(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Contemporary portraits. Second series"

^ LIBRARY^ 

UNIVERSITY OF 

CALIFORNIA 

IRVINE 

^ J 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2007 with funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



http://www.archive.org/details/contemporaryportOOharriala 



CONTEMPORARY PORTRAITS 

Second Series 



Copyright in the United States, 1919, by 
FRANK HARRIS 



CONTEMPORARY 
PORTRAITS 



Second Series 



By 

FRANK HARRIS 



« 



Published by the Author 
57 Fifth Avenue, New York 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

George Bernard Shaw , 1 

Rudyard Kipling 45 

Ernest Dowson 64 

Theodore Dreiser 81 

George Moore 107 

Lord Dunsany and Sidney Sinie 141 

James Thomson 158 

Lionel Johnson and Hubert Crackanthorpe 179 

Pierre Loti 192 

Walter Pater 203 

Herbert Spencer 227 

The Right Hon. Arthur J. Balfour 245 

The Right Hon. David Lloyd George. ... 261 

Viscount Grey 282 

Georges Clemenceau 297 

Shaw's Portrait by Shaw, or 

How Frank Ought to Have Done It 312 




FOREWORD TO THE SECOND 



SERIES OF PORTRAITS 

ITERATURE learns so unwillingly 
from life that it is not surprising that 
it should learn so reluctantly from 
the methods of science and yet it 
might learn a good deal. For exam- 
ple, a biologist finds a new sort of bird, let us 
say, and sits down to describe it. 

He is far more than impartial; he knows that 
his description must be so perfectly accurate that 
another biologist ten thousand miles away should 
be able to classify the bird from it as well as if 
he had the bird before him. 

How many literary critics are there who reach 
such high detachment and show such scrupulous 
care? 

The biologist knows, too, that length of 
feather or peculiarity of coloring is not so im- 
portant as structural differences in the skeleton, 
or such organic modifications as will affect the 
creature's chances of surviving and propagating 

V 



vi FOREWORD 

his kind. Accordingly he is on the lookout for 
peculiarities in proportion to their vital impor- 
tance to the race or species. 

But what literary critic uses such an enduring 
standard of values? 

And when the man of science approaches the 
chief part of his task he is even more careful : 
he must classify the specimen, decide what spe- 
cies it belongs to, and whether it is more nearly 
akin to this family or to that. A mistake here 
would expose him to the derision of every biolo- 
gist in the world, whereas if he performs his 
work beyond possibility of fault-finding he will 
only have done what is expected of every compe- 
tent craftsman. 

When will literary criticism even seek to 
attain such excellence? 

You have a Sainte Beuve comparing Flaubert 
with Madame Sand and Eugene Sue, regretting 
that the author of "Salambo" does not write so 
well as the author of "Mauprat," and that the 
creator of "Madame Bovary" has not such fer- 
tility of imagination as the author of "The 
Wandering Jew" ! 

Or your Sainte Beuve will tell you that Bal- 
zac's fame will be drowned in the sea of his 
impurities, that the most extraordinary specimen 



FOREWORD vii 

of man it was ever the good fortune of a French- 
man to meet was so little out of the common 
that he was fated soon to be forgotten. 

In much the same way your Matthew Arnold 
will call Byron a great poet and put him far 
above Heine and will condemn Keats for writ- 
ing sensual letters to his love and for consequent 
"ill-breeding," apparently without even a suspi- 
cion that Keats is a greater poet than Milton and 
Heine incomparably the first of all the moderns. 
Yet Arnold as a poet should have known that 
the "Hyperion" is dowered with a richness of 
rhythm and a magnificence of music to which 
Paradise Lost can lay no claim; while Heine's 
position is beyond dispute. 

But for brainless prejudice and shameful 
blundering that would ruin the reputation of 
any first year's student in biology, these so-called 
masters of literary criticism are not even blamed. 
And accordingly we find a Meredith at seventy 
declaring that his works have never been criti- 
cised, that no one in England has even tried to 
describe his productions fairly, much less 
classify him correctly. 

While attempting to rival scientific exactitude 
and detached impartiality the literary critic has 



viii FOREWORD 

still a further height to climb. His description 
may be exact, his classification fairly correct, 
yet we shall not be satisfied unless he reveals to 
us the ever-changing soul of his subject and its 
possibilities of growth. In this way art asserts 
its superiority to science. 

When this ultimate domain is reached a new 
question imposes itself. The portrait painter is 
always drawn by two divergent forces; he must 
catch the likeness of his sitter and yet make his 
portrait a work of art. 

This world-old dispute in portraiture between 
realism and art was settled for the artist by 
Michelangelo. Some one who watched him 
working on his great statue of Lorenzo dei 
Medici kept on objecting that it was not like 
Lorenzo, that he had known that great man for 
years, and that he would not have recognized 
him from the sculptor's presentment. 

At length Michelangelo turned on his buzzing 
critic: "Who will care whether it's like him or 
not a thousand years hence?" 

In other words, the obligation on the artist is 
to "produce a great work of art," and there is 
no other. 

At the same time, the great portaits of the 
world such as the picture of Charles V. on horse- 



FOREWORD ix 

back by Titian and the Meniilas of Velasquez 
and the Syndics of Rembrandt manage to recon- 
cile to some extent both requirements. 

Likeness is caught most easily by exaggeration 
of characteristic features; but such exaggeration 
is apt to offend the modesty of truth and fall into 
caricature; whereas the work of art is always 
founded on truth as a beautiful figure demands a 
perfect skeleton, and any heightening even of the 
truth must have beauty or some strange and pro- 
found significance as justification. How far 
then is exaggeration or modification of the fact 
allowed? I solved the riddle rather loosely in 
my own way. When my subject is really a great 
man, a choice and master-spirit, I try to depict 
him in his habit as he lived with absolute fidelity 
to fact. In the case of Carlyle and Browning, 
Meredith, Burton and Davidson in my first vol- 
ume of portraits, just as in the case of Shaw and 
Thomson and Walt Whitman in this volume, I 
have taken no liberties wittingly with the fact; 
the real is good enough for me when it is halo- 
crowned ; but when I am dealing with smaller 
men whose growth has been dwarfed or warped 
or thwarted I permit myself a certain latitude of 
interpretation, or even of artistic presentment. 
Browning's Rabbi was right: 



FOREWORD 

"All I could never be, 
All men ignored in me, 
This was I worth to God whose wheel the pitcher shaped." 

The artist must divine the secret nature and 
even the unconscious potentialities of his subject 
and bring them to expression or his work will 
not endure, and it is love alone that divines, love 
alone to which all possibilities are actualities 
and faults and vices merely shadows which out- 
line and lift into relief the noble qualities. 

It is By love that the artist reaches higher than 
the impartiality of the man of science and discov- 
ers the secrets of the spirit; love is the only key 
to personality and is as necessary to the artist as 
his breath. It is indeed the breath of the soul, 
the emanation which clothes Truth with the 
magical vestment of Beauty. 



•** 




George Bernard Shaw 




CONTEMPORARY PORTRAITS 

George Bernard Shaw 

ON QUIXOTE lived in an imag- 
inary past; he cherished the beliefs 
and tried to realize the ideal, of an 
earlier age. Our modern Don 
Quixotes all live in the future and 
hug a belief of their own making, an ideal cor- 
responding to their own personality. 

Both the lovers of the past and the future, 
however, start by despising the present; they are 
profoundly dissatisfied with what is and in love 
with what has been or may be. The main 
difference between the rueful Knight and Ba- 
zarof is that the Don turns his back on the actual 
whereas the modern thinker seeks to end or 
mend existing conditions, and thus found a new 
civilization, the Kingdom of Man upon Earth. 
Bernard Shaw is the best specimen of Bazarof 
that our time has seen; he is at once a greater 
force and more effective than his Russian pro- 
totype, for he attacks the faults of the established 

1 



order with humor, a weapon of divine temper 
and almost irresistibly effective. 

But Shaw is more than an iconoclast. 
His work as a dramatist is at least as im- 
•rtant as his critical energy. In this respect I 
vs think of him as a British Moliere gifted 
fine a wit as the great Frenchman and 
s wide a reach of thought. It is as a 
oliere, and even something higher, 
to present him. More than once 
ed true prophet and guide and 
selfish policies and hypocrisies 
high disregard of personal 
he has not been imprisoned 
ecuted is due to the fact 
in many things and that 
a from being taken too 
s to be taken seriously, 
igh appreciation of 
my readers to re- 
ion of him. 
n I bought The 
get the ablest 
leir opinions 

d heard of 

1 because 

e given 

"V had 

nard 



Shaw profited by the coincidence. He made 
himself known as a journalist by his papers on 
music in The Star, a cheap Radical evening 
paper, and preached socialism to boot wherever 
he could get a hearing. 

In 1892 he began writing for The World, 
a paper of some importance so long as its founder 
and editor, Edmund Yates, was alive. But 
Yates died six months or so before I bought The 
Saturday Review, and I knew that Shaw would 
resent the change. The idea of connecting 
Shaw the Socialist orator with the high Tory 
Saturday Review pleased me; the very incon- 
gruity tempted and his ability was beyond 
question. Now and again 1 had read his weekly 
articles on music and while admiring the keen 
insight of them and the satiric light he threw 
on pompous pretences and unrealities, I noticed 
that he had begun to repeat himself, as if he 
had said all he had to say on that theme. 

What should I ask him to write about? 
What was his true vein? He had as much 
humor as Wilde — the name at once crystalized 
my feeling — that was what Shaw should do, I 
said to myself, write on the theatre; in essence 
his talent, like Wilde's, was theatrical, almost to 
caricature, certain, therefore, to carry across the 
footlights and have an immediate eflfect. 

I wrote to him at once, telling him my opinion 
of his true talent and asking him to write a 

3 



weekly article for The Saturday Review. 

He answered immediately ; a letter somewhat 
after this fashion ; 

"How the Dickens you knew that my thoughts 
had been turning to the theater of late and that 
Fd willingly occupy myself with it exclusively 
for some time to come, I can't imagine. But 
you've hit the clout, as the Elizabethans used to 
say, and, if you can afford to pay me regularly, 
I'm your man so long as the job suits me and 
I suit the job. What can you afford to give?" 

My answer was equally prompt and to the 
point: 

"I can afford to give you so much a week, 
more, I believe, than you are now getting. If 
that appeals to you, start in at once; bring mc 
your first article by next Wednesday and we'll 
have a final pow-wow." 

On the Wednesday Shaw turned up with the 
article, and I had a good look at him and a long 
talk with him. Shaw at this time was nearing 
forty; very tall, over six feet in height and thin 
to angularity; a long bony face, corresponding, 
I thought, to a tendency to get to bedrock every- 
where; rufous fair hair and long, untrimmed 
reddish beard; gray-blue English eyes with 
straight eyebrows tending a little upwards from 
the nose and thus adding a touch of Mephisto- 
phelian sarcasm to the alert, keen expression. 
He was dressed carelessly in tweeds with a 

4 



Jaeger flannel shirt and negligent tie; contempt 
of frills written all over him; his hands clean 
and well-kept, but not manicured. His com- 
plexion, singularly fair even for a man with 
reddish hair, seemed too bloodless to me, re- 
minded me of his vegetarianism which had puz- 
zled me more than a little for some time. His 
entrance into the room, his abrupt movements — 
as jerky as the ever-changing mind — his perfect 
unconstraint — all showed an able man, very 
conscious of his ability, very direct, very sin- 
cere, sharply decisive. 

"I liked your letter," Shaw began, "as I told 
you; the price, too, suits me for the moment; 
but — you won't alter my articles, will you?" 

"Not a word," I said. "If I should want any- 
thing changed, which is most unlikely, I'd send 
you a proof and ask you to alter it; but that is 
not going to occur often. I like original opinions 
even though I don't agree with them." 

After some further talk, he said : 

"Very well then. If the money appears regu- 
larly you can count on me for a weekly outpour- 
ing. You don't limit me in any way?" 

"Not in any way," I answered. 

"Well, it seems to me that the new Saturday 
Review should make a stir." 

"After we're all dead, not much before, but 
that doesn't matter," I replied. "I've asked all 
the reviewers only to review those books they 

5 



admire and can praise: starfinders they should 
be, not fault-finders." 

"What'll the master of 'flouts and jeers' 
think?" asked Shaw. (Lord Salisbury, the 
bitter-tongued Prime Minister, had been a con- 
stant contributor to The Saturday Review 
twenty years before, and was understood still to 
take an interest in his old journal.) 

"I don't know and I don't care," I replied; 
and our talk came to an end. 

Shaw was a most admirable contributor, 
always punctual unless there was some good 
reason for being late; always scrupulous, cor- 
recting his proofs heavily, with rare conscien- 
tiousness, and always doing his very best. 

I soon realized that the drama of the day had 
never been so pungently criticized; I began to 
compare Shaw's articles with the Dramaturgie 
of Lessing, and it was Shaw who gained by the 
comparison. 

His critical writing was exactly like his speak- 
ing and indeed like his creative dramatic work; 
very simple, direct and lucid, clarity and sin- 
cerity his characteristics. No pose, no trace of 
affectation ; a man of one piece, out to convince 
not to persuade; a bare logical argument lit up 
by gleams of sardonic humor; humor of the head 
as a rule and not of the heart. His writing 
seemed artless, but there is a good deal of art 
in his plays and art too, can be discovered both 

6 



in his speaking and in his critical work, but 
whether there is enough art to serve as a pro- 
phylactic against time, remains to be seen. 

His seriousness, sincerity and brains soon 
brought the actor-managers out in arms against 
him. Naturally they did not condemn his writ- 
ing, but his dress and behaviour. Two or three 
of them told me at various times that Shaw was 
impossible. 

**He often comes to the theatre in ordinary 
dress," said one, ''and looks awful." 

**You ought to thank your stars that he goes 
to your theatre at all," I replied. "I certainly 
shall not instruct him how to clothe himself." 

"What I object to," said another, "is that he 
laughs in the wrong place. It is dreadful when 
a favorite actor is saying something very pathetic 
or sentimental to see a great figure in gray 
stretch himself out in the front stalls and roar 
with laughter." 

"I know," I replied grinning, "and the worst 
of it is that all the world laughs with Shaw 
when he shows it the unconscious humor of your 
performance." 

An amusing incident closed this controversy. 
One night a manager told Shaw he could not 
go into the stalls in that dress. Shaw imme- 
diately began to take off his coat. 

"No, no," cried the actor-manager; "I mean 
you must dress like other people." 

7 



Shaw glanced at the rows of half-dressed 
women: "I'm not going to take off my shirt," 
he exclaimed, "in order to be like your clients," 
and forthwith left the house. 

The dispute had one good result. Shaw 
asked me to buy his tickets. "I hate the whole 
practice of complimentary tickets," he said. "It 
is intended to bind one to praise and I resent the 
implied obligation." 

Of course, I did as he wished and there the 
trouble ended. 

At rare intervals I had to tell Shaw his article 
was too long and beg him to shorten it. For 
months together I had nothing to do except con- 
gratulate myself on having got him as a con- 
tributor; though at first he was strenuously 
objected to by many of my readers who wrote 
begging me to cancel their subscriptions or at 
least to cease from befouling their houses with 
"Shaw's socialistic rant and theatric twaddle." 

An incident or two in the four years' com- 
panionship may be cited, for they show, I think, 
the real Shaw. William Morris, the poet and 
decorator-craftsman, died suddenly. Shaw 
called just to tell me he'd like to write a special 
article on Morris, as a socialist and prose-writer 
and speaker. I said I'd be delighted, tor Arthur 
Symons was going to write on his poetry and 
Cunninghame Graham on his funeral. I hoped 
to have three good articles. When they arrived. 

8 



I found that Symons was very good indeed and 
so was Shaw; but Cunninghame Graham had 
written a little masterpiece, a gem of restrained 
yet passionate feeling: absolute realistic descrip- 
tion lifted to poetry by profound emotion. 

Shaw came blown in on the Monday full of 
unaffected admiration. 

"What a story that was of Graham's I" he 
cried, "a great writer, isn't he?" 

I nodded: "An amateur of genius: it's a pity 
he hasn't to earn his living by his pen." 

"A good thing for us," cried Shaw, "he'd wipe 
the floor with us all if he often wrote like that." 

I only relate the happening to show Shaw's 
unaffected sincerity and outspoken admiration of 
good work in another man. 

I came to regard him as a realist by nature, 
who, living in the modern realistic current, was 
resolved to be taken simply for what he was and 
what he could do, and equally resolved to judge 
all other men and women by the same relentless 
positive standard. This love of truth for its 
own sake, truth beyond vanity or self-praise, is 
a product of the modern scientific spirit and 
appears to me to embody one of the loftiest ideals 
yet recorded among men. 

It marks, indeed, the coming of age of the 
race and is a sign that we have done with child- 
ish make-believes. From this time on we shall 
turn our daily job into the great adventure and 

9 



make of its perfecting our life's romance. 
Shaw's realism, his insistence on recognizing 
only real values was so intense that it called 
forth one of Oscar Wilde's finest epigrams : 

"Shaw," he said, ''hasn't an enemy in the 
world and none of his friends like him." 

One can hardly help asking: how did Shaw 
grow to this height so early? 

It was always evident to me that by some 
happy fortune Shaw had escaped the English 
public school and its maiming deforming influ- 
ence. His view of life and men and women was 
too true, too unconventional, too bold, ever to 
have come into contact even with the poisonous 
atmosphere of Eton or Harrow or the like. 
Where had he been educated? was a question 
always on the tip of my tongue. 

"I am an educated man," he replied, "because 
I escaped from school at fourteen, and before 
that was only a day-boy who never wasted the 
free half of my life in learning lessons or read- 
ing schoolbooks." 

A little later he wrote to me with the same 
understanding: 

"I come of a Protestant family ot true-blue 
garrison snobs, but before I was ten years of age 
I got into an atmosphere of freedom of thought, 
of anarchic revolt against conventional assump- 
tions of all kinds, utterly incompatible with the 
generalized concept of an Irish Protestant 

10 



family. I was forbidden nothing and spared 
nothing. My maternal uncle, clever and literate, 
was an abyss of blasphemy and obscenity. 

"My mother, brought up with merciless strict- 
ness by a rich hunchbacked aunt to be a perfect 
lady, and disinherited furiously by her for being 
(consequently) ignorant enough of the world to 
marry my father, had such a horror of her own 
training that she left her children without any 
training at all. 

"My humorous father, a sort of mute inglori- 
ous Charles Lamb, who disgusted my mother by 
his joyless furtive drinking and his poverty and 
general failure, could no more control me than 
he could avoid being thrust into the background 
by an energetic man of genius (an orchestral 
conductor and teacher of singing) into whose 
public work my mother threw herself when he 
taught her to sing, and who made life possible 
for her by coming to live with us. This man's 
hand was against every man, and every man's 
hand against him. He had his own method 
of singing and everyone else's was murder- 
ously wrong. He would not hear of doctors; 
when my mother had a dangerous illness he 
took the case in hand, and when he at last 
allowed my father to call in an eminent 
physician, the e. p. looked at my mother 
and said: 'My work has already been done.' 
He was equally contemptuous of the church, 

11 



though he could conduct Beethoven's Mass in C. 
better than his pious rivals. He had no time to 
read anything, and took Tyndall on Sound to 
bed with him every night for years (he slept 
badly) without ever getting to the end of it. 
There was no sex in the atmosphere ; it was never 
discussed or even thought about as far as I could 
see; you had only to hear my mother sing 
Mendelsohn's "Hear My Prayer," or even listen 
to one note of her voice to understand that she 
might have been the centre of a menage a mille 
et trois without an atom of scandal sticking to 
her no matter how hard it was thrown. You 
will see that my circumstances were quite un- 
usual and that nobody could possibly deduce 
them from general data." 

This bringing up under a man of genius ex- 
plains Shaw's unhindered, natural growth and 
he went on to indicate how his musical training 
in youth helped his development: 

"The great difficulty of dealing with my 
education lies in the fact that my culture was 
so largely musical. It will be admitted that no 
one without as much familiarity with the mas- 
terpieces of music as with those of literature 
could write adequately about Wagner. But the 
same thing is true of me. You cannot account 
for me by saying that I was steeped in Dickens, 
or even later in Moliere. I was steeped in 
Mozart, too; it was from him that I learned 

12 



how art work could reach the highest degree of 
strength, refinement, beauty and seriousness 
without being heavy and portentous. Shelley 
made a great impression on me; I read him 
from beginning to end, prose and verse, and 
held him quite sacred in my adolescence. But 
Beethoven and early Wagner were at work 
alongside him. 

"Then there was science in which I have never 
lost my interest. I even claim to have made 
certain little contributions to the theory of Crea- 
tive Evolution (which is my creed: you can 
compare the third Act of Man and Superman 
with Bergson's treatise). 

"Socialism sent me to economics, which I 
worked at for four years until I mastered it 
completely, only to find, of course, that none of 
the other socialists had taken that trouble. I 
do not read any foreign language easily without 
the dictionary except French. I have a sort of 
acquaintance with Italian, mostly operatic; and 
you could not put a German document into my 
hands without some risk of my being able to 
understand it; but what you call knowing a lan- 
guage; that is, something more than being able 
to ask the way to the Bahnhof or the Duomo, 
puts me out of court as a linguist. As to Latin 
on which all my schooling was supposed to be 
spent, I cannot read an epitaph or a tag from 
Horace without stumbling. Naturally I make 

13 



use of translations and musical settings. I know 
Faust and the Niblung's Ring as well as the 
Germans know Shakespeare. I am very un- 
teachable and could not pass the fourth standard 
examination in an elementary school — not that 
anybody else could; but still you know what I 
mean." 

Shaw's explanation is fairly complete; only 
a man of genius could see himself from the out- 
side with this impartiality. Yet he leaves out of 
the account the influence exercised on him, per- 
haps unconsciously, by the Irish atmosphere so 
to speak, during his formative years. The ordi- 
nary Celtic view of England constitutes no 
small part of Shaw's originality; for the habit 
of judging another people from the outside, so 
to speak, while living amongst them, is a spirit- 
ual gymnastic, a mental training of the highest 
value. 

Shaw himself has told how he became inter- 
ested in Shakespeare through meeting Thomas 
Tyler and hearing his explanation of the story 
told in the Sonnets, and this study, no doubt, 
helped him in his evolution from Bazarof to 
Moliere and incidentally led to my first differ- 
ence with him. I must touch on this now for 
nowhere, save perhaps in love, and but little is 
known even by his intimates of Shaw's amorous 
experiences, does a man reveal his true nature 
more ingeniously than in a quarrel or dispute. 

14 



One day in The Saturday Review office I got 
a letter from a friend of very considerable abil- 
ity, begging me not to let Shaw go on "writing 
drivel about Shakespeare; on his own job he's 
good, but why let him talk rot?" I had noticed 
Shaw's divagations; but he used Shakespeare 
like the British use the ten commandments as a 
shillelagh, and as Shaw took the great drama- 
tist generally to point unconventional morals, I 
didn't wish to restrain him. But one day his 
weekly paper was chiefly about Shakespeare, 
and he fell into two or three of the gross common 
blunders on the subject : notably, in one passage, 
he assumed that Shakespeare had been a good 
husband — the usual English misconception. 

I wrote to him at once: 

''You are writing so brilliantly on the weekly 
theater-happenings, why on earth drag in Shake- 
speare always like King Charles's head, as you 
know nothing about him." I got an answer by 
return: 

"What in thunder do you mean by saying I 
know nothing of Shakespeare? I know more 
about the immortal Will than any living man," 
and so forth and so on. 

T replied: 

"Come to lunch one day at the Cafe Royal 
and I'll give you the weeds and the water your 
soul desires and prove into the bargain that you 
know nothing whatever about Shakespeare." 

15 



When we had ordered our lunch Shaw began : 

"Who's going to be the judge between us, 
Frank Harris, on this Shakespeare matter?" 

"You, Shaw, only you," I replied, "I am to 
convince you of your complete and incredible 
ignorance." 

He snorted: "Then you have your work cut 
out; we can't sleep here, can we?" 

"The time it will take," I retorted, "depends 
on your intelligence — that's what I'm reckoning 



on." 



"Humph!" he grunted disdainfully. We had 
our meal and then went at it hammer and tongs. 

"You believe," I began, "that because Shake- 
speare left Stratford after being married a 
couple of years and did not return for eleven 
years, he loved his wife?" 

"No, no," replied Shaw, "I said in my article 
that in his will he left his wife 'the second-best 
bed' as a pledge of his affection. I remember 
reading once something that convinced me of 
this ; I don't recall the argument now ; but at the 
time it convinced me and I can look it up for 
you if you like." 

"You needn't," I replied, "I'll give it you; 
it's probably the old professorial explanation: 
the best bed in those days was in the guest room; 
therefore the second-best bed was the one Shake- 
speare slept in with his wife." 

16 



"That's it," cried Shaw, "that's it, and it is 
convincing. How do you meet it?" 

"Aren't you ashamed of yourself?" I replied. 
"Here's Shakespeare, the most articulate crea- 
ture that ever lived, the greatest lord of language 
in recorded time, unable in his will to express 
a passionate emotion so as to be understood. 
Why, had he even written 'our bed, dear,' as the 
common grocer would have done, we'd all have 
known what he meant. Shakespeare could never 
write 'the second-best bed' without realizing the 
sneer in the words and intending us to realize it 
as well. Besides " 

"Good God," interrupted Shaw, throwing up 
his hand to his forehead impatiently, "of course 
not; how stupid of me! Confound the mandar- 
ins and their idiot explanations!" — and after a 
pause: "I'll give you the second-best bed; I'm 
prepared to believe that Shakespeare did not 
love his wife. Go ahead with your other proofs 
of my ignorance." 

At five that afternoon we left the table, Shaw 
declaring he would never write again about 
Shakespeare if I'd write about him. 

On that, I began my articles on Shakespeare, 
which afterwards grew into books; but Shaw 
has not kept his vow. He has written again and 
again on the subject and always with a bias, 
being more minded to realize Shaw than Shake- 
speare. But ever since that talk he has shown 
cordial appreciation of my work on the subjtct. 

17 



By dwelling on this Shakespeare difiference I 
merely wish to show that Shaw, like most very 
able men, was loath to admit that after he had 
studied a subject he had by no means exhausted 
it. (Some people seem to think that by telling 
this story I am trying to show my superiority 
over Shaw. The idea is absurd. Mere knowl- 
edge gives no superiority. Shaw would have had 
me at an even greater disadvantage if the sub- 
ject had been Beethoven or Debussy) . 

His stubbornness in this matter showed mc 
a side of Shaw I had not noticed; it seemed to 
me very English, I don't know why; but from 
this time on I became conscious that Shaw was 
characteristically English. He was reluctant to 
admit Shakespeare's gentleness and his aban- 
donment to passion ; the fact that the loss of the 
woman he loved embittered him and turned him 
from a writer of comedies and histories into a 
writer of tragedies, degraded him in Shaw's 
opinion and thus made me conscious of a British 
hardness in Shaw which came, I thought, from 
want of passion, from lack of feeling. Shaw 
was, too, always impatient of weakness and of 
parasites — anything but a lover of the under- 
dog. I grew to think of him as a little obstinate, 
English in mind and not Celtic at all. He did 
not change his intellectual beliefs as readily as 
the Irish do, and he did not really admire the 
18 



Irish ideal of life: its amiability and happy-go- 
lucky-ness did not attract him. 

He underrated the enduring fascination of this 
reckless wastrel type. Yet in one generation the 
dour Cromwellian veterans planted in Ireland 
all yielded to the charm of the Irish nature and 
became as the saying went, more Irish than the 
Irish themselves. Even if one prefers the Eng- 
lish rose to any other flower, still one may admire 
the bravery of daffodils dancing naked in the 
wind, or the magic of bluebells blushing in the 
copses. There is room surely in God's garden 
for every variety of flower. 

In the Boer war to the amazement of most of 
his admirers Shaw declared himself on the side 
of the British, and though he explained his 
position with perfect sincerity, he only con- 
vinced us that Briton-like he mistook English 
imperialism for the cause of humanity. Here 
is his defence : to some it may appear satisfying. 

"In the South African business I was not a 
pro-Boer," he writes. "I never got over Olive 
Schreiner's 'Story of an African Farm.' Some 
few years before the war Cronwright Schreiner 
came to London. I asked him why he and 
Joubert and the rest put up with Kruger and his 
obsolete theocracy. He said they knew all about 
it and deplored it, but that the old man would 
die presently and then Krugerism would be 
quietly dropped and a liberal regime introduced. 
I suggested that it might be dangerous to wait ; 

19 



but it was evident that Com Paul was too strong 
for them. During the war a curious thing hap- 
pened in Norway. There as in Germany every- 
one took it for granted that the right side was 
the anti-English side. Suddenly Ibsen asked in 
his grim manner: 'Are we really on the side of 
Mr. Kruger and his Old Testament?' The 
effect was electrical. Norway shut up. I felt 
like Ibsen. 

"I was, of course, not in the least taken in by 
the Times campaign, though I defended the 
Times against the accusation of bribery on the 
ground that it was not necessary to pay the Times 
to do what it was only too ready to do for noth- 
ing. But I saw that Kruger meant the XVII 
Century and the Scottish XVII. at that; and so 
to my great embarrassment, I found myself on 
the side of the mob when you and Chesterton 
and John Burns and Lloyd George were facing 
the music. It is astonishing what bad company 
advanced views may get one into." 

That Shaw could be persuaded by this remark 
of Ibsen strikes me as characteristic; the English 
view of things appeals to him all too readily. 

His championing of the English cause in the 
Boer war made him very popular with the vast 
majority of the nation. 

"A good deal of common sense in Shaw," was 
the general verdict, and accordingly when he 
spoke and wrote for the fellaheen in Egypt in 

20 



the Denshawi affair he was easily forgiven, for 
in time of need he had been on the popular, 
English side. 

Again and again I shall have to show that 
this Bazarof, like Moliere, is full of the milk 
of human kindness. 

Towards the end of my tenure of The Satur- 
day Review, Shaw was making a great deal of 
money by his plays, thanks mainly I believe to 
their extroardinary vogue in the United States. 

Casually he told me one day that every article 
he wrote for me cost him much more than he 
got for it. 

"I mean," he said, "the same time spent on a 
comedy would pay me ten times as much. I'm 
losing $500 a week at least through writing for 

you." 

"You must stop writing for me then," I said, 
ruefully. "But I'm about to sell the paper, and 
if you could have kept on for a couple of months, 
say till September (it was then July or August 
if I remember rightly), I'd be greatly obliged." 

"Say no more," he exclaimed. "I'll go on till 
your reign comes to an end." 

"It's very good of you," I replied; "but I 
hardly like to accept such a sacrifice from you." 

"I look upon it as only fair," he replied. 
"Your bringing me to The Saturday Review to 
write on the theatre did me a great deal of good 
in many ways. You not only made me better 

21 



known, but forced me to concentrate on the 
theatre and playwriting, and so helped me to 
success. It's only fair I should pay you back a 
part of what you helped me to earn." 

"If you look at it like that," I replied, "I have 
no objection. You are making a lot of money 
then by your plays?" 

"Not in England," he said, "but in America 
more than I can spend. My banker smiles now 
when he sees me, and is in a perpetual state of 
wonderment, for miracle on miracle, a writer is 
not only making money, but saving it." 

Some time before this Shaw had married and 
had taken to wife, as he said himself, a lady who 
was "more than self-supporting." Consequently 
he found himself in 1898 much better than well 
off, freed from all sordid care. The first part 
of his life, the struggle of it, came thus to an end. 

Shaw's apprenticeship as Goethe calls it, was 
now over and done with. He had reached the 
point where he began to produce as a master and 
show his true being. There will be nothing 
novel in his growth, nothing that should surprise 
us; he develops normally, naturally, and his 
life's history is to be found in his works. 

Without dissecting his plays — The Devil's 
Disciple, Caesar and Cleopatra, and best of all, 
I think, Candida, I have to notice a certain 
limitation in Shaw, peculiarly British, which 
discovered itself in Mrs. Warren's Profession. 

22 



There is no excuse for founding a play on this 
subject unless you are minded to amend or over- 
throw the conventional standpoint. If you only 
mean to affirm and defend it, why touch the 
fession get a hint of the truth, they don't even 
scabrous subject at all? The conventions of this 
world are surely strong enough without being 
buttressed by the Bernard Shaws. As soon as 
the hero and heroine of Mrs. Warren's Pro- 
fession get a hint of the truth, they don't even 
verify it, but both drop all thought of mar- 
riage and bow before the conventional ideal, 
whereas one expects the hero at least to struggle 
and revolt. But the conventional reading of the 
matter is peculiarly British, and Shaw's tame 
conformity here shows that his interest in sex- 
questions is very slight, to say the best for it. 

It is a peculiar dominance of mind over heart 
and over body, a rooted preference in Shaw for 
reflections and ideas with a contempt of sensa- 
tions and even emotions that gives the Mephisto- 
philian cast to his personality. His excessive 
preoccupation with the play of mind often hurts 
his dramatic writing. For instance, in The 
Devil's Disciple, after Arms and the Man prob- 
ably his most popular play, Dick Dudgeon 
and Parson Anderson and even General Bur- 
goyne are not differentiated in character; they 
are all Shaw. In the second act Parson Ander- 
son exclaims "Minister be faugh!" as if he were 
the Devil's Disciple, and Burgoyne sneers at the 

23 



marksmanship of the British army and talks 
about "our enemies in London — ^Jobbery and 
Snobbery, incompetence and Red Tape," exactly 
as Shaw talks, in and out of season. 

This onesidedness or predominance of intel- 
lect over heart and body, leads directly to the 
root-fact of Shaw's nature. 

Very early in our acquaintance I had been 
surprised by one thing in him. The hero of 
one of his first books had been a prizefighter; 
Shaw made him very strong whereas most prize- 
fighters are like Fitzsimmons, ape-armed, but 
not muscular. Shaw's extravagant ill-placed 
admiration of strength had stuck in my mind. I 
soon found out that he was never physically 
strong; he told me one day that his work 
often exhausted him so that he was fain to go 
into a dark room and lie flat on his back on the 
bare floor, every muscle relaxed, for hours, just 
to rest. The confession surprised me, for in the 
prime of life the ordinary man does not get tired 
out in this way. 

A certain weakness of body in Shaw was suf- 
ficient to explain his undue admiration of the 
prizefighter's strength and his own vegetarian- 
ism and other idiosyncracies. But if asked why 
he abjures meat Shaw retorts that flesh-eating is 
an unhealthy practice and that the strongest ani- 
mals such as the bull and the elephant are strict 
vegetarians; but that hardly satisfies one. The 

24 



truth, I think, is that the physical delicacy in 
Shaw detaches him from the common run of 
men whose appetites are gross and insistent. 
This comparative weakness of the body, too, 
allows his brain to act undisturbed and thus his 
appeal strikes one as peculiarly intellectual; as 
thin, so to speak, or at least thin-blooded. 

If one thinks of his Caesar and Cleopatra 
and Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, the 
enormous difference between the two men be- 
comes manifest. Shakespeare's play is extraor- 
dinarily full-blooded and passionate; he is over- 
sexed, one would say, and this full tide of lust 
in him shows not only in his hero's insane aban- 
donment to his passion, but also in the superb 
richness of language and glow of imagery. His 
intellect is implicit, showing mainly in side fig- 
ures such as Caesar and Enorbarbus and in regal 
magnificence of phrase: 

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale 
Her infinite variety; other women cloy 
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry 
Where most she satisfies; for vilest things 
Become themselves in her. 

Shaw's work in comparison is thin and blood- 
less ; intellectually very interesting, but the col- 
oring is subdued; it is all in cool grays and black 
shadows like a Whistler or Franz Hals in his 
old age. 

When I ventured to hint this somewhere, 
Shaw repelled the charge very vigorously. He 

25 



was astonished, he said, to find me falling into 
such an error, and he goes on : 

"Archer says 'Shaw's plays reek with sex' and 
he was right 

"I have shown by a whole series of stage 
couples how the modern man has become a phil- 
anderer like Goethe and how the modern woman 
has had to develop an aggressive strategy to 
counter his attempts to escape from his servitude 
to her 

"In the tiny one act farcial comedy I pub- 
lished the other day, I put the physical act of 
sexual intercourse on the stage. 

"Of course, I have to be like all live writers 
in constant reaction against the excesses of my 
time. . . . The infatuated amorism of the nine- 
teenth century made it necessary for me to say 
with emphasis that life and not love is the 
supreme good 

"To conclude with a curious observation, 
though poverty and fastidiousness prevented me 
from having a concrete love affair until I was 
twenty-nine, the five novels I wrote before that 
(novels were the only wear then) show much 
more knowledge of sex than most people seem 
to acquire after bringing up a family of fifteen." 

Shaw was "on his own" in London at twenty ; 
for nine years, then, he was an ascetic; would 
the ordinary man have been able to make the 
same boast after nine months or even weeks? I 

26 



am very sure Shakespeare could not. Shaw's 
defence seems to me to corroborate my view of 
his comparative indifference to sex. 

Naturally Shaw regards his aloofness from 
sex-intoxication as a positive virtue, and he 
argues the matter very ably in his preface to his 
"Plays for Puritans," in which he asserts that 
his picture of Caesar is better than Shakes- 
peare's. He says: 

"I have a technical objection to making sexual 
infatuation a tragic theme. Experience proves 
that it is only effective in the comic spirit. We 
can bear to see Mrs. Quickly pawning her plates 
for love of Falstaff, but not Antony running 
away from the battle of Actium for love of 
Cleopatra. Let realism have its demonstration, 
comedy its criticism, or even bawdry its horse- 
laugh at the expense of sexual infatuation, if it 
must; but to ask us to subject our souls to its 
ruinous glamor, to worship it, deify it, and imply 
that it alone makes our life worth living, is 
nothing but folly gone mad erotically — a thing 
compared to which Falstaff's unbeglamored 
drinking and drabbing is respectable and right- 
minded. Whoever, then, expects to find Cleo- 
patra a Circe and Caesar a hog in these pages, 
had better lay down my book and be spared a 
disappointment. 

"In Caesar, I have used another character 
with which Shakespeare has been beforehand. 

27 



But Shakespeare, who knew human weaknesses 
so well, never knew human strength of the 
Caesarian type." 

And he goes on : 

"Caesar was not in Shakespeare, nor in the 
epoch, now fast waning, which he inaugurated. 
It cost Shakespeare no pang to write Caesar 
down for the merely technical purpose of writ- 
ing Brutus up. And what a Brutus! A perfect 
Girondin." 

Much of this is excellent criticism, but it does 
not do justice to Shakespeare. Shaw's Caesar is 
Bernard Shaw and his contempt for Cleopatra's 
wiles is very amusing and his intellectual appre- 
ciation of his position and his duties is quite 
admirable, but I do not find in Shaw's Caesar 
either the ruthlessness of the Roman or the will 
power and dignity of the world conqueror. 
Plutarch's Caesar gives us a far better picture 
of the man. Who can ever forget young Caesar 
dominating the pirates and daring to tell the 
chief to his face that he would hang him after 
paying him his ransom. I find more of the real 
Caesar in Shakespeare than in Shaw. When 
Antony challenges Caesar to fight his answer is 
soul-revealing: 

"Let the old ruffian know 

I have many other ways to die; meantime 

Laugh at his challenge." 

The master of the world has nothing but dis- 
28 



dain for the "swordcr." And when his deserted 
sister weeps and he has to tell her that Antony 
has gone back to the serpent of old Nile, he 
adds : 

^'Cheer your heart 

But let determin'd things to destiny 
Hold unbewail'd their way." 

There is no line in all literature with so much 
of Rome's majestic domination in it. 

Greatness of insight and of soul is revealed 
again and again in Shakespeare's Caesar. 

I have always thought "Candida," Shaw's 
finest performance, his best play — the perfect 
flower of his art and being. The kindness in it, 
the broad humanity are the very perfume of 
Shaw's spirit. 

I have personal reasons to congratulate my- 
self on Shaw's kindness of heart, for when I left 
France and came to America and told here 
what Shaw and others have since proved to be 
the truth about the war and England's responsi- 
bility for it, I found that I was being treated in 
England as a sort of traitor because I preferred 
to be true to truth rather than to English inter- 
ests. The baser sort howled at me in every news- 
paper, and even men like Arnold Bennett, who 
had followed me with praise for years, were not 
ashamed now to hint at corruption in order to 
explain my incomprehensible admiration of 
certain German virtues. But when I was at- 
tacked in some weekly paper, Shaw defended 

29 



me in his own way with the old kindliness. He 
and I have been able to differ about the war 
without impairing our friendship. 

The finest thing about Shaw is that being 
placed on a pedestal and flattered beyond 
measure has not increased his arrogance; on the 
contrary it has rather diminished his self-asser- 
tion and increased his kindliness. So long as 
men denied him the position he was conscious 
of deserving he demanded it loudly in and out 
of season; but as soon as they treated him as 
one of the Immortals and paid him honor, he 
became more considerate of others and less in- 
clined to stand on the extreme verge of his claim. 
Like Meredith he can see that too much honor 
is not good for a man who has to live his life 
and do his work. Measured by high standards 
Shaw withstands the tests triumphantly, and 
what a delight it is to be able in all sincerity to 
say about a contemporary writer that his char- 
acter is at least as noble as his best work. 

It is the latest thing he has done that sheds 
most light on Shaw's powers. At sixty odd he 
has put his critical and incidentally his creative 
faculty to the severest proof. In his "Preface" 
to Androcles and the Lion he has given us his 
view of Jesus. When Shaw was defending me 
in a London journal I replied that I was trying 
to write about Jesus, had indeed been studying 
the Master for years with that object. 

30 



Shaw at once wrote to me on the matter, and 
I have pleasure in publishing here that part of 
his excellent letter: 

"It seems to be my destiny to dog your foot- 
steps with apparent plagiarisms. The Shake- 
speare effort was bad enough, but you now tell 
me that you are doing the life of Jesus. I am 
doing exactly the same thing by way of preface 
to Androcles and the Lion, which is a Christian 
martyr play; so you must hurry up. 

"They tell me that what I have gathered from 
the gospel narratives and the rest of the New 
Testament, which I have read through atten- 
tively for the first time since, as a boy, I read 
the whole Bible through out of sheer bravado, 
is much the same as Renan's extract. I do not 
know whether this is true; for I have never read 
the Vie de Jesu, though I will look it up 
presently. 

"Anyhow, it is rather significant that you and 
I and George Moore should be on the same 
tack. The main thing that I have tried to bring 
out, and indeed the only thing that made the 
job worth doing for me, is that modern sociology 
and biology arc steadily bearing Jesus out in his 
peculiar economics and theology." 

In reply I wrote that plagiarism or no pla- 
giarism, I should be extremely interested in 
reading what he had written and would let him 

31 



know what I felt about it as soon as I received 
hi* book. I was greatly struck with Shaw's 
essay on Jesus, and here I have set down in haste, 
I admit, my first thoughts on the work. 

Like most of us in this time Shaw has always 
been obsessed with the idea of reforming the 
world, remoulding it nearer to the heart's de- 
sire and from first to last he has shown a rational 
consistency of thought. 

Wells may be a Socialist to-day and something 
else to-morrow; but Shaw is no flibbertigibbet 
or weather-cock. He was a convinced socialist 
at the beginning of his career when he was 
young and poor, and now, thirty years later, 
rich and honored, he is nobly intent on preach- 
ing the same doctrine. 

That is why this essay of his on Jesus is of 
supreme importance to any one who wishes to 
understand and classify him or assimilate his 
contribution to modern thought. 

It is characteristic of Shaw that it is not Jesus 
as a man that interests him ; Christian doctrines 
would have been preached and practised, he 
says roundly, "if Jesus had never existed." This 
is probably true though we know no one in these 
last nineteen centuries who could have taken the 
place of Jesus or done his work. Still in time 
no doubt humanity would have produced an- 
other man of similar insight and sweetness. To 
Shaw "it js the doctrine and not the man that 

32 



matters." Here, as always, Shaw is first of all 
a preacher and not a poet; a dramatist if you 
like, because he is a born preacher, as Moliere 
was, and not for love of the drama: 

"I am no more a Christian than Pilate was, 
or you, gentle reader; and yet .... I am ready 
to admit that after contemplating the world and 
human nature for nearly sixty years, I see no 
way out of the world's misery but the way which 
would have been found by Christ's will if he 
had undertaken the work of a modern practical 



statesman." 



- Very notable words, in my opinion, and 
stamped with a high sincerity. Naturally, Shaw 
goes on to tell us that he knows "a great deal 
more about economics and politics than Jesus 
did," and this superiority of his is based appar- 
ently on the fact that he has no sympathy with 
"vagabonds and talkers" who would subvert the 
existing social order in the delusion that the end 
of the world is at hand — a statetnent which 
seems reasonable though perhaps superfluous. 

Shaw then proceeds to doubt whether Jesus 
ever existed, and ends up by asserting that it 
does not matter whether he did or not. Let us 
look at this assertion in terms of another art. 
There are half a dozen pictures attributed to X, 
who has been classed for centuries as probably 
the greatest of painters. Shaw looks at them, sees 
they are all by the same hand (Paul even has 

33 



nothing to do with them), admits that they have 
not been equalled in two thousand years,, and 
yet doubts whether the Master ever existed 
really, "any more than Hamlet." 

One gasps at such a lame and impotent con- 
clusion. Who then painted the pictures? wt 
ask. And Shaw replies, "One symbol is as good 
as another. . . . Confucius said certain things 
before Jesus"; yet "for some reason the imag- 
ination of white mankind has picked out Jesus 
as Nazareth as the Christ, and attributed all the 
Christian doctrines to him" — let us leave it at 
that, he adds implicitly. Fortunately or unfor- 
tunately, this seems to me not a theory, but a 
demonstrable fact. The pictures proclaim the 
painter, one single creative mind, and Jesus, if 
we can get to know him, is more important than 
his teachings or parables, just as Shaw, when we 
get to know him, is more important than his 
plays or even his prefaces. 

Curiously enough, another dispute Shaw and 
I had over Shakespeare, crops up again in his 
criticism of Jesus. He objected strenuously to 
the gentle, loving, humane, melancholy, philoso- 
phising thinker and poet as the man Shakes- 
peare, or rather he accepted all the epithets, 
while protesting that the "gentle" was overdone. 
He has exactly the same quarrel with Jesus. He 
is in the Ercles vein ; he cries : 

" *Gcntle Jesus, meek and mild,' is a snivel- 



ling modern invention, with no warrant in the 
gospels." 

This assertion made me doubt my eyes. Did 
not Jesus advise us to turn the other cheek, 
and to give the cloak to the robber who had 
taken the coat? Did he not teach that you 
should do good to your enemies? How does the 
Sermon on the Mount begin : 
Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the 
Kingdom of Heaven. 

And to leave you in no doubt Jesus strikes 
the same note again: 

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the 
earth. 

This "gentleness," this meekness, this forgiv- 
ing of injuries, this loving kindness "a snivelling 
modern invention!" 

Shaw, Shaw, why deniest thou me? 

It is as certain as anything can be that it 
was just this gentleness, this meekness, this lov- 
ing kindness of Jesus that caught the imagination 
of humanity, and won for him the passionate 
idolatry of men. Shaw, a combative Anglo- 
Saxon, may find himself more easily in the Jesus 
who blasted the barren fig-tree and scourged the 
money-changers out of the Temple; but that was 
not the spirit men love in Jesus. Paul could 
have done all those things or Judas Maccabeus 
or any of ten thousand brave Jewish rebels who 
threw their lives to a protest, minted their souls 
in a curse. 

35 



The instinct of humanity that has chosen Jesus 
— "for some reason," as Shaw remarks — is pro- 
foundly right; forgiveness is nobler than pun- 
ishment and lovingkindness more soul-subduing 
than any tyranny. It is this gentle, loving Jesus 
that takes the spirit like the fragrance of a flower 
or the innocent loveliness of a child. 

Jesus was the first to discover the soul, the 
first to speak to it with certainty, and because of 
the divination he is throned in the hearts of men 
forever : 

// is more blessed to give than to receive. 

I attach great importance to the personality 
of Jesus for many reasons which it would require 
too much time and space to set forth here; but 
one reason may be indicated. If one studies the 
personality of Jesus, one can perceive, I ven- 
ture to say, a certain growth in his mind, certain 
moments of development which bring him 
nearer to us and make him clearer. It was 
Lecky, I believe, the author of The History of 
Rationalism, who first said that long after 
Christianity had perished as a creed, Jesus 
would live as an ideal. If he had said as an 
influence, I should hare agreed with him: the 
influence and spirit of Jesus are certain to endure 
for hundreds of centuries to come : But no man 
can be an "ideal" to us; even Jesus cannot fill 
the horizon; the time has come to sec him as 

36 



he was, the wisest and sweetest of the sons of 
men, whose place in the Pantheon of Humanity 
is assured forever. His surpassing quality 
makes it unnecessary to prove his existence by 
the testimony of Paul, or by the references 
to his crucifixion in Tacitus and Josephus. 
It is impossible to study Rembrandt's pictures 
chronologically without realizing Rembrandt's 
growth, impossible to read Shakespeare and not 
see his personality passing from flower to fruit, 
in the same way we cannot deny Jesus or ignore 
the Son of Man who became the Son of God. 

Three or four of his parables or short stories 
are the finest ever written; a dozen of his say- 
ings come from a height of thought and feeling 
hardly reached by any other son of man ; he was 
at once saint and seer and artist of the noblest, 
and the way he was treated by the world is 
symbolic of the fate of genius everywhere. His 
life showed (as he was the first to see), that a 
prophet is not without honor save in his own 
country and amid his own kin ; his death estab- 
lished the dreadful truth that in measure as one 
grows better than his fellow men, he incurs their 
hatred. The highest genius in this world was 
beaten and scourged and finally crowned in de- 
rision with thorns. Crucifixion is the reward 
given by men to their supreme Guides and 
Teachers. 

Shaw spends a hundred pages or more in a 
37 



very fine and fair criticism of the four gospels: 
he establishes, I am inclined to believe, several 
truths which more learned commentators have 
failed to perceive. He says that Luke has added 
sentiment and romance to the story told by Mat- 
thew and Mark, and declares that "it is Luke's 
Jesus who has won our hearts." He believes on 
good grounds, I think, that John's gospel was 
written by the beloved disciple himself, and 
must be brought within the first century. 

The old question as to the credibility of the 
gospels Shaw declares unimportant: "Belief is 
merely a matter of taste." 

