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National Library of Scotland 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

National Library of Scotland 

This Edinburgh Edition consists of 

one thousand and thirty-five copies 

all numbered 


Vol. XL of issue : September 1895 



























LATER ESSAYS . . . .197 





II — A 

First Collected Edition : C. Kegan Paul and Co., 
London, 1881. 

Originally published : 
I. i. Cornliill Magazine, August 1876. 
iii. Ibid., February 1877. 
iv. Ibid., May 1879. 
II. Cornhill Magazine, March 1878. 

III. Ibid., July 1%']']. 

IV. Macmillans Magazine, May 1874. 
V. Cornhill Magazine, April 1878. 

VI. London, May 11, 1878. 
VII. Cornhill Magazine, July 1878. 

IX. Ibid., September 1878. 
X. Ibid., June 1876. 

XI. London, May i!^, 1878. 
XII. Ibid. , April 2^ , 1878. 



I. ' Virginibus Puerisque ' — 
i. . 

ii. . 

iii. On Falling in Love 
iv. Truth of Intercourse 
II. Crabbed Age and Youth 

III. An Apology for Idlers 

IV. Ordered South . 
V. ^s Triplex 

VI. El Dorado 
VII. The EngUsh Admirals 
VIII. Some Portraits by Raeburn 

IX. Child's Play 















X. Walking Tours . . . .172 

XI. Pan's Pipes . . . .184 

xii. A Plea fbr Gas Lamps . . . 190 


My dear William Ernest Henley, 

We are all busy in this world building Towers of Babel; 
and the child of our imaginations is always a changeling when 
it comes from nurse. This is not only trice in the greatest, as of 
wars and folios, but in the least also, like the trijiing volume in 
your hand. Thus I began to write these papers with a definite 
end : I was to be the Advocatus, not I hope Diaboli, but Juven- 
tutis ; / was to state temperately the beliefs of youth as opposed 
to the contentions of age ; to go over all the field where the two 
differ, and produce at last a little voltime of special pleadings 
which I might call, without misnomer, ' Life at Twenty-five.'' 
But times kept changing, and I shared in the change. I clung 
hard to that entrancing age ; but, with the best will, no man can 
be twenty five for ever. The old, ruddy convictions deserted me, 
and, along with them, the style that fits their presentation and 
defence. I saw, and indeed my friends h formed me, that the 
game was up. A good part of the volume would answer to the 
long-projected title ; but the shadows of the prison-house are 07i 
the rest. 

It is good to have been young in youth and, as years go on, 
to grow older. Many are already old before they are through 
their teens; but to travel deliberately through one''s ages is to 



get the heart out of a liberal education. Times change, opinions 
vary to their opposite, and still this world appears a brave 
gymnasium, full of sea-bathing, and horse -exercise, and 
bracing, manly virtues; and what can be more encouraging 
than to find the friend who was welcome at one age, still wel- 
come at another ? Our evictions and beliefs are wiser than we ; 
the best that is in us is better than we can understand ; for it 
is grounded beyond experience, and guides us, blindfold but 
safe, from one age on to another. 

These papers are like milestones on the wayside of my life ; 
and as I hole back in memory, there is hardly a stage of that 
distance but I see you prresent with advice, reproof, or praise. 
Meanwhile, many things have changed, you and I among the 
rest ; but I hope that our sympathy, founded on the love of our 
art, and nourished by mutual assistance, shall survive these 
little revolutions undiminished, and, with God''s help, unite us 
to the end. 

R. L. S. 

Davos Platz, 1881. 


With the single exception of FalstafF, all Shake- 
speare's characters are what we call marrying men. 
Mercutio, as he was own cousin to Benedick and 
Biron, would have come to the same end in the long- 
run. Even lago had a wife, and, what is far 
stranger, he was jealous. People like Jacques and 
the fool in Lear, although we can hardly imagine 
they would ever marry, kept single out of a cynical 
humour or for a broken heart, and not, as we do 
nowadays, from a spirit of incredulity and preference 
for the single state. For that matter, if you turn to 
Georere Sand's French version of As You Like It 
(and I think I can promise you will hke it but 
little), you will find Jacques marries Ceha just as 
Orlando marries Rosalind. 

At least there seems to have been much less 
hesitation over marriage in Shakespeare's days ; and 
what hesitation there was was of a laughing sort, 
and not much more serious, one way or the other, 
than that of Panurge. In modern comedies the 



heroes are mostly of Benedick's way of thinking, but 
twice as much in earnest, and not one quarter so 
confident. And I take this diffidence as a proof of 
how sincere their terror is. They know they are 
only human after all ; they know what gins and 
pitfalls lie about their feet ; and how the shadow of 
matrimony waits, resolute and awful, at the cross- 
roads. They would wish to keep their liberty ; but 
if that may not be, why, God's will be done ! 
'What, are you afraid of marriage?' asks Cecile, 
in Maitre Guerin. ' O, mon Dieu, non ! ' replies 
Arthur; 'I should take chloroform.' They look 
forward to marriage much in the same way as they 
prepare themselves for death : each seems inevitable ; 
each is a great Perhaps, and a leap into the dark, 
for which, when a man is in the blue devils, he 
has specially to harden his heart. That splendid 
scoundrel, Maxime de Trailles, took the news of 
marriages much as an old man hears the deaths of 
his contemporaries. ' C'est desesperant,' he cried, 
throwing himself down in the arm-chair at Madame 
Schontz's ; ' c'est desesperant, nous nous marions 
tons ! ' Every marriage was like another grey hair 
on his head; and the jolly church-bells seemed to 
taunt him with his fifty years and fair round belly. 

The fact is, we are much more afraid of life than 
our ancestors, and cannot find it in our hearts either 
to marry or not to marry. Marriage is terrifying, 
but so is a cold and forlorn old age. The friend- 
ships of men are vastly agreeable, but they are in- 
secure. You know all the time that one friend will 


marry and put you to the door ; a second accept a 
situation in China, and become no more to you than 
a name, a reminiscence, and an occasional crossed 
letter, very laborious to read ; a third will take up 
with some religious crotchet and treat you to sour 
looks thenceforward. So, in one way or another, 
life forces men apart and breaks up the goodly 
fellowships for ever. The very flexibility and ease 
which make men's friendships so agreeable while 
they endure, make them the easier to destroy and 
forget. And a man who has a few friends, or one 
who has a dozen (if there be any one so wealthy on 
this earth), cannot forget on how precarious a base 
his happiness reposes ; and how by a stroke or two 
of fate — a death, a few light words, a piece of 
stamped paper, a woman's bright eyes — he may 
be left, in a month, destitute of all. Marriage is 
certainly a perilous remedy. Instead of on two or 
three, you stake your happiness on one life only. 
But*' still, as the bargain is more explicit and com- 
plete on your part, it is more so on the other ; and 
you have not to fear so many contingencies ; it is 
not every wind that can blow you from your anchor- 
age ; and so long as Death withholds his sickle, you 
will always have a friend at home. People who 
share a cell in the Bastile, or are thrown together 
on an uninhabited isle, if they do not immediately 
fall to fisticuffs, will find some possible ground of 
compromise. They will learn each other's ways and 
humours, so as to know where they must go warily, 
and where they may lean their whole weight. The 



discretion of the first years becomes the settled habit 
of the last ; and so, with wisdom and patience, two 
lives may grow indissolubly into one. 

But marriage, if comfortable, is not at all heroic. 
It certainly narrows and damps the spirits of gener- 
ous men. In marriage, a man becomes slack and 
selfish, and undergoes a fatty degeneration of his 
moral being. It is not only when Lydgate mis- 
alUes himself with Rosamond Vincy, but when 
Ladislaw marries above him with Dorothea, that 
this may be exemplified. The air of the fireside 
withers out all the fine wildings of the husband's 
heart. He is so comfortable and happy that he 
begins to prefer comfort and happiness to everything 
else on earth, his wife included. Yesterday he would 
have shared his last shilling ; to-day, ' his first duty 
is to his family,' and is fulfilled in large measure by 
laying down vintages and husbanding the health of 
an invaluable parent. Twenty years ago this man 
was equally capable of crime or heroism ; now he is 
fit for neither. His soul is asleep, and you may 
speak without constraint ; you will not wake him. 
It is not for nothing that Don Quixote was a 
bachelor and Marcus Aurelius married ill. For 
women there is less of this danger. Marriage is of 
so much use to a woman, opens out to her so much 
more of life, and puts her in the way of so much 
more freedom and usefulness, that, whether she 
marry ill or well, she can hardly miss some benefit. 
It is true, however, that some of the merriest and 
most genuine of women are old maids ; and that 



those old maids, and wives who are unhappily 
married, have often most of the true motherly 
touch. And this would seem to show, even for 
women, some narrowing influence in comfortable 
married life. But the rule is none the less certain : 
if you wish the pick of men and women, ^ake a good 
bachelor and a good wife. 

I am often filled with wonder that so many 
marriages are passably successful, and so few come 
to open failure, the more so as I fail to understand 
the principle on which people regulate their choice. 
I see women marrying indiscriminately with staring 
burgesses and ferret-faced, white-eyed boys, and men 
dwell in contentment with noisy scullions, or taking 
into their lives acidulous vestals. It is a common 
answer to say the good people marry because they 
fall in love ; and of course you may use and mis- 
use a word as much as you please, if you have the 
world along with 3'ou. But love is at least a some- 
what hyperbolical expression for such lukewarm 
preference. It is not here, anyway, that Love 
employs his golden shafts ; he cannot be said, with 
any fitness of language, to reign liere and revel. 
Indeed, if this be love at all, it is plain the poets 
have been fooling with mankind since the founda- 
tion of the world. And you have only to look these 
happy couples in the face, to see they have never 
been in love, or in hate, or in any other high passion, 
all their days. When you see a dish of fruit at dessert, 
you sometimes set your affections upon one parti- 
cular peach or nectarine, watch it with some anxiety 



as it comes round the table, and feel quite a sensible 
disappointment when it is taken by some one else. 
I have used the phrase ' high passion.' Well, I 
should say this was about as high a passion as 
generally leads to marriage. One husband hears 
after marriage that some poor fellow is dying of his 
wife's love. ' What a pity ! ' he exclaims ; ' you 
know I could so easily have got another ! ' And 
yet that is a very happy union. Or again : A 
young man was telling me the sweet story of his 
loves. ' I like it well enough as long as her sisters 
are there,' said this amorous swain ; ' but I don't 
know what to do when we're alone.' Once more: 
A married lady was debating the subject with 
another lady. * You know, dear,' said the first, 
' after ten years of marriage, if he is nothing else, 
your husband is always an old friend.' ' I have 
many old friends,' returned the other, 'but I prefer 
them to be nothing more.' ' O, perhaps I might 
-prefer that also ! ' There is a common note in these 
three illustrations of the modern idyll ; and it must 
be owned the god goes among us with a limping 
gait and blear eyes. You wonder whether it was 
so always ; whether desire was always equally dull 
and spiritless, and possession equally cold. I cannot 
help fancying most people make, ere they marry, 
some such table of recommendations as Hannah 
Godwin wrote to her brother William anent her 
friend. Miss Gay. It is so charmingly comical, and 
so pat to the occasion, that I must quote a few 
phrases. ' The young lady is in every sense formed 



to make one of your disposition really happy. She 
has a pleasing voice, with which she accompanies 
her musical instrument with judgment. She has 
an easy politeness in her manners, neither free nor 
reserved. She is a good housekeeper and a good 
economist, and yet of a generous disposition. As to 
her internal accomplishments, I have reason to speak 
still more highly of them : good sense without vanity, 
a penetrating judgment without a disposition to 
satire, with about as much religion as my William 
likes, struck me with a wish that she was my 
William's wife.' That is about the tune : pleasing 
voice, moderate good looks, unimpeachable internal 
accomplishments after the style of the copybook, 
with about as much religion as my William likes ; 
and then, with all speed, to church. 

To deal plainly, if they only married when they 
fell in love, most people would die unwed ; and 
among the others, there would be not a few tumul- 
tuous households. The Lion is the King of Beasts, 
but he is scarcely suitable for a domestic pet. In 
the same way, I suspect love is rather too violent 
a passion to make, in all cases, a good domestic 
sentiment. Like other violent excitements, it throws 
up not only what is best, but what is worst and 
smallest, in men's characters. Just as some people 
are malicious in drink, or brawling and virulent under 
the influence of religious feeling, some are moody, 
jealous, and exacting when they are in love, who 
are honest, downright, good-hearted fellows enough 
in the everyday affairs and humours of the world. 



How then, seeing we are driven to the hypothesis 
that people choose in comparatively cold blood, how 
is it they choose so well ? One is almost tempted 
to hint that it does not much matter whom you 
marry ; that, in fact, marriage is a subjective affec- 
tion, and if you have made up your mind to it, and 
once talked yourself fairly over, you could ' pull it 
through ' with anybody. But even if we take matri- 
mony at its lowest, even if we regard it as no more 
than a sort of friendship recognised by the police, 
there must be degrees in the freedom and sympathy 
realised, and some principle to guide simple folk in 
their selection. Now what should this principle be ? 
Are there no more definite rules than are to be 
found in the Prayer-book ? Law and religion for- 
bid the banns on the ground of propinquity or con- 
sanguinity ; society steps in to separate classes ; and 
in all this most critical matter, has common sense, 
has wisdom, never a word to say ? In the absence 
of more magisterial teaching, let us talk it over be- 
tween friends : even a few guesses may be of interest 
to youths and maidens. 

In all that concerns eating and drinking, company, 
climate, and ways of life, community of taste is to 
be sought for. It would be trying, for instance, to 
keep bed and board with an early riser or a vege- 
tarian. In matters of art and intellect, I believe it 
is of no consequence. Certainly it is of none in the 
companionships of men, who will dine more readily 
with one who has a good heart, a good cellar, and 
a humorous tongue, than with another who shares 


all their favourite hobbies and is rnelancholy withal. 
If your wife Ukes Tupper, that is no reason why 
you should hang your head. She thinks with the 
majority, and has the courage of her opinions. I 
have always suspected public taste to be a mongrel 
product, out of affectation by dogmatism ; and felt 
sure, if you could only find an honest man of no 
special literary bent, he would tell you he thought 
much of Shakespeare bombastic and most absurd, 
and all of him written in very obscure English and 
wearisome to read. And not long ago I was able 
to lay by my lantern in content, for I found the 
honest man. He was a fellow of parts, quick, 
humorous, a clever painter, and with an eye for 
certain poetical effects of sea and ships. I am not 
much of a judge of that kind of thing, but a, sketch 
of his comes before me sometimes at night. How 
strong, supple, and living the ship seems upon the 
billows ! With what a dip and rake she shears the 
flying sea ! I cannot fancy the man who saw this 
effect, and took it on the wing with so much force 
and spirit, was what you call commonplace in the 
last recesses of the heart. And yet he thought, and 
was not ashamed to have it known of him, that 
Ouida was better in every way than William Shake- 
speare. If there were more people of his honesty, 
this would be about the staple of lay criticism. It 
is not taste that is plentiful, but courage that is rare. 
And what have we in place ? How many, who 
think no otherwise than the young painter, have 
we not heard disbursing second-hand hyperboles ? 



Have you never ^turned sick at heart, O best of 
critics ! when some of your own sweet adjectives 
were returned on you before a gaping audience? 
Enthusiasm about art is become a function of the 
average female being, which she performs with pre- 
cision and a sort of haunting sprighthness, hke an 
ingenious and well-regulated machine. Sometimes, 
alas ! the calmest man is carried away in the torrent, 
bandies adjectives with the best, and out-Herods 
Herod for some shameful moments. When you 
remember that, you will be tempted to put things 
strongly, and say you will marry no one who is not 
like George the Second, and cannot state openly a 
distaste for poetry and painting. 

The word ' facts ' is, in some ways, crucial. I 
have spoken with Jesuits and Plymouth Brethren, 
mathematicians and poets, dogmatic republicans and 
dear old gentlemen in bird's-eye neckcloths ; and 
each understood the word ' facts ' in an occult sense 
of his own. Try as I might, I could get no nearer 
the principle of their division. What was essential 
to them seemed to me trivial or untrue. We could 
come to no compromise as to what was, or what was 
not, important in the life of man. Turn as we 
pleased, we all stood back to back in a big ring, and 
saw another quarter of the heavens, with different 
mountain-tops along the sky-line and different con- 
stellations overhead. We had each of us some 
whimsy in the brain, which we believed more than 
anything else, and which discoloured all experience 
to its own shade. How would you have people agree, 


when one is deaf and the other bhnd ? Now this is 
where there should be community between man and 
wife. They should be agreed on their catchword in 
'facts of religion,' or "facts of science,'' or * society, my 
dear' ; for without such an agreement all intercourse 
is a painful strain upon the mind. ' About as much 
religion as my William likes,' in short, that is what 
is necessary to make a happy couple of any William 
and his spouse. For there are differences which no 
habit nor affection can reconcile, and the Bohemian 
must not intermarry with the Pharisee. Imagine 
Consuelo as Mrs. Samuel Budgett, the wife of the 
Successful Merchant ! The best of men and the best 
of women may sometimes live together all their lives, 
and, for want of some consent on fundamental 
questions, hold each other lost spirits to the end. 

A certain sort of talent is almost indispensable for 
people who would spend years together and not 
bore themselves to death. But the talent, like the 
agreement, must be for and about life. To dwell 
happily together, they should be versed in the 
niceties of the heart, and born with a faculty for 
wiUing compromise. The woman must be talented 
as a woman, and it will not much matter although 
she is talented in nothing else. She must know her 
mHier de femme, and have a fine touch for the affec- 
tions. And it is more important that a person 
should be a good gossip, and talk pleasantly and 
smartly of common friends and the thousand and 
one nothings of the day and hour, than that she 
should speak with the tongues of men and angels ; 
II— B 17 


for a while together by the fire happens more 
frequently in marriage than the presence of a dis- 
tinguished foreigner to dinner. That people should 
laugh over the same sort of jests, and have many a 
story of ' grouse in the gun-room,' many an old joke 
between them which time cannot wither nor custom 
stale, is a better preparation for life, by your leave, 
than many other things higher and better-sounding 
in the world's ears. You could read Kant by your- 
self, if you wanted ; but you must share a joke with 
some one else. You can forgive people who do 
not follow you through a philosophical disquisition ; 
but to find your wife laughing when you had tears 
in your eyes, or staring when you were in a fit of 
laughter, would go some way towards a dissolution 
of the marriage. 

I know a woman who, from some distaste or 
disability, could never so much as understand the 
meaning of the word politics, and has given up 
trying to distinguish Whigs from Tories ; but take 
her on her own politics, ask her about other men 
or women and the chicanery of everyday existence 
— the rubs, the tricks, the vanities on which life 
turns — and you will not find many more shrewd, 
trenchant, and humorous. Nay, to make plainer 
what I have in mind, this same woman has a share 
of the higher and more poetical understanding, frank 
interest in things for their own sake, and enduring 
astonishment at the most common. She is not to 
be deceived by custom, or made to think a mystery 
solved when it is repeated. I have heard her say 


she could wonder herself crazy over the human 
eyebrow. Now in a world where most of us walk 
very contentedly in the little lit circle of their own 
reason, and have to be reminded of what lies with- 
out by specious and clamant exceptions — earth- 
quakes, eruptions of Vesuvius, banjos floating in 
mid-air at a seance, and the like — a mind so fresh 
and unsophisticated is no despicable gift. I will own 
I think it a better sort of mind than goes neces- 
sarily with the clearest views on public business. It 
will wash. It will find something to say at an odd 
moment. It has in it the spring of pleasant and 
quaint fancies. Whereas I can imagine myself 
yawning all night long until my jaws ached and 
the tears came into my eyes, although my com- 
panion on the other side of the hearth held the 
most enlightened opinions on the franchise or the 

The question of professions, in as far as they 
regard marriage, was only interesting to women 
until of late days, but it touches all of us now. 
Certainly, if I could help it, I would never marry 
a wife who wrote. The practice of letters is miser- 
ably harassing to the mind ; and after an hour or 
two's work, all the more human portion of the 
author is extinct; he will bully, backbite, and 
speak daggers. Music, I hear, is not much better. 
But painting, on the contrary, is often highly seda- 
tive ; because so much of the labour, after your 
picture is once begun, is almost entirely manual, 
and of that skilled sort of manual labour which 



offers a continual series of successes, and so tickles 
a man, through his vanity, into good humour. Alas! 
in letters there is nothing of this sort. You may- 
write as beautiful a hand as you will, you have 
always something else to think of, and cannot pause 
to notice your loops and flourishes ; they are beside 
the mark, and the first law-stationer could put you 
to the blush. Rousseau, indeed, made some account 
of penmanship, even made it a source of livelihood, 
when he copied out the Helo'ise for dilettante ladies ; 
and therein showed that strange eccentric prudence 
which guided him among so many thousand follies 
and insanities. It would be well for all of the genus 
irritabile thus to add something of skilled labour to 
intangible brain-work. To find the right word is so 
doubtful a success, and lies so near to failure, that 
there is no satisfaction in a year of it ; but we all 
know when we have formed a letter perfectly ; and 
a stupid artist, right or wrong, is almost equally 
certain he has found a right tone or a right colour, 
or made a dexterous stroke with his brush. And, 
again, painters may work out of doors ; and the fresh 
air, the deliberate seasons, and the ' tranquillising 
influence' of the green earth, counterbalance the 
fever of thought, and keep them cool, placable, and 

A ship captain is a good man to marry if it is 
a marriage of love, for absences are a good influence 
in love, and keep it bright and delicate ; but he is 
just the worst man if the feeling is more pedestrian, 
as habit is too frequently torn open and the solder 


has never time to set. Men who fish, botanise, work 
with the turning-lathe, or gather sea-weeds, will 
make admirable husbands ; and a little amateur 
painting in water-colour shows the innocent and 
quiet mind. Those who have a few intimates are 
to be avoided ; while those who swim loose, who 
have their hat in their hand all along the street, who 
can number an infinity of acquaintances, and are not 
chargeable with any one friend, promise an easy dis- 
position and no rival to the wife's influence. I will 
not say they are the best of men, but they are the 
stuff out of which adroit and capable women manu- 
facture the best of husbands. It is to be noticed 
that those who have loved once or twice already are 
so much the better educated to a woman's hand ; the 
bright boy of fiction is an odd and most uncomfort- 
able mixture of shyness and coarseness, and needs a 
deal of civilising. Lastly (and this is, perhaps, the 
golden rule), no woman should marry a teetotaller, 
or a man who does not smoke. It is not for nothing 
that this 'ignoble tabagie,' as Michelet calls it, 
spreads over all the world. Michelet rails against 
it because it renders you happy apart from thought 
or work ; to provident women this will seem no evil 
influence in married life. Whatever keeps a man in 
the front garden, whatever checks wandering fancy 
and all inordinate ambition, whatever ixiakes for 
lounging and contentment, makes just so surely 
for domestic happiness. 

These notes, if they amuse the reader at all, will 
probably amuse him more when he differs than when 



he agrees with them ; at least they will do no harm, 
for nobody will follow my advice. But the last word 
is of more concern. Marriage is a step so grave and 
decisive that it attracts light-headed, variable men 
by its very awfulness. They have been so tried 
among the inconstant squalls and currents, so often 
sailed for islands in the air or lain becalmed with 
burning heart, that they will risk all for solid ground 
below their feet. Desperate pilots, they run their 
sea-sick, weary bark upon the dashing rocks. It 
seems as if marriage were the royal road through 
life, and realised, on the instant, what we have all 
dreamed on summer Sundays when the bells ring, 
or at night when we cannot sleep for the desire of 
living. They think it will sober and change them. 
Like those who join a brotherhood, they fancy it 
needs but an act to be out of the coil and clamour 
for ever. But this is a wile of the devil's. To the 
end, spring winds will sow disquietude, passing faces 
leave a regret behind them, and the whole world 
keep calling and calling in their ears. For marriage 
is like life in this — that it is a field of battle, and not 
a bed of roses. 


Hope, they say, deserts us at no period of our 
existence. From first to last, and in the face of 
smarting disillusions, we continue to expect good 
fortune, better health, and better conduct ; and that 
so confidently, that we judge it needless to deserve 



them. I think it improbable that I shall ever write 
like Shakespeare, conduct an army like Hannibal, or 
distinguish myself like Marcus Aurelius in the paths 
of virtue ; and yet I have my by-days, hope prompt- 
ing, when I am very ready to believe that I shall 
combine all these various excellencies in my own 
person, and go marching down to posterity with 
divine honours. There is nothing so monstrous but 
we can believe it of ourselves. About ourselves, 
about our aspirations and delinquencies, we have 
dwelt by choice in a delicious vagueness from our 
boyhood up. No one will have forgotten Tom 
Sawyer's aspiration: 'Ah, if he could only die 
tejnporarily ! ' Or, perhaps, better still, the inward 
resolution of the two pirates, that ' so long as they 
remained in that business, their piracies should not 
again be sullied with the crime of stealing.' Here 
we recognise the thoughts of our boyhood ; and our 
boyhood ceased — well, when ? — not, I think, at 
twenty ; nor, perhaps, altogether at twenty-five ; 
nor yet at thirty ; and possibly, to be quite frank, 
we are still in the thick of that Arcadian period. 
For as the race of man, after centuries of civilisa- 
tion, still keeps some traits of their barbarian fathers, 
so man the individual is not altogether quit of 
youth, when he is already old and honoured, and 
"Lord Chancellor of England. We advance in years 
somewhat in the manner of an invading army in a 
barren land; the age that we have reached, as the 
phrase goes, we but hold with an outpost, and still 
keep open our communications with the extreme 



rear and first beginnings of the march. There is 
our true base ; that is not only the beginning, but 
the perennial spring of our faculties ; and grand- 
father William can retire upon occasion into the 
green enchanted forest of his boyhood. 

The unfading boyishness of hope and its vigorous 
irrationality are nowhere better displayed than in 
questions of conduct. There is a character in the 
Pilgriins Progress, one Mr. Linger-after-lust, with 
whom I fancy we are all on speaking terms ; one 
famous among the famous for ingenuity of hope up 
to and beyond the moment of defeat ; one who, after 
eighty years of contrary experience, will believe it 
possible to continue in the business of piracy and 
yet avoid the guilt of theft. Every sin is our last ; 
every 1st of January a remarkable turning-point in 
our career. Any overt act, above all, is felt to be 
alchemic in its power to change. A drunkard takes 
the pledge ; it will be strange if that does not help 
him. For how many years did Mr. Pepys continue 
to make and break his little vows ? And yet I have 
not heard that he was discouraged in the end. By 
such steps we think to fix a momentary resolution ; 
as a timid fellow hies him to the dentist's while the 
tooth is stinging. 

But, alas, by planting a stake at the top of flood, 
you can neither prevent nor delay the inevitable ebb. 
There is no hocus-pocus in morality ; and even the 
' sanctimonious ceremony ' of marriage leaves the 
man unchanged. This is a hard saying, and has an 
air of paradox. For there is something in marriage 


so natural and inviting, that the step has an air of 
great simpHcity and ease ; it offers to bury for ever 
many aching pre-occupations ; it is to afford us un- 
faihng and familiar company through life ; it opens 
up a smiling prospect of the blest and passive kind 
of love, rather than the blessing and active ; it is 
approached not only through the delights of court- 
ship, but by a public performance and repeated legal 
signatures. A man naturally thinks it will go hard 
with him if he cannot be good and fortunate and 
happy within such august circumvallations. 

And yet there is probably no other act in a man's 
life so hot-headed and foolhardy as this one of mar- 
riage. For years, let us suppose, you have been 
making the most indifferent business of your career. 
Your experience has not, we may dare to say, been 
more encouraging than Paul's or Horace's ; like 
them, you have seen and desired the good that you 
were not able to accomplish ; like them, you have 
done the evil that you loathed. You have waked at 
night in a hot or a cold sweat, according to your 
habit of body, remembering, with dismal surprise, 
your own unpardonable acts and sayings. You have 
been sometimes tempted to withdraw entirely from 
this game of life ; as a man who makes nothing but 
misses withdraws from that less dangerous one of 
billiards. You have fallen back upon the thought 
that you yourself most sharply smarted for your 
misdemeanours, or, in the old, plaintive phrase, that 
you were nobody's enemy but your own. And then 
you have been made aware of what was beautiful 



and amiable, wise and kind, in the other part of 
your behaviour ; and it seemed as if nothing could 
reconcile the contradiction, as indeed nothing can. 
If you are a man, you have shut your mouth hard 
and said nothing ; and if you are only a man in the 
making, you have recognised that yours was quite 
a special case, and you yourself not guilty of your 
own pestiferous career. 

Granted, and with all my heart. Let us accept 
these apologies ; let us agree that you are nobody's 
enemy but your own ; let us agree that you are a sort 
of moral cripple, impotent for good ; and let us re- 
gard you with the unmingled pity due to such a fate. 
But there is one thing to which, on these terms, we 
can never agree : — we can never agree to have you 
marry. What ! you have had one life to manage, 
and have failed so strangely, and now can see no- 
thing wiser than to conjoin with it the management of 
some one else's ? Because you have been unfaithful 
in a very little, you propose yourself to be a ruler 
over ten cities. You strip yourself by such a step 
of all remaining consolations and excuses. You are 
no longer content to be your own enemy ; you must 
be your wife's also. You have been hitherto in a 
mere subaltern attitude; dealing cruel blows about 
you in life, yet only half responsible, since you came 
there by no choice or movement of your own. 
Now, it appears, you must take things on your 
own authority : God made you, but you marry 
yourself; and for all that your wife suffers, no one 
is responsible but you. A man must be very certain 


of his knowledge ere he undertake to guide a ticket- 
of-leave man through a dangerous pass ; you have 
eternally missed your way in life, with consequences 
that you still deplore, and yet you masterfully seize 
your wife's hand, and, blindfold, drag her after you 
to ruin. And it is your wife, you observe, whom 
you select. Her, whose happiness you most desire, 
you choose to be your victim. You would earnestly 
warn her from a tottering bridge or bad investment. 
If she were to marry some one else, how you would 
tremble for her fate ! If she were only your sister, 
and you thought half as much of her, how doubt- 
fully would you intrust her future to a man no 
better than yourself! 

Times are changed with him who marries ; there 
are no more by-path meadows, where you may inno- 
cently linger, but the road lies long and straight and 
dusty to the grave. Idleness, which is often becom- 
ing and even wise in the bachelor, begins to wear a 
different aspect when you have a wife to support. 
Suppose, after you are married, one of those little 
slips were to befall you. What happened last 
November might surely happen February next. 
They may have annoyed you at the time, because 
they were not what you had meant ; but how will 
they annoy you in the future, and how will they 
shake the fabric of your wife's confidence and peace ! 
A thousand things unpleasing went on in the chiar- 
oscuro of a life that you shrank from too particularly 
realising ; you did not care, in those days, to make a 
fetish of your conscience ; you would recognise your 



failures with a nod, and so, good-day. But the time 
for these reserves is over. You have wilfully intro- 
duced a witness into your life, the scene of these 
defeats, and can no longer close the mind's eye 
upon uncomely passages, but must stand up straight 
and put a name upon your actions. And your 
witness is not only the judge, but the victim of your 
sins ; not only can she condemn you to the sharpest 
penalties, but she must herself share feelingly in 
their endurance. And observe, once more, with 
what temerity you have chosen precisely her to be 
your spy, whose esteem you value highest, and 
whom you have already taught to think you better 
than you are. You may think you had a conscience, 
and believed in God ; but what is a conscience to a 
wife ? Wise men of yore erected statues of their 
deities, and consciously performed their part in life 
before those marble eyes. A god watched them at 
the board, and stood by their bedside in the morning 
when they woke ; and all about their ancient cities, 
where they bought and sold, or where they piped 
and wrestled, there would stand some symbol of the 
things that are outside of man. These were lessons, 
delivered in the quiet dialect of art, which told their 
story faithfully, but gently. It is the same lesson, 
if you will — but how harrowingly taught ! — when 
the woman you respect shall weep from your un- 
kindness or blush with shame at your misconduct. 
Poor girls in Italy turn their painted Madonnas to 
the wall : you cannot set aside your wife. To marry 
is to domesticate the Recording Angel. Once you 


are married, there is nothing left for you, not even 
suicide, but to be good. 

And goodness in marriage is a more intricate 
problem than mere single virtue; for in marriage 
there are two ideals to be realised. A girl, it is 
true, has always lived in a glass house among re- 
proving relatives, whose word was law ; she has been 
bred up to sacrifice her judgments and take the key 
submissively from dear papa ; and it is wonderful 
how swiftly she can change her tune into the hus- 
band's. Her morality has been, too often, an affair 
of precept and conformity. But in the case of a 
bachelor who has enjoyed some measure both of 
privacy and freedom, his moral judgments have been 
passed in some accordance with his nature. His 
sins were always sins in his own sight; he could 
then only sin when he did some act against his clear 
conviction ; the light that he walked by was obscure, 
but it was single. Now, when two people of any 
grit and spirit put their fortunes into one, there 
succeeds to this comparative certainty a huge welter 
of competing jur^dictions. It no longer matters so 
much how life appears to one ; one must consult 
another : one, who may be strong, must not offend 
the other, who is weak. The only weak brother 
I am willing to consider is (to make a bull for 
once) my wife. For her, and for her only, I must 
waive my righteous judgments, and go crookedly 
about my life. How, then, in such an atmosphere 
of compromise, to keep honour bright and abstain 
from base capitulations ? How are you to put 



aside love's pleadings ? How are you, the apostle 
of laxity, to turn suddenly about into the rabbi of 
precision, and, after these years of ragged practice, 
pose for a hero to the lackey who has found you 
out ? In this temptation to mutual indulgence lies 
the particular peril to morality in married life. 
Daily they drop a little lower from the first ideal, 
and for a while continue to accept these changelings 
with a gross complacency. At last Love wakes and 
looks about him ; finds his hero sunk into a stout 
old brute, intent on brandy pawnee; finds his 
heroine divested of her angel brightness ; and, in the 
flash of that first disenchantment, flees for ever. 

Again, the husband, in these unions, is usually a 
man, and the wife commonly enough a woman ; and 
when this is the case, although it makes the firmer 
marriage, a thick additional veil of misconception 
hangs above the doubtful business. Women, I 
believe, are somewhat rarer than men ; but then, if 
I were a woman myself, I daresay I should hold the 
reverse; and at least we all enter more or less 
wholly into one or other of these camps. A man 
who delights women by his feminine perceptions 
will often scatter his admirers by a chance explosion 
of the under side of man ; and the most masculine 
and direct of women will some day, to your dire 
surprise, draw out like a telescope into successive 
lengths of personation. Alas ! for the man, knowing 
her to be at heart more candid than himself, who 
shall flounder, panting, through these mazes in the 
quest for truth. The proper qualities of each sex 


^vmcmiBUS puerisque' 

are, indeed, eternally surprising to the other. Be- 
tween the Latin and the Teuton races there are 
similar divergencies, not to be bridged by the most 
liberal sympathy. And in the good, plain, cut-and- 
dry explanations of this life, which pass current 
among us as the wisdom of the elders, this difficulty 
has been turned with the aid of pious lies. Thus, 
when a young lady has angelic features, eats nothing 
to speak of, plays all day long on the piano, and 
sings ravishingly in church, it requires a rough 
infidelity, falsely called cynicism, to believe that 
she may be a little devil after all. Yet so it is : she 
may be a tale-bearer, a liar, and a thief; she may 
have a taste for brandy, and no heart. My com- 
pliments to George Eliot for her Rosamond Vincy ; 
the ugly work of satire she has transmuted to the 
ends of art by the companion figure of Lydgate; 
and the satire was much wanted for the education 
of young men. That doctrine of the excellence of 
women, however chivalrous, is cowardly as well as 
false. It is better to face the fact, and know, when 
you marry, that you take into your life a creature 
of equal, if of unlike, frailties ; whose weak human 
heart beats no more tunefully than yours. 

But it is the object of a liberal education not only 
to obscure the knowledge of one sex by another, 
but to magnify the natural differences between the 
two. Man is a creature who lives not upon bread 
alone, but principally by catchwords ; and the little 
rift between the sexes is astonishingly widened by 
simply teaching one set of catchwords to the girls 



and another to the boys. To the first, there is 
shown but a very small field of experience, and 
taught a very trenchant principle for judgment and 
action ; to the other, the world of life is more 
largely displayed, and their rule of conduct is 
proportionally widened. They are taught to follow 
different virtues, to hate different vices, to place 
their ideal, even for each other, in different achieve- 
ments. What should be the result of such a course ? 
When a horse has run away, and the two flustered 
people in the gig have each possessed themselves 
of a rein, we know the end of that conveyance will 
be in the ditch. So, when I see a raw youth and a 
green girl, fluted and fiddled in a dancing measure 
into that most serious contract, and setting out upon 
life's journey with ideas so monstrously divergent, 
I am not surprised that some make shipwreck, but 
that any come to port. What the boy does almost 
proudly, as a manly peccadillo, the girl will shudder 
at as a debasing vice ; what is to her the mere 
common sense of tactics, he will spit out of his 
mouth as shameful. Through such a sea of con- 
trarieties must this green couple steer their way ; 
and contrive to love each other ; and to respect, 
forsooth ; and be ready, when the time arrives, to 
educate the little men and women who shall suc- 
ceed to their places and perplexities. 

And yet, when all has been said, the man who 

should hold back from marriage is in the same case 

with him who runs away from battle. To avoid an 

occasion for our virtues is a worse degree of failure 



than to push forward pluckily and make a fall. It 
is lawful to pray God that we be not led into 
temptation ; but not lawful to skulk from those that 
come to us. The noblest passage in one of the 
noblest books of this century, is where the old pope 
glories in the trial, nay, in the partial fall and but 
imperfect triumph, of the younger hero.^ Without 
some such manly note, it were perhaps better to 
have no conscience at all. But there is a vast dif- 
ference between teaching flight, and showing points 
of peril that a man may march the more warily. 
And the true conclusion of this paper is to turn our 
back on apprehensions, and embrace that shining 
and courageous virtue. Faith. Hope is the boy, a 
blind, headlong, pleasant fellow, good to chase 
swallows with the salt ; Faith is the grave, experi- 
enced, yet smiling man. Hope lives on ignorance ; 
open-eyed Faith is built upon a knowledge of our 
life, of the tyranny of circumstance and the frailty 
of human resolution. Hope looks for unqualified 
success ; but Faith counts certainly on failure, and 
takes honourable defeat to be a form of victory. 
Hope is a kind old pagan ; but Faith grew up in 
Christian days, and early learnt humility. In the 
one temper, a man is indignant that he cannot 
spring up in a clap to heights of elegance and virtue ; 
in the other, out of a sense of his infirmities, he is 
filled with confidence because a year has come and 
gone, and he has still preserved some rags of honour. 
In the first, he expects an angel for a wife ; in the 

^ Browning's The Ring and the Booh. 

II— c 2>Z 

'vmcmiBUs puerisque' 

last, he knows that she is like himself — erring, 
thoughtless, and untrue ; but hke himself also, filled 
with a struggling radiancy of better things, and 
adorned with ineffective qualities. You may safely 
go to school with hope ; but, ere you marry, should 
have learned the mingled lesson of the world : that 
dolls are stuffed with sawdust, and yet are excellent 
playthings ; that hope and love address themselves 
to a perfection never realised, and yet, firmly held, 
become the salt and staff of fife ; that you yourself 
are compacted of infirmities, perfect, you might say, 
in imperfection, and yet you have a something in 
you lovable and worth preserving ; and that, while 
the mass of mankind lies under this scurvy con- 
demnation, you will scarce find one but, by some 
generous reading, will become to you a lesson, a 
model, and a noble spouse through life. So thinking, 
you will constantly support your own unworthiness, 
and easily forgive the failings of your friend. Nay, 
you will be wisely glad that you retain the sense of 
blemishes ; for the faults of married people con- 
tinually spur up each of them, hour by hour, to do 
better and to meet and love upon a higher ground. 
And ever, between the failures, there will come 
glimpses of kind virtues to encourage and console. 






' Lord, what fools these mortals be ! * 

There is only one event in life which really astonishes 
a man and startles him out of his prepared opinions. 
Everything else befalls him very much as he ex- 
pected. Event succeeds to event, with an agreeable 
variety indeed, but with Uttle that is either startling 
or intense ; they form together no more than a sort 
of background, or running accompaniment to the 
man's own reflections ; and he falls naturally into 
a cool, curious, and smiling habit of mind, and 
builds himself up in a conception of life which 
expects to-morrow to be after the pattern of to-day 
and yesterday. He may be accustomed to the 
vagaries of his friends and acquaintances under the 
influence of love. He may sometimes look forward 
to it for himself with an incomprehensible expecta- 
tion. But it is a subject in which neither intuition 
nor the behaviour of others will help the philosopher 
to the truth. There is probably nothing rightly 
thought or rightly written on this matter of love 
that is not a piece of the person's experience. I 
remember an anecdote of a well-known French 
theorist, who was debating a point eagerly in his 
cenacle. It was objected against him that he had 
never experienced love. Whereupon he arose, left 
the society, and made it a point not to return to it 



until he considered that he had suppUed the defect. 
'Now,' he remarked, on entering, 'now I am in a 
position, to continue the discussion.' Perhaps he 
had not penetrated very deeply into the subject 
after all, but the story indicates right thinking, and 
may serve as an apologue to readers of this essay. 

When at last the scales fall from his eyes, it is 
not without something of the nature of dismay that 
the man finds himself in such changed conditions. 
He has to deal with commanding emotions instead 
of the easy dishkes and preferences in which he 
has hitherto passed his days ; and he recognises 
capabilities for pain and pleasure of which he had 
not yet suspected the existence. Falling in love is 
the one illogical adventure, the one thing of which 
we are tempted to think as supernatural, in our trite 
and reasonable world. The effect is out of all 
proportion with the cause. Two persons, neither of 
them, it may be, very amiable or very beautiful, 
meet, speak a little, and look a little into each 
other's eyes. That has been done a dozen or so of 
times in the experience of either with no great 
result. But on this occasion all is different. They 
fall at once into that state in which another person 
becomes to us the very gist and centre-point of God's 
creation, and demolishes our laborious theories with 
a smile ; in which our ideas are so bound up with the 
one master- thought that even the trivial cares of 
our own person become so many acts of devotion, 
and the love of life itself is translated into a wish 
to remain in the same world with so precious and 


desirable a fellow-creature. And all the while their 
acquaintances look on in stupor, and ask each other, 
with almost passionate emphasis, what so-and-so 
can see in that woman, or such-an-one in that man. 
I am sure, gentlemen, I cannot tell you. For my 
part, I cannot think what the women mean. It 
might be very well, if the Apollo Belvedere should 
suddenly glow all over into life, and step forward 
from the pedestal with that godlike air of his. But 
of the misbegotten changelings who call themselves 
men, and prate intolerably over dinner-tables, I 
never saw one who seemed worthy to inspire love — 
no, nor read of any, except Leonardo da Vinci, and 
perhaps Goethe in his youth. About women 1 
entertain a somewhat different opinion ; but there, 
I have the misfortune to be a man. 

There are many matters in which you may way- 
lay Destiny, and bid him stand and deliver. Hard 
work, high thinking, adventurous excitement, and a 
great deal more that forms a part of this or the 
other person's spiritual bill of fare, are within the 
reach of almost any one who can dare a little and 
be patient. But it is by no means in the way of 
every one to fall in love. You know the difficulty 
Shakespeare was put into when Queen Elizabeth 
asked him to show FalstafF in love. I do not believe 
that Henry Fielding was ever in love. Scott, if it 
were not for a passage or two in Rob Roy, would 
give me very much the same effect. These are 
great names, and (what is more to the purpose) 
strong, healthy, high-strung, and generous natures, 



of whom the reverse might have been expected. As 
for the innumerable army of anaemic and tailorish 
persons who occupy the face of this planet with so 
much propriety, it is palpably absurd to imagine 
them in any such situation as a love-affair. A wet 
rag goes safely by the fire ; and if a man is blind, he 
cannot expect to be much impressed by romantic 
scenery. Apart from all this, many lovable people 
miss each other in the world, or meet under some 
unfavourable star. There is the nice and critical 
moment of declaration to be got over. From 
timidity or lack of opportunity a good half of possible 
love cases never get so far, and at least another 
quarter do there cease and determine. A very 
adroit person, to be sure, manages to prepare the 
way and out with his declaration in the nick of time. 
And then there is a fine solid sort of man, who goes 
on from snub to snub ; and if he has to declare forty 
times, will continue imperturbably declaring, amid 
the astonished consideration of men and angels, until 
he has a favourable answer. I daresay, if one were 
a woman, one would like to marry a man who was 
capable of doing this, but not quite one who had 
done so. It is just a little bit abject, and somehow 
just a little bit gross ; and marriages in which one 
of the parties has been thus battered into consent 
scarcely form agreeable subjects for meditation. 
Love should run out to meet love with open arms. 
Indeed, the ideal story is that of two people who go 
into love step for step, with a fluttered consciousness, 
like a pair of children venturing together into a dark 


room. From the first moment when they see each 
other, with a pang of curiosity, through stage after 
stage of growing pleasure and embarrassment, they 
can read the expression of their own trouble in each 
other's eyes. There is here no declaration, properly 
so called ; the feeling is so plainly shared, that as 
soon as the man knows what it is in his own heart, 
he is sure of what it is in the woman's. 

This simple accident of falling in love is as bene- 
ficial as it is astonishing. It arrests the petrifying 
influence of years, disproves cold-blooded and cynical 
conclusions, and awakens dormant sensibilities. 
Hitherto the man had found it a good policy to 
disbelieve the existence of any enjoyment which was 
out of his reach ; and thus he turned his back upon 
the strong sunny parts of nature, and accustomed 
himself to look exclusively on what was common 
and dull. He accepted a prose ideal, let himself 
go blind of many sympathies by disuse ; and if he 
were young and witty, or beautiful, wilfully forwent 
these advantages. He joined himself to the follow- 
ing of what, in the old mythology of love, was prettily 
called Jionckaloir ; and in an odd mixture of feelings, 
a fling of self-respect, a preference for selflsh liberty, 
and a great dash of that fear with which honest 
people regard serious interests, kept himself back 
from the straightforward course of life among certain 
selected activities. And now, all of a sudden, he is 
unhorsed, like St. Paul, from his infidel affectation. 
His heart, which has been ticking accurate seconds 
for the last year, gives a bound and begins to beat 



high and irregularly in his breast. It seems as if he 
had never heard or felt or seen until that moment ; 
and by the report of his memory, he must have 
lived his past life between sleep and waking, or with 
the pre-occupied attention of a brown study. He is 
practically incommoded by the generosity of his 
feelings, smiles much when he is alone, and develops 
a habit of looking rather blankly upon the moon and 
stars. But it is not at all within the province of a 
prose-essayist to give a picture of this hyperbolical 
frame of mind ; and the thing has been done already, 
and that to admiration. In Adelaide, in Tennyson's 
Maud, and in some of Heine's songs, you get 
the absolute expression of this midsummer spirit. 
Komeo and Juliet were very much in love ; although 
they tell me some German critics are of a different 
opinion, probably the same who would have us 
think Mercutio a dull fellow. Poor Antony was in 
love, and no mistake. That lay figure, Marius, in 
Les Miserahles, is also a genuine case in his own 
way, and worth observation. A good many of 
George Sand's people are thoroughly in love ; 
and so are a good many of George Meredith's. 
Altogether, there is plenty to read on the subject. 
If the root of the matter be in him, and if he has 
the requisite chords to set in vibration, a young man 
may occasionally enter, with the key of art, into 
that land of Beulah, which is upon the borders of 
Heaven, and within sight of the City of Love. 
There let him sit a while to hatch delightful hopes 
and perilous illusions. 


One thing that accompanies the passion in its first 
blush is certainly difficult to explain. It comes (I 
do not quite see how) that from having a very 
supreme sense of pleasure in all parts of life — in 
lying down to sleep, in waking, in motion, in breath- 
ing, in continuing to be — the lover begins to regard 
his happiness as beneficial for the rest of the world 
and highly meritorious in himself. Our race has 
never been able contentedly to suppose that the 
noise of its wars, conducted by a few young gentle- 
men in a corner of an inconsiderable star, does not 
re-echo among the courts of Heaven with quite a 
formidable effect. In much the same taste, when 
people find a great to-do in their own breasts, they 
imagine it must have some influence in their neigh- 
bourhood. The presence of the two lovers is so 
enchanting to each other that it seems as if it must 
be the best thing possible for everybody else. They 
are half inclined to fancy it is because of them and 
their love that the sky is blue and the sun shines. 
And certainly the weather is usually fine while 
people are courting. ... In point of fact, although 
the happy man feels very kindly towards others of 
his own sex, there is apt to be something too much of 
the magnifico in his demeanour. If people grow pre- 
suming and self-important over such matters as a 
dukedom or the Holy See, they will scarcely support 
the dizziest elevation in life without some suspicion 
of a strut ; and the dizziest elevation is to love and 
be loved in return. Consequently, accepted lovers 
are a trifle condescending in their address to other 



men. An overweening sense of the passion and 
importance of life hardly conduces to simplicity of 
manner. To women they feel very nobly, very 
purely, and very generously, as if they were so many 
Joan- of- Arcs ; but this does not come out in their 
behaviour ; and they treat them to Grandisonian 
airs marked with a suspicion of fatuity. I am not 
quite certain that women do not like this sort of 
thing ; but really, after having bemused myself over 
Dafiiel JDei^onda, I have given up trying to under- 
stand what they like. 

If it did nothing else, this sublime and ridiculous 
superstition, that the pleasure of the pair is somehow 
blessed to others, and everybody is made happier in 
their happiness, would serve at least to keep love 
generous and great-hearted. Nor is it quite a base- 
less superstition after all. Other lovers are hugely 
interested. They strike the nicest balance between 
pity and approval, when they see people aping the 
greatness of their own sentiments. It is an under- 
stood thing in the play, that while the young 
gentle-folk are courting on the terrace, a rough 
flirtation is being carried on, and a light, trivial sort 
of love is growing up, between the footman and the 
singing chambermaid. As people are generally cast 
for the leading parts in their own imaginations, the 
reader can apply the parallel to real life without 
much chance of going wrong. In short, they are 
quite sure this other love-affair is not so deep-seated 
as their own, but they like dearly to see it going 
forward. And love, considered as a spectacle, must 


have attractions for many who are not of the con- 
fraternity. The sentimental old maid is a common- 
place of the novelists ; and he must be rather a poor 
sort of human being, to be sure, who can look 
on at this pretty madness without indulgence and 
sympathy. For nature commends itself to people 
with a most insinuating art ; the busiest is now and 
again arrested by a great sunset; and you may be 
as pacific or as cold-blooded as you will, but you 
cannot help some emotion when you read of well- 
disputed battles, or meet a pair of lovers in the 

Certainly, whatever it may be with regard to the 
world at large, this idea of beneficent pleasure is true 
as between the sweethearts. To do good and com- 
municate is the lover's grand intention. It is the 
happiness of the other that makes his own most 
intense gratification. It is not possible to dis- 
entangle the different emotions, the pride, humility, 
pity, and passion, which are excited by a look of 
happy love or an unexpected caress. To make 
one's-self beautiful, to dress the hair, to excel in 
talk, to do anything and all things that puff out the 
character and attributes and make them imposing 
in the eyes of others, is not only to magnify one's- 
self, but to offer the most delicate homage at the 
same time. And it is in this latter intention that 
they are done by lovers ; for the essence of love is 
kindness ; and indeed it may be best defined as 
passionate kindness : kindness, so to speak, run mad 
and become importunate and violent. Vanity in a 



merely personal sense exists no longer. The lover 
takes a perilous pleasure in privately displaying his 
weak points, and having them, one after another, 
accepted and condoned. He wishes to be assured 
that he is not loved for this or that good quality, 
but for himself, or something as like himself as he 
can contrive to set forward. For, although it may 
have been a very difficult thing to paint the marriage 
of Cana, or write the fourth act of Antony and 
Cleopatra, there is a more difficult piece of art 
before every one in this world who cares to set 
about explaining his own character to others. 
Words and acts are easily wrenched from their true 
significance ; and they are all the language we have 
to come and go upon. A pitiful job we make of it 
as a rule. For better or worse, people mistake our 
meaning and take our emotions at a wrong valua- 
tion. And generally we rest pretty content with 
our failures ; we are content to be misapprehended 
by cackling flirts ; but when once a man is moon- 
struck with this affisction of love, he makes it a 
point of honour to clear such dubieties away. He 
cannot have the Best of her Sex misled upon a point 
of this importance ; and his pride revolts at being 
loved in a mistake. 

He discovers a great reluctance to return on 
former periods of his life. To all that has not been 
shared with her, rights and duties, bygone fortunes 
and dispositions, he can look back only by a difficult 
and repugnant effort of the will. That he should 
have wasted some years in ignorance of what alone 


was really important, that he may have entertained 
the thought of other women with any show of 
complacency, is a burthen almost too heavy for his 
self-respect. But it is the thought of another past 
that rankles in his spirit like a poisoned wound. 
That he himself made a fashion of being alive in the 
bald, beggarly days before a certain meeting, is 
deplorable enough in all good conscience. But that 
She should have permitted herself the same liberty 
seems inconsistent with a Divine providence. 

A great many people run down jealousy, on the 
score that it is an artificial feeling, as well as prac- 
tically inconvenient. This is scarcely fair ; for the 
feeling on which it merely attends, like an ill- 
humoured courtier, is itself artificial in exactly the 
same sense and to the same degree. I suppose what 
is meant by that objection is that jealousy has not 
always been a character of man ; formed no part of 
that very modest kit of sentiments with which he is 
supposed to have begun the world ; but waited to 
make its appearance in better days and among richer 
natures. And this is equally true of love, and 
friendship, and love of country, and delight in what 
they call the beauties of nature, and most other 
things worth having. Love, in particular, will not 
endure any historical scrutiny : to all who have 
fallen across it, it is one of the most incontestable 
facts in the world ; but if you begin to ask what it 
was in other periods and countries, in Greece for 
instance, the strangest doubts begin to spring up, 
and everything seems so vague and changing that a 



dream is logical in comparison. Jealousy, at any 
rate, is one of the consequences of love ; you may 
like it or not, at pleasure ; but there it is. 

