Infomotions, Inc.Memories and Portraits / Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1850-1894

Author: Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1850-1894
Title: Memories and Portraits
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): essays; life; stevenson; time; art; man; talk; robert; louis; portraits; memories
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Identifier: etext381
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Memories and Portraits

by Robert Louis Stevenson

December, 1995  [Etext #381]

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Memories and Portraits - Robert Louis Stevenson.  1912 Chatto and 
Windus edition.  Scanned and proofed by David Price, email



THIS volume of papers, unconnected as they are, it will be better 
to read through from the beginning, rather than dip into at random.  
A certain thread of meaning binds them.  Memories of childhood and 
youth, portraits of those who have gone before us in the battle - 
taken together, they build up a face that "I have loved long since 
and lost awhile," the face of what was once myself.  This has come 
by accident; I had no design at first to be autobiographical; I was 
but led away by the charm of beloved memories and by regret for the 
irrevocable dead; and when my own young face (which is a face of 
the dead also) began to appear in the well as by a kind of magic, I 
was the first to be surprised at the occurrence.

My grandfather the pious child, my father the idle eager 
sentimental youth, I have thus unconsciously exposed.  Of their 
descendant, the person of to-day, I wish to keep the secret: not 
because I love him better, but because, with him, I am still in a 
business partnership, and cannot divide interests.

Of the papers which make up the volume, some have appeared already 
for the first time; and two others have enjoyed only what may he 
regarded as a private circulation.

R. L S.




"This is no my ain house;
I ken by the biggin' o't."

Two recent books (1) one by Mr. Grant White on England, one on 
France by the diabolically clever Mr. Hillebrand, may well have set 
people thinking on the divisions of races and nations.  Such 
thoughts should arise with particular congruity and force to 
inhabitants of that United Kingdom, peopled from so many different 
stocks, babbling so many different dialects, and offering in its 
extent such singular contrasts, from the busiest over-population to 
the unkindliest desert, from the Black Country to the Moor of 
Rannoch.  It is not only when we cross the seas that we go abroad; 
there are foreign parts of England; and the race that has conquered 
so wide an empire has not yet managed to assimilate the islands 
whence she sprang.  Ireland, Wales, and the Scottish mountains 
still cling, in part, to their old Gaelic speech.  It was but the 
other day that English triumphed in Cornwall, and they still show 
in Mousehole, on St. Michael's Bay, the house of the last Cornish-
speaking woman.  English itself, which will now frank the traveller 
through the most of North America, through the greater South Sea 
Islands, in India, along much of the coast of Africa, and in the 
ports of China and Japan, is still to be heard, in its home 
country, in half a hundred varying stages of transition.  You may 
go all over the States, and - setting aside the actual intrusion 
and influence of foreigners, negro, French, or Chinese - you shall 
scarce meet with so marked a difference of accent as in the forty 
miles between Edinburgh and Glasgow, or of dialect as in the 
hundred miles between Edinburgh and Aberdeen.  Book English has 
gone round the world, but at home we still preserve the racy idioms 
of our fathers, and every county, in some parts every dale, has its 
own quality of speech, vocal or verbal.  In like manner, local 
custom and prejudice, even local religion and local law, linger on 
into the latter end of the nineteenth century - IMPERIA IN IMPERIO, 
foreign things at home.

In spite of these promptings to reflection, ignorance of his 
neighbours is the character of the typical John Bull.  His is a 
domineering nature, steady in fight, imperious to command, but 
neither curious nor quick about the life of others.  In French 
colonies, and still more in the Dutch, I have read that there is an 
immediate and lively contact between the dominant and the dominated 
race, that a certain sympathy is begotten, or at the least a 
transfusion of prejudices, making life easier for both.  But the 
Englishman sits apart, bursting with pride and ignorance.  He 
figures among his vassal in the hour of peace with the same 
disdainful air that led him on to victory.  A passing enthusiasm 
for some foreign art or fashion may deceive the world, it cannot 
impose upon his intimates.  He may be amused by a foreigner as by a 
monkey, but he will never condescend to study him with any 
patience.  Miss Bird, an authoress with whom I profess myself in 
love, declares all the viands of Japan to be uneatable - a 
staggering pretension.  So, when the Prince of Wales's marriage was 
celebrated at Mentone by a dinner to the Mentonese, it was proposed 
to give them solid English fare - roast beef and plum pudding, and 
no tomfoolery.  Here we have either pole of the Britannic folly.  
We will not eat the food of any foreigner; nor, when we have the 
chance, will we eager him to eat of it himself.  The same spirit 
inspired Miss Bird's American missionaries, who had come thousands 
of miles to change the faith of Japan, and openly professed their 
ignorance of the religions they were trying to supplant.

I quote an American in this connection without scruple.  Uncle Sam 
is better than John Bull, but he is tarred with the English stick.  
For Mr. Grant White the States are the New England States and 
nothing more.  He wonders at the amount of drinking in London; let 
him try San Francisco.  He wittily reproves English ignorance as to 
the status of women in America; but has he not himself forgotten 
Wyoming?  The name Yankee, of which he is so tenacious, is used 
over the most of the great Union as a term of reproach.  The Yankee 
States, of which he is so staunch a subject, are but a drop in the 
bucket.  And we find in his book a vast virgin ignorance of the 
life and prospects of America; every view partial, parochial, not 
raised to the horizon; the moral feeling proper, at the largest, to 
a clique of states; and the whole scope and atmosphere not 
American, but merely Yankee.  I will go far beyond him in 
reprobating the assumption and the incivility of my countryfolk to 
their cousins from beyond the sea; I grill in my blood over the 
silly rudeness of our newspaper articles; and I do not know where 
to look when I find myself in company with an American and see my 
countrymen unbending to him as to a performing dog.  But in the 
case of Mr. Grant White example were better than precept.  Wyoming 
is, after all, more readily accessible to Mr. White than Boston to 
the English, and the New England self-sufficiency no better 
justified than the Britannic.

It is so, perhaps, in all countries; perhaps in all, men are most 
ignorant of the foreigners at home.  John Bull is ignorant of the 
States; he is probably ignorant of India; but considering his 
opportunities, he is far more ignorant of countries nearer his own 
door.  There is one country, for instance - its frontier not so far 
from London, its people closely akin, its language the same in all 
essentials with the English - of which I will go bail he knows 
nothing.  His ignorance of the sister kingdom cannot be described; 
it can only be illustrated by anecdote.  I once travelled with a 
man of plausible manners and good intelligence - a University man, 
as the phrase goes - a man, besides, who had taken his degree in 
life and knew a thing or two about the age we live in.  We were 
deep in talk, whirling between Peterborough and London; among other 
things, he began to describe some piece of legal injustice he had 
recently encountered, and I observed in my innocence that things 
were not so in Scotland.  "I beg your pardon," said he, "this is a 
matter of law."  He had never heard of the Scots law; nor did he 
choose to be informed.  The law was the same for the whole country, 
he told me roundly; every child knew that.  At last, to settle 
matters, I explained to him that I was a member of a Scottish legal 
body, and had stood the brunt of an examination in the very law in 
question.  Thereupon he looked me for a moment full in the face and 
dropped the conversation.  This is a monstrous instance, if you 
like, but it does not stand alone in the experience of Scots.

England and Scotland differ, indeed, in law, in history, in 
religion, in education, and in the very look of nature and men's 
faces, not always widely, but always trenchantly.  Many particulars 
that struck Mr. Grant White, a Yankee, struck me, a Scot, no less 
forcibly; he and I felt ourselves foreigners on many common 
provocations.  A Scotchman may tramp the better part of Europe and 
the United States, and never again receive so vivid an impression 
of foreign travel and strange lands and manners as on his first 
excursion into England.  The change from a hilly to a level country 
strikes him with delighted wonder.  Along the flat horizon there 
arise the frequent venerable towers of churches.  He sees at the 
end of airy vistas the revolution of the windmill sails.  He may go 
where he pleases in the future; he may see Alps, and Pyramids, and 
lions; but it will be hard to beat the pleasure of that moment.  
There are, indeed, few merrier spectacles than that of many 
windmills bickering together in a fresh breeze over a woody 
country; their halting alacrity of movement, their pleasant 
business, making bread all day with uncouth gesticulations, their 
air, gigantically human, as of a creature half alive, put a spirit 
of romance into the tamest landscape.  When the Scotch child sees 
them first he falls immediately in love; and from that time forward 
windmills keep turning in his dreams.  And so, in their degree, 
with every feature of the life and landscape.  The warm, habitable 
age of towns and hamlets, the green, settled, ancient look of the 
country; the lush hedgerows, stiles, and privy path-ways in the 
fields; the sluggish, brimming rivers; chalk and smock-frocks; 
chimes of bells and the rapid, pertly-sounding English speech - 
they are all new to the curiosity; they are all set to English airs 
in the child's story that he tells himself at night.  The sharp 
edge of novelty wears off; the feeling is scotched, but I doubt 
whether it is ever killed.  Rather it keeps returning, ever the 
more rarely and strangely, and even in scenes to which you have 
been long accustomed suddenly awakes and gives a relish to 
enjoyment or heightens the sense of isolation.

One thing especially continues unfamiliar to the Scotchman's eye - 
the domestic architecture, the look of streets and buildings; the 
quaint, venerable age of many, and the thin walls and warm 
colouring of all.  We have, in Scotland, far fewer ancient 
buildings, above all in country places; and those that we have are 
all of hewn or harled masonry.  Wood has been sparingly used in 
their construction; the window-frames are sunken in the wall, not 
flat to the front, as in England; the roofs are steeper-pitched; 
even a hill farm will have a massy, square, cold and permanent 
appearance.  English houses, in comparison, have the look of 
cardboard toys, such as a puff might shatter.  And to this the 
Scotchman never becomes used.  His eye can never rest consciously 
on one of these brick houses - rickles of brick, as he might call 
them - or on one of these flat-chested streets, but he is instantly 
reminded where he is, and instantly travels back in fancy to his 
home.  "This is no my ain house; I ken by the biggin' o't."  And 
yet perhaps it is his own, bought with his own money, the key of it 
long polished in his pocket; but it has not yet, and never will be, 
thoroughly adopted by his imagination; nor does he cease to 
remember that, in the whole length and breadth of his native 
country, there was no building even distantly resembling it.

But it is not alone in scenery and architecture that we count 
England foreign.  The constitution of society, the very pillars of 
the empire, surprise and even pain us.  The dull, neglected 
peasant, sunk in matter, insolent, gross and servile, makes a 
startling contrast with our own long-legged, long-headed, 
thoughtful, Bible-quoting ploughman.  A week or two in such a place 
as Suffolk leaves the Scotchman gasping.  It seems incredible that 
within the boundaries of his own island a class should have been 
thus forgotten.  Even the educated and intelligent, who hold our 
own opinions and speak in our own words, yet seem to hold them with 
a difference or, from another reason, and to speak on all things 
with less interest and conviction.  The first shock of English 
society is like a cold plunge.  It is possible that the Scot comes 
looking for too much, and to be sure his first experiment will be 
in the wrong direction.  Yet surely his complaint is grounded; 
surely the speech of Englishmen is too often lacking in generous 
ardour, the better part of the man too often withheld from the 
social commerce, and the contact of mind with mind evaded as with 
terror.  A Scotch peasant will talk more liberally out of his own 
experience.  He will not put you by with conversational counters 
and small jests; he will give you the best of himself, like one 
interested in life and man's chief end.  A Scotchman is vain, 
interested in himself and others, eager for sympathy, setting forth 
his thoughts and experience in the best light.  The egoism of the 
Englishman is self-contained.  He does not seek to proselytise.  He 
takes no interest in Scotland or the Scotch, and, what is the 
unkindest cut of all, he does not care to justify his indifference.  
Give him the wages of going on and being an Englishman, that is all 
he asks; and in the meantime, while you continue to associate, he 
would rather not be reminded of your baser origin.  Compared with 
the grand, tree-like self-sufficiency of his demeanour, the vanity 
and curiosity of the Scot seem uneasy, vulgar, and immodest.  That 
you should continually try to establish human and serious 
relations, that you should actually feel an interest in John Bull, 
and desire and invite a return of interest from him, may argue 
something more awake and lively in your mind, but it still puts you 
in the attitude of a suitor and a poor relation.  Thus even the 
lowest class of the educated English towers over a Scotchman by the 
head and shoulders.

Different indeed is the atmosphere in which Scotch and English 
youth begin to look about them, come to themselves in life, and 
gather up those first apprehensions which are the material of 
future thought and, to a great extent, the rule of future conduct.  
I have been to school in both countries, and I found, in the boys 
of the North, something at once rougher and more tender, at once 
more reserve and more expansion, a greater habitual distance 
chequered by glimpses of a nearer intimacy, and on the whole wider 
extremes of temperament and sensibility.  The boy of the South 
seems more wholesome, but less thoughtful; he gives himself to 
games as to a business, striving to excel, but is not readily 
transported by imagination; the type remains with me as cleaner in 
mind and body, more active, fonder of eating, endowed with a lesser 
and a less romantic sense of life and of the future, and more 
immersed in present circumstances.  And certainly, for one thing, 
English boys are younger for their age.  Sabbath observance makes a 
series of grim, and perhaps serviceable, pauses in the tenor of 
Scotch boyhood - days of great stillness and solitude for the 
rebellious mind, when in the dearth of books and play, and in the 
intervals of studying the Shorter Catechism, the intellect and 
senses prey upon and test each other.  The typical English Sunday, 
with the huge midday dinner and the plethoric afternoon, leads 
perhaps to different results.  About the very cradle of the Scot 
there goes a hum of metaphysical divinity; and the whole of two 
divergent systems is summed up, not merely speciously, in the two 
first questions of the rival catechisms, the English tritely 
inquiring, "What is your name?" the Scottish striking at the very 
roots of life with, "What is the chief end of man?" and answering 
nobly, if obscurely, "To glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever."  I 
do not wish to make an idol of the Shorter Catechism; but the fact 
of such a question being asked opens to us Scotch a great field of 
speculation; and the fact that it is asked of all of us, from the 
peer to the ploughboy, binds us more nearly together.  No 
Englishman of Byron's age, character, and history would have had 
patience for long theological discussions on the way to fight for 
Greece; but the daft Gordon blood and the Aberdonian school-days 
kept their influence to the end.  We have spoken of the material 
conditions; nor need much more be said of these: of the land lying 
everywhere more exposed, of the wind always louder and bleaker, of 
the black, roaring winters, of the gloom of high-lying, old stone 
cities, imminent on the windy seaboard; compared with the level 
streets, the warm colouring of the brick, the domestic quaintness 
of the architecture, among which English children begin to grow up 
and come to themselves in life.  As the stage of the University 
approaches, the contrast becomes more express.  The English lad 
goes to Oxford or Cambridge; there, in an ideal world of gardens, 
to lead a semi-scenic life, costumed, disciplined and drilled by 
proctors.  Nor is this to be regarded merely as a stage of 
education; it is a piece of privilege besides, and a step that 
separates him further from the bulk of his compatriots.  At an 
earlier age the Scottish lad begins his greatly different 
experience of crowded class-rooms, of a gaunt quadrangle, of a bell 
hourly booming over the traffic of the city to recall him from the 
public-house where he has been lunching, or the streets where he 
has been wandering fancy-free.  His college life has little of 
restraint, and nothing of necessary gentility.  He will find no 
quiet clique of the exclusive, studious and cultured; no rotten 
borough of the arts.  All classes rub shoulders on the greasy 
benches.  The raffish young gentleman in gloves must measure his 
scholarship with the plain, clownish laddie from the parish school.  
They separate, at the session's end, one to smoke cigars about a 
watering-place, the other to resume the labours of the field beside 
his peasant family.  The first muster of a college class in 
Scotland is a scene of curious and painful interest; so many lads, 
fresh from the heather, hang round the stove in cloddish 
embarrassment, ruffled by the presence of their smarter comrades, 
and afraid of the sound of their own rustic voices.  It was in 
these early days, I think, that Professor Blackie won the affection 
of his pupils, putting these uncouth, umbrageous students at their 
ease with ready human geniality.  Thus, at least, we have a healthy 
democratic atmosphere to breathe in while at work; even when there 
is no cordiality there is always a juxtaposition of the different 
classes, and in the competition of study the intellectual power of 
each is plainly demonstrated to the other.  Our tasks ended, we of 
the North go forth as freemen into the humming, lamplit city.  At 
five o'clock you may see the last of us hiving from the college 
gates, in the glare of the shop windows, under the green glimmer of 
the winter sunset.  The frost tingles in our blood; no proctor lies 
in wait to intercept us; till the bell sounds again, we are the 
masters of the world; and some portion of our lives is always 

Nor must we omit the sense of the nature of his country and his 
country's history gradually growing in the child's mind from story 
and from observation.  A Scottish child hears much of shipwreck, 
outlying iron skerries, pitiless breakers, and great sea-lights; 
much of heathery mountains, wild clans, and hunted Covenanters.  
Breaths come to him in song of the distant Cheviots and the ring of 
foraying hoofs.  He glories in his hard-fisted forefathers, of the 
iron girdle and the handful of oat-meal, who rode so swiftly and 
lived so sparely on their raids.  Poverty, ill-luck, enterprise, 
and constant resolution are the fibres of the legend of his 
country's history.  The heroes and kings of Scotland have been 
tragically fated; the most marking incidents in Scottish history - 
Flodden, Darien, or the Forty-five were still either failures or 
defeats; and the fall of Wallace and the repeated reverses of the 
Bruce combine with the very smallness of the country to teach 
rather a moral than a material criterion for life.  Britain is 
altogether small, the mere taproot of her extended empire: 
Scotland, again, which alone the Scottish boy adopts in his 
imagination, is but a little part of that, and avowedly cold, 
sterile and unpopulous.  It is not so for nothing.  I once seemed 
to have perceived in an American boy a greater readiness of 
sympathy for lands that are great, and rich, and growing, like his 
own.  It proved to be quite otherwise: a mere dumb piece of boyish 
romance, that I had lacked penetration to divine.  But the error 
serves the purpose of my argument; for I am sure, at least, that 
the heart of young Scotland will be always touched more nearly by 
paucity of number and Spartan poverty of life.

So we may argue, and yet the difference is not explained.  That 
Shorter Catechism which I took as being so typical of Scotland, was 
yet composed in the city of Westminster.  The division of races is 
more sharply marked within the borders of Scotland itself than 
between the countries.  Galloway and Buchan, Lothian and Lochaber, 
are like foreign parts; yet you may choose a man from any of them, 
and, ten to one, he shall prove to have the headmark of a Scot.  A 
century and a half ago the Highlander wore a different costume, 
spoke a different language, worshipped in another church, held 
different morals, and obeyed a different social constitution from 
his fellow-countrymen either of the south or north.  Even the 
English, it is recorded, did not loathe the Highlander and the 
Highland costume as they were loathed by the remainder of the 
Scotch.  Yet the Highlander felt himself a Scot.  He would 
willingly raid into the Scotch lowlands; but his courage failed him 
at the border, and he regarded England as a perilous, unhomely 
land.  When the Black Watch, after years of foreign service, 
returned to Scotland, veterans leaped out and kissed the earth at 
Port Patrick.  They had been in Ireland, stationed among men of 
their own race and language, where they were well liked and treated 
with affection; but it was the soil of Galloway that they kissed at 
the extreme end of the hostile lowlands, among a people who did not 
understand their speech, and who had hated, harried, and hanged 
them since the dawn of history.  Last, and perhaps most curious, 
the sons of chieftains were often educated on the continent of 
Europe.  They went abroad speaking Gaelic; they returned speaking, 
not English, but the broad dialect of Scotland.  Now, what idea had 
they in their minds when they thus, in thought, identified 
themselves with their ancestral enemies?  What was the sense in 
which they were Scotch and not English, or Scotch and not Irish?  
Can a bare name be thus influential on the minds and affections of 
men, and a political aggregation blind them to the nature of facts?  
The story of the Austrian Empire would seem to answer, NO; the far 
more galling business of Ireland clenches the negative from nearer 
home.  Is it common education, common morals, a common language or 
a common faith, that join men into nations?  There were practically 
none of these in the case we are considering.

The fact remains: in spite of the difference of blood and language, 
the Lowlander feels himself the sentimental countryman of the 
Highlander.  When they meet abroad, they fall upon each other's 
necks in spirit; even at home there is a kind of clannish intimacy 
in their talk.  But from his compatriot in the south the Lowlander 
stands consciously apart.  He has had a different training; he 
obeys different laws; he makes his will in other terms, is 
otherwise divorced and married; his eyes are not at home in an 
English landscape or with English houses; his ear continues to 
remark the English speech; and even though his tongue acquire the 
Southern knack, he will still have a strong Scotch accent of the 


I AM asked to write something (it is not specifically stated what) 
to the profit and glory of my ALMA MATER; and the fact is I seem to 
be in very nearly the same case with those who addressed me, for 
while I am willing enough to write something, I know not what to 
write.  Only one point I see, that if I am to write at all, it 
should be of the University itself and my own days under its 
shadow; of the things that are still the same and of those that are 
already changed: such talk, in short, as would pass naturally 
between a student of to-day and one of yesterday, supposing them to 
meet and grow confidential.

The generations pass away swiftly enough on the high seas of life; 
more swiftly still in the little bubbling back-water of the 
quadrangle; so that we see there, on a scale startlingly 
diminished, the flight of time and the succession of men.  I looked 
for my name the other day in last year's case-book of the 
Speculative.  Naturally enough I looked for it near the end; it was 
not there, nor yet in the next column, so that I began to think it 
had been dropped at press; and when at last I found it, mounted on 
the shoulders of so many successors, and looking in that posture 
like the name of a man of ninety, I was conscious of some of the 
dignity of years.  This kind of dignity of temporal precession is 
likely, with prolonged life, to become more familiar, possibly less 
welcome; but I felt it strongly then, it is strongly on me now, and 
I am the more emboldened to speak with my successors in the tone of 
a parent and a praiser of things past.

For, indeed, that which they attend is but a fallen University; it 
has doubtless some remains of good, for human institutions decline 
by gradual stages; but decline, in spite of all seeming 
embellishments, it does; and what is perhaps more singular, began 
to do so when I ceased to be a student.  Thus, by an odd chance, I 
had the very last of the very best of ALMA MATER; the same thing, I 
hear (which makes it the more strange), had previously happened to 
my father; and if they are good and do not die, something not at 
all unsimilar will be found in time to have befallen my successors 
of to-day.  Of the specific points of change, of advantage in the 
past, of shortcoming in the present, I must own that, on a near 
examination, they look wondrous cloudy.  The chief and far the most 
lamentable change is the absence of a certain lean, ugly, idle, 
unpopular student, whose presence was for me the gist and heart of 
the whole matter; whose changing humours, fine occasional purposes 
of good, flinching acceptance of evil, shiverings on wet, east-
windy, morning journeys up to class, infinite yawnings during 
lecture and unquenchable gusto in the delights of truantry, made up 
the sunshine and shadow of my college life.  You cannot fancy what 
you missed in missing him; his virtues, I make sure, are 
inconceivable to his successors, just as they were apparently 
concealed from his contemporaries, for I was practically alone in 
the pleasure I had in his society.  Poor soul, I remember how much 
he was cast down at times, and how life (which had not yet begun) 
seemed to be already at an end, and hope quite dead, and misfortune 
and dishonour, like physical presences, dogging him as he went.  
And it may be worth while to add that these clouds rolled away in 
their season, and that all clouds roll away at last, and the 
troubles of youth in particular are things but of a moment.  So 
this student, whom I have in my eye, took his full share of these 
concerns, and that very largely by his own fault; but he still 
clung to his fortune, and in the midst of much misconduct, kept on 
in his own way learning how to work; and at last, to his wonder, 
escaped out of the stage of studentship not openly shamed; leaving 
behind him the University of Edinburgh shorn of a good deal of its 
interest for myself.

But while he is (in more senses than one) the first person, he is 
by no means the only one whom I regret, or whom the students of to-
day, if they knew what they had lost, would regret also.  They have 
still Tait, to be sure - long may they have him! - and they have 
still Tait's class-room, cupola and all; but think of what a 
different place it was when this youth of mine (at least on roll 
days) would be present on the benches, and, at the near end of the 
platform, Lindsay senior (3) was airing his robust old age.  It is 
possible my successors may have never even heard of Old Lindsay; 
but when he went, a link snapped with the last century.  He had 
something of a rustic air, sturdy and fresh and plain; he spoke 
with a ripe east-country accent, which I used to admire; his 
reminiscences were all of journeys on foot or highways busy with 
post-chaises - a Scotland before steam; he had seen the coal fire 
on the Isle of May, and he regaled me with tales of my own 
grandfather.  Thus he was for me a mirror of things perished; it 
was only in his memory that I could see the huge shock of flames of 
the May beacon stream to leeward, and the watchers, as they fed the 
fire, lay hold unscorched of the windward bars of the furnace; it 
was only thus that I could see my grandfather driving swiftly in a 
gig along the seaboard road from Pittenweem to Crail, and for all 
his business hurry, drawing up to speak good-humouredly with those 
he met.  And now, in his turn, Lindsay is gone also; inhabits only 
the memories of other men, till these shall follow him; and figures 
in my reminiscences as my grandfather figured in his.

To-day, again, they have Professor Butcher, and I hear he has a 
prodigious deal of Greek; and they have Professor Chrystal, who is 
a man filled with the mathematics.  And doubtless these are set-
offs.  But they cannot change the fact that Professor Blackie has 
retired, and that Professor Kelland is dead.  No man's education is 
complete or truly liberal who knew not Kelland.  There were 
unutterable lessons in the mere sight of that frail old clerical 
gentleman, lively as a boy, kind like a fairy godfather, and 
keeping perfect order in his class by the spell of that very 
kindness.  I have heard him drift into reminiscences in class time, 
though not for long, and give us glimpses of old-world life in out-
of-the-way English parishes when he was young; thus playing the 
same part as Lindsay - the part of the surviving memory, signalling 
out of the dark backward and abysm of time the images of perished 
things.  But it was a part that scarce became him; he somehow 
lacked the means: for all his silver hair and worn face, he was not 
truly old; and he had too much of the unrest and petulant fire of 
youth, and too much invincible innocence of mind, to play the 
veteran well.  The time to measure him best, to taste (in the old 
phrase) his gracious nature, was when he received his class at 
home.  What a pretty simplicity would he then show, trying to amuse 
us like children with toys; and what an engaging nervousness of 
manner, as fearing that his efforts might not succeed!  Truly he 
made us all feel like children, and like children embarrassed, but 
at the same time filled with sympathy for the conscientious, 
troubled elder-boy who was working so hard to entertain us.  A 
theorist has held the view that there is no feature in man so tell-
tale as his spectacles; that the mouth may be compressed and the 
brow smoothed artificially, but the sheen of the barnacles is 
diagnostic.  And truly it must have been thus with Kelland; for as 
I still fancy I behold him frisking actively about the platform, 
pointer in hand, that which I seem to see most clearly is the way 
his glasses glittered with affection.  I never knew but one other 
man who had (if you will permit the phrase) so kind a spectacle; 
and that was Dr. Appleton.  But the light in his case was tempered 
and passive; in Kelland's it danced, and changed, and flashed 
vivaciously among the students, like a perpetual challenge to 

I cannot say so much about Professor Blackie, for a good reason.  
Kelland's class I attended, once even gained there a certificate of 
merit, the only distinction of my University career.  But although 
I am the holder of a certificate of attendance in the professor's 
own hand, I cannot remember to have been present in the Greek class 
above a dozen times.  Professor Blackie was even kind enough to 
remark (more than once) while in the very act of writing the 
document above referred to, that he did not know my face.  Indeed, 
I denied myself many opportunities; acting upon an extensive and 
highly rational system of truantry, which cost me a great deal of 
trouble to put in exercise - perhaps as much as would have taught 
me Greek - and sent me forth into the world and the profession of 
letters with the merest shadow of an education.  But they say it is 
always a good thing to have taken pains, and that success is its 
own reward, whatever be its nature; so that, perhaps, even upon 
this I should plume myself, that no one ever played the truant with 
more deliberate care, and none ever had more certificates for less 
education.  One consequence, however, of my system is that I have 
much less to say of Professor Blackie than I had of Professor 
Kelland; and as he is still alive, and will long, I hope, continue 
to be so, it will not surprise you very much that I have no 
intention of saying it.

Meanwhile, how many others have gone - Jenkin, Hodgson, and I know 
not who besides; and of that tide of students that used to throng 
the arch and blacken the quadrangle, how many are scattered into 
the remotest parts of the earth, and how many more have lain down 
beside their fathers in their "resting-graves"!  And again, how 
many of these last have not found their way there, all too early, 
through the stress of education!  That was one thing, at least, 
from which my truantry protected me.  I am sorry indeed that I have 
no Greek, but I should be sorrier still if I were dead; nor do I 
know the name of that branch of knowledge which is worth acquiring 
at the price of a brain fever.  There are many sordid tragedies in 
the life of the student, above all if he be poor, or drunken, or 
both; but nothing more moves a wise man's pity than the case of the 
lad who is in too much hurry to be learned.  And so, for the sake 
of a moral at the end, I will call up one more figure, and have 
done.  A student, ambitious of success by that hot, intemperate 
manner of study that now grows so common, read night and day for an 
examination.  As he went on, the task became more easy to him, 
sleep was more easily banished, his brain grew hot and clear and 
more capacious, the necessary knowledge daily fuller and more 
orderly.  It came to the eve of the trial and he watched all night 
in his high chamber, reviewing what he knew, and already secure of 
success.  His window looked eastward, and being (as I said) high 
up, and the house itself standing on a hill, commanded a view over 
dwindling suburbs to a country horizon.  At last my student drew up 
his blind, and still in quite a jocund humour, looked abroad.  Day 
was breaking, the cast was tinging with strange fires, the clouds 
breaking up for the coming of the sun; and at the sight, nameless 
terror seized upon his mind.  He was sane, his senses were 
undisturbed; he saw clearly, and knew what he was seeing, and knew 
that it was normal; but he could neither bear to see it nor find 
the strength to look away, and fled in panic from his chamber into 
the enclosure of the street.  In the cool air and silence, and 
among the sleeping houses, his strength was renewed.  Nothing 
troubled him but the memory of what had passed, and an abject fear 
of its return.

"Gallo canente, spes redit,
Aegris salus refunditur,
Lapsis fides revertitur,"

as they sang of old in Portugal in the Morning Office.  But to him 
that good hour of cockcrow, and the changes of the dawn, had 
brought panic, and lasting doubt, and such terror as he still shook 
to think of.  He dared not return to his lodging; he could not eat; 
he sat down, he rose up, he wandered; the city woke about him with 
its cheerful bustle, the sun climbed overhead; and still he grew 
but the more absorbed in the distress of his recollection and the 
fear of his past fear.  At the appointed hour, he came to the door 
of the place of examination; but when he was asked, he had 
forgotten his name.  Seeing him so disordered, they had not the 
heart to send him away, but gave him a paper and admitted him, 
still nameless, to the Hall.  Vain kindness, vain efforts.  He 
could only sit in a still growing horror, writing nothing, ignorant 
of all, his mind filled with a single memory of the breaking day 
and his own intolerable fear.  And that same night he was tossing 
in a brain fever.