And so he comes back to his beginning: 
"Jesus remains unshaken as the practical man" 
and we stand exposed as "the fools, the blunder- 
ers, the unpractical visionaries." For the root 
fact remains : our system of distributing wealth 
"is wildly and monstrously wrong. We have 
million dollar babies side by side with paupers 
worn out by a long life of unremitted drudgery. 
One adult in every five dies in a workhouse, a 
public hospital or a madhouse. In cities like 
London the proportion is very nearly one in two. 
This distribution is effected by violence pure and 
simple. If you demur you are sold up. If you 
resist the selling up you are bludgeoned and im- 
prisoned. Iniquity can go no further. . . . 
Democracy in France and the United States is 
an imposture and a delusion. It reduces justice 

38 



and law to a farce: law becomes merely an 
instrument for keeping the poor in subjection. 
Workmen are tried not by a jury of their peers, 
but by conspiracies of their exploiters. The 
press is the press of the rich and the curse of 
the poor. The priest is the complement of the 
policeman .... and, worst of all, marriage 
becomes a class affair." 

Never was there such a root and branch con- 
demnation of human society. And the remedy 
is as sweeping. Shaw states it briefly: 

"We must begin by holding the right to an 
income as sacred and equal just as we now begin 
by holding the right to life as sacred and equal. 
The one right is only a restatement of the other. 
.... Jesus was a first rate political economist." 

Now it would not be difficult to show that this 
wholesale indictment of the existing social order 
is as one-sided and extravagant as the eulogies 
of an individualist of the Manchester school; 
the bomb is not the best answer to the multi- 
millionaire, though it is a very natural one. The 
truth is, both individualism and socialism must 
find a place in modern life: just as analytic and 
synthetic chemistry both find their place; but 
in my opinion Shaw is right in the first article 
of his creed; the equal right to live presupposes 
the right to necessaries and a fair living wage. 
As we do not kill the aged and infirm we must 
provide a living for all; that is the root fact of 
the new industrial civilization. 

39 



And now what is the sum total of the whole 
story? My readers must see that I regard Shaw 
the iconoclast, Shaw the railer at British con- 
ventions and British hypocrisies, Shaw who has 
been wise enough or lucky enough to mount him- 
self on a stout bank-balance instead of an aged 
Rosinante, and from that vantage to attack 
British conceit and complacent materialism; 
Shaw the scoffer and sceptic and socialist, as 
assuredly the most powerful and highest moral 
influence in the Britain of this time. He has 
taken the place left vacant by Carlyle and has 
given proof of as fine a courage and as high a 
devotion to Truth as the Scot. He has scoffed 
at the idea of a personal immortality as con- 
temptuously as at the idea of a state where the 
few suffer from too great wealth almost as much 
as the many suffer from an unmerited destitution. 

Shaw's religion, his view that is of the true 
meaning of life deserves to be stated: 

"This is the true joy in life," he says, "the 
being used for a purpose recognized by yourself 
as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out 
before you are thrown on the scrap-heap; the 
being a force of nature instead of a feverish 
selfish little clod of ailments and grievances com- 
plaining that the world will not devote itself 
to making you happy." 

In the main this is the creed of Carlyle too 
40 



and of Goethe though the great German brings 
joy into it by making the individual himself 
work consciously for the highest purpose. 

Everyone, I think, who treats of this period in 
history will have to consider Bernard Shaw as 
far and away the most important figure in Great 
Britain for nearly a quarter of a century. True, 
he has no new word in religion for us, no glimpse 
even of new and vital truth; but he walks hon- 
estly by such gleams of light as come to him 
in the present. 

And some of Shaw's plays are at least equal in 
worth to his critical work and will hold the 
stage for generations to come. He is among the 
greatest of English humorists. Everyone can see 
now that Shakespeare's humor was adventitious 
and fortunate rather than characteristic. Take 
Falstaff out of his work and all the other clowns, 
including even Dogberry, would hardly furnish 
forth one evening's entertainment. And Fal- 
staflf and Dogberry belong to the earliest part of 
Shakespeare's life; after thirty he became in- 
creasingly serious. But Shaw's humor is richer 
to-day at sixty odd than when he began; the 
flashes of it illumine every part of his work. The 
British stage knows no comedies superior to 
John Bull's Other Island, Candida, and Caesar 
and Cleopatra." 

And this is the Shaw that will hold an unique 
place in English literature; the humorist, icono- 

41 



clast and prophet; the laughing philosopher, 
whom no one to-day can afford to ignore. 

The boy has often been called seriously the 
father of the man and before I completed this 
sketch I wanted to get some picture of Shaw 
as a child which would either change or con- 
firm my estimate of him. After many vain at- 
tempts I got a little snapshot of him as a boy 
from Mrs. Ada Tyrrell, wife of the late Regius 
Professor of Greek in Trinity College, Dublin. 
Mrs. Tyrrell is herself a poet of rare talent and 
has the keen yet generous eyes of a very gifted 
woman. She writes : 

"I can tell you very little more than you know 
yourself of George's youth after the age of 
twelve or fourteen, as his family left Ireland to 
live in London about then. My first memory of 
George is a little boy in a Holland overall sit- 
ting at a table constructing a toy theatre. 
'Sonny' the other Shaws called him, then. We 
lived a few doors from them, and our mothers 
being both singers, was the bond between us. 
Even at that early age — George was about ten — 
he had a superior manner to his sisters and me, 
a sort of dignity withal, and I remember feeling 
rather flattered when he condescended to explain 
anything that I asked him; though we girls were 
a year or two older. 

"I should say, as well as I can judge between 
the two men, Oscar Wilde and G. B. S., that 

42 



George is a good man all through and Oscar 
had only good impulses, though with more sen- 
timent than George; more romance in fact, 
which is always a charm to me. I know George 
to have been the best of sons and brothers; he 
is generous, not alone to worthy objects, but lo 
the unworthy as well. I often think that the 
luxury of having unlimited money is that one 
can give to both." 

This is the highest merit of the man, that 
while mocking sentimentality he is always true 
to the best in him as needle to the pole. He 
has shown us all that a Briton can rise above 
secular British prejudices and that ingrained 
English habit of excusing oafish stupidity by the 
conceit of moral superiority, as if dullness and 
goodness were Siamese twins. 

He has pictured Caesar standing before the 
Sphinx and admitting that he, too, is "half 
brute, half woman and half God, and no part 
of man." The confession though doubtless per- 
sonal, does not do Shaw justice. I have always 
thought of him as of Greatheart in Bunyan*s 
allegory, a man so high-minded and courageous 
he will take the kingdom of heaven by storm and 
yet so full of the milk of human kindness that he 
suffers with all the disadvantages of the weak 
and all the disabilities of the dumb. He is the 
only man since William Blake who has enlarged 
our conception of English character; thanks to 

43 



the Irish strain in him he encourages us to hope 
that English genius may yet become as free of 
insular taint as the vagrant air and as beneficent 
as sunshine. 



44 




Rudyard Kipling 




RUDYARD KIPLING 

T was, I think, in 1890 or 1891 that I 
first met Rudyard Kipling in Lon- 
don, shortly after his return from 
India. I knew of him before I saw 
him. A couple of years earlier a 
grey-blue paper book containing some stories of 
Kipling had fallen into my hands. It bore the 
imprint of some Indian publisher, and I was 
enthralled, as every one was enthralled, by the 
superb narrative power displayed in those 
"plain tales" of excelling artistry. True, it was 
rapid impressionist work, slapdash, some called 
it; but it was supremely effective and original — 
style, treatment and subject all in perfect har- 
mony. "Soldiers Three" followed, and one be- 
gan to see that the reign of the English in India 
had at length produced a singer. 

Some of the stories were prefaced by verses, 
and one heard it said that young Rudyard Kip- 
ling was a still greater master of verse than of 
prose. A little later I got hold of "Depart- 
mental Ditties" and simply swallowed them; 
but Kipling to me was not a poet, his character- 
istic gift was that of the storyteller; even in 
verse he was a ballad-writer rather than a mas- 
ter-singer. 

45 



I forget whether I wrote asking him to call 
on me in the office of The Fortnightly Review, 
or whether I asked my assistant, the Rev. John 
Verschoyle to bring him; but at any rate he 
came to the office andl took to him at once. He 
was very young, younger even than I had pic- 
tured him: a short, sturdy, bullet-headed man, 
wearing big glasses which did not altogether 
hide the keen regard of sharp eyes. The face, 
like the figure, was strongly cast and well-pro- 
portioned. Though he was sincerity itself, with- 
out pose or affectation of any kind, ingenuously 
sincere and open indeed, his personality was not 
impressive in any way. 

That very first afternoon we talked for a 
couple of hours: I was intensely interested in 
his stories, eager to tell him how much I liked 
them, eager to know too whether he preferred 
to work in verse or prose. 

How long had he been in India? How had 
he come to drift out there? Were the experi- 
ences worth the pains of exile? — in short a hun- 
dred personal details. I had not written any- 
thing of note at the time. I was desperately 
curious about his past and future work. I 
wanted to measure him correctly: was he a really 
great man or not? He told me that his father 
had lived and done his work in India as a civil 
engineer, that he himself was born in Bombay in 
1865, and that he had helped to edit a paper 

46 



there from 1882 to 1889. He had been in China, 
Japan and the United States as well, yet pro- 
posed now to cast anchor if not to strike root in 
England: "You have no idea how good the 
English countryside looks to me after India," 
he exclaimed : "Sussex seems a bit of Paradise." 
The office of The Fortnightly Review at that 
time was a sort of debating club from four to 
seven every afternoon. My assistant and friend, 
the Rev. John Verschoyle, was an extraordinary 
man. Of all the men I have met, Swinburne 
alone had a greater poetic gift: one proof will 
suffice. He went from Trinity College, Dublin, 
to Cambridge when he was only seventeen years 
of age, and while still a Freshmen was asked 
to write some Greek verses for the cover of the 
University Calendar: they are there to be read 
still, though written forty years ago — ,convinc- 
ing evidence of an astonishing talent. Ver- 
schoyle was a strikingly handsome man, with 
regular features, fair hair, blue eyes and long 
Viking-fair moustache. The most noticeable 
things about h'im were his high-domed forehead 
and extraordinary breadth of shoulder: though 
of barely middle-height, he was exceptionally 
powerful. Verschoyle was well-read in English 
literature and had an even greater mastery of 
English verse than of Greek. His knowledge of 
English poetry was like Swinburne's, encyclo- 
paedic, yet imbrued with passionate prejudices; 

47 



he thought Shelley and Wordworth the greatest 
English poets after Shakespeare, and as I pre- 
ferred Blake and Browning and Keats, our ar- 
guments were "frequent and free." Of course in 
knowledge of the technique of verse I was not 
in the same class with him : he was a master and 
I was not even a deep student. I have said so 
much about Verschoyle (the news of whose 
death has just reached me!) because his discus- 
sions with Kipling threw a flood of light on both 
men. 

One afternoon stands out in my memory with 
astonishing clearness, and it was characteristic 
of many. Kipling came into the office, and 
when asked what he had been doing, replied: 
"Some verses." They were the passionate anti- 
Irish verses, afterwards published under the 
heading "Cleared!" I read them with shrink- 
ing and dislike. I saw their power, knew too 
that they would cause a sensation : but I could 
not and would not publish them. They were 
certain to increase the already intense English 
hatred of Ireland, and I would not be a party to 
feeding that foul flame. At the same time I 
wanted to keep Kipling as a contributor and did 
not wish him to feel that I was out of sympathy 
with his talent. When I had read the screed 
through, I said: 

"The Times should publish this. If you're 
willing, Kipling, Til read the verses to Walter, 

48 



the owner, who's a friend of mine and dines 
with me this week. I'm sure he'll jump at them, 
and in The Times they will make your name in 
London." 

Kipling thanked me, said there was nothing 
he'd like better. 

"I find myself agreeing with The Times," 
he added, "in almost everything." 

I smiled inwardly at the idea of any one being 
proud of agreeing with The Times; but I needed 
no telling that such a common ground of feel- 
ing made it almost certain that Kipling would 
ultimately reach a world-wide popularity. 

There were some careless, slipshod lines in the 
poem ; I, therefore, threw the manuscript across 
the table to Verschoyle. Though Irish born and 
bred, Verschoyle was of the English garrison in 
Ireland and hated Parnell and his Nationalist 
following as only an Irishman can hate. The 
sentiment of Kipling's verses appealed to him 
intensely, but he agreed about the weak lines, 
and with all courtesy suggested improvements. 
Kipling lit up immediately, admitted this word, 
rejected that cadence and argued about another. 
I sat back and enjoyed the play of wits. Any 
one who heard the discussion would have had to 
admit that Verschoyle was a considerably better 
technician than Kipling, possessing besides a far 
wider knowledge of English poetry, and the best 
Enelish usage. Yet I have po wjsb Id disguise 



!;■■> 

f i 



the undoubted fact that Kipling has written 
better English poetry than Verschoyle ever wrote 
or could write. I tell the story merely in order 
to show that Kipling's technical gift as a singer 
is anything but first rate; his prose, on the other 
hand, is of high quality. 

For a long time I had most pleasant, if never 
intimate, relations with Kipling. When Buckle, 
the utterly incompetent Editor of The Times, 
rejected the poem, Kipling sent it to Henley, 
and it duly appeared in the Scot's Observer and 
created, as I had expected, an extraordinary sen- 
sation. One peculiar point about the matter is, 
that the verses as printed in the Observer were 
afterwards reprinted in The Times. 

As a man of the world Kipling understood 
that The Fortnightly Review had certain Radi- 
cal traditions and leanings, which made it diffi- 
cult for me to publish an anti-nationalist poem. 
He let my refusal make no change in the cor- 
diality of our intercourse. But the whole dis- 
cussion showed me the very texture, so to speak, 
of Kipling's mind. He was intensely eager to 
get the most forcible, or most picturesque, or 
most musical expression for his passionate 
prejudices; he was fair-minded too in accepting 
any and every good suggestion or emendation; 
but he was not willing even to consider the op- 
posite side of the question. His mind seemed 
closed to any argument. He appeared to have 

50 



no understanding of the fact that in any great 
dispute the partisan is almost certainly at fault, 
the only way of growth being to extract the 
opposing truths and unite them in a higher syn- 
thesis which should include both. Rudyard Kip- 
ling was proud of being a partisan, proud of 
holding and asserting the English view of every 
question. Nine times out of ten he even pre- 
ferred the Tory English view to the Liberal. 

One day I spoke bitterly of the exploitation 
of the poor by the powerful in Great Britain. 
It did not seem to interest him. 

On another occasion I exposed the partiality 
of some English judge, who was evidently de- 
fending the oligarchy against the people's inter- 
ests. Kipling assured me that English judges 
were notoriously the fairest in the world : "were 
they not the best paid?" He had the prejudices 
and opinions of a fourth-form English school- 
boy on almost every subject coupled with an ex- 
traordinary verbal talent: the mind of a boy of 
sixteen with a genius for expression. 

I came to this conclusion through dozens of 
conversations: several times we stayed arguing 
in the office till it was time to close, and then I 
went with him to his rooms or he came with me. 

Alike with word of mouth as with pen, Kip- 
ling was a most admirable story-teller. I re- 
member one evening going to his room some- 
where off the Strand, and while I filled the soli- 

51 



tary armchair he sat on the bed smoking a pipe 
and told me how he had once witnessed a suc- 
cession of wild-beast fights staged by some In- 
dian prince. He pictured the fight between 
a tiger and a buffalo with photographic vision. 
You saw the great cat flattened out on the arena 
while the buffalo with lowered head and side- 
long eyes moved nearer and nearer. Suddenly 
the flaming beast shot through the air, but was 
met fairly by the buffalo's iron front and horns 
and flung bodily yards away to the side and rear ; 
like a flash it sprang again and again was met 
and thrown. At once it fled to the wooden wall 
and began licking its wounds. In spite of long 
red gashes on his head and neck the buffalo was 
always the aggressor; nearer and nearer he went, 
while the tiger drew itself together, every hair 
on end, and struck fiercely at his head, with one 
paw laying the bone bare in long parallel slashes 
and ripping off part of the nose; the next mo- 
ment the buffalo had nailed the tiger to the bar- 
rier with one horn and kept on butting and 
kneading the writhing beast against the wood 
till one heard the hooped ribs crack while the 
whole structure shook. The tiger bit and clawed 
as long as life lasted, and when finally the buf- 
falo, bellowing with rage, drew off from the 
dead mat, his head was one dripping scarlet 
wound ; he had to be shot. 

The gift of swift narration and painting word 

S2 



was Kipling's as it was O. Henry's; but he 
hadn't even O. Henry's power of self-criticism. 
In an admirably vigorous and interesting story: 
"The Drums of the Fore and Aft," he tells how 
a British force, having hemmed in a band of 
Afghans, drove them hither and thither, attack- 
ing first from this side, then from that. The 
Afghan force, he said, appeared to be slowly 
melting away, chased, now here, now there, as a 
"hand chases a sponge in a bath." A moment's 
thought would have told him that the phrase 
should be as a "hand chases soap in a bath"; but 
he did not correct his prose very carefully. 

Our disagreement went far deeper than 
words, though our companionship for some time 
was very pleasant at least to me. Bit by bit I 
came to see that he had told me all about India 
he had to tell : he began to repeat himself, and 
even report cantonment and clubhouse stories, 
giving me the rinsings of his Indian experiences. 
He always assumed that the English rule was 
the best thing that had happened to India: the 
Pax Britannica held to peace a score of warring 
races and conflicting religions. To ask him 
whether it had not resulted in the enslavement 
and impoverishment of millions of the poorest 
was to excite surprise. He had never considered 
that side of the matter: The English had given 
railways to India: was the sufl5cient answer. 

I wanted to know how far Indian thought had 
53 



pierced, whether any Buddhist had gone beyond 
Gautama, whether any new and fruitful general- 
ization had come from Hindu thinkers, whether 
any Yogi or holy man had ever planted his lan- 
tern out into the uncharted darkness? Nothing 
of any moment could I get from Kipling, no 
illuminating word. I came to the conclusion 
that he took but little interest in new ideas. 

One evening in the office he told us an excel- 
lent story: it was published later and my readers 
may recognize it. He started by picturing a 
man and a woman riding up a mountain road 
under the deodars near Simla. The man was try- 
ing to persuade the woman to leave her husband 
and run away with him. He proved to his own 
satisfaction that the woman's husband did not 
love her, and declared that his love for her was 
infinite and eternal. The woman replied that 
a man's love usually died with possession and 
that it was hardly worth while to throw over 
convention and outrage public opinion when 
one had no certainty of lasting afifection, and so 
forth and so on. The story was made lifelike 
and entrancing by the art of the narrator, for 
there was no new argument used, no deep reali- 
zation of character — superficial snapshots mere- 
ly, cleverly brought out. In the middle of the 
discussion, an Indian with a bullock-team and 
huge balk of timber, came into sight round a 
bend of the road. The man's pony shied at the 

54 



apparition and slid a hind leg over the edge of 
the precipice: the woman, seeing the danger, 
snatched at the man's rein and hit his pony on 
the nose. At once pony and wooer disappeared 
into the abyss. And there the story ended. 

This conclusion seemed to me silly — indefens- 
ible, a sin against all the canons. To end a psy- 
chological discussion by a brutal accident was 
an insult to the intelligence. 

"Why?" countered Kipling, "accidents do 
happen in life." 

"True," I replied, "but they are rare. If you 
were writing a whole life you might want an 
accident in it to fulfil the laws of probability — 
but an accident, and a fatal accident at that, is 
not likely to take place in a wooing of ten min- 
utes. It is too improbable, and in art the im- 
probable is worse than the impossible. It shocks 



me." 



"I see the Indian," he replied, a remark which 
closed the discussion. 

The more I thought over the argument, the 
more indifferent to him I became. I saw that 
the man was all of one piece, that beyond his 
talent of expression he had nothing to give; my 
interest in him withered away at the root. 

But, after all, why should I quarrel with Kip- 
ling or scorn him for what he is not, instead of 
pointing out what he is and what he has given 
to deserve our gratitude. Walter Scott's stories 

55 



arc not from the depths of thought nor do his 
songs bring men to ^'sympathy with hopes and 
fears they heeded not." And yet his books have 
proved the joy of many a young life, and not 
one reader in ten thousand has even heard of the 
shameful book in which, out of mistaken patriot- 
ism, he traduced and caricatured the great 
Napoleon. Thank God! it is not the evil but 
the good men do, that lives after them, and it be- 
comes one better therefore to praise than to 
blame. At the same time it is well to remember 
that it is just the want of thought in Scott, the 
want of self-criticism, what Rossetti used to call 
"the fundamental brain stuff," that prevents him 
from ranking with the greatest, with Cervantes 
and Balzac and Shakespeare. And it is the same 
defect that forbids us to put Kipling among the 
choice and master spirits of this age. I have 
read everything he has written since, and have 
found no reason to modify my judgment. "Kim" 
and "The Jungle Book" are better than any of 
his earlier stories, save only "The Man Who 
Would Be King." The jungle books in especial 
seems to me the best thing Kipling has ever done 
or is ever likely to do: but I get more of the 
soul of India from the native writers. 

His poetry is even easier to judge. "On the 
Road to Mandalay" and a chance verse from 
time to time remain in the mind and enrich the 
memory; but Kipling's poetic gift is neither high 

56 



nor rare, save in the intensity of patriotic appeal. 
Such verses as: 

"I am the land of their fathers, 
In me the virtue stays; 
I will bring back my children 
After certain days. 

"Till I make plain the meaning 
Of all my thousand years — 
Till I fill their hearts with knowledge, 
While I fill their eyes with tears." 

and especially this : ^ 

"Take of English earth as much 
As either hand may rightly clutch 
In the taking of it breathe 
Prayer for all who lie beneath — 
Lay that earth upon your heart 
And your sickness shall depart!" 

can hardly be read by any one of English birth, 
without profound emotion: it thrills all those 
who use our English speech: yet patriotism as 
a creed no longer holds the place it once held, 
and as a sentiment even, its dangers are becom- 
ing more and more obvious. 

It seems to me that the world-war is a fearsome 
object lesson in the evils of undue love of coun- 
try: a dozen nations fighting savagely — ^what 

57 



for? Because every man overrates national in- 
terests, regarding them as uniquely important. 
National self-centeredness, national pride — the 
cause of this insane butchery! Long ago in the 
best minds and hearts, love of country has been 
pushed into a secondary place by the love of 
humanity. Now the masses have been taught 
the same lesson by awful bloodshed and loss. 

But the question now before us is: how far 
Kipling's patriotism is laudable and how it has 
affected his work? I believe that again and 
again it has injured it and must finally impair 
his influence. 

Kipling's parochialism and its distorting 
effect can best be realized by us in the picture 
he drew of America. Not Dickens, not even 
Antony Trollope at his worst reached such per- 
versity of judgment, such immoral obliquity of 
vision. He lands in San Francisco and with in- 
credible cocksureness uses at once his Cockney 
yardstick as a measure. 

"San Francisco is a mad city — inhabited for 
the most part by insane people whose women 
are of a remarkable beauty." 

And his notion of sanity and insanity may be 
gauged by the talk on the Queen's birthday 
which he quotes with approval. He makes an 
American say that England "is beginning to rot 
now," because it is "putting power into the hands 
of the untrained people." The government of 

58 



the English obligarchy seems to Kipling per- 
fect, but any attempts at democracy, such as 
County Councils even, are a symptom of de- 
cadence and dry rot. Here is another judgment: 

"The American has no language. He has 
dialect, slang, provincialism, accent, and so 
forth. Now that I have heard their voices all 
the beauty of Bret Harte is being ruined for me." 

And he does not object merely to our voices 
but to our clothes, and of course "the habit of 
spitting" which he finds on all sides. 

Moreover, men carry revolvers in the West 
and sometimes use them. He concludes there- 
fore: "there is neither chivalry nor romance in 
the weapon for all that American authors have 
seen fit to write. I would I could make you 
understand the full measure of contempt with 
which certain aspects of Western life have in- 
spired me." 

And, finally, we praise ourselves in public 
speeches and he can't imagine how a self-respect- 
ing man, "a sahib of our blood can stand up and 
plaster praise on his own country." 

Yet Kipling tells us in "Stalky & Co." that 
"India's full of Stalkies — Cheltenham and 
Marlborough chaps — that we don't know any- 
thing about, and the surprises will begin when 
there is a really big row on." 

Well, there was soon a big row on and the sur- 
prises were there all right. We were surprised 

59 



when a couple of thousand (or was it a couple 
of hundred) British marines were landed to hold 
Antwerp against two hundred thousand Ger- 
mans; we were surprised at Gallipoli, and again 
at Salonica and at Cambray. All such fan- 
tastic misjudgings — blame and praise alike — 
might be forgiven to Kipling's youth; were it 
not that his myopia increases with age. 

A great part of Kipling's popularity and con- 
sequent quick rise to wealth and influence are 
due directly to his passionate, blind herd-feeling. 
No high thought would have helped him as 
much as the general prejudice. It was probably 
the popular applause which confirmed him in his 
error. He is serious when he writes of "The 
White Man's Burden," though he knows as well 
as any one that the white man makes himself a 
burden to his black brother out of the lowest 
motives. Again and again, too, he has written 
of Russia as the enemy of England and he did 
not hesitate in the story entitled "The Man Who 
Was" to try to stir up ill-feeling between Eng- 
lishmen and Russians without any excuse. In 
this same tale, some British officers at mess on 
the Northwest frontier of India drink the usual 
toast, "The Queen," and Kipling pictures them 
as weeping with emotion. At its best, patriotism 
is a pride founded on the great deeds of a nation, 
and at its most idiotic, it sheds tears for symbols 
questionable if not unworthy. 

60 



in the present world-war Kipling has won an 
evil pre-eminence by vilifying Germany in 
every way. He was not ashamed to write of 
Germans as a disease-germ, which if "suffered 
to multiply means death or loss to mankind. 
. . . The German is typhoid or plague — 
Pestis Teutonicus: ... at the end of the 
war," he declared, "there must be no more 
Germans." 

The mind balks at such extravagance of 
hatred : one cries for that quiet shore — 

Where the Rudyards cease from Kipling 

And the Haggards Ride no more. 

Let us go to the true master spirits and see 
what they think of patriotism. 

In his essay on "Honour and Reputation," 
Bacon gives us his view of the hierarchy of hu- 
man achievement. The greatest men, he tells 
us, are the founders of States; then come the 
saviours of States, then the enlargers of States; 
then lawgivers, statesmen and so forth. Bacon, 
with his Latin scholarship, regarded patriotism 
as the supreme virtue. 

Shakespeare, I believe, was the very first man 
to outgrow patriotism and realize its insuffi- 
cience; his Alcibiades tells us: 

'Tis honor with most lands to be at odds. 

Shakespeare was naturally the first writer to 
speak of "humanity." He was not thinking of 

61 



the Roman Antony but of himself when he 
wrote : 

". . .A rarer spirit never 
Did steer humanity; ..." 

And this mere statement has flagged the com- 
ing of a new ideal into life or rather in some 
degree created the new ideal. For we all see 
now that humanity is the ideal, that patriotism 
as a virtue has been to some extent superseded ; 
"Where it's well with me — there's my father- 
land," says the Latin proverb. An undue love 
or preference of one nation or race is as absurd 
in thought as it is dangerous in fact 

Goethe took this view very emphatically. 
His words to-day are worth recalling: "I am 
blamed," he said, "because I do not dislike the 
French and take sides against them ; but how can 
I dislike the French when I owe them a great 
part of my intellectual being?" 

In this modern dispute, Kipling is plainly on 
the wrong side: even England will yet have to 
learn that Shaw is a nobler figure and a better 
patriot besides. What does Walter Scott's hatred 
of Napoleon count for to-day? It merely excites 
a shrug of contemptuous pity. 

Kipling^s dislike of the United States and 
Russia and now of Germany is even less excus- 
able; it is indeed nothing but English "strach- 
ery" — the sour reaction of inferior vitality or 
virtue masquerading as moral condemnation. 

62 



Only the other day Kipling lamented his ig- 
norance of French; but it is his ignorance of 
Russian and especially of German that I deplore. 
If he knew Goethe and Heine, Lessing and 
Schopenhauer, he could never have soiled his 
pages with such abominable nonsense about the 
great German people as I have quoted. It is 
his ignorance, his want of education that dwarfs 
him and maims his gift to humanity. 

It is impossible for me to part from Kipling 
on this note ; he has interested us so often, given 
us so much pleasure; dazzled us with such bril- 
liant pictures that we are all perforce his debtors 
and grateful. When his name comes up it is not 
his English provincialism we recall, but the 
pulsing life on the great Indian highroad in 
"Kim," or the magic verses: — 

"Ship me somewhere East of Suez, 
Where the best is like the worst. 
Where there aren't no ten commandments 
And a man may raise a thirst. 

"Ah, it's there that I would be 
By the old Moulmcin pagoda 
Looking lazy at the sea." 



63 




ERNEST DOWSON: 
THE SWAN-SONG OF YOUTH. 

"Mother of God; O Misericord, look down in pity on us. 
The weak and the blind who stand in our light and wreak our- 
•elvei such ill." 

HATEVER we want in life, what- 
ever we desire intensely and with 
persistence, we are sure to obtain. 

"All our youthful prayers are 
granted," says Goethe: "brimming 
measure in maturity." That is the chief lesson 
of life: You can mold it to what form you will, 
get from it what you wish : Knock and it shall be 
opened unto you. Ask and ye shall have. You 
can make it hymn or epic, as you please, get joy 
from it, or sorrow or love, or fame — greatness 
of soul or fatness of purse — whatever you will ; if 
you only will it with all your might to the end. 
That's almost the same as saying that life gives 
herself to the strong only: for they alone can 
will steadfastly; but what of the weak? What 
of those who dream rather than desire and whose 
dreams arc fitful and faint? Sometimes life 
grants even to these the triumph of a moment, 
the ecstasy of achievement, when they have 
dreamed beautiful things and loved them with 
intense passion. 
I can't remember who introduced me to Ernest 
• 64 




^m 






Ernest Dowson 



Dowson or where we first met; but I knew him 
from about 1890 up to the end of his brief life. 

Dowson was born, I think, in 1867 and died 
about 1900. He was physically weak and slight 
though of good height; he had not stuff enough 
in him, I thought at first, to be great; yet in 
various ways he interested me intensely. He was 
very like Keats without Keats's strength or joy 
in life; a fragile, scholarly Keats. On first ac- 
quaintance shy ; yet impulsive and frank with a 
singular charm of manner; he appealed to the 
heart as some girls do with a child's confidence 
and a child's hesitancy and a sort of awkward 
unexpected grace, quite indescribable. He was 
gentle too and gay with quaint quirks of verse, 
unprintable often, amusing always — a delight- 
ful companion, quick-changing as an April day. 

His portrait by Rothenstein is an extraordi- 
narily perfect likeness; for once the artist has 
been able to reproduce the features and convey 
too the elusive charm and sad, sincere appeal of 
an ingenuous, delightful spirit. 

When I first knew Dowson he made the im- 
pression of peculiar refinement; he was sensi- 
tive to all courtesies, vibrant with enthusiasms, 
yet instinctively considerate. I was always glad 
to meet him, though I held his talent lightly; 
his early verses being for the most part echoes 
of Verlaine and Swinburne, and nothing so re- 

65 



pels me as the "sedulous ape" faculty, imitation 
— the hallmark of mediocrity. 

I went with him one evening into a little bar 
off Leicester Square and he recited I remember, 
a translation of a verse of Verlaine. 

I had to tell him that while the ineffable sad- 
ness of the verse was characteristic of Verlaine, 
the translation was rather poor. 

"So was the price paid for it," he laughed, "a 
measly ten shillings. What can you expect for 
that?" He spoke disdainfully, yet not from 
greed. He thought his work good enough to 
deserve high pay. He was not needy, he always 
seemed to be able to live decently without work ; 
he had good connections, properties even, was 
never really in want, but he struck me as care- 
less of money and improvident to an extraor- 
dinary degree. 

I was away from London for a year or two 
and Dowson was much in France and when we 
next met, he had changed. There was a spring 
of life in him, of hope and purpose I had not 
seen before. He confessed to me that he was in 
love with a French girl whose mother kept a 
small restaurant in Soho; he took me round to 
see her. I could find little attraction in her ex- 
cept the beauty of youth and the fact that she 
evidently didn't care much for Dowson — a girl- 
ish, matter-of-fact, pleasant creature. I could 
not believe that the fever would be lasting or 
profound. I was mistaken, 

66 ■ 



One day he drifted into lunch and revealed 
himself more boldly. We talked of literature 
and he seemed to like everything second rate in 
it, I thought: he loved Horace and any curious, 
arresting epithet pleased him beyond measure. 
I said something about "eventful originality" 
and he jumped up and clapped his hands and 
crov^^ed w^ith delight, repeating again and again 
"eventful .... eventful originality," Wc 
went out for a stroll into Hyde Park, and as we 
walked he compared himself with Poe : "a mas- 
ter of both prose and verse .... his prose 
better than his verse, as mine is — " I laughed : 
I thought (God forgive me I) he was overrating 
himself, measuring stature with Poe. I quoted a 
verse of Annabel Lee to recall him to himself. 
He praised it laughing joyously in his odd boy- 
ish way and then said half shyly : "I've written 
some verses I like .... rather." 

"Let me hear them," I cried, and he stopped 
and began as if to encourage himself, "I call it: 
'Sapientia Lunae,' " and he translated: "The 
Wisdom of the Moon." A pause : he twisted his 
thin hands together and began: 

"The wisdom of the world said unto me: 
'Go forth and run, the race is to the Ibrave; 

Perchance some honor tarrieth for thee!* 
'As tarrieth,' I said, 'for sure, the grave.* 

For I had pondered on a rune of roses, 

Which to her votaries the moon discloses.** 

67 



I can still sec the slight, stooping figure and 
the liquid, appealing eyes — framed, so to speak, 
by a bed of crimson flowers: 

"Perchance some honor tarrieth for thee!" 

The lure of all poets, of all nympholepts of 
the ideal. . . . Again the pleasing pathetic 
tenor voice: 

"Then said my voice: "Wherefore strive or run 

On dusty highways ever, a vain race? 
The long night cometh, starless, void of sun, 

What light shall serve thee like her golden face? 
For I had pondered on a rune of roses, 
And knew some secrets which the moon discloses." 

I can't give reasons but the poem struck me — 
"her golden face"; Dowson's manner; the sing- 
ing verses, above all the pathos, the passion of 
his love, trembling, yet controlled in the slow 
music, deepened the appeal, lifted the poem to 
greatness. 

"Why, Dowson," I exclaimed, "love has made 
a poet of you! That's first rate — a new note." 

He half smiled and then walked on flushed — 
pensive : — "Love — love .... makes poets of 
us all," he said as if to himself. We spent the 
afternoon and evening together, dining at the 
Cafe Royal. I was astonished by his range of 
reading and his intimacy with the Latins, espec- 
ially Propertius; he was saturated too in French 
and Italian poetry and had modern English 
verse at his tongue's tip. About ten o'clock he 

68 



grew silent; he wished to go round to his French 
restaurant, he said, and I let him go, for I was 
a little tired of hearing him praise Mallarme 
and Verlaine, extravagantly, as I thought. 

A little later we met again and spent a sunny 
morning together, lunched and talked the sun 
down the sky: poetry of course and metaphysics. 
He would not have my American optimism, 
shrugged his shoulders at my idea of the King- 
dom of Man upon earth and a new Jerusalem 
to be builded on Seine or Thames or Hudson- 
side : — 

Our world is young, 
Young, and of measure passing bound, 
Infinite are the heights to climb 
The depths to sound. 

"I am for the old faith," he broke in; "I've 
become a Catholic as every artist must. Have 
you heard this? — 

" 'Upon the eyes, the lips, the feet, 
On all the passages of sense. 
The atoning oil is spread with sweet 
Renewal of lost innocence.' " 

With a gasp of surprise I recognized that he 
had become a master of his instrument; the 
mounting music of the last couplet is super- 
excellent. 

I didn't see him again for a couple of years 
and then he was with Smithers, I think, when 
we met Dowson had changed greatly: youth 

69 



and youth's enthusiasms, the lively quick changes 
of mood had died out of him; he was serious, 
disdainful; his clothes seemed threadbare and 
unbrushed; he met me with petulant indiffer- 
ence; a touch of resentment, I thought. Had T 
omitted some courtesy? or was I one of the many 
heedless and profane who should have known 
and helped him and did not? I wondered re- 
gretfully. 

The second or third time I saw him he was 
drunk, helplessly, hopelessly drunk — and wore 
— "I don't care" — as a mask. And soon, it seems 
to me in retrospect, the drinking Dowson ob- 
scured for me much of the charm of the younger 
Dowson. Often he was delightful at first when 
we met; yet always eager to drink and to get 
drunk, eager to throw away his hold on life and 
sanity, — to drown the bitter stings of remem- 
brance. I soon found out that his love had 
jilted him: "chucked him for a waiter," said 
Smithers grinning. Though not so deep as a 
drawwell, nor broad as a church door, as Mer- 
cutio said, the wound served, and Dowson died 
of it. After a couple of years' courtship, — talks 
at lunch, games of cards after dinner, a kiss or 
two, friendly on one side and passionate on the 
other, the illusion of love returned, — s^he mar- 
ried a waiter, and Dowson could never recover 
his fragile hold on life and hope. Dowson's 
only epigram tells the whole story: 

70 



Because t am idolatrous and have besougfit, 
With grievous supplication and consuming prayer, 
The admirable image that my dreams have wrought 
Out of her swan's neck and her dark abundant hair: 
The jealous gods, who brook no worship save their own. 
Turned my live idol and her heart to stone. 

I did not realize the tragedy on first hearing. 
But a little while afterwards, we floated together 
again one afternoon in Coventry Street and 
Dowson asked me to accompany him to a dock 
he owned in the East End. He seemed pathet- 
ically weak and dependent on casual companion- 
ship, lonely and unhappy. 

The East of London was always calling mc at 
that time as the East Side of New York calls me 
now and I went with him. We dined in a frowsy 
room behind a bar on a bare table without a 
napkin: the food almost uneatable, the drink 
poisonous, and afterwards Dowson took me 
round to places of amusement! The memory of 
it all, — a nightmare; I can still hear a girl dron- 
ing out an interminable song meant to be lively 
and gay; still see a woman clog-dancing just to 
show glimpses of old, thin legs, smiling gro- 
tesquely the while with toothless mouth; still 
remember Dowson hopelessly drunk at the end 
screaming with rage and vomiting insults — a 
wretched experience. 

A week later he wanted me to go East again ; 
but I had had enough. What the French call 
la nostalgie de la boue (the homesickness for 

71 



squalor and mud-honey) was upon him and he 
abandoned himself to it. 

Once I remonstrated with him; took him into 
the Cafe Royal one morning, cheered him with 
excellent coffee, begged him, for his talent's sake, 
to pull himself together; everything was still 
possible to him: he shrugged his shoulders. 

I probed him to know if money would help 
him: he laughed, "Hope would help me and 
nothing less." Eager to rouse him, I spoke of 
him as a dreamer, a failure. He reddened and 
said: "I've written things you'd like, oh, yes! 
Things you'd like very much." 

"Let me hear them," I cried, "and I'll be- 
lieve," and he recited some verses of the poem 
Impenitentia Ultima: 
"Before my light goes out for ever if God should give me 

a choice of graces, 
I would not reck of length of days, nor crave for things 

to be; 
But cry: 'One day of the great lost days, one face of all 

the faces, 
Grant me to see and touch once more and nothing more 

to sec- 

" 'But once before the sand is run and the silver thread is 

broken 
Give me a grace and cast aside the veil of dolorous years. 
Grant me one hour of all mine hours, and let me sec for a 

token 
Her pure and pitiful eyes shine out, and bathe her feet 

with tears. 



72 



" 'Before the ruining waters fall and my life be carried 

under, 
And Thine anger cleave me through as a child cuts down a 

flower, 
I will praise Thee, I^ord, iri Hell, while my limbs are racked 

asunder. 
For the last sad sight of her face and the little grace of an 

hour.' " 

The verses sang the desire of his heart, with 
consuming passion, and taught me all his love- 
madness and despair: but I was determined — 
hoping it might spur him to better things — not 
again to lose my critical attitude. I nodded my 
head and said: 

"First rate; the hands are the hands of Dow- 
son but the voice is the voice of Swinburne." 

"Oh, that be damned," he cried, "the voice is 
mine; 'my cup may be small.' " he quoted, "but 
it's mine.' Here's something to a madman in 
Bedlam," and he began reciting again. The last 
couplet caught me, rapt me out of time : 

". . . . ;better than love or sleep. 

The star-crowned solitude of thine oblivious hours!" 

It was Splendid ; it sang itself and satisfied the 
critical faculty in me; yet there was better to 
come, I divined. Dowson nodded too with a 
challenge as of one sure of himself: 

"Here is my best," he said, and began with a 
voice that trembled in spite of himself: 

73 



"Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips an<! miruf 

There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed 

Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine; 

And I was desolate and sick of an old passion. 

Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head: 

I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion. 

"I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind, 

Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng 

Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind; 

But I was desolate and sick of an old passion, 

Yea, all the time, because the dance was long: 

I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion." 

I could not help myself: I was enthralled. 
He paused. 

"Go on," I begged, and he went on: 

"I cried for madder music and for stronger wine, 
But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire 
Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine; 
And I am desolate and sick of an old passion, 
Yea, hungry for the lips of my desire: 
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion." 

"The greatest poem of this time," I exclaimed; 
"sure to live; why should one be afraid to say it: 
sure to live forever." And I looked at him with 
a sort of wonder; for this frail creature had done 
it before any of us, had scaled Heaven and stood 
there throned among the Immortals. 

Tears had been in his voice almost from the 
beginning. When I burst out in praise of him, 
tears were pouring down his face and after the 
last verse as I praised him enthusiastically, he 
leant his head on his hands and gave the tears 

74 



way. When the fit had passed and he had wiped 
his eyes I said, cursing myself for my previous 
harshness : 

"No wonder, you are impenitent, you arc 
quite right. Whatever brought you to that 
height is good : whatever way you trod, blessed. 
What do the thorns matter? or the bowl ; whether 
of hyssop or hemlock, who cares? Your name 
is enskied and sacred, shrined in the hearts of 
men forever and I called you a weak dreamer 
and a failure. Well, your answer is: 

**I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion." 

And then I made up my mind to try to cure 
him; admiration had moved him; would com- 
monsense help or ridicule; humor or sympathy? 
Vd try every motive. 

"Fancy," I began, "that little French girl call- 
ing forth such a passion in you! It astounds me 
that you can't see her as she was and is with 
nothing to her but the beauty of youth. She had 
nothing in her, Dowson, or she'd never have pre- 
ferred a waiter to you." 

Dowson looked at me : "What did Keats see 
in Fanny Brawne?" 

"But don't you know," I cried, "that you'd 
only have to take hold of yourself for a month 
and go out among the better class girls in Lon- 
don to find someone infinitely superior to her in 
body and mind and soul ; someone worthy of you 



/> 



and your genius. For God's sake, man, give life 
a chance to show you what jewels it holds!" 

"I've lost the one pearl," he said, and added 
dreamily: "What's life good for but to be lived 
to the full; the whole meaning of it is in the 
moment when you reach the ultimate of feeling 
and can throw life away as holding nothing 
higher. To me passion is the way to Nirvana, 
love the supreme sacrament, the perfect chry- 
solite — " 

"You can find a dozen finer gems," I cried, 
"incomparably more lustrous, more — " 

He shrugged his shoulders disdainfully. 
"More to your taste, I dare say — not to mine. 
Can't you see," he burst out with sudden violence, 
"that I loved her just because you and the others 
could find nothing in her; no beauty in her curv- 
ing white neck and the way the dark tendrils 
curled on it; no sweetness in the pure eyes and 
mocking gay laughter; nothing. But I saw, and 
knew she was mine, made for me and me alone 
to love and possess. Can't you see that the less 
she was yours, man, the more she was mine; all 
mine — mine alone; no one else could know her 
and her shy, elusive grace. Ah, God — how did 
I lose her? Why?" 

And the face froze into despair, wild-eyed 
with agonizing remorse. His couplet came into 
my head : 

You would have understood me, had you waited; 
I could have loved you, dear, as well as he; 

76 



Suddenly I realized that there was nothing to 
be done. A desperate gamester, Dowson had 
risked all on one throw and lost — and yet how 
easy it had been to have won; how easy; (that 
was the sting) — and how impossible for himl 

Always I know, how little severs me 
From mine heart's country, that is yet so far; 
And must I lean and long across a bar, 
That half a word would shatter utterly? 

That half-word was never uttered 1 
Whenever we love passionately we cannot 
angle for love; we can only pray for it — not call 
it into being by cunning or feigned indifference; 
we can only give royally and wait in vain — the 
tears of youth, the bitterest tears of this unintel- 
ligible world. 

Let be at last: colder she grows and colder; 

Sleep and the night were best; 
Lying at last where we cannot behold her, 

We may rest. 

The pathos of it all and the music! 

In other years Dowson wrote another book 
of verse — "Decorations" — mere echoes; books of 
prose too — some novels done in collaboration 
and a slight volume of short stories — "Dilem- 
mas" — which deserve mention perhaps for a 
certain subdued sadness and careful delicate 
workmanship — dead rose leaves still exhaling a 
faint sweet perfume. 

n 



The last days of his short life were spent main- 
ly abroad; in Paris and Brittany, Dieppe and 
Normandy. In especial he loved Paris as many 
Englishmen love it with a peculiar and passion- 
ate emotion as a city where art is cherished as 
an ideal higher even than life, and it was from 
Paris that he wrote the letter, the postscript of 
which I reproduce in facsimile 
It gives a curious snapshot of life in Paris, about 
1899, a lightning gleam illuminating not only 
Sherard and Rowland Strong, but also Oscar 
Wilde, in a characteristic attitude. 

Dowson's handwriting shows, something of 
the lucidity, the delicacy, the love of beauty 
which were his enduring characteristics. 

/a*/ S)i>KkJUK ^ ScJuiyraAJi ^•*L,i.aj a^^Wtt* ^/fi** 
•Ta^C^ <d Jit^tAO — m/H *M riijiXy*^ 4UCa.^JL A^^M«,c/ — -l.^. 




y 



[I met severally & separately yesterday after- 
noon Oscar, Strong & Sherard — all inveighing 
bitterly against one another & two of them dis- 
cussing divers fashions of self-destruction, Oscar 

78 



was particularly grieved because of a Swedish 
baron (whom he had met at Marlotte & of whom 
he hoped much) who had borrowed 5 francs 
from him on the Boulevard. 
Yours ever, 

Ernest Dowson. 

Usually when abroad Dowson sought the 
slums: "The common people," he used to say, 
"everywhere smack of race ; gentle- folk have no 
nationality," and he loved the French, indeed 
every Latin people. There was in him an un- 
complaining almost stoical independence curi- 
ously akin to hopelessness: for months at a time 
he was half-starved ; yet he would not appeal to 
his relations who could and would have helped 
him, still less to his friends whose aid wouldTonb' 
have been limited by their means; for Dowson 
had the gift of making himself loved by every 
one save that once when love meant everything 
to him. 

In the last year of his life he returned to Lon- 
don : "Poverty can hide in London better than 
anywhere else," he often said. A friend, Robert 
Sherard, found him one day — destitute, shabby, 
hungry and ill — coughing ominously: he took 
him with him to a bricklayer's cottage in which 
he himself was living on the outskirts of Cat- 
ford and there tended him in all love and pity. 

In spite of the consumption from which he 
79 



was suffering I can imagine Dowson quite happy 
in this little haven of rest. Under his shyness he 
was intensely affectionate; when moved, he liked 
to touch and caress one as a woman does and 
loving kindness and mental companionship were 
what he most desired on earth and most prized. 

Like consumptives in general, Dowson had no 
notion that his end was near; he was often full 
of hope and always full of literary projects: 
£600 was to come to him from the sale of some 
property, then he would make "a fresh start"! 
Talking thus one day, he leant forward to cough 
with more ease and drooped back fainting: he 
had made his fresh start. 

Dowson's life was very brief and many would 
call it miserable, but he gave himself to love 
with single-hearted devotion, and his passion 
brought him what he most desired — a place 
among the English poets forever, immortality 
as we mortals measure it! 

"I have been faithful to thee, Cynara ! in ray fashion." 

There are few greater lyrics in all English 
verse: none more poignant-sad. 



80 




Theodore Dreiser 




THEODORE DREISER 

CAME across "Sister Carrie" when 
it was first published in England 
ten or twelve years ago and it made 
a deep and enduring impression on 
I me. I sent copies of it broadcast 

to all my friends and those whom I knew to be 
interested in literature. The story of the grad- 
ual decay and ruin of Hurstwood seemed to me 
a masterly piece of work and I considered the 
book one of the modern novels most likely to live. 

I was naturally curious, therefore, to meet the 
author, and almost as soon as I came to stay in 
New York I looked him up. 

Dreiser's appearance surprised me; he seemed 
clumsy: a big burly man — he must be five feet 
ten or eleven in height and weigh some 190 
pounds; a large head with German features. 1 
mean by German, irregular, large, and fleshy, 
as if moulded in putty; the mouth sensuous with 
thick lips; the eyes (the feature of the face) 
thoughtful gray eyes with a sort of glance to the 
side in one of them that gives you the impression 
of a cast and conveys the idea of quick alertness 
— very distinctive in a man whose manner is 
rather heavy and whose speech is inclined to be 
slow and impressive. 

Naturally I talked with him both about his 
books and about his life, particularly about the 
early formative years and the moulding infiu- 

81i 



enccs. In brief outlines this is what he told me: 
He was brought up in the small country town 
of Evansville, Ind., as a strict Catholic; his 
father was a Catholic bigot; "I never knew," 
he says, "a narrower, more hide-bound religion- 
ist nor one more tender and loving in his narrow 
way. He was a crank, a tenth-rate Saint Simon 
(sicf) or Francis of Assissi." His mother, on the 
other hand, was a "happy, hopeful animal; an 
open, uneducated, wondering, dreamy mind; 
a pagan mother taken over into the Catholic 
Church at marriage; a great poet-mother be- 
cause she loved fables and fairies and half be- 
lieved in them; a great-hearted mother — loving, 
tender, charitable. I always say I know how 
great some souls can be because I know how 
splendid that of my mother was." 

The first books that made any impression on 
Dreiser were Goldsmith's "Deserted Village" 
and the "Vicar of Wakefield." They seemed 
to him like real life. When he was almost thir- 
teen, he had a woman teacher at the public 
school who was "astonishinglv sympathetic." 
He writes to her still. She sujr^ested his reading 
Hawthorne, Washington Irving and Fenimore 
Cooper, and then Thackeray, Drvden and Pope. 
A little later Carlvle's "French Revolution" was 
a sort of revelation to him while Shakespeare 
onened a new world full of color and lip^ht. 
When he was about fourteen or so he fell in 
?.2 



love with a girl of his own age, Dora Yaisley, 
but was too shy to approach her; remembers 
being chased and kissed by another playmate, 
Augusta Neuweiler, "plump and pretty, with a 
cap of short dark ringlets swirling about her 
eyes and ears and a red and brown complexion 
and an open, pretty mouth." 