It is not exactly jealousy, however, that we feel 
when we reflect on the past of those we love. A 
bundle of letters found after years of happy union 
creates no sense of insecurity in the present; and 
yet it will pain a man sharply. The two people 
entertain no vulgar doubt of each other : but this 
pre-existence of both occurs to the mind as some- 
thing indelicate. To be altogether right, they 
should have had twin birth together, at the same 
moment with the feeling that unites them. Then 
indeed it would be simple and perfect and without 
reserve or afterthought. Then they would under- 
stand each other with a fulness impossible otherwise. 
There would be no barrier between them of associa- 
tions that cannot be imparted. They would be led 
into none of those comparisons that send the blood 
back to the heart. And they would know that 
there had been no time lost, and they had been 
together as much as was possible. For besides 
terror for the separation that must follow some time 
or other in the future, men feel anger, and some- 
thing like remorse, when they think of that other 
separation which endured until they met. Some 
one has written that love makes people believe in 
immortality, because there seems not to be room 
enough in life for so great a tenderness, and it 
is inconceivable that the most masterful of our 
emotions should have no more than the spare 


moments of a few years. Indeed, it seems strange ; 
but if we call to mind analogies, we can hardly 
regard it as impossible. 

' The blind bow-boy,' who smiles upon us from 
the end of terraces in old Dutch gardens, laughingly 
hails his bird-bolts among a fleeting generation. 
But for as fast as ever he shoots, the game dissolves 
and disappears into eternity from under his falling 
arrows ; this one is gone ere he is struck ; the other 
has but time to make one gesture and give one pas- 
sionate cry ; and they are all the things of a moment. 
When the generation is gone, when the play is 
over, when the thirty years' panorama has been 
withdrawn in tatters from the stage of the world, 
we may ask what has become of these great, 
weighty, and undying loves and the sweethearts 
who despised mortal conditions in a fine credulity ; 
and they can only show us a few songs in a bygone 
taste, a few actions worth remembering, and a few 
children who have retained some happy stamp from 
the disposition of their parents. 


Among sayings that have a currency in spite of 
being wholly false upon the face of them for the 
sake of a half-truth upon another subject which is 
accidentally combined with the error, one of the 
grossest and broadest conveys the monstrous pro- 


'vmcmiBUS puerisque' 

position that it is easy to tell the truth and hard to 
tell a lie. I wish heartily it were. But the truth is 
one ; it has first to be discovered, then justly and 
exactly uttered. Even with instruments specially 
contrived for such a purpose — with a foot-rule, a 
level, or a theodolite — it is not easy to be exact ; it 
is easier, alas ! to be inexact. From those who mark 
the divisions on a scale to those who measure the 
boundaries of empires or the distance of the heavenly 
stars, it is by careful method and minute, unweary- 
ing attention that men rise even to material exact- 
ness or to sure knowledge even of external and 
constant things. But it is easier to draw the outline 
of a mountain than the changing appearance of a 
face ; and truth in human relations is of this more 
intangible and dubious order : hard to seize, harder 
to communicate. Veracity to facts in a loose, 
colloquial sense — not to say that I have been in 
Malabar when as a matter of fact I was never out 
of England, not to say that I have read Cervantes 
in the original when as a matter of fact I know not 
one syllable of Spanish — this, indeed, is easy and to 
the same degree unimportant in itself. Lies of this 
sort, according to circumstances, may or may not be 
important ; in a certain sense even they may or may 
not be false. The habitual liar may be a very 
honest fellow, and live truly with his wife and 
friends ; while another man, who never told a formal 
falsehood in his life, may yet be himself one lie — • 
heart and face, from top to bottom. This is the 
kind of lie which poisons intimacy. And, vice versa,, 


veracity to sentiment, truth in a relation, truth to 
your own heart and your friends, never to feign or 
falsify emotion — that is the truth which makes love 
possible and mankind happy. 

L'art de bien dire is but a drawing-room accom- 
plishment unless it be pressed into the service of the 
truth. The difficulty of literature is not to write, 
but to write what you mean ; not to affect your 
reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish. 
This is commonly understood in the case of books 
or set orations ; even in making your will, or writing 
an explicit letter, some difficulty is admitted by the 
world. But one thing you can never make Philis- 
tine natures understand ; one thing, which yet lies 
on the surface, remains as unseizable to their wits 
as a high flight of metaphysics — namely, that the 
business of life is mainly carried on by means of this 
difficult art of literature, and according to a man's 
proficiency in that art shall be the freedom and the 
fulness of his intercourse with other men. Any- 
body, it is supposed, can say what he means ; and, 
in spite of their notorious experience to the contrary, 
people so continue to suppose. Now, I simply open 
the last book I have been reading — Mr. Leland's 
captivating English Gipsies. * It is said,' I find on 
p. 7, ' that those who can converse with Irish peasants 
in their own native tongue form far higher opinions 
of their appreciation of the beautiful, and of the 
ele?nents of humour and pathos in their hearts, than 
do those who know their thoughts only through the 
medium of EngHsh. I know from my own observa- 
II — D 49 


tions that this is quite the case with the Indians of 
North America, and it is unquestionably so with the 
gipsy.' In short, where a man has not a full pos- 
session of the language, the most important, because 
the most amiable, qualities of his nature have to lie 
buried and fallow ; for the pleasure of comradeship, 
and the intellectual part of love, rest upon these very 
* elements of humour and pathos.' Here is a man 
opulent in both, and for lack of a medium he can 
put none of it out to interest in the market of affec- 
tion ! But what is thus made plain to our appre- 
hensions in the case of a foreign language is partially 
true even with the tongue we learned in childhood. 
Indeed, we all speak different dialects ; one shall be 
copious and exact, another loose and meagre ; but 
the speech of the ideal talker shall correspond and 
fit upon the truth of fact — not clumsily, obscuring 
lineaments, like a mantle, but cleanly adhering, like 
an athlete's skin. And what is the result? That 
the one can open himself more clearly to his friends, 
and can enjoy more of what makes life truly valuable 
— intimacy with those he loves. An orator makes a 
false step ; he employs some trivial, some absurd, 
some vulgar phrase ; in the turn of a sentence he 
insults, by a side wind, those whom he is labouring 
to charm ; in speaking to one sentiment he uncon- 
sciously ruffles another in parenthesis ; and you are 
not surprised, for you know his task to be delicate 
and filled with perils. ' O frivolous mind of man, 
light ignorance ! ' As if yourself, when you seek 
to explain some misunderstanding or excuse some 


apparent fault, speaking swiftly and addressing a 
mind still riscently incensed, were not harnessing for 
a more perilous adventure ; as if yourself required 
less tact and eloquence ; as if an angry friend or a 
suspicious lover were not more easy to offend than 
a meeting of indifferent politicians ! Nay, and the 
orator treads in a beaten round ; the matters he dis- 
cusses have been discussed a thousand times before ; 
language is ready-shaped to his purpose ; he speaks 
out of a cut-and-dry vocabulary. But you — may it 
not be that your defence reposes on some subtlety of 
feeling, not so much as touched upon in Shakespeare, 
to express which, like a pioneer, you must venture 
forth into zones of thought still unsurveyed, and 
become yourself a literary innovator ? For even in 
love there are unlovely humours ; ambiguous acts, 
unpardonable words, may yet have sprung from a 
kind sentiment. If the injured one could read your 
heart, you may be sure that he would understand 
and pardon ; but, alas ! the heart cannot be shown 
— it has to be demonstrated in words. Do you 
think it is a hard thing to write poetry ? Why, that 
is to write poetry, and of a high, if not the highest, 

I should even more admire ' the lifelong and heroic 
literary labours ' of my fellow-men, patiently clearing 
up in words their loves and their contentions, and 
speaking their autobiography daily to their wives, 
were it not for a circumstance which lessens their 
difficulty and my admiration by equal parts. For 
life, though largely, is not entirely carried on by 



literature. We are subject to physical passions and 
contortions ; the voice breaks and changes, and 
speaks by unconscious and winning inflections ; we 
have legible countenances, like an open book ; things 
that cannot be said look eloquently through the 
eyes ; and the soul, not locked into the body as a 
dungeon, dwells ever on the threshold with appealing 
signals. Groans and tears, looks and gestures, a 
flush or a paleness, are often the most clear reporters 
of the heart, and speak more directly to the hearts 
of others. The message flies by these interpreters 
in the least space of time, and the misunderstanding 
is averted in the moment of its birth. To explain in 
words takes time and a just and patient hearing ; 
and in the critical epochs of a close relation, patience 
and justice are not qualities on which we can rely. 
But the look or the gesture explains things in a 
breath ; they tell their message without ambiguity ; 
unlike speech, they cannot stumble, by the way, on 
a reproach or an allusion that should steel your 
friend against the truth ; and then they have a 
higher authority, for they are the direct expression 
of the heart, not yet transmitted through the un- 
faithful and sophisticating brain. Not long ago I 
wrote a letter to a friend which came near involving 
us in quarrel ; but we met, and in personal talk I 
repeated the worst of what I had written, and added 
worse to that; and with the commentary of the 
body it seemed not unfriendly either to hear or say. 
Indeed, letters are in vain for the purposes of inti- 
macy ; an absence is a dead break in the relation ; 


yet two who know each other fully and are bent on 
perpetuity in love may so preserve the attitude of 
their affections that they may meet on the same 
terms as they had parted. 

Pitiful is the case of the blind, who cannot read 
the face ; pitiful that of the deaf, who cannot follow 
the changes of the voice. And there are others also 
to be pitied ; for there are some of an inert, un- 
eloquent nature, who have been denied all the 
symbols of communication, who have neither a lively 
play of facial expression, nor speaking gestures, nor 
a responsive voice, nor yet the gift of frank, explana- 
tory speech : people truly made of clay, people tied 
for life into a bag which no one can undo. They 
are poorer than the gipsy, for their heart can speak 
no language under heaven. Such people we inust 
learn slowly by the tenor of their acts, or through 
yea and nay communications ; or we take them on 
trust on the strength of a general air, and now and 
again, when we see the spirit breaking through in a 
flash, correct or change our estimate. But these will 
be uphill intimacies, without charm or freedom, to 
the end ; and freedom is the chief ingredient in 
confidence. Some minds, romantically dull, despise 
physical endowments. That is a doctrine for a mis- 
anthrope ; to those who like their fellow-creatures 
it must always be meaningless ; and, for my part, I 
can see few things more desirable, after the posses- 
sion of such radical qualities as honour and humour 
and pathos, than to have a lively and not a stolid 
countenance ; to have looks to correspond with 


'vmcmiBus puertsque' 

every feeling ; to be elegant and delightful in person, 
so that we shall please even in the intervals of active 
pleasing, and may never discredit speech with un- 
couth manners or become unconsciously our own 
burlesques. But of all unfortunates there is one 
creature (for I will not call him man) conspicuous in 
misfortune. This is he who has forfeited his birth- 
right of expression, who has cultivated artful intona- 
tions, who has taught his face tricks, like a pet 
monkey, and on every side perverted or cut off his 
means of communication with his fellow-men. The 
body is a house of many windows : there we all sit, 
showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to 
come and love us. But this fellow has filled his 
windows with opaque glass, elegantly coloured. His 
house may be admired for its design, the crowd may 
pause before the stained windows, but meanwhile 
the poor proprietor must lie languishing within, 
uncomforted, unchangeably alone. 

Truth of intercourse is something more difficult 
than to refrain from open lies. It is possible to 
avoid falsehood and yet not tell the truth. It is not 
enough to answer formal questions. To reach the 
truth by yea and nay communications implies a 
questioner with a share of inspiration, such as is 
often found in mutual love. Yea and nay mean 
nothing ; the meaning must have been related in the 
question. Many words are often necessary to convey 
a very simple statement ; for in this sort of exercise 
we never hit the gold ; the most that we can hope is 
by many arrows, more or less far off on diffisrent 


sides, to indicate, in the course of time, for what 
target we are aiming, and after an hour's talk, back 
and forward, to convey the purport of a single prin- 
ciple or a single thought. And yet while the curt, 
pithy speaker misses the point entirely, a wordy, 
prolegomenous babbler will often add three new 
offences in the process of excusing one. It is really 
a most delicate affair. The world was made before 
the English language, and seemingly upon a different 
design. Suppose we held our converse not in words, 
but in music ; those who have a bad ear would find 
themselves cut off from all near commerce, and no 
better than foreigners in this big world. But we do 
not consider how many have ' a bad ear ' for words, 
nor how often the most eloquent find nothing to 
reply. I hate questioners and questions; there are 
so few that can be spoken to without a lie. ' Do 
you forgive me ? ' Madam and sweetheart, so far as 
I have gone in life I have never yet been able to 
discover what forgiveness means. 'Is it still the 
same between usV Why, how can it be? It is 
eternally different ; and yet you are still the friend 
of my heart. 'Do you understand meV God 
knows ; I should think it highly improbable. 

The cruellest lies are often told in silence. A 
man may have sat in a room for hours and not 
opened his teeth, and yet come out of that room a 
disloyal friend or a vile calumniator. And how 
many loves have perished because, from pride, or 
spite, or diffidence, or that unmanly shame which 
withholds a man from daring to betray emotion, a 



lover, at the critical point of the relation, has but hung 
his head and held his tongue? And, again, a he 
may be told by a truth, or a truth conveyed through 
a lie. Truth to facts is not always truth to senti- 
ment; and part of the truth, as often happens in 
answer to a question, may be the foulest calumny. 
A fact may be an exception ; but the feeling is the 
law, and it is that which you must neither garble 
nor belie. The whole tenor of a conversation is a 
part of the meaning of each separate statement ; the 
beginning and the end define and travesty the inter- 
mediate conversation. You never speak to God ; 
you address a fellow-man, full of his own tempers ; 
and to tell truth, rightly understood, is not to state 
the true facts, but to convey a true impression ; truth 
in spirit, not truth to letter, is the true veracity. 
To reconcile averted friends a Jesuitical discretion 
is often needful, not so much to gain a kind hearing 
as to communicate sober truth. Women have an ill 
name in this connection ; yet they live in as true 
relations ; the He of a good woman is the true index 
of her heart. 

* It takes,' says Thoreau, in the noblest and most 
useful passage I remember to have read in any 
modern author,^ ' two to speak truth— one to speak 
and another to hear.' He must be very little ex- 
perienced, or have no great zeal for truth, who does 
not recognise the fact. A grain of anger or a grain 
of suspicion produces strange acoustical effects, and 
makes the ear greedy to remark offence. Hence we 

1 A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Wednesday p 283 


find those who have once quarrelled carry themselves 
distantly, and are ever ready to break the truce. To 
speak truth there must be moral equality or else no 
respect ; and hence between parent and child inter- 
course is apt to degenerate into a verbal fencing- 
bout, and misapprehensions to become ingrained. 
And there is another side to this, for the parent 
begins with an imperfect notion of the child's char- 
acter, formed in early years or during the equinoctial 
gales of youth ; to this he adheres, noting only the 
facts which suit with his pre-conception ; and where- 
ever a person fancies himself unjustly judged, he at 
once and finally gives up the effort to speak truth. 
With our chosen friends, on the other hand, and still 
more between lovers (for mutual understanding is 
love's essence), the truth is easily indicated by the 
one and aptly comprehended by the other. A hint 
taken, a look understood, conveys the gist of long 
and dehcate explanations ; and where the life is 
known even yea and nay become luminous. In the 
closest of all relations — that of a love well founded 
and equally shared — speech is half discarded, like a 
roundabout, infantile process or a ceremony of formal 
etiquette ; and the two communicate directly by 
their presences, and with few looks and fewer words 
contrive to share their good and evil and uphold 
each other's hearts in joy. For love rests upon a 
physical basis ; it is a familiarity of nature's making 
and apart from voluntary choice. Understanding 
has in some sort outrun knowledge, for the affection 
perhaps began with the acquaintance ; and as it was 



not made like other relations, so it is not, like them, 
to be perturbed or clouded. Each knows more than 
can be uttered ; each lives by faith, and believes by 
a natural compulsion ; and between man and wife 
the language of the body is largely developed and 
grown strangely eloquent. The thought that 
prompted and was conveyed in a caress would only 
lose to be set down in words — ay, although Shake- 
speare himself should be the scribe. 

Yet it is in these dear intimacies, beyond all 
others, that we must strive and do battle for the 
truth. Let but a doubt arise, and alas ! all the 
previous intimacy and confidence is but another 
charge against the person doubted. ' What a mon- 
strous dishonesty is this if I have been deceived so 
long and so completely ! ' Let but that thought gain 
entrance, and you plead before a deaf tribunal. 
Appeal to the past ; why, that is your crime ! 
Make all clear, convince the reason ; alas ! specious- 
ness is but a proof against you. ' If you can abuse 
me now, the more likely that you have abused me from 
the first.' 

For a strong affection such moments are worth 
supporting, and they will end well ; for your advo- 
cate is in your lover's heart and speaks her own 
language ; it is not you but she herself who can 
defend and clear you of the charge. But in slighter 
intimacies, and for a less stringent union ? Indeed, 
is it worth while ? We are all incompris, only more 
or less concerned for the mischance ; all trying 
wrongly to do right ; all fawning at each other's feet 


like dumb, neglected lap-dogs. Sometimes we catch 
an eye — this is our opportunity in the ages — and we 
wag our tail with a poor smile. * Is that all ? ' All ? 
If you only knew ! But how can they know ? 
They do not love us ; the more fools we to squander 
life on the indifferent. 

But the morality of the thing, you will be glad to 
hear, is excellent ; for it is only by trying to under- 
stand others that we can get our own hearts under- 
stood ; and in matters of human feeling the clement 
judge is the most successful pleader. 




''You know my mother now and then argues very notably; always 
very warmly at least. I happen often to differ from her ; and we both 
think so well of our own arguments, that we very seldom are so happy 
as to convince one another. A pretty common case, I believe, in all 
vehement debatings. She says, I am too witty ; Anglice, too pert ; I, that 
she is too wise ; that is to say, being likewise put into English, not so 
young as she has been.' — Miss Howe to Miss Harlowe, Clarissa, vol. ii. 
Letter xiii. 

There is a strong feeling in favour of cowardly and 
prudential proverbs. The sentiments of a man while 
he is full of ardour and hope are to be received, it 
is supposed, with some qualification. But when the 
same person has ignominiously failed, and begins to 
eat up his words, he should be listened to like an 
oracle. Most of our pocket wisdom is conceived for 
the use of mediocre people, to discourage them from 
ambitious attempts, and generally console them in 
their mediocrity. And since mediocre people con- 
stitute the bulk of humanity, this is no doubt very 
properly so. But it does not follow that the one 
sort of proposition is any less true than the other, 
or that Icarus is not to be more praised, and perhaps 


more envied, than Mr. Samuel Budgett, the Success- 
ful Merchant. The one is dead, to be sure, while 
the other is still in his counting-house counting out 
his money ; and doubtless this is a consideration. 
But we have, on the other hand, some bold and 
magnanimous sayings common to high races and 
natures, which set forth the advantage of the losing 
side, and proclaim it better to be a dead lion than 
a living dog. It is difficult to fancy how the medio- 
crities reconcile such sayings with their proverbs. 
According to the latter, every lad who goes to sea 
is an egregious ass ; never to forget your umbrella 
through a long life would seem a higher and wiser 
flight of achievement than to go smiling to the 
stake ; and so long as you are a bit of a coward, 
and inflexible in money matters, you fulfil the whole 
duty of man. 

It is a still more difficult consideration for our 
average men, that while all their teachers, from 
Solomon down to Benjamin Franklin and the un- 
godly Binney, have inculcated the same ideal of 
manners, caution, and respectability, those characters 
in history who have most notoriously flown in the 
face of such precepts are spoken of in hyperbolical 
terms of praise, and honoured with public monu- 
ments in the streets of our commercial centres. 
This is very bewildering to the moral sense. You 
have Joan of Arc, who left a humble but honest 
and reputable livelihood under the eyes of her 
parents, to go a-colonelling, in the company of 
rowdy soldiers, against the enemies of France ; surely 



a melancholy example for one's daughters! And 
then you have Columbus, who may have pioneered 
America, but, when all is said, was a most imprudent 
navigator. His life is not the kind of thing one 
would like to put into the hands of young people ; 
rather, one would do one's utmost to keep it from 
then- knowledge, as a red flag of adventure and dis- 
integrating influence in life. The time would fail 
me if I were to recite all the big names in history 
whose exploits are perfectly irrational, and even 
shocking, to the business mind. The incongruity is 
speaking; and I imagine it must engender among 
the mediocrities a very peculiar attitude towards the 
nobler and showier sides of national life. They will 
read of the Charge of Balaclava in much the same 
spirit as they assist at a performance of the Lyons 
Mail. Persons of substance take in the Times and 
sit composedly in pit or boxes according to the 
degree of their prosperity in business. As for the 
generals who go galloping up and down among bomb- 
shells in absurd cocked hats — as for the actors who 
raddle their faces and demean themselves for hire 
upon the stage — they must belong, thank God ! to 
a different order of beings, whom we watch as we 
watch the clouds careering in the windy, bottomless 
inane, or read about like characters in ancient and 
rather fabulous annals. Our offspring would no more 
think of copying their behaviour, let us hope, than 
of doffing their clothes and painting themselves blue 
in consequence of certain admissions in the first 
chapter of their school history of England. 


Discredited as they are in practice, the cowardly 
proverbs hold their own in theory ; and it is another 
instance of the same spirit, that the opinions of old 
men about life have been accepted as final. All 
sorts of allowances are made for the illusions of 
youth ; and none, or almost none, for the disen- 
chantments of age. It is held to be a good taunt, 
and somehow or other to clinch the question logically, 
when an old gentleman waggles his head and says : 
'Ah, so I thought when I was your age.' It is not 
thought an answer at all, if the young man retorts : 
' My venerable sir, so I shall most probably think 
when I am yours.' And yet the one is as good as 
the other : pass for pass, tit for tat, a Roland for an 

' Opinion in good men,' says Milton, ' is but 
knowledge in the making.' All opinions, properly 
so caUed, are stages on the road to truth. It does 
not follow that a man will travel any further ; but 
if he has reaUy considered the world and drawn a 
conclusion, he has travelled as far. This does not 
apply to formulse got by rote, which are stages on 
the road to nowhere but second childhood and the 
grave. To have a catchword in your mouth is not 
the same thing as to hold an opinion ; still less is it 
the same thing as to have made one for yourself. 
There are too many of these catchwords in the 
world for people to rap out upon you like an oath 
and by way of an argument. They have a currency 
as intellectual counters ; and many respectable 
persons pay their way with nothing else. They 



seem to stand for vague bodies of theory in the 
background. The imputed virtue of folios full of 
knockdown arguments is supposed to reside in them, 
just as some of the majesty of the British Empire 
dwells in the constable's truncheon. They are used 
in pure superstition, as old clodhoppers spoil Latin 
by way of an exorcism. And yet they are vastly 
serviceable for checking unprofitable discussion and 
stopping the mouths of babes and sucklings. And 
when a young man comes to a certain stage of in- 
tellectual growth, the examination of these counters 
forms a gymnastic at once amusing and fortifying 
to the mind. 

Because I have reached Paris, I am not ashamed 
of having passed through Newhaven and Dieppe. 
They were very good places to pass through, and I 
am none the less at my destination. All my old 
opinions were only stages on the way to the one I 
now hold, as itself is only a stage on the way to 
something else. I am no more abashed at having 
been a red-hot Socialist with a panacea of my own 
than at having been a sucking infant. Doubtless 
the world is quite right in a million ways ; but you 
have to be kicked about a little to convince you of 
the fact. And in the meanwhile you must do sopie- 
thing, be something, believe something. It is not 
possible to keep the mind in a state of accurate 
balance and blank ; and even if you could do so, 
instead of coming ultimately to the right conclusion, 
you would be very apt to remain in a state of 
balance and blank to perpetuity. Even in quite 


intermediate stages, a dash of enthusiasm is not a 
thing to be ashamed of in the retrospect : if St. 
Paul had not been a very zealous Pharisee, he would 
have been a colder Christian. For my part, I look 
back to the time when I was a Socialist with some- 
thing like regret. I have convinced myself (for the 
moment) that we had better leave these great 
changes to what we call great blind forces ; their 
bUndness being so much more perspicacious than 
the Uttle, peering, partial eyesight of men. I seem 
to see that my own scheme would not answer ; and 
all the other schemes I ever heard propounded would 
depress some elements of goodness just as much as 
they encouraged others. Now I know that in thus 
turning Conservative with years, I am going through 
the normal cycle of change and travelling in the 
common orbit of men's opinions. I submit to this, 
as I would submit to gout or grey hair, as a con- 
comitant of growing age or else of failing animal 
heat ; but I do not acknowledge that it is necessarily 
a change for the better — I daresay it is deplorably 
for the worse, I have no choice in the business, 
and can no more resist this tendency of my mind 
than I could prevent my body from beginning to 
totter and decay. If I am spared (as the phrase 
runs) I shall doubtless outlive some troublesome 
desires ; but I am in no hurry about that ; nor, 
when the time comes, shall I plume myself on the 
immunity. Just in the same way, I do not greatly 
pride myself on having outlived my belief in the 
fairy tales of Socialism. Old people have faults of 

II — E 65 


their own ; they tend to become cowardly, niggardly, 
and suspicious. Whether from the growth of ex- 
perience or the decline of animal heat, I see that age 
leads to these and certain other faults ; and it follows, 
of course, that while in one sense I hope I am 
journeying towards the truth, in another I am in- 
dubitably posting towards these forms and sources 
of error. 

As we go catching and catching at this or that 
corner of knowledge, now getting a foresight of 
generous possibilities, now chilled with a glimpse 
of prudence, we may compare the headlong course of 
our years to a swift torrent in which a man is carried 
away ; now he is dashed against a boulder, now he 
grapples for a moment to a trailing spray ; at the 
end, he is hurled out and overwhelmed in a dark and 
bottomless ocean. We have no more than glimpses 
and touches ; we are torn away from our theories ; 
we are spun round and round and shown this or the 
other view of life, until only fools or knaves can hold 
to their opinions. We take a sight at a condition 
in life, and say we have studied it; our most 
elaborate view is no more than an impression. If 
we had breathing space, we should take the occasion 
to modify and adjust ; but at this breakneck hurry, 
we are no sooner boys than we are adult, no sooner 
in love than married or jilted, no sooner one age 
than we begin to be another, and no sooner in the 
fulness of our manhood than we begin to decline 
towards the grave. It is in vain to seek for con- 
sistency or expect clear and stable views in a medium 


so perturbed and fleeting. This is no cabinet science, 
in which things are tested to a scruple ; we theorise 
with a pistol to our head ; we are confronted with a 
new set of conditions on which we have not only to 
pass a judgment, but to take action, before the hour 
is at an end. And we cannot even regard ourselves 
as a constant ; in this flux of things, our identity 
itself seems in a perpetual variation ; and not in- 
frequently we find our own disguise the strangest 
in the masquerade. In the course of time we grow 
to love things we hated and hate things we loved. 
Milton is not so dull as he once was, nor perhaps 
Ains worth so amusing. It is decidedly harder to 
climb trees, and not nearly so hard to sit still. 
There is no use pretending ; even the thrice royal 
game of hide-and-seek has somehow lost in zest. 
All our attributes are modified or changed ; and it 
will be a poor account of us if our views do not 
modify and change in a proportion. To hold the 
same views at forty as we held at twenty is to have 
been stupefied for a score of years, and take rank, 
not as a prophet, but as an unteachable brat, well 
birched and none the wiser. It is as if a ship captain 
should sail to India from the Port of London ; and, 
having brought a chart of the Thames on deck at 
his first setting out, should obstinately use no other 
for the whole voyage. 

And mark you, it would be no less foolish to 
begin at Gravesend with a chart of the Red Sea. 
Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait, is a very 
pretty sentiment, but not necessarily right. In five 



cases out of ten, it is not so much that the young 
people do not know, as that they do not choose. 
There is something irreverent in the speculation, 
but perhaps the want of power has more to do with 
the wise resolutions of age than we are always will- 
ing to admit. It would be an instructive experi- 
ment to make an old man young again and leave 
him all his savoir. I scarcely think he would put 
his money in the Savings Bank after all ; I doubt 
if he would be such an admirable son as we are led 
to expect ; and as for his conduct in love, I believe 
firmly he would out-Herod Herod, and put the 
whole of his new compeers to the blush. Prudence is 
a wooden Juggernaut, before whom Benjamin Frank- 
lin walks with the portly air of a high priest, and 
after whom dances many a successful merchant in 
the character of Atys. But it is not a deity to 
cultivate in youth. If a man lives to any consider- 
able age, it cannot be denied that he laments his 
imprudences, but I notice he often laments his 
youth a deal more bitterly and with a more genuine 

It is customary to say that age should be con- 
sidered, because it comes last. It seems just as 
much to the point that youth comes first. And 
the scale fairly kicks the beam, if you go on to add 
that age, in a majority of cases, never comes at all. 
Disease and accident make short work of even the 
most prosperous persons ; death costs nothing, and 
the expense of a headstone is an inconsiderable trifle 
to the happy heir. To be suddenly snuffed out in 


the middle of ambitious schemes is tragical enough 
at best ; but when a man has been grudging himself 
his own hfe in the meanwhile, and saving up every- 
thing for the festival that was never to be, it be- 
comes that hysterically moving sort of tragedy which 
lies on the confines of farce. The victim is dead — 
and he has cunningly overreached himself : a com- 
bination of calamities none the less absurd for being 
grim. To husband a favourite claret until the batch 
turns sour is not at all an artful stroke of policy ; 
and how much more with a whole cellar — a whole 
bodily existence ! People may lay down their lives 
with cheerfulness in the sure expectation of a blessed 
immortality ; but that is a different affair from giving 
up youth, with all its admirable pleasures, in the 
hope of a better quahty of gruel in a more than 
problematical, nay, more than improbable, old age. 
We should not compliment a hungry man who 
should refuse a whole dinner and reserve all his 
appetite for the dessert, before he knew whether 
there was to be any dessert or not. If there be such 
a thing as imprudence in the world, we surely have 
it here. We sail in leaky bottoms and on great and 
perilous waters ; and to take a cue from the dolorous 
old naval ballad, we have heard the mermaids sing- 
ing, and know that we shall never see dry land any 
more. Old and young, we are all on our last cruise. 
If there is a fill of tobacco among the crew, for 
God's sake pass it round, and let us have a pipe 
before we go ! 

Indeed, by the report of our elders, this nervous 



preparation for old age is only trouble thrown away. 
We fall on guard, and after all it is a friend who 
comes to meet us. After the sun is down and the 
west faded, the heavens begin to fill with shining 
stars. So, as we grow old, a sort of equable jog- 
trot of feeling is substituted for the violent ups and 
downs of passion and disgust ; the same influence 
that restrains our hopes quiets our apprehensions ; if 
the pleasures are less intense, the troubles are milder 
and more tolerable ; and in a word, this period for 
which we are asked to hoard up everything as for 
a time of famine, is, in its own right, the richest, 
easiest, and happiest of life. Nay, by managing its 
own work and following its own happy inspiration, 
youth is doing the best it can to endow the leisure 
of age. A full, busy youth is your only prelude to 
a self-contained and independent age ; and the mufl* 
inevitably develops into the bore. There are not 
many Doctor Johnsons, to set forth upon their first 
romantic voyage at sixty-four. If we wish to scale 
Mont Blanc, or visit a thieves' kitchen in the East 
End, to go down in a diving-dress or up in a balloon, 
we must be about it while we are still young. It 
will not do to delay until we are clogged with 
prudence and limping with rheumatism, and people 
begin to ask us : ' What does Gravity out of bed ? ' 
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 different nations ; to hear the 
chimes at midnight ; 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 fire, and wait all day long in the theatre 
to applaud Hernani. There is some meaning in the 
old theory about wild oats ; and a man who has not 
had his green-sickness and got done with it for good 
is as little to be depended on as an unvaccinated 
infant. ' It is extraordinary,' says Lord Beacons- 
field, one of the brightest and best preserved of 
youths up to the date of his last novel,i * it is ex- 
traordinary how hourly and how violently change 
the feelings of an inexperienced young man.' And 
this mobility is a special talent intrusted to his 
care ; a sort of indestructible virginity ; a magic 
armour, with which he can pass unhurt through 
great dangers and come unbedaubed out of the 
miriest passages. Let him voyage, speculate, see 
all that he can, do all that he may ; his soul has as 
many fives as a cat; he will live in all weathers, 
and never be a halfpenny the worse. Those who go 
to the devil in youth, with anything like a fair 
chance, were probably little worth saving from the 
first ; they must have been feeble fellows — creatures 
made of putty and packthread, without steel or fire, 
anger or true joyfulness, in their composition ; we 
may sympathise with their parents, but there is not 
much cause to go into mourning for themselves ; 
for, to be quite honest, the weak brother is the worst 
of mankind. 

When the old man waggles his head and says, 
'Ah, so I thought when I was your age,' he has 

^ Lothair. 



proved the youth's case. Doubtless, whether from 
growth of experience or decline of animal heat, he 
thinks so no longer ; but he thought so while he was 
young ; and all men have thought so while they were 
young, since there was dew in the morning or haw- 
thorn in May; and here is another young man 
adding his vote to those of previous generations 
and riveting another link to the chain of testimony. 
It is as natural and as right for a young man to be 
imprudent and exaggerated, to live in swoops and 
circles, and beat about his cage like any other wild 
thing newly captured, as it is for old men to turn 
grey, or mothers to love their offspring, or heroes to 
die for something worthier than their lives. 

By way of an apologue for the aged, when they 
feel more than usually tempted to offer their advice, 
let me recommend the following little tale. A child 
who had been remarkably fond of toys (and in par- 
ticular of lead soldiers) found himself growing to the 
level of acknowledged boyhood without any abate- 
ment of this childish taste. He was thirteen ; 
already he had been taunted for dallying over-long 
about the playbox ; he had to blush if he was found 
among his lead soldiers ; the shades of the prison- 
house were closing about him with a vengeance. 
There is nothing more difficult than to put the 
thoughts of children into the language of their 
elders ; but this is the effect of his meditations at 
this juncture : ' Plainly,' he said, ' I must give up 
my playthings, in the meanwhile, since I am not in 
a position to secure myself against idle jeers. At 


the same time, I am sure that playthings are the 
very pick of hfe ; all people give them up out of the 
same pusillanimous respect for those who are a little 
older ; and if they do not return to them as soon as 
they can, it is only because they grow stupid and 
forget. I shall be wiser ; I shall conform for a little 
to the ways of their foolish world ; but so soon as 
I have made enough money, I shall retire and shut 
myself up among my playthings until the day I die.' 
Nay, as he was passing in the train along the Esterel 
mountains between Cannes and Frejus, he remarked 
a pretty house in an orange garden at the angle of a 
bay, and decided that this should be his Happy 
Valley. Astrsea Redux ; childhood was to come 
again ! The idea has an air of simple nobility to 
me, not unworthy of Cincinnatus. And yet, as the 
reader has probably anticipated, it is never likely to 
be carried into effect. There was a worm i' the bud, 
a fatal error in the premises. Childhood must pass 
away, and then youth, as surely as age approaches. 
The true wisdom is to be always seasonable, and to 
change with a good grace in changing circumstances. 
To love playthings well as a child, to lead an adven- 
turous and honourable youth, and to settle, when the 
time arrives, into a green and smiling age, is to be a 
good artist in life and deserve well of yourself and 
your neighbour. 

You need repent none of your youthful vagaries. 
They may have been over the score on one side, just 
as those of age are probably over the score on the 
other. But they had a point ; they not only befitted 



your age and expressed its attitude and passions, but 
they had a relation to what was outside of you, and 
impHed criticisms on the existing state of things, 
which you need not allow to have been undeserved, 
because you now see that they were partial. All 
error, not merely verbal, is a strong way of stating 
that the current truth is incomplete. The follies of 
youth have a basis in sound reason, just as much as 
the embarrassing questions put by babes and suck- 
lings. Their most anti-social acts indicate the defects 
of our society. When the torrent sweeps the man 
against a boulder, you must expect him to scream, 
and you need not be surprised if the scream is some- 
times a theory. Shelley, chafing at the Church of 
England, discovered the cure of all evils in universal 
atheism. Generous lads irritated at the injustices of 
society see nothing for it but the abohshment of 
everything and Kingdom Come of anarchy. Shelley 
was a young fool ; so are these cocksparrow revolu- 
tionaries. But it is better to be a fool than to be 
dead. It is better to emit a scream in the shape of 
a theory than to be entirely insensible to the jars 
and incongruities of life, and take everything as it 
comes in a forlorn stupidity. Some people swallow 
the universe like a pill ; they travel on through the 
world, like smiling images pushed from behind. For 
God's sake give me the young man who has brains 
enough to make a fool of himself! As for the others, 
the irony of facts shall take it out of their hands, and 
make fools of them in downright earnest, ere the 
farce be over. There shall be such a mopping and a 



mowing at the last day, and such blushing and con- 
fusion of countenance for all those who have been 
wise in their own esteem, and have not learnt the 
rough lessons that youth hands on to age. If we 
are indeed here to perfect and complete our own 
natures, and grow larger, stronger, and more sym- 
pathetic against some nobler career in the future, we 
had all best bestir ourselves to the utmost while we 
have the time. To equip a dull, respectable person 
with wings would be but to make a parody of an 

In short, if youth is not quite right in its opinions, 
there is a strong probability that age is not much 
more so. Undying hope is co-ruler of the human 
bosom with infallible credulity. A man finds he has 
been wrong at every preceding stage of his career, 
only to deduce the astonishing conclusion that he is 
at last entirely right. Mankind, after centuries of 
failure, are still upon the eve of a thoroughly con- 
stitutional millennium. Since we have explored the 
maze so long without result, it follows, for poor 
human reason, that we cannot have to explore much 
longer ; close by must be the centre, with a cham- 
pagne luncheon and a piece of ornamental water. 
How if there were no centre at all, but just one 
alley after another, and the whole world a labyrinth 
without end or issue ? 

I overheard the other day a scrap of conversation, 
which I take the liberty to reproduce. ' What I 
advance is true,' said one. 'But not the whole 
truth,' answered the other. ' Sir,' returned the first 



(and it seemed to me there was a smack of Dr. 
Johnson in the speech), ' Sir, there is no such thing 
as the whole truth ! ' Indeed, there is nothing so 
evident in life as that there are two sides to a 
question. History is one long illustration. The 
forces of nature are engaged, day by day, in cudgel- 
ling it into our backward intelligences. We never 
pause for a moment's consideration, but we admit it 
as an axiom. An enthusiast sways humanity exactly 
by disregarding this great truth, and dinning it into 
our ears that this or that question has only one pos- 
sible solution ; and your enthusiast is a fine florid 
fellow, dominates things for a while and shakes the 
world out of a doze ; but when once he is gone, an 
army of quiet and uninfluential people set to work 
to remind us of the other side and demolish the 
generous imposture. While Calvin is putting every- 
body exactly right in his Institutes, and hot-headed 
Knox is thundering in the pulpit, Montaigne is 
already looking at the other side in his library in 
Perigord, and predicting that they will find as much 
to quarrel about in the Bible as they had found 
already in the Church. Age may have one side, but 
assuredly Youth has the other. There is nothing 
more certain than that both are right, except per- 
haps that both are wrong. Let them agree to differ ; 
for who knows but what agreeing to differ may 
not be a form of agreement rather than a form of 
difference ? 

I suppose it is written that any one who sets up 
for a bit of a philosopher must contradict himself to 


his very face. For here have I fairly talked myself 
into thinking that we have the whole thing before 
us at last ; that there is no answer to the mystery, 
except that there are as many as you please ; that 
there is no centre to the maze because, like the 
famous sphere, its centre is everywhere ; and that 
agreeing to differ with every ceremony of poHteness, 
is the only ' one undisturbed song of pure concent ' 
to which we are ever likely to lend our musical 



' BoswELii : We grow weary when idle. 

' Johnson : That is, sir, because others being busy, we want company ; 
but if we were idle, there would be no growing weary ; we should all 
entertain one another." 

Just now, when every one is bound, under pain of a 
decree in absence convicting them of /^^^-respecta- 
bihty, to enter on some lucrative profession, and 
labour therein with something not far short of 
enthusiasm, a cry from the opposite party who are 
content when they have enough, and like to look 
on and enjoy in the meanwhile, savours a little of 
bravado and gasconade. And yet this should not 
be. Idleness so called, which does not consist in 
doing nothing, but in doing a great deal not recog- 
nised in the dogmatic formularies of the ruling class, 
has as good a right to state its position as industry 
itself. It is admitted that the presence of people 
who refuse to enter in the great handicap race for 
sixpenny-pieces is at once an insult and a disen- 
chantment for those who do. A fine fellow (as we 



see so many) takes his determination, votes for the 
sixpences, and in the emphatic Americanism, ' goes 
for' them. And while such an one is ploughing 
distressfully up the road, it is not hard to under- 
stand his resentment when he perceives cool persons 
in the meadows by the wayside, lying with a hand- 
kerchief over their ears and a glass at their elbow. 
Alexander is touched in a very delicate place by 
the disregard of Diogenes. Where was the glory 
of having taken Rome, for those tumultuous bar- 
barians who poured into the Senate-house, and 
found the Fathers sitting silent and unmoved by 
their success ? It is a sore thing to have laboured 
along and scaled the arduous hill-tops, and when all 
is done, find humanity indifferent to your achieve- 
ment. Hence physicists condemn the unphysical ; 
financiers have only a superficial toleration for those 
who know little of stocks ; literary persons despise 
the unlettered ; and people of all pursuits combine 
to disparage those who have none. 

But though this is one difficulty of the subject, it 
is not the greatest. You could not be put in prison 
for speaking against industry, but you can be sent 
to Coventry for speaking like a fool. The greatest 
difficulty with most subjects is to do them well; 
therefore, please to remember this is an apology. 
It is certain that much may be judiciously argued 
in favour of diligence ; only there is, something to 
be said against it, and that is what, on the present 
occasion, I have to say. To state one argument is 
not necessarily to be deaf to all others, and that a 



man has written a book of travels in Montenegro 
is no reason why he should never have been to 

It is surely beyond a doubt that people should be 
a good deal idle in youth. For though here and 
there a Lord Macaulay may escape from school 
honours with all his wits about him, most boys pay 
so dear for their medals that they never afterwards 
have a shot in their locker, and begin the world 
bankrupt. And the same holds true during all the 
time a lad is educating himself, or suffering others to 
educate him. It must have been a very foolish old 
gentleman who addressed Johnson at Oxford in these 
words : ' Young man, ply your book diligently now, 
and acquire a stock of knowledge ; for when years 
come upon you, you will find that poring upon 
books will be but an irksome task.' The old gentle- 
man seems to have been unaware that many other 
things besides reading grow irksome, and not a few 
become impossible, by the time a man has to use 
spectacles and cannot walk without a stick. Books 
are good enough in their own way, but they are a 
mighty bloodless substitute for life. It seems a pity 
to sit, like the Lady of Shalott, peering into a mirror, 
with your back turned on all the bustle and glamour 
of reality. And if a man reads very hard, as the old 
anecdote reminds us, he will have little time for 

If you look back on your own education, I am 
sure it wiU not be the full, vivid, instructive hours 
of truantry that you regret ; you would rather cancel 


some lack-lustre periods between sleep and waking 
in the class. For my own part, I have attended a 
good many lectures in my time. I still remember 
that the spinning of a top is a case of Kinetic Sta- 
bility. I still remember that Emphyteusis is not a 
disease, nor Stillicide a crime. But though I would 
not willingly part with such scraps of science, I do 
not set the same store by them as by certain other 
odds and ends that I came by in the open street 
while I was playing truant. This is not the moment 
to dilate on that mighty place of education, which 
was the favourite school of Dickens and of Balzac, 
and turns out yearly many inglorious masters in the 
Science of the Aspects of Life. Suffice it to say 
this : if a lad does not learn in the streets, it is 
because he has no faculty of learning. Nor is the 
truant always in the streets, for, if he prefers, he may 
go out by the gardened suburbs into the country. 
He may pitch on some tuft of lilacs over a burn, and 
smoke innumerable pipes to the tune of the water on 
the stones. A bird will sing in the thicket. And 
there he may fall into a vein of kindly thought, and 
see things in a new perspective. Why, if this be 
not education, what is ? We may conceive Mr. 
Worldly Wiseman accosting such an one, and the 
conversation that should thereupon ensue : — - 

' How now, young fellow, what dost thou here ? ' 

' Truly, sir, I take mine ease.' 

' Is not this the hour of the class ? and shouldst 
thou not be plying thy Book with diligence, to the 
end thou mayest obtain knowledge ? ' 

II — F 8 1 


* Nay, but thus also I follow after Learning, by 
your leave.' 

' Learning, quotha ! After what fashion, I pray 
thee ? Is it mathematics ? ' 
'No, to be sure.' 

* Is it metaphysics ? ' 
'Nor that.' 

' Is it some language ? ' 

' Nay, it is no language.' 

' Is it a trade ? ' 

' Nor a trade neither.' 

' Why, then, what is 't ? ' 

' Indeed, sir, as a time may soon come for me to 
go upon Pilgrimage, I am desirous to note what is 
commonly done by persons in my case, and where 
are the ugliest Sloughs and Thickets on the Road ; 
as also, what manner of Staff is of the best service. 
Moreover, I lie here, by this water, to learn, by 
root-of-heart, a lesson which my master teaches me 
to call Peace, or Contentment.' 

Hereupon Mr. Worldly Wiseman was much 
commoved with passion, and, shaking his cane Avith 
a very threatful countenance, broke forth upon this 
wise : ' Learning, quotha ! ' said he ; ' I would have 
all such rogues scourged by the Hangman ! ' 

And so he would go on his way, ruffling out his 
cravat with a crackle of starch, like a turkey when 
it spreads its feathers. 

Now this, of Mr. Wiseman's, is the common 
opinion. A fact is not called a fact, but a piece of 
gossip, if it does not fall into one of your scholastic 


categories. An inqviiry must be in some acknow- 
ledged direction, with a name to go by ; or else you 
are not inquiring at all, only lounging; and the 
workhouse is too good for you. It is supposed that 
all knowledge is at the bottom of a well, or the far 
end of a telescope. Sainte-Beuve, as he grew older, 
came to regard all experience as a single great book, 
in which to study for a few years ere we go hence ; 
and it seemed all one to him whether you should 
read in Chapter xx., which is the differential cal- 
culus, or in Chapter xxxix., which is hearing the 
band play in the gardens. As a matter of fact, an 
intelligent person looking out of his eyes and 
hearkening in his ears, with a smile on his face all 
the time, will get more true education than many 
another in a life of heroic vigils. There is certainly 
some chill and arid knowledge to be found upon the 
summits of formal and laborious science ; but it is 
all round about you, and for the trouble of looking, 
that you will acquire the warm and palpitating facts 
of life. While others are filling their memory with 
a lumber of words, one-half of which they will 
forget before the week be out, your truant may 
learn some really useful art : to play the fiddle, to 
know a good cigar, or to speak with ease and oppor- 
tunity to all varieties of men. Many who have 
'plied their book diligently,' and know all about 
some one branch or another of accepted lore, come 
out of the study with an ancient and owl-like 
demeanour, and prove dry, stockish, and dyspeptic 
in all the better and brighter parts of life. Many 



make a large fortune, who remain underbred and 
pathetically stupid to the last. And meantime there 
goes the idler, who began life along with them — by 
your leave, a different picture. He has had time to 
take care of his health and his spirits ; he has been 
a great deal in the open air, which is the most 
salutary of all things for both body and mind ; and 
if he has never read the great Book in very recondite 
places, he has dipped into it and skimmed it over to 
excellent purpose. Might not the student afford 
some Hebrew roots, and the business man some of 
his half-crowns, for a share of the idler's knowledge 
of life at large and Art of Living ? Nay, and the 
idler has another and more important quahty than 
these. I inean his wisdom. He who has much 
looked on at the childish satisfaction of other people 
in their hobbies will regard his own with only a 
very ironical indulgence. He will not be heard 
among the dogmatists. He will have a great and 
cool allowance for all sorts of people and opinions. 
If he finds no out-of-the-way truths, he will identify 
himself with no very burning falsehood. His way 
takes him along a by-road, not much frequented, 
but very even and pleasant, which is called Common- 
place Lane, and leads to the Belvedere of Common- 
sense. Thence he shall command an agreeable, if no 
very noble prospect; and while others behold the 
East and West, the Devil and the Sunrise, he will 
be contentedly aware of a sort of morning hour 
upon all sublunary things, with an army of shadows 
running speedily and in many different directions 


into the great daylight of Eternity. The shadows 
and the generations, the shrill doctors and the 
plangent wars, go by into ultimate silence and 
emptiness ; but underneath all this, a man may see, 
out of the Belvedere windows, much green and 
peaceful landscape ; many fireht parlours ; good 
people laughing, drinking, and making love as they 
did before the Flood or the French Revolution ; and 
the old shepherd telling his tale under the hawthorn. 
Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, 
kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality ; 
and a faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite 
and a strong sense of personal identity. There is a 
sort of dead-alive, hackneyed people about, who are 
scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of 
some conventional occupation. Bring these fellows 
into the country, or set them aboard ship, and you 
will see how they pine for their desk or their study. 
They have no curiosity ; they cannot give themselves 
over to random provocations ; they do not take 
pleasure in the exercise of their faculties for its 
own sake ; and unless Necessity lays about them 
with a stick, they will even stand still. It is no 
good speaking to such folk ; they can7iot be idle, 
their nature is not generous enough ; and they pass 
those hours in a sort of coma, which are not 
dedicated to furious moiling in the gold-mill. When 
they do not require to go to the office, when they 
are not hungry and have no mind to drink, the 
whole breathing world is a blank to them. If they 
have to wait an hour or so for a train, they fall into 



a stupid trance with their eyes open. To see them 
you would suppose there was nothing to look at and 
no one to speak with ; you would imagine they were 
paralysed or alienated; and yet very possibly they 
are hard workers in their own way, and have good 
eyesight for a flaw in a deed or a turn of the market. 
They have been to school and college, but all the 
time they had their eye on the medal ; they have 
gone about in the world and mixed with clever 
people, but all the time they were thinking of their 
own affairs. As if a man's soul were not too small 
to begin with, they have dwarfed and narrowed 
theirs by a life of all work and no play ; until here 
they are at forty, with a listless attention, a mind 
vacant of all material of amusement, and not one 
thought to rub against another, while they wait for 
the train. Before he was breeched he might have 
clambered on the boxes ; when he was twenty, he 
would have stared at the girls ; but now the pipe is 
smoked out, the snuff-box empty, and my gentle- 
man sits bolt upright upon a bench, with lamentable 
eyes. This does not appeal to me as being Success 
in Life. 

But it is not only the person himself who suffers 
from his busy habits, but his wife and children, his 
friends and relations, and down to the very people 
he sits with in a railway carriage or an omnibus. 
Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business 
is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many 
other things. And it is not by any means certain 
that a man's business is the most important thing he 


has to do. To an impartial estimate it will seem 
clear that many of the wisest, most virtuous, and 
most beneficent parts that are to be played upon the 
Theatre of Life are filled by gratuitous performers, 
and pass, among the world at large, as phases of 
idleness. For in that Theatre, not only the walk- 
ing gentlemen, singing chambermaids, and diligent 
fiddlers in the orchestra, but those who look on and 
clap their hands from the benches, do really play a 
part and fulfil important offices towards the general 
result. You are no doubt very dependent on the 
care of your lawyer and stockbroker, of the guards 
and signalmen who convey you rapidly from place 
to place, and the policemen who walk the streets for 
your protection ; but is there not a thought of 
gratitude in your heart for certain other benefactors 
who set you smiling when they fall in your way, or 
season your dinner with good company? Colonel 
Newcome helped to lose his friend's money ; Fred 
Bayham had an ugly trick of borrowing shirts ; and 
yet they were better people to fall among than Mr. 
Barnes. And though Falstafi" was neither sober nor 
very honest, I think I could name one or two long- 
faced Barabbases whom the world could better have 
done without. Hazlitt mentions that he was more 
sensible of obligation to Northcote, who had never 
done him anything he could call a service, than to 
his whole circle of ostentatious friends ; for he 
thought a good companion emphatically the greatest 
benefactor. I know there are people in the world 
who cannot feel grateful unless the favour has been 



done them at the cost of pain and difficulty. But 
this is a churlish disposition. A man may send you 
six sheets of letter-paper covered with the most 
entertaining gossip, or you may pass half an hour 
pleasantly, perhaps profitably, over an article of his ; 
do you think the service would be greater, if he had 
made the manuscript in his heart's blood, like a 
compact with the devil ? Do you really fancy you 
should be more beholden to your correspondent, if 
he had been damning you all the while for your 
importunity? Pleasures are more beneficial than 
duties because, like the quality of mercy, they are 
not strained, and they are twice blest. There must 
always be two to a kiss, and there may be a score in 
a jest ; but wherever there is an element of sacrifice, 
the favour is conferred with pain, and, among 
generous people, received with confusion. There is 
no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being 
happy. By being happy, we sow anonymous benefits 
upon the world, which remain unknown even to 
ourselves, or, when they are disclosed, surprise 
nobody so much as the benefactor. The other day, 
a ragged, barefoot boy ran down the street after a 
marble, with so jolly an air that he set every one he 
passed into a good humour ; one of these persons, 
who had been delivered from more than usually 
black thoughts, stopped the little fellow and gave 
him some money with this remark : ' You see what 
sometimes comes of looking pleased.' If he had 
looked pleased before, he had now to look both 
pleased and mystified. For my part, I justify this 


encouragement of smiling rather than tearful chil- 
dren ; I do not wish to pay for tears anywhere but 
upon the stage ; but I am prepared to deal largely 
in the opposite commodity. A happy man or 
woman is a better thing to find than a five-pound 
note. He or she is a radiating focus of goodwill ; 
and their entrance into a room is as though another 
candle had been lighted. We need not care whether 
they could prove the forty-seventh proposition ; they 
do a better thing than that, they practically de- 
monstrate the great Theorem of the Liveableness of 
Life. Consequently, if a person cannot be happy 
without remaining idle, idle he should remain. It is 
a revolutionary precept ; but thanks to hunger and 
the workhouse, one not easily to be abused ; and, 
within practical limits, it is one of the most incon- 
testable truths in the whole Body of Morality. 
Look at one of your industrious fellows for a 
moment, I beseech you. He sows hurry and reaps 
indigestion ; he puts a vast deal of activity out to 
interest, and receives a large measure of nervous 
derangement in return. Either he absents himself 
entirely from all fellowship, and lives a recluse in a 
garret, with carpet slippers and a leaden inkpot ; or 
he comes among people swiftly and bitterly, in a 
contraction of his whole nervous system, to discharge 
some temper before he returns to work. I do not 
care how much or how well he works, this fellow is 
an evil feature in other people's lives. They would 
be happier if he were dead. They could easier do 
without his services in the Circumlocution Office, 



than they can tolerate his fractious spirits. He 
poisons hfe at the well-head. It is better to be 
beggared out of hand by a scapegrace nephew, than 
daily hag-ridden by a peevish uncle. 