People are afraid of war and wounds and dentists, all with 
excellent reason; but these are not to be compared with such 
chaotic terrors of the mind as fell on this young man, and made him 
cover his eyes from the innocent morning.  We all have by our 
bedsides the box of the Merchant Abudah, thank God, securely enough 
shut; but when a young man sacrifices sleep to labour, let him have 
a care, for he is playing with the lock.



THERE is a certain graveyard, looked upon on the one side by a 
prison, on the other by the windows of a quiet hotel; below, under 
a steep cliff, it beholds the traffic of many lines of rail, and 
the scream of the engine and the shock of meeting buffers mount to 
it all day long.  The aisles are lined with the inclosed sepulchres 
of families, door beyond door, like houses in a street; and in the 
morning the shadow of the prison turrets, and of many tall 
memorials, fall upon the graves.  There, in the hot fits of youth, 
I came to be unhappy.  Pleasant incidents are woven with my memory 
of the place.  I here made friends with a plain old gentleman, a 
visitor on sunny mornings, gravely cheerful, who, with one eye upon 
the place that awaited him, chirped about his youth like winter 
sparrows; a beautiful housemaid of the hotel once, for some days 
together, dumbly flirted with me from a window and kept my wild 
heart flying; and once - she possibly remembers - the wise Eugenia 
followed me to that austere inclosure.  Her hair came down, and in 
the shelter of the tomb my trembling fingers helped her to repair 
the braid.  But for the most part I went there solitary and, with 
irrevocable emotion, pored on the names of the forgotten.  Name 
after name, and to each the conventional attributions and the idle 
dates: a regiment of the unknown that had been the joy of mothers, 
and had thrilled with the illusions of youth, and at last, in the 
dim sick-room, wrestled with the pangs of old mortality.  In that 
whole crew of the silenced there was but one of whom my fancy had 
received a picture; and he, with his comely, florid countenance, 
bewigged and habited in scarlet, and in his day combining fame and 
popularity, stood forth, like a taunt, among that company of 
phantom appellations.  It was then possible to leave behind us 
something more explicit than these severe, monotonous and lying 
epitaphs; and the thing left, the memory of a painted picture and 
what we call the immortality of a name, was hardly more desirable 
than mere oblivion.  Even David Hume, as he lay composed beneath 
that "circular idea," was fainter than a dream; and when the 
housemaid, broom in hand, smiled and beckoned from the open window, 
the fame of that bewigged philosopher melted like a raindrop in the 

And yet in soberness I cared as little for the housemaid as for 
David Hume.  The interests of youth are rarely frank; his passions, 
like Noah's dove, come home to roost.  The fire, sensibility, and 
volume of his own nature, that is all that he has learned to 
recognise.  The tumultuary and gray tide of life, the empire of 
routine, the unrejoicing faces of his elders, fill him with 
contemptuous surprise; there also he seems to walk among the tombs 
of spirits; and it is only in the course of years, and after much 
rubbing with his fellow-men, that he begins by glimpses to see 
himself from without and his fellows from within: to know his own 
for one among the thousand undenoted countenances of the city 
street, and to divine in others the throb of human agony and hope.  
In the meantime he will avoid the hospital doors, the pale faces, 
the cripple, the sweet whiff of chloroform - for there, on the most 
thoughtless, the pains of others are burned home; but he will 
continue to walk, in a divine self-pity, the aisles of the 
forgotten graveyard.  The length of man's life, which is endless to 
the brave and busy, is scorned by his ambitious thought.  He cannot 
bear to have come for so little, and to go again so wholly.  He 
cannot bear, above all, in that brief scene, to be still idle, and 
by way of cure, neglects the little that he has to do.  The parable 
of the talent is the brief epitome of youth.  To believe in 
immortality is one thing, but it is first needful to believe in 
life.  Denunciatory preachers seem not to suspect that they may be 
taken gravely and in evil part; that young men may come to think of 
time as of a moment, and with the pride of Satan wave back the 
inadequate gift.  Yet here is a true peril; this it is that sets 
them to pace the graveyard alleys and to read, with strange 
extremes of pity and derision, the memorials of the dead.

Books were the proper remedy: books of vivid human import, forcing 
upon their minds the issues, pleasures, busyness, importance and 
immediacy of that life in which they stand; books of smiling or 
heroic temper, to excite or to console; books of a large design, 
shadowing the complexity of that game of consequences to which we 
all sit down, the hanger-back not least.  But the average sermon 
flees the point, disporting itself in that eternity of which we 
know, and need to know, so little; avoiding the bright, crowded, 
and momentous fields of life where destiny awaits us.  Upon the 
average book a writer may be silent; he may set it down to his ill-
hap that when his own youth was in the acrid fermentation, he 
should have fallen and fed upon the cheerless fields of Obermann.  
Yet to Mr. Arnold, who led him to these pastures, he still bears a 
grudge.  The day is perhaps not far oft when people will begin to 
count MOLL FLANDERS, ay, or THE COUNTRY WIFE, more wholesome and 
more pious diet than these guide-books to consistent egoism.

But the most inhuman of boys soon wearies of the inhumanity of 
Obermann.  And even while I still continued to be a haunter of the 
graveyard, I began insensibly to turn my attention to the grave-
diggers, and was weaned out of myself to observe the conduct of 
visitors.  This was dayspring, indeed, to a lad in such great 
darkness.  Not that I began to see men, or to try to see them, from 
within, nor to learn charity and modesty and justice from the 
sight; but still stared at them externally from the prison windows 
of my affectation.  Once I remember to have observed two working-
women with a baby halting by a grave; there was something 
monumental in the grouping, one upright carrying the child, the 
other with bowed face crouching by her side.  A wreath of 
immortelles under a glass dome had thus attracted them; and, 
drawing near, I overheard their judgment on that wonder.  "Eh! what 

To a youth afflicted with the callosity of sentiment, this quaint 
and pregnant saying appeared merely base.

My acquaintance with grave-diggers, considering its length, was 
unremarkable.  One, indeed, whom I found plying his spade in the 
red evening, high above Allan Water and in the shadow of Dunblane 
Cathedral, told me of his acquaintance with the birds that still 
attended on his labours; how some would even perch about him, 
waiting for their prey; and in a true Sexton's Calendar, how the 
species varied with the season of the year.  But this was the very 
poetry of the profession.  The others whom I knew were somewhat 
dry.  A faint flavour of the gardener hung about them, but 
sophisticated and dis-bloomed.  They had engagements to keep, not 
alone with the deliberate series of the seasons, but with man-
kind's clocks and hour-long measurement of time.  And thus there 
was no leisure for the relishing pinch, or the hour-long gossip, 
foot on spade.  They were men wrapped up in their grim business; 
they liked well to open long-closed family vaults, blowing in the 
key and throwing wide the grating; and they carried in their minds 
a calendar of names and dates.  It would be "in fifty-twa" that 
such a tomb was last opened for "Miss Jemimy."  It was thus they 
spoke of their past patients -familiarly but not without respect, 
like old family servants.  Here is indeed a servant, whom we forget 
that we possess; who does not wait at the bright table, or run at 
the bell's summons, but patiently smokes his pipe beside the 
mortuary fire, and in his faithful memory notches the burials of 
our race.  To suspect Shakespeare in his maturity of a superficial 
touch savours of paradox; yet he was surely in error when he 
attributed insensibility to the digger of the grave.  But perhaps 
it is on Hamlet that the charge should lie; or perhaps the English 
sexton differs from the Scotch.  The "goodman delver," reckoning up 
his years of office, might have at least suggested other thoughts.  
It is a pride common among sextons.  A cabinet-maker does not count 
his cabinets, nor even an author his volumes, save when they stare 
upon him from the shelves; but the grave-digger numbers his graves.  
He would indeed be something different from human if his solitary 
open-air and tragic labours left not a broad mark upon his mind.  
There, in his tranquil aisle, apart from city clamour, among the 
cats and robins and the ancient effigies and legends of the tomb, 
he waits the continual passage of his contemporaries, falling like 
minute drops into eternity.  As they fall, he counts them; and this 
enumeration, which was at first perhaps appalling to his soul, in 
the process of years and by the kindly influence of habit grows to 
be his pride and pleasure.  There are many common stories telling 
how he piques himself on crowded cemeteries.  But I will rather 
tell of the old grave-digger of Monkton, to whose unsuffering 
bedside the minister was summoned.  He dwelt in a cottage built 
into the wall of the church-yard; and through a bull's-eye pane 
above his bed he could see, as he lay dying, the rank grasses and 
the upright and recumbent stones.  Dr. Laurie was, I think, a 
Moderate: 'tis certain, at least, that he took a very Roman view of 
deathbed dispositions; for he told the old man that he had lived 
beyond man's natural years, that his life had been easy and 
reputable, that his family had all grown up and been a credit to 
his care, and that it now behoved him unregretfully to gird his 
loins and follow the majority.  The grave-digger heard him out; 
then he raised himself upon one elbow, and with the other hand 
pointed through the window to the scene of his life-long labours.  
"Doctor," he said, "I ha'e laid three hunner and fower-score in 
that kirkyaird; an it had been His wull," indicating Heaven, "I 
would ha'e likit weel to ha'e made out the fower hunner."  But it 
was not to be; this tragedian of the fifth act had now another part 
to play; and the time had come when others were to gird and carry 


I would fain strike a note that should be more heroical; but the 
ground of all youth's suffering, solitude, hysteria, and haunting 
of the grave, is nothing else than naked, ignorant selfishness.  It 
is himself that he sees dead; those are his virtues that are 
forgotten; his is the vague epitaph.  Pity him but the more, if 
pity be your cue; for where a man is all pride, vanity, and 
personal aspiration, he goes through fire unshielded.  In every 
part and corner of our life, to lose oneself is to be gainer; to 
forget oneself is to be happy; and this poor, laughable and tragic 
fool has not yet learned the rudiments; himself, giant Prometheus, 
is still ironed on the peaks of Caucasus.  But by-and-by his truant 
interests will leave that tortured body, slip abroad and gather 
flowers.  Then shall death appear before him in an altered guise; 
no longer as a doom peculiar to himself, whether fate's crowning 
injustice or his own last vengeance upon those who fail to value 
him; but now as a power that wounds him far more tenderly, not 
without solemn compensations, taking and giving, bereaving and yet 
storing up.

The first step for all is to learn to the dregs our own ignoble 
fallibility.  When we have fallen through storey after storey of 
our vanity and aspiration, and sit rueful among the ruins, then it 
is that we begin to measure the stature of our friends: how they 
stand between us and our own contempt, believing in our best; how, 
linking us with others, and still spreading wide the influential 
circle, they weave us in and in with the fabric of contemporary 
life; and to what petty size they dwarf the virtues and the vices 
that appeared gigantic in our youth.  So that at the last, when 
such a pin falls out - when there vanishes in the least breath of 
time one of those rich magazines of life on which we drew for our 
supply - when he who had first dawned upon us as a face among the 
faces of the city, and, still growing, came to bulk on our regard 
with those clear features of the loved and living man, falls in a 
breath to memory and shadow, there falls along with him a whole 
wing of the palace of our life.


One such face I now remember; one such blank some half-a-dozen of 
us labour to dissemble.  In his youth he was most beautiful in 
person, most serene and genial by disposition; full of racy words 
and quaint thoughts.  Laughter attended on his coming.  He had the 
air of a great gentleman, jovial and royal with his equals, and to 
the poorest student gentle and attentive.  Power seemed to reside 
in him exhaustless; we saw him stoop to play with us, but held him 
marked for higher destinies; we loved his notice; and I have rarely 
had my pride more gratified than when he sat at my father's table, 
my acknowledged friend.  So he walked among us, both hands full of 
gifts, carrying with nonchalance the seeds of a most influential 

The powers and the ground of friendship is a mystery; but, looking 
back, I can discern that, in part, we loved the thing he was, for 
some shadow of what he was to be.  For with all his beauty, power, 
breeding, urbanity and mirth, there was in those days something 
soulless in our friend.  He would astonish us by sallies, witty, 
innocent and inhumane; and by a misapplied Johnsonian pleasantry, 
demolish honest sentiment.  I can still see and hear him, as he 
went his way along the lamplit streets, LA CI DAREM LA MANO on his 
lips, a noble figure of a youth, but following vanity and 
incredulous of good; and sure enough, somewhere on the high seas of 
life, with his health, his hopes, his patrimony and his self-
respect, miserably went down.

From this disaster, like a spent swimmer, he came desperately 
ashore, bankrupt of money and consideration; creeping to the family 
he had deserted; with broken wing, never more to rise.  But in his 
face there was a light of knowledge that was new to it.  Of the 
wounds of his body he was never healed; died of them gradually, 
with clear-eyed resignation; of his wounded pride, we knew only 
from his silence.  He returned to that city where he had lorded it 
in his ambitious youth; lived there alone, seeing few; striving to 
retrieve the irretrievable; at times still grappling with that 
mortal frailty that had brought him down; still joying in his 
friend's successes; his laugh still ready but with kindlier music; 
and over all his thoughts the shadow of that unalterable law which 
he had disavowed and which had brought him low.  Lastly, when his 
bodily evils had quite disabled him, he lay a great while dying, 
still without complaint, still finding interests; to his last step 
gentle, urbane and with the will to smile.

The tale of this great failure is, to those who remained true to 
him, the tale of a success.  In his youth he took thought for no 
one but himself; when he came ashore again, his whole armada lost, 
he seemed to think of none but others.  Such was his tenderness for 
others, such his instinct of fine courtesy and pride, that of that 
impure passion of remorse he never breathed a syllable; even regret 
was rare with him, and pointed with a jest.  You would not have 
dreamed, if you had known him then, that this was that great 
failure, that beacon to young men, over whose fall a whole society 
had hissed and pointed fingers.  Often have we gone to him, red-hot 
with our own hopeful sorrows, railing on the rose-leaves in our 
princely bed of life, and he would patiently give ear and wisely 
counsel; and it was only upon some return of our own thoughts that 
we were reminded what manner of man this was to whom we 
disembosomed: a man, by his own fault, ruined; shut out of the 
garden of his gifts; his whole city of hope both ploughed and 
salted; silently awaiting the deliverer.  Then something took us by 
the throat; and to see him there, so gentle, patient, brave and 
pious, oppressed but not cast down, sorrow was so swallowed up in 
admiration that we could not dare to pity him.  Even if the old 
fault flashed out again, it but awoke our wonder that, in that lost 
battle, he should have still the energy to fight.  He had gone to 
ruin with a kind of kingly ABANDON, like one who condescended; but 
once ruined, with the lights all out, he fought as for a kingdom.  
Most men, finding themselves the authors of their own disgrace, 
rail the louder against God or destiny.  Most men, when they 
repent, oblige their friends to share the bitterness of that 
repentance.  But he had held an inquest and passed sentence: MENE, 
MENE; and condemned himself to smiling silence.  He had given 
trouble enough; had earned misfortune amply, and foregone the right 
to murmur.

Thus was our old comrade, like Samson, careless in his days of 
strength; but on the coming of adversity, and when that strength 
was gone that had betrayed him - "for our strength is weakness" - 
he began to blossom and bring forth.  Well, now, he is out of the 
fight: the burden that he bore thrown down before the great 
deliverer.  We

"In the vast cathedral leave him;
God accept him,
Christ receive him!"


If we go now and look on these innumerable epitaphs, the pathos and 
the irony are strangely fled.  They do not stand merely to the 
dead, these foolish monuments; they are pillars and legends set up 
to glorify the difficult but not desperate life of man.  This 
ground is hallowed by the heroes of defeat.

I see the indifferent pass before my friend's last resting-place; 
pause, with a shrug of pity, marvelling that so rich an argosy had 
sunk.  A pity, now that he is done with suffering, a pity most 
uncalled for, and an ignorant wonder.  Before those who loved him, 
his memory shines like a reproach; they honour him for silent 
lessons; they cherish his example; and in what remains before them 
of their toil, fear to be unworthy of the dead.  For this proud man 
was one of those who prospered in the valley of humiliation; - of 
whom Bunyan wrote that, "Though Christian had the hard hap to meet 
in the valley with Apollyon, yet I must tell you, that in former 
times men have met with angels here; have found pearls here; and 
have in this place found the words of life."



ALL through my boyhood and youth, I was known and pointed out for 
the pattern of an idler; and yet I was always busy on my own 
private end, which was to learn to write.  I kept always two books 
in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.  As I walked, my mind 
was busy fitting what I saw with appropriate words; when I sat by 
the roadside, I would either read, or a pencil and a penny version-
book would be in my hand, to note down the features of the scene or 
commemorate some halting stanzas.  Thus I lived with words.  And 
what I thus wrote was for no ulterior use, it was written 
consciously for practice.  It was not so much that I wished to be 
an author (though I wished that too) as that I had vowed that I 
would learn to write.  That was a proficiency that tempted me; and 
I practised to acquire it, as men learn to whittle, in a wager with 
myself.  Description was the principal field of my exercise; for to 
any one with senses there is always something worth describing, and 
town and country are but one continuous subject.  But I worked in 
other ways also; often accompanied my walks with dramatic 
dialogues, in which I played many parts; and often exercised myself 
in writing down conversations from memory.

This was all excellent, no doubt; so were the diaries I sometimes 
tried to keep, but always and very speedily discarded, finding them 
a school of posturing and melancholy self-deception.  And yet this 
was not the most efficient part of my training.  Good though it 
was, it only taught me (so far as I have learned them at all) the 
lower and less intellectual elements of the art, the choice of the 
essential note and the right word: things that to a happier 
constitution had perhaps come by nature.  And regarded as training, 
it had one grave defect; for it set me no standard of achievement.  
So that there was perhaps more profit, as there was certainly more 
effort, in my secret labours at home.  Whenever I read a book or a 
passage that particularly pleased me, in which a thing was said or 
an effect rendered with propriety, in which there was either some 
conspicuous force or some happy distinction in the style, I must 
sit down at once and set myself to ape that quality.  I was 
unsuccessful, and I knew it; and tried again, and was again 
unsuccessful and always unsuccessful; but at least in these vain 
bouts, I got some practice in rhythm, in harmony, in construction 
and the co-ordination of parts.  I have thus played the sedulous 
ape to Hazlitt, to Lamb, to Wordsworth, to Sir Thomas Browne, to 
Defoe, to Hawthorne, to Montaigne, to Baudelaire and to Obermann.  
I remember one of these monkey tricks, which was called THE VANITY 
OF MORALS: it was to have had a second part, THE VANITY OF 
KNOWLEDGE; and as I had neither morality nor scholarship, the names 
were apt; but the second part was never attempted, and the first 
part was written (which is my reason for recalling it, ghost-like, 
from its ashes) no less than three times: first in the manner of 
Hazlitt, second in the manner of Ruskin, who had cast on me a 
passing spell, and third, in a laborious pasticcio of Sir Thomas 
Browne.  So with my other works: CAIN, an epic, was (save the 
mark!) an imitation of SORDELLO: ROBIN HOOD, a tale in verse, took 
an eclectic middle course among the fields of Keats, Chaucer and 
Morris: in MONMOUTH, a tragedy, I reclined on the bosom of Mr. 
Swinburne; in my innumerable gouty-footed lyrics, I followed many 
masters; in the first draft of THE KING'S PARDON, a tragedy, I was 
on the trail of no lesser man than John Webster; in the second 
draft of the same piece, with staggering versatility, I had shifted 
my allegiance to Congreve, and of course conceived my fable in a 
less serious vein - for it was not Congreve's verse, it was his 
exquisite prose, that I admired and sought to copy.  Even at the 
age of thirteen I had tried to do justice to the inhabitants of the 
famous city of Peebles in the style of the BOOK OF SNOBS.  So I 
might go on for ever, through all my abortive novels, and down to 
my later plays, of which I think more tenderly, for they were not 
only conceived at first under the bracing influence of old Dumas, 
but have met with resurrection: one, strangely bettered by another 
hand, came on the stage itself and was played by bodily actors; the 
other, originally known as SEMIRAMIS: A TRAGEDY, I have observed on 
bookstalls under the ALIAS of Prince Otto.  But enough has been 
said to show by what arts of impersonation, and in what purely 
ventriloquial efforts I first saw my words on paper.

That, like it or not, is the way to learn to write whether I have 
profited or not, that is the way.  It was so Keats learned, and 
there was never a finer temperament for literature than Keats's; it 
was so, if we could trace it out, that all men have learned; and 
that is why a revival of letters is always accompanied or heralded 
by a cast back to earlier and fresher models.  Perhaps I hear some 
one cry out: But this is not the way to be original!  It is not; 
nor is there any way but to be born so.  Nor yet, if you are born 
original, is there anything in this training that shall clip the 
wings of your originality.  There can be none more original than 
Montaigne, neither could any be more unlike Cicero; yet no 
craftsman can fail to see how much the one must have tried in his 
time to imitate the other.  Burns is the very type of a prime force 
in letters: he was of all men the most imitative.  Shakespeare 
himself, the imperial, proceeds directly from a school.  It is only 
from a school that we can expect to have good writers; it is almost 
invariably from a school that great writers, these lawless 
exceptions, issue.  Nor is there anything here that should astonish 
the considerate.  Before he can tell what cadences he truly 
prefers, the student should have tried all that are possible; 
before he can choose and preserve a fitting key of words, he should 
long have practised the literary scales; and it is only after years 
of such gymnastic that he can sit down at last, legions of words 
swarming to his call, dozens of turns of phrase simultaneously 
bidding for his choice, and he himself knowing what he wants to do 
and (within the narrow limit of a man's ability) able to do it.

And it is the great point of these imitations that there still 
shines beyond the student's reach his inimitable model.  Let him 
try as he please, he is still sure of failure; and it is a very old 
and a very true saying that failure is the only highroad to 
success.  I must have had some disposition to learn; for I clear-
sightedly condemned my own performances.  I liked doing them 
indeed; but when they were done, I could see they were rubbish.  In 
consequence, I very rarely showed them even to my friends; and such 
friends as I chose to be my confidants I must have chosen well, for 
they had the friendliness to be quite plain with me, "Padding," 
said one.  Another wrote: "I cannot understand why you do lyrics so 
badly."  No more could I!  Thrice I put myself in the way of a more 
authoritative rebuff, by sending a paper to a magazine.  These were 
returned; and I was not surprised nor even pained.  If they had not 
been looked at, as (like all amateurs) I suspected was the case, 
there was no good in repeating the experiment; if they had been 
looked at - well, then I had not yet learned to write, and I must 
keep on learning and living.  Lastly, I had a piece of good fortune 
which is the occasion of this paper, and by which I was able to see 
my literature in print, and to measure experimentally how far I 
stood from the favour of the public.


The Speculative Society is a body of some antiquity, and has 
counted among its members Scott, Brougham, Jeffrey, Horner, 
Benjamin Constant, Robert Emmet, and many a legal and local 
celebrity besides.  By an accident, variously explained, it has its 
rooms in the very buildings of the University of Edinburgh: a hall, 
Turkey-carpeted, hung with pictures, looking, when lighted up at 
night with fire and candle, like some goodly dining-room; a 
passage-like library, walled with books in their wire cages; and a 
corridor with a fireplace, benches, a table, many prints of famous 
members, and a mural tablet to the virtues of a former secretary.  
Here a member can warm himself and loaf and read; here, in defiance 
of Senatus-consults, he can smoke.  The Senatus looks askance at 
these privileges; looks even with a somewhat vinegar aspect on the 
whole society; which argues a lack of proportion in the learned 
mind, for the world, we may be sure, will prize far higher this 
haunt of dead lions than all the living dogs of the professorate.

I sat one December morning in the library of the Speculative; a 
very humble-minded youth, though it was a virtue I never had much 
credit for; yet proud of my privileges as a member of the Spec.; 
proud of the pipe I was smoking in the teeth of the Senatus; and in 
particular, proud of being in the next room to three very 
distinguished students, who were then conversing beside the 
corridor fire.  One of these has now his name on the back of 
several volumes, and his voice, I learn, is influential in the law 
courts.  Of the death of the second, you have just been reading 
what I had to say.

And the third also has escaped out of that battle of in which he 
fought so hard, it may be so unwisely.  They were all three, as I 
have said, notable students; but this was the most conspicuous.  
Wealthy, handsome, ambitious, adventurous, diplomatic, a reader of 
Balzac, and of all men that I have known, the most like to one of 
Balzac's characters, he led a life, and was attended by an ill 
fortune, that could be properly set forth only in the COMEDIE 
HUMAINE.  He had then his eye on Parliament; and soon after the 
time of which I write, he made a showy speech at a political 
dinner, was cried up to heaven next day in the COURANT, and the day 
after was dashed lower than earth with a charge of plagiarism in 
the SCOTSMAN.  Report would have it (I daresay, very wrongly) that 
he was betrayed by one in whom he particularly trusted, and that 
the author of the charge had learned its truth from his own lips.  
Thus, at least, he was up one day on a pinnacle, admired and envied 
by all; and the next, though still but a boy, he was publicly 
disgraced.  The blow would have broken a less finely tempered 
spirit; and even him I suppose it rendered reckless; for he took 
flight to London, and there, in a fast club, disposed of the bulk 
of his considerable patrimony in the space of one winter.  For 
years thereafter he lived I know not how; always well dressed, 
always in good hotels and good society, always with empty pockets.  
The charm of his manner may have stood him in good stead; but 
though my own manners are very agreeable, I have never found in 
them a source of livelihood; and to explain the miracle of his 
continued existence, I must fall back upon the theory of the 
philosopher, that in his case, as in all of the same kind, "there 
was a suffering relative in the background."  From this genteel 
eclipse he reappeared upon the scene, and presently sought me out 
in the character of a generous editor.  It is in this part that I 
best remember him; tall, slender, with a not ungraceful stoop; 
looking quite like a refined gentleman, and quite like an urbane 
adventurer; smiling with an engaging ambiguity; cocking at you one 
peaked eyebrow with a great appearance of finesse; speaking low and 
sweet and thick, with a touch of burr; telling strange tales with 
singular deliberation and, to a patient listener, excellent effect.  
After all these ups and downs, he seemed still, like the rich 
student that he was of yore, to breathe of money; seemed still 
perfectly sure of himself and certain of his end.  Yet he was then 
upon the brink of his last overthrow.  He had set himself to found 
the strangest thing in our society: one of those periodical sheets 
from which men suppose themselves to learn opinions; in which young 
gentlemen from the universities are encouraged, at so much a line, 
to garble facts, insult foreign nations and calumniate private 
individuals; and which are now the source of glory, so that if a 
man's name be often enough printed there, he becomes a kind of 
demigod; and people will pardon him when he talks back and forth, 
as they do for Mr. Gladstone; and crowd him to suffocation on 
railway platforms, as they did the other day to General Boulanger; 
and buy his literary works, as I hope you have just done for me.  
Our fathers, when they were upon some great enterprise, would 
sacrifice a life; building, it may be, a favourite slave into the 
foundations of their palace.  It was with his own life that my 
companion disarmed the envy of the gods.  He fought his paper 
single-handed; trusting no one, for he was something of a cynic; up 
early and down late, for he was nothing of a sluggard; daily ear-
wigging influential men, for he was a master of ingratiation.  In 
that slender and silken fellow there must have been a rare vein of 
courage, that he should thus have died at his employment; and 
doubtless ambition spoke loudly in his ear, and doubtless love 
also, for it seems there was a marriage in his view had he 
succeeded.  But he died, and his paper died after him; and of all 
this grace, and tact, and courage, it must seem to our blind eyes 
as if there had come literally nothing.

These three students sat, as I was saying, in the corridor, under 
the mural tablet that records the virtues of Macbean, the former 
secretary.  We would often smile at that ineloquent memorial and 
thought it a poor thing to come into the world at all and have no 
more behind one than Macbean.  And yet of these three, two are gone 
and have left less; and this book, perhaps, when it is old and 
foxy, and some one picks it up in a corner of a book-shop, and 
glances through it, smiling at the old, graceless turns of speech, 
and perhaps for the love of ALMA MATER (which may be still extant 
and flourishing) buys it, not without haggling, for some pence - 
this book may alone preserve a memory of James Walter Ferrier and 
Robert Glasgow Brown.

Their thoughts ran very differently on that December morning; they 
were all on fire with ambition; and when they had called me in to 
them, and made me a sharer in their design, I too became drunken 
with pride and hope.  We were to found a University magazine.  A 
pair of little, active brothers - Livingstone by name, great 
skippers on the foot, great rubbers of the hands, who kept a book-
shop over against the University building - had been debauched to 
play the part of publishers.  We four were to be conjunct editors 
and, what was the main point of the concern, to print our own 
works; while, by every rule of arithmetic - that flatterer of 
credulity - the adventure must succeed and bring great profit.  
Well, well: it was a bright vision.  I went home that morning 
walking upon air.  To have been chosen by these three distinguished 
students was to me the most unspeakable advance; it was my first 
draught of consideration; it reconciled me to myself and to my 
fellow-men; and as I steered round the railings at the Tron, I 
could not withhold my lips from smiling publicly.  Yet, in the 
bottom of my heart, I knew that magazine would be a grim fiasco; I 
knew it would not be worth reading; I knew, even if it were, that 
nobody would read it; and I kept wondering how I should be able, 
upon my compact income of twelve pounds per annum, payable monthly, 
to meet my share in the expense.  It was a comfortable thought to 
me that I had a father.

The magazine appeared, in a yellow cover, which was the best part 
of it, for at least it was unassuming; it ran four months in 
undisturbed obscurity, and died without a gasp.  The first number 
was edited by all four of us with prodigious bustle; the second 
fell principally into the hands of Ferrier and me; the third I 
edited alone; and it has long been a solemn question who it was 
that edited the fourth.  It would perhaps be still more difficult 
to say who read it.  Poor yellow sheet, that looked so hopefully 
Livingtones' window!  Poor, harmless paper, that might have gone to 
print a SHAKESPEARE on, and was instead so clumsily defaced with 
nonsense; And, shall I say, Poor Editors?  I cannot pity myself, to 
whom it was all pure gain.  It was no news to me, but only the 
wholesome confirmation of my judgment, when the magazine struggled 
into half-birth, and instantly sickened and subsided into night.  I 
had sent a copy to the lady with whom my heart was at that time 
somewhat engaged, and who did all that in her lay to break it; and 
she, with some tact, passed over the gift and my cherished 
contributions in silence.  I will not say that I was pleased at 
this; but I will tell her now, if by any chance she takes up the 
work of her former servant, that I thought the better of her taste.  
I cleared the decks after this lost engagement; had the necessary 
interview with my father, which passed off not amiss; paid over my 
share of the expense to the two little, active brothers, who rubbed 
their hands as much, but methought skipped rather less than 
formerly, having perhaps, these two also, embarked upon the 
enterprise with some graceful illusions; and then, reviewing the 
whole episode, I told myself that the time was not yet ripe, nor 
the man ready; and to work I went again with my penny version-
books, having fallen back in one day from the printed author to the 
manuscript student.


