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THE TRUE BOHEMIA . . . . .25 


ON FACTS . . . . . .41 





'- - F 

_ *^ < 






HOW TO BE A POET . . . . .74 


TRAITORS OF ART . . . . .82 





ON DREAMS .>.. 107 


NEW YEAR'S EVE ..... 116 




AN ELECTION-TIDE DREAM . ..."... . . 133 





ON EDITORS ...... 152 








. 207 


THE POET WHO WAS . , ; . . 216 






MONTJOIE ...... 241 






Thanks are due to tlie Editors of " The Academy " and " Vanity 
Fair" for permission to reprint most of the essays in this volume. 




OWING to the general laxity with which men 
and women use the language they inherit, 
in the course of years words are apt to be 
broadened and coarsened in their meaning. 
Striving against this tendency, every scrupu- 
lous writer is in danger of robbing words 
of a part of their birthright : through fear 
of letting them mean too much he makes 
them mean too little. Ultimately, of course, 
the popular meaning prevails, and we suck 
our fountain-pens in vain who seek to pre- 
serve a kind of verbal aristocracy ; but it 
is a pleasant game while it lasts, and it does 
no one any harm. 

For instance, there is this word " essay." 
It is used to-day loosely to mean almost any 


kind of prose article, especially when such 
articles are rescued from periodical litera- 
ture and reprinted in book form. Mr. 
Chesterton's twisted allegories are essays, 
and so are Mr. Lucas's pleasant pilferings 
from queer books, and Mr. Shaw's dramatic 
criticisms. So, too, for that matter, are 
Earle's characters, and the Roger de Coverley 
papers, and Swinburne's laudations of the 
Elizabethan dramatists. Confronted with 
this embarrassing promiscuity, the critic who 
really wishes the word " essay " to mean 
something is forced to give it a purely 
arbitrary meaning, and this I have ventured 
to do in choosing a title for my lament. To 
say that the art of writing little articles for 
the newspapers and republishing them in 
modest volumes is decaying would be absurd ; 
but to say that at the present time very few 
people are trying to write like Charles Lamb 
is patently true. To me, essays are such 
leisurely expressions of a humane and agree- 
able personality as we find in the works of 
Elia. They may criticize and rhapsodize and 
narrate, but the reader is always conscious 
of the individuality that controls the pen. 


A fit medium of expression for tranquil 
minds, they reveal with a careless generosity 
the mind emotions and placid processes of 
thought that give them birth. The delicately- 
flattered reader feels that the essayist is 
guarding no Bluebeard's chamber of the 
mind. As far as the hospitable writer has 
himself explored it, so far are its dim corri- 
dors open to his inquiring eyes. 

For of all forms of artistic expression, this 
is the most personal and self-revealing. It 
might be described as the art of expression 
in dressing-gown and carpet-slippers. A bad 
man, if there be any bad men, might en- 
deavour to express a moment of his criminal 
life in a sonnet or a short story or a 
romance ; but he would, I hope, think too 
highly of humanity in general to seek to 
reflect it in his own lost person. Yet this 
is the work of the essayist. " These I fear," 
he says with spirit, " are my meannesses, 
my weaknesses, my vices ; but, on the other 
hand, I have, I think, these trivial virtues. 
Perhaps there are other men like me ! " No 
bad man could write like that ; he would 
rather believe himself unique in his villainy. 


And this brings me to the quality that leads 
men to write essays. Being men of leisurely 
mind, it might naturally be presumed that 
they would be satisfied with dreaming, and 
that they would leave the drudgery of writ- 
ing to men of action. But it is apparent 
to me that the true essayist is a man troubled 
with a great loneliness. He finds, doubtless, 
being a generous lover of his fellows, a 
number of acquaintances who share and even 
surpass his own special virtues ; but he can- 
not discover in his personal environment 
those rarer beings who should also disclose 
his own delicate vices ; and these are the 
men above ail others with whom he wishes 
to come in contact. So he takes pen and 
paper, and, setting down his faults and his 
merits with a high fairness, stretches, as it 
were, a pair of appealing hands to his com- 
rades in the world. This habit of analysing 
his own weakness gives him an introspective 
turn of mind. He is always lying in wait 
to catch himself tripping ; but he would not 
have you ignore the other side of his char- 
acter ; he wishes to be fair to himself and 
honourable to you. He prepares a kind of 


balance-sheet for Judgment Day, and he is 
above all things anxious that it should be 
correct. His heart, to use a worthily hack- 
neyed phrase, is in his work, and he ap- 
points humanity his auditor. 

Essays are written by leisurely men for 
leisurely readers. You cannot read Lamb 
as you read a romance passionately tear- 
ing the pages. The words flow smoothly 
across the printed pages, and you drift com- 
fortably with the current, pausing here and 
there, as doubtless Lamb paused in the writ- 
ing, to dream in some twilit backwater of 
thought. The nominal purpose of the 
voyage may be trifling ; but its true pur- 
pose is as splendid as all high human en- 
deavour. We do not really dare the great 
adventure in order to see Charles Lamb 
dreaming over the crackling of roast pork, 
or Mr. Max Beerbohm in rapt contemplation 
of his hat-box. Our autumn has its pork, 
and we, too, have our hat-boxes. We set 
out, like all great explorers, in search of 
ourselves, and our common sense tells us 
that we are most likely to get authentic news 
of our destination from the intellectual 


honesty of the essayists. Theirs is the 
seasoned wisdom and ripe authority of old 
travellers, and we realize in reading their 
log-books that our road does not differ 
greatly from theirs. Perhaps at the end of 
the journey we shall know that all roads are 

I suppose that, using the word " essay " in 
the restricted sense I have suggested, the 
great essayists might easily be numbered on 
a baby's toes, and, as one of them still 
flourishes, the decay that has overtaken this 
form of expression may not be immediately 
obvious. But in the past there has always 
been a host of minor essayists, writers who 
might not achieve a great partnership 
between their hearts and their pens, but who 
did agreeable work nevertheless, and it is 
the absence of these minor writers of essays 
from the number of our modern authors that 
alarms me. It is true that we have our 
Charles Lamb, but I look in vain for our 
Leigh Hunt. Nor can we let ourselves be 
put off with some of the very able work 
that appears in periodicals, and has the 
shape and length and general outward ap- 


pearance of real essays. Journalism is 
growing more impersonal, though by no 
means less egoistic, and you may search the 
writings even of our individual journalists, 
such as Mr. Chesterton and Mr. Lucas, Mr. 
Benson and Mr. Belloc, in vain for a decent 
confession of personal weaknesses. It is 
true they set down their petty private vices 
no one who even pretends to write essays 
can help doing that but they make them 
appear either humorously criminal, or like 
so many virtues in disguise, and we have 
seen that your true essayist is neither a 
sinner nor a saint, but just a common man 
like his readers. So while we who are 
ashamed of the skeletons in our waistcoat- 
pockets may read the writings of these 
gentlemen for their wit and cleverness, we 
will continue to turn to Lamb and Montaigne 
for sympathy and advice. They will bring 
us to the place where dreams blend with 
realities, and action puts on the gentle gown 
of thought. 

The fact is, that essays are bad journalism 
in the literal sense of that elastic word, 
because they take no count of time, while it 


is the function of journalism to tear the 
heart out of to-day. A good essay should 
start and end in a moment as long as 
eternity ; it should have the apparent aim- 
lessness of life, and, like life, it should have 
its secret purpose. Perhaps the perfect essay 
would take exactly a lifetime to write and 
exactly a lifetime to comprehend ; but, in 
their essence, essays I cling to my restricted 
sense of the word ignore time and even 
negate it. They cannot be read in railway 
trains by travellers who intend to get out at 
a certain station, for the mere thought of a 
settled destination will prevent the reader 
from achieving the proper leisurely frame of 
mind. Nor can they be written for a liveli- 
hood, for a man who sits down to write an 
essay should be careless as to whether his 
task shall ever be finished or not. 

It may be said confidently that few persons 
write like this to-day ; it may even be ob- 
jected by sticklers for accuracy in titles that 
few persons ha ^ ever written like this, and 
I am willing to agree. But the essayist 
whom I have described is the perfect type 
that ideal which less gifted men can only 


pursue to the brink of their graves ; and 
while in some measure this was always the 
ideal of periodical writers in the past, it 
certainly is in no wise the ideal of the 
journalists of to-day. They do not wish to 
write sympathetically of themselves ; they 
cannot linger with leisurely trains of thought. 
Breathless assurance, dogmatic knowledge, 
and a profusion of capital " we " s help them 
to sing their realization of the glories of to- 
day, their passionate belief in the future, 
their indifferent contempt for the past. 
These are, they tell us, days of action, and 
dreamers can have but short shrift in a 
common -sense world. Probably this is true, 
but I notice that the literature of action does 
not make its readers very comfortable. Men 
and women are growing weary -eyed these 
days, and their feet stumble like those of 
tired runners. Their voices are growing 
hoarse from shouting energetic prophecies 
into the deaf ears of the future, and their 
hands are sore from their unending task of 
holding the round earth in its place. They 
cannot dream because they will not allow 
themselves to sleep. 



It may be morbid, but I sometimes think 
that I can detect a note of wistfulness in the 
eyes of my neighbours in life, when they 
let them stray from their newspapers to rest 
for a moment on the leaves of my book. 
Once I discovered a tear on the cheek of 
a clerk in the city, and I taxed him with this 
mark of treachery to the life of action ; but 
he assured me that his sorrow was due to 
the low price of Consols. It may have been ; 
I do not know. But one of these days our 
journalists will have to stop to take breath, 
and in the universal holiday perhaps some 
of their readers will have time to write 



WHEN a young man first awakens to a sense 
of the beauty and value of life, it is natural 
that he should be overwhelmed by the ugli- 
ness of the inheritance that his ancestors 
have forced upon him. He finds in the civi- 
lization that he has had no place in devising, 
a tyranny against which it appears almost 
impossible to make any resistance, a dogma 
which he is told every one except a young 
fool must accept as a truth, a law the break- 
ing of which will number him beyond 
redemption among the criminal or the insane. 
It may be that in the first joy of his appre- 
ciation of the beautiful, he will think that 
his life and the life of any man may best 
be passed in the cultivation of a keener sense 
of beauty, that, to put it in a concrete form, 



it is better to grow and love roses in a 
cottage garden than to reign in an umbrella 
factory ; but this briefest of the allusions 
of youth will be shattered forthwith by what 
appears to be the first law of civilized life, 
that a man can only earn his living by the 
manufacture of ugliness. 

It is probable that in his bitterness the 
young man will turn for comfort to those 
latter-day prophets and philosophers whose 
wisdom perhaps may have solved a problem 
which seems to him beyond hope, but he will 
certainly be disappointed. On the one hand 
he will find the wise men of the day devising 
schemes for the proper management and 
control of umbrella factories with a view 
to the greatest public good ; on the other 
he will find them sighing for the roses of 
medievalism, or proving by ingenious para- 
dox that clear vision can find the Middle 
Ages even now in the lesser streets of 
Balham. For our prophets and our philoso- 
phers have forgotten that they were ever 
young, and with the passing years their ideal 
world has become a sort of placid alms-house, 
free from draughts and disturbances, a place 


where the aged and infirm can sit at ease 
and scheme little revolutions on a sound 
conservative basis, without any jarring note 
of laughter or discord of the hot blood of 
the young. And so the young man must 
turn to the poets, and find what comfort 
he may in the knowledge that there are 
others who have felt and feel even as he, 
that there are others who have wondered 
whether the best of a man's life should be 
spent in paying for the blotting out of nature 
with unsightly lumps of brick and steel, in 
aiding in the manufacture of necessaries that 
are not necessary, in repeating stupidly the 
ugly crimes of yesterday in order to crush 
the spirit of his children and his children's 

Of course it may be said that this love 
of beauty on the part of a young man is 
morbid and unnatural, and the just conse- 
quence of an unwise or defiant education, 
for civilization, with a somewhat ignoble 
cunning, has guarded against possible 
treachery on the part of her children, by 
causing them to be taught only such things 
as may lead them to her willing service. 


It is unnecessary to point out that the 
dangerous revolutionary spirit which wor- 
ships lovely things is not encouraged in our 
national schools. The children of the State 
are taught to cut up flowers and to call the 
fragments by cunning names, but they are 
not invited to love them for their beauty,. 
They can draw you a map of the railway 
line from Fishguard to London, and prattle 
glibly of imports and exports, and the popu- 
lations of distant countries, but they know 
nothing of the natural beauties of the places 
they name, nor even of such claims as there 
are in the city in which they live. Their 
lips lisp dates and the dry husks of history, 
but they have no knowledge of the splendid 
pageant of bygone kingdoms and dead races. 
Nor in our public life, which might better 
be named our public death, is there shown 
any greater regard for the spiritual side of 
the parents than there is for that of the 
children. Heedless of the advice of artists, 
the ignorant and uncultured men whom am- 
bition alone has placed in a responsible 
position, will ruin the design of a street for 
the sake of a few pieces of silver, and for 


the fear that the spending of public money 
on making London beautiful may endanger 
their seats at the next election with honest 
electors who have learnt their lesson of ugli- 
ness only too well. The cheaper newspapers, 
which alone are read by the people as a 
whole, seek out and dilate on ugliness with 
passionate ingenuity, and even those papers 
which appear to be read by the more 
leisured classes, find no disgrace in filling 
five columns with the account o'f a bestial 
murder, and in compressing the speech 
of a great man of letters into a meagre 
five lines. 

Where, then, can a young man seek for 
beauty in the life of to-day? Only, as I 
have said above, in literature, and only there 
because the mere writing of a book is not 
sufficient to make it a contribution to litera- 
ture if it be not at the same time an expres- 
sion of that beauty of life which is, in spite 
of our rulers, eternal. For there are ugly 
books enough, and there are a multitude of 
ugly writers to swell their numbers, but our 
critics, when they are honest, can render 
their labours vain ; and though there is an 


outcry in the camps of the ugly when such a 
critic has spoken his daring word, the word 
has been spoken, and the book is dismissed 
to the shelves of the folk who care for such 
trash. But our critics must be honest. 



IT is not too much to say that in the view 
of ordinary persons Bohemianism is a pose, 
and, moreover, a very troublesome pose. 
They see that as a class Bohemians are care- 
less in their dress, eccentric in their morals, 
and fonder of literature than seems proper 
to reasonable folk ; and, not content with 
being annoyed, they conclude with a natural 
but hardly intelligent egoism that this neglect 
of the conventions on the part of the natives 
of Bohemia is adopted solely for the purpose 
of annoying aliens. This error, which does 
not prevail among unintellectual people 
alone, were pardonable if the sedate did not 
immediately conclude that this " pose " is it- 
self Bohemianism, and that therefore if you 
could make a Bohemian put on a clean collar, 
discard his library of poets, and attend a 



series of Salvationist meetings, you would at 
once change him to a respectable ratepayer 
with a sitting in a chapel and a decent villa 
in a decent back-street of Philistia. In a 
word, they confuse the external manifesta- 
tions of the Bohemian spirit with that spirit 

It must be a matter of regret to every 
one who has the Bohemian interests at heart 
that Stevenson never wrote an essay on the 
subject. His sympathy and admiration for 
youth exactly qualified him for the task, and 
as it is I believe it to be possible to state 
the Bohemian position very well by quoting 
from his books. Always self-conscious, he 
never wrote about youth without casting a 
forgiving eye on his own, which was, in spite 
of his weak health and the Shorter Cate- 
chism, essentially that of a Bohemian. And 
it was, therefore, to his writings that I turned 
in my search for a definition. 

" Youth," he writes somewhere, " taking 
fortune by the beard, demands joy like a 
right " ; and the essay entitled " Crabbed 
Age and Youth," in " Virginibus Puerisque," 
is a spirited defence of those illogical enthu- 


siasms that are so dear to Bohemians, and 
so much condemned in any man : 

" Youth is the time to go flashing from 
one end of the world to the other both in 
mind and body ; to try the manners of dif- 
ferent nations ; to hear the chimes at mid- 
night ; to see sunrise in town and country ; 
to be converted at a revival ; to circum- 
navigate the metaphysics, write halting 
verses, run a mile to see a girl, and wait 
all day long at the theatre to see Hernani." 

I feel that these two quotations contain 
the root of the matter, and I would venture 
to suggest that the Bohemian is the man who 
demands joy most passionately, whose en- 
thusiasms are least logical, in fact that the 
Bohemian spirit is the quintessence of youth- 
fulness. Thence follows as a matter of 
course the acceptance of the motto " Life for 
Life's sake," that effort to obtain from every 
moment of existence a perfect expression of 
life, which stirs the Bohemian to a constant 
sense of his own vitality, and lends to his 
most trivial actions an air of consciousness 
so manifest that they must needs be inter- 
preted by the sleepers and the half-dead as 


fragments of an indecently scornful pose. 
Full of a sense that he is making history 
for his old age, he tastes life as a man tastes 
wine, and he mixes his drinks ; so that if 
you see him roystering in a tavern to-day 
you may depend upon it he will be reading 
fairy -stories to a nursery ful of babies to- 

Of course, the charge of selfishness may 
be brought against this ideal of Bohemia, 
just as it has been brought against every 
ideal that man's heart has ever coveted. But 
it must be allowed that the Bohemian has 
certain very definite and admirable human 
qualities in a marked degree. He loves to 
make sacrifices, though, as may be said of 
others besides Bohemians, he had, perhaps, 
rather do good to his neighbour than that 
his neighbour should be done good to. He 
has a passionate fondness for beauty, and 
an aptitude for discovering it in unlikely 
places. Finding how often the things he 
likes himself are condemned, he achieves a 
youthful tolerance only lacking in discrimi- 
nation. And, having regard to this toler- 
ance, every honest intelligent young man 


ought to be thus far a Bohemian, for he can 
condemn nothing of knowledge but only of 
impulse, and of all things he should hate 
intellectual priggishness most. The experi- 
ence will come and he must drop out of the 
number of the elect, but he has won his 
spurs, and the glamour of his genial knight- 
hood will be with him for ever. 

And, indeed, it were wise if, as our promis- 
ing youths were once wont to make the 
Grand Tour before settling down to the busi- 
ness of life, they were now, one and all, 
to visit this bitter-sweet country of Bohe- 
miasweet because it is the ultimate expres- 
sion of youth, bitter because, like youth it- 
self, it is evanescent. For, as a reformed 
spendthrift makes the best of misers, so a 
man who once upon a time has lived ten 
years of his life in one eager year may be 
trusted to exercise a just discretion in the 
difficult matter of living ever after. And 
further, Bohemia is a school in which a 
man can supply those parts of learning 
which his more formal education will not 
have touched. He may learn here the merits 
and defects of excess, the critical value of 


laughter, the breadth and glory of the 
country we call life, the cheerful habit of 
open speech, the joys of comradeship and 
the necessity of examining a convention 
before accepting it, even if his great-grand- 
father has tried it and found it good before 
him. He will become wise in drink, care- 
less in tobacco, and tolerant of bad food if 
only it be cheap. From hearing unknown 
poets recite their own verses he will learn 
that there is a wealth of unpublished poetry 
in the land, that there are other men besides 
himself and the handful of poets in " Who's 
Who," for whom life is a beautiful story 
even if it have no moral. And perhaps, 
most necessary of all, he will come to believe 
that knowledge itself is of small account, but 
that in the power to learn lies the strength 
of a man's mind. 

Perhaps not all the Bohemians with whom 
he may come in contact will be to his liking. 
For here, as elsewhere, you will find char- 
latans, since the one vice undreamed of in 
Bohemia is shrewdness, and the inhabitants 
fall an easy prey for a time. But a State 
which demands constant sacrifices of its 


children cannot content knaves long, and they 
soon scuttle back to their kin with pocket- 
books stuffed with lies and an air of happy 
escape. Then, too, the saddest thing in all 
Bohemia, the old Bohemians, the Peter Pans 
who will not grow up, may disturb his peace 
of mind for a while with their reckless 
jollity and their air of great opportunities 
wantonly missed. But so benign a spirit 
does Bohemia inspire in its patriots that it 
is quite probable that they will lead him 
aside and warn him against permitting his 
adventures to become habits, with pointed 
references to their own lives. And on the 
whole he will spend the happiest time in 
his life. He may be in London, or Paris, 
or Belfast it does not matter where, for 
Bohemia exists where Bohemians are, and 
cafes or suburbs have as little to do with 
the true Bohemian spirit as untidy clothes 
and neglected barbers. Of course, unless he 
is one man out of a hundred, the splendid 
vision will pass and he will find himself 
facing civilization itself in the end. But by 
then he will be equipped with all those 
weapons of wisdom and tolerance that Bohe- 


mia provides for its knights, nor shall he 
lose the old faith and the old wonder, though 
time has proved that the life he sought so 
eagerly was itself a dream. 

Yes, for all save the unfortunate it must 
pass ; and yet as I sit in my castle in 
Bohemia and write these lines I hear the 
songs of the citizens rising from the street 
and their laughter echoing among the house- 
tops, and I dread the day when my palaces 
shall change to factories and my domes to 
chimneys and I shall be able to see the 
truth no more. 



IT is sometimes pleasant, when the facts of 
life begin to annoy us, to remember that 
we are only dreamers in a world of dreams. 
Our dreams are no less real to our minds 
than our waking adventures, and it is only 
chance that has led us to exaggerate the im- 
portance of the one at the expense of the 
other. If poets had been of any importance 
in the earlier days of the world, we might 
easily have come to consider our waking life 
as a pleasant period of rest for the emotions, 
while cultivating our dream pastures, till 
their roses became like crimson domes and 
their lilies like silver towers under the stars. 
But the hard-headed men who could throw 
brick-bats farther than their neighbours had, 
I presume, the ordering of events in those 
far dim days, and therefore to-day we all 

3 33 


believe in tables and scoff at ghosts ; we 
enjoy smoking-room stories and yawn at 
dreams. I might almost have added that we 
knight the throwers of brick-bats and starve 
the majority of the poets, but I would be the 
last to deny the justice of this arrangement, 
for if the former class has taken the day- 
light earth to itself, the poets hold in 
their treasuries the title deeds of the fertile 
pastures and purple mountains of sleep. I 
know who is the richer. 

And if our dreams pass with the morning, 
it is no less true that our realities pass with 
the coming of sleep. We see a man fall 
asleep in a railway carriage, and our illusory 
faculties tell us that he is still there, while 
he himself, who should surely know, is only 
too well aware that he is being chased by 
a mad, white bull across the Bay of Biscay. 
Probably he will return to the railway 
carriage presently, but meanwhile the bull 
and the blue waters are as true for him as 
his stertorous body is for us who lament 
his snoring. And why should we prefer our 
impressions to his? 

The point is important, because in sup- 


porting the claims of the dream world 
against those of our waking life it is neces- 
sary to meet the case of the man who says : 
" I should soon come to grief if I took to 
dreaming." As a matter of fact (and this 
throws some light on the life histories of 
our poets) it seems impossible to be suc- 
cessful in both worlds. We all know the 
earthly troubles that overtake dreamers, and 
I am willing to wager that your Jew million- 
aire goes bankrupt half a dozen times a night 
in his sleep, where all his yellow money 
cannot save him. Probably, if you cultivate 
the art of dreaming, you will pay for it 
under the sun, but whereas our chances on 
the earth are limited by our opportunities, 
the lands of sleep are boundless and our 
holding is only limited by our capacity for 
dreaming. There are no trusts in dreams. 

Next it is necessary to consider how far 
it is possible to command our dreams at 
will, and this, I think, is very largely a 
matter of practice. At first hearing, most 
people would think a man who said that 
he could dream when and, to a certain 
degree, whatever he wanted, untruthful. But 


the effects of opium on the practised eater 
are known to every one, and cucumber and 
lobster salads have been calculated in terms 
of nightmares to a nicety, and while depre- 
cating these more violent stimulants, I am 
sure that by choosing a judicious daylight 
environment, the will can be brought to bear 
almost directly on our midnight adventures. 
I may refer, in support of this, to the 
number of instances quoted in Mr. Lang's 
" Book of Dreams and Ghosts," of persons 
solving problems in their sleep which had 
baffled them when they were awake. 

To any one who wishes to dream pleasant, 
if unoriginal, dreams, I should recommend 
a life of intellectual rather than emotional 
idleness. The theatre, music, flowers and 
novels of a badly-written, exciting character 
are all serviceable for this kind of dreamer, 
and he or she should cultivate a habit of 
wandering and incoherent thought. The rest, 
as I have suggested, is a matter of will, but 
I warn the unwary that the results are apt 
to be surprising. 

For, after all, except possibly in certain 
cases of insanity, the two worlds overlap but 


slightly. Usually we can recall a small 
chapter of the dream we have dreamed, and 
in our sleep we retain a little of our waking 
wisdom, and that is all. From the splendid 
garden in which you wandered last night 
you brought away nothing perhaps but a 
flower or two, broken in waking. To-night 
you may be flying about the house-tops as 
if you had never accepted the law of gravity 
as a fact. And as you may not now recall 
the laws which govern your kingdom of 
sleep, you can only suggest a course for your 
movements therein, at the risk of finding 
yourself engaged in a series of very uncom- 
fortable adventures. Owing to an effort to 
dream short stories after the manner of 
Robert Louis Stevenson, I was compelled to 
commit two singularly brutal murders, 
touched with a number of lifelike but repel- 
lent details. I know better now, for I have 
learnt that for me it is a rule of sleep that 
I should take the leading part myself, even 
though, oddly enough, the dream is still a 
work of art so far as to allow me to go 
back and alter incidents which do not fit in 
with the latter part of the story. I may 


add that, owing to the extraordinary logic 
which binds my movements when asleep, the 
stories are hardly ever any good from a 
waking point of view, but the dreams are 
agreeable because I have a subconscious glow 
of self-congratulation on the vast quantity 
of work that I am doing. I think it possible 
that all very lazy people have this glow in 
their dreams, for this would account for the 
quite immoral happiness of the habitually 
idle. Moreover, it constitutes a quite reason- 
able defence for laziness, for no one can 
be expected to work all round the clock, and 
if a prince has been opening imaginary 
bazaars all night, you cannot ask him to 
lay real foundation-stones all day. We can, 
and do, punish men for preferring their 
labours in the other world to their labours 
in this ; but we have no right to call them 
foolish as well as criminal. Rebels against 
the conventional must be corrected to satisfy 
the majority that it is right ; but it is 
narrow-minded to despise them. They may 
be tyrants in the dim places where dreams 
are born. 

And this brings me to the whole moral 


aspect of dreams and dreaming, a point on 
which I would gladly write a complete 
article. It has often been noticed that in 
dreams we have no sense of right or wrong ; 
but as we have also no control over our 
actions, it would seem that it would not 
make much difference if we had that sense. 
Our movements appear to be guided by a 
will outside our own bodies, and to a certain 
extent, at all events, this will is the will of 
the normal daylight man. It is quite possible 
to regard our dreams as a kind of dramatic 
commentary on our waking life, or as an 
expression of the emotions which the intel- 
lect has forced us to suppress in that life. 
If this be so, we ourselves are more real in 
dreams than we are when awake, however 
fantastic or ridiculous those dreams may 
appear to our conventional minds. And if the 
last art of living is to express ourselves as we 
are, it would seem that the whole duty of 
man is to dream. Perhaps when we have 
at last come to understand ourselves well 
enough to complete a Utopia, our uncon- 
ventional lives will be devoted to a number 
of simple daily preparations for the full en- 


joyment of the dim world which I believe 
we can make as we will, and perhaps our 
true reward for the pains and uncertainties 
of our little lives is the place where beauty 
and joy follow desire as the night follows 
the day. 


ONCE upon a time a small boy was appointed 
to the honourable position of lift-boy in one 
of those amazing blocks of flats which insult 
the blue sky from the northern heights of 
London. One of his duties was the calling 
of cabs, and he was entrusted with a whistle 
for that purpose. " You blow once for a 
four-wheeler, twice for a hansom, and three 
times for a taxi," said his instructor. " And 
if I blow four times? " queried the boy, who 
was of an adventurous turn. "Ah ! " replied 
the man, " you blow four times for a 
hearse ! " Time passed, and, while it often 
fell to the boy's lot to fill the street with 
yearning appeals for cabs, Death must have 
spared the mansions, for the boy was never 
asked to call a hearse. Sometimes, in fun, 
he would place his whistle to his lips and 



endeavour to sound four blasts, but his 
courage always failed him after the third, 
and these adventures would end merely in 
war-like dialogues with jobbing chauffeurs. 
At length, as the boy stood in the street one 
night whistling vainly for a taxi-cab, a 
motor-car struck him from behind, and as 
he fell the fatal fourth blast startled the 
street with its pain. And later there came 
a hearse. 

In the crinoline days, this story, with a 
little judicious amendment, would have 
become a truculent tract on the perils that 
await the disobedient ; now, when we have 
so much sense, it only suggests that if 
motorists do not sound their horns, they run 
over adventurous little lift-boys. 

But perhaps I may be forgiven if I derive 
from it the moral that the danger of being 
dogmatic lies in the fact that other people 
will probably attach much more importance 
to our dogmatisms than we do ourselves. 
A man with a fondness for alliteration may 
pause in a nursery to remark that the fairies 
of the future will be very fat, and then forget 
all about it. But it is quite likely that he 


has left a nightmare of supernatural fat in 
the minds of the children, and that their 
dreams will be disturbed with visions of 
loathsome fairies with pantomime paunches 
and financial chins. So various abhorrent 
bogles used to make the darkness hideous 
in our knickerbocker days, while the inge- 
nious Olympians who had invented them 
went blithely about their pleasures. It is 
true that as we grow up we cease to accept 
these purely aesthetic torments ; but science 
is ready with very efficient substitutes. Many 
unhappy people drag out their wretched lives 
on wholemeal bread and sterilized milk, 
breathing but little for fear of microbes, and 
wearing garments of loathsome texture and 
appearance, while their doctors carouse on 
lobsters and radishes in dressing-gowns of 
amber silk. A philosopher may be a hum- 
bug, and even a Justice of the Peace may 
be immoral ; but their oratorical wisdom will 
pass for truth with many, and our publicists 
can pay for their private vices by condemning 
society for its sins. 

