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Title: Books and Persons - Being Comments on a Past Epoch 1908-1911
Author: Bennett, Arnold, 1867-1931
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Books and Persons


Chatto & Windus











MILESTONES. (_In Collaboration with Edward Knoblock_)

(_In Collaboration with Eden Phillpotts_)


Books and Persons


Chatto & Windus

_First published   June 1917_
_Second Impression Aug. 1917_




The contents of this book have been chosen from a series of weekly
articles which enlivened the _New Age_ during the years 1908, 1909, 1910,
and 1911, under the pseudonym "Jacob Tonson." The man responsible for the
republication is the dedicatee, who, having mysteriously demanded from me
back numbers of the _New Age_, sat in my house one Sunday afternoon and in
four hours read through the entire series. He then announced that he had
made a judicious selection, and that the selection must positively be
issued in volume form. Mr. Frank Swinnerton approved the selection and
added to it slightly. In my turn I suggested a few more additions. The
total amounts to one-third of the original matter. Beyond correcting
misprints, softening the crudity of several epithets, and censoring lines
here and there which might give offence without helping the sacred cause,
I have not altered the articles. They appear as they were journalistically
written in Paris, London, Switzerland, and the Forest of Fontainebleau.
In particular I have left the critical judgments alone, for the good
reason that I stand by nearly all of them, though perhaps with a less
challenging vivacity, to this day.


_February 1917_



WILFRED WHITTEN'S PROSE                  3
UGLINESS IN FICTION                      8
FRENCH PUBLISHERS                       16
NOVELISTS AND AGENTS                    22
THE NOVEL OF THE SEASON                 26
GERMAN EXPANSION                        30
THE BOOK-BUYER                          32
THE PROFESSORS                          41
KENNETH GRAHAME                         57
ANATOLE FRANCE                          59
THE RUINED SEASON                       68


"ECCE HOMO"                             77
HENRY OSPOVAT                           79
POE AND THE SHORT STORY                 84
MIDDLE-CLASS                            88
THE POTENTIAL PUBLIC                   101
H.G. WELLS                             109
TCHEHKOFF                              117
THE SURREY LABOURER                    120
SWINBURNE                              123
THE SEVENPENNIES                       130
MEREDITH                               134
ST. JOHN HANKIN                        140
UNCLEAN BOOKS                          143
LOVE POETRY                            145
TROLLOPE'S METHODS                     148
CHESTERTON AND LUCAS                   150
ARTISTS AND CRITICS                    158
RUDYARD KIPLING                        160


BRIEUX                                 195
C.E. MONTAGUE                          201
PUBLISHERS AND AUTHORS                 204
JOHN GALSWORTHY                        214
HOLIDAY READING                        222
UNFINISHED PERUSALS                    235
MR. A.C. BENSON                        239
THE LITERARY PERIODICAL                242
THE LENGTH OF NOVELS                   248
ARTISTS AND MONEY                      250
HENRI BECQUE                           255
HENRY JAMES                            263
MRS. ELINOR GLYN                       271
W.H. HUDSON                            278


BOOKS OF THE YEAR                      289
"THE NEW MACHIAVELLI"                  294
SUCCESS IN JOURNALISM                  300
MARGUERITE AUDOUX                      305
JOHN MASEFIELD                         311
A PLAY OF TCHEHKOFF'S                  321
SEA AND SLAUGHTER                      325
"FICTION" AND "LITERATURE"             331

INDEX                                  333



[_4 Apr. '08_]

An important book on an important town is to be issued by Messrs. Methuen.
The town is London, and the author Mr. Wilfred Whitten, known to
journalism as John o' London. Considering that he comes from
Newcastle-on-Tyne (or thereabouts), his pseudonym seems to stretch a
point. However, Mr. Whitten is now acknowledged as one of the foremost
experts in London topography. He is not an archæologist, he is a
humanist--in a good dry sense; not the University sense, nor the silly
sense. The word "human" is a dangerous word; I am rather inclined to
handle it with antiseptic precautions. When a critic who has risen high
enough to be allowed to sign his reviews in a daily paper calls a new book
"a great human novel," you may be absolutely sure that the said novel
consists chiefly of ridiculous twaddle. Mr. Whitten is not a humanist in
that sense. He has no sentimentality, and a very great deal of both wit
and humour.

       *       *       *       *       *

He is also a critic admirably sane. Not long ago he gave a highly
diverting exhibition of sanity in a short, shattering pronouncement upon
the works of Mr. Arthur Christopher Benson and the school which has
acquired celebrity by holding the mirror up to its own nature. The wonder
was that Mr. Benson did not, following his precedent, write to the papers
to say that Mr. Whitten was no gentleman. In the days before the _Academy_
blended the characteristics of a comic paper with those of a journal of
dogmatic theology, before it took to disowning its own reviewers, Mr.
Whitten was the solid foundation of that paper's staff. He furnished the
substance, which was embroidered by the dark grace of the personality of
Mr. Lewis Hind, whose new volume of divagations is, by the way, just out.

       *       *       *       *       *

But my main object in referring to Mr. Whitten is to state formally, and
with a due sense of responsibility, that he is one of the finest prose
writers now writing in English. His name is on the title-pages of several
books, but no book of his will yet bear out my statement. The proof of it
lies in weekly papers. No living Englishman can do "the grand
manner"--combining majestic dignity with a genuine lyrical
inspiration--better than Mr. Whitten. These are proud words of mine, but I
am not going to disguise my conviction that I know what I am talking
about. Some day some publisher will wake up out of the coma in which
publishers exist, and publish in volume form--probably with coloured
pictures as jam for children--Mr. Whitten's descriptions of English towns.
Then I shall be justified. I might have waited till that august moment.
But I want to be beforehand with Dr. Robertson Nicoll. I see that Dr.
Nicoll has just added to his list of patents by inventing Leonard Merrick,
whom I used to admire in print long before Dr. Nicoll had ever heard that
Mr. J.M. Barrie regarded Leonard Merrick as the foremost English novelist.
Dr. Nicoll has already got Mr. Whitten on to the reviewing staff of the
_Bookman_. But I am determined that he shall not invent Mr. Whitten's
prose style. I am the inventor of that.

[_2 May '08_]

A few weeks ago I claimed to be the discoverer of Mr. Wilfred Whitten as a
first-class prose writer. I relinquish the claim, with apologies. Messrs.
Methuen have staggered me by sending me Mrs. Laurence Binyon's "Nineteenth
Century Prose," in which anthology is an example of Mr. Whitten's prose.
Though staggered, I was delighted. I should very much like to know how
Mrs. Binyon encountered the prose of Mr. Whitten. Did she hunt through the
files of newspapers for what she might find therein, and was she thus
rewarded? Or did some tremendous and omniscient expert give her the tip? I
disagree with about 85 per cent. of the _obiter dicta_ of her preface, but
her anthology is certainly a most agreeable compilation. It shows, like
sundry other recent anthologies, the strong liberating influence of Mr.
E.V. Lucas, whose "Open Road" really amounted to a renascence of the

And here is the tail-end of the extract which Mrs. Binyon has perfectly
chosen from the essays of Mr. Whitten:

"...The moon pushing her way upwards through the vapours, and the scent of
the beans and kitchen stuff from the allotments, and the gleaming rails
below, spoke of the resumption of daily burdens. But let us drop that
jargon. Why call that a burden which can never be lifted? This calm
necessity that dwells with the matured man to get back to the matter in
hand, and dree his weird whatever befall, is a badge, not a burden. It is
the stimulus of sound natures; and as the weight of his wife's arm makes a
man's body proud, so the sense of his usefulness to the world does but
warm and indurate his soul. It is something when a man comes to this mind,
and with all his capacity to err, is abreast of life at last. He shall not
regret the infrequency of his inspirations, for he will know that the day
of his strength has set in. And if, for poesy, some grave Virgilian line
should pause on his memory, or some tongue of Hebrew fire leap from the
ashes of his godly youth, it will be enough. But if cold duck await--why,
then, to supper!"


[_9 May '08_]

In the _Edinburgh Review_ there is a disquisition on "Ugliness in
Fiction." Probably the author of it has read "Liza of Lambeth," and said
Faugh! The article, peculiarly inept, is one of those outpourings which
every generation of artists has to suffer with what tranquillity it can.
According to the Reviewer, ugliness is specially rife "just now." It is
always "just now." It was "just now" when George Eliot wrote "Adam Bede,"
when George Moore wrote "A Mummer's Wife," when Thomas Hardy wrote "Jude
the Obscure." As sure as ever a novelist endeavours to paint a complete
picture of life in this honest, hypocritical country of bad restaurants
and good women; as sure as ever he hints that all is not for the best in
the best of all possible islands, some witling is bound to come forward
and point out with wise finger that life is not all black. I once resided
near a young noodle of a Methodist pastor who had the pious habit of
reading novels aloud to his father and mother. He began to read one of
mine to them, but half-way through decided that something of Charlotte M.
Yonge would be less unsuitable for the parental ear. He then called and
lectured me. Among other aphorisms of his which I have treasured up was
this: "Life, my dear friend, is like an April day--sunshine and shadow
chasing each other over the plain." That he is not dead is a great tribute
to my singular self-control. I suspect him to be the _Edinburgh_ Reviewer.
At any rate, the article moves on the plane of his plain.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Reviewer has the strange effrontery to select Mr. Joseph Conrad's
"Secret Agent" as an example of modern ugliness in fiction: a novel that
is simply steeped in the finest beauty from end to end. I do not suppose
that the _Edinburgh Review_ has any moulding influence upon the evolution
of the art of fiction in this country. But such nonsense may, after all,
do harm by confusing the minds of people who really are anxious to
encourage what is best, strongest, and most sane. The Reviewer in this
instance, for example, classes, as serious, Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad,
and John Galsworthy, who are genuine creative forces, with mere dignified
unimportant sentimentalizers like Mr. W.B. Maxwell. While he was on the
business of sifting the serious from the unserious I wonder he didn't
include the authors of "Three Weeks" and "The Heart of a Child" among the
serious! Perhaps because the latter wrote "Pigs in Clover" and the former
was condemned by the booksellers! Nobody could have a lower opinion of
"Three Weeks" than I have. But I have never been able to understand why
the poor little feeble story was singled out as an awful example of female
licentiousness, and condemned by a hundred newspapers that had not the
courage to name it. The thing was merely infantile and absurd. Moreover, I
violently object to booksellers sitting in judgment on novels.


[_16 May '08_]

The result of _Murray_ v. _The Times_ is very amusing. I don't know why
the fact that the _Times_ is called upon to pay £7500 to Mr. John Murray
should make me laugh joyously; but it does. Certainly the reason is not
that I sympathize with the libelled Mr. Murray. The action was a great and
a wonderful action, full of enigmas for a mere man of letters like myself.
For example, Mr. Murray said that his agreement with the "authors" (I
cannot imagine how Lord Esher and Mr. A.C. Benson came to be the "authors"
of the late Queen's correspondence) stipulated that two-thirds of the
profits should go to the "authors" and one-third to Mr. Murray. Secondly,
Mr. Murray said that he paid the authors £5592 14s. 2d. Thirdly, he said
that his own profit was £600. Hence £600 is the half of £5592 14s. 2d. I
have no doubt that there exists some quite simple explanation of this new
arithmetic; only it has not occurred to me, my name not being Colenso. The
whole enterprise was regal, as befitted. Proof-corrections cost twice as
much as the original setting up! A mere man of letters would be inclined
to suspect that the printing was begun too soon; it is usual to postpone
setting-up a book until the book is written. Balzac partially beggared
himself by ignoring this rule. Balzac, however, was not published by Mr.
Murray. £950 was paid to the amanuensis! Oh, amanuensis, how I wonder who
you are, up above the world so high, like a fashionable novelist in the
sky! And so on.

       *       *       *       *       *

The attitude of Tunbridge Wells (the most plutocratic town in England, by
the way) towards the book was adorable. "Mr. Daniel Williams, a bookseller
and librarian, of Tunbridge Wells, said that after the review by 'Artifex'
people complained that the price of the book was too high. No complaints
were made before that." They read their _Times Literary Supplement_ at the
Wells, and they still wait for it to thunder, and when it has
thundered--and not before--they rattle their tea-trays, and the sequel is
red ruin! Again, Mr. Justice Darling, in his ineptly decorated summing-up,
observed that it was hardly too much to say that "the plaintiff's
house--the house of Murray," was a national institution. It would be
hardly too much to say that also the house of Crosse and Blackwell is a
national institution, and that Mr. Justice Darling is a national
institution. By all means let us count the brothers Murray as a national
institution, even as an Imperial institution. But let us guard against the
notion, everywhere cropping up, that such "houses" as the dignified and
wealthy house of Murray are in some mysterious way responsible for English
literature, part-authors of English literature, to whom half of the glory
of English literature is due. It is well to remember now and then that
publishers who have quite squarely made vast sums out of selling the work
of creative artists are not thereby creative artists themselves. A
publisher is a tradesman; infinitely less an artist than a tailor is an
artist. Often a publisher knows what the public will buy in literature.
Very rarely he knows what is good literature. Scarcely ever will he issue
a distinguished book exclusively because it is a distinguished book. And
he is right, for he is only a tradesman. But to judge from the otiose
majesty of some publishers, one would imagine that they had written at
least "Childe Harold." There is the case of a living publisher (not either
of the brothers Murray) whose presence at his country chateau is indicated
to the surrounding nobility, gentry, and peasantry by the unfurling of
the Royal standard over a turret.

       *       *       *       *       *

To return to the subject, the price at which the house of Murray issued
the "Letters of Queen Victoria" was not "extortionate," having regard to
the astounding expenses of publication. But why were the expenses so
astounding? If the book had not been one which by its intrinsic interest
compelled purchase, would the "authors" have been remunerated like the
managers of a steel trust? Would the paper have been so precious and
costly? Would the illustrations have so enriched photographers? And would
the amanuensis have made £350 more out of the thing then Mr. Murray
himself? The price was not extortionate. But it was farcical. The entire
rigmarole combines to throw into dazzling prominence the fact that modern
literature in this country is still absolutely undemocratic. The time will
come, and much sooner than many august mandarins anticipate, when such a
book as the "Letters of Queen Victoria" will be issued at six shillings,
and newspapers will be fined £7500 for saying that the price is
extortionate and ought not to exceed half a crown. Assuredly there is no
commercial reason why the book should not have been published at 6s. or
thereabouts. Only mandarinism prevented that. Mr. Murray's profits would
have been greater, though "authors," amanuenses, photographers,
paper-makers, West-End booksellers, and other parasitic artisans might
have suffered slightly.


[_23 May '08_]

It has commonly been supposed that the publication of Flaubert's "Madame
Bovary" resulted, at first, in a loss to the author. I am sure that every
one will be extremely relieved to learn, from a letter recently printed in
_L'Intermédiaire_ (the French equivalent of _Notes and Queries)_, that the
supposition is incorrect. Here is a translation of part of the letter,
written by the celebrated publishers, Poulet-Malassis, to an author
unnamed. The whole letter is very interesting, and it would probably
reconcile the "authors" of the correspondence of Queen Victoria to the
sweating system by which they received the miserable sum of £5592 14s. 2d.
from Mr. John Murray for their Titanic labours.

October 23, 1857.

"I think, sir, that you are in error as to Messrs. Lévy's method of doing
business. Messrs. Lévy buy for 400 francs [£16] the right to publish a
book during four years. It was on these terms that they bought the stories
of Jules de la Madeleine, Flaubert's 'Madame Bovary,' etc. These facts are
within my knowledge. To take an example among translations, they bought
from Baudelaire, for 400 francs, the right to publish 6000 copies of his
Poé. We do not work in this way. We buy for 200 francs (£8) the right to
publish an edition of 1200 copies.... If the book succeeds, so much the
better for the author, who makes 200 francs out of every edition of 1200
copies. If M. Flaubert, whose book is in its third edition, had come to us
instead of to Messrs. Lévy, his book would already have brought him in
1000 francs (£40); during the four years that Messrs. Lévy will have the
rights of his book for a total payment of 400 francs, he might have made
two or three thousand francs with us.... Votre bien dévoué,


       *       *       *       *       *

We now know that Flaubert made £16 in four years out of "Madame Bovary,"
which went into three editions within considerably less than a year of
publication. And yet the house of Lévy is one of the most respectable and
grandiose in France. Moral: English authors ought to go down on their
knees and thank God that English publishers are not as other publishers.
At least, not always!


[_30 May '08_]

I have had great joy in Mr. Nowell Charles Smith's new and comprehensive
edition of Wordsworth, published by Methuen in three volumes as majestic
as Wordsworth himself at his most pontifical. The price is fifteen
shillings net, and having regard to the immense labour involved in such an
edition, it is very cheap. I would sooner pay fifteen shillings for a real
book like this than a guinea for the memoirs of any tin god that ever sat
up at nights to keep a diary; yea, even though the average collection of
memoirs will furnish material to light seven hundred pipes. We have lately
been much favoured with first-rate editions of poets. I mention Mr. de
Sélincourt's Keats, and Mr. George Sampson's amazing and
not-to-be-sufficiently-lauded Blake. Mr. Smith's work is worthy to stand
on the same shelf with these. A shining virtue of Mr. Smith's edition is
that it embodies the main results of the researches and excavations not
only of Professor Knight, but, more important, of the wonderful Mr.
Hutchinson, whose contributions to the _Academy_, in days of yore, were
the delight of Wordsworthians.

       *       *       *       *       *

Personally, I became a member of the order of Wordsworthians in the
historic year 1891, when Matthew Arnold's "Selections" were issued to the
public at the price of half a crown. I suppose that Matthew Arnold and Sir
Leslie Stephen were the two sanest Wordsworthians of us all. And Matthew
Arnold put Wordsworth above all modern poets except Dante, Shakespeare,
Goethe, Milton, and Molière. The test of a Wordsworthian is the ability to
read with pleasure every line that the poet wrote. I regret to say that,
strictly, Matthew Arnold was not a perfect Wordsworthian; he confessed,
with manly sincerity, that he could not read "Vaudracour and Julia" with
pleasure. This was a pity and Matthew Arnold's loss. For a strict
Wordsworthian, while utterly conserving his reverence for the most poetic
of poets, can discover a keen ecstasy in the perusal of the unconsciously
funny lines which Wordsworth was constantly perpetrating. And I would back
myself to win the first prize in any competition for Wordsworth's funniest
line with a quotation from "Vaudracour and Julia." My prize-line would
assuredly be:

    _Yea, his first word of greeting was,--_
        _"All right...._

It is true that the passage goes on:

    _Is gone from me...._

But that does not impair the magnificent funniness.

       *       *       *       *       *

From his tenderest years Wordsworth succeeded in combining the virtues of
Milton and of _Punch_ in a manner that no other poet has approached. Thus,
at the age of eighteen, he could write:

    _Now while the solemn evening shadows sail,_
    _On slowly-waving pinions, down the vale;_
    _And fronting the bright west, yon oak entwines_
    _Its darkening boughs...._

Which really is rather splendid for a boy. And he could immediately follow
that, speaking of a family of swans, with:

    _While tender cares and mild domestic loves_
    _With furtive watch pursue her as she moves,_
    _The female with a meeker charm succeeds...._

Wordsworth richly atoned for his unconscious farcicalness by a multitude
of single lines that, in their pregnant sublimity, attend the
Wordsworthian like a shadow throughout his life, warning him continually
when he is in danger of making a fool of himself. Thus, whenever through
mere idleness I begin to waste the irrecoverable moments of eternity, I
always think of that masterly phrase (from, I think, the "Prelude," but I
will not be sure):

    _Unprofitably travelling towards the grave._

This line is a most convenient and effective stone to throw at one's
languid friends. Finally let me hail Mr. Nowell Smith as a benefactor.


[_20 June '08_]

A bad publishing season is now drawing to a close, and in the air are
rumours of a crisis. Of course the fault is the author's. It goes without
saying that the fault is the author's. In the first place, he will insist
on producing mediocre novels. (For naturally the author is a novelist;
only novelists count when crises loom. Algernon Charles Swinburne, Edward
Carpenter, Robert Bridges, Lord Morley--these types have no relation to
crises.) It appears that the publishers have been losing money over the
six-shilling novel, and that they are not going to stand the loss any
longer. It is stated that never in history were novels so atrociously
mediocre as they are to-day. And in the second place, the author will
insist on employing an Unspeakable Rascal entitled a literary agent, and
the poor innocent lamb of a publisher is fleeced to the naked skin by this
scoundrel every time the two meet. Already I have heard that one
publisher, hitherto accustomed to the services of twenty gardeners at his
country house, has been obliged to reduce the horticultural staff to

Such is the publishers' explanation of the crisis. I shall keep my own
explanation till the crisis is a little more advanced and ready to burst.
In the meantime I should like to ask: How _do_ people manage to range over
the whole period of the novel's history and definitely decide that novels
were never so bad as they are now? I am personally inclined to think that
at no time has the average novel been so good as it is to-day. (This view,
by the way, is borne out by publishers' own advertisements, which abound
in the word "masterpiece" quoted from infallible critics of great
masterpieces!) Let any man who disagrees with me dare go to Mudie's and
get out a few forgotten novels of thirty years ago and try to read them!
Also, I am prepared to offer £50 for the name and address of a literary
agent who is capable of getting the better of a publisher. I am widely
acquainted with publishers and literary agents, and though I have often
met publishers who have got the better of literary agents, I have never
met a literary agent who has come out on top of a publisher. Such a
literary agent is badly wanted. I have been looking for him for years. I
know a number of authors who would join me in enriching that literary
agent. The publishers are always talking about him. I seldom go into a
publisher's office but that literary agent has just left (gorged with
illicit gold). It irritates me that I cannot run across him. If I were a
publisher, he would have been in prison ere now. Briefly, the manner in
which certain prominent publishers, even clever ones, talk about literary
agents is silly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Still, I am ready to believe that publishers have lost money over the
six-shilling novel. I am acquainted with the details of several instances
of such loss. And in every case the loss has been the result of gambling
on the part of the publisher. I do not hesitate to say that the terms
offered in late years by some publishers to some popular favourites have
been grotesquely inflated. Publishers compete among themselves, and then,
when the moment comes for paying the gambler's penalty, they complain of
having been swindled. Note that the losses of publishers are nearly always
on the works of the idols of the crowd. They want the idol's name as an
ornament to their lists, and they commit indiscretions in order to get it.
Fantastic terms are never offered to the solid, regular, industrious,
medium novelist. And it is a surety that fantastic terms are never
offered to the beginner. Ask, and learn.

       *       *       *       *       *

But though I admit that money has been lost, I do not think the losses
have been heavy. After all, no idolized author and no diabolic agent can
force a publisher to pay more than he really wants to pay. And no diabolic
agent, having once bitten a publisher, can persuade that publisher to hold
out his generous hand to be bitten again. These are truisms. Lastly, I am
quite sure that, out of books, a great deal more money has been made by
publishers than by authors, and that this will always be so. The
threatened crisis in publishing has nothing to do with the prices paid to
authors, which on the whole are now fairly just (very different from what
they were twenty years ago, when authors had to accept whatever was
condescendingly offered to them). And if a crisis does come, the people to
suffer will happily be those who can best afford to suffer.


[_11 July '08_]

The publishing season--the bad publishing season--is now practically over,
and publishers may go away for their holidays comforted by the fact that
they will not begin to lose money again till the autumn. It only remains
to be decided which is the novel of the season. Those interested in the
question may expect it to be decided at any moment, either in the _British
Weekly_ or the _Sphere_. I take up these journals with a thrill of
anticipation. For my part, I am determined only to decide which is not the
novel of the season. There are several novels which are not the novel of
the season. Perhaps the chief of them is Mr. E.C. Booth's "The Cliff End,"
which counts among sundry successes to the score of Mr. Grant Richards.
Everything has been done for it that reviewing can do, and it has sold,
and it is an ingenious and giggling work, but not the novel of the season.

The reviews of "The Cliff End," almost unanimously laudatory, show in a
bright light our national indifference to composition in art. Some
reviewers, while stating that the story itself was a poor one, insisted
that Mr. Booth is a born and accomplished story-teller. Story-tellers
born and accomplished do not tell poor stories. A poor story is the work
of a poor story-teller. And the story of "The Cliff End" is merely absurd.
It is worse, if possible, than the story of Mr. Maxwell's "Vivien," which
reviewers accepted. It would appear that with certain novels the story
doesn't matter! I really believe that composition, the foundation of all
arts, including the art of fiction, is utterly unconsidered in England. Or
if it is considered, it is painfully misunderstood. I remember how the
panjandrums condescendingly pointed out the bad construction of Mr. Joseph
Conrad's "Lord Jim," one of the most noble examples of fine composition in
modern literature, and but slightly disfigured by a detail of clumsy
machinery. In "The Cliff End" there is simply no composition that is not
clumsy and conventional. All that can be said of it is that you can't read
a page, up to about page 200, without grinning. (Unhappily Mr. Booth
overestimated his stock of grins, which ran out untimely.) The true art of
fiction, however, is not chiefly connected with grinning, or with weeping.
It consists, first and mainly, in a beautiful general composition. But in
Anglo-Saxon countries any writer who can induce both a grin and a tear on
the same page, no matter how insolent his contempt for composition, is
sure of that immortality which contemporaries can award.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another novel that is not the novel of the season is Mr. John Ayscough's
"Marotz," about which much has been said. I do not wish to labour this
point. "Marotz" is not the novel of the season. I trust that I make myself
plain. I shall not pronounce upon Mr. Masefield's "Captain Margaret,"
because, though it has been splashed all over by trowelfuls of slabby and
mortarish praise, it has real merits. Indeed, it has a chance of being the
novel of the season. Mr. Masefield is not yet grown up. He is always
trying to write "literature," and that is a great mistake. He should study
the wisdom of Paul Verlaine:

    _Prends l'éloquence et tords-lui son cou._

Take literature and wring its neck. I suppose that Mr. H. de Vere
Stacpoole's "The Blue Lagoon" is not likely to be selected as the novel of
the season. And yet, possibly, it will be the novel of the season after
all, though unchosen. I will not labour this point, either. Any one read
"The Blue Lagoon" yet? Some folk have read it, for it is in its sixth
edition. But when I say any one, I mean some one, not mere folk. It might
be worth looking into, "The Blue Lagoon." _Verbum sap._, often, to Messrs.
Robertson Nicoll and Shorter. In choosing "Confessio Medici" as the book
of the season in general literature, Dr. Nicoll [Now Sir William Robertson
Nicoll] has already come a fearful cropper, and he must regret it. I would
give much to prevent him from afflicting the intelligent when the solemn
annual moment arrives for him to make the reputation of a novelist.


[_18 July '08_]

I think I could read anything about German Colonial expansion. The subject
may not appear to be attractive; but it is. The reason lies in the fact
that one is always maliciously interested in the failures of pompous and
conceited persons. In the same way, one is conscious of disappointment
that the navy pother has not blossomed into a naked scandal. A naked
scandal would be a bad thing, and yet one feels cheated because it has not
occurred. At least I do. And I am rather human. I can glut myself on
German colonial expansion--a wondrous flower. I have just read with
genuine avidity M. Tonnelat's "L'Expansion allemande hors d'Europe"
(Armand Colin, 3 fr. 50). It is a very good book. Most of it does not deal
with colonial expansion, but with the growth and organization of Germania
in the United States and Brazil. There is some delicious psychology in
this part of the book. Hear the German Governor of Pennsylvania: "As for
me, I consider that if the influence of the German colonist had been
eliminated from Pennsylvania, Philadelphia would never have been anything
but an ordinary American town like Boston, New York, Baltimore, or
Chicago." M. Tonnelat gives a masterly and succinct account of the
relations between Germans and native races in Africa (particularly the
Hereros). It is farcical, disastrous, piquant, and grotesque. The
documentation is admirably done. What can you do but smile when you gather
from a table that for the murder of seven Germans by natives fifteen
capital punishments and one life-imprisonment were awarded; whereas, for
the murder of five natives (including a woman) by Germans, the total
punishment was six and a quarter years of prison. In 1906 the amazing
German Colonial Empire cost 180 millions of marks. A high price to pay for
a comic opera, even with real waterfalls! M. Tonnelat has combined
sobriety and exactitude with an exciting readableness.

The Book-Buyer

[_22 Aug. '08_]

In the month of August, when the book trade is supposed to be dead, but
which, nevertheless, sees the publication of novels by Joseph Conrad and
Marie Corelli (if Joseph Conrad is one Pole, Marie Corelli is surely the
other), I have had leisure to think upon the most curious of all the
problems that affect the author: Who buys books? Who really does buy
books? We grumble at the lack of enterprise shown by booksellers. We
inveigh against that vague and long-suffering body of tradesmen because in
the immortal Strand, where there are forty tobacconists, thirty-nine
restaurants, half a dozen theatres, seventeen necktie shops, one Short's,
and one thousand three hundred and fourteen tea cafés, there should be
only two establishments for the sale of new books. We are shocked that in
the whole of Regent Street it is impossible to buy a new book. We shudder
when, in crossing the virgin country of the suburbs, we travel for days
and never see a single bookshop. But whose fault is it that bookshops are
so few? Are booksellers people who have a conscientious objection to
selling books? Or is it that nobody wants to buy books?

Personally, I extract some sort of a living--a dog's existence--from the
sale of books with my name on the title-page. And I am acquainted with a
few other individuals who perform the same feat. I am also acquainted with
a large number of individuals who have no connexion with the manufacture
or distribution of literature. And when I reflect upon the habits of this
latter crowd, I am astonished that I or anybody else can succeed in paying
rent out of what comes to the author from the sale of books. I know
scarcely a soul, I have scarcely ever met a soul, who can be said to make
a habit of buying new books. I know a few souls who borrow books from
Mudie's and elsewhere, and I recognize that their subscriptions yield me a
trifle. But what a trifle! Do you know anybody who really buys new books?
Have you ever heard tell of such a being? Of course, there are Franklinish
and self-improving young men (and conceivably women) who buy cheap
editions of works which the world will not willingly let die: the Temple
Classics, Everyman's Library, the World's Classics, the Universal Library.
Such volumes are to be found in many refined and strenuous homes--oftener
unopened than opened--but still there! But does this estimable practice
aid the living author to send his children to school in decent clothes? He
whom I am anxious to meet is the man who will not willingly let die the
author who is not yet dead. No society for the prevention of the death of
corpses will help me to pay my butcher's bill.

       *       *       *       *       *

I know that people buy motor-cars, for the newspapers are full of the dust
of them. I know that they buy seats in railway carriages and theatres, and
meals at restaurants, and cravats of the new colour, and shares in
companies, for they talk about their purchases, and rise into ecstasies of
praise or blame concerning them. I want to learn about the people who buy
new books--modest band who never praise nor blame, nor get excited over
their acquisitions, preferring to keep silence, preferring to do good in
secret! Let an enterprising inventor put a new tyre on the market, and
every single purchaser will write to the Press and state that he has
bought it and exactly what he thinks about it. Yet, though the purchasers
of a fairly popular new book must be as numerous as the purchasers of a
new tyre, not one of them ever "lets on" that he has purchased. I want
some book-buyers to come forward and at any rate state that they have
bought a book, with some account of the adventure. I should then feel
partly reassured. I should know by demonstration that a book-buyer did
exist; whereas at present all I can do is to assume the existence of a
book-buyer whom I have never seen, and whom nobody has ever seen. It seems
to me that if a few book-buyers would kindly come forward and
confess--with proper statistics--the result would be a few columns quite
pleasant to read in the quietude of September.


[_19 Sep. '08_]

The _Athenæum_ is a serious journal, genuinely devoted to learning. The
mischief is that it will persist in talking about literature. I do not
wish to be accused of breaking a butterfly on a wheel, but the
_Athenæum's_ review of Mr. Joseph Conrad's new book, "A Set of Six," in
its four thousand two hundred and eighteenth issue, really calls for
protest. At that age the _Athenæum_ ought, at any rate, to know better
than to make itself ridiculous. It owes an apology to Mr. Conrad. Here we
have a Pole who has taken the trouble to come from the ends of the earth
to England, to learn to speak the English language, and to write it like a
genius; and he is received in this grotesque fashion by the leading
literary journal! Truly, the _Athenæum's_ review resembles nothing so much
as the antics of a provincial mayor round a foreign monarch sojourning in
his town.

       *       *       *       *       *

For, of course, the _Athenæum_ is obsequious. In common with every paper
in this country, it has learnt that the proper thing is to praise Mr.
Conrad's work. Not to appreciate Mr. Conrad's work at this time of day
would amount to bad form. There is a cliche in nearly every line of the
_Athenæum_'s discriminating notice. "Mr. Conrad is not the kind of author
whose work one is content to meet only in fugitive form," etc. "Those who
appreciate fine craftsmanship in fiction," etc. But there is worse than
clichés. For example: "It is too studiously chiselled and hammered-out for
that." (God alone knows for what.) Imagine the effect of studiously
chiselling a work and then hammering it out! Useful process! I wonder the
_Athenæum_ did not suggest that Mr. Conrad, having written a story, took
it to Brooklands to get it run over by a motor-car. Again: "His effects
are studiously wrought, _although_--such is his mastery of literary
art--they produce a swift and penetrating impression." Impossible not to
recall the weighty judgment of one of Stevenson's characters upon the
_Athenæum_: "Golly, what a paper!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Athenæum_ further says: "His is not at all the impressionistic
method." Probably the impressionistic method is merely any method that the
_Athenæum_ doesn't like. But one would ask: Has it ever read the opening
paragraph of "The Return," perhaps the most dazzling feat of impressionism
in modern English? The _Athenæum_ says also: "Upon the whole, we do not
think the short story represents Mr. Conrad's true _métier_" It may be
that Mr. Conrad's true _métier_ was, after all, that of an auctioneer;
but, after "Youth," "To-morrow," "Typhoon," "Karain," "The End of the
Tether," and half a dozen other mere masterpieces, he may congratulate
himself on having made a fairly successful hobby of the short story. The
most extraordinary of all the _Athenæum's_ remarks is this: "The one ship
story here, 'The Brute,' makes us regret that the author does not give us
more of the sea in his work." Well, considering that about two-thirds of
Mr. Conrad's work deals with the sea, considering that he has written
"Lord Jim," "The Nigger of the _Narcissus_" "Typhoon," "Nostromo," and
"The Mirror of the Sea," this regret shall be awarded the gold medal of
the silly season. If the _Athenæum_ were a silly paper, like the
_Academy_, I should have kept an august silence on this ineptitude. But
the _Athenæum_ has my respect. It ought to remember the responsibilities
of its position, and ought not to entrust an important work of letters to
some one whose most obvious characteristic is an exquisite and profound
incompetence for criticism. The explanation that occurs to me is that "A
Set of Six" and "Diana Mallory" got mixed on the _Athenæum's_ library
table, and that each was despatched to the critic chosen for the other.

       *       *       *       *       *

"A Set of Six" will not count among Mr. Conrad's major works. But in the
mere use of English it shows an advance upon all his previous books. In
some of his finest chapters there is scarcely a page without a phrase that
no Englishman would have written, and in nearly every one of his books
slight positive errors in the use of English are fairly common. In "A Set
of Six" I have detected no error and extremely few questionable terms. The
influence of his deep acquaintance with French is shown in the position of
the adverb in "I saw again somebody in the porch." It cannot be called bad
English, but it is queer. "Inasmuch that" could certainly be defended
(compare "in so much that"), but an Englishman would not, I think, have
written it. Nor would an Englishman be likely to write "that sort of

Mr. Conrad still maintains his preference for indirect narrative through
the mouths of persons who witnessed the events to be described. I dare say
that he would justify the device with great skill and convincingness. But
it undoubtedly gives an effect of clumsiness. The first story in the
volume, "Gaspar Ruiz," is a striking instance of complicated narrative
machinery. This peculiarity also detracts from the realistic authority of
the work. For by the time you have got to the end of "A Set of Six" you
have met a whole series of men who all talk just as well as Mr. Conrad
writes, and upon calm reflection the existence of a whole series of such
men must seem to you very improbable. The best pages in the book are those
devoted to the ironical contemplation of a young lady anarchist. They are


[_26 Sep. '08_]

The death of Professor Churton Collins appears to have been attended by
painful circumstances, and one may be permitted to regret the
disappearance from the literary arena of this vigorous pundit. He had an
agreeable face, with pendant hair and the chin of a fighter. His industry
must have been terrific, and personally I can forgive anything to him who
consistently and violently works. He had also acquired much learning.
Indeed, I should suppose that on the subject of literature he was the most
learned man in Britain. Unfortunately, he was quite bereft of original
taste. The root of the matter was not in him. The frowning structure of
his vast knowledge overawed many people, but it never overawed an
artist--unless the artist was excessively young and naïve. A man may heap
up facts and facts on a given topic, and assort and label them, and have
the trick of producing any particular fact at an instant's notice, and
yet, despite all his efforts and honest toil, rest hopelessly among the
profane. Churton Collins was such a man. He had no artistic feeling. Apart
from the display of learning, which is always pleasant to the man of
letters, his essays were arid and tedious. I never heard him lecture, but
should imagine that he was an ideal University Extension lecturer. I do
not mean this to be in the least complimentary to him as a critic. His
book, "Illustrations Tennyson," was an entirely sterile exercise proving
on every page that the author had no real perceptions about literature. It
simply made creative artists laugh. They knew. His more recent book on
modern tendencies displayed in an acute degree the characteristic
inability of the typical professor to toddle alone when released from the
leading-strings of tradition.