From this defunct periodical I am going to reprint one of my own 
papers.  The poor little piece is all tail-foremost.  I have done 
my best to straighten its array, I have pruned it fearlessly, and 
it remains invertebrate and wordy.  No self-respecting magazine 
would print the thing; and here you behold it in a bound volume, 
not for any worth of its own, but for the sake of the man whom it 
purports dimly to represent and some of whose sayings it preserves; 
so that in this volume of Memories and Portraits, Robert Young, the 
Swanston gardener, may stand alongside of John Todd, the Swanston 
shepherd.  Not that John and Robert drew very close together in 
their lives; for John was rough, he smelt of the windy brae; and 
Robert was gentle, and smacked of the garden in the hollow.  
Perhaps it is to my shame that I liked John the better of the two; 
he had grit and dash, and that salt of the Old Adam that pleases 
men with any savage inheritance of blood; and he was a way-farer 
besides, and took my gipsy fancy.  But however that may be, and 
however Robert's profile may be blurred in the boyish sketch that 
follows, he was a man of a most quaint and beautiful nature, whom, 
if it were possible to recast a piece of work so old, I should like 
well to draw again with a maturer touch.  And as I think of him and 
of John, I wonder in what other country two such men would be found 
dwelling together, in a hamlet of some twenty cottages, in the 
woody fold of a green hill.


I THINK I might almost have said the last: somewhere, indeed, in 
the uttermost glens of the Lammermuir or among the southwestern 
hills there may yet linger a decrepid representative of this bygone 
good fellowship; but as far as actual experience goes, I have only 
met one man in my life who might fitly be quoted in the same breath 
with Andrew Fairservice, - though without his vices.  He was a man 
whose very presence could impart a savour of quaint antiquity to 
the baldest and most modern flower-plots.  There was a dignity 
about his tall stooping form, and an earnestness in his wrinkled 
face that recalled Don Quixote; but a Don Quixote who had come 
through the training of the Covenant, and been nourished in his 

Now, as I could not bear to let such a man pass away with no sketch 
preserved of his old-fashioned virtues, I hope the reader will take 
this as an excuse for the present paper, and judge as kindly as he 
can the infirmities of my description.  To me, who find it so 
difficult to tell the little that I know, he stands essentially as 
a GENIUS LOCI.  It is impossible to separate his spare form and old 
straw hat from the garden in the lap of the hill, with its rocks 
overgrown with clematis, its shadowy walks, and the splendid 
breadth of champaign that one saw from the north-west corner.  The 
garden and gardener seem part and parcel of each other.  When I 
take him from his right surroundings and try to make him appear for 
me on paper, he looks unreal and phantasmal: the best that I can 
say may convey some notion to those that never saw him, but to me 
it will be ever impotent.

The first time that I saw him, I fancy Robert was pretty old 
already: he had certainly begun to use his years as a stalking 
horse.  Latterly he was beyond all the impudencies of logic, 
considering a reference to the parish register worth all the 
reasons in the world, "I AM OLD AND WELL STRICKEN IN YEARS," he was 
wont to say; and I never found any one bold enough to answer the 
argument.  Apart from this vantage that he kept over all who were 
not yet octogenarian, he had some other drawbacks as a gardener.  
He shrank the very place he cultivated.  The dignity and reduced 
gentility of his appearance made the small garden cut a sorry 
figure.  He was full of tales of greater situations in his younger 
days.  He spoke of castles and parks with a humbling familiarity.  
He told of places where under-gardeners had trembled at his looks, 
where there were meres and swanneries, labyrinths of walk and 
wildernesses of sad shrubbery in his control, till you could not 
help feeling that it was condescension on his part to dress your 
humbler garden plots.  You were thrown at once into an invidious 
position.  You felt that you were profiting by the needs of 
dignity, and that his poverty and not his will consented to your 
vulgar rule.  Involuntarily you compared yourself with the 
swineherd that made Alfred watch his cakes, or some bloated citizen 
who may have given his sons and his condescension to the fallen 
Dionysius.  Nor were the disagreeables purely fanciful and 
metaphysical, for the sway that he exercised over your feelings he 
extended to your garden, and, through the garden, to your diet.  He 
would trim a hedge, throw away a favourite plant, or fill the most 
favoured and fertile section of the garden with a vegetable that 
none of us could eat, in supreme contempt for our opinion.  If you 
asked him to send you in one of your own artichokes, "THAT I WULL, 
THAN TO RECEIVE."  Ay, and even when, by extra twisting of the 
screw, we prevailed on him to prefer our commands to his own 
inclination, and he went away, stately and sad, professing that 
"OUR WULL WAS HIS PLEASURE," but yet reminding us that he would do 
it "WITH FEELIN'S," - even then, I say, the triumphant master felt 
humbled in his triumph, felt that he ruled on sufferance only, that 
he was taking a mean advantage of the other's low estate, and that 
the whole scene had been one of those "slights that patient merit 
of the unworthy takes."

In flowers his taste was old-fashioned and catholic; affecting 
sunflowers and dahlias, wallflowers and roses and holding in 
supreme aversion whatsoever was fantastic, new-fashioned or wild.  
There was one exception to this sweeping ban.  Foxgloves, though 
undoubtedly guilty on the last count, he not only spared, but 
loved; and when the shrubbery was being thinned, he stayed his hand 
and dexterously manipulated his bill in order to save every stately 
stem.  In boyhood, as he told me once, speaking in that tone that 
only actors and the old-fashioned common folk can use nowadays, his 
heart grew "PROUD" within him when he came on a burn-course among 
the braes of Manor that shone purple with their graceful trophies; 
and not all his apprenticeship and practice for so many years of 
precise gardening had banished these boyish recollections from his 
heart.  Indeed, he was a man keenly alive to the beauty of all that 
was bygone.  He abounded in old stories of his boyhood, and kept 
pious account of all his former pleasures; and when he went (on a 
holiday) to visit one of the fabled great places of the earth where 
he had served before, he came back full of little pre-Raphaelite 
reminiscences that showed real passion for the past, such as might 
have shaken hands with Hazlitt or Jean-Jacques.

But however his sympathy with his old feelings might affect his 
liking for the foxgloves, the very truth was that he scorned all 
flowers together.  They were but garnishings, childish toys, 
trifling ornaments for ladies' chimney-shelves.  It was towards his 
cauliflowers and peas and cabbage that his heart grew warm.  His 
preference for the more useful growths was such that cabbages were 
found invading the flower-pots, and an outpost of savoys was once 
discovered in the centre of the lawn.  He would prelect over some 
thriving plant with wonderful enthusiasm, piling reminiscence on 
reminiscence of former and perhaps yet finer specimens.  Yet even 
then he did not let the credit leave himself.  He had, indeed, 
raised "FINER O' THEM;" but it seemed that no one else had been 
favoured with a like success.  All other gardeners, in fact, were 
mere foils to his own superior attainments; and he would recount, 
with perfect soberness of voice and visage, how so and so had 
wondered, and such another could scarcely give credit to his eyes.  
Nor was it with his rivals only that he parted praise and blame.  
If you remarked how well a plant was looking, he would gravely 
touch his hat and thank you with solemn unction; all credit in the 
matter falling to him.  If, on the other hand, you called his 
attention to some back-going vegetable, he would quote Scripture: 
"PAUL MAY PLANT AND APOLLOS MAY WATER;" all blame being left to 
Providence, on the score of deficient rain or untimely frosts.

There was one thing in the garden that shared his preference with 
his favourite cabbages and rhubarb, and that other was the beehive.  
Their sound, their industry, perhaps their sweet product also, had 
taken hold of his imagination and heart, whether by way of memory 
or no I cannot say, although perhaps the bees too were linked to 
him by some recollection of Manor braes and his country childhood.  
Nevertheless, he was too chary of his personal safety or (let me 
rather say) his personal dignity to mingle in any active office 
towards them.  But he could stand by while one of the contemned 
rivals did the work for him, and protest that it was quite safe in 
spite of his own considerate distance and the cries of the 
distressed assistant.  In regard to bees, he was rather a man of 
word than deed, and some of his most striking sentences had the 
bees for text.  "THEY ARE INDEED WONDERFUL CREATURES, MEM," he said 

As far as the Bible goes, he was deeply read.  Like the old 
Covenanters, of whom he was the worthy representative, his mouth 
was full of sacred quotations; it was the book that he had studied 
most and thought upon most deeply.  To many people in his station 
the Bible, and perhaps Burns, are the only books of any vital 
literary merit that they read, feeding themselves, for the rest, on 
the draff of country newspapers, and the very instructive but not 
very palatable pabulum of some cheap educational series.  This was 
Robert's position.  All day long he had dreamed of the Hebrew 
stories, and his head had been full of Hebrew poetry and Gospel 
ethics; until they had struck deep root into his heart, and the 
very expressions had become a part of him; so that he rarely spoke 
without some antique idiom or Scripture mannerism that gave a 
raciness to the merest trivialities of talk.  But the influence of 
the Bible did not stop here.  There was more in Robert than quaint 
phrase and ready store of reference.  He was imbued with a spirit 
of peace and love: he interposed between man and wife: he threw 
himself between the angry, touching his hat the while with all the 
ceremony of an usher: he protected the birds from everybody but 
himself, seeing, I suppose, a great difference between official 
execution and wanton sport.  His mistress telling him one day to 
put some ferns into his master's particular corner, and adding, 
"Though, indeed, Robert, he doesn't deserve them, for he wouldn't 
help me to gather them," "EH, MEM," replies Robert, "BUT I WOULDNAE 
Again, two of our friends, who were on intimate terms, and 
accustomed to use language to each other, somewhat without the 
bounds of the parliamentary, happened to differ about the position 
of a seat in the garden.  The discussion, as was usual when these 
two were at it, soon waxed tolerably insulting on both sides.  
Every one accustomed to such controversies several times a day was 
quietly enjoying this prize-fight of somewhat abusive wit - every 
one but Robert, to whom the perfect good faith of the whole quarrel 
seemed unquestionable, and who, after having waited till his 
conscience would suffer him to wait no more, and till he expected 
every moment that the disputants would fall to blows, cut suddenly 
in with tones of almost tearful entreaty: "EH, BUT, GENTLEMEN, I 
WAD HAE NAE MAIR WORDS ABOUT IT!"  One thing was noticeable about 
Robert's religion: it was neither dogmatic nor sectarian.  He never 
expatiated (at least, in my hearing) on the doctrines of his creed, 
and he never condemned anybody else.  I have no doubt that he held 
all Roman Catholics, Atheists, and Mahometans as considerably out 
of it; I don't believe he had any sympathy for Prelacy; and the 
natural feelings of man must have made him a little sore about 
Free-Churchism; but at least, he never talked about these views, 
never grew controversially noisy, and never openly aspersed the 
belief or practice of anybody.  Now all this is not generally 
characteristic of Scotch piety; Scotch sects being churches 
militant with a vengeance, and Scotch believers perpetual crusaders 
the one against the other, and missionaries the one to the other.  
Perhaps Robert's originally tender heart was what made the 
difference; or, perhaps, his solitary and pleasant labour among 
fruits and flowers had taught him a more sunshiny creed than those 
whose work is among the tares of fallen humanity; and the soft 
influences of the garden had entered deep into his spirit,

"Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade."

But I could go on for ever chronicling his golden sayings or 
telling of his innocent and living piety.  I had meant to tell of 
his cottage, with the German pipe hung reverently above the fire, 
and the shell box that he had made for his son, and of which he 
would say pathetically:  "HE WAS REAL PLEASED WI' IT AT FIRST, BUT 
I THINK HE'S GOT A KIND O' TIRED O' IT NOW" - the son being then a 
man of about forty.  But I will let all these pass.  "'Tis more 
significant: he's dead."  The earth, that he had digged so much in 
his life, was dug out by another for himself; and the flowers that 
he had tended drew their life still from him, but in a new and 
nearer way.  A bird flew about the open grave, as if it too wished 
to honour the obsequies of one who had so often quoted Scripture in 
favour of its kind.  "Are not two sparrows sold for one farthing, 
and yet not one of them falleth to the ground."

Yes, he is dead.  But the kings did not rise in the place of death 
to greet him "with taunting proverbs" as they rose to greet the 
haughty Babylonian; for in his life he was lowly, and a peacemaker 
and a servant of God.


TO leave home in early life is to be stunned and quickened with 
novelties; but when years have come, it only casts a more endearing 
light upon the past.  As in those composite photographs of Mr. 
Galton's, the image of each new sitter brings out but the more 
clearly the central features of the race; when once youth has 
flown, each new impression only deepens the sense of nationality 
and the desire of native places.  So may some cadet of Royal 
Ecossais or the Albany Regiment, as he mounted guard about French 
citadels, so may some officer marching his company of the Scots-
Dutch among the polders, have felt the soft rains of the Hebrides 
upon his brow, or started in the ranks at the remembered aroma of 
peat-smoke.  And the rivers of home are dear in particular to all 
men.  This is as old as Naaman, who was jealous for Abana and 
Pharpar; it is confined to no race nor country, for I know one of 
Scottish blood but a child of Suffolk, whose fancy still lingers 
about the lilied lowland waters of that shire.  But the streams of 
Scotland are incomparable in themselves - or I am only the more 
Scottish to suppose so - and their sound and colour dwell for ever 
in the memory.  How often and willingly do I not look again in 
fancy on Tummel, or Manor, or the talking Airdle, or Dee swirling 
in its Lynn; on the bright burn of Kinnaird, or the golden burn 
that pours and sulks in the den behind Kingussie!  I think shame to 
leave out one of these enchantresses, but the list would grow too 
long if I remembered all; only I may not forget Allan Water, nor 
birch-wetting Rogie, nor yet Almond; nor, for all its pollutions, 
that Water of Leith of the many and well-named mills - Bell's 
Mills, and Canon Mills, and Silver Mills; nor Redford Burn of 
pleasant memories; nor yet, for all its smallness, that nameless 
trickle that springs in the green bosom of Allermuir, and is fed 
from Halkerside with a perennial teacupful, and threads the moss 
under the Shearer's Knowe, and makes one pool there, overhung by a 
rock, where I loved to sit and make bad verses, and is then 
kidnapped in its infancy by subterranean pipes for the service of 
the sea-beholding city in the plain.  From many points in the moss 
you may see at one glance its whole course and that of all its 
tributaries; the geographer of this Lilliput may visit all its 
corners without sitting down, and not yet begin to be breathed; 
Shearer's Knowe and Halkerside are but names of adjacent cantons on 
a single shoulder of a hill, as names are squandered (it would seem 
to the in-expert, in superfluity) upon these upland sheepwalks; a 
bucket would receive the whole discharge of the toy river; it would 
take it an appreciable time to fill your morning bath; for the most 
part, besides, it soaks unseen through the moss; and yet for the 
sake of auld lang syne, and the figure of a certain GENIUS LOCI, I 
am condemned to linger awhile in fancy by its shores; and if the 
nymph (who cannot be above a span in stature) will but inspire my 
pen, I would gladly carry the reader along with me.

John Todd, when I knew him, was already "the oldest herd on the 
Pentlands," and had been all his days faithful to that curlew-
scattering, sheep-collecting life.  He remembered the droving days, 
when the drove roads, that now lie green and solitary through the 
heather, were thronged thoroughfares.  He had himself often marched 
flocks into England, sleeping on the hillsides with his caravan; 
and by his account it was a rough business not without danger.  The 
drove roads lay apart from habitation; the drovers met in the 
wilderness, as to-day the deep-sea fishers meet off the banks in 
the solitude of the Atlantic; and in the one as in the other case 
rough habits and fist-law were the rule.  Crimes were committed, 
sheep filched, and drovers robbed and beaten; most of which 
offences had a moorland burial and were never heard of in the 
courts of justice.  John, in those days, was at least once 
attacked, - by two men after his watch, - and at least once, 
betrayed by his habitual anger, fell under the danger of the law 
and was clapped into some rustic prison-house, the doors of which 
he burst in the night and was no more heard of in that quarter.  
When I knew him, his life had fallen in quieter places, and he had 
no cares beyond the dulness of his dogs and the inroads of 
pedestrians from town.  But for a man of his propensity to wrath 
these were enough; he knew neither rest nor peace, except by 
snatches; in the gray of the summer morning, and already from far 
up the hill, he would wake the "toun" with the sound of his 
shoutings; and in the lambing time, his cries were not yet silenced 
late at night.  This wrathful voice of a man unseen might be said 
to haunt that quarter of the Pentlands, an audible bogie; and no 
doubt it added to the fear in which men stood of John a touch of 
something legendary.  For my own part, he was at first my enemy, 
and I, in my character of a rambling boy, his natural abhorrence.  
It was long before I saw him near at hand, knowing him only by some 
sudden blast of bellowing from far above, bidding me "c'way oot 
amang the sheep."  The quietest recesses of the hill harboured this 
ogre; I skulked in my favourite wilderness like a Cameronian of the 
Killing Time, and John Todd was my Claverhouse, and his dogs my 
questing dragoons.  Little by little we dropped into civilities; 
his hail at sight of me began to have less of the ring of a war-
slogan; soon, we never met but he produced his snuff-box, which was 
with him, like the calumet with the Red Indian, a part of the 
heraldry of peace; and at length, in the ripeness of time, we grew 
to be a pair of friends, and when I lived alone in these parts in 
the winter, it was a settled thing for John to "give me a cry" over 
the garden wall as he set forth upon his evening round, and for me 
to overtake and bear him company.

That dread voice of his that shook the hills when he was angry, 
fell in ordinary talk very pleasantly upon the ear, with a kind of 
honied, friendly whine, not far off singing, that was eminently 
Scottish.  He laughed not very often, and when he did, with a 
sudden, loud haw-haw, hearty but somehow joyless, like an echo from 
a rock.  His face was permanently set and coloured; ruddy and stiff 
with weathering; more like a picture than a face; yet with a 
certain strain and a threat of latent anger in the expression, like 
that of a man trained too fine and harassed with perpetual 
vigilance.  He spoke in the richest dialect of Scotch I ever heard; 
the words in themselves were a pleasure and often a surprise to me, 
so that I often came back from one of our patrols with new 
acquisitions; and this vocabulary he would handle like a master, 
stalking a little before me, "beard on shoulder," the plaid hanging 
loosely about him, the yellow staff clapped under his arm, and 
guiding me uphill by that devious, tactical ascent which seems 
peculiar to men of his trade.  I might count him with the best 
talkers; only that talking Scotch and talking English seem 
incomparable acts.  He touched on nothing at least, but he adorned 
it; when he narrated, the scene was before you; when he spoke (as 
he did mostly) of his own antique business, the thing took on a 
colour of romance and curiosity that was surprising.  The clans of 
sheep with their particular territories on the hill, and how, in 
the yearly killings and purchases, each must be proportionally 
thinned and strengthened; the midnight busyness of animals, the 
signs of the weather, the cares of the snowy season, the exquisite 
stupidity of sheep, the exquisite cunning of dogs: all these he 
could present so humanly, and with so much old experience and 
living gusto, that weariness was excluded.  And in the midst he 
would suddenly straighten his bowed back, the stick would fly 
abroad in demonstration, and the sharp thunder of his voice roll 
out a long itinerary for the dogs, so that you saw at last the use 
of that great wealth of names for every knowe and howe upon the 
hillside; and the dogs, having hearkened with lowered tails and 
raised faces, would run up their flags again to the masthead and 
spread themselves upon the indicated circuit.  It used to fill me 
with wonder how they could follow and retain so long a story.  But 
John denied these creatures all intelligence; they were the 
constant butt of his passion and contempt; it was just possible to 
work with the like of them, he said, - not more than possible.  And 
then he would expand upon the subject of the really good dogs that 
he had known, and the one really good dog that he had himself 
possessed.  He had been offered forty pounds for it; but a good 
collie was worth more than that, more than anything, to a "herd;" 
he did the herd's work for him.  "As for the like of them!" he 
would cry, and scornfully indicate the scouring tails of his 

Once - I translate John's Lallan, for I cannot do it justice, being 
once, in the days of his good dog, he had bought some sheep in 
Edinburgh, and on the way out, the road being crowded, two were 
lost.  This was a reproach to John, and a slur upon the dog; and 
both were alive to their misfortune.  Word came, after some days, 
that a farmer about Braid had found a pair of sheep; and thither 
went John and the dog to ask for restitution.  But the farmer was a 
hard man and stood upon his rights.  "How were they marked?" he 
asked; and since John had bought right and left from many sellers 
and had no notion of the marks - "Very well," said the farmer, 
"then it's only right that I should keep them." - "Well," said 
John, "it's a fact that I cannae tell the sheep; but if my dog can, 
will ye let me have them?"  The farmer was honest as well as hard, 
and besides I daresay he had little fear of the ordeal; so he had 
all the sheep upon his farm into one large park, and turned John's 
dog into their midst.  That hairy man of business knew his errand 
well; he knew that John and he had bought two sheep and (to their 
shame) lost them about Boroughmuirhead; he knew besides (the lord 
knows how, unless by listening) that they were come to Braid for 
their recovery; and without pause or blunder singled out, first one 
and then another, the two waifs.  It was that afternoon the forty 
pounds were offered and refused.  And the shepherd and his dog - 
what do I say? the true shepherd and his man - set off together by 
Fairmilehead in jocund humour, and "smiled to ither" all the way 
home, with the two recovered ones before them.  So far, so good; 
but intelligence may be abused.  The dog, as he is by little man's 
inferior in mind, is only by little his superior in virtue; and 
John had another collie tale of quite a different complexion.  At 
the foot of the moss behind Kirk Yetton (Caer Ketton, wise men say) 
there is a scrog of low wood and a pool with a dam for washing 
sheep.  John was one day lying under a bush in the scrog, when he 
was aware of a collie on the far hillside skulking down through the 
deepest of the heather with obtrusive stealth.  He knew the dog; 
knew him for a clever, rising practitioner from quite a distant 
farm; one whom perhaps he had coveted as he saw him masterfully 
steering flocks to market.  But what did the practitioner so far 
from home? and why this guilty and secret manoeuvring towards the 
pool? - for it was towards the pool that he was heading.  John lay 
the closer under his bush, and presently saw the dog come forth 
upon the margin, look all about him to see if he were anywhere 
observed, plunge in and repeatedly wash himself over head and ears, 
and then (but now openly and with tail in air) strike homeward over 
the hills.  That same night word was sent his master, and the 
rising practitioner, shaken up from where he lay, all innocence, 
before the fire, was had out to a dykeside and promptly shot; for 
alas! he was that foulest of criminals under trust, a sheep-eater; 
and it was from the maculation of sheep's blood that he had come so 
far to cleanse himself in the pool behind Kirk Yetton.

A trade that touches nature, one that lies at the foundations of 
life, in which we have all had ancestors employed, so that on a 
hint of it ancestral memories revive, lends itself to literary use, 
vocal or written.  The fortune of a tale lies not alone in the 
skill of him that writes, but as much, perhaps, in the inherited 
experience of him who reads; and when I hear with a particular 
thrill of things that I have never done or seen, it is one of that 
innumerable army of my ancestors rejoicing in past deeds.  Thus 
novels begin to touch not the fine DILETTANTI but the gross mass of 
mankind, when they leave off to speak of parlours and shades of 
manner and still-born niceties of motive, and begin to deal with 
fighting, sailoring, adventure, death or childbirth; and thus 
ancient outdoor crafts and occupations, whether Mr. Hardy wields 
the shepherd's crook or Count Tolstoi swings the scythe, lift 
romance into a near neighbourhood with epic.  These aged things 
have on them the dew of man's morning; they lie near, not so much 
to us, the semi-artificial flowerets, as to the trunk and 
aboriginal taproot of the race.  A thousand interests spring up in 
the process of the ages, and a thousand perish; that is now an 
eccentricity or a lost art which was once the fashion of an empire; 
and those only are perennial matters that rouse us to-day, and that 
roused men in all epochs of the past.  There is a certain critic, 
not indeed of execution but of matter, whom I dare be known to set 
before the best: a certain low-browed, hairy gentleman, at first a 
percher in the fork of trees, next (as they relate) a dweller in 
caves, and whom I think I see squatting in cave-mouths, of a 
pleasant afternoon, to munch his berries - his wife, that 
accomplished lady, squatting by his side: his name I never heard, 
but he is often described as Probably Arboreal, which may serve for 
recognition.  Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of 
all sits Probably Arboreal; in all our veins there run some minims 
of his old, wild, tree-top blood; our civilised nerves still tingle 
with his rude terrors and pleasures; and to that which would have 
moved our common ancestor, all must obediently thrill.

We have not so far to climb to come to shepherds; and it may be I 
had one for an ascendant who has largely moulded me.  But yet I 
think I owe my taste for that hillside business rather to the art 
and interest of John Todd.  He it was that made it live for me, as 
the artist can make all things live.  It was through him the simple 
strategy of massing sheep upon a snowy evening, with its attendant 
scampering of earnest, shaggy aides-de-champ, was an affair that I 
never wearied of seeing, and that I never weary of recalling to 
mind: the shadow of the night darkening on the hills, inscrutable 
black blots of snow shower moving here and there like night already 
come, huddles of yellow sheep and dartings of black dogs upon the 
snow, a bitter air that took you by the throat, unearthly harpings 
of the wind along the moors; and for centre piece to all these 
features and influences, John winding up the brae, keeping his 
captain's eye upon all sides, and breaking, ever and again, into a 
spasm of bellowing that seemed to make the evening bleaker.  It is 
thus that I still see him in my mind's eye, perched on a hump of 
the declivity not far from Halkerside, his staff in airy flourish, 
his great voice taking hold upon the hills and echoing terror to 
the lowlands; I, meanwhile, standing somewhat back, until the fit 
should be over, and, with a pinch of snuff, my friend relapse into 
his easy, even conversation.


I HAVE named, among many rivers that make music in my memory, that 
dirty Water of Leith.  Often and often I desire to look upon it 
again; and the choice of a point of view is easy to me.  It should 
be at a certain water-door, embowered in shrubbery.  The river is 
there dammed back for the service of the flour-mill just below, so 
that it lies deep and darkling, and the sand slopes into brown 
obscurity with a glint of gold; and it has but newly been recruited 
by the borrowings of the snuff-mill just above, and these, tumbling 
merrily in, shake the pool to its black heart, fill it with drowsy 
eddies, and set the curded froth of many other mills solemnly 
steering to and fro upon the surface.  Or so it was when I was 
young; for change, and the masons, and the pruning-knife, have been 
busy; and if I could hope to repeat a cherished experience, it must 
be on many and impossible conditions.  I must choose, as well as 
the point of view, a certain moment in my growth, so that the scale 
may be exaggerated, and the trees on the steep opposite side may 
seem to climb to heaven, and the sand by the water-door, where I am 
standing, seem as low as Styx.  And I must choose the season also, 
so that the valley may be brimmed like a cup with sunshine and the 
songs of birds; - and the year of grace, so that when I turn to 
leave the riverside I may find the old manse and its inhabitants 

It was a place in that time like no other: the garden cut into 
provinces by a great hedge of beech, and over-looked by the church 
and the terrace of the churchyard, where the tombstones were thick, 
and after nightfall "spunkies" might be seen to dance at least by 
children; flower-plots lying warm in sunshine; laurels and the 
great yew making elsewhere a pleasing horror of shade; the smell of 
water rising from all round, with an added tang of paper-mills; the 
sound of water everywhere, and the sound of mills - the wheel and 
the dam singing their alternate strain; the birds on every bush and 
from every corner of the overhanging woods pealing out their notes 
until the air throbbed with them; and in the midst of this, the 
manse.  I see it, by the standard of my childish stature, as a 
great and roomy house.  In truth, it was not so large as I 
supposed, nor yet so convenient, and, standing where it did, it is 
difficult to suppose that it was healthful.  Yet a large family of 
stalwart sons and tall daughters were housed and reared, and came 
to man and womanhood in that nest of little chambers; so that the 
face of the earth was peppered with the children of the manse, and 
letters with outlandish stamps became familiar to the local 
postman, and the walls of the little chambers brightened with the 
wonders of the East.  The dullest could see this was a house that 
had a pair of hands in divers foreign places: a well-beloved house 
- its image fondly dwelt on by many travellers.

Here lived an ancestor of mine, who was a herd of men.  I read him, 
judging with older criticism the report of childish observation, as 
a man of singular simplicity of nature; unemotional, and hating the 
display of what he felt; standing contented on the old ways; a 
lover of his life and innocent habits to the end.  We children 
admired him: partly for his beautiful face and silver hair, for 
none more than children are concerned for beauty and, above all, 
for beauty in the old; partly for the solemn light in which we 
beheld him once a week, the observed of all observers, in the 
pulpit.  But his strictness and distance, the effect, I now fancy, 
of old age, slow blood, and settled habit, oppressed us with a kind 
of terror.  When not abroad, he sat much alone, writing sermons or 
letters to his scattered family in a dark and cold room with a 
library of bloodless books - or so they seemed in those days, 
although I have some of them now on my own shelves and like well 
enough to read them; and these lonely hours wrapped him in the 
greater gloom for our imaginations.  But the study had a redeeming 
grace in many Indian pictures, gaudily coloured and dear to young 
eyes.  I cannot depict (for I have no such passions now) the greed 
with which I beheld them; and when I was once sent in to say a 
psalm to my grandfather, I went, quaking indeed with fear, but at 
the same time glowing with hope that, if I said it well, he might 
reward me with an Indian picture.

"Thy foot He'll not let slide, nor will
He slumber that thee keeps,"

it ran: a strange conglomerate of the unpronounceable, a sad model 
to set in childhood before one who was himself to be a versifier, 
and a task in recitation that really merited reward.  And I must 
suppose the old man thought so too, and was either touched or 
amused by the performance; for he took me in his arms with most 
unwonted tenderness, and kissed me, and gave me a little kindly 
sermon for my psalm; so that, for that day, we were clerk and 
parson.  I was struck by this reception into so tender a surprise 
that I forgot my disappointment.  And indeed the hope was one of 
those that childhood forges for a pastime, and with no design upon 
reality.  Nothing was more unlikely than that my grandfather should 
strip himself of one of those pictures, love-gifts and reminders of 
his absent sons; nothing more unlikely than that he should bestow 
it upon me.  He had no idea of spoiling children, leaving all that 
to my aunt; he had fared hard himself, and blubbered under the rod 
in the last century; and his ways were still Spartan for the young.  
The last word I heard upon his lips was in this Spartan key.  He 
had over-walked in the teeth of an east wind, and was now near the 
end of his many days.  He sat by the dining-room fire, with his 
white hair, pale face and bloodshot eyes, a somewhat awful figure; 
and my aunt had given him a dose of our good old Scotch medicine, 
Dr. Gregory's powder.  Now that remedy, as the work of a near 
kinsman of Rob Roy himself, may have a savour of romance for the 
imagination; but it comes uncouthly to the palate.  The old 
gentleman had taken it with a wry face; and that being 
accomplished, sat with perfect simplicity, like a child's, munching 
a "barley-sugar kiss."  But when my aunt, having the canister open 
in her hands, proposed to let me share in the sweets, he interfered 
at once.  I had had no Gregory; then I should have no barley-sugar 
kiss: so he decided with a touch of irritation.  And just then the 
phaeton coming opportunely to the kitchen door - for such was our 
unlordly fashion - I was taken for the last time from the presence 
of my grandfather.

