AUTHORS AND I
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
THE ENCHANTED STONE
LIFE S LITTLE THINGS
LIFE S LESSER MOODS
ADVENTURES AMONG PICTURES
DAYS WITH VELASQUEZ
DAYS IN CORNWALL
AUGUSTUS SAINT GAUDENS
THE EDUCATION OF AN ARTIST
THE DIARY OF A LOOKER-ON
TURNER S GOLDEN VISIONS
THE POST IMPRESSIONISTS
BRABAZON: His Art and Life
THE CONSOLATIONS OF A CRITIC
THE SOLDIER BOY
THE INVISIBLE GUIDE
WHAT S FREEDOM?
THINGS SEEN IN AMERICA
ART AND I
AUTHORS AND I
BY C. LEWIS HIND
AUTHOR OP "A*T AND I,"
"THE POST IMPRESSIONISTS,"
"AUGUSTUS SAINT GAUDENS," ETC.
NEW YORK : JOHN LANE COMPANY
LONDON : JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD
BY JOHN LANE COMPANY
J. J. Little & Ives Company
New York, U. S. A.
TO THE READER
Why this book was written will be found at the
end. The authors are arranged alphabetically. So
Henry Adams begins and William Butler Yeats
completes the list. Then I come in.
C. L. H.
1. Henry Adams
2. Sherwood Anderson
3. Gabriel e LfAnnunsio
4. William Waldorf Astor
- 5. /. M. Barric
6. Max Bccrbohm 39
7. Hilaire Belloc 45
a Arnold Bennett 50
9. G. K. Chesterton 56
10. Joseph Conrad 61
11. Kenyon Cox 65
12. Stephen Crane 7
13. William Henry Davies 75
14. Richard Harding Davis So
15. /oJm Drinkuvter 86
16. Lorrf Dunsany 9*
17. 7oA Galsworthy 95
18. Edmund Gosse 99
19. Kenneth Grahame 104
ao. T/ir Grossmiths 108
21. Thomas Hardy 114
22. Brr/ //or/^ "9
23. /o/in Hoy 124
24. W. E. Hfnlty 130
25. " O. Henry " 136
26. Maurice Hewlett 142
27. /0/w Oliver Hobbes 147
28. TVi? Ho us mans 152
29. William Dean Howells 157
30. Henry James K
31. Kudyard Kipling
32. Andrew Lang 171
33. William }. Locke 177
34. . F. Lwra.? 182
35. Maurice Maeterlinck 189
36. Edwin Mark ham 195
37. 70/rn Mascficld 201
38. George Meredith 206
39. Leonard Merrick 212
40. /4/iV* Mcyncll 217
41. Stephen Phillips 223
. George Moore 229
43. /o/w Morley 234
44. Walter Pater 239
45. /I. 7\ Qiiiller-Couch 246
. Siegfried Sassoon 252
47. George Bernard Shaw 256
48. /. C. SwaM 262
49. Robert Louis Stevenson 267
50. Francis Thompson 273
51. Tolstoy 280
52. HwpA Walpole 283
53. A/rr. Humphry Ward 289
54. William Watson 294
55- // C. H^/fc 300
56. Edith Wharton 306
57. Walt Whitman 3 2
5a W. B. Yeats 318
59. My First Book 3*5
60. My Latest Book: This One &
AUTHORS AND I
AUTHORS AND I
1. HENRY ADAMS
D I ever see Henry Adams? We may have
met, for he was a cosmopolitan. London,
Paris, Rome and Chartres were as familiar to him
as Boston. He may have been the man I saw
at a London reception in intimate talk with John
Hay, and I paused to watch the pair because here
were two men engrossed in that rare thing real
The legend of Henry Adams has long been familiar.
At Chartres you can hardly fail to strike his initiate
trail ; in that grove at Rock Creek Cemetery, Wash
ington, where the Figure by Augustus Saint Gau-
dens sits in the aura of a silent question you are
in the presence of this visionary man, for it was he
who inspired the Figure. Yes, the legend of Henry
Adams is insistent, but the man eludes. Those who
were so fortunate as to be able to borrow a copy of
the privately printed (1904) "Mont-Saint-Michel
and Chartres: A Study of Thirteenth Century
Unity" realised that here was an author who
counted, an unprofessional writer, a questioner, a
scholar with humour and tang, a quintessential Bos-
14 Authors and I
tonian, who made the world of thought his city,
and who, strange to say, was born and bred in the
same land that produced Mr. Woolworth of the 5
and 10 cent stores.
In 1906 a sequel to the "Mont-Saint-Michel and
Chartres" was privately printed to the number of
100 copies under the title, "The Education of Henry
Adams: A Study of Twentieth Century Multi
plicity." In 1918 this book was given to the world
under the title, "The Education of Henry Adams:
He was the most modest of men, probably the most
aggressively modest man of the century. His modesty
was so modest that it blossomed into a rare flower
of vanity, a vanity that a casuist would find it
extremely difficult to diagnose or to condemn. Yet
Henry Adams was modest, and self-depreciatory to a
degree that almost amounts to genius. What then
would have been his amazement if he could have
known that in 1919 his "Education," which he
never even regarded as a finished work, was, ex
cluding novels, "a best seller." It appeared in every
list in the Books in Demand at Public Libraries and
it usually came first.
Henry Adams a popular author! What a chapter
he could have added to his autobiography on this
amazing piece of news! Yet there must be many
people who have begun it and never found the
end. I can count half a dozen acquaintances who
have failed to reach the last chapter. They are not
readers ; they have not learnt how to read. He who
perseveres and peruses the last three chapters must
Henry Adams 15
at once read them again and again. The book is
supposed to be a record of failure. But what is
failure? If it be failure to leave to the world the
Rock Creek Figure and this "Education" then the
meaning of the word failure will have to be entirely
I am amazed at his power of character drawing, not
only of men but also of inanimate things (so we call
them) as the magnet, the compass, the dynamo, and
also at his eloquent analysis of the convulsion of
310 when the Civitas Dei cut itself loose from the
Civitas Romae, and the Cross took the place of the
How fresh is the account, how un jaded, of his first
meeting with Swinburne.
It happened in the year 1862. Henry Adams, then
private secretary to his father, who was Ambassador
to Great Britain, was invited to a week-end bachelor
gathering at Fryston, the Yorkshire place of Monck-
ton Milnes, afterward Lord Houghton. One of the
guests was a young man, "a tropical bird, high-
crested, long-beaked, quick moving, with rapid utter
ance and screams of humour, quite unlike any Eng
lish lark or nightingale." This was Algernon
Charles Swinburne. In the course of the evening
Milnes "thought it time to bring Swinburne out."
And out he came, to such an extent that he held
the company spellbound till far into the night. No
one in my experience, says Adams, ever approached
the rush of his talk his incredible memory, his
knowledge of literature, classic, mediaeval and mod
ern; "his faculty of reciting a play of Sophocles
1 6 Authors and I
or a play of Shakespeare, forward or backward from
end to beginning; or Dante, or Villon or Victor
Hugo." These men of the world knew not what
to make of Swinburne s rhetorical recitation of his
own unpublished ballads "Faustine," "The Ballad
of Burdens," which he declaimed as though they
were books of the "Iliad."
Monckton Milnes, and Sterling of Keir, afterward
Sir William Sterling-Maxwell, who was one of the
party, regarded Swinburne as a prodigy and
descanted on the wild Walpurgisnight of his talk.
That night was Swinburne s dress rehearsal, a fore
taste of his uncanny power of intellectual perform
ance. He was yet to prove himself. "Queen
Mother and Rosamund" had been published, but
"Poems and Ballads," which made him famous, was
still in the press.
Years and years later when the poet was living with
Theodore Watts-Dunton at The Pines, an ugly
suburban villa at the foot of Putney Hill, we hero
worshippers would linger on the hill to watch the
fierce little poet taking his fierce morning consti
tutional up to Wimbledon Common. An invitation
to a Saturday evening dinner at The Pines was not
difficult to obtain. All one had to do was to be
properly humble and appreciative to Theodore
Watts-Dunton at one of the important private views
of pictures which he rarely missed. Did Swinburne,
I wonder, in after years remember the shy young
American private secretary that wild Walpurgis-
night at Fryston when he was snubbed by the
flaming poet for admiring Alfred de Musset? An-
Henry Adams 17
other member of that famous party was Laurence
Oliphant, author of "Piccadilly," and a contributor
"like all the young men about the Foreign Office"
to "The Owl." Here is Adams on Oliphant: "He
teemed exceptionally sane and peculiarly suited for
country houses, where every man would enjoy his
company, and every woman would adore him."
Later in life Kipling flashed across the path of
Henry Adams, who in his declining years was still
passionately seeking education and who saw no hope
of ever earning a living. He did not seem to realise
that he was earning it beautifully, and bountifully
giving away to posterity all he earned. Thanks
to the mediation of Henry James he met the author
of "Barrack Room Ballads" on a voyage to America,
and Kipling dashed over Henry Adams who "the
more he was educated, the less he understood"
"his exuberant fountain of gaiety and wit as
though playing a garden hose on a thirsty and faded
Adams saw many people: he saw most people of
importance: he saw Abraham Lincoln "at the mel
ancholy function called an Inaugural Ball, ... a
long, awkward figure; a plain, ploughed face; a
mind absent in part, and in part evidently worried
by white kid gloves."
And Adams would sit in the grove at Rock Creek
and listen to the comments of the visitors upon
Augustus Saint Gaudens Figure. None felt, he
ttys, what would have been a nursery-instinct to a
Hindu baby or a Japanese jinrickisha runner. He
himself supposed its meaning to be the one common-
1 8 Authors and I
place about it the oldest idea known to human
thought. Yet he does not tell us what the meaning
is. So the world will continue to guess. But he
does say that the interest of the Figure is not in its
meaning, but in the response of the observer.
If the American Academy of Letters crowned a
book in the manner of the French Academy the
choice would surely fall upon "The Education of
Henry Adams." I would say that it is the out
standing American work of the Twentieth Century,
the swan song of the failure of culture as an end,
and not as a means. It is the most egoistic of
books, and writing it in the third person does not
in the least efface the ego which was Adams aim.
It is entirely self-centred and intellectually entirely
Only Bostonians can understand Bostonians, says
Henry Adams. Well, he must be a dull foreigner
who, after reading this rare Autobiography, fails
to understand this rare Bostonian. If an author,
however talented, never emerges from the thought
of his own education, he is quite apt to find the
world a place which "sensitive and timid natures
regard with a shudder."
Henry Adams could appreciate exuberant buoyan
cies like the young Rudyard Kipling, but after the
contact he would at once glide back into the easy
grooves of his uneasy shell.
2. SHERWOOD ANDERSON
IN America Walt Whitman in verse and Wins-
low Homer in painting stand apart, above,
fixed two great forces. They arc racial; they are
America. The New England school, which in
cluded and includes so many fine writers, carried
on and carries on, with variations, the English
The alphabetical progression, used in this book,
makes Sherwood Anderson follow Henry Adams.
That is curious and interesting. These two rep
resent the two Americas the static and the dynam
ic, the past and the future.
The twentieth century men, chiefly novelists and
poets, who have surged up from the west and the
middle west, are akin to Walt Whitman and Wins-
low Homer; but they are rougher, more amazed,
more confused by the growth and spread of towns,
and the boundless activities of the hustlers and the
hustled. They are entirely racial, bred of the soil:
their themes are the big rough men who are doing
big rough things in big ways. Their material is
so vast and complex that they have hardly yet had
time to consider the niceness of style. They are
hewers, grabbers: they rarely pick and choose: they
have strength but little daintiness or delicacy. They
are what they should be. They are pioneers. They
2O Authors and I
symbol the America that is to be. Figures like
Anatole France and Matthew Arnold belong to
another century, another world.
When I first read Sherwood Anderson s "Marching
Men" I knew at once that he is a man to watch.
There is something prophetical in his vision of the
brotherhood and solidarity of man typified by the
sound of feet, marching in step, rhythmically, with
a purpose. Again and again in recent years when
organisations have loomed up, seemingly resistless
because of their solidarity, have I thought of his
"Marching Men" and McGregor, the forceful,
illiterate hero. I wish that Anderson could have
kept this book by him for ten years; I wish that
he had not followed the advice of friends and cut
down the latter part before publication. It falls
away toward the end ; his grasp of the subject, so
firm at the beginning, loosens. But it is a remark
able study of a personality emerging from crude con
ditions and raw men, envisaging how to herd and
lead, and well, read "Marching Men."
An Englishman could not have written "Windy
McPherson s Son," his first book. It is pure Amer
ican, middle-west American, this story of a news
boy who, with no help but his wits and grit, be
came a millionaire, and then finds that he is a
man with a hunger for other things. Chicago,
pushing ahead, Chicago in the making, splurges
through this rough but reasoned story, this
Odyssey of a westerner (so different from
the method advocated by Dr. Samuel Smiles), to
be followed by the discovery that there is something
Sherwood Anderson 21
better beyond the horizon. It was a Chicago
critic, Floyd Dell, who read the manuscript and
hailed its merits. He tried to find a publisher for
it in New York, failed, sent it to London, where
"Windy McPherson s Son" was promptly accepted
by John Lane. He cabled to his firm in New York
to sign a contract with Sherwood Anderson for
The second was "Marching Men," the third was
"Mid-American Chants." This is not his most
popular book a chant has small chance against a
tale but it may be his most significant, his most
self-expressive book. It is in free verse: it is in the
Whitman tradition: it could not be in anything else;
and the Foreword explains just why it is so. Here
is an extract:
"I do not believe that we people of mid-western
America, immersed as we are in affairs, hurried and
harried through life by the terrible engine indus
trialism have come to the time of song. . . . We
do not sing, but mutter in the darkness. Our
lips are cracked with dust and with the heat of
furnaces. We but mutter and feel our way toward
the promise of song. ... In secret a million men
and women are trying, as I have tried here, to
express the hunger within. . . ."
And here is a scrap from the chant called
"I am a child, a confused child in a confused world.
There are no clothes made that fit me. The minds
of men cannot clothe me. Great projects arise
22 Authors and I
within me. I have a brain and it is cunning and
"I am a little thing, a tiny little thing on the vast
prairies. I know nothing. My mouth is dirty. I
cannot tell what I want. My feet are sunk in the
black, swampy land, but I am a lover. I love life.
In the end love shall save me."
His fourth book was "Winesburg, Ohio," a group
of tales of Ohio small town life. "The Spoon
River Anthology," by Edgar Lee Masters, dealt
with the past. The tales in "Winesburg" deal
with the present and the future. These studies,
direct, uncompromising, might stand for any small,
growing industrial town in America. They are
documents; a hundred years hence they will have
a great historical value. They cry out against con
ditions: they seek escape, they move.
How did this middle westerner come to writing?
He began late; he wrote as a relief, an escape from
conditions. He was and is a business man who
writes in trains, at night-time, anywhere, any time
when he can find a spare hour. Like other western
boys he has turned his hand to many things (see
"Windy MacPherson s Son"), but his chief success
is in the advertising world; his mind bustles. I
am told that the "trade," when you ask about him,
say: "Sherwood Anderson oh, yes, he s bright,
humming with ideas makes stories too."
A remote ancestor was Major Anderson of Fort
Sumter: a nearer ancestor was Governor of Ohio.
Who can tell how the arts touched this family, and
with such dissimilarity? Karl Anderson, the artist,
Sherwood Anderson 23
is his elder brother. Clyde, Ohio, is their home
town. A third brother, Earl, might have been a
painter had he cared ; he is now in the United States
Sherwood was a forceful, pushful boy, "jobby and
swatty," turning his hand to anything, making a
living anyhow from selling the Cincinnati Inquirer
to working on a farm; from a cold-storage job in
Chicago to managing a baseball team. He enlisted
for the Spanish-American War: he was one of those
who policed Cuba. Then he went to Wittenberg
College; he was a good debater, and leader of the
college always, you see, a go-ahead fellow; soon
he drifted into advertising and writing. At this
moment he is in Alabama finishing a novel.
I saw him last in his brother s studio. The talk
about art and life was fierce. Sherwood was restless
because he wanted to read us a short story he had
just finished. At a late hour we succumbed. It
was a fine story and he read it wonderfully, ham
mering the points at us, standing. I reflected that
the authors I know in Hampstead, Middlesex, never
read their stories aloud. They endeavour to convey
the idea (this is camouflage) that their stories are
not worth reading and hardly worth writing. That
is the way of authors in Hampstead, Middlesex. In
Winesburg, Ohio, authors are different.
3. GABRIELE D ANNUNZIO
SOON after the beginning of the present century
I happened to be in Italy. Arriving at Venice
I instructed a gondolier to convey me to the Hotel
Danieli, which, as everybody knows, has an Anglo-
Saxon savour. I was tired of macaroni and Italian
newspapers: my system called for a chop and the
I chose a secluded seat in the dining-room and was
waiting patiently for my chop a la Edward VII
when a party of Italians noisily entered and seated
themselves at an adjoining table. They were talking
all at once, and wildly, as they approached ; and
they continued to talk all at once, and wildly, as
they tucked their napkins into the space between the
neck and the collar ; they talked on without cessation.
Realising that my fancy for an evening of Anglo-
Saxon savour would not be gratified, I amused my
self by awaiting an answer to the sporting question
-"How long can they keep it up?"
I am not so foolish as to approve or disapprove of
Anglo-Saxon taciturnity, or to approve or disapprove
of Italian vivacity. Each is indigenous, racial. But
listening (I could not help overhearing; as one
cannot avoid, on an August night, overhearing the
crickets) to those voluble Italians I felt how much
more intense a social pleasure the Latin derives from
Gabriele D Annunzio 25
life than the Anglo-Saxon. They talked as if talk
ing mattered ; they scattered ideas, they flashed com
ments, they behaved to each other as if each had
something to contribute to art and life. Soon they
were talking about the flowers that decorated their
table. My meagre knowledge of Italian told me
that, even if they had not handled the blossoms
and expatiated upon their beauty. One of the party,
dropping into English, spoke of "savage flowers."
Not until the next morning did I realise that he
meant wild flowers. Soon the conversation turned
to poetry, and I caught the names Tasso and
Carducci. When they spoke of Carducci all turned
to a slight, short, animated bald-headed man who
sat at the head of the table. Throughout the
evening they had paid him especial deference, but
with the name of Carducci he seemed suddenly to
assume the role of a king, and he talked, oh, how
he talked! I have never heard anything like it.
I should not have thought that the human mentality
could fashion thoughts so quickly, or that human
lips could utter them so rapidly. It was wonderful,
and it was like music such cadences, such spasms
of prose melody. The soup passed, the fish came,
and still he talked. Once I thought that no utter
ance was so musically rapid as Sarah Bcrnhardt s.
But he beat her. I forgot my chop, I forgot my
Times, I beckoned the waiter, one of those polyglot
people who speak no language, but something of
"Who is he?" I whispered. "Do you know?"
The waiter looked at me curiously, patronisingly
26 Authors and I
as the Irish policeman looked when I asked him
which was Boston Common and answered, "He
with the bald head and the (his fingers pantomimed
the upword turn of fierce moustachios) he? That
is d Annunzio the great Gabriele d Annunzio."
Many years have passed since then, and during the
period I have acquainted myself, indifferently well,
with the novels, plays and poems of Gabriele
d Annunzio. Frankly, if I had consulted my own
choice, I do not suppose that I should ever have
opened a book by him. Amorists do not interest
me, and although I fully admit the literary skill and
subtlety of "II Trionfo del Morte," of "Le Vergini
delle Rocce," of "II Piacere," which have all been
translated into English, they do not please me;
worse, they are unpleasant. To me they narrowed
life, they exaggerated bits and left whole tracts
much more interesting, untouched, unexplored. It
was like being confined in a small, overheated room
heavy with perfume. I remembered, when I re
turned "II Trionfo del Morte" to the library, a
copy of "Tom Jones" happened to be lying on the
table. I turned the pages, inhaled drafts of whole
some air and swept out into tracts of broad human
ity. I took the book to a chair, and at the end of
an hour d Annunzio, in spite of his amazing gifts
of analysis and his power of word painting, was
To follow a course of d Annunzio with a course of
George Eliot is to understand the difference between
the Latin and the Anglo-Saxon. I am not proud,
Gabriel c D Annunzio 27
I hope that I do not consider myself better than
anybody else, but, nevertheless
I thank the goodness and the grace
That on my birth has smiled
And made me in this troubled place
An Anglo-Saxon child.
Why, then, the reader may ask, trouble about
d Annunzio why not spend your leisure time with
George Eliot, Mrs. Humphrey Ward, and Kate
Douglas Wiggin? The answer is that the true
Bookman is international. He must know some
thing about letters everywhere, and it would be
mere stupidity to ignore one whose reputation as
an artist is as great as his notoriety as a man. Of
him a countrywoman has said: "For thirty years
Europe has been aghast at d Annunzio s escapades,
which have served to make him the arch-type of the
decadent superman of the 1890 s." This may have
served as a description of him before the war, but
his daring and heroism as an airman revealed a new
side in d Annunzio. He, a man past middle age,
rose to be one of the first airmen of the day, and,
as if that were not enough, he astounded, and
secretly, against their judgment, ingratiated the
world with the wild adventure of Fiume.
When that folly was at its height I picked from a
friend s shelves his "La Figlia di Jorio," a pastoral
thirteenth century tragedy which was issued in Eng
lish in 1907, thinking that I would make one more
brave attempt to be captured by Gabriele d Annun
zio. No. I went labouriously through it. I
28 Authors and I
yawned. And having finished it I turned for relief
and reward to a re-reading of John Drinkwater s
Next day a piece of good fortune befell me. I met
an Italian-American, now an American citizen, who
has been living in the United States for twenty
years. I unburdened myself to him about Gabriele
d Annunzio; I explained to him how the pastoral
tragedy "La Figlia de Jorio" had wearied me. He
smiled, he brushed away my anxieties. "It s a sheer
waste of time," he said, "to read d Annunzio in Eng
lish. His plots are nothing, his characterisations are
on one string only. It is for his language we read
him, his magical Italian, his cunning use of words,
his mastery of rhythm, his gift of resuscitating old
forms of verse and inventing new ones. Why in
Tuoco it is calculated that he has added a thousand
words to the current Italian vocabulary. I read
him with delight, as you read Swinburne, for the
sound, not for the sense. He ought never to have
been translated. You can t translate d Annunzio.
It s absurd. Apart altogether from his work as poet,
playwright and novelist, there is the man himself.
You can t place him; you can t describe him. He
seems to be compounded of flame, of fire that
nothing can quench. Why was the Italian Govern
ment lenient with him about the Fiume escapade?
Because everybody in Italy knows how much the
country owes to him. His fiery speeches, rhetoric
you would call them, brought Italy into the war; his
Laudi, songs in praise of Italy, roused his country
men to fervour; and what episode of the war was
Gabriele D* Annunzio 29
more magnificent than his flight to Vienna? He was
the leader of the escadrille; he hovered over the
city; he swooped low and dropped his leaflets. He
had written them himself in his impassioned prose.
The leaflets said: We might have dropped bombs;
we drop messages of warning, we airmen, we poets.
Oh, yes, I know all about him, his wildness, his way
wardness, his wil fulness, but he is a great poet and
a great man. Blame him as you wish, like or dislike
him, but for pity s sake don t read him in English.
And if ever you have the chance just hear him
Thinking it all over, I was fortunate in dropping
in to dinner at the Hotel Danieli, Venice, one night
at the beginning of the present century. In future,
when anybody says to me "Have you read Gabriele
d Annunzio s latest?" I shall reply "No, but I
have heard him talk."
4. WILLIAM WALDORF ASTOR
IN July, 1919, American newspapers proclaimed
the following in bold headlines "Viscount
Astor Goes into Seclusion. Former American in
Mystery House at Brighton, England, Bars All
Callers." Then followed the article, "a good
story," clever journalism, inaccurately accurate, and
This fal-lal of news, flashed by cable, omnivorously
read, merely meant that an elderly gentleman, bored
by society, as are most of us, had taken a house at
Brighton, one of the healthiest places in England,
and was there engaged in cultivating his garden.
That venerable phrase meant, in this case, pursuing
literature. Others have done this without troubling
the cable, or making any particular stir in the
world; but William Waldorf Astor, a British peer,
with the pleasant title of Viscount Astor of Hever
Castle, had the misfortune to be one of the richest
men in the world; so his harmless occupation of
cultivating literature, with the ordinary safeguards,
encouraged some lively journalist to flash the words
"Mystery House" across the Atlantic. Also to in
form Americans (it was naughty of William Wal
dorf to become a British citizen) that a formidable
person, something between a gamekeeper and a
family retainer, "parades before the Mystery
William Waldorf Astor 31
House/ to warn off callers." Surely, reader, that
is what you and I would do if we could afford it.
Boat owners at Coney Island and Yarmouth Sands
also warn off callers but they can afford to issue
their warning cheaply: they merely write on the
inside of their boats when drawn up for hire "Keep
out ! This means you !"
Viscount Astor of Hever was not gregarious. Few
millionaires are. His public appearances were few
after he became a British subject, and of the crowds
who frequent the sea front at Brighton or the few
who visit the purlieus of the Tudor village that he
aimed to create around Hever Castle, probably not
5 per cent knew that the tall Solitary, engrossed in
reflections, indifferent to passers-by, very lonely, was
Lord Astor. And perhaps not 1 per cent knew that
he was a man of letters or would have been if he
Writing was always his hobby, and the hobby of
a millionaire is a serious matter. When I, in an
editorial capacity, knew him, now some years syne,
I was aware that he always had some literary work
on hand, usually stories, long and short. The life of
today presumably did not interest him: in each of
his literary efforts his mind rolled back a few hun
dred or a few thousand years, and he produced
literature garbed in what was known in the nineties
as Wardour Street English. Lest his fellow mil
lionaires may think I am romancing, I beg to cull
from "Who s Who" a list of William Waldorf s
literary productions: "Valentino, a Story of
Rome"; "Sorza, a Historical Romance of the Six-
32 Authors and I
teenth Century in Italy"; "Pharaoh s Daughter, and
Parts of the longer books I have read and some of
the shorter stories, and I frankly admit that they
did not carry me off my feet; but neither do the
romances of William Morris. Lord Astor had not
the antient knack of Maurice Hewlett, who defi
antly refuses to allow us to be bored by the past.
But Mr. Hewlett can also write vividly of the
present. That, I imagine, was impossible to Lord
Astor. His heart was in a leisurely world of long
ago: his heart was in the Hever Castle recreated
to look as it looked in Tudor times.
Yet it was ordained that this medievalist who left
America to be quiet (so they say) should have been
the cause of one of the most revolutionary and
exciting affairs in London journalism.
The Pall Mall Gazette, still running, has a long,
honourable and versatile career. It has been in
many a skirmish, many a fight. In 1893 a bomb
fell. The bomb was in the shape of a letter from
the proprietor announcing that he had sold the
Gazette and the Budget. The name of the buyer
was not disclosed. For months he was the journal
istic dark horse of the day; but it was whispered
that he had unlimited wealth, that he was de
termined to make the Gazette and the Budget the
most wonderful daily and weekly of the period,
and that he was going to add to them a monthly
the Pall Mall Magazine.
Mystery enwrapped the enrolment of the staff.
They were engaged by a handsome lawyer and a
William Waldorf Astor 33
handsomer financier; they were handsomely paid
and told not to talk; but the principals were bid
den to Carlton House Terrace, where a sedate
butler conducted them into the presence of Henry
Cockayne Cust, Member of Parliament, with a
dashing maiden speech to his credit, heir to the
Earldom of Brownlow, and one of the most tal
ented and charming young men of the day. He
announced himself as the new editor of the Pall
Mall Gazette, and he asked me if I would be editor
of the Pall Mall Budget; he spoke of wonderful
new offices, amazing new printing machines, a pro
gram to beat the band, and he let out that the dark
horse was the Hon. William Waldorf Astor of
Those were days. Money was no object. The
editors of the three publications could spend what
they liked. They did. They reveled in the novelty
of seeking the best and buying it. And periodically
each of the editors paid a ceremonious visit to the
proprietor. The invitation was issued by Mr.
Astor s confidential solicitor, the day and hour
named, and punctually the editor presented himself
at the palatial and beautiful offices of the Astor
estate, which had been erected upon the Thames
Embankment, the choicest site, adjoining the
Temple. With due ceremony, handed on from
grave factotum to grave factotum, the editor was
conducted into tRe Presence, to be commended or
chided, and to receive instructions. One of the
editors (I was he), alarmed at the gigantic nature
of a journalistic scheme propounded by the proprie-
34 Authors and I
tor, blurted out: "But that will cost a vast deal
of money, sir." There was a pause; then I was
vouchsafed this answer, quite friendly, but scornful
and final: "Pray, sir, who pays the bill?"
The publications had a brilliant life of a few years.
Today only the Pall Mall Gazette remains, and it
now belongs to another. If Lord Astor s books did
not have the circulation of Nat Gould s, at least
he had the satisfaction of knowing that he played
a hand, dour, domineering, and unprecedented, in
the journalism of the nineties.
Many books have since been published that had
their origin in the Gazette, the Budget, and the
Magazine Stevenson, Kipling, Wells and last
year, so long after, there was issued from the press
another "Occasional Poems by Henry Cust, edi
tion of 450 copies."
I think he was the first editor to publish a poem
daily in his newspaper, and certainly he was the
first editor, and perhaps the last, to show his readers
that an editor s poems can be better than the others.
They were unsigned. But we knew who wrote
them Harry Cust, editor and poet ! Viva adhuc et
desiderio pulcriora Living still and more beautiful
because of our longing.
5. J. M. BARRIE
HE gives his address as Kirriemuir, Scotland,
and his club as the Athenaeum. That is like
hi m ~to say that he lives in the wee Scots village
where he was born, which he has made famous; and
to link with Kirriemuir membership of the most
exclusive club in London. Everybody, of course,
knows that he lives in the Adelphi Terrace over
looking the Thames, and that his real club is the
nursery of any house.
I saw him first many years ago when he took the
call, with his collaborator Marriot Watson, at the
end of the performance of "Richard Savage," his
solitary failure, and I believe the only time that he
has bowed acknowledgments before the curtain. It
was not a good play there was little of the real
Barrie in it, and little of the real Marriot Watson.
I have forgotten all about "Richard Savage," but
I remember the authors distinctly. Marriot Wat
son is an Australian, tall and burly, with a fuzzy-
wuzzy shock of hair, who looks as if he could, like
Milo the Cretonian, slay an ox with his fist and eat
it at one meal: Barrie is a little man, shy-looking
and dark, with black hair, a dome-like forehead,
pale as ivory, and eyes that look as if they always
want to escape from what he is doing. He reached
to Marriot Watson s shoulder: they held hands and
3 6 Authors and I
tried to bow: they looked miserable; then the cur
tain mercifully released them.
Barrie as a man is elusive. You hardly know when
he is in a room: you always knew when Richard
Harding Davis was in a room. Once I met Barrie
at a tea party. That amused me because he is not
usually amenable to parlour festivities. For a short
time he crept about the purlieus of the company;
soon he seated himself on a stool behind the door
waiting till somebody should open it; then he slipped
He probably enjoyed the affair because he has his
own Lob-like thoughts. He is very observant, and
examines himself as minutely and whimsically as he
examines other people. Have you heard the story
of the great literary dinner in London with Barrie
in the chair, and the article upon it in the National
Observer which chaffed Barrie as chairman, and
made him look rather silly. The readers of the
National Observer resented this descent to person
alities, and protested that the article chaffing Barrie
as chairman was in bad taste, and beneath the dig
nity of the National Observer. The editor received
so many angry letters that he was obliged to publish
a note saying that the article was written by Barrie
He is like his own Lob in "Dear Brutus"; he loves
to spring surprises on rather a dense world. He is
the child a silent, inward-laughing, restless child,
learning his lessons in his own way who will never
grow up. There is nothing of Darwin or Spencer
in him, nothing of Matthew Arnold or Dean Inge.
/. M. Bar rie 37
The pathos and humour of actual life suffice for
him. His war contributions are things like "The
Old Lady Shows Her Medals," so touching and so
moving; his sociological contributions are things like
"The Admirable Crichton," which had such a
searching moral because it was founded upon, not
theories or books, but human nature.
I do not think that he has changed at all in the
passage of years. Those early articles in the St.
James Gazette had all the Barrie pathos, fancy,
and freakish humour. They were a clear stream of
tender fancy running amid the muddy wordiness of
journalism. Many of them were about nothing.
But it is his way to take a subject that no other
author would consider worth troubling about, and
make it memorable. What author would find him
self able to write about his mother in the way that
Barrie treated the little Scots lady in "Margaret
Ogilvy"? And who else would have had confidence
to write an important play on the subject of "Little
The career of J. M. Barrie shows how useless
schools of journalism or literature are to produce
the real writing man or woman. What were Bar-
ric s assets? An intense love for home, for the
Scots folk with whom he grew up; for children;
the power to express himself in straightforward,
supple English and, above all else, humour; some
thing of Puck, something of Ariel, something of
Charles Lamb and Tom Hood, mixed with Celtic
wistfulness and wonder. Add to that sympathy, the
observation of a cat watching a bird, with the power
38 Authors and I
to use everything he sees and feels as material for
his craft, with not the slightest wish to be Guy de
Maupassant or anybody else, and we begin to under
stand why the poor Scots boy has become Sir James
Matthew Barrie, 1st Bt. cr. 1913. I wager that
all this is nothing to him. In his heart he is still
Jamie of Kirriemuir, N. B., always making mental
notes, hurrying over high tea (scones and jam) so
that he may dip his pen in a penny ink bottle, and
chuckle over the writing of an Auld Licht Idyll,
and, mind you, being a Scot, always with his eye
on the goal.
Were he proud-minded, little Barrie might well
succumb and feel proud, for a great fellow Scot,
Robert Louis Stevenson, expressed himself about
the author of "A Window in Thrums" in a way
which here it is. In a letter to J. M. Barrie from
Vailima, dated December, 1892, R. L. S. says:
"I am a capable artist; but it begins to look to me
as if you were a man of genius. Take care of
yourself for my sake."
It takes a big man to praise bigly.
6. MAX BEERBOHM
WHEN I turn to Max Beerbohm s name in
"Who s Who," and read the brief, bald
biography, I feel "at home," and also "not at home."
I am at home when I read that he was educated at
Charterhouse and Oxford: that in the nineties,
when he was in the twenties, he issued "The Works
of Max Beerbohm" (this was humour) ; a year or
so afterward "More" (this also was humour), and
a little later "Yet Again" (additional humor).
This serious fun was like Max, the Max we know,
the aloof, silent Max, who was always in the social
world and yet not of it; who never grinned through
a horse collar, he couldn t, he wouldn t if he could ;
who smiled wearily at his own fun; who took in
credible pains to be the most gentlemanly and the
most elusive of humourists, descending from
Charles Lamb and Thackeray; and he might almost
call Andrew Lang uncle. He is our aristocrat of
humour: he is the author of "The Happy Hypo
crite" (oh, the delight with which I read it!), of
"The Christmas Garland," and of "Zuleika Dob-
Will he be angry if I, who am his devoted admirer,
who peruse him with consistent pleasure; will he
cavil if I say that "Zuleika Dobson" docs not
intrigue me? He himself knows better than anyone
4O Authors and I
else that, with the best intentions, one cannot ask
a ladybird to become a bumblebee.
But I have not yet explained why, in reading Max
Beerbohm s brief, bald biography, I find myself in
parts of it "not at home." These are the passages:
" m. 1910 Florence Kahn, of Memphis, Tennes
see. Address, Villino Chiaro, Rapallo, Italy."
There is nothing wrong in this. I myself married
a southerner, and I have lived for a time in Italy.
But I do not feel at home with him when I
visualise him rusticating in the vineyards of Rapallo
and perhaps exchanging military witticisms with
Capt. Gabriele d Annunzio. For he was and is a
London dandy of the choicest kind ; the gentle emi
nence of St. James s Street, as Lord Beaconsfield
called it, not entrancing Rapallo is his walk in life;
he, above all others, understands the nice conduct
of a clouded cane, the right shape and tilt of a
silk hat, and the proper point where a frock coat
(now unmodish) should artfully bulge in the bosom.
It was he, too, who some years ago tried to make
man ashamed of his sombre, faultless evening garb.
What was the method, Beau Max? Really, I have
forgotten. Was the exquisite coat purple or dark
chocolate? The knee breeches I know were black,
and I fancy there was a shimmer of moonlight in the
hue of the silk stockings. Whatever it was, be sure
there was nothing vulgar about the dress, for our
author has the quietest of tastes in raiment as in
writing. Only a very fastidious mind could wear
a smile so bored yet so observant, a shoe so dainty,
a buttonhole so chaste.
Max Beerbohm 41
And yet all these things were, and arc, really
nothing to him ephemera amused attempts to
decorate a rather drab and dull world. In reality,
our friend, the last of the dandies, for now nobody
outside these United States has any money left for
clothes, is a very serious and hardworking artist.
Have I not seen him in the act of composing one of
those dramatic articles for the Sun Jay Review, so
wise, so witty, that we were obliged to put down our
six-pences for this weekly journal written by crusted
Tories for crusted Tories, so long as he was on
the staff. He would write, through spacious morn
ings, on cream laid paper, in large important callig
raphy and the erasures? Ah, the erasures! They
were blacked out with an artistic blackness that a
war-time censor might have envied. And why?
Because the artistic heart of Max would not allow
even the printer or the printer s reader to guess at
the toil that went to a perfect paragraph.
If Max Beerbohm is a writer, what is Theodore
Dreiser? I suppose the only answer is that there
are many mansions in the city of writing, and that
some are big, rambling and spready, and that others
are small, neat and compact.
Read "That Young, Shy Clergyman," by Max
Beerbohm. Not only has it humour: it also has the
humourous outlook, sly yet virile. (Oh, but Mrs.
Gaskell might have been Max s literary mother, and
Cranford the place from which he escaped into the
larger life of London, where he was tutored by, say,
the young Disraeli).
How well I remember his nineties story called
42 Authors and I
"Knock Soames" just nothing, just everything.
"Enock Soames" was republished in that delightful
book, "Seven Men." I had written about it in a
"Literary Letter," and the next week was obliged to
print the following
"A correspondent who has been reading Max Beer-
bohm s Seven Men complains that he has carefully
counted the list and can only find six. Ha, ha!
I expected that. The seventh man is, of course,
Max Beerbohm himself. He is implicit on every
page of this delightful book."
"A Christmas Garland," parodies the writers who
interest him. He tells us in the preface, a char
acteristic preface (everything about Max is char
acteristic), how he came to write these parodies
so alarmingly good. In studying his contemporaries
he was "learning rather what to avoid," and "the
book itself may be taken as a sign that I think my
own style is, at length, more or less formed." You
observe the pose, as of a Titan relaxing over a cup
of tea. Like Bernard Shaw, he is able, while taking
himself conscientiously, seriously, to assume a play-
hour manner. He seems indifferent, but inwardly
he is tense and almost pushing. Christopher in
"The Hand of Ethelberta" might have had Max
Beerbohm in mind when he said to Ethelberta
"Make ambition your business and indifference your
relaxation, and you will succeed."
He succeeds, but this elegant figure, when you
meet him at parties or First Nights, never seems to
be giving a thought to success. He seems to live
for the humour of life. The effort tires him, but
Max Beerbohm 43
he never quite gives up. All of his writings have
humour, and it is humour of rather a rare kind.
In a word, he is a cultured humourist. He can
always amuse the stalls, never the gallery. Thack
eray is on his shelves, but Dickens I doubt it.
Dear me, here I have been extolling Max Beerbohm
as a writer, and have not yet mentioned the fact
that he also draws. Without doubt he is the
first of British caricaturists. In the six exhibitions
of his drawings that have been held since 1901 I
am sure that he has aroused more laughter than any
two other caricaturists. His drawings are a little
unkind, very caustic, uncannily penetrating, but oh,
so witty! He is a man of affairs, a retiring pub
licist, as well as a very able draftsman.
Thirdly, he is a humourist in conversation. He it
was who invented the story about let me call him
Sir Goahead Blank who, as everybody knows, set
himself with the aid of his accomplished wife to
climb to the pinnacle of London society. "Some
times," said Max, "in the middle of the night I am
aroused from my slumbers by a faint but persistent
noise. I lean upon my elbow listening, then relieved
I fall back upon my pillow murmuring to myself
It is only Sir Goahead Blank, climbing climbing
He was the brother, or half-brother, I forget which,
these things slip from the memory, of Sir Herbert
Beerbohm Tree. A friend meeting him on the
street one day said to him "Well, Max, and what
literary work hive you in hand just now?"
To which Max replied "I am meditating a series
44 Authors and I
of articles on the brothers of great men. I shall
begin with Herbert."
Max Beerbohm is not a new humourist. He
evaded the new humour which flickered in London
in the nineties, and which, in its American patent,
is flaming in the United States today. If I were
a magazine editor I should ask Max to write an
article on American humour from Artemus Ward to
Don Marquis. Then I should retire to Tahiti for
7. HILAIRE BELLOC
T PREFER Bclloc s writings to Chesterton s. He
A is more disagreeable, but he is saner ; he touches
my imagination more readily, and he makes me
laugh louder and oftener. I have just re-read
Belloc s "The Path to Rome," and if you know of
any modern book with greater gusto, ampler
humour, and a more fervid love of places and
characters, I beg you to give me its name. I do not
care tuppence about the purpose of his tramp; but
I do care immensely for it as a travel book, a wander
document from the delightful preface called
Praise of This Book" to the final "Dithyrambic
Epithalamium or Threnody" doggerel beginning
In these boots, and with this staff
Two hundred leaguers and a half
Walked I, went I, paced, tripped I,
Marched I, held I, skelped I, slipped I,
Pushed I, panted, swung and dashed I,
Picked I, forded, swam and splashed I,
Strolled I, climbed I, crawled and scrambled,
Dropped and dipped I, ranged and rambled. . . .
Is there anybody who has a finer and fuller love of
Place? Some years ago there appeared in the West
minster Gazette several third-of-a-column essays by
him on French places. The series was called "Little
Towns": his pen gave personality to each of these
46 Authors and I
half -forgotten towns. I could walk through France
seeking them, and when I find them they will be
He is a copious writer very copious and he writes
as easily as he talks ; so some of his travel books are
less good than others. In a genial mood he might
call them "hack work" ; but even his potboilers are
redeemed by the Bellocian gusto, his broad geo
graphical outlook, his grasp of history, and his
sense of form. "Hills and the Sea" was a spacious,
breezy volume, and "The River of London" and
"The Stane St." seemed to treat of eternity, not of
Perhaps it is not wise to hear him lecture. His
matter is solid, sententious, with sardonic and arro
gant humorous asides, and his assurance is amazing.
In manner he is rather like a bull in a meadow, and
as he proceeds, ramping and tossing, although I
appreciate his knowledge and power of expression,
I feel that I like him less and less. There is too
much of the schoolmaster in him, too much of the
He is the kind of man who would not wait to be
elected pope; he would take his seat, and then
defend it without pity and without compromise. At
the opening of the Great War he stepped upon the
throne of authority, and the British public, being
rather bewildered, hardly knowing where to look
for a mentor, accepted Hilaire Belloc as military
guide, philosopher, and friend. He issued his
ukases in the pages of the weekly journal, Land and
Water, and as at the very beginning, before any
Hilaire Belloc 47
news had come through, he announced that Ger
many would sweep through Belgium, we accepted
him as One Who Knows. It was easy for him to
play that role, as that has been the role he has
always played, ever since he began to write and talk.
He prophesied on the future of the war; he com
mented with an "I-told-you-so manner" on the past ;
he made his own plans and diagrams. For he is a
draftsman, too, a kind of artist (see "The Path to
Rome"), who, like lesser men, finds it difficult to
make snow mountains sit back in their place in a
picture. But the Great War proved too great for
the prophets. They all tumbled down. Just when
Hilaire Belloc tumbled I know not, for after some
months I ceased to read his pontifical prognostica
tions. His three or four books about the war
"The First Phase," "The Second Phase," and so on
have gone into the "not wanted" corner of my
Nevertheless Belloc makes a fine showing on my
shelves. Whenever I open them I take delight in
"Lambkin s Remains," "Mr. Burden," and "The
Four Men." These are the works of a Man of
Letters who is speaking for himself, not to a
brief. His novels are dull. Most Men of Letters
want to write fiction, most fail. The teller of tales
needs a special kind of outfit. It is quite possible
to know all about Romance, and yet not be able to
write it. With his history books I am not
enamoured. If ever I do want to know anything
about "Robespierre," "Danton," "Mary Antoin
ette," which is not often, I go to a cyclopaedia. But
48 Authors and 1
his essays are very readable: they have more struc
ture and less ornament than Mr. Chesterton s.
From 1906 to 1910 he was Member of Parliament,
in the Liberal interest, for South Salford; but he
was not a success. Members of Parliament, with
all their faults, have views, and they object to being
driven and herded except by their chiefs. Per
suasion may mollify them, but not arrogance. I
have not read his book, "The Party System," which
he w T rote in conjunction with Mr. Chesterton.
Hilaire Belloc was educated at the Oratory School,
Edgbaston, and at Balliol College, Oxford, where
he was the Brackenbury history scholar and first
class in honour history schools. Between school and
college he served as a driver in the eighth regiment
of French artillery at Toul, Meurthe-et-Moselle.
Thus early in life we find him eager in pursuit and
in practice of his two chief subjects the Mind of
History and the Mind of Soldiering.
He enlisted in the French Army because he is of
French extraction. His father was a French bar-
rirter; his mother, an Englishwoman, was descended
from Dr. Joseph Priestley, discoverer of "dephlogis-
ticated air" or oxygen. He was also minister of a
congregation in Suffolk, and later a citizen of the
French Republic. Mr. Belloc, in "Who s Who,"
is silent about Dr. Priestley. It is his sister, the
novelist, who obliges with the information.
Like all well-brought-up Men of Letters, Mr.
Hilaire Belloc is also a poet. At the age of 25 he
published "Verses and Sonnets," and since then he
has, intermittently, broken into verse. One of his
Hilaire Belloc 49
poems is famous and fine. It is in the "Anthol
ogies," and it gives Sussex men an advantage over
men of Kent and Surrey. They have no such song
as Hilaire Belloc s song in praise of Sussex, of
which I quote four of the ten stanzas:
When I am living in the Midlands
That are sodden and unkind,
I light ray lamp in the evening:
My work is left behind;
And the great hills of the South Country
Come back into my mind.