       *       *       *       *       *

I fear that most of our professors are in a similar fix. There is
Professor George Saintsbury, a regular Albert Memorial of learning. In my
pensive moments I have sometimes yearned to know as many facts about
literature as Professor Saintsbury knows, though he did once, I am told,
state that "Wuthering Heights" was written by Charlotte. (That must have
been a sadly shocking day for Mr. Clement Shorter!) I have found his
Liebig "History of French Literature" very useful; it has never failed to
inform me what I ought to think about the giants of the past. More
important, Professor Saintsbury's critical introductions to the whole
series of Dent's English edition of Balzac are startlingly just. Over and
over again he hits the nail on the head and spares his finger. I have
never understood by what magic he came to accomplish these prefaces. For
the root of the matter is no more in Professor Saintsbury than it was in
Churton Collins. He has not comprehended what he was talking about. The
proof--his style and his occasional pronouncements on questions as to
which he has been quite free to make up his mind all by himself!

       *       *       *       *       *

I remember one evening discussing the talents of a certain orchestral
conductor, who also played the violin. I was talking to a member of his
orchestra, a very genuine artist. We agreed that he had conducted badly;
but, I said in his defence, "Anyhow his intentions are good. You must
admit that he has a feeling for music." "My dear fellow," exclaimed the
bandsman pettishly, "no one who had any feeling for music could possibly
stand the d----d row that that chap makes on the fiddle." I was silenced.
I recall this episode in connexion with Professor Saintsbury. No one who
had any feeling for literature could possibly put down the ---- style that
Professor Saintsbury commits. His pen could not be brought to write it.
Professor Saintsbury may be as loudly positive as he likes--his style is
always quietly whispering: "Don't listen." As to his modern
judgments--well for their own sakes professors of literature ought to bind
themselves by oaths never to say anything about any author who was not
safely dead twenty years before they were born. Such an ordinance would at
any rate ensure their dignity.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet another example is Professor Walter Raleigh. Fifty per cent. of you
will leap up and say that I am being perverse. But I am not. It has been
demonstrated to me satisfactorily, by contact with Liverpool people, that
Professor Raleigh's personal influence at that university in certain ways
made for righteousness. Nevertheless, Professor Raleigh has himself
demonstrated to me that, wherever the root of the matter may be, it is not
in _him_. One must remember that he is young, and that his underived
opinions are therefore less likely to clash with the authoritative
opinions of living creative artists on their contemporaries and
predecessors than if he were of the same generation as the Collinses and
the Saintsburys. But wait a few years. Wait until something genuinely new
and original comes along and you will see what you will see. If he wished
not to ruin his reputation among artists, among people who really create
things, he ought not to have published his books on "Style" and on
"Shakespere." He ought to have burnt them. For they are as hollow as a
drum and as unoriginal as a bride-cake: nothing but vacuity with an icing
of phrases. I am brought back again to the anecdote of the musician. No
one who had the least glimmering of an individual vision of what style
truly is could possibly have tolerated the too fearfully ingenious mess of
words that Professor Raleigh courageously calls a book on "Style." The
whole thing is a flagrant contradiction of every notion of style. It may
not be generally known (and I do not state it as a truth) that Professor
Raleigh is a distant connexion of the celebrated family of Pains,
pyrotechnicians. I would begin to go to the Empire again if I could see on
the programme: "10.20. Professor Raleigh, in his unique prestidigitatory
performance with words." Yes, I would stroll once more into the hallowed
Promenade to see that. It would be amusing. But it would have no connexion
with literature.


[_3 Oct. '08_]

It was the commercial genius of Mr. Hall Caine that invented the idea of
publishing important novels during the "off" season. Miss Marie Corelli,
by a sure instinct, followed suit. And now all sorts of stars, from
genuine artists to mere successful artisans, take care to publish in the
off season. Thus within the last few weeks we have had novels from Eden
Phillpotts, Miss Beatrice Harraden, Anthony Hope, Mrs. Humphry Ward, and
Miss Marie Corelli. At this rate the autumn will soon become the slack
time; August will burn and throb with a six-shilling activity; publishers'
clerks will form a union; and the Rt. Hon. W.F.D. Smith, M.P., who has
always opposed an eight hours day, will bring in a Bill for an eight
months year.

       *       *       *       *       *

That a considerable social importance still attaches to the publication of
a novel by Mrs. Humphry Ward may be judged from the fact that the
_Manchester Guardian_ specially reviewed the book on its leader page. This
strange phenomenon deserves to be studied, because the _Manchester
Guardian_'s reviewing easily surpasses that of any other daily paper,
except, possibly, the _Times_ in its Literary Supplement. The _Guardian_
relies on mere, sheer intellectual power, and as a rule it does not
respect persons. Its theatrical critics, for example, take joy in speaking
the exact truth--never whispered in London--concerning the mandarins of
the stage. Now it is remarkable that the only strictly first-class morning
daily in these isles should have printed the _Guardian_'s review of "Diana
Mallory" (signed "B.S."); for the article respected persons. I do not
object to Mrs. Humphry Ward being reviewed with splendid prominence. I am
quite willing to concede that a new book from her constitutes the matter
of a piece of news, since it undoubtedly interests a large number of
respectable and correct persons. A novel by Miss Marie Corelli, however,
constitutes the matter of a greater piece of news; yet I have seen no
review of "Holy Orders," even in a corner, in the _Guardian_. Surely the
_Guardian_ was not prevented from dealing faithfully with "Holy Orders" by
the fact that it received no review copy, or by the fact that Miss Corelli
desired no review. Its news department in general is conducted without
reference to the desires of Miss Marie Corelli, and it does not usually
boggle at an expenditure of four-and-sixpence. Why, then, Mrs. Humphry
Ward being reviewed specially, is not Miss Marie Corelli reviewed
specially? If the answer be that Mrs. Humphry Ward's novels are better, as
literature, than Miss Corelli's, I submit that the answer is insufficient,
and lacking in Manchester sincerity.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let me duly respect Mrs. Humphry Ward. She knows her business. She is an
expert in narrative. She can dress up even the silliest incidents of
sentimental fiction--such as that in which the virgin heroine, in company
with a young man, misses the last train home (see "Helbeck of
Bannisdale")--in a costume of plausibility. She is a conscientious worker.
She does not make a spectacle of herself in illustrated interviews. Even
in agitating against votes for women she can maintain her dignity. (She
would be an ideal President of the Authors' Society.) But, then, similar
remarks apply, say, to Mr. W.E. Norris. Mr. W.E. Norris is as accomplished
an expert as Mrs. Humphry Ward. He is in possession of a much better
style. He has humour. He is much more true to life. He has never
compromised the dignity of his vocation. Nevertheless, the prospect of the
_Guardian_ reviewing Mr. W.E. Norris on its leader page is remote, for the
reason that though he pleases respectable and correct persons, he does not
please nearly so many respectable and correct persons as does Mrs. Humphry
Ward. If anybody has a right to the leader page of our unique daily, Mrs.
Humphry Ward is that body. My objection to the phenomenon is that the
_Guardian_ falsified its item of news. It deliberately gave the impression
that a serious work of art had appeared in "Diana Mallory." It ought to
have known better. It did know better. If our unique daily is to yield to
the snobbishness which ranks Mrs. Humphry Ward among genuine artists,
where among dailies are we to look for the shadow of a great rock?

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Humphry Ward's novels are praise-worthy as being sincerely and
skilfully done, but they are not works of art. They are possibly the best
stuff now being swallowed by the uneducated public; and they deal with the
governing classes; and when you have said that you have said all. Nothing
truly serious can happen in them. It is all make-believe. No real danger
of the truth about life!... I should think not, indeed! The fearful
quandary in which the editor of _Harper's_ found himself with "Jude the
Obscure" was a lesson to all Anglo-Saxon editors for ever more! Mrs.
Humphry Ward has never got nearer to life than, for instance, "Rita" has
got--nor so near! Gladstone, a thoroughly bad judge of literature, made
her reputation, and not on a post card, either! Gladstone had no sense of
humour--at any rate when he ventured into literature. Nor has Mrs. Humphry
Ward. If she had she would not concoct those excruciating heroines of
hers. She probably does not know that her heroines are capable of rousing
temperaments such as my own to ecstasies of homicidal fury. Moreover, in
literature all girls named Diana are insupportable. Look at Diana Vernon,
beloved of Mr. Andrew Lang, I believe! What a creature! Imagine living
with her! You can't! Look at Diana of the Crossways. Why did Diana of the
Crossways marry? Nobody can say--unless the answer is that she was a
ridiculous ninny. Would Anne Elliot have made such an inexplicable fool of
herself? Why does Diana Mallory "go to" her preposterous Radical ex-M.P.?
Simply because she is tiresomely absurd. Oh, those men with strong chins
and irreproachable wristbands! Oh, those cultured conversations! Oh, those
pure English maids! That skittishness! That impulsiveness! That noxious

       *       *       *       *       *

I have invented a destiny for Mrs. Humphry Ward's heroines. It is
terrible, and just. They ought to be caught, with their lawful male
protectors, in the siege of a great city by a foreign army. Their lawful
male protectors ought, before sallying forth on a forlorn hope, to provide
them with a revolver as a last refuge from a brutal and licentious
soldiery. And when things come to a crisis, in order to be concluded in
our next, the revolvers ought to prove to be unloaded. I admit that this
invention of mine is odious, and quite un-English, and such as would never
occur to a right-minded subscriber to Mudie's. But it illustrates the mood
caused in me by witnessing the antics of those harrowing dolls.


[_24 Oct. '08_]

I have been reading a new novel by Mr. W.W. Jacobs--"Salthaven" (Methuen,
6s.). It is a long time since I read a book of his. Ministries have fallen
since then, and probably Mr. Jacobs' prices have risen--indeed, much has
happened--but the talent of the author of "Many Cargoes" remains steadfast
where it did. "Salthaven" is a funny book. Captain Trimblett, to excuse
the lateness of a friend for tea, says to the landlady: "He saw a man
nearly run over!" and the landlady replies: "Yes, but how long would that
take him?" If you ask me whether I consider this humorous, I reply that I
do. I also consider humorous this conversational description of an
exemplary boy who took to "Sandford and Merton" "as a duck takes to
water": "By modelling his life on its teaching" (says young Vyner) "he won
a silver medal for never missing an attendance at school. Even the measles
failed to stop him. Day by day, a little more flushed than usual, perhaps,
he sat in his place until the whole school was down with it, and had to be
closed in consequence. Then and not till then did he feel that he had
saved the situation." I care nothing for the outrageous improbability of
any youthful son of a shipowner being able to talk in the brilliant
fashion in which Mr. Jacobs makes Vyner talk. Success excuses it.
"Salthaven" is bathed in humour.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the same time I am dissatisfied with "Salthaven." And I do not find it
easy to explain why. I suppose the real reason is that it discloses no
signs of any development whatever on the part of the author. Worse, it
discloses no signs of intellectual curiosity on the part of the author.
Mr. Jacobs seems to live apart from the movement of his age. Nothing,
except the particular type of humanity and environment in which he
specializes, seems to interest him. There is no hint of a general idea in
his work. By some of his fellow-artists he is immensely admired. I have
heard him called, seriously, the greatest humorist since Aristophanes. I
admire him myself, and I will not swear that he is not the greatest
humorist since Aristophanes. But I will swear that no genuine humorist
ever resembled Aristophanes less than Mr. Jacobs does. Aristophanes was
passionately interested in everything. He would leave nothing alone.
Whereas Mr. Jacobs will leave nearly everything alone. Kipling's general
ideas are excessively crude, but one does feel in reading him that his
curiosity is boundless, even though his taste in literature must
infallibly be bad. "Q" is not to be compared in creative power with either
of these two men, but one does feel in reading him that he is interested
in other manifestations of his own art, that he cares for literature.
Impossible to gather from Mr. Jacobs' work that he cares for anything
serious at all; impossible to differentiate his intellectual outlook from
that of an average reader of the _Strand Magazine_! I do not bring this as
a reproach against Mr. Jacobs, whose personality it would be difficult not
to esteem and to like. He cannot alter himself. I merely record the
phenomenon as worthy of notice.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Jacobs is not alone. Among our very successful novelists there are
many like him in what I will roundly term intellectual sluggishness,
though there is, perhaps, none with quite his talent. Have these men
entered into a secret compact not to touch a problem even with a pair of
tongs? Or are they afraid of being confused with Hall Caine, Mrs. Humphry
Ward, and Miss Marie Corelli, who anyhow have the merit of being
interested in the wide aspects of their age? I do not know. But I think we
might expect a little more general activity from some of our authors who
lie tranquil, steeped in success as lizards in sunshine. I speak
delicately, for I am on delicate ground. I do, however, speak as a
creative artist, and not as a critic. Occasionally my correspondents
upbraid me for not writing like a critic. I have never pretended to look
at things from any other standpoint than that of a creative artist.


[_24 Oct. '08_]

It is a long time since I read a new book by Mr. Kenneth Grahame, but the
fault is his rather than mine. I suppose that I was not the only reader
who opened "The Wind in the Willows" (Methuen, 6s.) with an unusual and
apprehensive curiosity. Would it disappoint? For really, you know, to live
up to "The Golden Age" and "Pagan Papers" could not be an easy task--and
after so many years of silence! It is ten years, if I mistake not, since
Mr. Kenneth Grahame put his name to anything more important than the
official correspondence of the Bank of England. Well, "The Wind in the
Willows" does not disappoint. Here, indeed, we have the work of a man who
is obviously interested in letters and in life, the work of a fastidious
and yet a very robust artist. But the book is fairly certain to be
misunderstood of the people. The publishers' own announcement describes it
as "perhaps chiefly for youth," a description with which I disagree. The
obtuse are capable of seeing in it nothing save a bread-and-butter
imitation of "The Jungle Book." The woodland and sedgy lore in it is
discreet and attractive. Names of animals abound in it. But it is
nevertheless a book of humanity. The author may call his chief characters
the Rat, the Mole, the Toad,--they are human beings, and they are meant to
be nothing but human beings. Were it otherwise, the spectacle of a toad
going through the motor-car craft would be merely incomprehensible and
exasperating. The superficial scheme of the story is so childishly naïve,
or so daringly naïve, that only a genius could have preserved it from the
ridiculous. The book is an urbane exercise in irony at the expense of the
English character and of mankind. It is entirely successful. Whatever may
happen to it in the esteem of mandarins and professors, it will beyond
doubt be considered by authentic experts as a work highly distinguished,
original, and amusing--and no more to be comprehended by youth than "The
Golden Age" was to be comprehended by youth.


[_29 Oct. '08_]

I obtained the new book of Anatole France, "L'Ile des Pingouins," the day
after publication, and my copy was marked "eighteenth edition." But in
French publishing the word "edition" may mean anything. There is a sort of
legend among the simple that it means five hundred copies. The better
informed, however, are aware that it often means less. Thus, in the case
of the later novels of Emile Zola, an edition meant two hundred copies.
This was chiefly to save the self-love of his publishers, who did not care
to admit that the idol of a capricious populace had fallen off its
pedestal. The vast fiction was created that Zola sold as well as ever! One
Paris firm, the "Société du Mercure de France," which in the domain of
pure letters has probably issued in the last dozen years more good books
than any other house in the world, has, with astounding courage, adopted
the practice of numbering every copy of a book. Thus my copy of its
"L'Esprit de Barbey d'Aurévilly" (an exceedingly diverting volume) is
numbered 1424. I prefer this to advertisements of "second large edition,"
etc. One knows where one is. But I fear the example of the Mercure de
France is not likely to be honestly imitated.

       *       *       *       *       *

If Anatole France's "editions" consist of five hundred copies I am glad.
For an immediate sale of nine thousand copies is fairly remarkable when
the article sold consists of nothing more solid than irony. But I am
inclined to think that they do not consist of five hundred copies. There
is less enthusiasm--that is to say, less genuine enthusiasm--for Anatole
France than there used to be. The majority, of course, could never
appreciate him, and would only buy him under the threat of being disdained
by the minority, whose sole weapon is scorn. And the minority has been
seriously thinking about Anatole France, and coming to the conclusion
that, though a genius, he is not the only genius that ever existed.
(Stendhal is at present the god of the minority of the race which the
_Westminister Gazette_ will persist in referring to as "our French
neighbours." In some circles it is now a lapse from taste to read anything
but Stendhal.) Anatole France's last two works of imagination did not
brilliantly impose themselves on the intellect of his country. "L'Histoire
Comique" showed once again his complete inability to construct a novel,
and it appeared to be irresponsibly extravagant in its sensuality. And
"Sur la Pierre Blanche" was inferior Wells. The minority has waited a long
time for something large, original, and arresting; and it has not had it.
The author was under no compulsion to write his history of Joan of Arc,
which bears little relation to his epoch, and which one is justified in
dismissing as the elegant pastime of a savant. If in Anatole France the
savant has not lately flourished to the detriment of the fighting
philosopher, why should he have spent years on the "Joan of Arc" at a
period when Jaurès urgently needed intellectual aid against the
doctrinarianism of the International Congress? Jaurès was beaten, and he
yielded, with the result that Clemenceau, a man far too intelligent not to
be a practical Socialist at heart, has become semi-reactionary for want of
support. This has not much to do with literature. Neither has the history
of Joan of Arc. To return to literature, it is indubitable that Anatole
France is slightly acquiring the reputation of a dilettante.

       *       *       *       *       *

In "L'Ile des Pingouins" he returns, in a parable, to his epoch. For this
book is the history of France "from the earliest time to the present
day," seen in the mirror of the writer's ironical temperament. It is very
good. It is inimitable. It is sheer genius. One cannot reasonably find
fault with its amazing finesse. But then one is so damnably
_un_reasonable! One had expected--one does not know what one had
expected--but anyhow something with a more soaring flight, something more
passionate, something a little less gently "tired" in its attitude towards
the criminal frailties of mankind! When an A.B. Walkley yawns in print
before the spectacle of the modern English theatre, it really doesn't
matter. But when an Anatole France grows wearily indulgent before the
spectacle of life, one is inclined to wake him by throwing "Leaves of
Grass" or "Ecce Homo" (Nietzsche's) at his head. For my part, I am ready
to hazard that what is wrong with Anatole France is just spiritual anæmia.
Yet only a little while, and he was as great a force for pushing forward
as H.G. Wells himself!


[_3 Dec. '08_]

The judgments of men who have the right to judge are not as other
judgments. According to Mr. Yeats "the finest comedian of his kind on the
English-speaking stage" is not Mr. George Alexander, but Mr. William Fay!
And who, outside Dublin, has ever heard of Mr. J.M. Synge, author of "The
Playboy of the Western World?" For myself, I have heard of him, and that
is all. Mr. Yeats calls him "a unique man," and puts him above all other
Irish creative artists in prose. And very probably Mr. Yeats is correct.
For the difference between what informed people truly think about
reputations, and what is printed about reputations by mandarins in popular
papers, is apt to be startling. The other day I had a terrific pow-wow
with one of the most accomplished writers now living; it occurred in the
middle of a wood. We presently arrived at this point: He asked
impatiently: "Well, who _is_ there who can write tip-top poetry to-day?" I
tried to dig out my genuine opinions. Really, it is not so easy to put
one's finger on a high-class poet. I gave the names of Robert Bridges and
W.B. Yeats. He wouldn't admit Mr. Yeats's tip-topness. "What about T.W.H.
Crosland?" he inquired. At first, with the immeasurable and vulgar tedium
of Mr. Crosland's popular books in my memory, I thought he was joking. But
he was not. He was convinced than an early book by the slanger of suburbs
contained as fine poetry as has been written in these days. I was formally
bound over to peruse the volume. "And Alfred Douglas?" he said further.
(Not that he had shares or interest in the _Academy_!) Of course, I had to
admit that Lord Alfred Douglas, before he began to cut capers in the
hinterland of Fleet Street, had been a poet. I have an early volume of his
that, to speak mildly, I cherish. I should surmise that scarcely one
person in a million has the least idea of the identity of the artists by
which the end of the twentieth century will remember the beginning. The
vital facts of to-day's literature always lie buried beneath chatter of
large editions and immense popularities. I wouldn't mind so much, were it
not incontestable that at the end of the century I shall be dead.


[_17 Dec. '08_]

The Mrs. Humphry Ward of France, M. René Bazin, has visited these shores,
and has been interviewed. In comparing him to Mrs. Humphry Ward, I am
unfair to the lady in one sense and too generous in another. M. Bazin
writes perhaps slightly better than Mrs. Humphry Ward, but not much. _Per
contra_, he is a finished master of the art of self-advertisement, whereas
the public demeanour of Mrs. Humphry Ward is entirely beyond reproach. M.
Bazin did not get through his interview without giving some precise
statistical information as to the vast sale of his novels. I suppose that
M. Bazin, Academician and apostle of literary correctitude, is just the
type of official mediocrity that the Alliance Française was fated to
invite to London as representative of French letters. My only objection to
the activities of M. Bazin is that, not content with a golden popularity,
he cannot refrain from sneering at genuine artists. Thus, to the
interviewer, he referred to Stéphane Mallarmé as a "fumiste." No English
word will render exactly this French slang; it may be roughly translated
a practical joker with a trace of fraud. There may be, and there are, two
opinions as to the permanent value of Mallarmé's work, but there cannot be
two informed and honest opinions as to his profound sincerity. It is
indubitable that he had one aim--to produce the finest literature of which
he was capable, and that to this aim he sacrificed everything else in his
career. A charming spectacle, this nuncio of mediocrity and of the
Académie Française coming to London to assert that a distinguished writer
like Mallarmé was a "fumiste"! If any one wishes to know what is thought
of Mallarmé by the younger French school, let him read the Mallarmé
chapter in André Gide's "Prétextes." In this very able book will be found
also some wonderful reminiscences of Oscar Wilde.

       *       *       *       *       *

Speaking of the respect which ought to be accorded to a distinguished
artist, there is an excellent example of propriety in Dr. Levin
Schücking's review of Swinburne's "The Age of Shakespeare," which brings
to a close the extraordinarily fine first number of the _English Review_.
Dr. Schücking shows that he is quite aware of the defects of manner which
mark the book, but his own manner is the summit of courteous deference
such as is due to one of the chief ornaments of English literature, and to
a very old man. "A Man of Kent" (_British Weekly_), in commenting on the
article, regrets its timidity, and refers to Swinburne as the "howling
dervish" of criticism. This is the kind of lapse from decorum which causes
the judicious not to grieve but to shrug their shoulders. Probably "A Man
of Kent" would wish to withdraw it. I trust he is aware that "The Age of
Shakespeare" is packed full of criticism whose insight and sensitiveness
no other English critic could equal.


[_24 Dec. '08_]

In a recent number of the _Athenæum_ appeared a letter from Mr. E.H.
Cooper, novelist and writer for children, protesting against the
publication of the Queen's Gift-Book and the royally commanded cheap
edition of "Queen Victoria's Letters" during the autumn season, and
requesting their Majesties to forbear next year from injuring the general
business of books as they have injured it this year. That some
semi-official importance is attached to Mr. Cooper's statements is obvious
from the fact that the _Athenæum_ (which is the organ of the trade as well
as of learning) thought well to print his letter. But Mr. Cooper
undoubtedly exaggerates. He states that the two books in question "have
ruined the present publishing season rather more effectively than a
Pan-European war could have done." Briefly, this is ridiculous. He says
further: "Men and women who could trust to a sale of 5000 or 6000 copies
of a novel, equally with authors who can command much larger sales, find
that this year the sale of their annual novel has reached a tenth part of
the usual figures." This also is ridiculous. The general view is that,
while the season has been scarcely up to the average for fiction, it has
not been below the average on the whole. But Mr. Cooper is nothing if not
sweeping. A few days later he wrote to the _Westminster Gazette_ about the
House of Lords, and said: "I am open to wager a considerable sum that if
the Government fights a general election next year they will win back all
their lost by-elections and get an increased majority besides." Such
rashness proves that grammar is not Mr. Cooper's only weak point.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is a pity that Mr. Cooper's protest was not made with more moderation,
for it was a protest worth making. The books of the two Queens have not
ruined the season, nor have they reduced the sales of popular novels by 90
per cent.; but they have upset trade quite unnecessarily. The issue of
"Queen Victoria's Letters" at six shillings was a worthy idea, but its
execution was thoughtlessly timed. The volumes would have sold almost
equally well at another period of the year. As for "Queen Alexandra's
Gift-Book," I personally have an objection to the sale of books for
charity, just as I have an objection to all indirect taxation and to the
paying of rates out of gas profits. In such enterprises as the vast,
frenzied pushing and booming of the "Gift-Book," the people who really pay
are just the people who get no credit whatever. The public who buy get
rich value for their outlay; the chief pushers and boomsters get an
advertisement after their own hearts; and the folk who genuinely but
unwillingly contribute, without any return of any kind, are authors whose
market is disturbed and booksellers who, partly intimidated and partly
from good nature, handle the favoured book on wholesale terms barely
profitable. I will have none of Mr. Cooper's 90 per cent.; but I dare say
that I have lost at the very least £10 owing to the "Gift-Book." That is
to say, I have furnished £10 to the Unemployed Fund. I share Mr. Cooper's
resentment. I do not want to give £10 to any fund whatever, and to force
me to pay it to the Unemployed Fund, of all funds, is to insult my most
sacred convictions. £10 wants earning. And the fact that £10 wants earning
should be brought to the attention of Windsor and Greeba Castles.

       *       *       *       *       *

Still, I am not depressed about the general cause of serious literature.
Serious literature is kept alive by a few authors who, not owning
motor-cars nor entertaining parties to dinner at the Carlton, find it
possible and agreeable to maintain life and decency on the money paid down
by very small bands of truly bookish readers. And these readers are not
likely to deprive themselves completely of literature for ever in order to
possess a collection of royal photographs. The injury to serious
literature is slight and purely temporary.

       *       *       *       *       *

[_31 Dec. '08_]

A melancholy Christmas, it seems! According to "a well-known member of the
trade," the business is once again--the second time this year--about to
crumble into ruins. This well-known member of the trade, who discreetly
refrains from signing his name, writes to the _Athenæum_ in answer to Mr.
E.H. Cooper's letter about the disastrous influence of royal books on the
publishing season. According to him, Mr. Cooper is all wrong. The end of
profitable publishing is being brought about, not by their Majesties, but
once more by the authors and their agents. It appears that too many books
are published. Authors and their agents have evidently some miraculous
method of forcing publishers to publish books which they do not want to
publish. I am not a member of the trade, but I should have thought that
few things could be easier than not to publish a book. Presumably the
agent stands over the publisher with a contract in one hand and a revolver
in the other, and, after a glance at the revolver, the publisher signs
without glancing at the contract. Secondly, it appears, authors and their
agents habitually compel the publisher to pay too much, so that he
habitually publishes at a loss. (Novels, that is.) I should love to know
how the trick is done, but "a well-known member of the trade" does not go
into details. He merely states the broad fact. Thirdly, the sevenpenny
reprint of the popular novel is ruining the already ruined six-shilling
novel. It is comforting to perceive that this wickedness on the part of
the sevenpenny reprint cannot indefinitely continue. For when there are no
six-shilling novels to reprint, obviously there can be no sevenpenny
reprints of them. There is justice in England yet; but a well-known member
of the trade has not noticed that the sevenpenny novel, in killing its own
father, must kill itself. At any rate he does not refer to the point.

I have been young, and now am nearly old. Silvered is the once brown
hair. Dim is the eye that on a time could decipher minion type by
moonlight. But never have I seen the publisher without a fur coat in
winter nor his seed begging bread. Nor do I expect to see such sights. Yet
I have seen an author begging bread, and instead of bread, I gave him a
railway ticket. Authors have always been in the wrong, and they always
will be: grasping, unscrupulous, mercenary creatures that they are! Some
of them haven't even the wit to keep their books from being burnt at the
stake by the executioners of the National Vigilance Association. I wonder
that publishers don't dispense with them altogether, and carry on unaided
the great tradition of English literature. Anyhow, publishers have had my
warm sympathy this Christmas-time. When I survey myself, as an example,
lapped in luxury and clinking multitudinous gold coins extorted from
publishers by my hypnotizing rascal of an agent; and when I think of the
publishers, endeavouring in their fur coats to keep warm in fireless rooms
and picking turkey limbs while filling up bankruptcy forms--I blush. Or I
should blush, were not authors notoriously incapable of that action.



[_7 Jan. '09_]

The people who live in the eye of the public have been asked, as usual, to
state what books during the past year have most interested them, and they
have stated. This year I think the lists are less funny than usual. But
some items give joy. Thus the Bishop of London has read Mr. A.E.W. Mason's
"The Broken Road" with interest and pleasure. Mr. Frederic Harrison, along
with two historical works, has read "Diana Mallory" with interest and
pleasure. What an unearthly light such confessions throw upon the
mentalities from which they emanate! As regards the Bishop of London I
should not have been surprised to hear that he had read "Holy Orders" with
interest and pleasure. But Mr. Frederic Harrison, one had naïvely
imagined, possessed some rudimentary knowledge of the art which he has

       *       *       *       *       *

This confessing malady is infectious, if not contagious. I suppose that
few persons can resist the microbe. I cannot. I feel compelled to announce
to all whom it may not concern the books of the year which (at the moment
of writing) seem to have most interested me--apart from my own, _bien
entendu_: H.G. Wells's "New Worlds for Old." If it is not in its fiftieth
thousand the intelligent masses ought to go into a month's sackcloth.
"Nature Poems," by William H. Davies. This slim volume is quite
indubitably wondrous. I won't say that it contains some of the most
lyrical lyrics in English, but I will say that there are lyrics in it as
good as have been produced by anybody at all in the present century. "A
Poor Man's House," by Stephen Reynolds. Young Mr. Reynolds has already
been fully accepted by the aforesaid intelligent masses, and I have no
doubt that he is tolerably well satisfied with 1908. Nietzsche's "Ecce
Homo." When this book gets translated into English (I have been reading it
in Henri Albert's French translation) it will assuredly be laughed at. I
would hazard that it is the most conceited book ever written. Take our
four leading actor-managers; extract from them all their conceit; multiply
that conceit by the self-satisfaction of Mr. F.E. Smith, M.P., when he has
made a joke; and raise the result to the Kaiser-power, and you will have
something less than the cube-root of Nietzsche's conceit in this the last
book he wrote. But it is a great book, full of great things.


[_14 Jan. '09_]

The death of that distinguished draughtsman and painter, Henry Ospovat,
who was among the few who can illustrate a serious author without
insulting him, ought not to pass unnoticed. Because an exhibition of his
caricatures made a considerable stir last year it was generally understood
that he was destined exclusively for caricature. But he was a man who
could do several things very well indeed, and caricature was only one of
these things. In Paris he would certainly have made a name and a fortune
as a caricaturist. They have more liberty there. Witness Rouveyre's
admirable and appalling sketch of Sarah Bernhardt in the current _Mercure
de France_. I never met Ospovat, but I was intimate with some of his
friends while he was at South Kensington. In those days I used to hear
"what Ospovat thought" about everything. He must have been listened to
with great respect by his fellow-students. And sometimes one of them would
come to me, with the air of doing me a favour (as indeed he was) and say:
"Look here. Do you want to buy something good, at simply no price at all?"
And I became the possessor of a beautiful sketch by Ospovat, while the
intermediary went off with a look on his face as if saying: "Consider
yourself lucky, my boy!" I used even to get Ospovat's opinions on my
books, now and then very severe. I wanted to meet him. But I never could.
The youths used to murmur: "Oh! It's no use you _meeting_ him." They were
afraid he was not spectacular enough. Or they desired to keep him to
themselves, like a precious pearl. I pictured him as very frail, and very
positive in a quiet way. He was only about thirty when he died last week.


[_21 Jan. '09_]

Although we know in our hearts that the French Academy is a foolish
institution, designed and kept up for the encouragement of mediocrity,
correct syntax, and the _status quo_, we still, also in our hearts, admire
it and watch its mutations with the respect which we always give to
foreign phenomena and usually withold from phenomena British. The last
elected member is M. Francis Charmes. His sole title to be an Academician
is that he directs _La Revue des Deux Mondes_, which pays good prices to
Academic contributors. And this is, of course, a very good title. Even his
official "welcomer," M. Henry Houssaye, did not assert that M. Charmes had
ever written anything more important or less mortal than leaders and
paragraphs in the _Journal des Débats_. M. Henry Houssaye was himself once
a journalist. But he thought better of that, and became a historian. He
has written one or two volumes which, without being unreadable, have
achieved immense popularity. Stevenson used to delve in them for matter
suitable to his romances. The French Academy now contains pretty nearly
everything except first-class literary artists. Anatole France is a
first-class literary artist and an Academician; but he makes a point of
never going near the Academy. Perhaps the best writer among "devout"
Academicians is Maurice Barrès. Unhappily his comic-opera politics prove
that in attempting Parnassus he mistook his mountain. Primrose Hill would
have been more in his line. Still, he wrote "Le Jardin de Bérénice": a
novel which I am afraid to read again lest I should fail to recapture the
first fine careless rapture it gave me.

       *       *       *       *       *

Personally, I think our British Academy is a far more brilliant affair
than the French. There is no nonsense about it. At least very little,
except Mr. Balfour. I believe, from inductive processes of thought, that
when Mr. Balfour gets into his room of a night he locks the door--and
smiles. Not the urbane smile that fascinates and undoes even Radical
journalists--quite another smile. Never could this private smile have been
more subtle than on the night of the day when he permitted himself to be
elected a member of the British Academy. Further, let it not be said that
our Academy excludes novelists and journalists. We novelists are ably
represented by Mr. Andrew Lang, author of "Prince Prigio" and part-author
of "The World's Desire." And we journalists have surely an adequate
spokesman in the person of the author of "Lost Leaders." Mr. Lang has also
dabbled in history.


[_28 Jan. '09_]

The great Edgar Allen Poe celebration has passed off, and no one has been
seriously hurt by the terrific display of fireworks. Some of the set
pieces were pretty fair; for example, Mr. G.B. Shaw's in the _Nation_ and
Prof. C.H. Herford's in the _Manchester Guardian_. On the whole, however,
the enthusiasm was too much in the nature of mere good form. If only we
could have a celebration of Omar Khayyám, Tennyson, Gilbert White, or the
inventor of Bridge, the difference between new and manufactured enthusiasm
would be apparent. We have spent several happy weeks in conceitedly
explaining to that barbaric race, the Americans, that in Poe they have
never appreciated their luck. Yet we ourselves have never understood Poe.
And we never shall understand Poe. It is immensely to our credit that,
owing to the admirable obstinacy of Mr. J.H. Ingram, we now admit that Poe
was neither a drunkard, a debauchee, nor a cynical eremite. This is about
as far as we shall get. Poe's philosophy of art, as discovered in his
essays and his creative work, is purely Latin and, as such,
incomprehensible and even naughty to the Saxon mind. To the average
bookish Englishman Poe means "The Pit and the Pendulum," and his finest
poetry means nothing at all. Tell that Englishman that Poe wrote more
beautiful lyrics than Tennyson, and he will blankly put you down as mad.
(So shall I.)

       *       *       *       *       *

Once, and not many years since, I contemplated editing a complete edition
of Poe, with a brilliant introduction in which I was to show that the
appearance of a temperament like his in the United States in the early
years of the nineteenth century was the most puzzling miracle that can be
found in the whole history of literature. Then, naturally, I intended to
explain the miracle. My plans were placed before a wise and good
publisher, whose reply was to indicate two very respectable complete
editions of Poe which had eminently failed with the public. Further
inquiries satisfied me that the public had no immediate use for anything
elaborate, final, and expensive concerning Poe. My bright desire therefore
paled and flickered out. Since then I have come to the conclusion that I
know practically nothing of the "secret of Poe," and that nobody else
knows much more.

It was inevitable that, apropos of Poe, our customary national nonsense
about the "art of the short story" should have recurred in a painful and
acute form. It is a platitude of "Literary Pages" that Anglo-Saxon writers
cannot possess themselves of the "art of the short story." The only reason
advanced has been that Guy du Maupassant wrote very good short stories,
and he was French! God be thanked! Last week we all admitted that Poe had
understood the "art of the short story." (His name had not occurred to us
before.) Henceforward our platitude will be that no Anglo-Saxon writer can
compass the "art of the short story" unless his name happens to be Poe.
Another platitude is that the short story is mysteriously somehow more
difficult than the long story--the novel. Whenever I meet that phrase,
"art of the short story," in the press I feel as if I had drunk mustard
and water. And I would like here to state that there are as good short
stories in English as in any language, and that the whole theory of the
unsuitability of English soil to that trifling plant the short story is
ridiculous. Nearly every novelist of the nineteenth century, from Scott to
Stevenson, wrote first-class short stories. There are now working in
England to-day at least six writers who can write, and have written,
better short stories than any living writer of their age in France. As for
the greater difficulty of the short story, ask any novelist who has
succeeded equally well in both. Ask Thomas Hardy, ask George Meredith, ask
Joseph Conrad, ask H.G. Wells, ask Murray Gilchrist, ask George Moore, ask
Eden Phillpotts, ask "Q," ask Henry James. Lo! I say to all facile
gabblers about the "art of the short story," as the late "C.-B." said to
Mr. Balfour: "Enough of this foolery!" It is of a piece with the notion
that a fine sonnet is more difficult than a fine epic.