At sixteen he went to Chicago and worked for 
a hardware company at $5 a week. He soon rea- 
lized with a horrible depression that he could 
never be a successful salesman, which was at the 
moment the object of his ambition; he would 
never get money enough to marry and be happy. 

"Had you flirted before this time?" 

"No," he replied. "I was more frightened of 
girls than of lightning and felt the same horrible 
depression about them and my chance of success 
with them as I felt in regard to business. At 
the same time many of them seemed beautiful to 
me and I longed to have them like me; they 
formed most of the brightness of life. I remem- 
ber when I was about sixteen, two girls came 
past one day and saw me swinging; they began 
to talk and evidently wanted to make friends. 
I swung them, too, but I could not even respond 
to their advances. 

"Another girl, I remember, put her arms 
round me one evening and held my hands. I 
could not speak; my heart was in my mouth; I 
was nearer choking than kissing; I could not 

»3 



believe that she liked me, much less admired me. 
I lived in this horrible depression till I was 
nearly twenty. 

"While working in the hardware store I met 
one acquaintance who exercised a great influence 
over me. He was a Dane — a drunkard and a 
lecher — excessively vicious, but with marvellous 
brains, I thought, marvellous ability. He taught 
me a lot about politics and statecraft and really 
made me believe in the relative crudeness of life 
in Western America as compared with Europe 
— a thing wholly incredible to me at first. He 
laughed Christianity off the boards for me. Up 
to that time I had been a believer, but he intro- 
duced me to Spencer and Lecky and altogether 
widened my horizon in the most amazing way. 
He would borrow money from me and tell mc 
afterwards he would not pay me back, which I 
thought extraordinary, but I forgave him be- 
cause he was so valuable to me. 

"A little later I met another woman teacher 
who helped me on my upward way with real 
intelligence. She was a Miss Fielding. She 
proposed that I should go to college. I told 
her I hadn't the money; she said she would help 
me and she did help me. At her instigation I 
wrote to David Starr Jordan, at that time Pres- 
ident at Bloomington, and he was good enough 
to relax scholastic requirements in my favor, for 
he agreed with Miss Fielding that I would get 

U 



the intellectual atmosphere at college and such 
an experience must do me good. 

"I attended college for something over a year, 
from eighteen to nineteen. I learned little in 
the way of positive knowledge, but I got a vision 
of the intellectual fields and began to realize the 
significance of languages and scientific studies. 
But the economic pressure was too heavy on me 
and at nineteen I returned to Chicago and be- 
came a clerk in a real estate office — a rent chaser 
at $8 a week. This work gave me some time to 
myself; after I had collected my rents I could 
spend the afternoon and evening reading; but 
the company failed and I became a collector for 
a furniture house at $12 a week; a little later I 
got $14 a week. I found it possible here by 
working earnestly to get time to myself, and I 
read Green's "History of England," Guizot's 
"France" and Macaulay. But my daily work 
seemed trivial to me and I felt I was no good 
at it." 

I have dwelt at length on this early failure of 
Dreiser as a business man, because I believe it 
explains his wonderful painting of Hurstwood's 
failure and fall to ruin in "Sister Carrie." 
Dreiser soon found the upward path. Again I 
let him tell his story: 

"At this time Eugene Field was writing for 
the Chicago Daily News little pictures of Chi- 
cago life After reading two or three of them 

S5 



I thought I ought to be able to do work like 
that myself. I sat down and wrote a lot of sim- 
ilar sketches and sent them to him, but he never 
answered me. This was the nadir of my depres- 
sion. Life was most beautiful to me — thrilling 
as a poem. When I thought of the girls I passed 
in the street I could have sung or wept, they 
were so attractive to me, but my own relation to 
life was all wrong and I did not know how to set 
it right; it was Field who started me thinking 
about becoming a reporter and writer. 

"I began haunting newspaper offices and ask- 
ing whether they needed anybody. They all 
gave me "no" for an answer. One day I talked 
to a man who told me I should go to some small 
paper like the Chicago Globe, I did this, but 
had no better luck. 

"My mother died this fall, and I was abso- 
lutely alone and forlorn. 

"That winter I met a girl. She was a clerk 
in a department store, quite simple and beautiful. 
We fell in love with each other. She brought 
me the stimulus I needed. I had saved about 
$60. I resolved to quit the business game for 
good and all and jump into the stream. In May, 
1891, I resigned; I would starve or get into 
newspaper work. 

"Well, I hung around newspaper offices till I 
was as well known as a lost dog. At length I 
met a man who helped me. John Maxwell was 

86 



the copy-reader for the Chicago Globe; a big 
man seemingly cynical and contemptuous of 
everything, not excepting me, but underneath 
his rough exterior he was all genial kindness 
and sweetness. He saw me one day and asked 
me about my life. I told him everything and he 
began by saying that the newspaper game was 
not worth anything ; but if I wanted to get into 
it I easily could. There was a great National 
Democratic Convention coming on in June; I 
ought to get work then. He got the Globe to 
give me a trial and told me to go and get all the 
facts I could about the Democratic Convention. 
"I remember that a dinner was being given 
to a Senator from South Carolina. It seemed 
that he was "the dark horse" and might be 
elected instead of Cleveland. I happened to 
say in the auditorium that he ought to be elected, 
in my opinion. I had no reason for it; I just 
said it to show an original point of view. Stand- 
ing near me was a large man in a light suit. He 
immediately introduced himself to me as the 
Senator in question and asked me to come up to 
his room. I went with him; I remember that 
his room had a balcony with a window looking 
over the lake. He said: *I can tell you things 
and will. You were good enough to mention me, 
but to-night at midnight Cleveland will be 
elected ; the Convention which is now in session 
has fixed that. Take my name to the secretary 

87 



of Mr. W. C. Whitney and tell him I sent you; 
he'll give you all details.' 

"I thanked him and did as I was told and got 
the scoop. I ran to the Globe office and told 
John Maxwell. He said: 'Sit down and write 
itl' I did write it and he fixed it up, re-writing 
a good deal of it himself. The two columns 
made a sensation, but when I saw the story in 
print I saw that it was Maxwell's work that had 
made it and not mine. 

"Then I came across another writer, John C. 
Mclnnins; he drank like a fish, but took a fancy 
to me. He gave me the idea of writing up the 
fake auction shops and told me I could drive 
them out of business. They began by trying to 
bribe me. One gave me a gold watch, another 
$100, to be let alone. I handed over the watch 
and the money to the police and my articles got 
all the shops closed up. 

"Next year the World's Fair was to be held in 
St. Louis. I obtained an introduction to Joseph 
B. McCullough of the Globe-Democrat, and he 
gave me work at $20 a week. I had only a poor 
bedroom, and so I spent all day in the office, 
which turned out to be a very fortunate thing 
for me. 

"I was not earning my money, when one day 
a real estate man came into the office who said he 
had just come from Chicago and had seen a big 
wreck on the Alton railway; the train was burn- 

88 



ing and a reporter ought to be sent out at once. 
I decided to go myself. There happened to be 
an oil train on the next siding, and just as I got 
on the spot the fire reached the oil and there was 
a terrific explosion; thirty-two people were 
killed and I had seen it happen. 

"I wired a rough sketch to the city editor and 
asked him to send me down an artist; then I 
went back wondering whether I should be 
praised or "fired," I was still so nervous about 
myself. 

"McCullough was a little fat Irishman, 
brusque in manner but kindly. Some years later 
he committed suicide. He always sat at his desk 
with a circle of papers strewn all round him; 
the moment he had looked through one he threw 
it on the floor. As soon as I got back I was sent 
for by him. I went to his presence in fear and 
trembling, but he quickly reassured me. 

*' 'You have done a fine piece of work,' he 
said. 'From now on you get $25 a week, and 
here is a small present for you for your initia- 
tive,' and he gave me $50 in cash. I just went 
out and turned hand-springs all over St. Louis. 
A little later the dramatic editor resigned and I 
decided to ask for the place. I waylaid McCul- 
lough as he entered the building, but could 
hardly get the words out: 

" Would you let me try to be dramatic editor?' 
I asked. 

89. 



"He looked at me and snapped: 'All right; 
you are the dramatic editor,' and went on. 

"I had already tried to write poetry and now 
I wrote a sensational comedy and a comic opera, 
but neither of them came to anything and they 
finally got lost. 

"I made up my mind to go to New York and 
I arrived in Manhattan Island by way of Toledo 
and Pittsburgh in 1894. 

"I got on the World by an accident. I went 
down to the World office and was waiting about 
when Arthur Brisbane, then a middle-aged man, 
with light sandy hair passed. He looked at me 
and asked me who I was. I told him my name 
was Dreiser and I wanted a job. He took me 
over to a man called Quail and said : 'Give him 
a desk and an assignment.' 

"I failed lamentably on the PForld. The great 
city scared me stiff. I was told to go and inter- 
view Russell Sage about something. They might 
as well have asked me to interview St. Peter. 
Then there was a fight in the Hoffman House 
between two sports — well-known men both — 
Whitneys or Vanderbilts, I forget the names. 
I went up but could not for the life of me go in 
and speak to the manager. I was too shy. 
Fancy, David Graham Phillips and Richard 
Harding Davis had just left the World, and in 
comparison with such masters I failed abso- 
lutely. 

90 



"I should have come to utter grief at twenty- 
three or twenty-four if it had not been for the 
fact that my brother was an actor and wrote 
popular songs. He was a good many years older 
than I was and I used to hang around his office. 
At this time he was trying to bring out a paper. 
I went to Brentano's and found some English 
and French papers — Pick-me-up, he Rire, 
Truth. I saw that they were new, thought they 
would catch on. I helped my brother with his 
paper and we had a certain success. I worked 
on it for two years and learned the business. 

"About this time I read the 'Data of Ethics* 
and 'First Principles' of Herbert Spencer. They 
nearly killed me, took every shred of belief away 
from me; showed me that I was a chemical atom 
in a whirl of unknown forces; the realization 
clouded my mind. I felt the rhythm of life, but 
the central fact to me was that the whole thing 
was unknowable — incomprehensible. I went 
into the depths and I am not sure that I have 
ever got entirely out of them. I have not much 
of a creed — certainly no happy or inspiring be- 
lief to this day. 

"But the other side of me had grown too. In 
St. Louis I had met a very lovely girl — religious, 
thoughtful, well-read. I married her in 1898, 
and that year I wrote 'Sister Carrie,' when I was 
twenty-seven, my wife helping me a great deal. 

"In half a year I realized that for me mar- 
9f 



riage was a disaster. At the end of the first year 
and a half it had become a torture. It was a 
binding state and I was not to be bound. My 
wife was good and kind and all the rest of it, 
but tied to her I could not get any good out of 
matrimony. I was afraid I'd go mad. I begged 
her to set me free and she did." 

These are the chief formative incidents of 
Dreiser's life and they tell us, I think, a good 
deal about his nature and his environment 
First of all, he would not have been helped in 
his newspaper work in any European country as 
he was helped in America; then his shyness with 
girls and his fear of failure in life show a long 
continued immaturity. 

Such slowness of growth and youthful ineffec- 
tiveness are very rare, I imagine, in men of great 
intellectual power. Nearly all the men who 
have made a name in literature or art have been 
distinguished by extraordinary precocity; but I 
see no reason for this in the nature of things and 
I am inclined to believe that those destined to 
grow for many years usually grow slowly at first 
like oak trees. 

Now to give some idea of the man as he is to- 
day and especially of his mind. 

First of all he is a radical in politics, as are 
most men who think for themselves. As is nat- 
ural, he is for complete freedom in art and lit- 
erature. ^ 

92 



The treatment accorded to his first book, 
"Sister Carrie," was bad enough to make a 
Liberal of anyone. 

The book was written between October, 1899, 
and May, 1900. He sent it to Harper & 
Brothers, who rejected it. Then it was taken to 
Doubleday, Page & Co., who accepted it and 
drew up a contract giving Dreiser fifteen per 
cent, as a royalty. Frank Norris was their 
reader at the time. Walter H. Page wrote 
Dreiser a letter congratulating him on the book. 

But Mrs. Doubleday did not approve of the 
book, and so it was condemned. Norris sug- 
gested that Doubleday should be held to his con- 
tract, and Dreiser followed his counsel. Years 
later Thomas H. McKee, who was then Double- 
day's attorney, told Dreiser that the firm came 
to him for advice how best to suppress the book. 
He told them to publish a given number of 
copies and put them in their cellar. This they 
did. Outside a few copies sent by Norris to re- 
viewers, not one was given out or sold. The only 
hearing the book received was in England where 
Heinemann issued it the following year (1901). 
It was an immediate and unqualified success. 

Dreiser's books brought him again and again 
into conflict with the lewd puritanism which is 
the disgrace and curse of American life. 

In 1914 his novel, "The Titan," was accepted 
bj Harper's. An edition of ten thousand was 



printed and then the book was thrown back on 
the author's hands to be disposed of as he might 
think fit. Someone or other regarded it, too. as 
immoral. Dreiser has never been able to learn 
even the name of his critic. 

Only the other day the infamous Society for 
the Suppression of Vice proceeded against his 
latest book, "The Genius," frightened the pub- 
lisher out of his wits and thereby robbed Dreiser 
of nearly all the pecuniary results of two years' 
labor. I say "robbed" advisedly, for when this 
vile society is defeated in the law-courts it never 
even attempts to make reparation to its innocent 
victims. 

More recently still, in the winter of 1917, a 
four-act tragedy Dreiser had written was refused 
by his present publishers, not on the ground that 
it was immoral, but that it was "too terrible." 
Too terrible for the shallow surface optimism 
of America. 

Dreiser is one of the first writers and thinkers 
in the country: we punish him or allow him to 
be punished for doing the best in him, for giving 
us of his best with utmost effort of brain and 
heart. This is a symptom of mortal disease in 
the body corporate. The mere idea will make 
most people smile; American civilization con- 
demned because a Dreiser is mulcted in a couple 
of thousand dollars for writing "The Genius!" 
Ha! ha! ha! and again, Ho! ho! 

94 



It seems to me that the teaching of history on 
this matter is unequivocal. No nation can per- 
secute its prophets without paying the penalty. 

We all know how the Jews treated their 
prophets; they were warned on the highest au- 
thority that such conduct would bring ruin on 
them: Your houses shall be left unto you deso- 
late. The prediction has been duly fulfilled. 

But now to return to Dreiser. He stands for 
freedom in its widest sense and toleration to the 
extreme. He loves liberty perhaps too much to 
advocate doles to struggling men of letters or to 
the widows of writers and their orphans such 
as are provided in Great Britain; but he 
would have no serious objection to such char- 
itable assistance. In any case he would hardly 
look on this charity as a duty and a most im- 
portant duty of the State. That is to say he is 
an American and has but a vague conception of 
an ordered and highly organized State, such as 
alone can survive in the world-competition of 
the future. He thinks that all he has a right to 
ask is freedom to live his own life, think his own 
thoughts and write as he likes, and he is exas- 
perated by finding his freedom to write curtailed 
by the vulgar prejudice of a society of lewd busy- 
bodies led by an unscrupulous hypocrite. 

Now what are his thoughts on the deepest 
questions? He has come through the Slough of 
Despond as Christian ^H, but has he found firm 

95 



ground on the other side? Is he one of the 
bringers of light sacred forever or is he content 
to stumble about in darkness unillumined? He 
tells me that he can see no object in things — no 
goal; nor in the life of man any purpose; cer- 
tainly no moral purpose or plan. Acts have their 
consequences which he is willing to believe are 
logical, though he is far from sure even of that; 
often the results of slight errors are so dreadful 
as to suggest malevolence. We men are male- 
volent often; why not the Maker of men? 

Kat, drink, work and be merry, therefore, for 
to-morrow you die, seems to me a fair summary 
of his belief, which indeed is the comfortless 
creed of a majority of his countrymen — "on evil 
days now fallen and evil tongues." 

It is to Dreiser's credit and the credit of our 
long-suffering and resilient human nature that 
his despairing outlook on life does not make him 
cruel or indifferent to others' suffering or indeed 
unduly depressed and melancholy. He takes 
the goods the gods send and is fairly content so 
long as health and strength endure; a good din- 
ner and good talk are good things, and a girl's 
lips and^the surrender in her eyes can make a 
new heaven and a new earth for him. That is, 
Dreiser is in fairly true relation to the centre of 
gravity of this world even if he has no notion 
how the centre is changing and whither this solid 
I'obc itself is moving with all that it inhabit. 

% 



And so he is a fair and interesting critic of 
other men's work and a helpful influence, this 
robust, healthy, sincere and outspoken man, 
Dreiser. 

He thinks both Twain and Dickens negligible, 
and he does not admire Emerson or Whitman 
wholeheartedly, much less will he admit that 
my admiration of David Graham Phillips is 
well-founded. Here his criticism is that of a 
creator; he says: 

"David Graham Phillips often sketches a 
character and then loses hold of it and in the 
course of the narration allows another soul to 
enter in and possess the name.'' 

"What novel do you refer to?" I challenged. 

"Old Wives for New," he replied, "the hero- 
ine changes completely." 

"I don't agree with you," was all I could say. 
"Your point is often just, but it does not apply 
to Phillips in my opinion," and then I carried 
the war into his country. 

"Why have you repeated yourself?" I asked. 
"It is a sign of povertv, surely." 

"Havel?"heasked^. "Where?" 

" 'Jenny Gerhardt,' " I said, "is only a better 
'Sister Carrie' ; then you have done 'The Finan- 
cier' and 'The Titan,' two books to give the one 
figure of 'The Millionaire.' " 

"I'm going to do another on him," he growled ; 
"and why not?" 

97 



"No reason," I retorted, "save that it is a 
mere replica or copy." 

"I don't agree with you," he said stoutly; "it 
is a development." 

"And then the faults in the drawing," I went 
on in a flank attack, "weaken or rather destroy 
faith in you. True, the figure of the 'Million- 
aire' is one of the few generic figures of our time ; 
a figure that should be painted once for all; 
Sancho Panza throned and triumphant; but 
you've been too true to life; too realistic." 

"How do you make that out?" he dissented. 

"You send your millionaire to prison in 'The 
Financier,'" I went on; "that showed me you 
were probably drawing him from life, for finan- 
ciers as a rule don't go to prison in the United 
States. The incident is so improbable that as a 
matter of art it is worse than untrue. I made 
some inquiries and found that Yerkes had been 
sent to prison in Philadelphia; altogether too 
greedy as a young man, even for American tol- 
erance. As soon as I read in 'The Titan' that 
your financier after his release went west to Chi- 
cago and worked to get the street-car system 
into his control, I knew my guess v/as right and 
you had taken Yerkes for your model, for it is 
almost as unlikely that a great financier should 
go west as it is that he should be imprisoned. 
Great financiers in America are attracted to the 
east — to New York — the biggest market with the 

98 



largest prizes, draws irresistibly. Accordingly 
your books seem true to life and not to art in 
these particulars, for art is life generalized a 
little." 

"I would not have believed," he interrupted, 
"that any critic in another country could have 
drawn such subtle and true deductions, you are 
quite right, I had Yerkes in my mind as a model 
when I wrote 'The Financier' and 'The Titan.' " 

"In 'The Titan,' too," I continued, "towards 
the end I recognized the original of the girl who 
won the hero. 

"I dare say," Dreiser admitted laughing. 

"There is no mistake in taking the girl from 
life," I cried, "but sending your model financier 
to prison was a blunder, was it not?" 

"I see what you mean," he said thoughtfully, 
"and perhaps you are right. I am not con- 
vinced." 

"The financier," I went on, pressing the point, 
"is always a master of everyday life; he would 
make no mistake in dealing with it." 

"What do you think of the books in other 
respects?" he asked. 

"They are vivid," I replied, "and there's a 
splendid love-story in 'The Financier'; but I 
don't think your portrait of the millionaire will 
live. You have not made large sums of money 
yourself or you would have painted him dif- 
ferently. You have not given us even his enor- 

99 



mous urge or driving power which is also his 
chief weakness. It would take too long to ex- 
plain. Your picture is much the same as the one 
Claretie gave us in *Le Milion' thirty years ago." 

Dreiser bore my criticism very well, I thought. 
I wanted him to see that in Europe the best lit- 
erary criticism is of enormous assistance to the 
true artist; for it keeps him on stretch, forces 
him to dig deep into himself to find the pure ore 
of human nature. Had "Sister Carrie" been 
produced in London the author's next books 
would have shown distinct growth, I believe, 
because "Sister Carrie" would have been praised 
so warmly and yet with such penetrating dis- 
crimination that its author would have been en- 
couraged at once and nerved to do even better 
than his best. 

Dreiser told me what indeed anyone might 
have guessed that "Sister Carrie" met with a 
cold reception on the whole, and the few who 
praised, did so in fear and dread of puritanic 
condemnation. Sister Carrie gave herself with- 
out the sanction of marriage, and, a worse fea- 
ture still, succeeded in life by reason of her 
lapses instead of being "ruined" as puritanism 
would have it, and accordingly the book was con- 
demned in the United States because of the vital 
truth in it. 

I have gone into this matter at some length 
because I wish to show how the outworn puri- 

100 



tanic creed still injures all works of literary art 
in America and is apt, too, to injure if not to 
ruin the artist. 

The atmosphere here is far more blighting 
than it is even in England, and yet for nearly a 
century now English prudery has prevented the 
publication of any novel which could be re- 
garded as a masterpiece and read all over Eu- 
rope. In the public interest our prudery and 
Puritanism must be fought. Of course, the 
Author's League should have taken up arms for 
Mr. Dreiser long ago and defended him against 
the idiotic attacks of the self-styled Society for 
the Suppression of Vice; but it looks as if the 
Authors' League here as in Great Britain was 
only devised to provide berths for half a dozen 
mediocrities. 

Meanwhile the great writers suffer. Walt 
Whitman was hounded out of Washington and 
lost his post there, was ostracised, indeed, for 
twenty-five years, and Dreiser has been attacked 
and punished for writing above the heads of the 
crowd. Yet he is full of hope and high purpose 
with half a dozen books in hand; a volume of 
essays, a philosophic work setting forth the out- 
lines at least of his creed, the third book of the 
trilogy on the millionaire and other novels. 

All these projects and endeavors simply go to 
prove how indefatigable and unconquerable a 
man is when he is lucky enough or wise enough 

.101 



to have found his true work and to be able to 
do it. 

When we thwart him, ours is the loss. We 
have only had a half product from Dreiser — a 
thought which sometimes depresses me, though 
the great public does not seem to mind much. 

Even now I find I have said little about Mr. 
Dreiser's latest book, "The Genius," and not a 
word about his plays, and yet they both deserve 
careful consideration. 

"The Genius" — what a title! It quite excited 
me to think beforehand how one would try to 
make "A Genius" real and recognizable to the 
reader. Dreiser put his title "The Genius" in 
inverted commas, I imagine, in sincere doubt 
whether this animated embodiment of himself 
or at least reflection of some of his strongest de- 
sires and feelings was really a possessor of the 
divine spark? 

The lady novelist usually paints her hero as 
superbly handsome, brave and gentle, and then 
throws in the remark — "he was besides a man of 
genius." But it takes a little more than that to 
convince us of genius. The novelist who takes 
his art seriously is bound to realize his praise; he 
must at least show us the genius acting or talking 
as no one but a genius could act or talk. This 
Dreiser has failed to do, has not even tried to do. 

His hero made up in almost equal parts of 
«»exual desire and love of art is an interesting 

102 



person enough; but just genius is lacking to him 
in my poor opinion. He is not dynamic or ex- 
traordinary in any way. Why then call him a 
**genius/' even in inverted commas? The soul 
of genius is a constant striving towards the light, 
like a flower pushing its way up through black 
encumbering earth and even through crevices of 
stone to air and sunlight. 

Growth is the birthmark of genius, a per- 
petual thirst for a larger, richer life. Dreiser's 
"Genius" appears to go from girl to girl lured 
by youth and beauty without any further or 
higher selection whatsoever. Of course, the sex 
desire has eyes chiefly for beauty and youth, but 
in other respects it is not blind. Just in the case 
of genius there is a seeking after a new experi- 
ence, a more womanly woman and this groping 
desire is guided by the aesthetic impulse which 
demands ever richer nourishment. 

The sex-life of a genius is of the most intense 
interest. Shakespeare has given us three great 
pictures of it; romantic love in "Romeo and 
Juliet," mature passion in "Antony and Cleo- 
patra," lust and jealousy in "Othello," and 
Goethe has given one in the Gretchen episode 
in "Faust" of equal value, just as Dante has 
given another; but the sex-life of an ordinary 
intelligence is of slight concern, and accordingly 
I don't admire "The Genius" of Dreiser greatly. 
One of his plays, "The Girl in the Coffin," 
103 



interested me infinitely more; it gives a great 
stage-picture; is true to life, too, and yet preaches 
forgiveness for sex-sins superbly. 

Now what may be expected from Dreiser? 
Is he going on from strength to strength till he 
fulfils himself in some masterpiece or shall we 
get from him only a half-product, another 
"Sister Carrie," of great promise and half per- 
formance? 

I cannot tell; I can only hope for the best. 
Usually the master who has a great deal to say 
is at first careless, as Balzac was, of how he says 
it, and grows more and more particular about 
form as he grows older. But I don't see any 
growth in Dreiser in this direction. Some of 
his letters are excellently written; but in his 
books he is often careless. Even in the portraits 
of his father and mother, in "A Hoosier's Holi- 
day," all steeped in love though they are, there 
is little or no verbal music; his brush-strokes 
even are not studied; he repeats himself in suc- 
cessive clauses: "A great poet-mother, a great- 
hearted mother," without a reason or rather in 
spite of reason: he compares his father to "Saint 
Simon or Francis of Assisi," and one pauses in 
shocked bewilderment; which Saint Simon does 
he mean? In any case, these two examples are 
of contrasting type. I could give many instances 
of similar blunders. There are whole pages in 
every book of Dreiser's so badly written that 

104 



they affect me like gravel-grit in my mouth and 
I am not inclined to over-estimate mere verbal 
felicity. Worst of all, I feel perpetually that 
Preiser might write so much better than he does 
if he would but try to do his best; he has the 
gift — why not the ideal? I am constrained to 
think it is the German paste in him that makes 
him so blind to the beauty of words. 

His latest play, "The Potter's Hand," testifies 
to even a worse fault, what Goethe called the 
lack of architectural or structural symmetry. 
The protagonist of the play is an erotomaniac 
who rapes and murders a little girl and at last 
commits suicide. Dreiser brings out all the 
tragedy of the poor creature's insane and mis- 
erable existence; and w^e read it with terror and 
pity. It is plain that with the suicide the action 
finishes and the interest is at an end, but Dreiser 
drags in reporters to moralize the situation in a 
way that would be intolerable to any audience ; 
the tragedy is thereby rendered formless. It 
would almost seem as if Dreiser were incapable 
of self-criticism. 

There they are before me, his eight stout vol- 
umes, ^nd reluctantly I am forced to admit that 
so far "Sister Carrie," his earliest book, is his 
best. Of course, the critics and the public as 
well as the writer are to blame for this imperfect 
result; but explain, excuse it as you will, the fact 
is indubitable: and no explanation can justify 

105 



such a fact; Browning tells us truly that "In- 
centives come from the soul's self." 

Genius has always the faculty of taking in- 
finite pains. When Shelley pointed out to Keats 
some weak lines in his "Endymion," Keats 
thanked him and added : "I want to fill the 
rifts with gold." That's the true spirit magnifi- 
cently expressed. In the Pantheon of Humanity 
there is no place for the careless or slipshod; 
our gods are all human yet all give us of their 
best, and so, as Burns knew, "whiles do mair." 



106 




George Moore 




GEORGE MOORE AND JESUS 

HAVE never written a word about 
George Moore, never criticized a 
book of his , never mentioned him 
or discussed his work in print, and 
yet I have known him longer than 
I have known any other man of letters; known 
him fairly intimately for over thirty-five years. 
I have never had a quarrel with him. I 
admire some of his books — particularly "The 
Mummer's Wife" and "Esther Waters," and 
enjoy "The Confessions," and have told him so; 
and even more than his books I admire the 
singleness of purpose and persistence with which 
he has prosecuted literature and developed his 
writing talent, and yet he has never interested 
me deeply, never touched my emotions or quick- 
ened my thought; never been to me one of the 
wine-bearers at the banquet of life. 

And thi% I say, not as lessening him, but as 
my own confession and apology. When young 
I believed with all my heart that poverty was 
the greatest evil in the world; that the dreadful 
inequality of human conditions would have to 
be righted, brought more into accord with our 
ideas of justice before any great work of art 

107 



would even be possible. I think now I was mis- 
taken in this; but my belief is tenable, easily 
defensible. 

Moore, on the other hand, took no heed of 
the social misery; was not interested in the 
anarchy of individualism; cared nothing for 
any socialistic remedy; professed himself indif- 
ferent to Utopia and was frankly bored when 
one talked of the humanisation of man in society. 
Even at twenty-five he was purely a writer — 
a novelist of the modern realistic school. 

Moore's person was so peculiar as to pin him 
in the memory: he was fairly tall, about five 
feet ten or thereabouts, with sloping bottle- 
shoulders and heavy hips. His face was pallid 
like pork, set off with rufous drooping mous- 
tache, while reddish fair hair waved away from 
a high, broad forehead. He always seemed to 
me slightly flaccid, weak, inclined to fat; but 
when I try to explain this inference I can only 
recall the fact that his hands were podgy white 
and he was perpetually gesticulating with white 
fingers that looked effeminate, soft. After his 
too fair complexion, his eyes impressed one; 
very prominent, round, pale blue; observant, 
enquiring eyes, they seemed to me, neither re- 
ceptive nor profound; the mouth ordinary, the 
nose a good long rudder, prominent enough to 
suggest vanity and rather fleshy, a sensuous but 

108 



steering Jewish nose softened still further by 
fleshy soft jaws and small mound of chin. 

He would come into the office of The London 
Evening News, of which I was at that time the 
Managing Editor, and talk interminably; but 
always of literature, usually of Zola or some 
one of Zola's novels or opinions. Whatever the 
Frenchman had written was sacred in Moore's 
eyes: Zola filled his mental horizon, was his 
god; his writings his Gospel. Occasionally he 
would talk of Monet or Manet or Degas; but 
one soon realized that his opinion of painters 
and pictures was a second-hand opinion, an 
opinion soaked up from intercourse with those 
artists themselves or with still younger masters. 

Moore was always interesting to me because 
he was always interested in what he had to say 
— enthusiastic even; his voice was pleasant, a 
tenor voice fairly modulated and rhythmical; 
but neither his eyes nor his voice was so expres- 
sive as his gestures, the fingers, antennae-like, 
meeting and separating in front of your eyes, 
seeking, probing, hesitating — extraordinarily in- 
dicative of an inquisitive, curious intelligence. 
He had excellent manners, never intruding or 
obtrusive, considerate always of others; the 
manners and dress, too, of good society; yet 
without a trace of affectation or snobbishness. 
Moore was genuinely interested in men of letters 
and literary topics and able to converse with 
them or about them, showing always a slight 

109 



agreeable preference for monologue, monologue 
about himself and his literary plans and pref- 
erences. 

The first trait of his character which struck 
me was his extraordinary moderation; he didn't 
seem to care for eating or drinking, and was 
always as moderate in both as a Spaniard or a 
Greek. To his wonderful sobriety he owes his 
almost perfect health. 

He never seemed to exercise, did not even 
take the usual "constitutional" walk; yet he was 
always fit and well ; could walk through a long 
day's shooting and was an excellent shot, as I 
found out once when he came to stay with me 
near Bridge Castle to shoot over some ground 
belonging to Lord Abergavenny. I mention this 
simply to show that he had all the qualifications 
of the English country gentleman, yet just be- 
cause he was a writer with a love of letters and 
knowledge of art, English society which is 
"sporting" and "horsey" in the extreme or "bar- 
barian," as Matthew Arnold called it, regarded 
him with suspicion and aversion as not true to 
type. One day when out shooting, Moore was 
accidently hit by a glancing pellet; instead of 
covering the sportsman's want of skill or care 
with silence the occasion was used for a rude 
gibe. 

"What could Moore expect when he went out 
shooting with gentlemen?" a double-edged sneer 

no 



which I persisted in construing to Moore's 
advantage. 

Moore's character was full of surprises even 
to one acquainted with every variety of the Eng- 
lish man of letters. His wonderful sobriety 
came first; then perhaps his wide knowledge of 
sports and country life in general, and finally 
his keen business faculty and appreciation of all 
the uses of advertisement. He never offered 
articles on any subject without payment, though 
men of letters in general are full of over-ripe 
enthusiasms for this or that cause or person, and 
eager to display their tastes in print. 

Moore was an enthusiastic admirer of the 
modern French school of writing and painting; 
would hold forth about the masters by the hour, 
yet as soon as one said, "Write it, Moore; such 
an article would be interesting," he would reply 
— "All right; but what will you pay for it?" 

And when it came to terms he was a stickler 
for the uttermost farthing. Not even in this 
case, however, did he go beyond the conven- 
tional gentlemanly insistence. He was never 
aggressive; always suave and conciliatory. If 
you could pay his price he was willing to write 
for you; if not, he would not write, but was 
nevertheless friendly, even amiable. He was 
very precise about delivering his copy at the 
agreed upon time; finicky only about correcting 
and recorrectinjy proofs; preferring this cadence 

111 



to that, this turn of expression to that, an artist 
in polishing the already smooth-filed line. 

In this scruple one peculiarity marked him; 
he would fall in love with a word and try to 
drag it into his prose by hook or by crook. He 
, says somewhere, I think in this "Confessions" 
that he used to "learn unusual words and stick 
them in here and there"; but he does not tell 
what sort of word he preferred. Let me fill the 

gap. 

I remember when shooting with me in Sussex 
he heard "shaw" for the first time used to de- 
scribe a small wood or covert. 

"What a beautiful word," he cried, "exquis- 
ite — a 'shaw'," and for some time afterwards 
"shaw" appeared again and again in his writing. 

The curious thing about Moore's predilection 
for this or that new word was that he did not 
care for the meaning of the word, but for its 
sound and color. Every master of prose loves 
words and is scrupulous to employ them in their 
exact meaning. Words, like coins, grow lighter 
in the using. The master of words, like a new 
monarch, issues them afresh from his mint of 
full weight, stamped with his authority. But 
Moore cared nothing for the derivation of a 
word or its true meaning. In his latest book, 
as in his earliest, he is not disdainful merely of 
scholarship — he ignores it. 

On page 175 of "The Brook Kerith" he speaks 
112 



of "shards of shells or pottery." He docs nof 
know that "shard" is short for "potsherd," and 
if he knew he would not care. He is in love 
with the sound or color of the word "shard" and 
accordingly writes on page 169 of "some broken 
ruins, shards of an old castle apparently tenant- 
less," bewildering the ordinary reader who 
knows what "shard" means. The impression 
Moore means to convey is often confused in this 
fashion or blunted by his misuse of words. An 
even better instance may be given, taken at hap- 
hazard from the book under my hand, at the 
moment, "The Apostle." On meeting Jesus, 
Paul says: 

"Thy face is not unstrange to me, yet I have 
never been among these hills before." Moore 
does not know that "unstrange" must be nearly 
equivalent to "familiar"; the neologism "un- 
strange" pleased him and he stuck it in! The 
truth is Moore's early training in Paris as a 
painter has corrupted his taste in words. It has 
led him again and again to seek for the pictorial 
quality of a word or scene, which is hardly an 
effect proper to literature, though much prized 
by the illiterate. 

To return to my immediate theme. Moore 
knew by instinct all the myriad uses of ad- 
vertisement. He used to say, "Attack me as you 
please ; slang me, but write about me. I'd rather 
have a libelous article than silence; indeed, I 

113 



think slander more effective than eulogy. If you 
hate my books, say so, please, at length; that 
will get me readers." 

He rivaled Oscar Wilde in his love of adver- 
tisement, knew almost every newspaper office in 
London, and kept the doors ajar by frequent 
visits. Verily, he has had his reward. 

ttj have lived through most of Moore's wild 
enthusiasms from Zola to Turgenief. I remem- 
ber meeting him one day when he would talk 
of nothing but Flaubert. Flaubert was the 
greatest writer France had ever produced; an 
impeccable artist without fault or flaw — super- 
lative on superlative. I could only smile — 
another god ! 

Had I read "L'Education Sentimentale"? 

I had and did not prize it greatly. Gently 
I reminded Moore of his previous infatuation 
for Zola. He confessed mournfully. 

"How I could ever have admired that farth- 
ing dip when the sun of Flaubert was lighting 
the heavens and warming the earth, I can't im- 
agine. One's aberrations are astonishing. One 
changes not every seven years as the physiol- 
ogists say, but every three years or so. Zola I 
He has no style. Even his name is tawdry and 
common to me now; but Flaubert, Flaubert, 
Flaubert!" 

"Have you ever read his letters?" I asked. 
"They are really superb — especially those to 

114 



George Sand. He talks of Shakespeare with 
passionate admiration, as *an ocean.' " 

"Does he really?" wondered Moore. "I've 
never read Shakespeare — know nothing about 
him. Is he really great? 

Moore's reading was always fragmentary — 
peculiar. At that time he hadn't read Shakes- 
peare or the Bible or indeed any of the English 
or world classics. He read solely what he liked 
or thought he would like ; the world of writers 
began and ended for him with the Frenchmen 
of the last half of the nineteenth century. 

It was, I believe, my outspoken preference for 
Balzac over Flaubert that set him reading "La 
Comedie Humaine," consecutively, and even 
after he had written his essay on Balzac he had 
not read "Le Cure de Tours," which is the su- 
preme example of Balzac's artistry. But as 
soon as he heard of it, he read it and discussed 
it with some understanding in the final revision 
of his essay. 

Moore's ignorance was the standard joke 
wherever men of letters congregated. He had 
spent years as a boy in a Roman Catholic college, 
he said; but I always wondered where it could 
have been till I saw in a paper that he left it 
in his "very early teens" because he "refused to 
go to confession." He has made up for his re- 
calcitrance since by confessing himself and his 
fleshly sins in print whenever he could get the 

115 



opportunity. But his ignorances were abysmal, 
like those of a king, incomprehensible to anyone 
who had had ordinary schooling. 

Moore's mind seemed incapable of grasping 
the elementary facts of grammar. He was al- 
ways confusing "shall" and "will" and "should" 
and "would." 

I often asked myself how his boundless con- 
tempt for knowledge of all sorts could coexist 
with a genuine talent for expression and a very 
real love of literature. The enigmas of Moore's 
character are insoluble. 

For example, his enthusiasm for great writers 
did not reach to his contemporaries. Even in 
"The Confessions" he belittles every man of 
genius of his time: Meredith bores him; Brown- 
ing is devoid of "Latin sensuality and subtlety"; 
Hardy hasn't "a ray of genius"; Henry James 
and Howells are mere copyists. Yet Browning 
and Meredith were greater than Zola or Flau- 
bert or Turgenief, and one cannot understand 
Moore's prejudices unless one regards him as 
taking a French view of English writers. He 
never even mentions those who might be con- 
sidered his rivals save to sneer or denigrate. 
What is his real opinion of Shaw or Wilde or 
Wells? His criticism is mainly carping, the 
petty faultfinding of envy. 

It was Moore's boldness in handling sex 
matters that gave him popularity and position. 

116 



More than once he reached the limit beyond 
which prosecution threatened. Smith's book 
stalls, which correspond to the American News 
Company in these United States, refused to sell 
one of his early books. Moore at once attacked 
the tradesman-censor and heaped ridicule on the 
salesman and his morals. Mudie, too, a book- 
store with much the same position in London 
that Brentano holds in New York, put some 
novel of Moore's on the index. At once he 
slanged Mudie and found amusing words for the 
book-provider to the middle-class household! 
This perpetual attack and defense won him his 
following, but as Moore is the last man in the 
world to play Don Quixote, it is important to 
know why he came into conflict so often with 
Puritanic prudery. 

Again I have to explain his idiosyncratic bold- 
ness by his Paris training. Zola was his first 
master and he knew perfectly well that Zola's 
sex novels, such as "Nana" and "La Terre," were 
best sellers. Moreover, to give Moore his due, 
he divined from his own experience that the 
questions of sex are the perpetually interesting 
questions. Had he been oversexed he would 
certainly have got into serious trouble through 
his writings; but his astonishing moderation in 
desire saved him here as in life. Even as a 
young man he was perpetually declaring that 
women were overrated; that no sensible man 

m 



would put his finger into danger for one, let 
alone his life or future, or even his work. 

"Woman is the sauce to the pudding of life, 
if you like; but the whole business of love and 
loving is vastly overrated." 

In consequence all his references to sex mat- 
ters are at once French in directness of expres- 
sion and free of passion — curiously cool, indeed, 
and matter-of-fact — and therefore void of seduc- 
tion and of offense. 

By temperament Moore is as incapable of 
writing a great love scene as Arnold Bennett 
himself. And yet women form ninety-nine per 
cent of his readers. 

At length I am forced to reveal the heart of 
him; whoever realizes his astounding modera- 
tion has only to join with it two incidents in 
order to know the man. He told me once of a 
supper he was at in his early days in London. 
Lord Rossmore, a handsome, devil-may-care 
Irishman, whom Moore knew well, was of the 
party. Derry Rossmore drank too much, grew 
a little loud and contradicted Moore. Moore, 
who was perfectly sober, debated coolly how he 
might turn the dispute to his profit. He resolved 
to get Derry to be rude to him again and then 
knock him down. The row and consequent duel, 
he thought, would be a splendid advertisement 
for him. Accordingly he moved an empty 
champagne bottle just within comfortable reach 

118 



of his right hand and provoked Derry. Derry 
insulted him as Moore guessed he would, and 
at once Moore picked up the champagne bottle 
and knocked Rossmore down with it. 

The story surprised me so that I asked him, 
"You did it just for the advertisement?" 

"Yes," he replied coolly, "and I failed to get 
it. The duel never came oflf. I was greatly dis- 
appointed, ha I hal" 

Moore's business instincts were most astonish- 
ingly developed. 

The other incident is much better known. 

When Moore went to Dublin some years ago 
he took a house, and a lady was kind enough to 
help him in getting the furniture and fittings in 
order and continued her ministrations afterwards 
to the detriment of her reputation. In process 
of time the pair drifted apart. Soon afterwards 
the lady married a well-known Dublin archi- 
tect; and a little later, died. Moore has told the 
whole story in one of his books; confessed the 
liaison and described the lady so minutely that 
even the dead woman's husband could have no 
doubt as to her identity. 

D'Annunzio did the same thing in "II Fuoco" 
— told the story of his love for the Duse; de- 
scribed her minutely and gave away the secrets 
of intimacy; but D'Annunzio might plead the 
driving force of a great passion and the neces- 
sity of realizing the ebb and flow of extravagant 

119 



desire; but Moore's indiscretion had not even 
that excuse ; he knew the revelation would make 
people talk — be an excellent advertisement and 
that was all. As a lady said, "Some men kiss 
and tell; others like George Moore don't kiss 
and tell all the same." 

Still if he has done anything that will live, 
he may yet get the better of detraction and dis- 
dain. But has he? His admirers cite "The 
Mummer's Wife" and "Esther Waters"; "Im- 
pressions" ; "The Confessions of a Young Man" ; 
but has any one been tempted to read any of 
these books twice? Yet it is only the books we 
read and re-read a dozen times which stand any 
chance of surviving. I cannot believe that any 
of Moore's books so far are in that category. But 
his new book is about Jesus and if he has written 
anything valuable on that theme, he will have 
a sponsor through the ages and may defy 
oblivion. It would be strange indeed if his 
best work like that of his compatriot and fel- 
low pagan, Oscar Wilde, should be inspired 
by the Man of Sorrows and his tragic story. 

For that reason I devoured "The Brook 
Kerith" and promised to write about it before 
I had read it. Had I known what was in it, I 
should never have dreamt of writing about it. 
It is my custom to write only of books that I 
love; the others — commonplace or vulgar or 
rile — may all be left as alms to oblivion. But I 

120 



had promised in this case, and besides Moore 
is an interesting person in several respects and 
"The Brook Kerith" has been so bepraised on 
all hands in America that it is almost a duty to 
tell the truth about it and its innocent eulogists. 
The New York Times, of course, one expected 
to be fulsome; but Mr. Littell or Q. K. in the 
New Republic outdoes the Times; he asserts 
that "The Brook Kerith" shows Mr. Moore "at 
his best," and dares even to speak of Moore 
"steeping himself in the earliest records and the 
labors of scholars," while "his curiosity and sym- 
pathy created and re-created the life of Jesus in 
many forms." And then Q. K.'s praise becomes 
lyrical; he speaks of the book as "organically 
composed — the ripening fruit of a long preoccu- 
pation," and so forth and so on, in phrases that 
would have been overstatements if they had been 
applied to Renan's "Life of Jesus." And my 
friend, William Marion Reedy, is almost as en- 
thusiastic. He begins a four-column article with 
"Consummate artist in the main, Mr. George 
Moore has a curious trick of putting a smear 
upon everything he touches. There are two or 
three such smears in 'The Brook Kerith' ..." 
This seems more or less sensible. But he con- 
cludes by wondering "if Mr. Moore's deluded 
Jesus is less or more pathetic than our Biblical 
Jesus," which to me is the most extravagant 

121 



praise, the most utterly preposterous comparison 
1 have ever seen in print. 

It seems to me a first principle that no one 
has any business to write a Life of Jesus unless 
he can beat Renan's and Renan took all pains 
to make himself worthy of his great task. He 
was a first rate Greek and Hebrew scholar, a 
life-long student of exegesis, versed in all the 
minutix of German scholarship. He vivified his 
knowledge, too, by living in Palestine for years. 
Moreover, he was by temperament and training 
passionately religious and gifted with one of the 
most exquisite, seductive styles in all French 
prose. This priest and artist, student and writer 
gave his life to the work of re-creating Jesus, 
and in my opinion and in the opinion of others 
better qualified to judge, he succeeded — to a 
certain extent. His life is the best biography 
of Jesus which has appeared since John, the be- 
loved disciple, finished his account. No one 
living is capable of surpassing Renan's work; 
the utmost a great writer could do would be 
to mark the points of difference or restrict him- 
self as Bernard Shaw has restricted himself to 
saying as briefly as possible just what he feels 
about Christ. I admit I am prejudiced against 
Moore's book before I open it. None the less, 
he shall have fair play if I can give it to him. 

Some few years ago I met Moore casually in 
London and he came to me with much the old 

122 



eagerness. "The very man I wanted to see," he 
cried. **I have just read your 'Miracle of the 
Stigmata' — a good story. Where did you get 
the idea that Jesus did not die on the Cross? 
That's very interesting to me, very." 

Moore had changed greatly in the years 
which had passed since we last met; his hair was 
silver, and the wave of it had receded a little, 
leaving a noble expanse of brow; but the eyes 
were nearly as young as ever and the unwrinkled 
skin and the carmine flush on the white cheeks 
would have graced a girl of eighteen. It may 
be the violent who take Heaven by storm, but it 
is the moderate who preserve their hair and 
health! Moore had grown a little more podgy 
than aforetime ; but he has height to carry it oflF, 
and he really looked venerable with his crown 
of silver hair. The moment he began to speak I 
remarked his gestures with the white expressive 
fingers. He was the old Moore all right, and, 
as usual, was hugely interested in what he was 
saying. 

"I'm glad you liked my story," I remarked, 
and was about to move on when — 

"I want to talk to you about it," he insisted. 
"I think you missed a great opportunity, a 
unique opportunity [the fingers made little 
graceful whorls before my eyes]. You should 
have made Paul meet Jesus; that's the drama, 
you understand — " 

123 



As Moore has again and again tried and failed 
to write a drama that would keep the stage a 
week, I smiled. 

"Why don't you write it?" I said and again 
tried to get away. 

"I think of doing it," he said gravely. "It's 
a great idea. I don't want anyone else to ex- 
ploit it first; but I can't make up my mind 
whether to write a play or a book about it." 

"Why not both?" I rejoined politely, "but 
now you'll forgive me. ..." 

"Surely you see," he went on, buttonholing 
me, "that it is a great moment; Paul and Jesus 
talking of Christianity; it must end by Paul 
striking Jesus down, killing him I — a great 



scene." 



"Write it, my dear fellow!" I exclaimed; 
"but I must be getting on," for really I wasn't 
interested enough even to tell him that Jesus 
was crucified fifteen years or so before Saul was 
converted on the road to Damascus. 

"You don't seem interested," he cried in as- 
tonishment. "It's surely a great scene?" 

"Possibly," I replied, "but I confess that idea 
of yours leaves me cold." 

"But I'll make Jesus live," he exclaimed, "I'll 
make him real. ..." 

It seemed to me that he did not know what he 
was talking about. He could no more recreate 
Jesus than swallow Mont Blanc, and when I 

124 



thought of his utter want of reading or knowl- 
edge; his lack of historic imagination, I could 
only smile. Anatole France has historic imag- 
ination and vast reading ; but the task would be 
too big for him, as it was too big for his master, 
Renan. But Moore — 

France always says he never reads his con- 
temporaries because he must know all their 
ideas, being of the same time ; but Moore knows 
only half a dozen modern Frenchmen. The 
East and its customs are as completely incom- 
prehensible to him as a cuneiform inscription, 
and pagan as he is, a pagan taught by Gautier, he 
could no more realize Jesus than make pictures 
of the fourth dimension. I turned to leave him. 
It was useless talking. 

"Please tell me before you go," he persisted, 
"where you got the idea that Jesus didn^t die 
on the cross. That interests me enormously. . . ." 

"Jesus is said to have died in a few hours," I 
said. "That astonished even Pilate and so I 
thought—" 

"Oh," cried Moore, disappointed. "It's only 
a guess of yours; but why take him to Cesarea?. 
Why bring Paul there? Why ., . . ?" 

I knew he was merely informing himself in 
his usual dexterous way, so tried to cut him 
short. 

"An early tradition," I cried; "my dear fel- 
low, an early tradition," and ever since Moore 

125 



has talked about this "early tradition," though 
it would puzzle him to say where it's to be 
found. ^ 

In due time Moore wrote his half-play, half- 
story, "The Apostle," and published it. 

In "The Apostle," which is half scenario, 
half drama, and suffers from hurried writing, 
Moore makes Paul strike Jesus down and kill 
him. 

He told me a year or two later that he could 
not understand the cold reception given to this 
playlet; he still thought his idea "wonderful — 
intensely dramatic" — and his fingers beat in the 
conviction. 

