorant of its treasures,
press upon the traveller gratis. It opens auspiciously: "The opening
pages of our little guide we have devoted to a short review of the city
of Antwerp, the streets of which still contain elegant specimens of those
quaint and handsome edifices of the Netherlands are truly famous, and
which in Antwerp, perhaps more than in any other city, seem to abound."
Here are some more gems: "Visitors will be naturally anxious to secure a
comfortable apartment, in selecting which the following list will be
found of service:--see advertisements, all of which can be strongly
recommended." "Facing you is the King's Palace; not a very attractive
one; however, as a rule, not open to the public, but admission may
sometimes be obtained although at great trouble during the absence of the
King." "It was formally inaugurated by the presence of the Queen,
Princess Beatrice, and a numerous compagny representing the European
Benches and Pairs." "A wonderfully painted ceiling, in which the
attendant can point out some marvellous effects." "The Visitor's
Handybook" is in its thirteenth free edition, and is worth double the
price. Antwerp is very strong linguistically. The _quatre
langues_--Flemish, French, English, and German--make a universal
confusion of tongues, and the whole town is nothing but a huge open
Flemish--French dictionary, every shop-sign or street-name being
translated. A few sturdy burghers stick to the old tongue, and sometimes
English rules the roast. "The Welsh Harp" (which is Antwerp way) is a
sailor's cabaret near the quay. There is even a trace of Irish influence
in the etymology of Antwerp as given in the official handbook; for
Antigon, the giant who used to cut off the hand of any shipman that
refused him tribute, and whose throwing it (_Handwerpen_) into the river
gave the name to the city, is stated beforehand to have lived in the
castle of Antwerp. They are not destitute of wit, the Belgians, if I may
judge by some specimens I heard. It is a local joke to refer to the
famous "_dirigeable_" balloon, which burst in the latter days of the
Exhibition, as the "_dechirable_" balloon. "They pooh-pooh the past
nowadays," said a tram-conductor to me, "but when I look at the Cathedral
and Rubens' 'Descent from the Cross' I think our forefathers were _assez
malins_." A seedy vendor of lottery-tickets declared that every one of
them would draw a prize. "Wherefore, then, my friend," quoth I, "do you
not keep them?" "_Je ne suis pas egoiste_," he said, with a shrug. To
defend myself against his masterful solicitousness, I stated solemnly
that lotteries were illegal in England, and that if I returned thither
with a lottery-ticket the British Government would throw me into prison.
But he was not daunted: "_Appuyez-vous sur moi_," he replied
reassuringly.




BROADSTAIRS AND RAMSGATE

A story is current in the Clubs that Mr. Henry James innocently went to
Ramsgate, in order to possess his soul in peace. 'T was the height of the
rougher Ramsgate season, and there is something irresistibly incongruous
in the juxtaposition of the rarefied American novelist and the roaring
sands of Albion. In the which juxtaposition the story leaves him; and we
are ignorant of whether he turned tail and fled back to quieter London,
or whether he stayed on to collect unexpected material. Our analytical
cousin's stippling methods are, it is to be feared, but poorly adapted
for the painting of holiday crowds, which require the scene-painter's
brush, and lend themselves reluctantly to nuances. The colours have not
that dubiety so dear to the artist of the penumbra; the sands are as
yellow as the benches are red; and the niggers are quite as black as they
are burnt-corked. The love-making, too, is devoid of subtlety. When you
see--as I saw last Bank Holiday on Ramsgate beach--Edwin and Angelina
asleep in each other's arms, the situation strikes you as too simple for
analysis. It is like the loves of the elements, or the propensity of
carbon to combine with oxygen. An even more idyllic couple I came upon
prone amid the poppies on the cliff hard by, absorbing the peace and the
sunshine, steeping themselves in the calm of Nature after the finest
Wordsworthian manner. But presently there is the roll of a drum, and the
scream of a fife in distress rises from below, and Angelina pricks up her
ears. "I wish they'd come up 'ere," she murmurs wistfully; "I'd jump up
like steam; I could just do a dance."

Yet all the same their seclusion among the wild flowers on the edge of
the cliff showed a glimmering of soul. Not theirs the hankering for that
strip of sand near the stone pier, which a worthy dame of my acquaintance
once compared to a successful fly-paper. Scientific investigation shows
the congestion at this particular spot to be due to the file of
bathing-machines which blocks the view of the sea from half the beach. To
the bulk of the visitors this yellow patch _is_ Ramsgate, just as a
small, cocoanut-bearing area of Hampstead woodland is the Heath, most of
whose glorious acres have never felt the tread of a donkey or a cheap
tripper. Not that there are many other attractions in Ramsgate, which is
administered by councillors more sleepy than sage. Having literally
defaced their town by a railway-station, built a harbour which will not
hold water, constructed a promenade pier in the least accessible quarter,
and provided a band which plays mainly "intervals," they naturally refuse
to venture on further improvements, such as refuges on the parade, or
trees in the shadeless streets, and, in the excess of their zeal, have
even, so I hear, declined the railway company's offer to give them a lift
(from sands to cliff), and Mr. Sebag Montefiore's offer to allow the
public gardens to be continued right through his estate on towards
Dumpton. Even so, these worthy burghers have more of my regard than their
brethren of Margate, who have sacrificed their trust to the Moloch of
advertisement. Stand on Margate Parade and look seaward, and the main
impression is Pills. Sail towards Margate Pier and look landward, and the
main impression is Disinfectant Powder.

Baby Broadstairs has known better how to guard its dignity and its
beauty; so that Dickens might still look from Bleak House on as dainty a
scene as in the days when he lounged on the dear old, black,
weather-beaten pier. I spent a week at Broadstairs in the height of a
Dynamite Mystery. We were very proud of the Mystery, we of Broadstairs,
and of the space we filled in the papers. Ramsgate, with its
contemporaneous murder sensation, we turned up our noses at, till
Ramsgate had a wreck and redressed the balance. For the rest, we made
sand-pies, and bathed and sailed, and listened to a band that went wheezy
on Bank Holiday. Broadstairs boasts of one drunkard, who does odd jobs as
well. He is tall, venerable, and melancholy, and has the air of a
temperance orator. "Joe's one of the best chaps on the pier when he's
sober," said his mate to me sorrowfully; "but when he's drunk he makes a
fool of himself." This was not quite true; for Joe was not always
foolish. Why, when two gentlemen came down from London in a gipsy caravan
to teach us Theosophy, and all Broadstairs fluttered towards their
oil-lamp, leaving the band to tootle to the sad sea waves, I could not
get him to mount the Cheap Jack rostrum in opposition! The most I could
spur him to was an indignant defence of London against the lecturer's
denunciation of it as an immoral city, a pit of unrighteousness. "'T
ain't true!" he thundered raucously. "Many's the gent from Lunnon as has
behaved most liberal to me." One day there was an attempt to disturb
Joe's monopoly as drunkard, and I am afraid I had a hand in it. A human
caricature in broken boots addressed me as I lay on the beach (writing
with a stylographic pen and blotting the sheets with the sand), and
besought me to buy sprigs of lavender. He proved to me by ocular
demonstration that he had no money in his pockets; whereupon I proved to
him by parity of reasoning that I had none in mine either. However, I
remembered me of a penny postage-stamp (unlicked), and tendered it
diffidently, and he received it with disproportionate benedictions. Later
in the day he reappeared under my window, hurling up maudlin abuse. He
had got drunk on my postage-stamp!

I told him to get along with him, which he did. For some time he
staggered about Broadstairs in search of its policeman. He came across
him at last, and was straightway clapped into an open victoria and driven
across the sunny fields to Ramsgate. Meantime, Broadstairs was left
unprotected--perhaps Joe kept an eye on it.

Broadstairs has also a jolly old waterman, who paddles about apparently
to pick up exhausted bathers. One morning as I was swimming past his boat
he warned me back. "Any danger?" I asked. "Ladies," he replied,
ambiguously enough. It thus transpired that his function is to preserve a
scientific frontier between the sexes. Considering that the ladies one
meets at sea are much more clothed than the ladies whose diaphanous
drapery one engirdles in ball-rooms, this prudery is amusing. It is
consoling to remember that the Continental practice prevails in many a
quaint nook along our coasts, and that the ladies are sensible enough to
walk to and from their bathing tents, clothed and unashamed. Strange to
say, Broadstairs has placed its ladies' machines nearest the pier, for
the benefit of loungers armed with glasses; and I must not forget to
mention that the boatman himself holds a daily _levee_ of mermaidens, who
make direct for his boat and gambol around the prow. If anything needs
reforming in our marine manners, it is rather the male costume. Why we
men are allowed to go about like savages, clothed only in skins (and
those our own), is to me one of the puzzles of popular ethics. What is
sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose. At Folkestone, where the
machine-people are dreadfully set against ladies and gentlemen using the
same water, promiscuous bathing flourishes more nakedly than anywhere on
the Continent; and the gentlemen have neither tents nor costumes. In
Margate and Deal the machines are of either sex, and the gentlemen are
clad in coloured pocket-handkerchiefs. At Birchington I bathed from a
boat which was besieged by a bevy of wandering water-nymphs, begging me
to let them dive from it. And they dived divinely!

Though the _profanum vulgus_ takes possession of our strands, and Edwin
and Angelina are common objects of the sea-shore, yet I cannot help
thinking that there is many a vulgar British beach that would ravish us
did we light upon it in other lands. Oh, how picturesque! What a gay
grouping of colour! What an enchanting medley of pink parasols and golden
sand and chintz tents and white bathing-machines, and blue skies and
black minstrels and green waters, and creamy flannels and gauzy dresses!
And--_ciel!_ what cherubic children! and--_corpo di Bacco!_--what pretty
women! What frank _abandon_ to the airy influences of the scene! What
unconventionality! What unrestraint! See how that staid old _signor_
allows himself to be buried and excavated by the _bambino_. Watch that
charming _maman_ unblushingly bathing _bebe_. Note that portly _matrona_
careering upon the _asino_! What cares she for her dignity? Listen to the
babel--"[Greek: hokae pokae, hokae pokae]" "Drei shies a pfennig!" "Your
photograph, _senorita?_" Look! the coquettish _contadina_ is slapping the
face of the roguish _vetturino_! How the good-natured crowd, easily
pleased, gathers round the Ethiopian troubadour, trolling in unison his
amorous catches!--

  _Daisy, Daisy, donne-moi ta reponse._

And hark! Do you not hear in the distance the squeak of _Puncinello_? Ah!
why have we none of this happy carelessness in England?--we who take our
pleasures _moult tristement_--why have we not this lightheartedness, this
_camaraderie_ of enjoyment? Why cannot we throw aside our insular
stiffness, our British hauteur, and be natural?

I journeyed to Broadstairs, late at night, riding in a three-horsed brake
with many a jocund passenger. And then something happened. Something
ineffably trivial, and yet a matter of life and death. We were bowling
merrily along the country lanes in the fragrant air. It was a dark,
starless night, but so warm that the easterly sea-breeze fanned us like a
zephyr. And through the gloom a flash-light leaped and waned, flickered
and died and gleamed again with electric brilliance--"the Winnaker(?)
light from France," a garrulous inhabitant assured us; a rare phenomenon
to be seen only once in a decade, when an east wind clarifies the
atmosphere, and allows the rays to pierce through two dozen miles of
strait. It seemed like La Belle France winking amicably to us across the
waters. And a little to the left twinkled "The Green Man"--no friendly
public-house, but a danger-signal from behind the Goodwin Sands, likewise
visible but by miracle.

And as we marvelled at these jewels of the night, that shamed the
absentee stars, the brake stood still with a jolt and a shock that threw
our gay company into momentary alarm. But it was nothing. Only a horse
fallen down dead! One of our overworked wheelers had suddenly sunk upon
the earth, a carcase. Dust to dust! Who shall tell of the daylong agony
of the dumb beast as he plodded pertinaciously through the heat,
ministering to the pleasures of his masters? Had he been a man, how we
should have praised him, belauded the beauty of his end, telling one
another sanctimoniously that he had died in harness. As it was we merely
stripped him of his harness and deposited it in the brake! We unhitched
the leader and put him between the shafts, side by side with the other
horse, both incurious and indifferent, wasting nor glance nor nasal rub
upon their defunct comrade. We men feign better. And then we drew him to
the edge of the track, a rigid, lumbering mass; and the garrulous
inhabitant discussed the value of the carcase, and the driver cracked his
whip, and the living horses stirred their haunches, and in a moment we
were spanking along, leaving our fellow-creature to darkness and
solitude. Only the flash-light from France glimmered upon the poor dead
beast, coming all the way to cheer him; only the green eye from beyond
the Goodwins blinked upon his unheaving flanks.

And from far ahead came back to his deaf ears with ever-diminishing
intensity our noisy madrigal--most music-hall, most melancholy--his only
dirge:

  Mary Jane was a farmer's daughter,
  Mary Jane did what she oughter.
  She fell in love but all in vain.
  O poor Mary! O poor Jane!




BUDAPEST

The Millennial Exhibition of Budapest--for which the Directors gave me a
season ticket as soon as they heard I was leaving--professes to celebrate
the foundation of Hungary; but 896 is a very long time ago, and the event
does not seem to have been reported in the newspapers of the period.
However, as a Hungarian explained to me, when you are counting by
thousands you are not particular to a year or two, so perhaps it was not
precisely ten centuries ago that the foundation of Hungary was
inaugurated by a national assembly that created "the Constitution of
Pusztaszer." After all, have not those irrepressible German savants
discovered that Christ was born in the year 6 B.C.? At any rate, there is
no doubt that the Magyars did steal a country some time or other in the
remote past, or in more political language, did obtain a footing in
Europe by ousting the Slav tribes that peopled the great plain bounded by
the Carpathians and the Danube and the Tisza. They came from Central
Asia, on a late wave of that big "Westward ho!" movement of the Eastern
peoples, a race of shepherds changed into an army of mounted archers, and
pitched their tents first in Galieia, uniting their seven tribes under
the great chief Arpad; but, harassed continually by local tribes with
unpronounceable names, they moved farther westwards to their present
quarters, where, after a vain but spirited attempt to annex Europe
generally, they settled down to comfort and civilisation, ceased to offer
white horses to idols, and embraced Christianity.

It seems that land-thieves are called conquerors; and after a thousand
years of possession of their stolen goods, the glamour of a divine
sanctity gets over the past, and high-minded natives live and die for the
country which seems to have been theirs from time immemorial, and in
which their holiest feelings are enrooted. What makes national robberies
moral is the fact that there is honour among the thieves. The morality of
crowds is, in fact, as different from that of individuals as "the
psychology of crowds" which has just engaged the attention of an
ingenious scientist. Into the original conquerors of a country a
miscellaneous assortment of other races always gets absorbed, as the
Franks by the Gauls, the Turkish Bulgarians by the Slavs. The Hungarians
absorbed into themselves Italians, Germans, and Czechs, and the modern
Hungarian is, according to Arminius Vambery, a typical product of the
fusion of Europe and Asia, Turanian and Aryan. And that is the sort of
way in which after a few centuries we get the chauvinistic cries:
"Germany for the Germans," "Poland for the Polish," "Hungary for the
Hungarians." In truth, no nation has a right to anything it cannot hold
by might. And who shall determine what a nation is? Who are the
Americans? Who are the English? "Norman and Saxon and Dane are we." And
once upon a time some of us threw up our country and sailed away in the
_Mayflower_. For patriotism is not the only bond of brotherhood. Men may
be the sons of an idea as well as of a soil. There was a Hungarian girl
selling silver at a stall, who had spent four years in Chicago. Never
have I heard better American, except it be from a Budapest man who had
come back to revisit his native town, and was disgusted with its
smallness and slowness. _Per contra_, I met an American girl in
Switzerland who had lived much in Germany, and whose English had such a
Teutonic intonation that it was difficult to realise she was not speaking
German. And language is but typical of the rest. All other national
characteristics are imbibed as subtly. What makes a nation is a certain
common spirit,--_Volksgeist_, as the German psychologists have christened
it,--and this spirit exercises a hypnotic effect over all that comes
within its range, moulding and transforming. There is action and
reaction. The nation makes the national spirit, and the national spirit
makes the nation. The flag, the constitution, the national anthems, the
national prejudices, the language, the proverbs--these are the product of
the people they produce.

I am inclined to allow more importance to education and environment than
to actual birth in a country, and to believe that for a "native," birth
is only an etymological necessity. Natives are made as well as born. The
"born" native has merely the advantage of prior arrival, and if the
"foreign" immigrant is only of a plastic age he may come to love the
step-mother-country more than one of her own sons, educated abroad. This
consideration would solve every _Uitlander_ question: is the national
spirit strong enough to suck in the foreigners? Can the nation digest
them, to vary the metaphor--assimilate them to its own substance? I once
proposed to a biologist--who flouted it--that a definition of Life might
be "the power of converting foreign elements, taken in as food, to one's
own substance." Thus, a plant sucks up chemical elements and makes
flowers; a man turns them to flesh. Here is a piece of meat: eaten by a
dog it runs to tail and teeth, for a cat it makes fur and whiskers, for a
bird feathers, for a woman a lovable face. And so the test of life in a
nation would be its power of transforming its immigrants into patriots.
Only a dead nation is afraid of foreigners.

The figure has its limits, however: one cannot gulp down too large a
piece of meat. And there are things inedible--substances which no stomach
can digest. The Americans will never make Yankees of their Chinese. On
the other hand, nowhere have I found more ardent patriots than among the
Jews. Englishmen in England, Americans in America, Italians in Italy,
Frenchmen in France, and only not Russians in Russia because they are not
allowed to be, they are rabid Hungarians in Hungary; and if I have caught
any enthusiasm for Hungary it is from the lips of a young and brilliant
Jew, Vidor Emil, who piloted me about Budapest, and who, under Marmorek
Oszkar, another young Jew, built "Old Buda," perhaps the most interesting
feature of the Millennial Exhibition. This Jewish patriotism, which loves
at once Israel and some other nation, may appear curious and
contradictory; but human nature is nothing if not curious and
contradictory, and this dual affection has been aptly compared to that of
a mother for her different children. And besides, in a contest the love
of Israel goes down before the more local patriotism. French and German
Jews fought each other in the Franco-German war, and probably it is only
persecution that accentuates the consciousness of Jewish brotherhood.
Wherever the Jews have perfect equality and have been tempted out of the
Ghetto, there the beginnings of disintegration are manifest. And who
shall say how much Jewish blood dilutes the nations of the Occident, for
all their chauvinistic talk!

Mr. Du Maurier, in his unmentionable novel, suspects, like Lowell, that a
drop of it has lurked in every artistic temperament. And, in sober truth,
the drain from Israel throughout the centuries has been immense. In every
age, in every country, Jews have been sucked up into the more brilliant
life around them, exchanging contempt and danger for consideration and
peace. I know an English gentleman who goes about in fear and trembling
lest it transpire that he is of the race of the apostles, and he be
driven out of decent Christian society.  _Cherchez le Juif_ is, indeed,
no empty cry, whenever a new artistic or journalistic planet swims into
our ken. That the Jew rules over the Continental press is not quite so
untrue as most anti-Semitic cries. "Have you any Christians on your
staff?" I said to the editor of the great Budapest newspaper, "Pesther
Lloyd," a fine figure of a man, long-bearded and benevolent, like an
ancient sage. He pondered. "I think we have one," he said. On the other
hand, there are many German and Austrian papers on which there is only
one Jew. And in any case the real meaning of the cry is ludicrously
untrue.

For the Jew by no means uses his power to help Jews indiscriminately:
there is no secret brotherhood of the synagogue. The Jewish journalists
have probably never been in a synagogue, except perhaps as children; they
are divorced in thought and temper from the body proper. And the only
sense in which their pen can be said to have a Jewish bias is in that
complimentary sense which makes the Jew synonymous with the champion of
sweetness and light, of liberty and reason. In this sense it is true that
the Jew is wielding an insidious influence throughout Europe, like the
old apostles among the heathen.

"Oh yes, the Jews are very well off in Hungary," said one of the staff of
the "Pesther Lloyd." "There are 150,000 Jews in Budapest; they enter all
the professions, and supply two members to the House of Magnates, and
nine to the Chamber of Deputies, and there are two State Councillors; and
you know with us every member of Parliament 'thous' every other in
private as an equal. For the laws, liberal as they are, are not so
liberal as the spirit of society. I, mere journalist as I am, have the
most friendly talks with the Prime Minister, and am a member of the
swellest political clubs. We are a good deal like England, by the way:
our middle-classes produce our leaders, our aristocracy lacks eloquence
and talent, and has only a court influence. Our House of Commons is the
most fashionable club. We have no censor, whereas Austria has an
oppressive censorship as well as anti-Semitism. In fact, the influence of
Vienna has caused a decline in our own tolerant spirit, and at the best
of times a Jew needed to have three times the talent of a Christian to
make equal progress in any career." A consideration which sufficiently
accounts for the superiority of the Jewish remnant. Intolerance and
persecution are furnaces which, when they do not destroy, temper and
anneal and strengthen. It is as with the bare-footed, half-clad, underfed
children of the slums: those that do survive are strong indeed. Let my
patriotic cicerone, the Jewish architect, testify. First in all his
examinations, a violinist, a bicyclist, a gymnast, he was to be gazetted
a premier lieutenant as soon as he had completed his military service. He
was a linguist, too (as every travelled Hungarian must be, for Hungarian
will carry him nowhere), speaking excellent English and reading our
magazines regularly. _Humani nihil a me alienum puto_ might have been his
motto. Kossuth himself is said to have had a Jewish grandmother. The Jews
are largely responsible for the prosperity of Budapest, as they were for
that of Vienna, which now turns round upon them. Fancy a country
quarrelling with its coal and iron! And the true wealth of a country is
even more in its population than in its dead products. I found the
Viennese comic papers full of the old anti-Semitic jokes, hashed up, I
have little doubt, by the same journalists who are supposed to judaize
the press of Europe. Even so in America, are not the Jewish caricatures
in _Puck_ often done by a brother of M. de Blowitz? In something of the
same spirit, when the notorious Lueger, whose platform was the extinction
of the Jews of Vienna, was up for election as Burgomaster of that town, a
poor Jew took a bribe of a couple of florins to vote for him. "God will
frustrate him," said the pious Jew. "Meantime I have his money."

The chief surprise of Hungary is its language. Though one knows that
Jokai writes in the strange tongue which sticks its verb into the middle
of its noun, yet one vaguely thinks of it as of Gaelic or
Welsh--something archaic, kept for Eisteddfods and Renaissances--and it
is not till one arrives in Hungary that one realises that it is a living,
disconcerting reality. The great European languages have affinities with
one another: Latin puts one on bowing terms with French and Spanish,
Italian and Portuguese; English is not entirely unrelated to German,
Dutch, and even Norwegian; old Greek is the key to modern. But in Hungary
one comes face to face with an absolutely new language, in which even
guesswork is impossible. When "Levelezoe-Lap" means a postcard, and "ara
egy napra" means price per day, you feel that it is all up. The nearest
relatives of Hungarian are Turkish and Finnish, the Asiatic ancestors of
the race having lived between Finns and Turks; and it bears traces of
their migrations, and of the great Mongol invasion of Europe by Djingis
Khan.

With a language thus handicapped, it was a mistake to have scarcely a
word of any other tongue in an Exhibition designed to attract Europe. The
only scrap of English I saw was in the "French Theatre," in the show of
"Living Pictures," the (London) director of which had forgotten to alter
the titles printed beneath the frames. Even in giving the names of
foreign authors the Hungarians preserve their habit of placing the
Christian name second; so that I saw in the booksellers' windows works by
Eliot George, Kock Paul, and Black William.

Hungary is still in the flush of youth, high-spirited, brilliant,
enthusiastic, and a little out of perspective in its national
consciousness. But who would ever do anything if he saw his true place in
the cosmos? The rapid rise of Budapest--unprecedented save in the gold
countries--into a capital of European importance, has shed a buoyant
optimism, refreshing enough in this jaded century, over the inhabitants
of that beautiful city. "We are the Vienna of the future," cried my
cicerone, "and already Vienna is feeling our rivalry. The retired Jewish
merchants who went there to spend their fortunes are now coming to us;
the anti-Semitism of Vienna is at once the cause and the effect of bad
business. And Vienna is on the downward grade; we are on the upward.
Vienna has never been the capital of Austria,--which is a mere federation
of races,--as Budapest is the capital of Hungary. The German is proud of
Vienna, yes; but the Czech looks to Prague, the Pole to Cracow, the
Austro-Italian swears by Trieste."

He also complained that there is rather a tendency to think of Hungary as
subject to Austria, instead of an associated state; and that this
tendency is fomented by the Austrian papers, whose references to Hungary
insinuate this conception. The Hungarian papers, whose tone would
counteract it, not being in German, are not read by the rest of Europe.
Hungary had always beaten Austria. She had never been defeated save by
allies of Austria. But Hungary, which is so mettlesome and restive in her
patriotism, whose great son, Kossuth, would never even accept the
compromise with the House of Hapsburg, has yet no compunction in
dominating inferior races, in grinding Serbs, Croats and Roumanians into
her own pattern. The Hungarians, who are in the minority, are yet
moulding these alien nationalities to their own will. But _que
voulez-vous?_ The inhabitants of many nations have adopted Christianity,
the nations themselves never. Perhaps the next step for the Christian
missionaries is to found international Christianity.