[_4 Feb. '09_]

As a novelist, a creative artist working in the only literary "form" which
widely appeals to the public, I sometimes wonder curiously what the public
is. Not often, because it is bad for the artist to think often about the
public. I have never by inquiry from those experts my publishers learnt
anything useful or precise about the public. I hear the words "the
public," "the public," uttered in awe or in disdain, and this is all. The
only conclusion which can be drawn from what I am told is that the public
is the public. Still, it appears that my chief purchasers are the
circulating libraries. It appears that without the patronage of the
circulating libraries I should either have to live on sixpence a day or
starve. Hence, when my morbid curiosity is upon me, I stroll into Mudie's
or the _Times_ Book Club, or I hover round Smith's bookstall at Charing

       *       *       *       *       *

The crowd at these places is the prosperous crowd, the crowd which
grumbles at income-tax and pays it. Three hundred and seventy-five
thousand persons paid income-tax last year, under protest: they stand for
the existence of perhaps a million souls, and this million is a handful
floating more or less easily on the surface of the forty millions of the
population. The great majority of my readers must be somewhere in this
million. There can be few hirers of books who neither pay income-tax nor
live on terms of dependent equality with those who pay it. I see at the
counters people on whose foreheads it is written that they know themselves
to be the salt of the earth. Their assured, curt voices, their proud
carriage, their clothes, the similarity of their manners, all show that
they belong to a caste and that the caste has been successful in the
struggle for life. It is called the middle-class, but it ought to be
called the upper-class, for nearly everything is below it. I go to the
Stores, to Harrod's Stores, to Barker's, to Rumpelmeyer's, to the Royal
Academy, and to a dozen clubs in Albemarle Street and Dover Street, and I
see again just the same crowd, well-fed, well-dressed, completely free
from the cares which beset at least five-sixths of the English race. They
have worries; they take taxis because they must not indulge in motor-cars,
hansoms because taxis are an extravagance, and omnibuses because they
really must economize. But they never look twice at twopence. They curse
the injustice of fate, but secretly they are aware of their luck. When
they have nothing to do, they say, in effect: "Let's go out and spend
something." And they go out. They spend their lives in spending. They
deliberately gaze into shop windows in order to discover an outlet for
their money. You can catch them at it any day.

       *       *       *       *       *

I do not belong to this class by birth. Artists very seldom do. I was born
slightly beneath it. But by the help of God and strict attention to
business I have gained the right of entrance into it. I admit that I have
imitated its deportment, with certain modifications of my own; I think its
deportment is in many respects worthy of imitation. I am acquainted with
members of it; some are artists like myself; a few others win my sympathy
by honestly admiring my work; and the rest I like because I like them. But
the philosopher in me cannot, though he has tried, melt away my profound
and instinctive hostility to this class. Instead of decreasing, my
hostility grows. I say to myself: "I can never be content until this class
walks along the street in a different manner, until that now absurd
legend has been worn clean off its forehead." Henry Harland was not a
great writer, but he said: _Il faut souffrir pour être sel._ I ask myself
impatiently: "When is this salt going to begin to suffer?" That is my
attitude towards the class. I frequent it but little. Nevertheless I know
it intimately, nearly all the intimacy being on my side. For I have
watched it during long, agreeable, sardonic months and years in foreign
hotels. In foreign hotels you get the essence of it, if not the cream.

       *       *       *       *       *

Chief among its characteristics--after its sincere religious worship of
money and financial success--I should put its intense self-consciousness
as a class. The world is a steamer in which it is travelling saloon.
Occasionally it goes to look over from the promenade deck at the steerage.
Its feelings towards the steerage are kindly. But the tone in which it
says "the steerage" cuts the steerage off from it more effectually than
many bulkheads. You perceive also from that tone that it could never be
surprised by anything that the steerage might do. Curious social
phenomenon, the steerage! In the saloon there runs a code, the only
possible code, the final code; and it is observed. If it is not observed,
the infraction causes pain, distress. Another marked characteristic is its
gigantic temperamental dullness, unresponsiveness to external suggestion,
a lack of humour--in short, a heavy and half-honest stupidity: ultimate
product of gross prosperity, too much exercise, too much sleep. Then I
notice a grim passion for the _status quo_. This is natural. Let these
people exclaim as they will against the structure of society, the last
thing they desire is to alter it. This passion shows itself in a naïve
admiration for everything that has survived its original usefulness, such
as sail-drill and uniforms. Its mirror of true manhood remains that
excellent and appalling figure, the Brushwood Boy. The passion for the
_status quo_ also shows itself in a general defensive, sullen hatred of
all ideas whatever. You cannot argue with these people. "Do you really
think so?" they will politely murmur, when you have asserted your belief
that the earth is round, or something like that. And their tone says:
"Would you mind very much if we leave this painful subject? My feelings on
it are too deep for utterance." Lastly, I am impressed by their attitude
towards the artist, which is mediæval, or perhaps Roman. Blind to nearly
every form of beauty, they scorn art, and scorning art they scorn artists.
It was this class which, at inaugurations of public edifices, invented the
terrible toast-formula, "The architect _and contractor_." And if epics
were inaugurated by banquet, this class would certainly propose the health
of the poet and printer, after the King and the publishers. Only sheer
ennui sometimes drives it to seek distraction in the artist's work. It
prefers the novelist among artists because the novel gives the longest
surcease from ennui at the least expenditure of money and effort.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is inevitable that I shall be accused of exaggeration, cynicism, or
prejudice: probably all three. Whenever one tells the truth in this island
of compromise, one is sure to be charged on these counts, and to be found
guilty. But I too am of the sporting race, and forty years have taught me
that telling the truth is the most dangerous and most glorious of all
forms of sport. Alpine climbing in winter is nothing to it. I like it. I
will only add that I have been speaking of the solid _bloc_ of the caste;
I admit the existence of a broad fringe of exceptions. And I truly
sympathize with the _bloc_. I do not blame the _bloc_. I know that the
members of the _bloc_ are, like me, the result of evolutionary forces now
spent. My hostility to the _bloc_ is beyond my control, an evolutionary
force gathering way. Upon my soul, I love the _bloc_. But when I sit among
it, clothed in correctness, and reflect that the _bloc_ maintains me and
mine in a sort of comfort, because I divert its leisure, the humour of the
situation seems to me enormous.

       *       *       *       *       *

[_11 Feb '09_]

I continue my notes on the great, stolid, comfortable class which forms
the backbone of the novel-reading public. The best novelists do not find
their material in this class. Thomas Hardy never. H.G. Wells, almost
never; now and then he glances at it ironically, in an episodic manner.
Hale White (Mark Rutherford), never. Rudyard Kipling, rarely; when he
touches it, the reason is usually because it happens to embrace the
military caste, and the result is usually such mawkish stories as "William
the Conqueror" and "The Brushwood Boy." J.M. Barrie, never. W.W. Jacobs,
never. Murray Gilchrist, never. Joseph Conrad, never. Leonard Merrick,
very slightly. George Moore, in a "Drama in Muslin," wrote a masterpiece
about it twenty years ago; "Vain Fortune" is also good; but for a long
time it had ceased to interest the artist in him, and his very finest work
ignores it. George Meredith was writing greatly about it thirty years ago.
Henry James, with the chill detachment of an outlander, fingers the
artistic and cosmopolitan fringe of it. In a rank lower than these we have
William de Morgan and John Galsworthy. The former does not seem to be
inspired by it. As for John Galsworthy, the quality in him which may
possibly vitiate his right to be considered a major artist is precisely
his fierce animosity to this class. Major artists are seldom so cruelly
hostile to anything whatever as John Galsworthy is to this class. He does
in fiction what John Sargent does in paint; and their inimical observation
of their subjects will gravely prejudice both of them in the eyes of
posterity. I think I have mentioned all the novelists who have impressed
themselves at once on the public and genuinely on the handful of persons
whose taste is severe and sure. There may be, there are, other novelists
alive whose work will end by satisfying the tests of the handful. Whether
any of these others deal mainly with the superior stolid comfortable, I
cannot certainly say; but I think not. I am ready to assert that in quite
modern English fiction there exists no large and impartial picture of the
superior stolid comfortable which could give pleasure to a reader of
taste. Rather hard on the class that alone has made novel-writing a
profession in which a man can earn a reasonable livelihood!

       *       *       *       *       *

The explanation of this state of affairs is obscure. True, that
distinguished artists are very seldom born into the class. But such an
explanation would be extremely inadequate. Artists often move creatively
with ease far beyond the boundaries of their native class. Thomas Hardy is
not a peasant, nor was Stendhal a marquis. I could not, with any sort of
confidence, offer an explanation. I am, however, convinced that only a
supreme artist could now handle successfully the material presented by the
class in question. The material itself lacks interest, lacks essential
vitality, lacks both moral and spectacular beauty. It powerfully repels
the searcher after beauty and energy. It may be in a decay. One cannot
easily recall a great work of art of which the subject is decadence.

The backbone of the novel-reading public is excessively difficult to
please, and rarely capable of enthusiasm. Listen to Mudie subscribers on
the topic of fiction, and you will scarcely ever hear the accent of
unmixed pleasure. It is surprising how even favourites are maltreated in
conversation. Some of the most successful favourites seem to be hated, and
to be read under protest. The general form of approval is a doubtful
"Ye-es!" with a whole tail of unspoken "buts" lying behind it.
Occasionally you catch the ecstatic note, "Oh! _Yes_; a _sweet_ book!" Or,
with masculine curtness: "Fine book, that!" (For example, "The Hill," by
Horace Annesley Vachell!) It is in the light of such infrequent
exclamations that you may judge the tepid reluctance of other praise. The
reason of all this is twofold; partly in the book, and partly in the
reader. The backbone dislikes the raising of any question which it deems
to have been decided: a peculiarity which at once puts it in opposition to
all fine work, and to nearly all passable second-rate work. It also
dislikes being confronted with anything that it considers "unpleasant,"
that is to say, interesting. It has a genuine horror of the truth neat. It
quite honestly asks "to be taken out of itself," unaware that to be taken
out of itself is the very last thing it really desires. What it wants is
to be confirmed in itself. Its religion is the _status quo_. The
difficulties of the enterprise of not offending it either in subject or
treatment are, perhaps, already sufficiently apparent. But incomparably
the greatest obstacle to pleasing it lies in the positive fact that it
prefers not to be pleased. It undoubtedly objects to the very sensations
which an artist aims to give. If I have heard once, I have heard fifty
times resentful remarks similar to: "I'm not going to read any more bosh
by _him_! Why, I simply couldn't put the thing down!" It is profoundly
hostile to art, and the empire of art. It will not willingly yield. Its
attitude to the magic spell is its attitude to the dentist's gas-bag. This
is the most singular trait that I have discovered in the backbone.

       *       *       *       *       *

Why, then, does the backbone put itself to the trouble of reading current
fiction? The answer is that it does so, not with any artistic, spiritual,
moral, or informative purpose, but simply in order to pass time. Lately,
one hears, it has been neglecting fiction in favour of books of memoirs,
often scandalous, and historical compilations, for the most part
scandalous sexually. That it should tire of the fiction offered to it is
not surprising, seeing that it so seldom gets the fiction of its dreams.
The supply of good, workmanlike fiction is much larger to-day than ever it
was in the past. The same is to be said of the supply of genuinely
distinguished fiction. But the supply of fiction which really appeals to
the backbone of the fiction-reading public is far below the demand. The
backbone grumbles, but it continues to hire the offensive stuff, because
it cannot obtain sufficient of the inoffensive--and time hangs so heavy!
The caprice for grape-nut history and memoirs cannot endure, for it is
partially a pose. Besides, the material will run short. After all,
Napoleon only had a hundred and three mistresses, and we are already at
Mademoiselle Georges. The backbone, always loyal to its old beliefs, will
return to fiction with a new gusto, and the cycle of events will

       *       *       *       *       *

But it is well for novelists to remember that, in the present phase of
society and mechanical conditions of the literary market their
professional existence depends on the fact that the dullest class in
England takes to novels merely as a refuge from its own dullness. And
while it is certain that no novelist of real value really pleases that
class, it is equally certain that without its support (willing or
unwilling--usually the latter) no novelist could live by his pen. Remove
the superior stolid comfortable, and the circulating libraries would
expire. And exactly when the circulating libraries breathed their last
sigh the publishers of fiction would sympathetically give up the ghost. If
you happen to be a literary artist, it makes you think--the reflection
that when you dine you eat the bread unwillingly furnished by the enemies
of art and of progress!


[_18 Feb. '09_]

I want to dig a little deeper through the strata of the public. Below the
actual fiction-reading public which I have described there is a much
vaster potential public. It exists in London, and it exists also in the
provinces. I will describe it as I have found it in the industrial
midlands and north. Should the picture seem black, let me say that my
picture of a similar public in London would be even blacker. In all
essential qualities I consider the lower middle-class which regards, say,
Manchester as its centre, to be superior to the lower middle-class which
regards Charing Cross as its centre.

       *       *       *       *       *

All around Manchester there are groups of municipalities which lie so
close to one another that each group makes one town. Take a medium group
comprising a quarter of a million inhabitants, with units ranging from
sixty down to sixteen thousand. I am not going to darken my picture with a
background of the manual workers, the immense majority of whom never read
anything that costs more than a penny--unless it be "Gale's Special." I
will deal only with the comparatively enlightened crust--employers,
clerks, officials, and professional men, and their families--which has
formed on the top of the mass, with an average income of possibly two
hundred per annum per family. This crust is the élite of the group. It
represents its highest culture, and in bulk it is the "lower middle-class"
of Tory journalism. In London some of the glitter of the class above it is
rubbed on to it by contact. One is apt to think that because there are
bookshops in the Strand and large circulating libraries in Oxford Street,
and these thoroughfares are thronged with the lower middle-class,
therefore the lower middle-class buys or hires books. In my industrial
group the institutions and machinery perfected by the upper class for
itself do not exist at all, and one may watch the lower without danger of
being led to false conclusions by the accidental propinquity of phenomena
that have really nothing whatever to do with it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now in my group of a quarter of a million souls there is not a single shop
devoted wholly or principally to the sale of books. Not one. You might
discover a shop specializing in elephants or radium; but a real bookshop
does not exist. In a town of forty thousand inhabitants there will be a
couple of stationers, whose chief pride is that they are "steam printers"
or lithographers. Enter their shops, and you will see a few books.
Tennyson in gilt. Volumes of the Temple Classics or Everyman. Hymn-books,
Bibles. The latest cheap Shakespeare. Of new books no example except the
brothers Hocking. The stationer will tell you that there is no demand for
books; but that he can procure anything you specially want by return of
post. He will also tell you that on the whole he makes no profit out of
books; what trifle he captures on his meagre sales he loses on books
unsold. He may inform you that his rival has entirely ceased to stock
books of any sort, and that he alone stands for letters in the midst of
forty thousand people. In a town of sixty thousand there will be a
largeish stationer's with a small separate book department. Contents
similar to the other shop, with a fair selection of cheap reprints, and
half a dozen of the most notorious new novels, such as novels by Marie
Corelli, Max Pemberton, Mrs. Humphry Ward. That is all. Both the shops
described will have two or three regular book-buying clients, not more
than ten in a total of a hundred thousand. These ten are book-lovers.
They follow the book lists. They buy to the limit of their purses. And in
the cult of literature they keep themselves quite apart from the society
of the town, despising it. The town is simply aware that they are "great

       *       *       *       *       *

Another agency for the radiation of light in the average town first
mentioned is the Municipal Free Library. The yearly sum spent on it is
entirely inadequate to keep it up to date. A fraction of its activity is
beneficial, as much to the artisan as to members of the crust. But the
chief result of the penny-in-the-pound rate is to supply women old and
young with outmoded, viciously respectable, viciously sentimental fiction.
A few new novels get into the Library every year. They must, however, be
"innocuous," that is to say, devoid of original ideas. This, of course, is
inevitable in an institution presided over by a committee which has
infinitely less personal interest in books than in politics or the price
of coal. No Municipal Library can hope to be nearer than twenty-five years
to date. Go into the average good home of the crust, in the quietude of
"after-tea," and you will see a youthful miss sitting over something by
Charlotte M. Yonge or Charles Kingsley. And that something is repulsively
foul, greasy, sticky, black. Remember that it reaches from thirty to a
hundred such good homes every year. Can you wonder that it should carry
deposits of jam, egg, butter, coffee, and personal dirt? You cannot. But
you are entitled to wonder why the Municipal Sanitary Inspector does not
inspect it and order it to be destroyed.... That youthful miss in
torpidity over that palimpsest of filth is what the Free Library has to
show as the justification of its existence. I know what I am talking

       *       *       *       *       *

A third agency is the book-pedlar. There are firms of publishers who never
advertise in any literary weekly or any daily, who never publish anything
new, and who may possibly be unknown to Simpkins themselves. They issue
badly printed, badly bound, showy editions of the eternal Scott and the
eternal Dickens, in many glittering volumes with scores of bleared
illustrations, and they will sell them up and down the provinces by means
of respectably dressed "commission agents," at prices much in excess of
their value, to an ingenuous, ignorant public that has never heard of
Dent and Routledge. The books are found in houses where the sole function
of literature is to flatter the eye. The ability of these subterranean
firms to dispose of deplorable editions to persons who do not want them is
in itself a sharp criticism of the commercial organization of the more
respectable trade.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let it not be supposed that my group is utterly cut off from the newest
developments in imaginative prose literature. No! What the bookseller, the
book-pedlar, and the Free Library have failed to do, has been accomplished
by Mr. Jesse Boot, incidentally benefactor of the British provinces and
the brain of a large firm of chemists and druggists with branches in
scores, hundreds, of towns. He has several branches in my group. Each
branch has a circulating library, patronized by the class which has only
heard of Mudie, and has not heard of the Grosvenor. Mr. Jesse Boot has had
the singular and beautiful idea of advertising his wares by lending books
to customers and non-customers at a loss of ten thousand a year. His
system is simplicity and it is cheapness. He is generous. If you desire a
book which he has not got in stock he will buy it and lend it to you for
twopence. Thus in the towns of my group the effulgent centre of culture is
the chemist's shop. The sole point of contact with living literature is
the chemist's shop. A wonderful world, this England! Two things have
principally struck me about Mr. Jesse Boot's [Now Sir Jesse Boot] clients.
One is that they are usually women, and the other is that they hire their
books at haphazard, nearly in the dark, with no previous knowledge of what
is good and what is bad.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is to be added that the tremendous supply of sevenpenny bound volumes
of modern fiction, and of shilling bound volumes of modern belles-lettres
(issued by Nelsons and others), is producing a demand in my group, is, in
fact, making book-buyers where previously there were no book-buyers. These
tomes now rival the works of the brothers Hocking in the stationer's shop.
Their standard is decidedly above the average, owing largely to the fact
that the guide-in-chief of Messrs. Nelsons happens to be a genuine man of
letters. I am told that Messrs. Nelsons alone sell twenty thousand volumes
a week. Yet even they have but scratched the crust. The crust is still
only the raw material of a new book public.

       *       *       *       *       *

If it is cultivated and manufactured with skill it will surpass
immeasurably in quantity, and quite appreciably in quality, the actual
book public. One may say that the inception of the process has been
passably good. One is inclined to prophesy that within a moderately short
period--say a dozen years--the centre of gravity of the book market will
be rudely shifted. But the event is not yet.


[_4 Mar. '09_]

Wells! I have heard that significant monosyllable pronounced in various
European countries, and with various bizarre accents. And always there was
admiration, passionate or astonished, in the tone. But the occasion of its
utterance which remains historic in my mind was in England. I was, indeed,
in Frank Richardson's Bayswater. "Wells?" exclaimed a smart, positive
little woman--one of those creatures that have settled every question once
and for all beyond reopening, "Wells? No! I draw the line at Wells. He
stirs up the dregs. I don't mind the froth, but dregs I--will--not have!"
And silence reigned as we stared at the reputation of Wells lying dead on
the carpet. When, with the thrill of emotion that a great work
communicates, I finished reading "Tono-Bungay," I thought of the smart
little woman in the Bayswater drawing-room. I was filled with a holy joy
because Wells had stirred up the dregs again, and more violently than
ever. I rapturously reflected, "How angry this will make them!" "Them"
being the whole innumerable tribe of persons, inane or chumpish (this
adjective I give to the world), who don't mind froth but won't have dregs.
Human nature--you get it pretty complete in "Tono-Bungay," the entire
tableau! If you don't like the spectacle of man whole, if you are afraid
of humanity, if humanity isn't good enough for you, then you had better
look out for squalls in the perusal of "Tono-Bungay." For me, human nature
is good enough. I love to bathe deep in it. And of "Tono-Bungay" I will
say, with solemn heartiness: "By God! This is a book!"

       *       *       *       *       *

You will have heard that it is the history of a patent medicine--the
nostrum of the title. But the rise and fall of Tono-Bungay and its
inventor make only a small part of the book. It is rather the history of
the collision of the soul of George Ponderevo (narrator, and nephew of the
medicine-man) with his epoch. It is the arraignment of a whole epoch at
the bar of the conscience of a man who is intellectually honest and
powerfully intellectual. George Ponderevo transgresses most of the current
codes, but he also shatters them. The entire system of sanctions tumbles
down with a clatter like the fall of a corrugated iron church. I do not
know what is left standing, unless it be George Ponderevo. I would not
call him a lovable, but he is an admirable, man. He is too ruthless, rude,
and bitter to be anything but solitary. His harshness is his fault, his
one real fault; and his harshness also marks the point where his attitude
towards his environment becomes unscientific. The savagery of his
description of the family of Frapp, the little Nonconformist baker, and of
the tea-drinkers in the housekeeper's room at Bladesover, somewhat impairs
even the astounding force of this, George's first and only novel--not
because he exaggerates the offensiveness of the phenomena, but because he
unscientifically fails to perceive that these people are just as deserving
of compassion as he is himself. He seems to think that, in their deafness
to the call of the noble in life, these people are guilty of a crime;
whereas they are only guilty of a misfortune. The one other slip that
George Ponderevo has made is a slight yielding to the temptation of
caricature, out of place in a realistic book. Thus he names a half-penny
paper, "The Daily Decorator," and a journalistic peer, "Lord Boom." Yet
the few lines in which he hints at the tactics and the psychology of his
Lord Boom are masterly. So much for the narrator, whose "I" writes the
book. I assume that Wells purposely left these matters uncorrected, as
being essential to the completeness of George's self-revelation.

       *       *       *       *       *

I do not think that any novelist ever more audaciously tried, or failed
with more honour, to render in the limits of one book the enormous and
confusing complexity of a nation's racial existence. The measure of
success attained is marvellous. Complete success was, of course,
impossible. But, in the terrific rout, Ponderevo never touches a problem
save to grip it firmly. He leaves nothing alone, and everything is
handled--handled! His fine detachment, and his sublime common sense, never
desert him in the hour when he judges. Naturally his chief weapon in the
collision is just common sense; it is at the impact of mere common sense
that the current system crumbles. It is simply unanswerable common sense
which will infuriate those who do not like the book. When common sense
rises to the lyric, as it does in the latter half of the tale, you have
something formidable. Here Wells has united the daily verifiable actualism
of novels like "Love and Mr. Lewisham" and "Kipps," with the large manner
of the paramount synthetic scenes in (what general usage compels me to
term) his "scientific romances." In the scientific romance he achieved, by
means of parables (I employ the word roughly) a criticism of tendencies
and institutions which is on the plane of epic poetry. For example, the
criticism of specialization in "The First Men in the Moon," the mighty
ridicule of the institution of sovereignty in "When the Sleeper Wakes,"
and the exquisite blighting of human narrow-mindedness in "The Country of
the Blind"--this last one of the radiant gems of contemporary literature,
and printed in the _Strand Magazine_! In "Tono-Bungay" he has achieved the
same feat, magnified by ten--or a hundred, without the aid of symbolic
artifice. I have used the word "epic," and I insist on it. There are
passages toward the close of the book which may fitly be compared with the
lyrical freedoms of no matter what epic, and which display an
unsurpassable dexterity of hand. Such is the scene in which George
deflects his flying-machine so as to avoid Beatrice and her horse by
sweeping over them. A new thrill, there, in the sexual vibrations! One
thinks of it afterwards. And yet such flashes are lost when one
contemplates the steady shining of the whole. "Tono-Bungay," to my mind,
marks the junction of the two paths which the variety of Wells's gift has
enabled him to follow simultaneously, and, at the same time, it is his
most distinguished and most powerful book.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have spoken of the angry and the infuriated. Fury can be hot or cold. Of
the cold variety is Claudius Clear's in the _British Weekly_. "Extremely
clever," says Claudius Clear. "There is, however, no sign of any new
power." But, by way of further praise: "The episodes are carefully
selected and put together with skill, and there are few really dull
passages." This about the man of whom Maeterlinck has written that he has
"the most complete and the most logical imagination of the age." (I think
Claudius Clear may have been under the impression that he was reviewing a
two-hundred-and-fifty-guinea prize novel, selected by Messrs. Lang and
Shorter.) Further, "He writes always from the point of a B.Sc." But the
most humorous part of the criticism is this. After stating that Ponderevo
acknowledges himself to be a liar, a swindler, a thief, an adulterer, and
a murderer, Claudius Clear then proceeds: "He is not in the least ashamed
of these things. He explains them away with the utmost facility, and we
find him at the age of forty-five, _not unhappy, and successfully engaged
in problems of aerial navigation_" (my italics). Oh! candid simplicity of
soul! Wells, why did you not bring down the wrath of God, or at least make
the adulterer fail in the problems of flight? In quoting a description of
the Frapps, Claudius Clear says: "I must earnestly apologize for
extracting the following passage." Why? As Claudius Clear gets into his
third column his fury turns from cold to hot: "It is impossible for me in
these columns to reproduce or to describe the amorous episodes in
'Tono-Bungay.' I cannot copy and I cannot summarize the loathsome tale of
George Ponderevo's engagement and marriage and divorce. Nor can I speak of
his intrigue with a typist, and of the orgy of lust described at the close
of the book...." Now, there is not a line in the book that could not be
printed in the _British Weekly_. There is not a line which fails in that
sober decency which is indispensable to the dignity of a masterpiece. As
for George's engagement and marriage, it is precisely typical of legions
such in England and Scotland. As for the intrigue with a typist, has
Claudius Clear never heard of an intrigue with a typist before? In
faithfully and decently describing an intrigue with a typist, has one
necessarily written a "Justine"? And why "orgy of lust"? Orgy of
fiddlestick--if I am not being irreverent! The most correct honeymoon is
an orgy of lust; and if it isn't, it ought to be. But some temperaments
find a strange joy in using the word "lust." See the infuriating
disquisition on "Mrs. Grundy" in "Tono-Bungay." The odd thing is, having
regard to the thunders of Claudius Clear, that George Ponderevo is
decidedly more chaste than nine men out of ten, and than ninety-nine
married men out of every hundred. And the book emanates an austerity and a
self-control which are quite conspicuous at the present stage of fiction,
and which one would in vain search for amid the veiled concupiscence of at
least one author whom Claudius Clear has praised, and, I think, never
blamed--at least on that score. I leave him to guess the author.


[Sidenote:_18 Mar. '09_]

One of the most noteworthy of recent publications in the way of fiction is
Anton Tchehkoff's "The Kiss and Other Stories," translated by Mr. R.E.C.
Long and published by Duckworth (6s.). A similar volume, "The Black Monk"
(same translator and publisher), was issued some years ago. Tchehkoff
lived and made a tremendous name in Russia, and died, and England recked
not. He has been translated into French, and I believe that there exists a
complete edition of his works in German; but these two volumes are all
that we have in English. The thanks of the lettered are due to Mr. Long
and to his publisher. Tchehkoff's stories are really remarkable. If any
one of authority stated that they rank him with the fixed stars of Russian
fiction--Dostoievsky, Tourgeniev, Gogol, and Tolstoy--I should not be
ready to contradict. To read them, after even the finest stories of de
Maupassant or Murray Gilchrist, is like having a bath after a ball. Their
effect is extraordinarily one of ingenuousness. Of course they are not in
the least ingenuous, as a fact, but self-conscious and elaborate to the
highest degree. The progress of every art is an apparent progress from
conventionality to realism. The basis of convention remains, but as the
art develops it finds more and more subtle methods fitting life to the
convention or the convention to life--whichever you please. Tchehkoff's
tales mark a definite new conquest in this long struggle. As you read him
you fancy that he must always have been saying to himself: "Life is good
enough for me. I won't alter it. I will set it down as it is." Such is the
tribute to his success which he forces from you.

       *       *       *       *       *

He seems to have achieved absolute realism. (But there is no absolute, and
one day somebody--probably a Russian--will carry realism further.) His
climaxes are never strained; nothing is ever idealized, sentimentalized,
etherealized; no part of the truth is left out, no part is exaggerated.
There is no cleverness, no startling feat of virtuosity. All appears
simple, candid, almost childlike. I could imagine the editor of a popular
magazine returning a story of Tchehkoff's with the friendly criticism that
it showed promise, and that when he had acquired more skill in hitting the
reader exactly between the eyes a deal might be possible. Tchehkoff never
hits you between the eyes. But he will, nevertheless, leave you on the
flat of your back. Beneath the outward simplicity of his work is concealed
the most wondrous artifice, the artifice that is embedded deep in nearly
all great art. All we English novelists ought to study "The Kiss" and "The
Black Monk." They will delight every person of fine taste, but to the
artist they are a profound lesson. We have no writer, and we have never
had one, nor has France, who could mould the material of life, without
distorting it, into such complex forms to such an end of beauty. Read
these books, and you will genuinely know something about Russia; you will
be drenched in the vast melancholy, savage and wistful, of Russian life;
and you will have seen beauty. No tale in "The Kiss" is quite as
marvellous as either the first or the last tale in "The Black Monk,"
perhaps; but both volumes are indispensable to one's full education. I do
not exaggerate. I must add that on a reader whose taste is neither highly
developed nor capable of high development, the effect of the stories will
be similar to their effect on the magazine editor.


[_1 Apr. '09_]

It is a great pleasure to see that Mr. George Bourne's "Memoirs of a
Surrey Labourer" (Duckworth) has, after two years, reached the distinction
of a cheap edition at half a crown. I shall be surprised if this book does
not continue to sell for about a hundred years. And yet, also, I am
surprised that a cheap edition should have come so soon. The "Memoirs"
were very well received on their original publication in 1907; some of the
reviews were indeed remarkable in the frankness with which they accepted
the work as a masterpiece of portraiture and of sociological observation.
But the book had no boom such as Mr. John Lane recently contrived for
another very good and not dissimilar book, Mr. Stephen Reynolds's "A Poor
Man's House." Mr. Stephen Reynolds was more chattered about by literary
London in two months than Mr. George Bourne has been in the eight years
which have passed since he published his first book about Frederick
Bettesworth, the Surrey labourer in question. Mr. Bourne will owe his
popularity in 2009 to the intrinsic excellence of his work, but he owes
his popularity in 1909 to the dogged and talkative enthusiasm of a few
experts in the press and in the world, and of his publishers. There have
been a handful of persons who were determined to make this exceedingly
fine book sell, or perish themselves in the attempt; and it has sold. But
not with the help of mandarins. It is not in the least the kind of book to
catch the roving eye of a mandarin. It is too proud, too austere, too
true, and too tonically cruel to appeal to mandarins. It abounds not at
all in quotable passages. Its subtitle is: "A Record of the Last Year of
Frederick Bettesworth." The mandarins who happened to see it no doubt
turned to seek the death scene at the close, with thoughts of how quotably
Ian Maclaren would have described the death of the old labourer, worn out
by honest and ill-paid toil, surrounded by his beloved fields, and so
forth and so forth. And Mr. George Bourne's description of his hero's
death would no doubt put them right off. I give it in full: "July 25
(Thursday).--Bettesworth died this evening at six o'clock." Oh, Colonel
Newcome, sugared tears, golden gates, glimmering panes, passings, pilots,
harbour bars--had Mr. George Bourne never heard of you?

[_1 Apr '09_]

I should like to assume that all enlightened and curious readers have
already perused this book and its forerunner, "The Bettesworth Book"
(Lamley and Co.), of which a cheap edition is soon to be had. But my
irritating mania for stopping facts in the street and gazing at them makes
it impossible for me to assume any such thing. I am perfectly certain that
to about 70 per cent. of you the name of George Bourne means naught. I
therefore need not apologize for offering the information that these books
are books. They set forth the psychology and the everything else of the
backbone, foundation, and original stock of the English race. They deal
with England. Naturally, the sacred name of England will call up in your
mind visions of the Carlton Club, Blenheim, Regent Street, Tubes,
Selfridge's, theatre stalls, the crowd at Lord's, and the brilliant
writers of the _New Age_. And these phenomena are a part of England; but I
tell you that they are all only the froth on the surface of Bettesworth
the labourer. If you regard this as a cryptic saying, read the two books,
and you will see light.


[Sidenote:_22 Apr. '09_]

On Good Friday night I was out in the High Street, at the cross-roads,
where the warp and the woof of the traffic assault each other under a
great glare of lamps. The shops were closed and black, except where a
tobacconist kept the tobacconist's bright and everlasting vigil; but above
the shops occasional rare windows were illuminated, giving
hints--dressing-tables, pictures, gas-globes--of intimate private lives. I
don't know why such hints should always seem to me pathetic, saddening;
but they do. And beneath them, through the dark defile of shutters,
motor-omnibuses roared and swayed and curved, too big for the street, and
dwarfing it. And automobiles threaded between them, and bicycles dared the
spaces that were left. From afar off there came a flying light, like a
shot out of a gun, and it grew into a man perched on a shuddering
contrivance that might have been invented by H.G. Wells, and swept
perilously into the contending currents, and by miracles emerged
untouched, and was gone, driven by the desire of the immortal soul within
the man. This strange thing happened again and again. The pavements were
crowded with hurrying or loitering souls, and the omnibuses and autos were
full of them: hundreds passed before the vision every moment. And they
were all preoccupied; they nearly all bore the weary, egotistic melancholy
that spreads like an infection at the close of a fête day in London; the
lights of a motor-omnibus would show the rapt faces of sixteen souls at
once in their glass cage, driving the vehicle on by their desires. The
policeman and the loafers in the ring of fire made by the public-houses at
the cross-roads--even these were grave with the universal affliction of
life, and grim with the relentless universal egotism. Lovers walked as
though there were no heaven and no earth, but only themselves in space.
Nobody but me seemed to guess that the road to Delhi could be as naught to
this road, with its dark, fleeing shapes, its shifting beams, its black
brick precipices, and its thousand pale, flitting faces of a gloomy and
decadent race. As says the Indian proverb, I met ten thousand men on the
Putney High Street, and they were all my brothers. But I alone was aware
of it. As I stood watching autobus after autobus swing round in a fearful
semi-circle to begin a new journey, I gazed myself into a mystic
comprehension of the significance of what I saw. A few yards beyond where
the autobuses turned was a certain house with lighted upper windows, and
in that house the greatest lyric versifier that England ever had, and one
of the great poets of the whole world and of all the ages, was dying: a
name immortal. But nobody looked; nobody seemed to care; I doubt if any
one thought of it. This enormous negligence appeared to me to be fine, to
be magnificently human.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next day all the shops were open, and hundreds of fatigued assistants
were pouring out their exhaustless patience on thousands of urgent and
bright women; and flags waved on high, and the gutters were banked with
yellow and white flowers, and the air was brisk and the roadways were
clean. The very vital spirit of energy seemed to have scattered the breath
of life generously, so that all were intoxicated by it in the gay
sunshine. He was dead then. The waving posters said it. When Tennyson died
I felt less hurt; for I had serious charges to bring against Tennyson,
which impaired my affection for him. But I was more shocked. When Tennyson
died, everybody knew it, and imaginatively realized it. Everybody was
touched. I was saddened then as much by the contagion of a general grief
as by a sorrow of my own. But there was no general grief on Saturday.
Swinburne had written for fifty years, and never once moved the nation,
save inimically, when "Poems and Ballads" came near to being burnt
publicly by the hangman. (By "the nation," I mean newspaper readers. The
real nation, busy with the problem of eating, dying, and being born all in
one room, has never heard of either Tennyson or Swinburne or George R.
Sims.) There are poems of Tennyson, of Wordsworth, even of the speciously
recondite Browning, that have entered into the general consciousness. But
nothing of Swinburne's! Swinburne had no moral ideas to impart. Swinburne
never publicly yearned to meet his Pilot face to face. He never galloped
on one of Lord George Sanger's horses from Aix to Ghent. He was interested
only in ideal manifestations of beauty and force. Except when he grieved
the judicious by the expression of political crudities, he never connected
art with any form of morals that the British public could understand. He
sang. He sang supremely. And it wasn't enough for the British public. The
consequence was that his fame spread out as far as under-graduates, and
the tiny mob of under-graduates was the largest mob that ever worried
itself about Swinburne. Their shouts showed the high-water mark of his
popularity. When one of them wrote in a facetious ecstasy over "Dolores,"

    _But you came, O you procuratores_
         _And ran us all in!_

that moment was the crown of Swinburne's career as a popular author. With
its incomparable finger on the public pulse the _Daily Mail_, on the day
when it announced Swinburne's death, devoted one of its placards to the
performances of a lady and a dog on a wrecked liner, and another to the
antics of a lunatic with a revolver. The _Daily Mail_ knew what it was
about. Do not imagine that I am trying to be sardonic about the English
race and its organs. Not at all. The English race is all right, though
ageing now. The English race has committed no crime in demanding from its
poets something that Swinburne could not give. I am merely trying to make
clear the exceeding strangeness of the apparition of a poet like Swinburne
in a place like England.

Last year I was walking down Putney Hill, and I saw Swinburne for the
first and last time. I could see nothing but his face and head. I did not
notice those ridiculously short trousers that Putney people invariably
mention when mentioning Swinburne. Never have I seen a man's life more
clearly written in his eyes and mouth and forehead. The face of a man who
had lived with fine, austere, passionate thoughts of his own! By the
heavens, it was a noble sight. I have not seen a nobler. Now, I knew by
hearsay every crease in his trousers, but nobody had told me that his face
was a vision that would never fade from my memory. And nobody, I found
afterwards by inquiry, had "noticed anything particular" about his face. I
don't mind, either for Swinburne or for Putney. I reflect that if Putney
ignored Swinburne, he ignored Putney. And I reflect that there is great
stuff in Putney for a poet, and marvel that Swinburne never perceived it
and used it. He must have been born English, and in the nineteenth
century, by accident. He was misprized while living. That is nothing. What
does annoy me is that critics who know better are pandering to the
national hypocrisy after his death. In a dozen columns he has been sped
into the unknown as "a great Victorian"! Miserable dishonesty! Nobody was
ever less Victorian than Swinburne. And then when these critics have to
skate over the "Poems and Ballads" episode--thin, cracking ice!--how they
repeat delicately the word "sensuous," "sensuous." Out with it, tailorish
and craven minds, and say "sensual"! For sensual the book is. It is fine
in sensuality, and no talking will ever get you away from that. Villiers
de l'Isle-Adam once wrote an essay on "Le Sadisme anglais," and supported
it with a translation of a large part of "Anactoria." And even Paris was
startled. A rare trick for a supreme genius to play on the country of his
birth, enshrining in the topmost heights of its literature a lovely poem
that cannot be discussed!... Well, Swinburne has got the better of us
there. He has simply knocked to pieces the theory that great art is
inseparable from the Ten Commandments. His greatest poem was written in
honour of a poet whom any English Vigilance Society would have crucified.
"Sane" critics will naturally observe, in their quiet manner, that
"Anactoria" and similar feats were "so unnecessary." Would it were true!