The great hills of the South Country
They stand along the sea;
And it s there, walking in the high woods,
That I could wish to be,
And the men that were boys when I was a boy
Walking along with me.
I will gather and carefully make my friends
Of the men of the Sussex Weald.
They watch the stars from silent folds,
They stiffly plough the field.
By them and the God of the South Country
My poor soul shall be healed.
If I ever become a rich man,
Or if ever I grow to be old,
I will build a house with deep thatch
To shelter me from the cold,
And there shall the Sussex songs be sung
And the story of Sussex be told.
History, Politics, Warmongering, Essay Writing,
Controversy what arc they to a song?
8. ARNOLD BENNETT
THAT dynamo, Enoch Arnold Bennett, began
to function in 1867. He is now very famous
and very rich. This is precisely what that dynamo,
which has dropped the Enoch, and now calls itself
Arnold Bennett, intended should happen. What he
intends docs happen. Odd, but provable.
I have known three or four great men in my time;
all had, incidentally, moods, miseries, and weak
nesses. E. A. B., for so, occasionally, he has called
himself, is without moods, miseries, or weaknesses.
He may have had them once, but being unprofitable
for the life work he ordained for himself to become
rich and famous he at once expelled them from his
Arnold Bennett is not only a dynamo; he is also
the controller of the dynamo. I mean by this that
his well-controlled will can order his well-controlled
mentality to do exactly what the will dictates. In
spiration, ecstasy, loafing, and inviting the soul
what are such things to him? Nothing. Dynamos
don t have ecstasies. Dynamos don t loaf.
He is the controller of the machine that converts
mental energy into ten pound ($50 or so) per
thousand words energy. So good are these words, so
efficient is the driving force of the dynamo, that one
of the modest pleasures of my life is a new Mood,
Arnold Bennett 5 1
a new Fantasia, a new Frolic, a new Play, a new
Pocket Philosophy, or a new "Miscellaneous" by
Arnold Bennett. I am never disappointed. The
adventure is like buying goods at an old established,
reliable London shop. Whatever you purchase
shirts, braces, or collars you know that they will
be of the best material and the best workmanship,
honestly made, "all wool and a yard wide," without
fripperies or fal-lals, and the buttons will never
drop off. "But," the intelligent reader interjects,
"Arnold Bennett, you know, wrote one novel of
genius, The Old Wives 1 Tale/ perhaps two."
True. He wrote a novel of genius, perhaps two,
because the controlling will of this dynamo re
marked : "The time has come to write a novel of
genius. Begin tomorrow morning at 8.55. That
will give you five minutes to wash out your ink
bottle and fill it with the excellent anti-corrosive
fluid you discovered yesterday."
But I am going too quickly. I am giving the present
aspect of the Arnold Bennett edifice without refer
ence to the architectonic intelligence that produced
the edifice. It was my privilege, for a time, to
watch the edifice rising, and it was as plain as an
advertisement in a tram-car, even in those long past
days, that the edifice would rise to stately propor
tions. That was inevitable, because Arnold Ben
nett was the architect, the builder, the contractor,
and the edifice.
Toward the end of last century, I was editing
The Academy and seeking daily for new writers
with nimble pens. My tenure of the editorial chair
52 Authors and I
(it was the new swivel-kind, and considered rather
chic in those days), began in 1896, the year in
which Enoch Arnold Bennett succeeded to the
editorship of Woman, a penny weekly.
Soon I subscribed to Woman, not because I was
particularly interested in woman, but because this
paper was edited with spirit, finesse, and male-
sense, and because there was a column of Book
Notes signed May, or Rosalind, or Sophy, or some
such name, which was so good that I yearned to
acquire the writer for the journal I was editing. In
a month or two I discovered that May, or Rosalind,
or Sophy was E. A. B. or Enoch Arnold Bennett.
A little diplomacy, a little flattery and the dynamo
presented itself at my office for a talk. Within a
few minutes he had told me how my paper should
be edited categorically and vehemently. That
was and is Arnold Bennett s way. I have no doubt
that since he has become famous and has met many
distinguished men he has told Mr. David Lloyd
George how to run the British Empire, and Mr.
Woodrow Wilson how to circumvent the Republi
cans, etc, etc. That is his way. His foible is om
niscience. Who but Arnold Bennett could or would
have found time amid the aesthetic attractions and
financial allurements of novel writing and play-
writing to instruct the proletariat in "Mental Effi
ciency" and "How to Live on 24 Hours a Day."
That first interview with Arnold Bennett told me
that, at any cost, I must persuade him to join our
staff: the first article he wrote assured me that at
any cost I must keep him there. He never wrote
Arnold Bennett 53
a superfluous word, every sentence told; he had
sound opinions upon everything; and his sledge-ham
mer manner of stating those opinions, what a relief
it was after reading proofs of reviews and articles
by the ordinary young man with the ordinary artis
tic temperament. I never altered a word in an
Arnold Bennett proof. And there was rarely an
erasure in his copy. His orderly mind said to his
obedient hand: "Write my masterly and masterful
thoughts in copperplate calligraphy, always with
the same number of words upon a page, for though
I suspect that I have the artistic temperament I am
also a business man, and a man of affairs, and it is
those qualities that \Vill advance me quickly in the
As a writer of reviews and articles he was capable,
conscientious and incredibly hard working. E. A. B.
was determined to leam the business of writing
thoroughly. He was not going to take any chances.
I wonder if he remembers the labour he put into a
review of a new translation of Balzac. The article
in two parts was a miracle of research and wisdom.
He knew it would pay him wise youth. That
labour taught him all he needed to know about the
construction of the Balzac novel. He was the most
valuable member of the staff. I knew it. He
knew it. So I was not surprised when one day he
demanded a 50 per cent increase of pay. Of course
I meekly assented. I would have assented even if
I had been forced to deduct the extra honorarium
(that s what we called it: honorarium sounded
better than pay) from my own salary. A good
54 Authors and I
editor knows when he has a good thing. Bennett
has described this advance in his honorarium in the
preface to "The Truth About an Author," a per
fectly delightful and humorously cynical account of
his own career which has a merit most autobiog
raphies lack it is true. Consequently many
reviewers disliked it extremely. The passage runs:
"I well remember the day when, by dint of amicable
menaces, I got the rate raised in my favour from
10 to 15 shillings a column, with a minimum of two
guineas an article for exposing the fatuity of pop
He has become a popular idol himself and he has
strenuously striven to keep the popular idol class
select. In the words of the old song "There s flies
on me, there s flies on you, but there ain t no flies on
Arnold." Between 1908 and 1911 under the pseu
donym of "Jacob Tonson" in the New Age he
revalued all the current popular and unpopular
idols. Excellent reading were these corybantic
essays: excellent reading they are today in the
volume called "Books and Persons."
While he was writing them he was himself becoming
daily more of a popular idol. Rather piquant, eh?
But he was not in the least surprised by his pop
ularity. His will had planned it, therefore the
One afternoon, just after the new century had
turned, somewhat impressed by the immense amount
of time and effort he was putting into reviews and
other ephemera, I said to him, "What about your
future? What arc you going to do?"
Arnold Bennett 55
Readily, always ready is E. A. B., he answered,
"It s all arranged. I shall write two novels for
fame, two for fun, two for money; plays I shall
treat in the same way, and I shall live for a time in
France and marry a French girl."
Which is precisely what he has done and more,
The problem now is What next? Happy thought!
Why should he not write another novel of genius?
Meanwhile I sit down to re-read his frolic called
"A Great Man." It is vastly entertaining; but
there is more in it than mere fun. This frolic is a
criticism of life. Perhaps there is more in it than
Arnold Bennett thinks. Oh, no, that s impossible.
9. G. K. CHESTERTON
HAVE busied myself with many of his many
* books, and I have wearied of his paradoxes and
rhetorical gallivanting. I find the utmost difficulty
in getting to the end of an article by him; but I
persevere because if he annoys me seven times he
stimulates me twice. That is about the proportion.
My eyes rove down his columns for the flashes
of insight. I read them twice and skip the rest.
Yes, he does give us, in everything he writes, these
flashes of insight. He cannot help them, they are
himself, and apparently he does not know and does
not care whether he produces flashes of insight or
Editors regard him as a popular teacher and direc
tor, but is he? Those who read him do so for his
Chestertonisms, for his fun, for his chunks of com
mon sense, and they try to forgive him for his
belief that if you say a good thing once, it becomes
twice as good if you say it twice. But they do
not read him for his message. What is his mes
sage? Does any reader get anything from his book
on Divorce, except that in the recesses of his alert
hide-and-seek brain he has beautiful mystical
thoughts about marriage? Really I do not think
it matters much what Mr. Chesterton s subject is.
Stardust, Lobsters, Bric-a-brac, Ireland the subject
G. K. Chesterton 57
is merely a peg to hang Chestertonian daydreams
on. His method is simple. He might begin an essay
thus: "You may think that in the jungle a tiger
acts like a tiger. It does not: it acts like a geranium.
The reasons arc obvious. . . ."
He is a figure in the literary world in a wider sense
than usual. Usually and rightly an author s per
sonal appearance is regarded as something separate
and apart from his writings, as sacred as his home
life. But Mr. Chesterton s great bulk, massive
face, and wild crop of untidy hair are as well known
and popular as were Dr. Johnson s appearance and
idiosyncrasies. Each is a legend. Chesterton himself
is by no means shy on the subject. It is on record
that, at a public dinner, a speaker said that Chester
ton s chivalry is so splendid that he had been known
to rise in a tramcar and offer his seat to three ladies.
Mr. A. G. Gardiner, who tells this story, adds that
Mr. Chesterton s laughter sounded high above all
the rest. "You may laugh with him, and at him,
and about him," adds Mr. Gardiner, "but there is
one thing, and one only, about which he is serious,
and that is his own seriousness."
It is this seriousness that the reader loves to track,
to pick it from the bustling byways and the bursting
fireworks of his prose; to track in the pages of
"Heretics," "Dickens," "Browning," "Tremendous
Trifles," "Alarms and Discussions," "A Short His
tory of England," "The Crimes of England,"
"What s Wrong with the World." I admit that
I would not do it for pleasure. A chapter in each
book is about all I can assimilate. For, after all,
58 Authors and I
Chesterton has few surprises. He has a typical
Protestant mind, yet he loves ritual, superstition,
legends, saints, fairies, and he still believes, so he
has told us, that the moon is made of green cheese ;
he is always for the under dog, the voiceless, and
the lost cause; he is a Little Englander, an Eng
lishman who resents Belfast and reacts rhythmically
I have often wondered how the rectory public that
subscribes to The Illustrated London News likes
the page he writes each week and if they approved
of the change from the popular erudition of George
Augustus Sala, and the cheerful humanity of James
Payn. That page, "Our Note Book," was, for a
time, handed over to Hilaire Belloc. Strange how
these two literary men, these two mediaevalists
have run together through the present century. Mr.
Bernard Shaw noted this and invented a two-faced
capering and combative elephant, which he called
Mr. Chesterton is the outstanding type of the lit
erary journalist. It is as an essayist that he earns
his living and wins his fame. I fancy that he would,
if he could, be a maker of romances and draw as
near to the success of Stevenson as the public would
allow. He does not succeed. I can enjoy passages
of "Manalive," "The Flying Inn," "The Napoleon
of Notting Hill," and "The Man Who Was
Thursday," but reading them through is an effort.
They are shaped like romance; they ought to be
riotously romantic and funny, but they are not. As
G. K. Chesterton 59
for the Father Brown detective stories, if I want
to read such things I go to Sherlock Holmes.
If I were asked to select three of Chesterton s
books for a public library, which could not afford
the whole of his Brobdingnagian output, my choice
would fall upon his "Browning," his "Dickens" and
He has also published poems, sometimes humorous.
Indeed, it was as a poet, the author of "The Wild
Knight," that I first heard of him. He was a great
figure in Fleet Street even in those days, and people
would say: "Come, quickly, and you will see Gil
bert Chesterton getting out of a cab." Oh, the
stories ! It is said that he was driving in Paris, and
his companion, a novelist-publisher, remarked,
"They all seem to know you." To which G. K. C.
replied, "Yes, and if they don t they ask." And I
remember one evening in London when, to every
body s delight (it is the way of erring human nature
to jest at its benefactors) somebody read aloud
G. K. C. s verses on the Shakespeare Memorial
Committee. It begins:
Lord Lilac thought it rather rotten
That Shakespeare should be quite forgotten,
And therefore got on a committee
With several chaps out of the city,
And Shorter and Sir Herbert Tree,
Lord Rothschild and Lord Rosebery
And F. C. G. and Corny ns Carr,
Two dukes and a dramatic star. . . .
But as a poet he can be very serious and very fine.
It is quite likely that "The Wiltf Knight" and
60 Authors and I
"The Ballad of the White Horse" (a ballad that
took the bit between its teeth and raced into a
book), and his "Lepanto," a poem that has already
drifted into the Anthologies, will be read when
"Heretics" and "Tremendous Trifles" are forgotten.
Somebody should always be standing by his side when
he is writing essays, saying, "Gilbert be dull for a
bit. Paradox should be a souffle, not a joint."
10. JOSEPH CONRAD
TS it, can it be a quarter of a century ago since
* I sat one summer afternoon on the sands at
Sandgate, Kent, with H. G. Wells and Joseph Con
rad? Wells was our host. He was living then at
the charming Voysey house he had built on the cliff
perched between Folkestone and Hythe. I had come
from London. Conrad had emerged from the in
land farmhouse where he was then living, working
at, I fancy, "The Nigger of the Narcissus," which
was published in 1897. I remember H. G. s quick,
blue, watching, amused eyes, and intriguing manner
with a touch of asperity; such a contrast to Con
rad s virility and violence of utterance. I re
member watching Conrad dig his hands fiercely into
the loose sand, and say, "Ah, if only I could write
zee English good, well. But you see, you will
Joseph Conrad is eager and forthright, as prompt
in speech as in action, which is what we might
expect from a "Master in the Merchant Service"
who has spent many years of his life at sea. His
literary style is as broad, deep and full as a rolling
Atlantic breaker. He handles our sonorous and
plangent English with the ease that a captain
handles a ship, and yet he is not an Englishman. He
is of Polish parentage; he tells how, on long
62 Authors and I
voyages, he learnt the way to use words in the
right way, in the great way, from studying the
Bible and Shakespeare; and, as I have said, it
was not so many years ago, that he told us how
he almost despaired of ever mastering the English
tongue. He did it. There is a foreign inflexion in
his speech, never in his prose. Milton might have
envied the colour of many of his words.
How well I remember the time when his short
story, "Youth," first appeared in Blackwootfs
Magazine, about 1901. I read it on a long train
journey, and then re-read it, because I was still
far from my destination. When I had finished it,
I wrote: "Amazing! This may be the best short
story of the decade; certainly it is the finest state
ment in literature of the romantic impact of the
East upon the West."
You preceive that I read and re-read "Youth" on
a train journey; that is, I gave it my mind and
my undivided attention. Perhaps, if I were to
read a long novel by Conrad in that way, say "Lord
Jim" or "Typhoon," I should admire the innumer
able pages as much as I admire slender "Youth";
but a busy man rarely has time to read long
novels carefully. Who has? And yet I feel that
I ought to read Conrad carefully, as he is a writer s
writer, as Manet was a painter s painter, and my
young literary friends call him Master. So, when
Land and Water arrived in America with the first
installment of "The Rescue," I said to myself:
"Here is a chance to make up my mind about Joseph
Conrad. I can read, and re-read this installment of
Joseph Conrad 63
The Rescue* in an hour an hour of my mind
and my undivided attention."
To produce such prose requires composure and con
centration. And as for the architecture of the open
ing of this story, I find in it the same kind of method
that Mr. Conrad employs in many other of his
romances that I have read or skipped. He delights
to take some vast, outlying immensity of ocean and
sky with hints of land, where little cellular beings
called men dwell. You must be patient while he
is developing his immensity; then, you will view
with relief the introduction, at first hardly more
than ejaculations, of the little cellular beings called
men into this expanse of immensity, but presently
and gradually the man or men become characterised
swiftly and neatly. Follows more immensity, and
the little men in the vastness begin to assume shape,
form and disposition, and so on, and so on, until
man takes his place in the Conradian immensity.
* * *
Since the above was written I have read in book
form "The Rescue," which he began, worked on for
a time, and then dropped twenty years ago. I feel
about it as I felt about "The Arrow of Gold,"
and other of Conrad s novels. I am intensely in-
terested in the art with which he drops Man into
the Immensity of his landscape, but I am little
interested in the story he tells. The opening of "The
Rescue" thrilled me as before, but as the story pro
gressed my interest flagged. The art of writing is
stronger in Conrad than the art of story-telling.
64 Authors and I
So with the small book by him called "A Personal
Record," telling how "Almayer s Folly" was writ
ten, so with the Prefaces to the new editions of
his books. I begin with avidity, I seem ever on the
threshold of learning something, and becoming a
Conrad enthusiast ; but the conversion never comes,
and I turn with hope to the next Preface, or the
The Conrad enthusiasts are so many that my defec
tion may be overlooked. Once when I was asked
which of his works leads me nearest to enthusiasm,
I answered "The Nigger of the Narcissus" and the
short story "Youth."
The Bible and Shakespeare may have moulded
Conrad s style, as his years at sea gave him knowl
edge of the ways of the ocean, and the men who go
down to it in great ships. Is it not wonderful that
.a Pole should be able thus to fuse manner and ma
terial and make romances in an alien tongue? This
is a mystery of the craft or of genius.
You cannot say that reading "The Tempest" gave
Conrad his insight into the ways of seafarers; you
cannot say that chancing upon a copy of Chaucer s
"Parliament of Fowls" put John Mascfield in
the way of writing "Salt Water Ballads" and "The
Everlasting Mercy." Chaucer gave him the start,
and then followed Shakespeare, Milton, Keats and
Shelley. But these were but fuel. The fire was
there. So with Conrad. The fire to write was
smouldering within him in his Polish home, and the
spark came, and the fuel came, as the wind comes,
where it listeth.
11. KENYON COX
SHE had been reading Kenyon Cox s last article.
It was on "German Painting." But I doubt if
she reached the end of the essay, for the paper
wherein it was published had fallen from her hands,
and she was almost crying.
"Tut! Tut!" I said. "What is it?"
"Lots of things," she answered, "but chiefly
memories. Oh, while people are hailing Kenyon
Cox as a great mural painter, to me he was just a
She turned away. For some reason or another she
was disturbed. So I talked.
"Kenyon Cox was a better writer than painter," I
said. "He was an artist in words, if you like;
he was never an artist in paint. His pictures are
commonplace, formal ; but, in his writings, he some
times ascends to the threshold of the Initiates. It
is given to few to excel in the two crafts of writing
"If William Hunt, author of Talks on Art/ had
been able to paint as well as he wrote about painting,
what a great artist he would have been. He it
who, when Oliver Wendell Holmes handed him
a Chinese vase, asking if he would like to see it,
answered: Like to see it? By Gosh, it s one of
those dashed ultimate things! There is more real
66 Authors and I
appreciation, my dear lady, in that slangy sentence
of William Hunt s than in pages of tall writing.
Kenyon Cox would have taken a chapter to say it,
and please understand that he would have said it
charmingly. Hunt was a torrent. Cox was a
Here I paused, because the lady was not listening.
"How strange," she said, "and how enviable to
be remembered by one little poem. It must be thirty
years ago since I first read it. We were living by
the sea, a lonely place in a remote part of Europe;
and one day, oh, how well I remember it, dear
B and C surprised us with a visit. They
were on their honeymoon; they brought us all the
news of America, and among other odds and ends
a copy of the current Century magazine. In it was
an essay by Kenyon Cox on Early Renaissance
Sculpture, and at the end of it was a poem. I was
younger then, and it moved me in a way that few
poems have ever moved me. It was inspired by
the Temme Inconnue, in the Louvre, and it began:
She lived in Florence centuries ago,
That lady smiling there.
What was her name or rank I do not know
I know that she was fair.
I have been trying to remember the rest of it, but
I can only recall detached lines. Do find it for
me. And the sad thing is that I have a copy of it
somewhere, and I can t remember where it is hidden
a copy in Kenyon Cox s own handwriting. Oh,
how kind he was! It happened like this: Dear
Kenyan Cox 67
C was a friend of Cox s, and, when he returned
to America, he told him of my love for the poem.
And Kenyon Cox copied it out and sent it to me,
but that wasn t all. He added a fourth stanza
which the magazine, for some reason or other, did
not print. Somebody told me that the Editor
thought it was not quite proper. Entre nous, the
poet, in that rejected stanza, presses a kiss upon the
lips of stone."
The lady laughed through her tears. "I ll have a
hunt for the poem tonight," she said, "but I am
afraid that I have hidden it away somewhere so
carefully that I shall never find it."
Obviously it was my pleasure to track the poem.
I told the girl librarian at one of the New York
Branch Libraries about it, and she suggested that
I should consult the Century Magazine index. That
part of my mission failed. I became so interested
in the writers of circa 1890 that the time passed
without discovery of any reference to "She lived in
Florence centuries ago." As for the index, well,
you know what indexes arc. I have never been able
to discover anything I want in an index anywhere.
The girl librarian handed me more copies of the
Century, and offered to help me in the search. I
declined graciously. I could not put her to the
trouble; but I accepted from her a little lot of books
by Kenyon Cox. On the way home, I made a men
tal note to write an essay, a la E. V. Lucas, in
quiring why librarian girls are always kind, and
telephone girls arc always cross. Perhaps it is be
cause one sees us and the other doesn t.
68 Authors and I
So behold me that afternoon, engaged on a task
a Bookman loves, the task or the joy of dipping into
an author with whom one is fairly familiar. I
began to browse on Kenyon Cox s "Old Masters
and New" and "Artist and Public"; I dipped here
and there, feeling sure that I should find some
where a clue to the lost poem.
There are no surprises in Kenyon Cox, and shall
I add, no faults? He is a cultured and scholarly
conformist. Compared with Cox, John Ruskin was
a Bernard Shaw, and William Hunt a Clemenceau.
Kenyon Cox was always on the side of order and
safety. Even his insight was safety first. The old is
according to law, and consequently agreeable; the
new is irregular, and consequently disagreeable.
It might be said of Kenyon Cox in literature, as he
says of his contemporaries in painting: "Our most
original and most distinguished painters, those who
give the tone to our exhibitions and the national
accent to our school, are almost all engaged in
trying to get back one or another of the qualities
that marked the great art of the past."
The new art of the present he disliked extremely.
Post-Impressionism was almost evil, Rodin s draw
ings were almost a disgrace; but I did not dwell
on those essays. I turned to where he dallies lov
ingly with some phase of the great art of the past;
there he is quite at home and a charming companion.
And so I came at twilight, while the great city
hummed below, and the young moon with one lone
star peeped out above, to his essay on "Sculptors of
the Early Italian Renaissance." If I had to choose
Kenyan Cox 69
one essay by Kenyon Cox for an Anthology, this
would be my choice. He loved the subject; his love
passes on to us. I read pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 with
growing delight and, when I turned to page 8
there, at the end, was the poem. My feelings can
hardly have been excelled by Peary when he found
the North Pole. There it was and with the
missing last stanza:
THE "FEMME INCONNUE" OF THE LOUVRE
She lircd in Florence centuries ago,
That lady smiling there.
What was her name or rank I do not know
I know that she was fair.
For some great man his name, like hers, forgot
And faded from men s sight
Loved her he must hare loved her and has wrought
This bust for our delight.
Whether he gained her love or had her scorn,
Full happy was his fate.
He saw her, heard her speak; he was not born
Four hundred years too late.
The palace throngs in every room but thi
Here I am left alone.
Love, there is none to tee I press a kit*
Upon thy lips of stone.
Surely, we may absolve that Editor of thirty years
ago of prudery; surely he omitted the last stanza,
because it is weak an anti-climax. The poem ends
at "Four hundred years too late."
12. STEPHEN CRANE
TO have written "The Red Badge of Courage"
before he was 25 ; to have produced all of his
work ere the age of 30 is wonderful.
Slender, quiet, and neat; unaffected, unromantic,
and unobtrusive; always watchful yet always seem
ing weary and brooding, with the penetrating blue
eyes of the visionary so I saw, and remember
Stephen Crane vividly. That was in the summer
We were thrown together under circumstances that
have made a lasting impression upon me. He had
rented Brede Place, in Sussex, and there Mr. and
Mrs. Crane entertained in a way that was very
original if seemingly rather extravagant.
Brede Place, I should explain, is one of the oldest
manor-houses in Sussex, standing in a vast untidy
park. At that time the owners had not lived there
for some years; house and park had been neglected,
and it would have cost a small fortune to give the
place the patted and petted look of propriety in
which Englishmen love to garb their estates. How
old Brede Place is I know not, but I well remember
a stand for falcons in the outer entrance hall, that
has survived all changes! The house has grown;
wings have been added; the floors are of different
levels; you lose your way; you peer from the win-
Stephen Crane 71
dow embrasures to learn where you are, and seeing
the thickness of the wall you wonder at the men of
old time who built so perdurably.
In recent years Brede Place has been put in order;
today you may see tennis played on the lawns, and
hear Debussy in the parlours. But when Stephen
Crane rented it all was delightfully muddled and
mediaeval. Why he took Brede Place I know not.
He liked adventures and new experiences, and
Brede Place, Sussex, was a change from Mulberry
Street, Newark, New Jersey.
He found himself in a far-flung colony of writers.
Crane was a fine horseman, and within riding,
cycling or driving distance (motors were uncommon
then) lived Henry James, H. G. Wells, Joseph
Conrad, Ford Madox Hueffer, and others. They
were proud to have the author of "The Red badge
of Courage" among them, and he had lately achieved
another brilliant success with "The Open Boat."
That year I was spending my summer holiday at
Winchelsea, and as I had been writing in The
dcademy, with admiration, of this young American
who had captured literary England, it was natural
that I should wish to see him. So one day in full
summer, when the hops were head high, and all the
country decked with bloom and greenery, I cycled
over to Brede Place.
Stephen Crane was seated before a long, deal table
facing the glorious view. He had been writing
hard; the table was littered with papers, and he
read aloud to me in his precise, remote voice what
he had composed that afternoon. One passage has
72 Authors and I
remained with me about a sailor in a cabin, and
above his head swung a vast huddle of bananas.
He seemed over-anxious about the right description
of that huddle of bananas; and it seemed strange
to find this fair, slight, sensitive youth sitting in the
quiet of Brede Place writing about wild deeds in
Our next meeting was amazing. I received an in
vitation to spend three days in Brede Place ; on the
second day a play was to be performed at the school
room in Brede Village a mile away up the hill. This
play we were informed, sub rosa, had been written
by Henry James, H. G. Wells, A. E. W. Mason
and other lights of literature.
Duly I arrived at Brede Place. Surely there has
never been such a house party. The ancient house,
in spite of its size, was taxed to the uttermost. There
were six men in the vast, bare chamber where I
slept, the six iron bedsteads, procured for the
occasion, quite lost in the amplitude of the chamber.
At the dance, which was held on the evening of our
arrival, I was presented to bevies of beautiful Amer
ican girls in beauteous frocks. I wondered where
they came from. And all the time, yes, as far as
I remember, all the time our host, the author of
"The Red Badge of Courage," sat in a corner of the
great fireplace in the hall, not unamused, but very
silent. He seemed rather bewildered by what had
happened to him.
Of the play I have no recollection. The perform
ance has been driven from my mind by the memory
of the agony of getting to Brede village. It was a
Stephen Crane 73
pouring wet night, with thunder and lightning.
The omnibuses which transported us up the hill
stuck in the miry roads. Again and again we had
to alight and push, and each time we returned
to our seats on the top (the American girls were
inside) I remarked to my neighbour, H. G. Wells,
that Brede village is not a suitable place for
Many people reread "The Red Badge of Courage"
during the Great War, and the strange thing is
that this work of imagination seems more real than
the actual accounts of the fighting in Flanders. Yet
this is not strange. The imagination is able to give
a verisimilitude to invented happenings that a report,
however accurate, does not achieve. The artist
selects. He treats only that which is necessary to
produce his effects. Stephen Crane was an artist.
He imagined what he himself, an inarticulate, be
wildered unit in the Civil War, would think, feel,
and do; he projected his imagination into the con
flict, and the result was that astonishing work
"The Red Badge of Courage."
The Civil War stories in "The Little Regiment"
volumes are as good as "The Red Badge," but the
editor or publisher who asked him to write essays
on "The Great Battles of the World" did not know
his business. They are routine work. His imagina
tion was not moved, as it was in "The Red Badge,"
and in "Maggie," the first book he wrote, which
was published when he was 21.
It was natural that Crane should want to see actual
warfare, and editors were eager to employ him. So
74 Authors and I
he saw the Gneco-Turkish War, and the Spanish-
American War, but nothing vital came from these
experiences. His imagination worked better in a
room than on a battlefield.
Yet one thing came out of his experiences of real
warfare one sentence. When he returned he said :
" The Red Badge is all right."
13. WILLIAM HENRY DAVIES
1TAAVIES is a real poet, an authentic poet, a
-L simple-minded poet in the noblest sense. As a
man and as a poet he is the most innocent-minded of
living writers. He sings because he has to sing, as a
bird sings, without premeditation, unaware that
people are listening, and indifferent if they are. He
has had a remarkable life, very remarkable, but
before discussing it I should like to copy out a piece
by him called "Sheep."
When I was once in Baltimore,
A man came up to me and cried,
"Come, I have eighteen hundred sheep,
And we will sail on Tuesday s tide.
"If you will sail with me, young man,
Til pay you fifty shillings down;
These eighteen hundred sheep I take
From Baltimore to Glasgow town."
He paid me fifty shillings down,
I sailed with eighteen hundred sheep;
We soon had cleared the harbour s mouth,
We soon were in the salt sea deep.
The first night we were out at sea
Those sheep were quiet in their mind;
The second night they cried with fear
They smelt no pastures in the wind.
76 Authors and I
They sniffed, poor things, for their green fields,
They cried so loud I could not sleep:
For fifty thousand shillings down
I would not sail again with sheep.
This poem is not a fancy. It happened. The
poet heard the sheep crying on one of the many
voyages he took when he was a cattleman helping
to convey cargoes of cattle and sheep from America
to England. It is all set down in that remarkable
book by William Henry Davies, called "The Au
tobiography of a Super-Tramp," wherein the Odys
sey of his vagrancy in America and Canada, extend
ing over many years, is told with the artlessness and
simplicity that mark his poems. A Welshman, born
in Monmouthshire, this natural truant, this wan
derer without luggage, this pedlar, hawker, poet-
tramp, stands out as an Original. Social conventions,
the nice proprieties of civilised life, were no more to
him than they are to a dog or a bird. He touched
life through his passion for reading and roaming-
that was all. Always he looked forward to the life
of a student, but he delayed. Throughout his wan
derings there were long periods when he never
opened a book, when he was content just to drift
from county to county, from state to state, and
watch the world.
While still a youth his grandmother left him an
annuity of ten shillings (about two and a half dol
lars) a week, which sum, to the unambitious serenity
of his mind, seemed a competence, relieving him
from the trouble of earning a living. He did not
always draw the annuity; sometimes he would al-
William Henry Davies 77
low it to accumulate, so again and again when he
returned to England from America he would find
himself a capitalist.
He reduced life to its simplest elements. Such
bogies as the police, doss houses, jails, poorhouses,
the companionship of thieves and wasters did not dis
turb him. Airily and companionably he mixed
with them, but they did not change or affect Davies.
He went to America because it was far away, large
and potential ; he stayed there several years, tramp
ing and travelling long distances without a ticket,
"working here and there as the inclination seized
me, which, I must confess was not often." Then he
set out for the Klondyke, thinking that there "the
rocks were of solid gold," but meeting with disaster
(he lost a foot in a railway accident) he returned
to London and lived in Rowton House, a doss house
in Newington Butts, where the charge is sixpence
a night. At the end of two years he left Rowton
House for less expensive quarters at The Farm
House, Kennington, as he had handed over two
of his ten shillings a week to a needy relative.
At this point Mr. George Bernard Shaw enters as
the Good Fairy of the Davies history. In the year
1905 he received by post a volume of poems from
a stranger. It was marked "Price half a crown"
(60 cents), and was accompanied by a curt, civil
letter, asking Mr. Shaw either to send half a crown
or return the book. Mr. Shaw read the book, deter
mined that Mr. Davies was "a real poet," "a gen
uine innocent writing odds and ends of verse about
odds and ends of things," showing no sign that he
7 8 Authors and I
had ever read anything, "otherwise than as a
child reads." Mr. Shaw bought several copies
of the poems and sent them to literary friends.
Then the reviews began, interviews followed, and
this tramp, this pedlar, this griddler, this hobo,
this cattleman, this poet, this child of innocence,
awoke one morning in his doss house (he always
tried for the bed next to wall, so that he would
not have a sleeping tramp on each side) to find
himself famous. He became a Man of Letters
(the eight shilling a week still kept him, including
postage and paper, and he wrote his Life "The Au
tobiography of a Super-Tramp," to which George
Bernard Shaw contributed a characteristic preface,
telling, with amazement, the story of finding Davies
through the post.
There is little about literature in the autobiography.
Throughout the pages Davies is content just to live
with the idea, perhaps lurking in his mind, of one
day writing out the poems he was forever making.
Not till his wandering years were over did he
seriously "commence author." One day in Rowton
House he sat down to write a tragedy in blank
verse called "The Robber"; this was followed by
a long poem wherein dumb nature meets to impeach
man for his cruelty; then he wrote other things,
including hundreds of short poems. No publisher
would take them. He remained in obscurity, dis
couraged and unknown, adding to his income by
hawking and peddling, until one day he had the
happy idea of drawing a sum in advance on his an
nuity, printing his poems at his own cost, and offer-
William Henry Davies 79
ing the book, through the post, to eminent littera
teurs, on sale or return.
Now he is arrived. He is a successful poet; he
lives in the eminent respectability of Bloomsbury,
and there, as it is a neighbourly section of the world,
I may hope one day to meet him. There, too, an
other poet-tramp, an American, Nicholas Vachel
Lindsay, will, I trust, present himself some day
during his prolonged sojourn in London. I have
just reread Lindsay s delightful tramp book, "Ad
ventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty."
It is so different from the book by Davies.
Lindsay is self-conscious; he has a mission; his book
is the work of a literary man, exuberant, gay, who
sets out with the intention of writing a book about
his tramp from Springfield, Illinois, to Kansas and
back. Davies had no thought of writing a book.
His "Super-Tramp" is written in the way that an
unmoral, adventurous child might tell his mother
how he spent a holiday. So his poems were written
just to tell himself simple and beautiful things
about the world, about unhistoric, homely men,
women and children, their sojourning, their strug
gles, their sorrow and their joy
The strangest moment of my life
Is when I think about the poor;
When, like a spring that rain has fed,
My pity rises more and more.
The flower that loves the warmth and light,
Has all its mornings bathed in dew,
My heart has moments wet with tears,
My weakness is they are to few.
14. RICHARD HARDING DAVIS
I MET him once. It was a strange encounter. He
spoke but five words. They were self-revealing.
From the way he spoke those five words I knew
approximately the kind of man that Richard Hard
ing Davis was.
The time was the month of January, 1900. Great
Britain s trouble was then the Boer War, and the
centre of the trouble was the siege of Ladysmith.
Hemmed within the Natal village was General
White with 10,000 troops and several war cor
respondents including young George W. Steevens of
the Daily Mail, the best war correspondent of
the day, perhaps the best in the annals. One Satur
day morning of that bleak January the heliograph
flashed the news from Ladysmith, and the cable
flashed it to London, that George W. Steevens had
passed away. He was my dear friend, so I took
a train for Merton Abbey, Surrey, where in peace
time I had spent happy days with Mr. and Mrs.
Mrs. W. K. Clifford was with Mrs. Steevens. We
did our best, and were beginning to calm and com
fort her when Alfred Harmsworth was announced,
plain Alfred Harmsworth, then, untitled, founder
and proprietor of the Daily Mail. He was very
fond of George, and he was deeply distressed at
Richard Harding Davis 8 I
what had happened, so distressed that I found the
scene too painful to witness. I could do nothing.
I was in the way, so I pushed open the French
window and wandered into the garden. There was
a long pond or lake in the grounds (Merton Abbey,
associated with Nelson and Lady Hamilton, is now
pulled down) and at the head of the water was
an heroic statue. Posed in front of the statue
I observed a handsome man standing in a hand
Being a habitue of the house, and knowing that
Mrs. Steevens was particular about preserving the
privacy of the historic grounds, I suppose that my
eyebrows lifted ever so little, as if to say: "Pray,
sir, what are you doing here?"
His voice rang out: "I am Richard Harding
The fine words admitted of no argument, no dis
cussion. It was final. He meant it to be so. If
I did not know who Richard Harding Davis was
that was my fault, my loss. He was Richard Hard
ing Davis, and the world, including myself, must
I raised my hat and prepared to retire. There was
nothing else to do. He raised his hat; we bowed
again, both enjoying the exchange of courtesies.
The only mistake I made was in not handing him
my card. He would have appreciated that useless
but proper addition to the ceremony. Later I
learned that Mr. Alfred Harmsworth had invited
Richard Harding Davis to accompany him in his
motor car on the visit to Mrs. Steevens, so that
82 -Authors and I
he might give him instructions at leisure. Mr. Al
fred Harmsworth never wasted time. He had djc-
cided to ask Richard Harding Davis to take
George s place as correspondent of the Dally Mail
in South Africa. The rest is history. Davis saw the
relief of Ladysmith, and presently joined the enemy
"to watch," as he laconically expressed it, "the Boers
fighting the same men I had just seen fighting
Richard Harding Davis was not a stylist, and he
had little love or reverence for the tongue that
Shakespeare spoke and Milton ennobled. He Jast
used it as a vehicle for the expression of the interest
that he, a Man of Action, took in life. He liked
the kind of people and things that Kipling likes, but
when a headstrong critic called him the American
Kipling, and another said that his story called "Gal-
legher" is "as good as anything in Bret Harte,"
these gentlemen wrote nonsense. Kipling, like
Davis, graduated from newspapers, but Kipling
is a genius and nothing that Davis ever wrote ap
proaches within sight of the wonder of Bret Harte s
But Richard Harding Davis was a very remarkable
man, and few newspapers have ever had such a prize
reporter and correspondent. One of the finest and
most awesome stories written during the Great War
was his account of the entry of the Germans into
Brussels; and one of the best pieces of descriptive
writing is his account of how he saved himself from
being arrested by the Germans, and shot as a spy,
through remembering, at the critical moment, that
Richard Harding Davis 83
he was wearing a hat marked with the name of a
well-known New York hatter, thus proving his
identity, saving his life, and giving him a typical
Davis newspaper story.
His sense of the dramatic was vivid; he saw him
self as a person in the drama; and when he met
something interesting and dramatic he could make
a vivid story out of it, understandable of all men,
without circumlocution, and without art.
He was an ideal magazine writer, and he had the
sense of personal honour, of doing one s job, of play
ing the game, of seeing a trouble through and emerg
ing victorious, that made him popular with every
kind of reader. How well I remember the emo
tion and joy with which I first read his story called
"The Bar Sinister," telling how a street dog, a
mongrel, proved to be a champion with a perfect
pedigree. It is beautifully told. I have given away
copies of "The Bar Sinister" merely to watch the
reader s heightened colour and air of gratification as
this fine story unfolds. And "Gallegher," telling
how the printer s devil made good, came through,
"beat the town," how gay and full of gusto it is.
"Gallegher" was enormously popular. Dickens
would have liked it. Henry James, too. Every
condition of man and woman likes "Gallegher" and
"The Bar Sinister."
He was as well known in London t as in New York.
Indeed, he was known throughout the world, and
he took good care not to let the world forget him.
No war was complete without Richard Harding
Davis. Correctly dressed, according to martial cos-
84 Authors and I
tume (he was no blue-serge suit and umbrella war
correspondent), he acted as war correspondent in the
Turkish-Greek, Spanish-American, South African,
Russian-Japanese wars, and he went twice to the
Great War. Cuba, the Congo, Egypt, Greece, Cen
tral America the efficient R. H. D. was every
where, and always in the limelight.
His greatest limelight effect was the Jaggers epi
sode. It was a splendid piece of bold advertisement,
mixed with the fun of doing it, so swift and suc
cessful that the advertisement was condoned. He
asserted that he did not mean the public to know of
the Jaggers journey which carried the name of
Richard Harding Davis to the ends of the earth.
I am sure that he would have been annoyed if it had
not become known. At that time the District Mes
senger Service was a new toy in London. If you
wished to send a quick letter from Kensington to
Kew, the post being too slow, all you had to do was
to call up a District Boy Messenger, pay him and
dispatch him on his errand. Jaggers, aged 14, had
been employed by Mr. Davis. He was a boy of the
type of Gallegher, surprised at nothing, ready for
anything. One day Richard Harding Davis, after
debating with some friends at the Savoy Hotel
whether anything would startle or deter Jaggers
from doing anything in the way of business, he
casually gave Jaggers a letter addressed to a lady in
Chicago. Jaggers went, delivered the letter and
beat the post. Some months later Richard Harding
Davis married the lady.
His interests were in the present, in people who are
Richard Harding Davis 85
doing adventurous, odd and amusing things. From
the abundance his quick brain and moving eye
selected the best magazine features, and he turned
them into copy with confidence and brilliance, quite
aware that Richard Harding Davis was doing it,
and that in his opinion, what he did was the best
of its kind.
On February 29, 1916, dire days for the Allies, he
wrote to his brother
The attack on Verdun makes me sick. I was there six
weeks ago in one of the forts, but of course could not
ihen nor can I now write of it. I don t believe the drive
can get through for two reasons, and the unmilitary one
is that I believe in a just God.
A brave man, a chivalrous man, an honest man,
who never doubted how the Great War would end.
He did not see the promised end, but he helped it
on, "doing the best and finest work of his career
in the cause of the Allies . . . fretful for the morn
ing that he might again take up the fight." So
writes his brother, who has written his Life.
IS. JOHN DRINKWATER
I AM an old playgoer, but I cannot recall, in
all the plays I have seen, a moment so tense
with spiritual significance as the fall of the curtain
at the close of the first scene on Lincoln kneeling
in prayer against the parlour table. It is so simple,
so perfectly simple, and inevitable. The pageant-
play called "The Wayfarer," which, at great cost
and with amazing scenic effects, sets out diligently
to seek such moments, fails to find one. It needed
a poet like Drinkwater to pierce through externals
to reality, and it needed an actor like Frank Mc-
Glynn to be in the character, not outside, act
There must be many dramatic authors who, in face
of the success of "Abraham Lincoln: a Play," are
saying to themselves, "Why did I not think of this
as a subject, why did not I write a play on Abraham
Lincoln, why should an Englishman do it? These
be mysteries. Yet are they? Did not an English
man, Lord Bryce, write "The American Common
wealth," which eminent Americans have called "the
best treatise on American government?" Is it not
because distance and aloofness from a subject give
clearness and simplicity of vision? The man on a
hilltop looking down upon a wood can write a
better account of it than the man who is plodding
John Drinkwater 87
through the undergrowth. The walker sees the
trees; the man on the hill sees the shape of the
wood, and its bearing on the country. Some Amer
icans who saw the play in London were angry
because the local colour was sometimes wrong, be
cause there were anachronisms, because the "hired
girl" was called a servant-maid, because General
Grant was made to say, "My word!" instead of
"By gad, sir," and so on. As if such ephemera
matter. The shape and bearing of the wood is not
affected because two or three of the trees are mis
named. I am reminded of the British colonel who
protested that he would never read another word of
Kipling "because, By gad, sir, the fellow is all
wrong about the number of buttons on the tunics
of the Heavy Dragoons."
Why was John Drinkwater, an English poet, not
very well known, able to do it, when there are so
many able dramatists who should have been able
to write a play around Lincoln ? Is it because he is
a poet and an idealist, who had a vision of Lincoln
as God s man, and kept that vision clear and
In part that answers the question, but it is not the
whole answer. Let us look at John Drinkwatcr s
past. He was born a poet, not by any means a
great poet, but one whom the Muse had called,
touched lightly, and to whom she had also given the
philosophic, spiritual, humanist outlook, say of Mat
thew Arnold and William Watson. That, by
itself, is not a very marketable equipment for life.
Most poets of this kind earn a living in a govern-
88 Authors and I
ment office, the Board of Trade, or the British
Museum, and compose poems in the luncheon hour,
or during week-ends, adding to their income by
writing for the Spectator and The Nineteenth Cen
This John Drinkwater did; I mean he wrote for
high-class weeklies and magazines; but he has also
moved across a much more substantial and fertile
background the Theatre. He may be said to have
been called cradled in the Theatre. His father was
manager to Granville Barker; and although the
early years of his life were spent clerking in Assur
ance companies (safety first is the way of fathers all
the world over), he eventually stepped into his
rightful niche as Co-Founder of "The Pilgrim
Players," and eventually as Producer, etc., to the
Birmingham Repertory Theatre. There he learnt
practically and strenuously the business of writing,
producing, and acting in plays. The poet in him
had to face facts. Lucky poet!
One day he read Lord Charnwood s monograph on
"Lincoln." He took fire, and wrote "Abraham
Lincoln: a Play." He was ripe for it. The poet
in him dreamed the dream of Lincoln, the play
wright and the actor in him curbed and directed
the poet. It was all so natural ; the circumstances
synchronised; and the world, tired of self-seekers, of
politicians masquerading as statesmen, of man-made
dogmas masquerading as Faith, hungering for just
such a play, found it in "Abraham Lincoln."
He is a quiet poet. I can see why he could write
the simple, unadorned dialogue of "Abraham Lin-
John Drinkwater 89
coin," a style that looks so easy, but is so hard. He
is a contemplative poet who walks serene pastures;
who makes poems on places and on cloistral
thoughts. How do you like this, called "Reci
I do not think that skies and meadows arc
Moral, or that the fixture of a star
Comes of a quiet spirit, or that trees
Have wisdom in their windless silences.
Yet these are things invested in my mood
With constancy, and peace, and fortitude,
That in my troubled season I can cry
Upon the wide composure of the sky,
And envy fields, and wish that I might be
As little daunted as a star or tree.
Oh yes, a calm poet, a studious poet, who entirely
forgets when he is writing poetry that there arc
such poeple as actors, and such places as Broadway
and Leicester Square. Here are four lines from
"The Last Confessional":
For all the beauty that escaped
This foolish brain, unsung, unshaped,
For wonder that was slow to move,
Forgive me, Death, forgive me, Love.
