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´╗┐Title: Notes on Life and Letters
Author: Conrad, Joseph, 1857-1924
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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Transcribed from the 1921 J. M. Dent edition by David Price, email



Author's note

PART I--Letters





I don't know whether I ought to offer an apology for this collection
which has more to do with life than with letters.  Its appeal is made to
orderly minds.  This, to be frank about it, is a process of tidying up,
which, from the nature of things, cannot be regarded as premature.  The
fact is that I wanted to do it myself because of a feeling that had
nothing to do with the considerations of worthiness or unworthiness of
the small (but unbroken) pieces collected within the covers of this
volume.  Of course it may be said that I might have taken up a broom and
used it without saying anything about it.  That, certainly, is one way of
tidying up.

But it would have been too much to have expected me to treat all this
matter as removable rubbish.  All those things had a place in my life.
Whether any of them deserve to have been picked up and ranged on the
shelf--this shelf--I cannot say, and, frankly, I have not allowed my mind
to dwell on the question.  I was afraid of thinking myself into a mood
that would hurt my feelings; for those pieces of writing, whatever may be
the comment on their display, appertain to the character of the man.

And so here they are, dusted, which was but a decent thing to do, but in
no way polished, extending from the year '98 to the year '20, a thin
array (for such a stretch of time) of really innocent attitudes: Conrad
literary, Conrad political, Conrad reminiscent, Conrad controversial.
Well, yes!  A one-man show--or is it merely the show of one man?

The only thing that will not be found amongst those Figures and Things
that have passed away, will be Conrad _en pantoufles_.  It is a
constitutional inability.  _Schlafrock und pantoffeln_!  Not that!  Never!
. . . I don't know whether I dare boast like a certain South American
general who used to say that no emergency of war or peace had ever found
him "with his boots off"; but I may say that whenever the various
periodicals mentioned in this book called on me to come out and blow the
trumpet of personal opinions or strike the pensive lute that speaks of
the past, I always tried to pull on my boots first.  I didn't want to do
it, God knows!  Their Editors, to whom I beg to offer my thanks here,
made me perform mainly by kindness but partly by bribery.  Well, yes!
Bribery?  What can you expect?  I never pretended to be better than the
people in the next street, or even in the same street.

This volume (including these embarrassed introductory remarks) is as near
as I shall ever come to _deshabille_ in public; and perhaps it will do
something to help towards a better vision of the man, if it gives no more
than a partial view of a piece of his back, a little dusty (after the
process of tidying up), a little bowed, and receding from the world not
because of weariness or misanthropy but for other reasons that cannot be
helped: because the leaves fall, the water flows, the clock ticks with
that horrid pitiless solemnity which you must have observed in the
ticking of the hall clock at home.  For reasons like that.  Yes!  It
recedes.  And this was the chance to afford one more view of it--even to
my own eyes.

The section within this volume called Letters explains itself, though I
do not pretend to say that it justifies its own existence.  It claims
nothing in its defence except the right of speech which I believe belongs
to everybody outside a Trappist monastery.  The part I have ventured, for
shortness' sake, to call Life, may perhaps justify itself by the
emotional sincerity of the feelings to which the various papers included
under that head owe their origin.  And as they relate to events of which
everyone has a date, they are in the nature of sign-posts pointing out
the direction my thoughts were compelled to take at the various cross-
roads.  If anybody detects any sort of consistency in the choice, this
will be only proof positive that wisdom had nothing to do with it.
Whether right or wrong, instinct alone is invariable; a fact which only
adds a deeper shade to its inherent mystery.  The appearance of
intellectuality these pieces may present at first sight is merely the
result of the arrangement of words.  The logic that may be found there is
only the logic of the language.  But I need not labour the point.  There
will be plenty of people sagacious enough to perceive the absence of all
wisdom from these pages.  But I believe sufficiently in human sympathies
to imagine that very few will question their sincerity.  Whatever
delusions I may have suffered from I have had no delusions as to the
nature of the facts commented on here.  I may have misjudged their
import: but that is the sort of error for which one may expect a certain
amount of toleration.

The only paper of this collection which has never been published before
is the Note on the Polish Problem.  It was written at the request of a
friend to be shown privately, and its "Protectorate" idea, sprung from a
strong sense of the critical nature of the situation, was shaped by the
actual circumstances of the time.  The time was about a month before the
entrance of Roumania into the war, and though, honestly, I had seen
already the shadow of coming events I could not permit my misgivings to
enter into and destroy the structure of my plan.  I still believe that
there was some sense in it.  It may certainly be charged with the
appearance of lack of faith and it lays itself open to the throwing of
many stones; but my object was practical and I had to consider warily the
preconceived notions of the people to whom it was implicitly addressed,
and also their unjustifiable hopes.  They were unjustifiable, but who was
to tell them that?  I mean who was wise enough and convincing enough to
show them the inanity of their mental attitude?  The whole atmosphere was
poisoned with visions that were not so much false as simply impossible.
They were also the result of vague and unconfessed fears, and that made
their strength.  For myself, with a very definite dread in my heart, I
was careful not to allude to their character because I did not want the
Note to be thrown away unread.  And then I had to remember that the
impossible has sometimes the trick of coming to pass to the confusion of
minds and often to the crushing of hearts.

Of the other papers I have nothing special to say.  They are what they
are, and I am by now too hardened a sinner to feel ashamed of
insignificant indiscretions.  And as to their appearance in this form I
claim that indulgence to which all sinners against themselves are

J. C.




"I have not read this author's books, and if I have read them I have
forgotten what they were about."

These words are reported as having been uttered in our midst not a
hundred years ago, publicly, from the seat of justice, by a civic
magistrate.  The words of our municipal rulers have a solemnity and
importance far above the words of other mortals, because our municipal
rulers more than any other variety of our governors and masters represent
the average wisdom, temperament, sense and virtue of the community.  This
generalisation, it ought to be promptly said in the interests of eternal
justice (and recent friendship), does not apply to the United States of
America.  There, if one may believe the long and helpless indignations of
their daily and weekly Press, the majority of municipal rulers appear to
be thieves of a particularly irrepressible sort.  But this by the way.  My
concern is with a statement issuing from the average temperament and the
average wisdom of a great and wealthy community, and uttered by a civic
magistrate obviously without fear and without reproach.

I confess I am pleased with his temper, which is that of prudence.  "I
have not read the books," he says, and immediately he adds, "and if I
have read them I have forgotten."  This is excellent caution.  And I like
his style: it is unartificial and bears the stamp of manly sincerity.  As
a reported piece of prose this declaration is easy to read and not
difficult to believe.  Many books have not been read; still more have
been forgotten.  As a piece of civic oratory this declaration is
strikingly effective.  Calculated to fall in with the bent of the popular
mind, so familiar with all forms of forgetfulness, it has also the power
to stir up a subtle emotion while it starts a train of thought--and what
greater force can be expected from human speech?  But it is in
naturalness that this declaration is perfectly delightful, for there is
nothing more natural than for a grave City Father to forget what the
books he has read once--long ago--in his giddy youth maybe--were about.

And the books in question are novels, or, at any rate, were written as
novels.  I proceed thus cautiously (following my illustrious example)
because being without fear and desiring to remain as far as possible
without reproach, I confess at once that I have not read them.

I have not; and of the million persons or more who are said to have read
them, I never met one yet with the talent of lucid exposition
sufficiently developed to give me a connected account of what they are
about.  But they are books, part and parcel of humanity, and as such, in
their ever increasing, jostling multitude, they are worthy of regard,
admiration, and compassion.

Especially of compassion.  It has been said a long time ago that books
have their fate.  They have, and it is very much like the destiny of man.
They share with us the great incertitude of ignominy or glory--of severe
justice and senseless persecution--of calumny and misunderstanding--the
shame of undeserved success.  Of all the inanimate objects, of all men's
creations, books are the nearest to us, for they contain our very
thought, our ambitions, our indignations, our illusions, our fidelity to
truth, and our persistent leaning towards error.  But most of all they
resemble us in their precarious hold on life.  A bridge constructed
according to the rules of the art of bridge-building is certain of a
long, honourable and useful career.  But a book as good in its way as the
bridge may perish obscurely on the very day of its birth.  The art of
their creators is not sufficient to give them more than a moment of life.
Of the books born from the restlessness, the inspiration, and the vanity
of human minds, those that the Muses would love best lie more than all
others under the menace of an early death.  Sometimes their defects will
save them.  Sometimes a book fair to see may--to use a lofty
expression--have no individual soul.  Obviously a book of that sort
cannot die.  It can only crumble into dust.  But the best of books
drawing sustenance from the sympathy and memory of men have lived on the
brink of destruction, for men's memories are short, and their sympathy
is, we must admit, a very fluctuating, unprincipled emotion.

No secret of eternal life for our books can be found amongst the formulas
of art, any more than for our bodies in a prescribed combination of
drugs.  This is not because some books are not worthy of enduring life,
but because the formulas of art are dependent on things variable,
unstable and untrustworthy; on human sympathies, on prejudices, on likes
and dislikes, on the sense of virtue and the sense of propriety, on
beliefs and theories that, indestructible in themselves, always change
their form--often in the lifetime of one fleeting generation.


Of all books, novels, which the Muses should love, make a serious claim
on our compassion.  The art of the novelist is simple.  At the same time
it is the most elusive of all creative arts, the most liable to be
obscured by the scruples of its servants and votaries, the one
pre-eminently destined to bring trouble to the mind and the heart of the
artist.  After all, the creation of a world is not a small undertaking
except perhaps to the divinely gifted.  In truth every novelist must
begin by creating for himself a world, great or little, in which he can
honestly believe.  This world cannot be made otherwise than in his own
image: it is fated to remain individual and a little mysterious, and yet
it must resemble something already familiar to the experience, the
thoughts and the sensations of his readers.  At the heart of fiction,
even the least worthy of the name, some sort of truth can be found--if
only the truth of a childish theatrical ardour in the game of life, as in
the novels of Dumas the father.  But the fair truth of human delicacy can
be found in Mr. Henry James's novels; and the comical, appalling truth of
human rapacity let loose amongst the spoils of existence lives in the
monstrous world created by Balzac.  The pursuit of happiness by means
lawful and unlawful, through resignation or revolt, by the clever
manipulation of conventions or by solemn hanging on to the skirts of the
latest scientific theory, is the only theme that can be legitimately
developed by the novelist who is the chronicler of the adventures of
mankind amongst the dangers of the kingdom of the earth.  And the kingdom
of this earth itself, the ground upon which his individualities stand,
stumble, or die, must enter into his scheme of faithful record.  To
encompass all this in one harmonious conception is a great feat; and even
to attempt it deliberately with serious intention, not from the senseless
prompting of an ignorant heart, is an honourable ambition.  For it
requires some courage to step in calmly where fools may be eager to rush.
As a distinguished and successful French novelist once observed of
fiction, "C'est un art _trop_ difficile."

It is natural that the novelist should doubt his ability to cope with his
task.  He imagines it more gigantic than it is.  And yet literary
creation being only one of the legitimate forms of human activity has no
value but on the condition of not excluding the fullest recognition of
all the more distinct forms of action.  This condition is sometimes
forgotten by the man of letters, who often, especially in his youth, is
inclined to lay a claim of exclusive superiority for his own amongst all
the other tasks of the human mind.  The mass of verse and prose may
glimmer here and there with the glow of a divine spark, but in the sum of
human effort it has no special importance.  There is no justificative
formula for its existence any more than for any other artistic
achievement.  With the rest of them it is destined to be forgotten,
without, perhaps, leaving the faintest trace.  Where a novelist has an
advantage over the workers in other fields of thought is in his privilege
of freedom--the freedom of expression and the freedom of confessing his
innermost beliefs--which should console him for the hard slavery of the


Liberty of imagination should be the most precious possession of a
novelist.  To try voluntarily to discover the fettering dogmas of some
romantic, realistic, or naturalistic creed in the free work of its own
inspiration, is a trick worthy of human perverseness which, after
inventing an absurdity, endeavours to find for it a pedigree of
distinguished ancestors.  It is a weakness of inferior minds when it is
not the cunning device of those who, uncertain of their talent, would
seek to add lustre to it by the authority of a school.  Such, for
instance, are the high priests who have proclaimed Stendhal for a prophet
of Naturalism.  But Stendhal himself would have accepted no limitation of
his freedom.  Stendhal's mind was of the first order.  His spirit above
must be raging with a peculiarly Stendhalesque scorn and indignation.  For
the truth is that more than one kind of intellectual cowardice hides
behind the literary formulas.  And Stendhal was pre-eminently courageous.
He wrote his two great novels, which so few people have read, in a spirit
of fearless liberty.

It must not be supposed that I claim for the artist in fiction the
freedom of moral Nihilism.  I would require from him many acts of faith
of which the first would be the cherishing of an undying hope; and hope,
it will not be contested, implies all the piety of effort and
renunciation.  It is the God-sent form of trust in the magic force and
inspiration belonging to the life of this earth.  We are inclined to
forget that the way of excellence is in the intellectual, as
distinguished from emotional, humility.  What one feels so hopelessly
barren in declared pessimism is just its arrogance.  It seems as if the
discovery made by many men at various times that there is much evil in
the world were a source of proud and unholy joy unto some of the modern
writers.  That frame of mind is not the proper one in which to approach
seriously the art of fiction.  It gives an author--goodness only knows
why--an elated sense of his own superiority.  And there is nothing more
dangerous than such an elation to that absolute loyalty towards his
feelings and sensations an author should keep hold of in his most exalted
moments of creation.

To be hopeful in an artistic sense it is not necessary to think that the
world is good.  It is enough to believe that there is no impossibility of
its being made so.  If the flight of imaginative thought may be allowed
to rise superior to many moralities current amongst mankind, a novelist
who would think himself of a superior essence to other men would miss the
first condition of his calling.  To have the gift of words is no such
great matter.  A man furnished with a long-range weapon does not become a
hunter or a warrior by the mere possession of a fire-arm; many other
qualities of character and temperament are necessary to make him either
one or the other.  Of him from whose armoury of phrases one in a hundred
thousand may perhaps hit the far-distant and elusive mark of art I would
ask that in his dealings with mankind he should be capable of giving a
tender recognition to their obscure virtues.  I would not have him
impatient with their small failings and scornful of their errors.  I
would not have him expect too much gratitude from that humanity whose
fate, as illustrated in individuals, it is open to him to depict as
ridiculous or terrible.  I would wish him to look with a large
forgiveness at men's ideas and prejudices, which are by no means the
outcome of malevolence, but depend on their education, their social
status, even their professions.  The good artist should expect no
recognition of his toil and no admiration of his genius, because his toil
can with difficulty be appraised and his genius cannot possibly mean
anything to the illiterate who, even from the dreadful wisdom of their
evoked dead, have, so far, culled nothing but inanities and platitudes.  I
would wish him to enlarge his sympathies by patient and loving
observation while he grows in mental power.  It is in the impartial
practice of life, if anywhere, that the promise of perfection for his art
can be found, rather than in the absurd formulas trying to prescribe this
or that particular method of technique or conception.  Let him mature the
strength of his imagination amongst the things of this earth, which it is
his business to cherish and know, and refrain from calling down his
inspiration ready-made from some heaven of perfections of which he knows
nothing.  And I would not grudge him the proud illusion that will come
sometimes to a writer: the illusion that his achievement has almost
equalled the greatness of his dream.  For what else could give him the
serenity and the force to hug to his breast as a thing delightful and
human, the virtue, the rectitude and sagacity of his own City, declaring
with simple eloquence through the mouth of a Conscript Father: "I have
not read this author's books, and if I have read them I have forgotten
. . ."


The critical faculty hesitates before the magnitude of Mr. Henry James's
work.  His books stand on my shelves in a place whose accessibility
proclaims the habit of frequent communion.  But not all his books.  There
is no collected edition to date, such as some of "our masters" have been
provided with; no neat rows of volumes in buckram or half calf, putting
forth a hasty claim to completeness, and conveying to my mind a hint of
finality, of a surrender to fate of that field in which all these
victories have been won.  Nothing of the sort has been done for Mr. Henry
James's victories in England.

In a world such as ours, so painful with all sorts of wonders, one would
not exhaust oneself in barren marvelling over mere bindings, had not the
fact, or rather the absence of the material fact, prominent in the case
of other men whose writing counts, (for good or evil)--had it not been, I
say, expressive of a direct truth spiritual and intellectual; an accident
of--I suppose--the publishing business acquiring a symbolic meaning from
its negative nature.  Because, emphatically, in the body of Mr. Henry
James's work there is no suggestion of finality, nowhere a hint of
surrender, or even of probability of surrender, to his own victorious
achievement in that field where he is a master.  Happily, he will never
be able to claim completeness; and, were he to confess to it in a moment
of self-ignorance, he would not be believed by the very minds for whom
such a confession naturally would be meant.  It is impossible to think of
Mr. Henry James becoming "complete" otherwise than by the brutality of
our common fate whose finality is meaningless--in the sense of its logic
being of a material order, the logic of a falling stone.

I do not know into what brand of ink Mr. Henry James dips his pen;
indeed, I heard that of late he had been dictating; but I know that his
mind is steeped in the waters flowing from the fountain of intellectual
youth.  The thing--a privilege--a miracle--what you will--is not quite
hidden from the meanest of us who run as we read.  To those who have the
grace to stay their feet it is manifest.  After some twenty years of
attentive acquaintance with Mr. Henry James's work, it grows into
absolute conviction which, all personal feeling apart, brings a sense of
happiness into one's artistic existence.  If gratitude, as someone
defined it, is a lively sense of favours to come, it becomes very easy to
be grateful to the author of The Ambassadors--to name the latest of his
works.  The favours are sure to come; the spring of that benevolence will
never run dry.  The stream of inspiration flows brimful in a
predetermined direction, unaffected by the periods of drought, untroubled
in its clearness by the storms of the land of letters, without languor or
violence in its force, never running back upon itself, opening new
visions at every turn of its course through that richly inhabited country
its fertility has created for our delectation, for our judgment, for our
exploring.  It is, in fact, a magic spring.

With this phrase the metaphor of the perennial spring, of the
inextinguishable youth, of running waters, as applied to Mr. Henry
James's inspiration, may be dropped.  In its volume and force the body of
his work may be compared rather to a majestic river.  All creative art is
magic, is evocation of the unseen in forms persuasive, enlightening,
familiar and surprising, for the edification of mankind, pinned down by
the conditions of its existence to the earnest consideration of the most
insignificant tides of reality.

Action in its essence, the creative art of a writer of fiction may be
compared to rescue work carried out in darkness against cross gusts of
wind swaying the action of a great multitude.  It is rescue work, this
snatching of vanishing phases of turbulence, disguised in fair words, out
of the native obscurity into a light where the struggling forms may be
seen, seized upon, endowed with the only possible form of permanence in
this world of relative values--the permanence of memory.  And the
multitude feels it obscurely too; since the demand of the individual to
the artist is, in effect, the cry, "Take me out of myself!" meaning
really, out of my perishable activity into the light of imperishable
consciousness.  But everything is relative, and the light of
consciousness is only enduring, merely the most enduring of the things of
this earth, imperishable only as against the short-lived work of our
industrious hands.

When the last aqueduct shall have crumbled to pieces, the last airship
fallen to the ground, the last blade of grass have died upon a dying
earth, man, indomitable by his training in resistance to misery and pain,
shall set this undiminished light of his eyes against the feeble glow of
the sun.  The artistic faculty, of which each of us has a minute grain,
may find its voice in some individual of that last group, gifted with a
power of expression and courageous enough to interpret the ultimate
experience of mankind in terms of his temperament, in terms of art.  I do
not mean to say that he would attempt to beguile the last moments of
humanity by an ingenious tale.  It would be too much to expect--from
humanity.  I doubt the heroism of the hearers.  As to the heroism of the
artist, no doubt is necessary.  There would be on his part no heroism.
The artist in his calling of interpreter creates (the clearest form of
demonstration) because he must.  He is so much of a voice that, for him,
silence is like death; and the postulate was, that there is a group
alive, clustered on his threshold to watch the last flicker of light on a
black sky, to hear the last word uttered in the stilled workshop of the
earth.  It is safe to affirm that, if anybody, it will be the imaginative
man who would be moved to speak on the eve of that day without
to-morrow--whether in austere exhortation or in a phrase of sardonic
comment, who can guess?

For my own part, from a short and cursory acquaintance with my kind, I am
inclined to think that the last utterance will formulate, strange as it
may appear, some hope now to us utterly inconceivable.  For mankind is
delightful in its pride, its assurance, and its indomitable tenacity.  It
will sleep on the battlefield among its own dead, in the manner of an
army having won a barren victory.  It will not know when it is beaten.
And perhaps it is right in that quality.  The victories are not, perhaps,
so barren as it may appear from a purely strategical, utilitarian point
of view.  Mr. Henry James seems to hold that belief.  Nobody has rendered
better, perhaps, the tenacity of temper, or known how to drape the robe
of spiritual honour about the drooping form of a victor in a barren
strife.  And the honour is always well won; for the struggles Mr. Henry
James chronicles with such subtle and direct insight are, though only
personal contests, desperate in their silence, none the less heroic (in
the modern sense) for the absence of shouted watchwords, clash of arms
and sound of trumpets.  Those are adventures in which only choice souls
are ever involved.  And Mr. Henry James records them with a fearless and
insistent fidelity to the _peripeties_ of the contest, and the feelings
of the combatants.

The fiercest excitements of a romance _de cape et d'epee_, the romance of
yard-arm and boarding pike so dear to youth, whose knowledge of action
(as of other things) is imperfect and limited, are matched, for the
quickening of our maturer years, by the tasks set, by the difficulties
presented, to the sense of truth, of necessity--before all, of conduct--of
Mr. Henry James's men and women.  His mankind is delightful.  It is
delightful in its tenacity; it refuses to own itself beaten; it will
sleep on the battlefield.  These warlike images come by themselves under
the pen; since from the duality of man's nature and the competition of
individuals, the life-history of the earth must in the last instance be a
history of a really very relentless warfare.  Neither his fellows, nor
his gods, nor his passions will leave a man alone.  In virtue of these
allies and enemies, he holds his precarious dominion, he possesses his
fleeting significance; and it is this relation in all its manifestations,
great and little, superficial or profound, and this relation alone, that
is commented upon, interpreted, demonstrated by the art of the novelist
in the only possible way in which the task can be performed: by the
independent creation of circumstance and character, achieved against all
the difficulties of expression, in an imaginative effort finding its
inspiration from the reality of forms and sensations.  That a sacrifice
must be made, that something has to be given up, is the truth engraved in
the innermost recesses of the fair temple built for our edification by
the masters of fiction.  There is no other secret behind the curtain.  All
adventure, all love, every success is resumed in the supreme energy of an
act of renunciation.  It is the uttermost limit of our power; it is the
most potent and effective force at our disposal on which rest the labours
of a solitary man in his study, the rock on which have been built
commonwealths whose might casts a dwarfing shadow upon two oceans.  Like
a natural force which is obscured as much as illuminated by the
multiplicity of phenomena, the power of renunciation is obscured by the
mass of weaknesses, vacillations, secondary motives and false steps and
compromises which make up the sum of our activity.  But no man or woman
worthy of the name can pretend to anything more, to anything greater.  And
Mr. Henry James's men and women are worthy of the name, within the limits
his art, so clear, so sure of itself, has drawn round their activities.
He would be the last to claim for them Titanic proportions.  The earth
itself has grown smaller in the course of ages.  But in every sphere of
human perplexities and emotions, there are more greatnesses than one--not
counting here the greatness of the artist himself.  Wherever he stands,
at the beginning or the end of things, a man has to sacrifice his gods to
his passions, or his passions to his gods.  That is the problem, great
enough, in all truth, if approached in the spirit of sincerity and

In one of his critical studies, published some fifteen years ago, Mr.
Henry James claims for the novelist the standing of the historian as the
only adequate one, as for himself and before his audience.  I think that
the claim cannot be contested, and that the position is unassailable.
Fiction is history, human history, or it is nothing.  But it is also more
than that; it stands on firmer ground, being based on the reality of
forms and the observation of social phenomena, whereas history is based
on documents, and the reading of print and handwriting--on second-hand
impression.  Thus fiction is nearer truth.  But let that pass.  A
historian may be an artist too, and a novelist is a historian, the
preserver, the keeper, the expounder, of human experience.  As is meet
for a man of his descent and tradition, Mr. Henry James is the historian
of fine consciences.

Of course, this is a general statement; but I don't think its truth will
be, or can be questioned.  Its fault is that it leaves so much out; and,
besides, Mr. Henry James is much too considerable to be put into the
nutshell of a phrase.  The fact remains that he has made his choice, and
that his choice is justified up to the hilt by the success of his art.  He
has taken for himself the greater part.  The range of a fine conscience
covers more good and evil than the range of conscience which may be
called, roughly, not fine; a conscience, less troubled by the nice
discrimination of shades of conduct.  A fine conscience is more concerned
with essentials; its triumphs are more perfect, if less profitable, in a
worldly sense.  There is, in short, more truth in its working for a
historian to detect and to show.  It is a thing of infinite complication
and suggestion.  None of these escapes the art of Mr. Henry James.  He
has mastered the country, his domain, not wild indeed, but full of
romantic glimpses, of deep shadows and sunny places.  There are no
secrets left within his range.  He has disclosed them as they should be
disclosed--that is, beautifully.  And, indeed, ugliness has but little
place in this world of his creation.  Yet, it is always felt in the
truthfulness of his art; it is there, it surrounds the scene, it presses
close upon it.  It is made visible, tangible, in the struggles, in the
contacts of the fine consciences, in their perplexities, in the sophism
of their mistakes.  For a fine conscience is naturally a virtuous one.
What is natural about it is just its fineness, an abiding sense of the
intangible, ever-present, right.  It is most visible in their ultimate
triumph, in their emergence from miracle, through an energetic act of
renunciation.  Energetic, not violent: the distinction is wide, enormous,
like that between substance and shadow.

Through it all Mr. Henry James keeps a firm hold of the substance, of
what is worth having, of what is worth holding.  The contrary opinion has
been, if not absolutely affirmed, then at least implied, with some
frequency.  To most of us, living willingly in a sort of intellectual
moonlight, in the faintly reflected light of truth, the shadows so firmly
renounced by Mr. Henry James's men and women, stand out endowed with
extraordinary value, with a value so extraordinary that their rejection
offends, by its uncalled-for scrupulousness, those business-like
instincts which a careful Providence has implanted in our breasts.  And,
apart from that just cause of discontent, it is obvious that a solution
by rejection must always present a certain lack of finality, especially
startling when contrasted with the usual methods of solution by rewards
and punishments, by crowned love, by fortune, by a broken leg or a sudden
death.  Why the reading public which, as a body, has never laid upon a
story-teller the command to be an artist, should demand from him this
sham of Divine Omnipotence, is utterly incomprehensible.  But so it is;
and these solutions are legitimate inasmuch as they satisfy the desire
for finality, for which our hearts yearn with a longing greater than the
longing for the loaves and fishes of this earth.  Perhaps the only true
desire of mankind, coming thus to light in its hours of leisure, is to be
set at rest.  One is never set at rest by Mr. Henry James's novels.  His
books end as an episode in life ends.  You remain with the sense of the
life still going on; and even the subtle presence of the dead is felt in
that silence that comes upon the artist-creation when the last word has
been read.  It is eminently satisfying, but it is not final.  Mr. Henry
James, great artist and faithful historian, never attempts the


It is sweet to talk decorously of the dead who are part of our past, our
indisputable possession.  One must admit regretfully that to-day is but a
scramble, that to-morrow may never come; it is only the precious
yesterday that cannot be taken away from us.  A gift from the dead, great
and little, it makes life supportable, it almost makes one believe in a
benevolent scheme of creation.  And some kind of belief is very
necessary.  But the real knowledge of matters infinitely more profound
than any conceivable scheme of creation is with the dead alone.  That is
why our talk about them should be as decorous as their silence.  Their
generosity and their discretion deserve nothing less at our hands; and
they, who belong already to the unchangeable, would probably disdain to
claim more than this from a mankind that changes its loves and its hates
about every twenty-five years--at the coming of every new and wiser

One of the most generous of the dead is Daudet, who, with a prodigality
approaching magnificence, gave himself up to us without reserve in his
work, with all his qualities and all his faults.  Neither his qualities
nor his faults were great, though they were by no means imperceptible.  It
is only his generosity that is out of the common.  What strikes one most
in his work is the disinterestedness of the toiler.  With more talent
than many bigger men, he did not preach about himself, he did not attempt
to persuade mankind into a belief of his own greatness.  He never posed
as a scientist or as a seer, not even as a prophet; and he neglected his
interests to the point of never propounding a theory for the purpose of
giving a tremendous significance to his art, alone of all things, in a
world that, by some strange oversight, has not been supplied with an
obvious meaning.  Neither did he affect a passive attitude before the
spectacle of life, an attitude which in gods--and in a rare mortal here
and there--may appear godlike, but assumed by some men, causes one, very
unwillingly, to think of the melancholy quietude of an ape.  He was not
the wearisome expounder of this or that theory, here to-day and spurned
to-morrow.  He was not a great artist, he was not an artist at all, if
you like--but he was Alphonse Daudet, a man as naively clear, honest, and
vibrating as the sunshine of his native land; that regrettably
undiscriminating sunshine which matures grapes and pumpkins alike, and
cannot, of course, obtain the commendation of the very select who look at
life from under a parasol.

Naturally, being a man from the South, he had a rather outspoken belief
in himself, but his small distinction, worth many a greater, was in not
being in bondage to some vanishing creed.  He was a worker who could not
compel the admiration of the few, but who deserved the affection of the
many; and he may be spoken of with tenderness and regret, for he is not
immortal--he is only dead.  During his life the simple man whose business
it ought to have been to climb, in the name of Art, some elevation or
other, was content to remain below, on the plain, amongst his creations,
and take an eager part in those disasters, weaknesses, and joys which are
tragic enough in their droll way, but are by no means so momentous and
profound as some writers--probably for the sake of Art--would like to
make us believe.  There is, when one thinks of it, a considerable want of
candour in the august view of life.  Without doubt a cautious reticence
on the subject, or even a delicately false suggestion thrown out in that
direction is, in a way, praiseworthy, since it helps to uphold the
dignity of man--a matter of great importance, as anyone can see; still
one cannot help feeling that a certain amount of sincerity would not be
wholly blamable.  To state, then, with studied moderation a belief that
in unfortunate moments of lucidity is irresistibly borne in upon most of
us--the blind agitation caused mostly by hunger and complicated by love
and ferocity does not deserve either by its beauty, or its morality, or
its possible results, the artistic fuss made over it.  It may be
consoling--for human folly is very _bizarre_--but it is scarcely honest
to shout at those who struggle drowning in an insignificant pool: You are
indeed admirable and great to be the victims of such a profound, of such
a terrible ocean!

And Daudet was honest; perhaps because he knew no better--but he was very
honest.  If he saw only the surface of things it is for the reason that
most things have nothing but a surface.  He did not pretend--perhaps
because he did not know how--he did not pretend to see any depths in a
life that is only a film of unsteady appearances stretched over regions
deep indeed, but which have nothing to do with the half-truths,
half-thoughts, and whole illusions of existence.  The road to these
distant regions does not lie through the domain of Art or the domain of
Science where well-known voices quarrel noisily in a misty emptiness; it
is a path of toilsome silence upon which travel men simple and unknown,
with closed lips, or, maybe, whispering their pain softly--only to

But Daudet did not whisper; he spoke loudly, with animation, with a clear
felicity of tone--as a bird sings.  He saw life around him with extreme
clearness, and he felt it as it is--thinner than air and more elusive
than a flash of lightning.  He hastened to offer it his compassion, his
indignation, his wonder, his sympathy, without giving a moment of thought
to the momentous issues that are supposed to lurk in the logic of such
sentiments.  He tolerated the little foibles, the small ruffianisms, the
grave mistakes; the only thing he distinctly would not forgive was
hardness of heart.  This unpractical attitude would have been fatal to a
better man, but his readers have forgiven him.  Withal he is chivalrous
to exiled queens and deformed sempstresses, he is pityingly tender to
broken-down actors, to ruined gentlemen, to stupid Academicians; he is
glad of the joys of the commonplace people in a commonplace way--and he
never makes a secret of all this.  No, the man was not an artist.  What
if his creations are illumined by the sunshine of his temperament so
vividly that they stand before us infinitely more real than the dingy
illusions surrounding our everyday existence?  The misguided man is for
ever pottering amongst them, lifting up his voice, dotting his i's in the
wrong places.  He takes Tartarin by the arm, he does not conceal his
interest in the Nabob's cheques, his sympathy for an honest Academician
_plus bete que nature_, his hate for an architect _plus mauvais que la
gale_; he is in the thick of it all.  He feels with the Duc de Mora and
with Felicia Ruys--and he lets you see it.  He does not sit on a pedestal
in the hieratic and imbecile pose of some cheap god whose greatness
consists in being too stupid to care.  He cares immensely for his Nabobs,
his kings, his book-keepers, his Colettes, and his Saphos.  He vibrates
together with his universe, and with lamentable simplicity follows M. de
Montpavon on that last walk along the Boulevards.

"Monsieur de Montpavon marche a la mort," and the creator of that unlucky
_gentilhomme_ follows with stealthy footsteps, with wide eyes, with an
impressively pointing finger.  And who wouldn't look?  But it is hard; it
is sometimes very hard to forgive him the dotted i's, the pointing
finger, this making plain of obvious mysteries.  "Monsieur de Montpavon
marche a la mort," and presently, on the crowded pavement, takes off his
hat with punctilious courtesy to the doctor's wife, who, elegant and
unhappy, is bound on the same pilgrimage.  This is too much!  We feel we
cannot forgive him such meetings, the constant whisper of his presence.
We feel we cannot, till suddenly the very _naivete_ of it all touches us
with the revealed suggestion of a truth.  Then we see that the man is not
false; all this is done in transparent good faith.  The man is not
melodramatic; he is only picturesque.  He may not be an artist, but he
comes as near the truth as some of the greatest.  His creations are seen;
you can look into their very eyes, and these are as thoughtless as the
eyes of any wise generation that has in its hands the fame of writers.
Yes, they are _seen_, and the man who is not an artist is seen also
commiserating, indignant, joyous, human and alive in their very midst.
Inevitably they _marchent a la mort_--and they are very near the truth of
our common destiny: their fate is poignant, it is intensely interesting,
and of not the slightest consequence.


To introduce Maupassant to English readers with apologetic explanations
as though his art were recondite and the tendency of his work immoral
would be a gratuitous impertinence.

Maupassant's conception of his art is such as one would expect from a
practical and resolute mind; but in the consummate simplicity of his
technique it ceases to be perceptible.  This is one of its greatest
qualities, and like all the great virtues it is based primarily on self-

To pronounce a judgment upon the general tendency of an author is a
difficult task.  One could not depend upon reason alone, nor yet trust
solely to one's emotions.  Used together, they would in many cases
traverse each other, because emotions have their own unanswerable logic.
Our capacity for emotion is limited, and the field of our intelligence is
restricted.  Responsiveness to every feeling, combined with the
penetration of every intellectual subterfuge, would end, not in judgment,
but in universal absolution.  _Tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner_.  And
in this benevolent neutrality towards the warring errors of human nature
all light would go out from art and from life.

We are at liberty then to quarrel with Maupassant's attitude towards our
world in which, like the rest of us, he has that share which his senses
are able to give him.  But we need not quarrel with him violently.  If
our feelings (which are tender) happen to be hurt because his talent is
not exercised for the praise and consolation of mankind, our intelligence
(which is great) should let us see that he is a very splendid sinner,
like all those who in this valley of compromises err by over-devotion to
the truth that is in them.  His determinism, barren of praise, blame and
consolation, has all the merit of his conscientious art.  The worth of
every conviction consists precisely in the steadfastness with which it is

Except for his philosophy, which in the case of so consummate an artist
does not matter (unless to the solemn and naive mind), Maupassant of all
writers of fiction demands least forgiveness from his readers.  He does
not require forgiveness because he is never dull.

The interest of a reader in a work of imagination is either ethical or
that of simple curiosity.  Both are perfectly legitimate, since there is
both a moral and an excitement to be found in a faithful rendering of
life.  And in Maupassant's work there is the interest of curiosity and
the moral of a point of view consistently preserved and never obtruded
for the end of personal gratification.  The spectacle of this immense
talent served by exceptional faculties and triumphing over the most
thankless subjects by an unswerving singleness of purpose is in itself an
admirable lesson in the power of artistic honesty, one may say of
artistic virtue.  The inherent greatness of the man consists in this,
that he will let none of the fascinations that beset a writer working in
loneliness turn him away from the straight path, from the vouchsafed
vision of excellence.  He will not be led into perdition by the
seductions of sentiment, of eloquence, of humour, of pathos; of all that
splendid pageant of faults that pass between the writer and his probity
on the blank sheet of paper, like the glittering cortege of deadly sins
before the austere anchorite in the desert air of Thebaide.  This is not
to say that Maupassant's austerity has never faltered; but the fact
remains that no tempting demon has ever succeeded in hurling him down
from his high, if narrow, pedestal.

It is the austerity of his talent, of course, that is in question.  Let
the discriminating reader, who at times may well spare a moment or two to
the consideration and enjoyment of artistic excellence, be asked to
reflect a little upon the texture of two stories included in this volume:
"A Piece of String," and "A Sale."  How many openings the last offers for
the gratuitous display of the author's wit or clever buffoonery, the
first for an unmeasured display of sentiment!  And both sentiment and
buffoonery could have been made very good too, in a way accessible to the
meanest intelligence, at the cost of truth and honesty.  Here it is where
Maupassant's austerity comes in.  He refrains from setting his cleverness
against the eloquence of the facts.  There is humour and pathos in these
stories; but such is the greatness of his talent, the refinement of his
artistic conscience, that all his high qualities appear inherent in the
very things of which he speaks, as if they had been altogether
independent of his presentation.  Facts, and again facts are his unique
concern.  That is why he is not always properly understood.  His facts
are so perfectly rendered that, like the actualities of life itself, they
demand from the reader the faculty of observation which is rare, the
power of appreciation which is generally wanting in most of us who are
guided mainly by empty phrases requiring no effort, demanding from us no
qualities except a vague susceptibility to emotion.  Nobody has ever
gained the vast applause of a crowd by the simple and clear exposition of
vital facts.  Words alone strung upon a convention have fascinated us as
worthless glass beads strung on a thread have charmed at all times our
brothers the unsophisticated savages of the islands.  Now, Maupassant, of
whom it has been said that he is the master of the _mot juste_, has never
been a dealer in words.  His wares have been, not glass beads, but
polished gems; not the most rare and precious, perhaps, but of the very
first water of their kind.

That he took trouble with his gems, taking them up in the rough and
polishing each facet patiently, the publication of the two posthumous
volumes of short stories proves abundantly.  I think it proves also the
assertion made here that he was by no means a dealer in words.  On
looking at the first feeble drafts from which so many perfect stories
have been fashioned, one discovers that what has been matured, improved,
brought to perfection by unwearied endeavour is not the diction of the
tale, but the vision of its true shape and detail.  Those first attempts
are not faltering or uncertain in expression.  It is the conception which
is at fault.  The subjects have not yet been adequately seen.  His
proceeding was not to group expressive words, that mean nothing, around
misty and mysterious shapes dear to muddled intellects and belonging
neither to earth nor to heaven.  His vision by a more scrupulous,
prolonged and devoted attention to the aspects of the visible world
discovered at last the right words as if miraculously impressed for him
upon the face of things and events.  This was the particular shape taken
by his inspiration; it came to him directly, honestly in the light of his
day, not on the tortuous, dark roads of meditation.  His realities came
to him from a genuine source, from this universe of vain appearances
wherein we men have found everything to make us proud, sorry, exalted,
and humble.

Maupassant's renown is universal, but his popularity is restricted.  It
is not difficult to perceive why.  Maupassant is an intensely national
writer.  He is so intensely national in his logic, in his clearness, in
his aesthetic and moral conceptions, that he has been accepted by his
countrymen without having had to pay the tribute of flattery either to
the nation as a whole, or to any class, sphere or division of the nation.
The truth of his art tells with an irresistible force; and he stands
excused from the duty of patriotic posturing.  He is a Frenchman of
Frenchmen beyond question or cavil, and with that he is simple enough to
be universally comprehensible.  What is wanting to his universal success
is the mediocrity of an obvious and appealing tenderness.  He neglects to
qualify his truth with the drop of facile sweetness; he forgets to strew
paper roses over the tombs.  The disregard of these common decencies lays
him open to the charges of cruelty, cynicism, hardness.  And yet it can
be safely affirmed that this man wrote from the fulness of a
compassionate heart.  He is merciless and yet gentle with his mankind; he
does not rail at their prudent fears and their small artifices; he does
not despise their labours.  It seems to me that he looks with an eye of
profound pity upon their troubles, deceptions and misery.  But he looks
at them all.  He sees--and does not turn away his head.  As a matter of
fact he is courageous.

Courage and justice are not popular virtues.  The practice of strict
justice is shocking to the multitude who always (perhaps from an obscure
sense of guilt) attach to it the meaning of mercy.  In the majority of
us, who want to be left alone with our illusions, courage inspires a
vague alarm.  This is what is felt about Maupassant.  His qualities, to
use the charming and popular phrase, are not lovable.  Courage being a
force will not masquerade in the robes of affected delicacy and
restraint.  But if his courage is not of a chivalrous stamp, it cannot be
denied that it is never brutal for the sake of effect.  The writer of
these few reflections, inspired by a long and intimate acquaintance with
the work of the man, has been struck by the appreciation of Maupassant
manifested by many women gifted with tenderness and intelligence.  Their
more delicate and audacious souls are good judges of courage.  Their
finer penetration has discovered his genuine masculinity without display,
his virility without a pose.  They have discerned in his faithful
dealings with the world that enterprising and fearless temperament, poor
in ideas but rich in power, which appeals most to the feminine mind.

It cannot be denied that he thinks very little.  In him extreme energy of
perception achieves great results, as in men of action the energy of
force and desire.  His view of intellectual problems is perhaps more
simple than their nature warrants; still a man who has written _Yvette_
cannot be accused of want of subtlety.  But one cannot insist enough upon
this, that his subtlety, his humour, his grimness, though no doubt they
are his own, are never presented otherwise but as belonging to our life,
as found in nature, whose beauties and cruelties alike breathe the spirit
of serene unconsciousness.

Maupassant's philosophy of life is more temperamental than rational.  He
expects nothing from gods or men.  He trusts his senses for information
and his instinct for deductions.  It may seem that he has made but little
use of his mind.  But let me be clearly understood.  His sensibility is
really very great; and it is impossible to be sensible, unless one thinks
vividly, unless one thinks correctly, starting from intelligible premises
to an unsophisticated conclusion.

This is literary honesty.  It may be remarked that it does not differ
very greatly from the ideal honesty of the respectable majority, from the
honesty of law-givers, of warriors, of kings, of bricklayers, of all
those who express their fundamental sentiment in the ordinary course of
their activities, by the work of their hands.

The work of Maupassant's hands is honest.  He thinks sufficiently to
concrete his fearless conclusions in illuminative instances.  He renders
them with that exact knowledge of the means and that absolute devotion to
the aim of creating a true effect--which is art.  He is the most
accomplished of narrators.

It is evident that Maupassant looked upon his mankind in another spirit
than those writers who make haste to submerge the difficulties of our
holding-place in the universe under a flood of false and sentimental
assumptions.  Maupassant was a true and dutiful lover of our earth.  He
says himself in one of his descriptive passages: "Nous autres que seduit
la terre . . ."  It was true.  The earth had for him a compelling charm.
He looks upon her august and furrowed face with the fierce insight of
real passion.  His is the power of detecting the one immutable quality
that matters in the changing aspects of nature and under the
ever-shifting surface of life.  To say that he could not embrace in his
glance all its magnificence and all its misery is only to say that he was
human.  He lays claim to nothing that his matchless vision has not made
his own.  This creative artist has the true imagination; he never
condescends to invent anything; he sets up no empty pretences.  And he
stoops to no littleness in his art--least of all to the miserable vanity
of a catching phrase.



