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Title: Confessions of a Book-Lover
Author: Egan, Maurice Francis, 1852-1924
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Confessions of a Book-Lover" ***

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CONFESSIONS OF A
BOOK-LOVER

BY

MAURICE FRANCIS EGAN

[Illustration]

GARDEN CITY      NEW YORK

DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

1922



COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY

DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF TRANSLATION
INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES

AT

THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN CITY, N. Y.



IN MEMORY OF

THEODORE ROOSEVELT

A MAN OF ACTION
IN LOVE WITH BOOKS



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                   PAGE

  I. MY BOYHOOD READING                      1
      Early Recollections.
      The Bible.
      Essays and Essayists.

 II. POETS AND POETRY                       76
      France--Of Maurice de Guérin.
      Dante.
      English and American Verse.

III. CERTAIN NOVELISTS                     134

 IV. LETTERS, BIOGRAPHIES, AND MEMOIRS     156

  V. BOOKS AT RANDOM                       205



CONFESSIONS OF A BOOK-LOVER



CHAPTER I

MY BOYHOOD READING

_Early Recollections_


To get the best out of books, I am convinced that you must begin to love
these perennial friends very early in life. It is the only way to know
all their "curves," all those little shadows of expression and small
lights. There is a glamour which you never _see_ if you begin to read
with a serious intention late in life, when questions of technique and
grammar and mere words begin to seem too important.

Then you have become too critical to feel through all Fenimore Cooper's
verbiage the real lakes and woods, or the wild fervour of romance
beneath dear Sir Walter's mat of words. You lose the unreclaimable
flavour of books. A friend you may irretrievably lose when you lose a
friend--if you are so deadly unfortunate as to lose a friend--for even
the memories of him are embittered; but no great author can ever have
done anything that will make the book you love less precious to you.

The new school of pedagogical thought disapproves, I know, of
miscellaneous reading, and no modern moralist will agree with Madame de
Sévigné that "bad books are better than no books at all"; but Madame de
Sévigné may have meant books written in a bad style, or feeble books,
and not books bad in the moral sense. However, I must confess that when
I was young, I read several books which I was told afterward were very
bad indeed. But I did not find this out until somebody told me! The
youthful mind must possess something of the quality attributed to a
duck's back! I recall that once "The Confessions of Rousseau" was
snatched suddenly away from me by a careful mother just as I had begun
to think that Jean Jacques was a very interesting man and almost as
queer as some of the people I knew. I believe that if I had been allowed
to finish the book, it would have become by some mental chemical process
a very edifying criticism of life.

"Tom Jones" I found in an attic and I was allowed to read it by a pious
aunt, whom I was visiting, because she mixed it up with "Tom Brown of
Rugby"; but I found it even more tiresome than "Eric, or Little by
Little," for which I dropped it. I remember, too, that I was rather
shocked by some things written in the Old Testament; and I retorted to
my aunt's pronouncement that she considered "the 'Arabian Nights' a
dangerous book," by saying that the Old Testament was the worst book I
had ever read; but I supposed "people had put something into it when God
wasn't looking." She sent me home.

At home, I was permitted to read only the New Testament. On winter
Sunday afternoons, when there was nothing else to do, I became sincerely
attached to the Acts of the Apostles. And I came to the conclusion that
nobody could tell a short story as well as Our Lord Himself. The
Centurion was one of my favourite characters. He seemed to be such a
good soldier; and his plea, "Lord, I am not worthy," flashes across my
mental vision every day of my life.

In the Catholic churches, a part of the Gospel is read every Sunday, and
carefully interpreted. This always interested me because I knew in
advance what the priest was going to read. Most of the children of my
acquaintance were taught their Scriptures through the International
Sunday-school lessons, and seemed to me to be submerged in the geography
of Palestine and other tiresome details. For me, reading as I did, the
whole of the New Testament was radiant with interest, a frankly human
interest. There were many passages that I did not pretend to understand,
sometimes because the English was obscure or archaic, and sometimes
because my mind was not equal to it or my knowledge too small. Whatever
may be the opinion of other people, mine is that the reading of the New
Testament in the simplicity of childhood, with the flower of intuition
not yet blighted, is one of the most beautiful of mental experiences. In
my own case, it gave a glow to life; it caused me to distinguish between
truth and fairy tales, between fact and fiction--and this is often very
difficult for an imaginative child.

This kind of reading implies leisure and the absence of distraction.
Unhappily, much leisure does not seem to be left for the modern child.
The unhappy creature is even told that there will be "something in
Heaven for children to do!" As to distractions, the modern child is
surrounded by them; and it appears to be one of the main intentions of
the present system of instruction not to leave to a child any moments of
leisure for the indulgence of the imagination. But I am not offering the
example of my childhood for imitation by the modern parents.

Nevertheless, it had great consolations. There were no "movies" in those
days, and the theatre was only occasionally permitted; but on long
afternoons, after you had learned to read, you might lose yourself in
"The Scottish Chiefs" to your heart's content. It seems to me that the
beauty of this fashion of leisurely reading was that you had time to
visualize everything, and you felt the dramatic moments so keenly, that
a sense of unreality never obtruded itself at the wrong time. It was not
necessary for you to be told that Helen Mar was beautiful. It was only
necessary for her to say, in tones so entrancing that you heard them,
"My Wallace!" to know that she was the loveliest person in all Scotland.
But "The Scottish Chiefs" required the leisure of long holiday
afternoons, especially as the copy I read had been so misused that I
had to spend precious half hours in putting the pages together. It was
worth the trouble, however.

Before I could read, I was compelled on rainy days to sit at my mother's
knee and listen to what _she_ read. I am happy to say that she never
read children's books. Nothing was ever adapted to my youthful
misunderstanding. She read aloud what she liked to read, and she never
considered whether I liked it or not. It was a method of discipline. At
first, I looked drearily out at the soggy city street, in which rivulets
of melted snow made any exercise, suitable to my age, impossible. There
is nothing so hopeless for a child as an afternoon in a city when the
heavy snows begin to melt. My mother, however, was altogether regardless
of what happened outside of the house. At two o'clock precisely--after
the manner of the King in William Morris's "Earthly Paradise"--she waved
her wand. After that, all that I was expected to do was to make no
noise.

In this way I became acquainted with "The Virginians," then running in
_Harper's Magazine_, with "Adam Bede" and "As You Like It" and "Richard
III." and "Oliver Twist" and "Nicholas Nickleby" and "Valentine
Vox"--why "Valentine Vox?"--and other volumes when I should have been
listening to "Alice in Wonderland." But when I came, in turn, to "Alice
in Wonderland," I found Alice's rather dull in comparison with the
adventures of the Warrington brothers. And Thackeray's picture of Gumbo
carrying in the soup tureen! To have listened to Rebecca's description
of the great fight in "Ivanhoe," to have lived through the tournament of
Ashby de la Zouche, was a poor preparation for the vagaries of the queer
creatures that surrounded the inimitable Alice.

There appeared to be no children's books in the library to which we had
access. It never seemed to me that "Robinson Crusoe" or "Gulliver's
Travels" or "Swiss Family Robinson" were children's books; they were not
so treated by my mother, and I remember, as a small boy, going up to
Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, with divine eagerness, to buy the
latest number of a Dickens serial. I think the name of the shop--the
shop of Paradise--which sold these books was called Ashburnham's. It may
be asked how the episode in "Adam Bede" of Hetty and that of "little
Em'ly" in Dickens struck the child mind. As I remember, the child mind
was awed and impressed, by a sense of horror, probably occasioned as
much by the force of the style, by the suggestions of an unknown terror,
as by any facts which a child could grasp.

It was a curious thing that my mother, who had remarkably good taste in
literature, admired Mrs. Henry Wood extravagantly. She also admired
Queen Victoria. She never read "East Lynne" aloud, because, I gathered,
she considered it "improper"; and Miss Braddon's "Lady Audley's Secret"
came under the same ban, though I heard it talked of frequently. It was
difficult to discover where my mother drew the line between what was
"proper" and what was "not proper." Shakespeare she seemed to regard as
eminently proper, and, I noticed, hesitated and mumbled only when she
came to certain parts of Ophelia's song. It seems strange now that I
never rated Mrs. Henry Wood's novels with those of George Eliot or
Thackeray or Dickens. There seemed to be some imperceptible difference
which my mother never explained, but which I, instinctively, understood;
and when Anthony Trollope's "Orley Farm" was read, I placed him above
Mrs. Henry Wood, but not on an equality with Dickens or Thackeray.

_Harper's Magazine_, in those days, contained great treasure! There, for
instance, were the delightful articles by Porte Crayon--General
Strothers, I think. These one listened to with pleasure; but the bane of
my existence was Mr. Abbott's "Life of Napoleon Bonaparte." It seemed to
me as if it would never end, and it stretched as dolorously before me as
that other fearful process which appalled my waking days--the knowledge
that all my life I should be obliged to clean my teeth three times a day
with powdered charcoal!

After a time, I began to read for myself; but the delights of desultory
reading were gloomed by the necessity of studying long lessons that no
emancipated child of to-day would endure. Misguided people sometimes
came to the school and told childish stories, at which we all laughed,
but which even the most illiterate despised. To have known George
Warrington, to have mingled familiarly in the society of George
Washington, to remember the picture of Beatrix Esmond coming down the
stairs--I am not speaking of Du Maurier's travesties of that delightful
book--to have seen the old ladies in "Cranford," sucking their oranges
in the privacies of their rooms, made one despise foolish little tales
about over-industrious bees and robins which seemed not even to have the
ordinary common sense of geese!

Suddenly, my mother became a devout Catholic. The scene changed. On one
unhappy Sunday afternoon "Monte Cristo" was rudely snatched from my
entranced hands. Dumas was on the list of the "improper," and to this
day I have never finished the episodes in which I was so deeply
interested. Now the wagon of the circulating library ceased to come as
in the old days. The children of the neighbours offered me Sunday-school
books, taken from the precious store of the Methodist Sunday School
opposite our house. They seemed to me to be stupid beyond all words.
There was not one really good fight in them all, and after an honest
villain like Brian de Bois Guilbert, the bad people in these volumes
were very lacking in stamina. The "Rollo" books were gay compared to
them. I concluded that if anything on earth could make a child hate
religion, it was the perusal of these unreal books. My mother saw that I
had Alban Butler's "Lives of the Saints" for Sunday reading. They were
equally dull; and other "Lives," highly recommended, were quite as
uninspiring as the little volumes from the Protestant library. They were
generally translated from the French, without vitality and without any
regard for the English idiom. I recall, through the mists, sitting down
one Sunday afternoon, to read "The Life of Saint Rose of Lima." As it
concerned itself with South America, it seemed to me that there might be
in it a good fighter or two; or, at least, somebody might cut off the
ear of a High Priest's servant as was done in the New Testament. But no,
I was shocked to read in the very beginning, that

     so pure was the little Saint, even in her infancy, that when her
     uncle, who was her godfather, kissed her after her baptism, a rosy
     glow, a real blush of shame, overspread her countenance.

In that book I read no more that day!

But I discovered a volume I have never forgotten, which probably after
"The Young Marooners," had the greatest influence on me for a short
period. This was "Fabiola," by Cardinal Wiseman. There was good stuff in
it; it made me feel proud to be a Christian; it was full of thrills;
and it taught a lot about the archæology of Rome, for it was part of
that excellent story. I have always looked on "Fabiola" as a very great
book. Then at Christmas, when my father gave me "The Last Days of
Pompeii," I was in a new world, not alien to the world of "Fabiola," but
in some way supplementary to it. This gift was accompanied by Washington
Irving's "Tales of the Alhambra." _Conspuez les livres des poupées!_
What nice little story books, arranged for the growing mind, could
awaken such visions of the past, such splendid arabesques and trailing
clouds of glory as this book! Read at the right time, it makes the
pomegranate and the glittering crescents live forever, and creates a
love for Spain and a romance of old Spain which can never die.

After this, I had a cold mental douche. I was given "Les Enfants des
Bois," by Elie Berthet in French, to translate word for word. It was a
horrible task, and the difficulties of the verbs and the laborious
research in the dictionary prevented me from enjoying the adventures of
these infants. I cannot remember anything that happened to them; but I
know that the book gave me an ever-enduring distrust of the subjunctive
mood in the Gallic language. Somebody had left about a copy of a French
romance called "Les Aventures de Polydore Marasquin." It was of things
that happened to a man in a kingdom of monkeys. It went very well, with
an occasional use of the dictionary, until I discovered that the
gentleman was about to engage himself to a very attractive monkeyess. I
gave up the book in disgust, but I have since discovered that there have
been lately several imitators of these adventures, which I think were
written by an author named Léon Gozlan.

About this time, the book auction became a fashion in Philadelphia. If
your people had respect for art, they invariably subscribed to a
publication called the _Cosmopolitan Art Magazine_, and you received a
steel engraving of Shakespeare and his Friends, with Sir Walter Raleigh
very much in the foreground, wearing a beautifully puffed doublet and
very well-fitting hose, and another steel engraving of Washington at
Lexington. If your people were interested in literature, they frequented
the book auctions. My father had a great respect for what he called
"classical literature." He considered Cowper's "The Task" immensely
classical; it was beautifully bound, and he never read it. One day he
secured a lovely edition of the "Complete Works of Thomas Moore." It had
been a subject of much competition at the auction, and was cherished
accordingly. The binding was tooled. It was put on the centre table and
adored as a work of art. Here was richness!

Tom Moore's long poems are no doubt classed at present as belonging to
those old and faded gardens in which "The Daisy" and "The Keepsake," by
Lady Blessington, once flourished; but if I could only recall the
pleasure I had in the reading of "Lalla Rookh" and "The Veiled Prophet
of Korhasson," I think I should be very happy. And the notes to "Lalla
Rookh" and to Moore's prose novel of "The Epicurean"! "The Epicurean"
was not much of a novel, but the notes were full of amazing Egyptian
mysteries, which seemed quite as splendid as the machinery in the
"Arabian Nights." The notes to "Lalla Rookh" smelled of roses, and I
remember as a labour of love copying out all the allusions to roses in
these notes with the intention of writing about them when I grew up. My
mother objected to the translations from Anacreon; she said they were
"improper"; but my father said that he had been assured on competent
authority that they were "classic," and of course that settled it. There
was no story in them, and they seemed to me to be stupid.

Just about this time, one of the book auctions yielded up a copy of the
"Complete Works of Miss Mitford." You perhaps can imagine how a city
boy, who was allowed to spend two weeks each year at the most on the
arid New Jersey seacoast, fell upon "Our Village." It became an
incentive for long walks, in the hope of finding some country lanes and
something resembling the English primroses. I read and reread "Our
Village" until I could close my eyes at any time and see the little
world in which Miss Mitford lived. I tried to read her tragedy, "The Two
Foscari." A tragedy had a faint interest; but, being exiled to the attic
for some offense against the conventionalities demanded of a
Philadelphia child, with no book but Miss Mitford's, I spent my time
looking up all the references to roses in her tragedies. These I
combined with the knowledge acquired from Tom Moore, and made notes for
a paper to be printed in some great periodical in the future. Why roses?
Why Miss Mitford and roses? Why Tom Moore and roses? I do not know,
but, when I was sixteen years of age, I printed the paper in _Appleton's
Journal_, where it may still be found. My parents, who did not look on
my literary attempts, at the expense of mathematics, with favour,
suggested that I was a plagiarist, but as I had no time to look up the
meaning of the word in the dictionary, I let it go. It simply struck me
as one of those evidences of misunderstanding which every honest artist
must be content to accept.

My mother, evidently fearing the influence of "classical" literature,
gave me one day "The Parent's Assistant," by Miss Edgeworth. I think
that it was in this book that I discovered "Rosamond; or The Purple Jar"
and the story of the good boy or girl who never cut the bit of string
that tied a package; I sedulously devoted myself to the imitation of
this economic child, and was very highly praised for getting the best
out of a good book until I broke a tooth in trying to undo a very tough
knot.

It was a far cry from the respectable Miss Edgeworth to a series of
Beadle's "Dime Novels." I looked on them as delectable but inferior.
There was a prejudice against them in well-brought-up households; but
if you thoughtfully provided yourself with a brown paper cover, which
concealed the flaring yellow of Beadle's front page, you were very
likely to escape criticism. I never finished "Osceola, the Seminole,"
because my aunt looked over my shoulder and read a rapturous account of
a real fight, in which somebody kicked somebody else violently in the
abdomen. My aunt reported to my mother that the book was very
"indelicate" and after that Beadle's "Dime Novels" were absolutely
forbidden. At school, we were told that any boy who read Beadle's was a
moral leper; but as most of us concluded that leper had something to do
with leaper, the effect was not very convincing.

Perhaps I might have been decoyed back to Beadle's, for all the
youngsters knew that there was nothing really wrong in them, but I
happened to remember the scene in Sir Walter Scott's "Abbot," where
Edward Glendenning wades into the sea to prevent Mary Stuart from
leaving Scotland. I hied me to "The Monastery" and devoured everything
of Sir Walter's except "Saint Ronan's Well." That never seemed worthy of
the great Sir Walter. "The Black Dwarf" and "Anne of Geierstein" were
rather tough reading, and "Count Robert of Paris" might have been
written by Lord Bacon, if Lord Bacon had been a contemporary of Sir
Walter's. "Peveril of the Peak" and "Ivanhoe" and "Bride of Lammermoor"
again and again dazzled and consoled me until I discovered "Nicholas
Nickleby."

"Nicholas Nickleby" took entire possession of me. In the rainy winter
afternoons, when nothing could occur out of doors which a respectable
city boy was permitted to indulge in, I found that I was expected to
work. Boys worked hard at their lessons in those days. There was a
kitchen downstairs with a Dutch oven not used in the winter. There it
was easy to build a small fire and to toast bread and to read "Nicholas
Nickleby" after one had rushed through the required tasks, which
generally included ten pages of the "Historia Sacra" in Latin. If you
never read "Nicholas Nickleby" when you were young, you cannot possibly
know the flavour of Dickens. You can't laugh now as you laughed then.
Oh, the delight of Mr. Crummles's description of his wife's dignified
manner of standing with her head on a spear!

The tragedy in "Nicholas Nickleby" never appealed to me. It was
necessary to skip that. When the people were gentlemanly and ladylike,
they became great bores. But what young reader of Dickens can forget the
hostile attitude of Mr. Lillyvick, great-uncle of the little Miss
Kenwigses, when Nicholas attempted to teach them French? As one grows
older, even Mr. Squeers and 'Tilda give one less real delight; but think
of the first discovery of them, and it is like Balboa's--or was it
Cortez's?--discovery of the Pacific in Keats's sonnet. "Nicholas
Nickleby" was read over and over again, with unfailing pleasure. I found
"Little Dorrit" rather tiresome; "Barnaby Rudge" and "A Tale of Two
Cities" seemed to be rather serious reading, not quite Dickensish enough
for my taste, yet better than anything else that anybody had written. My
later impressions of Dickens modified these instinctive intuitions.

One day, a set of Thackeray arrived, little green volumes, as I
remember, and I began to read "Vanity Fair." My mother seized it and
read it aloud again. Her confessor had told her that a dislike for good
novels was "Puritan" and she, shocked by the implied reproach, took
again to novel reading. I am afraid that I disliked Colonel Dobbin and
Amelia very much. Becky Sharp pleased me beyond words; I don't think
that the morality of the case affected my point of view at all. I was
delighted whenever Becky "downed" an enemy. They were such a lot of
stupid people--the enemies--and I reflected during the course of the
story that, after all, Thackeray had said that poor Becky had no mother
to guide her footsteps. When the Marquis of Steyne was hit on the
forehead with the diamonds, I thought it served him right; but I was
unhappy because poor Becky had lost the jewels. In finishing the book
with those lovely Thackerayan cadences, my mother said severely, "That
is what always happens to bad people!" But in my heart I did not believe
that Becky Sharp was a bad person at all.

For a time I returned to Dickens, to "Nicholas Nickleby," to "David
Copperfield." I respected Thackeray. He had gripped me in some way that
I could not explain. But Dickens I loved. Later--it was on one June
afternoon I think--when the news of Dickens's death arrived, it seemed
to me that for a while all delight in life had ended.

One of those experts in psychology who are always seeking questions
sometime ago wrote to me demanding if "Plutarch's Lives" had influenced
me, and whether I thought they were good reading for the young. Our
"Plutarch" was rather appalling to look at. It was bound in mottled
cardboard, and the pages had red edges; but I attacked it one day, when
I was about ten years of age, and became enthralled. It was "actual." My
mother was a veteran politician, and read a daily paper, with Southern
tendencies called the _Age_; my father belonged to the opposite party,
and admired Senator Hoar as greatly as my mother admired the famous
Vallandigham. Between the two, I had formed a very poor opinion of
American statesmen in general; but the statesmen in "Plutarch" were of a
very different type.

Julius Cæsar interested me; but Brutus filled me with exaltation. I had
not then read Shakespeare's "Julius Cæsar." It seemed to me that Brutus
was a model for all time. Now, understand I was a good Christian child,
and I said my prayers every night and morning, but this did not prevent
me from hating the big bully of the school, who made the lives of the
ten or fifteen small boys a perpetual torment. How we suffered, no
adult human tongue can tell--and our tongues never told because it was a
convention that tales should not be told out of school. One of the
pleasant tricks of the bully and his friends was to chase the little
boys after school in the winter and bury them until they were almost
suffocated in the snow which was piled up in the narrow streets. It was
not only suffocating snow, but it was dirty snow. It happened that I had
been presented with a penknife consisting of two rather leaden blades
covered with a brilliant iridescent mother-of-pearl handle. The bully
wanted this knife, and I knew it. Generally, I left it at home; but it
occurred to me on one inspired morning, after I had read "Plutarch" the
night before, that I would display the knife open in my pocket, and when
he threw the full weight of his body upon me, I would kill him at once,
by an upward thrust of the knife.

This struck me as a good deed entirely worthy of Brutus. Of course, I
knew that I should be hanged, but then I expected the glory of making a
last dying speech, and, besides, the school would have a holiday. On the
morning preceding the great sacrifice, I gave out dark hints to the
small boys, distributed my various belongings to friends who were about
to be bereaved, and predicted a coming holiday. I was looked on as
rather "crazy," but I reflected that I would soon be considered heroic,
and my friends gladly accepted the gifts.

The fatal afternoon came. I displayed the penknife. The chase began. The
bully and his chosen friends threw themselves upon me. The moment had
come; I thrust the knife upward; the big boy uttered a howl, and ran,
still howling. I looked for blood, but there was none visible; I came to
the conclusion, with satisfaction, that he was bleeding internally. I
spent a gloomy evening at home uttering dire predictions which were
incomprehensible to the members of my family, and reread Brutus, in the
"Lives."

The next morning I went to school with lessons unstudied and awaited
events. The mother of the bully appeared, and entered into an excited
colloquy with the very placid and dignified teacher. I announced to the
boy next to me, "My time has come." I was called up to the awful desk.
"Is he dead?" I asked. "Did he bleed internally?" "You little wretch,"
the mother of the tyrant said, "you cut such fearful holes in my son's
coat, that he is afraid to come to school to-day!" Then I said,
regretfully, "Oh, I hoped that I had killed him." There was a sensation;
my character was blackened. I was set down as a victim of total
depravity; I endured it all, but I knew in my heart that it was
"Plutarch." This is the effect that "Plutarch" had on the mind of a good
Christian child.

The effects of "Plutarch" on my character were never discovered at home,
and as I grew older and learned one or two wrestling tricks, the bully
let me alone. Besides, my murderous intention, which had leaked out,
gave me such a reputation that I became a dictator myself, and made
terms for the small boys, in the name of freedom, which were sometimes
rather despotic.

It was also during these days that I remember carrying confusion into
the family when a patronizing, intellectual lady called and said, "I
hope that this dear little boy is reading the Rollo books?" "No," I
answered quickly and indiscreetly, "I am reading 'The New Magdalen,' by
Wilkie Collins." I did not think much of Wilkie Collins until I read
"The Moonstone." It seemed that "The New Magdalen" had been purchased
inadvertently by my father, in a packet of "classics."

My father generally arrived at home late in the afternoon, when he read
the evening paper. After a very high tea, he stretched himself on a long
horsehair-covered sofa, and bade me read to him, generally from the
novels of George Eliot, or from certain romances running through the New
York _Ledger_ by Sylvanus Cobb, Jr. These were generally stories of the
times of the Irish Kings, in which gallowglasses and lovely and
aristocratic Celtic maidens disported themselves. My mother, after her
conversion, disapproved of the New York _Ledger_. In fact, there were
families in Philadelphia whose heads regarded it with real horror! In
our house, there was a large stack of this interesting periodical,
which, with many volumes of Godey's _Lady's Book_, were packed in the
attic.