Now I often wonder what I have inherited from this old minister.  I 
must suppose, indeed, that he was fond of preaching sermons, and so 
am I, though I never heard it maintained that either of us loved to 
hear them.  He sought health in his youth in the Isle of Wight, and 
I have sought it in both hemispheres; but whereas he found and kept 
it, I am still on the quest.  He was a great lover of Shakespeare, 
whom he read aloud, I have been told, with taste; well, I love my 
Shakespeare also, and am persuaded I can read him well, though I 
own I never have been told so.  He made embroidery, designing his 
own patterns; and in that kind of work I never made anything but a 
kettle-holder in Berlin wool, and an odd garter of knitting, which 
was as black as the chimney before I had done with it.  He loved 
port, and nuts, and porter; and so do I, but they agreed better 
with my grandfather, which seems to me a breach of contract.  He 
had chalk-stones in his fingers; and these, in good time, I may 
possibly inherit, but I would much rather have inherited his noble 
presence.  Try as I please, I cannot join myself on with the 
reverend doctor; and all the while, no doubt, and even as I write 
the phrase, he moves in my blood, and whispers words to me, and 
sits efficient in the very knot and centre of my being.  In his 
garden, as I played there, I learned the love of mills - or had I 
an ancestor a miller? - and a kindness for the neighbourhood of 
graves, as homely things not without their poetry - or had I an 
ancestor a sexton?  But what of the garden where he played himself? 
- for that, too, was a scene of my education.  Some part of me 
played there in the eighteenth century, and ran races under the 
green avenue at Pilrig; some part of me trudged up Leith Walk, 
which was still a country place, and sat on the High School 
benches, and was thrashed, perhaps, by Dr. Adam.  The house where I 
spent my youth was not yet thought upon; but we made holiday 
parties among the cornfields on its site, and ate strawberries and 
cream near by at a gardener's.  All this I had forgotten; only my 
grandfather remembered and once reminded me.  I have forgotten, 
too, how we grew up, and took orders, and went to our first 
Ayrshire parish, and fell in love with and married a daughter of 
Burns's Dr. Smith - "Smith opens out his cauld harangues."  I have 
forgotten, but I was there all the same, and heard stories of Burns 
at first hand.

And there is a thing stranger than all that; for this HOMUNCULUS or 
part-man of mine that walked about the eighteenth century with Dr. 
Balfour in his youth, was in the way of meeting other HOMUNCULOS or 
part-men, in the persons of my other ancestors.  These were of a 
lower order, and doubtless we looked down upon them duly.  But as I 
went to college with Dr. Balfour, I may have seen the lamp and oil 
man taking down the shutters from his shop beside the Tron; - we 
may have had a rabbit-hutch or a bookshelf made for us by a certain 
carpenter in I know not what wynd of the old, smoky city; or, upon 
some holiday excursion, we may have looked into the windows of a 
cottage in a flower-garden and seen a certain weaver plying his 
shuttle.  And these were all kinsmen of mine upon the other side; 
and from the eyes of the lamp and oil man one-half of my unborn 
father, and one-quarter of myself, looked out upon us as we went by 
to college.  Nothing of all this would cross the mind of the young 
student, as he posted up the Bridges with trim, stockinged legs, in 
that city of cocked hats and good Scotch still unadulterated.  It 
would not cross his mind that he should have a daughter; and the 
lamp and oil man, just then beginning, by a not unnatural 
metastasis, to bloom into a lighthouse-engineer, should have a 
grandson; and that these two, in the fulness of time, should wed; 
and some portion of that student himself should survive yet a year 
or two longer in the person of their child.

But our ancestral adventures are beyond even the arithmetic of 
fancy; and it is the chief recommendation of long pedigrees, that 
we can follow backward the careers of our HOMUNCULOS and be 
reminded of our antenatal lives.  Our conscious years are but a 
moment in the history of the elements that build us.  Are you a 
bank-clerk, and do you live at Peckham?  It was not always so.  And 
though to-day I am only a man of letters, either tradition errs or 
I was present when there landed at St. Andrews a French barber-
surgeon, to tend the health and the beard of the great Cardinal 
Beaton; I have shaken a spear in the Debateable Land and shouted 
the slogan of the Elliots; I was present when a skipper, plying 
from Dundee, smuggled Jacobites to France after the '15; I was in a 
West India merchant's office, perhaps next door to Bailie Nicol 
Jarvie's, and managed the business of a plantation in St. Kitt's; I 
was with my engineer-grandfather (the son-in-law of the lamp and 
oil man) when he sailed north about Scotland on the famous cruise 
that gave us the PIRATE and the LORD OF THE ISLES; I was with him, 
too, on the Bell Rock, in the fog, when the SMEATON had drifted 
from her moorings, and the Aberdeen men, pick in hand, had seized 
upon the only boats, and he must stoop and lap sea-water before his 
tongue could utter audible words; and once more with him when the 
Bell Rock beacon took a "thrawe," and his workmen fled into the 
tower, then nearly finished, and he sat unmoved reading in his 
Bible - or affecting to read - till one after another slunk back 
with confusion of countenance to their engineer.  Yes, parts of me 
have seen life, and met adventures, and sometimes met them well.  
And away in the still cloudier past, the threads that make me up 
can be traced by fancy into the bosoms of thousands and millions of 
ascendants: Picts who rallied round Macbeth and the old (and highly 
preferable) system of descent by females, fleers from before the 
legions of Agricola, marchers in Pannonian morasses, star-gazers on 
Chaldaean plateaus; and, furthest of all, what face is this that 
fancy can see peering through the disparted branches?  What sleeper 
in green tree-tops, what muncher of nuts, concludes my pedigree?  
Probably arboreal in his habits. . . .

And I know not which is the more strange, that I should carry about 
with me some fibres of my minister-grandfather; or that in him, as 
he sat in his cool study, grave, reverend, contented gentleman, 
there was an aboriginal frisking of the blood that was not his; 
tree-top memories, like undeveloped negatives, lay dormant in his 
mind; tree-top instincts awoke and were trod down; and Probably 
Arboreal (scarce to be distinguished from a monkey) gambolled and 
chattered in the brain of the old divine.


THOSE who try to be artists use, time after time, the matter of 
their recollections, setting and resetting little coloured memories 
of men and scenes, rigging up (it may be) some especial friend in 
the attire of a buccaneer, and decreeing armies to manoeuvre, or 
murder to be done, on the playground of their youth.  But the 
memories are a fairy gift which cannot be worn out in using.  After 
a dozen services in various tales, the little sunbright pictures of 
the past still shine in the mind's eye with not a lineament 
defaced, not a tint impaired.  GLUCK UND UNGLUCK WIRD GESANG, if 
Goethe pleases; yet only by endless avatars, the original re-
embodying after each.  So that a writer, in time, begins to wonder 
at the perdurable life of these impressions; begins, perhaps, to 
fancy that he wrongs them when he weaves them in with fiction; and 
looking back on them with ever-growing kindness, puts them at last, 
substantive jewels, in a setting of their own.

One or two of these pleasant spectres I think I have laid.  I used 
one but the other day: a little eyot of dense, freshwater sand, 
where I once waded deep in butterburrs, delighting to hear the song 
of the river on both sides, and to tell myself that I was indeed 
and at last upon an island.  Two of my puppets lay there a summer's 
day, hearkening to the shearers at work in riverside fields and to 
the drums of the gray old garrison upon the neighbouring hill.  And 
this was, I think, done rightly: the place was rightly peopled - 
and now belongs not to me but to my puppets - for a time at least.  
In time, perhaps, the puppets will grow faint; the original memory 
swim up instant as ever; and I shall once more lie in bed, and see 
the little sandy isle in Allan Water as it is in nature, and the 
child (that once was me) wading there in butterburrs; and wonder at 
the instancy and virgin freshness of that memory; and be pricked 
again, in season and out of season, by the desire to weave it into 

There is another isle in my collection, the memory of which 
besieges me.  I put a whole family there, in one of my tales; and 
later on, threw upon its shores, and condemned to several days of 
rain and shellfish on its tumbled boulders, the hero of another.  
The ink is not yet faded; the sound of the sentences is still in my 
mind's ear; and I am under a spell to write of that island again.


The little isle of Earraid lies close in to the south-west corner 
of the Ross of Mull: the sound of Iona on one side, across which 
you may see the isle and church of Columba; the open sea to the 
other, where you shall be able to mark, on a clear, surfy day, the 
breakers running white on many sunken rocks.  I first saw it, or 
first remembered seeing it, framed in the round bull's-eye of a 
cabin port, the sea lying smooth along its shores like the waters 
of a lake, the colourless clear light of the early morning making 
plain its heathery and rocky hummocks.  There stood upon it, in 
these days, a single rude house of uncemented stones, approached by 
a pier of wreckwood.  It must have been very early, for it was then 
summer, and in summer, in that latitude, day scarcely withdraws; 
but even at that hour the house was making a sweet smoke of peats 
which came to me over the bay, and the bare-legged daughters of the 
cotter were wading by the pier.  The same day we visited the shores 
of the isle in the ship's boats; rowed deep into Fiddler's Hole, 
sounding as we went; and having taken stock of all possible 
accommodation, pitched on the northern inlet as the scene of 
operations.  For it was no accident that had brought the lighthouse 
steamer to anchor in the Bay of Earraid.  Fifteen miles away to 
seaward, a certain black rock stood environed by the Atlantic 
rollers, the outpost of the Torran reefs.  Here was a tower to be 
built, and a star lighted, for the conduct of seamen.  But as the 
rock was small, and hard of access, and far from land, the work 
would be one of years; and my father was now looking for a shore 
station, where the stones might be quarried and dressed, the men 
live, and the tender, with some degree of safety, lie at anchor.

I saw Earraid next from the stern thwart of an Iona lugger, Sam 
Bough and I sitting there cheek by jowl, with our feet upon our 
baggage, in a beautiful, clear, northern summer eve.  And behold! 
there was now a pier of stone, there were rows of sheds, railways, 
travelling-cranes, a street of cottages, an iron house for the 
resident engineer, wooden bothies for the men, a stage where the 
courses of the tower were put together experimentally, and behind 
the settlement a great gash in the hillside where granite was 
quarried.  In the bay, the steamer lay at her moorings.  All day 
long there hung about the place the music of chinking tools; and 
even in the dead of night, the watchman carried his lantern to and 
fro in the dark settlement and could light the pipe of any midnight 
muser.  It was, above all, strange to see Earraid on the Sunday, 
when the sound of the tools ceased and there fell a crystal quiet.  
All about the green compound men would be sauntering in their 
Sunday's best, walking with those lax joints of the reposing 
toiler, thoughtfully smoking, talking small, as if in honour of the 
stillness, or hearkening to the wailing of the gulls.  And it was 
strange to see our Sabbath services, held, as they were, in one of 
the bothies, with Mr. Brebner reading at a table, and the 
congregation perched about in the double tier of sleeping bunks; 
and to hear the singing of the psalms, "the chapters," the 
inevitable Spurgeon's sermon, and the old, eloquent lighthouse 

In fine weather, when by the spy-glass on the hill the sea was 
observed to run low upon the reef, there would be a sound of 
preparation in the very early morning; and before the sun had risen 
from behind Ben More, the tender would steam out of the bay.  Over 
fifteen sea-miles of the great blue Atlantic rollers she ploughed 
her way, trailing at her tail a brace of wallowing stone-lighters.  
The open ocean widened upon either board, and the hills of the 
mainland began to go down on the horizon, before she came to her 
unhomely destination, and lay-to at last where the rock clapped its 
black head above the swell, with the tall iron barrack on its 
spider legs, and the truncated tower, and the cranes waving their 
arms, and the smoke of the engine-fire rising in the mid-sea.  An 
ugly reef is this of the Dhu Heartach; no pleasant assemblage of 
shelves, and pools, and creeks, about which a child might play for 
a whole summer without weariness, like the Bell Rock or the 
Skerryvore, but one oval nodule of black-trap, sparsely bedabbled 
with an inconspicuous fucus, and alive in every crevice with a 
dingy insect between a slater and a bug.  No other life was there 
but that of sea-birds, and of the sea itself, that here ran like a 
mill-race, and growled about the outer reef for ever, and ever and 
again, in the calmest weather, roared and spouted on the rock 
itself.  Times were different upon Dhu-Heartach when it blew, and 
the night fell dark, and the neighbour lights of Skerryvore and 
Rhu-val were quenched in fog, and the men sat prisoned high up in 
their iron drum, that then resounded with the lashing of the 
sprays.  Fear sat with them in their sea-beleaguered dwelling; and 
the colour changed in anxious faces when some greater billow struck 
the barrack, and its pillars quivered and sprang under the blow.  
It was then that the foreman builder, Mr. Goodwillie, whom I see 
before me still in his rock-habit of undecipherable rags, would get 
his fiddle down and strike up human minstrelsy amid the music of 
the storm.  But it was in sunshine only that I saw Dhu-Heartach; 
and it was in sunshine, or the yet lovelier summer afterglow, that 
the steamer would return to Earraid, ploughing an enchanted sea; 
the obedient lighters, relieved of their deck cargo, riding in her 
wake more quietly; and the steersman upon each, as she rose on the 
long swell, standing tall and dark against the shining west.

But it was in Earraid itself that I delighted chiefly.  The 
lighthouse settlement scarce encroached beyond its fences; over the 
top of the first brae the ground was all virgin, the world all shut 
out, the face of things unchanged by any of man's doings.  Here was 
no living presence, save for the limpets on the rocks, for some 
old, gray, rain-beaten ram that I might rouse out of a ferny den 
betwixt two boulders, or for the haunting and the piping of the 
gulls.  It was older than man; it was found so by incoming Celts, 
and seafaring Norsemen, and Columba's priests.  The earthy savour 
of the bog-plants, the rude disorder of the boulders, the 
inimitable seaside brightness of the air, the brine and the iodine, 
the lap of the billows among the weedy reefs, the sudden springing 
up of a great run of dashing surf along the sea-front of the isle, 
all that I saw and felt my predecessors must have seen and felt 
with scarce a difference.  I steeped myself in open air and in past 

"Delightful would it be to me to be in UCHD AILIUN
On the pinnacle of a rock,
That I might often see
The face of the ocean;
That I might hear the song of the wonderful birds,
Source of happiness;
That I might hear the thunder of the crowding waves
Upon the rocks:
At times at work without compulsion -
This would be delightful;
At times plucking dulse from the rocks
At times at fishing."

So, about the next island of Iona, sang Columba himself twelve 
hundred years before.  And so might I have sung of Earraid.

And all the while I was aware that this life of sea-bathing and 
sun-burning was for me but a holiday.  In that year cannon were 
roaring for days together on French battlefields; and I would sit 
in my isle (I call it mine, after the use of lovers) and think upon 
the war, and the loudness of these far-away battles, and the pain 
of the men's wounds, and the weariness of their marching.  And I 
would think too of that other war which is as old as mankind, and 
is indeed the life of man: the unsparing war, the grinding slavery 
of competition; the toil of seventy years, dear-bought bread, 
precarious honour, the perils and pitfalls, and the poor rewards.  
It was a long look forward; the future summoned me as with trumpet 
calls, it warned me back as with a voice of weeping and beseeching; 
and I thrilled and trembled on the brink of life, like a childish 
bather on the beach.

There was another young man on Earraid in these days, and we were 
much together, bathing, clambering on the boulders, trying to sail 
a boat and spinning round instead in the oily whirlpools of the 
roost.  But the most part of the time we spoke of the great 
uncharted desert of our futures; wondering together what should 
there befall us; hearing with surprise the sound of our own voices 
in the empty vestibule of youth.  As far, and as hard, as it seemed 
then to look forward to the grave, so far it seems now to look 
backward upon these emotions; so hard to recall justly that loath 
submission, as of the sacrificial bull, with which we stooped our 
necks under the yoke of destiny.  I met my old companion but the 
other day; I cannot tell of course what he was thinking; but, upon 
my part, I was wondering to see us both so much at home, and so 
composed and sedentary in the world; and how much we had gained, 
and how much we had lost, to attain to that composure; and which 
had been upon the whole our best estate: when we sat there prating 
sensibly like men of some experience, or when we shared our 
timorous and hopeful counsels in a western islet.


THE death of Thomas Stevenson will mean not very much to the 
general reader.  His service to mankind took on forms of which the 
public knows little and understands less.  He came seldom to 
London, and then only as a task, remaining always a stranger and a 
convinced provincial; putting up for years at the same hotel where 
his father had gone before him; faithful for long to the same 
restaurant, the same church, and the same theatre, chosen simply 
for propinquity; steadfastly refusing to dine out.  He had a circle 
of his own, indeed, at home; few men were more beloved in 
Edinburgh, where he breathed an air that pleased him; and wherever 
he went, in railway carriages or hotel smoking-rooms, his strange, 
humorous vein of talk, and his transparent honesty, raised him up 
friends and admirers.  But to the general public and the world of 
London, except about the parliamentary committee-rooms, he remained 
unknown.  All the time, his lights were in every part of the world, 
guiding the mariner; his firm were consulting engineers to the 
Indian, the New Zealand, and the Japanese Lighthouse Boards, so 
that Edinburgh was a world centre for that branch of applied 
science; in Germany, he had been called "the Nestor of lighthouse 
illumination"; even in France, where his claims were long denied, 
he was at last, on the occasion of the late Exposition, recognised 
and medalled.  And to show by one instance the inverted nature of 
his reputation, comparatively small at home, yet filling the world, 
a friend of mine was this winter on a visit to the Spanish main, 
and was asked by a Peruvian if he "knew Mr. Stevenson the author, 
because his works were much esteemed in Peru?"  My friend supposed 
the reference was to the writer of tales; but the Peruvian had 
never heard of DR. JEKYLL; what he had in his eye, what was 
esteemed in Peru, where the volumes of the engineer.

Thomas Stevenson was born at Edinburgh in the year 1818, the 
grandson of Thomas Smith, first engineer to the Board of Northern 
Lights, son of Robert Stevenson, brother of Alan and David; so that 
his nephew, David Alan Stevenson, joined with him at the time of 
his death in the engineership, is the sixth of the family who has 
held, successively or conjointly, that office.  The Bell Rock, his 
father's great triumph, was finished before he was born; but he 
served under his brother Alan in the building of Skerryvore, the 
noblest of all extant deep-sea lights; and, in conjunction with his 
brother David, he added two - the Chickens and Dhu Heartach - to 
that small number of man's extreme outposts in the ocean.  Of shore 
lights, the two brothers last named erected no fewer than twenty-
seven; of beacons, (4) about twenty-five.  Many harbours were 
successfully carried out: one, the harbour of Wick, the chief 
disaster of my father's life, was a failure; the sea proved too 
strong for man's arts; and after expedients hitherto unthought of, 
and on a scale hyper-cyclopean, the work must be deserted, and now 
stands a ruin in that bleak, God-forsaken bay, ten miles from John-
o'-Groat's.  In the improvement of rivers the brothers were 
likewise in a large way of practice over both England and Scotland, 
nor had any British engineer anything approaching their experience.

It was about this nucleus of his professional labours that all my 
father's scientific inquiries and inventions centred; these 
proceeded from, and acted back upon, his daily business.  Thus it 
was as a harbour engineer that he became interested in the 
propagation and reduction of waves; a difficult subject in regard 
to which he has left behind him much suggestive matter and some 
valuable approximate results.  Storms were his sworn adversaries, 
and it was through the study of storms that he approached that of 
meteorology at large.  Many who knew him not otherwise, knew - 
perhaps have in their gardens - his louvre-boarded screen for 
instruments.  But the great achievement of his life was, of course, 
in optics as applied to lighthouse illumination.  Fresnel had done 
much; Fresnel had settled the fixed light apparatus on a principle 
that still seems unimprovable; and when Thomas Stevenson stepped in 
and brought to a comparable perfection the revolving light, a not 
unnatural jealousy and much painful controversy rose in France.  It 
had its hour; and, as I have told already, even in France it has 
blown by.  Had it not, it would have mattered the less, since all 
through his life my father continued to justify his claim by fresh 
advances.  New apparatus for lights in new situations was 
continually being designed with the same unwearied search after 
perfection, the same nice ingenuity of means; and though the 
holophotal revolving light perhaps still remains his most elegant 
contrivance, it is difficult to give it the palm over the much 
later condensing system, with its thousand possible modifications.  
The number and the value of these improvements entitle their author 
to the name of one of mankind's benefactors.  In all parts of the 
world a safer landfall awaits the mariner.  Two things must be 
said: and, first, that Thomas Stevenson was no mathematician.  
Natural shrewdness, a sentiment of optical laws, and a great 
intensity of consideration led him to just conclusions; but to 
calculate the necessary formulae for the instruments he had 
conceived was often beyond him, and he must fall back on the help 
of others, notably on that of his cousin and lifelong intimate 
friend, EMERITUS Professor Swan, of St. Andrews, and his later 
friend, Professor P. G. Tait.  It is a curious enough circumstance, 
and a great encouragement to others, that a man so ill equipped 
should have succeeded in one of the most abstract and arduous walks 
of applied science.  The second remark is one that applies to the 
whole family, and only particularly to Thomas Stevenson from the 
great number and importance of his inventions: holding as the 
Stevensons did a Government appointment they regarded their 
original work as something due already to the nation, and none of 
them has ever taken out a patent.  It is another cause of the 
comparative obscurity of the name: for a patent not only brings in 
money, it infallibly spreads reputation; and my father's 
instruments enter anonymously into a hundred light-rooms, and are 
passed anonymously over in a hundred reports, where the least 
considerable patent would stand out and tell its author's story.

But the life-work of Thomas Stevenson remains; what we have lost, 
what we now rather try to recall, is the friend and companion.  He 
was a man of a somewhat antique strain: with a blended sternness 
and softness that was wholly Scottish and at first somewhat 
bewildering; with a profound essential melancholy of disposition 
and (what often accompanies it) the most humorous geniality in 
company; shrewd and childish; passionately attached, passionately 
prejudiced; a man of many extremes, many faults of temper, and no 
very stable foothold for himself among life's troubles.  Yet he was 
a wise adviser; many men, and these not inconsiderable, took 
counsel with him habitually.  "I sat at his feet," writes one of 
these, "when I asked his advice, and when the broad brow was set in 
thought and the firm mouth said his say, I always knew that no man 
could add to the worth of the conclusion."  He had excellent taste, 
though whimsical and partial; collected old furniture and delighted 
specially in sunflowers long before the days of Mr. Wilde; took a 
lasting pleasure in prints and pictures; was a devout admirer of 
Thomson of Duddingston at a time when few shared the taste; and 
though he read little, was constant to his favourite books.  He had 
never any Greek; Latin he happily re-taught himself after he had 
left school, where he was a mere consistent idler: happily, I say, 
for Lactantius, Vossius, and Cardinal Bona were his chief authors.  
The first he must have read for twenty years uninterruptedly, 
keeping it near him in his study, and carrying it in his bag on 
journeys.  Another old theologian, Brown of Wamphray, was often in 
his hands.  When he was indisposed, he had two books, GUY MANNERING 
and THE PARENT'S ASSISTANT, of which he never wearied.  He was a 
strong Conservative, or, as he preferred to call himself, a Tory; 
except in so far as his views were modified by a hot-headed 
chivalrous sentiment for women.  He was actually in favour of a 
marriage law under which any woman might have a divorce for the 
asking, and no man on any ground whatever; and the same sentiment 
found another expression in a Magdalen Mission in Edinburgh, 
founded and largely supported by himself.  This was but one of the 
many channels of his public generosity; his private was equally 
unstrained.  The Church of Scotland, of which he held the doctrines 
(though in a sense of his own) and to which he bore a clansman's 
loyalty, profited often by his time and money; and though, from a 
morbid sense of his own unworthiness, he would never consent to be 
an office-bearer, his advice was often sought, and he served the 
Church on many committees.  What he perhaps valued highest in his 
work were his contributions to the defence of Christianity; one of 
which, in particular, was praised by Hutchinson Stirling and 
reprinted at the request of Professor Crawford.

His sense of his own unworthiness I have called morbid; morbid, 
too, were his sense of the fleetingness of life and his concern for 
death.  He had never accepted the conditions of man's life or his 
own character; and his inmost thoughts were ever tinged with the 
Celtic melancholy.  Cases of conscience were sometimes grievous to 
him, and that delicate employment of a scientific witness cost him 
many qualms.  But he found respite from these troublesome humours 
in his work, in his lifelong study of natural science, in the 
society of those he loved, and in his daily walks, which now would 
carry him far into the country with some congenial friend, and now 
keep him dangling about the town from one old book-shop to another, 
and scraping romantic acquaintance with every dog that passed.  His 
talk, compounded of so much sterling sense and so much freakish 
humour, and clothed in language so apt, droll, and emphatic, was a 
perpetual delight to all who knew him before the clouds began to 
settle on his mind.  His use of language was both just and 
picturesque; and when at the beginning of his illness he began to 
feel the ebbing of this power, it was strange and painful to hear 
him reject one word after another as inadequate, and at length 
desist from the search and leave his phrase unfinished rather than 
finish it without propriety.  It was perhaps another Celtic trait 
that his affections and emotions, passionate as these were, and 
liable to passionate ups and downs, found the most eloquent 
expression both in words and gestures.  Love, anger, and 
indignation shone through him and broke forth in imagery, like what 
we read of Southern races.  For all these emotional extremes, and 
in spite of the melancholy ground of his character, he had upon the 
whole a happy life; nor was he less fortunate in his death, which 
at the last came to him unaware.


Sir, we had a good talk. - JOHNSON.

As we must account for every idle word, so we must for every idle 
silence. - FRANKLIN.

THERE can be no fairer ambition than to excel in talk; to be 
affable, gay, ready, clear and welcome; to have a fact, a thought, 
or an illustration, pat to every subject; and not only to cheer the 
flight of time among our intimates, but bear our part in that great 
international congress, always sitting, where public wrongs are 
first declared, public errors first corrected, and the course of 
public opinion shaped, day by day, a little nearer to the right.  
No measure comes before Parliament but it has been long ago 
prepared by the grand jury of the talkers; no book is written that 
has not been largely composed by their assistance.  Literature in 
many of its branches is no other than the shadow of good talk; but 
the imitation falls far short of the original in life, freedom and 
effect.  There are always two to a talk, giving and taking, 
comparing experience and according conclusions.  Talk is fluid, 
tentative, continually "in further search and progress"; while 
written words remain fixed, become idols even to the writer, found 
wooden dogmatisms, and preserve flies of obvious error in the amber 
of the truth.  Last and chief, while literature, gagged with 
linsey-woolsey, can only deal with a fraction of the life of man, 
talk goes fancy free and may call a spade a spade.  Talk has none 
of the freezing immunities of the pulpit.  It cannot, even if it 
would, become merely aesthetic or merely classical like literature.  
A jest intervenes, the solemn humbug is dissolved in laughter, and 
speech runs forth out of the contemporary groove into the open 
fields of nature, cheery and cheering, like schoolboys out of 
school.  And it is in talk alone that we can learn our period and 
ourselves.  In short, the first duty of a man is to speak; that is 
his chief business in this world; and talk, which is the harmonious 
speech of two or more, is by far the most accessible of pleasures.  
It costs nothing in money; it is all profit; it completes our 
education, founds and fosters our friendships, and can be enjoyed 
at any age and in almost any state of health.

The spice of life is battle; the friendliest relations are still a 
kind of contest; and if we would not forego all that is valuable in 
our lot, we must continually face some other person, eye to eye, 
and wrestle a fall whether in love or enmity.  It is still by force 
of body, or power of character or intellect, that we attain to 
worthy pleasures.  Men and women contend for each other in the 
lists of love, like rival mesmerists; the active and adroit decide 
their challenges in the sports of the body; and the sedentary sit 
down to chess or conversation.  All sluggish and pacific pleasures 
are, to the same degree, solitary and selfish; and every durable 
band between human beings is founded in or heightened by some 
element of competition.  Now, the relation that has the least root 
in matter is undoubtedly that airy one of friendship; and hence, I 
suppose, it is that good talk most commonly arises among friends.  
Talk is, indeed, both the scene and instrument of friendship.  It 
is in talk alone that the friends can measure strength, and enjoy 
that amicable counter-assertion of personality which is the gauge 
of relations and the sport of life.

A good talk is not to be had for the asking.  Humours must first be 
accorded in a kind of overture or prologue; hour, company and 
circumstance be suited; and then, at a fit juncture, the subject, 
the quarry of two heated minds, spring up like a deer out of the 
wood.  Not that the talker has any of the hunter's pride, though he 
has all and more than all his ardour.  The genuine artist follows 
the stream of conversation as an angler follows the windings of a 
brook, not dallying where he fails to "kill."  He trusts implicitly 
to hazard; and he is rewarded by continual variety, continual 
pleasure, and those changing prospects of the truth that are the 
best of education.  There is nothing in a subject, so called, that 
we should regard it as an idol, or follow it beyond the promptings 
of desire.  Indeed, there are few subjects; and so far as they are 
truly talkable, more than the half of them may be reduced to three: 
that I am I, that you are you, and that there are other people 
dimly understood to be not quite the same as either.  Wherever talk 
may range, it still runs half the time on these eternal lines.  The 
theme being set, each plays on himself as on an instrument; asserts 
and justifies himself; ransacks his brain for instances and 
opinions, and brings them forth new-minted, to his own surprise and 
the admiration of his adversary.  All natural talk is a festival of 
ostentation; and by the laws of the game each accepts and fans the 
vanity of the other.  It is from that reason that we venture to lay 
ourselves so open, that we dare to be so warmly eloquent, and that 
we swell in each other's eyes to such a vast proportion.  For 
talkers, once launched, begin to overflow the limits of their 
ordinary selves, tower up to the height of their secret 
pretensions, and give themselves out for the heroes, brave, pious, 
musical and wise, that in their most shining moments they aspire to 
be.  So they weave for themselves with words and for a while 
inhabit a palace of delights, temple at once and theatre, where 
they fill the round of the world's dignities, and feast with the 
gods, exulting in Kudos.  And when the talk is over, each goes his 
way, still flushed with vanity and admiration, still trailing 
clouds of glory; each declines from the height of his ideal orgie, 
not in a moment, but by slow declension.  I remember, in the 
ENTR'ACTE of an afternoon performance, coming forth into the 
sunshine, in a beautiful green, gardened corner of a romantic city; 
and as I sat and smoked, the music moving in my blood, I seemed to 
sit there and evaporate THE FLYING DUTCHMAN (for it was that I had 
been hearing) with a wonderful sense of life, warmth, well-being 
and pride; and the noises of the city, voices, bells and marching 
feet, fell together in my ears like a symphonious orchestra.  In 
the same way, the excitement of a good talk lives for a long while 
after in the blood, the heart still hot within you, the brain still 
simmering, and the physical earth swimming around you with the 
colours of the sunset.

Natural talk, like ploughing, should turn up a large surface of 
life, rather than dig mines into geological strata.  Masses of 
experience, anecdote, incident, cross-lights, quotation, historical 
instances, the whole flotsam and jetsam of two minds forced in and 
in upon the matter in hand from every point of the compass, and 
from every degree of mental elevation and abasement - these are the 
material with which talk is fortified, the food on which the 
talkers thrive.  Such argument as is proper to the exercise should 
still be brief and seizing.  Talk should proceed by instances; by 
the apposite, not the expository.  It should keep close along the 
lines of humanity, near the bosoms and businesses of men, at the 
level where history, fiction and experience intersect and 
illuminate each other.  I am I, and You are You, with all my heart; 
but conceive how these lean propositions change and brighten when, 
instead of words, the actual you and I sit cheek by jowl, the 
spirit housed in the live body, and the very clothes uttering 
voices to corroborate the story in the face.  Not less surprising 
is the change when we leave off to speak of generalities - the bad, 
the good, the miser, and all the characters of Theophrastus - and 
call up other men, by anecdote or instance, in their very trick and 
feature; or trading on a common knowledge, toss each other famous 
names, still glowing with the hues of life.  Communication is no 
longer by words, but by the instancing of whole biographies, epics, 
systems of philosophy, and epochs of history, in bulk.  That which 
is understood excels that which is spoken in quantity and quality 
alike; ideas thus figured and personified, change hands, as we may 
say, like coin; and the speakers imply without effort the most 
obscure and intricate thoughts.  Strangers who have a large common 
ground of reading will, for this reason, come the sooner to the 
grapple of genuine converse.  If they know Othello and Napoleon, 
Consuelo and Clarissa Harlowe, Vautrin and Steenie Steenson, they 
can leave generalities and begin at once to speak by figures.