Still the Hungarians have the qualities of their defects. Unlike the
Turks, their neighbours, they are a race with a future, and Budapest is
from one point of view one of the sightliest capitals of Europe. What
town has a fairer situation? With Parisian Pesth sitting stately on one
bank of the Danube, and Turkish Buda climbing up the hills in a series of
hanging gardens crowned by gilt domes and cupolas on the other, the two
joined by wonderful bridges, she exhibits an unsurpassed contrast; and at
night, when the long stretch of the river is a-twinkle with lights
reflected as shining spears, she may even vie with Venice or the Thames
Embankment. From the Andrassy Avenue, a beautiful Boulevard, with its
cafes and book-shops, and pleasant interludes of flower-beds and
fountains, you may get, in a few minutes--crossing the Danube on a great
steamer, and ascending the heights of Buda by a funicular railway--to a
spot where, seated in an avenue of chestnut trees and looking on the
villa-strewn slopes of sleeping hills, or watching the sun set in
splendour behind them, you may forget that you are living in a bustling
modern town, and one with an Exhibition to boot.

You may dream of the picturesque days when, as shown in Ujvary's great
panorama of the sister towns in 1680, Buda was by far "the better half,"
and Pesth was a tiny spot. You may visit the tomb of Gul Baba, father of
the roses, a shrine of pilgrimage to all good Turks. You may find a good
quarter of an hour in the Church of St. Matthias, whose spire comes up
white amid the green as you turn a corner; a curious monument, that was
three centuries a-building; its interior suffused, like St. Mark's, by a
golden glow, its coloured windows original in shape, and no two pillars
or capitals alike in design, yet all contributing to a quaint unity and
harmony. And it is at Buda that the chief national buildings stand,
usually flanked by chestnut trees, and the statues in memory of the wars.
Here is the War-Office of the Territorial Army (which is distinct from
the joint Austro-Hungarian army); here are the Premier's Palace, the
Houses of Parliament, and the King's Palace of many windows set on a
breezy hill, and now being enlarged at a cost of thirty million florins.
Fortunate Francis Joseph, to command such a panorama from his bedroom
window: his hanging gardens, that slope towards the Danube, flowing with
molten sparkle, spanned by the great suspension bridge and the railway
bridges; and broken by the beautiful Margaret Island; the spires and
chimneys and cupolas of Pesth, and the mountains of Buda.

Margaret Island is the "Pearl of the Danube," a charming retreat in
spring and autumn, when the heat does not force Fashion to the mountains,
and famous for its mineral springs, hot and cold. It belongs to the
King's cousin, Prince Joseph, and is a white elephant. The cost of
gardening this beautiful island is colossal, and though the Prince has
just drained a portion which used to be a swamp, the Danube is a standing
danger. It is scarcely surprising that he cannot find a purchaser at
three million florins. One of the walls of his private garden (which
produces celebrated roses) is the remnant of an old cloister. A tramcar
runs through the island, giving one tantalising vistas of glorious
stretches of woodland. Altogether Budapest would be an ideal place for a
honeymoon but for the beauty of the women, which might make the
bridegroom dissatisfied.

But the Pesth part of Budapest is a disappointment. One expects to feel
the first breath of the East, and one gets a modern, a Western, almost an
American town, with an electric underground railway and a telephonic
newspaper which reads itself out all day long to whosoever will clap the
cups to his ears--the old town crier in terms of modern science. But it
rounds off the day, poetically enough, with music, so that when I sought
to hear the latest news, I was treated to Handel's "Hallelujah." How much
more soothing than our own "extra special," with its final crop of
horrors! Music, indeed, is ever resounding: the gipsy bands are
everywhere playing--Hungarian, not gipsy music, as Liszt imagined, for
they never play to "the white men." The splendid "Rakoczi" March, which
Berlioz introduced into his "Faust," is, however, of gipsy origin, having
been invented, says tradition, by Cinka Panna, the faithful gipsy girl of
Rakoczi II., after his defeat. There are also Betjar melodies, the songs
of the brigand cavaliers, the romantic robbers who took from the rich to
give to the poor, like our Robin Hood.

The Exhibition, which I fear will be a financial failure, is only one of
the many celebrations of the Millennium, which include the erection of
statues and an Arc de Triomphe, the opening of a canal, the construction
of two new bridges, of three or four great public buildings, the
inauguration of the splendid new Houses of Parliament--situated like our
own on the river-side,--international congresses, historical corteges,
and the opening of five hundred new primary schools! This programme is a
sufficient guarantee that the Exhibition itself is similarly
thorough-going, that it represents every side and department of the
national life; and if much of it does not differ from other Exhibitions,
or even from Whiteley's Stores, this can only be the more gratifying to
the Hungarians, inasmuch as it proves that they have indeed come into
step with the general march of European civilisation. For my part I am
not sure that I do not prefer Arpad's Hungarians, who believed in one God
and one wife, and roved about Europe in the four-wheeled waggons they had
invented. And I am certain that in the Exhibition I preferred the
beautiful aquarium in the cool dim grotto, which has nothing to do with
Hungary, to all the splendours of the Historical Group of Buildings, to
the great model steamer, the naval and military pavilions, the very new
and very glaring native pictures, and even the wonderful models of the
town and the steamer-laden Danube. One great lack in the Exhibition is
lavatories. Even at my hotel--a place of gilded saloons--they charged two
florins (about 3_s_. 4_d_.) for a plain bath, as if in sheer surprise. In
"Old Buda" I could only get a bucket from an old woman in which to wash.
And the next day, when I repaired confidently in search of this bucket,
there was nothing but a tiny saucepan, the contents of which she poured
over my hands, watering a garden-plot at the same time. After the first
jet I moved my hands away and said that would do. "No, no," she cried:
"if you wash, you must wash properly." And I had to stand still and be
poured upon till she was satisfied.

Perhaps the most interesting exhibit is the "ethnographic village,"
designed to represent the life of the Hungarian provinces, though made
rather ridiculous by the rigidity of the waxwork figures, arranged about
the quaint and impossibly clean houses in their various occupations, but
having the air of "tableaux morts" rather than of "tableaux vivants." The
best group was _al fresco_, representing half-naked gipsy-like creatures
with coal-black hair squatting outside tents and mud-houses, the women
smoking pipes. And this exhibition of unrealities brings me on to the
most original feature of the Exhibition, which seems to have escaped all
the reporters--to wit, the exhibition of realities. For the committee
have hit on a most ingenious notion. The peasants of Hungary marry, and
they marry picturesquely. Why should this picturesqueness be wasted, or
only be reproduced artificially in comic operas? When a marriage is to be
celebrated in any village, let the scene be shifted to the capital: let
the wedding-party come up to the Exhibition. Free transit is provided on
the railway for the happy couple, the wedding-guests, and all the
stage-properties. And so they come up to Budapest,--from Toroczko,
Szabolcs, Krasso-Szoereny, and who knows what outlandish places, glad of
the opportunity of seeing the great capital,--and they gather in the
Exhibition grounds, the lads with flower-wreathed hats and streamers of
many-coloured ribbons, the lasses with gay skirts and tall black combs,
the old women with lace head-shawls, carrying bundles of house-linen and
stockings for the bride; and the sheepish pair are made one, and the
peasants dance and then go in procession to the strains of the Rakoczi
March, and are photographed with odd spectators (like myself) tacked on,
and they sit down to the wedding-dinner under the trees, and the viands
are heaped high on the white table-cloths, sun-dappled with the shadows
of the moving leaves. And then they visit themselves in waxwork, and go
into ecstacies over the stolid representations of their life and their
furniture, and they walk about the town--a sort of grown-up
school-procession--and go home to thrill the wide-eyed village with tales
of the wonderful city.

But the other instance of converting realities into spectacles is not so
commendable. In the supplementary exhibition of "Old Buda" stands a
reproduction of an Old Buda mosque, built of stone, majolica and wood, in
a mixture of Turkish and European architecture, with minaret and cupolas,
and a small kiosk in the Indian style for a sleeping fakir. Here Moslems
and Dervishes assemble to say or dance their prayers; and for a florin
you may ascend the gallery and watch them below. The mosque opened on the
holy night of Bairam, the most solemn feast of the Mohammedan year, and
quite a crowd planked down their silver to listen to the pious
worshippers. Is it not shameful? I am happy to say I did not pay for my
seat. Even in Budapest I was a _persona gratis_. 'T was certainly a
remarkable scene, its solemnity emphasized by the thunder without, that
drowned the voice of the mueddin calling to prayer, and by the lightning
and rain-torrents that sent the pretty little _al fresco_ waitresses
scudding about with their serviettes on their heads to tend the few
parties in the leafy square that dined on regardless of diluted wine or
under the protection of umbrellas. How the Turks further wetted
themselves by complex ablutions in the tank (meydiaeh) in the courtyard
without, how they removed their shoes and, entering the mosque, knelt on
their carpets facing towards Mecca, and turning their backs on me, a
serried array of long-robed figures swaying and falling forward with
automatic regularity, and showing pairs of heels not always clean, while
the Imam chanted heart-breaking dirges overhead, I shall not detail, for
everybody has read of Moslem services. But I do not remember to have come
across any accurate description of a service of Dancing Dervishes such as
followed the more orthodox ceremonial.

All the mere Mussulmans having retired, the Dervishes sat around
cross-legged, forming an oval. Presently they began to say some phrase,
presumably Turkish (it sounded like _es "klabbam vivurah"_), which they
repeated and repeated and repeated with the same endless, uniform,
monotonous intonation, swaying from right to left and from left to right,
till I felt the whole universe was this phrase, and nothing else would
happen till the end of the world, and the world would never end. At last,
when I had reconciled myself to living for ever and ever with this sound
in my ears, they broke into a pleasant melody with rhyming stanzas and a
refrain of _Hazlee_. Then they started on another word with endless
iteration, and then they repeated _Allah, Allah, Allah_, swaying and
swaying till the universe began to reel. I became aware that their chief,
who was seated on a special red carpet, was counting on a rosary, and I
drew relief from the deduction that an end would come. It did, but worse
remained behind; for the Dervishes got up and formed a ring round their
chief, and began swaying right and left and backwards and forwards,
unrestingly, remorselessly, getting quicker and quicker, till there was
nothing in the world but swayings this way and that way, back and forth.

At last the movements began to slow down and to sweep over larger curves,
and suddenly they stopped altogether, only to recommence as the fanatics
started singing a joyous hymn. Alas! thought I, one half the world is a
laughing-stock to the other half, if indeed not rather a source of tears.
For now the chief, whose fine gloomy Eastern face still haunts me, was
bowing to his men, and they were responding with strange raucous cries
compounded of the roars of wild beasts and the pants of locomotives. _Hu!
Hu!_ they roared in savage unison, _Hu! Hu!_ monotonously, endlessly,
making strange motions. Hoarser and more bestial grew the frightful
roars, wilder and wilder grew the movements, the head-gear falling off,
faces growing black, the chief standing silent with his hand on his
breast, but in his pale face a tense look of ever-gathering excitement.
And then two of the Dervishes held out a curved sword, and the roars
redoubled and the chests heaved with wilder breaths; and suddenly the
Chief, throwing off his stocking-wraps, jumped on the blade with his
naked feet and balanced himself upon it, the muscles of his face rigid,
his teeth clenched. Four times he stood upon the bare sword-edge amid
this hellish howling and this mad swaying, the perspiration running down
the foreheads of the devotees, some of them foaming at the mouth. And
then they moved round in a circle to the right, howling _He! He!_ an
Armenian Dervish in a tall brown hat varying it by _Ho! Ho!_ and another
worshipper singing in a high voice.

The chief bared his breast, and twirling a heavy-hafted dagger, plunged
it into his side. When this had been repeated three or four times,
pandemonium ceased. The Holy Man, with an air of supreme exhaustion and
supreme ecstasy, reclad himself in his white mantle, and the faithful
ones wiped their brows, and re-squatting on the ground exultantly
vociferated _Allah_ about a hundred times, nodding their heads, and
finally changing their cry into _Bou! Bou!_ After a little singing and a
shouting of _Din! Din!_ they pressed their foreheads to the ground with a
shout of _Bou!_ and suddenly rose and decamped. Other nights other
services, and the hysterical worship sometimes embraces a sort of
serpentine skirt-dancing with frenzied twirling. There was no blood from
the chief's wounds, but the performance does not seem to me to be
jugglery. It seems rather akin to hypnotism. The wild cries and gyrations
induce a state of anesthesia, just as by the excitement of battle the
soldier is so wrought up that he does not feel his wounds. Even in a sham
fight a soldier told me he got to such a pitch that he could have done or
suffered anything. As for the blood not running from the wounds, I
conjecture that the places had become insensitive by frequent stabbing in
the same spot. And this is the miracle that testifies to the saintliness
of the Dervish and to the truth of his doctrines! I suspect that much of
"the wisdom of the East" is of this character: ancient discoveries of the
shady side of human psychology, the grotesque aberrations, trances,
hypnotic impressionability, double personalities, ghosts, second-sight,
what not. And these being misunderstood have always been supposed to
trench on the divine. For what is not normal is not human, and what is
not human is superhuman. So runs the simple logic. But hysteria can never
be a foundation for a creed, and a true religion must always appeal to
the common central facts of human experience.

There was another Exhibition going on, as it always goes on, in the town,
for the People's Park has very little verdure and consists almost
entirely of side-shows and open-air restaurants. I saw swings and
merry-go-rounds, a circus, and a marionette theatre, and heard Punch and
Judy discussing their domestic differences in Hungarian, and Toby barking
in the same uncouth tongue. The joy with which the public greeted each
crack on the head administered by Herr Punch's stick showed me how
hopeless it was to write literary plays. For the primitive emotions will
always be the most captivating. A fight must ever beat the most subtle
psychology; and indeed those writers for whom the drama is the art of
manufacturing excitement and suspense must find it difficult to compete
with a lottery drawing, a prize-fight, or a horse-race, where the issue
is known not even to the organiser of the excitement. And this
consideration will show why some books are very successful, the art of
which is very little. Nothing is harder in real life than to put your
back against the wall on a dark staircase and keep three armed men at bay
with your whirling sword. But nothing is easier than for the romantic
writer to dip his pen in ink and say that his hero did that. And nothing
is more stimulating and exciting for the reader than to imagine the hero
doing it; and in his gratitude to the giver of all this beautiful
breathlessness he is likely, unless he is an analytical person, to
mistake a cheap effect for precious art. But the bulk of humanity must
always remain at the Punch-and-Judy stage of art. If only the critics
would outgrow it! The clowns in the circus who came on with red noses
were a further proof of the sempiternal simplicity of our race; and I
could have wished for the heart of that urchin whom I saw trying to peer
in under the canvas, and whom, with a reminiscence of the young
Gradgrinds, I was about to pay for, when he suddenly produced a florin
and many coppers and went in like a man. Sitting in the front row, I had
a curious presentiment that the daring bare-backed rider would be thrown
at my feet; and sure enough he was, and, as I picked him up, I saw by the
perspiration what toil his graceful feats concealed. Poor cavalier! I am
sure his pride was more hurt than his person, and he excelled himself in
galloping round poised on one toe. When he was recalled after his exit,
he tumbled his thanks, giving us complex somersaults in lieu of bows. I
sometimes fancy he was a holier person than the Chief of the Dancing
Dervishes.




CHICAGO

The function and value of literature are curiously illustrated by the
passing away of the Great White Elephant. The criticisms by spectators of
the World's Fair have not been so comprehensive as the Fair itself, and I
feel that I ought to supplement them by the impressions it made upon one
who did not see it. For, despite the assurance of the official programme,
that I delivered an address in the Parliament of Religions, I was in
England, so far as I know, the whole time. The first impression the Fair
made upon me was one of sublimity--but of what Sir William Hamilton calls
"the material sublime," scarcely at all of "the moral sublime," which was
supposed to be its _raison d'etre_. I was, of course, aware that great
spiritual facts underlay the physical grandeurs; but spiritual emotion is
difficult to get at a distance. One requires the actual objects to
impinge on the soul, the architectural glories and industrial splendours
to touch through bodily vision. One realises it so vaguely, and fails to
get the half-aesthetic, half-religious, uplifting that concrete
visualisation should supply. It is, perhaps, a pity that Whitman did not
live to see the spectacle, he whose inspiration came so often from
synthesis, from a vision of the ALL. The cosmopolitan cataloguer, the man
who made inventories almost epical, is the one man to whom the Fair would
have been a magnificent inspiration. Judging from the Fair, Whitman would
seem justified in claiming to be the voice of America. The Fair was like
him both in its moral broadness and its material all-inclusiveness. In
his absence no poet has risen "to the height of this great argument," so
that now the insubstantial pageant is faded, now that "the cloud-capp'd
towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples," have dissolved, "like
the baseless fabric of a vision," they have left not a rack of real
literature behind. And to what but literature can one look for a
permanent conservator of the eternal lesson of an ephemeral exhibition?
Truly, as the Latin poet said, literature is more durable than monuments
and dynasties. Except as an object-lesson in the unity and federation of
mankind, the Fair had no valuable _raison d'etre_, and, unfortunately,
the school-term was short and the number of pupils comparatively limited.

America is a long way from everywhere, even from itself, and the moral
heat dissipates in crossing the ocean to the Old World. The Congress of
Religions in whose voluminous report the Fair has still a chance of
surviving itself, was the most patently spiritual side of the Exposition,
and was, undoubtedly, a most valuable index of the progress of human
catholicism. That the sects are as narrow as they are numerous, is still
largely true, and half the world is still ignorant of how the other half
prays, though by a happy accident of birth all the world inherits the one
true religion. The greatest force in the universe is the "_vis
inertiae_," and the forces already at work must "dree their weird." To
those who are outside all the sects without even circumscribing them, the
World's Fair must bring home at once the greatness and vanity of man's
life--man who lives like the angels and dies like the brutes--the mortal
paradox that has puzzled all thinkers from the Psalmist to Pascal. For
the unbeliever this must ever be the ugly reverse of all glories that are
merely material, though the sensuous optimist need not allow the skeleton
at the feast to spoil his appetite.

The last impression made by the World's Fair upon me was one of
sadness--sadness at not having seen it.




EDINBURGH

Till I went to Edinburgh I did not know what "The Evergreen" was.
Newspaper criticisms had given me vague misrepresentations of a Scottish
"Yellow Book" calling itself a "Northern Seasonal." But even had I seen a
copy myself I doubt if I should have understood it without going to
Edinburgh and even had I gone to Edinburgh I should still have been in
twilight had? I not met Patrick Geddes, Professor of Botany at the
University of Dundee. For Patrick Geddes is the key to the Northern
position in life and letters. "The Evergreen" was not established as an
antidote to the "Yellow Book," though it might well seem a colour
counter-symbol--the green of spring set against the yellow of decadent
leaves. It is, indeed, an antidote but undesigned; else had not yellow
figured so profusely upon the cover. "The Evergreen" of to-day professes
to be inspired by "The Evergreen" which Allan Ramsay published in 1724,
to stimulate a return to local and national tradition and living nature.
Patrick Geddes and Colleagues, who publish it and other books--on a new
system of giving the author all the profits, as certified by a chartered
accountant--inherit Ramsay's old home. That is to say, they are located
in a sort of "University Settlement," known as Ramsay Garden, a charming
collection of flats, overlooking from its eastled hill the picturesque
city, and built by the many-sided Professor of Botany, and they aspire
also to follow in "the gentle shepherd's" footsteps as workers and
writers, publishers and builders. In fact, their aim is synthesis,
construction, after our long epoch of analysis, destruction. They would
organise life as a whole, expressing themselves through educational and
civic activities, through art and architecture, and make of Edinburgh the
"Cite du Bon Accord" dreamed of by Elisee Reclus. They feel acutely the
"need of fresh readings in life, of fresh groupings in science, both now
mainly from the humanist's side, as lately from the naturalist's side."
In this University Settlement the publishing and writing department is to
represent the scriptorium of the ancient monasteries. Of the local and
national traditions this new Scottish school is particularly concerned to
foster the so-called "Celtic renascence," and--what is more interesting
to outsiders--the revival and development of the old Continental
sympathies of Scotland. The ancient league with France has deeply marked
Scotch history, and even moulded Scotch architecture. As Disraeli said in
his inaugural address on his institution as Lord Rector of the University
of Glasgow, "it is not in Scotland that the name of France will ever be
mentioned without affection." So, among the endless projects of the
effervescent Professor, is one for reviving the Scotch college in
Paris--the original building happening still to survive--and for making
it a centre for Scottish students and Scottish culture in the gay city.

Thus, while the men of "The Evergreen" would renew local feeling and
local colour, they "would also express the larger view of Edinburgh as
not only a National and Imperial but a European city--the larger view of
Scotland, again as in recent, in mediaeval, most of all in ancient times,
one of the European Powers of Culture--as of course far smaller countries
like Norway are to-day." An aspiration with which all intelligent men
must sympathise. The quest at once of local colour and cosmopolitanism is
not at all self-contradictory. The truest cosmopolitanism goes with the
intensest local colour, for otherwise you contribute nothing to the human
treasury and make mankind one vast featureless monotony. Harmonious
diversity is the true cosmopolitan concept, and who will not applaud this
desire of Edinburgh to range itself again amongst the capitals of
culture? Why should it take its tone from London? That centripetal force
which draws villages to towns and towns to capitals everywhere tends to
concentrate in one city a country's culture, and to brand as provincial
that which is not of the centre. But the centre is corrosive of
originality, and if now and then a great man does abide therein, it is
because he has the gift of solitude amid crowds, and is not obnoxious to
the contagion of the common thought. The Scotch School, though its effort
to emancipate itself from the intellectual thraldom of London is to be
commended, does not escape the dangers that lie in wait for all schools,
which upset one convention by another. Still, a school of thought which
is also a school of action has in itself the germs of perpetual
self-recuperation.

Yes, there can be little danger of sinking into barren formulae, into
glib aesthetic prattle about Renascence, in a movement of which one
expression is the purification of those plaguy, if picturesque, Closes,
which are the foul blot upon the beautiful Athens of the North. Those
sunless courts, entered by needles' eyes of apertures, congested with
hellish, heaven-scaling barracks, reeking with refuse and evil odours,
inhabited promiscuously by poverty and prostitution, worse than the worst
slums of London itself--how could they have been left so long to pollute
the fairest and well-nigh the wealthiest city in the kingdom? "Do you
wonder Edinburgh is renowned for its medical schools?" asked the
Professor grimly, as he darted in and out among those foul alleys,
explaining how he was demolishing this and reconstructing that--at once a
Destroying Angel and a Redeemer. Veritable ghettoes they seemed, these
blind alleys of gigantic habitations, branching out from the High Street,
hidden away from the superficial passer-by faring to Holyrood. They were
the pioneers of the trans-Atlantic sky-builders, were those old burghers,
who, shut in about their castled hill by the two lochs, one of which is
now the enchanting Princes Street, were fain to build heavenwards as
population grew. It was a stormy morning when the mercurial Professor of
Botany, recking naught of the rain that saturated his brown cloak, itself
reluctantly donned, led me hither and thither, through the highways and
byways of old Edinburgh. Everywhere a litter of building operations, and
we trod gingerly many a decadent staircase. Sometimes a double row of
houses had already been knocked away, revealing a Close within a Close,
eyeless house behind blind alley, and even so the diameter of the court
still but a few yards. What human ant-heaps, what histories, farces,
tragedies played out in airless tenebrosity!

The native writers seem to have strangely neglected the artistic wealth
of all this poverty: pathos and humour reside, then, only in villages!
Thrums and Drum-tochty and Galloway exhaust the human tragi-comedy. Ah!
my friends, go to the ant-hill and be wise! The Professor of Botany
(seeming now rather of entomology) explained the principle upon which he
was destroying and rebuilding. One had to be cautious. He pointed out the
head of a boy carved over one of the archways, the one survivor of a
fatal subsidence many years ago, when the ground floor of one of the
gigantic houses was converted into a shop, with plate-glass windows in
lieu of the solid stonework. "Heave awa'!" cried a piping voice amid the
_debris_: "I'm no dead yet."

The Professor's own destruction was conservative in character: it was his
aim to preserve the ancient note in the architecture, and to make a clean
Old Edinburgh of a dirty. Air and light were to be no longer excluded;
outside every house, as flats or storeys are called, a balcony was to
run, giving on sky and open ground. Eminent personages like Lord
Rosebery, ancestrally connected with ancient demesnes, long perverted
into pigsties, had been induced to repurchase them, thus restoring an
archaic flavour of aristocratic prestige to these despised quarters. The
moral effect of grappling with an evil that had seemed so hopeless could
not fail to be inspiring; and, as we plodded through the pouring:
streets, "I will remove this, I will reconstruct that," cried the
enthusiastic Professor, till I almost felt I was walking with the Emperor
of Edinburgh. But whence come the sinews of war? Evidently no professor's
privy purse would suffice. I gathered that the apostle of the sanitary
picturesque had inspired sundry local capitalists with his own patriotic
enthusiasm. What a miracle, this trust in a man over-brimming with ideas,
the brilliant biological theoriser of "The Evolution of Sex" in the
Contemporary Science Series, the patron of fantastic artists like John
Duncan! Obviously it is his architectural faculty that has saved him.
There stand the houses he has built--visible, tangible, delectable;
concrete proofs that he is no mere visionary.