All this made me curious about "The Brook 
Kerith": had Moore changed his point of view? 
— I wondered. Could he have become a con- 
vert to Christianity? Impossible. 

Strange to say, however, the best book he has 
written is "The Confessions," and about the best 
pages in it are those inspired by the story of 
Jesus. Moore, copying his master, Gautier, pro- 
fesses to hate the Crucified One and gives his 
reasons; here are some of them: 

"Pity, that most vile of all vile virtues, has 
never been known to me. . . . 

"Hither the world has been drifting since the 
coming of the pale socialist of Galilee; and this 
is why I hate Him and deny His divinity. . . . 

"Poor fallen God! I, who hold nought else 
126 



pitiful, pity Thee, Thy bleeding feet and hands, 
Thy hanging body; Thou at least art pictur- 
esque, and in a way beautiful in the midst of the 
somber mediocrity towards which Thou hast 
drifted for two thousand years, a flag; and in 
which Thou shalt find Thy doom as I mine; T, 
who will not adore Thee and cannot curse Thee 
now. For verily Thy life and Thy fate has ( !) 
been greater, stranger and more Divine than any 
man's has been. The chosen people, the garden, 
the betrayal, the crucifixion, and the beautiful 
story, not of >Mary, but of Magdalen. The God 
descending to the harlot! Even the great pagan 
world of marble and pomp and lust and cruelty, 
that my soul goes out to and hails as the grandest, 
has not so sublime a contrast to show us as this." 
Moore goes on to praise injustice and declare 
that the torture of the weak adds to his pleasure 
in life. This extravagance may be a Sadie pose; 
but one could almost assert that the mere writ- 
ing of it showed how unfit Moore was to at- 
tempt a Life of Christ. 

A word or two here about the "Apostle" will 
be permitted me. It is a drama in three acts 
with a prefatory letter by the author "on read- 
ing the Bible for the first time." 

In this letter Moore has done me the honor of 
travestying my picture of Paul in "The Miracle 
of the Stigmata" by adding unknown and dis- 
cordant details. My portrait of Paul's appear- 

127 



ance was taken from tradition. Paul was a 
short man, bald and bearded. Moore has alter- 
ed it by giving him "dark curly hair" and add- 
ing "some belly under his girdle." In "The 
Brook Kerith" Moore is better advised; he 
makes Paul bald, but still sticks to the paunch. 
Those who think that Paul's daemonic energy, 
passionate emotion and contempt for the lusts of 
the flesh find fitting symbol in obesity will admire 
Moore's daring. Moore goes on: "Sometimes 
Paul appears with his shirt open and there is a 
great shock of curled hair between his breasts 
and his reddish hand goes there and he scratches 
as he talks." After painting this picture Moore 
pauses "to wonder if Paul has ever been seen by 
any man as clearly as he has been by me." And 
later still he hopes that all faults will be par- 
doned him "for the sake of my portrait of Paul." 
But this portrait is the portrait of some dirty 
monk. Is Moore ignorant of the fact that the 
Jews made cleanliness a part of their ceremo- 
nial? They washed not only the hands but the 
feet before meals. In the Talmud they were 
taught that a stain on the dress of a teacher was 
disgraceful. Even Moore should know that 
Christian contempt of the body did not lead to 
uncleanness and dirty clothing till a century or 
so after the death of Christ. The cult for dirt 
of person and raiment sprang up in Alexandria 
in the second century. 

128 



Yet this so-called portrait of Paul is surpassed 
in childish caricature by the portrait of Jesus in 
"The Brook Kerith." 

The Christ that walks through Moore's pages 
is a man of unclean physical habits. On page 
122 we are told that Joseph did not recognize 
Jesus as he passed, "so unseemly were the ragged 
shirt and the cloak of camel's or goat's hair he 
wore over it, patched along and across, one long 
tatter hanging on a loose thread. It caught in 
his feet, and perforce he hitched it up as he 
walked" and Joseph remembered that he looked 
upon the passenger as "a mendicant wonder- 
worker on his round from village to village." 

Mr. Moore has no warrant, Biblical or pro- 
fane, for his presentation of Christ as a com- 
pound of ragged Hindoo fakir and verminous 
Thomas ^ Becket. In the Jewish religion, holi- 
ness and cleanliness were inexorably knit to- 
gether, as witnessed by innumerable passages in 
the Talmud, Mishna and Zohar, and the tradi- 
tions and life stories of saints. Among Jews, the 
teacher, whatever his shade of heterodoxy, is al- 
ways a man of scrupulous cleanliness and cere- 
monious raiment. 

But Moore has done worse than make the 
clean dirty. The chief characteristic trait of the 
East from Cabul to Carthage is the reverence 
shown to teachers and healers. As soon as a 
man begins to teach, gifts are showered on him 

129 



by those who have won spiritual encouragement 
from him, and that Jesus was followed with 
deepest reverence is certain. Men left their life- 
long occupation at his bidding; it was an honor 
to be numbered among his disciples. If Moore 
had ever read of his entrance into Jerusalem he 
would have had an inkling of the way he was 
treated. They took a young ass and put their 
clothes on it for him to sit on, and "a very great 
multitude spread their garments in the way; 
others cut down branches from the trees and 
strewed them in the way. And the multitudes 
that went before and that followed, cried, say- 
ing, Hosanna to the Son of David ; Blessed is He 
that Cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna 
in the highest." 

Reverence for spiritual teachers is the one gift 
of the East to the West — the chiefest lesson 
which we have yet to learn. 

And this reverence showed itself in all sorts 
of gifts. The costliest ointment was poured on 
the feet of Jesus and even the soldiers after his 
crucifixion "cast lots for his garment," for it was 
woven in one piece, we are told, and could not 
be divided. Evidently it was woven especially 
for the Master and by loving hands. 

Moore's so-called portraits are nothing but 
degraded and vulgar caricatures, based on a 
knowledge of monkery, and have no relation to 
Paul or Jesus whether in outward appearance 



or in spiritual attribute. He makes Paul drivel 
like a schoolboy; but Paul's words are historical. 
His speech on Mars Hill in Athens just above 
the Agora or market place, to a great crowd 
grouped below him, is a masterpiece of elo- 
quence. 

And the words Moore puts in Jesus' mouth 
are still more unworthy of Him who spoke as 
never man spake. Our hearts do not burn with- 
in us as we read Moore's "Jesus," save with in- 
dignation against the writer who could so defile 
the most sacred of our spiritual possessions; 
Moore degrades Jesus deliberately, brings him 
to his own level by putting into his mouth such 
phrases as "we have fed (sic) " in the "Apostle." 

Peter does not fare better at his hands than 
Paul. He calls Peter "a parcel of ancient rudi- 
ments," whatever that may mean. 

Moore is as ignorant of Rome and Roman 
customs as he is of life in the East. On page 107 
he makes Pilate run his hand through his beard. 
He would say it was a realistic touch that makes 
Pilate live to him. But Roman aristocrats were 
usually clean shaven, and a Roman official 
among people who wore beards as the Jews did, 
would certainly be clean shaven as a caste-mark 
and distinction. 

Every page in this book is a slap in the face 
to the student. 

One Mathias is represented as being a great 
131 



philosopher, a thinker who meditates on the 
nature of God — a seeker after wisdom; yet he 
tells us with ironical laughter "that the neigh- 
borhood was full of prophets, as ignorant and as 
ugly as hyenas. They live, he said, in the caves 
along the western coasts of the Salt Lake, growl- 
ing and snarling over the world, which they 
seem to think rotten and ready for them to de- 



vour." 



This is not the comment of a Jew thinker and 
seeker after wisdom, but of some lewd commer- 
cial traveler talking in a cafe of the Place 
Pigalle. 

In the same spirit Mr. Moore makes the 
president of the Essenes talk in a mixture of 
Sussex and Devon dialect with Moore's own 
contempt for grammar — "I shall be rare glad." 

Throughout the Orient among the Afghans 
and the Arabs as among the Jews there is a cere- 
monious submission of son to father; outward 
observances of humility in speech and bearing 
are regarded as essential to family life. Moore 
makes Joseph poke fun at his father, and the 
father replies — "At it, Joseph, as beforetimes, 
rallying thy old father" — which would be an 
offense, almost a crime in Jewish eyes. But 
Moore's ignorance is like the darkness of the 
Egyptian plague; it can be felt. 

His pet word in this book is "beforetimes," 
which should not be used as he uses it. He also 

132 



uses "whither" for "where." "An assembly hall 
whither the curators met. ... I have come 
thither hoping to find the truth here. And from 
thence he proceeded." "From whence/' too, and 
a dozen other blunders of the same class down to 
the amusing: — "he might have refused to serve 
any but she." 

But in spite of all such blunders and faults 
the book might still be an enthralling story; 
might even be a great and wonderful story, but 
the marvel is that there is nothing in it of any 
value or interest. No page that rises above the 
commonplace; no sentence or phrase in the 
whole two hundred thousand words that I can 
remember with pleasure or care to quote. 

I do not wish to deal with Moore in a small 
or carping spirit: I have never spoken in favor 
of learning in my life : memory is but an intel- 
lectual wallet and is no guide whatever to the 
capacity of the mind. One can go further : every 
thinker knows how reading dwarfs thought, lead- 
ing you rather to acquire the ideas of others than 
develop the native quality of your own intelli- 
gence ; but a faculty of study is needful in these 
days and a fair amount of knowledge imperative. 
Especially in cases where the historic imagina- 
tion is required, absolute ignorance would han- 
dicap even genius out of the race. 

Moore, however, must be heard in his own 
defense. Shortly after publishing the first part 

133 



of this sketch in which I undertook to expose 
some of Moore's ignorances, I received a letter 
from him telling me that for my own sake I 
had better not make the attempt. And he pro- 
ceeds with a whole-hearted belief in his own 
learning which it would be a compliment to call 
idolatrous : 

"I know that there is nothing in The Brook 
Kerith' that you could attack with success. You 
seemed to think in the article you published that 
I was not acquainted with the subject, but I 
knew myself to be quite as well informed as 
Renan and that there was no point at which you 
could strike with efifect. Neither private nor 
public criticism has revealed any 'mistake.' In 
your article you spoke of the Gospel of John as 
if you regarded it of some value as an historical 
document, whereas it is as I am sure you have 
learnt since, a merely ecclesiastical work, I 
might almost say a romance, and was certainly 
written many years later than the synoptic Gos- 
pels, probably about a hundred years later. For 
my sake, I mean for the sake of the publisher, 
I am sorry the advertised attack was not deliv- 
ered ; a well-directed attack would have helped 
the sale. It surprised me, however, that you did 
not appreciate the tide of the narrative flowing 
slowly, but flowing always and diversified with 
many anecdotes that heighten the interest of the 
reader. I cannot but think that I have added 

134 



a prose epic to the volume of English literature. 
I don't much care whether I have or not, but 
that is just my feeling." 

That Moore should compare his learning with 
Renan's makes me grin : the coupling of the two 
names is something the French would call "saug- 
renu," or ridiculously absurd. And worse than 
any difference of knowledge is a difference in 
mental stature of the two men. Renan knew a 
great man when he met him ; Moore does not. 

Moore will not study and cannot read au- 
thorities; yet he is industrious in his own way. 
His method of writing is laborious in the ex- 
treme. Before beginning a book he makes a 
scenario, divided into chapters; then he writes 
the book hastily chapter by chapter putting in 
all his chief ideas; finally he goes over the whole 
book re-writing it as carefully and as well as 
he can. He corrects the printed proofs me- 
ticulously and years after a book has been pub- 
lished he will take it up again and re-write it 
page by page. He is an artist in the desire to 
give perfect form to his conception. This is his 
religion and he has served it with hieratic devo- 
tion. What I feel compelled to emphasize is 
that his power as a student is below the ordinary. 
His ignorances are abyssmal. He does not even 
now know the tendency of the most recent crit- 
icism is to give weight to John's Gospel in spite 
of its being a tract for the times, and it is seldom 

135 



dated now more than fifty years after the Synop- 
tics. In my opinion it is of great value. But 
if Moore were asked offhand to translate synop- 
tic he would be caught napping; yet he assumes 
an air of authoritative knowledge hardly to be 
justified in a great scholar. Shaw on the other 
hand, pretends to no special knowledge of the 
subject; yet on this question of the value of 
John's gospel, he has found reasons of his own 
for agreeing with the latest scholarship. 

What I want to make plain is that George 
Moore's ignorance makes his painting grotesque 
and his real qualities as a writer are all ob- 
scured and rendered worthless by this uncon- 
genial task. Moore's grip on ordinary life 
makes all his books more or less interesting. 
There are pages even in the worst that one can 
read with some pleasure, but in "The Brook 
Kerith" there are no such springs of sweet 
water. The book is dull and stupid. And I am 
relieved to know that Bernard Shaw agrees with 
me in this judgment. I've just received a letter 
from him in which he says : 

"I read about thirty pages of 'The Brook 
Kerith.' It then began to dawn on me that there 
was no mortal reason why Moore should not 
keep going on exactly like that for fifty thousand 
pages, or fifty million for that matter, if he lived 
long enough to sling the ink. This so oppressed 

136 



me that 1 put the book aside intending, as I still 
intend, to finish it at greater leisure." 

It is useless to try to disguise it, I am at the 
opposite pole to Moore. I, too, read Gautier in 
Paris and pages of his "Mile, de Maupin" still 
stick in my memory; like Moore I could boast 
that "the stream which poured from the side of 
the Crucified One and made a red girdle round 
the world, never bathed me in its flood." I, too, 
"love gold and marble and purple and bands of 
nude youths and maidens swaying on horses 
without bridle or saddle against a background 
of deep blue as on the frieze of the Parthenon." 

But afterwards I learned something of what 
the theory of evolution implies; realized that all 
great men are moments in the life of mankind, 
and that the lesson of every great life in the past 
must be learned before we can hope to push fur- 
ther into the Unknown than our predecessors. 
Gradually I came to understand that Jerusalem 
and not Athens is the sacred city and that one 
has to love Jesus and his gospel of love and pity 
or one will never come to full stature. Born 
rebels even have to realize that Love is the Way, 
the Truth and the Life; no one cometh unto 
wisdom but by Love. The more I studied Jesus 
the greater he became to me till little by little 
he changed my outlook on life. I have been 
convinced now for years that the modern world 
in turning its back on Jesus and ignoring his 

137 



teachings has gone hopelessly astray. It has 
listened to false prophets and followed blind 
guides and has fallen into the ditch. It must 
retrace its steps. It must learn the lessons of 
love and pity, of gentle thought for others and 
the soft words that turn aside wrath; it must 
subdue pride and cultivate loving kindness. 
There must be a spiritual rebirth; we must sub- 
mit ourselves again like little children to sit at 
the feet of the Master: all the best lessons are 
learned by Faith. 

And in the light of this belief how magical 
the world becomes; it is no longer a machine 
shop or a restaurant but a House Beautiful, the 
home and habitation of a God. 

Those deep-souled Jews were verily and in- 
deed the chosen people. How poor all our 
philosophies and sterile all our teaching in com- 
parison with their wisdom and their insight; 
how contemptible and small our achievements 
when a Jew boy two thousand years ago by tak- 
ing counsel with his own heart has made him- 
self the master of our destinies. "There is no 
other way under Heaven by which men can be 
saved. . . . Verily I say unto you not one jot 
or one tittle of my word shall ever pass away." 

What sublime assurance 1 And yet it looks 
the plain truth to us now. Shaw declares that 
Jesus' teaching on socialism must be followed 

138 



to-day. Shaw even admits that Jesus is the 
wisest of social reformers. 

There is new hope for us all in the legend of 
Jesus and in his world-shaking success; hope and 
perhaps even some foundation for faith. That 
a man should live in an obscure corner of Judaea 
nineteen centuries ago, speak only an insignifi- 
cant dialect, and yet by dint of wisdom and 
goodness and in spite of having suffered a shame- 
ful death, reign as a God for these two thousand 
years and be adored by hundreds of millions of 
the conquering races, goes far to prove that good- 
ness and wisdom are fed by some secret source 
and well up from the deep to recreate the 
children of men. 

And our modern theory is not out of harmony 
with much of this belief. It appears to us that 
God is finding Himself through us and our 
growth, and especially through our creations of 
Truth and Beauty and Goodness — flowers on the 
Tree of Life, a joy from everlasting to ever- 
lasting. We too can believe as Jesus believed, 
that virtue perpetuates itself, increasing from 
age to age, while the evil is diminishing, dying, 
and is only relative so to speak, or growth ar- 
rested. And our high task it is to help this 
shaping Spirit to self-realization and fulfilment 
in our own souls, knowing all the while that the 
roses of life grow best about the Cross. 

139 



What a miraculous, divine world. And what 
solace there is in it for the soul, now for many 
years weary and heavy laden. I used to say that 
for two centuries men have been trying to live 
without souls and they have found the way long 
and toilsome. Now the soul will come once 
more to honor and all the sweet affections of the 
spirit, charity first, and forgiveness and loving 
kindness. Our prisons will all be turned into 
hospitals and 



140 



.M- 




Lord Dunsany 




LORD DUNSANY AND SIDNEY SIME 

T IS now many a year since I wrote 
that we were living through a rebirth 
of religion and a renascence of art, 
the most wonderful period in 
recorded time. 
The progress of humanity is like skating on 
the outside edge : as soon as the rhythmic curve 
of movement takes the skater away from the line 
of progress forward, the swing to the other side 
is already outlined. The force of individualism 
and its self-asserting separating tendencies have 
gone too far, and everywhere men are drawing 
closer together in nations and world-empires. 
As individualism may be said to have begun with 
Luther and to have ended in the doubting of 
Voltaire, so belief was born again into the world 
with Goethe and is certain in time to develop 
a scientific morality and to bring hope back into 
the lives of men and inspire new motives of 
action. 

Symptoms of this rebirth of religion showed 
themselves sporadically in Britain twenty years 
ago, just as the renascence of art came to flower 
first in France. Chesterton entered the world 

141 



of London with a pagan love of life and feast- 
ing, but avowed himself from the beginning a 
Christian with a strong tinge of mysticism. His 
play "Magic," had more than a success of esteem 
in London; thoughtful people hailed it as a 
symptom of the dawning light 

It was a comparative failure in New York, for 
New York is too busy to think, and much too 
busy to play curiously with new thought. New 
York has made up its mind that Christianity is 
played out; New York is too wise to believe in 
miracles ; when chairs move on the stage of their 
own accord and lights go out and come in again 
at their own sweet will. New York yawns, all 
unwitting of the fact that everything we do or 
think is a miracle inexplicable, unspeakably 
mysterious as the rhythmic movements of the 
stars and the strange currents sweeping suns and 
planets and this solid earth itself to some un- 
imaginable bourne. But London took "Magic," 
and Chesterton to its heart of hearts. 

In the same abrupt way one heard of Dunsany 
and now and again, of Sidney Sime who con- 
tinues to illustrate his works with a wealth of 
weird imagining. 

Dunsany's play, "The Gods of the Mountain," 
was produced in the Haymarket Theatre when 
Herbert Trench, the poet, was manager and 
Lord Howard de Walden, also a poet, but enor- 
mously rich, was the financier. 

142 



It took London by storm, which simply shows 
what a wonderful capital London is, for the 
play has dreadful faults, as we shall see later. 

And then Dunsany tales and Dunsany plays 
were on every table and here and there an artist 
spoke of Sime as one of the master painters of 
the time. I knew Sime long before I saw 
Dunsany; in fact, I first heard of Dunsany's 
genius from Sime. 

The first time I saw Dunsany was the first 
night of "The Gods of the Mountain" in the 
early summer of 1911: a sympathetic appear- 
ance; very tall, over six feet; very slight with a 
boyish face, rather like Dowson's, but with 
power in the strong chin and long jaw. The 
nose, too, slightly beaked — a suggestion of the 
Roman or aristocratic type, but combined 
with the sensitive lips and thoughtful eyes of 
the poet; the manner and voice, too, were re- 
assuring. He was more courteous, amiable, 
than an Englishman ever is, with a boyish frank- 
ness and joy in praise and superb Celtic blue 
eyes that were reflective and roguish, piercing or 
caressing — all in a minute — speed here and 
strength and joy in living. 

But now what has he done? 

"The Gods of the Mountains" is much his 
finest work as yet and a study of it shows his 
strength and weakness to perfection. The first 
performance made an extraordinary impression 

143 



on me and I wrote of it the same week, in the 
London "Academy," as "one of the nights of 
my life." 

A few years later Chesterton's "Magic" had 
an even greater effect on me; because it was a 
consistent whole and worked up crescendo to a 
climax whereas "The Gods of the Mountain" 
fizzled out in the last act into the weakest melo- 
drama. 

The entrance of the Gods as green men in 
armor or stone as tragic Fates was simply 
ludicrous. 

How then should the play have finished? 

I ventured to suggest another ending at the 
time and I shall lay it before my readers now 
with confidence for in the meantime some of 
those whose judgment in such matters counts, 
have approved it. 

Think of the position. Here are seven beg- 
gars who by the sheer genius of one of their 
number, Agmar, have caused themselves to be 
received by the citizens of a great town as their 
gods. Their authority is still insecure. There 
are doubters in the city; sceptics even; but the 
vast majority treat the beggars as gods and give 
them whatever they desire. 

Suddenly, I think, one of the beggar-gods 
should die? How explain that to the citizens? 
True gods don't die. Agmar must turn the diffi- 
culty into an advantage. He should announce 

144 



the fact to the citizens and warn them solemnly 
to get rid of the doubters and sceptics. "It is the 
disbelief of man," he must say, "that kills the 
gods." 

The citizens immediately seize the chief in- 
fidels and execute them: "How can we hope 
for benefit from our gods when you insult them 
with your doubts?" 

And so the beggar-gods have a reprieve and 
live happily for a time. 

But at length Fate plays them the worst trick. 

One morning their leader, Agmar, is found 
dead and they come together, livid with fear, 
for how shall they explain that their chief is 
mortal? 

Some counsel flight: Ulf chants his old song 
of fear and boding when suddenly Slag, who 
was Agmar's servant and admirer, is inspired by 
a ray of his master's genius. 

"There is no need for fear," he cries. "Any 
lie will fool mankind now. Had Agmar died in 
the beginning we should indeed have been lost; 
but now faith in us and our wonder-working 
powers is established; churches have been built 
to us; priests sing our praises; acolytes burn in- 
cense before our effigies ; all these will fight for 
us as for their living. Besides, young and old 
alike believe in us and love us. There is no 
danger I tell you. We have simply to say that 
Agmar has returned to Olympos to make the 

145 



After-Life better for the men and women of 
Kongros and they will all believe us. And so 
in turn as we die each of us will merely go back 
to the Heavenly City to prepare a place for the 
children of men." 

No better counsel offering, Slag announces 
Agmar's death in this way, and the people all 
bow themselves before him in reverence and 
thanksgiving. "Great is Agmar and good, and 
we thank our gods and bring them rich gifts." 

This seems to me the natural, inevitable, 
ironical end. 

In "The Gods of the Mountain" Dunsany had 
an inspiration; but he did not take thought or 
was lacking in patience and so a fine conception 
was only half realized. 

Two other of Dunsany's plays merit brief men- 
tion. "A night at an Inn" is an excellent melo- 
drama in one act with a real thrill in it worthy 
of the Grand Guignol in Paris; and "The Tents 
of the Arabs," is something more. The story is 
very simple, but memorable in Dunsany's work, 
for it is a love story. The king has left his 
throne and wearisome state and gone to the 
desert and found a gypsy love: 

King. Now I have known the desert and 

dwelt in the tents of the Arabs. 

EZNARA. There is no land like the desert 

and like the Arabs no people. 
146 



King. It is all over and done. I return 

to the walls of my fathers. 

EZNARA. Time cannot put it away ; I go 

back to the desert that nursed me. 

The Grand Chamberlain comes to the gate 
expecting the king to arrive. A camel-driver 
who loves the city and hates the desert claims 
that he is the king; but the Chamberlain doubts 
him till the real king, drawn by his love, de- 
clares that he has seen and known the camel- 
driver in Mecca and he is really the king. 

The Chamberlain is convinced. The camel- 
driver goes in to wear the crown while the real 
king returns to his love and the desert. 

It is a pretty story charmingly told. The few 
sentences I have quoted give us the secret of 
Dunsany's verbal magic. First of all, they are 
not prose at all, but verse: the hexameters are 
clearly defined. 

But is it wise thus to mix poetry with prose? 
Goethe does it often, as Ruskin, and Carlyle, Sir 
Thomas Browne and Jeremy Taylor all did; 
but in France, as in Athens, where the prose 
tradition is at its best, the practice is condemned. 
Still, there it is. Dunsany is a poet and dreamer, 
and if it is ever permitted to use poetry in guise 
of prose surely it should be permitted in a love 
story, for love is nothing if not lyrical. 

It is just as clear that the mysterious emotional 
appeal of Dunsany's prose is derived from the 
Bible. Each of these verses has the Hebrew 

147 



repetition in it; everyone remembers the much- 
quoted example : "Tell it not in Gath : talk not 
of it in the streets of Ascalon." 

I used to wonder whether Dunsany had copied 
the biblical manner and vocabulary wittingly or 
unwittingly, and so I wrote to him asking him 
to tell me. Here is his answer: 

Dunsany Castle, Co. Meath, 
Nov. 3, '12. 
. . . Please excuse dictation so I can ramble 
reminiscently. 

I think I owe most of my style to the reports 
of proceedings in the divorce court; were it not 
for these my mother might have allowed me to 
read newspapers before I went to school; as it 
was she never did. I began reading Grimm and 
then Andersen. I remember reading them in 
the evening with twilight coming on. All the 
windows of the rooms I used in the house in 
Kent where I was brought up faced the sunset. 
There are no facts about a sunset; none are 
chronicled in Blue-books. There are no adver- 
tisements of them. 

When I went to Cheam school I was given a 
lot of the Bible to read. This turned my 
thoughts eastward. For years no style seemed 
to me natural but that of the Bible and I feared 
that I never would become a writer when I saw 
that other people did not use it. 

When I learned Greek at Cheam and heard 
148 



of other gods a great pity came on me for those 
beautiful marble people that had become for- 
saken and this mood has never quite left me. 

When I went to Eton the housemaid forgot to 
call me, or only half called me rather, on the 
morning of the Greek exam. I therefore took a 
lower place than I should have and less than 
three years later, when I left to go to a cram- 
mer's where my education ceased, my knowledge 
of the classics was most incomplete. But incom- 
plete in a strange way, for they had implanted 
in me at Cheam and Eton a love of the classical 
world of which I knew almost nothing. 

And then one day imagination came to the 
rescue and I made unto myself gods; and having 
made gods I had to make people to worship 
them and cities for them to live in and kings to 
rule over them ; and then there had to be names 
for the kings and the cities and great plausible 
names for the huge rivers that I saw sweeping 
down through kingdoms by night. 

I suppose that the back parts of my head are 
full of more Greek words than I ever knew the 
meaning of and names of Old Testament kings. 
Many an ode of Horace I learnt before I knew 
the meaning of a line of it. I suppose that when 
one wants to invent a name, Memory, "The 
Mother of the Muses," sitting in those lumber 
houses of the mind that one wrongly calls "for- 
gotten," knits together strange old syllables into 

149 



as many names as one needs. At least I have 
sometimes traced resemblance to names known 
long since in some word that I have coined at 
the time in pure inspiration. 

Nothing comes easier to me than inventing 
names (except, perhaps, myths). Here are some 
of my favorites: Sardalthion, Thaddenblarna, 
the citadel of the gods, and Perdondaris, that 
famous city. 

An effect that the classics have had on me is 
this. Some one will say or I read somewhere — 
"as so-and-so said before the walls of such-and- 
such," and it will convey to me with my incom- 
plete knowledge of the classics nothing but 
wonder, and something of this wonder I give 
back to my readers when I refer casually in 
passing to some battle or story well known in 
kingdoms on the far side of the sunset and cities 
built of twilight where only I have been. . . . 

But enough. 

Yours sincerely, DUNSANY. 

The stories and tales of Dunsany fall into a 
lower class than his plays; though studded here 
and there with very beautiful passages they are 
usually, almost meaningless. The truth is the 
lack of thought in Dunsany becomes painful to 
me on a prolonged reading; his originality is of 
imagination or rather of Celtic fancy and rarely 
of insight. If we go to his belief we shall hardly 

150 



find an original word in it, much less an original 
idea. 

He contributed an article to the "National 
Review" in 1911 which was a sort of rehash of 
Ruskin with here and there an aphorism of 
Emerson. For instance, he condemned adver- 
tisements in Ruskin's own petulant way: "to 
romance they seem the battlements of the fort- 
ress of Avarice," and "Romance," he went on, 
"is the most real thing in life." He quarrels 
with "the gift of matter enthroned and endowed 
by man with life: I mean iron vitalized by 
steam and rushing from city to city, and owning 
men as slaves"; which is simply a poor para- 
phrase of Emerson's: 

"Things are in the saddle 
And ride mankind." 

Dunsany has got a huge popularity because 
he represents in some degree the new revolt; but 
his reputation is based on too slight a founda- 
tion to endure; he must do better work than he 
has yet done if he wishes to be of the Sacred 
Band and stand on the forehead of the time to 
come. He has been terribly handicapped by his 
name and position; true, he had the good luck 
to be brought up on the Bible and the fairy tales 
of Andersen and Grimm; but then he went to 
Eton and he is still suffering from that infection. 
Eton made him an athlete, it is said, and taught 
him to play cricket; but it also taught him to 

151 



snee^ at wbftian's suffrage and to revere the 
House of Lords. 

At Eton he lost a little of his Celtic kindly 
humane manners and learned "good form" ; in- 
stead of prizing Celtic equality and the King- 
dom of man upon earth, he came to believe in 
British imperialism and the world-devouring 
destinies of the British Empire. 

As every one knows, Dunsany is an Irish peer 
and yet he not only went into the English army 
and fought the Germans: but before that he had 
fought against the Boer farmers and quite lately 
he fought in Dublin against his own poor coun- 
trymen and was there grievously wounded, 
which should have taught him sense. All this 
imperialistic foolery I put down to his Eton 
training and, of course, in the last resort to his 
want of brains, just as I attribute Chesterton's 
wild abuse of the Hun to want of education. 
These are blunders that a large mind, a mind, 
as Meredith used to say, "that had travelled," 
could not possibly make. 

Mr. Sydney Sime 
Sidney Sime, who illustrates Dunsany's books 
and plays with such singular ability, is a far abler 
man than the Irish lord. I should like to repro- 
duce here one of his imaginative illustrations, 
for I regard most of them as extraordinary. 
Sime is a strongly-built man of about five feet 
seven or eight with a cliff-like, overhanging, 

152 



tyrannous forehead. His eyes afe Superlative, 
grayish blue looking out under heavy brows, 
eyes with a pathetic patience in them as of one 
who has lived with sorrow; and realizes — 

"The weary weight of all this unintelligible world." 

From time to time humorous gleams light up 
the eyes and the whole face; mirth on melan- 
choly — a modern combination. 

Sime has had a sensational career. He was 
a collier's boy and worked more than ten years 
underground ; yet he is one of the best read men 
I know and I am inclined to think him one of 
the greatest of living artists. There are some 
paintings of his which I would as soon possess 
as the best of Cezanne and in sheer imaginative 
quality his best is without an equal in modern 
work. 

There is no lack of thought in Sime. His im- 
agination and his mentality are in perfect equi- 
poise; nearly all his paintings have that curious 
economy of detail coupled with grandeur of de- 
sign, which is the hall-mark of the great masters. 

And withal the man is simplicity itself; he 
meets lord and ploughman in the same human 
way; he has had a dreadfully hard struggle and 
yet he is as sunny-tempered and optimistic as a 
boy. He is for the workman without ostenta- 
tion ; yet the moment he begins to speak you re- 
alize that he sees the master's side, too — a singu- 
lar and powerful personality. 

153 



I feel that I have only given sketches of these 
two distinguished artists. I ought to be able to 
make Sime's portrait at least fuller at once and 
more vivid, for I am in most intimate sympathy 
with him. I remember we had a long talk once 
about Blake's prophetic writings and to my 
wonder Sime took the position I had always 
maintained, that Blake is not to be explained any 
more than a picture; you must be content to 
commune with him, live with his works, and in 
time you may absorb his influence which is the 
most precious thing he has to give. 

I got a letter from Sime on this point once 
which I think explains my admiration for his 
insight and establishes my claims for him as an 
original thinker and a master of English prose. 

Let my readers remember it is the letter of a 
great painter, a colorist as original as Watteau. 

WORPLESDON.TV 

My Dear Harris: 

I hope I did not convey any idea that Blake is 
communicable. The interest of him to me lies 
in the fact that he isn't. It is one of my delusions 
that there is not any general truth or value out- 
side the perceptive soul ; no intrinsic values. 

Blake speaks like the wind in the chimney, 
which sings with all the voices of all dead poets 
and always sings the heart's desire without the 
bondage of words. The commentators will try 
in vain to pigeonhole Blake as thev have failed 

154 



with others, but they will throw their obfuscat- 
ing mildew around his dim and unfinished state- 
ment without shame. 

Blake told his friend Butts that he was bring- 
ing a poem to town and what he meant by a 
poem was a work that intrigued and allured and 
satisfied the imagination but utterly confounded 
and bewildered the corporeal sense. 

We go to embark at Naples and thence our 
course lies eastwards and as I am neither captain 
nor owner, it is unlikely that I may make the 
ship swim where I may please; but your offer 
of hospitality and entertainment at Nice is none 
the less most grateful. 

People who delight in doing kindnesses make 
the world a pleasant place. I have known you 
only a little time, but that time is crowded with 
real human friendliness; if I do receive any ap- 
pointment in Hell, as I may hope to, I will do 
my utmost to save a cool corner for you. 

Yours sincerely, SIDNEY H. SiME. 

I want to make my readers feel as I feel, that 
Sime is a big man — an intellectual force — and 
so I look at him in terms of the time. I should 
as soon expect Shaw to talk truculent nonsense 
about the Germans as Sime. Though I imagine 
Sime does not know a word of German, his na- 
tive brains would long ago have taught him the 
true meaning of the great fight the Germans 
have put up against what appeared to most men 

155 



overwhelming odds. Sime would feel at once 
that such courage and such efficiency must be 
based on virtue and not on any "preparedness," 
which would hardly last through one year of 
warfare. Sime is one of those rare men who do 
not let themselves be cheated by words — a pity 
there are not more of them in every nation. We 
should then stand a better chance of peace — 
peace without victory — which, if we only knew 
it, is the ideal. 

One story must still be told to Lord Dunsany's 
credit before I part with him. 

In a South coast bathing resort the cry went 
up one morning that a man was drowning. 

A big policeman had ventured into the break- 
ers after a southwest gale and was sinking. Dun- 
sany happened to be strolling on the beach. He 
pulled off his coat and boots and rushed into the 
surf. In five minutes he brought the policeman 
safe to shore. The crowd gathered round him 
cheering; everybody wanted to know his name, 
but he tore himself away, refusing to name him- 
self, and trotted off to change his wet clothes. 
Some one recognized him and told the story. 

This must be put down on the credit-side as 
the virtue of his imperialism. 

The story delights me! What great spirits 
we have known and noble when such men as 
these do not stand out like steeples. For take 
him as you please; berate his shortcomings as 

156 



you will, Dunsany is another Sidney, Sidney with 
soul all aflame for love of honor and high deeds 
to their own music chanted, and Sime the collier 
lad might stand level-browed before Rembrandt 
himself, being of the same royal lineage. And 
there they pass in London streets and go up and 
down, unknown and unappreciated. When they 
are dead and gone, men will probably crown 
them and do them tardy reverence and wonder 
about them and form legends of their sayings 
and doings, and thus they, too, shall have their 
part in making the land that bore them, memor- 
able and of high repute. They both know the 
truth of the poet's supreme solace: 
"Others, I doubt not, if not we, 
The issue of our toils shall see; 
Young children gather as their own 
The harvest that the dead have sown, 
The dead forgotten and unknown." 



157 




JAMES THOMSON : AN UNKNOWN 
IMMORTAL 

HERE is an old story that tells how 
a man went about without a shadow 
and what a sensation the loss caused 
when it was discovered. For the 
greater part of the nineteenth century 
the majority of men went about without souls in 
drear discomfort, yet they only realized their 
loss when it was pointed out to them by poets and 
idealists. Every one had got drunk with greed 
and was mad to get rich; the things of the spirit 
were thrust aside; the soul ignored. 

Karl Marx proved in "Das Kapital" that 
working men, women and children were never 
so exploited as towards the middle of the nine- 
teenth century in the factories of England ; mere 
wage slaves they were, worse treated than they 
would have been had the employers owned them 
body and soul ; for then at least they would have 
been fed and housed decently. 

The poets were naturally the first to revolt 
against the sordid life of capitalistic exploita- 
tion. Hood's "Song of the Shirt" and "One 
More Unfortunate" were the lyrics of that sad 
time when men "wore the name of freedom grav- 
en on a heavier chain." 

158 




% 



''_ "", "XT' ' .•;- 



James Thomson 



The greatest poets were in all countries the 
most convinced pessimists; Leopardi in Italy, 
Heine in Germany and Thomson in England. 
Their souls had been maimed and wounded in 
the squalid struggle. 

Thomson interested me very early by what 
seemed pure chance. In 1874 or thereabouts 
Charles Bradlaugh spoke in Lawrence, Kan., 
and though not so good a speaker as IngersoU 
made an even deeper impression on me by dint 
of force of character and personality. I began 
reading "The National Reformer" and soon 
noticed "jottings" by "B. V.," which excited my 
curiosity and admiration. One day I came across 
the first verses of "The City of Dreadful Night" ; 
the title appealed to me and the poem make a 
tremendous impression on me: I was young and 
had not found my work in life. 

The weary weight of this unintelligible world 
lay heavy on me and the builded desolation and 
passionate despair of Thomson's poem took com- 
plete possession of my spirit. Verse after verse 
once read, printed itself in my brain unforget- 
tably; ever since they come back to me in dark 
hours, and I find myself using them as a bitter 
tonic. Take such a verse as this : 
"The sense that every struggle brings defeat 

Because Fate holds no prize to crown success; 
That all the oracles are dumb or cheat 

Because thev have no secret to express; 
159 



That none can pierce the vast black veil 

uncertain 
Because there is no light beyond the curtain ; 
That all is vanity and nothingness." 
Such words sink deep into the heart as meteors 
into the earth dropped from some higher sphere. 
Or this: 

'^We do not ask a longer term of strife, 

Weakness and weariness and nameless woes ; 
We do not claim renewed and endless life 
When this which is our torment here shall 
close, 
An everlasting conscious inanition! 
We yearn for speedy death in full fruition, 

Dateless oblivion and divine repose." 
That "dateless oblivion and divine repose" 
sings itself in my memory still with an imperish- 
able cadence. Almost every verse of this long 
poem has the same high finish; it would puzzle 
one to find a weak stanza. Every mood of sad- 
ness has its perfect expression. 

"We finish thus ; and all our wretched race 
Shall finish with its cycle, and give place 

To other beings, with their own time-doom; 
Infinite aeons ere our kind began ; 
Infinite aeons after the last man 
Has joined the mammoth in earth's tomb and 

womb." 
That "tomb" and "womb" has always repre- 
sented to me the clods falling on the coffin I 

160 



And here is the intellectual recognition of the 
appalling truth : 
"I find no hint throughout the Universe 
Of good or ill, of blessing or of curse; 

I find alone Necessity Supreme; 
With infinite Mystery, abysmal, dark, 
Unlighted ever by the faintest spark 
For us the flitting shadows of a dream." 
After living in that terrible "City" for weeks 
I dug up a good many of Thomson's translations 
and critical essays and found everywhere the 
same masculine grasp of truth and deep compre- 
hension of all high gifts and qualities. A critic's 
value is not to be gauged by his agreement with 
the established estimates of great men, but by the 
degree in which he can enlarge and enrich these 
secular judgments of humanity. And if he can- 
not rise to this height he should be esteemed for 
the alacrity with which he discovers and pro- 
claims men of genius neglected in his own time. 
I still remember the surprise I felt when 
Thomson wrote his essay on "The Poems of Wil- 
liam Blake," and allayed my fears by beginning 
with praise of the "magnificent prose as well as 
poetry" in the book. 

I don't set much store on his high and just 
praise of Blake, for already Dante Rossetti, at 
least, if not Swinburne, had been before him in 
appreciation, but when he wrote on the "Impro- 
visations from the Spirit," by Garth Wilkinson, 

161 



Thomson had no forerunners, to my knowledge, 
yet his understanding is just as complete and his 
eulogy as finely balanced. He wrote about Wil- 
kinson's work as "A Strange Book" ; he does not 
for a moment accept his mysticism and again and 
again points out that these "improvisations" 
might be bettered by a little painstaking and self- 
criticism. On the whole, his praise is more than 
generous, though finely qualified. 

My high esteem of Thomson grew with the 
years so that when I found myself in London in 
1881 for a holiday he was one of the first men I 
wanted to meet. I had no position at the time 
but felt that a man who had given his best work 
to "The National Reformer" would, perhaps, be 
willing to meet even an unknown admirer. A 
clergyman friend of mine knew Phillip Bourke 
Marston, the blind poet, and told me that he had 
heard Marston mention Thomson. One morning 
I was delighted to get a letter from my friend 
saying that if I would come to his rooms about 
four that afternoon I should meet both Marston 
and Thomson, for Marston had promised to 
bring the great man. 

Of course I was on hand, and after I had 
talked to the Rev. John Verschoyle for perhaps 
ten minutes and thanked him warmly, the two 
poets came in. I knew Marston slightly, but 
even while shaking hands with him I was study- 
ing Thomson. To say I was disappointed gives 

162 



no idea of my dejection. I had seen a photo- 
graph that represented him as a man of about 
thirty of handsome, almost noble countenance; 
courage, vivacity, kindness shone from the well- 
cut features, capacious forehead and fine eyes. I 
had got the idea, too, that he was of good height; 
but he was short, hardly medium height, shrunk- 
en together, prematurely aged; the face was 
shrivelled, small, the skin lined and wrinkled, 
the expression querulous ; his clothes were shabby 
and illfitting; taken all in all he looked an old 
wastrel. 

The contrast between this man and his mag- 
nificent work was appalling; I could only stare 
at him and wonder for the explanation. 

Verschoyle had begun to talk of poetry with 
Marston and now and again Thomson joined in 
almost as if against his will, I thought; when 
suddenly he interrupted the talk irrelevantly 
with a sort of plaint — "There's no drink?" 

"Oh, I beg pardon," cried Verschoyle; and at 
once hastened to put whiskey and soda water on 
the table. 

Verschoyle liked Marston and had the preju- 
dices of a devout Christian and gentleman, and 
Thomson w^as a free-thinking Radical, so he left 
Thomson to me naturally. 

Naturally, too, I filled Thomson's glass as soon 
as he emptied it and refilled it every little while 
the stimulant evidently doing him good. 

163 



Sober people are apt to think that men drink 
because they like the taste. I believe the idealists 
almost always drink for the effect; it throws off 
the depression under which they are apt to suffer 
and brings them up to their best and fullest life; 
encourages and enables them to show themselves 
at their best. Drink is said to induce suicide; 
it often postpones it. 

Thomson soon joined in the conversation ; the 
tension about my heart began to relax when I 
found that he talked admirably. Like all really 
able men he was astonishingly well-read ; knew 
German thoroughly and Italian and French as 
well, was familiar with Heine, Leopardi and 
Carducci, names almost unknown in England 
at that time. 

As the spirit took effect Thomson talked better 
than I had ever heard any one talk up to that 
time; the shrunken features seemed to fill out, 
the voice rounded to music with shrill discords 
of bitter sadness ; the eyes now grey pools of soft 
light; now dark blue, deep beyond deep, held 
one enchanted with their play of expression; the 
face took on a certain nobility of power : Thom- 
son had come into his kingdom and we were his 
thralls. That was the first time I had ever heard 
a great poet talk of poetry and I never forgot the 
lesson. Whenever he spoke of a poet he would 
quote a line or verse and these were often new 

164 



and always intensely characteristic; a verse of 
Shelley about music and violets; a line of Keats: 
"There is a budding morrow in midnight." 
Dante and Heine were enskied and sacred; 
Heine suffering in Paris on his mattress grave, 
like a tortured dog; was "a joyous heathen of 
richest blood, a Greek, a lusty lover of this world 
and life, an apostle of the rehabilitation of the 
'flesh.' " And Dante eagle-eyed suddenly took 
a place apart of an incommunicable austere dig- 
nity. 

Thomson modified nearly all the accepted 
judgments. I was at once delighted and disap- 
pointed to find that several of my little discov- 
eries were accepted by him as commonplaces. 
The golden nuggets I had found and hoarded 
were only small change to him. For instance in 
spite of Matthew Arnold I could not accept 
Byron as a poet at all, and I held that Browning 
had produced tw^enty times as much high poetry 
as Tennyson and far more even than Words 
worth. Thomson flashed agreement with all 
this, but when I went on to say that Keats was a 
far greater poet than Shelley he dissented vehe- 
mently and when I asserted that Blake's mystical 
books were clear enough to any good reader and 
that he was among the greatest of the sons of 
men, Thomson shook his head. On this narrow 
line of dissent I found refuge for my soul and 
was content. 

165 



Nothing in Thomson's talk surprised me so 
much as the rich gaiety and joy in living he dis- 
covered when praising his favorite Heine; his 
own melancholy was evidently the souring, so to 
speak of a generous vintage; "the first of modern 
Pagans," he called Heine exultantly: "The great- 
est Jew since Jesus, and a divine poet to boot." 
"Then you don't think Jesus a poet?" I ex- 
claimed. 

"I mean by poet a singer," he retorted, and so 
I began to understand how this lover of music 
came to rate Shelley so highly for Shelley cer- 
tainly was one of the greatest of singers. 

Gradually the stimulant died out of Thomson : 
bit by bit the light left his eyes, the furrows and 
wrinkles came back, the old querulous dejected 
expression of his face returned. Marston got 
up to go and I did not try to make another ap- 
pointment. My time in London was measured, 
and feeling that Thomson had come to grief 
when his gifts and powers ought to have gained 
him a great position, depressed me dreadfully. 
I had no idea then of the power of British snob- 
bery and British conventions. 

Alone together, Verschoyle and I looked at 
each other. 

"Why has he lost hold on himself?" I asked. 

"Atheists of that class," said Verschoyle, 
"generally come to ruin ; theyVe no backbone in 
them. 

166 



"I remember hearing a story of Tihomson,'* 
he went on. "Perhaps I ought to have told you. 
The father, Dr. Westland Marston, the literary 
and dramatic critic, you know?" I shook my 
head). "Well, he's blind, too, and he told it to 
me. I think he dislikes his son going about with 
Thomson. One day, it seems, Phillip Bourke 
Marston went to call on Thomson and found him 
wild, incipient Delirium Tremens. After a little 
while Thomson got quieter and began to follow 
Marston about tickling the back of his neck with 
a carving knife. When Phillip asked him what 
he was doing Thomson told him, but went on 
with the gruesome game. Scared stiff, the blind 
man tried to escape, but couldn't and was finally 
rescued by the chance arrival of Rossetti. A 
ghastly scene, eh?" 

"Ghastly, indeed," I replied; "a touch of the 
grotesque in the horrible." 

Was it the story or the personal impression? 
I can't say: somehow I felt that Thomson was 
lost. Was British prejudice to blame or was 
there any personal reason? 

The thought crossed my mind that like de 
Musset, Thomson looked on drink as the open 
door to death and preferred it to any other. In 
that case why shouldn't he take it? I said to my- 
self. There was a fierce youthful intolerance in 
me at the time; a great poet, it seemed to me, 
should make his life great: I had no notion then 

167 



that the burden is often too heavy for mortal 
strength and that sooner or later all the sons of 
Adam, or, at least, the most gifted, are sure to 
reach the breaking point. 

But Thomson knew it and had said it in his 
own way in a hundred magical verses. 

Thomson was, perhaps, the first to tell us that 
the passion of the creative artist, the wish to do 
our work, to mould the gold in us into perfect 
form, is one of the chief incentives to living: 

"So potent is the Word, the Lord of Life, 
And so tenacious Art, 

Whose instinct urges to perpetual strife 
With Death, Life's counterpart; 

The magic of their music, might and light, 

Can keep one living in his own despite." 
A year or so later I was staying at Argenteuil, 
near Paris, when I read of Thomson's death, 
and the curt posthumous notices showed that he 
had practically drunk himself to death. It was 
at Phillip Marston's rooms in the Euston Road 
that the final catastrophe took place. He had 
drifted in on Marston in the afternoon; had 
talked of poetry and had had some whiskey. 
Internal hemorrhage followed ; he was taken to 
University College Hospital nearby. Next day 
Marston and Sharp visited him; he begged a 
shilling for stamps to write some letters, he was 
literally without a penny, and died the follow- 
ing day. 

168 



Had he done his work; given all he had to 
give? I don't think so. In spite of his strength 
of will, and it was extraordinary, the tragic mis- 
haps and injustices of life were too powerful and 
had overborne the Titan. 

I could give a hundred specimens of his prose 
even which would convince any thinking mind 
that Thomson was one of the choice and master 
spirits of the time. 

I have not got his volume "Satires and Pro- 
fanities," which appeared in 1884 by me, but 
here is a passage I have copied out: it will 
suffice : 

"This great river of human Time, which 
comes flowing down thick with filth and blood 
from the immemorial past, surely cannot be 
thoroughly cleansed by any purifying process 
applied to it here in the present; for the pollu- 
tion, if not at its very source (supposing it has a 
source) or deriving from unimaginable remote- 
nesses of eternity indefinitely beyond its source^ 
at any rate interfused with it countless ages back, 
and is perennial as the river itself. This im- 
mense poison-tree of Life, with its leaves of 
illusion, blossoms of delirium, apples of destruc- 
tion, surely cannot be made wholesome and 
sweet by anything we may do to the branchlets 
and twigs on which, poor insects, we find our- 
selves crawling, or to the leaves and fruit on 
which we must fain feed; for the venom is 

169 



drawn up in the sap by the tap-roots plunged in 
abysmal depths of the past. This toppling and 
sinking house wherein we dwell cannot be firmly 
re-established, save by re-establishing from its 
lowest foundation upwards. In fine, to thor- 
oughly reform the present and the future we 
must thoroughly reform the past." 