Conduct and art are the two subjects that arise most frequently and 
that embrace the widest range of facts.  A few pleasures bear 
discussion for their own sake, but only those which are most social 
or most radically human; and even these can only be discussed among 
their devotees.  A technicality is always welcome to the expert, 
whether in athletics, art or law; I have heard the best kind of 
talk on technicalities from such rare and happy persons as both 
know and love their business.  No human being ever spoke of scenery 
for above two minutes at a time, which makes me suspect we hear too 
much of it in literature.  The weather is regarded as the very 
nadir and scoff of conversational topics.  And yet the weather, the 
dramatic element in scenery, is far more tractable in language, and 
far more human both in import and suggestion than the stable 
features of the landscape.  Sailors and shepherds, and the people 
generally of coast and mountain, talk well of it; and it is often 
excitingly presented in literature.  But the tendency of all living 
talk draws it back and back into the common focus of humanity.  
Talk is a creature of the street and market-place, feeding on 
gossip; and its last resort is still in a discussion on morals.  
That is the heroic form of gossip; heroic in virtue of its high 
pretensions; but still gossip, because it turns on personalities.  
You can keep no men long, nor Scotchmen at all, off moral or 
theological discussion.  These are to all the world what law is to 
lawyers; they are everybody's technicalities; the medium through 
which all consider life, and the dialect in which they express 
their judgments.  I knew three young men who walked together daily 
for some two months in a solemn and beautiful forest and in 
cloudless summer weather; daily they talked with unabated zest, and 
yet scarce wandered that whole time beyond two subjects - theology 
and love.  And perhaps neither a court of love nor an assembly of 
divines would have granted their premisses or welcomed their 

Conclusions, indeed, are not often reached by talk any more than by 
private thinking.  That is not the profit.  The profit is in the 
exercise, and above all in the experience; for when we reason at 
large on any subject, we review our state and history in life.  
From time to time, however, and specially, I think, in talking art, 
talk becomes elective, conquering like war, widening the boundaries 
of knowledge like an exploration.  A point arises; the question 
takes a problematical, a baffling, yet a likely air; the talkers 
begin to feel lively presentiments of some conclusion near at hand; 
towards this they strive with emulous ardour, each by his own path, 
and struggling for first utterance; and then one leaps upon the 
summit of that matter with a shout, and almost at the same moment 
the other is beside him; and behold they are agreed.  Like enough, 
the progress is illusory, a mere cat's cradle having been wound and 
unwound out of words.  But the sense of joint discovery is none the 
less giddy and inspiriting.  And in the life of the talker such 
triumphs, though imaginary, are neither few nor far apart; they are 
attained with speed and pleasure, in the hour of mirth; and by the 
nature of the process, they are always worthily shared.

There is a certain attitude, combative at once and deferential, 
eager to fight yet most averse to quarrel, which marks out at once 
the talkable man.  It is not eloquence, not fairness, not 
obstinacy, but a certain proportion of all of these that I love to 
encounter in my amicable adversaries.  They must not be pontiffs 
holding doctrine, but huntsmen questing after elements of truth.  
Neither must they be boys to be instructed, but fellow-teachers 
with whom I may wrangle and agree on equal terms.  We must reach 
some solution, some shadow of consent; for without that, eager talk 
becomes a torture.  But we do not wish to reach it cheaply, or 
quickly, or without the tussle and effort wherein pleasure lies.

The very best talker, with me, is one whom I shall call Spring-
Heel'd Jack.  I say so, because I never knew any one who mingled so 
largely the possible ingredients of converse.  In the Spanish 
proverb, the fourth man necessary to compound a salad, is a madman 
to mix it: Jack is that madman.  I know not which is more 
remarkable; the insane lucidity of his conclusions the humorous 
eloquence of his language, or his power of method, bringing the 
whole of life into the focus of the subject treated, mixing the 
conversational salad like a drunken god.  He doubles like the 
serpent, changes and flashes like the shaken kaleidoscope, 
transmigrates bodily into the views of others, and so, in the 
twinkling of an eye and with a heady rapture, turns questions 
inside out and flings them empty before you on the ground, like a 
triumphant conjuror.  It is my common practice when a piece of 
conduct puzzles me, to attack it in the presence of Jack with such 
grossness, such partiality and such wearing iteration, as at length 
shall spur him up in its defence.  In a moment he transmigrates, 
dons the required character, and with moonstruck philosophy 
justifies the act in question.  I can fancy nothing to compare with 
the VIM of these impersonations, the strange scale of language, 
flying from Shakespeare to Kant, and from Kant to Major Dyngwell -

"As fast as a musician scatters sounds
Out of an instrument"

the sudden, sweeping generalisations, the absurd irrelevant 
particularities, the wit, wisdom, folly, humour, eloquence and 
bathos, each startling in its kind, and yet all luminous in the 
admired disorder of their combination.  A talker of a different 
calibre, though belonging to the same school, is Burly.  Burly is a 
man of a great presence; he commands a larger atmosphere, gives the 
impression of a grosser mass of character than most men.  It has 
been said of him that his presence could be felt in a room you 
entered blindfold; and the same, I think, has been said of other 
powerful constitutions condemned to much physical inaction.  There 
is something boisterous and piratic in Burly's manner of talk which 
suits well enough with this impression.  He will roar you down, he 
will bury his face in his hands, he will undergo passions of revolt 
and agony; and meanwhile his attitude of mind is really both 
conciliatory and receptive; and after Pistol has been out Pistol'd, 
and the welkin rung for hours, you begin to perceive a certain 
subsidence in these spring torrents, points of agreement issue, and 
you end arm-in-arm, and in a glow of mutual admiration.  The outcry 
only serves to make your final union the more unexpected and 
precious.  Throughout there has been perfect sincerity, perfect 
intelligence, a desire to hear although not always to listen, and 
an unaffected eagerness to meet concessions.  You have, with Burly, 
none of the dangers that attend debate with Spring-Heel'd Jack; who 
may at any moment turn his powers of transmigration on yourself, 
create for you a view you never held, and then furiously fall on 
you for holding it.  These, at least, are my two favourites, and 
both are loud, copious, intolerant talkers.  This argues that I 
myself am in the same category; for if we love talking at all, we 
love a bright, fierce adversary, who will hold his ground, foot by 
foot, in much our own manner, sell his attention dearly, and give 
us our full measure of the dust and exertion of battle.  Both these 
men can be beat from a position, but it takes six hours to do it; a 
high and hard adventure, worth attempting.  With both you can pass 
days in an enchanted country of the mind, with people, scenery and 
manners of its own; live a life apart, more arduous, active and 
glowing than any real existence; and come forth again when the talk 
is over, as out of a theatre or a dream, to find the east wind 
still blowing and the chimney-pots of the old battered city still 
around you.  Jack has the far finer mind, Burly the far more 
honest; Jack gives us the animated poetry, Burly the romantic 
prose, of similar themes; the one glances high like a meteor and 
makes a light in darkness; the other, with many changing hues of 
fire, burns at the sea-level, like a conflagration; but both have 
the same humour and artistic interests, the same unquenched ardour 
in pursuit, the same gusts of talk and thunderclaps of 

Cockshot (5) is a different article, but vastly entertaining, and 
has been meat and drink to me for many a long evening.  His manner 
is dry, brisk and pertinacious, and the choice of words not much.  
The point about him is his extraordinary readiness and spirit.  You 
can propound nothing but he has either a theory about it ready-
made, or will have one instantly on the stocks, and proceed to lay 
its timbers and launch it in your presence.  "Let me see," he will 
say.  "Give me a moment.  I SHOULD have some theory for that."  A 
blither spectacle than the vigour with which he sets about the 
task, it were hard to fancy.  He is possessed by a demoniac energy, 
welding the elements for his life, and bending ideas, as an athlete 
bends a horse-shoe, with a visible and lively effort.  He has, in 
theorising, a compass, an art; what I would call the synthetic 
gusto; something of a Herbert Spencer, who should see the fun of 
the thing.  You are not bound, and no more is he, to place your 
faith in these brand-new opinions.  But some of them are right 
enough, durable even for life; and the poorest serve for a cock shy 
- as when idle people, after picnics, float a bottle on a pond and 
have an hour's diversion ere it sinks.  Whichever they are, serious 
opinions or humours of the moment, he still defends his ventures 
with indefatigable wit and spirit, hitting savagely himself, but 
taking punishment like a man.  He knows and never forgets that 
people talk, first of all, for the sake of talking; conducts 
himself in the ring, to use the old slang, like a thorough 
"glutton," and honestly enjoys a telling facer from his adversary.  
Cockshot is bottled effervescency, the sworn foe of sleep.  Three-
in-the-morning Cockshot, says a victim.  His talk is like the 
driest of all imaginable dry champagnes.  Sleight of hand and 
inimitable quickness are the qualities by which he lives.  
Athelred, on the other hand, presents you with the spectacle of a 
sincere and somewhat slow nature thinking aloud.  He is the most 
unready man I ever knew to shine in conversation.  You may see him 
sometimes wrestle with a refractory jest for a minute or two 
together, and perhaps fail to throw it in the end.  And there is 
something singularly engaging, often instructive, in the simplicity 
with which he thus exposes the process as well as the result, the 
works as well as the dial of the clock.  Withal he has his hours of 
inspiration.  Apt words come to him as if by accident, and, coming 
from deeper down, they smack the more personally, they have the 
more of fine old crusted humanity, rich in sediment and humour.  
There are sayings of his in which he has stamped himself into the 
very grain of the language; you would think he must have worn the 
words next his skin and slept with them.  Yet it is not as a sayer 
of particular good things that Athelred is most to he regarded, 
rather as the stalwart woodman of thought.  I have pulled on a 
light cord often enough, while he has been wielding the broad-axe; 
and between us, on this unequal division, many a specious fallacy 
has fallen.  I have known him to battle the same question night 
after night for years, keeping it in the reign of talk, constantly 
applying it and re-applying it to life with humorous or grave 
intention, and all the while, never hurrying, nor flagging, nor 
taking an unfair advantage of the facts.  Jack at a given moment, 
when arising, as it were, from the tripod, can be more radiantly 
just to those from whom he differs; but then the tenor of his 
thoughts is even calumnious; while Athelred, slower to forge 
excuses, is yet slower to condemn, and sits over the welter of the 
world, vacillating but still judicial, and still faithfully 
contending with his doubts.

Both the last talkers deal much in points of conduct and religion 
studied in the "dry light" of prose.  Indirectly and as if against 
his will the same elements from time to time appear in the troubled 
and poetic talk of Opalstein.  His various and exotic knowledge, 
complete although unready sympathies, and fine, full, 
discriminative flow of language, fit him out to be the best of 
talkers; so perhaps he is with some, not quite with me - PROXIME 
ACCESSIT, I should say.  He sings the praises of the earth and the 
arts, flowers and jewels, wine and music, in a moonlight, 
serenading manner, as to the light guitar; even wisdom comes from 
his tongue like singing; no one is, indeed, more tuneful in the 
upper notes.  But even while he sings the song of the Sirens, he 
still hearkens to the barking of the Sphinx.  Jarring Byronic notes 
interrupt the flow of his Horatian humours.  His mirth has 
something of the tragedy of the world for its perpetual background; 
and he feasts like Don Giovanni to a double orchestra, one lightly 
sounding for the dance, one pealing Beethoven in the distance.  He 
is not truly reconciled either with life or with himself; and this 
instant war in his members sometimes divides the man's attention.  
He does not always, perhaps not often, frankly surrender himself in 
conversation.  He brings into the talk other thoughts than those 
which he expresses; you are conscious that he keeps an eye on 
something else, that he does not shake off the world, nor quite 
forget himself.  Hence arise occasional disappointments; even an 
occasional unfairness for his companions, who find themselves one 
day giving too much, and the next, when they are wary out of 
season, giving perhaps too little.  Purcel is in another class from 
any I have mentioned.  He is no debater, but appears in 
conversation, as occasion rises, in two distinct characters, one of 
which I admire and fear, and the other love.  In the first, he is 
radiantly civil and rather silent, sits on a high, courtly hilltop, 
and from that vantage-ground drops you his remarks like favours.  
He seems not to share in our sublunary contentions; he wears no 
sign of interest; when on a sudden there falls in a crystal of wit, 
so polished that the dull do not perceive it, but so right that the 
sensitive are silenced.  True talk should have more body and blood, 
should be louder, vainer and more declaratory of the man; the true 
talker should not hold so steady an advantage over whom he speaks 
with; and that is one reason out of a score why I prefer my Purcel 
in his second character, when he unbends into a strain of graceful 
gossip, singing like the fireside kettle.  In these moods he has an 
elegant homeliness that rings of the true Queen Anne.  I know 
another person who attains, in his moments, to the insolence of a 
Restoration comedy, speaking, I declare, as Congreve wrote; but 
that is a sport of nature, and scarce falls under the rubric, for 
there is none, alas! to give him answer.

One last remark occurs: It is the mark of genuine conversation that 
the sayings can scarce be quoted with their full effect beyond the 
circle of common friends.  To have their proper weight they should 
appear in a biography, and with the portrait of the speaker.  Good 
talk is dramatic; it is like an impromptu piece of acting where 
each should represent himself to the greatest advantage; and that 
is the best kind of talk where each speaker is most fully and 
candidly himself, and where, if you were to shift the speeches 
round from one to another, there would be the greatest loss in 
significance and perspicuity.  It is for this reason that talk 
depends so wholly on our company.  We should like to introduce 
Falstaff and Mercutio, or Falstaff and Sir Toby; but Falstaff in 
talk with Cordelia seems even painful.  Most of us, by the Protean 
quality of man, can talk to some degree with all; but the true 
talk, that strikes out all the slumbering best of us, comes only 
with the peculiar brethren of our spirits, is founded as deep as 
love in the constitution of our being, and is a thing to relish 
with all our energy, while yet we have it, and to be grateful for 



IN the last paper there was perhaps too much about mere debate; and 
there was nothing said at all about that kind of talk which is 
merely luminous and restful, a higher power of silence, the quiet 
of the evening shared by ruminating friends.  There is something, 
aside from personal preference, to be alleged in support of this 
omission.  Those who are no chimney-cornerers, who rejoice in the 
social thunderstorm, have a ground in reason for their choice.  
They get little rest indeed; but restfulness is a quality for 
cattle; the virtues are all active, life is alert, and it is in 
repose that men prepare themselves for evil.  On the other hand, 
they are bruised into a knowledge of themselves and others; they 
have in a high degree the fencer's pleasure in dexterity displayed 
and proved; what they get they get upon life's terms, paying for it 
as they go; and once the talk is launched, they are assured of 
honest dealing from an adversary eager like themselves.  The 
aboriginal man within us, the cave-dweller, still lusty as when he 
fought tooth and nail for roots and berries, scents this kind of 
equal battle from afar; it is like his old primaeval days upon the 
crags, a return to the sincerity of savage life from the 
comfortable fictions of the civilised.  And if it be delightful to 
the Old Man, it is none the less profitable to his younger brother, 
the conscientious gentleman I feel never quite sure of your urbane 
and smiling coteries; I fear they indulge a man's vanities in 
silence, suffer him to encroach, encourage him on to be an ass, and 
send him forth again, not merely contemned for the moment, but 
radically more contemptible than when he entered.  But if I have a 
flushed, blustering fellow for my opposite, bent on carrying a 
point, my vanity is sure to have its ears rubbed, once at least, in 
the course of the debate.  He will not spare me when we differ; he 
will not fear to demonstrate my folly to my face.

For many natures there is not much charm in the still, chambered 
society, the circle of bland countenances, the digestive silence, 
the admired remark, the flutter of affectionate approval.  They 
demand more atmosphere and exercise; "a gale upon their spirits," 
as our pious ancestors would phrase it; to have their wits well 
breathed in an uproarious Valhalla.  And I suspect that the choice, 
given their character and faults, is one to be defended.  The 
purely wise are silenced by facts; they talk in a clear atmosphere, 
problems lying around them like a view in nature; if they can be 
shown to be somewhat in the wrong, they digest the reproof like a 
thrashing, and make better intellectual blood.  They stand 
corrected by a whisper; a word or a glance reminds them of the 
great eternal law.  But it is not so with all.  Others in 
conversation seek rather contact with their fellow-men than 
increase of knowledge or clarity of thought.  The drama, not the 
philosophy, of life is the sphere of their intellectual activity.  
Even when they pursue truth, they desire as much as possible of 
what we may call human scenery along the road they follow.  They 
dwell in the heart of life; the blood sounding in their ears, their 
eyes laying hold of what delights them with a brutal avidity that 
makes them blind to all besides, their interest riveted on people, 
living, loving, talking, tangible people.  To a man of this 
description, the sphere of argument seems very pale and ghostly.  
By a strong expression, a perturbed countenance, floods of tears, 
an insult which his conscience obliges him to swallow, he is 
brought round to knowledge which no syllogism would have conveyed 
to him.  His own experience is so vivid, he is so superlatively 
conscious of himself, that if, day after day, he is allowed to 
hector and hear nothing but approving echoes, he will lose his hold 
on the soberness of things and take himself in earnest for a god.  
Talk might be to such an one the very way of moral ruin; the school 
where he might learn to be at once intolerable and ridiculous.

This character is perhaps commoner than philosophers suppose.  And 
for persons of that stamp to learn much by conversation, they must 
speak with their superiors, not in intellect, for that is a 
superiority that must be proved, but in station.  If they cannot 
find a friend to bully them for their good, they must find either 
an old man, a woman, or some one so far below them in the 
artificial order of society, that courtesy may he particularly 

The best teachers are the aged.  To the old our mouths are always 
partly closed; we must swallow our obvious retorts and listen.  
They sit above our heads, on life's raised dais, and appeal at once 
to our respect and pity.  A flavour of the old school, a touch of 
something different in their manner - which is freer and rounder, 
if they come of what is called a good family, and often more timid 
and precise if they are of the middle class - serves, in these 
days, to accentuate the difference of age and add a distinction to 
gray hairs.  But their superiority is founded more deeply than by 
outward marks or gestures.  They are before us in the march of man; 
they have more or less solved the irking problem; they have battled 
through the equinox of life; in good and evil they have held their 
course; and now, without open shame, they near the crown and 
harbour.  It may be we have been struck with one of fortune's 
darts; we can scarce be civil, so cruelly is our spirit tossed.  
Yet long before we were so much as thought upon, the like calamity 
befell the old man or woman that now, with pleasant humour, rallies 
us upon our inattention, sitting composed in the holy evening of 
man's life, in the clear shining after rain.  We grow ashamed of 
our distresses, new and hot and coarse, like villainous roadside 
brandy; we see life in aerial perspective, under the heavens of 
faith; and out of the worst, in the mere presence of contented 
elders, look forward and take patience.  Fear shrinks before them 
"like a thing reproved," not the flitting and ineffectual fear of 
death, but the instant, dwelling terror of the responsibilities and 
revenges of life.  Their speech, indeed, is timid; they report 
lions in the path; they counsel a meticulous footing; but their 
serene, marred faces are more eloquent and tell another story.  
Where they have gone, we will go also, not very greatly fearing; 
what they have endured unbroken, we also, God helping us, will make 
a shift to bear.

Not only is the presence of the aged in itself remedial, but their 
minds are stored with antidotes, wisdom's simples, plain 
considerations overlooked by youth.  They have matter to 
communicate, be they never so stupid.  Their talk is not merely 
literature, it is great literature; classic in virtue of the 
speaker's detachment, studded, like a book of travel, with things 
we should not otherwise have learnt.  In virtue, I have said, of 
the speaker's detachment, - and this is why, of two old men, the 
one who is not your father speaks to you with the more sensible 
authority; for in the paternal relation the oldest have lively 
interests and remain still young.  Thus I have known two young men 
great friends; each swore by the other's father; the father of each 
swore by the other lad; and yet each pair of parent and child were 
perpetually by the ears.  This is typical: it reads like the germ 
of some kindly comedy.

The old appear in conversation in two characters: the critically 
silent and the garrulous anecdotic.  The last is perhaps what we 
look for; it is perhaps the more instructive.  An old gentleman, 
well on in years, sits handsomely and naturally in the bow-window 
of his age, scanning experience with reverted eye; and chirping and 
smiling, communicates the accidents and reads the lesson of his 
long career.  Opinions are strengthened, indeed, but they are also 
weeded out in the course of years.  What remains steadily present 
to the eye of the retired veteran in his hermitage, what still 
ministers to his content, what still quickens his old honest heart 
- these are "the real long-lived things" that Whitman tells us to 
prefer.  Where youth agrees with age, not where they differ, wisdom 
lies; and it is when the young disciple finds his heart to beat in 
tune with his gray-bearded teacher's that a lesson may be learned.  
I have known one old gentleman, whom I may name, for he in now 
gathered to his stock - Robert Hunter, Sheriff of Dumbarton, and 
author of an excellent law-book still re-edited and republished.  
Whether he was originally big or little is more than I can guess.  
When I knew him he was all fallen away and fallen in; crooked and 
shrunken; buckled into a stiff waistcoat for support; troubled by 
ailments, which kept him hobbling in and out of the room; one foot 
gouty; a wig for decency, not for deception, on his head; close 
shaved, except under his chin - and for that he never failed to 
apologise, for it went sore against the traditions of his life.  
You can imagine how he would fare in a novel by Miss Mather; yet 
this rag of a Chelsea veteran lived to his last year in the 
plenitude of all that is best in man, brimming with human kindness, 
and staunch as a Roman soldier under his manifold infirmities.  You 
could not say that he had lost his memory, for he would repeat 
Shakespeare and Webster and Jeremy Taylor and Burke by the page 
together; but the parchment was filled up, there was no room for 
fresh inscriptions, and he was capable of repeating the same 
anecdote on many successive visits.  His voice survived in its full 
power, and he took a pride in using it.  On his last voyage as 
Commissioner of lighthouses, he hailed a ship at sea and made 
himself clearly audible without a speaking trumpet, ruffling the 
while with a proper vanity in his achievement.  He had a habit of 
eking out his words with interrogative hems, which was puzzling and 
a little wearisome, suited ill with his appearance, and seemed a 
survival from some former stage of bodily portliness.  Of yore, 
when he was a great pedestrian and no enemy to good claret, he may 
have pointed with these minute guns his allocutions to the bench.  
His humour was perfectly equable, set beyond the reach of fate; 
gout, rheumatism, stone and gravel might have combined their forces 
against that frail tabernacle, but when I came round on Sunday 
evening, he would lay aside Jeremy Taylor's LIFE OF CHRIST and 
greet me with the same open brow, the same kind formality of 
manner.  His opinions and sympathies dated the man almost to a 
decade.  He had begun life, under his mother's influence, as an 
admirer of Junius, but on maturer knowledge had transferred his 
admiration to Burke.  He cautioned me, with entire gravity, to be 
punctilious in writing English; never to forget that I was a 
Scotchman, that English was a foreign tongue, and that if I 
attempted the colloquial, I should certainly, be shamed: the remark 
was apposite, I suppose, in the days of David Hume.  Scott was too 
new for him; he had known the author - known him, too, for a Tory; 
and to the genuine classic a contemporary is always something of a 
trouble.  He had the old, serious love of the play; had even, as he 
was proud to tell, played a certain part in the history of 
Shakespearian revivals, for he had successfully pressed on Murray, 
of the old Edinburgh Theatre, the idea of producing Shakespeare's 
fairy pieces with great scenic display.  A moderate in religion, he 
was much struck in the last years of his life by a conversation 
with two young lads, revivalists "H'm," he would say - "new to me.  
I have had - h'm - no such experience."  It struck him, not with 
pain, rather with a solemn philosophic interest, that he, a 
Christian as he hoped, and a Christian of so old a standing, should 
hear these young fellows talking of his own subject, his own 
weapons that he had fought the battle of life with, - "and - h'm - 
not understand."  In this wise and graceful attitude he did justice 
to himself and others, reposed unshaken in his old beliefs, and 
recognised their limits without anger or alarm.  His last recorded 
remark, on the last night of his life, was after he had been 
arguing against Calvinism with his minister and was interrupted by 
an intolerable pang.  "After all," he said, "of all the 'isms, I 
know none so bad as rheumatism."  My own last sight of him was some 
time before, when we dined together at an inn; he had been on 
circuit, for he stuck to his duties like a chief part of his 
existence; and I remember it as the only occasion on which he ever 
soiled his lips with slang - a thing he loathed.  We were both 
Roberts; and as we took our places at table, he addressed me with a 
twinkle: "We are just what you would call two bob."  He offered me 
port, I remember, as the proper milk of youth; spoke of "twenty-
shilling notes"; and throughout the meal was full of old-world 
pleasantry and quaintness, like an ancient boy on a holiday.  But 
what I recall chiefly was his confession that he had never read 
OTHELLO to an end.  Shakespeare was his continual study.  He loved 
nothing better than to display his knowledge and memory by adducing 
parallel passages from Shakespeare, passages where the same word 
was employed, or the same idea differently treated.  But OTHELLO 
had beaten him.  "That noble gentleman and that noble lady - h'm - 
too painful for me."  The same night the hoardings were covered 
with posters, "Burlesque of OTHELLO," and the contrast blazed up in 
my mind like a bonfire.  An unforgettable look it gave me into that 
kind man's soul.  His acquaintance was indeed a liberal and pious 
education.  All the humanities were taught in that bare dining-room 
beside his gouty footstool.  He was a piece of good advice; he was 
himself the instance that pointed and adorned his various talk.  
Nor could a young man have found elsewhere a place so set apart 
from envy, fear, discontent, or any of the passions that debase; a 
life so honest and composed; a soul like an ancient violin, so 
subdued to harmony, responding to a touch in music - as in that 
dining-room, with Mr. Hunter chatting at the eleventh hour, under 
the shadow of eternity, fearless and gentle.

The second class of old people are not anecdotic; they are rather 
hearers than talkers, listening to the young with an amused and 
critical attention.  To have this sort of intercourse to 
perfection, I think we must go to old ladies.  Women are better 
hearers than men, to begin with; they learn, I fear in anguish, to 
bear with the tedious and infantile vanity of the other sex; and we 
will take more from a woman than even from the oldest man in the 
way of biting comment.  Biting comment is the chief part, whether 
for profit or amusement, in this business.  The old lady that I 
have in my eye is a very caustic speaker, her tongue, after years 
of practice, in absolute command, whether for silence or attack.  
If she chance to dislike you, you will be tempted to curse the 
malignity of age.  But if you chance to please even slightly, you 
will be listened to with a particular laughing grace of sympathy, 
and from time to time chastised, as if in play, with a parasol as 
heavy as a pole-axe.  It requires a singular art, as well as the 
vantage-ground of age, to deal these stunning corrections among the 
coxcombs of the young.  The pill is disguised in sugar of wit; it 
is administered as a compliment - if you had not pleased, you would 
not have been censured; it is a personal affair - a hyphen, A TRAIT 
D'UNION, between you and your censor; age's philandering, for her 
pleasure and your good.  Incontestably the young man feels very 
much of a fool; but he must be a perfect Malvolio, sick with self-
love, if he cannot take an open buffet and still smile.  The 
correction of silence is what kills; when you know you have 
transgressed, and your friend says nothing and avoids your eye.  If 
a man were made of gutta-percha, his heart would quail at such a 
moment.  But when the word is out, the worst is over; and a fellow 
with any good-humour at all may pass through a perfect hail of 
witty criticism, every bare place on his soul hit to the quick with 
a shrewd missile, and reappear, as if after a dive, tingling with a 
fine moral reaction, and ready, with a shrinking readiness, one-
third loath, for a repetition of the discipline.

There are few women, not well sunned and ripened, and perhaps 
toughened, who can thus stand apart from a man and say the true 
thing with a kind of genial cruelty.  Still there are some - and I 
doubt if there be any man who can return the compliment.  The class 
of man represented by Vernon Whitford in THE EGOIST says, indeed, 
the true thing, but he says it stockishly.  Vernon is a noble 
fellow, and makes, by the way, a noble and instructive contrast to 
Daniel Deronda; his conduct is the conduct of a man of honour; but 
we agree with him, against our consciences, when he remorsefully 
considers "its astonishing dryness."  He is the best of men, but 
the best of women manage to combine all that and something more.  
Their very faults assist them; they are helped even by the 
falseness of their position in life.  They can retire into the 
fortified camp of the proprieties.  They can touch a subject and 
suppress it.  The most adroit employ a somewhat elaborate reserve 
as a means to be frank, much as they wear gloves when they shake 
hands.  But a man has the full responsibility of his freedom, 
cannot evade a question, can scarce be silent without rudeness, 
must answer for his words upon the moment, and is not seldom left 
face to face with a damning choice, between the more or less 
dishonourable wriggling of Deronda and the downright woodenness of 
Vernon Whitford.

But the superiority of women is perpetually menaced; they do not 
sit throned on infirmities like the old; they are suitors as well 
as sovereigns; their vanity is engaged, their affections are too 
apt to follow; and hence much of the talk between the sexes 
degenerates into something unworthy of the name.  The desire to 
please, to shine with a certain softness of lustre and to draw a 
fascinating picture of oneself, banishes from conversation all that 
is sterling and most of what is humorous.  As soon as a strong 
current of mutual admiration begins to flow, the human interest 
triumphs entirely over the intellectual, and the commerce of words, 
consciously or not, becomes secondary to the commencing of eyes.  
But even where this ridiculous danger is avoided, and a man and 
woman converse equally and honestly, something in their nature or 
their education falsifies the strain.  An instinct prompts them to 
agree; and where that is impossible, to agree to differ.  Should 
they neglect the warning, at the first suspicion of an argument, 
they find themselves in different hemispheres.  About any point of 
business or conduct, any actual affair demanding settlement, a 
woman will speak and listen, hear and answer arguments, not only 
with natural wisdom, but with candour and logical honesty.  But if 
the subject of debate be something in the air, an abstraction, an 
excuse for talk, a logical Aunt Sally, then may the male debater 
instantly abandon hope; he may employ reason, adduce facts, be 
supple, be smiling, be angry, all shall avail him nothing; what the 
woman said first, that (unless she has forgotten it) she will 
repeat at the end.  Hence, at the very junctures when a talk 
between men grows brighter and quicker and begins to promise to 
bear fruit, talk between the sexes is menaced with dissolution.  
The point of difference, the point of interest, is evaded by the 
brilliant woman, under a shower of irrelevant conversational 
rockets; it is bridged by the discreet woman with a rustle of silk, 
as she passes smoothly forward to the nearest point of safety.  And 
this sort of prestidigitation, juggling the dangerous topic out of 
sight until it can be reintroduced with safety in an altered shape, 
is a piece of tactics among the true drawing-room queens.