Of course, men and women accept rules 
because they appear to make life easier. The 


doctors tell us that if we get our feet wet 
we catch a cold, and we believe them, because 
we hope that by keeping our feet dry we 
may be spared this calamity. But, in the 
interests of their profession, the medical men 
have chosen a cause which no ingenuity can 
render uncommon. The really wise man, 
therefore, would dishonour this rule, and 
believe that he only caught colds when there 
was a total eclipse of the sun visible at 
Greenwich. I am prepared to listen patiently 
to the learned arguments of my family phy- 
sician, but in my heart I know that the 
doctors discover the cure first, and that it 
is only after that fortunate event that Nature 
moves herself to invent the disease. And, 
if the doctors have afflicted me with neuralgia 
and hereditary gout, I am well aware that 
Samuel Smiles has made me lazy, and that 
certain dim moralists have made me vicious. 
I bear these worthies no grudge for assail- 
ing my mind in its experienced days, and 
slaying the bold, bad rebel before he could 
stretch his wings. To-day I wear clothes 
and eat bacon and eggs for my breakfast, 
and perhaps one day I shall have a villa 


all of my own on the sunny side of the 
Brixton Road. If they had not told me so 
many comfortable things, I might who 
knows? have eaten honeycomb on the 
lower slopes of Parnassus. Yet I say that I 
bear my kindly instructors no grudge. There 
is a policeman in uniform before my door, 
and no man may smite me with death before 
that grim figure and escape punishment. 
And therefore I know that I must not kill 
those whose politics differ from mine ; and 
it is always a comfort in these complex days 
to know exactly what we may not do. 

I have in my mind the picture of a poor, 
law-abiding fellow who dropped dead in 
Regent's Park because he found that he had 
innocently disobeyed a notice which forbade 
him to walk on the newly-sown grass. For 
years and years, I suppose, he had seen those 
curt prohibitions, and never dreamed of 
questioning their authority. I like to think 
that his last breath was sweetened with the 
wild, sweet wine which tints the lips of 
rebels. And perhaps there is a little envy 
in the thought, for I own that I dare not 
walk on the grass, even by accident. In 


truth, this is no paradox, for my flesh is so 
overwhelmed by the value of authority, that, 
even though my brain wandered in moonlit 
gardens, my legs would not disobey the 
London County Council. It is so easy to 
do what we are told, so hard to forget and 
begin the business afresh. And, to make the 
matter complex, there is generally some 
measure of reason in these artificial limita- 
tions. Once on a wall at Hampstead I saw 
written the loveless truth, " Alcohol limits 
the productive powers of the worker." It 
was, I think, a fair summer day, but my 
spirit sank at once in a mood of November 
greyness, and Omar himself could not stay 
my sorrow that all our merry nights of wine 
should end in this. The soul of the man who 
first indited that bitter truth might rise no 
more from the dregs, and even we who came 
after were influenced by his penitent mor- 
bidity. Yet, on examination, the thing proves 
to be but half true. Alcohol is but one of 
the thousand emotional stimulants that inter- 
fere with our work. Love, flowers, the 
spring winds everything that glows under 
the skies is in the conspiracy against our 


absurd labours ; but the fool, I suppose, 
could see nothing but the alcohol in the 
avoiding of which lay his poor hope of sal- 
vation. Yet he was as reasonable as most 
dealers in dogma, and I see his words in 
every joyous bottle. 

Facts are rules to which the great common 
sense of the majority will allow no excep- 
tions, and the chief end of man would appear 
to be to impart facts to his neighbour. We 
are even asked to believe that the accumu- 
lation of these tiresome limitations is a virtue 
and their distribution a duty, and so there 
are always anxious persons at our elbow to 
tell us things which we do not wish to know. 
There is a charming Scotch ballad, of which 
the first line runs, " O waly, waly up the 
bank," and Palgrave informs us gravely that 
the root and pronunciation of the word waly 
are preserved in caterwaul ! Only less crimi- 
nally selfish is the man who tells me the 
way to Camden Town, and thus robs me of 
a walk through an enchanted city. 

Sometimes, looking at the sky on a fine 
night, and remembering how Coleridge was 
able to see a star within the horns of the 


moon, a feat no longer possible to well-in- 
formed persons, I wonder whether the next 
intellectual revolution may not be directed 
against facts. Their influence on art can 
only be bad ; their influence on man may 
easily be measured in terms of fear. I want 
to blow my whistle four times before I am 



THERE are a great many ways of knowing 
London, and there is something to be said 
in favour of all of them. There is the way 
of Walter Besant, who knew mediaeval 
London better than his own, and found it 
again in Rouen. There is the way of Mr. 
E. V. Lucas, who knows all about people's 
houses, little and big, and that of Mr. F. M. 
Hueffer, who has threaded the thrills of 
London on a string like beads. Then there 
is the useful man who knows the colours 
of 'buses and the characteristic smells of 
tubes, and the botanist who can discover 
window-boxes and roof-gardens where even 
the birds may hardly suspect them. More 
frequent is the man wise in taverns and those 
queer cellars where dim persons play domi- 
noes and drink coffee. The specialized topo- 

4 49 


graphical knowledge of policemen, cabmen, 
and postmen is of a professional character, 
and so is that of the flower-girls and the 
gentlemen who pick up the tips of cigars 
and cigarettes. I suppose the acrobats who 
mend telephone-wires and the man on the 
Monument who lets out telescopes on hire, 
know more about the roof-tops than the 
pavements. Theirs must be a London of 
hazardous precipices and little, still lakes, 
of sooty solitudes and noisy craters. 

But when the learning of these and a 
hundred other classes of students has been 
examined, there remains the interesting prob- 
lem of the manner in which the normal, 
unmethodical Londoner is acquainted with 
his city. He has been often blamed because 
he does not rush round and see the sights, 
like the rapt American tourist. It has been 
said, with a great deal of truth, that he does 
not visit the Tower of London or Westmin- 
ster Abbey or the British Museum ; yet when 
a cab -horse lies down in the Strand, a thing 
that happens every day, the police must work 
hard to prevent a crowd of eager spectators 
from blocking the street. At first sight this 


seems blameworthy, and yet in truth a cab- 
horse reposing in the Strand is more repre- 
sentative of modern London than all her 
public buildings, and possibly Londoners 
sub -consciously realize this. Strangers are 
naturally anxious to see the things that make 
our city a fine city ; but we who call it 
home, are hungry for the things that make 
our city London. We have seen cathedrals 
and museums and picture-galleries in other 
places, but our crowds, and our policemen, 
and our cab -horses, are ours alone. 

It is this familiarity with what may be 
called the essential details of London life 
that constitutes the civic knowledge of nine 
Londoners out of ten, and the guide-book 
wisdom of a foreigner can hardly hope to 
rival our subtleties. He may know the mum- 
mies of the British Museum very well, but 
the pigeons at its gates are our brothers, and 
not his. He may speak learnedly of the 
Great Fire and Christopher Wren, but he 
has not dropped orange-pips from the top 
of the Monument as a child. He may regard 
the Embankment monolith with a mind 
attuned to hieroglyphs, but he cannot know 


that the children of the pavement call it 
Clara Patrick's Needle. Yet it is these things, 
or their like, that we call to mind when we 
think of London. Now and again, it would 
seem, London takes her infants by the hand, 
and it is in these rare moments that we 
arrive at our 'finer knowledge of her ways. 
It is something to have seen the great pano- 
rama unroll itself from Hampstead Hill ; it 
is something to have steamed from Putney 
to Southend on a straining tug ; but for 
some the lights of the Euston Road in fog, 
for others perhaps the uneasy flicker of 
winter dawn on the flowers at Covent Garden, 
hold more of London than it all. 

And so this intimate knowledge of their 
city, common to all true Londoners, becomes 
individual in its direct expression. I remem- 
ber a London shopkeeper, miserably con- 
valescent at Hastings, who showed me an old 
County Council tram-car that was used by 
the fishermen for storing their nets on the 
beach, and there were tears in his eyes 
because it still bore the soft names of beloved 
southern suburbs ; and, though my heart 
was in the north, with Euston and Hamp- 


stead and Camden Town, I gave him my 
sympathy freely. He told me that he liked 
the smell of orange-peel, and was sorry that 
the custom of eating the golden fruit in the 
galleries of theatres was dying out. Though 
his tram-car had failed to appeal to me, 
there was something in that to make me 
home-sick. I, too, had loved the smell of 
oranges, and, answering his recollection, I 
saw Farringdon Market drift out along the 
beach, and the light of the naphtha flares 
pass in smoke to the sea. But why had I 
no school books? 

It takes more than oranges and tram-cars 
to give definition to the picture we have 
drawn on our slates. These things might 
conceivably represent Manchester to an in- 
habitant of that city, and we are citizens 
of London. It is rather from certain ecstatic 
moments that we derive our impressions than 
from any continuous emotional process. 

Thus I have seen an escaped monkey sit- 
ting on the head of Robert Burns in the 
Embankment Gardens ; I have heard a tipsy 
boy sing so sweetly in a large West End cafe 
that all the women broke down and cried ; 


I have been roused from my sleep by a 
policeman to find that a neighbouring fire 
had cracked my bedroom windows ; I have 
seen a child blowing soap-bubbles in the 
Strand and Olympic Americans showing off 
outside a Bloomsbury hotel ; I have seen 
Mr. Bernard Shaw going westward with his 
beard of flax, and I have heard Mr. G. K. 
Chesterton laugh in a quiet street ; I have 
seen the merchants of London gazing with 
a wild surmise on Mr. Brangwyn's fresco 
at the Royal Exchange. From these and a 
thousand other similar moments I have won 
in some dim way my knowledge of London, 
and though I may know her longer I shall 
not know her better. It is not the number 
of such spiritual adventures that counts, there 
is a small boy at Drury Lane Theatre who 
has had twice as many as I it is rather the 
extent to which they affect us ; and at an 
early age London ceased to astonish me 
because I had learnt to believe her capable 
of anything. We who live in London know 
that she is the City of Infinite Possibilities. 

Were a dragon to ramp at Westminster, 
we might regard the Abbey with a new 


interest, but it would not affect the Bank 
rate ; and, knowing this, we go about our 
business with a calmness that moves lovers 
of local patriotism to tears. Yet we are 
patriotic, when we are not in London. We 
talk about her kindly on the front at Brighton 
on windy nights, and the man who said that 
the Niagara Falls reminded him of the fount- 
ains in Trafalgar Square was not untypical 
of her children. 

To the alien, I suppose, London must remain 
a kind of scattered museum, full of interesting 
things, not very well arranged. Yet once, 
at all events, it seemed to me that, to a man 
newly fallen from Scotland, there had been 
granted a glimpse of the only London that 
is really ours. I found him startling the 
echoes of the Adelphi arches with his 
laughter, and as he was alone in a place not 
greatly mirthful, I asked him a reason for 
his merriment. 

" Oh, I'm just laughing at Glasgow," he 


A FEW weeks ago one of the impassioned 
critics who tell posterity about books in the 
Times literary supplement ventured to rebuke 
a poet for remarking in his preface that few 
people take much interest in modern verse. 
I have lost the cutting which contained this 
little journalistic jeu cT esprit, and my heart 
sinks at the thought of searching for it anew 
in the files of the Times. But I may say 
that I could not help smiling at the noble 
ardour of the critic, and sympathizing with 
the dolorous plaint of the poet. Hardly any- 
one does take any interest in modern verse, 
and this may be proved not only by look- 
ing at the boots of poets and the penny - 
boxes of secondhand booksellers, but also 
from the most cursory examination of the 
columns of the Times itself. Now and again 



it has printed a political tract in rhyme from 
the pen of Mr. Kipling, and I have some 
dim recollection of other political tracts and 
memorial couplets that have appeared in its 
columns. But I have never suspected it of 
any effort to print a poem because it was 

And this lyrical reticence, which it shares 
with all the other morning papers, is suffi- 
ciently suggestive at the present time, when 
even our most dignified periodicals are fain 
for that popularity which has so much weight 
with advertisers. If the heart of the season- 
ticket holder were capable of being stirred 
by the rapt words of poets, we should see 
our modern editors scaling Parnassus with 
cheque-books in their hands, in search of 
the blithe singers they now successfully 
avoid. With smiles and courteous phrases 
on their lips they would ply Pegasus with 
ingenious dopes of flattery to rouse him to 
record-breaking flights. The soft titles of 
poems would contend on the bills with the 
names of criminals and co-respondents. We 
should have the poet's criticism of the Cup- 
tie final and the Boat Race and Tariff 


Reform. We should hear how he wrote his 
poems and what he had for his breakfast. 
His photograph would figure in the advertise- 
ment columns, and he would tell us how he 
cleaned his teeth and where he bought his 
rouge. In brief, he would be famous. 

But as a matter of fact the season-ticket 
holder does not care a rap for poetry, and 
the judicious editor is at pains to imitate 
him. Only, since a newspaper must be cul- 
tured, he every now and then allows one of 
his young men to deal with a score of little 
volumes in a column headed " Recent Verse," 
and it says something for the present-day 
journalist that frequently the column is very 
well written. With the editor, in nine cases 
out of ten a commercial man endeavouring 
more or less successfully to interpret the 
wishes of his customers, I shall have no 
further concern, but the case of the average 
Englishman is more interesting. How is it 
that he, a creature of flesh and blood, eating 
and drinking and loving and breathing good 
air, does not care to see his life expressed 
in its highest emotional terms? 

I am prepared to meet the objection that 


to-day we have no outstanding poet to win 
the favour of the majority of the semi- 
cultured. For in the past the middle classes 
have been content to elect their own gods. 
They preferred Byron and Walter Scott to 
Keats and Shelley, and Tennyson and 
Coventry Patmore at their worst to Brown- 
ing and Mr. Swinburne. I think it may 
be said that we have not discovered a Keats 
or a Browning among our living poets, but 
I feel sure that only encouragement is needed 
to produce a very good substitute for the 
Byron of " Childe Harold " or the Tennyson 
of the "May Queen." But it is just this en- 
couragement that is lacking. It is not that 
the general taste in poetry has improved ; 
it has rather died a natural death, so that 
a poet is put to all manner of shifts to 
win a hearing. A friend of mine has solved 
the problem by visiting coffee-stalls in the 
little hours of the morning, and giving cake 
and coffee to the unemployed on condition 
that they listen to his sonnets. I would 
rather read a sonnet to a body of loafers 
than to the occupants of a second-class 
carriage in a suburban morning train. 


And in this preference there lies the heart 
of the present problem ; it is the middle- 
class intellectual who has deserted the Par- 
nassian colours, it is his defection that has 
made it impossible for a poet to earn a living 
wage, and it is not difficult to see why he 
has done so. When he meets his neighbour 
in the morning, he talks critically about the 
weather. At mid -day his view of the weather 
becomes introspective, at night prophetic. He 
is a kind of inexact barometer. If he be a 
pessimist he welcomes the sunshine that 
interrupts the rain ; if an optimist he de- 
plores the rain that interrupts the sunshine. 
But life for him is always a matter of 
weather. Now, and it is failure to realize 
this that has made poets what they are, an 
Englishman talks about the weather because 
he is afraid to talk about anything else. He 
feels that in all other topics there lurk vague 
perils. To admire scenery is affected, 
sociology is coarse, the drama vulgar, politics 
violent, religious discussion blasphemous, 
and so on. But to remark that we really 
do have extraordinary weather in England 
is at once good-citizenship and sound im- 


perialisra. Therefore the poet, when he does 
happen to reach the ears of the lords of 
middle-class homes, annoys them very much 
by his un-English lack of reticence. 

As every tradesman knows, there is a 
fortune for any one who can please the great 
middle-classes, and, as in a dream, I can 
see a race of poets springing up and waxing 
fat by means of their subtle power of ex- 
pressing the real emotions of the backbone 
of England. They will make epics of wind 
and rain and sudden hail, or in lighter mood 
they will weave ballades of fog and triolets 
of mud. Their works will be largely quoted 
in the suburbs and on the platforms of rail- 
way stations, and as literature will form part 
of the curriculum of private schools. To 
know them will be a sign of culture, and 
to own the weather anthologies will stamp 
a man as an intellectual. Once more, so 
my dream runs ecstatically, poetry other than 
limericks will be good form, provided always 
that the poet observes his anti-cyclones and 
keeps a wise eye on his depressions. Poets 
will have harems and motor-cars, and nice 
things to eat and drink, and their poetry will 


not suffer, for even now the finer luxuries 
of the rich are the mere necessaries of poets. 
The Poet Laureate will have a larger income 
than any of the able office-boys who form 
governments. By virtue of his rank he will 
be able to go to pantomimes and music-halls 
without paying for his seat or his pro- 
gramme, and 'bus conductors will know him 
by sight. He will form one of the select 
group of great men who answer the conun- 
drums of the day. The Times will print 
his verses. 

Of course, this is only a beautiful dream, 
a dream too beautiful to develop into a con- 
crete fact. And it must be recognized that 
the responsibility for the present neglect of 
poetry lies chiefly, in an age that loves the 
word efficiency, with the poets themselves. 
Writing once before upon this matter, I 
put forward the perfectly reasonable sugges- 
tion that poets should have their poems sold 
in the streets at a penny each. This would 
manifestly be good for the poets, and also 
for the happy English homes that gained 
their songs. But I only succeeded in draw- 
ing a correspondent who accused me of en- 


couraging " shrieking versifiers." I utterly 
mistrust the poet who does not want every- 
body to read his poems, just as I utterly 
mistrust the poet who prates about the 
dignity of poverty, and does not want lots 
of money to spend. An artist without vanity 
is like a rocket without a stick, and a poet 
who does not long for every kind of emo- 
tional excess is a coward. To live happily 
in an attic nowadays, when money can buy 
so many different kinds of roses, is the sign 
of a deficient imagination. It is true that 
the poet's strength lies in his dreams, but 
he can always start dreaming where life 
leaves off. If he has a motor he will desire 
wings ; if he has an airship he will long 
to sail through the passionless seas of space. 
You cannot weary a man of nectarines by 
giving him apples. 

And now, after, I fear, an excess of errant 
flippancy, I come to my point. Poets must be 
supported by the State, and handsomely sup- 
ported in order that they may cultivate their 
bitter-sweet disease to advantage. I calculate 
that the cost of one Dreadnought would pro- 
vide an annual sum sufficient to keep twenty 


poets from emotional starvation. Probably, 
since England is what it is, they will have 
to be chosen by competitive examination, but 
once chosen they must have complete liberty 
to waste their lives as they will. Probably 
three-quarters of them will thereafter be 
content to lead pretty lives and write no 
more ; possibly the others will turn out a 
few decent lyrics. But the moral effect of 
State recognition of the value of poetry will 
be enormous. For the moment the middle- 
classes discover that there is money in 
poetry, they will respect poets and buy their 
works and their portraits. Surely this desir- 
able end were cheaply attained at the cost of 
one battleship ! 


A FEW weeks ago I wrote an article, in which 
I suggested the wholesale pensioning of Eng- 
lish poets. I stated my case flippantly for 
the reader's sake, but I had quite a serious 
purpose of my own. I think poets, or for 
that matter any one who devotes his life 
to the unremunerative production of beau- 
tiful things, should be handsomely supported 
by the State. We reward the persons who 
make oil -cloth and umbrellas and things of 
that sort. We supply policemen to take care 
of their houses, and Dreadnoughts to defend 
their factories. We put crests on their 
spoons, and let them adopt the names of 
pleasant English villages in place of their 
own. We even create Bishops in case the 
souls of manufacturers should have been 
injured by their own machines. But for 

5 65 


the poets, who are really the designers of 
the umbrellas and oil-cloth of to-morrow, 
we do nothing whatever. They have no 
homes or factories, or spoons, and their souls 
are beyond the reach of Bishops. The ex- 
pensive little systems that guard our con- 
ventions are merely tiresome limitations to 
them. All that we can give them is the gold 
that they alone know how to spend, and this 
we withhold. 

I feel a certain diffidence in approaching 
the presumed suicide of John Davidson, 
partly because nearly every one else who 
has written about it has annoyed me, and 
partly because I cannot quite understand his 
motive. It has been assumed generally that 
the immediate cause of his suicide was lack 
of money, and one might deduce from his 
last letter that for another hundred or two 
a year he would have been willing to con- 
tinue living and writing poetry. There is 
something significant in the Wordsworthian 
simplicity of that ideal dinner that he 
designed before leaving home for the last 
time. Potato soup, boiled beef, and rice 
pudding are all good things in their way. 


but the combination is the meal of a feeder 
rather than an eater. I can find a certain 
dignity in the man who rejects life because 
it holds for him no truffles or April straw- 
berries ; but, in all sympathy, it is ridiculous 
to commit suicide because one cannot have 
enough rice pudding. Poets kill themselves 
because they have not got ten thousand a 
year with which to exhaust the emotional 
possibilities of concrete pleasure ; no one 
would voluntarily cease from living for lack 
of a plateful of potato soup. 

And it was this consideration that made 
me smile at Mr. William Watson's passion- 
ately sympathetic letter to the Times. Eng- 
land does starve her poets ; but, on the 
whole, it is better that she should do so 
than that she should make them a pauper's 
allowance of boiled beef and rice pudding. 
It was Chatterton's stricken vanity and not 
his hunger that made him hurry so, and I 
feel that the same might almost be said of 
Davidson. He was one of those unfortunate 
people who believe that they have a message 
to convey to the world ; forgetting, perhaps, 
that it is impossible to convey messages to 


a stomach. The bitterness of the unhonoured 
prophet is cumulative, and in the end his 
message smashed John Davidson. If it had 
been the ordinary man with an idea in his 
head, or, in polite English, with a bee in 
his bonnet, we should have heard little about 
it ; but it happened that he was also a poet, 
and rather a big poet. So all the little news- 
papers danced on his body, and the constant 
readers asked why he did not try to earn 
an honest living when he found that poetry 
did not pay. There is no need to answer 
such asses ; they shall burn in any hell of 
mine until they are weary of pain itself. 
For the rest, it may well be that the prophet 
Davidson grew weary of waiting for the 
tardy ravens ; but it is certain that the poet, 
the man who wrote the " Ballad of a Nun " 
and the " Runnable Stag," did not kill him- 
self for lack of an extra hundred a year. 
Nor, indeed, is he dead. 

The case of John Davidson has reminded 
the journals of to-day that poets may have 
a kind of sentimental value, and that it may 
be creditable in a country to save her 
singers from starving. But in discussing the 


question of State support, they admit, 
sensibly enough, that no officially appointed 
body could be trusted to distinguish the sheep 
from the goats, the singers from the amiable 
persons who ought to write prose. The tests 
any such body would apply would be the 
kind of tests that govern the admission of 
strange young men to suburban drawing- 
rooms, and we should end by having twenty 
poet laureates where now we suffer but one, 
while the Ernest Dowsons and Francis 
Thompsons would continue to inherit the 
gutters of London. This is so certain that 
I cannot blame the leader-writers for shelv- 
ing the problem until the next young poet 
makes himself into a rondeau with strych- 
nine, or blows his brains into a rosy lyric. 
Nor do I think it matters, for I do not 
believe that two hundred and fifty a year 
would do any poet any good, and I doubt 
whether the present age is sufficiently en- 
lightened to pay its poets more. Such an 
income represents compromise, and com- 
promise is bad for poets. There is a type 
of poet that can do very good work in 
prisons and doss-houses ; there is the other 


type that wants to pelt expensive actresses 
to death with orchids and drive over cliffs 
in amber motor-cars ; and between these two 
ideals of spiritual and physical asceticism 
there lies respectability and the whole 
tragedy of modern English poetry. I sup- 
pose Wordsworth and Tennyson and Brown- 
ing have something to answer for, but when 
I see most of our modern young poets I long 
to make them drunk on methylated spirits. 
They are so neat and tame and pretty. They 
would find Shelley odd and Burns coarse, 
and Villon would pick their pockets. There 
is no need to provide pensions for young 
men like these ; they, can always fall back 
on the more dashing kind of journalism. 

As for the others, an illimitable optimism 
is needed to believe that any, Government 
would give ten thousand a year to a dis^ 
reputable person merely because he had a 
gift of song. Yet this is what we must do 
if we are going to concern ourselves with 
the worldly welfare of poets at all. I am 
not so much concerned with the possible 
effect of this living wage on their work, 
though one may be permitted to wonder 


what Shakespeare or Burns or even Steven- 
son would have written if they had been 
really well-to-do. What charms me is the 
thought of how delightfully the poets would 
spend the money. They would not, as most 
rich men do, so order their scale of living 
that they hardly had a penny for those ines- 
sential extravagances that are essential to 
children and the elderly wise. Nor, if they 
were the right sort of poet, would they 
wholly forget the coffee stalls of Bohemia 
in the wine cups of Utopia, though I trust 
that they would forget the coffee. 

And their dreams. . . . It is really pitiful 
to reflect what a lot of time our poets waste 
in dreaming that they have motor-cars and 
yachts and music-halls of their own, when 
the possession of these trifles would enable 
them to solve the riddle of the universe in 
a lifetime or so. Our poets have always 
been underfed, and, in consequence, they 
have given us a great account of life, like, 
the hungry boy who flattens his nose on the 
cook-shop window and thinks nobly of 
sausages. A generation of fat poets would 
alter all that, and perhaps would shake our 


state of material contentment. To-day we 
are so sure of ourselves that we are pre- 
pared to classify miracles as they occur. I 
can imagine some one running from the bed 
of Lazarus to a present-day drawing-room, 
with the news that a man had just been 
raised from the dead. The twentieth century 
would comment, " Oh, in America, I sup- 
pose," and Lazarus would creep gladly back 
into his grave. The satisfied are damned 
because they need no faith, and nowadays 
in this sense nearly everybody is satisfied ; 
but realizing the power of money, I think 
that a man who was at once a poet and rich 
might contrive a miracle or two to set the 
idiots gaping, as healthy idiots should gape, 
at this nightmare of a world. 

I suppose this theory as to the function of 
poets would be called far-fetched, though I 
doubt whether I should secure belief if I said 
how far I had fetched it. But the poets 
themselves must be blamed if their attitude 
towards life is misunderstood. Once it may 
have been natural for poets to demand 
flowers and love and things of that sort ; now 
the true lover of Nature is the man who 


wants ten thousand a year to spend on the 
concrete illustration of his dreams. Poets 
must claim this, not as a charity, but as a 
right ; and if they do not secure it they 
have only to cease writing. Perhaps in a 
few centuries they will have their revenge. 



MR. WILLIAM WATSON'S recent timely remon- 
strance against the use of the term " minor 
poet " raises the question of the com- 
plete ignorance of the general public as 
to what constitutes a poet. Of course, 
there is no such thing as a minor poet ; 
it were as sensible to talk of minor dip- 
somaniacs or minor consumptives. A man 
either has the will to express himself lyrically 
or he has it not. If he is smitten with this 
bitter-sweet disease he is a poet. If he has 
escaped it he is just a something in the poet's 
background, a something that will turn to 
dust and then to daisies, to sway deliciously 
in the wind, because long ago some poet 
loved, or more likely thought he loved, a 
girl who bore the name of that flower. For, 
even while the minor critics are perfecting 



delicately offensive phrases with which to ex- 
press their contempt for those who serve the 
Muses, the poets are changing the venom 
and filth of those very critics into spring 
flowers and sunsets, and beautiful, hopeful 
things. Perhaps it is a sub -conscious sense 
of this magic metamorphosis that makes 
little critics so harsh with poets. 

When a child is born to this earth it opens 
its lips and weeps lustily ; and yet there are 
persons who would deny that very young 
children have the gift of insight. As the 
days and the months and the years pass by 
it is bribed into the habit of living by means 
of sops and trifles. When its tears incom- 
mode its neighbours it is given sweets to 
hush it ; when its play, is too noisy it is 
punished into silence. So in time it learns 
the great rule of compromise, and if it is 
a healthy, normal child it dies at three-score- 
years -and -ten, without ever having laughed 
so loudly as to awaken jealousy in its fellows, 
without ever having wept so long as to 
imply a criticism of the wisdom of the 
methods of God. Whether its existence has 
made any difference is a problem for those 


scientists who can weigh dirt to the billionth 
part of a grain. 

But now and again there is born a child 
whose tears may not be stayed with sweets, 
whose laughter triumphs over chastisement. 
Walking a little aloof, singing and laughing 
and weeping, it troubles the great silence 
that lulls the hearts of men. It flouts the 
idol that its fathers have served for genera- 
tions ; it worships a wind-torn poppy that 
only a reaper's whim has spared. While 
other children grow more and more akin 
about it, every day seems to set this child 
farther from its neighbours, every day it 
grows more like the flowers and winds and 
the trees of the world. And so while the 
children of civilization grow old and pass, 
it stays among the hills and silent places 
and does not die. On the world of men 
and women into which it would seem to 
have wandered by mistake its influence might 
be ignored. And yet for centuries the young 
man shall woo the maidens with the love and 
the song that it gave the world, and the 
maidens themselves shall have wide eyes and 
crimson lips, because it was so that the 


wonder-child liked them to be. Of such 
children are the poets. 

To divide humanity into groups and put 
each group to bed with a sweeping generali- 
zation is a popular but dangerous amuse- 
ment, and especially is it deadly to provide 
verbal paramours for the group of splendid 
accidents we call poets. In the first place, 
it is not easy to say what a poet is. I 
suppose most definitions would imply in 
some way or other that he was a writer of 
poems. But even here there is a doubt. The 
desire for expression exists in so many differ- 
ent degrees. For instance, Edward Fitz- 
gerald was satisfied with the compliments of 
a small circle of intimate friends, while poor 
John Davidson wished a nation to accept 
his truth. I can conceive a man devoting 
his whole life to the effort to express him- 
self lyrically to one person, a woman per- 
haps. What a fine thing it would be for a 
poet to pass his hours in writing the eternal 
song on the heart of a girl ; and what a 
fine girl ! It seems ridiculous to suppose 
that if Shelley had never learnt how to write 
he would not have been a poet. 