But what were the mishaps and injustices it 
may be asked which brought such splendid 
powers to wreck? The injustices were mainly 
of the time and place; the mishaps individual. 
His father was an officer in the merchant marine 
who had the bad luck to get a paralytic stroke 
in 1840 and never recovered; his mother a 
deeply religious woman and mystic died in 
1843, leaving James an orphan when a child of 
nine, to be brought up as a pauper on charity; 
not a bad start for a world-poet. He studied 
hard and became a schoolmaster in the British 
army about seventeen. A Mrs. Grieg says of 
him at this time: "He was wonderfully clever, 
very nice-looking and very gentle, grave and 
kind." Stationed in Ireland he made a friend 
of Charles Bradlaugh, then a private, and fell in 
love with a beautiful girl. Having won her 
affection, he returned to England at nineteen to 
gain a better position in order to marry her. Six 
months later she died suddenly. All through 
his life he ascribed his downfall to losing her. 
Almost the last poem he wrote was written of 

170 



her thirty years later under the title, "I Had a 
Love." ("Too hard and harsh, too true to be 
good poetry," is Thomson's comment on it.) I 
quote one verse, for it tells everything: 
"You would have kept me from the desert sands, 
Bestrewn with bleaching bones, 
And led me through the friendly fertile lands, 

And changed my weary moans 

To hymns of triumph and enraptured love. 

And made our earth as rich as Heaven above." 

As a young man he was strong, we are told ; a 

good oarsman and walker; he thought nothing 

of walking from the Curragh Camp to Dublin 

and back in the day, and by all accounts was 

very vivacious and an excellent companion. A 

real student, too, he taught himself German, 

Italian, French and a good deal of Spanish and 

some Latin, etc. But even as a young man of 

twenty or twenty-one, he occasionally drank to 

excess in a convivial way, and the evil tendency 

grew on him as the injustices of life began to eat 

into his pride. 

We are told that "unfortunately he did not 
get on well with the officers." From the fact 
that he had made Bradlaugh, though a private, 
his closest friend, one can imagine how the offi- 
cers would regard him. He was always a free 
thinker with pronounced radical views; natu- 
rally British officers were ready to pick a quarrel 
with a genius who assuredly did not share their 

171 



admiration of themselves. Thomson was dis- 
missed from the British army for trivial con- 
tempt called insubordination in 1862 — a heavy 
and undeserved blow. 

A couple of years before he had begun writing 
for The National Reformer, which had been 
founded by Bradlaugh. Now at a loose end he 
came to London and Bradlaugh got him a place 
in a solicitor's office; he was still only twenty- 
eight. His wages plus all he received from his 
writing hardly averaged ten dollars a week for 
the next ten years of his life, the best years. 
Under such conditions and conscious of great 
powers, it was only to be expected that the mel- 
ancholy he inherited from his mother would 
increase. He began periodically to drink to 
excess. He fought a desperate battle with this 
propensity. For months he would be sober and 
then some setback in life would excite his pessi- 
mism and he would begin to brood, then to 
drink. After the bout he'd "purge and live 
cleanly" again for months. 

At all times he took his work most seriously 
like all who have it in them to do great work. 

In 1864 he had written two or three articles 
for the Daily Telegraph; it is said that the edi- 
tor offered him a retaining fee "to write like 
that," and then asked him, "Can you write 
pathos?" which ended their relation. Some of 
his best poetry was rejected by four or five of 

172 



the chief magazines. In 1874 his great poem, 
"The City of Dreadful Night," began to appear 
piecemeal in The National Reformer and won 
him new friends. Swinburne, George Eliot and 
Meredith wrote warmest praise to him, and 
Bertram Dobell grew really fond of him and 
helped him later to publish his books. It 
brought him another friend, Phillip Bourke 
Marston, who remained, as I have said, faithful 
to the end. 

In 1875 he had a sort of disagreement with 
Bradlaugh; was crowded out of the paper and 
the misunderstanding was accentuated, it was 
said, by Mrs. Besant, and so the friendship of 
twenty years came to an end. 

In "The City of Dreadful Night" Thomson 
has given us a portrait of Bradlaugh speaking 
as the pessimist-prophet; it is at once a tribute 
to his affection for the friend and a noble appre- 
ciation of the reformer's high qualities. The 
subsequent quarrel never induced Thomson to 
withdraw or modify any part of his eulogy. 

"And then we heard a voice of solemn stress 
From the dark pulpit, and our gaze there met 
Two eyes which burned as never eyes burned yet; 

Two steadfast and intolerable eyes 

Burning beneath a broad and rugged brow; 

The head behind it of enormous size. 

And as black fir-groves in a large wind bow, 

Our rooted congregation, gloom-arrayed, 

By that great sad voice deep and full were swayed : — 

173 



O melancholy Brothers, dark, dark, dark! 
O battling in black floods without an ark! 

O spectral wanderers of unholy Night! 
My soul hath bled for you these sunless years, 
With bitter blood-drops running down like tears: 

Oh, dark, dark, dark, withdrawn from joy and light!" 

From this time on he wrote little poetry and 
was content to get his prose accepted by the 
Secularist, a new weekly and anti- religious 
review established by G. W. Foote. But his 
chief source of livelihood came from writing 
for Cope's Tobacco Plant, a monthly edited as 
an advertising medium for a firm of Liverpool 
tobacco merchants. This is how England 
treated one of her most gifted and greatest sons. 

At Christmas, 1878, he could say that he had 
not earned a penny in the year save from his 
papers in Fraser's Magazine, hardly two hun- 
dred dollars in all. At the end of 1879 he was 
only writing for Cope "barely managing to keep 
his head over water, sometimes sinking under 
for a bit." Was it any wonder that this gentle, 
genial, gifted spirit grew tired of the long strug- 
gle? Again and again in 1879 he speaks of 
rheumatic pains ; it is plain that his health was 
breaking; his "old friend insomnia" too had 
come back again to make night even more 
hideous than the day. He fell more and more 
completely under the influence of drink and the 
story of the close of Thomson's life is that of a 
man who had lost all desire to live; "his later 

174 



life was a slow suicide, perceived and acquiesced 
in deliberately by himself." in 1880 Dobell got 
his first book of poems published in book form; 
it won him friends and fifty dollars in cash, as 
poor Thomson writes hopefully. Meredith in- 
troduced him to editors and his work began to 
be asked for, but the help came too late. He 
was now forty-six and, perhaps, beyond saving. 
At least it would have needed some extraordi- 
nary circumstance to have saved him. Mere- 
dith, with his preternatural sagacity, seems to 
have divined this after his death. 

The one gleam of brightness that came before 
the end intensifies to me the tragedy of the final 
disaster. His second volume of poems was pro- 
duced almost immediately after the first and was 
also successful. And these books brought him 
some new friends, among them a Mr. and Miss 
Barrs, brother and sister, who asked him down 
to stay with them in the country. He went to 
them again and again and found perfect hospi- 
tality; he seems indeed to have felt deeply for 
Miss Barrs, because on his forty-seventh birth- 
day he writes to H. A. B. : 
"When one is forty years and seven 
Is seven and forty sad years old, 

He looks not onward for his heaven, 
The future is too blank and cold, 
Its pale flowers smell of graveyard mould, 

He looks back to his lifeful past; 

175 



If age is silver, youth is gold; — 
Could youth but last, could youth but last!" 
Then there are the stanzas entitled "At Bel- 
voir" with this memorable verse: 
"A maiden like a budding rose, 
Unconscious of the golden 
And fragrant bliss of love that glows 

Deep in her heart infolden ; 
A Poet old in years and thought. 

Yet not too old for pleasance. 
Made young again and fancy-fraught 
By such a sweet friend's presence." 
The poem entitled "He Heard Her Sing" 
tells of Thomson's passionate love of music and 
his deep feeling for this lady. 

He visited the Barrs again in the spring of 
1882, but he let himself go and the visit ended 
in a fit of intemperance. He crept back to Lon- 
don in bitterest remorse and final despair. On 
April 22, 1882, we find him writing to Mr. 
Barrs: 

"I scarcely know how to write to you after 
my atrocious and disgusting return for the won- 
derful hospitality and kindness of yourself and 
Miss Barrs. I can only say that I was mad." 

Very soon afterwards comes an unforgettable 
picture of him by Mr. Stewart Ross: 

"He stands before me now as distinctly as he 
did nearly seven years ago among the well- 
dressed people at that glittering bar — he, the 

176 



abject, the shabby, the waif. . . . His figure, 
which had always been diminutive, had lost all 
dignity of carriage, all gracefulness of gait 
When the miserable hat was raised from the 
ruined but still noble head it revealed the thin- 
ning away of the ragged and unkempt hair, 
deeply threaded with grey. His raiment had 
the worn, soiled and deeply creased aspect that 
suggested ... it had been worn day and 
night. The day, for May, was a raw and cold 
one, with a drizzle, and the feet of the author of 
'The City of Dreadful Night' were protected 
from the slushy streets only by a pair of thin old 
carpet-slippers, so worn and defective that, in 
one part, they displayed his bare skin." 

The summing up is given in a letter of 
Meredith's : 

"He did me the honor to visit me twice, when 
I was unaware of the extent of the tragic afflic- 
tion overclouding him, but could see that he was 
badly weighted. I have now the conviction 
that the taking away of poverty from his burdens 
would in all likelihood have saved him to enrich 
our literature; for his verse was a pure well. 
He had, almost past example in my experience, 
the thrill of the worship of moral valiancy as 
well as of sensuous beauty; his narrative poem, 
'Weddah and Om-cl-Bonain,' stands to witness 
what great things he would have done in the 
exhibition of nobility at war with evil condi- 
tions. He probably had, as most of us have 

177 



had, his heavy suffering on the soft side. But 
he inherited the tendency to the thing which 
slew him. And it is my opinion that, in consid- 
eration of his high and singularly elective mind, 
he might have worked clear of it to throw it 
off, if circumstances had been smoother and 
brighter about him." Such is Meredith's way 
of saying that England is a harsh stepmother to 
poets who dare to be thinkers and radicals 
though born poor. The true word is : 

Father, forgive them; for they know not 
what they do. 

It might be well for us to ask ourselves how 
America treats her Thomsons. The reception 
accorded to Poe and Whitman should not flatter 
our self-esteem. 




Thompson as I saw him in 1881, 



178 




Lionel Johnson 




LIONEL JOHNSON and 
HUBERT CRACKANTHORPE 

T would take long to tell why these 
two men are associated in my mem- 
ory. I saw a great deal of both of 
them about the same time in the 
early nineties; they were both very 
young and full of high promise in very different 
ways, and in both I felt a certain weakness of 
body, the premonition of untimely death and un- 
fulfilled renown. They both felt the danger, I 
believe, knew that their hold on life was tenu- 
ous, weak and that the strands would part easily 
on any strain. Johnson wrote to a friend : 

"Go from me: I am one of those who fall. 
What! hath no cold wind swept your heart at all, 
In my sad company? Before the end, 
Go from me, dear, my friend!" 

The "cold wind" — perhaps only the flighting 
of unseen wings — was sadly prophetic in Crack- 
anthorpe's case, but not in Johnson's, thank good- 
ness, for though he died at thirty-five he had 
already done excellent work in prose and verse 
which gives him a niche in the sanctuary of the 
spirit. 

The two were in some sort complementary. 
179 



Crackanthorpe with shy ingenuous manners and 
outbursts of enthusiasm soon followed by fits of 
unaccountable, black depression, and Johnson 
very grave and perfectly poised, a sort of young 
old man. Yeats, his friend and contemporary, 
has painted him to the life in a phrase; he 
speaks of "the loneliness and gravity of his mind ; 
its air of high lineage," this last clause the mag- 
ical word only possible to a poet-spirit when 
touched with love. 

The Nineties in London 

The Nineties in London! Was there ever a 
period in any country when such great men lived 
and worked? There were Tennyson and 
Browning, Arnold and Swinburne, Meredith, 
Patmore and Aubrey de Vere among the older 
poets; and in science and thought, Darwin, 
Lyell, Kelvin, Huxley, Spencer and Wallace. 

And the wonderful thing was that for the most 
part these subtle and great minds were familiar 
spirits of easy approach and much more apt to 
be enthusiastic about young talent than men of 
small accomplishment. One could meet and 
talk to any of them almost any day; indeed a 
week seldom passed for years in which I did not 
meet one or more of them in friendly intercourse. 

They had little or nothing new to tell one; 
they had given their best in their books; but it 
was intensely interesting to lead them on to 
answer the questionings of sense and outward 

180 



things which passages in their writings sug- 
gested. 

Did Darwin or Spencer or Huxley see that 
the gorgeous soapbubble of theory that they had 
blown was only a toy to amuse the mind and 
did not lead one into the secret purpose of things 
at all or strip a single veil from the mysterious 
Goddess of Life? 

Why had Browning said so little about his 
great contemporaries? Swinburne and Arnold, 
Patmore and Meredith talked freely of one an- 
other, were never tired indeed of drawing lines 
of relationship from themselves to other Im- 
mortals, but Browning was curiously reticent. 

These questions and a thousand like them I 
put and had answered, and they led to deeper 
confessions and more intimate questionings. 

Was Swinburne's erotic poetry a mirror of 
his life? 

What was the mystery about Meredith? Was 
he the illegitimate son of some great personage 
or was the tailor his father? 

How did Patmore come to be a Catholic 
mystic who spoke of Saint Augustine and Santa 
Theresa as if they had been his brother and 
sister? 

Who was it Browning wanted to possess in that 
Last Ride Together 
when the desire makes the page glow and gives 
the words pulses. 

181 



And the younger men were even more inter- 
esting; for promise is more exciting than per- 
formance. 

Housman with his "Shropshire Lad," and 
Dowson, Symons and Home, Francis Thompson, 
John Grey and Alfred Douglas, Mrs. Meynell, 
too, and Mary Robinson and Michael Field — 
singers enough, and a crowd of novelists, play- 
rights and painters still more distinguished: 
Whistler, Pater and Wilde, Kipling, Shaw, 
Beardsley, Pryde and Wells; Augustus John, 
Sime and Max, to say nothing of the band of 
gifted Irishmen, Yeats, Moore, Synge, and 
"A. E." 

And these men were all eager and enthusiastic; 
good work done and better projected. One could 
warm oneself with their hope. Almost any after- 
noon I could hear Kipling read a new poem, 
some "Gunga Din" that heated the blood like 
rich Burgundy and when he had gone, leaving 
the air still throbbing with the martial words 
and the lilting music, in would come Beardsley 
with a cover of "The Yellow Book" which Lane 
had accepted and praised and then at the last 
moment when his eyes had been opened, had 
suppressed in horror and resentment at nudities 
"no one could stand; perfectly disgraceful 1" 

Looking a mere boy Beardsley would point 
to this scabrous detail and to that: "I see noth- 
ing wrong with the drawing; do you?" as if 

182 



pudenda were ears to be studied in every whorl 
or breasts rounded merely to show how perfect- 
ion of line makes shading superfluous. 

And scarcely had we finished laughing when 
Wilde would come in or Jimmy Pryde, the one 
resolved to take us to dinner with Pater or 
Whistler and the other proposing a meeting of 
artists at the Arts Club. 

And the men and women one met at that club 
in Chelsea! Will Rothenstein with his vivid 
eager face and keen intelligence; Herbert 
Trench with a new poem of wrought perfect- 
ness; Arthur Machen with his head of prophet- 
priest and a new story of the Oxford Actors — 
and the talk vivid, enthusiastic, pointed with 
wit or barbed with sarcastic epigram. One 
telling how his new book had been suppressed 
by some magistrate or "Bayswatered" by the pub- 
lisher burst out — "I told him what I thought of 
him, though, the fool. In a moment I was boil- 
ing." 

"Don't say that," broke in a quiet voice. "To 
come to boiling point so quickly, argues a 
vacuum in the upper regions." 

Ah, the delighted laughter and the wild out- 
bursts of joy; the exuberance of youth, shot 
through with the wisdom and irony of mature 
understanding. 

Hubert Crackanthorpe 

And in this rich, passionate, pulsing life these 
183 



two appeared and made for themselves a place ; 
Crackanthorpe in spite of his shy timidity and 
Johnson in spite of his boyish face and preter- 
natural gravity. They were both small. Crack- 
anthorpe, just below medium height, slight and 
white faced, with eyes like pale Parma violets 
and hesitating light voice growing confident and 
firm, however, in praise. Johnson, smaller still, 
though not so frail, with large head and assured 
quiet manner to match the arrogant, steady, 
thoughtful eyes. 

Crackanthorpe came with a letter of intro- 
duction and wished me to read a short story, "A 
Conflict of Egotisms." As soon as I took it up, 
it interested me ; a sort of impersonal detachment 
in it curiously revealing personality, especially 
the description of the writer who "had learnt 
nothing from modern methods, either French or 
English; he belonged to no clique, he had no 
followers, he stood quite alone. He had few 
friends or acquaintances, not from misanthropy, 
sound or morbid, but the accumulated result of 
years of voluntary isolation." 

This "sound or morbid" showed a mind that 
had hatched out some eggs for itself and a little 
later a description fascinated me: 

"The shower had been a fierce one, covering 
the roadway with a thick crop of rain spikes, 
filling the gutters with rushing rivulets of muddy 
water; now, through a rift in the ink-colored 

184 



clouds, the sunlight was filtering feebly, and the 
swirl of the downpour had subsided to a gentle 
patter." 

The "rain spikes" and sunlight "filtering 
feebly" struck me as the painting words of a 
real writer and I praised him accordingly. I 
found him essentially modest though he knew 
his own value. 

"Do you think I'll ever do anything worth 
while?" 

"You have already. No one can say how far 
you'll go; even now your work is a master's." 

"How kind of you! But don't spare blame, 
please! I want the truth." 

"Well, I miss the joy of living, the youthful 
spring and all-conquering desire. Your work is 
sad, detached from life, curiously aloof, almost 
indifferent." 

"One can only give what one has." 

"Fall in love," I cried joyously, "over head 
and ears; that's the cure for you." 

"Who knows," he answered wistfully. "Some- 
times love frightens me. One might fail to win 
the pearl of great price or the shrine might be 
defiled." 

"Nothing to hinder you trying again," I re- 
plied. 

His eyebrows went up and we talked of other 
things; of books and men. On all sides his 
judgment was curiously mature, too mature for 

185 



his years. I felt the cold air of vague appre- 
hension. 

His first book, "Wreckage," made a stir, set 
the town talking; the "nineties" all eager to wel- 
come talent. 

One day I met him and praised one story in 
the book heartily: " *A Dead Woman' is great 
stuff," I cried, "go on : you'll go far." 

"I've taken your prescription, too," he replied 
shyly, blushing like a girl. 

"I'm glad," I cried, "love's the torch 1" 

A few months later I heard he was missing, 
no one seemed to know why or wherefore ; time 
passed and the news came that his body had been 
found in the Seine at Paris. Life's waves had 
broken too heavily on him, or had the life-belt 
failed? I never knew. 

For years his loss came back to me with a 
sting: "Why? Why? What a pity!" I could not 
help crying out whenever the thought of him 
came up. Against my will I kept on recalling 
our conversations and communing with his spirit 
till at length I seemed to find coherence and a 
meaning even in his self-destruction. A nymph- 
olept of Beauty, I said to myself, called to a per- 
petual seeking, when at length he found his 
Dream incarnate in the flesh he spent himself in 
impious adoration. There are souls so glad to 
give that life itself seems too poor an offering. 

186 



Was the mystery of poor Crackanthorpe's end 

explained in Francis Thompson's lines? 

Beauty, to adore and dream on — 

To be 

Perpetually 

Hers, but she never his. 

Better the Seine water than such Tantalus- 
torture! 

Lionel Johnson 

Lionel Johnson was of stouter stuff. The best 
years of his life were spent in London and just 
cover the decade 1891-1901. He was an amal- 
gam of English and Welsh with a strong strain 
of Irish blood that he came to prize highly. He 
had left Oxford with a great reputation for 
scholarship and talent and he set to work at once 
in London writing for the more serious weeklies. 
His "Post Liminium or Essays" represent one- 
quarter of these contributions. 

All his prose work is on the same high level 
distinguished by a balanced gravity of judgment 
illumined whenever necessary by apt quotation; 
first-rate journalism passing every now and then 
into literature when winged by some passionate 
emotion. Here is a note on Francis Thompson, 
hard to better for sympathy and sureness of ap- 
preciation : 

"Magnificently faulty at times, magnificently 
perfect at others. The ardors of poetry, taking 
you triumphantly by storm; a surging sea of 

187 



verse, rising and falling and irresistibly advanc- 
ing. Drunk with his inspiration, sometimes 
helplessly so; more often he is merely fired and 
quickened, and remains master of himself. Has 
done more to harm the English language than 
the worst American newspapers; corruptio op- 
timi pessima. Has the opulent, prodigal manner 
of the seventeenth century; a profusion of great 
imagery, sometimes excessive and false; an- 
other opulence and profusion, that of Shelley in 
his lyric choruses. Beneath the outward manner, 
a passionate reality of thought; profound, pa- 
thetic, full of faith without fear. "Words that, 
if you pricked them, would bleed," as was said 
of Meredith. Incapable of prettiness and petti- 
ness; for good and bad, always vehement and 
burning and — to use a despised word — sublime. 
Sublime, rather than noble! too fevered to be 
austere; a note of ardent suffering, not of en- 
durance." 

Johnson's volume on "The Art of Hardy," 
shows him even better; but I was always sorry 
that he had not decided to write on his old tutor 
and friend, Walter Pater, whom he loved and 
admired intensely. A book on Pater by John- 
son would have been of extraordinary value, for 
Johnson always seemed to me curiously akin to 
Pater, both in nature and in talent. He has 
written half a dozen different papers on him, 
but I wish he had given a volume to him instead 

188 



of to Hardy, for not only was he like Pater, but 
in some ways superior. With the exception of 
the single page on the Mona Lisa I take more 
pleasure in reading Johnson's prose than Pater's 
and when it comes to lyric flights I prefer them 
in verse. Now Johnson was a skilled craftsman 
in poetry; you find verse after verse with some 
new cadence or curious felicity of expression. 

Everyone knows his valedictory on Parnell 
which gives the soul of Ireland: 

"I cannot praise our dead, 
Whom Ireland weeps so well: 
Her morning light, that fled ; 
Her morning star, that fell. 

Home to her heart she drew 
The mourning company: 
Old sorrows met the new, 
In sad fraternity. 

• •«•••• 

A mother, and forget? 
Nay! all her children's fate 
Ireland remembers yet, 
With love insatiate." 

Yet as if prophetic of the future he sings Eng- 
land too and above all Oxford, and above even 
Oxford, Pater: 

"Half of a passionately pensive soul 

He showed us, not the whole: 
Who loved him best, they best, they only knew, 

The deeps they might not view: 
That which was private between God and him: 

To others justly dim." . 

189 



I do not hold Johnson up as a great poet; he 
was too thought-burdened ever to sing freely; 
but he had the gift; and could sing in Latin as 
in English with a haunting melody. 

I always hoped he would write some great 
lyric page on friendship for he was singularly 
gifted with sympathy, a soul like some Aeolian 
harp tuned to respond to every breath of affec- 
tion and with this rare sensitiveness, an equable 
kind temper, a mind of high lineage. 

Like Crackanthorpe, Johnson came to an un- 
timely end. He had rooms in Clifford's Inn and 
was ailing all through the winter of 1901-2. 
In the summer he gradually got better, was him- 
self again when he met with an accident and died 
within a week. 

I am not sure that his name will live; I much 
fear that his work will hardly find a place in 
English literature. I know that Thomson wrote 
incomparably greater poetry and as good prose, 
too, and yet is hardly known save to lovers of 
letters ; yet I always have had a soft spot in me 
of liking for Lionel Johnson, for his steadfast 
eyes and air of resolute self-possession. And 
often his words reach the heart and are unfor- 
gettable, an echo of the sad music of man's mor- 
tality. Take the last lines in his song to the Dark 
Angel : 

Lonely unto the lone I go 
Divine, to the Divinity. 

190 



No wonder he put the couplet into italics; 
there is in it all his heart's yearning for affection 
together with the proud self-consciousness of the 
great artist 

I cannot mourn for these men as cut off un- 
timely leaving their best unsaid, the sweetest 
songs unsung. I have a sort of superstition that 
no one dies till the soul in him has finished 
growing, till his best work is all done. Had 
Crackanthorpe more to give, or Johnson, or 
Keats? I doubt it. We have got their best; 
Shakespeare was given time even to finish "The 
Tempest"; Cervantes did not put his "foot in 
the stirrup" till the second part of "Don 
Quixote" was in men's hands. Yet the pathos of 
untimely loss is there and the passionate regret : 
Lonely unto the lone I go 
Divine, to the Divinity. 



191 




PIERRE LOTI : A LORD OF LANGUAGE 

T was in Paris in 1887, I believe, at a 
costume ball given by Madame 
Adam, then editor of La Nouvelle 
Revuej that I first heard of Loti. 
He had come dressed as a Pharaoh 
and his costume of Rameses II. was a marvel, it 
was said, of artistic weirdness and antiquarian 
correctitude. He was pointed out to me seated in 
a room talking to a lady; his youth excused his 
pretentiously quaint costume, and I was natural- 
ly curious to learn all I could about him. Who 
was he? What had he done to become a per- 
sonage in a day? 

"He's a young sailor," I was told, "a lieuten- 
ant in the Navy, who in his very first book 
brought a new atmosphere into French fiction, 
and even taught French prose a new music or 
at least new cadences and dowered it with a sort 
of Biblical or Breton sadness and resignation: 
II faut lire ca; ah, oui; you must read him I 

His real name, it appeared, was Julien Viaud; 
he was born at Rochefort-on-Sca, of Protestant 
stock, brought up, therefore, on the Bible; had 
traveled widely. Queen Pomare of Tahiti had 
given him the name of Loti, after ^p oceanic 
flower, 

192 




Pierre Loti 



Oddly enough, that first dawn of fame in 
Paris was all admiration and romance, colored 
by a rich glow of exoticism that appeared to 
silence judgment and suspend even sane appre- 
ciation. Paris was like a child with a new toy, 
and wouldn't even believe that it could ever find 
fault or flaw in its plaything. 

In the next week or so I read "Le Mariage de 
Loti." Was it Viaud's first book or merely the 
first that happened to fall into my hands? I 
could not say. It does not matter much, for in 
any case that delicate and passionate idyll of 
love on an island of the southern Pacific was not 
a bad way of meeting Loti. The Tahitian girl, 
Rarahu, is as attractive and exciting as a model 
of Gauguin. Her love-letters have something of 
the savage about them — a mixture of childish- 
ness and passion — a new and heady intoxicant. 
From that moment I was one of Loti's admirers; 
but by the following season Paris had changed. 
Suddenly, as in an hour, the gay child had 
grown tired of her new doll, had learned its 
tricks, so to speak, and was eager to show that 
its mechanism had not fooled her for a moment; 
she had always known that its roundnesses were 
only sawdust — "Loti — un espece de Chateau- 
briand (a sort of Chateaubriand) — un rhetori- 
cien, un romantique — quoi!" with a shrug of 
disdainful denigration. And when I objected to 
this summary classification and suggested that 

193 



he might yet write a great sea-epic, a wonderful 
song of life and love, I was met by doubt, dis- 
belief, masking a profound indifference. One 
cried at me: 

"Don't you know the story of Loti? 

"One day the Duchess of asked him to a 

reception and he turned up with a big sailor: 
mon frere Ives, if you please. That finished him 
off; that was too much for even feminine admira- 
tion," and they all laughed. 

Paris accepts a talent promptly, eagerly, par- 
ticularly if it is strange and bizarre, but Paris 
drops it just as quickly. It is only the Hugos 
and Balzacs who can hold that fickle charming 
mistress, and they hold her by strength and 
courage and ever-renewed conquest. 

I read all Loti's books as they came out, "Mon 
Frere Ives," "Pecheur d'Islande," and the rest, 
and my admiration grew deeper, broader-based. 
Loti, I used to say to myself, was the true laure- 
ate of the ocean, the singer of the sea, without a 
rival in any language. Yet up to that time I 
had thought the shipwreck in "Don Juan" hard 
to beat 

The sea has inspired a great many poets and 
has been the theme of much excellent writing. 
Keats's linca : — 

"The moving waters at their priest-like task 
Of pure ablution round Earth's human shores," 
are of course incomparable, seem indeed to 

194 



touch the zenith of accomplishment, though one 
has to admit that he borrowed the sentiment 
from Euripides. By the way, Matthew Arnold 
once quoted this couplet and characteristically, 
as I think, changed "pure" into "cold." Never- 
theless, his own great line, "the unplumb'd, salt, 
estranging sea," shows that he too was haunted 
by the loneliness and mystery of the great deep, 
though he does not love it with the awe and 
passion of Loti, whose very soul seems to have 
been colored by it and tuned to it 

There is a description of a storm in "Mon 
Frere Ives," I think, or it may be in even an 
earlier book, which has in it all the magic of 
the sea, from the organ music of its deep to the 
swirl and snarl of its surface, from the scream 
of the wind to its thunder, and Loti has un- 
leashed about one the elemental forces of Nature 
— unconscious and irresistible — forces that make 
one shiver with the sense of man's frailty and 
man's mortality. Loti's soul has been formed by 
the sea, and no one has ever painted a mistress 
in all her moods with more consummate artistry. 

Conrad, too, has depicted a storm with an as- 
tounding cunning that reminds me of Loti. I 
forget the name of the book, but Conrad realizes 
the sailormen at the same time, whereas in Loti 
I get nothing but the sea and the tempest and 
Death triumphant riding on the wings of the 
wind. 

195 



Naturally I was eager to meet him, this singer 
of the great Deep, and I did meet him some 
years later in the palace at Monaco by a window 
that looked out over the garden to the sun-kissed 
wavelets of the Mediterranean. 

There is a great text in Corinthians: 

"It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spirit- 
ual body . . . for this corruptible must put on 
incorruption and this mortal . . . immor- 
tality." 

But suppose it's the other way about and the 
immortal puts on mortality and the spirit a 
natural body before your eyes? I had already 
had many disillusions of the sort, many proofs 
that what Shakespeare calls "this muddy vesture 
of decay," this outward bodily presentment of 
us men, has no relation to the soul; but never 
was the disillusion more astonishing. 

Loti was in the trim uniform of a French 
naval lieutenant that accentuated his tiny figure. 
He is about five feet four in height, slight and 
straight. And surely he wears corsets; it is 
hardly possible that a man should have so slim 
and round a waist! And surely his cheeks are 
rouged; the rose flush is too artistically perfect 
to be natural. We are introduced: his voice is 
a thin treble: "Heureux, monsieur, de faire 
voire connaissance . . . la Princesse m'a beau- 
coup parle de vous" (Happy to make your ac- 
quaintance ; the Princess has often spoken to me 

196 



of you). His hand is the hand of a child. 

''Mon Frere Ives," "My Brother Ives," the 
big strong sailorman, the hero of the romance, 
flashes into my mind with another meaning: the 
inference irresistible! Surely the comedy of life 
is inexhaustible and staged by a master of the 
unexpected. 

Loti's face is wistful in expression ; something 
querulous veils the melancholy of the eyes; the 
lips are rather thick, the nose a little fleshy; one 
returns to the eyes; they meet you with a shade 
of distrust and apprehension, like those of a dog 
that has often been punished; underneath they 
are sad, sad. . . . 

The Princess Alice was one of Loti's earliest 
and most enthusiastic admirers; she told me that 
his name was taken from a rare tropical flower 
that floats on water, "le loti." 

"He is *a sensitive,' " she insisted, "who carries 
about with him an eternal regret. He would 
have liked, above everything, to be big and 
strong ... a sailor-lover — and he's tiny: he 
resents it. One should be considerate of him 
and not in words only, but in looks and manner; 
he's very affectionate underneath. ..." 

I was so interested that I did not need the 
warning; I was full of sympathy for the great 
craftsman, eager to know where he had learned 
the varied music of his rhythms, the inevitable 
painting words of his prose; above all, what had 

197 



helped him to his immediate bare vision of 
things ? 

Gradually, under my warm admiration, he 
thawed out. I had asked him did he know 
Bourget (another friend of the Princess) or 
Renan? 

"No," he answered, "no, I never read, you 
know," and then the astounding confession — "I 
have never read anything ... no, not even 
Chateaubriand . . . though he has been called 
my master," and he smiled deprecatingly. 

"Really?" I exclaimed: "but of course you've 
read Montaigne, Moliere, Racine, La Fontaine, 
the classics?" 

"Not one of them," he replied : "a good deal 
of the Bible as a boy and since I grew up a few 
of my friends' books; for example, 'Chante- 
pleure,' which I think excellent. ..." 

"But in the long days and nights at sea be- 
tween watches: don't you read?" 

"No," he replied, "no, I muse. I recall past 
experiences to memory; but that's all." 

"Where did you get your style from?" I ex- 
claimed. 

He shrugged his shoulders: "I don't know; 
do you think reading helps you much?" 

"No, I don't," I was fain to admit. 

Loti's experience in this matter amplified and 
supported my own and strengthened a belief of 
mine which is novel and altogether out of tunc 

198 



with the spirit of our time. I used to say that 
whatever originality I possessed was due to the 
fact that when I was a lad I passed the two 
formative years from sixteen as a cowboy, with- 
out books, and consequently was forced to answer 
all the questionings of sense and outward things 
for myself and furnish myself with a new creed, 
and so learned to think — a part of education al- 
most wholly neglected today. I profited so 
much by this discipline that later when a book 
like Carlyle's "Heroes and Hero Worship" fell 
into my hands I would not read it; I preferred 
to think over the subject for myself and then 
read the book just to see how much Carlyle could 
enlarge or modify the conclusions to which I 
had come. il!4i^'^ 

To reading one owes little! it adds nothing to 
mental power ; it only swells the wallet of mem- 
ory one has to carry. But thinking enlarges the 
mind and invigorates it, just as exercise invigo- 
rates the body. 

And now in Loti I had found a man who 
owed his direct and personal vision of things to 
the fact that he had never read, had used his 
own eyes and not the eyes of other men. He 
was a master of the most musical French prose 
without knowing anything of the great rheto- 
ricians who had preceded him; without having 
learned a cadence from Bossuet or an epithet 
from Chateaubriand or Gautier. 

199 



I thus came to believe that cheap books and 
papers are a hindrance to originality and not a 
help; in the future men will read less and think 
more. What a good thing it would be if here 
in America men would prohibit newspapers in- 
stead of wine. Wine helps digestion and adds 
to the harmless pleasures of life, while news- 
papers are seldom worth reading, and the habit 
of glancing at them every hour or two, without 
thinking, is more injurious to the mind that even 
dram drinking is to the body. 

Take up Bacon^s "Essays" or Schopenhaur's 
and you will see at once that both these men 
have thought and come to their own conclusions 
without help from others, and how much 
"meatier" and more nourishing they are than the 
literary apes who brag of being "sedulous" in 
parrotting. 

I am not sure that Loti wears well ; he is too 
sad. "Pecheur d'Islande" is perhaps his best and 
most characteristic book; yet he only gives Gaud, 
the charming heroine, a week of married hap- 
piness when Yann, her stalwart husband, sails 
away on that voyage to the Iceland fishing from 
which he never returned. It is too little joy for 
a whole life-time of sorrow. 

I pick up another book of Loti's at haphazard 
and find that toward the end he has told how a 
common sailor has climbed as high as he can 
get in the French Navv, has become senior war- 

200 



rant oiftcer, and at length has reached the age of 
compulsory retirement. He has dreamt of free- 
dom for thirty-odd years, has pictured to himself 
the comfort and ease of unconstrained idleness; 
he will have a house of his own; a bed, a real 
bed to sleep in, and a little garden; fresh vege- 
tables — a lazy quiet time for years before the 
inevitable end. 

"Jean Kervella comes to the cottage he has 
bought on the road between Brest and Portzic; 
it has a noble view of the harbor and ocean and 
quite a large garden; a wonder-plot. He hangs 
up his silver whistle over the chimney and sits 
down to enjoy himself by his own fireside in 
peace. It's going to be a wild night; he can hear 
the swing of the waves on the whinstone crags 
and that moan in the wind is not to be mistaken; 
the clouds, too, are full of menace; but what 
need he care? it can blow to split tarpaulins 
while he lies snug. 

"His thoughts went back to his earlier life 
and his little girl who died while he was in Ton- 
quin, and in the quiet and silence slow tears 
gathered in his eyes, as stone sweats moisture, 
and sadness came upon him and the tears pour 
down his face like rain and drip over his thick 
gray beard. It is not regret but just profound 
sadness, an intimate distress, and he breaks down 
at length in wild sobbing, with only one desire 

201 



at the heart of him, to be done with it all and 
be at rest in the grave." 

I know no sadder page ; it cannot be read with- 
out tears the first time and it is too sad to read 
again. But the books we love, the books that 
will live, are those we read again and again and 
draw fresh encouragement from revived hope 
and courage wound up. 

After all, we say Loti is too much of a pessi- 
mist, too disenchanted, a little morbid, even. He 
has never married and his life is lonely. Life 
is harsh enough to the sensitive ones and cold to 
passionate lovers; but in spite of everything life 
is not so cruel as Loti paints it, and perhaps it's 
a great writer's privilege to depict it as just a 
little better and happier than it is on the prin- 
ciple laid down by Goethe when he said: "Give 
me your beliefs and affirmations; they encourage 
and stimulate me ; but keep your doubts and fears 
to yourself; I have enough of my own." An 
English writer says: 

''Life is mostly froth and trouble, 
Two things stand like stone; 
Kindness in another's trouble, 
Courage in your own." 

And so I say the brave guides will make little 
of the rough places and untoward accidents of 
this earthly pilgrimage and will dwell on the 
joyous happenings, the dramatic chances and 
romantic meetings of the great adventure. 

202 




Walter Pater 




WALTER PATER. 

EARS before I met Pater I had 
heard of him. After going round 
the world I returned to England 
and was spending the summer in 
Tenby, a lovely place on the shore 
of South Wales. There I met an Oxford grad- 
uate; I forget his name and all about him save 
that he preached Pater, Pater unregenerate, 
Pater the Pagan. He showed me long passages 
of Pater's essays on the "Renaissance" and I 
went down before him. Later I read Theophile 
Gautier in Paris and found him the greater man 
and greater writer with essentially the same 
mental outlook. But for the moment I was car- 
ried off my feet by Pater's carven prose and 
enquired about him sedulously. My friend told 
me that he knew him as a professor and lecturer 
on Plato and more than hinted that Pater was 
looked upon in Oxford with suspicion as the 
apostle of an esoteric cult, the apologist of 
strange sins. Not knowing then how common 
this perversion is in England, I was a little 
startled and tremendously curious. I asked him 
for proofs, for some evidence, but could get none. 
A little later Mallock's "New Republic" ap- 
peared and apparentlv made a similar accusation 

203 



of perverse self-indulgence. Mr. Rose was evi- 
dently intended to be a sketch of Pater, and 
Rose confessed to a liking for erotic books and 
talked so that Lady Ambrose says: "Mr. Rose 
always speaks of people as if they had no clothes 



on." 



What foundation there may have been for the 
darker suspicion, I did not and do not know, 
am inclined indeed to believe that there was 
nothing but Pater's talk that could be offered in 
evidence; nothing more than such slander as 
springs up against superiority, such supposition 
as may be drawn from inference. 

My interest in Pater thereby quickened, I 
read all he had written, and even in his journal- 
ism found nothing offensive, though I marked a 
score of passages that might give pause to the 
puritan. He talks once — I forget in what essay 
— of a Shakespearean actor with a face of "not 
quite reassuring subtlety, who might pass for the 
original of those Italian or Italianized ('Italian- 
ate' was the contemptuous Elizabethan adjec- 
tive) voluptuaries in sin which pleased the fancy 
of Shakespeare's age." There is nothing in this 
if you like; but read carefully in puritanic Eng- 
land there is contempt for the ordinary prejudice 
in that ironical "not quite reassuring subtlety," 
and a gloating approval of "voluptuaries in sin," 
which goes far to explain how the suspicion may 
have arisen as to Pater's morals. 

20+ 



"But who are you," I said to myself, "to sit 
in judgment on another man or condemn his 
appreciations?" 

Seven or eight years afterwards, in London, 
I met Pater in the flesh, met him again and 
again before I began to know him. He had 
lunched with me, dined with me a dozen times 
before he asked me to tea with his sisters and 
then much later to dinner. He was the last man 
in the world to wear his heart on his sleeve, or 
give his confidence lightly. For several years he 
held back from me, seemed surprised that I 
should pursue him with friendly invitations, 
should desire his company. And indeed for a 
long time he was among the dullest and most 
irresponsive of guests. 

But the contrast between the person Pater and 
his writings intrigued me, excited curiosity; the 
old suspicion implanted in me would not be laid. 
There was something enigmatical in his aloof- 
ness, his studied reticence: — What was it? 

In person Pater gave one the impression of 
being big and heavy; he was only about five feet 
nine or ten in height, stoutly built though neither 
muscular nor fat; but he moved slowly, delib- 
erately, and so conveyed the feeling of weight. 
When he took off his hat the impression was 
deepened; his face is perfectly given in Will 
Rothenstein's outline sketch ; a great domed fore- 
head, massive features, closed eyes and mouth 

205 



hidden under a heavy dark moustache; the tell- 
tale features all concealed — blinds, so to speak, 
before the windows of the soul. 

When Pater looked at you, you were surprised 
by the naked glance of the gray-green eyes. The 
eyes revealed nothing; they were hard, bare, 
scrutinizing. He had surely something strange, 
unique, to say, this man. Why did he not say it? 

He dressed conventionally; so perfectly in 
the convention that he must have sought to evade 
notice; why? He talked in the same way con- 
ventional courtesies, warding off enquiry; in- 
quisitiveness he met with monosyllables or mere- 
ly by raising of eyebrows. What had he to hide 
or to confess? 

I still recall my surprise when I went to 
Pater's to dinner for the first time. It was an 
ordinary, little, middle-class English house; no 
distinction about it of any kind. I had expected 
a wonderful house, or unique decoration, or if 
not that, at least a rare sketch, or plaster cast, 
a sixteenth century book, a superb binding — 
something that would suggest this man's lifelong 
devotion to art, his single-hearted passionate 
adoration of all the sanctities of plastic loveli- 
ness. Not a sign of this; hardly a hint. The 
house might have belonged to a grocer; might 
have been furnished by one, only a grocer would 
not have been content with its total absence of 

206 



ornament, its austere simplicity. Clearly Pater's 
inspiration did not depend on surroundings. 

Pater's sisters were two colorless spinsters of 
a certain age. They talked little — a pair of mid- 
Victorian ladies, prudish, reserved, meticulously 
correct. Was it their influence, or what was it 
that kept the talk in the shallows? I asked them 
about life in Oxford ; "did they prefer it to the 
life in London?" 

"No," they thought they liked London best. 
One of them said quietly it was a richer life, but 
the other hesitated : "Oxford is so beautiful." 

Thinking it all over afterwards, analyzing my 
disappointment, the sisters and the house seemed 
to me to represent the decorous dullness which 
Pater fled in order to indulge his dreams of a 
fuller and more passionate life in creative art. 
Writing, I think, of Amiens Cathedral, he speaks 
somewhere of "conceptions embodied in cliffs of 
carved stone all the more welcome as a comple- 
ment to the meagrcncss of most people's present 
existence." He was under the influence of this 
"meagrcncss, for when I tried to ask him about 
his work he answered mc reluctantly in mono- 
syllables. He spoke in a low voice that seemed 
measured, though he often hesitated, picking his 
words, intent on saying just what he wished to 
say. There was no music in his utterance, no 
thrill; it was lifeless, impassive like his face. 

"Had you your essays on the Renaissance long 
in hand?" I asked, knowing that most of them 

207 



had appeared first in The Fortnightly Review, 
some as early as 1868, though the volume was 
not published till 1873. 

His brow wrinkled and he seemed a little per- 
plexed. 

"I suppose so; I do not remember very well." 

"I always think," I went on, "that Sainte 
Beuve's 'Lundis' are so good because he had 
written most of the essays again and again for 
newspapers before finally polishing and publish- 
ing them in book form." 

Pater still wore his reluctant, hesitating air. 
"I try to make my first draft as complete as I 



can." 



I thought by showing more intimate interest 
that I might arouse him, so I began : 

"Long before I read your wonderful essay, I 
was puzzled by the smile of the Mona Lisa. It 
was more perfect still in Leonardo's St. John in 
the Louvre, probably because the painting has 
not been so tampered with. The mouth is smil- 
ing, but if you cover it, you will find the eyes are 
serious, searching, questioning. It is the ques- 
tion in the eyes in contrast with the smiling lips, 
that gives the enigmatic expression. Years later 
I found Leonardo himself had explained the 
^mile in this way, so my guess was right. It 
pleased me inordinately at the time to have 
divined the 'procede' (I did not wish to say 
'trick')." 

208 



Pater contented himself with nodding his 
head, so I dashed on: 

"Of course, the painting is a poor thing; but 
your page on it is, I think, the best page in all 
English prose." 

His brow cleared, and half smiling he mur- 
mured: "Kind of you." 

"How did you write it? Did you take especial 
pains with it? But of course you did. Even 
Shakespeare rewrote his principal passages a 
dozen times." 

"I take special pains," he replied, "with every 
page — indeed with every sentence." 

Later I found out what he meant by especial 
pains. 

When he had something new to express he 
used to say the idea over and over again to him- 
self and then write it fairly on a little slip of 
paper. He would carry with him for a walk 
perhaps half a dozen of these slips loose in his 
pocket. When he found himself in a different 
mood, by the riverside in Oxford, or under the 
trees of Kensington Gardens, he would take out 
a slip, repeat the sentence to himself again, cor- 
rect the English now here, now there, and finally 
perhaps end by finding a new form altogether 
for the thought. When he came home he would 
write this new sentence down and carry it about 
with him for days till he was certain he could 
not improve on it. Jeweller's work, or rather 

209 



the work of some great lapidary, fashioning the 
stone to the idea in his mind, facet by facet with 
a loving solicitude, an inexhaustible patience. 

I had to be content with gleaning such facts 
as this about him till I met him for the first time 
with Oscar Wilde. Then I found a different 
man. 

I had invited them both to dinner and they 
were evidently delighted to meet. For some 
reason or other Oscar was not at his best; not so 
vivacious, so charming, as usual. He begged 
me to excuse him, hinting that I knew the cause 
of his depression, and this sign of intimacy trans- 
formed Pater. He moved freely, spoke freely, 
without hesitation, though still deliberately and 
manifestly with entire sincerity. 

The change was marked to me by one inci- 
dent. 

It was about the time of the Dilke scandal, 
and Oscar plainly wishing to ingratiate me with 
Pater, told him how I had defended the famous 
Radical even in The Evening News, a Conserv- 
ative daily paper which I was editing at the 
time. 

"Frank is more than tolerant," Oscar re- 
marked ; "he has a positive liking for all sinners, 
even for strange sins — sins he's not inclined to." 

"How did you come by such tolerance?" Pater 
asked. 

"Native viciousncss," I replied; "the cham- 
210 



bermaid's testimony that often three pillows 
were wanted for Dilke's bed amused me, and I 
hate even the word 'tolerance.' What human 
being has a right to assume that superior atti- 
tude to any other man or any fault? I have no 
condemnations in me." 

Pater nodded approval, smiling. 

The ice was broken once for all. From that 
moment Pater relaxed, began to let himself go, 
was willing even to make an effect; little jewels 
of expression, "carved ivories of speech," to use 
his own fine phrase, made their appearance in 
his talk; soul-revealing words like the praise he 
has given to Leonardo's illegitimate birth, ascrib- 
ing to it some "puissance" of nature; in fine the 
real Pater showed himself ingenuously. 
When he left he begged me to ask him again, 
the usual courtesies warmed now by sincere feel- 
ing. 

I could not help telling Oscar how delightful 
it was to me that the buttoned up, precise Pater 
should have become so human, so interesting. 
"I could not make up my mind," I said, "whether 
he was merely shy, or afraid to let himself go." 

"Not shy," Oscar rejoined, "but a burnt child ; 
he used to speak very frankly in Oxford, I be- 
lieve, till Mallock caricatured him." 

"He's really a dear," he went on ; "only a few 
of us know how kind he is, how really warm- 
hearted. Ever since Oxford he has been a friend 

211 



of mine; a great friend" he repeated with em- 
phasis. 

Even after this Pater, when in ordinary com- 
pany, would use his old discretion; but at mo- 
ments the sun shone and I felt its warmth always 
behind the cloud-cloak. Whenever a phrase 
pleased him the mask would drop. His heavy 
face would break into a smile, the green eyes 
would be turned on you with their enigmatic, 
lingering regard. 

I well remember a dinner one summer even- 
ing in a room overlooking Hyde Park, when 
Matthew Arnold and Oscar were present. The 
charming enthusiasm with which Oscar had 
welcomed Arnold warmed our intercourse to 
immediate intimacy. 

"How delightful to meet you, Master 1" he 
cried. "To find Oxford and all the charm of 
Oxford here in London, with our host to suggest 
another life that certainly is not the life of Ox- 
ford;" and he laughed roguishly, with a touch 
of malice that set us all smiling. 

Matthew Arnold was evidently flattered by his 
enthusiasm, and the dinner was a really wonder- 
ful symposium from the beginning; more mag- 
ical I cannot but think than that symposium of 
Plato in which Socrates revealed the highest 
reach of the Greek spirit. 

Any one of these men could have talked as 
lyrically about beauty, if he had wished, as 

212 



Socrates talked, and Oscar could certainly have 
talked better. What, after all, did the Greek 
say but what we all knew and felt; that one 
worships first the beauty of form and color and 
then the beauty of great lives nobly lived, and so 
we're led to the feet of that supernal loveliness of 
which all our creations are only reflections, 
shadow-shapes of the divine made palpable. 

I do not know how the conversation fell on 
style, but I remember desiring a definition of it. 

Neither of the poets would attempt any 
formula for poetry, but Pater said he had some 
ideas about style that he was going to put on 
paper and I begged him to send me the essay as 
soon as it was completed, which he afterwards 
did. It is not important; has no place, I think, 
in his best work. 

But on the question of prose style they all had 
opinions. Oscar thought that a perfect prose 
style should be the style of conversation at its 
best; "interspersed, of course," he added laugh- 
ing, "with lyrical monologues"; and he smiled 
with pleasure at having defended his own prac- 
tice. 

"I do not altogether agree with you," Matthew 
Arnold objected: 

"Surely the style of conversation is a little too 
light, too loose, too careless. I should say there 
must be something monumental in perfect style; 
phrases such as one would write on a memorial 

213 



tablet; there should be a sententious brevity, a 
weightiness about any utterance that is intended 
to endure." 

"Would you alter that definition?" I asked 
Pater. 

"I don't think prose has anything to do with 
talk," he answered. "I think it should be a per- 
fect expression of one's thought, but whether it 
is like conversation or not seems to me of no 
moment." 

Max has since found the perfect word for 
Pater's prose, putting his finger at once on its 
excellence and its defect: "Pater," he said, 
"writes English as if he were writing Latin ; he 
handles it as if it were a dead language." 