[_29 Apr. '09_]

Some time ago a meeting (henceforward historic) took place between Mr.
Longman, Mr. Macmillan, Mr. Reginald Smith, Mr. Methuen, and Mr.
Hutchinson [All baronets or knights now, except Reginald Smith, who is
dead] of the one part, and Mr. Bernard Shaw, Mr. Maurice Hewlett, and Mr.
Anthony Hope of the other part. Mr. Longman was the host, and the
encounter must have been touching. I would have given a complete set of
the works of Mrs. Humphry Ward to have been invisibly present. The
publishers had invited the authors (who represented the Authors' Society),
with the object of dissuading them from allowing their books to be
reprinted at the price of sevenpence. Naturally, the publishers, as
always, were actuated by a pure desire for the welfare of authors. Messrs
Shaw, Hewlett, and Hope have written an official account of their
impressions of the great sevenpenny question, and it appears in the
current number of the _Author_. It is amusing. The most amusing aspect of
the whole affair is the mere fact that one solitary Scotch firm, Nelsons,
have forced the mandarins, nay, the arch-mandarins, of the trade to cry
out that the shoe is pinching. For the supreme convention of life on the
mandarinic plane is that the shoe never pinches. The publishers made one
very true statement to the authors, namely, that sevenpenny editions give
the public the impression that 6s. is an excessive price for a novel.
Well, it is. But is that a reason for abolishing the sevenpenny? The other
statements of the publishers were chiefly absurd. For instance, this: "Any
author allowing a novel to be sold at sevenpence will find the sales of
his next book at 6s. suffering a considerable decrease." Well, it is
notorious that if the sevenpenny publishers are publishing one particular
book just now, that book is "Kipps." It is equally notorious that the
sales of "Tono-Bungay" are, and continue to be, extremely satisfactory.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the other hand, the remarks of the sevenpenny publishers themselves are
not undiverting. I have heard from dozens of people in the trade that
Messrs. Nelson could not possibly make the sevenpenny reprint pay. I have
never believed the statement. But the Shaw and Co. report makes Messrs.
Nelson give as one reason for not abandoning the sevenpenny enterprise
the fact that "the machinery already in existence is too costly to be
abandoned." Which involves the novel maxim that a loss may be too big to
be cut! Were their amazing factory ten times as large as it actually is,
Messrs. Nelson would have to put it to other uses in face of a regular
loss on their sevenpennies. However, there is no doubt in my mind that the
enterprise is, and will be, remunerative. The Shaw and Co. report is of
the same view. Did the mandarins imagine that they were going to stop the
sevenpenny, that anything could stop it? I suppose they did! More
agreeably comic than the attitude and arguments of the publishers are the
attitude and arguments of the booksellers. But the largest firms, Smith
and Son and Wymans, "do not find that the sevenpenny has interfered with
the 6s. novel." Be it noted that Smith and Son are now the largest buyers
of 6s. novels in England.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the Shaw and Co. report, in the arguments of publishers, in the
arguments booksellers, not a word about the interests of the consumer! Yet
the consumer will settle the affair ultimately. That the price of new
novels will come down is absolutely certain. It will come down because it
is ridiculous, and no mandarinic efforts can keep it up. In the process of
readjustment many people will temporarily suffer, and a few people will be
annihilated. But things are what they are, and the consequences of them
will be what they will be. Why, therefore, should we deceive ourselves? I
quite expect to suffer myself. I shall not, however, complain of the
cosmic movement. The auctorial report (which, by the way, is full of
common sense) envisages immense changes in the book market. I agree. And I
am sure that these changes will come about in the teeth of violent
opposition from both publishers and booksellers. The book market is
growing steadily. It is enormous compared to what used to be. And yet it
is only in its infancy. The inhabitants of this country have scarcely even
begun to buy books. Wait a few years and you will see!


[_27 May '09_]

The death of George Meredith removes, not the last of the Victorian
novelists, but the first of the modern school. He was almost the first
English novelist whose work reflected an intelligent interest in the art
which he practised; and he was certainly the first since Scott who was
really a literary man. Even Scott was more of an antiquary than a man of
letters--apart from his work. Can one think of Dickens as a man of
letters, as one who cared for books, as one whose notions on literature
were worth twopence? And Thackeray's opinions on contemporary and
preceding writers condemn him past hope of forgiveness. Thackeray was in
Paris during the most productive years of French fiction, the sublime
decade of Balzac, Stendhal, and Victor Hugo. And his "Paris Sketch-Book"
proves that his attitude towards the marvels by which he was surrounded
was the attitude of a clubman. These men wrote; they got through their
writing as quickly as they could; and during the rest of the day they were
clubmen, or hosts, or guests. Trollope, who dashed off his literary work
with a watch in front of him before 8.30 of a morning, who hunted three
days a week, dined out enormously, and gave his best hours to fighting
Rowland Hill in the Post Office--Trollope merely carried to its logical
conclusion the principle of his mightier rivals. What was the matter with
all of them, after a holy fear of their publics, was simple ignorance.
George Eliot was not ignorant. Her mind was more distinguished than the
minds of the great three. But she was too preoccupied by moral questions
to be a first-class creative artist. And she was a woman. A woman, at that
epoch, dared not write an entirely honest novel! Nor a man either! Between
Fielding and Meredith no entirely honest novel was written by anybody in
England. The fear of the public, the lust of popularity, feminine prudery,
sentimentalism, Victorian niceness--one or other of these things prevented

       *       *       *       *       *

In "Richard Feverel," what a loosening of the bonds! What a renaissance!
Nobody since Fielding would have ventured to write the Star and Garter
chapter in "Richard Feverel." It was the announcer of a sort of dawn. But
there are fearful faults in "Richard Feverel." The book is sicklied o'er
with the pale cast of the excellent Charlotte M. Yonge. The large
constructional lines of it are bad. The separation of Lucy and Richard is
never explained, and cannot be explained. The whole business of Sir Julius
is grotesque. And the conclusion is quite arbitrary. It is a weak book,
full of episodic power and overloaded with wit. "Diana of the Crossways"
is even worse. I am still awaiting from some ardent Meredithian an
explanation of Diana's marriage that does not insult my intelligence. Nor
is "One of our Conquerors" very good. I read it again recently, and was
sad. In my view, "The Egoist" and "Rhoda Fleming" are the best of the
novels, and I don't know that I prefer one to the other. The latter ought
to have been called "Dahlia Fleming," and not "Rhoda." When one thinks of
the rich colour, the variety, the breadth, the constant intellectual
distinction, the sheer brilliant power of novels such as these, one
perceives that a "great Victorian" could only have succeeded in an age
when all the arts were at their lowest ebb in England, and the most
middling of the middle-classes ruled with the Bible in one hand and the
Riot Act in the other.

Meredith was an uncompromising Radical, and--what is singular--he
remained so in his old age. He called Mr. Joseph Chamberlain's nose
"adventurous" at a time when Mr. Joseph Chamberlain's nose had the
ineffable majesty of the Queen of Spain's leg. And the _Pall Mall_
haughtily rebuked him. A spectacle for history! He said aloud in a
ballroom that Guy de Maupassant was the greatest novelist that ever lived.
To think so was not strange; but to say it aloud! No wonder this
temperament had to wait for recognition. Well, Meredith has never had
proper recognition; and won't have yet. To be appreciated by a handful of
writers, gushed over by a little crowd of thoughtful young women, and kept
on a shelf uncut by ten thousand persons determined to be in the
movement--that is not appreciation. He has not even been appreciated as
much as Thomas Hardy, though he is a less fine novelist. I do not assert
that he is a less fine writer. For his poems are as superior to the verses
of Thomas Hardy as "The Mayor of Casterbridge" is superior to "The
Egoist." (Never in English prose literature was such a seer of beauty as
Thomas Hardy.) The volume of Meredith's verse is small, but there are
things in it that one would like to have written. And it is all so fine,
so acute, so alert, courageous, and immoderate.

       *       *       *       *       *

A member of the firm which has the honour of publishing Meredith's novels
was interviewed by the _Daily Mail_ on the day after his death. The
gentleman interviewed gave vent to the usual insolence about our own
times. "He belonged," said the gentleman, "to a very different age from
the _modern_ writer--an age before the literary agent; and with Mr.
Meredith the feeling of intimacy as between author and publisher--the
feeling that gave to publishing as it was its charm--was always existent."
Charm--yes, for the publisher. The secret history of the publishing of
Meredith's earlier books (long before Constables had ever dreamed of
publishing him) is more than curious. I have heard some details of it. My
only wonder is that human ingenuity did not invent literary agents forty
years ago. Then the person interviewed went grandly on: "In his manner of
writing the great novelist was very different from the _modern_ fashion.
He wrote with such care that judged by _modern_ standards he would be
considered a trifle slow." Tut-tut! It may interest the gentleman
interviewed to learn that no modern writer would dare to produce work at
the rate at which Scott, Dickens, Trollope, and Thackeray produced it when
their prices were at their highest. The rate of production has most
decidedly declined, and upon the whole novels are written with more care
now than ever they were. I should doubt if any novel was written at
greater speed than the greatest realistic novel in the world, Richardson's
"Clarissa," which is eight or ten times the length of an average novel by
Mrs. Humphry Ward. "Mademoiselle de Maupin" was done in six weeks. Scott's
careless dash is notorious. And both Dickens and Thackeray were in such a
hurry that they would often begin to print before they had finished
writing. Publishers who pride themselves on the old charming personal
relations with great authors ought not to be so ignorant of literary
history as the gentleman who unpacked his heart to a sympathetic _Daily


[_1 July '09_]

I was discussing last week the insufficiency of the supply of intelligent
playwrights for the presumable demand of the two new repertory theatres;
and, almost as I spoke, St. John Hankin drowned himself. The loss is
sensible. I do not consider St. John Hankin to have been a great
dramatist; I should scarcely care to say that he was a distinguished
dramatist, though, of course, the least of his works is infinitely more
important in the development of the English theatre than the biggest of
the creaking contrivances for which Sir Arthur Wing Pinero has recently
received honour from a grateful and cultured Government. But he was a
curious, honest, and original dramatist, with a considerable equipment of
wit and of skill. The unconsciously grotesque condescension which he
received in the criticisms of Mr. William Archer, and the mere insolence
which he had to tolerate in the criticisms of Mr. A.B. Walkley, were
demonstrations of the fact that he was a genuine writer. What he lacked
was creative energy. He could interest but he could not powerfully grip
you. His most precious quality--particularly precious in England--was his
calm intellectual curiosity, his perfect absence of fear at the logical
consequences of an argument. He would follow an argument anywhere. He was
not one, of those wretched poltroons who say: "But if I admit _x_ to be
true, I am doing away with the incentive to righteousness. _Therefore_ I
shall not admit _x_ to be true." There are thousands of these highly
educated poltroons between St. Stephen's, Westminster, and Aberystwith
University, and St. John Hankin was their foe.

       *       *       *       *       *

The last time I conversed with him was at the dress rehearsal of a comedy.
Between the sloppy sounds of charwomen washing the floor of the pit and
the feverish cries of photographers taking photographs on the stage, we
discussed the plays of Tchehkoff and other things. He was one of the few
men in England who had ever heard of Tchehkoff's plays. When I asked him
in what edition he had obtained them, he replied that he had read them in
manuscript. I have little doubt that one day these plays will be performed
in England. St. John Hankin was an exceedingly good talker, rather
elaborate in the construction of his phrases, and occasionally dandiacal
in his choice of words. One does not arrive at his skill in conversation
without taking thought, and he must have devoted a lot of thought to the
art of talking. Hence he talked self-consciously, fully aware all the time
that talking was an art and himself an artist. Beneath the somewhat
finicking manner there was visible the intelligence that cared for neither
conventions nor traditions, nor for possible inconvenient results, but
solely for intellectual honesty amid conditions of intellectual freedom.


[_8 July '09_]

The Rev. Dr. W.F. Barry, himself a novelist, has set about to belabour
novelists, and to enliven the end of a dull season, in a highly explosive
article concerning "the plague of unclean books, and especially of
dangerous fiction." He says: "I never leave my house to journey in any
direction, but I am forced to see, and solicited to buy, works flamingly
advertised of which the gospel is adultery and the apocalypse the right of
suicide." (No! I am not parodying Dr. Barry. I am quoting from his
article, which may be read in the _Bookman_. It ought to have appeared in
_Punch_.) One naturally asks oneself: "What is the geographical situation
of this house of Dr. Barry's, hemmed in by flaming and immoral
advertisements and by soliciting sellers of naughtiness?" Dr. Barry
probably expects to be taken seriously. But he will never be taken
seriously until he descends from purple generalities to the particular
naming of names. If he has the courage of his opinions, if he genuinely is
concerned for the future of this unfortunate island, he might name a dozen
or so of the "myriad volumes which deride self-control, scoff at the
God-like in man, deny the judgment, and by most potent illustration
declare that death ends all." For myself, I am unacquainted with them, and
nobody has ever solicited me to buy them. At least he might state _where_
one is solicited to buy these shockers. I would go thither at once, just
to see. In the course of his article, Dr. Barry lets slip a phrase about
"half-empty churches." Of course, these half-empty churches must be laid
on the back of somebody, and the novelist's back is always convenient.
Hence, no doubt, the article. Dr. Barry seeks for information. He asks:
"Will Christian fathers and mothers go on tolerating...," etc. etc. I can
oblige him. The answer is, "Yes. They will."


[_16 Sep. '09_]

In every number up to August, I think, the summary of the _English Review_
began with "Modern Poetry," a proper and necessary formal recognition of
the supremacy of verse. But in the current issue "Modern Poetry" is put
after a "study" of the Chancellor of the Exchequer by Max Beerbohm. A
trifling change! editorially speaking, perhaps an unavoidable change! And
yet it is one of these nothings which are noticed by those who notice such
nothings. Among the poets, some of them fairly new discoveries, whom the
_English Review_ has printed is "J. Marjoram." I do not know what
individuality the name of J. Marjoram conceals, but it is certainly a
pseudonym. Some time ago J. Marjoram published a volume of verse entitled
"Repose" (Alston Rivers), and now Duckworth has published his "New Poems."
The volume is agreeable and provocative. It contains a poem called
"Afternoon Tea," which readers of the _English Review_ will remember. I do
not particularly care for "Afternoon Tea." I find the contrast between the
outcry of a deep passion and the chatter of the tea merely melodramatic,
instead of impressive. And I object to the idiom in which the passion is
expressed. For example:

    _To prove I mean love, I'd burn in Hell._


                    _You touch the cup_
    _With one slim finger.... I'll drink it up,_
    _Though it be blood._

We are all quite certain that the lover would not willingly burn in Hell
to prove his love, and that if he drank blood he would be sick. The idiom
is outworn. That J. Marjoram should employ it is a sign, among others,
that he has not yet quite got over the "devout lover" stage in his mood
towards women. He makes a pin say: "She dropped me, pity my despair!"
which is in the worst tradition of _Westminster Gazette_ "Occ. Verse." He
is somewhat too much occupied with this attitudinization before women or
the memory of women. It has about as much to do with the reality of sexual
companionship as the Lord Mayor's procession has to do with the municipal
life of Greater London. Still, J. Marjoram is a genuine poet. In "Fantasy
of the Sick Bed," the principal poem in the book, there are some really
beautiful passages. I would say to him, and I would say to all young
poets, because I feel it deeply: Do not be afraid of your raw material,
especially in the relations between men and women. J. Marjoram well and
epigrammatically writes:

    _Yet who despiseth Love_
    _As little and incomplete_
    _Learns by losing Love_
    _How it was sweet!_

True. But, when applied to love with a capital L, and to dropped pins
despairing, a little sane realistic disdain will not be amiss,
particularly in this isle. I want to see the rise of a new school of love
poetry in England. And I believe I shall see it.


[_23 Sep. '09_]

I am reminded of Anthony Trollope and a recent article on him, in the
_Times_, which was somewhat below the high level of the _Times_ literary
criticism. Said the _Times_: "Anthony Trollope died in the December of
1882, and in the following year a fatal, perhaps an irreparable, blow to
his reputation was struck by the publication of his autobiography." The
conceit of a blow which in addition to being fatal is perhaps also
irreparable is diverting. But that is not my point. What the _Times_
objects to in the Autobiography is the revelation of the clock-work
methods by which Trollope wrote his novels. It appears that this horrid
secret ought to have been for ever concealed. "Fatal admission!" exclaims
the _Times_. Fatal fiddlesticks! Trollope said much more than the _Times_
quotes. He confessed that he wrote with a watch in front of him, and
obliged himself to produce 250 words every quarter of an hour. And what
then? How can the confession affect his reputation? His reputation rests
on the value of his novels, and not in the least on the manner in which he
chose to write them. And his reputation is secure. Moreover, there is no
reason why great literature should not be produced to time, with a watch
on the desk. Persons who chatter about the necessity of awaiting
inspirational hypersthenia don't know what the business of being an artist
is. They have only read about it sentimentally. The whole argument is
preposterous, and withal extraordinarily Victorian. And even assuming that
the truth _would_ deal a fatal blow, etc., is that a reason for hiding it?
Another strange sentence is this: "The wonder is, not that Trollope's
novels are 'readable,' but that, _being readable, they are yet_ so closely
packed with that true realism without which any picture of life is
lifeless." (My italics.) I ask myself what quality, in the opinion of the
_Times_ writer, chiefly makes for readableness.


[_7 Oct. '09_]

Two books of essays on the same day from the same firm, "One Day and
Another," by E.V. Lucas, and "Tremendous Trifles," by G.K. Chesterton!
Messrs. Methuen put the volumes together and advertised them as being
"uniform in size and appearance." I do not know why. They are uniform
neither in size nor in appearance; but only in price, costing a crown
apiece. "Tremendous Trifles" has given me a wholesome shock. Its contents
are all reprinted from the _Daily News_. In some ways they are sheer and
rank journalism; they are often almost Harmsworthian in their unscrupulous
simplifying of the facts of a case, in their crude determination to
emphasize one fact at the expense of every other fact. Thus: "No one can
understand Paris and its history who does not understand that its
fierceness is the balance and justification of its frivolity." So there
you are! If you don't accept that you are damned; the Chesterton
guillotine has clicked on you. Perhaps I have lived in Paris more years
than Mr. Chesterton has lived in it months, but it has not yet happened to
me to understand that its fierceness is the balance and justification of
its frivolity. Hence I am undone; I no longer exist! Again, of Brussels:
"It has none of the things which make good Frenchmen love Paris; it has
only the things which make unspeakable Englishmen love it." There are a
hundred things in Brussels that I love, and I find Brussels a very
agreeable city. Hence I am an unspeakable Englishman. Mr. Chesterton's
book is blotched with this particular form of curt arrogance as with a
skin complaint. Happily it is only a skin complaint. More serious than a
skin complaint is Mr. Chesterton's religious orthodoxy, which crops up at
intervals and colours the book. I merely voice the opinion of the
intelligent minority (or majority) of Mr. Chesterton's readers when I say
that his championship of Christian dogma sticks in my throat. In my
opinion, at this time of day it is absolutely impossible for a young man
with a first-class intellectual apparatus to accept any form of dogma, and
I am therefore forced to the conclusion that Mr. Chesterton has not got a
first-class intellectual apparatus. (With an older man, whose central
ideas were definitely formed at an earlier epoch, the case might be
different.) I will go further and say that it is impossible, in one's
private thoughts, to think of the accepter of dogma as an intellectual
equal. Not all Mr. Chesterton's immense cleverness and charm will ever
erase from the minds of his best readers this impression--caused by his
mistimed religious dogmatism--that there is something seriously deficient
in the very basis of his mind. And what his cleverness and charm cannot do
his arrogance and his effrontery assuredly will not do. And yet I said
that this book gave me a wholesome shock. Far from deteriorating, Mr.
Chesterton is improving. In spite of the awful tediousness of his
mannerism of antithetical epigram, he does occasionally write finer
epigrams than ever. His imagination is stronger, his fancy more delicate,
and his sense of beauty widened. There are things in this book that really
are very excellent indeed; things that, if they die, will die hard. For
example, the essay: "In Topsy Turvy Land." It is a book which, in the
main, strongly makes for righteousness. Its minor defects are scandalous,
in a literary sense; its central defect passes the comprehension; the book
is journalism, it is anything you like. But I can tell you that it is
literature, after all.

       *       *       *       *       *

If you desire a book entirely free from the exasperating faults of Mr.
Chesterton's you will turn to Mr. Lucas's. But Mr. Lucas, too, is a highly
mysterious man. On the surface he might be mistaken for a mere cricket
enthusiast. Dig down, and you will come, with not too much difficulty, to
the simple man of letters. Dig further, and, with somewhat more
difficulty, you will come to an agreeably ironic critic of human foibles.
Try to dig still further, and you will probably encounter rock. Only here
and there in his two novels does Mr. Lucas allow us to glimpse a certain
powerful and sardonic harshness in him, indicative of a mind that has seen
the world and irrevocably judged it in most of its manifestations. I could
believe that Mr. Lucas is an ardent politician, who, however, would not
deign to mention his passionately held views save with a pencil on a
ballot-paper--if then! It could not have been without intention that he
put first in this new book an essay describing the manufacture of a
professional criminal. Most of the other essays are exceedingly light in
texture. They leave no loophole for criticism, for their accomplishment is
always at least as high as their ambition. They are serenely well done.
Immanent in the book is the calm assurance of a man perfectly aware that
it will be a passing hard task to get change out of _him_! And even when
some one does get change out of him, honour is always saved. In describing
a certain over of his own bowling, Mr. Lucas says: "I was conscious of a
twinge as I saw his swift glance round the field. He then hit my first
ball clean out of it; from my second he made two; from my third another
two; the fourth and fifth wanted playing; and the sixth he hit over my
head among some distant haymakers." You see, the fourth and fifth wanted


[_14 Oct. '09_]

I did not go to Paris to witness the fêtes in celebration of the fiftieth
anniversary of Victor Hugo's "La Légende des Siècles," but I happened to
be in Paris while they were afoot. I might have seen one of Hugo's dramas
at the Théâtre Français, but I avoided this experience, my admiration for
Hugo being tempered after the manner of M. André Gide's. M. Gide, asked
with a number of other authors to say who was still the greatest modern
French poet, replied: "Victor Hugo--alas!" So I chose Brieux instead of
Hugo, and saw "La Robe Rouge" at the Français. Brieux is now not only an
Academician, but one of the stars of the Français. A bad sign! A bad play,
studded with good things, like all Brieux's plays. (The importance
attached to Brieux by certain of the elect in England is absurd. Bernard
Shaw could simply eat him up--for he belongs to the vegetable kingdom.) A
thoroughly bad performance, studded with fine acting! A great popular
success! Whenever I go to the Français I tremble at the prospect of a
national theatre in England. The Français is hopeless--corrupt, feeble,
tedious, reactionary, fraudulent, and the laughing-stock of artists.
However, we have not got a national theatre yet.

       *       *       *       *       *

Immediately after its unveiling I gazed in the garden of the Palais Royal
at Rodin's statue of Victor Hugo. I thought it rather fine, shadowed on
the north and on the south by two famous serpentine trees. Hugo, in a
state of nudity, reclines meditating on a pile of rocks. The likeness is
good, but you would not guess from the statue that for many years Hugo
travelled daily on the top of the Clichy-Odéon omnibus and was never
recognized by the public. Heaven knows what he is meditating about!
Perhaps about that gushing biography of himself which apparently he penned
with his own hand and published under another name! For he was a weird
admixture of qualities--like most of us. I could not help meditating,
myself, upon the really extraordinary differences between France and
England. Imagine a nude statue of Tennyson in St. James's Park! You
cannot! But, assuming that some creative wit had contrived to get a nude
statue of Tennyson into St. James's Park, imagine the enormous shindy that
would occur, the horror-stricken Press of London, the deep pain and
resentment of a mighty race! And can you conceive London officially
devoting a week to the recognition of the fact that fifty years had
elapsed since the publication of a work of poetic genius! Yet I think we
know quite as much about poetry in England as they do in France. Still
less conceivable is the participation of an English Government in such an
anniversary. In Paris last Thursday a French Minister stood in front of
the Hugo statue and thus began: "The Government of the Republic could not
allow the fiftieth anniversary of the 'Legend of the Centuries' to be
celebrated without associating itself with the events." My fancy views Mr.
Herbert John Gladstone--yes, him!--standing discreetly in front of an
indiscreet marble Wordsworth and asserting that the British Government had
no intention of being left out of the national rejoicings about the
immortality of "The Prelude"! A spectacle that surely Americans would pay
to see! On Sunday, at the Français, Hugo was being declaimed from one
o'clock in the afternoon till midnight, with only an hour's interval. And
it rained violently nearly all the time.


[_21 Oct. '09_]

There is a one-sided feud between artists and critics. When a number of
artists are gathered together you will soon in the conversation come upon
signs of that feud. I admit that the general attitude of artists to
critics is unfair. They expect from critics an imaginative comprehension
which in the nature of the case only a creative artist can possess. On the
other hand, a creative artist cannot do the work of a critic because he
has neither the time nor the inclination to master the necessary critical
apparatus. Hence critical work seldom or never satisfies the artist, and
the artist's ideal of what critical work ought to be is an impossible
dream. I find confirmation of my view in other arts than my own. The
critical work of Mr. Bernhard Berenson, for instance, seems to me
wonderful and satisfying. But when I mention Mr. Berenson to a painter I
invariably discover that that painter's secret attitude towards Mr.
Berenson is--well, aristocratic. The finest, and the only first-rate,
criticism is produced when, by an exceptional accident, a creative artist
of balanced and powerful temperament is moved to deal exhaustively with a
subject. Among standard critical works the one that has most impressed me
is Lessing's "Laocoon"--at any rate the literary parts of it. Here (I have
joyously said to myself) is somebody who knows what he is talking about!
Here is some one who has _been there_.


[_4 Nov. '09_]

After a long period of abstention from Rudyard Kipling, I have just read
"Actions and Reactions." It has induced gloom in me; yet a modified gloom.
Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since "Plain Tales from the
Hills" delighted first Anglo-Indian, and then English society. There was
nothing of permanent value in that book, and in my extremest youth I never
imagined otherwise. But "The Story of the Gadsbys" impressed me. So did
"Barrack-room Ballads." So did pieces of "Soldiers Three." So did "Life's
Handicap" and "Many Inventions." So did "The Jungle Book," despite its
wild natural history. And I remember my eagerness for the publication of
"The Seven Seas." I remember going early in the morning to Denny's
bookshop to buy it. I remember the crimson piles of it in every bookshop
in London. And I remember that I perused it, gulped it down, with deep
joy. And I remember the personal anxiety which I felt when Kipling lay
very dangerously ill in New York. For a fortnight, then, Kipling's
temperature was the most important news of the day. I remember giving a
party with a programme of music, in that fortnight, and I began the
proceedings by reading aloud the programme, and at the end of the
programme instead of "God Save the Queen," I read, "God Save Kipling," and
everybody cheered. "Stalky and Co." cooled me, and "Kim" chilled me. At
intervals, since, Kipling's astounding political manifestations, chiefly
in verse, have shocked and angered me. As time has elapsed it has become
more and more clear that his output was sharply divided into two parts by
his visit to New York, and that the second half is inferior in quantity,
in quality, in everything, to the first. It has been too plain now for
years that he is against progress, that he is the shrill champion of
things that are rightly doomed, that his vogue among the hordes of the
respectable was due to political reasons, and that he retains his
authority over the said hordes because he is the bard of their prejudices
and of their clayey ideals. A democrat of ten times Kipling's gift and
power could never have charmed and held the governing classes as Kipling
has done. Nevertheless, I for one cannot, except in anger, go back on a
genuine admiration. I cannot forget a benefit. If in quick resentment I
have ever written of Kipling with less than the respect which is
eternally due to an artist who has once excited in the heart a generous
and beautiful emotion, and has remained honest, I regret it. And this is
to be said: at his worst Kipling is an honest and painstaking artist. No
work of his but has obviously been lingered over with a craftsman's
devotion! He has never spoken when he had nothing to say--though probably
no artist was ever more seductively tempted by publishers and editors to
do so. And he has done more than shun notoriety--Miss Marie Corelli does
that--he has succeeded in avoiding it.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first story, and the best, in "Actions and Reactions" is entitled "An
Habitation Enforced," and it displays the amused but genuine awe of a
couple of decent rich Americans confronted by the sæcular wonders of the
English land system. It depends for its sharp point on a terrific
coincidence, as do many of Kipling's tales, for instance, "The Man Who
Was"--the mere chance that these Americans should tumble upon the very
ground and estate that had belonged to the English ancestors of one of
them. It is written in a curiously tortured idiom, largely borrowed from
the Bible, and all the characters are continually given to verbal
smartness or peculiarity of one kind or another. The characters are not
individualized. Each is a type, smoothed out by sentimental handling into
something meant to be sympathetic. Moreover, the real difficulties of the
narrative are consistently, though I believe unconsciously, shirked. The
result, if speciously pretty, is not a bit convincing. But the gravest,
and the entirely fatal fault, is the painting of the English land system.
To read this story one could never guess that the English land system is
not absolutely ideal, that tenants and hereditary owners do not live
always in a delightful patriarchal relation, content. There are no shadows
whatever. The English land system is perfect, and no accusation could
possibly be breathed against it. And the worst is that for Kipling the
English land system probably _is_ perfect. He is incapable of perceiving
that it can be otherwise. He would not desire it to be otherwise. His
sentimentalization of it is gross--there is no other word--and at bottom
the story is as wildly untrue to life as the most arrant Sunday-school
prize ever published by the Religious Tract Society. Let it be admitted
that the romantic, fine side of the English land system is rendered with
distinction and effectiveness; and that the puzzled, unwilling admiration
of the Americans is well done, though less well than in a somewhat similar
earlier story, "An Error in the Fourth Dimension."

       *       *       *       *       *

An example of another familiar aspect of Kipling is "With the Night Mail."
This is a story of 2000 A.D., and describes the crossing of the Atlantic
by the aerial mail. It is a glittering essay in the sham-technical; and
real imagination, together with a tremendous play of fancy, is shown in
the invention of illustrative detail. But the whole effort is centred on
the mechanics of the affair. Human evolution has stood stock-still save in
the department of engineering. The men are exactly the same semi-divine
civil service men that sit equal with British military and naval officers
on the highest throne in the kingdom of Kipling's esteem. Nothing
interests him but the mechanics and the bureaucratic organization and the
_esprit de corps_. Nor does he conceive that the current psychology of
ruling and managing the earth will ever be modified. His simplicity, his
naïveté, his enthusiasms, his prejudices, his blindness, and his vanities
are those of Stalky. And, after all, even the effect he aims at is not
got. It is nearly got, but never quite. There is a tireless effort, but
the effort is too plain and fatigues the reader, forcing him to share it.
A thin powder of dullness lies everywhere.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I had read these stories, I took out "Life's Handicap," and tasted
again the flavour of "On Greenhow Hill," which I have always considered to
be among the very best of Kipling's stories. It would be too much to say
that I liked it as well as ever. I did not. Time has staled it. The
author's constitutional sentimentality has corroded it in parts. But it is
still a very impressive and a fundamentally true thing. It was done in the
rich flush of power, long before its creator had even suspected his hidden
weaknesses, long before his implacable limitations had begun to compel him
to imitate himself. It was done in the days when he could throw off
exquisite jewels like this, to deck the tale:

    _To Love's low voice she lent a careless ear;_
    _Her band within his rosy fingers lay,_
    _A chilling weight. She would, not turn or hear;_
    _But with averted, face went on her way._
    _But when pale Death, all featureless and grim,_
    _Lifted his bony hand, and beckoning_
    _Held out his cypress-wreath, she followed him,_
    _And Love was left forlorn and wondering,_
    _That she who for his bidding would not stay,_
    _At Death's first whisper rose and went away_.


[_23 Dec '09_]

The immediate origin of the new attempt by the libraries to exercise a
censorship over books, and particularly over novels, is quite accidental
and silly. A woman socially prominent in the governing classes of this
realm has a daughter. The daughter obtained and read a certain book from
the circulating library. (Naturally the family is one of those that are
too rich to buy books; it can only hire.) The mother chanced to see the
book, and considered it to be highly improper. (I have not read the book,
but I should say that it is probably not improper at all; merely a
trivial, foolish book.) The woman went direct to an extremely exalted
member of the Cabinet, being a friend of his; and she kicked up a
tremendous storm and dust. The result was that "certain machinery" was set
in motion, and "certain representations" were made to the libraries;
indeed, the libraries were given to understand that unless they did
something themselves "certain steps" would be taken. It was all very vague
and impressive, and it brought recent agitations to a head. Hence the
manifesto of the libraries, in which they announce that all books must be
submitted in advance to a committee of hiring experts, and that the
submitted books will be divided into three classes. The first class will
be absolutely banned; the circulation of the second will be prevented so
far as it can be prevented without the ban absolute; and the circulation
of the third will be permitted without restrictions.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of course, that even the suggestion of a censorship should spring from
such a personal and trifling cause is very scandalous. But I am fairly
sure that it might happen under any Government and under any form of
Government. All Governments must consist of individual members, and all
individual members have friends. Most of them are acquainted with women,
and with absurd women, who will utilize the acquaintanceship with all
their might for their own personal ends. And exceedingly few members of
any Government whatsoever would have the courage to tell a well-dressed
and arrogant woman to go to the devil, even when that answer happened to
be the sole correct answer to an impertinence. Wellington merely damned
the portly darlings, but then Wellington, though preposterous as a
politician, was a great man.

       *       *       *       *       *

The menacing letter from the Libraries was received by the Publishers on
the very day of their Council meeting. This may or may not have been
accidental, but at any rate it put the Publishers at a disadvantage. The
Council meetings of the Publishers' Association, being dominated by
knights and other mandarins, are apt to be formal and majestic in
character. You can't blurt out whatever comes into your head at a Council
meeting of the Publishers' Association. And nearly everybody is afraid of
everybody else. No one had had time to think the matter over, much less to
decide whether surrender or defiance would pay best or look best.
Consequently the reply sent to the Libraries was a masterpiece of
futility. The mildly surprising thing is that, in the Council itself,
there was a strong pro-Library party. Among this party were Messrs.
Hutchinson and Mr. Heinemann. Messrs. Hutchinson, it is well known, have
consistently for many years tried to publish only novels for "family
reading." It is an ambition, like another. And one may admit that Messrs.
Hutchinson have fairly well succeeded in it. Mr. Heinemann issues as much
really high-class literature as any publisher in London, but if his policy
has had a "family and young lady" tendency, that tendency has escaped me.
He has published books (some of them admirable works, and some not) which
a committee of hiring experts would have rejected with unanimous
enthusiasm. It is needless to particularize. Why Mr. Heinemann should have
supported the Libraries in the private deliberations of the Publishers I
cannot imagine. But that is the fault of my imagination. I have an immense
confidence in Mr. Heinemann's business acumen and instinct for

       *       *       *       *       *

The Publishers, if they chose, could kill the censorship movement at once
by politely declining to submit their books to the censorship. If only the
three big fiction firms concerted to do this, the Libraries would be
compelled to withdraw their project. But the Publishers will not do this;
not even three of them will do it. The only argument against a censorship
is that it is extremely harmful to original literature of permanent value;
and such an argument does not make any very powerful appeal to
publishers. What most publishers want is to earn as much money as
possible with as little fuss as possible. Again, the Authors' Society
might kill the censorship conspiracy by declining to allow its members to
sign any agreement with publishers which did not contain a clause
forbidding the publisher to submit the book to the committee of hiring
experts. A dozen leading novelists could command the situation. But the
Authors' Society will do nothing effective. The official reply of the
Authors' Society was as feeble as that of the Publishers. I repeat that
the only argument against a censorship is that it is extremely harmful to
original literature of permanent value; such an argument does not make any
very powerful appeal to authors. What most authors want is to earn as much
money as possible with as little fuss as possible. Besides, the great
money-makers among authors--the authors of weight with publishers and
libraries--have nothing to fear from any censorship. They censor
themselves. They take the most particular care not to write anything
original, courageous, or true, because these qualities alienate more
subscribers than they please. I am not a pessimist nor a cynic, but I
enjoy contemplating the real facts of a case.

All the forces would seem to be in favour of the establishment of a
censorship. (And by a censorship I mean such a censorship as would judge
books by a code which, if it was applied to them, would excommunicate the
Bible, Shakespeare, Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, Swift, Shelley,
Rossetti, Meredith, Hardy, and George Moore. "The Ordeal of Richard
Feverel" would never, as a new work, pass a library censorship. Nor would
"Jude the Obscure," nor half a dozen of Hardy's other books; nor would
most of George Moore.) Nevertheless I am not very much perturbed. There
are three tremendous forces against the establishment of a genuine
censorship, and I think that they will triumph. The first is that
mysterious nullifying force by which such movements usually do fizzle out.
The second force against it lies in the fact that the movement is not
genuinely based on public opinion. And the third is that there is a great
deal of money to be made out of merely silly mawkish books which a genuine
censorship would ban with serious, original work. For such books a strong
demand exists among people otherwise strictly respectable, far stronger
than the feeling against such books. The demand will have its way. A few
serious and obstinate authors will perhaps suffer for a while. But then we
often do suffer. We don't seem to mind. No one could guess, for instance,
from the sweet Christian kindliness of my general tone towards Mr. Jesse
Boot's library that Mr. Jesse Boot had been guilty of banning some of my
work which I love most. But it is so. I suppose we don't mind, because in
the end, dead or alive, we come out on top.