Yet if we admit that a poet need not 
write poems we must allow that nearly every 
one is at times a poet, and so in a sense 
nearly every one is. I heard a story the 
other day of a little London child who was 
taken out to the country for the first time, 
and set down in a field to play. She looked 
about her in a dazed way at the green fields 
and hedges, and then was physically sick. If 
that child had possessed the gift of verbal 
expression she would have written a poem ; 
but even so I doubt whether she could have 
paid Nature a finer compliment than this. 
I have noticed that in moments of great 
sorrow the uneducated achieve a singular 
dignity and felicity of phrase, and it is 
reasonable to suppose that it is their ignor- 
ance of craftsmanship rather than any lack 
of emotional force that prevents them from 
expressing themselves lyrically. In spite of 
our stultifying civilization there are a few 
superlative moments in the lives of every one 
which only failure to acquire the habit of 
writing verse prevents them from expressing 
in poetry. 

But apart from the joy of believing that 


there are possibilities for good in every one, 
it must be acknowledged that this latent poet 
is so firmly suppressed in the bosoms of 
the respectable that he might almost as well 
not be there at all, and we are therefore 
justified in demanding that to earn the title 
of poet a man should write poems. Beyond 
this the adjudgment of poets always seems 
to me a question of how far the individual 
poets have siicceeded in expressing the ego 
of the critic. Thus I probably think far too 
much of Dowson because he wrote "Cynara" ; 
a poem, however, which only the maddest of 
prigs could call minor. And similarly, while 
I own to loving Francis Thompson for his 
poems about children, it is a poem called 
" Memorat Memoria " that takes my breath 
away, because I am one of the very unfor- 
tunate persons who really know what it 
means. Yet I know both Dowson and 
Thompson did much better work than this. 
This is the difficulty, this conflict between the 
emotional and the intellectual judgments, that 
must always trouble critics who endeavour 
to divide poets into classes, saving always 
those god -like critics who own to no emo- 


tions, and may therefore be safely permitted 
to bore each other till newspapers cease to 
appear. It is not always the so-called great 
poets who knock us off our intellectual 
perches. There lies beside me a little volume 
of poems published exactly fifty years ago 
by Thomas Ashe, a name that, till I looked 
between the covers, bore for me only the 
dimmest significance. Yet there are surpris- 
ingly beautiful things in that little book, and 
I think a modern poet could make a reputa- 
tion in this untuneful age by reproducing 
his curiously individual music. Critics of 
poetry are nearly useless, because their 
blood, save by rare coincidence, can never 
run the course of yours or mine. 

And now, I suppose, the time has come 
to justify a title, carefully calculated to 
strike the thoughtless as impertinent. For 
while I should hesitate before giving advice 
to would-be engine -drivers^ the question I 
have undertaken to answer seems to me an 
easy one. " Take something," I would say 
to the young man desirous of Parnassus, 
" take anything and love it ! " and thereafter, 
if he were a child of his century, I should 


have to tell him of love, the rude, uncivi- 
lized force that has inspired all the deeds 
worth doing, that has made all the things 
worth making. I should tell him that it 
was nonsense to speak of anything or any- 
body being " worthy of his love," that the 
question was whether he could make his 
love worthy of any shadow of an idea that 
might penetrate his education. I should tell 


To what end? That he might see life as 
he would have made it, and weep his years 
away ; that he might find beauty and fail 
to win it ; that he might cry his scorn of 
ugliness on the hills and have never a hearer 
for his pains? Pooh ! it were kinder to 
let him snore with the others. There are 
too many unhappy people already. 



PROBABLY every one remembers Swift's famous 
essay on a broomstick. But it is to be feared 
that this, which was thought a masterpiece 
of ingenious fancy in its time, would pass 
unnoticed in these sophisticated days. For, 
nowadays, everybody writes about broom- 
sticks, and indeed the writer who does not 
do so is in danger of failing in that final 
task of belly-filling that relates the artist 
inevitably to the man. In other words, 
specialization, the art of losing the infinite 
in search of the finite, has become the only, 
art that the brute many who hold the 
golden pieces deem worthy of reward. 
Treated in this way, the eternal things that 
thrilled and troubled our fathers become 
manageable, and duly subservient to the 



popular will. It is difficult to patronize 
death, but easy to prattle of cremation and 
curious epitaphs. Love, resisting the steady 
pressure of civilizing forces, remains un- 
moral, but we have invented a definite 
morality for marriage, and it serves. Nor 
have we spared such semi-concrete things 
as the stars and the blue sky. We have 
weighed the atmosphere and measured the 
stars, setting limits to their wonder, and 
it would take a week-long eclipse of 
the sun to shake our reliance on the 

Observing that the passion for specializa- 
tion and the specialist is regarded in England 
as tending to efficiency, it is hardly necessary 
to add that it is insane. The wholly effi- 
cient man, if he exists anywhere, which God 
forbid, is certainly insane, for a man's soul 
lies neither in his strength nor his weak- 
ness, but balanced featly between the two, 
like a ball in the hands of a child. A man 
without strength is an idiot, but a man 
without weakness would be a god in an 

In terms of life a specialist might be 


defined as a person of unusually widespread 
ignorance, but his tragedy really lies in the 
fact that his absorption in one subject in- 
evitably prevents him from knowing anything 
about that subject. Thus, to take simple 
illustrations, a bibliophile is a man who 
knows nothing about books ; an astronomer 
is a man who cannot see the stars ; a 
botanist is a man for whom the earth pro- 
vides no flowers ; and yet it is to such folk 
that our modern simplicity would have us 
go for information. Concentration, even 
though it be a life-time long, can only give 
a man a knowledge of inessential things ; 
truth can only be won from those inspired 
moments that build up eternity. I suppose 
it is a too thorough acceptance of the 
doctrine of free-will that has led us to 
confuse a knowledge of facts with the 
realization of truth. We feel that if we 
learn all that there is to be known about 
a thing, the truth must be ours, though 
our very knowledge is likely to make it 
obscure. A man may concentrate all his 
faculties on an abandoned pump for thirty 
years, before a little dog, with a flash of 


intuition, shows him how it can be made 
useful. The knowledge that we deliber- 
ately seek is rarely of any value ; wisdom 
lies in appreciation of the significance of 
the accidental. 

All this seems, perhaps, a little remote 
from literature, but its application to the 
present state of English art is only too 
exact. At no period of English literature 
have our authors been so greatly confused 
by what are pessimistically designated the 
" facts " of life. These may be divided into 
such natural phenomena as cold and hunger, 
and such generally lauded conventions as 
cleanliness and education, and their effect on 
the minds of our writers has been to make 
them minor prophets and great bores. Thus 
the persons who ought to be gratifying our 
taste for triolets and fairy stories think it 
their duty to produce didactic plays and 
novels, from which one would judge that 
the first task of man is rather to improve 
his neighbour than himself. The weakness 
of propagandist art lies in the fact that his 
message leads the author to pay too much 
attention to the whims and prejudices of his 


readers. It was possibly necessary that the 
English people should be reminded of the 
" facts " that are the foundation of " Mrs. 
Warren's Profession," but in order to bring 
them home to his audience the author has 
spoiled his play. Mr. Shaw is a good, or, 
if you prefer it, a bad example of the artistic 
martyrdoms that will make the present 
literary period notorious one of these days. 
He has sold his soul to his conscience for a 
mess of unconventional morality. Certainly 
he does not credit the facts of which he is 
indeed the slave. 

But this dissatisfaction with the purely 
honourable task of creating beautiful things 
is in the air, and can hardly be dismissed 
with a phrase. It is expressed with con- 
siderable force in the latest novel of Mr. 
John Masefield, who has written fine poetry 
before now. It has damned Mr. H. G. Wells, 
soured Mr. John Galsworthy, and made Mr. 
Chesterton frequently tiresome. It has killed 
Davidson, and afflicted us with the " City 
of Dreadful Brass " from the hand that wrote 
" Sussex." Only time will tell us what its 
influence may be on the younger men. But 


to me the serious aspect of this scepticism as 
to the honesty of the artistic ideal is that 
it has made most of our men of letters 
traitors to their cause. I suppose that at 
all times there have been persons, a great 
many persons, who thought that the lives of 
artists were useless, but it has remained for 
the artists of to-day to say as much them- 
selves. How can we hope to succeed in our 
task of teaching the men and women and 
the children of England to appreciate the 
beautiful, if we commence with the admis- 
sion that beauty does not count? The so- 
called decadents of another age were skilled 
to find roses in the mud ; we, with our more 
wholesome, utilitarian outlook, are eager to 
find mud in every rose, in order to bring 
the blunders of civilization home to the 
minds of the civilized. 

Lord Curzon once told a grateful audi- 
ence that there was no reason why Eng- 
land should feel depressed, but to those 
of us who believe that Shakespeare, Keats, 
and Swinburne have done more for their 
country than Nelson, Wellington, and Glad- 
stone, it matters little whether England is 


sorry because there are yet worthless things 
to which she cannot attain, or proud of the 
worthless things to which she has attained. 
But that those men who ought to be leaders 
in the camp of truth should encourage her 
in her esteem of inessentials, that they, 
should speak to her of the little passing 
diseases that they dread, when love is 
out in the world and the great salt winds 
are beating in from the sea, that is the last 

I will give an illustration. I suppose, if 
these people have not written in vain, that 
the Embankment has come to be considered 
a kind of rallying-ground for nocturnal 
misery, a place where vice and misfortune 
rub shoulders and wait for bowls of soup. 
As a matter of fact, the Embankment by 
night is the finest thing in all London, and 
in some measure London's justification. I 
had always appreciated the sombre beauty 
of the river with its shadows and reflections, 
but it was a poet of my acquaintance who 
first pointed out to me the exquisite tracery 
of the shadows thrown by the branches of 
the plane-trees on the grey pavements. Given 


a slight breeze to set the branches swaying, 
there can be nothing more beautiful than 
this in the whole round world. Now I con- 
fess that I have not conquered my natural 
aversion for all forms of human discomfort, 
whether exemplified in my own body or in 
those of other people, but let me add that 
in face of that lovely changing tapestry, these 
brief sorrows and even these brief lives seem 
to me of small importance. We are born 
to starve and shiver for a while in the 
gutters of life and presently we die. But 
beauty is eternal, and it is only by means 
of our appreciation of beauty that we can 
bear with our clumsy, rotting bodies while 
our life lasts. All other creeds seem to me 
forlorn and self-destructive. 

And to the young men for whom I write, 
since the follies of age extend to the grave, 
I would commend those delicate shadows on 
the stones of the Embankment, as giving this 
sordid city life a certain eternal significance. 
Doubtless the loathsome details of that life 
threaten to choke them, as they seem to 
have choked most of our older artists. But 
while God is content to spread His beauty 


beneath our feet, as He spread it beneath 
the feet of Shakespeare, of Keats, and of 
Swinburne, there is hope for those of us 
who can see it. 



IN the "Shropshire Lad," by Mr. A. E. 
Housman, a poet who alone among his 
loquacious kind sings too little, there is a 
curious expression of opinion on one might 
almost say defence of suicide*. I have not the 
book by me, and I admire Mr. Housman 
too much to re -write his poem from memory, 
but I hope that readers will know their 
" Shropshire Lad " too well to need more 
than a reference to the poem to recall it 
to their memories. A young man who has 
become troublesome to his neighbours, and, 
worst of all, troublesome to himself, has 
closed his brief history with a bullet. " Well 
done, lad," says the poet ; " that was brave ! " 
Now, I am sufficiently the slave of an age 
I hate to feel a certain timidity in approach - 



ing this subject of suicide, or self-murder 
as fat people prefer to call it. It is a thing 
that the normal, however broadminded they 
may be, do not like to discuss, for of all 
destructive criticism of life this is the 
most weighty. Other criminals, murderers, 
thieves, and the like, we can punish or even 
forgive, because we know that each one of 
us under unfavourable conditions might 
commit murder or theft ; opportunity alone 
makes the upright man. But a suicide does 
more than attack our persons or our pockets ; 
he injures our self-complacency and murders 
our vanity. We can forgive a man for boo- 
ing or creating a disturbance in the theatre 
of life, but we cannot forgive him for going 
out with a yawn before the play is over. 
In effect, he says, " I find your society dull 
and your follies do not amuse me. You are 
a lot of tiresome fellows ! " And the devil 
of the business is that if the rascal is suc- 
cessful we cannot punish him for his imper- 
tinence. We can, and I believe sometimes 
do, send people to prison for failing to kill 
themselves, in order that they may there 
acquire a fuller appreciation of their fellow 


human beings. But with all our wisdom 
we have, as yet, no certain means of chasten- 
ing the untimely dead. Like the mythical 
woman, the suicides always have the last 
word in the argument, and, while we con- 
demn their folly, w r e have the uncomfort- 
able conviction that they cannot hear us. 

Of course, it is impossible for any person, 
breathing air and holding the flowers of the 
world for his reward, to defend suicide, 
but it is another thing to suggest by our 
silence that suicides do not exist. We believe 
no man to be weary of life until he has pulled 
the trigger or emptied the cup. When he 
is dead a jury of British tradesmen breathe 
the word " insanity " for epitaph over his 
body, and then go home to dinner without any 
troublesome doubts as to the value of life. 
Yet every honest man knows that nineteen 
suicides out of twenty are perfectly sane. 
The majority lives for what life gives it, 
the minority dies for what life withholds ; 
and, while for once in a way it is possible 
to agree with the majority, it must be ad- 
mitted that the point of view of the minority 
is not irrational. It is pessimism rather than 


wisdom that keeps us alive ; it is optimism 
and not madness that leads the suicide to 
seek for better things in the grave. 

But once it is admitted that many of the 
individuals who commit suicide are not only 
sane, but even possessed of considerable 
intellectual gifts, it seems natural to ask 
whether their lives might not be expended 
usefully in the service of humanity instead 
of being merely abandoned in dark corners. 
At present it is poor civilization's only 
revenge a certain stigma attaches to the 
family of a person who has committed 
suicide. But if instead of being posthu- 
mously dubbed insane or a criminal a man 
were said to have devoted his life to the 
State, we might come to feel rather proud of 
these unhappy critics. Let us put aside all 
our beloved nonsense about the sacredness 
of human life. Leaving the extravagant 
waste of war out of the question, every rail- 
way journey, every, ton of coal, and every 
unit of electricity costs a fraction of a man's 
life. We achieve a greater degree of com- 
fort by our cunning, but the colliery, the 
railway line, and the dynamo, all take their 


toll in accidents, and part of the wages of 
the men we pay to work them is a greater 
risk of death than we run who are con- 
tent to use them. Consideration for the lives 
of individuals has never been allowed to 
interfere with the convenience of the many. 
Yet I can conceive the outcry of the coal- 
burning, railway -using sentimentalists against 
the foundation of a State department for the 
useful expenditure of the lives of those 
persons who are weary of an existence that 
it is hardly creditable to endure. But 
imagine the simplicity of the scheme. There 
would be an office in London which would- 
be suicides would seek in place of the gun- 
maker's shop or the river. Thence, after 
filling up a form, they would be drafted to 
an establishment in which they would be 
maintained at Government expense, and, after 
a week of probation, they would become 
officially dead. Once there, they would be 
beyond the reach of the law, and their wives 
would be free to marry again, while in cases 
of destitution provision would be made for 
the families they had left behind them. The 
living bodies of these dead men would then 


be at the service of the State. They would 
be available for the doctors in place of dogs 
and monkeys for experimental germ-breed- 
ing and vivisection ; they could test high 
explosives and conduct dangerous chemical 
operations ; in time of war they could man 
steerable torpedoes or dynamite-laden aero- 
planes. In fact, they could be used in any 
work that involved great risk to life. They 
would, of course, be prisoners, but it is no 
part of my scheme that they should be 
hurried into the next world by means of the 
ordinary prison diet. Perhaps a maximum 
limit would be put to their existence at the 
option of individual patients. But their very 
death might be made medically useful. 

All this sounds possibly a little inhuman, 
but it is really only a question of facing 
facts. You cannot persuade a person who 
has found out life to continue living by 
giving him tracts. Personally I should 
have more sympathy with suicides if they 
killed themselves when they were very, 
very happy, in order to avoid anti-climax. 
But it must be realized that there is a 
minority a minority that our growing seep- 


ticism will materially increase that finds 
life an intolerably tiresome business. The 
simplest study of the epistolary literature left 
behind by these persons will convince any 
one that they are, as a class, the vainest of 
creatures, and this vanity could hardly fail 
to be attracted by the scheme I have out- 
lined above. It is of no use to say that 
people ought not to kill themselves. They 
will do it, and this being so, we may as 
well make their whim as valuable to the 
bulk of humanity as possible. 


LET me start by saying that my title does 
not refer to that delicate period in the life 
of a human being at which the illusions of 
childhood, the appealing and comfortable 
faith in one's eiders, the belief in the bene- 
ficent care of machine-made gods fall away 
and are no more, and earth, vast, unknown, 
yet still strangely alluring, yawns before the 
feet of adventurous youth. For one thing, 
the disillusionment is never complete. The 
childish illusions fade, the no less visionary 
and delightful illusions of youth take their 
place, and so to our graves. But, while it 
falls to no individual man or woman to see 
things as they are, or perhaps I should say, 
to find that things are not, it is possible for 
groups of men and women, for cities, races, 
and nations, to achieve this morbid insight. 



The units that compose the faithless, rebel- 
lious whole continue to soothe their bruised 
souls with the eternal legends ; hope and 
faith and love, they say, are of the soul of 
man, and set him definitely apart from the 
lower animals who hope and love and wor- 
ship around him, and for these universal 
qualities he will ultimately receive a glorious 
and especial reward. So they comfort the 
moment's tears, and he would be cruel indeed 
who should seek to deny them this weak 
solace for the pain of living. But, oddly, 
the faith of a nation seems to have no part 
in these personal and enduring beliefs. It 
appears rather to be the sum of those 
sombre, unshapen doubts that no man dares 
to express. To-day, in England, it would 
be impossible to find a human being who 
did not believe some theory, some idea, some 
miracle, in support of which his reason could 
produce no evidence. It is equally impos- 
sible to discover that, as a nation, we believe 
in anything whatever. We have outworn the 
faith of our fathers, and our eyes can dis- 
cover no star to guide us anew. The age of 
disenchantment is now. 


Where should we seek to find the soul 
of a nation most clearly expressed? First, 
of course, in its literature, and, above all, 
in its poetry, though we must remember that 
it is always the second-rate work that shows 
the closest connection with the age that pro- 
duces it, genius knowing no time and repre- 
senting no age in particular. Secondly, I 
think, in its politicians, who aspire to and 
achieve a fine honesty of mediocrity ; and, 
lastly, in the lives and speech of the people 
in general, and in the newspapers, which 
represent faithfully enough the interests and 
desires of the uneducated classes. It will 
perhaps be convenient if I consider these 
expressions of our national impulses one at 
a time. 

And first, and most sadly, as to our litera- 
ture. To my mind there is no more striking 
token of our national disenchantment than 
the abandonment by our artists of the belief 
in beauty for beauty's sake. This, when es- 
sentials are considered, was the faith of 
Milton and Shakespeare, or, to come nearer 
to our own days, of Keats and Robert Brown- 
ing and Swinburne. Among the representa- 


live writers of our time it has been aban- 
doned as passionately as our predecessors 
sought to express it. And what has taken 
its place? No doubt it may be said that Mr. 
Shaw and Mr. Kipling and Mr. Wells have 
a personal faith. No man can live as near 
space as we do without some protecting 
screen of belief. But under what banner 
of enchantment do these writers make their 
appeal, to what echo in the heart of man 
do they cry for an answer? To me, Mr. 
Kipling recalls the consuming folly of the 
first half of the South African war, and Mr. 
Bernard Shaw the shamed cowardice of the 
second half of that luckless victory. Their 
messages are alike contemptuous ; but Mr. 
Shaw despises his audience more than Mr. 
Kipling, and gives them more careful work. 
Mr. Wells is more truly representative of 
his day than they arc, possibly because, as 
an artist, he is inferior to either of them. 
His message is the poignant cry of a race 
that can win to no belief. Yesterday a 
Fabian, to-day a Liberal, to-morrow a Tory, 
he is inspired by a faintly aesthetic distaste 
of life and ridden hard by a conscience in 


which he does not believe. His view of 
things is negative ; I could set down fifty 
things that he dislikes, I do not know one 
thing that he appreciates. He has found out 
life, but he has not found heaven. He is the 
artist of disenchantment, the Wells at which 
no man can quench his thirst. I have taken 
these three writers (I should add, by the 
way, that Mr. Kipling once was enchanted), 
because they stand for modern literary 
tendencies ; but the case of our young poets 
is even sadder and more to the point. We 
have none. 

When I come to the politicians the bitter 
ink in my fountain-pen turns to honey, for 
I am very sorry for them, even more sorry 
than they are for themselves. Their case is 
more simple than that of artists, for artists 
are always exceptional men, whereas politics 
demands of her children that, save in rare 
instances, they should be fiercely common- 
place. The hardness of their lot lies in 
this : that, although they represent with 
passionate honesty the views and faltering 
ambitions of ordinary men, no one will 
believe in them, and under pressure of 


circumstances they no longer believe in 
themselves. To a certain extent, no doubt, 
this is due to the party system ; the 
delicate invention that commands a man 
who disliked Chinese Labour to believe 
in the nationalization of land, and a man 
who mistrusts Home Rule for Ireland to 
accept Tariff Reform. But, chiefly, it is 
due to the spirit of the age, the spirit that 
holds that all things are bad, that no act of 
ours can make them better, and that it is 
our duty to spend our lives in the attempt. 
We elect our representatives, and then turn 
our faces to the wall in the mournful belief 
that after all they do not represent us, and 
when the time comes it takes all the scream- 
ing eloquence of the newspapers to convince 
us that a crisis is at hand. Then we vote 
again, and once more return shrugging to 
our uneasy slumbers. Politicians to-day are 
the interrogation marks the nation sets in 
the book of Destiny. It is our doubts that 
return members of Parliament ; they, are 
living symbols of our Jack of belief in the 
utility of man's endeavours. 

And, lastly, we come to the people them- 


selves, the stuff that fills our houses and 
streets and overflows into our gutters. To 
me their state of disenchantment is pitiful. 
They flee death and praise it, they seek 
pleasure and condemn it, they demand 
beauty and kill it. No cynicism is too wild 
for their lips, no act of fanatical tyranny 
too harsh for their hearts. It is not that 
they outrage literature with a pair of North- 
cliffe scissors ; it is not that they pay jour- 
nalists to tell them lies they do not intend to 
believe ; it is not even that they are ceasing 
to go to the churches, though all these things 
are true. But they are forgetting how to 
love and how to hate, and this is the measure 
of their unemotional decadence. Behind 
their callous simulations of passion lies 
hidden the calculating cowardice of the 
financier in the same way that behind their 
definitions of honour there lurks the swell- 
mobsman who fears the cudgel of honest 
men. Love is degraded to the registry -office 
in more than word ; hatred, in itself, an 
affirmation of good, is recognized as unprofit- 
able, with the policeman waiting round the 
corner. A cold scepticism is burning the 


hearts of men and women to ashes of that 
desire that painted the trees green and the 
lips of women red, and set the stars moving 
over all. We are disenchanted. 


SOME time ago I wrote an article in 
which I ventured to suggest that within 
certain limits we can make our dreams what 
we will, and that a considerable aesthetic 
pleasure may be derived from regarding this 
world of tables and chairs that surrounds 
us as illusory, the dream-world to which we 
win at nights as passionately real. It is no 
part of my intention to disinter that article 
from the cemetery of forgotten fancies, 
though I think it was truer than most jour- 
nalism. For I realize that since then we have 
all lived through a short period of wakeful life 
and possibly many centuries of dreams, and 
are therefore, or so our quenchless optimism 
would assure us, so much the wiser. Our 
feet have trodden the pavements of starry 
palaces then unbuilt, and the walls of strange, 



night-hung cities have echoed to our new- 
made songs. In the year nineteen hundred 
and eight we were children ; in the year 
nineteen hundred and ten we shall be old 
men ; to-day, we dream. 

Poets, who are the most interesting of the 
moving objects that inhabit the daylight 
world, win their curious supremacy in that 
world, a supremacy always disputed and 
always beyond dispute, by means of their 
imperial possessions in the world of sleep, 
and it is their recollection of their kingdoms 
under the moon that enables them to give 
colour and beauty of form to the grey world 
that holds our disillusioned lives. But, 
though we cannot hope to share, save at 
secondhand, their intense recollection of the 
beautiful life of sleep, we are all able to 
remember it to a certain extent ; and we 
use this partial recollection, wisely enough 
perhaps, not to make us discontented with 
our wakeful life, but to credit that life with 
qualities which it does not possess. I doubt 
very much whether many people realize how 
far their normal lives are affected by their 
dreams ; yet it is in dreams that all desires 
are born. 


The popular phrase " as empty as a 
dream " is a very good example of the fairly 
general maxim, that to be successful a phrase 
must convey a definite untruth. Dreams are 
not empty ; indeed, I can conceive no human 
experience that less deserves that contemp- 
tuous adjective, for sometimes in a night of 
dreaming we live a hundred lives. Neverthe- 
less, the popular contempt for the dreamer, 
the man who allows his love for the beauties 
of the sleep-world to dull his realization of 
the ugly facts that constitute life, is founded 
on something more than a misleading phrase. 
Deep down in the heart of every man you 
will find the instinctive conviction that life, 
despite the generous praises of the dying, is 
a monotonous task that it is very noble of 
us to perform. From this it is but a step 
to the assumption that enjoyment is some- 
how immoral, a belief silently held by nearly 
every one, and not least by the pleasure - 
seekers themselves, and that happy people 
are evading their duties. It is this intense 
belief in the divinity of our secret discon- 
tents that is called joi de vivre. 

Now, looking round the world, I can find 


no man more happy, and, therefore, I sup- 
pose no man more wicked, than your suc- 
cessful dreamer. He is the eloquent excep- 
tion to the rule that in the gratification of 
desire lies misery, for his desires have only 
to be conceived to be gratified, and for him 
achievement brings no sorrow. There is so 
great a variety of life in the world of 
dreams that satiety is impossible ; your prac- 
tised dreamer rather finds it difficult to 
linger in enjoyment of his perfected con- 
ceptions, so wide a world lies ready for his 
adventurous feet. Nor does the reproachful 
attitude of patiently suffering humanity en- 
courage him to leave his dreaming and take 
up his duty of life. No rich man, stricken 
bankrupt, is as poor as a dream-magnate 
in his rare moments of life-consciousness. 
In place of his palaces he finds villas of 
mud ; in place of his laughing kingdom he 
finds a disillusioned world ; in place of his 
generous courtiers he finds a people patently 
mistrustful of him, and, even harder to bear, 
secretly mistrustful of themselves. It is not 
to be wondered that the habit grows with 
age, so that the boy who can lay aside his 


dreams with his marbles becomes the man 
who can hardly recognize the fading shapes 
of the concrete world. 

And when we have finished laughing at 
a man because he will not leave his gardens 
of far and dreamy roses to brush his hair, 
perhaps we may admit that there is a note 
of envy in our mocking criticism of his un- 
kempt head. There is, to snatch the obvious 
pun, a sorrow not wholly sweet in our part- 
ings. Without in the least wishing to insult 
or even ignore convention, we know that we 
lack the power. If, by some strange mis- 
chance, our locks were shaggy and un- 
trimmed, two bars of a familiar tune whistled 
on the lips of a street-boy would suffice to 
send us cringing to the barber. Every 
normal individual believes that he can only 
hide the weakness of his coward soul by 
imitating his neighbour in inessentials ; and 
the result of this mutual mimicking is a 
mournful uniformity in the hideousness of 
our appearance. When we laugh at a man 
for looking at a golliwog, we are trying to 
defend our own neglect of beauty. We do 
not look like golliwogs, but we do look like 


each other, and reason should tell us that 
that is worse. 

Of course, it may be said that a dreamer 
does not ignore convention because he dis- 
approves of it, but because he is not con- 
scious of it ; and this is true. But whether 
you prefer to call his rapt absence of mind 
weakness or strength, it must be acknow- 
ledged that it helps him to overcome a 
number of difficulties, the mere possibility of 
which is enough to keep us timorously miser- 
able. Poverty, which might be called the 
daymare of humanity, only sends him more 
passionately to his dreaming, and it is thus 
with all the misfortunes of which the image 
holds us wretchedly wakeful. We would all 
like to conquer our fears, and the dreamer 
succeeds with a flicker of the eyelids and an 
inward glance at his heaped treasury. If 
dreaming be a weakness, as those aver who 
have consciences like alarm-clocks, it seems 
better able to conquer the facts of existence 
than our strength. 

Yet, if we are not dreamers, we have our 
dreams ; if we have not the ropes of stars, 
and purses of silver moons and golden suns 


of the poets, we have not wholly valueless 
bric-a-brac of our own. Clear-cut moments 
of sleep like fragments of mediaeval carving ; 
faces twisted with streaky clay by Japanese 
fingers ; wet pebbles that have caught the 
sun on a rainy day ; pine-trees and smooth 
hills and burning fields of gorse ; tinted 
tatters from the rag-bag of our conscious- 
ness : these things add a touch of enchant- 
ment to our most sober nights of sleep, and 
sometimes set us astride behind the witches 
to see a mad world from the back of a 
broomstick and flout the law of gravity. 
After a night spent like this it is a little 
absurd to damn Lord Northcliffe, Fate, and 
the Government because the train is two 
minutes late, or an egg is over-cooked. Yet 
the man who can build castles of moonbeams 
and twist ropes from sand in pyjamas, be- 
comes a foolish and petulant child when he 
puts on the uniform of his kind. It is 
possible that his folly represents an honest 
effort to express his share of our common 
humanity, but it is folly nevertheless. I 
never meet a nice, clean City gentleman 
without wishing that he had brought his 



broomstick with him. Without it he is 
merely a careful example of a colourless and 
uninteresting type. It is, I believe, bad form 
in the City to be individual ; but it is bad 
art to be an unimaginative reproduction of 
the conventional conception of civilized man. 
My mind prefers even the golliwogs and 
teddy-bears of humanity to these soulless 
picture -postcards. No doubt it is pleasant 
to criticise the Daily Mail and the Govern- 
ment, but to damn one's neighbour and culti- 
vate one's individuality is a more hopeful 
task. But most people only do this in 
dreams, and as they die every morning when 
they wake up, we never see anything but 
their corpses. 