And here is a fragment from a longer poem called
"To One I Love":
I am thirty-six years old,
And folks are kindly to me,
And there are no ghosts that should have reason to haunt
And I have tempted no magical happenings
90 Authors and I
By forsaking the clear noons of thought
For the wizardries that the credulous take
To be golden roads to revelation.
Would you have thought that this kind of poet
reflective, gentle, companionable, trim could write
one of the most successful plays of the day, and
himself, at one time or another, act all, or nearly
all, the chief characters in the play?
16. LORD DUNSANY
T ORD DUNSANY, eighteenth Baron, created
-L 1439, late captain in the Royal Inniskilling
Fusiliers, with seats at Dunsany Castle, County
Meath, Ireland, and at Dunstall Priory, Kent, likes
And America likes him. The ovation he received,
at his first lecture on "My Own Lands," was
whole-hearted and excited. He might have been
a conquering general, not a mere poet. Once only
did he have bad moments.
It occurred in the reception room at the close of
his lecture. This tall, athletic poet he is over six
feet high was receiving the usual gushing congrat
ulations from the usual bevy of women who delight
to felicitate an attractive male lecturer, when the
chorus of flattery was suddenly disturbed by two
excited Irishwomen, who pushed themselves to the
front and demanded to know why he had been civil
to England, and why he had not mentioned the
distresses of the distressful country. They did not
frame their questions quite as politely, but that was
what the questions signified. The author of "A
Book of Wonder" and "A Dreamer s Tales"
drooped with astonishment, drooped like an un-
watered flower. When the questions were repeated
louder and more violently he answered wearily: "I
92 Authors and I
am a poet, not a politician." With some difficulty
the excited Irishwomen were persuaded to retire,
and his admirers were restoring the poet s equa
nimity when another Irishwoman hurled herself into
the fray, uttering cries of indignation at the absence
of any reference to the woes of Ireland in the lec
ture. Again the distinguished Irishman said sadly
but politely : "I am a poet, not a politician." Then
an Englishman made a little ferocious speech which
was applauded ; the Irishwoman, amazed, withdrew,
and presently Lord Dunsany was able to escape from
his first experiences of the Irish in America.
I tell this story because of the aptness of his reply:
"I am a poet, not a politician." That is the way
he writes. He says what he has to say in the
simplest language; he goes straight to his point as
all do who, like him, have founded their literary
style on the Bible. An inferior mind would have
attempted to explain, to compromise, to placate the
petty politicians. He contented himself with the
direct and ample statement: "I am a poet."
Lord Dunsany likes America for the simple and
human reason that his plays and books have been
received with more favour in America than in Eng
land. Lord Dunsany speaks of the "black neglect"
which has been his portion in England. To me this
statement is an exaggeration. "The Gods of the
Mountain" and "The Golden Doom" were beauti
fully staged at the Haymarket Theatre, London,
when that playhouse was under the direction of a
fellow poet Herbert Trench. "King Argimenes"
and "The Glittering Gate" were produced by the
Lord Dunsany 93
Irish Players, and "The Lost Silk Hat" was given
at Manchester. These performances may seem un
important compared with all that Mr. Stuart
Walker has done for the Dunsany plays at his Port
manteau Theatre; but they hardly merit the re
proach of "black neglect." Moreover, the few and
fit in London hailed his first book, "The Gods of
Pegana," published in 1905, with acclamation a
new voice, a new vision. It may not have sold in
thousands, but Lord Dunsany can hardly have ex
pected "The Gods of Pegana" which begins,
"Before there stood gods upon Olympus, or even
Allah was Allah, had wrought and rested Mana-
Yood-Sushai" to have the sale of "Dere Mable."
And I remember reading "A Dreamer s Tales"
week by week in the Saturday Revieu . Some
authors would call that delirious success.
I also remember a great gathering in London of the
Poets Club, when Lord Dunsany was the guest of
honour; when he received an ovation; when he
made a speech that may be described as poetry and
sense. That was before the war, in which he
fought gallantly, and those who heard his first
lecture in New York were glad to realise that the
tress of war had stressed the poet in him even to
finer issues. Often on his lips were the words in
spiration and infinite: with waving arms he wrought
out from himself the statement: "Anybody can
give low ideals, that s why I give high ones"; and
there was dejection in his cry: "I began late at
23 oh, late ! Think what Keats had done then."
The word poet is ever in his utterance. To him it is
94 Authors and I
the proudest title in the desire of man. But the
pedantic reader must not expect to find the poems
of Lord Dunsany in a book shop. If he has written
poems he has not published them. Yet he is a poet
because poetry is the heart, and warp and woof of
all his work. It informs the whole structure as
colour does a flower.
He has created a new mythology entirely his own,
and he calls the places where his gods, kings, queens,
and camel drivers dwell the Edge of the World or
the Lands of Wonder. The period is Uncertain,
or about the time of the decadence in Babylon, or
the Sixth Dynasty, or today, or a long time ago,
or any time. But his people all speak plain, simple,
and beautiful English ; his fancies are always
founded on facts, and within each play and tale is
an esoteric meaning, which often does not fully
express itself until the very end and then wonder,
delight, and something to roll the mind on.
His tales and plays are tales and plays of wonder
and faith. Seek and ye shall find.
"I am a poet, not a politician."
It is poetry and faith, not politics and friction, that
will help to rebuild a broken world.
17. JOHN GALSWORTHY
TI7HEN I close my eyes and recall John Gals-
^ worthy I see his smile.
It is not an impulsive smile, not the smile that
ripples over a face unbidden : it is the smile of one
who seems to have set himself to smile, and would
perhaps rather cry. For the world weighs heavily
upon him its problems, its injustice, the veil it
puts before the face, thus hiding the Beauty that is
lurking, waiting, eager to be seen and enjoyed.
This sad knowledge must be kept private, except in
books, plays and essays. So in public he smiles.
I wonder if that smile means that he is aware that
within him are two dark voices forever calling, one
of abysmal cynicism, the other of soaring sentiment.
Is the smile like the thick coat of paint with which
a battleship hides its wounds?
In his latest books sentiment and cynicism mingle.
"Tatterdemalion" is compact of the twain. They
are mingled in the sad, short story called "Defeat,"
which he has converted into a play. The Times
began its notice with "Beneath the surface we can
see Mr. Galsworthy s obstinate faith and his passion
for beauty." In the review of the book, published
in the Times, a month before the play was pro
duced, I find this passage "Mr. Galsworthy is not
afraid to be pitiful, to be a worshipper of beauty,
96 Authors and I
etc." You perceive what has happened ? He is not
now reviewed as a teller of tales, as a maker of
drama, as an artist ; he is reviewed as a man with a
heart and a conscience. Can it be that the smile
does not deceive anybody, that Mr. Galsworthy is
now accepted as a propagandist of the right kind,
the very right kind, but a propagandist? Can it be
that he is now more interested in ideals than in
characters, in exposing abuses, and all other kinds of
foolishness than in artistry? Has the preacher over
come the artist? Yet still he smiles.
I have just read "Tatterdemalion" and "A Sheaf,"
and I can only say that had these two books been
sent to me for review, and had the name of John
Galsworthy been suppressed, I would have given
them a few lines of pleasant and perfunctory praise,
with a compliment to the author for his good inten
tions and graceful, rather oversensitized style. But
John Galsworthy also is the author of "Justice."
There, that is my complaint, merely that the man
who wrote such plays as "Justice," "The Silver
Box," "The Fugitive" should be publishing such
excellent but unimportant books as "A Sheaf/
"Tatterdemalion," and "A Motley."
Well do I remember the afternoon I first saw
"Justice," at the Duke of York s Theatre, London,
in February, 1910. It was painful but enthralling.
The play marches with the inevitableness of a
Greek tragedy, but in "Justice" we are also given
the modern view, and humanity and humour. I
shall never forget that Third Scene of Act III all
stage directions, no dialogue a triumph of dramatic
John Galsworthy 97
art. I left the theatre scalded with apprehension
lest such prison experiences be true. Others felt as
I did statesmen and legal luminaries, for I am told
that this play changed the law, or at any rate
humanised punishment. "Justice" reads as well,
perhaps better, than it acts. I went through it last
night at a sitting, and was again profoundly moved.
Equally vital is the impression made upon the
reader by another of the Galsworthy plays "The
Fugitive." Here, too, the drama is unfolded with
an art and an integrity that grips and saddens to
the point of tears. I console myself with the reflec
tion that Clare, had she been anybody else but
Clare, might a dozen times have evaded her fate;
but the dramatist had too sure a grip of his charac
ter. The cynic holds the man of sentiment well in
hand, and Clare is pursued to the end by, what shall
I say, by her better self? You see I do not
complain of such books as "A Sheaf" and "Tatter
demalion." I only say that being by the author of
"Justice" and "The Fugitive" they seem slight
things. In "The Pigeon," which might be called
"Charity," there are signs of weakening. The thesis
is clear, but the working out is loose. It is not
convincing, not inevitable. Did the smile begin
This weakening, this desire to teach, not to relate,
this gradual descent to the propagandist, applies also
to his novels. What could be better than "The
Man of Property," published in 1906, that urbane
criticism and implied appreciation of the old social
order the Haves in old England, now disappear-
98 Authors and I
ing through the assaults of the taxgatherer, and the
solidarity of the Have Nots. "The Country House"
was excellent, too, but "The Patrician," and "The
Dark Flower" no!
He is a sensitive and rather a recluse, that is a
recluse who likes to seek people himself, not to be
sought. I doubt if he enjoyed his American tour
of lecturing and reading from his works. I heard
him lecture and read more than once, and had I
been asked to introduce him to an audience (once
I came very near doing so) I should have startled
him and the audience by comparing him to Charles
Dickens. They had this in common the burning
to right wrongs. That was the basic motive of
Charles Dickens, that is the basic motive of John
Galsworthy. It is explicit in Dickens; it is
implicit in every play, novel, tale and sketch by
Galsworthy. Each is at his best when the artist
overrides the propagandist.
That is what I should have tried to convey to the
audience had I been appointed to introduce John
Galsworthy. Perhaps it is as well that I did not,
because I should also have been tempted to explain
18. EDMUND GOSSE
I HAVE sometimes allowed myself, in Hans
Andersen vein, to have been present at Edmund
Gosse s cradle when the fairy godparents were cir
cling about the promising infant.
The Fairy of the Future asks him what career he
will choose. The sapient infant, with a baby
twinkle in his brooding eyes, replies: "I should
like to be a distinguished literary man with much
commendation from the elect, and many friends,
including troops of peers of the realm."
This is just the career that Edmund Gosse has had,
and I am sure he has enjoyed it immensely. Numer
ous books, always of a high average, have proceeded
from his eloquent and agreeable pen, including one
great work, "Father and Son," which in 1913, six
years after publication, was crowned by the French
Academy. His friends have been legion, and he
has written bright essays about all the important
Of course Mr. Gosse knows many intellectual com
moners, such as George Moore, Maurice Hewlett,
and Andre Gidc, but his chief friends arc, I opine,
people of title. This may be due to the fact that
from 1904 to 1914 he was librarian of the Home
of Lords. His fairy godmother was very oblig
ioo Authors and I
And as if all this was not enough, the foremost
British men of letters in September, 1918, united
to honour Mr. Gosse. He was the recipient of a
bust of himself, executed by Sir William Goscombe
John, R. A., and an address signed on behalf of
the most eminent, including Mr. Arthur Balfour
and Lord Crewe.
"The genial companion of gayer hours" is one of
the sentences. How true that is, for Mr. Gosse,
who is witty and anecdotic over dining tables, as
in relaxation hours at his various clubs, is one of
the few literary men who can be human when
delivering addresses on Eminent Ones at the Man
sion House cr at meetings of the British Academy
of Letters. Some obtrusive people say that they
enjoy his writings and occasional speeches because
they occasionally betray a touch of malice. That,
of course, is ungenerous. The Times, in its review
of "Some Diversions of a Man of Letters," put it
more kindly, with a reference, in passing, to the
fact that a cat s claws owe something of their sharp
ness to the velvet in which they are for the most
part encased. The explanation really is that Mr.
Gosse s mentality is not dull. It is alert. While
gazing admiringly at the sun through his large
gold spectacles he is quite aware that there are
spots upon the luminary . He sees the oddities as
well as the effulgence, and he is as much interested
in the oddities as in the effulgence. So we find acid
asides in his writings on Tennyson, Ruskin, Swin
burne, and lesser luminaries such as "Orion" Home,
and the authors of "Festus" and "John Inglesant"
Edmund Gosse 101
that have a way of remaining in the mind longer
than the eloquent passages. Sometimes, too, his
talent for friendship and admiration leads him into
statements that leave the ordinary man who has
few friends, and fewer admirations, rather breath
less. This, for example, on Andre Gide: "There is
no other writer in Europe, at the present moment,
whose development is watched with so eager an
interest, by the most sensitive and intelligent judges
as that of M. Gide."
Mr. Edmund Gosse s passion for letters is as con
sistent as it is passionate, and he is as eager today
as when he first knew Tennyson, Swinburne, and
Ibsen. What an array of books he can show, includ
ing a masterwork in autobiography, "Father and
Son," and a masterwork in biography, "The Life
and Letters of Dr. John Donne." He has also
written a novel, a kind of novel, "The Secret of
Narcisse." And he has the honour of having been
the first to introduce Ibsen to the English public
in an article in the Spectator on March 16, 1872.
For he is a linguist, and it was as a linguist, I
imagine, that he was most useful at the Board of
Truly he has been a hard worker, for this inde
fatigable man of letters, whose books fill shelves,
has never depended entirely upon literature for a
livelihood. He has always had pleasant posts, that
with the passing of the years have, I suppose, grown
more lucrative, and today when, like Charles Lamb,
he is Retired Leisure, he draws, I hope, a pension,
perhaps two. It must be wonderful, in the after-
IO2 Authors and I
noon of life, to sit in one s library, many of the
books autograph copies from friends, and to allow
the eyes to roam from one s own bust by an emi
nent Royal Academician, to an address of congrat
ulation, from the best minds in England, signed by
a member of the House of Peers.
Outwardly such a career for a man of letters looks
very satisf actor)", indeed splendid. How different
from the lives of Edgar Allan Poe and Francis
Thompson! But, perhaps reviewing it, Mr. Gosse
may detect a drop of bitterness. He has never been
greatly accepted of song. Many books of poetry
stand to his credit, beginning with "On Viol and
Flute" in 1873, and ending, for the present, with
"Collected Poems" of 1911. But is he a poet? Is
he the real thing? He is an accomplished writer
of verse, but the real poet sings a different kind of
song. I cull one at random, his "Whitethroat and
Nightingale." It begins:
I heard the Whitethroat sing
Last eve at twilight when the wind was dead,
And her sleek bosom and her fair smooth head
Vibrated, ruffling, and her olive wing
Quite pretty, quite cultured, rather forced, rather
literary, but not the real thing. But poetry was
his first love, and may be his last. Mr. Gosse is
quite frank about it. In 1867, at 18, he writes in
the Introduction to the Swinburne Letters, "I was
having a feverish and absurd existence, infatuated
with poetry." He sent some verses to Swinburne,
Edmund Gosse 103
and Swinburne, in Swinburnian prose, "turned them
down." But who can check the desire to write
verse? Mr. Gosse wrote more and more, and in
1890 Walter Pater reviewed "On Viol and Flute"
in the Guardian. The notice is quite nice, but on
the second page is a reference to "some of our best
secondary poetry." With that word "secondary"
Pater let the cat slip from the elusive Paterian bag.
Later he calls Mr. Gosse a "Poetic Scholar," and
pretends that the title is rarer than poet, which, as
Euclid says, is absurd. And Pater quotes one of the
poems called "Lying in the Grass," of which the
first stanza runs :
I do not hunger for a well-stored mind,
I only wish to live my life, and find
My heart in unison with all mankind.
I should have said that aspiration is exactly unlike
Mr. Gosse. But who knows the heart of the
poet? Perhaps now that he is free from the
Board of Trade and the House of Lords, he will
tell us, ironically or elegiacally, how a Poetic
Scholar feels in a turbulent world of which one of
the few sanities seems to be the cultivation of Poetry.
19. KENNETH GRAHAME
IT was a mixed and versatile group of men that
gathered around William Ernest Henley, in
London, in the early nineties. Diverse in tem
perament and achievement, Henley was the cord
that bound them together he, and the fact that all
were writing, more or less, for the Scots Observer
and the National Observer.
Most of these men earned their living by their
pens, but there were a few of the group to whom
literature was a well-loved, but a leisure-hour,
occupation. They held positions with regular
salaries, and they wrote in the evening or on Sun
day. I always fancied that I could distinguish
those who had salaried positions; who were not
obliged to live by their pens. They looked more
comfortable; they ate their food in a more leisurely
way; they were readier to praise than to blame,
because literature was to them a delightful relax
ation, not an arduous business.
Among these leisure-hour gentlemen of the pen was
a tall, well-knit, blonde man, who moved slowly and
with dignity, and who preserved, amid the violent
discussions and altercations that enlivened the meet
ings of the group, a calm, comprehending demeanour
accompanied by a ready smile that women would
Kenneth Grahamc 105
And yet this blonde, temperate, kindly-looking man
had also a startled air, such as a fawn might show
who suddenly found himself on Boston Common,
quite prepared to go through with the adventure, as
a well-bred fawn should do under any circumstances,
but unable to escape wholly from the memory- of the
glades and woods whence he had come. He seemed
to be a man who had not yet become quite accus
tomed to the discovery that he was no longer a
child, but grown-up and prosperous. Success did
not atone for the loss of the child outlook. Every
one of us has his adjective. His adjective was
There were so many men in this group, so many
strangers were continually coming and going, that
it was some time before I learnt who this blond
gentleman of letters was. I addressed a question
to my neighbour at one of the dinners. "Who is
that man ?" I asked. My neighbour replied, "Ken
neth Grahame. He wrote that jolly thing about
children called, The Olympians. Henley thinks
very highly of him. He s something in the Bank
Time passed. We met several times. Probably we
did not have much to say to one another, and curi
ously, one of our meetings, a chance encounter,
when we did not exchange a word, made a vivid
impression upon me. Readers of "Pagan Papers"
know that one of the author s favourite spots is the
Hurley backwater on the Thames, near "the great
shadow of Streatley Hill," near where "Dorches
ter s stately roof broods over the quiet fields."
106 Authors and I
By that time I \vas a devoted admirer of Kenneth
Grahame. I had read "Pagan Papers," "The
Golden Age," and "Dream Days," and knew his
standpoint and how charmingly he took it, not with
the light-hearted genius of Stevenson, not with the
playful erudition of the author of "Religio Medici"
but hovering between them, with a gay twist here,
and a classical tag there. How well, I reflected,
he knows the heart and spirit of the child: how
neatly and completely he analyses from the stand
point of the child-world the stupidity of the adult
world, its interests in social trifles, and its concern
for the formal, daily routine that the child knows
is so unimportant compared with a discovered bird s
nest, a castle in the clouds, or a new place where the
river may be forded. ""
Well, on one of my holiday journeys to the Thames
the train stopped, as usual, at a riverside junction,
and on the platform, welcoming friends, was Ken
neth Grahame, watchful, a little fussy, bothering
about wraps and a carriage, ignoring two children
who were of the party, but studiously polite to
I smiled, and continued to smile long after the
train had left the station because I was recalling
to mind the closing passage of "The Olympians."
That night I reread the lines. Do you remember
"Well! The Olympians are all past and gone.
Somehow the sun does not seem to shine so brightly
as it used ; the trackless meadows of old time have
shrunk and dwindled away to a few poor acres. A
Kenneth Grahame 107
saddening doubt, a dull suspicion creeps over me.
Et in Arcadia ego, I certainly did once inhabit
A ready. Can it be I, too, have become an Olym
When I examine Kenneth Grahame s small sheaf
of books I discover that almost all of them are am
plifications of the idea expressed in "The Olym
pians" that is, the importance of the child life
and viewpoint, and the unimportance of the objects
pursued by the elders or Olympians. For literary
purposes it was perhaps fortunate that the elders in
Kenneth Grahame s upbringing were uncles and
aunts, not parents.
^ He has one other theme, that of escape : escape
from prose to poetry; escape from the prose of
Threadnecdle Street, where the Bank of England
is placed, and of which eventually he became sec
retary, to poetry of the trackless meadows to
Centaurs or trout, to Orion or gypsies, to a human
uncle or an unsophisticated artist, to anything that
had nothing to do with banking and prosperity.
"The Wind in the Willows," published in 1908
what is it but the attempt of an Olympian to see
the animal kingdom, through the eyes of a child,
as an abode where things happen exactly as they do
in the man world, where the rat, the otter, the
badger, and the toad act as the man acts.
"The Golden Age" and "Dream Days" are his best
^Just a few little books! A banker s escape from
the prose and tedium of life. How easy it seems!
How hard it is to do! ">
20. THE GROSSMITHS
THERE were George Grossmith 1 and George
Grossmith 2 ; there is George Grossmith 3 ;
there was Weedon Grossmith; there is Laurence
This family of entertainers has held the stage for
more than half a century. In the eighties George
Grossmith 1, a ripe, smiling, humorous, shortish
man, could hold an audience for two hours and more
with recitals from the works of wise, witty, and
tender eminent authors. I have sat entranced
through an evening at the old Birkbeck Institution
in Breams Buildings, Chancery Lane, London,
listening to George Grossmith 1 recite Dickens.
There was no band, no dancing, no songs, but it
never occurred to us to be bored. His characteri
sation was neat and jolly. It remains.
Indeed today whenever I read a remark by Mr.
Pickwick the words seem to be uttered by George
Grossmith 1. His only other rival, that is the only
other entertainer who drew capacity houses in the
old Birkbeck Theatre, was Samuel Brandram. His
line was Shakespeare: his triumph was to recite
an entire play without a book or note. George
Grossmith 1 was a jolly, rubicund man who
chuckled. Samuel Brandram was an austere, well-
groomed, aristocratic personage who modulated his
The Gr os smiths 109
voice to the utterance of Juliet or Polonius as if he
was rather conferring a favour on those characters.
It was very wonderful. But Brandram never aroused
the laughs that George Grossmith 1 did when he
described how Mrs. Gamp "bore up," or when he
impersonated Mr. Weller diagnosing the gout.
"The gout, sir, is a complaint as arises from too
much ease and comfort. If ever you re attacked
with the gout, sir, just you marry a vidder as has
got a good loud voice, with a decent notion of usin
it, and you ll never have the gout agin." George
Grossmith 1 revelled in Mr. Weller and Mrs.
Gamp. Brandram was always a little standoffish
with Hamlet, with Juliet and the Nurse. I know
now the secret of the allure of George Grossmith 1.
He had humour.
Time passed: the old gentleman introduced his
offspring to the world. One night he was billed
for the first half of the performance only. When
he had finished he advanced to the footlights and
said: "Ladies and gentlemen, I now have the
honour to introduce you to my son, Mr. George
Tall, eager, alert, with quick, birdlike movements
and a thin mobile face that never rested, George
Grossmith 2 became, in a moment, the most popular
of "drawing-room entertainers." He outran the
massive geniality of Corney Grain. He was so
much more modern ; he set the pace which countless
light vaudeville comedians have since followed.
Perhaps he derived from the nimble mentality and
nimble body of Arthur Roberts. Be that as it may,
HO Authors and I
he was an active humourist. Probably I have never
laughed so much in my life as when George Gros-
smith 2 seized a chair and danced round the stage
to the refrain of "You should see me dance the
polka. You should see me cover the ground." It
was the new humour a facet of it. For the new
humour with Jerome K. Jerome and Barry Pain
and Zangwill and Chesterton was then beginning
to captivate the town. It was time for George
Grossmith 1 to retire. He knew it. That continent
of humour called Charles Dickens was shrinking
before the age of speed. Verbal quips and antics
drove from the drawing-room stage the leisurely
urbanities of Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Wellcr.
George Grossmith 1, like the Phoenix, did his best
to give the boy a send-off. Little did he think what
a career was in store for George Grossmith 2 : little
did he think that his boy would emerge from a
drawing-room entertainer into the chief actor at
important London theatres for years and years, and
that he would be the chief cementer in that amazing
partnership between Gilbert and Sullivan. The
parts he played fitted him exactly: they were not
made for him, he created them. Who could sing
a patter song like him?
His articulation, his precision of utterance, his finish,
his air of neat finality, who has rivaled them?
Much as I enjoy the Gilbert and Sullivan perform
ances of today, there is a ghost, there are ghosts at
the feasts, the ghosts of George Grossmith 2 and
the others who, under the shaggy martinet eye of
W. S. Gilbert, created the parts. George Gros-
The Grossmiths III
smith 2 was one of my heroes, and once I drew very
near to him. He lived at Camden Town. I farther
on. One night I was travelling home by the last
train when suddenly he sprang into the carriage at
Farringdon Street. Yes, it was he, and he beguiled
the sulphurous journey (it was before electrifica
tion) humming to himself the airs of a new Gilbert
and Sullivan opera from a big score book. He
ignored me utterly, but it was thrilling. When he
alighted I sat in the seat that he had occupied and
His father had humour; he had wit, and his son,
George Grossmith 3, what of him? He has bodily
agility, mental quickness, he dresses wonderfully,
he capers and patters, but I am bored and pine for
the humour of his grandfather, or the wit of his
father. Perhaps he will develop: perhaps he has
not yet had his chance. What chance has an actor
who plays prominent parts in "Go Bang" and "The
Gaiety Girl," and who is co-author of "The Spring
Weedom Grossmith had humour, the ripe humour
of his father translated into modern terms. The
plays and the theatres I have forgotten, but the
parts that he played, how they lurk in memory.
Explain Weedom Grossmith and you can explain
humour. It bubbled up ; it could not be suppressed ;
it was like the perennial fountain of Charles Lamb
and Andrew Lang. I remember a whole scene, a
dining-room, in which he played the part of a
pleasant parvenu. It had just become "the thing"
to locate your handkerchief in your sleeve, and
H2 Authors and I
Weedon, throughout the scene in which he had little
to say, was watching how the blades who were
present did it, and furtively imitating them. It
was by-play of the highest order, serious fun. Yes,
he always seemed to be serious. George Gros-
smith 3 is always aching to be funny. And Weedon
looked serious; he would talk seriously about paint
ing and collecting old furniture. But the twinkle
was always lurking. It came into his eyes one
morning on the parade at Westgate-on-Sea, when
I charged him, in collusion with his brother George,
with being the author of "The Diary of a Nobody,"
a work of delightful humour, which was appearing
in the pages of Punch.
Alas poor Yorick! I have for these entertainers,
who added to the gaiety of the world, something of
the feeling that Francis Thompson had for the old
cricketers who added to his infrequent joy. Do
you know the poem?
AT LORD S
It is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk,
Though my own red roses there may blow;
It is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk,
Though the red roses crest the caps, I know.
For the field is full of shades as I near the shadowy coast,
And a ghostly batsman plays to the bowling of a ghost,
And I look through my tears on a soundless-clapping host
As the run-stealers flicker to and fro,
To and fro:
O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago!
Vanished cricketers! Vanished entertainers! Run
stealers! Laugh stealers! And strange to say
The Grossmiths 113
George Grossmith 1, he who loved Dickens, is not
the palest. Of him it may be said, as the Master
said of Mr. Jobling in "Martin Chuzzlewit" "He
was one of the most comfortable fellows you ever
saw in your life." George 2 was not comfortable,
neither was Weedon, neither is mercurial George 3.
Has Laurence an inclination that way?
A great family, and still active.
21. THOMAS HARDY
T TSUALLY I travel with one of his books; it is
^ well to pause in the hectic gabble-gobble of
the week s reading and study a page by this master
of sombre, closely-knit prose. You cannot skip
Thomas Hardy: you must pause to visualise such a
passage as "Marty heard the sparrows walking
down their long holes in the thatch above her
sloping ceiling to their exits at the eaves": you
must pause to assimilate such a passage as "A
north wind w r as blowing that not unacceptable
compromise between the atmospheric cutlery of the
eastern blast and the spongy gales of the west quar
ter." In a word, Thomas Hardy demands respect
deep respect and diligence and unless you can
give him that, in full measure, read somebody
He is not popular. He never was. Neither was
George Meredith. The reason is that each is much
more than a teller of tales: each is a profound critic
of life, Hardy as a pessimist tinged with irony,
Meredith as an optimist tingling with buoyancy.
Each too is a poet.
These two writers are the two great figures of
their time, stretching over into the twentieth cen
tury, who chose the novel as a vehicle for their
criticism and observation of life. Hardy obsessed
Thomas Hardy 115
by the Unfulfilled Intention, Meredith glorying in
the Fulfilled Splendour. Study these two extremes,
and you get the mean which is life.
Once I found myself in Dorchester, and I thought,
being younger then and bolder, that I would send
a note to Thomas Hardy by messenger (we had
been having, during the past year, an interesting
correspondence) asking if he would allow me to
be his companion on his afternoon walk. Rightly
I thought that a tramp through Wessex with
Thomas Hardy would be something to tell my
grandchildren. He replied that he would be glad
to see me at 3 p. m. On my way to Max Gate I
called at a bookshop in Dorchester and inquired of
an elderly, prim, and rather tart female if she had
a copy of Hardy s "Jude the Obscure," which
had lately been published, and which had been
received by what is known in England as the
"rectory public" somewhat superciliously. I
think it shocked them. In response to my inquiry
the prim female said that she had not a copy of
"Jude the Obscure" in stock. "What!" I cried,
"in his native Dorchester you have not a copy of
the latest book by the greatest living English
novelist." She eyed me with hauteur, and, tossing
her head, said: "Perhaps we have not the same
opinion of Mr. Hardy in Dorchester as you have
I withdrew. I was too amused to be angry. In
deed, so amused was I at this encounter with the
"rectory public" that when I reached Max Gate
I told the story to Mr. Hardy with glee. He did
1 1 6 Authors and I
not smile: perhaps he looked a little sadder than
usual. For it is a sad, tired face, very gentle,
with much sweetness, yet alert as a bird s. He did
not suggest a walk: we sat for an hour in his
rather dim study, the trees swaying outside, I
prattling literary gossip, and trying, craftily, to
make him talk of his work and himself. I began
to succeed. He told me that he was firmly resolved
to write no more novels ("Jude the Obscure,"
published in 1895, was the last, for "The Pursuit
of the Well-Beloved," published in 1897, had been
issued serially five years before). I believe that he
was about to tell me why he had decided to write
no more novels, when Mrs. Hardy entered the
room. This was his former wife, niece of Arch
deacon Gifford. Said Mrs. Hardy to me "Oh, I
want to show you my watercolours." And I, being
weak, and courteous to the nieces of archdeacons,
was wafted away. So my interview with Thomas
Hardy ended. Later, when I was about to depart,
he came into the hall and looked at me with sad
sympathy. He accompanied me to the garden gate,
and as I was in the midst of bidding him a respectful
adieu he said in his gentle voice "By the by, which
shop is it where they are disinclined to stock my
When in 1895 Thomas Hardy ceased to write
novels he turned to his early love verse, that
strange, haunting, melancholy verse, rhythmic prose
if you like, yet with a lilt and an undercurrent of
forlorn melody that distinguishes it from all other
forms of verse and prose.
Thomas Hardy 117
They ve a way of whispering to me
Fellow-wight who yet abide
In the muted measured note
Of a ripple under archways, or a lone cave s stillicide.
And he has produced "The Dynasts," that amazing
epic-drama, in three parts, 1903, 1906, 1908, which
Professor Quiller-Couch told his students at Cam
bridge is "the grandest poetic structure planned and
raised in England in our time." And all through
his long life he has pursued his favourite recre
ations of architecture and old church and dance
music. He was trained as an architect, and careful
readers of his books know how often architecture
delightfully intrudes. It touches the pages of "The
Woodlanders," which I am now re-reading for the
third time, finding every page as absorbing as of
old, and turning more than once to Marty s final
cry of faithfulness Marty who "looked almost like
a being who had rejected with indifference the attri
bute of sex for the loftier quality of an abstract
humanism." Yes, the final note of "The Wood-
landers" is faithfulness. "... But no, no, my
love, I can never forget ec; for you was a good
man, and did good things."
It bears, does this book, all the marks of a Definitive
edition. Here is the map of the Wessex of the
Novels, here are Shaston and Sherton Abbas, out
lying over Blackmoor Vale; and here is the preface,
signed T. H., with its reference to "the units of
human society during their brief transit through
this sorry world."
Now, I hear of another edition to be called the
Ii8 Authors and I
"Mellstock." Yes, I shall have to buy it; but not
for myself. Nothing would make me give up my
marked and scored copies of the 1903 Wessex issue.
What will I do with the "Mellstock" edition? Per
haps some day, in some little New England town,
pretty as a poem, I shall find a library which has
no Thomas Hardy on its shelves. How nice it
would be to drop the "Mellstock" edition on the
doorstep one night, so that the dwellers may learn
what old England was, in the old days, old rural
England, seen through the eyes of genius. And the
New England lad or lass, living, perhaps, in a town
with a good old Dorsetshire name, can say
William Dewy, Tranty Reuben, Farmer Ledlow la:e at
Robert s kin, and John s and Ned s,
And the Squire, and Lady Susan murmur mildly to me
22. BRET HARTE
AT the beginning of the present century, in the
spring of 1901 to be precise, a literary
luncheon was given in London. It was quite inter
esting. There were present at least six important
literary people, besides merchants and barristers.
My kind, lion-hunting hostess had shown me the
list beforehand, and I had noted with excitement,
literary excitement, that among the lions was Bret
During luncheon I studied the lions, and was able,
by their names and manners, to identify five of them.
But I could not place Bret Harte. Which was he?
Finally I addressed a whispered inquiry to my neigh
bour. She nodded toward a well-groomed gentle
man facing me across the table. "What," I ex
claimed in breathless undertone "that Bret
Throughout the luncheon I had noticed him with
some amusement merely because he was a dandy.
I have no objections to dandies: I like looking at
them ; they have their place as objects of interest in
the world, and the mind is interested in speculating
on the influences or notions that induce a man to
overdress. It is not easy, after the lapse of so many
years, to explain why I thought this gentleman too
adorned. Was it the glint of wax on the moustache,
I2O Authors and I
or the hair too artfully curled, or the extra height
of the collar, or the five buttons on the sleeve, or
the tricky cut of the coat, that no tailor would
make on his own initiative?
That Bret Harte? Yet, why not? Thirty years
had passed since he left California. This prosper
ous, feted, dapper, lionised gentleman had become
a citizen of the old world: he had held important
official positions United States Consul at Crefeld,
Germany, and later at Glasgow; now he was living
at Camberley in Surrey, a highly respectable outer
suburb of the metropolis, a place of trim lawns and
retired leisure, where .ascetic bankers and portly
He gave a twirl to his moustache, .sighed, and re
arranged his cravat. "Never mind," I murmured
to myself, but really to him, "never mind, you
wrote The Luck of Roaring Camp, and Miggles,
and Tennessee s Partner, and Plain Language
from Truthful James, and Dickens in Camp,
and The Society upon the Stanislaus. You live
now at Camberley, Surrey, but once you resided
I reside at Table Mountain, and my name is Truthful
I am not up to small deceit or any sinful games;
And I ll tell in simple language what I know about the
That broke up our society upon the Stanislow.
While this attractive dandy fingered his ring and
then glanced meditatively, and with approval, at his
manicured finger nails, something like a tear
Bret Harte 121
dimmed my eyes, for this Bret Harte was a master
of pathos as well as of humour. While I watched
him the years receded and there stole to memory his
RELIEVING GUARD (1864)
Came the relief. "What sentry, ho!
How passed the night through thy long waking?"
"Cold, cheerless, dark as may befit
The hour before the dawn is breaking."
No sight? no sound?" "No, nothing save
The plover from the marshes calling,
And in yon western sky, about
An hour ago, a star was falling."
"A star? There s nothing strange in that."
"No, nothing; but above the thicket,
Somehow it seemed to me that God
Somewhere had just relieved a picket."
I looked at him sitting there so complacently, so
decorated, so content to be in a luxurious London
house in the year 1901. I thought of him as our
Bret Harte, the world s Bret Harte, in those wonder
seventeen years in California between 1854 and
1871, when his genius flowered, apparently without
effort, nourished by his fresh, uncultured environ
Who can say that he has been enthralled by any
writings of Bret Harte, written after he left Cali
fornia? I have read some of them. I have an
indistinct memory of Spanish Mexican local colour,
but these post-California things have left no im
pression upon me. Like the young Kipling in
122 Authors and I
India, he was great when he grew from the soil and
with the soil, but when he fared forth and found
culture culture caught and desiccated the truant.
Antaeus, we are told, was invincible so long as he
remained in contact with his mother earth. Bret
Harte left California in 1871, his years being 32.
His work was done, but nobody thought so.
His journey east has been described as a triumphal
progress; he was the most popular of American
authors, and England hailed him as "the long-
looked for American laureate." He came east to
affluence. The Heracles of success held him aloft,
away from his Californian earth, and in 1878 he
dropped into the nice little post of Consul at Cre-
I watched him tenderly at that luncheon party.
One wing of his moustache had fallen somewhat
out of curl : he gave it a brisk upward twist with his
elegant white hand. That was the hand that had
written of Miggles, and Stumpy, and Kentuck, and
Mr. John Oakhurst, and Tennessee s Partner, and
Brown of Calaveras, and of the Aged Stranger, and
the Old Major, and Jim, and Flynn of Virginia,
and that wonderful spelling bee at Angel s reported
by Truthful James, and Her Letter, and His An
swer, also reported by the Truthful One. Well,
that suffices, that is enough for one man. I never
addressed a remark to him at that luncheon party.
I couldn t. Perhaps he had forgotten all about
California. Perhaps not.
Bret Harte 123
I have not forgotten, because I have just re-read all
his CaJifornian sketches, and all his poems, and I
am amazed to find how little I had forgotten. I
snivelled (such happy snivelling) as I always shall,
when the Judge toasts Miggles, and when the Luck
"rastled" with Kentuck s finger, and when Tennes
see s partner "passing by" just looks in at the court,
and, yes, when by the camp fire beneath the Sierras
the boy reads "aloud the book wherein the Master
had writ of Little Nell. " It is easy, of course,
for anybody to find fault his treacly sentiment, his
drawn-out pathos, his cheap moralising; yet if you
admit all these blemishes, which I don t, how splen
did, how unequalled he is. O rare young Francis
Bret Harte of California!
[ am glad that I was not forced to read Bret
Harte at school, that I came to him by chance and
with joy. With him as guide I entered a new
world, which, after all these years, is still new.
23. JOHN HAY
MIDWAY through dinner, in the year 1898,
at one of those cosmopolitan gatherings held
at the Hotel Cecil by the American Society in
London, I was told that John Hay was at the high
As soon as the speeches began I sidled round toward
the high table to have a particular look at him.
For John Hay as a man of letters interested me
immensely. Incidentally, at that time, he was
American Ambassador to the Court of St. James;
but that might happen to anybody. What interested
me was to see the author of two such disparate
works as the rough "]im Bludso," written as far
back as 1870, and the exquisite speech he made in
1898 at the Omar Khayyam Club, which set all
literary London talking. As for "Jim Bludso,"
everybody knows it, and most literary folk can
He weren t no saint but at jedgment
I d run my chance with Jim,
Longside of some pious gentlemen
That wouldn t shook hands with him.
He seen his duty, a dead sure thing
And went for it thar and then;
And Christ ain t a-going to be too hard
On a man that died for men.
John Hay 125
"Jim Bludso" and "Little Breeches" are the best of
Hay s "Pike County Ballads." "They rolled out
spontaneously," says Mr. Thayer in his excellent
"Life of John Hay," and they ran round the Eng
lish-speaking world. Eager papers quoted them.
John Hay, who by instinct and training was a
modish classicist (he was a bosom friend of Henry
Adams) was almost ashamed of the success of these
rough ballads. Their popularity annoyed him, so
much so that he flatly refused Stedman s invitation
to include them in "An American Anthology." As
a youth he desired to be a poet, a real poet, but
his poetical verse (as Mayor Hylan might call it)
is no better than the verse produced by thousands
of young men of culture and breeding. Quite early
he discovered that for him poetry was not a fame
or a bread-winner. Perhaps that was why he
dropped his second name of Milton.
Two points of interest attach to "Jim Bludso."
Bret Harte s "Plain Language from Truthful
James" had been published a month before. Dialect
was in the air. Bret Harte used a Chinaman, John
Hay a Westerner. Possibly, probably, Hay had
read the plain language of Truthful James. When
J. Hay "dashed off" "Jim Bludso" in the train from
Boston, it is said, the poem lacked the last two
lines. Hay showed it to Whitelaw Reid, editor of
the Tribune; he growled that it needed "some
thought drawn from it that was vital and would
live." So Hay sat down and dashed off "And
Christ ain t going to be too hard On a man that
died for men." John Hay was a ready man, as
126 Authors and I
ready with a Poem as with a Treaty, with a Witti
cism as with an Arbitration, or with an epigram
matic couplet such as
There are three species of creatures who when they seem
coming are going.
When they seem going they come: Diplomats, women,
Knowing all this you may imagine that I crept with
some stealthy fervour toward the high table to have
a better look at John Hay. On the way I thought
of his "Castilian Days." That is a delightful book.
It was my companion on my first visit to Spain and
of all the books I read on Spain that was the cheer-
fulest and the most intimate and informing. As
I drew near the high table, bobbing behind an Hotel
Cecil palm when a speaker paused in his oratory,
suddenly, I remembered that John Hay had been
for four years one of Abraham Lincoln s secre
taries, beginning at the age of 23. He was a Lin
coln man. He had been in daily, and often nightly
converse, with the greatest American. Had John
Hay done nothing else, that, by itself, would have
been ample honour for one life. I tried to recall a
passage from a letter he wrote to J. G. Nicolay, his
fellow biographer of Lincoln. It was a passage
setting a standard for their joint efforts. Whii^
I was trying to recall it I reached the end of the
high table and there was John Hay.
He looked a severe man, a thinker, a logician who
would pursue a subject to its logical conclusion. It
was an alert face, stern in repose, but when he spoke
John Hay 127
it lightened like a gleam of sun through set, grey
clouds. It was a tired, rather pugnacious face, the
face of a man with whom it would not be easy or
safe to trifle. Troops of friends he had, some very
intimate, some of them great men, but it has been
said that nobody ever slapped John Hay on the back.
His mind was witty, not humorous. He could
never, like Mark Twain, have explained at a fash
ionable London assembly that the reason he carried
a cotton umbrella was because Englishmen would
not consider it worth stealing. His wit was of a
different kind, as when he wrote to Henry Adams:
"I have spent the last cent I got for Democracy, in
minerals for Mrs. Hay." (It was an open secret
that the novel "Democracy," published anony
mously, was by Henry Adams.) Oh, and as I gazed
at John Hay I remembered that another anony
mous novel, "The Bread Winners," was written by
this versatile man in the winter of 1882-83. It was
the novel of the year, but Hay never acknowledged
the authorship. Silent John Hay! As I gazed his
face grew stern again. Was he bored? The
speeches, I remember, were rather tedious. Some
thing in his face seemed queerly familiar; then I
remembered that when Zorn etched Hay s head it
was said that he gave him "the badger-like appear
ance which the admirers of Zorn so greatly
Later in the evening I drew closer to John Hay.
It was in the prosaic and democratic cloakroom. I
had made my way to the table, and was about to
tender my ticket, when I noticed that the man
128 Authors and I
behind me was John Hay, patiently waiting, looking
rather amused at being one of the howling prole
tariat. I vacated my place, and motioned him for
ward. He thanked me with a smile; today that
smile is he. In a glimpse I saw the man, and
understood the charm he had for those who knew
him. That smile seemed to lubricate my memory,
for, on the way home, the passage I had been trying
to remember, the passage wherein he set the standard
for writing the "Life of Lincoln," and gave his
creed as an historian, came to me. I discovered
afterwards that it is printed in a letter addressed to
Nicolay, on Aug. 10, 1885:
"We must not write a stump speech in eight vols.,
8vo. We will not fall in with the present tone of
blubbering sentiment, of course. But we ought to
write the history of those times like two everlasting
angels who know everything, judge everything, tell
the truth about everything, and don t care a twang
of our harps about one side or the other. There
will be one exception. We are Lincoln men all
through. But in other little matters, let us look
at men as insects, and not blame the black beetle
because he is not a grasshopper."
John Hay and Henry Adams, so different yet so
closely allied, one so effective, the other so ineffec
tive, one seeing the world through a telescope, the
other through a magnifying glass, to me stand out
as the two finest American minds, short of genius, of
their time. At Washington, Mr. Thayer tells us,
they walked together every afternoon "Hay with
John Hay 129
one arm crooked behind his back two small men,
busily discussing great topics or . . ."
Every honour came to John Hay, every success,
including a rich and charming wife, but all his
honours, in these days of lesser men and lingering
squabbles, fade before one honour that was supreme.
For four years he walked and talked with, watched
and listened to that Great Companion Abraham
The knowledge that he was a Lincoln man gave
to John Hay a wisdom passing the wisdom of states
men and poets.
24. W. E. HENLEY
IT was in 1890 that I first met Henley in the
Art Journal office. He had been appointed
consulting editor of that venerable magazine.
How well I remember the day he attended his
first Tuesday committee meeting. Imagine a
Viking blown by storm into a Dorcas assembly, and
you may visualise the advent of W. E. H. into the
precise Art Journal parlour. He opened the gates
of French art to me Corot, Rousseau, Daumier:
he opened the gates of literature, and I shall never
again hear such talk as that I heard from men who
gathered, Saturday evenings, in his house at Chis-
wick* He was always the chief. I hear now his
laugh, his thunder, his softness, his savage trucu-
lence, his infinite gentleness, when he spoke of the
child, that wonder child, Margaret Emma Henley,
1888-94, about whom he wrote two poems, one in
1891, the other in 1897, which now stands as the
Epilogue to his "Poems"- -"a little exquisite Ghost,
Between us, smiling with the serenest eyes, Seen in
this world." The book about this child was never
written. He tried, but could not do it.