       *       *       *       *       *

[_30 Dec. '09_]

I imagined that I had said the last word on this subject, and hence I
intended to say no more. But it appears that I was mistaken. It appears,
from a somewhat truculent letter which I have received from a
correspondent, that I have not yet even touched the fringe of the subject.
Parts of this correspondent's letter are fairly printable. He says: "You
look at the matter from quite the wrong point of view. There is only one
point of view, and that is the subscribers'. The Libraries don't exist for
authors, but for us (he is a subscriber to Mudie's). We pay, and the
Libraries are for our convenience. They are not for the furtherance of
English literature, or whatever you call it. What I say is, if I order a
book from a Library I ought to be able to get it, unless it has been
confiscated by the police. I didn't pay my subscription in order to have
my choice of books limited to such books as some frock-coated personage in
Oxford Street thought good for me. I've spent about forty years in
learning to know what I like in literature, and I don't want anybody to
teach me. I'm not a young girl, I'm a middle-aged man; but I don't see why
I should be handicapped by that. And if I am to be handicapped I'm going
to chuck Mudie's. I've already written them a very rude letter about Mr.
de Morgan's "It Never Can Happen Again." I wanted that book. They told me
they didn't supply it. And when I made a row they wrote me a soothing
letter nearly as long as the Epistle to the Ephesians explaining why they
didn't supply it. Something about two volumes and half a sovereign.... I
don't know, and I don't care. I don't care whether a book's in one volume
or in a hundred volumes. If I want it, and if I've paid for the right to
have it, I've got to have it, or I've got to have my money back. They
mumbled something in their letter about having received many complaints
from other subscribers about novels being in two volumes. But what do I
care about other subscribers?"

       *       *       *       *       *

And he continues, after a deviation into forceful abuse: "I don't want to
force novels in two volumes down the throats of other subscribers. I don't
want to force anything down their throats. They aren't obliged to take
what they don't want. There are lots of books circulated by Mudie's that I
strongly object to--books that make me furious--as regards both moral and
physical heaviness and tediousness and general tommy-rot. But do I write
and complain, and ask Mudie's to withdraw such books altogether? If Mudie
came along with a pistol and two volumes by Hall Caine, and said to me,
'Look here, I'll make you have these,' then perhaps I might begin to
murmur gently. But he doesn't. I'll say this for Mudie; he doesn't force
you to take particular books. You can always leave what you don't want.
All these people who are (alleged to be) crying out for a
censorship--they're merely idle! If they really want a censorship they
ought to exercise it themselves. Robinson has a daughter, and he is
shocked at the idea of her picking up a silly sham-erotic novel by a
member of the aristocracy, or a first-rate beautiful thing by George
Moore.... Am I then to be deprived of the chance of studying the inane
psychology of the ruling classes or of enjoying the work of a great
artist? Be d----d to Robinson's daughter! I don't care a bilberry for
either her or her innocence. I'm not going to be responsible for
Robinson's daughter. Let Robinson, if he is such a fool as to suppose that
daughters can be spoiled by bad books or good books--let him look after
her himself! Let him establish his confounded censorship at his front
door, or at his drawing-room door. Let him do his own work. Nothing but
idleness--that's what's the matter with him! The whole project that
Robinson suggests is simply monstrous. He might just as well say that
because his daughter has a weak digestion and an unruly appetite for rich
cakes, therefore all the cake shops in London must be shut up. Let him
keep her out of cake shops. All I want is freedom. I don't mean to defend
my tastes or to apologize for them. If I wish to hire a certain book,
that's enough. I must have it--until the police step in. There can only be
one censorship, and that is by the police. A Library is a commercial
concern, and I won't look at it from any other point of view. I have no
interest at the present moment in your notions about the future of
literature, and the livelihood of serious artists, and so on. All that's
absolutely beside the point. The sole point is that I am ready to let
other people have what they want, and I claim that I've the right to have
what I want. The whole thing is simple rot, and there's no other word for



[_13 Jan. '10_]

A number of people have been good enough to explain to me that the project
of the Circulating Libraries Censorship (now partially "in being") did not
originally concern itself with novels, and that, in the first place, it
was directed against books of more or less scandalous memoirs. Of this I
was well aware. But in writing about the matter I expressly tried to
centre its interest on the novel, because the novel is the only important
part of the affair. For a year past I have been inveighing against the
increasing taste for feeble naughtiness concerning king's mistresses and
all that sort of tedious person. And I have remarked on the growing
frequency of such words as "fair," "frail," "lover," "enchantress," etc.,
in the supposed-to-be-alluring titles of books of historical immorality.
(I presume that these volumes are called for by the respectable, as the
_cocotte_ calls for a _crème de menthe_ at a fashionable seaside hotel on
a winter Sunday afternoon.) Apparently the circulating libraries also have
noticed the growing frequency of such words in their lists. But what they
have noticed with more genuine alarm is the growing prices which clever
publishers have been putting on such books. It has not escaped the
observation of clever publishers that the demand by library subscribers
for such books is a very real demand, and clever publishers therefore
thought that they might make a little bit extra in this connexion by
charging high for volumes brief but scandalous. The libraries thought
otherwise. Hence, in truth, the attempted censorship. The now famous moral
crusade of the libraries would certainly not have occurred had not the
libraries perceived, in the moral pressure which was exercised upon them
from lofty regions, the chance of effecting economies. And there is not a
circulating library that does not feel an authentic need of economies.

       *       *       *       *       *

I should have objected to a censorship even of scandalized history, for no
censorship ever cured a population of bad taste. But naturally the
libraries could not stop at memoirs. They had, in order to be consistent
and to talk big about morality, to include novels in their scheme of
scavenging. At this point the libraries pass from futile foolishness to
active viciousness, and so encounter the opposition of persons like
myself, whose business it is to keep an eye on things.

       *       *       *       *       *

I can tell a true tale about one of the three great circulating libraries.
A certain man of taste was directing the education in literature of a
certain woman. The time came when the woman had to study Balzac. The man
gave her a list of titles of novels by Balzac which she was to read. She
went to her library, but could not find, in the list of Balzac's complete
"Comédie Humaine" furnished by the library, one of the works which she had
been instructed to peruse. Hearing of this, the man, whose curiosity was
aroused, called at the library to conduct an inquiry. He had an interview
with one of the managers, and the manager at once admitted that their
complete list was not complete. "We cannot supply a work with such a
title," the manager explained. The book was one of the most famous and one
of the finest of nineteenth-century novels, "Splendeurs et Misères des
Courtisanes," issued by Messrs. Dent and Co. (surely a respectable firm),
with a preface by Professor George Saintsbury (surely a respectable
mandarin), under the title, "The Harlot's Progress." The man of taste
asked, "Have you read the book?" "No," said the manager. "Have you read
any of Balzac's novels?" "No," said the manager. "Do you prohibit
Galsworthy's 'Man of Property'?" "No," said the manager. "Have you read
it?" "No," said the manager. "Do you prohibit Jacob Tonson's last novel?"
"No," said the manager. "Have you read it?" "No," said the manager.
"Well," said the man of taste, "you'd better read one or two of these
later writers, and then think over the Balzac question." The manager
discreetly replied that he would consult the principal proprietor. The
next morning "The Harlot's Progress," in two volumes, was sent round from
the library.

       *       *       *       *       *

But imagine it! Imagine one of the largest circulating libraries in the
world, in the year 1909, refusing to supply an established, world-admired,
classical work of genius because its title contains the word "harlot"! In
no other European capital, nor in any American capital, could such a
monstrously idiotic and disgusting thing happen. It is so preposterous
that one cannot realize it all at once. I am a tremendous admirer of
England. I have lived too long in foreign parts not to see the fineness
of England. But in matters of hypocrisy there is really something very
wrong with this island, and the atmosphere of this island is thick enough
to choke all artists dead. You can walk up and down the Strand and see
photographs of celebrated living harlots all over the place. You can buy
them on picture post cards for your daughter. You can see their names even
on the posters of high-class weekly papers. You can entertain them at the
most select fashionable restaurants. Indeed, the shareholders of
fashionable restaurants would look very blue without the said harlots.
(Only they aren't called harlots.) But if you desire to read a masterpiece
of social fiction, some mirror of crass stupidity in a circulating library
will try to save you from yourself.

       *       *       *       *       *

[_24 Feb. '10_]

Up Yorkshire way the opponents of freedom have been dealing some effective
blows at the Libraries Censorship. They doubtless imagine that they have
been supporting the Libraries Censorship; but they are mistaken. Hull has
distinguished itself. It is a strange, interesting place. I only set foot
in it once; the day was Sunday, and I arrived by sea. I was informed that
a man could not get a shave in Hull on Sunday. But I got one. At the last
meeting of the Hull Libraries Committee, when "Ann Veronica" was under
discussion, Canon Lambert procured for the name of Lambert a free
advertisement throughout the length and breadth of the country by saying:
"I would just as soon send a daughter of mine to a house infected with
diphtheria or typhoid fever as put that book into her hands." I doubt it.
I can conceive that, if it came to the point, Canon Lambert's fear of
infection and regard for his own canonical skin might move him to offer
his daughter "Ann Veronica" in preference to diphtheria and typhoid fever.
Canons who give expression to this kind of babblement must expect what
they get in the way of responses. Let the Canon now turn the other cheek,
in a Christian spirit, and I will see what I can do for him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Needless to say, "Ann Veronica" was banned from the Free Public Libraries
of free Hull. But I cull the following from the _Hull Daily Mail_: "A
local bookseller had thirteen orders for 'Ann Veronica' on Monday, thirty
on Tuesday, and scores since. Previously he had no demand." A Canon
Lambert in every town would demolish the censorship in less time than it
took the Hebrew deity to create the world and the fig-tree.

       *       *       *       *       *

Canon Lambert, doubtless unconsciously, went wide of the point. The point
was not a code for the parental treatment of canons' daughters. England
was not waiting for information as to what Canon Lambert would do to a
Miss Lambert in a given dilemma. H.G. Wells did not turn up in Hull with a
Gatling gun and, turning it on the Canon's abode, threaten to blow the
ecclesiastical wigwam to pieces if the canon did not immediately buy a
copy of "Ann Veronica" for his daughter to read. Nobody wants to interfere
between the Canon and a Miss Lambert. All that quiet people want is to be
left alone to treat their daughters according to their lights. Does Canon
Lambert hold that the Hull libraries are to contain no volumes which he
would not care for his daughter to read?

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Hull Daily Mail_ has, I regret to say, taken the side of the Canon.
This is a pity. The Hull paper should be a little more careful about the
letters it prints. In a recent issue it allowed a correspondent to call
"Ann Veronica" "pornographic," which is most distinctly libellous. But
possibly the correspondent and the newspaper felt themselves secure in Mr.
Wells's disdain. "Ann Veronica" is not pornographic. It is not even
indecent. It is utterly decent from end to end. It is also utterly honest.
It is not one of Mr. Wells's major productions. But if a work of an
honourable and honoured artist is to be damned because it happens to be
inferior to other works of the same artist, Hull ought to consider the
awful case of "Measure for Measure." By the way, would Canon Lambert as
soon send a Miss Lambert to a house infected with mumps as put "Measure
for Measure" into her hands? The _Hull Daily Mail_, taken to task,
sheltered itself behind Mr. Clement Shorter and the _Sphere_. I will not
discuss Mr. Shorter's singular pronouncement upon "Ann Veronica," because
I am in a very good humour with him just now for his excellently acid
remarks upon the "success" literature of Mr. Peter Keary. But I may remark
that Mr. Shorter did not advocate the censoring of the book, nor did he
come within seven Irish miles of describing it as pornographic.

Canonical people have tried to make capital out of the fact that "Ann
Veronica" is not to be found in the public libraries of sundry large
towns. But the reason may not be connected with the iconoclasm of "Ann
Veronica." In an interview, Mr. T.W. Hand, the librarian at Leeds, said:
"I haven't read the book through (Why not?), though I have seen it, and we
haven't got it in any of our libraries in Leeds. The reason for this is
not the character of the book, but the fact that we never purchase our
novels until they have become cheaper." Charming confession! A
subscription ought to be opened for poverty-stricken Leeds, which must
wait to buy an English book that is or will be translated into every
European language, until it has become cheaper! A few weeks ago the
country was laughing at little Beverley because its Fathers publicly
decided to purchase no fiction less than a year old. But are the great
towns any better off?

       *       *       *       *       *

[_3 Mar. '10_]

Literary censorship in the intellectual centre of the world: I need hardly
say that I mean Boston, Mass. Boston is the city of Harvard University.
It is also the city of the _Atlantic Monthly_. It is also the city of
Emerson, Lowell, Longfellow, and Holmes. Boston has a Public Library. It
is supposed to be one of the finest public libraries in this world or any
other. Great artists, such as Puvis de Chavannes and John Sargent, have
helped to decorate the Boston Library. In brief, Boston and its Library
are not to be sneezed at. A certain woman asked for George Moore's "Esther
Waters," recognized, I believe, as one of the most serious and superb of
modern novels. The work was included in the catalogue of the Library. In
reply to her request she was informed that she could not have "Esther
Waters" unless she obtained from the Chief Mandarin or Librarian special
permission to read it, on the ground that she was a "student of
literature." I doubt whether the imagination of nincompoops and boards of
management has ever devised anything more beautiful than this.

       *       *       *       *       *

But the lady had a husband, and the husband, being a prominent journalist,
had the editorial use of a newspaper in Boston. He began to make
inquiries, and he discovered that many of the catalog cards were marked
with red stars, and that a star signified that the work described on the
card was not morally fit for general circulation. He further discovered
that works rankly and frankly pornographic and works of distinguished art
were starred with the same star. Lastly, he discovered that the Chief
Mandarin or Librarian, all out of his own head and off his own bat, had
appointed a reading committee for the dividing of modern fiction into
sheep and goats, and that the said committee consisted exclusively of
Boston dames mature in years. He exposed the entire affair in his
newspapers and made a very pleasing sensation. The first result was that
his wife was afterwards received at the Library with imperial honours and
given to understand by kotowing sub-mandarins that she might have the
whole red-star library sent home to her house if she so desired. There was
no other result. The rest of reading Boston remained under the motherly
but autocratic care of _ces dames_. Those skilled in the artistic records
of Boston may remember that the management of the same Library once
refused the offered gift of a statue of a woman holding a baby, on the
sole ground that the woman was not attired.

[_26 May '10_]

More interesting information has accrued to me concerning literary
censorship in the British provinces. Glasgow has about a dozen lending
libraries, chiefly, I believe, of the Carnegie species. In none of these
are the works of Richardson, Fielding, and Smollett allowed a place.
Further, "Anna Karenina," "Resurrection," "Tess," "Jude the Obscure," and
"Tono-Bungay" are banned. Further, and still more droll, in the words of a
correspondent who has been good enough to send me all sorts of
particulars: "A few days ago I applied at the Mitchell Library (a
reference library in the centre of the town) for Whitman's poems. The
attendant procured the volume, but, before handing it to me, consulted one
of the senior librarians. This official scrutinized me from a distance of
about eight yards and finally nodded his head in acquiescence. The book
was then given to me. On the back of it a little red label was affixed. I
made inquiry and discovered that books with these labels are only given
out to persons of (what shall I say?) good moral appearance."

Nevertheless, we ought to be thankful that we live in Britain. The case
of the United States is in some respects far worse than ours. The
egregious Sir Robert Anderson has just explained in _Blackwood_ how he
established a sort of unofficial censorship of morals at the English Post
Office. In the United States an official censorship of mailed matter
exists, and the United States Post Office can and does regularly examine
the literature entrusted to it, and can and does reject what it deems
inimical to the morals of the native land of Jay Gould, James Gordon
Bennett, J.D. Rockefeller, and the regretted Harriman. Among other matter
which the United States Post Office censorship has recently excluded are
the following items:

An extract from an article in the _Fortnightly Review_.

An extract from "Man and Superman."

An article in favour of freedom of the Press reprinted from the Boston's
_Woman's Journal_.

An article by Lady Florence Dixie reprinted from a Scottish county paper.

       *       *       *       *       *

On one occasion the editor of _Lucifer_ had occasion to mention that
adultery and fornication had not been criminal offences in England since
1660. The authorities were so aghast at the idea of this information being
allowed to creep out that they insisted on the passage being deleted. It

       *       *       *       *       *

Further. The Editor of an American paper, on it being suggested to him
that he should reprint portions of a criticism of "Measure for Measure,"
by Mr. A.B. Walkley in the _Times_, refused to do so for fear of
prosecution. Perhaps the most truly American instance of all is the
misfortune that befell the Reverend Mabel McCoy Irwin. The excellent lady
began to publish a paper advocating strict chastity for both sexes. It was
excluded from the mails on the ground that no allusion to sex could be
tolerated. I reckon this anecdote to be the most exquisitely perfect of
all anecdotes that I have ever come across in the diverting history of
moral censorships. There is a subtle flavour about that name, Mabel McCoy
Irwin, which is indescribably apposite ... McCoy. It is a wonderful world!
I am much indebted to an American correspondent for these delights.


[_17 Feb. '10_]

I foresee a craze in this country for Brieux. I first perceived its coming
one day during an intellectual meal in a green-painted little restaurant
in Soho. Whenever I go into Soho I pass through experiences which send me
out again a wiser man. On this occasion I happened to speak lightly of
Brieux to a friend of mine, a prominent and influential member of the
Stage Society--one of those men in London who think to-day what London
will think to-morrow, and what Paris thought yesterday. He was visibly
shocked by my tone. His invincible politeness withstood the strain, but
the strain was terrible. From this incident alone I was almost ready to
prophesy a Brieux craze in London. And now a selection of Brieux's plays
is to be published in English in one volume, with a preface by Bernard
Shaw. Within a fortnight of the appearance of the book the Brieux craze
will exist in full magnificence. Leading articles will contain learned
off-hand allusions to Brieux, Brieux and Shaw will be compared and
differentiated, and Brieux will be the most serious dramatist in France. I
doubt not that Mr. Shaw's preface will be a witty and illuminating
affair, and that it will show me agreeable aspects of Brieux's talent
which have hitherto escaped me; but if it persuades me that Brieux is an
artistically serious dramatist worth twopence, then I will retire from
public life and seek a post as third sub-editor on the _British Weekly_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Brieux is a man with moral ideas. I will admit even that he is dominated
by moral ideas, which, if they are sometimes crude, are certainly
righteous. He is a reformer and a passionate reformer. But a man can be a
passionate reformer, with a marked turn for eloquence, and yet not be a
serious dramatist. Dr. Clifford is a reformer; Mr. Henniker Heaton is a
passionate reformer; and both are capable of literature when they are
excited. But they are not dramatists. We still await Mr. Henniker Heaton's
tragic fourth act about the failure of the negotiations for a penny post
with France. Brieux is too violent a reformer ever to be a serious
dramatist. Violent reformers are unprincipled, and the reformer in Brieux
forces the dramatist in him to prostitution. The dramatist in him is not
strong enough to resist the odious demands of the reformer: which fact
alone shows how far he is from being a first-rate dramatist. As a
dramatist Brieux is no stronger, no more sincere, no less unscrupulous, no
less viciously sentimental, than the fashionable authors of the boulevard,
such as Capus, Donnay, and the ineffable Bernstein, so adored in London.
And it is as a dramatist that he must be judged. Of course, if you wish to
judge him as a reformer, you must get some expert opinion about his
subjects of reform. I fancy that you will end by discovering that as a
reformer he must be considered just a little crude.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have seen most of Brieux's plays, and I have seen them produced under
his own direction, so that I can judge fairly well what he is after on the
stage. And I am bound to say that, with the exception of "Les Trois Filles
de Monsieur Dupont" (which pleased me pretty well so far as I comprehended
its dramatic intention), I have not seen one which I could refrain from
despising. Brieux's plays always begin so brilliantly, and they always end
so feebly, in such a wishwash of sentimentalism. Take his last play--no,
his last play was "La Foi," produced by Mr. Tree, and I have not yet met
even an ardent disciple of the craze who has had sufficient effrontery to
argue that it is a good play. Take his last play but one, "Suzette"--or
"Suzanne," or whatever its girl's name was--produced at the Paris
Vaudeville last autumn. The first act is very taking indeed. You can see
the situation of the ostracized wife coming along beautifully. The
preparation is charming, in the best boulevard manner. But when the
situation arrives and has to be dealt with--what a mess, what falseness,
what wrenching, what sickly smoothing, what ranting, and what terrific
tediousness! It is so easy to begin. It is so easy to think of a fine
idea. The next man you meet in an hotel bar will tell you a fine idea
after two whiskys--I mean a really fine idea. Only in art an idea doesn't
exist till it is worked _out_. Brieux never (with the possible exception
above mentioned) works an idea _out_. Because he can't. He doesn't know
enough of his business. He can only do the easy parts of his business.
Last autumn also, the Comédie Française revived "La Robe Rouge." The
casting, owing to an effort to make it too good, was very bad; and the
production was very bad, though Brieux himself superintended it. But, all
allowances made for the inevitable turpitudes of this ridiculous national
theatre, the was senile; it was done for! Certainly it exposes the abuses
of the French magistrature, but at what cost of fundamental truth! The
melodramatic close might have been written in the Isle of Man.

       *       *       *       *       *

Take the most notorious of all his plays, "Les Avariés." It contains an
admirable sermon, a really effective sermon, animated by ideas which I
suppose have been in the minds of exceptionally intelligent men for a
hundred years or so, and which Brieux restated in terms of dramatic
eloquence. But the sentimentality of the end is simply base. The
sentimentality of another famous play, "Maternité," is even more

       *       *       *       *       *

It is said that Brieux's plays make you think. Well, it depends who you
are. No, I will admit that they have several times made me think. I will
admit that, since I saw "Les Avariés," I have never thought quite the same
about syphilis as I did before. But what I say is that this has nothing to
do with Brieux's position as a dramatist. Brieux could have written a
pamphlet on the subject of "Les Avariés" which would have impressed me
just as much as his play (I happened to read the play before I witnessed
it). Indeed, if he had confined himself to a pamphlet I should have
respected him more than I do. Brieux has never sharpened my sense of
beauty; he has never made me see beauty where I had failed to see it. And
this is what he ought to have done, as a serious dramatist. He is
deficient in a feeling for beauty; he is deficient in emotion. But that is
not the worst of him. Mr. Shaw is deficient in these supreme qualities.
But Mr. Shaw is an honest playwright. And Brieux (speaking, of course, in
a sense strictly artistic) is not. That he is dishonest in the cause of
moral progress does not mitigate his crime. Zealots may deny this as
loudly as they please. Nothing can keep Brieux's plays alive; they are
bound to go precisely where the plays of Dumas _fils_ have gone, because
they are false to life. I do not expect to kill the oncoming craze, but I
will give it no quarter.


[_10 Mar. '10_]

I have read Mr. C.E. Montague's "A Hind Let Loose" (Methuen, 6s.), and I
am not going to advise any one to follow my example. I do not desire to
prejudice his circulation, but I have my conscience to consider. This is
not a book for the intelligent masses; it would be folly to recommend it
to them. It is for the secretly arrogant few, those who really do "know
that they are august" within, whatever garment of diffident and mild
modesty they may offer to the world. Only those few can understand it. All
admiration other than theirs will be either ignorant or dog-like--or both.
Everybody on the Press will say that "A Hind Let Loose" is a novel about
journalism. It is not. Journalism is merely the cloak hanging windily
about it, as her cloak hung about Mrs. Colum Fay. It is a novel about the
pride of the Ego. It is the fearful and yet haughty cry of originality
against the vast tendency of the age, which tendency is that people should
live in the age as in an intellectual barracks. Hedlum, the conversational
clubman and successful barrister, is the real villain of the story, though
he appears but for a moment, "Hedlum would take up all that was current,
trim it and pare its nails, and give it his blessing and send it out into
the world to get on, and it did famously. You felt that if it was not true
then the fault was truth's; there must be some upper order of truth, not
universally known, to which he had conformed and to which the facts, in
the vulgar sense, could not have been loyal. All of him helped the effect.
He was of the settled age--fifty or so--handsome, with the controlled
benignity, the mellowed precision, the happy, distinguished melancholy
sometimes united in a good-looking judge.... You watched the weighing of
each word at its exit from the shaved, working lips, and the closure of
their inexorable adamant behind its heels. As the last commonplace of club
gossip, smoke-room heroics, and music-hall sentiment issued from these
portals, transfigured by the moderate discount that made it twice itself,
you not only saw it was final truth, or virility's quintessential emotion;
you felt he had done something decisive, even gallant, and that you were
in it--a fine fellow, too, in your way; and you quickened; you lived back
and forward, back to the blithe days at school when they first taught you
never to think your own thoughts or take what came in a way of your own,
but to pool your brains with the rest and 'throw yourself into the life of
the school,' and on to your early manhood's deeper training in resemblance
to others, and so to the good day, always coming and always here, always
to be had by him who wills it with his might, when the imitative shall
inherit the earth."

       *       *       *       *       *

I quote this, the very essence of the work, in order to choke off the
feeble, the kind, and the altruistic. I would not hawk this book. If I had
foreknown what it was I would never have mentioned it. I would have
mentioned it to none, sure that, by the strange force of gravity which
inevitably draws together a book and its fit reader, the novel would in
the end reach the only audience worthy of it. I say no more about it.


[_10 Mar. '10_]

Authentic documents are always precious to the student, and here is one
which strikes me as precious beyond the ordinary. It is a letter received
from a well-known publisher by a correspondent of mine who is a

"I am awfully sorry that we cannot take your novel, which is immensely
clever, and which interested my partner more than anything he has read in
a good while. He agrees with me, however, that it has not got the
qualities that make for a sale, and you know that this is the great
desideratum with the publisher. Now don't get peevish, and send us nothing
else. I know you have a lot of talent, and your difficulty is in applying
this talent to really practical problems rather than to the more
attractive products of the imagination. Get down to facts, my son, and
study your market. Find out what the people like to read and then write a
story along those lines. This will bring you success, for you have a
talent for success. Above all things, don't follow the lead of our
headstrong friend who insists upon doing exactly what you have done in
this novel, namely, neglecting the practical market and working out the
fanciful dictates of imagination. Remember that novel-writing is as much
of a business as making calico. If you write the novels that people want,
you are going to sell them in bales. When you have made your name and your
market, _then_ you can afford to let your imagination run riot, and _then_
people will look at you admiringly, and say, 'I don't understand this
genius at all, but isn't he great?' Do you see the point? You must do this
AFTER you have won your market, not before, and you can only win your
market in the first place by writing what folks want to buy.--Sincerely

       *       *       *       *       *

The writer is American. But the attitude of the average pushing English
publisher could not have been more accurately expressed than in this
letter sent by one New Yorker to another. The only thing that puzzles me
is why the man originally chose books instead of calico. He would have
sold more bales and made more money in calico. He would have understood
calico better. In my opinion many publishers would have understood calico
better than books. There are two things which a publisher ought to know
about novel-producers--things which do not, curiously enough, apply to
calico-producers, and which few publishers have ever grasped. I have known
publishers go into the bankruptcy court and come out again safely and yet
never grasp the significance of those two things. The first is that it is
intensely stupid to ask a novelist to study the market with a view to
obtaining large circulations. If he does not write to please himself--if
his own taste does not naturally coincide with the taste of the
million--he will never reach the million by taking thought. The Hall
Caines, the Miss Corellis, and the Mrs. Humphry Wards are born, not made.
It may seem odd, even to a publisher, that they write as they do write--by
sheer glad instinct. But it is so. The second thing is that when a
novelist has made "his name and his market" by doing one kind of thing he
can't successfully go off at a tangent and do another kind of thing. To
make the largest possible amount of money out of an artist the only way is
to leave him alone. When will publishers grasp this? To make the largest
possible amount of money out of an imitative hack, the only way is to
leave him alone. When will publishers grasp that an imitative hack knows
by the grace of God forty times more about the public taste than a
publisher knows?


[_31 Mar. '10_]

I have read with very great interest Mr. Maurice Baring's new volume about
Russia, "Landmarks in Russian Literature" (Methuen, 6s. net). It deals
with Gogol, Tourgeniev, Dostoievsky, Tolstoy, and Tchehkoff. It is
unpretentious. It is not "literary." I wish it had been more literary. Mr.
Baring seems to have a greater love for literature than an understanding
knowledge of it. He writes like a whole-hearted amateur, guided by common
sense and enthusiasm, but not by the delicate perceptions of an artist. He
often says things, or says things in a manner, which will assuredly annoy
the artist. Thus his curt, conventional remarks about Zola might have been
composed for a leading article in the _Morning Post_, instead of for a
volume of literary criticism. Nevertheless, I cannot be cross with him. In
some ways his book is illuminating. I mean that it has illuminated my
darkness. His chapters on Russian characteristics and on realism in
Russian literature are genuinely valuable. In particular he makes me see
that even French realism is an artificial and feeble growth compared with
the spontaneous, unconscious realism of the Russians. If you talked to
Russians about realism they probably would not know quite what you meant.
And when you had at length made them understand they would certainly
exclaim: "Well, of course! But why all this fuss about a simple matter?"
Only a man who knows Russia very well, and who has a genuine affection for
the Russian character, could have written these chapters. And I am ready
to admit that they are more useful than many miles of appreciation in the
delicate balancing manner of, say, an Arthur Symons.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Baring raises again the vexed question of Tourgeniev's position. It is
notorious that Tourgeniev is much more highly appreciated outside Russia
than in it. One is, of course, tempted to say that Russians cannot judge
their own authors, for there is a powerful and morally overwhelming cult
for Tourgeniev in France, Germany, and England. I have myself said, sworn,
and believed that "On the Eve" is the most perfect example of the novel
yet produced in any country. And I am not sure that I am yet prepared to
go back on myself. However, it is absurd to argue that Russians cannot
judge their own authors. The best judges of Russian authors must be
Russians. Think of the ridiculous misconceptions about English literature
by first-class foreign critics!... But I am convinced that Mr. Baring goes
too far in his statement of the Russian estimate of Tourgeniev. He says
that educated Russian opinion would no more think of comparing Tourgeniev
with Dostoievsky than educated English opinion would think of comparing
Charlotte Yonge with Charlotte Brontë. This is absurd. Whatever may be
Tourgeniev's general inferiority (and I do not admit it), he was a great
artist and a complete artist. And he was a realist. There is all earth and
heaven between the two Charlottes. One was an artist, the other was an
excellent Christian body who produced stories that have far less relation
to life than Frith's "Derby Day" has to the actual fact and poetry of
Epsom. If Mr. Baring had bracketed Tourgeniev with Charlotte Brontë and
Dostoievsky with the lonely Emily, I should have credited him with a
subtle originality.

About half of the book is given to a straightforward, detailed, homely
account of Dostoievsky, his character, genius, and works. It was very much
wanted in English. I thought I had read all the chief works of the five
great Russian novelists, but last year I came across one of Dostoievsky's,
"The Brothers Karamazov," of which I had not heard. It was a French
translation, in two thick volumes. I thought it contained some of the
greatest scenes that I had ever encountered in fiction, and I at once
classed it with Stendhal's "Chartreuse de Parme" and Dostoievsky's "Crime
and Punishment" as one of the supreme marvels of the world. Nevertheless,
certain aspects of it puzzled me. When I mentioned it to friends I was
told that I had gone daft about it, and that it was not a major work.
Happening to meet Mrs. Garnett, the never-to-be-sufficiently-thanked
translator of Tourgeniev and of Tolstoy, I made inquiries from her about
it, and she said: "It is his masterpiece." We were then separated by a
ruthless host, with my difficulties unsolved. I now learn from Mr. Baring
that the French translation is bad and incomplete, and that the original
work, vast as it is, is only a preliminary fragment of a truly enormous
novel which death prevented Dostoievsky from finishing. Death, this is yet
another proof of your astonishing clumsiness! The scene with the old monk
at the beginning of "The Brothers Karamazov" is in the very grandest
heroical manner. There is nothing in either English or French prose
literature to hold a candle to it. And really I do not exaggerate! There
is probably nothing in Russian literature to match it, outside
Dostoievsky. It ranks, in my mind, with the scene towards the beginning of
"Crime and Punishment," when in the inn the drunken father relates his
daughter's "shame." These pages are unique. They reach the highest and
most terrible pathos that the novelist's art has ever reached. And if an
author's reputation among people of taste depended solely on his success
with single scenes Dostoievsky would outrank all other novelists, if not
all poets. But it does not. Dostoievsky's works--all of them--have grave
faults. They have especially the grave fault of imperfection, that fault
which Tourgeniev and Flaubert avoided. They are tremendously unlevel,
badly constructed both in large outline and in detail. The fact is that
the difficulties under which he worked were too much for the artist in
him. Mr. Baring admits these faults, but he does not sufficiently dwell on
them. He glances at them and leaves them, with the result that the final
impression given by his essay is apt to be a false one. Nobody, perhaps,
ever understood and sympathized with human nature as Dostoievsky did.
Indubitably nobody ever with the help of God and good luck ever swooped so
high into tragic grandeur. But the man had fearful falls. He could not
trust his wings. He is an adorable, a magnificent, and a profoundly sad
figure in letters. He is anything you like. But he could not compass the
calm and exquisite soft beauty of "On the Eve" or "A House of


[_14 July '10_]

Mr. John Galsworthy, whose volume of sketches, "A Motley," is now in
process of being reviewed, is just finishing another novel, which will no
doubt be published in the autumn. That novels have to be finished is the
great disadvantage of the novelist's career--otherwise, as every one
knows, a bed of roses, a velvet cushion, a hammock under a ripe pear-tree.
To begin a novel is delightful. To finish it is the devil. Not because, on
parting with his characters, the novelist's heart is torn by the grief
which Thackeray described so characteristically. (The novelist who has put
his back into a novel will be ready to kick the whole crowd of his
characters down the front-door steps.) But because the strain of keeping a
long book at the proper emotional level through page after page and
chapter after chapter is simply appalling, and as the end approaches
becomes almost intolerable. I have just finished a novel myself; my
nineteenth, I think. So I know the rudiments of the experience. For those
in peril on the sea, and for novelists finishing novels, prayers ought to
be offered up.

In accordance with my habit of re-reading books which have uncommonly
interested me on first perusal, I have recently read again "A Man of
Property." Well, it stands the test. It is certainly the most perfect of
Mr. Galsworthy's novels up to now. Except for the confused impression
caused by the too rapid presentation of all the numerous members of the
Forsyte family at the opening, it has practically no faults. In
construction it is unlike any other novel that I know, but that is not to
say it has no constructive design--as some critics have said. It is merely
to say that it is original. There are no weak parts in the book, no places
where the author has stopped to take his breath and wipe his brow. The
tension is never relaxed. This is one of the two qualities without which a
novel cannot be first class and great. The other is the quality of sound,
harmonious design. Both qualities are exceedingly rare, and I do not know
which is the rarer. In the actual material of the book, the finest quality
is its extraordinary passionate cruelty towards the oppressors as
distinguished from the oppressed. That oppressors should be treated with
less sympathy than oppressed is contrary to my own notion of the ethics of
creative art, but the result in Mr. Galsworthy's work is something very
pleasing. Since "A Man of Property," the idea that the creator of the
universe, or the Original Will, or whatever you like to call it or him,
made a grotesque fundamental mistake in the conception of our particular
planet, has apparently gained much ground in Mr. Galsworthy's mind. I hope
that this ground may slowly be recovered by the opposite idea. Anyhow, the
Forsyte is universal. We are all Forsytes, just as we are all Willoughby
Patternes, and this incontrovertible statement implies inevitably that Mr.
Galsworthy is a writer of the highest rank. I re-read "A Man of Property"
immediately after re-reading Dostoievsky's "Crime and Punishment," and
immediately before re-reading Björnson's "Arne." It ranks well with these
European masterpieces.


[_21 July '10_]

Some time ago I pointed out (what was to me a new discovery) that certain
passages in the German translation of Oscar Wilde's "De Profundis" did not
exist in the original English version as printed; and I suggested that Mr.
Robert Ross, Oscar Wilde's faithful literary executor, should explain. He
has been good enough to do so. He informs me that the passages in question
were restored in the edition of "De Profundis" (the thirteenth) in Wilde's
Complete Works, issued by Messrs. Methuen to a limited public, and that
they have been retained in the fourteenth (separate) edition, of which Mr.
Ross sends me a copy. I possessed only the first edition. I do not want to
part with it, but the fourteenth is a great deal more interesting than the
first. It contains a dedicatory letter by Mr. Ross to Dr. Max Meyerfeld
("But for you I do not think the book would ever have been published"),
and some highly interesting letters written in Reading Gaol by Wilde to
Mr. Ross (which had previously been published in Germany). In the course
of this dedicatory letter, Mr. Ross says: "In sending copy to Messrs.
Methuen (to whom alone I submitted it) I anticipated refusal, as though
the work were my own. A very distinguished man of letters who acted as
their reader advised, however, its acceptance, and urged, in view of the
uncertainty of its reception, the excision of certain passages, to which I
readily assented."