It happened that a young man, in whom my father had a great interest,
was threatened with tuberculosis. An awful rumour was set abroad that he
was about to die. He sent over a messenger asking my father for the back
numbers of the New York _Ledger_ containing a long serial story by Mrs.
Anna Cora Mowatt. As I remember, it was a story of the French
Revolution, and the last number that I was allowed to read ended with a
description of a dance in an old château, when the Marquise, who was
floating through the minuet, suddenly discovered blood on the white-kid
glove of her right hand! I was never permitted to discover where the
blood came from; I should like to find out now if I could find the
novel. I remember that my mother was terribly shocked when my father
sent the numbers of the New York _Ledger_ to the apparently dying man.
"It's a horrible thing," my mother said, "to think of any Christian
person reading the New York _Ledger_ at the point of death." The young
man, however, did not die; and I rather think my father attributed his
recovery to the exhilarating effect of one of his favourite stories.

There were certain other serial stories I was ordered to read; they were
stories of the Irish Brigade in France. My mother, I remember,
disapproved of them because Madame de Pompadour was frequently
mentioned, and she thought that my father regarded the lady in question
too tolerantly. These romances were, I think, written by a certain Myles
O'Reilly who was in some way connected with the army. This procedure of
reading aloud was not always agreeable, as my father frequently went to
sleep in the middle of a passage and forgot what I had already read. The
consequence was that I was obliged to begin the same old story over
again on the following evening.

It happened that my father was one of the directors of a local library,
and in it I found Bates's volume on the Amazon--I forget the exact title
of the book. I found myself in a new world; I lived in Para; I tried to
manufacture an imitation of the Urari poison with a view to
exterminating rats in the warehouse by the use of arrows; I lived and
had my being in the forests of Brazil; and I produced, at intervals, a
thrilling novel, with the glowing atmosphere of the Amazon as a
background. I preferred Mr. Bates to any novelist I had ever read. He
held possession of my imagination, until he was forced out by a Mr.
Jerningham who wrote a most entrancing book on Brittany. Saint Malo
became the only town for me; I adored Henri de la Rochejaquelein; and
the Stuarts, whom I had learned to love at the knees of Sir Walter
Scott, were displaced by the Vendéans.

Noticing that I was devoted to books of travel, my father asked me to
parse Kane's "Arctic Voyages." I found the volumes cold and repellent.
They gave me a rooted prejudice against the North Pole which even the
adventure of Doctor Cook has never enabled me to overcome.

About this time, my mother began to feel that I needed to read something
more gentle, which would root me more effectively in my religion. She
began, I think, with Cardinal Newman's "Callista" in which there was a
thrilling chapter called "The Possession of Juba." It seemed to me one
of the most stirring things I had ever read. Then I was presented with
Mrs. Sadlier's "The Blakes and the Flanagans," which struck me as a very
delightful satire, and with a really interesting novel of New York
called "Rosemary," by Dr. J. V. Huntington; and then a terribly
blood-curdling story of the Carbonari in Italy, called "Lionello." After
this I was wafted into a series of novels by Julia Kavanagh; "Natalie,"
and "Bessie," and "Seven Years," I think were the principals. My father
declined to read them; he thought they were too sentimental, but as the
author had an Irish name he was inclined to regard them with tolerance.
He thought I would be better employed in absorbing "Tom and Jerry; or
The Adventures of Corinthian Bob," by Pierce Egan. My mother objected to
this, and substituted "Lady Violet; or the Wonder of Kingswood Chace,"
by the younger Pierce Egan, which she considered more moral.

My father was very generous at Christmas, and I bought a large volume of
Froissart for two dollars and a half at an old book stand on Fifth
Street, near Spruce. After this, I was lost to the world during the
Christmas holidays. After breakfast, I saturated myself with the
delightful battles in that precious book.

My principal duty was to look after the front pavement. In the spring
and summer, it was carefully washed twice a week and reddened with some
kind of paint, which always accompanied a box of fine white sand for the
scouring of the marble steps; but in the winter, this respectable
sidewalk had to be kept free from snow and ice.

Hitherto my battle with the elements had been rather a diversion.
Besides, I was in competition with the other small boys in the block--or
in the "square," as we Philadelphians called it. Now it became irksome;
I neglected to dig the ice from between the bricks; I skimped my
cleaning of the gutter; I forgot to put on my "gums." The boy next door
became a mirror of virtue; he was quoted to me as one whose pavement was
a model to all the neighbours; indeed, it was rumoured that the Mayor
passing down our street, had stopped and admired the working of his
civic spirit, while the result of my efforts was passed by with evident
contempt. I did not care. I hugged Froissart to my heart. Who would
condescend to wield a broom and a wooden shovel, even for the reward of
ten cents in cash, when he could throw javelins and break lances with
the knights of the divine Froissart? The end of my freedom came after
this. The terrible incident of the Mayor's contempt, invented, I
believe, by the boy next door, induced my mother to believe that I was
not only losing my morals, but becoming too much of a book-worm. For
many long weeks I was deprived of any amusing book except "Robinson
Crusoe." After this interval, vacation came; I seemed to have grown
older, and books were never quite the same again.

In the vacation, however, when the days were very long and there was a
great deal of leisure, I found myself reduced to Grimms' "Fairy Tales"
and a delightful volume by Madame Perrault, and I was even then very
much struck by the difference. Of course I read Grimm from cover to
cover, and went back again over the pages, hoping that I had neglected
something. The homeliness of the stories touched me; it seemed to me
that you found yourself in the atmosphere of old Germany. Madame
Perrault was more delicate; her fairy tales were pictures of no life
that ever existed, and there was a great dissimilarity between her
"Cendrillon" and the Grimms' story of "Aschenputtel." As I remember, the
haughty sisters in the story of the beautiful girl who lived among the
ashes each cut off one of her toes, in order to make her feet seem
smaller and left bloody marks on the glass slipper. Madame Perrault's
slipper was, I think, of white fur, and there was no such brutality in
_her_ fairyland. But, except Hans Christian Andersen's, there are no
such gripping fairy tales as those of the Brethren Grimm. During this
vacation, too, I discovered the "Leprachaun," the little Irish fairy
with the hammer. He was not at all like the English fairies in
Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream," and, leaving out Ariel, I
think I liked him best of all.

That summer, too, I found an old copy of "Midsummer Night's Dream" in
the attic. The print was exceedingly fine, but everything was there. No
doubt there is much to be said by the pedagogues in favour of
scrupulously studying Shakespeare's plays; but if you have never
discovered "As You Like It" or "Midsummer Night's Dream" when you were
very young, you will never know the meaning of that light which never
was on land or sea, and with which Keats surrounds us in the "Ode to the
Nightingale." The love interest did not count much. In my youthful
experience everybody either married or died, in books. That was to be
expected. It was the atmosphere that counted. One could see the troopers
coming into the open space in the Forest of Arden and hear their songs,
making the leaves of the trees quiver before they appeared. And Puck!
and Caliban! When I was young I was always very sorry for Caliban, and,
being very religious, I felt that the potent Prospero might have done
something for his soul.

There was a boy who lived near us called Lawrence Stockdale--peace be
to his ashes where-ever he rests! His father and mother, who were
persons of cultivation, encouraged him to read, but we were not of one
opinion on any subject. He was devoted to Dumas, the Elder. After the
episode of "Monte Cristo" I was led to believe that Dumas was "wrong." I
preferred Sir Walter Scott, and loved all the Stuarts, having a positive
devotion for Mary, Queen of Scots. One day, however, I discovered
somewhere, under a pile of old geometries and books about navigation, a
fat, red-bound copy of "Boccaccio." Stockdale said that "Boccaccio" was
"wronger" than Dumas, and that his people had warned him against the
stories of this Italian. As we lived near an Italian colony, and he
disliked Italians, while I loved them, I attributed this to mere
prejudice.

The "Boccaccio" was, as I have said, fat and large. For a boy who likes
to read, a fat book is very tempting, and just as I had seated myself
one afternoon on the front doorstep, to read the story of the Falcon,
and having finished it with great pleasure, dipped into another tale not
so edifying, my mother appeared. She turned pale with horror, and seized
the book at once. My father was informed of what had occurred. He was
little alarmed, I think. My mother said: "We shall have to change the
whole course of this boy's reading." "We shall have to change the boy
first," my father said, with a sigh. But this was not the end. At the
proper time I was led to the Pastor, who was my mother's confessor. The
book was presented to him for destruction.

"It's a bad book," the Monsignore said. "I hope you didn't talk about
any of these stories to the other boys in school?"

"Oh, no," I said; "if I did, they would say much worse things, and I
would probably have to tell them in confession. Besides," I added, "all
the people in the Boccaccio book were good Catholics, I suppose, as they
were Italians, and I think, after all, when they caught the plague, they
died good deaths."

The Pastor looked puzzled, took the book, and gave me his blessing and
dismissed me. And my mother seemed to think that I was sufficiently
exorcised.

After this the books I read were more carefully considered. I was given
the "Tales of Canon Schmidt"--dear little stories of German children in
the Black Forest, with strange little wood-cuts, which went very well
with another volume I found at this time called "Jack Halifax," not
"John Halifax, Gentleman," which my mother had already read to me--but a
curious little tome long out of print. And then there sailed upon my
vision a long procession of the works of the Flemish novelist, Hendrik
Conscience, whose "Lion of Flanders" opened a new world of romance, and
there were "Wooden Clara," and other pieces which made one feel as if
one lived in Flanders.

Just about this time I read in Littell's _Living Age_ a novel called
"The Amber Witch," and some of Fritz Reuter's Low German stories; but
these were all effaced by "The Quaker Soldier." This may not have been
much of a novel. I did not put it to the touch of comparison with "The
Virginians" or "Esmond." They were what my father called
"classics"--things superior and apart; but "The Quaker Soldier" was
quite good enough for me. It opened a new view of American Revolutionary
history, and then it was redolent of the country of Pennsylvania. I
recall now the incident of the Pennsylvania Dutch housewife's using her
thumb to spread the butter on the bread for the hungry soldier. This is
all that I can recall of those delectable pages. But, later, neither
Henry Peterson's "Pemberton" nor Dr. Weir Mitchell's "Hugh Wynne" seemed
to have the glory and the fascination of the long-lost "Quaker Soldier."

After this, I fell under the spell of the French Revolution through a
book, given to me by my mother, about _la Vendée_. It was a dull book,
but nothing, not even a bad translation, could dim the heroism of Henri
de la Rochejaquelein for me, and I became a Royalist of the Royalists,
and held hotly the thesis that if George Washington had returned the
compliment of going over to France in '89, he would have done Lafayette
a great service by restoring the good Louis XVI. and the beautiful Marie
Antoinette!

When I had reached the age of seventeen I had developed, as the result
of my reading, a great belief in all lost causes. I had become
exceedingly devoted to the cause of Ireland as the kindly Pastor had
sent me a copy of "Willy Reilly and His Colleen Bawn," perhaps as an
antidote to the lingering effects of "Boccaccio." I was rather troubled
to find so many "swear words" in it, but I made all the allowances that
a real lover of literature is often compelled to make!


_The Bible_

The glimpses I had of the Bible, some of which rather prejudiced me, as
a moral child, against the Sacred Book, were, however, of inestimable
value. Of course the New Testament was always open to me, and I read it
constantly as a pleasure. The language, both in the Douai version and
the King James version, was often very obscure. Although I soon learned
to recognize the beauty of the 23rd Psalm in the King James
version--which I always read when I went to one of my cousins--I found
the sonorous Latinisms of the Douai version interesting. For a time I
was limited to a book of Bible stories given us to read at school, as it
was considered unwise to permit children to read the Old Testament
unexpurgated. After a while, however, the embargo seemed to be raised
for some reason or other, and again I was allowed to revel with a great
deal of profit in the wonderful poems, prophecies, and histories of the
Old Testament. I soon discovered that it was impossible to understand
the allusions in English literature without a knowledge of the Bible.
What would "Ruth among the alien corn" mean to a reader who had never
known the beauty of the story of Ruth? And the lilies of the field,
permeating all poetical literature, would have lost all their perfume if
one knew nothing about the Song of Solomon.

Putting aside the question as to whether young readers should be let
loose in the Old Testament or not, or whether modern ideas of purity are
justified in including ignorance as the supremest virtue, he who does
not make himself familiar with Biblical ideas and phraseology finds
himself in after-life with an incomplete medium of expression. It used
to be said of the typical English gentleman that all he needed to know
was to ride after the hounds and to construe Horace. This is not so
absurd, after all, as it appears to be to most moderns. To construe
Horace, of course, meant that he should have at least a speaking
acquaintance with one of the masterpieces of Roman literature, and this
knowledge gave him a grip on the universal speech of all cultivated
people. However useless his allusions to Chloë and to Mæcenas were in
the business of practical life, he was at least able to understand what
they meant, and even a slight acquaintance with the Latins stamped him
as speaking the speech of a gentleman.

Similarly, a man who knows the Scriptures is fitted with allusions that
clarify and illuminate the ordinary speech. He may not have any
technical knowledge, or his technical knowledge may be so great as to
debar him from meeting other men in conversation on equal grounds; but
his reading of the Bible gives his speech or writing a background, a
colour, a metaphorical strength, which illuminate even the commonplace.
Strike the Bible from the sphere of any man's experience and he is in a
measure left out of much of that conversation which helps to make life
endurable.

Pagan mythology is rather out of fashion. Even the poets often now
assume that Clytie is a name that requires an explanation and that
Daphne and her flight through the laurel do not bring up immediate
memories of Syrinx and the reeds. The Dictionary of Lamprière is covered
with dust; and one may quote an episode from Ovid without an answering
glance of comprehension from the hearer. This does not imply ignorance;
it is only that, in the modern system, the old mythology is not taken
very seriously.

Since Latin and Greek have almost ceased to be a necessary part of a
gentleman's education, there is no class of allusions from which we can
draw to lighten or strengthen ordinary speech unless we turn to the
Bible. This deprives conversation of much of its colour and renders it
rather commonplace and meagre. Unfortunately, among many of our young
people, the Bible seems to be a book to be avoided or to be treated in a
rather "jocose" manner. To raise a laugh on the vaudeville stage, a
Biblical quotation has only to be produced, and the weary comedian, when
he is at a loss to get a witty speech across the footlights, is almost
sure to speak of Jonah and the whale!

It is disappointing to notice this gradual change that has taken place
in the attitude of the younger generation toward the Sacred Book. The
Sunday Schools, in their attempt to make the genealogies of importance
and to overload the memories of their little disciples with a multitude
of texts, or to over-explain every allusion in the terms of physical
geography, etc., may in a measure be responsible for this, but they
cannot be entirely responsible. One must admit that diversities of
interpretations of the Sacred Scriptures from a religious point of view
will always be an obstacle to their use in schools where the children of
Jews, of Mohammedans, and of the various Christian denominations
assemble. But there is always the home, where the first impetus to a
satisfactory knowledge of the Sacred Book ought to be given. The decay
of the practice of reading aloud in our homes is very evident in the
lack of real culture--or, rather, rudiments of real culture--in our
children. But there is no use in declaiming against this. Other times,
other manners; accusatory declamation is simply a luxury of Old Age!

Personally, my desultory reading of the Old and the New Testaments gave
me a background against which I could see the trend of the books I
devoured more clearly; it added immensely to my enjoyment of them;
besides, it was a moral and ethical safeguard. It was easy even for a
boy to discover that the morality of the New Testament was the standard
by which not only life, but literature, which is the finest expression
of life, should be judged. If there are great declamations, declamations
full of dramatic fire, which nearly every boy at school learns to love,
in the Old Testament, there are the most moving, tender, and simple
stories in the New. To the uncorrupted mind, to the unjaded mind, which
has not been forced to look on books as mere recitals of exciting
adventures, the Acts of the Apostles are full of entrancing episodes. It
is very easy for a receptive youth to acquire a taste for St. Paul, and
I soon learned that St. Paul was not only one of the greatest of letter
writers, but as a figure of history more interesting than Julius Cæsar,
and certainly more modern. Young people delight in human documents. They
may not know why they delight in these documents, but it is because of
their humanity. Now who can be more human than St. Paul? And the more
you read his epistles, and the more you know of his life, the more human
he becomes. He knew how to be angry and sin not, and the way he "takes
it out" of those unreasonable people who would not accept his mission
has always been a great delight to me!

Under the spell of his writing, it was a pleasure to pick out the phases
of his history--a history that even then seemed to be so very modern,
and to a boy, with an unspoiled imagination, so very real. It seemed
only natural that he should be converted by a blast of illumination from
God. It is not hard for young people to accept miracles. All life is a
miracle, and the rising and setting of the sun was to me no more of a
miracle than the conversion of this fierce Jew, who was a Roman citizen.
He seemed so very noble and yet so very humble. He could command and
plead and weep and denounce; and he made you feel that he was generally
right. And then he was a tentmaker who understood Greek and who could
speak to the Greeks in their own language.

Late in the seventies when nearly every student I knew was a disciple of
Huxley and Tyndal and devoted to that higher criticism of the Bible
which was Germanizing us all, I fortified myself with St. Paul, and with
the belief that, if he could break the close exclusiveness of the Jews,
and take in the Gentiles, if he could throw off, not contemptuously,
many of the rigid ceremonies of his people, Christianity, in the modern
time, could very well afford to accept the new geological interpretation
of the story of Genesis without destroying in any way the faith which
St. Paul preached.

Somewhat later, too, when I read constantly and with increasing delight
the letters of Madame de Sévigné, I put her second as a writer of
letters to the great St. Paul. The letters of Lord Chesterfield to his
sons came next, I think; long after, Andrew Lang's "Letters to Dead
Authors," and a very great letter I found in an English translation of
Balzac's "Le Lys dans la Vallée."

It must not be understood that I put St. Paul in the same category with
these mundane persons. Nevertheless, I found St. Paul very often
reasonably mundane. He preferred to work as a tentmaker rather than take
money from his clients, and one could imagine him as preaching while he
worked. He frankly made collections for needy churches, and he was very
grateful to Phœbe for remembering that he was a hungry man and in
need of homely hospitality. He was interested in his fellow passengers
Aquilla and Priscilla whom he met on board the ship that was taking them
from Corinth to Ephesus. It was evident that they had not been able to
make their salt in Corinth, where, however, their poverty had not
interfered with their zeal in the cause of Christ. Any tent marked
"Ephesus" was sure to have a good sale anywhere. The tents from Ephesus
were as fashionable as the purple from Tyre, and St. Paul was pleased
that his two disciples should have a chance of being more prosperous. I
always felt, too, that, in his practical way, he knew that Ephesus would
give him a better chance of supporting himself.

That Saul of Tarsus had not lacked for luxuries in his youth, one easily
guessed. It was plain, too, that he had had the best possible
instructors, and I liked to believe, when I was young, that his muscles
had been well trained in the sports of gentlemen of his class.
Altogether, so graphic were his descriptions and so potent his
personality that, while Julius Cæsar and Brutus receded, he filled the
foreground, and all the more because at this time I picked up an English
translation of Suetonius, just by chance one dark winter day, and as I
had not yet discovered that Suetonius was a "yellow" gossip, my idols,
some of the Roman heroes, received a great shock.

The constant reading of St. Paul led me to the Acts of the Apostles, and
I found St. Luke very good reading, though I often wished that, as I
understood he had some reputation as an artist, he had adorned his
writings with illustrations.

It was a great shock to discover that none of the Apostles wrote in
English, for it seemed to me that their styles were as different from
one another as any styles could be, and as I, having lived a great part
of my time in classes where Nepos and Cæsar were translated by my dear
young friends, had very little confidence in the work of any translator,
I came to the conclusion that God had taken special care of the
translators of the Bible, for I could not help believing that He had no
interest whatever in the translations which we made daily for the
impatient ears of our instructors!

One could not help loving St. Paul, too, because he was such a good
fighter. When he said he fought with beasts, I was quite sure that these
beasts were the unreasonable and unrighteous persons who persecuted and
contradicted him. No obstacle deterred him, and he was gentle, too,
although he called things by their right names and his denunciations
were so vivid and mouthfilling that you knew his enemies must have been
afraid to open their lips while he was near them, whatever they might
have said behind his back.

My devotion to St. Paul brought me into disrepute one Friday at school
when discipline was relaxed, and the teacher condescended to
conversation. We were asked who was our favourite hero, and when it came
to my turn I answered "St. Paul." As George Washington, Abraham Lincoln,
Thomas Jefferson, General Grant, General Lee, Napoleon, and Alexander
the Great, had walked in procession before I produced my hero, I was
looked on as rather weakminded. The teacher, too, seemed astonished, and
he asked me on what grounds I founded my worship. This question, coming
suddenly, petrified me for a moment, and I answered, "He fought with
beasts." This was taken as a personal allusion by some of my dear
comrades with whom I had had altercations, and I was made to suffer for
it as much as these dear comrades deemed prudent. However, they
discovered that I had "language" on my side, for on the next composition
day, when we read aloud the work of our brains, I accused them of "being
filled with all iniquity," and other evil things which brought down a
horrified remonstrance from the teacher, who was unaccustomed to such
plain English, but he was knocked high and dry by the proof that I was
only quoting St. Paul to the Romans.

Perhaps I became too familiar with St. Paul. Be that as it may, I
regarded him as a very good friend indeed, for some of his "language,"
quoted in times of crisis, produced a much better effect on one's
enemies than any swear word that could be invented. I am not excusing my
attitude toward the Bible, but merely explaining how it affected my
youthful mind. There was something extremely romantic in the very
phrase, "the tumult of the silversmiths" at Ephesus. It seemed to mean a
whole chapter of a novel in itself.

And there was the good centurion--Christ always seemed to have a
sympathy for soldiers--who was willing to save Paul when the ship, on
its way to Rome, was run aground. So he reached Melita where the amiable
barbarians showed him no small courtesy. And one could not help liking
the Romans; that is, the official Romans, even Felix, whose wife was a
Jew like St. Paul, and who, disgusted when the Apostle spoke to him of
chastity and of justice to come, yet hoped that money would be given him
by Paul, and frequently sent for, and often spoke with him. And how fine
seemed the Apostle's belief in his nobility as a Roman citizen! He
rendered unto Cæsar the things that were Cæsar's. And one could easily
imagine the pomp and circumstance when Agrippa and Bernice entered into
the hall of audience with the tribunes and principal men of the city!
And one could hear St. Paul saying, protecting himself nobly, through
the nobility of a Roman law:

     For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to
     signify the things laid to his charge,

and Agrippa's answer, after Paul's apologia:

     In a little thou persuadest me to become a Christian!

But the story did not end then. I rehearsed over and over again what the
King Agrippa might have said to his sister, the noble and beautiful
Bernice--I knew nothing of the lady's reputation then--and how finally
they did become Christians. In my imagination, princely dignity and
exquisite grace were added to the external beauty of religion; and Paul
went to Rome protected by the law of the Romans. And yet the very
fineness of his attitude was the cause of his further imprisonment.
"This man," I often repeated with Agrippa, "might have been set at
liberty, if he had not appealed to Cæsar."

It was St. Paul who sent me back to the Prophet Micheas, who had
previously struck me as of no importance at all, and I read:

     And Thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands
     of Juda; out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be the
     ruler in Israel; and his going forth is from the beginning, from
     the days of eternity.

And back again to St. Matthew--

     But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Juda; For so it is written by
     the prophet; And thou, Bethlehem, the land of Juda, art not the
     least among the princes of Juda; for out of thee shall come forth
     the captain, who shall rule my people Israel.

These exercises in completing the prophecies of the Old Testament with
the fulfilments of the New were interesting, and I found great pleasure
in them. And this led me to a greater appreciation of the Old Testament,
against which I had been once rather prejudiced. One day, I was led, by
some reference or other in another book, to read the twenty-third psalm
of David, in the King James version. It struck me as much more simple
and appealing than the version in the Douai Bible, which begins in Latin
"_Dominus regit me_." It runs:

     The Lord ruleth me: and I shall want nothing.

     2 He hath set me in a place of pasture.

     He hath brought me up, on the water of refreshment:

     3 He hath converted my soul. He hath led me on the paths of
     justice, for his own name's sake.

     4 For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I
     fear no evils, for thou art with me.

     Thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me.