"And you," said Matthew Arnold, turning to 
me, "you question us all, but you do not tell us 
your idea." 

Challenged in this way I could only speak 
frankly: 

"I like Boileau's phrase: un style simple, 
serieux, scrupuleux va loin; but style to me," I 
added, "has a thousand individualities. Style is 
the way great men talk. That's the only defi- 
nition which would include the chiselled sen- 
tences of Pater and your fluid Addisonian Eng- 
lish and Oscar's lyrical outbursts." 

"Perhaps you are right," Arnold remarked 
reflectively. "At any rate it would be hard to 

214 



put it better in an epigram. 'Style is the way 
great men talk.' " 

Pater and Oscar had a rooted regard for each 
other and, what was better, a thoroughgoing ad- 
miration for each other's talent. Oscar always 
spoke of Pater's prose as the best in English lit- 
erature, while Pater admired Wilde's sunny 
humor and charming talent as a talker from the 
bottom of his heart and without a spice of envy. 

Now in this paper, now in that, Oscar re- 
viewed whatever Pater wrote and usually with 
intense appreciation. There always seemed to 
me a tinge of the admiration of pupil for pro- 
fessor in Oscar's exaggerated estimate of Pater's 
merits. Pater's careful meticulous craftsman- 
ship was so different from Oscar's improvisa- 
tions that mutual admiration was to be expected; 
the two talents being almost complementary. 

In 1890 Oscar's story, "The Picture of Dorian 
Gray," appeared in Lippincott's Magazine. It 
was attacked on all hands in England with an 
insane heat and virulent malevolence. I ad- 
mired the story and asked Pater, who also liked 
it, to write an appreciation of it for The Fort- 
nightly. 

"Dangerous, don't you think? Very danger- 
ous," was his reply. "If I could do Oscar any 
good I would not mind, but no one can save him. 
I must think of myself. I will not rush in now; 
perhaps later I'll say something. Oscar really 

215 



is too bold. The forces against him are over- 
whelming; sooner or later he'll come to grief." 
Others had seen the danger even earlier. I 
remember how Rennell Rodd ten years before 
sent a copy of his poems, "Songs in the South," 
to Oscar with this prophetic verse in Italian : 

Al tuo martirio cupida e feroce 
Questa turba cui parli accorrera; 
Ti vertammo a veder sulla tua croce 
Tutti, e nessuno ti compiagnera. 

Which may be Englished: "At thy martyrdom 
this greedy and cruel crowd to whom thou art 
talking will assemble; they will all run to see 
thee on the Cross and not one will pity thee." 

A year and a half later, in November, 1891, 
when the storm of slander and opprobrium had 
blown itself out, Pater wrote of "Dorian Gray" 
in the Bookman and praised it warmly. Even 
then it might be called a brave act, an extraordi- 
nary gesture for Pater, I felt, though I did not 
yet know what constrained him to such caution. 

I met him shortly afterwards. 

"Fine work," I exclaimed, "not only as criti- 
cism, but because you ventured to praise a work 
that everyone is still damning and reviling." 

He turned his eyes on me. 

"It was dangerous," he said, "but a duty, I 
thought." 

The phrase struck me. 
216 



Later still, some time after "Marius the Epi- 
curean," that he always regarded as his master- 
piece, had been published, we lunched together 
and talked of Puritanism and its numbing, with- 
ering effects on all the rarest flowers of art and 
literature. 

"Why did you bow to it?" I asked. "If you 
had opposed it stoutly you could have killed it." 

"No, no," he cried, getting up and paling at 
the very thought. "It would have killed me. 
As it was, I was too bold . . . impossible." 

At the time I could not for the life of me 
understand Pater's dread of public opinion, the 
unmanly shrinking from any conflict with the 
dominant forces of the day. I put it all down 
to English subservience to authority and con- 
gratulated myself on being heir to a larger lib- 
erty, and subject of a government founded in 
rebellion, sanctified by successful revolt. I had 
no idea then that the United States, too, a few 
years later, would prefer the Tsar Wilson theory 
of government to that of Jefferson. 

About this time I published Pater's essay on 
Merim^e in The Fortnightly, and that led to 
frequent talks about the author of Carmen, who 
had for years been one of my minor idols. Mer- 
im^e touched life at many points and always 
as a master; he was an intimate of Napoleon the 
Third and had a certain influence on French 
policy for ten or fifteen troubled years, and at the 

217 



same time without any apprenticeship showed 
himself an artist and writer of the best. 

Pater shared my enthusiasm and that brought 
us together, and so gradually, the years helping, 
we came to be friends and more or less intimate. 

One day in Park Lane after lunch I got some- 
how or other on a new theme with him. 

"What have been the chief pleasures in life to 
you?" I asked. 

"Many," he replied simply; "the chief of them 
connected with art or letters — with beauty in 
some of its infinite modes. To find a church like 
that dedicated to the Magdalen at Vezelay; to 
come across an exquisite phrase in one's read- 
ing; a phrase like a flower on the page, perfect 
in form and color. To be able to lift it up 
and show it to others — a divine pleasure; or to 
hear a man talking really brilliantly, like Oscar 
talks sometimes, as if inspired. 

"But perhaps the greatest of all earthly de- 
lights is the joy of creation. To write even one 
sentence absolutely, the garment outlining the 
thought perfectly; not fitting too closely, it would 
be ungraceful ; yet not too loose, or too ornate it 
would draw attention to the garment and so 
appear affected, but just right, revealing more 
than the naked truth can possibly reveal, with 
a subtler evocation of beauty, a haunting seduc- 
tion of rhythm. 

"What a delight to have created one perfect 
218 



sentence; one phrase that some other lettered 
reader must pick out and repeat to himself and 
go about with as one goes about with some rare 
jewel. The joys of the creative artist are surely 
the rarest and the highest in the world." 

"But has life itself held nothing better than art 
for you?" I questioned. "Your devotion to books 
always puzzles me. I find life so much more 
wonderful than any transcript of it, however 
exquisite. For instance, you speak of the Venus 
of Milo with bated breath as of an impeccable, 
unapproachable loveliness, and in statuary you 
may be right; but in life I have seen two or three 
girls' figures out of all comparison more beauti- 
ful than any Venus. I know a little cabaret 
dancer in Monmartre with a figure more perfect 
than those on the frieze of the Temple to Nike 
Apteros. , 

"You were probably the first to see and say 
that all the spiritual influences of the past are 
working together to create finer and finer types 
of beauty. Why not go to life as the source and 
spring instead of drinking out of some other 
man's cup?" 

"You may be right," Pater replied thought- 
fully. "I remember often strolling through the 
meadows to the river bank at Oxford and watch- 
ing the students bathing. I can still conjure up 
the lissom white figures against the green back- 
ground, still see one youth poised on the bank 

219 



with his hands above his head preparing to 
plunge. There he stood outlined like a Greek 
god with the sunlight gilding his white limbs as 
if amorous of their rounded beauty" — then, with 
a sigh, the return: "Life is infinitely seductive, 
but books are safer, much safer; our mild clois- 
tered pleasures. . . ." 

Somehow I felt that even to remember the 
vision at Oxford was peculiar, personal; that 
"mild cloistered pleasures," too, constituted a 
confession. 

Curiously enough, we both enjoyed good food 
and good wine, and there happened to be in those 
early nineties a superlative champagne whose 
like has scarcely been seen since — Perrier Jouet 
74. I talked of it once to Pater — I don't know 
why. I asked him to come and try a magnum 
of it. (A magnum is a large bottle containing 
nearly two quarts.) Pater thought a magnum 
would be too much, but I insisted that the wine 
was better in the larger bottle. 

He agreed to come, and we had a great din- 
ner: zakoushki at first; followed by slices of roast 
beef (a Scotch sirloin roasted on a spit before 
a fire), and the invigorating champagne. A 
magnum hardly satisfied our legitimate thirst, 
and so we had a bottle of Comet port to follow 
all cobwebbed without and caked within; yet 
glowing with generous warmth and a bouquet 
that from time to time drifted across the sweet 

220 



intoxication with lyrical interbreathing, so to 
speak, of soul-seducing perfume. 

Early in the evening we began talking of 
Shakespeare, the only literary subject at that time 
on which I felt sure of being Pater's equal. The 
second or third glass of port transfigured Pater 
and brought out his self-assertion, the real man. 

"Of course," he cried, ''Shakespeare was one 
of the greatest of men, the most articulate crea- 
ture that ever lived; but think of his scoriae, my 
dear fellow, the dull, stupid, windy eulogies of 
rank and hierarchy, the dreadful scoriae of 
Shakespeare." 

A little later he returned to the charge. 

"In all he has only written a dozen wonderful 
pages, and if I have written one, as you are kind 
enough to say, why should I bow down before 
him? 

"I dislike in my heart all this idolatry of the 
past; Shakespeare was only one of us — primus 
inter pares — if you like — the first among his 
peers and equals, but that is all; nothing tran- 
scendent or demanding reverence in him — 
nothing." 

When I accompanied him to the door a little 
later and gave the hansom driver his address, 
for the fresh night air had helped the fumes of 
the wine. Pater stopped me as I was helping him 
into the cab. "Don't forget, my dear fellow," 
he said, with the gravity peculiar to his state; 

221 > 



"never forget the scoriae of Shakespeare." And 
in the cab as he drove away, he was still repeat- 
ing "the scoriae, the scoriae of Shakespeare." 

Next day it seemed to me that I had come into 
touch with the very soul of Pater : a true artist, 
he could not forgive the greatest of writers his 
heedlessness, his scoriae. 

If Pater had had a little more courage, I said 
to myself, a little more vitality and hotter blood, 
the richer life the wine called forth in him, he 
would have been another Gautier; a guide to 
lead Englishmen out of the prison of puritan- 
ism ; for he hated the senseless restrictions of the 
outgrown creed, and if he had had greater 
strength he would have led the revolt. 

Pater never married, has never been accused 
of a love affair with any woman, and he died of 
a weak heart at fifty-four in spite of regular 
careful living; these facts explain to me all the 
man's weakness — his abnormal caution, his hesi- 
tancy, his reticence. 

Had Pater had a strong heart he might have 
given us a dozen pages as fine as that on Lady 
Lisa. As it is, he has written perhaps the finest 
page in all English prose, and that is enough for 
any man's measure. 

When Arthur Benson's "Life of Pater" was 
published about 1911, I found that he had made 
Pater out to have become a devout Christian in 
the last years of his life. I wrote a passionate 

222 



indignant, contemptuous protest in a London 
paper, John Bull, Here are Benson's words: 

"We may think of him as one who .... 
was deeply penetrated by the perfect beauty and 
holiness of the Christian ideal, and reposed in 
trembling faith on *the bosom of his Father and 
his God.' " 

Pater on the bosom of his Father and his God ; 
Pater who in those last years often called Chris- 
tianity the beautiful disease, the white leprosy 
of the spirit! Never was there a more disgrace- 
ful perversion of truth, a more flagrant outrage 
on fact. But Benson didn't mind; he had made 
his little bleating, and that was all he cared for 
seemingly, just to win a cheap popularity with 
a preposterous falsehood. I have done my best 
here and elsewhere to kill the lie, but it persists 
and demands stronger measures. The deepest 
fact in Pater's spiritual make-up was his recog- 
nition that it was a good thing to be free of the 
dreadful doubtings of our childhood. 

This world was always "unintelligible" to him. 
In perhaps his last essay, that on Pascal, he tells 
how Pascal owing to a nervous shock was con- 
tinually haunted by the feeling that there was an 
abyss there, by his side, and he would place a 
chair or stick on it to chase away the delusion. 

Pater himself suffered from the same malady. 
He writes of Pascal's Pensees — "those great fine 
sayings which seem to betray by their depth of 

223 



sound the vast unseen hollow places of nature, 
of humanity, just beneath one's feet or at one's 
side." 

Pater was always conscious that the abyss was 
close to him, beneath his feet. 

Pater's place in literature, one fancies, is se- 
cure. He is not of the Sacred Band of spiritual 
adventurers who lead forlorn hopes or cross un- 
charted seas to discover new continents; but he 
has gone out of the beaten track and found a new 
headland and taken possession of it and given 
it his own name. We think of him as we might 
think of Keats had he written nothing but the 
Sonnet on Chapman's Homer. Pater had not 
much to say, but he had one idea, and that im- 
portant, and he said it superbly and for all time. 

There is no vivid, creative genius in his work. 
His Leonardo even does not live for us, and when 
we enquire about the Italian's loves and hates, 
tastes and amusements, we become conscious how 
little Pater knows of the man. It is by what you 
take delight in that you discover your real na- 
ture; trahit cuique sua voluptas. 

Pater is more interested in Leonardo's paint- 
ings than in his personality; in the incidents of 
his life than in the growth of his spirit. Yet 
even in this thin sketch he can find time to speak 
of a drawing in red chalk — "a face of doubtful 
sex," and he tells us of the "youthful head which 
love chooses for his own — the head of a young 

224 



man which may well be the likeness of Andrea 
Salaino, beloved of Leonardo for his curled and 
waving hair." 

I think the last sentence he wrote in this essay 
is perhaps the completest revelation of himself 
which Pater could give in a single phrase : 

"We forget them (the offices of religion) in 
speculating how one who had been always so 
desirous of beauty, but desired it always in such 
precise and definite forms, as hands or flowers 
or hair, looked forward now into the vague land, 
and experienced the last curiosity." 

But scattered through his works here and 
there are sentences almost as significant: striving 
to reveal himself, he says, in an early essay that 
he was one in whom the love of beauty had 
usurped the place of the ethical faculty. 

In his essay on Winckelmann Pater is even 
franker. He knew that Winckelmann never 
came near the Greek spirit of the best time; like 
Lessing, he mistook the Laocoon for a master- 
piece; but Winckelmann had been notorious for 
abnormal perversity, and so Pater was curious 
about him and wrote of him at great length, 
dwarfing him with a pedestal altogether too 
lofty. There is a phrase or two in this essay in 
which Pater unveils his heart to us. He quotes 
the following passage from Winckelmann : 

"I have noticed that those who are observant 
of beauty only in women, and are moved little 

225 



or not at all by the beauty of men, seldom have 
an impartial, vital, inborn instinct for beauty in 
art. To such persons the beauty of Greek art 
will ever seem wanting, because its supreme 
beauty is rather male than female." 

Now that is exaggerated to untruth, and by its 
falsity throws a high light on Winckelmann's 
abnormality. But there is one sentence even 
more soul-revealing than this. Speaking of at- 
tachments between men Pater says: 

*'Of passion, of physical excitement, they 
(such attachments) contain only just so much 
as stimulates the eye to the finest delicacies of 
colour and form." 

In other words, Pater's perversity is mainly 
mental, or to put it in another way, his physical 
hold on life was so slight that his desire merely 
led him to a finer appreciation of the beauties of 
art — the sanctities, as I have called them, in his 
own spirit, the sanctities of plastic loveliness. 



226 




Herbert Spencer 




HERBERT SPENCER: PHILOSOPHER 

EREDITH says in one of his letters, 
if I remember rightly, that it is not 
well for any man to be praised too 
much in his lifetime. The phrase 
struck me because the truth had been 
made plain to me through my acquaintance with 
Herbert Spencer long before. 

I must begin by saying that I am not an ad- 
mirer of so-called "philosophers." The best of 
them seem to me to have had a glimpse or two 
of new truth and to have battered out the tiny 
speck of golden thought over innumerable pages, 
trying to make an idea or two into a system. 

Kant, for example, saw the relativity of space 
and time, and with that and a hair-splitting 
difference between reason and understanding 
composed a huge book, turning even platitudes 
into puzzles. 

Bacon and Schopenhauer are to me the great- 
est of thinkers, but I prefer Bacon's essays to 
his more ponderous treatises, and Schopen- 
hauer's critical writings are more valuable to 
me because more readable than his "World as 
Will and Appearance." Plato, on the other 
hand, I can rejoice in with my whole soul ; but 

227 



he is rather an artist in thought than a thinker — 
a poet rather than a philosopher. 

From the popularity he has acquired in a 
dozen European countries one feels pretty cer- 
tain that Mr. Herbert Spencer will be cited 
among the great philosophers of the future, yet 
I think his accomplishment small, his contribu- 
tion to the sum of truth of slight importance. 

I remember Huxley praising him one day, 
and when I objected he told me that Herbert 
Spencer had done almost as much for the theory 
of evolution as Darwin himself. I pointed out 
that the theory was more or less in the air of 
the time and that all good minds had had an 
inkling of it. He admitted that there was some 
truth in my contention, but stuck to his high 
estimate of Spencer. 

I could not agree with him. Coleridge, I 
argued, had grasped the theory of evolution half 
a century before Darwin; had even seen in talk- 
ing of artistic creation that a man grows from 
the simple to the complex. 

Huxley seemed interested, but Spencer was a 
fetish to him. 

In the late eighties I met Herbert Spencer in 
London rather frequently. The first impression 
he made on me was of physical weakness and 
age. He was of middle height or thereabouts; 
very thin and withered, with a large forehead 
and head which dwarfed the figure. I thought of 

228 



him as a sort of animated tadpole. He seemed 
pinched and desiccated with age, his expression 
one of querulous impatience as of a man who has 
suffered a great deal and become embittered. 

In one of our early conversations he told me 
that he regarded George Eliot as the greatest 
woman novelist in English. I ventured to say 
that it would be very hard indeed to oust Jane 
Austin from that position, and for myself I pre- 
ferred Emily Bronte to either of them. 

He took time to formulate his thought and 
then replied like an oracle: 

"I regard George Eliot not only as the great- 
est woman novelist, but as the greatest woman 
that ever lived. A woman of masculine under- 
standing and intelligence, a woman who makes 
one hope that in time women may come to be 
the equals of men." 

I let the pompous judgment pass, but I would 
give a dozen George Eliots and Spencers to 
boot for one Joan D'Arc or Charlotte Corday. 

I remember meeting Spencer once in Hyde 
Park about one o'clock and asking him to lunch. 

"I have to be very careful about what I eat," 
he said; "anything rich disagrees with me." 

I assured him that I only liked simple things, 
too, and so we lunched together. 

I was eager to find out one thing which had 
always puzzled me in his work; he seemed to 
have a curious blind spot in his intelligence. 

239 



I suppose he was the first to treat the nation 
as a body corporate and to speak of the railroads 
and roads as the veins and arteries and the elec- 
tric wires as nerves. He was perhaps the first, 
too, to state what some of us saw before reading 
him, that pressure from the outside increases 
the amount of cohesion among individuals in the 
body corporate; that where you have great pres- 
sure from the outside, as for example in Ger- 
many, there will be great cohesion; where you 
have little outside pressure, as in America and 
Great Britain, the atoms that compose the social 
organism will tend to fall apart and there will 
be a great deal of what is known as individual 
liberty, and individual self-assertion. 

But this law of physics does not go far to 
explain human society; Spencer was suddenly 
confronted with the fact that in Britain, when 
individual liberty was at its height and the state 
hardly counted, a great movement towards so- 
cialism made itself felt. Trades unions sprang 
up on all hands, vast co-operative societies 
among workingmen, and private societies, too, 
in the guise of joint-stock companies. 

Herbert Spencer accepted this "voluntary co- 
operation," as he called it, as a sign of progress, 
but the nationalization of railroads and other 
public utilities seemed to him a mistake; all 
, industries, he thought, could be better managed 
by the individual. 

230 



I was very eager to learn whether he saw that 
this predilection in favor of individualism was 
a mere result of his having been born and bred 
in Britain, and so I put it to him that we had 
entered into a new era and that state socialism 
was everjrwhere coming into being. 

I was astonished to find that he would not 
admit this new theory at all; would not even 
let himself discuss it reasonably; and when I 
pointed out that the railroads in Germany under 
state ownership had done better than any pri- 
vately owned railroads anywhere, and therefore 
urged that all public utilities should be nation- 
alized, he exclaimed tartly: 

"I cannot agree with you at all. It is pure 
heresy. The individual is always a more com- 
petent director of labor than the State." 

"But there are departments of industry," I 
objected, "so great that an individual cannot 
control them alone. Do you mean also that vol- 
untary co-operation of individuals in joint stock 
companies is more effective than state owner- 
ship?" 

"Certainly, certainly," he replied. 

I reminded him that Stanley Jevons had once 
demonstrated that joint stock company manage- 
ment had every possible fault of State manage- 
ment with none of its advantages. I regarded 
this fact as an established, self-evident truth. 

"Self-evident nonsense," he barked, trembling 
231 



from head to foot in his excitement. "I do not 
agree with you at all. In my books I have set 
forth the truth, and I think established it. Every 
first-rate man I have ever met has had nothing 
but praise and admiration for my work, and 
now to find it called in question is distressing to 
me and I must not be distressed. Such discus- 
sion hurts my heart, makes it beat faster, and I 
cannot have my heart's action deranged." 

He spoke with such peevish irritability, such 
angry ill-temper, that I could only apologize. 

"I am very sorry," I purred; "I had no idea 
that you would mind discussing anything so long 
as one tried to be reasonable. I am very sorry. 
We will talk of something else." 

"I am reasonable," he persisted, still in the 
pettish, vexed voice. "I am reasonable, but I 
cannot bear contradiction. I am not strong 
enough to argue. I must go," and away he 
toddled to the door. 

I went downstairs with him out of courtesy, 
repeating: "I am very sorry; I had no idea; pray 
forgive me." 

At the front-door he stopped, and I thought 
he had stopped to excuse his puerile bad tem- 
per, so I smiled at him deprecatingly, for I 
really felt sorry that I had annoyed him. 

"My health has never been strong," he com- 
plained in the same querulous, acrid, thin voice. 
"I wish I had brought my ear-stoppers with me, 

232 



then I need not have heard," he snapped. ^'1 
must not forget them in the future. I cannot 
endure contradiction; it excites me unduly. 
Good-day to you," and away he went, leaving 
me not knowing whether to be sorry or to laugh. 

Too much adulation, I thought, had turned 
the old fellow's brain, and he had given up 
thinking for pontificating. 

Whenever I heard the word "philosopher" 
afterwards, I smiled, thinking of Spencer and 
his ear-stoppers. Without a healthy body, I said 
to myself, there is no health in thought or spirit. 
But had I known more, I should have been more 
considerate, as I shall show in due course. 

A good many years elapsed before I heard of 
Spencer's death and then of the publication of 
his "Autobiography." I could not help wonder- 
ing what sort of a life-story he had had and 
how he had written it. He had never married, 
was commonly supposed never to have felt any 
liking for any woman except George Eliot; on 
the other hand, he had lived to a great age, had 
come early to reputation; had been a member 
of the Athenaeum Club for forty years; had met 
all the English celebrities of his time and must 
have left most interesting memories. 

I sent for the book ; two huge volumes of 600 
pages each, some 400,000 words at least — a 
windy herol And there was no story, so to say, 
at all; no romance; no youthful love affair; no 

233 



mature passion; no exciting or extraordinary 
happening, except the fact that his American 
admirers had subscribed some $7,000 and given 
it to him, midway in his career, to pay the ex- 
penses of publishing his works. Though Spen- 
cer's whole life was narrated in great detail and 
every personal trait — mental, physical and path- 
ological, minutely described, there was no living 
person in the book: analysis is not creation. 

Curiously enough, Carlyle, whom Spencer 
disliked, comes nearer to living than anyone else 
mentioned in these dreary pages. Spencer calls 
him "a queer creature"; characterizes his talk 
as "little else than a continued tirade against 'the 
horrible, abominable state of things' .... 
epithet piled on epithet, and always the strongest 
he can find. . . . He is evidently fond of a 
laugh, and laughs heartily. . . . His wife is 
intelligent, but quite warped by him." 

After saying that he only saw him three or 
four times in all, Spencer adds: "I found that 
I must either listen to his absurd dogmas in 
silence, which it was not my nature to do, or get 
into fierce argument with him, which ended in 
our glaring at one another." 

And then the summing up, at once curiously 
characteristic of Spencer and a little unfair: 

"Lewes used to say of him that he was a poet 
without music; and to some, his denunciations 
have suggested the comparison of him to an old 

234 



Hebrew prophet. For both of these character- 
izations much may be said. By others he has, 
strange to say, been classed as a philosopher! 
Considering that he either could not or would 
not think coherently — never set out from prem- 
ises and reasoned his way to conclusions, but 
habitually dealt in intuitions and dogmatic as- 
sertions, he lacked the trait which, perhaps more 
than any other, distinguishes the philosopher 
properly so called. He lacked also a further 
trait. Instead of thinking calmly, as the philoso- 
pher above all others does, he thought in a pas- 
sion. It would take much seeking to find one 
whose intellect was perturbed by emotion in the 
same degree." Or "guided by emotion" shall we 
say, Mr. Spencer; for Vauvenargues has taught 
us that "all great thoughts come from the heart." 

It is worth noting as characteristic that 
Spencer should have come nearer to picturing 
Carlyle through dislike than George Eliot 
through liking and sincere admiration. The 
truth is his dislikes were stronger than his lik- 
ings, though both were rather tepid, far too 
tepid ever to have suggested to him an artist's 
passion or artist phrases. Many a philosopher 
is made by poor blood and lukewarm feelings: 
weakness masking as impartiality. 

Spencer is unable even to give us a vivid pic- 
ture of George Eliot. If you read between the 
lines, however, you will find that, in spite of his 

235 



admiration for her mind and character and her 
discipleship, he could not love her because she 
was too homely. Apropos of nothing at all, he 
suddenly writes: "Physical beauty is a sine qua 
non with me; as was once unhappily proved 
where the intellectual traits and the emotional 
traits were of the highest." 

An incident will show more completely the 
relationship between the two: 

One of my earliest memories of London is of 
an evening spent in the house of George Eliot. 

Was she Mrs. Lewes at the time or Mrs. 
Cross? I forget; George Eliot always to me: 
I forget, too, where the house was — somewhere 
near Regent's Park I think — I can't remember 
even the name of my introducer; yet the scene 
itself is unforgettable to me and as vivid as if 
it had taken place yesterday. 

I had a great admiration for the author of 
"The Mill on the Floss." I was influenced by 
the over-estimate of the time and believed her 
to be an unique woman, a great writer, one of 
the fixed stars in the firmament of literature; 
consequently I was all worked up with expect- 
ancy and hope. 

Her appearance shocked me: the long horse 
face, the pale eyes, the gray, thick skin, the 
skinny hands; surely, I said to myself, genius 
never wore so appalling, so commonplace a 
mask; grotesque ugliness, deformity even would 

236 



have been less disappointing to me than this 
complete absence of anything arrestingly sym- 
pathetic or even distinctive, 
being a student in Germany (I had been study- 
ing in Heidelberg) ; said she ought to have been 
a man and a German student. Herbert Spencer, 
who seemed to hold the center of the stage, 
pursed out his lips and said something about the 
cruelty and bullying of the German corps-stu- 
dents; George Eliot agreed with him, showing 
absurd deference, I thought. She said nothing 
of any weight or novelty and her way of speak- 
ing was distinguished only by a touch of 
formality. 

At that time Carlyle was the only other celeb- 
rity I had met ; but how different. One needed 
no assurance that he was of the Immortals — a 
Titan, if ever there was one; he never talked for 
talking's sake; never used second-hand or ordi- 
nary expressions; always spoke significantly, an 
authentic prophet and seer. 

George Eliot turned to Spencer again and 
again that evening with curious appeal as to an 
oracle, and the oracle was not mystic as at Del- 
phi, but commonplace, self-satisfied, "school- 
mastery," I said to myself disdainfully — for evi- 
dently he knew nothing really of the life of the 
German corps-student. He seemed to me 
learned perhaps, but not wise; I had no rever- 

237 



ence whatever for the man. 

"What can she see in him?" I kept asking my- 
self in wonder. 

All the time I wanted to say something ex- 
pressive of my contempt for him and my admir- 
ation for her; but I was very young and awed 
a little by their reputations; did not feel master 
of the situation, so kept quiet on the whole and 
behaved fairly well, I hope. 

That evening showed me that George Eliot 
was to be congratulated on her escape from 
Spencer; his companionship developed the 
rationalistic side of her nature and so harmed 
her as an artist beyond all telling. If anyone 
cares to compare "The Scenes from Clerical 
Life," or even "Adam Bede," or "The Mill on 
the Floss," with "Daniel Deronda," he will 
realize the full extent of the artistic injury done 
her by long and close association with Spencer. 
She ought to have been brought to feel more 
and think less; whereas she was encouraged to 
think and reason and debate instead of living 
and loving. 

Carlyle and Spencer always seemed to me the 
Plato and the Aristotle of our time, and I have 
already warned my readers of my preference for 
the poet or artist, even as steersman of the ship. 
Carlyle saw incomparably further and deeper 
than Spencer, saw that "the present horrible, 
abominable state of things" could not last, that 

238 



our modern capitalist, individualistic society 
was headed straight for Niagara and already in 
the rapids. It is hardly too much to say that 
Carlyle predicted the disaster which has lately 
befallen the nations; his passion came from his 
understanding of the peril ; our Aristotle, on the 
other hand, had no "premises" to argue from 
and so came to no such pregnant conclusion. 

Yet this "Autobiography" has a pathetic in- 
terest for me. In it Spencer tells how he broke 
down at thirty-five from overwork and never 
afterwards regained complete health. 

At the time of our meeting he was only able 
to dictate for ten minutes at a time, and the 
slightest overwork, bodily or mental, or even 
undue attention, would render sleep impossible, 
and so he came to use ear-stoppers, which saved 
him from hearing or feeling too much. 

And once the periodicity of sleep broken, his 
wretched nerves would grow worse and worse, 
so that he had to lay all work aside at once, seek 
sleep and ensue it. Mr. Carnegie gave him a 
piano; like Saul he engaged a David (a girl 
pianist) to play for him, but the pleasure was too 
great; he had to deny himself the enjoyment. 
For forty or fifty years his life was one long 
struggle with "nerves" and sleeplessness. 

But even here he is too much of a philosopher 
to excite our pity. The artist nature aflflicted in 
this way would have surely done something to 

239 



excess; would have spent days in writing or 
nights in passionate living, and the "nerves" and 
sleeplessness would have led to that thin line 
that divides sanity from insanity. 

And before that spectre the bravest quails. 
Shakespeare's anguished cry constricts the heart: 

"Make me not mad, kind Heaven, not mad." 

That is the torture-chamber of our modern life, 
which Shakespeare and Dostoievsky alone of 
men so far, have dared to enter or been able to 
describe. Maupassant went in, it is true, but 
never came out again to live as a man among 
men ; we heard his first screams and the squeal- 
ing idiot laughter, and later his horrible, jibber- 
ing mutism, and then mercifully the curtain fell. 
But Spencer had not to pay any such price. 
As soon as he got "quirks" and "the strange feel- 
ing in his head," he dropped everything and 
went after health. He was a philosopher. True, 
he didn't get health, and so his experience is not 
much good to us, either as warning-signal or as 
guide-post. He never even learned that change, 
continual change of scene, of food, of compan- 
ionship, is the golden way to lead the neuras- 
thenic back to health ; especially, for the artist or 
writer, change to an open-air life; a riding tour 
or a motor-car trip across a continent; some 
change that bathes one all day long in sunshine 
and affords one ever-varying incidents and light, 
passing pleasures affords an almost certain cure. 

240 



But still Spencer's breakdown and subsequent 
ill-health made him a pathetic figure to me; 
filled me indeed with regret, if not remorse, that 
I had been so discourteous as to annoy him with 
my rude health and ruder difference of opinion. 

A few years later I, too, learned what 
"nerves" were and knew that a debate rudely 
pushed on one might have appalling conse- 
quences. Our excuse is: we know not what we 
do. 

More than anything we men need constant 
consideration for others, the most tremulous 
womanly sensitiveness, and we are all too apt 
to show hard indifference or that unthinking 
selfishness which is the brazen shield and front 
of all human wrong-doing. 

But now, before I leave this "Autobiography," 
let me say that there are good things in it; food 
for the mind, if not for the soul. 
, Spencer's ideas on education, his conviction 
that an elementary knowledge even of our own 
bodies and minds, of physiology and psychology, 
would be a thousand times more valuable than 
a smattering of Latin and Greek; his insistence 
on teaching the true conduct of life, on having 
the pitfalls and dangers of living explained even 
to children, were all very valuable and far ahead 
of ordinary opinion even in our time. 

He knew something about learning how to 
think. For instance, he notices the fact that in 

241 



2L hilly country the roads are far below the level 
of the surrounding land, whereas on a plain the 
roads are on much the same level as the adjacent 
fields. To explain this properly is the sort of 
problem, he says, which should be given to young 
people to solve; it would help to teach them 
how to think, and he is right. Such a problem, 
solved without help, is often the beginning of 
original thought. 

On the other hand, his limitations are aston- 
ishing. He cannot see himself from the outside 
and he is continually deducing inferences from 
his own experiences which are ridiculously ab- 
surd. He finds that the drawbacks of philo- 
sophic study, or indeed of any serious literary 
life, are greater than the advantages. First of 
all, he says, unless "a man's means are such as 
enable him not only to live for a long time with- 
out returns, but to bear the losses which his 
books entail on him, he will soon be brought 
to a stand and subjected to heavy penalties." He 
adds, naively: "My own history well exempli- 
fies this probability, or rather certainty." And 
he sums up : "Evidently it was almost a miracle 
that I did not sink before success was reached." 
He is always a pessimist; it is only fair to say 
that for a man of talent the literary life in spite 
of the precarious reward, which is its chief 
drawback, is the best and largest life offered to 
men in our age. It has one paramount advantage 

242 



that dwarfs all drawbacks. It confers a sort of 
universal introduction and enables one without 
wealth or birth to meet on an equal footing all 
the most distinguished men of the time. 

Even Schopenhauer, the so-called pessimist, 
knew that "a poet or philosopher should have no 
fault to find with his age if it only permits him 
to do his work." And no age can prevent him. 
Were this the place, it would be easy to show 
that every age is propitious to genius and high 
endeavor; like calls to like; great men in every 
department of life recognize each other and hold 
it a duty to help the man who reminds them of 
the dreams of their youth. That Spencer never 
felt the thrill of recognition and comradeship 
simply proves that he was not of the lineage of 
the great, is not to be reckoned with Schopen- 
hauer and Bacon. 

Yet, within his limits, he tried to be fair- 
minded and did excellent work. He writes: 

"Even at the present moment, the absolute 
opposition between the doctrine of forgiveness 
preached by a hundred thousand European 
priests, and the actions of European soldiers and 
colonists who out-do the law of blood-revenge 
among savages, and massacre a village in retalia- 
tion for a single death, shows that two thousand 
years of Christian culture has changed the prim- 
itive barbarian very little. And yet one cannot 
but conclude that it has had some effect, and may 

243 



infer that in its absence things would have been 
worse. ... 

"Thus I have come more and more to look 
calmly on forms of religious belief to which I 
had, in earlier days, a pronounced aversion." 

At long last he writes: "I have come to re- 
gard religious creeds with a sympathy based on 
community of need; feeling that dissent from 
them results from inability to accept the solu- 
tions offered, joined with the wish that solutions 
could be found." He was always just on Ten- 
nyson's level: 

"Behold, we know not anything, 
We can but trust that Good may fall, 
At last, far off, at last — to all. 
And every Winter change to Spring." 



244 




^^•. 




The Right Hon. Arthur J. Balfour 




THE RIGHT HON. ARTHUR BALFOUR: 
AMERICA'S NEWEST GUEST 

/ leave this pen-portrait as it ivas written in 
March 1917, for it derives a certain peculiar in- 
terest from the circumstances of the time. 

Frank Harris. 

HO would have predicted fifteen 
years ago that America would fight 
Germany on behalf of the very men 
who made war on the Boer Re- 
publics? Yet here we have Mr. 
Arthur Balfour on his way to Washington to 
confer with our President how best to organize 
victory. 

Mr. Balfour has not changed in the mean- 
while. He stands now precisely where he stood 
then; he is the same convinced, contemptuous, 
courteous antagonist of human equality that he 
was when he sneered at the Boer farmers and the 
"dead level of ignorant herdsmen." 

In order to avoid any suspicion of prejudice 
let me prove this before going further, for I 
have an artist's liking for a man who is true to 
type, and in this case the type is a fine one. 

Wishing to write on the Russian Revolution 
recently my knowledge, especially of the young- 
er Russian leaders, had to be refurbished and 

245 



brought up to date ; accordingly I applied to all 
the Russian leaders and thinkers I could get in 
touch with in New York City. One of the ablest 
I met was Leo Trotsky, a Russian Jew and revo- 
lutionary, a man who had spent and been spent 
in the cause of social justice. Trotsky's person- 
ality seemed to me charming; a man slightly 
below middle height, broad, strong, vitally alert; 
a mop of thick, bristling, rebellious black hair, 
regular features, broad forehead, the whole face 
lit up by a pair of glowing bright dark eyes — 
the eyes of an enthusiast or captain. Trotsky 
talked to me for hours, sharpening, clarifying 
my view of this man and that, putting Prince 
Lyov in his true place as a kindly, honest medi- 
ocrity with the same ease and certainty that he 
classed the enthusiastic young lawyer, Kerensky, 
or the Socialist, Tscheidze. 

His precision of knowledge was matched by 
his width of vision. He saw clearly that as the 
revolution went on, the Moderates would be 
eliminated; that the extreme social revolution- 
aries would surely come more and more to 
power, for they would be reinforced by others 
freed from the prisons of absolutism in South 
Russia and Siberia. He spoke of the new Rus- 
sia as one would speak of a beloved woman who 
had been defiled and tortured, and now having 
conquered her persecutors was intent on paying 
her debt to humanity by ideal devotions. 

246 



*'Holy Russia as leader of the free peoples, 
Russia as the one country that could make the 
United States of Europe a possibility," — was the 
vision splendid that enthralled him. 

"You are going back?" I asked. 

"Surely," he cried, "at once; a dozen of us." 

"Are you sure of getting to Petrograd?" I 
asked. 

"Sure," he replied. "Who'd stop us?" 

"England might stop you," I ventured. 

"England 1" he exclaimed. "England is with 
the Allies. England is Russia's friend. Why 
should England stop us?" 

"England is the friend of the Czar," I replied. 
"England, you know, gave all Milyukov's secrets 
six months ago to the Czar's Government." 

"That's all past," he cried. "England could 
not stop us now if she would and would not if 
she could; you forget, we shall be on a neutral 
ship, really under the Stars and Stripes coming 
from an American port; as safe as in our beds 
here." 

"Perhaps so," I answered. "I hope you are 
right, but the English oligarchy is in power: 
Balfour and his lieutenants, Lords Curzon and 
Milner; they are not in sympathy with revolu- 
tionaries who dream of social equality. They 
know their real enemies, believe me!" 

247 



Trotsky would not even listen ; an optimist by 
nature, he was now winged with hope. 

A week later the news came; Leo Trotsky and 
nine of his fellows had been seized on board a 
neutral ship in Halifax. In spite of their pro- 
tests they were thrown into prison and shortly 
afterwards transferred to a camp for interned 
German enemies at Amherst in Canada. 

His friends protested to our President, but 
without success. Meanwhile the punishment of 
these innocent enthusiasts is continued. A word 
from President Wilson would probably free 
them; but he remains silent, though, of course, 
not indifferent. Similar high-handed action on 
the part of Great Britain brought about the War 
of 1812, and what we fought then to prevent, we 
can hardly accept to-day with complacence. The 
imprisonment of Trotsky and his friends is Ar- 
thur Balfour's reply to President Wilson's warm- 
hearted welcome to the Russian revolutionaries 
and his wide-flung assurance that America is 
entering this war to fight for human freedom and 
for democracy against the injustices of autocratic 
tyranny. 

I see Arthur Balfour entering the White 
House, smiling and shaking hands with Presi- 
dent Wilson, but his right foot is planted on Leo 
Trotsky's face. 

And Leo Trotsky, the outcast Jew and revolu- 
248 



tionary, is far more valuable to humanity than 
Arthur Balfour, who took him from a neutral 
ship in defiance of law and right and now holds 
him in prison. 

Who is Mr. Arthur Balfour? His outward, 
as Hamlet would say, is that of a scholar and 
courtier, captivatingly sympathetic. He is over 
six feet in height, slight, stooping, with a large 
head and a prodigiously high forehead framed 
now with silver hair; the complexion is as fresh 
as that of a boy; the eyes are blue, patient, with- 
out being searching, amiably mirroring pleas- 
ant surroundings. He has perfect manners till 
he is crossed. He was called Miss Arabella at 
Eton till people found out that he was as auto- 
cratic and hard as Nero. A few incidents of his 
career will paint this typical aristocrat to the life. 

I do not need to tell of his youthful vagaries : 
how he became known as a lieutenant of Lord 
Randolph Churchill and the supporter of "The 
Souls," and how he sat at the feet of Lady Elcho. 
It is enough to say here that "The Souls" was a 
select coterie of the smartest set in London in the 
eighties, with Lady Brownlow and George Cur- 
zon and Margot Tennant (now Mrs. Asquith) 
as the most fervent adherents. 

The first time the outside public got any ink- 
ling of Balfour's quality was when he became 
Chief Secretary for Ireland. For a little while 

249 



the Irish hoped great things of him. He was 
so courteous, so well-read, listened with such 
sympathetic attention that they thought he was 
an "easy mark," as American slang has it, but 
they soon found out that, while listening to all 
they had to say, he promised nothing and would 
not yield an iota. They attacked him then in 
the House and insulted him to his face. He 
listened to their abuse as he had listened to their 
praise with the same smiling, gentle courtesy, 
and went on backing up the oligarchy, ruthlessly 
evicting tenants, and ruining whole countrysides 
to the very verge of rebellion. 

One word of his about the Irish members de- 
serves to be recorded. Speaking of the way they 
had treated Chief Secretary Foster — "Buckshot" 
Foster — he said: 

"So long as he was in power they were black- 
ening his character; now that he attacks the Gov- 
ernment, they are blackening his boots." 

The whole quarrel was typified in the agita- 
tion about "O'Brien's Breeches." O'Brien, who 
had met Mr. Balfour frequently at social func- 
tions, and rather liked him, protested against 
being put in the hideous uniform of the ordinary 
criminal. He was a political prisoner, he said, 
and would not wear the badge of shame. He 
took off the suit and shivered naked in his cell. 
The next day they clothed him forcibly and told 

250 



him that if he took off the prison uniform again 
he would be punished as any other rebellious 
prisoner was punished; and finally O'Brien gave 
in with a bad cold in his head, and Mr. Bal- 
four's victory was hailed with jeers of contempt 
for the Irish. 

But if you think of it, what a paltry victory it 
was? One asked oneself: Does Mr. Balfour 
really think he is living in Russia that he can 
treat political prisoners as common criminals? 
I heard him once remark that he could see no 
difference between political prisoners and burg- 
lars and murderers except that the political pris- 
oners were of a class to know better and so their 
guilt was deeper. 

People found out that "Miss Arabella" as 
Irish Secretary was a fighter to the last ditch. 

In the beginning of the South African war it 
will be remembered that the Boers won victory 
after victory. Their riflemen outshot the British 
soldiers much as the American riflemen outshot 
Wellington's veterans at New Orleans. Buller 
was beaten to a standstill in Natal. The whole 
of Cape Colony was in a ferment. After Mag- 
ersfontein and the whipping of Lord Methuen, 
it looked as if the British might lose South Af- 
rica. At the Cabinet meetings Mr. Chamberlain 
showed himself shaken to the soul. He kept 
repeating continually that he had been deceived 

251 



by the War Office; that the generals had assured 
him that the war would be finished in three 
months; that it would be a "walkover." 

But Mr. Balfour came to the Cabinet meet- 
ings smiling and disinterested as ever and usual- 
ly half an hour late. When his colleagues doubt- 
ed he was surprised ;when they looked at one an- 
other in consternation he shrugged his shoulders. 
In the darkest days he was just as amusedly de- 
tached as he was in the beginning of this war. 

He defended the burning to the ground of the 
farmhouses of non-combatant Boers; he ap- 
proved the herding of the Boer women and chil- 
dren into the deadly Concentration Camps in 
the Transvaal where milk was not to be had. 
When he was taunted by an Irishman with "the 
Slaughter of the Innocents," he retorted that the 
gentleman was no doubt justified in defending 
his own kind — a gibe too bitter to be appre- 
ciated by the House, though every one knew 
that "innocent" is often used in Ireland chari- 
tably for "idiot." Many members were shocked 
to find that urbane, smiling, gentle leader cared 
little for human life or the conventions of civil- 
ized warfare: "No omelet without breaking 
eggs" is his motto. 

Courage Arthur Balfour has of a high quality 
— all but the highest, indeed — for invincible 
courage is the martyr's, and is grounded in clear 

252 



insight into the Right and uncompromising as- 
sertion of it. 

His cool selfishness was not without ambition. 
As soon as he was strong enough he favored an 
intrigue which forced Lord Salisbury to resign 
the post of Prime Minister, and the nephew 
reigned in the uncle's stead. Arthur Balfour 
thought this a natural, indeed an inevitable, con- 
clusion, but Hugh Cecil, the ablest of Lord Sal- 
isbury's sons, has never forgiven the "cuckoo" 
feat. 

Arthur Balfour showed himself at his very 
strongest in dealing with Mr. Chamberlain after 
the Boer War. Mr. Chamberlain had been a 
confirmed Free Trader for thirty years. In the 
war against the Boers he found out what the 
colonists were worth and he began to dream of 
a great Confederation of British States. He saw 
at once that this necessitated protection of the 
products of the Empire and free exchange within 
the Empire. He therefore put this forward in 
a speech without any reference to Mr. Balfour 
— a plain challenge for the leadership. A fort- 
night later Mr. Balfour answered him. Every 
one expected that he would attack Mr. Cham- 
berlain, or at any rate repudiate his policy, but 
he merely said that it was a very interesting de- 
parture, indeed ; as a Conservative he could not 
but see a good deal in it and he was delighted 

253 



that the Colonial Secretary should at length have 
taken cognizance of those forces which bind men 
together in society. An anecdote at this time 
will show the man. 

He lives at Whittinghame, his country house 
in Scotland, with a sister, a very advanced 
thinker — Susan or Sarah Balfour, I forget 
which: we will call her Miss Susan. 

One night she was expected from London and 
was rather late. Arthur Balfour waited dinner 
for her. When she came into the dining-room 
she was evidently very excited. 

"What is the matter, Susan?" said Arthur. 
"You seem excited." 

"For the first time in my life," said Miss 
Susan, "I have been treated rudely by a work- 
ingman." 

"Really!" he remarked; "have you ever been 
treated rudely by gentlemen?" 

"By well-dressed wasters, often," retorted the 
lady, "and now by a workingman." 

"How was that?" 

"I got into a third-class carriage as usual," 
said Miss Susan, "and there was a workingman 
in it who spat on the floor. When I reproved 
him and told him he ought to be ashamed of 
himself and go in a cattle-truck if he wanted to 
be dirty, he answered that I ought to be ashamed 
of myself; I ought to go in a first-class carriage, 
where I belonged, and leave workingmen who 

254 



had done a day's work to take their rest quietly 
in the train without being bothered by super- 
fine manners. 

"I told him his spitting was disgusting, more 
like a pig than a man ; I said if he did it again 
I would give him in charge. Don't you think I 
was right?" 

"I don't really know," said Arthur Balfour. 
"The *pig' and 'cattle-truck' epithets were no 
doubt effective, but rather in the manner of the 
Colonial Secretary, don't you think? .... 

As Prime Minister and Leader of the House 
of Commons Arthur Balfour was a failure; 
came, indeed, to complete grief, and this in spite 
of English snobbery and his own high qualities. 
He grew to be too autocratic and asserted a more 
than Popish infallibility. He fell of his own 
strength. Not only was he an aristocrat by birth 
and natural leader of the oligarchy, but he was 
a man of the widest reading and culture — a 
Scotch metaphysician who had taught himself 
to think out the non-utilitarian problems of 
Why? Whence? and Whither? to the verge of 
the Unknown. On a ceremonial occasion he 
could make a speech in the House which put 
Mr. Asquith's best work in a secondary place. 
He alone could rise to the height of every argu- 
ment, and yet as a leader of the House he failed, 
even in England, and not of weakness but of 
autocratic egotjsm. 

255 



He announced that any one who ventured to 
criticize him or dissent from his policy had 
better leave the party, for he assuredly would 
not help him to office. He would have no lieu- 
tenant that was not a servant and servile. 

Winston Churchill was the first to take up the 
glove. He criticized Balfour in the House and 
defied him; then left the party and became a 
leader of the Liberals. I well remember the 
night in the House when he made his great 
speech and how Arthur Balfour got up in the 
middle of it and walked out as if he was uncon- 
cerned. Many members resented the contempt- 
uous act. Lord Hugh Cecil, his own first cousin, 
the ablest Conservative in the House of Com- 
mons — the only one in my time of undoubted 
genius — was snubbed by Balfour and kept out 
of sight. When he lost his seat in the House, 
though it was the custom and would have been 
a mere courtesy to have got him another, Balfour 
left him out in the cold. His conduct of affairs 
was so autocratic that at length even the landed 
squirearchy and the rich manufacturers deserted 
Lord Salisbury's nephew for the unregarded 
colonist, Bonar Law, and Bonar Law was made 
master in his stead. 

Mr. Balfour seemed to care as little for the 
defeat as for success. He did not attack the 
Government which had taken his place; he pur- 
sued the even tenor of his way, unperturbed. He 

256 



wrote a "Defense of Philosophic Doubt" and 
made stately speeches in the House at long in- 
tervals. Like Shakespeare's Caesar, 

"He let determined things to Destiny, 
Hold unbewailed their way." 

It is possible that if Arthur Balfour had had 
to work for a living he might have risen to orig- 
inal thought. His "Foundations of Belief" is 
really interesting; it is Bergson adapted rather 
than translated into English by one who had 
already coquetted in thought with the idea of 
creative evolution. Arthur Balfour is, as Heine 
says, on the topmost level of the thought of his 
time. He has reached the conviction that his 
political creed is sustained and buttressed by the 
faith and practice of a thousand generations of 
men. 

"Who survive in men's memories?" he will 
ask — "the statesmen and generals, the writers and 
artists, the greatest of the sons of men. Those 
are the people whom I consider and whom I like. 
The unnumbered millions who never attain any- 
thing I can afford to forget, — as their fellow- 
men forget them and as probably God forgets 
them also. I have no interest in the unwashed 
herd." 

He forgets that the only distinguished people 
he takes any heed of arc those in his own class 
and set; had he rubbed shoulders more with the 
crowd he would have been a bigger man. 

257 



He was once asked in the House of Commons 
about something that was in all the daily papers. 
He professed complete ignorance on the subject. 

"But it has been in all the daily papers," his 
questioner remarked. 

"Very possibly," replied Mr. Balfour. "I 
never read the daily papers." 