In after years I took Francis Thompson to call upon
Henley when he was living in Muswell Hill. By
that time Henley had "arrived." He was known
to all literary England. Fame had accosted him and
W. E. Henley 131
tarried. He nad expressed a wish to see Francis
Thompson. This, to me, was tantamount to a
Royal command, so I conveyed the younger poet to
Muswell Hill, not without difficulty, and not with
out apprehension as we approached the house, for
Francis Thompson had no sense of time. Our
appointment was for three o clock; it was five
minutes past five when I rang the bell. All went
well, however. Thompson idolised Henley, and
quite naturally took a stool at his feet while Henley,
a splendid leonine figure, hair and beard now white,
lounged in a high chair. Each received from the
other high compliments, and for a considerable space
of time each compared the other, courteously and
emphatically, to Virgil.
Francis Thompson, like many others, indeed all the
young Intellectuals, had become Henleyites through
his editorship of the Scots Observer, a sixpenny
weekly, the title of which was afterward changed
to the National Observer. Henley edited this fight
ing journal from 1889 to 1893. It was the best
written paper of the day; it was anti-sentiment,
anti-cant, anti-humbug; it was the antithesis to the
eloquent and robustious sentimentality with which
Clement Scot filled the columns of the Daily Tele
graph; it was high Tory; it sided with the claei
and scorned the masses; it was brilliant and witty
and hard ; it was written in the best English, and
every article (except the signed ones) bore the
impress of Henley s personality. He was the most
conscientious of editors, and the most autocratic.
Even when he returned an article it would come
132 Authors and I
back to the unfortunate author scored all over with
Henley s corrections. But he forced his staff to
do their best, and no young writing man of the
period was content until he had an article accepted
by Henley for the National Observer, and later
for the New Review.
Kipling s "Barrack Room Ballads," Barrie s best
early work, appeared in the National Observer, and
Conrad s "Nigger of the Narcissus" in the New
Review. Authors were pilloried, politicians were
pounded, faddists were flaunted. It may be said
that literary London was divided into those who
hated and those who adored Henley. We who knew
the gentle side of Henley s nature also knew that
in his chief henchman, Charles Whibley, he had
an adviser whose will to destroy the Clement Scott
element in literature and journalism was stronger
than Henley s; it was Whibley s pen and influence
that gave to the National Observer its bias and
its bludgeon. It was the most quoted journal of
the time, but it did not sell. The great public
was, and is still, faithful to Clementscottalism. Hen
ley himself told me that the proprietor of the Na
tional Observer said to him: "I would keep the
paper going if I could ever look forward to a pay
ing circulation of 1000 copies a week."
But it was as a Poet that Henley wanted to be
known, remembered. So I was glad, one day in
1920, when I saw in a bookseller s window in New
York, the definitive edition of William Ernest
Henley s "Poems." I bought it, I talked with the
Bookseller, and said to myself. This is fame; this
W. E. Henley 133
would have pleased Henley; this would have
brought a smile into his large, twinkling blue eyes.
Henley was a human person, and to have known
that he is remembered and honoured, 3000 miLj off,
years after he had passed away, would have con
soled him for a lot of adversity and neglect. For
this ardent bookseller knew all about Henley ; knew
that Rodin had addressed him as "Dear and great
friend"; that in 1898 his "Essay on Burns" had
been crowned by the "Academy"; that he had
written a play, "Deacon Brodie" in collaboration
with his friend, R. L. Stevenson ; that he was part
author of an amazing Slang Dictionary, and that he
had edited the Tudor Translations and the Works
Re-reading his "Poems" I am surprised to find how
many numbers have become part of my poetical
Some of them Vernon Blackburn set to music. He
would sing them to Henley and to me. They sing
Perhaps these poems meant all the more to me be
cause I loved, admired, and reverenced Henley.
Yet my affection does not blind me to his demerits.
He was a mighty huntsman with the pen, a traf
ficker in personal and arresting sentences, and when
the inspiration was not entirely fresh and pure
he would bend words to his service, force them
into forcible collocations, so that in certain of his
poems, and in some of his prose, the artifice out
runs the art. I could never be enthusiastic over
his "London Voluntaries" and "Arabian Nights
134 Authors and I
Entertainments." They seem to be saying, "We
will be great poems."
He is never dull, never banal, never commonplace,
but sometimes I am aware that Pegasus is being
forced to a gallop. Like R. L. S. he was a stylist,
but Henley lacked R. L. S. s air of gay ease, also
Stevenson s facility for popularity. Perhaps it is
this that made Henley, in after years, jealous of
his old friend, and vindictive to him. Still, al
though in "Views and Reviews" Henley skims the
surface of his subjects overmuch, and sometimes
hides his lack of spadework in the gusto and quips
of his style, every page is readable, and the last
essay on R. A. M. S. (Bob Stevenson, as he was
called), Louis brilliant cousin, is an essay to ponder
and to treasure, to rejoice in, and to be very glad
to have and to hold.
This volume of his "Poems" contains a reproduc
tion of the bust Rodin made of his "dear and
great friend." It is fine, manly, yet gentle, and
the eyes have the half-closed, peering look, a for
ward glance, that Henley so often had in intense
repose. But it cannot give the colour of the man,
the tangle of red hair, the strong red beard, the
fair complexion, the Viking look of him; and it
cannot give his explosions of laughter, the quizzical
look in his blue eyes, and the way he manoeuvred
his big maimed body, ever seeking a way to rest
it, kneeling on a chair, with his hands clutching
the rail, crouching this way and that way, and
talking, always talking.
W. E. Henley 135
Henley was a great force, a noble influence. Time
passes. Why is there no biography of him?
Let me end with a snatch from one of his poems,
persuasive, stronger than force:
My task accomplished and the long day done,
My wages taken, and in my heart
Some late lark singing,
Let me be gathered to the quiet west
In the eleventh line of the poem there is this
The lark sings on.
25. "O. HENRY"
WILLIAM SYDNEY PORTER chose the
pen-name of O. Henry because he had an
unfailing instinct in such matters. What an admir
able pen-name O. Henry is! It is just right, but do
not ask me to explain why. The titles he chose for
his volumes of stories are also just right. He
called his first book of Latin American tales "Cab
bages and Kings." Perhaps not immediately but
soon the reader realises how right it was to snatch
a line from Lewis Carroll
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things;
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax,
And cabbages and kings."
And "The Four Million" for his New York
stories about the people, always the people. How
pat in explanation is his introductory note "Not
very long ago some one invented the assertion that
there were only Four Hundred people in New
York City who were really worth noticing. But a
wiser man has arisen the census taker and his
larger estimate of human interest has been pre
ferred in making out the field of these little stories
of the Four Million. "
When the new census is established perhaps his
"O. Henry" 137
publishers will change the title. It will not matter.
O. Henry s men, women and observations do not
change, whether their number grows more or less.
They are changeless because they are drawn and
shaped from life.
Who is this O. Henry? Why is he so amazingly
popular? Why is he read with delight by the
Four Hundred as well as by the Four Million?
Why did a lively Englishman, Mr. S. P. B. Mais,
when in 1917 he collected his studies in literature,
call the volume "From Shakespeare to O. Henry."
That, too, is an excellent title. Pedantic people
purse their lips and shake their heads. But what
is a title for? To describe a book, to arrest atten
tion, to lodge the book in memory. Mr. Mais de
sired to relate his literary adventures from Shake-
rpeare and the elder writers, through Samuel Butler,
Thomas Hardy, Richard Middleton, John Mase-
field, Rupert Brooke, to the present, to such a
vitality, so American, so racial, so untouched by
schools, class rooms and textbooks as O. Henry. He
was curious about O. Henry; he wondered why
Professor Leacock in writing of this "mere story
teller" should call his article "The Amazing Genius
of O. Henry." He was eager to know why
O. Henry should have been called by various ad
mirers "The American Kipling," "The American
de Maupassant," "The American Gogol," "Our
Fielding a la mode," "The Bret Harte of the City,"
"The Y. M. C. A. Boccaccio," "The Homer of
the Tenderloin," "The Twentieth Century Haroun-
Al-Raschid," "The Greatest Living Writer of the
138 Authors and I
Short Story." If he could have looked forward
a year or so he would have been impressed to know
that in 1918 the American Society of Arts and
Sciences decided that their memorial to O. Henry
should take the form of prizes awarded annually
for the two best short stories written during the
So it fell out that "From Shakespeare to O. Henry"
was the right title, as were "Cabbages and Kings,"
and "The Four Million."
Is all this praise of O. Henry justified? Is a
slangy, boisterous writer of short stories worthy such
high honour? I think so. Henry did what the young
Kipling did some years before; what Giotto had
done in art cenuries before. It is the old story, often
repeated; they went back to life. They spurned
the literary and art convention; they looked at
men and women about them with keen eyes and
sympathetic hearts; they tell us about them in the
language of our own day, laughing, crying, scorn
ing, applauding as their theme urges them to laugh,
cry, scorn or applaud. The young Kipling and O.
Henry cared nothing about art for art s sake; they
grabbed at life; they were watchers of life, mixers
with life; the yarns they told were about life. But
each offers something more than the mere yarn;
each consciously or unconsciously exposes an esoteric
as well as an exoteric meaning ("O. Henry gives
you something to think about," said my Negro
elevator boy), and as each writes about the Four
Million, not the Four Hundred, each gets the
approval of the Four Million.
"O. Henry" 139
I do not compare or contrast O. Henry with
other masters of short stories. He is just him
self; he goes his own rapid, riotous way, with
everything shaped in his mind: he twists and
turns in the narrative, he accumulates the char
acteristics of his characters; he peppers the page
with argot, street humour, misquotations (inten
tional), tinges the narrative with pathos and pity,
and then at the end starts the surprise staggering,
ironical, subtle but always a surprise. It makes
my elevator boy think ; it makes me think.
I acknowledge myself an Ohenryite. A decade
ago in London I was one of those who by chance
read "The Trimmed Lamp" volume (it contains
"Brickdust Row," "The Pendulum," and "The
Buyer from Cactus City") and forthwith I went
out and bought the other eleven O. Henry volumes.
But I do not think O. Henry should be read in
volume form. The stories were written for news
papers and magazines, and thus they should be
enjoyed. In the volume form I am always con
scious that there are other stories waiting for me.
That makes me hasty ; makes me skip. In a news
paper there is one story, no more. I read it once.
I read it twice. Strange newspapers come into
my house. They are the newspapers that have
fallen into the delightful habit of republishing an
O. Henry story each day. Yesterday I read "The
Cop and the Anthem," the day before "The
Assessor of Success," and I am looking forward
to rereading "A Lickpcnny Lover" and "The
I4O Authors and I
He wrote over 250 short stories, some of them
less good than others. In the wildest or windiest,
or most improbable, there are always flashes of
insight. He wrote them at the rate of one a week;
in some weeks he would turn out two, even three.
A few were written in prison. Prof. Alphonso
Smith of the University of Virginia, who has writ
ten the standard "Life of O. Henry," makes it
quite clear that he was guiltless of the crime of
misappropriating bank funds for which he was
charged and sentenced. Money was not his weak
ness. A well-known publishing firm, which had
refused his short stories when he was unknown,
sent him a check for $1,000 after he had become
famous for anything from his pen. He returned
the check. He was a giver; he bestowed money
as hastily as he made it.
In New York, as in North Carolina, where he
was born, in New Orleans, in Texas, he mixed with
the people. His material was always drawn from
contact with characters a look, a word and his
imagination began to work. All sorts and condi
tions of men (except what the world calls gentle
folk) flash through his pages, and all sorts and
conditions of women; but the nearest to his heart
were the little shopgirls, pretty, poor, steering their
fragile barqes through the shoals of earning a
living. Rightly was O. Henry called by Nicholas
Vachel Lindsay "the little shopgirls knight."
Through Galsworthy s "Justice" the law relating
to solitary confinement was humanised. Many of
O. Henry s stories, sociological documents, state
11 0. Henry" I4I
conditions as they are in terms of humour, pity, sym
pathy and irony. I hope lawmakers read them.
Regarding advice to literary aspirants O. Henry was
quite himself. "There are two rules," he said.
"The first rule is to write stories that please your
self. There is no second rule."
His metier was to produce short stories, and of
course people tried to persuade him to write a long
novel. Friends are always striving to make a
creative artist do something against his instincts.
At length O. Henry entertained the idea of a novel,
and in 1909 or 1910 wrote a long letter on the
novel he might write if- The letter was never
finished. While he was writing it he was caught
up in the greatest adventure of all.
The little shopgirls knight!
Do you remember at the end of Meredith s
"Rhoda Fleming" that last cry of Dahlia s "Help
O. Henry helped them.
26. MAURICE HEWLETT
HE Record Office, London, hides. You may
walk up Chancery Lane and not notice it ; but
there it is, a little east of the Lane, near Fleet
Street, a noble building, rather spick and span, a
cheerful contrast to the musty, mouldering docu
ments that lie within. When I think of the Record
Office, which is not often, I think of Domesday
Book, and Maurice Hewlett.
Domesday Book was completed in 1086: Maurice
Hewlett was employed in the Record Office, as
Keeper of Land Revenue Records and Enrollments,
from 1896 to 1900. During those four years he
must have pored over many time-stained parch
ments written in the centuries that have passed
since William the Conqueror ordered the census
or survey of England known as Domesday Book.
In those four years he garnered from the original
documents his love for the Past.
One would have thought that this dry-as-dust oc
cupation would have stifled the poet in him. Far
from it. "Pan and the Young Shepherd," pub
lished in 1898, has in it the steps of youth and the
scents of spring. It is as fresh as a May morning.
And if another of his poems, "The Song of the
Plough," is more sedate (it was written eighteen
years later), yet this, too, has the lilt and the eager
Maurice Hewlett 143
look. He, himself, has the look of a man who has
thought hard and delved deep, who with the pen
has trafficked with great men and great ladies, and
who knows the Scandinavian and Icelandic Sagas
as we know our daily newspapers. An intense man,
thin, sturdy, and wiry; energetic; with a face finely
trained and somewhat battered, eyes that watch,
lips that utter quick, incisive comments. A fearless
man! Perhaps that is well, as his wife was the
first woman aviator, long before the war a builder
of airplanes, and a daring and skillful flier.
I wonder if he is popular today. So bright and
scholarly a writer, so full a mind, should have a
large circle of readers. Perhaps his mannered
style is against him (I like it) and his air of pa
tronage (I like that, too). "Here am I," he seems
to be saying. "I am one who knows. I write
what I like. Take it or leave it."
What would have happened had not Maurice Hew
lett spent four years in the Record Office, and had
he not buried himself in the Sagas? Frankly, I
find all Sagas a bore, and so do most reviewers of
his latest book, "The Outlaw." It is the fifth
volume of Mr. Hewlett s "Sagas Retold." I am
unable to be interested in these huge, monosyllabic
heroes, these grown-up dolls of Norway, who are
always fighting about something that is not worth
fighting about. I prefer Ibsen s people. To me
Burgomaster Solness is much more interesting than
Hr.izcnhead the Great. I like his novels of modern
"The Stooping Lady," "Open Country,"
"Rest Harrow," because I like a personal style and a
144 Authors and I
personal outlook and attack, even if the style has
a twist of the archaic, a turn for inversion, and a
brilliant determination to be unique. His modern
novels were "out" when I examined the Hewlett
shelf of my pet New York Branch Library, but
there was a closely packed stack of the others.
"Maurice Hewlett doesn t seem to be very popular,"
I said to the librarian.
"No," she answered, "he s too fine."
"Fine" is an excellent word to describe this excel
lent writer, who may be also called precious, ex
clusive, and certainly "high-brow." To the real
reader who appreciates style, and who knows
that the style is the man, certain of his books
are a delight. Rarely have I had a greater literary
pleasure than in reading his "Earthwork Out of
Tuscany," his first published work, "Little Novels
of Italy," and "The Road in Tuscany." I know no
one else who has Italy so fervidly and so delicately
in his blood. "Little Novels of Italy" is a book
that will live. The episodes have a charm, pathos,
and a gaiety that I do not find in the episodes of
his "New Canterbury Tales." His brain moved to
Chaucer s England, but his heart speaks in Botti
celli s Italy.
It was "The Forest Lovers" that made him famous,
and showed the world that a new writer had arisen
who counted. I have just reread that spirited
romance, and find it as enthralling as of yore. On
the second page he springs upon his high, literary
horse, and announces, urbi et orbi, the Hewlettian
Maurice Hewlett 145
I rank myself with the historian in this business of tale-
telling, and consider that my whole affair is to hunt the
argument dispassionately. Your romancer must neither
be a lover of his heroine nor (as the fashion now sets)
of his chief rascal. He must affect a genial height, that
of a jigger of strings; and his attitude should be that of
the Pulpiteer: Heaven help you, gentlemen, but I know
wht is best for you! Leave everything to me.
There ! That is Maurice Hewlett to the life.
He wove his three modern romances into a trilogy
(trilogies are fashionable), and his best historical
romances, although quite dissimilar in theme and
period, are three "The Forest Lovers," "Richard
Yea-and-Nay," and "The Queen s Quair," which
is dedicated to Andrew Lang "by his permission
and with good reason." Lang, also, had given days
and nights to the mystery of Mary Queen of Scots,
she who, tossing high her young head, cried, "Let
me alone to rule wild Scotland."
It is reported that a Scotsman after reading "The
Queen s Quair" said, "And so is the whole lot
King Richard Yea-and-Nay, whom we know as
Richard of the Lion Heart, but here portrayed as
"torn by two natures, cast in two moulds, sport
of two fates," was a fine Hewlett subject. It is
done in great sweeps, fierce and fine in places. I
prefer "The Forest Lovers," but I like him best,
I delight in him most, when Italy is his theme.
Yes! he is a fine writer, .student, romancist, poet
a man who keeps his youth bravely. I had hoped
to hear that he had been made Professor of Poetry
146 Authors and I
at Oxford University. He was in the running ; but
the post was given to another, a pity, I think, for
Maurice Hewlett is a poet in his prose as well as
in his verse, and he would have led the youth of
Oxford into delightful, dainty, dashing, and daring
27. JOHN OLIVER HOBBES
WHEN I asked the girl librarian (girl librari
ans, I observe, are always better dressed than
men librarians) for a copy of the life of John Oliver
Hobbes, she looked blank and doubtful. "Mrs.
Craigie," I added "Pearl Mary Teresa Craigie
you know, the famous novelist American who
m?de her home in England."
The girl librarian glided to the card index bureau
and hovered over Hobbes. "We have some of her
book* Robert Orange, The School for Saints/
The Gods, Some Mortals and Lord Wickenham,
but no Life. I m sorry."
I was sorry, too, and somewhat surprised. Born
in Boston and taken to England by her parents at
an early age, there becoming famous as novelist,
playwright, essayist, and one of the wittiest and
most accomplished women in London, surely her
Life should be among the books in an important
branch public library of New York. To me it did
not matter, for I knew that clever, charming and
witty lady well, and can write about her without
opening a book.
About 1890, Mr. Fisher Unwin, eager to enliven
publishing routine, determined to issue the Pseudo
nym Library. He had this literary adventure, in
the way of publishers, whispered through the press,
148 Authors and I
and he placed the arrangements for the Psuedonym
series in the hands of one of his clever readers (a
"reader" is one who reads and reports upon manu
scripts), Mr. Edward Garnett. This able literary
critic, whose wife is the translator of Turgueneff,
has a keen sense for the new note, and new talent.
So when among the many manuscripts sent in, he
one day picked from the pile and tasted "Some
Emotions and a Moral," by John Oliver Hobbes, he
knew at once he had found the book that, in every
way, was suitable to inaugurate the Pseudonym
Library. Mr. Garnett has since told me that he
was first attracted by the handwriting. It was very
small, very neat, very firm (those were the days be
fore typewritten manuscript) original and confident,
as if saying, "I am in a different class from ordinary
writers"; and it was written in violet ink upon
thick cream-laid paper. Pearl Craigie was a wise as
well as a witty woman. She made plans. She
left nothing to chance.
"Some Emotions and a Moral" had an instant
success. It was short; it could be read at a sitting;
the story was rapid and amusing; cynical yet kindly;
well expressed ; and obviously, John Oliver Hobbes,
whoever he was, could write, was a scholar, and a
linguist, and had a quick eye for the fancies and
foibles of London society. This first book was as
unlike George Eliot s first book as any book could
be. The only resemblance between them was that
each author had chosen a male pseudonym, and each
had immediate success. George Eliot was a recluse,
John Oliver Hobbes was a mondaine: George Eliot
John Oliver Hobbes 149
never thought that she was a mondaine; John
Oliver Hobbes sometimes thought that she was a
"Some Emotions and a Moral" was not a great
book, but it was vastly entertaining. It cheered
people: it made the idle rich feel that they were
intellectual and rather uncommon ; it made the
busy intellectuals feel that, with luck, life might
become more engaging than books.
Easily I fell a victim to the swift charm of "Some
Emotions and a Moral" (I have quite forgotten
now what it was all about) ; I provided elderly
ladies with copies, and they asked me to dinner in
requital for the pleasure the book had given them.
One day I said to myself, "I must know this John
Oliver Hobbes." So I addressed a letter to him
care of his publishers, expressing my admiration,
and saying how much I should enjoy meeting John
Oliver Hobbes. The reply, to my astonishment,
came from Pearl Mary Teresa Craigie, then 24
years of age: the letter was sent from her father s
home in Lancaster Gate. He was John Morgan
Richards, a leader of "The American Society" in
London, one of the finest types of American gentle
men I have met, and a man of ideas and action
who revolutionised the art, or business, or eyesore,
whichever you like to call it, of advertising in Eng
land. His wife, Laura Richards, was a woman of
genius who expressed herself amazingly not in
book or pictures, in everyday life.
It was to her father s house that I was invited to
tea by Pearl Craigie. She had been married at 19 ;
150 Authors and I
it was an unhappy marriage. After much study
and preparation she had launched her first book,
and found herself famous in society and in literary
circles. Our friendship began that day and con
tinued. She had, I think, as quick and lively a
mind as any woman I have ever met. She sparkled
in conversation; her brown, lustrous eyes would
dance with merriment when she had said something
or seen something that roused her irony, her com
passion or her ire. Her father s house became a
centre of literary and social hospitality : at luncheon
and dinner parties, with covers often laid for twen
ty, you met all kinds of eminent people, and you met
them again at his country place, first Norris Castle,
and later Steephill Castle in the Isle of Wight.
The centre of every function was this brilliant
young American woman, whom her father idolised,
and whose quick mind and historical knowledge
worked in public affairs as eagerly as in literature.
It was an open secret that her counsels were sought
by more than one eminent statesman. She was
also intimately interested in religion, philosophy,
and music. The literary world was astonished one
day to find in the Sunday Sun a whole page
review by John Oliver Hobbes of Arthur Balfour s
"Foundations of Religious Belief." As to music
I remember one evening in her drawing-room the
conversation turned upon the acting of prima
donnas. Mrs. Craigie was amusing on the subject,
and finally she took the centre of the room and
regaled us with a series of parodies of great singers
who attempt to act in opera. She continued for
John Oliver Hobbes 151
an hour singing and acting, familiar with the
music, familiar with the ways of prima donnas.
It will be observed that I have wandered from John
Oliver Hobbes as writer to Mrs. Craigie as woman
in the limelight. She filled each role with spirit
and success; but as writer she never reached the
first rank. I think she realised this. She had
almost every gift except the supreme gift of genius.
She was not a George Eliot, and she lacked the
human sympathy of Mrs. Humphry Ward. Bril
liant, metallic, artificially elegant and smart are
the words that rise to my lips when I re-read the
novels and plays of John Oliver Hobbes. Her
brilliant mind wrote because writing was the career
that she had chosen, and in which she meant to
The real expression of her talent was "Some Emo
tions and a Moral" and the small books in the
same genre that followed it "The Sinner s
Comedy," "A Study in Temptations," and so forth.
Her longer books, the large canvasses, such as
"The School for Saints," and "The Gods, Some
Mortals, and Lord Wickenham," although done
with great care and art, and packed with good
things, somehow always fell short of the best, as
did her plays. She never wrote a slovenly page;
she put her best into everything and yet, and
She was the best dressed woman in London, and at
a dinner party with a congenial companion, she
was unparalleled. The dialogue in her books
was quick and epigrammatic: her talk was better.
28. THE HOUSMANS
THERE are two Housmans as you know: there
is Alfred Edward, and there is Laurence.
Perhaps you have heard Laurence lecture in an
American city : you may have heard Alfred Edward
lecture at University College, London, or at Cam
bridge; but that is not likely, as his subject is
Latin, and much as you may enjoy the tongue that
Virgil spake, it is improbable that you would
choose to spend an afternoon listening to a Pro
fessor of Latin. Yet your curiosity to see the
author of "A Shropshire Lad" may have been so
great that you were willing to smuggle yourself
as a student into a Cambridge or London class
room to listen to a lecture on Latin.
A. E. Housman is a one-book man. Laurence
Housman has written many volumes.
When I call A. E. Housman a one-book man I
am thinking of him as the author of "A Shropshire
Lad"; for though they may be tremendously im
portant, neither I nor you, reader, is habitually
interested in his other productions, say, "Manilius,"
Book I, edited 1903; Book II, 1912; Book III,
1916; and "Juvenal," edited 1905.
But everybody who cares anything for poetry is
interested in "A Shropshire Lad." This little
volume of 96 pages was published in 1896, and, if
The Housmans 153
the author of it cares about fame, he has the satis
faction or amusement of knowing that this little
volume has made him famous. A score of times
during the twenty-four years that have elapsed
since it was first published, I have met men and
women who knew it, who could quote from it,
and who always expressed surprise that the author
had written no other books. (They don t call his
Latin editions books.)
It has been my habit to explain to some would-
be Housmanites that A. E. s attitude toward
literature is consistent, understandable, and admir
able. The making of the poems in "A Shropshire
Lad" filled his life, and occupied his thought until
he was well on in the thirties, and an equal period
may elapse before he is ready to publish a second
volume. His well-balanced mind, caustic and
cynical wit, and classical training, urge withdrawal
from the literary arena until he is quite convinced
that his second book is as austerely and funda
mentally himself as his first effort. This eminent
Cambridge don, Professor of Latin and Fellow of
Trinity, lives in a hesitant environment, and for
better or worse lacks the "go-in-and-win-my-boy"
confidence of a Richard Harding Davis.
Laurence Housman has a great admiration for his
elder brother, and during his recent visit to Amer
ica allowed himself to be interviewed by a repre
sentative of the Evening Post on the Housman
family in general, and on A. E. in particular. I
am afraid that the headlines of the interview, run
ning right across the page, rather startled A. E. in
154 Authors and I
"the scholastic seclusion of Cambridge." I copy
"The Famous Shropshire Lad and His Brother.
"Years Ago A. E. Housman Created a Master
"Since Then He Has Been Silent.
"Now Laurence Housman Tells Us About Him.
"And of His Own Adventures Among American
I can imagine A. E. saying when he reads these
headlines "So that is the way they do it in Amer
ica. How curious!"
The interview is excellent and informative. We
are told that it was dislike of anti-climax that
prevented A. E. from publishing more poems after
"A Shropshire Lad." It was "too successful."
He was besieged with offers for his next book
(publishers are awful). To the most importunate
of them his answer was: "This volume was thirty-
five years in the making; I shall write the next just
as slowly." And he allowed himself to give the
following definition of the writing of verse:
"Poetry is something that gives one a strange sen
sation in the back of the neck, or down the spine,
or a funny feeling in the pit of the stomach."
He is a strange figure, we are further informed,
retired largely into himself. In the last two decades
he has written from 400 to 500 lines of poetry,
every line chiselled and polished, but up to the
present only one of these poems has appeared in
So his admirers must for the present content them-
The Hottsmans 155
selves with re-reading "A Shropshire Lad." I
have just done so. For the past week I have
carried the little volume about in my pocket, dipping
into it all times, re-reading it until I know almost
by heart many of the grim, sad, ironical, cynical,
tender, clear-cut little poems. It is the most un
affected of books. It is absolutely without pose
or artifice, yet you feel that it has been wrought
upon until simplicity can be no longer simplified.
The attitude of this Shropshire lad is akin to that
of Thomas Hardy in many of his poems. They
might be brothers in spirit. If A. E. is directer
than T. H. he is quite as morose. The burden of
the world is lyrically heavy on each. A. E. can
never enjoy the present moment because he is
always looking before and after.
When this Shropshire lad (you get to know him
very well through these poems) went to London
his thoughts in the train were all of the past,
never the future. He always uses the right word,
the neat word; and the thought is always clear
and candid, but never joyful.
Laurence Housman is more a man of the world.
He is keener in getting wrongs righted than in the
accuracy of Latin texts; in the equalisation of the
franchise than emendations of Juvenal. His
interests are many playwriting, fiction, art, crafts
manship, poetry, woodcuts, fair) tales. He has
published many books, and I suppose that the most
popular, the most successful was "An English
woman s Love Letters," issued anonymously in
1900. This sensitive and sentimental book led the
156 Authors and I
critics a pretty dance. For weeks guesses at the
authorship were made in the literary journals, and
all sorts of people had to deny that they had
written "An Englishwoman s Love Letters." Then
one day a student of modern belles lettres brought
into the Academy office an article proving, through
citations from other books by Laurence Housman,
that he was the author of the confessions of this
love-hipped Englishwoman. That ended the quest,
Laurence now acknowledges the authorship of this
pretty book. He did not conceal that he was the
author of "Rue."
Very many people in England and America are
grateful to him for that delightful play "Prunella,
or Love in a Dutch Garden." I cherish a moving
memory of his "Bethlehem: A Nativity Play,"
and I have just read his "King John of Jingalo."
About this I feel, as I feel about other of his
books, and about his poetry and illustrations. It
is on the threshold of being a fine book but it
does not quite succeed in being one. As to "The
Sheepfold" a curious experiment in biography, it
would have been better if fiercely pruned to half
the length. It is in him, I believe, to write a great
Meanwhile he has done a service to letters by
reminding a busy world of A. E. and incidentally
Laurence has strong views about American Free
dom, and American Poetry, and is fearless and
polite in expressing them.
29. WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS
MY early reading of Howells (it began quarter
of a century ago) had a curious effect. I
imagined that all American men and women had
the subtlety of insight, the delicacy of perception,
and the beautiful manners of the ladies and gentle
men in the novels of Mr. Howells. I held that
idea until my first visit to the United States, and
really it persists a little still. I am always expect
ing to meet a Kitty Ellison or a Lydia Blood, and
young men whose one desire in life is to be gentle
and sympathetic to young ladies. And when I was
told that Mr. Howells was raised in Hamilton,
Butler County, Ohio, that as a boy he set type in
a remote newspaper office, and worked his way up
through rough-and-tumble journalism, I pictured
him supposing Ohio to be in the wild I pictured
him as a sort of Buffalo Bill, a lion among ladies,
with a big, soft heart, a sombrero hat, and an
amazing power of divining the antecedental epi
sodes of a proposal. Years afterward, when I
met him in New York, I found him, well, you
know a quiet, kindly, and observant gentleman,
sanely and sweetly interested in the respectable side
of life, and I wanted to say to him, "Dear Mr.
Howells, do you really think that people have the
158 Authors and I
abnormal intuitions that you ascribe to them in
I have just, after a quarter of a century, re-read "A
Chance Acquaintance" and "The Lady of the
Aroostook." I went through them with immense,
quiet pleasure and immense astonishment pleasure
in the rippling gaiety of the stories; astonishment
at their finished art and understanding. The char
acterisation is as direct as a primitive picture; the
humour is as fresh as a drawing by George du
Maurier. I prefer him to Henry James, I prefer
him to Anthony Trollope. His girls are adorable,
his middle-aged ladies are witty, his middle-aged
men accept their destiny cheerfully, and, oh ! w r hat
a relief it is to read a mild teacup Howells novel,
after the tempest flagons of modern fiction.
I freely admit that the Howells young men are
unlike the doughboys who marched down Fifth
Avenue behind General Pershing. Mr. Howells
young men would never sing, "The Gang s All
Here." One of them, a man of fashion, a club
man, calls another clubman in friendly conversation
"a goose," and this is how Staniford explains him
self to Dunham in "The Lady of the Aroostook":
"I can t turn my mind to any one thing I m too
universally gifted. I paint a little, I model a
little, I play a very little indeed; I can write a
book notice. The ladies praise my art, etc." Per
haps young Americans did talk like that in the
heyday of Victoria. Readily I accept it from the
au chor who once wrote: "Oh, human life, how
William Dean Howells 159
I have loved you! and would I could express all
I see in your poor foolish face."
But I owe William Dean Howells a further debt.
He has given flesh and blood, and dear human
frailties to the Brahmins of Boston. Under his
pen they become human beings, not mere Proper
Names in the Century Dictionary: mere catalogues
of perfected deeds. When I pick up his "Literary
Friends and Acquaintances," published in 1901, I
see and listen to Emerson, Lowell, Hawthorne,
Thoreau, Holmes, Longfellow, Whittier, Mrs.
Stowe, Harriet Prescott Spofiford, Bayard Taylor,
Motley, Parkman, Norton, Higginson, Dana, and
Channing. I hear Emerson say that John Brown
had made the gallows glorious like the cross; that
Hawthorne s "Marble Faun," is "a mush," and that
Poe was "the jingle man." Howells at 23 won
the affection of Hawthorne thus: the author of the
"Marble Faun" had been saying that Thoreau
prided himself on coming nearer the heart of a pine
tree than any other human being. To which
young Howells replied, "I would rather come near
the heart of a man." I hear Holmes say, "Haw
thorne is like a dim room with a little taper of
personality burning on the corner of the mantel,"
and I seem to be present at that dinner party when
"Holmes sparkled and Lowell glowed, and Agassiz
beamed" and Howells listened. I hear Lowell
saying to him, "Sweat the Heine out of you," and
I sec the card of introduction to Emerson that
Hawthorne handed to Howells. On it he had
written, "I find this young man worthy."
160 Authors and I
Well, it is a great life if you don t weaken. Wil
liam Dean Howells of Ohio, Boston, and the
world never weakened. He passed on in harness,
watching with shrewd, glimmering eyes the America
of his day passing away.
30. HENRY JAMES
I WAS never a Henry James man. Admiration
yes: perhaps even reverence; but, to be
frank, for years I have not had the patience to read
him. The day is short, and to peruse a Henry
James novel properly would take the leisure hours
of a week. Would it be worth while? What has
happened when his long, involved tale is told?
Am I any the wiser or better? Have I been
amused or edified? Has anything been added to
my life? In reading a novel, say, like Herges-
heimer s "Java Head," I get something a place,
an epoch, the customs of a time, but most of Henry
James novels give me only an aroma of genteel
society, of people who have analysed their feelings
to such an extent that they have no feelings left,
and a style sometimes exquisite, always sensitive,
but so involved and long-drawn-out that at the
end of a chapter I say to myself, "Why am I
reading this? Why, why, why?"
Of course, there arc stories by him that set his
fame and can never be forgotten. I am their great
admirer. There was "Daisy Miller" and "Rod
erick Hudson" and "Washington Square" and
"The Portrait of a Lady" and essays on certain
artists with whom he was in sympathy, and every
thing he wrote about Venice. Sometimes I think
1 62 Authors and I
that the most beautiful work he did was about
Venice sad, meditative essays, wistful and wan
tonly wayward, but so beautiful.
Henry James was never a popular author. No
book of his reached the best selling list, but he
always had his few and extremely ardent admirers.
Henry Harland was one of them. It was at his
fiat in Cromwell Road in the nineties that I first
met Henry James. Even then he was a lion, an
acquiescent Old Master among the living. He
paced the room, ponderously complacent, with his
air of determined hesitation, and the young writers
gathered there gave him homage and waited for
his words. It was the thing to do. It was always
the thing to do. I can never remember the time
when Henry James was not a Feature and a Figure
in London life. He stood apart. He was Henry
James, and whether you read him or not there he
was Henry James.
This lover of England and English ways found the
exact spot in the world that suited him, that might
have been made for him. It was Lamb House,
a Georgian dwelling, at the top of one of the twisty
streets of Rye in Sussex, perched above the marshes
and the sea, a jewel set in the plain, as Coventry
Patmore called it, with its sister town, ancient
Winchelsea, also on its hill three miles away. He
would receive chance guests with a courtesy and
kindness that erred only on the side of a massive
cordiality that made many of his guests speechless.
They did not know where to look, or what to do,
when he was seeking the right word in a sentence
Henry James 163
from which you had long given up all hope that
he would ever recover the verb.
At Lamb House he suffered me gladly on several
occasions. Year after year it was my custom to
spend a portion of the summer at Winchelsea, and
what was pleasanter than to cycle over to Rye
with a few friends, and call upon Henry James.
The telephone had not penetrated to Winchelsea,
and I cannot imagine Henry James using it,
although he did essay, with gravity and dignity,
to ride the bicycle. His partiality for it was
Our visits were prefaced by a polite letter, and a
politer answer. The ritual of the adventure was
always exact. Each episode, each afternoon was the
same. I see again the stocky, impressive figure,
with large head and the observant eyes, advancing
with outstretched hand into the cool hall, from the
garden study, a book under his arm, usually French.
This would be followed by a stroll round the trim
lawn, a disquisition, uneasily accurate, on the
flowers and the views, followed by a set tea at a
table perfectly arranged. Our host, if the company
was sympathetic, would talk slowly, laboriously,
delicately, with swift, ponderable efforts of humour,
embracing all in the conversation, and startling the
timid when he directed toward them a question or
a comment. Sometimes there was a pause in the
conversation. When this happened the pause could
be felt. On such occasions I would try to save the
situation. Once, during a pause longer than usual,
in despair, I praised the canary. For some seconds
164 Authors and I
Henry James gave the bird his undivided attention,
then he said "Yes, yes, and the little creature
sings his songs of gratitude and admiration with-er
the slightest modicum of encouragement from-er
If I say more about Henry James as a Man than
as a Writer it is because he impressed me more
as a Man than as a Writer.
The Man grew greater as he grew older. I saw
him several times in the early months of the war,
and whenever I saw him I thought of those three
pregnant words of Shakespeare s: "Ripeness is all."
Ripe was the word for him, but the cataclysm of
the war and all it meant made him unutterably
sad, not uselessly sad, far from it, for he was
ceaselessly at work for humanity. He went no
more to Rye: he spent his spare time visiting
wounded soldiers, talking to them, comforting
them. What Tommy thought of Henry James
and of his talk will never be known, but Tommy
knew well that this big, distressed man, this Great-
heart, felt for him and loved him, even if "the old
buffer" was unable to express himself in Tommy s
language. This all happened in those days, those
dire days when England, his beloved England, had
her back to the wall. Then it was that he became
a British subject. It was, as he said, the least
that he could do. Then it was that he produced
a phrase of five words that are perhaps to English
men the best known and the most cherished among
the millions of words that he wrote. He referred
to the English as "that decent and dauntless race,"
Henry James 165
and Englishmen who have never read one of his
books, and never will, are proud and glad.
On Lamb House, Rye, a tablet has been placed
bearing these words: "Henry James lived here
It will be a place of pilgrimage.
What would he have said if he could have known
that, of all his books, his "Letters" is the most
31. RUDYARD KIPLING
IN 1889 we in London who were living by
literary journalism, began to talk with awe and
wonder about a new Anglo-Indian author called
Rudyard Kipling, whom his intimates addressed as
My friend Vernon Blackburn got to know him and
to idolise him; and it was through Vernon that I
began to hear wonder talk about Rudyard Kipling.
He was not a society man, or a frequenter of clubs:
he was a worker, an investigator of London human
ity, like O. Henry in New York, a prowler about
the streets who would copy the names of striking
thoroughfares in his note book, and talk to anybody
who was engaged on an interesting job. He was
an old young man, who checked and chided Ver-
non s youthfulness. Sometimes Vernon would be
admitted into the Kipling workshop. He told me
how the author of "Barrack Room Ballads" would
rush to the window when a soldier passed down the
street; how he would compose stanzas at white
heat, one after the other, and rush upstairs each
time to read the new effort to his parents ; and how
once when he was declaiming "The Blind Bug"
to Vernon, and had reached the line "He flipped
the blind bug into the dark" he suited the action to
the word so vehemently that the blood spurted.
Rudyard Kipling 167
We bought, not without difficulty, and read and
re-read those collections of stories, in blue paper
covers, with the imprint of an Indian publisher
"Soldiers Three," "In Black and White," "Under
the Deodars" and all the other wonders .of ^prose
and verse. For a poet, too, a writer of swinging,
haunting verses, who used slang without fear and
without reproach, was this young Anglo-Indian
who took young literary England by storm.
The dons of Oxford and Cambridge were rather
shy of Kipling, but the undergraduates opened
their Norfolk jackets to him, and by 1890, when
he published "Life s Handicap," and in 1891, "The
Light That Failed," he had won his way almost
into the ranks of the "best sellers." "Barrack
Room Ballads" was not published till 1892, and
by that time even the Quarterly Reviewers were
almost ready to accept his violent wayfaring with
the tongue that Shakespeare spake. Of course when
"Kim" was published Kipling became a classic.
W. E. Henley had prepared the way for the intro
duction of "Barrack Room Ballads" into the
fortresses of classicism by publishing them week by
week in the Scots Observer. Henley, being
joint author with Farmer of "The Slang Diction
ary," was of course vastly interested in Kiplingese.
Reading the proofs in the office of the Scots
Observer in Westminster, he would roar with
laughter and hammer the table with blows of
delight. One of the ballads especially pleased
him. Turning to me he said : "Will you take this
1 68 Authors and I
telegram when you go?" He handed it to me. It
contained three words: "God bless you!"
Parties and functions are not for Kipling. He is no
hermit, but his friends have to be of his own
choosing. I heard about the oyster supper parties
he gave when he was living in one of the dim little
streets by the Thames near Charing Cross, and
once I was taken by Vernon Blackburn to see
him in the house that his father had rented in the
Earl s Court Road. It was a Saturday afternoon:
he was at work before a roll-top desk, and carved
upon it (he did it with his penknife) w r ere the
words, "Oft was I weary when I toiled at thee."
He read us the poem he was then writing. No, he
did not write it out: his mouth was his pen. That
has always been his way, to compose a poem in his
head, to get it right and taut, and when it is all
done to copy it out on paper in his clear, small
handwriting. He read fiercely.
The next time I saw Rudyard Kipling was under
rather shameful circumstances for which I was not
responsible. I was staying at Rottingdean, a sea
side place in Sussex, and, having an idle hour,
succumbed to the blandishments of a char-a-banc
conductor to see the sights of the neighbourhood.
We were driven past the village green and pond,
past the Burne-Jones dwelling to a white house in a
garden surrounded by a high wall. "Sight No. 1,"
shouted the conductor. "This is the house of the
celebrated author, Rudyard Kipling." The con
ductor craned his neck, rose on his toes, and said,
in an excited voice, "If you will stand up, ladies and
Rudyard Kipling 169
gentlemen, you will see the celebrated author in a
garden hat, just entering his porch." Can you
wonder that soon afterward Mr. Kipling moved
from Rottingdean and settled in a delightful old
house near Burvvash, in Sussex, where there are no
char-a-bancs and no tourists.
Once more I saw him a chance encounter. I was
cycling from Rottingdean to London, and in a
puncture interval at a wayside blacksmith s en
countered him in a mess of grease and rags assisting
in taking a motorcycle to pieces. That was the
mechanical Kipling, the author of the difficult-to-
read mechanical, technical stories.
There was nothing technical, just sheer inspiration,
in the article that appeared in the London Spec
tator describing how Shakespeare, strolling one
afternoon into the pit of the Bankside Theatre, fell
into conversation with some sailors, plaited hair
and rings in their ears, and obtained from them the
seafaring knowledge that he used in "The Tem
pest." The article was unsigned. We wondered
who the author might be ; we sought in vain. Years
later an American publisher issued this article as
a pamphlet-de-luxe. It was signed Rudyard Kip
And there was nothing technical about the speech
he made at a Royal Academy banquet, one of his
rare appearances in public, wherein he gave an
account of the first artist, he who took a charred
stick from the fire and made a sketch on a rock
of his companions bringing home a deer. "How
170 Authors and I
did it go?" I asked a Royal Academician. "Great!"
he answered. "Great ! We were spellbound."
It is a chastened Kipling that holds our attention
in "The Years Between," but there is much of the
old fire and lilt, and more of the fine preacher
quality he showed in "Recessional." Who can
In this volume he returns to the theme which he
worked so beautifully in that "Tempest" article in
the Spectator. For in "The Craftsman," a poem
of seven stanzas, the old magic, he tells how
Shakespeare garnered the material for his craft
How, while he hid from Sir Thomas s keepers,
Crouched in a ditch and drenched by the midnight
Dewe, he had listened to gipsy Juliet
Rail at the dawning.
How on a Sabbath, hushed and compassionate
She being known since her birth to the townsfolk
Stratford dredged and delivered from Avon
Book after book by him appears. They may vary
in interest: they may be different, as "Stalky" is
different from "Recessional"; but in each and all
there is the magic that starts somewhere, if not
everywhere, in everything signed Rudyard Kipling.
32. ANDREW LANG
A BOUT the autumn of 1888, two young men
* * with literary ambitions (my friend W. Pett
Ridge was one, I was the other) put their excited
heads together, and determined to publish a book.
The volume was not to their own honour and
glory; it was homage to Andrew Lang, to his
honour and glory. The "Languid Lang," who had
a consistent sense of humour, may have smiled his
weary smile at the notion. I know not, I was
much too far advanced in awe and admiration of
him to inquire if he considered our action funny.
Enthusiasm begat the book, the enthusiasm of youth
for a Master of their trade who had succeeded so
wonderfully in doing, in the Daily News, what
we were trying falteringly and poorly to do to
write. Those were the days when the Daily
News was the most literary of the London journals.
It had upon its staff a small constellation of liter
ary stars, including Richard Whiteing, author of
"No. 5 John St."; but the brightest star was
Andrew Lang, humourist and scholar, humanist
and poet. He did not sign his editorials, or leaders
as they are called in England: their place on the
editorial page was third or fourth, following the
nuisance of the political, economical, or sociological
leaders. He always wrote on literature or some-
I 7 2 Authors and I
thing allied; but whether on books, folklore or
people, on fishing, fal-fals or cricket, his leader was
always graceful, amusing, and clear as a dewdrop:
scholarly but the learning was worn lighter than
a flower; allusive he seemed to know all poetry,
ancient and modern, all characters in fiction, and
all about fairies and heroes, and folklore, and
ballads. Above all, his leaders had humour that
bubbled up and overflowed from every subject he
played with. These leaders appeared three or four
times a week, and I confess that my first employ
ment each morning was to search for the Lang
leader, to read it carefully and with delight in the
train going down to the city, to cut it out, and
later to discuss it with Pett Ridge, who was even
more of a Lang enthusiast than I.