And what, in God's name, is all this pother about ? 
For what cause do they embitter their own and 
other people's lives ? That a man should publish 
three or thirty articles a year, that he should finish 
or not finish his great allegorical picture, are ques- 
tions of little interest to the world. The ranks of 
life are full ; and although a thousand fall, there are 
always some to go into the breach. When they 
told Joan of Arc she should be at home minding 
women's work, she answered there were plenty to 
spin and wash. And so, even with your own rare 
gifts ! When nature is * so careless of the single 
life,' why should we coddle ourselves into the fancy 
that our own is of exceptional importance ? Suppose 
Shakespeare had been knocked on the head some 
dark night in Sir Thomas Lucy's preserves, the 
world would have wagged on better or worse, the 
pitcher gone to the well, the scythe to the corn, and 
the student to his book ; and no one been any the 
wiser of the loss. There are not many works extant, 
if you look the alternative all over, which are worth 
the price of a pound of tobacco to a man of limited 
means. This is a sobering reflection for the proudest 
of our earthly vanities. Even a tobacconist may, 
upon consideration, find no great cause for personal 
vainglory in the phrase ; for although tobacco is an 
admirable sedative, the qualities necessary for retail- 


ing it are neither rare nor precious in themselves. 
Alas and alas ! you may take it how you will, but 
the services of no single individual are indispensable. 
Atlas was just a gentleman with a protracted night- 
mare ! And yet you see merchants who go and 
labour themselves into a great fortune and thence 
into the bankruptcy court; scribblers who keep 
scribbling at little articles until their temper is a 
cross to all who come about them, as though 
Pharaoh should set the Israelites to make a pin 
instead of a pyramid; and fine young men who 
work themselves into a decline, and are driven off in 
a hearse with white plumes upon it. Would you 
not suppose these persons had been whispered, by 
the Master of the Ceremonies, the promise of some 
momentous destiny ? and that this lukewarm bullet 
on which they play their farces was the bull's-eye 
and centrepoint of all the universe ? And yet it is 
not so. The ends for which they give away their 
priceless youth, for all they know, may be chimerical 
or hurtful; the glory and riches they expect may 
never come, or may find them indifferent ; and they 
and the world they inhabit are so inconsiderable that 
the mind freezes at the thovight. 




By a curious irony of fate, the places to which we 
are sent when health deserts us are often singularly 
beautiful. Often, too, they are places we have 
visited in former years, or seen briefly in passing by, 
and kept ever afterwards in pious memory ; and we 
please ourselves with the fancy that we shall repeat 
many vivid and pleasurable sensations, and take up 
again the thread of our enjoyment in the same spirit 
as we let it fall. We shall now have an opportunity 
of finishing many pleasant excursions, interrupted of 
yore before our curiosity was fully satisfied. It may 
be that we have kept in mind, during all these years, 
the recollection of some valley into which we have 
just looked down for a moment before we lost sight 
of it in the disorder of the hills ; it may be that we 
have lain awake at night, and agreeably tantalised 
ourselves with the thought of corners we had never 
turned, or summits we had all but climbed : we shall 
now be able, as we tell ourselves, to complete all 
these unfinished pleasures, and pass beyond the 
barriers that confined our recollections. 


The promise is so great, and we are all so easily 
led away when hope and memory are both in one 
story, that I daresay the sick man is not very incon- 
solable when he receives sentence of banishment, 
and is inclined to regard his ill-health as not the 
least fortunate accident of his life. Nor is he imme- 
diately undeceived. The stir and speed of the 
journey, and the restlessness that goes to bed with 
him as he tries to sleep between two days of noisy 
progress, fever him, and stimulate his dull nerves into 
something of their old quickness and sensibility. 
And so he can enjoy the faint autumnal splendour 
of the landscape, as he sees hill and plain, vineyard 
and forest, clad in one wonderful glory of fairy gold, 
which the first great winds of winter will transmute, 
as in the fable, into withered leaves. And so too he 
can enjoy the admirable brevity and simplicity of 
such little glimpses of country and country ways as 
flash upon him through the windows of the train ; 
little glimpses that have a character all their own ; 
sights seen as a travelling swallow might see them 
from the wing, or Iris as she went abroad over the 
land on some Olympian errand. Here and there, 
indeed, a few children huzzah and wave their hands 
to the express ; but for the most part, it is an inter- 
ruption too brief and isolated to attract much notice ; 
the sheep do not cease from browsing ; a girl sits 
balanced on the projecting tiller of a canal boat, so 
precariously that it seems as if a fly or the splash of 
a leaping fish would be enough to overthrow the 
dainty equilibrium, and yet all these hundreds of tons 



of coal and wood and iron have been precipitated 
roaring past her very ear, and there is not a start, 
not a tremor, not a turn of the averted head, to 
indicate that she has been even conscious of its pas- 
sage. Herein, I think, hes the chief attraction of 
railway travel. The speed is so easy, and the train 
disturbs so little the scenes through which it takes 
us, that our heart becomes full of the placidity and 
stillness of the country ; and while the body is borne 
forward in the flying chain of carriages, the thoughts 
alight, as the humour moves them, at unfrequented 
stations ; they make haste up the poplar alley that 
leads toward the town ; they are left behind with 
the signalman as, shading his eyes with his hand, he 
watches the long train sweep away into the golden 

Moreover, there is still before the invalid the 
shock of wonder and delight with which he wiU learn 
that he has passed the indefinable line that separates 
South from North. And this is an uncertain 
moment ; for sometimes the consciousness is forced 
upon him early, on the occasion of some slight asso- 
ciation, a colour, a flower, or a scent ; and sometimes 
not until, one fine morning, he wakes up with the 
southern sunshine peeping through the jjersien7ies, 
and the southern patois confusedly audible below the 
windows. Whether it come early or late, however, 
this pleasure will not end with the anticipation, as 
do so many others of the same family. It will leave 
him wider awake than it found him, and give a new 
significance to all he may see for many days to come. 


There is something in the mere name of the South 
that carries enthusiasm along with it. At the sound 
of the word, he pricks up his ears ; he becomes as 
anxious to seek out beauties and to get by heart the 
permanent hnes and character of the landscape, as if 
he had been told that it was all his own — an estate 
out of which he had been kept unjustly, and which 
he was now to receive in free and full possession. 
Even those who have never been there before feel as 
if they had been ; and everybody goes comparing, 
and seeking for the familiar, and finding it with such 
ecstasies of recognition, that one would think they 
were coming home after a weary absence, instead of 
travelling hourly farther abroad. 

It is only after he is fairly arrived and settled 
down in his chosen corner, that the invalid begins 
to understand the change that has befallen him. 
Everything about him is as he had remembered, or 
as he had anticipated. Here, at his feet, under his 
eyes, are the olive gardens and the blue sea. Nothing 
can change the eternal magnificence of form of the 
naked Alps behind Mentone; nothing, not even the 
crude curves of the railway, can utterly deform 
the suavity of contour of one bay after another along 
the whole reach of the Riviera. And of all this, he 
has only a cold head-knowledge that is divorced 
from enjoyment. He recognises with his intelli- 
gence that this thing and that thing is beautiful, 
while in his heart of hearts he has to confess that it 
is not beautiful for him. It is in vain that he spurs 
his discouraged spirit ; in vain that he chooses out 



points of view, and stands there, looking with all his 
eyes, and waiting for some return of the pleasure 
that he remembers in other days, as the sick folk 
may have awaited the coming of the angel at the 
pool of Bethesda. He is like an enthusiast leading 
about with him a stolid, indifferent tourist. There 
is some one by who is out of sympathy with the 
scene, and is not moved up to the measure of the 
occasion ; and that some one is himself. The world 
is disenchanted for him. He seems to himself to 
touch things with muffled hands, and to see them 
through a veil. His life becomes a palsied fumbling 
after notes that are silent when he has found and 
struck them. He cannot recognise that this phleg- 
matic and unimpressionable body with which he now 
goes burthened is the same that he knew heretofore 
so quick and delicate and ahve. 

He is tempted to lay the blame on the very soft- 
ness and amenity of the climate, and to fancy that 
in the rigours of the winter at home these dead 
emotions would revive and flourish. A longing for 
the brightness and silence of fallen snow seizes him 
at such times. He is homesick for the hale rough 
weather ; for the tracery of the frost upon his 
window-panes at morning, the reluctant descent of 
the first flakes, and the white roofs relieved against 
the sombre sky. And yet the stuff of which these 
yearnings are made is of the flimsiest : if but the 
thermometer fall a little below its ordinary Medi- 
terranean level, or a wind come down from the 
snow-clad Alps behind, the spirit of his fancies 


changes upon the instant, and many a doleful 
vignette of the grim wintry streets at home returns 
to him, and begins to haunt his memory. The hope- 
less, huddled attitude of tramps in doorways ; the 
flinching gait of barefoot children on the icy pave- 
ment ; the sheen of the rainy streets towards after- 
noon ; the meagre anatomy of the poor defined by 
the clinging of wet garments ; the high canorous 
note of the North-easter on days when the very 
houses seem to stiffen with cold : these, and such as 
these, crowd back upon him, and mockingly sub- 
stitute themselves for the fanciful winter scenes with 
which he had pleased himself a while before. He 
cannot be glad enough that he is where he is. If 
only the others could be there also ; if only those 
tramps could lie down for a little in the sunshine, 
and those children warm their feet, this once, upon 
a kindlier earth ; if only there were no cold any- 
where, and no nakedness, and no hunger ; if only it 
were as well with all men as it is with him ! 

For it is not altogether ill with the invaUd, after 
all. If it is only rarely that anything penetrates 
vividly into his numbed spirit, yet, when anything 
does, it brings with it a joy that is all the more 
poignant for its very rarity. There is something 
pathetic in these occasional returns of a glad activity 
of heart. In his lowest hours he will be stirred and 
awakened by many such ; and they will spring 
perhaps from very trivial sources ; as a friend once 
said to me, the ' spirit of delight ' comes often on 
small wings. For the pleasure that we take in 
II — G 97 


beautiful nature is essentially capricious. It comes 
sometimes when we least look for it ; and sometimes, 
when we expect it most certainly, it leaves us to 
gape joylessly for days together, in the very home- 
land of the beautiful. We may have passed a place 
a thousand times and one ; and on the thousand and 
second it will be transfigured, and stand forth in a 
certain splendour of reality from the dull circle of 
surroundings ; so that we see it ' with a child's first 
pleasure,' as Wordsworth saw the daffodils by the 
lake-side. And if this falls out capriciously with the 
healthy, how much more so with the invalid ! Some 
day he will find his first violet, and be lost in plea- 
sant wonder, by what alchemy the cold earth of the 
clods, and the vapid air and rain, can be transmuted 
into colour so rich and odour so touchingly sweet. 
Or perhaps he may see a group of washerwomen 
relieved, on a spit of shingle, against the blue sea, or 
a meeting of flower-gatherers in the tempered day- 
light of an olive-garden ; and something significant 
or monumental in the grouping, something in the 
harmony of faint colour that is always characteristic 
of the dress of these southern women, will come 
home to him unexpectedly, and awake in him that 
satisfaction with which we tell ourselves that we are 
the richer by one more beautiful experience. Or it 
may be something even slighter : as when the 
opulence of the sunshine, which somehow gets lost 
and fails to produce its effect on the large scale, is 
suddenly revealed to him by the chance isolation — 
as he changes the position of his sunshade — of a yard 


or two of roadway with its stones and weeds. And 
then, there is no end to the infinite variety of the 
olive-yards themselves. Even the colour is indeter- 
minate and continually shifting : now you would say 
it was green, now grey, now blue ; now tree stands 
above tree, like ' cloud on cloud,' massed into filmy 
indistinctness ; and now, at the wind's will, the 
whole sea of foliage is shaken and broken up with 
little momentary silverings and shadows. But every 
one sees the world in his own way. To some the 
glad moment may have arrived on other provoca- 
tions ; and their recollection may be most vivid of 
the stately gait of women carrying burthens on their 
heads ; of tropical effects, with canes and naked rock 
and sunlight ; of the relief of cypresses ; of the 
troubled, busy-looking groups of sea-pines, that 
seem always as if they were being wielded and swept 
together by a whirlwind ; of the air coming, laden 
with virginal perfumes, over the myrtles and the 
scented underwood ; of the empurpled hills standing 
up, solemn and sharp, out of the green-gold air of 
the east at evening. 

There go many elements, without doubt, to the 
making of one such moment of intense perception ; 
and it is on the happy agreement of these many 
elements, on the harmonious vibration of many 
nerves, that the whole delight of the moment must 
depend. Who can forget how, when he has chanced 
upon some attitude of complete restfulness, after 
long uneasy rolling to and fro on grass or heather, 
the whole fashion of the landscape has been changed 



for him, as though the sun had just broken forth, or 
a great artist had only then completed, by some 
cunning touch, the composition of the picture ? 
And not only a change of posture — a snatch of per- 
fume, the sudden singing of a bird, the freshness of 
some pulse of air from an invisible sea, the light 
shadow of a travelling cloud, the merest nothing that 
sends a little shiver along the most infinitesimal 
nerve of a man's body — not one of the least of these 
but has a hand somehow in the general effect, and 
brings some refinement of its own into the character 
of the pleasure we feel. 

And if the external conditions are thus varied and 
subtle, even more so are those within our own bodies. 
No man can find out the world, says Solomon, from 
beginning to end, because the world is in his heart ; 
and so it is impossible for any of us to understand, 
from beginning to end, that agreement of harmonious 
circumstances that creates in us the highest pleasure 
of admiration, precisely because some of these cir- 
cumstances are hidden from us for ever in the con- 
stitution of our own bodies. After we have reckoned 
up all that we can see or hear or feel, there still 
remains to be taken into account some sensibility 
more delicate than usual in the nerves affected, or 
some exquisite refinement in the architecture of the 
brain, which is indeed to the sense of the beautiful 
as the eye or the ear to the sense of hearing or sight. 
We admire splendid views and great pictures ; and 
yet what is truly admirable is rather the mind within 
us, that gathers together these scattered details for 



its delight, and makes out of certain colours, certain 
distributions of graduated light and darkness, that 
intelligible whole which alone we call a picture or a 
view. Hazlitt, relating in one of his essays how he 
went on foot from one great man's house to another's 
in search of works of art, begins suddenly to triumph 
over these noble and wealthy owners, because he 
was more capable of enjoying their costly possessions 
than they were ; because they had paid the money 
and he had received the pleasure. And the occasion 
is a fair one for self-complacency. While the one 
man was working to be able to buy the picture, the 
other was working to be able to enjoy the picture. 
An inherited aptitude will have been diligently 
improved in either case ; only the one man has made 
for himself a fortune, and the other has made for 
himself a living spirit. It is a fair occasion for self- 
complacency, I repeat, when the event shows a man 
to have chosen the better part, and laid out his life 
more wisely, in the long-run, than those who have 
credit for most wisdom. And yet even this is not a 
good unmixed ; and, like all other possessions, al- 
though in a less degree, the possession of a brain that 
has been thus improved and cultivated, and made into 
the prime organ of a man's enjoyment, brings with 
it certain inevitable cares and disappointments. The 
happiness of such an one comes to depend greatly 
upon those fine shades of sensation that heighten and 
harmonise the coarser elements of beauty. And thus 
a degree of nervous prostration, that to other men 
would be hardly disagreeable, is enough to overthrow 



for him the whole fabric of his hfe, to take, except at 
rare moments, the edge off his pleasures, and to meet 
him wherever he goes with failure, and the sense of 
want, and disenchantment of the world and life. 

It is not in such numbness of spirit only that the 
life of the invalid resembles a premature old age. 
Those excursions that he had promised himself to 
finish prove too long or too arduous for his feeble 
body ; and the barrier-hills are as impassable as ever. 
Many a white town that sits far out on the promon- 
tory, many a comely fold of wood on the mountain 
side, beckons and allures his imagination day after 
day, and is yet as inaccessible to his feet as the clefts 
and gorges of the clouds. The sense of distance 
grows upon him wonderfully ; and after some feverish 
efforts and the fretful uneasiness of the first few 
days, he falls contentedly in with the restrictions of 
his weakness. His narrow round becomes pleasant 
and famiUar to him as the cell to a contented 
prisoner. Just as he has fallen already out of the 
mid race of active life, he now falls out of the little 
eddy that circulates in the shallow waters of the 
sanatorium. He sees the country people come and 
go about their everyday affairs, the foreigners stream 
out in goodly pleasure parties ; the stir of man's 
activity is all about him, as he suns himself inertly 
in some sheltered corner ; and he looks on with a 
patriarchal impersonality of interest, such as a man 
may feel when he pictures to himself the fortunes of 
his remote descendants, or the robust old age of the 
oak he has planted over-night. 

I02 / 


In this falling aside, in this quietude and desertion 
of other men, there is no inharmonious prelude to 
the last quietude and desertion of the grave ; in this 
dulness of the senses there is a gentle preparation 
for the final insensibility of death. And to him the 
idea of mortality comes in a shape less violent and 
harsh than is its wont, less as an abrupt catastrophe 
than as a thing of infinitesimal gradation, and the 
last step on a long decline of way. As we turn to 
and fro in bed, and every moment the movements 
grow feebler and smaller and the attitude more rest- 
ful and easy, until sleep overtakes us at a stride and 
we move no more, so desire after desire leaves him ; 
day by day his strength decreases, and the circle of 
his activity grows ever narrower ; and he feels, if he 
is to be thus tenderly weaned from the passion of 
life, thus gradually inducted into the slumber of 
death, that when at last the end comes, it will come 
quietly and fitly. If anything is to reconcile poor 
spirits to the coming of the last enemy, surely it 
should be such a mild approach as this ; not to hale 
us forth with violence, but to persuade us from a 
place we have no further pleasure in. It is not so 
much, indeed, death that approaches as Ufe that 
withdraws and withers up from round about him. 
He has outlived his own usefulness, and almost his 
own enjoyment ; and if there is to be no recovery ; 
if never again will he be young and strong and pas- 
sionate ; if the actual present shall be to him always 
like a thing read in a book or remembered out of 
the far-away past ; if, in fact, this be veritably night- 



fall, he will not wish greatly for the continuance of a 
twilight that only strains and disappoints the eyes, 
but steadfastly await the perfect darkness. He will 
pray for Medea : when she comes, let her either 
rejuvenate or slay. 

And yet the ties that still attach him to the world 
are many and kindly. The sight of children has a 
significance for him such as it may have for the aged 
also, but not for others. If he has been used to feel 
humanely, and to look upon life somewhat more 
widely than from the narrow loophole of personal 
pleasure and advancement, it is strange how small a 
portion of his thoughts will be changed or embittered 
by this proximity of death. He knows that already, 
in English counties, the sower follows the ploughman 
up the face of the field, and the rooks follow the 
sower ; and he knows also that he may not live to 
go home again and see the corn spring and ripen, 
and be cut down at last, and brought home with 
gladness. And yet the future of this harvest, the 
continuance of drought or the coming of rain un- 
seasonably, touch him as sensibly as ever. For he 
has long been used to wait with interest the issue of 
events in which his own concern was nothing ; and 
to be joyful in a plenty, and sorrowful for a famine, 
that did not increase or diminish, by one half-loaf, 
the equable sufficiency of his own supply. Thus 
there remain unaltered all the disinterested hopes 
for mankind and a better future which have been the 
solace and inspiration of his life. These he has set 
beyond the reach of any fate that only menaces him- 


self; and it makes small difference whether he die 
five thousand years, or five thousand and fifty years, 
before the good epoch for which he faithfully labours. 
He has not deceived himself; he has known from 
the beginning that he followed the pillar of fire and 
cloud, only to perish himself in the wilderness, and 
that it was reserved for others to enter joyfully into 
possession of the land. And so, as everything grows 
greyer and quieter about him, and slopes towards 
extinction, these unfaded visions accompany his sad 
decline, and follow him, with friendly voices and 
hopeful words, into the very vestibule of death. 
The desire of love or of fame scarcely moved him, in 
his days of health, more strongly than these generous 
aspirations move him now ; and so life is carried 
forward beyond life, and a vista kept open for the 
eyes of hope, even when his hands grope already on 
the face of the impassable. 

Lastly, he is bound tenderly to life by the thought 
of his friends ; or shall we not say rather, that by 
their thought for him, by their unchangeable solici- 
tude and love, he remains woven into the very stuff 
of life, beyond the power of bodily dissolution to 
undo ? In a thousand ways will he survive and be 
perpetuated. Much of Etienne de la Boetie sur- 
vived during all the years in which Montaigne 
continued to converse with him on the pages of the 
ever-delightful essays. Much of what was truly 
Goethe was dead already when he revisited places 
that knew him no more, and found no better con- 
solation than the promise of his own verses, that 



soon he too would be at rest. Indeed, when we 
think of what it is that we most seek and cherish, 
and find most pride and pleasure in calling ours, it 
will sometimes seem to us as if our friends, at our 
decease, would suffer loss more truly than ourselves. 
As a monarch who should care more for the outlying 
colonies he knows on the map or through the report 
of his vicegerents, than for the trunk of his empire 
under his eyes at home, are we not more concerned 
about the shadowy life that we have in the hearts of 
others, and that portion in their thoughts and fancies 
which, in a certain far-away sense, belongs to us, 
than about the real knot of our identity — that 
central metropolis of self, of which alone we are 
immediately aware — or the diligent service of arteries 
and veins and infinitesimal activity of ganglia, which 
we know (as we know a proposition in Euclid) to 
be the source and substance of the whole ? At the 
death of every one whom we love, some fair and 
honourable portion of our existence falls away, and 
we are dislodged from one of these dear provinces ; 
and they are not, perhaps, the most fortunate who 
survive a long series of such impoverishments, till 
their life and influence narrow gradually into the 
meagre limit of their own spirits, and death, when 
he comes at last, can destroy them at one blow. 

Note. — To this essay I must in honesty append a word oi* two 
of qualification ; for this is one of the points on which a slightly 
greater age teaches us a slightly different wisdom : 

A youth delights in generalities, and keeps loose from particular 
obligations ; he jogs on the footpath way, himself pursuing butter- 



flies, but courteously lending his applause to the advance of the 
human species and the coming of the kingdom of justice and love. 
As he grows older, he begins to think more narrowly of man's 
action in the general, and perhaps more arrogantly of his own in 
the particular. He has not that same unspeakable trust in what 
he would have done had he been spared, seeing finally that that 
would have been little ; but he has a far higher notion of the 
blank that he will make by dying. A young man feels himself 
one too many in the world ; his is a painful situation : he has no 
calling ; no obvious utility ; no ties but to his parents, and these 
he is sure to disregard. I do not think that a proper allowance 
has been made for this true cause of suffering in youth ; but by 
the mere fact of a prolonged existence, we outgrow either the 
fact or else the feeling. Either we become so callously accus- 
tomed to our own useless figure in the world, or else — and this, 
thank God, in the majority of cases — we so collect about us the 
interest or the love of our fellows, so multiply our effective part in 
the affairs of life, that we need to entertain no longer the question 
of our right to be. 

And so in the majority of cases, a man who fancies himself 
dying will get cold comfort from the very youthful view expressed 
in this essay. He, as a living man, has some to help, some to 
love, some to correct ; it may be, some to punish. These duties 
cling, not upon humanity, but upon the man himself. It is he, 
not another, who is one woman's son and a second woman's 
husband and a third woman's father. That life which began so 
small has now grown, with a myriad filaments, into the lives of 
others. It is not indispensable ; another will take the place and 
shoulder the discharged responsibility ; but the better the man 
and the nobler his purposes, the more will he be tempted to 
regret the extinction of his powers and the deletion of his 
personality. To have lived a generation is not only to have 
grown at home in that perplexing medium, but to have assumed 
innumerable duties. To die at such an age has, for all but the 
entirely base, something of the air of a betrayal. A man does not 
only reflect upon what he might have done in a future that is 
never to be his ; but beholding himself so early a deserter from 



the fight, he eats his heart for the good he might have done 
ah-eady. To have been so useless and now to lose all hope of 
being useful any more — there it is that death and memory assail 
him. And even if mankind shall go on, founding heroic cities, 
practising heroic virtues, I'ising steadily from strength to strength ; 
even if his work shall be fulfilled, his friends consoled, his wife 
remarried by a better than he ; how shall this alter, in one jot, 
his estimation of a career which was his only business in this 
world, which was so fitfully pursued, and which is now so ineffec- 
tively to end ? 

1 08 



The changes wrought by death are in themselves so 
sharp and final, and so terrible and melancholy in 
their consequences, that the thing stands alone in 
man's experience, and has no parallel upon earth. 
It outdoes all other accidents because it is the last 
of them. Sometimes it leaps suddenly upon its 
victims, hke a Thug ; sometimes it lays a regular 
siege and creeps upon their citadel during a score of 
years. And when the business is done, there is sore 
havoc made in other people's lives, and a pin knocked 
out by which many subsidiary friendships hung 
together. There are empty chairs, solitary walks, 
and single beds at night. Again, in taking away 
our friends, death does not take them away utterly, 
but leaves behind a mocking, tragical, and soon 
intolerable residue, which must be hurriedly con- 
cealed. Hence a whole chapter of sights and 
customs striking to the mind, from the pyramids of 
Egypt to the gibbets and dule trees of medieeval 
Europe. The poorest persons have a bit of pageant 



going towards the tomb ; memorial stones are set up 
over the least memorable ; and, in order to preserve 
some show of respect for what remains of our old 
loves and friendships, we must accompany it with 
much grimly ludicrous ceremonial, and the hired 
undertaker parades before the door. All this, and 
much more of the same sort, accompanied by the 
eloquence of poets, has gone a great way to put 
humanity in error ; nay, in many philosophies the 
error has been embodied and laid down with every 
circumstance of logic ; although in real Hfe the 
bustle and swiftness, in leaving people little time to 
think, have not left them time enough to go danger- 
ously wrong in practice. 

As a matter of fact, although few things are 
spoken of with more fearful whisperings than this 
prospect of death, few have less influence on conduct 
under healthy circumstances. We have all heard 
of cities in South America built upon the side of 
fiery mountains, and how, even in this tremendous 
neighbourhood, the inhabitants are not a jot more 
impressed by the solemnity of mortal conditions 
than if they were delving gardens in the greenest 
corner of England. There are serenades and suppers 
and much gallantry among the myrtles overhead ; 
and meanwhile the foundation shudders underfoot, 
the bowels of the mountain growl, and at any 
moment living ruin may leap sky-high into the 
moonlight, and tumble man and his merry-making 
in the dust. In the eyes of very young people, and 
very dull old ones, there is something indescribably 

I lO 


reckless and desperate in such a picture. It seems 
not credible that respectable married people, with 
umbrellas, should find appetite for a bit of supper 
within quite a long distance of a fiery mountain ; 
ordinary life begins to smell of high-handed debauch 
when it is carried on so close to a catastrophe ; and 
even cheese and salad, it seems, could hardly be 
relished in such circumstances without something 
like a defiance of the Creator. It should be a 
place for nobody but hermits dwelling in prayer and 
maceration, or mere born-devils drowning care in a 
perpetual carouse. 

And yet, when one comes to think upon it calmly, 
the situation of these South American citizens forms 
only a very pale figure for the state of ordinary 
mankind. This world itself, travelhng blindly and 
swiftly in overcrowded space, among a million other 
worlds travelling blindly and swiftly in contrary 
directions, may very well come by a knock that 
would set it into explosion like a penny squib. And 
what, pathologically looked at, is the human body 
with all its organs, but a mere bagful of petards ? 
The least of these is as dangerous to the whole 
economy as the ship's powder-magazine to the ship ; 
and with every breath we breathe, and every meal 
we eat, we are putting one or more of them in peril. 
If we clung as devotedly as some philosophers 
pretend we do to the abstract idea of life, or were 
half as frightened as they make out we are, for the 
subversive accident that ends it all, the trumpets 
might sound by the hour and no one would follow 



them into battle — the blue-peter might fly at the 
truck, but who would chmb into a sea-going ship ? 
Think (if these philosophers were right) with what 
a preparation of spirit we should affront the daily 
peril of the dinner-table : a deadlier spot than any 
battle-field in history, where the far greater pro- 
portion of our ancestors have miserably left their 
bones ! What woman would ever be lured into 
marriage, so much more dangerous than the wildest 
sea ? And what would it be to grow old ? For, 
after a certain distance, every step we take in life we 
find the ice growing thinner below our feet, and all 
around us and behind us we see our contemporaries 
going through. By the time a man gets well into 
the seventies his continued existence is a mere 
miracle ; and when he lays his old bones in bed for 
the night, there is an overwhelming probability that 
he will never see the day. Do the old men mind it, 
as a matter of fact? Why,jio. They were never 
merrier ; they have their grog at night, and tell the 
raciest stories ; they hear of the death of people 
about their own age, or even younger, not as if it 
was a grisly warning, but with a simple childlike 
pleasure at having outlived some one else ; and when 
a draught might puff them out like a guttering 
candle, or a bit of a stumble shatter them like so 
much glass, their old hearts keep sound and un- 
afirighted, and they go on, bubbhng with laughter, 
through years of man's age compared to which the 
valley at Balaclava was as safe and peaceful as a 
village cricket-green on Sunday. It may fairly be 



questioned (if we look to the peril only) whether it 
was a much more daring feat for Curtius to plunge 
into the gulf, than for any old gentleman of ninety 
to doff his clothes and clamber into bed. 

Indeed, it is a memorable subject for consideration, 
with what unconcern and gaiety mankind pricks on 
along the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The 
whole way is one wilderness of snares, and the end 
of its for those who fear the last pinch, is irrevocable 
ruin. And yet we go spinning through it all, like a 
party for the Derby. Perhaps the reader remembers 
one of the humorous devices of the deified Caligula : 
how he encouraged a vast concourse of holiday- 
makers on to his bridge over Baite bay ; and when 
they were in the height of their enjoyment, turned 
loose the Praetorian guards among the company, 
and had them tossed into the sea. This is no bad 
miniature of the deahngs of nature with the tran- 
sitory race of man. Only, what a chequered picnic 
we have of it, even while it lasts ! and into what 
great waters, not to be crossed by any swimmer, 
God's pale Praetorian throws us over in the end ! 

We live the time that a match flickers ; we pop 
the cork of a ginger-beer bottle, and the earthquake 
swallows us on the instant. Is it not odd, is it not 
incongruous, is it not, in the highest sense of human 
speech, incredible, that we should think so highly of 
the ginger-beer, and regard so little the devouring 
earthquake ? The love of Life and the fear of 
Death are two famous phrases that grow harder to 
understand the more we think about them. It is a 
II — H 113 


well-known fact that an immense proportion of boat 
accidents would never happen if people held the 
sheet in their hands instead of making it fast ; and 
yet, unless it be some martinet of a professional 
mariner or some landsman with shattered nerves, 
every one of God's creatures makes it fast. A 
strange instance of man's unconcern and brazen 
boldness in the face of death ! 

We confound ourselves with metaphysical phrases, 
which we import into daily talk with noble in- 
appropriateness. We have no idea of what death 
is, apart from its circumstances and some of its con- 
sequences to others ; and although we have some 
experience of living, there is not a man on earth 
who has flown so high into abstraction as to have 
any practical guess at the meaning of the word 
life. All literature, from Job and Omar Khayam 
to Thomas Carlyle or Walt Whitman, is but an 
attempt to look upon the human state with such 
largeness of view as shall enable us to rise from 
the consideration of living to the Definition of Life. 
And our sages give us about the best satisfaction in 
their power when they say that it is a vapour, or a 
show, or made out of the same stuff" with dreams. 
Philosophy, in its more rigid sense, has been at the 
same work for ages ; and after a myriad bald heads 
have wagged over the problem, and piles of words 
have been heaped one upon another into dry and 
cloudy volumes without end, philosophy has the 
honour of laying before us, with modest pride, her 
contribution towards the subject : that life is a 


Permanent Possibility of Sensation. Truly a fine 
result ! A man may very well love beef, or hunting, 
or a woman ; but surely, surely, not a Permanent 
Possibility of Sensation ! He may be afraid of a 
precipice, or a dentist, or a large enemy with a club, 
or even an undertaker's man ; but not certainly of 
abstract death. We may trick with the word Life in 
its dozen senses until we are weary of tricking ; we 
may argue in terms of all the philosophies on earth, 
but one fact remains true throughout — that we do 
not love life, in the sense that we are greatly pre- 
occupied about its conservation ; that we do not, 
properly speaking, love life at all, but living. Into 
the views of the least careful there will enter some 
degree of providence ; no man's eyes are fixed 
entirely on the passing hour ; but although we have 
some anticipation of good health, good weather, 
wine, active employment, love, and self-approval, 
the sum of these anticipations does not amount to 
anything like a general view of life's possibilities and 
issues ; nor are those who cherish them most vividly 
at all the most scrupulous of their personal safety. 
To be deeply interested in the accidents of our 
existence, to enjoy keenly the mixed texture of 
human experience, rather leads a man to disregard 
precautions, and risk his neck against a straw. For 
surely the love of living is stronger in an Alpine 
climber roping over a peril, or a hunter riding merrily 
at a stiff fence, than in a creature who lives upon a 
diet and walks a measured distance in the interest of 
his constitution. 



There is a great deal of very vile nonsense talked 
upon both sides of the matter : tearing divines re- 
ducing life to the dimensions of a mere funeral pro- 
cession, so short as to be hardly decent ; and 
melancholy unbelievers yearning for the tomb as 
if it were a world too far away. Both sides must 
feel a little ashamed of their performances now and 
again when they draw in their chairs to dinner. 
Indeed, a good meal and a bottle of wine is an 
answer to most standard works upon the question. 
When a man's heart warms to his viands, he forgets 
a great deal of sophistry, and soars into a rosy zone 
of contemplation. Death may be knocking at the 
door, like the Commander's statue ; we have some- 
thing else in hand, thank God, and let him knock. 
Passing-bells are ringing all the world over. All 
the world over, and every hour, some one is parting 
company with all his aches and ecstasies. For us 
also the trap is laid. ^ But we are so fond of life 
that we have no leisure to entertain the terror of 
death. It is a honeymoon with us all through, and 
none of the longest. Small blame to us if we give 
our whole hearts to this glowing bride of ours, to 
the appetites, to honour, to the hungry curiosity of 
the mind, to the pleasure of the eyes in nature, 
and the pride of our own nimble bodies. 

We all of us appreciate the sensations ; but as 
for caring about the Permanence of the Possibility, 
a man's head is generally very bald, and his senses 
very dull, before he comes to that. Whether we 
regard life as a lane leading to a dead wall — a mere 


bag's end, as the French say — or whether we think 
of it as a vestibule or gymnasium, where we wait 
our turn and prepare our faculties for some more 
noble destiny ; whether we thunder in a pulpit, or 
pule in little atheistic poetry -books, about its vanity 
and brevity ; whether we look justly for years of 
health and vigour, or are about to mount into a 
bath-chair, as a step towards the hearse ; in each and 
all of these views and situations there is but one 
conclusion possible : that a man should stop his ears 
against paralysing terror, and run the race that is 
set before him with a single mind. No one surely 
could have recoiled with more heartache and terror 
from the thought of death than our respected lexico- 
grapher ; and yet we know how little it affected his 
conduct, how wisely and boldly he walked, and in 
what a fresh and lively vein he spoke of life. 
Already an old man, he ventured on his Highland 
tour ; and his heart, bound with triple brass, did 
not recoil before twenty-seven individual cups of 
tea. As courage and intelligence are the two 
qualities best worth a good man's cultivation, so it 
is the first part of intelUgence to recognise our pre- 
carious estate in life, and the first part of courage to 
be not at all abashed before the fact. A frank 
and somewhat headlong carriage, not looking too 
anxiously before, not dallying in maudlin regret over 
the past, stamps the man who is well armoured for 
this world. 

And not only well armoured for himself, but a 
good friend and a good citizen to boot. We do not 



go to cowards for tender dealing ; there is nothing 
so cruel as panic ; the man who has least fear for his 
own carcass has most time to consider others. That 
eminent chemist who took his walks abroad in tin 
shoes, and subsisted wholly upon tepid milk, had all 
his work cut out for him in considerate dealings with 
his own digestion. So soon as prudence has begun 
to grow up in the brain, like a dismal fungus, it finds 
its first expression in a paralysis of generous acts. 
The victim begins to shrink spiritually ; he develops 
a fancy for parlours with a regulated temperature, 
and takes his moraUty on the principle of tin shoes 
and tepid milk. The care of one important body or 
soul becomes so engrossing, that all the noises of 
the outer world begin to come thin and faint into 
the parlour with the regulated temperature ; and the 
tin shoes go equably forward over blood and rain. 
To be over- wise is to ossify ; and the scruple-monger 
ends by standing stockstill. Now the man who has 
his heart on his sleeve, and a good whirling weather- , 
cock of a brain, who reckons his life as a thing to be 
dashingly used and cheerfully hazarded, makes a very 
different acquaintance of the world, keeps all his 
pulses going true and fast, and gathers impetus as 
he runs, until, if he be running towards anything 
better than wildfire, he may shoot up and become a 
constellation in the end. Lord look after his health. 
Lord have a care of his soul, says he ; and he has at 
the key of the position, and swashes through incon- 
gruity and peril towards his aim. Death is on all sides 
of him with pointed batteries, as he is on all sides 


of all of us ; unfortunate surprises gird him round ; 
mim-mouthed friends and relations hold up their 
hands in quite a little elegiacal synod about his 
path : and what cares he for all this ? Being a true 
lover of living, a fellow with something pushing and 
spontaneous in his inside, he must, like any other 
soldier, in any other stirring, deadly warfare, push 
on at his best pace until he touch the goal. * A 
peerage or Westminster Abbey ! ' cried Nelson in 
his bright, boyish, heroic manner. These are great 
incentives ; not for any of these, but for the plain 
satisfaction of living, of being about their business 
in some sort or other, do the brave, serviceable men 
of every nation tread down the nettle danger, and 
pass flyingly over all the stumbling-blocks of pru- 
dence. Think of the heroism of Johnson, think of 
that superb indifference to mortal limitation that set 
him upon his dictionary, and carried him through 
triumphantly until the end ! Who, if he were 
wisely considerate of things at large, would ever 
embark upon any work much more considerable 
than a halfpenny post-card ? Who would project a 
serial novel, after Thackeray and Dickens had each 
fallen in mid-course ? Who would find heart enough 
to begin to live, if he dallied with the consideration 
of death ? 

And, after all, what sorry and pitiful quibbling 
all this is ! To forgo all the issues of living in a 
parlour with a regulated temperature — as if that 
were not to die a hundred times over, and for ten 
years at a stretch ! As if it were not to die in one's 



own lifetime, and without even the sad immunities 
of death ! As if it were not to die, and yet be the 
patient spectators of our own pitiable change ! The 
Permanent Possibihty is preserved, but the sensa- 
tions carefully held at arm's-length, as if one kept 
a photographic plate in a dark chamber. It is better 
to lose health hke a spendthrift than to waste it like 
a miser. It is better to live and be done with it, 
than to die daily in the sickroom. By all means 
begin your folio ; even if the doctor does not give 
you a year, even if he hesitates about a month, 
make one brave push and see what can be accom- 
plished in a week. It is not only in finished under- 
takings that we ought to honour useful labour. A 
spirit goes out of the man who means execution, 
which outlives the most untimely ending. All who 
have meant good work with their whole hearts 
have done good work, although they may die before 
they have the time to sign it. Every heart that 
has beat strong and cheerfully has left a hopeful 
impulse behind it in the world, and bettered the 
tradition of mankind. And even if death catch 
people, like an open pitfall, and in mid-career, laying 
out vast projects, and planning monstrous founda- 
tions, flushed with hope, and their mouths full of 
boastful language, they should be at once tripped up 
and silenced : is there not something brave and 
spirited in such a termination ? and does not life 
go down with a better grace, foaming in full body 
over a precipice, than miserably straggling to an end 
in sandy deltas ? When the Greeks made their fine 
1 20 


saying that those whom the gods love die young, I 
cannot help believing they had this sort of death also 
in their eye. For surely, at whatever age it overtake 
the man, this .is to die young. Death has not been 
suffered to take so much as an illusion from his 
heart. In the hot-fit of life, a-tiptoe on the highest 
point of being, he passes at a bound on to the other 
side. The noise of the mallet and chisel is scarcely 
quenched, the trumpets are hardly done blowing, 
when, trailing with him clouds of glory, this happy- 
starred, full-blooded spirit shoots into the spiritual 




It seems as if a great deal were attainable in a world 
where there are so many marriages and decisive 
battles, and where we all, at certain hours of the 
day, and with great gusto and despatch, stow a 
portion of victuals finally and irretrievably into the 
bag which contains us. And it would seem also, 
on a hasty view, that the attainment of as much as 
possible was the ojQie goal of man's contentious life. 
And yet, as regards the spirit, this is but a semblance. 
We live in an ascending scale when we live happily, 
one thing leading to another in an endless series. 
There is always a new horizon for onward-looking 
men, and although we dwell on a small planet, 
immersed in petty business and not enduring beyond 
a brief period of years, we are so constituted that 
our hopes are inaccessible, like stars, and the term of 
hoping is prolonged until the term of life. To be 
truly happy is a question of how we begin and not 
of how we end, of what we want and not of what 
we have. An aspiration is a joy for ever, a pos- 



session as solid as a landed estate, a fortune which 
we can never exhaust and which gives us year by 
year a revenue of pleasurable activity. To have 
many of these is to be spiritually rich. Life is only 
a very dull and ill-directed theatre unless we have 
some interests in the piece ; and to those who have 
neither art nor science, the world is a mere arrange- 
ment of colours, or a rough footway where they may 
very well break their shins. It is in virtue of his 
own desires and curiosities that any man continues 
to exist with even patience, that he is charmed by 
the look of things and people, and that he wakens 
every morning with a renewed appetite for work 
and pleasure. Desire and curiosity are the two eyes 
through which he sees the world in the most en- 
chanted colours : it is they that make women beauti- 
ful or fossils interesting : and the man may squander 
his estate and come to beggary, but if he keeps 
these two amulets he is still rich in the possibilities 
of pleasure. Suppose he could take one meal so 
compact and comprehensive that he should never 
hunger any more ; suppose him, at a glance, to take 
in all the features of the world and allay the desire 
for knowledge ; suppose him to do the like in any 
province of experience — would not that man be in a 
poor way for amusement ever after ? 

One who goes touring on foot with a single 
volume in his knapsack reads with circumspection, 
pausing often to reflect, and often laying the book 
down to contemplate the landscape or the prints in 
the inn parlour ; for he fears to come to an end of 



his entertainment, and be left companionless on the 
last stages of his journey. A young fellow recently 
finished the works of Thomas Carlyle, winding up, 
if we remember aright, with the ten note-books upon 
Frederick the Great. * What ! ' cried the young 
fellow in consternation, ' is there no more Carlyle ? 
Am I left to the daily papers ? ' A more celebrated 
instance is that of Alexander, who wept bitterly 
because he had no more worlds to subdue. And 
when Gibbon had finished the Decline and Fall, 
he had only a few moments of joy ; and it was 
with a ' sober melancholy ' that he parted from his 

Happily we all shoot at the moon with ineffectual 
arrows ; our hopes are set on inaccessible El 
Dorado ; we come to an end of nothing here below. 
Interests are only plucked up to sow themselves 
again, like mustard. You would think, when the 
child was born, there would be an end to trouble ; 
and yet it is only the beginning of fresh anxieties ; 
and when you have seen it through its teething and 
its education, and at last its marriage, alas ! it is 
only to have new fears, new quivering sensibilities, 
with every day ; and the health of your children's 
children grows as touching a concern as that of your 
own. Again, when you have married your wife, 
you would think you were got up on a hill-top, and 
might begin to go downward by an easy slope. But 
you have only ended courting to begin marriage. 
Falling in love and winning love are often difficult 
tasks to overbearing and rebellious spirits ; but to 


keep in love is also a business of some importance, 
to which both man and wife must bring kindness 
and goodwill. The true love-story commences at 
the altar, when there lies before the married pair a 
most beautiful contest of wisdom and generosity, and 
a life-long struggle towards an unattainable ideal. 
Unattainable ? Ay, surely unattainable, from the 
very fact that they are two instead of one. 

' Of making books there is no end,' complained 
the Preacher ; and did not perceive how highly he 
was praising letters as an occupation. There is no 
end, indeed, to making books or experiments, or to 
travel, or to gathering wealth. Problem gives rise 
to problem. We may study for ever, and we are 
never as learned as we would. We have never made 
a statue worthy of our dreams. And when we have 
discovered a continent, or crossed a chain of moun- 
tains, it is only to find another ocean or another 
plain upon the farther side. In the infinite universe 
there is room for our swiftest diligence and to spare. 
It is not like the works of Carlyle, which can be 
read to an end. Even in a corner of it, in a private 
park, or in the neighbourhood of a single hamlet, 
the weather and the seasons keep so deftly chang- 
ing that although we walk there for a lifetime 
there will be always something new to startle and 
delight us. 

There is only one wish realisable on the earth ; 
only one thing that can be perfectly attained : 
Death. And from a variety of circumstances we 
have no one to tell us whether it be worth attaining. 



A strange picture we make on our way to our 
chimEeras, ceaselessly marching, grudging ourselves 
the time for rest; indefatigable, adventurous pioneers. 
It is true that we shall never reach the goal ; it is 
even more than probable that there is no such place ; 
and if we Uved for centuries, and were endowed with 
the powers of a god, we should find ourselves not 
much nearer what we wanted at the end. O toiling 
hands of mortals ! O unwearied feet, travelling ye 
know not whither ! Soon, soon, it seems to you, 
you must come forth on some conspicuous hill-top, 
and but a little way farther, against the setting sun, 
descry the spires of El Dorado. Little do ye know 
your own blessedness ; for to travel hopefully is a 
better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to 



' Whether it be wise in men to do such actions or no, I am sure it is so 
in States to honour them.' — Sib William Temple. 

There is one story of the wars of Rome which I 
have always very much envied for England. Ger- 
manicus was going down at the head of the legions 
into a dangerous river — on the opposite bank the 
woods were full of Germans — when there flew out 
seven great eagles which seemed to marshal the 
Romans on their way ; they did not pause or waver, 
but disappeared into the forest where the enemy lay 
concealed. ' Forward ! ' cried Germanicus, with a 
fine rhetorical inspiration, ' Forward ! and follow the 
Roman birds.' It would be a very heavy spirit 
that did not give a leap at such a signal, and a very 
timorous one that continued to have any doubt 
of success. To appropriate the eagles as fellow- 
countrymen was to make imaginary allies of the 
forces of nature ; the Roman Empire and its military 
fortunes, and along with these the prospects of those 
individual Roman legionaries now fording a river in 



Germany, looked altogether greater and more hope- 
ful. It is a kind of illusion easy to produce. A 
particular shape of cloud, the appearance of a par- 
ticular star, the holiday of some particular saint — 
anything, in short, to remind the combatants of 
patriotic legends or old successes, — may be enough 
to change the issue of a pitched battle ; for it gives 
to the one party a feeling that Right and the larger 
interests are with them. 

If an Englishman wishes to have such a feeling, it 
must be about the sea. The lion is nothing to us ; 
he has not been taken to the hearts of the people, 
and naturalised as an English emblem. We know 
right well that a Hon would fall foul of us as grimly 
as he would of a Frenchman or a Moldavian Jew, 
and we do not carry him before us in the smoke of 
battle. But the sea is our approach and bulwark ; 
it has been the scene of our greatest triumphs and 
dangers ; and we are accustomed in lyrical strains to 
claim it as our own. The prostrating experiences of 
foreigners between Calais and Dover have always an 
agreeable side to English prepossessions. A man 
from Bedfordshire, who does not know one end 
of the ship from the other until she begins to move, 
swaggers among such persons with a sense of heredi- 
tary nautical experience. To suppose yourself 
endowed with natural parts for the sea because 
you are the countryman of Blake and mighty 
Nelson is perhaps just as unwarrantable as to 
imagine Scots extraction a sufficient guarantee 
that you will look well in a kilt. But the feeling 


is there, and seated beyond the reach of argument. 
We should consider ourselves unworthy of our 
descent if we did not share the arrogance of our 
progenitors, and please ourselves with the preten- 
sion that the sea is English. Even where it is 
looked upon by the guns and battlements of 
another nation we regard it as a kind of English 
cemetery, where the bones of our seafaring fathers 
take their rest until the last trumpet ; for I sup- 
pose no other nation has lost as many ships, or 
sent as many brave fellows to the bottom. 

There is nowhere such a background for heroism 
as the noble, terrifying, and picturesque conditions 
of some of our sea-fights. Hawke's battle in the 
tempest, and Aboukir at the moment when the 
French Admiral blew up, reach the limit of what 
is imposing to the imagination. And our naval 
annals owe some of their interest to the fantastic 
and beautiful appearance of old warships and the 
romance that invests the sea and everything sea- 
going in the eyes of ^English lads on a half-holiday 
at the coast. Nay, and what we know of the misery 
between-decks enhances the bravery of what was 
done by giving it something for contrast. We like 
to know that these bold and honest fellows contrived 
to live, and to keep bold and honest, among absurd 
and vile surroundings. No reader can forget the 
description of the Thunder in Roderick Random \ 
the disorderly tyranny; the cruelty and dirt of 
officers and men ; deck after deck, each with some 
new object of offence ; the hospital, where the ham- 
II— I 129 


mocks were huddled together with but fourteen 
inches space for each ; the cockpit, far under water, 
where, 'in an intolerable stench,' the spectacled 
steward kept the accounts of the different messes ; 
and the canvas enclosure, six feet square, in which 
Morgan made flip and salmagundi, smoked his pipe, 
sang his Welsh songs, and swore his queer Welsh 
imprecations. There are portions of this business 
on board the Thunder over which the reader passes 
lightly and hurriedly, like a traveller in a malarious 
country. It is easy enough to understand the 
opinion of Dr. Johnson: 'Why, sir,' he said, 'no 
man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough 
to get himself into a jail.' You would fancy any 
one's spirit would die out under such an accumu- 
lation of darkness, noisomeness, and injustice, above 
all when he had not come there of his own free will, 
but under the cutlasses and bludgeons of the press- 
gang. But perhaps a watch on deck in the sharp 
sea air put a man on his mettle again ; a battle must 
have been a capital relief ; and prize-money, bloodily 
earned and grossly squandered, opened the doors of 
the prison for a twinkling. Somehow or other, at 
least, this worst of possible lives could not overlie 
the spirit and gaiety of our sailors ; they did their 
duty as though they had some interest in the for- 
tune of that country which so cruelly oppressed 
them, they served their guns merrily when it came 
to fighting, and they had the readiest ear for a bold, 
honourable sentiment, of any class of men the world 
ever produced. 


Most men of high destinies have high-sounding 
names. Pym and Habakkuk may do pretty well, 
but they must not think to cope with the Cromwells 
and Isaiahs. And you could not find a better case 
in point than that of the English Admirals. Drake 
and Rooke and Hawke are picked names for men of 
execution. Frobisher, Rodney, Boscawen, 'Foul- 
Weather ' Jack Byron, are all good to catch the eye 
in a page of a naval history. Cloudesley Shovel is 
a mouthful of quaint and sounding syllables. Ben- 
bow has a bulldog quality that suits the man's 
character, and it takes us back to those English 
archers who were his true comrades for plainness, 
tenacity, and pluck. Raleigh is spirited and martial, 
and signifies an act of bold conduct in the field. It 
is impossible to judge of Blake or Nelson, no names 
current among men being worthy of such heroes. 
But still it is odd enough, and very appropriate in 
this connection, that the latter was greatly taken 
with his Sicilian title. 'The signification, perhaps, 
pleased him,' says Southey ; ' Duke of Thunder was 
what in Dahomey would have been called a strong 
name ; it was to a sailor's taste, and certainly to no 
man could it be more applicable.' Admiral in itself 
is one of the most satisfactory of distinctions ; it has 
a noble sound and a very proud history ; and Colum- 
bus thought so highly of it, that he enjoined his 
heirs to sign themselves by that title as long as the 
house should last. 

But it is the spirit of the men, and not their 
names, that I wish to speak about in this paper. 



That spirit is truly English ; they, and not Tenny- 
son's cotton-spinners or Mr. DArcy Thompson's 
Abstract Bagman, are the true and typical English- 
men. There may be more head of bagmen in the 
country, but human beings are reckoned by number 
only in political constitutions. And the Admirals 
are typical in the full force of the word. They are 
splendid examples of virtue, indeed, but of a virtue 
in which most Englishmen can claim a moderate 
share ; and what we admire in their lives is a sort of 
apotheosis of ourselves. Almost everybody in our 
land, except humanitarians and a few persons whose 
youth has been depressed by exceptionally assthetic 
surroundings, can understand and sympathise with 
an Admiral or a prize-fighter. I do not wish to 
bracket Benbow and Tom Cribb ; but, depend upon 
it, they are practically bracketed for admiration in 
the minds of many frequenters of ale-houses. If 
you told them about Germ aniens and the eagles, or 
Regulus going back to Carthage, they would very 
likely fall asleep ; but tell them about Harry Pearce 
and Jem Belcher, or about Nelson and the Nile, and 
they put down their pipes to listen. I have by me 
a copy of Boxiana, on the fly-leaves of which a 
youthful member of the fancy kept a chronicle of 
remarkable events and an obituary of great men. 
Here we find piously chronicled the demise of 
jockeys, watermen, and pugilists — Johnny Moore, 
of the Liverpool Prize Ring ; Tom Spring, aged 
fifty-six; 'Pierce Egan, senior, writer of Boociana 
and other sporting works' — and among all these, 


the Duke of Wellington ! If Benbow had lived in 
the time of this annalist, do you suppose his name 
would not have been added to the glorious roll? 
In short, we do not all feel warmly towards Wesley 
or Laud, we cannot all take pleasure in Paradise 
Lost ; but there are certain common sentiments and 
touches of nature by which the whole nation is made 
to feel kinship. A little while ago everybody, from 
Hazlitt and John Wilson down to the imbecile 
creature who scribbled his register on the fly-leaves 
of Bocciana, felt a more or less shamefaced satisfac- 
tion in the exploits of prize-fighters. And the 
exploits of the Admirals are popular to the same 
degree, and tell in all ranks of society. Their 
sayings and doings stir English blood like the 
sound of a truihpet ; and if the Indian Empire, 
the trade of London, and all the outward and 
visible ensigns of our greatness should pass away, 
we should still leave behind us a durable monument 
of what we were in these sayings and doings of the 
English Admirals. 