My moral is that most of us live only 
in dreams, because when we are awake we 
are not brave enough to face the task of 
living with our unaided individualities. If 
we all part our hair in the middle, and wear 
the same silly clothes, and feign interest in 
the same silly things, perhaps the devil will 
not know us apart ; that, I suppose, would 
be the mediseval interpretation of our motive. 
Substituting our own consciences for the 


devil, it stands pretty well to-day. But the 
dreamer, the man our every institution seems 
designed to punish, he also lives only in 
dreams, and only differs from us in that 
he lives twenty-four hours for our eight or 
ten. If, in place of his daylight dreaming, 
we achieved a splendidly passionate manner 
of life, our reproaches might be justified. 
But we should not blame him if he finds 
our petty puppet-show undignified, and our 
timorous art of mutual mimickry unworthy 
of his attention. 


WHEN that I was and a little tiny boy I 
admit that I have stolen this way of begin- 
ning an article from Mr. Quiller Couch- 
there was always something very precious 
to me in the simple ceremony of letting in 
the New Year and letting out the Old. 
Doubtless, the unwonted thrill of sitting up 
late, and sipping hot lemonade, which we 
children called punch, had something to do 
with the deep -breathed solemnity with which 
the occasion inspired me. But even now, 
when I am tired of sitting up late, and even 
more tired of punch, and, above all, when 
I have realized that the years grow worse 
instead of better, even now I cannot hear 
the clock strike twelve at midnight of the 
thirty-first of December without a quicken- 
ing of the pulse, for which my reason can 



supply no satisfactory explanation. I repeat 
that I have got beyond the folly of expecting 
the New Year to be any better than the Old. 
Indeed, the present year has given me every 
satisfaction, and I should probably be wiser 
to spend the rest of my days in the year 
1909, than to fare further into the unknown. 
But we poor two-footed beasts have such 
an itch for travelling that I do not doubt 
that I will let in the New Year at the earliest 
possible moment, and kick my good friend 
1909 ungratefully from my door. The New 
Year may prove the scurviest of fellows, yet, 
mad optimists as we are, we will all be there 
waiting for him before he is due to arrive. 
He will help to rob us of our brains, our 
teeth, and our hair. He will continue that 
process of decay that brings us at last to 
our tardy graves. He will put some of us 
in love and some of us in prison, but his 
first amusement will be most mischievous of 
all ; for he will hardly be five minutes old 
before he sets us cheating ourselves into the 
belief that we are about to become very fine 
fellows. Every one goes to bed on New 
Year's Eve with his hands smeared with tar 


from his paving operations on the road to 
hell. It is so easy to make good resolutions 
while the bells are chiming their welcome 
all over the midnight sky ; but it is still 
easier to feel foolish in the morning. 

It may be questioned whether there is not 
an element of danger in this violent form- 
ing of impossible resolutions. A debauch of 
virtuous feeling overnight is apt to induce 
a kind of moral " hot-coppers " in the 
morning, and the sudden realization of the 
hopeless nature of their good resolutions may 
lead people to accept their own failings a 
little too readily. There is a good deal of 
difference between the position of the man 
who says : " I am wicked ! " and that of 
the man who says : " I wish I were not 
wicked ! " In truth, it is just as well not 
to have too clear a sense of how far we 
fall short of our own standards of morality, 
or we may start degrading our standards 
to fit our own case. When a man has 
solemnly formed a resolution and failed to 
keep it, he has done an injury to his will. 
It is better to improve than to form good 


These are truisms ; but the truism is a 
wild fowl very seasonable at this time of 
the year. It is generally admitted that the 
resolutions made on New Year's Eve are 
difficult or impossible to keep, and we have 
seen that this failure is bad for character. 
"What then?" I can conceive the conscien- 
tious reader asking, " what, then, am I to 
do next Friday when the bells are tolling 
out the Old Year, and I am feeling solemn 
and uplifted?" Really, the question is a 
little difficult to answer. It might not be 
a bad plan to make a few good resolu- 
tions on behalf of other people ; to 
resolve, for instance, that Mr. Bernard 
Shaw should write no more to the Times; 
that Miss Corelli, of Stratford, should hold 
her peace about matters that do not concern 
her work ; that the Laureate should rhyme 
no more ; that the Mr. Rudyard Kipling of 
the Jungle Books should return to us ; that 
writers in general should believe in their own 
art, and that the whole school of moral 
critics should rush down a steep place into 
the sea. Personally, I should wake up when 
I came to that last resolution. It would 


strain even the optimism born of New Year's 
Eve to believe in the possibility of anything 
so desirable as that. 

Seriously, there is something in the wind 
on New Year's Eve that affects most of us 
strangely. At no other time are we so much 
disposed to regard life as rather more than 
a series of haphazard moments. The years 
take ordered shape behind us, and while we 
regard them dispassionately we have the 
sense of other years no less ordered that 
wait our coming. The arbitrary division of 
our calendar assumes an almost spiritual sig- 
nificance. We can feel ourselves changing 
as the moments fall gently through the hands 
of Destiny, and we return to our homes 
after the stroke of twelve not one year but 
many years older. It is as though, in that 
moment of intense consciousness, we are 
permitted to catch a glimpse of the world 
that lies outside us. Our senses are abnor- 
mally keen ; we can feel the breath of the 
bumping hours ; we can hear the pulse of 
the world's heart. Almost it seems that our 
minds can detect the purpose of our strange, 
bewildered lives, dim, uncertain, incompre- 


hensible, but yet endowing them with a new 
dignity, a new resolve. 

After, we creep back to our hearths a little 
cold, with rebellious voices, our hearts strug- 
gling vainly against disillusionment. Irri- 
tating trifles swarm into our minds, and blot 
out our sense of the infinite. 

It is time the children were in bed. 
Christine has obviously caught a cold. We 
must remember to put 1910 at the head of 
our letters. The dream is over. 

So far I have been content to consider 
the case of those who observe the coming 
of the New Year with proper ritual, but 
there arc others. For my part I think that 
the man who lightly misses an opportunity 
of resting for an instant from the whirl and 
babble of our breathless lives is much to be 
pitied, and, therefore, I patronize with my 
sympathy all those lost creatures who snore 
the New Year in in bed, and shout it in in 
restaurants. I have welcomed it in many 
places, but, like Christmas, it comes perhaps 
with the best grace in the country. Never- 
theless, one of the most impressive New 
Year's Eves I remember was spent on the 


balcony of a London flat, when the year 
came swaggering in with such a jangling of 
bells that the fine lady of Banbury Cross 
was nothing to him. After all, the spirit 
is always more important than the environ- 
ment ; the great thing is to stop for a 
moment and look one's life in the face ; nor, 
after all, is it such a bad thing to regard 
the future hopefully. It will not do the 
future any good, but nothing can deprive 
us of the thrill proper to the optimist. Let 
us, by all means, " greet the unseen with 
a cheer." 

And a word in passing for the year that 
is gone, to come again no more. What days 
it has given us, what golden, magic days ! 
It is true that only a minute fraction of it 
remains with us, but that fraction is the best 
of all. The pride of sunny fields ; the 
gleam of a girl's face wet with autumn rain ; 
the lonely star we found in a hollow of the 
Sussex hills ; the fragment of song that came 
to us on Exmoor, how good these things 
were, how good they are even now ! I can 
sit in my chair on the brink of 1910, and 
think of a hundred moments in 1909 to set 


my heart beating with excitement and make 
my body radiant with joy of life. And so 
can every one of my readers, if they have a 
mind to. Believe if you wish that the pains 
of life outnumber the pleasures, but bear 
in mind that it is your own fault if you keep 
the evil and forget the good. If I could 
thread the stars like beads, I should make 
a necklace of them for my good fairy, 1909, 
and I should give him the sun and moon 
for playthings. Welcome the New Year as 
you will, but do not neglect to drop a tear 
of gratitude for the Old. What golden, magic 
days ! What enchanted nights of stars ! It 
really is a little hard to believe that the New 
Year will bring us anything as good. 



IN these exciting days, when women are no 
longer the frail, timorous creatures beloved 
and shall we whisper patronized? by our 
robust ancestors, it may be unwise to con- 
sider such a problem as is conveyed in the 
title of my article without giving at the start 
a definite assurance as to my appreciation 
of the thousand qualities of the charming 
sex. Personally, I confess that the spirited 
movement of the Suffragettes leaves me a 
little cold, not because I think that women 
ought not to have votes, but because I can- 
not conceive that any sane person can want 
a vote or find it of any use if he has it. 
After all, the methods employed by the mili- 
tant Suffragettes are their own affair. For 
my part, I am afraid of hat-pins, but I have 
found the bright eyes of girls more deadly ; 



I mistrust dog-whips, but the domestic elo- 
quence of women fills me with a greater 
dismay ; the anger of women is terrifying, 
but their tears consume me utterly. I should 
believe in votes for women, or even in 
Votes for Women, if I believed in votes at 

And now I hope after this preliminary 
explanation there is no risk of my being 
waylayed by militant vote-seekers with a 
taste for letters. The argument that because 
women have not shone in the world of art 
they do not deserve a vote is foolish, because 
there is nothing in the life of the artist to 
fit him specially for the task of interfering 
in the misgovernment of his country. In- 
deed, I suppose brains are part of the artist's 
birthright, and they are a serious drawback 
in a politician, as Mr. Balfour's admirers 
have found. So, dear ladies, the very extent 
of your failure in art may be the measure 
of your capacity as politicians ! Is not that 
a pretty speech? 

There is one other kind of critic with 
whom I should like to deal before I take up 
my argument, and that is the impulsive 


person who will read the title of my article, 
and promptly send me a queer list of names, 
ranging from Sapho to Gyp, from Christina 
Rossetti to Mrs. Hemans, from Vigee le Brun 
to Kate Greenaway. Now, it is true that 
until comparatively recent times it may have 
been difficult for women to achieve distinc- 
tion as painters for lack of opportunity and 
training, but there has been nothing to pre- 
vent them from displaying their merit as 
writers if they had it. They have had free 
access to pen and ink and paper, and on 
the whole they have had a great deal more 
leisure than men in which to cultivate the 
most agreeable of arts. Yet, although at all 
times critics have erred in generosity in esti- 
mating the value of the work of women 
writers, it would be easier to prepare a list 
of a thousand men than to give one of fifty 
women who could be said to have produced 
work of definite artistic value. 

Why is this? Why is it that women who 
can do what they like in the normal world 
of life should accomplish so little in the 
world of art? I suppose that once upon a 
time it would have been sufficient to mention 


their family duties, and pass on serenely 
satisfied with the explanation ; but the 
present-day opinion of women demands sub- 
tler reasons. I would suggest two. In the 
first place the motive force that drives all 
artists is the desire for self-expression, and 
I doubt whether in this sense of the word 
women have any self to express. Secondly, 
women regard life itself as a conscious art, 
and the pertinacity and intensity with which 
they develop this idea leaves them little 
energy for creative work. They might 
almost be said to exhaust their creative 
energies in seeking to invent themselves. 

It will be seen that my two reasons over- 
lap, so it will be convenient to consider them 
together. And here I must say a word about 
the classic perils of generalizing on women. 
It is always dangerous to generalize about 
anything, but I think it may fairly be said 
that it is easier to treat of women in the 
aggregate than to form any general concep- 
tion of the character of men. Women are 
far more womanly than men are manly, and 
this is the heart of my first reason. Women 
always strike me as being rather representa- 


tive fragments of their sex than independent 
human beings in a state of individual exist- 
ence. In this connection it is interesting to 
contrast children of either sex. Boys have 
certain strongly-marked characteristics of 
their own, but they do not bear more re- 
semblance to men than puppies do to adult 
dogs. Girls, on the other hand, so far as 
they have any character at all, are women 
in miniature, and as like their elder sisters 
as kittens are to cats. I have seen a girl- 
baby, six months old, practising the art of 
producing smiles of calculated sweetness in 
her cradle, while her brother, two years 
older, was still content with the rapt, un- 
conscious grins of innocent childhood. It 
is curious that while the word " boy " still 
stands for pleasant youthfulness, we have to 
qualify the word " girl " with the epithet 
" little " to grant it a similar grace. 

It may, perhaps, seem a hard saying that 
women do not exist at all, but at least 
I may venture that only in very exceptional 
cases can they claim an individual character. 
I do not know who first traced the resem- 
blance between a woman and a mirror, but 


whoever it may have been he had won more 
than an idle fancy from his reflections. Men 
are born with the germs of character which 
they develop in passing from youth to 
maturity. Women are born with violent 
instincts, but with no character that they can 
call their own, and they spend their lifetime in 
endeavouring to acquire one. Wherever they 
admire, they steal. " Women," said Wilde, 
" are sphinxes without secrets." But he did 
not give them sufficient credit for their skill 
in the construction of sphinxes. We simple- 
minded men may well lament over the sub- 
tlety of woman, when in all her wakeful 
life she has laboured day by day and year 
by year on that delightful work of art, her- 
self. Her smiles, her tears, her moments of 
forgetfulness, all have their significance and 
represent hours of patient toil. Her failures 
are pitiful ; but her triumphs are beyond 
those of any ordinary artist. In her highest 
forms her air of the unconsciousness that 
conceals art is perfect. She affects the sim- 
plicity of a child, the courage of a man, the 
fervour of a prophet, and the wisdom of 
Solomon, and over all she flings the cloak 



of mystery that envelops the lives of those 
who hold high dreams. Free herself from 
the doubts that shadow the intellectual, she 
secretly despises men because they are not 
clever enough to give the credit of her work 
to her, and not to Nature. Sometimes, in- 
deed, she feels the longing of the artist for 
recognition, and lifts the curtain, though it 
be but a little, to the man she loves, only to 
let it fall aghast, when she realizes that it is 
her handiwork that men love, and not her- 
self. Perhaps in her wakeful nights she 
wearies of her life-long task, and mourns 
for the simplicity that is not hers. But dawn 
finds her smiling, alert, certain of herself, 
ready to add a new touch of colour, a new 
phrase, to the work that she follows daunt- 
lessly to the very gates of death. 

Looking at the pages of literary history, 
I am, on the whole, surprised that women 
have accomplished as much in pure art as 
they have, for at best a woman's work is 
never more than a secondary occupation in 
her life, and we have seen that her labour 
in her sweet task of self-creation must be 
terribly exhausting. No writer or painter 


devotes a tenth part of the time to his work 
that a woman spends in carrying on the 
charmed traditions of her sex. And even if 
we endow a woman with extraordinary 
powers of expression we must remember that 
she will have little save echoes to express. 
She has formed an enchanted human shape 
from impressions of a thousand models, but 
beyond these skilful derivations she has 
nothing but the normal instincts of her sex, 
which Nature is over-eager to express for 
her. If the natural woman survive behind 
the mask she will express herself in children ; 
these are her sonnets and her love stories, 
her nocturnes and her autobiograplry. If the 
natural woman has perished beneath the 
paint, and I suspect that the death-rate 
amongst natural women is rapidly increas- 
ing, she will fling herself the more passion- 
ately into her task of creating the vision 
that decks the lives of men with the glory 
they call love. 

Why should women write books when they 
can bear children? Why should women 
paint pictures when they can make them- 
selves? Their work has inspired all that 


is best in the art of man ; our lyric poems 
are but timid reproductions of their concep- 
tions ; they make by day the dreams that 
we win by the light of the stars. It is pos- 
sible that some of them reading this page 
will hardly feel flattered by this perfectly 
sincere appreciation of their skill in creat- 
ing their own charm. I do not know 
why they should be displeased. I would 
point out, however, that my article negates 
its title, for I have endeavoured to suggest 
that women are the greatest and most suc- 
cessful artists of all. It is only by the light 
of woman, this supreme invention of women, 
that men come to a sense of their own im- 
perfections. We worship them from afar 
even when they lie on our hearts, and it 
is for love of women as women have made 
them that men succeed in art. 


As a lax student of many newspapers it 
seems to me that a great deal too much 
has been written about General Elections, 
and that this is the moment when the 
truly great talk about something else. I 
do not say that the journalists are wrong. 
English people seem to be very fond of 
elections. They would not celebrate the 
apotheosis of poor old Guy Fawkes year 
after year if they were not, but I doubt 
whether they are quite so fond of them as 
the future student of our contemporary Press 
may imagine. The men who can cheer 
lustily when they see for the thousandth time 
the features of Mr. Chamberlain or Mr. 
Lloyd George flung on a screen are few and 
far between. We others, whose political 
enthusiasms are less god-like, may well 



plead election headache after several days of 
strident democracy and aristocratic hubbub. 

And, fortunately for the average patriot 
whose lungs and ears and degree of patience 
are only normal, there are more leisurely 
joys than those of a General Election ; 
there are quieter kingdoms than the fierce 
world of party politics. It is possible to 
steal away from the argument, about it and 
about, to some pleasant field of dreams where 
it is no crime to lie and take one's rest, 
and where the heart may whisper without 
treason, Does it matter'? 

I remember reading a long time ago was 
it not in the fragrant pages of the " Yellow 
Book"? a delightful article by Mr. Max 
Beerbohm on the seaside in winter. I can- 
not recall a word of it hardly an idea but 
an hour back the cold wind blowing in from 
the sea restored to me the whole atmosphere 
of it ; and, after all, in essays it is the atmo- 
sphere that counts. The receding tide hushed 
softly to me in the winter twilight ; the 
ribbed sand greeted my grateful feet through 
the soles of my town-going boots ; behind 
me the cliffs climbed vaguely to heaven, 


showing here and there a glimmering light 
to remind me that I dwell in a civilized 
world. It was a solemn moment one of 
those moments in which the individual feels 
at once modest and important modest in 
his share of life, and important in his rela- 
tionship to it. And in that solemn moment 
there came to me two impressions. One, as 
I have said, was that of having read an essay 
by Mr. Beerbohm a long time ago ; the other 
touched the ridiculous. When sea-water 
dries on brown boots it leaves a white 
deposit of salt ; I was not wearing brown 
boots, but, nevertheless, I recalled the ap- 
pearance of that deposit. For most of our 
days our lives seem as meaningless as that. 
Had I rested content with the peace of 
the dusk and my two impressions and gone 
home, my mind, I suppose, would have dis- 
missed the occasion as uneventful, and this 
article would have remained unwritten. 
Instead, I gave a little shiver in criticism of 
the thickness of my overcoat, and walked 
briskly along the shore to a place where 
the rocks thrust rugged heads through the 
level sand a place where there were pools 


and seaweed and a salty smell. There is 
something about seaweed that takes me by 
the throat something, nevertheless, that I 
cannot express for myself in words. Some 
day I fancy a writer will explain my emo- 
tion to me in an epithet or in a line and a 
half of verse ; but as yet I have not found 
the revealing phrase. It is so cold and so 
dead and at the same time so tenderly fragile. 
It lies on the shore in haphazard bunches 
and tresses, and you have to look at it care- 
fully before you realize the beauty of these 
poor dead flowers of the sea. Men and 
women trample them underfoot unheeding, 
but children, who can see the beautiful better 
than we, love them and heap them high in 
their little pails. It may be some forgotten 
fairy story that links seaweed in my mind 
with the hair of a beautiful woman, drowned 
while she was still young, or perhaps Ariel 
gave me the image in a dream. But there 
where the rocks were and the seaweed with 
its strange, sad smell of the sea, I saw a ghost 
a ghost that I thought I had laid for ever. 
I will not set down her name here ; not 
out of respect for the dead, for she is not 


dead, nor out of sentimental regard for my 
feelings, for I have learnt to forget her, but 
because, if she happened to read these lines, 
she had rather that I did not. In any case, 
I must beware of the crime of Richard le 
Gallienne and Sentimental Tommy, the crime 
of making copy out of emotions which we 
ought to have experienced but have not, for 
my ghost was a girl whom I once thought 
to love in the hot pride of my youth, and 
whom I meet no more. This is not, I sup- 
pose, the place for a philosophical disserta- 
tion on the nature of love in general, or I 
would make some judicious reflections on 
this case in particular. Say that I loved a 
girl who was willing to accept my friendship, 
the modern equivalent of the " I'll be a sister 
to you " of our shrewd grandmothers, say 
that some strange things happened, some 
humorous and some, perhaps, not unsym- 
pathetic, and you will have done justice to 
the situation. Speaking dispassionately, I 
should say that the really wise youth will 
always accept a girl's friendship in return 
for his love. But are there any really wise 
young men? 


It will be seen that Fate had played an 
odd trick on me in sending such a ghost to 
to charm the wintry shore ; but while my 
pulse quickened and my heart beat louder I 
was far from blaming that austere lady for 
her choice of a messenger. Yet, in spite of 
my excitation of spirit, my senses took note 
of the curious phenomena that are the 
natural order of things in the world of 
apparitions. The night glowed into day, the 
winter warmed into summer, and from the 
vague shadows there sprang blue sea and 
sky, yellow sands, and green -capped cliffs 
of white. I say that I noticed this change, 
but it did not astonish me a jot. Nor was 
I surprised to find that in her metamorphosis 
from flesh and blood to a creature of dreams 
my love had remained unaltered. She could 
hardly grow more pretty ; and why should 
any one be less beautiful in a dream than 
in real life? My aesthetic sense went out to 
do her homage. 

I always mistrust a man who can give a 
lyrical, but accurate, description of the girl 
he loves. True passion is never eloquent ; 
it stumbles vainly through the shadows of 


speech in search of some illuminating and 
tremendous word. I can give no logical 
description of the appearance of my ghost. 
She had dark hair and a nice-shaped face, 
and there was something about her eyes 
but I have noticed that there nearly always 
is something about their eyes. . . . She was 
sitting on a rock in the sun, and her feet 
were bare and shining wet from the sea. 
Observe how dreams improve on life ! As 
a matter of fact, in all the long months of 
my passion I had never seen her feet, yet 
now that their silver-pink shapeliness was 
revealed to me in my vision I found them 
very well worth looking at. There is some- 
thing charmingly intimate about a girl's toes. 
And as I drew near her my ghost raised her 

head, and said No, I cannot tell you. 

In truth, the dialogue that seemed so gracious 
and sagely witty in the light of a dream 
turns to the merest dust of words at the 
touch of my wakeful pen. As with the sea- 
weed, and the face of my ghost, the decisive 
word eludes me that would enable me to 
give form to her message ; and in the vain 
search for it my fancy totters to its founda- 


tion, and I know that I have built my 
Spanish castle on the sands of doubt. 

No, I have not been down to the sea this 
winter. I have passed the long days in a 
city distraught between meaningless rumours 
and idiotic passions. As I write a hoarse 
cheering breaks from the street and rattles 
upon the window-panes. The success of 
some creature of ignoble ambitions has 
pleased the vanity of the mob that has helped 
to raise him an infinitely small degree above 
its own level. All over the country the news 
will fly of another victory for an army that 
does not exist, in a campaign that does not 
matter ; and other mobs will offend the air 
of heaven with their impertinent breath. 
The successful creature will strut for a while, 
flattered, envied, and abused by those who 
have given him his barren honours, and then 
he will pass and be no more. There will 
come other fools to take his place. 

What though the dream leave a bitter taste 
on the lips of the awakened dreamer? He 
can fall to dreaming again, and forget the 
sorrow of his shattered visions ; and sooner 
or later, perhaps, he will find that all his 


haphazard wanderings in the sleep-lit world 
have had a definite and assured aim ; that 
all unconsciously he has been drawing 
nearer to the goal of his desires. Are the 
elections more real, more permanent, more 
significant than the dream you won last 
night, or the sea that broke at the feet of 
my ghost and me an hour ago? Where the 
heart is, there the treasure is also. By all 
means choose the substance and abjure the 
shadow ; but who shall say that the dream 
is not the shadow, the life that surrounds 
us, the terrible shadow of our desolate 
hearts ? 


I DO not wish to weary readers with yet 
another article on whether women should 
or should not have votes. In itself the prob- 
lem is of very small importance, as most 
men and women realize that it is not votes, 
but opinions, that govern a country. But 
the " cause," as I believe the elect call it, 
becomes significant when it is considered, not 
as an isolated battle, but as a relatively unim- 
portant skirmish in an enormously important 
campaign. This is the campaign that began 
with the conspiracy of Eve against Adam, 
and has developed in course of time into 
what is known as the sex -war, the eternal 
conflict between man and woman. We are 
told that in its initial stage the devil was 
on the side of women in this campaign, and 
cynics of the male sex would have us believe 



that this is still the case. I would prefer 
to think that, like the immortal Dr. Bulti- 
tude, the devil is prepared to score for 
either side, and that he does not fail to reap 
the reward of this impartiality. Both sides, 
impelled by the purest motives, forswear the 
aid of their dusky auxiliary, but the devil 
is not notably discouraged by their ingrati- 
tude. In fact, nothing is more surprising to 
the thoughtful than the way in which the 
devil continues to flourish in the face of 
universal reprobation, and there are not 
wanting philosophers to suggest that he is 
not only responsible for our immoralities, 
but for all our conventional moralities as 
well. Certainly they do him no dis-service. 
It is not my purpose to write about the 
devil, otherwise than indirectly, but the diffi- 
culty of writing about questions of sex in 
the English language for English readers is 
that it is absolutely necessary to display a 
wholly indecent reticence. The only dis- 
sertation on sex that is really tolerated in 
England is the unrecorded badinage of our 
smoking-rooms, the modern equivalent of the 
folk-tales and folk-songs of our uncultured 


ancestors ; and the mind shrinks from the 
task of translating a serious consideration 
of sex -questions into azure anecdotes and 
libidinous limericks. I had rather be inde- 
cently reticent than outspoken on those 

Before we come to consider the circum- 
stances that have brought about the latest 
phase of the revolt of a certain section of 
women against men, it is necessary to recall 
the nature of the truce that had been more 
or less observed by both sexes before the 
recent upheaval of militant femininity. The 
truce took the form of a compromise, and a 
very ingenious and successful compromise at 
that. Men were to be nominally, women 
wholly, monogamous. In exchange for the 
privilege of possessing one woman wholly, 
a man was expected to provide for her and 
their joint offspring. It was tacitly under- 
stood that men were intellectual, capable, 
courageous, and masterful, and that women 
were simple, faithful, and possessed of a 
thousand charms. Neither party to the com- 
pact was supposed to depart from these 
natural qualities. Men were not to be emo- 


tional, and women were not to think. Look- 
ing back we can realize now that as far 
as they went they were golden days. Regard- 
ing the future we can feel no such blissful 

Of course, the compromise failed in indi- 
vidual instances, but on the whole it worked 
very well, and it is not to these failures 
that we must trace the new feminist move- 
ment. It is due probably to two causes ; 
first, to the greater measure of education that 
is nowadays granted to women, and, second, 
to the economic fact that a large number of 
women can now earn their own living with- 
out loss of liberty or self-respect. The first 
is the vaguer, but probably the more cogent, 
reason ; for while our modern system of 
education has produced no noticeable change 
either for the better or the worse in our 
young men, it has certainly had a remark- 
able effect on our young women. They have 
taken, with the beginner's eagerness, to the 
engrossing pastime of thinking, and, in con- 
sequence, they show an increasing desire to 
break the great truce between the sexes. 

And the second reason that I gave above 


supplies them with the opportunity. There 
has always been a considerable number of 
women who did not desire marriage in it- 
self, but who, nevertheless, were forced to 
marry in order to obtain a home and some- 
one to support them. Nowadays these 
women can obtain a situation as clerk or 
typist and deride the efforts of clever, strong, 
masterful man to take the queenly citadel by 
storm. These newly -enfranchised women 
are rarely sufficiently sure of themselves to 
ignore man as they feel he ought to be 
ignored. They are rude to him in the mass 
in order to counteract a despicable, secret 
desire to appoint some individual manifesta- 
tion of him their master. They throw away 
the one effective weapon of their sex of their 
own free will, but they are not prepared 
to face the resultant loss of all their battles 
with philosophic calm. They disdain the 
idea of charming men, but are dismayed 
when they find that men are not charmed. 
Behind the most ferocious Suffragette there 
still lurks woman, with one eye on the world 
and one on her mirror, and therefore she 
cannot see to fight. 


It is for this reason that men have been 
able so far to treat the whole problem of 
the Suffragettes with tolerant good -humour ; 
but the man dwells in a fool's paradise (and 
not a bad place in which to dwell either!) 
who does not realize that behind this insig- 
nificant demand for votes lies hidden the 
germs of a struggle of a far more desperate 
character. It must be remembered that the 
standard of feminine education is steadily 
rising, and more women are becoming self- 
supporting every year. Now, the whole 
tendency of modern education is to arouse 
in the individual that curious form of dis- 
content known as ambition, without provid- 
ing him, or her, with any efficient means 
of satisfying it. In man this hopeful, help- 
less state of mind is almost normal, but for 
woman it has the fatal attraction of novelty. 
For countless generations she has been con- 
tent with waging the placid warfare of home 
life, and its little victories and little defeats 
have composed the history of her days. But 
now, as it were in a dream, she sees the 
world that man has conquered opening to 
her feet, and, the dream being new, she does 


not realize that the boundaries of that world 
are no wider than the boundaries of the 
kingdom that she has ruled hitherto ; and 
she longs to change the substance for the 
shadow. Revolting against the divine pur- 
pose of her motherhood, she covets the un- 
real splendour of the purposeless lives of 
men. Why should she, she asks, with her 
hands and her eyes and her brain, be no 
more than a mother and a nurse of babies? 
She does not stay to consider that man's 
part in the universe is even smaller than 
this. She wishes to sacrifice the ennobling 
privileges of her sex for the glamour with 
which men hide the weary emptiness of their 
days. And circumstance is helping her to 
do it. 

The revolt of woman against motherhood 
is no new thing ; but whereas in bygone 
years we have been accustomed to regard 
it as an eccentricity, I am not sure that in 
the future we may not find it a very serious 
factor in our national life. I believe that 
among the English middle classes the birth- 
rate is already abnormally low, and when, 
as seems likely to happen sooner or later, 


the whole of our population joins the middle 
class, the effect of the new feminine ambi- 
tions will certainly be very serious. 