One day we had the daring notion of collecting
the Lang leaders, retrieving them from the files of
the Daily News and of writing to Mr. Lang and
suggesting that they should be published under the
title "Lost Leaders." Our hero agreed, languidly,
without enthusiasm. It was one of the parlour
poses of this tall, silent aristocrat of letters, with
the aquiline features and the wavy locks parted in
the middle, carefully cut; with the air of a sensi
tive child tossed into a chilly and clamorous world,
that nothing was worth while, that everything was
rather a bore. If he approved of our enthusiasm
he certainly never showed it.
The book duly appeared under the title "Lost
Leaders," 1889, one of the long list of his books.
What an array! There were at least sixty begin-
Andrew Lang 173
ning with "Ballads and Lyrics of Old France" in
1872, passing through "Ballads in Blue China,"
1880, "Custom and Myth," 1884, the yearly Fairy
Books, Blue, Green, and Yellow, the translations
of the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey," Scottish History,
down to "The World s Desire" in collaboration
with Rider Haggard, another novel in conjunction
with A. E. W. Mason, interspersed with heavier
volumes such as the "Life of John Gibson Lock-
hart," and "The Making of Religion." Add to
these more books of verse and jeux d esprit such
as "Pictures at Play," a funny running comment
on the Royal Academy exhibition which he rattled
off through a few May afternoons with W. E.
All these by no means represent his production;
he was forever writing articles and causeries, and
there were the lectures he gave periodically at St.
Andrew s University and elsewhere. He spoke
his lectures in an Oxford drawl, and always seemed
a little surprised when he made his audience
A great worker: yet when you saw him dreaming
through long summer afternoons at Lord s cricket
ground, or doing bad rounds on the golf links,
you would think that he was a man of leisure
instead of the hardest working literary journalist of
his day. That he was, but he also accomplished
his work with almost incredible ease, always pre
tending that he knew very little, and that what he
did know was hardly worth expressing. He never
174 Authors and I
relaxed either this amusing affection or his indus
I am told that he was beloved by his intimates, but
to the casual person, eager to admire him in draw
ing room or club, he was distant and unresponsive.
I think he was a disappointed man. He raised high
hopes at Balliol College, Oxford, whither he went
from St. Andrew s, which perhaps were never ful
filled. Jowett predicted that he would be a great
poet, and it is said that he hoped his poem, "Helen
of Troy," published in 1882, would "set the Thames
on fire." It did not.
But the poet in him never ceased. He produced
verses with the ease that he produced his leaders
and literary articles. It was said he could write
an article so quickly that if he began it standing he
would finish it before he gave himself the trouble
of sitting down.
Mr. Edmund Gosse, who in his "Portraits and
Sketches" has written the best memory of "Dear
Andrew with the brindled hair," as R. L. Stevenson
addressed him in a poem, gives us an example of his
quickness. One day Gosse showed him Emerson s
famous epigram called "Brahma." Lang, who
detested Emerson (I don t know why) read it with
"a snort of derision," and immediately improvised
If the wild bowler think he bowls,
Or if the batsman thinks he s bowled,
They know not, poor misguided souls,
They, too, shall perish unconsoled.
Andrew Lang 175
I am the batsman and the bat,
I am the bowler and the ball,
The umpire, the pavilion cat,
The roller, pitch, and stumps and all.
This, as Mr. Gossc justly remarks, would make a
pavilion cat laugh.
Having made up his mind that he was not to be
a great poet, Lang allowed his muse to be merry,
sad, or musical, according to his mood. His muse
just picks up her skirts and trips on.
There s a joy without canker or cark,
There s a pleasure eternally new,
Tis to gloat on the glaze and the mark
Of china that s ancient and blue.
He can laugh whimsically at himself as in the lines
he addressed to Doris:
Doris, I, as you may know,
Am myself a Man of Letters,
But my learned volumes go
To the top shelf like my betters,
High so high that Doris could
Scarce get at them if she would
Doris, there be books of mine,
That I gave you, wrote your name in.
Tooled and gilded, fair and fine:
Don t you ever peep the same in?
Yes, I see you ve kept them but
Doris, they are "quite uncut."
His fancy played: it played, and yet was serious,
with everything from Folklore to Fishing, from
Custom and Myth to Cricket and Meters, from
Ariadne to annual art exhibitions. One of his
176 Authors and I
funniest smaller books was "How to Fail in Liter
ature." He told the beginner exactly how to
His memory was amazing. Not even Lamb excels
him in the number of his allusions. Some he
worked over hard. He was particularly fond of
"wet, bird haunted English lawns," and of
Like Dian s kiss, unasked, unsought,
Love gives itself, but is not bought
He was Victorian in his love for Morris "Earthly
Paradise" and Rossetti s "Poems," but his chief
devotion was for Matthew Arnold. There was
something of that aloof Olympian in Andrew Lang:
each was an aristocrat of letters; Lang s tempera
ment was sympathetic to the undercurrent of sad
wistfulness that runs through Matthew Arnold s
One of his books that will surely live is the version
in English of the "Odyssey" he made with Pro
fessor Butcher. Not long ago I read a fine essay
by a soldier inspired by "a mildewed Butcher and
Lang," which had been read and re-read by exiles,
tense with waiting, in a Red Cross hut at Brest.
33. WILLIAM J. LOCKE
I" N the late nineties I began to know a tall,
* graceful, well-dressed youth, who was then
Secretary of the Royal Institute of British Archi
tects. It was in the Bodley Head Parlour, in 1897,
that we first met. This fair young man of distin
guished appearance wore his clothes with such an air
that I was inclined to cultivate him. He was W. J.
Locke; he had just published "Derelicts," and I had
not read it. Such things happen. Later we met
at teas and evening parties, and I remember think
ing how fortunate the Institute was in having a
secretary (most secretaries are so stuffy) who was
a man of the world with charm, tact, and a
capacity for listening as well as for talking. He
held that position from 1897 to 1907, cultivating
literature in his leisure hours, wooing the muse so
assiduously that within this period he published
ten novels. His first book, "At the Gate of
Samaria," goes back to 1895. In 1906, "The Be
loved Vagabond" was issued. With this book he
stepped into the Locke easy stride, or perhaps I
should say the Locke gay amble, an amble that his
readers find so pleasant that he has become one of
the most popular and well-liked novelists of the
day. So successful was "The Beloved Vagabond"
178 Authors and I
that within a year of its publication he took his
silk hat for the last time from its peg in the office
of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and
became William John Locke, novelist, one of the
few graduates (Mathematical Tripos 1884) of St.
John s College, Cambridge, proposing to live en
tirely by the pen.
I* count myself a Locke man. If I can t borrow
a new novel by him, I buy it. I do so because I
know that I shall have entertainment, that I shall
mix with people of breeding whether they be low
born or high born, people with ideas and ideals,
who behave themselves, and who take it for granted
that there is something more in life than getting
and spending. He is not insular. His writings,
like those of Henry Harland, have the Gallic touch
and esprit. He is a man of feeling, his books are
debonair, and if he deals sometimes with sad things,
he does so with an air, showing us that, as in life,
they pass; and that good may issue from them.
He does not soar to heights or plunge to depths;
he is a cheerful writer, who pursues the mot juste
with a lilt, and who delights to turn a phrase
happily. Briefly; his novels cheer me, and he has
introduced me to a lot of agreeable, lovable, and
fantastic people. I do not pretend to remember
them all, but pleasant hours troop back when I
look through the amusing list of his books that
his publishers (or he) designed for the "By the
Same Author" page in "The Red Planet." Here
William J. Locke 179
WHERE LOV1 IS
THE WHITE DOVE
SIMON THE JESTER
A STUDY IN SHADOWS
A CHRISTMAS MYSTERY
THE WONDERFUL YEAR
THE FORTUNATE YOUTH
THE BELOVED VAGABOND
AT THE GATE OF SAMARIA
THE GLORY OF CLEMENTINA
THE MORALS OF MARCUS ORDEYNE
THE DEMAGOGUE AND LADY PHAYRE
JOYOUS ADVENTURES OF ARISTIDE PUJOL
If I were Mr. Locke I would warft to keep the
neat pattern of this design. It will be easy to find
titles longer than "Joyous Adventures of Aristide
Pujol" ; it will not be so easy to find titles shorter
than "Idols." ... I have been thinking hard, and
suggest "Them," "You," "Oh," "I."
Reading one of Locke s novel s, "The House of,
Baltasar" in a train and enjoying it, I was arfnoyed
by the efforts of a Stranger in the adjoining chair
(he was reading Snaith s "The Undefeated") to
draw me into a conversation on the relative merits
of Locke and Snaith. He was also interested in
and troubled about William de Morgan. I
snubbed him, I wanted to read; but he would not
180 Authors and I
be suppressed. Presently he asked me where I
would place Locke and Snaith in regard to what
he called "the big men." He was so persistent and
so pleasant that I finally closed "The House of
Baltasar" (it wasn t Locke s fault), and answered
him something in this wise
"If we agree, and I suppose we do, that the greatest
modern English-writing novelists are Dickens,
Thackeray, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George
Eliot, Hawthorne, Meredith, and Thomas Hardy,
then we have a clearly defined first class. That
being so, I should place Joseph Conrad in the
running as a candidate for the lower ranks of the
first class, not there yet, but promising. Kipling is
also a candidate. He may yet write another "Kim."
Midway in the second class, perhaps two-thirds
down, I should place Locke and Snaith, and, some
distance below, William de Morgan. I place Con
rad high because he is a master of style, perhaps,
after Thomas Hardy, the best writer of English
now living. I place William de Morgan low be
cause he has no style at all. He was a voluminous
and volatile letter writer. Locke is a gay and
sensitive stylist; Snaith is impersonal, clear, and
"What I want in my fiction reading," said the
Stranger, "is the story; I don t bother about style.
William de Morgan can tell a story fine. He s a
bit long-winded, but he gets there. Did you ever
see William de Morgan ?"
"I saw him once," I answered. "It was in the
second year of the war. I had gone into an iron-
William /. Locke 181
monger s shop in Chelsea to buy a penknife. While
waiting I could not help being interested in a vener
able but rather draggled Early Victorian so he
looked who was having an animated discussion
with the proprietor of the shop. The assistant
informed me that the old gentleman was often
there, that he had invented a device for locating
submarines, and that the friendly ironmonger was
helping him with the model. Bits of metal were
scattered over the counter.
"Who is he?" I asked.
"He s rather a famous old bird," answered the
assistant. "A lot of eminent men live in Chelsea."
"Indeed, what s his name?"
"He s Mr. William de Morgan the potter. He
writes books, too, I m told."
"That s a good one, Doctor," said the Stranger.
34. E. V. LUCAS
YOU owe me, my dear Lucas, a cab fare. When
we meet in London after your journey through
India, Japan and America, I will claim it.
As you are, besides being the most successful liter
ary man of the day (I don t count such folk as
popular novelists and playwrights), a person with
a nice sense of honour, I am sure you will indorse
my claim to that cab fare.
Here are the facts: When I suddenly decided (was
it because John Galsworthy dedicated "A Motley"
to you, and "Tatterdemalion" to Mrs. Lucas?) to
write about you, naturally I called at my favourite
branch Public Library.
"Have you any books by E. V. Lucas?" I asked.
In a few minutes there stood upon the table a pile
of nineteen volumes all for me. I hailed a cab.
There was no other way.
On consideration I do not think that I will charge
you for the cab fare because of the pleasure I
enjoyed in going through nineteen books by you.
Most of them were familiar to me, and many a time
I laid down a volume, and recalled the days when it
was written back, back to our first meeting. That
must have been in the early nineties, soon after
you had settled in London to enroll yourself as a
student at University College, Gower Street You
E. y. Lucas 183
were always a writer, always making mental notes,
always observing, and even in those days you held
your pen askew, your half pen, for you always
broke the holder in two and threw away the upper
half, between your first and second fingers; and
you wrote, oh so quickly, with the lines running
up the page, not along it, in little words minute and
so difficult to read. I believe you still dislike the
typewriter, almost as much as you detest the motor
Even in those days your humour, always a little
sardonic, a little atrabilious, began to spurt forth,
and it found a pertinent and impertinent outvent
in the "By the Way" column of the dear old pinky
Globe newspaper, the cradle of so many writers
(including myself) who "commenced author" by
writing "Turnovers" (so-called because they
turned over the page) at a guinea a time. I believe
you were actually on the staff of the Globe and
when you find how popular in America the Funny
Column is, it may amuse you to write an essay
claiming that the "By the Way" column of the
Globe, a hundred and more years old, was the
parent of these wise, witty, tender and caustic
Those days and these! You have indeed made
good. You began in the most modest way; you
tiptoed into die sea of literature, making no splash,
hardly a ripple, on a Brighton paper, was it not?
Something under a quarter of a century passes and
here is Mr. Edmund Gosse after reading your
happy book "The Phantom Journal" asserting that
184 Authors and I
you are "more proficient in the pure art of the
essayist than anyone since R. L. Stevenson." And
here is Mr. Clement K. Shorter saying that you
have had "the most entrancing career as a man
of letters of any living writer in England." You
are the only writer of my acquaintance who runs
into new editions so quickly that I become quite
giddy. Reviewers love you and say no end of things
about your charm and humour. Everybody seems
to read you from Mr. Edmund Gosse to your sea
side landlady, and everybody likes you and says,
"What a nice man he must be! I should like to
meet him." I smile at that because I know how
retiring you are: by that I mean that you prefer to
choose your friends, not be chosen ; that you are
splendid on a country walk, and delightful at a
remote cricket match, but that in a club lounge or
at the high table of a public dinner a curled-up
hedgehog, compared with you, is a hail-fellow-well-
How many books have you published? I give it
up. But I know that very soon the interesting
list, that authors sneak into the page "facing title"
which is called "Books by the Same Author," will
have to run over to a second page. Has this ever
happened before? I doubt it. But at least I can
attempt to group your books. Your first was a
book of Poems ("that nobody knows anything
about") : your second was "Bernard Barton and
His Friends" published in 1893. There are the
Essays, such as "Comedy and Character" and "Fire
side and Sunshine"; the Wanderer books, such as
E. V. Lucas 185
"A Wanderer in London" ; the Lucasian novels (not
really novels) such as "Over Bemerton s" and
"Landmarks"; the Poetry, Prose, and "Letter"
anthologies, such as "The Open Road," "Some
Friends of Mine" and "The Gentlest Art"; the
Books for Children, such as "Anne s Terrible Good
Nature" and "The Slow Coach"; the Humorous
Books, such as "Wisdom While You Wait." And
there is "The Life of Charles Lamb."
Besides all this you are a busy literary journalist
writing regularly for the London Times Literary
Supplement and other journals; you are Assistant
Editor of Punch, very useful, and often rather
bored at the Wednesday dinner when the Cartoon
is discussed; and you are a publisher s reader, and
I believe a partner in the firm of Mcthucn & Co.
You must have, I think, what the world calls a
good business head. You told me once that you
have never sold a book outright, that you always
retain a royalty. With such ever-selling anthologies
as "The Open Road" and "The Friendly Town"
and the "Wanderer" books this foresight must be
agreeably rewarded. You make friends of the
right kind ; your mind is so compact and inquisitive,
your opinions so reasonable, your judgment so sound
and independent of ulterior motives, your outlook
so humorous and unbiased by convention, your
silences so eloquent, your conversation so alert and
to the point, when it does break out, that you make
friends in all worlds the literary and the sporting;
in art circles and in those devoted to billiards,
conjuring vaudeville and sport. Your clubs arc
1 86 Authors and I
The Athenaeum, the Burlington Fine Arts, and the
National Sporting Club. Indeed, it may be said
of you that nothing human is alien to your sympathy
but the diverse humanity you seek must have
character and comedy and play the game, whether
it be annotating Lamb, planting bulbs, singing a
comic song, or capping quotations. You are sym
pathetic, but you are also always an observer,
never an actor, and an observer with an inward
and not always a gracious smile.
It will be observed that I consider you a wise
youth: You had a four-square literary foundation.
As a young man you set yourself the gigantic task
of writing the "Life of Charles Lamb" in two thick
volumes, and editing his works. You did it su
premely well, and the years of research you gave to
it furnished you with an erudite and canny knowl
edge of the literature of the period, and opened
the way to many of your later books. On Charles
Lamb s shoulders you climbed up from the horde
of writers, carrying Elia with you, loving him, and
learning much from him. It was easy because as
humourists and observers you are much akin, and
it is the humourist and the observer that the world
loves in you and Elia, whom you rightly call "the
most lovable figure in English literature." You
understand Lamb beautifully. In the famous inter
view between Charles Lamb and Carlyle when
Elia pulled the Sage s leg, so quietly but so naught
ily, your comment is: "The history of misunder
standing has few things better than this. I like to
think of the poor broken-down Cockney sizing up
E. y. Lucas 187
his visitor in a twinkling and deciding to give him
exactly what he merited."
You have also, my dear Lucas, done a thing which
many essay writers and versifiers would like to do,
but they shrink from the attempt through lack of
encouragement, aplomb, and a publisher. You have
compiled an anthology from your own Prose, Verse,
Letters, and Child Things under the title of "A
Little of Everything." It is excellent reading.
My favourite is the essay called "A Philosopher
That Failed" Oliver Edwards, the solicitor, who
is famous, for ever and ever, because he once said
to Dr. Johnson: "You are a philosopher, Dr.
Johnson. I have tried, too, in my time, to be a
philosopher, but I don t know how; cheerfulness
was always breaking in."
Of your fugitive poems I like best that called "The
Cricket Ball Sings," but perhaps that would not be
fully appreciated in this land of Baseball. Here is
Give me the fieldsman whose eyes never itray from me,
Eager to clutch me, a roebuck in pace:
Perish the unalert, perish the "buttery,"
Perish the laggard I strip in the race.
Grand is the ecstasy, soaring triumphantly,
Holding the gaze of the meadows is grand,
Grandest of all to the heart of the ball
Is the finishing grip of the honest brown hand.
In an essay, a delightful reminder of Elia, called
"My Cousin the Bookbinder" that dear man,
that unforgottcn Bookbinder, speaking of Charles
1 88 Authors and I
Lamb, says, ". . . this little one who calls himself
Elia is all for quietness and not being seen, and
having his own thoughts and his own jokes. . . ."
Really, that is not at all a bad description of you.
35. MAURICE MAETERLINCK
T T AD Maeterlinck not come to America it
A A would have been simple to write about him,
to recall, with gratitude, his literary advent in
London, and my joy. Those were white days, the
days when I first saw "Pelleas and Melisande" and
"The Intruder"; when I first read "The Treasure
of the Humble" and "The Life of the Bee." He,
himself, has not changed. Of that I had testimony
at his second lecture in Carnegie Hall. He is still
the quiet, aloof, self-contained man, a sage in dress
clothes, watching the audience, a little surprised, a
little anxious, as a thoroughbred racehorse looks
when examining the crowd about him.
The Vortex called. Maurice Maeterlinck has been
in the Vortex. The Apostle of Silence came to
America to deliver a message, and lo! the Apostle
of Silence found himself in a Hubbub.
No doubt, by this time, Maurice Polydore Marie
Bernard Maeterlinck has learned that America is
more eager to see him, and to note how he delivers
his message, than to be informed of the content of
the message. That is the way of audiences, and
that being so I hardly see why audiences should
object to the delivery of his lectures in French,
which was the basis of his dispute with Mr. Pond
of the Pond Lyceum Bureau. (I hope it has
190 Authors and I
been settled.) It is a rare treat to hear such French ;
it was painful to listen to the Sage trying to
express himself in phonetic English. It was a
failure, but he emerged from it beautifully. Actors
of wide experience might envy his poise and self-
command. Never before has there been such an
acute example of the precept about a good man
struggling against adversity. Gratefully upon his
ears must have fallen the voice of a lady crying
from the audience, "Say it in French, sir."
Perhaps when Maeterlinck has thought it all over,
and has returned to the Villa les Abeilles, Avenue
des Baumettes, Nice, he will write a new essay and
call it "Manhattan, or, How I Was Drawn into
the Vortex." And perhaps of all the strange expe
riences he underwent in the New World the
strangest was the interview with a group of New
York newspapermen. It may not have been strange
to him, for his meditations carry him into strange
vagaries of thought ; but it was strange to them for
New York newspapermen have been schooled to
regard Maeterlinck the Mystic as a Figure of Mys
tery, and here was this vigorous transcendentalist,
clad in a woolen lounge suit, with carpet slippers
upon his feet, saying, "I love the boxing. I have
boxed with Kid McCoy. He is not only a boxer,
but a philosopher, too." The reporters also realised
that the Sage knows what Carpentier weighs. "I
have boxed with him three or four times," he said
proudly. The present writer was not at the inter
view, but there it is all set down in cold print. I am
glad I was not there. It is so much more interest-
Maurice Materlinck 191
ing to imagine it; but it is rather difficult. I can
imagine Mr. Henry Ford as an Interior Decorator
with a leaning toward salmon-pink. I can even
imagine Mr. William Randolph Hearst as an Eng
lish Gentleman with a leaning toward chivalry, but
only with a great effort can I imagine the author of
"Wisdom and Destiny" and "The Intruder" as a
boxer nimble on his pins, and quick on the uptake.
Here is the account "The poet threw forward his
body, doubled his fists and danced about Mr. Russell
for several seconds. Despite his great size and portly
build the Belgian s footwork was swift, . . . his
toes tapped lightly on one of Mr. Anderson s valu
able bear rugs, nearly upsetting a vase of lilies. I
love the boxing, cried the Sage, I have boxed with
Kid McCoy. And Kid McCoy in turn has told
the world this: I had the pleasure of boxing with
a poet some time ago. His name is Maeterlinck.
He s a good boxer and a mighty good sport. You
know I didn t think much of poetry until re
cently. " All things work together for good. Per
haps now that Kid McCoy has come into contact
with poetry he will introduce it into the boxing
arena. I hope I have got the gentleman s name
right. One is apt to make mistakes in nomen
clature with new reputations.
So disturbing was the passage of Maeterlinck across
the Manhattan firmament that I find it difficult to
recapture the equable state of mind that the name
of Maeterlinck evoked in me ere he sailed up New
York bay with his young wife to attend the first
performance of "The Blue Bird" as an opera. All
192 Authors and I
this is too near and restless. I must go back to
days long before "The Betrothal" and "The Blue
Bird," back, back to the first performances of his
plays at the Court Theatre in Sloane Square that
home of lost and won theatrical causes. I see
again in memory Mrs. Patrick Campbell and Mr.
Martin Harvey in "Pelleas and Mclisande" ; I see
play after play, so still, so moving, and it is strange
now to think that we thought then that these plays,
passing behind gauzes, lifting the veil, so still, so
moving, were to be the prefaces to the drama of the
future. Perhaps they will yet.
Then came "The Treasure of the Humble" with
the shock of a witty and cynical Introduction by
A. B. Walkley. But he did one good service. He
asked point-blank "Has M. Maeterlinck anything
Of course he has. It may not be new because
nothing is new, but this Belgian Master has
gathered up and written down in beautiful French
the interior teaching and wisdom of mankind from
Plotinus to Emerson, whispering the while to an
obdurate world, "What we know is not interest
The mystery of life is what makes life interesting."
We of the Anglo-Saxon world have taken to him
more freely than the Latin or the Flem, and we
have had the immense advantage of two sym
pathetic and understanding translators Alfred
Sutro and Teixeira de Mattos. One of them,
Alfred Sutro, is a dramatist, and perhaps he is still
asking himself if a Maeterlinckian theatre is not
Maurice Materlinck 193
still possible, "a static theatre, a theatre of mood not
of movement, a theatre where nothing material hap
pens and where everything immaterial is felt."
Literary success came to Maeterlinck early per
haps too early. Popular success envelops him in
1920 perhaps too popular. With me he is a mas
ter of the Past. He calls from the Past. Some
years ago when he began to write for the Daily
Mail I felt that he was slipping out from his Pla
tonic cave, and when I read his latest book, "Moun
tain Paths," I had a feeling that the Maeterlinck
of "The Treasure of the Humble" had gone to
other adventures. He has not gone over to Kid
McCoy, but he now treats subjects about which
there is really nothing to be said because we know
everything about them or nothing.
The Belgian Sage s platform manner is admirable.
He looked at his second lecture just as the author
of "The Treasure of the Humble" and "Wisdom
and Destiny" should look. Nothing, I am sure,
would ruffle him, nothing disturb him. He has
poise. He delivered his message neither quietly nor
riotously; he just delivered it.
Do not ask me what it was about,
I have no knowledge of Odic Effluvia, of the
Major and Minor Memory, and I have little apti
tude for investigations into the communal life of
Such matters do not trouble me. But they seemed
to disturb a young American, a stranger, who sat
by my side. Halfway through the lecture he leaned
toward me and said "This is deep stuff."
194 Authors and I
When it was all over and Maeterlinck had taken
his triple call, the young American remarked, "He
takes you along a strange road, and a pretty steep
"Yes," I answered. "But why travel out of the
way? If you want to go to Philadelphia why not
go straight there? Why go via the Rocky Moun
tains, California, the South Pole and Florida?"
The young American looked at me curiously.
"There s something in that," he said.
36. EDWIN MARKHAM
YOU are invited," said the invitation, "to
participate with the Joint Committee of
Literary Arts in a dinner in honour of Edwin Mark-
ham in recognition of his genius as a poet and his
worth as a man."
That seemed all right. So I acquired a ticket and
noted the date of the dinner. In the interval I
tried to recall what I knew about Edwin Markham
and his very popular poem, "The Man with the
Hoe." It was published nearly twenty years ago; it
was suggested by Millet s painting; and it had the
distinction of being the most quoted poem of the
day. Innumerable newspapers published it; in
numerable sermons were preached upon it; innu
merable editorials were written on the questions
with which the poem concludes
O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
How will the future reckon with this Man?
How answer his brute question in that hour
When whirlwinds of rebellion shake the world?
Strange to say the future reckoned with this Man
by begging AH Mjn to take up the hoe and help
to feed the world. "* Neither Mr. Markham, nor
anybody else, could foresee that with the pressure
of the submarine menace in 1916 the Man with the
196 Authors and I
Hoe would become a very important, a very neces
sary and much-admired person. In England every
body in their leisure hours wielded a hoe. It was
unpatriotic not to do so. The present writer, clad
in a costume as like to the garments worn by
Millet s peasant as his scanty wardrobe permitted,
hoed himself into a state that bordered upon ecstasy.
He was doing his bit, not doing it surpassingly
well, but he was helping to feed his native land;
he was the new Man with the Hoe. And he
murmured to himself the cheerful reply made twen
ty years ago by John Vance Cheney to Edwin
Markham s sad "Man with the Hoe":
Strength shall he have, the toiler, strength and grace,
So fitted to his place.
Tall as his toil. Nor does he toil unblest,
Labor he has, and rest.
I did not trouble to acquire the three editions
of "The Man with the Hoe and Other Poems"
at $2, at $1 and at 50 cents, because I was confident
that the poem would be recited at the dinner; but
I did reflect on popularity, and the extravagance of
some literary judgments. I remembered a story,
current at the time, that a well-known man had
offered $5,000 to anybody who could produce a finer
poem than "The Man with the Hoe," and in the
advertisement pages of "The Shoes of Happiness
and Other Poems," by Edward Markham, I read
a series of "critical opinions." Well, not being a
poet, I am not in the least envious, but I looked
forward to the dinner with redoubled interest, eager
Edwin Markham 197
to see if such extravagant praise had had any effect
on the venerable poet. Here are a few of the
"The greatest poet of the century," Ella Wheeler
"The Whole Yoscmite the thunder, the might,
the majesty," Joaquin Miller.
The Man with the Hoe/ will be the battle
cry of the next thousand years," Jay William
-"A poem by Markham is a national event," Robert
"Excepting always my dear Whitcomb Rilcy, Ed
win Markham is the first of the Americans,"
William Dean Howells.
Can you wonder that my pulse beat high as the
day of the dinner approached ? Even though I do
not write poetry, a Bookman s pride extends to all
members of his craft, from the paternal poet to
the pointed paragraphist, and I longed to see the
man who wrote a poem that "will be the battle
cij of the next thousand years." My hoe now
stands in the umbrella stand in the little hall of
my native home, from the oriel window of which
may be seen the croquet lawn converted into a
potato patch where
Bound by the weight of centuries I leant
Upon my hoe and gazed upon the ground,
The emptiness of ages in my face,
And on my back the burden of the world.
(The opening of "The Man with the Hoe"
198 Authors and I
Five hundred or so attended the dinner mostly
poets. It was heartening to see the guest of the
evening greeted by his admirers, a kindly, wise,
distinguished-looking man, in appearance something
between Robert Browning and Walt Whitman. Of
course there was more extravagance of praise.
There always is on such occasions. The name of
Shakespeare was used freely, but distinguished poets
are accustomed to such flatteries, and they can do
nothing but sit still and smile while they listen
to the flattery. It was near midnight before the
poet rose to reply and then something happened that
endeared the author of "The Man with the Hoe"
to me. In his speech, after a proper period of
seriousness greatest moment of my life, never to
be forgotten, and so on he side-tracked into remi
niscences of delightful humour. A humorous poet!
I could hardly believe my ears! He gave us a gay
and sly account of his early years in Oregon and
California, farming, blacksmithing, herding cattle
and sheep, and so on, to newspaper writing, Chris
tian sociology and poetry. The room rippled with
laughter, and although midnight had struck we
were quite willing that he should continue his auto
biography to the present day, for a serious poet with
an aura of humour is an infrequent experience.
The next day I went to a club which has an excel
lent library and asked the librarian for Edwin
Markham s poems. He looked blankly at me. The
club did not possess a copy. "Such is fame," I
murmured. "Is it some particular poem you
want?" asked the librarian. "Yes, The Man with
Edwin Markham 199
the Hoe. " He retired, and presently returned
staggering under the load of the largest book of
poetry I have ever seen. It is called "The Home
Book of Verse"; it contains 3,742 pages, which is
necessary, as it enshrines poems from Spenser to
the present day. When I have asked a carpenter if
my bookshelves will stand the strain I shall cer
tainly acquire this volume. It contains hidden in
its 3,742 pages "The Man with the Hoe" and
Cheney s "Reply," and Markham s "Lincoln," and
"Auld Lang Syne," by Robert Burns, which I
read that afternoon for the first time, although I
have pretended to sing it on hundreds of occasions,
and a little thing by Walt Whitman beginning "At
the last, tenderly," and ending "Strong is your
hold, O love!" that has been singing itself to me
That rich afternoon of poetry (it was Sunday and
the library was empty) drinking from so many
fountains placed Edwin Markham for me. He is a
noble, dignified and beautiful singer of noble, dig
nified and beautiful themes, but he lacks magic.
He could not have written
that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn.
He is an author rather than a bard. You remember
Macaulay s distinction between the two. But when
I reached home that evening I read Markham s
"Birthday Greeting to John Burroughs" and felt
2OO Authors and I
very grateful to him; and still more grateful when
I read a quatrain which he calls
He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.
There are folk who would rather have written
that than most things.
37. JOHN MASEFIELD
OF all Englishmen now writing, John Masefield
answers readiest to the fine old term Man
of Letters. He has turned his deft hand to every
thing, and he has succeeded in everything. Poet,
playwright, essayist, teller of tales, war historian,
he has tried them all, and he is now in the happy
position of knowing that his latest work is his
best. There can be no doubt about that. "Reynard
the Fox" is a book that will live, a narrative poem
that delights the great public as well as readers of
In 1896, John Masefield was working as a hand in
a carpet factory in Yonkers. The wonder of poetry
came upon him with a rush. Poetry was not
dribbled out of him as to most, at school and col
lege, dribbled out in set tasks, the splendour slowly
evaporating in the drudgery of the lesson. It came
to him suddenly, on great wings, one Sunday
afternoon when he first lighted upon Chaucer s
"Parliament of Fowls." It was a new life, the
real life. The gates were opened. He rushed in
and met Shakespeare, Milton, Shelley, Keats. This
lore of great literature has never left him. Readers
of his "Gallipoli" will remember that he prefaces
the sections of this admirable narrative with extracts
from "The Song of Roland."
2O2 Authors and I
If I linger over John Masefield s early years in
New York it is because he himself has touched
them vividly, in his collection of tales and studies
called "A Tarpaulin Muster." He gives in "A
Raines Law Arrest" a realistic description of what
he saw in the humble position he filled in the bar
of a downtown establishment; in "On the Pal
isades" he describes in a few bold strokes the fea
tures of the Palisades, and he also shows, to New
York and to the world, his method as a writer. His
teacher is life. Great poets and prosemen showed
him the way of beauty and strangeness, how to
handle and shape his material, but he finds his
material in life. Thus the fabric of this sketch
"On the Palisades" is woven out of what a ferry
man told him. Like Kipling, he has the gift of
talking with strangers, gleaning stories from them:
he remembers the saliencies. And he has the
power of writing simple, straightforward English,
in which every word tells. Here are two speci
If you take a boat and row across to the Palisades their
beauty makes you shiver.
It is like being in the wilds, in one of the desolate places,
to lie there in a boat watching the eagles.
His name first became a reality to me in rather
a curious way. I was calling upon Sir Douglas
Straight, who was then editor of the Pall Mall
Gazette. It was noon; and while I was waiting
(editors are always doing something else) an office
boy brought me a copy of the paper just off the
John Masefield 203
press. Instinctively I turned to the editorial page,
and then to the poem, which Harry Cust, a former
editor, had introduced daily into the Occasional
Notes. Years before John Morley had originated
the term, but the printers always called them Oc.
Notes. I read the poem there printed with im
mense interest. In it was the tang of the sea and
it moved to a measure like a rolling billow. When
Sir Douglas Straight at last came quickly into the
room with a greeting I interrupted him with the
words: "Who wrote this fine poem? Who wrote
it?" He did not know. He sent to inquire.
The answer came back John Masefield. "A new
man," said Sir Douglas. This poem has since been
published in "Salt Water Ballads."
A year or so after this I met John Masefield at a
luncheon party in London. A quiet man, a modest
young man, virile and keen, and observant in the
almost shy, almost furtive way of H. G. Wells.
I do not remember anything he said. Probably I
did not pay much attention to him, for I had no
idea that he would do the fine things that he hasi
Austen Harrison, the editor of the English Review,
played a noble part in making the poetry of John
Masefield popular. In October, 1911, he pub
lished "The Everlasting Mercy" in his review.
That needed courage, for the poem is quite 13,000
words in length and it filled a large portion of the
magazine. Such courage had its reward. The
number was sold out, John Masefield, as poet, was
made, and the literary world recognised that one
2O4 Authors and I
editor at least regarded poetry as a feature, not as
a "fit par." This admirable experiment was re
peated. "The Daffodil Fields," and I think "The
Widow in the Bye Street," were also published in
the English Review. After "Reynard the Fox"
I place "Dauber."
Like Conrad, he has been a sailor, but the sea, and
those that go down to it in ships, does not dom
inate him. Yet the sea had a great share in his
intellectual and emotional make-up. Here is a
passage from his sketch called "The Cape Horn
Ah, what profound thoughts I thought; what mute, but
Miltonic, poetry I made in that dim half-deck, by the
smoky bogey, in the night, in the stillness, among the
As a playwright he has not yet had a great success.
"The Campden Wonder" and "Nan" were out
standing plays, and were admired by the few. His
greatest theatrical success is, I suppose, "The Faith
ful," which was played in New York by the Drama
League. It was a moving piece, beautifully pro
duced, but as it was founded on an ages-old Jap
anese legend, the author became so involved in
the point of view of Japan that I should never
have guessed, had not the program said so, that
"The Faithful" was by the author of "The Widow
in the Bye Street."
His war books are excellent, straightforward state
ments, well-shaped, and written in the sound, bal
anced prose that comes to poets. He might have
John M as e field 205
written "The Old Front Line" as a narrative
poem, but "Gallipoli" could only have been done
in prose. The intricacies of that magnificent
failure are set forth so lucidly that it becomes one
of the classics of the war. John Masefield is the
penman who tells the tale. The theme being so
colossal, he himself is the narrator no more.
With "Reynard the Fox" he reaches the height of
his achievement. I have read it four times and
each time I have kindled. It goes on my bookshelf
against Chaucer s "Canterbury Tales." It sings
the England we all love, the wholesome out-of-doors
England, the types, the cries, the sights, the sounds.
It gallops into our hearts, and it is John Mase
field s best poem, because he loved the doing of
it every line.
Everything he wrote before was a preparation for
this English poem, this saga of English fields and
English folk, the rush from hill to hill, the cry of
the hounds, the thunder of the horses, the shouts of
the huntsmen, and at night the home-coming.
38. GEORGE MEREWTH
COE was Meredith s valet and gardener
everything to him for thirty years. One day
he recalled to Mr. Waldo, over the hedge of the
Box Hill Cottage, the visit of an American pub
lisher to George Meredith.
"We want your books," said the American; "we
want to circulate them in cheap covers and make
them known among the crowd."
"That," remarked Coe, "seemed to please the
Yesterday I journeyed by trolley car from the village
where I am staying to the nearest town a pleasant,
unaggressive Connecticut town to do my week s
marketing. I purchased bread, butter, a bag of
onions, and a can of tomato soup, had them packed
in a strong parcel and then entered the Public
"Have you any of George Meredith s works?" I
The librarian led me to a shelf and handed me
"Richard Feverei" and "Rhoda Fleming," in the
1889 author s edition, and "Diana of the Cross-
ways" in the 1907 pocket edition.
"May I take them all home?"
"Certainly," said the librarian. "We like to cir
culate good books."
George Meredith 207
"Then there is not much call for George Mere
dith?" I ventured.
She examined the date cards of the three volumes.
"None of them has been out since 1917," she
murmured, a little sadly, I thought.
"Have you his poems?" I asked. She shook her
head; her curls looked dolorous. "We ought to
have George Meredith s poems," she said.
I saluted her and stepped outside, opening "Richard
Feverel" at the chapter, an old favourite, called
"The Blossoming Season": my eyes fell upon this
passage: "Culture is halfway to Heaven"; and
below was this from "The Pilgrim s Script"
"Who rises from Prayer a better man, his prayer
The arrival of the trolley car interrupted my read
ing, but seated in the corner I plunged into the
first meeting between Richard and Lucy, perhaps
the most beautiful analysis of dawning love between
two young, high-spirited and charming creatures in
the English language. I had just reached: "To
morrow this place will have a memory the river
and the meadow, and the white falling weir," when
the trolley car stopped. It was the end of the
journey. I bundled out, and remembered, sud
denly, that I had left my parcel of marketing in
the Public Library. It looked as if I would have
a skimpy supper. But that is another story. At
any rate, I had Meredith with me.
On the way home up Ferry Lane I asked myself if it
was not quite natural that the patrons of that
2o8 Authors and I
rather remote Connecticut township should dis
regard Meredith. He is so essentially English; he
is dyed in the aristocratic viewpoint and he loves
the iridescent stain. What could a Connecticut
farmer make of Sir Willoughby Pattern s leg, or
of Diana and Redworth, or Lady Blandish, or the
Wise Youth, all so English, so very English? In
truth the brilliant restlessness, the bird s flight
quickness of George Meredith mind, the alert syn
copated dialogue is too fatiguing for many English
men. And although English women are fond of
saying that he is the only author who understands
women, it was Marie Corelli s books they bought
wholesale. But those who really call themselves
Meredithians are his wholly and absolutely. They
accept him in his entirety, and they will not hear
a word against "Lord Ormont and His Aminta,"
"The Amazing Marriage," or even those bewilder
ing odes celebrating French history "The Revo
lution," "Napoleon," "France, 1870," and "Alsace-
Lorraine." In these odes, I admit, I stuck.
Frankly, it did not seem to me worth while to
unravel their meaning, and I remember one dis
tracted night when I had tortured myself over "the
incandescent Corsican," turning for relief to the
last page of "Rhoda Fleming," to the poignant sim
plicity of Dahlia s ultimate cry "Help poor
It was the ardent Meredithians who resented the
master s corrections in the novels for the uniform
edition issued nearly twenty years ago. The changes
hurt. Disciples did not want a word altered, and
George Meredith 209
when Meredith s friends wrote articles in the liter
ary papers urging that the changes were unimpor
tant, the stalwarts retorted with parallel columns
giving the old text and the new, showing that the
exacting Master had cut and slashed at will.
Slowly, very slow his novels brought him fame ;
the Meredithian beverage was much too heady for
the Victorian public, nurtured on the spiritual
everydayness of George Eliot, and the cathedral
town proprieties of Anthony Trollope.
Many of the novels were written by Meredith,
writing-board on knee, in the chalet that he had
built on an eminence in his garden at Box Hill.
Behind the chalet a path led through a wood where
he would walk and compose. When the fit was
on, Coe had to carry the dinner back to the kitchen
and wait patiently till the winged words were
One summer evening I was invited with a friend
to dine at Box Hill. We arrived near sundown;
Meredith was in the chalet, still at work; we
waited. Presently he emerged, clad in white, with
a big white sombrero hat upon his head. He did
not see us, but he saw the sun, a round red ball.
Off swept his hat; he made a deep obeisance. In
looks he was quite unlike the typical English
man, regular aquiline features, white hair and
beard that curled (Senator Lodge might be his half-
brother), and eyes that twinkled and flashed.
The dinner grieved me. Meredith was in his
liveliest Robin Goodfellow mood, mischief and
humour dominated him, and his butt was a young
210 Authors and I
man, a relative. This sententious youth made a
sententious remark with the soup. It was about
the vintage of the wine we were drinking. Like
a sword, the Master s irony leapt forth, and what
ever turn the conversation took he brought it back
to the discomfiture of the sententious youth. His
mental agility was wonderful, but (I thought) un
A few years later I saw him again at a Private
View in charge of a lady popular in London society ;
his face wore a continuous smile; the attention he
received evidently pleased, perhaps amused him.
My last view of him was sitting in the Bath Chair,
drawn by a pony, or pushed by a friend, in which,
when he could no longer walk, he used to make
little excursions over the hills around his house,
ever talking, ever smiling.
His mind, in those latter days, was alert and
vigorous as ever; his sympathy with youth and the
coming generation never flagged. "I suppose," he
said to a friend, "I should regard myself as getting
old I am 74. But I do not feel to be growing old,
either in heart or mind. I still look on life with a
young man s eye." That was so ; and he had written
in "Love in the Valley" a poem which stands with
Spenser s "Epithalamion" and Mrs. Browning s
"Sonnets from the Portuguese" as one of the three
finest love poems in die language. It is the essence
of lyric love, half angel and half bird, and it is
compact of young-eyed Meredith he who wrote
of Richard and Lucy. Once I knew "Love in the
George Meredith 211
Valley" by heart. It sings still. Bits come back
to me as I write.
When her mother tends her before the laughing mirror,
Tying up her laces, looping up her hair,
Often she thinks, were this wild thing wedded,
More love should I have, and much less care. . . .
Shy as the squirrel and wayward as the swallow,
Swift as the swallow along the river s light . . .
Lovely are the curves of the white owl sleeping
Wavy in the dusk lit by one lone star. . . .
Happy happy time, when the white star hovers
Low over dim fields fresh with bloomy dew . . .
Prim little scholars are the flowers of her garden,
Trained to stand in rows, and asking if they please . . .
Peering at her chamber the white crowns the red rose,
Jasmine winds the porch with stars two and three.
Parted is the window; she sleeps! the starry jasmine
Breathes a falling breath that carries thoughts of me.
And so on, and so on Meredith s spring song, the
song of one who remained perennially young.
George Meredith s poems are the light, Thomas
Hardy s the shadow. Each has enriched our lit
erature; each, with great art, has communicated
to us the progress of his wayfaring. Hardy leaning
to Acquiescence in the Inevitable, Meredith, like
Stevenson, to the Undiminished gladness, the Un-
decaying glory, the Undeparted dream. When
things looked blackest Hardy bows his head ; when
things seem to be at their worst, Meredith, like
Foch, attacks, and, lo! the light.
Yes, when I read that great utterance by Foch, I
think of Meredith: "Mon centre cede, ma droite
rccule, situation exccllentc, j attnquc."
39. LEONARD MERRICK
WHO are those two men?" I asked, indicating
two figures on the outskirts of the lawn.
My host replied "One is George Gissing, the
other is Leonard Merrick."
With the grey life and novels of Gissing I was
fairly familiar, and a great admirer of his few,
scholarly, intensive travel books. Of the work of
Leonard Merrick I knew nothing save that his
novels usually dealt with actors, literature and
journalism, that he had been on the provincial stage,
and that he was hardly more successful as a novelist
than as an actor.
I began to perceive, as years passed, that he had
strong backers. He is one of those modern, unob
trusive, uncompetitive sensitive men of letters whom
fellow craftsmen delight to praise. One day
George R. Sims astonished me by becoming dithy-
rambic about Leonard Merrick. He praised his
novels; he blamed the public for not appreciating
this unemotional, unsentimental craftsman; he ex
plained to me the Merrick method of fiction. "Per
haps he s a novelists novelist," I murmured. In
the light of future events, which I am about to
relate, I am rather proud of that intuition.
Some day I meant to read a Merrick novel. It was
Mr. W. D. Howells who put the idea into my
Leonard Merrick 213
head. His appreciation of "The Actor Manager"
was so hearty and acute that I felt the time was
drawing near when I must spend six shillings on a
Merrick novel. Mr. Howells had written: "I can
recall no English novel in which the study of tem
perament and character is carried farther or deeper,
allowing for what the people are, than in "The
But this was not all. The Merrick star was
ascending. Writers began to vie with each other
in their eagerness to praise Merrick. Grave Pro
fessor Tyrrell wrote in~The Speaker: "A lady whom
I know said to me, Mr. Merrick seemed so near to
me as I read "The Man Who Understood Women"
that it embarrassed me to remember I was in a
dressing gown and my hair was down. " And Sir
J. M. Barrie wrote this: "There is no doubt in my
mind that Conrad in Quest of His Youth is the
best sentimental journey that has been written in
this country since the publication of the other one.
... I know scarcely a novel by any living Eng
lishman except a score or so of Mr. Hardy s that
I would rather have written."
All this was extremely interesting. I wondered
how Mr. Merrick took it. And I had not yet
read one of his novels. I was so interested in watch
ing the accumulations of praise from fellow writers
that it seemed supererogatory to read a Merrick.