       *       *       *       *       *

This explains clearly enough the motive for suppressing the passages. But
even after making allowance for the natural timidity and apprehensiveness
of the publishers' reader, I cannot quite understand why those particular
passages were cut out. Here is one of them: "I had genius, a distinguished
name, high social position, brilliancy, intellectual daring; I made art a
philosophy and philosophy an art. I altered the minds of men and the
colours of things; there was nothing I said or did that did not make
people wonder. I took the drama, the most objective form known to art, and
made it as personal a mode of expression as the lyric or sonnet; at the
same time I widened its range and enriched its characteristics. Drama,
novel, poem in prose, poem in rhyme, subtle or fantastic dialogue,
whatever I touched I made beautiful in a new mode of beauty. To truth
itself I gave what is false no less than what is true as its rightful
province, and showed that the false and the true are merely forms of
intellectual existence. I treated art as the supreme reality and life as a
mere mode of fiction. I awoke the imagination of my century so that it
created myth and legend around me. I summed up all systems in a phrase,
and all existence in an epigram. Along with these things I had things that
were different. But I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless
and sensual ease." It is difficult to see anything in the factitious but
delightful brilliance of this very characteristic swagger that could have
endangered the book's reception.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Ross's letter to me concludes thus: "'De Profundis,' however, even in
its present form, is only a fragment. The whole work could not be
published in the lifetime of the present generation." This makes, within a
month, the third toothsome dish as to which I have had the exasperating
news that it is being reserved for that spoiled child, posterity. I may
say, however, that I do not regard "De Profundis" as one of Wilde's best
books. I was disappointed with it. It is too frequently insincere, and
the occasion was not one for pose. And it has another fault. I happened to
meet M. Henry Davray several times while he was translating the book into
French. M. Davray's knowledge of English is profound, and I was
accordingly somewhat disconcerted when one day, pointing to a sentence in
the original, he asked, "What does that mean?" I thought, "Is Davray at
last 'stumped'?" I examined the sentence with care, and then answered, "It
doesn't mean anything." "I thought so," said M. Davray. We looked at each
other. M. Davray was an old friend of Wilde's, and was one of the dozen
men who attended his desolating funeral. And I was an enthusiastic admirer
of Wilde's style at its best. We said no more. But a day or two later a
similar incident happened, and yet another.

       *       *       *       *       *

Wilde's letters to Mr. Ross from prison are extremely good. They begin
sombrely, but after a time the wit lightens, and towards the end it is
playing continually. The first gleam of it is this: "I am going to take up
the study of German. Indeed prison seems to be the proper place for such
a study." On the subject of the natural life, he says a thing which is
exquisitely wise: "Stevenson's letters are most disappointing also. I see
that romantic surroundings are the worst surroundings for a romantic
writer. In Gower Street Stevenson would have written a new 'Trois
Mousquetaires,' in Samoa he writes letters to the _Times_ about Germans. I
see also the traces of a terrible strain to lead a natural life. To chop
wood with any advantage to oneself or profit to others, one should not be
able to describe the process. In point of fact the natural life is the
unconscious life. Stevenson merely extended the sphere of the artificial
by taking to digging. The whole dreary book has given me a lesson. If I
spend my future life reading Baudelaire in a café I shall be leading a
more natural life than if I take to hedger's work or plant cacao in


[_4 Aug. '10_]

I came away for a holiday without any books, except one, and I cut off the
whole of my supply of newspapers, except one. As a rule my baggage is most
injurious to railway porters, and on the Continent very costly, because of
the number of books and neckties it contains. I wear the neckties, but I
never read the books. I am always meaning to read them, but something is
always preventing me. Before starting, the awful thought harasses me:
Supposing I wanted to read and I had naught! This time I decided that it
would be agreeably perilous to run the risk. The unique book which I
packed was the sixth volume of Montaigne in the Temple Classics edition.
We are all aware, from the writings of Mr. A.B. Walkley, Sir William
Robertson Nicoll, Mr. Hall Caine, and others, what a peerless companion is
Montaigne; how in Montaigne there is a page to suit every mood; how the
most diverse mentalities--the pious, the refined, the libertine, the
philosophic, the egoistic, the altruistic, the merely silly--may find in
him the food of sympathy. I knew I should be all right with Montaigne. I
invariably read in bed of a night (unless paying in my temples the price
of excess), and nobody who ever talked about bed-books has succeeded in
leaving out Montaigne from his list. My luggage cost much less than usual.
I positively looked forward to reading Montaigne. Yet when the first night
in a little French hotel arrived, and I had perched the candle on the top
of the ewer on the night-table in order to get it high enough, I
discovered that instead of Montaigne I was going to read a verbatim
account of a poisoning trial in the Paris _Journal_. That is about three
weeks ago, and I have not yet opened my Montaigne. I have, however, talked
enthusiastically to sundry French people about Montaigne, and explained to
them that Florio's translation is at least equal to the original, and that
Montaigne is truly beloved and understood in England alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was on the second day of my holiday, in another small provincial town
in Central France, where I was improving my mind and fitting myself for
cultured society in London by the contemplation of cathedrals, that I came
across, in a draper's and fancy-ware shop, a remaindered stock of French
fiction, at 4-1/2d. the volume. Among these, to my intense disgust, was a
translation of a little thing of my own, and also a collection of stories
by Léonide Andreief, translated by Serge Persky, and published by _Le
Monde Illustré_. Although I already possessed, in Montaigne, sustenance
for months, I bought this volume, and at once read it. A small book by
Andreief, "The Seven that were Hanged," was published in England--last
year, I think--by Mr. Fifield. It received a very great deal of praise,
and was, in fact, treated as a psychological masterpiece. I was
disappointed with it myself, for the very simple reason that I found it
tedious. I had difficulty in finishing it. I gather that Andreief has a
great reputation in Russia, sharing with Gorky the leadership of the
younger school. Well, I don't suppose that I shall ever read any more
Gorky, who has assuredly not come up to expectations. There are things
among the short stories of Andreief (the volume is entitled "Nouvelles")
which are better than "The Seven that were Hanged." "The Governor," for
example, is a pretty good tale, obviously written under the influence of
Tolstoy's "Death of Ivan Ilyitch"; and a story about waiting at a railway
station remains in the mind not unpleasantly. But the best of the book is
second-rate, vitiated by diffuseness, imitativeness, and the usual
sentimentality. Neither Andreief nor Gorky will ever seriously count.
Neither of them comes within ten leagues of the late Anton Tchehkoff. I
think there must be young novelists alive in Russia who are superior to
these two alleged leaders. I have, in fact, heard talk of one Apoutkine,
in this country of France, and I am taking measures to read him.

       *       *       *       *       *

When at length I settled down in a small hotel in a village on the farther
coast of Brittany, I had read nothing but Andreief and criminal processes.
Nobody else in the hotel, save one old lady, read anything but criminal
processes. It is true that it was a sadly vulgar hotel. My fellow-guests
were mainly employees who had escaped for a fortnight from the big Paris
shops. In particular there was a handsome young woman from the fur
department of the Grands Magasins du Louvre, who (weather permitting)
spent half her morning in a kimono at her bedroom window while her husband
(perfumery department) discussed patriotism and feminism in the café
below. When I remember the spectacle, which I have often seen, of the
staff of the Grands Magasins du Louvre trooping into its prison at 7.30
a.m. to spend a happy day of eleven and a half hours in humouring the
whims of the great shopping classes, I was charmed to watch this handsome
and vapid creature idling away whole hours at her window and enjoying the
gaze of persons like myself. She never read. Once when I had a bit of a
discussion with her husband at lunch upon an intellectual matter, she got
up and walked away with an impatient gesture of disdain, as if to say:
"What has all this got to do with Love?" Her husband never read, either.
Their friends did not read, not even newspapers. But another couple had an
infant, aged three, and this infant had a rather fierce grandmother, and
this grandmother read a great deal. She and I alone stood for literature.
She would stay at home with the infant while the intermediate generation
was away larking. She was always reading the same book. It was a thick
book, with a glossy coloured cover displaying some scene in which homicide
and passion were mingled; its price, new, was sixpence halfpenny, and its
title was simply and magnificently, "Borgia!" with a note of exclamation
after it. She confined herself to "Borgia!" She was tireless with
"Borgia!" She went home to Paris reading "Borgia!" It was a shocking
hotel, so different from the literary hotels of Switzerland, Bournemouth,
and Scarborough, where all the guests read Meredith and Walter Pater. I
ought to have been ashamed to be seen in such a place. My only excuse is
that the other two hotels in the remote little village were just as bad,
probably worse.


[Sidenote:_18 Aug. '10_]

A correspondent writes angrily to me because I have not written angrily
about the list of authors recently put forward as Academicians of the
proposed new British Academy of Letters. The fact is that the entire
scheme of the British Academy of Letters had a near shave of escaping my
attention altogether. I only heard of it by accident, being away on a
holiday in a land where they have had enough of academies. But for the
miracle of a newspaper found on a fishing-boat I might not have even known
what on earth my correspondent was raging about. In literary circles such
as mine the new British Academy of Letters has not been extensively
advertised. In the main I agree with my correspondent's criticisms of the
list. But I must say that his ire shows a certain naïveté. None but a
young and trustful man could have expected the list to be otherwise than
profoundly and utterly grotesque. A list of creative artists that did not
suffer acutely from this defect could only be compiled by creative artists
themselves. Not all, and not nearly all, creative artists would be
qualified to sit on the compiling committee, but nobody who was not a
creative artist would be qualified. The rest of the world has no sure
ground of judgment, for the true critical faculty is inseparable from the
creative. The least critical word of the most prejudiced and ignorant
creative artist is more valuable than whole volumes writ by dilettanti of
measureless refinement and erudition. I am not aware of the identity of
the persons who sat down together and compiled the pleasing preliminary
list of twenty-seven academicians, but I am perfectly certain that the
predominant among them were not original artists. The artist, at the
present stage of social evolution, would as soon think of worrying himself
about the formation of an academy, as of putting up for the St. Pancras
Borough Council. He has something else to do. He fears the deadly contacts
with those prim, restless, and tedious dilettanti. And of course he knows
that academies are the enemies of originality and progress.

       *       *       *       *       *

That list was undoubtedly sketched out by a coterie of dilettanti. London
swarms with the dilettanti of letters. They do not belong to the criminal
classes, but their good intentions, their culture, their judiciousness,
and their infernal cheek amount perhaps to worse than arson or assault.
Their attitude towards the creative artist is always one of large,
tolerant pity. They honestly think that if only the artist knew his
business as they know his business, if only he had their discernment and
impartiality, and if only he wasn't so confoundedly ignorant and
violent--how different he would be, how much nicer and better, how much
more effective! They are eternally ready to show an artist where he is
wrong and what he ought to do in order to obtain their laudations
unreserved. In a personal encounter, they will invariably ride over him
like a regiment of polite cavalry, because they are accustomed to personal
encounters. They shine at tea, at dinner, and after dinner. They talk more
easily than he does, and write more easily too. They can express
themselves more readily. And they know such a deuce of a lot. And they can
balance pros and cons with astonishing virtuosity. The Press is their
washpot. And they are influential in other places. They can get pensions
for their favourites. They know the latest methods of pulling an artichoke
to pieces. And they will say among themselves, forgiving but slightly
pained: "Yes, he's written a very remarkable novel, but he doesn't know
how to eat an artichoke." They would be higher than the angels were it not
for the fact that, in art, they are exquisitely and perfectly footling.
They cannot believe this, the public cannot believe it. Nevertheless,
every artist knows it to be true. They have never done anything themselves
except fuss around.

       *       *       *       *       *

As for us, we are their hobby. And since unoriginality is their most
striking characteristic, some of us are occasionally pretty nearly hobbied
to extinction by them. In every generation they select some artist,
usually for reasons quite unconnected with art, and put him exceedingly
high up in a niche by himself. And when you name his name you must hush
your voice, and discussion ends. Thus in the present generation, in
letters, they have selected Joseph Conrad, a great artist, but not the
only artist on the island. When Conrad is mentioned they say, "Ah,
Conrad!" and bow the head. And in the list, compiled presumably to
represent what is finest in English literature at an epoch when the novel
is admittedly paramount, there are half a dozen of everything except
novelists. There is only one practising novelist, and he is not an
Englishman. I said a moment ago that the most striking characteristic of
the dilettanti is unoriginality. But possibly a serene unhumorousness runs
it close.

       *       *       *       *       *

The master-thought at the bottom of this scheme is not an Academy of
British Letters for literary artists, but an Academy of British Letters
for literary dilettanti. A few genuine artists, if the scheme blossoms,
will undoubtedly be found in it. But that will be an accident. Some of the
more decorative dilettanti have had a vision of themselves as
academicians. Hence the proposal for an academy. In the public mind
dilettanti are apt to be confused with artists. Indeed, the greater the
artist, the more likely the excellent public is to regard him as a sort of
inferior and unserious barbaric dilettante. (Fortunately posterity does
not make these mistakes.) A genuine original artist is bound to make a sad
spectacle of himself in an academy. Knowing this, Anatole France, the
greatest man in the Académie Française, never goes near the sittings. He
has got from the institution all that advantage of advertisement which he
was legitimately entitled to get, and he has no further use for the
Académie Française. His contempt for it as an artist is not concealed.
What can academicians do except put on a uniform and make eulogistic
discourses to each other under the eyes of fashionably-attired American
female tourists? The Authors' Society does more practical good for the art
of literature in a year than an Academy of Letters could do in forty

       *       *       *       *       *

The existing British Academy of Learning may or may not be a dignified and
serious institution. I do not know. But I see no reason why it should not
be. It has not interested the public, and it never will. Advertisement
does not enter into it to any appreciable extent. Moreover, it is much
more difficult to be a dilettante of learning than a dilettante of
letters. You are sooner found out. Further, learning can be organized, and
organized with advantage. Creative art cannot. All artistic academies are
bad. The one real use of an artistic academy is to advertise the art which
it represents, to cause the excellent public to think and chatter about
that art and to support it by buying specimens of it. The Royal Academy
has admirably succeeded in this business, as may be seen at Burlington
Gardens any afternoon in the season. But it has succeeded at the price of
making itself grotesque and vicious; and it retards, though of course it
cannot stop, the progress of graphic art. Certain arts are in need of
advertisement. For example, sculpture. An Academy of Sculpture might, just
now, do some good and little harm. But literature is in no need of
advertisement in this country. It is advertised more than all the others
arts put together. It includes the theatre. It is advertised to death. Be
sure that if it really did stand in need of advertisement, no dilettante
would have twice looked at it. The one point which interests me about the
proposed academy is whether uniforms are comprised in the scheme.


[_25 Aug. '10_]

One of the moral advantages of not being a regular professional, labelled,
literary critic is that when one has been unable to read a book to the
end, one may admit the same cheerfully. It often happens to the
professional critic not to be able to finish a book, but of course he must
hide the weakness, for it is his business to get to the end of books
whether they weary him or not. It is as much his living to finish reading
a book as it is mine to finish writing a book. Twice lately I have got
ignominiously "stuck" in novels, and in each case I particularly regretted
the sad breakdown. Gabriele d'Annunzio's "Forse che si forse che no" has
been my undoing. I began it in the French version by Donatella Cross
(Calmann-Lévy, 3 fr. 50), and I began it with joy and hope. The
translation, by the way, is very good. Whatever mountebank tricks
d'Annunzio may play as a human being, he has undoubtedly written some very
great works. He is an intensely original artist. You may sometimes think
him silly, foppish, extravagant, or even caddish (as in "Il Fuoco"), but
you have to admit that the English notions of what constitutes
extravagance or caddishness are by no means universally held. And anyhow
you have to admit that here is a man who really holds an attitude towards
life, who is steeped in the sense of style, and who has a superb passion
for beauty. Some of d'Annunzio's novels were a revelation, dazzling. And
who that began even "Il Fuoco" could resist it? How adult, how subtle, how
(in the proper signification) refined, seems the sexuality of d'Annunzio
after the timid, gawky, infantile, barbaric sexuality of our "island
story"! People are not far wrong on the Continent when they say, as they
do say, that English novelists cannot deal with an Englishwoman--or could
not up till a few years ago. They never get into the same room with her.
They peep like schoolboys through the crack of the door. D'Annunzio can
deal with an Italian woman. He does so in the first part of "Forse che si
forse che no." She is only one sort of woman, but she _is_ one sort--and
that's something! He has not done many things better than the long scene
in the Mantuan palace. There is nothing to modern British taste positively
immoral in this first part, but it is tremendously sexual. It contains a
description of a kiss--just a kiss and nothing more--that is magnificent
and overwhelming. You may say that you don't want a magnificent and
overwhelming description of a kiss in your fiction. To that I reply that I
do want it. Unfortunately d'Annunzio leaves the old palace and goes out on
to the aviation ground, and, for me, gradually becomes unreadable. The
agonies that I suffered night after night fighting against the wild tedium
of d'Annunzio's airmanship, and determined that I would find out what he
was after or perish, and in the end perishing--in sleep! To this hour I
don't know for sure what he was driving at--what is the theme of the book!
But if his theme is what I dimly guess it to be, then the less said about
it the better in Britain.

       *       *       *       *       *

The other book which has engaged me in a stand-up fight and floored me is
A.F. Wedgwood's "The Shadow of a Titan" (Duckworth, 6s.). For this I am
genuinely sorry; I had great hopes of it. I was seriously informed that
"The Shadow of a Titan" is a first-class thing, something to make one
quote Keats's "On First Reading Chapman's 'Homer.'" A most extraordinary
review of it appeared in the _Manchester_ _Guardian_, a newspaper not
given to facile enthusiasms about new writers, and a paper which, on the
whole, reviews fiction more capably and conscientiously than any other
daily in the kingdom. Well, I wouldn't care to say anything more strongly
in favour of "The Shadow of a Titan" than that it is clever. Clever it is,
especially in its style. The style has the vulgarly glittering cleverness
of, say, Professor Walter Raleigh. It is exhausting, and not a bit
beautiful. The author--whoever he may be; the name is quite unfamiliar to
me, but this is not the first time he has held a pen--chooses his material
without originality. Much of it is the common material of the library
novel, seen and handled in the common way. When I was floored I had just
got to a part which disclosed the epical influence of Mr. Joseph Conrad.
It had all the characteristics of Mr. Conrad save his deep sense of form
and his creative genius.... However, I couldn't proceed with it. In brief,
for me, it was dull. Probably the latter half was much better, but I
couldn't cut my way through to the latter half.


[_1 Sep. '10_]

I am indebted to Mr. Murray for sending what is to me a new manifestation
of the entirely precious activity of Mr. Arthur Christopher Benson. Mr.
Benson, in "The Thread of Gold," ministers to all that is highest and most
sacred in the Mudie temperament. It is not a new book; only I have been
getting behind-hand. It was first printed in 1905, and it seems to have
been on and off the printing-presses ever since, and now Mr. Murray has
issued it, very neatly, at a shilling net, so that people who have never
even been inside Mudie's may obtain it. I have read the book with intense
joy, hugging myself, and every now and then running off to a sister-spirit
with a "I say, just listen to _this_!" The opening sentence of one of the
various introductions serves well to display Mr. A.C. Benson at his
superlative: "I have for a great part of my life desired, perhaps more
than I have desired anything else, to make a beautiful book; and I have
tried, perhaps too hard and too often, to do this, _without ever quite
succeeding_" [my italics]. Oh, triple modesty! The violet-like beauty of
that word "quite"! Thus he tried perhaps too hard and too often to
produce something beautiful! Not that for a moment I believe the excellent
Mr. Benson to be so fatuous as these phrases, like scores of others in the
book, would indicate. It is merely that heaven has been pleased to deprive
him of any glimmer of humour, and that he is the victim of a style which,
under an appearance of neatness and efficiency and honesty, is really
disorderly, loose, inefficient, and traitorous. His pages abound in
instances of the unfaithfulness of his style, which is continually giving
him away and making him say what he does not in fact want to say. For
example: "Such traces as one sees in the chapels of the Oxford Movement
... would be purely deplorable from the artistic point of view, if they
did not possess a historical interest." As if historical interest could
make them less deplorable from an artistic point of view! It might make
them less deplorable from another point of view. Three times he explains
the motif of the book. Here is the third and, at present, the last version
of the motif: "That whether we are conquerors or conquered, triumphant or
despairing, prosperous or pitiful, well or ailing, we are all these things
through Him that loves us." I seem to remember that the late Frances
Ridley Havergal burst into the world with this information I recommend her
works to Mr. Benson. In another of the introductions he says: "I think
that God put it into my heart to write this book, and I hope that he [not
He] will allow me to persevere." Personally (conceited though I am), I
never put myself to the trouble of formulating hopes concerning the
Infinite Purpose, but if I did I should hope that He just won't. Mr.
Benson proceeds: "And yet indeed I know that I am not fit for so holy a
task." Here we have one of the most diverting instances of Mr. Benson's
trick-playing style. He didn't mean that; he only said it. Much, if not
most, of "The Thread of of Gold" is merely absurd. Some of it is
pretentious, some of it inept. All of it is utterly banal. All of it has
the astounding calm assurance of mediocrity. It is a solemn thought that
tens of thousands of well-dressed mortals alive and idle to-day consider
themselves to have been uplifted by the perusal of this work. It is also a
solemn thought that God in His infinite mercy and wisdom is still allowing
Mr. Benson to persevere in his so holy task, thus responding to Mr.
Benson's hopes.


[_8 Sep. 10_]

I have just had news of a purely literary paper which is shortly to be
started. I do not mean a paper devoted to literary criticisms chiefly, but
chiefly to creative work. This will be something of a novelty in England.
Its founders are two men who possess, happily, a practical acquaintance
with publishing. The aim of the paper will be to print, and to sell,
imaginative writing of the highest character. Its purpose is artistic, and
neither political nor moral. Dangers and difficulties lie before an
enterprise of this kind. The first and the principal difficulty will be
the difficulty of obtaining the high-class stuff in sufficient quantities
to fill the paper. The rate of pay will not and cannot be high, and
authors capable of producing really high-class stuff--I mean stuff
high-class in execution as well as in intention--are strangely keen on
getting the best possible remuneration for it. Idle to argue that genuine
artists ought to be indifferent to money! They are not. And what is still
more curious, they will seldom produce their best work unless they really
do want money. This is a fact which will stand against all the sentimental
denyings of dilettanti. And, of course, genuine artists are quite right
in getting every cent they can. The richest of them don't get enough. But
even if the rates of pay of the new organ were high, the difficulty would
still be rather acute, because the whole mass of really high-class stuff
produced is relatively very small. High-class stuff is like radium. And
the number of men who can produce it is strictly limited. There are dozens
and scores of men who can write stuff which has all the mannerisms and
external characteristics of high-class stuff, but which is not high-class.
Extinct exotic periodicals, such as the _Yellow Book_, the _Savoy_, the
_Dial_, the _Anglo-Saxon_, and such publications as the _Neolith_, richly
prove this. What was and is the matter with all of them is literary
priggishness, and dullness. One used to read them more often as a duty
than as a pleasure.

       *       *       *       *       *

A great danger is the inevitable tendency to disdain the public and to
appeal only to artists. Artists, like washerwomen, cannot live on one
another. Moreover, nobody has any right to disdain the public. You will
find that, as a general rule, the greatest artists have managed to get and
to keep on good terms with the public. If an artist is clever enough--if
he is not narrow, insolent, and unbalanced--he will usually contrive while
pleasing himself to please the public, or _a_ public. It is his business
to do so. If he does not do so he proves himself incompetent. He is merely
mumbling to himself. Just as the finite connotes the infinite, so an
artist connotes a public. The artist who says he doesn't care a fig for
the public is a liar. He may have many admirable virtues, but he is a
liar. The tragedy of all the smaller literary periodicals in France is
that the breach between them and the public is complete. They are
unhealthy, because they have not sufficient force to keep themselves
alive, and they make no effort to acquire that force. They scorn that
force. They are kept alive by private subsidies. A paper cannot be
established in a fortnight, but no artistic paper which has no reasonable
prospect of paying its way ought to continue to exist; for it demonstrates
nothing but an obstinacy which is ridiculous. The first business of the
editor of an artistic periodical is to interest the public in questions of
art. He cannot possibly convince them till he has interested them up to
the point of regularly listening to him. Enthusiastic artists are apt to
forget this. It is no use being brilliant and conscientious on a tub at a
street corner unless you can attract some kind of a crowd. The public has
just got to be considered. You may say that it is not easy to make any
public listen to the truth about anything. Well, of course, it isn't. But
it can be done by tact, and tact, and tact.

       *       *       *       *       *

I do not think that there is a remunerative public in England for any
really literary paper which entirely bars politics and morals. England is
not an artistic country, in the sense that Latin countries are artistic,
and no end can be served by pretending that it is. Its serious interests
are political and moral. Personally, I fail to see how politics and morals
can be separated from art. I should be very sorry to separate my art from
my politics. And I am convinced that the conductors of the new organ will
perceive later, if not sooner, that political and moral altercations must
not be kept out of their columns. At any rate they will have to be
propagandist, pugilistic, and even bloodthirsty. They will have to
formulate a creed, and to try to ram it down people's throats. To print
merely so many square feet of the best obtainable imaginative stuff, and
to let the stuff speak for itself, will assuredly not suffice in this
excellent country.

       *       *       *       *       *

My mind returns to the exceeding difficulty of obtaining the right
contributors. English editors have never appreciated the importance of
this. As English manufacturers sit still and wait for customers, so
English editors sit still and wait for contributors. The interestingness
of the _New Age_, if I may make an observation which the editorial pen
might hesitate to make, is due to the fact that contributors have always
been searched for zealously and indefatigably. They have been compelled to
come in--sometimes with a lasso, sometimes with a revolver, sometimes with
a lure of flattery; but they have been captured. American editors are much
better than English editors in this supreme matter. The profound truth has
not escaped them that good copy does not as a rule fly in unbidden at the
office window. They don't idiotically pretend that they have far more of
the right kind of stuff than they know what to do with, as does the
medium-fatuous English editor. They cajole. They run round. They hustle.
The letters which I get from American editors are one of the joys of my
simple life. They are so un-English. They write: "Won't you be good enough
to let us hear from you?" Or, "We are anxious [underlined] to see your
output." Imagine that from an English editor! And they contrive to say
what they mean, picturesquely. One editor wrote me: "We want material that
will hit the mark without producing either insomnia or heart-failure." An
editor capable of such self-expression endears himself at once to any
possible contributor. And, above all, they do not fear each other, as ours
do, nor tremble at the thought of Mrs. Grundy (I mean the best ones). A
letter which I received only a few days ago ended thus: "We are not
running the magazine for the benefit of the Young Person, and we are not
afraid of Realism so long as it is interesting. Hoping to hear from you."
I lay these paragraphs respectfully at the feet of the conductors of the
new paper.


[_22 Sep. '10_]

It happened lately to a lady who is one of the pillars of the _British
Weekly_ to state in her column of innocuous gossip about clothes, weather,
and holidays, that a hundred thousand words or three hundred and fifty
pages was the "comfortable limit" for a novel. I feel sure she meant no
harm by it, and that she attached but little importance to it. The thing
was expressed with a condescension which was perhaps scarcely becoming in
a paragraphist, but such accidents will happen even in the most
workmanlike columns of gossip, and are to be forgiven. Nevertheless, the
_Westminster Gazette_ has seized hold of the paragraph, framed it in
22-carat gold, and hung it up for observation, and a magnificent summer
correspondence has blossomed round about it, to the great profit of the
_Westminster Gazette_, which receives, gratis, daily about a column and a
half of matter signed by expensive names. Other papers, daily and weekly,
have also joined in the din and the fray. As the discussion is perfectly
futile, I do not propose to add to it. In spite of the more or less
violent expression of preferences, nobody really cares whether a novel is
long or short. In spite of the fact that a certain type of mind, common
among publishers, is always apt to complain that novels at a given moment
are either too long or too short, the length of a novel has no influence
whatever on its success or failure. One of the most successful novels of
the present generation, "Ships that Pass in the Night," is barely 60,000
words long. One of the most successful novels of the present generation,
"The Heavenly Twins," is quite 200,000 words long. Both were of the right
length for the public. As for the mid-Victorian novels, most of the
correspondents appear to have a very vague idea of their length. It is
said they "exceed 200,000 words." It would be within the mark to say that
they exceed 400,000 words. There is not one of them, however, that would
not be tremendously improved by being cut down to about half. And even
then the best of them would not compare with "The Mayor of Casterbridge"
or "Nostromo" or "The Way of all Flesh." The damning fault of all
mid-Victorian novels is that they are incurably ugly and sentimental.
Novelists had not yet discovered that the first business of a work of art
is to be beautiful, and its second not to be sentimental.


[_6 Oct. '10_]

A month ago, apropos of the difficulties of running a high-class literary
periodical, I wrote the following words: "Idle to argue that genuine
artists ought to be indifferent to money! They are not. And what is still
more curious, they will seldom produce their best work unless they really
do want money." This pronouncement came at an unfortunate moment, which
was the very moment when Mr. Sampson happened to be denying, with a
certain fine heat, the thesis of Lord Rosebery that poverty is good for
poets. Somebody even quoted me against Mr. Sampson in favour of Lord
Rosebery. This I much regret, and it has been on my mind ever since. I do
not wish to be impolite on the subject of Lord Rosebery. He is an ageing
man, probably exacerbated by the consciousness of failure. At one
time--many years ago--he had his hours of righteous enthusiasm. And he has
always upheld the banner of letters in a social sphere whose notorious
proud stupidity has been immemorially blind to the true function of art in
life. But if any remark of Lord Rosebery's at a public banquet could
fairly be adduced in real support of an argument of mine, I should be
disturbed. And, fact, I heartily agreed with Mr. Sampson's demolishment of
Lord Rosebery's speech about genius and poverty. Lord Rosebery was talking
nonsense, and as with all his faults he cannot be charged with the
stupidity of his class, he must have known that he was talking nonsense.
The truth is that as the official mouthpiece of the nation he was merely
trying to excuse, in an official perfunctory way, the inexcusable
behaviour of the nation towards its artists.

       *       *       *       *       *

As regards my own assertion that genuine artists will seldom produce their
best work unless they really do want money, I fail to see how it conspires
with Lord Rosebery's assertion. Moreover, I must explain that I was not
thinking of poets. I was thinking of prose-writers, who do have a chance
of making a bit of money. Money has scarcely any influence on the activity
of poets, because they are aware that, no matter how well they succeed,
the chances are a million to one against any appreciable monetary reward.
An extreme lack of money will, of course, hamper them, and must, of
course, do harm to the artist in them. An assured plenty of money may
conceivably induce lethargy. But the hope of making money by their art
will not spur them on, for there is no hope. No! I ought to have said
explicitly at the time that I had in mind, not poets, who by the
indifference of the public are set apart from money, but of those artists
who have a reasonable opportunity of becoming public darlings and of
earning now and then incomes which a grocer would not despise. That these
latter are constantly influenced by money, and spurred to their finest
efforts by the need of the money necessary for the satisfaction of their
tastes, is a fact amply proved by the experience of everybody who is on
intimate terms with them in real life. It almost amounts to common
literary knowledge. It applies equally to the mediocre and to the
distinguished artist. Those persons who have not participated in the
pleasures and the pains of intimacy with distinguished writers depending
for a livelihood on their pens, can learn the truth about them by reading
the correspondence of such authors as Scott, Balzac, Dickens, de
Maupassant, and Stevenson. It is an absolute certainty that we owe about
half the "Comédie Humaine" to Balzac's extravagant imprudence. It is
equally sure that Scott's mania for landed estate was responsible for a
very considerable part of his artistic output. And so on. When once an
artist has "tasted" the money of art, the desire thus set up will keep his
genius hard at work better than any other incentive. It occasionally
happens that an artist financially prudent, after doing a few fine things,
either makes or comes into so much money that he is wealthy for the rest
of his life. Such a condition induces idleness, induces a disinclination
to fight against artistic difficulties. Naturally! I could give living
instances in England to-day. But my discretion sends me to France for an
instance. Take François de Curel. François de Curel was writing, twenty
years ago, dramatic works of the very best kind. Their value was
acknowledged by the few, and it remains permanent. The author is
definitely classed as a genius in the history of the French theatre. But
the verdict has not yet been endorsed by the public. For quite a number of
years M. de Curel has produced practically nothing on the stage. He has
preferred to withdraw from the battle against the indifference of the
public. Had he needed money, the hope of money would have forced him to
continue the battle, and we should have had perhaps half a dozen really
fine plays by François de Curel that do not at present exist. But he did
not need money. He is in receipt of a large income from iron foundries.


_20 Oct. '10_

Henri Becque, one of the greatest dramatists of the nineteenth century,
and certainly the greatest realistic French dramatist, died at the close
of the century in all the odour of obliquity. His work is now the chief
literary topic in Paris; it has indeed rivalled the Portuguese revolution
and the French railway strike as a subject of conversation among people
who talk like sheep run. This dizzy popularity has been due to an
accident, but it is, nevertheless, a triumph for Becque, who until
recently had won the esteem only of the handful of people who think for
themselves. I should say that no first-class modern French author is more
perfectly unknown and uncared-for in England than Henri Becque. I once met
a musical young woman who had never heard of Ibsen (she afterwards married
a man with twelve thousand a year--such is life!), but I have met dozens
and scores of enormously up-to-date persons who had never heard of Henri
Becque. The most fantastic and the most exotic foreign plays have been
performed in England, but I doubt if the London curtain has ever yet risen
on a play of Becque's. Once in Soho, a historic and highly ceremonious
repast took place. I entertained a personage to afternoon tea in a
restaurant where afternoon tea had never been served before. This
personage was the President of the Incorporated Stage Society. He asked me
if I knew anything about a French play called "La Parisienne." I replied
that I had seen it oftener than any other modern play, and that it was the
greatest modern play of my acquaintance. He then inquired whether I would
translate it for the Stage Society. I said I should be delighted to
translate it for the Stage Society. He expressed joy and said the
Committee would sit on the project. I never heard any more.

       *       *       *       *       *

Becque wrote two absolutely first-class modern realistic plays. One is "La
Parisienne." The other is "Les Corbeaux." Once, when I was in Paris, I saw
exposed among a million other books in front of the window of Stock's shop
near the Théâtre Français, a copy of "Les Corbeaux." Opening it, I
perceived that it was an example of the first edition (1882). I asked the
price, and to my horror the attendant hesitated and said that he would
"see." I feared the price was going to be fancy. He came back and named
four francs, adding, "It's our last copy." I paid the four francs
willingly. On examining my trophy I saw that it was published by Tresse.
Now Stock became Tresse's partner before he had that business to himself.
I had simply bought the play at the original house of its publication. And
it had fallen to me, after some twenty-five years, to put the first
edition of "Les Corbeaux" out of print! I went home and read the play and
was somewhat disappointed with it. I thought it very fine in its direct
sincerity, but not on the same plane as "La Parisienne."

       *       *       *       *       *

Antoine, founder of the Théâtre Libre, director of the Théâtre Antoine
during brilliant years, and now director of the Odéon (which he has raised
from the dead), was always a tremendous admirer of Becque. It was through
Antoine that Paris had such magnificent performances of "La Parisienne."
He had long expressed his intention of producing "Les Corbeaux," and now
he has produced "Les Corbeaux" at the Odéon, where it has been definitely
accepted and consecrated as a masterpiece. I could not refrain from going
to Paris specially to see it. It was years since I had been in the Odéon.
Rather brighter, perhaps, in its more ephemeral decorations, but still the
same old-fashioned, roomy, cramped, provincial theatre, with pit-tier
boxes like the cells of a prison! The audience was good. It was startingly
good for the Odéon. The play, too, at first seemed old-fashioned--in
externals. It has bits of soliloquies and other dodges of technique now
demoded. But the first act was not half over before the extreme modernness
of the play forced itself upon you. Tchehkoff is not more modern. The
picture of family life presented in the first act was simply delightful.
All the bitterness was reserved for the other acts. And what superb
bitterness! No one can be so cruel as Becque to a "sympathetic" character.
He exposes every foolishness of the ruined widow; he never spares her for
an instant; and yet one's sympathy is not alienated. This is truth. This
is a play. I had not read the thing with sufficient imagination, with the
result that for me it "acted" much better than it had "read." Its sheer
beauty, truth, power, and wit, justified even the great length of the last
act. I thought Becque had continued to add scenes to the play after it
was essentially finished. But it was I who was mistaken, not he. The final
scene began by irritating and ended by completely capturing the public.
Teissier, the principal male part, was played by M. Numès in a manner
which amounted to genius.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Les Corbeaux" was originally produced at the Théâtre Français, where it
was not a success. All Becque's recent fame is due, after Becque, to
Antoine. But now that Antoine has done all the hard work, Jules Claretie,
the flaccid director of the Français, shows a natural desire to share in
the harvest. Becque left a play unfinished, "Les Polichinelles." Becque's
executor, M. Robaglia, handed this play to M. Henri de Noussanne to
finish--heaven knows why! M. de Noussanne has written novels entirely
bereft of importance, and he is the editor of _Gil Blas_, a daily paper
whose importance it would not be easy to underestimate; and his
qualifications for finishing a play by Becque are in the highest degree
mysterious. The finished play was to be produced at the Français. The
production would have been what the French call a solemnity. But M.
Robaglia suddenly jibbed. He declared M. de Noussanne's work to be
unworthy, and he declined to permit the performance of the play. Then
followed a grand and complicated shindy--one of those charming Parisian
literary rows which excite the newspapers for days! In the end it was
settled that neither M. de Noussanne's version nor any other version of
"Les Polichinelles" should ever be produced, but that the journal
_L'Illustration_, which gives away the text of a new play as a supplement
about twice a month, should give, one week, Becque's original incomplete
version exactly as it stands, and M. de Noussanne's completed version the
next week, to the end that "the public might judge." Then Stock, the
publisher, came along and sought to prevent the publication on the
strength of a contract by which Becque had bound himself to give Stock his
next play. (Times change, but not publishers!) However, _L'Illustration_,
being wealthy and powerful, rode over M. Stock. And the amateurs of Becque
have duly had the pleasure of reading "Les Polichinelles." Just as "Les
Corbeaux" was the result of experiences gained in a domestic smash-up, and
"La Parisienne" the result of experiences gained in a feverish liaison,
so "Les Polichinelles" is the result experiences gained on the Bourse. It
is in five acts. The first two are practically complete, and they are
exceedingly fine--quite equal to the very best Becque. The other acts are
fragmentary, but some of the fragments are admirable. I can think of no
living author who would be equal to the task of completing the play
without making himself ridiculous.