The latest volume of M. Anatole France purports, by the declaration of
its title-page, to contain several profitable narratives.  The story of
Crainquebille's encounter with human justice stands at the head of them;
a tale of a well-bestowed charity closes the book with the touch of
playful irony characteristic of the writer on whom the most distinguished
amongst his literary countrymen have conferred the rank of Prince of

Never has a dignity been better borne.  M. Anatole France is a good
prince.  He knows nothing of tyranny but much of compassion.  The
detachment of his mind from common errors and current superstitions
befits the exalted rank he holds in the Commonwealth of Literature.  It
is just to suppose that the clamour of the tribes in the forum had little
to do with his elevation.  Their elect are of another stamp.  They are
such as their need of precipitate action requires.  He is the Elect of
the Senate--the Senate of Letters--whose Conscript Fathers have
recognised him as _primus inter pares_; a post of pure honour and of no

It is a good choice.  First, because it is just, and next, because it is
safe.  The dignity will suffer no diminution in M. Anatole France's
hands.  He is worthy of a great tradition, learned in the lessons of the
past, concerned with the present, and as earnest as to the future as a
good prince should be in his public action.  It is a Republican dignity.
And M. Anatole France, with his sceptical insight into an forms of
government, is a good Republican.  He is indulgent to the weaknesses of
the people, and perceives that political institutions, whether contrived
by the wisdom of the few or the ignorance of the many, are incapable of
securing the happiness of mankind.  He perceives this truth in the
serenity of his soul and in the elevation of his mind.  He expresses his
convictions with measure, restraint and harmony, which are indeed
princely qualities.  He is a great analyst of illusions.  He searches and
probes their innermost recesses as if they were realities made of an
eternal substance.  And therein consists his humanity; this is the
expression of his profound and unalterable compassion.  He will flatter
no tribe no section in the forum or in the market-place.  His lucid
thought is not beguiled into false pity or into the common weakness of
affection.  He feels that men born in ignorance as in the house of an
enemy, and condemned to struggle with error and passions through endless
centuries, should be spared the supreme cruelty of a hope for ever
deferred.  He knows that our best hopes are irrealisable; that it is the
almost incredible misfortune of mankind, but also its highest privilege,
to aspire towards the impossible; that men have never failed to defeat
their highest aims by the very strength of their humanity which can
conceive the most gigantic tasks but leaves them disarmed before their
irremediable littleness.  He knows this well because he is an artist and
a master; but he knows, too, that only in the continuity of effort there
is a refuge from despair for minds less clear-seeing and philosophic than
his own.  Therefore he wishes us to believe and to hope, preserving in
our activity the consoling illusion of power and intelligent purpose.  He
is a good and politic prince.

"The majesty of justice is contained entire in each sentence pronounced
by the judge in the name of the sovereign people.  Jerome Crainquebille,
hawker of vegetables, became aware of the august aspect of the law as he
stood indicted before the tribunal of the higher Police Court on a charge
of insulting a constable of the force."  With this exposition begins the
first tale of M. Anatole France's latest volume.

The bust of the Republic and the image of the Crucified Christ appear
side by side above the bench occupied by the President Bourriche and his
two Assessors; all the laws divine and human are suspended over the head
of Crainquebille.

From the first visual impression of the accused and of the court the
author passes by a characteristic and natural turn to the historical and
moral significance of those two emblems of State and Religion whose
accord is only possible to the confused reasoning of an average man.  But
the reasoning of M. Anatole France is never confused.  His reasoning is
clear and informed by a profound erudition.  Such is not the case of
Crainquebille, a street hawker, charged with insulting the constituted
power of society in the person of a policeman.  The charge is not true,
nothing was further from his thoughts; but, amazed by the novelty of his
position, he does not reflect that the Cross on the wall perpetuates the
memory of a sentence which for nineteen hundred years all the Christian
peoples have looked upon as a grave miscarriage of justice.  He might
well have challenged the President to pronounce any sort of sentence, if
it were merely to forty-eight hours of simple imprisonment, in the name
of the Crucified Redeemer.

He might have done so.  But Crainquebille, who has lived pushing every
day for half a century his hand-barrow loaded with vegetables through the
streets of Paris, has not a philosophic mind.  Truth to say he has
nothing.  He is one of the disinherited.  Properly speaking, he has no
existence at all, or, to be strictly truthful, he had no existence till
M. Anatole France's philosophic mind and human sympathy have called him
up from his nothingness for our pleasure, and, as the title-page of the
book has it, no doubt for our profit also.

Therefore we behold him in the dock, a stranger to all historical,
political or social considerations which can be brought to bear upon his
case.  He remains lost in astonishment.  Penetrated with respect,
overwhelmed with awe, he is ready to trust the judge upon the question of
his transgression.  In his conscience he does not think himself culpable;
but M. Anatole France's philosophical mind discovers for us that he feels
all the insignificance of such a thing as the conscience of a mere street-
hawker in the face of the symbols of the law and before the ministers of
social repression.  Crainquebille is innocent; but already the young
advocate, his defender, has half persuaded him of his guilt.

On this phrase practically ends the introductory chapter of the story
which, as the author's dedication states, has inspired an admirable
draughtsman and a skilful dramatist, each in his art, to a vision of
tragic grandeur.  And this opening chapter without a name--consisting of
two and a half pages, some four hundred words at most--is a masterpiece
of insight and simplicity, resumed in M. Anatole France's distinction of
thought and in his princely command of words.

It is followed by six more short chapters, concise and full, delicate and
complete like the petals of a flower, presenting to us the Adventure of
Crainquebille--Crainquebille before the justice--An Apology for the
President of the Tribunal--Of the Submission of Crainquebille to the Laws
of the Republic--Of his Attitude before the Public Opinion, and so on to
the chapter of the Last Consequences.  We see, created for us in his
outward form and innermost perplexity, the old man degraded from his high
estate of a law-abiding street-hawker and driven to insult, really this
time, the majesty of the social order in the person of another police-
constable.  It is not an act of revolt, and still less of revenge.
Crainquebille is too old, too resigned, too weary, too guileless to raise
the black standard of insurrection.  He is cold and homeless and
starving.  He remembers the warmth and the food of the prison.  He
perceives the means to get back there.  Since he has been locked up, he
argues with himself, for uttering words which, as a matter of fact he did
not say, he will go forth now, and to the first policeman he meets will
say those very words in order to be imprisoned again.  Thus reasons
Crainquebille with simplicity and confidence.  He accepts facts.  Nothing
surprises him.  But all the phenomena of social organisation and of his
own life remain for him mysterious to the end.  The description of the
policeman in his short cape and hood, who stands quite still, under the
light of a street lamp at the edge of the pavement shining with the wet
of a rainy autumn evening along the whole extent of a long and deserted
thoroughfare, is a perfect piece of imaginative precision.  From under
the edge of the hood his eyes look upon Crainquebille, who has just
uttered in an uncertain voice the sacramental, insulting phrase of the
popular slang--_Mort aux vaches_!  They look upon him shining in the deep
shadow of the hood with an expression of sadness, vigilance, and

He does not move.  Crainquebille, in a feeble and hesitating voice,
repeats once more the insulting words.  But this policeman is full of
philosophic superiority, disdain, and indulgence.  He refuses to take in
charge the old and miserable vagabond who stands before him shivering and
ragged in the drizzle.  And the ruined Crainquebille, victim of a
ridiculous miscarriage of justice, appalled at this magnanimity, passes
on hopelessly down the street full of shadows where the lamps gleam each
in a ruddy halo of falling mist.

M. Anatole France can speak for the people.  This prince of the Senate is
invested with the tribunitian power.  M. Anatole France is something of a
Socialist; and in that respect he seems to depart from his sceptical
philosophy.  But as an illustrious statesman, now no more, a great prince
too, with an ironic mind and a literary gift, has sarcastically remarked
in one of his public speeches: "We are all Socialists now."  And in the
sense in which it may be said that we all in Europe are Christians that
is true enough.  To many of us Socialism is merely an emotion.  An
emotion is much and is also less than nothing.  It is the initial
impulse.  The real Socialism of to-day is a religion.  It has its dogmas.
The value of the dogma does not consist in its truthfulness, and M.
Anatole France, who loves truth, does not love dogma.  Only, unlike
religion, the cohesive strength of Socialism lies not in its dogmas but
in its ideal.  It is perhaps a too materialistic ideal, and the mind of
M. Anatole France may not find in it either comfort or consolation.  It
is not to be doubted that he suspects this himself; but there is
something reposeful in the finality of popular conceptions.  M. Anatole
France, a good prince and a good Republican, will succeed no doubt in
being a good Socialist.  He will disregard the stupidity of the dogma and
the unlovely form of the ideal.  His art will find its own beauty in the
imaginative presentation of wrongs, of errors, and miseries that call
aloud for redress.  M. Anatole France is humane.  He is also human.  He
may be able to discard his philosophy; to forget that the evils are many
and the remedies are few, that there is no universal panacea, that
fatality is invincible, that there is an implacable menace of death in
the triumph of the humanitarian idea.  He may forget all that because
love is stronger than truth.

Besides "Crainquebille" this volume contains sixteen other stories and
sketches.  To define them it is enough to say that they are written in M.
Anatole France's prose.  One sketch entitled "Riquet" may be found
incorporated in the volume of _Monsieur Bergeret a Paris_.  "Putois" is a
remarkable little tale, significant, humorous, amusing, and symbolic.  It
concerns the career of a man born in the utterance of a hasty and
untruthful excuse made by a lady at a loss how to decline without offence
a very pressing invitation to dinner from a very tyrannical aunt.  This
happens in a provincial town, and the lady says in effect: "Impossible,
my dear aunt.  To-morrow I am expecting the gardener."  And the garden
she glances at is a poor garden; it is a wild garden; its extent is
insignificant and its neglect seems beyond remedy.  "A gardener!  What
for?" asks the aunt.  "To work in the garden."  And the poor lady is
abashed at the transparence of her evasion.  But the lie is told, it is
believed, and she sticks to it.  When the masterful old aunt inquires,
"What is the man's name, my dear?" she answers brazenly, "His name is
Putois."  "Where does he live?"  "Oh, I don't know; anywhere.  He won't
give his address.  One leaves a message for him here and there."  "Oh!  I
see," says the other; "he is a sort of ne'er do well, an idler, a
vagabond.  I advise you, my dear, to be careful how you let such a
creature into your grounds; but I have a large garden, and when you do
not want his services I shall find him some work to do, and see he does
it too.  Tell your Putois to come and see me."  And thereupon Putois is
born; he stalks abroad, invisible, upon his career of vagabondage and
crime, stealing melons from gardens and tea-spoons from pantries,
indulging his licentious proclivities; becoming the talk of the town and
of the countryside; seen simultaneously in far-distant places; pursued by
gendarmes, whose brigadier assures the uneasy householders that he "knows
that scamp very well, and won't be long in laying his hands upon him."  A
detailed description of his person collected from the information
furnished by various people appears in the columns of a local newspaper.
Putois lives in his strength and malevolence.  He lives after the manner
of legendary heroes, of the gods of Olympus.  He is the creation of the
popular mind.  There comes a time when even the innocent originator of
that mysterious and potent evil-doer is induced to believe for a moment
that he may have a real and tangible presence.  All this is told with the
wit and the art and the philosophy which is familiar to M. Anatole
France's readers and admirers.  For it is difficult to read M. Anatole
France without admiring him.  He has the princely gift of arousing a
spontaneous loyalty, but with this difference, that the consent of our
reason has its place by the side of our enthusiasm.  He is an artist.  As
an artist he awakens emotion.  The quality of his art remains, as an
inspiration, fascinating and inscrutable; but the proceedings of his
thought compel our intellectual admiration.

In this volume the trifle called "The Military Manoeuvres at Montil,"
apart from its far-reaching irony, embodies incidentally the very spirit
of automobilism.  Somehow or other, how you cannot tell, the flight over
the country in a motor-car, its sensations, its fatigue, its vast
topographical range, its incidents down to the bursting of a tyre, are
brought home to you with all the force of high imaginative perception.  It
would be out of place to analyse here the means by which the true
impression is conveyed so that the absurd rushing about of General
Decuir, in a 30-horse-power car, in search of his cavalry brigade,
becomes to you a more real experience than any day-and-night run you may
ever have taken yourself.  Suffice it to say that M. Anatole France had
thought the thing worth doing and that it becomes, in virtue of his art,
a distinct achievement.  And there are other sketches in this book, more
or less slight, but all worthy of regard--the childhood's recollections
of Professor Bergeret and his sister Zoe; the dialogue of the two upright
judges and the conversation of their horses; the dream of M. Jean
Marteau, aimless, extravagant, apocalyptic, and of all the dreams one
ever dreamt, the most essentially dreamlike.  The vision of M. Anatole
France, the Prince of Prose, ranges over all the extent of his realm,
indulgent and penetrating, disillusioned and curious, finding treasures
of truth and beauty concealed from less gifted magicians.  Contemplating
the exactness of his images and the justice of his judgment, the freedom
of his fancy and the fidelity of his purpose, one becomes aware of the
futility of literary watchwords and the vanity of all the schools of
fiction.  Not that M. Anatole France is a wild and untrammelled genius.
He is not that.  Issued legitimately from the past, he is mindful of his
high descent.  He has a critical temperament joined to creative power.  He
surveys his vast domain in a spirit of princely moderation that knows
nothing of excesses but much of restraint.


M. Anatole France, historian and adventurer, has given us many profitable
histories of saints and sinners, of Roman procurators and of officials of
the Third Republic, of _grandes dames_ and of dames not so very grand, of
ornate Latinists and of inarticulate street hawkers, of priests and
generals--in fact, the history of all humanity as it appears to his
penetrating eye, serving a mind marvellously incisive in its scepticism,
and a heart that, of all contemporary hearts gifted with a voice,
contains the greatest treasure of charitable irony.  As to M. Anatole
France's adventures, these are well-known.  They lie open to this
prodigal world in the four volumes of the _Vie Litteraire_, describing
the adventures of a choice soul amongst masterpieces.  For such is the
romantic view M. Anatole France takes of the life of a literary critic.
History and adventure, then, seem to be the chosen fields for the
magnificent evolutions of M. Anatole France's prose; but no material
limits can stand in the way of a genius.  The latest book from his
pen--which may be called golden, as the lips of an eloquent saint once
upon a time were acclaimed golden by the faithful--this latest book is,
up to a certain point, a book of travel.

I would not mislead a public whose confidence I court.  The book is not a
record of globe-trotting.  I regret it.  It would have been a joy to
watch M. Anatole France pouring the clear elixir compounded of his
Pyrrhonic philosophy, his Benedictine erudition, his gentle wit and most
humane irony into such an unpromising and opaque vessel.  He would have
attempted it in a spirit of benevolence towards his fellow men and of
compassion for that life of the earth which is but a vain and transitory
illusion.  M. Anatole France is a great magician, yet there seem to be
tasks which he dare not face.  For he is also a sage.

It is a book of ocean travel--not, however, as understood by Herr Ballin
of Hamburg, the Machiavel of the Atlantic.  It is a book of exploration
and discovery--not, however, as conceived by an enterprising journal and
a shrewdly philanthropic king of the nineteenth century.  It is nothing
so recent as that.  It dates much further back; long, long before the
dark age when Krupp of Essen wrought at his steel plates and a German
Emperor condescendingly suggested the last improvements in ships' dining-
tables.  The best idea of the inconceivable antiquity of that enterprise
I can give you is by stating the nature of the explorer's ship.  It was a
trough of stone, a vessel of hollowed granite.

The explorer was St. Mael, a saint of Armorica.  I had never heard of him
before, but I believe now in his arduous existence with a faith which is
a tribute to M. Anatole France's pious earnestness and delicate irony.
St. Mael existed.  It is distinctly stated of him that his life was a
progress in virtue.  Thus it seems that there may be saints that are not
progressively virtuous.  St. Mael was not of that kind.  He was
industrious.  He evangelised the heathen.  He erected two hundred and
eighteen chapels and seventy-four abbeys.  Indefatigable navigator of the
faith, he drifted casually in the miraculous trough of stone from coast
to coast and from island to island along the northern seas.  At the age
of eighty-four his high stature was bowed by his long labours, but his
sinewy arms preserved their vigour and his rude eloquence had lost
nothing of its force.

A nautical devil tempting him by the worldly suggestion of fitting out
his desultory, miraculous trough with mast, sail, and rudder for swifter
progression (the idea of haste has sprung from the pride of Satan), the
simple old saint lent his ear to the subtle arguments of the progressive
enemy of mankind.

The venerable St. Mael fell away from grace by not perceiving at once
that a gift of heaven cannot be improved by the contrivances of human
ingenuity.  His punishment was adequate.  A terrific tempest snatched the
rigged ship of stone in its whirlwinds, and, to be brief, the dazed St.
Mael was stranded violently on the Island of Penguins.

The saint wandered away from the shore.  It was a flat, round island
whence rose in the centre a conical mountain capped with clouds.  The
rain was falling incessantly--a gentle, soft rain which caused the simple
saint to exclaim in great delight: "This is the island of tears, the
island of contrition!"

Meantime the inhabitants had flocked in their tens of thousands to an
amphitheatre of rocks; they were penguins; but the holy man, rendered
deaf and purblind by his years, mistook excusably the multitude of silly,
erect, and self-important birds for a human crowd.  At once he began to
preach to them the doctrine of salvation.  Having finished his discourse
he lost no time in administering to his interesting congregation the
sacrament of baptism.

If you are at all a theologian you will see that it was no mean adventure
to happen to a well-meaning and zealous saint.  Pray reflect on the
magnitude of the issues!  It is easy to believe what M. Anatole France
says, that, when the baptism of the Penguins became known in Paradise, it
caused there neither joy nor sorrow, but a profound sensation.

M. Anatole France is no mean theologian himself.  He reports with great
casuistical erudition the debates in the saintly council assembled in
Heaven for the consideration of an event so disturbing to the economy of
religious mysteries.  Ultimately the baptised Penguins had to be turned
into human beings; and together with the privilege of sublime hopes these
innocent birds received the curse of original sin, with the labours, the
miseries, the passions, and the weaknesses attached to the fallen
condition of humanity.

At this point M. Anatole France is again an historian.  From being the
Hakluyt of a saintly adventurer he turns (but more concisely) into the
Gibbon of Imperial Penguins.  Tracing the development of their
civilisation, the absurdity of their desires, the pathos of their folly
and the ridiculous littleness of their quarrels, his golden pen lightens
by relevant but unpuritanical anecdotes the austerity of a work devoted
to a subject so grave as the Polity of Penguins.  It is a very admirable
treatment, and I hasten to congratulate all men of receptive mind on the
feast of wisdom which is theirs for the mere plucking of a book from a

TURGENEV {2}--1917

Dear Edward,

I am glad to hear that you are about to publish a study of Turgenev, that
fortunate artist who has found so much in life for us and no doubt for
himself, with the exception of bare justice.  Perhaps that will come to
him, too, in time.  Your study may help the consummation.  For his luck
persists after his death.  What greater luck an artist like Turgenev
could wish for than to find in the English-speaking world a translator
who has missed none of the most delicate, most simple beauties of his
work, and a critic who has known how to analyse and point out its high
qualities with perfect sympathy and insight.

After twenty odd years of friendship (and my first literary friendship
too) I may well permit myself to make that statement, while thinking of
your wonderful Prefaces as they appeared from time to time in the volumes
of Turgenev's complete edition, the last of which came into the light of
public indifference in the ninety-ninth year of the nineteenth century.

With that year one may say, with some justice, that the age of Turgenev
had come to an end too; yet work so simple and human, so independent of
the transitory formulas and theories of art, belongs as you point out in
the Preface to _Smoke_ "to all time."

Turgenev's creative activity covers about thirty years.  Since it came to
an end the social and political events in Russia have moved at an
accelerated pace, but the deep origins of them, in the moral and
intellectual unrest of the souls, are recorded in the whole body of his
work with the unerring lucidity of a great national writer.  The first
stirrings, the first gleams of the great forces can be seen almost in
every page of the novels, of the short stories and of _A Sportsman's
Sketches_--those marvellous landscapes peopled by unforgettable figures.

Those will never grow old.  Fashions in monsters do change, but the truth
of humanity goes on for ever, unchangeable and inexhaustible in the
variety of its disclosures.  Whether Turgenev's art, which has captured
it with such mastery and such gentleness, is for "all time" it is hard to
say.  Since, as you say yourself, he brings all his problems and
characters to the test of love, we may hope that it will endure at least
till the infinite emotions of love are replaced by the exact simplicity
of perfected Eugenics.  But even by then, I think, women would not have
changed much; and the women of Turgenev who understood them so tenderly,
so reverently and so passionately--they, at least, are certainly for all

Women are, one may say, the foundation of his art.  They are Russian of
course.  Never was a writer so profoundly, so whole-souledly national.
But for non-Russian readers, Turgenev's Russia is but a canvas on which
the incomparable artist of humanity lays his colours and his forms in the
great light and the free air of the world.  Had he invented them all and
also every stick and stone, brook and hill and field in which they move,
his personages would have been just as true and as poignant in their
perplexed lives.  They are his own and also universal.  Any one can
accept them with no more question than one accepts the Italians of

In the larger, non-Russian view, what should make Turgenev sympathetic
and welcome to the English-speaking world, is his essential humanity.  All
his creations, fortunate and unfortunate, oppressed and oppressors, are
human beings, not strange beasts in a menagerie or damned souls knocking
themselves to pieces in the stuffy darkness of mystical contradictions.
They are human beings, fit to live, fit to suffer, fit to struggle, fit
to win, fit to lose, in the endless and inspiring game of pursuing from
day to day the ever-receding future.

I began by calling him lucky, and he was, in a sense.  But one ends by
having some doubts.  To be so great without the slightest parade and so
fine without any tricks of "cleverness" must be fatal to any man's
influence with his contemporaries.

Frankly, I don't want to appear as qualified to judge of things Russian.
It wouldn't be true.  I know nothing of them.  But I am aware of a few
general truths, such as, for instance, that no man, whatever may be the
loftiness of his character, the purity of his motives and the peace of
his conscience--no man, I say, likes to be beaten with sticks during the
greater part of his existence.  From what one knows of his history it
appears clearly that in Russia almost any stick was good enough to beat
Turgenev with in his latter years.  When he died the characteristically
chicken-hearted Autocracy hastened to stuff his mortal envelope into the
tomb it refused to honour, while the sensitive Revolutionists went on for
a time flinging after his shade those jeers and curses from which that
impartial lover of _all_ his countrymen had suffered so much in his
lifetime.  For he, too, was sensitive.  Every page of his writing bears
its testimony to the fatal absence of callousness in the man.

And now he suffers a little from other things.  In truth it is not the
convulsed terror-haunted Dostoievski but the serene Turgenev who is under
a curse.  For only think!  Every gift has been heaped on his cradle:
absolute sanity and the deepest sensibility, the clearest vision and the
quickest responsiveness, penetrating insight and unfailing generosity of
judgment, an exquisite perception of the visible world and an unerring
instinct for the significant, for the essential in the life of men and
women, the clearest mind, the warmest heart, the largest sympathy--and
all that in perfect measure.  There's enough there to ruin the prospects
of any writer.  For you know very well, my dear Edward, that if you had
Antinous himself in a booth of the world's fair, and killed yourself in
protesting that his soul was as perfect as his body, you wouldn't get one
per cent. of the crowd struggling next door for a sight of the Double-
headed Nightingale or of some weak-kneed giant grinning through a horse

J. C.


My acquaintance with Stephen Crane was brought about by Mr. Pawling,
partner in the publishing firm of Mr. William Heinemann.

One day Mr. Pawling said to me: "Stephen Crane has arrived in England.  I
asked him if there was anybody he wanted to meet and he mentioned two
names.  One of them was yours."  I had then just been reading, like the
rest of the world, Crane's _Red Badge of Courage_.  The subject of that
story was war, from the point of view of an individual soldier's
emotions.  That individual (he remains nameless throughout) was
interesting enough in himself, but on turning over the pages of that
little book which had for the moment secured such a noisy recognition I
had been even more interested in the personality of the writer.  The
picture of a simple and untried youth becoming through the needs of his
country part of a great fighting machine was presented with an
earnestness of purpose, a sense of tragic issues, and an imaginative
force of expression which struck me as quite uncommon and altogether
worthy of admiration.

Apparently Stephen Crane had received a favourable impression from the
reading of the _Nigger of the Narcissus_, a book of mine which had also
been published lately.  I was truly pleased to hear this.

On my next visit to town we met at a lunch.  I saw a young man of medium
stature and slender build, with very steady, penetrating blue eyes, the
eyes of a being who not only sees visions but can brood over them to some

He had indeed a wonderful power of vision, which he applied to the things
of this earth and of our mortal humanity with a penetrating force that
seemed to reach, within life's appearances and forms, the very spirit of
life's truth.  His ignorance of the world at large--he had seen very
little of it--did not stand in the way of his imaginative grasp of facts,
events, and picturesque men.

His manner was very quiet, his personality at first sight interesting,
and he talked slowly with an intonation which on some people, mainly
Americans, had, I believe, a jarring effect.  But not on me.  Whatever he
said had a personal note, and he expressed himself with a graphic
simplicity which was extremely engaging.  He knew little of literature,
either of his own country or of any other, but he was himself a wonderful
artist in words whenever he took a pen into his hand.  Then his gift came
out--and it was seen then to be much more than mere felicity of language.
His impressionism of phrase went really deeper than the surface.  In his
writing he was very sure of his effects.  I don't think he was ever in
doubt about what he could do.  Yet it often seemed to me that he was but
half aware of the exceptional quality of his achievement.

This achievement was curtailed by his early death.  It was a great loss
to his friends, but perhaps not so much to literature.  I think that he
had given his measure fully in the few books he had the time to write.
Let me not be misunderstood: the loss was great, but it was the loss of
the delight his art could give, not the loss of any further possible
revelation.  As to himself, who can say how much he gained or lost by
quitting so early this world of the living, which he knew how to set
before us in the terms of his own artistic vision?  Perhaps he did not
lose a great deal.  The recognition he was accorded was rather languid
and given him grudgingly.  The worthiest welcome he secured for his tales
in this country was from Mr. W. Henley in the _New Review_ and later,
towards the end of his life, from the late Mr. William Blackwood in his
magazine.  For the rest I must say that during his sojourn in England he
had the misfortune to be, as the French say, _mal entoure_.  He was beset
by people who understood not the quality of his genius and were
antagonistic to the deeper fineness of his nature.  Some of them have
died since, but dead or alive they are not worth speaking about now.  I
don't think he had any illusions about them himself: yet there was a
strain of good-nature and perhaps of weakness in his character which
prevented him from shaking himself free from their worthless and
patronising attentions, which in those days caused me much secret
irritation whenever I stayed with him in either of his English homes.  My
wife and I like best to remember him riding to meet us at the gate of the
Park at Brede.  Born master of his sincere impressions, he was also a
born horseman.  He never appeared so happy or so much to advantage as on
the back of a horse.  He had formed the project of teaching my eldest boy
to ride, and meantime, when the child was about two years old, presented
him with his first dog.

I saw Stephen Crane a few days after his arrival in London.  I saw him
for the last time on his last day in England.  It was in Dover, in a big
hotel, in a bedroom with a large window looking on to the sea.  He had
been very ill and Mrs. Crane was taking him to some place in Germany, but
one glance at that wasted face was enough to tell me that it was the most
forlorn of all hopes.  The last words he breathed out to me were: "I am
tired.  Give my love to your wife and child."  When I stopped at the door
for another look I saw that he had turned his head on the pillow and was
staring wistfully out of the window at the sails of a cutter yacht that
glided slowly across the frame, like a dim shadow against the grey sky.

Those who have read his little tale, "Horses," and the story, "The Open
Boat," in the volume of that name, know with what fine understanding he
loved horses and the sea.  And his passage on this earth was like that of
a horseman riding swiftly in the dawn of a day fated to be short and
without sunshine.


It is by his irresistible power to reach the adventurous side in the
character, not only of his own, but of all nations, that Marryat is
largely human.  He is the enslaver of youth, not by the literary
artifices of presentation, but by the natural glamour of his own
temperament.  To his young heroes the beginning of life is a splendid and
warlike lark, ending at last in inheritance and marriage.  His novels are
not the outcome of his art, but of his character, like the deeds that
make up his record of naval service.  To the artist his work is
interesting as a completely successful expression of an unartistic
nature.  It is absolutely amazing to us, as the disclosure of the spirit
animating the stirring time when the nineteenth century was young.  There
is an air of fable about it.  Its loss would be irreparable, like the
curtailment of national story or the loss of an historical document.  It
is the beginning and the embodiment of an inspiring tradition.

To this writer of the sea the sea was not an element.  It was a stage,
where was displayed an exhibition of valour, and of such achievement as
the world had never seen before.  The greatness of that achievement
cannot be pronounced imaginary, since its reality has affected the
destinies of nations; nevertheless, in its grandeur it has all the
remoteness of an ideal.  History preserves the skeleton of facts and,
here and there, a figure or a name; but it is in Marryat's novels that we
find the mass of the nameless, that we see them in the flesh, that we
obtain a glimpse of the everyday life and an insight into the spirit
animating the crowd of obscure men who knew how to build for their
country such a shining monument of memories.

Marryat is really a writer of the Service.  What sets him apart is his
fidelity.  His pen serves his country as well as did his professional
skill and his renowned courage.  His figures move about between water and
sky, and the water and the sky are there only to frame the deeds of the
Service.  His novels, like amphibious creatures, live on the sea and
frequent the shore, where they flounder deplorably.  The loves and the
hates of his boys are as primitive as their virtues and their vices.  His
women, from the beautiful Agnes to the witch-like mother of Lieutenant
Vanslyperken, are, with the exception of the sailors' wives, like the
shadows of what has never been.  His Silvas, his Ribieras, his Shriftens,
his Delmars remind us of people we have heard of somewhere, many times,
without ever believing in their existence.  His morality is honourable
and conventional.  There is cruelty in his fun and he can invent puns in
the midst of carnage.  His naiveties are perpetrated in a lurid light.
There is an endless variety of types, all surface, with hard edges, with
memorable eccentricities of outline, with a childish and heroic effect in
the drawing.  They do not belong to life; they belong exclusively to the
Service.  And yet they live; there is a truth in them, the truth of their
time; a headlong, reckless audacity, an intimacy with violence, an
unthinking fearlessness, and an exuberance of vitality which only years
of war and victories can give.  His adventures are enthralling; the
rapidity of his action fascinates; his method is crude, his
sentimentality, obviously incidental, is often factitious.  His greatness
is undeniable.

It is undeniable.  To a multitude of readers the navy of to-day is
Marryat's navy still.  He has created a priceless legend.  If he be not
immortal, yet he will last long enough for the highest ambition, because
he has dealt manfully with an inspiring phase in the history of that
Service on which the life of his country depends.  The tradition of the
great past he has fixed in his pages will be cherished for ever as the
guarantee of the future.  He loved his country first, the Service next,
the sea perhaps not at all.  But the sea loved him without reserve.  It
gave him his professional distinction and his author's fame--a fame such
as not often falls to the lot of a true artist.

At the same time, on the other side of the Atlantic, another man wrote of
the sea with true artistic instinct.  He is not invincibly young and
heroic; he is mature and human, though for him also the stress of
adventure and endeavour must end fatally in inheritance and marriage.  For
James Fenimore Cooper nature was not the frame-work, it was an essential
part of existence.  He could hear its voice, he could understand its
silence, and he could interpret both for us in his prose with all that
felicity and sureness of effect that belong to a poetical conception
alone.  His fame, as wide but less brilliant than that of his
contemporary, rests mostly on a novel which is not of the sea.  But he
loved the sea and looked at it with consummate understanding.  In his sea
tales the sea inter-penetrates with life; it is in a subtle way a factor
in the problem of existence, and, for all its greatness, it is always in
touch with the men, who, bound on errands of war or gain, traverse its
immense solitudes.  His descriptions have the magistral ampleness of a
gesture indicating the sweep of a vast horizon.  They embrace the colours
of sunset, the peace of starlight, the aspects of calm and storm, the
great loneliness of the waters, the stillness of watchful coasts, and the
alert readiness which marks men who live face to face with the promise
and the menace of the sea.

He knows the men and he knows the sea.  His method may be often faulty,
but his art is genuine.  The truth is within him.  The road to legitimate
realism is through poetical feeling, and he possesses that--only it is
expressed in the leisurely manner of his time.  He has the knowledge of
simple hearts.  Long Tom Coffin is a monumental seaman with the
individuality of life and the significance of a type.  It is hard to
believe that Manual and Borroughcliffe, Mr. Marble of Marble-Head,
Captain Tuck of the packet-ship _Montauk_, or Daggett, the tenacious
commander of the _Sea Lion_ of Martha's Vineyard, must pass away some day
and be utterly forgotten.  His sympathy is large, and his humour is as
genuine--and as perfectly unaffected--as is his art.  In certain passages
he reaches, very simply, the heights of inspired vision.

He wrote before the great American language was born, and he wrote as
well as any novelist of his time.  If he pitches upon episodes redounding
to the glory of the young republic, surely England has glory enough to
forgive him, for the sake of his excellence, the patriotic bias at her
expense.  The interest of his tales is convincing and unflagging; and
there runs through his work a steady vein of friendliness for the old
country which the succeeding generations of his compatriots have replaced
by a less definite sentiment.

Perhaps no two authors of fiction influenced so many lives and gave to so
many the initial impulse towards a glorious or a useful career.  Through
the distances of space and time those two men of another race have shaped
also the life of the writer of this appreciation.  Life is life, and art
is art--and truth is hard to find in either.  Yet in testimony to the
achievement of both these authors it may be said that, in the case of the
writer at least, the youthful glamour, the headlong vitality of the one
and the profound sympathy, the artistic insight of the other--to which he
had surrendered--have withstood the brutal shock of facts and the wear of
laborious years.  He has never regretted his surrender.


In his new volume, Mr. Hugh Clifford, at the beginning of the sketch
entitled "At the Heels of the White Man," expresses his anxiety as to the
state of England's account in the Day-Book of the Recording Angel "for
the good and the bad we have done--both with the most excellent
intentions."  The intentions will, no doubt, count for something, though,
of course, every nation's conquests are paved with good intentions; or it
may be that the Recording Angel, looking compassionately at the strife of
hearts, may disdain to enter into the Eternal Book the facts of a
struggle which has the reward of its righteousness even on this earth--in
victory and lasting greatness, or in defeat and humiliation.

And, also, love will count for much.  If the opinion of a looker-on from
afar is worth anything, Mr. Hugh Clifford's anxiety about his country's
record is needless.  To the Malays whom he governs, instructs, and guides
he is the embodiment of the intentions, of the conscience and might of
his race.  And of all the nations conquering distant territories in the
name of the most excellent intentions, England alone sends out men who,
with such a transparent sincerity of feeling, can speak, as Mr. Hugh
Clifford does, of the place of toil and exile as "the land which is very
dear to me, where the best years of my life have been spent"--and where
(I would stake my right hand on it) his name is pronounced with respect
and affection by those brown men about whom he writes.

All these studies are on a high level of interest, though not all on the
same level.  The descriptive chapters, results of personal observation,
seem to me the most interesting.  And, indeed, in a book of this kind it
is the author's personality which awakens the greatest interest; it
shapes itself before one in the ring of sentences, it is seen between the
lines--like the progress of a traveller in the jungle that may be traced
by the sound of the _parang_ chopping the swaying creepers, while the man
himself is glimpsed, now and then, indistinct and passing between the
trees.  Thus in his very vagueness of appearance, the writer seen through
the leaves of his book becomes a fascinating companion in a land of

It is when dealing with the aspects of nature that Mr. Hugh Clifford is
most convincing.  He looks upon them lovingly, for the land is "very dear
to him," and he records his cherished impressions so that the forest, the
great flood, the jungle, the rapid river, and the menacing rock dwell in
the memory of the reader long after the book is closed.  He does not say
anything, in so many words, of his affection for those who live amid the
scenes he describes so well, but his humanity is large enough to pardon
us if we suspect him of such a rare weakness.  In his preface he
expresses the regret at not having the gifts (whatever they may be) of
the kailyard school, or--looking up to a very different plane--the genius
of Mr. Barrie.  He has, however, gifts of his own, and his genius has
served his country and his fortunes in another direction.  Yet it is when
attempting what he professes himself unable to do, in telling us the
simple story of Umat, the punkah-puller, with unaffected simplicity and
half-concealed tenderness, that he comes nearest to artistic achievement.

Each study in this volume presents some idea, illustrated by a fact told
without artifice, but with an elective sureness of knowledge.  The story
of Tukang Burok's love, related in the old man's own words, conveys the
very breath of Malay thought and speech.  In "His Little Bill," the
coolie, Lim Teng Wah, facing his debtor, stands very distinct before us,
an insignificant and tragic victim of fate with whom he had quarrelled to
the death over a matter of seven dollars and sixty-eight cents.  The
story of "The Schooner with a Past" may be heard, from the Straits
eastward, with many variations.  Out in the Pacific the schooner becomes
a cutter, and the pearl-divers are replaced by the Black-birds of the
Labour Trade.  But Mr. Hugh Clifford's variation is very good.  There is
a passage in it--a trifle--just the diver as seen coming up from the
depths, that in its dozen lines or so attains to distinct artistic value.
And, scattered through the book, there are many other passages of almost
equal descriptive excellence.

Nevertheless, to apply artistic standards to this book would be a
fundamental error in appreciation.  Like faith, enthusiasm, or heroism,
art veils part of the truth of life to make the rest appear more
splendid, inspiring, or sinister.  And this book is only truth,
interesting and futile, truth unadorned, simple and straightforward.  The
Resident of Pahang has the devoted friendship of Umat, the punkah-puller,
he has an individual faculty of vision, a large sympathy, and the
scrupulous consciousness of the good and evil in his hands.  He may as
well rest content with such gifts.  One cannot expect to be, at the same
time, a ruler of men and an irreproachable player on the flute.


Converts are interesting people.  Most of us, if you will pardon me for
betraying the universal secret, have, at some time or other, discovered
in ourselves a readiness to stray far, ever so far, on the wrong road.
And what did we do in our pride and our cowardice?  Casting fearful
glances and waiting for a dark moment, we buried our discovery
discreetly, and kept on in the old direction, on that old, beaten track
we have not had courage enough to leave, and which we perceive now more
clearly than before to be but the arid way of the grave.

The convert, the man capable of grace (I am speaking here in a secular
sense), is not discreet.  His pride is of another kind; he jumps gladly
off the track--the touch of grace is mostly sudden--and facing about in a
new direction may even attain the illusion of having turned his back on
Death itself.

Some converts have, indeed, earned immortality by their exquisite
indiscretion.  The most illustrious example of a convert, that Flower of
chivalry, Don Quixote de la Mancha, remains for all the world the only
genuine immortal hidalgo.  The delectable Knight of Spain became
converted, as you know, from the ways of a small country squire to an
imperative faith in a tender and sublime mission.  Forthwith he was
beaten with sticks and in due course shut up in a wooden cage by the
Barber and the Priest, the fit ministers of a justly shocked social
order.  I do not know if it has occurred to anybody yet to shut up Mr.
Luffmann in a wooden cage. {4}  I do not raise the point because I wish
him any harm.  Quite the contrary.  I am a humane person.  Let him take
it as the highest praise--but I must say that he richly deserves that
sort of attention.

On the other hand I would not have him unduly puffed up with the pride of
the exalted association.  The grave wisdom, the admirable amenity, the
serene grace of the secular patron-saint of all mortals converted to
noble visions are not his.  Mr. Luffmann has no mission.  He is no Knight
sublimely Errant.  But he is an excellent Vagabond.  He is full of merit.
That peripatetic guide, philosopher and friend of all nations, Mr.
Roosevelt, would promptly excommunicate him with a big stick.  The truth
is that the ex-autocrat of all the States does not like rebels against
the sullen order of our universe.  Make the best of it or perish--he
cries.  A sane lineal successor of the Barber and the Priest, and a
sagacious political heir of the incomparable Sancho Panza (another great
Governor), that distinguished litterateur has no mercy for dreamers.  And
our author happens to be a man of (you may trace them in his books) some
rather fine reveries.

Every convert begins by being a rebel, and I do not see myself how any
mercy can possibly be extended to Mr. Luffmann.  He is a convert from the
creed of strenuous life.  For this renegade the body is of little
account; to him work appears criminal when it suppresses the demands of
the inner life; while he was young he did grind virtuously at the sacred
handle, and now, he says, he has fallen into disgrace with some people
because he believes no longer in toil without end.  Certain respectable
folk hate him--so he says--because he dares to think that "poetry,
beauty, and the broad face of the world are the best things to be in love
with."  He confesses to loving Spain on the ground that she is "the land
of to-morrow, and holds the gospel of never-mind."  The universal
striving to push ahead he considers mere vulgar folly.  Didn't I tell you
he was a fit subject for the cage?

It is a relief (we are all humane, are we not?) to discover that this
desperate character is not altogether an outcast.  Little girls seem to
like him.  One of them, after listening to some of his tales, remarked to
her mother, "Wouldn't it be lovely if what he says were true!"  Here you
have Woman!  The charming creatures will neither strain at a camel nor
swallow a gnat.  Not publicly.  These operations, without which the world
they have such a large share in could not go on for ten minutes, are left
to us--men.  And then we are chided for being coarse.  This is a refined
objection but does not seem fair.  Another little girl--or perhaps the
same little girl--wrote to him in Cordova, "I hope Poste-Restante is a
nice place, and that you are very comfortable."  Woman again!  I have in
my time told some stories which are (I hate false modesty) both true and
lovely.  Yet no little girl ever wrote to me in kindly terms.  And why?
Simply because I am not enough of a Vagabond.  The dear despots of the
fireside have a weakness for lawless characters.  This is amiable, but
does not seem rational.

Being Quixotic, Mr. Luffmann is no Impressionist.  He is far too earnest
in his heart, and not half sufficiently precise in his style to be that.
But he is an excellent narrator.  More than any Vagabond I have ever met,
he knows what he is about.  There is not one of his quiet days which is
dull.  You will find in them a love-story not made up, the
_coup-de-foudre_, the lightning-stroke of Spanish love; and you will
marvel how a spell so sudden and vehement can be at the same time so
tragically delicate.  You will find there landladies devoured with
jealousy, astute housekeepers, delightful boys, wise peasants, touchy
shopkeepers, all the _cosas de Espana_--and, in addition, the pale girl
Rosario.  I recommend that pathetic and silent victim of fate to your
benevolent compassion.  You will find in his pages the humours of
starving workers of the soil, the vision among the mountains of an
exulting mad spirit in a mighty body, and many other visions worthy of
attention.  And they are exact visions, for this idealist is no
visionary.  He is in sympathy with suffering mankind, and has a grasp on
real human affairs.  I mean the great and pitiful affairs concerned with
bread, love, and the obscure, unexpressed needs which drive great crowds
to prayer in the holy places of the earth.

But I like his conception of what a "quiet" life is like!  His quiet days
require no fewer than forty-two of the forty-nine provinces of Spain to
take their ease in.  For his unquiet days, I presume, the seven--or is it
nine?--crystal spheres of Alexandrian cosmogony would afford, but a
wretchedly straitened space.  A most unconventional thing is his notion
of quietness.  One would take it as a joke; only that, perchance, to the
author of _Quiet Days in Spain_ all days may seem quiet, because, a
courageous convert, he is now at peace with himself.

How better can we take leave of this interesting Vagabond than with the
road salutation of passing wayfarers: "And on you be peace! . . . You
have chosen your ideal, and it is a good choice.  There's nothing like
giving up one's life to an unselfish passion.  Let the rich and the
powerful of this globe preach their sound gospel of palpable progress.
The part of the ideal you embrace is the better one, if only in its
illusions.  No great passion can be barren.  May a world of gracious and
poignant images attend the lofty solitude of your renunciation!"


You have no doubt noticed that certain books produce a sort of physical
effect on one--mostly an audible effect.  I am not alluding here to Blue
books or to books of statistics.  The effect of these is simply
exasperating and no more.  No! the books I have in mind are just the
common books of commerce you and I read when we have five minutes to
spare, the usual hired books published by ordinary publishers, printed by
ordinary printers, and censored (when they happen to be novels) by the
usual circulating libraries, the guardians of our firesides, whose names
are household words within the four seas.

To see the fair and the brave of this free country surrendering
themselves with unbounded trust to the direction of the circulating
libraries is very touching.  It is even, in a sense, a beautiful
spectacle, because, as you know, humility is a rare and fragrant virtue;
and what can be more humble than to surrender your morals and your
intellect to the judgment of one of your tradesmen?  I suppose that there
are some very perfect people who allow the Army and Navy Stores to censor
their diet.  So much merit, however, I imagine, is not frequently met
with here below.  The flesh, alas! is weak, and--from a certain point of
view--so important!

A superficial person might be rendered miserable by the simple question:
What would become of us if the circulating libraries ceased to exist?  It
is a horrid and almost indelicate supposition, but let us be brave and
face the truth.  On this earth of ours nothing lasts.  _Tout passe, tout
casse, tout lasse_.  Imagine the utter wreck overtaking the morals of our
beautiful country-houses should the circulating libraries suddenly die!
But pray do not shudder.  There is no occasion.