Members of the House looked at each other 
and smiled, but it was not a pose; it was the 
truth. 

Arthur Balfour is always perfectly self-pos- 
sessed, completely at ease. I remember seeing 
him one night in a crowd going up the broad 
staircase of Sutherland House. He bowed as he 
came up to this and that person standing in the 
gallery above him with the charming good na- 
ture of a pleased schoolboy. He did not see that 
he was keeping just in front of the Prince of 
Wales and spoiling the Prince's entrance. When 
he got to the top of the stairs his hostess greeted 
him, adding quickly: "Pardon me, Mr. Bal- 
four, but the Prince is just behind you." 

Balfour turned round, bowed to the Prince 
and said smiling happily: 

"Ohl Sir, it simply shows that there is no divi- 
nation in this clay of mine or I should have felt 
a prickling in my back and given you the pride 
of place," 

25§ 



It was perfectly said with a charming smile as 
of equal to equal, but with subtle recognition of 
the other's superior rank. 

How will Mr. Balfour meet President Wil- 
son? He is some ten years older, ten well-filled 
years. I am afraid he will be his superior in 
many qualities; a better dialectician, a greater 
master of English ; one who has practised speak- 
ing for over forty years and has held his own in 
debate again and again in Throne room and 
Senate against all comers; he won his spurs in 
the Berlin Conference in 1878. 

A Lincoln would see through him and round 
him by virtue of a larger humanity and a passion- 
ate resolve to serve his fellow-men ; a Roosevelt 
even would sense his deficiencies; though he 
might not be able to analyze them, but Mr. 
Wilson is of his own sort, a scholar and amateur 
of life with the deficiencies of the bookish. Yet 
Mr. Wilson has one eminent superiority; he is 
an American and should be gifted with a deeper 
moral conscience; he could hardly have coerced 
Ireland or enslaved Egypt; he, too, must feel 
that Mr. Balfour is essentially hollow and that 
gives me hope. I see Mr. Balfour bowing to Mr. 
Wilson, smiling because he thinks he has capti- 
vated him with his charm and courtesy; but he 
has still his foot on the face of Leo Trotsky. 

It is to be hoped that our President with his 
259 



own suavest courtesy will point out this fact to 
Mr. Balfour and invite him in the interests of 
humanity to take more care for the future where 
he puts his foot. 



260 




The Right Hon. David Lloyd George 




MR. LLOYD GEORGE AND THE 
FUTURE 
NLIKE most of his rivals in British 
politics, Mr. Lloyd George came 
from the people; he has a touch of 
genius in him too, and is a Welsh- 
man to boot. Even without genius 
the Welsh Celt is often interesting; he is gen- 
erally articulate and he's nearly always apt to 
reason with his emotions and calculate with his 
passions to the bewilderment of the Saxon. It 
ought to be easy for me as a Welsh Celt to give a 
vivid and interesting word-portrait of Mr. 
Lloyd George and yet it's peculiarly difficult. I 
find it hard to treat him sympathetically be- 
cause, although our aims in politics have often 
been alike, the means we would employ to com- 
pass them, are wholly dissimilar. The bitterest 
disagreements, it appears, are always between 
brethren. 

From the crown of his head to the sole of his 
feet David Lloyd George is a typical Welsh 
Celt; he is short, broad, thick-set, with the heavy 
body and ungraceful short legs of the Cymri. 
His face is more regular than most Celtic faces 
and is nevertheless exceedingly mobile and vivid 

261 



— expressive of every shade of feeling or resolu- 
tion. His voice, too, like many Welsh voices, is 
very strong, resonant and musical, and when 
master of his feelings, as he occasionally is, he 
is perhaps the greatest orator in Great Britain, 
or it w^ould be truer to say the only orator of 
the first rank, with the exception of Lord Hugh 
Cecil or Ramsay MacDonald. 

David Lloyd George has come from the lower 
half of the social ladder: he is the son of a 
teacher in a Unitarian school at Liverpool and 
accordingly from boyhood his deepest feelings 
have been at the service of politics rather than 
of religion. His father died when he was an 
infant; but the apparent misfortune was a bless- 
ing in disguise. He was taken to Wales to live 
with an uncle, David Lloyd, a shoemaker, and 
there the enthusiastic and gifted lad sucked in a 
complete command of Welsh as a mother- 
tongue. He had the usual Church-School train- 
ing and learned English as a schoolboy; as a 
youth, he was placed in a solicitor's office, and 
was admitted to the practice of law in 1884, 
when just twenty-one. 

He has told himself how he visited the House 
of Commons at eighteen and looked upon it as 
William the Conqueror looked upon England 
during his visit to Edward the Confessor, as his 
future "domain." At twenty he wrote in his 
diary that his career in the House depended on 

262 



his own "pluck and energy." He had hardly 
reached a decent living as a solicitor when he 
stood for Parliament and, thanks chiefly to his 
eloquence in Welsh, was elected for Carnarvon 
in 1890. When only twenty-seven years of age 
he had thus got his foot on the first rung of the 
political ladder. In the next ten years he won 
a fair practice as a solicitor, made himself con- 
versant with the forms and spirit of the House 
of Commons and gradually became known to the 
better heads, as a personality, if not yet as a 
power. 

For a good part of this apprentice period Tom 
Ellis was the Whip of the Liberal party: he 
and Lloyd George had grown up together and 
Tom Ellis was a man of extraordinary quality. 
He had the best manners I've ever seen in my 
life, better even, because gentler, more sympa- 
thetic and more quickly responsive than Mr. 
Thomas Bayard's who, as American Ambassa* 
dor, became famous during his short stay in 
London for charming human courtesy to all 
men alike, whether of palace or cottage. In 
Tom Ellis, too, the manners were only the out- 
ward visible signs of an inward and spiritual 
grace. He had the immediate intuitive compre- 
hension of genius which genius alone gives, and 
long before Lloyd George was known to the 
House Tom Ellis had marked him out for high 
place: "a great fighting man," he used fo call 

263 



him, "a born orator and leader filled with pas- 
sionate emotions; you'll see, he'll go far. At 
any rate, he's much the ablest politician that has 
yet come out of Wales." 

Lloyd George's first parliamentary exploit 
was to revolt against the Liberal Government 
in 1894 on the question of disestablishing the 
Church in Wales. He led several malcontents 
such as Francis Edwards, Herbert Lewis (now 
the Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert Lewis) and D. H. 
Thomas (afterwards Lord Rhondda) on a rag- 
ing electoral campaign against Tom Ellis and 
his Welsh majority of 40 and won notoriety by 
his daring if nothing more. 

It was the South African War in 1900 which 
gave Lloyd George his opportunity: for him it 
came in the nick of time. As a Welshman he be- 
lieved in small nationalities and their claims to 
fair treatment by their stronger neighbors. All 
his sympathies were with the Boers and from 
the beginning he championed their cause in the 
House. This brought him at once into conflict 
with the vast majority of members, who are 
always militant imperialists and particularly 
with Mr. Chamberlain, a dominant personality 
and the most redoubtable debater at that time 
in the Commons. To the astonishment of the 
House, the "little Welsh attorney," as he was 
called, held his own in the cut-and-thrust of 
debate, and the extreme Radical wing rallied 

264 



with delight to his support. In vain they were 
nicknamed Pro-Boers, and shouted down in the 
House while their motives were impugned and 
their manners ridiculed in the capitalist press. 

It is almost as difficult in England as in 
America to express any opinion which differs 
from that of the governing class, and in time 
of war the difficulty is intensified. For years, 
even after he had demonstrated his ability, 
Lloyd George was treated as a pariah in the 
House; but gradually, events aiding, he came 
more and more to the front till at length a de- 
cisive victory established his position as a leader 
and entitled him to consideration. 

Towards the end of the Boer War the Intelli- 
gence Department of the Army under Lord 
Kitchener issued weekly bulletins announcing 
the capture of, let us say, 1,200 Boers and the 
seizing of 2,000 rifles. In May, Lloyd George 
asked the War Office how many Boers were sup- 
posed to be in the field. The answer was be- 
tween 15,000 and 20,000. In October he brought 
the matter before the House and moved that 
peace be declared, for by a sum of simple addi- 
tion it was evident that Lord Kitchener having 
captured — according to his own weekly reports, 
from May to October, more than 30,000 Boers — 
he was now fighting a minus number of imag- 
inary enemies at the cost of a couple of millions 
sterling a week. The effect of this ironical 

265 



statement in the House was so extraordinary 
that the majority yelled with rage and even Mr. 
Chamberlain forgot himself utterly and called 
out "Cadi" across the floor to his opponent. 
Lloyd George won the sympathies even of the 
majority by meeting the insult with a bow: 
"No one," he said, smiling, "could be a better 
judge of that epithet than the Right Honorable 
gentleman," a double-edged impromptu which 
astonished even his friends. Lloyd George was 
clearly a first-rate fighting man and the House 
cheered him warmly for the first time. From 
that day on he had ministerial rank. 

When the Liberal party came into power 
Lloyd George entered the Cabinet as President 
of the Board of Trade. He was regarded by 
the Radicals and Labor Members as the only 
democratic Minister and his first speeches con- 
firmed his reputation. Throughout the country 
he began to be loved as Mr. Gladstone had been 
loved by virtue of a certain religious sentiment, 
though his emotional appeals were usually taken 
for claptrap by the House. Besides, he was dis- 
liked in the Commons as a resolute opponent of 
the Imperialistic spirit, which is always the 
governing impulse in England. He was con- 
sistent, however; just as he had attacked the 
policy of the strong out of sympathy with the 
weak nationalities, so now when in power he 
showed constructive statesmanship by support- 

266 



ing the cause of the many poor in Great Britain 
against the rich oligarchy. Every speech was a 
sort of Magna Charta to the proletariat and 
marked a stage in the rising flood of his popu- 
larity. To his credit it must be noted that he 
still remained easy of approach, without touch 
of affectation or pomposity; indeed he was usu- 
ally ingratiating as well as earnest and sincere. 

As Chancellor of the Exchequer he tried by 
various measures to lay the burden of taxation 
on the rich and ease the shoulders of the poor. 
His latest and most successful measure was bor- 
rowed from Germany — the Compulsory Insur- 
ance Act by which employers are compelled to 
contribute to the Accident and Insurance fund 
intended to succor their employees. Many 
people objected to this as a vexatious interfer- 
ence with private liberty, and there can be no 
doubt that "the Stamp-licking Act," as it was 
called, was heartily disliked by the richer classes, 
while numbers of the poor were too thoughtless 
and ill-taught to appreciate its benefits. Still 
Lloyd George was upheld by the small body of 
educated men who knew that the inequality of 
conditions in Great Britain had long passed the 
disease zone and reached the danger mark. 
Would he go on and lead the democracy into 
the Promised Land, or would he sell out to the 
oligarchy? That was the question. 

It is curious and characteristic that demo- 
267 



cratic legislation in England, which is supposed 
to be a free country, follows timidly in the foot- 
steps of autocratic Germany and does not dare 
to imitate France. The land in France is fair- 
ly parceled out among millions of small pro- 
prietors. There is no approach to ideal justice 
in the division, but there is a good deal of prac- 
tical justice. 

In England, on the other hand, some five 
hundred landlords own about half the land of 
the country. The first and most imperative 
social reform would be to give the land back 
to the people from whom it was in great part 
stolen within the last century and a half; but 
no British statesman has yet dared to face the 
storm which such a proposal would call forth. 
Eight or nine years ago it looked as if Lloyd 
George meant to take the oligarchic bull by the 
horns: he set on foot an inquiry into the posses- 
sion of land in England and its results: at 
once he was viciously attacked; his agents and 
methods derided ; he himself personally insulted 
by this duke and that lord. Still he held firm. 
His commission was appointed; two thousand 
investigators put to work. 

Then as a bolt from the blue came the world- 
war. Would it strengthen Lloyd George and 
his "communistic projects" or would it weaken 
them? What happened could have been fore- 
told. War always strengthens hierarchies and 

268 



gifted individuals. Lloyd George is to-day 
stronger than ever; but his land-legislation is 
shelved, and it seems doubtful even whether the 
great war minister will inaugurate the demo- 
cratic reforms he has again and again promised. 
Let us take a look at the man in his habit as he 
lives before we attempt to forecast his future. 

First of all he has some excellent virtues. He 
is simple in his tastes and in his surroundings. 
He likes good food and is fond of toothsome 
dainties with his tea, but he rarely touches wine 
though he is not a teetotaller. Even on long and 
cold motor tours he always asks for hot coffee, 
and he drinks it with meat or game indifferently 
— a dreadful trial to most digestions, though 
apparently not even noticed by his stomach. 

Mr. Lloyd George has no amusements except 
an occasional game of golf; his chief self-indul- 
gence is a good cigar. In these later years he 
has grown somewhat stout, partly because he 
has not been able to find the time for golf that 
he used to give to it. His love of everything 
Welsh is seen in his home surroundings. You 
rarely find any domestic in his household except 
Welsh girls, with whom he always speaks in 
Welsh. 

Society bores him. If he wants an enjoyable 
evening he gathers his friends about him, and 
he can spend an evening listening even more 
willingly than talking. He loves all shows es- 

269 



pecially the theatre and the music-hall. If he 
had time he would visit them often. They 
nourish his dramatic and aesthetic instincts which 
were repressed in boyhood. 

Sir Herbert Tree once asked him to a first 
night and to supper afterwards in the Dome. 
As he walked home with his wife in the full 
light of a summer morning through St. James's 
Park to Downing Street, he said to her: "Would 
you and I have ever thought ten years ago that 
we would have gone to a theatrical supper and 
enjoyed it?" 

There is nothing too absurd for him in music- 
hall songs; sometimes when he is in especially 
good spirits he sings snatches of them with great 
enjoyment; usually he has learned them from 
one of his daughters. 

The most marked and characteristic feature 
of his private life is his intense family affection. 
No villager in Wales could show a simpler 
family setting than that of Mr. Lloyd George. 
One evening a journalistic friend came into the 
house and asked where was the "Hyena" — the 
name applied to him by a German journal after 
his famous "knock out" interview. He found 
the "hyena" seated on a sofa with an arm around 
the waist of each of his two daughters. When 
one of his daughters died, his friends still recall 
with dread the agony of his grief ; one says that 
in spite of his natural gaiety he has never looked 

270 



quite cheerfully at life since. The greater soft- 
ness of temper, the unusual patience, something 
mystic in his spiritual outlook are perhaps some 
of the consequences of that blow. 

He cares for little in life but politics. He 
keeps all his strength for his career. This is one 
of the reasons for what would otherwise appear 
to be inconsiderate carelessness. He is inun- 
dated with letters; he answers only a few of 
them; and so gets into trouble; often is so ab- 
sorbed in big things that he will not allow him- 
self to fritter away time on unessentials. Yet he 
can be soft and yielding up to a point. 

There is never anything "brutal" — an epithet 
applied to him by another German paper re- 
cently — in either his words or his demeanor. 
He often allows himself to be bored and put 
out rather than get rid of somebody who is in 
the way, but he will not allow himself to be 
bothered or diverted from his work by a great 
lady or by the great mob; life is too short and 
too full of big things to be wasted. 

One of his extraordinary tastes is his passion- 
ate love of a sermon. He often says that he 
prefers a good sermon to a good play. He 
quotes by the yard rhetorical passages from the 
extensive pulpit literature of his country. Over 
and over again, he will roll out the great phrases 
of a preacher denouncing the rich who grind the 
faces of the poor, "The wood is drying in the 

271 



sun that will make their coffins." He is a great 
reader; and though he hesitates to speak French 
he knows French pretty well and reads a good 
French novel with pleasure and some facility. 

Take him all in all, he has more than the usual 
complexity of the Celtic character. He is often 
unwilling to begin work, but once he begins he 
finds it difficult ever to give it up. He can work 
immensely, though he gets very tired; but then 
he can sleep anywhere and at any time: often 
on Saturday or Sunday afternoons he sleeps on 
a couple of chairs. He is ordinarily cheerful 
and grows more even tempered with the years, 
but he has moments of depression, and in his 
youth he was said to be haunted by the vision 
of early death, like that of his father. 

He is very soft; though at times he can be 
very hard. At once the most pliant and the most 
obstinate of men ; he can be broad of vision, and 
under the strong and tenacious will he can put 
his mind in blinkers; he has sometimes weird 
insight as of a genius; he seldom looks back; 
and is always confident of the future. 

Though he was not brought up in Celtic- 
Christian superstitions; the atmosphere of his 
mind is semi-religious, semi-fatalistic which 
strikes one as strange in a man whose outlook 
is so matter of fact. He has always a saving 
sense of the transience of human things which 

272 



stands between him and an excessive enjoyment 
of the triumphs of life. 

The question of questions now is what is to 
be hoped from Mr. Lloyd George as a social 
reformer. He has not studied social questions 
deeply, knows little or nothing of the disadvan- 
tages from an industrial point of view of our 
present competitive or grab-as-grab-can society; 
but his sympathies are democratic and he under- 
stands the disabilities of poverty. Had he lis- 
tened to Socialistic or Fabian orators, instead of 
sermons, I should be more hopeful of him. 

I do not know for certain how far Mr. Lloyd 
George's zeal for human equality has been side- 
tracked ; but connection with the Marconi scan- 
dal would of itself be sufficient to explain his 
failure to deal drastically with the economic 
problems of his country. 

Nobody believes that Lloyd George specu- 
lated in Marconi shares from the usual sordid 
motives; he is notoriously careless about money; 
as Chancellor of the Exchequer he used to say 
laughingly that it was his wife who took care 
of his purse and the only result of Ministerial 
rank to him is the possession of the modest house 
at Criccieth which may have cost $6,000 or 
$8,000. There can be no doubt that he was per- 
suaded to "have a flutter" in Marconi shares by 
Sir Rufus Isaacs, then the Attorney- General, 
but the gamble which led Sir Rufus Isaacs 

273 



directly to a peerage and the position of Lord 
Chief Justice weakened Lloyd George a good 
deal as a reformer. How could he attack the 
landlords when his own hands were not im- 
maculate? 

We can afford to be frank in this matter. It 
was said very often that Mr. Lloyd George 
worked with Lord Northcliffe because Lord 
Northclifie knew the details of the Marconi 
business and Mr. Lloyd George dared not break 
with him. But now to the confusion of the 
scandal-mongers Mr. Lloyd George has broken 
with Lord Northcliffe and no disclosures have 
been made becausee there was nothing to dis- 
close. I dislike more than I can say the common 
habit of explaining the inconsistencies of public 
men by some low personal motive. It is Mr. 
Lloyd George's knowledge I doubt, not his 
honesty. Besides, if England waits for a re- 
former till she gets an angel, she'll wait a long 
time. 

Lloyd George has a touch of genius in him 
and with genius go a good many amiable human 
weaknesses; but the genius who wins out as a 
benefactor to humanity is the man who turns his 
stumblings into stepping stones. 

What then is his position at the moment. 
Without probing too curiously, facts speak for 
themselves. 

About the time when the Coalition Govern- 
274 



ment was formed and the Conservative leaders, 
Mr. Bonar Law, Mr. Arthur Balfour and Sir 
Edward Carson, joined the Liberal Ministry in 
the Cabinet, Mr. Lloyd George's Land Com- 
mission was dissolved and his 1,700 or more paid 
investigators discharged. Since then no one of 
position in England has spoken of the evils of 
landlordism or the millennium of land national- 
ization. Social reforms were summarily shelved 
and Lloyd George did not even protest. 

He was appointed Minister of War, and the 
job of providing munitions which Kitchener 
had hopelessly bungled, he accomplished; he 
took over hundreds of private factories and 
nationalized them; he socialized a vast industry 
and extended it beyond precedent while turning 
over surplus profits to the Treasury; he proved 
in England what in Germany has been proved 
again and again, that a nationalized industry 
could beat any private industry both in pro- 
ductive power and cheapness. Lloyd George 
did even more than this. He advocated con- 
scription and turned Lord Kitchener's paper 
army into a real national army; he animated 
the whole people with his spirit and enormously 
increased the strength of Great Britain as a 
fighting force. 

Think of his speech at Bangor in the summer 
of 1916, when he criticized severely the lack of 
high spirit in Great Britain. "We have not yet 

275 



given up drink," he cried, "as it has been given 
up in France and Russia. . . . We laugh at 
things in Germany," he went on, "which should 
terrify us. Look at the way they make bread 
out of potatoes. I fear that spirit of cheerful 
self-sacrifice more than I do Field Marshal von 
Hindenburg's strategy, efficient though it may 
be." He then proceeded to criticize the ship- 
wrights on the Clyde for striking for higher 
wages at such a crisis and sneered at the farth- 
ing an hour they were holding out for. He 
would have done better had be blamed the rich 
employers whose profits had more than doubled 
in the year, while their "hands" have had no 
share in the wealth they created. Twenty years 
ago the hard meanness of the rich would have 
furnished Lloyd George with his text, and not 
the pitiful hopes of the poor. Still, the personal 
force and drive of the man grow steadily in 
importance. 

One question imposes itself? Why on earth 
did he allow his Land Commission to be dis- 
solved without any protest? Perhaps he was not 
strong enough then to fight the oligarchy. But 
why did he allow his settlement of the Irish 
difficulty, after it had been accepted by all con- 
cerned, to be thrown aside by Lord Lansdowne? 

Think of it; he was called upon by Mr. As- 
quith to leave his munition-providing and settle 

276 



the Home Rule question that had flamed into 
rebellion and turned the fairest part of Dublin 
into a heap of burning ruins. 

At once he accepted the task that had baffled 
English statesmanship for fifty years. He 
brought Mr. Redmond and Sir Edward Carson 
into one room and within a few days drew them 
to an agreement and set forth his settlement, 
which was accepted by Mr. Asquith and the 
Coalition Government. But in a week or so 
the oligarchy had got over its scare; the soldiers 
had mastered the rebels; the revolt, the Lords 
thought, was at an end. At once Lord Lans- 
downe coolly got up in the House of Lords, de- 
clared that Mr. Lloyd George's settlement was 
temporary and would have to be conducted by 
Dublin Castle as in the past. Mr. Redmond 
protested and appealed to Mr. Asquith. Mr. 
Asquith, who was, so to speak, the electric clock 
which registered the dynamic energies of the 
moment, bowed his head to Lord Lansdownc 
and murmured, "We'll see; we'll seel" To 
every one's astonishment. Lord Lansdowne won 
without a struggle and combative Lloyd George 
took the astounding rebuff lying down. 

I am afraid it looks as if he had given up the 
cause of moral and social reform and accepted 
the present aristocratic constitution of English 
society. During the war he was always against 
the workingmen: he condemned the shipwrights 

277 



for striking as he had condemned the Welsh 
miners for striking. 

I must again and again reiterate it, for it is one 
of the highest moral lessons of the war: Eng- 
land will not win anything worth having unless 
she gets rid of her effete oligarchy, and by some 
great act of social justice, such as giving the 
land back to the people of England, reanimates 
the downtrodden millions of her wage-slaves. 
If England had treated her poorer classes as 
well as Germany has treated her workmen, 
Lloyd George would not have had to complain 
of their apathy and want of spirit. Men fight 
for life in measure as life is worth having. One- 
third of the population of Great Britain is al- 
ways on the verge of starvation. Why should 
the starving poor fight for the country which 
has condemned them to suffering and misery? 

Give them hope of independence and comfort 
and you won't have to complain of their want of 
spirit. Give them the land which is theirs and 
the railroads and the mines and the manhood 
suffrage which should be theirs and you will 
have again the spirit of the French sans culottes, 
who without training and almost without equip- 
ment beat the Germans at Valmy and thus laid, 
as Goethe saw, the foundations of the modern 
world. 

The name of Lloyd George is often coupled 
with that of Lincoln. 

278 



The comparison is not far-fetched. 

Both men sprang from the people; both gave 
repeated proofs of democratic sympathy; both 
got their opportunity in war. And in spite of 
the reverence we all feel for Lincoln, it must be 
admitted that Lloyd George's achievements in 
the first years of tbe war were at least equal to 
Lincoln's in the same time. He organized labor 
with the most extraordinary success and in the 
Home Rule settlement showed rarer quality still 
— a power of sympathy and comprehension that 
marks him as a great Reconciler. 

Lincoln's greatness was shown in his deep 
humanity; he always preferred pardon to pun- 
ishment and lately Colonel Watterson, of the 
Louisville Courier-Journal, has proved that 
even in the last six months of the war, when the 
South was beaten and on the verge of collapse, 
Lincoln offered the Confederates the most ex- 
traordinarily generous terms; he went so far as 
to oflfer to pay the full price for the slaves he 
had already freed; "he did not want victory/* 
he said, "much less a triumph; but an abiding 
and healing peace." 

Lloyd George took almost the same stand ; but 
in the peace negotiations he has forgotten his 
humanity. 

Lloyd George stands at the parting of the 
ways; his conduct of the war has given him 

279 



power such as no one has had in England since 
Chatham. How will he use it? 

From his management of the recent election 
it looks as if he would go on in the old, bad 
adroit way. He told the electors and the newly 
enfranchised millions of women that he would 
make Germany pay for the war, and the electo- 
rate believed his impudent, ridiculous assurance. 
The grateful electors said practically what they 
have always said in like case : "We trust you and 
will wait." But he must have known that he was 
promising the impossible: Germany is utterly 
unable, even if she were willing, to pay for the 
war. In order to retrieve his position and re- 
build his dwindling popularity he promised to 
have the Kaiser tried in London. But such 
clap-trap could not win even the English masses : 
they are above such petty malignity. He prom- 
ised, then, disarmament, the end of conscription, 
the use of the land for the soldiers, the nationali- 
zation of the railways — all these promises are 
still unfulfilled, indeed their realization in the 
near future manifestly depends rather on the 
spirit of the workingman than the reforming 
zeal of the politician. 

Still at any moment Lloyd George's early re- 
ligious training may come to his aid; or some 
touch of imagination. 

If Lloyd George will not be the savior of the 
people, nevertheless they shall find salvation. 

280 



Sooner or later a social revolution will do for 
England what her politicians refuse to do. But 
Lloyd George has an unique opportunity; he 
partly sees it; will he at length realize it and 
set his hand to the work? If he will nation- 
alize the English land and English railroads and 
mines, he will rank in the future with Lincoln. 
If not, he, too, will be like Mr. Chamberlain — 
"a lost leader" with absurd promises to show 
that he could not read the signs of the times. 



281 




VISCOUNT GREY 

MET Viscount Grey for the first 
time some thirty years ago at a din- 
ner given by Sir Charles Dilke, who 
had been Under-Secretary for For- 
eign Affairs and had made his rep- 
utation there as very painstaking, easy of ap- 
proach, and fair-minded. 

When I shook hands with my host on entering 
the drawing room he drew me aside. 

"Edward Grey is dining with us to-night," he 
said. "You ought to know him; he's extraordi- 
nary and will go a long way. I'm curious to see 
what you'll think of him." 

A little later, he took me across to the fire- 
place and introduced me to Grey, who was 
standing just beside the vivid, speaking minia- 
ture portrait of Keats, which had been given to 
Dilke's grandfather by the poet himself. Grey's 
quiet was the first thing that struck me, and the 
carved, strong features and deep, earnest eyes. 
He said nothing particular, did not seem to re- 
gard it as a duty to talk, yet was perfectly cour- 
teous. He was tall, five feet ten, I should guess, 
but looked taller because he was very thin. 
At first one didn't notice that his shoulders were 
broad and his leanness the hard fitness of the 
trained athlete. All Grey's qualities come to 

282 




'^1 



Right Hon. Viscount Grey 



' ^^ ' 



,4«tl*^ 






you slowly; reveal themselves one after the other, 
in intimacy; yet he is not shy nor has he the 
conventional pose of reticence as "good form": 
reserve is natural to him. 

Though a Member of Parliament v^ho had 
not yet succeeded, he did not appear anxious to 
impress the journalist, not desirous even to show^ 
his powers, and yet somehow or other he was 
impressive — called forth curiosity. His face 
was of the type known as Roman; the bird of 
prey type, not thin, but chiseled like a cameo; 
high-beaked nose, iron-firm jaw, broad fore- 
head; strength, the characteristic of it all — 
strength and self-mastery and assured poise — a 
puzzling fellow: what was his secret? 

At dinner he never led the talk, never tried 
to; but when spoken to replied quietly, without 
emphasis ; he brought forth, I remember, one or 
two platitudes which, though well worn, seemed 
to have some weight when he used them. He 
possesses eminently the characteristic which 
Emerson gives the English gentleman : "He says 
less than he means, and never more." Grey's 
tone was pitched low to unobtrusiveness. 

My hasty judgment stands on record against 
me. I wrote of him next day: "There have 
been several generations of Greys but Sir Ed- 
ward Grey, the M. P., though the youngest of 
the lot, is really the oldest; he must have been 
born old ; dried up in premature prudence." 

283 



I'm not ashamed of this offhand judgment, for 
Grey is extraordinarily prudent and his reserve 
was misinterpreted by other observers. Harold 
Frederic, perhaps the ablest journalist the 
United States ever sent to London, formed much 
the same opinion as I did. After dinner we 
came together with Dilke for a final powwow 
before separating, and Frederic's verdict was: 
"Grey says nothing because he has nothing to 
say." 

English social life is a good deal less talkative 
than French or American life, and we had both 
met dozens of Englishmen who were very silent 
because they were inarticulate or empty-headed, 
and so we were ready to let prejudice judge. 

It is only fair to say that Dilke did not agree 
with us. He was a born Parliamentarian; by 
this I mean he knew the British Parliament 
better than other men and loved it more. If you 
wanted a fair judgment of any British politician, 
Dilke was your man. For thirty years he was a 
sort of Parliamentary mirror that would give 
you as true a reflection of Biggar or Parnell, 
the most hated of Irishmen, as of Gladstone or 
Lord Hartington, the most respected of Eng- 
lishmen. 

"You're both mistaken," he said positively; 
"Grey has made a great impression in the House 
and apparently without trying to make any im- 
pression, and that's a good sign." 

284 



"What do you mean 'without trying?' I asked. 

"I mean," he replied, "that instead of picking 
some big debate and a crowded House for his 
best speeches, he just gets up in an ordinary way 
and yet makes his mark. Grey has the great 



manner." 



"What an aristocrat you are at heart, Dilke," 
cried Frederic, "in spite of your so-called Rad- 
icalism. Another genius earmarked by the 
governing classes for great place because he 
belongs to the sacrosanct caste and has nice 



manners." 



"So you'll concede his manners,'* replied 
Dilke, laughing. "You know he's an old Wyke- 
hamist, and the motto of Winchester is: "Man- 
ners makyth man." While Dilke went on to 
explain Winchester College to Frederic, telling 
of its old foundation and how some of the 
scholars still ate off thick flat oaken platters as 
their forbears had done four centuries before, I 
couldn't help noticing how the phrase "manners 
makyth man" had been degraded in England. 
Of course, at first the word "manners" was the 
English translation of the Latin mores (French, 
moeurs), and stood for customs, morals, rather 
than mere "manners." The modern English 
have practically altered "character makes a 
man" into "manners make a man" — a degra- 
dation, I think soul-revealing. 

Meanwhile the talk went on. Dilke told us 
285 



that Grey came of an old Whig family, and had 
the Whig tradition of modernity and urbanity. 
Frederic asked him about Grey's means, and we 
found out that when Grey came of age he had 
inherited some two thousand or three thousand 
pounds a year (say about fifteen thousand dol- 
lars), and a very nice house with some two 
thousand acres of land. 

"He's comfortably off," Dilke concluded, 
"though he married, very young, a neighbor of 
his in Northumberland, a Miss Dorothy Wid- 
drington of Newton Hall, who also comes of 
famous stock. ..." 

Though my first published impression of 
Grey was summary and harsh, it created a cer- 
tain stir; yet it did not alter Grey's cordial man- 
ner to me in the slightest. When we met he 
was always very courteous. A little later I found 
occasion to praise him warmly; neither praise 
nor blame had the smallest effect on his imper- 
turbable, smiling politeness. Evidently his quiet 
reserve covered a certain depth — ^what depth? 

Grey's immediate success in the House of 
Commons is very characteristic, and is one of 
the best things I can say of the House after a 
quarter of a century's knowledge of it. He spoke 
seldom and never at great length; said nothing 
novel, yet arrested attention — created an inter- 
est in his personality and left an impression of 
most scrupulous honor. 

286 



After being some six years in Parliament he 
was made Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs 
in 1892, when he was only just thirty. Lord 
Rosebery, his chief, being in the House of Lords, 
the brunt of the work fell on Grey in the Com- 
mons. In an hour he confirmed his reputation, 
a reputation of the sort that's most esteemed in 
England, a reputation for high character. And 
every year of office afterwards increased his 
authority in the House and his influence till he 
came to be regarded with a certain awe. 

His unique position is due to a variety of 
causes, personal and political, but the chief 
cause is undoubtedly his manner. England is 
the only country in the world where a man may 
win to the front by mere manners, but the man- 
ners must be English. Every nation has its 
ideal, and the governing classes in England, who 
give the tone to the House of Commons and the 
House of Lords, cherish a peculiar ideal of 
manner, the manner of a cold, courteous, quiet 
master. Lord Lansdowne has a good deal of 
this manner, and in itself it is sufficient to ac- 
count for his influence as leader of the Conserv- 
ative party in the Upper House. It is rare, in- 
deed, that anyone in the House of Lords raises 
his voice; emotion or passion — excitement of 
any kind — is regarded as a sign of weakness. 

Grey's manner will suit the House of Lords 
even better than it suited the Commons. Be- 

287 



sides, it is the fitting vesture of his spirit and 
curiously perfect. 

Let us study it in its effects. Grey's manner 
naturally appealed to the Conservatives first; 
very soon they threw down their arms before it 
and declined to attack him. "Grey's all right," 
they said; "a true-blue Englishman." And 
when in the South African War he stood aloof 
from his party, in favor of war, they took him 
to their heart of hearts. Their belief that he 
was an aristocrat in mind as well as manner 
appeared to be justified. "Of course he's an 
Imperialist," they chortled ; "he has no sympathy 
with the Radical crew and their peace-at-any- 
price rot; you can count on Grey; Grey's a great 
Englishman." 

There was danger for a year or two, danger 
that Grey, so honored by his opponents, would 
yield to the flattering pressure and become too 
masterful, too Imperialistic, too Conservative, 
in fine. From the beginning the Radicals were 
inclined to dislike and to distrust him ; his reti- 
cence, his balance, his studied moderation, were 
offensive to them ; the Labor members and Radi- 
cals, inclined to suspect good manners as a mask, 
detested his suave imperturbability. It was an 
advantage, they admitted, that Grey should con- 
ciliate the Conservatives, but no one could do 
this, they argued, unless he was at heart one of 
them. For years they refused him any cordial 
support. 238 



When Lloyd George brought in his Socialist 
state-insurance measures and spoke with pas- 
sionate sympathy for the half-paid working 
classes and their wrongs, the ordinary Liberals 
were as much alarmed as the crusted Tories. 

Everyone who counted was against him; yet 
soon it was whispered about the House with 
wonder that Grey was a thoroughgoing sup- 
porter. The air cleared as by magic. The 
sullen Radical distrust vanished like vapor. 

From that moment on Grey reigned in the 
House, and, strange to say, it was the extreme 
members on both sides who built up his pedestal. 
The Tory was delighted to recount his feats at 
tennis: "About the best player in England, 
don't ye know." And even the Socialists found 
pleasure in the fact that his chief recreation was 
fly fishing, and not hunting or shooting or any- 
thing that resembled luxury and entailed waste. 

For five or six years before the war Grey had 
applause enough to turn a strong head and no 
opposition of any sort. Perhaps that explains in 
part why he prepared for war and when the 
moment came was willing to make it, without 
consulting his colleagues, as an autocrat. 

Besides doing excellently well whatever he 
undertakes, Grey has other virtues. In an aris- 
tocratic society everything is known; but no 
word has ever been breathed against Grey in his 
private relations. Thou8:h neither a Puritan nor 

289 



unduly strait-laced, his married life was under- 
stood to be very happy, and when his wife was 
killed a few years ago in a carriage accident, 
just in front of his own gates, he was known to 
have suffered intensely. 

The man is all of a piece; no flaw in his un- 
sullied armor. 

Now I must come to his soul and depict the 
heart of him. Fortunately the chief features are 
distinct. Like all of us, his best is discovered in 
his admirations: what we love reveals us, if it 
does not betray. Above all writers. Grey ad- 
mires Wordsworth, and Wordsworth's utmost 
reach of spirit is to be found in his delight in 
nature on the one hand and on the other in his 
passionate love of England and the highest Eng- 
lish ideals. 

Everyone remembers the famous passage in 
which all Wordsworth's joy in nature found ex- 
pression ; it begins : 
Nature never did betray the heart that loved her- 

Grey feels the appeal of this just as strongly 
as the poet felt it. His fly-fishing is hardly more 
than an excuse to gratify his love of nature and 
his delight in solitary communion with her. 
There is a natural melancholy in such a spirit. 
Every lover of the ideal must often be disap- 
pointed and saddened through his intercourse 
with men and women, and he will turn eagerly 
from the silly, self-admiring puppets to the tran- 

290 



quil beauty of woodland, lake, and mountain foi 
recreation and healing. Viscount Grey finds 
himself in the ordered loveliness of the English 
countryside. 

And Wordsworth's love of England and what 
he imagines that England stands for in the world 
is even more intense and passionate than his love 
of nature. In spite of his disgust at the "sordid- 
ness" of England — "the fen of stagnant waters," 
Wordsworth had all an Englishman's belief in 
his country's unique greatness and destiny: 

. ... In our halls is hung 
Armory of the invincible Knights of old: 
We must be free or die, who speak the tongue 
That Shakespeare spake; the faith and morals 

hold 
Which Milton held. — In everything we are 

sprung 
Of Earth's first blood, have titles manifold. 

Edward Grey loves England like this; in- 
indeed, his love for her is the motive power of 
his life, and his belief in her the passionate faith 
of his soul. To say he would die for her gladly 
is to put the fire of his patriotism too coldly; 
he wants nothing in life now but to spend and 
be spent for her; he has measured himself; he 
would far rather be another Chatham than a 
Lenin. His shortcoming is that he does not see 
the corresponding German belief in the same 
clear reasonable light. 

291 



Is Grey, then, a great man? It is very hard 
to say; he has not yet finished his work. He 
has always shown rigid strength of character. 
In this war he has proved himself a consummate 
diplomatist, carrying public opinion with him, 
even the public opinion of all the neutral States 
for the first year, at least, with perfect ease, and 
yet to some of them England's objects must have 
appeared sufficiently sordid. 

The German papers, even the official organs, 
all condemn Grey; call him a "liar"; talk of 
"his genius for duplicity" ; but independent jour- 
nals in Italy, as in the United States and in 
Spanish South America, are loud in his praise. 
Whom are we to believe? 

I have tried to give my readers the facts, so 
that they can form their own judgment. I have 
a high opinion of Grey's honesty, sincerity, and 
nobility of purpose, and a great liking for the 
man himself, yet I cannot but wish that he had 
kept the peace in 1914 as he kept it in 1911. I 
believe his opponents are just as responsible for 
the war as he is; but there is no doubt that if he 
had really wished it, he could have held back 
both France and Russia and maintained peace. 
We know now that six of the Cabinet resigned 
when they found that Grey had thrust England 
into the struggle. But four withdrew their 
resignations when Asquith reminded them how 
necessary it was to show a united front to the foe. 

292 



Still the fault may not be counted against 
Grey in history. Bismarck admitted that he had 
made the war with France, yet Bismarck stands 
and will stand as the greatest statesman and 
leader of men since the first Napoleon. But 
Bismarck waged only victorious wars and cer- 
tainly strengthened and enlarged his country. 
Bismarck, too, though a Junker and imperialist 
to boot, is memorable chiefly because of his work 
for the welfare of the laboring classes. He 
practically banished starvation from Germany 
and insured the destitute against the worst results 
of competitive labor; in his pity for weakness 
the strong man laid broad bases for eternity in 
the affection of mankind. Will Grey do as 
much? I doubt it; yet one can only wait and 
hope. 

One fact gives me pause, makes me wonder 
whether any English statesmen will ever be able 
to rise above the conventions of English public 
life. 

Viscount Grey began his official career as 
Under-Secretary to Lord Rosebery, who was 
Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Now, when For- 
eign Secretary himself, he appointed Neil Prim- 
rose, the youngest son of Lord Rosebery, his 
Under-Secretary. Neil Primrose was only 
thirty-two years of age; had only been in Parli- 
ment since 1910, and had given no sign of com- 
manding abilty or even of singular suitability 

293 



for that office. He was the son of his father, and, 
therefore, preferred before abler men. 

The governing classes in England all hold to- 
gether and regard political office as their ap- 
panage; indeed, they act as if all the high offices 
of state were to be shared out among them and 
their supporters, and so, for the most part, they 
have mediocrities as dignitaries and the purblind 
as guides, and the nation suffers in consequence. 
It is more than a pity that Edward Grey did 
not hold himself above such weakness. I'm 
pretty sure I am right in attributing the appoint- 
ment to him : he had so much influence that Mr. 
Asquith would never have dreamt of appoint- 
ing anyone in his department without consulting 
Grey; and Grey probably reconciled the ap- 
pointment to his conscience by thinking of it as 
a graceful compliment to his old chief, and Grey 
is nothing if not loyal. And now, willy-nilly, I 
must tell of his shortcomings. 

His chief stumbling-block has been that he 
does not know German or Germany; he does not 
even know French; his mental outlook is insular 
and limited. He saw how rapidly Germany was 
growing as an industrial competitor of England 
in wealth and power; but he had no conception 
of the virtues which made her growth inevitable. 
Grey's reputation, like many more important 
things, depends on the outcome of the war and 
the aftermath. 

294 



If the Allies had overwhelmed Germany 
quickly, he would have been a popular hero in 
England and France; his failings would all have 
been forgotten ; his virtues belauded. 

The war lasted so long, cost so much, and 
brought forth so little good that Grey's reputa- 
tion has suffered. The outward and visible sign 
of this is that he has been "kicked upstairs" and 
made a member of the House of Lords — a peer- 
age as a sort of consolation prize. The best 
thing I can say for Grey is that no personal 
advantage, no honor, will ever console him for 
having led his country into a war which has 
already cost more in blood and treasure than 
England can get out of it. 

The war has shown England's strength and 
England's weakness; but alas I she is being 
praised for diplomacy which she does not ad- 
mire and has failed in the field where she 
thought herself supreme. Everyone knows that 
if she had not induced America to enter the war, 
she would have been forced to conclude even an 
ignoble peace before the summer of 1917. True, 
she has got the German ships and most of the 
German-African colonies; true, her great com- 
mercial rival is lamed if not ruined, but the 
price paid has been enormous, altogether dispro- 
portionate, she is inclined to believe. 

Moreover, the war has revealed Germany's 
strength, the strength of order, discipline, learn- 

295 



ing and socialized industries. Vaguely in spite 
of her customary habit of self-praise, England 
feels she has not come brilliantly out of the des- 
perate trial and consequently is inclined to blame 
Grey. And what does Grey feel? Doubtful, I 
imagine; but with a certain faint hope in the 
League of Nations and a warmth about the 
heart when he remembers that the great plateau 
of Central Africa from the Cape to Cairo is now 
English — a. landlord pride in broad acres. 



296 




George Clemenceau 




GEORGES CLEMENCEAU: 

A First Rate Fighting Man ! 

N THE third year of the world- 
war the task of governing France 
had become exceedingly difficult. 
From the very beginning Ministers 
had worked with the Socialists in or- 
der to buttress their popularity. But in the sum- 
mer of 1917 Albert Thomas and other socialists 
refused to enter the Cabinet and Ministry after 
Ministry fell, partly through their vote, partly 
through the growing discontent. France was 
tired of the war; as the book "Under Fire," 
showed, the soldiers in the trenches were all 
wearied of the fighting. They saw or thought 
they saw that every inch of French soil would 
have to be bought back with torrents of French 
blood ; they didn't think the game worth the can- 
dle. More than once French soldiers threw 
down their weapons and left the field; it must 
be admitted that there was a general belief that 
in fighting was no freedom and from bloodshed 
no deliverance. 

The Socialists feeling the support of the army 
behind them, stood more and more strongly 
against the prosecution of the war, more and 

297 



more resolutely in favor of an immediate peace. 
On the other hand, the sentiment of the govern- 
ing classes was to hold with England and prose- 
cute the war to victory at all costs. It was the 
dominance of this class that brought Clemen- 
ceau, the most masterful Radical, back to power. 
Every representative of the French people knew 
that he was the best fighting man they had; he 
was hated personally but accepted as a last hope. 

And when you ask why he was and is so de- 
tested you are told that for twenty years h^ 
brought Ministry after Ministry to a fall till he 
became known as the "Tombeur des Ministeres," 
or "The Wrecker," but that is not the real ex- 
planation of his unpopularity. The truth is he 
is too big a man to be popular and he has besides 
a bitter vein in him which most people dislike. 
For instance, almost as soon as he came to power 
again he was asked by some Socialist in the 
Chamber what were his plans. He replied: "I 
have only one plan, to win the war and drive the 
invaders out of France." And then he paused 
and turned to the House, "and when I have suc- 
ceeded you can bring in a vote of censure on me 
and it will no doubt be carried unanimously 
with the aid of the good friends who now cheer 



me. 



This complete disillusionment; this pun- 
gent bitterness is the very soul-characteristic of 
Georges Clemenceau and such a pitiless naked 

298 



vision of reality is always and everywhere un- 
popular. 

Georges Clemenceau is almost a great man, 
utterly unlike the politicians, the Briands, the 
Vivianis, the Asquiths and the Wilsons, clever 
self-seekers and speakers. There is something 
dynamic in the man ; he is almost of the race of 
the Bismarcks. Let me try to give a picture of 
him, body, mind and soul. He is short and 
sturdily built, with vital organs, heart, etc., dis- 
proportionately large and strong, with a good 
round head and small blue-gray eyes set wide a- 
part; the forehead broad like the chin and jaws. 
He listens intently, then decides abruptly, will- 
force rather than thought the first characteristic 
of him. 

He is one of the most famous duellists of his 
time, the most dreaded opponent with both 
sword and pistol in France since Paul de Cas- 
sagnac died. Everyone remembers his historical 
quarrel with Paul Deroulede. His enemies had 
accused him of being opposed to the alliance 
with Russia; forged letters were circulated to 
prove that he had sold French interests to Eng- 
land. Deroulede, a hot-headed but honest pa- 
triot, believed all the slanders, persuaded him- 
self too, that Clemenceau's own colleagues were 
suspicious of him but afraid to attack him be- 
cause of his skill with pen and sword, so he made 
himself the mouthpiece of the general hatred 

299 



and denounced Clemenceau as a traitor to his 
country. 

The whole assembly sat with indrawn breath 
wondering how Clemenceau would answer. He 
walked quietly to the Tribune and then: "M. 
Deroulede, you lie." 

They met next day and parted without injury. 
Clemenceau, recognizing the honesty of his en- 
emy, fired in the air. A week later the forgeries 
were discovered, but already the mischief wa? 
done. Clemenceau had to resign; his political 
career appeared to be ended. 

As soon as he lost his premiership in 1908 
Clemenceau turned to writing and showed him- 
self a fine workman if not a master in the new 
field. He produced a play which filled the 
Renaissance theatre for a good many nights; he 
wrote a novel, too, "The Strongest" (Les Plus 
Forts), a satire of social conditions too acrid to 
be popular, and a book of philosophic essays 
which gave him rank as political thinker. For- 
tunately I can give my readers some idea of his 
gift as a writer. 

The other evening at the French Theatre in 
New York a little Chinese play by Clemenceau 
was given which seemed to me peculiarly char- 
acteristic of the man. A blind Chinese gentle- 
man is presented as very happy in the love of 
his wife and the aflFection of friends. He recov- 
ers his sight and finds out that his wife is betray- 

SQO 



ing him with his best friend and his hired com- 
panion is cheating him of his fame as a poet. 
After a series of such experiences, he blinds him- 
self again willingly: "One must be blind to be 
happy," he says. The moral is harshly acid, 
but has some truth in it. 

There's a short story of Clemenceau still more 
biting. It is called "Simon, fils de Simon." 

Simon, son of Simon, plays in the lottery and 
prays to Jehovah for success, promising him a 
fifth part of the gain, but he wins nothing. Then 
he invokes the God of the Christians, making the 
same promise, and is awarded the Grand Prize. 
The coffers of the church grow no richer for his 
good fortune. "The proof that Jahveh is su- 
perior to the Christian God," he reasons is that 
he knew that "I could never bring myself to part 
with a hundred thousand florins. He knoweth 
our hearts. He does not expect the impossible 
from us. The Christian God was deceived by 
my good faith, of which I was for a time the 
dupe myself. Jahveh alone is great, my son." 

Clemenceau is the only politician in the world 
to-day who can write plays and stories that de- 
serve consideration. 

In his own way, too, Clemenceau is one of the 
most effective speakers living. Like everything 
he does, his speaking is intensely characteristic ; 
he stands rigidly.talks slowly,deliberately rather, 
as if he were weighing every word and seldom 
raises or alters the inflection of his voice. But 

301 



his clear incisive tone compels attention, espe- 
cially in a Chamber where everyone is inclined 
to be wordy and rhetorical. There is no orna- 
ment, no appeal, no wish to round out a period ; 
a clear frank acrid statement of facts, with nov. 
and again a biting phrase, a word cruel in its 
sarcasm. 

One can get some idea of his power of retort 
from a story told of his fi^st premiership. He 
had hardly assumed power when a well-known 
selfseeking prefect called upon him and began: 

"I hope you'll believe M. Clemenceau, that I 
am not here to adore the rising sun." 

At once Clemenceau interrupted. "I under- 
stand ; you don't know on which side to look for 
it, eh?" 

His power as a political writer can be meas- 
ured by one incident. It was the Dreyfus affair 
that really brought him back to power. He was 
among the first to be convinced of the Jewish 
officer's innocence, and at once opened the col- 
umns of his paper to Zola and other defenders. 
His own articles were able, quite as able as those 
of Zola; indeed, it was Clemenceau suggested 
the famous ''J' accuse" of the papers which made 
Zola's defence of Dreyfus rank forever with Vol- 
taire's defence of Calas. 

There are great things in the man. He has 
not only labored indef atigably as First Minister, 
but has given his whole strength to encourage 
the army leaders. 

302 



No matter how heavy or difficult his own 
work was, again and again in those dreadful six 
months from March to September, 1918, the old 
man would leave Paris early in the morning and 
hasten by train and motorcar to the point of at- 
tack. There he would consult with General 
Foch or General Gouraud, as the case might be, 
and was always full of fight. Whoever might 
doubt he never doubted. He was the hero soul 
of France incarnate and assured of final victory. 