     5 Thou hast prepared a table before me, against them that afflict
     me.

     Thou hast anointed my head with oil: and my chalice which
     inebriateth me how goodly is it.

     And thy mercy will follow me all the days of my life.

     And that I may dwell in the house of the Lord, unto length of days.

In the Douai version this psalm was called the twenty-second.

Without any special guidance--I think most of my teachers would have
looked on as dangerous any attempt to ally English literature with the
Bible--I soon discovered that nearly everything I read owed something to
the Bible. At first, the comparison of the twenty-third psalm in the
King James version enraptured me so much that I began to find fault with
the Latinized phrases of the Vulgate in English. It was the fashion in
the early seventies to be very Saxon in speech, especially in the
little group at school interested in English literature. Street cars at
this time were comparatively new in Philadelphia, and I think we reached
the last extremity of Saxonism in speech when we spoke of them as "folk
wains." The tide then turned toward the Latins; and I preferred the Book
of Job and the story of Ruth in the Latinized version, because the words
were more mouth filling, and because it was very difficult to translate
everything into a bald "early English medium", which for a time I had
been trying to do. It was Keats's lovely phrase "amid the alien corn"
which sent me back to "Ruth"; and a quotation in Quackenbos's
"Rhetoric"--"Can'st thou hook the Leviathan" which made me revel in
"Job."

Something Meg Merrilies said bore me on toward the roaring storm of
Isaiah. The Latinized medium seemed to suit his denunciations best; and
then, besides, I found more illuminating footnotes in the Douai version
than in the King James. In both versions, some passages were so obscure
that I often wondered how anybody could get any meaning out of them. I
was often astonished to find in English novels that the old people in
the cottages were soothed by texts, quoted at a great length, out of
which I could make nothing, so I limited myself to the Douai version,
which I found more illuminating.

Whether my system of reading is to be commended or not to young persons,
I am not prepared to say, but for me it made the Bible a really live
book. To be frank, and perhaps shocking at the same time--if anybody had
asked me whether, being marooned on an island, I should have most
preferred the Bible in my loneliness, I should promptly have answered
"No." At this age "Nicholas Nickleby" or "Midsummer Night's Dream," or
"The Tempest," or "As You Like it," or Macaulay's "Lays of Ancient
Rome," would have suited me better, provided, of course, that I could
have chosen only one book.

It was borne in on me many times that no author could improve on the
phrasing of the Bible. Both in the Vulgate and the King James versions
there are passages which, leaving aside all question of doctrine, it is
sacrilege to try to improve. The French translation of the Bible is, as
everybody knows, very paraphrastic, and that may account for the fact
that, while regarded as a precious depository of doctrine, it is not a
household book, and the dreadfully dull interpretations of Clement
Marot--called hymns--naturally bored a people who, in their hearts,
believe that God listens more amiably to petitions uttered in the
language of the Academy! In their novels, dealing with the beginnings of
Christianity--and there are many such novels in French unknown in other
countries--it is hard for a French author not to be rhetorical, in the
manner of the writer of "Ben Hur" when the death of Christ is described.
No human author could improve on the words of the Vulgate, or the words
of the King James version. What young heart can ponder over these words,
without a thrill, St. John XIX (Douai version: 1609; Rheims; 1582):

     When Jesus therefore had seen his Mother and the disciple standing
     whom he loved, he saith to his Mother: Woman, behold thy son.

     After that, he saith to the disciple, Behold thy mother. And from
     that day the disciple took her to his own.

     Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished,
     that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst.

     Now there was a vessel set there full of vinegar, and they, putting
     a sponge full of vinegar about hyssop, put it to his mouth.

     And Jesus therefore when he had taken the vinegar, said, it is
     consummated, and bowing his head, gave up the ghost.

When Marie Corelli became a popular author, there were persons
existing--happily, they have all gone to the great beyond--who thought
that the "talented" author could have done better!


_Essays and Essayists_

I am aware that many persons look on Emerson as somewhat dangerous
reading for a boy of sixteen. The mothers and fathers of my Baptist
friends and the uncle of my Methodist cousins forbade the reading of
Emerson because of his Unitarianism; but, as the rector of our parish
never denounced Unitarians from the altar, though he frequently offered
his compliments to Martin Luther, I paid no attention whatever to these
objections. I trust that I am not defending the miscellaneous reading of
my boyhood; I do not recommend this course to the approval of parents
and guardians; I am simply expressing the impression that certain books
made on my youthful mind and heart; for, though I never said so in
words, the books I liked were always nearer to my heart than to my mind.
I owe a great debt to Emerson.

It was on a hot afternoon during the summer vacation that, near sundown,
sitting on the warm marble steps of our house, I dipped into an early
edition of Emerson. I felt inspired at once to think great thoughts and
to do good things, to lift myself above the petty things of the earth,
and to feel that to be an American was to be at once proud and humble.
Emerson's abrupt sentences, like a number of brilliants set close
together, reminded me of "Proverbs"; but the Book of Proverbs did not
get so near to my actual life as the essays of Emerson. I liked the
lessons that he drew from the lives of great men. I was shocked when he
mentioned Confucius and Plato in the same breath as Christ; but I was
amiably tolerant, for I felt that he had never had the privilege of
studying the Little Catechism, and I thought of writing to him on the
subject. But somebody told me that he was an "American Classic" and,
from that, I concluded he was dead, and had doubtless already found out
his mistake.

Perhaps I might have been better engaged in reading the more practical
books offered to boys in our own time, if we had had them. There were
some books then on scientific subjects, reduced to the comprehension of
the young; but not so many as there are now. One of my uncles
recommended the works of Samuel Smiles--"Self-Help" I think was his
favourite; but Samuel Smiles never appealed to me. My small allowance,
paid weekly, could not have been affected by "Thrift", and when my uncle
quoted passages from this tiresome book I astounded him by replying, in
a phrase I wrongly attributed to the adorable Emerson, that if I had a
quarter to spend instead of twelve cents, I would give half of it for a
hyacinth! My miserly uncle said it sounded just like Mohammed, and that
Emerson had doubtless found it in that dangerous book, the Koran.

I cannot imagine any other author doing for me just what the essays of
Emerson did. In the first place, they seemed to me to be really
American; in the second, and largely because of their quality, they
offered an antidote to the materialism in the very air, which had
succeeded the Civil War. At this time there was much talk of money and
luxury everywhere about us. Even in our quiet neighbourhood, where
simple living was the rule, many had burst into ostentation, and moved
away into newer and more pretentious quarters, and there was a rumour
that some of these sought unlimited opportunities for extravagant
expenditure. We saw them driving in new carriages, and condescendingly
stopping before the white doors and the green window-shutters of our
old-fashioned colonial houses. They had made money through the war. For
the first time in our lives we boys heard of money making as the
principal aim of life. The fact that these successful persons were
classed as "shoddy" did not lessen the value of the auriferous
atmosphere about us. Emerson was a corrective to this materialism. As to
his philosophy or theology, that did not concern me any more than the
religious opinions of Julius Cæsar, whose "Commentaries" I was obliged
to read. Emerson gave me a taste for the reading of essay.

By chance I fell upon some essays of Carlyle. The inflation of his style
did not deter me from thoroughly enjoying the paper on "Novalis." That
on "Cagliostro," however, was my favourite. It introduced me intimately
to the French Revolution. I disliked this great charlatan for his motto,
"Tread the lilies under foot." I was for the Bourbons! The French
Revolution, as a fact, was very near to me. My mother had been born (in
Philadelphia) in 1819, and my great-uncle and my grandfather had lived
through the French Revolution. There was a legend, moreover--probably
the same legend exists in every family of Irish descent whose
connections had lived in France--that one of them had been a clerk to
Fabre d'Eglantine, and had spent his time in crossing off the list of
the condemned the names of the Irish-French aristocrats and substituting
in their place others that did not happen to belong to Celts!

In spite of the Little Catechism and the uplifting influence of Emerson,
I looked on this probably mythical gentleman as one of the glories of
our family. And then there was an old man--very old--who walked up and
down Sixth Street with his head wrapped in a bandanna handkerchief,
bearing a parrot on his shoulder. The boys of the neighbourhood believed
that he was Sanson, the executioner of Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette.
We shivered when we saw him; but we boasted of his existence in our
neighbourhood, all the same. After I had read "Cagliostro" I devoured
every line on the subject of the French Revolution I could find. It
seemed to me that I would have been willing to give five years out of
my life to have lived in Paris during those horrors, and to have rescued
Marie Antoinette and the Princess Elizabeth! Such brutalities seemed
impossible in our time; and yet I have since lived very near to friends
who went through even greater horrors in Russia--the Baroness Sophie de
Buxhoevenden, second lady-in-waiting to the Czarina, for instance, whose
letters lie before me as I write.

In spite of my taste for Carlyle, which induced me to dip into Jean Paul
Richter, of whose writings I remember only one line,

     I love God and little children,

I did not get very far into his "French Revolution." It seemed then an
unreal and lurid book.

Emerson led to Montaigne, whose essays, in an old edition which I had
from the Mechanics' Institute, of which my father was a committeeman,
delighted me beyond words. I liked Emerson's essay on "Friendship"
better than his, but for wit, quick repartee, general cheerfulness, he
reminded me of my favourite heroine in literature, Sir Walter Scott's
Catherine Seton! Later, I read with astonishment that Montaigne was an
unbeliever, a skeptic, almost a cynic. I was extremely indignant; he
seemed to me to be a very pious gentleman, with that wit and humour
which I seldom found in professedly pious books; and to this day I
cannot hear Montaigne talked of as a precursor of Voltaire without
believing that there is something crooked in the mind of the talker. So
much for the impressions made in youth, so much for the long, long
thoughts of which Longfellow sings.

Who is more amusingly cheerful than Montaigne, who more amusingly wise,
who so well bred and attractive, who knew the world better and took it
only as the world? Give me the old volume of Montaigne and a loaf of
bread--no Victrola singing to me in the wilderness!--a thermos bottle,
and one or two other things, and I can still spend the day in any wild
place! I did not, of course, know, in those early days, what in his
flavour attracted me. Afterward, I found that it was the very flavour
and essence of Old France. Carlyle's impressions of historical persons
interested me, but Montaigne was the most actual of living persons who
spoke to me in a voice I recognized as wholly his. To be sure, I read
him in Florio's translation.

I think it was about this time, too, that I discovered a very modern
writer, who charmed me very greatly. It was Justin McCarthy who
contributed a series of sketches of great men of the day to a magazine
called the _Galaxy_. He "did" Victor Emmanuel and Pope Pius IX. and
Bismarck, and many other of the worthies of the times. Nothing that he
wrote before or after this pleased me at all; but these sketches were so
interesting and apparently so true that they really became part of my
life. If I had been asked at this time who was my favourite of all
modern authors, and what the name of the composer I admired most, I
should have said Justin McCarthy and Offenbach! I regarded "Voici le
Sabre" in "La Grande Duchesse" as a masterpiece only to be compared to
an "Ave Verum," by Pergolesi, which was often sung in St. Philip's
Church at the Offertory! A strange mixture, but the truth is the truth.
Although I have not been able to find Justin McCarthy's series of
sketches, they still hold a sweet place in my memory. Perhaps, like
other masterpieces that one loves in youth, one would now find them like
those beautiful creatures of the sea that seem to be vermilion and
purple and gold under the waves, but are drab and ugly things when taken
out of the water. This applies to some books that one reads with
pleasure in early days, and wonders, later, how they were endured!

There were not so many outdoor books in the late '60's as there are now.
We were all sent to Thoreau's "Walden" and Dana's "Two Years Before the
Mast." "Walden" I learned to like, but I much preferred Fenimore
Cooper's description of nature. "Walden" struck me as the book of a man
playing at out-of-doors, imagining his wildness, and never really liking
to be too far from the town. Singularly enough, it was not until I
discovered Hamerton's "A Painter's Camp" that I began to see that nature
had beauties in all weathers. In truth, I hate to confess that nature
alone never appealed to me. A landscape without human beings seemed
deadly dull; and I did not understand until I grew much older that I had
really believed that good art was an improvement on nature.

I have not the slightest idea in what light the modern critics see the
works of Philip Gilbert Hamerton. I tried to read one of his novels
recently, and failed; but let me say that, allowing for receptivity and
what one may call temperament, I know of no book more revealing as to
the relations of nature and art than "A Painter's Camp." I recall
vividly the words of the beginning of the preface to the first edition:

     It is known to all who are acquainted with the present condition of
     the fine arts in England that landscape-painters rely less on
     memory and invention than formerly, and that their work from nature
     is much more laborious than it used to be.

I had seen so many pictures that seemed to be "made up" in the artist's
studio and I knew so well from my experience in the drawing classes at
school, how nature was neglected for artificial models, that I hailed
these words with great joy.

Everything in life was rather conventional, rather fixed, for the
Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, to which our country owes the
beginning of the æsthetic awakening, had not yet taken place. It may
seem strange to this generation that we were limited to the wood-cuts in
Godey's _Lady's Book_, the illustrations in _Harper's Magazine_, and an
occasional picture in some short-lived periodical. The reign of the
chromo had just begun. Rogers's groups were a fixture in nearly every
self-respecting house, though I am glad to say, in my own family, very
good casts of the Clytie and the Discus-thrower filled their place. My
father greatly admired Power's Greek Slave, whose praises had been
celebrated in the _Cosmopolitan Magazine_; but my mother regarded it as
almost "improper."

Nearly every youth of my generation, in Philadelphia, wanted not exactly
something better, but something more vivid. There were few sports; long
walks and a little cricket supplied the place of the coming baseball and
tennis.

In his "Steeplejack," James Huneker speaks of his weekly walks with Mr.
Edward Roth, the head of a military school and the author of "Christus
Judex." I, too, looked on these walks with an occasional row on the
Schuylkill with him as the best part of my education. But this was
later. All we could do, then, in our moments of leisure, was to walk and
talk and read.

The cult of the out-of-doors had not yet begun to be developed. The
beginning of "A Painter's Camp" was most attractive to my thirsty soul.
Mr. Hamerton says:

     I had a wild walk yesterday. I have a notion of encamping on the
     Boulsworth moors to study heather; and heartily tired of being
     caged up here in my library, with nothing to see but wet
     garden-walks and dripping yew trees, and a sundial whereon no
     shadow had fallen the livelong day, I determined, in spite of the
     rain to be off to the moors to choose a site for my encampment. Not
     very far from this house still dwells an old servant of my uncle's
     with whom I am on the friendliest terms. So I called upon this
     neighbour on my way and asked him if he would take a walk with me
     to the hills. Jamie stared a little and remarked that "it ur feefi
     weet" but accompanied me nevertheless, and a very pleasant walk we
     had of it.

Hamerton opened his book in Jane Eyre's country; our family had lately
read "Jane Eyre." This added interest to the volume, and there came the
details of the invention of the new hut, intended to be a shelter
against all weathers, so that the artist might study nature on intimate
terms. He made it in order to paint the heather at close range. Now,
this was a revelation! It had never hitherto occurred to me that the
heather changes its aspect day by day, or indeed that our pet place of
beauty, the Wissahickon Creek, or river if you like, was not the same
every day in the year except when the ice bound it! This may seem a
rather stupid state of mind; but it is the stupidity that is very
common. I could understand how interesting it would be to be in
snow-fall while yet safely out of it. Mr. Hamerton thus described his
hut:

     It consists entirely of panels, of which the largest are two feet
     six inches square: these panels can be carried separately on
     packhorses, or even on men's backs, and then united together by
     iron bolts into a strong little building. Four of the largest
     panels serve as windows, being each of them filled with a large
     pane of excellent plate-glass. When erected, the walls present a
     perfectly smooth surface outside, and a panelled interior; the
     floor being formed in exactly the same manner, with the panelled or
     coffered side turned towards the earth, and the smooth surface
     uppermost. By this arrangement all the wall-bolts are inside, and
     those of the floor underneath it, which protects them not only from
     the weather but from theft, an iron bolt being a great temptation
     to country people on account of its convenience and utility. The
     walls are bolted to the floor, which gives great strength to the
     whole structure, and the panels are carefully ordered, like the
     stones in a well-built wall, so that the joints of the lower course
     of panels do not fall below those of the upper. The roof is arched
     and provides a current of fresh air, by placing ventilators at each
     end of the arch, which insures a current without inconvenience to
     the occupant.

The chapters on "Concerning Moonlight in Old Castles," "The Coming of
the Clouds," and the little sketches, like "Loch Awe after Sunset,
Sept. 23, 1860," enchanted me. It had not before struck me that Loch
Awe was different on September 23, 1860, from what it was at other
times, or--to carry the idea further--that the imperial Delaware had
changed since that momentous time when George Washington crossed it, or
the Schuylkill since Tom Moore looked upon it.

To quote further:

     The mountain is green-grey, colder and greener towards the summit.
     All details of field and wood are dimly visible. Two islands nearer
     me are distinct against the hill, but their foliage seems black,
     and no details are visible in them. The sky is all clouded over.
     From the horizon to the zenith it is one veil of formless vapour.

And:

     There is one streak of dead calm, which reflects the green mountain
     perfectly from edge to edge of it. There is another calm shaped
     like a great river, which is all green, touched with crimson.
     Besides these there are delicate half calms, just dulled over with
     faint breathings of the evening air; these, for the most part being
     violet (from the sky), except at a distance, where they take a deep
     crimson; and there is one piece of crimson calm near me set between
     a faint violet breeze and a calm of a different violet. There are
     one or two breezes sufficiently strong to cause ripple, and these
     rippled spaces take the dull grey slate of the upper sky.

     Realise this picture as well as you may be able, and then put in
     the final touch. Between the dull calms and the glassy calms there
     are drawn thin threads of division burning with scarlet fire.

     This fire is of course got from the lower sky. I know whence it
     comes, but how or why it lies in those thin scarlet threads there
     where it is most wanted, and not elsewhere, I cannot satisfactorily
     explain.

Then there was a delightful and illuminating chapter called "A Stream at
Rest." Hamerton, who is probably now very much out of fashion, taught me
the necessity of beauty in life; and, as an accessory to Emerson, the
philosophy of enjoying the little, every-day things. It was Emerson who,
I think, said first to me, "Take short outlooks"; and I still think that
there can be no better introduction to a consideration of the relation
of art to nature than "A Painter's Camp." It was "A Painter's Camp"
which led me to "The Intellectual Life." There is a particular passage
in Hamerton's chapter on "A Little French City" that emphasized the need
of beauty.

     The cathedral is all poetry; I mean that every part of it affects
     our emotional nature either by its own grandeur or beauty, or by
     its allusion to histories of bright virtue or brave fortitude. And
     this emotional result is independent of belief in the historical
     truth of these great legends: it would be stronger, no doubt, if we
     believed them, but we are still capable of feeling their solemn
     poetry and large significance as we feel the poetry and
     significance of "Sir Galahad" or "The Idylls of the King."

     Some persons are so constituted that it is necessary to their
     happiness to live near some noble work of art or nature. A mountain
     is satisfactory to them because it is great and ever new,
     presenting itself every hour under aspects so unforeseen that one
     can gaze at it for years with unflagging interest. To some minds,
     to mine amongst others, human life is scarcely supportable far from
     some stately and magnificent object, worthy of endless study and
     admiration. But what of life in the plains? Truly, most plains are
     dreary enough, but still they may have fine trees, or a cathedral.
     And in the cathedral, here, I find no despicable compensation for
     the loss of dear old Ben Cruacha.

There are some humorous and perhaps even comic passages in "The
Intellectual Life"; these passages are unconsciously humorous or comic,
as Mr. Philip Gilbert Hamerton seems to have no sense of humour. For
instance, it was a great surprise to me to discover that poverty was
unfavourable to the intellectual life! It was enlightening to know the
reason why a man should wear evening dress after six o'clock, and why
the sporting of gray clothes in the evening was unworthy of the
Intellectual! Besides, it affects the character!

And letter XI "To a Master of Arts who said that a Certain Distinguished
Painter was Half-educated," was a useful antidote to youthful
self-conceit. I had not reached the stage, treated in the chapters on
"Women and Marriage," "To a Young Gentleman Who Contemplated Marriage,"
but I thought the author very wise indeed, and found many other pages
which were intensely stimulating. Let others decry Hamerton if they
like; I owe a great deal to him; and, though I might be induced to throw
"The Intellectual Life" to the Young Wolves of the Beginning of this
Century, I shall always insist that "A Painter's Camp" ought to be
included in every list of books.

It was George Eliot who sent me to "The Following of Christ," and she
interested me in Saint Teresa, that illustrious woman so well compounded
of mysticism and common sense, of whom, however, I could find no good
"Life." But Thomas à Kempis was a revelation! He fitted into nearly
every crisis of the soul, but all his words are not for every-day life.
He seems to demand too much of us poor folk of the world. Later, I came
to understand that the counsel of perfection which Christ gave to the
rich young man was not intended for the whole world, and many fine
passages in À Kempis were meant for finer temperaments than my own.

Somebody at this time presented me with a copy of Marcus Aurelius. I
found him dull, stale, and unprofitable in comparison with À Kempis. His
philosophy of life seemed to lead to nothing except the cultivation of a
very high opinion of oneself. I gave this conclusion to one of my
English friends, who objected to my uncharted course of reading, and he
said, "A person like you who finds nothing humorous or even
philosophical in 'Alice in Wonderland' cannot be expected to like the
works of Marcus Aurelius!"

It takes a prig to divide his reading into nicely staked off little
plots, each with its own date. The art of injudicious reading, the art
of miscellaneous reading which every normal man ought to cultivate, is a
very fine and satisfactory art; for the best guide to books is a book
itself. It clasps hands with a thousand other books. It has always
seemed to me that "Sesame and Lilies" would not have been conceived by
Ruskin if he had not heard well an echo of "The Following of Christ."
There was a time when the lovers of Ruskin who wanted to read "The
Stones of Venice" and the rest at leisure, felt themselves obliged to
form clubs, and to divide the expense, if they were of moderate means,
in order to get what was good out of him. But somehow or other, probably
because it appealed more to everybody, it was always possible to find a
copy of "Sesame and Lilies" at an old book stand. I think I found one
most unexpectedly at Leary's in Philadelphia, where I also discovered
the copy of Froissart. The Froissart, as I have said, cost me just half
of my father's Christmas present that year, which was five dollars. I
must have managed to get the Ruskin volume out of some other fund, for I
had many things to buy with the other two and one half dollars!

Ruskin is left alone to-day; he does not seem to fill that "long-felt
want" which we, the young of the sixties and seventies, admitted. No
doubt he is very mannered in his style, mitred and coped when he might
have been very simple in his raiment. He was a priest in literature and
art; and he clothed himself as a priest. He marched with a stately
tread, and yet he stooped to the single violets by the wayside.

By the way, I often wished when I was reading Ruskin, who once made
apple blossoms fashionable, that he had led a crusade against the double
and the triple violet, which have destroyed the reputation of the real
violet. What can be more repellent to the lovers of simplicity than a
bunch of these artificialities, without perfume, tied by dark green
ribbon, and with all their leaves removed? "Sesame and Lilies" had the
effect of sending me back to the single violet whenever I was inclined
to admire the _camellia japonica_ or any other thing that was
artificial, or distorted from beauty or simplicity.

Circumstances have a great deal to do with our affection for books.
Propinquity, they say, leads very frequently to marriage, and if a book
happens to be near and if it is any kind of book at all, there is a
great temptation to develop an affection for it. All I can say is that I
think that "Sesame and Lilies" is a good book, for after all a book must
be judged by its effect. It led me further into Ruskin, and helped me to
acquire a reverence for art and to estimate the relations of art and
life. One would steel oneself against the fallacy that art, true art,
might exist only for art's sake, when one had read "Sesame and Lilies"
and "The Stones of Venice." Those wise men who make literary
"selections" for the young have done well to include in their volumes
that graphic description, so carefully modulated in tone, of the
Cathedral of St. Mark. Its only fault is that it comes too near to being
prose poetry; and discriminating readers who ponder over it will find
some epithets possible only to a writer who was an artist in lines and
pigments before he began to paint with the pen.

Ruskin opened our eyes rather violently to some aspects of life which
we, the young, did not know; for the young after all learn very little
by intuition. They must be taught things. This is perhaps an excuse for
those vagaries in youth, those seemingly inexplicable adventures which
shock the old who have forgotten what it is to be young.