And yet we may be sure the more frigid society of Edina still looks
askance on this dreamer in stone and fresco; for after all Edinburgh, as
Professor Blaekie said, is an "East-windy, west-endy city." Cold and
stately, it sits on its height with something of the austere mournfulness
of a ruined capital. But we did not concern ourselves about the legal and
scholastic quarters, the Professor and I. We penetrated into inhabited
interiors in the Closes, meeting strange female ruins on staircases, or
bonny housewives in bed-sitting-rooms, in one of which a sick husband lay
apologetically abed. And when even the Professor was forced at last to
take refuge from the driving rain, it was in John Knox's house that we
ensconced ourselves--the grim, unlovely house of the great Calvinist, the
doorway of which fanatically baptised me in a positive waterfall, and in
whose dark rooms, as the buxom care-taker declared in explaining the
presence of an empty cage, no bird could live. It is not only in its
Closes, methought, that Scotland needs regen eration. Many a spiritual
blind-alley has still to receive sunshine and air, "sweetness and light."
So let us welcome "The Evergreen" and the planters thereof, stunted and
mean though its growth be as yet; for not only in Scotland may they bring
refreshment, but in that larger world where analysis and criticism have
ended in degeneration and despair.




FIESOLE AND FLORENCE

At Fiesole I just missed a sensation. Two friends of mine were climbing
at midnight the steep hill to the village, when from beneath a dark arch
there dashed down towards them two breathless _carabinieri_, their cloaks
flapping in the moonlight like the wings of the demon-bats of pantomime.
"Is it your way that the murdered man lies?" they panted. "Murdered man!"
At once a hundred shadowy reminiscences stirred in my friends' minds:
Prosper Merimee's novels, stories of vendettas, plots of plays, _morceaux
d'operas_, even of comic operas; and it was with a feeling in which the
latter element predominated that they answered that they had come across
no corpse. The police-officers thanked them and hurried off, so my
friends soon understood, as far as possible from the scene of the event;
for, passing through the arch, the _Inglesi_ came upon a track of blood,
black and clotted in the moonlight. But it did not seem real to
them--they still had a consciousness of comic opera, a consciousness
which was intensified rather than lessened when they emerged upon a group
of excited villagers discussing the crime, and learnt its cause. Two
rival bands, one from a neighbouring village, had been performing at a
local _concerto_, and the two rival trumpeters had continued to blow
their own trumpets after business hours. "Fancy blowing with that little
mouth!" said one. "I'm glad I haven't your maw (_boccone_)!" retorted the
other.

From words it came to knives, and ere you could say Jacopo Robinson a
trumpeter lay weltering in his blood, or rather in his gore, and the
murderer was flying into the arms of the police, who incontinently turned
and fled the other way. When my friends passed by the house of the
victim, the midnight air was ringing with the horrible curses of his
bereaved sister, whose spasmodic face was visible at a window. But the
cold-blooded artistic English felt no answering throb of sympathy--it was
still a scene in a play to them, still a _coup de theatre_--they had lost
the primary human instincts, corrupted by a long course of melodrama and
comic opera. To-day I myself saw a carnival procession in the village
piazza--a veritable survival of the Middle Ages; a triumphal car wreathed
in flowers, driven by masquerading mummers and surrounded by Pierrots and
peasant buffoons, a thoroughly naive and primitive bit of religion. But
it needed a perceptible effort to shake off the sense of the operatic, to
accept the thing as genuine. Ruskin contended (in that _olla podrida_
called "Modern Painters") that the Swiss peasants do not really dance and
sing happily in the market-place; and hence he argued--comically
enough--that the money spent on the stage reproduction of their happiness
should be spent in really promoting their happiness. With my Italian
peasants I feel the opposite: that such excellent picturesque effects
should not be wasted on mere reality, but should be turned to real use
upon the stage. So, too, it is difficult to take a roadside beggar
seriously; he seems to ask, not for alms, but for a frame. Happy the
unlettered and the inartistic, to whom even the picturesque person is a
person, who can think of olive oil when he sees the olive-trees weaving
their graceful patterns above the stone walls, and can watch the sun set
in lurid splendour behind the purple mountains with never a thought of
Turner or Childe Harold!

For modern civilised beings, in incessant relations with the reflections
of life through literature and art, it is difficult to receive any
impressions which do not re-reflect what lies in the mirror of art. And
here is an amusing side-issue. We are presented in plays and books, with
numerous situations in which the ignorance of one of the parties is a
necessary factor in the particular dramatic situation which it is sought
to evolve. But as this person, _ex hypothesi_, belongs to the class of
society which is familiar with this particular plot _ad nauseam_, is it
possible that he or she should go on betraying the same ignorance on
which the plot originally was based? Even Marguerite has seen "Faust"
nowadays!

This suggests an objection to old plots quite apart from their oldness,
for that which started by being probable becomes improbable by age. Even
if it were ever possible for a man to be jealous of a woman because he
saw her kissing a man whom, after long and weary years of superfluous
separation, he discovered to be her brother, it should surely be
impossible to-day. If I saw any man kissing my _fiancee_ I should know at
once it was my future brother-in-law--or at any rate I should
inquire--which the old hero never seemed to do. And yet I will wager that
in the course of this year at least a dozen novels and plays will be
built up upon this theme. It is, by the way, a noticeable characteristic
of people in plays never to have read nor to be interested in any but the
petty dramatic matter which is interesting them--and let us hope the
audience--at the moment. It may be replied that the economy of the stage
demands that everything that is not strictly essential should be
eliminated; but yet it ought to be possible, by a few words, to give the
idea that the figures upon the boards are doing more than moving to the
strings of the playwright. Just so the painter of the gulf should suggest
the ocean beyond; the painter of the landscape, the infinity of space and
atmosphere in which it is enisled. What the _plein air_ school contended
for in painting is no less requisite in literature.

This consideration seems to account for the uneasy sense of unreality
which we feel in the modern machine-made Sardou play, in which the
characters have the air of existing entirely to themselves, and for the
sake of the particular play, and do not give that large sense of being
part of the civilised humanity we know that reads and thinks. The men
make love or profess hate, repudiate their wives, or cut off their sons
with shillings, all with the air of its happening for the first time, and
wholly devoid of that sense of the ridiculous which they could not help
feeling if they had been accustomed themselves to read novels and sit in
stalls.

It is, in fact, impossible for us moderns, educated in a long literary
tradition, to live our lives as naturally and naively as the unlettered
of to-day, or the people of the preliterary geological epoch. This is
brought out "ostensively," as Bacon would say, in "Don Quixote," or in
the Russian novel "A Simple Story"--apparently so called because it is so
complex--in which Gontcharov's hero lives in what Alice might call
"behind the looking-glass" of literature. He is a country boy who comes
up to St. Petersburg, and after a course of Russian novels is transformed
into a series of imitations of their heroes. He does nothing, feels
nothing, thinks nothing except after the pattern of these creatures of
the quill.

Well! we are all like that, more or less. Though we may not be as
chivalrously inspired as the Knight of La Mancha, nor run to the extremes
of the simple Russian, we are all to some extent remoulded in imitation
of the Booklanders, and this is the truth in the "decadent" paradox that
nature copies art. There is a drop of ink in the blood of the most
natural of us; we are all hybrids, crossed with literature, and
Shakespeare is as much the author of our being as either of our parents.
The effect of the stage in regulating the poses and costumes of
susceptible souls has not escaped notice; but the effect of novels and
poetry is more insidious. Who ever shuddered with bitter alliterative
kisses before Swinburne, and who has failed to do so since? What poor
little cockney clerk in his first spasms of poetry but has felt, sitting
by his girl in the music hall, that if she walked over the grave in which
he was planted, his "dust would hear her and beat, had he lain for a
century dead" (though how Maud could survive her lover for a century,
Tennyson failed to explain)?  _Per contra_, the ingenuous spinster taking
her notions of love from Maupassant's "Bel-Ami," or Gabriele d'Annunzio's
"Trionfo della Morte," becomes a man-hater. Yes, I fear that the artistic
treatment of life has a good deal to answer for. People do not yet
understand that the mirror of art does not reflect life unrefracted. The
great eternal theme of art is love-making; but even artists have to give
up some time to art-making.

But to wind up anent our murderer. He is still at large. The police have
given up the chase in despair. But he has never left the village, and we
villagers all wink at one another as we discuss his whereabouts; and when
we meet him driving his cart or come across him cutting wood in the
forest and he genially gives us _Buon' giorno_ we salute him with
answering politeness. Only in the village band there is a temporary
trumpeter, for even the police might hear of him if he performed in
public loudly enough. But Italian justice, though it does really savour
of comic opera, is not so farcical as it appears on the surface. It is an
unwritten law that the police shall not _pigliare_ him till the sessions
are nigh. He is on parole, so to speak, to come up when called upon; if
he were really to take flight, he would be declared an outlaw, and the
only reason the police cannot find him is that they know where he is. How
sensible! Why board and lodge him gratis for weeks? He has outraged the
community: shall the community reward him with free meals? Even when he
is caught he will be treated with the same economy. Capital punishment
there is none in Italy. Why waste a citizen and a tax-payer? Especially
when one has already been destroyed! No, he will be sentenced to a term
of imprisonment. But he will not serve it. He will escape, or it will be
commuted. And while he is in gaol he will have a good time. He will smoke
and play cards, or, leaning out of his dungeon casement, hold a levee of
his friends. Recently the soldiers at Bergamo mutinied because they were
supplied with worse bread than the denizens of the gaol. I trust the
ringleaders were sent to prison so as to remedy this dietary injustice.

Please do _me_ the justice to remark that I have been in Italy for
several paragraphs without once referring to the Old Masters. But the
fact is that I have not been much at the Masked Balls. Does this saying
seem cryptic? All it means is that the confusion into which our
scientific century has thrown us is worse confounded than usual in the
universe of pictures; that the Galleries appear to be made up of pictures
masquerading under wrong names. Time was when one might go about
comfortably with a Baedeker and a stock of admiration and distribute it
as per instructions. But these good old times are over. The Old Masters
of yesterday are the young apprentices of to-day. It is pitiable to think
how many well-meaning enthusiasts have fallen victims to the careless or
crafty curator. Sometimes it scarcely needs a connoisseur to suspect the
good faith of catalogues. I, myself, a mere babe and suckling, came to
the conclusion, after a visit to the Velasquez Exhibition in London, that
Velasquez must have been very versatile. It is too bad that artists
should be hanged for crimes they never committed. 'T is to be hoped their
ghosts carefully avoid the Galleries. But beshrew your paintings! My eyes
make pictures--not like Coleridge's when they're shut, but when they 're
open. Who would not rather lie with me in the _podere_ in the shade of
the cypress trees, under the blue, blue sky, and behold through a tangle
of olive-boughs the marvellous Dome of Florence, as satisfying as the
sea, or under a starry heaven the loveliest of cities glittering like a
rival firmament with answering constellations? And yet I recant. For if
there is one piece of art which is better than nature, 't is Botticelli's
so-called "Spring," which, long misprised and now worm-riddled, adds the
last magic to the wonderful flower-city. To her that hath shall be given.




GLASGOW

"And what do you think of Glasgow?" said the pretty lady interviewer--I
have the right to say she was pretty because she said in print that I
wasn't. I replied that of course Glasgow wasn't pretty but--and here
would have followed an amiable dissertation upon the municipal
superiority of Glasgow. "But," hastily interrupted the lady interviewer,
"have you seen the fine vista of St. Vincent Street, the Great Western
Road, the finest thoroughfare in Europe, the charming residential
districts of Pollokshields West and Dowanhill, the wide view from the
South Side Park or picturesque Camphill?" I tried to edge in an abashed
"No," for a monosyllable is the most one can hope to secure of the
conversation in an interview; but the pretty lady interviewer went on
reproachfully: "Have you seen that stately hill of the dead, the
Necropolis, from Cathedral Square? It is itself a quaint and beautiful
medley of architecture past and present. Have you seen beautiful
Kelvingrove, through which flows the classic Kelvin? In many world-famous
cities have I been and yet seen nothing more beautiful than the view on
one side of Partick Bridge." I apologised to Glasgow, inwardly
confounding the eminent Scotch _litterateur_ who had assured me that
Glasgow was the most loathsome den north of Tweed, almost the only such
den,--his malison upon Glasgow! But although I feel personally nothing
but gratitude to Glasgow and its noisy University students, I cannot
honestly award it the apple for beauty. After all it is the centre of the
town that one naturally gravitates to, and no charm of suburbs can remove
the general impression of commercial dinginess.

No, Glasgow must be content with its wealth and its public spirit. If it
does not stir the imagination like Edinburgh, it satisfies the brain and
the heart, for it is grappling manfully with many social problems, with
the opening of parks and hospitals, and especially with the housing of
the poor, and is developing an artistic conscience to boot. It owns its
gas and water, and I had the felicity of meeting the Lord Provost at the
very moment when, his glittering insignia heaving with emotion on his
joyous breast, he had to announce to the Town Council that the
fiercely-canvassed step of taking over the tramways had resulted in a
balance to the good. When the Lord Provost had returned to his chair, I
was shown the Councillors themselves at their mahogany tables, in their
beautiful Council-chamber, and I made notes--not of the debate, as the
lynx-eyed reporter, who counted the number of times I sucked my pencil,
imagined--but of the improved appearance of George Square under snow.
Seen through the windows the square stretched away pure and beautiful the
gloomy statues blanched and Prince Albert's horse gleaming proudly with
white trappings. The Municipal Buildings deserve all the praise they have
received. The special staircase, which is used only on state occasions,
presents from point to point a marvellously proportioned medley of arches
and pillars and arcades, with a dominant Corinthian note. It is really
"frozen music." And when adorned with tropical plants and lit up with
electric lights and pretty faces, it must indeed be a superb sight. Very
imposing, too, is the vast Banqueting Hall, from whose platform, to test
the acoustic effect of the rows of wires stretched six inches apart under
the ceiling to break the sound, I addressed vacancy. The panels of this
hall still await their artists. 'T is a rare opportunity for Glasgow to
emulate the Parisian Pantheon; and, indeed, there is so much art-work to
be done in Glasgow that one begins to understand why it is threatening to
become the capital of British Art. The best road in Scotland is no longer
that which leads to England. It was curious for a humble author to walk
these stately halls, convoyed by courteous officers in red swallow-tails,
and to rub shoulders with civic millionaires. An awesome air of wealth
hung over the men and the place, a crushing suggestion of vast
enterprises, of engineering and railway building and the running of
steamers, a subtle aroma of colossal fortunes, wrested from the world by
the leverage of an initial half-crown. I have often gone to places with
only half a crown in my pocket, but it never seemed to lead to anything.
So I surveyed these men with blended reverence and bewilderment,
wondering why they bothered themselves to make all that money, and
whether they ever suspected they were but tools in the hands of destiny,
by whose marvellous alchemy the self-centred ambition of the individual
is transmuted to the service of the world. The genial Bailie Simons, who
was my host--fancy living in daily contact with a Bailie!--informed me
that the grave city fathers are sadly degenerating. Thirty years ago they
did not smoke in public: now there is a smoking-room in the sacred
building itself; and at least one of them has been seen to leave it in a
white hat.

Like the king's daughter, Glasgow is all glorious within, and its inner
artistic aspirations make up for and are perhaps inversely inspired by
its outer unloveliness. The world must not judge Glasgow's taste by the
recent Puritanic rumpus over the nude. The worthy Bailies and the Chief
Constable who drew the line at Leighton and Solomon have overlooked the
interesting nudities in their own Galleries. The affinity of the Scotch
and the French, which has often been noted in history, and which accounts
for their swamping the English in literature, has made Style the
watchword of the Glasgow School of Art. Whistler's "Carlyle" hangs in the
Corporation Galleries, and it was the stylist, Lavery, who secured the
tedious commission to commemorate Her Majesty's opening of the Glasgow
Exhibition by the usual plethora of portraits. It would have made a more
interesting picture had Mr. Lavery perpetuated the fact--so pregnant a
contribution to the philosophy of Exhibitions--that a profit of L10,000
was derived from the switchbacks. The picture would then have made a nice
supplement to Mr. Lavery's famous studies of "Croquet" and "Tennis." The
very slabs of the Corporation staircase are infected with Impressionism,
and their natural veinings body forth, here a charge of cavalry, there a
march of infantry, and yonder a portrait of Sir William Vernon Harcourt
with a prophetic coronet. The stones of Glasgow await their Ruskin. The
Exhibition which I saw at the Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts was far more
interesting than the last Academy, though it contained some of the same
pictures. I was able to tell the Scotch artists an anecdote which no one
had heard before, for the simple reason that it was true, and that it
happened to me. It was in Perth that, puzzling over a grimy statue, I was
accosted by a bare-footed newsboy with his raucous cry of "Hair-r-ald,
Glasgow Hair-r-ald!"

"I'll take one," quoth I, "if you'll tell me whose statue that is."

"'T is Rabbie Burns" replied he, on the nail.

"Thank you," said I, taking the paper. "And what did he do, to deserve
the statue?"

My newsboy scratched his head. Perceiving his embarrassment, a party of
his friends down the street called out in stentorian chorus: "Ay, 't is
Babbie Burns."

"But what did he do to deserve the statue?" I thundered back. They hung
their heads. At last my newsboy recovered himself; his face brightened.
"Well?" said I again, "what did he do to deserve this statue?"

"He _deed_!" answered the intelligent little man.

Another newsboy, whom I asked if he had ever read Sir Walter Scott,
replied, "No, he is _ower dreich_ (over dry)."

Talking of statues, I see that Paisley is going to erect a full-sized
figure of the late Thomas Coats, with a bronze high hat under his bronze
arm. The history of the Corporation Art Galleries is curious. The nucleus
of the collection is the bequest of a coach-builder, who seems to have
had a Glaswegian Renaissance all to himself, for it was years after his
death before his legacy was routed out from the lumber-rooms to which it
had been consigned, and ere its many genuine treasures were catalogued by
Mr. James Paton, the learned curator, whose magic-lantern exhibit the
other day of the coach-building connoisseur's face was the first display
of his lineaments to an ungrateful posterity. The Galleries now claim to
contain so many Old Masters that no connoisseur is complete without a
knowledge of them. Except Velasquez, there is scarcely one of the great
painters who is not represented here, even including Giorgione, of whom,
parodying Hegel's remark about the one disciple who understood him ("and
he doesn't understand me!"), it may be said that there are only two
genuine specimens of him in the world, and that both of these are by his
pupils. What Mary Logan would say to these Rembrandts and Rubenses I know
not; but there is much of indisputable value in this collection, to say
nothing of Flaxman's masterpiece--the statue of Pitt,--or the recent
accessions, such as the Whistler, or David Murray's "Fir Faggots," or the
bust of Victor Hugo by Rodin.

Pictorially the hill of the dead was the most interesting part of Glasgow
I saw--a scene which, especially in its simple severe Protestant draping
of snow, might well tempt the artist. At its summit John Knox looks down
upon the Cathedral, whose altars and images were broken during the
Reformation, and whose new stained windows (made in Germany) testify by
their preference for Old Testament subjects to the latent Puritanism of
Caledonia. Especially interesting is the crypt, with its sepulchral
church, whose subterranean service is recorded in "Rob Roy." One of the
pillars of the crypt proper is called the Rob Roy pillar, for behind it
the great outlaw is supposed to have hidden. Near it is the shrine of St.
Mungo, patron saint of Glasgow, who has presumably risen in the hierarchy
now that Glasgow has been made a county. Facing the shrine is a window
decorated with a portrait of Edward Irving, clothed as St. John the
Baptist. The cicerone said it was greatly admired because the eyes
followed you about wherever you walked. This is not the first time I have
been asked to admire as supreme art what is really one of the commonest
of optical delusions. After the Cathedral had closed, it had to be
reopened because I had lost a glove within. After a careful search the
glove was found in the gloomy crypt, pointing its finger at this
miraculous picture, unable to tear itself away. But perhaps the most
characteristic thing I came across in Glasgow was an inscription at the
end of the bridge leading to the picturesque cemetery. "The adjoining
bridge was erected by the Merchants' House of Glasgow to afford a proper
entrance to their new cemetery, combining convenient access to the
grounds with suitable decoration to the venerable Cathedral and
surrounding scenery, to unite the tombs of many generations who have gone
before with the resting-places destined for generations yet unborn, where
the ashes of all shall repose until the rising of the just, when that
which is born a natural body shall be raised a spiritual body, when this
corruptible must put on incorruption, when this mortal must put on
immortality, when death is swallowed up in victory." There you have
Glasgow! An auctioneer's advertisement blent with an edifying sermon, a
happy combination of commerce and Christianity, making the best of this
world and the next.

I left Glasgow in a choking yellow fog. Five minutes from the city the
train steamed into bright sunshine, which continued till five minutes
from London, where a sisterly yellow fog was waiting. As Tennyson sings,
I had gone "from the night to the night."




HASLEMERE

I am up a "Bo tree." Every schoolboy knows (that is, of course, every
Buddhistic schoolboy) that when the Buddha made "the great renunciation,"
he attained Nirvana by sitting under a "Bo tree." My "Bo tree" is a great
oak in the heart of the woods, mounted by a dizzy spiral staircase, at
the summit of which you enter Nirvana by means of the "House on the
Garden," a glass-house floored with boards and furnished with rustic
chairs, a lounge and a writing-table; and here, amid the tree-tops, I
write to the music of thrush and blackbird, with restful glances at the
sailing clouds or at the sunny weald, that circles for miles around and
ends to the south in the "downs" that hide the English Channel. Perhaps
it is because my landscape takes in Tennyson's happy Haslemere home that
my thought runs so much on him to-day, and then runs back to a cold stone
staircase up which I toiled in pitchy blackness to see a great French
poet. Taine, who preferred Alfred de Musset to Tennyson, made of a
contrast between the two men the most telling pages in his history of our
literature, setting in graphic antithesis the dust and flare and fever of
the Boulevards against the

  English home, gray twilight poured
    On dewy pastures, dewy trees,
  Softer than sleep,--all things in order stored,
    A haunt of ancient peace,

where the English Laureate brooded over his chiselled verses. How much
more piquant a contrast might be drawn between the jealously-guarded
castle in which Tennyson entrenched himself and the accessible garret in
the Rue St. Jacques where Verlaine held his court in absolute bonhomie
and deshabille.

But, alas! there is no Nirvana on my "Bo Tree"--at least, not to-day. The
blatancy of a brass band bursts forth on the breeze. A popular waltz
silences the cuckoos. I climb down my spiral staircase and hasten across
the wood to discover what these strange sounds portend. In front of the
creeper-clad house I come upon a scene of comic opera. This is the
village fete day, and here are the festive villagers come to pay
allegiance to the lord of the manor. The majority are Foresters,
and wear green sashes, and carry banners like to the pictorial
pocket-handkerchiefs of Brobdingnag. The music gives over, and my host
addresses them from between the roses of his porch, and they laugh at his
genial jokes with the unanimity of the footlights. There are tiny tots
and old women in the background, and yonder is the Village Beauty--a ripe
maid, i' faith, and a comely. There are other girls in her train; but,
oddsbobs! what have they done with their tights? and why do they delay to
announce her approaching marriage in merry melodic chorus? But I conceal
my surprise and, as the cynical Man from Town (gadzooks!), ogle the Pride
of the Village, to the disgust of her rural swain, who has started
blowing the trombone and dare not desist, though his cheeks get redder
and more explosive each instant. In the next Act we all go down to the
annual dinner, in a long rose-wreathed tent, and the Parson says grace
and the Parson's Clerk "Amen," and the Squire (in corduroy knickerbockers
and leggings) bestows his benediction on all the village, while without,
the happy peasants project sticks at cocoanuts or try their strength with
mallets, and all is virtuous and feudal. In the third Act we are in the
Vicarage Garden--a beautiful set, with real rhododendrons. Sir Roger de
Coverley takes tea i'fackins with the Parson, and the Stalwart Farmer
passes the sugar to the Man from Town, who is gazing out wistfully
towards the Village Green, where the Village Beauty foots it featly with
the Village Idiot. The last Act passes in the Drawing-Boom of "Bo tree"
House, where the Archdeacon's Daughter touches her tinkling guitar and
warbles a plaintive ballad:--

   O give my love to Nancy,
     The girl that I adore--
   Tell her that she'll never see
     Her soldier any more--
   Tell her I died in battle
     Fighting with the black,
   Every inch a soldier,
     Beneath the Union Jack.