Duncan, lying off the Texel with his own flagship, 
the Venerable, and only one other vessel, heard that 
the whole Dutch fleet was putting to sea. He told 
Captain Hotham to anchor alongside of him in the 
narrowest part of the channel, and fight his vessel 
till she sank, ' I have taken the depth of the water,' 
added he, ' and when the Venerable goes down, my 
flag will still fly.' And you observe this is no naked 
Viking in a prehistoric period ; but a Scottish 
member of Parliament, with a smattering of the 



classics, a telescope, a cocked hat of great size, and 
flannel underclothing. In the same spirit, Nelson 
went into Aboukir with six colours flying; so that 
even if five were shot away, it should not be 
.imagined he had struck. He too must needs wear 
his four stars outside his Admiral's frock, to be a 
butt for sharpshooters. ' In honour I gained them,' 
he said to objectors, adding with sublime illogicality, 
'in honour I will die with them.' Captain Douglas 
of the Royal Oak, when the Dutch fired his vessel 
in the Thames, sent his men ashore, but was burned 
along with her himself rather than desert his post 
without orders. Just then, perhaps the Merry 
Monarch was chasing a moth round the supper- 
table with the ladies of his court. When Raleigh 
sailed into Cadiz, and all the forts and ships opened 
fire on him at once, he scorned to shoot a gun, and 
made answer with a flourish of insulting trumpets. 
I like this bravado better than the wisest dispositions 
to ensure victory ; it comes from the heart and goes 
to it. God has made nobler heroes, but he never 
made a finer gentleman than Walter Raleigh. And 
as our Admirals were full of heroic superstitions, and 
had a strutting and vainglorious style of fight, so 
they discovered a startling eagerness for battle, and 
courted war like a mistress. When the news came 
to Essex before Cadiz that the attack had been 
decided, he threw his hat into the sea. It is in this 
way that a schoolboy iiears of a half-holiday ; but 
this was a bearded man of great possessions who 
had just been allowed to risk his life. Benbow 


could not lie still in his bunk after he had lost his 
leg ; he must be on deck in a basket to direct and 
animate the fight. I said they loved war like a 
mistress ; yet I think there are not many mistresses 
we should continue to woo under similar circum- 
stances. Trowbridge went ashore with the Culloden, 
and was able to take no part in the battle of the 
Nile. ' The merits of that ship and her gallant 
captain,' wrote Nelson to the Admiralty, 'are too 
well known to benefit by anything I could say. 
Her misfortune was great in getting aground, while 
her more fortunate companio7is were in the full tide 
of happiness.' This is a notable expression, and 
depicts the whole great-hearted, big-spoken stock 
of the English Admirals to a hair. It was to be ' in 
the full tide of happiness ' for Nelson to destroy five 
thousand five hundred and twenty-five of his fellow- 
creatures, and have his own scalp torn open by a 
piece of langridge shot. Hear him again at Copen- 
hagen : ' A shot through the mainmast knocked the 
splinters about; and he observed to one of his 
officers with a smile, "It is warm work, and this 
may be the last to any of us at any moment " ; and 
then, stopping short at the gangway, added, with 
emotion, " But, mark you — / would not he elsewhere 
for thousands." ' 

I must tell one more story, which has lately been 
made familiar to us all, and that in one of the noblest 
ballads in the Enghsh language. I had written my 
tame prose abstract, I shall beg the reader to believe, 
when I had no notion that the sacred bard designed 



an immortality for Greenville. Sir Richard Green- 
ville was Vice- Admiral to Lord Thomas Howard, 
and lay off the Azores with the English squadron 
in 1591. He was a noted tyrant to his crew : a 
dark, bullying fellow apparently ; and it is related of 
him that he would chew and swallow wineglasses, by 
way of convivial levity, till the blood ran out of his 
mouth. When the Spanish fleet of fifty sail came 
within sight of the English, his ship, the Revenge, 
was the last to weigh anchor, and was so far circum- 
vented by the Spaniards, that there were but two 
courses open — either to turn her back upon the 
enemy or sail through one of his squadrons. The 
first alternative Greenville dismissed as dishonour- 
able to himself, his country, and her Majesty's ship. 
Accordingly, he chose the latter, and steered into 
the Spanish armament. Several vessels he forced to 
luff and fall under his lee ; until, about three o'clock 
of the afternoon, a great ship of three decks of 
ordnance took the wind out of his sails, and immedi- 
ately boarded. Thenceforward, and all night long, 
the Revenge held her own single-handed against the 
Spaniards. As one ship was beaten ofl", another 
took its place. She endured, according to Raleigh's 
computation, ' eight hundred shot of great artillery, 
besides many assaults and entries.' By morning the 
powder was spent, the pikes all broken, not a stick 
was standing, ' nothing left overhead either for flight 
or defence'; six feet of water in the hold; almost 
all the men hurt ; and Greenville himself in a dying 
condition. To bring them to this pass, a fleet of 


fifty sail had been mauling them for fifteen hours, 
the Admiral of the Hulks and the Ascension of 
Seville had both gone down alongside, and two 
other vessels had taken refuge on shore in a sinking 
state. In Hawke's words, they had ' taken a great 
deal of drubbing.' The captain and crew thought 
they had done about enough ; but Greenville was 
not of this opinion ; he gave orders to the master 
gunner, whom he knew to be a fellow after his own 
stamp, to scuttle the Revenge where she lay. The 
others, who were not mortally wounded like the 
Admiral, interfered with some decision, locked the 
master gunner in his cabin, after having deprived 
him of his sword, for he manifested an intention to 
kill himself if he were not to sink the ship ; and sent 
to the Spaniards to demand terms. These were 
granted. The second or third day after, Greenville 
died of his wounds aboard the Spanish flagship, 
leaving his contempt upon the ' traitors and dogs ' 
who had not chosen to do as he did, and engage 
fifty vessels, well found and fully manned, with 
six inferior craft ravaged by sickness and short 
of stores. He at least, he said, had done his duty 
as he was bound to do, and looked for everlasting 

Some one said to me the other day that they con- 
sidered this story to be of a pestilent example. I 
am not inclined to imagine we shall ever be put into 
any practical difficulty from a superfluity of Green - 
villes. And besides, I demur to the opinion. The 
worth of such actions is not a thing to be decided 



in a quaver of sensibility or a flush of righteous 
common-sense. The man who wished to make the 
ballads of his country coveted a small matter com- 
pared to what Richard Greenville accomplished. I 
wonder how many people have been inspired by this 
mad story, and how many battles have been actually 
won for England in the spirit thus engendered. It 
is only with a measure of habitual foolhardiness that 
you can be sure, in the common run of men, of 
courage on a reasonable occasion. An army or a 
fleet, if it is not led by quixotic fancies, will not be 
led far by terror of the Provost- Marshal. Even 
German warfare, in addition to maps and telegraphs, 
is not above employing the Wacht am Rhein. Nor 
is it only in the profession of arms that such stories 
may do good to a man. In this desperate and 
gleeful fighting, whether it is Greenville or Benbow, 
Hawke or Nelson, who flies his colours in the ship, 
we see men brought to the test and giving proof of 
what we call heroic feehng. Prosperous humani- 
tarians tell me, in my club smoking-room, that they 
are a prey to prodigious heroic feelings, and that it 
costs them more nobility of soul to do nothing in 
particular, than would carry on all the wars, by sea 
or land, of bellicose humanity. It may very well be 
so, and yet not touch the point in question. For 
what I desire is to see some of this nobility brought 
face to face with me in an inspiriting achievement. 
A man may talk smoothly over a cigar in my club 
smoking-room from now to the Day of Judgment, 
without adding anything to mankind's treasury of 


illustrious and encouraging examples. It is not over 
the virtues of a curate-and-tea-party novel that 
people are abashed into high resolutions. It may be 
because their hearts are crass, but to stir them pro- 
perly they must have men entering into glory with 
some pomp and circumstance. And that is why 
these stories of our sea-captains, printed, so to speak, 
in capitals, and full of bracing moral influence, are 
more valuable to England than any material benefit 
in all the books of political economy between West- 
minster and Birmingham. Greenville chewing wine- 
glasses at table makes no very pleasant figure, any 
more than a thousand other artists when they are 
viewed in the body, or met in private life ; but his 
work of art, his finished tragedy, is an eloquent 
performance ; and I contend it ought not only to 
enliven men of the sword as they go into battle, 
but send back merchant clerks with more heart and 
spirit to their book-keeping by double entry. 

There is another question which seems bound up 
in this ; and that is Temple's problem : whether 
it was wise of Douglas to burn with the Royal 
Oak ? and by implication, what it was that made 
him do so ? Many will tell you it was the desire 
of fame. 

* To what do Caesar and Alexander owe the in- 
finite grandeur of their renown, but to fortune? 
How many men has she extinguished in the begin- 
ning of their progress, of whom we have no know- 
ledge ; who brought as much courage to the work 
as they, if their adverse hap had not cut them off in 



the first sally of their arms ? Amongst so many and 
so great dangers, I do not remember to have any- 
where read that Caesar was ever wounded ; a thou- 
sand have fallen in less dangers than the least of 
those he went through. A great many brave actions 
must be expected to be performed without witness, 
for one that comes to some notice. A man is not 
always at the top of a breach, or at the head of an 
army in the sight of his general, as upon a platform. 
He is often surprised between the hedge and the 
ditch ; he must run the hazard of his life against 
a henroost ; he must dislodge four rascally mus- 
keteers out of a barn ; he must pick out single 
from his party, as necessity arises, and meet adven- 
tures alone.' 

Thus far Montaigne, in a characteristic essay on 
Glory. Where death is certain, as in the cases of 
Douglas or Greenville, it seems all one from a 
personal point of view. The man who lost his life 
against a henroost is in the same pickle with him 
who lost his hfe against a fortified place of the first 
order. Whether he has missed a peerage or only 
the corporal's stripes, it is all one if he has missed 
them and is quietly in the grave. It was by a 
hazard that we learned the conduct of the four 
marines of the Wager. There was no room for 
these brave fellows in the boat, and they were left 
behind upon the island to a certain death. They 
were soldiers, they said, and knew well enough it 
was their business to die ; and as their comrades 
pulled away, they stood upon the beach, gave three 


cheers, and cried ' God bless the king ! ' Now, one 
or two of those who were in the boat escaped, against 
all likelihood, to tell the story. That was a great 
thing for us ; but surely it cannot, by any possible 
twisting of human speech, be construed into any- 
thing great for the marines. You may suppose, if 
you like, that they died hoping their behaviour would 
not be forgotten ; or you may suppose they thought 
nothing on the subject, which is much more likely. 
What can be the signification of the word ' fame ' 
to a private of marines, who cannot read, and knows 
nothing of past history beyond the reminiscences of 
his grandmother ? But whichever supposition you 
make, the fact is unchanged. They died while the 
question still hung in the balance ; and I suppose 
their bones were already white, before the winds and 
the waves and the humour of Indian chiefs and 
Spanish governors had decided whether they were 
to be unknown and useless martyrs or honoured 
heroes. Indeed, I believe this is the lesson ; if it is 
for fame that men do brave actions, they are only 
silly fellows after all. 

It is at best but a pettifogging, pickthank business 
to decompose actions into little personal motives, 
and explain heroism away. The Abstract Bagman 
will grow like an Admiral at heart, not by ungrate- 
ful carping, but in a heat of admiration. But there 
is another theory of the personal motive in these 
fine sayings and doings, which I believe to be true 
and wholesome. People usually do things, and 
suffer martyrdoms, because they have an inclination 



that way. The best artist is not the man who fixes 
his eye on posterity, but the one who loves the 
practice of his art. And instead of having a taste 
for being successful merchants and retiring at thirty, 
some people have a taste for high and what we call 
heroic forms of excitement. If the Admirals courted 
war like a mistress ; if, as the drum beat to quarters, 
the sailors came gaily out of the forecastle, — it is 
because a fight is a period of multiplied and intense 
experiences, and, by Nelson's computation, worth 
' thousands ' to any one who has a heart under his 
jacket. If the marines of the Wager gave three 
cheers and cried ' God bless the king,' it was because 
they liked to do things nobly for their own satisfac- 
tion. They were giving their lives, there was no 
help for that ; and they made it a point of self- 
respect to give them handsomely. And there were 
never four happier marines in God's world than these 
four at that moment. If it was worth thousands 
to be at the Baltic, I wish a Benthamite arithmetician 
would calculate how much it was worth to be one 
of these four marines ; or how much their story is 
worth to each of us who read it. And mark you, 
undemonstrative men would have spoiled the situa- 
tion. The finest action is the better for a piece 
of purple. If the soldiers of the Birkenhead had not 
gone down in line, or these marines of the Wager 
had walked away simply into the island, like plenty 
of other brave fellows in the like circumstances, my 
Benthamite arithmetician would assign a far lower 
value to the two stories. We have to desire a 


grand air in our heroes ; and such a knowledge 
of the human stage as shall make them put the 
dots on their own i's, and leave us in no suspense 
as to when they mean to be heroic. And hence, 
we should congratulate ourselves upon the fact 
that our Admirals were not only great-hearted but 

The heroes themselves say, as often as not, that 
fame is their object ; but I do not think that is 
much to the purpose. People generally say what 
they have been taught to say ; that was the catch- 
word they were given in youth to express the aims 
of their way of life ; and men who are gaining great 
battles are not likely to take much trouble in review- 
ing their sentiments and the words in which they 
were told to express them. Almost every person, 
if you will believe himself, holds a quite different 
theory of life from the one on which he is patently 
acting. And the fact is, fame may be a forethought 
and an afterthought, but it is too abstract an idea 
to move people greatly in moments of swift and 
momentous decision. It is from something more 
immediate, some determination of blood to the head, 
some trick of the fancy, that the breach is stormed 
or the bold word spoken. I am sure a fellow shoot- 
ing an ugly weir in a canoe has exactly as much 
thought about fame as most commanders going into 
battle ; and yet the action, fall out how it will, is 
not one of those the muse delights to celebrate. 
Indeed it is difficult to see why the fellow does a 
thing so nameless and yet so formidable to look at, 



unless on the theory that he likes it. I suspect that 
is why ; and I suspect it is at least ten per cent, of 
why Lord Beaconsfield and Mr. Gladstone have 
debated so much in the House of Commons, and 
why Burnaby rode to Khiva the other day, and why 
the Admirals courted war like a mistress. 



Through the initiative of a prominent citizen, 
Edinburgh has been in possession, for some autumn 
weeks, of a gallery of paintings of singular merit and 
interest. They were exposed in the apartments of 
the Scottish Academy ; and filled those who are 
accustomed to visit the annual spring exhibition 
with astonishment and a sense of incongruity. In- 
stead of the too common purple sunsets, and pea- 
green fields, and distances executed in putty and 
hog's lard, he beheld, looking down upon him from 
the walls of room after room, a whole army of wise, 
grave, humorous, capable, or beautiful countenances, 
painted simply and strongly by a man of genuine 
instinct. It was a complete act of the Human 
Drawing-Room Comedy. Lords and ladies, soldiers 
and doctors, hanging judges and heretical divines, 
a whole generation of good society was resuscitated ; 
and the Scotsman of to-day walked about among 
the Scotsmen of two generations ago. The moment 
was well chosen, neither too late nor too early. 
II— K 145 


The people who sat for these pictures are not yet 
ancestors, they are still relations. They are not 
yet altogether a part of the dusty past, but occupy 
a middle distance within cry of our affections. The 
little child who looks wonderingly on his grand- 
father's watch in the picture is now the veteran 
Sheriff emeritus of Perth. And I hear a story of a 
lady who returned the other day to Edinburgh, after 
an absence of sixty years : ' I could see none of my 
old friends,' she said, ' until I went into the Raeburn 
Gallery, and found them all there.' 

It would be difficult to say whether the collec- 
tion was more interesting on the score of unity or 
diversity. Where the portraits were all of the same 
period, almost all of the same race, and all from the 
same brush, there could not fail to be many points 
of similarity. And yet the similarity of the hand- 
ling seems to throw into more vigorous relief those 
personal distinctions which Raeburn was so quick 
to seize. He was a born painter of portraits. He 
looked people shrewdly betv/een the eyes, surprised 
their manners in their face, and had possessed him- 
self of what was essential in their character before 
they had been many minutes in his studio. What 
he was so swift to perceive, he conveyed to the 
canvas almost in the moment of conception. He 
had never any difficulty, he said, about either hands 
or faces. About draperies or light or composition, 
he might see room for hesitation or afterthought. 
But a face or a hand was something plain and legible. 
There were no two ways about it, any more than 


about the person's name. And so each of his 
portraits is not only (in Doctor Johnson's phrase, 
aptly quoted on the catalogue) ' a piece of history,' 
but a piece of biography into the bargain. It is 
devoutly to be wished that all biography were 
equally amusing, and carried its own credentials 
equally upon its face. These portraits are racier 
than many anecdotes, and more complete than many 
a volume of sententious memoirs. You can see 
whether you get a stronger and clearer idea of 
Robertson the historian from Raeburn's palette or 
Dugald Stewart's woolly and evasive periods. And 
then the portraits are both signed and countersigned. 
For you have, first, the authority of the artist, whom 
you recognise as no mean critic of the looks and 
manners of men ; and next you have the tacit 
acquiescence of the subject, who sits looking out 
upon you with inimitable innocence, and apparently 
under the impression that he is in a room by himself 
For Raeburn could plunge at once through all the 
constraint and embarrassment of the sitter, and 
present the face, clear, open, and intelligent as at 
the most disengaged moments. This is best seen 
in portraits where the sitter is represented in some 
appropriate action : Neil Gow with his fiddle, Doctor 
Spens shooting an arrow, or Lord Bannatyne hear- 
ing a cause. Above all, from this point of view, the 
portrait of Lieutenant-Colonel Lyon is notable. A 
strange enough young man, pink, fat about the 
lower part of the face, with a lean forehead, a narrow 
nose and a fine nostril, sits with a drawing-board 



upon his knees. He has just paused to render hhn- 
self account of some difficulty, to disentangle some 
comphcation of line or compare neighbouring values. 
And there, without any perceptible wrinkling, 
you have rendered for you exactly the fixed look 
in the eyes, and the unconscious compression of 
the mouth, that befit and signify an effort of the 
kind. The whole pose, the whole expression, is 
absolutely direct and simple. You are ready to 
take your oath to it that Colonel Lyon had no idea 
he was sitting for his picture, and thought of 
nothing in the world besides his own occupation of 
the moment. 

Although the collection did not embrace, I under- 
stand, nearly the whole of Raeburn's works, it was 
too large not to contain some that were indifferent, 
whether as works of art or as portraits. Certainly 
the standard was remarkably high, and was wonder- 
fully maintained, but there were one or two pictures 
that might have been almost as well away — one or 
two that seemed wanting in salt, and some that 
you can only hope were not successful likenesses. 
Neither of the portraits of Sir Walter Scott, for 
instance, was very agreeable to look upon. You 
do not care to think that Scott looked quite so rustic 
and puffy. And where is that peaked forehead 
which, according to all written accounts and many 
portraits, was the distinguishing characteristic of his 
face ? Again, in spite of his own satisfaction, and in 
spite of Dr. John Brown, I cannot consider that 
Raeburn was very happy in hands. Without doubt, 


he could paint one if he had taken the trouble to 
study it ; but it was by no means always that he 
gave himself the trouble. Looking round one of 
these rooms hung about with his portraits, you were 
struck with the array of expressive faces, as compared 
with what you may have seen in looking round a 
room full of living people. But it was not so with 
the hands. The portraits differed from each other 
in face perhaps ten times as much as they differed 
by the hand ; whereas with living people the two go 
pretty much together ; and where one is remarkable, 
the other will almost certainly not be common- 

One interesting portrait was that of Duncan of 
Camperdown. He stands in uniform beside a table, 
his feet shghtly straddled with the balance of an old 
sailor, his hand poised upon a chart by the finger 
tips. The mouth is pursed, the nostril spread and 
drawn up, the eyebrows very highly arched. The 
cheeks lie along the jaw in folds of iron, and have 
the redness that comes from much exposure to salt 
sea winds. From the whole figure, attitude and 
countenance, there breathes something precise and 
decisive, something alert, wiry, and strong. You 
can understand, from the look of him, that sense, 
not so much of humour, as of what is grimmest and 
driest in pleasantry, which inspired his address before 
the fight at Camperdown. He had just overtaken 
the Dutch fleet under Admiral de Winter. ' Gentle- 
men,' says he, * you see a severe winter approaching ; 
I have only to advise you to keep up a good fire.' 



Somewhat of this same spirit of adamantine drollery 
must have supported him in the days of the mutiny 
at the Nore, when he lay off the Texel with his own 
flagship, the Ve7ierable, and only one other vessel, 
and kept up active signals, as though he had a 
powerful fleet in the ofling, to intimidate the 

Another portrait which irresistibly attracted the 
eye was the half-length of Robert M 'Queen of 
Braxfield, Lord Justice-Clerk. If I know gusto in 
painting when I see it, this canvas was painted with 
rare enjoyment. The tart, rosy, humorous look of 
the man, his nose like a cudgel, his face resting 
squarely on the jowl, has been caught and perpetu- 
ated with something that looks like brotherly love. 
A peculiarly subtle expression haunts the lower part, 
sensual and incredulous, like that of a man tasting 
good Bordeaux with half a fancy it has been some- 
what too long uncorked. From under the pendulous 
eyelids of old age the eyes look out with a half- 
youthful, half-frosty twinkle. Hands, with no pre- 
tence to distinction, are folded on the judge's 
stomach. So sympathetically is the character con- 
ceived by the portrait painter, that it is hardly 
possible to avoid some movement of sympathy on 
the part of the spectator. And sympathy is a thing 
to be encouraged, apart from humane considerations, 
because it supplies us with the materials for wisdom. 
It is probably more instructive to entertain a sneak- 
ing kindness for any unpopular person, and among 
the rest for Lord Braxfield, than to give way to 


perfect raptures of moral indignation against his 
abstract vices. He was the last judge on the Scots 
bench to employ the pure Scots idiom. His 
opinions, thus given in Doric, and conceived in a 
lively, rugged, conversational style, were full of 
point and authority. Out of the bar, or off the 
bench, he was a convivial man, a lover of wine, and 
one who ' shone peculiarly ' at tavern meetings. He 
has left behind him an unrivalled reputation for 
rough and cruel speech ; and to this day his name 
smacks of the gallows. It was he who presided at 
the trials of Muir and Skirving in 1793 and 1794 ; 
and his appearance on these occasions was scarcely 
cut to the pattern of to-day. His summhig up on 
Muir began thus — the reader must supply for him- 
self ' the growling, blacksmith's voice ' and the broad 
Scots accent : ' Now this is the question for con- 
sideration — Is the panel guilty of sedition, or is he 
not ? Now, before this can be answered, two things 
must be attended to that require no proof : First, 
that the British constitution is the best that ever 
was since the creation of the world, and it is not 
possible to make it better.' It 's a pretty fair start, 
is it not, for a political trial ? A little later, he has 
occasion to refer to the relations of Muir with ' those 
wretches,' the French. ' I never Hked the French 
all my days,' said his lordship, ' but now I hate them.' 
And yet a little further on : * A government in any 
country should be like a corporation ; and in this 
country it is made up of the landed interest, which 
alone has a right to be represented. As for the 



rabble who have nothing but personal property, 
what hold has the nation of them ? They may pack 
up their property on their backs, and leave the 
country in the twinkUng of an eye.' After having 
made profession of sentiments so cynically anti- 
popular as these, when the trials were at an end, 
which was generally about midnight, Braxfield would 
walk home to his house in George Square with no 
better escort than an easy conscience. I think I see 
him getting his cloak about his shoulders, and, with 
perhaps a lantern in one hand, steering his way along 
the streets in the mirk January night. It might 
have been that very day that Skirving had defied 
him in these words : ' It is altogether unavailing for 
your lordship to menace me ; for I have long learned 
to fear not the face of man ' ; and I can fancy, as 
Braxfield reflected on the number of what he called 
Grumhletonians in Edinburgh, and of how many of 
them must bear special malice against so upright and 
inflexible a judge, nay, and might at that very 
moment be lurking in the mouth of a dark close with 
hostile intent — I can fancy that he indulged in a 
sour smile, as he reflected that he also was not 
especially afraid of men's faces or men's fists, and 
had hitherto found no occasion to embody this in- 
sensibihty in heroic words. For if he was an 
inhumane old gentleman (and I am afraid it is a fact 
that he was inhumane), he was also perfectly intrepid. 
You may look into the queer face of that portrait 
for as long as you will, but you will not see any hole 
or corner for timidity to enter in. 


Indeed, there would be no end to this paper if I 
were even to name half of the portraits that were 
remarkable for their execution or interesting by- 
association. There was one picture of Mr. Wardrop 
of Torbane Hill, which you might palm off upon 
most laymen as a Rembrandt; and close by, you 
saw the white head of John Clerk of Eldin, that 
country gentleman who, playing with pieces of cork 
on his own dining-table, invented modern naval war- 
fare. There was that portrait of Neil Gow, to sit 
for which the old fiddler walked daily through the 
streets of Edinburgh arm-in-arm with the Duke of 
Athole. There was good Harry Erskine, with his 
satirical nose and upper lip, and his mouth just open 
for a witticism to pop out ; Hutton the geologist, in 
quakerish raiment, and looking altogether trim and 
narrow, and as if he cared more about fossils than 
young ladies ; full-blown John Robison, in hyper- 
bolical red-dressing-gown, and every inch of him a 
fine old man of the world ; Constable the publisher, 
upright beside a table, and bearing a corporation 
with commercial dignity ; Lord Bannatyne hearing 
a cause, if ever anybody h^ard a cause since the 
world began ; Lord Newton just awakened from 
clandestine slumber on the bench ; and the second 
President Dundas, with every feature so fat that he 
reminds you, in his wig, of some droll old court 
officer in an illustrated nursery story-book, and yet 
all these fat features instinct with meaning, the fat 
lips curved and compressed, the nose combining 
somehow the dignity of a beak with the good-nature 



of a bottle, and the very double chin with an air of 
intelhgence and insight. And all these portraits are 
so pat and telling, and look at you so spiritedly from 
the walls, that, compared with the sort of living 
people one sees about the streets, they are as bright 
new sovereigns to fishy and obliterated sixpences. 
Some disparaging thoughts upon our own generation 
could hardly fail to present themselves ; but it is 
perhaps only the sace?^ vates who is wanting ; and we 
also, painted by such a man as Carolus Duran, may 
look in holiday immortality upon our children and 

Raeburn's young women, to be frank, are by no 
means of the same order of merit. No one, of course, 
could be insensible to the presence of Miss Janet 
Suttie or Mrs. Campbell of Fossil. When things 
are as pretty as that, criticism is out of season. But, 
on the whole, it is only with women of a certain age 
that he can be said to have succeeded, in at all the 
same sense as we say he succeeded with men. The 
younger women do not seem to be made of good flesh 
and blood. They are not painted in rich and 
unctuous touches. They are dry and diaphanous. 
And although young ladies in Great Britain are all 
that can be desired of them, I would fain hope they 
are not quite so much of that as Raeburn would 
have us believe. In all these pretty faces you miss 
character, you miss fire, you miss that spice of the 
devil which is worth all the prettiness in the world ; 
and, what is worst of all, you miss sex. His young 
ladies are not womanly to nearly the same degree as 



his men are masculine ; they are so in a negative 
sense ; in short, they are the typical young ladies of 
the male novelist. 

To say truth, either Raeburn was timid with 
young and pretty sitters ; or he had stupefied him- 
self with sentimentalities ; or else (and here is about 
the truth of it) Raeburn and the rest of us labour 
under an obstinate blindness in one direction, and 
know very little more about women after all these 
centuries than Adam when he first saw Eve. This 
is all the more likely, because we are by no means 
so unintelligent in the matter of old women. There 
are some capital old women, it seems to me, in books 
written by men. And Raeburn has some, such as 
Mrs. Colin Campbell of Park, or the anonymous 
' Old lady with a large cap,' which are done in the 
same frank, perspicacious spirit as the very best of 
his men. He could" look into their eyes without 
trouble ; and he was not withheld, by any bashful 
sentimentalism, from recognising what he saw there 
and unsparingly putting it down upon the canvas. 
But where people cannot meet without some con- 
fusion and a good deal of involuntary humbug, and 
are occupied, for as long as they are together, with 
a very different vein of thought, there cannot be 
much room for intelligent study nor much result in 
the shape of genuine comprehension. Even women, 
who understand men so well for practical purposes, 
do not know them well enough for the purposes of 
art. Take even the very best of their male creations, 
take Tito Melema, for instance, and you will find he 



has an equivocal air, and every now and again 
remembers he has a comb at the back of his head. 
Of com'se, no woman will believe this, and many 
men will be so very polite as to humour their incre- 




The regret we have for our childhood is not wholly 
justifiable : so much a man may lay down without 
fear of public ribaldry ; for although we shake our 
heads over the change, we are not unconscious of the 
manifold advantages of our new state. What we 
lose in generous impulse we more than gain in the 
habit of generously watching others ; and the capa- 
city to enjoy Shakespeare may balance a lost aptitude 
for playing at soldiers. Terror is gone out of our 
lives, moreover ; we no longer see the devil in the 
bed-curtains nor lie awake to listen to the wind. 
We go to school no more; and if we have only 
exchanged one drudgery for another (which is by no 
means sure), we are set free for ever from the daily 
fear of chastisement. And yet a great change has 
overtaken us ; and although we do not enjoy our- 
selves less, at least we take our pleasure differently. 
We need pickles nowadays to make Wednesday's 
cold mutton please our Friday's appetite ; and I can 
remember the time when to call it red venison, and 



tell myself a hunter's story, would have made it more 
palatable than the best of sauces. To the grown 
person, cold mutton is cold mutton all the world 
over ; not all the mythology ever invented by man 
will make it better or worse to him ; the broad fact, 
the clamant reality, of '''the mutton carries away 
before it such seductive figments. But for the child 
it is still possible to weave an enchantment over 
eatables ; and if he has but read of a dish in a story- 
book, it will be heavenly manna to him for a week. 

If a grown man does not like eating and drinking 
and exercise, if he is not something positive in his 
tastes, it means he has a feeble body and should have 
some medicine ; but children may be pure spirits, if 
they will, and take their enjoyment in a world of 
moonshine. Sensation does not count for so much 
in our first years as afterwards ; something of the 
swaddling numbness of infancy clings about us ; we 
see and touch and hear through a sort of golden 
mist. Children, for instance, are able enough to see, 
but they have no great faculty for looking ; they do 
not use their eyes for the pleasure of using them, 
but for by-ends of their own ; and the things I call 
to mind seeing most vividly were not beautiful in 
themselves, but merely interesting or enviable to 
me as I thought they might be turned to practical 
account in play. Nor is the sense of touch so clean 
and poignant in children as it is in a man. If you 
will turn over your old memories, I think the sensa- 
tions of this sort you remember will be somewhat 
vague, and come to not much more than a blunt, 


general sense of heat on summer days, or a blunt, 
general sense of wellbeing in bed. And here, of 
course, you will understand pleasurable sensations ; 
for overmastering pain — the most deadly and tragical 
element in life, and the true commander of man's 
soul and body — alas ! pain has its own way with all 
of us ; it breaks in, a rude visitant, upon the fairy 
garden where the child wanders in a dream, no less 
surely than it rules upon the field of battle, or sends 
the immortal war-god whimpering to his father ; and 
innocence, no more than philosophy, can protect us 
from this sting. As for taste, when we bear in mind 
the excesses of unmitigated sugar which delight a 
youthful palate, ' it is surely no very cynical asperity ' 
to think taste a character of the maturer growth. 
Smell and hearing are perhaps more developed ; I 
remember many scents, many voices, and a great 
deal of spring singing in the woods. But hearing is 
capable of vast improvement as a means of pleasure ; 
and there is all the world between gaping wonder- 
ment at the jargon of birds, and the emotion with 
which a man listens to articulate music. 

At the same time, and step by step with this 
increase in the definition and intensity of what we 
feel which accompanies our growing age, another 
change takes place in the sphere of intellect, by 
which all things are transformed and seen through 
theories and associations as through coloured win- 
dows. We make to ourselves day by day, out of 
history, and gossip, and economical speculations, and 
God knows what, a medium in which we walk and 



through which we look abroad. We study shop 
windows with other eyes than in our childhood, 
never to wonder, not always to admire, but to make 
and modify our little incongruous theories about 
life. It is no longer the uniform of a soldier that 
arrests our attention ; but perhaps the flowing car- 
riage of a woman, or perhaps a countenance that 
has been vividly stamped with passion, and carries 
an adventurous story written in its lines. The 
pleasure of surprise is passed away ; sugar-loaves and 
water-carts seem mighty tame to encounter ; and 
we walk the streets to make romances and to 
sociologise. Nor must we deny that a good many 
of us walk them solely for the purposes of transit or 
in the interest of a livelier digestion. These, indeed, 
may look back with mingled thoughts upon their 
childhood, but the rest are in a better case ; they 
know more than when they were children, they 
understand better, their desires and sympathies 
answer more nimbly to the provocation of the senses, 
and their minds are brimming with interest as they 
go about the world. 

According to my contention, this is a flight to 
which children cannot rise. They are wheeled in 
perambulators or dragged about by nurses in a pleas- 
ing stupor. A vague, faint, abiding wonderment 
possesses them. Here and there some specially 
remarkable circumstance, such as a water-cart or a 
guardsman, fairly penetrates into the seat of thought, 
and calls them, for half a moment, out of them- 
selves ; and you may see them, still towed forward 
1 60 


sideways by the inexorable nurse as by a sort of 
destiny, but still staring at the bright object in their 
wake. It may be some minutes before another such 
moving spectacle reawakens them to the world in 
which they dwell. For other children, they almost 
invariably show some intelligent sympathy. ' There 
is a fine fellow making mud pies,' they seem to say ; 
'that I can understand, there is some sense in mud 
pies.' But the doings of their elders, unless where 
they are speakingly picturesque or recommend them- 
selves by the quality of being easily imitable, they 
let them go over their heads (as we say) without the 
least regard. If it were not for this perpetual 
imitation, we should be tempted to fancy they de- 
spised us outright, or only considered us in the Hght 
of creatures brutally strong and brutally silly ; among 
whom they condescended to dwell in obedience 
like a philosopher at a barbarous court. At times, 
indeed, they display an arrogance of disregard that is 
truly staggering. Once, when I was groaning aloud 
with physical pain, a young gentleman came into 
the room and nonchalantly inquired if I had seen his 
bow and arrow. He made no account of my groans, 
which he accepted, as he had to accept so much else, 
as a piece of the inexplicable conduct of his elders ; 
and like a wise young gentleman, he would waste no 
wonder on the subject. Those elders, who care so 
little for rational enjoyment, and are even the enemies 
of rational enjoyment for others, he had accepted 
without understanding and without complaint, as the 
rest of us accept the scheme of the universe. 
II— L i6i 


We grown people can tell ourselves a story, give 
and take strokes until the bucklers ring, ride far and 
fast, marry, fall, and die ; all the while sitting quietly 
by the fire or lying prone in bed. This is exactly 
what a child cannot do, or does not do, at least, 
when he can find anything else. He works all with 
lay figures and stage properties. When his story 
comes to the fighting, he must rise, get something 
by way of a sword and have a set-to with a piece of 
furniture, until he is out of breath. When he comes 
to ride with the king's pardon, he must bestride a 
chair, which he will so hurry and belabour, and on 
which he will so furiously demean himself, that the 
messenger will arrive, if not bloody with spurring, 
at least fiery red with haste. If his romance involves 
an accident upon a cliff", he must clamber in person 
about the chest of drawers, and fall bodily upon 
the carpet, before his imagination is satisfied. Lead 
soldiers, dolls, all toys, in short, are in the same 
category and answer the same end. Nothing can 
stagger a child's faith ; he accepts the clumsiest 
substitutes and can swallow the most staring in- 
congruities. The chair he has just been besieging 
as a castle, or valiantly cutting to the ground as a 
dragon, is taken away for the accommodation of a 
morning visitor, and he is nothing abashed ; he can 
skirmish by the hour with a stationary coal-scuttle ; 
in the midst of the enchanted pleasance, he can see, 
without sensible shock, the gardener soberly digging 
potatoes for the day's dinner. He can make abstrac- 
tion of whatever does not fit into his fable ; and he 


puts his eyes into his pocket, just as we hold our 
noses in an unsavoury lane. And so it is, that 
although the ways of children cross with those of 
their elders in a hundred places daily, they never go 
in the same direction nor so much as lie in the same 
element. So may the telegraph-wires intersect the 
line of the high-road, or so might a landscape-painter 
and a bagman visit the same country, and yet move 
in different worlds. 

People, struck with these spectacles, cry aloud 
about the power of imagination in the young. 
Indeed, there may be two words to that. It is, in 
some ways, but a pedestrian fancy that the child 
exhibits. It is the grown people who make the 
nursery stories ; all the children do is jealously to 
preserve the text. One out of a dozen reasons why 
Robinson Crusoe should be so popular with youth, is 
that it hits their level in this matter to a nicety ; 
Crusoe was always at makeshifts, and had, in so 
many words, to play at a great variety of professions ; 
and then the book is all about tools, and there is 
nothing that delights a child so much. Hammers 
and saws belong to a province of life that positively 
calls for imitation. The juvenile lyrical drama, 
surely of the most ancient Thespian model, wherein 
the trades of mankind are successively simulated to 
the running burthen ' On a cold and frosty morning,' 
gives a good instance of the artistic taste in children. 
And this need for overt action and lay figures 
testifies to a defect in the child's imagination which 
prevents him from carrying out his novels in the 



privacy of his own heart. He does not yet know 
enough of the world and men. His experience is 
incomplete. That stage- wardrobe and scene-room 
that we call the memory is so ill provided, that he 
can overtake few combinations and body out few 
stories, to his own content, without some external 
aid. He is at the experimental stage ; he is not 
sure how one would feel in certain circumstances ; to 
make sure, he must come as near trying it as his 
means permit. And so here is young heroism with 
a wooden sword, and mothers practise their kind 
vocation over a bit of jointed stick. It may be 
laughable enough just now ; but it is these same 
people and these same thoughts, that not long hence, 
when they are on the theatre of life, will make you 
weep and tremble. For children think very much 
the same thoughts and dream the same dreams as 
bearded men and marriageable women. No one is 
more romantic. Fame and honour, the love of 
young men and the love of mothers, the business 
man's pleasure in method, all these and others they 
anticipate and rehearse in their play-hours. Upon 
us, who are further advanced and fairly dealing with 
the threads of destiny, they only glance from time 
to time to glean a hint for their own mimetic 
reproduction. Two children playing at soldiers are 
far more interesting to each other than one of the 
scarlet beings whom both are busy imitating. This 
is perhaps the greatest oddity of all. ' Art for art ' is 
their motto; and the doings of grown folk are only in- 
teresting as the raw material for play. Not Th^ophile 


Gautier, not Flaubert, can look more callously upon 
life, or rate the reproduction more highly over the 
reality ; and they will parody an execution, a death- 
bed, or the funeral of the young man of Nain, with 
all the cheerfulness in the world. 

The true parallel for play is not to be found, of 
course, in conscious art, which, though it be derived 
from play, is itself an abstract, impersonal thing, 
and depends largely upon philosophical interests 
beyond the scope of childhood. It is when we make 
castles in the air and personate the leading character 
in our own romances, that we return to the spirit of 
our first years. Only, there are several reasons why 
the spirit is no longer so agreeable to indulge. 
Nowadays, when we admit this personal element 
into our divagations we are apt to stir up uncomfort- 
able and sorrowful memories, and remind ourselves 
sharply of old wounds. Our day-dreams can no 
longer lie all in the air like a story in the Arabian 
Nights ; they read to us rather like the history of a 
period in which we ourselves had taken part, where 
we come across many unfortunate passages and find 
our own conduct smartly reprimanded. And then 
the child, mind you, acts his parts. He does not 
merely repeat them to himself; he leaps, he runs, 
and sets the blood agog over all his body. And so 
his play breathes him ; and he no sooner assumes a 
passion than he gives it vent. Alas ! when we 
betake ourselves to our intellectual form of play, 
sitting quietly by the fire or lying prone in bed, we 
rouse many hot feelings for which we can find no 



outlet. Substitutes are not acceptable to the mature 
mind, which desires the thing itself; and even to 
rehearse a triumphant dialogue with one's enemy, 
although it is perhaps the most satisfactory piece of 
play still left within our reach, is not entirely 
satisfying, and is even apt to lead to a visit and an 
interview which may be the reverse of triumphant 
after all. 

In the child's world of dim sensation, play is all in 
aU. ' Making believe ' is the gist of his whole life, 
and he cannot so much as take a walk except in 
character. I could not learn my alphabet without 
some suitable viise-en-scene, and had to act a business 
man in an office before I could sit down to my book. 
Will you kindly question your memory, and find 
out how much you did, work or pleasure, in good 
faith and soberness, and for how much you had to 
cheat yourself with some invention ? I remember, 
as though it were yesterday, the expansion of spirit, 
the dignity and self-reliance, that came with a pair 
of mustachios in burnt cork, even when there was 
none to see. Children are even content to forgo 
what we call the realities, and prefer the shadow to 
the substance. When they might be speaking in- 
telligibly together, they chatter senseless gibberish 
by the hour, and are quite happy because they are 
making believe to speak French. I have said 
already how even the imperious appetite of hunger 
suffisrs itself to be gulled and led by the nose with 
the fag-end of an old song. And ]it goes deeper 
than this : when children are together even a meal 


is felt as an interruption in the business of life ; and 
they must find some imaginative sanction, and tell 
themselves some sort of story, to account for, to 
colour, to render entertaining, the simple processes of 
eating and drinking. What wonderful fancies I have 
heard evolved out of the pattern upon teacups ! — 
from which there followed a code of rules and a 
whole world of excitement, until tea-drinking began 
to take rank as a game. When my cousin and I 
took our porridge of a morning, we had a device 
to enliven the course of the meal. He ate his 
with sugar, and explained it to be a country con- 
tinually buried under snow. I took mine with 
milk, and explained it to be a country suffering 
gradual inundation. You can imagine us exchanging 
bulletins ; how here was an island still unsubmerged, 
here a valley not yet covered with snow ; what 
inventions were made ; how his population lived in 
cabins on perches and travelled on stilts, and how 
mine was always in boats ; how the interest grew 
furious, as the last corner of safe ground was cut off 
on all sides and grew smaller every moment ; and 
how, in fine, the food was of altogether secondary 
importance, and might even have been nauseous, so 
long as we seasoned it with these dreams. But 
perhaps the most exciting moments I ever had over 
a meal were in the case of calves' feet jelly. It was 
hardly possible not to beheve — and you may be 
sure, so far from trying, I did all I could to favour 
the illusion — that some part of it was hollow, and 
that sooner or later my spoon would lay open the 



secret tabernacle of the golden rock. There, might 
some miniature Red Beard await his hour; there, 
might one find the treasures of the Forty Thieves, 
and bewildered Cassim beating about the walls. 
And so I quarried on slowly, with bated breath, 
savouring the interest. Beheve me, I had little 
palate left for the jelly ; and though I preferred the 
taste when I took cream with it, I used often to go 
without, because the cream dimmed the transparent 

Even with games, this spirit is authoritative with 
right-minded children. It is thus that hide-and-seek 
has so pre-eminent a sovereignty, for it is the well- 
spring of romance, and the actions and the excitement 
to which it gives rise lend themselves to almost any 
sort of fable. And thus cricket, which is a mere 
matter of dexterity, palpably about nothing, and for 
no end, often fails to satisfy infantile craving. It is 
a game, if you like, but not a game of play. You 
cannot tell yourself a story about cricket ; and the 
activity it calls forth can be justified on no rational 
theory. Even football, although it admirably simu- 
lates the tug and the ebb and flow of battle, has 
presented difficulties to the mind of young sticklers 
after verisimilitude ; and I knew at least one little 
boy who was mightily exercised about the presence 
of the ball, and had to spirit himself up, whenever 
he came to play, with an elaborate story of enchant- 
ment, and take the missile as a sort of talisman 
bandied about in conflict between two Arabian 



To think of such a frame of mind is to become 
disquieted about the bringing up of children. Surely 
they dwell in a mythological epoch, and are not the 
contemporaries of their parents. What can they 
think of them ? what can they make of these bearded 
or petticoated giants who look down upon their 
games ? who move upon a cloudy Olympus, follow- 
ing unknown designs apart from rational enjoyment ? 
who profess the tenderest solicitude for children, and 
yet every now and again reach down out of their 
altitude and terribly vindicate the prerogatives of 
age ? Off goes the child, corporally smarting, but 
morally rebellious. Were there ever such unthink- 
able deities as parents ? I would give a great deal 
to know what, in nine cases out of ten, is the child's 
unvarnished feeling. A sense of past cajolery ; a 
sense of personal attraction, at best very feeble; 
above all, I should imagine, a sense of terror for the 
untried residue of mankind : go to make up the 
attraction that he feels. No wonder, poor little 
heart, with such a weltering world in front of him, 
if he clings to the hand he knows ! The dread 
irrationahty of the whole affair, as it seems to chil- 
dren, is a thing we are all too ready to forget. ' O, 
why,' I remember passionately wondering, ' why can 
we not all be happy and devote ourselves to play ? ' 
And when children do philosophise, I believe it is 
usually to very much the same purpose. 

One thing, at least, comes very clearly out of 
these considerations : that whatever we are to ex- 
pect at the hands of children, it should not be any 



peddling exactitude about matters of fact. They 
walk in a vain show, and among mists and rainbows ; 
they are passionate after dreams and unconcerned 
about realities ; speech is a difficult art not wholly 
learned ; and there is nothing in their own tastes or 
purposes to teach them what we mean by abstract 
truthfulness. When a bad writer is inexact, even if 
he can look back on half a century of years, we 
charge him with incompetence and not with dis- 
honesty. And why not extend the same allowance 
to imperfect speakers ? Let a stockbroker be dead 
stupid about poetry, or a poet inexact in the details 
of business, and we excuse them heartily from blame. 
But show us a miserable, unbreeched, human entity, 
whose whole profession it is to take a tub for a 
fortified town and a shaving-brush for the deadly 
stiletto, and who passes three-fourths of his time in 
a dream and the rest in open self-deception, and we 
expect him to be as nice upon a matter of fact as a 
scientific expert bearing evidence. Upon my heart, 
I think it less than decent. You do not consider 
how little the child sees, or how swift he is to weave 
what he has seen into bewildering fiction ; and that 
he cares no more for what you call truth, than you 
for a gingerbread dragoon. 

I am reminded, as I write, that the child is very 
inquiring as to the precise truth of stories. But 
indeed this is a very different matter, and one bound 
up with the subject of play, and the precise amount 
of playfulness, or playability, to be looked for in the 
world. Many such burning questions must arise in 


the course of nursery education. Among the fauna 
of this planet, which already embraces the pretty 
soldier and the terrifying Irish beggarman, is, or is 
not, the child to expect a Bluebeard or a Cormoran ? 
Is he, or is he not, to look out for magicians, kindly 
and potent ? May he, or may he not, reasonably 
hope to be cast away upon a desert island, or turned 
to such diminutive proportions that he can live on 
equal terms with his lead soldiery, and go a cruise 
in his own toy schooner ? Surely all these are 
practical questions to a neophyte entering upon life 
with a view to play. Precision upon such a point, 
the child can understand. But if you merely ask 
him of his past behaviour, as to who threw such a 
stone, for instance, or struck such and such a match ; 
or whether he had looked into a parcel or gone by a 
forbidden path, — why, he can see no moment in the 
inquiry, and it is ten to one, he has already half 
forgotten and half bemused himself with subsequent 

It would be easy to leave them in their native 
cloudland, where they figure so prettily — pretty like 
flowers and innocent like dogs. They will come out 
of their gardens soon enough, and have to go into 
offices and the witness-box. Spare them yet a while, 
O conscientious parent ! Let them doze among 
their playthings yet a little ! for who knows what a 
rough, warfaring existence lies before them in the 
future ? 




It must not be imagined that a walking tour, as 
some would have us fancy, is merely a better or 
worse way of seeing the country. There are many 
ways of seeing landscape quite as good; and none 
more vivid, in spite of canting dilettantes, than from 
a railway train. But landscape on a walking tour 
is quite accessory. He who is indeed of the brother- 
hood does not voyage in quest of the picturesque, 
but of certain jolly humours — of the hope and spirit 
with which the march begins at morning, and the 
peace and spiritual repletion of the evening's rest. 
He cannot tell whether he puts his knapsack on, or 
takes it off, with more delight. The excitement of 
the departure puts him in key for that of the arrival. 
Whatever he does is not only a reward in itself, but 
will be further rewarded in the sequel ; and so 
pleasure leads on to pleasure in an endless chain. 
It is this that so few can understand ; they will 
either be always lounging or always at five miles an 
hour ; they do not play off the one against the other, 


prepare all day for the evening, and all evening for 
the next day. And, above all, it is here that your 
overwalker fails of comprehension. His heart rises 
against those who drink their cura^oa in liqueur- 
glasses, when he himself can swill it in a brown 
John. He will not believe that the flavour is more 
delicate in the smaller dose. He will not beheve 
that to walk this unconscionable distance is merely 
to stupefy and brutalise himself, and come to his 
inn, at night, with a sort of frost on his five wits, 
and a starless night of darkness in his spirit. Not 
for him the mild luminous evening of the temperate 
walker ! He has nothing left of man but a physical 
need for bedtime and a double nightcap ; and even 
his pipe, if he be a smoker, will be savourless and 
disenchanted. It is the fate of such an one to take 
twice as much trouble as is needed to obtain happi- 
ness, and miss the happiness in the end ; he is the 
man of the proverb, in short, who goes farther and 
fares worse. 

Now, to be properly enjoyed, a walking tour 
should be gone upon alone. If you go in a company, 
or even in pairs, it is no longer a walking tour in 
anything but name ; it is something else, and more 
in the nature of a picnic. A walking tour should 
be gone upon alone, because freedom is of the 
essence ; because you should be able to stop and go 
on, and follow this way or that, as the freak takes 
you ; and because you must have your own pace, 
and neither trot alongside a champion walker nor 
mince in time with a girl. And then you must be 



open to all impressions, and let your thoughts take 
colour from what you see. You should be as a pipe 
for any wind to play upon. ' I cannot see the wit,' 
says Hazlitt, 'of walking and talking at the same 
time. When I am in the country I wish to vegetate 
like the country,' — which is the gist of all that can 
be said upon the matter. There should be no cackle 
of voices at your elbow, to jar on the meditative 
silence of the morning. And so long as a man is 
reasoning he cannot surrender himself to that fine 
intoxication that comes of much motion in the open 
air, that begins in a sort of dazzle and sluggishness 
of the brain, and ends in a peace that passes com- 

During the first day or so of any tour there are 
moments of bitterness, when the traveller feels more 
than coldly towards his knapsack, when he is half 
in a mind to throw it bodily over the hedge, and, 
like Christian on a similar occasion, ' give three leaps 
and go on singing.' And yet it soon acquires a 
property of easiness. It becomes magnetic ; the 
spirit of the journey enters into it. And no sooner 
have you passed the straps over your shoulder than 
the lees of sleep are cleared from you, you pull 
yourself together with a shake, and fall at once into 
your stride. And surely, of all possible moods, this, 
in which a man takes the road, is the best. Of 
course, if he will keep thinking of his anxieties, if 
he will open the merchant Abudah's chest and walk 
arm-in-arm with the hag — why, wherever he is, and 
whether he walk fast or slow, the chances are that 


he will not be happy. And so much the more 
shame to himself! There are perhaps thirty men 
setting forth at that same hour, and I would lay a 
large wager there is not another dull face among the 
thirty. It would be a fine thing to follow, in a coat 
of darkness, one after another of these wayfarers, 
some summer morning, for the first few miles upon 
the road. This one, who walks fast, with a keen 
look in his eyes, is all concentrated in his own mind ; 
he is up at his loom, weaving and weaving, to set 
the landscape to words. This one peers about, as 
he goes, among the grasses ; he waits by the canal 
to watch the dragon -flies ; he leans on the gate of 
the pasture, and cannot look enough upon the com- 
placent kine. And here comes another, talking, 
laughing, and gesticulating to himself. His face 
changes from time to time, as indignation flashes 
from his eyes or anger clouds his forehead. He is 
composing articles, delivering orations, and conduct- 
ing the most impassioned interviews, by the way. 
A little farther on, and it is as like as not he will 
begin to sing. And well for him, supposing him to 
be no great master in that art, if he stumble across 
no stolid peasant at a corner ; for on such an 
occasion, I scarcely know which is the more troubled, 
or whether it is worse to suffer the confusion of 
your troubadour, or the unfeigned alarm of your 
clown. A sedentary population, accustomed, be- 
sides, to the strange mechanical bearing of the 
common tramp, can in no wise explain to itself the 
gaiety of these passers-by. I knew one man who 



was arrested as a runaway lunatic, because, although 
a full-grown person with a red beard, he skipped as 
he went hke a child. And you would be astonished 
if I were to tell you all the grave and learned heads 
who have confessed to me that, when on walking 
tours, they sang — and sang very ill — and had a pair 
of red ears when, as described above, the inauspi- 
cious peasant plumped into their arms from round a 
corner. And here, lest you should think I am 
exaggerating, is Hazlitt's own confession, from his 
essay On Going a Journey, which is so good that 
there should be a tax levied on all who have not 
read it : — 

' Give me the clear blue sky over my head,' says 
he, ' and the green turf beneath my feet, a winding 
road before me, and a three hours' march to dinner 
— and then to thinking ! It is hard if I cannot start 
some game on these lone heaths. I laugh, I run, I 
leap, I sing for joy.' 

Bravo ! After that adventure of my friend with 
the policeman, you would not have cared, would 
you, to publish that in the first person ? But we 
have no bravery nowadays, and, even in books, must 
all pretend to be as dull and foolish as our neigh- 
bours. It was not so with Hazlitt. And notice 
how learned he is (as, indeed, throughout the essay) 
in the theory of walking tours. He is none of your 
athletic men in purple stockings, who walk their 
fifty miles a day : three hours' march is his ideal. 
And then he must have a winding road, the epicure ! 

Yet there is one thing I object to in these words 


of his, one thing in the great master's practice that 
seems to me not wholly wise. I do not approve of 
that leaping and running. Both of these hurry the 
respiration ; they both shake up the brain out of its 
glorious open-air confusion ; and they both break 
the pace. Uneven walking is not so agreeable to 
the body, and it distracts and irritates the mind. 
Whereas, when once you have fallen into an equable 
stride, it requires no conscious thought from you to 
keep it up, and yet it prevents you from thinking 
earnestly of anything else. Like knitting, like the 
work of a copying-clerk, it gradually neutralises and 
sets to sleep the serious activity of the mind. We 
can think of this or that, lightly and laughingly, as 
a child thinks, or as we think in a morning doze ; we 
can make puns or puzzle out acrostics, and trifle in 
a thousand ways with words and rhymes ; but when 
it comes to honest work, when we come to gather 
ourselves together for an effort, we may sound the 
trumpet as loud and long as we please ; the great 
barons of the mind will not rally to the standard, 
but sit, each one, at home, warming his hands over 
his own fire, and brooding on his own private 
thought ! 