Their spirit shall survive.  I declare this from inward conviction, and
also from scientific information received lately.  For observe: the
circulating libraries are human institutions.  I beg you to follow me
closely.  They are human institutions, and being human, they are not
animal, and, therefore, they are spiritual.  Thus, any man with enough
money to take a shop, stock his shelves, and pay for advertisements shall
be able to evoke the pure and censorious spectre of the circulating
libraries whenever his own commercial spirit moves him.

For, and this is the information alluded to above, Science, having in its
infinite wanderings run up against various wonders and mysteries, is
apparently willing now to allow a spiritual quality to man and, I
conclude, to all his works as well.

I do not know exactly what this "Science" may be; and I do not think that
anybody else knows; but that is the information stated shortly.  It is
contained in a book reposing under my thoughtful eyes. {5}  I know it is
not a censored book, because I can see for myself that it is not a novel.
The author, on his side, warns me that it is not philosophy, that it is
not metaphysics, that it is not natural science.  After this
comprehensive warning, the definition of the book becomes, you will
admit, a pretty hard nut to crack.

But meantime let us return for a moment to my opening remark about the
physical effect of some common, hired books.  A few of them (not
necessarily books of verse) are melodious; the music some others make for
you as you read has the disagreeable emphasis of a barrel-organ; the
tinkling-cymbals book (it was not written by a humorist) I only met once.
But there is infinite variety in the noises books do make.  I have now on
my shelves a book apparently of the most valuable kind which, before I
have read half-a-dozen lines, begins to make a noise like a buzz-saw.  I
am inconsolable; I shall never, I fear, discover what it is all about,
for the buzzing covers the words, and at every try I am absolutely forced
to give it up ere the end of the page is reached.

The book, however, which I have found so difficult to define, is by no
means noisy.  As a mere piece of writing it may be described as being
breathless itself and taking the reader's breath away, not by the
magnitude of its message but by a sort of anxious volubility in the
delivery.  The constantly elusive argument and the illustrative
quotations go on without a single reflective pause.  For this reason
alone the reading of that work is a fatiguing process.

The author himself (I use his own words) "suspects" that what he has
written "may be theology after all."  It may be.  It is not my place
either to allay or to confirm the author's suspicion of his own work.  But
I will state its main thesis: "That science regarded in the gross
dictates the spirituality of man and strongly implies a spiritual destiny
for individual human beings."  This means: Existence after Death--that
is, Immortality.

To find out its value you must go to the book.  But I will observe here
that an Immortality liable at any moment to betray itself fatuously by
the forcible incantations of Mr. Stead or Professor Crookes is scarcely
worth having.  Can you imagine anything more squalid than an Immortality
at the beck and call of Eusapia Palladino?  That woman lives on the top
floor of a Neapolitan house, and gets our poor, pitiful, august dead,
flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone, spirit of our spirit, who have
loved, suffered and died, as we must love, suffer, and die--she gets them
to beat tambourines in a corner and protrude shadowy limbs through a
curtain.  This is particularly horrible, because, if one had to put one's
faith in these things one could not even die safely from disgust, as one
would long to do.

And to believe that these manifestations, which the author evidently
takes for modern miracles, will stay our tottering faith; to believe that
the new psychology has, only the other day, discovered man to be a
"spiritual mystery," is really carrying humility towards that universal
provider, Science, too far.

* * * * *

We moderns have complicated our old perplexities to the point of
absurdity; our perplexities older than religion itself.  It is not for
nothing that for so many centuries the priest, mounting the steps of the
altar, murmurs, "Why art thou sad, my soul, and why dost thou trouble
me?"  Since the day of Creation two veiled figures, Doubt and Melancholy,
are pacing endlessly in the sunshine of the world.  What humanity needs
is not the promise of scientific immortality, but compassionate pity in
this life and infinite mercy on the Day of Judgment.

And, for the rest, during this transient hour of our pilgrimage, we may
well be content to repeat the Invocation of Sar Peladan.  Sar Peladan was
an occultist, a seer, a modern magician.  He believed in astrology, in
the spirits of the air, in elves; he was marvellously and deliciously
absurd.  Incidentally he wrote some incomprehensible poems and a few
pages of harmonious prose, for, you must know, "a magician is nothing
else but a great harmonist."  Here are some eight lines of the
magnificent Invocation.  Let me, however, warn you, strictly between
ourselves, that my translation is execrable.  I am sorry to say I am no

"O Nature, indulgent Mother, forgive!  Open your arms to the son,
prodigal and weary.

"I have attempted to tear asunder the veil you have hung to conceal from
us the pain of life, and I have been wounded by the mystery. . . .
OEdipus, half way to finding the word of the enigma, young Faust,
regretting already the simple life, the life of the heart, I come back to
you repentant, reconciled, O gentle deceiver!"


Much good paper has been lamentably wasted to prove that science has
destroyed, that it is destroying, or, some day, may destroy poetry.
Meantime, unblushing, unseen, and often unheard, the guileless poets have
gone on singing in a sweet strain.  How they dare do the impossible and
virtually forbidden thing is a cause for wonder but not for legislation.
Not yet.  We are at present too busy reforming the silent burglar and
planning concerts to soothe the savage breast of the yelling hooligan.  As
somebody--perhaps a publisher--said lately: "Poetry is of no account now-

But it is not totally neglected.  Those persons with gold-rimmed
spectacles whose usual occupation is to spy upon the obvious have
remarked audibly (on several occasions) that poetry has so far not given
to science any acknowledgment worthy of its distinguished position in the
popular mind.  Except that Tennyson looked down the throat of a foxglove,
that Erasmus Darwin wrote _The Loves of the Plants_ and a scoffer _The
Loves of the Triangles_, poets have been supposed to be indecorously
blind to the progress of science.  What tribute, for instance, has poetry
paid to electricity?  All I can remember on the spur of the moment is Mr.
Arthur Symons' line about arc lamps: "Hung with the globes of some
unnatural fruit."

Commerce and Manufacture praise on every hand in their not mute but
inarticulate way the glories of science.  Poetry does not play its part.
Behold John Keats, skilful with the surgeon's knife; but when he writes
poetry his inspiration is not from the operating table.  Here I am
reminded, though, of a modern instance to the contrary in prose.  Mr. H.
G. Wells, who, as far as I know, has never written a line of verse, was
inspired a few years ago to write a short story, _Under the Knife_.  Out
of a clock-dial, a brass rod, and a whiff of chloroform, he has conjured
for us a sensation of space and eternity, evoked the face of the
Unknowable, and an awesome, august voice, like the voice of the Judgment
Day; a great voice, perhaps the voice of science itself, uttering the
words: "There shall be no more pain!"  I advise you to look up that
story, so human and so intimate, because Mr. Wells, the writer of prose
whose amazing inventiveness we all know, remains a poet even in his most
perverse moments of scorn for things as they are.  His poetic imagination
is sometimes even greater than his inventiveness, I am not afraid to say.
But, indeed, imaginative faculty would make any man a poet--were he born
without tongue for speech and without hands to seize his fancy and fasten
her down to a wretched piece of paper.

* * * * *

The book {6} which in the course of the last few days I have opened and
shut several times is not imaginative.  But, on the other hand, it is not
a dumb book, as some are.  It has even a sort of sober and serious
eloquence, reminding us that not poetry alone is at fault in this matter.
Mr. Bourne begins his _Ascending Effort_ with a remark by Sir Francis
Galton upon Eugenics that "if the principles he was advocating were to
become effective they must be introduced into the national conscience,
like a new religion."  "Introduced" suggests compulsory vaccination.  Mr.
Bourne, who is not a theologian, wishes to league together not science
and religion, but science and the arts.  "The intoxicating power of art,"
he thinks, is the very thing needed to give the desired effect to the
doctrines of science.  In uninspired phrase he points to the arts playing
once upon a time a part in "popularising the Christian tenets."  With
painstaking fervour as great as the fervour of prophets, but not so
persuasive, he foresees the arts some day popularising science.  Until
that day dawns, science will continue to be lame and poetry blind.  He
himself cannot smooth or even point out the way, though he thinks that "a
really prudent people would be greedy of beauty," and their public
authorities "as careful of the sense of comfort as of sanitation."

As the writer of those remarkable rustic note-books, _The Bettesworth
Book_ and _Memoirs of a Surrey Labourer_, the author has a claim upon our
attention.  But his seriousness, his patience, his almost touching
sincerity, can only command the respect of his readers and nothing more.
He is obsessed by science, haunted and shadowed by it, until he has been
bewildered into awe.  He knows, indeed, that art owes its triumphs and
its subtle influence to the fact that it issues straight from our organic
vitality, and is a movement of life-cells with their matchless
unintellectual knowledge.  But the fact that poetry does not seem
obviously in love with science has never made him doubt whether it may
not be an argument against his haste to see the marriage ceremony
performed amid public rejoicings.

Many a man has heard or read and believes that the earth goes round the
sun; one small blob of mud among several others, spinning ridiculously
with a waggling motion like a top about to fall.  This is the Copernican
system, and the man believes in the system without often knowing as much
about it as its name.  But while watching a sunset he sheds his belief;
he sees the sun as a small and useful object, the servant of his needs
and the witness of his ascending effort, sinking slowly behind a range of
mountains, and then he holds the system of Ptolemy.  He holds it without
knowing it.  In the same way a poet hears, reads, and believes a thousand
undeniable truths which have not yet got into his blood, nor will do
after reading Mr. Bourne's book; he writes, therefore, as if neither
truths nor book existed.  Life and the arts follow dark courses, and will
not turn aside to the brilliant arc-lights of science.  Some day, without
a doubt,--and it may be a consolation to Mr. Bourne to know it--fully
informed critics will point out that Mr. Davies's poem on a dark woman
combing her hair must have been written after the invasion of
appendicitis, and that Mr. Yeats's "Had I the heaven's embroidered
cloths" came before radium was quite unnecessarily dragged out of its
respectable obscurity in pitchblende to upset the venerable (and
comparatively naive) chemistry of our young days.

There are times when the tyranny of science and the cant of science are
alarming, but there are other times when they are entertaining--and this
is one of them.  "Many a man prides himself" says Mr. Bourne, "on his
piety or his views of art, whose whole range of ideas, could they be
investigated, would be found ordinary, if not base, because they have
been adopted in compliance with some external persuasion or to serve some
timid purpose instead of proceeding authoritatively from the living
selection of his hereditary taste."  This extract is a fair sample of the
book's thought and of its style.  But Mr. Bourne seems to forget that
"persuasion" is a vain thing.  The appreciation of great art comes from

It is but the merest justice to say that the transparent honesty of Mr.
Bourne's purpose is undeniable.  But the whole book is simply an earnest
expression of a pious wish; and, like the generality of pious wishes,
this one seems of little dynamic value--besides being impracticable.

Yes, indeed.  Art has served Religion; artists have found the most
exalted inspiration in Christianity; but the light of Transfiguration
which has illuminated the profoundest mysteries of our sinful souls is
not the light of the generating stations, which exposes the depths of our
infatuation where our mere cleverness is permitted for a while to grope
for the unessential among invincible shadows.


A couple of years ago I was moved to write a one-act play--and I lived
long enough to accomplish the task.  We live and learn.  When the play
was finished I was informed that it had to be licensed for performance.
Thus I learned of the existence of the Censor of Plays.  I may say
without vanity that I am intelligent enough to have been astonished by
that piece of information: for facts must stand in some relation to time
and space, and I was aware of being in England--in the twentieth-century
England.  The fact did not fit the date and the place.  That was my first
thought.  It was, in short, an improper fact.  I beg you to believe that
I am writing in all seriousness and am weighing my words scrupulously.

Therefore I don't say inappropriate.  I say improper--that is: something
to be ashamed of.  And at first this impression was confirmed by the
obscurity in which the figure embodying this after all considerable fact
had its being.  The Censor of Plays!  His name was not in the mouths of
all men.  Far from it.  He seemed stealthy and remote.  There was about
that figure the scent of the far East, like the peculiar atmosphere of a
Mandarin's back yard, and the mustiness of the Middle Ages, that epoch
when mankind tried to stand still in a monstrous illusion of final
certitude attained in morals, intellect and conscience.

It was a disagreeable impression.  But I reflected that probably the
censorship of plays was an inactive monstrosity; not exactly a survival,
since it seemed obviously at variance with the genius of the people, but
an heirloom of past ages, a bizarre and imported curiosity preserved
because of that weakness one has for one's old possessions apart from any
intrinsic value; one more object of exotic _virtu_, an Oriental
_potiche_, a _magot chinois_ conceived by a childish and extravagant
imagination, but allowed to stand in stolid impotence in the twilight of
the upper shelf.

Thus I quieted my uneasy mind.  Its uneasiness had nothing to do with the
fate of my one-act play.  The play was duly produced, and an
exceptionally intelligent audience stared it coldly off the boards.  It
ceased to exist.  It was a fair and open execution.  But having survived
the freezing atmosphere of that auditorium I continued to exist,
labouring under no sense of wrong.  I was not pleased, but I was content.
I was content to accept the verdict of a free and independent public,
judging after its conscience the work of its free, independent and
conscientious servant--the artist.

Only thus can the dignity of artistic servitude be preserved--not to
speak of the bare existence of the artist and the self-respect of the
man.  I shall say nothing of the self-respect of the public.  To the self-
respect of the public the present appeal against the censorship is being
made and I join in it with all my heart.

For I have lived long enough to learn that the monstrous and outlandish
figure, the _magot chinois_ whom I believed to be but a memorial of our
forefathers' mental aberration, that grotesque _potiche_, works!  The
absurd and hollow creature of clay seems to be alive with a sort of
(surely) unconscious life worthy of its traditions.  It heaves its
stomach, it rolls its eyes, it brandishes a monstrous arm: and with the
censorship, like a Bravo of old Venice with a more carnal weapon, stabs
its victim from behind in the twilight of its upper shelf.  Less
picturesque than the Venetian in cloak and mask, less estimable, too, in
this, that the assassin plied his moral trade at his own risk deriving no
countenance from the powers of the Republic, it stands more malevolent,
inasmuch that the Bravo striking in the dusk killed but the body, whereas
the grotesque thing nodding its mandarin head may in its absurd
unconsciousness strike down at any time the spirit of an honest, of an
artistic, perhaps of a sublime creation.

This Chinese monstrosity, disguised in the trousers of the Western
Barbarian and provided by the State with the immortal Mr. Stiggins's plug
hat and umbrella, is with us.  It is an office.  An office of trust.  And
from time to time there is found an official to fill it.  He is a public
man.  The least prominent of public men, the most unobtrusive, the most
obscure if not the most modest.

But however obscure, a public man may be told the truth if only once in
his life.  His office flourishes in the shade; not in the rustic shade
beloved of the violet but in the muddled twilight of mind, where tyranny
of every sort flourishes.  Its holder need not have either brain or
heart, no sight, no taste, no imagination, not even bowels of compassion.
He needs not these things.  He has power.  He can kill thought, and
incidentally truth, and incidentally beauty, providing they seek to live
in a dramatic form.  He can do it, without seeing, without understanding,
without feeling anything; out of mere stupid suspicion, as an
irresponsible Roman Caesar could kill a senator.  He can do that and
there is no one to say him nay.  He may call his cook (Moliere used to do
that) from below and give her five acts to judge every morning as a
matter of constant practice and still remain the unquestioned destroyer
of men's honest work.  He may have a glass too much.  This accident has
happened to persons of unimpeachable morality--to gentlemen.  He may
suffer from spells of imbecility like Clodius.  He may . . . what might
he not do!  I tell you he is the Caesar of the dramatic world.  There has
been since the Roman Principate nothing in the way of irresponsible power
to compare with the office of the Censor of Plays.

Looked at in this way it has some grandeur, something colossal in the
odious and the absurd.  This figure in whose power it is to suppress an
intellectual conception--to kill thought (a dream for a mad brain, my
masters!)--seems designed in a spirit of bitter comedy to bring out the
greatness of a Philistine's conceit and his moral cowardice.

But this is England in the twentieth century, and one wonders that there
can be found a man courageous enough to occupy the post.  It is a matter
for meditation.  Having given it a few minutes I come to the conclusion
in the serenity of my heart and the peace of my conscience that he must
be either an extreme megalomaniac or an utterly unconscious being.

He must be unconscious.  It is one of the qualifications for his
magistracy.  Other qualifications are equally easy.  He must have done
nothing, expressed nothing, imagined nothing.  He must be obscure,
insignificant and mediocre--in thought, act, speech and sympathy.  He
must know nothing of art, of life--and of himself.  For if he did he
would not dare to be what he is.  Like that much questioned and
mysterious bird, the phoenix, he sits amongst the cold ashes of his
predecessor upon the altar of morality, alone of his kind in the sight of
wondering generations.

And I will end with a quotation reproducing not perhaps the exact words
but the true spirit of a lofty conscience.

"Often when sitting down to write the notice of a play, especially when I
felt it antagonistic to my canons of art, to my tastes or my convictions,
I hesitated in the fear lest my conscientious blame might check the
development of a great talent, my sincere judgment condemn a worthy mind.
With the pen poised in my hand I hesitated, whispering to myself 'What if
I were perchance doing my part in killing a masterpiece.'"

Such were the lofty scruples of M. Jules Lemaitre--dramatist and dramatic
critic, a great citizen and a high magistrate in the Republic of Letters;
a Censor of Plays exercising his august office openly in the light of
day, with the authority of a European reputation.  But then M. Jules
Lemaitre is a man possessed of wisdom, of great fame, of a fine
conscience--not an obscure hollow Chinese monstrosity ornamented with Mr.
Stiggins's plug hat and cotton umbrella by its anxious grandmother--the

Frankly, is it not time to knock the improper object off its shelf?  It
has stood too long there.  Hatched in Pekin (I should say) by some Board
of Respectable Rites, the little caravan monster has come to us by way of
Moscow--I suppose.  It is outlandish.  It is not venerable.  It does not
belong here.  Is it not time to knock it off its dark shelf with some
implement appropriate to its worth and status?  With an old broom handle
for instance.



From the firing of the first shot on the banks of the Sha-ho, the fate of
the great battle of the Russo-Japanese war hung in the balance for more
than a fortnight.  The famous three-day battles, for which history has
reserved the recognition of special pages, sink into insignificance
before the struggles in Manchuria engaging half a million men on fronts
of sixty miles, struggles lasting for weeks, flaming up fiercely and
dying away from sheer exhaustion, to flame up again in desperate
persistence, and end--as we have seen them end more than once--not from
the victor obtaining a crushing advantage, but through the mortal
weariness of the combatants.

We have seen these things, though we have seen them only in the cold,
silent, colourless print of books and newspapers.  In stigmatising the
printed word as cold, silent and colourless, I have no intention of
putting a slight upon the fidelity and the talents of men who have
provided us with words to read about the battles in Manchuria.  I only
wished to suggest that in the nature of things, the war in the Far East
has been made known to us, so far, in a grey reflection of its terrible
and monotonous phases of pain, death, sickness; a reflection seen in the
perspective of thousands of miles, in the dim atmosphere of official
reticence, through the veil of inadequate words.  Inadequate, I say,
because what had to be reproduced is beyond the common experience of war,
and our imagination, luckily for our peace of mind, has remained a
slumbering faculty, notwithstanding the din of humanitarian talk and the
real progress of humanitarian ideas.  Direct vision of the fact, or the
stimulus of a great art, can alone make it turn and open its eyes heavy
with blessed sleep; and even there, as against the testimony of the
senses and the stirring up of emotion, that saving callousness which
reconciles us to the conditions of our existence, will assert itself
under the guise of assent to fatal necessity, or in the enthusiasm of a
purely aesthetic admiration of the rendering.  In this age of knowledge
our sympathetic imagination, to which alone we can look for the ultimate
triumph of concord and justice, remains strangely impervious to
information, however correctly and even picturesquely conveyed.  As to
the vaunted eloquence of a serried array of figures, it has all the
futility of precision without force.  It is the exploded superstition of
enthusiastic statisticians.  An over-worked horse falling in front of our
windows, a man writhing under a cart-wheel in the streets awaken more
genuine emotion, more horror, pity, and indignation than the stream of
reports, appalling in their monotony, of tens of thousands of decaying
bodies tainting the air of the Manchurian plains, of other tens of
thousands of maimed bodies groaning in ditches, crawling on the frozen
ground, filling the field hospitals; of the hundreds of thousands of
survivors no less pathetic and even more tragic in being left alive by
fate to the wretched exhaustion of their pitiful toil.

An early Victorian, or perhaps a pre-Victorian, sentimentalist, looking
out of an upstairs window, I believe, at a street--perhaps Fleet Street
itself--full of people, is reported, by an admiring friend, to have wept
for joy at seeing so much life.  These arcadian tears, this facile
emotion worthy of the golden age, comes to us from the past, with solemn
approval, after the close of the Napoleonic wars and before the series of
sanguinary surprises held in reserve by the nineteenth century for our
hopeful grandfathers.  We may well envy them their optimism of which this
anecdote of an amiable wit and sentimentalist presents an extreme
instance, but still, a true instance, and worthy of regard in the
spontaneous testimony to that trust in the life of the earth, triumphant
at last in the felicity of her children.  Moreover, the psychology of
individuals, even in the most extreme instances, reflects the general
effect of the fears and hopes of its time.  Wept for joy!  I should think
that now, after eighty years, the emotion would be of a sterner sort.  One
could not imagine anybody shedding tears of joy at the sight of much life
in a street, unless, perhaps, he were an enthusiastic officer of a
general staff or a popular politician, with a career yet to make.  And
hardly even that.  In the case of the first tears would be
unprofessional, and a stern repression of all signs of joy at the
provision of so much food for powder more in accord with the rules of
prudence; the joy of the second would be checked before it found issue in
weeping by anxious doubts as to the soundness of these electors' views
upon the question of the hour, and the fear of missing the consensus of
their votes.

No!  It seems that such a tender joy would be misplaced now as much as
ever during the last hundred years, to go no further back.  The end of
the eighteenth century was, too, a time of optimism and of dismal
mediocrity in which the French Revolution exploded like a bombshell.  In
its lurid blaze the insufficiency of Europe, the inferiority of minds, of
military and administrative systems, stood exposed with pitiless
vividness.  And there is but little courage in saying at this time of the
day that the glorified French Revolution itself, except for its
destructive force, was in essentials a mediocre phenomenon.  The
parentage of that great social and political upheaval was intellectual,
the idea was elevated; but it is the bitter fate of any idea to lose its
royal form and power, to lose its "virtue" the moment it descends from
its solitary throne to work its will among the people.  It is a king
whose destiny is never to know the obedience of his subjects except at
the cost of degradation.  The degradation of the ideas of freedom and
justice at the root of the French Revolution is made manifest in the
person of its heir; a personality without law or faith, whom it has been
the fashion to represent as an eagle, but who was, in truth, more like a
sort of vulture preying upon the body of a Europe which did, indeed, for
some dozen of years, very much resemble a corpse.  The subtle and
manifold influence for evil of the Napoleonic episode as a school of
violence, as a sower of national hatreds, as the direct provocator of
obscurantism and reaction, of political tyranny and injustice, cannot
well be exaggerated.

The nineteenth century began with wars which were the issue of a
corrupted revolution.  It may be said that the twentieth begins with a
war which is like the explosive ferment of a moral grave, whence may yet
emerge a new political organism to take the place of a gigantic and
dreaded phantom.  For a hundred years the ghost of Russian might,
overshadowing with its fantastic bulk the councils of Central and Western
Europe, sat upon the gravestone of autocracy, cutting off from air, from
light, from all knowledge of themselves and of the world, the buried
millions of Russian people.  Not the most determined cockney
sentimentalist could have had the heart to weep for joy at the thought of
its teeming numbers!  And yet they were living, they are alive yet,
since, through the mist of print, we have seen their blood freezing
crimson upon the snow of the squares and streets of St. Petersburg; since
their generations born in the grave are yet alive enough to fill the
ditches and cover the fields of Manchuria with their torn limbs; to send
up from the frozen ground of battlefields a chorus of groans calling for
vengeance from Heaven; to kill and retreat, or kill and advance, without
intermission or rest for twenty hours, for fifty hours, for whole weeks
of fatigue, hunger, cold, and murder--till their ghastly labour, worthy
of a place amongst the punishments of Dante's Inferno, passing through
the stages of courage, of fury, of hopelessness, sinks into the night of
crazy despair.

It seems that in both armies many men are driven beyond the bounds of
sanity by the stress of moral and physical misery.  Great numbers of
soldiers and regimental officers go mad as if by way of protest against
the peculiar sanity of a state of war: mostly among the Russians, of
course.  The Japanese have in their favour the tonic effect of success;
and the innate gentleness of their character stands them in good stead.
But the Japanese grand army has yet another advantage in this
nerve-destroying contest, which for endless, arduous toil of killing
surpasses all the wars of history.  It has a base for its operations; a
base of a nature beyond the concern of the many books written upon the so-
called art of war, which, considered by itself, purely as an exercise of
human ingenuity, is at best only a thing of well-worn, simple artifices.
The Japanese army has for its base a reasoned conviction; it has behind
it the profound belief in the right of a logical necessity to be appeased
at the cost of so much blood and treasure.  And in that belief, whether
well or ill founded, that army stands on the high ground of conscious
assent, shouldering deliberately the burden of a long-tried faithfulness.
The other people (since each people is an army nowadays), torn out from a
miserable quietude resembling death itself, hurled across space, amazed,
without starting-point of its own or knowledge of the aim, can feel
nothing but a horror-stricken consciousness of having mysteriously become
the plaything of a black and merciless fate.

The profound, the instructive nature of this war is resumed by the
memorable difference in the spiritual state of the two armies; the one
forlorn and dazed on being driven out from an abyss of mental darkness
into the red light of a conflagration, the other with a full knowledge of
its past and its future, "finding itself" as it were at every step of the
trying war before the eyes of an astonished world.  The greatness of the
lesson has been dwarfed for most of us by an often half-conscious
prejudice of race-difference.  The West having managed to lodge its hasty
foot on the neck of the East, is prone to forget that it is from the East
that the wonders of patience and wisdom have come to a world of men who
set the value of life in the power to act rather than in the faculty of
meditation.  It has been dwarfed by this, and it has been obscured by a
cloud of considerations with whose shaping wisdom and meditation had
little or nothing to do; by the weary platitudes on the military
situation which (apart from geographical conditions) is the same
everlasting situation that has prevailed since the times of Hannibal and
Scipio, and further back yet, since the beginning of historical
record--since prehistoric times, for that matter; by the conventional
expressions of horror at the tale of maiming and killing; by the rumours
of peace with guesses more or less plausible as to its conditions.  All
this is made legitimate by the consecrated custom of writers in such time
as this--the time of a great war.  More legitimate in view of the
situation created in Europe are the speculations as to the course of
events after the war.  More legitimate, but hardly more wise than the
irresponsible talk of strategy that never changes, and of terms of peace
that do not matter.

And above it all--unaccountably persistent--the decrepit, old, hundred
years old, spectre of Russia's might still faces Europe from across the
teeming graves of Russian people.  This dreaded and strange apparition,
bristling with bayonets, armed with chains, hung over with holy images;
that something not of this world, partaking of a ravenous ghoul, of a
blind Djinn grown up from a cloud, and of the Old Man of the Sea, still
faces us with its old stupidity, with its strange mystical arrogance,
stamping its shadowy feet upon the gravestone of autocracy already
cracked beyond repair by the torpedoes of Togo and the guns of Oyama,
already heaving in the blood-soaked ground with the first stirrings of a

Never before had the Western world the opportunity to look so deep into
the black abyss which separates a soulless autocracy posing as, and even
believing itself to be, the arbiter of Europe, from the benighted,
starved souls of its people.  This is the real object-lesson of this war,
its unforgettable information.  And this war's true mission, disengaged
from the economic origins of that contest, from doors open or shut, from
the fields of Korea for Russian wheat or Japanese rice, from the
ownership of ice-free ports and the command of the waters of the East--its
true mission was to lay a ghost.  It has accomplished it.  Whether
Kuropatkin was incapable or unlucky, whether or not Russia issuing next
year, or the year after next, from behind a rampart of piled-up corpses
will win or lose a fresh campaign, are minor considerations.  The task of
Japan is done, the mission accomplished; the ghost of Russia's might is
laid.  Only Europe, accustomed so long to the presence of that portent,
seems unable to comprehend that, as in the fables of our childhood, the
twelve strokes of the hour have rung, the cock has crowed, the apparition
has vanished--never to haunt again this world which has been used to gaze
at it with vague dread and many misgivings.

It was a fascination.  And the hallucination still lasts as inexplicable
in its persistence as in its duration.  It seems so unaccountable, that
the doubt arises as to the sincerity of all that talk as to what Russia
will or will not do, whether it will raise or not another army, whether
it will bury the Japanese in Manchuria under seventy millions of
sacrificed peasants' caps (as her Press boasted a little more than a year
ago) or give up to Japan that jewel of her crown, Saghalien, together
with some other things; whether, perchance, as an interesting
alternative, it will make peace on the Amur in order to make war beyond
the Oxus.

All these speculations (with many others) have appeared gravely in print;
and if they have been gravely considered by only one reader out of each
hundred, there must be something subtly noxious to the human brain in the
composition of newspaper ink; or else it is that the large page, the
columns of words, the leaded headings, exalt the mind into a state of
feverish credulity.  The printed page of the Press makes a sort of still
uproar, taking from men both the power to reflect and the faculty of
genuine feeling; leaving them only the artificially created need of
having something exciting to talk about.

The truth is that the Russia of our fathers, of our childhood, of our
middle-age; the testamentary Russia of Peter the Great--who imagined that
all the nations were delivered into the hand of Tsardom--can do nothing.
It can do nothing because it does not exist.  It has vanished for ever at
last, and as yet there is no new Russia to take the place of that ill-
omened creation, which, being a fantasy of a madman's brain, could in
reality be nothing else than a figure out of a nightmare seated upon a
monument of fear and oppression.

The true greatness of a State does not spring from such a contemptible
source.  It is a matter of logical growth, of faith and courage.  Its
inspiration springs from the constructive instinct of the people,
governed by the strong hand of a collective conscience and voiced in the
wisdom and counsel of men who seldom reap the reward of gratitude.  Many
States have been powerful, but, perhaps, none have been truly great--as
yet.  That the position of a State in reference to the moral methods of
its development can be seen only historically, is true.  Perhaps mankind
has not lived long enough for a comprehensive view of any particular
case.  Perhaps no one will ever live long enough; and perhaps this earth
shared out amongst our clashing ambitions by the anxious arrangements of
statesmen will come to an end before we attain the felicity of greeting
with unanimous applause the perfect fruition of a great State.  It is
even possible that we are destined for another sort of bliss altogether:
that sort which consists in being perpetually duped by false appearances.
But whatever political illusion the future may hold out to our fear or
our admiration, there will be none, it is safe to say, which in the
magnitude of anti-humanitarian effect will equal that phantom now driven
out of the world by the thunder of thousands of guns; none that in its
retreat will cling with an equally shameless sincerity to more unworthy
supports: to the moral corruption and mental darkness of slavery, to the
mere brute force of numbers.

This very ignominy of infatuation should make clear to men's feelings and
reason that the downfall of Russia's might is unavoidable.  Spectral it
lived and spectral it disappears without leaving a memory of a single
generous deed, of a single service rendered--even involuntarily--to the
polity of nations.  Other despotisms there have been, but none whose
origin was so grimly fantastic in its baseness, and the beginning of
whose end was so gruesomely ignoble.  What is amazing is the myth of its
irresistible strength which is dying so hard.

* * * * *

Considered historically, Russia's influence in Europe seems the most
baseless thing in the world; a sort of convention invented by
diplomatists for some dark purpose of their own, one would suspect, if
the lack of grasp upon the realities of any given situation were not the
main characteristic of the management of international relations.  A
glance back at the last hundred years shows the invariable, one may say
the logical, powerlessness of Russia.  As a military power it has never
achieved by itself a single great thing.  It has been indeed able to
repel an ill-considered invasion, but only by having recourse to the
extreme methods of desperation.  In its attacks upon its specially
selected victim this giant always struck as if with a withered right
hand.  All the campaigns against Turkey prove this, from Potemkin's time
to the last Eastern war in 1878, entered upon with every advantage of a
well-nursed prestige and a carefully fostered fanaticism.  Even the half-
armed were always too much for the might of Russia, or, rather, of the
Tsardom.  It was victorious only against the practically disarmed, as, in
regard to its ideal of territorial expansion, a glance at a map will
prove sufficiently.  As an ally, Russia has been always unprofitable,
taking her share in the defeats rather than in the victories of her
friends, but always pushing her own claims with the arrogance of an
arbiter of military success.  She has been unable to help to any purpose
a single principle to hold its own, not even the principle of authority
and legitimism which Nicholas the First had declared so haughtily to rest
under his special protection; just as Nicholas the Second has tried to
make the maintenance of peace on earth his own exclusive affair.  And the
first Nicholas was a good Russian; he held the belief in the sacredness
of his realm with such an intensity of faith that he could not survive
the first shock of doubt.  Rightly envisaged, the Crimean war was the end
of what remained of absolutism and legitimism in Europe.  It threw the
way open for the liberation of Italy.  The war in Manchuria makes an end
of absolutism in Russia, whoever has got to perish from the shock behind
a rampart of dead ukases, manifestoes, and rescripts.  In the space of
fifty years the self-appointed Apostle of Absolutism and the
self-appointed Apostle of Peace, the Augustus and the Augustulus of the
_regime_ that was wont to speak contemptuously to European Foreign
Offices in the beautiful French phrases of Prince Gorchakov, have fallen
victims, each after his kind, to their shadowy and dreadful familiar, to
the phantom, part ghoul, part Djinn, part Old Man of the Sea, with beak
and claws and a double head, looking greedily both east and west on the
confines of two continents.

That nobody through all that time penetrated the true nature of the
monster it is impossible to believe.  But of the many who must have seen,
all were either too modest, too cautious, perhaps too discreet, to speak;
or else were too insignificant to be heard or believed.  Yet not all.

In the very early sixties, Prince Bismarck, then about to leave his post
of Prussian Minister in St. Petersburg, called--so the story goes--upon
another distinguished diplomatist.  After some talk upon the general
situation, the future Chancellor of the German Empire remarked that it
was his practice to resume the impressions he had carried out of every
country where he had made a long stay, in a short sentence, which he
caused to be engraved upon some trinket.  "I am leaving this country now,
and this is what I bring away from it," he continued, taking off his
finger a new ring to show to his colleague the inscription inside: "La
Russie, c'est le neant."

Prince Bismarck had the truth of the matter and was neither too modest
nor too discreet to speak out.  Certainly he was not afraid of not being
believed.  Yet he did not shout his knowledge from the house-tops.  He
meant to have the phantom as his accomplice in an enterprise which has
set the clock of peace back for many a year.

He had his way.  The German Empire has been an accomplished fact for more
than a third of a century--a great and dreadful legacy left to the world
by the ill-omened phantom of Russia's might.

It is that phantom which is disappearing now--unexpectedly,
astonishingly, as if by a touch of that wonderful magic for which the
East has always been famous.  The pretence of belief in its existence
will no longer answer anybody's purposes (now Prince Bismarck is dead)
unless the purposes of the writers of sensational paragraphs as to this
_Neant_ making an armed descent upon the plains of India.  That sort of
folly would be beneath notice if it did not distract attention from the
real problem created for Europe by a war in the Far East.

For good or evil in the working out of her destiny, Russia is bound to
remain a _Neant_ for many long years, in a more even than a Bismarckian
sense.  The very fear of this spectre being gone, it behoves us to
consider its legacy--the fact (no phantom that) accomplished in Central
Europe by its help and connivance.

The German Empire may feel at bottom the loss of an old accomplice always
amenable to the confidential whispers of a bargain; but in the first
instance it cannot but rejoice at the fundamental weakening of a possible
obstacle to its instincts of territorial expansion.  There is a removal
of that latent feeling of restraint which the presence of a powerful
neighbour, however implicated with you in a sense of common guilt, is
bound to inspire.  The common guilt of the two Empires is defined
precisely by their frontier line running through the Polish provinces.
Without indulging in excessive feelings of indignation at that country's
partition, or going so far as to believe--with a late French
politician--in the "immanente justice des choses," it is clear that a
material situation, based upon an essentially immoral transaction,
contains the germ of fatal differences in the temperament of the two
partners in iniquity--whatever the iniquity is.  Germany has been the
evil counsellor of Russia on all the questions of her Polish problem.
Always urging the adoption of the most repressive measures with a
perfectly logical duplicity, Prince Bismarck's Empire has taken care to
couple the neighbourly offers of military assistance with merciless
advice.  The thought of the Polish provinces accepting a frank
reconciliation with a humanised Russia and bringing the weight of
homogeneous loyalty within a few miles of Berlin, has been always
intensely distasteful to the arrogant Germanising tendencies of the other
partner in iniquity.  And, besides, the way to the Baltic provinces leads
over the Niemen and over the Vistula.

And now, when there is a possibility of serious internal disturbances
destroying the sort of order autocracy has kept in Russia, the road over
these rivers is seen wearing a more inviting aspect.  At any moment the
pretext of armed intervention may be found in a revolutionary outbreak
provoked by Socialists, perhaps--but at any rate by the political
immaturity of the enlightened classes and by the political barbarism of
the Russian people.  The throes of Russian resurrection will be long and
painful.  This is not the place to speculate upon the nature of these
convulsions, but there must be some violent break-up of the lamentable
tradition, a shattering of the social, of the administrative--certainly
of the territorial--unity.

Voices have been heard saying that the time for reforms in Russia is
already past.  This is the superficial view of the more profound truth
that for Russia there has never been such a time within the memory of
mankind.  It is impossible to initiate a rational scheme of reform upon a
phase of blind absolutism; and in Russia there has never been anything
else to which the faintest tradition could, after ages of error, go back
as to a parting of ways.

In Europe the old monarchical principle stands justified in its
historical struggle with the growth of political liberty by the evolution
of the idea of nationality as we see it concreted at the present time; by
the inception of that wider solidarity grouping together around the
standard of monarchical power these larger, agglomerations of mankind.
This service of unification, creating close-knit communities possessing
the ability, the will, and the power to pursue a common ideal, has
prepared the ground for the advent of a still larger understanding: for
the solidarity of Europeanism, which must be the next step towards the
advent of Concord and Justice; an advent that, however delayed by the
fatal worship of force and the errors of national selfishness, has been,
and remains, the only possible goal of our progress.

The conceptions of legality, of larger patriotism, of national duties and
aspirations have grown under the shadow of the old monarchies of Europe,
which were the creations of historical necessity.  There were seeds of
wisdom in their very mistakes and abuses.  They had a past and a future;
they were human.  But under the shadow of Russian autocracy nothing could
grow.  Russian autocracy succeeded to nothing; it had no historical past,
and it cannot hope for a historical future.  It can only end.  By no
industry of investigation, by no fantastic stretch of benevolence, can it
be presented as a phase of development through which a Society, a State,
must pass on the way to the full consciousness of its destiny.  It lies
outside the stream of progress.  This despotism has been utterly
un-European.  Neither has it been Asiatic in its nature.  Oriental
despotisms belong to the history of mankind; they have left their trace
on our minds and our imagination by their splendour, by their culture, by
their art, by the exploits of great conquerors.  The record of their rise
and decay has an intellectual value; they are in their origins and their
course the manifestations of human needs, the instruments of racial
temperament, of catastrophic force, of faith and fanaticism.  The Russian
autocracy as we see it now is a thing apart.  It is impossible to assign
to it any rational origin in the vices, the misfortunes, the necessities,
or the aspirations of mankind.  That despotism has neither an European
nor an Oriental parentage; more, it seems to have no root either in the
institutions or the follies of this earth.  What strikes one with a sort
of awe is just this something inhuman in its character.  It is like a
visitation, like a curse from Heaven falling in the darkness of ages upon
the immense plains of forest and steppe lying dumbly on the confines of
two continents: a true desert harbouring no Spirit either of the East or
of the West.

This pitiful fate of a country held by an evil spell, suffering from an
awful visitation for which the responsibility cannot be traced either to
her sins or her follies, has made Russia as a nation so difficult to
understand by Europe.  From the very first ghastly dawn of her existence
as a State she had to breathe the atmosphere of despotism; she found
nothing but the arbitrary will of an obscure autocrat at the beginning
and end of her organisation.  Hence arises her impenetrability to
whatever is true in Western thought.  Western thought, when it crosses
her frontier, falls under the spell of her autocracy and becomes a
noxious parody of itself.  Hence the contradictions, the riddles of her
national life, which are looked upon with such curiosity by the rest of
the world.  The curse had entered her very soul; autocracy, and nothing
else in the world, has moulded her institutions, and with the poison of
slavery drugged the national temperament into the apathy of a hopeless
fatalism.  It seems to have gone into the blood, tainting every mental
activity in its source by a half-mystical, insensate, fascinating
assertion of purity and holiness.  The Government of Holy Russia,
arrogating to itself the supreme power to torment and slaughter the
bodies of its subjects like a God-sent scourge, has been most cruel to
those whom it allowed to live under the shadow of its dispensation.  The
worst crime against humanity of that system we behold now crouching at
bay behind vast heaps of mangled corpses is the ruthless destruction of
innumerable minds.  The greatest horror of the world--madness--walked
faithfully in its train.  Some of the best intellects of Russia, after
struggling in vain against the spell, ended by throwing themselves at the
feet of that hopeless despotism as a giddy man leaps into an abyss.  An
attentive survey of Russia's literature, of her Church, of her
administration and the cross-currents of her thought, must end in the
verdict that the Russia of to-day has not the right to give her voice on
a single question touching the future of humanity, because from the very
inception of her being the brutal destruction of dignity, of truth, of
rectitude, of all that is faithful in human nature has been made the
imperative condition of her existence.  The great governmental secret of
that imperium which Prince Bismarck had the insight and the courage to
call _Le Neant_, has been the extirpation of every intellectual hope.  To
pronounce in the face of such a past the word Evolution, which is
precisely the expression of the highest intellectual hope, is a gruesome
pleasantry.  There can be no evolution out of a grave.  Another word of
less scientific sound has been very much pronounced of late in connection
with Russia's future, a word of more vague import, a word of dread as
much as of hope--Revolution.

In the face of the events of the last four months, this word has sprung
instinctively, as it were, on grave lips, and has been heard with solemn
forebodings.  More or less consciously, Europe is preparing herself for a
spectacle of much violence and perhaps of an inspiring nobility of
greatness.  And there will be nothing of what she expects.  She will see
neither the anticipated character of the violence, nor yet any signs of
generous greatness.  Her expectations, more or less vaguely expressed,
give the measure of her ignorance of that _Neant_ which for so many years
had remained hidden behind this phantom of invincible armies.

_Neant_!  In a way, yes!  And yet perhaps Prince Bismarck has let himself
be led away by the seduction of a good phrase into the use of an inexact
form.  The form of his judgment had to be pithy, striking, engraved
within a ring.  If he erred, then, no doubt, he erred deliberately.  The
saying was near enough the truth to serve, and perhaps he did not want to
destroy utterly by a more severe definition the prestige of the sham that
could not deceive his genius.  Prince Bismarck has been really
complimentary to the useful phantom of the autocratic might.  There is an
awe-inspiring idea of infinity conveyed in the word _Neant_--and in
Russia there is no idea.  She is not a _Neant_, she is and has been
simply the negation of everything worth living for.  She is not an empty
void, she is a yawning chasm open between East and West; a bottomless
abyss that has swallowed up every hope of mercy, every aspiration towards
personal dignity, towards freedom, towards knowledge, every ennobling
desire of the heart, every redeeming whisper of conscience.  Those that
have peered into that abyss, where the dreams of Panslavism, of universal
conquest, mingled with the hate and contempt for Western ideas, drift
impotently like shapes of mist, know well that it is bottomless; that
there is in it no ground for anything that could in the remotest degree
serve even the lowest interests of mankind--and certainly no ground ready
for a revolution.  The sin of the old European monarchies was not the
absolutism inherent in every form of government; it was the inability to
alter the forms of their legality, grown narrow and oppressive with the
march of time.  Every form of legality is bound to degenerate into
oppression, and the legality in the forms of monarchical institutions
sooner, perhaps, than any other.  It has not been the business of
monarchies to be adaptive from within.  With the mission of uniting and
consolidating the particular ambitions and interests of feudalism in
favour of a larger conception of a State, of giving self-consciousness,
force and nationality to the scattered energies of thought and action,
they were fated to lag behind the march of ideas they had themselves set
in motion in a direction they could neither understand nor approve.  Yet,
for all that, the thrones still remain, and what is more significant,
perhaps, some of the dynasties, too, have survived.  The revolutions of
European States have never been in the nature of absolute protests _en
masse_ against the monarchical principle; they were the uprising of the
people against the oppressive degeneration of legality.  But there never
has been any legality in Russia; she is a negation of that as of
everything else that has its root in reason or conscience.  The ground of
every revolution had to be intellectually prepared.  A revolution is a
short cut in the rational development of national needs in response to
the growth of world-wide ideals.  It is conceivably possible for a
monarch of genius to put himself at the head of a revolution without
ceasing to be the king of his people.  For the autocracy of Holy Russia
the only conceivable self-reform is--suicide.