I am aware that, so far from attacking 
motherhood, the actual Suffragettes of to-day 
find it one of the most useful weapons in 
their oratorical armoury ; but the fact re- 
mains that they themselves, the pioneers of 
a movement that is to work wonders for 
their sex, have done very little to supply 
the incessant demand of the State for babies, 
and it is difficult not to conclude that the 
tendency is for the intelligent woman of the 
day to examine the problem and find that 
it is not worth her while to be a mother. 
The only drawback of this decision is that 
it renders her absolutely useless and even 
wasteful to the country that gives her shelter. 
She eats food and burns coal, but so far as 
human progress or the prosperity of the 
State is concerned she might just as well 
not be there at all. We human creatures 
may humbug ourselves as we will, but the 
first law of our existence is that we must 
continue the race. For women the breeding 
and raising of children have proved sufficient 


to completely occupy the efficient section of 
their lives. The duties that men inherit are 
smaller, and they have found it necessary to 
invent politics, art, science, justice, educa- 
tion, and a thousand other toys to while 
away the idle hours and to help them to 
conceal their relative unimportance from the 
female sex. Hitherto \ve have most of us 
imagined that women could see through the 
hollow pretence of our lives, and it comes 
as a shock to discover that there are women, 
and clever women at that, capable of envy- 
ing us our possession of gaudy, painted wings 
that glisten in the sunlight prettily enough, 
but will not help us to fly. Heaven knows 
we are some of us weary enough of this 
load of petty shams that the women of to- 
day seem to covet ! We have got to live out 
our days, and we may as well make the 
best of them, but surely it is permissible to 
remark that they do these things better in 

I have ventured to call my article the 
" New Sex," and, looking ahead, it is not 
unreasonable to see women drifting into two 
strongly -divided camps. The one intellectual, 


energetic, independent, and supremely use- 
less ; the other emotional, affectionate, 
placid, and in all things motherly. The 
weakness of the former camp will be its 
sterility, though doubtless every generation 
will send its tithe of recruits. The strength 
of the latter camp will be its permanence. 
With the intellectual women men will fight, 
as they fight with each other, on terms of 
miserable equality. To the emotional women 
they will go, as they go now, to justify their 
existence and to meet their fate. The woman 
who wishes that she had been born a man 
is a fool. 


IN spite of their lack of faith, the present 
generation is but little tolerant of those who 
make it their business to reveal, and thereby 
to destroy, the heart of the great mysteries. 
Perhaps it is that, though we do not believe 
in anything in particular, we do not wish 
to accept the necessary responsibilities of our 
sceptical attitude towards things in general. 
Like the mythical but ubiquitous ostrich, we 
had rather veil our eyes with the sands of 
doubt, which is half-sister to faith, than 
acknowledge the wholly inimicable character 
of the shadows that haunt the desert in which 
we live. We do not believe, but we are 
unwilling to be told that we do not believe. 
And of our fear we create a virtue of broad- 
mindedness. Of all the concrete mysteries, 
none is more loyally and watchfully guarded 



than the mystery of the editor. Dimly, like 
a dream seen from the heart of a dream, 
we are permitted to perceive that here is 
a Force, a Power, a Cause that induces 
multitudinous and widely -scattered effects. 
We conceive him as a being essentially 
super-human, a subtle judge of right and 
wrong, a dreamer of gigantic dreams, whose 
messages to us have the emphasis of an 
inspired command. To all ordinary men 
and women he remains invisible ; it is 
enough to have met a sub -editor who has 
touched the great man's hand, an office-boy 
who has filled his ink-pot. Not that we 
would wish to see him if we had the power, 
for his infallibility \vould scourge us for a 
hundred mental weaknesses. Even his 
thoughts, we feel, are correctly punctuated. 

It is not without a just sense of the value 
of mysteries that I hazard the assertion that 
editors are not really like this. It is not 
passing the bounds of a decent reticence to 
remark that by daylight they vary a little, 
but, nevertheless, in all essentials resemble 
the ordinary man. If I had to form an 
impressionist sketch from my vague recol- 


lections of the type, I think I should draw 
a timid, hesitant man, very well informed 
on one or two subjects, but with the vast 
ignorance of the traditional judge on things 
in general. I should represent him as peep- 
ing gratefully at a catalogue of spring bulbs 
in the intervals of directing the affairs of 
the Empire. Honest, kindly, conscientiously 
anxious to reconcile the dim remnants of 
his youthful sestheticism with his duty to- 
wards his directors, his advertisement 
manager, and his family. Utterly out of 
touch with the literature of his day, but with 
a jealous admiration for Milton, Dr. John- 
son, and Thackeray, and a very great con- 
tempt for the frivolous graces of modern 
prose. A man, as I have siaid, essentially 
timid, who would be reduced to dust in a 
day if he were not handsomely guarded by 
an army of cynical sub -editors and truculent 
office-boys. Some such shape my fancy 
portrait would assume. 

But this is a fancy portrait as far from 
the truth, perhaps, as the imagined editor of 
a literary-minded boy. I think the tradi- 
tional editor is largely founded on these 


happy dreams of scribbling youth. Suck- 
ing the midnight fountain-pen, and writing 
with that flattering ease indistinguishable, by 
night, from inspiration, it is natural that 
youthful writers should conceive that editors 
are on the side of the literary angels. " If 
my blank-verse tragedy is good," young 
Asphodel says to himself, " the editor of the 
Chimes will be glad to print it in his paper, 
and give me golden sovereigns to buy roses 
for Phyllis." The cynic, being the man who 
knows, would deal harshly with poor Aspho- 
del's dream. He would point out that the 
least judicious assistant would not allow the 
tragedy to reach the editor, that even if it 
did the editor would not know whether it 
was good or bad, that even if, personally, 
he thought it was good he would not dare 
to print it, and, though this is beside the 
case, that Phyllis would prefer to receive 
jewellery or chocolates. Fortunately, the 
knowledge is hidden from Asphodel ; he 
writes his tragedy for the waste-paper basket, 
and doubtless learns something in the writing 
of it. 

A philosopher might deduce something of 


the novelist's soul from the fact that, saving 
of the photographs of the modern realistic 
school, the average editor in fiction is not 
unlike the ideal person for whom young As- 
phodel twangs his ambitious lyre. Nothing 
can be more touching than the amount 
of attention these gentlemen give to the 
heroine when she takes to story -writing in 
order to keep her younger sister at Girton. 
Instead of rejecting her with printed slips 
of a clammy coldness, they give her encour- 
agement, good advice, and crisp five-pound 
notes with a lavishness that real editors 
would do well to imitate. I notice that these 
fictional editors are always curiously suscep- 
tible to the charms of young women in dis- 
tress, but, perhaps, it would be tactless to 
inquire whether this pleasant editorial trait 
has any foundation in fact. I have never 
met a heroine in real life who has sought 
assistance from editors by breathing on their 
grizzled heads, but it is possible that these 
things are done. I do know a boy of eleven 
who sent a short story to a well-known 
London daily paper and received in reply 
a three-page letter of kindly criticism in the 


authentic handwriting of the editor. But if 
I had found this incident in a novel I would 
have thought it improbable. 

I have said above that in all essentials 
modern editors resemble the ordinary man, 
and it is only going a step further to assert, 
with due deference to our common need of 
mysteries, that editors do not exist at all. 
There was a time when the personality of 
an editor dominated the paper he edited ; 
to-day the newspaper seems to eliminate the 
man. Very few people could name the 
editors of newspapers to which they are 
regular subscribers, and fewer still, perhaps, 
would notice any alteration in a newspaper 
if the editor were changed. It must be ad- 
mitted that this state of things is rarely the 
fault of the editor. Nominally a tyrant, he 
is in truth the slave of many masters : his 
proprietors, the advertisers on whose favour 
the continuance of the paper depends, the 
conservatism that drives the oldest readers 
of a paper to passionate rebuke if the paper 
shows any signs of change, all these are 
forces to be reckoned with and obeyed. 
Then the English law of libel frequently 


demands not merely a suppression of the 
truth, but a downright affirmation of false- 
hood. Against these powers the strongest 
personality can make but a feeble struggle. 
Newspapers ought really to die as soon as 
they have accumulated traditions to check 
their growth ; failing this, you can trace the 
passage of an editor down Fleet Street by 
the clanking of the fetters. Years ago, per- 
haps, he wrote lyrics more passionate than 
Swinburne's, more lucid than those of the 
Restoration singers ; to-day he can only 
consider the pretentious doggerel that passes 
for verse at General Elections. A power in 
the land, he dare not give his honest opinion 
on any mortal or immortal subject if that 
opinion is in any way opposed to the opinion 
of his readers. His very position deprives 
him of the right of free speech. 

The decay of the Press began in England 
when journals first endeavoured to give their 
readers what they wanted rather than what 
they lacked. The editor automatically 
became the servant of the public, where 
before he had been the public's master. Pills 
and soap and publishers, board-school in- 


tolerance and academic priggishness, fraudu- 
lent politics, and a fulsome obedience to the 
common sense that is common without being 
sense, these are the forces that dictate the 
policy of most of the successful modern 
newspapers. The average man is a fool, to 
be pardoned in this world and crowned in 
the next, because he does not realize his 
folly ; but by degrees he has been per- 
mitted to bring nearly all his periodical 
literature within the range of his empty 
mind. He expects his daily newspaper to 
support his own wavering opinions, and if 
one newspaper is recalcitrant he spends his 
copper on another. This man with a penny 
or twopence a 'day to spend in literature that 
shall start no disturbing echo in the vacant 
corridors of his mind is the virtual editor 
of half the papers in England. The power 
of the Press, of which we hear so much, 
is little more than the lackey's power \io 
wheedle a coin or two from his master by 
dint of flattering obedience ; and the people 
have come to demand both the flattery and 
the obedience as a right. 

The perfect editor would edit the perfect 


newspaper because he would insist on 
making of it what he wished, and I think it 
would be a feature of his perfection that 
he would allow his contributors to write 
what they pleased. He would collect indi- 
vidualities as a boy collects postage-stamps, 
and having collected them he would appre- 
ciate their varied colour and design, and 
would not endeavour to mould them into a 
worthless, meaningless lump. He would not 
go out of his way either to please or dis- 
please possible advertisers. He would 
neither flatter nor abuse great men. And, 
lastly, I have written this article in vain if 
it is not apparent that I think this most 
important of all : the perfect editor would 
not care one proverbial damn about his 



I DO not know whether it has ever occurred 
to the reader, who possesses, no doubt, care- 
fully cultured tastes in literature and art, to 
sympathize with the point of view of the 
man or woman who has not this supreme 
advantage. I use the word sympathize ad- 
visedly, for it is impossible to regard the 
individual who has failed to explore the finest 
country of the kingdom he inherits as any- 
thing but unfortunate. I would not call him 
wrong with the intellectual snobs, and still 
less would I call him right in the genial 
spirit of comradeship that seems to inspire 
a certain section of the democratic Press. 
I cannot help regarding him in much the 
same way as I regard a man born blind, 
who has never had the privilege of seeing 
flowers or the faces of pretty girls, and, not 


having seen them, is quite incapable of 
realizing what he lacks. There is, however, 
a distinction between the two cases, for 
whereas our blind man cannot see at all, 
even the most ignorant people have rudi- 
mentary eyes for art ; and it may be ad- 
mitted that they derive almost as much enjoy- 
ment from the crude pictures and books that 
they can understand as a person of culture 
derives from the last word in expression of 
some great artist. It may be said that the 
appeal of certain kinds of bad art to the 
uncultured is purely emotional ; but I have 
known sound critics of literature who were 
willing to confess that their judgment of a 
book was largely influenced by the effect it 
produced on their emotions, though, of 
course, their intellect had trained their emo- 
tions to require subtler food than that which 
brightens the eyes of maid-servants and sends 
factory -girls singing to their work. 

For the human being who has learnt to 
appreciate good art, bad art becomes impos- 
sible and even painful. But bad art is more 
than sufficient to allay the aesthetic cravings 
of the large majority of people, and they 


therefore not unnaturally regard fine pictures 
and books as being meaningless, pretentious, 
and frequently ludicrous ; and they further 
consider that the persons who profess to 
appreciate such pictures and books are hum- 
bugs of the most irritating character, who 
are secretly amusing themselves at their ex- 
pense. It is necessary to understand this 
attitude of mind of the average Philistine, 
because to it is due that bitter spirit of in- 
tolerance directed against the beautiful as the 
aesthetically educated minority conceives it. 
The average mind is not soured because 
it cannot find any beauty in Keats or Shelley ; 
it is angry that any one should pretend 
there is any beauty there to find ; and really 
this is a very natural attitude for the average 
mind to adopt. In asking a man to mis- 
trust the evidence of his own senses as to 
what is or is not beautiful, you are ask- 
ing him to admit that his individuality, to 
which he clings as his only birthright, is 
a possession of no particular value after all. 
I repeat, then, that it is not unnatural that 
he should prefer to think that his own judg- 
ments are to be relied on, and that the 


superior person who abuses the art he 
loves, and seeks to set up incomprehensible 
standards, is an aesthetic charlatan. 

With these facts in view, the most ardent 
admirer of Robert Browning's " Red Cotton 
Nightcap Country " should hesitate to con- 
demn the Philistine merely because he is 
intolerant and a little apt to snigger in his 
beard when the name of Browning is men- 
tioned. Nor, though I have often heard it 
pleaded against him, can the aggressiveness 
be said to be wholly on the side of the 
armies of Askalon. We spend his money on 
pictures which he finds absurd ; we fill his 
streets with architecture which he considers 
hideously ugly ; and we call him a fool early 
and late because he will not buy and read 
books which he cannot understand, or sup- 
port a national drama that he considers 
barren and unnecessary. What can he do 
in revenge? Once upon a time he could 
deride our long hair and our sunflowers and 
condemn our laxity of morals, but to-day 
we dress as he does, and conceal our little 
weaknesses under a similar disguise. We 
have a dozen periodicals, a dozen societies 


in which we can get up and abuse his ignor- 
ance to our heart's content. But there is 
not a newspaper in the country no, not 
even now in which an honest admirer of 
Mr. W. J. Eaton (author of the "Fireman's 
Wedding " and many other broadsheet 
ballads) can say that Wordsworth was a 
babbler and Byron a nasty -minded aristo- 
crat, and that people who profess to admire 
them are in urgent need of further educa- 
tion. You and I, dear reader, from the 
heights of our superiority, can score off the 
Philistine as often as we wish. How can 
the Philistine get his own back? 

Taking everything into consideration, I am 
only astonished that the Philistine should be 
so tractable as he is. It must be remem- 
bered that he is in a sweeping majority in 
the land, and that this is an age very much 
inclined to meet the demands of majorities 
half way. Yet, with the possible exception 
of certain newspapers circulating entirely in 
Philistia, which, while they decline to share 
his attitude of mind, are willing to call him 
a very fine fellow for his halfpence, the posi- 
tion of the aesthetic aristocracy is stronger 


than ever. There is no question here of 
yielding to the rights of the democracy ; 
rather it is coming more and more to be 
a canon of criticism that there must be 
something wrong with a work of art that 
has a wide popular appeal. Hitherto, it 
must be presumed that the general lack of 
interest in art of any kind has saved this 
tyranny from meeting the normal fate of all 
tyrannies, but there are not wanting signs 
that this popular indifference is coming to 
an end. Two or three generations of a 
knowledge of the arts of reading and writ- 
ing, and the steadily rising level of the edu- 
cation that is provided for any one who 
wants it, is bound to make a difference sooner 
or later. And then. . . . 

Will the Philistines rebel against the 
authority of the few ; will they claim the right 
to elect great artists for themselves, and to 
crown with immortal laurels those who have 
given them pleasure and satisfied their sense 
of the beautiful? The mind shrinks at the 
thought of the reconstruction of museums 
and picture galleries that their revolt would 
bring about. Chromo -lithographs would 


deck the walls of the National Gallery, and 
the Royal Academy would be devoted to the 
talents of the pavement artist unless he be, 
as I sometimes suspect, a product of deca- 
dent sestheticism. On the newspapers the 
new movement could hardly fail to react, 
and the working-man's epithet would incar- 
nadine all their leading articles. It would 
be, perhaps, too wild a flight of fancy to 
imagine that even these events would induce 
the publishers to depart from the traditional 
conservatism of their trade, and doubtless, 
as now, they would continue in a dignified 
manner to publish books that no sane man 
could be expected to read. But in all other 
centres of artistic activity there would be 
chaos, and it is hard to say where the 
movement would stop. 

It is impossible to dissociate the idea of 
revolution from that of bloodshed, and if 
the small group of critics and artists refused 
to revoke their former dogmatic judgments 
the revolt of the Philistines might prove to 
be serious indeed. As in a dream, not 
wholly deprived of splendour, I can see Bed- 
ford Park going up to heaven in a shape 


of flame, and Chelsea riven to its artistic 
heart by the fire and hazard of war. I can 
see critics shot down in the street like dogs, 
and the bodies of poets swinging from the 
lamp -posts of Westminster. The air would 
be bitter with the smoke of burning books, 
and the feet of the mentally poor would 
spring buoyantly from the pavements, re- 
leased from the intolerable load we have laid 
upon them since they were born. In broad 
daylight grown men would praise the Albert 
Memorial and call it lovely, and women 
would chant the ballads of Mr. G. R. Sims 
without shame for the ignorance of their 
sex. Wherever a man might go he would 
see men and women writing their autobio- 
graphies, free at last to express the miracu- 
lous spirit of their lives, without fear of the 
critics and their iron laws. Like paupers 
splitting firewood, so would they split infi- 
nitives with a light pen and a merry heart 
for the wonder of the things they had to tell 
their fellows. All men would be painters, 
critics, poets, architects ; in a word, all men 
would be artists. Here and there, perhaps, 
in a quiet corner one or two of us would 


mourn our lost aristocracy, but all around 
us would surge the triumphant people, let 
loose in a world the like of which they had 
not known, joined in a universal brotherhood 
of bad art. 

This, if you will, is a fantastic specula- 
tion, but there is, I think, an element of truth 
in it. To-day the majorities win, and it is 
not unlikely that sooner or later the majority 
will triumph over the critics in matters of 
art, and that the unfixed standards of beauty 
will be lowered to meet the tastes of the 
half-cultured and the half -educated. And the 
only melancholy satisfaction to be derived 
from the foreboding is that we can do 
nothing to prevent its being fulfilled. There 
is no stopping majorities when they are out 
for blood, and sooner or later they will realize 
the importance of art, and sweep us off the 
face of the earth. The only miracle is that 
the Philistines have endured the brow-beat- 
ing of aesthetic critics so long. 



ONE of the disadvantages of writing in the 
language of a Puritan people is that before 
you argue about a problem at all you are 
expected to consider it from the standpoint 
of conventional morality. But, as a matter 
of fact, our moralities are dogmatic, which 
means that they are either above or below 
argument. Thus the many excellent persons 
who are of the opinion that drunkenness 
is in itself a sin, apart from its effect 
on the individual or the race, are ob- 
viously not prepared to argue about drunk- 
enness at all, and I should be the last to 
condemn the comfortable convention that 
absolves a man from all intellectual effort 
and responsibility in judging between right 
and wrong. But there are, I imagine, 



a great many people whose consciences 
will not allow their judgment to sleep 
with the placid generalizations of their 
forefathers, and for these the art of get- 
ting drunk must be examined in all its as- 
pects before it can be condemned. Broadly 
speaking, even the unmoral have agreed to 
regard drunkenness as foolish, but the con- 
suming of alcoholic beverages, which can 
only be regarded as the process by which 
a man becomes drunk, has many eloquent 
admirers and supporters. This, I know, is 
a favourite argument of those passionate 
fanatics so humorously labelled with the 
word temperance, who hold that a man who 
drinks a glass of beer is a glass of beer 
nearer intoxication and nothing more. The 
normal answer to these raucous moralists 
is that a man who eats a muffin is not 
really in any greater danger of perishing 
of a surfeit of muffins than he was before 
he consumed it. But in arguing, it is the 
divine right of the individual to crown what 
argument he pleases with his approval, 
and I confess that this method of regard- 
ing every one who eats a liqueur choco- 


late as a potential drunkard appeals to 
my fancy and satisfies my reason. 

Apart from the moral aspect, it is neces- 
sary to consider the effect of getting drunk 
on the mind and body of the individual, and 
also, in so far as it affects his welfare, the 
effect his getting drunk has on the com- 
munity at large. Now, so far as the former 
part of the problem is concerned, I notice 
a curious thing. Like every one else who 
abuses his noble gift of sight by reading 
newspapers, I have read an extraordinary 
mass of condemnation of drunkenness from 
the pens of doctors, sociologists, clergy- 
men, reformed drunkards, and other inter- 
ested persons, but I do not recollect coming 
across one respectable argument against a 
man occasionally getting drunk. To get 
drunk is to consume alcohol to excess, 
and all the statistics and diatribes I have 
discovered have been directed against excess 
of this excess, rather than against the excess 
in itself. Of course I know that there 
is a widely accepted theory that drinking 
begets drinking, but, except in the case 
of persons with a natural tendency to 


intemperance, I do not believe that this 
theory has any foundation in fact ; while 
the yet wilder theory that drunkenness 
begets drunkenness, that a man who has 
once had too much to drink is thereby 
encouraged to drink to excess again, is, 
when we remember the extreme physical 
discomforts with which Nature rebukes ex- 
cess, altogether beyond belief of any reason- 
able person. 

As a matter of fact, the average consumer 
of alcoholic beverages never gets drunk, if 
only for fear of the bodily pains that state 
induces, and my mistrust of compromise 
in general would lead me to suspect that 
this timidity is a vice rather than a virtue ; 
that he is likely reaping the varied ills that 
we are told are the necessary consequences 
of the consumption of alcohol, without enjoy- 
ing the undoubted benefits that accrue from 
coming to grips now and again with the 
laws that control his life. Just as a child, 
who has sobbed its way back to penitence 
on its mother's lap, feels wiser and happier 
than it did before it committed its little 
fault, so the child man is apt to win a 


greater love and a fuller knowledge of his 
mother Nature ; often she has punished 
him with her frowns, and dried his tears 
with her sunshine. After all, we are no 
more than little children on a big scale : 
we are not afraid of dark rooms, but we 
are afraid of the darkness of the heavens ; 
we do not run from our own shadows, 
but we stand panic-stricken within the 
shadows of our own hearts. And the 
analogy may be trusted further. In a 
nursery it is always the best child that 
gets into all the scrapes. It has inherited 
its due share of naughtiness, and it is 
not cunning enough to keep its transgres- 
sions within the vague limits of the law. 
And we may trace the way of the simple 
sinners through life readily enough. A 
drunken man walks down the street, and 
the hypocrites lean from the windows of 
their houses and rend the skies with their 
clamorous disgust. It is always pretty safe 
to trust a man who wears his vices on his 

But I fear that I have strayed a little 
from my argument. I hold no brief for 


drunkenness, but I do think that it is a 
good thing that a man should occasionally, 
very occasionally if you wish, drink too 
much. In the first place, this does not 
leave him, like many of the less concrete 
vices, uncertain as to, or even ignorant 
of, his transgression ; and a realization of 
his own frailties keeps a man modest and 
companionable. The greatest fault of tee- 
totallers, so far as I have examined those 
dreary propagandists, is not that they 
are too consciously proud of their sobriety 
in face of a total absence of temptation, but 
that they affect to be wholly free from all 
those weaknesses that knit individuals, made 
in the image of God, into a human world. 
Yet it is difficult not to believe that drunken- 
ness which reaps so violent and immediate 
a punishment is not a lesser vice than those 
defects of meanness and hypocrisy that a 
man may nurture unpunished in his heart. 
Self-respect is a quality so near akin to 
self-righteousness that in preserving the one 
we are always in danger of breeding the 

A talisman by aid of which a man may 


remain tolerant is cheaply purchased at the 
price of an occasional headache, but I am 
willing to go further and say that I believe 
that an occasional excess in his cups is good 
for a man's mind and body as well as 
for his heart. Any one who uses his mind 
in his work, though I fear that this is an 
argument that only appeals to the minority, 
will have suffered from time to time from 
an attack of stateness. If he be a mem- 
ber of Parliament he will find himself at 
a loss for a method by which to reform 
the House of Lords. If he be a writer 
of little articles he will find that all the 
little articles have already been written by 
some one else. If he be a poet the music 
of the universe will sound in his ears like 
the thin voice of a barrel-organ, heard 
from afar. At such a time, to betake 
oneself to the wine-bowl, in fitting com- 
pany, is to win, after the lapse of a day, 
be it said, a new brain. It is as though 
some friendly hand had stirred up the 
stagnant mind with a stick, and brought 
the ideas to the surface like bubbles. And 
there is a parallel state of bodily stale- 


ness, for which the doctors prescribe a 
change of air, that can frequently be cured 
in the same simple fashion. It seems as 
though Nature likes obedience, but neither 
demands nor desires servility from her 
children. A day of hot coppers, suffered 
in a mood of patient humility, sends a 
man back to his work in the glad spirit 
of a dew -drunk butterfly. 

I do not believe in making a habit of 
inebriation, any more than I believe in 
making a habit of doing anything, either 
good or bad. To be efficacious, a remedy 
of this kind must be used cautiously, and 
only when the occasion demands it. The 
man who is perpetually drunk is no better 
off than the man who is perpetually sober, 
and believers in Wilde's epigram should re- 
member that excess ceases to be successful 
when it becomes normal. It is difficult, 
as Montaigne found in considering a rather 
similar problem, to lay down a definite 
rule of conduct in a matter of this kind, 
but I should think that man very unfor- 
tunate who found it necessary to get drunk 
more than twice in a year. It is possible 



that, after a certain period in a man's 
life, when he has sinned too often to 
nourish any further belief in his infalli- 
bility, and when his mind is no longer 
capable of giving him surprises, it is not 
necessary for him to get drunk at all. 



IT is very common for critics and other 
individuals who take an interest in contem- 
porary art to indulge in speculations as to 
how far certain manifestations of that art, 
which appeals to them, perhaps, in spite of 
their better judgment, possess the quality of 
durability. After Mr. Kipling's cloven - 
hoofed critic has examined a work, admitted 
its prettiness, and expressed a doubt as to 
whether it is art, there follows very closely 
the gentleman who says, " Oh yes, it seems 
to be art, but will it live? " And of the two 
he is the harder to argue with. In the first 
place, it is very difficult to say what con- 
stitutes life in terms of works of art, and it 
may reasonably be doubted whether any 
artist's effort at expression lives in the sense 
in which we use the word in discussing the 



claims of a contemporary artist whom we 
do not like. What we can say is that some 
time after publication some books are read 
more than others and that many cease to 
be read at all ; that it is not necessarily, 
the works of art that preserve the widest 
audience that secure the greatest measure of 
general esteem, though this may sound para- 
doxical ; and that many of our so-called 
English classics linger chiefly in the pages 
of literary histories, and are rarely read save 
by experts. 

When we leave art and consider the attri- 
butes of human fame in general, we are 
bound to admit that for the majority of living 
human beings the dead have little interest 
or significance. We adopt, or rather, per- 
haps, adapt, their ideas ; we take advantage 
of their discoveries ; we take up the task of 
existence where they laid it down ; but for 
the rest we say, like Tyltyl in the " Blue 
Bird," that there are no dead, though our 
motive is different. We accept the theory 
that a live dog is better than a dead lion 
with whole-hearted enthusiasm, and the 
idiot who gibbers in the cell of an asylum 


is infinitely more alive to us than Shake- 
speare. Perhaps, subconsciously, we despise 
the dead because they have not been clever 
enough to go on living. 

No, we will not allow the ghosts the 
smallest fraction of the life that boils in our 
veins and makes us commit crimes and 
heroic actions. Yet looking ahead to that 
inconceivable age when we, ourselves, shall 
be no more, we display a childish eagerness 
as to the ultimate fate of our individual per- 
sonalities. Whether we are criminals or 
heroes, we wish the age to come to be aware 
of our identities, and it is possible to con- 
clude from the lives of many of our great 
men that they would rather be remembered 
for their follies than forgotten altogether. 
Yet the man who sacrifices part of his life 
for posthumous fame should reflect that only 
a small percentage of men and women have 
any regard for the past, and that the re- 
mainder will avail themselves of whatever 
they may find useful in his life's work, with- 
out giving a thought to the dead man who 
was responsible for their inheritance. 

Nevertheless, when we talk of a work of 


art living, we mean that it still retains its 
individual appeal to a limited audience, and 
in attempting an estimate of what will sur- 
vive of contemporary literature in a hundred 
years' time we must take into consideration 
the lines along which the cultured class is 
likely to develop. And here I may remark 
that in spite of the spread of scholastic edu- 
cation it does not seem likely to me that the 
cultured class of the future will be any 
greater in numbers than it is now. It is 
true that nowadays we teach every one how 
to read, but at the same time we take care 
to teach them that the habit of reading is 
unfortunate from the point of view of their 
material welfare. I should like to look for- 
ward to a jgolden age when every one should 
read good books, but I cannot even feel con- 
fident that a time will come when every one 
will talk about them. I foresee that the 
cultured class of the future, surrounded on 
all sides by individuals who are uncultured 
from choice and not from necessity, will tend 
to become more precious and more priggish 
than ever. The gap between journalism 
which caters for the many and literature 


which can only appeal to the fit few will 
widen, and persons who really take an in- 
terest in English literature will be regarded 
rather in the light in which students of 
Anglo-Saxon are marvelled at now. 