Dear naive old song, fitting climax of a feudal day, sweet with the
freshness of those simple times, when art for art's sake was a shibboleth
uninvented, and every other man was not diabolically clever! How many
mothers and sisters wept over thy primitive pathos, as they knitted the
Berlin wool-work! how many masculine hearts throbbed more manfully at the
appeal of thy crude patriotism! To-day we analyse ruthlessly thy metre,
proclaiming it the butterwoman's rank to market, and thy sentiment, which
we dub pinchbeck, and we remember that the Union Jack is used only in the
Navy; we are deaf to thy inspiration and dumb at thy chorus; we are
sceptical as to thy soldier's love: Nancy, we know from realistic poets
of the Barrack Room, took up with another young man before her month was
out; and as for the black, he is the object of our devoutest solicitude.
Go to! thou art surely a Gilbertian travesty, a deliciously droll
compound of vulgar patriotism and maudlin pathos. And yet somehow there
are tears on the smiling cheeks of the Man from Town. Let us go out and
hear the nightingales and be sentimental under the moon. Hark how they
precipitate their notes in a fine lyric rapture. This is the same "Jug,
Jug, Jug," that called forth Keats' immortal ode. We cannot hear the
birds' music for itself; it comes to us through melodious chimes of
poetry. Nature has been so filtered through human emotion, so passed and
repassed through the alembic of poetic passion, that she has ceased to be
natural. Little children and fools, on whom, according to the Talmud, the
gift of prophecy devolved when the Temples fell, may still see her naked,
but for the lettered man she is draped in lyric conventions. There is
anthropomorphism in literature as well as in theology: for George Eliot
Nature is steeped in humanity; she cannot see anything for itself. "Our
delight in the sunshine on the deep-bladed grass to-day might be no more
than the faint perception of wearied souls, if it were not for the
sunshine and the grass in the far-off years which still live in us and
transform our perception into love." I wonder if she ever wrote a pure
description of scenery without psychological or mythological allusions.
To a soul saturated with literary prepossessions, nightingales, like love
and most things human, are apt to disappoint and disenchant.

  Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
  Are sweeter.

The cultured American, who has no nightingales at home--not even big
ones--and who arranges to hear an English nightingale between a
performance at Ober-Ammergau and an exploration of the Catacombs of
Paris, often wants his money back after the songster "on yon bloomy
spray" has "warbled at eve when all the woods are still." He has been
expecting something like a song of Patti accompanied on the piano by
Paderewski. It was an American poetess--Mrs. Piatt--who informed the
skylark:

  The song thou sang'st to Shelley was not half
  So sweet as that which Shelley sang to thee!

After all, birds repeat themselves sadly--they strike one note, like a
minor poet, and live on the reputation of their first success. It is
amusing for a few minutes to hear a clever bird giving imitations of the
cuckoo clock, but the joke palls. The Archdeacon's Daughter has a wider
repertoire. And so? though the nightingales are still singing,
conversation springs up in the copse as if it were a drawing-room and the
singers human. My host discourses of the litter of pigs just arrived from
the Great Nowhere, and dilates upon the fact that of the 3,423,807 pigs
in England no two tails are curled alike. Perhaps even so no two
nightingales curl their phrase identically, and one roulade differeth
from another in glory.




PARIS

Decidedly the Parisian atmosphere is charged with artistic electricity.
The play, the novel and the picture flourish on the same stem, and the
very advertisement posters tell their lies artistically. Paris is the
metropolis of ideas. You may catch them there and set up as a prophet on
the strength of a fortnight's holiday. Maeterlinck says he learnt all he
knows from a man he met in a _brasserie_. Fancy picking up ideas in a
pothouse! In London you could only pick up "h's." The reverse of the
medal is the morbidity that ideas and _brasseries_ engender. In the cafes
of the Boule Miehe, where the decadent movements are hatched and the
fledgling Verlaines come to drown theusorrows in vermouth, you may see
the lacklustre visages and tumbled hair of "diabolical" poets and the
world-weary figures of end-of-the-century youngsters pledging their
mistresses in American grog.

But the great heart of the People, that beats still to the homely old
music, and you shall find no trace of morbidity in the melodramas of the
Porte-St.-Martin or the music-halls of the people's quarter. To-day is
the Gingerbread Fair--_La Foire au Pain d'Epices_; and _Tout Paris_--that
is to say, everybody who isn't anybody--is elbowing its way towards the
centre of gaiety. Tramcars deposit their packed freights near the
Bastile[*], and where the women of the Revolution knitted, feeding their
eyes on blood, bonnetless old crones sit drinking red wine in the sun.
The sky is radiantly blue, and there is a music of merry-go-rounds. They
are far more elegant than our English merry-go-rounds, these
_carrousels_, hung with tapestry, and offering you circumambient
palanquins or even elephants. Before a toy stage, on which a mechanical
skirt-dancer disports herself with a tireless smile, an automatic
_chef-d'orchestre_ conducts the revolutionary march (none other than
"Ta-ra-ra-Boom-de-ay") while grotesque figures strike stiffly at bells.
On the pavement an old man has spread for sale a litter of broken dolls,
blind, halt and lame, when not decapitated; and in the roadway the
festive crowd splits to allow the passage of a child's coffin covered
with white flowers. The air thrills with the "ping" of unsuccessful
shots: I take a gun, and by aiming at a ball dancing on a fountain jet,
hit a bull's-eye two yards to the left. I throw flat rings at a sort of
ninepins, five shots for a halfpenny: the first four leave the pins
stolid and the public derisive. I throw the last at random, bring down
half the pins, and stalk off: nonchalantly, the pet of the fickle French
populace. I buy pancakes fried on the stall while you wait--they are
selling like hot cakes--and but for the difficulty of finding one with my
name picked out in pink on the gingerbread, I would buy a pig and hang it
on my breast. Some of the pigs have mottoes instead of names:

  De toute la creation
  C'est moi le plus cochon.

[* Transcriber's note: So in original.]

Another asserts:

  De la tete a la queue
  Je suis delicieux.

I ignore the pigs, but I pacify local prejudice by buying two gingerbread
sailors--a Russian and a French--shaking hands in symbolisation of the
Russo-French alliance, and I further prove myself a patriot by throwing
bright wooden balls into the mouth of a great-faced German, for which I
receive the guerdon of a paper rose and a Berlin wool monkey. I purchase
a ticket from a clown standing on a platform begirt by noisy cages, and
partake in a raffle for a live turkey; but fortunately I am spared the
task of carrying it through the Fair, and not wishing to tempt Providence
again, I content myself with trying for soap. A pack of cards is spread
round a wheel with an index: round goes the wheel, and whoever has the
card at which the index stops gets an orange, or if he likes to save up
his oranges exchanges them for a box of soap. You get four cards for two
sous, but I take all the pack. Round goes the wheel imperturbably. It
stops. Amid the breathless anxiety of the crowd I examine my cards, and
invariably find myself the fortunate possessor of the winning one. But,
by some mysterious arithmetic, which amuses the crowd, every time I win I
have to pay several sous. By such roundabout methods I ultimately arrive
at the soap. I have my portrait taken, allured by the "only a franc." My
image has a degenerate air; the photographer informs me it will not stay
unless he fixes it with enamel--which will be another franc. By the time
it is framed it has come up to six francs, and then, as I leave, the
attendant begs I will remember him! I give him the photograph, and
depart, hoping he will remember me. At the Place de la Nation the fun
grows thicker: there is a rain of confetti, and everybody comes out in
coloured spots; the switchback is busy, chairs mount and descend on
ropes, and there is a bunch of balloons; on a platform outside a booth a
showman beats a drum, the riding-master cracks his whip, and ladies of
uncertain ages and exuberant busts smile all day in evening dress; in the
neighbouring Cirque the Ball of the City of Paris is whirling noisily.
Yes, life goes on in the old, old way in the land of equality and
brotherhood; and the "red fool-fury of the Seine" is but a froth on the
surface. The "Twilight of the Peoples" is the morbid vision of a myopic
seer. With which reflection we will leave Sanity Fair.

As I write there is an appalling, long-drawn crash, which brings the
whole Quarter to its doors and windows. "Bombs" are in everybody's mouth,
and I find myself automatically repeating a sentence out of the Latin
exercise-book of my boyhood: "How comes it that thunder is sometimes
heard when the sky is clear?" I irrelevantly remember that "sometimes"
must be translated "not never." In the streets little groups are
gathered, gesticulating and surmising. Some say "The Pantheon," others
"The Luxembourg"; others trust it is only a gas explosion. I shock my
group by hoping it is a bomb, so that I may say I have heard it go off.
But I know nothing till I read "Paris Day by Day" next evening in "The
Daily Telegraph," and find that my ambition has been gratified, and that
the chief victim of the explosion is a Decadent Poet. Has any one been
taking seriously Nordau's cry for the extinction of the Degenerates?

The dead have their day in France, but it was not _le jour des morts_
when I bethought myself of visiting the grave of Maupassant. I do not
care for these crowded "at homes,"--I prefer to pay my respects in
solitude. You will not think this remark flippant if you are familiar
with French cemeteries, if you know those great family sepulchres, fitted
up as little chapels, through whose doors, crowned with the black cross,
you may see the great wax tapers in the candelabra at the altar, the
stained-glass windows with the figure of the Madonna and Child, the
eikons of Christ, the praying-stools, the vases, the busts or photographs
of the deceased--worthy people who not only thought life worth living but
death worth dying, and did the one and the other respectably and
becomingly. Maupassant lies in one art-quarter of Paris, just as Heinrich
Heine lies in the other. The cemetery is off the Boulevard Raspail,
within bow-shot of the _ateliers_ of Whistler and Bouguereau, overlooked
by an imposing statue of M. Raspail which sets forth that scientific
citizen's many virtues and services. He proclaimed Universal Franchise in
1830, he proclaimed the Republic in 1848, and his pedestal now proclaims
with equal cocksureness that science is the only religion of the future.
"Give me a cell and I will build you up all organised life," cries the
statue, and its stony hand seems to wave theatrically as in emulation of
the bas-reliefs on its base representing Raspail animating his
_camarades_ to victory. But alas! _tout passe, tout casse, tout lasse_,
and not all the residents of the Boulevard are aware of the origin of
their address. Chateaubriand survives as a steak and Raspail as a
Boulevard.

The cemetery Montparnasse is densely populated, and I wandered long
without finding the author of "Boule de Suif." It was a wilderness of
artificial flowers, great wreaths made of beads. Beads, beads, beads,
black or lavender, and even white and yellow, blooming garishly in all
sizes on every grave and stone, in strange theatrical sentimentality;
complex products of civilisation, making death as unnatural as the
feverish life of the Boulevards. Sometimes the beaded flowers were
protected by glass shades, sometimes they were supplemented by leaden or
marble images. Over one grave I found a little porcelain angel, his wings
blue as with the cold; and under him last year's angel in melancholy
supersession. Elsewhere, most terrible sight of all in this ghastly
place, was a white porcelain urn on which were painted a woman's and a
man's hand clasped, the graceful feminine fingers in artistic contrast
with the scrupulously-cuffed male wrist with the motto, "_A mon mari,
Regrets eternels._" Wondering how soon she remarried, I roved gloomily
among these arcades of bourgeois beads, these fadeless flowers, these
monstrous ever-blacks, relieved to find a touch of humour, as in a
colossal wreath ostentatiously inscribed "_A ma belle-mere._" I peeped
into the great family tombs, irresistibly reminded of "Lo, the poor
Indian," and the tribes who provision their dead; I wondered if the old
ghosts ever turn in their graves (as there is plenty of room for them to
do) when some daughter of their house makes an imprudent alliance. Do
they hold family councils in the chapel, I thought, and lament the
growing scepticism of their grandchildren? Do they sigh to see themselves
so changed from the photographs in the family album that confronts their
hollow orbits? Do they take themselves as seriously in death as they did
in life? But they were all scornfully incommunicative. And at last,
despairing of discovering the goal of my journeyings, I inquired of a
guardian in a peaked blue cap and a blue cloak, who informed me that it
was in the twenty-sixth section of the other cemetery. Wonderfully
precise, red-tape, bureaucratic, symmetrical people, the French, for all
their superficial curvetings! I repaired to the other portion of the
cemetery, to lose myself again among boundless black beads and endless
chapels and funereal urns; and at last I besought another blue-cloaked
guardian to show me the grave of Maupassant. "_Par ici,_" he said
nonchalantly: and eschewing the gravel walks he took a short cut through
a lane of dead maidens--

  What's become of all the gold
  Used to hang and brush their bosoms?--

and, descending an avenue of estimable _peres de famille_, turned the
corner of an elegant sepulchre, to which only the most fashionable ghosts
could possibly have the entry. Dear, dear, what heart-burnings there must
be among the more snobbish shadows of Montparnasse! My guide made me
pause and admire, and he likewise insisted on the tribute of my tear
before an obelisk to slaughtered soldiers and a handsome memorial to
burnt firemen.

But perceiving my impatience to arrive at the grave of Maupassant,
"_Mais, monsieur_," he protested, "_il n'y a rien d'extraordinaire._"
"_Vraiment!_" said I, "_c'est la l'extraordinaire._" "_Rien du tout
d'extraordinaire_," he repeated doggedly. "_Sauf le cadavre_," I
retorted. He shook his head, "_Tres pauvre la tombe_," he muttered: "_pas
du tout riche._" Another guardian, wall-eyed, here joined him, and
catching the subject of conversation, "_Tres pauvre_," he corroborated
compassionately. But he went with us, accompanied by a very lean young
Frenchman with a soft felt hat, an over-long frock-coat, tweed trowsers,
and a black alpaca umbrella. He looked like a French translation of some
character of Dickens. At last we arrived at the grave. "_C'est la!_" and
both guardians shook their heads dolefully. "_Tres pauvre!_" sighed one.
"_Rien du tout--rien_," sighed the other. And, thank Heaven, they were
right. Nothing but green turf and real flowers, and a name and a date on
a black cross--the first real grave I had come across. No beads, no
tawdry images, nothing but the dignity of death, nothing but "Guy de
Maupassant, 6 Juillet, '93," on the cross, and "Guy de Maupassant,
1850-93," at the foot. The shrubs were few, and the flowers were common
and frost-bitten; but in that desert of bourgeois beads, the simple green
grave stood out in touching sublimity. The great novelist seemed to be as
close to the reality of death as he had been to that of life. Those other
dead seemed so falsely romanticist. It was a beautiful sunny winter
afternoon. There was a feel of spring in the air, of the Resurrection and
the Life. Beyond the bare slim branches of the trees of the other
cemetery, gracefully etched against the sky, the sun was setting in a
beautiful bank of dusky clouds. Life was so alive that day, and death so
dead. Outside the tomb the poem of light and air, and inside the
tomb--what? I thought of the last words of "Une Vie," that fine novel,
which even Tolstoi considers great, of the old servant's summing up: "_La
vie, voyez-vous, ca n'est jamais si bon ni si mauvais qu'on croit_."
"Perhaps," thought I, "'t is the same with death." "The _Societe des Gens
de Lettres_ had to buy the ground for him," interrupted the wall-eyed
guardian compassionately. The Dickensy Frenchman heaved a great sigh.
"_Vous croyez!_" he said. "Yes," asseverated the other guardian--"he has
it in perpetuity." Ignorant of the customs of death, I wondered if one's
corpse were liable to eviction, and whether the statute of limitations
ought not to apply. "_Je pensais qu'il avait une certaine position_,"
observed the Frenchman dubiously. "_Non_," replied the wall-eyed
guardian, shaking his head, "_Non, il est mort sans le sou_." At the
mention of coin I distributed _pourboire_. The first guardian went away.
I lingered at the tomb, alive now to its more sordid side. Only one row
of bourgeois graves, some occupied, some still _a louer_, separated it
from an unlovely waste piece of ground, bounded by the gaunt brick wall
of the fast-filling cemetery. As I began to muse thereon, I heard a cry,
and perceived my guardian peeping from round the corner of a distant
tomb, and beckoning me with imperative forefinger. I wanted to stay; I
wanted to have "Meditations at the grave of Maupassant," to ponder on the
irony of death, to think of the brilliant novelist, the lover of life,
cut off in his pride, to lie amid perspectives of black and lavender
beads. But my guardian would not let me. "_Il n'y a rien a voir_," he
cried almost angrily, and haled me off to see the real treasures of his
cemetery. In vain I persisted that I must not give him trouble, that I
could discover the beauties for myself. "_O monsieur!_" he said
reproachfully. Fearing he might return my _pourboire_, I followed him
helplessly to inspect the pompous bead-covered tombs of the well-to-do,
shocking him by stopping to muse at the rude mound of an anonymous
corpse, remembered only by a little bunch of _immortelles_. One of the
fashionable sepulchres stood open, and was being dusted by a man and a
woman (on a dust _from_ dust principle, apparently). Most of the dust
seemed to be little beads. My keeper exchanged a word with the cleaners,
and I profited by the occasion to escape. I sneaked back to the grave of
Maupassant, but I had barely achieved a single Reflection, when "_Hola,
hola!_" resounded in loud tones from afar. I started guiltily, but in a
moment I realised that it was the cry of expulsion. The sunset was
fading, and the gates were to be locked. I hastened across the cemetery,
evading my guardian's face of reproach, and in another few moments the
paths were deserted, the twilight had fallen, and the dead were left
alone with their beads.




SLAPTON SANDS

After all the world is a large place. At the moment of writing I have
never heard of Home Rule, nor do I care two straws whether the House of
Lords is to be blown up on the fifth of November. What moves my interest,
what stirs my soul, what arouses the politician that lurks in the best of
us, is this question of the crab-pots. Shall the trawlers of Brixham be
allowed to slash at our cords and to send our wicker baskets adrift,
spoiling our marine harvests and making our larders barren against the
winter? They hover about our beautiful bay--these fiends in human shape,
with brown wings outspread--and wantonly lay waste our fishing-pots in
their reckless course, so that our crabs walk backwards into the sea. We
have had gentlefolks down from London about it, men who argue and
palaver, and wear high hats and are said to have long bills, and there is
talk of a Government cutter to protect us, towed by red tape, and the
trawlers are to cast their nets farther asea. But beware of believing
what you read in the Brixham papers,--we have no voice to represent us in
the press, and so these Brixham organs spread falsehoods about us in
every corner of the globe. A pretty pretence, forsooth, that it is the
steamers who plough up our crab-pots. Why, from Michaelmas to Christmas,
when the trawlers are away, not a single pot is disturbed from its
station, though the funnels smoke as usual in the eye of heaven. No, no,
ye hirelings of the press. Turn your mercenary quills elsewhere, beslaver
Mr. Gladstone or belabour him, arbitrate on the affairs of nations, and
throw your weighty influence into the scale of European politics. But do
not confuse the mind of the country on the question of crab-pots.

We do not get the Brixham papers here, but friends in London tell us that
is what they say. It is the same with the crabs--we have to order them
from London. All local products come _via_ London nowadays: London is
like a central ganglion, through which all sensations must travel before
being felt at the outside points where they were really incurred. This is
the case even with Irish patriots: they are made in Ireland, but if you
want them you have to go to London clubs for them. We have only had one
funeral here since I came, and then we got our material from London. He
had gone up to a London hospital--poor fellow!--and that was the end of
him. The village butcher it was, who thus went the way of all flesh, and
all of us went to his funeral and wept, for want of something else to do.
One cannot always be flippant, even on a holiday. Fortunately the butcher
left an aged father, who announced his intention of carrying on the
business, so we dried our eyes and dined, sure of the future. We thought
of the many creatures the deceased had killed--the Juno-eyed oxen, the
tender lambs, the peaceful pigs--and we did not see why we should be so
sentimental over the human species. We are all murderers, and yet we are
ready to gush over the first corpse that comes along. How I envy the
death-bed of a vegetarian!

We are not vegetarians here, but at least we eschew the six-course dinner
which so few travellers ever succeed in shaking off, even in _Ultima
Thule_. The most of modern travelling is a sort of Cook's Tour.
Everywhere the _menu_ is before you, everywhere waves the napkin, like
the flag of civilisation. Nowhere do we eat ourselves into the real life
of the people; everywhere the same monotonous variety of fare in
kitchen-French. In the remotest Orkneys, in the caves of Iona, in the
fjords of Norway, amid the crevasses of the Alps,--'t is the same tale of
_entrees_ and _entremets_. When Dr. Johnson made his tour in the
Highlands, he was allowed to forget he was not taking a walk down Fleet
Street. He interviewed the chiefs in their fastnesses, the cottagers in
their crofts. He broke rye-bread with the shepherd, ate haggis and
porridge with the peasant, and drank a gill of whisky to see "what makes
a Scotchman happy." Behind him he left his dish of tea, and the pet pork
that made the veins of his forehead swell with ecstasy. But to-day the
dinner-gong resounds where Rob Boy's bugle blared, and you may sit behind
your serviette

  Where the sun his beacon red
  Kindles on Ben Voirlich's head,

or where the monument of a Gaelic poet broods above the heather. The
tyranny of the _table-d'hote_ ceases not even at sea. Every ship bears
these monster meals in its belly--from salami to pineapple--whether it
walk the Boreal waters, or touch the Happy Isles of Mid-Pacific, or
swelter in the Red Sea. Not all the majesties and terrors of naked nature
can dock one _hors d'oeuvre_ from the _menu_. Our stomachs we have always
with us--the traveller's only real _vade mecum_. We change our sky but
not our stomach. When Nansen reaches the North Pole, he will, I am sure,
be able to put up at the local hotel, and have every luxury of the
cosmopolitan cuisine except the ices, which will probably have been all
sent up to the London market. It is this sort of thing that makes foreign
travel merely an expensive delusion. Your common traveller never gets
away from England, fare he never so far. His church, his kitchen and his
company are those he left behind him. To get away from England one must
go to Devonshire or Cornwall. But even here, amid the combes and the
leys, the crags and the quarries, the modern hotel, with its perfect
sanitation and imperfect French, is springing up with the rapidity of
Badraoulbadour's palace. It spoils the primitiveness of the people, and
gives them ideas below their station. They lose their simple manliness
and take tips. They corrupt their autochthonic customs, and drink
champagne cider. The modern hotel is a upas-tree, under whose boughs
poetry withers. One looks to see the ancient ballads lose their blood and
brawn. In time we may expect to find Cornwall producing _vers de
societe_. As thus:--

      And shall Trelawney dine?
      And shall Trelawney dine?
  Then thrice ten thousand Cornish men
      Will order in the wine.

In the absence of six-course dinners and newspapers about Home Rule, we
have had to fall back upon literature. We borrowed Zola's latest--from
the rector,--and read it simultaneously, stealing it from one another.
Even the dogs have devoured bits of it. The poodle has taken in most,
being French. She is an elegant, tricksy creature, Miss Plachecki by
name, but called--for short--"Wopsy." Wopsy's back is arranged in beds
like a Dutch garden; she has rosettes of black hair symmetrically
disposed about her hind quarters, and her tail is exactly like a mutton
cutlet in its frill. She belongs to the Woman of the party. Chum belongs
to the Girl. He is a bull-pup, with a frightfully ferocious face, but he
never bites unless he wants to hurt you. Girl says she took him to a
fashionable photographer's, but the artist refused to pose him. In vain
she pointed out that Chum was more paralysed than he; that Chum was
trembling all over (I opine 't was at the sight of the actresses'
portraits--the young dog!). The photographer steadfastly kept the
apparatus between him and the animal, telling Girl a story about a man
who owned a bull-dog with a bad memory. The man, coming home late, and
entering his sitting-room, was met by an ominous growl in the darkness.
Bull-dogs have little smell, and so the man was not recognized. He made a
movement towards the mantelpiece, where the matches were, to strike a
light and convince the dog of its mistake. But unfortunately the dog
guarded the mantelpiece, and every move was answered by a ghastly growl.
More unfortunately still, the man's bedroom was only approached through
the sitting-room, and its door was only approached through the dog. So,
for want of a match, the man passed the night like a Peri at the gates of
Paradise. At last Girl posed Chum, herself, her draperies constituting a
nebulous background; and the artist, walking warily, adjusted his
instrument, and the sun which shines alike on saints and bull-pups,
painted the squatter's portrait. But, alas! a woeful disappointment was
in store. When the proofs arrived, it was found that all that delightful
uncouthness of visage which is Chum's chief charm, all that fascinating
ferocity which makes him a thing of ugliness and a joy for ever, had
vanished--refined away, idealised into a demureness as of domestic tabby,
a platitudinarian peacefulness--nay, a sort of beauty! The camera had
been so accustomed to actresses that it could no longer work naturally.




VENICE

I am reading Nietzsche and Tolstoi. Each tells me that the morality of
the day is all wrong, and that he has discovered the one true way of
salvation. Life, cries Nietzsche, strength, sunshine, beauty. Death,
cries Tolstoi, abnegation, pity, holiness. 'T is all as old as the hills,
and withal so simple that one wonders why Nietzsche should have needed
eleven volumes to say it in and Tolstoi endless pamphlets. I never can
understand the lengths to which some authors go in self-repetition. Half
the books are written to prove that water is dry, and the other half that
it's wet. If you would only stop and think just for one moment, cries
Tolstoi, you would at once see what a ridiculous life you are leading and
you would refuse to lead it any longer. Stop and think! Ay, but 't is
difficult thinking to-day.