The same relentless fate holds in its grip the all-powerful ruler and his
helpless people.  Wielders of a power purchased by an unspeakable
baseness of subjection to the Khans of the Tartar horde, the Princes of
Russia who, in their heart of hearts had come in time to regard
themselves as superior to every monarch of Europe, have never risen to be
the chiefs of a nation.  Their authority has never been sanctioned by
popular tradition, by ideas of intelligent loyalty, of devotion, of
political necessity, of simple expediency, or even by the power of the
sword.  In whatever form of upheaval autocratic Russia is to find her
end, it can never be a revolution fruitful of moral consequences to
mankind.  It cannot be anything else but a rising of slaves.  It is a
tragic circumstance that the only thing one can wish to that people who
had never seen face to face either law, order, justice, right, truth
about itself or the rest of the world; who had known nothing outside the
capricious will of its irresponsible masters, is that it should find in
the approaching hour of need, not an organiser or a law-giver, with the
wisdom of a Lycurgus or a Solon for their service, but at least the force
of energy and desperation in some as yet unknown Spartacus.

A brand of hopeless mental and moral inferiority is set upon Russian
achievements; and the coming events of her internal changes, however
appalling they may be in their magnitude, will be nothing more impressive
than the convulsions of a colossal body.  As her boasted military force
that, corrupt in its origin, has ever struck no other but faltering
blows, so her soul, kept benumbed by her temporal and spiritual master
with the poison of tyranny and superstition, will find itself on
awakening possessed of no language, a monstrous full-grown child having
first to learn the ways of living thought and articulate speech.  It is
safe to say tyranny, assuming a thousand protean shapes, will remain
clinging to her struggles for a long time before her blind multitudes
succeed at last in trampling her out of existence under their millions of
bare feet.

That would be the beginning.  What is to come after?  The conquest of
freedom to call your soul your own is only the first step on the road to
excellence.  We, in Europe, have gone a step or two further, have had the
time to forget how little that freedom means.  To Russia it must seem
everything.  A prisoner shut up in a noisome dungeon concentrates all his
hope and desire on the moment of stepping out beyond the gates.  It
appears to him pregnant with an immense and final importance; whereas
what is important is the spirit in which he will draw the first breath of
freedom, the counsels he will hear, the hands he may find extended, the
endless days of toil that must follow, wherein he will have to build his
future with no other material but what he can find within himself.

It would be vain for Russia to hope for the support and counsel of
collective wisdom.  Since 1870 (as a distinguished statesman of the old
tradition disconsolately exclaimed) "il n'y a plus d'Europe!"  There is,
indeed, no Europe.  The idea of a Europe united in the solidarity of her
dynasties, which for a moment seemed to dawn on the horizon of the Vienna
Congress through the subsiding dust of Napoleonic alarums and excursions,
has been extinguished by the larger glamour of less restraining ideals.
Instead of the doctrines of solidarity it was the doctrine of
nationalities much more favourable to spoliations that came to the front,
and since its greatest triumphs at Sadowa and Sedan there is no Europe.
Meanwhile till the time comes when there will be no frontiers, there are
alliances so shamelessly based upon the exigencies of suspicion and
mistrust that their cohesive force waxes and wanes with every year,
almost with the event of every passing month.  This is the atmosphere
Russia will find when the last rampart of tyranny has been beaten down.
But what hands, what voices will she find on coming out into the light of
day?  An ally she has yet who more than any other of Russia's allies has
found that it had parted with lots of solid substance in exchange for a
shadow.  It is true that the shadow was indeed the mightiest, the darkest
that the modern world had ever known--and the most overbearing.  But it
is fading now, and the tone of truest anxiety as to what is to take its
place will come, no doubt, from that and no other direction, and no
doubt, also, it will have that note of generosity which even in the
moments of greatest aberration is seldom wanting in the voice of the
French people.

Two neighbours Russia will find at her door.  Austria, traditionally
unaggressive whenever her hand is not forced, ruled by a dynasty of
uncertain future, weakened by her duality, can only speak to her in an
uncertain, bilingual phrase.  Prussia, grown in something like forty
years from an almost pitiful dependant into a bullying friend and evil
counsellor of Russia's masters, may, indeed, hasten to extend a strong
hand to the weakness of her exhausted body, but if so it will be only
with the intention of tearing away the long-coveted part of her

Pan-Germanism is by no means a shape of mists, and Germany is anything
but a _Neant_ where thought and effort are likely to lose themselves
without sound or trace.  It is a powerful and voracious organisation,
full of unscrupulous self-confidence, whose appetite for aggrandisement
will only be limited by the power of helping itself to the severed
members of its friends and neighbours.  The era of wars so eloquently
denounced by the old Republicans as the peculiar blood guilt of dynastic
ambitions is by no means over yet.  They will be fought out differently,
with lesser frequency, with an increased bitterness and the savage tooth-
and-claw obstinacy of a struggle for existence.  They will make us regret
the time of dynastic ambitions, with their human absurdity moderated by
prudence and even by shame, by the fear of personal responsibility and
the regard paid to certain forms of conventional decency.  For, if the
monarchs of Europe have been derided for addressing each other as
"brother" in autograph communications, that relationship was at least as
effective as any form of brotherhood likely to be established between the
rival nations of this continent, which, we are assured on all hands, is
the heritage of democracy.  In the ceremonial brotherhood of monarchs the
reality of blood-ties, for what little it is worth, acted often as a drag
on unscrupulous desires of glory or greed.  Besides, there was always the
common danger of exasperated peoples, and some respect for each other's
divine right.  No leader of a democracy, without other ancestry but the
sudden shout of a multitude, and debarred by the very condition of his
power from even thinking of a direct heir, will have any interest in
calling brother the leader of another democracy--a chief as fatherless
and heirless as himself.

The war of 1870, brought about by the third Napoleon's half-generous,
half-selfish adoption of the principle of nationalities, was the first
war characterised by a special intensity of hate, by a new note in the
tune of an old song for which we may thank the Teutonic thoroughness.  Was
it not that excellent bourgeoise, Princess Bismarck (to keep only to
great examples), who was so righteously anxious to see men, women and
children--emphatically the children, too--of the abominable French nation
massacred off the face of the earth?  This illustration of the new war-
temper is artlessly revealed in the prattle of the amiable Busch, the
Chancellor's pet "reptile" of the Press.  And this was supposed to be a
war for an idea!  Too much, however, should not be made of that good
wife's and mother's sentiments any more than of the good First Emperor
William's tears, shed so abundantly after every battle, by letter,
telegram, and otherwise, during the course of the same war, before a dumb
and shamefaced continent.  These were merely the expressions of the
simplicity of a nation which more than any other has a tendency to run
into the grotesque.  There is worse to come.

To-day, in the fierce grapple of two nations of different race, the short
era of national wars seems about to close.  No war will be waged for an
idea.  The "noxious idle aristocracies" of yesterday fought without
malice for an occupation, for the honour, for the fun of the thing.  The
virtuous, industrious democratic States of to-morrow may yet be reduced
to fighting for a crust of dry bread, with all the hate, ferocity, and
fury that must attach to the vital importance of such an issue.  The
dreams sanguine humanitarians raised almost to ecstasy about the year
fifty of the last century by the moving sight of the Crystal
Palace--crammed full with that variegated rubbish which it seems to be
the bizarre fate of humanity to produce for the benefit of a few
employers of labour--have vanished as quickly as they had arisen.  The
golden hopes of peace have in a single night turned to dead leaves in
every drawer of every benevolent theorist's writing table.  A swift
disenchantment overtook the incredible infatuation which could put its
trust in the peaceful nature of industrial and commercial competition.

Industrialism and commercialism--wearing high-sounding names in many
languages (_Welt-politik_ may serve for one instance) picking up coins
behind the severe and disdainful figure of science whose giant strides
have widened for us the horizon of the universe by some few inches--stand
ready, almost eager, to appeal to the sword as soon as the globe of the
earth has shrunk beneath our growing numbers by another ell or so.  And
democracy, which has elected to pin its faith to the supremacy of
material interests, will have to fight their battles to the bitter end,
on a mere pittance--unless, indeed, some statesman of exceptional ability
and overwhelming prestige succeeds in carrying through an international
understanding for the delimitation of spheres of trade all over the
earth, on the model of the territorial spheres of influence marked in
Africa to keep the competitors for the privilege of improving the nigger
(as a buying machine) from flying prematurely at each other's throats.

This seems the only expedient at hand for the temporary maintenance of
European peace, with its alliances based on mutual distrust, preparedness
for war as its ideal, and the fear of wounds, luckily stronger, so far,
than the pinch of hunger, its only guarantee.  The true peace of the
world will be a place of refuge much less like a beleaguered fortress and
more, let us hope, in the nature of an Inviolable Temple.  It will be
built on less perishable foundations than those of material interests.
But it must be confessed that the architectural aspect of the universal
city remains as yet inconceivable--that the very ground for its erection
has not been cleared of the jungle.

Never before in history has the right of war been more fully admitted in
the rounded periods of public speeches, in books, in public prints, in
all the public works of peace, culminating in the establishment of the
Hague Tribunal--that solemnly official recognition of the Earth as a
House of Strife.  To him whose indignation is qualified by a measure of
hope and affection, the efforts of mankind to work its own salvation
present a sight of alarming comicality.  After clinging for ages to the
steps of the heavenly throne, they are now, without much modifying their
attitude, trying with touching ingenuity to steal one by one the
thunderbolts of their Jupiter.  They have removed war from the list of
Heaven-sent visitations that could only be prayed against; they have
erased its name from the supplication against the wrath of war,
pestilence, and famine, as it is found in the litanies of the Roman
Catholic Church; they have dragged the scourge down from the skies and
have made it into a calm and regulated institution.  At first sight the
change does not seem for the better.  Jove's thunderbolt looks a most
dangerous plaything in the hands of the people.  But a solemnly
established institution begins to grow old at once in the discussion,
abuse, worship, and execration of men.  It grows obsolete, odious, and
intolerable; it stands fatally condemned to an unhonoured old age.

Therein lies the best hope of advanced thought, and the best way to help
its prospects is to provide in the fullest, frankest way for the
conditions of the present day.  War is one of its conditions; it is its
principal condition.  It lies at the heart of every question agitating
the fears and hopes of a humanity divided against itself.  The succeeding
ages have changed nothing except the watchwords of the armies.  The
intellectual stage of mankind being as yet in its infancy, and States,
like most individuals, having but a feeble and imperfect consciousness of
the worth and force of the inner life, the need of making their existence
manifest to themselves is determined in the direction of physical
activity.  The idea of ceasing to grow in territory, in strength, in
wealth, in influence--in anything but wisdom and self-knowledge--is
odious to them as the omen of the end.  Action, in which is to be found
the illusion of a mastered destiny, can alone satisfy our uneasy vanity
and lay to rest the haunting fear of the future--a sentiment concealed,
indeed, but proving its existence by the force it has, when invoked, to
stir the passions of a nation.  It will be long before we have learned
that in the great darkness before us there is nothing that we need fear.
Let us act lest we perish--is the cry.  And the only form of action open
to a State can be of no other than aggressive nature.

There are many kinds of aggressions, though the sanction of them is one
and the same--the magazine rifle of the latest pattern.  In preparation
for or against that form of action the States of Europe are spending now
such moments of uneasy leisure as they can snatch from the labours of
factory and counting-house.

Never before has war received so much homage at the lips of men, and
reigned with less disputed sway in their minds.  It has harnessed science
to its gun-carriages, it has enriched a few respectable manufacturers,
scattered doles of food and raiment amongst a few thousand skilled
workmen, devoured the first youth of whole generations, and reaped its
harvest of countless corpses.  It has perverted the intelligence of men,
women, and children, and has made the speeches of Emperors, Kings,
Presidents, and Ministers monotonous with ardent protestations of
fidelity to peace.  Indeed, war has made peace altogether its own, it has
modelled it on its own image: a martial, overbearing, war-lord sort of
peace, with a mailed fist, and turned-up moustaches, ringing with the din
of grand manoeuvres, eloquent with allusions to glorious feats of arms;
it has made peace so magnificent as to be almost as expensive to keep up
as itself.  It has sent out apostles of its own, who at one time went
about (mostly in newspapers) preaching the gospel of the mystic sanctity
of its sacrifices, and the regenerating power of spilt blood, to the poor
in mind--whose name is legion.

It has been observed that in the course of earthly greatness a day of
culminating triumph is often paid for by a morrow of sudden extinction.
Let us hope it is so.  Yet the dawn of that day of retribution may be a
long time breaking above a dark horizon.  War is with us now; and,
whether this one ends soon or late, war will be with us again.  And it is
the way of true wisdom for men and States to take account of things as
they are.

Civilisation has done its little best by our sensibilities for whose
growth it is responsible.  It has managed to remove the sights and sounds
of battlefields away from our doorsteps.  But it cannot be expected to
achieve the feat always and under every variety of circumstance.  Some
day it must fail, and we shall have then a wealth of appallingly
unpleasant sensations brought home to us with painful intimacy.  It is
not absurd to suppose that whatever war comes to us next it will _not_ be
a distant war waged by Russia either beyond the Amur or beyond the Oxus.

The Japanese armies have laid that ghost for ever, because the Russia of
the future will not, for the reasons explained above, be the Russia of to-
day.  It will not have the same thoughts, resentments and aims.  It is
even a question whether it will preserve its gigantic frame unaltered and
unbroken.  All speculation loses itself in the magnitude of the events
made possible by the defeat of an autocracy whose only shadow of a title
to existence was the invincible power of military conquest.  That
autocratic Russia will have a miserable end in harmony with its base
origin and inglorious life does not seem open to doubt.  The problem of
the immediate future is posed not by the eventual manner but by the
approaching fact of its disappearance.

The Japanese armies, in laying the oppressive ghost, have not only
accomplished what will be recognised historically as an important mission
in the world's struggle against all forms of evil, but have also created
a situation.  They have created a situation in the East which they are
competent to manage by themselves; and in doing this they have brought
about a change in the condition of the West with which Europe is not well
prepared to deal.  The common ground of concord, good faith and justice
is not sufficient to establish an action upon; since the conscience of
but very few men amongst us, and of no single Western nation as yet, will
brook the restraint of abstract ideas as against the fascination of a
material advantage.  And eagle-eyed wisdom alone cannot take the lead of
human action, which in its nature must for ever remain short-sighted.  The
trouble of the civilised world is the want of a common conservative
principle abstract enough to give the impulse, practical enough to form
the rallying point of international action tending towards the restraint
of particular ambitions.  Peace tribunals instituted for the greater
glory of war will not replace it.  Whether such a principle exists--who
can say?  If it does not, then it ought to be invented.  A sage with a
sense of humour and a heart of compassion should set about it without
loss of time, and a solemn prophet full of words and fire ought to be
given the task of preparing the minds.  So far there is no trace of such
a principle anywhere in sight; even its plausible imitations (never very
effective) have disappeared long ago before the doctrine of national
aspirations.  _Il n'y a plus d'Europe_--there is only an armed and
trading continent, the home of slowly maturing economical contests for
life and death and of loudly proclaimed world-wide ambitions.  There are
also other ambitions not so loud, but deeply rooted in the envious
acquisitive temperament of the last corner amongst the great Powers of
the Continent, whose feet are not exactly in the ocean--not yet--and
whose head is very high up--in Pomerania, the breeding place of such
precious Grenadiers that Prince Bismarck (whom it is a pleasure to quote)
would not have given the bones of one of them for the settlement of the
old Eastern Question.  But times have changed, since, by way of keeping
up, I suppose, some old barbaric German rite, the faithful servant of the
Hohenzollerns was buried alive to celebrate the accession of a new

Already the voice of surmises has been heard hinting tentatively at a
possible re-grouping of European Powers.  The alliance of the three
Empires is supposed possible.  And it may be possible.  The myth of
Russia's power is dying very hard--hard enough for that combination to
take place--such is the fascination that a discredited show of numbers
will still exercise upon the imagination of a people trained to the
worship of force.  Germany may be willing to lend its support to a
tottering autocracy for the sake of an undisputed first place, and of a
preponderating voice in the settlement of every question in that south-
east of Europe which merges into Asia.  No principle being involved in
such an alliance of mere expediency, it would never be allowed to stand
in the way of Germany's other ambitions.  The fall of autocracy would
bring its restraint automatically to an end.  Thus it may be believed
that the support Russian despotism may get from its once humble friend
and client will not be stamped by that thoroughness which is supposed to
be the mark of German superiority.  Russia weakened down to the second
place, or Russia eclipsed altogether during the throes of her
regeneration, will answer equally well the plans of German policy--which
are many and various and often incredible, though the aim of them all is
the same: aggrandisement of territory and influence, with no regard to
right and justice, either in the East or in the West.  For that and no
other is the true note of your _Welt-politik_ which desires to live.

The German eagle with a Prussian head looks all round the horizon, not so
much for something to do that would count for good in the records of the
earth, as simply for something good to get.  He gazes upon the land and
upon the sea with the same covetous steadiness, for he has become of late
a maritime eagle, and has learned to box the compass.  He gazes north and
south, and east and west, and is inclined to look intemperately upon the
waters of the Mediterranean when they are blue.  The disappearance of the
Russian phantom has given a foreboding of unwonted freedom to the _Welt-
politik_.  According to the national tendency this assumption of Imperial
impulses would run into the grotesque were it not for the spikes of the
_pickelhaubes_ peeping out grimly from behind.  Germany's attitude proves
that no peace for the earth can be found in the expansion of material
interests which she seems to have adopted exclusively as her only aim,
ideal, and watchword.  For the use of those who gaze half-unbelieving at
the passing away of the Russian phantom, part Ghoul, part Djinn, part Old
Man of the Sea, and wait half-doubting for the birth of a nation's soul
in this age which knows no miracles, the once-famous saying of poor
Gambetta, tribune of the people (who was simple and believed in the
"immanent justice of things"), may be adapted in the shape of a warning
that, so far as a future of liberty, concord, and justice is concerned:
"Le Prussianisme--voila l'ennemi!"


At the end of the eighteenth century, when the partition of Poland had
become an accomplished fact, the world qualified it at once as a crime.
This strong condemnation proceeded, of course, from the West of Europe;
the Powers of the Centre, Prussia and Austria, were not likely to admit
that this spoliation fell into the category of acts morally reprehensible
and carrying the taint of anti-social guilt.  As to Russia, the third
party to the crime, and the originator of the scheme, she had no national
conscience at the time.  The will of its rulers was always accepted by
the people as the expression of an omnipotence derived directly from God.
As an act of mere conquest the best excuse for the partition lay simply
in the fact that it happened to be possible; there was the plunder and
there was the opportunity to get hold of it.  Catherine the Great looked
upon this extension of her dominions with a cynical satisfaction.  Her
political argument that the destruction of Poland meant the repression of
revolutionary ideas and the checking of the spread of Jacobinism in
Europe was a characteristically impudent pretence.  There may have been
minds here and there amongst the Russians that perceived, or perhaps only
felt, that by the annexation of the greater part of the Polish Republic,
Russia approached nearer to the comity of civilised nations and ceased,
at least territorially, to be an Asiatic Power.

It was only after the partition of Poland that Russia began to play a
great part in Europe.  To such statesmen as she had then that act of
brigandage must have appeared inspired by great political wisdom.  The
King of Prussia, faithful to the ruling principle of his life, wished
simply to aggrandise his dominions at a much smaller cost and at much
less risk than he could have done in any other direction; for at that
time Poland was perfectly defenceless from a material point of view, and
more than ever, perhaps, inclined to put its faith in humanitarian
illusions.  Morally, the Republic was in a state of ferment and
consequent weakness, which so often accompanies the period of social
reform.  The strength arrayed against her was just then overwhelming; I
mean the comparatively honest (because open) strength of armed forces.
But, probably from innate inclination towards treachery, Frederick of
Prussia selected for himself the part of falsehood and deception.
Appearing on the scene in the character of a friend he entered
deliberately into a treaty of alliance with the Republic, and then,
before the ink was dry, tore it up in brazen defiance of the commonest
decency, which must have been extremely gratifying to his natural tastes.

As to Austria, it shed diplomatic tears over the transaction.  They
cannot be called crocodile tears, insomuch that they were in a measure
sincere.  They arose from a vivid perception that Austria's allotted
share of the spoil could never compensate her for the accession of
strength and territory to the other two Powers.  Austria did not really
want an extension of territory at the cost of Poland.  She could not hope
to improve her frontier in that way, and economically she had no need of
Galicia, a province whose natural resources were undeveloped and whose
salt mines did not arouse her cupidity because she had salt mines of her
own.  No doubt the democratic complexion of Polish institutions was very
distasteful to the conservative monarchy; Austrian statesmen did see at
the time that the real danger to the principle of autocracy was in the
West, in France, and that all the forces of Central Europe would be
needed for its suppression.  But the movement towards a _partage_ on the
part of Russia and Prussia was too definite to be resisted, and Austria
had to follow their lead in the destruction of a State which she would
have preferred to preserve as a possible ally against Prussian and
Russian ambitions.  It may be truly said that the destruction of Poland
secured the safety of the French Revolution.  For when in 1795 the crime
was consummated, the Revolution had turned the corner and was in a state
to defend itself against the forces of reaction.

In the second half of the eighteenth century there were two centres of
liberal ideas on the continent of Europe: France and Poland.  On an
impartial survey one may say without exaggeration that then France was
relatively every bit as weak as Poland; even, perhaps, more so.  But
France's geographical position made her much less vulnerable.  She had no
powerful neighbours on her frontier; a decayed Spain in the south and a
conglomeration of small German Principalities on the east were her happy
lot.  The only States which dreaded the contamination of the new
principles and had enough power to combat it were Prussia, Austria, and
Russia, and they had another centre of forbidden ideas to deal with in
defenceless Poland, unprotected by nature, and offering an immediate
satisfaction to their cupidity.  They made their choice, and the untold
sufferings of a nation which would not die was the price exacted by fate
for the triumph of revolutionary ideals.

Thus even a crime may become a moral agent by the lapse of time and the
course of history.  Progress leaves its dead by the way, for progress is
only a great adventure as its leaders and chiefs know very well in their
hearts.  It is a march into an undiscovered country; and in such an
enterprise the victims do not count.  As an emotional outlet for the
oratory of freedom it was convenient enough to remember the Crime now and
then: the Crime being the murder of a State and the carving of its body
into three pieces.  There was really nothing to do but to drop a few
tears and a few flowers of rhetoric upon the grave.  But the spirit of
the nation refused to rest therein.  It haunted the territories of the
Old Republic in the manner of a ghost haunting its ancestral mansion
where strangers are making themselves at home; a calumniated, ridiculed,
and pooh-pooh'd ghost, and yet never ceasing to inspire a sort of awe, a
strange uneasiness, in the hearts of the unlawful possessors.  Poland
deprived of its independence, of its historical continuity, with its
religion and language persecuted and repressed, became a mere
geographical expression.  And even that, itself, seemed strangely vague,
had lost its definite character, was rendered doubtful by the theories
and the claims of the spoliators who, by a strange effect of uneasy
conscience, while strenuously denying the moral guilt of the transaction,
were always trying to throw a veil of high rectitude over the Crime.  What
was most annoying to their righteousness was the fact that the nation,
stabbed to the heart, refused to grow insensible and cold.  That
persistent and almost uncanny vitality was sometimes very inconvenient to
the rest of Europe also.  It would intrude its irresistible claim into
every problem of European politics, into the theory of European
equilibrium, into the question of the Near East, the Italian question,
the question of Schleswig-Holstein, and into the doctrine of
nationalities.  That ghost, not content with making its ancestral halls
uncomfortable for the thieves, haunted also the Cabinets of Europe, waved
indecently its bloodstained robes in the solemn atmosphere of Council-
rooms, where congresses and conferences sit with closed windows.  It
would not be exorcised by the brutal jeers of Bismarck and the fine
railleries of Gorchakov.

As a Polish friend observed to me some years ago: "Till the year '48 the
Polish problem has been to a certain extent a convenient rallying-point
for all manifestations of liberalism.  Since that time we have come to be
regarded simply as a nuisance.  It's very disagreeable."

I agreed that it was, and he continued: "What are we to do?  We did not
create the situation by any outside action of ours.  Through all the
centuries of its existence Poland has never been a menace to anybody, not
even to the Turks, to whom it has been merely an obstacle."

Nothing could be more true.  The spirit of aggressiveness was absolutely
foreign to the Polish temperament, to which the preservation of its
institutions and its liberties was much more precious than any ideas of
conquest.  Polish wars were defensive, and they were mostly fought within
Poland's own borders.  And that those territories were often invaded was
but a misfortune arising from its geographical position.  Territorial
expansion was never the master-thought of Polish statesmen.  The
consolidation of the territories of the _serenissime_ Republic, which
made of it a Power of the first rank for a time, was not accomplished by
force.  It was not the consequence of successful aggression, but of a
long and successful defence against the raiding neighbours from the East.
The lands of Lithuanian and Ruthenian speech were never conquered by
Poland.  These peoples were not compelled by a series of exhausting wars
to seek safety in annexation.  It was not the will of a prince or a
political intrigue that brought about the union.  Neither was it fear.
The slowly-matured view of the economical and social necessities and,
before all, the ripening moral sense of the masses were the motives that
induced the forty three representatives of Lithuanian and Ruthenian
provinces, led by their paramount prince, to enter into a political
combination unique in the history of the world, a spontaneous and
complete union of sovereign States choosing deliberately the way of
peace.  Never was strict truth better expressed in a political instrument
than in the preamble of the first Union Treaty (1413).  It begins with
the words: "This Union, being the outcome not of hatred, but of
love"--words that Poles have not heard addressed to them politically by
any nation for the last hundred and fifty years.

This union being an organic, living thing capable of growth and
development was, later, modified and confirmed by two other treaties,
which guaranteed to all the parties in a just and eternal union all their
rights, liberties, and respective institutions.  The Polish State offers
a singular instance of an extremely liberal administrative federalism
which, in its Parliamentary life as well as its international politics,
presented a complete unity of feeling and purpose.  As an eminent French
diplomatist remarked many years ago: "It is a very remarkable fact in the
history of the Polish State, this invariable and unanimous consent of the
populations; the more so that, the King being looked upon simply as the
chief of the Republic, there was no monarchical bond, no dynastic
fidelity to control and guide the sentiment of the nations, and their
union remained as a pure affirmation of the national will."  The Grand
Duchy of Lithuania and its Ruthenian Provinces retained their statutes,
their own administration, and their own political institutions.  That
those institutions in the course of time tended to assimilation with the
Polish form was not the result of any pressure, but simply of the
superior character of Polish civilisation.

Even after Poland lost its independence this alliance and this union
remained firm in spirit and fidelity.  All the national movements towards
liberation were initiated in the name of the whole mass of people
inhabiting the limits of the old Republic, and all the Provinces took
part in them with complete devotion.  It is only in the last generation
that efforts have been made to create a tendency towards separation,
which would indeed serve no one but Poland's common enemies.  And,
strangely enough, it is the internationalists, men who professedly care
nothing for race or country, who have set themselves this task of
disruption, one can easily see for what sinister purpose.  The ways of
the internationalists may be dark, but they are not inscrutable.

From the same source no doubt there will flow in the future a poisoned
stream of hints of a reconstituted Poland being a danger to the races
once so closely associated within the territories of the Old Republic.
The old partners in "the Crime" are not likely to forgive their victim
its inconvenient and almost shocking obstinacy in keeping alive.  They
had tried moral assassination before and with some small measure of
success, for, indeed, the Polish question, like all living reproaches,
had become a nuisance.  Given the wrong, and the apparent impossibility
of righting it without running risks of a serious nature, some moral
alleviation may be found in the belief that the victim had brought its
misfortunes on its own head by its own sins.  That theory, too, had been
advanced about Poland (as if other nations had known nothing of sin and
folly), and it made some way in the world at different times, simply
because good care was taken by the interested parties to stop the mouth
of the accused.  But it has never carried much conviction to honest
minds.  Somehow, in defiance of the cynical point of view as to the Force
of Lies and against all the power of falsified evidence, truth often
turns out to be stronger than calumny.  With the course of years,
however, another danger sprang up, a danger arising naturally from the
new political alliances dividing Europe into two armed camps.  It was the
danger of silence.  Almost without exception the Press of Western Europe
in the twentieth century refused to touch the Polish question in any
shape or form whatever.  Never was the fact of Polish vitality more
embarrassing to European diplomacy than on the eve of Poland's

When the war broke out there was something gruesomely comic in the
proclamations of emperors and archdukes appealing to that invincible soul
of a nation whose existence or moral worth they had been so arrogantly
denying for more than a century.  Perhaps in the whole record of human
transactions there have never been performances so brazen and so vile as
the manifestoes of the German Emperor and the Grand Duke Nicholas of
Russia; and, I imagine, no more bitter insult has been offered to human
heart and intelligence than the way in which those proclamations were
flung into the face of historical truth.  It was like a scene in a
cynical and sinister farce, the absurdity of which became in some sort
unfathomable by the reflection that nobody in the world could possibly be
so abjectly stupid as to be deceived for a single moment.  At that time,
and for the first two months of the war, I happened to be in Poland, and
I remember perfectly well that, when those precious documents came out,
the confidence in the moral turpitude of mankind they implied did not
even raise a scornful smile on the lips of men whose most sacred feelings
and dignity they outraged.  They did not deign to waste their contempt on
them.  In fact, the situation was too poignant and too involved for
either hot scorn or a coldly rational discussion.  For the Poles it was
like being in a burning house of which all the issues were locked.  There
was nothing but sheer anguish under the strange, as if stony, calmness
which in the utter absence of all hope falls on minds that are not
constitutionally prone to despair.  Yet in this time of dismay the
irrepressible vitality of the nation would not accept a neutral attitude.
I was told that even if there were no issue it was absolutely necessary
for the Poles to affirm their national existence.  Passivity, which could
be regarded as a craven acceptance of all the material and moral horrors
ready to fall upon the nation, was not to be thought of for a moment.
Therefore, it was explained to me, the Poles _must_ act.  Whether this
was a counsel of wisdom or not it is very difficult to say, but there are
crises of the soul which are beyond the reach of wisdom.  When there is
apparently no issue visible to the eyes of reason, sentiment may yet find
a way out, either towards salvation or to utter perdition, no one can
tell--and the sentiment does not even ask the question.  Being there as a
stranger in that tense atmosphere, which was yet not unfamiliar to me, I
was not very anxious to parade my wisdom, especially after it had been
pointed out in answer to my cautious arguments that, if life has its
values worth fighting for, death, too, has that in it which can make it
worthy or unworthy.

Out of the mental and moral trouble into which the grouping of the Powers
at the beginning of war had thrown the counsels of Poland there emerged
at last the decision that the Polish Legions, a peace organisation in
Galicia directed by Pilsudski (afterwards given the rank of General, and
now apparently the Chief of the Government in Warsaw), should take the
field against the Russians.  In reality it did not matter against which
partner in the "Crime" Polish resentment should be directed.  There was
little to choose between the methods of Russian barbarism, which were
both crude and rotten, and the cultivated brutality tinged with contempt
of Germany's superficial, grinding civilisation.  There was nothing to
choose between them.  Both were hateful, and the direction of the Polish
effort was naturally governed by Austria's tolerant attitude, which had
connived for years at the semi-secret organisation of the Polish Legions.
Besides, the material possibility pointed out the way.  That Poland
should have turned at first against the ally of Western Powers, to whose
moral support she had been looking for so many years, is not a greater
monstrosity than that alliance with Russia which had been entered into by
England and France with rather less excuse and with a view to
eventualities which could perhaps have been avoided by a firmer policy
and by a greater resolution in the face of what plainly appeared

For let the truth be spoken.  The action of Germany, however cruel,
sanguinary, and faithless, was nothing in the nature of a stab in the
dark.  The Germanic Tribes had told the whole world in all possible tones
carrying conviction, the gently persuasive, the coldly logical; in tones
Hegelian, Nietzschean, warlike, pious, cynical, inspired, what they were
going to do to the inferior races of the earth, so full of sin and all
unworthiness.  But with a strange similarity to the prophets of old (who
were also great moralists and invokers of might) they seemed to be crying
in a desert.  Whatever might have been the secret searching of hearts,
the Worthless Ones would not take heed.  It must also be admitted that
the conduct of the menaced Governments carried with it no suggestion of
resistance.  It was no doubt, the effect of neither courage nor fear, but
of that prudence which causes the average man to stand very still in the
presence of a savage dog.  It was not a very politic attitude, and the
more reprehensible in so far that it seemed to arise from the mistrust of
their own people's fortitude.  On simple matters of life and death a
people is always better than its leaders, because a people cannot argue
itself as a whole into a sophisticated state of mind out of deference for
a mere doctrine or from an exaggerated sense of its own cleverness.  I am
speaking now of democracies whose chiefs resemble the tyrant of Syracuse
in this, that their power is unlimited (for who can limit the will of a
voting people?) and who always see the domestic sword hanging by a hair
above their heads.

Perhaps a different attitude would have checked German self-confidence,
and her overgrown militarism would have died from the excess of its own
strength.  What would have been then the moral state of Europe it is
difficult to say.  Some other excess would probably have taken its place,
excess of theory, or excess of sentiment, or an excess of the sense of
security leading to some other form of catastrophe; but it is certain
that in that case the Polish question would not have taken a concrete
form for ages.  Perhaps it would never have taken form!  In this world,
where everything is transient, even the most reproachful ghosts end by
vanishing out of old mansions, out of men's consciences.  Progress of
enlightenment, or decay of faith?  In the years before the war the Polish
ghost was becoming so thin that it was impossible to get for it the
slightest mention in the papers.  A young Pole coming to me from Paris
was extremely indignant, but I, indulging in that detachment which is the
product of greater age, longer experience, and a habit of meditation,
refused to share that sentiment.  He had gone begging for a word on
Poland to many influential people, and they had one and all told him that
they were going to do no such thing.  They were all men of ideas and
therefore might have been called idealists, but the notion most strongly
anchored in their minds was the folly of touching a question which
certainly had no merit of actuality and would have had the appalling
effect of provoking the wrath of their old enemies and at the same time
offending the sensibilities of their new friends.  It was an unanswerable
argument.  I couldn't share my young friend's surprise and indignation.
My practice of reflection had also convinced me that there is nothing on
earth that turns quicker on its pivot than political idealism when
touched by the breath of practical politics.

It would be good to remember that Polish independence as embodied in a
Polish State is not the gift of any kind of journalism, neither is it the
outcome even of some particularly benevolent idea or of any clearly
apprehended sense of guilt.  I am speaking of what I know when I say that
the original and only formative idea in Europe was the idea of delivering
the fate of Poland into the hands of Russian Tsarism.  And, let us
remember, it was assumed then to be a victorious Tsarism at that.  It was
an idea talked of openly, entertained seriously, presented as a
benevolence, with a curious blindness to its grotesque and ghastly
character.  It was the idea of delivering the victim with a kindly smile
and the confident assurance that "it would be all right" to a perfectly
unrepentant assassin, who, after sawing furiously at its throat for a
hundred years or so, was expected to make friends suddenly and kiss it on
both cheeks in the mystic Russian fashion.  It was a singularly
nightmarish combination of international polity, and no whisper of any
other would have been officially tolerated.  Indeed, I do not think in
the whole extent of Western Europe there was anybody who had the
slightest mind to whisper on that subject.  Those were the days of the
dark future, when Benckendorf put down his name on the Committee for the
Relief of Polish Populations driven by the Russian armies into the heart
of Russia, when the Grand Duke Nicholas (the gentleman who advocated a
St. Bartholomew's Night for the suppression of Russian liberalism) was
displaying his "divine" (I have read the very word in an English
newspaper of standing) strategy in the great retreat, where Mr. Iswolsky
carried himself haughtily on the banks of the Seine; and it was beginning
to dawn upon certain people there that he was a greater nuisance even
than the Polish question.

But there is no use in talking about all that.  Some clever person has
said that it is always the unexpected that happens, and on a calm and
dispassionate survey the world does appear mainly to one as a scene of
miracles.  Out of Germany's strength, in whose purpose so many people
refused to believe, came Poland's opportunity, in which nobody could have
been expected to believe.  Out of Russia's collapse emerged that
forbidden thing, the Polish independence, not as a vengeful figure, the
retributive shadow of the crime, but as something much more solid and
more difficult to get rid of--a political necessity and a moral solution.
Directly it appeared its practical usefulness became undeniable, and also
the fact that, for better or worse, it was impossible to get rid of it
again except by the unthinkable way of another carving, of another
partition, of another crime.

Therein lie the strength and the future of the thing so strictly
forbidden no farther back than two years or so, of the Polish
independence expressed in a Polish State.  It comes into the world
morally free, not in virtue of its sufferings, but in virtue of its
miraculous rebirth and of its ancient claim for services rendered to
Europe.  Not a single one of the combatants of all the fronts of the
world has died consciously for Poland's freedom.  That supreme
opportunity was denied even to Poland's own children.  And it is just as
well!  Providence in its inscrutable way had been merciful, for had it
been otherwise the load of gratitude would have been too great, the sense
of obligation too crushing, the joy of deliverance too fearful for
mortals, common sinners with the rest of mankind before the eye of the
Most High.  Those who died East and West, leaving so much anguish and so
much pride behind them, died neither for the creation of States, nor for
empty words, nor yet for the salvation of general ideas.  They died
neither for democracy, nor leagues, nor systems, nor yet for abstract
justice, which is an unfathomable mystery.  They died for something too
deep for words, too mighty for the common standards by which reason
measures the advantages of life and death, too sacred for the vain
discourses that come and go on the lips of dreamers, fanatics,
humanitarians, and statesmen.  They died . . . .

Poland's independence springs up from that great immolation, but Poland's
loyalty to Europe will not be rooted in anything so trenchant and
burdensome as the sense of an immeasurable indebtedness, of that
gratitude which in a worldly sense is sometimes called eternal, but which
lies always at the mercy of weariness and is fatally condemned by the
instability of human sentiments to end in negation.  Polish loyalty will
be rooted in something much more solid and enduring, in something that
could never be called eternal, but which is, in fact, life-enduring.  It
will be rooted in the national temperament, which is about the only thing
on earth that can be trusted.  Men may deteriorate, they may improve too,
but they don't change.  Misfortune is a hard school which may either
mature or spoil a national character, but it may be reasonably advanced
that the long course of adversity of the most cruel kind has not injured
the fundamental characteristics of the Polish nation which has proved its
vitality against the most demoralising odds.  The various phases of the
Polish sense of self-preservation struggling amongst the menacing forces
and the no less threatening chaos of the neighbouring Powers should be
judged impartially.  I suggest impartiality and not indulgence simply
because, when appraising the Polish question, it is not necessary to
invoke the softer emotions.  A little calm reflection on the past and the
present is all that is necessary on the part of the Western world to
judge the movements of a community whose ideals are the same, but whose
situation is unique.  This situation was brought vividly home to me in
the course of an argument more than eighteen months ago.  "Don't forget,"
I was told, "that Poland has got to live in contact with Germany and
Russia to the end of time.  Do you understand the force of that
expression: 'To the end of time'?  Facts must be taken into account, and
especially appalling facts, such as this, to which there is no possible
remedy on earth.  For reasons which are, properly speaking,
physiological, a prospect of friendship with Germans or Russians even in
the most distant future is unthinkable.  Any alliance of heart and mind
would be a monstrous thing, and monsters, as we all know, cannot live.
You can't base your conduct on a monstrous conception.  We are either
worth or not worth preserving, but the horrible psychology of the
situation is enough to drive the national mind to distraction.  Yet under
a destructive pressure, of which Western Europe can have no notion,
applied by forces that were not only crushing but corrupting, we have
preserved our sanity.  Therefore there can be no fear of our losing our
minds simply because the pressure is removed.  We have neither lost our
heads nor yet our moral sense.  Oppression, not merely political, but
affecting social relations, family life, the deepest affections of human
nature, and the very fount of natural emotions, has never made us
vengeful.  It is worthy of notice that with every incentive present in
our emotional reactions we had no recourse to political assassination.
Arms in hand, hopeless or hopefully, and always against immeasurable
odds, we did affirm ourselves and the justice of our cause; but wild
justice has never been a part of our conception of national manliness.  In
all the history of Polish oppression there was only one shot fired which
was not in battle.  Only one!  And the man who fired it in Paris at the
Emperor Alexander II. was but an individual connected with no
organisation, representing no shade of Polish opinion.  The only effect
in Poland was that of profound regret, not at the failure, but at the
mere fact of the attempt.  The history of our captivity is free from that
stain; and whatever follies in the eyes of the world we may have
perpetrated, we have neither murdered our enemies nor acted treacherously
against them, nor yet have been reduced to the point of cursing each

I could not gainsay the truth of that discourse, I saw as clearly as my
interlocutor the impossibility of the faintest sympathetic bond between
Poland and her neighbours ever being formed in the future.  The only
course that remains to a reconstituted Poland is the elaboration,
establishment, and preservation of the most correct method of political
relations with neighbours to whom Poland's existence is bound to be a
humiliation and an offence.  Calmly considered it is an appalling task,
yet one may put one's trust in that national temperament which is so
completely free from aggressiveness and revenge.  Therein lie the
foundations of all hope.  The success of renewed life for that nation
whose fate is to remain in exile, ever isolated from the West, amongst
hostile surroundings, depends on the sympathetic understanding of its
problems by its distant friends, the Western Powers, which in their
democratic development must recognise the moral and intellectual kinship
of that distant outpost of their own type of civilisation, which was the
only basis of Polish culture.

Whatever may be the future of Russia and the final organisation of
Germany, the old hostility must remain unappeased, the fundamental
antagonism must endure for years to come.  The Crime of the Partition was
committed by autocratic Governments which were the Governments of their
time; but those Governments were characterised in the past, as they will
be in the future, by their people's national traits, which remain utterly
incompatible with the Polish mentality and Polish sentiment.  Both the
German submissiveness (idealistic as it may be) and the Russian
lawlessness (fed on the corruption of all the virtues) are utterly
foreign to the Polish nation, whose qualities and defects are altogether
of another kind, tending to a certain exaggeration of individualism and,
perhaps, to an extreme belief in the Governing Power of Free Assent: the
one invariably vital principle in the internal government of the Old
Republic.  There was never a history more free from political bloodshed
than the history of the Polish State, which never knew either feudal
institutions or feudal quarrels.  At the time when heads were falling on
the scaffolds all over Europe there was only one political execution in
Poland--only one; and as to that there still exists a tradition that the
great Chancellor who democratised Polish institutions, and had to order
it in pursuance of his political purpose, could not settle that matter
with his conscience till the day of his death.  Poland, too, had her
civil wars, but this can hardly be made a matter of reproach to her by
the rest of the world.  Conducted with humanity, they left behind them no
animosities and no sense of repression, and certainly no legacy of
hatred.  They were but a recognised argument in political discussion and
tended always towards conciliation.

I cannot imagine, whatever form of democratic government Poland
elaborates for itself, that either the nation or its leaders would do
anything but welcome the closest scrutiny of their renewed political
existence.  The difficulty of the problem of that existence will be so
great that some errors will be unavoidable, and one may be sure that they
will be taken advantage of by its neighbours to discredit that living
witness to a great historical crime.  If not the actual frontiers, then
the moral integrity of the new State is sure to be assailed before the
eyes of Europe.  Economical enmity will also come into play when the
world's work is resumed again and competition asserts its power.  Charges
of aggression are certain to be made, especially as related to the small
States formed of the territories of the Old Republic.  And everybody
knows the power of lies which go about clothed in coats of many colours,
whereas, as is well known, Truth has no such advantage, and for that
reason is often suppressed as not altogether proper for everyday
purposes.  It is not often recognised, because it is not always fit to be

Already there are innuendoes, threats, hints thrown out, and even awful
instances fabricated out of inadequate materials, but it is historically
unthinkable that the Poland of the future, with its sacred tradition of
freedom and its hereditary sense of respect for the rights of individuals
and States, should seek its prosperity in aggressive action or in moral
violence against that part of its once fellow-citizens who are Ruthenians
or Lithuanians.  The only influence that cannot be restrained is simply
the influence of time, which disengages truth from all facts with a
merciless logic and prevails over the passing opinions, the changing
impulses of men.  There can be no doubt that the moral impulses and the
material interests of the new nationalities, which seem to play now the
game of disintegration for the benefit of the world's enemies, will in
the end bring them nearer to the Poland of this war's creation, will
unite them sooner or later by a spontaneous movement towards the State
which had adopted and brought them up in the development of its own
humane culture--the offspring of the West.