I bepan to make inquiries. I was told that "he
writes very little, that he finds it difficult to get
started, and to keep going, and that a few thousand
words a week are a large output for him."
214 Authors and I
I also learned that in London (this was some
years before the war) his books were quietly suc
cessful, that Barrie s enthusiasm had sent the book
sellers orders up, and that he was a very good
Tauchnitz seller. But his admirers were not con
tent. They hustled. Every writer seemed bent
on booming Merrick. It was a curious literary
When the novelists of eminence began to show
signs of exhaustion through their effort of praising
Leonard Merrick, the publishers began. Mr.
Mitchell Kennerley was the pioneer in America. De
scribed by a fellow publisher as one of Leonard
Merrick s most generous patrons and best friends, he
began to issue his novels in 1910. They were suc
cessful; about 10,000 copies of each sold; there the
sale paused as Merrick was caviare to the large pub
lic. He almost ceased to write; this novelists
novelist, who had always taken a back seat, seemed
to be seeking for a still more retiring position in the
Suddenly another firm of publishers dragged him
out into the centre of the orchestra stalls, and
started the band playing a triumphal march. No
body can stop a publisher when he is determined to
push a timid author into the blaze of publicity.
The firm in question was Messrs, Hodder &
Stoughton of London, an astute firm who took quick
advantage of the extraordinary enthusiasm shown
by contemporary writers to keep Mr. Merrick in
the orchestra stalls with the band at full blast.
It was decided to issue a uniform edition of his
Leonard Merrick 215
novels, and to preface each volume with an intro
duction by literary and admiring contemporaries.
They hastened to the adventure. They fell over
each other, to quote Sir James Barrie s words, "in
their desire to join in the honour of writing the
prefaces." Such a confraternity of praise from fel
low writers has never happened before in the his
tory of literature. The writers who fell over each
other in their eagerness to write prefaces were:
W. D. Howells, Sir James Barrie, H. G. Wells,
Maurice Hewlett, W. J. Locke, G. K. Chester
ton, Sir W. Robertson Nichol, Sir Arthur Pinero,
J. K. Prothero, Neil Munro, Granville Barker, and
So everybody was able to buy any or all of the
novels of Leonard Merrick each with a preface, per
sonal and particularly eulogistic, by a famous au
thor. And of course America was not going to
allow England to beat her in forcing this fortunate
novelist to remain in the best seat in the orchestra
stalls. Mr. Mitchell Kennerley sold his plates and
rights to E. P. Dutton & Co., and that firm issued
a limited, uniform edition of the Merrick novels,
each with a preface by a famous author.
In the many books Mr. Leonard Merrick has writ
ten about authors, successful and unsuccessful, he
has never imagined for a hero such an extraor
dinary compliment as has been paid to him. Had
the idea entered his head he would have dismissed
it as incredible.
It might almost have seemed incredible to me had I
not the ocular demonstration of the twelve volumes
2i6 Authors and I
of the English edition standing in a pile on my writ
ing table. I have read all the prefaces, such caper
ing, delightful Merrick idolatry, and I have read
six of the volumes. It was no hard task ; each story
was a grave pleasure. Leonard Merrick is an artist,
not a great artist like Turgenev, not a master of
insight like Meredith. He works in the temperate
zone; he is never wrong but he never soars. His
subtlety is equable; his finesse is exquisite, but I
find it difficult to remember the plots and characters
of the six Merricks I have just read. I shall give
myself a holiday. I shall postpone reading the other
six till next week.
Later. I have read them with grave pleasure, and
grave interest. To "merrick" is to write as
Leonard Merrick writes.
40. ALICE MEYNELL
npHERE were two girls who had an admirable
A education. Those who know these ladies
will not accuse me of exaggeration. Their father
gave them this education, mainly in Italy. His
name was T. J. Thompson. The girls were called
Elizabeth and Alice. Each has become famous; one
as artist, the other as poet and essayist. Eliza
beth (Lady Butler) is the painter of "The Roll
Call," "Quatre Bras," "Inkermann," "Tent-
Pegging in India," "Missed."
Alice (Mrs. Wilfrid Meynell) published her first
volume of poems, "Preludes" while she was still
a girl; "Preludes" was republished with some
changes and additions in 1893; her latest volumes
are "A Father of Women, and Other Poems," and
a volume of essays called "Hearts of Controversy,"
both issued in 1917.
It is not easy to write dispassionately of the Meynell
household, one of the few homes in London where
poetry and thought have been highly and consistently
honoured, and mingled with ever-ready hospitality
and encouragement. So many Americans, so many
English can testify to this. Francis Thompson (he
was not a relation) found in this family the in
spiration of many of his poems; Mr. and Mrs. Mey
nell were his counsellors, and the custodians of his
21 8 Authors and I
welfare during an unbroken intimaq of nineteen
years; the dedication of his Poems is to Wilfrid and
Alice Meynell. Had it not been for them he would
have sunk under the burden of an existence which
he was unable to confront alone. Poets and writers
of high purpose came, and come, to this household,
by instinct of a right of way to the things that mat
ter. Many of these visitors, who soon became
friends, have dangled the children on their knees,
and have watched Viola Meynell take her place, so
early, as one of the new novelists who count ; have
acknowledged that her brother, Everard, has written
one of the best biographies of the decade in "The
Life of Francis Thompson" ; and have laughed
secretly and happily, knowing that the author of
"Aunt Sarah and the War," published anonymously,
in the first year of the war, which leaped quickly
into the 100,000 circulation, was the father, Wilfrid
And while the family were, in various ways, pro
ducing and encouraging literature and art, the
mother, the usually silent but exquisitely sympathetic
hostess, Alice Meynell, was adding year by year, so
slowly, so fastidiously to her slender sheaf of poems
and essays; and slowly, quite slowly her fame it
seems absurd to call so quiet, cloistral and gradual a
recognition fame was spreading among those who
value distinction, restraint, packed thought, insight,
and delicacy of observation. But the other day I
found in an American magazine two pages by her
called "Superfluous Kings," the title taken from
Shakespeare s "Superfluous Kings for Messengers."
Alice Meynell 219
I read no more that day. I did not want to dis
tract myself from those brief pages.
Alice Meynell is not an easy writer to read, and
she does not find composition easy. She works very
slowly with pencil and pad in the morning hours.
Words and sentences are a sacred rite to her. She
broods until her thought shapes itself, and she does
not allow the high and intricate altitude of her art
to be scaled easily by the reader. He must rise to
her austere level. The reward is great, but the
casual reader must be prepared to give himself, and
to consider and reconsider such sentences as:
In Spain was the Point first put upon Honour.
Not excepting the falling stars for they are far lets
sudden there is nothing in nature that so outstrips our
unready eyes as the familiar rain.
Tribulation, Immortality, the Multitude: what remedy of
composure do these words bring for their own great
To mount a hill is to lift with you something lighter and
brighter than yourself or than any meaner burden.
These are but four extracts taken at random; they
are given to show that this writer, so chary in pro
duction, so reluctant to publish, gives to the reader
something that makes him reconsider and revalue
his thought from her enwrapped thought.
Her first volume of twenty essays "The Rhythm of
Life," containing "Dccivilised," Composure,"
"The Lesson of Landscape," was published in
1893. In literary circles it had immediate recogni
tion and success. Coventry Patmore published a
eulogistic article in the Fortnightly Review, which
22O Authors and I
began, "I am about to direct attention to one of
the very rarest products of nature and grace a
woman of genius." The poet of "The Unknown
Eros" continued to be a most devoted admirer of
her gifts, and before long George Meredith also
enrolled himself among her intellectual admirers.
He was able to read Mrs. Meynell week by week,
for she was one of the six women-writers engaged
by the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, Harry
Cust, to contribute to "The Wares of Autolycus"
column. There, for two or three years, she wrote
a weekly essay, and George Meredith rarely missed
sending a letter, with flowers grown in his garden,
at Box Hill, of enthusiastic appreciation. The
essayist had come into her kingdom and her chief
courtiers, George Meredith and Coventry Pat-
more, were the chief lights of the literary world.
In the same year, 1893, her "Poems" were pub
lished, uniform with "The Rhythm of Life." I
do not suppose that two volumes, such slender
volumes, have ever been received with equal favour
and gratitude by the few and fit. In America, too,
she had her great admirers, and her brief lecture
tour is remembered as something separate and apart
from other lectures.
Although "Preludes" of 1875 had long been out of
print copies of it were treasured. William Sharp
in "The Sonnets of the Century" had said :
In its class I know no nobler or more beautiful sonnet
than "Renouncement"; and I have so considered ever
since the day I first heard it, when Rossetti (who knew it
Alice Mcynell 221
by heart), repeating it to me, added that it was one of
the three finest sonnets ever written by women.
Ruskin, too, said great things about the poems
The last verse of that perfectly heavenly "Letter from a
Girl to Her Own Old Age," the whole of "San Lorenzo s
Mother," and the end of the sonnet, To a Daisy," are the
finest things I have yet seen or felt in modern verse.
"Renouncement" is in the "Anthologies" ; but since
there may be some to whom it is unfamiliar, I give
myself the pleasure of copying it:
I must not think of thee; and, tired yet strong,
I shun the love that lurks in all delight
The love of thec and in the blue heaven s height,
And in the dearest passage of a song.
Oh, just beyond the sweetest thoughts that throng
This breast, the thought of thee waits hidden yet bright;
But it must never, never come in sight;
I must stop short of thee the whole day long.
But when sleep comes to close each difficult day,
When night gives pause to the long watch I keep,
And all my bonds I needs must loose apart,
Must doff my will as raiment laid away,
With the first dream that comes with the first sleep
I run, I run, I am gather d to thy heart.
So you learn, reader, that in the household where
this poet and essayist presides, the arts arc treasured,
reticence encouraged, and rejection favoured. But
there is laughter too and delight in life, for Mrs.
Meynell has humour which ripples forth when the
222 Authors and I
burden of the world compassion she carries presses
less heavily on her.
The charm of her tall, light figure is preserved
in a drawing by Sargent; and perhaps she never
said anything more characteristic than this of her
Father "He had an exquisite style from which to
41. STEPHEN PHILLIPS
ANEW YORK church announced for Sunday
evening a Community service.
Curious, like the Athenians, for the new thing, I
attended. The service was a succession of surprises,
but the chief surprise and the chief interest was
when the curate, instead of reading the lesson from
the Bible, informed the congregation that he had
selected for their edification "Marpessa" by Stephen
Phillips. He did not read it very well; and some
times he paused to draw attention to a passage of
"surpassing beauty." He dwelt, I remember, with
immense approval on the opening line "Wounded
with beauty in the summer night."
Sitting there and listening, I said to myself, "This
is surely a very unusual proceeding, this reading a
long poem to a very attentive congregation in an
Episcopal church in the Empire City; and after a
while I found some solace in recalling that Stephen
Phillips was a son of the Rev. Stephen Phillips,
D.D., Precentor of Peterborough Cathedral.
The Community sen-ice proceeded, and as much of
it had little to do with religion, yet quite proper,
and of a character to which I would not hesitate to
invite the strictest of my relations, I fell to thinking
of Stephen Phillips, and going over in memory our
meetings. Perhaps the cadences of "Marpessa"
224 Authors and I
moved me to tranquil and sweet remembrances, for
Phillips had the secret of beauty, and of brief pathos;
of careful beauty such as:
And live in simple music, country songs,
And mournful ballads by the winter fire.
I saw him first in a London drawing room in the
early nineties. He had not then made his great
success; he had not then achieved what might have
seemed to be impossible ; he had not then persuaded
London managers, astute men like Sir Herbert Tree
and Sir George Alexander, that there was a public,
a paying public, a packed, cheering public for the
His great year was 1900. On October 31 "Herod"
was produced at Her Majesties Theatre with Sir
Herbert Beerbohm Tree (he never took the worst
part) as Herod. It was a wonderful occasion.
Poets were jubilant, and they whispered one to
another between the acts that Sir George Alexander
(he was untitled then like Tree, and, like Tree,
never out of the movement) had commissioned and
accepted for production "Paola and Francesca" by
Stephen Phillips. Those were great days. The first
night of "Herod" was an event. Between the acts
an eminent poet said to me: "What price Charley s
Aunt now?" And we all went home mouthing as
much as we could remember of
I dreamed last night of a dome of beaten gold
To be a counter-glory to the sun.
Stephen Phillips 22$
And we whispered :
To me it seems that they who grasp the world,
The kingdom and the power and the glory,
Must pay with deepest misery of spirit,
Atoning unto God for a brief brightness.
Great days! When I reached home, I remember
that I dug out from the cupboard under the stairs
my own poetic tragedy called "The Unpardonable
Sin," and began to polish it.
But memory is travelling as fast as that champion
horse, Man o War. I must draw rein. I was say
ing that I first met Stephen Phillips in a London
drawing-room in the early nineties. He was already
a poet, known to the inner circle, but not yet
famous. I think he had recently published the
lovely "Lyrics" and "The Apparition," than which
I doubt if he ever wrote anything finer:
She had forgotten nothing, yet
Older she seemed, and still:
All quietly she took my kiss,
Even as a mother will.
And before these, some years before, in 1890, he
was one of the four friends who published at Ox
ford a slender, brown paper-covered pamphlet of
poetry called "Primavera." The other friends were
Laurence Binyon, his cousin ; Manmohan Ghose,
and A. S. Cripps.
But I am still in that London drawing-room. He
came in; he stalked to a corner and stood there
very erect, rather severe, without any intention of
making himself agreeable, as writers of prose try
226 Authors and I
to do. A minor poet who happened to be sitting
by my side nudged me and whispered "Stephen
Phillips." I examined him. He was a fine figure,
but a singularly stiff one; and his clear, cold blue
eyes did not invite one to slap him on the back
and say: "Well, and how are things going?" He
had regular features, a strong chin, and a chiselled
nose. I was still looking at him and saying over
And all the blue of thee will go to the sky,
And all thy laughter to the river s run;
But yet ...
Thy tumbling hair will in the West be seen,
And all thy trembling bosom in the dawn;
But yet ...
I was murmuring these lines to myself when the
minor poet who was sitting next to me, looking
straight at Stephen Phillips, said "Did you ever
see anything so exactly like a Roman emperor on
We met several times after that but he never re
laxed his unbending attitude. It may have been
merely shyness. One heard of him from time to
time, and gleaned particulars of his life how he
had been an actor with Frank Benson s company,
and an army coach; how he had a passion for
cricket, and how in the end, after his great success,
he settled down at Ashford in Middlesex, to live
by his pen, by poetry, and the poetic drama, and
to suffer money and other troubles. He was not a
good manager of his own affairs, better than Fran-
Stephen Phillips 227
cis Thompson, but worse than the humblest com
muter. But he must have had moments of ecstasy
when he sat down to read the press notices that
are printed at the end of most of his books. Again
and again it was said that nothing like his work
had been seen since Browning and Tennyson. And
he had the memory, too, of the success he won in
1897 when his "Poems" were "crowned" by the
Academy and he received as a prize 100 guineas,
which went much farther in those days.
But it is a sorry business for a poet to be obliged to
live by his verse. In 1915 Martin Harvey produced
his "Armageddon" at the New Theatre, London.
No, the Academy would not have crowned that.
But there was something of the old chaste fire,
tranquil beauty and sensitive interpretation in
"Panama and Other Poems" published in 1915.
When he passed away, four and a half years ago,
his fellow poets wrote beautiful things about him,
for everyone was touched at remembering this
most successful and most unfortunate poet who
used our sweet and flexible English tongue with
a distinction of simplicity, a sense of gliding beauty,
and a nice taste in words that is not given to
many. And but the other day, his brother, Harold
D. Phillips, who is organist at the Peabody Institute
in Baltimore, published in the New York Evening
Post an article of memories of the poet. It is very
well written, but rather severe, very severe, and,
unlike most articles, it makes me long for more.
But this is mere curiosity. His poetry is with
us, and for me there is now the memory of hearing
228 Authors and I
"Marpessa" read in a church in place of the Lesson
which almost makes me smile; and when I come
to think of it I did see Stephen Phillips smile once.
It was when I told him the story of "Herod," Beer-
bohm Tree and the Head Carpenter at Her Majes
Two days before the performance Tree called a re
hearsal of the scenery of "Herod" without actors,
without speech. Beerbohm Tree and the Head
Carpenter sat in the dress circle and watched the
magnificent scenery pass across the stage from the
first scene to the last. They sat in silence. There
was no hitch. Just before the end Beerbohm Tree
turned to the Head Carpenter and said "Well,
Johnson, what do you think of the scenery, now?"
To which the Head Carpenter replied "Governor,
it ll take mighty fine words to carry it."
Adieu happy, unhappy poet. You are not for
42. GEORGE MOORE
EORGE MOORE never says anything for
effect: he conceals nothing: when he has a
thought or an impression he utters it as if nobody
else had ever had a thought or an impression
before. Nothing exists anywhere until it has
busied itself in his consciousness. All the world
may use a telephone, but until our author has
brought his mind to bear upon the telephone it
does not exist for him. But having once become
conscious of the telephone, having reflected upon it
by his fireside in Ebury Street, London, he can say
something interesting and original about the tele
phone, because it is his mind and nobody else s that
is working upon the subject of the telephone. He
thinks out things, in the detached, unmoral, un
afraid, confined, yet free George Moore way, and
laboriously narrates with the pen the processes
of his thought.
Whatever George Moore is writing about women
and men in the form of fiction, art, confessions,
memoirs, Ireland, drama, impressions, opinions, his
friends, himself his procedure is the same. He
unwinds and rewinds his views and reflections; he
keeps nothing back; he does not seem to make any
distinction between good and bad taste, between
propriety and impropriety; his aim is merely to
230 Authors and I
wind upon the spool the yarn of his thought which
represents the subject uppermost in his mind at the
moment. One has only to reflect upon three of
his latest books "Hail and Farewell," "The Brook
Kerith," and "A Story Teller s Holiday" which
was "privately printed for subscribers only," to
realise the detachment of his literary adventures,
and that to him nothing happens in the world
unless it has happened in his intellectual and
aesthetic experience. He is the most subjective of
writers and he is also old-fashioned, for does he
not insist that all his books are written not for
the public but "for men and women of letters?"
Of course what he is really interested in is self-
expression ; he is interested in his own thoughts and
memories. Whenever I think of George Moore I
see him in an armchair by his fireside in Ebury
Street, stroking his cat, and through a long evening
allowing his extraordinary able mind to reflect on
the past, and also encouraging it to open avenues
into the future. He reads very little, but what he
reads he absorbs and thinks about. I remember
calling upon him one morning when he was living
in a spacious flat in Victoria Street, Westminster.
I remarked on the absence of books and asked him
how he spent the day. He looked at me, reflecting
on my question, and then said: "Oh, I write till
it is time to go out to dinner. Writing bores me
less than anything else."
The hard-worked word naive is insistent in a con
sideration of George Moore. The burr of the world
has not affected his childlike vision. Even unpleas-
George Moore 231
ant subjects he treats with the candour of a child.
He is always making literary discoveries such
extremes as Virgil and Trollope, but when he dis
covers them they become not only new to him but
also new to us. When he was preparing to write
"The Brook Kerith" he discovered the beauty of
the Bible, and so deep and fresh was his admira
tion that he made the Bible a subject of discussion
and wonder among his friends. You cannot resist
a talker who has enthusiasm without rhetoric,
understanding without confusion, opinions that are
never didactic, and who is always inquiring. One
day he will discover the primrose by the river s
brim. Then prepare to be charmed. In one of his
books he speaks of the humility of a lane s end. He
would brood for an hour on that humility, and talk
about it for a week.
He never seeks for a style. The epigram does
not attract him. He is content just to tell the tale
of his mental and imaginative adventures. He loves
his thoughts. They never bore him.
He is an Irishman. It is difficult for a Saxon to
analyse the entity called George Moore. I have
always known him as a writer merely, as he would
like to be known, and I remember my astonishment
one night when he had invited me to dine with him
at an exclusive London club frequented by land
lords, county gentry and the like. My astonish
ment was due to the discovery that in this exclusive
club he was not known as the author of "Esther
Walters," "Evelyn Inncss" and "Modern Painting,"
but as Moore of Moore Hall, Ballyglass, County
232 Authors and I
Mayo. Readers of his latest books will recall that
Moore Hall is today something of a white elephant
to George Moore of Ebury Street and author of
"The Untilled Field."
Many, many years ago, at the beginning of his
career, he studied painting in Paris, and mixed
with Manet, Zola and others of that great group.
History is silent as to the kind of pictures that
George Moore painted, but history is eloquent on
the fact that his "Modern Painting" is one of the
best books on painting ever published in the English
tongue. We find in it the same childlike sincerity,
integrity and awakening interest in art that we
find in his novels and essays. Being an Irishman
he is of course against the government in art, and
of course he is limited, but his attraction is that
he is candid in telling us where his interest ceases.
He does not pretend to a culture that he does not
feel, a fault which most of us try to enjoy. This
frankness runs into his conversation. I met him
last at a private view in London of an exhibition
packed with exciting pictures by ultra modern mas
ters. He was standing in the middle of the gallery
looking as forlorn as Little Bo Peep when she had
lost all her sheep. I suid, "Fine show this?" He
answered wearily, but with conviction "My dear
friend, painting ended with Manet. There has
been nothing since."
It is said that now he amuses himself urging his
friends to subscribe for his books "privately printed,"
because, "you know, they always go up in value."
That is so. One of the enigmas of the auction
George Moore 233
room is that George Moore s works fetch a higher
price than the works of any living author. At a
recent sale in New York "Pagan Poems," published
in 1881, brought $540, "Confessions of a Young
Man," $52, and "A Story Teller s Holiday" more
than four times the price it was issued at in 1918.
He has been painted by William Orpen and Walter
Sickert, and caricatured by Max Beerbohm. In
each case the artist enjoyed himself immensely. Also
43. JOHN MORLEY
A CERTAIN son, desirous of entering
nalism, instanced John Morley as a light of
the profession, and recalled to his father that the
author of "On Compromise" had been editor of
the Pall Mall Gazette, and the Fortnightly Re
view. The father was impressed, but being a
careful man, he purchased "Recollections," by John
Viscount Morley, O. M., Hon. Fellow of All Souls
College, Oxford, and after reading it urged his son
to enter politics, and to use journalism as an aid.
In John Morley s "Recollections" there is but a
meagre page and a half of reference to the Pall
Mall Gazette, which he controlled from 1880 to
1883, with a complimentary aside to the redoubt
able W. T. Stead, who was his assistant on the
paper. And there is not much more about the
Fortnightly Review, which he edited from 1867 to
1882, succeeding George Henry Lewes, "that won
der of versatile talents." No, although journalists
and literary men may continue to claim John Mor
ley as one of themselves, his attitude toward us is
Statesmanship has been his career, literature a
refuge, journalism an episode. As a man of letters
he is world famous, but although he had regrets
upon leaving literature, the lure of the writer in
John M or ley 235
him had no chance against the lure of the statesman.
Still he could write on the morrow of his elevation
to the House of Lords "My inclination, almost
to the last, was to bolt from public life altogether,
for I have a decent library of books still unread,
and in my brain a page or two still unwritten."
He reappeared among his journalistic acquaintances
when he attended the banquet in honour of Fred
erick Greenwood, originator and first editor of the
Pall Mall Gazette, whose foresight induced the
government of Lord Beaconsfield to acquire the
Suez Canal shares.
I was close to John Morley the night of the Green
wood dinner and watched him closely, for he was
a man who not only had made a great figure in the
world, but whom everybody trusted and liked
even the Irish. A man absolutely without affecta
tion, susceptible yet impervious; in the arena, yet
not of it; with a mobile face, strong features, a face
too lively to be ascetic, too reflective to be dubable.
He is not an orator but his words carry absolute
conviction. You perceive, while he is talking, that
he is speaking logic. Of him A. G. Gardiner said:
"In the deep-set, contemplative eyes and indeter*
minate chin you see the man who inspires others to
lofty purpose, rather than the man of action."
At a certain luncheon at Lord Haldane s some
years later he sat next to the German Emperor,
with Lord Kitchener on the other side. The faces
of these three would have made a curious composite
photograph. Morley, the man of reflection, Kitch
ener, the man of action, and the head of the Central
236 Authors and I
Empire without any centre. That was the occasion
when the Kaiser told Lord Morley that he admired
a certain book by Bishop Boyd Carpenter so much
that he had it translated into German, and that he
often read pieces aloud to his ladies while they sat
stitching and knitting. What, I wonder did
"Plain John" his own phrase, see p. 252, Vol. 1
of "Recollections" think of the Kaiser s admira
tion for Bishop Boyd Carpenter?
John Morley was given another title, on anot
occasion, which has remained with him. In t
days of the Scots Observer I called upon the editor
W E Henley, on a press night. I asked him i
it was a good issue. He chuckled, took a proof
from the table, and pointing to the title said-
"That alone is worth the money." It was an article
on John Morley, headed "Honest John."
Recently I related this story to an American, c
some importance in the financial world, who sat
near me at a public dinner. Honest John
good " he said. Then the American proceeded
talk about Roosevelt, and I, my head full of John
Morley, said to him, "Do you think sir, that John
Morley was ironical when, in his Recollections,
he wrote that the two things which seemed to him
the most extraordinary in America were Niagara
Falls and President Roosevelt?" The American
Later in the evening we met in the queue before
the cloak room. As it is always more interesting to
talk of first-rate things than of second-rate things,
I said, as he handed his check to the attendant
John HI or ley 237
"So you are a student of John Morley!" He
paused; he forgot his hat and coat; he murmured
"Years ago the direction of my thought, and con
sequently of my actions, was settled by reading
Compromise ; yes, that is so, and you may add to
that remarkable book Voltaire* and Diderot, and
the Encyclopaedists. " We bade each other good
bye. At the door we met again. There was a
twinkle in his eye as he said to me "Don t you
think Morley had Compromise in his mind when
he wrote the Life of Gladstone ?" Then he shook
his head, cried, "Ah! ah!" and assisted his wife
into the limousine.
I submit that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands
of men and women who look upon "Compromise"
as a turning point in their lives. I have just been
re-reading it in the perfect Eversley series. Well,
I m older now, and know more about the real
things, but how fine it is, how fine after the "futile
impatience" (Morley s phrase) of Carlyle.
"Honest John" tells in his "Recollections" the
story of his elevation to the House of Lords. He
asked for it, asked Prime Minister Asquith to
make him a lord, and perhaps "Honest John" was
the only man in England who could have asked
for such a thing, and known that his motive would
not be misunderstood. It was merely because "I
shall do my work all the better for the comparative
leisure of the other place." Writing on April 20,
1918, he remarks: "There s as much vanity in
Plain John* as in John Viscount."
His "Recollections" is a book to read and to keep.
238 Authors and I
I know no volume so full of communing with the
best thought and the highest culture. He knew
and knows everybody worth knowing from Mill to
Tennyson, from Meredith to Arthur Balfour. He
has held high offices twice Chief Secretary for
Ireland, Secretary of State for India, Lord Presi
dent of the Council. He was Lord President of
the Council when war was declared in 1914. On
that day he dropped back into private life. So did
another John John Burns. When years hence,
the memoirs of that day in August, 1914, are
written some will read the account of the conver
sation when "Honest John" handed his resignation
to his old friend, Prime Minister Asquith.
There is but one reference to the war in his "Recol
lections," which were published in 1917. It is the
opening sentence of the Introduction "The war
and our action in it led to my retirement from
The rest is silence.
And there is one sentence in "On Compromise"
which the author chose as the motto of the book,
and which who will disagree is the invisible
motto engraved on John Morley s escutcheon. He
dug it from the writings of Archbishop Whately
"It makes all the difference in the world whether
we put Truth in the first place or in the second
44. WALTER PATER
1P\ID I ever see Walter Pater? Last week I
* should have said no. Today after reading
the Pater section in George Moore s "Avowals,"
I am inclined to answer yes.
It was at a London dinner party, an unconvivial
gathering, one of those solemn functions where
you feel that the hostess is not entertaining for
pleasure: she is paying social debts, and flattering
her husband s business friends.
A gentleman sat opposite me whom I could not
catalogue. He seemed to be at the dinner and yet
not of it: his massive and immobile exterior ap
peared to be acting properly and formally, accord
ing to the laws of good society; but it looked as if
his actions were governed by marionette strings,
while his real self was inactive and unmoved by
his surroundings. This also was the method of
Henry James, polite to punctilio, but giving very
little of himself when he was cajoled into society to
which he did not react. Indeed this stranger was
not unlike Henry James. They were both examples
of the "joli laid," of the ugliness that is not ugjy,
because behind it is mind and esprit. Henry James
in those days wore a beard: the stranger at the
dining table had decorated himself with a heavy
moustache, and perhaps he was, if possible, still
240 Authors and I
more magisterially shy than James. Each I am
sure called his neighbour Madam, and the manner
of each would be correct and quite courteously dis
tant whether she was a frisky ingenue or a stern
dowager. That was years ago. I thought no more
of the remote, massive and kindly stranger with the
heavy moustache until I read George Moore s
"Avowals," which contains a chapter or two on
Walter Pater, written with art and candour. Only
George Moore can write thus naively and discur
sively. He draws a picture of Pater when the au
thor of "Imaginary Portraits" was living in London
and attending just such dinner parties as that at
which I had been present ; and the picture is so clear
that I said to myself the remote, massive, kindly
stranger was certainly Walter Pater. The author of
"Marius the Epicurean" never used slang, but slang
is expressive. I will employ it. Pater was present at
those forlorn dinner parties because he was eager
to "play the game," to "do his bit." He had not
only a beautiful but also a conscientious nature,
and Moore suggests that when Pater came to live
in London he decided that to avoid society would
neither be decorous nor seemly. "He wanted to
live, to join up, to walk in step," so he solemnly
accepted these invitations to boring dinners, talked
platitudes to ingenues and dowagers, lawyers and
stockbrokers, and all the while he was far away;
the real Pater was elsewhere "burning with a hard
gem-like flame," in that twilight land of the
Pagan-Christian world through which Marius
glided ; or in Greece, or with the young Botticelli,
Walter Pater 241
or with Wattcau, or in Oxford. Of course he
returned to Oxford, to the city of lost causes and
dreaming spires; of course he returned to his
dreams, after this attempt to "play the game" in
London. Oxford was his real home.
It was from Brasenose College, Oxford, that he
wrote a letter to "my dear audacious Moore"
about the "Confessions" (not Augustine s), and
Moore, who at one time idolised Pater, prints in
his "Avowals" a story about Pater s literary origins,
and about his style, "that style unlike all other
styles," which, whether it be fiction or fact, is de
Someone had given to George Moore a copy of
Goethe s "Italian Journey," which he had looked
into and wearied of, finding it pompous and empty.
He was about to throw the book aside when his
eyes alighted on a chapter called "S. Philip Neri."
He read a little, read more, read on with avidity;
then he allowed the volume to drop upon his knee
and meditated. George Moore is always most
Mooreish when meditating in Ebury Street with his
cat on his knee. His next book should be called
He had a vision. He saw Pater alone in a library:
he saw him standing on the fifth step of the ladder
taking a book from the shelf: he saw him turn the
leaves indifferently, then suddenly fix his mind
acutely upon Goethe s study of S. Philip Neri. Im
mediately he knew the thoughts that were flocking
through Pater s mind: they were these Shall I
write an article on Goethe s style with special
242 Authors and I
reference to S. Philip Neri, or shall I say nothing
about it? Pater decided against writing about
S. Philip Neri. He replaced the book, descended
cautiously from the ladder and looked anxiously
around. Then he removed the ladder to another
part of the library.
There the vision ended, and George Moore said
to himself, "I have come upon Pater s origins, but
if I make it known to the world it will be said that
I have robbed Pater of part of his glory." Hardly,
George! But you have caused a run on Goethe s
"Italian Journey." I have ordered a copy from the
little bookseller round the corner.
All the week I have been going about with a copy
of "Marius the Epicurean" in my jacket pocket.
I have been reading it in tram-cars and in subways,
on the elevated and in elevators, in tea rooms, and
while waiting for election returns. I had read it
before, years ago, in the sumptuous edition of
Pater s works which I purchased feeling that no
page could be too noble, no margins too ample, for
his exquisite prose. But that edition is in England.
So I borrowed Marius in a crowded page, and a
cloth binding. Nothing, neither binding nor local
ity, can lessen its remote and wistful beauty. Some
one has said that what distinguishes fine from other
literature is that the former suggests a withdrawal
from the common life. That is why "Marius" is
fine, and why Pater s literary life was fine.
They were withdrawals from the common life.
In the wonderful second chapter of "Marius"
called "White-Nights" there is a passage that ex-
Walter Pater 243
plains this withdrawal gently and beautifully. It
is his mother who is speaking to Marius. "A white
bird, she told him once, looking at him gravely, a
bird which he must carry in his bosom across a
crowded public place his own soul was like that!
would it reach the hands of his good genius on the
opposite side, unruffled and unsoiled?"
We all know so much about the Renaissance, and
the great figures who moved through it (indeed we
are all a little tired of the Renaissance), that we
are apt to forget the dark time before we were
awakened to the Renaissance, to forget that it was
Walter Pater s delicate and sensitive artistic and
literary antennae that made the persons and prod
ucts of the Renaissance living and lovely. The pres
ent bustling generation can hardly realise what the
books of Pater meant to the youth of Oxford and
Cambridge, of Harvard and Yale. Greece and
Italy, under the spell of his interior imagination,
became spiritual actualities: he opened the doors to
comradeship in beauty. He understood what was
significant and vital, and he could explain. No
book that has ever been written about Watteau can
approach in insight and charm his "Imaginary Por
trait" of Watteau.
To produce his finest work Pater had to make a
withdrawal from the common life, to remove him
self from the Present to the Past. I have added
his "Essays from the Guardian," and his "Sketches
and Reviews" to my Pater shelf, as I have added
George Moore s dinner story to my Pater biblio
mania. I place these two Pater volumes in the
244 Authors and I
dinner-table category. He wrote the essays, con
tained in them, dear man, just to keep in touch
with modern life: he reviewed the books of his
friends Moore, Symons, Gosse, Wilde and he
wrote on Flaubert and Robert Elsmere; but all
in his dinner-table, polite manner. There is no
withdrawal in them. These essays, produced when
Pater was trying to "do his bit" in modern literary
life, are not the real Pater. You must seek him
in his earlier exclusive and seclusive books: yes, and
also in the famous passage on Mona Lisa.
I cling tft that and always shall. I go farther and
say that Pater s prose is better than Leonardo s
Pater wrote with difficulty in the leisure of ample
mornings; he corrected and re-corrected through
quiet after-noons with imperturbable assiduity, and in
the evenings, like Marius, he absorbed nourishment
from other minds. He has said in "The Renais
sance" that the tendency of all the arts is to aspire
to the condition of music. His jewelled, consciously
wrought, and beautiful prose certainly has that
tendency. But his gift to the world is something
more. It lies in his withdrawal, in his communi
cation of something beyond and above the insistent
Present, something hidden yet revealed to initiates.
Like his own Marius he seems to be carrying
secretly a white bird in his bosom, always with
him, always unruffled and unsoiled, across the pub
So much is this sense of withdrawal needed that, if
I had my way, I would make every Mayor and
Jl alter Pater 245
Governor, before he is allowed to take office,
whether Democrat or Republican, sign a paper,
saying that he had read recently every word of
"Marius the Epicurean."
A white bird, a bird which he must carry in his
45. A. T. QUILLER-COUCH
T PERMIT myself to think of him as "Q." So
*- he signed in The Speaker during the early nine
ties. This signature appeared, week by week, at
the foot of an essay story racy, humorous,
pointed, brief. I thought them fine at the time:
these swift studies in characterisation seemed to
promise that one day "Q" would become a fore
most novelist, a sort of second Robert Louis Steven
He did not. He tarries. As a novelist he has not
conquered. Others have passed him, and I fancy
that, since "True Tilda" issued about ten years ago,
he has gradually eased away from the fiction market.
Many novels stand to his name. I remember read
ing, with rather an effort, "The Splendid Spur,"
"Hetty Wesley," and "Shining Ferry," and I
studied with much care his conclusion of "St. Ives,"
which Stevenson left unfinished. It was a deft
piece of work, the mechanics faultless, but it was
not Stevenson. He is not a great romancer: he
lacks Stevenson s lilt and background ; and his child
like joy is metallic: it does not ooze out in the way
of his master. As a romancer I submit "Q J> has
not found his centre.
Is he a poet, is poetry his true centre? I think
not. He has written some charming and pretty
A. T. Quiller-Couch 247
poetry, he has made some neat and witty parodies
(some think that they are better than Owen Sea
man s), but his heartiest admirers would not label
him a great poet.
Let us look at the man himself and see if we can
discover what is "Q s" line in literature. He is a
stay-at-home. For a few years he tried London,
but in 1891 he returned to Cornwall where he has
lived ever since. The first book he published after
his return to Cornwall was "I Saw Three Ships."
Ships he can see from his windows at the Haven,
Fowey, Cornwall, adventuring out from Plymouth,
or Plymouth bound. Ships are his companions; he
is a great yachtsman, and his club is the Royal
Fowey Yacht Club. Are we then to suppose that
his centre is yachting? Hardly. Yachting is his
When I made a walking tour through Cornwall
and reached Fowey early on a spring evening my
fiwt employment, after a bite of supper, was to
call upon "Q." We sat in his library and I won
dered mildly at the number of books owned by
this tall, slight, blonde, athletic-looking writer who,
in spite of his tan breeziness, and Yo, Heave Ho air,
spoke like a scholar. Fleet Street has left little
impression upon him. Oxford has. Scholarship
might have tamed and tied him, as it tames and ties
so many; his learned honours are numerous: M.A.
Oxford, M.A. Cambridge, Litt.D. Bristol, but
like G. W. Steevens academic honours have been
powerless to stultify the essential "Q." He is of
the Stevenson school gay, original, with flashes of
248 Authors and I
insight, wearing his learning lightly and bend
ing it to bright use in the give and take of the
day s work. While we sat talking in his library
above the Cornish sea, hearing his rapid comments
on books and thought, I said to myself: "You are
a born writer, and you could write decently and
daringly on anything; you could turn out a lyric
or an epic, a paragraph or a novel of a couple of
hundred thousand words, but at heart you are a
creative critic, a stimulating guide and brotherly
friend to all who would shape their thought and
lives from a study of the best literature. Yes, you
are a creative critic. That is your literary centre."
If anyone wants to be convinced of this let him
read Quiller-Couch s "On the Art of Writing" and
particularly "Studies in Literature."
Since 1918 when it was published by the Cam
bridge University Press, "Studies in Literature" has
been my chief bedside book. Dip into it where I
will, a page here, a page there, I always find it tonic.
Some of the essays were delivered to his class at
Cambridge. Fortunate undergraduates! Your
fathers, by Cam and Isis, heard Ruskin and Mat
thew Arnold: you have heard one who is worthy,
as lecturer, to rank with them. Who that heard
it can forget his indignation that anybody should
call a "sloppy sentence good enough" ; and who,
having heard it, can forget his illustration and com
ment : "I desire that among us we make it impos
sible to do again what our Admiralty did with the
battle of Jutland, to win a victory at sea and lose
it in a despatch."
A. T. Quiller-Coiich 249
And the Rhymer, the budding Cambridge poet,
hearing the following would he not hurry home,
with quick feet, to re-fashion his verses?
Gentlemen as your noun is but a name and your adjec
tive but an adjunct to a name, while along your verb
runs the nerve of life; so, if you would write melodiously,
throughout vowels rr.jst the melody run.
And this about those pedagogues who classify poets
into the Classic and the Romantic School is it not
"The play s the thing." "Hamlet," Lytidas," or "The
Cenci" is the thing. Shakespeare, Milton, Shelley did not
write "classicism" or "romanticism." They wrote "Ham
let," "Lycidas," "The Cenci. 1
And would not this burst of praise, no qualifications
here, send a literary undergraduate, with eager eyes
and rising pulse, to "the great Donne, the real
. . . his Sermons, which contain (as I hold) the most
magnificent prose ever uttered from an English pulpit, if
not the most magnificent prose ever spoken in our tongue.
This appears in the essay on "Some Seventeenth
Century Poets." The thoughts of youth are long,
long thoughts, and I can well imagine an under
graduate who heard this lecture never losing,
throughout his life time, the memory of how Donoe,
Herbert, Vaughan, Traherne, Crashaw, and others
swung our noble tongue, soaring as they shaped it.
It is like drinking from a deep well.
250 /jitthors and I
And if the reader, having read some of "Q s" novels,
and knowing how alert and lively is his fancy,
desires something more than creative criticism of
the best of the past, let him absorb the essay called
"The Commerce of Thought," wherein "Q" lets
his imagination play over the old trade routes.
You will see, as this little planet revolves back out of the
shadow of night to meet the day, little threads pushing
out over its black spaces dotted ships on wide seas,
crawling trains of emigrant waggons, pioneers, tribes on
the trek, olive-gatherers, desert caravans, dahabeeyahs
pushing up the Nile ... the trade routes.
So he worms into this fascinating subject till he
comes to his main thesis the wanderings, alight-
ings, and fertilising of man s thought.
As my eyes roam these pages they fall upon a foot
note just a footnote, and you know what foot
notes usually are. What do you think of this foot
note? Does it not set the imagination stirring?
It is observable how many of the great books of the
world the "Odyssey," the "^neid," "The Canterbury
Tales," "Don Quixote," "The Pilgrim s Progress," "Gil
Bias," "Pickwick," and "The Cloister and the Hearth"
are books of wayfaring.
I repeat: it is in creative criticism that "Q" has
found his centre. Let others busy themselves with
the novel. It is his destiny to deal creatively with
the higher branch, with poetry, and the literature
that is safe beyond the phases and fashions of our
day. He makes us long to read the best ; he makes
A. T. Quiller-Conch 251
us lament that we pretend we have no time for
that great adventure.
Undergraduates and graduates owe him another
debt. He gave us the "Oxford Book of English
Verse." My copy is falling to pieces through
much reading. It was bought in 1901: it is
scrawled with markings and comments. Among
them are these: that the anonymous poem "Non
Nobis" is by Harry Cust, and the last poem in the
book, "Dominus Illuminatio Mea," is by R. D.
Blackmore, author of "Lorna Doone." It was
found among his papers.
He, like "Q," was an open air man, and when I
think of Quiller-Couch and Blackmore I see the
Doone Valley, and the Haven of Fowey.
46. SIEGFRIED SASSOON
HIS soldier-poet is a bad lecturer; but it is
the kind of badness that delights an American
audience accustomed to a standardised efficiency in
lecturing. He is shy on the platform; he does not
know how to stand properly ; he mixes up his points;
and when he reads his poems, he reads to himself,
not to the man at the top of the top gallery. Yet
he "puts it over" because he is sincere, because he
has something to say, and because he laughs at him
self. So his audience is tense for half the time, and
for the other half is rippling with laughter. A lady
sitting next to me during one of his lectures on war
poetry whispered: "I shall never again say that
Englishmen have not a sense of humour." To
which I replied: "Why did you ever say it?"
Siegfried Sassoon, being young, is not enthusiastic
about the elder, contemporary British poets; but he
has one great admiration Thomas Hardy. I sus
pect that as a poet he ranks Hardy higher than
anybody in the world. His admirations among the
younger poets include Rupert Brooke, Julian
Grenfell, and Charles Sawley. His high appre
ciation of the ironists and satirists includes Richard
Aldington, Herbert Reed, J. C. Squire, and Os
wald Sitwell. Then being obliged to speak about
himself, he did so briefly with a blush and a pro-
Siegfried S as so on 253
test. Seated at the table he read some of his nice
nature poems, and some of his bitter, disillusioned
Had there been no war Siegfried Sassoon might
have remained just what he was before the war a
minor poet, in love with life, fond of music, keen
about hunting and tennis. There are many such
in England. This tall, alert young man, of Anglo-
Jewish stock, his mother a sister of the capable sculp
tor, Hamo Thornycroft, educated at Marlborough
and Oxford, wrote his youthful poems, like so many
others; but being rather modest he printed them
for private circulation only. You may guess what
they were like by their titles: "Twelve Sonnets,"
"Melodies," "An Ode for Music," "Hyacinth,"
"Apollo in Doelyrium." Masefield s success influ
enced him. His poem "The Old Huntsman" has
something of Masefield and something more. Pro
test is its note. The yeast of protest against com
fortable conventions was already beginning to work
in this athletic, life-loving youth.
Then the war broke out, and Siegfried Sassoon, like
other young men of spirit, rushed to the colours,
knowing that this was a war for righteousness and
freedom, and that it had to be fought out to the
bitter end. The war changed him. Like the others
he went gaily, his head high; and we who stayed
at home prayed that it would be the last war, the
war that would end war; and we wondered, with
nice anxiety, what would be the effect of the horror
and brutality of war upon the artist-soldier, upon
poets, painters, and musicians.
254 Authors and I
As everyone knows, one of the minor effects of the
war was to open the verse and poetry floodgates.
Every newspaper, every magazine, published war
poems by stay-at-homes and soldiers. Soon Sieg
fried Sassoon s poems began to appear in such jour
nals as the Cambridge Magazine, The Nation,
The New Statesman. He had seen war, and he
was in no mood to temporise with it, or to gloss its
His poems shocked many people: they horrified those
who clung to the idea that there might be some
thing of splendour and purification in modern war
fare. There were poets who sang that side of it;
but to Sassoon the rivulets of gallantry 7 and sacrifice
were swept out of sight by the torrents of horror,
misery, and brutality. Those who read his poems
said to themselves, with all the emphasis of which
they were capable: "This vile thing called war
shall never happen again."
His published works are three: "Counter-Attack,"
"The Old Huntsman," and "The Picture Show."
One does not read them for pleasure: one reads as
a warning, as a poetical uncovering of a horrible
evil that must be exorcised from man s conscious
ness. His poems are statements red from the con
flict, and so vivid are they that the pleasanter
pieces in these volumes seem discoloured by the
smoke and flame of outrageous war. Rough, rude,
and slangy are many of the poems, for Sassoon is
a realist and fighting men are fighting men. But
he can be calm and cool when he likes, as in
Siegfried S as soon 255
A MYSTIC AS SOLDIER
I lived my days apart,
Dreaming fair songs of God,
By the glory in my heart
Covered and crowned and shod.
Now God is in the strife,
And I must seek Him there,
Where death outnumbers life,
And fury smites the air.
I walk the secret way
With anger in my brain,
O music, through my clay,
When will you sound again?