The drawing-room is, indeed, an artificial place; it is so by our 
choice and for our sins.  The subjection of women; the ideal 
imposed upon them from the cradle, and worn, like a hair-shirt, 
with so much constancy; their motherly, superior tenderness to 
man's vanity and self-importance; their managing arts - the arts of 
a civilised slave among good-natured barbarians - are all painful 
ingredients and all help to falsify relations.  It is not till we 
get clear of that amusing artificial scene that genuine relations 
are founded, or ideas honestly compared.  In the garden, on the 
road or the hillside, or TETE-A-TETE and apart from interruptions, 
occasions arise when we may learn much from any single woman; and 
nowhere more often than in married life.  Marriage is one long 
conversation, chequered by disputes.  The disputes are valueless; 
they but ingrain the difference; the heroic heart of woman 
prompting her at once to nail her colours to the mast.  But in the 
intervals, almost unconsciously and with no desire to shine, the 
whole material of life is turned over and over, ideas are struck 
out and shared, the two persons more and more adapt their notions 
one to suit the other, and in process of time, without sound of 
trumpet, they conduct each other into new worlds of thought.


THE civilisation, the manners, and the morals of dog-kind are to a 
great extent subordinated to those of his ancestral master, man.  
This animal, in many ways so superior, has accepted a position of 
inferiority, shares the domestic life, and humours the caprices of 
the tyrant.  But the potentate, like the British in India, pays 
small regard to the character of his willing client, judges him 
with listless glances, and condemns him in a byword.  Listless have 
been the looks of his admirers, who have exhausted idle terms of 
praise, and buried the poor soul below exaggerations.  And yet more 
idle and, if possible, more unintelligent has been the attitude of 
his express detractors; those who are very fond of dogs "but in 
their proper place"; who say "poo' fellow, poo' fellow," and are 
themselves far poorer; who whet the knife of the vivisectionist or 
heat his oven; who are not ashamed to admire "the creature's 
instinct"; and flying far beyond folly, have dared to resuscitate 
the theory of animal machines.  The "dog's instinct" and the 
"automaton-dog," in this age of psychology and science, sound like 
strange anachronisms.  An automaton he certainly is; a machine 
working independently of his control, the heart, like the mill-
wheel, keeping all in motion, and the consciousness, like a person 
shut in the mill garret, enjoying the view out of the window and 
shaken by the thunder of the stones; an automaton in one corner of 
which a living spirit is confined: an automaton like man.  Instinct 
again he certainly possesses.  Inherited aptitudes are his, 
inherited frailties.  Some things he at once views and understands, 
as though he were awakened from a sleep, as though he came 
"trailing clouds of glory."  But with him, as with man, the field 
of instinct is limited; its utterances are obscure and occasional; 
and about the far larger part of life both the dog and his master 
must conduct their steps by deduction and observation.

The leading distinction between dog and man, after and perhaps 
before the different duration of their lives, is that the one can 
speak and that the other cannot.  The absence of the power of 
speech confines the dog in the development of his intellect.  It 
hinders him from many speculations, for words are the beginning of 
meta-physic.  At the same blow it saves him from many 
superstitions, and his silence has won for him a higher name for 
virtue than his conduct justifies.  The faults of the dog are many.  
He is vainer than man, singularly greedy of notice, singularly 
intolerant of ridicule, suspicious like the deaf, jealous to the 
degree of frenzy, and radically devoid of truth.  The day of an 
intelligent small dog is passed in the manufacture and the 
laborious communication of falsehood; he lies with his tail, he 
lies with his eye, he lies with his protesting paw; and when he 
rattles his dish or scratches at the door his purpose is other than 
appears.  But he has some apology to offer for the vice.  Many of 
the signs which form his dialect have come to bear an arbitrary 
meaning, clearly understood both by his master and himself; yet 
when a new want arises he must either invent a new vehicle of 
meaning or wrest an old one to a different purpose; and this 
necessity frequently recurring must tend to lessen his idea of the 
sanctity of symbols.  Meanwhile the dog is clear in his own 
conscience, and draws, with a human nicety, the distinction between 
formal and essential truth.  Of his punning perversions, his 
legitimate dexterity with symbols, he is even vain; but when he has 
told and been detected in a lie, there is not a hair upon his body 
but confesses guilt.  To a dog of gentlemanly feeling theft and 
falsehood are disgraceful vices.  The canine, like the human, 
gentleman demands in his misdemeanours Montaigne's "JE NE SAIS QUOI 
DE GENEREUX."  He is never more than half ashamed of having barked 
or bitten; and for those faults into which he has been led by the 
desire to shine before a lady of his race, he retains, even under 
physical correction, a share of pride.  But to be caught lying, if 
he understands it, instantly uncurls his fleece.

Just as among dull observers he preserves a name for truth, the dog 
has been credited with modesty.  It is amazing how the use of 
language blunts the faculties of man - that because vain glory 
finds no vent in words, creatures supplied with eyes have been 
unable to detect a fault so gross and obvious.  If a small spoiled 
dog were suddenly to be endowed with speech, he would prate 
interminably, and still about himself; when we had friends, we 
should be forced to lock him in a garret; and what with his whining 
jealousies and his foible for falsehood, in a year's time he would 
have gone far to weary out our love.  I was about to compare him to 
Sir Willoughby Patterne, but the Patternes have a manlier sense of 
their own merits; and the parallel, besides, is ready.  Hans 
Christian Andersen, as we behold him in his startling memoirs, 
thrilling from top to toe with an excruciating vanity, and scouting 
even along the street for shadows of offence - here was the talking 

It is just this rage for consideration that has betrayed the dog 
into his satellite position as the friend of man.  The cat, an 
animal of franker appetites, preserves his independence.  But the 
dog, with one eye ever on the audience, has been wheedled into 
slavery, and praised and patted into the renunciation of his 
nature.  Once he ceased hunting and became man's plate-licker, the 
Rubicon was crossed.  Thenceforth he was a gentleman of leisure; 
and except the few whom we keep working, the whole race grew more 
and more self-conscious, mannered and affected.  The number of 
things that a small dog does naturally is strangely small.  
Enjoying better spirits and not crushed under material cares, he is 
far more theatrical than average man.  His whole life, if he be a 
dog of any pretension to gallantry, is spent in a vain show, and in 
the hot pursuit of admiration.  Take out your puppy for a walk, and 
you will find the little ball of fur clumsy, stupid, bewildered, 
but natural.  Let but a few months pass, and when you repeat the 
process you will find nature buried in convention.  He will do 
nothing plainly; but the simplest processes of our material life 
will all be bent into the forms of an elaborate and mysterious 
etiquette.  Instinct, says the fool, has awakened.  But it is not 
so.  Some dogs - some, at the very least - if they be kept separate 
from others, remain quite natural; and these, when at length they 
meet with a companion of experience, and have the game explained to 
them, distinguish themselves by the severity of their devotion to 
its rules.  I wish I were allowed to tell a story which would 
radiantly illuminate the point; but men, like dogs, have an 
elaborate and mysterious etiquette.  It is their bond of sympathy 
that both are the children of convention.

The person, man or dog, who has a conscience is eternally condemned 
to some degree of humbug; the sense of the law in their members 
fatally precipitates either towards a frozen and affected bearing.  
And the converse is true; and in the elaborate and conscious 
manners of the dog, moral opinions and the love of the ideal stand 
confessed.  To follow for ten minutes in the street some 
swaggering, canine cavalier, is to receive a lesson in dramatic art 
and the cultured conduct of the body; in every act and gesture you 
see him true to a refined conception; and the dullest cur, 
beholding him, pricks up his ear and proceeds to imitate and parody 
that charming ease.  For to be a high-mannered and high-minded 
gentleman, careless, affable, and gay, is the inborn pretension of 
the dog.  The large dog, so much lazier, so much more weighed upon 
with matter, so majestic in repose, so beautiful in effort, is born 
with the dramatic means to wholly represent the part.  And it is 
more pathetic and perhaps more instructive to consider the small 
dog in his conscientious and imperfect efforts to outdo Sir Philip 
Sidney.  For the ideal of the dog is feudal and religious; the 
ever-present polytheism, the whip-bearing Olympus of mankind, rules 
them on the one hand; on the other, their singular difference of 
size and strength among themselves effectually prevents the 
appearance of the democratic notion.  Or we might more exactly 
compare their society to the curious spectacle presented by a 
school - ushers, monitors, and big and little boys - qualified by 
one circumstance, the introduction of the other sex.  In each, we 
should observe a somewhat similar tension of manner, and somewhat 
similar points of honour.  In each the larger animal keeps a 
contemptuous good humour; in each the smaller annoys him with wasp-
like impudence, certain of practical immunity; in each we shall 
find a double life producing double characters, and an excursive 
and noisy heroism combined with a fair amount of practical 
timidity.  I have known dogs, and I have known school heroes that, 
set aside the fur, could hardly have been told apart; and if we 
desire to understand the chivalry of old, we must turn to the 
school playfields or the dungheap where the dogs are trooping.

Woman, with the dog, has been long enfranchised.  Incessant 
massacre of female innocents has changed the proportions of the 
sexes and perverted their relations.  Thus, when we regard the 
manners of the dog, we see a romantic and monogamous animal, once 
perhaps as delicate as the cat, at war with impossible conditions.  
Man has much to answer for; and the part he plays is yet more 
damnable and parlous than Corin's in the eyes of Touchstone.  But 
his intervention has at least created an imperial situation for the 
rare surviving ladies.  In that society they reign without a rival: 
conscious queens; and in the only instance of a canine wife-beater 
that has ever fallen under my notice, the criminal was somewhat 
excused by the circumstances of his story.  He is a little, very 
alert, well-bred, intelligent Skye, as black as a hat, with a wet 
bramble for a nose and two cairngorms for eyes.  To the human 
observer, he is decidedly well-looking; but to the ladies of his 
race he seems abhorrent.  A thorough elaborate gentleman, of the 
plume and sword-knot order, he was born with a nice sense of 
gallantry to women.  He took at their hands the most outrageous 
treatment; I have heard him bleating like a sheep, I have seen him 
streaming blood, and his ear tattered like a regimental banner; and 
yet he would scorn to make reprisals.  Nay more, when a human lady 
upraised the contumelious whip against the very dame who had been 
so cruelly misusing him, my little great-heart gave but one hoarse 
cry and fell upon the tyrant tooth and nail.  This is the tale of a 
soul's tragedy.  After three years of unavailing chivalry, he 
suddenly, in one hour, threw off the yoke of obligation; had he 
been Shakespeare he would then have written TROILUS AND CRESSIDA to 
brand the offending sex; but being only a little dog, he began to 
bite them.  The surprise of the ladies whom he attacked indicated 
the monstrosity of his offence; but he had fairly beaten off his 
better angel, fairly committed moral suicide; for almost in the 
same hour, throwing aside the last rags of decency, he proceeded to 
attack the aged also.  The fact is worth remark, showing, as it 
does, that ethical laws are common both to dogs and men; and that 
with both a single deliberate violation of the conscience loosens 
all.  "But while the lamp holds on to burn," says the paraphrase, 
"the greatest sinner may return."  I have been cheered to see 
symptoms of effectual penitence in my sweet ruffian; and by the 
handling that he accepted uncomplainingly the other day from an 
indignant fair one, I begin to hope the period of STURM UND DRANG 
is closed.

All these little gentlemen are subtle casuists.  The duty to the 
female dog is plain; but where competing duties rise, down they 
will sit and study them out, like Jesuit confessors.  I knew 
another little Skye, somewhat plain in manner and appearance, but a 
creature compact of amiability and solid wisdom.  His family going 
abroad for a winter, he was received for that period by an uncle in 
the same city.  The winter over, his own family home again, and his 
own house (of which he was very proud) reopened, he found himself 
in a dilemma between two conflicting duties of loyalty and 
gratitude.  His old friends were not to be neglected, but it seemed 
hardly decent to desert the new.  This was how he solved the 
problem.  Every morning, as soon as the door was opened, of posted 
Coolin to his uncle's, visited the children in the nursery, saluted 
the whole family, and was back at home in time for breakfast and 
his bit of fish.  Nor was this done without a sacrifice on his 
part, sharply felt; for he had to forego the particular honour and 
jewel of his day - his morning's walk with my father.  And, perhaps 
from this cause, he gradually wearied of and relaxed the practice, 
and at length returned entirely to his ancient habits.  But the 
same decision served him in another and more distressing case of 
divided duty, which happened not long after.  He was not at all a 
kitchen dog, but the cook had nursed him with unusual kindness 
during the distemper; and though he did not adore her as he adored 
my father - although (born snob) he was critically conscious of her 
position as "only a servant" - he still cherished for her a special 
gratitude.  Well, the cook left, and retired some streets away to 
lodgings of her own; and there was Coolin in precisely the same 
situation with any young gentleman who has had the inestimable 
benefit of a faithful nurse.  The canine conscience did not solve 
the problem with a pound of tea at Christmas.  No longer content to 
pay a flying visit, it was the whole forenoon that he dedicated to 
his solitary friend.  And so, day by day, he continued to comfort 
her solitude until (for some reason which I could never understand 
and cannot approve) he was kept locked up to break him of the 
graceful habit.  Here, it is not the similarity, it is the 
difference, that is worthy of remark; the clearly marked degrees of 
gratitude and the proportional duration of his visits.  Anything 
further removed from instinct it were hard to fancy; and one is 
even stirred to a certain impatience with a character so destitute 
of spontaneity, so passionless in justice, and so priggishly 
obedient to the voice of reason.

There are not many dogs like this good Coolin, and not many people.  
But the type is one well marked, both in the human and the canine 
family.  Gallantry was not his aim, but a solid and somewhat 
oppressive respectability.  He was a sworn foe to the unusual and 
the conspicuous, a praiser of the golden mean, a kind of city uncle 
modified by Cheeryble.  And as he was precise and conscientious in 
all the steps of his own blameless course, he looked for the same 
precision and an even greater gravity in the bearing of his deity, 
my father.  It was no sinecure to be Coolin's idol: he was exacting 
like a rigid parent; and at every sign of levity in the man whom he 
respected, he announced loudly the death of virtue and the 
proximate fall of the pillars of the earth.

I have called him a snob; but all dogs are so, though in varying 
degrees.  It is hard to follow their snobbery among themselves; for 
though I think we can perceive distinctions of rank, we cannot 
grasp what is the criterion.  Thus in Edinburgh, in a good part of 
the town, there were several distinct societies or clubs that met 
in the morning to - the phrase is technical - to "rake the backets" 
in a troop.  A friend of mine, the master of three dogs, was one 
day surprised to observe that they had left one club and joined 
another; but whether it was a rise or a fall, and the result of an 
invitation or an expulsion, was more than he could guess.  And this 
illustrates pointedly our ignorance of the real life of dogs, their 
social ambitions and their social hierarchies.  At least, in their 
dealings with men they are not only conscious of sex, but of the 
difference of station.  And that in the most snobbish manner; for 
the poor man's dog is not offended by the notice of the rich, and 
keeps all his ugly feeling for those poorer or more ragged than his 
master.  And again, for every station they have an ideal of 
behaviour, to which the master, under pain of derogation, will do 
wisely to conform.  How often has not a cold glance of an eye 
informed me that my dog was disappointed; and how much more gladly 
would he not have taken a beating than to be thus wounded in the 
seat of piety!

I knew one disrespectable dog.  He was far liker a cat; cared 
little or nothing for men, with whom he merely coexisted as we do 
with cattle, and was entirely devoted to the art of poaching.  A 
house would not hold him, and to live in a town was what he 

He led, I believe, a life of troubled but genuine pleasure, and 
perished beyond all question in a trap.  But this was an exception, 
a marked reversion to the ancestral type; like the hairy human 
infant.  The true dog of the nineteenth century, to judge by the 
remainder of my fairly large acquaintance, is in love with 
respectability.  A street-dog was once adopted by a lady.  While 
still an Arab, he had done as Arabs do, gambolling in the mud, 
charging into butchers' stalls, a cat-hunter, a sturdy beggar, a 
common rogue and vagabond; but with his rise into society he laid 
aside these inconsistent pleasures.  He stole no more, he hunted no 
more cats; and conscious of his collar, he ignored his old 
companions.  Yet the canine upper class was never brought to 
recognise the upstart, and from that hour, except for human 
countenance, he was alone.  Friendless, shorn of his sports and the 
habits of a lifetime, he still lived in a glory of happiness, 
content with his acquired respectability, and with no care but to 
support it solemnly.  Are we to condemn or praise this self-made 
dog?  We praise his human brother.  And thus to conquer vicious 
habits is as rare with dogs as with men.  With the more part, for 
all their scruple-mongering and moral thought, the vices that are 
born with them remain invincible throughout; and they live all 
their years, glorying in their virtues, but still the slaves of 
their defects.  Thus the sage Coolin was a thief to the last; among 
a thousand peccadilloes, a whole goose and a whole cold leg of 
mutton lay upon his conscience; but Woggs, (7) whose soul's 
shipwreck in the matter of gallantry I have recounted above, has 
only twice been known to steal, and has often nobly conquered the 
temptation.  The eighth is his favourite commandment.  There is 
something painfully human in these unequal virtues and mortal 
frailties of the best.  Still more painful is the bearing of those 
"stammering professors" in the house of sickness and under the 
terror of death.  It is beyond a doubt to me that, somehow or 
other, the dog connects together, or confounds, the uneasiness of 
sickness and the consciousness of guilt.  To the pains of the body 
he often adds the tortures of the conscience; and at these times 
his haggard protestations form, in regard to the human deathbed, a 
dreadful parody or parallel.

I once supposed that I had found an inverse relation between the 
double etiquette which dogs obey; and that those who were most 
addicted to the showy street life among other dogs were less 
careful in the practice of home virtues for the tyrant man.  But 
the female dog, that mass of carneying affectations, shines equally 
in either sphere; rules her rough posse of attendant swains with 
unwearying tact and gusto; and with her master and mistress pushes 
the arts of insinuation to their crowning point.  The attention of 
man and the regard of other dogs flatter (it would thus appear) the 
same sensibility; but perhaps, if we could read the canine heart, 
they would be found to flatter it in very different degrees.  Dogs 
live with man as courtiers round a monarch, steeped in the flattery 
of his notice and enriched with sinecures.  To push their favour in 
this world of pickings and caresses is, perhaps, the business of 
their lives; and their joys may lie outside.  I am in despair at 
our persistent ignorance.  I read in the lives of our companions 
the same processes of reason, the same antique and fatal conflicts 
of the right against the wrong, and of unbitted nature with too 
rigid custom; I see them with our weaknesses, vain, false, 
inconstant against appetite, and with our one stalk of virtue, 
devoted to the dream of an ideal; and yet, as they hurry by me on 
the street with tail in air, or come singly to solicit my regard, I 
must own the secret purport of their lives is still inscrutable to 
man.  Is man the friend, or is he the patron only?  Have they 
indeed forgotten nature's voice? or are those moments snatched from 
courtiership when they touch noses with the tinker's mongrel, the 
brief reward and pleasure of their artificial lives?  Doubtless, 
when man shares with his dog the toils of a profession and the 
pleasures of an art, as with the shepherd or the poacher, the 
affection warms and strengthens till it fills the soul.  But 
doubtless, also, the masters are, in many cases, the object of a 
merely interested cultus, sitting aloft like Louis Quatorze, giving 
and receiving flattery and favour; and the dogs, like the majority 
of men, have but foregone their true existence and become the dupes 
of their ambition.


THESE words will be familiar to all students of Skelt's Juvenile 
Drama.  That national monument, after having changed its name to 
Park's, to Webb's, to Redington's, and last of all to Pollock's, 
has now become, for the most part, a memory.  Some of its pillars, 
like Stonehenge, are still afoot, the rest clean vanished.  It may 
be the Museum numbers a full set; and Mr. Ionides perhaps, or else 
her gracious Majesty, may boast their great collections; but to the 
plain private person they are become, like Raphaels, unattainable.  
I have, at different times, possessed ALADDIN, THE RED ROVER, THE 
TERROR OF JAMAICA; and I have assisted others in the illumination 
of MAID OF THE INN and THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO.  In this roll-call 
of stirring names you read the evidences of a happy childhood; and 
though not half of them are still to be procured of any living 
stationer, in the mind of their once happy owner all survive, 
kaleidoscopes of changing pictures, echoes of the past.

There stands, I fancy, to this day (but now how fallen!) a certain 
stationer's shop at a corner of the wide thoroughfare that joins 
the city of my childhood with the sea.  When, upon any Saturday, we 
made a party to behold the ships, we passed that corner; and since 
in those days I loved a ship as a man loves Burgundy or daybreak, 
this of itself had been enough to hallow it.  But there was more 
than that.  In the Leith Walk window, all the year round, there 
stood displayed a theatre in working order, with a "forest set," a 
"combat," and a few "robbers carousing" in the slides; and below 
and about, dearer tenfold to me! the plays themselves, those 
budgets of romance, lay tumbled one upon another.  Long and often 
have I lingered there with empty pockets.  One figure, we shall 
say, was visible in the first plate of characters, bearded, pistol 
in hand, or drawing to his ear the clothyard arrow; I would spell 
the name: was it Macaire, or Long Tom Coffin, or Grindoff, 2d 
dress?  O, how I would long to see the rest! how - if the name by 
chance were hidden - I would wonder in what play he figured, and 
what immortal legend justified his attitude and strange apparel!  
And then to go within, to announce yourself as an intending 
purchaser, and, closely watched, be suffered to undo those bundles 
and breathlessly devour those pages of gesticulating villains, 
epileptic combats, bosky forests, palaces and war-ships, frowning 
fortresses and prison vaults - it was a giddy joy.  That shop, 
which was dark and smelt of Bibles, was a loadstone rock for all 
that bore the name of boy.  They could not pass it by, nor, having 
entered, leave it.  It was a place besieged; the shopmen, like the 
Jews rebuilding Salem, had a double task.  They kept us at the 
stick's end, frowned us down, snatched each play out of our hand 
ere we were trusted with another, and, increditable as it may 
sound, used to demand of us upon our entrance, like banditti, if we 
came with money or with empty hand.  Old Mr. Smith himself, worn 
out with my eternal vacillation, once swept the treasures from 
before me, with the cry: "I do not believe, child, that you are an 
intending purchaser at all!"  These were the dragons of the garden; 
but for such joys of paradise we could have faced the Terror of 
Jamaica himself.  Every sheet we fingered was another lightning 
glance into obscure, delicious story; it was like wallowing in the 
raw stuff of story-books.  I know nothing to compare with it save 
now and then in dreams, when I am privileged to read in certain 
unwrit stories of adventure, from which I awake to find the world 
all vanity.  The CRUX of Buridan's donkey was as nothing to the 
uncertainty of the boy as he handled and lingered and doated on 
these bundles of delight; there was a physical pleasure in the 
sight and touch of them which he would jealously prolong; and when 
at length the deed was done, the play selected, and the impatient 
shopman had brushed the rest into the gray portfolio, and the boy 
was forth again, a little late for dinner, the lamps springing into 
light in the blue winter's even, and THE MILLER, or THE ROVER, or 
some kindred drama clutched against his side - on what gay feet he 
ran, and how he laughed aloud in exultation!  I can hear that 
laughter still.  Out of all the years of my life, I can recall but 
one home-coming to compare with these, and that was on the night 
when I brought back with me the ARABIAN ENTERTAINMENTS in the fat, 
old, double-columned volume with the prints.  I was just well into 
the story of the Hunchback, I remember, when my clergyman-
grandfather (a man we counted pretty stiff) came in behind me.  I 
grew blind with terror.  But instead of ordering the book away, he 
said he envied me.  Ah, well he might!

The purchase and the first half-hour at home, that was the summit.  
Thenceforth the interest declined by little and little.  The fable, 
as set forth in the play-book, proved to be not worthy of the 
scenes and characters: what fable would not?  Such passages as: 
"Scene 6. The Hermitage.  Night set scene.  Place back of scene 1, 
No. 2, at back of stage and hermitage, Fig. 2, out of set piece, R. 
H. in a slanting direction" - such passages, I say, though very 
practical, are hardly to be called good reading.  Indeed, as 
literature, these dramas did not much appeal to me.  I forget the 
very outline of the plots.  Of THE BLIND BOY, beyond the fact that 
he was a most injured prince and once, I think, abducted, I know 
nothing.  And THE OLD OAK CHEST, what was it all about? that 
proscript (1st dress), that prodigious number of banditti, that old 
woman with the broom, and the magnificent kitchen in the third act 
(was it in the third?) - they are all fallen in a deliquium, swim 
faintly in my brain, and mix and vanish.

I cannot deny that joy attended the illumination; nor can I quite 
forget that child who, wilfully foregoing pleasure, stoops to 
"twopence coloured."  With crimson lake (hark to the sound of it - 
crimson lake! - the horns of elf-land are not richer on the ear) - 
with crimson lake and Prussian blue a certain purple is to be 
compounded which, for cloaks especially, Titian could not equal.

The latter colour with gamboge, a hated name although an exquisite 
pigment, supplied a green of such a savoury greenness that to-day 
my heart regrets it.  Nor can I recall without a tender weakness 
the very aspect of the water where I dipped my brush.  Yes, there 
was pleasure in the painting.  But when all was painted, it is 
needless to deny it, all was spoiled.  You might, indeed, set up a 
scene or two to look at; but to cut the figures out was simply 
sacrilege; nor could any child twice court the tedium, the worry, 
and the long-drawn disenchantment of an actual performance.  Two 
days after the purchase the honey had been sucked.  Parents used to 
complain; they thought I wearied of my play.  It was not so: no 
more than a person can be said to have wearied of his dinner when 
he leaves the bones and dishes; I had got the marrow of it and said 

Then was the time to turn to the back of the play-book and to study 
that enticing double file of names, where poetry, for the true 
child of Skelt, reigned happy and glorious like her Majesty the 
Queen.  Much as I have travelled in these realms of gold, I have 
yet seen, upon that map or abstract, names of El Dorados that still 
haunt the ear of memory, and are still but names.  THE FLOATING 
BEACON - why was that denied me? or THE WRECK ASHORE?  SIXTEEN-
STRING JACK whom I did not even guess to be a highwayman, troubled 
me awake and haunted my slumbers; and there is one sequence of 
three from that enchanted calender that I still at times recall, 
like a loved verse of poetry: LODOISKA, SILVER PALACE, ECHO OF 
WESTMINSTER BRIDGE.  Names, bare names, are surely more to children 
than we poor, grown-up, obliterated fools remember.

The name of Skelt itself has always seemed a part and parcel of the 
charm of his productions.  It may be different with the rose, but 
the attraction of this paper drama sensibly declined when Webb had 
crept into the rubric: a poor cuckoo, flaunting in Skelt's nest.  
And now we have reached Pollock, sounding deeper gulfs.  Indeed, 
this name of Skelt appears so stagey and piratic, that I will adopt 
it boldly to design these qualities.  Skeltery, then, is a quality 
of much art.  It is even to be found, with reverence be it said, 
among the works of nature.  The stagey is its generic name; but it 
is an old, insular, home-bred staginess; not French, domestically 
British; not of to-day, but smacking of O. Smith, Fitzball, and the 
great age of melodrama: a peculiar fragrance haunting it; uttering 
its unimportant message in a tone of voice that has the charm of 
fresh antiquity.  I will not insist upon the art of Skelt's 
purveyors.  These wonderful characters that once so thrilled our 
soul with their bold attitude, array of deadly engines and 
incomparable costume, to-day look somewhat pallidly; the extreme 
hard favour of the heroine strikes me, I had almost said with pain; 
the villain's scowl no longer thrills me like a trumpet; and the 
scenes themselves, those once unparalleled landscapes, seem the 
efforts of a prentice hand.  So much of fault we find; but on the 
other side the impartial critic rejoices to remark the presence of 
a great unity of gusto; of those direct clap-trap appeals, which a 
man is dead and buriable when he fails to answer; of the footlight 
glamour, the ready-made, bare-faced, transpontine picturesque, a 
thing not one with cold reality, but how much dearer to the mind!

The scenery of Skeltdom - or, shall we say, the kingdom of 
Transpontus? - had a prevailing character.  Whether it set forth 
Poland as in THE BLIND BOY, or Bohemia with THE MILLER AND HIS MEN, 
or Italy with THE OLD OAK CHEST, still it was Transpontus.  A 
botanist could tell it by the plants.  The hollyhock was all 
pervasive, running wild in deserts; the dock was common, and the 
bending reed; and overshadowing these were poplar, palm, potato 
tree, and QUERCUS SKELTICA - brave growths.  The caves were all 
embowelled in the Surreyside formation; the soil was all betrodden 
by the light pump of T. P. Cooke.  Skelt, to be sure, had yet 
another, an oriental string: he held the gorgeous east in fee; and 
in the new quarter of Hyeres, say, in the garden of the Hotel des 
Iles d'Or, you may behold these blessed visions realised.  But on 
these I will not dwell; they were an outwork; it was in the 
accidental scenery that Skelt was all himself.  It had a strong 
flavour of England; it was a sort of indigestion of England and 
drop-scenes, and I am bound to say was charming.  How the roads 
wander, how the castle sits upon the hill, how the sun eradiates 
from behind the cloud, and how the congregated clouds themselves 
up-roll, as stiff as bolsters!  Here is the cottage interior, the 
usual first flat, with the cloak upon the nail, the rosaries of 
onions, the gun and powder-horn and corner-cupboard; here is the 
inn (this drama must be nautical, I foresee Captain Luff and Bold 
Bob Bowsprit) with the red curtain, pipes, spittoons, and eight-day 
clock; and there again is that impressive dungeon with the chains, 
which was so dull to colour.  England, the hedgerow elms, the thin 
brick houses, windmills, glimpses of the navigable Thames - 
England, when at last I came to visit it, was only Skelt made 
evident: to cross the border was, for the Scotsman, to come home to 
Skelt; there was the inn-sign and there the horse-trough, all 
foreshadowed in the faithful Skelt.  If, at the ripe age of 
fourteen years, I bought a certain cudgel, got a friend to load it, 
and thenceforward walked the tame ways of the earth my own ideal, 
radiating pure romance - still I was but a puppet in the hand of 
Skelt; the original of that regretted bludgeon, and surely the 
antitype of all the bludgeon kind, greatly improved from 
Cruikshank, had adorned the hand of Jonathan Wild, pl. I.  "This is 
mastering me," as Whitman cries, upon some lesser provocation.  
What am I? what are life, art, letters, the world, but what my 
Skelt has made them?  He stamped himself upon my immaturity.  The 
world was plain before I knew him, a poor penny world; but soon it 
was all coloured with romance.  If I go to the theatre to see a 
good old melodrama, 'tis but Skelt a little faded.  If I visit a 
bold scene in nature, Skelt would have been bolder; there had been 
certainly a castle on that mountain, and the hollow tree - that set 
piece - I seem to miss it in the foreground.  Indeed, out of this 
cut-and-dry, dull, swaggering, obtrusive, and infantile art, I seem 
to have learned the very spirit of my life's enjoyment; met there 
the shadows of the characters I was to read about and love in a 
late future; got the romance of DER FREISCHUTZ long ere I was to 
hear of Weber or the mighty Formes; acquired a gallery of scenes 
and characters with which, in the silent theatre of the brain, I 
might enact all novels and romances; and took from these rude cuts 
an enduring and transforming pleasure.  Reader - and yourself?