       *       *       *       *       *

Becque was unfortunate in death as in life. At his graveside, on the day
of his funeral, his admirers said with one accord: "Every year on this day
we will gather here. His name shall be a flag for us." But for several
years they forgot all about Becque. And when at length they did come back,
with a wreath, they could not find the grave. It was necessary to question
keepers and to consult the official register of the cemetery. In the end
the grave was rediscovered and every one recognized it, and speeches were
made, and the wreath piously deposited. The next year the admirers came
again, with another wreath and more speeches. But some one had been before
them. A wreath already lay on the grave; it bore this inscription: "To my
dear husband defunct." Now Becque, though worried by liaisons, had lived
and died a bachelor. The admirers had discoursed, the year before, at the
grave of a humble clerk. After this Paris put up a statue to Becque. But
it is only a bust. You can see it in the Avenue de Villiers.


_27 Oct. '10_

At the beginning of this particularly active book season, reviewing the
publishers' announcements, I wrote: "There are one or two promising items,
including a novel by Henry James. And yet, honestly, am I likely at this
time of day to be excited by a novel by Henry James? Shall I even read it?
I know that I shall not. Still, I shall put it on my shelves, and tell my
juniors what a miracle it is." Well, I have been surprised by the amount
of resentment and anger which this honesty of mine has called forth. One
of the politest of my correspondents, dating his letter from a city on the
Rhine, says: "For myself, it's really a rotten shame; every week since
'Books and Persons' started have I hoped you would make some elucidating
remarks on this wonderful writer's work, and now you don't even state why
you propose not reading him!" And so on, with the result that when "The
Finer Grain" (Methuen, 6s.) came along, I put my pride in my pocket, and
read it. (By the way, it is not a novel but a collection of short stories,
and I am pleased to see that it is candidly advertised as such.) I have
never been an enthusiast for Henry James, and probably I have not read
more than 25 per cent. of his entire output. The latest novel of his which
I read was "The Ambassadors," and upon that I took oath I would never try
another. I remember that I enjoyed "The Other House"; and that "In the
Cage," a short novel about a post-office girl, delighted me. A few short
stories have much pleased me. Beyond this, my memories of his work are
vague. My estimate of Henry James might have been summed up thus: On the
credit side:--He is a truly marvellous craftsman. By which I mean that he
constructs with exquisite, never-failing skill, and that he writes like an
angel. Even at his most mannered and his most exasperating, he conveys his
meaning with more precision and clarity than perhaps any other living
writer. He is never, never clumsy, nor dubious, even in the minutest
details. Also he is a fine critic, of impeccable taste. Also he savours
life with eagerness, sniffing the breeze of it like a hound.... But on the
debit side:--He is tremendously lacking in emotional power. Also his sense
of beauty is oversophisticated and wants originality. Also his attitude
towards the spectacle of life is at bottom conventional, timid, and
undecided. Also he seldom chooses themes of first-class importance, and
when he does choose such a theme he never fairly bites it and makes it
bleed. Also his curiosity is limited. He seems to me to have been
specially created to be admired by super-dilettanti. (I do not say that to
admire him is a proof of dilettantism.) What it all comes to is merely
that his subject-matter does not as a rule interest me. I simply state my
personal view, and I expressly assert my admiration for the craftsman in
him and for the magnificent and consistent rectitude of his long artistic
career. Further I will not go, though I know that bombs will now be laid
at my front door by the furious faithful. As for "The Finer Grain," it
leaves me as I was--cold. It is an uneven collection, and the stories
probably belong to different periods. The first, "The Velvet Glove,"
strikes me as conventional and without conviction. I should not call it
subtle, but rather obvious. I should call it finicking. In the
sentence-structure mannerism is pushed to excess. All the other stories
are better. "Crafty Cornelia," for instance, is an exceedingly brilliant
exercise in the art of making stone-soup. But then, I know I am in a
minority among persons of taste. Some of the very best literary criticism
of recent years has been aroused by admiration for Henry James. There is a
man on the _Times Literary Supplement_ who, whenever he writes about Henry
James, makes me feel that I have mistaken my vocation and ought to have
entered the Indian Civil Service, or been a cattle-drover. However, I
can't help it. And I give notice that I will not reply to scurrilous


_3 Nov. '10_

I learn that Mr. Elkin Mathews is about to publish a collected uniform
edition of the works (poems and criticism) and correspondence of the late
Lionel Johnson. I presume that this edition will comprise his study of
Thomas Hardy. The enterprise proves that Lionel Johnson has admirers
capable of an excellent piety; and it also argues a certain continuance of
the demand for his books. I was never deeply impressed by Lionel Johnson's
criticisms, and still less by his verse, but in the days of his activity I
was young and difficult and hasty. Perhaps my net was too coarse for his
fineness. But, anyhow, I would give much to have a large homogeneous body
of English literary criticism to read _at_. And I should be obliged to any
one who would point out to me where such a body of first-rate criticism is
to be found. I have never been able to find it for myself. When I think of
Pierre Bayle, Sainte-Beuve, and Taine, and of the keen pleasure I derive
from the immense pasture offered by their voluminous and consistently
admirable works, I ask in vain where are the great English critics of
English literature. Beside these French critics, the best of our own seem
either fragmentary or provincial--yes, curiously provincial. Except
Hazlitt we have, I believe, no even approximately first-class writer who
devoted his main activity to criticism. And Hazlitt, though he is very
readable, has neither the urbaneness, nor the science, nor the learning,
nor the wide grasp of life and of history that characterizes the three
above-named. Briefly, he didn't know enough.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lamb would have been a first-class critic if he hadn't given the chief
part of his life to clerkship. Lamb at any rate is not provincial. His
perceptions are never at fault. Every sentence of Lamb proves his taste
and his powerful intelligence. Coleridge--well, Coleridge has his
comprehensible moments, but they are few; Matthew Arnold, with study and
discipline, might perhaps have been a great critic, only his passion for
literature was not strong enough to make him give up
school-inspecting--and there you are! Moreover, Matthew Arnold could never
have written of women as Sainte-Beuve did. There were a lot of vastly
interesting things that Matthew Arnold did not understand and did not
want to understand. He, too, was provincial (I regret to say)--you can
feel it throughout his letters, though his letters make very good quiet
reading. Churton Collins was a scholar of an extreme type; unfortunately
he possessed no real feeling for literature, and thus his judgment, when
it had to stand alone, cut a figure prodigiously absurd. And among living
practitioners? Well, I have no hesitation in de-classing the whole
professorial squad--Bradley, Herford, Dowden, Walter Raleigh, Elton,
Saintsbury. The first business of any writer, and especially of any
critical writer, is not to be mandarinic and tedious, and these lecturers
have not yet learnt that first business. The best of them is George
Saintsbury, but his style is such that even in Carmelite Street the
sub-editors would try to correct it. Imagine the reception of such a style
in Paris! Still, Professor Saintsbury does occasionally stray out of the
university quadrangles, and puts on the semblance of a male human being as
distinguished from an asexual pedagogue. Professor Walter Raleigh is
improving. Professor Elton has never fallen to the depths of sterile and
pretentious banality which are the natural and customary level of the
remaining three.... You think I am letting my pen run away with me? Not at
all. That is nothing to what I could say if I tried. Mr. J.W. Mackail
might have been one of our major critics, but there again--he, too,
prefers the security of a Government office, like Mr. Austin Dobson, who,
by the way, is very good in a very limited sphere. Perhaps Austin Dobson
is as good as we have. Compare his low flight with the terrific sweeping
range of a Sainte-Beuve or a Taine. I wish that some greatly gifted youth
now aged about seventeen would make up his mind to be a literary critic
and nothing else.


_10 Nov. '10_

After all, the world does move. I never thought to be able to congratulate
the Circulating Libraries on their attitude towards a work of art; and
here in common fairness I, who have so often animadverted upon their
cowardice, am obliged to laud their courage. The instant cause of this is
Mrs. Elinor Glyn's new novel, "His Hour" (Duckworth, 6s.) Everybody who
cares for literature knows, or should know, Mrs. Glyn's fine carelessness
of popular opinion (either here or in the States), and the singleness of
her regard for the art which she practises and which she honours.
Troubling herself about naught but splendour of subject and elevation of
style, she goes on her career indifferent alike to the praise and to the
blame of the mob. (I use the word "mob" in Fielding's sense--as meaning
persons, in no matter what rank of life, capable of "low" feelings.)
Perhaps Mrs. Glyn's latest book is the supreme example of her genius and
of her conscientiousness. In essence it is a short story, handled with a
fullness and a completeness which justify her in calling it a novel. There
are two principal characters, a young half-Cossack Russian prince and an
English widow of good family. The pet name of the former is "Gritzko." The
latter is generally called Tamara. Gritzko is one of those heroic heroes
who can spend their nights in the company of prostitutes, and their days
in the solution of deep military problems. He is very wealthy; he has
every attribute of a hero, including audacity. During their very first
dance together Gritzko kissed Tamara. "They were up in a corner; every
one's back was turned to them happily, for in one second he had bent and
kissed her neck. It was done with such incredible swiftness...." etc. "But
the kiss burnt into Tamara's flesh." ... "'How dare you? How dare you?'
she hissed."

       *       *       *       *       *

Later, "... 'I hate you!' almost hissed poor Tamara." (Note the realistic
exactitude of that "almost.") "Then his eyes blazed.... He moved nearer to
her, and spoke in a low concentrated voice: 'It is a challenge; good. Now
listen to what I say: In a little short time you shall love me. That
haughty little head shall be here on my breast without a struggle, and I
shall kiss your lips until you cannot breathe.' For the second time in her
life Tamara went dead white...." Then follow scenes revelry, in which
Mrs. Glyn, with a courage as astonishing as her power, exposes all that is
fatuous and vicious in the loftiest regions of Russian fashionable
society. Later, Gritzko did kiss Tamara on the lips, but she objected.
Still later he got the English widow in a lonely hut in a snowstorm, and
this was "his hour." But she had a revolver. "'Touch me and I will shoot,'
she gasped.... He made a step forward, but she lifted the pistol again to
her head ... and thus they glared at one another, the hunter and the
hunted.... He flung himself on the couch and lit a cigarette, and all that
was savage and cruel in him flamed from his eyes. 'My God!... and still I
loved you--madly loved you ... and last night when you defied me, then I
determined you should belong to me by force. No power in heaven or earth
can save you! Ah! If you had been different, how happy we might have been!
But it is too late; the devil has won, and soon I will do what I
please.'... For a long time there was silence.... Then the day-light faded
quite, and the Prince got up and lit a small oil lamp. There was a deadly
silence.... Ah! She must fight against this horrible lethargy.... Her arm
had grown numb.... Strange lights seemed to flash before her
eyes--yes--surely--that was Gritzko coming towards her! She gave a gasping
cry and tried to pull the trigger, but it was stiff.... The pistol dropped
from her nerveless grasp.... She gave one moan.... With a bound Gritzko
leaped up...."

       *       *       *       *       *

"The light was grey when Tamara awoke. Where was she? What had happened?
Something ghastly, but where? Then she perceived her torn blouse, and with
a terrible pang remembrance came back to her. She started up, and as she
did so realized that she was in her stockinged feet. The awful
certainty.... Gritzko had won--she was utterly disgraced.... She hurriedly
drew off the blouse, then she saw her torn underthings.... She knew that
however she might make even the blouse look to the casual eyes of her
godmother, she could never deceive her maid."... "She was an outcast. She
was no better than Mary Gibson, whom Aunt Clara had with harshness turned
out of the house. She--a lady!--a grand English lady!... She crouched down
in a corner like a cowed dog...." Then he wrote to her formally demanding
her hand. And she replied: "To Prince Milaslavski. Monsieur,--I have no
choice; I consent.--Yours truly, Tamara Loraine." Thus they were married.
Her mood changed. "Oh! What did anything else matter in the world since
after all he loved her! This beautiful fierce lover! Visions of
enchantment presented themselves.... She buried her face in his scarlet
coat...." I must add that Gritzko had not really violated Tamara. He had
only ripped open her corsage to facilitate respiration, and kissed her
"little feet." She honestly thought herself the victim of a satyr; but,
though she was a widow, with several years of marriage behind her, she had
been quite mistaken on this point. You see, she was English.

       *       *       *       *       *

"His Hour" is a sexual novel. It is magnificently sexual. My quotations,
of course, do less than justice to it, but I think I have made clear the
simple and highly courageous plot. Gritzko desired Tamara with the extreme
of amorous passion, and in order to win her entirely he allowed her to
believe that he had raped her. She, being an English widow, moving in the
most refined circles, naturally regarded the outrage as an imperious
reason for accepting his hand. That is a summary of Mrs. Glyn's novel, of
which, by the way, I must quote the dedication: "With grateful homage and
devotion I dedicate this book to Her Imperial Highness The Grand Duchess
Vladimir of Russia. In memory of the happy evenings spent in her gracious
presence when reading to her these pages, which her sympathetic aid in
facilitating my opportunities for studying the Russian character enabled
me to write. Her kind appreciation of the finished work is a source of the
deepest gratification to me."

       *       *       *       *       *

The source of the deepest gratification to me is the fact that the
Censorship Committee of the United Circulating Libraries should have
allowed this noble, daring, and masterly work to pass freely over their
counters. What a change from January of this year, when Mary Gaunt's "The
Uncounted Cost," which didn't show the ghost of a rape, could not even be
advertised in the organ of The _Times_ Book Club! After this, who can
complain against a Library Censorship? It is true that while passing "His
Hour," the same censorship puts its ban absolute upon Mr. John Trevena's
new novel "Bracken." It is true that quite a number of people had
considered Mr. Trevena to be a serious and dignified artist of rather
considerable talent. It is true that "Bracken" probably contains nothing
that for sheer brave sexuality can be compared with a score of passages in
"His Hour." What then? The Censorship Committee must justify its existence
somehow. Mr. Trevena ought to have dedicated his wretched provincial novel
to the Queen of Montenegro. He painfully lacks _savoir-vivre_. In the
early part of this year certain mysterious meetings took place, apropos of
the Censorship, between a sub-committee of the Society of Authors and a
sub-committee of the Publishers' Association. But nothing was done. I am
told that the Authors' Society is now about to take the matter up again.
But why?


[_24 Nov. '10_]

I suppose that there are few writers less "literary" than Mr. W.H. Hudson,
and few among the living more likely to be regarded, a hundred years
hence, as having produced "literature." He is so unassuming, so mild, so
intensely and unconsciously original in the expression of his naïve
emotions before the spectacle of life, that a hasty inquirer into his
idiosyncrasy might be excused for entirely missing the point of him. His
new book (which helps to redeem the enormous vulgarity of a booming
season), "A Shepherd's Life: Impressions of the South Wiltshire Downs"
(Methuen), is soberly of a piece with his long and deliberate career. A
large volume, yet one arrives at the end of it with surprising quickness,
because the pages seem to slip over of themselves. Everything connected
with the Wiltshire downs is in it, together with a good deal not
immediately therewith connected. For example, Mr. Hudson's views on
primary education, which are not as mature as his views about shepherds
and wild beasts of the downs. He seldom omits to describe the
individualities of the wild beasts of his acquaintance. For him a mole is
not any mole, but a particular mole. He will tell you about a mole that
did not dig like other moles but had a method of its own, and he will give
you the reason why this singular mole lived to a great age. As a rule, he
remarks with a certain sadness, wild animals die prematurely, their
existence being exciting and dangerous. How many men know England--I mean
the actual earth and flesh that make England--as Mr. Hudson knows it? This
is his twelfth book, and four or five of the dozen are already classics.
Probably no literary dining club or association of authors or journalists
male or female will ever give a banquet in Mr. Hudson's honour. It would
not occur to the busy organizers of these affairs to do so. And yet--But,
after all, it is well that he should be spared such an ordeal.


[_8 Dec. '10_]

The exhibition of the so-called "Neo-Impressionists," over which the
culture of London is now laughing, has an interest which is perhaps not
confined to the art of painting. For me, personally, it has a slight,
vague repercussion upon literature. The attitude of the culture of London
towards it is of course merely humiliating to any Englishman who has made
an effort to cure himself of insularity. It is one more proof that the
negligent disdain of Continental artists for English artistic opinion is
fairly well founded. The mild tragedy of the thing is that London is
infinitely too self-complacent even to suspect that it is London and not
the exhibition which is making itself ridiculous. The laughter of London
in this connexion is just as silly, just as provincial, just as obtuse, as
would be the laughter of a small provincial town were Strauss's "Salome,"
or Debussy's "Pelléas et Mélisande" offered for its judgment. One can
imagine the shocked, contemptuous resentment of a London musical amateur
(one of those that arrived at Covent Garden box-office at 6 a.m. the other
day to secure a seat for "Salome") at the guffaw of a provincial town
confronted by the spectacle and the noise of the famous "Salome"
osculation. But the amusement of that same amateur confronted by an
uncompromising "Neo-Impressionist" picture amounts to exactly the same
guffaw. The guffaw is legal. You may guffaw before Rembrandt (people do!),
but in so doing you only add to the sum of human stupidity. London may be
unaware that the value of the best work of this new school is permanently
and definitely settled--outside London. So much the worse for London. For
the movement has not only got past the guffaw stage; it has got past the
arguing stage. Its authenticity is admitted by all those who have kept
themselves fully awake. And in twenty years London will be signing an
apology for its guffaw. It will be writing itself down an ass. The writing
will consist of large cheques payable for Neo-Impressionist pictures to
Messrs. Christie, Manson, and Woods. London is already familiar with this
experience, and doesn't mind.

       *       *       *       *       *

Who am I that I should take exception to the guffaw? Ten years ago I too
guffawed, though I hope with not quite the Kensingtonian twang. The first
Cézannes I ever saw seemed to me to be very funny. They did not disturb my
dreams, because I was not in the business. But my notion about Cézanne was
that he was a fond old man who distracted himself by daubing. I could not
say how my conversion to Cézanne began. When one is not a practising
expert in an art, a single word, a single intonation, uttered by an expert
whom one esteems, may commence a process of change which afterwards seems
to go on by itself. But I remember being very much impressed by a
still-life--some fruit in a bowl--and on approaching it I saw Cézanne's
clumsy signature in the corner. From that moment the revelation was swift.
And before I had seen any Gauguins at all, I was prepared to consider
Gauguin with sympathy. The others followed naturally. I now surround
myself with large photographs of these pictures of which a dozen years ago
I was certainly quite incapable of perceiving the beauty. The best
still-life studies of Cézanne seem to me to have the grandiose quality of
epics. And that picture by Gauguin, showing the back of a Tahitian young
man with a Tahitian girl on either side of him, is an affair which I
regard with acute pleasure every morning. There are compositions by
Vuillard which equally enchant me. Naturally I cannot accept the whole
school--no more than the whole of any school. I have derived very little
pleasure from Matisse, and the later developments of Félix Vallotton leave
me in the main unmoved. But one of the very latest phenomena of the
school--the water-colours of Pierre Laprade--I have found ravishing.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is in talking to several of these painters, in watching their familiar
deportment, and particularly in listening to their conversations with
others on subjects other than painting, that I have come to connect their
ideas with literature. They are not good theorizers about art; and I am
not myself a good theorizer about art; a creative artist rarely is. But
they do ultimately put their ideas into words. You may receive one word
one day and the next next week, but in the end an idea gets itself somehow
stated. Whenever I have listened to Laprade criticizing pictures,
especially students' work, I have thought about literature; I have been
forced to wonder whether I should not have to reconsider my ideals. The
fact is that some of these men are persuasive in themselves. They
disengage, in their talk, in their profound seriousness, in their sense of
humour, in the sound organization of their industry, and in their calm
assurance--they disengage a convincingness that is powerful beyond debate.
An artist who is truly original cannot comment on boot-laces without
illustrating his philosophy and consolidating his position. Noting in
myself that a regular contemplation of these pictures inspires a weariness
of all other pictures that are not absolutely first rate, giving them a
disconcerting affinity to the tops of chocolate-boxes or to "art"
photographs, I have permitted myself to suspect that supposing some writer
were to come along and do in words what these men have done in paint, I
might conceivably be disgusted with nearly the whole of modern fiction,
and I might have to begin again. This awkward experience will in all
probability not happen to me, but it might happen to a writer younger than
me. At any rate it is a fine thought. The average critic always calls me,
both in praise and dispraise, "photographic"; and I always rebut the
epithet with disdain, because in the sense meant by the average critic I
am not photographic. But supposing that in a deeper sense I were?
Supposing a young writer turned up and forced me, and some of my
contemporaries--us who fancy ourselves a bit--to admit that we had been
concerning ourselves unduly with inessentials, that we had been worrying
ourselves to achieve infantile realisms? Well, that day would be a great
and a disturbing day--for us.



[_12 Jan. '11_]

The practice of reviewing the literature of the year at the end thereof is
now decaying. Newspapers still give a masterly survey of the motor-cars of
the year. I remember the time when it was part of my duty as a serious
journalist to finish at Christmas a two-thousand word article, full of
discrimination as fine as Irish lace, about the fiction of the year; and
other terrifying specialists were engaged to deal amply with the remaining
branches of literature. To-day, one man in one column and one day will
polish off what five of us scarcely exhausted in seven columns and seven
days. I am referring to the distant past of a dozen years ago, before
William de Morgan was born, and before America and Elinor Glyn had
discovered each other. Last week many newspapers dismissed the entire
fiction of 1910 in a single paragraph. The consequence is that there has
been no "book of the year." A critic without space to spread himself
hesitates to pronounce downright for a particular book. A critic engaged
in the dangerous art of creating the "book of the year" wants room to
hedge, and in the newest journalism there is no room to hedge. So the
critic refrains from the act of creation. He imitates the discretion of
the sporting tipster, who names several horses as being likely to win one
race. "Among the books of the year are Blank, Blank, and Blank," he says.
(But what he means is, "The book of the year is to be found among Blank,
Blank, and Blank.") Naturally he selects among the books whose titles come
into his head with the least difficulty; that is to say, the books which
he has most recently reviewed; that is to say, the books published during
the autumn season. No doubt during the spring season he has distinguished
several books as being "great," "masterly," "unforgettable," "genius"; but
ere the fall of the leaf these works have completely escaped from his
memory. No author, and particularly no novelist who wishes to go down to
posterity, should publish during the spring season; it is fatal.

       *       *       *       *       *

The celebrated "Dop Doctor" (published by Heinemann) and Mr. Temple
Thurston's "City of Beautiful Nonsense" (published by Chapman and Hall)
have both sold very well indeed throughout the entire year. In fact, they
were selling better in December than many successful novels published in
the autumn. Yet neither of them, assuming that there had been a book of
the year, would have had much chance of being that book. The reason is
that they have not been sufficiently "talked about." I mean "talked about"
by "the right people." And by "right people" I mean the people who make a
practice of dining out at least three times a week in the West End of
London to the accompaniment of cultured conversation. I mean the people
who are "in the know," politically, socially, and intellectually--who
know what Mr. F.E. Smith says to Mr. Winston Churchill in private, why
Mrs. Humphry Ward made such an enormous pother at the last council meeting
of the Authors' Society, what is really the matter with Mr. Bernard Shaw's
later work, whether Mr. Balfour does indeed help Mr. Garvin to write the
_Daily Telegraph_ leaders, and whether the Savoy Restaurant is as good
under the new management as under the old. I reckon there are about 12,055
of these people. They constitute the élite. Without their aid, without
their refined and judicial twittering, no book can hope to be a book of
the year.

Now I am in a position to state that no novel for very many years has
been so discussed by the élite as Mr. Forster's "Howard's End" (published
by Edward Arnold). The ordinary library reader knows that it has been a
very considerable popular success; persons of genuine taste know that it
is a very considerable literary achievement; but its triumph is that it
has been mightily argued about during the repasts of the élite. I need
scarcely say that it is not Mr. Forster's best book; no author's best book
is ever the best received--this is a rule practically without exception. A
more curious point about it is that it contains a lot of very straight
criticism of the élite. And yet this point is not very curious either. For
the élite have no objection whatever to being criticized. They rather like
it, as the alligator likes being tickled with peas out of a pea-shooter.
Their hides are superbly impenetrable. And I know not which to admire the
more, the American's sensitiveness to pea-shooting, or the truly correct
Englishman's indestructible indifference to it. Mr. Forster is a young
man. I believe he is still under thirty, if not under twenty-nine. If he
continues to write one book a year regularly, to be discreet and
mysterious, to refrain absolutely from certain themes, and to avoid a too
marked tendency to humour, he will be the most fashionable novelist in
England in ten years' time. His worldly prospects are very brilliant
indeed. If, on the other hand, he writes solely to please himself,
forgetting utterly the existence of the élite, he may produce some
first-class literature. The responsibilities lying upon him at this crisis
of his career are terrific. And he so young too!


[_2 Feb. '11_]

A pretty general realization of the extremely high quality of "The New
Machiavelli" has reduced almost to silence the ignoble tittle-tattle that
accompanied its serial publication in the _English Review_. It is years
since a novel gave rise to so much offensive and ridiculous chatter before
being issued as a book. When the chatter began, dozens of people who would
no more dream of paying four-and-sixpence for a new novel that happened to
be literature than they would dream of paying four-and-sixpence for a
cigar, sent down to the offices of the _English Review_ for complete sets
of back numbers at half a crown a number, so that they could rummage
without a moment's delay among the earlier chapters in search of tit-bits
according to their singular appetite. Such was the London which calls
itself literary and political! A spectacle to encourage cynicism! Rumour
had a wonderful time. It was stated that not only the libraries but the
booksellers also would decline to handle "The New Machiavelli." The
reasons for this prophesied ostracism were perhaps vague, but they were
understood to be broad-based upon the unprecedented audacity of the
novel. And really in this exciting year, with Sir Percy Bunting in charge
of the national sense of decency, and Mr. W.T. Stead still gloating after
twenty-five years over his success in keeping Sir Charles Dilke out of
office--you never can tell what may happen!

       *       *       *       *       *

However, it is all over now. "The New Machiavelli" has been received with
the respect and with the enthusiasm which its tremendous qualities
deserve. It is a great success. And the reviews have on the whole been
generous. It was perhaps not to be expected that certain Radical dailies
should swallow the entire violent dose of the book without kicking up a
fuss; but, indeed, Mr. Scott-James, in the _Daily News_, ought to know
better than to go running about after autobiography in fiction. The human
nose was not designed by an all-merciful providence for this purpose. Mr.
Scott-James has undoubted gifts as a critic, and his temperament is
sympathetic; and the men most capable of appreciating him, and whose
appreciation he would probably like to retain, would esteem him even more
highly if he could get into his head the simple fact that a novel is a
novel. I have suffered myself from this very provincial mania for
chemically testing novels for traces of autobiography. There are some
critics of fiction who talk about autobiography in fiction in the tone of
a doctor who has found arsenic in the stomach at a post-mortem inquiry.
The truth is that whenever a scene in a novel is _really_ convincing, a
certain type of critical and uncreative mind will infallibly mutter in
accents of pain, "Autobiography!" When I was discussing this topic the
other day a novelist not inferior to Mr. Wells suddenly exclaimed: "I say!
Supposing we _did_ write autobiography!"... Yes, if we did, what a
celestial rumpus there would be!

       *       *       *       *       *

The carping at "The New Machiavelli" is naught. For myself I anticipated
for it a vast deal more carping than it has in fact occasioned. And I am
very content to observe a marked increase of generosity in the reception
of Mr. Wells's work. To me the welcome accorded to his best books has
always seemed to lack spontaneity, to be characterized by a mean
reluctance. And yet if there is a novelist writing to-day who by
generosity has deserved generosity, that novelist is H.G. Wells.
Astounding width of observation; a marvellously true perspective; an
extraordinary grasp of the real significance of innumerable phenomena
utterly diverse; profound emotional power; dazzling verbal skill: these
are qualities which Mr. Wells indubitably has. But the qualities which
consecrate these other qualities are his priceless and total sincerity,
and the splendid human generosity which colours that sincerity. What above
all else we want in this island of intellectual dishonesty is some one who
will tell us the truth "and chance it." H.G. Wells is pre-eminently that
man. He might have told us the truth with cynicism; he might have told it
meanly; he might have told it tediously--and he would still have been
invaluable. But it does just happen that he has combined a disconcerting
and entrancing candour with a warmth of generosity towards mankind and an
inspiring faith in mankind such as no other living writer, not even the
most sentimental, has surpassed. And yet in the immediate past we have
heard journalists pronouncing coldly: "This thing is not so bad." And we
have heard journalists asserting in tones of shocked reprehension: "This
thing is not free from faults!" Who the deuce said it was free from
faults? But where in fiction, ancient or modern, will you find another
philosophical picture of a whole epoch and society as brilliant and as
honest as "The New Machiavelli"? Well, I will tell you where you will find
it. You will find it in "Tono-Bungay." H.G. Wells is a bit of sheer luck
for England. Some countries don't know their luck. And as I do not believe
that England is worse than another, I will say that no country knows its
luck. However, as regards this particular bit, there are now some clear
signs of a growing perception.

       *       *       *       *       *

The social and political questions raised in "The New Machiavelli" might
be discussed at length with great advantage. But this province is not
mine. Nor could the rightness or the wrongness of the hero's views and
acts affect the artistic value of the novel. On purely artistic grounds
the novel might be criticized in several ways unfavourably. But in my
opinion it has only one fault that to any appreciable extent impairs its
artistic worth. The politically-creative part, as distinguished from the
politically-shattering part, is not convincing. The hero's change of
party, and his popular success with the policy of the endowment of
motherhood are indeed strangely unconvincing--inconceivable to common
sense. Here the author's hand has trembled, and his persuasive power
forsaken him. Happily he recaptured it for the final catastrophe, which is
absolutely magnificent, a masterpiece of unforced poignant tragedy and
unsentimental tenderness.


[_16 Feb. '11_]

It is notorious that in London--happily so different from other
capitals--there is no connexion between the advertisement and the
editorial departments of the daily papers. It is positively known, for
instance, that the exuberant editorial praise poured out upon the new
"Encyclopædia Britannica" has no connexion whatever with the tremendous
sums paid by the Cambridge University Press for advertising the said work
of reference. The almost simultaneous appearance, of the advertisements
and of the superlative reviews is a pure coincidence. Now, in Paris it
would not be a coincidence, and nobody would have the courage to pretend
that it was. But London is a city apart. In view of this admitted fact I
was intensely startled, not to say outraged, by a conversation at which I
assisted the other day. A young acquaintance, with literary and
journalistic proclivities, and with a touching belief in the high mission
of the London press, desired advice as to the best method of reaching the
top rungs of the ladder of which he had not yet set foot even on the
lowest rung. I therefore invited him to meet a celebrated friend of mine,
an author and a journalist, who has recently quitted an important
editorial chair.

       *       *       *       *       *

The latter spoke to him as follows: "My dear boy, you had better get a
situation in the advertisement department of a paper--no matter what
paper, provided it has a large advertisement revenue; and no matter what
situation, however modest." Here the youth interrupted with the remark
that his desire was the editorial department. The ex-editor proceeded
calmly: "I have quite grasped that.... Well, you must work yourself up in
the advertisement department! What you chiefly require for success is a
good suit, a good club, an imperturbable manner, and a cultivated taste in
restaurants and bars. In your spare time you must write long dull articles
for the reviews; and you must rediscover London in a series of snappish
sketches for a half-penny daily, and also write a novel that is just true
enough to frighten the libraries and not too true to make them refuse it
altogether: it must absolutely be such a novel as they will supply only to
such subscribers as insist on having it. When you have worked your way
very high up in the advertisement department, and are intimate with
advertisement agents and large advertisers to the point of being able to
influence advertisements amounting to fifty thousand pounds a year--then,
and not before, you may look about you and decide what big serious daily
paper you would like to assist in editing. Make your own choice. Then see
the proprietor. If he is not already in the House of Lords, he will
assuredly be on Mr. Asquith's private list of five hundred candidates for
the House of Lords. The best moment to catch him is as he comes out of the
Palace Theatre, about a quarter past eleven of a night. Tell him on the
pavement that you have edited a paper in Chicago, and he will at once
invite you into his automobile. You go with him to his club, and then you
confess that you have not edited a paper in Chicago, but that you have
adopted this device in order to get speech with him, and that all you
desire is a humble post on the editorial staff of his big serious daily.

       *       *       *       *       *

"He will insult you. He will inform you that he has forty candidates for
the most insignificant post on the editorial staff, and that there is not
the remotest chance for you. You then tell him that you are an expert
writer, a contributor to the monthlies and quarterlies, and the author of
a novel which Mr. James Douglas has described as the most stupendously
virile work of fiction since Tourgeniev's 'Crime and Punishment.' He will
insult you anew, and demand your immediate departure. You then say to him,
in a casual tone: 'I can bring you ten thousand pounds' worth of ads. a
year.' He will read your deepest soul with one glance, and will reply, in
a casual tone, 'I dare say I could find you something regular to do on the
magazine page.' You go on airily: 'I'm pretty sure I can bring twenty
thousand pounds' worth of ads. a year.' He will then order R.P. Muria
cigars, and say with benevolence: 'It just happens that the head of our
reviewing department is under notice. How would that suit you?' You then
unmask all your batteries, and tell him squarely that you can bring him
advertisements to the tune of a thousand pounds a week. Whereupon he will
reply, shaking you fraternally by the hand: 'My dear fellow, I will make
you editor at once.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

So spake my celebrated friend. Of course, he is a cynic. He may be a
criminal cynic. But he spake so. From time to time London dailies do me
the honour to reprint saucy paragraphs from this weekly article of mine.
My friend said to me: "You can print what I've said, if you like. No daily
paper in London will reprint _that_."


[_2 March '11_]

Among the astonishing phenomena of a spring season which promises to be
quite as successful, in its way, as the very glorious autumn season
(publishers must have spent a happy Christmas!) is the success of a really
distinguished book. I mean "Marie Claire." Frankly, I did not anticipate
this triumph. For, of course, it is very difficult for an author of
experience to believe that a good book will be well received. However,
"Marie Claire" has been helped by a series of extraordinary reviews. No
novel of recent years has had such favourable reviews, or so many of them,
or such long ones. I have seen all of them--all except one have been very
laudatory--and I am in a position to state that if placed end to end they
would stretch from Miss Corelli's house in Stratford-on-Avon across the
main to Mr. Hall Caine's castle in the Isle of Man. This may be called
praise. One of the best, if not the best, was signed "J.L.G." in the
_Observer_. It is indeed a solemn and terrifying thought that Mr. Garvin,
who, by means of thoroughly bad prose persisted in during many years, has
at last laid the Tory Party in ruins, should be so excellent a judge of
literature. Mr. Garvin made his debut in the London Press, I think, as a
literary critic; and it is a pity (from the Tory point of view) that he
did not remain a literary critic. I am convinced that Mr. Balfour and Lord
Lansdowne would personally subscribe large sums to found a literary paper
for him to edit, on condition that he promised never to write another line
of advice to their party. The _Telegraph_ would bleed copiously; the
_Observer_ would expire; the _Fortnightly Review_ would stagger in its
heavy stride, but there would be hope for Tories!... In the meantime, five
thousand copies of the English translation of "Marie Claire" were sold
within a week of publication. It is improbable that the total English sale
will be less than ten thousand. Now translated novels rarely achieve
popularity. The last one to be popular here was Fogazzaro's "The Saint";
but the popularity of "The Saint" was not due to artistic causes.

       *       *       *       *       *

I think I may say that I am thoroughly accustomed to the society of women
novelists. Peculiar circumstances in my obscure life have thrown me among
women writers of all sorts; and I can boast that I have helped to form
more than one woman novelist; so that the prospect of meeting a new one
does not agitate me in the slightest degree. I make friends with the new
one at once, and in about two minutes we are discussing prices with the
most touching familiarity. Nevertheless, I own that I was somewhat
disturbed in my Midland phlegm when the author of "Marie Claire" came to
see me. The book, read in the light of the circumstances of its
composition, had unusually impressed me and stirred my imagination. It was
not the woman novelist who was coming to see me, but Marie Claire herself,
shepherdess, farm-servant, and sempstress; it was a mysterious creature
who had known how to excite enthusiasm in a whole regiment of literary
young men.... And literary young men as a rule are extremely harsh, even
offensive, in their attitude towards women writers. I stood at the top of
the toy stairs of the _pavillon_ which I was then occupying in Paris, and
Madame Marguerite Audoux came up the stairs towards me, preceded by one of
her young sponsors, and followed by another. A rather short, plump little
lady, very simply dressed, and with the simplest possible manner--just
such a comfortable human being as in my part of the world is called a
"body"! She had, however, eyes of a softness and depth such as are not
seen in my part of the world. With that, a very quiet, timid, and sweet
voice. She was a sempstress; she looked like a sempstress; and she was
well content to look like a sempstress. Nobody would have guessed in ten
thousand guesses that here was the author of the European book of the
year. But when she talked the resemblance to the sempstress soon vanished.
Sempstresses--of whom I have also known many--do not talk as she talked.
Not that she said much! Not that she began to talk at once! Far from it.
When I had referred to the goodness of her visit, and she had referred to
the goodness of my invitation, and she was ensconced in an arm-chair near
the fire, she quite simply left the pioneer work of conversation to her
bodyguard. Her bodyguard was very proud, and very nervous, as befitted its

       *       *       *       *       *

It was my reference to Dostoievsky that first started her talking. In all
literary conversations Dostoievsky is my King Charles's head. She had
previously stated that she had read very little indeed. But at any rate
she had read Dostoievsky, and was well minded to share my enthusiasms.
Indeed, Dostoievsky drew her out of her arm-chair and right across the
room. We were soon discussing methods of work, and I learnt that she
worked very slowly indeed, destroying much, and feeling her way inch by
inch rather than seeing it clear ahead. She said that her second book,
dealing with her life in Paris, might not be ready for years. It was
evident that she profoundly understood the nature of work--all sorts of
work. Work had, indeed, left its honourable and fine mark upon her. She
made some very subtle observations about the psychology of it, but
unfortunately I cannot adequately report them here.... From work to
prices, naturally! It was pleasing to find that she had a very sane and
proper curiosity as to prices and conditions in England. After I had
somewhat satisfied this curiosity she showed an equally sane and proper
annoyance at the fact that the English and American rights of "Marie
Claire" had been sold outright for a ridiculous sum. She told me the exact
sum. It was either £16 or £20--I forget which.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Madame Audoux had gone I reviewed my notions of her visit, and I came
to the conclusion that she was very like her book. She had said little,
and nothing that was striking, but she had mysteriously emanated an
atmosphere of artistic distinction. She was a true sensitive. She had had
immense and deep experience of life, but her adventures, often difficult,
had not disturbed the nice balance of her judgment, nor impaired the
delicacy of her impressions. She was an amateur of life. She was awake to
all aspects of it. And a calm common sense presided over her magnanimous
verdicts. She was far too wary, sagacious, and well acquainted with real
values to allow herself to be spoilt, even the least bit, by a perilous
success, however brilliant. Such were my notions. But it is not in a
single interview that one can arrive at a due estimate of a mind so
reserved, dreamy, and complex as hers. The next day she left Paris, and I
have not seen her since.