It will be all over and done with so long--by the time you read
this--that the Triple Alliance may be in three pieces; but for the moment
the complications of European politics alternately startle and depress my
day with furious cannonades of honour from an Italian gunboat and brazen
dronings of national anthems from a German band. For the young man whom
Tolstoi has described as the most comic figure in Europe, coming to meet
Umberto I. in Venice, inconsiderately stationed his yacht just outside my
window; and though he is gone at last, _Gott sei Dank_, the echoes of him
still linger in irrelevant cannon-shots that send the pigeons scurrying
in mad swoops; while, as if removed from the oppression of his presence,
the band of the _Hohenzollern_ plays London music-hall tunes all day
long, commencing, significantly enough, with "Oh, Mr. Porter, what a
funny man you are!" I never realised how international is our music-hall
till I heard Italians staggering home at midnight, singing "Two lovely
black eyes" in choice Venetian. A beautiful yacht this _Hohenzollern_, as
large as an Atlantic liner: I suppose an Imperial yacht is like an
Imperial pint.  'T was a great moment when it sailed in round a bend,
slow and serene--a glorious white vessel, radiant with flags, stately and
majestic in its movement as a sonnet of Milton, and about it a black
swarm of gondolas, those of the noble families equipped with half a dozen
gondoliers in green, yellow, or blue liveries, and at the stern of each
boat a trail of silk. And the dense crowds huzzahed, and the band played
"God Save the Queen," only in German, so that it meant, _Heil dir im
Siegeskranz_. And after that came the Italian national air, which isn't
an anthem, but a quick march, and so lacks dignity. The "Wacht am Rhein"
made a half-hearted effort to be present, but in the night we had the
Emperor's own "Sang an Aegir," stuck in the middle of a Wagner programme.
Beyond this, compliment could scarcely go.

This brazen air was the one jar on the poetry of a spectacle possible
only in Venice. Imagine it! Wagner played on a floating fairy-pagoda,
built as of gold flame, and shot with green and red, on the broad bosom
of St. Mark's basin, in the divine night, the stars seen hanging
diversely in free space, not stuck like gold-headed nails in a dark
ceiling; and in the mystery of the darkness, the domes and spires and
palaces of Venice, and the dim creeping boats, and the quivering
reflections of the illuminated Imperial vessel; and across the narrow
track of luminous water made by the Pagoda--that glittered with a
fantastic splendour as of Aladdin and Arabian nights--sudden gondolas
gliding from darkness to darkness, the beautiful curve of the prow
sharply revealed, the gondolier growing semi-transparent and quivering
with light, a strange half-demoniac figure bestriding his black bark.
And, mingled with the music, the hum of multitudes and the tramp of feet
and the silence of the vast night. All as Nietzsche's poem on Venice hath
it--"Gondeln, Lichter, Musik." Yes, they play politics prettily on the
Grand Canal--the finest street in Europe. Does it matter much what is the
game? Cannons and colour, bands and decorations, bread and circuses,
emperors uncovering to us, beautiful queens waving dainty
handkerchiefs--this is what lies behind the dry Treaties of the history
books. A few short weeks back we had been very angry with our King, and
had talked of Republics and what not. But the dead men in Abyssinia are
dead, and we are alive, and the Bengal fire on the palaces is really very
picturesque. If we would only stop and think--just for one moment! But
there's the rub.

It's no use stopping and thinking, unless everybody else will stop and
think at the same time. For you cannot refuse to lead a life that
everybody is leading, unless you are willing to be crushed by the
revolutions of the social machinery. Socialists, for instance, are often
twitted with not "behaving as sich." But socialists say that socialism
should be the law of the land: they do not say that it is practicable for
an odd man here and there to be a socialist in a world of individualists.
Tolstoi, to be of effect, would have to move all mankind at once to
renounce its ways, to abjure the lust of the eye and the pride of life.
And he would have to keep on moving it, or back it would roll. Mazzini
and the unification of Italy--what words to conjure with! But Mazzini is
dead, and how much of Italy is alive! 'T is more like a great show-place,
supported by its visitors, than a real, live country. Stop and think! 'T
is perhaps better not to think, for fear we should stop. William II., at
any rate--he is not likely to stop and think. This young man--from all I
have observed since he became my neighbour--lives a highly coloured
dramatic existence, in which there are sixty minutes to every hour and
sixty seconds to every minute, the sort of life that should have pleased
Walter Pater. He must be a disciple of Nietzsche, a lover of the strong
and the splendid, this German gentleman who is just off to Vienna to
prance at the head of fifteen hundred horsemen. While he lived opposite
me, it was all excursions and alarums. As a neighbour an emperor is
distinctly noisy. The local comic papers suggested that, as a universal
genius, Guglielmo II. would at once set about rowing a two-oared sandolo.
But this difficult feat Guglielmo did not essay, being convoyed more
comfortably in a long-boat by a brawny crew. Curious, by the way, that
transformation of William! They announce plays here by G. Shakespeare,
the divine Guglielmo.

'T is all very well for Guglielmo, the gondola of Avon, to invite us to
sit on the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings; and in a
city of departed Doges and lost glories't is easy to moralise over
earthly greatness. But kings are not always dead, and I daresay as
William II. in his cocked hat gazed from the quarter-deck of the
_Hohenzollern_ at the marvellous but untenanted Palace of the ancient
Bridegrooms of the Sea, he felt that a living lion is better than a dead
Doge. And yet it is a strange life, a king's. What an unreal universe of
flags and cannons and phrases must monarchs inhabit! Do they think that
the streets are always gay with streamers and bunting and triumphal
arches, always thunderous with throats of men or guns, always impassable?
Do they imagine their subjects spend their whole lives in packed black
masses, waving hats? Poor kings! I always class them with novelists for
ignorance of real life. And to think that they can only get to know life
from novels! If they would only stop, and think! But even when they do
stop, they never seem to think. Napoleon on St. Helena never faced
realities, aggressively pompous to the end. Then there is Don Carlos,
whom I miss in my afternoon stroll. He who might have dazzled us with
divinity is visibly a feather-less biped. The poor, mock king had to
leave Venice because his brother-sovereigns would not have called upon
him. For Don Carlos still keeps up the form and style of a crowned head,
and remains the last of the Bourbons, a picturesque ruin, reproach to a
blasphemous generation, heedless of the divine right of kings.

And the "divinity that doth hedge a king" can be kept up nowhere so
cheaply as in Venice. Venice is the dress-coat of cities, making all men
equal. Well might Wordsworth dub her "the eldest child of liberty"! For
in the streets of Venice you cannot drive or ride--walk you must. No
gleaming broughams, no spanking steeds: nothing--be you monarch or
mendicant--but your two legs. 'T is strange, in a land of no horses, to
find Venetians styled "Cavalier" for title of honour. They should surely
be called "Gondoliers." For the gondola is your only chance of display.
Rich Americans may flaunt it with four gondoliers and print "Palazzo" on
their visiting-cards. But doctors and lawyers live in Palaces, and even a
moderate purse can keep a horseless carriage. And your St. Mark's Square,
which is the largest drawing-room in the world, is also the most
democratic. Ladies of quality jostle shawled street-walkers, a German
sailor galls the kibe of a beautiful Browning duchess, officers with
showy epaulettes glitter among respectable shopkeepers; helmeted
cuirassiers, Austrian admirals, policemen with coloured tufts like
lamp-cleaners, German baronesses, bouncing bonnes with babies,
garlic-scented workingmen, American schoolgirls, and kings in exile, are
mixed pell-mell, all in perfect freedom and equality, and, though in the
shadow of St. Mark's Church, quite Christian. And an Italian crowd is
also Christian in its freedom from crush. It does not turn a fete into a
fight and a concourse into a competition. Thus, as the Prince Consort was
amused to find we English said of our pleasure-parties, all "passes off
well." Except when there is rain. And the heavens threw unmistakable cold
water on the Triple Alliance. The day of the Emperor's stay was the one
wet day Venice had known for months--so dank and chill, with so sooty a
sky, that my friend the artist, who had just been reading in the London
paper that his work had not caught the glamour and the colour of Venice,
that the South had not yet revealed its passionate secrets to him,
chuckled grimly. What is all this nonsense about an Italian hothouse? At
Florence I was afraid of being snow-bound in the sunny South. For, long
and heavily, though the London meteorologists registered sunshine,

  Cadeva dal cielo la neve
  Con tutta la sua quiete.

  (Down from heaven fell the snow
  With all its quietness.)

This perfect description of snowfall--which I found rudely chalked on the
wall of a Venetian alley--could never have been conceived in the Italy of
popular imagination. The superstition about Italian sunshine is like that
about Italian beauty. If the country about Florence is the loveliest in
Europe, surely the plain of Lombardy around Padua is the ugliest--a land
of symmetrical tree-stumps and stony villas flaunting themselves on the
roadway in pompous publicity.

In Venice the Emperor seemed specially to irritate the elements. The
illuminations were extinguished by a terrific torrent that sent the
people pattering away into the black, starless night, gleaming with rain
and fire; and to-night when the imperial band attempted to play "Sang an
Aegir" again, the heavens fell, and audience and orchestra vanished in
the twinkling of a gas-lamp, while the pavement of the Piazza glittered
golden as the facade of St. Mark's with dancing reflections, and the
lights burnt blue in the wind. Yes, though the papers next day said the
Emperor's Song was applauded enthusiastically, Jupiter Pluvius at least
never plays the courtier, and Boreas must be a rude reminder to monarchs
of their essential humanity. Come, let us sit upon the ground and tell
sad stories of the colds of kings. In the daylight I chanced upon a rough
wooden platform, bordered with plush and surrounded by tawdry terraces of
coloured, glass cups. This was the fairy, Aladdin-like Pagoda. And such,
methinks, are kings, on closer acquaintance. How majestic seemed William
II., and Humbert, the Kaiserin and Queen Margherita, when, massed in our
thousands on the Piazza, we clamoured for a glimpse of them: how
inaccessible and star-like when, after much exciting but irrelevant
shadow pantomime, they actually appeared on the balcony of the Palace, as
if to feed us like the pigeons we had displaced! With what tumultuous
rapture did we behold their faces! Stop and think! You cannot stop and
think. Enthusiasm is a microbe, and is independent of its object: even so
we could yawn over Punch and Judy, if the crowd assembled to yawn.
Republicans who came to sneer remained to cheer.

  'T is comic this,
  And comic that,
  And clown on royal pay,
  But 't is "Long live _unser Kaiser!_"
  When the band begins to play.

And humanity has need of leaders, heroes--'t is a primal instinct. The
Jews had Jehovah himself for sovereign, but nothing would content them
but a real man-king, who should rule them and judge them and go out
before them in war. Kings were leaders once, but in modern days they are
only symbols, just as flags are: the whole force of the nation is behind
them, and they stand for home and country. This it is that gives them
majesty and divinity. 'T is a case of transformation of function, an old
institution adapted to new uses, and valuable partly as giving colour to
life, partly for preventing the evils which Gibbon so pregnantly showed
to be inseparable from any system of primacy not based on an immutable
heredity. The trouble is when the flag wishes to order the march.

An unbroken tradition has kept up the old phrases of loyalty, and so what
wonder if a king sometimes takes them seriously! "_Le roi le veult_" not
unnaturally leads sometimes to a king willing. And also we are not quite
conscious of the transformation; it has come about so gradually that no
one knows when kings ceased to be leaders, and when they became flags,
and so with the new feeling blend confusedly strands of the old. We
English have abolished the sovereign, but we are too loyal to say so. In
Germany the sovereign has refused to be a symbol, and in a country
over-civilised in thought and under-civilised in action, he has had a
pretty good innings. I must confess I do not find this attitude of his
merely ridiculous. It forces clearly upon the modern world the question
of kingship, whether it is to be a sham or a reality. Unpopular as
William II. has made himself by his martinet methods--ridiculous, if you
will--yet there is only one step from the ridiculous to the sublime. In a
flippant age he takes himself seriously, has a sense of a responsible
relation to his people. Have you seen the cartoon he designed to inspire
the nations of the West to league together for the protection of their
ideals against the races of the East? The thought may be trite, the
philosophy leagues behind the doctrines of the Berlin _Aufgeklaerter_, but
it shows a soul above card-playing or court-gossip. What a noble chance
there would be for a modern sovereign who should really be the head of
his people, on a par with the culture of his age, in harmony with its
highest ideals, fostering all that is finest in life and character, in
art and thought! Snobbishness would be converted to useful ends, and
courtiers would become philosophers out of sheer flattery. But such a
Platonic king is scarcely to be looked for: the training is so bad.

The presence of kings makes places abnormal and out of character, but in
Venice it rather gives one a sense of the true Venice, she that once held
the gorgeous East in fee. For the Venice of every day only escapes
vulgarity by force of beauty: she lives up to the English and German
tripper, borders her great Piazza with photograph shops, and counts on
the sentimental traveller to feed her pigeons. Oh, that trail of the
tourist over Europe, falsifying the very things he went out for to see!
"Coelum non animum mutant," said the Roman poet long ago of travellers,
but the modern traveller carries his sky with him. Instead of "Venice in
London" 't is London in Venice. Carefully fenced off from the local life
by his _table d'hote_, it is rarely that the Briton comes to understand
that he and not the native is the foreigner, the _forestiere_. Cities on
show are never real; they are like people posturing before a camera,
instead of being taken _au naturel_. And "the season" is the time in
which they are least real. Too many Cooks' tourists spoil the broth.
Cities _en fete_ are masked and prankt, and the spring in Italy is like
one long _Forestieri_ day. At the church of Eremitani in Padua I was
taken to see some Mantegnas at a side-altar while a very devout
congregation was celebrating Eastertide, and the verger unlocked a gate
and pocketed his tip with undiminished piety. How apt an image of life,
these Italian churches--some of us praying and some of us sightseeing! It
must be confusing to the celestial bookkeepers to distinguish the Bibles
from the Baedekers. And while the real Venice is as unreal as the real
Florence or the real Rome, Venice welcoming her king gives one a truer
impression of the Venice of our dreams, the Queen of the seas in the
brave days of old. Let us forget the steamboats and the iron bridges, let
us make believe that the _Hohenzollern_ is the great Bucentaur, in which
the Doge went out to wed the Adriatic and which that arch-Philistine
Napoleon broke up. For the Venice of every day is a dead city, with
nothing left of its ancient glories but wealth. Though the millions be
reckoned in lire, there are over a hundred millionaires in Venice. But of
that mighty artistic and religious impulse which produced countless
churches and palaces, pictures and frescoes, which strewed the very
street walls with spirited sculpture, and warmed even parochial offices
with priceless paintings, there is as little trace as of the indomitable
energy that founded a great Republic on wooden piles and guarded it from
the sea by dykes and from its enemies by the sea. The escutcheons of its
great families are fast becoming archaeological, and Americans and Jews
inhabit their palaces. How great a power Venice was I never realised till
I was permitted to see the Archives. It takes three-quarters of an hour
to walk through these galleries of town records. Miles of memorandums,
wildernesses of reports, acres of ambassadors' letters from every court
in Europe, written in cipher with inter-bound Italian translations. I
tried to find the report of the ambassador at the Court of St. James
anent the execution of Charles I., but gave up hopeless, oppressed by the
musty myriads of volumes, and found comfort in the signature of Queen
Elizabeth, surely the most regal autograph in the world, like some ship
going out against the Armada with swelling canvas and pennants streaming.
There's a woman after Nietzsche's heart--strong, splendid, and
unscrupulous. If Nietzsche had married her, he might have changed his
philosophy. What a diplomatist, this Englishwoman! To this day the
Direttore of the Archives of Venice swears by her. Those awesome
Archives! The reports of the Council of Ten alone stretch away through
vasty halls of death. And then people talk of writing history! How
fortunate that the exact details of royal, political and military events
are as unessential as they are unattainable! Real history consists mainly
of the things that haven't happened--the millions of everyday lives,
sunrise and sunset, ships and harvests, the winds and the rain, and the
bargains in the market-place. The reading of Clio's blood-stained scroll
would be unbearable, were it not for the reflection that all the
important things have been left out--the myriads of sunny mornings that
dawned on the "Dark Ages," and filled creation with the joy of life; the
hopes and loves throbbing in the great obscure mass of humanity; the
individual virtues and victories that co-existed with the decadence of
great empires; the vast ocean of consciousness of which History just
skims the surface. And now all that great Venetian life is over, the
dreaded Council of Ten is as the dust that covers its reports, and the
Doge's Palace is a spectacle for tourists at a franc a head. Great Caesar
dead and turned to show. And those who pay the franc scarcely seem to
reflect that princes and artists did not live and die in Italy to help
young British or German couples over their honeymoon; that Dandolo and
Foscari, Sansovino and Tintoretto, passed away with no suspicion of that
latter-day trinity--Bride, Bridegroom, and Baedeker. Strange that that
which was so real to themselves is so romantic to us! Such is the
transmutation of time, which can colour with poetry things much more
prosaic than life in ancient Venice. Nothing of us that doth fade

  But doth, suffer a sea-change
  Into something rich and strange.

Poets and seers feel the richness and strangeness of the life that is
passing under their very eyes. With Maeterlinck it is the mystery, with
Stevenson the colour, with Wordsworth the divinity. To see the glamour of
the contemporary is the note of your modern. Whitman spent his life
trying to see it in the most unpromising materials. The wondering
perception of steamships and electric-cables has already grown dulled to
us: it requires a Kipling to revivify it. The new photographic process
which enables one to carry out Sydney Smith's desire on a hot day, to
take off one's flesh and sit in one's bones, alone seems wonderful to us;
though to see through a window is just as marvellous as to see through a
brick wall. For if _nil admirari_ be the motto of the sage, _omne
admirari_ is that of the poet, and the poetry which wafts from the past
to the soul of the most commonplace person is seen in the present by him
who hath eyes. The pathos of that which _must_ pass away is no less great
than the pathos of that which _has_ passed away. And what produces the
art-feeling in both cases is the same--the fresh, intense perception of
things for themselves alone: only the ordinary man finds it easier to
detach his own interests from the past than from the present of which he
is part. Romance is not in things, but in the souls that observe. Every
place, however enchanted, is inhabited by prosaic persons who earn their
living there. My chambermaid was born in Padua--Padua, outside which
Donatello could not achieve perfection; Padua, ever dear to us because
Portia feigned to have studied law at its University. Alas! alas! the two
gentlemen of Verona go down to business in tram-cars, and the

  Magic casements opening on the foam
  Of faery lands in perilous seas forlorn

are cleaned and repaired by some one who sends in the bill. Yet, since
believing is seeing, let us behold, not the chambermaid and the
window-cleaner, but the magic casement and the moonrise. And if to the
commonplace our own age is commonplace, yet our age, like youth, is a
fault that will mend with time. Our politics, and philosophies too, will
crumble and decay, the dust will gather on our books and newspapers,
archaeologists will prize our coins, the fashion of our ugly garments
will grow picturesque, and samples of our streets will be rebuilt in
exhibitions. What is then left to console us for the eternal flux? Only
that posterity shall grow old-fashioned too, while we, like antiquity,
shall have enjoyed that which never grows old--the sunshine and the
stars, love and friendship, the smiles of little children, and the
freshness of flowers, aspiration and achievement, thought and worship,
struggle and self-sacrifice.

These, these are the eternal things--that persist in every age, in every
environment, in old Etruscan villages as in the Paris of to-day: these
are the realities to which "the latest scientific conveniences" are but
padding, and in which we have had no superiority over our ancestors, even
as we shall have no inferiority to our successors, though they riot in
"Vril" and balloons, and go on Cooks' Tours to the constellations. The
network of nerves in which we live and move and have our being is only
capable of a certain quota of sensations, and no invention will really
enlarge our enjoyments except it be of a new set of nerves. Persons whose
lives have known strange vicissitudes have been astonished to find
pleasure and pain about equally distributed in all; and I am optimist
enough to think that no age will be really less unhappy than the present.
Reformers who imagine they improve on the past age do but alter old
institutions to fit new feelings. Reformers are necessary because
otherwise the new feelings would be cramped by the old institutions. But
there is no addition to the sum of pleasure. Progress really means not
lagging behind; and however far we march, the same sunshine will throw
the same shadow of pain across our path. The notion of progress, said
Spinoza, is a futility, because God, of whom the universe is a
manifestation, is always perfect. Later philosophers have found this
doctrine a barren blind-alley, and craved for the notion of a more
energising God. But both notions seem perfectly compatible. Progress may
be just the way perfection manifests itself. The universe moves--and at
each point is perfect. It is as good as it could be--at the moment: it
could not be any better. For if it could have been, it would have been:
it has no interest in being otherwise. That it is not perfect in our
sense of the word matters little to the metaphysician. We have such
limited experiences of universes that we cannot judge what a really good
one should be like; and to say that ours is bad is to foul our own nest.

He had no doubt of the perfection of the universe, that gentle old
Franciscan who lives with his twenty-nine brethren on the islet of St.
Francesco del Deserto, a rarely visited spot off Venice, that somehow
reminded me of the island in Mr. H. A. Jones' "Michael and his Lost
Angel." He had never been to Assisi, where his tutelary saint was born.
"Have you no wish to see it?" I asked. "My only wish is to obey." Dear
old man! He had stopped all his life; but thinking--ah! that is another
matter. It was in this island that St. Francis preached to the birds. He
was saying the Office when all the birds stopped to listen, and St.
Francis took advantage of the opportunity. It was his disciple St. Antony
who preached to the fishes, and there is a delicious picture in Padua
showing all the fishes perking their heads out of the water and listening
in devout dumbness, the very oysters open to conviction. Poor dear
fishes! What a delightful change to receive from the upper world
something else than hooks! What a sweet simple cloister hath this lonely
monastery--a plain stone walk under a red-tiled arcade supported by rough
brick pillars, the walls lined by quaint black-and-white engravings of
saints engaged in miracles. There is a well in the centre which used to
be of sea-water, but St. Bernard of Siena blessed it and it turned sweet.
I have drunk of the water, so I can vouch the story is true. And there is
a beautiful cypress walk. What a tranquil retreat!

  O Beata Solitudo!
  O Sola Beatitudo!

as the inscription over the lintel hath it. I do not wonder that St.
Francis came here when he was greatly fatigued, "after converting the
Sultan of Egypt," as the old Franciscan naively explained. 'T is the sort
of sanatorium Tolstoi would need, after converting the German Emperor!
And despite St. Francis, and his doctrine of brotherhood with birds and
fishes, we go on with our cannibal cookery, and even his own Church still
teaches that animals have no souls, though that is perhaps because they
have no _soldi_. And despite Tolstoi and his tracts, the people who stop
will not think and the people who think will not stop. For to convert the
world is the one miracle that the saints have never compassed. Yet is the
sunshine of these sweet souls never lost, and the gentle mien of the old
Franciscan made me feel at peace even with my sandolier when I found him
sound asleep in his boat, wrapped up in my cloak.

And these are the types of character Nietzsche would destroy. They are
degenerative, forsooth! They make against life and the joy thereof. Ah,
but the joy of life is not only the joy of self-assertion: there is the
joy of self-effacement, which is only another form of self-expression,
the assertion of a higher self. That was the secret of Jesus, of Buddha.
Whereas the doctrine of Nietzsche--_c'est le secret de Polichinelle_. The
man in the street needs no encouragement to enjoyment. It is only by the
travail of the centuries that he has been taught to prefer to his own
pleasure somebody else's absence of pain. Human nature is like Venice or
Holland--a province slowly wrested from the sea, and secured by dams and
dykes. Woe to him who makes a breach in the sea-walls! And yet Nietzsche
is to be read, though 't is a pity he is to be translated into English
for the seduction of unripe minds. The desuetude of Latin as a common
language for scholars is to be regretted; it kept the thinkers of Europe
in touch, and kept out the _profanum vulgus_. As I have often pointed
out, a truth grows so stale that it is almost a lie, and to invert any
conventionality is to produce what is almost a truth. Truth is convex as
well as concave.

This method of inversion is Nietzsche's main weapon: as earnest as any of
our pulpiteering Puritans, he wears his morality inside out. He denies
the copy-book, as Luther denied the infallibility of the Pope. He
transposes all moral values, finds virtue often weakness and vice often
strength, girds at all the cloud-spinning philosophers, and is one of the
most brilliant and suggestive of modern writers, full of epigram and
whimsy, and wielding the clumsy German tongue with rare grace and
dexterity. But, as might be expected of the son of a parson, he pursues
his reaction against conventional cant beyond the bounds of legitimate
paradox, replacing the narrow by the narrower. Nietzsche was necessary;
some one had to call a spade a spade. The great forces of modern thought,
which have been gathering for centuries, had to find shameless
expression; and Nietzsche's scorn for those who have tried to patch up
hollow truces with bygone beliefs, and dress up new heresies in old
Sunday clothes, is amply justified. But what is not justified is his
admiration of himself--an admiration so pronounced that it has landed him
in a lunatic asylum. Our systems of chronology ought to be recast, cries
he; and even as men have dated from A.D., so are they to date from A.N.,
the year of Nietzsche. Not that he expects immediate recognition: "Erst
das Uebermorgen gehoert mir. Einige werden posthum geboren." But the bulk
of what he tells us is really involved in all modern conceptions of the
cosmus--it could have been found long ago in Herbert Spencer.