It should be possible to deduce what con- 
temporary works this cultured minority will 
find worth the reading from the kind of 
literature that has worn down from the 
past to our own day, with some ele- 
ments of life lingering between the battered 
boards. The difficulty here is to distinguish 
between the books that still command a 
genuine if strictly limited public, and those 
that really only survive as historical docu- 
ments for the student of literature. The 
recent flood of cheap reprints gave us 
numerous editions of books of both classes, 
but how far these books were bought to 
read, and how far they were bought as a 
convenient substitute for valentines and 
Christmas cards, not even the publishers who 
sold them can say. This and the habit of 
giving books as presents and prizes render 
the circulation test unreliable when applied 
to the classics. How many people read 


Spenser to-day? He is, it seems, one of the 
great immortals. But is he read by any 
one outside what we may call the profes- 
sional class of book-reader that is, poets, 
essayists, leader-writers in search of tags, 
and Mr. John Burns? Does any one read 
Ben Jonson? Does any one, to come nearer 
to our day does any one here read Shelley? 
These are questions to which it is impossible 
to obtain a definite answer ; but I can only 
say that if there is a large number of persons 
outside literary circles who read the English 


classics, they keep very quiet about their 
amiable hobby. I have sometimes thought, 
in moments of depression, that we who 
write get our living solely by taking in each 
other's scribblings. I am willing to allow 
that the state of mind of a man who can 
read the works of others without wishing 
to write himself is incomprehensible to me, 
and it is possible that he does not exist. 

This doubt as to the nature of the circle 
that the classics still enchant renders argu- 
ment by analogy a little difficult when we 
come to consider the work of contemporary 
writers from the point of view of posterity, 


but one or two theories may safely be ad- 
vanced. Work that depends for its merit 
rather on the novelty of its theme and the 
freshness of its arguments than on the per- 
fection of its expression is bound to perish 
as soon as the public mind has assimilated 
the new ideas such work puts forth. This 
rules out at one stroke practically the whole 
of the work done by the more prominent 
writers of this very didactic age. I cannot 
see, to take a striking instance, what will 
induce posterity to read the plays of Mr. 
Bernard Shaw. But a section of our modern 
drama may survive as presenting a truthful 
picture of the life of to-day, while, as in 
the case of " Gulliver's Travels," the didactic 
significance is overlooked or forgotten. 
"Justice," to take a very up-to-date in- 
stance, may well render such a service to 
posterity as the " Shoemaker's Holiday " and 
" Bartholomew Fair " have rendered to us in 
restoring the atmosphere of a vanished age. 
Again, I think it is important that the 
artist's style should possess that simplicity 
that appeals to all ages alike. It is pos- 
sible for an intelligent person to read 


Chaucer without a glossary to-day. Will it 
be possible for any one to read Mr. Rudyard 
Kipling with equal ease in the year 2200? 
Chaucer, while sinning freely in his passion 
for gallicisms, relied for the most part on 
simple words and simple turns of speech. 
Mr. Kipling has such an affection for the 
ephemeral dialects of the hour that his early 
short stories already betray their age. There 
is a danger, too, in the direct appeal to 
sentiment, for the sentiment of one genera- 
tion is the sentimentality of the more sophis- 
ticated generation that succeeds it. Mr. 
Barrie's little Thrums papers, that were so 
good when they first appeared, have hardly 
escaped the effects of this disastrous meta- 

Where are we to find our present-day 
writers of distinction who are not didactic, 
who are not sentimental, and who write clear 
and expressive English? I have made a list 
of five, and I think that the reader must be 
happily catholic if he can make a longer 
list for himself. And if we leave the realms 
of literary art, it would, I think, be even 
harder to find a number of men likely to 


achieve even that transitory fame that man 
grants grudgingly to the mighty dead. I can 
think of two painters, but I cannot think 
of one politician who will seem more than 
a shadow to those that come after. Per- 
haps, like the majority of our countrymen, 
the age to come will esteem professional 
cricket and football above art, and we may 
not make so bad a showing after all ! The 
thought is consoling to our national vanity, 
even if we do not go so far as to hope 
that the possibility may be fulfilled. 


WHILE, on the whole, finding party politics 
a little insincere, and inclined to sympathize 
with the oblivious state of mind that readily 
forgets General Elections, I think it would be 
rather a pity if the message of one election in 
particular was allowed to pass unregarded. 
This message, as our partisan newspapers ac- 
knowledged a little ruefully, was of a wholly 
negative character. The people of England 
did and did not believe in the House of 
Lords ; they liked and did not like the 
Budget ; they appreciated and did not ap- 
preciate Free Trade, or Tariff Reform, as 
it is sometimes called. In a word, speaking 
by means of a record poll, the people of Eng- 
land said nothing to which any reasonable 
man could attach any reasonable meaning. 
Our professional politicians shouted lustily 



into the abyss, and waited in vain for the 
sound of an echo. It is only fair to add, 
since politicians are much maligned, that 
both parties detected the inspiriting voice of 
victory in this embarrassing silence ; but in 
face of the irreconcilable natures of their 
respective claims, it seems juster to presume 
that both parties were defeated, and this, to 
the discriminating student of men and voters, 
seemed the most natural result of the recent 
election. It may be true of all elections it 
was certainly true of this one that the man 
in the street, indistinguishable in these demo- 
cratic days from the god in the car, votes in 
accordance with the decrees of his own pre- 
judices, rather than from any strong feeling 
on the general issues of the election. A 
candidate with a queer-sounding name loses 
votes, just as a candidate who is the son of 
a peer gains them. Owing to the varying 
degrees of intelligence possessed by voters, 
this system of voting produces chaos. Thus, 
in the election under notice, many men voted 
for the Government because the publicans 
had raised the price of whisky, while many 
men voted for the Opposition for the very 


same reason ! It was unreasonable to ex- 
pect a definite opinion of the Budget from 
a country thus distraught ; nor, indeed, did 
we get it. 

I imagine that patriotism, using the word 
in any but its parish -pump significance^ is 
the rarest of all human enthusiasms. It de- 
mands the possession on the part of the 
individual of two qualities altruism and 
imagination, which are sufficiently rare by 
themselves, but quite exceptional in partner- 
ship. It is, I think, fairly obvious that it 
is in imagination that present-day English- 
men are lacking ; they have not the art to 
use a homely phrase of seeing beyond their 
noses, and they demand that all their sacri- 
fices should be of immediate and obvious 
benefit to their neighbours. It is, perhaps, 
a hard saying, but I am sure that the mere 
idea of making sacrifices for their country 
strikes the average Englishman as savouring 
of cant. How far this may be due to our 
growing materialism I do not know. In 
the golden age of Elizabeth England seems 
to have bred fine imaginations with the 
greatest ease ; her sons were not merely 


imaginative in word, but also in deed, as the 
stories of her ancient ports can testify. But 
nowadays there is something essentially un- 
English in concerning oneself with national 
abstractions to the detriment of one's own 
business. According to the labels which we 
have elected to attach to our individual pre- 
judices, the word patriotism is unpleasantly 
suggestive either of Jews, Mafeking, and cheap 
Union Jacks, or of disloyal Celts and bomb- 
throwing niggers. The invention of local 
patriotism that rascally phrase to salve the 
consciences of the unpatriotic has proved 
but a step to the general adoption of self- 
patriotism. The modern Englishman is the 
deafest and blindest kind of individualist. 
Any idea that lies outside his own mental 
environment strikes him as fanciful and 
ridiculous. The country in which he lives 
is inhabited only by his friends and connec- 
tions, and his sole duty is to guard their 
interests. Sometimes he has a snobbish 
esteem for the masters of richer countries 
than his, sometimes he indulges in senti- 
mental pity for those who starve at his 
frontiers masters of no country at all. But 


normally he makes his house not merely his 
castle, but his kingdom, his empire, and his 
ultimate heaven as well. England as an 
ideal to be served and cherished no longer 
exists for him at all. 

The decay of the patriotic ideal is serious 
enough in itself, but it becomes even more 
significant if we regard it merely as one 
particular manifestation of a general decay. 
The present-day Englishman is afraid of the 
big thought, the big emotion, the big love. 
The big thought is pretentious, the big emo- 
tion is bestial, the big love is affected ; so, 
with a shrinking phrase and a cackling 
laugh, he tries to veil his coward soul from 
anything too great to be comfortable to its 
infinite smallness. Generation on generation 
of unchecked prosperity has robbed him of 
humility, the virtue that is a bond of fellow- 
ship between the nobly little and the nobly 
great. He has come to believe that he has 
not only inherited the earth but created it, 
or, at all events, so far improved on its 
original design that all the credit is his by 
right ; and he feels that the criticism im- 
plied in the existence on his earth of greater 


forces than himself is irreverent. Seated on 
the throne that he has raised, he is quite 
satisfied with the odour of the incense that 
he himself has lighted, and the winds that 
blow through the temple doors and disturb 
the calm ascent of the admiring smoke are 
very distasteful to him. Within his breast 
the anger of an outraged god and the sorrow 
of an interrupted worshipper strive for 
mastery, which means that he meets criti- 
cism with a lofty air of unconcern, not the 
less insolent that it is assumed. Time was 
when the English were the most arrogant 
people in the world because they lived in 
England ; to-day England is the most arro- 
gant country in the world because it is 
inhabited by the English. Then we were 
proud of our manly virtues ; now we are 
proud of our freedom from the manly vices, 
without asking what that freedom signifies. 
It is our pleasure to set an example to the 
civilized world, yet as a nation we are not 
united even in sanctimoniousness. Every 
individual wishes to force the majority to 
accept his own standard of bigotry. We are, 
however, more or less agreed in condemning 



the manner of life of the other European 
nations, and it is not our fault that they 
regard us as hypocritical yahoos, and hold 
Saint John Bull himself to be no more than 
an inflated frog, by no means emancipated 
from the ancestral slime. 

Being a journalist, I may be inclined to 
attach too much importance to the Press as 
representing the public mind of the hour ; 
but so far as it is possible for one man to 
study a nation, I am convinced that England 
has the Press it deserves. In itself this is 
natural, for the whole policy of present-day 
newspaper proprietors is to turn out a paper 
that will please its readers rather than in- 
form or influence them. In consequence, 
from the pert frivolity of Punch to the 
Teutonic and stodgy erudition of the Athen- 
ceum, the earnest student of periodical 
literature will find that a constant effort is 
being made to treat the abstract in terms 
of the concrete, to measure the infinite from 
a fixed and belittling point of view. Politics 
are party politics, religion is the clash of 
rival creeds, love is a compromise between 
the Divorce Court and the Agony column, 


death is an obituary notice five letters long, 
literature is bad journalism, art is bad 
morality, and, it might be added, a newspaper 
is an advertisement sheet containing certain 
other matters. It is only necessary to com- 
pare this with the view, for instance, held 
by the man in the street on the subject of 
different nationalities to realize how exact 
a judgment the newspapers have formed of 
the popular mind. The French are im- 
moral, the Germans eat sausages, the Italians 
play barrel-organs, the Japanese use fans, 
Spaniards visit bull fights, and Russians are 
anarchists. Thus with one pregnant fact the 
democratic critic is able to distinguish 
between foreigners, or aliens, as they are 
called, if they are unfortunate enough to 
have no money. 

I doubt whether the English were ever 
broad-minded as a nation ; indeed, the Eliza- 
bethan comedies and the narratives of the 
early voyagers breathe as full a spirit of 
intolerance as the most ardent patriot could 
desire ; but this older intolerance was very 
definitely national that is to say, it repre- 
sented the prejudices of the nation rather 


than those of individuals, and from one point 
of view this spirit was to be commended. 
But to-day we can only judge the temper 
of the nation by striking an average be- 
tween the loud -mouthed condemnations of a 
thousand factions. The newspapers, which 
might help, are swayed hither and thither 
by the clamour of individuals. When the 
voice of the nation is asked for a judgment 
we hear the babble of a million tongues. 

I remember reading somewhere as a sign 
of our national decadence that, whereas in 
our brave days we were proud of being so 
small an island, we now sought the favour of 
the gods by bragging of the immensity of 
our Empire, and perhaps the criticism con- 
tains a hint of the causes of our present 
weakness. That we are strangely weak no 
man who has considered our attitude towards 
Germany can deny. While cultivating our 
individual conceit, we have lost the happy 
faith in ourselves that helped our forefathers 
to do impossible things. We have no 
national religion, no national art, no national 
songs. We have not the power to act nobly, 
so we brand as fanatics the few who seek 


to conquer themselves. We have not the 
power to think nobly, so we scoff at noble 
things. During the last appeal in question to 
the nation, the whole of the arguments of the 
politicians were directed to individuals, and 
it was as individuals that we replied. 

England, it might be said, no longer exists ; 
we must draw what consolation we may 
from the fact that it has been conquered 
by Englishmen. 



SPRING is here again, and the observant will 
doubtless have noticed shy almond-blossoms 
gleaming in the front gardens of suburban 
villas above the tufts of crocuses. Now the 
many-mooded weeks begin to grant us 
tremulous blue days, tender and soft as the 
petal of a flower, one here and one there 
in magnificent promise of the azure summer 
that we shall not get. The flower-girls de- 
light the streets with fragrant heralds from 
the Channel Islands ; tailors talk glibly of 
the new spring patterns that are exactly like 
the old ; women feel a strange longing to 
impale the dead bodies of new birds with 
their hat-pins in honour of the season ; the 
democracy cleans its bicycle and schemes 
improbable holidays ; and the hibernation 



of county cricketers draws to its welcome 

There is a general tendency on the part 
of writers, and possibly of most individuals, 
to describe spring as being a very joyous 
season for poor humanity. Doubtless it was 
joyous enough in primitive days, when we 
lived in caves and went to Nature direct for 
our table d'hote ; but in a state of civiliza- 
tion we are unwilling to be reminded of the 
primitive element in our natures. As far as 
possible we have abolished the seasons. The 
long nights that must have been singularly 
monotonous to our hairy ancestors are no 
more ; indeed, for the privilege of living a 
few hours by artificial light we spend an 
appreciable fraction of the daylight in bed. 
We skate in summer and eat strawberries 
in winter. We have flowers all the year 
round, and we do not associate the break- 
ing of the buds on the trees with warmth 
and over-eating. Even the traditional custom 
of making love in the spring is, I fancy pace 
Tennyson going out of fashion. Spring, 
the birth of the new green year, has lost 
its old significance of good times come again. 


Children are often, oddly, more civilized 
than grown-up people, and it is they who 
show the greatest resentment of the perturb- 
ing effects of spring, so that at this season 
of the year the wise ruler of children does 
not fail to lay in a supply of tonics, those 
nauseating compounds that are supposed to 
reconcile young people with life. But though 
adult grievances against Nature's recurrent 
frivolity are not so easily cured, they are 
by no means less genuine. It may be that 
during the long winter months we have cut 
and polished our latest philosophy of life 
to a fine perfection, yet a careless spray of 
almond-blossom and a wind like good Bur- 
gundy will undo our work in a trice, and 
all is to be done again. It seems as though 
a man may by no means contrive to pass 
peaceably from his cradle to his grave borne 
on the placid wings of a fixed idea. The 
spring has a rough way with our philoso- 
phies, though a civilized man without a 
philosophy is a forlorn and disillusioned 
creature, painful to the eyes of the cultured 
elect. To the convenient dogmas of civi- 
lization the spring affixes an impudent note 


of interrogation ; it wakes strange doubts of 
authority in our minds in the spirit of the 
schoolboy whose idle fingers elongate the 
nose of his schoolmaster, caricatured on his 
blotting paper. We begin to feel rebellious 
against the conventional virtues that have 
been as iron laws through the winter. We 
question work and obedience and sobriety. 
Our eyes, rigid moralists at other seasons, 
detect the shapely angles of women with a 
certain glee. We strut a little in our walks 
abroad, and clutch eagerly at feather-brained 
excuses for neglecting our business. Our 
quickened blood reproaches all our decent 
rules of life as so many spoilers of sport. 
We dream as far as our lack of practice 
in that exercise will permit us. The wind 
which blows across the mountains has made 
us mad. 

And yet we are not happy at this time 
of year, and the reason is by no means 
difficult to discover. During the calmer 
months we are content to live the life that 
civilization demands of us, ignoring the mis- 
chievous suggestions of our emotions and 
even of our intellects. But when April 


comes, and, encouraging us to doubt the 
wisdom of our voluntary fetters, deprives 
us of that solemn vanity which guards 
us normally from the consequences of our 
humanity, we are like rudderless ships cast 
haphazard on to the disordered sea of life. 
In December we can look at pretty girls with 
a proper reticence of eye and thought, for 
we know that the moralities of our neigh- 
bours are all about us ; but in April or 
May we do not care a primrose for our 
neighbours or their moralities. Our eyes 
sparkle, our lips taste the breath of life, our 
feet tap tunes on the pavement, and in our 
hearts we say, " Good heavens ! how pretty 
the girls are this year ! " 

This would be well enough in its way, if 
we were accustomed to dealing with such 
braggart and swashbuckler thoughts and 
knew how to keep them under a generous 
but firm control. But in the placid seasons 
of the year that civilization has made its 
own we do not think at all, since wise men 
have thought for us already, and we only 
permit ourselves such emotions as the ex- 
perience of others has shown us to be safe. 


Rebel spring will have none of our cautious 
conventions, and his foaming splendours act 
on our minds like strong ale on the guarded 
bodies of total abstainers. We are all poets 
in the spring, but, unlike those who dwell 
all the year round on the slopes of Olympus, 
we do not know where we are. We call 
our mother Nature " ma " with the unblush- 
ing confidence of commercial travellers, and 
are genuinely puzzled when she scratches our 
faces in a tempest of indignation. Even the 
narcissus, according to certain scientists, can 
give us influenza, or, at the least, hay-fever, 
and in our new-found enthusiasm for emo- 
tional adventure we shall be lucky if we 
escape so lightly. What will they say in 
Hampstead if we take to reading the Yellow 
Book because the daffodil has more courage 
than our sister the swallow? 

I suppose it was my subconscious realiza- 
tion of the perils of spring that led me 
recently to fly to the friendly shelter of those 
Surrey pine-woods that won me as a child, 
and hold the better part of me captive still. 
The man who has never made friends with 
a pine-forest does not know what a forest 


can be. My own especial woods have the 
moving dignity of a vast cathedral ; the cool 
dimness of untrodden aisles stretching 
between tapering columns, while here and 
there, as it were through stained glass, a 
brittle sunbeam falls to break into a thousand 
glittering fragments on the smooth rough- 
ness of the pine-needles. The birds are the 
best of choristers, while numberless insects 
droning in the heather of the clearings imi- 
tate closely enough the devout murmur of a 
distant congregation. 

Moreover, to help my peace, there are no 
creatures of the female sex in these far soli- 
tudes, save for a few small pinafored atoms 
who gather fuel in silence, suffering the 
majesty of the pines to hush the shrill 
loquacity of their youth. In a world of 
feminine changeableness it is an agreeable 
quality in pine -woods to be very much the 
same at any season of the year. They as- 
sume no sordid poverty in winter, no arro- 
gant hopefulness in spring. An oak-forest 
has a thousand moods to perplex the heart 
of man ; the pines have but one mood, and 
that a mood of noble and enviable serenity. 


" I never get between the pines but I smell 
the Sussex air," sang Mr. Hilaire Belloc 
before Westminster took him wholly, and in 
the same way the pines speak eloquently to 
me of that fairest part of England where 
Surrey meets Hampshire. Black Lake, 
Waverley, Sandy Lane, Lower Bourne the 
very names are like songs to me. There is 
an inn that some of my readers may know 
that has a name like a poem and draught- 
beer like an anthology, and the " Pride of 
the Valley," with its proprietary fish -pools 
and its maternal solicitude for the welfare 
of the " Devil's Jumps," is all that the most 
ambitious valley could desire. 

But all this is, perhaps, a little remote 
from the spring, save that I hold that that 
man is wise who realizes the dangers of this 
ring-time season and betakes himself to some 
quiet place where he can contemplate the 
face of Nature melting into her new laughters 
without fear of being compromised by that 
element of primitive man that still sur- 
vives within him, and is apt to give such 
violent manifestations of its existence when 
the buds are breaking on the trees. This 


is the season when stockbrokers marry their 
typewriting girls and the younger sons of 
hereditary legislators go every night to the 
Gaiety Theatre, with a Saturday matinee 
thrown in. This is the season, or so the 
novels tell me, when grey-haired editors pinch 
the cheeks of their beautiful poetesses, and 
when the poor young man, who has loved 
us faithfully all the winter, proves to be the 
Duke of Southminster, the richest and most 
interesting of all the backwood peers. To 
the foolish, romantic incident of this char- 
acter may seem harmless or even desirable ; 
but to the majority that has realized the 
soundness of the lines on which civilization 
has decreed that the world should run, 
spring, with its eccentricities, must remain 
an inconvenient and distressing season. 



THERE is a season of the year when even 
the most steady-going of men and women 
are incited by the winds of spring to take 
an interest in the affairs of the Turf, even to 
the extent of hazarding pieces of gold on 
the behaviour of horses of which they have 
not previously heard. This being so, it is 
hardly astonishing that a poet should, for 
once in a way, write a sporting article, 
though I have no intention of discussing the 
chances of the horses entered for the Derby, 
beyond remarking that Tressady is a pret- 
tier name than Lemberg or Neil Gow. It 
is the sportsmen rather than the horses that 
interest me, and when a race is over I always 
look round to see how losers are taking their 
losses. When an Englishman meets with 



disaster he does not swear or weep or de- 
pose his fetishes. He adapts his face to a 
mark of unconcern, and fixes his eyes on 
eternity, lest any human being should detect 
the un-English upheaval within. England, 
of all nations, is the nation of gamblers, but 
it knows how to lose almost better than it 
knows how to win. 

Yet in this passion for taking risks, and 
even more perhaps in this stoicism in face 
of defeat, it is easy to trace one of the 
principal causes of our extraordinary success 
as a nation. It must have occurred to every 
one who has studied the voyages of the Eng- 
lish seamen in the pages of Hakluyt and 
Purchas that few of these expeditions could 
be described as sound commercial trans- 
actions ; and, ignoring this trait of the Eng- 
lish character, one would be compelled to 
wonder, not that Englishmen should be pre- 
pared to risk their lives on such enchanting 
ventures, but that staid London merchants 
should be willing to finance them. Some- 
times these little ships brought back diaries 
of strange adventure written in naive and 
charming English ; sometimes they did not 


come back at all ; but rarely, I fancy, can 
they have brought much treasure in gold and 
spices to the imaginative capitalists who 
equipped them. Yet the game went on, and 
while the adventurous vessels cruised happily 
in unknown seas, the merchants who owned 
them dreamed over their musty ledgers. 
They would have diamonds and rubies 
enough when their ships came home. There 
is something significant in the pleasant 
English phrase. 

I suppose it seems a far cry from the 
sea-washed Indies to pastoral Epsom Downs, 
from the gentlemen adventurers of Elizabeth 
to those other gentlemen who will lose 
their money with a calm brow on Derby 
Day. And yet I think it is only another 
instance of the way in which civilization 
preserves our primitive passions while 
changing our manner of expressing these 
passions. I am not sure there is any 
deterioration ; it is only our lack of im- 
agination that makes the present seem so 
sordid. We know that those little ships were 
badly provisioned and utterly dirty. We 
know that their crews frequently mutinied, 



and that the officers quarrelled among them- 
selves and cheated their employers. They 
would murder natives on the smallest provo- 
cation ; probably they did not wash, Against 
these things you may set an almost animal 
courage and a not unimaginative patriotism 
that permitted them to steal and murder with 
a good heart. A modern racecourse crowd, 
considered in bulk, will be found to share 
these attributes. It is dirty, ill -provisioned, 
quarrelsome, and dishonest. But, as last 
Derby Day proved, it is the most loyal crowd 
in the world, and it would be idle to deny 
it the courage of the gambler. The race- 
course mob has another quality that it 
would be unjust to ignore ; it is insanely 

I have an ancestor, so runs the dearest 
of my family traditions, who was hanged as 
a pirate by the Spaniards at Port Royal. 
How much of that priceless piratical blood 
the centuries may have transmitted to me 
I do not know, but if I were his very rein- 
carnation I could hardly hoist the Jolly 
Roger in an age that may believe in fairies, 
but certainly does not believe in pirates. A 


modern Captain Flint would be driven oil 
the high seas by the journalists. They would 
count his pistols, and measure his black flag, 
and publish interviews with his school- 
fellows. It would be impossible for him to 
maintain the correct atmosphere of mys- 
terious cruelty when Tiny Tots had given 
its little readers a photograph of his pet 
rabbit. Besides, he could make a better 
living on the "halls." This being so, I must 
needs find another outlet for my fraction of 
my ancestor's adventurous spirit, and I find 
it, not unworthily I hope, in the occasional 
backing of outsiders. 

There is much to be said for this kind 
of adventure. In the first place, it enables 
you to back your fancy on the only sound 
system of betting on horses with agreeable 
names. Others may burden their minds with 
tedious histories of pedigrees and previous 
runnings ; you are at liberty to let your eyes 
roam over the card in search of pleasant 
gatherings of vowels and consonants. Some- 
times mischance will lead you to select a 
horse, the cramped price of which suggests 
that it may possibly win, but there is no 


need to be disheartened. You have only to 
choose again. Nor, in the long run, is there 
any risk of success turning these idyllic 
speculations into commercial transactions. 
Now and again, perhaps, the heavens will 
fall, and your ship will come home laden 
with gold and silk and ruddy wine. But on 
the whole your ledgers, if you keep them, 
will tell a long tale of wrecks and drowned 
men and uncanny swift disasters, amply 
compensated for, however, by the thrills that 
are the true rewards of the adventurous. 
Bookmakers, too, are very pleasant to you 
if you bet on this principle. When I made 
my investment on the last Derby at a delight- 
ful price the bookmaker turned to me with 
a charming smile. " I hope I shall have the 
pleasure of paying you ! " he said. I fear 
backers of favourites rarely receive such 

It is a fact that if you are not a Carnegie 
or a Rockefeller an occasional bet provides 
an admirable foundation for the building of 
dream-palaces. " When I back a winner " 
is a phrase that leads up pleasantly to the 
spending of a deal of fairy gold, and the 


best of this kind of shopping is that if you 
are expert at it the possession of the real 
gold that is so hard to win becomes in a 
sense unnecessary. If you purchase a thing 
a hundred times in dreams and then find 
that you still really desire it your imagina- 
tion wants looking to. But I really do not 
know how the Nonconformists can call bet- 
ting sordid. I hold no brief for the facial 
beauty of bookmakers, nor do I find grand 
stands the last word in architecture ; but 
when a man makes a bet he is simply seek- 
ing for something that he thinks necessary 
to complete his life. It may be beer, or it 
may be diamonds to deck an actress's leg, 
but in either case it represents an ideal, a 
human aspiration, and as such is not to be 
despised. If betting, which after all is the 
simplest, if the least reliable, way of trying 
to make money, is sordid, then must all ways 
of making money be sordid. But, as a matter 
of fact, few people bet as a means of pro- 
curing necessaries. Whenever I see any one 
putting money on a horse I see a man, 
gambling it may be, but, nevertheless, striv- 
ing ever for beauty as he conceives it. When 


I see a man earning his living I see a trucu- 
lent stomach. 

And now, as this is a real sporting article, 
I will end with a story of the Turf. At 
one of the smaller meetings there was 
entered in a selling-plate a horse called 
Pegasus, of which even the most cunning 
tout knew nothing whatever. As the handi- 
cappers were equally ignorant, they gave it 
the welter weight of ten stone, and hoped 
for the best. When the market opened on 
the race the horse travelled badly ; in fact, 
nobody would put a penny on Pegasus, and 
fifties were vainly proffered after the experts 
had examined the sorry screw, and the 
extraordinary person who, calling himself the 
owner, proposed to ride it. The denouement 
you will probably have foreseen. When the 
tapes flew up Pegasus unfolded a gorgeous 
pair of amethystine wings and fluttered coolly 
down the course to win by a distance. You 
can imagine the gaping crowd, the horror 
of the s.p. offices, the joy of the poet and 
his friends. But the sequel is strange. At 
the subsequent auction a Jew bought Pegasus 
for fifty thousand guineas after brisk com- 


petition. The race fund prospered and the 
owner of the second, but Pegasus never flew 
another yard. 

And the Jew is a sad man, because the 
poet will not tell him what dope he used. 



THERE are some illusions which no man who 
has formed a high conception of life will 
readily allow to die. We cling to them 
because we realize that there is a wisdom 
that lies beyond the truth as we can see 
it a wisdom that holds itself aloof from our 
timid doubts and reasonings. Of these im- 
mortal illusions there is one that is of 
special value to the artist ; he must believe, 
however often circumstances appear to give 
him the lie, that great work can only be 
done by great men. The first work of every 
creative artist is to create his own character, 
and if he fails here through weakness or 
carelessness, that failure will be expressed 
and emphasized in his artistic work. So if 
admiring grapes we find ourselves confronted 
with the bramble that has produced them, 



we must form one of two conclusions either 
the grapes are not true grapes, but Dead 
Sea fruit, bloom without and ashes within, 
or we lack the sympathetic insight that 
would enable us to detect the authentic vine 
in the heart of a briar. 

Years ago there appeared a volume of 
poems for which I have ever had a great 
admiration, and, holding this illusion beyond 
all others, I always wished to meet the man 
who wrote them. He was, I knew, engaged 
in work that could hardly be grateful to a 
poet, and he was not to be encountered in 
ordinary literary circles ; still, whenever I 
read his book I felt sure that sooner or later 
I should meet this man and like him. His 
poetry appealed to my more individual emo- 
tions, expressing moods with which I was 
personally familiar. Meanwhile, till I might 
know him better, I contented myself with 
writing in praise of his poems whenever I 
had the opportunity. 

Then one day I found a distinguished man 
of letters and the most enthusiastic of Eng- 
lish editors sitting together in a Regent Street 
cafe. We fell to talking of the man and his 


poems. -We all admired his work, and, 
therefore, we all wished to meet him. "It's 
easy enough," cried the man of letters, 
" and after all we know the man through his 
book. We'll write him a mutual invitation 
to-night, and take him out to lunch to- 
morrow." There was something gallant in 
the idea, for we risked being snubbed, which 
is the last adventure an Englishman cares 
to have. We wrote the letter and sent 
it off. 