A word of moral: it appears that B. Pollock, late J. Redington, No. 
73 Hoxton Street, not only publishes twenty-three of these old 
stage favourites, but owns the necessary plates and displays a 
modest readiness to issue other thirty-three.  If you love art, 
folly, or the bright eyes of children, speed to Pollock's, or to 
Clarke's of Garrick Street.  In Pollock's list of publicanda I 
perceive a pair of my ancient aspirations: WRECK ASHORE and 
SIXTEEN-STRING JACK; and I cherish the belief that when these shall 
see once more the light of day, B. Pollock will remember this 
apologist.  But, indeed, I have a dream at times that is not all a 
dream.  I seem to myself to wander in a ghostly street - E. W., I 
think, the postal district - close below the fool's-cap of St. 
Paul's, and yet within easy hearing of the echo of the Abbey 
bridge.  There in a dim shop, low in the roof and smelling strong 
of glue and footlights, I find myself in quaking treaty with great 
Skelt himself, the aboriginal all dusty from the tomb.  I buy, with 
what a choking heart - I buy them all, all but the pantomimes; I 
pay my mental money, and go forth; and lo! the packets are dust.


THE books that we re-read the oftenest are not always those that we 
admire the most; we choose and we re-visit them for many and 
various reasons, as we choose and revisit human friends.  One or 
two of Scott's novels, Shakespeare, Moliere, Montaigne, THE EGOIST, 
and the VICOMTE DE BRAGELONNE, form the inner circle of my 
intimates.  Behind these comes a good troop of dear acquaintances; 
far behind.  There are besides a certain number that look at me 
with reproach as I pass them by on my shelves: books that I once 
thumbed and studied: houses which were once like home to me, but 
where I now rarely visit.  I am on these sad terms (and blush to 
confess it) with Wordsworth, Horace, Burns and Hazlitt.  Last of 
all, there is the class of book that has its hour of brilliancy - 
glows, sings, charms, and then fades again into insignificance 
until the fit return.  Chief of those who thus smile and frown on 
me by turns, I must name Virgil and Herrick, who, were they but

"Their sometime selves the same throughout the year,"

must have stood in the first company with the six names of my 
continual literary intimates.  To these six, incongruous as they 
seem, I have long been faithful, and hope to be faithful to the day 
of death.  I have never read the whole of Montaigne, but I do not 
like to be long without reading some of him, and my delight in what 
I do read never lessens.  Of Shakespeare I have read all but 
WELL; and these, having already made all suitable endeavour, I now 
know that I shall never read - to make up for which unfaithfulness 
I could read much of the rest for ever.  Of Moliere - surely the 
next greatest name of Christendom - I could tell a very similar 
story; but in a little corner of a little essay these princes are 
too much out of place, and I prefer to pay my fealty and pass on.  
have no means of guessing, having begun young.  But it is either 
four or five times that I have read THE EGOIST, and either five or 
six that I have read the VICOMTE DE BRAGELONNE.

Some, who would accept the others, may wonder that I should have 
spent so much of this brief life of ours over a work so little 
famous as the last.  And, indeed, I am surprised myself; not at my 
own devotion, but the coldness of the world.  My acquaintance with 
the VICOMTE began, somewhat indirectly, in the year of grace 1863, 
when I had the advantage of studying certain illustrated dessert 
plates in a hotel at Nice.  The name of d'Artagnan in the legends I 
already saluted like an old friend, for I had met it the year 
before in a work of Miss Yonge's.  My first perusal was in one of 
those pirated editions that swarmed at that time out of Brussels, 
and ran to such a troop of neat and dwarfish volumes.  I understood 
but little of the merits of the book; my strongest memory is of the 
execution of d'Eymeric and Lyodot - a strange testimony to the 
dulness of a boy, who could enjoy the rough-and-tumble in the Place 
de Greve, and forget d'Artagnan's visits to the two financiers.  My 
next reading was in winter-time, when I lived alone upon the 
Pentlands.  I would return in the early night from one of my 
patrols with the shepherd; a friendly face would meet me in the 
door, a friendly retriever scurry upstairs to fetch my slippers; 
and I would sit down with the VICOMTE for a long, silent, solitary 
lamp-light evening by the fire.  And yet I know not why I call it 
silent, when it was enlivened with such a clatter of horse-shoes, 
and such a rattle of musketry, and such a stir of talk; or why I 
call those evenings solitary in which I gained so many friends.  I 
would rise from my book and pull the blind aside, and see the snow 
and the glittering hollies chequer a Scotch garden, and the winter 
moonlight brighten the white hills.  Thence I would turn again to 
that crowded and sunny field of life in which it was so easy to 
forget myself, my cares, and my surroundings: a place busy as a 
city, bright as a theatre, thronged with memorable faces, and 
sounding with delightful speech.  I carried the thread of that epic 
into my slumbers, I woke with it unbroken, I rejoiced to plunge 
into the book again at breakfast, it was with a pang that I must 
lay it down and turn to my own labours; for no part of the world 
has ever seemed to me so charming as these pages, and not even my 
friends are quite so real, perhaps quite so dear, as d'Artagnan.

Since then I have been going to and fro at very brief intervals in 
my favourite book; and I have now just risen from my last (let me 
call it my fifth) perusal, having liked it better and admired it 
more seriously than ever.  Perhaps I have a sense of ownership, 
being so well known in these six volumes.  Perhaps I think that 
d'Artagnan delights to have me read of him, and Louis Quatorze is 
gratified, and Fouquet throws me a look, and Aramis, although he 
knows I do not love him, yet plays to me with his best graces, as 
to an old patron of the show.  Perhaps, if I am not careful, 
something may befall me like what befell George IV. about the 
battle of Waterloo, and I may come to fancy the VICOMTE one of the 
first, and Heaven knows the best, of my own works.  At least, I 
avow myself a partisan; and when I compare the popularity of the 
VICOMTE with that of MONTRO CRISTO, or its own elder brother, the 
TROIS MOUSQUETAIRES, I confess I am both pained and puzzled.

To those who have already made acquaintance with the titular hero 
in the pages of VINGT ANS APRES, perhaps the name may act as a 
deterrent.  A man might, well stand back if he supposed he were to 
follow, for six volumes, so well-conducted, so fine-spoken, and 
withal so dreary a cavalier as Bragelonne.  But the fear is idle.  
I may be said to have passed the best years of my life in these six 
volumes, and my acquaintance with Raoul has never gone beyond a 
bow; and when he, who has so long pretended to be alive, is at last 
suffered to pretend to be dead, I am sometimes reminded of a saying 
in an earlier volume: "ENFIN, DIT MISS STEWART," - and it was of 
Bragelonne she spoke - "ENFIN IL A FAIL QUELQUECHOSE: C'EST, MA 
FOI! BIEN HEUREUX."  I am reminded of it, as I say; and the next 
moment, when Athos dies of his death, and my dear d'Artagnan bursts 
into his storm of sobbing, I can but deplore my flippancy.

Or perhaps it is La Valliere that the reader of VINGT ANS APRES is 
inclined to flee.  Well, he is right there too, though not so 
right.  Louise is no success.  Her creator has spared no pains; she 
is well-meant, not ill-designed, sometimes has a word that rings 
out true; sometimes, if only for a breath, she may even engage our 
sympathies.  But I have never envied the King his triumph.  And so 
far from pitying Bragelonne for his defeat, I could wish him no 
worse (not for lack of malice, but imagination) than to be wedded 
to that lady.  Madame enchants me; I can forgive that royal minx 
her most serious offences; I can thrill and soften with the King on 
that memorable occasion when he goes to upbraid and remains to 
flirt; and when it comes to the "ALLONS, AIMEZ-MOI DONC," it is my 
heart that melts in the bosom of de Guiche.  Not so with Louise.  
Readers cannot fail to have remarked that what an author tells us 
of the beauty or the charm of his creatures goes for nought; that 
we know instantly better; that the heroine cannot open her mouth 
but what, all in a moment, the fine phrases of preparation fall 
from round her like the robes from Cinderella, and she stands 
before us, self-betrayed, as a poor, ugly, sickly wench, or perhaps 
a strapping market-woman.  Authors, at least, know it well; a 
heroine will too often start the trick of "getting ugly;" and no 
disease is more difficult to cure.  I said authors; but indeed I 
had a side eye to one author in particular, with whose works I am 
very well acquainted, though I cannot read them, and who has spent 
many vigils in this cause, sitting beside his ailing puppets and 
(like a magician) wearying his art to restore them to youth and 
beauty.  There are others who ride too high for these misfortunes.  
Who doubts the loveliness of Rosalind?  Arden itself was not more 
lovely.  Who ever questioned the perennial charm of Rose Jocelyn, 
Lucy Desborough, or Clara Middleton? fair women with fair names, 
the daughters of George Meredith.  Elizabeth Bennet has but to 
speak, and I am at her knees.  Ah! these are the creators of 
desirable women.  They would never have fallen in the mud with 
Dumas and poor La Valliere.  It is my only consolation that not one 
of all of them, except the first, could have plucked at the 
moustache of d'Artagnan.

Or perhaps, again, a proportion of readers stumble at the 
threshold.  In so vast a mansion there were sure to be back stairs 
and kitchen offices where no one would delight to linger; but it 
was at least unhappy that the vestibule should be so badly lighted; 
and until, in the seventeenth chapter, d'Artagnan sets off to seek 
his friends, I must confess, the book goes heavily enough.  But, 
from thenceforward, what a feast is spread!  Monk kidnapped; 
d'Artagnan enriched; Mazarin's death; the ever delectable adventure 
of Belle Isle, wherein Aramis outwits d'Artagnan, with its epilogue 
(vol. v. chap. xxviii.), where d'Artagnan regains the moral 
superiority; the love adventures at Fontainebleau, with St. 
Aignan's story of the dryad and the business of de Guiche, de 
Wardes, and Manicamp; Aramis made general of the Jesuits; Aramis at 
the bastille; the night talk in the forest of Senart; Belle Isle 
again, with the death of Porthos; and last, but not least, the 
taming of d'Artagnan the untamable, under the lash of the young 
King.  What other novel has such epic variety and nobility of 
incident? often, if you will, impossible; often of the order of an 
Arabian story; and yet all based in human nature.  For if you come 
to that, what novel has more human nature? not studied with the 
microscope, but seen largely, in plain daylight, with the natural 
eye?  What novel has more good sense, and gaiety, and wit, and 
unflagging, admirable literary skill?  Good souls, I suppose, must 
sometimes read it in the blackguard travesty of a translation.  But 
there is no style so untranslatable; light as a whipped trifle, 
strong as silk; wordy like a village tale; pat like a general's 
despatch; with every fault, yet never tedious; with no merit, yet 
inimitably right.  And, once more, to make an end of commendations, 
what novel is inspired with a more unstained or a more wholesome 

Yes; in spite of Miss Yonge, who introduced me to the name of 
d'Artagnan only to dissuade me from a nearer knowledge of the man, 
I have to add morality.  There is no quite good book without a good 
morality; but the world is wide, and so are morals.  Out of two 
people who have dipped into Sir Richard Burton's THOUSAND AND ONE 
NIGHTS, one shall have been offended by the animal details; another 
to whom these were harmless, perhaps even pleasing, shall yet have 
been shocked in his turn by the rascality and cruelty of all the 
characters.  Of two readers, again, one shall have been pained by 
the morality of a religious memoir, one by that of the VICOMTE DE 
BRAGELONNE.  And the point is that neither need be wrong.  We shall 
always shock each other both in life and art; we cannot get the sun 
into our pictures, nor the abstract right (if there be such a 
thing) into our books; enough if, in the one, there glimmer some 
hint of the great light that blinds us from heaven; enough if, in 
the other, there shine, even upon foul details, a spirit of 
magnanimity.  I would scarce send to the VICOMTE a reader who was 
in quest of what we may call puritan morality.  The ventripotent 
mulatto, the great cater, worker, earner and waster, the man of 
much and witty laughter, the man of the great heart and alas! of 
the doubtful honesty, is a figure not yet clearly set before the 
world; he still awaits a sober and yet genial portrait; but with 
whatever art that may be touched, and whatever indulgence, it will 
not be the portrait of a precision.  Dumas was certainly not 
thinking of himself, but of Planchet, when he put into the mouth of 
d'Artagnan's old servant this excellent profession: "MONSIEUR, 
thinking, as I say, of Planchet, to whom the words are aptly 
fitted; but they were fitted also to Planchet's creator; and 
perhaps this struck him as he wrote, for observe what follows: 
all things good, you will scarce expect much zeal for negative 
virtues: the active alone will have a charm for him; abstinence, 
however wise, however kind, will always seem to such a judge 
entirely mean and partly impious.  So with Dumas.  Chastity is not 
near his heart; nor yet, to his own sore cost, that virtue of 
frugality which is the armour of the artist.  Now, in the VICOMTE, 
he had much to do with the contest of Fouquet and Colbert.  
Historic justice should be all upon the side of Colbert, of 
official honesty, and fiscal competence.

And Dumas knew it well: three times at least he shows his 
knowledge; once it is but flashed upon us and received with the 
laughter of Fouquet himself, in the jesting controversy in the 
gardens of Saint Mande; once it is touched on by Aramis in the 
forest of Senart; in the end, it is set before us clearly in one 
dignified speech of the triumphant Colbert.  But in Fouquet, the 
waster, the lover of good cheer and wit and art, the swift 
transactor of much business, "L'HOMME DE BRUIT, L'HOMME DE PLAISIR, 
something of himself and drew the figure the more tenderly.  It is 
to me even touching to see how he insists on Fouquet's honour; not 
seeing, you might think, that unflawed honour is impossible to 
spendthrifts; but rather, perhaps, in the light of his own life, 
seeing it too well, and clinging the more to what was left.  Honour 
can survive a wound; it can live and thrive without a member.  The 
man rebounds from his disgrace; he begins fresh foundations on the 
ruins of the old; and when his sword is broken, he will do 
valiantly with his dagger.  So it is with Fouquet in the book; so 
it was with Dumas on the battlefield of life.

To cling to what is left of any damaged quality is virtue in the 
man; but perhaps to sing its praises is scarcely to be called 
morality in the writer.  And it is elsewhere, it is in the 
character of d'Artagnan, that we must look for that spirit of 
morality, which is one of the chief merits of the book, makes one 
of the main joys of its perusal, and sets it high above more 
popular rivals.  Athos, with the coming of years, has declined too 
much into the preacher, and the preacher of a sapless creed; but 
d'Artagnan has mellowed into a man so witty, rough, kind and 
upright, that he takes the heart by storm.  There is nothing of the 
copy-book about his virtues, nothing of the drawing-room in his 
fine, natural civility; he will sail near the wind; he is no 
district visitor - no Wesley or Robespierre; his conscience is void 
of all refinement whether for good or evil; but the whole man rings 
true like a good sovereign.  Readers who have approached the 
VICOMTE, not across country, but by the legitimate, five-volumed 
avenue of the MOUSQUETAIRES and VINGT ANS APRES, will not have 
forgotten d'Artagnan's ungentlemanly and perfectly improbable trick 
upon Milady.  What a pleasure it is, then, what a reward, and how 
agreeable a lesson, to see the old captain humble himself to the 
son of the man whom he had personated!  Here, and throughout, if I 
am to choose virtues for myself or my friends, let me choose the 
virtues of d'Artagnan.  I do not say there is no character as well 
drawn in Shakespeare; I do say there is none that I love so wholly.  
There are many spiritual eyes that seem to spy upon our actions - 
eyes of the dead and the absent, whom we imagine to behold us in 
our most private hours, and whom we fear and scruple to offend: our 
witnesses and judges.  And among these, even if you should think me 
childish, I must count my d'Artagnan - not d'Artagnan of the 
memoirs whom Thackeray pretended to prefer - a preference, I take 
the freedom of saying, in which he stands alone; not the d'Artagnan 
of flesh and blood, but him of the ink and paper; not Nature's, but 
Dumas's.  And this is the particular crown and triumph of the 
artist - not to be true merely, but to be lovable; not simply to 
convince, but to enchant.

There is yet another point in the VICOMTE which I find 
incomparable.  I can recall no other work of the imagination in 
which the end of life is represented with so nice a tact.  I was 
asked the other day if Dumas made me laugh or cry.  Well in this my 
late fifth reading of the VICOMTE, I did laugh once at the small 
Coquelin de Voliere business, and was perhaps a thought surprised 
at having done so: to make up for it, I smiled continually.  But 
for tears, I do not know.  If you put a pistol to my throat, I must 
own the tale trips upon a very airy foot - within a measurable 
distance of unreality; and for those who like the big guns to be 
discharged and the great passions to appear authentically, it may 
even seem inadequate from first to last.  Not so to me; I cannot 
count that a poor dinner, or a poor book, where I meet with those I 
love; and, above all, in this last volume, I find a singular charm 
of spirit.  It breathes a pleasant and a tonic sadness, always 
brave, never hysterical.  Upon the crowded, noisy life of this long 
tale, evening gradually falls; and the lights are extinguished, and 
the heroes pass away one by one.  One by one they go, and not a 
regret embitters their departure; the young succeed them in their 
places, Louis Quatorze is swelling larger and shining broader, 
another generation and another France dawn on the horizon; but for 
us and these old men whom we have loved so long, the inevitable end 
draws near and is welcome.  To read this well is to anticipate 
experience.  Ah, if only when these hours of the long shadows fall 
for us in reality and not in figure, we may hope to face them with 
a mind as quiet!

But my paper is running out; the siege guns are firing on the Dutch 
frontier; and I must say adieu for the fifth time to my old comrade 
fallen on the field of glory.  ADIEU - rather AU REVOIR!  Yet a 
sixth time, dearest d'Artagnan, we shall kidnap Monk and take horse 
together for Belle Isle.


IN anything fit to be called by the name of reading, the process 
itself should be absorbing and voluptuous; we should gloat over a 
book, be rapt clean out of ourselves, and rise from the perusal, 
our mind filled with the busiest, kaleidoscopic dance of images, 
incapable of sleep or of continuous thought.  The words, if the 
book be eloquent, should run thenceforward in our ears like the 
noise of breakers, and the story, if it be a story, repeat itself 
in a thousand coloured pictures to the eye.  It was for this last 
pleasure that we read so closely, and loved our books so dearly, in 
the bright, troubled period of boyhood.  Eloquence and thought, 
character and conversation, were but obstacles to brush aside as we 
dug blithely after a certain sort of incident, like a pig for 
truffles.  For my part, I liked a story to begin with an old 
wayside inn where, "towards the close of the year 17-," several 
gentlemen in three-cocked hats were playing bowls.  A friend of 
mine preferred the Malabar coast in a storm, with a ship beating to 
windward, and a scowling fellow of Herculean proportions striding 
along the beach; he, to be sure, was a pirate.  This was further 
afield than my home-keeping fancy loved to travel, and designed 
altogether for a larger canvas than the tales that I affected.  
Give me a highwayman and I was full to the brim; a Jacobite would 
do, but the highwayman was my favourite dish.  I can still hear 
that merry clatter of the hoofs along the moonlit lane; night and 
the coming of day are still related in my mind with the doings of 
John Rann or Jerry Abershaw; and the words "post-chaise," the 
"great North road," "ostler," and "nag" still sound in my ears like 
poetry.  One and all, at least, and each with his particular fancy, 
we read story-books in childhood, not for eloquence or character or 
thought, but for some quality of the brute incident.  That quality 
was not mere bloodshed or wonder.  Although each of these was 
welcome in its place, the charm for the sake of which we read 
depended on something different from either.  My elders used to 
read novels aloud; and I can still remember four different passages 
which I heard, before I was ten, with the same keen and lasting 
pleasure.  One I discovered long afterwards to be the admirable 
opening of WHAT WILL HE DO WITH IT: it was no wonder I was pleased 
with that.  The other three still remain unidentified.  One is a 
little vague; it was about a dark, tall house at night, and people 
groping on the stairs by the light that escaped from the open door 
of a sickroom.  In another, a lover left a ball, and went walking 
in a cool, dewy park, whence he could watch the lighted windows and 
the figures of the dancers as they moved.  This was the most 
sentimental impression I think I had yet received, for a child is 
somewhat deaf to the sentimental.  In the last, a poet, who had 
been tragically wrangling with his wife, walked forth on the sea-
beach on a tempestuous night and witnessed the horrors of a wreck. 
(8)  Different as they are, all these early favourites have a 
common note - they have all a touch of the romantic.

Drama is the poetry of conduct, romance the poetry of circumstance.  
The pleasure that we take in life is of two sorts - the active and 
the passive.  Now we are conscious of a great command over our 
destiny; anon we are lifted up by circumstance, as by a breaking 
wave, and dashed we know not how into the future.  Now we are 
pleased by our conduct, anon merely pleased by our surroundings.  
It would be hard to say which of these modes of satisfaction is the 
more effective, but the latter is surely the more constant.  
Conduct is three parts of life, they say; but I think they put it 
high.  There is a vast deal in life and letters both which is not 
immoral, but simply a-moral; which either does not regard the human 
will at all, or deals with it in obvious and healthy relations; 
where the interest turns, not upon what a man shall choose to do, 
but on how he manages to do it; not on the passionate slips and 
hesitations of the conscience, but on the problems of the body and 
of the practical intelligence, in clean, open-air adventure, the 
shock of arms or the diplomacy of life.  With such material as this 
it is impossible to build a play, for the serious theatre exists 
solely on moral grounds, and is a standing proof of the 
dissemination of the human conscience.  But it is possible to 
build, upon this ground, the most joyous of verses, and the most 
lively, beautiful, and buoyant tales.

One thing in life calls for another; there is a fitness in events 
and places.  The sight of a pleasant arbour puts it in our mind to 
sit there.  One place suggests work, another idleness, a third 
early rising and long rambles in the dew.  The effect of night, of 
any flowing water, of lighted cities, of the peep of day, of ships, 
of the open ocean, calls up in the mind an army of anonymous 
desires and pleasures.  Something, we feel, should happen; we know 
not what, yet we proceed in quest of it.  And many of the happiest 
hours of life fleet by us in this vain attendance on the genius of 
the place and moment.  It is thus that tracts of young fir, and low 
rocks that reach into deep soundings, particularly torture and 
delight me.  Something must have happened in such places, and 
perhaps ages back, to members of my race; and when I was a child I 
tried in vain to invent appropriate games for them, as I still try, 
just as vainly, to fit them with the proper story.  Some places 
speak distinctly.  Certain dank gardens cry aloud for a murder; 
certain old houses demand to be haunted; certain coasts are set 
apart for shipwreck.  Other spots again seem to abide their 
destiny, suggestive and impenetrable, "miching mallecho."  The inn 
at Burford Bridge, with its arbours and green garden and silent, 
eddying river - though it is known already as the place where Keats 
wrote some of his ENDYMION and Nelson parted from his Emma - still 
seems to wait the coming of the appropriate legend.  Within these 
ivied walls, behind these old green shutters, some further business 
smoulders, waiting for its hour.  The old Hawes Inn at the Queen's 
Ferry makes a similar call upon my fancy.  There it stands, apart 
from the town, beside the pier, in a climate of its own, half 
inland, half marine - in front

the ferry bubbling with the tide and the guardship swinging to her 
anchor; behind, the old garden with the trees.  Americans seek it 
already for the sake of Lovel and Oldbuck, who dined there at the 
beginning of the ANTIQUARY.  But you need not tell me - that is not 
all; there is some story, unrecorded or not yet complete, which 
must express the meaning of that inn more fully.  So it is with 
names and faces; so it is with incidents that are idle and 
inconclusive in themselves, and yet seem like the beginning of some 
quaint romance, which the all-careless author leaves untold.  How 
many of these romances have we not seen determine at their birth; 
how many people have met us with a look of meaning in their eye, 
and sunk at once into trivial acquaintances; to how many places 
have we not drawn near, with express intimations - "here my destiny 
awaits me" - and we have but dined there and passed on!  I have 
lived both at the Hawes and Burford in a perpetual flutter, on the 
heels, as it seemed, of some adventure that should justify the 
place; but though the feeling had me to bed at night and called me 
again at morning in one unbroken round of pleasure and suspense, 
nothing befell me in either worth remark.  The man or the hour had 
not yet come; but some day, I think, a boat shall put off from the 
Queen's Ferry, fraught with a dear cargo, and some frosty night a 
horseman, on a tragic errand, rattle with his whip upon the green 
shutters of the inn at Burford. (9)

Now, this is one of the natural appetites with which any lively 
literature has to count.  The desire for knowledge, I had almost 
added the desire for meat, is not more deeply seated than this 
demand for fit and striking incident.  The dullest of clowns tells, 
or tries to tell, himself a story, as the feeblest of children uses 
invention in his play; and even as the imaginative grown person, 
joining in the game, at once enriches it with many delightful 
circumstances, the great creative writer shows us the realisation 
and the apotheosis of the day-dreams of common men.  His stories 
may be nourished with the realities of life, but their true mark is 
to satisfy the nameless longings of the reader, and to obey the 
ideal laws of the day-dream.  The right kind of thing should fall 
out in the right kind of place; the right kind of thing should 
follow; and not only the characters talk aptly and think naturally, 
but all the circumstances in a tale answer one to another like 
notes in music.  The threads of a story come from time to time 
together and make a picture in the web; the characters fall from 
time to time into some attitude to each other or to nature, which 
stamps the story home like an illustration.  Crusoe recoiling from 
the footprint, Achilles shouting over against the Trojans, Ulysses 
bending the great bow, Christian running with his fingers in his 
ears, these are each culminating moments in the legend, and each 
has been printed on the mind's eye for ever.  Other things we may 
forget; we may forget the words, although they are beautiful; we 
may forget the author's comment, although perhaps it was ingenious 
and true; but these epoch-making scenes, which put the last mark of 
truth upon a story and fill up, at one blow, our capacity for 
sympathetic pleasure, we so adopt into the very bosom of our mind 
that neither time nor tide can efface or weaken the impression.  
This, then, is the plastic part of literature: to embody character, 
thought, or emotion in some act or attitude that shall be 
remarkably striking to the mind's eye.  This is the highest and 
hardest thing to do in words; the thing which, once accomplished, 
equally delights the schoolboy and the sage, and makes, in its own 
right, the quality of epics.  Compared with this, all other 
purposes in literature, except the purely lyrical or the purely 
philosophic, are bastard in nature, facile of execution, and feeble 
in result.  It is one thing to write about the inn at Burford, or 
to describe scenery with the word-painters; it is quite another to 
seize on the heart of the suggestion and make a country famous with 
a legend.  It is one thing to remark and to dissect, with the most 
cutting logic, the complications of life, and of the human spirit; 
it is quite another to give them body and blood in the story of 
Ajax or of Hamlet.  The first is literature, but the second is 
something besides, for it is likewise art.

English people of the present day (10) are apt, I know not why, to 
look somewhat down on incident, and reserve their admiration for 
the clink of teaspoons and the accents of the curate.  It is 
thought clever to write a novel with no story at all, or at least 
with a very dull one.  Reduced even to the lowest terms, a certain 
interest can be communicated by the art of narrative; a sense of 
human kinship stirred; and a kind of monotonous fitness, comparable 
to the words and air of SANDY'S MULL, preserved among the 
infinitesimal occurrences recorded.  Some people work, in this 
manner, with even a strong touch.  Mr. Trollope's inimitable 
clergymen naturally arise to the mind in this connection.  But even 
Mr. Trollope does not confine himself to chronicling small beer.  
Mr. Crawley's collision with the Bishop's wife, Mr. Melnotte 
dallying in the deserted banquet-room, are typical incidents, 
epically conceived, fitly embodying a crisis.  Or again look at 
Thackeray.  If Rawdon Crawley's blow were not delivered, VANITY 
FAIR would cease to be a work of art.  That scene is the chief 
ganglion of the tale; and the discharge of energy from Rawdon's 
fist is the reward and consolation of the reader.  The end of 
ESMOND is a yet wider excursion from the author's customary fields; 
the scene at Castlewood is pure Dumas; the great and wily English 
borrower has here borrowed from the great, unblushing French thief; 
as usual, he has borrowed admirably well, and the breaking of the 
sword rounds off the best of all his books with a manly, martial 
note.  But perhaps nothing can more strongly illustrate the 
necessity for marking incident than to compare the living fame of 
is a book of a far more startling import, worked out, on a great 
canvas, with inimitable courage and unflagging art.  It contains 
wit, character, passion, plot, conversations full of spirit and 
insight, letters sparkling with unstrained humanity; and if the 
death of the heroine be somewhat frigid and artificial, the last 
days of the hero strike the only note of what we now call Byronism, 
between the Elizabethans and Byron himself.  And yet a little story 
of a shipwrecked sailor, with not a tenth part of the style nor a 
thousandth part of the wisdom, exploring none of the arcana of 
humanity and deprived of the perennial interest of love, goes on 
from edition to edition, ever young, while CLARISSA lies upon the 
shelves unread.  A friend of mine, a Welsh blacksmith, was twenty-
five years old and could neither read nor write, when he heard a 
chapter of ROBINSON read aloud in a farm kitchen.  Up to that 
moment he had sat content, huddled in his ignorance, but he left 
that farm another man.  There were day-dreams, it appeared, divine 
day-dreams, written and printed and bound, and to be bought for 
money and enjoyed at pleasure.  Down he sat that day, painfully 
learned to read Welsh, and returned to borrow the book.  It had 
been lost, nor could he find another copy but one that was in 
English.  Down he sat once more, learned English, and at length, 
and with entire delight, read ROBINSON.  It is like the story of a 
love-chase.  If he had heard a letter from CLARISSA, would he have 
been fired with the same chivalrous ardour?  I wonder.  Yet 
CLARISSA has every quality that can be shown in prose, one alone 
excepted - pictorial or picture-making romance.  While ROBINSON 
depends, for the most part and with the overwhelming majority of 
its readers, on the charm of circumstance.