In the course of a day's walk, you see, there is 
much variance in the mood. From the exhilaration 
of the start, to the happy phlegm of the arrival, 
the change is certainly great. As the day goes on, 
the traveller moves from the one extreme towards the 
other. He becomes more and more incorporated 
with the material landscape, and the open-air 
II — M 177 


drunkenness grows upon him with great strides, 
until he posts along the road, and sees everything 
about him, as in a cheerful dream. The first is 
certainly brighter, but the second stage is the more 
peaceful. A man does not make so many articles 
towards the end, nor does he laugh aloud ; but the 
purely animal pleasures, the sense of physical well- 
being, the delight of every inhalation, of every time 
the muscles tighten down the thigh, console him for 
the absence of the others, and' bring him to his 
destination still content. 

Nor must I forget to say a word on bivouacs. 
You come to a milestone on a hill, or some place 
where deep ways meet under trees ; and off goes the 
knapsack, and down you sit to smoke a pipe in the 
shade. You sink into yourself, and the birds come 
round and look at you ; and your smoke dissipates 
upon the afternoon under the blue dome of heaven ; 
and the sun lies warm upon your feet, and the cool 
air visits your neck and turns aside your open shirt. 
If you are not happy, you must have an evil con- 
science. You may dally as long as you like by the 
roadside. It is almost as if the millennium were 
arrived, when we shall throw our clocks and watches 
over the housetop, and remember time and seasons 
no more. Not to keep hours for a lifetime is, I was 
going to say, to live for ever. You have no idea, 
unless you have tried it, how endlessly long is a 
summer's day that you measure out only by hunger, 
and bring to an end only when you are drowsy. I 
know a village where there are hardly any clocks, 


where no one knows more of the days of the week 
than by a sort of instinct for the fete on Sundays, 
and where only one person can tell you the day of 
the month, and she is generally wrong ; and if people 
were aware how slow Time journeyed in that village, 
and what armfuls of spare hours he gives, over and 
above the bargain, to its wise inhabitants, I believe 
there would be a stampede out of London, Liver- 
pool, Paris, and a variety of large towns, where the 
clocks lose their heads, and shake the hours out each 
one faster than the other, as though they were all 
in a wager. And all these foolish pilgrims would 
each bring his own misery along with him, in a 
watch-pocket ! It is to be noticed there were no 
clocks and watches in the much-vaunted days before 
the flood. It follows, of course, there were no 
appointments, and punctuality was not yet thought 
upon. ' Though ye take from a covetous man all 
his treasure,' says Milton, 'he has yet one jewel left; 
ye cannot deprive him of his covetousness.' And 
so I would say of a modern man of business, you 
may do what you will for him, put him in Eden, 
give him the elixir of life — he has still a flaw at 
heart, he still has his business habits. Now, there is 
no time when business habits are more mitigated 
than on a walking tour. And so during these halts, 
as I say, you will feel almost free. 

But it is at night, and after dinner, that the best 
hour comes. There are no such pipes to be smoked 
as those that follow a good day's march ; the flavour 
of the tobacco is a thing to be remembered, it is so 



dry and aromatic, so full and so fine. If you wind 
up the evening with grog, you will own there was 
never such grog ; at every sip a jocund tranquillity 
spreads about your limbs, and sits easily in your 
heart. If you read a book — and you will never do 
so save by fits and starts — you find the language 
strangely racy and harmonious ; words take a new 
meaning; single sentences possess the ear for half 
an hour together ; and the writer endears himself to 
you, at every page, by the nicest coincidence of 
sentiment. It seems as if it were a book you had 
written yourself in a dream. To all we have read 
on such occasions we look back wdth special favour. 
'It was on the 10th of April, 1798,' says Hazlitt, 
with amorous precision, 'that I sat down to a 
volume of the New Heloise, at the Inn at Llangollen, 
over a bottle of sherry and a cold chicken.' I should 
wish to quote more, for though we are mighty fine 
fellows nowadays, we cannot write like Hazlitt. 
And, talking of that, a volume of Hazlitt's essays 
would be a capital pocket-book on such a journey ; 
so would a volume of Heine's songs ; and for Tris- 
tram Shandy I can pledge a fair experience. 

If the evening be fine and warm, there is nothing 
better in life than to lounge before the inn door in 
the sunset, or lean over the parapet of the bridge, to 
watch the weeds and the quick fishes. It is then, if 
ever, that you taste Joviality to the full significance 
of that audacious word. Your muscles are so agree- 
ably slack, you feel so clean and so strong and so 
idle, that whether you move or sit still, whatever 


you do is done with pride and a kingly sort of 
pleasure. You fall in talk with any one, wise or 
fooHsh, drunk or sober. And it seems as if a hot 
walk purged you, more than of anything else, of all 
narrowness and pride, and left curiosity to play its 
part freely, as in a child or a man of science. You 
lay aside all your own hobbies, to watch provincial 
humours develop themselves before you, now as a 
laughable farce, and now grave and beautiful like an 
old tale. 

Or perhaps you are left to your own company for 
the night, and surly weather imprisons you by the 
fire. You may remember how Burns, numbering 
past pleasures, dwells upon the hours when he has 
been 'happy thinking.' It is a phrase that may well 
perplex a poor modern, girt about on every side by 
clocks and chimes, and haunted, even at night, by 
flaming dial-plates. For we are all so busy, and 
have so many far-off projects to realise, and castles 
in the fire to turn into solid habitable mansions on 
a gravel soil, that we can find no time for pleasure- 
trips into the Land of Thought and among the Hills 
of Vanity. Changed times, indeed, when we must 
sit all night, beside the fire, with folded hands ; and 
a changed world for most of us, when we find we 
can pass the hours without discontent, and be happy 
thinking. We are in such haste to be doing, to be 
writing, to be gathering gear, to make our voice 
audible a moment in the derisive silence of eternity, 
that we forget that one thing, of which these are but 
the parts — namely, to live. We fall in love, we 



drink hard, we run to and fro upon the earth like 
frightened sheep. And now you are to ask yourself 
if, when all is done, you would not have been better 
to sit by the fire at home, and be happy thinking. 
To sit still and contemplate, — to remember the faces 
of women without desire, to be pleased by the great 
deeds of men without envy, to be everything and 
everywhere in sympathy, and yet content to remain 
where and what you are — is not this to know both 
wisdom and virtue, and to dwell with happiness? 
After all, it is not they who carry flags, but they 
who look upon it from a private chamber, who have 
the fun of the procession. And once you are at 
that, you are in the very humour of all social heresy. 
It is no time for shuffling, or for big, empty words. 
If you ask yourself what you mean by fame, riches, 
or learning, the answer is far to seek ; and you go 
back into that kingdom of light imaginations, which 
seem so vain in the eyes of Philistines perspiring 
after wealth, and so momentous to those who are 
stricken with the disproportions of the world, and, in 
the face of the gigantic stars, cannot stop to split 
differences between two degrees of the infinitesimally 
small, such as a tobacco-pipe or the Roman Empire, 
a million of money or a fiddlestick's end. 

You lean from the window, your last pipe reeking 
whitely into the darkness, your body full of delicious 
pains, your mind enthroned in the seventh circle 
of content ; when suddenly the mood changes, the 
weathercock goes about, and you ask yourself one 
question more : whether, for the interval, you have 


been the wisest philosopher or the most egregious 
of donkeys ? Human experience is not yet able to 
reply ; but at least you have had a fine moment, and 
looked down upon all the kingdoms of the earth. 
And whether it was wise or foolish, to-morrow's 
travel will carry you, body and mind, into some 
different parish of the infinite. 



The world in which we live has been variously said 
and sung by the most ingenious poets and philo- 
sophers : these reducing it to formulae and chemical 
ingredients, those striking the lyre in high-sounding 
measures for the handiwork of God. What experi- 
ence supplies is of a mingled tissue, and the choosing 
mind has much to reject before it can get together 
the materials of a theory. Dew and thunder, de- 
stroying Attila and the Spring lambkins, belong 
to an order of contrasts which no repetition can 
assimilate. There is an uncouth, outlandish strain 
throughout the web of the world, as from a vexa- 
tious planet in the house of life. Things are not 
congruous and wear strange disguises : the con- 
summate flower is fostered out of dung, and after 
nourishing itself a while with heaven's delicate dis- 
tillations, decays again into indistinguishable soil ; 
and with Caesar's ashes, Hamlet tells us, the urchins 
make dirt pies and filthily besmear their countenance. 
Nay, the kindly shine of summer, when tracked 


home with the scientific spyglass, is found to issue 
from the most portentous nightmare of the universe 
— the great, conflagrant sun : a world of hell's squibs, 
tumultuary, roaring aloud, inimical to life. The 
sun itself is enough to disgust a human being of the 
scene which he inhabits ; and you would not fancy 
there was a green or habitable spot in a universe 
thus awfully hghted up. And yet it is by the blaze 
of such a conflagration, to which the fire of Rome 
was but a spark, that we do all our fiddling, and 
hold domestic tea-parties at the arbour door. 

The Greeks figured Pan, the god of Nature, now 
terribly stamping his foot, so that armies were dis- 
persed ; now by the woodside on a summer noon 
trolling on his pipe until he charmed the hearts of 
upland ploughmen. And the Greeks, in so figuring, 
uttered the last word of human experience. To 
certain smoke-dried spirits matter and motion and 
elastic aethers, and the hypothesis of this or that 
other spectacled professor, tell a speaking story ; but 
for youth and all ductile and congenial minds. Pan 
is not dead, but of all the classic hierarchy alone 
survives in triumph ; goat-footed, with a gleeful 
and an angry look, the type of the shaggy world : 
and in every wood, if you go with a spirit properly 
prepared, you shall hear the note of his pipe. 

For it is a shaggy world, and yet studded with 
gardens ; where the salt and tumbhng sea receives 
clear rivers running from among reeds and liHes ; 
fruitful and austere ; a rustic world ; sunshiny, lewd, 
and cruel. What is it the birds sing among the 



trees in pairing-time ? What means the sound of 
the rain falling far and wide upon the leafy forest ? 
To what tune does the fisherman whistle, as he hauls 
in his net at morning, and the bright fish are heaped 
inside the boat ? These are all airs upon Pan's pipe ; 
he it was who gave them breath in the exultation 
of his heart, and gleefully modulated their outflow 
with his lips and fingers. The coarse mirth of 
herdsmen, shaking the dells with laughter and strik- 
ing out high echoes from the rock ; the tune of 
moving feet in the lamplit city, or on the smooth 
ballroom floor ; the hooves of many horses, beating 
the wide pastures in alarm ; the song of hurrying 
rivers ; the colour of clear skies ; and smiles and the 
live touch of hands ; and the voice of things, and 
their significant look, and the renovating influence 
they breathe forth — these are his joyful measures, 
to which the whole earth treads in choral harmony. 
To this music the young lambs bound as to a tabor, 
and the London shop-girl skips rudely in the dance. 
For it puts a spirit of gladness in all hearts ; and to 
look on the happy side of nature is common, in their 
hours, to all created things. Some are vocal under 
a good influence, are pleasing whenever they are 
pleased, and hand on their happiness to others, as a 
child who, looking upon lovely things, looks lovely. 
Some leap to the strains with unapt foot, and make 
a halting figure in the universal dance. And some, 
like sour spectators at the play, receive the music 
into their hearts with an unmoved countenance, and 
walk like strangers through the general rejoicing. 


But let him feign never so carefully, there is not a 
man but has his pulses shaken when Pan trolls out 
a stave of ecstasy and sets the world a-singing. 

Alas if that were all ! But oftentimes the air is 
changed ; and in the screech of the night-wind, 
chasing navies, subverting the tall ships and the 
rooted cedar of the hills ; in the random deadly levin 
or the fury of headlong floods, we recognise the 
' dread foundation ' of life and the anger in Pan's 
heart. Earth wages open war against her children, 
and under her softest touch hides treacherous claws. 
The cool waters invite us in to drown ; the domestic 
hearth burns up in the hour of sleep, and makes an 
end of all. Everything is good or bad, helpful or 
deadly, not in itself, but by its circumstances. For 
a few bright days in England the hurricane must 
break forth and the North Sea pay a toll of populous 
ships. And when the universal music has led lovers 
into the paths of dalliance, confident of Nature's 
sympathy, suddenly the air shifts into a minor, and 
death makes a clutch from his ambuscade below the 
bed of marriage. For death is given in a kiss ; the 
dearest kindnesses are fatal ; and into this life, where 
one thing preys upon another, the child too often 
makes its entrance from the mother's corpse. It is 
no wonder, with so traitorous a scheme of things, if 
the wise people who created for us the idea of Pan 
thought that of all fears the fear of him was the 
most terrible, since it embraces all. And still we 
preserve the phrase : a panic terror. To reckon 
dangers too curiously, to hearken too intently for 



the threat that runs through all the winning music 
of the world, to hold back the hand from the rose 
because of the thorn, and from life because of death : 
this it is to be afraid of Pan. Highly respectable 
citizens who flee life's pleasures and responsibilities, 
and keep, with upright hat, upon the midway of 
custom, avoiding the right hand and the left, the 
ecstasies and the agonies, how surprised they would 
be if they could hear their attitude mythologically 
expressed, and knew themselves as tooth -chattering 
ones, who flee from Nature because they fear the 
hand of Nature's God ! Shrilly sound Pan's pipes ; 
and behold the banker instantly concealed in the 
bank parlour ! For to distrust one's impulses is to 
be recreant to Pan. 

There are moments when the mind refuses to be 
satisfied with evolution, and demands a ruddier pre- 
sentation of the sum of man's experience. Some- 
times the mood is brought about by laughter at the 
humorous side of life, as when, abstracting ourselves 
from earth, we imagine people plodding on foot, or 
seated in ships and speedy trains, with the planet all 
the while whirling in the opposite direction, so that, 
for all their hurry, they travel back-foremost through 
the universe of space. Sometimes it comes by the 
spirit of delight, and sometimes by the spirit of 
terror. At least, there will always be hours when 
we refuse to be put ofl* by the feint of explanation, 
nicknamed science ; and demand instead some pal- 
pitating image of our estate, that shall represent the 
troubled and uncertain element in which we dwell, 


and satisfy reason by the means of art. Science 
writes of the world as if with the cold finger of a 
starfish ; it is all true ; but what is it when compared 
to the reality of which it discourses ? where hearts 
beat high in April, and death strikes, and hills totter 
in the earthquake, and there is a glamour over all 
the objects of sight, and a thrill in all noises for the 
ear, and Romance herself has made her dwelling 
among men ? So we come back to the old myth, 
and hear the goat-footed piper making the music 
which is itself the charm and terror of things ; and, 
when a glen invites our visiting footsteps, fancy that 
Pan leads us thither with a gracious tremolo ; or, 
when our hearts quail at the thunder of the cataract, 
tell ourselves that he has stamped his hoof in the 
nigh thicket. 




Cities given, the problem was to light them. How 
to conduct individual citizens about the burgess- 
warren, when once heaven had withdrawn its leading 
luminary ? or — since we live in a scientific age — 
when once our spinning planet has turned its back 
upon the sun ? The moon, from time to time, was 
doubtless very helpful ; the stars had a cheery look 
among the chimney-pots ; and a cresset here and 
there, on church or citadel, produced a fine pictorial 
eifect, and, in places where the ground lay unevenly, 
held out the right hand of conduct to the benighted. 
But, sun, moon, and stars abstracted or concealed, 
the night-faring inhabitant had to fall back — we 
speak on the authority of old prints — upon stable 
lanthorns two stories in height. Many holes, drilled 
in the conical turret-roof of this vagabond Pharos, 
let up spouts of dazzlement into the bearer's eyes ; 
and as he paced forth in the ghostly darkness, 
carrying his own sun by a ring about his finger, day 
and night swung to and fro and up and down about 


his footsteps. Blackness haunted his path ; he was 
beleaguered by goblins as he went ; and, curfew 
being struck, he found no light but that he travelled 
in throughout the township. 

Closely following on this epoch of migratory 
lanthorns in a world of extinction, came the era of 
oil-lights, hard to kindle, easy to extinguish, pale 
and wavering in the hour of their endurance. Rudely 
puffed the winds of heaven ; roguishly clomb up the 
all-destructive urchin ; and, lo ! in a moment night 
re-established her void empire, and the cit groped 
along the wall, suppered but bedless, occult from 
guidance, and sorrily wading in the kennels. As if 
gamesome winds and gamesome youths were not 
sufficient, it was the habit to sling these feeble 
luminaries from house to house above the fairway. 
There, on invisible cordage, let them swing ! And 
suppose some crane-necked general to go speeding 
by on a tall charger, spurring the destiny of nations, 
red-hot in expedition, there would indubitably be 
some effusion of mihtary blood, and oaths, and a 
certain crash of glass ; and while the chieftain rode 
forward with a purple coxcomb, the street would be 
left to original darkness, unpiloted, unvoyageable, a 
province of the desert night. 

The conservative, looking before and after, draws 
from each contemplation the matter for content. 
Out of the age of gas lamps he glances back slight- 
ingly at the mirk and ghmmer in which his ancestors 
wandered ; his heart waxes jocund at the contrast ; 
nor do his lips refrain from a stave, in the highest 



style of poetry, lauding progress and the golden 
mean. When gas first spread along a city, mapping 
it forth about evenfall for the eye of observant birds, 
a new age had begun for sociality and corporate 
pleasure-seeking, and begun with proper circum- 
stance, becoming its own birthright. The work of 
Prometheus had advanced by another stride. Man- 
kind and its supper-parties were no longer at the 
mercy of a few miles of sea-fog ; sundown no 
longer emptied the promenade ; and the day was 
lengthened out to every man's fancy. The city- 
folk had stars of their own ; biddable, domesticated 

It is true that these were not so steady, nor yet 
so clear, as their originals ; nor indeed was their 
lustre so elegant as that of the best wax candles. 
But then the gas stars, being nearer at hand, were 
more practically efficacious than Jupiter himself. It 
is true, again, that they did not unfold their rays 
with the appropriate spontaneity of the planets, 
coming out along the firmament one after another, 
as the need arises. But the lamplighters took to 
their heels every evening, and ran with a good 
heart. It was pretty to see man thus emulating 
the punctuality of heaven's orbs ; and though per- 
fection was not absolutely reached, and now and 
then an individual may have been knocked on the 
head by the ladder of the flying functionary, yet 
people commended his zeal in a proverb, and taught 
their children to say, ' God bless the lamplighter I ' 
And since his passage was a piece of the day's pro- 


gramme, the children were well pleased to repeat 
the benediction, not, of course, in so many words, 
which would have been improper, but in some chaste 
circumlocution, suitable for infant lips. 

God bless him, indeed I For the term of his 
twilight diligence is near at hand ; and for not 
much longer shall we watch him speeding up the 
street and, at measured intervals, knocking another 
luminous hole into the dusk. The Greeks would 
have made a noble myth of such an one ; how he 
distributed starlight, and, as soon as the need was 
over, re-collected it ; and the little bull's-eye, which 
was his instrument, and held enough fire to kindle 
a whole parish, would have been fitly commemorated 
in the legend. Now, like all heroic tasks, his labours 
draw towards apotheosis, and in the light of victory 
he himself shall disappear. For another advance has 
been effected. Our tame stars are to come out in 
future, not one by one, but all in a body and at 
once. A sedate electrician somewhere in a back 
office touches a spring — and behold ! from one end 
to another of the city, from east to west, from the 
Alexandra to the Crystal Palace, there is light. 
Fiat Luoo, says the sedate electrician. What a 
spectacle, on some clear, dark nightfall, from the 
edge of Hampstead Hill, when in a moment, in 
the twinkling of an eye, the design of the monstrous 
city flashes into vision — a glittering hieroglyph many 
square miles in extent ; and when, to borrow and 
debase an image, all the evening street-lamps burst 
together into song ! Such is the spectacle of the 
II — N 193 


future, preluded the other day by the experiment 
in Pall Mall. Star-rise by electricity, the most 
romantic flight of civilisation ; the compensatory 
benefit for an innumerable array of factories and 
bankers' clerks. To the artistic spirit exercised 
about Thirlmere, here is a crumb of consolation ; 
consolatory, at least, to such of them as look out 
upon the world through seeing eyes, and contentedly 
accept beauty where it comes. 

But the conservative, while lauding progress, is 
ever timid of innovation ; his is the hand upheld to 
counsel pause ; his is the signal advising slow 
advance. The word electricity now sounds the note 
of danger. In Paris, at the mouth of the Passage 
des Princes, in the place before the Opera portico, 
and in the Rue Drouot at the Figaro office, a new 
sort of urban star now shines out nightly, horrible, 
unearthly, obnoxious to the human eye ; a lamp for 
a nightmare ! Such a light as this should shine 
only on murders and public crime, or along the 
corridors of lunatic asylums, a horror to heighten 
horror. To look at it only once is to fall in love 
with gas, which gives a warm domestic radiance fit 
to eat by. Mankind, you would have thought, 
might have remained content with what Prometheus 
stole for them and not gone fishing the profound 
heaven with kites to catch and domesticate the wild- 
fire of the storm. Yet here we have the levin brand 
at our doors, and it is proposed that we should 
henceforward take our walks abroad in the glare of 
permanent lightning. A man need not be very 


superstitious if he scruple to follow his pleasures 
by the light of the Terror that Flieth, nor very 
epicurean if he prefer to see the face of beauty more 
becomingly displayed. That ugly bhnding glare 
may not improperly advertise the home of slander- 
ous Figaro, which is a backshop to the infernal 
regions ; but where soft joys prevail, where people 
are convoked to pleasure and the philosopher looks 
on smiling and silent, where love and laughter and 
deifying wine abound, there, at least, let the old 
mild lustre shine upon the ways of man. 



Originally published : 

I. Magazine of Art, vol. vii. (1883-84) pp. 253, 

II. Ibid., vol. vii. p. 24. 

III. Contemporary Review, April 1S85. 

IV. Fortnightly Review, April 1881. 
V. British Weekly, May 13, 1887. 

VI. Contemporary Review, April 1 887. 
VII. Scribner's Magazine, August 1888. 
VIII. Ibid., March 1888. 
IX. Ibid., December 1888. 

X. Privately printed in pamphlet form at Sydney, 
March 27, 1890; 'Scots Observer,' May 3 
and 10, 1890. 

Nos. I.J VII., VIII. , and ix. were republished in 'Across 
the Plains,' Chatto and Windus, London, 1892 ; 
No. V. in 'British Weekly' Extras, No. 1, 'Books 
which have Influenced Jfe,' Office of the ' British 
Weekly,' 1887 ; No. x. separately as a pamphlet 

^ {with a large-paper edition of thirty copies), Chatto 
and Windus, London, 1890. Nos. 11., lu., rv., and 
VI. are here reprinted for the first time. 


I. Fontainebleau : Village Communities 
of Painters . 

II. A Note on Realism 

III. Technical Elements of Style 

IV. Morality of the Profession of Letters 
V. Books which have influenced me 

VI. The Day after To-morrow 
VII. Letter to a Young Gentleman . 
VIII. Pulvis et Umbra 

IX. A Christmas Sermon 
X. Father Damien : An Open Letter 




The charm of Fontainebleau is a thing apart. It 
is a place that people love even more than they 
admire. The vigorous forest air, the silence, the 
majestic avenues of highway, the wilderness of 
tumbled boulders, the great age and dignity of 
certain groves — these are but ingredients, they are 
not the secret of the philtre. The place is sana- 
tive ; the air, the light, the perfumes, and the shapes 
of things concord in happy harmony. The artist 
may be idle and not fear the ' blues.' He may dally 
with his life. Mirth, lyric mirth, and a vivacious 
classical contentment are of the very essence of the 
better kind of art ; and these, in that most smiling 
forest, he has the chance to learn or to remember. 
Even on the plain of Biere, where the Angelus of 
Millet still tolls upon the ear of fancy, a larger air, 
a higher heaven, something ancient and healthy in 



the face of nature, purify the mind alike from dul- 
ness and hysteria. There is no place where the 
young are more gladly conscious of their youth, or 
the old better contented with their age. 

The fact of its great and special beauty further 
recommends this country to the artist. The field 
was chosen by men in whose blood there still raced 
some of the gleeful or solemn exultation of great art 
— Millet who loved dignity like Michelangelo, 
Rousseau whose modern brush was dipped in the 
glamour of the ancients. It was chosen before 
the day of that strange turn in the history of art, 
of which we now perceive the culmination in im- 
pressionistic tales and pictures — that voluntary 
aversion of the eye from all speciously strong and 
beautiful effects — that disinterested love of dulness 
which has set so many Peter Bells to paint the river- 
side primrose. It was then chosen for its proximity 
to Paris. And for the same cause, and by the force 
of tradition, the painter of to-day continues to in- 
habit and to paint it. There is in France scenery 
incomparable for romance and harmony. Provence, 
and the Valley of the Rhone from Vienne to Taras- 
con, are one succession of masterpieces waiting for 
the brush. The beauty is not merely beauty ; it tells, 
besides, a tale to the imagination, and surprises while 
it charms. Here you shall see castellated towns 
that would befit the scenery of dreamland ; streets 
that glow with colour like cathedral windows ; hills 
of the most exquisite proportions ; flowers of every 
precious colour, growing thick like grass. All these, 


by the grace of railway travel, are brought to the 
very door of the modern painter ; yet he does not 
seek them ; he remains faithful to Fontainebleau, 
to the eternal bridge of Grez, to the watering-pot 
cascade~ in Cernay valley. Even Fontainebleau was 
chosen for him ; even in Fontainebleau he shrinks 
from what is sharply charactered. But one thing, 
at least, is certain : whatever he may choose to paint 
and in whatever manner, it is good for the artist to 
dwell among graceful shapes. Fontainebleau, if it 
be but quiet scenery, is classically graceful ; and 
though the student may look for different qualities, 
this quality, silently present, will educate his hand 
and eye. 

But, before all its other advantages — charm, love- 
liness, or proximity to Paris — comes the great fact 
that it is already colonised. The institution of a 
painters' colony is a work of time and tact. The 
population must be conquered. The innkeeper has 
to be taught, and he soon learns, the lesson of un- 
limited credit ; he must be taught to welcome as a 
favoured guest a young gentleman in a very greasy 
coat, and with little baggage beyond a box of colours 
and a canvas ; and he must learn to preserve his 
faith in customers who will eat heartily and drink 
of the best, borrow money to buy tobacco, and 
perhaps not pay a stiver for a year. A colour 
merchant has next to be attracted. A certain vogue 
must be given to the place, lest the painter, most 
gregarious of animals, should find himself alone. 
And no sooner are these first difficulties overcome 



than fresh perils spring up upon the other side ; and 
the bourgeois and the tourist are knocking at the 
gate. This is the crucial moment for the colony. 
If these intruders gain a footing, they not only 
banish freedom and amenity ; pretty soon, by means 
of their long purses, they will have undone the 
education of the innkeeper ; prices will rise and 
credit shorten ; and the poor painter must fare 
farther on and find another hamlet. ' Not here, O 
Apollo ! ' will become his song. Thus Trouville 
and, the other day, St. Raphael were lost to the 
arts. Curious and not always edifying are the 
shifts that the French student uses to defend his 
lair ; like the cuttlefish, he must sometimes blacken 
the waters of his chosen pool ; but at such a time 
and for so practical a purpose Mrs. Grundy must 
allow him licence. Where his own purse and credit 
are not threatened, he will do the honours of his 
village generously. Any artist is made welcome, 
through whatever medium he may seek expression ; 
science is respected ; even the idler, if he prove, as 
he so rarely does, a gentleman, will soon begin to 
find himself at home. And when that essentially 
modern creature, the English or American girl- 
student, began to walk calmly into his favourite inns 
as if into a drawing-room at home, the French 
painter owned himself defenceless ; he submitted or 
he fled. His French respectabihty, quite as precise 
as ours, though covering different provinces of life, 
recoiled aghast before the innovation. But the girls 
were painters ; there was nothing to be done ; and 


Barbizon, when I last saw it and for the time at 
least, was practically ceded to the fair invader. 
Paterfamilias, on the other hand, the common tourist, 
the holiday shopman, and the cheap young gentle- 
man upon the spree, he hounded from his villages 
with every circumstance of contumely. 

This purely artistic society is excellent for the 
young artist. The lads are mostly fools ; they hold 
the latest orthodoxy in its crudeness ; they are at 
that stage of education, for the most part, when a 
man is too much occupied with style to be aware of 
the necessity for any matter ; and this, above all for 
the Englishman, is excellent. To work grossly at 
the trade, to forget sentiment, to think of his 
material and nothing else, is, for awhile at least, 
the king's highway of progress. Here, in England, 
too many painters and writers dwell dispersed, un- 
shielded, among the intelligent bourgeois. These, 
when they are not merely indiiferent, prate to him 
about the lofty aims and moral influence of art. 
And this is the lad's ruin. For art is, first of all 
and last of all, a trade. The love of words and not 
a desire to publish new discoveries, the love of form 
and not a novel reading of historical events, mark 
the vocation of the writer and the painter. The 
arabesque, properly speaking, and even in literature, 
is the first fancy of the artist ; he first plays with his 
material as a child plays with a kaleidoscope ; and he 
is already in a second stage when he begins to use 
his pretty counters for the end of representation. 
In that, he must pause long and toil faithfully ; that 



is his apprenticeship ; and it is only the few who 
will really grow beyond it, and go forward, fully 
equipped, to do the business of real art — to give life 
to abstractions and significance and charm to facts. 
In the meanwhile, let him dwell much among his 
fellow-craftsmen. They alone can take a serious 
interest in the childish tasks and pitiful successes of 
these years. They alone can behold with equani- 
mity this fingering of the dumb keyboard, this 
polishing of empty sentences, this dull and literal 
painting of dull and insignificant subjects. Out- 
siders will spur him on. They will say, 'Why do 
you not write a great book ? paint a great picture ? ' 
If his guardian angel fail him, they may even per- 
suade him to the attempt, and, ten to one, his hand 
is coarsened and his style falsified for life. 

And this brings me to a warning. The life of the 
apprentice to any art is both unstrained and pleasing; 
it is strewn with small successes in the midst of a 
career of failure, patiently supported ; the heaviest 
scholar is conscious of a certain progress ; and if he 
come not appreciably nearer to the art of Shake- 
speare, grows letter-perfect in the domain of A-B, ab. 
But the time comes when a man should cease pre- 
lusory gymnastic, stand up, put a violence upon his 
will, and, for better or worse, begin the business 
of creation. This evil day there is a tendency con- 
tinually to postpone : above all with painters. They 
have made so many studies that it has become a 
habit; they make more, the walls of exhibitions 
blush with them ; and death finds these aged 


students still busy with their horn- book. This 
class of man finds a congenial home in artist vil- 
lages ; in the slang of the English colony at Barbizon 
we used to call them 'Snoozers.' Continual returns 
to the city, the society of men further advanced, the 
study of great works, a sense of humour or, if such a 
thing is to be had, a little religion or philosophy, are 
the means of treatment. It will be time enough to 
think of curing the malady after it has been caught ; 
for to catch it is the very thing for which you seek 
that dream-land of the painters' village. ' Snoozing ' 
is a part of the artistic education ; and the rudiments 
must be learned stupidly, all else being forgotten, as 
if they were an object in themselves. 

Lastly, there is something, or there seems to be 
something, in the very air of France that communi- 
cates the love of style. Precision, clarity, the cleanly 
and crafty employment of material, a grace in the 
handling, apart from any value in the thought, seem 
to be acquired by the mere residence; or, if not 
acquired, become at least the more appreciated. 
The air of Paris is alive with this technical inspira- 
tion. And to leave that airy city and awake next 
day upon the borders of the forest is but to change 
externals. The same spirit of dexterity and finish 
breathes from the long alleys and the lofty groves, 
from the wildernesses that are still pretty in their 
confusion, and the great plain that contrives to be 
decorative in its emptiness. 




In spite of its really considerable extent, the forest 
of Fontainebleau is hardly anywhere tedious. I 
know the whole western side of it with what, I sup- 
pose, I may call thoroughness ; well enough at least 
to testify that there is no square mile without some 
special character and charm. Such quarters, for 
instance, as the Long Rocher, the Bas-Breau, and 
the Reine Blanche, might be a hundred miles apart ; 
they have scarce a point in common beyond the 
silence of the birds. The two last are really con- 
terminous ; and in both are tall and ancient trees 
that have outlived a thousand political vicissitudes. 
But in the one the great oaks prosper placidly upon 
an even floor ; they beshadow a great field ; and the 
air and the hght are very free below their stretching 
boughs. In the other the trees find difficult footing ; 
castles of white rock lie tumbled one upon another, 
the foot slips, the crooked viper slumbers, the moss 
clings in the crevice ; and above it all the great 
beech goes spiring and casting forth her arms, and, 
with a grace beyond church architecture, canopies 
this rugged chaos. Meanwhile, dividing the two 
cantons, the broad white causeway of the Paris road 
runs in an avenue : a road conceived for pageantry 
and for triumphal marches, an avenue for an army ; 
but, its days of glory over, it now lies grilling in the 
sun between cool groves, and only at intervals the 
vehicle of the cruising tourist is seen far away and 


faintly audible along its ample sweep. A little upon 
one side, and you find a district of sand and birch 
and boulder ; a little upon the other lies the valley 
of Apremont, all juniper and heather ; and close be- 
yond that you may walk into a zone of pine trees. 
So artfully are the ingredients mingled. Nor must 
it be forgotten that, in all this part, you come con- 
tinually forth upon a hill-top, and behold the plain, 
northward and westward, like an unrefulgent sea; 
nor tliat all day long the shadows keep changing ; 
and at last, to the red fires of sunset, night succeeds, 
and with the night a new forest, full of whisper, 
gloom, and fragrance. There are few things more 
renovating than to leave Paris, the lamplit arches of 
the Carrousel, and the long alignment of the ghtter- 
ing streets, and to bathe the senses in this fragrant 
darkness of the wood. 

In this continual variety the mind is kept vividly 
alive. It is a changeful place to paint, a stirring 
place to live in. As fast as your foot carries you, 
you pass from scene to scene, each vigorously painted 
in the colours of the sun, each endeared by that 
hereditary spell of forests on the mind of man, who 
still remembers and salutes the ancient refuge of his 

And yet the forest has been civilised throughout 
The most savage corners bear a name, and have 
been cherished like antiquities ; in the most remote. 
Nature has prepared and balanced her effects as if 
with conscious art ; and man, with his guiding 
arrows of blue paint, has countersigned the picture, 
II— o 209 


After your farthest wandering, you are never sur- 
prised to come forth upon the vast avenue of high- 
way, to strike the centre point of branching alleys, 
or to find the aqueduct trailing, thousand-footed, 
through the brush. It is not a wilderness ; it is 
rather a preserve. And, fitly enough, the centre of 
the maze is not a hermit's cavern. In the midst, a 
little mirthful town lies sunlit, humming with the 
business of pleasure ; and the palace, breathing dis- 
tinction and peopled by historic names, stands 
smokeless among gardens. 

Perhaps the last attempt at savage life was that of 
the harmless humbug who called himself the hermit. 
In a great tree, close by the highroad, he had built 
himself a little cabin after the manner of the Swiss 
Family Robinson ; thither he mounted at night, by 
the romantic aid of a rope ladder; and if dirt be any 
proof of sincerity, the man was savage as a Sioux, 
I had the pleasure of his acquaintance ; he appeared 
grossly stupid, not in his perfect wits, and interested 
in nothing but small change ; for that he had a great 
avidity. In the course of time he proved to be a 
chicken -stealer, and vanished from his perch; and 
perhaps from the first he was no true votary of 
forest freedom, but an ingenious, theatrically-minded 
beggar, and his cabin in the tree was only stock-in- 
trade to beg withal. The choice of his position 
would seem to indicate so much ; for if in the forest 
there are no places still to be discovered, there are 
many that have been forgotten, and that lie un- 
visited. There, to be sure, are the blue arrows 



waiting to reconduct you, now blazed upon a tree, 
now posted in the corner of a rock. But your 
security from interruption is complete ; you might 
camp for weeks, if there were only water, and not a 
soul suspect your presence ; and if I may suppose 
the reader to have committed some great crime and 
come to me for aid, I think I could still find my 
way to a small cavern, fitted with a hearth and 
chimney, where he might lie perfectly concealed. 
A confederate landscape-painter might daily supply 
him with food ; for water, he would have to make a 
nightly tramp as far as to the nearest pond ; and at 
last, when the hue and cry began to blow over, he 
might get gently on the train at some side station, 
work round by a series of junctions, and be quietly 
captured at the frontier. 

Thus Fontainebleau, although it is truly but a 
pleasure-ground, and although, in favourable weather, 
and in the more celebrated quarters, it Hterally 
buzzes with the tourist, yet has some of the im- 
munities and offers some of the repose of natural 
forests. And the solitary, although he must return 
at night to his frequented inn, may yet pass the day 
with his own thoughts in the companionable silence 
of the trees. The demands of tfie imagination vary ; 
some can be alone in a back garden looked upon by 
windows ; others, like the ostrich, are content with 
a solitude that meets the eye ; and others, again, 
expand in fancy to the very borders of their desert, 
and are irritably conscious of a hunter's camp in an 
adjacent county. To these last, of course, Fontaine- 



bleau will seem but an extended tea-garden : a 
Rosherville on a by-day. But to the plain man 
it offers solitude : an excellent thing in itself, and 
a good whet for company. 


I was for some time a consistent Barbizonian ; et 
ego in Arcadia vioci; it was a pleasant season ; and 
that noiseless hamlet lying close among the borders 
of the wood is for me, as for so many others, a green 
spot in memory. The great Millet was just dead, 
the green shutters of his modest house were closed ; 
his daughters were in mourning. The date of my 
first visit was thus an epoch in the history of art : in 
a lesser way, it was an epoch in the history of the 
Latin Quarter. The Petit Cenacle was dead and 
buried ; Murger and his crew of spongeing vagabonds 
were all at rest from their expedients ; the tradition 
of their real life was nearly lost ; and the petrified 
legend of the Vie de BoMme had become a sort of 
gospel, and still gave the cue to zealous imitators. 
But if the book be written in rose-water, the imita- 
tion was still further expurgated ; honesty was the 
rule ; the innkeepers gave, as I have said, almost 
unlimited credit ; they suffered the seediest painter 
to depart, to take all his belongings, and to leave his 
bill unpaid ; and if they sometimes lost, it was by 
English and Americans alone. At the same time, 
the great influx of Anglo-Saxons had begun to affect 



the life of the studious. There had been disputes ; 
and, in one instance at least, the English and the 
Americans had made common cause to prevent a 
cruel pleasantry. It would be well if nations and 
races could communicate their qualities ; but in 
practice when they look upon each other, they have 
an eye to nothing but defects. The Anglo-Saxon is 
essentially dishonest; the French is devoid by 
nature of the principle that we call 'Fair Play.' 
The Frenchman marvelled at the scruples of his 
guest, and, when that defender of innocence retired 
over-seas and left his bills unpaid, he marvelled once 
again ; the good and evil were, in his eyes, part and 
parcel of the same eccentricity ; a shrug expressed 
his judgment upon both. 

At Barbizon there was no master, no pontiff in 
the arts. Palizzi bore rule at Grez — urbane, 
superior rule — his memory rich in anecdotes of the 
great men of yore, his mind fertile in theories ; scep- 
tical, composed, and venerable to the eye ; and yet, 
beneath these outworks, all twittering with Italian 
superstition, his eye scouting for omens, and the 
whole fabric of his manners giving way on the 
appearance of a hunchback. Cernay had Pelouse, 
the admirable, placid Pelous^, smilingly critical of 
youth, who, when a full-blown commercial traveller 
suddenly threw down his samples, bought a colour- 
box, and became the master whom we have all 
admired. Marlotte, for a central figure, boasted 
Olivier de Penne. Only Barbizon, since the death 
of Millet, was a headless commonwealth. Even its 



secondary lights, and those who in my day made 
the stranger welcome, have since deserted it. The 
good Lachevre has departed, carrying his household 
gods ; and long before that Gaston Lafenestre was 
taken from our midst by an untimely death. He 
died before he had deserved success ; it may be, he 
would never have deserved it ; but his kind, comely, 
modest countenance still haunts the memory of all 
who knew him. Another — whom I will not name — 
has moved farther on, pursuing the strange Odyssey 
of his decadence. His days of royal favour had 
departed even then ; but he still retained, in his 
narrower life at Barbizon, a certain stamp of con- 
scious importance, hearty, friendly, filling the room, 
the occupant of several chairs ; nor had he yet ceased 
his losing battle, still labouring upon great canvases 
that none would buy, still waiting the return of for- 
tune. But these days also were too good to last; 
and the former favourite of two sovereigns fled, if I 
heard the truth, by night. There was a time when 
he was counted a great man, and Millet but a 
dauber ; behold, how the whirligig of time brings 
in his revenges ! To pity Millet is a piece of arro- 
gance ; if life be hard for such resolute and pious 
spirits, it is harder still for us, had we the wit to 
understand it ; but we may pity his unhappier rival, 
who, for no apparent merit, was raised to opulence 
and momentary fame, and, through no apparent 
fault, was suffered step by step to sink again to 
nothing. No misfortune can exceed the bitterness 
of such back-foremost progress, even bravely sup- 
2 14 


ported as it was ; but to those also who were taken 
early from the easel, a regret is due. From all the 
young men of this period, one stood out by the 
vigour of his promise; he was in the age of fer- 
mentation, enamoured of eccentricities. *I1 faut 
faire de la peinture nouvelle,' was his watchword ; 
but if time and experience had continued his educa- 
tion, if he had been granted health to return from 
these excursions to the steady and the central, I 
must beUeve that the name of Hills had become 

Siron's inn, that excellent artists' barrack, was 
managed upon easy principles. At any hour of the 
night, when you returned from wandering in the 
forest, you went to the billiard-room and helped 
yourself to hquors, or descended to the cellar and 
returned laden with beer or wine. The Sirons were 
all locked in slumber ; there was none to check your 
inroads ; only at the week's end a computation was 
made, the gross sum was divided, and a varying share 
set down to every lodger's name under the rubric : 
estrats. Upon the more long-suffering the larger 
tax was levied ; and your bill lengthened in a direct 
proportion to the easiness of your disposition. At 
any hour of the morning, again, you could get your 
coffee or cold milk, and set forth into the forest. 
The doves had perhaps wakened you, fluttering into 
your chamber ; and on the threshold of the inn you 
were met by the aroma of the forest. Close by were 
the great aisles, the mossy boulders, the intermin- 
able field of forest shadow. There you were free to 



dream and wander. And at noon, and again at six 
o'clock, a good meal awaited you on Siron's table. 
The whole of your accommodation, set aside that 
varying item of the estrats, cost you five francs a 
day ; your bill was never offered you until you asked 
it ; and if you were out of luck's way, you might 
depart for where you pleased and leave it pending. 


Theoretically, the house was open to all comers ; 
practically, it was a kind of club. The guests pro- 
tected themselves, and, in so doing, they protected 
Siron. Formal manners being laid aside, essential 
courtesy was the more rigidly exacted ; the new 
arrival had to feel the pulse of the society ; and a 
breach of its undefined observances was promptly 
punished, A man might be as plain, as dull, as 
slovenly, as free of speech as he desired ; but to a 
touch of presumption or a word of hectoring these 
free Barbizonians were as sensitive as a tea-party of 
maiden ladies, I have seen people driven forth from 
Barbizon ; it would be difficult to say in words what 
they had done, but they deserved their fate. They 
had shown themselves unworthy to enjoy these 
corporate freedoms ; they had pushed themselves ; 
they had ' made their head ' ; they wanted tact to 
appreciate the ' fine shades ' of Barbizonian etiquette. 
And, once they were condemned, the process of 
extrusion was ruthless in its cruelty ; after one 


evening with the formidable Bodmer, the Bailly of 
our commonwealth, the erring stranger was beheld 
no more ; he rose exceeding early the next day, and 
the first coach conveyed him from the scene of his 
discomfiture. These sentences of banishment were 
never, in my knowledge, delivered against an artist ; 
such would, I beheve, have been illegal; but the 
odd and pleasant fact is this, that they were never 
needed. Painters, sculptors, writers, singers, I have 
seen all of these in Barbizon ; and some were sulky, 
and some blatant and inane ; but one and all entered 
at once into the spirit of the association. This 
singular society is purely French, a creature of 
French virtues, and possibly of French defects. It 
cannot be imitated by the English. The roughness, 
the impatience, the more obvious selfishness, and 
even the more ardent friendships of the Anglo- 
Saxon, speedily dismember such a commonwealth. 
But this random gathering of young French painters, 
with neither apparatus nor parade of government, 
yet kept the life of the place upon a certain footing, 
insensibly imposed their etiquette upon the docile, 
and by caustic speech enforced their edicts against 
the unwelcome. To think of it is to wonder the 
more at the strange failure of their race upon the 
larger theatre. This inbred civility — to use the 
word in its completest meaning — this natural and 
facile adjustment of contending liberties, seems all 
that is required to make a governable nation and a 
just and prosperous country. 

Our society, thus purged and guarded, was full of 



high spirits, of laughter, and of the initiative of 
youth. The few elder men who joined us were still 
young at heart, and took the key from their com- 
panions. We returned from long stations in the 
fortifying air, our blood renewed by the sunshine, 
our spirits refreshed by the silence of the forest ; the 
Babel of loud voices sounded good ; we fell to eat 
and play like the natural man ; and in the high inn 
chamber, panelled with indifferent pictures and lit 
by candles guttering in the night air, the talk and 
laughter sounded far into the night. It was a good 
place and a good life for any naturally-minded 
youth ; better yet for the student of painting, and 
perhaps best of all for the student of letters. He, 
too, was saturated in this atmosphere of style ; he 
was shut out from the disturbing currents of the 
world, he might forget that there existed other and 
more pressing interests than that of art. But, in 
such a place, it was hardly possible to write ; he 
could not drug his conscience, like the painter, by 
the production of listless studies ; he saw himself 
idle among many who were apparently, and some 
who were really, employed ; and what with the 
impulse of increasing health and the continual pro- 
vocation of romantic scenes, he became tormented 
with the desire to work. He enjoyed a strenuous 
idleness full of visions, hearty meals, long, sweltering 
walks, mirth among companions; and, still floating 
like music through his brain, foresights of great 
works that Shakespeare might be proud to have 
conceived, headless epics, glorious torsos of dramas, 


and words that were alive with import. So in youth, 
Kke Moses from the mountain, we have sights of 
that House Beautiful of art which we shall never 
enter. They are dreams and unsubstantial ; visions 
of style that repose upon no base of human mean- 
ing; the last heart-throbs of that excited amateur 
who has to die in all of us before the artist can be 
born. But they come to us in such a rainbow of 
glory that all subsequent achievement appears dull 
and earthly in comparison. We were all artists ; 
almost all in the age of illusion, cultivating an 
imaginary genius, and walking to the strains of some 
deceiving Ariel ; small wonder, indeed, if we were 
happy ! But art, of whatever nature, is a kind 
mistress ; and though these dreams of youth fall by 
their own baselessness, others succeed, graver and 
more substantial ; the symptoms change, the amiable 
malady endures ; and still, at an equal distance, the 
House Beautiful shines upon its hill-top. 

Grez lies out of the forest, down by the bright 
river. It boasts a mill, an ancient church, a castle, 
and a bridge of many sterlings. And the bridge is a 
piece of public property ; anonymously famous ; 
beaming on the incurious dilettante from the walls 
of a hundred exhibitions. I have seen it in the 
Salon ; 1 have seen it in the Academy ; I have seen 
it in the last French Exposition, excellently done by 



Bloomer ; in a black-and-white by Mr. A. Henley, 
it once adorned this essay in the pages of the Maga- 
zine of Ai^t. Long-suffering bridge ! And if you 
visit Grez to-morrow, you shall find another genera- 
tion, camped at the bottom of Chevillon's garden 
under their white umbrellas, and doggedly painting 
it again. 

The bridge taken for granted, Grez is a less 
inspiring place than Barbizon. I give it the palm 
over Cernay. There is something ghastly in the 
great empty village square of Cernay, with the inn 
tables standing in one corner, as though the stage 
were set for rustic opera, and in the early morning 
all the painters breaking their fast upon white wine 
under the windows of the villagers. It is vastly 
different to awake in Grez, to go down the green 
inn-garden, to find the river streaming through the 
bridge, and to see the dawn begin across the poplared 
level. The meals are laid in the cool arbour, under 
fluttering leaves. The splash of oars and bathers, 
the bathing costumes out to dry, the trim canoes 
beside the jetty, tell of a society that has an eye 
to pleasure. There is ' something to do ' at Grez. 
Perhaps, for that very reason, I can recall no such 
enduring ardours, no such glories of exhilaration, as 
among the solemn groves and uneventful hours of 
Barbizon. This ' something to do ' is a great enemy 
to joy ; it is a way out of it ; you wreak your high 
spirits on some cut-and-dry employment, and behold 
them gone ! But Grez is a merry place after its 
kind : pretty to see, merry to inhabit. The course 


of its pellucid river, whether up or down, is full of 
gentle attractions for the navigator : islanded reed- 
mazes where, in autumn, the red berries cluster ; the 
mirrored and inverted images of trees ; lilies, and 
mills, and the foam and thunder of weirs. And of 
all noble sweeps of roadway, none is nobler, on a 
windy dusk, than the highroad to Nemours between 
its lines of talking poplar. 

But even Grez is changed. The old inn, long 
shored and trussed and buttressed, fell at length 
under the mere weight of years, and the place as it 
was is but a fading image in the memory of former 
guests. They, indeed, recall the ancient wooden 
stair ; they recall the rainy evening, the wide hearth, 
the blaze of the twig fire, and the company that 
gathered round the pillar in the kitchen. But the 
material fabric is now dust ; soon, with the last of its 
inhabitants, its very memory shall follow ; and they, 
in their turn, shall suffer the same law, and, both in 
name and lineament, vanish from the world of men. 
' For remembrance of the old house' sake,' as Pepys 
once quaintly put it, let me tell one story. When 
the tide of invasion swept over France, two foreign 
painters were left stranded and penniless in Grez ; 
and there, until the war was over, the Chevillons 
ungrudgingly harboured them. It was difficult to 
obtain supplies ; but the two waifs were still wel- 
come to the best, sat down daily with the family to 
table, and at the due intervals were supplied with 
clean napkins, which they scrupled to employ. 
Madame Chevillon observed the fact and repri- 



manded them. But they stood firm ; eat they must, 
but having no money they would soil no napkins. 


Nemours and Moret, for all they are so pictur- 
esque, have been little visited by painters. They 
are, indeed, too populous ; they have manners of their 
own, and might resist tlie drastic process of colonisa- 
tion. Montigny has been somewhat strangely 
neglected ; I never knew it inhabited but once, when 
Will H. Low installed himself there with a barrel of 
piquette, and entertained his friends in a leafy trellis 
above the weir, in sight of the green country and to 
the music of the falling water. It was a most airy, 
quaint, and pleasant place of residence, just too 
rustic to be stagey ; and from my memories of the 
place in general, and that garden trellis in particular 
— at morning, visited by birds, or at night, when the 
dew fell and the stars were of the party — I am 
inclined to think perhaps too favourably of the future 
of Montigny. Chailly-en-Biere has outlived all 
things, and lies dustily slumbering in the plain — the 
cemetery of itself. The great road remains to tes- 
tify of its former bustle of postilions and carriage 
bells ; and, like memorial tablets, there still hang in 
the inn room the paintings of a former generation, 
dead or decorated long ago. In my time, one man 
only, greatly daring, dwelt there. From time to 
time he would walk over to Barbizon, like a shade 



revisiting the glimpses of the moon, and after some 
communication with flesh and blood return to his 
austere hermitage. But even he, when I last re- 
visited the forest, had come to Barbizon for good, 
and closed the roll of the Chaillyites. It may revive 
— but I much doubt it. Acheres and Recloses still 
wait a pioneer ; Bourron is out of the question, being 
merely Grez over again, without the river, the 
bridge, or the beauty ; and of all the possible places 
on the western side, Marlotte . alone remains to be 
discussed. I scarcely know Marlotte, and, very 
likely for that reason, am not much in love with it. 
It seems a glaring and unsightly hamlet. The inn 
of Mother Antonie is unattractive; and its more 
reputable rival, though comfortable enough, is com- 
monplace. Marlotte has a name ; it is famous ; if I 
were the young painter I would leave it alone in its 


These are the words of an old stager ; and though 
time is a good conservative in forest places, much 
may be untrue to-day. Many of us have passed 
Arcadian days there and moved on, but yet left a 
portion of our souls behind us buried in the woods. 
I would not dig for these reliquige ; they are incom- 
municable treasures that will not enrich the finder ; 
and yet there may lie, interred below great oaks or 
scattered along forest paths, stores of youth's dyna- 
mite and dear remembrances. And as one genera- 



tion passes on and renovates the field of tillage for 
the next, I entertain a fancy that when the young 
men of to-day go forth into the forest they shall find 
the air still vitalised by the spirits of their predeces- 
sors, and, like those * unheard melodies ' that are the 
sweetest of all, the memory of our laughter shall 
still haunt the field of trees. Those merry voices 
that in woods call the wanderer farther, those thrill- 
ing silences and whispers of the groves, surely in 
Fontainebleau they must be vocal of me and my 
companions ? We are not content to pass away 
entirely from the scenes of our delight; we would 
leave, if but in gratitude, a pillar and a legend. 

One generation after another fall like honey-bees 
upon this memorable forest, rifle its sweets, pack 
themselves with vital memories, and when the theft 
is consummated depart again into life richer, but 
poorer also. The forest, indeed, they have pos- 
sessed, from that day forward it is theirs indissolubly, 
and they will return to walk in it at night in the 
fondest of their dreams, and use it for ever in their 
books and pictures. Yet when they made their 
packets, and put up their notes and sketches, some- 
thing, it should seem, had been forgotten. A pro- 
jection of themselves shall appear to haunt unfriended 
these scenes of happiness, a natural child of fancy, 
begotten and forgotten unawares. Over the whole 
field of our wanderings such fetches are still travel- 
ling like indefatigable bagmen ; but the imps of 
Fontainebleau, as of all beloved spots, are very long 
of life, and memory is piously unwilling to forget 


their orphanage. If anywhere about that wood you 
meet my airy bantUng, greet him with tenderness. 
He was a pleasant lad, though now abandoned. 
And when it comes to your own turn to quit the 
forest, may you leave behind you such another ; no 
Antony or Werther, let us hope, no tearful whipster, 
but, as becomes this not uncheerful and most active 
age in which we figure, the child of happy hours. 