We must start from the assumption that promises made by proclamation at
the beginning of this war may be binding on the individuals who made them
under the stress of coming events, but cannot be regarded as binding the
Governments after the end of the war.

Poland has been presented with three proclamations.  Two of them were in
such contrast with the avowed principles and the historic action for the
last hundred years (since the Congress of Vienna) of the Powers
concerned, that they were more like cynical insults to the nation's
deepest feelings, its memory and its intelligence, than state papers of a
conciliatory nature.

The German promises awoke nothing but indignant contempt; the Russian a
bitter incredulity of the most complete kind.  The Austrian proclamation,
which made no promises and contented itself with pointing out the Austro-
Polish relations for the last forty-five years, was received in silence.
For it is a fact that in Austrian Poland alone Polish nationality was
recognised as an element of the Empire, and individuals could breathe the
air of freedom, of civil life, if not of political independence.

But for Poles to be Germanophile is unthinkable.  To be Russophile or
Austrophile is at best a counsel of despair in view of a European
situation which, because of the grouping of the powers, seems to shut
from them every hope, expressed or unexpressed, of a national future
nursed through more than a hundred years of suffering and oppression.

Through most of these years, and especially since 1830, Poland (I use
this expression since Poland exists as a spiritual entity to-day as
definitely as it ever existed in her past) has put her faith in the
Western Powers.  Politically it may have been nothing more than a
consoling illusion, and the nation had a half-consciousness of this.  But
what Poland was looking for from the Western Powers without
discouragement and with unbroken confidence was moral support.

This is a fact of the sentimental order.  But such facts have their
positive value, for their idealism derives from perhaps the highest kind
of reality.  A sentiment asserts its claim by its force, persistence and
universality.  In Poland that sentimental attitude towards the Western
Powers is universal.  It extends to all classes.  The very children are
affected by it as soon as they begin to think.

The political value of such a sentiment consists in this, that it is
based on profound resemblances.  Therefore one can build on it as if it
were a material fact.  For the same reason it would be unsafe to
disregard it if one proposed to build solidly.  The Poles, whom
superficial or ill-informed theorists are trying to force into the social
and psychological formula of Slavonism, are in truth not Slavonic at all.
In temperament, in feeling, in mind, and even in unreason, they are
Western, with an absolute comprehension of all Western modes of thought,
even of those which are remote from their historical experience.

That element of racial unity which may be called Polonism, remained
compressed between Prussian Germanism on one side and the Russian
Slavonism on the other.  For Germanism it feels nothing but hatred.  But
between Polonism and Slavonism there is not so much hatred as a complete
and ineradicable incompatibility.

No political work of reconstructing Poland either as a matter of justice
or expediency could be sound which would leave the new creation in
dependence to Germanism or to Slavonism.

The first need not be considered.  The second must be--unless the Powers
elect to drop the Polish question either under the cover of vague
assurances or without any disguise whatever.

But if it is considered it will be seen at once that the Slavonic
solution of the Polish Question can offer no guarantees of duration or
hold the promise of security for the peace of Europe.

The only basis for it would be the Grand Duke's Manifesto.  But that
Manifesto, signed by a personage now removed from Europe to Asia, and by
a man, moreover, who if true to himself, to his conception of patriotism
and to his family tradition could not have put his hand to it with any
sincerity of purpose, is now divested of all authority.  The forcible
vagueness of its promises, its startling inconsistency with the hundred
years of ruthlessly denationalising oppression permit one to doubt
whether it was ever meant to have any authority.

But in any case it could have had no effect.  The very nature of things
would have brought to nought its professed intentions.

It is impossible to suppose that a State of Russia's power and
antecedents would tolerate a privileged community (of, to Russia,
unnational complexion) within the body of the Empire.  All history shows
that such an arrangement, however hedged in by the most solemn treaties
and declarations, cannot last.  In this case it would lead to a tragic
issue.  The absorption of Polonism is unthinkable.  The last hundred
years of European History proves it undeniably.  There remains then
extirpation, a process of blood and iron; and the last act of the Polish
drama would be played then before a Europe too weary to interfere, and to
the applause of Germany.

It would not be just to say that the disappearance of Polonism would add
any strength to the Slavonic power of expansion.  It would add no
strength, but it would remove a possibly effective barrier against the
surprises the future of Europe may hold in store for the Western Powers.

Thus the question whether Polonism is worth saving presents itself as a
problem of politics with a practical bearing on the stability of European
peace--as a barrier or perhaps better (in view of its detached position)
as an outpost of the Western Powers placed between the great might of
Slavonism which has not yet made up its mind to anything, and the
organised Germanism which has spoken its mind with no uncertain voice,
before the world.

Looked at in that light alone Polonism seems worth saving.  That it has
lived so long on its trust in the moral support of the Western Powers may
give it another and even stronger claim, based on a truth of a more
profound kind.  Polonism had resisted the utmost efforts of Germanism and
Slavonism for more than a hundred years.  Why?  Because of the strength
of its ideals conscious of their kinship with the West.  Such a power of
resistance creates a moral obligation which it would be unsafe to
neglect.  There is always a risk in throwing away a tool of proved

In this profound conviction of the practical and ideal worth of Polonism
one approaches the problem of its preservation with a very vivid sense of
the practical difficulties derived from the grouping of the Powers.  The
uncertainty of the extent and of the actual form of victory for the
Allies will increase the difficulty of formulating a plan of Polish
regeneration at the present moment.

Poland, to strike its roots again into the soil of political Europe, will
require a guarantee of security for the healthy development and for the
untrammelled play of such institutions as she may be enabled to give to

Those institutions will be animated by the spirit of Polonism, which,
having been a factor in the history of Europe and having proved its
vitality under oppression, has established its right to live.  That
spirit, despised and hated by Germany and incompatible with Slavonism
because of moral differences, cannot avoid being (in its renewed
assertion) an object of dislike and mistrust.

As an unavoidable consequence of the past Poland will have to begin its
existence in an atmosphere of enmities and suspicions.  That advanced
outpost of Western civilisation will have to hold its ground in the midst
of hostile camps: always its historical fate.

Against the menace of such a specially dangerous situation the paper and
ink of public Treaties cannot be an effective defence.  Nothing but the
actual, living, active participation of the two Western Powers in the
establishment of the new Polish commonwealth, and in the first twenty
years of its existence, will give the Poles a sufficient guarantee of
security in the work of restoring their national life.

An Anglo-French protectorate would be the ideal form of moral and
material support.  But Russia, as an ally, must take her place in it on
such a footing as will allay to the fullest extent her possible
apprehensions and satisfy her national sentiment.  That necessity will
have to be formally recognised.

In reality Russia has ceased to care much for her Polish possessions.
Public recognition of a mistake in political morality and a voluntary
surrender of territory in the cause of European concord, cannot damage
the prestige of a powerful State.  The new spheres of expansion in
regions more easily assimilable, will more than compensate Russia for the
loss of territory on the Western frontier of the Empire.

The experience of Dual Controls and similar combinations has been so
unfortunate in the past that the suggestion of a Triple Protectorate may
well appear at first sight monstrous even to unprejudiced minds.  But it
must be remembered that this is a unique case and a problem altogether
exceptional, justifying the employment of exceptional means for its
solution.  To those who would doubt the possibility of even bringing such
a scheme into existence the answer may be made that there are
psychological moments when any measure tending towards the ends of
concord and justice may be brought into being.  And it seems that the end
of the war would be the moment for bringing into being the political
scheme advocated in this note.

Its success must depend on the singleness of purpose in the contracting
Powers, and on the wisdom, the tact, the abilities, the good-will of men
entrusted with its initiation and its further control.  Finally it may be
pointed out that this plan is the only one offering serious guarantees to
all the parties occupying their respective positions within the scheme.

If her existence as a state is admitted as just, expedient and necessary,
Poland has the moral right to receive her constitution not from the hand
of an old enemy, but from the Western Powers alone, though of course with
the fullest concurrence of Russia.

This constitution, elaborated by a committee of Poles nominated by the
three Governments, will (after due discussion and amendment by the High
Commissioners of the Protecting Powers) be presented to Poland as the
initial document, the charter of her new life, freely offered and
unreservedly accepted.

It should be as simple and short as a written constitution can
be--establishing the Polish Commonwealth, settling the lines of
representative institutions, the form of judicature, and leaving the
greatest measure possible of self-government to the provinces forming
part of the re-created Poland.

This constitution will be promulgated immediately after the three Powers
had settled the frontiers of the new State, including the town of Danzic
(free port) and a proportion of seaboard.  The legislature will then be
called together and a general treaty will regulate Poland's international
portion as a protected state, the status of the High Commissioners and
such-like matters.  The legislature will ratify, thus making Poland, as
it were, a party in the establishment of the protectorate.  A point of

Other general treaties will define Poland's position in the Anglo-Franco-
Russian alliance, fix the numbers of the army, and settle the
participation of the Powers in its organisation and training.



I have never believed in political assassination as a means to an end,
and least of all in assassination of the dynastic order.  I don't know
how far murder can ever approach the perfection of a fine art, but looked
upon with the cold eye of reason it seems but a crude expedient of
impatient hope or hurried despair.  There are few men whose premature
death could influence human affairs more than on the surface.  The deeper
stream of causes depends not on individuals who, like the mass of
mankind, are carried on by a destiny which no murder has ever been able
to placate, divert, or arrest.

In July of last year I was a stranger in a strange city in the Midlands
and particularly out of touch with the world's politics.  Never a very
diligent reader of newspapers, there were at that time reasons of a
private order which caused me to be even less informed than usual on
public affairs as presented from day to day in that necessarily
atmosphereless, perspectiveless manner of the daily papers, which
somehow, for a man possessed of some historic sense, robs them of all
real interest.  I don't think I had looked at a daily for a month past.

But though a stranger in a strange city I was not lonely, thanks to a
friend who had travelled there out of pure kindness to bear me company in
a conjuncture which, in a most private sense, was somewhat trying.

It was this friend who, one morning at breakfast, informed me of the
murder of the Archduke Ferdinand.

The impression was mediocre.  I was barely aware that such a man existed.
I remembered only that not long before he had visited London.  The
recollection was rather of a cloud of insignificant printed words his
presence in this country provoked.

Various opinions had been expressed of him, but his importance was
Archducal, dynastic, purely accidental.  Can there be in the world of
real men anything more shadowy than an Archduke?  And now he was no more;
removed with an atrocity of circumstances which made one more sensible of
his humanity than when he was in life.  I connected that crime with
Balkanic plots and aspirations so little that I had actually to ask where
it had happened.  My friend told me it was in Serajevo, and wondered what
would be the consequences of that grave event.  He asked me what I
thought would happen next.

It was with perfect sincerity that I answered "Nothing," and having a
great repugnance to consider murder as a factor of politics, I dismissed
the subject.  It fitted with my ethical sense that an act cruel and
absurd should be also useless.  I had also the vision of a crowd of
shadowy Archdukes in the background, out of which one would step forward
to take the place of that dead man in the light of the European stage.
And then, to speak the whole truth, there was no man capable of forming a
judgment who attended so little to the march of events as I did at that
time.  What for want of a more definite term I must call my mind was
fixed upon my own affairs, not because they were in a bad posture, but
because of their fascinating holiday-promising aspect.  I had been
obtaining my information as to Europe at second hand, from friends good
enough to come down now and then to see us.  They arrived with their
pockets full of crumpled newspapers, and answered my queries casually,
with gentle smiles of scepticism as to the reality of my interest.  And
yet I was not indifferent; but the tension in the Balkans had become
chronic after the acute crisis, and one could not help being less
conscious of it.  It had wearied out one's attention.  Who could have
guessed that on that wild stage we had just been looking at a miniature
rehearsal of the great world-drama, the reduced model of the very
passions and violences of what the future held in store for the Powers of
the Old World?  Here and there, perhaps, rare minds had a suspicion of
that possibility, while they watched Old Europe stage-managing fussily by
means of notes and conferences, the prophetic reproduction of its
awaiting fate.  It was wonderfully exact in the spirit; same roar of
guns, same protestations of superiority, same words in the air; race,
liberation, justice--and the same mood of trivial demonstrations.  One
could not take to-day a ticket for Petersburg.  "You mean Petrograd,"
would say the booking clerk.  Shortly after the fall of Adrianople a
friend of mine passing through Sophia asked for some _cafe turc_ at the
end of his lunch.

"Monsieur veut dire Cafe balkanique," the patriotic waiter corrected him

I will not say that I had not observed something of that instructive
aspect of the war of the Balkans both in its first and in its second
phase.  But those with whom I touched upon that vision were pleased to
see in it the evidence of my alarmist cynicism.  As to alarm, I pointed
out that fear is natural to man, and even salutary.  It has done as much
as courage for the preservation of races and institutions.  But from a
charge of cynicism I have always shrunk instinctively.  It is like a
charge of being blind in one eye, a moral disablement, a sort of
disgraceful calamity that must he carried off with a jaunty bearing--a
sort of thing I am not capable of.  Rather than be thought a mere jaunty
cripple I allowed myself to be blinded by the gross obviousness of the
usual arguments.  It was pointed out to me that these Eastern nations
were not far removed from a savage state.  Their economics were yet at
the stage of scratching the earth and feeding the pigs.  The
highly-developed material civilisation of Europe could not allow itself
to be disturbed by a war.  The industry and the finance could not allow
themselves to be disorganised by the ambitions of an idle class, or even
the aspirations, whatever they might be, of the masses.

Very plausible all this sounded.  War does not pay.  There had been a
book written on that theme--an attempt to put pacificism on a material
basis.  Nothing more solid in the way of argument could have been
advanced on this trading and manufacturing globe.  War was "bad
business!"  This was final.

But, truth to say, on this July day I reflected but little on the
condition of the civilised world.  Whatever sinister passions were
heaving under its splendid and complex surface, I was too agitated by a
simple and innocent desire of my own, to notice the signs or interpret
them correctly.  The most innocent of passions will take the edge off
one's judgment.  The desire which possessed me was simply the desire to
travel.  And that being so it would have taken something very plain in
the way of symptoms to shake my simple trust in the stability of things
on the Continent.  My sentiment and not my reason was engaged there.  My
eyes were turned to the past, not to the future; the past that one cannot
suspect and mistrust, the shadowy and unquestionable moral possession the
darkest struggles of which wear a halo of glory and peace.

In the preceding month of May we had received an invitation to spend some
weeks in Poland in a country house in the neighbourhood of Cracow, but
within the Russian frontier.  The enterprise at first seemed to me
considerable.  Since leaving the sea, to which I have been faithful for
so many years, I have discovered that there is in my composition very
little stuff from which travellers are made.  I confess that my first
impulse about a projected journey is to leave it alone.  But the
invitation received at first with a sort of dismay ended by rousing the
dormant energy of my feelings.  Cracow is the town where I spent with my
father the last eighteen months of his life.  It was in that old royal
and academical city that I ceased to be a child, became a boy, had known
the friendships, the admirations, the thoughts and the indignations of
that age.  It was within those historical walls that I began to
understand things, form affections, lay up a store of memories and a fund
of sensations with which I was to break violently by throwing myself into
an unrelated existence.  It was like the experience of another world.  The
wings of time made a great dusk over all this, and I feared at first that
if I ventured bodily in there I would discover that I who have had to do
with a good many imaginary lives have been embracing mere shadows in my
youth.  I feared.  But fear in itself may become a fascination.  Men have
gone, alone and trembling, into graveyards at midnight--just to see what
would happen.  And this adventure was to be pursued in sunshine.  Neither
would it be pursued alone.  The invitation was extended to us all.  This
journey would have something of a migratory character, the invasion of a
tribe.  My present, all that gave solidity and value to it, at any rate,
would stand by me in this test of the reality of my past.  I was pleased
with the idea of showing my companions what Polish country life was like;
to visit the town where I was at school before the boys by my side should
grow too old, and gaining an individual past of their own, should lose
their unsophisticated interest in mine.  It is only in the short instants
of early youth that we have the faculty of coming out of ourselves to see
dimly the visions and share the emotions of another soul.  For youth all
is reality in this world, and with justice, since it apprehends so
vividly its images behind which a longer life makes one doubt whether
there is any substance.  I trusted to the fresh receptivity of these
young beings in whom, unless Heredity is an empty word, there should have
been a fibre which would answer to the sight, to the atmosphere, to the
memories of that corner of the earth where my own boyhood had received
its earliest independent impressions.

The first days of the third week in July, while the telegraph wires
hummed with the words of enormous import which were to fill blue books,
yellow books, white books, and to arouse the wonder of mankind, passed
for us in light-hearted preparations for the journey.  What was it but
just a rush through Germany, to get across as quickly as possible?

Germany is the part of the earth's solid surface of which I know the
least.  In all my life I had been across it only twice.  I may well say
of it _vidi tantum_; and the very little I saw was through the window of
a railway carriage at express speed.  Those journeys of mine had been
more like pilgrimages when one hurries on towards the goal for the
satisfaction of a deeper need than curiosity.  In this last instance,
too, I was so incurious that I would have liked to have fallen asleep on
the shores of England and opened my eyes, if it were possible, only on
the other side of the Silesian frontier.  Yet, in truth, as many others
have done, I had "sensed it"--that promised land of steel, of chemical
dyes, of method, of efficiency; that race planted in the middle of
Europe, assuming in grotesque vanity the attitude of Europeans amongst
effete Asiatics or barbarous niggers; and, with a consciousness of
superiority freeing their hands from all moral bonds, anxious to take up,
if I may express myself so, the "perfect man's burden."  Meantime, in a
clearing of the Teutonic forest, their sages were rearing a Tree of
Cynical Wisdom, a sort of Upas tree, whose shade may be seen now lying
over the prostrate body of Belgium.  It must be said that they laboured
openly enough, watering it with the most authentic sources of all
madness, and watching with their be-spectacled eyes the slow ripening of
the glorious blood-red fruit.  The sincerest words of peace, words of
menace, and I verily believe words of abasement, even if there had been a
voice vile enough to utter them, would have been wasted on their ecstasy.
For when the fruit ripens on a branch it must fall.  There is nothing on
earth that can prevent it.


For reasons which at first seemed to me somewhat obscure, that one of my
companions whose wishes are law decided that our travels should begin in
an unusual way by the crossing of the North Sea.  We should proceed from
Harwich to Hamburg.  Besides being thirty-six times longer than the Dover-
Calais passage this rather unusual route had an air of adventure in
better keeping with the romantic feeling of this Polish journey which for
so many years had been before us in a state of a project full of colour
and promise, but always retreating, elusive like an enticing mirage.

And, after all, it had turned out to be no mirage.  No wonder they were
excited.  It's no mean experience to lay your hands on a mirage.  The day
of departure had come, the very hour had struck.  The luggage was coming
downstairs.  It was most convincing.  Poland then, if erased from the
map, yet existed in reality; it was not a mere _pays du reve_, where you
can travel only in imagination.  For no man, they argued, not even
father, an habitual pursuer of dreams, would push the love of the
novelist's art of make-believe to the point of burdening himself with
real trunks for a voyage _au pays du reve_.

As we left the door of our house, nestling in, perhaps, the most peaceful
nook in Kent, the sky, after weeks of perfectly brazen serenity, veiled
its blue depths and started to weep fine tears for the refreshment of the
parched fields.  A pearly blur settled over them, and a light sifted of
all glare, of everything unkindly and searching that dwells in the
splendour of unveiled skies.  All unconscious of going towards the very
scenes of war, I carried off in my eye, this tiny fragment of Great
Britain; a few fields, a wooded rise; a clump of trees or two, with a
short stretch of road, and here and there a gleam of red wall and tiled
roof above the darkening hedges wrapped up in soft mist and peace.  And I
felt that all this had a very strong hold on me as the embodiment of a
beneficent and gentle spirit; that it was dear to me not as an
inheritance, but as an acquisition, as a conquest in the sense in which a
woman is conquered--by love, which is a sort of surrender.

These were strange, as if disproportionate thoughts to the matter in
hand, which was the simplest sort of a Continental holiday.  And I am
certain that my companions, near as they are to me, felt no other trouble
but the suppressed excitement of pleasurable anticipation.  The forms and
the spirit of the land before their eyes were their inheritance, not
their conquest--which is a thing precarious, and, therefore, the most
precious, possessing you if only by the fear of unworthiness rather than
possessed by you.  Moreover, as we sat together in the same railway
carriage, they were looking forward to a voyage in space, whereas I felt
more and more plainly, that what I had started on was a journey in time,
into the past; a fearful enough prospect for the most consistent, but to
him who had not known how to preserve against his impulses the order and
continuity of his life--so that at times it presented itself to his
conscience as a series of betrayals--still more dreadful.

I down here these thoughts so exclusively personal, to explain why there
was no room in my consciousness for the apprehension of a European war.  I
don't mean to say that I ignored the possibility; I simply did not think
of it.  And it made no difference; for if I had thought of it, it could
only have been in the lame and inconclusive way of the common uninitiated
mortals; and I am sure that nothing short of intellectual
certitude--obviously unattainable by the man in the street--could have
stayed me on that journey which now that I had started on it seemed an
irrevocable thing, a necessity of my self-respect.

London, the London before the war, flaunting its enormous glare, as of a
monstrous conflagration up into the black sky--with its best Venice-like
aspect of rainy evenings, the wet asphalted streets lying with the sheen
of sleeping water in winding canals, and the great houses of the city
towering all dark, like empty palaces, above the reflected lights of the
glistening roadway.

Everything in the subdued incomplete night-life around the Mansion House
went on normally with its fascinating air of a dead commercial city of
sombre walls through which the inextinguishable activity of its millions
streamed East and West in a brilliant flow of lighted vehicles.

In Liverpool Street, as usual too, through the double gates, a continuous
line of taxi-cabs glided down the inclined approach and up again, like an
endless chain of dredger-buckets, pouring in the passengers, and dipping
them out of the great railway station under the inexorable pallid face of
the clock telling off the diminishing minutes of peace.  It was the hour
of the boat-trains to Holland, to Hamburg, and there seemed to be no lack
of people, fearless, reckless, or ignorant, who wanted to go to these
places.  The station was normally crowded, and if there was a great
flutter of evening papers in the multitude of hands there were no signs
of extraordinary emotion on that multitude of faces.  There was nothing
in them to distract me from the thought that it was singularly
appropriate that I should start from this station on the retraced way of
my existence.  For this was the station at which, thirty-seven years
before, I arrived on my first visit to London.  Not the same building,
but the same spot.  At nineteen years of age, after a period of probation
and training I had imposed upon myself as ordinary seaman on board a
North Sea coaster, I had come up from Lowestoft--my first long railway
journey in England--to "sign on" for an Antipodean voyage in a deep-water
ship.  Straight from a railway carriage I had walked into the great city
with something of the feeling of a traveller penetrating into a vast and
unexplored wilderness.  No explorer could have been more lonely.  I did
not know a single soul of all these millions that all around me peopled
the mysterious distances of the streets.  I cannot say I was free from a
little youthful awe, but at that age one's feelings are simple.  I was
elated.  I was pursuing a clear aim, I was carrying out a deliberate plan
of making out of myself, in the first place, a seaman worthy of the
service, good enough to work by the side of the men with whom I was to
live; and in the second place, I had to justify my existence to myself,
to redeem a tacit moral pledge.  Both these aims were to be attained by
the same effort.  How simple seemed the problem of life then, on that
hazy day of early September in the year 1878, when I entered London for
the first time.

From that point of view--Youth and a straightforward scheme of conduct--it
was certainly a year of grace.  All the help I had to get in touch with
the world I was invading was a piece of paper not much bigger than the
palm of my hand--in which I held it--torn out of a larger plan of London
for the greater facility of reference.  It had been the object of careful
study for some days past.  The fact that I could take a conveyance at the
station never occurred to my mind, no, not even when I got out into the
street, and stood, taking my anxious bearings, in the midst, so to speak,
of twenty thousand hansoms.  A strange absence of mind or unconscious
conviction that one cannot approach an important moment of one's life by
means of a hired carriage?  Yes, it would have been a preposterous
proceeding.  And indeed I was to make an Australian voyage and encircle
the globe before ever entering a London hansom.

Another document, a cutting from a newspaper, containing the address of
an obscure shipping agent, was in my pocket.  And I needed not to take it
out.  That address was as if graven deep in my brain.  I muttered its
words to myself as I walked on, navigating the sea of London by the chart
concealed in the palm of my hand; for I had vowed to myself not to
inquire my way from anyone.  Youth is the time of rash pledges.  Had I
taken a wrong turning I would have been lost; and if faithful to my
pledge I might have remained lost for days, for weeks, have left perhaps
my bones to be discovered bleaching in some blind alley of the
Whitechapel district, as it had happened to lonely travellers lost in the
bush.  But I walked on to my destination without hesitation or mistake,
showing there, for the first time, some of that faculty to absorb and
make my own the imaged topography of a chart, which in later years was to
help me in regions of intricate navigation to keep the ships entrusted to
me off the ground.  The place I was bound to was not easy to find.  It
was one of those courts hidden away from the charted and navigable
streets, lost among the thick growth of houses like a dark pool in the
depths of a forest, approached by an inconspicuous archway as if by
secret path; a Dickensian nook of London, that wonder city, the growth of
which bears no sign of intelligent design, but many traces of freakishly
sombre phantasy the Great Master knew so well how to bring out by the
magic of his understanding love.  And the office I entered was Dickensian
too.  The dust of the Waterloo year lay on the panes and frames of its
windows; early Georgian grime clung to its sombre wainscoting.

It was one o'clock in the afternoon, but the day was gloomy.  By the
light of a single gas-jet depending from the smoked ceiling I saw an
elderly man, in a long coat of black broadcloth.  He had a grey beard, a
big nose, thick lips, and heavy shoulders.  His curly white hair and the
general character of his head recalled vaguely a burly apostle in the
_barocco_ style of Italian art.  Standing up at a tall, shabby, slanting
desk, his silver-rimmed spectacles pushed up high on his forehead, he was
eating a mutton-chop, which had been just brought to him from some
Dickensian eating-house round the corner.

Without ceasing to eat he turned to me his florid, _barocco_ apostle's
face with an expression of inquiry.

I produced elaborately a series of vocal sounds which must have borne
sufficient resemblance to the phonetics of English speech, for his face
broke into a smile of comprehension almost at once.--"Oh, it's you who
wrote a letter to me the other day from Lowestoft about getting a ship."

I had written to him from Lowestoft.  I can't remember a single word of
that letter now.  It was my very first composition in the English
language.  And he had understood it, evidently, for he spoke to the point
at once, explaining that his business, mainly, was to find good ships for
young gentlemen who wanted to go to sea as premium apprentices with a
view of being trained for officers.  But he gathered that this was not my
object.  I did not desire to be apprenticed.  Was that the case?

It was.  He was good enough to say then, "Of course I see that you are a
gentleman.  But your wish is to get a berth before the mast as an Able
Seaman if possible.  Is that it?"

It was certainly my wish; but he stated doubtfully that he feared he
could not help me much in this.  There was an Act of Parliament which
made it penal to procure ships for sailors.  "An Act-of-Parliament.  A
law," he took pains to impress it again and again on my foreign
understanding, while I looked at him in consternation.

I had not been half an hour in London before I had run my head against an
Act of Parliament!  What a hopeless adventure!  However, the _barocco_
apostle was a resourceful person in his way, and we managed to get round
the hard letter of it without damage to its fine spirit.  Yet, strictly
speaking, it was not the conduct of a good citizen; and in retrospect
there is an unfilial flavour about that early sin of mine.  For this Act
of Parliament, the Merchant Shipping Act of the Victorian era, had been
in a manner of speaking a father and mother to me.  For many years it had
regulated and disciplined my life, prescribed my food and the amount of
my breathing space, had looked after my health and tried as much as
possible to secure my personal safety in a risky calling.  It isn't such
a bad thing to lead a life of hard toil and plain duty within the four
corners of an honest Act of Parliament.  And I am glad to say that its
seventies have never been applied to me.

In the year 1878, the year of "Peace with Honour," I had walked as lone
as any human being in the streets of London, out of Liverpool Street
Station, to surrender myself to its care.  And now, in the year of the
war waged for honour and conscience more than for any other cause, I was
there again, no longer alone, but a man of infinitely dear and close ties
grown since that time, of work done, of words written, of friendships
secured.  It was like the closing of a thirty-six-year cycle.

All unaware of the War Angel already awaiting, with the trumpet at his
lips, the stroke of the fatal hour, I sat there, thinking that this life
of ours is neither long nor short, but that it can appear very wonderful,
entertaining, and pathetic, with symbolic images and bizarre associations
crowded into one half-hour of retrospective musing.

I felt, too, that this journey, so suddenly entered upon, was bound to
take me away from daily life's actualities at every step.  I felt it more
than ever when presently we steamed out into the North Sea, on a dark
night fitful with gusts of wind, and I lingered on deck, alone of all the
tale of the ship's passengers.  That sea was to me something
unforgettable, something much more than a name.  It had been for some
time the schoolroom of my trade.  On it, I may safely say, I had learned,
too, my first words of English.  A wild and stormy abode, sometimes, was
that confined, shallow-water academy of seamanship from which I launched
myself on the wide oceans.  My teachers had been the sailors of the
Norfolk shore; coast men, with steady eyes, mighty limbs, and gentle
voice; men of very few words, which at least were never bare of meaning.
Honest, strong, steady men, sobered by domestic ties, one and all, as far
as I can remember.

That is what years ago the North Sea I could hear growling in the dark
all round the ship had been for me.  And I fancied that I must have been
carrying its voice in my ear ever since, for nothing could be more
familiar than those short, angry sounds I was listening to with a smile
of affectionate recognition.

I could not guess that before many days my old schoolroom would be
desecrated by violence, littered with wrecks, with death walking its
waves, hiding under its waters.  Perhaps while I am writing these words
the children, or maybe the grandchildren, of my pacific teachers are out
in trawlers, under the Naval flag, dredging for German submarine mines.


I have said that the North Sea was my finishing school of seamanship
before I launched myself on the wider oceans.  Confined as it is in
comparison with the vast stage of this water-girt globe, I did not know
it in all its parts.  My class-room was the region of the English East
Coast which, in the year of Peace with Honour, had long forgotten the war
episodes belonging to its maritime history.  It was a peaceful coast,
agricultural, industrial, the home of fishermen.  At night the lights of
its many towns played on the clouds, or in clear weather lay still, here
and there, in brilliant pools above the ink-black outline of the land.  On
many a night I have hauled at the braces under the shadow of that coast,
envying, as sailors will, the people on shore sleeping quietly in their
beds within sound of the sea.  I imagine that not one head on those
envied pillows was made uneasy by the slightest premonition of the
realities of naval war the short lifetime of one generation was to bring
so close to their homes.

Though far away from that region of kindly memories and traversing a part
of the North Sea much less known to me, I was deeply conscious of the
familiarity of my surroundings.  It was a cloudy, nasty day: and the
aspects of Nature don't change, unless in the course of thousands of
years--or, perhaps, centuries.  The Phoenicians, its first discoverers,
the Romans, the first imperial rulers of that sea, had experienced days
like this, so different in the wintry quality of the light, even on a
July afternoon, from anything they had ever known in their native
Mediterranean.  For myself, a very late comer into that sea, and its
former pupil, I accorded amused recognition to the characteristic aspect
so well remembered from my days of training.  The same old thing.  A grey-
green expanse of smudgy waters grinning angrily at one with white foam-
ridges, and over all a cheerless, unglowing canopy, apparently made of
wet blotting-paper.  From time to time a flurry of fine rain blew along
like a puff of smoke across the dots of distant fishing boats, very few,
very scattered, and tossing restlessly on an ever dissolving, ever re-
forming sky-line.

Those flurries, and the steady rolling of the ship, accounted for the
emptiness of the decks, favouring my reminiscent mood.  It might have
been a day of five and thirty years ago, when there were on this and
every other sea more sails and less smoke-stacks to be seen.  Yet, thanks
to the unchangeable sea I could have given myself up to the illusion of a
revised past, had it not been for the periodical transit across my gaze
of a German passenger.  He was marching round and round the boat deck
with characteristic determination.  Two sturdy boys gambolled round him
in his progress like two disorderly satellites round their parent planet.
He was bringing them home, from their school in England, for their
holiday.  What could have induced such a sound Teuton to entrust his
offspring to the unhealthy influences of that effete, corrupt, rotten and
criminal country I cannot imagine.  It could hardly have been from
motives of economy.  I did not speak to him.  He trod the deck of that
decadent British ship with a scornful foot while his breast (and to a
large extent his stomach, too) appeared expanded by the consciousness of
a superior destiny.  Later I could observe the same truculent bearing,
touched with the racial grotesqueness, in the men of the _Landwehr_
corps, that passed through Cracow to reinforce the Austrian army in
Eastern Galicia.  Indeed, the haughty passenger might very well have
been, most probably was, an officer of the _Landwehr_; and perhaps those
two fine active boys are orphans by now.  Thus things acquire
significance by the lapse of time.  A citizen, a father, a warrior, a
mote in the dust-cloud of six million fighting particles, an unconsidered
trifle for the jaws of war, his humanity was not consciously impressed on
my mind at the time.  Mainly, for me, he was a sharp tapping of heels
round the corner of the deck-house, a white yachting cap and a green
overcoat getting periodically between my eyes and the shifting
cloud-horizon of the ashy-grey North Sea.  He was but a shadowy intrusion
and a disregarded one, for, far away there to the West, in the direction
of the Dogger Bank, where fishermen go seeking their daily bread and
sometimes find their graves, I could behold an experience of my own in
the winter of '81, not of war, truly, but of a fairly lively contest with
the elements which were very angry indeed.

There had been a troublesome week of it, including one hateful night--or
a night of hate (it isn't for nothing that the North Sea is also called
the German Ocean)--when all the fury stored in its heart seemed
concentrated on one ship which could do no better than float on her side
in an unnatural, disagreeable, precarious, and altogether intolerable
manner.  There were on board, besides myself, seventeen men all good and
true, including a round enormous Dutchman who, in those hours between
sunset and sunrise, managed to lose his blown-out appearance somehow,
became as it were deflated, and thereafter for a good long time moved in
our midst wrinkled and slack all over like a half-collapsed balloon.  The
whimpering of our deck-boy, a skinny, impressionable little scarecrow out
of a training-ship, for whom, because of the tender immaturity of his
nerves, this display of German Ocean frightfulness was too much (before
the year was out he developed into a sufficiently cheeky young ruffian),
his desolate whimpering, I say, heard between the gusts of that black,
savage night, was much more present to my mind and indeed to my senses
than the green overcoat and the white cap of the German passenger
circling the deck indefatigably, attended by his two gyrating children.

"That's a very nice gentleman."  This information, together with the fact
that he was a widower and a regular passenger twice a year by the ship,
was communicated to me suddenly by our captain.  At intervals through the
day he would pop out of the chart-room and offer me short snatches of
conversation.  He owned a simple soul and a not very entertaining mind,
and he was without malice and, I believe, quite unconsciously, a warm
Germanophil.  And no wonder!  As he told me himself, he had been fifteen
years on that run, and spent almost as much of his life in Hamburg as in

"Wonderful people they are," he repeated from time to time, without
entering into particulars, but with many nods of sagacious obstinacy.
What he knew of them, I suppose, were a few commercial travellers and
small merchants, most likely.  But I had observed long before that German
genius has a hypnotising power over half-baked souls and half-lighted
minds.  There is an immense force of suggestion in highly organised
mediocrity.  Had it not hypnotised half Europe?  My man was very much
under the spell of German excellence.  On the other hand, his contempt
for France was equally general and unbounded.  I tried to advance some
arguments against this position, but I only succeeded in making him
hostile.  "I believe you are a Frenchman yourself," he snarled at last,
giving me an intensely suspicious look; and forthwith broke off
communications with a man of such unsound sympathies.

Hour by hour the blotting-paper sky and the great flat greenish smudge of
the sea had been taking on a darker tone, without any change in their
colouring and texture.  Evening was coming on over the North Sea.  Black
uninteresting hummocks of land appeared, dotting the duskiness of water
and clouds in the Eastern board: tops of islands fringing the German
shore.  While I was looking at their antics amongst the waves--and for
all their solidity they were very elusive things in the failing
light--another passenger came out on deck.  This one wore a dark overcoat
and a grey cap.  The yellow leather strap of his binocular case crossed
his chest.  His elderly red cheeks nourished but a very thin crop of
short white hairs, and the end of his nose was so perfectly round that it
determined the whole character of his physiognomy.  Indeed nothing else
in it had the slightest chance to assert itself.  His disposition, unlike
the widower's, appeared to be mild and humane.  He offered me the loan of
his glasses.  He had a wife and some small children concealed in the
depths of the ship, and he thought they were very well where they were.
His eldest son was about the decks somewhere.

"We are Americans," he remarked weightily, but in a rather peculiar tone.
He spoke English with the accent of our captain's "wonderful people," and
proceeded to give me the history of the family's crossing the Atlantic in
a White Star liner.  They remained in England just the time necessary for
a railway journey from Liverpool to Harwich.  His people (those in the
depths of the ship) were naturally a little tired.

At that moment a young man of about twenty, his son, rushed up to us from
the fore-deck in a state of intense elation.  "Hurrah," he cried under
his breath.  "The first German light!  Hurrah!"

And those two American citizens shook hands on it with the greatest
fervour, while I turned away and received full in the eyes the brilliant
wink of the Borkum lighthouse squatting low down in the darkness.  The
shade of the night had settled on the North Sea.

I do not think I have ever seen before a night so full of lights.  The
great change of sea life since my time was brought home to me.  I had
been conscious all day of an interminable procession of steamers.  They
went on and on as if in chase of each other, the Baltic trade, the trade
of Scandinavia, of Denmark, of Germany, pitching heavily into a head sea
and bound for the gateway of Dover Straits.  Singly, and in small
companies of two and three, they emerged from the dull, colourless,
sunless distances ahead as if the supply of rather roughly finished
mechanical toys were inexhaustible in some mysterious cheap store away
there, below the grey curve of the earth.  Cargo steam vessels have
reached by this time a height of utilitarian ugliness which, when one
reflects that it is the product of human ingenuity, strikes hopeless awe
into one.  These dismal creations look still uglier at sea than in port,
and with an added touch of the ridiculous.  Their rolling waddle when
seen at a certain angle, their abrupt clockwork nodding in a sea-way, so
unlike the soaring lift and swing of a craft under sail, have in them
something caricatural, a suggestion of a low parody directed at noble
predecessors by an improved generation of dull, mechanical toilers,
conceited and without grace.

When they switched on (each of these unlovely cargo tanks carried tame
lightning within its slab-sided body), when they switched on their lamps
they spangled the night with the cheap, electric, shop-glitter, here,
there, and everywhere, as of some High Street, broken up and washed out
to sea.  Later, Heligoland cut into the overhead darkness with its
powerful beam, infinitely prolonged out of unfathomable night under the

I remained on deck until we stopped and a steam pilot-boat, so
overlighted amidships that one could not make out her complete shape,
glided across our bows and sent a pilot on board.  I fear that the oar,
as a working implement, will become presently as obsolete as the sail.
The pilot boarded us in a motor-dinghy.  More and more is mankind
reducing its physical activities to pulling levers and twirling little
wheels.  Progress!  Yet the older methods of meeting natural forces
demanded intelligence too; an equally fine readiness of wits.  And
readiness of wits working in combination with the strength of muscles
made a more complete man.

It was really a surprisingly small dinghy and it ran to and fro like a
water-insect fussing noisily down there with immense self-importance.
Within hail of us the hull of the Elbe lightship floated all dark and
silent under its enormous round, service lantern; a faithful black shadow
watching the broad estuary full of lights.

Such was my first view of the Elbe approached under the wings of peace
ready for flight away from the luckless shores of Europe.  Our visual
impressions remain with us so persistently that I find it extremely
difficult to hold fast to the rational belief that now everything is dark
over there, that the Elbe lightship has been towed away from its post of
duty, the triumphant beam of Heligoland extinguished, and the pilot-boat
laid up, or turned to warlike uses for lack of its proper work to do.  And
obviously it must be so.

Any trickle of oversea trade that passes yet that way must be creeping
along cautiously with the unlighted, war-blighted black coast close on
one hand, and sudden death on the other.  For all the space we steamed
through that Sunday evening must now be one great minefield, sown thickly
with the seeds of hate; while submarines steal out to sea, over the very
spot perhaps where the insect-dinghy put a pilot on board of us with so
much fussy importance.  Mines; Submarines.  The last word in sea-warfare!
Progress--impressively disclosed by this war.

There have been other wars!  Wars not inferior in the greatness of the
stake and in the fierce animosity of feelings.  During that one which was
finished a hundred years ago it happened that while the English Fleet was
keeping watch on Brest, an American, perhaps Fulton himself, offered to
the Maritime Prefect of the port and to the French Admiral, an invention
which would sink all the unsuspecting English ships one after another--or,
at any rate most of them.  The offer was not even taken into
consideration; and the Prefect ends his report to the Minister in Paris
with a fine phrase of indignation: "It is not the sort of death one would
deal to brave men."

And behold, before history had time to hatch another war of the like
proportions in the intensity of aroused passions and the greatness of
issues, the dead flavour of archaism descended on the manly sentiment of
those self-denying words.  Mankind has been demoralised since by its own
mastery of mechanical appliances.  Its spirit is apparently so weak now,
and its flesh has grown so strong, that it will face any deadly horror of
destruction and cannot resist the temptation to use any stealthy,
murderous contrivance.  It has become the intoxicated slave of its own
detestable ingenuity.  It is true, too, that since the Napoleonic time
another sort of war-doctrine has been inculcated in a nation, and held
out to the world.


On this journey of ours, which for me was essentially not a progress, but
a retracing of footsteps on the road of life, I had no beacons to look
for in Germany.  I had never lingered in that land which, on the whole,
is so singularly barren of memorable manifestations of generous
sympathies and magnanimous impulses.  An ineradicable, invincible,
provincialism of envy and vanity clings to the forms of its thought like
a frowsy garment.  Even while yet very young I turned my eyes away from
it instinctively as from a threatening phantom.  I believe that children
and dogs have, in their innocence, a special power of perception as far
as spectral apparitions and coming misfortunes are concerned.

I let myself be carried through Germany as if it were pure space, without
sights, without sounds.  No whispers of the war reached my voluntary
abstraction.  And perhaps not so very voluntary after all!  Each of us is
a fascinating spectacle to himself, and I had to watch my own personality
returning from another world, as it were, to revisit the glimpses of old
moons.  Considering the condition of humanity, I am, perhaps, not so much
to blame for giving myself up to that occupation.  We prize the sensation
of our continuity, and we can only capture it in that way.  By watching.

We arrived in Cracow late at night.  After a scrambly supper, I said to
my eldest boy, "I can't go to bed.  I am going out for a look round.

He was ready enough.  For him, all this was part of the interesting
adventure of the whole journey.  We stepped out of the portal of the
hotel into an empty street, very silent and bright with moonlight.  I
was, indeed, revisiting the glimpses of the moon.  I felt so much like a
ghost that the discovery that I could remember such material things as
the right turn to take and the general direction of the street gave me a
moment of wistful surprise.

The street, straight and narrow, ran into the great Market Square of the
town, the centre of its affairs and of the lighter side of its life.  We
could see at the far end of the street a promising widening of space.  At
the corner an unassuming (but armed) policeman, wearing ceremoniously at
midnight a pair of white gloves which made his big hands extremely
noticeable, turned his head to look at the grizzled foreigner holding
forth in a strange tongue to a youth on whose arm he leaned.

The Square, immense in its solitude, was full to the brim of moonlight.
The garland of lights at the foot of the houses seemed to burn at the
bottom of a bluish pool.  I noticed with infinite satisfaction that the
unnecessary trees the Municipality insisted upon sticking between the
stones had been steadily refusing to grow.  They were not a bit bigger
than the poor victims I could remember.  Also, the paving operations
seemed to be exactly at the same point at which I left them forty years
before.  There were the dull, torn-up patches on that bright expanse, the
piles of paving material looking ominously black, like heads of rocks on
a silvery sea.  Who was it that said that Time works wonders?  What an
exploded superstition!  As far as these trees and these paving stones
were concerned, it had worked nothing.  The suspicion of the
unchangeableness of things already vaguely suggested to my senses by our
rapid drive from the railway station was agreeably strengthened within

"We are now on the line A.B.," I said to my companion, importantly.