The next morning was one of those rare 
and splendid days of which only England 
seems to have the secret days when the 
wind is sweet and cool like a russet apple, 
and the warm sunshine follows close at its 
heels before one has time to be chilled. It 
seemed a good day on which to make a 
new friend. We called for our poet, and 
received a message that he would be pleased 
to come with us in an hour's time ; so we 
went into Regent's Park and watched the 
squirrels playing with the nursemaids, and 
thrusting their inquisitive noses into the 
flowing hair of little girls. We felt that it 
was a generous world that gave us sunshine 


and little squirrels and men who wrote 'fine 

It is perhaps foolish to expect men of 
talent to be either very handsome or very 
ugly, but I confess that I was disappointed 
with my first impression of the poet. He 
looked elderly and insignificant and sug- 
gested in some subtle way an undertaker's 
mute, the kind of man who wears black kid- 
gloves too long in the fingers, and generally 
has a cold in the head. I thought, however, 
that his eyes might be rather fine in repose, 
but the whole body and speech of the man 
were twittering with nervousness, and he 
affected me like an actor in a cinematograph 
picture. All Nature is the friend of the shy 
man, and behind this superficial unease we 
divined qualities of enthusiasm and ami- 
ability that would no doubt be patent when 
this overwhelming timidity had passed away. 

Looking back, it seems to me that we all 
worked rather hard to set the man at his 
ease and find him worthy of his own work. 
We told him stories, we found mutual friends, 
we encouraged him to talk, we sympathized 
with him over his luckless environment, and 


when called upon we praised and quoted- his 
poetry without stint ; but still he fluttered 
like a bird caught in a snare. He took his 
food without enjoyment, the sunny wine of 
France did not warm him a degree. We 
piped to him his own tunes, all the tunes 
of the world, and yet he would not dance. 
It was not that he was embarrassed by our 
compliments ; he took them for his due, as 
a poet should. But he seemed to think that 
our enthusiasm must have a sinister motive, 
that it was impossible that any one should 
have discrimination enough to wish to meet 
the author of his book for the book's sake. 
Nevertheless, being optimists in matters of 
art, our faith in the man held true ; if only 
we could persuade him to drop the mask 

of his nervousness we thought 

At the end of lunch we succeeded, and 
then I think we were all sorry. He stood 
there leaning gently against the table, while 
soured vanity spoke with a stammering 
tongue. It seemed that our little limcheon- 
party was a conspiracy to persuade him to 
publish some of his poems in the editor's 
paper, and therefore he found it necessary 


to be rude. Had his suspicions been true, 
a more modest man might have thought such 
a plot pardonable, or even rather flattering. 
But the terms in which our poet expressed 
himself placed him beyond argument or 
sympathy. We shook hands and said good- 
bye, and he went away out of our world 
of sunshine and tame squirrels for ever 
and ever. 

So far as my companions were concerned 
the matter ended there. Their kingdoms 
were secure, and they could afford to laugh 
at our honourable discomfiture. But my 
kingdom was yet to win, and I could not 
spare the smallest of my illusions. If such 
a man as I had met that day could do the 
big things, Art became of a sudden an un- 
worthy mistress to serve. I went home and 
nervously took his book from the shelf, 
wondering how far my new knowledge of 
the man's personality would spoil my enjoy- 
ment of his work. I need not have been 
anxious ; they were real grapes, though per- 
haps I acknowledged for the first time that 
their distinctive bitter flavour prevented them 
from being of the first quality. Still, they 


were admirable of their kind, and I had to 
satisfy myself how such fruit could have 
grown on such a vine. 

And then with a flash of intuition I saw 
the truth. The flesh, the features, the mortal 
part of the man might survive, but I knew 
as surely as if I had been present at his 
death -bed that the youth who had written 
those poems was dead. Needless to wonder 
what thwarting of emotion, what starvation 
of appetite, had produced that burst of song ; 
the important thing to me was to realize 
that the man himself, as we reckon men in 
the hopeful world, had perished in the sing- 
ing. With this knowledge to aid me, I could 
sympathize with the rudeness of the man we 
had sought to honour. For in his heart he 
knew himself little better than a changeling, 
and with the giant's robe of his splendid 
hour of youth hanging loosely about his 
shrunken bones, he must have found our 
enthusiasm no more than mockery. 

I have not yet been fortunate enough to 
meet the author of that book of poems which 
I have admired so long, yet I feel sure that 
sooner or later I shall meet the man and 


like him. I know that he will be young, 
and I think that on his lips his songs will 
have lost their bitterness ; for it is a hard 
thing if we must carry our concern for the 
roses and our sorrow for the spring-tide 
lightness of girls beyond the gateway of the 



IT is hardly necessary to remind readers 
that Carlyle, the Scotchman who wrote a 
fine romance about the French Revolution 
but generally preferred to write in broken 
German, once devoted a book to the con- 
sideration of Heroes and Hero -Worshippers. 
These words are set on paper a long way 
from that and most other books, and I can- 
not recall for the moment the exact attitude 
he adopted towards hero -worshippers 
whether he pitied them, patronized them, or 
admired them. As he was 'himself undoubtedly 
a hero one would expect his emotions to 
vary between compassion and admiration 
the strong man's compassion for the weak- 
ness and admiration of the strength of the 
weak. I am sure at all events that he did 
not fall into the vulgar error of despising 



hero -worshippers because they are content 
not to be heroes. Yet as I write it seems 
to me that the very name "hero -wor- 
shipper " has been spoilt by sneering lips ; 
we are asked to believe that they are only 
weak-minded enthusiasts with a turn for un- 
discriminating praise, and that they swallow 
their heroes, as a snake swallows a rabbit, 
bones and all. 

Personally I think this is a bad way in 
which to eat rabbits, but the best possible 
way in which to take a great man. I detest 
the cheese-paring enthusiasm that accepts the 
Olympian head and rejects the feet of human 
clay. Until Frank Harris taught me better 
I thought Shakespeare's Sonnets were capable 
of but one probable interpretation ; but I 
did not wag my head with the moralist 
Browning and cry, "The less Shakespeare 
he ! " To-day I do not find Shakespeare 
less great because he loved Mary Fitton ; it 
seems impossible that any one should. Yet 
Moore burnt Byron's autobiography, Ruskin 
would not write a Life of Turner because 
of the nature of his relationship with women, 
Stevenson abandoned an essay on Hazlitt 



because of the " Liber Amoris " Stevenson, 
whose essay on Robert Burns " swells to 
heaven " ! In the face of such spectacles as 
these it is surely legitimate to pine for the 
blind generosity of the enthusiast, that in- 
cautious fullness of appreciation that lifts 
great men with their due complement of vices 
and follies on to a higher plane where the 
ordinary conventions of human conduct no 
longer apply. 

Great men are usually credited with an 
enormous confidence in their own ability, but 
often enough they have been distinguished 
for their modesty, and the arrogance has only 
come late in life to support their failing 
powers of creation. In fact, it may be said 
that no man, even the most conceited, is 
assured of his own heroic qualities till some 
one tells him of them, and thus far it would 
seem that the hero -worshipper creates the 
hero. One enthusiast can create many 
heroes, which possibly accounts for the fact 
that we find in life that heroes are far more 
numerous than hero -worshippers. Nearly 
every one possesses the heroic qualities in 
posse; the gift of appreciation is proper- 


tionately rare. Every day there are more 
great men and fewer admirers of greatness 
in man. In the next generation super-men 
will be so common that it will become a 
distinction to belong to Christ's democracy. 
The standard example of hero-worship is 
Boswell's " Life of Johnson," a book whose 
greatness is universally admitted, and, it may 
be added, universally misconstrued. If we 
are to class biographies by their utility, it 
loses its pre-eminence, for we would have 
derived a considerable if insufficient know- 
ledge of Johnson from the pages of Piozzi, 
Hawkins, and others ; whereas if that match- 
less prig Austen Leigh had not written the 
Life of his aunt Jane Austen, we should have 
known practically nothing of the inspired 
miniature painter, less certainly than we know 
of Shakespeare.- But, of course, the great- 
ness of Boswell's Johnson rests with Boswell, 
and not with Johnson at all. Johnson had 
all the traditional virtues and vices of the 
mythical average Englishman. He was 
brave, honest, obstinate, intolerant, and ill- 
mannered ; he was all these things with a 
violence to shake society, as his vast body 


shook the floors of houses. It is this violence 
that marks him out as an exceptional man, 
for violence of any kind is abnormal, but 
it is safe to say that for one Boswell there 
will be born a hundred Johnsons. In terms 
of literature Johnson is only of interest as 
being the protagonist of Boswell's master- 
piece. If his " Lives of the Poets " still exist 
to irritate the unwary, " Irene " and 
" Rasselas " are dead and buried. For all 
his greatness Johnson had not the wit to 
win for himself his measure of immortality. 
It needs the magic of Boswell's pen to put 
life into his dead bones. He displays his 
hand in many parts as a learned pig, as a 
sulky child, as Falstaff, and, happily enough, 
often as a simple, kind-hearted man ; but, 
whatever the role, Boswell never forgets to 
impress us with the fact that this is a man 
to be admired. He shows us Johnson bellow- 
ing at the thought of death ; he tells us that 
he was a brave man, and we believe him. 

Johnson apart, Boswell's Life is a master- 
piece of self -revelation ; he is so honest as 
an artist that he makes no effort to hide the 
petty dishonesties of his own nature. He 


tells us how he won the tolerance of John- 
son and, indeed, made himself necessary to 
him by means of skilful flattery. This sig- 
nifies but little, for Shakespeare did not 
scruple to flatter Elizabeth and Pembroke, 
the greater folk of the moment. We are 
most of us willing to flatter great men if 
it gives them pleasure, but, unlike Boswell, 
we do not subsequently explain the process 
at full length in a book. It reminds us of 
Pepys taking careful note of his peccadilloes, 
but Pepys did not always remember that he 
intended posterity to read his diary. Bos- 
well wrote without thought of concealment, 
handed his portrait of Johnson and his no 
less conscious portrait of himself to his own 
generation, and ever since has been regarded 
as a kind of thick-headed parasite for his 
pains. Boswell was not an intellectual man 
in the sense that Johnson was intellectual, 
but he had a wonderful knowledge of human 
motives and an appreciation of Johnson that 
brought out the latent genius in him, and 
ended by making the expression of his 
admiration more admirable than the man 
admired. Johnson is as dead as Garrick. 


Boswell lives with the great ones of English 
literature. The hero -worshipper has outlived 
the hero. 

As a rule it is to be feared that apprecia- 
tion is a gift granted only to the young. In 
our green, unknowing days we used to divide 
books into masterpieces and miserable rub- 
bish. The classification is convenient, but 
as our minds wear out and we become wise, 
the tendency is to find no more masterpieces. 

Those were great nights when we used 
to read each other's verses and congratulate 
the world on its possession of our united 
genius. That is really the poet's hour, his 
rich reward for years of unprofitable labour, 
when the poets of his own unripe age receive 
his work with enthusiasm an enthusiasm 
which in all honesty and all modesty he 
shares himself. Unhappily he is paid in 
advance ; sooner or later he wakes to find 
that he is worshipping before the shrine of 
his own genius, and the shrine is empty. 
That is why I am half pleased and half 
melancholy when young men tell me that 
Antony Starbright, aged twenty, is the 
greatest poet since Keats. If they only knew 


that I too in my hour was one of a group 
of greatest poets who all wrote poems to 
Pan and Hylas, when on summer nights that 
sometimes stretched far into summer morn- 
ings we were all hero -worshippers together 
and we ourselves were the heroes. 

There is a box at the Strand end of 
Waterloo Bridge which is always brimful of 
the works of new poets, and I can never pass 
it without pausing to look at the little neatly - 
bound volumes which say so little and mean 
so much. All the enthusiasms, all the illu- 
sions of youth are there, printed with broad 
margins and bound in imitation vellum. I 
turn the pages that brutal- critics have not 
troubled to cut, and bitterly lament the blind- 
ness that makes it impossible for me to know 
what the young men who wrote them really 
wanted to say. But it pleases me to think 
that each of those little books has its appre- 
ciative public, some half-dozen young men 
who know the author and can read the 
greatness and pride of his youth between 
the reticent lines of his work. 


WHEN a short time ago I came across a book 
by the Poet Laureate, entitled " The Brid- 
ling of Pegasus," I confess that the title 
alarmed me. I do not want the present 
century to capture the winged horse. I 
should be sorry to see poor Pegasus munch- 
ing gilded oats at a banquet of the Poetry 
Society, nor do I wish to find his photograph 
among the grinning actresses in the illus- 
trated papers. But an examination of Mr. 
Austin's book soon reassured me. He has 
not bridled Pegasus. He has not even suc- 
ceeded in harnessing Rosinante, but by a 
natural error he has hung his bridle on to 
a spotted wooden steed of great age, that 
served perhaps to amuse some of our less 
considerable poets in their infancy. Mr. 
Austin's criticism is as individual as his 



poetry, and far more stimulating. I do not 
think that any poet could read " The Brid- 
ling of Pegasus " without being roused to 
passionate anger. It is as though a village 
schoolmaster had paid a week-end visit to 
the foot of Parnassus, and had embodied his 
miscomprehensions of what he had seen in 
the form of a series of lectures to his apple- 
cheeked pupils. Here you have the con- 
descension, the assertive ignorance, the oc- 
casional smirking humour. Let the little 
boys write on their slates Mr. Austin's asser- 
tion that Byron is the greatest English poet 
since Milton, and let them add that Mr. 
Austin is the most irritating critic since 
Remus. One of these statements is true. 

It is too late in the day to review " The 
Bridling of Pegasus," but it suggests the fit- 
ness of some inquiry into the relationship 
between poets and critics. It is of course as 
natural for critics to dislike the work of 
young and adventurous poets as it is for 
poets to dislike the writings of aged and 
sophisticated critics, for critics of all men 
who work in words love to support them- 
selves on those mysterious crutches known 


as canons of art, which any new poet 
worthy of the name promptly sends flying 
with a spirt of his winged foot. This is 
not to say that canons of art (the artillery 
of the small bore?) may not have a certain 
value for critics ; but poets, when they fall 
to criticizing their comrades, are usually con- 
tent to rely on their individual judgments 
rather than to appeal to any universal theory 
of greatness in poetry, and, considered dis- 
passionately, it would be easy to support the 
view that critics select their canons of art 
to justify the preferences that they formed 
when their minds were still receptive and 
unhardened by the inhuman task of criti- 
cism. To take a handful of poets at random, 
it seems impossible to lay down any one 
theory of poetry that will support the un- 
deniable greatness of Herrick, Burns, Blake, 
Keats, Browning, Swinburne, and Meredith, 
and it may be noted that the Laureate 
who writes as a critic and not as a poet 
while treating of poetry from the academic 
standpoint, does not dare this ultimate ad- 
venture. He is content to arrange poetry 
in classes, and assure us that reflective 


poetry is greater than lyrical, and that epic 
poetry is the greatest of all. 

Even if we are to accept these dogmatic 
assertions, I can imagine no sane reader of 
poetry regulating his preferences by doctrine 
of this kind. To Mr. Austin the comparative 
popularity of lyrical poetry is a matter for 
keen regret. To me so far does personal 
prejudice count in these matters it is a 
healthy sign, since it suggests that those who 
read poetry to-day do so for pleasure rather 
than from a sense of duty. But if for no 
other reason, I would mistrust Mr. Austin's 
canons on account of the extraordinary con- 
clusions to which they lead him. Probably 
most foreigners would agree with Mr. Austin 
that Byron is the greatest English poet since 
Milton ; but poetry is the one possession that 
a nation cannot share with its fellows, and 
the countrymen of Keats and Shelley, of 
Browning and Swinburne, must perforce 
keep the enjoyment of their rarer inheritance 
to themselves. 

Nor do his canons help Mr. Austin to fare 
better on smaller points. Thus when he 
wrote that " no poet of much account is ever 


obscure " he had clearly forgotten Browning, 
Blake, and the Shakespeare of the Sonnets. 

The Sonnets are occasionally obscure 
because in them Shakespeare is expressing 
very intricate and subtle emotions, quite 
beyond the range of ordinary lovers. 
Browning is obscure because his mind was 
an overcrowded museum in which his 
thoughts could not turn round without knock- 
ing freakish ornaments and exotic images 
off the shelves. Blake was obscure, as 
Wordsworth was often inane, through trust- 
ing too much to inspiration. Great poetry 
is not obscure ; but the ranks of the great 
poets supply exceptions to all generalizations. 

Again, Mr. Austin finds it strange that two 
such great poets as Dante and Milton should 
suffer from a total lack of humour. This 
opens up a fruitful field of speculation, but 
probably this deficiency is the rule rather 
than the exception. Coleridge, Wordsworth, 
Keats, Shelley, Blake, Tennyson, and Swin- 
burne all lacked it, though some of these 
poets tried to be funny at times. Browning 
had a sense of humour, but it may be 
doubted whether it did his poetry any good. 


Shakespeare had enough humour for fifty 
men of letters ; but he had everything. Mr. 
Alfred Austin has not a sense of humour, 
though he sometimes indulges a cumbrous 
spirit of gaiety that recalls Mr. Pecksniff in 
his moments of relaxation. 

No, I do not believe in canons of art, save, 
if you will, of a vague and ineffective char- 
acter that leave artists free to do what they 
like. Nevertheless, the school of criticism 
to which Mr. Austin belongs being powerful 
these days, I think it would be a goodly 
task to prepare a list of aphorisms to hang 
by the bedside of critics of poetry. Mine 
would be something like this : 

1. A good critic is a man who likes good 
work, and by dint of his enthusiasm is em- 
powered to perform miracles, teaching the 
blind to see and the deaf to hear. 

2. There are two kinds of poetry, good 
and bad. Minor poetry is a phrase used 
by incompetent critics who dare not oppose 
their judgment to the possible contradiction 
of posterity. 

3. "To artists who can treat them greatly 
all times and all truths are equal A 


poet of the first order raises all subjects to the 
first rank" (Swinburne). 

4. If the poet's intellect gives power and 
direction to his work, his emotions supply 
the force that creates it. With most men the 
emotions become exhausted or sophisticated 
at a comparatively early age. Hence most 
poets have done their best work when they 
were young. 

5. The aphorism that poets are born and 
not made is merely an untruthful expression 
of the fact that not every one can become 
a poet by taking pains. It would hardly be 
excessive to say that the first task of every 
artist is to create his own genius ; it is our 
misfortune that most artists have neglected 
to do this. 

6. Poets who try to teach in song have 
derived small benefit from their suffering. 

7. We have all endured the man who sings 
because he must ; there is something to 
be said for the man who sings because he 

8. The wise critic will always approach 
poetry on his knees, even though he ends by 
sitting on it. 


9. Bad poetry is not nearly so harmful 
as bad criticism of poetry. 

And so on. ... It would be possible to 
fill a number of pages with such things, 
without saving one critic from the quench- 
less flames. The only sane method by which 
to become a good critic of poetry is to love 
poetry. That is why Professor Saintsbury's 
" History of English Prosody " seems to me 
to be a great book. I think he has the most 
catholic appreciation of poetry that any man, 
not excluding the poets themselves, can ever 
have achieved, and he is free from the poet's 
inevitable prejudices. The first volume may 
be skimmed over advantageously by any one 
not specially interested in prosody as a 
science ; but the second and third volumes 
should be read and re-read by all lovers of 
English poetry. Such a critic may well 
reconcile poets to criticism. 

And this brings me to the vexed question 
of the utility of critics. It seems to me clear 
that critics can be of little service to men 
of genius or even to artists of real ability, 
but as middlemen between artists and the 
general public they are, unhappily, neces- 


sary. 1 1 is often forgotten how far the read- 
ing public to-day is dependent on the critics 
to tell it how many of the monstrous multi- 
tude of new books are worth reading. Poetry 
is very badly treated by the Press in general 
because there is no money in it, and the 
daily newspapers prefer to devote their 
literary columns to reviews of novels written 
in batches of six by elderly unmarried ladies 
between breakfast and lunch. But it must 
be added that the bulk of the criticism of 
new poetry that does appear in the periodical 
Press is surprisingly well done. The only 
pity is that there is not more of it. 


MO'NTJOIE lies in a deep valley of the moun- 
tainous district known as the Eifel. The 
little town is built on a bend of the river 
Roer, which is really one long waterfall 
from one end to the other, and is always 
turning in its bed as if it were looking for 
a hairpin. Like all mountain streams, it 
becomes a raging torrent in winter -time 
after a thaw, which perhaps accounts for my 
impression that half the houses in the town 
are falling into it and that the other half 
are climbing out with glistening walls and 
waterweed in the crannies of their roofs. 
Wherever the townsfolk go in the valley they 
hear the breathless song of their river ; it 
rings in the ears of new-born babes, it calls 
after the dying through the closing gates. 
On Sunday nights, when the young men 

16 241 


have come home from the factories at Aix 
to meet their girls, who work in the silk- 
factories at Montjoie, the river absorbs the 
sound of their mirth, and, since it is a 
merry river, its voice is unchanged. 

These silk-factories are the last word in 
a commonplace industrial story. At one time 
Montjoie was famous " throughout Europe," 
says the guide-book for the manufacture of 
cloth, and the town displays many fine old 
houses where the manufacturers lived in the 
years of their pride. For over two hundred 
years Montjoie flourished, and within the 
narrow limits of the valley ground became 
so scarce that the townsfolk built elaborate 
walls to make little terraces on the precipi- 
tous hills, where they might grow their cab- 
bages. But the railway came too late to 
Montjoie, and the competition of manufac- 
tories more happily situated killed the cloth 
trade, and for a while at least the kitchen - 
gardens on the mountain side must have been 
unnecessary. Now Montjoie has recovered 
a little of its old prosperity, the girls making 
silk and the boys working all the week at 
Aix ; but the fact remains that in fifty years 


the population has fallen from three thousand 
to seventeen hundred. The silk manufac- 
turers have bought the old factories and left 
them idle to forestall possible competition. 
It is to this decline in its prosperity that 
Montjoie owes much of its picturesqueness, 
for during the last hundred years it has not 
been worth anybody's while to build new 
houses, and the little town has crossed a 
century of vile architecture unscathed. I 
have never been in any town that felt so 
old as this, even though it is lit by gas and 
devout persons have built a hideous little 
chapel on one of the hills above it. Its 
narrow streets, paved with cobbles, and its 
half-timbered houses projecting over the 
footway, carved sometimes with pious ob- 
servations in Latin, and approached by sag- 
ging steps adorned with elaborately-wrought 
hand-rails, create an atmosphere of matter- 
of-fact unromantic antiquity which is far 
more impressive than the glamour with 
which artists endow their conceptions of 
the past. In the June sunlight there was 
nothing mysterious about Montjoie ; it rather 
convinced me that possibly the Middle Ages 


are not an invention of the historians. By 
day the young people were all at work and 
the streets were given up to centenarians and 
kittens, who would have looked very much 
the same a few hundred years ago as they 
did then, so that it was easy to give a hand- 
ful of centuries back to Time and to play 
at being my own ancestor. In half an hour 
I had forgotten wireless telegraphy, the 
phonograph, googly bowling, and all our 
valuable modern inventions, and was able 
to walk through the streets with only a 
casual eye for the queerness of the archi- 

But when night falls Montjoie is full of 
ghosts and shapes of the dead. 

To revert to the houses, they first opened 
my eyes to the possible poetry of slates, and 
conquered my normal English aesthetic pre- 
judice in favour of tiles. Between the wide 
chimneys the slates are spread like butter 
on a new loaf, in ambitious and tumultuous 
waves. They are local slates of a delicate 
colour, so that from the hills Montjoie re- 
sembles a colony of brooding doves, and it 
is easy to fancy that if one threw a stone 


into their midst the sky would be darkened 
by flapping wings, and the valley would be 
left untenanted and desolate. But it is 
guarded by two ruined castles, one the mere 
shell of a watch-tower, the other a beau- 
tiful and imposing ruin that will be a desir- 
able residence for any reincarnated seigneur 
by the time the State has finished spending 
money on its restoration. In chivalrous days 
this castle was besieged no less than six 
times, but now the hills are only garrisoned 
by enormous slugs. The black ones are 
longer than the brown ones, but they are 
not so fat ; the black slugs are like silk 
umbrella tassels, the brown ones are like 

More interesting to me than the conven- 
tional ruins of castles was a large disused 
cloth factory, for, while it is natural that a 
castle should be ruined, a factory in decay 
disturbs our trust in the permanence of our 
own inventions. It was so large that the 
little boys had become tired of breaking the 
window-panes, and many of them were still 
intact ; but through the gaps it was possible 
to see the looms standing idle under their 


coverlet of dust, the engines grown hectic 
in the damp mists of the river, and the 
whitewash peeling from the walls in soapy 
flakes. On these walls the workgirls had 
written their names and the names of their 
lovers, and I wondered how many tragic 
separations there must have been when cloth 
no longer paid in Montjoie, and half the 
inhabitants went elsewhere in search of 
work. Unhappily I discovered this signifi- 
cant sepulchre in the company of a man who 
was labouring an aesthetic theory that it was 
necessary to have visited Nuremberg in order 
to understand Wagner, and disturbed my 
sentimental speculations with idle babblings 
on music and architecture. I told him that 
Wagner would have been far more interested 
in the cloth factory than in Nuremberg, and 
that a man who could look at it unmoved 
was capable only of imitative artistic emo- 
tions, which, of course, is true of most men. 
But I made no convert, even though I 
pointed out to him the oil-cans still stand- 
ing where the engineers had put them down 
for the last time, and the nails where the 
girls had hung their coats in winter. There 


are moments when I hate cathedrals and 
fine pictures, because they make men 

One evening I went up to the factory alone 
to look for ghosts. The cows were being 
driven down from the hills with a pleasant 
noise of bells, and the river was singing 
huskily, as though the mist had given it a 
sore throat. As the darkness came on I 
would not have been surprised if the deserted 
buildings had throbbed into spectral life, 
spinning cloth of dreams for the markets 
of dead cities. But they held mournfully 
aloof from me and the world, like a Spanish 
grandee wrapped in a threadbare coat, until 
a little old woman came out of one of the 
outbuildings and told me a story in a sad 
voice. She had worked there as a young 
girl, and when the smash came those who 
lived on the premises were allowed to stay 
there rent-free ; but they had all gone one 
by one, and now she was alone in the midst 
of the great buildings that had filled her life 
since she was twelve years old. It was hard 
to believe that she was not one of the ghosts 
whom I had been seeking, and I returned 


to the town feeling as though I had nearly 
guessed its secret. 

Montjoie is in Germany, an hour and a 
half by train from Aix la Chapelle and 
within a day's walk of the Belgian frontier. 
I descended a precipice one fine evening of 
June in the company of a mad Belgian 
architect, and found it waiting for me at 
the foot. It had waited a thousand years, 
and it will still lie expectant of the man 
who shall make it his own when the hand 
that writes these words is fast once more, 
after so brief a period of freedom, in fetters 
of incorruptible dust. The works of man 
last longer than man himself, though it be 
but a little longer. And if these old houses 
tell us only that our forefathers, like our- 
selves, built shelters wherein they could love 
secure from the gusty winds and the cold 
of the world, we are yet aware of a shy 
conviction that these greying and furrowed 
stones possess some deeper significance that 
eludes our judgment, made hasty by the few- 
ness of our years. " If these ruins could 

speak " the guide-book says regretfully, 

when all men know that they are never 


silent, though we cannot linger with them 
to hear their message. If the past would 
cease to trouble our hearts with its sweet 
and poignant mutterings, we might succeed 
in mastering the present, in overcoming the 
reticence of the days to come. I climbed 
down into Montjoie on a fair evening of 
June, and after a fortnight a fortnight as 
short as a sunny hour I climbed out of it 
back into a restless and unfinished world ; 
and so it might be thought I had finished 
with Montjoie and Montjoie had finished with 
me. At one time this might have been true ; 
but now I know that I am the slave of my 
dead hours and shall escape from my servi- 
tude no more. Like all men, I am a 
thousand men, and one man of me wanders 
still in those steep, uneven streets, looking 
at the faces of the houses, and waiting for 
the hour when they shall disclose their 
secret. Once in a dream I found Time 
sitting in a garden, and with a dreamer's 
courage I raised his shaggy eyebrows to peer 
into his eyes. They were as gentle and 
kind as a dog's. Perhaps the magic charm 
of old houses preserves the love and com- 


radeship of the men and women who have 
lived in them. Perhaps when my spirit 
wanders by night in Montjoie it is cleansed 
and quickened by the fellowship of the im- 
mortal dead. 



DAY after day for thirty days the sun shone 
on the windless and perspiring city, the city 
that had complained so often of the cool, grey 
tent of clouds that had screened it from the 
heat of summer. Night after night for 
thirty nights the city lay in breathless torpor, 
while the feet of men who could not sleep 
echoed dully on the softening pavements, and 
the air was troubled with the sound of 
children crying in their dreams. The aged 
and the sick loosed their listless fingers and 
let life pass, and when he looked from his 
window the artist saw their dusty hearses 
creeping along the burning street. 

In those days he was afflicted with a 
lethargy of mind and body against which, 
in moments of consciousness, his creative 
instinct struggled in vain. He would sit 



for hours in front of a white sheet of 
paper and at the end would start up to 
realize that in all his mental wanderings 
he had not shaped one coherent thought. 
He would lie in bed hour after hour in a 
kind of dreamless stupor, and sometimes 
when he had at last made up his mind 
to get up, the sky darkened while he 
was dressing and he knew that the day 
was over. On these occasions it gave him 
an odd sensation to stand at the window 
in his pyjamas and peep through the Vene- 
tian blinds at the men and women going 
home from their work. It reminded him 
of the sunny days of his childhood, when, 
having been sent to lie down for an hour 
in the afternoon, he would lift the blind 
stealthily to look out at the busy world 
with blinking eyes. The recollection made 
him sad, and he would stare at the 
crumpled bed-clothes in disgust of his age. 
It seemed as though the years had soiled 
him in their passing. 