Anti-Christ he calls himself, and beats the drum and invites you to
inspect the greatest philosophy on earth. "Now hold your breath with
awe," he has the air of saying, "or if you are not strong enough to hear
this fearsome truth, go home to the nursery and read Hegel." And after
this fanfaronade, lo! some commonplace that you shall find in a hundred
modern poets or philosophers. 'T is like the clown in the circus who
works himself up with a mighty pother to mount the bare-backed steed, and
then hangs on to the tail. No, no, good Herr Nietzsche, we want our
Saints Francis as well as our Napoleons. The one kind is as much in the
"order of nature" as the other; and pity and humility, if they are the
virtues of "nations in their decline," are preferable to the vices of
nations at their zenith. And, good Count Tolstoi, a universe of Saints
Francis would be an intolerable bore. The cowl does not cover all the
virtues, nor the dress-coat all the sins.  'T is a world we live in, not
a monastery; and it is amid the clash of mighty opposites that the music
of the spheres is beaten out.

"Everything in Venice is delivered up to the Evil One now," writes John
Buskin to Father Jacopo of the Armenian monastery; and such has been the
immemorial language of prophets. I sometimes suspect the Evil One
deserves more gratitude than he gets. Where would be the play without the
villain of the piece? No, the devil is not so black as he is painted, nor
the angel so white. And hence these incessant swings of the philosophical
pendulum as one truth or the other is perceived. The true ethics of the
future will give the devil his due, and deduct a discount from the angel.

The Armenian monastery which has posted up Ruskin's letter is
paradoxically proud of its association with Lord Byron, who studied
Armenian there; and visitors come there in consequence, and buy books
that the monks print. So that Satan has his uses, and Scripture can quote
the devil for its own purposes. The book I bought was a charming
collection of Armenian folk-songs, and it contains one delicious poem
whose refrain has haunted me ever since:

  ON THE PARTRIDGE.

  The sun boats from the mountain's top,
       Pretty, pretty.
  The partridge comes from her nest:
  She was saluted by the flowers,
  She flew and came from the mountain's top,
       Ah! pretty, pretty,
       Ah! dear little partridge!

Only the highest genius--and what is higher than the folk-genius?--would
dare to be so naive:

  Ah! pretty, pretty,
  Ah! dear little partridge!




VENTNOR

I did not get to Ventnor without a struggle. Everybody that I met held up
hands of horror. "What! Going to Ventnor? You will be roasted before your
time." My friends grieved, my very publishers wrung their hands, my
newsvendor took me aside and besought me to live on a high hill. Yet
through the whole of August I sat coolly writing on a low terrace. There
is a superstition about Ventnor, and none of the people who talk glibly
about its temperature have ever been there. But I think I have discovered
the origin of the great Ventnor myth. The place is a winter resort of
consumptives; and Mr. Frederick Greenwood, who was the chief charm of
Ventnor, told me that you may take coffee on your lawn in November. The
town, then, is warm in winter. The popular mind, with its hasty logic,
thinks that this is tantamount to saying it is broiling hot in summer. I
fancy there is a similar fiction about Bournemouth. But as a rule the
British climate pays no heed to guide-books. By the natives, Ventnor,
though as beautiful as a little Italian town, seems to be regarded as a
good place to go away from, for every other man keeps a coaching
establishment (I don't mean a school), and you cannot walk two yards
without being accosted by a tout, who resents your walking the next two.
Its regatta is a puerile affair, its own boating crews going off by
preference to rival regattas. But in illuminations it comes out far
better than Cowes, whose loyal inhabitants throw all the burden of
fireworks upon the royal and other yachts anchored in the bay. And
besides, Ventnor has a carnival, which I saw in the shop-windows in the
shape of comic masks.

Bonchurch, the suburb of Ventnor, which plumes itself upon a very
artificial pond, furnished in the best style with sycamores, Scotch firs,
elms and swans, is more interesting for containing the old churchyard by
the sea which received the bones of John Sterling and inspired the best
poem of Philip Bourke Marston:--

  Do they hear, through the glad April weather,
    The green grasses waving above them?
    Do they think there are none left to love them,
  They have lain for so long there together?
    Do they hear the note of the cuckoo,
      The cry of gulls on the wing,
    The laughter of winds and waters,
      The feet of the dancing Spring?

I was married in Ventnor. At least so I gather from the local newspapers,
in whose visitors' lists there figures the entry, "Mr. and Mrs.
Zangwill." I do not care to correct it, because, the lady being my
mother, it is perfectly accurate and leads to charming misconceptions.
"There, that's he," loudly whispered a young man, nudging his sweetheart,
"and there's his wife with him." "That! why, she looks old enough to be
his mother," replied the young lady. "Ah!" said her lover, with an air of
conscious virtue and a better bargain, "they're awfully mercenary, these
literary chaps." The reverse of this happened to a young friend of mine.
He married an old lady who possessed a very large fortune. During the
honeymoon his solicitous attentions to her excited the admiration of
another old lady, who passed her life in a Bath-chair. "Dear me!" she
thought: "how delightful in these degenerate days to see a young man so
attentive to his mother!" and, dying soon after, left him another large
fortune.




SOMEWHERE ELSE

Before I chanced on the great discovery which has made all my holidays
real boons, and pleasure trips quite a pleasure, I used to go through all
the horrors of preliminary indecision, which are still, alas! the lot of
the vast majority. I would travel for weeks in Bradshaw, and end by
sticking a pin at random between the leaves as if it were a Bible, vowing
to go where destiny pointed. Once the pin stuck at London, and so I had
to stick there too, and was defrauded of my holiday. But even when the
pin sent me to Putney, or Coventry, I was invariably disappointed. Like
the inquisitive and precocious infant of the poem, I was always asking
for the address of Peace, but whenever I called I was told that she was
not in, while the mocking refrain seemed to ring in my ears: "Not there,
not there, my child." And at last I asked angrily of the rocks and caves:
"Will no one tell me where Peace may be found? Wherever I go I find she
is somewhere else." Then, at last, one nymph's soft heart grew tender and
pitiful towards me, and Echo, hardly waiting till I had completed my
sentence, answered: "Somewhere Else."

A wild thrill of joy ran through me. At last I had found the solution of
the haunting puzzle. Somewhere Else. That was it. Not Scotland, nor
Switzerland, nor Japan. None of the common places of travel. But
Somewhere Else. Wherever I went, I wished I had gone Somewhere Else.
Then, why not go there at first? What was the good of repining when it
was too late? In future, I would make a bee-line for the abode of
Peace--not hesitate and shilly-shally, and then go to Bournemouth, or
Norway, or Ceylon, only to be sorry I had not gone to Somewhere Else
direct. In a flash, all the glories of the discovery crowded upon me--the
gain of time, temper, money, everything. "A thousand thanks, sweet Echo,"
I cried. "My obedience to thy advice shall prove that I am not
ungrateful." Echo, with cynical candour, shouted "Great fool," but I
cannot follow her in her end-of-the-century philosophy. And I have taken
her advice. I went Somewhere Else immediately, and since then I have gone
there every year regularly. My relatives do not care for it, and suggest
all sorts of conventional places, such as Monte Carlo and Southend, but
wherever they go, be it the most beautiful spot on earth, I remain
faithful to my discovery, and go to Somewhere Else, where Peace never
fails to greet me with the special welcome accorded to an annual visitor.
The place grows upon me with every season. Sometimes, I think I should
like to stay on and die there. No other spot in the wide universe has
half such charm for me, and even when I do die, I don't think I shall go
to where all the other happy idlers go. I shall go to Somewhere Else.

For Cromer may be the garden of sleep, but you shall find sleepier
gardens and more papaverous poppies--Somewhere Else. The mountain-pines
of Switzerland may be tall, and the skies of Italy blue, but there are
taller pines and bluer skies--Somewhere Else. The bay of San Francisco
may be beautiful, and the landscapes of Provence lovely, and the crags of
Norway sublime, but Somewhere Else there are fairer visions and scenes
more majestical--

  An ampler setter, a diviner air,
  And fields invested with purpureal gleams.

It never palls upon you--Somewhere Else. Every loved landmark grows
dearer to you year by year, and year by year apartments are
cheaper--Somewhere Else. The facilities for getting to it are enormous.
All roads lead to it, far more truly than to Rome. There can be no
accidents on the journey. How often do we read of people setting forth on
their holidays full of life and hope--yea, sometimes even on their
honeymoon--and lo! a signalman nods, or a bridge breaks, and they are
left mangled on the rails or washed into the river. And to think that
they would have escaped if they had only gone to Somewhere Else! Too late
the weeping relatives wring their hands and moan the remark. Henceforth,
among the ten million pleasure-pilgrims, who will be guided by me, there
will be no more tragedies by flood or field. Railway assurance will
become a thing of the past, and a fatal blow will be struck at modern
hebdomadal journalism. To turn to minor matters, your friends can never
utter the irritating "I told you not to go there!" if you have been to
Somewhere Else. And you need not label your luggage; that always goes to
Somewhere Else of itself. Last advantage of Somewhere Else, you may show
your face in it, though you departed last year without paying your bill.
There are no creditors in this blessed haven. Earth's load drops off your
shoulders when you go to Somewhere Else.

I give this counsel in a disinterested spirit. I have not made
speculative purchases of land, I am not booming a generous jerry-builder.
And yet I cannot help reflecting apprehensively on the consequences of my
recommendation. Already I see my sweet retreat the prey of the howling
mob; I hear the German band playing on the stone parade, and catch the
sad strains of the comic singer. Sacrilegious feet tramp the solitudes,
and sandwich papers become common objects of the sea-shore. Shilling
yachts will ply where I watched the skimming curlew, and new villas will
totter on the edge of the ocean and beguile the innocent billows to be
house-breakers. Nay, the place will become the Alsatia of humanity, the
refuge for all those men and women people would rather see Somewhere
Else, and whose travelling expenses they will perchance defray.
Imagination reels before the horror of such an agglomeration of the
unamiable. And the terrible thing about my terrestrial paradise is that
there is no escaping from it. Everything has the defects of its
qualities, and this is the reverse of the dazzling medal--the drawback
which annuls all the advantages of Somewhere Else in the event of its
becoming popular. In vain shall I then endeavour to flee from it. Though
I projected myself from the giant cannon that sent Jules Verne's hero to
the moon, I should inevitably arrive--boomerang-like--at Somewhere Else.




PART III.

AFTER-THOUGHTS: A BUNDLE OF BREVITIES.




[Sidenote: Moonshine]

Certainly the Moon was very charming that soft summer's night, as I
watched its full golden orb gliding nonchalantly in the serene, starry
heaven, and keeping me company as I strode across the silent gorse.
But--to be indiscreet--I had grown aweary of the Moon, and of the stars
also, as of beautiful pictures hung--or should one say, skied?--in a
perpetual Academy. _Caelum non animum mutant_ is only tolerably true. A
derangement of stars is all the change you get by travelling--everywhere
the same golden-headed nails, as Hugo, hard-driven, called them, are
sticking in the firmament. This particular moon was hanging, not over a
church steeple, like De Musset's moon,

  Comme un point sur un i,

but like the big yellow dial of the clock in a church tower. An
illuminated clock-face--but blank, featureless, expressionless, useless;
in a word, without hands. Now I could not help thinking that if there had
really been a Providence it would have put hands to the Moon--a big and a
little--and made it the chronometer of the world--nay, of the cosmos--the
universal time-piece, to which all eyes, in every place and planet, could
be raised for information; by which all clocks could be set--moon
time--an infallible monitor and measurer of the flight of the hours;
divinely right, not to be argued with; though I warrant there be some
would still swear by their watches. This were the true cosmopolitanism,
destroying those distressful variations which make your clock vary with
your climate, and which throw the shadow of pyrrhonism over truths which
should be clear as daylight. For if, when it is five o'clock here, it may
be two o'clock there and supper-time yonder, if it is night and day at
the same moment, then is black white, and Pilate right--and
Heraclitus,--and the nonconformist conscience a vain thing.

In supporting correct moral principles, the Moon would be of some use,
instead of staring at us with an idiot face, signifying nothing. The
stars, too, could be better employed than in winking at what goes on here
below. Like ladies' gold watches by the side of Big Ben, they could
repeat the same great eternal truth--that it was half-past nine, or five
minutes to eleven.

  Soon as the evening shades prevail
  The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
  While all the stars that round her burn,
  And all the planets in their turn,
  Confirm the tidings as they roll,
  And spread the _time_ from pole to pole.

An obvious result of a synchronised universe would be the federation of
mankind, Peace on Earth, and all those other beatitudes at present vainly
sought by World Fairs, and pig-sticking prophets.

Till we have hands to the Moon I shall not look for the Millennium.




[Sidenote: Capital]

Suddenly the Moon went behind a cloud, as if to demonstrate that even
then there would be difficulties. Besides, I remembered it had its
quarter-days. Here my thoughts made a transition to money matters, and,
after the manner of Richard Carstone in "Bleak House," I fell to
reckoning up the sums I had saved of late. It is a calculation I make
almost every week nowadays. I have lost nothing by any of the
Jerry-Building Societies, nothing by any of the great Bank Failures. By
not having any money one saves thousands a year in these unsettled times.
Mr. Hamerton cites with amusement the remark of a wealthy Englishman, who
could not understand "why men are so imprudent as to allow themselves to
sink into money embarrassments." "There is a simple rule that I follow
myself," said he, "and that I have always found a great safeguard: it is,
_never to let one's balance at the banker's fall below five thousand
pounds_." The rich Englishman's rule was quite wrong: the only safeguard
is to have no balance at all. High and dry on the Lucretian tower of
poverty, you may watch with complacency the struggles of the sinking
funds. What a burden capital must be to those anxious to find safe
investments at high rates of interest! It looks as if interest will sink
to freezing point, and capital will have to flow to other planets if that
comical claim for "wages of abstinence" is to be met any longer. Perhaps
it will flow to Mars, the home in exile of the old political economy.
Already a beginning has been made by investments in mines which are not
upon this earth.




[Sidenote: Credit]

Every day makes clearer the evils of our complex credit system--that
Frankenstein creation we have lost control over, that ampulaceous growth
of capital, most of which is merely figures in a book, and which only
exists in virtue of not being asked for, much as the tit-bits on a
restaurant menu are "off" when ordered. The real meaning of National
Debts is that every civilised country is bankrupt, and only goes on
trading because its creditors give it time. To the uncertainties of the
weather, and the chances of cholera, war, and earthquake, we have added
an artificial uncertainty worse than any of these--we have invented a
series of financial cyclones, which sweep round the globe, devastating
all lands, and no more to be predicted--despite theories of sun-spots,
cyclones and financial crises--than wrecks at sea; indeed, far less
predictable, for I believe with the ex-mayor quoted by Bonamy Price, that
finance is a subject which no man can understand in this world, or even
in the next. The infinite ramifications, the endless actions and
reactions, are beyond the grasp of any one but an impostor. The Professor
just mentioned thought he had found the right thread of theory in the
labyrinth of "Currency and Banking," and really did make a most sensible
analysis of what actually went on in financial operations. Only he left
out one great factor--the immense influence on the market of other
people's wrong theories. No, if there is a right thread of theory, it
must be so tangled as to be worse than useless. My friend the business
man tells me that for success in business one requires four things: a
large capital, industry, insight, and caution--and then it's a toss-up. I
am fain to believe this whole system of modern commerce was devised to
please the amateurs of the aleatory.




[Sidenote: The Small Boy]

A plague on both your Houses of Parliament! They legislate day and night,
yet leave our lives unmodified. For our lives revolve on the pivot of
custom, and our everyday movements are not political. The real ruler of
England is the small boy of the streets! And, in truth, is it not so? By
the unphilosophic regarded as akin to vermin, existing for the greater
confusion of theologians, the small boy looms large to the man of
insight, as the true conservator of custom--the one efficient _custos
morum_. He it is who regulates the lengths to which we may go in
eccentricity, and, above all, in hair:

    Get your hair cut!

He is particular to a shade about clothes, and has a nice taste in hats.
One wonders how he acquired it. His patriotic proclivity, his hostility
to national costumes other than English, his preference for uncoloured
complexions--this one may understand; but his aesthetic instinct is a
problem for Weismann. As the interpreter of the conventions, he is of a
cast-iron rigidity, for is he not a child of Mrs. Grundy--his mother's
own boy? He has no exceptions--it is "one law and one measure." He is the
scavenger of manners, as the Constantinople street-dog is of gutters; a
natural _police des moeurs_, infinitely more efficient than any
artificial organisation; an all-ramifying association created to keep the
bounds of social order, on duty at every street corner, alert to check
every outbreak of individuality. Do ladies aspire to ride bicycles? Or
wear bloomers? There is the small boy to face. It is a question for him.
Conciliate him, and you may laugh at the pragmatic. His, too, is a
healthy barbarism, beneficent in its action, that thinks scorn of
eyeglasses and spectacles, and leads him to denounce quadruple vision,
as, indeed, all departure from the simplicities of physical perfection. A
human scarecrow he abhors, and will follow such an one through six
streets to express his disapprobation. Extremes of size? whether of
tallness or shortness? offend him equally. Whitman was not kinder to "the
average man." Nor is the small boy's influence limited to sumptuary and
corporeal censorship: by taking up certain songs he "makes" the nation's
ballads, and every one knows what that means. Let me train a nation's
small boys, I care not who makes its laws. O small boy, true sovereign of
England, I take off my hat to thee!--to show thee the maker's name in the
lining, and satify thy anxious inquiries as to where I got it.




[Sidenote: A Day in Town.]

I have often wondered what country children do for a holiday. Do good
people go round collecting to give them a day in London or Liverpool or
Manchester, so that their stunted lives that stretch on from year to year
with never a whiff of town fog, never a glimpse of green 'buses, or
dangerous crossings, or furnace-smoke, may be expanded and elevated? If
not, I beg to move the starting of a Town Fund at once. Nothing can be
more narrowing than rustic existence--there are old yokels whose lives
have always moved within a four-mile radius, women who have grown gray
without ever knowing what lay beyond the blue hills that girdled their
native village. I once knew a chawbacon who came to town and was barked
at by a street-dog. He stooped down to pick up one of the rough stones
lying in the roadway to ward it off withal, but to his astonishment the
stone refused to budge, for it was an integral part of the road. "Danged
if that baint[*] queer!" he exclaimed. "At home the dogs be tied and the
stones be loose. Here the dogs be loose and the stones be tied." Now, if
that man had enjoyed a school excursion to the town when a boy, he would
have deprived me of a good story. A glimpse of the town in youth might
also do good in checking the perpetual urban immigration, which, alas!
removes so many of the rustic population from the soil, and places them
under it. To this end all school excursions to London should take place
in November. Yes, there is a vast future before that fund, and I shall be
happy to start it with five thousand pounds, if two hundred and
sixty-three one-armed Scotchmen of good moral character will bind
themselves to do the same.

[* Transcriber's note: So in original.]




[Sidenote: The Profession of Charity.]

Mr. Labouchere is singularly unfair to a new profession. Beggary has long
been a recognised profession, with its traditions, customs, and
past-masters, and it is time that philanthropy should now be admitted to
an equal status. There is no reason in the world why it should be left in
the hands of amateurs, who muddle away funds by their lack of science and
experience. Supposing a man sees his way to doing good--founding a home
for incurables, or drunkards, or establishing a dispensary, or anything
you please--why should he not make a living by it? What if he does get
five hundred a year, is he not worth it, provided always the institution
fulfils a useful function and is not a sham? Surely he does more for
Society in return for his money than a Treasury clerk! Probably but for
him--but for his wish to earn an income--the charitable institution would
never have come into existence. Political economy already shows us how
the individual's desire for profit brings humanity all its blessings,
opens up new countries for it, and supplies them with wars and railways.
If men did not buy shares with a view to a percentage on their savings,
the march of civilisation would come to a halt. Since the philanthropy of
percentage is so obvious, why should we not recognise the percentage of
philanthropy? Charity has gone into business. Why not?




[Sidenote: The Privileges of Poverty.]

The only people who seem to escape the malady of the century are the
poor. The _Weltschmerz_ touches them not; however great their suffering,
it is always individual. The privileges of poverty are, I fear,
insufficiently appreciated in these grasping times. It is not only
income-tax that the poor man is exempt from. There is a much more painful
tax on income than the pecuniary--it is the thought of those who are
worsted in the struggle for bare existence. _Vae victis!_ Yet those who
achieve the bare existence, who starve not, neither shiver, have surely
enviable compensations. Not theirs the distressful, wearying problems of
sociology. Far from feeling any responsibility for their fellow-beings,
they do not even fulfil their own personal duty to society,--witness the
breeding of babies in back streets. They have no sympathy with the
troubles of any other class--they eat their hard crust and they drink
their bitter beer without a thought of the dyspepsia of the diner-out,
and their appetite is not dulled by any suspicion of heart-sickness in
good society. Starvation other than physical they do not understand, and
spiritual struggles are caviare. The state of the rich does not give them
sleepless nights--they have no yearnings to reform them or amend their
condition. The terrible overcrowding of the upper classes on Belgravian
staircases wakes not a pang; they are untouched by the sufferings of
insufficiently-clad ladies in draughty stalls and royal antechambers; and
the grievances of old army men move them not. Not theirs to ponder
sorrowfully over the lost souls of politicians or the degeneration of
public manners. They live their own lives--and, whatsoever the burden,
they do not bear any one's but their own.




[Sidenote: Salvation for the Seraphim]

Herbert Spencer says he knew a retired naval officer in whose mind God
figured as a transcendently powerful sea-captain; and we have all heard
the story of the English admiral who, when fighting the Dutch, felt sure
God wouldn't desert a fellow-countryman. But this ingenuous
identification of earthly and divine interests has been carried to the
point of imbecility by General Booth in his claim to

  "THE LARGEST CIRCULATION."

  The _War Cry_, so the General states,
  Among the angels circulates,
  To Heaven having gone; but, oh,
  That it had first expired below!

Which is uglier--the crude spiritualism of the Salvationist or the crude
materialism of the scientist? I receive the same sort of shock when I
peruse Mrs. Spurgeon's fond picture of her departed husband waylaying the
angels at the shining street-corners to preach the gospel to them, as
when I read that woman's poetry is inferior to man's because she exhales
less carbonic acid.




[Sidenote: Truth--Local and Temporal]

The other day I listened to some green-room persiflage between an actress
and an eminent actor-manager. The lady said she had loved him years ago,
and thrown herself at his head, but had never been able to bring him to a
proposal. I asked if she would have been satisfied with the provincial
rights. I am not at all sure that the introduction of this principle of
legal partition would not promote domestic harmony, especially in
theatrical circles, where the practice already prevails in the matter of
plays. Indeed, this principle of partition has already been carried
beyond its original sphere. Do I not remember a theatrical lawsuit four
or five years ago in which the plaintiff sought to restrain the defendant
from styling himself part-author of a piece, on the ground that he (the
defendant) had not done a stroke of the work, and had been paid ten
pounds for it; while the defendant claimed that he had only parted with
his rights as regards London, and that in the provinces he was still
entitled to claim a share of the authorship? Pascal long ago pointed out,
in his "Pensees," that virtue and vice were largely dependent on distance
from the equator (a latitudinarianism in morals that does not seem to
have shocked his Port Royal friends). But even he failed to reach this
daring conception of "local fame." The marvel is that when once reached
it should have been let slip again. It seems to me an invaluable remedy
for disputes: absolutely infallible. When Mr. Stuart Cumberland wrote
from India to claim the plot of "The Charlatan," how simple to accord him
the authorship--_in India!_ At once we perceive a _modus vivendi_ for the
followers of Donnelly and the adherents of common-sense. In America Bacon
shall be the author of "Hamlet," but the English rights in the piece
shall go to Shakespeare. In the same spirit of compromise Cruikshank
might have been content to be the author of "Oliver Twist" in the
Hebrides and the second-class saloons of Atlantic steamers. Herman should
be sole author of "The Silver King" in Pall Mall, and Jones in
Piccadilly. Some metropolitan streets belong by one pavement to one
parish, and by the other to another; so that in the case of parochial
celebrities it would be possible for the rival great men to glare at each
other across the road--not, however, daring to cross it, for fear of
losing their reputation. The Frenchman's long-standing assumption of
Parisian rights in the victory of Waterloo would be put upon a legitimate
basis.

By a logical extension of the principle we could allow Homer to be born
in Chios on Mondays, in Colophon on Tuesdays, and so with each of the
seven cities which starved him. They use up the week nicely. On the odd
day of leap year we might concede that he never existed, and allow him to
be resolved into the pieces into which he was torn by Wolf. Had this
pacificatory principle been discovered earlier, "The Letters of Phalaris"
would never have fluttered Europe, and Swift would have had no need to
write "The Battle of the Books." It is never too late to mend, however,
and an academy of leading politicians and ecclesiastics should be at once
formed to draw up an authoritative "Calendar and Topography of Belief,"
fixing once for all the dates and places on or in which it is permissible
to hold any given opinion. Although, when I come to think of it, Science
and Religion have long been tacitly reconciled on this principle,
Religion being true on Sundays and Science on week-days.




[Sidenote: The Creed of Despair.]