CHAPTER II

POETS AND POETRY

_France--Of Maurice de Guérin_


In 1872, the attention of readers was forced on a few great names. These
were generally the names of Frenchmen. The sympathy of Americans during
the Franco-Prussian War had been with France, and during the latter days
of the French Empire, before the war, Americans had been much more
interested in France than in any other part of the world. There were
letters from Paris in the newspapers. The Empress Eugénie and her
coterie at the Tuileries, the Operas of Offenbach, and the gossip about
literary magnets of the time, which included a great deal of Victor
Hugo, had been a constant subject of conversations.

One could buy French books easily in Philadelphia; and the Mercantile
Library--now dreadfully shorn of its former pretensions, reduced in
size, no longer so comfortable, so delightfully easy of access as to
its shelves--had an excellent collection of volumes in French.

How often in later life I blessed the discriminating collectors of that
library! Nothing worth while at that time, even "L'Homme" of Ernest
Hello, seemed to have been left out; I fear that I was not always guided
by the critics of the period. I found Amédée Achard as interesting as
Octave Feuillet; George Sand bored me; I could never get through even
"La Petite Fadette," although the critics were constantly recommending
her for her "vitality." I found Madame de Gérardin's "La Femme qui
Déteste Son Mari" one of the cleverest plays I had yet read. I have not
seen it since; but, outside of some of the pieces of Augier, it seemed
to me to be the best bit of construction I knew, and the human interest
and the suspense were so admirably kept up. There were some plays by
Octave Feuillet--"Redemption" was one and "Le Roman d'un Jeune Homme
Pauvre," which divided my admiration with the management of "Adrienne
Lecouvreur," by Scribe, and "Mademoiselle de la Seiglière," by Jules
Sandeau. The French playwrights of to-day have not even the technique of
their predecessors.

At this time I was very royalist, an infuriated partisan of the Comte de
Chambord--Henry V., as a few of us preferred to call him. And this
reminds me of my partisanship in things English--if I may turn for the
moment from things French--and of a little incident not without humour.
I was ardently devoted to the cause of the Stuarts, and was for a time
attached to the White Rose Society, whose correspondents in England
invariably sent their letters, with the stamp turned upside down, to
indicate their contempt for the Guelf dynasty. But when, at a small and
frugal reunion at Mr. Green's restaurant in Philadelphia, our host--he
was an American Walsh of the family of de Serrant--insisted on waving
his glass of beer over the finger bowls, to insinuate that we were
drinking to the last of the Stuarts across the water--whoever he might
be--and another member suggested that, if it were not for the brutal
Hanoverians on the throne of England, we, in the British Colonies, might
be still enjoying the blessedness of being ruled by a descendant of Mary
Stuart, I resigned! I was still devoutly faithful to the divine Mary of
Scotland; but I would not have her mixed up in American politics!

Octave Feuillet satisfied my taste for elegance. Some of his people were
not above reproach--notice the lady in "Redemption," who becomes
suddenly converted to a belief in God because her twenty-fifth lover is
suddenly restored to her. I thought that, though he was somewhat
corrupted by the influence of the Tuileries, he was socially so
admirably correct.

Everybody at this time talked of Renan. This went by me as an idle
dream, for I could never understand why anybody should take a man
seriously who was palpably wrong. To-day, when Renan's "Life of Jesus"
seems almost forgotten, it is strange to recall the fury of interest it
excited in the seventies. Louis Veuillot interested me much more than
Renan, whom I avoided deliberately because I understood that he had
attacked the Christian religion. Now, Louis Veuillot, in "Les Odeurs de
Paris" and "Les Parfums de Rome" delighted me almost beyond bounds. I
did often wonder how such a good man as Louis Veuillot could have
acquired such un-Christian use of language. When he announced that if
his wife wrote such novels as George Sand, he would hesitate to
recognize her children, it seemed to me that he had gone too far--still
it was a pleasant thing to shock the chaste Philadelphians by quoting
these trenchant words when the novels of the lady in question were
mentioned with rapt admiration.

But to come to the poets!

It was, I think, through the reading of the "Lundis" of Sainte-Beuve
that I discovered Maurice de Guérin. He almost drove my beloved Keats
from my mind. Somebody warned me against Maurice de Guérin on the ground
of his pantheism. I had been warned against the poems of Emerson on
account of their paganism; but as I had been brought up on Virgil, I
looked on pantheism and paganism as rather orthodox compared to Renan's
negation and the horrors of Calvinism. And, after all, the Catholic
Church had retained so much that was Jewish and pagan that I was sure to
find myself almost as much at home among the pagans as I was in the Old
Testament at times.

Keats and Maurice de Guérin will be always associated in my mind. I
discovered them about the same time. I had been solemnly told by an
eminent Philadelphian that Wordsworth was the only poet worth
considering, after Shakespeare, and that Keats had no intellectual value
whatever. But I was not looking for intellectual value. I mixed up the
intellect with a kind of scientific jargon about protoplasm and natural
selection and the survival of the fittest, and bathybius, which was then
all the fashion; so I promptly devoted myself to De Guérin.

I had already found great pleasure in the "Journal" of his sister
Eugénie. The "Journal" ought never to be allowed to go out of fashion,
and probably it is only out of fashion in those circles which Mr.
Mencken so scorns, that devote themselves to imitations of Marie
Bashkirtseff or Sarah McLean. I had begun to enjoy the flavour of the
calm life of Eugénie at La Cayla when I found it necessary, in order to
understand the allusions, to plunge again into the journals, letters,
and poems of Maurice de Guérin. Thus it happened that I had fallen upon
"Le Centaure" first. It is very short, as everybody knows. It was to me
the most appealing poem I had ever read.

Keats's Greece seems somehow to be a Greece too full of modern colour,
too unclassical. This was a mistake, of course, due to the fact that all
my Greek reading had been filtered through professors and textbooks; and
all my Greek seeing had been centred on pale white statues. It did not
occur to me then--at least I did not know it--that the great Greek
statues were not colourless, and that at Delphi there were statues that
glowed with the hues of life. Strange to say, though "Le Centaure"
seemed to me to be Greek in the classical sense, yet it palpitated with
human emotion. Who that has read it can forget the simplicity of the
opening? Says the Centaur:

     I received my birth in the fastnesses of these mountains. As the
     stream of this valley of which the primitive drops run from the
     rocks which weep in a deep grotto, the first moment of my life fell
     among the darkness of a secluded place in which the silence was not
     troubled. When our mothers come near the time of their deliverance,
     they flee towards the caverns, and in the depth of the most remote,
     in the darkest of shadows, their children are born without a moan
     and the fruits of their womb are as silent as themselves. Their
     strong milk enables us to overcome without weakness or a doubtful
     struggle the first difficulties of life; however, we go out from
     our caves later than you from your cradles. It is understood among
     us that we must hide and envelope the first moments of existence as
     days filled by the gods. My growth followed its course almost among
     the shadows where I was born. The depth of my living place was so
     lost in the shadow of the mountain that I would not have known
     where the opening was if rushing sometimes into this opening the
     winds had not passed about me certain movements suddenly and
     refreshing breezes. Sometimes, too, my mother came back carrying
     the perfume of the valleys, or dripping with the waves of the water
     she frequented. Now these returns of hers gave me no knowledge of
     the valleys or the stream, but their suggestions disquieted my
     spirit, and I paced agitatedly in my shades.

After all, it requires leisure to enjoy fully the writings of Eugénie de
Guérin and her brother--I inevitably think of this brother and sister
together. There always lingers about the genius of these two delicate
and sensitive beings a certain perfume of the white lilac which Maurice
loved. It happened that through the amiability of my father, when I read
the Journals of the De Guérins, I had leisure. A period of ill health
stopped my work--I had begun to study law--and there were long days that
could easily be filled by strolls in Fairmount Park in the early spring
days, when it seems most appropriate to associate one's self with these
two who ought to be read in the mood of the early spring, and they ought
to be read slowly and even prayerfully. I hope I may be pardoned for
quoting a sonnet which had a great vogue in the late 'seventies showing
the impression that Maurice de Guérin made. It was a great surprise to
find part of the sestette copied in the "Prose Writings" of Walt
Whitman, who very rarely quoted any verse.

    The old wine filled him, and he saw, with eyes
    Anoint of Nature, fauns and dryads fair
    Unseen by others; to him maidenhair
    And waxen lilacs, and those birds that rise
    A-sudden from tall reeds at slight surprise,
    Brought charmèd thoughts; and in earth everywhere
    He, like sad Jacques, found a music rare
    As that of Syrinx to old Grecians wise.
    A pagan heart, a Christian soul had he:
    He followed Christ, yet for dead Pan he sighed,
    Till earth and heaven met within his breast;
    As if Theocritus in Sicily
    Had come upon the Figure crucified
    And lost his gods in deep, Christ given rest.

I found, too, satisfaction of the taste which Hamerton had corroborated,
in Eugénie de Guérin's little sketches of outdoor scenery--sketches
which always have a human interest. I had not yet begun to take any
pleasure in Wordsworth; and, in fact, all the poets who seemed to be
able to enjoy nature for itself--nature unrelieved or unimproved by
human figures--had no attractions for me. And here the dear Edward Roth
came in, and confirmed my taste. And there were heavy arguments with
other clever Philadelphians, Doctor Nolan, the scientist who loved
letters, and that amateur of literature, Charles Devenny.

As for Pope and his school, they seemed to represent an aspect of the
world as unreal as the world of Watteau, and with much less excuse; but
pictures of the kind I found in the "Journal" of Eugénie de Guérin had a
living charm. At this time, I had not seen Matthew Arnold's paper on
Maurice de Guérin, and I did not know that any appreciation of his
sister had been written in English. I had seen a paragraph or two
written by some third-rate person who objected to her piety as
sentimental, and incomprehensible to the "Anglo-Saxon" world! That her
piety should be sentimental, if Eugénie's sentiment can be characterized
by that term, seemed to me to be questionable; and it was evident that
any one who read French literature at all must be aware that there were
hundreds of beautiful sentiments and phrases which the average
"Anglo-Saxon" world found it impossible to comprehend.

The beloved home of Eugénie, La Cayla, was not a gay place. It was even
more circumscribed than Miss Mitford's "Village"; but Eugénie, being
less "Anglo-Saxon" than Miss Mitford, had more sentiment and a more
sensitive perception of the meaning of nature--though, when it comes to
sentimentalism, the English man or woman, who often masquerades under
the shelter of "Anglo-Saxonism," is as sentimental as the most
sentimental of sentimentalists. This is what I mean by the landscape
charm of Eugénie de Guérin, and yet the picture in this case is not a
landscape, but the interior of a room:

     I was admiring just now a little landscape, presented by my room,
     as it was being illuminated with the rising sun. How pretty it was!
     Never did I see a more beautiful effect of light on the paper,
     thrown through painted trees. It was diaphanous, transparent. It
     was almost wasted on my eyes; it ought to have been seen by a
     painter. And yet does not God create the beautiful for everybody?
     All our birds were singing this morning while I was at my prayers.
     This accompaniment pleases me, though it distracts me a little. I
     stop to listen; then I begin again, thinking that the birds and I
     are alike singing a hymn to God, and that, perhaps, those little
     creatures sing better than I. But the charm of prayer, the charm of
     communion with God, they cannot enjoy that; one must have a soul to
     feel it. This happiness that the birds have not is mine. It is
     sorrow. How little time is needed for that. The joy comes from the
     sun, the mild air, the song of birds, all delights to me; as well
     as from a letter of Mimi's (who is now at Gaillac), in which she
     tells me of Madame Vialar, who has seen thee, and of other cheerful
     things.

And again:

     However, I had a delightful waking this morning. As I was opening
     my eyes a lovely moon faced my window, and shone into my bed, so
     brightly that at first I thought it was a lamp suspended to my
     shutter. It was very sweet and pretty to look at this white light,
     and so I contemplated, admired, watched it till it hid itself
     behind the shutter to peep out again, and then conceal itself like
     a child playing at hide-and-seek.

Emerson tried to teach us that there can be infinite beauties in a
little space--untold joys within a day--and he asks us to take short
outlooks. Saint Teresa and Saint Francis de Sales were before him in
this; but Eugénie de Guérin exemplifies its value much more than any
other modern writer. Her soul was often sad, but it never ceased to find
joy in the little happinesses of life. In our country, we are losing
this faculty which the best of the later New Englanders tried to
recover. It is a pity because it deprives us of the real _joie de vivre_
which is not dependent on ecstasies of restless emotions or violent
amusements.

The devotion of Eugénie de Guérin to her brother resembles that of
Madame de Sévigné for her daughter, the peerless Pauline. It was George
Sand who discovered the genius of that brother, though her
characterization of the qualities of his genius did not please the
Christian soul of his sister. It was left to Sainte-Beuve to fix De
Guérin's place in French literature; and I recall now that the reading
of Sainte-Beuve led me to find the poems of David Gray, now probably
forgotten, and to go back to Keats.

After Maurice de Guérin's "Le Centaure" I found Keats even less Greek
than I thought he was, because he was less philosophical than De Guérin,
and because he did not concern himself with the gravest questions of
life; but, after all, Keats is the poet for the poets!

My dear friend, Edward Roth--whom James Huneker celebrates in his
"Steeplejack"--named Spenser as "the poet of the poets"; but Spenser is
too hard to read--even harder than Chaucer, and certainly more involved,
while no poets that ever lived can make pictures so glowing, so full of
a sensitive and exquisite light as Keats. Later, it seemed absurd for
the French poets of a certain _genre_ to call themselves symbolists.
When Keats wrote, he saw and felt, and he saw because he felt. It was
not necessary for him to search laboriously for the colour of a word.
The thing itself coloured the word--and Keats, working hard in a verbal
laboratory, would have been an anomaly. It was not necessary for him to
study carefully the music of his verse as Campion did or Coventry
Patmore or as Sidney Lanier is supposed to have done--though one cannot
have suspected that Sidney Lanier's elaborate laboratory was erected
after his best verse had been written.

Maurice de Guérin, a very Christian soul, was probably disturbed in his
religious sentiments by the defection of his old friend and director,
Père de Lamennais--the "M. Féli" of the little paradise of la Chénie. To
the delight of some of the more independent and emancipated of the
literary circle at Paris, which included George Sand, Maurice was
becoming more pantheistic than Christian. He seemed to have tried to
make for humanity an altar on which Christ and Nature might be almost
equally adored, and this gave Eugénie great pain, although it did not
change her love or make a rift in her belief in him.

De Guérin is a singing poet in a language which is used by few singing
poets for serious themes. There are few lyric poems in French, like the
"Chanson de Fortunio" of Alfred de Musset. It was not strange that the
great Sainte-Beuve found the verse of De Guérin somewhat too unusual.
Sainte-Beuve calls it "the familiar Alexandrine reduced to a
conversational tone, and taking all the little turns of an intimate
talk." Eugénie complains that "it sings too much and does not talk
enough." However, one of the most charming of literary essays, to which
Matthew Arnold's seems almost "common," is that preceding Trébutien's
"Journals, Letters, and Poems of Maurice de Guérin." It would be folly
for me to try to permeate the mind of any other person with the
atmosphere which still palpitates in me when I think of the first
delight of reading at leisure the poems of Maurice and the letters of
Eugénie. I might just as well attempt to make a young man of our time
feel the thrill that came when we were young and first heard the most
beautiful of all love songs--"Come into the Garden, Maud!"

One can hear the amazed laughter, the superior giggles that would arise
from a group of Greenwich Villagers if they did me the honour to read
this page; but the real Quartier Latin has better taste and is not so
imitative--and paraphrases of this lovely lyric still find admirers in
the gardens of the Luxembourg and on the heights of Montmartre.
Tennyson, like De Guérin, had bent the old classic form to newer usage,
and one can hardly help seeing, in spite of the fact that the admirers
of Swinburne claim this laurel for him, that Tennyson discovered the
secret of making lyrical verse musical while discarding rime. Both
Maurice de Guérin and Tennyson, who have superficial characteristics in
common, send us back to Theocritus, the most human, the most lyrical,
the most unaffectedly pagan of all the poets who wrote before Pan said
his despairing good-bye to all the Grecian Isles. But what a mixture is
this!--Maurice and Eugénie de Guérin, Keats, Madame de Sévigné,
Theocritus, and Tennyson, the Elizabethan Campion--and yet they are all
related.

In fact, ladies and gentlemen, I have never read any good book that was
not related intimately to at least a score of other books. It is true
that in a measure a book gives to us what we take to it; and we can only
take much out of it when we approach the group of ministering authors
who alone make life both cheerful and endurable.

The received methods of "teaching" the classics in what people call "the
dead languages" nearly always weaken the faculties of the soul, while
they may develop certain hidden abilities of the mind. This favourite
process of pedagogues very often defeats itself. Mr. Edward Roth
honestly believed that the Roman Empire had risen, declined, and fallen
in order that the Latin language might live! The logical result of this
teaching on the eager young mind, at once logical, ductile, and
obstinate, was to induce it to discover something about the Roman
Empire, in order that it might cease to yawn over the declensions, and
to be bored by prosody; to discover why the glorious Empire had lived
and died in order to produce an elaborate mound of charred bones! Mr.
Roth himself, though a classicist of the classicists, managed to make
the Romans interesting in conversation; he always impressed one that the
Roman baths, or the chariot races, or the banquets, which he admitted
were full of colour and life, were by comparison faded and pale in the
glow and aroma of the sentences invented by the Latins to describe them!

The impossibility of getting anything out of the study of Greek by hard
work, sent me, after I had read Maurice de Guérin's "Centaure," to read
joyously an edition of the "Idyls of Theocritus" in French. While
browsing I found on the shelves of the Mercantile Library the novels of
Tourguéneff in the same language. This delayed me a little. I found
Theocritus and Bion and Moschus in the Bohn Edition, which I think has
now become the beneficent "Everyman's Library." I revelled! The Mimes of
Herondas had not yet been discovered, but some of the dialogues in these
poems contained all the best of their essences. My friends among the
hard workers at the "Classics" scorned me. The elderly gentleman from
Oxford who gave us lessons three or four times a week and held that,
when we were able to translate at sight a certain page of Greek which he
had composed himself from various great authors, that we were perfect,
treated me as a pariah; but that made no difference. I continued, in
merciful leisure, to saturate myself in the golden glow of the Sicilian
poets. I tried hard to express my devotion to Theocritus by paraphrases,
very slightly from the original Greek, mostly from the French, and
partly from the Bohn Edition. I quote a result which Mr. Edmund Clarence
Stedman said was too paraphrastic. It is from the "Cyclops":

    Softer than lambs and whiter than the curds,
    O Galatea, swan-nymph of the sea!
    Vain is my longing, worthless are my words;
    Why do you come in night's sweet dreams to me,
    And when I wake, swift leave me, as in fear
    The lambkin hastens when a wolf is near?

    Why did my mother on a dark-bright day
    Bring you, for hyacinths, a-near my cave?
    I was the guide, and through the tangled way
    I thoughtless led you; I am now your slave.
    Peace left my soul when you knocked at my heart--
    Come, Galatea, never to depart!

    Though I am dark and ugly to the sight--
    A Cyclops I, and stronger there are few--
    Of you I dream through all the quick-paced night,
    And in the morn ten fawns I feed for you,
    And four young bears: O rise from grots below,
    Soft love and peace with me forever know!

    Last night I dreamed that I, a monster gilled,
    Swam in the sea and saw you singing there:
    I gave you lilies and your grotto filled
    With the sweet odours of all flowers rare;
    I gave you apples, as I kissed your hand,
    And reddest poppies from my richest land.

    Oh, brave the restless billows of your world:
    They toss and tremble; see my cypress-grove,
    And bending laurels, and the tendrils curled
    Of honeyed grapes, and a fresh treasure-trove
    In vine-crowned Ætna, of pure-running rills!
    O Galatea, kill the scorn that kills!

    Softer than lambs and whiter than the curds,
    O Galatea, listen to my prayer:
    Come, come to land, and hear the song of birds;
    Rise, rise, from ocean-depths, as lily-fair
    As you are in my dreams! Come, then, O Sleep,
    For you alone can bring her from the deep.

    And Galatea, in her cool, green waves,
    Plaits her long hair with purple flower-bells,
    And laughs and sings, while black-browed Cyclops raves
    And to the wind his love-lorn story tells:
    For well she knows that Cyclops will ere long
    Forget, as poets do, his pain in song.

No sensitive mind can dwell on Theocritus, even when interpreted in
English prose, without feeling something of the joy of the old Syracusan
in life. His human nature is of the kind that makes the nymphs and
swains of Alexander Pope dull and artificial. There are flies in this
delicious ointment, one must admit, touches of corruption which a
degenerate paganism condoned and palliated, but we must remember, as an
extenuation of the Greek attitude, that the oracle of Delphi protested
against them. The cyprus plains of Theocritus yet echo with the call of
the cicada, and the anemones still bloom. The pipes of Pan are not all
silent. The world would lose some of its beauty if Theocritus and the
Sicilian poets did not entice us to hear their echoes.

But to how many links of a long chain does Maurice de Guérin lead us!
Here is another link--José de Herédia, and his jewelled and chiselled
sonnets--the "Antique Medal" with its peerless sestette, which combines
the essential meanings of Keats's "Ode to a Grecian Urn."

      _Le temps passe. Tout meurt. Le marbre même s'use.
    Argrigente n'est plus qu'une ombre, et Syracuse
    Dort sous le bleu linceul de son ciel indulgent;_

      _Et seul le dur métal que l'amour fit docile
    Garde encore en sa fleur, aux médailles d'argent,
    L'immortelle beauté des vierges de Sicile."_

A translation of which reads:

    Time goes; all dies; marble itself decays;
    A shadow Agrigentum; Syracuse
    Sleeps, still in death, beneath her kind sky's shades;
    But the hard metal guards through all the days,
    Silver grown docile unto love's own use,
    The immortal beauty of Sicilian maids.

I always felt that Dante would have been less devoted to Virgil had he
known Theocritus. The artificial Roman seems faded when one compares his
rural elegies with the lovely pictures of the first of all the Syracusan
poets. Horatius Flaccus had more of the quality of Theocritus than of
Virgil; and though Virgil might have been a good guide for Dante in his
sublime wanderings, he was a guide of the intellect rather than of the
heart. It requires some courage, perhaps, to confess that one reads
Theocritus in English rather than in Greek. The French rendering is too
paraphrastic; but, although my classical friends, or rather my friends
_enragé_ of the "Classics," honestly despise me for making this
confession, I shamelessly enjoy Theocritus in the Bohn Edition, without
even using it as a "crib" to the forgotten Greek text rather than begin
a course of Grecian philology and to lose the perfume of the crushed
thyme or the sight of the competing shepherds on the shrub-dotted
prairie.


_Dante_

A constant reader is one who always returns to his first loves. He may
find them changed because he has changed; but the soul of that reader is
dead who never goes back to "Ivanhoe" to renew the thrill of the famous
tournament or to discover whether Leather Stocking is the superman he
once seemed to be. I find myself, in old age, divided between two
conflicting opinions. "There is no leisure in this country," I am told.
"A great change has taken place. The motor car has destroyed the art of
reading, and, as for the good old books--nobody reads them any more." On
the other hand, I hear, "People do read, but they read only frivolous
books which follow one another like the hot-cakes made at noon in the
windows of Mr. Child's restaurants."

Personally, I cannot accept either opinion. In the first place, the
winter is the time for reading--I recall Robert Underwood Johnson's
"Winter Hour" when I think of this--and the motor car, especially in
country places, does not function violently in the winter time. Many
journeys from Boston, through New England, to the Middle West have
taught me that folk are reading and discussing books more than ever.
Whatever may be said of the mass of American people, who are probably
learning slowly what national culture means, there are at the top of
this mass thousands of Americans who love good books, who possess good
books, and who return each year to the loves of their youth.

The celebration of the sixth centenary of the death of Dante Alighieri
proves this. It is true enough that Dante and Goethe and Milton are more
talked about in English-speaking countries than read, and when the
enthusiasm awakened in honour of the great Florentine reached its
height, there were found many people in our country who were quite
capable of asking why Dante should be read.