No art, it may be said, was ever perfect, and not 
many noble, that has not been mirthfully conceived. 
And no man, it may be added, was ever anything 
but a wet blanket and a cross to his companions 
who boasted not a copious spirit of enjoyment. 
Whether as man or artist, let the youth make 
haste to Fontainebleau, and once there let him 
address himself to the spirit of the place ; he will 
learn more from exercise than from studies, although 
both are necessary ; and if he can get into his heart 
the gaiety and inspiration of the woods he will have 
gone far to undo the evil of his sketches. A spirit 
once well strung up to the concert pitch of the 
primeval out-of-doors will hardly dare to finish a 
study and magniloquently ticket it a picture. The 
incommunicable thrill of things, that is the tuning- 
fork by which we test the flatness of our art. Here 
it is that Nature teaches and condemns, and still 
spurs up to further effort and new failure. Thus it 
is that she sets us blushing at our ignorant and tepid 
works ; and the more we find of these inspiring 
shocks the less shall we be apt to love the literal in 
our productions. In all sciences and senses the 
II — p 225 


letter kills ; and to-day, when cackling human geese 
express their ignorant condemnation of all studio 
pictures, it is a lesson most useful to be learnt. Let 
the young painter go to Fontainebleau, and while 
he stupefies himself with studies that teach him the 
mechanical side of his trade, let him walk in the 
great air, and be a servant of mirth, and not pick 
and botanise, but wait upon the moods of nature. 
So he will learn— or learn not to forget — the poetry 
of life and earth, which, when he has acquired his 
track, will save him from joyless reproduction. 




Style is the invariable mark of any master ; and 
for the student who does not aspire so high as to be 
numbered with the giants, it is still the one quality 
in which he may improve himself at will. Passion, 
wisdom, creative force, the power of mystery or 
colour, are allotted in the hour of birth, and can be 
neither learned nor simulated. But the just and 
dexterous use of what qualities we have, the pro- 
portion of one part to another and to the whole, the 
elision of the useless, the accentuation of the im- 
portant, and the preservation of a uniform character 
from end to end — these, which taken together con- 
stitute technical perfection, are to some degree with- 
in the reach of industry and intellectual courage. 
What to put in and what to leave out ; whether 
some particular fact be organically necessary or 
purely ornamental ; whether, if it be purely orna- 
mental, it may not weaken or obscure the general 
design ; and finally, whether, if we decide to use it, 
we should do so grossly and notably, or in some 



conventional disguise : are questions of plastic style 
continually re-arising. And the sphinx that patrols 
the highways of executive art has no more unanswer- 
able riddle to propound. 

In literature (from which I must draw my in- 
stances) the great change of the past century has 
been effected by the admission of detail. It was 
inaugurated by the romantic Scott ; and at length, 
by the semi-romantic Balzac and his more or less 
wholly unromantic followers, bound like a duty on 
the novelist. For some time it signified and ex- 
pressed a more ample contemplation of the con- 
ditions of man's hfe ; but it has recently (at least 
in France) fallen into a merely technical and decora- 
tive stage, which it is, perhaps, still too harsh to call 
survival. With a movement of alarm, the wiser or 
more timid begin to fall a little back from these 
extremities ; they begin to aspire after a more naked, 
narrative articulation ; after the succinct, the dig- 
nified, and the poetic ; and as a means to this, after 
a general lightening of this baggage of detail. After 
Scott we beheld the starveling story — once, in the 
hands of Voltaire, as abstract as a parable — begin to 
be pampered upon facts. The introduction of these 
details developed a particular ability of hand ; and 
that ability, childishly indulged, has led to the works 
that now amaze us on a railway journey. A man of 
the unquestionable force of M. Zola spends himself 
on technical successes. To afford a popular flavour 
and attract the mob, he adds a steady current of 
what I may be allowed to call the rancid. That is 


exciting to the moralist ; but what more particularly 
interests the artist is this tendency of the extreme 
of detail, when followed as a principle, to degenerate 
into mere Jeuoc-de-joie of literary tricking. The 
other day even M. Daudet was to be heard babbling 
of audible colours and visible sounds. 

This odd suicide of one branch of the realists may 
serve to remind us of the fact which underlies a very 
dusty conflict of the critics. All representative art, 
which can be said to live, is both realistic and ideal ; 
and the realism about which we quarrel is a matter 
purely of externals. It is no especial cultus of 
nature and veracity, but a mere whim of veering 
fashion, that has made us turn our back upon the 
larger, more various, and more romantic art of yore. 
A photographic exactitude in dialogue is now the 
exclusive fashion ; but even in the ablest hands it 
tells us no more — I think it even tells us less — than 
Moliere, wielding his artificial medium, has told to 
us and to all time of Alceste or Orgon, Dorine or 
Chrysale. The historical novel is forgotten. Yet 
truth to the conditions of man's nature and the 
conditions of man's Ufe, the truth of literary art, is 
free of the ages. It may be told us in a carpet 
comedy, in a novel of adventure, or a fairy tale. 
The scene may be pitched in London, on the sea- 
coast of Bohemia, or away on the mountains of 
Beulah. And by an odd and luminous accident, if 
there is any page of literature calculated to awake 
the envy of M. Zola, it must be that ' Troilus and 
Cressida ' which Shakespeare, in a spasm of unmanly 



anger with the world, grafted on the heroic story of 
the siege of Troy. 

This question of reahsm, let it then be clearly 
understood, regards not in the least degree the 
fundamental truth, but only the technical method, 
of a work of art. Be as ideal or as abstract as you 
please, you will be none the less veracious ; but if 
you be weak, you run the risk of being tedious and 
inexpressive ; and if you be very strong and honest, 
you may chance upon a masterpiece. 

A work of art is first cloudily conceived in the 
mind ; during the period of gestation it stands more 
clearly forward from these swaddling mists, puts on 
expressive lineaments, and becomes at length that 
most faultless, but also, alas ! that incommunicable 
product of the human mind, a perfected design. 
On the approach to execution all is changed. The 
artist must now step down, don his working clothes, 
and become the artisan. He now resolutely commits 
his airy conception, his delicate Ariel, to the touch 
of matter ; he must decide, almost in a breath, the 
scale, the style, the spirit, and the particularity of 
execution of his whole design. 

The engendering idea of some works is stylistic ; 
a technical preoccupation stands them instead of 
some robuster principle of life. And with these the 
execution is but play ; for the stylistic problem is 
resolved beforehand, and all large originality of 
treatment wilfully forgone. Such are the verses, 
intricately designed, which we have learnt to admire, 
with a certain smiling admiration, at the hands of 


Mr. Lang and Mr. Dobson ; such, too, are those 
canvases where dexterity or even breadth of plastic 
style takes the place of pictorial nobility of design. 
So, it may be remarked, it was easier to begin to 
write Esmond than Vanity Fair, since, in the first, 
the style was dictated by the nature of the plan ; 
and Thackeray, a man probably of some indolence 
of mind, enjoyed and got good profit of this economy 
of effort. But the case is exceptional. Usually in 
all works of art that have been conceived from 
within outwards, and generously nourished from the 
author's mind, the moment in which he begins to 
execute is one of extreme perplexity and strain. 
Artists of indifferent energy and an imperfect devo- 
tion to their own ideal make this ungrateful effort 
once for all ; and, having formed a style, adhere to it 
through life. But those of a higher order cannot rest 
content with a process which, as they continue to 
employ it, must infallibly degenerate towards the 
academic and the cut-and-dried. Every fresh work 
in which they embark is the signal for a fresh 
engagement of the whole forces of their mind ; and 
the changing views which accompany the growth of 
their experience are marked by still more sweeping 
alterations in the manner of their art So that 
criticism loves to dwell upon and distinguish the 
varying periods of a Raphael, a Shakespeare, or a 

It is, then, first of all, at this initial and decisive 
moment when execution is begun, and thenceforth 
only in a less degree, that the ideal and the real do 



indeed, like good and evil angels, contend for the 
direction of the work. Marble, paint, and language, 
the pen, the needle, and the brush, all have their 
grossnesses, their ineffable impotences, their hours, 
if I may so express myself, of insubordination. It 
is the work and it is a great part of the delight of 
any artist to contend with these unruly tools, and 
now by brute energy, now by witty expedient, to 
drive and coax them to effect his will. Given these 
means, so laughably inadequate, and given the in- 
terest, the intensity, and the multiplicity of the 
actual sensation whose effect he is to render with 
their aid, the artist has one main and necessary 
resource which he must, in every case and upon any 
theory, employ. He must, that is, suppress much 
and omit more. He must omit what is tedious or 
irrelevant, and suppress what is tedious and neces- 
sary. But such facts as, in regard to the main 
design, subserve a variety of purposes, he will per- 
force and eagerly retain. And it is the mark of the 
very highest order of creative art to be woven ex- 
clusively of such. There, any fact that is registered 
is contrived a double or a treble debt to pay, and is 
at once an ornament in its place, and a pillar in the 
main design. Nothing would find room in such a 
picture that did not serve, at once, to complete the 
composition, to accentuate the scheme of colour, to 
distinguish the planes of distance, and to strike the 
note of the selected sentiment ; nothing would be 
allowed in such a story that did not, at the same 
time, expedite the progress of the fable, build up the 


characters, and strike home the moral or the philo- 
sophical design. But this is unattainable. As a 
rule, so far from building the fabric of our works 
exclusively with these, we are thrown into a rapture 
if we think we can muster a dozen or a score of 
them, to be the plums of our confection. And 
hence, in order that the canvas may be filled or the 
story proceed from point to point, other details must 
be admitted. They must be admitted, alas ! upon a 
doubtful title ; many without marriage robes. Thus 
any work of art, as it proceeds towards completion, 
too often — I had almost written always — loses in 
force and poignancy of main design. Our little air 
is swamped and dwarfed among hardly relevant 
orchestration ; our little passionate story drowns in a 
deep sea of descriptive eloquence or slipshod talk. 

But again, we are rather more tempted to admit 
those particulars which we know we can describe ; 
and hence those most of all which, having been 
described very often, have grown to be conventionally 
treated in the practice of our art. These we choose, 
as the mason chooses the acanthus to adorn his 
capital, because they come naturally to the ac- 
customed hand. The old stock incidents and 
accessories, tricks of workmanship and schemes of 
composition (all being admirably good, or they 
would long have been forgotten) haunt and tempt 
our fancy; offer us ready-made but not perfectly 
appropriate solutions for any problem that arises ; 
and wean us from the study of nature and the 
uncompromising practice of art. To struggle, to 



face nature, to find fresh solutions, and give ex- 
pression to facts which have not yet been adequately 
or not yet elegantly expressed, is to run a little upon 
the danger of extreme self-love. Difficulty sets a 
high price upon achievement ; and the artist may 
easily fall into the error of the French naturalists, 
and consider any fact as welcome to admission if 
it be the ground of brilliant handiwork ; or, again, 
into the error of the modern landscape-painter, who 
is apt to think that difficulty overcome and science 
well displayed can take the place of what is, after 
all, the one excuse and breath of art — charm. A 
little further, and he will regard charm in the light 
of an unworthy sacrifice to prettiness, and the 
omission of a tedious passage as an infidelity to art. 

We have now the matter of this difference before 
us. The idealist, his eye singly fixed upon the 
greater outlines, loves rather to fill up the interval 
with detail of the conventional order, briefly touched, 
soberly suppressed in tone, courting neglect. But 
the realist, with a fine intemperance, will not suffer 
the presence of anything so dead as a convention ; 
he shall iiave all fiery, all hot-pressed from nature, 
all charactered and notable, seizing the eye. The 
style that befits either of these extremes, once 
chosen, brings with it its necessary disabilities and 
dangers. The immediate danger of the realist is to 
sacrifice the beauty and significance of the whole to 
local dexterity, or, in the insane pursuit of comple- 
tion, to immolate his readers under facts ; but he 
comes in the last resort, and as his energy declines, 


to discard all design, abjure all choice, and, with 
scientific thoroughness, steadily to communicate 
matter which is not worth learning. The danger of 
the idealist is, of course, to become merely null and 
lose all grip of fact, particularity, or passion. 

We talk of bad and good. Everything, indeed, is 
good which is conceived with honesty and executed 
with communicative ardour. But though on neither 
side is dogmatism fitting, and though in every case 
the artist must decide for himself, and decide afresh 
and yet afresh for each succeeding work and new 
creation ; yet one thing may be generally said, that 
we of the last quarter of the nineteenth century, 
breathing as we do the intellectual atmosphere of 
our age, are more apt to err upon the side of realism 
than to sin in quest of the ideal. Upon that theory 
it may be well to watch and correct our own 
decisions, always holding back the hand from the 
least appearance of irrelevant dexterity, and re- 
solutely fixed to begin no work that is not philo- 
sophical, passionate, dignified, happily mirthful, or 
at the last and least, romantic in design. 




There is nothing more disenchanting to man than 
to be shown the springs and mechanism of any art. 
All our arts and occupations lie wholly on the 
surface ; it is on the surface that we perceive their 
beauty, fitness, and significance ; and to pry below is 
to be appalled by their emptiness and shocked by 
the coarseness of the strings and pulleys. In a 
similar way, psychology itself, when pushed to any 
nicety, discovers an abhorrent baldness, but rather 
from the fault of our analysis than from any poverty 
native to' the mind. And perhaps in eesthetics the 
reason is the same : those disclosures which seem 
fatal to the dignity of art seem so perhaps only in 
the proportion of our ignorance ; and those conscious 
and unconscious artifices which it seems unworthy of 
the serious artist to employ were yet, if we had the 
power to trace them to their springs, indications of 
a delicacy of the sense finer than we conceive, and 
hints of ancient harmonies in nature. This ignor- 


ance at least is largely irremediable. We shall never 
learn the affinities of beauty, for they lie too deep 
in nature and too far back in the mysterious history 
of man. The amateur, in consequence, will always 
grudgingly receive details of method, which can be 
stated but can never wholly be explained ; nay, on 
the principle laid down in Hudibras, that 

' Still the less they understand^ 
The more they admire the sleight-of-hand,' 

many are conscious at each new disclosure of a 
diminution in the ardour of their pleasure. I must 
therefore warn that well-known character, the 
general reader, that I am here embarked upon a 
most distasteftd business : taking down the picture 
from the wall and looking on the back ; and, like the 
inquiring child, pulling the musical cart to pieces. 

1. Choice of Words. — The art of literature stands 
apart from among its sisters, because the material 
in which the literary artist works is the dialect of 
life ; hence, on the one hand, a strange freshness and 
immediacy of address to the public mind, which is 
ready prepared to understand it ; but hence, on the 
other, a singular limitation. The sister arts enjoy 
the use of a plastic and ductile material, like the 
modeller's clay ; Hterature alone is condemned to 
work in mosaic with finite and quite rigid words. 
You have seen these blocks, dear to the nursery : 
this one a pillar, that a pediment, a third a window 
or a vase. It is with blocks of just such arbitrary 
size and figure that the literary architect is con- 



demned to design the palaoe of his art. Nor is this 
all; for since these blocks, or words, are the ac- 
knowledged currency of our daily affairs, there are 
here possible none of those suppressions by which 
other arts obtain relief, continuity and vigour : no 
hieroglyphic touch, no smoothed impasto, no inscrut- 
able shadow, as in painting; no blank wall, as in 
architecture ; but every word, phrase, sentence, and 
paragraph must move in a logical progression, and 
convey a definite conventional import. 

Now the first merit which attracts in the pages 
of a good writer, or the talk of a brilliant con- 
versationalist, is the apt choice and contrast of the 
words employed. It is, indeed, a strange art to 
take these blocks, rudely conceived for the purpose 
of the market or the bar, and by tact of application 
touch them to the finest meanings and distinctions, 
restore to them their primal energy, wittily shift 
them to another issue, or make of them a drum to 
rouse the passions. But though this form of merit 
is without doubt the most sensible and seizing, it is 
far from being equally present in all writers. The 
effect of words in Shakespeare, their singular justice, 
significance, and poetic charm, is different, indeed, 
from the effect of words in Addison or Fielding. 
Or, to take an example nearer home, the words in 
Carlyle seem electrified into an energy of lineament, 
like the faces of men furiously moved; whilst the 
words in Macaulay, apt enough to convey his mean- 
ing, harmonious enough in sound, yet glide from the 
memory like undistinguished elements in a general 



effect. But the first class of writers have no 
monopoly of literary merit. There is a sense in 
which Addison is superior to Carlyle ; a sense 
in which Cicero is better than Tacitus, in which 
Voltaire excels Montaigne: it certainly hes not in 
the choice of words ; it lies not in the interest or 
value of the matter ; it lies not in force of intellect, 
of poetry, or of humour. The three first are but 
infants to the three second ; and yet each, in a 
particular point of literary art, excels his superior in 
the whole. What is that point ? 

2. The Web. — Literature, although it stands apart 
by reason of the great destiny and general use of its 
medium in the affairs of men, is yet an art like 
other arts. Of these we may distinguish two great 
classes : those arts, like sculpture, painting, acting, 
which are representative, or, as used to be said very 
clumsily, imitative; and those, Hke architecture, 
music, and the dance, which are self-sufficient, and 
merely presentative. Each class, in right of this 
distinction, obeys principles apart; yet both may 
claim a common ground of existence, and it may be 
said with sufficient justice that the motive and end 
of any art whatever is to make a pattern ; a pattern, 
it may be, of colours, of sounds, of changing attitudes, 
geometrical figures, or imitative fines ; but still a 
pattern. That is the plane on which these sisters 
meet ; it is by this that they are arts ; and if it be 
well they should at times forget their childish origin, 
addressing their intelligence to virile tasks, and per- 
forming unconsciously that necessary function of 



their life, to make a pattern, it is still imperative 
that the pattern shall be made. 

Music and literatm-e, the two temporal arts, con- 
trive their pattern of sounds in time ; or, in other 
words, of sounds and pauses. Communication may 
be made in broken words, the business of life be 
carried on with substantives alone ; but that is not 
what we call literature ; and the true business of the 
literary artist is to plait or weave his meaning, 
involving it around itself; so that each sentence, 
by successive phrases, shall first come into a kind 
of knot, and then, after a moment of suspended 
meaning, solve and clear itself. In every properly 
constructed sentence there should be observed this 
knot or hitch ; so that (however delicately) we are 
led to foresee, to expect, and then to welcome the 
successive phrases. The pleasure may be heightened 
by an element of surprise, as, very grossly, in the 
common figure of the antithesis, or, with much 
greater subtlety, where an antithesis is first suggested 
and then deftly evaded. Each phrase, besides, is to 
be comely in itself; and between the implication 
and the evolution of the sentence there should be a 
satisfying equipoise of sound ; for nothing more often 
disappoints the ear than a sentence solemnly and 
sonorously prepared, and hastily and weakly finished. 
Nor should the balance be too striking and exact, for 
the one rule is to be infinitely various ; to interest, 
to disappoint, to surprise, and yet still to gratify ; to 
be ever changing, as it were, the stitch, and yet still 
to give the effect of an ingenious neatness. 


The conjuror juggles with two oranges, and our 
pleasure in beholding him springs from this, that 
neither is for an instant overlooked or sacrificed. 
So with the writer. His pattern, which is to please 
the supersensual ear, is yet addressed, throughout 
and first of all, to the demands of logic. Whatever 
be the obscurities, whatever the intricacies of the 
argument, the neatness of the fabric must not suffer, 
or the artist has been proved unequal to his design. 
And, on the other hand, no form of words must be 
selected, no knot must be tied among the phrases, 
unless knot and word be precisely what is wanted to 
forward and illuminate the argument ; for to fail in 
this is to swindle in the game. The genius of prose 
rejects the cheville no less emphatically than the 
laws of verse ; and the cheville, I should perhaps 
explain to some of my readers, is any meaningless 
or very watered phrase employed to strike a balance 
in the sound. Pattern and argument live in each 
other ; and it is by the brevity, clearness, charm, or 
emphasis of the second, that we judge the strength 
and fitness of the first. 

Style is synthetic ; and the artist, seeking, so to 
speak, a peg to plait about, takes up at once two or 
more elements or two or more views of the subject 
in hand ; combines, implicates, and contrasts them ; 
and while, in one sense, he was merely seeking an 
occasion for the necessary knot, he will be found, in 
the other, to have greatly enriched the meaning, or 
to have transacted the work of two sentences in the 
space of one. In the change from the successive 
II — Q 241 


shallow statements of the old chronicler to the dense 
and luminous flow of highly synthetic narrative, 
there is implied a vast amount of both philosophy 
and wit. The philosophy we clearly see, recognising 
in the synthetic writer a far more deep and stimu- 
lating view of life, and a far keener sense of the 
generation and affinity of events. The wit we might 
imagine to be lost ; but it is not so, for it is just 
that wit, these perpetual nice contrivances, these 
difficulties overcome, this double purpose attained, 
these two oranges kept simultaneously dancing in 
the air, that, consciously or not, afford the reader his 
delight. Nay, and this wit, so little recognised, is 
the necessary organ of that philosophy which we so 
much admire. That style is therefore the most 
perfect, not, as fools say, which is the most natural, 
for the most natural is the disjointed babble of the 
chronicler ; but which attains the highest degree of 
elegant and pregnant implication unobtrusively ; or 
if obtrusively, then with the greatest gain to sense 
and vigour. Even the derangement of the phrases 
from their (so-called) natural order is luminous for 
the mind ; and it is by the means of such designed 
reversal that the elements of a judgment may be 
most pertinently marshalled, or the stages of a 
comphcated action most perspicuously bound into 

The web, then, or the pattern : a web at once 
sensuous and logical, an elegant and pregnant tex- 
ture : that is style, that is the foundation of the art 
of literature. Books indeed continue to be read, for 


the interest of the fact or fable, in which this quaUty 
is poorly represented, but still it will be there. 
And, on the other hand, how many do we continue 
to peruse and reperuse with pleasure whose only 
merit is the elegance of texture ? I am tempted to 
mention Cicero ; and since Mr. Anthony Trollope is 
dead, I will. It is a poor diet for the mind, a very 
colourless and toothless ' criticism of life ' ; but we 
enjoy the pleasure of a most intricate and dexterous 
pattern, every stitch a model at once of elegance 
and of good sense ; and the two oranges, even if 
one of them be rotten, kept dancing with inimitable 

Up to this moment I have had my eye mainly 
upon prose ; for though in verse also the implication 
of the logical texture is a crowning beauty, yet in 
verse it may be dispensed with. You would think 
that here was a death-blow to all I have been 
saying ; and far from that, it is but a new illustration 
of the principle involved. For if the versifier is not 
bound to weave a pattern of his own, it is because 
another pattern has been formally imposed upon him 
by the laws of verse. For that is the essence of a 
prosody. Verse may be rhythmical ; it may be 
merely alliterative ; it may, like the French, depend 
wholly on the (quasi) regular recurrence of the 
rhyme ; or, like the Hebrew, it may consist in the 
strangely fanciful device of repeating the same idea. 
It does not matter on what principle the law is 
based, so it be a law. It may be pure convention ; 
it may have no inherent beauty ; all that we have a 



right to ask of any prosody is, that it shall lay down 
a pattern for the writer, and that what it lays 
down shall be neither too easy nor too hard. Hence 
it comes that it is much easier for men of equal 
facility to write fairly pleasing verse than reasonably 
interesting prose ; for in prose the pattern itself has 
to be invented, and the difficulties first created 
before they can be solved. Hence, again, there 
follows the pecuUar greatness of the true versifier ; 
such as Shakespeare, Milton, and Victor Hugo, 
whom I place beside them as versifier merely, not as 
poet. These not only knit and knot the logical 
texture of the style with all the dexterity and 
strength of prose ; they not only fill up the pattern 
of the verse with infinite variety and sober wit ; but 
they give us, besides, a rare and special pleasure, 
by the art, comparable to that of counterpoint, with 
which they follow at the same time, and now con- 
trast, and now combine, the double pattern of the 
texture and the verse. Here the sounding line 
concludes ; a little further on, the well-knit sentence ; 
and yet a little further, and both will reach their 
solution on the same ringing syllable. The best that 
can be offered by the best writer of prose is to show 
us the development of the idea and the stylistic 
pattern proceed hand in hand, sometimes by an 
obvious and triumphant effort, sometimes with a 
great air of ease and nature. The writer of verse, 
by virtue of conquering another difficulty, delights 
us Avith a new series of triumphs. He follows three 
purposes where his rival followed only two ; and the 


change is of precisely the same nature as that from 
melody to harmony. Or if you prefer to return to 
the juggler, behold him now, to the vastly increased 
enthusiasm of the spectators, juggling with three 
oranges instead of two. Thus it is : added difficulty, 
added beauty ; and the pattern, with every fresh 
element, becoming more interesting in itself. 

Yet it must not be thought that verse is simply 
an addition ; something is lost as well as something 
gained ; and there remains plainly traceable, in com- 
paring the best prose with the best verse, a certain 
broad distinction of method in the web. Tight as 
the versifier may draw the knot of logic, yet for the 
ear he still leaves the tissue of the sentence floating 
somewhat loose. In prose, the sentence turns upon 
a pivot, nicely balanced, and fits into itself with an 
obtrusive neatness like a puzzle. The ear remarks 
and is singly gratified by this return and balance ; 
while in verse it is all diverted to the measure. To 
find comparable passages is hard ; for either the 
versifier is hugely the superior of the rival, or, if he 
be not, and still persist in his more delicate enter- 
prise, he falls to be as widely his inferior. But let 
us select them from the pages of the same writer, 
one who was ambidexter ; let us take, for instance. 
Rumour's Prologue to the Second Part of Henry IV., 
a fine flourish of eloquence in Shakespeare's second 
manner, and set it side by side with Falstafl"s praise 
of sherris, act iv. scene 1 ; or let us compare the 
beautiful prose spoken throughout by Rosalind and 
Orlando, compare, for example, the first speech of 



all, Orlando's speech to Adam, with what passage it 
shall please you to select — the Seven Ages from 
the same play, or even such a stave of nobility as 
Othello's farewell to war ; and still you will be able 
to perceive, if you have an ear for that class of 
music, a certain superior degree of organisation in 
the prose ; a compacter fitting of the parts ; a balance 
in the swing and the return as of a throbbing pen- 
dulum. We must not, in things temporal, take 
from those who have little, the little that they 
have ; the merits of prose are inferior, but they 
are not the same ; it is a little kingdom, but an 

3. Rhythm of the Phrase. — Some way back, I used 
a word which still awaits an application. Each 
phrase, I said, was to be comely ; but what is a 
comely phrase ? In all ideal and material points, 
literature, being a representative art, must look for 
analogies to painting and the like ; but in what is 
technical and executive, being a temporal art, it 
must seek for them in music. Each phrase of each 
sentence, like an air or a recitative in music, should 
be so artfully compounded out of long and short, 
out of accented and unaccented, as to gratify the 
sensual ear. And of this the ear is the sole judge. 
It is impossible to lay down laws. Even in our 
accentual and rhythmic language no analysis can 
find the secret of the beauty of a verse ; how much 
less, then, of those phrases, such as prose is built of, 
which obey no law but to be lawless and yet to 
please ? The little that we know of verse (and for 


my part I owe it all to my friend Professor Fleeming 
Jenkin) is, however, particularly interesting in the 
present connection. We have been accustomed to 
describe the heroic line as five iambic feet, and to be 
filled with pain and confusion whenever, as by the 
conscientious schoolboy, we have heard our own 
description put in practice. 

All night I the dread | less an | gel un | pursued,^ 

goes the schoolboy ; but though we close our ears, 
we cling to our definition, in spite of its proved and 
naked insufficiency. Mr. Jenkin was not so easily 
pleased, and readily discovered that the heroic line 
consists of four groups, or, if you prefer the phrase, 
contains four pauses : 

All night I the dreadless | angel | unpursued. 

Four groups, each practically uttered as one word : 
the first, in this case, an iamb ; the second, an 
amphibrachys ; the third, a trochee ; and the fourth 
an amphimacer ; and yet our schoolboy, with no 
other liberty but that of inflicting pain, had trium- 
phantly scanned it as five iambs. Perceive, now, 
this fresh richness of intricacy in the web ; this 
fourth orange, hitherto unremarked, but still kept 
flying with the others. What had seemed to be one 
thing it now appears is two ; and, like some puzzle 
in arithmetic, the verse is made at the same time to 
read in fives and to read in fours. 

But again, four is not necessary. We do not, 

1 Milton. 



indeed, find verses in six groups, because there is 
not room for six in the ten syllables ; and we do not 
find verses of two, because one of the main dis- 
tinctions of verse from prose resides in the com- 
parative shortness of the group ; but it is even 
common to find verses of three. Five is the one 
forbidden number; because five is the number of 
the feet ; and if five were chosen, the two patterns 
would coincide, and that opposition which is the life 
of verse would instantly be lost. We have here a 
clue to the effect of polysyllables, above all in Latin, 
where they are so common and make so brave an 
architecture in the verse ; for the polysyllable is a 
group of Nature's making. If but some Roman 
would return from Hades (Martial, for choice), and 
tell me by what conduct of the voice these thunder- 
ing verses should be uttered — ' Aut Lacedozmonium 
Tarentum," for a case in point — I feel as if I should 
enter at last into the full enjoyment of the best of 
human verses. 

But, again, the five feet are all iambic, or supposed 
to be ; by the mere count of syllables the four groups 
cannot be all iambic ; as a question of elegance, I 
doubt if any one of them requires to be so ; and 
I am certain that for choice no two of them should 
scan the same. The singular beauty of the verse 
analysed above is due, so far as analysis can carry 
us, part, indeed, to the clever repetition of l, d and 
N, but part to this variety of scansion in the groups. 
The groups which, like the bar in music, break up 
the verse for utterance, fall uniambically ; and in 


declaiming a so-called iambic verse, it may so happen 
that we never utter one iambic foot. And yet to 
this neglect of the original beat there is a limit. 

' Athens^ the eye of Greece, mother of arts/ ^ 

is, with all its eccentricities, a good heroic line ; for 
though it scarcely can be said to indicate the beat 
of the iamb, it certainly suggests no other measure 
to the ear. But begin 

' Mother Athens, eye of Greece/ 

or merely ' Mother Athens,' and the game is up, for 
the trochaic beat has been suggested. The eccentric 
scansion of the groups is an adornment ; but as soon 
as the original beat has been forgotten, they cease 
implicitly to be eccentric. Variety is what is sought ; 
but if we destroy the original mould, one of the 
terms of this variety is lost, and we fall back on 
sameness. Thus, both as to the arithmetical measure 
of the verse, and the degree of regularity in scansion, 
we see the laws of prosody to have one common 
purpose : to keep alive the opposition of two schemes 
simultaneously followed ; to keep them notably apart, 
though still coincident ; and to balance them with 
such judicial nicety before the reader, that neither 
shall be unperceived and neither signally prevail. 

The rule of rhythm in prose is not so intricate. 
Here, too, we write in groups, or phrases, as I prefer 
to call them, for the prose phrase is greatly longer 
and is much more nonchalantly uttered than the 

1 Milton. 



group in verse ; so that not only is there a greater 
interval of continuous sound between the pauses, 
but, for that very reason, word is hnked more readily 
to word by a more summary enunciation. Still, the 
phrase is the strict analogue of the group, and suc- 
cessive phrases, like successive groups, must differ 
openly in length and rhythm. The rule of scansion 
in verse is to suggest no measure but the one in 
hand ; in prose, to suggest no measure at all. Prose 
must be rhythmical, and it may be as much so as 
you will ; but it must not be metrical. It may be 
anything, but it must not be verse. A single heroic 
line may very well pass and not disturb the some- 
what larger stride of the prose style ; but one follow- 
ing another will produce an instant impression of 
poverty, flatness, and disenchantment. The same 
lines delivered with the measured utterance of verse 
would perhaps seem rich in variety. By the more 
summary enunciation proper to prose, as to a more 
distant vision, these niceties of difference are lost. 
A whole verse is uttered as one phrase ; and the ear 
is soon wearied by a succession of groups identical 
in length. The prose writer, in fact, since he is 
allowed to be so much less harmonious, is condemned 
to a perpetually fresh variety of movement on a 
larger scale, and must never disapj)oint the ear by 
the trot of an accepted metre. And this obligation 
is the third orange with which he has to juggle, the 
third quality which the prose writer must work into 
his pattern of words. It may be thought perhaps 
that this is a quality of ease rather than a fresh 


difficulty ; but such is the inherently rhythmical 
strain of the Enghsh language, that the bad writer 
— and must I take for example that admired friend 
of my boyhood, Captain Reid? — the inexperienced 
writer, as Dickens in his earlier attempts to be im- 
pressive, and the jaded writer, as any one may see 
for himself, all tend to fall at once into the pro- 
duction of bad blank verse. And here it may be 
pertinently asked, Why bad ? And I suppose it 
might be enough to answer that no man ever made 
good verse by accident, and that no verse can ever 
sound otherwise than trivial when uttered with the 
delivery of prose. But we can go beyond such 
answers. The weak side of verse is the regularity 
of the beat, which in itself is decidedly less impres- 
sive than the movement of the nobler prose ; and it 
is just into this weak side, and this alone, that our 
careless writer falls. A peculiar density and mass, 
consequent on the nearness of the pauses, is one 
of the chief good qualities of verse ; but this our 
accidental versifier, still following after the swift gait 
and large gestures of prose, does not so much as 
aspire to imitate. Lastly, since he remains uncon- 
scious that he is making verse at all, it can never 
occur to him to extract those effects of counterpoint 
and opposition which I have referred to as the final 
grace and justification of verse, and, I may add, of 
blank verse in particular. 

4. Contents of the Phrase. — Here is a great deal 
of talk about rhythm — and naturally ; for in our 
canorous language rhythm is always at the door. 



But it must not be forgotten that in some languages 
this element is almost, if not quite, extinct, and 
that in our own it is probably decaying. The even 
speech of many educated Americans sounds the note 
of danger. I should see it go with something as 
bitter as despair, but I should not be desperate. As 
in verse no element, not even rhythm, is necessary ; 
so, in prose also, other sorts of beauty will arise and 
take the place and play the part of those that we 
outlive. The beauty of the expected beat in verse, 
the beauty in prose of its larger and more lawless 
melody, patent as they are to English hearing, are 
already silent in the ears of our next neighbours ; 
for in France the oratorical accent and the pattern 
of the web have almost or altogether succeeded to 
their places ; and the French prose writer would be 
astounded at the labours of his brother across the 
Channel, and how a good quarter of his toil, above 
all invita Minerva, is to avoid writing verse. So 
wonderfully far apart have races wandered in spirit, 
and so hard it is to understand the literature next 
door ! 

Yet French prose is distinctly better than English ; 
and French verse, above all while Hugo lives, it will 
not do to place upon one side. What is more to 
our purpose, a phrase or a verse in French is easily 
distinguishable as comely or uncomely. There is 
then another element of comeliness hitherto over- 
looked in this analysis : the contents of the phrase. 
Each phrase in literature is built of sounds, as each 
phrase in music consists of notes. One sound 


suggests, echoes, demands, and harmonises with 
another ; and the art of rightly using these concord- 
ances is the final art in literature. It used to be a 
piece of good advice to all young writers to avoid 
alliteration ; and the advice was sound, in so far as 
it prevented daubing. None the less for that, was it 
abominable nonsense, and the mere raving of those 
blindest of the blind who will not see. The beauty 
of the contents of a phrase, or of a sentence, depends 
implicitly upon alliteration and upon assonance. 
The vowel demands to be repeated ; the consonant 
demands to be repeated ; and both cry aloud to be 
perpetually varied. You may follow the adventures 
of a letter through any passage that has particularly 
pleased you ; find it, perhaps, denied a while, to 
tantalise the ear ; find it fired again at you in a 
whole broadside ; or find it pass into congenerous 
sounds, one liquid or labial melting away into 
another. And you will find another and much 
stranger circumstance. Literature is written by and 
for two senses : a sort of internal ear, quick to per- 
ceive ' unheard melodies ' ; and the eye, which directs 
the pen and deciphers the printed phrase. Well, 
even as there are rhymes for the eye, so you will 
find that there are assonances and alliterations ; that 
where an author is running the open a, deceived by 
the eye and our strange English spelUng, he will 
often show a tenderness for the flat a ; and that 
where he is running a particular consonant, he will 
not improbably rejoice to write it down even when it 
is mute or bears a different value. 



Here, then, we have a fresh pattern — a pattern, to 
speak grossly, of letters — which makes the fourth 
preoccupation of the prose writer, and the fifth of 
the versifier. At times it is very delicate and hard 
to perceive, and then perhaps most excellent and 
winning (I say perhaps) ; but at times again the 
elements of this literal melody stand more boldly 
forward and usurp the ear. It becomes, therefore, 
somewhat a matter of conscience to select examples ; 
and as I cannot very well ask the reader to help me, 
I shall do the next best by giving him the reason or 
the history of each selection. The two first, one in 
prose, one in verse, I chose without previous analysis, 
simply as engaging passages that had long re-echoed 
in my ear. 

' I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, 
unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out 
and sees her adversary, but sHnks out of the race 
where that immortal garland is to be run for, not 
without dust and heat.'^ Down to 'virtue,' the 
current s and n 'are both announced and repeated 
unobtrusively, and by way of a grace-note that 
almost inseparable group pvf is given entire.^ The 
next phrase is a period of repose, almost ugly in 
itself, both s and r still audible, and b given as the 
last fulfilment of pvf. In the next four phrases, 
from 'that never' down to 'run for,' the mask is 

1 Milton. 

2 As PVF will continue to haunt us through our English examples, 
take, by way of comparison, this Latin verse, of which it forms a chief 
adornment, and do not hold me answerable for the all too Roman freedom 
of the sense : ' Hanc volo, quae facilis, quae palliolata vagatur. ' 


thrown off, and, but for a slight repetition of the r 
and V, the whole matter turns, almost too obtrusively, 
on s and R ; first s coming to the front, and then u. 
In the concluding phrase all these favourite letters, 
and even the flat a, a timid preference for which is 
just perceptible, are discarded at a blow and in a 
bundle ; and to make the break more obvious, every 
word ends with a dental, and all but one with t, for 
which we have been cautiously prepared since the 
beginning. The singular dignity of the first clause, 
and this hammer-stroke of the last, go far to make 
the charm of this exquisite sentence. But it is fair 
to own that s and r are used a little coarsely. 

' In Xanadu did Kubla Khan (kandl) 

A stately pleasure dome decree^ (kdlsr) 

Where Alph the sacred river ran, (kandlsr) 

Through caverns measureless to man, (kanlsr) 

Down to a sunless sea.' ^ (ndls) 

Here I have put the analysis of the main group 
alongside the lines ; and the more it is looked at, the 
more interesting it will seem. But there are further 
niceties. In lines two and four, the current s is most 
delicately varied with z. In line three, the current 
flat A is twice varied with the open a, already 
suggested in line two, and both times ('where' and 
' sacred ') in conjunction with the current r. In the 
same line f and v (a harmony in themselves, even 
when shorn of their comrade p) are admirably con- 
trasted. And in line four there is a marked sub- 

^ Coleridge. 



sidiaiy m, which again was announced in Hne two. 
I stop from weariness, for more might yet be said. 

My next example was recently quoted from 
Shakespeare as an example of the poet's colour sense. 
Now, I do not think literature has anything to do 
with colour, or poets anyway the better of such a 
sense ; and I instantly attacked this passage, since 
' purple ' was the word that had so pleased the writer 
of the article, to see if there might not be some 
Hterary reason for its use. It will be seen that I 
succeeded amply ; and I am bound to say I think 
the passage exceptional in Shakespeare — exceptional, 
indeed, in literature ; but it was not I who chose it. 

' The BaRge she sat iN, like a BURNished throNe 
BuRNt ON the water : the poop was BeateN gold, 
PuRple the sails and so PUR*Fumed that *per 

The wiNds were lovesick with them.^ 

It may be asked why I have put the f of perfumed 
in capitals ; and I reply, because this change from p 
to F is the completion of that from b to p, already so 
adroitly carried out. Indeed, the whole passage is a 
monument of curious ingenuity ; and it seems scarce 
worth while to indicate the subsidiary s, l and w. 
In the same article, a second passage from Shake- 
speare was quoted, once again as an example of his 
colour sense : 

' A mole cinque-spotted like the crimson drops 
I' the bottom of a cowslip.' ^ 

It is very curious, very artificial, and not worth 

^ Antony and Cleopatra, 2 Cymbeline. 



while to analyse at length : I leave it to the reader. 
But before I turn my back on Shakespeare, I should 
like to quote a passage, for my own pleasure, and for 
a very model of every technical art : — 

' But in the wind and tempest of her frown, w. p. v. f. (st) (ow) ^ 

Distinction with a loud and powerful fan, w. p. f. (st) (ow) l 

Puffing at all, winnowes the light away ; w. p. f. l 

And what hath mass and matter by itself w. f. l. m. a. 

Lies rich in virtue and unmingled.' ^ y l m. 

From these delicate and choice writers I turned 
with some curiosity to a player of the big drum — 
Macaulay. I had in hand the two-volume edition, 
and I opened at the beginning of the second volume. 
Here was what I read : — 

' The violence of revolutions is generally proportioned to the 
degree of the maladministration which has produced them. It 
is therefore not strange that the government of Scotland, 
having been during many years greatly more corrupt than the 
government of England, should have fallen with a far heavier 
ruin. The movement against the last king of the house of 
Stuart was in England conservative, in Scotland destructive. 
The English complained not of the law, but of the violation of 
the law.' 

This was plain-saihng enough ; it was our old friend 
PVF, floated by the liquids in a body ; but as I read 
on, and turned the page, and still found pvr with 
his attendant Hquids, I confess my mind misgave 
me utterly. This could be no trick of Macaulay 's ; 
it must be the nature of the English tongue. In 
a kind of despair, I turned half-way through the 

1 The V is in ' of.' 2 Troilus and Cressida. 

II-R ' 257 


volume ; and coming upon his lordship dealing with 
General Cannon, and fresh from Claverhouse and 
Killiekrankie, here, with elucidative spelling, was my 
reward : — 

' Meanwhile the disorders of Kannon's icamp went on inxreas- 
inar. He Kalled a Kouncil of war to Konsider what Kourse it 
would be advisable to taxe. But as soon as the Kouncil had 
met a preliminary laiestion was raised. The army was almost 
eivSKlusively a Highland army. The recent viKtory had been 
won eKSKlusively by Highland warriors. Great chie^ who had 
brought siKs or sef en hundred yighting men into the field, 
did not think it /air that they should be outtJoted by gentlemen 
/rom Ireland and yi'om the Low Kountries, who bore indeed 
King James's Kommission, and were Kalled Kolonels and Kaptains, 
but who were Kolonels without regiments and Kaptains without 

A moment of fv in all this world of k's ! It was 
not the English language, then, that was an instru- 
ment of one string, but Macaulay that was an 
incomparable dauber. 

It was probably from this barbaric love of repeat- 
ing the same sound, rather than from any design of 
clearness,'^ that he acquired his irritating habit of 
repeating words ; I say the one rather than the other, 
because such a trick of the ear is deeper seated and 
more original in man than any logical consideration. 
Few writers, indeed, are probably conscious of the 
length to which they push this melody of letters. 
One, writing very diligently, and only concerned 
about the meaning of his words and the rhythm of 
his phrases, was struck into amazement by the eager 


triumph with which he cancelled one expression to 
substitute another. Neither changed the sense ; 
both being monosyllables, neither could affect the 
scansion ; and it was only by looking back on what 
he had already written that the mystery was solved : 
the second word contained an open a, and for nearly 
half a page he had been riding that vowel to the 

In practice, I should add, the ear is not always so 
exacting ; and ordinary writers, in ordinary moments, 
content themselves with avoiding what is harsh, and 
here and there, upon a rare occasion, buttressing a 
phrase, or linking two together, with a patch of 
assonance or a momentary jingle of alliteration. To 
understand how constant is this pre-occupation of 
good writers, even where its results are least 
obtrusive, it is only necessary to turn to the bad. 
There, indeed, you will find cacophony supreme, the 
rattle of incongruous consonants only relieved by 
the jaw-breaking hiatus, and whole phrases not to be 
articulated by the powers of man. 

Conclusion. — We may now briefly enumerate the 
elements of style. We have, peculiar to the prose 
writer, the task of keeping his phrases large, 
rhythmical and pleasing to the ear, without ever 
allowing them to fall into the strictly metrical : 
peculiar to the versifier, the task of combining and 
contrasting his double, treble, and quadruple pattern, 
feet and groups, logic and metre — harmonious in 
diversity : common to both, the task of artfully 
combining the prime elements of language into 



phrases that shall be musical in the mouth ; the task 
of weaving their argument into a texture of com- 
mitted phrases and of rounded periods — but this 
particularly binding in the case of prose : and, again 
common to both, the task of choosing apt, explicit, 
and communicative words. We begin to see now 
what an intricate affair is any perfect passage ; how 
many faculties, whether of taste or pure reason, 
must be held upon the stretch to make it ; and why, 
when it is made, it should afford us so complete 
a pleasure. From the arrangement of according 
letters, which is altogether arabesque and sensual, up 
to the architecture of the elegant and pregnant 
sentence, which is a vigorous act of the pure intel- 
lect, there is scarce a faculty in man but has been 
exercised. We need not wonder, then, if ^perfect 
sentences are rare, and perfect pages rarer. 




The profession of letters has been lately debated in 
the pubhc prints ; and it has been debated, to put 
the matter mildly, from a point of view that was 
calculated to surprise high-minded men, and bring a 
general contempt on books and reading. Some time 
ago, in particular, a lively, pleasant, popular writer ^ 
devoted an essay, lively and pleasant like himself, 
to a very encouraging view of the profession. We 
may be glad that his experience is so cheering, and 
we may hope that all others, who deserve it, shall 
be as handsomely rewarded ; but I do not think we 
need be at all glad to have this question, so im- 
portant to the public and ourselves, debated solely 
on the ground of money. The salary in any business 
under heaven is not the only, nor indeed the first, 
question. That you should continue to exist is a 
matter for your own consideration ; but that your 
business should be first honest, and second useful, 
are points in which honour and morality are con- 
cerned. If the writer to whom I refer succeeds in 
persuading a number of young persons to adopt this 

^ Mr. James Payn. 



way of life with an eye set singly on the livelihood, 
we must expect them in their works to follow profit 
only, and we must expect in consequence, if he will 
pardon me the epithets, a slovenly, base, untrue, and 
empty literature. Of that writer himself I am not 
speaking : he is diligent, clean, and pleasing ; we all 
owe him periods of entertainment, and he has 
achieved an amiable popularity which he has ade- 
quately deserved. But the truth is, he does not, or 
did not when he first embraced it, regard his pro- 
fession from this purely mercenary side. He went 
into it, I shall venture to say, if not with any noble 
design, at least in the ardour of a first love ; and he 
enjoyed its practice long before he paused to cal- 
culate the wage. The other day an author was 
complimented on a piece of work, good in itself and 
exceptionally good for him, and replied in terms 
unworthy of a commercial traveller, that as the book 
was not briskly selling he did not give a copper 
farthing for its merit. It must not be supposed that 
the person to whom this answer was addressed 
received it as a profession of faith ; he knew, on the 
other hand, that it was only a whifF of irritation ; 
just as we know, when a respectable writer talks of 
literature as a way of life, like shoemaking, but not 
so useful, that he is only debating one aspect of a 
question, and is still clearly conscious of a dozen 
others more important in themselves and more 
central to the matter in hand. But while those who 
treat literature in this penny-wise and virtue-foolish 
spirit are themselves truly in possession of a better 


light, it does not follow that the treatment is decent 
or improving, whether for themselves or others. To 
treat all subjects in the highest, the most honour- 
able, and the pluckiest spirit, consistent with the 
fact, is the first duty of a writer. If he be well paid, 
as I am glad to hear he is, this duty becomes the 
more urgent, the neglect of it the more disgraceful. 
And perhaps there is no subject on which a man 
should speak so gravely as that industry, whatever 
it may be, which is the occupation or delight of his 
life ; which is his tool to earn or serve with ; and 
which, if it be unworthy, stamps himself as a mere 
incubus of dumb and greedy bowels on the shoulders 
of labouring humanity. On that subject alone even 
to force the note might lean to virtue's side. It 
is to be hoped that a numerous and enterprising 
generation of writers will follow and surpass the 
present one ; but it would be better if the stream 
were stayed, and the roll of our old, honest English 
books were closed, than that esurient bookmakers 
should continue and debase a brave tradition, and 
lower, in their own eyes, a famous race. Better that 
our serene temples were deserted than filled with 
trafficking and juggling priests. 

There are two just reasons for the choice of any 
way of life : the first is inbred taste in the chooser ; 
the second some high utility in the industry selected. 
Literature, like any other art, is singularly interest- 
ing to the artist ; and, in a degree peculiar to itself 
among the arts, it is useful to mankind. These are the 
sufficient justifications for any young man or woman 



who adopts it as the business of his life. I shall not 
say much about the wages. A writer can live by 
his writing. If not so luxuriously as by other trades, 
then less luxuriously. The nature of the work he 
does all day will more affect his happiness than the 
quality of his dinner at night. Whatever be your 
calling, and however much it brings you in the year, 
you could still, you know, get more by cheating. 
We all suffer ourselves to be too much concerned 
about a little poverty ; but such considerations 
should not move us in the choice of that which is 
to be the business and justification of so great a 
portion of our lives ; and like the missionary, the 
patriot, or the philosopher, we should all choose that 
poor and brave career in which we can do the most 
and best for mankind. Now nature, faithfully 
followed, proves herself a careful mother. A lad, 
for some liking to the jingle of words, betakes him- 
self to letters for his life ; by-and-by, when he learns 
more gravity, he finds that he has chosen better 
than he knew ; that if he earns little, he is earning 
it amply ; that if he receives a small wage, he is in 
a position to do considerable services ; that it is in 
his power, in some small measure, to protect the 
oppressed and to defend the truth. So kindly is 
the world arranged, such great profit may arise from 
a small degree of human reliance on oneself, and 
such, in particular, is the happy star of this trade of 
writing, that it should combine pleasure and profit 
to both parties, and be at once agreeable, like fiddling, 
and useful, like good preaching. 


This is to speak of literature at its highest ; and 
with the four great elders who are still spared to our 
respect and admiration, with Carlyle, Ruskin, Brown- 
ing, and Tennyson before us, it would be cowardly 
to consider it at first in any lesser aspect. But while 
we cannot follow these athletes, while we may none 
of us, perhaps, be very vigorous, very original, or 
very wise, I still contend that, in the humblest sort 
of literary work, we have it in our power either to 
do great harm or great good. We may seek merely 
to please ; we may seek, having no higher gift, 
merely to gratify the idle nine-days' curiosity of our 
contemporaries ; or we may essay, however feebly, 
to instruct. In each of these we shall have to deal 
with that remarkable art of words which, because it 
is the dialect of life, comes home so easily and power- 
fully to the minds of men ; and since that is so, we 
contribute, in each of these branches, to build up 
the sum of sentiments and appreciations which goes 
by the name of Public Opinion or Public Feeling. 
The total of a nation's reading, in these days of daily 
papers, greatly modifies the total of the nation's 
speech ; and the speech and reading, taken together, 
form the efficient educational medium of youth. A 
good man or woman may keep a youth some little 
while in clearer air ; but the contemporary atmo- 
sphere is all-powerful in the end on the average of 
mediocre characters. The copious Corinthian base- 
ness of the American reporter or the Parisian chroni- 
queur, both so lightly readable, must exercise an 
incalculable influence for ill ; they touch upon all 



subjects, and on all with the same ungenerous hand ; 
they begin the consideration of all, in young and 
unprepared minds, in an unworthy spirit ; on all, 
they supply some pungency for dull people to quote. 
The mere body of this ugly matter overwhelms the 
rarer utterances of good men ; the sneering, the 
selfish, and the cowardly are scattered in broad 
sheets on every table, while the antidote, in small 
volumes, lies unread upon the shelf. I have spoken 
of the American and the French, not because they 
are so much baser, but so much more readable, than 
the English ; their evil is done more effectively, in 
America for the masses, in French for the few that 
care to read ; but with us as with them, the duties 
of literature are daily neglected, truth daily perverted 
and suppressed, and grave subjects daily degraded in 
the treatment. The journalist is not reckoned an 
important officer ; yet judge of the good he might 
do, the harm he does ; judge of it by one instance 
only : that when we find two journals on the reverse 
sides of politics each, on the same day, openly garb- 
ling a piece of news for the interest of its own party, 
we smile at the discovery (no discovery now !) as 
over a good joke and pardonable stratagem. Lying 
so open is scarce lying, it is true ; but one of the 
things that we profess to teach our young is a 
respect for truth ; and I cannot think this piece of 
education will be crowned with any great success, so 
long as some of us practise and the rest openly 
approve of public falsehood. 

There are two duties incumbent upon any man 


who enters on the business of writing : truth to the 
fact and a good spirit in the treatment. In every 
department of Hterature, though so low as hardly to 
deserve the name, truth to the fact is of importance 
to the education and comfort of mankind, and so 
hard to preserve, that the faithful trying to do so will 
lend some dignity to the man who tries it. Our 
judgments are based upon two things : first, upon 
the original preferences of our soul ; but, second, 
upon the mass of testimony to the nature of God, 
man, and the universe which reaches us, in divers 
manners, from without. For the most part these 
divers manners are reducible to one, all that we learn 
of past times and much that we learn of our own 
reaching us through the medium of books or papers, 
and even he who cannot read learning from the same 
source at second-hand and by the report of him who 
can. Thus the sum of the contemporary knowledge 
or ignorance of good and evil is, in large measure, 
the handiwork of those who write. Those who write 
have to see that each man's knowledge is, as near as 
they can make it, answerable to the facts of life ; 
that he shall not suppose himself an angel or a 
monster ; nor take this world for a hell ; nor be 
suffered to imagine that all rights are concentred 
in his own caste or country, or all veracities in his 
own parochial creed. Each man should learn what 
is within him, that he may strive to mend ; he must 
be taught what is without him, that he may be kind 
to others. It can never be wrong to tell him the 
truth ; for, in his disputable state, weaving as he 



goes his theory of life, steering himself, cheering or 
reproving others, all facts are of the first importance 
to his conduct ; and even if a fact shall discourage or 
corrupt him, it is still best that he should know it ; 
for it is in this w^orld as it is, and not in a world 
made easy by educational suppressions, that he must 
win his way to shame or glory. In one word, it 
must always be foul to tell what is false ; and it can 
never be safe to suppress what is true. The very 
fact that you omit may be the fact which somebody 
was wanting, for one man's meat is another man's 
poison, and I have known a person who was cheered 
by the perusal of Candide. Every fact is a part of 
that great puzzle we must set together ; and none 
that comes directly in a writer's path but has some 
nice relations, unperceivable by him, to the totality 
and bearing of the subject under hand. Yet there 
are certain classes of fact eternally more necessary 
than others, and it is with these that literature must 
first bestir itself. They are not hard to distinguish, 
nature once more easily leading us ; for the necessary, 
because the efficacious, facts are those which are 
most interesting to the natural mind of man. Those 
which are coloured, picturesque, human, and rooted 
in morality, and those, on the other hand, which are 
clear, indisputable, and a part of science, are alone 
vital in importance, seizing by their interest, or 
useful to communicate. So far as the writer merely 
narrates, he should principally tell of these. He 
should tell of the kind and wholesome and beautiful 
elements of our life ; he should tell unsparingly of 


the evil and sorrow of the present, to move us with 
instances ; he should tell of wise and good people in 
the past, to excite us by example ; and of these he 
should tell soberly and truthfully, not glossing faults, 
that we may neither grow discouraged with ourselves 
nor exacting to our neighbours. So the body of 
contemporary literature, ephemeral and feeble in 
itself, touches in the minds of men the springs of 
thought and kindness, and supports them (for those 
who will go at all are easily supported) on their way 
to what is true and right. And if, in any degree, it 
does so now, how much more might it do so if the 
writers chose ! There is not a life in all the records 
of the past but, properly studied, might lend a hint 
and a help to some contemporary. There is not a 
juncture in to-day's affairs but some useful word 
may yet be said of it. Even the reporter has an 
office, and, with clear eyes and honest language, may 
unveil injustices and point the way to progress. 
And for a last word : in all narration there is only 
one way to be clever, and that is to be exact. To 
be vivid is a secondary quality which must pre- 
suppose the first ; for vividly to convey a wrong 
impression is only to make failure conspicuous. 