It was the name bestowed in my time on one of the sides of the Square by
the senior students of that town of classical learning and historical
relics.  The common citizens knew nothing of it, and, even if they had,
would not have dreamed of taking it seriously.  He who used it was of the
initiated, belonged to the Schools.  We youngsters regarded that name as
a fine jest, the invention of a most excellent fancy.  Even as I uttered
it to my boy I experienced again that sense of my privileged initiation.
And then, happening to look up at the wall, I saw in the light of the
corner lamp, a white, cast-iron tablet fixed thereon, bearing an
inscription in raised black letters, thus: "Line A.B."  Heavens!  The
name had been adopted officially!  Any town urchin, any guttersnipe, any
herb-selling woman of the market-place, any wandering Boeotian, was free
to talk of the line A.B., to walk on the line A.B., to appoint to meet
his friends on the line A.B.  It had become a mere name in a directory.  I
was stunned by the extreme mutability of things.  Time could work
wonders, and no mistake.  A Municipality had stolen an invention of
excellent fancy, and a fine jest had turned into a horrid piece of cast-

I proposed that we should walk to the other end of the line, using the
profaned name, not only without gusto, but with positive distaste.  And
this, too, was one of the wonders of Time, for a bare minute had worked
that change.  There was at the end of the line a certain street I wanted
to look at, I explained to my companion.

To our right the unequal massive towers of St. Mary's Church soared aloft
into the ethereal radiance of the air, very black on their shaded sides,
glowing with a soft phosphorescent sheen on the others.  In the distance
the Florian Gate, thick and squat under its pointed roof, barred the
street with the square shoulders of the old city wall.  In the narrow,
brilliantly pale vista of bluish flagstones and silvery fronts of houses,
its black archway stood out small and very distinct.

There was not a soul in sight, and not even the echo of a footstep for
our ears.  Into this coldly illuminated and dumb emptiness there issued
out of my aroused memory, a small boy of eleven, wending his way, not
very fast, to a preparatory school for day-pupils on the second floor of
the third house down from the Florian Gate.  It was in the winter months
of 1868.  At eight o'clock of every morning that God made, sleet or
shine, I walked up Florian Street.  But of that, my first school, I
remember very little.  I believe that one of my co-sufferers there has
become a much appreciated editor of historical documents.  But I didn't
suffer much from the various imperfections of my first school.  I was
rather indifferent to school troubles.  I had a private gnawing worm of
my own.  This was the time of my father's last illness.  Every evening at
seven, turning my back on the Florian Gate, I walked all the way to a big
old house in a quiet narrow street a good distance beyond the Great
Square.  There, in a large drawing-room, panelled and bare, with heavy
cornices and a lofty ceiling, in a little oasis of light made by two
candles in a desert of dusk, I sat at a little table to worry and ink
myself all over till the task of my preparation was done.  The table of
my toil faced a tall white door, which was kept closed; now and then it
would come ajar and a nun in a white coif would squeeze herself through
the crack, glide across the room, and disappear.  There were two of these
noiseless nursing nuns.  Their voices were seldom heard.  For, indeed,
what could they have had to say?  When they did speak to me it was with
their lips hardly moving, in a claustral, clear whisper.  Our domestic
matters were ordered by the elderly housekeeper of our neighbour on the
second floor, a Canon of the Cathedral, lent for the emergency.  She,
too, spoke but seldom.  She wore a black dress with a cross hanging by a
chain on her ample bosom.  And though when she spoke she moved her lips
more than the nuns, she never let her voice rise above a peacefully
murmuring note.  The air around me was all piety, resignation, and

I don't know what would have become of me if I had not been a reading
boy.  My prep. finished I would have had nothing to do but sit and watch
the awful stillness of the sick room flow out through the closed door and
coldly enfold my scared heart.  I suppose that in a futile childish way I
would have gone crazy.  But I was a reading boy.  There were many books
about, lying on consoles, on tables, and even on the floor, for we had
not had time to settle down.  I read!  What did I not read!  Sometimes
the elder nun, gliding up and casting a mistrustful look on the open
pages, would lay her hand lightly on my head and suggest in a doubtful
whisper, "Perhaps it is not very good for you to read these books."  I
would raise my eyes to her face mutely, and with a vague gesture of
giving it up she would glide away.

Later in the evening, but not always, I would be permitted to tip-toe
into the sick room to say good-night to the figure prone on the bed,
which often could not acknowledge my presence but by a slow movement of
the eyes, put my lips dutifully to the nerveless hand lying on the
coverlet, and tip-toe out again.  Then I would go to bed, in a room at
the end of the corridor, and often, not always, cry myself into a good
sound sleep.

I looked forward to what was coming with an incredulous terror.  I turned
my eyes from it sometimes with success, and yet all the time I had an
awful sensation of the inevitable.  I had also moments of revolt which
stripped off me some of my simple trust in the government of the
universe.  But when the inevitable entered the sick room and the white
door was thrown wide open, I don't think I found a single tear to shed.  I
have a suspicion that the Canon's housekeeper looked on me as the most
callous little wretch on earth.

The day of the funeral came in due course and all the generous "Youth of
the Schools," the grave Senate of the University, the delegations of the
Trade-guilds, might have obtained (if they cared) _de visu_ evidence of
the callousness of the little wretch.  There was nothing in my aching
head but a few words, some such stupid sentences as, "It's done," or,
"It's accomplished" (in Polish it is much shorter), or something of the
sort, repeating itself endlessly.  The long procession moved out of the
narrow street, down a long street, past the Gothic front of St. Mary's
under its unequal towers, towards the Florian Gate.

In the moonlight-flooded silence of the old town of glorious tombs and
tragic memories, I could see again the small boy of that day following a
hearse; a space kept clear in which I walked alone, conscious of an
enormous following, the clumsy swaying of the tall black machine, the
chanting of the surpliced clergy at the head, the flames of tapers
passing under the low archway of the gate, the rows of bared heads on the
pavements with fixed, serious eyes.  Half the population had turned out
on that fine May afternoon.  They had not come to honour a great
achievement, or even some splendid failure.  The dead and they were
victims alike of an unrelenting destiny which cut them off from every
path of merit and glory.  They had come only to render homage to the
ardent fidelity of the man whose life had been a fearless confession in
word and deed of a creed which the simplest heart in that crowd could
feel and understand.

It seemed to me that if I remained longer there in that narrow street I
should become the helpless prey of the Shadows I had called up.  They
were crowding upon me, enigmatic and insistent in their clinging air of
the grave that tasted of dust and of the bitter vanity of old hopes.

"Let's go back to the hotel, my boy," I said.  "It's getting late."

It will be easily understood that I neither thought nor dreamt that night
of a possible war.  For the next two days I went about amongst my fellow
men, who welcomed me with the utmost consideration and friendliness, but
unanimously derided my fears of a war.  They would not believe in it.  It
was impossible.  On the evening of the second day I was in the hotel's
smoking room, an irrationally private apartment, a sanctuary for a few
choice minds of the town, always pervaded by a dim religious light, and
more hushed than any club reading-room I have ever been in.  Gathered
into a small knot, we were discussing the situation in subdued tones
suitable to the genius of the place.

A gentleman with a fine head of white hair suddenly pointed an impatient
finger in my direction and apostrophised me.

"What I want to know is whether, should there be war, England would come

The time to draw a breath, and I spoke out for the Cabinet without

"Most assuredly.  I should think all Europe knows that by this time."

He took hold of the lapel of my coat, and, giving it a slight jerk for
greater emphasis, said forcibly:

"Then, if England will, as you say, and all the world knows it, there can
be no war.  Germany won't be so mad as that."

On the morrow by noon we read of the German ultimatum.  The day after
came the declaration of war, and the Austrian mobilisation order.  We
were fairly caught.  All that remained for me to do was to get my party
out of the way of eventual shells.  The best move which occurred to me
was to snatch them up instantly into the mountains to a Polish health
resort of great repute--which I did (at the rate of one hundred miles in
eleven hours) by the last civilian train permitted to leave Cracow for
the next three weeks.

And there we remained amongst the Poles from all parts of Poland, not
officially interned, but simply unable to obtain the permission to travel
by train, or road.  It was a wonderful, a poignant two months.  This is
not the time, and, perhaps, not the place, to enlarge upon the tragic
character of the situation; a whole people seeing the culmination of its
misfortunes in a final catastrophe, unable to trust anyone, to appeal to
anyone, to look for help from any quarter; deprived of all hope and even
of its last illusions, and unable, in the trouble of minds and the unrest
of consciences, to take refuge in stoical acceptance.  I have seen all
this.  And I am glad I have not so many years left me to remember that
appalling feeling of inexorable fate, tangible, palpable, come after so
many cruel years, a figure of dread, murmuring with iron lips the final
words: Ruin--and Extinction.

But enough of this.  For our little band there was the awful anguish of
incertitude as to the real nature of events in the West.  It is difficult
to give an idea how ugly and dangerous things looked to us over there.
Belgium knocked down and trampled out of existence, France giving in
under repeated blows, a military collapse like that of 1870, and England
involved in that disastrous alliance, her army sacrificed, her people in
a panic!  Polish papers, of course, had no other but German sources of
information.  Naturally, we did not believe all we read, but it was
sometimes excessively difficult to react with sufficient firmness.

We used to shut our door, and there, away from everybody, we sat weighing
the news, hunting up discrepancies, scenting lies, finding reasons for
hopefulness, and generally cheering each other up.  But it was a beastly
time.  People used to come to me with very serious news and ask, "What do
you think of it?"  And my invariable answer was: "Whatever has happened,
or is going to happen, whoever wants to make peace, you may be certain
that England will not make it, not for ten years, if necessary."'

But enough of this, too.  Through the unremitting efforts of Polish
friends we obtained at last the permission to travel to Vienna.  Once
there, the wing of the American Eagle was extended over our uneasy heads.
We cannot be sufficiently grateful to the American Ambassador (who, all
along, interested himself in our fate) for his exertions on our behalf,
his invaluable assistance and the real friendliness of his reception in
Vienna.  Owing to Mr. Penfield's action we obtained the permission to
leave Austria.  And it was a near thing, for his Excellency has informed
my American publishers since that a week later orders were issued to have
us detained till the end of the war.  However, we effected our hair's-
breadth escape into Italy; and, reaching Genoa, took passage in a Dutch
mail steamer, homeward-bound from Java with London as a port of call.

On that sea-route I might have picked up a memory at every mile if the
past had not been eclipsed by the tremendous actuality.  We saw the signs
of it in the emptiness of the Mediterranean, the aspect of Gibraltar, the
misty glimpse in the Bay of Biscay of an outward-bound convoy of
transports, in the presence of British submarines in the Channel.
Innumerable drifters flying the Naval flag dotted the narrow waters, and
two Naval officers coming on board off the South Foreland, piloted the
ship through the Downs.

The Downs!  There they were, thick with the memories of my sea-life.  But
what were to me now the futilities of an individual past?  As our ship's
head swung into the estuary of the Thames, a deep, yet faint, concussion
passed through the air, a shock rather than a sound, which missing my ear
found its way straight into my heart.  Turning instinctively to look at
my boys, I happened to meet my wife's eyes.  She also had felt
profoundly, coming from far away across the grey distances of the sea,
the faint boom of the big guns at work on the coast of Flanders--shaping
the future.


Four years ago, on the first day of August, in the town of Cracow,
Austrian Poland, nobody would believe that the war was coming.  My
apprehensions were met by the words: "We have had these scares before."
This incredulity was so universal amongst people of intelligence and
information, that even I, who had accustomed myself to look at the
inevitable for years past, felt my conviction shaken.  At that time, it
must be noted, the Austrian army was already partly mobilised, and as we
came through Austrian Silesia we had noticed all the bridges being
guarded by soldiers.

"Austria will back down," was the opinion of all the well-informed men
with whom I talked on the first of August.  The session of the University
was ended and the students were either all gone or going home to
different parts of Poland, but the professors had not all departed yet on
their respective holidays, and amongst them the tone of scepticism
prevailed generally.  Upon the whole there was very little inclination to
talk about the possibility of a war.  Nationally, the Poles felt that
from their point of view there was nothing to hope from it.  "Whatever
happens," said a very distinguished man to me, "we may be certain that
it's our skins which will pay for it as usual."  A well-known literary
critic and writer on economical subjects said to me: "War seems a
material impossibility, precisely because it would mean the complete ruin
of all material interests."

He was wrong, as we know; but those who said that Austria as usual would
back down were, as a matter of fact perfectly right.  Austria did back
down.  What these men did not foresee was the interference of Germany.
And one cannot blame them very well; for who could guess that, when the
balance stood even, the German sword would be thrown into the scale with
nothing in the open political situation to justify that act, or rather
that crime--if crime can ever be justified?  For, as the same intelligent
man said to me: "As it is, those people" (meaning Germans) "have very
nearly the whole world in their economic grip.  Their prestige is even
greater than their actual strength.  It can get for them practically
everything they want.  Then why risk it?"  And there was no apparent
answer to the question put in that way.  I must also say that the Poles
had no illusions about the strength of Russia.  Those illusions were the
monopoly of the Western world.

Next day the librarian of the University invited me to come and have a
look at the library which I had not seen since I was fourteen years old.
It was from him that I learned that the greater part of my father's MSS.
was preserved there.  He confessed that he had not looked them through
thoroughly yet, but he told me that there was a lot of very important
letters bearing on the epoch from '60 to '63, to and from many prominent
Poles of that time: and he added: "There is a bundle of correspondence
that will appeal to you personally.  Those are letters written by your
father to an intimate friend in whose papers they were found.  They
contain many references to yourself, though you couldn't have been more
than four years old at the time.  Your father seems to have been
extremely interested in his son."  That afternoon I went to the
University, taking with me _my_ eldest son.  The attention of that young
Englishman was mainly attracted by some relics of Copernicus in a glass
case.  I saw the bundle of letters and accepted the kind proposal of the
librarian that he should have them copied for me during the holidays.  In
the range of the deserted vaulted rooms lined with books, full of august
memories, and in the passionless silence of all this enshrined wisdom, we
walked here and there talking of the past, the great historical past in
which lived the inextinguishable spark of national life; and all around
us the centuries-old buildings lay still and empty, composing themselves
to rest after a year of work on the minds of another generation.

No echo of the German ultimatum to Russia penetrated that academical
peace.  But the news had come.  When we stepped into the street out of
the deserted main quadrangle, we three, I imagine, were the only people
in the town who did not know of it.  My boy and I parted from the
librarian (who hurried home to pack up for his holiday) and walked on to
the hotel, where we found my wife actually in the car waiting for us to
take a run of some ten miles to the country house of an old school-friend
of mine.  He had been my greatest chum.  In my wanderings about the world
I had heard that his later career both at school and at the University
had been of extraordinary brilliance--in classics, I believe.  But in
this, the iron-grey moustache period of his life, he informed me with
badly concealed pride that he had gained world fame as the Inventor--no,
Inventor is not the word--Producer, I believe would be the right term--of
a wonderful kind of beetroot seed.  The beet grown from this seed
contained more sugar to the square inch--or was it to the square
root?--than any other kind of beet.  He exported this seed, not only with
profit (and even to the United States), but with a certain amount of
glory which seemed to have gone slightly to his head.  There is a
fundamental strain of agriculturalist in a Pole which no amount of
brilliance, even classical, can destroy.  While we were having tea
outside, looking down the lovely slope of the gardens at the view of the
city in the distance, the possibilities of the war faded from our minds.
Suddenly my friend's wife came to us with a telegram in her hand and said
calmly: "General mobilisation, do you know?"  We looked at her like men
aroused from a dream.  "Yes," she insisted, "they are already taking the
horses out of the ploughs and carts."  I said: "We had better go back to
town as quick as we can," and my friend assented with a troubled look:
"Yes, you had better."  As we passed through villages on our way back we
saw mobs of horses assembled on the commons with soldiers guarding them,
and groups of villagers looking on silently at the officers with their
note-books checking deliveries and writing out receipts.  Some old
peasant women were already weeping aloud.

When our car drew up at the door of the hotel, the manager himself came
to help my wife out.  In the first moment I did not quite recognise him.
His luxuriant black locks were gone, his head was closely cropped, and as
I glanced at it he smiled and said: "I shall sleep at the barracks to-

I cannot reproduce the atmosphere of that night, the first night after
mobilisation.  The shops and the gateways of the houses were of course
closed, but all through the dark hours the town hummed with voices; the
echoes of distant shouts entered the open windows of our bedroom.  Groups
of men talking noisily walked in the middle of the roadway escorted by
distressed women: men of all callings and of all classes going to report
themselves at the fortress.  Now and then a military car tooting
furiously would whisk through the streets empty of wheeled traffic, like
an intensely black shadow under the great flood of electric lights on the
grey pavement.

But what produced the greatest impression on my mind was a gathering at
night in the coffee-room of my hotel of a few men of mark whom I was
asked to join.  It was about one o'clock in the morning.  The shutters
were up.  For some reason or other the electric light was not switched
on, and the big room was lit up only by a few tall candles, just enough
for us to see each other's faces by.  I saw in those faces the awful
desolation of men whose country, torn in three, found itself engaged in
the contest with no will of its own, and not even the power to assert
itself at the cost of life.  All the past was gone, and there was no
future, whatever happened; no road which did not seem to lead to moral
annihilation.  I remember one of those men addressing me after a period
of mournful silence compounded of mental exhaustion and unexpressed

"What do you think England will do?  If there is a ray of hope anywhere
it is only there."

I said: "I believe I know what England will do" (this was before the news
of the violation of Belgian neutrality arrived), "though I won't tell
you, for I am not absolutely certain.  But I can tell you what I am
absolutely certain of.  It is this: If England comes into the war, then,
no matter who may want to make peace at the end of six months at the cost
of right and justice, England will keep on fighting for years if
necessary.  You may reckon on that."

"What, even alone?" asked somebody across the room.

I said: "Yes, even alone.  But if things go so far as that England will
not be alone."

I think that at that moment I must have been inspired.



It can be safely said that for the last four years the seamen of Great
Britain have done well.  I mean that every kind and sort of human being
classified as seaman, steward, foremast hand, fireman, lamp-trimmer,
mate, master, engineer, and also all through the innumerable ratings of
the Navy up to that of Admiral, has done well.  I don't say marvellously
well or miraculously well or wonderfully well or even very well, because
these are simply over-statements of undisciplined minds.  I don't deny
that a man may be a marvellous being, but this is not likely to be
discovered in his lifetime, and not always even after he is dead.  Man's
marvellousness is a hidden thing, because the secrets of his heart are
not to be read by his fellows.  As to a man's work, if it is done well it
is the very utmost that can be said.  You can do well, and you can do no
more for people to see.  In the Navy, where human values are thoroughly
understood, the highest signal of commendation complimenting a ship (that
is, a ship's company) on some achievements consists exactly of those two
simple words "Well done," followed by the name of the ship.  Not
marvellously done, astonishingly done, wonderfully done--no, only just:

"Well done, so-and-so."

And to the men it is a matter of infinite pride that somebody should
judge it proper to mention aloud, as it were, that they have done well.
It is a memorable occurrence, for in the sea services you are expected
professionally and as a matter of course to do well, because nothing less
will do.  And in sober speech no man can be expected to do more than
well.  The superlatives are mere signs of uninformed wonder.  Thus the
official signal which can express nothing but a delicate share of
appreciation becomes a great honour.

Speaking now as a purely civil seaman (or, perhaps, I ought to say
civilian, because politeness is not what I have in my mind) I may say
that I have never expected the Merchant Service to do otherwise than well
during the war.  There were people who obviously did not feel the same
confidence, nay, who even confidently expected to see the collapse of
merchant seamen's courage.  I must admit that such pronouncements did
arrest my attention.  In my time I have never been able to detect any
faint hearts in the ships' companies with whom I have served in various
capacities.  But I reflected that I had left the sea in '94, twenty years
before the outbreak of the war that was to apply its severe test to the
quality of modern seamen.  Perhaps they had deteriorated, I said
unwillingly to myself.  I remembered also the alarmist articles I had
read about the great number of foreigners in the British Merchant
Service, and I didn't know how far these lamentations were justified.

In my time the proportion of non-Britishers in the crews of the ships
flying the red ensign was rather under one-third, which, as a matter of
fact, was less than the proportion allowed under the very strict French
navigation laws for the crews of the ships of that nation.  For the
strictest laws aiming at the preservation of national seamen had to
recognise the difficulties of manning merchant ships all over the world.
The one-third of the French law seemed to be the irreducible minimum.  But
the British proportion was even less.  Thus it may be said that up to the
date I have mentioned the crews of British merchant ships engaged in deep
water voyages to Australia, to the East Indies and round the Horn were
essentially British.  The small proportion of foreigners which I remember
were mostly Scandinavians, and my general impression remains that those
men were good stuff.  They appeared always able and ready to do their
duty by the flag under which they served.  The majority were Norwegians,
whose courage and straightness of character are matters beyond doubt.  I
remember also a couple of Finns, both carpenters, of course, and very
good craftsmen; a Swede, the most scientific sailmaker I ever met;
another Swede, a steward, who really might have been called a British
seaman since he had sailed out of London for over thirty years, a rather
superior person; one Italian, an everlastingly smiling but a pugnacious
character; one Frenchman, a most excellent sailor, tireless and
indomitable under very difficult circumstances; one Hollander, whose
placid manner of looking at the ship going to pieces under our feet I
shall never forget, and one young, colourless, muscularly very strong
German, of no particular character.  Of non-European crews, lascars and
Kalashes, I have had very little experience, and that was only in one
steamship and for something less than a year.  It was on the same
occasion that I had my only sight of Chinese firemen.  Sight is the exact
word.  One didn't speak to them.  One saw them going along the decks, to
and fro, characteristic figures with rolled-up pigtails, very dirty when
coming off duty and very clean-faced when going on duty.  They never
looked at anybody, and one never had occasion to address them directly.
Their appearances in the light of day were very regular, and yet somewhat
ghostlike in their detachment and silence.

But of the white crews of British ships and almost exclusively British in
blood and descent, the immediate predecessors of the men whose worth the
nation has discovered for itself to-day, I have had a thorough
experience.  At first amongst them, then with them, I have shared all the
conditions of their very special life.  For it was very special.  In my
early days, starting out on a voyage was like being launched into
Eternity.  I say advisedly Eternity instead of Space, because of the
boundless silence which swallowed up one for eighty days--for one hundred
days--for even yet more days of an existence without echoes and whispers.
Like Eternity itself!  For one can't conceive a vocal Eternity.  An
enormous silence, in which there was nothing to connect one with the
Universe but the incessant wheeling about of the sun and other celestial
bodies, the alternation of light and shadow, eternally chasing each other
over the sky.  The time of the earth, though most carefully recorded by
the half-hourly bells, did not count in reality.

It was a special life, and the men were a very special kind of men.  By
this I don't mean to say they were more complex than the generality of
mankind.  Neither were they very much simpler.  I have already admitted
that man is a marvellous creature, and no doubt those particular men were
marvellous enough in their way.  But in their collective capacity they
can be best defined as men who lived under the command to do well, or
perish utterly.  I have written of them with all the truth that was in
me, and with an the impartiality of which I was capable.  Let me not be
misunderstood in this statement.  Affection can be very exacting, and can
easily miss fairness on the critical side.  I have looked upon them with
a jealous eye, expecting perhaps even more than it was strictly fair to
expect.  And no wonder--since I had elected to be one of them very
deliberately, very completely, without any looking back or looking
elsewhere.  The circumstances were such as to give me the feeling of
complete identification, a very vivid comprehension that if I wasn't one
of them I was nothing at all.  But what was most difficult to detect was
the nature of the deep impulses which these men obeyed.  What spirit was
it that inspired the unfailing manifestations of their simple fidelity?
No outward cohesive force of compulsion or discipline was holding them
together or had ever shaped their unexpressed standards.  It was very
mysterious.  At last I came to the conclusion that it must be something
in the nature of the life itself; the sea-life chosen blindly, embraced
for the most part accidentally by those men who appeared but a loose
agglomeration of individuals toiling for their living away from the eyes
of mankind.  Who can tell how a tradition comes into the world?  We are
children of the earth.  It may be that the noblest tradition is but the
offspring of material conditions, of the hard necessities besetting men's
precarious lives.  But once it has been born it becomes a spirit.  Nothing
can extinguish its force then.  Clouds of greedy selfishness, the subtle
dialectics of revolt or fear, may obscure it for a time, but in very
truth it remains an immortal ruler invested with the power of honour and


The mysteriously born tradition of sea-craft commands unity in a body of
workers engaged in an occupation in which men have to depend upon each
other.  It raises them, so to speak, above the frailties of their dead
selves.  I don't wish to be suspected of lack of judgment and of blind
enthusiasm.  I don't claim special morality or even special manliness for
the men who in my time really lived at sea, and at the present time live
at any rate mostly at sea.  But in their qualities as well as in their
defects, in their weaknesses as well as in their "virtue," there was
indubitably something apart.  They were never exactly of the earth
earthly.  They couldn't be that.  Chance or desire (mostly desire) had
set them apart, often in their very childhood; and what is to be remarked
is that from the very nature of things this early appeal, this early
desire, had to be of an imaginative kind.  Thus their simple minds had a
sort of sweetness.  They were in a way preserved.  I am not alluding here
to the preserving qualities of the salt in the sea.  The salt of the sea
is a very good thing in its way; it preserves for instance one from
catching a beastly cold while one remains wet for weeks together in the
"roaring forties."  But in sober unpoetical truth the sea-salt never gets
much further than the seaman's skin, which in certain latitudes it takes
the opportunity to encrust very thoroughly.  That and nothing more.  And
then, what is this sea, the subject of so many apostrophes in verse and
prose addressed to its greatness and its mystery by men who had never
penetrated either the one or the other?  The sea is uncertain, arbitrary,
featureless, and violent.  Except when helped by the varied majesty of
the sky, there is something inane in its serenity and something stupid in
its wrath, which is endless, boundless, persistent, and futile--a grey,
hoary thing raging like an old ogre uncertain of its prey.  Its very
immensity is wearisome.  At any time within the navigating centuries
mankind might have addressed it with the words: "What are you, after all?
Oh, yes, we know.  The greatest scene of potential terror, a devouring
enigma of space.  Yes.  But our lives have been nothing if not a
continuous defiance of what you can do and what you may hold; a spiritual
and material defiance carried on in our plucky cockleshells on and on
beyond the successive provocations of your unreadable horizons."

Ah, but the charm of the sea!  Oh, yes, charm enough.  Or rather a sort
of unholy fascination as of an elusive nymph whose embrace is death, and
a Medusa's head whose stare is terror.  That sort of charm is calculated
to keep men morally in order.  But as to sea-salt, with its particular
bitterness like nothing else on earth, that, I am safe to say, penetrates
no further than the seamen's lips.  With them the inner soundness is
caused by another kind of preservative of which (nobody will be surprised
to hear) the main ingredient is a certain kind of love that has nothing
to do with the futile smiles and the futile passions of the sea.

Being love this feeling is naturally naive and imaginative.  It has also
in it that strain of fantasy that is so often, nay almost invariably, to
be found in the temperament of a true seaman.  But I repeat that I claim
no particular morality for seamen.  I will admit without difficulty that
I have found amongst them the usual defects of mankind, characters not
quite straight, uncertain tempers, vacillating wills, capriciousness,
small meannesses; all this coming out mostly on the contact with the
shore; and all rather naive, peculiar, a little fantastic.  I have even
had a downright thief in my experience.  One.

This is indeed a minute proportion, but it might have been my luck; and
since I am writing in eulogy of seamen I feel irresistibly tempted to
talk about this unique specimen; not indeed to offer him as an example of
morality, but to bring out certain characteristics and set out a certain
point of view.  He was a large, strong man with a guileless countenance,
not very communicative with his shipmates, but when drawn into any sort
of conversation displaying a very painstaking earnestness.  He was fair
and candid-eyed, of a very satisfactory smartness, and, from the officer-
of-the-watch point of view,--altogether dependable.  Then, suddenly, he
went and stole.  And he didn't go away from his honourable kind to do
that thing to somebody on shore; he stole right there on the spot, in
proximity to his shipmates, on board his own ship, with complete
disregard for old Brown, our night watchman (whose fame for
trustworthiness was utterly blasted for the rest of the voyage) and in
such a way as to bring the profoundest possible trouble to all the
blameless souls animating that ship.  He stole eleven golden sovereigns,
and a gold pocket chronometer and chain.  I am really in doubt whether
the crime should not be entered under the category of sacrilege rather
than theft.  Those things belonged to the captain!  There was certainly
something in the nature of the violation of a sanctuary, and of a
particularly impudent kind, too, because he got his plunder out of the
captain's state-room while the captain was asleep there.  But look, now,
at the fantasy of the man!  After going through the pockets of the
clothes, he did not hasten to retreat.  No.  He went deliberately into
the saloon and removed from the sideboard two big heavy, silver-plated
lamps, which he carried to the fore-end of the ship and stood
symmetrically on the knight-heads.  This, I must explain, means that he
took them away as far as possible from the place where they belonged.
These were the deeds of darkness.  In the morning the bo'sun came along
dragging after him a hose to wash the foc'sle head, and, beholding the
shiny cabin lamps, resplendent in the morning light, one on each side of
the bowsprit, he was paralysed with awe.  He dropped the nozzle from his
nerveless hands--and such hands, too!  I happened along, and he said to
me in a distracted whisper: "Look at that, sir, look."  "Take them back
aft at once yourself," I said, very amazed, too.  As we approached the
quarterdeck we perceived the steward, a prey to a sort of sacred horror,
holding up before us the captain's trousers.

Bronzed men with brooms and buckets in their hands stood about with open
mouths.  "I have found them lying in the passage outside the captain's
door," the steward declared faintly.  The additional statement that the
captain's watch was gone from its hook by the bedside raised the painful
sensation to the highest pitch.  We knew then we had a thief amongst us.
Our thief!  Behold the solidarity of a ship's company.  He couldn't be to
us like any other thief.  We all had to live under the shadow of his
crime for days; but the police kept on investigating, and one morning a
young woman appeared on board swinging a parasol, attended by two
policemen, and identified the culprit.  She was a barmaid of some bar
near the Circular Quay, and knew really nothing of our man except that he
looked like a respectable sailor.  She had seen him only twice in her
life.  On the second occasion he begged her nicely as a great favour to
take care for him of a small solidly tied-up paper parcel for a day or
two.  But he never came near her again.  At the end of three weeks she
opened it, and, of course, seeing the contents, was much alarmed, and
went to the nearest police-station for advice.  The police took her at
once on board our ship, where all hands were mustered on the quarterdeck.
She stared wildly at all our faces, pointed suddenly a finger with a
shriek, "That's the man," and incontinently went off into a fit of
hysterics in front of thirty-six seamen.  I must say that never in my
life did I see a ship's company look so frightened.  Yes, in this tale of
guilt, there was a curious absence of mere criminality, and a touch of
that fantasy which is often a part of a seaman's character.  It wasn't
greed that moved him, I think.  It was something much less simple:
boredom, perhaps, or a bet, or the pleasure of defiance.

And now for the point of view.  It was given to me by a short,
black-bearded A.B. of the crew, who on sea passages washed my flannel
shirts, mended my clothes and, generally, looked after my room.  He was
an excellent needleman and washerman, and a very good sailor.  Standing
in this peculiar relation to me, he considered himself privileged to open
his mind on the matter one evening when he brought back to my cabin three
clean and neatly folded shirts.  He was profoundly pained.  He said:
"What a ship's company!  Never seen such a crowd!  Liars, cheats,
thieves. . . "

It was a needlessly jaundiced view.  There were in that ship's company
three or four fellows who dealt in tall yarns, and I knew that on the
passage out there had been a dispute over a game in the foc'sle once or
twice of a rather acute kind, so that all card-playing had to be
abandoned.  In regard to thieves, as we know, there was only one, and he,
I am convinced, came out of his reserve to perform an exploit rather than
to commit a crime.  But my black-bearded friend's indignation had its
special morality, for he added, with a burst of passion: "And on board
our ship, too--a ship like this. . ."

Therein lies the secret of the seamen's special character as a body.  The
ship, this ship, our ship, the ship we serve, is the moral symbol of our
life.  A ship has to be respected, actually and ideally; her merit, her
innocence, are sacred things.  Of all the creations of man she is the
closest partner of his toil and courage.  From every point of view it is
imperative that you should do well by her.  And, as always in the case of
true love, all you can do for her adds only to the tale of her merits in
your heart.  Mute and compelling, she claims not only your fidelity, but
your respect.  And the supreme "Well done!" which you may earn is made
over to her.


It is my deep conviction, or, perhaps, I ought to say my deep feeling
born from personal experience, that it is not the sea but the ships of
the sea that guide and command that spirit of adventure which some say is
the second nature of British men.  I don't want to provoke a controversy
(for intellectually I am rather a Quietist) but I venture to affirm that
the main characteristic of the British men spread all over the world, is
not the spirit of adventure so much as the spirit of service.  I think
that this could be demonstrated from the history of great voyages and the
general activity of the race.  That the British man has always liked his
service to be adventurous rather than otherwise cannot be denied, for
each British man began by being young in his time when all risk has a
glamour.  Afterwards, with the course of years, risk became a part of his
daily work; he would have missed it from his side as one misses a loved

The mere love of adventure is no saving grace.  It is no grace at all.  It
lays a man under no obligation of faithfulness to an idea and even to his
own self.  Roughly speaking, an adventurer may be expected to have
courage, or at any rate may be said to need it.  But courage in itself is
not an ideal.  A successful highwayman showed courage of a sort, and
pirate crews have been known to fight with courage or perhaps only with
reckless desperation in the manner of cornered rats.  There is nothing in
the world to prevent a mere lover or pursuer of adventure from running at
any moment.  There is his own self, his mere taste for excitement, the
prospect of some sort of gain, but there is no sort of loyalty to bind
him in honour to consistent conduct.  I have noticed that the majority of
mere lovers of adventure are mightily careful of their skins; and the
proof of it is that so many of them manage to keep it whole to an
advanced age.  You find them in mysterious nooks of islands and
continents, mostly red-nosed and watery-eyed, and not even amusingly
boastful.  There is nothing more futile under the sun than a mere
adventurer.  He might have loved at one time--which would have been a
saving grace.  I mean loved adventure for itself.  But if so, he was
bound to lose this grace very soon.  Adventure by itself is but a
phantom, a dubious shape without a heart.  Yes, there is nothing more
futile than an adventurer; but nobody can say that the adventurous
activities of the British race are stamped with the futility of a chase
after mere emotions.

The successive generations that went out to sea from these Isles went out
to toil desperately in adventurous conditions.  A man is a worker.  If he
is not that he is nothing.  Just nothing--like a mere adventurer.  Those
men understood the nature of their work, but more or less dimly, in
various degrees of imperfection.  The best and greatest of their leaders
even had never seen it clearly, because of its magnitude and the
remoteness of its end.  This is the common fate of mankind, whose most
positive achievements are born from dreams and visions followed loyally
to an unknown destination.  And it doesn't matter.  For the great mass of
mankind the only saving grace that is needed is steady fidelity to what
is nearest to hand and heart in the short moment of each human effort.  In
other and in greater words, what is needed is a sense of immediate duty,
and a feeling of impalpable constraint.  Indeed, seamen and duty are all
the time inseparable companions.  It has been suggested to me that this
sense of duty is not a patriotic sense or a religious sense, or even a
social sense in a seaman.  I don't know.  It seems to me that a seaman's
duty may be an unconscious compound of these three, something perhaps
smaller than either, but something much more definite for the simple mind
and more adapted to the humbleness of the seaman's task.  It has been
suggested also to me that the impalpable constraint is put upon the
nature of a seaman by the Spirit of the Sea, which he serves with a dumb
and dogged devotion.

Those are fine words conveying a fine idea.  But this I do know, that it
is very difficult to display a dogged devotion to a mere spirit, however
great.  In everyday life ordinary men require something much more
material, effective, definite and symbolic on which to concentrate their
love and their devotion.  And then, what is it, this Spirit of the Sea?
It is too great and too elusive to be embraced and taken to a human
breast.  All that a guileless or guileful seaman knows of it is its
hostility, its exaction of toil as endless as its ever-renewed horizons.
No.  What awakens the seaman's sense of duty, what lays that impalpable
constraint upon the strength of his manliness, what commands his not
always dumb if always dogged devotion, is not the spirit of the sea but
something that in his eyes has a body, a character, a fascination, and
almost a soul--it is his ship.

There is not a day that has passed for many centuries now without the sun
seeing scattered over all the seas groups of British men whose material
and moral existence is conditioned by their loyalty to each other and
their faithful devotion to a ship.

Each age has sent its contingent, not of sons (for the great mass of
seamen have always been a childless lot) but of loyal and obscure
successors taking up the modest but spiritual inheritance of a hard life
and simple duties; of duties so simple that nothing ever could shake the
traditional attitude born from the physical conditions of the service.  It
was always the ship, bound on any possible errand in the service of the
nation, that has been the stage for the exercise of seamen's primitive
virtues.  The dimness of great distances and the obscurity of lives
protected them from the nation's admiring gaze.  Those scattered distant
ships' companies seemed to the eyes of the earth only one degree removed
(on the right side, I suppose) from the other strange monsters of the
deep.  If spoken of at all they were spoken of in tones of
half-contemptuous indulgence.  A good many years ago it was my lot to
write about one of those ships' companies on a certain sea, under certain
circumstances, in a book of no particular length.

That small group of men whom I tried to limn with loving care, but
sparing none of their weaknesses, was characterised by a friendly
reviewer as a lot of engaging ruffians.  This gave me some food for
thought.  Was it, then, in that guise that they appeared through the
mists of the sea, distant, perplexed, and simple-minded?  And what on
earth is an "engaging ruffian"?  He must be a creature of literary
imagination, I thought, for the two words don't match in my personal
experience.  It has happened to me to meet a few ruffians here and there,
but I never found one of them "engaging."  I consoled myself, however, by
the reflection that the friendly reviewer must have been talking like a
parrot, which so often seems to understand what it says.

Yes, in the mists of the sea, and in their remoteness from the rest of
the race, the shapes of those men appeared distorted, uncouth and
faint--so faint as to be almost invisible.  It needed the lurid light of
the engines of war to bring them out into full view, very simple, without
worldly graces, organised now into a body of workers by the genius of one
of themselves, who gave them a place and a voice in the social scheme;
but in the main still apart in their homeless, childless generations,
scattered in loyal groups over all the seas, giving faithful care to
their ships and serving the nation, which, since they are seamen, can
give them no reward but the supreme "Well Done."


"Work is the law.  Like iron that lying idle degenerates into a mass of
useless rust, like water that in an unruffled pool sickens into a
stagnant and corrupt state, so without action the spirit of men turns to
a dead thing, loses its force, ceases prompting us to leave some trace of
ourselves on this earth."  The sense of the above lines does not belong
to me.  It may be found in the note-books of one of the greatest artists
that ever lived, Leonardo da Vinci.  It has a simplicity and a truth
which no amount of subtle comment can destroy.

The Master who had meditated so deeply on the rebirth of arts and
sciences, on the inward beauty of all things,--ships' lines, women's
faces--and on the visible aspects of nature was profoundly right in his
pronouncement on the work that is done on the earth.  From the hard work
of men are born the sympathetic consciousness of a common destiny, the
fidelity to right practice which makes great craftsmen, the sense of
right conduct which we may call honour, the devotion to our calling and
the idealism which is not a misty, winged angel without eyes, but a
divine figure of terrestrial aspect with a clear glance and with its feet
resting firmly on the earth on which it was born.

And work will overcome all evil, except ignorance, which is the condition
of humanity and, like the ambient air, fills the space between the
various sorts and conditions of men, which breeds hatred, fear, and
contempt between the masses of mankind, and puts on men's lips, on their
innocent lips, words that are thoughtless and vain.

Thoughtless, for instance, were the words that (in all innocence, I
believe) came on the lips of a prominent statesman making in the House of
Commons an eulogistic reference to the British Merchant Service.  In this
name I include men of diverse status and origin, who live on and by the
sea, by it exclusively, outside all professional pretensions and social
formulas, men for whom not only their daily bread but their collective
character, their personal achievement and their individual merit come
from the sea.  Those words of the statesman were meant kindly; but, after
all, this is not a complete excuse.  Rightly or wrongly, we expect from a
man of national importance a larger and at the same time a more
scrupulous precision of speech, for it is possible that it may go echoing
down the ages.  His words were:

"It is right when thinking of the Navy not to forget the men of the
Merchant Service, who have shown--and it is more surprising because they
have had no traditions towards it--courage as great," etc., etc.

And then he went on talking of the execution of Captain Fryatt, an event
of undying memory, but less connected with the permanent, unchangeable
conditions of sea service than with the wrong view German minds delight
in taking of Englishmen's psychology.  The enemy, he said, meant by this
atrocity to frighten our sailors away from the sea.

"What has happened?" he goes on to ask.  "Never at any time in peace have
sailors stayed so short a time ashore or shown such a readiness to step
again into a ship."

Which means, in other words, that they answered to the call.  I should
like to know at what time of history the English Merchant Service, the
great body of merchant seamen, had failed to answer the call.  Noticed or
unnoticed, ignored or commanded, they have answered invariably the call
to do their work, the very conditions of which made them what they are.
They have always served the nation's needs through their own invariable
fidelity to the demands of their special life; but with the development
and complexity of material civilisation they grew less prominent to the
nation's eye among all the vast schemes of national industry.  Never was
the need greater and the call to the services more urgent than to-day.
And those inconspicuous workers on whose qualities depends so much of the
national welfare have answered it without dismay, facing risk without
glory, in the perfect faithfulness to that tradition which the speech of
the statesman denies to them at the very moment when he thinks fit to
praise their courage . . . and mention his surprise!

The hour of opportunity has struck--not for the first time--for the
Merchant Service; and if I associate myself with all my heart in the
admiration and the praise which is the greatest reward of brave men I
must be excused from joining in any sentiment of surprise.  It is perhaps
because I have not been born to the inheritance of that tradition, which
has yet fashioned the fundamental part of my character in my young days,
that I am so consciously aware of it and venture to vindicate its
existence in this outspoken manner.

Merchant seamen have always been what they are now, from their earliest
days, before the Royal Navy had been fashioned out of the material they
furnished for the hands of kings and statesmen.  Their work has made
them, as work undertaken with single-minded devotion makes men, giving to
their achievements that vitality and continuity in which their souls are
expressed, tempered and matured through the succeeding generations.  In
its simplest definition the work of merchant seamen has been to take
ships entrusted to their care from port to port across the seas; and,
from the highest to the lowest, to watch and labour with devotion for the
safety of the property and the lives committed to their skill and
fortitude through the hazards of innumerable voyages.

That was always the clear task, the single aim, the simple ideal, the
only problem for an unselfish solution.  The terms of it have changed
with the years, its risks have worn different aspects from time to time.
There are no longer any unexplored seas.  Human ingenuity has devised
better means to meet the dangers of natural forces.  But it is always the
same problem.  The youngsters who were growing up at sea at the end of my
service are commanding ships now.  At least I have heard of some of them
who do.  And whatever the shape and power of their ships the character of
the duty remains the same.  A mine or a torpedo that strikes your ship is
not so very different from a sharp, uncharted rock tearing her life out
of her in another way.  At a greater cost of vital energy, under the well-
nigh intolerable stress of vigilance and resolution, they are doing
steadily the work of their professional forefathers in the midst of
multiplied dangers.  They go to and fro across the oceans on their
everlasting task: the same men, the same stout hearts, the same fidelity
to an exacting tradition created by simple toilers who in their time knew
how to live and die at sea.

Allowed to share in this work and in this tradition for something like
twenty years, I am bold enough to think that perhaps I am not altogether
unworthy to speak of it.  It was the sphere not only of my activity but,
I may safely say, also of my affections; but after such a close
connection it is very difficult to avoid bringing in one's own
personality.  Without looking at all at the aspects of the Labour
problem, I can safely affirm that I have never, never seen British seamen
refuse any risk, any exertion, any effort of spirit or body up to the
extremest demands of their calling.  Years ago--it seems ages ago--I have
seen the crew of a British ship fight the fire in the cargo for a whole
sleepless week and then, with her decks blown up, I have seen them still
continue the fight to save the floating shell.  And at last I have seen
them refuse to be taken off by a vessel standing by, and this only in
order "to see the last of our ship," at the word, at the simple word, of
a man who commanded them, a worthy soul indeed, but of no heroic aspect.
I have seen that.  I have shared their days in small boats.  Hard days.
Ages ago.  And now let me mention a story of to-day.