There is a magnanimity in him which reminds 
one of Bismarck and Frederick the Great. It is 
known that the French only instituted the cen- 
sorship because of the English example. The 
first act of Clemenceau when he was recently 
made Premier for the second time, was to abol- 
ish the political censorship. When questioned 
in the Chamber he said quietly that he believed 
in freedom both of thought and speech and 
didn't mind what anyone said of him or his gov- 
ernment. An opponent tried to score off him by 
saying that they all hoped he would free the soil 
of France. 

"I shall do my best," replied Clemenceau, 
tartly; "in the meantime it is something to have 
freed the soul of France." 

The whole Chamber applauded. 

It is not to denigrate him that I say in the 
Peace Conference, he showed the defects of his 
disillusionment and intense combativencss. He 

303 



wished to lame Germany once for all and render 
her powerless; his fighting spirit prevented him 
seeing that this was the moment to conquer by 
high-souled generosity. If he had refused to 
take Alsace-Lorraine or only taken such parts as 
would be accorded by an ethnological Commis- 
sion, he would have shown his faith in justice 
and right and would have proved himself the 
superior of Bismarck. Bismarck, it will be re- 
membered, did not wish to annex Lorraine after 
'70; it was Moltke who insisted on keeping 
Metz. Alsace, Bismarck held, was German in 
every sense. 

But Clemenceau has taken Alsace as well 
Lorraine, and the coal-mines of the Saar that 
are completely German and he wanted the whole 
of the German Rhine provinces to boot. He is 
shortsighted in his greed and has overreached 
himself. Germany will have Strassburg before 
there can be any enduring peace. Clemenceau 
said the other day that in the Peace Conference 
he won more than he expected to win, more than 
France ever hoped to win. That's the fact; 
thanks to Mr. Wilson he has won too much. 

He is all of a piece. He is the only French- 
man of position in 1871 who declared that they 
should not make peace with Germany, but fight 
the thing to a finish. Everybody sees now that 
he was wrong; it was his fighting spirit and not 

304 



his wisdom that dictated his counsel, and that 
fact we must today keep in mind. 

Let me glance back for a moment at his youth 
and early training and see if his past throws any 
new light on his peculiar powers. 

Twenty-five years ago Clemenceau was a great 
friend of Sir Charles Dilke, one of the few Eng- 
lishmen who knew French as well as he knew 
English and was besides a confirmed Radical. 

Shortly after Dilke's fall he gave me a letter 
to Clemenceau. Dilke was an able man, but he 
had nothing dynamic, no touch of greatness in 
him. Clemenceau was of a higher class. I was 
very eager to know about his duels and was as- 
tonished to find he practiced either sword or 
pistol almost every day. 

"Fencing," he declared, "is the best form of 
exercise that anyone can take; it keeps the eye 
and hand and foot in perfect trim and tune; if 
there is a weak point in you it will show up on 
the ^terrain.' And if there is a weak point in 
your mind," he would add, laughingly, "you 
will find it in the cut and thrust of a debate in 
the Chamber." He loves fighting for its own 
sake; he is a perfect incarnation of the Gallic 

I wanted to know about his early life, and he 
told me that his father was a stalwart Repub- 
lican and had been imprisoned by Napoleon III 
at the Coup d'Etat. 

His mother was so well educated that she 
305 



was able to prepare him for high school. He 
spoke of himself always as a product of the 
great French revolution. 

Before he was twenty he was thrown into pris- 
on for crying "Vive la Republique," during the 
celebration of an imperial anniversary. He 
served his time in jail and then came to Ameri- 
ca. Between 1865 and 1869 he lived in New 
York and in Stamford, Conn. He established 
himself as a medical practitioner at West 12th 
Street and for some time was well known about 
Washington Square. 

He was never interested, he told me, in medi- 
cine, though his thesis on anatomy, a presenta- 
tion copy of which can be found in the Astor 
Library, is an admirable treatise. 

Clemenceau learned a great deal in America ; 
but he is chary of saying what he thinks of it; he 
avoids unprofitable condemnation by an epi- 
gram: "Americans have no original ideas and 
no coffee fit to drink." 

It is not to be wondered at that his judgment 
of America is somewhat summary and severe. 
He was not able to make a living as a doctor. 
Though he knew English remarkably well, he 
was not sufficiently master of it for his mind to 
move freely in that rather heavy harness, so he 
suffered a good deal from poverty in New York 
and finally got employed by a Miss Aiken in a 
girls' boarding school at Stamford as a teacher 

306 



of French. That America could use Georges 
Clemenceau in no higher way than as teacher of 
French in a young ladies' seminary is sufficient 
criticism of our civilization to anyone who un- 
derstands the full significance of the fact. 

While a teacher he translated the political 
economy of John Stuart Mill into French and 
thereby showed the deeper affinities of his mind. 
Like the Englishman he was a believer in indi- 
vidualism and therefore in liberty in the widest 
sense. But like Mill, too, he had an active sense 
of social justice; thought that employment 
should be found by the state for anyone who 
wanted it and that a minimum wage and a very 
high minimum wage should be given to all 
working men and women. A born individual- 
ist, he yet believed in the nationalization of rail- 
ways, telegraphs, telephones and all public utili- 
ties; but he has always felt that progress comes 
through the gifted individual and by virtue of 
his efforts and in no other way. 

He fell in love with one of his pupils and mar- 
ried her in June, 1869. A year later he returned 
with his wife to France. After some years Mrs. 
Clemenceau obtained a divorce and Clemenceau 
married again. 

During the Franco-Prussian war Clemenceau 
was mayor of Montmartre and one of his duties 
was to see that 150,000 men were properly fed. 
He thus became responsible for large amounts of 

307 



money, and foreseeing the accusations that might 
be brought against any official's honesty in those 
trying times, he took the precaution from the be- 
ginning of engaging an expert accountant to 
take charge of and disburse every cent of the 
public funds. 

At the end of the war, though mayor of the 
most popular district of Paris, he stood out 
against the Commune; yet for five long years he 
worked for a general amnesty for all the Com- 
munards. He thought them mistaken but after 
all they were Frenchmen. From 1871 to 1875 
he was a member of the Paris Municipal Coun- 
cil of which he became President. 

In 70 he was elected member from Mont- 
martre to the Chamber of Deputies where at 
once he was hailed as leader by the Radicals. 

Clemenceau soon became more a subject of 
dread and dislike to his own side than to his op- 
ponents. He founded a newspaper. La Justice, 
a great daily, and used it as a weapon. He de- 
stroyed the de Broglie administration. He first 
helped and then overthrew Boulanger. He 
caused the fall of Jules Grevy, and of Jules Fer- 
ry. He wrecked the activities and position of 
Freycinet again and again. 

Yet his own policy was a consistent radical 
Republicanism, clear and practical ; he stood for 
the realization of all that the first, great revol- 
ution had dreamed. He was wiser than his 

308 



rivals ; he opposed the alliance with Russia, de- 
termined that his country should not be joined 
in close friendship with a despotism. He urged 
constantly the development of French resources 
to the utmost. 

In November, 1906, he became Premier. As 
some one said, "the Conscience of France" came 
to power. He chose for his Minister of Foreign 
Affairs, his friend Stephen Pichon, who served 
him again in 1918 and 1919. Both Pichon 
and Clemenceau were soon tested. In those 
years the Kaiser was continually rattling his 
sword; he had bullied over the Schnaebele af- 
fair; he had got Delcasse dismissed; now the 
Casablanca incident gave him another opportu- 
nity; would France again give in? Clemenceau 
refused the German demand, not with the courte- 
ous phrases of diplomacy, but flatly and without 
qualification. In November, 1908, he called the 
Kaiser^s bluff. Strange to say, this triumph let 
to his fall. ' 

Delcass^ his old enemy, rose up suddenly and 
overthrew his Ministry. A discussion over naval 
affairs sprang up almost overnight. There were 
scandals, investigations, controversies. For the 
first time in his Parliamentary career, Clemen- 
ceau lost his head. At least he lost his temper, 
declared that Delcasse had "humiliated France," 
and in consequence was himself ousted from of- 
fice. He kept his position, however, in the Scn- 

309 



ate. In 1912 he overthrew Caillaux' Ministry. 
In 1913 he wrecked Briand's Cabinet on the 
issue of proportional representation. At the be- 
ginning of the war he started a new paper, 
L'Homme Libre — The Freeman — ^which was 
suppressed; at once he started it again as "The 
Man in Chains." 

In April, 1918, he was outspoken in his cen- 
sure of the management of the allied offensive. 
He was somewhat scornful of America's long- 
continued neutrality, but was enthusiastic in his 
welcome when the United States at length en- 
tered the war. 

And now what is there to hope or fear from 
Clemenceau? First of all, he is seventy-seven 
years old; all the leading politicians in France 
dislike him; the Socialists dislike him the more 
because he sympathizes with some of their aims 
and yet holds himself aloof. Has he done any- 
thing new? Has he done anything new since 
the Armistice? Is he likely to do anything mem- 
orable in the future? 

I am fain to believe that he reached his high- 
est height in the summer of 1918 when he forced 
the unification of command under Foch by 
threatening to make peace with Germany if the 
suggestion were rejected and made himself as I 
have described, the life and soul of the French 
offensive. 

Now he declares that after all the peace ar- 
310 



rangements have been carried out he will retire 
from political life; his life's work rounded, 
crowned if you will, by an unique triumph. But 
such complete success proclaims his limitations. 
Clemenceau belongs to the day and hour and the 
future will owe him little or nothing. He is as 
fine an embodiment of the French fighting spirit 
as time has produced; but France has always 
been rich in great fighters ; he is absolutely hon- 
est, too. in a greedy age, and singularly disinter- 
ested; in private life he can be magnanimom;, 
but when called on to play statesman he showed 
himself greedy and vindictive and thereby laid 
upon his country too heavy a burden. 

Cromwell, surely a fighting man if ever there 
was one, when asked once about his parents, said 
that he loved his mother, but always admired his 
father intensely because he was never satisfied 
with any bargain in which he got the best of the 
other man. Even the Romans who thought it 
well to conquer the proud, knew that it was wise 
to be generous to the defeated. 

When will politicians learn that no treaty or 
compact can endure that is not founded on jus- 
tice, and that loving-kindness is the only binding 
tie between men and nations? 

For Clemenceau the definitive signing of 
peace and the elections in January, 1920, must 
be the end. He broke a rib the other day 
merely traveling to London and my prediction 

311 



of four months ago that if he allowed himself 
to stand for President he would be defeated by 
Paul Deschanel has been fulfilled. Twenty-six 
years ago they fought a duel and Clemenceau 
wounded Deschanel savagely; now time has 
brought retribution and Clemenceau has had 
to submit to a final defeat; yet he has done 
enough and more than enough to ensure him a 
high place in the Pantheon of French worthies 
forever. 



312 



j...J^ kWii,' 




Shaw as Seen by Max 



SHAW'S PORTRAIT BY SHAW, or 

HOW FRANK OUGHT TO HAVE 
DONE IT. 

{After finishing my pen-portrait of Shaw I 
sent him a copy asking him. to correct any errors 
in it. He replied by telling me that it was in- 
corrigible and sending me the following portrait 
of himself as an example of how I ought to have 
written about him. Just as I published Shaw's 
views of Oscar Wilde in my book on Wilde so 
now I publish Shaw's self-portrait so that my 
readers can compare it with my view of him. — 

Frank Harris.) 

EFORE attempting to add Bernard 
Shaw to my collection of Contem- 
porary Portraits I find it necessary 
to secure myself in advance by the 
fullest admission of his extraordinary 
virtues. Without any cavilling over trifles I de- 
clare at once that Shaw is the just man made 
perfect. I admit that in all his controversies, 
and in all possible controversies, with me or any- 
one else, Shaw is, always has been, and always 
will be, right. I perceive that the common habit 
of abusing him is an ignorant and silly habit, 
and that the pretence of not taking him seriously 
is the ridiculous cover for an ignominous retreat 

313 




from an encounter with him. If there is any 
other admission I can make, any other testi- 
monial I can give, I am ready to give it and to 
apologize for having omitted it. If it will help 
matters to say that Shaw is the greatest man 
that ever lived, I shall not hesitate for a moment. 
All the cases against him break down when 
they are probed to the bottom. All his prophe- 
cies come true. All his fantastic creations come 
to life within a generation. I have an uneasy 
sense that even now I am not doing him justice 
— that I am ungrateful, disloyal, disparaging. 
I can only repeat that if there is anything I have 
left out, all that is necessary is to call my atten- 
tion to the oversight, and it shall be remedied. 
If I cannot say that Shaw touches nothing that 
he does not adorn, I can at least testify that he 
touches nothing that he does not dust and polish 
and put back in its place much more carefully 
than the last man who handled it. 

Once, at a public dinner given by the Stage 
Society, Shaw had to propose the health of the 
dramatic critics; and Max Beerbohm had to 
reply. Before the speaking began Max came 
to Shaw and said, "You are going to say, aren't 
you, that you are a critic yourself?" "I don't 
know what I am going to say," said Shaw; "but 
I daresay I shall bring that in." "Promise me 
that you will," said Max: "I want to make a 
point about it". "Anything to oblige you," said 

314 



Shaw; and he did. Max began his speech thus: 
"I was once at a school where the master used 
always to say, 'Remember, boys, that I am one 
of yourselves.' " A roar of laughter saved Max 
the trouble of pointing the moral. 

Robert Lynd said of Shaw's "Common Sense 
About the War" that though nobody could take 
any reasonable exception to it, yet from the 
moment it appeared the war was spoken of and 
written about as a war between the Allies on 
the one hand, and, on the other, Germany, 
Austria, Turkey and Bernard Shaw. 

When Shaw contested a seat at the London 
County Council election as a Progressive, after 
six years hard Progressive drudgery on a Bor- 
ough Council, with the advantage of being one 
of the inventors of municipal Progressivism, not 
only was he defeated by the defection of all the 
Liberals and temperance reformers (Shaw is a 
teetotaler) ; but the leading Progressive papers 
also exulted in his defeat as a most blessed de- 
liverance. The only people who voted for him 
were those who had never voted before. This 
was proved by an enormous increase in the poll 
at the next election. 

These are the things that happen to him in 
his most popular moments, when he is in no 
way breasting and opposing the current of public 
opinion. When, as often happens, he has to take 
his chance of being Ivnched for telling some 

315 



unpalatable truth, or taking some unpopular 
side, numbers of persons who have never before 
betrayed any hostility to him have been em- 
boldened to believe that they had him "on the 
run" at last, and have suddenly vented on him 
a bitterness and violence which must have been 
rankling in them for years. 

The result is that hardly anyone who has not 
met Shaw thinks of him otherwise than as a man 
of disagreeable appearance, harsh and wound- 
ing manners, and insufferable personality. One 
of his favorite sayings is "I always astonish 
strangers by my amiability, because, as no human 
being could possibly be so disagreeable as they 
expect me to be, I have only to be commonly 
civil to seem quite charming." 

No truthful contemporary portrait can ignore 
either this extraordinary power of exciting furi- 
ous hostility, or the entire absence of any obvious 
ground for it. It has been said that Shaw irri- 
tates people by always standing on his head, and 
calling black white and white black. But only 
simpletons either offer or accept this account. 
Men do not win a reputation like Shaw's by 
perversity and tomfoolery. What is really puz- 
zling is that Shaw irritates us intensely by stand- 
ing on his feet and telling us that black is black 
and white is white, whilst other men please 
everybody by airing the most outrageous para- 
doxes and by repeating with an air of conviction 

316 



what everyone knows to be false. There is some- 
thing maddening in being forced to agree with a 
man against whom your whole soul protests. It 
is not that he expresses your thought more accu- 
rately than you yourself have thought it, trying 
as this sort of correction would be if it were 
made consciously. It must be that there is some- 
thing terrifying in finding one's views shared 
by a man whose conclusions are known to be 
monstrous and subversive. That little extra 
accuracy often reveals the brink of an abyss 
somewhere near. It is as if a man had offered 
to walk a bit of the way with you, because you 
were going in the direction of his home, and you 
know that home to be the bottomless pit 

Now it is quite true that Shaw's final and 
central conclusion is monstrous not only to the 
average conventional man, but to the most ardent 
revolutionist. I do not, of course, mean that he 
is a Socialist: "we are all Socialists now," nor 
am I thinking of his views on marriage; for he 
proposes nothing more than American States 
and some European ones have already carried 
out as nearly as no matter. 

His religion of Creative Evolution is shared 
by hundreds of modern thinkers — Bergson for 
instance — who do not incur his singular unpop- 
ularity. Long before the war his most shocking 
play, "Mrs. Warren's Profession," was repudi- 
ated by the advanced section of Moscow Society 

317 



as the sermon of a bourgeois moralist; and before 
that even the American Bench had been able to 
find nothing in it that justified the outcry made 
against it. In short, there is nothing in Shaw's 
political and social program, not even his in- 
sistence on absolute equality of income and its 
dissociation from every kind of personal indus- 
try or virtue, at which a thinker of adequate 
modern equipment would turn a hair. He is 
a perfectly safe man on a committee of any sort: 
a man of tact and moderation who kept the 
Fabian Society, of which he was a leader for 
twenty-seven years, free from the quarrels that 
broke up all the other Socialist organizations. 

Yet the monstrosity is there. Shaw works at 
politics in the spirit of one who is helping a 
lame dog over a stile which he believes to be 
insurmountable. He makes no secret of his con- 
viction that the problems raised by the aggreg- 
ation of men into civilization are beyond their 
political capacity, and will never be solved by 
them. He is at present engaged in a tetralogy 
in which, starting from the Garden of Eden, 
and ending thousands of years hence, he shows 
mankind shortening its life from a thousand 
years to three score and ten, and again lengthen- 
ing it from three score and ten to three hundred : 
a prolongation which, as a Creative Evolution- 
ist, he holds to be quite possible to the human 
will. But he makes no secret of his belief that 

318 



Man will be scrapped as a failure, and that the 
Life Force will replace him by some new and 
higher creation, just as man himself was 
created to supply the deficiencies of the lower 
animals. Fundamentally, then, Shaw has no 
reverence for us or for himself. And how 
much we are dependent on mutual reverence 
we never realize until we meet someone who 
denies it to us. Shaw is that someone. It is 
impossible to take ofifence, because he is as 
merciless to himself as to us. He does not 
kick us overboard and remain proudly on the 
quarter deck himself. With the utmost good 
humor he clasps us affectionately round the 
waist and jumps overboard with us, and that too, 
not into a majestic Atlantic where we might 
perish tragically, but into a sea of ridicule where 
we cut the poorest figure. And this intolerable 
trick is played on us at the most unexpected and 
inopportune moments. "No man," said Sir 
Henry Norman, "knows how to butter a moral 
slide better than Shaw." Shaw's support, and 
even his enthusiastic championship, thus be- 
comes more dreaded than the most spiteful at- 
tacks of others. During the first Ibsen boom in 
London Shaw proposed to help an American 
actress in an Ibsen enterprise by interviewing 
her. To his astonishment the lady told him with 
passionate earnestness that if he wrote a word 
about her she would shoot him. "You may not 

319 



believe here in England that such things are 
possible," she said; "but in America we think 
differently; and I will do it: I have the pistol 
ready." "General Gabler's pistol," was Shaw's 
unruffled comment; but he saw how intensely 
the lady shrank from being handled by him in 
print, and the interview was not written. Some 
of his best friends confess that until they were 
used to him, quite friendly letters from him 
would sometimes move them to furious out- 
bursts of profanity at his expense. He tells a 
story of an illiterate phrenologist with whom 
he got into conversation at a vegetarian restau- 
rant in his early days. This man presently ac- 
cused Shaw of being a sceptic. "Why?" said 
Shaw. "Have I no bump of veneration?" 
"Bump!" shouted the phrenologist. "It's a 
hole." The actor Irving, accustomed to a defer- 
ence which a prelate might have envied, found 
Shaw unendurable. If Shaw's manners were 
offensive he would be easier to deal with; but 
his pity for you as a hopeless failure is so kindly, 
so covered by an unexceptionable observance of 
the perfect republirin respect to which you are 
entitled, thtt you arc utterly helpless: there is 
nothing to complain of, nothing to lay hold of, 
no excuse for snatching up the carving knife 
and driving it into his vitals. 

I was the editor of the Fortnightly Review 
when I first met Shaw about an article. He 

320 



had an engaging air of being much more inter- 
ested in me than in his article. Not to be mock 
modest, I suppose I luas more interesting than 
the article; and I was naturally not disposed to 
quarrel with Shaw for thinking so and showing 
it. He has the art of getting on intimate and 
easy terms very quickly; and at the end of five 
minutes I found myself explaining to him how 
I had upset my health by boyishly allowing my- 
self to be spurred into a trial of speed on the 
river in an outrigger, and overstraining myself 
in a fierce burst of speed. He gave his mind to 
my misfortune as sympathetically as my doctor, 
and asked me some questions as to what sort of 
care I was taking of myself. One of the ques- 
tions was, "Do you drink?" I was equal to the 
occasion, and did not turn a hair, as I assured 
him that a diagnosis of delirium tremens could 
not be sustained ; but I could not help becoming 
suddenly conscious that I expected from men 
an assumption that I was not a drunkard, a liar, 
a thief, or anything else of what I may call an 
actionable nature, and that I was face to face 
with a man who made no such assumption. His 
question was too like one of those asked in 
Butler's "Erewhon" to be entirely agreeable to 
human frailty. In Shaw's play, "Captain Brass- 
bound's Conversion," the captain introduces his 
lieutenant with the words (or to this effect) : 
''This is the greatest scoundrel, liar, thief and 

321 



rapscallion on the west coast." On which the 
lieutenant says, "Look here, Captain : if you want 
to be modest, be modest on your own account, 
not on mine." The fact that Shaw is mode«t on 
his own account, and gives himself away much 
more freely than his good manners allow him to 
give away his friends, does not really make the 
latter transaction any more pleasant for its vic- 
tim : it only robs them of their revenge, and com- 
pels them to pay tribute to his amiability when 
they are furiously annoyed with him. 

It is difficult to class a man who gives him- 
self away even to the point of making himself 
ridiculous as vain. But all Shaw's friends agree 
that he is laughably vain. Yet here again he 
complicates our judgment by playing up to it 
with the most hyperbolical swank about his in- 
tellect. He declares that he does so because 
people like it. He says, quite truly, that they 
love Cyrano and hate "the modest cough of the 
minor poet." Those who praise his books to 
his face arc dumbfounded by the enthusiasm 
with which he joins in his own praise, and need 
all their presence of mind to avoid being pro- 
voked into withdrawing some seventy-five per 
cent or so of their estimate. Such playacting 
makes it difficult to say how much real vanity 
or modesty underlies it all; but I feel safe in 
saying that Shaw, of late years at least, has found 
out his own value, and maybe in some danger 

3Z2 



of not writing off his inevitable depreciation by 
advancing years quite fast enough. He himself 
says that he is not conceited. "No man can be," 
he says, "if, like me, he has spent his life trying 
to play the piano accurately, and never succeeded 
for a single bar." I ask him to give me a list 
of his virtues, his excellence, his achievements, 
so that I may not do him the injustice of omitting 
any. He replies: "It is unnecessary; they are 
all in the shop window." 

Shaw plays the part of the modest man only 
in his relations with the arts which are the great 
rivals of literature. He has never claimed to 
be "better than Shakespeare." That much 
quoted heading to one of his prefaces has a note 
of interrogation after it, and the question is dis- 
missed by himself with the remark that as 
Shakespeare in drama, like Mozart in opera, or 
Michael Angelo in fresco, reached the summit 
of his art, nobody can be better than Shake- 
speare, though anybody may now have things to 
say that Shakespeare did not say, and outlooks 
on life and character which were not open to 
him. Nevertheless, I am convinced that Shaw 
is as willing to have his plays compared with 
Shakespeare's as Turner was to have his pictures 
hung beside Claude's, though, he has not said so. 
But his attitude towards Rodin, for example, is 
quite different. When he was invited to a din- 
ner in Paris given in honor of Rodin, he wrote 

323 



that he had no occasion to be merely Rodin's 
convive, as he already had the honor of being 
one of Rodin's models, and was sure of a place 
in the biographical dictionaries a thousand years 
hence as *'Shaw, Bernard: subject of a bust by 
Rodin: otherwise unknown." He struck the 
same note when, finding that Rodin, though an 
infallible connoisseur in sculpture, had no books 
in his collection except the commonest kind gf 
commercial presentation volumes, he presented 
him with a Kelmscott Chaucer, and wrote in it: 

I have seen two masters at work, Morris Who made this book, 
The other Rodin the Great, who fashioned my head in 
clay: 
I give the book to Rodin, scrawling my name in a nook 
Of the shrine their works shall hallow when mine are dust 
by the way. 

Now I confess I am not convinced by this 
evidence of modesty as I am not sure that it is 
not rather the final artistic touch to Shaw's 
swank. For what was the origin of the Rodin 
bust? Rodin knew nothing about Shaw, and at 
first refused to undertake the commission. Mrs. 
Shaw thereupon wrote to Rodin pleading that 
she wished to have a memorial of her husband, 
and that her husband declared that any man 
who, being a contemporary of Rodin, would 
have his bust made by anyone else, would pillory 
himself to all posterity ^s an ignoramus. Rodin, 

324 



finding that he had to deal with a man who 
knew his value, weakened in his refusal. Mrs. 
Shaw then ascertained from Rilke, the Austrian 
poet, who was then acting as Rodin's secretary, 
what his usual fee was for a bust. The money 
(only $5,000) was immediately lodged to 
Rodin's credit on the understanding that he was 
to be under no obligation whatever in respect 
of it, and might make the bust or not make it, 
begin it and leave it off if it did not interest him : 
in short, treat the payment as a contribution to 
the endowment of his work in general and re- 
main completely master of the situation. The 
result, of course, was that Rodin sent for Shaw 
to come to Paris at once; installed him and his 
wife as daily guests at his Meudon villa ; worked 
steadily at the bust every day for a month until 
it was finished ; and went beyond his bargain in 
giving his sitter casts of it. Here we have the 
dexterous Shaw, the master of blarney, and the 
penetrating art critic; and not for a moment do 
I suggest that there was the slightest insincerity 
in his proceedings: had there been, Rodin would 
not have been taken in. But was there no vanity 
in it? Would so busy a man as Shaw have left 
his work and gone to Paris to pose like a profes- 
sional model for a whole month if he had not 
thought his bust as important as the busts of 
Plato which are now treasures of the museums 
which possess them? 

325 



It will be noted that I have spoken of Shaw 
playacting, playing the part, and so forth. I 
have done so advisedly. Shaw is an incorrigible 
and continuous actor, using his skill as deliber- 
ately in his social life as in his professional work 
in the production of his own plays. He does 
not deny this. "G. B. S.," he says, "is not a real 
person : he is a legend created by myself, a pose, 
a reputation. The real Shaw is not a bit like 
him." Now this is exactly what all his acquaint- 
ances say of the Rodin bust, that is is not a bit 
like him. But Shaw maintains that it is the only 
portrait that tells the truth about him. When 
Rodin was beginning the work in his studio Mrs. 
Shaw complained to him that all the artists and 
caricaturists, and even the photographs., aimed 
at producing the sort of suburban Mephistophe- 
les they imagined Shaw to be, without ever tak- 
ing the trouble to look at him. Rodin replied, 
"I know nothing about Mr. Shaw's reputation; 
but I will give you what is there." Shaw de- 
clares he was as good as his word. When 
Troubetskoi saw the Rodin bust he declared that 
there was no life in the eyes; and in three hours 
frenzied work he produced his bust of Shaw. 
As a tour de force it is magnificent; but it is 
Mephistopheles, not suburban, but aristocratic. 
"Very gratifying to my snobbish family," said 
Shaw; "but not my pose." He liked the bust 
and liked Troubetskoi; but his wife would have 

326 



none of it, nor of the curious portrait by Neville 
Lytton, which originated in an allegation by 
Granville Barker that Velasquez' portrait of 
Pope Innocent was an excellent portrait of Shaw. 
Lytton accordingly painted Shaw in the costume 
and attitude of Innocent; and though the picture 
is a convincing revelation of what Shaw would 
be like in the papal chair, Pope Bernard will 
never be identified by any antiquary with the 
subject of the Rodin bust. Augustus John's 
portraits of Shaw are even less reconcilable with 
the Rodin. John has projected all Shaw's public 
strength and assurance at their fullest intensity, 
indeed at more than lifesize. "There is the 
great Shaw," says the sitter, when he shows his 
friends the picture. But when he points to the 
Rodin, he says, "Just as I am, without one plea." 
De Smet's portrait is that of a quiet delicate 
elderly gentleman : Shaw likes it. Lady Scott's 
statuette is friendly and literal. (And now 
please note that this busy modest Shaw, who 
never has time enough or vanity enough to ac- 
cept the invitations to sit for his portrait which 
are showered on him, has nevertheless contrived 
to provide memorials of himself by the greatest 
masters of his time. Can true modesty be so 
colossal, and so difficult to distinguish from a 
conceit that no man should allow himself until 
he has been dead for at least five hundred years? 
Shaw is the greatest pedant alive, Dickens' 
327 



man who ate crumpets on principle could not 
hold a candle to him in this respect. Descrip- 
tive reporters have said that Shaw wears a flannel 
shirt. He never wore a flannel shirt in his life. 
He does not wear a shirt at all, because it is 
wrong to swaddle one's middle with a double 
thickness of material : therefore he wears some 
head-to-foot undergarment unknown to shirt- 
makers. The flannel fable arose because, at a 
time when it was socially impossible for a pro- 
fessional man to appear in public in London 
without a white starched collar, he maintained 
that no educated eye could endure the color con- 
trast of ironed starch against European flesh 
tones, and that only a very black and brilliant 
negro should wear such a collar. He therefore 
obtained and wore gray collars. Now that the 
fashion is changed, he wears collars of various 
colors ; but the dye is always chosen to carry out 
a theory that the best color effect is that of two 
shades of the same color. His coat is of the 
smartest West End tailoring; but it is unlined, 
on principle. He addresses a letter high up in 
the left hand corner of an envelope. A mere 
affectation of singularity you say. Not at all: 
he will talk to you for an hour on the beauty of 
the system of page margins established by the 
medieval scribes and adopted by William Mor- 
ris, and on its practicality as leaving room for 
the postman's thumb, and considering his con- 

328 



veniencc in reading the address. He justifies his 
refusal to use apostrophes and inverted commas 
in printing his books on the ground that they 
spoil the appearance of the page, declaring that 
the Bible would never have attained its supreme 
position in literature if it had been disfigured 
with such unsightly signs. He is interested in 
phonetics and systems of shorthand; and it is to 
his pedantic articulation that he owes his popu- 
larity as a public speaker in the largest halls, as 
every word is heard with exasperating distinct- 
ness. He advocates a combination of the metric 
system with the duodecimal by inserting two new 
digits into our numeration, thus : eight, nine, tee, 
ee, ten, and eighteen, nineteen, eeteen teeteen, 
twenty and so forth. He likes machines as a 
child likes toys, and once very nearly bought a 
cash register without having the slightest use for 
it. When he was on the verge of sixty he yielded 
to the fascination of a motor bicycle, and rode it 
away from the factory for seventy-seven miles, 
at the end of which, just outside his own door, 
he took a corner too fast and was left sprawling. 
He has been accused of being one of the band of 
devoted lunatics who bathe in the Serpentine 
(the ornamental water in Hyde Park, London), 
every morning throughout the year, rain or 
shine; but this is an invention. He does, how- 
ever, when in London, swim in the bathing pool 
of the Royal Automobile Club every morning 

329 



before breakfast, winter and summer, his alleged 
reason being that as an Irishman he dislikes 
washing himself, but cannot do without the 
stimulus of a plunge into cold water. He is, as 
all the world knows, a vegetarian ; but he derides 
the hygienic pretensions of that diet. He values 
health very highly, like all faddists; but he de- 
clares that all men who are any good, will trade 
on their stock of health to the very utmost limit, 
and therefore live on the verge of a breakdown. 
Every really busy man, he declares, should go 
to bed for eighteen months when he is forty, to 
recuperate. I could easily fill another page with 
his notions; but I forbear. To the looker on, 
each one of them is half an amusement and half 
an irritation. 

Shaw's gallantries are for the most past non- 
existent. He says, with some truth, that no man 
who has any real work in the world has time or 
money for a pursuit so long and expensive as the 
pursuit of women. He may possibly have 
started that protest against the expensiveness and 
the exactions of beautiful women which is the 
main theme of his friend, Granville Barker's 
"Waste" and the "Madras House." Nobody 
knows his history in this respect, as he is far too 
correct a person to kiss and tell. To all appear- 
ance he is a model husband; and in the 
various political movements in which his 
youth was passed there was no scandal about 

330 



him. Yet a popular anecdote describes a well 
known actor-manager as saying one day at 
rehearsal to an actress of distinguished beauty, 
"Let us give Shaw a beefsteak and put some 
red blood into him." "For heaven's sake, 
don't," she exclaimed: "he is bad enough as it 
is; but if you give him meat no woman in 
London will be safe." The gentleman's joke 
obviously provoked the lady's; and no man 
can say more than that the truth must be 
somewhere between them. Anyhow, Shaw's 
teaching is much more interesting than his per- 
sonal adventures, if he ever had any. That 
teaching is unquestionably in very strong reac- 
tion against what he has called Nineteenth 
Century Amorism. He is not one of your subur- 
ban Love-is-Enough fanatics. He maintains 
that chastity is so powerful an instinct that its 
denial and starvation on the scale on which the 
opposite impulse has been starved and denied 
would wreck any civilization. He insists that 
intellect is a passion; and that the modern notion 
that passion means only sex is as crude and bar- 
barous as the ploughman's idea that art is simply 
bawdiness. He points out that art can flourish 
splendidly when sex is absolutely barred, as it 
was, for example, in the Victorian literature 
which produced Dickens, and that painting in 
Italy and sculpture in Greece were nursed to 
their highest point within the limits of a religion 

331 



and a convention which absolutely barred por- 
nography. He compares Giulio Romano, a 
frank and shameless pornographer, a pupil of 
Raphael's, and a more brilliant draughtsman, 
with Raphael himself, who was so sensitive that 
though he never painted a draped figure with- 
out first drawing it in the nude, he always paid 
the Blessed Virgin the quaint tribute of a calecon 
in his studies of her, and contrived to decorate 
the villa of a voluptuary with the story of Cupid 
and Psyche without either shrinking from the 
uttermost frankness or losing his dignity and 
essential innocence. Shaw contends that when 
art passed from the hands of Raphael to those 
of Giulio it fell into an abyss, and became not 
only disgusting but dull. For the modern 
drama, with its eternal triangle and so forth, he 
claims nothing but that it proves adultery to be 
the dullest of subjects, and the last refuge of a 
bankrupt imagination. He wrote "Plays for 
Puritans" to show how independent he was of 
such expedients. In "Fanny's First Play" he 
ridicules the critics who conclude that he has no 
virility. He demands scornfully whether gen- 
uine virility can be satisfied with stories and pic- 
tures, and declares that the fleshy school in art is 
the consolation of the impotent. Yet there are 
several passages in his writings and dramas 
which show that he considers that imaginary 
love plays an important part in civilized life. 

332 



In his latest finished play the handsome hero says 
to a man who is jealous of him, "Do not waste 
your jealousy on me: the imaginary rival is the 
dangerous one." In "Getting Married," the lady 
who refuses to marry because she cannot endure 
masculine untidiness and the smell of tobacco, 
hints that her imagination provides her with a 
series of adventures which beggar reality. Shaw 
says that the thousand and three conquests of 
Don Juan consist of three squalid intrigues and 
a thousand imaginative fictions. He says that 
every attempt to realize such fictions is a failure; 
and it may be added that nobody but a man who 
had tried could have written the third act of 
Man and Superman. In the fourth act of that 
play, too, the scene in which the hero revolts 
from marriage and struggles against it without 
any hope of escape is a poignantly sincere utter- 
ance which must have come from personal ex- 
perience. Shakespeare in treating the same 
theme through the character of Benedick might 
conceivably have been making fun of somebody 
else; but Tanner with all his extravagance is 
first hand : Shaw would probably not deny it and 
would not be believed if he did. 

Shaw's amazing anti-Shakespearc campaign 
under my editorship was all the more unexpected 
because I was one of the few London editors to 
whom Shakespeare is more than a name. I was 
saturated with Shakespeare. At the hottest crisis 

333 



of the war, if I bought a newspaper to learn the 
latest news from the front, and my eye caught 
the name of Hamlet or Falstaff, I would read 
every word about them before turning to the 
latest telegrams. That I should be the editor of 
an attack on Shakespeare of unheard of ferocity 
was the one thing I should have declared confi- 
dently could never possibly occur to me. No 
name was more sacred to me. What made the 
adventure odder was, first, that Shaw, who de- 
livered the attack, was as full of Shakespeare as 
I, and, second, that though we were both scan- 
dalized by the sacrilege we were committing, 
neither of us could honestly alter a word in one 
of the articles. They were outrageous ; but there 
was nothing to withdraw, nothing to soften, noth- 
ing that could be modified without bringing 
down the whole critical edifice. The explana- 
tion is simple enough. Shaw's first shot at 
Shakespeare was fired in 1894. Ibsen's first 
broadside on England caught London between 
wind and water in 1889. Shaw had written his 
"Quintessence of Ibsenism" in the meantime, and 
was judging everything on and off the stage by 
the standard set up by the terrible Norwegian. 
Many lesser men suffered cruelly by that stand- 
ard; but Shakespeare was the most conspicuous 
victim. "It is useless to talk of Shakespeare's 
depth now," said Shaw: "there is nothing left 
but his music. Even the famous delineation of 

334 



character, the Moliere - Shakespeare - Scott - 
Dumas pere novel, is only a trick of mimicry. 
Our Bard is knocked out of time: there is not a 
feature left on his face. Hamlet is a spineless 
effigy beside Pier Gynt, Imogen a doll beside 
Nora Helmer, Othello a convention of Italian 
opera beside Julian." And it was quite true. 
Only in the Sonnets could we find Shakespeare 
getting to that dark centre of realization at which 
Ibsen worked. Now Shaw was not only full of 
Ibsen, but full of Wagner, of Beethoven, of 
Goethe, and — curiously — of Bunyan. The Eng- 
lish way of being great by flashes : Shakespeare's 
way, Ruskin's way, and Chesterton's way, with- 
out ever following the inspiration up — that enor- 
mous disregard of intellectual thoroughness that 
William Morris put his finger on when he said 
that Ruskin could say the most splendid things 
and forget them five minutes after, could not dis- 
guise its incoherence from an Irishman. Shaw's 
favorite saying that an Irishman may like an 
Englishman better than he likes any Irishman, 
and may prefer an English cottage to an Irish 
palace, but that no Irishman can regard the Eng- 
lish as an adult race, explains a good deal in his 
attitude to Shakespeare. "The Irish," he says, 
"with all their detestable characteristics are at 
least grown up. They think systematically : they 
don't stop in the middle of a game of golf to 
take in the grandeur of thought as if it were a 

335 



sunset, and then turn back to their game as the 
really serious business of their life." 

It will be noticed that my portrait of Shaw is 
both more and less intimate than any other I 
have penned. More, because Shaw tells the 
whole world all that there is to be told about 
himself. Less, because I never sat on a com- 
mittee with him; and that is the only way to 
see much of him. Shaw is not really a social 
man. He never goes anywhere unless he has 
business there. He pays no calls. Once he was 
induced by Maurice Baring to go to a bachelors' 
party of the usual British type, where men of all 
generations, from Lord Cromer to H. G. Wells, 
were trying to remember how to behave like 
undergraduates. "Gentlemen," said Shaw, with 
deadly contempt for their efforts, "we shall en- 
joy ourselves very much if only you will not 
try to be convivial." 

He has described me as a Monster; and his 
ground is that "Frank Harris adores literature 
with a large L and yet can write : that is, he com- 
bines the weakness of the amateur with the 
strength of a genuine vocation." It is quite true 
that I am a born Mermaid Tavcrncr: I share 
with Shakespeare and Doctor Johnson that 
weakness of the amateur which delights in the 
feast of reason and the flow of soul among my 
literary compeers, and my betters if I can tempt 
them to sit with me. Bjut Shaw declares that he 

330 



saved his soul when he came to London by re- 
solving, after his first glance at the Savile Club, 
that he would never be a literary man or consort 
with such." "I might have spent my life sitting 
watching these fellows taking in each other's 
washing and learning no more of the world than 
a tic in a typewriter if I had been fool enough," 
he says. I tried to cure him of this by inviting 
him to my Saturday Review lunches at the Cafe 
Royal ; but it was no use. He came a few times, 
being sincerely interested in the Cafe, in the 
waiters, in the prices, in the cookery: in short, in 
the economics of the place; and he concluded 
that Harold Frederic and I ate too much meat, 
and that it was a waste of money to pay Cafe 
Royal prices for his own plateful of maccaroni, 
which he could obtain elsewhere for tenpence. 
The fact that I paid for it made no difference 
whatever to him : he objected to a waste of my 
money just as much as of his own. 

I have sometimes wished that a good many 
other people were equally considerate; but 
Shaw's consideration amounts to an interference 
with one's private affairs that is all the more in- 
furiating because its benevolence and sagacity 
makes it impossible to resent it. One of his 
hostesses said he was a most dangerous man, and, 
on being asked how and why (in the hope of 
eliciting some scandal) explained, "You invite 
him down to your place because you think he 
will entertain your guests with his brilliant con- 

337 



vcrsation; and before you know where you are 
he has chosen a school for your son, made your 
will for you, regulated your diet, and assumed 
all the privileges of your family solicitor, your 
housekeeper, your clergyman, your doctor, your 
dressmaker, your hairdresser, and your estate 
agent. When he has finished with everybody 
else, he incites the children to rebellion. And 
when he can find nothing more to do, he goes 
away and forgets all about you". 

All attempts to draw him into disinterested 
social intercourse are futile. If I had wanted 
to see as much of Shaw as I could easily see of 
any other man of letters in London, I should 
have to join his endless committee, when I could 
have seen him five times a week at least. Our 
relations as contributor and editor were useless 
for social purposes: he did not come to the office 
as often as once a year, and then only when we 
were in some legal difficulty, when he would 
hasten to our aid and demonstrate with admir- 
able lucidity that we had not a leg to stand on. 
He is accessible to everybody, and tells every- 
body everything without reserve; but the net 
result is that nobody really knows him or can 
tell you anything about him. 

There is a cutting edge to Shaw that every- 
body dreads. He has in an extreme degree the 
mercurial mind that recognizes the inevitable 
instantly and faces it and adapts itself to it ac- 

338 



cordingly. Now there is hardly anything in the 
world so unbearable as a man who will not cry 
at least a little over spilt milk, or allow us a 
few moments murmuring before we admit that 
it is spilt and done for. Few of us realize how 
much we soften our losses by wrapping the hard 
things of life in a veiling atmosphere of sym- 
pathies, regret, condolences, caressing little pre- 
tences that are none the less sweet because they 
can never be made good : in short, moral shock 
absorbers. Shaw neither gives nor takes such 
quarter. There is a story of an Indian prince 
whose favorite wife, when banqueting with him, 
caught fire and was burnt to ashes before she 
could be extinguished. The Indian prince took 
in the situation at once, and faced it "Sweep 
up your missus," he said to his weeping staff; 
"and bring in the roast pheasant." That prince 
was an oriental Shaw. Once, at Westminster 
Bridge underground station, Shaw slipped at the 
top of the stairs, and shot down the whole flight 
on his back, to the horror of the bystanders. But 
when he rose without the least surprise and 
walked on as if that were his usual way of nego- 
tiating a flight of steps, they burst into an irre- 
sistible shriek of laughter. Whether it is a 
missed train, or a death among his nearest and 
dearest, he shows this inhuman self-possession. 
No one has accused him of being a bad son : his 
relations with his mother were apparently as 

339 



perfect as anything of the kind could be; but 
when she was cremated, Granville Barker, whom 
he had chosen to accompany him as the sole 
other mourner, could say nothing to him but 
"Shaw: you certainly are a merry soul." Shaw 
was not only full of interest in the process and 
the ceremony, but full also of a fancy that his 
mother was looking on at it over his shoulder 
and sharing his delight at the points on which it 
appealed to his sense of humor. He is fond of 
saying that what bereaved people need is a little 
comic relief, and that it probably explains why 
funerals are so farcical. 

In many ways this mercurial gift serves Shaw's 
turn very well. He knows much sooner and 
better than most people when he is in danger 
and when out of it; and this gives him an appear- 
ance of courage when he is really running no 
risk. He has the same advantage in his sense of 
the value of money, knowing when it is worth 
spending and when it is worth keeping; and 
here again he often appears generous when he is 
driving a very good bargain. Therefore when 
he describes himself, as he does, as timid and 
stingy whilst the man in the street is amazed at 
his boldness and liberality, it is very hard to 
decide how far he is capable of facing real 
danger or making a real sacrifice. He is genu- 
inely free from envy; but how can a man be 
envious when he pities every other man for not 

340 



being George Bernard Shaw? The late Cecil 
Chesterton has left it on record that when he, 
as a young nobody, met the already famous 
Shaw, he was received on terms of the frankest 
boyish equality. This shows that Shaw makes 
no mistakes about man and manners; it hardly 
proves more. All that can be predicted of him 
by the average man is unexpectedness. 

Shaw, therefore, with all his engaging man- 
ners and social adroitness, appears as one who 
does not care what he says, who is callous in 
some of the most moving situations in life, and 
whose line can never be foreseen, no matter what 
the subject is. That is not a receipt for a reas- 
suring or popular personality, though it may be 
for a provocative one. Granted that it may be 
a quite misleading effect produced by his excel- 
lent quality of brain, none the less it explains 
why "he has not an enemy in the world; and 
none of his friends like him." The most famous 
single passage in his dramatic work, Caesar's 
"He who has never hoped can never despair," 
is praised for its fineness, its originality. But 
no one has ever felt sure that his inspiration is 
not infernal rather than divine. Compare it with 
the now intolerably hackneyed quotation which 
endears Shaw to the Nonconformist conscience: 
"This is the true joy in life, the being used for 
a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty 
one; the being thoroughly worn out before you 

341 



are thrown on the scrap heap ; the being a force 
of Nature instead of a feverish little selfish clod 
of ailments and grievances complaining that the 
world will not devote itself to make you happy." 
There is no smell of brimestone about this; but 
ask any of Shaw's friends whether it did not 
surprise them much more as coming from him 
that "He who has never hoped can never de- 
spair," and you will soon learn which of the two 
utterances is considered the more Shavian by 
those who know the author. 

I shall not attempt to carry the portrait any 
further. Shaw is almost a hopeless subject, be- 
cause there is nothing interesting to be said about 
him that he has not already said about himself. 
Germany, France, England and America have 
each produced books about him. Henderson has 
read Shaw from end to end, interviewed him, 
and ascertained all the facts; whilst Gilbert 
Chesterton apparently regards Shaw as a sort of 
starry influence that never touched the earth or 
dipped a pen in the ink. Julius Bab sees in 
Shaw the Arch Protestant, at home in the coun- 
try of Luther. McCabe, still a priest to the back- 
bone in spite of his defiant apostacy, argues as a 
priest does, but from the opposite end. Shaw is 
not a materialist atheist; therefore argues Mc- 
Cabe, he must be a man who will steal spoons 
if he gets the chance. Holbrook Jackson's little 
volume is still one of the best: he knew Shaw 

342 



in his Fabian entourage, and worked with him. 
Professor O'Bolger threatens us with revelations 
as to the private life of the Shaw family, and 
promises to show that the young gentleman in 
"Misalliance" who explains that he had three 
fathers in a perfectly blameless menage a quatre, 
is Shaw himself. Shaw prefers Chesterton's 
book because, he says, "of its magnificent inno- 
cence and generosity towards me, and its general 
wisdom and interest." Cestre's book is a very 
competent piece of French criticism, of the kind 
that might be expected in a country where 
Shaw's works are in the official educational lists 
of books to be studied for examinations in Eng- 
lish literature. 

But I know better than to attempt to pick the 
bones of a man who has already preyed on him- 
self so thoroughly that there is nothing left worth 
the lifting. I have, however, noticed something 
that has escaped not only his biographers but 
himself. Neither he nor they have ever at- 
tempted to explain Wilde's epigram. Shaw has 
been enormously abused, almost always stupidly 
and maliciously. He has also been idealized as 
a prophet and adored as a saint. Between those 
extremes there has been a good deal of excellent 
writing about him, by very able reviewers like 
Gilbert Murray and Desmond McCarthy, which 
show a high appreciation of him, and an anxious 
desire not to be classed with his detractors. 

343 



Wilde debarred himself carefully from all sus- 
picion of underrating Shaw. The words with 
which I began this essay show that I myself 
insist on vindicating my taste and judgment in 
this respect before letting myself go about him. 
But why this anxiety. Why not take it for 
granted that this eminent man, who said with 
such placid confidence to William Archer, "I 
shall be a panjandrum of literature for the next 
three hundred years," is entitled to his place in 
the Pantheon without question. Why not go 
even further, and say, "Others abide our ques- 
tion: thou art free!" I can only answer that 
though in his amazing complacency he certainly 
does not abide our question, he is very far from 
being free of it. He is violently resented and 
detested as well as admired and liked. Yet he 
has no vices; his manners are not repulsive; a 
little real malice would positively heighten his 
geniality. The problem is to find a perfectly 
consistent character (and Shaw's character is 
almost mechanically consistent) that can produce 
these contrary effects. Nobody has yet tried to 
do this: his defenders have ignored the dislike: 
his assailants have denied his qualities and in- 
vented faults which do not exist. I have made 
no attempt to sit in judgment or to play the 
chivalrous friend. I have sketched the man's 
lines as they appear; and though the resultant 
figure is free from deformity, yet there is some- 

344 



thing in it that human nature cannot easily bear. 
It is odd that I, who feel myself to be a very 
human person — all too human perhaps, as 
Nietzsche has it— should have been called a 
monster by the only man of my time who, though 
humane to a degree, is never quite human. Is 
he not himself a monster; a priceless monster 
certainly, but still one who could give us all a 
shudder, and knew it, by saying "Imagine a 
world inhabited exclusively by Bernard Shawsl" 
It was only a trick, of course: a world of any- 
bodies in particular would be unbearable. It 
was perhaps only a plagiarism of Napoleon's 
saying that when he died the world would utter 
a great "Ouf !" of relief. But there was some- 
thing in it for all that; and what that something 
was I have perhaps made you feel if I could not 
make you understand, not understanding myself. 

THE END 



345 





DATE DUE 










! 


































































































































































GAYLORD 






PRINTED IN U.S.A. 



UC SOUTHERN 



]\ 000 755 909 9