This poet soldier who has raised his voice so poig
nantly and angrily against war, who cries again
and again, "War doesn t ennoble: it degrades,"
saw four and a hilf years of fighting in France and
Palestine. The Military Cross is his. In America
he lectured and read his poems, insisting upon the
criminality of even speaking of a future war. "It
never must happen again." That is the cry of a
poet who knows what war is.
47. GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
TO me a new volume of "Plays with Prefaces,"
by George Bernard Shaw, is an event. In
him I find those high forms of pleasure mental
stimulus, inward laughter, and the truth, the truth
as he sees it, unvarnished and undecorated. What
matter if I do not agree with him? It is G. B. S.
I am reading, not myself.
How barren the modern stage would be without
Ibsen and Shaw! Actors, the right kind, idolise
Ibsen and Shaw. Their characters being real,
saying real things, act themselves. Shaw s plays,
to his own astonishment, and to everybody else s,
have become popular.
In the second year of the war two plays were
being performed in the Pier theatres of a south coast
watering place. One was a revue the usual inane
vulgarity. I attended the performance. The house
was half empty, and the audience tepid and inat
tentive. I left before the end, while a boisterous
chorus was singing a boisterous song. The next
night I attended the performance at the other Pier
theatre. It was "Man and Superman," by George
Bernard Shaw. The house was packed, every point
was taken; throughout there was laughter, applause,
and the tensity of attention that informs an au
dience with purpose and power. "Give the public
George Bernard Shaw 257
good stuff," said I to my companion, "and they will
react to it."
G. B. S. has tried everything except sport (he gives
his Recreation as "everything except sport") and
succeeded in everything. When, in 1898, he penned
his journalistic Valedictory in the pages of the Satur
day Revinv he could look back upon ten years of
continuous weekly criticism of the arts of music and
the drama, and still more years of Fabian Society
work, public speaking and pamphleteering. And
before that there were the novels, "The Irrational
Knot," "Love Among the Artists," "Cashel By
ron s Profession," and "An Unsocial Socialist."
After ten years of criticism of the arts "Shaw gave
up exhausted," says Mr. Achibald Henderson in his
Life of G. Bernard Shaw, perhaps the best Life
of a living man that has ever been written. Of
course G. B. S. had a hand in it. Frankly, openly,
quizzically he gives personal attention to all matters
of personal publicity. But Shaw never "gave up
exhausted." This non-mcat-cater, rion-smoker,
whose beverage is water, was never exhausted.
Neither his mind nor his body ever rest. That
Valedictory simply meant that he was about to turn
from serious criticism to serious creation. He had
done what he meant to do he had forced upon
the world "that most successful of all his fictions
G. B. S." We, in London, who had followed him,
who had heard him speak at Fabian meetings, who
had shouted to the Pan-like, mustardy-grey figure
to get upon his legs, who could quote passages from
"The Quintessence of Ibsen ism" and "The perfect
258 Authors and I
Wagnerite" ; we who knew of the basal seriousness
that underlay his levity were delighted with the
following passage from the Valedictory in the Satur
day, but I wondered then, and I wonder still, how
the readers of that last stronghold of High British
Toryism took it.
"For ten years past, with an unprecedented per
tinacity I have been dinning into the public head that
I am an extraordinarily witty, brilliant, and clever
man. That is now part of the public opinion of
England ; and no power on earth will ever change
it. I may dodder and dote. I may pot-boil and
platitudinise; I may become the butt and chopping-
block of all the bright, original spirits of the rising
generation ; but my reputation shall not suffer ; it is
built up fast and solid, like Shakespeare s, on an
impregnable basis of dogmatic reiteration."
For years he had been regarded by one section of
the public as a prophet, by the other as a buffoon.
It was the stupidity of the latter section that des
ignated him a buffoon. Anybody with any kind of
instinct knew that under his raillery, levity, and
determination to build up the G. B. S. legend was
grim seriousness and implacable integrity. Why,
he himself gave himself away again and again.
"Waggery as a medium is invaluable," he once ex
plained. "My method, you will have noticed, is to
take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to
say, and then say it with the utmost levity. And
all the time the real joke is that I am in earnest."
After years of thought about G. B. S., that learned
critic and former Oxford Don, Mr. W. L. Court-
George Bernard Shan- 259
ncy, remarked: "The annoying part of Mr. G.
Bernard Shaw s career is that he is more often right
than wrong right in substance, though often
wrong in manner, saying true things with the most
ludicrous air in the world, as if he were merely
enjoying himself at our expense."
Which he was, and is.
As a journalist he was delightful. He made writing
about music human ; he pointed the way to the
knowledge that organists are real people who live
in houses, and often have wives anu children. He
was Corno di Bassetto of the Star, that pioneer
rocket of the new journalism, set flying by T. P.
O Connor, who when he engaged G. B. S. to do
the music, whispered to him, "Say what you like,
but don t tell us anything about Bach in B minor."
And C. di B. said just what he liked, and people
who had never read a word about music read the
Star columns regularly, and spoke ecstatically about
Shaw s cleverness in concealing his ignorance. The
joke was that Shaw knew as much, perhaps more,
about music than anybody in London. He himself
described Corno di Bassetto s column as "a mix
ture of triviality, vulgarity, farce and tomfoolery
with genuine criticism."
His vogue, his great popularity, was due to the fact
that he was always amusing. Make people laugh
intellectually, and they will forgive you anything.
He would instill humour into the drycst, abstrusest
subject. One Sunday afternoon in December, pass*
ing St. James Hall in Piccadilly, I noticed that at
4 p. m. G. Bernard Shaw was announced to speak
260 Authors and I
on "Education," admission one shilling. I became
one of the crowded audience, and listened for an
hour and a half, without effort, without my thought
once wandering, and with many explosions of
laughter. He told us merely about his own educa
tion, and drew a moral, and the moral was that his
education began when he left school. When it was
over I happened to meet him outside on the way
home, and said: "Shaw, it cost me a bob, but it
was worth it."
He smiled ; he had a ready smile.
I can see him now walking rapidly about the
platform, the tall, lanky, springing figure, the
mustardy-grey suit that he always wore, the wide,
heavy, health-boots, the scraggiy reddish-brown
beard and hair (now turning white), the high brow
and the clear, grey-blue eyes that can be amused,
alert, penetrating, but never angry. He always
looked the same (I believe since he married he
does sometimes wear a dress suit), walking furiously
in the street, or coming to a public dinner where
he had been announced to speak, ridiculously late,
slipping in with the sweets so as to avoid the odour,
to him horrible, of the joint course.
He has a ready smile. He supers fools gladly be
cause, I suppose, nothing human is alien to his sym
pathy. Once the ready smile, once only in all my
knowledge of him, did not lighten his pallor. It
was at an exhibition of caricatures by Max Beer-
bohm; one of them showed a cartoon of G. B. S.
standing on his head on the largest rug in a draw
ing room, his long legs nearly touching the ceiling.
George Bernard Shaw 261
Underneath was this: "When I left London two
years ago the dear man was standing on his head.
On my return I find him in the same position." I
drew Mr. Shaw s attention to this with the words,
"Look! Max has got you this time." G. B. S.
examined the cartoon carefully and passed on with
Those who want George Bernard Shaw only in
serious mood can find plenty of solid seriousness in
his writings. "The Showing-Up of Blanco Posnet"
was banned by the censor because it deals with
realities. The censor felt that even at the cost of
looking foolish, he must protect those who cling to
unrealities. Au fond it is a very serious play.
"There s no good and bad," says Posnet, "but by
Jiminy, gents, there s a rotten game, and there s
a great game. I played the rotten game; but the
great game was played; and now I m for the great
game every time. Amen."
And what do you think of this, the real Shaw:
"We have no more right to consume happiness
without producing it than we have to consume
wealth without producing it."
And of this, also the real Shaw, in a letter he
wrote to Tolstoy: "I think the root reason why we
do not do as our fathers advise us to do is that we
none of us want to be like our fathers, the inten
tion of the Universe being that we should be like
P. S. As to Mr. Shaw s opinions about the
late Great War oh, perhaps I should have ex
plained earlier that he is an Irishman.
48. J. C. SNAITH
IT is possible for an author s books to be well
known, and he himself quite unknown. This,
undoubtedly, is the right way for an author to con
duct himself. Often, ultimately, this way pays bet
ter than the way of publicity.
I know nothing about John Collis Snaith outside
his books. Do you? I am a little curious. He
does not help my curiosity. In "Who s Who," the
biographies of which are written by the subjects
themselves, there is a list of a dozen of his works.
Printed before that list is his biography in three
words "Writer of fiction." At the end of the list
is his address, "Care of John Murray." This is
biography Bovrilised ; this is a shining example of
the modesty of authorship.
Readers of books are the best advertisers of books.
They talk; they carry the good tidings of a good
book. Fourteen years ago a certain painter, to
whom a book is usually a bore, began to bewilder
his friends with praise of Snaith s "Broke of Coven-
den." So insistent was his commendation, in the
fishing village frequented by painters where he lived,
that a dozen people acquired "Broke of Coven-
den." I was among the twelve, and was delighted
with the spirit and wisdom of the tale.
Three years ago a daughter of my acquaintance
/. C. Snaith 263
gave, as a Christmas present to a mother of my
affection, a copy of "The Sailor" by Snaith. "Why
did you choose that?" I asked. "Because,"
answered the daughter, "I like it better than any
other book." I borrowed "The Sailor" from the
mother and was much interested and entertained.
John Collis Snaith continued to remain, so far as
I was concerned, in complete retirement. His books
circulated, he hid. In the summer of 1919 every
one who skimmed the book columns of the news
papers was aware that a new war novel by J. C.
Snaith called "The Undefeated" (in America)
was receiving a "good press." Every reviewer was
pleased. Some were enthusiastic. Not one had
anything unkind to say, a sign that it was a real
book, striking a human note.
I have a friend who does not read much; he has
not the time; but he buys the notable books of the
day, and arranges them upon his shelves, purposing
to read them during his vacation which, of course,
he never does. From his shelves on Independence
Day I withdrew "The Undefeated," and, it being
a holiday, carried it home and began to read. I
perused half of it without stirring, oblivious to time,
so that I was surprised when, at half past 6 ap
peared the companion who had arranged to accom
pany me to the Victory Celebration in the Stadium
of the College of the City of New York. "What,"
I cried, "is it half past 6 already?"
A summer night, a daffodil sky, and nearly 20,000
people in that vast Stadium! I sat on one of the
topmost stone benches upon which the sun had been
264 Authors and I
blazing all day, and in my hand was "The Un
defeated," for there would be a long tram-ride
home. The book allied itself to the Victory Cele
bration in the Stadium. Each was an expression
of the undefeated ; each was an aspect of victor} ,
the one a whirlwind of rejoicing, the other a still
small voice of thankfulness. When a company
of marines marched into the arena, and the audience
shouted, and the boy scouts saluted, and the nurses
waved handkerchiefs, I rejoiced with them, for is
there anywhere a finer sight than marines in their
light yellowy marching kit? They moved like one
man; their faces were indistinguishable as they
marched to the wailing pride of Sousa s "The Stars
and Stripes Forever." As I watched them, symbols
of the Victory of Right, I clutched the book closer,
and thought of a character in its pages, one Private,
afterward Corp. William Hollis, who passed from
defeat to victory, who came through the war un
Thus literature may be allied to life. The
Pageant and the Book were one, working toward
one end. There was time to reflect, for the pro
ceedings included speeches. In the book there is a
speech that is the right kind of speech, but the
addresses at the Victory Pageant were the wrong
kind. Eminent gentlemen declaimed the obvious. I
know it was the obvious because the speeches were
reported at length in the next day s papers, and I
am sure that there was not one person in that vast
audience who heard one word. The 20,000 fanned
themselves and cheered; they cheered vociferously,
/. C. Snalth 265
wildly, because they wanted the speeches to end
and Tschaikowsky s "1812" overture to begin. But
the eminent speakers thought it was their oratory
that was being cheered. So they spread themselves,
amplified their periods, whereupon the audience
cheered louder than ever. It was almost amusing.
And while the torrent of words rushed forth in
dumb show I read the speech that the Mayor of
Blackhamptbn makes on page 282 of "The Unde
feated." It was a great occasion. Usually he was
a facile speaker, but for a special reason his powers
threatened to desert him now. He recovered him
self, and at last slowly and grimly the great voice
boomed out, "Ladies and gentlemen, there are those
who think they can down the Anglo-Saxon race,
but" slight pause "they don t know what they
are un-der-ta-kin "
Through the long tram-ride home I read "The Un
defeated," hanging to a strap, startled by the ex
plosion of fireworks, disquieted by the size and
threat of the mobs that thronged the streets; but
"The Undefeated" kept me cool and content. Such
is the power of literature. That night, the hottest
night of the year, unwilling to sleep, I finished "The
Then, the time being 2 a. m., I reflected on the
potency of the modern novel. When it is a mere
story it is a mere story; but a novel like "The Un
defeated" carries much more than the brisk and
entertaining tale. It takes the place of the exhorta
tion, the sermon, not explicitly but implicitly. This
story, true to life, and quite credible, tells the effect
266 Authors and I
of the stress of war upon a group of quite ordinary
people. Some come through it purified and
strengthened, others remain as they are. It is just
life, and the difference between a novel of this kind
and the sermon is this: The sermon teaches through
dialectic, the novel teaches through characterisation.
Good characterisation always convinces. The
characters in "The Undefeated" act and evolve be
cause they belong to life; they are selected from
life and organised into a pattern which becomes a
work of art.
In fiction the episode is easy to state, the coherent
whole is hard to relate. There are some novelists
who, starting from the episode of Liz and Polly,
could build it into a coherent whole, a work of
art. Do you know the episode?
It happened in London during an air raid. Polly
was conductor of a motor-bus which had just
emerged from the zone upon which the bombs were
falling. As the bus rushed out of the area another
bus approached going toward the danger zone, and
in the conductor Polly recognised a friend. The
busses flashed past each other; she shouted: "Stick
it, Liz," and Liz shouted back, "You bet!"
Problem: To create the lives of Liz and Polly
from their action and those few quick words. I
think the "Stick it, Liz" episode should come at the
end of the volume.
Polly and Liz and the Mayor of Blackhampton are
among the Undefeated. It is they, the Undefeated,
who move and make the world.
49. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
T HAD clean forgotten that R. L. S. ever lived at
Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks. It was
brought to my knowledge in a direct and pictorial
Here I am at Lake Placid, and here lives T. M.
Longsteeth who hns published a book on the Adiron
dacks, and who knows the district as R. L. S. knew
Edinburgh. One day he invited me to climb Mt.
Cobble. It is not a mountain at all; it is a pro
digious hill, and half an hour s rough scramble takes
you to the summit. But what a view the range of
mountains, the wilderness of forest, the innumer
able lakes! He pointed out to me Whiteface Moun
tain, the Indian Pass, John Brown s farm, and then
he said, "There s Saranac Lake."
I looked an interrogation.
"Where Robert Louis Stevenson lived during the
winter of 1887-88, and where he wrote the Scribner
essays, and part of "The Master of Ballantrac."
The house he occupied is now the Stevenson
Memorial. You should see it."
Dimly I began to remember; and how from Saranac
Lake R. L. S. and his household travelled to San
Francisco, and thence to the South Seas on the
schooner yacht Casco; and the end of those adven
tures was his Samoan home, world-wide fame, exile,
268 Authors and I
and the bestowal upon him by the natives of Samoa
of the title of Tusitala Teller of Tales.
It was exciting and stimulating to be on the Steven
son trail once again, for he was master among the
young writers of my youth, and, yes, to open a
book by him today is to recapture the old thrill. He
is the writer s writer; his words don t walk, they
dance into their right places; he surprises, soothes,
and elates. He is the real man of letters. Every-
thing he handled he adorned, and he touched every
room in the house of letters. But do the young men
and young women of today know him and read
him? I wonder.
They know all about him at Saranac Lake. That
was a pleasant surprise. Four Saranac folk, a man,
a woman, and two boys, of whom in turn I asked
the way, knew of Stevenson and knew the Steven
son house. It stands just without the growing
town, that has spread over-much since Stevenson
lived there, on a little hill beyond the traffic. Half
way up the hill, I made another inquiry of a gar
dener. "Oh, yes, it s just up there you go along
Stevenson Lane to that white frame house with the
veranda. You can almost read the sign from here
there it is, The Stevenson Memorial/ " Truly,
it was strange and gratifying to find this wandering
Scot, our R. L. S., so far from home, a mere bird
of passage in this neighbourhood, known so well to
day at Saranac Lake.
This is owing to the Stevenson Society at Saranac
Lake, that evolved from the Stevenson Memorial
Committee. This society, with a membership of
Robert Louis Stevenson 269
200, was able in October, 1916, to dedicate as a pub
lic memorial the rooms Stevenson occupied in the
Baker Cottage in 1887-88, and to fill them with
memorials of R. L. S. It is a simple and affecting
shrine, done well, done with fervour and affection.
You climb the grass garden and reach the veranda
where, as he has told us, R. L. S. walked for inspira
tion ; you pause before a bronze tablet, nearly three
feet high, imbedded in the wall, and there is R. L.
S. himself in bronze by Gutzon Borglum, clad
well, R. L. S. was always an idealist in dress and
here he wears a big fur coat and a tight-fitting
cap. He is very erect ; he is walking on these very
boards. There can be doubt about that, for en
graved on the side of the figure is this inscription:
"I was walking in the veranda of a small cottage
outside the hamlet of Saranac. It was winter, the
night was very dark, the air clear and cold, and
sweet with the purity of forests. For the making
of a story here were fine conditions. Come, said
I to my engine, let us make a tale. "
Then he went inside and the tale he began to make
was "The Master of Ballantrae."
Soon I went inside and stood silently in the smaller
room, and looked from it to the larger room, each
crowded with Stcvensoniana. In a comer was the
desk, plain wood with a glazed bookcase above, con
taining first editions, etc. At this desk he wrote
"A Christmas Sermon," "The Lantern-Bearers,"
"Pulvis et Umbra," part of "The Master of Ballan
trae," and "The Wrong Box," in conjunction with
Lloyd Osbourne. In cases and upon the walls arc
270 Authors and I
objects, photographs, drawings, that cry in every
fold and line the name of Stevenson his velvet
coat, his red sash, Siron s Inn at Barbizon, Skerry-
vore at Bournemouth, wood blocks by him, his skull
cap, the last pen he used, much bitten at the butt-
end over half a hundred records of this beloved
writer, who paused here, and pressed the Adiron-
dacks. With care, with love, his imprint has been
His presence became insistent. I walked the
veranda, a trifle ashamed to think how in the rush
of life and letters, the many claims and the many
distractions, the presence of R. L. S. had faded
almost to a wraith. How vigorous and persuasive
his influence was in the late eighties and nineties,
among young men of letters ! We all tried to write
like R. L. S. so foolish an emprise. We tried to
be fantastic, and romantic, and to use tickling and
caressing words so absurd, because we were not
Stevensons. We decided that beside "Travels
with a Donkey" and "An Inland Voyage," all travel
books were banal, and we asserted that after "Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," all textbooks on psychology
were immature and tedious. O youth, so generous
and unreflecting! But we did not see R. L. S. the
gay, the buoyant, the prankish. Before 1887 he
had left London, never to return. He was already
becoming a tradition, a legend, his wild talk at the
Savile Club, his visits to Sidney Colvin, his sudden
appearances in Soho and elsewhere. He but passed
through London as he passed through Saranac; he
was always a wanderer.
Robert Louis Stevenson 271
Vicariously we knew him. When Henley published
his "Book of Verses," there he was cut with cunning
words into a cameo "Thin-legged, slight unspeak
ably, a hint of Ariel, a touch of Puck, with some
thing of the Shorter Catechist."
How great was our delight when Andrew Lang
and Stevenson began hurling poems at one another
"Dear Andrew with the brindled hair," to which
Lang replied with a poem beginning, "Dear Louis
of the awful cheek." Charles Baxter, too, became
known to us. To him Henley dedicated his "Old
Friends" poem "We have been good friends, you
and Lewis (Henley always spelt him Lewis) and I.
How good it sounds you and Lewis and I." And
Henley hoped that in these three "you and Lewis
and I," was something of the gallant dream that
old Dumas, the great, the humane, the seven and
seventy times to be forgiven, dreamed as a blessing
to the race the immortal Musketeers. Lewis, as
Henley sang, became the world s. Years later Hen
ley had an unkind moment about Lewis but that is
I never pass the British Museum and look up at
the stone house where the keeper of the Prints lives
without thinking of R. L. S. For that was the official
residence of Sidney Colvin, his austere and lifelong
friend. To him Vailima letters were addressed; he
was closer than anybody to R. L. S. and in all the
letters he never once addressed Mr. Colvin by his
No writer ever had such a faithful friend and
admirer, or so competent a biographer. How neatly,
272 Authors and I
in this passage, S. C. places R. L. S.: "To attain
the mastery of an elastic and harmonious English
prose, in which trite and inanimate elements should
have no place, and which should be supple to all
uses and alive in all its joints and members, was
an aim which he pursued with ungrudging, even
with heroic, toil."
And R. L. S. himself! Here is the real man the
innermost of him. In a letter to Henley he is try
ing to keep up his spirits with brave phrases:
"Here s luck.
"Art and Blue Heaven.
"April and God s Larks.
"Green reeds and the sky-scattering river.
"A stately music.
"Enter God !
"Ay, but you know, until a man can write that
Enter God he has made no art ! None !"
The light begins to fade. I must leave the veranda,
sweet with the purity of forests, where R. L. S.
walked and said to his engine, "Come let us make
a tale." When I told this to a practical American
boy he answered, "But why does he say engine?
That s silly."
Yes, Stevenson was a writer s writer. We read
him for the vivid phrase, the radiant thought; for
the unexpected word which so often happens to be
the right one.
50. FRANCIS THOMPSON
AND while I loitered I saw a small, green
volume, and on the back of it were the words,
"Modern Library, Complete Poems: Francis
It was a happy encounter, because I was going on
a Hudson River steamer to Poughkeepsie. Why
to Poughkeepsie? Because that thriving educa
tional riverside town is mentioned, with respect, in
that minor classic, "Washington Square," by Henry
James. I had meant to reread "Washington
Square" on the voyage. Francis Thompson took the
place of "Washington Square."
All my Francis Thompson books are 3000 miles
away, and as he was pre-war, and pre-vers libre, he
should have seemed remote and old-fashioned. It
was not so. A river trip is the place for poetry,
and as we swept up the lordly Hudson, Francis
seemed to be speaking to me in his involved splendid
language, so rich, so obscure, so simple when his
emotion raced over his obsolescent Latinities, and
drove him into the simplicity of "Love and the
Child," "Dream Tryst," and that haunting poem
which he calls "The Kingdom of God," with the
motto, "In No Strange Land." This poem refers
to the Thames; here was I on the Hudson. Can
you wonder that I turned first to
274 Authors and I
O world invisible, \ve view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!
Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumour of thee there?
Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.
The angels keep their ancient places;
Turn but a stone, and start a wing!
Tis ye, tis your estranged faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.
But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry; and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob s ladder,
Pitched between Heaven and Charing Cross.
Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry, clinging Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water
Not of Gennesareth, but Thames!
Occasionally, very occasionally, he played with his
Muse, but for the most part he was her devoted,
prone yet proud servant. Coventry Patmore was
his master. Intellectually and emotionally he was
a deeply religious man and absolutely sincere accord
ing to his light and training. He kept a common
place book; he bought these books at a cheap sta
tioner s for a penny apiece; in them the whole of
Francis Thompson 275
his poetry was written, in upright, even calligraphy,
a boyish handwriting, with hardly an alteration. He
wrote much in bed through long mornings that
sometimes extended through the afternoon. And he
would write through the evenings, often with lead
pencil, pacing up and down his dingy, disorderly
bed-sitting room. His penny notebooks were tossed
into a drawer where he kept his scant, his very scant
wardrobe, and in one of these commonplace books
he wrote this sentence which explains Francis
Thompson : "To be the poet of the return to nature
is much, but I would rather be the poet of the
return to God." That was the life and purpose
of this unworldly man, who lived in a world of
his own with which he was well content. Comfort,
cleanliness, order, provision for the future did not
interest him. His life was lived in his dreams. There
was little shock when he came out of them into the
world because he ignored the world.
People who had read his poems were disturbed
when Francis Thompson was pointed out to them.
"Thqf Francis Thompson!" they would say, gazing
mournfully at the shabby, strange, emaciated figure,
darting rather than walking through London streets,
in mud-spattered, ancient clothes, with the fish
basket in which he kept his review books slung over
his shoulder, unconscious of rain or mire, oblivious
to the jibes of street Arabs for his thoughts were
elsewhere; he was seeing the world invisible, touch
ing the world intangible, his eyes were shining on
the traffic of Jacob s Ladder pitched between
Heaven and Charing Cross.
276 Authors and I
It was unnecessary to pity him. He had the life he
wanted. He was content to be relieved of the prob
lem of paying his w r ay. For a long time, when I
was editing the Academy,. I sent weekly to his land
lady a modest check for his lodging and intermittent
board, and doled him out a crown or a half crown
when he troubled to call for the money. It was
unwise to give him more. When he brought in to
the Academy office the "Ode on Cecil Rhodes" many
hours late ("I thought today was Wednesday" was
his expected and accepted excuse), written on scraps
of paper, he was handed three shillings, which won
the retort, "Thank you. I shall certainly give my
self a good dinner." These doles were not charity.
Far from it. They were payment for magnificent
literary w T ork. He would write interminable letters,
interspersed with chaotic figures, trying to prove
that there should be a balance of eighteen pence in
his favour. Although indifferent to promises and the
fulfillment of engagements, he never swerved from
rectitude in his intellectual performances. Whether
he was writing on Caesar or on Shelley, he always
gave of his best, but his habit of bringing in his
article the day after the paper was published dis
turbed his editors. They never got used to it.
This literary journalism he practised in his latter
years when his muse had ceased to come at call.
From first to last his "Father, Brother, Friend"
was Wilfrid Meynell (see the poem to W. M.).
He raised him from the gutter whither Francis
had gone from choice to be free. For nineteen
years he kept him, not easily, from a return to the
Francis Thompson 277
gutter and freedom. No poet ever had such a
friend ; no poet ever had such a home as the home of
the Meynell family. Certes, he was a difficult guest.
He would arrive for dinner thinking it was lunch
eon, and come prepared to dine at bedtime. He rare
ly sat down; he would pace the room for two or
three hours, following his own train of thought, and
interjecting into the general conversation a passage
explanatory of the point his thought had reached.
Often it was about an overcoat that someone had
stolen from him years before. He rarely talked
poetry, but he would talk cricket with vigour and
animation. Suddenly he would disappear without a
He adored the children of the household. Many
of the poems in this volume are inspired by and ad
dressed to them. The second son, Everard Mey
nell, has written his life, a remarkable biography,
a rare combination of insight and narrative. The
father, Wilfrid Meynell, made the poet s acquaint
ance through Francis Thompson s "Essay on
Shelley," one of the finest pieces of prose in the
language. It was sent to him as editor of Merry
England after it had been refused by the Dublin
Reinew; the author gave an address at Charing
Cross post office, but it was long before he could
be found, as he was holding horses heads in the
Strand. Twenty years later this "Essay on Shelley"
was published with acclamation in the Dublin
Rfi ini*. Francis Thompson had arrived, and Wil
frid Meynell set himself to arrange a definite edition
of the poems.
278 Authors and I
So on the way to Poughkeepsie I went sadly and
gladly through the poems. I could remember the
advent and environment of many of them. Perhaps
the Middle West is not yet quite ready for Francis
Thompson. Such words as corrival, chiton, levin,
enhavocked, assuaries, are not easily digested;
neither are such stanzas as:
The abhorred spring of Dis,
With seething presciences
The preparate worm,
Who siev dst life to the gritted last!
But everyone can understand
On Ararat there grew a vine;
When Asia from her bathing rose,
Look for me in the nurseries of Heaven
Where is the land of Luthany,
Where is the tract of Elenore?
I am bound therefor.
On the way to Poughkeepsie I chose a secluded
spot to leeward and read aloud, three times over,
to the bright air and the brighter waters that won
derful poem, "The Hound of Heaven." That is
the way to begin your study of Francis Thompson.
Read this amazing poem aloud, again and again, ab-
Francis Thompson 279
sorb the splendour of it, and gradually the meaning
will come to you. Then you will find that Master
Eckhart said it all in seventeen words, "He who
will escape Him only runs to his bosom, for all
corners are open to him."
So we came to Poughkeepsie on Hudson, but I
was thinking of Charing Cross on Thames, and of
those who find the many-splendoured thing. Fran
cis Thompson did not have to find it, because he
always had it, in spite of "the bur o the world."
WAS reading in a club when I heard a man
-*- say, "I m going to write a play round Tolstoy."
The name of Tolstoy aroused so many memories
that I dropped the book and mused on a scroll of
history. On one side of the scroll was the pa
triarchal, bearded figure of Tolstoy for we who
were brought up on Carlyle, Emerson, and Tolstoy
always regarded him as venerable and bearded; on
the other side of the scroll is present Russia. How
does this great man stand today in Russia? How
do the Bolsheviki regard Tolstoy? You may read in
the "Reminiscences" of his son how Tolstoy was
visited from time to time by certain "dark people,"
unkempt and unwashed, with whom he always
argued warmly; you may read of certain nihilists
who often appeared at Yasnaya Polyana, "and under
my father s influence gave up terrorism altogether";
you may read that, during the siege of Sebastopol,
Tolstoy proposed to the allies to avoid bloodshed by
deciding the dispute with a game of chess. And
you may have heard of the noble letter that Tolstoy
wrote to the Tzar of Russia on the massacre of the
Jews at Kishinev, which was a plea for paternal
authority against state authority paternal author
ity to which, in Tolstoy s words, men submit
voluntarily, as the members of a family submit to
the senior members. The original draft of this
letter from Tolstoy to the Tzar came, in the whirli
gig of time, to New York and was sold by auction.
I saw it, and handled it.
Examining the thin, unemotional calligraphy of this
letter, I recalled the accounts of the proof reading of
"Anna Karenina," which Tolstoy described as "my
tedious, vulgar Anna Karenina " ; how he would
interwrite into the long galley proofs to such an
extent that poor Countess Tolstoy had to sit up
all night to copy the whole thing out afresh; how,
in the morning, the new manuscript would be
neatly piled up on the table in her fine, clear hand
writing; how "my father would carry the sheets
off to his study to have just one last look," and by
evening it would be just as bad again; "the whole
thing had been rewritten and messed up once more."
It was Jane Walsh Carlyle, was it not, who said
to a girl friend: "My dear, never marry a man
of genius?" And it was the son, Count Ilya Tolstoy,
who said: "Papa was the cleverest man in the
world. He always knew everything. There was
no being naughty with him."
Then I took from the shelves Aylmer Maude s
"Life of Tolstoy" and, turning to the Chronology,
read some of the entries:
1878 Writing "Confession."
1881 Letter to Tzar.
1883 Writing "What Do I Believe?"
1885 Becomes a Vegetarian.
1885 Renounces Hunting and Tobacco.
1889 Finishes "The Kreutzer Sonata."
282 Authors and I
1891 Renounces Copyrights and Divides Property
Among His Family.
1893 Finishes "The Kingdom of God Is Within
1898 Finishes "What Is Art?"
1902 Finishes "What Is Religion?"
1903 Letter to Tzar.
1906 Seizure by Police of Many of Tolstoy s
1908 Jubilee in Honour of Tolstoy s Eightieth
Soon afterward followed his departure into the
wilderness which has puzzled so many, but which
Tolstoy, being Tolstoy and nobody else, was pre
cisely what might have been presaged of him. Then
I read the chapter about his difference, or quarrel,
with Turgenef. Strange! And so there came into
the ken of memory the little group of Russian intel
lectuals, with Tolstoy at their head, who, we used
to think, represented Russia. To us, they stood for
Russia. Now we know, alas, that these intellectuals
represented no more than 1 per cent. Perhaps not
I wonder what the man will make of a play with
Tolstoy as a subject. Is he not too great, too
elusive, too spiritual?
52. HUGH WALPOLE
VJTTHEN I heard that Hugh Walpole was about
to make his last public appearance in New
York as a Lecturer before returning Home, I said,
to myself, "You must be there!"
I am not an ardent admirer of Mr. Walpole s books.
Perhaps they are not quite adult enough for me.
Even "The Dark Forest," much liked, all about
Russia and the war, failed to hold my attention.
Halfway through I got lost, as most people do, who
adventure actually, or imaginatively, into Russia;
and I know not how "The Dark Forest" ends.
Moreover, I do not like diaries or letters in novels.
Their intrusion assumes that the author is not facing
the music squarely; he is putting up another fellow
to speak for him.
Why, then, was I so eager to attend his last lec
You will remember how tired the Athenians became
of hearing Aristidcs called The Just. I think the
reason that I wanted to see Mr. Walpole upon the
lecture platform was, not because I was tired of
hearing him called Charming, but because I wanted
to discover how it is done, how one gets the reputa
tion for being Charming. He had been lecturing
up and down America for months; advertisemcnti
284 Authors and I
of his eleven books, in heavy type, with half a dozen
lines of praise about each (don t be silly; I am not
jealous) were displayed in the daily newspapers ; the
chroniclers always wrote delightful things about his
lectures, and at every dinner party I attend some
nice young thing inevitably asks, "Oh, do tell me
about Mr. Hugh Walpole." Then I begin: "His
father is a bishop, he loves Cornwall, he is a
bachelor, he writes " Even the young lions of
the Chicago Daily Neu s fell to his charm. They
like his "English accent"; they have determined
that he is "an English writer who is at the same
time a gentleman," and they admit that he shows
"no air of condescension." In brief, he is a success
in America, a great success, as man, lecturer, and
writer; and as it is one of my gay duties to
chronicle the success, or non-success, of English,
Scottish, Irish, Canadian and Welsh lecturers, and
writers in America I said to myself, firmly, when I
saw his lecture announced, "You must be there."
It so happened that on the day of the lecture a West
erner, who is also a writer, was lunching with me.
This Westerner is a one hundred per cent Ameri
can (I have never heard of a one hundred per cent
Englishman). His attitude toward the New Eng
land authors, and to their English forbears, past
and present, is one of genial patronage; but his
crust of patronage is not able to conceal his in
tense curiosity about the younger English writers.
His questions were as many and as bewildering as
the questions on "The Readers Guide" page of the
New York Evening Post. Suddenly I asked him
Hugh Walpole 285
if he would like to accompany me to Hugh Wai-
pole s lecture on "Creating a Novel." He accepted
Hugh Walpole was introduced by Owen Johnson.
That was clever. They are a neat contrast. Mr.
Walpole is a blond, with a fair complexion and
a dimple. Mr. Johnson is a brunette, with a
dark complexion, and the look of a man who has
written "The Woman Gives." Mr. Johnson is
also the son of an Ambassador, which is piquant in
these days when the younger novelists rather over
whelm their parents. In his introductory remarks
Mr. Johnson ingeniously let the audience (it was
large, and mainly ladies) understand that the author
of "Fortitude," "The Secret City," and "The Green
Mirror" is rather nicer than other novelist-lec
turers of the English invasion.
The Westerner and I sat in the second row of the
stalls. He leaned forward on the back of the chair
in front; not once did he take his eyes off the
lecturer. I could see that he was impressed by
something, but whether it was the manner or the
matter of the author of "The Prelude to Aventure,"
I could not determine.
Of one thing I am sure: Mr. Walpole is a charm
ing lecturer. He knows just what to do, when to
be softly serious, when to tell an amusing story,
and when to smile mildly at himself and his en
thusiasms. He was severe on the family genius,
and told the delighted audience how he himself
had been checked and subdued in his young days.
"And here I am now," he might have added, "lee-
286 Authors and I
turing to a large and fashionable New York
audience, with eleven books to my credit, and the
wide, delightful world still before me." I turned
to look at Mr. Owen Johnson, who had seated him
self behind us in the third row. I tried to see if he
was smiling, but the light was too dim.
Air. Walpole s manner is as charming as his mat
ter. He has the buoyancy, enthusiasm, and candour
of Mr. Alfred Noyes. He and Mr. Noyes talk
directly to the audience; they admit them to their
confidence. They might be twin brothers. Mr.
Walpole does not use notes. Ease and frankness
are his adjectives, and confidence. He is not in the
least aggressive; he just speaks on as if lecturing
were a pleasant duty like tipping the club servants
handsomely at Christmas, or playing for the game s
sake, not for personal prowess, in a football match.
His division of the modern novel into four classes,
with appropriate comments, was neat and enter
taining (1) the novel of Style (Stevenson, etc.);
(2) the novel of Ideas (selling a birthright for "a
pot of message") ; (3) the novel of Adventure and
Incident (Dumas was idolised) ; (4) the novel of
Character and Psychology (he pretended to tell us
how he does it). The ladies laughed and ap
plauded, but Mr. Owen Johnson, the Westerner,
and I know too much. We were glum. The per
oration was about Russia. He was there during the
first year of the war with the Russian Red Cross,
and returned later as a King s Messenger. With
Russia came the serious note the great simplicity of
the Moujik, the pity of it all. Then a pause, a
Hugh Walpole 287
repetition of Tolstoy s pet idea that the world will
never become better until the individual improves;
and then, click, the end. Loud applause. A re
call. It was all beautifully done a finished per
The Westerner was silent as we walked away.
Presently he said: "I didn t get much from the
lecture itself. What fascinates me is his ease, his
assurance, the idea that he is acceptable, that he
can t go wrong. I suppose it s the tradition that
envelops him. He walks in a protecting back
ground. I seem to be striding along all alone
in a raw light."
"Don t worry," I said. "Each has his own, and
each must grow up in it and use it. You have
the prairie and the pioneers behind you. He is
descended from Horace Walpole and Sir Robert
Walpole; his father is the Bishop of Edinburgh; he
was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge,
and his recreation is music. The Mississippi is
your alma mater, and your recreation is travelling,
without luggage, in wild places. Don t worry."
Later I called at a branch public library, and asked
for any of Hugh Walpole s books. They were all
out. So, being a Person of Decision, I entered a
shop and bought his first "The Wooden Horse," and
his latest, "Jeremy."
"The Wocden Horse" did not interest me very
much. But "Jeremy"! I delighted in it. I de
light in it. It is the best book about a boy that I
have ever read, not cnly Jeremy himself, but hi*
environment, his people, his home life. It is told
288 Authors and f
to ripples of humour ; the characterisation is neat.
The people are beautifully observed. Yes, a very
charming book. His best book by a long way.
In future, when I am asked what I know about
Hugh Walpole, I shall answer: "He wrote
S3. MRS. HUMPHRY WARD
BEING an Arnold in England is, I suppose,
something like being a Lodge in America.
Born into the Arnold family, granddaughter of the
famous Dr. Arnold of Rugby, known to every
reader of "Tom Brown s Schooldays"; niece of
Matthew Arnold ; married to a Fellow and Tutor
of Brasenose College, Oxford, Mrs. Humphry
Ward lived in an atmosphere of culture, and in an
environment of intellect, breeding, and high pur
poses that the ordinary person reads about, but
She knew everybody of importance Scholars and
Statesmen, Dukes and Debutantes, Ambassadors
and Artists, Bishops, Poets, Novelists, Historians,
From the best society in Oxford she passed to the
best society in London when her husband, T.
Humphry Ward, was appointed art critic of the
Times and leader writer.
Culture, breeding, and well-being mark her books,
and was one reason for their immense popularity:
it also marks her Literary Recollections wherein
we move through a society in which high thinking,
and meeting eminent people, is the routine of each
day. Think of calling Matthew Arnold uncle;
think of choosing nine books for Lord Acton s bed-
290 Authors and I
side when he visited the Wards at Stocks, their
country house; think of hearing Mr. Gladstone say-
in private conversation "There are still two things
left for me to do. One is to carry Home Rule;
the other is to prove the intimate connection between
the Hebrew and Olympian revelations"; think of
being in a railway carriage with Mr. Arthur Bal-
four while he was reading Green s "Prolegomena
To the large world Mrs. Humphry Ward was
know r n as a most readable and most helpful novelist,
with a fascinating power of depicting girls. Her
young men, usually rising personages of good family
and good looks, are not as convincing to males as
are her young women. Mr. W. L. George in his
division of British novelists into the neo-Victorian,
the Edwardian, and the neo-Georgian groups does
not mention Mrs. Ward. Personally, I prefer her
books to those of Mr. W. L. George. Nothing
Mr. George has written has affected me like "Hel-
beck of Bannisdale" and "Eleanor." I do not pre
tend to have read all Mrs. Ward s novels, for she
was rather prolific, and her books do not permit
themselves to be skipped; but all that I am
acquainted with are on the side of right living, right
thinking, and aspiration, and I find them a deal
more consolatory and stimulating than many of
the works by members of the neo-Victorian, the
Edwardian, and the neo-Georgian schools. I
imagine that Mrs. Ward would have been quite
pleased and proud simply to be called a Victorian
novelist, that is, one who is concerned with world
Mrs. Humphry Jt ard 291
movements rather than with local movements. Mr.
W. L. George announces his recreation (see "Who s
Who") as "Self-Advertisement." Mrs. Ward s
recreation was (I knew her) Doing Good with an
Air (the Arnold Air).
It is many years since I read "Robert Elsmere,"
which was published in 1888, but I well remember
the discussion it aroused and its popularity which
was greater, I believe, in America than in England.
More than 500,000 copies were sold in the United
States. It was selling well before Mr. Gladstone s
famous review in the Nineteenth Century, but it
was that review that hastened the pace and made
"Robert Elsmere" the best seller of the day. It
was begun in 1885, the writing of it took nearly
three years, and when it was finished in March,
1887, writes Mrs. Ward, "I came out from my
tiny writing room, shaken with tears, and wonder
ing, as I sat alone on the floor, by the fire, in the
front room, what life would be like, now that the
book was done."
That was quite the right way to behave in Victorian
times, and the right answer to the tears was, of
course, to write more novels. This the author
proceeded to do, and to remove in time from Russell
Square to Grosvenor Place, facing the gardens of
Buckingham Palace, and from Haslemere, which
was becoming quite suburban, to Stocks, a beautiful
little estate near Tring in Hertfordshine.
"Robert Elsmere," which Oliver Wendell Holmes
said was "the most effective and popular novel we
have had since Uncle Tom s Cabin/" was not
292 Authors and I
Mrs. Ward s first book. It was preceded by "Milly
and Oily," 1881, a story for children that "wrote
itself," a translation of Amiel s "Journal," 1885,
and "Miss Bretherton," 1886. Before that there
was hard intellectual preparation for her chosen
career of letters with a leaning toward exegesis,
not as arduous and thorough a preparation as that
of George Eliot, but a preparation, in each case,
for a life of plain living and high thinking, and in
each case the writing of fiction sprang uneasily but
inevitably from severer studies. To each fiction
eventually revealed itself as the right method of
Among the future novelist s intellectual preparations
were several articles on early Spanish Kings and
Bishops, and on the origins of modern Spain; a
pamphlet on "Unbelief and Sin"; magazine papers,
articles for the Times, and the translation of
Amiel s Journal Intime; then "Miss Bretherton,"
suggested by the brilliant success in 1883 of Mary
Anderson, and so to "Robert Elsmere."
Her philanthropic efforts alone would be sufficient
for most lives. She created, and was the guiding
power of the Passmore Edwards Settlement: she
founded the Invalid Children s School; she made
time to help in any movement for the Public Wel
A full life, a life crowded with effort and interest,
a life that any woman of intellect and vision would
delight to live. And in it three unique episodes.
She called the magnificent Matthew Arnold Uncle
Mrs. Humphry Ward 293
Matt, she was reviewed by Gladstone, and she sat
in the City of London as a Woman Magistrate.
Happily she saw the end of the Great War, in
which and for which she worked so splendidly with
pen and tongue. The name of Arnold, through
her, has gained fresh lustre.
54. WILLIAM WATSON
I HAVE known many poets. They are a touchy
lot, and to remain on friendly terms it is neces
sary to control one s conduct carefully. I seem to
remember two or three occasions when high and
hasty words swept between Sir William Watson
and myself. (He was created a knight in 1917.
Richly he deserved it, and I must proffer him his
title once ; but he is, and always will be to me plain
William Watson, Yorkshireman and Poet.)
What were our spasmodic quarrels about? Ques
tions of the day the Boer War, vivisection, and so
on. He feels things deeply, has strong views; but
he is also magnanimous and quick to forgive and to
forget. Once I remember he abruptly left a dinner
table because I had rattled out something obnoxious
to him (he is a strong anti-vivisectionist). He
strode from the room erect and stiff, and I played
with my food, sorry and angry, trying to look
unconcerned. In three minutes he returned, still
erect and stiff, but with his strong, mobile face
(full eyes and square jaw) suffused with a com
panionable smile "Such old friends," he said, in his
quick, sententious way, "must not quarrel over an
opinion," and his hand shot out.
Magnanimous, courteous, touchy, forgiving, with a
vast capacity for indignation and scorn, the foe of
William Watson 295
slippery thinking, and slipshod writing, something
of a lonely figure, belonging to no clique or school,
communing, I am sure, in his long, lonely walks
through the Yorkshire dales, with the writers with
whom he is most in sympathy say Samuel Johnson,
John Milton, and Wordsworth such is William
If poetry were the natural vehicle of expression for
mankind, and if newspapers were written in verse,
William Watson would be the first editorial writer
in the land. He watches events with eagle eye,
bruised heart, and impassioned pen. He might have
been Poet Laureate years ago if if he were a
courtier. That is just what he is not. Righteous
anger inspires his sonnets. We may agree or dis
agree with his belligerent literary activities, alwa>s
expressed in polished classical language; we may
have sympathy or antipathy for the folk or cause
he chastises or cherishes, but we never doubt his
integrity. He sets himself to write in verse, for
verse is his natural expression, and in my opinion it
is, alas, when he is in his leading article mood
that his poetry is the least attractive. He delights
to honour his friends in verse. Sometimes, as in
the case of the address to Richard Holt Hutton, the
result is memorable:
And not uncrowned with honors ran
My days, and not without a boast shall end!
For I was Shakespeare s countryman
And were not thou my friend?
In some the.c is something pedestrian as in the
beginning of the poem to H. D. Trail!:
296 Authors and I
Traill, tis a twelve months space and more
Since feet of mine have sought your door. . . .
Yet how apt he is. Here is the second stanza of
his poem to Austin Dobson:
Of wilder birth this muse of mine,
Hill-cradled, and baptised with brine;
And tis for her a sweet despair
To watch that courtly step and air!