I will try to relate it here mainly in the words of the chief engineer of
a certain steamship which, after bunkering, left Lerwick, bound for
Iceland.  The weather was cold, the sea pretty rough, with a stiff head
wind.  All went well till next day, about 1.30 p.m., then the captain
sighted a suspicious object far away to starboard.  Speed was increased
at once to close in with the Faroes and good lookouts were set fore and
aft.  Nothing further was seen of the suspicious object, but about half-
past three without any warning the ship was struck amidships by a torpedo
which exploded in the bunkers.  None of the crew was injured by the
explosion, and all hands, without exception, behaved admirably.

The chief officer with his watch managed to lower the No. 3 boat.  Two
other boats had been shattered by the explosion, and though another
lifeboat was cleared and ready, there was no time to lower it, and "some
of us jumped while others were washed overboard.  Meantime the captain
had been busy handing lifebelts to the men and cheering them up with
words and smiles, with no thought of his own safety."  The ship went down
in less than four minutes.  The captain was the last man on board, going
down with her, and was sucked under.  On coming up he was caught under an
upturned boat to which five hands were clinging.  "One lifeboat," says
the chief engineer, "which was floating empty in the distance was
cleverly manoeuvred to our assistance by the steward, who swam off to her
pluckily.  Our next endeavour was to release the captain, who was
entangled under the boat.  As it was impossible to right her, we set-to
to split her side open with the boat hook, because by awful bad luck the
head of the axe we had flew off at the first blow and was lost.  The
rescue took thirty minutes, and the extricated captain was in a pitiable
condition, being badly bruised and having swallowed a lot of salt water.
He was unconscious.  While at that work the submarine came to the surface
quite close and made a complete circle round us, the seven men that we
counted on the conning tower laughing at our efforts.

"There were eighteen of us saved.  I deeply regret the loss of the chief
officer, a fine fellow and a kind shipmate showing splendid promise.  The
other men lost--one A.B., one greaser, and two firemen--were quiet,
conscientious, good fellows."

With no restoratives in the boat, they endeavoured to bring the captain
round by means of massage.  Meantime the oars were got out in order to
reach the Faroes, which were about thirty miles dead to windward, but
after about nine hours' hard work they had to desist, and, putting out a
sea-anchor, they took shelter under the canvas boat-cover from the cold
wind and torrential rain.  Says the narrator: "We were all very wet and
miserable, and decided to have two biscuits all round.  The effects of
this and being under the shelter of the canvas warmed us up and made us
feel pretty well contented.  At about sunrise the captain showed signs of
recovery, and by the time the sun was up he was looking a lot better,
much to our relief."

After being informed of what had been done the revived captain "dropped a
bombshell in our midst," by proposing to make for the Shetlands, which
were _only_ one hundred and fifty miles off.  "The wind is in our
favour," he said.  "I promise to take you there.  Are you all willing?"
This--comments the chief engineer--"from a man who but a few hours
previously had been hauled back from the grave!"  The captain's confident
manner inspired the men, and they all agreed.  Under the best possible
conditions a boat-run of one hundred and fifty miles in the North
Atlantic and in winter weather would have been a feat of no mean merit,
but in the circumstances it required uncommon nerve and skill to carry
out such a promise.  With an oar for a mast and the boat-cover cut down
for a sail they started on their dangerous journey, with the boat compass
and the stars for their guide.  The captain's undaunted serenity buoyed
them all up against despondency.  He told them what point he was making
for.  It was Ronas Hill, "and we struck it as straight as a die."

The chief engineer commends also the ship steward for the manner in which
he made the little food they had last, the cheery spirit he manifested,
and the great help he was to the captain by keeping the men in good
humour.  That trusty man had "his hands cruelly chafed with the rowing,
but it never damped his spirits."

They made Ronas Hill (as straight as a die), and the chief engineer
cannot express their feelings of gratitude and relief when they set their
feet on the shore.  He praises the unbounded kindness of the people in
Hillswick.  "It seemed to us all like Paradise regained," he says,
concluding his letter with the words:

"And there was our captain, just his usual self, as if nothing had
happened, as if bringing the boat that hazardous journey and being the
means of saving eighteen souls was to him an everyday occurrence."

Such is the chief engineer's testimony to the continuity of the old
tradition of the sea, which made by the work of men has in its turn
created for them their simple ideal of conduct.



The seamen hold up the Edifice.  They have been holding it up in the past
and they will hold it up in the future, whatever this future may contain
of logical development, of unforeseen new shapes, of great promises and
of dangers still unknown.

It is not an unpardonable stretching of the truth to say that the British
Empire rests on transportation.  I am speaking now naturally of the sea,
as a man who has lived on it for many years, at a time, too, when on
sighting a vessel on the horizon of any of the great oceans it was
perfectly safe to bet any reasonable odds on her being a British
ship--with the certitude of making a pretty good thing of it at the end
of the voyage.

I have tried to convey here in popular terms the strong impression
remembered from my young days.  The Red Ensign prevailed on the high seas
to such an extent that one always experienced a slight shock on seeing
some other combination of colours blow out at the peak or flag-pole of
any chance encounter in deep water.  In the long run the persistence of
the visual fact forced upon the mind a half-unconscious sense of its
inner significance.  We have all heard of the well-known view that trade
follows the flag.  And that is not always true.  There is also this truth
that the flag, in normal conditions, represents commerce to the eye and
understanding of the average man.  This is a truth, but it is not the
whole truth.  In its numbers and in its unfailing ubiquity, the British
Red Ensign, under which naval actions too have been fought, adventures
entered upon and sacrifices offered, represented in fact something more
than the prestige of a great trade.

The flutter of that piece of red bunting showered sentiment on the
nations of the earth.  I will not venture to say that in every case that
sentiment was of a friendly nature.  Of hatred, half concealed or
concealed not at all, this is not the place to speak; and indeed the
little I have seen of it about the world was tainted with stupidity and
seemed to confess in its very violence the extreme poorness of its case.
But generally it was more in the nature of envious wonder qualified by a
half-concealed admiration.

That flag, which but for the Union Jack in the corner might have been
adopted by the most radical of revolutions, affirmed in its numbers the
stability of purpose, the continuity of effort and the greatness of
Britain's opportunity pursued steadily in the order and peace of the
world: that world which for twenty-five years or so after 1870 may be
said to have been living in holy calm and hushed silence with only now
and then a slight clink of metal, as if in some distant part of mankind's
habitation some restless body had stumbled over a heap of old armour.


We who have learned by now what a world-war is like may be excused for
considering the disturbances of that period as insignificant brawls, mere
hole-and-corner scuffles.  In the world, which memory depicts as so
wonderfully tranquil all over, it was the sea yet that was the safest
place.  And the Red Ensign, commercial, industrial, historic, pervaded
the sea!  Assertive only by its numbers, highly significant, and, under
its character of a trade--emblem, nationally expressive, it was symbolic
of old and new ideas, of conservatism and progress, of routine and
enterprise, of drudgery and adventure--and of a certain easy-going
optimism that would have appeared the Father of Sloth itself if it had
not been so stubbornly, so everlastingly active.

The unimaginative, hard-working men, great and small, who served this
flag afloat and ashore, nursed dumbly a mysterious sense of its
greatness.  It sheltered magnificently their vagabond labours under the
sleepless eye of the sun.  It held up the Edifice.  But it crowned it
too.  This is not the extravagance of a mixed metaphor.  It is the sober
expression of a not very complex truth.  Within that double function the
national life that flag represented so well went on in safety, assured of
its daily crust of bread for which we all pray and without which we would
have to give up faith, hope and charity, the intellectual conquests of
our minds and the sanctified strength of our labouring arms.  I may
permit myself to speak of it in these terms because as a matter of fact
it was on that very symbol that I had founded my life and (as I have said
elsewhere in a moment of outspoken gratitude) had known for many years no
other roof above my head.

In those days that symbol was not particularly regarded.  Superficially
and definitely it represented but one of the forms of national activity
rather remote from the close-knit organisations of other industries, a
kind of toil not immediately under the public eye.  It was of its Navy
that the nation, looking out of the windows of its world-wide Edifice,
was proudly aware.  And that was but fair.  The Navy is the armed man at
the gate.  An existence depending upon the sea must be guarded with a
jealous, sleepless vigilance, for the sea is but a fickle friend.

It had provoked conflicts, encouraged ambitions, and had lured some
nations to destruction--as we know.  He--man or people--who, boasting of
long years of familiarity with the sea, neglects the strength and cunning
of his right hand is a fool.  The pride and trust of the nation in its
Navy so strangely mingled with moments of neglect, caused by a
particularly thick-headed idealism, is perfectly justified.  It is also
very proper: for it is good for a body of men conscious of a great
responsibility to feel themselves recognised, if only in that fallible,
imperfect and often irritating way in which recognition is sometimes
offered to the deserving.

But the Merchant Service had never to suffer from that sort of
irritation.  No recognition was thrust on it offensively, and, truth to
say, it did not seem to concern itself unduly with the claims of its own
obscure merit.  It had no consciousness.  It had no words.  It had no
time.  To these busy men their work was but the ordinary labour of
earning a living; their duties in their ever-recurring round had, like
the sun itself, the commonness of daily things; their individual fidelity
was not so much united as merely co-ordinated by an aim that shone with
no spiritual lustre.  They were everyday men.  They were that, eminently.
When the great opportunity came to them to link arms in response to a
supreme call they received it with characteristic simplicity,
incorporating self-sacrifice into the texture of their common task, and,
as far as emotion went, framing the horror of mankind's catastrophic time
within the rigid rules of their professional conscience.  And who can say
that they could have done better than this?

Such was their past both remote and near.  It has been stubbornly
consistent, and as this consistency was based upon the character of men
fashioned by a very old tradition, there is no doubt that it will endure.
Such changes as came into the sea life have been for the main part
mechanical and affecting only the material conditions of that inbred
consistency.  That men don't change is a profound truth.  They don't
change because it is not necessary for them to change even if they could
accomplish that miracle.  It is enough for them to be infinitely
adaptable--as the last four years have abundantly proved.


Thus one may await the future without undue excitement and with unshaken
confidence.  Whether the hues of sunrise are angry or benign, gorgeous or
sinister, we shall always have the same sky over our heads.  Yet by a
kindly dispensation of Providence the human faculty of astonishment will
never lack food.  What could be more surprising for instance, than the
calm invitation to Great Britain to discard the force and protection of
its Navy?  It has been suggested, it has been proposed--I don't know
whether it has been pressed.  Probably not much.  For if the excursions
of audacious folly have no bounds that human eye can see, reason has the
habit of never straying very far away from its throne.

It is not the first time in history that excited voices have been heard
urging the warrior still panting from the fray to fling his tried weapons
on the altar of peace, for they would be needed no more!  And such voices
have been, in undying hope or extreme weariness, listened to sometimes.
But not for long.  After all every sort of shouting is a transitory
thing.  It is the grim silence of facts that remains.

The British Merchant Service has been challenged in its supremacy before.
It will be challenged again.  It may be even asked menacingly in the name
of some humanitarian doctrine or some empty ideal to step down
voluntarily from that place which it has managed to keep for so many
years.  But I imagine that it will take more than words of brotherly love
or brotherly anger (which, as is well known, is the worst kind of anger)
to drive British seamen, armed or unarmed, from the seas.  Firm in this
indestructible if not easily explained conviction, I can allow myself to
think placidly of that long, long future which I shall not see.

My confidence rests on the hearts of men who do not change, though they
may forget many things for a time and even forget to be themselves in a
moment of false enthusiasm.  But of that I am not afraid.  It will not be
for long.  I know the men.  Through the kindness of the Admiralty (which,
let me confess here in a white sheet, I repaid by the basest ingratitude)
I was permitted during the war to renew my contact with the British
seamen of the merchant service.  It is to their generosity in recognising
me under the shore rust of twenty-five years as one of themselves that I
owe one of the deepest emotions of my life.  Never for a moment did I
feel among them like an idle, wandering ghost from a distant past.  They
talked to me seriously, openly, and with professional precision, of
facts, of events, of implements, I had never heard of in my time; but the
hands I grasped were like the hands of the generation which had trained
my youth and is now no more.  I recognised the character of their
glances, the accent of their voices.  Their moving tales of modern
instances were presented to me with that peculiar turn of mind flavoured
by the inherited humour and sagacity of the sea.  I don't know what the
seaman of the future will be like.  He may have to live all his days with
a telephone tied up to his head and bristle all over with scientific
antennae like a figure in a fantastic tale.  But he will always be the
man revealed to us lately, immutable in his slight variations like the
closed path of this planet of ours on which he must find his exact
position once, at the very least, in every twenty-four hours.

The greatest desideratum of a sailor's life is to be "certain of his
position."  It is a source of great worry at times, but I don't think
that it need be so at this time.  Yet even the best position has its
dangers on account of the fickleness of the elements.  But I think that,
left untrammelled to the individual effort of its creators and to the
collective spirit of its servants, the British Merchant Service will
manage to maintain its position on this restless and watery globe.


To begin at the end, I will say that the "landing" surprised me by a
slight and very characteristically "dead" sort of shock.

I may fairly call myself an amphibious creature.  A good half of my
active existence has been passed in familiar contact with salt water, and
I was aware, theoretically, that water is not an elastic body: but it was
only then that I acquired the absolute conviction of the fact.  I
remember distinctly the thought flashing through my head: "By Jove! it
isn't elastic!"  Such is the illuminating force of a particular

This landing (on the water of the North Sea) was effected in a Short
biplane after one hour and twenty minutes in the air.  I reckon every
minute like a miser counting his hoard, for, if what I've got is mine, I
am not likely now to increase the tale.  That feeling is the effect of
age.  It strikes me as I write that, when next time I leave the surface
of this globe, it won't be to soar bodily above it in the air.  Quite the
contrary.  And I am not thinking of a submarine either. . . .

But let us drop this dismal strain and go back logically to the
beginning.  I must confess that I started on that flight in a state--I
won't say of fury, but of a most intense irritation.  I don't remember
ever feeling so annoyed in my life.

It came about in this way.  Two or three days before, I had been invited
to lunch at an R.N.A.S. station, and was made to feel very much at home
by the nicest lot of quietly interesting young men it had ever been my
good fortune to meet.  Then I was taken into the sheds.  I walked
respectfully round and round a lot of machines of all kinds, and the more
I looked at them the more I felt somehow that for all the effect they
produced on me they might have been so many land-vehicles of an eccentric
design.  So I said to Commander O., who very kindly was conducting me:
"This is all very fine, but to realise what one is looking at, one must
have been up."

He said at once: "I'll give you a flight to-morrow if you like."

I postulated that it should be none of those "ten minutes in the air"
affairs.  I wanted a real business flight.  Commander O. assured me that
I would get "awfully bored," but I declared that I was willing to take
that risk.  "Very well," he said.  "Eleven o'clock to-morrow.  Don't be

I am sorry to say I was about two minutes late, which was enough,
however, for Commander O. to greet me with a shout from a great distance:
"Oh!  You are coming, then!"

"Of course I am coming," I yelled indignantly.

He hurried up to me.  "All right.  There's your machine, and here's your
pilot.  Come along."

A lot of officers closed round me, rushed me into a hut: two of them
began to button me into the coat, two more were ramming a cap on my head,
others stood around with goggles, with binoculars. . . I couldn't
understand the necessity of such haste.  We weren't going to chase Fritz.
There was no sign of Fritz anywhere in the blue.  Those dear boys did not
seem to notice my age--fifty-eight, if a day--nor my infirmities--a gouty
subject for years.  This disregard was very flattering, and I tried to
live up to it, but the pace seemed to me terrific.  They galloped me
across a vast expanse of open ground to the water's edge.

The machine on its carriage seemed as big as a cottage, and much more
imposing.  My young pilot went up like a bird.  There was an idle, able-
bodied ladder loafing against a shed within fifteen feet of me, but as
nobody seemed to notice it, I recommended myself mentally to Heaven and
started climbing after the pilot.  The close view of the real fragility
of that rigid structure startled me considerably, while Commander O.
discomposed me still more by shouting repeatedly: "Don't put your foot
there!"  I didn't know where to put my foot.  There was a slight crack; I
heard some swear-words below me, and then with a supreme effort I rolled
in and dropped into a basket-chair, absolutely winded.  A small crowd of
mechanics and officers were looking up at me from the ground, and while I
gasped visibly I thought to myself that they would be sure to put it down
to sheer nervousness.  But I hadn't breath enough in my body to stick my
head out and shout down to them:

"You know, it isn't that at all!"

Generally I try not to think of my age and infirmities.  They are not a
cheerful subject.  But I was never so angry and disgusted with them as
during that minute or so before the machine took the water.  As to my
feelings in the air, those who will read these lines will know their own,
which are so much nearer the mind and the heart than any writings of an
unprofessional can be.  At first all my faculties were absorbed and as if
neutralised by the sheer novelty of the situation.  The first to emerge
was the sense of security so much more perfect than in any small boat
I've ever been in; the, as it were, material, stillness, and immobility
(though it was a bumpy day).  I very soon ceased to hear the roar of the
wind and engines--unless, indeed, some cylinders missed, when I became
acutely aware of that.  Within the rigid spread of the powerful planes,
so strangely motionless I had sometimes the illusion of sitting as if by
enchantment in a block of suspended marble.  Even while looking over at
the aeroplane's shadow running prettily over land and sea, I had the
impression of extreme slowness.  I imagine that had she suddenly nose-
dived out of control, I would have gone to the final smash without a
single additional heartbeat.  I am sure I would not have known.  It is
doubtless otherwise with the man in control.

But there was no dive, and I returned to earth (after an hour and twenty
minutes) without having felt "bored" for a single second.  I descended
(by the ladder) thinking that I would never go flying again.  No, never
any more--lest its mysterious fascination, whose invisible wing had
brushed my heart up there, should change to unavailing regret in a man
too old for its glory.


It is with a certain bitterness that one must admit to oneself that the
late _S.S. Titanic_ had a "good press."  It is perhaps because I have no
great practice of daily newspapers (I have never seen so many of them
together lying about my room) that the white spaces and the big lettering
of the headlines have an incongruously festive air to my eyes, a
disagreeable effect of a feverish exploitation of a sensational God-send.
And if ever a loss at sea fell under the definition, in the terms of a
bill of lading, of Act of God, this one does, in its magnitude,
suddenness and severity; and in the chastening influence it should have
on the self-confidence of mankind.

I say this with all the seriousness the occasion demands, though I have
neither the competence nor the wish to take a theological view of this
great misfortune, sending so many souls to their last account.  It is but
a natural _reflection_.  Another one flowing also from the phraseology of
bills of lading (a bill of lading is a shipping document limiting in
certain of its clauses the liability of the carrier) is that the "King's
Enemies" of a more or less overt sort are not altogether sorry that this
fatal mishap should strike the prestige of the greatest Merchant Service
of the world.  I believe that not a thousand miles from these shores
certain public prints have betrayed in gothic letters their
satisfaction--to speak plainly--by rather ill-natured comments.

In what light one is to look at the action of the American Senate is more
difficult to say.  From a certain point of view the sight of the august
senators of a great Power rushing to New York and beginning to bully and
badger the luckless "Yamsi"--on the very quay-side so to speak--seems to
furnish the Shakespearian touch of the comic to the real tragedy of the
fatuous drowning of all these people who to the last moment put their
trust in mere bigness, in the reckless affirmations of commercial men and
mere technicians and in the irresponsible paragraphs of the newspapers
booming these ships!  Yes, a grim touch of comedy.  One asks oneself what
these men are after, with this very provincial display of authority.  I
beg my friends in the United States pardon for calling these zealous
senators men.  I don't wish to be disrespectful.  They may be of the
stature of demi-gods for all I know, but at that great distance from the
shores of effete Europe and in the presence of so many guileless dead,
their size seems diminished from this side.  What are they after?  What
is there for them to find out?  We know what had happened.  The ship
scraped her side against a piece of ice, and sank after floating for two
hours and a half, taking a lot of people down with her.  What more can
they find out from the unfair badgering of the unhappy "Yamsi," or the
ruffianly abuse of the same.

"Yamsi," I should explain, is a mere code address, and I use it here
symbolically.  I have seen commerce pretty close.  I know what it is
worth, and I have no particular regard for commercial magnates, but one
must protest against these Bumble-like proceedings.  Is it indignation at
the loss of so many lives which is at work here?  Well, the American
railroads kill very many people during one single year, I dare say.  Then
why don't these dignitaries come down on the presidents of their own
railroads, of which one can't say whether they are mere means of
transportation or a sort of gambling game for the use of American
plutocrats.  Is it only an ardent and, upon the whole, praiseworthy
desire for information?  But the reports of the inquiry tell us that the
august senators, though raising a lot of questions testifying to the
complete innocence and even blankness of their minds, are unable to
understand what the second officer is saying to them.  We are so informed
by the press from the other side.  Even such a simple expression as that
one of the look-out men was stationed in the "eyes of the ship" was too
much for the senators of the land of graphic expression.  What it must
have been in the more recondite matters I won't even try to think,
because I have no mind for smiles just now.  They were greatly exercised
about the sound of explosions heard when half the ship was under water
already.  Was there one?  Were there two?  They seemed to be smelling a
rat there!  Has not some charitable soul told them (what even schoolboys
who read sea stories know) that when a ship sinks from a leak like this,
a deck or two is always blown up; and that when a steamship goes down by
the head, the boilers may, and often do break adrift with a sound which
resembles the sound of an explosion?  And they may, indeed, explode, for
all I know.  In the only case I have seen of a steamship sinking there
was such a sound, but I didn't dive down after her to investigate.  She
was not of 45,000 tons and declared unsinkable, but the sight was
impressive enough.  I shall never forget the muffled, mysterious
detonation, the sudden agitation of the sea round the slowly raised
stern, and to this day I have in my eye the propeller, seen perfectly
still in its frame against a clear evening sky.

But perhaps the second officer has explained to them by this time this
and a few other little facts.  Though why an officer of the British
merchant service should answer the questions of any king, emperor,
autocrat, or senator of any foreign power (as to an event in which a
British ship alone was concerned, and which did not even take place in
the territorial waters of that power) passes my understanding.  The only
authority he is bound to answer is the Board of Trade.  But with what
face the Board of Trade, which, having made the regulations for 10,000
ton ships, put its dear old bald head under its wing for ten years, took
it out only to shelve an important report, and with a dreary murmur,
"Unsinkable," put it back again, in the hope of not being disturbed for
another ten years, with what face it will be putting questions to that
man who has done his duty, as to the facts of this disaster and as to his
professional conduct in it--well, I don't know!  I have the greatest
respect for our established authorities.  I am a disciplined man, and I
have a natural indulgence for the weaknesses of human institutions; but I
will own that at times I have regretted their--how shall I say it?--their
imponderability.  A Board of Trade--what is it?  A Board of . . . I
believe the Speaker of the Irish Parliament is one of the members of it.
A ghost.  Less than that; as yet a mere memory.  An office with adequate
and no doubt comfortable furniture and a lot of perfectly irresponsible
gentlemen who exist packed in its equable atmosphere softly, as if in a
lot of cotton-wool, and with no care in the world; for there can be no
care without personal responsibility--such, for instance, as the seamen
have--those seamen from whose mouths this irresponsible institution can
take away the bread--as a disciplinary measure.  Yes--it's all that.  And
what more?  The name of a politician--a party man!  Less than nothing; a
mere void without as much as a shadow of responsibility cast into it from
that light in which move the masses of men who work, who deal in things
and face the realities--not the words--of this life.

Years ago I remember overhearing two genuine shellbacks of the old type
commenting on a ship's officer, who, if not exactly incompetent, did not
commend himself to their severe judgment of accomplished sailor-men.  Said
one, resuming and concluding the discussion in a funnily judicial tone:

"The Board of Trade must have been drunk when they gave him his

I confess that this notion of the Board of Trade as an entity having a
brain which could be overcome by the fumes of strong liquor charmed me
exceedingly.  For then it would have been unlike the limited companies of
which some exasperated wit has once said that they had no souls to be
saved and no bodies to be kicked, and thus were free in this world and
the next from all the effective sanctions of conscientious conduct.  But,
unfortunately, the picturesque pronouncement overheard by me was only a
characteristic sally of an annoyed sailor.  The Board of Trade is
composed of bloodless departments.  It has no limbs and no physiognomy,
or else at the forthcoming inquiry it might have paid to the victims of
the _Titanic_ disaster the small tribute of a blush.  I ask myself
whether the Marine Department of the Board of Trade did really believe,
when they decided to shelve the report on equipment for a time, that a
ship of 45,000 tons, that _any_ ship, could be made practically
indestructible by means of water-tight bulkheads?  It seems incredible to
anybody who had ever reflected upon the properties of material, such as
wood or steel.  You can't, let builders say what they like, make a ship
of such dimensions as strong proportionately as a much smaller one.  The
shocks our old whalers had to stand amongst the heavy floes in Baffin's
Bay were perfectly staggering, notwithstanding the most skilful handling,
and yet they lasted for years.  The _Titanic_, if one may believe the
last reports, has only scraped against a piece of ice which, I suspect,
was not an enormously bulky and comparatively easily seen berg, but the
low edge of a floe--and sank.  Leisurely enough, God knows--and here the
advantage of bulkheads comes in--for time is a great friend, a good
helper--though in this lamentable case these bulkheads served only to
prolong the agony of the passengers who could not be saved.  But she
sank, causing, apart from the sorrow and the pity of the loss of so many
lives, a sort of surprised consternation that such a thing should have
happened at all.  Why?  You build a 45,000 tons hotel of thin steel
plates to secure the patronage of, say, a couple of thousand rich people
(for if it had been for the emigrant trade alone, there would have been
no such exaggeration of mere size), you decorate it in the style of the
Pharaohs or in the Louis Quinze style--I don't know which--and to please
the aforesaid fatuous handful of individuals, who have more money than
they know what to do with, and to the applause of two continents, you
launch that mass with two thousand people on board at twenty-one knots
across the sea--a perfect exhibition of the modern blind trust in mere
material and appliances.  And then this happens.  General uproar.  The
blind trust in material and appliances has received a terrible shock.  I
will say nothing of the credulity which accepts any statement which
specialists, technicians and office-people are pleased to make, whether
for purposes of gain or glory.  You stand there astonished and hurt in
your profoundest sensibilities.  But what else under the circumstances
could you expect?

For my part I could much sooner believe in an unsinkable ship of 3,000
tons than in one of 40,000 tons.  It is one of those things that stand to
reason.  You can't increase the thickness of scantling and plates
indefinitely.  And the mere weight of this bigness is an added
disadvantage.  In reading the reports, the first reflection which occurs
to one is that, if that luckless ship had been a couple of hundred feet
shorter, she would have probably gone clear of the danger.  But then,
perhaps, she could not have had a swimming bath and a French cafe.  That,
of course, is a serious consideration.  I am well aware that those
responsible for her short and fatal existence ask us in desolate accents
to believe that if she had hit end on she would have survived.  Which, by
a sort of coy implication, seems to mean that it was all the fault of the
officer of the watch (he is dead now) for trying to avoid the obstacle.
We shall have presently, in deference to commercial and industrial
interests, a new kind of seamanship.  A very new and "progressive" kind.
If you see anything in the way, by no means try to avoid it; smash at it
full tilt.  And then--and then only you shall see the triumph of
material, of clever contrivances, of the whole box of engineering tricks
in fact, and cover with glory a commercial concern of the most
unmitigated sort, a great Trust, and a great ship-building yard, justly
famed for the super-excellence of its material and workmanship.
Unsinkable!  See?  I told you she was unsinkable, if only handled in
accordance with the new seamanship.  Everything's in that.  And,
doubtless, the Board of Trade, if properly approached, would consent to
give the needed instructions to its examiners of Masters and Mates.
Behold the examination-room of the future.  Enter to the grizzled
examiner a young man of modest aspect: "Are you well up in modern
seamanship?"  "I hope so, sir."  "H'm, let's see.  You are at night on
the bridge in charge of a 150,000 tons ship, with a motor track, organ-
loft, etc., etc., with a full cargo of passengers, a full crew of 1,500
cafe waiters, two sailors and a boy, three collapsible boats as per Board
of Trade regulations, and going at your three-quarter speed of, say,
about forty knots.  You perceive suddenly right ahead, and close to,
something that looks like a large ice-floe.  What would you do?"  "Put
the helm amidships."  "Very well.  Why?"  "In order to hit end on."  "On
what grounds should you endeavour to hit end on?"  "Because we are taught
by our builders and masters that the heavier the smash, the smaller the
damage, and because the requirements of material should be attended to."

And so on and so on.  The new seamanship: when in doubt try to ram
fairly--whatever's before you.  Very simple.  If only the _Titanic_ had
rammed that piece of ice (which was not a monstrous berg) fairly, every
puffing paragraph would have been vindicated in the eyes of the credulous
public which pays.  But would it have been?  Well, I doubt it.  I am well
aware that in the eighties the steamship Arizona, one of the "greyhounds
of the ocean" in the jargon of that day, did run bows on against a very
unmistakable iceberg, and managed to get into port on her collision
bulkhead.  But the _Arizona_ was not, if I remember rightly, 5,000 tons
register, let alone 45,000, and she was not going at twenty knots per
hour.  I can't be perfectly certain at this distance of time, but her sea-
speed could not have been more than fourteen at the outside.  Both these
facts made for safety.  And, even if she had been engined to go twenty
knots, there would not have been behind that speed the enormous mass, so
difficult to check in its impetus, the terrific weight of which is bound
to do damage to itself or others at the slightest contact.

I assure you it is not for the vain pleasure of talking about my own poor
experiences, but only to illustrate my point, that I will relate here a
very unsensational little incident I witnessed now rather more than
twenty years ago in Sydney, N.S.W.  Ships were beginning then to grow
bigger year after year, though, of course, the present dimensions were
not even dreamt of.  I was standing on the Circular Quay with a Sydney
pilot watching a big mail steamship of one of our best-known companies
being brought alongside.  We admired her lines, her noble appearance, and
were impressed by her size as well, though her length, I imagine, was
hardly half that of the _Titanic_.

She came into the Cove (as that part of the harbour is called), of course
very slowly, and at some hundred feet or so short of the quay she lost
her way.  That quay was then a wooden one, a fine structure of mighty
piles and stringers bearing a roadway--a thing of great strength.  The
ship, as I have said before, stopped moving when some hundred feet from
it.  Then her engines were rung on slow ahead, and immediately rung off
again.  The propeller made just about five turns, I should say.  She
began to move, stealing on, so to speak, without a ripple; coming
alongside with the utmost gentleness.  I went on looking her over, very
much interested, but the man with me, the pilot, muttered under his
breath: "Too much, too much."  His exercised judgment had warned him of
what I did not even suspect.  But I believe that neither of us was
exactly prepared for what happened.  There was a faint concussion of the
ground under our feet, a groaning of piles, a snapping of great iron
bolts, and with a sound of ripping and splintering, as when a tree is
blown down by the wind, a great strong piece of wood, a baulk of squared
timber, was displaced several feet as if by enchantment.  I looked at my
companion in amazement.  "I could not have believed it," I declared.
"No," he said.  "You would not have thought she would have cracked an

I certainly wouldn't have thought that.  He shook his head, and added:
"Ah!  These great, big things, they want some handling."

Some months afterwards I was back in Sydney.  The same pilot brought me
in from sea.  And I found the same steamship, or else another as like her
as two peas, lying at anchor not far from us.  The pilot told me she had
arrived the day before, and that he was to take her alongside to-morrow.
I reminded him jocularly of the damage to the quay.  "Oh!" he said, "we
are not allowed now to bring them in under their own steam.  We are using

A very wise regulation.  And this is my point--that size is to a certain
extent an element of weakness.  The bigger the ship, the more delicately
she must be handled.  Here is a contact which, in the pilot's own words,
you wouldn't think could have cracked an egg; with the astonishing result
of something like eighty feet of good strong wooden quay shaken loose,
iron bolts snapped, a baulk of stout timber splintered.  Now, suppose
that quay had been of granite (as surely it is now)--or, instead of the
quay, if there had been, say, a North Atlantic fog there, with a full-
grown iceberg in it awaiting the gentle contact of a ship groping its way
along blindfold?  Something would have been hurt, but it would not have
been the iceberg.

Apparently, there is a point in development when it ceases to be a true
progress--in trade, in games, in the marvellous handiwork of men, and
even in their demands and desires and aspirations of the moral and mental
kind.  There is a point when progress, to remain a real advance, must
change slightly the direction of its line.  But this is a wide question.
What I wanted to point out here is--that the old _Arizona_, the marvel of
her day, was proportionately stronger, handier, better equipped, than
this triumph of modern naval architecture, the loss of which, in common
parlance, will remain the sensation of this year.  The clatter of the
presses has been worthy of the tonnage, of the preliminary paeans of
triumph round that vanished hull, of the reckless statements, and
elaborate descriptions of its ornate splendour.  A great babble of news
(and what sort of news too, good heavens!) and eager comment has arisen
around this catastrophe, though it seems to me that a less strident note
would have been more becoming in the presence of so many victims left
struggling on the sea, of lives miserably thrown away for nothing, or
worse than nothing: for false standards of achievement, to satisfy a
vulgar demand of a few moneyed people for a banal hotel luxury--the only
one they can understand--and because the big ship pays, in one way or
another: in money or in advertising value.

It is in more ways than one a very ugly business, and a mere scrape along
the ship's side, so slight that, if reports are to be believed, it did
not interrupt a card party in the gorgeously fitted (but in chaste style)
smoking-room--or was it in the delightful French cafe?--is enough to
bring on the exposure.  All the people on board existed under a sense of
false security.  How false, it has been sufficiently demonstrated.  And
the fact which seems undoubted, that some of them actually were reluctant
to enter the boats when told to do so, shows the strength of that
falsehood.  Incidentally, it shows also the sort of discipline on board
these ships, the sort of hold kept on the passengers in the face of the
unforgiving sea.  These people seemed to imagine it an optional matter:
whereas the order to leave the ship should be an order of the sternest
character, to be obeyed unquestioningly and promptly by every one on
board, with men to enforce it at once, and to carry it out methodically
and swiftly.  And it is no use to say it cannot be done, for it can.  It
has been done.  The only requisite is manageableness of the ship herself
and of the numbers she carries on board.  That is the great thing which
makes for safety.  A commander should be able to hold his ship and
everything on board of her in the hollow of his hand, as it were.  But
with the modern foolish trust in material, and with those floating
hotels, this has become impossible.  A man may do his best, but he cannot
succeed in a task which from greed, or more likely from sheer stupidity,
has been made too great for anybody's strength.

The readers of _The English Review_, who cast a friendly eye nearly six
years ago on my Reminiscences, and know how much the merchant service,
ships and men, has been to me, will understand my indignation that those
men of whom (speaking in no sentimental phrase, but in the very truth of
feeling) I can't even now think otherwise than as brothers, have been put
by their commercial employers in the impossibility to perform efficiently
their plain duty; and this from motives which I shall not enumerate here,
but whose intrinsic unworthiness is plainly revealed by the greatness,
the miserable greatness, of that disaster.  Some of them have perished.
To die for commerce is hard enough, but to go under that sea we have been
trained to combat, with a sense of failure in the supreme duty of one's
calling is indeed a bitter fate.  Thus they are gone, and the
responsibility remains with the living who will have no difficulty in
replacing them by others, just as good, at the same wages.  It was their
bitter fate.  But I, who can look at some arduous years when their duty
was my duty too, and their feelings were my feelings, can remember some
of us who once upon a time were more fortunate.

It is of them that I would talk a little, for my own comfort partly, and
also because I am sticking all the time to my subject to illustrate my
point, the point of manageableness which I have raised just now.  Since
the memory of the lucky _Arizona_ has been evoked by others than myself,
and made use of by me for my own purpose, let me call up the ghost of
another ship of that distant day whose less lucky destiny inculcates
another lesson making for my argument.  The _Douro_, a ship belonging to
the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, was rather less than one-tenth the
measurement of the _Titanic_.  Yet, strange as it may appear to the
ineffable hotel exquisites who form the bulk of the first-class Cross-
Atlantic Passengers, people of position and wealth and refinement did not
consider it an intolerable hardship to travel in her, even all the way
from South America; this being the service she was engaged upon.  Of her
speed I know nothing, but it must have been the average of the period,
and the decorations of her saloons were, I dare say, quite up to the
mark; but I doubt if her birth had been boastfully paragraphed all round
the Press, because that was not the fashion of the time.  She was not a
mass of material gorgeously furnished and upholstered.  She was a ship.
And she was not, in the apt words of an article by Commander C.
Crutchley, R.N.R., which I have just read, "run by a sort of hotel
syndicate composed of the Chief Engineer, the Purser, and the Captain,"
as these monstrous Atlantic ferries are.  She was really commanded,
manned, and equipped as a ship meant to keep the sea: a ship first and
last in the fullest meaning of the term, as the fact I am going to relate
will show.

She was off the Spanish coast, homeward bound, and fairly full, just like
the _Titanic_; and further, the proportion of her crew to her passengers,
I remember quite well, was very much the same.  The exact number of souls
on board I have forgotten.  It might have been nearly three hundred,
certainly not more.  The night was moonlit, but hazy, the weather fine
with a heavy swell running from the westward, which means that she must
have been rolling a great deal, and in that respect the conditions for
her were worse than in the case of the _Titanic_.  Some time either just
before or just after midnight, to the best of my recollection, she was
run into amidships and at right angles by a large steamer which after the
blow backed out, and, herself apparently damaged, remained motionless at
some distance.

My recollection is that the _Douro_ remained afloat after the collision
for fifteen minutes or thereabouts.  It might have been twenty, but
certainly something under the half-hour.  In that time the boats were
lowered, all the passengers put into them, and the lot shoved off.  There
was no time to do anything more.  All the crew of the _Douro_ went down
with her, literally without a murmur.  When she went she plunged bodily
down like a stone.  The only members of the ship's company who survived
were the third officer, who was from the first ordered to take charge of
the boats, and the seamen told off to man them, two in each.  Nobody else
was picked up.  A quartermaster, one of the saved in the way of duty,
with whom I talked a month or so afterwards, told me that they pulled up
to the spot, but could neither see a head nor hear the faintest cry.

But I have forgotten.  A passenger was drowned.  She was a lady's maid
who, frenzied with terror, refused to leave the ship.  One of the boats
waited near by till the chief officer, finding himself absolutely unable
to tear the girl away from the rail to which she dung with a frantic
grasp, ordered the boat away out of danger.  My quartermaster told me
that he spoke over to them in his ordinary voice, and this was the last
sound heard before the ship sank.

The rest is silence.  I daresay there was the usual official inquiry, but
who cared for it?  That sort of thing speaks for itself with no uncertain
voice; though the papers, I remember, gave the event no space to speak
of: no large headlines--no headlines at all.  You see it was not the
fashion at the time.  A seaman-like piece of work, of which one cherishes
the old memory at this juncture more than ever before.  She was a ship
commanded, manned, equipped--not a sort of marine Ritz, proclaimed
unsinkable and sent adrift with its casual population upon the sea,
without enough boats, without enough seamen (but with a Parisian cafe and
four hundred of poor devils of waiters) to meet dangers which, let the
engineers say what they like, lurk always amongst the waves; sent with a
blind trust in mere material, light-heartedly, to a most miserable, most
fatuous disaster.

And there are, too, many ugly developments about this tragedy.  The rush
of the senatorial inquiry before the poor wretches escaped from the jaws
of death had time to draw breath, the vituperative abuse of a man no more
guilty than others in this matter, and the suspicion of this aimless fuss
being a political move to get home on the M.T. Company, into which, in
common parlance, the United States Government has got its knife, I don't
pretend to understand why, though with the rest of the world I am aware
of the fact.  Perhaps there may be an excellent and worthy reason for it;
but I venture to suggest that to take advantage of so many pitiful
corpses, is not pretty.  And the exploiting of the mere sensation on the
other side is not pretty in its wealth of heartless inventions.  Neither
is the welter of Marconi lies which has not been sent vibrating without
some reason, for which it would be nauseous to inquire too closely.  And
the calumnious, baseless, gratuitous, circumstantial lie charging poor
Captain Smith with desertion of his post by means of suicide is the
vilest and most ugly thing of all in this outburst of journalistic
enterprise, without feeling, without honour, without decency.

But all this has its moral.  And that other sinking which I have related
here and to the memory of which a seaman turns with relief and
thankfulness has its moral too.  Yes, material may fail, and men, too,
may fail sometimes; but more often men, when they are given the chance,
will prove themselves truer than steel, that wonderful thin steel from
which the sides and the bulkheads of our modern sea-leviathans are made.


I have been taken to task by a friend of mine on the "other side" for my
strictures on Senator Smith's investigation into the loss of the
_Titanic_, in the number of _The English Review_ for May, 1912.  I will
admit that the motives of the investigation may have been excellent, and
probably were; my criticism bore mainly on matters of form and also on
the point of efficiency.  In that respect I have nothing to retract.  The
Senators of the Commission had absolutely no knowledge and no practice to
guide them in the conduct of such an investigation; and this fact gave an
air of unreality to their zealous exertions.  I think that even in the
United States there is some regret that this zeal of theirs was not
tempered by a large dose of wisdom.  It is fitting that people who rush
with such ardour to the work of putting questions to men yet gasping from
a narrow escape should have, I wouldn't say a tincture of technical
information, but enough knowledge of the subject to direct the trend of
their inquiry.  The newspapers of two continents have noted the remarks
of the President of the Senatorial Commission with comments which I will
not reproduce here, having a scant respect for the "organs of public
opinion," as they fondly believe themselves to be.  The absolute value of
their remarks was about as great as the value of the investigation they
either mocked at or extolled.  To the United States Senate I did not
intend to be disrespectful.  I have for that body, of which one hears
mostly in connection with tariffs, as much reverence as the best of
Americans.  To manifest more or less would be an impertinence in a
stranger.  I have expressed myself with less reserve on our Board of
Trade.  That was done under the influence of warm feelings.  We were all
feeling warmly on the matter at that time.  But, at any rate, our Board
of Trade Inquiry, conducted by an experienced President, discovered a
very interesting fact on the very second day of its sitting: the fact
that the water-tight doors in the bulkheads of that wonder of naval
architecture could be opened down below by any irresponsible person.  Thus
the famous closing apparatus on the bridge, paraded as a device of
greater safety, with its attachments of warning bells, coloured lights,
and all these pretty-pretties, was, in the case of this ship, little
better than a technical farce.

It is amusing, if anything connected with this stupid catastrophe can be
amusing, to see the secretly crestfallen attitude of technicians.  They
are the high priests of the modern cult of perfected material and of
mechanical appliances, and would fain forbid the profane from inquiring
into its mysteries.  We are the masters of progress, they say, and you
should remain respectfully silent.  And they take refuge behind their
mathematics.  I have the greatest regard for mathematics as an exercise
of mind.  It is the only manner of thinking which approaches the Divine.
But mere calculations, of which these men make so much, when unassisted
by imagination and when they have gained mastery over common sense, are
the most deceptive exercises of intellect.  Two and two are four, and two
are six.  That is immutable; you may trust your soul to that; but you
must be certain first of your quantities.  I know how the strength of
materials can be calculated away, and also the evidence of one's senses.
For it is by some sort of calculation involving weights and levels that
the technicians responsible for the _Titanic_ persuaded themselves that a
ship _not divided_ by water-tight compartments could be "unsinkable."
Because, you know, she was not divided.  You and I, and our little boys,
when we want to divide, say, a box, take care to procure a piece of wood
which will reach from the bottom to the lid.  We know that if it does not
reach all the way up, the box will not be divided into two compartments.
It will be only partly divided.  The _Titanic_ was only partly divided.
She was just sufficiently divided to drown some poor devils like rats in
a trap.  It is probable that they would have perished in any case, but it
is a particularly horrible fate to die boxed up like this.  Yes, she was
sufficiently divided for that, but not sufficiently divided to prevent
the water flowing over.

Therefore to a plain man who knows something of mathematics but is not
bemused by calculations, she was, from the point of view of
"unsinkability," not divided at all.  What would you say of people who
would boast of a fireproof building, an hotel, for instance, saying, "Oh,
we have it divided by fireproof bulkheads which would localise any
outbreak," and if you were to discover on closer inspection that these
bulkheads closed no more than two-thirds of the openings they were meant
to close, leaving above an open space through which draught, smoke, and
fire could rush from one end of the building to the other?  And,
furthermore, that those partitions, being too high to climb over, the
people confined in each menaced compartment had to stay there and become
asphyxiated or roasted, because no exits to the outside, say to the roof,
had been provided!  What would you think of the intelligence or candour
of these advertising people?  What would you think of them?  And yet,
apart from the obvious difference in the action of fire and water, the
cases are essentially the same.