Looking back I found it easy to answer this question myself, for,
perhaps, beginning with a little gentle aversion to the English rimed
translations of the "Divine Comedy," my love for Dante has been a slow
growth. The Dante specialists discourage us with their learning. There
are few who, like Mr. Plimpton, can lucidly expose the foundations of
the educations of Dante to us without frightening us by the sight of a
wall of impregnable erudition. Naturally, one cannot approach Dante in
order to begin an education in the Middle Ages and the Renascence which
one never began in one's own time; but to be consoled by Dante it is not
necessary to be erudite. In fact, to the mind bent on spiritual
enlightenment, the notes of the erudite, above all, the conjectures of
the erudite, are frequently wrong. Even Israel Gollancz, in his three
valuable volumes in the Temple Edition, nods over his notes
occasionally. And by the way, for all amateurs in the reading of the
"Divine Comedy" nothing can be better than this Temple Edition, which
contains the Italian on one page and a lucid prose translation into
English on the next. As I grew older I grew more and more enamoured of
Longfellow's Dantean Sonnets, but not of his translation, for all rime
translations must be one half, at least, the author and the other half
the translator. Gollancz is best for anybody who does not enjoy poetic
_tours de force_.

In his note on the most popular lines in the "Divine Comedy,"

                    _Nessun maggior dolors,
    che ricordarsi del tempo felice
    nella miseria;_

Gollancz says:

     Although these words are translated literally from Boëthius, and
     although we know that Dante had made a special study of Boëthius,
     yet we cannot well identify the _dottore_ with this philosopher:
     for how can we be expected to assume that Francesca was acquainted
     with these two facts? The reference is probably to Virgil, and to
     his position in Limbo.

Into this Limbo Christ descended fifty-two years after Virgil's death
and drew certain souls up with him to Heaven. We are, however, by no
means certain that Virgil was happier on earth than he was "upon the
green enamel" (_verde smalto_) in this place of quiet leisure which was
the vestibule to Hell, but not Hell itself, and which, to some chosen
souls, had already been a vestibule to the Palace of the Beatific
Vision. If Dante had been translated in the old days of rigid Calvinism
in Scotland and New England, his tolerance of the pagans who found parts
of Hell not entirely uncomfortable would have caused him to be looked on
as a corruptor of the faith. But what would they have said to the
"Paradiso" which I have always found more full of consolation than any
sermon that was ever preached? Let us take the description of the Church
Triumphant in Canto XXXII. How sweetly Dante disposes of the heresy that
all children unbaptized by material water are doomed:

    _Dunque, senza merce di lor costume,
      locati son per gradi differenti,
      sol differendo nel primiero acume._

    _Bastava si nei secoli recenti
      con l'innocenza, per aver salute,
      solamente la fede dei parenti;_

    _poiche le prime etadi fur compiute,
      convenne ai maschi all' innocenti penne,
      per circoncidere, acquistar virtute._

    _Ma poichee il tempo della grazia venne,
      senza battesmo perfetto di Cristo,
      tale innocenza laggiu si ritenne._

And then remembering the innocence of the little children Dante turns to
that face "which is most likest unto Christ's" the face of Mary the
Mother, who is the protectress and friend of all children. If the strict
Calvinists had known the "Paradiso" of Dante as well as they knew their
Old Testament, their theology might have found more adherence among the
merciful, for the "Paradiso" is a triumphant song of mercy, of love, and
of the final triumph of every soul that has sincerely hoped in, or
sought, the truth, even if the truth were not crowned in its fullness in
this world.

And Dante, put by Raphael without protest from the Church Militant,
among the Doctors of the Faith, glorifies Trajan among the Saved and
opens Heaven to Cato. This shows, by the way, the falsity of the
Voltairean _mauvais mot_, that all the people worth meeting are in Hell!
And Dante sees Constantine in Heaven, although he thinks that this
Emperor's donation of territory was an evil gift. Dante, who, by the
way, was nearer to the old records and this tradition of the older time,
is a witness against Lord Bryce's assertion that the documents of
Constantine's donation were mediæval forgeries. Dante believed, however,
that the donation was invalid, because the successor of St. Peter, being
of the spirit, could not accept temporal power. This he asserts in his
"De Monarchia," which was for a time on the "Index." Times have changed,
and "De Monarchia" and Milton's "Paradise Lost" are no longer in the
"Index," though Balzac and Dumas, in French, are. But many of the
Faithful in the United States console themselves by assuming that, as in
the case of Dr. Zahm's "Religion and Science," this the method of the
Sacred Congregation is not without its distinctions. Dr. Zahm's book,
suppressed in Italian, received the proper "imprimatur" in English! So
may "The Three Musketeers" and may "Monte Cristo" be regarded as coming
under the ban in the original, but as tolerated in the translation?

Dante's bitterness against certain Popes made no rift in his creed, nor
does it seem to have made him less respected by the Roman Court. There
is in the "Paradiso" that great passage on the poet's faith--

    _Così spirò di quell' amore acceso;
      indi soggiunse: "Assai bene è trascorsa
      d'esta moneta già la lega e il peso;
    ma dimmi se tu l' hai nella tua borsa."
      ed' io: "Si, l'ho, si lucida e si tonda,
      che nel suo conio nulla mi s' inforsa."_

    _Appresso usci della luce profonda,
      che li splendeva; "Questa cara gioia,
      sopra la quale ogni virtù si fonda,
    onde ti venne?" Ed io: "La larga ploia
      dello Spirito Santo, ch' è diffusa
      in su le vecchie e in su le nuove cuoia,_

    _È sillogismo, che la mia ha conchiusa
      acutamente si, che in verso d' ella
      ogni dimostrazion mi pare ottusa."_

If the reading of the "Paradiso" turns one to other books, so much the
better. Aristotle is worth while; he holds the germ of what is best in
modern life; and St. Thomas Aquinas, his echo, with new harmonies added
the Wagner to Aristotle's Mozart. No--that is going too far!--the
musical comparison fails. "If thou should'st never see my face again,
pray for my soul," is King Arthur's prayer. It is the prayer of Pope
Gregory that saved Trajan.

When we come to the "Purgatorio," like the "Paradiso" too neglected, we
find much that illuminates our minds and touches our hearts. The
"Purgatorio" is not without humour, and it is certainly very human. For
instance, there is the case of the negligent ruler, Nino de' Visconti.
Dante is frankly pleased to meet him, but his address is hardly tactful.
He is evidently surprised to find that Nino is not in Hell,

    When he came near to me I said to him;
      gentle Judge Nino, how I'm delighted well
      that I have seen thee here and not in Hell.

Nino begs that his innocent daughter, Giovanna, may be asked by Dante,
on his return to earth, to pray for him. He is not pleased that his
widow should desire to marry

     the Milanese who blazoned a viper on his shield.

He thinks that his wife has ceased to love him as she has discarded her
"white wimples," which, if she marries this inferior person, she may
long for once again! And he adds, rather cynically, for a blessed soul
in Purgatory, that through her one may mightily well

     know how short a time love may last in woman, if the eye and the
     touch do not keep it alive.

One must admit that there is an element of humour--not for the
victim--in the "Inferno," when Dante puts Pope Boniface VIII. into Hell
three and a half years before he died! Nicholas III., whom Dante thought
guilty of the unpardonable sin of simony, had preceded Boniface; and he
says,

    _E se non fosse ch' ancor lo mi vieta
      la riverenza delle somme chiavi,
      che tu tenesti nella vita lieta
      l' userei parole ancor più gravi--_

But for consolation, there is no great poem so good as the "Paradiso."


_English and American Verse_

Edmund Clarence Stedman tells us how thrilled the youths of his
generation were when the new poet, Tennyson, "swam into their ken." It
is difficult for the young of to-day to believe this. There is no great
reigning poet to-day; there are great numbers of fair poets, who are
hailed as crown princes by the groups that gather about them. Whatever
the old may say, this is a good sign. Any evidence of a sincere interest
in poetry is a good sign. Tennyson's "Dream of Fair Women" and his
portrait studies broke in on the old tradition. "The Lady of Shalott,"
with its pictures of silence and its fine transmutation of commonplace
into something very beautiful, was new.

We who succeeded Stedman by some years loved all the beauty of Tennyson
while we were not especially struck by those mediæval lay figures which
he labelled "King Arthur" and "Sir Galahad" and "Sir Percival." They
were too much like what the English people at that time insisted that
the Prince Consort was. Even Sir Lancelot would have profited in our
eyes by a touch of the fire of Milton's "Lucifer." But the lyricism of
Tennyson, the music of Tennyson, is as real now as it was then. It is
the desire for "independence," the fear of following a conventionality,
a fear that calls itself audacity, which brushes away the delicate and
scientific of this exquisite poet simply because he does not represent a
Movement. And yet all these new movements are very old movements. The
result of the education given me by books was to convince me that the
man of culture proclaims himself third-rate if he looks on any literary
expression as really new and if he cannot enjoy the old, when the old is
of all time. The beautiful and the real can never be old or new because
they are the same through the movement of time. To explain what I mean,
let me come suddenly down to date and permit me to quote from Sir Arthur
Quiller-Couch's "On the Art of Reading." He is writing of the Bible,
which is never old:

     I daresay, after all, that the best way is not to bother a boy too
     early and overmuch with history; that the best way is to let him
     ramp at first through the Scriptures even as he might through "The
     Arabian Nights": to let him take the books as they come, merely
     indicating, for instance, that Job is a great poem, the Psalms
     great lyrics, the story of Ruth a lovely idyll, the Song of Songs
     the perfection of an Eastern love-poem. Well, and what then? He
     will certainly get less of "The Cotter's Saturday Night" into it,
     and certainly more of the truth of the East. There he will feel the
     whole splendid barbaric story for himself: the flocks of Abraham
     and Laban; the trek of Jacob's sons to Egypt for corn; the figures
     of Rebekah at the well, Ruth at the gleaning, and Rizpah beneath
     the gibbet; Sisera bowing in weariness; Saul--great Saul--by the
     tent-prop with the jewels in his turban:

     "All its lordly male-sapphires, and rubies courageous at heart."

     Or consider--to choose one or two pictures out of the tremendous
     procession--consider Michal, Saul's royal daughter: how first she
     is given in marriage to David to be a snare for him; how, loving
     him, she saves his life, letting him down from the window and
     dressing up an image on the bed in his place; how, later, she is
     handed over to another husband Phaltiel, how David demands her
     back, and she goes:

     "And her husband (Phaltiel) went with her along weeping behind her
     to Bahurim. Then said Abner unto him, Go, return. And he returned."

     Or, still later, how the revulsion takes her, Saul's daughter as
     she sees David capering home before the ark, and how her affection
     had done with this emotional man of the ruddy countenance, so prone
     to weep in his bed:

     "And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal,
     Saul's daughter"--

     Mark the three words--

     "Michal, Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw King
     David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in
     her heart."

Mr. Galsworthy or Mr. W. L. George or Mr. Maxwell, who are rapidly
becoming too old-fashioned for the young, or Mrs. Wharton, or Mrs.
Gertrude Atherton would treat this episode in sympathy with what they
might conceive to be the trend of present emotion; for it is with the
emotions and not with the mind or the will that the novelist of the day
before yesterday mostly deals. If Mr. James Huneker had translated this
into the prose of his moment, it would have flamed with minutely carved
jewels, glowed with a perfume and colour of crushed roses, and choked
the reader with the odour of musk. But could he have made it any
"newer"? Or if he could have made it "newer," could he have made it more
splendid and appealing?

The old is new, and the new is old in art and literature--in life
itself, and the man who scorned Keats because Swinburne and Rossetti
were new; or who scorns Browning--the best of Browning--lacks the first
requisite of true cultivation which is founded on the truth that beauty
is beyond the touch of time. The women in François Villon's "Ballade of
Dead Ladies" are gone, but their beauty remains in that song. This
beauty might be none the less beautiful if expressed in _vers libre_;
its beauty might take a new flavour from our time. The fact only that it
was of our time and treated in the manner of our time, could not give it
that essential and divine something which is perennial, universal, and
perhaps eternal.

Much affectionate reading of poetry--and poetry read in any other way
is like the crackling of small sticks under a pot in the open air on a
damp day--leads one to consider the structure of verse and to ask how
singing effects are best produced. This inquiry has led some of the
sincerest of the younger poets to throw aside the older conventions,
and, imitating Debussy, Richard Strauss, and even newer composers, to
produce that "free verse" which, in the hands of the inexpert, the lazy,
or the ignorant, becomes lawless verse. It is exasperating to the
intolerant to find writers, young in experience if not always young in
age, talking of themselves as discoverers--brave or audacious
discoverers--as adventurers, reckless as Balboa, or Cortez, or Ponce de
León; and then, to hear some of the old and conventional violently
attacking these verse makers as if they were new and dangerous
revolutionists.

The truth is that _vers libre_ has its place, and it ought to have a
high place; but the writer who attempts it must have a very perfect ear
for the nuances of music and great art in his technique applied to the
use of words. Some of the disciples of Miss Amy Lowell have this, but
they are few. Whether Miss Lowell has mastered the science or not, she
has the fine art of producing musical effects, delicate and various and
even splendid. But there are others!

It may have been Tennyson, or Theocritus, or Campion that led me to read
Coventry Patmore. I know that it was not his "The Angel in the House"
which led me on. That seemed as little interesting or important as the
proverbial sayings of Martin Farquhar Tupper; but one day I found "The
Unknown Eros" and a little later "The Toys," and then his "Night and
Sleep," one of the most musical poems in our language.

    How strange at night the bay
    Of dogs, how wild the note
    Of cocks that scream for day,
    In homesteads far remote;
    How strange and wild to hear
    The old and crumbling tower,
    Amid the darkness, suddenly
    Take tongue and speak the hour!

Although the music of "Night and Sleep" is not dependent upon the rime,
it is plain--as the form of poetry appeals to the ear--that the rime is
a gain. Yet one does not miss it in the fifth and seventh lines of each
stanza. The real musical charm of the poem--only one stanza, of four,
is given here--lies in the management of the rhythm.

     We have only to fill up the measure in every line as well as in the
     seventh, in order to change this verse from the slowest and most
     mournful to the most rapid and high-spirited of all English, the
     common eight-syllable quatrain,

says Mr. Patmore in his "Essay on English Metrical Law,"

     a measure particularly recommended by the early critics, and
     continually chosen by poets in all times for erotic poetry on
     account of its joyful air. The reason of this unusual rapidity of
     movement is the unusual character of the eight-syllable verse as
     acatalectic, almost all other kinds of verse being catalectic on at
     least one syllable, implying a final pause of corresponding
     duration.

Mr. Patmore here shows that the rime in this lovely "Night and Sleep" is
merely accessory, a lightly played accompaniment to a song which would
be as beautiful a song without it, yet which gains a certain accent
through this accompaniment; and that the real questions in verse are of
rhythm and time. Tennyson, whose technique, even in the use of
sibilants, will bear the closest scrutiny, often proves the merely
accessory value of rime, but in no instance more fully than in

    Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
    Tears from the depth of some divine despair
    Rise in the heart and gather in the eyes,
    In looking on the happy autumn fields,
    And thinking of the days that are no more.

There is every reason why the modern reader should have become tired of
academic poetry. When poetry divorced itself from music and became the
slave of fixed rules of metre which could not be imitated with any real
success in English, it sealed its own fate as a beloved visitant to the
hearts of the people. Pope and his coterie closed the door on lyrical
poets like Thomas Campion, and in their hearts they, like Voltaire,
rather despised Shakespeare for his vulgarisms.

The truth that poetry was primarily written to be sung is forgotten, and
even in France the chant of the Alexandrine, which both Rachel and Sarah
Bernhardt restored, was lost in a monotonous recitation. For myself, I
tried to get to the root of the matter by reading Thomas
Campion--Charles Scribner's Sons print a good edition of his songs,
masks, etc., edited by A. H. Bullen--as an antidote to Walt Whitman. In
fact, my acquaintance with the Poet of Camden convinced me that his use
of what is to-day called _vers libre_ resembled somewhat Carlyle's
Teutonic contortions of style. It was impossible to get from the "Good
Gray Poet" the reasons of his method. I gathered that he looked on
rhythm as sometimes a walk, a quick-step, a saunter, a hop-and-skip, a
hurried dash, or a slow march; it seemed to depend with him on the
action of the heart, the acceleration of the pulse, or the movement of
the thought.

But no one who knows the best in Walt Whitman's poems can fail to
perceive that there were times when he understood thoroughly that
poetry, expressed poetically, must be musical. It is a great pity that
some of our newer poets do not understand this. In their revolt from the
outworn academic rules, they have gone the length of the most advanced
Cubists, and do not realize that no amount of splendid visualization
compensates for a lack of knowledge of the art of making melodies. It is
unfortunate, too, that the imitators of Amy Lowell, many of whom have
neither her feeling for colour, her great power of concentration, nor
her naturally good ear, should imagine that _vers libre_ means the
throwing together of words in chaos. Even Strauss's "Electra" is founded
on carefully considered rules; his discords are not accidents.

It seems to me that the study of Sidney Lanier's "Science of English
Verse" would suppress the art of expression, even in a genius. By the
time he learned how to write verse he would be too old to write verse at
all! There are less intricate books. I learned from the theories and the
odes of Coventry Patmore and the "Observations in the Art of English
Poesy" of Thomas Campion and his practice that the best _vers libre_ has
freedom, unexpectedness, lyrical lightness, and an apparently unstudied
charm, because the poet had striven, not to sing as a bird sings,
without art, but to sing in a civilized world as a great tenor in the
opera sings, because he had acquired his method of almost perfect
expression through science and art. And, if one wants an example of the
intangible "something," expressed artistically, why not take Benet's
"Immoral Ballad"? A little thing, sir; but a poet's own and so,
incapable of being analyzed by any rules known to the pundits. But it is
not _vers libre_. If it were, its intangible appeal would not exist.

Nearly every versifier who disregards those models of form in verse
which include rime, or whose cadences are informal, is set down as an
imitator of Walt Whitman. When I was young, Walt Whitman seemed to have
been established as a strange, erratic, and godless person, whose
indecencies were his principal stock in trade. Emerson's practical
repudiation of him had had its effect, and the very respectable--that
is, gentlemen of the class of the vestrymen of Grace Church in New York
of his time--looked on him with horror. He had, it seems, attacked
established religion when he made his onslaught in the Brooklyn _Eagle_
on that eminently important body.

The shock of the arrival of Walt Whitman had been broken by the time
that I had begun to read poetry wherever I found it; and I accepted the
curious mixture of prose and poetry in Walt Whitman just as I accepted
the musical Wagner. At that time we had not yet learned to know that
Wagner's music was melodious; we had not yet discovered that
"Lohengrin," for instance, was woven of many melodies, for they were not
detached and made into arias. What could be expected of young persons
brought up on "The Bohemian Girl" and "Maritana"?

And yet we soon found out without any help from the critics that Walt
Whitman was essentially a poet, and we suspected that his roughness had
been deliberately adopted as the best possible form in which to clothe
ideas which were not conventional, and to attract attention. Most of the
young at that time thought that he had as much right to do this as
Browning had to be wilfully inarticulate. The critics did not concern us
much. There was always a little coterie of students at the University of
Pennsylvania or at Jefferson College, or young men under the influence
of Mr. Edward Roth or Mr. Henry Peterson. Among these was a brilliant
Mexican, David Cerna; Charles Arthur Henry, who died young; Daniel
Dawson, whose "Seeker in the Marshes" ought still to live. He was a
devout Whitmanite. Much younger was Harrison Morris, whose opinions,
carrying great weight, occasionally floated to us. As I have said,
Whitman neither startled nor shocked us nor did he cause us to imitate
him. At this time, I was deep in Heinrich Heine, whose prose was not
easy to read, but whose lyrics, with a very slight help from the
dictionary, were entrancing! I could never understand, being enraptured
with Heine's lyrics at that time, why Whitman should have chosen such a
poor medium for lyrical expression or such a rude utterance for some
noble ideas. That he chose at times to put into speech sensual dreams or
passing shadows of evil thoughts astonished us no more than the
existence of the photographic reproductions, then the fashion, of the
gargoyles from the Cathedral of Notre Dame, or the strange and very
improper representations of the Seven Deadly Sins which were sometimes
carved on the backs and the undersides of the stalls in old cathedrals.
We Philadelphians thought that it was not a gentlemanly performance.
There were persons who wallowed in pools of de-civilization, and, though
they might whisper of their mental wallowings in intimate circles, there
was no point whatever in putting them into print. But the great
passages--there are very many--and the noble complete poems--there are a
few--of Whitman were chosen and recited and enjoyed.

Besides, Whitman lived just across the Delaware River, and one could
meet him almost at any time in a street car or lounging about his haunts
in Camden. As he was part of our everyday life he did not for us
represent anything essentially new. When Swinburne and Rossetti and the
Preraphaelites, however, came into our possession, it was quite another
thing! There was no Whitman movement among our young. There was a
marked, but not concentrated, reflection of the Preraphaelites.

Swinburne's music took us by storm! It did not mean that a young man had
a depraved mind because he spouted "Faustine" or quoted verse after
verse of the roses and raptures of Swinburne. It simply meant that a
breath of rich, sensuous odours from an exotic island had swept across
the conventional lamp-posts and well-trimmed gardens of his life. I
wonder if any young man feels to-day, in reading Masefield's poems, or
Walter de la Mare's, or Seeger's, or Amy Lowell's, or Robert Frost's, or
even Alfred Noyes's, the thrill that stirred us when we heard the
choruses in "Atalanta in Calydon" or Rossetti's "Blessed Damozel"? And
there was William Morris and "The Earthly Paradise!"

The first appearance of Kipling's poems recalled the old thrills of
"new" poets, but of late, though the prospects of poetry are beginning
to revive, no very modern poet seems to have become a part of the daily
lives of the young, who declare that the world is changed, and that the
Old hold no torches for them by which they can discover what they really
want! The more things change, the more they remain the same! And the
young woman who read Swinburne surreptitiously and smoked a cigarette in
private now reads Havelock Ellis on summer porches, and puffs at a
cigarette in public whenever she feels like it. She is really no more
advanced than the girl of the period of the eighties, and not any more
astonishing. It's the same old girl! And the young men who discovered
Swinburne and Rossetti, and who were rather bored by the thinness of
their aftermath, the æsthetic poets, really got more colour and
amazement and delight out of the flashing of the meteors than the youth
of to-day seem to get. It was the fashion then to be blasé and cynical
and bored with life; but nobody was really bored because there were too
many amusing and delightful things in the world--as there are now.

Joaquin Miller, with his gorgeous parrots and burning Southern lights
and his intensities and his simulated passion, did not last long. In
England he was looked on as a typical American poet, more decent than
Walt Whitman, less vulgar, but with the charm Whitman had for the
English--that no Englishman could ever be like him! In England they
wanted the Americans raw and fresh and with a savage flavour about them.

I read the poems of Richard Watson Gilder, of Edith Thomas, of Robert
Underwood Johnson--whose "Italian Rhapsody" and "The Winter Hour" can
never be forgotten--and certain verses of Edmund Clarence Stedman. But
_les jeunes_ prefer the new verse makers. There is even a kind of cult
for the Imagists. A spokesman for the Imagists tells us briefly that
"free verse" is a term that may be attached to all that increasing
amount of writing whose cadence is more marked, more definite, and
closer knit than that of prose, but which is not so violently or so
obviously accented as the so-called "regular verse." Richard Aldington's
"Childhood" is a very typical example of _vers libre_. It is also an
Imagist poem. It will be remarked that it is so free that there is no
cadence that any musician could find. It is a pretty little joyful
trifle!

    There was nothing to see,
    Nothing to do,
    Nothing to play with,
    Except that in an empty room upstairs
    There was a large tin box
    Containing reproductions of the Magna Charta,
    Of the Declaration of Independence,
    And of a letter from Raleigh after the Armada;
    There were also several packets of stamps,
    Yellow and blue Guatemala parrots,
    Blue stags and red baboons and birds from Sarawak,
    Indians and Men-of-war
    From the United States,
    And the green and red portraits
    Of King Francobollo
    Of Italy.

    I don't believe in God
    I do believe in avenging gods
    Who plague us for sins we never sinned
    But who avenge us.
    That's why I'll never have a child,
    Never shut up in a chrysalis in a match-box
    For the moth to spoil and crush its bright colours,
    Beating its wings against the dingy prison-wall.

Alfred Kreymborg is also very free, and only sometimes musical, but he
hammers in his images with a vengeance. But of all the new Americans,
Vachel Lindsay's jolly fantasies, with a slightly heard banjo
accompaniment, are the most fascinating and least tiresome of all the
New.

When one has wallowed for a time with the Imagists and carefully
examined the _vers librists_, with the aid of a catalogue and
explanations, one turns to the "Collected Poems" of Walter de la Mare.
Come, now! Listen to this:

    When slim Sophia mounts her horse
      And paces down the avenue,
    It seems an inward melody
      She paces to.