And how apt are his epigrams. There are pages
of them, each has its point, twist and lilt, and, when
necessary, its lordly procession of words as in "After
Reading Tamburlaine the Great":
Your Marlowe s page I close, my Shakespeare s ope;
How welcome after gong and cymbal s din
The continuity, the long slow slope
And vast curves of the gradual violin!
But his full flight is in the odes and elegies. "What
magnificent rhetoric there is in the "Hymn to the
Sea." How full and rolling it is! I have read it
aloud to two or three people. Not one of them
has been able to catch at any definite meaning, and
vet I have left them murmuring such sonorous lines
Now while the vernal impulsion makes lyrical all that
While, through the veins of the Earth, riots the ichor of
spring. . . .
His tribute to Wordsworth, perhaps the most
esteemed of his poems, draws nearer to the average
heart. What could be truer or finer than the fol
lowing stanzas essential William Watson:
William H at son 297
Not Milton s keen, translunar music thine;
Not Shakespeare s cloudless, boundless human view,
Not Shelley s flush of rose on peaks divine;
Nor yet the wizard twilight Coleridge knew.
What hadst thou that could make so large amends
For all thou hadst not and thy peers possessed,
Motion and fire, swift means to radiant ends?
Thou hadst, for weary feet, the gift of rest.
From Shelley s dazzling glow or thunderous haze,
From Byron s tempest-anger, tempest-mirth,
Men turned to thee and found not blast and blaze,
Tumult of tottering heavens, but peace on earth.
It will be observed that he is a reflective poet; that
he fashions his numbers with extreme care ; that he
is dignified, and a studious walker in the older
ways; that he has no patience with free verse, and
no love for the free and easy jolt of, say, Kipling s
"Barrack Room Ballads," and a horror at the liber
ties certain American writers (including, I am sure,
baseball reporters, and the artists of the comic
pages) take with the English tongue.
He is ever loyal to Johnson and Milton: his latest
poem, "The Super-human Antagonists," six hundred
lines of rhymed decasyllabic verse, is, as the Times
says, "rhetorical with a rhetoric that he seems to
have learned very thoroughly from all the great
poetic rhetoricians of the past." His rhetoric is
intentional. Happy accidents, gushes of emotion,
the things that dazzle and move us in Browning are
not for him. He weighs his theme, shapes it,
polishes it, and conducts it through courses of
onerous rhetoric of which he is proud, and which
298 Authors and I
is the chief asset of his expression. He has written
an essay in which he pauses "to rescue this word
rhetoric from the evil habit into which it has latterly-
fallen by no innate fault of its own. . . . The
simple truth is that there is a tinsel rhetoric and
there is a golden rhetoric."
William Watson s rhetoric is golden. He knows it.
We know it. The point is not arguable. It is
settled. His poetry and prose show it.
All good poets write good prose, all except Swin
burne. Cast over in your mind a few modern names
Matthew Arnold, Francis Thompson, W. B.
Yeats, Lawrence Binyon, Henry Newbolt, Arthur
Symons, Lionel Johnson, Richard Le Gallienne.
W T illiam Watson s admirable prose, balanced,
sweeping, rhythmic, would, cut cunningly into un
equal lengths, make excellent Free Verse. I hope no
one will do it. The sonnet of indignation the poet
would compose would be terrible. Let his small
book of prose called "Pencraft" remain as it is, a
perfect example of the welding of matter and man
ner, a definite statement by a trained writer of the
aims and ideals of his craft, the apologia of one who
stands almost alone, rooted in older conditions,
obedient but not subservient to the masters of a
former day, and receiving with distrust, and scorn,
so courteous that none can take offence, the wild
and whirring prose experiments of the present day.
Were I asked to suggest a textbook of literature for
high schools, or even for colleges, I would unhesitat
ingly recommend "Pencraft." There is no better
William Watson 299
introduction to the continuity, the austerity and
the majesty of Letters.
One does not associate William Watson with
humour. Sarcasm, yes; irony, yes; disdain, yes; the
look and the cut of contempt, yes (see "The
Woman with the Serpent s Tongue") ; but until
I read his imaginary interview with Dr. Johnson,
printed in his book of essays called "Excursions in
Criticisms," with the amiable sub-title, "Bein^
Some Prose Recreations of a Rhymer," I did not
realise that he possessed a recondite humour not
unworthy of the learned Doctor himself. This
interview is entirely delightful and entirely wise.
Dr. Johnson on Rossetti is what my American
friends would call "a scream"; and as for Dr.
Johnson on Matthew Arnold what could be better
than this? "I lament that there is much in his
verse that is alien to my apprehension much that
reflects, apparently, a mental world of which I have
no private report."
But Sir William Watson is a poet. Perhaps he
will not thank me for extolling him as a proseman,
so I will end with the opening stanza of his poem
called "The Unknown God," which has been beat
ing in my heart ever since I first read it years ago
When, overarched by gorgeous night,
I wave my trivial self away;
When all I was to all men s sight
Shares the erasure of the day;
Then do I cast my cumbering load,
Then do I gain a sense of God.
55. H. G. WELLS
EAR H. G.! Although I have known him
since 1894 I have never heard his intimates
call him anything but H. G. Even his wife ad-
dresses him so.
Dear H. G.! I made his acquaintance oddly.
Harry Gust, Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette,
when he was not involved in a crisis would encour
age me to be amusing. One day I said to him,
want a new friend, please." A few hours later an
office boy came to my room (I was then Editor c
the Pall Mall Budget and said, "Mr. Gust s com
pliments and eve got a new friend for yer, sir.
I hastened to Mr. Gust s apartment (it was more
than a room) and there, a little figure, hunched up
on a magnificent Maple couch was H. G. Wells.
He smiled. I smiled. His overcoat was not
Poole s, but his face was like an electrified note of
interrogation, questioning and absorbing everything.
He was then writing Wellsian articles for the
Pall Mall Gazette, and there was in them that
which prompted me one day to suggest
should write stories for the Pall Mall Budget.
He was game; he was always game; and thos
amazing tales "the jolly art of making something
very bright and moving," to quote his own words
(we called them "Single Sitting Stories") came
H. G. Wells 301
into the office at the rate of two a week, in copper
plate handwriting with the regularity of a pendu
lum. So H. G. began his career as a writer of
fiction. I touched the button only, or as he neatly,
puts it in the introduction to "The Country of the
Blind": "Mr. Lewis Hind s (it s the first time he
ever addressed me as Mr.) indicating finger had
shown me an amusing possibility of the mind."
His unresting, exploring mind, so curious and com
bative, is very orderly. So are his habits metic
ulously so. His imaginative schemes, like his house
keeping books, are tabulated and arranged with the
precision of an accountant. He once showed me
a fixture of pigeonholes in his study: he indicated
the contents of three of these pigeonholes: they con
tained the manuscripts of his next three books,
neatly typewritten by Mrs. Wells, each labelled with
the year in which it was to appear. H. G. discarded
the literary agent some time ago: he is his own
agent, and a good one, surely. Portions, if not all
of the text of "Mr. Britling," "Joan and Peter," and
"The Undying Fire," appeared serially in high-class
weekly publications in England and America, the
editors of which would be aghast at the mere sug
gestion of publishing an ordinary novel.
H. G. Wells is a complex man of letters, with a
strong natural scientific and socialistic bias. He is
a fine teller of tales imaginative, inventive, socio
logical, humorous, appalling, technical; he is also
an educationist and an inquirer into what people call
the mystery of things. The war turned his agile
mind, and burdened heart, into a consideration of
302 Authors and I
the Whence, the Why, and the Whither! He is
pursuing the quest with characteristic pertinacity,
and possibly after many years of heroic intellectual
strenuosity he may reach the point which he might
easily have reached at his mother s knee.
I sent "Mr. Britlmg Sees It Through" to a major
in the British Army. He read it in the intervals
of hard fighting, and he wrote me fourteen pages
about "Mr. Britling." They were highly compli
mentary, with one exception. Mr. Britling, you
will remember, comes to the conclusion at the end
of the book that we must carry on and "do our
best." The major, who is a spiritual man, resented
this, and urged, at some length and with rare elo
quence, that we must do more than "our best" : we
must do "God s best." I sent this lay sermon to H.
G. Wells. He replied by quoting the title of his next
two books, not then published, "God the Invisible
King," and "The Soul of a Bishop." The Major,
I believe, has read them; but he has not yet in
formed me that he is satisfied.
I, who have followed his imaginative and intellec
tual career from the beginning, who have known
him, and had long walks and talks with him, find no
confusion, only development, in the record of his
agile mind expressed in his books. He is a seeker.
His thought is always on the wing: it does not
rest. Most minds, as the years go by, recline into
apathy and resent change and the new thing. The
mind of H. G. Wells is always alert, more so
today than ever. There is much of Mr. Britling
in him, but he is tougher than Mr. B., and he has
//. G. Wells 303
learnt to drive a motor car better. Mr. Britling is
a portion of himself, and the externals of that
moving record of the hideous impact of the war on
a sensitive nature are drawn, in large measure, from
the happy life he leads at Dunmow in Essex.
Visitors ask themselves when he does his work, for
he always seems to have time for pianola playing,
for games with his children, such wonderful games,
for dancing in the barn, for hockey on Sunday after
noon and for talks that explore and leap and run.
At stated times of the day he disappears. Then,
I suppose, he does his work, but, however intense
his absorption in it may be, he casts care away when
he rejoins his guests. Those eyes, grey-blue and
watchful, small and searching, miss nothing, and
he docs not husband his thoughts, for they are so
many, and they strike out, quick and illuminating,
on the anvil of any topic that is started.
The Pall Mall Gazette and Budget gave him his
start: W. E. Henley published "The Time Ma
chine" in the New Review*; and the Saturday Re
view and Nature were only too glad to print his
critical and technical articles. He had studied at
the Royal College of Science, and was by this time
a B.Sc. Not a bad beginning for a youth who
had no advantages. His father was a professional
cricketer, and this world-famous man still keeps,
framed in the place of honour in his study, a
cricket card showing the prowess of Papa Wells
with the cricket ball.
The days of the Saturday Review and Nature
articles passed. H. G. was now merging into a
304 Authors and I
novelist. "The Wonderful Visit," "The Island of
Dr. Moreau" and "The Wheels of Chance" fol
lowed. The rest you know.
His eager mind is now deep in the problems of
reconstruction, self-determination, the rights and
the wrongs of small nations and so on. But his
imagination still plays. He is no pedant. He has
vission. He may like the following story, not as
imaginary as it may seem:
An Irish American and an English Englishman
were talking. Said the Irish American, "I suppose
if the League of Nations had been properly drawn
the English would restore Gibraltar to Spain."
The English Englishman looked glum. Suddenly
his face lightened. "Why not? And of course,
America would give back New York to the Eng
It was the Irish American s turn to look glum.
Then he smiled and said "And the English would
restore New York to the Dutch, and the Dutch
would give it back to the Indians."
"Surely," said the English Englishman, "but that
wouldn t be the end. There were aboriginal inhab
itants; there must have been in remote antiquity
a first aboriginal, the very first man to walk Man
hattan. Suppose, by some miracle, his descendants
could be traced, even that would not. end our
altruistic inquiry. This first man would be a mere
dot in the wonder of eartn and sky, of rivers that
race to the sea, of springtime, of the sun and the
night sky. It would be only logical to restore these
wonders to their original owner."
H. G. Wells 305
"Yes?" said the Irish American.
"New York," murmured the English Englishman,
"would have to be restored to God. Which is pre
cisely what the faithful want to do."
To look through a list of the books by H. G. Wells
is to be filled with amazement and pride. To each
his choice: to one "Kips," to another, "Tony Bun-
gay," to another "Mr. Britling Sees It Through."
I cannot make any choice, but as I sit here I recall
with profound admiration Section 15, of Chapter
XIII, of "Joan and Peter," where the wounded
Flying Man seeks, and finds the Lord God.
How sane is this Flying Man s delirium!
How inexhaustible is the mind of H. G. !
He has travelled far. On the last page of "Joan
and Peter" there is this
There was a light upon his life, and the truth was
that he could not discover the source of the light
nor define its nature; there was a presence in the
world about him that made all life worth while,
and yet it was nameless and incomprehensible. It
was the essence beyond reality; it was the heart of
all things. . . .
Yes, he has travelled far. He is still travelling.
And perhaps, with his "Outline of History," he has
inaugurated a real system of education.
56. EDITH WHARTON
I WONDER what Mrs. Wharton thinks of
O. Henry; and if there are still people in Eng
land who picture America from the people and
scenes in Mrs. Wharton s books.
When I first read "The Greater Inclination," I
unconsciously accepted the stage direction of a New
port drawing-room in "The Twilight of the Gods,"
as characteristic of America and the way they go
on there. Here it is:
"A Newport drawing-room. Tapestries, flowers,
bric-a-brac. Through the windows, a geranium-
edged lawn, the cliffs and the sea. Isabel Warland
sits reading. Lucius Warland enters in flannels and
a yachting cap."
Also I pictured New York as the scene of the
Gildermere ball in "A Cup of Cold Water," at the
close of which, you remember, Woburn is disturbed
because the drowsy footman handed him "a ready-
made overcoat with an imitation astrachan collar
in place of his own unimpeachable Poole gar
Similarly in an earlier decade "nice" America, and
that was the only America that it was my duty to
know anything about, was enshrined within the
covers of W. D. Howells charming novels. As for
Washington I accepted with pleasure the present-
Edith Wharion 307
mcnt by Mrs. Burnett in "Through One Adminis
tration." Novels of manners and of place have
much to answer for. When I visit Kentucky I am
sure that I shall not have the vivid impressions of
the Blue Grass State that I derive from James Lane
Allen and John Fox, Jr.
"Are you an admirer of Mrs. Wharton?" I asked
an Intelligent Woman.
"Admirer? I was brought up on her. In my first
season I was always watching for the exquisite,
social calamities that she describes. It s my opinion
they don t really happen. Life isn t nearly as subtle
as novelists pretend."
"Which is your favourite among her stories?"
She picked a cherry from the bowl and reflected
while she nibbled it. "It s odd," she said, "but I
can t remember any of her books, neither the plots
nor the characters oh, yes, there was Lily Bart
in The House of Mirth. I was terribly sorry for
Lily. There are lots of Lilys about. Only a
woman could have drawn her."
"How about Ethan Frome ?" I asked.
She shook her curls. "One can t read everything.
But I liked Summer. If you want me to say
something definite about Mrs. Wharton I shouldn t
wonder if she wasn t better when she is dealing with
people a bit lower socially than the Newport and
Long Island lot."
"Did you ever meet her?"
"Once, at a luncheon party. Henry James was
there, I remember, and my neighbour, a young dip
lomat, bored me with explaining just how far
308 Authors and I
Edith Wharton derived from Henry James. In
my opinion she beats him: she has more red blood.
The diplomat said one clever thing it wasn t orig
inal, I think he fathered it on Henry James that
Mrs. Wharton showed the masculine conclusion
tending to crown the feminine observation. "
"What is Mrs. Wharton like?"
"Oh, that luncheon party was a long time ago, but
I remember I decided that she was just like what
I expected she would be browny hair, exquisitely
dressed, a finished manner, and an air, oh, you
know the kind of air that glides about European
letters and art, and looks startled when anyone
I knew what this dear lady meant, for I had just
been trying to read Edith Wharton s "Italian Back
grounds," and found progression through the pages
difficult. It is the kind of culture, excessive cul
ture, that drives me to O. Henry or at any rate to
Kipling. On the first page I found this: "To pass
from the region of the obviously picturesque the
country contrived, it would seem, for the delectation
of the cceur a poesie facile to that sophisticated
landscape where, etc., etc."
I prefer a deeper bite in travel literature, more
directness and surprises, such as we find in Borrow,
Stevenson, Kipling, Belloc, and Gissing. But it
would be unfair to judge Edith Wharton by such
culture books as this, or "Italian Villas" or "The
Decoration of Houses," or her slim volume of var
Edith Wharion 309
Think you we slept within the Delphic bower,
What time our victim sought Apollo s grace?
Nay, drawn into ourselves, in that deep place
Where good and evil meet, we bode our hour.
Travels in Italy or France evoke her preciosity:
she cannot help being a stylist when writing of
buildings or nature: it is a human problem that
brings out the distinction of this subtle writer. Dur
ing a score of years or so I can look back on a dozen
short stories by Edith Wharton that have given me
immense intellectual and aesthetic pleasure. And
as -or her long novels, those who have not read
"T- e House of Mirth," "The Fruit of the Tree,"
and The Reef" have a great pleasure in store; but
the rt ider must make up his mind to be entertained
by "1; dies and gentlemen," not by "men and
women." As Mr. Francis Hackett observes, Mrs.
Wharton s characters are not the kind of people
with whom you share crackerjack in a day coach.
And yet I should not be surprised if her best work
was not "Ethan Frome," a New England story
dealing with lowly people, folk who never have a
servant to wait upon them and who always get their
own morning tea. "Ethan Frome" has an intensity,
a pathos, and sympathy, frigid if you will, but sus
tained and penetrating.
With the breaking out of war, Edith Wharton
threw herself into war work, and as the struggle
continued she wrote little sad stories about soldiers.
One was called "The Marne"; and she also pro
duced an amusing and suggestive little book called
"French Ways and Their Meaning." These did
3io Authors and I
not rouse me to enthusiasm; in the press of other
avocations, the work of Edith Wharton had slipped
out of my consideration.
Suddenly it was recalled to me violently. I opened
a paper one day and read that E. V. Lucas had
expressed to an interviewer in San Francisco his
astonishment and annoyance that he could not buy
Edith Wharton s books in the West. "She is your
greatest woman writer," he said, "and it seems
extraordinary to me that I could find none of her
books on sale in the West."
This interested me, as when I left London in 1917,
Lucas, for a year and more, had been reading and
praising O. Henry, and it seemed odd that a man
should be able to enjoy, with enthusiasm, such dis
parate temperaments as Edith Wharton and O.
Henry Newport and Broadway.
Having decided to write on Edith Wharton, and
having only one of her books, "The Reef," I went
to a branch public library and borrowed seventeen;
also three volumes containing essays on her work
by Hackett, Underwood, and Follett.
Then I invited Lucas to luncheon and waved his
attention to the couch on which reposed seventeen
books by Edith Wharton and three about her.
Lucas is not a talkative man ; he looked them over,
smiled his grim smile and said, "You take your
"So do you," I answered.
"I want to read Ethan Frome, " he muttered, as
if somebody had been hindering him from doing
Edith W \iarton 311
I offered it to him. He shook his head. "I want
it on board ship. There s no time to read any
thing in America."
"Tell me," I said, "how can you who adore
O. Henry also adore Edith Wharton? She deals
mainly with the smart life which you always try to
avoid, and succeed in avoiding."
"I like her irony," he mumbled.
When he had gone it struck me that he might
have said : "You adore Memlinc and Matisse, why
shouldn t I adore Edith Wharton and O. Henry?"
If he had been a girl, I suppose that I should have
taken a copy of "Ethan Frome" to the steamer.
57. WALT WHITMAN
THE centenary of the birth of Walt Whitman
on May 31, 1919, turned thought to him who
cried, "The Modem Man I Sing."
For a week I was dipping, diving, and plunging into
the 430 pages of "Leaves of Grass," that ocean
of rushing, soaring observations announcing the
awakening spirit of America, proclaiming her first
great poet, soil of her soil, strong as a mountain,
sure of his mission, sure of himself, sure of the
reproductive power of the rough songs he sang, their
tumultuous beauty, their rugged eloquence, with
scraps of tenderness lighting catalogues of words,
himself the centre of all, yet conscious all the while
of something within himself untouched.
. . . Before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands
yet untouched, untold,
Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory
signs and bows,
With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I
To us in London in the late eighties there were
three Americans who aroused our awakening liter
ary minds to enthusiasm Poe, Bret Harte, and
Walt Whitman. (Emerson came later and stayed
longest.) Poe opened to us the macabre in prose,
and in poetry the art and craft of melody. Bret
Walt Whitman 313
Hartc revealed to us a new corner of life, pic
turesque, riotous, pathetic, amusing, but it was only
a part of the whole. Walt Whitman showed us the
whole, expounded that vast, voracious America
3,000 miles away. Here was a new poet, a new
way of song, a new country, a new man speaking to
each one of us.
My songs cease, I abandon them,
From behind the screen where I hid I advance personally
solely to you,
Camerado, this is no book,
Who touches this touches a man.
We read "Salut au Monde" ("What do you
hear, Walt Whitman," he asks, "what do you see,
Walt Whitman?"). We realised that he had
thrown rhyme and scansion to the winds; that his
Pegasus took the bit between her teeth and did what
she willed; that form and tradition were meaning
less terms to him. What did it matter? He sang
of a new land, in a new way. He sang the love of
comrades, one brotherhood throughout the wide
My spirit has pass d in compassion and determination
around the whole earth,
I have looked for equals and lovers and found them
ready for me in all lands,
I think some divine rapport has equalised me with them.
We read "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" ;
we read the Lincoln poems; we read the "Song of
the Open Road." With the generosity of youth we
acclaimed Walt Whitman everywhere, "O America,
314 Authors and I
because you build for manhood I build for you."
Has it not been said of him that he gave America
to the world ? We made Free Verse after his man
ner; Free Verse with its "long, undulant swell and
fall," its unmetrical rhythmic cadences; we learned
of his greetings, "Howdy," and "So long"; of his
broad-brimmed hat, his blue flannel shirt, his home
spun trousers tucked into knee-high boots; we
learned of his services in the war as nurse and com
forter to soldiers, and how he had said that those
four years, 1861 to 1865, made it possible for him
to write "Leaves of Grass."
Not youth pertains to me
Not delicatesse I cannot beguile the time with talk;
Awkward in the parlour, neither a dancer nor elegant,
In the learn d coterie sitting constraint and still for
learning inures not to me;
Beauty, knowledge, inure not to me yet, there are two or
three things inure to me,
I have nourished the wounded, and sooth d many a dying
And at intervals, waiting, or in the midst of camp,
Composed these songs.
This buccaneer of song became a part of us. We
hailed him as America s great poet. And while his
fame broadened in England we learned with sur
prise that America was not taking kindly to her
lusty son. Even Emerson, almost enthusaistic at
first, tempered his admiration. The elder poets,
the elder critics, and the cultured public did not
take easily to Walt. He was too Waltish: his
methods were too un-European, and as for his sub
jects, why they were everyday affairs. And his
Walt Whitman 315
frankness and roughness! Longfellow and Tenny
son were poets, "Excelsior" and "Enoch Arden"
were poetry, but this amazing and uncouth, voluble
savage, what was he?
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer
Clear the way there, Jonathan!
I love to look on the Stars and Stripes, I hop* the fifes
will play Yankee Doodle.
Poetry? No sir! We in America know what poets
are. William Cullen Bryant is a poet.
Thirty years have passed, and during the centenary
week America was engaged in a literary drive in
honour of Walt Whitman. A school of poets has
arisen who call him Master. Walt Whitman has
come into his kingdom. I pick up Louis Unter-
meyer s "The New Era in American Poetry," and
read that Walt Whitman is the great precipitant
and liberator of emotions that have been too long
stifled, and that for the first time (owing to Whit
man s pioneer work) a great part of American
letters is actually American. Whitman set the
American poet free.
Come, Muse, migrate from Greece and Ionia,
Cross out, please, those immensely overpaid accounts;
That matter of Troy and Achilles wrath, and /Eneas
and Odysseus wanderings.
Placard, "Removed" and "To Let" on the rocks of your
snowy Parnassus . . .
For now a better, fresher, busier sphere; a wider untried
domain awaits and demands you.
316 Authors and I
But my joy in this new fierce freedom does not
mean any lessening of my joy, in the milder freedom
of the past. I am not a Futurist, I am a citizen
of the dear old world, so proud of it, so gratefftl
to it, that I can quite easily smile at Mr. Van Wyck
Brooks gibe at the New England group " our
Poets were commonly six in number, kindly, grey-
bearded, or otherwise grizzled old men. One recalls
a prevailing six, with variations. Sometimes a ven
erable historian was included, a novelist or so, and
even Bayard Taylor. Nothing could make one feel
so like a prodigal son as to look at that picture."
Emerson illuminates, Whittier and Longfellow
soothe and charm, but Walt Whitman startles.
You hear the ring of his axe on the tree: you
realise that the good grey poet is a fighter ; you hear
him cry to the New England group:
What to such as you anyhow such a poet as I ? therefore,
leave my works,
And go lull yourself with what you can understand, and
with piano tunes,
For I lull nobody, and you will never understand me.
But we do understand him. Even
Silent and amazed even when a little boy,
I remember I heard the preacher every Sunday put God
in his statements,
As contending against some being or influence.
Roaming in thought over the Universe, I saw the little
that is Good steadily hastening toward immortality
And the vast that is called Evil I saw hastening to merge
itself and become lost and dead.
Walt Whitman 317
And if with memories of "I Stood Tiptoe upon a
Little Hill" or "Tears, Idle Tears," or "Stone
Walls Do Not a Prison Make" in your head, you
declare that Walt Whitman is not a poet, please
call him a Prophet or better still a Man. Then
read "Good-bye, my Fancy!" and be very glad for
Good-bye, ray Fancy!
Farewell, dear mate, dear Love!
If we go anywhere we ll go together (yes, we ll remain
Maybe we ll be better off and blither, and learn some*
Maybe it is yourself now really ushering me to the true
songs (who knows?)
Maybe it is you the mortal knot really undoing, turning
so now finally
Good-bye and hail! my Fancy!
In England as well as in America the thoughts of
many on May 31, 1919, dwelt on Walt Whitman,
who sang of Freedom in a New World, and found
his subjects around him, what eyes saw, what heart
felt, what head reasoned. He sang of things here,
not there. He was himself.
And, as a last word, Emerson looms up. What a
man he was! Re-read his "American Scholar" and
remember that this American literary Declaration
of Independence was delivered in 1838, seventeen
years before the issue of "Leaves of Grass." Walt
must have read it, and Walt alone knows how much
he pot from that wonder-man and poet-sage Ralph
58. W. B. YEATS
POETS do not always look like poets. William
Butler Yeats does. He also acts like a poet,
that is, like a real poet, which he is. New acquaint
ances think he poses. That is not my opinion. A
poseur is sometimes caught unaware. You never
catch the author of "The Wanderings of Oisin,"
1889 (his first), and "The Wild Swans at Coole,"
1919 (one of his latest), unaware. He looks like
an apostle of the Celtic glamour compromising with
civilisation; he appears to be dwelling in the Celtic
twilight; to me it has always seemed that his resi
dence in London is temporary, that he has in his
pocket a return ticket to Innisfree.
He is no hennit. I have met him half a hundred
times, and on each occasion I have been quite aware
of the implicit understanding between us that he
knows he is a poet, and he knows that I am an
ordinary person. He does not complain. I do not
complain. These are facts. He always looks
exactly the same: he always wears a blue serge suit,
with a flowing black tie, and he always, at stated
intervals, tosses his long, straight hair away from his
eyes. And he always, when I address him, looks
surprised and remote; he frames his answer care
fully, and speaks as if he were addressing somebody
who is not I, but might be. I like looking at him.
W. B. Yeats 319
He is that rare combination a good poet, a good
prose writer, and good to look upon. That is, if
you like looking at poets. Sometimes I think that I
have not been talking to him at all, that while I
have been drawing him out, he has been drawing in,
drawing away invisibly to some forlorn Celtic cabin,
there to increase the sea with his tears, and the wan
dering wind with his sighs. Maybe I want to talk
to him about cricket, or national extravagance, or
the difference between J. M. Synge and George R.
Sims, It is little good. He affects to listen but
he is really in the land east of the sun and west of
the moon where the Irish poetess lived who wrote:
The kinc of my father they are straying from their keep
The young goat s at mischief, yet nothing can I do,
For all through the night I heard the Banshee keening,
youth of my loving, and is it well with you?
Yet with it all W. B. Yeats is practical. He has
the wisdom of the mystic.
1 met him first at a small dinner party. He sat
sideways. That is all I remember of the occasion.
I recall nothing of his talk. I remember only the
attitude of his body, legs crossed, parallel to the
table, and his right shoulder in the place of honour.
Nobody seemed to mind or to think it strange. I
had a kind of idea that he wanted to show that,
although he had left Ireland, he was not at home
with the Saxon. I rather liked him for it.
Really, I do not think he is aware that he sometimes
acts in an un-British way. Once at a public dinner
320 Authors and I
he delivered an impassioned speech. No English
man ever delivers an impassioned speech: it is bad
form. But that was not all. As he spoke he
roamed up and down the room like a wild animal
in a cage. When he finished he was far from his
seat. I am sure he was more surprised than any
On another occasion, after a literary gathering, he
invited a poet and myself to return to his rooms and
hear his newest poem. At that time he was living
in a gaunt house off the Euston Road, the kind of
house that E. A. Poe might have chosen as the scene
of a story. Yeats* rooms were up several flights,
and it pleased me to find that they were Spartan in
their bareness. Perhaps now that Ireland is pros
perous he may have become luxurious. I hope not.
In the centre of the room was a long deal table
littered with manuscripts and books. Before this
table he knelt, and by the light of a guttering candle
he read, or rather intoned "The Countess Kathleen"
(I think that was the work). Did he read it all?
Probably. He read on and on, and believe me his
tumbled hair and pale face illumined by the gutter
ing candle made an effect that newspaper writers
call Rembrandtish. He was indifferent to us: he
did not see that the other poet had fallen fast asleep.
Time sped ; he read on, until somewhere in the small
hours I caught my courage, roused the other poet
from his slumbers, and said, "Awfully sorry, but
we must be going." Our host, I remember, did
carry the candle to the top of the stairs to light us
down. Then he returned to his poem, for as we
W. B. Yeats 321
creaked down to the street door I heard him
declaiming fine verse to our empty chairs. "Yeats
is a good poet," said my companion, permitting a
yawn, "but he has no sense of time."
His poems sing. They are dream poems, melan
choly, mournful. Many of them have that exquisite
simplicity which Anatole France calls the highest
form of literary art, thus:
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.
His prose has also the beauty of simplicity. His
thought may be wilful, his unceasing lament that
the world should be what it is may become tedious;
his suggestion that the interests of mankind are
unimportant compared with the yearning dreams of
the Irish peasant may arouse ire, but nothing can
hurt the grave and simple beauty of his style. It
flows on, welling up from hidden waters.
When I read Yeats "Ideas of Good and Evil," I
wonder if it is really the same language as that used
by the young gentlemen who write the stories in
the Saturday Evening Post. And when I dip into
Yeats edition of William Blake, I wonder if Blake
and Yeats and Kipling and O. Henry come from
the same stock. It is curious to turn from a reading
of "Barrack Room Ballads" to this impersonal,
poetic aristocrat of letters, this seer of the twilight,
this "singer of pearl pale fingers and dove-grey sea
322 Authors and I
Yet one of his poems has had almost as great a
success as Russell s "Cheer, Boys, Cheer." Such
things do happen. The poem is "The Lake Isle of
Innisfree." No living poet has had such unasked,
unsought praise for one poem as William Butler
Yeats had from Robert Louis Stevenson. Note that
the letter is addressed to "Dear Sir," an infrequent
custom with Stevenson. It shows how strong must
have been his impulse to write to a stranger:
"To W. B. Yeats,
"Vailima, Samoa, April 14, 1894.
"Dear Sir: Long since when I was a boy I
remember the emotions with which I repeated Swin
burne s poems and ballads. Some ten years ago, a
similar spell was cast upon me by Meredith s Lovt
in a Valley ; the stanzas beginning, When her
mother tends her haunted me, and I remember
waking with them all the echoes about Heyeres. It
may interest you to hear that I have a third time
fallen in slavery: this is to your poem called The
Lake Isle of Innisfree. It is so quaint and airy,
simple, artful, and eloquent to the heart but I seek
words in vain. Enough that always, night and day,
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds on the
shore, and am, yours gratefully,
"ROBERT Louis STEVENSON."
Now I am going to give myself the pleasure of copy
ing out "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" :
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
W. B. Yeats 323
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes drop
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the
There midnight s all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow
And evening full of the linnets wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart s core.
In his latest book of poems, "The Wild Swans at
Coole," the Celtic sadness of Mr. Yeats becomes so
shadowy sad that his readers can almost believe that
his muse will drop into silence, that his wild swans
of verse have made their last flight. Perhaps the
theatre is wooing him from the harp. Certainly the
theatre stimulates him. At the performances of the
Irish plays at the Court Theatre he was quite ani
mated, and on one of these occasions he addressed
me, to my astonishment, with marked friendliness,
as if I were an Irish playwright or poet.
I am told that he is still meditating a theatrical
penetration of America. Mr. Belasco need not be
anxious. The Yeats theatre has no scenery only
a back cloth and a silken curtain. There is no
making up: the actors and actresses wear masks.
And there is no stage. The performances will take
place in drawing-rooms. A hostess telephones, and
the company arrives. They will present the drama
324 Authors and I
of intimacy: they will convey fine verse, and plots
sad and moving, humorous and pathetic. I hope
they will perform Yeats own poetic dramas, and
Synge, and Lady Gregory, and the others who stress
the Celtic wistfulness and humour. I look forward,
with eager anticipation, to the Yeats drawing-room
drama, and I am sure that I shall not fall asleep
as I did at "Mecca."
59. MY FIRST BOOK
TIDYING up, sorting old papers, emptying
drawers, preparing for the new year, I came
upon some reviews of My First Book. I sighed,
and smiled. When published it seemed so impor
tant: now well, at any rate, it taught me some
thing and it astonished my mother. "What," she
cried, "the little boy whose hair I used to smooth
Do you remember that Jerome K. Jerome, when
editing To Day, persuaded a group of authors each
to write an article called "My First Book"? I
believe every writer of eminence, whom he ap
proached, allowed himself to be caught in the
Jerome net. Who can resist writing about "My
I am doing it. I am looking at My First Book, set
forth, title and date, in perdurable print in "Who s
Who." It was called "The Enchanted Stone."
No, I am not giving it publicity. It cannot be
advertised. It has been REMAINDERED.
I wonder if the general public knows the meaning
of the word "remaindered" in publishing circles.
It signifies that the book has been discarded, given
up as a bad job. Suppose the edition is 1,000
copies, that 150 sell in the first six months, and that
a year later the 200 mark has not been passed. The
326 Authors and I
publisher, if he be hard-hearted and business-like,
will "remainder" the 800 remaining copies to an
agent for a few pennies a copy. The agent will
ship them to Australia, to South Africa, to the
Treaty ports, to Brooklyn, to New Jersey, to any
place that is eager for wholesome literature at an
absurd price. There they are tumbled into bar
gain boxes. It is a fine way for an author to become
known throughout the English-speaking world: it
may bring tardy fame, but it is not a good way of
earning a living. Not long ago I bought a copy
of My First Book from a ten-cent box in lower
New York. It was promptly borrowed by a rich
friend. And about the same time a stranger wrote
to me from New Zealand (evidently he had been
browsing in the "tuppenny box") asking if I really
meant what I said on page something or other.
He forgot to inclose the postage for a reply. "Re
mainder" authors have their troubles, but they do
not have to worry over income tax forms.
When I dream about My First Book, and realise
that even now it is still being read somewhere in the
wide world (it has yet to descend into the five-cent
box), I do wish that I had made it better. But
could I ? I think not. I did it as well as ever
I could. It cannot have been shockingly bad because
in 1901 a German wrote to me from Bonn asking
if he might translate it into German, and desiring
the names of any other books I had written. The
Germans are a strange people. I did not correspond
with the Bonn enthusiast but his 1901 inquiry about
"any other books" prompts me to say to myself,
My First Book 327
here and now, from the wisdom altitude of the year
1920 "Why did you write this book this First
To all such questions Dr. Johnson has given the
model answer. "Sheer ignorance, madam," he
replied, when a lady asked him why, in his Diction
ary, he had ascribed the pastern to the wrong part
of the horse. "Why did I write and publish that
First Book? Sheer vanity, reader."
At the time I pretended that I was expressing my
self, and incidentally adding to the world s interest,
pleasure, and uplift. It was really business push.
I had chosen the career of writing, I had prepared
for it, I must deliver the goods, I must publish a
book. Everybody was doing it, that is, everybody
I admired. Kipling and Stevenson were startling
the town ; Barrie had worked his way to London
and was becoming a marked man ; H. G. Wells
was showing his mettle in "The Time Machine";
F. Anstey was selling by the thousand, Hugh Con-
way by the hundred thousand; editors were com
peting for "Anthony Hope," "John Oliver Hobbes,"
and W. W. Jacobs; and Hall Caine was dating his
letters from a castle in the Isle of Man.
My admirations, you perceive, were all in the imag
inative zone. I felt no call toward anything else,
and having informed my parents a few years before
that I was about to commence author, it never
occurred to me that my imagination could fail when
I bade it start imagining. It did not fail me. It
was willing to invent at breakneck speed. On the
quality of the invention I am mute.
328 Authors and I
So having determined to write a Romance, yes, a
Romance, I began to note down all the romantic
and adventurous things that had happened to me in
thought and in deed ; and as I tabulated scene after
scene, and episode after episode, a kind of story
gradually evolved; and labelled abstractions and
oddities, which I called characters, began to clamour
for names which I proceeded to pick from the Post
Now, of course, I see that my method was all wrong
from the very beginning. The characters should
come first, and their development should determine
events. This I could not do. I was not interested
in men and woman: I was interested in ideas, not,
alas, as they might affect the world, but as they did
affect me. This is a sad confession, but I was
rather young, and so self-confident that nothing
could deter me from trying to write just the kind
of Romance that I wanted to write.
What was it about? I will not trouble you with
the plot. I will only say that I had been reading
tvith absorbing interest Max Miiller s "Six Systems
of Indian Philosophy"; that I was interested in
astronomy and metallurgy; that I had actually
imagined some of the properties of radium before
that odd metal had been discovered ; that I had
dabbled in Cornish Methodism, in Stone Circles,
and in the effects of light at certain recorded
instants of the world s history. I was also ac
quainted with Wilkie Collins "Moonstone," and
was familiar with certain phases of journalistic life
in London. The hero of my Romance was a
My First Book 329
young newspaper man. He alone could weld the
disparate elements of the plot together. He did it
with charm, and with an ease that now amazes and
amuses me. I was careful to make him my opposite
in every particular: he may stand as an example of,
at that time, the kind of person I should like to
With incredible labour, writing and re-writing,
deleting and destroying, pruning, and adding, I
completed this farrago of romanticism in a year.
It began artfully, brusquely, thus "As a reporter
I was conscientious." I make one claim for the
story. There was not a superfluous word in it, and
when the editor of "The Yellow Book, published
a chapter, complete in itself, as a short story," I felt
that my face was set toward Olympus.
I have read somewhere that authors occasionally
have difficulty in finding a publisher for a first book.
I had none. Here is the unvarnished tale. I
belonged to a literary and arts club where publishers
and authors, painters and patrons, tried to treat
each other as human beings. One evening I enticed
a nice publisher into a corner, and gave him an
animated description of my Romance. He tried not
to be interested: in the small hours he succun^Bed,
and said, "Send it along. I ll see what I can do."
His reader reported favourably, and when we next
met he made a proposition, which I declined.
Just think of it. I declined an offer from an
eminent publisher to publish My First Book.
The reason was that, in the interim, something quite
extraordinary had happened. I had shown a dupli-
330 Authors and I
cate typewritten copy of the Romance to a friend,
W. Earl Hodgson, who was also a publishers
reader. He took it home with him, and the very
next morning sent me, by special messenger, a
letter which made me feel that I was actually on
the slopes of Olympus. He was enthusiastic about
"The Enchanted Stone"; he was proud to have
"discovered" me, and he begged me to call, that
very afternoon, upon Messrs. A. and C. Black, the
famous publishers. "I read for them," he added,
"and they are grateful to me for introducing you to
Messrs. A. and C. Black could not have treated
the author of "Waverley" more pleasantly. They
offered me quite a handsome sum on account of
royalties, and sent the manuscript to be printed at
once. For four or five years the notion that I was
a catch lingered with that admirable firm. When
ever I called with the MSS. of a new book under
my arm the senior Partner smiled a welcome, and
the junior Partner sent immediately for the binder
so that I might choose the cover decorations.
My First Book was beautifully reviewed. Two
morning paper gave it "Published today" column
notices; three weekly papers were more than kind;
and the provincial press were most gratifying. One
journal said that Stevenson would have to look to
his laurels, another remarked that I should "go
But the hard world did not show the least desire
to read "The Enchanted Stone." It fell quite flat.
Nobody wanted it. Occasionally some nice man or
My First Book 331
woman would tell me at evening parties how much
they had enjoyed reading it, but when I addressed
questions to them I found that they had not pe
rused it carefully. For two years Messrs. A. and C.
Black sent me regularly a carefully audited state
ment of copies "sold," and copies "on hand." In
time they tired of doing that. The figures in the
"copies on hand" and "copies sold" columns never
Then came the Remainder Man. I shall never
write another Romance.
But it is pleasant to think that, perhaps, at this very
moment, in some remote district of the world, the
horny hand of toil is picking it out of the Penny
Box, and saying, "Ullol This looks a bit of
60. MY LATEST BOOK: THIS ONE
THERE are authors who write books because,
so they say, they must write or perish. I am
not of that kind. Before I was fifty years of age
writing \vas a task. There w r ere so many more
enjoyable ways of living than sitting at a desk.
Talking, as a means of self-expression, was easier
and pleasanter. Before fifty the only kind of writ
ing I enjoyed doing was the little "Things Seen"
which I turned out with ease, and which, I suspect,
was the complete expression of what talent I pos
sessed. Some other authors are like this, but all
do not confess to it. Most writers, like myself,
are born into the world equipped with a nice little
pot of fresh butter. We use it up lavishly in the
hot years of youth ; but there is always a little left,
and we spend the remainder of our lives spreading
the butter thinner and thinner.
After I had passed the adorable age of fifty I made
the discovery that I was beginning to enjoy writing.
It became less of a task. I had discovered the
proper pen, the proper kind of paper, and the
proper way of sitting at a table, sideways, with
the right arm resting on a big, blue blotting pad
(blue is the proper colour), and the light falling
over the left shoulder, so that one can look out of
the window at the birds, and the sky, between the
My Latest Book: This One 333
paragraphs. Also after fifty, I began to be more
interested in shaping an article, and in saying things,
not because they were the things I ought to say,
but because they were the things I wanted to say
at the moment. They might be foolish, they might
be wise, but they were mine. In a word I lost the
menace of fear. I began to enjoy being obliged to
finish a literary job by a certain date; and I dis
covered that whereas before fifty my articles or
essays were always short, just long enough to con
vince an editor that I was treating him squarely,
after fifty I fell into the way of writing more than
was needed. Perhaps my thoughts came quicker;
perhaps I was less tempted to be out and about in
the adventurous world, more inclined to sit at a
desk: perhaps I began to realise that spiritual adven
tures are quite as enjoyable as material ones.
Neither before fifty nor since have I wanted to
startle or astound the world with a momentous
book. That is not in my line. But since fifty I
have entirely enjoyed doing my bit in a modest cor
ner of the writing world, and have been vastly
amused, as I have already said, to find that I was
acquiring the habit of exceeding my space. This
vice, or this virtue, whichever you like to call
it, was the cause of the present book "Authors
It happened in this way.
In the early spring of 1917 Mr. John Lane asked
me to write a brief introduction to a new illus
trated edition of "Christ in Hades" by Stephen
Phillips, the reason of the offer being that in 1898,
334 Authors and I
when I was Editor of the Academy, we had
"crowned" his "Poems" containing "Christ in
Hades" and awarded Stephen Phillips one hundred
guineas. So I was supposed to know something
That was a pleasant literary enterprise, and I set
about it eagerly. Soon I found that my post-fifty
habit of writing more than I need had become
chronic and vehement, and that the brief Introduc
tion was shaping into the skeleton of a literary
history of the nineties so far as that history con
cerned myself. I am no British Museum student:
nothing has happened unless it has happened to
When I found that my brief Introduction was
getting out of hand I explained the situation to
Mr. John Lane. He replied: "Go ahead!" I
went ahead, with the result that, when the book
was published, amused flaneurs remarked that the
Introduction was sixty pages and the Poem twenty-
Any School of Jourualism would tell a pupil that
to write sixty pages when ten only are required is
bad business. So it is. But sometimes generosity
has a way of winning hands down over business
principles. Here follows an example.
When I came to America in 1917, Mr. Frederick
Dixon, Editor of the Christian Science Moni
tor spoke to me appreciatively of that Introduc
tion. Indeed, he said that he had enjoyed it im
mensely, and that, like Oliver, he wanted more.
Being an Editor he could command more. We
My Latest Book: This One 335
talked, and there and then it was arranged that I
should contribute to the Christian Science Moni
tor a weekly article under the heading "A Book
man s Memories." The series began with general
recollections of the writers who flourished in the
nineties (many are still flourishing), but soon the
articles fell to considering particular authors: hence
the title now chosen "Authors and I," which hap
pens to be the best descriptive title I can invent, as
"Art and I" was the obvious title of another book
xvhich has evolved from the columns of the Chris
tian Science Monitor, and the sympathy of its
Editor. The I, if it looks like an attitude, is also
apt. The two books are, for better or worse, just
my reactions to certain authors, and to certain
phases of art.
I do not suppose that "Authors and I" could have
been written week by week, without missing one
Tuesday from March 12, 1919, to the present
moment, had it not been for the admirable Public
Library system of America. Three thousand miles
away from my own books, I found, first at West-
port, Connecticut, and then at the 58th Street
Branch of the New York Public Library, that when
I needed books I had only to explain my wants to
the young lady in charge to have all the works of
the author, chosen for the week, placed at my dis
posal. Sometimes in 58th Street it must have
looked as if I was about to open a second hand book
shop. How delightful it was, by my own radiator,
to linger evening after evening over an author, and
to be at him again long before the morning paper
336 duthors and I
arrived. This was my harvest. I gathered it in
joyfully, without labour, for the seeds had been
sown in the seven arduous years during which it
was my privilege to be Editor of the Academy.
So this book came into being: so the various writers
with whom I lived, in spirit, week by week, com
posed themselves into this, my latest book
"Authors and I."
Those chosen are my own choice, and the musings
are merely mine. It was Dryden who said "An
author has the choice of his own thoughts."
NEW YORK, AUTUMN, 1920.
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