It would strike you and me and our little boys (who are not engineers
yet) that to approach--I won't say attain--somewhere near absolute
safety, the divisions to keep out water should extend from the bottom
right up to the uppermost deck of _the hull_.  I repeat, the _hull_,
because there are above the hull the decks of the superstructures of
which we need not take account.  And further, as a provision of the
commonest humanity, that each of these compartments should have a
perfectly independent and free access to that uppermost deck: that is,
into the open.  Nothing less will do.  Division by bulkheads that really
divide, and free access to the deck from every water-tight compartment.
Then the responsible man in the moment of danger and in the exercise of
his judgment could close all the doors of these water-tight bulkheads by
whatever clever contrivance has been invented for the purpose, without a
qualm at the awful thought that he may be shutting up some of his fellow
creatures in a death-trap; that he may be sacrificing the lives of men
who, down there, are sticking to the posts of duty as the engine-room
staffs of the Merchant Service have never failed to do.  I know very well
that the engineers of a ship in a moment of emergency are not quaking for
their lives, but, as far as I have known them, attend calmly to their
duty.  We all must die; but, hang it all, a man ought to be given a
chance, if not for his life, then at least to die decently.  It's bad
enough to have to stick down there when something disastrous is going on
and any moment may be your last; but to be drowned shut up under deck is
too bad.  Some men of the _Titanic_ died like that, it is to be feared.
Compartmented, so to speak.  Just think what it means!  Nothing can
approach the horror of that fate except being buried alive in a cave, or
in a mine, or in your family vault.

So, once more: continuous bulkheads--a clear way of escape to the deck
out of each water-tight compartment.  Nothing less.  And if specialists,
the precious specialists of the sort that builds "unsinkable ships," tell
you that it cannot be done, don't you believe them.  It can be done, and
they are quite clever enough to do it too.  The objections they will
raise, however disguised in the solemn mystery of technical phrases, will
not be technical, but commercial.  I assure you that there is not much
mystery about a ship of that sort.  She is a tank.  She is a tank ribbed,
joisted, stayed, but she is no greater mystery than a tank.  The
_Titanic_ was a tank eight hundred feet long, fitted as an hotel, with
corridors, bed-rooms, halls, and so on (not a very mysterious arrangement
truly), and for the hazards of her existence I should think about as
strong as a Huntley and Palmer biscuit-tin.  I make this comparison
because Huntley and Palmer biscuit-tins, being almost a national
institution, are probably known to all my readers.  Well, about that
strong, and perhaps not quite so strong.  Just look at the side of such a
tin, and then think of a 50,000 ton ship, and try to imagine what the
thickness of her plates should be to approach anywhere the relative
solidity of that biscuit-tin.  In my varied and adventurous career I have
been thrilled by the sight of a Huntley and Palmer biscuit-tin kicked by
a mule sky-high, as the saying is.  It came back to earth smiling, with
only a sort of dimple on one of its cheeks.  A proportionately severe
blow would have burst the side of the _Titanic_ or any other "triumph of
modern naval architecture" like brown paper--I am willing to bet.

I am not saying this by way of disparagement.  There is reason in things.
You can't make a 50,000 ton ship as strong as a Huntley and Palmer
biscuit-tin.  But there is also reason in the way one accepts facts, and
I refuse to be awed by the size of a tank bigger than any other tank that
ever went afloat to its doom.  The people responsible for her, though
disconcerted in their hearts by the exposure of that disaster, are giving
themselves airs of superiority--priests of an Oracle which has failed,
but still must remain the Oracle.  The assumption is that they are
ministers of progress.  But the mere increase of size is not progress.  If
it were, elephantiasis, which causes a man's legs to become as large as
tree-trunks, would be a sort of progress, whereas it is nothing but a
very ugly disease.  Yet directly this very disconcerting catastrophe
happened, the servants of the silly Oracle began to cry: "It's no use!
You can't resist progress.  The big ship has come to stay."  Well, let
her stay on, then, in God's name!  But she isn't a servant of progress in
any sense.  She is the servant of commercialism.  For progress, if
dealing with the problems of a material world, has some sort of moral
aspect--if only, say, that of conquest, which has its distinct value
since man is a conquering animal.  But bigness is mere exaggeration.  The
men responsible for these big ships have been moved by considerations of
profit to be made by the questionable means of pandering to an absurd and
vulgar demand for banal luxury--the seaside hotel luxury.  One even asks
oneself whether there was such a demand?  It is inconceivable to think
that there are people who can't spend five days of their life without a
suite of apartments, cafes, bands, and such-like refined delights.  I
suspect that the public is not so very guilty in this matter.  These
things were pushed on to it in the usual course of trade competition.  If
to-morrow you were to take all these luxuries away, the public would
still travel.  I don't despair of mankind.  I believe that if, by some
catastrophic miracle all ships of every kind were to disappear off the
face of the waters, together with the means of replacing them, there
would be found, before the end of the week, men (millionaires, perhaps)
cheerfully putting out to sea in bath-tubs for a fresh start.  We are all
like that.  This sort of spirit lives in mankind still uncorrupted by the
so-called refinements, the ingenuity of tradesmen, who look always for
something new to sell, offers to the public.

Let her stay,--I mean the big ship--since she has come to stay.  I only
object to the attitude of the people, who, having called her into being
and having romanced (to speak politely) about her, assume a detached sort
of superiority, goodness only knows why, and raise difficulties in the
way of every suggestion--difficulties about boats, about bulkheads, about
discipline, about davits, all sorts of difficulties.  To most of them the
only answer would be: "Where there's a will there's a way"--the most wise
of proverbs.  But some of these objections are really too stupid for
anything.  I shall try to give an instance of what I mean.

This Inquiry is admirably conducted.  I am not alluding to the lawyers
representing "various interests," who are trying to earn their fees by
casting all sorts of mean aspersions on the characters of all sorts of
people not a bit worse than themselves.  It is honest to give value for
your wages; and the "bravos" of ancient Venice who kept their stilettos
in good order and never failed to deliver the stab bargained for with
their employers, considered themselves an honest body of professional
men, no doubt.  But they don't compel my admiration, whereas the conduct
of this Inquiry does.  And as it is pretty certain to be attacked, I take
this opportunity to deposit here my nickel of appreciation.  Well,
lately, there came before it witnesses responsible for the designing of
the ship.  One of them was asked whether it would not be advisable to
make each coal-bunker of the ship a water-tight compartment by means of a
suitable door.

The answer to such a question should have been, "Certainly," for it is
obvious to the simplest intelligence that the more water-tight spaces you
provide in a ship (consistently with having her workable) the nearer you
approach safety.  But instead of admitting the expediency of the
suggestion, this witness at once raised an objection as to the
possibility of closing tightly the door of a bunker on account of the
slope of coal.  This with the true expert's attitude of "My dear man, you
don't know what you are talking about."

Now would you believe that the objection put forward was absolutely
futile?  I don't know whether the distinguished President of the Court
perceived this.  Very likely he did, though I don't suppose he was ever
on terms of familiarity with a ship's bunker.  But I have.  I have been
inside; and you may take it that what I say of them is correct.  I don't
wish to be wearisome to the benevolent reader, but I want to put his
finger, so to speak, on the inanity of the objection raised by the
expert.  A bunker is an enclosed space for holding coals, generally
located against the ship's side, and having an opening, a doorway in
fact, into the stokehold.  Men called trimmers go in there, and by means
of implements called slices make the coal run through that opening on to
the floor of the stokehold, where it is within reach of the stokers'
(firemen's) shovels.  This being so, you will easily understand that
there is constantly a more or less thick layer of coal generally shaped
in a slope lying in that doorway.  And the objection of the expert was:
that because of this obstruction it would be impossible to close the
water-tight door, and therefore that the thing could not be done.  And
that objection was inane.  A water-tight door in a bulkhead may be
defined as a metal plate which is made to close a given opening by some
mechanical means.  And if there were a law of Medes and Persians that a
water-tight door should always slide downwards and never otherwise, the
objection would be to a great extent valid.  But what is there to prevent
those doors to be fitted so as to move upwards, or horizontally, or
slantwise?  In which case they would go through the obstructing layer of
coal as easily as a knife goes through butter.  Anyone may convince
himself of it by experimenting with a light piece of board and a heap of
stones anywhere along our roads.  Probably the joint of such a door would
weep a little--and there is no necessity for its being hermetically
tight--but the object of converting bunkers into spaces of safety would
be attained.  You may take my word for it that this could be done without
any great effort of ingenuity.  And that is why I have qualified the
expert's objection as inane.

Of course, these doors must not be operated from the bridge because of
the risk of trapping the coal-trimmers inside the bunker; but on the
signal of all other water-tight doors in the ship being closed (as would
be done in case of a collision) they too could be closed on the order of
the engineer of the watch, who would see to the safety of the trimmers.
If the rent in the ship's side were within the bunker itself, that would
become manifest enough without any signal, and the rush of water into the
stokehold could be cut off directly the doorplate came into its place.
Say a minute at the very outside.  Naturally, if the blow of a
right-angled collision, for instance, were heavy enough to smash through
the inner bulkhead of the bunker, why, there would be then nothing to do
but for the stokers and trimmers and everybody in there to clear out of
the stoke-room.  But that does not mean that the precaution of having
water-tight doors to the bunkers is useless, superfluous, or impossible.

And talking of stokeholds, firemen, and trimmers, men whose heavy labour
has not a single redeeming feature; which is unhealthy, uninspiring,
arduous, without the reward of personal pride in it; sheer, hard,
brutalising toil, belonging neither to earth nor sea, I greet with joy
the advent for marine purposes of the internal combustion engine.  The
disappearance of the marine boiler will be a real progress, which anybody
in sympathy with his kind must welcome.  Instead of the unthrifty,
unruly, nondescript crowd the boilers require, a crowd of men _in_ the
ship but not _of_ her, we shall have comparatively small crews of
disciplined, intelligent workers, able to steer the ship, handle anchors,
man boats, and at the same time competent to take their place at a bench
as fitters and repairers; the resourceful and skilled seamen--mechanics
of the future, the legitimate successors of these seamen--sailors of the
past, who had their own kind of skill, hardihood, and tradition, and
whose last days it has been my lot to share.

One lives and learns and hears very surprising things--things that one
hardly knows how to take, whether seriously or jocularly, how to
meet--with indignation or with contempt?  Things said by solemn experts,
by exalted directors, by glorified ticket-sellers, by officials of all
sorts.  I suppose that one of the uses of such an inquiry is to give such
people enough rope to hang themselves with.  And I hope that some of them
won't neglect to do so.  One of them declared two days ago that there was
"nothing to learn from the catastrophe of the _Titanic_."  That he had
been "giving his best consideration" to certain rules for ten years, and
had come to the conclusion that nothing ever happened at sea, and that
rules and regulations, boats and sailors, were unnecessary; that what was
really wrong with the _Titanic_ was that she carried too many boats.

No; I am not joking.  If you don't believe me, pray look back through the
reports and you will find it all there.  I don't recollect the official's
name, but it ought to have been Pooh-Bah.  Well, Pooh-Bah said all these
things, and when asked whether he really meant it, intimated his
readiness to give the subject more of "his best consideration"--for
another ten years or so apparently--but he believed, oh yes! he was
certain, that had there been fewer boats there would have been more
people saved.  Really, when reading the report of this admirably
conducted inquiry one isn't certain at times whether it is an Admirable
Inquiry or a felicitous _opera-bouffe_ of the Gilbertian type--with a
rather grim subject, to be sure.

Yes, rather grim--but the comic treatment never fails.  My readers will
remember that in the number of _The English Review_ for May, 1912, I
quoted the old case of the _Arizona_, and went on from that to prophesy
the coming of a new seamanship (in a spirit of irony far removed from
fun) at the call of the sublime builders of unsinkable ships.  I thought
that, as a small boy of my acquaintance says, I was "doing a sarcasm,"
and regarded it as a rather wild sort of sarcasm at that.  Well, I am
blessed (excuse the vulgarism) if a witness has not turned up who seems
to have been inspired by the same thought, and evidently longs in his
heart for the advent of the new seamanship.  He is an expert, of course,
and I rather believe he's the same gentleman who did not see his way to
fit water-tight doors to bunkers.  With ludicrous earnestness he assured
the Commission of his intense belief that had only the _Titanic_ struck
end-on she would have come into port all right.  And in the whole tone of
his insistent statement there was suggested the regret that the officer
in charge (who is dead now, and mercifully outside the comic scope of
this inquiry) was so ill-advised as to try to pass clear of the ice.  Thus
my sarcastic prophecy, that such a suggestion was sure to turn up,
receives an unexpected fulfilment.  You will see yet that in deference to
the demands of "progress" the theory of the new seamanship will become
established: "Whatever you see in front of you--ram it fair. . ."  The
new seamanship!  Looks simple, doesn't it?  But it will be a very exact
art indeed.  The proper handling of an unsinkable ship, you see, will
demand that she should be made to hit the iceberg very accurately with
her nose, because should you perchance scrape the bluff of the bow
instead, she may, without ceasing to be as unsinkable as before, find her
way to the bottom.  I congratulate the future Transatlantic passengers on
the new and vigorous sensations in store for them.  They shall go
bounding across from iceberg to iceberg at twenty-five knots with
precision and safety, and a "cheerful bumpy sound"--as the immortal poem
has it.  It will be a teeth-loosening, exhilarating experience.  The
decorations will be Louis-Quinze, of course, and the cafe shall remain
open all night.  But what about the priceless Sevres porcelain and the
Venetian glass provided for the service of Transatlantic passengers?
Well, I am afraid all that will have to be replaced by silver goblets and
plates.  Nasty, common, cheap silver.  But those who _will_ go to sea
must be prepared to put up with a certain amount of hardship.

And there shall be no boats.  Why should there be no boats?  Because Pooh-
Bah has said that the fewer the boats, the more people can be saved; and
therefore with no boats at all, no one need be lost.  But even if there
was a flaw in this argument, pray look at the other advantages the
absence of boats gives you.  There can't be the annoyance of having to go
into them in the middle of the night, and the unpleasantness, after
saving your life by the skin of your teeth, of being hauled over the
coals by irreproachable members of the Bar with hints that you are no
better than a cowardly scoundrel and your wife a heartless monster.  Less
Boats.  No boats!  Great should be the gratitude of passage-selling
Combines to Pooh-Bah; and they ought to cherish his memory when he dies.
But no fear of that.  His kind never dies.  All you have to do, O
Combine, is to knock at the door of the Marine Department, look in, and
beckon to the first man you see.  That will be he, very much at your
service--prepared to affirm after "ten years of my best consideration"
and a bundle of statistics in hand, that: "There's no lesson to be
learned, and that there is nothing to be done!"

On an earlier day there was another witness before the Court of Inquiry.
A mighty official of the White Star Line.  The impression of his
testimony which the Report gave is of an almost scornful impatience with
all this fuss and pother.  Boats!  Of course we have crowded our decks
with them in answer to this ignorant clamour.  Mere lumber!  How can we
handle so many boats with our davits?  Your people don't know the
conditions of the problem.  We have given these matters our best
consideration, and we have done what we thought reasonable.  We have done
more than our duty.  We are wise, and good, and impeccable.  And whoever
says otherwise is either ignorant or wicked.

This is the gist of these scornful answers which disclose the psychology
of commercial undertakings.  It is the same psychology which fifty or so
years ago, before Samuel Plimsoll uplifted his voice, sent overloaded
ships to sea.  "Why shouldn't we cram in as much cargo as our ships will
hold?  Look how few, how very few of them get lost, after all."

Men don't change.  Not very much.  And the only answer to be given to
this manager who came out, impatient and indignant, from behind the plate-
glass windows of his shop to be discovered by this inquiry, and to tell
us that he, they, the whole three million (or thirty million, for all I
know) capital Organisation for selling passages has considered the
problem of boats--the only answer to give him is: that this is not a
problem of boats at all.  It is the problem of decent behaviour.  If you
can't carry or handle so many boats, then don't cram quite so many people
on board.  It is as simple as that--this problem of right feeling and
right conduct, the real nature of which seems beyond the comprehension of
ticket-providers.  Don't sell so many tickets, my virtuous dignitary.
After all, men and women (unless considered from a purely commercial
point of view) are not exactly the cattle of the Western-ocean trade,
that used some twenty years ago to be thrown overboard on an emergency
and left to swim round and round before they sank.  If you can't get more
boats, then sell less tickets.  Don't drown so many people on the finest,
calmest night that was ever known in the North Atlantic--even if you have
provided them with a little music to get drowned by.  Sell less tickets!
That's the solution of the problem, your Mercantile Highness.

But there would be a cry, "Oh!  This requires consideration!"  (Ten years
of it--eh?)  Well, no!  This does not require consideration.  This is the
very first thing to do.  At once.  Limit the number of people by the
boats you can handle.  That's honesty.  And then you may go on fumbling
for years about these precious davits which are such a stumbling-block to
your humanity.  These fascinating patent davits.  These davits that
refuse to do three times as much work as they were meant to do.  Oh!  The
wickedness of these davits!

One of the great discoveries of this admirable Inquiry is the fascination
of the davits.  All these people positively can't get away from them.
They shuffle about and groan around their davits.  Whereas the obvious
thing to do is to eliminate the man-handled davits altogether.  Don't you
think that with all the mechanical contrivances, with all the generated
power on board these ships, it is about time to get rid of the hundred-
years-old, man-power appliances?  Cranes are what is wanted; low, compact
cranes with adjustable heads, one to each set of six or nine boats.  And
if people tell you of insuperable difficulties, if they tell you of the
swing and spin of spanned boats, don't you believe them.  The heads of
the cranes need not be any higher than the heads of the davits.  The lift
required would be only a couple of inches.  As to the spin, there is a
way to prevent that if you have in each boat two men who know what they
are about.  I have taken up on board a heavy ship's boat, in the open sea
(the ship rolling heavily), with a common cargo derrick.  And a cargo
derrick is very much like a crane; but a crane devised _ad hoc_ would be
infinitely easier to work.  We must remember that the loss of this ship
has altered the moral atmosphere.  As long as the _Titanic_ is
remembered, an ugly rush for the boats may be feared in case of some
accident.  You can't hope to drill into perfect discipline a casual mob
of six hundred firemen and waiters, but in a ship like the _Titanic_ you
can keep on a permanent trustworthy crew of one hundred intelligent
seamen and mechanics who would know their stations for abandoning ship
and would do the work efficiently.  The boats could be lowered with
sufficient dispatch.  One does not want to let rip one's boats by the run
all at the same time.  With six boat-cranes, six boats would be
simultaneously swung, filled, and got away from the side; and if any sort
of order is kept, the ship could be cleared of the passengers in a quite
short time.  For there must be boats enough for the passengers and crew,
whether you increase the number of boats or limit the number of
passengers, irrespective of the size of the ship.  That is the only
honest course.  Any other would be rather worse than putting sand in the
sugar, for which a tradesman gets fined or imprisoned.  Do not let us
take a romantic view of the so-called progress.  A company selling
passages is a tradesman; though from the way these people talk and behave
you would think they are benefactors of mankind in some mysterious way,
engaged in some lofty and amazing enterprise.

All these boats should have a motor-engine in them.  And, of course, the
glorified tradesman, the mummified official, the technicians, and all
these secretly disconcerted hangers-on to the enormous ticket-selling
enterprise, will raise objections to it with every air of superiority.
But don't believe them.  Doesn't it strike you as absurd that in this age
of mechanical propulsion, of generated power, the boats of such ultra-
modern ships are fitted with oars and sails, implements more than three
thousand years old?  Old as the siege of Troy.  Older! . . . And I know
what I am talking about.  Only six weeks ago I was on the river in an
ancient, rough, ship's boat, fitted with a two-cylinder motor-engine of
7.5 h.p.  Just a common ship's boat, which the man who owns her uses for
taking the workmen and stevedores to and from the ships loading at the
buoys off Greenhithe.  She would have carried some thirty people.  No
doubt has carried as many daily for many months.  And she can tow a
twenty-five ton water barge--which is also part of that man's business.

It was a boisterous day, half a gale of wind against the flood tide.  Two
fellows managed her.  A youngster of seventeen was cox (and a first-rate
cox he was too); a fellow in a torn blue jersey, not much older, of the
usual riverside type, looked after the engine.  I spent an hour and a
half in her, running up and down and across that reach.  She handled
perfectly.  With eight or twelve oars out she could not have done
anything like as well.  These two youngsters at my request kept her
stationary for ten minutes, with a touch of engine and helm now and then,
within three feet of a big, ugly mooring buoy over which the water broke
and the spray flew in sheets, and which would have holed her if she had
bumped against it.  But she kept her position, it seemed to me, to an
inch, without apparently any trouble to these boys.  You could not have
done it with oars.  And her engine did not take up the space of three
men, even on the assumption that you would pack people as tight as
sardines in a box.

Not the room of three people, I tell you!  But no one would want to pack
a boat like a sardine-box.  There must be room enough to handle the oars.
But in that old ship's boat, even if she had been desperately
overcrowded, there was power (manageable by two riverside youngsters) to
get away quickly from a ship's side (very important for your safety and
to make room for other boats), the power to keep her easily head to sea,
the power to move at five to seven knots towards a rescuing ship, the
power to come safely alongside.  And all that in an engine which did not
take up the room of three people.

A poor boatman who had to scrape together painfully the few sovereigns of
the price had the idea of putting that engine into his boat.  But all
these designers, directors, managers, constructors, and others whom we
may include in the generic name of Yamsi, never thought of it for the
boats of the biggest tank on earth, or rather on sea.  And therefore they
assume an air of impatient superiority and make objections--however sick
at heart they may be.  And I hope they are; at least, as much as a grocer
who has sold a tin of imperfect salmon which destroyed only half a dozen
people.  And you know, the tinning of salmon was "progress" as much at
least as the building of the _Titanic_.  More, in fact.  I am not
attacking shipowners.  I care neither more nor less for Lines, Companies,
Combines, and generally for Trade arrayed in purple and fine linen than
the Trade cares for me.  But I am attacking foolish arrogance, which is
fair game; the offensive posture of superiority by which they hide the
sense of their guilt, while the echoes of the miserably hypocritical
cries along the alley-ways of that ship: "Any more women?  Any more
women?" linger yet in our ears.

I have been expecting from one or the other of them all bearing the
generic name of Yamsi, something, a sign of some sort, some sincere
utterance, in the course of this Admirable Inquiry, of manly, of genuine
compunction.  In vain.  All trade talk.  Not a whisper--except for the
conventional expression of regret at the beginning of the yearly
report--which otherwise is a cheerful document.  Dividends, you know.  The
shop is doing well.

And the Admirable Inquiry goes on, punctuated by idiotic laughter, by
paid-for cries of indignation from under legal wigs, bringing to light
the psychology of various commercial characters too stupid to know that
they are giving themselves away--an admirably laborious inquiry into
facts that speak, nay shout, for themselves.

I am not a soft-headed, humanitarian faddist.  I have been ordered in my
time to do dangerous work; I have ordered, others to do dangerous work; I
have never ordered a man to do any work I was not prepared to do myself.
I attach no exaggerated value to human life.  But I know it has a value
for which the most generous contributions to the Mansion House and
"Heroes" funds cannot pay.  And they cannot pay for it, because people,
even of the third class (excuse my plain speaking), are not cattle.  Death
has its sting.  If Yamsi's manager's head were forcibly held under the
water of his bath for some little time, he would soon discover that it
has.  Some people can only learn from that sort of experience which comes
home to their own dear selves.

I am not a sentimentalist; therefore it is not a great consolation to me
to see all these people breveted as "Heroes" by the penny and halfpenny
Press.  It is no consolation at all.  In extremity, in the worst
extremity, the majority of people, even of common people, will behave
decently.  It's a fact of which only the journalists don't seem aware.
Hence their enthusiasm, I suppose.  But I, who am not a sentimentalist,
think it would have been finer if the band of the _Titanic_ had been
quietly saved, instead of being drowned while playing--whatever tune they
were playing, the poor devils.  I would rather they had been saved to
support their families than to see their families supported by the
magnificent generosity of the subscribers.  I am not consoled by the
false, written-up, Drury Lane aspects of that event, which is neither
drama, nor melodrama, nor tragedy, but the exposure of arrogant folly.
There is nothing more heroic in being drowned very much against your
will, off a holed, helpless, big tank in which you bought your passage,
than in dying of colic caused by the imperfect salmon in the tin you
bought from your grocer.

And that's the truth.  The unsentimental truth stripped of the romantic
garment the Press has wrapped around this most unnecessary disaster.


The loss of the _Empress of Ireland_ awakens feelings somewhat different
from those the sinking of the _Titanic_ had called up on two continents.
The grief for the lost and the sympathy for the survivors and the
bereaved are the same; but there is not, and there cannot be, the same
undercurrent of indignation.  The good ship that is gone (I remember
reading of her launch something like eight years ago) had not been
ushered in with beat of drum as the chief wonder of the world of waters.
The company who owned her had no agents, authorised or unauthorised,
giving boastful interviews about her unsinkability to newspaper reporters
ready to swallow any sort of trade statement if only sensational enough
for their readers--readers as ignorant as themselves of the nature of all
things outside the commonest experience of the man in the street.

No; there was nothing of that in her case.  The company was content to
have as fine, staunch, seaworthy a ship as the technical knowledge of
that time could make her.  In fact, she was as safe a ship as nine
hundred and ninety-nine ships out of any thousand now afloat upon the
sea.  No; whatever sorrow one can feel, one does not feel indignation.
This was not an accident of a very boastful marine transportation; this
was a real casualty of the sea.  The indignation of the New South Wales
Premier flashed telegraphically to Canada is perfectly uncalled-for.  That
statesman, whose sympathy for poor mates and seamen is so suspect to me
that I wouldn't take it at fifty per cent. discount, does not seem to
know that a British Court of Marine Inquiry, ordinary or extraordinary,
is not a contrivance for catching scapegoats.  I, who have been seaman,
mate and master for twenty years, holding my certificate under the Board
of Trade, may safely say that none of us ever felt in danger of unfair
treatment from a Court of Inquiry.  It is a perfectly impartial tribunal
which has never punished seamen for the faults of shipowners--as, indeed,
it could not do even if it wanted to.  And there is another thing the
angry Premier of New South Wales does not know.  It is this: that for a
ship to float for fifteen minutes after receiving such a blow by a bare
stem on her bare side is not so bad.

She took a tremendous list which made the minutes of grace vouchsafed her
of not much use for the saving of lives.  But for that neither her owners
nor her officers are responsible.  It would have been wonderful if she
had not listed with such a hole in her side.  Even the _Aquitania_ with
such an opening in her outer hull would be bound to take a list.  I don't
say this with the intention of disparaging this latest "triumph of marine
architecture"--to use the consecrated phrase.  The _Aquitania_ is a
magnificent ship.  I believe she would bear her people unscathed through
ninety-nine per cent. of all possible accidents of the sea.  But suppose
a collision out on the ocean involving damage as extensive as this one
was, and suppose then a gale of wind coming on.  Even the _Aquitania_
would not be quite seaworthy, for she would not be manageable.

We have been accustoming ourselves to put our trust in material,
technical skill, invention, and scientific contrivances to such an extent
that we have come at last to believe that with these things we can
overcome the immortal gods themselves.  Hence when a disaster like this
happens, there arises, besides the shock to our humane sentiments, a
feeling of irritation, such as the hon. gentleman at the head of the New
South Wales Government has discharged in a telegraphic flash upon the

But it is no use being angry and trying to hang a threat of penal
servitude over the heads of the directors of shipping companies.  You
can't get the better of the immortal gods by the mere power of material
contrivances.  There will be neither scapegoats in this matter nor yet
penal servitude for anyone.  The Directors of the Canadian Pacific
Railway Company did not sell "safety at sea" to the people on board the
_Empress of Ireland_.  They never in the slightest degree pretended to do
so.  What they did was to sell them a sea-passage, giving very good value
for the money.  Nothing more.  As long as men will travel on the water,
the sea-gods will take their toll.  They will catch good seamen napping,
or confuse their judgment by arts well known to those who go to sea, or
overcome them by the sheer brutality of elemental forces.  It seems to me
that the resentful sea-gods never do sleep, and are never weary; wherein
the seamen who are mere mortals condemned to unending vigilance are no
match for them.

And yet it is right that the responsibility should be fixed.  It is the
fate of men that even in their contests with the immortal gods they must
render an account of their conduct.  Life at sea is the life in which,
simple as it is, you can't afford to make mistakes.

With whom the mistake lies here, is not for me to say.  I see that Sir
Thomas Shaughnessy has expressed his opinion of Captain Kendall's
absolute innocence.  This statement, premature as it is, does him honour,
for I don't suppose for a moment that the thought of the material issue
involved in the verdict of the Court of Inquiry influenced him in the
least.  I don't suppose that he is more impressed by the writ of two
million dollars nailed (or more likely pasted) to the foremast of the
Norwegian than I am, who don't believe that the _Storstad_ is worth two
million shillings.  This is merely a move of commercial law, and even the
whole majesty of the British Empire (so finely invoked by the Sheriff)
cannot squeeze more than a very moderate quantity of blood out of a
stone.  Sir Thomas, in his confident pronouncement, stands loyally by a
loyal and distinguished servant of his company.

This thing has to be investigated yet, and it is not proper for me to
express my opinion, though I have one, in this place and at this time.
But I need not conceal my sympathy with the vehement protestations of
Captain Andersen.  A charge of neglect and indifference in the matter of
saving lives is the cruellest blow that can be aimed at the character of
a seaman worthy of the name.  On the face of the facts as known up to now
the charge does not seem to be true.  If upwards of three hundred people
have been, as stated in the last reports, saved by the _Storstad_, then
that ship must have been at hand and rendering all the assistance in her

As to the point which must come up for the decision of the Court of
Inquiry, it is as fine as a hair.  The two ships saw each other plainly
enough before the fog closed on them.  No one can question Captain
Kendall's prudence.  He has been as prudent as ever he could be.  There
is not a shadow of doubt as to that.

But there is this question: Accepting the position of the two ships when
they saw each other as correctly described in the very latest newspaper
reports, it seems clear that it was the _Empress of Ireland's_ duty to
keep clear of the collier, and what the Court will have to decide is
whether the stopping of the liner was, under the circumstances, the best
way of keeping her clear of the other ship, which had the right to
proceed cautiously on an unchanged course.

This, reduced to its simplest expression, is the question which the Court
will have to decide.

And now, apart from all problems of manoeuvring, of rules of the road, of
the judgment of the men in command, away from their possible errors and
from the points the Court will have to decide, if we ask ourselves what
it was that was needed to avert this disaster costing so many lives,
spreading so much sorrow, and to a certain point shocking the public
conscience--if we ask that question, what is the answer to be?

I hardly dare set it down.  Yes; what was it that was needed, what
ingenious combinations of ship-building, what transverse bulkheads, what
skill, what genius--how much expense in money and trained thinking, what
learned contriving, to avert that disaster?

To save that ship, all these lives, so much anguish for the dying, and so
much grief for the bereaved, all that was needed in this particular case
in the way of science, money, ingenuity, and seamanship was a man, and a

Yes; a man, a quartermaster, an able seaman that would know how to jump
to an order and was not an excitable fool.  In my time at sea there was
no lack of men in British ships who could jump to an order and were not
excitable fools.  As to the so-called cork-fender, it is a sort of soft
balloon made from a net of thick rope rather more than a foot in
diameter.  It is such a long time since I have indented for cork-fenders
that I don't remember how much these things cost apiece.  One of them,
hung judiciously over the side at the end of its lanyard by a man who
knew what he was about, might perhaps have saved from destruction the
ship and upwards of a thousand lives.

Two men with a heavy rope-fender would have been better, but even the
other one might have made all the difference between a very damaging
accident and downright disaster.  By the time the cork-fender had been
squeezed between the liner's side and the bluff of the _Storstad's_ bow,
the effect of the latter's reversed propeller would have been produced,
and the ships would have come apart with no more damage than bulged and
started plates.  Wasn't there lying about on that liner's bridge, fitted
with all sorts of scientific contrivances, a couple of simple and
effective cork-fenders--or on board of that Norwegian either?  There must
have been, since one ship was just out of a dock or harbour and the other
just arriving.  That is the time, if ever, when cork-fenders are lying
about a ship's decks.  And there was plenty of time to use them, and
exactly in the conditions in which such fenders are effectively used.  The
water was as smooth as in any dock; one ship was motionless, the other
just moving at what may be called dock-speed when entering, leaving, or
shifting berths; and from the moment the collision was seen to be
unavoidable till the actual contact a whole minute elapsed.  A minute,--an
age under the circumstances.  And no one thought of the homely expedient
of dropping a simple, unpretending rope-fender between the destructive
stern and the defenceless side!

I appeal confidently to all the seamen in the still United Kingdom, from
his Majesty the King (who has been really at sea) to the youngest
intelligent A.B. in any ship that will dock next tide in the ports of
this realm, whether there was not a chance there.  I have followed the
sea for more than twenty years; I have seen collisions; I have been
involved in a collision myself; and I do believe that in the case under
consideration this little thing would have made all that enormous
difference--the difference between considerable damage and an appalling

Many letters have been written to the Press on the subject of collisions.
I have seen some.  They contain many suggestions, valuable and otherwise;
but there is only one which hits the nail on the head.  It is a letter to
the _Times_ from a retired Captain of the Royal Navy.  It is printed in
small type, but it deserved to be printed in letters of gold and crimson.
The writer suggests that all steamers should be obliged by law to carry
hung over their stern what we at sea call a "pudding."

This solution of the problem is as wonderful in its simplicity as the
celebrated trick of Columbus's egg, and infinitely more useful to
mankind.  A "pudding" is a thing something like a bolster of stout rope-
net stuffed with old junk, but thicker in the middle than at the ends.  It
can be seen on almost every tug working in our docks.  It is, in fact, a
fixed rope-fender always in a position where presumably it would do most
good.  Had the _Storstad_ carried such a "pudding" proportionate to her
size (say, two feet diameter in the thickest part) across her stern, and
hung above the level of her hawse-pipes, there would have been an
accident certainly, and some repair-work for the nearest ship-yard, but
there would have been no loss of life to deplore.

It seems almost too simple to be true, but I assure you that the
statement is as true as anything can be.  We shall see whether the lesson
will be taken to heart.  We shall see.  There is a Commission of learned
men sitting to consider the subject of saving life at sea.  They are
discussing bulkheads, boats, davits, manning, navigation, but I am
willing to bet that not one of them has thought of the humble "pudding."
They can make what rules they like.  We shall see if, with that disaster
calling aloud to them, they will make the rule that every steamship
should carry a permanent fender across her stern, from two to four feet
in diameter in its thickest part in proportion to the size of the ship.
But perhaps they may think the thing too rough and unsightly for this
scientific and aesthetic age.  It certainly won't look very pretty but I
make bold to say it will save more lives at sea than any amount of the
Marconi installations which are being forced on the shipowners on that
very ground--the safety of lives at sea.

We shall see!

* * * * *

To the Editor of the _Daily Express_.


As I fully expected, this morning's post brought me not a few letters on
the subject of that article of mine in the _Illustrated London News_.  And
they are very much what I expected them to be.

I shall address my reply to Captain Littlehales, since obviously he can
speak with authority, and speaks in his own name, not under a pseudonym.
And also for the reason that it is no use talking to men who tell you to
shut your head for a confounded fool.  They are not likely to listen to

But if there be in Liverpool anybody not too angry to listen, I want to
assure him or them that my exclamatory line, "Was there no one on board
either of these ships to think of dropping a fender--etc.," was not
uttered in the spirit of blame for anyone.  I would not dream of blaming
a seaman for doing or omitting to do anything a person sitting in a
perfectly safe and unsinkable study may think of.  All my sympathy goes
to the two captains; much the greater share of it to Captain Kendall, who
has lost his ship and whose load of responsibility was so much heavier!  I
may not know a great deal, but I know how anxious and perplexing are
those nearly end-on approaches, so infinitely more trying to the men in
charge than a frank right-angle crossing.

I may begin by reminding Captain Littlehales that I, as well as himself,
have had to form my opinion, or rather my vision, of the accident, from
printed statements, of which many must have been loose and inexact and
none could have been minutely circumstantial.  I have read the reports of
the _Times_ and the _Daily Telegraph_, and no others.  What stands in the
columns of these papers is responsible for my conclusion--or perhaps for
the state of my feelings when I wrote the _Illustrated London News_

From these sober and unsensational reports, I derived the impression that
this collision was a collision of the slowest sort.  I take it, of
course, that both the men in charge speak the strictest truth as to
preliminary facts.  We know that the _Empress of Ireland_ was for a time
lying motionless.  And if the captain of the _Storstad_ stopped his
engines directly the fog came on (as he says he did), then taking into
account the adverse current of the river, the _Storstad_, by the time the
two ships sighted each other again, must have been barely moving _over
the ground_.  The "over the ground" speed is the only one that matters in
this discussion.  In fact, I represented her to myself as just creeping
on ahead--no more.  This, I contend, is an imaginative view (and we can
form no other) not utterly absurd for a seaman to adopt.

So much for the imaginative view of the sad occurrence which caused me to
speak of the fender, and be chided for it in unmeasured terms.  Not by
Captain Littlehales, however, and I wish to reply to what he says with
all possible deference.  His illustration borrowed from boxing is very
apt, and in a certain sense makes for my contention.  Yes.  A blow
delivered with a boxing-glove will draw blood or knock a man out; but it
would not crush in his nose flat or break his jaw for him--at least, not
always.  And this is exactly my point.

Twice in my sea life I have had occasion to be impressed by the
preserving effect of a fender.  Once I was myself the man who dropped it
over.  Not because I was so very clever or smart, but simply because I
happened to be at hand.  And I agree with Captain Littlehales that to see
a steamer's stern coming at you at the rate of only two knots is a
staggering experience.  The thing seems to have power enough behind it to
cut half through the terrestrial globe.

And perhaps Captain Littlehales is right?  It may be that I am mistaken
in my appreciation of circumstances and possibilities in this case--or in
any such case.  Perhaps what was really wanted there was an extraordinary
man and an extraordinary fender.  I care nothing if possibly my deep
feeling has betrayed me into something which some people call absurdity.

Absurd was the word applied to the proposal for carrying "enough boats
for all" on board the big liners.  And my absurdity can affect no lives,
break no bones--need make no one angry.  Why should I care, then, as long
as out of the discussion of my absurdity there will emerge the acceptance
of the suggestion of Captain F. Papillon, R.N., for the universal and
compulsory fitting of very heavy collision fenders on the stems of all
mechanically propelled ships?

An extraordinary man we cannot always get from heaven on order, but an
extraordinary fender that will do its work is well within the power of a
committee of old boatswains to plan out, make, and place in position.  I
beg to ask, not in a provocative spirit, but simply as to a matter of
fact which he is better qualified to judge than I am--Will Captain
Littlehales affirm that if the _Storstad_ had carried, slung securely
across the stem, even nothing thicker than a single bale of wool (an
ordinary, hand-pressed, Australian wool-bale), it would have made no

If scientific men can invent an air cushion, a gas cushion, or even an
electricity cushion (with wires or without), to fit neatly round the
stems and bows of ships, then let them go to work, in God's name and
produce another "marvel of science" without loss of time.  For something
like this has long been due--too long for the credit of that part of
mankind which is not absurd, and in which I include, among others, such
people as marine underwriters, for instance.

Meanwhile, turning to materials I am familiar with, I would put my trust
in canvas, lots of big rope, and in large, very large quantities of old

It sounds awfully primitive, but if it will mitigate the mischief in only
fifty per cent. of cases, is it not well worth trying?  Most collisions
occur at slow speeds, and it ought to be remembered that in case of a big
liner's loss, involving many lives, she is generally sunk by a ship much
smaller than herself.



Eighteen years have passed since I last set foot in the London Sailors'
Home.  I was not staying there then; I had gone in to try to find a man I
wanted to see.  He was one of those able seamen who, in a watch, are a
perfect blessing to a young officer.  I could perhaps remember here and
there among the shadows of my sea-life a more daring man, or a more agile
man, or a man more expert in some special branch of his calling--such as
wire splicing, for instance; but for all-round competence, he was
unequalled.  As character he was sterling stuff.  His name was Anderson.
He had a fine, quiet face, kindly eyes, and a voice which matched that
something attractive in the whole man.  Though he looked yet in the prime
of life, shoulders, chest, limbs untouched by decay, and though his hair
and moustache were only iron-grey, he was on board ship generally called
Old Andy by his fellows.  He accepted the name with some complacency.

I made my enquiry at the highly-glazed entry office.  The clerk on duty
opened an enormous ledger, and after running his finger down a page,
informed me that Anderson had gone to sea a week before, in a ship bound
round the Horn.  Then, smiling at me, he added: "Old Andy.  We know him
well, here.  What a nice fellow!"

I, who knew what a "good man," in a sailor sense, he was, assented
without reserve.  Heaven only knows when, if ever, he came back from that
voyage, to the Sailors' Home of which he was a faithful client.

I went out glad to know he was safely at sea, but sorry not to have seen
him; though, indeed, if I had, we would not have exchanged more than a
score of words, perhaps.  He was not a talkative man, Old Andy, whose
affectionate ship-name clung to him even in that Sailors' Home, where the
staff understood and liked the sailors (those men without a home) and did
its duty by them with an unobtrusive tact, with a patient and humorous
sense of their idiosyncrasies, to which I hasten to testify now, when the
very existence of that institution is menaced after so many years of most
useful work.

Walking away from it on that day eighteen years ago, I was far from
thinking it was for the last time.  Great changes have come since, over
land and sea; and if I were to seek somebody who knew Old Andy it would
be (of all people in the world) Mr. John Galsworthy.  For Mr. John
Galsworthy, Andy, and myself have been shipmates together in our
different stations, for some forty days in the Indian Ocean in the early
nineties.  And, but for us two, Old Andy's very memory would be gone from
this changing earth.

Yes, things have changed--the very sky, the atmosphere, the light of
judgment which falls on the labours of men, either splendid or obscure.
Having been asked to say a word to the public on behalf of the Sailors'
Home, I felt immensely flattered--and troubled.  Flattered to have been
thought of in that connection; troubled to find myself in touch again
with that past so deeply rooted in my heart.  And the illusion of
nearness is so great while I trace these lines that I feel as if I were
speaking in the name of that worthy Sailor-Shade of Old Andy, whose
faithfully hard life seems to my vision a thing of yesterday.

* * * * *

But though the past keeps firm hold on one, yet one feels with the same
warmth that the men and the institutions of to-day have their merit and
their claims.  Others will know how to set forth before the public the
merit of the Sailors' Home in the eloquent terms of hard facts and some
few figures.  For myself, I can only bring a personal note, give a
glimpse of the human side of the good work for sailors ashore, carried on
through so many decades with a perfect understanding of the end in view.
I have been in touch with the Sailors' Home for sixteen years of my life,
off and on; I have seen the changes in the staff and I have observed the
subtle alterations in the physiognomy of that stream of sailors passing
through it, in from the sea and out again to sea, between the years 1878
and 1894.  I have listened to the talk on the decks of ships in all
latitudes, when its name would turn up frequently, and if I had to
characterise its good work in one sentence, I would say that, for seamen,
the Well Street Home was a friendly place.

It was essentially just that; quietly, unobtrusively, with a regard for
the independence of the men who sought its shelter ashore, and with no
ulterior aims behind that effective friendliness.  No small merit this.
And its claim on the generosity of the public is derived from a long
record of valuable public service.  Since we are all agreed that the men
of the merchant service are a national asset worthy of care and sympathy,
the public could express this sympathy no better than by enabling the
Sailors' Home, so useful in the past, to continue its friendly offices to
the seamen of future generations.


{1}  Yvette and Other Stories.  Translated by Ada Galsworthy.

{2}  _Turgenev_: A Study.  By Edward Garnett.

{3}  _Studies in Brown Humanity_.  By Hugh Clifford.

{4}  _Quiet Days in Spain_.  By C. Bogue Luffmann.

{5}  Existence after Death Implied by Science.  By Jasper B. Hunt, M.A.

{6}  _The Ascending Effort_.  By George Bourne.

{7}  Since writing the above, I am told that such doors are fitted in the
bunkers of more than one ship in the Atlantic trade.

{8}  The loss of the _Empress of Ireland_.

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