[_20 April '11_]

I opened Mr. John Masefield's novel of modern London, "The Street of
To-day" (Dent and Co.), with much interest. But I found it very difficult
to read. This is a damning criticism; but what would you have? I found it
very difficult to read. It is very earnest, very sincere, very carefully
and generously done. But these qualities will not save it. Even its
intelligence, and its alert critical attitude towards life, will not save
it. I could say a great deal of good about it, and yet all that I could
say in its favour would not avail. It would certainly be better if it were
considerably shorter. I estimate that between fifty and a hundred pages of
small talk and miscellaneous observation could be safely removed from it
without impairing the coherence of the story. The amount of small talk
recorded is simply terrific. Not bad small talk! Heard in real life, it
would be reckoned rather good small talk! But artistically futile! Small
talk, and cleverer small talk than this, smothered and ruined a novel more
dramatic than this--I mean Mr. Zangwill's "The Master." I am convinced
that a novel ought to be dramatic--intellectually, spiritually, or
physically--and "The Street of To-day" is not dramatic. It is always about
to be dramatic and it never is. Chapter III, for instance, contains very
important material, essential to the tale, fundamental. But it is not
presented dramatically. It is presented in the form of a psychological
essay. Now Mr. Masefield's business as a novelist was to have invented
happenings for the presentment of the information contained in this essay.
He has saved himself a lot of trouble, but to my mind he has not yet come
to understand what a novel is.

       *       *       *       *       *

His creative power is not yet mature. That is to say, he does not convince
the reader in the measure which one would expect from a writer of his
undoubted emotional faculty. And yet he is often guilty of carelessness in
corroborative detail--such carelessness as only a mighty tyrant over the
reader could afford. The story deals largely with journalism. And one of
the papers most frequently mentioned is "The Backwash." Now no paper could
possibly be called "The Backwash." It is conceivable that a paper might be
called "The Tip Top." It is just conceivable that a paper might be called
"Snip Snap." But "The Backwash," never! Mr. Masefield knows this as well
as anybody. The aim of his nomenclature was obviously satiric--an old
dodge which did very well in the loose Victorian days, but which is
excruciatingly out of place in a modern strictly realistic novel. A
trifle, you say! Not at all! Every time "The Backwash" is mentioned, the
reader thinks: "No paper called 'The Backwash' ever existed." And a fresh
break is made in Mr. Masefield's convincingness. A modern novelist may not
permit himself these freakish negligences. Another instance of the same
fault is the Christian name of Mrs. Bailey in "The New Machiavelli." It
was immensely clever of Mr. Wells to christen her "Altiora." But in so
doing he marred the extraordinary brilliance of his picture of her. If you
insist that I am talking about trifles, I can only insist that a work of
art is a series of trifles.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Masefield's style suffers in a singular manner. It is elaborate in
workmanship--perhaps to the point of an excessive self-consciousness. But
its virtue is constantly being undermined by inexactitudes which irritate
and produce doubt. For example:

"They entered the tube station. In the train they could not talk much.
Lionel kept his brain alert with surmise as to the character of the
passengers. Like Blake, a century before, he found 'marks of weakness,
marks of woe,' on each face there." Blake in the tube! Mr. Masefield will
produce a much better novel than "The Street of To-day."


[_25 May '11_]

Driven by curiosity I went to hear Mr. H.G. Wells's lecture last Thursday
at the _Times_ Book Club on "The Scope of the Novel." Despite the physical
conditions of heat, and noise, and an open window exactly behind the
lecturer (whose voice thus flowed just as much into a back street as into
the ears of his auditors), the affair was a success, and it is to be hoped
that the _Times_ Book Club will pursue the enterprise further. It was
indeed a remarkable phenomenon: a first-class artist speaking the truth
about fiction to a crowd of circulating-library subscribers! Mr. Wells was
above all defiant; he contrived to put in some very plain speaking about
Thackeray, and he finished by asserting that it was futile for the
fashionable public to murmur against the intellectual demands of the best
modern fiction--there was going to be no change unless it might be a
change in the direction of the more severe, the more candid, and the more
exhaustively curious.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of course the lecturer had to vulgarize his messages so as to get them
safely into the brain of the audience. What an audience! For the first
time in my life I saw the "library" public in the mass! It is a sight to
make one think. My cab had gone up Bond Street, where the fortune-tellers
flourish, and their flags wave in the wind, and their painted white hands
point alluringly up mysterious staircases. These fortune-tellers make a
tolerable deal of money, and the money they make must come out chiefly of
the pockets of well-dressed library subscribers. Not a doubt but that many
of Mr. Wells's audience were clients of the soothsayers. A strange
multitude! It appeared to consist of a thousand women and Mr. Bernard
Shaw. Women deemed to be elegant, women certainly deeming themselves to be
elegant! I, being far from the rostrum, had a good view of the backs of
their blouses, chemisettes, and bodices. What an assortment of pretentious
and ill-made toilettes! What disclosures of clumsy hooks-and-eyes and
general creased carelessness! It would not do for me to behold the
"library" public in the mass too often!

       *       *       *       *       *

I could not but think of the State performance of "Money" at Drury Lane on
the previous night: that amusing smack at living artists. There has been
a good deal of straight talk about it in the daily and weekly papers. But
the psychology of the matter has not been satisfactorily explained. Blame
has been laid at the King's door. I think wrongly, or at least unfairly.
Besides being one of the two best shots in the United Kingdom, the King is
beyond any question a man of honourable intentions and of a strict
conscientiousness. But it is no part of his business to be sufficiently
expert to choose a play for a State performance. He has never pretended to
have artistic proclivities. Who among you, indeed, could be relied upon to
choose properly a play for a State performance? Take the best modern
plays. Who among you would dare to suggest for a State performance Oscar
Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," Bernard Shaw's "Man and
Superman," John Galsworthy's "Justice," or Granville Barker's "The Voysey
Inheritance"? Nobody! These plays are unthinkable for a State performance,
because their distinction is utterly beyond the average comprehension of
the ruling classes--and State performances are for the ruling classes.
These plays are simply too good. Yet if you don't choose an old play you
must choose one of these four plays, or make the worst of both worlds.
Modern plays being ruled out, you must either have Shakespeare or--or
what? What is there? "The Cenci"?

       *       *       *       *       *

Can you not now sympathize with the King as he ran through, in his mind,
the whole range of British drama? But the truth is that he did not run
through the whole range of British drama. Invariably in these cases a list
is submitted for the sovereign to choose from. It is an open secret that
in this particular case such a list was prepared. Whether or not it was
prepared by Mr. Arthur Collins, organizer of Drury Lane pantomimes, I
cannot say. The list contained Shakespeare and Lytton, and I don't know
who else. Conceivably the King did not want Shakespeare. To my mind he
would be quite justified in not wanting Shakespeare. We are glutted with
Shakespeare in the Haymarket. Well, then,--why not "Money"? It is a famous
play. We all know its name and the name of its author. And that is the
limit of our knowledge. Why should the King be supposed to be acquainted
with its extreme badness? I confess I didn't know it was so bad as now it
seems to be. And, not very long ago, was not Sir William Robertson Nicoll
defending the genius of Lytton in the _British Weekly_? It is now richly
apparent that "Money" ought not to have been included in the list
submitted to the King. But it is easy to be wise after the event.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let it be for ever understood that State theatres and State performances
never have had, never will have, any real connexion with original dramatic
art. That is one reason why I am against a national theatre, whose
influence on the drama is bound to be sinister. To count the performance
of "Money" as an insult to living artists is to lose sight of a main
factor in the case. The State and living art must be mutually opposed, for
the reason that the State must, and quite rightly does, represent the
average of opinion. For an original artist to expect aid from the State is
silly; it is also wrong. In expressing a particular regard for the
feelings of musical comedy, and in announcing beforehand his intention of
being present at the first night of the new Gaiety masterpiece, the King
was properly fulfilling his duties as a monarch towards dramatic art. Art
is not the whole of life, and to adore musical comedy is not a crime. The
best thing original artists can do is to keep their perspective


[_8 June '11_]

At last, thanks to the Stage Society, we have had a good representative
play of Anton Tchehkoff on the London stage. Needless to say, Tchehkoff
was done in the provinces long ago. "The Cherry Orchard," I have been
told, is Tchehkoff's dramatic masterpiece, and I can well believe it. But
it is a dangerous thing to present foreign masterpieces to a West End
audience, and the directors of the Stage Society discovered, or
rediscovered, this fact on Sunday night last. The reception of "The Cherry
Orchard" was something like what the reception of Ibsen's plays used to be
twenty years ago. It was scarcely even a mixed reception. There could be
no mistake about the failure of the play to please the vast majority of
the members of the Society. At the end of the second act signs of
disapproval were very manifest indeed, and the exodus from the theatre
began. A competent authority informed me that at the end of the third act
half the audience had departed; but in the narrative fever of the moment
the competent authority may have slightly exaggerated. Certain it is that
multitudes preferred Aldwych and the restaurant concerts, or even their
own homes, to Tchehkoff's play. And as the evening was the Sabbath you may
judge the extreme degree of their detestation of the play.

       *       *       *       *       *

A director of the Stage Society said to me on the Monday: "If our people
won't stand it, it has no chance, because we have the pick here." I didn't
contradict him, but I by no means agreed that he had the pick there. The
managing committee of the Society is a very enlightened body; but the mass
of the members is just as stupid as any other mass. Its virtue is that it
pays subscriptions, thus enabling the committee to make experiments and to
place before the forty or fifty persons in London who really can judge a
play the sort of play which is worthy of curiosity.

       *       *       *       *       *

In spite of the antipathy which is aroused, "The Cherry Orchard" is quite
inoffensive. For example, there is nothing in it to which the Censor could
possibly object. It does not deal specially with sex. It presents an
average picture of Russian society. But it presents the picture with such
exact, uncompromising truthfulness that the members of the Stage Society
mistook nearly all the portraits for caricatures, and tedious
caricatures. In naturalism the play is assuredly an advance on any other
play that I have seen or that has been seen in England. Its naturalism is
positively daring. The author never hesitates to make his personages as
ridiculous as in life they would be. In this he differs from every other
playwright that I know of. Ibsen, for instance; and Henri Becque. He has
carried an artistic convention much nearer to reality, and achieved
another step in the evolution of the drama. The consequence is that he is
accused of untruth and exaggeration, as Becque was, as Ibsen was. His
truthfulness frightens, and causes resentment.

       *       *       *       *       *

People say: "No such persons exist, or at any rate such persons are too
exceptional to form proper material for a work of art." No such persons, I
admit, exist in England; but then this play happens to be concerned with
Russia, and even the men's costumes in it are appalling. Moreover, persons
equally ridiculous and futile do exist in England, and by the hundred
thousand; only they are ridiculous and futile in ways familiar to us. I
guarantee that if any ten average members of the august Stage Society
itself were faithfully portrayed on the stage, with all their mannerisms,
absurdities, and futilities, the resulting picture would be damned as a
gross and offensive caricature. People never look properly at people;
people take people for granted; they remain blind to the facts; and when
an artist comes along and discloses more of these facts than it is usual
to disclose, of course there is a row. This row is a fine thing; it means
that something has been done. And I hope that the directors of the Stage
Society are proud of the reception of "The Cherry Orchard." They ought to


[_6 July '11_]

Recent spectacular events at Court have been the cause of a considerable
amount of verse, indifferent or offensive. But it is to be noticed that
the poets of this realm have not been inspired by the said events. I mean
such writers as W.B. Yeats, Robert Bridges, Lord Alfred Douglas, W.H.
Davies. And yet I see no reason why a Coronation, even in this day of
figure-heads and revolting snobbery, should not be the subject of a good
poem--a poem which would not be afflicting to read, either for the
lettered public or for the chief actor in the scene. However, the time for
such poems has apparently not yet arrived. And meanwhile the
sea-and-slaughter school have been doing an excellent work these last few
weeks in demonstrating how entirely absurd the sea-and-slaughter school
is. Mr. Alfred Noyes has been very prominent, not only in his native page,
_Blackwood's_, but also in the _Fortnightly Review_. Mr. Noyes is, I
believe, the only living versifier whose books are, in the words of an
American editor, "a commercial proposition." He is by many thought to be a
poet. Personally, I have always classed him with Alfred Austin, not yet
having come across one single stanza of his which would fall within my
definition of poetry. Here is an extract from his "A Salute from the

    _Mother, O grey sea-mother, thine is the crowning cry!_--

I am bound to interrupt the quotation here in order to vent my feelings of
extreme irritation caused by the mere phrase. "O grey sea-mother." Why
should this phrase drive me to fury? It does. Well, to recommence:

    _Mother, O grey sea-mother, thine is the crowning cry!_
    _Thine the glory for ever in the nation born of thy womb!_
    _Thine is the Sword and the Shield and the shout that Salamis heard,_
    _Surging in Æschylean splendour, earth-shaking acclaim!_
    _Ocean-mother of England, thine is the throne of her fame!_

Fancy standing on the shore to-day and addressing the real sea in these
words and accents! Fancy the poet doing it! The mood and the mentality are
prehistoric. I would not mind Mr. Noyes putting himself lyrically into
the woaded skin of our ancestors. But I do think he might have got a
little nearer the mark in indicating the "throne of her fame." Because I
expect Mr. Noyes knows as well as anybody that the real throne of
England's fame is not in the sea at all. England's true fame springs from
the few acts of national justice which she has accomplished, and from the
generous impulses which as a nation she has had--as, for example, in her
relations with Italy; as, for example, in the Factory Acts which prevented
children from working eighteen hours a day six or seven days a week. The
patriotic versifiers of this country will, if they persist, end by making
the sea impossible for a plain man to sail on. I have long felt that I
want never again to read anything about the sea, except the advertisements
of auxiliary yawls and cutters in the _Yachting World_. I recommend these
advertisements as a balm for sores caused by rhymed marine Jingoism.


[_20 July '11_]

Books are undoubtedly cursed, and rendered unreadable in a new sense. I
don't know how many years it is since I was informed that Villiers de
l'Isle-Adam's "L'Ève Future" was a really fine novel. I bought it, and I
was so upset, in my narrow youthfulness, to find that the author had made
a hero of Thomas Alva Edison, and called him by his name, that I could not
accomplish more than two chapters. Later I was again informed that "L'Ève
Future" was a really fine novel, and I had another brief tussle with it,
and was vanquished by its dullness. I received a third warning, and
started yet again, and disliked the book rather less, and then I
completely lost it in a removal. After months or years it mysteriously
turned up, like a fox-terrier who has run off on an errand of his own. But
I did not resume it. And then after another long interval the idea that I
absolutely must read "L'Ève Future" gathered force in my mind, and I
decided that the next time I went away for a week-end I would take it with
me. This was in France. I took it away with me. I read a hundred pages on
the outward journey and I got on terms with "L'Ève Future." _"Ce livre
m'attendait,"_ as a certain French novelist said when he read "Tom Jones."
On the return journey I was deep buried in "L'Ève Future," when a fearful
jolting suddenly began to rock the saloon carriage in which I was. The
jolting grew worse, very much worse. Women screamed. I saw my stick fly
out of the rack above my head across the carriage. The door leading to the
corridor jumped off its hinges. Then shattered glass fell in showers, and
I saw an old lady beneath an arm-chair and a table. The shape of the
carriage altered. And then, after an enormous crash, equilibrium was
established amid the cries of human anguish. I had clung to the arms of my
seat and was unhurt, but there were four wounded in the carriage. My
eye-glasses were still sticking on my nose. Saying to myself that I must
keep calm, I put them carefully away, and began to help to get people out
of the wreck. It was not until I looked about for my belongings that I saw
that the corner of a tender had poked itself into our carriage. Outside, a
mail-van and two enormous coaches were lying very impressively on their
sides, and two wounded girls were lying on the grass by the track, and
people were shouting for doctors. I ultimately got away with my bag and
stick and hat, and walked to the nearest station, where a porter naturally
asked me for my ticket. I hired an auto and reached Paris only a quarter
of an hour late for dinner. And I congratulated myself on my calmness and
perfect presence of mind in a railway accident. Only "L'Ève Future" was
not in my bag. I had forgotten it, and my presence of mind had thus been
imperfect. I did not buy another copy of "L'Ève Future," and I don't think
I ever shall, now.


[_31 Aug '11_]

Publishers' advertisements of imaginative work are so constantly curious
that one gets accustomed to their bizarre qualities and refrains from
comment. But Messrs. Hutchinson, who are evidently rather proud of having
secured Lucas Malet's new long novel, have thought of a new adjective, and
the event must be chronicled. They are announcing to the world that Lucas
Malet's new novel is "literary"--"the literary novel of the autumn." I
cannot be quite sure what this means, but it is probably intended to
signify that, in the opinion of Messrs. Hutchinson, Lucas Malet's novel is
very special--that is to say, it is not a mere novel. Less adroit
publishers than Messrs. Hutchinson might have described it as an "art
novel." (_Cf._ "art furniture," all up Tottenham Court Road.) Some of the
most esteemed provincial dailies have a column headed "Literature" on five
days of the week, but on the sixth day that column is headed "New
Fiction." You see the distinction. Messrs. Hutchinson are doubtless
hinting to the provinces that the new book is something between
"literature" and "fiction," and combines the superior attributes of both.
Once the _Athenæum_, apparently staggered by the discovery that Joseph
Conrad existed, reviewed a novel of his under the rubric of "Literature,"
instead of with other novels under the rubric of "Fiction." Messrs.
Hutchinson have possibly an eye also on the _Athenæum_. Personally, I
would not permit my publishers to advertise a novel of mine as literary.
But on the whole I wouldn't seriously object to the adjective


Academies, French and British, 81
Academy, the British, 228-234
_Academy_, the, under the editorship of Mr. Hind, 4, 19;
  under other controls, 38, 64
Advertisements, 300
Agents, literary, 22, 72
Aid, State, for the artist, 319
Albert, Henri, 78
Alexander, Sir George, 63
American postal censorship, 193
Anderson, Sir Robert, 193
Andreief, Léonide, 224
_Anglo-Saxon_, the, 243
Anthologies, 5
Antoine, director of the Odéon, 257, 259
Apoutkine, 225
Archer, William, 140
Aristophanes, 54
Arnold, Matthew, 19, 268
Art, the theory of, 283, 284
"Art of the short story," the, 86
"Artifex" reviews the Letters of Queen Victoria, 12
Artists, creative, 13, 158, 228
  and critics, 158
  as critics, 158, 283
  and money, 242, 250-254
Asquith, H.H., 302
_Athenæum_, the, 68, 71;
  its review of "A Set of Six," 36, 332
Audoux, Marguerite, 305
Austin, Alfred, 325
_Author_, the, 130
Author, the, and the publisher, 13, 16, 17, 22, 33, 71, 204
Authors and gift-books, 68
Authors' Society, the, 130, 171, 233, 277, 291
Autobiography in fiction, 295
Ayscough, John, 28

Balfour, A.J., 82, 87, 291, 306
Balzac, 12, 134, 183, 252
Balzac, Prof. Saintsbury's introductions to the works of, 43, 183
Baring, Maurice, 208
Barker, H. Granville, 317
Barrès, Maurice, 82
Barrie, J.M., 5, 94
Barry, Dr. W.F., 143
Baudelaire, Charles, 16, 221
Bayle, Pierre, 267
Bazin, René, 65
Becque, Henri, 255-262, 323
Beerbohm, Max, 145
Bennett, James Gordon, 193
Benson, Arthur Christopher, 4, 11, 239-241
Berenson, Bernhard, 158
Bernhardt, Sarah, a caricature of, 79
Bernstein, Henri, 197
Beverley Fathers, the, and their library, 189
Bible, the, 172
Binyon, Mrs. Laurence, edits "Nineteenth-Century Prose," 5
_Blackwood's Magazine_, 325
Blake, William, 18, 314
Book in a railway accident, a, 328
_Bookman_, the, 5, 143
Book-buyer, the, 32, 71
Book-market, the, 133
Book-pedlar, the, 105
Books of the Year, 77, 289
Boot, Sir Jesse, 106, 173
Booth, E.C., "The Cliff End," by, 26
"Borgia!" a sensational novel, 226
Boston Libraries Censorship, the, 190
Bourne, George, 120
Bournemouth, 227
Bradley, A.C., 269
Bridges, Robert, 22, 63, 325
Brieux, 155, 195-200
British Academy of Letters, the, 228-234
_British Weekly, see_ Nicoll, Sir W.R.
Brontë, Charlotte and Emily, 42, 210
Browning, Robert, 126
Bunting, Sir Percy, 295

Caine, Hall, 56, 175, 206, 305
Campbell-Bannerman, Sir Henry, 87
Cambridge University Press, 300
Capus, Alfred, 197
Carpenter, Edward, 22
Censorship by the libraries, 167, 181, 271
  postal, in England and America, 193
Cézanne, 282
Chamberlain, Joseph, 137
Charity, the sale of books for, 68
Charmes, Francis, 81
Chavannes, Puvis de, 190
"Cherry Orchard, The," Tchehkoff's play, 321-324
Chesterton, G.K., 150-152
Christie, Manson, and Woods, 281
Christmas, the publishers', 73
Churchill, Winston, 291
Circulating libraries, the, 88
Classics, the reading of, 33
Clear, Claudius, _see_ Nicoll, Sir W.R.
Clemenceau, 61
Clifford, Dr. John, 196
Coleridge, S.T., 268
Collins, Arthur, 318
Collins J. Churton, 41, 269
Colonial expansion, German, 30
Comedians, stage, 63
Composition, the foundation of all arts, 27
Conductor, an orchestral, 43
Confessions, 77
Convention, literary, 118
Conrad, Joseph, 9, 27, 32, 36-40, 87, 94, 231, 238, 332
Corelli, Marie, 32, 47, 48, 49, 56, 103, 206, 305
Corroborative detail, 312
Criticism, English literary, 267
  the, of artists, 158, 283
Critics, artists and, 158
  newspaper, 26, 36
  professorial, 41, 269
Crosland, T.W.H., 64
Cross, Donatella, 235
Crosse and Blackwell, Messrs.
Curel, François de, 253

_Daily Mail_, the, 127, 138, 139
_Daily News_, the, 150, 295
_Daily Telegraph_, the, 306
Danby, Frank, 10
D'Annunzio, Gabriele, 235
Dante, 19
Darling, Mr. Justice, 12
Davies, W.H., 78, 325
Davray, Henry, 220
Debussy, Claude, 280
Defoe, Daniel, 172
Dehan, Richard (Clotilde Graves), 290
"De Profundis," suppressions in, 217
_Dial_, the, 243
Dialogue, novel, 311
Dickens, Charles, 105, 134, 139, 252
Dilettanti of letters, the, as a class, 229
Dilke, Sir Charles, 295
Dixie, Lady Florence, 193
Dobson, Austin, 270
Donnay, Maurice, 197
Dostoievsky, F.M., 117, 208-213, 216, 308
Douglas, Lord Alfred, 64, 325
  James, 303
Drama in the novel, 311
Dumas _fils_, Alexandre, 200

"Ecce Homo," Nietzsche's, 77
_Edinburgh Review_, the, on "Ugliness in Fiction," 8
"Editions," French and English, 59
Eliot, George, 8, 135
Elton, Oliver, 269
Emerson, R.W., 190
"Encyclopædia Britannica, The," 300
English literary criticism, 267
_English Review_, the, 66, 145, 294
Epic, the, and the Sonnet, 87
Esher, Lord, 11

Factory Acts, the, 327
Fay, William, 63
"Fiction" and "literature," 328
Fiction, autobiography in, 295
  ugliness in, 8
Fielding, Henry, 172, 192, 271
Flaubert, Gustave, 16, 212
Florio, John, 223
Fogazzaro, Antonio, 306
Forster, E.M., 292
_Fortnightly Review_, the, 193, 306, 325
France, Anatole, 59, 82, 232
Free library, the Municipal, 104
Frith, W.P., 210

Galsworthy, John, 9, 95, 184, 214-216, 317
Garvin, J.L., 291, 305
Gauguin, 282
Gaunt, Mary, 276
Gautier, Theophile, 139
George V, King, 317
Georges, Mlle., 99
German Colonial expansion, 30
Gide, André, 66, 155
Gift-Books, Royal, 68
_Gil Blas_, 259
Gilchrist, R. Murray, 87, 94, 117
Gladstone, Lord, 157
  W.E., 51
Glasgow libraries, censorship in the, 192
Glyn, Elinor, 10, 271-277, 289
Goethe, 19
Gogol, 117, 208
Gorky, Maxim, 224
Gould, Jay, 193
Grahame, Kenneth, 57
Grosvenor library, the, 106

Hand, T.W., librarian at Leeds, 189
Hankin, St. John, 140
Hardy, Thomas, 8, 9, 87, 94, 96, 137, 172, 192, 267
Harland, Henry, 91
_Harper's Magazine_, 51
Harraden, Beatrice, 47
Harriman, 193
Havergal, Francis Ridley, 241
Hazlitt, William, 268
Heaton, Sir J. Henniker, 196
Heinemann, William, 169, 170
Herford, Prof. C.H., 84, 269
Hewlett, Maurice, 130
Hill, Rowland, 135
Hind, C. Lewis, as editor of the _Academy_, 4
Hocking, the brothers, 103
Holiday reading, 222
Holmes, O.W., 190
Hope, Anthony, 47, 130
Houssaye, Henry, 81
Hudson, W.H., 278
Hugo, Victor, 134, 155
Hull and the libraries Censorship, 185
_Hull Daily Mail_, the, 186, 187
Hutchinson, Sir G.T., 130, 169
  Thomas, Wordsworthian researches of, 18

Ibsen, Henrik, 321, 323
_l'Illustration_, 260
Impressionistic Method, the, 37
Ingram, J.H., 84
Intimations of Immortality, 63
Irwin, Mabel McCoy, 194

Jacobs, W.W., and Aristophanes, 53, 94
James, Henry, 87, 95, 263-266
Jaurès, Jean, 61
John o' London, _see_ Whitten, Wilfred
Johnson, Lionel, 267
_Journal_, a report in the Paris, 223
  _des Débats_, the, 81
Journalism, success in, 300-304

Keary, Peter, 188
Keats, John, 237
Kingsley, Charles, 105
Kipling, Rudyard, 55, 57, 94, 160-166
Knight, Prof. W., Wordsworthian researches of, 18

Labourer, the Surrey, 120
Lamb, Charles, 268
Lambert, Canon, 186
Lane, John, 120
Lang, Andrew, 51, 83, 114
Lansdowne, Lord, 306
Laprade, Pierre, 283
Lectures and State Performances, 315
Leasing, 159
Letters, the, of Queen Victoria, 11, 16, 68, 69
Libraries, 106
  the circulating, 88
  and their subscribers, 33
  the, and "His Hour," 271
  censorship by the, 167, 181, 271
Library, the Municipal Free, 104
Literary criticism, English, 267
Literary periodical, the, 242
Liverpool, 44
London, 160;
  and the Neo-Impressionists, 280
  a book on, 3
  the potential reading public of, 101
  the Bishop of, 77
Longfellow, H.W., 190
Love poetry, 145
Lowell, J.R., 190
Lucas, E.V., 6, 150
_Lucifer_, an American journal, 193
Lytton, Lord (and "Money"), 316-319

Mackail, J.W., 270
Macmillan, Sir Frederick, 130
"Madame Bovary," terms of the publication of, 16
Madeleine, Jules de la, 16
Malet, Lucas, 331
Mallarmé, Stéphane, 65
"Man of Kent, A," _see_ Nicoll, Sir W.R.
Manchester, the potential reading public of, 101
_Manchester Guardian_, the, 47, 84, 237
Marjoram, J., 145
Masefield, John, 28, 311-314
Mason, Frederic, 77
Mathews, Elkin, 267
Matisse, 283
Maupassant, Guy de, 86, 117, 137, 252
Maxwell, W.B., 9, 27
Meyerfeld, Dr. Max, 217
Memoirs, books of scandalous, 98, 181
"Mercure de France, Société du," 59
Meredith, George, 87, 95, 134-139, 173, 227
Merrick, Leonard, 5, 94
Methuen, Sir A.M.S., 130
Middle-class, 89
Milton, 19, 20
Mitchell library, Whitman's poems at the, 192
Molière, 19
Money, artists and, 242, 250-254
"Money," a gala performance of, 316
Montague, C.E., 201-203
Montaigne, 222
Montenegro, the Queen of, 276
Moore, George, 8, 87, 94, 172, 176, 190
Morley, Lord, 22
_Morning Post_, the, 208
Mudie's, 33, 52, 88, 173, 174, 175
Municipal Free library, the, 104
Murray, John, action against the _Times_, 11, 16

Napoleon's mistresses, 99
_Nation_, the, 84
Nelson's Sevenpenny novels, 107, 130
Neo-Impressionism and literature, 281
_Neolith_, the, 243
_New Age_, the, 122, 246
"New Machiavelli, The," 294-299
New York, 160, 161
Newcastle-on-Tyne, 3
Nicoll, Sir William Robertson, 5, 26, 29, 67, 114, 222, 319
Nietzsche, Friedrich, 78
Norris, W.E., 49
Novel, a "literary," 331
  a sexual, 271
  dialogue and drama in the, 311
  library censorship of the, 167, 181, 271
  the sevenpenny, 72, 107, 130
  the six-shilling, 22, 72, 131
  the, ugliness in, 8
  of the season, the, 26
Novels and short stories, a perennial discussion, 86
  autobiography in, 295
  shilling, 107
  the length of, 248
  the sales of, 68, 131
Novelists and agents, 22, 72
Nousanne, Henri de, 259, 260
Noyes, Alfred, 325
Numès, M., 259

Omar Khayyám, 84
Ospovat, Henry, 79

_Pall Mall Gazette_, the, 137
Paris, 155, 256
Pater, Walter, 227
Pedlars, book-, 105
Pemberton, Max, 103
Periodical, the literary 242
Persky, Serge, 224
Perusals, unfinished, 235-237
Phillpotts, Eden, 47, 87
Pinero, Sir A.W., 140
Play of Tchehkoff's, a, 321-324
Poe and the short story, 84
Poetry, love, 145
  marine, 325
  official recognition of, 155
Poets, contemporary, 63, 325
Post-Impressionists, _see_ Neo-Impressionism
Postal censorship, English and American, 193
Prices of books, the, 14, 130
Prose, the, of Wilfred Whitten, 3
Professors, 41, 269
Provinces, the potential reading public of the, 101
Public, the, 88
  a publisher on "the public," 204
  disdain of artists for the public, 243
  the characteristics of the middle-class public, "the backbone," 88-94
    treatment of this class by contemporary novelists, 94-96
    unreadiness of this class to be pleased, 97
    explanation of its concern with fiction, 98
  the potential public in the industrial Midlands, 101
    trade failure to cater for this public, 102-104
    the Free Libraries, 104
    the book-pedlar, 105
    cheap editions, 107
  the sections composed of dilettanti, 229
    "right people," 291, 294
  as book-buyers, 32
Publishers' Association, the, and Library Censorship, 169, 277
Publishers and authors, 204-207
  English and French, compared, 17
  their place in literature, 13
  profits, 11, 16, 72, 182
Publishing seasons, bad, 22, 26, 68
_Punch_, 143
Putney, the High Street, 123

Quiller-Couch, Sir A.T., 55, 87

Railway accident, a book in a, 328
Raleigh, Prof. Sir Walter, 44, 238, 269
Reading on holiday, 222
Realism, the progress towards, 118;
  Russian realism, 208
Rembrandt, 281
Reprints, cheap, 33
Reviewers, 26, 36
_Revue des Deux Mondes_, the, 81
Reynolds, Stephen, 78, 120
Richards, Grant, 26
Richardson, Frank, 109
  Samuel, 139, 172, 192
"Rita," 51
Robaglia, M., 259
Rockefeller, J.D., 193
Rodin's statue of Hugo, 156
Rosebery, Lord, 250
Ross, Robert, 217
Rossetti, D.G., 172
Roussel, 283
Rouveyre's caricature of Bernhardt, 79
Royal Academy, the, 234.
Russian fiction and drama, 117, 141, 208-213, 224, 321
Rutherford, Mark, 94

Sainte-Beuve, 267, 268, 270
Saintsbury, George, 42, 269
Sales, the, of novels, 59, 68, 131
Sampson, John, his edition of Blake, 18
Sargent, John, 95, 190
_Savoy_, the, 243
Scarborough, 227
Schücking, Dr. Levin, 66
Scott, Sir Walter, 86, 105, 134, 139, 252
Scott-James, R.A., 295
Sculpture, proposal for an academy of, 234
Sea and Slaughter, 325-327
Season, the novel of the, 26
Seasons, bad publishing, 22, 68
Sélincourt, Ernest de, his edition of Keats, 18
Series of reprints, cheap, 33
Sevenpenny novel, the, 72, 107, 130
Shakespeare, 19, 172, 318
Shaw, George Bernard, 84, 130, 195, 200, 291, 316, 317
Shelley, P.B., 172, 318
Shilling novels, 107
Short story, the, in England, 38, 84
Shorter, C.K., 26, 29, 42, 114, 188
Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., 105
Sims, G.R., 126
Single lines, the, of Wordsworth, 18
Six-shilling novel, the, 22, 72, 131
Smith, Sir F.E., 78, 291
  Nowell, his edition of Wordsworth, 18, 21
Smith, Reginald, 130
  the Rt. Hon. W.F.D., 47
  and Son, W.H., 88, 132
Smollett, Tobias, 192
"Société du Mercure de France," the, 59
Sonnet, the, and the Epic, 87
_Sphere, see_ Shorter, C.K.
Stacpoole, H. de Vere, 28
Stage Society, the Incorporated, 256, 321
State performances, lectures and, 315
Stationers' shops and books, 103
Stead, W.T., 295
Stendhal, 60, 96, 134, 211
Stephen, Sir Leslie, 19
Sterne, Laurence, 172
Stevenson, R.L., 37, 81, 86, 221, 252
Stock, M., the French publisher, 256, 260
_Strand Magazine_, the, 113
Strauss, Richard, 280
Style, English, 45
Success in Journalism, 300-304
Suppressions in "De Profundis," 217
Surrey labourer, the, 120
Swift, Jonathan, 172
Swinburne, Algernon Charles, 22, 66, 123
Switzerland, 227
Symons, Arthur, 209
Synge, J.M., 63

Taine, 267, 270
Tchehkoff, Anton, 117, 141, 208, 225, 258, 321-324
Tennyson, Alfred, Lord, 84, 85, 103, 125, 126, 156
Thackeray, W.M., 134, 139, 315
Thurston, E. Temple, 290
_Times_, the, and the letters of Queen Victoria, 11
  an article on Trollope in, 148
  Book Club, 88, 315
  _Literary Supplement_, 48, 266
Tolstoy, 117, 192, 208, 224
Tonnelat, M., on German colonial expansion, 30
Tourgeniev, 117, 208-213
Tree, Sir H. Beerbohm, 197
Trevena, John, 276
Trollope, Anthony, 134, 139, 148
Tunbridge Wells, 12

Ugliness in fiction, 8
Unclean books, 143
Unfinished perusals, 235
"Unpleasant" books, 97

Vachell, Horace Annesley, 97
Vallotton, Félix, 283
Verlaine, Paul, 28
Victoria, Queen, the Betters of, 11, 16, 68, 69
Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, 129, 328
Vladimir, the Grand Duchess, 276

Walkley, A.B., 62, 140, 194, 222
Ward, Mrs. Humphry, 39, 47, 56, 65, 103, 130, 139, 206, 291
Wedgwood, A.F., 237
Wells, H.G., 61, 62, 78, 87, 94, 109-116, 123, 186, 192, 294-299, 313, 315
_Westminster Gazette_, the, 60, 69, 248
White, Gilbert, 84
  W. Hale (Mark Rutherford), 94
Whitman's poems at the Mitchell Library, 102
Whitten, Wilfred (John o' London), 3
Wilde, Oscar, 66, 217, 317
Williams, Daniel, a bookseller, 12
_Woman's Journal_, the Boston, 193
Wordsworth, William, 18, 157
Wyman, Messrs., 132

Yeats, W.B., 63, 325
_Yellow Book_, the, 243
Yonge, Charlotte M., 8, 105, 136, 210

Zangwill, Israel, 311
Zola, Emile, 59, 208


[Transcriber's Note: In the section UNCLEAN BOOKS, 8 July '09, a quotation
mark was added at the end:

"What is the geographical situation of this house of Dr. Barry's, hemmed
in by flaming and immoral advertisements and by soliciting sellers of

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