But a fact may be viewed on many sides ; it may 
be chronicled with rage, tears, laughter, indifference, 
or admiration, and by each of these the story will 
be transformed to something else. The newspapers 
that told of the return of our representatives from 
Berlin, even if they had not differed as to the facts, 
would have sufficiently diffei'ed by their spirit ; so 



that the one description would have been a second 
ovation, and the other a prolonged insult. The 
subject makes but a trifling part of any piece of 
literature, and the view of the writer is itself a fact 
more important because less disputable than the 
others. Now this spirit in which a subject is re- 
garded, important in all kinds of literary work, be- 
comes all-important in works of fiction, meditation, 
or rhapsody ; for there it not only colours but itself 
chooses the facts ; not only modifies but shapes the 
work. And hence, over the far larger proportion of 
the field of literature, the health or disease of the 
writer's mind or momentary humour forms not only 
the leading feature of his work, but is, at bottom, 
the only thing he can communicate to others. In 
all works of art, widely speaking, it is first of all the 
author's attitude that is narrated, though in the 
attitude there be implied a whole experience and a 
theory of life. An author who has begged the 
question and reposes in some narrow faith cannot, 
if he would, express the whole or even many of the 
sides of this various existence ; for, his own life being 
maim, st)me of them are not admitted in his theory, 
and were only dimly and unwillingly recognised in 
his experience. Hence the smallness, the triteness, 
and the inhumanity in works of merely sectarian 
religion ; and hence we find equal although un- 
similar limitations in works inspired by the spirit 
of the flesh or the despicable taste for high society. 
So that the first duty of any man who is to write 
is intellectual. Designedly or not, he has so far set 


himself up for a leader of the minds of mien ; and he 
must see that his own mind is kept supple, charit- 
able, and bright. Everything but prejudice should 
find a voice through him ; he should see the good in 
all things ; where he has even a fear that he does 
not wholly understand, there he should be wholly 
silent ; and he should recognise from the first that 
he has only one tool in his workshop, and that tool 
is sympathy.^ 

The second duty, far harder to define, is moral. 
There are a thousand different humours in the mind, 
and about each of them, when it is uppermost, some 
literature tends to be deposited. Is this to be 
allowed ? not certainly in every case, and yet perhaps 
in miore than rigourists would fancy. It were to be 
desired that all literary work, and chiefly works of 
art, issued from sound, human, healthy, and potent 
impulses, whether grave or laughing, humorous, 
romantic, or religious. Yet it cannot be denied 
that some valuable books are partially insane ; some, 
mostly religious, partially inhuman ; and very many 
tainted with morbidity and impotence. We do not 
loathe a masterpiece although we gird against its 
blemishes. We are not, above all, to look for faults 
but merits. There is no book perfect, even in 
design ; but there are many that will delight, 

^ A footnote^ at least, is due to the admirable example set before all 
young writers in the width of literary sympathy displayed by Mr. Swin- 
burne. He runs forth to welcome merit, whether in Dickens or Trollope, 
whether in Villon, Milton, or Pope. This is, in criticism, the attitude 
we should all seek to preserve, not only in that, but in every branch of 
literary work. 



improve, or encourage the reader. On the one hand, 
the Hebrew Psalms are the only religious poetry on 
earth ; yet they contain sallies that savour rankly of 
the man of blood. On the other hand, Alfred de 
Musset had a poisoned and a contorted nature ; I 
am only quoting that generous and frivolous giant, 
old Dumas, when I accuse him of a bad heart ; yet, 
when the impulse under which he wrote was purely 
creative, he could give us works Hke Carmosine or 
Fantasio, in which the last note of the romantic 
comedy seems to have been found again to touch 
and please us. When Flaubert wrote Madame 
Bova?'y, I beheve he thought chiefly of a somewhat 
morbid realism ; and behold ! the book turned in his 
hands into a masterpiece of appalling morality. 
But the truth is, when books are conceived under a 
great stress, with a soul of nine-fold power nine 
times heated and electrified by effort, the conditions 
of our being are seized with such an ample grasp, that, 
even should the main design be trivial or base, some 
truth and beauty cannot fail to be expressed. Out 
of the strong comes forth sweetness ; but an ill thing 
poorly done is an ill thing top and bottom. And so 
this can be no encouragement to knock-knee'd, 
feeble-wristed scribes, who must take their business 
conscientiously or be ashamed to practise it. 

Man is imperfect ; yet, in his literature, he must 
express himself and his own views and preferences ; 
for to do anything else is to do a far more perilous 
thing than to risk being immoral : it is to be sure 
of being untrue. To ape a sentiment, even a good 


one, is to travesty a sentiment ; that will not be 
helpful. To conceal a sentiment, if you are sure you 
hold it, is to take a liberty with truth. There is 
probably no point of view possible to a sane man but 
contains some truth and, in the true connection, 
might be profitable to the race. I am not afraid of 
the truth, if any one could tell it me, but I am afraid 
of parts of it impertinently uttered. There is a time 
to dance and a time to mourn ; to be harsh as well 
as to be sentimental ;. to be ascetic as well as to 
glorify the appetites ; and if a man were to combine 
all these extremes into his work, each in its place 
and proportion, that work would be the world's 
masterpiece of morality as well as of art. Partiality 
is immorality ; for any book is wrong that gives a 
misleading picture of the world and life. The 
trouble is that the weakling must be partial ; the 
work of one proving dank and depressing ; of 
another, cheap and vulgar ; of a third, epileptically 
sensual ; of a fourth, sourly ascetic. In literature as 
in conduct, you can never hope to do exactly right. 
All you can do is to make as sure as possible ; and 
for that there is but one rule. Nothing should be 
done in a hurry that can be done slowly. It is no 
use to write a book and put it by for nine or even 
ninety years ; for in the writing you will have partly 
convinced yourself; the delay must precede any 
beginning ; and if you meditate a work of art, you 
should first long roll the subject under the tongue to 
make sure you like the flavour, before you brew a 
volume that shall taste of it from end to end ; or if 
II— s 273 


you propose to enter on the field of controversy, you 
should first have thought upon the question under 
all conditions, in health as well as in sickness, 
in sorrow as well as in joy. It is this nearness of 
examination necessary for any true and kind writing, 
that makes the practice of the art a prolonged and 
noble education for the writer. 

There is plenty to do, plenty to say, or to say over 
again, in the meantime. Any literary work which 
conveys faithful facts or pleasing impressions is a 
service to the public. It is even a service to be 
thankfully proud of having rendered. The slightest 
novels are a blessing to those in distress, not chloro- 
form itself a greater. Our fine old sea-captain's life 
was justified when Carlyle soothed his mind with 
The Kings Own or Newton Forster. To please is 
to serve ; and so far from its being difficult to instruct 
while you amuse, it is difficult to do the one 
thoroughly without the other. Some part of the 
writer or his life will crop out in even a vapid book ; 
and to read a novel that was conceived with any 
force is to multiply experience and to exercise the 
sympathies. Every article, every piece of verse, 
every essay, every entrefilet, is destined to pass, 
however swiftly, through the minds of some portion 
of the public, and to colour, however transiently, 
their thoughts. When any subject falls to be dis- 
cussed, some scribbler on a paper has the invaluable 
opportunity of beginning its discussion in a dignified 
and human spirit ; and if there were enough who did 
so in our public press, neither the public nor the 


parliament would find it in their minds to drop to 
meaner thoughts. The writer has the chance to 
stumble, by the way, on something pleasing, some- 
thing interesting, something encouraging, were it 
only to a single reader. He will be unfortunate, 
indeed, if he suit no one. He has the chance, 
besides, to stumble on something that a dull person 
shall be able to comprehend ; and for a dull person 
to have read anything and, for that once, compre- 
hended it, makes a marking epoch in his education. 

Here then is work worth doing and worth trying 
to do well. And so, if I were minded to welcome 
any great accession to our trade, it should not be 
from any reason of a higher wage, but because it was 
a trade which was useful in a very great and in a 
very high degree ; which every honest tradesman 
could make more serviceable to mankind in his 
single strength ; which was difficult to do well and 
possible to do better every year ; which called for 
scrupulous thought on the part of all who practised 
it, and hence became a perpetual education to their 
nobler natures ; and which, pay it as you please, in 
the large majority of the best cases will still be 
underpaid. For surely, at this time of day in the 
nineteenth century, there is nothing that an honest 
man should fear more timorously than getting and 
spending more than he deserves. 




The Editor^ has somewhat msidiously laid a trap 
for his correspondents, the question put appearing at 
first so innocent, truly cutting so deep. It is not, 
indeed, until after some reconnaissance and review 
that the writer awakes to find himself engaged upon 
something in the nature of autobiography, or, perhaps 
worse, upon a chapter in the life of that little, 
beautiful brother whom we once all had, and whom 
we have all lost and mourned, the man we ought to 
have been, the man we hoped to be. But when 
word has been passed (even to an editor), it should, 
if possible, be kept ; and if sometimes I am wise and 
say too little, and sometimes weak and say too much, 
the blame must lie at the door of the person who 
entrapped me. 

The most influential books, and the truest in their 
influence, are works of fiction. They do not pin the 
reader to a dogma, which he must afterwards dis- 
cover to be inexact ; they do not teach him a lesson, 
which he must afterwards unlearn. They repeat, 

1 Of The British Weekly. 


they rearrange, they clarify the lessons of life ; they 
disengage us from ourselves, they constrain us to the 
acquaintance of others ; and they show us the web 
of experience, not as we can see it for ourselves, but 
with a singular change — that monstrous, consuming 
ego of ours being, for the nonce, struck out. To be 
so, they must be reasonably true to the human 
comedy ; and any work that is so serves the turn of 
instruction. But the course of our education is 
answered best by those poems and romances where 
we breathe a magnanimous atmosphere of thought 
and meet generous and pious characters. Shake- 
speare has served me best. Few living friends have 
had upon me an influence so strong for good as 
Hamlet or Rosalind. The last character, already 
well beloved in the reading, I had the good fortune 
to see, I must think, in an impressionable hour, 
played by Mrs. Scott Siddons. Nothing has ever 
more moved, more delighted, more refreshed me ; 
nor has the influence quite passed away. Kent's 
brief speech over the dying Lear had a great effect 
upon *my mind, and was the burthen of my re- 
flections for long, so profoundly, so touchingly 
generous did it appear in sense, so overpowering in 
expression. Perhaps my dearest and best friend 
outside of Shakespeare is D'Artagiian — the elderly 
D'Artagnan of the Vicomte de Bragelonne. I know 
not a more human soul, nor, in his way, a finer ; I 
shall be very sorry for the man who is so much of a 
pedant in morals that he cannot learn from the 
Captain of Musketeers. Lastly, I must name the 



Pilgiiius Progress, a book that breathes of every 
beautiful and valuable emotion. 

But of works of art Uttle can be said ; their influ- 
ence is profound and silent, like the influence of 
nature ; they mould by contact ; we drink them up 
like water, and are bettered, yet know not how. It 
is in books more specifically didactic that we can 
follow out the effect, and distingmsh and weigh and 
compare. A book which has been very influential 
upon me fell early into my hands, and so may stand 
first, though I think its influence was only sensible 
later on, and perhaps still keeps growing, for it is a 
book not easily outlived : the Essais of Montaigne. 
That temperate and genial picture of life is a great 
gift to place in the hands of persons of to-day ; they 
will find in these smiling pages a magazine of heroism 
and wisdom, all of an antique strain ; they will have 
their ' linen decencies ' and excited orthodoxies flut- 
tered, and will (if they have any gift of reading) 
perceive that these have not been fluttered without 
some excuse and ground of reason ; and (again if 
they have any gift of reading) they will end by seeing 
that this old gentleman was in a dozen ways a finer 
fellow, and held in a dozen ways a nobler view of 
life, than they or their contemporaries. 

The next book, in order of time, to influence me, 
was the New Testament, and in particular the Gospel 
according to St. Matthew. I believe it would startle 
and move any one if they could make a certain effort 
of imagination and read it freshly like a book, not 
droningly and dully like a portion of the Bible. 


Any one would then be able to see in it those truths 
which we are all courteously supposed to know and 
all modestly refrain from applying. But upon this 
subject it is perhaps better to be silent. 

I come next to Whitman's Leaves of G7'ass, a 
book of singular service, a book which tumbled the 
world upside down for me, blew into space a thousand 
cobwebs of genteel and ethical illusion, and, having 
thus shaken my tabernacle of lies, set me back again 
upon a strong foundation of all the original and 
manly virtues. But it is, once more, only a book for 
those who have the gift of reading. I will be very 
frank — I believe it is so with all good books, except, 
perhaps, fiction. The average man lives, and must 
live, so wholly in convention, that gunpowder 
charges of the truth are more apt to discompose than 
to invigorate his creed. Either he cries out upon 
blasphemy and indecency, and crouches the closer 
round that little idol of part-truths and part-con- 
veniences which is the contemporary deity, or he is 
convinced by what is new, forgets what is old, and 
becomes truly blasphemous and indecent himself 
New truth is only useful to supplement the old ; 
rough truth is only wanted to expand, not to destroy, 
our civil and often elegant conventions. He who 
cannot judge had better stick to fiction and the daily 
papers. There he will get little harm, and, in the 
first at least, some good. 

Close upon the back of my discovery of Whitman, 
I came under the influence of Herbert Spencer. 
No more persuasive rabbi exists, and few better. 



How much of his vast structure will bear the touch 
of time, how much is clay and how much brass, it were 
too curious to inquire. But his words, if dry, are 
always manly and honest ; there dwells in his pages 
a spirit of highly abstract joy, plucked naked like an 
algebraic symbol, but still joyful ; and the reader 
will find there a caput-viortuum of piety, with little 
indeed of its loveliness, but with most of its essen- 
tials ; and these two qualities make him a whole- 
some, as his intellectual vigour makes him a bracing, 
writer. I should be much of a hound if I lost my 
gratitude to Herbert Spencer, 

Goethe s Life, by Lewes, had a great importance 
for me when it first fell into my hands — a strange 
instance of the partiality of man's good and man's 
evil. I know no one whom I less admire than 
Goethe ; he seems a very epitome of the sins of 
genius, breaking open the doors of private life, and 
wantonly wounding friends, in that crowning offence 
of ' Werther,' and in his own character a mere pen- 
and-ink Napoleon, conscious of the rights and duties 
of superior talents as a Spanish inquisitor was con- 
scious of the rights and duties of his office. And 
yet in his fine devotion to his art, in his honest and 
serviceable friendship for Schiller, what lessons are 
contained ! Biography, usually so false to its office, 
does here for once perform for us some of the work 
of fiction, reminding us, that is, of the truly mingled 
tissue of man's nature, and how huge faults and 
shining virtues cohabit and persevere in the same 
character. History serves us well to this effect, but 


in the originals, not in the pages of the popular 
epitomiser, who is bound, by the very nature of his 
task, to make us. feel the difference of epochs instead 
of the essential identity of man, and even in the 
originals only to those who can recognise their own 
human virtues and defects in strange forms, often 
inverted and under 'strange names, often inter- 
changed. Martial is a poet of no good repute, and 
it gives a man new thoughts to read his works dis- 
passionately, and find in this unseemly jester's serious 
passages the image of a kind, wise, and self-respecting 
gentleman. It is customary, I suppose, in reading 
Martial, to leave out these pleasant verses ; I never 
heard of them, at least, until I found them for my- 
self; and this partiality is one among a thousand 
things that help to build up our distorted and 
hysterical conception of the great Roman empire. 

This brings us by a natural transition to a very 
noble book — the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. 
The dispassionate gravity, the noble forgetfulness of 
self, the tenderness of others, that are there expressed 
and were practised on so great a scale in the life of 
its writer, make this book a book quite by itself. 
No one can read it and not be moved. Yet it 
scarcely or rarely appeals to the feelings — those very 
mobile, those not very trusty parts of man. Its 
address lies further back : its lesson comes more 
deeply home ; when you have read, you carry away 
with you a memory of the man himself; it is as 
though you had touched a loyal hand, looked into 
brave eyes, and made a noble friend ; there is another 



bond on you thenceforward, binding you to life and 
to the love of virtue. 

Wordsworth should perhaps come next. Every 
one has been influenced by Wordsworth, and it is 
hard to tell precisely how. A certain innocence, a 
rugged austerity of joy, a sight of the stars, ' the 
silence that is in the lonely hills,' something of the 
cold thrill of dawn, cling to his work and give it a 
particular address to what is best in us. I do not 
know that you learn a lesson ; you need not — Mill 
did not — agree with any one of his beliefs ; and yet 
the spell is cast. Such are the best teachers : a 
dogma learned is only a new error — the old one was 
perhaps as good ; but a spirit communicated is a 
perpetual possession. These best teachers climb 
beyond teaching to the plane of art; it is them- 
selves, and what is best in themselves, that they 

I should never forgive myself if I forgot The 
Egoist. It is art, if you like, but it belongs purely 
to didactic art, and from all the novels I have read 
(and I have read thousands) stands in a place by 
itself Here is a Nathan for the modern David ; 
here is a book to send the blood into men's faces. 
Satire, the angry picture of human faults, is not 
great art ; we can all be angry with our neighbour ; 
what we want is to be shown, not his defects, of 
which we are too conscious, but his merits, to which 
we are too blind. And The Egoist is a satire ; so 
much must be allowed ; but it is a satire of a singular 
quality, which tells you nothing of that obvious 


mote, which is engaged from first to last with that 
invisible beam. It is yourself that is hunted down ; 
these are your own faults that are dragged into the 
day and numbered, with lingering relish, with cruel 
cunning and precision. A young friend of Mr. 
Meredith's (as I have the story) came to him in an 
agony. ' This is too bad of you,' he cried. * Wil- 
loughby is me ! ' ' No, my dear fellow,' said the 
author, 'he is all of us.' I have read The Egoist 
five or six times myself, and I mean to read it again ; 
for I am like the young friend of the anecdote — I 
think Willoughby an unmanly but a very serviceable 
exposure of myself. 

I suppose, when I am done, I shall find that I 
have forgotten much that was most influential, as I 
see already I have forgotten Thoreau, and Hazlitt, 
whose paper ' On the Spirit of Obligations ' was a 
turning-point in my life, and Penn, whose little book 
of aphorisms had a brief but strong effect on me, 
and Mitford's Tales of Old Japan, wherein I learned 
for the first time the proper attitude of any rational 
man to his country's laws — a secret found, and kept, 
in the Asiatic islands. That I should commemorate 
all is more than I can hope or the editor could ask. 
It will be more to the point, after having said so 
much upon improving books, to say a word or two 
about the improvable reader. The gift of reading, 
as I have called it, is not very common, nor very 
generally understood. It consists, first of all, in a 
vast intellectual endowment — a free grace, I find I 
must call it — by which a man rises to understand 



that he is not punctually right, nor those from whom 
he differs absolutely wrong. He may hold dogmas ; 
he may hold them passionately ; and he may know 
that others hold them but coldly, or hold them 
differently, or hold them not at all. Well, if he has 
the gift of reading, these others will be full of meat 
for him. They will see the other side of proposi- 
tions and the other side of virtues. He need not 
change his dogma for that, but he may change his 
reading of that dogma, and he must supplement and 
correct his deductions from it. A human truth, 
which is always very much a lie, hides as much of 
life as it displays. It is men who hold another truth, 
or, as it seems to us, perhaps, a dangerous lie, who 
can extend our restricted field of knowledge, and 
rouse our drowsy consciences. Something that 
seems quite new, or that seems insolently false or 
very dangerous, is the test of a reader. If he tries 
to see what it means, what truth excuses it, he has 
the gift, and let him read. If he is merely hurt, or 
offended, or exclaims upon his author's folly, he had 
better take to the daily papers ; he will never be a 

And here, with the aptest illustrative force, after 
I have laid down my part-truth, I must step in with 
its opposite. For, after all, we are vessels of a very 
limited content. Not all men can read all books ; 
it is only in a chosen few that any man will find his 
appointed food ; and the fittest lessons are the most 
palatable, and make themselves welcome to the 
mind, A writer learns this early, and it is his chief 


support ; he goes on unafraid, laying down the law ; 
and he is sure at heart that most of what he says is 
demonstrably false, and much of a mingled strain, 
and some hurtful, and very little good for service ; 
but he is sure besides that when his words fall into 
the hands of any genuine reader, they will be weighed 
and winnowed, and only that which suits will be 
assimilated ; and when they fall into the hands of 
one who cannot intelligently read, they come there 
quite silent and inarticulate, falling upon deaf ears, 
and his secret is kept as if he had not written. 




History is much decried ; it is a tissue of errors, we 
are told, no doubt correctly; and rival historians 
expose each other's blunders with gratification. Yet 
the worst historian has a clearer view of the period 
he studies than the best of us can hope to form of 
that in which we live. The obscurest epoch is 
to-day ; and that for a thousand reasons of inchoate 
tendency, conflicting report, and sheer mass and 
multiplicity of experience ; but chiefly, perhaps, by 
reason of an insidious shifting of landmarks. Parties 
and ideas continually move, but not by measurable 
marches on a stable course ; the political soil itself 
steals forth by imperceptible degrees, like a travelling 
glacier, carrying on its bosom not only political 
parties but their flag-posts and cantonments ; so that 
what appears to be an eternal city founded on hills 
is but a flying island of Laputa, It is for this 
reason in particular that we are all becoming Socialists 
without knowing it ; by which I would not in the 
least refer to the acute case of Mr. Hyndman and 


his horn-blowing supporters, sounding their trumps 
of a Sunday within the walls of our individuahst 
Jericho — but to the stealthy change that has come 
over the spirit of Englishmen and English legislation. 
A little while ago, and we were still for hberty ; 
'crowd a few more thousands on the bench of 
Government,' we seemed to cry ; ' keep her head 
direct on liberty, and we cannot help but come to 
port' This is over; laisser faire declines in favour; 
our legislation grows authoritative, grows philan- 
thropical, bristles with new duties and new penalties, 
and casts a spawn of inspectors, who now begin, 
note-book in hand, to darken the face of England. 
It may be right or wrong, we are not trying that ; 
but one thing it is beyond doubt : it is Socialism in 
action, and the strange thing is that we scarcely 
know it. 

Liberty has served us a long while, and it may be 
time to seek new altars. Like all other principles, 
she has been proved to be self-exclusive in the long 
run. She has taken wages besides (like all other 
virtues) and dutifully served Mammon ; so that 
many things we were accustomed to admire as the 
benefits of freedom and common to all were truly 
benefits of wealth, and took their value from our 
neighbours' poverty. A few shocks of logic, a few 
disclosures (in the journalistic phrase) of what the 
freedom of manufacturers, landlords, or shipowners 
may imply for operatives, tenants or seamen, and we 
not unnaturally begin to turn to that other pole of 
hope, beneficent tyranny. Freedom, to be desirable, 



involves kindness, wisdom, and all the virtues of the 
free ; but the free man as we have seen him in 
action has been, as of yore, only the master of many 
helots ; and the slaves are still ill-fed, ill-clad, ill- 
taught, ill-housed, insolently treated, and driven to 
their mines and workshops by the lash of famine. 
So much, in other men's affairs, we have begun to 
see clearly ; we have begun to despair of virtue in 
these other men, and from our seat in Parliament 
begin to discharge upon them, thick as arrows, the 
host of our inspectors. The landlord has long 
shaken his head over the manufacturer ; those who 
do business on land have lost all trust in the virtues 
of the shipowner ; the professions look askance upon 
the retail traders and have even started their co- 
operative stores to ruin them ; and from out the 
smoke-wreaths of Birmingham a finger has begun to 
write upon the wall the condemnation of the land- 
lord. Thus, piece by piece, do we condemn each 
other, and yet not perceive the conclusion, that our 
whole estate is somewhat damnable. Thus, piece 
by piece, each acting against his neighbour, each 
sawing away the branch on which some other interest 
is seated, do we apply in detail our Socialistic 
remedies, and yet not perceive that we are all 
labouring together to bring in Socialism at large. 
A tendency so stupid and so selfish is like to prove 
invincible ; and if Sociahsm be at all a practicable 
rule of life, there is every chance that our grand- 
children will see the day and taste the pleasures of 
existence in something far liker an ant-heap than 


any previous human polity. And this not in the 
least because of the voice of Mr. Hyndman or the 
horns of his followers ; but by the mere glacier 
movement of the political soil, bearing forward on 
its bosom, apparently undisturbed, the proud camps 
of Whig and Tory. If Mr. Hyndman were a man 
of keen humour, which is far from my conception of 
his character, he might rest from his troubling and 
look on : the walls of Jericho begin already to 
crumble and dissolve. That great servile war, the 
Armageddon of money and numbers, to which we 
looked forward when young, becomes more and more 
unHkely ; and we may rather look to see a peaceable 
and blindfold evolution, the work of dull men 
immersed in pohtical tactics and dead to political 

The principal scene of this comedy lies, of course, 
in the House of Commons ; it is there, besides, that 
the details of this new evolution (if it proceed) will 
fall to be decided ; so that the state of Parliament is 
not only diagnostic of the present but fatefully 
prophetic of the future. Well, we all know what 
Parliament is, and we are all ashamed of it. We 
may pardon it some faults, indeed, on the ground of 
Irish obstruction — a bitter trial, which it supports 
with notable good humour. But the excuse is 
merely local ; it cannot apply to similar bodies in 
America and France ; and what are we to say of 
these ? President Cleveland's letter may serve as a 
picture of the one ; a glance at almost any paper 
will convince us of the weakness of the other. Decay 

II— T 289 


appears to have seized on the organ of popular 
government in every land ; and this just at the 
moment when we begin to bring to it, as to an 
oracle of justice, the whole skein of our private 
affairs to be unravelled, and ask it, like a new 
Messiah, to take upon itself our frailties and play 
for us the part that should be played by our own 
virtues. For that, in few words, is the case. We 
cannot trust ourselves to behave with decency ; 
we cannot trust our consciences ; and the remedy 
proposed is to elect a round number of our neigh- 
bours, pretty much at random, and say to these : 
' Be ye our conscience ; make laws so wise, and 
continue from year to year to administer them so 
wisely, that they shall save us from ourselves and 
make us righteous and happy, world without end. 
Amen.' And who can look twice at the British 
Parliament and then seriously bring it such a task ? 
I am not advancing this as an argument against 
Socialism : once again, nothing is further from my 
mind. There are great truths in SociaHsm, or no 
one, not even Mr. Hyndman, would be found to 
hold it; and if it came, and did one-tenth part of 
what it offers, I for one should make it welcome. 
But if it is to come, we may as well have some 
notion of what it will be like ; and the first thing to 
grasp is that our new polity will be designed and 
administered (to put it courteously) with something 
short of inspiration. It will be made, or will grow, 
in a human parliament ; and the one thing that will 
not very hugely change is human nature. The 


Anarchists think otherwise, from which it is only 
plain that they have not carried to the study of 
history the lamp of human sympathy. 

Given, then, our new polity, with its new waggon- 
load of laws, what headmarks must we look for in 
the life ? We chafe a good deal at that excellent 
thing, the income-tax, because it brings into our 
affairs the prying fingers, and exposes us to the tart 
words, of the official. The official, in all degrees, 
is already something of a terror to many of us. I 
would not willingly have to do with even a police- 
constable in any other spirit than that of kindness. 
I still remember in my dreams the eye-glass of a 
certain attache at a certain embassy — an eye-glass 
that was a standing indignity to all on whom it 
looked ; and my next most disagreeable remembrance 
is of a bracing, Republican postman in the city of 
San Francisco. I lived in that city among working 
folk, and what my neighbours accepted at the post- 
man's hands — nay, what I took from him myself — it 
is still distasteful to recall. The bourgeois, residing 
in the upper parts of society, has but few oppor- 
tunities of tasting this peculiar bowl ; but about the 
income-tax, as I have said, or perhaps about a 
patent, or in the halls of an embassy at the hands of 
my friend of the eye-glass, he occasionally sets his 
lips to it ; and he may thus imagine (if he has that 
faculty of imagination, without which most faculties 
are void) how it tastes to his poorer neighbours, who 
must drain it to the dregs. In every contact with 
authority, with their employer, with the police, with 



the School Board officer, in the hospital, or in the 
workhouse, they have equally the occasion to ap- 
preciate the hght-hearted civility of the man in 
office ; and as an experimentalist in several out-of- 
the-way provinces of life, I may say it has but to 
be felt to be appreciated. Well, this golden age 
of which we are speaking will be the golden age of 
officials. In all our concerns it will be their beloved 
duty to meddle, with what tact, with what obliging 
words, analogy will aid us to imagine. It is likely 
these gentlemen will be periodically elected ; they 
will therefore have their turn of being underneath, 
which does not always sweeten men's conditions. 
The laws they will have to administer will be no 
clearer than those we know to-day, and the body 
which is to regulate their administration no wiser 
than the British Parliament. So that upon all hands 
we may look for a form of servitude most galling to 
the blood — servitude to many and changing masters, 
and for all the slights that accompany the rule of 
jack-in -office. And if the Socialistic programme be 
carried out with the least fulness, we shall have lost 
a thing, in most respects not much to be regretted, 
but as a moderator of oppression, a thing nearly 
invaluable — the newspaper. For the independent 
journal is a creature of capital and competition ; it 
stands and falls with millionaires and railway-bonds 
and all the abuses and glories of to-day ; and as soon 
as the State has fairly taken its bent to authority 
and philanthropy, and laid the least touch on private 
property, the days of the independent journal are 


numbered. State railways may be good things and 
so may State bakeries ; but a State newspaper 
will never be a very trenchant critic of the State 

But again, these officials would have no sinecure. 
Crime would perhaps be less, for some of the motives 
of crime we may suppose would pass away. But if 
Socialism were carried out with any fulness, there 
would be more contraventions. We see already 
new sins springing up hke mustard — School Board 
sins, factory sins. Merchant Shipping Act sins — none 
of which I would be thought to except against in 
particular, but all of which, taken together, show us 
that Socialism can be a hard master even in the 
beginning. If it go on to such heights as we hear 
proposed and lauded, if it come actually to its ideal 
of the ant-heap, ruled with iron justice, the number 
of new contraventions will be out of all proportion 
multiplied. Take the case of work alone. Man is 
an idle animal. He is at least as intelligent as the 
ant ; but generations of advisers have in vain recom- 
mended him the ant's example. Of those who are 
found truly indefatigable in business, some are 
misers ; some are the practisers of delightful indus- 
tries, like gardening; some are students, artists, 
inventors, or discoverers, men lured forward by suc- 
cessive hopes ; and the rest are those who live by 
games of skill or hazard — financiers, billiard-players, 
gamblers, and the like. But in unloved toils, even 
under the prick of necessity, no man is continually 
sedulous. Once eliminate the fear of starvation, 



once eliminate or bound the hope of riches, and we 
shall see plenty of skulking and malingering. Society 
will then be something not wholly unlike a cotton 
plantation in the old days ; with cheerful, careless, 
demoralised slaves, with elected overseers, and, in- 
stead of the planter, a chaotic popular assembly. If 
the blood be purposeful and the soil strong, such a 
plantation may succeed, and be, indeed, a busy 
ant-heap, with full granaries and long hours of 
leisure. But even then I think the whip will be in 
the overseer's hands, and not in vain. For, when it 
comes to be a question of each man doing his own 
share or the rest doing more, prettiness of sentiment 
will be forgotten. To dock the skulker's food is not 
enough ; many will rather eat haws and starve on 
petty pilferings than put their shoulder to the wheel 
for one hour daily. For such as these, then, the 
whip will be in the overseer's hand; and his own 
sense of justice and the superintendence of a chaotic 
popular assembly will be the only checks on its 
employment. Now, you may be an industrious man 
and a good citizen, and yet not love, nor yet be 
loved by, Dr. Fell the inspector. It is admitted by 
private soldiers that the disfavour of a sergeant is 
an evil not to be combated ; offend the sergeant, 
they say, and in a brief while you will either be 
disgraced or have deserted. And the sergeant can 
no longer appeal to the lash. But if these things go 
on, we shall see, or our sons shall see, what it is to 
have offended an inspector. 

This for the unfortunate. But with the fortunate 


also, even those whom the inspector loves, it may 
not be altogether well. It is concluded that in such 
a state of society, supposing it to be financially 
sound, the level of comfort will be high. It does 
not follow : there are strange depths of idleness in 
man, a too-easily-got sufficiency, as in the case of 
the sago-eaters, often quenching the desire for all 
besides ; and it is possible that the men of the richest 
ant-heaps may sink even into squalor. But suppose 
they do not; suppose our tricksy instrument of 
human nature, when we play upon it this new 
tune, should respond kindly ; suppose no one to be 
damped and none exasperated by the new conditions, 
the whole enterprise to be financially sound — a 
vaulting supposition — and all the inhabitants to 
dwell together in a golden mean of comfort : we 
have yet to ask ourselves if this be what man desire, 
or if it be what man will even deign to accept for 
a continuance. It is certain that man loves to eat, 
it is not certain that he loves that only or that best. 
He is supposed to love comfort ; it is not a love, at 
least, that he is faithful to. He is supposed to love 
happiness ; it is my contention that he rather loves 
excitement. Danger, enterprise, hope, the novel, 
the aleatory, are dearer to man than regular meals. 
He^^does not think so when he is hungry, but he 
thinks so again as soon as he is fed ; and on the 
hypothesis of a successful ant-heap, he would never 
go hungry. It would be always after dinner in that 
society, as, in the land of the Lotos-eaters, it was 
always afternoon ; and food, which, when we have it 



not, seems all-important, drops in our esteem, as 
soon as we have it, to a mere pre-requisite of living. 
That for which man hves is not the same thing for 
all individuals nor in all ages ; yet it has a common 
base ; what he seeks and what he must have is that 
which will seize and hold his attention. Regular 
meals and weatherproof lodgings will not do this 
long. Play in its wide sense, as the artificial induc- 
tion of sensation, including all games and all arts, 
will, indeed, go far to keep him conscious of himself ; 
but in the end he wearies for realities. Study or 
experiment, to some rare natures, is the unbroken 
pastime of a life. These are enviable natures ; people 
shut in the house by sickness often bitterly envy 
them ; but the commoner man cannot continue to 
exist upon such altitudes : his feet itch for physical 
adventure ; his blood boils for physical dangers, 
pleasures, and triumphs ; his fancy, the looker after 
new things, cannot continue to look for them in 
books and crucibles, but must seek them on the 
breathing stage of life. Pinches, buffets, the glow 
of hope, the shock of disappointment, furious con- 
tention with obstacles : these are the true elixir for 
all vital spirits, these are what they seek alike in 
their romantic enterprises and their unromantic 
dissipations. When they are taken in some pinch 
closer than the common, they cry, ' Catch me here 
again ! ' and sure enough you catch them there again 
— perhaps before the week is out. It is as old as 
' Robinson Crusoe ' ; as old as man. Our race has 
not been strained for all these ages through that 


sieve of dangers that we call Natural Selection, to 
sit down with patience in the tedium of safety ; the 
voices of its fathers call it forth. Already in our 
society as it exists, the bourgeois is too much cot- 
toned about for any zest in living; he sits in his 
parlour out of reach of any danger, often out of 
reach of any vicissitude but one of health ; and 
there he yawns. If the people in the next villa took 
pot-shots at him, he might be killed indeed, but so 
long as he escaped he would find his blood oxygenated 
and his views of the world brighter. If Mr. Mal- 
lock, on his way to the publishers, should have his 
skirts pinned to the wall by a javehn, it would not 
occur to him — at least for several hours — to ask if 
life were worth living ; and if such peril were a daily 
matter, he would ask it never more ; he would have 
other things to think about, he would be living 
indeed — not lying in a box with cotton, safe, but 
immeasurably dull. The aleatory, whether it touch 
life, or fortune, or renown — whether we explore 
Africa or only toss for halfpence — that is what I 
conceive men to love best, and that is what we are 
seeking to exclude from men's existences. Of all 
forms of the aleatory, that which most commonly 
attends our working men — the danger of misery 
from want of work — is the least inspiriting : it does 
not whip the blood, it does not evoke the glory of 
contest ; it is tragic, but it is passive ; and yet, in so 
far as it is aleatory, and a peril sensibly touching 
them, it does truly season the men's lives. Of those 
who fail, I do not speak — despair should be sacred ; 



but to those who even modestly succeed, the changes 
of their life bring interest : a job found, a shilling 
saved, a dainty earned, all these are wells of pleasure 
springing afresh for the successful poor ; and it is 
not from these but from the villa-dweller that we 
hear complaints of the unworthiness of life. Much, 
then, as the average of the proletariate would gain 
in this new state of life, they would also lose a 
certain something, which would not be missed in 
the beginning, but would be missed progressively 
and progressively lamented. Soon there would be 
a looking back : there would be tales of the old 
world humming in young men's ears, tales of the 
tramp and the pedlar, and the hopeful emigrant. 
And in the stall-fed life of the successful ant-heap — 
with its regular meals, regular duties, regular plea- 
sures, an even course of life, and fear excluded — 
the vicissitudes, dehghts, and havens of to-day will 
seem of epic breadth. This may seem a shallow 
observation ; but the springs by which men are 
moved lie much on the surface. Bread, I believe, 
has always been considered first, but the circus 
comes close upon its heels. Bread we suppose to be 
given amply; the cry for circuses will be the louder, 
and if the life of our descendants be such as we have 
conceived, there are two beloved pleasures on which 
they will be likely to fall back : the pleasures of 
intrigue and of sedition. 

In all this I have supposed the ant-heap to be 
financially sound. I am no economist, only a writer 
of fiction ; but even as such, I know one thing that 


bears on the economic question — I know the im- 
perfection of man's faculty for business. The 
Anarchists, who^ count some rugged elements of 
common-sense among what seem to me their tragic 
errors, have said upon this matter all that I could 
wish to say, and condemned beforehand great 
economical polities. So far it is obvious that they 
are right; they may be right also in predicting a 
period of communal independence, and they may 
even be right in thinking that desirable. But the 
rise of communes is none the less the end of economic 
equality, just when we were told it was beginning. 
Communes will not be all equal in extent, nor in 
quality of soil, nor in growth of population ; nor 
will the surplus produce of all be equally market- 
able. It will be the old story of competing interests, 
only with a new unit; and, as it appears to me, a 
new, inevitable danger. For the merchant and the 
manufacturer, in this new world, will be a sovereign 
commune ; it is a sovereign power that will see its 
crops undersold, and its manufactures worsted in the 
market. And all the more dangerous that the 
sovereign power should be small. Great powers are 
slow to stir ; national affronts, even with the aid of 
newspapers, filter slowly into popular consciousness ; 
national losses are so unequally shared, that one part 
of the population will be counting its gains while 
another sits by a cold hearth. But in the sovereign 
commune all will be centralised and sensitive. 
When jealousy springs up, when (let us say) the 
commune of Poole has overreached the commune 



of Dorchester, irritation will run like quicksilver 
throughout the body politic ; each man in Dorchester 
will have to suffer directly in his diet and his dress ; 
even the secretary, who drafts the official corre- 
spondence, will sit down to his task embittered, as a 
man who has dined ill and may expect to dine 
worse ; and thus a business difference between com- 
munes will take on much the same colour as a 
dispute between diggers in the lawless West, and 
will lead as directly to the arbitrament of blows. 
So that the establishment of the communal system 
will not only reintroduce all the injustices and heart- 
burnings of economic inequality, but will, in all 
human likelihood, inaugurate a world of hedgerow 
warfare. Dorchester will march on Poole, Sherborne 
on Dorchester, Wimborne on both ; the waggons 
will be fired on as they follow the highway, the 
trains wrecked on the lines, the ploughman will go 
armed into the field of tillage ; and if we have not 
a return of ballad literature, the local press at least 
will celebrate in a high vein the victory of Cerne 
Abbas or the reverse of Toller Porcorum. At least 
this will hot be dull ; when I was younger, I could 
have welcomed such a world with relief ; but it is 
the New- Old with a vengeance, and irresistibly 
suggests the growth of military powers and the 
foundation of new empires. 




With the agreeable frankness of youth, you address 
me on a point of some practical importance to your- 
self and (it is even conceivable) of some gravity to 
the world : Should you or should you not become 
an artist ? It is one which you must decide entirely 
for yourself; all that I can do is to bring under 
your notice some of the materials of that decision ; 
and I will begin, as I shall probably conclude also, 
by assuring you that all depends on the vocation. 

To know what you like is the beginning of 
wisdom and of old age. Youth is wholly experi- 
mental. The essence and charm of that unquiet 
and delightful epoch is ignorance of self as well as 
ignorance of life. These two unknowns the young 
man brings together again and again, now in the 
airiest touch, now with a bitter hug ; now with 
exquisite pleasure, now with cutting pain ; but never 
with indifference, to which he is a total stranger, 
and never with that near kinsman of indifference, 



contentment. If he be a youth of dainty senses or 
a brain easily heated, the interest of this series of 
experiments grows upon him out of all proportion 
to the pleasure he receives. It is not beauty that 
he loves, nor pleasure that he seeks, though he may 
think so ; his design and his sufficient reward is to 
verify his own existence and taste the variety of 
human fate. To him, before the razor-edge of 
curiosity is dulled, all that is not actual living and 
the hot chase of experience wears a face of a dis- 
gusting dryness difficult to recall in later days ; or if 
there be any exception- — and here destiny steps in — 
it is in those moments when, wearied or surfeited of 
the primary activity of the senses, he calls up before 
memory the image of transacted pains and pleasures. 
Thus it is that such an one shies from all cut-and- 
dry professions, and inclines insensibly toward that 
career of art which consists only in the tasting and 
recording of experience. 

This, which is not so much a vocation for art as 
an impatience of all other honest trades, frequently 
exists alone ; and, so existing, it will pass gently 
away in the course of years. Emphatically, it is not 
to be regarded ; it is not a vocation, but a tempta- 
tion ; and when your father the other day so fiercely 
and (in my view) so properly discouraged your 
ambition, he was recalUng not improbably some 
similar passage in his own experience. For the 
temptation is perhaps nearly as common as the 
vocation is rare. But again we have vocations which 
are imperfect ; we have men whose minds are bound 


up, not so much in any art, as in the general ars 
artium and common base of all creative work ; who 
will now dip into painting, and now study counter- 
point, and anon will be inditing a sonnet : all these 
with equal interest, all often with genuine know- 
ledge. And of this temper, when it stands alone, I 
find it difficult to speak ; but I should counsel such 
an one to take to letters, for in literature (which 
drags with so wide a net) all his information may be 
found some day useful, and if he should go on as he 
has begun, and turn at last into the critic, he will 
have learned to use the necessary tools. Lastly we 
come to those vocations which are at once decisive 
and precise ; to the men who are born with the love 
of pigments, the passion of drawing, the gift of 
music, or the impulse to create with words, just as 
other and perhaps the same men are born with the 
love of hunting, or the sea, or horses, or the turning- 
lathe. These are prycdestined ; if a man love the 
labour of any trade, apart from any question of 
success or fame, the gods have called him. He may 
have the general vocation too : he may have a taste 
for all the arts, and I think he often has ; but the 
mark of his calling is this laborious partiality for 
one, this inextinguishable zest in its technical suc- 
cesses, and (perhaps above all) a certain candour of 
mind, to take his very trifling enterprise with a 
gravity that would befit the cares of empire, and to 
think the smallest improvement worth accomplishing 
at any expense of time and industry. The book, 
the statue, the sonata, must be gone upon with the 



unreasoning good faith and the unflagging spirit of 
children at their play. Is it worth doing ? — when it 
shall have occurred to any artist to ask himself that 
question, it is implicitly answered in the negative. 
It does not occur to the child as he plays at being a 
pirate on the dining-room sofa, nor to the hunter as 
he pursues his quarry ; and the candour of the one 
and the ardour of the other should be united in the 
bosom of the artist. 

If you recognise in yourself some such decisive 
taste, there is no room for hesitation : follow your 
bent. And observe (lest I should too much dis- 
courage you) that the disposition does not usually 
burn so brightly at the first, or rather not so con- 
stantly. Habit and practice sharpen gifts ; the 
necessity of toil grows less disgusting, grows even 
welcome, in the course of years ; a small taste (if it 
be only genuine) waxes with indulgence into an 
exclusive passion. Enough, just now, if you can 
look back over a fair interval, and see that your 
chosen art has a little more than held its own 
among the thronging interests of youth. Time 
will do the rest, if devotion help it ; and soon your 
every thought will be engrossed in that beloved 

But even with devotion, you may remind me, 
even with unfaltering and delighted industry, many 
thousand artists spend their lives, if the result be 
regarded, utterly in vain : a thousand artists, and 
never one work of art. But the vast mass of man- 
kind are incapable of doing anything reasonably well, 


art among the rest. The worthless artist would not 
improbably have been a quite incompetent baker. 
And the artist, even if he does not amuse the public, 
amuses himself; so that there will always be one 
man the happier for his vigils. This is the practical 
side of art : its inexpugnable fortress for the true 
practitioner. The direct returns — the wages of the 
trade — are small, but the indirect — the wages of 
the life — are incalculably great. No other business 
offers a man his daily bread upon such joyful terms. 
The soldier and the explorer have moments of a 
worthier excitement, but they are purchased by 
cruel hardships and periods of tedium that beggar 
language. In the life of the artist there need be no 
hour without its pleasure. 1 take the author, with 
whose career I am best acquainted ; and it is true 
he works in a rebellious material, and that the act of 
writing is cramped and trying both to the eyes and 
the temper ; but remark him in his study, when 
matter crowds upon him and words are not wanting 
— in what a continual series of small successes time 
flows by ; with what a sense of power, as of one 
moving mountains, he marshals his petty characters ; 
with what pleasures, both of the ear and eye, he sees 
his airy structure growing on the page ; and how he 
labours in a craft to which the whole material of his 
life is tributary, and which opens a door to all his 
tastes, his loves, his hatreds, and his convictions, so 
that what he writes is only what he longed to utter. 
He may have enjoyed many things in this big, 
tragic playground of the world ; but what shall he 
II— u 305 


have enjoyed more fully than a morning of success- 
ful work ? Suppose it ill paid : the wonder is it 
should be paid at all. Other men pay, and pay 
dearly, for pleasures less desirable. 

Nor will the practice of art afford you pleasure 
only ; it affords besides an admirable training. For 
the artist works entirely upon honour. The public 
knows little or nothing of those merits in the quest 
of which you are condemned to spend the bulk of 
your endeavours. Merits of design, the merit of 
first-hand energy, the merit of a certain cheap 
accomplishment which a man of the artistic temper 
easily acquires — these they can recognise, and these 
they value. But to those more exquisite refine- 
ments of proficiency and finish, which the artist so 
ardently desires and so keenly feels, for which (in 
the vigorous words of Balzac) he must toil ' like a 
miner buried in a landslip,' for which, day after day, 
he recasts and revises and rejects — the gross mass of 
the public must be ever blind. To those lost pains, 
suppose you attain the highest pitch of merit, 
posterity may possibly do justice ; suppose, as is so 
probable, you fail by even a hair's breadth of the 
highest, rest certain they shall never be observed. 
Under the shadow of this cold thought, alone in his 
studio, the artist must preserve from day to day his 
constancy to the ideal. It is this which makes his 
life noble ; it is by this that the practice of his craft 
strengthens and matures his character ; it is for this 
that even the serious countenance of the great 
emperor was turned approvingly (if only for a 


moment) on the followers of Apollo, and that sternly 
gentle voice bade the artist cherish his art. 

And here there fall two warnings to be made. 
First, if you are to continue to be a law to yourself, 
you must beware of the first signs of laziness. This 
idealism in honesty can only be supported by per- 
petual effort ; the standard is easily lowered, the 
artist who says ^ It will do,' is on the downward 
path ; three or four pot-boilers are enough at times 
(above all at wrong times) to falsify a talent, and 
by the practice of journalism a man runs the risk 
of becoming wedded to cheap finish. This is the 
danger on the one side ; there is not less upon the 
other. The consciousness of how much the artist is 
(and must be) a law to himself debauches the small 
heads. Perceiving recondite merits very hard to 
attain, making or swallowing artistic formulas, or 
perhaps falling in love with some particular pro- 
ficiency of his own, many artists forget the end of all 
art : to please. It is doubtless tempting to exclaim 
against the ignorant bourgeois ; yet it should not be 
forgotten, it is he who is to pay us, and that (surely 
on the face of it) for services that he shall desire to 
have performed. Here also, if properly considered, 
there is a question of transcendental honesty. To 
give the public what they do not want, and yet 
expect to be supported : we have there a strange 
pretension, and yet not uncommon, above all with 
painters. The first duty in this world is for a man 
to pay his way ; when that is quite accomplished, 
he may plunge into what eccentricity he likes ; but 



emphatically not till then. Till then, he must pay 
assiduous court to the bourgeois who carries the 
purse. And if in the course of these capitulations 
he shall falsify his talent, it can never have been a 
strong one, and he will have preserved a better thing 
than talent — character. Or if he be of a mind so 
independent that he cannot stoop to this necessity, 
one course is yet open : he can desist from art, and 
follow some more manly way of life. 

I speak of a more manly way of life, it is a point 
on which I must be frank. To live by a pleasure 
is not a high calling ; it involves patronage, however 
veiled ; it numbers the artist, however ambitious, 
along with dancing girls and billiard-markers. The 
French have a romantic evasion for one employment, 
and call its practitioners the Daughters of Joy. The 
artist is of the same family, he is of the Sons of Joy, 
chose his trade to please himself, gains his livelihood 
by pleasing others, and has parted with something 
of the sterner dignity of man. Journals but a little 
while ago declaimed against the Tennyson peerage ; 
and this Son of Joy was blamed for condescension 
when he followed the example of Lord Lawrence 
and Lord Cairns and Lord Clyde. The poet was 
more happily inspired ; with a better modesty he 
accepted the honour ; and anonymous journalists 
have not yet (if I am to believe them) recovered the 
vicarious disgrace to their profession. When it 
comes to their turn, these gentlemen can do them- 
selves more justice ; and I shall be glad to think of 
it ; for to my barbarian eyesight, even Lord Tenny- 


son looks somewhat out of place in that assembly. 
There should be no honours for the artist ; he has 
already, in the practice of his art, more than his 
share of the rewards of life ; the honours are pre- 
empted for other trades, less agreeable and perhaps 
more useful. 

But the devil in these trades of pleasing is to fail 
to please. In ordinary occupations, a man offers to 
do a certain thing or to produce a certain article 
with a merely conventional accomplishment, a design 
in which (we may almost say) it is difficult to fail. 
But the artist steps forth out of the crowd and 
proposes to delight : an impudent design, in which 
it is impossible to fail without odious circumstances. 
The poor Daughter of Joy, carrying her smiles and 
finery quite unregarded through the crowd, makes 
a figure which it is impossible to recall without a 
wounding pity. She is the type of the unsuccessful 
artist. The actor, the dancer, and the singer must 
appear like her in person, and drain publicly the cup 
of failure. But though the rest of us escape this 
crowning bitterness of the pillory, we all court in 
essence the same humiliation. We all profess to be 
able to delight. And how few of us are ! We all 
pledge ourselves to be able to continue to delight. 
And the day will come to each, and even to the 
most admired, when the ardour shall have declined 
and the cunning shall be lost, and he shall sit by his 
deserted booth ashamed. Then shall he see himself 
condemned to do work for which he blushes to take 
payment. Then (as if his lot were not already cruel) 



he must lie exposed to the gibes of the wreckers of the 
press, who earn a httle bitter bread by the condemna- 
tion of trash which they have not read, and the praise 
of excellence which they cannot understand. 

And observe that this seems almost the necessary 
end at least of writers. Les Blancs et les Bleus (for 
instance) is of an order of merit very different from 
Le Vicovite de Bragelonne ; and if any gentleman 
can bear to spy upon the nakedness of Castle 
Dangerous, his name I think is Ham : let it be 
enough for the rest of us to read of it (not without 
tears) in the pages of Lockhart. Thus in old age, 
when occupation and comfort are most needful, the 
writer must lay aside at once his pastime and his 
breadwinner. The painter indeed, if he succeed at 
all in engaging the attention of the public, gains 
great sums and can stand to his easel until a great 
age without dishonourable failure. The writer has 
the double misfortune to be ill-paid while he can 
work, and to be incapable of working when he is 
old. It is thus a way of life which conducts directly 
to a false position. 

For the writer (in spite of notorious examples to 
the contrary) must look to be ill-paid. Tennyson 
and Montepin make handsome livelihoods ; but we 
cannot all hope to be Tennyson, and we do not all 
perhaps desire to be Montepin. If you adopt an 
art to be your trade, weed your mind at the outset 
of all desire of money. What you may decently 
expect, if you have some talent and much industry, 
is such an income as a clerk will earn with a tenth 


or perhaps a twentieth of your nervous output. 
Nor have you the right to look for more; in the 
wages of the Ufe, not in the wages of the trade, lies 
your reward ; the work is here the wages. It will 
be seen I have little sympathy with the common 
lamentations of the artist class. Perhaps they do 
not remember the hire of the field labourer ; or do 
they think no parallel will lie ? Perhaps they have 
never observed what is the retiring allowance of a 
field officer ; or do they suppose their contributions 
to the arts of pleasing more important than the 
services of a colonel ? Perhaps they forget on how 
httle Millet was content to live ; or do they think, 
because they have less genius, they stand excused 
from the display of equal virtues? But upon one 
point there should be no dubiety : if a man be not 
frugal, he has no business in the arts. If he be not 
frugal, he steers directly for that last tragic scene of 
le vieux saltimbanque \ if he be not frugal, he will 
find it hard to continue to be honest. Some day, 
when the butcher is knocking at the door, he may 
be tempted, he may be obliged, to turn out and sell 
a slovenly piece of work. If the obligation shall 
have arisen through no wantonness of his own, he 
is even to be commended ; for words cannot describe 
how far more necessary it is that a man should 
support his family, than that he should attain to — 
or preserve — distinction in the arts. But if the 
pressure comes through his own fault, he has stolen, 
and stolen under trust, and stolen (which is the worst 
of all) in such a way that no law can reach him. 