I am convinced that optimism is exactly the wrong sort of medicine for
our "present discontents." It is time to try homoeopathy. My suggestion
is that the religion of the future shall consist of the most pessimistic
propositions imaginable; its creed shall be godless and immoral, its
thirty-nine articles shall exhaust the possibilities of unfaith and its
burden shall be _vanitas vanitatum_. Man shall be an automaton, and life
an hereditary disease, and the world a hospital, and truth a dream, and
beauty an optical illusion. These sad tidings of great sorrow shall be
organized into a state church, with bishops and paraphernalia, and shall
be sucked in by the infant at its mother's breast. Men shall be tutored
in unrighteousness, and innocence shall be under ecclesiastical ban.
Faith and Hope shall be of the seven deadly virtues, and unalloyed
despair of man and nature a dogma it were blasphemous to doubt. The good
shall be persecuted and the theists tortured, and those that say there is
balm in Gilead, shall be thrust beyond the pale of decent society.

Then, oh, what a spiritual revival there will be! Every gleam of light
will be eagerly sought for, every ray focussed; every hint of love and
pity and beauty, of significance and divinity, in this infinite and
infinitely mysterious universe, will be eagerly snatched up and thrust
upon an age hide-bound in orthodoxy; every touch and trace of tenderness
that softens suffering and sweetens the bitterness of death, will be
treasured up in secret mistrust of the reigning creed; every noble
thought and deed, every sacred tear, will be thrown into the balance of
heresy with every dear delight of poetry and art, of woods and waters, of
dawns and sunsets; with every grace of childhood and glory of man and
womanhood. And every suppressed doubt of the hideousness of the universe
will sink deep and ferment in darkness, and persecution will sit on every
natural safety valve till at last the pent forces will swell and crack
the sterile soil, and there will be an explosion that shall send a pillar
of living fire towards the heavens of brass. The clerics will be among
the first to feel the stirrings of infidel hope--a few will give up their
livings rather than preach what they do not believe, but the
majority--especially the bishops--will cling to the Church of Despair,
hoping against hope that their despair is true. There will be wonderful
word-spinnings in the reviews, and the dominant pessimism will be
justified by algebraic analogies. But, beneath it all, the church will be
infected to the core with faith, and for the first time in history we
shall get a believing clergy. There will be secret societies founded to
publish the Bible, and Colonel Ingersoll will lecture at the hall of
religion, and the prisons will be crowded with martyred iconoclasts
incredulous of the gospel of science. No, there is nothing so unwise as
your optimistic organized creeds, with their suggestions of officialdom,
red-tape, and back-stairs influence. We shall never be perfectly
religious and moral till we are trained from childhood to ungodly works,
forced to attend long sermons on the error of existence, and badgered
into public impiety by force of opinion.




[Sidenote: Social Bugbears.]

First there were the Radicals, who stood for the apogee of human
villainy, though it now appears they were Conservatives of the mildest
type. Then came the turn of the Atheists, who, for all I have been able
to discover, were very respectable creatures full of religious ardour,
who spelt God with a small "g" and justice with a capital "J." Then the
Socialists had their innings. But "we are all Socialists now," and the
empty mantle of villainy has fallen upon Anarchism, which, as far as I
can make out, is the simplest and most innocent creed ever invented, and
which debars its adherents from exercising any compulsion upon anybody
else, relying upon the natural moral working of the human heart. How this
is compatible with bombs it is for _Messieurs les Anarchistes_ to
explain. Needless to say the assassinous Anarchists are disavowed by
their philosophical brethren.




[Sidenote: Martyrs.]

Although we moderns work harder than our fathers for our opinions, we are
sometimes taunted with not being so ready to die for them. But, as Renan
points out, thinkers have no need to die to demonstrate a theorem. Saints
may die for their faith because faith is a personal matter. Even so we
are still ready to die for our honour. The Christian martyrs did prove
that Christianity was a reality to them; but Galileo's death would have
been irrelevant to the rotation of the earth. There is no _argumentum per
hominem_ possible here; the truth is impersonal. It is only for beliefs
that exclude certainty that a man is tempted to martyrdom. The martyr is
indeed, as the etymology implies, a witness; but his death is not a
witness to the truth of his belief--merely to the truth of his believing.
Blandine at her stake, enduring a hundred horrors unflinchingly, seems in
addition to prove that faith was the first anaesthetic. It is curious to
note how the word "martyr" has been degraded; so that we have to-day
martyrs to the gout instead of to the truth. The idea of suffering has
quite ousted the idea of witnessing. What a pity the word got these
painful associations! There are "martyrs" to the truth--witnesses who
without dying testify to the divine streak in life; and unconscious
"martyrs" who, by their simple sincerity, their unpretentious
unselfishness, prove more than a bookshelf of theology. I have found
"martyrdom" in the grip of a friend's hand, though if I had told him so
he would have apologised for squeezing so hard. And is not every pretty
woman a "martyr"--a revelation of an inner soul of beauty and goodness in
this chaotic universe? There! I have succumbed again to the common
masculine impulse to conceive beauty and goodness as a chemical
combination, subtly inter-related; whereas the slightest practical
experience in the laboratory of life discovers them but a mechanical
mixture, dissociable and not seldom antipathetic.




[Sidenote: The London Season]

I remember being so bored one night at dinner, by the ceaseless chatter
about Burne-Jones, that I asked my fair neighbour: "Who is Burne-Jones?"
Her reply was as smart as it was feminine. "I don't believe you." There
is a moral in this. Why be a slave to the season? Why bother to read all
the newest novels, see all the newest plays, hear all the newest
musicians, remember all the newest "Reminiscences," and believe all the
newest religions, when by pleading ignorance you will pass not only as an
eccentric but a connoisseur? On second thoughts, why not eschew the
season altogether? God made the seasons and man made the season, as
Cowper forgot to say. And a nice mess man has made of it, turning night
into day and heating his rooms in the summer. The London Season, not
Winter, Mr. Cowper, is the true "Ruler of the Inverted Year."




[Sidenote: The Academy]

The Academy has survived Mr. Burne-Jones' desertion of his old
associates, as it would survive art itself. I for one should regret its
disappearance. It is a whetstone for wit, like everything established and
respectable. I am only sorry we have no Academy of Letters. It gives one
such a standing not to be a member--almost as good a standing as to be
one. If you are left out in the cold you loudly pity those asphyxiating
in the heat, and if you have a cozy chair by the fireside you fall asleep
and say nothing. This promotes happiness all round, and makes the
literary man contented with his lot. In England authors have no Academy,
and so have to fall back on the poor publishers: _Hinc illae lachrymae!_




[Sidenote: Portraits of Gentlemen]

Everybody paints the portrait of nobody. Imagine a great writer being
called upon to produce a black-and-white picture of a man of no
importance: Let us imagine, say Meredith, being offered a thousand pounds
for a pen-and-ink portrait of a provincial mayor--being asked to devote
his graphic art, his felicitous choice of words, his gifts of insight and
sympathy, his genius, in a word, to the portrayal of a real live
mayor--the same to be published in book-form, asked for at the libraries,
and discussed at dinner-tables and in the reviews as a specimen of the
season's art. Of course Meredith would tell the man to go and be hanged
(in the Academy); but if he consented, see what would take place. The
literary portrait involves, of course, both mind and body, and
practically the work would have to take the shape of a biography. For
some weeks the man would come to Meredith's study and give him talkings.
At the first talking Meredith would also make a sketch of the outside
appearance of his subject. Here the resources of language far exceed
those of colour. The happy euphemism of language permits a squint to be
described as an ambidexterity of vision; it is even quite possible to
omit an ill-regulated feature altogether. Suppose an artist paints a man
without a nose--the defect _sauterait aux yeux_: it would be as plain as
the nose not upon his face. But it is quite possible for the literary
artist to omit a man's nose without attracting any attention. The
reader's imagination supplies the nose, without even being conscious of
its purveyorship. As for the psychological portion of the portrait, the
author would be entirely dependent on the information given by the
subject, so that provincial mayors would develop unsuspected virtues.
Where the difficulty would come in would be in the absence of darker
qualities, which would make literary chiaroscuro impossible. It is quite
likely, though, that as a result of the talkings the subject would
unwittingly present the novelist with a real character who would appear
in his next work of fiction, and be entirely unrecognized either by the
reader of the biography or its subject.




[Sidenote: Photography and Realism]

No artist of the brush can afford to dispense with models; when he draws
from his inner consciousness the composition is tame and the
draughtsmanship wild. The novelist, though his object is not portraiture,
but creation, can as little afford to keep aloof from real men and women.
When George Eliot ceased to draw from models and fell back on intuition
and her library, she produced "Daniel Deronda." But I would demur
altogether to the use of "photography" in literary criticism as
synonymous with realism. The photograph is an utter misrepresentation of
life, and this not merely because of its false shades and its lack of
colour, but because the photographer is not content with literalness. He
aspires to art. So far from being a realist, he is the greatest idealist
of all. He not only puts you into poses you would never fall into
naturally, he not only arranges you so as to hide your characteristic
uglinesses, and bids you call up an expression you never use, but he
touches up and tones down after you are gone, and treats his pictures,
indeed, as though they were actors and he the dresser. And as each
photographer has his own style, no two portraits are ever alike. My
portraits of Annabel pass as a collection of pretty actresses. Still, if
they are not like one another, they resemble one another in being unlike
her. The only good photographs I have ever seen of myself were done by an
amateur--most of the others might just as well have been taken in my
absence. And there is always a painful neatness about photographs: my
humble study was once photographed, and it looked like a princely
library. Bags come out with artistic interstices, fustian gleams like
satin. It is the true Platonic touch, glorifying and gilding everything.
Filth itself would come out like roses. No, no, let us hear no more about
Zola's "photography."




[Sidenote: The Great Unhung]

What becomes of all the old pins is a problem that worries many simple
souls. What becomes of all the rejected pictures is a question that seems
to trouble nobody. And yet at every exhibition the massacre of innocents
is appalling. The Royal Academy of London, which is the most hospitable
institution in the world toward "wet paint," still turns away very many
more canvases than it admits. Their departure is like the retreat of the
Ten Thousand. Into the Salon one year six thousand eager frames crowded,
but when the public came to see, only thirteen hundred were left to tell
the tale--

  All that was left of them,
    Left of six thousand.

More ruthless still was the slaughter in the New Salon, the Salon of the
Champs de Mars, where the pictures were decimated. Out of two thousand
seven hundred works sent in by outsiders, only three hundred survived. It
is impossible to believe that ideal justice was done, especially when we
consider that the jury took only one day to consider the outcome of so
many aspirations, such manifold toil. The pictures were wheeled past them
on gigantic easels, an interminable panorama. Even supposing that the
gentlemen of the jury took a full working day of eight hours, with no
allowance for dejeuner, the average time for examining a picture works
out at something like ten seconds. In each minute of that fateful day the
destiny of half a dozen pictures was decided. Verily, our
picture-connoisseur seems to have elevated criticism into an instinct--he
is the smoothest human mechanism on record. One wonders if the critic
will ever be replaced by an automaton, something analogous to the camera
that has replaced the artist. Meantime, the point is--what becomes of the
refused, those unwelcome revenants that return to lower the artist in the
eyes of landladies and concierges? Sometimes, we know, the stone which
the builders rejected becomes the corner-stone of the temple, and the
proscribed painter lives to despise publicly the judges in the gate. But
these revenges are rare, and for the poor bulk of mankind the whirligig
of time revolves but emptily. The average artist rejected of one
exhibition turns him to another, and the leavings of the Salon beat at
the doors of Antwerp and Munich, where the annual of art blooms a little
later in the spring.

Pitiful it is to follow a picture from refusal to refusal; one imagines
the painter sublime amid the litter of secretarial notifications,
gathering, Antaeus-like, fresh strength from every fall, and coming to a
grim and gradual knowledge of the great cosmopolitan conspiracy. One year
the rejected of the Academy were hung in London by an enterprising
financier. It was the greatest lift-up the Academy had ever had. Even its
enemies were silenced temporarily. But the rejected may console
themselves. The accepted have scant advantage over them. To sell a
picture is becoming rarer and rarer, and the dealer is no more respectful
to the canvas that has achieved the honor of the catalogue than to that
which has preserved the sequestration of the studio. Sometimes the unhung
picture becomes the medium upon which another is painted (for a picture
is always worth the canvas it is painted on), sometimes (if it is large)
it is cut up and sold in bits, sometimes it adorns the family
dining-room, or decorates the hall of a good-natured friend, and
sometimes, after a variety of pecuniary adventures, it becomes the proud
possession of a millionaire.




[Sidenote: The Abolition of Catalogues.]

The average Englishman takes his religion on Sundays and his Art in the
spring. Influences that should permeate life are collected in chunks at
particular seasons. This is sufficient to prove how little they are
really felt or understood. The Academy headache is the due penalty of
hypocrisy. It is the catalogue that is the greatest coadjutor of cant. If
pictures, besides being hung, were treated like convicts in becoming
merely numbers, without names either of painters or subjects, what a
delightful confusion of critical tongues would ensue! But conceding that
a picture should have the painter's name, for the sake of the artist (or
his enemies), I would propose that everything else be abolished. It is
not unfair to subject pictures to this severe test, because, of all forms
of art, painting is the one whose appeal is instantaneous, simple and
self-complete. If a picture cannot speak for itself, no amount of
advocacy will save it. If it tells a story (which no good picture
should), let it at least do so without invoking the aid of the rival art
of literature. Literature does not ask the assistance of pictures to make
its meaning clear. Nor, too, is anything gained by calling colours
harmonies or symphonies. Let such pictures strike their own chords and
blow their own trumpets. Catalogues of all kinds are but props to
artistic inefficiency. If dumb-show plays did not rely on "books of the
words," pantomime would have to become a finer art. If ballets had no
thread of narrative attached to them, their constructors would be driven
to achieve greater intelligibility, or to give up trying for it--which
were the more gratifying alternative. So with the descriptions of
symphonies we find in our programmes. Why should good music be translated
into bad literature? Surely each art should be self-sufficient;
developing its effects according to its own laws! A melody does not need
to be painted, nor a picture to be set to music. The graceful evolutions
of the dance are their own justification. The only case in which I would
allow a title to a picture is when it is a portrait. That is an obvious
necessity. Portrait-painting is a branch of art which demands
recognition.




[Sidenote: The Artistic Temperament]

There are two aspects of the artistic temperament--the active or creative
side, and the passive or receptive side. It is impossible to possess the
power of creation without possessing also the power of appreciation; but
it is quite possible to be very susceptible to artistic influences while
dowered with little or no faculty of origination. On the one hand is the
artist--poet, musician, or painter; on the other, the artistic person to
whom the artist appeals. Between the two, in some arts, stands the
artistic interpreter--the actor who embodies the aery conceptions of the
poet, the violinist or pianist who makes audible the inspirations of the
musician. But in so far as this artistic interpreter rises to greatness
in his field, in so far he will be found soaring above the middle ground,
away from the artistic person, and into the realm of the artist or
creator. Joachim and De Reszke, Paderewski and Irving, put something of
themselves into their work; apart from the fact that they could all do
(in some cases have done) creative work on their own account. So that
when the interpreter is worth considering at all, he may be considered in
the creative category. Limiting ourselves, then, to these two main
varieties of the artistic temperament, the active and the passive, I
should say that the latter is an unmixed blessing, and the former a mixed
curse.

What, indeed, can be more delightful than to possess good aesthetic
faculties--to be able to enjoy books, music, pictures, plays! This
artistic sensibility is the one undoubted advantage of man over other
animals, the extra octave in the gamut of life. Most enviable of mankind
is the appreciative person, without a scrap of originality? who has every
temptation to enjoy, and none to create. He is the idle heir to treasures
greater than India's mines can yield; the bee that sucks at every flower,
and is not even asked to make honey. For him poets sing, and painters
paint, and composers write. "_O fortunates nimium_," who not seldom yearn
for the fatal gift of genius! For _this_ artistic temperament is a
curse--a curse that lights on the noblest and best of mankind! From the
day of Prometheus to the days of his English laureate it has been a curse

  To vary from the kindly race of men,

and the eagles have not ceased to peck at the liver of men's benefactors.
All great and high art is purchased by suffering--it is not the
mechanical product of dexterous craftsmanship. This is one part of the
meaning of that mysterious "Master Builder" of Ibsen's. "Then I saw
plainly why God had taken my little children from me. It was that I
should have nothing else to attach myself to. No such thing as love and
happiness, you understand. I was to be only a master builder--nothing
else." And the tense strings that give the highest and sweetest notes are
most in danger of being overstrung.

But there are compensations. The creative artist is higher in the scale
of existence than the man, as the man is higher than the beatified oyster
for whose condition, as Aristotle pointed out, few would be tempted to
barter the misery of human existence. The animal has consciousness, man
self-consciousness, and the artist over-consciousness. Over-consciousness
may be a curse, but, like the primitive curse--labour--there are many who
would welcome it!




[Sidenote: Professional Ethics]

There's no knowing where the artistic temperament may break out. "I don't
think that a person ought to come to the binder and just say to him,
'Bind that book for so much money.' I think the binder ought to say, 'Is
the book worth binding?' and that if it were not he ought to refuse." The
applications of this remarkable principle, enunciated by a bookbinder,
are obvious. Applied universally it would reform the race. The tailor,
when a man came to be measured, would say, "Yes, but are you worth
measuring?" and if he was out of drawing would refuse to dress him, thus
extruding deformity from the world and restoring the Olympian gods. The
charwoman, inspired by George Herbert, would not only "sweep a room as by
God's laws," but would inquire whether it was worth sweeping; the wine
merchant would refuse wine to rich customers who did not deserve to drink
it; and the doctors would certainly not devote their best energies to
keeping gouty old noblemen alive.




[Sidenote: Lay Confessors]

We writers, as Beaeonsfield said to his sovereign, are a good substitute
for the confessional; we like to be allowed peeps into the secret
chambers of the heart. The most miserable sinners may be as sure of our
secrecy as of our absolution. The more terrible the crime the better we
are pleased. So come and ease your labouring consciences, and pour your
sorrows into our sympathetic shorthand books, and we will work you up the
bare material of your lives so artistically that you are the veriest
Philistines if you shall not be rather glad to have sinned and suffered.
For deep down in our hearts lurks the belief that, as Jerome wittily puts
it, "God created the world to give the literary man something to write
about!"




[Sidenote: Q. E. D. Novels]

A novel, like a metaphor, proves nothing: 't is merely a vivid pictorial
presentation of a single case. I have just read one novel aspiring to
prove that a couple who skip the marriage ceremony cannot be happy ever
after, and another aspiring to prove that marriage is the one drawback to
a happy union. In reality both novels prove the same thing--that the
author is a fool. There is nothing I would not undertake to "prove" in a
novel. You have only to take an exceptional case and treat it as if it
were normal. Aesop's fables could easily be rewritten to prove exactly
the opposite morals, just as there is no popular apothegm whose antidote
may not be found in the same treasury of folk-wisdom: "Never put off till
to-morrow what you can do to-day," and "Sufficient for the day is the
evil thereof"; "Penny wise, pound foolish!" "Look after the pence and the
pounds will take care of themselves."

In sooth I suffer from an inability to see the morals of stories--like
the auditor who blunts the point of the drollest anecdote by inquiring
"And what happened then?" Even the beautiful allegory of the three rings
in "Nathan der Weise," always seems to me to throw considerable discredit
on the father who set his sons wrangling over the imitation rings. And,
inversely, nothing seems easier to me than to invent fables to prove
wrong morals: _e.g._




[Sidenote: The Mouse Who Died]

A pretty gray mouse was in the habit of sauntering from its hole every
evening to pick up the Crumbs in the Dining Boom. "What a pretty Mouse!"
said the Householder, and made more crumbs for Mousie to eat. So great a
banquet was thus spread that the Noble-hearted little Mouse cheeped the
news to its Sisters and its Cousins and its Aunts, and they all came
every evening in the Train of its Tail to regale themselves on the
remains of the Repast. "Dear, dear!" cried the Householder in despair,
"the house is overrun with a plague of Vermin." And he mixed poison with
the crumbs, and the poor little pioneer Mouse perished in contortions of
agony. Moral: Don't.




[Sidenote: Theologic Novels]

Usually the speculations that first reach the great public through the
medium of the novel have been familiar _ad nauseam_ to the reading
classes for scores of years. Conceive Noah, aroused by the grating of the
Ark upon the summit of Mount Ararat, looking out of the window and
exclaiming, "Why, it's been raining!" Then imagine Mrs. Noah, catching an
odd syllable of her husband's remark, writing a love story to prove that
the barometer portended showers. Finally, picture the world looking in
alarm for its umbrella, and you have an image of the inception and effect
of the modern Mrs. Noah's theologic novel.

   MUDIE MEASURE.

   Ten lines make one page;
   Ten pages make one point;
   Two points make one chapter;
   Five chapters make one episode;
   Two episodes make one volume:
   Three volumes make one tired.




[Sidenote: The Prop of Letters]

Is it a bright or a black day for an author when he gets so popular that
the big advertisers insist on having him in any organ in which they place
their advertisements? There can be no question but that it will be a
black day for letters when the advertiser becomes the arbiter of
literature, as this newest development forebodes. Where is this leprosy
of advertisement to stop? Already it covers almost our whole
civilisation. Already the advertiser is a main prop of the press.

  A SONG OF ADVERTISEMENTS. (_After_ Whitman.)

  Give me Hornihand's Pure Mustard;
  Give me Apple's Soap, with the negress laving the cherub;
  Give me Bentley's Brimstone Tablets, and Ploughman's
     Pills--those of the Little Liver.
  (O get me ads., you agent with the frock-coat and the fountain pen,
  You with the large commissions
  And the further discount on cash,
  Get me ads., _camarado_!
  Full pages preferred, though little ones not scorning,
  For I scorn nothing, my brother.)
  Give me the Alphabetical Snuff;
  Give me Electric Batteries and False Teeth; also the Tooth-powders;
  Give me all the Soft Soaps and the Soothing Syrups;
  Give me all the Cocoas and Cough Lozenges and Corsets;
  Give me Infants' Food--yea, the diet of babes and sucklings;
  Give me the Nibs and the Beef Essences, and do not forget the
     Typewriters.
  (Forget nothing, _camarado_, for I, the poet, never forget
     anything.)
  Give me of the Fat of your agency, and of the Anti-Fat thereof!
  And I will build you magazines, high-class and well illustrated;
  Or pictureless _a volonte_, the latter with heavier articles.
  Also newspapers, daily and weekly, with posters flamboyant,
  That shall move the state and its pillars,
  That shall preach the loftiest morals, elevating the masses,
  By the strength of advertisements,
  By the mighty strength of advertisements!

It has been suggested that flypapers should be so sprinkled as to produce
an aesthetic design in dead flies, so as to introduce beauty into the
homes of the poor. It would be more in harmony with the age to lay out
our public gardens with floral injunctions to use B's hair-dye and C's
corn-plaster. Brag and display are the road to riches, and the trail of
vulgarity is over it all. I take credit to myself for having been among
the first to cry in the wilderness; but the critics--bless them!--say it
is all empty paradox.




[Sidenote: The Latter-day Poet]

The one exception to the hunger for advertisement is the modern bard. He
achieves his vogue by limited editions, and takes pains to prevent
himself being an influence. He acquires a factitious fame and an
artificial value by printing only a few copies, thus making his paper and
print sought after rather than his matter. It is all very well for a book
to become rare by the vicissitudes of literary fortune, but this
machine-made rarity can only be prized by people who value their
possessions merely because other people haven't got them. The old minor
poet was frenzied and unbought; the new is calm and "collected." At this
rate the greatest poets would be those of whose works only one copy is
extant--in MS.

  Bend, bend the knee, and bow the head
  To reverence the great unread,
  The great unread and much-reviewed,
  Whose lines are treasured like the lewd,
  His first editions prizes reckoned
  Because there never was a second.
  Obscurely famous in his rut,
  Unknown, unpopular, "uncut,"
  Where Byron thrilled a continent,
  To thrill an auction-room content,
  He struggles through oblivion's bogs,
  To gain a place in--catalogues!
  And falls asleep and joins the dust
  In simple hope and modest trust
  That, though Posterity neglect
  His bones, his books it will collect,
  And these will grow--O prospect fair!--
  From year to year more "scarce" and "rare."




[Sidenote: An Attack of Alliteration]

Have you noticed the Renaissance of alliteration in the new journalism?
The early English Poets made alliteration the chief element of their
poetry, and in modern times Swinburne has paid more attention to it (and
to rhyme) than to meaning, with the result that there has arisen a school
of poets who don't mean anything--and say it. In the olden days, a bride
was bonny, and was requested to busk herself in consequence; all of which
was intelligible. Nowadays, the poet would call a basilisk bonny rather
than miss his alliteration. Is it because the new journalism is so
imaginative and emotional that it throws off alliterative phrases as
naturally and unconsciously as Whittier confesses he did in writing "The
Wreck of Rivermouth"? It is sometimes difficult to believe that
providence is not on the side of the evening bills. When Balmaceda died
he committed Suicide by Shooting himself in Santiago--of all places in
the world. Boulanger, if from a local point of view he died less
satisfactorily, was yet careful to employ a Bullet. It is for the sake of
the phrase-makers that Burglars good-naturedly prefer Bermondsey, and
that Tigers do not escape from their cages to play in Tragedies till the
show arrives at Tewkesbury. The Baboon is already so largely alliterative
in himself that it was an excess of generosity that made one recently
attack an infant under such circumstances as to allow the report to be
headed, "Baby Bitten by a Baboon in a Backyard at Bow." Alliteration has
become a mighty factor in politics: it is fast replacing epigram, while
its effects on moral character are tremendous. That "hardened criminal,"
Mr. Balfour, might have been a good man instead of a "base brutal bully,"
if his name had only commenced with an X. He is a noteworthy martyr to
the mania of the times. I am convinced that the Death of the Duke of
Devonshire was accelerated by anxiety to please the sub-editors, and it
is a source of real regret to me to reflect that my own death can afford
them no supplementary gratification of this nature.