    Each narrow hoof is lifted high
      Beneath the dark enclustering pines,
    A silver ray within his bit
      And bridle shines.

    His eye burns deep, his tail is arched,
      And streams upon the shadowy air,
    The daylight sleeks his jetty flanks,
      His mistress' hair.

    Her habit flows in darkness down,
      Upon the stirrup rests her foot,
    Her brow is lifted, as if earth
      She heeded not.

    'Tis silent in the avenue,
      The sombre pines are mute of song,
    The blue is dark, there moves no breeze
      The boughs among.

    When slim Sophia mounts her horse
      And paces down the avenue,
    It seems an inward melody
      She paces to.

It is difficult for the simple minded to understand why Walter de la
Mare, who is a singer with something to sing about, cannot be classed as
an Imagist. He uses the language of common speech and tries always to
say exactly what he means; he suits his mood to his rhythm, and his
cadences to his ideas; he believes passionately in the artistic value of
modern life; but he does not seem to see why he should not write about
an old-fashioned aëroplane of the year 1914, if he can make it the
centre of something interesting.

The professional Imagist tries to produce poetry that is hard and clear
and never blurred or indefinite, and he holds that concentration is the
very essence of poetry. The Imagist fights for "free verse" as for the
principle of liberty. But why does he fight? If "free verse" is musical,
if it expresses a mood or an emotion or a thought in terms that appeal
to the mind or the heart or the imagination, why should it be necessary
to fight for it? It may suit certain verse makers to make men of straw
in order "to fight" for them; but all the world loves a poet, if the
poet once touches its heart. "The Toys" of Coventry Patmore is a good
example of what "free verse" ought to be. But it is not free because it
is lawless; its freedom is the freedom of all true art which does not
ignore, which obediently accepts, certain laws that govern the
expression of the beautiful. Mr. Richard Aldington's "Daisy" is
certainly a less appealing poem than that one in which Swinburne sings
of the lady who forgot his kisses, and he forgot her name!

José de Herédia, in "Les Trophées," is both an Imagist and a Symbolist.
He has the inspiration and the science of the Sibyl without her
contortions. It is unfortunate that the truculent attitude of the
professional makers of "free verse" should have arrayed a small and
angry group against them; and this group will have none of Robert Frost,
who is certainly a poet and a poet of great courage and originality.
There are others, however, who may not be imitators of Robert Frost, but
who seem as if they were. Tennyson's "Owl," which is looked on to-day as
an example of Victorian idiocy, is really better than Mr. T. S. Eliot's
"Cousin Nancy":

    Miss Nancy Ellicott
    Strode across the hills and broke them,
    Rode across the hills and broke them--
    The barren New England hills--
    Riding to hounds
    Over the cow-pasture.

    Miss Nancy Ellicott smoked
    And danced all the modern dances;
    And her aunts were not quite sure how they felt about it,
    But they knew that it was modern.

    Upon the glazen shelves kept watch
    Matthew and Waldo, guardians of the faith,
    The army of unalterable law.

The Imagist does not believe in ornament, and this glimpse of character
might be uttered in one sentence. Perhaps, however, a tendency to
ornamentation might have made the poem at least decorative. After all,
when one has emerged from the rarefied atmosphere of the Imagist, the
Symbolist, and the _vers librist_, one swims into the splendours of
Francis Thompson as one might take refuge from a wooden farmhouse
unprotected by trees, in a Gothic spire, a Byzantine altar-piece, or a
series of Moorish arabesques. It is a frightful descent from the heaven
of Crashaw and the places of the Seraphim in "The Hound of Heaven," by
Francis Thompson, to Richard Aldington.

Each lover of poetry has his favourite poem and his favourite poet, and
it has always seemed to me that one of the hardest tasks of the critic
is to decide on the position of a poet among poets, or of a poet in
relation to life. For myself, to speak modestly, I cannot see how I
could condemn the taste of the man who thinks that Browning and
Swinburne and Tennyson, and, in fact, nearly all the modern English
poets, deserve to be classed indiscriminately together as "inspiring."
And I cannot even scorn the man who declares that Tennyson is _demodé_
because his heroines are in crinoline and conventional, and his mediæval
knights cut out of pasteboard.

By comparison with the original of the "Idylls of the King" this
statement seems to be true. Sir Thomas Malory's knights and ladies--by
modern standards they would hardly be called "ladies"--do not bear the
test of even the most elemental demands of modern taste. They are as
different as the characters in Saxo Grammaticus's "Hamblet" are from
those in Shakespeare's "Hamlet." But I may enjoy the smoothness of the
"Idylls of the King," their bursts of exquisite lyricism, their
cadences, and their impossibilities, and at the same time read Sir
Thomas Malory with delight. When I hear raptures over Browning and
Swinburne, when people grow dithyrambic over John Masefield and Alfred
Kreymborg and others new--_chacun à son goût_--I feel that by comparison
with Francis Thompson, these poets are not rich. They are poor because
they seem to leave out God; that is, the God of the Christians.

Swinburne could never be a real pagan, because he could not escape the
shadow of the Crucifixion. Theocritus was a real pagan because he knew
neither the sorrow of the Crucifixion nor the joy of the Resurrection.
Keats was a lover of Greece, was ardent, inexpressibly beautiful,
sensuously charming; but Keats could no more be a real Greek than
Shakespeare, in "Julius Cæsar," could be a real Roman. Nor could
Tennyson, nor Browning, nor William Morris, nor the Preraphaelites be
really out of their time, for they could not understand the essentially
religious qualities of the times into which they tried to project
themselves.

If you compare the "Idylls" of Tennyson with those idylls of Theocritus
he imitated, you easily see that his pictures are not even bad copies of
the originals; they are not even paraphrases--to turn again from
painting to literature. They are fine in themselves, and the critics of
the future, more reasonable than ours and less reactionary, will give
them their true place. As for Browning, it is only necessary to read the
Italian writers of the Renascence, to find how very modern he is in his
poems that touch on that period. He is always modern. With all his
efforts he cannot understand that mixture of paganism and Catholicism
which made the Renascence possible. He seems to assume that the Catholic
Church in the time of the Renascence produced men in whom paganism
struggled with Christianity. The fact is that paganism had melted into
Christianity and Christianity had given it a new light and a new form.

It was not difficult for an artist of the Renascence to look on a
statuette of Leda and the Swan or Danaë and the Descent of Jupiter as a
shower of gold, as prefiguring the Incarnation. There was nothing
blasphemous in this pagan symbolism of a pagan prophecy of the birth of
a God from a virgin. It does not follow that Browning is not powerfully
beautiful and essentially poetical, even when he reads modern meanings
impossibly into the life of older days. Nevertheless, he is
unsatisfactory, as almost all modern poets, when they interpret the
past, are unsatisfactory. A great poet may look into his heart and
write, but with Tennyson, with Browning, with Swinburne, one feels that
very often they mistake the beating of their own hearts for the sound of
the pulsations of the hearts of others.

Similarly, modern Christians who claim to be orthodox are sometimes
shocked when they are told that Saint Peter, for example, did not
believe that a man might not be both circumcised and baptized. According
to a common belief, the two could not exist together among the converted
Jews. And the modern man of letters seems to think that paganism and
Christianity were at odds at all points. A deeper knowledge of the
manifestations of religion, before the Reformation, would dissipate an
illusion which spoils so much fine modern poetry.

Another point, in applying my canons of criticism to poets whom I love
in spite of this defect, is that I find that they have no desire to be
united with God--you may call him Jehovah, Jove, or Lord, to quote Pope.
They are, as a rule, without mysticism and constantly without that
ecstasy which makes Southwell, Crashaw, and the greatest of all the
mystical poets writing in English, Francis Thompson, so satisfactory.

Wordsworth may have been transcendental, as Emerson certainly was, but
in different ways they made their search for the Absolute, and the
search, especially in Wordsworth's case, was fervent. Neither had the
splendours, the ecstasies of that love that casteth out fear, the almost
fierce and violent fervour of desire, reflected from the Apocalypse of
Saint John and the poems of Saint Teresa and of Saint John of the Cross,
which we find in Francis Thompson. In this respect, all modern poets
pale before him. He sees life as a glory as Baudelaire saw it as a
corpse. After a reading of "The Hound of Heaven," with its glorious
colour, its glow, its flame, all other modern poets seem to me to be a
pale mauve by comparison to its flaming gold and crimson.

To many of my friends who love modern poets each in his degree, this
seems unreasonable and even incomprehensible; but to me it is very real;
and all literature which assumes to treat our lives as if Christianity
did not exist lacks that satisfactory quality which one finds in Dante,
in Calderon, in Sir Thomas More, and in Shakespeare. It is possible that
the prevalence of doubt in modern poetry is the cause of its lack of
gaiety. There is a modern belief that gaiety went out of fashion when
Pan died or disappeared into hidden haunts. This is not true. The Greeks
were gay at times and joyous at times, but if their philosophers
represent them, joyousness and gaiety were not essential points of their
lives.

The highest cultivation of its time could not save Athens from
despondency and destruction, and when the leaders in the city of Rome
came to believe so little in life that only the proletariat had
children, it was evident that their very tolerant system of adopting any
god that pleased them did not add to the joy of life. The poet, then,
who misunderstands the paganism of the Greeks, who does not desire to be
united to an absolute Perfection, who is sad by profession, cannot be,
according to my canons, a true poet. I speak, not as a critic, but as a
man who loves only the poetry that appeals to him.



CHAPTER III

CERTAIN NOVELISTS


My friendship with Thackeray and Dickens was an evolution rather than a
discovery. Once having read "Vanity Fair" or "Nicholas Nickleby," the
book became not so much a book but a state of mind--and, as is sometimes
felt about a friend--it is hard to remember a time when we did not know
him!

Mark Twain was a discovery. "The Jumping Frog of Calavaras" and that
chuckling scene in "Innocents Abroad," where the unhappy Italian guide
introduces Christopher Columbus to the American travellers, were joys
indeed. These were more delightful and satisfying than the kind of
humour that preceded them--they seemed better than the whimsicalities of
Artemus Ward, and not to be compared to the laboured humour of Mrs.
Partington. But, leaving out these amusing passages, my pleasure in the
works of Mark Twain faded more and more as I came to the age of reason,
which is somewhat over twenty-five. It was hard to laugh at Mark after a
time. Compared to him, the "Pickwick Papers" had an infinite variety.
There were other things in Dickens which were finer than anything in
"Pickwick," but the humour of Pickwick had a softness about it, a human
interest, a lack of coarseness, which placed it immeasurably above that
of Mark Twain.

The greatest failure of Dickens was "A Tale of Two Cities." And the
greatest failure of Mark Twain is his "Joan of Arc." But Dickens
redeemed himself in a hundred ways, while Mark Twain sank deeper and
deeper into coarseness and pessimism. As Mark Twain is by all odds
apparently the national American author, it is heresy to say this; and I
know persons who have assumed an air of coldness as long as they could
in my presence, because I declined to look on "Joan of Arc" as a
masterpiece.

It shows some faults of Mark Twain's philosophy of life, it suggests his
narrow and materialistic point of view, and makes plain his lack of
knowledge of the perspectives of history. It is all the worse for an
appearance of tenderness. Mark Twain was neither mystical nor spiritual.
That does not mean that he was not a good husband and father, a kind
friend and a man very loyal to all his engagements. There are many other
authors who had not all these qualities, but who would have more easily
understood the character of Joan than did Mark Twain.

Dickens's failure in "A Tale of Two Cities" was from very different
causes. It was not through a failure of tenderness, a lack of an
understanding of the real pathos of life, or through the want of a
spirituality without which no great work can be effective. It was
because Dickens relied very largely on Carlyle for the foundation of his
study of the historical atmosphere of that novel--the best, from the
point of view of style, except "Barnaby Rudge," that he ever wrote,
probably due to the fact that, treading as he did on ground that was new
to him, he had to guide his steps very carefully. The novel is
nevertheless a failure because it is untrue; it concerns itself with a
France that never existed seen through as artificial a medium as the
mauve tints through which certain artists see their figures and
landscapes. It was not with Dickens a case of defect in vision, but a
lack of knowledge. It was not lack of perception or the absence of a
great power of feeling. It was pure ignorance. He was without that
training which would have enabled him to go intelligently to the sources
of French history.

In Mark Twain's case it was not a lack of the power to reach the
sources; it was an inability to understand the character of the woman
whom he reverenced, so far as he could feel reverence, and an invincible
ignorance of the character of her time. Mark Twain was modern; but
modern in the vulgarest way. I know that "Huckleberry Finn" and the
other young Americans--whom our youth are expected to like, if not to
imitate--are looked on as sacred by the guardians of those libraries who
recommend typical books to eager juvenile readers. But let that pass for
the moment. To take a case in point, there is hardly any man or woman of
refinement who will hold a brief in defense of the vulgarity of "A
Connecticut Yankee at the Court of King Arthur."

It may be said that the average reader of Mark Twain's books--that is,
the average American reader--for Mark Twain is read the world
over--cares nothing for his philosophy of life. The average American
reads Mark Twain only to be amused, or to recall the adventures of a
time not far away when we were less sophisticated. Still, whether my
compatriots are in the habit of looking into books for a philosophy or
not, or of considering the faiths or unfaiths of the writer in hand, it
does not follow that it is to their credit if they neglect an analysis
which cultivated readers in other countries seldom omit.

If I thought that any words of mine would deprive anybody of the gaiety
which Mark Twain has added to life, I should not write these words; but
as this little volume is a book of impressions, and sincere impressions,
I may be frank in the full understanding that the average American
reader will not take seriously what I say of Mark Twain, since he has
become an integral part of American literature. There may perhaps come a
time when his works will be sold in sets, carefully arranged on all
self-respecting bookshelves, pointed to with pride as a proof of
culture, and never read. They will perhaps one day be the Rogers's
statuettes of literature. But that day is evidently far off. I do not
think that any jester of the older day--the day of Touchstone or of
Rigoletto, with a rooted sorrow in his heart, could have been more
pessimistic and more hopeless than Mark Twain. To change the words of
Autolycus--"For the life to come, I jest out the thought of it!"

"You who admire Don Quixote," said an infuriated Mark Twainite, "should
not talk of coarseness. There are pages in that romance of Cervantes
which I would not allow my son or daughter to read."

One should give both sides of an argument, and I give this other side to
show what may be said against my views. But the coarseness of Cervantes
is, after all, a healthy coarseness. Modern ideas of purity were not
his. Ignorance in those days--the days of Cervantes--did not mean
innocence. Even the fathers of the Church were quite willing to admit
that the roots of water lilies were in the mud, and there was no
conspiracy to conceal the existence of the mud. Mark Twain's coarseness,
however, is more than that of Cervantes or Shakespeare. Neither
Cervantes nor Shakespeare is ever irreverent.

To them, even the ordinary things of life have a certain sacerdotal
quality; but Mark Twain abhorred the sacerdotal quality as nature abhors
a vacuum. To say that he has affected the American spirit or the
American heart would be to go too far--for Americans are irreverent only
on the surface. It seems to me that they are the most reverent people in
the world toward those essential qualities which make up the spiritual
parts of life. Curiously enough, however, Mark Twain is just at present
the one author to whom all Europe and all outlanders point as the great
typical American writer!

That a delightful kind of American humour may exist without
exaggeration, or the necessity of debasing the moral currency, many
joyous books in our literature show. There are a few, of course, that
are joyous without self-consciousness; but for real joyousness and charm
and innocent gaiety, united to a knowledge of the psychology of the
American youth, none so far has equalled Booth Tarkington's "Penrod,"
or, what is better, "Seventeen."

Now nobody has yet done anything so delightful, so mirth provoking, so
pathetic, in a way, as "Seventeen." In my youth I was deprived of the
knowledge of this book, for when I swam into the tide of literature,
Booth Tarkington was in that world from which Wordsworth's boy came,
bringing rainbows, which moved to all the music of the spheres. It was
during the late war that "Seventeen" was cast on the coasts of Denmark,
at a time when American books scarcely reached those coasts at all. St.
Julian, the patron of merry travellers, must have guided it through the
maze and labyrinths of bombs and submarines in the North Sea. It arrived
just when the world seemed altogether upside down; when death was the
only real thing in life, and pain as much a part of the daily routine as
the sunshine, and when joy seemed to have been inexplicably crushed from
the earth, because sorrow was ever so recurrent that it could not be
forgotten for a moment. Then "Seventeen" arrived.

Booth Tarkington may have his ups and downs in future, as he has had in
the past. "The Gentleman from Indiana" seemed to me to be almost one of
the most tiresome books ever invented, while "Monsieur Beaucaire" was
one of the most fascinating, charming. You can hardly find a better
novel of American life than "The Turmoil," unless it is Judge Grant's
"Unleavened Bread."

But the best novels of American life seem to be written in order to be
forgotten. Who reads "The Breadwinners" now? Or who, except the
professional "teacher" of literature, recalls "Prue and I"? Or that
succession of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe's novels, almost unequalled as
pictures of a section of our life, each of which better expresses her
talent than "Uncle Tom's Cabin"? The English and the French have longer
memories. Mrs. Oliphant's "Chronicles of Carlingford"--some of us
remember "Miss Majoribanks" or "Phœbe Junior"--finds a slowly
decreasing circle of readers. And while "Sapho" is almost forgotten,
"Les Rois en Exilé" and "Jack" are still parts of current French
literature. But "Unleavened Bread" or "The Damnation of Theron Ware" or
"Elsie Venner" or the "Saxe Holm's Stories" are so much of the past as
to be unread.

To the credit of the gentle reader, Miss Alcott's stories perennially
bloom. And, for some strange reason, the weird "Elsie Dinsmore" series
is found under the popular Christmas tree, while nobody gives the Rollo
books to anybody. Why? One may begin to believe that that degeneracy
which the prevalence of jazz, lip-sticks, and ballet costumes adapted to
the subway is supposed to indicate, is a real menace when one discovers
that "Penrod" or "Seventeen" has ceased to be read!

We may read Mark Twain and wallow in vulgarity, but it is my belief that
Sodom and Gomorrah would have escaped their fate, if a Carnegie of that
time had made it possible to keep books like "Penrod" and "Seventeen" in
general circulation!

It was once said of Anthony Trollope that as long as English men and
women of the upper and middle classes continued to exist, he might go on
writing novels with ever-increasing zest. And the same thing might be
said of Booth Tarkington in relation to his unique chronicles of
youth--that is, the youth of the Middle West, with a universal Soul. His
types are American, but there are Americas and Americas. Usage permits
us to use a term for our part of the continent to which our Canadian and
South and Central Americans and Mexicans might reasonably object; but
while the young Americans of Booth Tarkington are typically American,
they personally could belong only to the Middle West. The hero of
"Seventeen" would not be the same boy if he had been born in
Philadelphia or New York or Boston. Circumstances would have made him
different. The consciousness of class distinction would have made him
old before his time; and though he might be just as amusing--he would
not have been amusing quite in the same way.

And this is one of the fine qualities of Mr. Tarkington's imaginative
synthesis. He is individual and of his own soil; he knows very well that
it is unnecessary to exaggerate or even to invent; he has only to
perceive with those rare gifts of perception which he possesses. It all
seems so easy until you try to do it yourself!

The state of mind of Penrod, when he is being prepared for the pageant
of the "Table Round," is inexpressibly amusing to the adult reader; but
no child can look on it as entirely amusing, because every child has
suffered more or less, as Penrod suffered, from the unexplainable
hardness of heart and dullness of mind of older people. Something or
other prevents the most persecuted boy from admitting that his parents
are bad parents because they force impositions which tear all the fibres
of his soul and make him helpless before a jeering world. When Penrod
has gone through horrors, which are nameless because they seem to be so
unreasonable, he murmurs aloud, "_Well, hasn't this been a day!_"
Because of the humour in "Penrod" there is a pathos as true and real as
those parts in the "Pickwick Papers" where fortunately Dickens is
pathetic in a real sense because he did not strive for pathos. Everybody
admits now that Dickens becomes almost repellent when he wilfully tries
to be pathetic.

One could pick out of "Seventeen" a score of delightful situations which
seem to ripple from the pen of Booth Tarkington, one of the best being
the scene between the hero and his mother when that _esprit terrible_,
his sister, seems to stand between him and the lady of his thoughts. And
"Penrod" is full of them. The description of that young gallant's
entrance into society is of Mr. Tarkington's best. Penrod is expected to
find, according to the rules of dancing academies, a partner for the
cotillion. It is his duty to call on the only young lady unengaged, who
was Miss Rennsdale, aged eight. Penrod, carefully tutored, makes his
call.

     A decorous maid conducted the long-belated applicant to her where
     she sat upon a sofa beside a nursery governess. The decorous maid
     announced him composedly as he made his entrance.

     "Mr. Penrod Schofield!"

     Miss Rennsdale suddenly burst into loud sobs.

     "Oh!" she wailed. "I just knew it would be him!"

     The decorous maid's composure vanished at once--likewise her
     decorum. She clapped her hand over her mouth and fled, uttering
     sounds. The governess, however, set herself to comfort her
     heartbroken charge, and presently succeeded in restoring Miss
     Rennsdale to a semblance of that poise with which a lady receives
     callers and accepts invitations to dance cotillons. But she
     continued to sob at intervals.

     Feeling himself at perhaps a disadvantage, Penrod made offer of his
     hand for the morrow with a little embarrassment. Following the form
     prescribed by Professor Bartet, he advanced several paces toward
     the stricken lady and bowed formally.

     "I hope," he said by rote, "you're well, and your parents also in
     good health. May I have the pleasure of dancing the cotillon as
     your partner t'-morrow afternoon?"

     The wet eyes of Miss Rennsdale searched his countenance without
     pleasure, and a shudder wrung her small shoulders; but the
     governess whispered to her instructively, and she made a great
     effort.

     "I thu-thank you fu-for your polite invu-invu-invutation; and I
     ac----" Thus far she progressed when emotion overcame her again.
     She beat frantically upon the sofa with fists and heels. "Oh, I did
     want it to be Georgie Bassett!"

     "No, no, no!" said the governess, and whispered urgently, whereupon
     Miss Rennsdale was able to complete her acceptance.

     "And I ac-accept wu-with pu-pleasure!" she moaned, and immediately,
     uttering a loud yell, flung herself face downward upon the sofa,
     clutching her governess convulsively.

     Somewhat disconcerted, Penrod bowed again.

     "I thank you for your polite acceptance," he murmured hurriedly;
     "and I trust--I trust--I forget. Oh, yes--I trust we shall have a
     most enjoyable occasion. Pray present my compliments to your
     parents; and I must now wish you a very good afternoon."

     Concluding these courtly demonstrations with another bow he
     withdrew in fair order, though thrown into partial confusion in the
     hall by a final wail from his crushed hostess:

     "Oh! Why couldn't it be anybody but him!"

Dickens would not have done the scene quite this way; he could not have
so conceived it, and he might have overdone it, but Booth Tarkington
gets it just right. He has created boy characters which will live
because they are alive. One of the most detestable books, after Mark
Twain's "Yankee at the Court of King Arthur," is Dickens's "Child's
History of England." The two books have various gross faults in common
and these faults are due to colossal ignorance. Mr. Gilbert Chesterton
says that one of Dickens's is due to

     the application of a plain rule of right and wrong to all
     circumstances to which it was applied. It is not that they wrongly
     enforce the fixed principle that life should be saved; it is that
     they take a fire-engine to a shipwreck and a life-boat to a house
     on fire. The business of a good man in Dickens's time was to bring
     justice up to date. The business of a good man in Dunstan's time
     was to toil to ensure the survival of any justice at all.

It seems to me that if all the works of Dickens were lost we might do
very well with the "Pickwick Papers" and "Nicholas Nickleby." To these,
one is tempted to add "Our Mutual Friend."

When I was young enough to assist at meetings of Literary Societies,
where papers on Dickens were read, I was invariably informed that
"Charles Dickens could not paint a lady or a gentleman." There was no
reason given for this censure. It was presumed that the authors of the
papers meant an English lady or gentleman. Nobody, to my knowledge, ever
defined what an English gentleman or lady was. When one considers that
for a long period an English gentleman's status was determined by the
fact that he owned land, had not even a remote connection with "trade"
or that he was instructed at Eton or Harrow, in Oxford or Cambridge, the
more modern definition would have been very different from what the
English of the olden time would have called a gentleman. Even now, when
a levelling education has rather blurred the surface marks of class in
England, it might be difficult for an American to define what was meant
by this criticism of Dickens. It seems to me that no one could define
exactly what was meant. The convention that makes the poet in
Pennsylvania write as if the banks of the Wissahickon were peopled by
thrushes, or orchestrated by the mavis, or the soaring lark, causes him
often to borrow words from the English vocabulary of England without
analyzing their exact meaning. There can be no doubt that Don Quixote
was a gentleman but not exactly in the English conventional sense. And,
if he was a gentleman, why are not Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller
gentlemen? An interesting thesis might be written on the application of
Cardinal Newman's definition of a gentleman to both Mr. Pickwick and Sam
Weller. Why not?