In the highest achievements of the art of words, the dramatic and 
the pictorial, the moral and romantic interest, rise and fall 
together by a common and organic law.  Situation is animated with 
passion, passion clothed upon with situation.  Neither exists for 
itself, but each inheres indissolubly with the other.  This is high 
art; and not only the highest art possible in words, but the 
highest art of all, since it combines the greatest mass and 
diversity of the elements of truth and pleasure.  Such are epics, 
and the few prose tales that have the epic weight.  But as from a 
school of works, aping the creative, incident and romance are 
ruthlessly discarded, so may character and drama be omitted or 
subordinated to romance.  There is one book, for example, more 
generally loved than Shakespeare, that captivates in childhood, and 
still delights in age - I mean the ARABIAN NIGHTS - where you shall 
look in vain for moral or for intellectual interest.  No human face 
or voice greets us among that wooden crowd of kings and genies, 
sorcerers and beggarmen.  Adventure, on the most naked terms, 
furnishes forth the entertainment and is found enough.  Dumas 
approaches perhaps nearest of any modern to these Arabian authors 
in the purely material charm of some of his romances.  The early 
part of MONTE CRISTO, down to the finding of the treasure, is a 
piece of perfect story-telling; the man never breathed who shared 
these moving incidents without a tremor; and yet Faria is a thing 
of packthread and Dantes little more than a name.  The sequel is 
one long-drawn error, gloomy, bloody, unnatural and dull; but as 
for these early chapters, I do not believe there is another volume 
extant where you can breathe the same unmingled atmosphere of 
romance.  It is very thin and light to be sure, as on a high 
mountain; but it is brisk and clear and sunny in proportion.  I saw 
the other day, with envy, an old and a very clever lady setting 
forth on a second or third voyage into MONTE CRISTO.  Here are 
stories which powerfully affect the reader, which can he reperused 
at any age, and where the characters are no more than puppets.  The 
bony fist of the showman visibly propels them; their springs are an 
open secret; their faces are of wood, their bellies filled with 
bran; and yet we thrillingly partake of their adventures.  And the 
point may be illustrated still further.  The last interview between 
Lucy and Richard Feveril is pure drama; more than that, it is the 
strongest scene, since Shakespeare, in the English tongue.  Their 
first meeting by the river, on the other hand, is pure romance; it 
has nothing to do with character; it might happen to any other boy 
or maiden, and be none the less delightful for the change.  And yet 
I think he would be a bold man who should choose between these 
passages.  Thus, in the same book, we may have two scenes, each 
capital in its order: in the one, human passion, deep calling unto 
deep, shall utter its genuine voice; in the second, according 
circumstances, like instruments in tune, shall build up a trivial 
but desirable incident, such as we love to prefigure for ourselves; 
and in the end, in spite of the critics, we may hesitate to give 
the preference to either.  The one may ask more genius - I do not 
say it does; but at least the other dwells as clearly in the 

True romantic art, again, makes a romance of all things.  It 
reaches into the highest abstraction of the ideal; it does not 
refuse the most pedestrian realism.  ROBINSON CRUSOE is as 
realistic as it is romantic; both qualities are pushed to an 
extreme, and neither suffers.  Nor does romance depend upon the 
material importance of the incidents.  To deal with strong and 
deadly elements, banditti, pirates, war and murder, is to conjure 
with great names, and, in the event of failure, to double the 
disgrace.  The arrival of Haydn and Consuelo at the Canon's villa 
is a very trifling incident; yet we may read a dozen boisterous 
stories from beginning to end, and not receive so fresh and 
stirring an impression of adventure.  It was the scene of Crusoe at 
the wreck, if I remember rightly, that so bewitched my blacksmith.  
Nor is the fact surprising.  Every single article the castaway 
recovers from the hulk is "a joy for ever" to the man who reads of 
them.  They are the things that should be found, and the bare 
enumeration stirs the blood.  I found a glimmer of the same 
interest the other day in a new book, THE SAILOR'S SWEETHEART, by 
Mr. Clark Russell.  The whole business of the brig MORNING STAR is 
very rightly felt and spiritedly written; but the clothes, the 
books and the money satisfy the reader's mind like things to eat.  
We are dealing here with the old cut-and-dry, legitimate interest 
of treasure trove.  But even treasure trove can be made dull.  
There are few people who have not groaned under the plethora of 
goods that fell to the lot of the SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, that 
dreary family.  They found article after article, creature after 
creature, from milk kine to pieces of ordnance, a whole 
consignment; but no informing taste had presided over the 
selection, there was no smack or relish in the invoice; and these 
riches left the fancy cold.  The box of goods in Verne's MYSTERIOUS 
ISLAND is another case in point: there was no gusto and no glamour 
about that; it might have come from a shop.  But the two hundred 
and seventy-eight Australian sovereigns on board the MORNING STAR 
fell upon me like a surprise that I had expected; whole vistas of 
secondary stories, besides the one in hand, radiated forth from 
that discovery, as they radiate from a striking particular in life; 
and I was made for the moment as happy as a reader has the right to 

To come at all at the nature of this quality of romance, we must 
bear in mind the peculiarity of our attitude to any art.  No art 
produces illusion; in the theatre we never forget that we are in 
the theatre; and while we read a story, we sit wavering between two 
minds, now merely clapping our hands at the merit of the 
performance, now condescending to take an active part in fancy with 
the characters.  This last is the triumph of romantic story-
telling: when the reader consciously plays at being the hero, the 
scene is a good scene.  Now in character-studies the pleasure that 
we take is critical; we watch, we approve, we smile at 
incongruities, we are moved to sudden heats of sympathy with 
courage, suffering or virtue.  But the characters are still 
themselves, they are not us; the more clearly they are depicted, 
the more widely do they stand away from us, the more imperiously do 
they thrust us back into our place as a spectator.  I cannot 
identify myself with Rawdon Crawley or with Eugene de Rastignac, 
for I have scarce a hope or fear in common with them.  It is not 
character but incident that woos us out of our reserve.  Something 
happens as we desire to have it happen to ourselves; some 
situation, that we have long dallied with in fancy, is realised in 
the story with enticing and appropriate details.  Then we forget 
the characters; then we push the hero aside; then we plunge into 
the tale in our own person and bathe in fresh experience; and then, 
and then only, do we say we have been reading a romance.  It is not 
only pleasurable things that we imagine in our day-dreams; there 
are lights in which we are willing to contemplate even the idea of 
our own death; ways in which it seems as if it would amuse us to be 
cheated, wounded or calumniated.  It is thus possible to construct 
a story, even of tragic import, in which every incident, detail and 
trick of circumstance shall be welcome to the reader's thoughts.  
Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child; it is there 
that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his life; and when the 
game so chimes with his fancy that he can join in it with all his 
heart, when it pleases him with every turn, when he loves to recall 
it and dwells upon its recollection with entire delight, fiction is 
called romance.

Walter Scott is out and away the king of the romantics.  THE LADY 
OF THE LAKE has no indisputable claim to be a poem beyond the 
inherent fitness and desirability of the tale.  It is just such a 
story as a man would make up for himself, walking, in the best 
health and temper, through just such scenes as it is laid in.  
Hence it is that a charm dwells undefinable among these slovenly 
verses, as the unseen cuckoo fills the mountains with his note; 
hence, even after we have flung the book aside, the scenery and 
adventures remain present to the mind, a new and green possession, 
not unworthy of that beautiful name, THE LADY OF THE LAKE, or that 
direct, romantic opening - one of the most spirited and poetical in 
literature - "The stag at eve had drunk his fill."  The same 
strength and the same weaknesses adorn and disfigure the novels.  
In that ill-written, ragged book, THE PIRATE, the figure of 
Cleveland - cast up by the sea on the resounding foreland of 
Dunrossness - moving, with the blood on his hands and the Spanish 
words on his tongue, among the simple islanders - singing a 
serenade under the window of his Shetland mistress - is conceived 
in the very highest manner of romantic invention.  The words of his 
song, "Through groves of palm," sung in such a scene and by such a 
lover, clench, as in a nutshell, the emphatic contrast upon which 
the tale is built.  IN GUY MANNERING, again, every incident is 
delightful to the imagination; and the scene when Harry Bertram 
lands at Ellangowan is a model instance of romantic method.

"I remember the tune well," he says, "though I cannot guess what 
should at present so strongly recall it to my memory."  He took his 
flageolet from his pocket and played a simple melody.  Apparently 
the tune awoke the corresponding associations of a damsel.  She 
immediately took up the song -

" 'Are these the links of Forth, she said;
Or are they the crooks of Dee,
Or the bonny woods of Warroch Head
That I so fain would see?'

" 'By heaven!' said Bertram, 'it is the very ballad.'"

On this quotation two remarks fall to be made.  First, as an 
instance of modern feeling for romance, this famous touch of the 
flageolet and the old song is selected by Miss Braddon for 
omission.  Miss Braddon's idea of a story, like Mrs. Todgers's idea 
of a wooden leg, were something strange to have expounded.  As a 
matter of personal experience, Meg's appearance to old Mr. Bertram 
on the road, the ruins of Derncleugh, the scene of the flageolet, 
and the Dominie's recognition of Harry, are the four strong notes 
that continue to ring in the mind after the book is laid aside.  
The second point is still more curious.  The, reader will observe a 
mark of excision in the passage as quoted by me.  Well, here is how 
it runs in the original: "a damsel, who, close behind a fine spring 
about half-way down the descent, and which had once supplied the 
castle with water, was engaged in bleaching linen."  A man who gave 
in such copy would be discharged from the staff of a daily paper.  
Scott has forgotten to prepare the reader for the presence of the 
"damsel"; he has forgotten to mention the spring and its relation 
to the ruin; and now, face to face with his omission, instead of 
trying back and starting fair, crams all this matter, tail 
foremost, into a single shambling sentence.  It is not merely bad 
English, or bad style; it is abominably bad narrative besides.

Certainly the contrast is remarkable; and it is one that throws a 
strong light upon the subject of this paper.  For here we have a 
man of the finest creative instinct touching with perfect certainty 
and charm the romantic junctures of his story; and we find him 
utterly careless, almost, it would seem, incapable, in the 
technical matter of style, and not only frequently weak, but 
frequently wrong in points of drama.  In character parts, indeed, 
and particularly in the Scotch, he was delicate, strong and 
truthful; but the trite, obliterated features of too many of his 
heroes have already wearied two generations of readers.  At times 
his characters will speak with something far beyond propriety with 
a true heroic note; but on the next page they will he wading 
wearily forward with an ungrammatical and undramatic rigmarole of 
words.  The man who could conceive and write the character of 
Elspeth of the Craigburnfoot, as Scott has conceived and written 
it, had not only splendid romantic, but splendid tragic gifts.  How 
comes it, then, that he could so often fob us off with languid, 
inarticulate twaddle?

It seems to me that the explanation is to be found in the very 
quality of his surprising merits.  As his books are play to the 
reader, so were they play to him.  He conjured up the romantic with 
delight, but he had hardly patience to describe it.  He was a great 
day-dreamer, a seer of fit and beautiful and humorous visions, but 
hardly a great artist; hardly, in the manful sense, an artist at 
all.  He pleased himself, and so he pleases us.  Of the pleasures 
of his art he tasted fully; but of its toils and vigils and 
distresses never man knew less.  A great romantic - an idle child.


WE have recently (12) enjoyed a quite peculiar pleasure: hearing, 
in some detail, the opinions, about the art they practise, of Mr. 
Walter Besant and Mr. Henry James; two men certainly of very 
different calibre: Mr. James so precise of outline, so cunning of 
fence, so scrupulous of finish, and Mr. Besant so genial, so 
friendly, with so persuasive and humorous a vein of whim: Mr. James 
the very type of the deliberate artist, Mr. Besant the 
impersonation of good nature.  That such doctors should differ will 
excite no great surprise; but one point in which they seem to agree 
fills me, I confess, with wonder.  For they are both content to 
talk about the "art of fiction"; and Mr. Besant, waxing exceedingly 
bold, goes on to oppose this so-called "art of fiction" to the "art 
of poetry."  By the art of poetry he can mean nothing but the art 
of verse, an art of handicraft, and only comparable with the art of 
prose.  For that heat and height of sane emotion which we agree to 
call by the name of poetry, is but a libertine and vagrant quality; 
present, at times, in any art, more often absent from them all; too 
seldom present in the prose novel, too frequently absent from the 
ode and epic.  Fiction is the same case; it is no substantive art, 
but an element which enters largely into all the arts but 
architecture.  Homer, Wordsworth, Phidias, Hogarth, and Salvini, 
all deal in fiction; and yet I do not suppose that either Hogarth 
or Salvini, to mention but these two, entered in any degree into 
the scope of Mr. Besant's interesting lecture or Mr. James's 
charming essay.  The art of fiction, then, regarded as a 
definition, is both too ample and too scanty.  Let me suggest 
another; let me suggest that what both Mr. James and Mr. Besant had 
in view was neither more nor less than the art of narrative.

But Mr. Besant is anxious to speak solely of "the modern English 
novel," the stay and bread-winner of Mr. Mudie; and in the author 
of the most pleasing novel on that roll, ALL SORTS AND CONDITIONS 
OF MEN, the desire is natural enough.  I can conceive, then, that 
he would hasten to propose two additions, and read thus: the art of 

Now the fact of the existence of the modern English novel is not to 
be denied; materially, with its three volumes, leaded type, and 
gilded lettering, it is easily distinguishable from other forms of 
literature; but to talk at all fruitfully of any branch of art, it 
is needful to build our definitions on some more fundamental ground 
then binding.  Why, then, are we to add "in prose"?  THE ODYSSEY 
appears to me the best of romances; THE LADY OF THE LAKE to stand 
high in the second order; and Chaucer's tales and prologues to 
contain more of the matter and art of the modern English novel than 
the whole treasury of Mr. Mudie.  Whether a narrative be written in 
blank verse or the Spenserian stanza, in the long period of Gibbon 
or the chipped phrase of Charles Reade, the principles of the art 
of narrative must be equally observed.  The choice of a noble and 
swelling style in prose affects the problem of narration in the 
same way, if not to the same degree, as the choice of measured 
verse; for both imply a closer synthesis of events, a higher key of 
dialogue, and a more picked and stately strain of words.  If you 
are to refuse DON JUAN, it is hard to see why you should include 
ZANONI or (to bracket works of very different value) THE SCARLET 
LETTER; and by what discrimination are you to open your doors TO 
THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS and close them on THE FAERY QUEEN?  To bring 
things closer home, I will here propound to Mr. Besant a conundrum.  
A narrative called PARADISE LOST was written in English verse by 
one John Milton; what was it then?  It was next translated by 
Chateaubriand into French prose; and what was it then?  Lastly, the 
French translation was, by some inspired compatriot of George 
Gilfillan (and of mine) turned bodily into an English novel; and, 
in the name of clearness, what was it then?

But, once more, why should we add "fictitious"?  The reason why is 
obvious.  The reason why not, if something more recondite, does not 
want for weight.  The art of narrative, in fact, is the same, 
whether it is applied to the selection and illustration of a real 
series of events or of an imaginary series.  Boswell's LIFE OF 
JOHNSON (a work of cunning and inimitable art) owes its success to 
the same technical manoeuvres as (let us say) TOM JONES: the clear 
conception of certain characters of man, the choice and 
presentation of certain incidents out of a great number that 
offered, and the invention (yes, invention) and preservation of a 
certain key in dialogue.  In which these things are done with the 
more art - in which with the greater air of nature - readers will 
differently judge.  Boswell's is, indeed, a very special case, and 
almost a generic; but it is not only in Boswell, it is in every 
biography with any salt of life, it is in every history where 
events and men, rather than ideas, are presented - in Tacitus, in 
Carlyle, in Michelet, in Macaulay - that the novelist will find 
many of his own methods most conspicuously and adroitly handled.  
He will find besides that he, who is free - who has the right to 
invent or steal a missing incident, who has the right, more 
precious still, of wholesale omission - is frequently defeated, 
and, with all his advantages, leaves a less strong impression of 
reality and passion.  Mr. James utters his mind with a becoming 
fervour on the sanctity of truth to the novelist; on a more careful 
examination truth will seem a word of very debateable propriety, 
not only for the labours of the novelist, but for those of the 
historian.  No art - to use the daring phrase of Mr. James - can 
successfully "compete with life"; and the art that seeks to do so 
is condemned to perish MONTIBUS AVIIS.  Life goes before us, 
infinite in complication; attended by the most various and 
surprising meteors; appealing at once to the eye, to the ear, to 
the mind - the seat of wonder, to the touch - so thrillingly 
delicate, and to the belly - so imperious when starved.  It 
combines and employs in its manifestation the method and material, 
not of one art only, but of all the arts, Music is but an arbitrary 
trifling with a few of life's majestic chords; painting is but a 
shadow of its pageantry of light and colour; literature does but 
drily indicate that wealth of incident, of moral obligation, of 
virtue, vice, action, rapture and agony, with which it teems.  To 
"compete with life," whose sun we cannot look upon, whose passions 
and diseases waste and slay us - to compete with the flavour of 
wine, the beauty of the dawn, the scorching of fire, the bitterness 
of death and separation - here is, indeed, a projected escalade of 
heaven; here are, indeed, labours for a Hercules in a dress coat, 
armed with a pen and a dictionary to depict the passions, armed 
with a tube of superior flake-white to paint the portrait of the 
insufferable sun.  No art is true in this sense: none can "compete 
with life": not even history, built indeed of indisputable facts, 
but these facts robbed of their vivacity and sting; so that even 
when we read of the sack of a city or the fall of an empire, we are 
surprised, and justly commend the author's talent, if our pulse be 
quickened.  And mark, for a last differentia, that this quickening 
of the pulse is, in almost every case, purely agreeable; that these 
phantom reproductions of experience, even at their most acute, 
convey decided pleasure; while experience itself, in the cockpit of 
life, can torture and slay.

What, then, is the object, what the method, of an art, and what the 
source of its power?  The whole secret is that no art does "compete 
with life."  Man's one method, whether he reasons or creates, is to 
half-shut his eyes against the dazzle and confusion of reality.  
The arts, like arithmetic and geometry, turn away their eyes from 
the gross, coloured and mobile nature at our feet, and regard 
instead a certain figmentary abstraction.  Geometry will tell us of 
a circle, a thing never seen in nature; asked about a green circle 
or an iron circle, it lays its hand upon its mouth.  So with the 
arts.  Painting, ruefully comparing sunshine and flake-white, gives 
up truth of colour, as it had already given up relief and movement; 
and instead of vying with nature, arranges a scheme of harmonious 
tints.  Literature, above all in its most typical mood, the mood of 
narrative, similarly flees the direct challenge and pursues instead 
an independent and creative aim.  So far as it imitates at all, it 
imitates not life but speech: not the facts of human destiny, but 
the emphasis and the suppressions with which the human actor tells 
of them.  The real art that dealt with life directly was that of 
the first men who told their stories round the savage camp-fire.  
Our art is occupied, and bound to be occupied, not so much in 
making stories true as in making them typical; not so much in 
capturing the lineaments of each fact, as in marshalling all of 
them towards a common end.  For the welter of impressions, all 
forcible but all discreet, which life presents, it substitutes a 
certain artificial series of impressions, all indeed most feebly 
represented, but all aiming at the same effect, all eloquent of the 
same idea, all chiming together like consonant notes in music or 
like the graduated tints in a good picture.  From all its chapters, 
from all its pages, from all its sentences, the well-written novel 
echoes and re-echoes its one creative and controlling thought; to 
this must every incident and character contribute; the style must 
have been pitched in unison with this; and if there is anywhere a 
word that looks another way, the book would be stronger, clearer, 
and (I had almost said) fuller without it.  Life is monstrous, 
infinite, illogical, abrupt and poignant; a work of art, in 
comparison, is neat, finite, self-contained, rational, flowing and 
emasculate.  Life imposes by brute energy, like inarticulate 
thunder; art catches the ear, among the far louder noises of 
experience, like an air artificially made by a discreet musician.  
A proposition of geometry does not compete with life; and a 
proposition of geometry is a fair and luminous parallel for a work 
of art.  Both are reasonable, both untrue to the crude fact; both 
inhere in nature, neither represents it.  The novel, which is a 
work of art, exists, not by its resemblances to life, which are 
forced and material, as a shoe must still consist of leather, but 
by its immeasurable difference from life, which is designed and 
significant, and is both the method and the meaning of the work.

The life of man is not the subject of novels, but the inexhaustible 
magazine from which subjects are to be selected; the name of these 
is legion; and with each new subject - for here again I must differ 
by the whole width of heaven from Mr. James - the true artist will 
vary his method and change the point of attack.  That which was in 
one case an excellence, will become a defect in another; what was 
the making of one book, will in the next be impertinent or dull.  
First each novel, and then each class of novels, exists by and for 
itself.  I will take, for instance, three main classes, which are 
fairly distinct: first, the novel of adventure, which appeals to 
certain almost sensual and quite illogical tendencies in man; 
second, the novel of character, which appeals to our intellectual 
appreciation of man's foibles and mingled and inconstant motives; 
and third, the dramatic novel, which deals with the same stuff as 
the serious theatre, and appeals to our emotional nature and moral 

And first for the novel of adventure.  Mr. James refers, with 
singular generosity of praise, to a little book about a quest for 
hidden treasure; but he lets fall, by the way, some rather 
startling words.  In this book he misses what he calls the "immense 
luxury" of being able to quarrel with his author.  The luxury, to 
most of us, is to lay by our judgment, to be submerged by the tale 
as by a billow, and only to awake, and begin to distinguish and 
find fault, when the piece is over and the volume laid aside.  
Still more remarkable is Mr. James's reason.  He cannot criticise 
the author, as he goes, "because," says he, comparing it with 
QUEST FOR BURIED TREASURE."  Here is, indeed, a wilful paradox; for 
if he has never been on a quest for buried treasure, it can be 
demonstrated that he has never been a child.  There never was a 
child (unless Master James) but has hunted gold, and been a pirate, 
and a military commander, and a bandit of the mountains; but has 
fought, and suffered shipwreck and prison, and imbrued its little 
hands in gore, and gallantly retrieved the lost battle, and 
triumphantly protected innocence and beauty.  Elsewhere in his 
essay Mr. James has protested with excellent reason against too 
narrow a conception of experience; for the born artist, he 
contends, the "faintest hints of life" are converted into 
revelations; and it will be found true, I believe, in a majority of 
cases, that the artist writes with more gusto and effect of those 
things which he has only wished to do, than of those which he has 
done.  Desire is a wonderful telescope, and Pisgah the best 
observatory.  Now, while it is true that neither Mr. James nor the 
author of the work in question has ever, in the fleshly sense, gone 
questing after gold, it is probable that both have ardently desired 
and fondly imagined the details of such a life in youthful day-
dreams; and the author, counting upon that, and well aware (cunning 
and low-minded man!) that this class of interest, having been 
frequently treated, finds a readily accessible and beaten road to 
the sympathies of the reader, addressed himself throughout to the 
building up and circumstantiation of this boyish dream.  Character 
to the boy is a sealed book; for him, a pirate is a beard, a pair 
of wide trousers and a liberal complement of pistols.  The author, 
for the sake of circumstantiation and because he was himself more 
or less grown up, admitted character, within certain limits, into 
his design; but only within certain limits.  Had the same puppets 
figured in a scheme of another sort, they had been drawn to very 
different purpose; for in this elementary novel of adventure, the 
characters need to be presented with but one class of qualities - 
the warlike and formidable.  So as they appear insidious in deceit 
and fatal in the combat, they have served their end.  Danger is the 
matter with which this class of novel deals; fear, the passion with 
which it idly trifles; and the characters are portrayed only so far 
as they realise the sense of danger and provoke the sympathy of 
fear.  To add more traits, to be too clever, to start the hare of 
moral or intellectual interest while we are running the fox of 
material interest, is not to enrich but to stultify your tale.  The 
stupid reader will only be offended, and the clever reader lose the 

The novel of character has this difference from all others: that it 
requires no coherency of plot, and for this reason, as in the case 
of GIL BLAS, it is sometimes called the novel of adventure.  It 
turns on the humours of the persons represented; these are, to be 
sure, embodied in incidents, but the incidents themselves, being 
tributary, need not march in a progression; and the characters may 
be statically shown.  As they enter, so they may go out; they must 
be consistent, but they need not grow.  Here Mr. James will 
recognise the note of much of his own work: he treats, for the most 
part, the statics of character, studying it at rest or only gently 
moved; and, with his usual delicate and just artistic instinct, he 
avoids those stronger passions which would deform the attitudes he 
loves to study, and change his sitters from the humorists of 
ordinary life to the brute forces and bare types of more emotional 
moments.  In his recent AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO, so just in 
conception, so nimble and neat in workmanship, strong passion is 
indeed employed; but observe that it is not displayed.  Even in the 
heroine the working of the passion is suppressed; and the great 
struggle, the true tragedy, the SCENE-A-FAIRE passes unseen behind 
the panels of a locked door.  The delectable invention of the young 
visitor is introduced, consciously or not, to this end: that Mr. 
James, true to his method, might avoid the scene of passion.  I 
trust no reader will suppose me guilty of undervaluing this little 
masterpiece.  I mean merely that it belongs to one marked class of 
novel, and that it would have been very differently conceived and 
treated had it belonged to that other marked class, of which I now 
proceed to speak.

I take pleasure in calling the dramatic novel by that name, because 
it enables me to point out by the way a strange and peculiarly 
English misconception.  It is sometimes supposed that the drama 
consists of incident.  It consists of passion, which gives the 
actor his opportunity; and that passion must progressively 
increase, or the actor, as the piece proceeded, would be unable to 
carry the audience from a lower to a higher pitch of interest and 
emotion.  A good serious play must therefore be founded on one of 
the passionate CRUCES of life, where duty and inclination come 
nobly to the grapple; and the same is true of what I call, for that 
reason, the dramatic novel.  I will instance a few worthy 
specimens, all of our own day and language; Meredith's RHODA 
FLEMING, that wonderful and painful book, long out of print, (13) 
and hunted for at bookstalls like an Aldine; Hardy's PAIR OF BLUE 
EYES; and two of Charles Reade's, GRIFFITH GAUNT and the DOUBLE 
MARRIAGE, originally called WHITE LIES, and founded (by an accident 
quaintly favourable to my nomenclature) on a play by Maquet, the 
partner of the great Dumas.  In this kind of novel the closed door 
of THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO must be broken open; passion must 
appear upon the scene and utter its last word; passion is the be-
all and the end-all, the plot and the solution, the protagonist and 
the DEUS EX MACHINA in one.  The characters may come anyhow upon 
the stage: we do not care; the point is, that, before they leave 
it, they shall become transfigured and raised out of themselves by 
passion.  It may be part of the design to draw them with detail; to 
depict a full-length character, and then behold it melt and change 
in the furnace of emotion.

But there is no obligation of the sort; nice portraiture is not 
required; and we are content to accept mere abstract types, so they 
be strongly and sincerely moved.  A novel of this class may be even 
great, and yet contain no individual figure; it may be great, 
because it displays the workings of the perturbed heart and the 
impersonal utterance of passion; and with an artist of the second 
class it is, indeed, even more likely to be great, when the issue 
has thus been narrowed and the whole force of the writer's mind 
directed to passion alone.  Cleverness again, which has its fair 
field in the novel of character, is debarred all entry upon this 
more solemn theatre.  A far-fetched motive, an ingenious evasion of 
the issue, a witty instead of a passionate turn, offend us like an 
insincerity.  All should be plain, all straightforward to the end.  
Hence it is that, in RHODA FLEMING, Mrs. Lovell raises such 
resentment in the reader; her motives are too flimsy, her ways are 
too equivocal, for the weight and strength of her surroundings.  
Hence the hot indignation of the reader when Balzac, after having 
begun the DUCHESSE DE LANGEAIS in terms of strong if somewhat 
swollen passion, cuts the knot by the derangement of the hero's 
clock.  Such personages and incidents belong to the novel of 
character; they are out of place in the high society of the 
passions; when the passions are introduced in art at their full 
height, we look to see them, not baffled and impotently striving, 
as in life, but towering above circumstance and acting substitutes 
for fate.

And here I can imagine Mr. James, with his lucid sense, to 
intervene.  To much of what I have said he would apparently demur; 
in much he would, somewhat impatiently, acquiesce.  It may be true; 
but it is not what he desired to say or to hear said.  He spoke of 
the finished picture and its worth when done; I, of the brushes, 
the palette, and the north light.  He uttered his views in the tone 
and for the ear of good society; I, with the emphasis and 
technicalities of the obtrusive student.  But the point, I may 
reply, is not merely to amuse the public, but to offer helpful 
advice to the young writer.  And the young writer will not so much 
be helped by genial pictures of what an art may aspire to at its 
highest, as by a true idea of what it must be on the lowest terms.  
The best that we can say to him is this: Let him choose a motive, 
whether of character or passion; carefully construct his plot so 
that every incident is an illustration of the motive, and every 
property employed shall bear to it a near relation of congruity or 
contrast; avoid a sub-plot, unless, as sometimes in Shakespeare, 
the sub-plot be a reversion or complement of the main intrigue; 
suffer not his style to flag below the level of the argument; pitch 
the key of conversation, not with any thought of how men talk in 
parlours, but with a single eye to the degree of passion he may be 
called on to express; and allow neither himself in the narrative 
nor any character in the course of the dialogue, to utter one 
sentence that is not part and parcel of the business of the story 
or the discussion of the problem involved.  Let him not regret if 
this shortens his book; it will be better so; for to add irrelevant 
matter is not to lengthen but to bury.  Let him not mind if he miss 
a thousand qualities, so that he keeps unflaggingly in pursuit of 
the one he has chosen.  Let him not care particularly if he miss 
the tone of conversation, the pungent material detail of the day's 
manners, the reproduction of the atmosphere and the environment.  
These elements are not essential: a novel may be excellent, and yet 
have none of them; a passion or a character is so much the better 
depicted as it rises clearer from material circumstance.  In this 
age of the particular, let him remember the ages of the abstract, 
the great books of the past, the brave men that lived before 
Shakespeare and before Balzac.  And as the root of the whole 
matter, let him bear in mind that his novel is not a transcript of 
life, to be judged by its exactitude; but a simplification of some 
side or point of life, to stand or fall by its significant 
simplicity.  For although, in great men, working upon great 
motives, what we observe and admire is often their complexity, yet 
underneath appearances the truth remains unchanged: that 
simplification was their method, and that simplicity is their 


Since the above was written another novelist has entered repeatedly 
the lists of theory: one well worthy of mention, Mr. W. D. Howells; 
and none ever couched a lance with narrower convictions.  His own 
work and those of his pupils and masters singly occupy his mind; he 
is the bondslave, the zealot of his school; he dreams of an advance 
in art like what there is in science; he thinks of past things as 
radically dead; he thinks a form can be outlived: a strange 
immersion in his own history; a strange forgetfulness of the 
history of the race!  Meanwhile, by a glance at his own works 
(could he see them with the eager eyes of his readers) much of this 
illusion would be dispelled.  For while he holds all the poor 
little orthodoxies of the day - no poorer and no smaller than those 
of yesterday or to-morrow, poor and small, indeed, only so far as 
they are exclusive - the living quality of much that he has done is 
of a contrary, I had almost said of a heretical, complexion.  A 
man, as I read him, of an originally strong romantic bent - a 
certain glow of romance still resides in many of his books, and 
lends them their distinction.  As by accident he runs out and 
revels in the exceptional; and it is then, as often as not, that 
his reader rejoices - justly, as I contend.  For in all this 
excessive eagerness to be centrally human, is there not one central 
human thing that Mr. Howells is too often tempted to neglect: I 
mean himself?  A poet, a finished artist, a man in love with the 
appearances of life, a cunning reader of the mind, he has other 
passions and aspirations than those he loves to draw.  And why 
should he suppress himself and do such reverence to the Lemuel 
Barkers?  The obvious is not of necessity the normal; fashion rules 
and deforms; the majority fall tamely into the contemporary shape, 
and thus attain, in the eyes of the true observer, only a higher 
power of insignificance; and the danger is lest, in seeking to draw 
the normal, a man should draw the null, and write the novel of 
society instead of the romance of man.


(1) 1881.

(2) Written for the "Book" of the Edinburgh University Union Fancy 

(3) Professor Tait's laboratory assistant.

(4) In Dr. Murray's admirable new dictionary, I have remarked a 
flaw SUB VOCE Beacon.  In its express, technical sense, a beacon 
may be defined as "a founded, artificial sea-mark, not lighted."

(5) The late Fleeming Jenkin.

(6) This sequel was called forth by an excellent article in THE 

(7) Waiter, Watty, Woggy, Woggs, Wogg, and lastly Bogue; under 
which last name he fell in battle some twelve months ago.  Glory 
was his aim and he attained it; for his icon, by the hand of 
Caldecott, now lies among the treasures of the nation.

(8) Since traced by many obliging correspondents to the gallery of 
Charles Kingsley.

(9) Since the above was written I have tried to launch the boat 
with my own hands in KIDNAPPED.  Some day, perhaps, I may try a 
rattle at the shutters.

(10) 1882.

(11) This paper, which does not otherwise fit the present volume, 
is reprinted here as the proper continuation of the last.

(12) 1884

(13) Now no longer so, thank Heaven!

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