[Sidenote: The Humorous]

To start anything exclusively funny is a serious mistake. This was why
poor Henry J. Byron's "Mirth" was so short-lived. It died of laughing. A
friend of mine, with a hopeless passion for psychological analysis, says
that the reason people do not laugh over comic papers is that the element
of the unexpected is wanting. This, he claims, is the essence of the
comic. You laugh over a humorous remark in the middle of a serious essay,
over a witty epigram flashed upon a grave conversation, over the slipping
into the gutter of a ponderous gentleman--it is the shock of contrast,
the flash of surprise, that tickles. Now this explanation of why people
do not laugh over comic papers is obviously wrong, because you are
surprised when you see a joke in a comic paper; at the same time, it
contains an element of truth. The books which gain a reputation for
brilliance are those which are witty at wide intervals; the writer who
scintillates steadily stands in his own light.




[Sidenote: The Discount Farce]

Having started your magazine, you will begin humorously enough by
affixing a mock price to it. What a strange world of make-believe it is!
We are so habituated to shams that we cannot help shamming even where
there is nothing to be gained by it. Why is music published at four
shillings when you can buy it for one and four, or at most one and eight?
Why are novels published at thirty-one and six and the magazines at a
shilling? "Shilling shockers" are sold at ninepence, which is as comical
as selling "tenpenny nails" at sixpence. The same principle rules in
other trades. It almost seems as if there is an ineradicable instinct in
humanity for getting things below their price, even if at more than their
value. Hence the marked popularity of "sales" and "reductions." The idea
of getting things cheap reconciles one to getting things one doesn't
want. The craze for cheap things leads one into frightful extravagance.
In some shops the weakness of humanity is pandered to without disguise,
and every article is ticketed with a little card, from which the first
price is carefully ruled out, and even on the second price you get a
discount for cash. This same discount for cash is at least intelligible,
but business men are painfully familiar with another wonderful deduction.
After you wait months for your money, you get a cheque less "discount on
payment." This seems to involve an exasperating Hibernicism. "On
payment," forsooth! So long as it remains unpaid, the debt due to you is,
say, one hundred pounds. But the moment you really get it, it shrinks to
ninety-five. Why not call it ninety-five at the start and be done with
it? But, no! men will not give up the subtle pleasure of discounts,
ineffably childish though it be. The rather deaf lady who being asked six
shillings a yard for stuff replied "Sixteen shillings a yard! I'll give
you eleven," and who, when her mistake was pointed out, said "I couldn't
think of paying more than four and sixpence" was a genuine type of the
population of these islands.




[Sidenote: The Franchise Farce]

One American defense of bribery is as clever as it is cynical. It amounts
to this: that universal suffrage is such a peril to the commonweal that
having been given prematurely, it must insidiously be nullified in
practice, even at the cost of universal corruption; in short, if the old
society is to be preserved, universal franchise must be transformed into
universal corruption. What an ironic commentary on the constitution that
was founded by George Washington, who couldn't tell a lie! The honour of
America, it appears, "rooted in dishonour" stands, and "faith unfaithful"
makes its politicians falsely true. When one remembers some of the other
gigantic evils of the society thus conserved by corruption, when one
thinks of the great immoral capitalists, playing their game regardless of
whom they ruin or whom they enrich, when one thinks of the squalid slums
of the great cities, one wonders whether the society which these things
shadow were not better damned. It were cleaner, at any rate, to abolish
universal franchise than to flaunt this farce in the eyes of Europe. If
universal suffrage was a mistake, if indeed the gift of the franchise
does not develop a man's conscience and education--and certainly bribery
is not the way to give him a chance of such development--then why not
honestly admit that America has made this mistake, that the ideals of the
Pilgrim Fathers were inferior to Tammany Hall's, and that even the negro
is not a man and a brother?

Does our American reply that it is impossible now to take back the
franchise? But on his own showing the electors merely regard it as an
opportunity for extracting "boodle." All that would be impossible, then,
is to take away this ancient concession without compensation. The
electors must be bought out at the full market-value of their votes, with
a few cents and corpse-revivers thrown in for their loss of amusement. At
every election dollars and drinks for the ex-electors would be
circulating freely under the direction of the Treasury. And, _ex
hypothesi_, the bulk, or a number of electors sufficient to annul the
danger to society, will accept the liquidation, and thus the dishonest
will be honestly weeded out of the electorate. But if the cynics were
wrong, and there remained among the poorer electorate men sufficiently
honest to retain their votes, and sufficiently numerous to swamp the old
society--why, then the devil take the old society! The object of
government is only the good of the majority, and these men, being the
majority, have every right to select their own form of good. If they were
mistaken, nature would soon convince them of their mistake, and the next
generation would profit by the object-lesson. Demos would go on, a sadder
and a wiser man.

The solution of the question is that the people must not only govern: it
must be fit to govern. To corrupt it with dollars, to drowse it with
drink, is only to put off the inevitable day. It were far wiser to help
it to educate itself for its functions. For, if the revolutionary
economic ideas that are in the air are false, they will destroy
themselves. And if they are true, they have got to be realised, and will
get themselves realised. No amount of corruption will save society in the
long run. Meantime, either let universal suffrage operate honestly, or
let it be suspended or abolished. Let even those States which have
enfranchised the black man, and which now, in accordance with the deep
Machiavellian principle, brazenly revealed by our American, dishonestly
render his vote nugatory by a reliable inaccuracy in the counting,
withdraw their spurious Christianity. A double standard of morals subtly
infects the whole core of the nation. Corruption cannot be localised; it
creeps and spreads through all departments of thought and action. To give
with the right hand, and take away with the left in exchange for a few
dollars, is a manoeuvre unworthy of a great nation. The transaction is
fair; let it be above board, let it be lifted into the plane of ethics.
To found society upon a farce is to lower those ideals by which, as much
as by bread, a nation lives.




[Sidenote: The Modern War Farce]

The horrors of war seem to have reached the vanishing point in our latest
African campaign. The smallness of the English losses is appalling. I do
not see the fun of fighting (_i.e._, of paying taxes) if all the spice
and relish is to be taken out of the results. I want more blood for my
money--hecatombs of corpses. Two men killed in a whole battle?
Ridiculous! If I cannot have my war at my own doors, and hear the bands
and the cannon I have paid for, I must at least have sensational
battle-fields--Actiums and Waterloos and Marengos. What is the use of war
if it does not even serve to reduce our surplus population? Soldiering
was never so healthy an occupation as to-day; one fights only a few days
a year at the utmost, and if the pay is poor, so is that of the scavenger
and the engine-driver and the miner, and everybody else who does the
dirty work of civilisation, and does it, too, without pomp and
circumstance and brass bands and laureates.




[Sidenote: Fireworks]

If people cannot do without sulphur and noise, there are always
fireworks. It is difficult to imagine festivity without them, and yet
there must have been a time when rockets did not rise or Catherine wheels
go round. You cannot have fireworks without gunpowder, and every
school-boy knows that gunpowder was only invented in--I haven't got a
dictionary of dates handy. Surely we ought to let off fireworks on Roger
Bacon's birthday. "They let off fireworks when he was born," say the
French in a slyly witty proverb, which is a circumlocutory way of saying
that a man won't set the Thames on fire. For "he has not invented
gunpowder" is the French equivalent for this idiom of ours, and it is
obvious to the meanest intellect that a man whose birth was celebrated by
fireworks could not have been the inventor of gunpowder. And yet there
were fireworks of a kind from the earliest times, from the first
appearance of stars in the firmament with their wandering habits and
shooting expeditions. And, indeed, did not humanity long regard the
heavens as a firework show for its amusement, a set piece entirely for
its delectation? Mankind has always been fond of playing with fire--ever
since Prometheus stole it from heaven and burnt his fingers. I am
convinced the ancients only used bonfires for messages so as to enjoy the
flare-up on the mountains. Who would not fight when summoned by a tongue
of flame?

  And the red glare on Skiddaw roused the burghers of Carlisle.

Roman candles were unknown to the Romans, but they enjoyed themselves
with torches, and these were the fireworks at wedding fetes. The golden
rain in which Jupiter wooed Danae was another sort of hymeneal fireworks.
There were fireworks at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The love
of fireworks is a natural passion. Does not nature amuse herself with
fireworks, especially on tropical summer nights? She loves to flash her
lightnings (which are not to be put out by the rain), and to crash her
thunder (which, as everybody knows, is only the report of the meeting of
two electric clouds). And who does not admire her grand pyrotechnic
display--twice daily--at sunrise and at sunset, or her celebrated local
effect, the Aurora Borealis?

I have loved fireworks from boyhood, and would rather have had dry bread
and fireworks than cake with jam. In manhood often I have listened to the
long-drawn ecstatic "aw" of the Crystal Palace crowd. I have even written
a poem on fireworks. Here it is:--

  A dazzling fiery show of sphery rainbows,
  Whereof each wonder, monarch of a moment,
  Yields up its glory to the next one's splendour,
  And sadly sinks into the arms of darkness.

Is it not a true simile of the favour of the fickle crowd? The most
brilliant phenomena are forgotten after a moment. Life and Time are full
of such fireworks--religions, philosophies, fashions, dynasties. And
overhead the sure stars shine on. In literature fireworks rarely last.
They are too clever to live. A humble rushlight lasts longer. "All
fireworks are unsound," says Steinitz. He is talking of chess, and chess
is very much like life. Whistler has painted fireworks--I mean
literally--in his blue and silver nocturne of old Battersea Bridge.
Tennyson has painted them in his "Welcome to Alexandra" and elsewhere.

  Flash, ye cities, in rivers of fire!
  Rush to the roof, sudden rocket, and higher,
  Melt into stars for the land's desire!

"Sudden rocket." How good the adjective is! A poet I know spent hall a
day in finding the correct epithet for rockets, and was equally pleased
and annoyed to discover subsequently that he had chosen the same
adjective as the Master.




[Sidenote: Time's Forelock.]

Nowadays we let off all our fireworks a day before the fair and tug Time
by his forelock. A magazine coming out in January must be dated February
at the very earliest. We "go ahead" in an Irish-American sense, and
cannot endure not to be in advance of our age. We live entirely in the
future, and are too busy to live just at present. Christmas falls late in
October and extends to the end of November, the period being marked by
heavy showers of Christmas numbers. The Jews begin all their festivals
the day before, and Christmas is by far the most Jewish of our holidays.
Our evening papers come out in the morning, though this will right itself
in time, for they are getting earlier and earlier, and will ultimately
come out the evening before. Dr. Johnson's line about Shakespeare, "And
panting Time toils after him in vain," is truer of the man of to-day.
What's that you say? All this has been said before? Naturally.




[Sidenote: Diaries.]

Who is the most marvellous man? He who keepeth a diary. And by keeping a
diary I mean keeping it for the whole year, from January 1st to December
31st--keeping it, moreover, by daily entry. Only one year in my life did
I succeed in filling up every department of the three hundred and
sixty-five, and even then I was often in arrears. Diaries are for those
who lead cloistral lives and pure, so that the task is trivial, and
whatsoever record of their own leap to light they shall not be shamed.
Diaries are not for those whose existence is a whirlpool; for such the
blank page is an added perturbation, a haunting whiteness beseeching the
blackness of diurnal autobiography, an I O U that calls for instant
satisfcation. To the spontaneous vexings of conscience has been added an
artificial pricking at the neglect of a supererogatory duty. How have I
blonched to see day adding itself to day, unrecorded, time flying without
being "kodak'd" on the wing; and each new neglect retarding the day of
reckoning even while it aggravated it! Then have I felt myself sinking
beneath the self-imposed

  Yoke, intolerable, not to be borne
  Of the too vast orb of my fate,

yearning for a smaller circumference and a shorter biography. At the
outset one begins a diary, as one practises a new virtue, or plays with a
new toy--enthusiastically. For the first few days of January the entries
are rich in psychological and episodical matter. Then gradually the
interest trails off; to the fertile plains of narrative and analysis
succeeds a barren desert, relieved only by a few dates of appointments.
With Mark Twain it will be remembered the entries were reduced to "Got
up, washed, went to bed." The keeping of a diary is generally the first
New Year resolution to be broken. How eloquent these old diaries filled
up for a month or two--and the rest silence!

On second thoughts there is a more marvellous than the most marvellous
man. It is he who keepeth a pecuniary diary. I know one such. He has kept
a perfect and absolutely complete record of every farthing he has laid
out since the days when farthings were his standard of currency. Which of
us would dare do this, or, doing, would dare cast a backward glance on
the financial past? There is a crude, relentless actuality about items of
expenditure, not to be softened by euphemistic phrasing. Surely a truer
proverb than any of its species would be: "Tell me what you buy, and I'll
tell you what you be." And to think, in reviewing your pecuniary
biography, that, though you owe no man a farthing, you have still to pay
the bill; that many things you have bought have yet to be paid for "over
and over again," as the Master Builder said, "over and over again."




[Sidenote: "Looking Backward"]

Looking backward is a luxury which should be indulged in only
moderation--say once in fifty years. The preachers will tell you
differently. But life is so restless and feverish nowadays that there is
no time for obeying the preachers. It is as much as we can do to find
time to listen to them. Goethe says, "He who looks forward sees only one
way to pursue, but he who looks backward sees many." This is the last
word on the subject. It speaks volumes. But as you cannot walk through
any of those backways, what is the use of bothering to look for them?
True, your own experience enables you to give advice to others. But
advice is a drug in the market. What am I saying? A drug! No, no! Even a
drug is taken sometimes. Advice never is. We learn only from our own
mistakes, and when it is too late to profit by them. No; there is not
much profit in looking backwards. Often it tends to make you pessimistic,
to sap your energy, to petrify you, as it did Lot's wife. At other times,
contrariwise, it makes you expel such salt as is already in you,
dissolved in tears--

  So sweet, so sad, the days that are no more.

Yet what is this but another form of Buskin's "Pathetic fallacy"? Those
divinely sweet, sad days were in reality just as commonplace as to-day.

  Life is a chaos of comic confusion,
    Past things alone take a halo harmonious;
  So from illusion we wake to illusion,
    Each as the rest just as true and erroneous.

A familiar form of the new illusion we wake to is seen in the exclamation
that so often follows retrospection: "Oh, what a fool I was!" As a rule,
nothing can be more conceited than this use of the past tense. A few
people, perhaps, can look back complacently upon "a well-spent life"
(wherein all the years have been laid out to advantage, and every hour
has been made to go as far as seventy-five minutes, and every odd second
has been worth a row of pins at least); but I should not care to meet
them. For the bulk of us it is best to press on, doing what our hand
findeth to do, and letting the dead past bury its dead. It is quite
enough to know we cannot escape paying the funeral bills. One of my
friends found himself let in for the discharge of a number of extra
bills, owing to his retrospective proclivities. He was just beginning to
overcome the adverse financial fates when, taking a complacent survey of
his past, he was horrified to find it bristling with forgotten debts.
Looking backward nearly ruined that man. Another of my friends lost his
life entirely through it. He was an old man and a celebrity, and a
publisher offered him L2000 for his memoirs. Unfortunately my friend had
a very bad memory and no diaries, and, like my other friend, he was
conscientious. The publisher's offer tantalized him terribly. He did not
know what to do. At last, in despair, he determined to drown himself. On
the moment before his death all his past life would come back to him and
pass before his mental vision. Of course I was to rescue him the instant
he lost consciousness, have him rubbed with hot towels and the rest of
it. We went out bathing together, and everything came off as arranged,
all except his resurrection. He was too old for such experiments.

A cynical Frenchman has defined life as the collection of recollections
for the time when you shall have no memory. It is, at any rate, true (and
the preachers are welcome to the moral) that the keenest joys of the
senses leave a scant deposit in the memory, and that if sensual pleasures
are doubled in anticipation, it is the spiritual that are doubled in
looking backward.




[Sidenote: Long Lives]

Just as there are many persons of whose existence you are unaware till
you read their obituaries, so there are many of whose celebrity you are
ignorant till you see the advertisement of their biographies. On all
sides we are flooded with big books about little people. What is this new
disease that has come upon us? Life is short but a "Life" is long. Can
there be any one man in this great procession of the suns who deserves
the two royal octavo volumes, which is the least monument that the pious
biographer builds? The perspective is all wrong. Bossuet got the history
of the world into a fifth of the space. How keen must be the struggle for
life amid these shoals of "Lives." How futile and vain this aspiration
for a "Life" beyond the grave! Vainer still the bid for immortality, when
one's own hand raises the mendacious memorial. It is an open question
whether even Marie Bashkirtseff's self-hewn shrine will stand--she, who
sacrificed her life to her "Life." If it does, it will not be by virtue
of its veracity. I would not trust George Washington himself to write a
perfectly accurate record of a prior day. As for the average biography,
it is but the "In Memoriam" of memory. A friend of mine has written some
excellent fiction and some entertaining reminiscences; only he has
mis-labelled his books, and called his fiction "reminiscences," and his
reminiscences "fiction."

  VIVE LA MORT!

  Wherefore do the critics rage?
  'T is the Biographic Age.
  Every dolt who duly died
  In a book is glorified
  Uniformly with his betters;
  All his unimportant letters
  Edited by writers gifted,
  Every scrap of MS. sifted,
  Classified by dates and ages,
  Pages multiplied on pages,
  Till the man is--for their pains--
  Buried 'neath his own Remains.
  Every day the craze grows stronger,
  Art is long, but "lives" are longer.
  Those who were the most in view
  Block the stage _post mortem_ too.
  Hark the tongues of either sex--
  Reminiscences of X!
  Of his juvenile affections
  Hundreds write their Recollections,
  (None will recollect their writings)
  Telling of his love for whitings
  Fried in butter, or his fancy
  For bananas, buns, and Nancy.
  Thank the gracious gods on high,
  Every day some "Life" must die:
  Death alone is our salvation.
  Though'tisdubious consolation
  That of all these countless "Lives"
  Only the unfit survives.




[Sidenote: Men and Bookmen]

The literary market is inundated with people who have no right to a
stall. Aristocrats are badgered for books merely because they have the
titles; and to have achieved success in any other profession than
literature is the surest recommendation to the favour of the publishers.
If I had to start my literary career over again, I should commence by
hopping on one leg through the Pyrenees, or figuring in a big divorce
case; anything short of assassination, which makes one's success too
posthumous. It is most unfair, this doubling of the parts of doing and
writing. Our modern heroes and heroines are quite too self-conscious;
amid all their deeds of derring-do they have their eye on Mudie's. The
old way was better. Even before the Pyramids were reared, when books were
pictures and letters were cuneiform, heroes had their poets and kings
their laureates. You can no more imagine Agamemnon, after the fall of
Troy, rushing off to write an account of it for "Bentley's," than you can
imagine Helen certifying that she found Pears' soap matchless for the
complexion. It was better for the heroes as well as for the writers.
Aeneas would never have dared to draw such constant attention to his
"piety" as Virgil does; and even Louis Quatorze would have hesitated to
describe the taking of Namur in the language of Boileau--

  Et vous, vents, faites silence:
  Je vais parler de Louis.

The true hero nowadays is the man who conquers himself and does not write
books.




[Sidenote: James I. on Tobacco]

But even ancient kings did write sometimes, as witness this of James I: I
hold it aye to be a Kings part to the Body-Politicke of all euils &
excesses, & would fain demonstrate afresh to my dear Countrey-men how
abhorrent to Heauen is this stinking incense that ascendeth day & night;
but amid the heat & burden of the day I cannot find an hour to examine
into this matter _de nouo_, & must needs be content with commending to
the readers of "Without Prejudice" my booklet, "A Counterblaste to
Tobacco," imprinted _Anno_ 1604, wherein they will find the abuses of
this foreign custome duly set forth at length. But, on second thoughts,
perchance these moderns read nothing but what is under their noses, so I
will shortly recapitulate my main positions, merely adding that my
objections to Smoak are to-day even stronger than when I wrote. (1) It is
a fallacie of the vulgar that _because_ the braines of men are colde &
wet, therefore _Tobacco_ Smoak, being hote and dry, is good for them; a
conclusion which no more followeth on the Premiss than the Ratiocination
of one who should apply a cake of cold lead to his stomacke, because the
Liver, being the fountaine of blood, is always hote. Moreover, the Smoak
hath also a venomous qualitee. (2) It is a vulgar fallacie that the
affection of mankind for the Practise is a proof that it is good for
them; inasmuch as men are ledd astray by a mode, & furthermore, the
affectation & conceit of the patient persuadeth him he is benefited; yet
how shall one drug cure of all diseases men of all complexions? (3) Men
are by this custom disabled in their goods, spending many pounds a year
upon this precious stinke, and are no better than drunkards. (4) It is a
great iniquitee & against all humanity that the husband shall not bee
ashamed to reduce thereby his delicate, wholesome and cleane complexioned
wife to that extremitee that either shee must also corrupt her sweete
breath therewith, or else resolve to live in a perpetual stinking
torment. In short, tis a custome lothsome to the eye, hateful to the
Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, & in the blacke
stinking fume thereof neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of
the pit that is bottomeless.




[Sidenote: A Counterblaste to James I.]

So please your Majestie, I would beg leave in all loyaltie & service to
cry you mercy on behalf of the foreign weed, _Tobacco_, which stands for
all time condemned by the potent _Counterblaste_ of a monarch, the
maruelle of _Christendom_, whose brow hath borne at once the bays of
Apollo, the laurels of Mars, & the crownes of Scotia & Anglia. And
_imprimis_ I would venture humbly to obserue that your Majesties
arguments are to the last Degree asinine. Euen the title--which, as is
customarie with great personages, is the best part of your Majesties
book--is marred by an unseemlie concession to paronomasia. That your
Majesties manifold abuses of the Logicks may be better espied, I will
take them _seriatim_. (1) The ground founded upon the Theoricke of a
deceiuable apparence of Reason--your Majestie is mistaken in thinking
that I hold it a sure aphorisme in the Physickes. For the braines are
neuer colde & wet saue when there is water on them; & those who do not
Smoak haue no braines for _Tobacco_ to benefit. (2) Your Majesties
argumentation proueth how zealously your Majestie striueth to liue up to
the nickname of the _British Solomon_. And, of a veritie, I could not
myself run atilt more cunningly at this popular fallacie; though I might
back up your Majestie with a most transparent illustration--to wit, that
the affection of Mankind for monarchs is no proof that they are good for
them. (3) I denie that _Tobacco_ wastes ones substance, & I would refer
your Majestie to my demonstration of the Extrauagance of not smoaking.
(4) And is it not an advantage that it resembleth to the Stigian smoak of
the pit? The more we accustom ourselves thereto, the lesse we shall
suffer when we join your Majestie. Will your Majestie kindlie recommend a
Brande? Nor can I conclude without a word as to the ill-taste of that
supplement to your Majesties booklet--a tax of Six Shillings &
Eighte-Pence uppon euery Pounde-Waighte of _Tobacco_, ouer & aboue the
Custome of Two Pence uppon the Pound-Waighte usuallye paide heretofore.
Did your Majestie hope to effect so little by Reason that your Majestie
must needs fall back on Reuenue? Hauing challenged this habit by the
Kings pen, how unmannerly to resort to the coastguards cutlass & fight
the custome at the Custome House. Was it, perhaps, that your Majestie was
wishful to promote English Agriculture or was getting up a cornere in
Cabbaiges?

Howsoever, Smoak hath suruiued the _Stuarts_. May I offer your Majestie a
Cigarre?




[Sidenote: Valedictory]

And now, gentle reader, the hour has come for parting. You have kept me
company a long time; tolerant of all my whimsies and vagaries, and not
too restive when I became serious and heavy. I have written for you in
many places and in many moods, and I cannot hope to have escaped the mood
of dulness.

  Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
    Or surely you'll grow double;
  Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks:
    Why all this toil and trouble?

Ah, dear Wordsworth, 't is easy enough to answer your question. Still, at
last the pen falls from my tired fingers.

  Books! 't is a dull and endless strife:
    Come, hear the woodland linnet!
  How sweet his music! On my life,
    There's more of wisdom in it.

Yes, I will go down and hear the woodland linnet, there is one in the
bird-shop round the corner. Ah me! he will not pipe--his is the wisdom of
silence. Never mind; the pavements are flooded with sunshine, and the
folk are walking gaily, and the omnibuses roll along top-heavy, and there
is a blue strip of sky over the Strand. Yes, Spring is here, and the
violets are blooming in the old women's baskets. How happy everybody
seems! Even the sandwich-men have lost their doleful air. The sap is
stirring in their boards. They are dreaming of their ancient springtides,
when they edited magazines or played "Hamlet." And so, having taken up my
pen again to tell you how I dropped it, let me not lay it down without
bidding you a fond and last farewell--without prejudice.




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