There is a truth about the English people, at least the lower classes,
which Mr. Chesterton in his illuminating "Appreciations and Criticisms
of the Works of Charles Dickens"--one of his best books--brings out,
though he does not accentuate it sufficiently: this is that the lower
classes of the English are both witty and humorous. Witty because they
are satirical and humorous because they are ironical. Sam Weller
represents a type--a common type--more exactly than Samuel Lover's
"Handy Andy" or any of Charles Lever's Irish characters. When one
examines the foundation for the assertion that Dickens could not draw a
lady or a gentleman, one discovers that his ladies and gentlemen, in the
English sense, are deadly dull. It is very probable that all
conventional ladies and gentlemen bored Dickens, who never ceased to be
a cockney, though he became the most sublimated of that class. Doctor
Johnson was a cockney, too, but, though it may seem paradoxical to say
it, not so greatly impressed by class distinctions as Dickens was.

Dickens had the art of making insupportable bores most interesting. This
was an art in which the delicate Miss Austen excelled, too; but
Dickens's methods compared to hers are like those of a scene painter
when compared to those of an etcher in colours. There are times when
Dickens is consciously "common," and then he is almost unbearable; but
this objection cannot be made to the "Pickwick Papers." This book is
inartistic; it is made up of unrelated parts; the characters do not
grow; they change. But all this makes no difference. They are
spontaneous. You feel that for once Dickens is doing the thing he likes
to do--and all the world loves a lover who loves his work.

There are doubtless some people still living who can tolerate the
romantic quality in "Nicholas Nickleby." There are no really romantic
qualities in the "Pickwick Papers"--thank heaven!--no stick of a hero,
no weeping willow of a heroine. The heroic sticks of Dickens never bloom
suddenly as the branch in "Tannhäuser" bloomed. Even Dickens can work no
miracle there.

It increases our admiration of him to examine the works of those
gentlemen who are set down in the textbooks of literature as his
predecessors. Some of these learned authors mention Sterne's "Tristram
Shandy," a very dull and tiresome narrative; and "Tom Jones," very
tiresome, too, in spite of its fidelity to certain phases of
eighteenth-century life. And later, Pierce Egan's "Tom and Jerry." I was
brought up to consider the renown of the two Pierce Egans with reverence
and permitted to read "Tom and Jerry; or The Adventures of Corinthian
Bob" as part of the family pedigree, but it requires the meticulous
analysis of a German research-worker to find any real resemblance
between the artificial dissipations of "Tom and Jerry" and the
adventures of the peerless Pickwick.

If the elder Pierce Egan had the power of influencing disciples, he
ought to have induced his son to produce something better than "The Poor
Boy; or, The Betrayed Baffled," "The Fair Lilias," and others too
numerous to mention.

The voracious reader of Dickens, as he grows older, perhaps becomes a
student of Dickens, and is surprised to find that the development of
Dickens is much more marked and easily noted than the development of
Thackeray. In fact, Thackeray, like his mild reflector, Du Maurier,
sprang into the public light fully equipped and fully armed. Both these
men had wide experience and a careful training in form and proportion
before they attempted to write seriously. They were educated in art and
life and letters. The education of Dickens, on the other hand, was only
begun with "Pickwick," which knew neither method nor proportion; and he
who reads "Barnaby Rudge" for the flavour of Dickens finds a new and
good perspective and proportion, and even self-restraint. Artistically,
it is the best of all Dickens's novels. For that reason it lacks that
flavour which we find in the earlier books. I could not get such
thorough enjoyment from it as from "Nicholas Nickleby." In it Dickens
sacrificed too much to his self-restraint, and there is no moment in it
that gives us the joy of the discovery of Mr. and Mrs. Vincent Crummles
or of 'Tilda Price.

Anthony Trollope, in his "Autobiography," which ought to be a textbook
in all those practical classes of literature that work to turn out
self-supporting authors, tells us that the most important part of a
novel is the plot. This may be true, but the inefficiency of the plot in
the works of Charles Dickens may easily be shown in an attempt to
summarize any of them, except "The Mystery of Edwin Drood."

Still, when all is said for Dickens, one cannot even in old age begin to
read him over and over again, as one can read Thackeray. But who reads
an American book over and over again? Hawthorne never wearies the elect,
and one may go back to Henry James, in order to discover whether one
thinks that he means the same thing in 1922 one thought he meant in
1912. But who makes it a practice in middle age to read any novel of
Mrs. Wharton's or Mrs. Deland's or Mr. Marion Crawford's or Mr. Booth
Tarkington's at least once a year? There are thousands of persons who
find leisure to love Miss Austen, that hardiest of hardy perennials;
and during the war, when life in the daytime became a nightmare, there
was a large group of persons who read Trollope from end to end! This is
almost incredible; but it is true. And I must confess that if I do not
read Miss Austen's novels once every year, preferably cozily in the
winter, or "Cranford," or parts of Froissart--whose chronicle takes the
bad taste of Mark Twain's "Joan of Arc" from my memory--I feel as if I
had had an ill-spent year. It makes me seem as slothful as if I omitted
a daily passage from "The Following of Christ" or, at least, a weekly
chapter from the Epistles of St. Paul!

George Eliot I had known even before the time I had begun to read. No
well-brought-up child could escape "Adam Bede" and the drolleries of
Mrs. Poyser. As I grew older, however, "Romola" attracted me most. The
heroine is perhaps a little too good for human nature's daily food, but
she is a great figure in the picture. I suspect that the artificiality
of Kingsley's "Hypatia," which I read at almost the same time, made me
admire, if I did not love, Romola, by way of contrast. No youth could
ever love Romola as Walter Scott made him love Mary Stuart or Catherine
Seton. But as it happened that just at this time I was labouring with
Blackstone (Judge Sharswood's Notes), with a volume of scholastic
philosophy "on the side"--I think it was Jourdain's _consommé_ of St.
Thomas Aquinas in French--Romola was a decided relief, and she seemed
truer and more interesting in every way than Hypatia, who was as
_papier-maché_ as her whole environment is untrue to the history of the
time. An historical novel ought not necessarily to be true to history,
but it ought to be illuminating and interesting, as "Hypatia" is not and
as "Romola" is. So it makes no difference whether George Eliot's reading
of Savonarola is correct or not, though it ought to be correct, of
course. Then there is Tito, the delicious and treacherous Tito! and the
scene in the barber shop! And if you want a good, mouth-filling novel,
give me "Middlemarch." Few persons read it now, and probably fewer will
read it in the future. It is nevertheless a great monument to the genius
of a woman who had such an infinite quality for taking pains, that it
almost defeated the end for which she worked.



CHAPTER IV

LETTERS, BIOGRAPHIES, AND MEMOIRS


Some of us have acquired a state of mind which helps us to believe that
whenever a man mentions a book he either condemns or approves of it. In
a word, the mere naming a book means a criticism of the book at once. It
is true that books are criticisms of life, and that life, if it is not
very narrow and limited, is a good criticism of books; but one of the
most pleasant qualities of a reader who has lived among books all his
life is that he does not attempt always to recommend books to others, or
to preach about them. Besides, it is too dangerous to recommend
unreservedly or to condemn unreservedly. The teachers of literature have
undertaken the recommendation of books for the young; there are schools
of critics who spend their time in approving of them for the old; and
the "Index" at Rome assumes the difficult task of disapproval and
condemnation. That lets me out, I feel.

One of my most cherished books is the "Letters to People in the World,"
by Saint Francis de Sales. I have known people who have declared that it
is entirely exotic and has no meaning whatever for them. For me, it is a
book of edification and a guide to life; and the "Letters" of Saint
Francis himself, not entirely concerned with spiritual matters or the
relations of spiritual matters to life, are to me a constant source of
pleasure. I remember reading aloud to a friend the passage in which this
charming Bishop writes that, when he slept at his paternal château, he
never allowed the peasants on the domain to perform their usual duty,
which was to stay up all night and beat the waters of the ponds, or
perhaps of the moat, around the castle, so that the seigneur and his
friends might sleep peacefully. My friend was very much bored and could
not see that it represented a social point of view, which showed that
the Saint was much ahead of his time! It did not bring old France back
to him; he could not see the old château and the water in the moonlight,
or conceive how glad the peasants were to be relieved of their duty. I
can read the "Letters" of Saint Francis de Sales over and over again, as
I read the "Letters" of Madame de Sévigné or the "Memoirs" of the Duc
de Saint Simon.

I think I first made acquaintance of Saint Simon in an English
translation by Bayle St. John. If you have an interest in interiors--the
interiors of rooms, of gardens, of palaces--you must like Saint Simon.
Most people to-day read these "Memoirs" in little "collections"; but I
think it is worth while taking the trouble to learn French in order to
become an understanding companion of this malicious but very graphic
author. To me the Palace of Versailles would be an empty desert without
the "Memoirs" of Saint Simon. Else, how could anybody realize a picture
of Mademoiselle de la Vallière looking hopelessly out of the window of
her little room just before the birth of her child? Or what would the
chapel be without a memory of those devout ladies who knelt regularly,
holding candles to their faces, at the exercises in Lent, after Louis
XIV. had become devout, in order that he might see them?

But because I love to linger in the society of the Duc de Saint Simon
and Cardinal de Retz, it does not follow that I mean to introduce modern
and ingenuous youth to the society of these gentlemen. Each man has his
pet book. I still retain a great affection for a man of my own age who
gives on birthdays and great feasts copies of "The Wide, Wide World" and
"Queechy" to his grandchildren and their friends! Could you believe
that? He dislikes Miss Austen's novels and sneers at Miss Farrar's
"Marriage." He has never been able to read Miss Edgeworth's book; and he
considers Pepys's "Diary" an immoral book! Now, I find it very hard to
exist without at least a weekly peep into Pepys. And, by the way, in a
number of the _Atlantic Monthly_ not so long ago there is a vivid,
pathetic, and excellently written piece of literature. It is "A Portion
of the Diurnal of Mrs Eliz^th Pepys" by E. Barrington.

If anybody asks me why I like Pepys, I do not feel obliged to reply. I
might incriminate myself. Very often, indeed, by answering a direct
question about books, one does incriminate oneself.

However, to return to what I was saying--while I love the "Memoirs of
Cardinal de Retz," I adore--to be a little extravagant--the "Letters of
Saint Vincent de Paul." The man that does not know the real story of the
life of Saint Vincent de Paul knows nothing of the evolution of the
brotherhood of man in the seventeenth century. This Frenchman really
fought with beasts for the life of children, and was the only real
reformer in the France of his time.

Now it is not because Saint Vincent was for a time the preceptor of
Cardinal de Retz that I find the Cardinal so delightful! On the
contrary! I enjoy the Cardinal, famous coadjutor of his uncle, the
Archbishop of Paris, because he is a true type of the polite, the
worldly, and the intriguing gentleman of his time. He died a good
peaceful death, as all the gay and the gallant did at his time. He
earned the deepest affection and respect of Madame de Sévigné, for which
any discerning man might have been willing to spend half a lifetime. But
even that is beside the point. He lives for me because he gives a
picture of the French ruling classes of his time which is shamelessly
true. No living man to-day in political office, although he might be as
great an intriguer as the Cardinal, would dare to be so interestingly
shameless. That is a great charm in itself. And, then, if you read him
in French, you discover that he knew how to make literature.

The only wonder in my mind has always been how a man who became so
penitent during the last years of his life as Paul de Gondi should not
have been forced by his confessor to destroy his book of revelations.
But one must remember that the confessors of his period--the period of
the founding of the French Academy--had a great respect for mere
literature. His father was Philip Emanuel de Gondi, Count de Joigni,
General of the Gallies of France, and Knight of the Order of the Holy
Ghost; who retired in the year 1640, to live among the Fathers of the
Oratory. There he entered into holy orders, and there he died, with the
reputation of a mightily pious man, on June 29, 1662, aged eighty-one.

     Give me leave, madame [Cardinal de Retz says] to reflect a little
     here upon the nature of the mind of man. I believe that there was
     not in the world a man of an uprighter heart than my father, and I
     may say that he was stampt in the very mold of virtue. Yet my duels
     and love-intrigues did not hinder the good man from doing all he
     could to tye to the Church, the soul in the world perhaps the least
     ecclesiastical. His predilection for his eldest son, and the view
     of the archbishoprick of Paris for me, were the true causes of his
     acting thus; though he neither believed it, nor felt it. I dare say
     that he thought, nay would have sworn, that he was led in all this
     by no other motive than the spiritual good of my soul, and the fear
     of the danger to which it might be exposed in another profession.
     So true it is that nothing is more subject to delusion than piety.
     All manner of errors creep and hide themselves under that vail.
     Piety takes for sacred all her imaginations, of what sort soever;
     but the best intention in the world is not enough to keep it in
     that respect free from irregularity. In fine, after all that I have
     related I remained a churchman; but certainly I had not long
     continued so, if an accident had not happened which I am now to
     acquaint you with.

This is not at all what is called "edifying," but, from the moral point
of view, it shows what Saint Vincent de Paul had to struggle against in
the Church of France; and the position of Paul de Gondi in relation to
an established church was just as common in contemporary England, where
"livings" were matters of barter and sale but where the methods of the
clergymen highly placed were neither so intellectual nor so romantic.

It must be admitted that Cardinal de Retz, like a later French prelate,
Talleyrand, made no pretense of being fitted for the Church.
Talleyrand's only qualification was that he was lame; and, as a younger
son, he had to be provided for. But Cardinal de Retz, with all his
faults, had a saving grace in spite of many unsaving graces. He did his
best to escape the priesthood. He fought his first duel with
Bassompierre behind the Convent of the Minims, in the Bois de
Vincennes; but it was of no use. His friends stopped the inquiry of the
Attorney General, "and so I remained in my cassock notwithstanding my
duel." His next duel was with Praslin. He tried his best to give it the
utmost publicity, but, he says, "there's no use in opposing one's
destiny; nobody took the slightest notice of the scandal."

The elder Dumas has probably had his day, though "Monte Cristo" and "The
Three Musketeers" are still read. The newer romance writers are less
diffuse, and, not writing _feuilletons_, are not forced to be diffuse.
The constant reader of French memoirs of the seventeenth century can
hardly help wondering why anybody should read Dumas who could go
directly to the sources of his romances.

Speaking of the relation of books to books, it was the "Memoirs" of
Madame Campan that took me into the society of Benjamin Franklin. There
were legends about him in Philadelphia, where we thought we knew more
about this distinguished American than anybody else; but it was through
certain passages in the "Memoirs on Marie Antoinette and her Court" that
I turned to his autobiography, and then to such letters of his as could
be found. That autobiography is one of the gems of American history,
though it does not reveal the whole man. If he had been as frank as
Cardinal de Retz, his autobiography would have been suppressed; but,
then, no Philadelphian could ever be quite frank in his memoirs. It has
never been done! Even the seemingly reckless James Huneker understood
that thoroughly. But the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is
sufficiently frank. It is of its own time, and it seems to me that it
should be read just after one has finished for the second or third time
the memoirs of Gouverneur Morris. Everybody feels it his duty to acclaim
the charm of the confessions of Benvenuto Cellini, and I have known a
young woman who read them reverently in the holy service of culture as a
pendant to a textbook on the Renascence, and followed him by Jowett's
translation of the "Republic of Plato." She may safely be left to her
fate. The diaries of Gouverneur Morris were not in her course of
reading, and they seem almost to have been forgotten. I do not recommend
them to anybody. There are passages in them which might shock the
Prohibitionist, and also those persons who believe in divorce _à la
mode de_ Madame de Staël.

For me, they are not only constantly amusing, constantly instructive,
but they give the best pictures of Parisian interiors of the time before
and during the French Revolution. Because I am firmly convinced of this,
is it necessary that I should be expected to place them among the Best
One Hundred Books? To me they will be always among my best twenty-five
books.

In the first place Gouverneur Morris knew well how to serve his country
efficiently; and he was too sensible of the debt of that country to
France and too sympathetic with the essential genius of the French
people not to do his best to serve her, too. The original verses in his
memoirs are the worst things in the volumes; but then, everybody has the
faults of his virtues, and nearly everybody wrote verses at that time.
He was one of the wisest of all our diplomatists. He was broad minded,
cultivated, plastic within reasonable limits, and not corroded with a
venom of partisan politics. I repeat, with a polite anticipation of
contradiction, that no better picture has ever been given of the
aristocratic society of the late eighteenth century in Paris.

His gallantries are amusing; yet there is underneath his affectation of
the frivolous vice of the time, which might be euphemistically called
"exaggerated chivalry, a fundamental morality which one does not find in
that class of systematic _roués_" who were astonished at the virtue of
the ladies at Newport when the Count de Lauzun and his friends dwelt in
that town. There may be dull pages in these memoirs, but if so I have
not yet found them.

In "The Diary and Letters" there are many bits of gossip about certain
great persons, notably about Talleyrand, who got rid of his mitre as
soon as he could, and Madame de Flahaut. It seems to me that Talleyrand
and Philippe Égalité were the most fascinating characters of the French
Revolution, for the same reason perhaps that moved a small boy who was
listening to a particularly dull history of the New Testament to exclaim
suddenly, "Oh, skip about the other apostles; read to me about Judas!"

To persons who might censure Gouverneur Morris's frankness one may quote
a short passage from Boswell's "Johnson." "To discover such weakness,"
said Mrs. Thrale to Doctor Johnson, speaking of the autobiography of
Sir Robert Sibbald, "exposes a man when he is gone." "Nay," said the
pious and great lexicographer, "it is an honest picture of human
nature."

This, then, excuses the clever and wise Gouverneur Morris for
enlightening us as to the paternity of a son of Madame de Flahaut.
Morris, for a time that condoned the amourettes of Benjamin Franklin,
was virtuous. Madame de Flahaut, afterward Madame de Souza, gave Morris
a hint that he might easily supplant Talleyrand in her affection. "I
may, if I please, wean her from all regard toward him, but he is the
father of her child, and it would be unjust." In this noble moment Mr.
Morris chivalrously forgets the existence of the Count de Flahaut!

In 1789, Mr. Morris continues to write platonic verses to Madame de
Flahaut; the Queen's circle at Versailles is worried about the fidelity
of the troops; the Count d'Artois holds high revelry in the Orangery; De
Launey's head is carried on a pipe in the streets of Paris, and murdered
men lie in the gutters. But the fashionable life of Paris is not
disturbed. Mr. Morris goes to dinner. He is invited for three o'clock,
to the house of Madame la Comtesse de Beauharnais. Toward five o'clock
the Countess herself came to announce dinner. Morris is happy in the
belief that his hunger will be equal to the delayed feast. For this day,
he thinks he will be free from his enemy, indigestion. He is
corroborated in his opinion that Madame de Beauharnais is a poetess by

     a very narrow escape from some rancid butter of which the cook had
     been very liberal.

But this is froth, and yet indicative of the depth beneath. It seems to
me that there is no more interesting and useful book on the French
Revolution than this autobiography. It ought to be placed near De
Tocqueville's "Ancient Régime" and "Democracy in America."

On December 2, 1800, he believed it to be the general opinion that Mr.
Jefferson was considered a demagogue, and that Aaron Burr would be
chosen President by the House of Representatives. The gentlemen of the
House of Representatives believed that Burr was vigorous, energetic,
just, and generous, and that Mr. Jefferson was "afflicted with all the
cold-blooded vices, and particularly dangerous from false principles of
government which he had imbibed." Virginia would be, of course, against
Burr, because, Morris writes,

     Virginia can not bear to see any other than a Virginian in the
     President's chair!

John Adams was President and Thomas Jefferson vice-President, in 1800.
It is edifying for us who look on the "demigods" of 1787 with profound
reverence, to see them at close range in Gouverneur Morris's pages.

Washington fares well at his hands, Lafayette not nearly so well:

     one could not expect the blast of a trumpet from a whistle.

But, then, Morris had had money transactions with the Lafayettes. Morris
believed that no man ever existed who controlled himself so well as
Washington. Shall we put the "Diary" just after the "Autobiography of
Benjamin Franklin," not far from Beveridge's "Marshall" and at least on
the same shelf with the perennial Boswell?

I read the confessions of Cardinal de Retz and of Gouverneur Morris many
times with a dip now and then, by way of a change, into the
Autobiography of Anthony Trollope. This is rather a change from the
kickshaws of France to the roast beef of old England. This
autobiography never seems to me to be merely a book made to encourage
authors to be industrious and hard-working. It is more than that. It is
the expression of the life of an unusual man, who did an unusual thing,
and who writes about himself so well and so sincerely that he gives us
an insight into a phase of English character which none of his novels
ever elaborated.

What Trollope did may be done again, but hardly in the American
atmosphere, with the restless American nerves and that lack of
doggedness which characterizes us. The picture Trollope gives of himself
as a member of the English gentry, deprived of all the advantages of his
caste except an inborn class feeling, is worth while, and the absence of
self-pity is at once brave and pathetic. He knew very well what he
wanted, and he secured it by the most honest and direct means. He knew
he could get nothing without work, and he worked. His exercise of
literature as an avocation did not prevent him from being a good public
servant.

As a typical Englishman brought up in the country, he liked to hunt.
Hunting is a prerogative of the leisurely and the rich. He obtained
leisure at a great sacrifice, and he became fairly rich through the
same sacrifice. He tells us of all this with a manliness and lack of
sentimentalism which endears this book to me. It is so much the fashion
in our day to declare that society is against us when we have to work
unremittingly for what we want, that Trollope's honesty is refreshing,
and, though most readers will consider the word rather absurd as applied
to him--inspiring!

In earlier days every American was brought up with a prejudice against
Mrs. Trollope's "Domestic Manners of the Americans," as we were all
taught to hate "American Notes," by Dickens. We all softened toward
Dickens later, and it would be difficult to read the simply told story
of the heroic devotion and courage which Trollope relates of his mother
without believing that the recording angel in no way holds her
responsible for her rather vulgar book.

How fascinating to the budding author is the record of sales of the
books written by Trollope as he ascended the ladder of popularity! How
he managed to cajole the publishers in the beginning he does not tell
us. They are not so easily managed now. And there is the story of the
pious editor who began the serial publication of "Rachel Ray," and
although paying Trollope his honorarium, stopped it abruptly because
there was a dancing party in the story! In all this the author of "The
Warden" and "Barchester Towers" nothing extenuates nor puts down aught
in malice. And I must say that for me this autobiography is very good
reading. As the sailor once said of a piece of rather solid beef,
"There's a great deal of chaw in it."

I pause a moment to reflect on a letter which I have just received from
a young college woman who has so far read the manuscript of this book.
She writes that it is really not a book so far for professing
Christians.

     My mother and I had expected of you something more edifying,
     something that would lead us to the reading of good and elevating
     books. At college I looked on literature as something apart. Since
     I have come home to Georgia, I find that it is better for me to
     submit myself to the direction of our good Baptist clergyman, and
     have no books on our library shelves that I cannot read aloud to
     the young. One of your favourites, Madame de Sévigné, shocks me by
     the cruelty of her description of the death of the famous poisoner,
     Madame de Brinvilliers. And I do not think that the pages of the
     Duc de Saint-Simon should be read by young people.

This is an example of what a refined atmosphere may do to a Georgia
girl! I have written to her by way of an apology that this is a little
volume of impressions and confessions, and that personally I should find
life rather duller if I had not the Duc de Saint-Simon at hand. Besides,
I do not think that there is a single young person of my acquaintance
who would allow me to read any of his pages to him or her!

Most young persons prefer "Main Street" or any other novel that happens
to be the vogue. As I have said, I do not agree with Madame de Sévigné
when she says, writing of her granddaughter, that bad books ought to be
preferred to no books at all. But it would be almost better for the
young not to begin to read until they are old, if one is to gauge the
value of books by the unfledged taste of youth. Purity, after all, is
not ignorance, though a certain amount of ignorance at a certain age is
very desirable.