And now you may perhaps ask me whether — if the 
debutant artist is to have no thought of money, and 
if (as is imphed) he is to expect no honours from the 
State — he may not at least look forward to the de- 
lights of popularity ? Praise, you will tell me, is a 
savoury dish. And in so far as you may mean the 
countenance of other artists, you would put your 
finger on one of the most essential and enduring 
pleasures of the career of art. But in so far as you 
should have an eye to the commendations of the pub- 
lic or the notice of the newspapers, be sure you would 
but be cherishing a dream. It is true that in cer- 
tain esoteric journals the author (for instance) is duly 
criticised, and that he is often praised a great deal 
more than he deserves, sometimes for qualities which 
he prided himself on eschewing, and sometimes by 
ladies and gentlemen who have denied themselves 
the privilege of reading his work. But if a man be 
sensitive to this wild praise, we must suppose him 
equally alive to that which often accompanies and 
always follows it — wild ridicule. A man may have 
done well for years, and then he may fail ; he will 
hear of his failure. Or he may have done well for 
years, and still do well, but the critics may have 
tired of praising him, or there may have sprung up 
some new idol of the instant, some ' dust a little gilt,' 
to whom they now prefer to offer sacrifice. Here 
is the obverse and the reverse of that empty and 
ugly thing called popularity. Will any man suppose 
it worth the gaining ? 




We look for some reward of our endeavours and are 
disappointed ; not success, not happiness, not even 
peace of conscience, crowns our ineffectual efforts to 
do well. Our frailties are invincible, our virtues 
barren ; the battle goes sore against us to the going 
down of the sun. The canting moralist tells us of 
right and wrong ; and we look abroad, even on the 
face of our small earth, and find them change with 
every climate, and no country where some action is 
not honoured for a virtue and none where it is not 
branded for a vice ; and we look in our experience, 
and find no vital congruity in the wisest rules, but 
at the best a municipal fitness. It is not strange if 
we are tempted to despair of good. We ask too 
much. Our rehgions and moralities have been 
trimmed to flatter us, till they are all emasculate 
and sentimentalised, and only please and weaken. 
Truth is of a rougher strain. In the harsh face of 
life, faith can read a bracing gospel. The human 
race is a thing more ancient than the ten command- 
ments ; and the bones and revolutions of the 



Kosmos, in whose joints we are but moss and 
fungus, more ancient still. 

Of the Kosmos in the last resort, science reports 
many doubtful things, and all of them appalHng. 
There seems no substance to this solid globe on 
which we stamp : nothing but symbols and ratios. 
Symbols and ratios carry us and bring us forth and 
beat us down ; gravity that swings the incom- 
mensurable suns and worlds through space, is but 
a figment varying inversely as the squares of dis- 
tances ; and the suns and worlds themselves, im- 
ponderable figures of abstraction, NH3 and H2O. 
Consideration dares not dwell upon this view ; that 
way madness lies ; science carries us into zones of 
speculation, where there is no habitable city for the 
mind of man. 

But take the Kosmos with a grosser faith, as our 
senses give it us. We behold space sown with 
rotatory islands, suns and worlds and the shards 
and wrecks of systems : some, like the sun, still 
blazing ; some rotting, like the earth ; others, like 
the moon, stable in desolation. All of these we take 
to be made of something we call matter : a thing 
which no analysis can help us to conceive ; to whose 
incredible properties no familiarity can reconcile our 
minds. This stuff, when not purified by the lustra- 
tion of fire, rots uncleanly into something we call 


life ; seized through all its atoms with a pediculous 
malady ; swelling in tumours that become in- 
dependent, sometiiiies even (by an abhorrent prodigy) 
locomotory ; one splitting into millions, millions 
cohering into one, as the malady proceeds through 
varying stages. This vital putrescence of the dust, 
used as we are to it, yet strikes us with occasional 
disgust, and the profusion of worms in a piece of 
ancient turf, or the air of a marsh darkened with 
insects, will sometimes check our breathing so that 
we aspire for cleaner places. But none is clean : 
the moving sand is infected with lice ; the pure 
spring, where it bursts out of the mountain, is a 
mere issue of worms ; even in the hard rock the 
crystal is forming. 

In two main shapes this eruption covers the 
countenance of the earth : the animal and the 
vegetable : one in some degree the inversion of the 
other : the second rooted to the spot ; the first 
coming detached out of its natal mud, and scurrying 
abroad with the myriad feet of insects or towering 
into the heavens on the wings of birds : a thing so 
inconceivable that, if it be well considered, the heart 
stops. To what passes with the anchored vermin, 
we have little clue : doubtless they have their joys 
and sorrows, their delights and killing agonies : it 
appears not how. But of the locomotory, to which 
we ourselves belong, we can tell more. These share 
with us a thousand miracles : the miracles of sight, 
of hearing, of the projection of sound, things that 
bridge space ; the miracles of memory and reason, 



by which the present is conceived, and, when it is 
gone, its image kept Hving in the brains of man and 
brute ; the miracle of reproduction, with its im- 
perious desires and staggering consequences. And 
to put the last touch upon this mountain mass of 
the revolting and the inconceivable, all these prey 
upon each other, lives tearing other lives in pieces, 
cramming them inside themselves, and by that 
summary process, growing fat: the vegetarian, the 
whale, perhaps the tree, not less than the lion of 
the desert; for the vegetarian is only the eater of 
the dumb. 

Meanwhile our rotatory island loaded with pre- 
datory life, and more drenched with blood, both 
animal and vegetable, than ever mutinied ship, scuds 
through space with unimaginable speed, and turns 
alternate cheeks to the reverberation of a blazing 
world, ninety million miles away. 


What a monstrous spectre is this man, the disease 
of the agglutinated dust, lifting alternate feet or lying 
drugged with slumber ; killing, feeding, growing, 
bringing forth small copies of himself; grown upon 
with hair like grass, fitted with eyes that move and 
glitter in his face ; a thing to set children screaming ; 
— and yet looked at nearlier, known as his fellows 
know him, how surprising are his attributes ! Poor 
soul, here for so little, cast among so many hardships, 


filled with desires so incommensurate and so incon- 
sistent, savagely surrounded, savagely descended, 
irremediably condemned to prey upon his fellow 
lives : who should have blamed him had he been of a 
piece with his destiny and a being merely barbarous ? 
And we look and behold him instead filled with 
imperfect virtues : infinitely childish, often admirably 
valiant, often touchingly kind ; sitting down, amidst 
his momentary life, to debate of right and wrong 
and the attributes of the deity ; rising up to do 
battle for an egg or die for an idea ; singling out his 
friends and his mate with cordial affection ; bringing 
forth in pain, j;earing with long-suffering solicitude, 
his young. To touch the heart of his myster}^ we 
find in him one thought, strange to the point of 
lunacy : the thought of duty ; the thought of some- 
thing owing to himself, to his neighbour, to his 
God : an ideal of decency, to which he would rise if 
it were possible ; a limit of shame, below which, if it 
be possible, he will not stoop. The design in most 
men is one of conformity ; here and there, in picked 
natures, it transcends itself and soars on the other 
side, arming martyrs with independence ; but in all, 
in their degrees, it is a bosom thought : — Not in 
man alone, for we trace it in dogs and cats whom 
we know fairly well, and doubtless some similar 
point of honour sways the elephant, the oyster, and 
the louse, of whom we know so little : — But in man, 
at least, it sways with so complete an empire that 
merely selfish things come second, even with the 
selfish : that appetites are starved, fears are conquered, 



pains supported ; that almost the dullest shrinks 
from the reproof of a glance, although it were a 
child's ; and all but the most cowardly stand amid 
the risks of war ; and the more noble, having 
strongly conceived an act as due to their ideal, 
affront and embrace death. Strange enough if, with 
their singular origin and perverted practice, they 
think they are to be rewarded in some future life : 
stranger still, if they are persuaded of the contrary, 
and think this blow, which they solicit, will strike 
them senseless for eternity. I shall be reminded 
what a tragedy of misconception and misconduct 
man at large presents : of organised injustice, 
cowardly violence and treacherous crime ; and of the 
damning imperfections of the best. They cannot be 
too darkly drawn. Man is indeed marked for failure 
in his efforts to do right. But where the best con- 
sistently miscarry, how tenfold more remarkable that 
all should continue to strive ; and surely we should 
find it both touching and inspiriting, that in a field 
from which success is banished, our race should not 
cease to labour. 

If the first view of this creature, stalking in his 
rotatory isle, be a thing to shake the courage of the 
stoutest, on this nearer sight he startles us with an 
admiring wonder. It matters not where we look, 
under what climate we observe him, in what stage 
of society, in what depth of ignorance, burthened 
with what erroneous morality ; by camp-fires in 
Assiniboia, the snow powdering his shoulders, the 
wind plucking his blanket, as he sits, passing the 


ceremonial calumet and uttering his grave opinions 
like a Roman senator ; in ships at sea, a man inured 
to hardship and vile pleasures, his brightest hope a 
fiddle in a tavern and a bedizened trull who sells her- 
self to rob him, and he, for all that, simple, innocent, 
cheerful, kindly like a child, constant to toil, brave 
to drow^n, for others ; in the slums of cities, moving 
among indifferent millions to mechanical employ- 
ments, without hope of change in the future, with 
scarce a pleasure in the present, and yet true to 
his virtues, honest up to his lights, kind to his 
neighbours, tempted perhaps in vain by the bright 
gin-palace, perhaps long-suffering with the drunken 
wife that ruins him ; in India (a woman this time) 
kneeling with broken cries and streaming tears, as 
she drowns her child in the sacred river; in the 
brothel, the discard of society, living mainly on 
strong drink, fed with affronts, a fool, a thief, the 
comrade of thieves, and even here keeping the point 
of honour and the touch of pity, often repaying the 
world's scorn with service, often standing firm upon 
a scruple, and at a certain cost, rejecting riches : — 
everywhere some virtue cherished or affected, every- 
where some decency of thought and carriage, every- 
where the ensign of man's ineffectual goodness : — ah ! 
if I could show you this ! if I could show you these 
men and women, all the world over, in every stage 
of history, under every abuse of error, under every 
circumstance of failure, without hope, without help, 
without thanks, still obscurely fighting the lost fight 
of virtue, still clinging, in the brothel or on the 



scaffold, to some rag of honour, the poor jewel of 
theu' souls ! They may seek to escape, and yet they 
cannot; it is not alone their privilege and glory, 
but their doom; they are condemned to some 
nobility ; all their lives long, the desire of good is at 
their heels, the implacable hunter. 

Of all earth's meteors, here at least is the most 
strange and consoling : that this ennobled lemur, 
this hair-crowned bubble of the dust, this inheritor 
of a few years and sorrows, should yet deny himself 
his rare delights, and add to his frequent pains, and 
live for an ideal, however misconceived. Nor can 
we stop with man. A new doctrine, received with 
screams a little while ago by canting moralists, and 
still not properly worked into the body of our 
thoughts, lights us a step farther into the heart of 
this rough but noble universe. For nowadays the 
pride of man denies in vain his kinship with the 
original dust. He stands no longer like a thing 
apart. Close at his heels we see the dog, prince of 
another genus : and in him, too, we see dumbly 
testified the same cultus of an unattainable ideal, 
the same constancy in failure. Does it stop with 
the dog ? We look at our feet where the ground is 
blackened with the swarming ant; a creature so 
small, so far from us in the hierarchy of brutes, that 
we can scarce trace and scarce comprehend his 
doings ; and here also, in his ordered polities and 
rigorous justice, we see confessed the law of duty 
and the fact of individual sin. Does it stop, then, 
with the ant ? Rather this desire of well-doing and 


this doom of frailty run through all the grades of 
hfe : rather is this earth, from the frosty top of 
Everest to the next margin of the internal fire, one 
stage of ineffectual virtues and one temple of pious 
tears and perseverance. The whole creation groaneth 
and travaileth together. . It is the common and 
the godlike law of life. The browsers, the biters, 
the barkers, the hairy coats of field and forest, the 
squirrel in the oak, the thousand-footed creeper in 
the dust, as they share with us the gift of life, share 
with us the love of an ideal : strive like us — like us 
are tempted to grow weary of the struggle — to do 
well ; like us receive at times unmerited refreshment, 
visitings of support, returns of courage ; and are 
condemned like us to be crucified between that 
double law of the members and the will. Are they 
like us, I wonder, in the timid hope of some reward, 
some sugar with the drug? do they, too, stand 
aghast at unrewarded virtues, at the sufferings of 
those whom, in our partiality, we take to be just, 
and the prosperity of such as, in our blindness, we 
call wicked ? It may be, and yet God knows what 
they should look for. Even while they look, even 
while they repent, the foot of man treads them by 
thousands in the dust, the yelping hounds burst 
upon their trail, the bullet speeds, the knives are 
heating in the den of the vivisectionist ; or the dew 
falls, and the generation of a day is blotted out. 
For these are creatures, compared with whom our 
weakness is strength, our ignorance wisdom, our 
brief span eternity. 

II — X 321 


And as we dwell, we living things, in our isle of 
terror and under the imminent hand of death, God 
forbid it should be man the erected, the reasoner, 
the wise in his own eyes — God forbid it should be 
man that wearies in welldoing, that despairs of 
unrewarded effort, or utters the language of com- 
plaint. Let it be enough for faith, that the whole 
creation groans in mortal frailty, strives with un- 
conquerable constancy : Surely not all in vain. 




By the time this paper appears, T shall have been 
talking for twelve months ; ^ and it is thought I 
should take my leave in a formal and seasonable 
manner. Valedictory eloquence is rare, and death- 
bed sayings have not often hit the mark of the 
occasion. Charles Second, wit and sceptic, a man 
whose life had been one long lesson in human 
incredulity, an easy-going comrade, a manoeuvring 
king — remembered and embodied all his wit and 
scepticism along with more than his usual good 
humour in the famous ' I am afraid, gentlemen, I am 
an unconscionable time a-dying.' ^ 

An unconscionable time a-dying — there is the 
picture (' I am afraid, gentlemen,') of your life and 
of mine. The sands run out, and the hours are 

^ i.e. in the pages of Scribner'a Magazine (1888). 


* numbered and imputed,' and the days go by ; and 
when the last of these finds us, we have been a long 
time dying, and what else? The very length is 
something, if we reach that hour of separation un- 
dishonoured; and to have lived at all is doubtless 
(in the soldierly expression) to have served. There 
is a tale in Tacitus of how the veterans mutinied in 
the German wilderness ; of how they mobbed Ger- 
manicus, clamouring to go home ; and of how, 
seizing their general's hand, these old, war-worn 
exiles passed his finger along their toothless gums. 
Sunt lacrymce reruvi : this was the most eloquent of 
the song's of Simeon. And when a man has lived to 
a fair age, he bears his marks of service. He may 
have never been remarked upon the breach at the 
head of the army ; at least he shall have lost his 
teeth on the camp bread. 

The idealism of serious people in this age of ours 
is of a noble character. It never seems to them 
that they have served enough ; they have a fine 
impatience of their virtues. It were perhaps more 
modest to be singly thankful that we are no worse. 
It is not only our enemies, those desperate characters 
— it is we ourselves who know not what we do ; — 
thence springs the glimmering hope that perhaps we 
do better than we think : that to scramble through 
this random business with hands reasonably clean, 
to have played the part of a man or woman with 
some reasonable fulness, to have often resisted the 
diabolic, and at the end to be still resisting it, is 
for the poor human soldier to have done right well. 


To ask to see some fruit of our endeavour is but 
a transcendental way of serving for reward ; and 
what we take to be contempt of self is only greed 
of hire. 

And again if we require so much of oui selves, 
shall we not require much of others ? If we do not 
genially judge our own deficiencies, is it not to be 
feared we shall be even stern to the trespasses of 
others ? And he who (looking back upon his own 
life) can see no more than that he has been uncon- 
scionably long a-dying, will he not be tempted to 
think his neighbour unconscionably long of getting 
hanged ? It is probable that nearly all who think 
of conduct at all, think of it too much ; it is certain 
we all think too much of sin. We are not damned 
for doing wrong, but for not doing right ; Christ 
would never hear of negative morality ; thou shalt 
was ever his word, with which He superseded thou 
shalt not. To make our idea of morality centre on 
forbidden acts is to defile the imagination and to 
introduce into our judgments of our fellow-men a 
secret element of gusto. If a thing is wrong for us, 
we should not dwell upon the thought of it ; or we 
shall soon dwell upon it with inverted pleasure. If 
we cannot drive it from our minds — one thing of 
two : either our creed is in the wrong and we must 
more indulgently remodel it ; or else, if our morality 
be in the right, we are criminal lunatics and should 
place our persons in restraint. A mark of such 
unwholesomely divided minds is the passion for in- 
terference with others : the Fox without the Tail 



was of this breed, but had (if his biographer is to be 
trusted) a certain antique civility now out of date. 
A man may have a flaw, a weakness, that unfits him 
for the duties of Ufe, that spoils his temper, that 
threatens his integrity, or that betrays him into 
cruelty. It has to be conquered ; but it must never 
be suffered to engross his thoughts. The true 
duties lie all upon the further side, and must be 
attended to with a whole mind so soon as this pre- 
liminary clearing of the decks has been effected. 
In order that he may be kind and honest, it may 
be needful he should become a total abstainer ; 
let him become so then, and the next day let him 
forget the circumstance. Trying to be kind and 
honest will require all his thoughts ; a mortified 
appetite is never a wise companion ; in so far as he 
has had to mortify an appetite, he~will still be the 
worse man ; and of such an one a great deal of 
cheerfulness will be required in judging life, and a 
great deal of humility in judging others. 

It may be argued again that dissatisfaction with 
our life's endeavour springs in some degree from 
dulness. We require higher tasks, because we do 
not recognise the height of those we have. Trying 
to be kind and honest seems an affair too simple and 
too inconsequential for gentlemen of our heroic 
mould ; we had rather set ourselves to something 
bold, arduous, and conclusive ; we had rather found 
a schism or suppress a heresy, cut off a hand or 
mortify an appetite. But the task before us, which 
is to co-endure with our existence, is rather one of 


microscopic fineness, and the heroism required is 
that of patience. There is no cutting of the Gordian 
knots of life ; each must be smilingly unravelled. 

To be honest, to be kind — to earn a little and to 
spend a little less, to make upon the whole a family- 
happier for his presence, to renounce when that 
shall be necessary and not be embittered, to keep 
a few friends, but these without capitulation — above 
all, on the same grim condition, to keep friends with 
himself — here is a task for all that a man has of 
fortitude and delicacy. He has an ambitious soul 
who would ask more ; he has a hopeful spirit who 
should look in such an enterprise to be successful. 
There is indeed one element in human destiny that 
not blindness itself can controvert : whatever else 
we are intended to do, we are not intended to 
succeed ; failure is the fate allotted. It is so in 
every art and study ; it is so above all in the con- 
tinent art of living well. Here is a pleasant thought 
for the year's end or for the end of life ; Only self- 
deception will be satisfied, and there need be no 
despair for the despairer. 


But Christmas is not only the mile-mark of another 
year, moving us to thoughts of self-examination : 
it is a season, from all its associations, whether 
domestic or religious, suggesting thoughts of joy. 
A man dissatisfied with his endeavours is a man 



tempted to sadness. And in the midst of the winter, 
when his Hfe runs lowest and he is reminded of the 
empty chairs of his beloved, it is well he should be 
condemned to this fashion of the sttiiling face. 
Noble disappointment, noble self-denial, are not to 
be admired, not even to be pardoned, if they bring 
bitterness. It is one thing to enter the kingdom of 
heaven maim ; another to maim yourself and stay 
without. And the kingdom of heaven is of the 
childlike, of those who are easy to please, who love 
and who give pleasure. Mighty men of their hands, 
the smiters and the builders and the judges, have 
lived long and done sternly and yet preserved this 
lovely character ; and among our carpet interests 
and twopenny concerns, the shame were indelible if 
we should lose it. Gentleness and cheerfulness, 
these come before all morality ; tbey are the perfect 
duties. And it is the trouble with moral men that 
they have neither one nor other. It was the moral 
man, the Pharisee, whom Christ could not away 
with. If your morals make you dreary, depend upon 
it they are wrong. I do not say ' give them up,' for 
they may be all you have ; but conceal them like a 
vice, lest they should spoil the lives of better and 
simpler people. 

A strange temptation attends upon man : to keep 
his eye on pleasures, even when he will not share in 
them ; to aim all his morals against them. This 
very year a lady (singular iconoclast !) proclaimed 
a crusade against dolls ; and the racy sermon against 
lust is a feature of the age. I venture to call such 


moralists insincere. At any excess or perversion of 
a natural appetite, their lyre sounds of itself with 
relishing denunciations ; but for all displays of the 
truly diabolic — envy, malice, the mean lie, the mean 
silence, the calumnious truth, the backbiter, the petty 
tyrant, the peevish poisoner of family hfe — their 
standard is quite different. These are wrong, they 
will admit, yet somehow not so wrong ; there is no 
zeal in their assault on them, no secret element of 
gusto warms up the sermon ; it is for things not 
wrong in themselves that they reserve the choicest 
of their indignation. A man may naturally dis- 
claim all moral kinship with the Reverend Mr. Zola 
or the hobgoblin old lady of the dolls ; for these 
are gross and naked instances. And yet in each of 
us some similar element resides. The sight of a 
pleasure in which we cannot or else will not share 
moves us to a particular impatience. It may be 
because we are envious, or because we are sad, or 
because we dislike noise and romping — being so re- 
fined, or because^ — being so philosophic — we have an 
overweighing sense of life's gravity : at least, as we 
go on in years, we are all tempted to frown upon 
our neighbour's pleasures. People are nowadays 
so fond of resisting temptations ; here is one to be 
resisted. They are fond of self-denial ; here is a 
propensity that cannot be too peremptorily denied. 
There is an idea abroad among moral people that 
they should make their neighbours good. One 
person I have to make good : myself. But my 
duty to my neighbour is much more nearly ex- 



pressed by saying that I have to make him happy- 
if I may. 


Happiness and goodness, according to canting 
moraUsts, stand in the relation of effect and cause. 
There was never anything less proved or less pro- 
bable : our happiness is never in our own hands ; we 
inherit our constitution ; we stand buffet among 
friend and enemies ; we may be so built as to feel 
a sneer or an aspersion with unusual keenness, and 
so circumstanced as to be unusually exposed to 
them ; we may have nerves very sensitive to pain, 
and be afflicted with a disease very painful. Virtue 
will not help us, and it is not m^ant to help us. It 
is not even its own reward, except for the self- 
centred and — I had almost said — the unamiable. 
No man can pacify his conscience ; if quiet be what 
he want, he shall do better to let that organ perish 
from disuse. And to avoid the penalties of the law, 
and the minor capitis diminutio of social ostracism, 
is an affair of wisdom— of cunning, if you will — and 
not of virtue. 

In his own life, then, a man is not to expect 
happiness, only to profit by it gladly when it shall 
arise ; he is on duty here ; he knows not how or 
why, and does not need to know ; he knows not for 
what hire, and must not ask. Somehow or other, 
though he does not know what goodness is, he must 
try to be good ; somehow or other, though he cannot 


tell what will do it, he must try to give happiness 
to others. And no doubt there comes in here a 
frequent clash of duties. How far is he to make his 
neighbour happy ? How far must he respect that 
smiling face, so easy to cloud, so hard to brighten 
again ? And how far, on the other side, is he 
bound to be his brother's keeper and the prophet of 
his own morality ? How far must he resent evil ? 

The difficulty is that we have little guidance ; 
Christ's sayings on the point being hard to reconcile 
with each other, and (the most of them) hard to 
accept. But the truth of His teaching would seem 
to be this : in our own person and fortune, we should 
be ready to accept and to pardon all ; it is oui^ cheek 
we are to turn, our coat that we are to give away 
to the man who has taken our cloak. But when 
another's face is buffeted, perhaps a little of the lion 
will become us best. That we are to suffer others 
to be injured, and stand by, is not conceivable, and 
surely not desirable. Revenge, says Bacon, is a 
kind of wild justice ; its judgments at least are de- 
livered by an insane judge ; and in our own quarrel 
we can see nothing truly and do nothing wisely. 
But in the quarrel of our neighbour, let us be more 
bold. One person's happiness is as sacred as another's ; 
when we cannot defend both, let us defend one with 
a stout heart. It is only in so far as we are doing 
this, that we have any right to interfere : the defence 
of B is our only ground of action against A. A has 
as good a right to go to the devil as we to go to 
glory ; and neither knows what he does. 



The truth is that all these interventions and de- 
nunciations and militant mongerings of moral half- 
truths, though they be sometimes needful, though 
they are often enjoyable, do yet belong to an inferior 
grade of duties. Ill-temper and envy and revenge 
find here an arsenal of pious disguises ; this is the 
playground of inverted lusts. With a little more 
patience and a little less temper, a gentler and wiser 
method might be found in almost every case ; and 
the knot that we cut by some fine heady quarrel- 
scene in private life, or, in public affairs, by some 
denunciatory act against what we are pleased to call 
our neighbour's vices, might yet have been unwoven 
by the hand of sympathy. 


To look back upon the past year, and see how 
little we have striven, and to what small purpose ; 
and how often we have been cowardly and hung 
back, or temerarious and rushed unwisely in ; and 
how every day and all day long we have transgressed 
the law of kindness ; — it may seem a paradox, but 
in the bitterness of these discoveries a certain con- 
solation resides. Life is not designed to minister to 
a man's vanity. He goes upon his long business 
most of the time with a hanging head, and all the 
time like a blind child. Full of rewards and plea- 
sures as it is — so that to see the day break or the 
moon rise, or to meet a friend, or to hear the dinner- 


call when he is hungry, fills him with surprising joys 
— this world is yet for him no abiding city. Friend- 
ships fall through, health fails, weariness assails him ; 
year after year he must thumb the hardly varying 
record of his own weakness and folly. It is a 
friendly process of detachment. When the time 
comes that he should go, there need be few illusions 
left about himself Here lies one who meant well, 
tried a little, failed much : — surely that may be his 
epitaph, of which he need not be ashamed. Nor 
will he complain at the summons which calls a 
defeated soldier from the field : defeated, ay, if he 
were Paul or Marcus Aurelius ! — but if there is 
still one inch of fight in his old spirit, undishonoured. 
The faith which sustained him in his lifelong blind- 
ness and lifelong disappointment will scarce even 
be required in this last formality of laying down 
his arms. Give him a march with his old bones ; 
there, out of the glorious sun-coloured earth, out 
of the day and the dust and the ecstasy — there goes 
another Faithful Failure ! 

From a recent book of verse, where there is more 
than one such beautiful and manly poem, I take this 
memorial piece : it says better than I can, what I 
love to think ; let it be our parting word : — 

' A late lark twitters from the quiet skies ; 
And from the west, 
Where the sun, his day's work ended. 
Lingers as in content. 
There falls on the old, grey city 
An influence luminous and serene, 
A shining peace. 


The smoke ascends 

In a rosy-and-golden haze. The spires 

Shine, and are changed. In the valley 

Shadows rise. The lark sings on. The sun, 

Closing his benediction. 

Sinks, and the darkening air 

Thrills with a sense of the triumphing night — 

Night, with her train of stars 

And her great gift of sleep. 

So be my passing ! 

My task accomplished and the long day done, 

My wages taken, and in my heart 

Some late lark singing, 

Let me be gathered to the quiet west, 

The sundown splendid and serene. 

Death.' ^ 

^ From A Book of Verses, by William ilrnest Henley. D. Nutt, 1888. 




Sydney, February 25, 1890. 
Sir, — It may probably occur to you that we have 
met, and visited, and conversed ; on my side, with 
interest. You may remember that you have done 
me several courtesies, for which I was prepared to 
be grateful. But there are duties which come 
before gratitude, and offences which justly divide 
friends, far more acquaintances. Your letter to the 
Reverend H. B. Gage is a document which, in my 
sight, if you had filled me with bread when I was 
starving, if you had sat up to nurse my father when 
he lay a-dying, would yet absolve me from the bonds 
of gratitude. You know enough, doubtless, of the 
process of canonisation to be aware that, a hundred 
years after 'the death of Damien, there will appear a 
man charged with the painful office of the devil's 
advocate. After that noble brother of mine, and of 



all frail clay, shall have lain a century at rest, one 
shall accuse, one defend him. The circumstance is 
unusual that the devil's advocate should be a volun- 
teer, should be a member of a sect immediately rival, 
and should make haste to take upon himself his ugly 
office ere the bones are cold ; unusual, and of a taste 
which I shall leave my readers free to qualify ; un- 
usual, and to me inspiring. If I have at all learned 
the trade of using words to convey truth and to 
arouse emotion, you have at last furnished me with 
a subject. For it is in the interest of all mankind, 
and the cause of public decency in every quarter of 
the world, not only that Damien should be righted, 
but that you and your letter should be displayed at 
length, in their true colours, to the public eye. 

To do this properly, I must begin by quoting you 
at large : I shall then proceed to criticise your utter- 
ance from several points of view, divine and human, 
in the course of which I shall attempt to draw again, 
and with more specification, the character of the dead 
saint whom it has pleased you to vilify : so much 
being done, I shall say farewell to you for ever. 

' Honolulu, August 2, 1889. 
' Rev. H. B. Gage. 

' Dear Brother, — In answer to your inquiries about 

Father Damien, I can only reply that we who knew 

the man are surprised at the extravagant newspaper 

laudations, as if he was a most saintly philanthropist. 

The simple truth is, he was a coarse, dirty man, 

headstrong and bigoted. He was not sent to 


Molokai, but went there without orders; did not 
stay at the leper settlement (before he became one 
himself), but circulated freely over the whole island 
(less than half the island is devoted to the lepers), 
and he came often to Honolulu. He had no hand 
in the reforms and improvements inaugurated, which 
were the work of our Board of Health, as occasion 
required and means were provided. He was not a 
pure man in his relations with women, and the 
leprosy of which he died should be attributed to 
his vices and carelessness. Others have done much 
for the lepers, our own ministers, the government 
physicians, and so forth, but never with the Catholic 
idea of meriting eternal Ufe. — Yours, etc., 

*C. M. Hyde.'i 

To deal fitly with a letter so extraordinary, I must 
draw at the outset on my private knowledge of the 
signatory and his sect. It may offend others ; 
scarcely you, who have been so busy to collect, so 
bold to publish, gossip on your rivals. And this is 
perhaps the moment when I may best explain to 
you the character of what you are to read : I con- 
ceive you as a man quite beyond and below the 
reticences of civility : with what measure you mete, 
with that shall it be measured you again ; with you, 
at last, I rejoice to feel the button off the foil and to 
plunge home. And if in aught that I shall say I 
should offend others, your colleagues, whom I re- 
spect and remember with affection, I can but offer 

^ From the Sydney Presbyterian, October 26, 1889. 


them my regret ; I am not free, I am inspired by 
the consideration of interests far more large ; and 
such pain as can be inflicted by anything from me 
must be indeed trifling when compared with the 
pain with which they read your letter. It is not 
the hangman, but the criminal, that brings dishonour 
on the house. 

You belong, sir, to a sect — I beUeve my sect, and 
that in which my ancestors laboured — which has 
enjoyed, and partly failed to utilise, an exceptional 
advantage in the islands of Hawaii. The first mis- 
sionaries came ; they found the land already self- 
purged of its old and bloody faith ; they were 
embraced, almost on their arrival, with enthusiasm ; 
what troubles they supported came far more from 
whites than from Hawaiians ; and to these last they 
stood (in a rough figure) in the shoes of God. This 
is not the place to enter into the degree or causes 
of their failure, such as it is. One element alone is 
pertinent, and must here be plainly dealt with. In 
the course of their evangelical calling, they — or too 
many of thern — grew rich. It may be news to you 
that the houses of missionaries are a cause of mock- 
ing on the streets of Honolulu. It will at least be 
news to you, that when I returned your civil visit, 
the driver of my cab commented on the size, the 
taste, and the comfort of your home. It would 
have been news certainly to myself, had any one 
told me that afternoon that I should live to drag 
such matter into print. But you see, sir, how you 
degrade better men to your own level ; and it is 


needful that those who are to judge betwixt you 
and me, betwixt Damien and the devil's advocate, 
should understand your letter to have been penned 
in a house which could raise, and that very justly, 
the envy and the comments of the passers-by. I 
think (to employ a phrase of yours which I admire) 
it ' should be attributed ' to you that you have never 
visited the scene of Damien's life and death. If you 
had, and had recalled it, and looked about your 
pleasant rooms, even your pen perhaps would have 
been stayed. 

Your sect (and remember, as far as any sect avows 
me, it is mine) has not done ill in a worldly sense in 
the Hawaiian Kingdom. When calamity befell their 
innocent parishioners, when leprosy descended and 
took root in the Eight Islands, a quid pro quo was 
to be looked for. To that prosperous mission, and 
to you, as one of its adornments, God had sent at 
last an opportunity. I know I am touching here 
upon a nerve acutely sensitive. I know that others 
of your colleagues look back on the inertia of your 
Church, and the intrusive and decisive heroism of 
Damien, with something almost to be called remorse. 
I am sure it is so with yourself; I am persuaded 
your letter was inspired by a certain envy, not 
essentially ignoble, and the one human trait to be 
espied in that performance. You were thinking of 
the lost chance, the past day ; of that which should 
have been conceived and was not ; of the service due 
and not rendered. Time was, said the voice in your 
ear, in your pleasant room, as you sat raging and 



writing ; and if the words written were base beyond 
parallel, the rage, I am happy to repeat — it is the 
only comphment I shall pay you — the rage was 
almost virtuous. But, sir, when we have failed, 
and another has succeeded ; when we have stood 
by, and another has stepped in ; when we sit and 
grow bulky in our charming mansions, and a plain, 
uncouth peasant steps into the battle, under the 
eyes of God, and succours the afflicted, and consoles 
the dying, and is himself afflicted in his turn, and 
dies upon the field of honour — the battle cannot be 
retrieved as your unhappy irritation has suggested. 
It is a lost battle, and lost for ever. One thing 
remained to you in your defeat — some rags of com- 
mon honour; and these you have made haste to 
cast away. 

Common honour ; not the honour of having done 
anything right, but the honour of not having done 
aught conspicuously foul ; the honour of the inert : 
that was what remained to you. We are not all 
expected to be Damiens ; a man may conceive his 
duty more narrowly, he may love his comforts 
better ; and none will cast a stone at him for that. 
But will a gentleman of your reverend profession 
allow me an example from the fields of gallantry ? 
When two gentlemen compete for the favour of a 
lady, and the one succeeds and the other is rejected, 
and (as will sometimes happen) matter damaging to 
the successful rival's credit reaches the ear of the 
defeated, it is held by plain men of no pretensions 
that his mouth is, in the circumstance, almost 


necessarily closed. Your Church and Damien's 
were in Hawaii upon a rivalry to do well : to 
help, to edify, to set divine examples. You having 
(in one huge instance) failed, and Damien suc- 
ceeded, I marvel it should not have occurred to you 
that you were doomed to silence ; that when you 
had been outstripped in that high rivalry, and sat 
inglorious in the midst of your well-being, in your 
pleasant room — and Damien, crowned with glories 
and horrors, toiled and rotted in that pigsty of his 
under the cliffs of Kalawao — you, the elect who 
would not, were the last man on earth to collect and 
propagate gossip on the volunteer who would and did. 
I think I see you — for I try to see you in the flesh 
as I write these sentences — I think I see you leap 
at the word pigsty, a hyperbolical expression at the 
best. 'He had no hand in the reforms,' he was 'a 
coarse, dirty man ' ; these were your own words ; 
and you may think it possible that I am come to 
support you with fresh evidence. In a sense, it is 
even so. Damien has been too much depicted with 
a conventional halo and conventional features ; so 
drawn by men who perhaps had not the eye to 
remark or the pen to express the individual ; or 
who perhaps were only blinded and silenced by 
generous admiration, such as I partly envy for my- 
self — such as you, if your soul were enlightened, 
would envy on your bended knees. It is the least 
defect of such a method of portraiture that it makes 
the path easy for the devil's advocate, and leaves for 
the misuse of the slanderer a considerable field of 



truth. For the truth that is suppressed by friends is 
the readiest weapon of the enemy. The world, in 
your despite, may perhaps owe you something, if 
your letter be the means of substituting once for 
all a credible likeness for a wax abstraction. For, 
if that world at all remember you, on the day when 
Damien of Molokai shall be named Saint, it will be 
in virtue of one work : your letter to the Reverend 
H. B. Gage. 

You may ask on what authority I speak. It was 
my inclement destiny to become acquainted, not 
with Damien, but with Dr. Hyde. When T visited 
the lazaretto Damien was already in his resting 
grave. But such information as I have, I gathered 
on the spot in conversation with those who knew 
him well and long : some indeed who revered his 
memory ; but others who had sparred and wrangled 
with him, who beheld him with no halo, who per- 
haps regarded him with small respect, and through 
whose unprepared and scarcely partial communica- 
tions the plain, human features of the man shone on 
me convincingly. These gave me what knowledge 
I possess ; and I learnt it in that scene where it 
could be most completely and sensitively understood 
— Kalawao, which you have never visited, about 
which you have never so much as endeavoured to 
inform yourself : for, brief as your letter is, you have 
found the means to stumble into that confession. 
'Less than one-half' of the island,' you say, 'is 
devoted to the lepers.' Molokai — ' Molokai ahina,' 
the 'grey,' lofty, and most desolate island — along 


all its northern side plunges a front of precipice 
into a sea of unusual profundity. This range of 
cliff is, from east to west, the true end and frontier 
of the island. , Only in one spot there projects into 
the ocean a certain triangular and rugged down, 
grassy, stony, windy, and rising in the midst into 
a hill with a dead crater : the whole bearing to the 
cliff that overhangs it somewhat the same relation 
as a bracket to a wall. With this hint you will now 
be able to pick out the leper station on a map ; you 
will be able to judge how much of Molokai is thus 
cut off between the surf and precipice, whether less 
than a half, or less than a quarter, or a fifth, or a 
tenth — or say, a twentieth ; and the next time you 
burst into print you will be in a position to share 
with us the issue of your calculations. 

I imagine you to be one of those persons who talk 
with cheerfulness of that place which oxen and wain- 
ropes could not drag you to behold. You, who do 
not even know its situation on the map, probably 
denounce sensational descriptions, stretching your 
limbs the while in your pleasant parlour on Bere- 
tania Street. When I was pulled ashore there one 
early morning, there sat with me in the boat two 
sisters, bidding farewell (in humble imitation of 
Damien) to the lights and joys of human life. One 
of these wept silently ; I could not withhold myself 
from joining her. Had you been there, it is my 
belief that nature would have triumphed even in 
you ; and as the boat drew but a little nearer, and 
you beheld the stairs crowded with abominable 



deformations of our common manhood, and saw 
yourself landing in the midst of such a population 
as only now and then surrounds us in the horror of 
a nightmare — what a haggard eye you would have 
rolled over your reluctant shoulder towards the 
house on Beretania Street ! Had you gone on ; 
had you found every fourth face a blot upon the 
landscape ; had you visited the hospital and seen 
the butt-ends of human beings lying there almost 
unrecognisable, but still breathing, still thinking, 
still remembering ; you would have understood that 
life in the lazaretto is an ordeal from which the 
nerves of a man's spirit shrink, even as his eye 
quails under the brightness^ of the sun ; you would 
have felt it was (even to-day) a pitiful place to visit 
and a hell to dwell in. It is not the fear of possible 
infection. That seems a little thing when compared 
with the pain, the pity, and the disgust of the visi- 
tor's surroundings, and the atmosphere of affliction, 
disease, and physical disgrace in which he breathes. 
I do not think I am a man more than usually timid ; 
but I never recall the days and nights I spent upon 
that island promontory (eight days and seven nights), 
without heartfelt thankfulness that I am somewhere 
else. I find in my diary that I speak of my stay 
as a ' grinding experience ' : I have once jotted in 
the margin, 'Harrowing is the word'; and when the 
Mokolii bore me at last towards the outer world, I 
kept repeating to myself, with a new conception of 
their pregnancy, those simple words of the song — 
' 'Tis the most distressful country that ever yet was seen.' 


And observe : that which I saw and suffered from 
was a settlement purged, bettered, beautified ; the 
new village built, the hospital and the Bishop-Home 
excellently arranged ; the sisters, the doctor, and the 
missionaries, all indefatigable in their noble tasks. 
It was a different place when Damien came there, 
and made his great renunciation, and slept that first 
night under a tree amidst his rotting brethren: alone 
with pestilence ; and looking forward (with what 
courage, with what pitiful sinkings of dread, God 
only knows) to a lifetime of dressing sores and 

You will say, perhaps, I am too sensitive, that 
sights as painful abound in cancer hospitals and are 
confronted daily by doctors and nurses. I have long 
learned to admire and envy the doctors and the 
nurses. But there is no cancer hospital so large and 
populous as Kalawao and Kalaupapa ; and in such a 
matter every fresh case, like every inch of length in 
the pipe of an organ, deepens the note of the impres- 
sion ; for what daunts the onlooker is that monstrous 
sum of human suffering by which he stands sur- 
rounded. Lastly, no doctor or nurse is called upon 
to enter once for all the doors of that gehenna ; they 
do not say farewell, they need not abandon hope, on 
its sad threshold ; they but go for a time to their high 
calling, and can look forward as they go to relief, to 
recreation, and to rest. But Damien shut-to with 
his own hand the doors of his own sepulchre. 

I shall now extract three passages from my diary 
at Kalawao. 



A. 'Damien is dead and already somewhat un- 
gratefully remembered in the field of his labours and 
sufferings. " He was a good man, but very officious," 
says one. Another tells me he had fallen (as other 
priests so easily do) into something of the ways and 
habits of thought of a Kanaka ; but he had the wit 
to recognise the fact, and the good sense to laugh at ' 
[over] ' it. A plain man it seems he was ; I cannot 
find he was a popular.' 

B. 'After Ragsdale's death' [Ragsdale was a 
famous Luna, or overseer, of the unruly settlement] 
' there followed a brief term of office by Father 
Damien which served only, to publish the weakness 
of that noble man. He was rough in his ways, 
and he had no control. Authority was relaxed ; 
Damien 's life was threatened, and he was soon eager 
to resign.' 

C. 'Of Damien I begin to have an idea. He 
seems to have been a man of the peasant class, 
certainly of the peasant type : shrewd ; ignorant and 
bigoted, yet with an open mind, and capable of re- 
ceiving and digesting a reproof if it were bluntly 
administered ; superbly generous in the least thing 
as well as in the greatest, and as ready to give his 
last shirt (although not without human grumbling) 
as he had been to sacrifice his life ; essentially indis- 
creet and officious, which made him a troublesome 
colleague ; domineering in all his ways, which made 
hin^ incurably unpopular with the Kanakas, but yet 
destitute of real authority, so that his boys laughed 
at him and he must carry out his wishes by the 



means of bribes. He learned to have a mania for 
doctoring ; and set up the Kanakas against the 
remedies of his regular rivals : perhaps (if anything 
matter at all in the treatment of such a disease) the 
worst thing that he did, and certainly the easiest. 
The best and worst of the man appear very plainly 
in his dealings with Mr. Chapman's money ; he had 
originally laid it out ' [intended to lay it out] * en- 
tirely for the benefit of Catholics, and even so not 
wisely ; but after a long, plain talk, he admitted his 
error fully and revised the list. The sad state of the 
boys' home is in part the result of his lack of con- 
trol ; in part, of his own slovenly ways and false 
ideas of hygiene. Brother officials used to call it 
"Damien's Chinatown." "Well," they would say, 
"your Chinatown keeps growing." And he would 
laugh with perfect good-nature, and adhere to his 
errors with perfect obstinacy. So much I have 
gathered of truth about this plain, noble human 
brother and father of ours ; his imperfections are the 
traits of his face, by which we know him for our 
fellow ; his martyrdom and his example nothing can 
lessen or annul ; and only a person here on the spot 
^an properly appreciate their greatness.' 

I have set down these private passages, as you 
perceive, without correction ; thanks to you, the 
public has them in their bluntness. They are almost 
a list of the man's faults, for it is rather these that I 
was seekin'g : with his virtues, with the heroic pro- 
file of his life, I and the world were already suffi- 
ciently acquainted. I was besides a little suspicious 



of Catholic testimony ; in no ill sense, but merely 
because Damien's admirers and disciples were the 
least likely to be critical. I know you will be more 
suspicious still ; and the facts set down above were 
one and all collected from the lips of Protestants 
who had opposed the father in his life. Yet I am 
strangely deceived, or they build up the image of a 
man, with all his weaknesses, essentially heroic, and 
alive with rugged honesty, generosity, and mirth. 

Take it for what it is, rough private jottings of the 
worst sides of Damien's character, collected from the 
lips of those who had laboured with and (in your 
own phrase) ' knew the ntan ' ; — though I question 
whether Damien would have said that he knew you. 
Take it, and observe with wonder how well you 
were served by your gossips, how ill by your intelli- 
gence and sympathy ; in how many points of fact 
we are at one, and how widely our appreciations 
vary. There is something wrong here ; either with 
you or me. It is possible, for instance, that you, 
who seem to have so many ears in Kalawao, had 
heard of the affair of Mr. Chapman's money, and 
were singly struck by Damien's intended wrong- 
doing. I was struck with that also, and set it fairly 
down ; but I was struck much more by the fact that 
he had the honesty of mind to be convinced. I may 
here tell you that it was a long business ; that one 
of his colleagues sat with him late into the night, 
multiplying arguments and accusations ; that the 
father listened as usual with 'perfect good-nature 
and perfect obstinacy ' ; but at the last, when he was 


persuaded — ' Yes,' said he, ' I am very much obliged 
to you ; you have done me a service ; it would have 
been a theft.' There are many (not Catholics 
merely) who require their heroes and saints to be 
infallible ; to these the story will be painful ; not to 
the true lovers, patrons, and servants of mankind. 

And I take it, this is a type of our division ; that 
you are one of those who have an eye for faults and 
failures ; that you take a pleasure to find and publish 
them ; and that, having found them, you make haste 
to forget the overvailing virtues and the real success 
which had alone introduced them to your knowledge. 
It is a dangerous frame of mind. That you may 
understand how dangerous, and into what a situation 
it has already brought you, we will (if you please) 
go hand-in-hand through the different phrases of 
your letter, and candidly examine each from the 
point of view of its truth, its appositeness, and its 

Damien was coarse. 

It is very possible. You make us sorry for the 
lepers who had only a coarse old peasant for their 
friend and father. But you, who were so refined, 
why were you not there, to cheer them with the 
lights of culture? Or may I remind you that we 
have some reason to doubt if John the Baptist were 
genteel ; and in the case of Peter, on whose career you 
doubtless dwell approvingly in the pulpit, no doubt 
at all he was a ' coarse, headstrong ' fisherman ! Yet 
even in our Protestant Bibles Peter is called Saint. 



Damien was dirty. 

He was. Think of the poor lepers annoyed with 
this dirty comrade ! But the clean Dr. Hyde was 
at his food in a fine house. ' 

Damien was headst7'ong. 

I believe you are right again ; and I thank God 
for his strong head and heart. 

Damien was bigoted. 

I am not fond of bigots myself, because they are 
not fond of me. But what is meant by bigotry, 
that we should regard it as a blemish in a priest ? 
Damien believed his own religion with the simplicity 
of a peasant or a child ; as I would I could suppose 
that you do. For this, I wonder at him some way 
off; and had that been his only character, should 
have avoided him in life. But the point of interest 
in Damien, which has caused him to be so much 
talked about and made him at last the subject of 
your pen and mine, was that, in him, his bigotry, his 
intense and narrow faith, wrought potently for good, 
and strengthened him to be one of the world's heroes 
and exemplars. 

Damien was not sent to Molokai, hut went there 
without orders. 

Is this a misreading ? or do you really mean the 
words for blame ? I have heard Christ, in the pulpits 
of our Church, held up for imitation on the ground 
that His sacrifice was voluntary. Does Dr. Hyde 
think otherwise ? 



Damien did not stay at the settlement, etc. 

It is true he was allowed many indulgences. Am 
I to understand that you blame the father for profit- 
ing by these, or the officers for granting them ? In 
either case, it is a mighty Spartan standard to 
issue from the house on Beretania Street ; and I 
am convinced you will find yourself with few sup- 

Damien had no hand in the reforms, etc. 

I think even you will admit that I have already 
been frank in my description of the man I am 
defending ; but before I take you up upon this head, 
I will be franker still, and tell you that perhaps 
nowhere in the world can a man taste a more plea- 
surable sense of contrast than when he passes from 
Damien's ' Chinatown ' at Kalawao to the beautiful 
Bishop-Home at Kalaupapa. At this point, in my 
desire to make all fair for you, I will break my rule 
and adduce Catholic testimony. Here is a passage 
from my diary about my visit to the Chinatown, 
from which you will see how it is (even now) 
regarded by its own officials : ' We went round all 
the dormitories, refectories, etc. — dark and dingy 
enough, with a superficial cleanliness, which he ' [Mr. 
Dutton, the lay brother] 'did not seek to defend. 
" It is almost decent," said he ; " the sisters will make 
that all right when we get them here," ' And yet I 
gathered it was already better since Damien was 
dead, and far better than when he was there alone 
and had his own (not always excellent) way. I have 



now come far enough to meet you on a common 
ground of fact ; and I tell you that, to a mind not 
prejudiced by jealousy, all the reforms of the lazar- 
etto, and even those which he most vigorously 
opposed, are properly the work of Damien. They 
are the evidence of his success ; they are what his 
heroism provoked from the reluctant and the care- 
less. Many were before him in the field ; Mr. Meyer, 
for instance, of whose faithful work we hear too 
little : there have been many since ; and some had 
more worldly wisdom, though none had more devo- 
tion, than our saint. Before his day, even you will 
confess, they had effected little. It was his part, by 
one striking act of martyrdom, to direct all men's 
eyes on that distressful country. At a blow, and 
with the price of his life, he made the place illus- 
trious and public. And that, if you will consider 
largely, was the one reform needful ; pregnant of all 
that should succeed. It brought money ; it brought 
(best individual addition of them all) the sisters ; it 
brought supervision, for public opinion and public 
interest landed with the man at Kalawao. If ever 
any man brought reforms, and died to bring them, 
it was he. There is not a clean cup or towel in the 
Bishop-Home, but dirty Damien washed it. 

Damien was not a pure man in his relatiofis with 
women, etc. 

How do you know that? Is this the nature of 
the conversation in that house on Beretania Street 
which the cabman envied, driving past ? — racy de- 


tails of the misconduct of the poor peasant priest, 
toiling under the cliffs of Molokai ? 

Many have visited the station before me; they 
seem not to have heard the rumour. When I was 
there I heard many shocking tales, for my informants 
were men speaking with the plainness of the laity ; 
and I heard plenty of complaints of Damien. Why 
was this never mentioned ? and how came it to you 
in the retirement of your clerical parlour? 

But I must not even seem to deceive you. This 
scandal, when I read it in your letter, was not 
new to me. I had heard it once before ; and I must 
tell you how. There came to Samoa a man from 
Honolulu; he, in a public-house on the beach, 
volunteered the statement that Damien had 'con- 
tracted the disease from having connection with the 
female lepers ' ; and I find a joy in telling you how 
the report was welcomed in a public-house. A man 
sprang to his feet ; I am not at hberty to give his 
name, but from what I heard I doubt if you would 
care to have him to dinner in Beretania Street. 

' You miserable little ' (here is a word I dare 

not print, it would so shock your ears). ' You 

miserable little ,' he cried, ' if the story were a 

thousand times true, can't you see you are a million 

times a lower for daring to repeat it ? ' I wish 

it could be told of you that when the report reached 
you in your hou^e, perhaps after family worship, you 
had found in your soul enough holy anger to receive 
it with the same expressions ; ay, even with that one 
which I dare not print ; it would not need to have 
^^~^ 353 


been blotted away, like Uncle Toby's oath, by the 
tears of the recording angel ; it would have been 
counted to you for your brightest righteousness. 
But you have deliberately chosen the part of the 
man from Honolulu, and you have played it with 
improvements of your own. The man from Hono- 
lulu — miserable, leering creature — communicated the 
tale to a rude knot of beach-combing drinkers in a 
pubhc-house, where (I will so far agree with your 
temperance opinions) man is not always at his 
noblest ; and the man from Honolulu had himself 
been drinking — drinking, we may charitably fancy, 
to excess. It was to your ' Dear Brother, the 
Reverend H. B. Gage,' that you chose to communi- 
cate the sickening story ; and the blue ribbon which 
adorns your portly bosom forbids me to allow you 
the extenuating plea that you were drunk when it 
was done. Your * dear brother ' — a brother indeed 
— made haste to deliver up your letter (as a means 
of grace, perhaps) to the religious papers ; where, 
after many months, I found and read and wondered 
at it ; and whence I have now reproduced it for the 
wonder of others. And you and your dear brother 
have, by this cycle of operations, built up a contrast 
very edifying to examine in detail. The man whom 
you would not care to have to dinner, on the one 
side ; on the other, the Reverend Dr. Hyde and 
the Reverend H. B. Gage : the Apia bar-room, the 
Honolulu manse. 

But I fear you scarce appreciate how you appear 
to your fellow-men ; and to bring it home to you, I 



will suppose your story to be true. I will suppose 
— and God forgive me for supposing it — that Damien 
faltered and stumbled in his narrow path of duty ; I 
will suppose that, in the horror of his isolation, 
perhaps in the fever of incipient disease, he, who 
was doing so much more than he had sworn, failed 
in the letter of his priestly oath — he, who was so 
much a better man than either you or me, who did 
what we have never dreamed of daring — he too 
tasted of our common frailty. ' O, lago, the pity of 
it ! ' The least tender should be moved to tears ; 
the most incredulous to prayer. And all that you 
could do was to pen your letter to the Reverend 
H. B. Gage ! 

Is it growing at all clear to you what a picture 
you have drawn of your own heart ? I will try yet 
once again to make it clearer. You had a father : 
suppose this tale were about him, and some informant 
brought it to you, proof in hand : I am not making 
too high an estimate of your emotional nature when 
I suppose you would regret the circumstance ? that 
you would feel the tale of frailty the more keenly 
since it shamed the author of your days ? and that 
the last thing you would do would be to publish it 
in the religious press ? Well, the man who tried to 
do what Damien did is my father, and the father of 
the man in the Apia bar, and the father of all who 
love goodness ; and he was your father too, if God 
had given you grace to see it. 


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