At this time it was as if his mind had lost 
the power of creation ; it exhausted itself 
in the labour of thinking while he was 


dimly conscious that he was not thinking 
of anything at all. He achieved extreme 
misery as a condition of being and not 
as the result of any mental process. His 
senses became dulled and untrustworthy. 
He went for moody walks without real- 
izing any of the scents or sounds of the 
streets, and when he touched his body 
with his hands it was so insentient that 
he would dig his nails in to make sure 
that it was not dead. This numbness 
of his intellect and his senses seemed to 
make a break, or at least a weak link, 
in the continuity of his existence. When 
he closed his eyes to examine his con- 
sciousness he was aware of immense voids 
where normally he would have found pulsing 
blood and eloquent nerves. From being 
a man with rather more than his share 
of the wine of life, he became a sluggish 
automaton, but vaguely mournful for lost 
treasures and present discomforts. Now 
and again, however, he would realize that 
he was doing no work, and, before he 
relapsed into his age-long torpor, would 
weary his barren mind with efforts at 


creation. Afterwards, looking back at his 
life with its hundred thousand follies, he 
knew that these only were lost days. 

The thirty -first day came and still there 
was no rain, so the artist abandoned his 
work and fled to the sea. As he sat in 
the train he saw that the fields were 
scorched brown by the sun and the trees 
were losing their withered leaves ; but 
London was already very far away. Once 
the train ran past a burning heath and 
the carriage was filled with the acrid 
scent of a November bonfire. He saw 
children beating at the edges of the fire 
with uprooted bushes, and a pall of smoke 
borne up on the heavy air. But the 
train ran on and brought him to the sea. 

Like most men who work for love, he 
had never thought of taking a holiday 
since he had been his own master ; wher- 
ever he had gone in the world his work 
had gone with him, and the emotions bred 
of his resolution to do nothing for a 
month were new to him. Freed from 
its concern with words and phrases, his 
mind saw life in greater detail and he 


was curiously conscious of the shapes and 
colours of things. He had chosen a 
sophisticated little watering-place on the 
Belgian coast for his holiday, where, side 
by side with the row of tall hotels that 
stood like a great wall against the sea, 
the sand-dunes upheld the blue sky with 
their crests of pale gold like the hair of 
Flemish fisher-girls. The lemon -coloured 
beach was inlaid with bathing-machines of 
a hundred hues, and below the dunes the 
great black fishing-boats lay high and dry 
on the sands, the pennants of their weather- 
cocks fluttering softly in the wind that blew 
from the sea. The shore w r as studded 
with the figures of men and women, and 
the children were trampling down the surf 
with their brown feet. Other children were 
flying kites, and the air was full of strange 
birds that plucked impatiently at the cord 
that bound them to earth, and, when they 
succeeded in breaking it, fell to the ground, 
too weak to make use of their freedom. 
Behind the little town lay the tranquil plains 
of Western Flanders, a fertile land of 
canals and farms and windmills, and far 


off on the horizon he could see the purple 
towers of Bruges. 

In his new mood of holiday-maker he 
looked at his companions in the town 
with interest. They were gay and cosmo- 
politan, and seemed to have been making 
holiday for years. The grave faces of the 
fishermen contrasted oddly with this light- 
heartedness. Perhaps they were dreaming 
of the long winter months, when the town 
was their own and only good Flemish 
was heard in the reticent streets, when the 
North Sea roared in Flemish against the 
breakwaters, that murmured now in con- 
versational French to please the children 
of the visitors. The fishermen stood apart 
in silent groups, waiting for the tide to 
release their boats. The artist would have 
liked to talk with them, but he knew no 

The red sun set into the sea, the laugh- 
ing crowd split into families and went in 
to dinner, and the artist was moved by 
a sudden sense of loneliness. Every one 
in the place seemed to be gregarious. The 
visitors, the fishermen, even inanimate 


objects, the hotels, the boats, and the bathing- 
machines, formed themselves naturally into 
flocks. He shivered and climbed down to 
the beach to make friends with the sea. 

The tide came in rapidly on the gently 
sloping sands, and when the tongue of a 
ninth wave licked his boots he thought 
of the trusting advances of a large and 
amiable dog. This sea was a tame beast that 
made the great sea-wall and the elaborate 
breakwaters appear ridiculous. It hardly 
had the force to overcome the sand-castles 
that the children had left behind them to 
guard the deserted beach, and in its gentle 
approach it brought him shy presents of 
fragile shells and bunches of seaweed like 
babies' nosegays. But it pressed him back 
foot by foot, and presently the swart fishing - 
boats hoisted their sails and crept out one by 
one under the sky, already faintly powdered 
with stars. An orchestra struck up a waltz 
above him on the digue, and he saw that 
the windows of the hotels were blazing with 
light, and that the guests were dancing with 
the shadows of the esplanade. 

As yet he was content to taste the holiday 


spirit timidly, for it seemed to him strong 
drink for any one who was not accustomed 
to it. A man may not learn in a moment to 
talk aloud to strangers, to substitute laughter 
for thought, to dance under the stars, and to 
patronize the sea. So the artist kept himself 
on the fringe of the crowd, and smiled 
encouragingly to himself to prove that he 
was making holiday. It would be pleasant, 
he thought, after a month of unsuccessful 
struggle, to be merged in this universal 
unconsciousness. These people could ex- 
press themselves efficiently by doing nothing 
at all ; perhaps he could win the secret 
of their joyous self-satisfaction in a place 
where even the sea was only a blithely 
insignificant tourist. He felt the passionate 
longing of every artist to enjoy life for 
its own sake. 

When the orchestra commenced the 
seventh waltz he left the dancers and 
turned inland along a dusty road that 
stretched, monotonously level, across un- 
eventful fields. The night had not succeeded 
in enriching this dully prosperous plain 
with her mystery. The sparse trees did not 


bear themselves as giants, there were no 
mists to change the cropped pasture-lands 
into violet lakes. Every dusty twig, every 
sandy blade of grass stood revealed as 
by the light of a grey November day. 

And then he came up to a great flock 
of sheep that was grazing its way along 
the wide grassy borders of the road. He 
heard their teeth tearing the tough grass, 
and the barking of the sheep-dogs on the 
skirts of the flock. Presently he overtook 
the three shepherds with their long poles 
and coats of undressed sheep-skin. They 
pointed aloft and cried something to him 
in Flemish, and following their gesture he 
saw a red light high up in the sky. 
The boys had sent up a fire-balloon from 
the beach below the town, and now it 
had dwindled to the size of a great red 

The artist looked at the sheep, at the 
three shepherds, at the new star that shamed 
all the lesser lights of heaven. Then he 
hurried back to his hotel, and started 
writing. He realized that in a life so short, 
in a world that at every turn of the road 


could prove significant, there was no time 
to cease from effort. Below him on the 
esplanade the orchestra was tuning up for 
the fourteenth waltz, and the scrapings of 
their bows disturbed the whispering of 
the gentle sea. His holiday was over. 


THIS is an age of improving literature. 
Messrs. Shaw, Galsworthy, Chesterton, 
Kipling, and Masefield have already improved 
us considerably, and will no doubt con- 
tinue to do so, and this is as it should 
be. But since a changeless diet of lesson- 
books is unwholesome for the literary 
student, we may allow ourselves now and 
again to rest our minds with that kind of 
literature that leaves us as imperfect as it 
finds us. French kickshaws are sweet to 
the palate after a surfeit of your funeral 
baked meats, and it is probably true that 
the demand for light fiction increases as 
our novelists grow more serious. I doubt 
whether I should have enjoyed my catalogue 
of bulbs so much if I had not just read that 
depressing masterpiece " Sister Carrie." 



It supplied my mind with a bridge whereby 
to pass from autumn to spring without 
suffering from the fogs and east winds and 
rainy, muggy nights of our English winter, 
and fitly enough the cover was adorned with 
a spring-like picture of a pretty Dutch girl 
the real article, and not the creature in a 
striped petticoat that prances gracelessly at 
English music-halls. Only the artist had not 
given her a large enough mouth to satisfy 
my craving for naturalism, for I have noticed 
that in the Low Countries even the pretty 
girls can make one bite of an apple. The 
photographs of flowers with which the book 
was illustrated were very satisfactory, for 
the beauty of hyacinths and tulips and daffo- 
dils depends on their form rather than their 
colour, and they lose little by being repro- 
duced in black-and-white. 

But even better than the photographs 
was the letterpress, which had evidently 
been written by a Dutchman with an equal 
enthusiasm for flowers and the English 
tongue. The merits of his prose can only be 
illustrated by quotation : " The ubiquitous 
sparrow is the gardener's most inveterate 


enemy, for of good in the garden he does 
little or none, while of irreparable damage 
he annually does much. Sparrows strip our 
yellow crocuses of their petals. Notwith- 
standing the possibility of much of the beauty 
being destroyed by these marauders, it is 
indefensible to omit crocuses from the 
garden." In a similar spirit he cries, 
" Can any one imagine what our gardens, 
greenhouses, and conservatories would be 
like in spring if we had no tulips? . . . The 
dull corner is enlivened by their presence, 
and the bright place is made still brighter." 
Moreover, we can have " brilliant effects 
without putting our hand into our pockets 
to a very serious depth." How kindly and 
humanly and wisely he writes of miniature 
hyacinths : 

" In comparison with the typical Dutch 
hyacinth it is fair to say that the miniatures 
are toys, and are not, therefore, worthy of 
serious attention. For one purpose they no 
doubt have a substantial value, and that is 
for children, who, while small themselves, 
may prefer a small rather than an adult bulb. 
This is a phase of bulb -growing that might 


well be accorded much greater encourage- 
ment, for the production of really excellent 
miniature hyacinths is well within the powers 
of the little ones, whose interest in flowers is 
beyond question increased when they can 
watch the progress of their own nurslings." 
With daffodils, as he reminds us, " there 
is a beautiful latitude in price." We can 
pay " thirty guineas for some highly extolled 
novelty, or we can have a thousand sound 
flowering bulbs for as small a sum as one 
and a half guineas. c Common ! ' some one 
may say. Yes, but if planted in the grass 
in the wild garden or the woodland they will 
make a lovely display." It is difficult to stop 
quoting a man who can write of the leaves 
of a plant " showing signs of going to rest," 
of hardy spring flowers that " make their 
lovely appearance every year," and who can 
describe a flower " amaranth red maroon 
stripes, and all tigered over with black." Let 
us leave him with his " chaste Poet's Nar- 
cissus, which is beloved of everybody. . . . 
Grow them by hundreds in the garden and 
by thousands in the grass of the woodland, 
and their beautiful flowers will never fatigue 
the eye." 


Incidentally this last is a flower that I 
should recommend for the gardens of critics. 
In the course of my wanderings in this 
charming catalogue I have found other 
bulbs that should also appeal to the catholic 
student of literature. I shall search his 
garden next spring for the hyacinths named 
after Lord Macaulay, Charles Dickens, and 
Voltaire, for Alfred Tennyson and Sir Walter 
Scott their crocuses, and for John Davidson 
daffodils. His tulips must be none other 
than your " tall and stately Darwins," though 
perhaps a partial exception might be made 
in favour of those named after Thomas 
Moore. In this way flower-beds might be 
made as significant as a man's bookshelves. 

It is strange how poorly an English cata- 
logue compares with these enthusiastic pages 
from Holland. The home product is better 
printed and the photographs are better repro- 
duced, but the letterpress is pedestrian, and 
lacking in that essential quality that the late 
Mr. J. M. Synge called "joy." It cannot be 
denied that the English tradesman has an 
extraordinary contempt for considerations of 
style. The moment a Frenchman has any- 


thing to sell he coins a phrase about it, and 
nine times out of ten the phrase is poetical. 
During the recent heat-wave a man who sold 
fans in the streets of Paris christened them 
the " little north winds," a flight of fancy of 
which a London street hawker is certainly 
incapable. Nor does the catalogue of an 
English bulb importer remind me of Bacon's 
essay on gardens, as it very easily might. 

Nevertheless there are not wanting signs 
to cheer the student of commercial litera- 
ture. I do not greatly care for the newer 
kind of advertising that apes the impertinent 
familiarities of a deplorable school of 
journalism, but it pleases me that Messrs. 
Whiteley should persuade me to buy their 
rose-bushes with a quotation from George 
Herbert. It is even more delightful that the 
Underground Railways of London should 
invite me to visit Covent Garden or the 
Imperial Institute by means of a quatrain 
of FitzGerald's "Omar." The application 
may not be obvious to any one who has not 
seen their subtle leaflet entitled " The Rose " 
indeed, it may not be very clear to those 
who have but the intention of this and 


similar leaflets is excellent. The man in 
the Tube should feel flattered at being 
approached in so cultured a fashion. 

In the day when all our acknowledged 
writers shall have become preachers or 
philosophers, perhaps the young men with 
a theory of beauty and no theory as to the 
economic conditions of the poor will be per- 
mitted to employ their perverse gifts in the 
preparation of catalogues. They will do it 
very well, forming new unions between 
adjectives and nouns, and ransacking their 
souls to find the true colours and shapes of 
things. The catalogue as an artistic form 
hardly exists to-day, but it is certain to make 
its appearance sooner or later. For instance, 
there is no reason why a catalogue of fire- 
irons should not be as emotionally and 
artistically significant as a necklace of carved 
beads. It would touch on the natures of 
metals how some metals are able to resist 
fire, while others preserve a polish and 
charm the eye. It w T ouid quote Mr. Max 
Beerbohm's essay on fire, the raging animal 
that we keep in cages in our houses, and 
point out the need for instruments with 


which to awake and control and feed this 
animal. It would examine the characters 
of men, how one man will want a poker like 
a sword while another will want a poker 
like a ploughshare if such a poker there 
be. It would liken the tongs to the hands 
of a miser, and the shovel to a beggar's paw 
thrust out for alms. It would remind the 
elderly that the fireguard round the nursery 
fire is a lattice -window through which young 
eyes can see half the wonders of fairyland 
on winter nights, fireships and palaces of 
flame, lurid caverns inhabited by goblins with 
red eyes and bodies of smoke. Really, it 
would be great fun to write a catalogue 
like that. 



" I THINK the people who expect you to make 
fine poetry out of motor-cars and the tele- 
phone and old age pensions are very foolish, 
very foolish indeed. It never has been done, 
it never will be done. All the great poetry 
of the world has been concerned with birth 
and love and death. They are the only things 
significant enough for so rare a medium of 
expression, and, of course, they are not really 
worn out at all. They are new every day, 
every hour. It is not because of that that 
people no longer read poetry." 

He stirred his glass with the circular turn 
of the wrist that pulls the heavy grenadine 
up through the soda-water. The lovers 
flocked along the Boulevard, walking two by 
two as if they were already bound. 



' Yes, I have read your poems, and I 
thought they were very pretty. Some of 
them seemed to me to have been felt ; I think 
you must have been in love with something 
or other when you wrote them. But what 
you were in love with whether it was a girl 
or an idea of a girl, or yourself, or some- 
thing that you had found in a book I 
really don't know ; and that is my criticism 
of nearly all the love-poems that have ever 
been written. Oh, I know that you speak 
of her lips and her mouth and other bits and 
pieces of her body it was a good day for 
poets when they first thought of doing that 
and that really has something to do with 
love, though there is a set of infamous rascals 
who pretend it hasn't. But it isn't all when 
you sum up the emotional units that compose 
a love-affair, you will find that it is only an 
appreciable fraction of the whole. It is the 
absence of the other elements that makes 
your poetry artificial." 

" You admit that it isn't all when you fill 
up your poems with flowers and stars, 
despair and desire, and eternity and things of 
that sort. The necessity is disastrous, for it 


makes your poems inhuman, and love is the 
most human emotion we enjoy. Yet when 
the lovers come to you for news of your 
passion you give them only a geographical 
chart of your mistress, and a handful of 
insignificant symbols. What is the use of 
these to Charles with his increased salary, or 
Molly with her new muff? They know that 
all these things have very little to do with 
love. What they want is the expression of 
the poet's passion conveyed in terms that they 
themselves can understand. I would not 
make it the final test of poetry, but it seems 
to me that any really good love -poem should 
be comprehensible to any intelligent lover 
. . . without Lempriere, please ! " 

" Of course you sin in good company. 
Swinburne's poems are often called erotic, 
but their passion is purely intellectual, and 
a nation that was dependent on the first series 
of Poems and Ballads for their knowledge of 
love would die of inanition. He talks to a 
woman and a statue in exactly the same tone 
of voice, and when we have become accus- 
tomed to the brilliance of his technique we 
realize that he has read about love in a 


naughty Greek book. Most of you young 
poets end by creating the same impression, 
except that we feel as a rule that you have 
read your Greek book by aid of a crib." 

:< What I want, what every one else wants, 
is evidence that you were in love with a real 
girl in a real world when you wrote your 
poems. Then they become interesting, alive. 
But the conventions that you have borrowed 
from other poets give them the air of 
academic exercises : they are pretty, in- 
genious, what you will, but you and your 
large-eyed lady appear only as discomfited 
ghosts who have been bitten by some quaint 
mythological insect called love. You must 
remember that nearly everybody has been 
in love at one time or another, and that 
writers of love-poetry must be prepared to 
face an extraordinary number of well-in- 
formed critics. Well, you poets make love 
subtle, remote, mysterious, while all the 
world knows everything that is to be known 
about it. Nowadays love is as compre- 
hensible as the measles, as domesticated as 
a cat. We know its causes, its symptoms, its 
consequences. What are we to think when 


you tell us of starred heavens and amethy- 
stine wings? " 

" Listen ! It's no good dismissing this kind 
of criticism as mere philistinism. In love 
we are all philistines or all poets. You can't 
say that your love is purer or more aesthetic 
than that of the shopboy, because you have 
voluntarily accepted the conception of a 
universal god, shooting his arrows with a 
democratic blindness to class restrictions. In 
effect your kisses are very like the kisses of 
ordinary men. It is not only poets who 
appreciate the eyes and lips and bosoms of 
their mistresses, and so far you are justified 
in regarding this as an important aspect of 
love. But there are other aspects no less 
immediate which you ignore because the 
other poets ignore them." 

" Look out there under the trees where the 
young men and women are walking up and 
down in pairs. The atmosphere is almost 
oppressive with love, but it is a love without 
wings, without arrows, and with quick, keen 
eyes. If you were attempting to give a prose 
impression of that very pleasant parade, I 
don't think that you would write about 



eternity or the petals of roses. It would be 
far more to the point to write about the 
little bags the girls carry on their wrists. 
In every one of them there is change for ,a 
franc, a lace handkerchief, two or three 
letters, and a small powder-box with a look- 
ing-glass lid. They look in the glass to make 
sure that they are pretty enough to meet their 
lovers. For me a love-poem ought to 
resemble one of those little bags and contain 
the same things. Passion? But I wager the 
love-letters are passionate enough, my friend. 
It is only you young dreamers who try to 
keep passion in a water-tight compartment, 
away from the ordinary emotions of life. In 
reality it is always mixed up with powder, 
lace handkerchiefs, and five -franc pieces. To 
think that in all your hundred love poems 
you have not once spoken of money ! " 

" No, I'm not being cynical : there is an 
economic side to love as there is to all other 
human relationships. You fall in love with 
a woman much richer or much poorer than 
yourself, and you'll realize that only too well. 
And the looking-glass element enters, too, not 
only for the woman but also for the man. 


Those young fellows out there are pleased 
enough to be well dressed, and of course a 
girl in a new hat is not the girl one 
met yesterday. A little extra peacockry is 
one of the commonest symptoms of love a 
natural desire to look one's best if you prefer 
it but you haven't a word to say about it. 
But when it is lighting-up time for glow- 
worms the lanes are crowded with poets. 
Have you ever seen a glow-worm? Ugly 
little beggars they are, as brittle as lizards. 
For me a shop-assistant in his new brown 
boots or a factory girl with her first big 
hat is a far more striking spectacle ; that is 
love's livery as it is worn by human beings, 
and I find it more convincing than your 
armour or your nasty clinging draperies. 
I remember once seeing a telegraph-boy 
talking to a girl in the Strand, and being 
taken aback by the sight of his smooth young 
face blazing with passion. Now the only 
significant thing about a telegraph -boy is his 
uniform, but if you had had the same impres- 
sion as I had, and had given birth to one of 
your jDoems, you would have said nothing 
about his uniform and would probably have 


called him vaguely a youth, trailing the 
hideous chains of a monstrous civilization. 
With the best will in the world, your readers 
could not have recaptured your impression. 
They would not have seen what I saw : the 
flushed, eager face, the desperate, twitching 
hands, leaping out of a wooden body, all 
straight lines like a child's drawing on a 
slate. They would not have seen the contrast 
between his crisped fingers and his inflexible 
belt, between his polished boots and his face 
dabbled with splotches of colour and shades 
of perspiration. You sacrifice all the beauty 
of your impressions to the immediate beauty 
of words or to conventional standards of 

" That is why flesh-and-blood lovers laugh 
at you when, grown too old for poetry, you 
turn critic and say that all the possible love- 
poems have been written. As a matter of 
fact poets have hardly started to write about 
love yet. A few phrases of Shakespeare's 
on jealousy, a few fine moments of Robert 
Browning odd how the most commonplace 
of poet-lovers knew more about love than 
the whole row of passionate singers a hand- 


ful of old s.ongs, a little Burns, and what's 
left beside? Meredith tried, but when he 
treats of love he fails at the poetry. So does 
Coventry Patmore, who might have made a 
fine thing of the ' Angel in the House ' if a 
course of modern French novels had taught 
him to distinguish between his real emotions 
and the emotions he thought he ought to feel. 
To-day there's A. E. Housman with his 
' Shropshire Lad.' I may have forgotten 
something, but it seems to me that that is the 
only book of English love-poetry which an 
intelligent woman would not find silly and 
high-falutin. And remember that if at the 
disillusioned end we come to believe that 
love is a masculine emotion rather than 
feminine, the women always understand it 
better than the men. If they only knew how 
to write, what love -songs they would give 
us ! Sappho is still there, with all her yearn- 
ing songs that the careless centuries have 

" What we all want now is a poet big 
enough to throw overboard the conventional 
knick-knacks, the new art vocabulary, the 
tight-laced metres, the Birmingham relics of 


dead ages with which you j^oungsters are 
cumbered, like the White Knight in ' Alice 
through the Looking-Glass.' Of course it 
isn't easy. Walt Whitman was a big man, 
but he threw the poetry overboard as well, 
and only the born-deaf and the mentally 
deficient can call the American Rousseau a 
poet. . . ." 


IN our experience modern writers do not 
shine in conversation as did, if we are to 
believe their contemporaries, the great men 
of the past. Nowadays the great novelist 
speaks dryly about copyright and censor- 
ship, the great poet talks about his dinner, 
and after an evening spent in their society 
we must fall back on Stevenson's essay 
" Talk and Talkers " if we wish to preserve 
the conviction that conversation can be an 

Our modern Johnsons make whale-like 
noises only in their articles, and our modern 
Goldsmith but we have no modern Gold- 
smith would talk like poor Poll in recurring 
volumes of reminiscences. To sparkle in 
conversation is now the mark of literary 
mediocrity, and our great men unpack their 



hearts in words in their notebooks and in 
their private diaries written for publication. 
Perhaps they are not so lavishly provided 
with good things as their illustrious for- 
bears, and cannot afford to be generous ; 
perhaps they are afraid of appearing 
arrogant to lesser minds that may not 
sparkle ; but it is certain that the present- 
day hero -worshipper must expect to find his 
hero reticent. Possibly if washerwomen 
could read shorthand they would find the 
souls of these thrifty giants expressed on 
their cuffs ; we who have spent an evening 
in their unimpressive society can only say 
that we have heard no word of them. 

Of course there are rare exceptions, but 
we fancy that few people would be found to 
contend that this is an age of accomplished 
talkers. Yet, if we are not strangely inferior 
to our ancestors, we must suppose that the 
spirit that they expressed in talk now finds 
another outlet. Perhaps every other man 
we meet is a mute and glorious Pepys, or it 
may be that the modern taste for writing 
works of fiction marks the thankless doom 
of our lost conversationalists. At all events, 


in support of the theory that men and women 
write the things that once upon a time they 
would have been satisfied with saying, an 
agreeable piece of evidence lies under our 

It takes the form of three fat red note- 
books filled with the handwriting of a man 
who prided himself, we should infer, on its 
almost painful neatness. He was a school- 
master, one of those luckless schoolmasters 
who do not find boys sympathetic, and 
wander, the dreariest of exiles, through the 
wastes of school-life. Throughout this mass 
of unconnected notes for his respect for 
form did not extend beyond occasional 
phrases his references to his pupils are 
almost without exception gloomy. He finds 
his boys lazy, ill-mannered, snobbish, and 
normally so untruthful that he repeatedly 
makes the fatal mistake of disbelieving their 
assertions when they happen to be true. 
Because of this lack of justice the boys called 
him Jeffries behind his back, and he notes 
the fact without comment. Yet, like many 
people who do not like boys, he was evi- 
dently passionately fond of children, and 


sweetens his pages with strange little notes of 
their ways. " Babies eat their bread-and- 
butter upside down, in order to taste the 
butter." " When children are sent to bed 
early they make up their minds not to go to 
sleep ; when they are lying awake in bed 
they try to see how many they can count/' 
" When it is snowing the children walk along 
with their tongues out to catch the flakes." 
" Nelly hoards her new pennies until they 
are quite brown and spoiled ; this is the true 
parable of the talents." " I have to win the 
affections of children with sweets and little 
presents. Others can do it without this." 
Against these we can only set one human 
observation on his pupils : " There is an 
oddity in boys : Simmons played truant 
yesterday to play schools with his cousins." 

It will be seen that our schoolmaster cuts a 
not unamiable figure in his note-books, in 
spite of the fact that as a master he clearly 
erred on the side of severity. He was, we 
may venture, a lonely sort of man separated 
from his fellows by a gulf of shyness, cer- 
tainly disillusioned and certainly possessed 
of vague literary ambitions. Probably his 


note-books were intended to provide materials 
for some half -conceived masterpiece, for here 
and there we can see him striving after the 
finished phrase. Yet often enough he has 
merely jotted down the heads of his thought, 
the roughest outline of his impression, so 
that we who lack the key seek in vain for his 
meaning. Even when the sense is clear, we 
feel sometimes that a link is missing between 
the writer and the written word. " After 
a certain age it is very necessary that our 
dreams should be good to eat," is a super- 
ficial cynicism that hardly fits his character 
as we have conceived it. And this : " When 
we found him in the snow his clothes and 
hair were stiff with frozen beer ; when we 
lifted him it sounded as though his bones 
were breaking " : is it a reminiscence or the 
climax of a tale? We scan the next item on 
the page for an answer, and find only the 
poignant cry, " How can I stop the barber 
blowing down my neck?" As an artistic 
form these note -books are perplexing. 

The most coherent section, nearly a whole 
note-book, is devoted to his notes of a holiday 
in Paris ; but he has hardly escaped the 


conventional discoveries that reward all in- 
experienced travellers. Here and there, how- 
ever, his individuality crops up. He saw a 
blind man in the street "who looked as if 
he saw strange sights in another world," and 
a drunken man in a cafe" who raised his hat 
before the bar " as before an altar." He 
examines the Monna Lisa, and decides that 
she is not smiling, and allows the Venus to 
convince him of the ugliness of human arms. 
" To travel abroad," he notes, " is like visiting 
the houses of a number of people whom one 
does not know very well a trial for a shy 
man." "The motor-cars pass this hotel like 
a roaring wind," he writes conventionally 
enough, and then gives us an astonishing 
portrait of the proprietor : " His thick lower 
lip gleams like a wet cherry between his 
moustache and his beard." There is a 
picturesque touch about the grisettes " strug- 
gling with great bundles of linen as with 
drunken lovers," and then we come on an 
impression that lacks the revealing word : 
" The people in the windy streets are like 
heroes on Japanese prints." Doubtless he 
had seen something, but he has not told us 
what he had seen. 

Vcrv few of his notes are concerned with 


literature, but evidently he read a few French 
books while he was in Paris. He suggests 
that Dumas modelled the famous escape from 
the Chateau d'lf on Casanova's equally 
famous escape from the prison of the Plombs, 
and on Zola's " CEuvre " he writes : " It would 
seem that the clearer the artist's vision the 
more certain it is that he will never do 
anything permanently satisfactory to him- 
self," which goes to confirm the theory that 
he himself has literary dreams. It is typical 
of his method that he follows this reflection 
with the note, "To-day I saw a man whose 
waistcoat pockets were so large that his 
hands disappeared in them entirely." We 
are possibly wrong, but it is difficult to avoid 
the impression that the odd abruptness of 
his journal reflected a certain mental inco- 
herence. On one page we find a quotation 
from Isabelle Eberhardt on happiness, a 
memorandum that the Charing Cross-road 
smells of raspberry jam and hot vinegar, a 
paradox on cowardice " a man may be 
afraid of blows, yet his moral cowardice may 
set him fighting with a stout face " and the 


extraordinary comment, " P hates me 
because I challenge the luxury of his grief." 

There is, too, a curious mental contrari- 
ness about the man that makes his character 
difficult to grip. It was not modesty that 
led him to write : " There are days on which 
the lowness of the clouds incommodes me and 
makes me feel cramped," yet a page later 
we find him writing humbly : " Ibsen says 
that the majority is always wrong, but I must 
try to remember that the minority is not 
always right," and in a still darker mood, 
" I would like to exchange all my thrills and 
passions for a life without desire, without 
hope, and without regret." At times he 
realized that he was in the wrong minority, 
poor man ! 

We have lingered over these note-books 
partly because they are interesting in them- 
selves and partly because they supply a good 
instance of the harm people do themselves 
in being reticent. It is clear that the writer 
was a man with a serious turn of mind 
coupled with an odd, individual outlook on 
life, and failing the society of his likes he 
expressed himself only in notes written for 


his own eyes, which is no kind of expression 
at all. For lack of impulse from without, 
such an impulse as we can all find in good 
talk, our disillusioned schoolmaster waned 
at the end to silent nothingness. He hardly 
even survives in his note-books, for, as we 
have said, a large part of his notes are now 
meaningless. He is like one of those misers 
in whose coffers the impatient heirs find 
nothing but withered leaves, the fairies, who 
do not like misers, having substituted the 
sweepings of the forest for the sweepings 
of the city. In his lifetime he hoarded the 
little treasures of his mind instead of sending 
them out to win interest, and now his notes 
crumble to dust and all his new pennies 
are spoiled and brown. Greater men than 
he are making the same mistake. 



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