While I write this, I have in mind a little essay of great charm and
value by Coventry Patmore on "Modern Ideas of Purity," which goes deeper
into the fundamentals of morality than any other modern work on the
subject. And, by the way, having read "The Age of Innocence," "Main
Street," "Moon Calf," "Miss Lulu Bett," and several other novels, I turn
from their lack of gaiety to find a reason why art should not be gloomy,
and here it is, from Coventry Patmore's "Cheerfulness in Life and Art."

     "Rejoice always: and again I say, Rejoice," says one of the highest
     authorities; and a poet who is scarcely less infallible in
     psychological science writes, "A cheerful heart is what the Muses
     love."

     Dante shows Melancholy dismally punished in Purgatory; though his
     own interior gaiety--of which a word by and by--is so interior, and
     its outward aspect often so grim, that he is vulgarly considered to
     have himself been a sinner in this sort. Good art is nothing but a
     representation of life; and that the good are gay is a commonplace,
     and one which, strange to say, is as generally disbelieved as it
     is, when rightly understood, undeniably true. The good and brave
     heart is always gay in this sense: that, although it may be
     afflicted and oppressed by its own misfortunes and those of others,
     it refuses in the darkest moment to consent to despondency; and
     thus a habit of mind is formed which can discern in most of its own
     afflictions some cause for grave rejoicing, and can thence infer at
     least a probability of such cause in cases where it cannot be
     discerned. Regarding thus cheerfully and hopefully its own sorrows,
     it is not overtroubled by those of others, however tender and
     helpful its sympathies may be. It is impossible to weep much for
     that in others which we should smile at in ourselves; and when we
     see a soul writhing like a worm under what seems to us a small
     misfortune, our pity for its misery is much mitigated by contempt
     for its cowardice.

There may be gaiety and joy in the novels of Harold Bell Wright and Mrs.
Gene Stratton-Porter, but it seems to me to be a cheerfulness which is
not quite the real thing. It is too sentimental and rather too laboured.
These two authors, who, if the value of a writer could really depend on
the majority of the votes cast for him, would, with the goldenrod, be
our national flowers, seem to work too hard in the pursuit of
cheerfulness.

Once I remember asking a scornful Englishman what supported the pleasant
town of Stratford-on-Avon. He replied at once, "The Shakespearian
industry!" Now the cheerfulness of both Mr. Harold Bell Wright and Mrs.
Gene Stratton-Porter, like the cheerfulness of "Pollyanna," seems to be
very much of an industry. It is not at all like the joyousness, that
delight in life, spontaneous and unconscious, which one finds in the
really great authors. Why the modern realist should believe that to be
real he must be joyless--in the United States, at least--is perhaps
because he feels the public need of protest against the optimistic
sentimentalism of the Harold Bell Wrights and the Gene Stratton-Porters.
But it would be a serious mistake to assume that neither Mr. Wright nor
Mrs. Porter has a gleam of value. It is just as serious a mistake as to
assume that the late Mary Jane Holmes and Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth
had no value. They pleased exactly the same class of people, in their
day, which delights in Mr. Wright and Mrs. Porter in ours. They answered
to the demand of a public that is moral and religious, that needs to be
taken into countries which savoured something of Fairyland, and yet
which are framed by reality. However, as long as Mrs. Gene
Stratton-Porter and Mr. Harold Bell Wright, and novelists of higher
philosophical aspirations, like the author of "The Age of Innocence,"
and "Blind Mice," and "Zell," and "Main Street," continue to write,
there is no danger that the general crowd of American readers will be
shocked or corrupted by the "Memoirs" of the Duc de Saint-Simon or of
the Comtesse de Boigne. So I feel that I am absolved from the
responsibility of misleading any young reader to sup on the horrors of
the description of the death of Madame de Brinvilliers as painted by
Madame de Sévigné or to revel among the groups of Italians who range
through the scenes drawn by Benvenuto Cellini.

While Pepys is always near at hand, I treat his contemporary, Evelyn,
with very distant politeness and respect. Now Evelyn should not be
treated in that way. He is always so edifying and so very correct,
except when he moralizes about the Church of Rome, that he ought to be
read nearly every day by the serious as an example of propriety and as a
model of the expression of the finest sentiments on morals, philosophy,
literature, and art. But I do not find in his "Diary" any such passages
as this, which Pepys writes on October 19, 1662 (Lord's day):

     Put on my first new lace-band: and so neat it is, that I am
     resolved my great expense shall be lace-bands, and it will set off
     anything else the more. I am sorry to hear that the news of the
     selling of Dunkirk is taken so generally ill, as I find it is among
     the merchants; and other things, as removal of officers at Court,
     good for worse; and all things else made much worse in their report
     among people than they are. And this night, I know not upon what
     ground, the gates of the City ordered to be all shut, and double
     guards everywhere. Indeed I do find everybody's spirit very full of
     trouble: and the things of the Court and Council very ill taken; so
     as to be apt to appear in bad colours, if there should ever be a
     beginning of trouble, which God forbid!

Or,

     29th (Lord's day).

     This morning I put on my best black cloth suit, trimmed with
     scarlet ribbon, very neat, with my cloak lined with velvet, and a
     new beaver, which altogether is very noble, with my black silk knit
     canons I bought a month ago.

Evelyn never condescends to such weaknesses as we find in our beloved
Pepys!

One wonders whether, if the noble Mr. Evelyn had been able to decipher
some of the hidden things in Mr. Pepys's "Diary," he would have written
this tribute, under the date of May 26, 1703:

     This day died Mr. Sam Pepys, a very worthy, industrious and curious
     person.... He lived at Clapham with his partner, Mr. Hewer,
     formerly his clerk, in a very noble house and sweete place, where
     he enjoyed the fruite of his labours in greate prosperity. He was
     universally belov'd, hospitable, generous, learned in many things,
     skill'd in music, a very greate cherisher of learned men of whom he
     had the conversation. His library and collection of other
     curiosities were of the most considerable, the models of ships
     especially.... Mr. Pepys had been for neere 40 years so much my
     particular friend, that Mr. Jackson sent me compleat mourning,
     desiring me to be one to hold up the pall at his magnificent
     obsequies, but my indisposition hindered me from doing him this
     last office.

All the teachings of the histories of our student days force us to look
on Charles II. as one of the weakest of English kings; but when we come
to enjoy Pepys and to revere Evelyn, we begin to see that there is much
to be said for him as a monarch, and that he did more for England under
difficult circumstances than conventional history has given him credit
for.

It took many years for me to find any diary or memoir that appealed to
me as much as that of Pepys. His great charm is that he does for you
what formal history never does; he takes you into the heart of his time,
and introduces you into the centre of his mind and heart. In literature,
in poetry and prose, the reader hopes that the roofs of houses or the
tops of heads might be taken off, so that we could see with an
understanding eye what goes on. The interest of the human race, though
it may be disguised rhetorically, is the interest that everybody finds
in gossip. Malicious gossip is one thing; but that gossip that makes us
know our fellow men and women somewhat as we know ourselves--but perhaps
more clearly--can never be rooted out of normal human nature.

I read and re-read favourite parts of Pepys's "Diary" many times, and I
sat myself down in many cozy corners, on hills, on valleys, by land, and
by sea, to dip into the "Memoirs of Saint-Simon"; and then there was
always Madame de Sévigné. Much was hoped from the long-promised "Memoirs
of Talleyrand." They came; they were disappointing.

Suddenly arrived a very complete and egoistical book that compares in a
way with the perennial favourites of mine I have been writing about. And
this is "The Education of Henry Adams," and almost contemporaneously the
"Letters of William James." It is easy to understand the delight with
which intelligent people welcomed "The Education of Henry Adams."
Unconsciously to most of us, it showed elaborately what we talked about
in our graduation essays and what we believed in a vague way--that
education consists in putting value on the circumstances of life, and
regarding each circumstance as a step either forward or backward in
one's educational progress. This is the lesson which young Americans
are taught by Harold Bell Wright and Gene Stratton-Porter; and which
Samuel Smiles beat into the heads of the English. Henry Adams's lesson,
however, is not taught in the same way at all. There is no preaching; it
is a series of pictures, painted by a gentleman, with a sure hand, who
looks on the phenomena of life as no other American has ever looked on
them, or, at least, as no other American has ever expressed them. The
judicious and the sensitive and the nicely discerning may shrink with
horror from me when I say that I put at once "The Education of Henry
Adams," for my delectation, beside the "Apologia pro Vita Sua" of
Cardinal Newman!

There is the same delicate egoism in both; there is the same reasonable
and well-bred reticence. There is one great difference, however; while
Cardinal Newman ardently longs for truth and is determined to find it,
Henry Adams seems not quite sure whether truth is worth searching for or
not. And yet Henry Adams is more human, more interesting than Cardinal
Newman, for, while Newman is almost purely intellectual and so much
above the reach of most of us, Adams is merely intelligent--but
intelligent enough to discern the richness of life, and mystical enough
to long for a religious key to its meaning. Newman not only longs, but
reasons and acts. It was not the definition of the unity of God that
troubled Adams. It was the question of His personality. The existence of
pain and wretchedness in the world was a bar to his understanding that a
personal Christ should be equal in divinity with God, in fact, God
Himself.

Newman, who was more spiritual, saw that pain was no barrier to faith in
a personal God. I am speaking now only from my own point of view; others
who like to read both Newman and Adams may look on this view as entirely
negligible. What other American than Adams would have so loved without
understanding the spirit of Saint Francis d'Assisi:

     Vast swarms of Americans knew the Civil War only by school history,
     as they knew the story of Cromwell or Cicero, and were as familiar
     with political assassination as though they had lived under Nero.
     The climax of empire could be seen approaching, year after year, as
     though Sulla were a President or McKinley a Consul.

     Nothing annoyed America more than to be told this simple and
     obvious--in no way unpleasant--truth; therefore one sat silent as
     ever on the Capitol; but, by way of completing the lesson, the
     Lodges added a pilgrimage to Assisi and an interview with St.
     Francis, whose solution of historical riddles seemed the most
     satisfactory--or sufficient--ever offered; worth fully forty years'
     more study, and better worth it than Gibbon himself, or even St.
     Augustine, St. Ambrose, or St. Jerome. The most bewildering effect
     of all these fresh crosslights on the old Assistant Professor of
     1874 was due to the astonishing contrast between what he had taught
     them and what he found himself confusedly trying to learn
     five-and-twenty years afterwards--between the twelfth century of
     his thirtieth and that of his sixtieth years. At Harvard College,
     weary of spirit in the wastes of Anglo-Saxon law, he had
     occasionally given way to outbursts of derision at shedding his
     life-blood for the sublime truths of Sac and  Soc:--

         Hic Jacet
    Homunculus Scriptor
     Doctor Barbaricus
       Henricus Adams
    Adae Filius et Evae
      Primo Explicuit
          Socnam

     The Latin was as twelfth century as the law, and he meant as satire
     the claim that he had been first to explain the legal meaning of
     Sac and Soc, although any German professor would have scorned it as
     a shameless and presumptuous bid for immortality; but the whole
     point of view had vanished in 1900. Not he, but Sir Henry Maine and
     Rudolph Sohm, were the parents or creators of Sac and Soc.
     Convinced that the clue of religion led to nothing, and that
     politics led to chaos, one had turned to the law, as one's scholars
     turned to the Law School, because one could see no other path to a
     profession.

     The law had proved as futile as politics or religion, or any other
     single thread spun by the human spider; it offered no more
     continuity than architecture or coinage, and no more force of its
     own. St. Francis expressed supreme contempt for them all, and
     solved the whole problem by rejecting it altogether. Adams returned
     to Paris with a broken and contrite spirit, prepared to admit that
     his life had no meaning, and conscious that in any case it no
     longer mattered.

After all, the speculations of Henry Adams, his thrusts at philosophy,
seem as futile as those of that very great American John Burroughs. It
is the facts of life as seen through his personality, the changes in our
political history as analyzed so skilfully by him after the manner of no
other man that make his book supremely interesting.

The real man is not hidden in "The Education of Henry Adams." We can no
longer talk of the degeneracy of American literary taste when we know
that this very American, characteristic, and illuminating book was a
"best seller" in our country for several months. Some who like to bewail
the degeneracy of our art and literature and of our drama, declare that
its popularity is simply due to a fashion. Biographies are the fashion,
and therefore it is the transitory habit of the illiterate book buyer to
purchase, if he does not read, biographies. This view may be dismissed
with a scornful wave of the hand.

When I took up "The Education of Henry Adams," I was informed that it
was "pathetic." Personally, it has never struck me that Henry Adams, as
far as I know him, is at all pathetic. He did not assume an air of
pathos when he read my review in _Scribner's Monthly_--before it became
the _Century_--of the novel "Democracy." Mr. Richard Watson Gilder, the
editor, was away at the time, and I recall his whimsical horror when on
his return he read the things I had said about a novel, which I, in the
heat of youth, held to be entirely un-American.

Mr. Henry Adams's book, in my opinion, has no element of pathos. Adams
lived a rare and interesting life. He loved beauty, and was so prepared
by tradition and education that he knew how to appreciate beauty
wherever he found it, and to give reasons for its being beautiful.
Against the rough material obstacles in life, which are supposed to be
good for a man, but are not at all good, since they absorb a great deal
of energy that is subtracted from his later life, he was not obliged to
struggle. Like Theodore Roosevelt, the greatest of all modern
Americans, who was a man of letters in love with life, Adams was not
compelled to look up to social strata above him, and, whatever the
enraged democrats may say, this in itself is a great advantage. One can
see from his "Education" that his material difficulties were so slight
that he could take them cheerfully, even in our world where poverty is
both a blunder and a crime. This in itself tends toward happiness. Henry
Adams, it is true, suffered terribly in his heart. His description of
the death of his sister is heart-rending; he does not dwell on the worst
of his griefs. No man had a more agreeable circle of friends, no man
more pleasant surrounding. He was free in a way that few other men are
free, and to my mind it is this sense of freedom, of which he does not
always take advantage, that is one of the most appealing qualities of
his book. It is a great relief to meet a man and to be intimate with
him, as we are with Henry Adams, who has the power of using wings,
whether he uses them or not.

There are many reasons for the success of his book. The chapters on
"Diplomacy," on "Friends and Foes," on "Political Morality," and on "The
Battle of the Rams" are new contributions to our history. More than
that, they elucidate conditions of mind which are generally wrapped up,
for motives of policy, in misty and often hypocritical verbiage.

Some of the reviewers found "The Education" egotistical. This is too
strong a term. These memoirs would have no value if they were not
egotistical; and if the term "egotistical" implies conceit or
self-complacency or the desire to show one's better side to the public,
"The Education" does not deserve it. A man cannot write about himself
without writing about himself. This seems very much like a platitude.
And Henry Adams writes about himself with no affectation of modesty. If
anything, he underrates himself, as in conversation he sometimes took a
tone which made him appear to those who knew him slightly as below the
average of the real Henry Adams.

Here, for instance, is a good passage:

     Swinburne tested him [Henry Adams] then and there by one of his
     favourite tests--Victor Hugo; for to him the test of Victor Hugo
     was the surest and quickest of standards. French poetry is at best
     a severe exercise for foreigners; it requires extraordinary
     knowledge of the language and rare refinement of ear to appreciate
     even the recitation of French verse; but unless a poet has both, he
     lacks something of poetry. Adams had neither. To the end of his
     life he never listened to a French recitation with pleasure, or
     felt a sense of majesty in French verse; but he did not care to
     proclaim his weakness, and he tried to evade Swinburne's vehement
     insistence by parading an affection for Alfred de Musset. Swinburne
     would have none of it; De Musset was unequal; he did not sustain
     himself on the wing.

     Adams would have given a world or two, if he owned one, to sustain
     himself on the wing like De Musset, or even like Hugo; but his
     education as well as his ear was at fault, and he succumbed.
     Swinburne tried him again on Walter Savage Landor. In truth the
     test was the same, for Swinburne admired in Landor's English the
     qualities that he felt in Hugo's French; and Adams's failure was
     equally gross, for, when forced to despair, he had to admit that
     both Hugo and Landor bored him. Nothing more was needed. One who
     could feel neither Hugo nor Landor was lost.

     The sentence was just and Adams never appealed from it. He knew his
     inferiority in taste as he might know it in smell. Keenly mortified
     by the dullness of his senses and instincts, he knew he was no
     companion for Swinburne; probably he could be only an annoyance; no
     number of centuries could ever educate him to Swinburne's level,
     even in technical appreciation; yet he often wondered whether there
     was nothing he had to offer that was worth the poet's acceptance.
     Certainly such mild homage as the American insect would have been
     only too happy to bring, had he known how, was hardly worth the
     acceptance of any one. Only in France is the attitude of prayer
     possible; in England it became absurd. Even Monckton Milnes, who
     felt the splendours of Hugo and Landor, was almost as helpless as
     an American private secretary in personal contact with them. Ten
     years afterwards Adams met him at the Geneva Conference, fresh
     from Paris, bubbling with delight at a call he had made on Hugo; "I
     was shown into a large room," he said, "with women and men seated
     in chairs against the walls, and Hugo at one end throned. No one
     spoke. At last Hugo raised his voice solemnly, and uttered the
     words: "Quant a moi, je crois en Dieu!" Silence followed. Then a
     woman responded as if in deep meditation: "Chose sublime! un Dieu
     qui croit en Dieu!"

The _Chose sublime_ is an Adamesque touch! It gives the last delicate
tint to the impression. Page after page gleams with such impressions and
such touches. He looks deep, and he sees clearly. But he lacks faith! He
is the discoverer of the twelfth century; and, in a lesser sense, the
discoverer of the real meaning of the nineteenth. He perceived the real
architecture of both the Cathedral of Chartres and of "The Song of
Roland." How useless all the tomes of the learned Teutons seem in
comparison with his volume on Chartres, and their conclusions are so
laboured and ineffective in comparison with the lightning-like glance
with which he pierces the real meaning of the twelfth century. He has
his limitations, and he is not unaware of them. But when one reflects on
the hideous self-complacency, the eighteenth-century ignorance, the
half-educated vulgarity of most of the writers in German and English
who pretend to interpret the Middle Ages, one cannot help giving
grateful thanks for having found Henry Adams.

To be sure, he does not respect Harvard, and one of his reasons seems to
be that the Harvard man, though capable of valuing the military
architecture of the walls of Constantinople, cannot sympathize with the
beauties of Chartres or Sancta Sophia. Yale, he assumes, is more
receptive. However, Henry Adams, if he were alive to-day, would have
discovered that both Yale and Harvard, both seekers after culture and
the cultivated, the hitherto prejudiced and self-opinionated, have
profited greatly by the education he has given them. It seems that Henry
Adams fancied that he had failed as an educator. He did not realize that
he would give his countrymen an education which they greatly lacked, and
which many of them are sincerely grateful for.

The man that cannot read his chapter on "Eccentricity" over and over
again is incapable of appreciating some of Pepys's best passages! Books
to be read and re-read ought to occupy only a small space on any shelf,
and not many of them, in my opinion, are among the One Hundred Best
Books listed by the late Sir John Lubbock. Each of us will make his own
shelf of books. The book for me is the book that delights, attracts,
soothes, or uplifts me. Let those critics go hang whose criticisms are
not literature! Sainte-Beuve makes literature when he exercises his
critical vocation; Brunetière has too heavy a hand; Francisque Sarcey
has some touches of inspiration that give delight. There are no really
good French critics to-day, probably because they have so little
material to work on. Our own Mencken, with all his vagaries, is worth
while, and Brander Matthews knows his line and the value of background
and perspective; William Lyon Phelps has a light hand; but there are
many leaves in our forests of critical writing and not much wood.
Literary criticism is becoming a lost art with our English brethren, who
once claimed Saintsbury and George Lewes. The admitted existence of
cliques and claques in London makes us distrustful. You were worked into
great enthusiasm for Stephen Phillips's "Herod" until you found that
half a score of notices of this tragedy were written by the same hand!

It seems almost impossible that "The Letters of William James" should
appear shortly after "The Education of Henry Adams," and, though the
Jameses were New Yorkers, they are certainly redolent of New England. We
had begun to forget our debt to the writers of New England. Mrs. Freeman
and Mr. Lincoln hold up their heads as writers of modern folk stories;
but the _Atlantic Monthly_ has become eclectic. It has lost the flavour
of New England. That Boston which in the _Atlantic_ had always been a
state of mind has become different from the real old Boston.

In truth, Indiana had begun to blot out the whole of New England, and
Miss Agnes Repplier had begun to stain our map of culture with the
modulated tints of Philadelphia. For myself, I had returned to the
novels of Harriet Beecher Stowe--leaving out "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which
I always found detestable--to "Elsie Venner" and to "The Autocrat of the
Breakfast Table," in the hope that the flavour of New England, which I
found to my horror was growing faint in me, might be retained. There is
always "The House of the Seven Gables!"

But, while I was lingering over some almost forgotten pages of Mrs.
Stowe with great pleasure, something she said reminded me of Walter
Savage Landor, and I turned to the only work of Landor which had ever
attracted me, "The Imaginary Conversations." There was an interlude of
enjoyment and exasperation. He shows himself so malicious, so bigoted,
so narrow, and so incapable of comprehending some of the historical
persons he presents to us. But there are compensations, all the same.
Whatever one may think of the animus of Landor, one cannot get on
without an occasional dip into "The Imaginary Conversations." Suddenly
Landor reminded me of Marion Crawford's "With the Immortals," and I
rediscovered Marion Crawford's Heinrich Heine! To have discovered Heine
in Zangwill's "In a Mattress Grave" was worth a long search through many
magazines. Like Stevenson's "Lodging for the Night," Zangwill's few
pages can never be obliterated from the heart of a loving reader--by a
loving reader I mean a reader who loves men a little more than books.

You will remember that Crawford's Immortals appear at Sorrento where
Lady Brenda and Augustus and Gwendolyn Chard are enjoying the fine
flower of life. If Sir Conan Doyle and Sir Oliver Lodge could only bring
back to life, or induce to come back to life, King Francis I. and Julius
Cæsar and Heinrich Heine and Doctor Johnson,[1] together with that
group of semi-happy souls who live on the "enamelled green" of Dante,
spiritism might have more to say for itself!

     "'I call a cat a cat,' as Boileau put it," remarked Heine. "I would
     like to know how many men in a hundred are disappointed in the
     women they marry."

     "Just as many as have too much imagination," said Augustus.

     "No," said Johnson, shaking his head violently and speaking
     suddenly in an excited tone. "No. Those who are disappointed are
     such as are possessed of imagination without judgment; but a man
     whose imagination does not outrun his judgment is seldom deceived
     in the realisation of his hopes. I suspect that the same thing is
     true in the art of poetry, of which Herr Heine is at once a master
     and a judge. For the qualities that constitute genius are
     invention, imagination and judgment; invention, by which new trains
     of events are formed, and new scenes of imagery displayed;
     imagination, which strongly impresses on the writer's mind, and
     enables him to convey to the reader the various form of nature,
     incidents of life and energies of passion; and judgment, which
     selects from life or nature what the present purpose requires, and
     by separating the essence of things from its concomitants, often
     makes the representation more powerful than the reality. A man who
     possesses invention and imagination can invent and imagine a
     thousand beauties, gifts of mind and virtues of character; but
     unless he have judgment which enables him to discern the bounds of
     possibility and to detect the real nature of the woman he has
     chosen as the representative of his self-formed ideal, he runs
     great risk of being deceived. As a general rule, however, it has
     pleased Providence to endow man with much more judgment than
     imagination; and to this cause we may attribute the small number of
     poets who have flourished in the world, and the great number of
     happy marriages among civilised mankind."

     "It appears that I must have possessed imagination after all," said
     Francis.

     "If you will allow me to say it," said Cæsar in his most suave
     tones, and turning his heavy black eyes upon the king's face, "you
     had too much. Had you possessed less imagination and more judgment,
     you might many times have destroyed the Emperor Charles. To
     challenge him to fight a duel was a gratuitous and very imaginative
     piece of civility; to let him escape as you did more than once when
     you could easily have forced an engagement on terms advantageous to
     yourself, was unpardonable."

     "I know it," said Francis, bitterly. "I was not Cæsar."

     "No, sir," said Johnson in loud, harsh tones, "nor were you happy
     in your marriages--"

     "I adore learned men," whispered Francis to Lady Brenda. He had at
     once recovered his good humour.

     "A fact that proves what I was saying, that the element of judgment
     is necessary in the selection of a wife," continued the doctor.

     "I think it is intuition which makes the right people fall in love
     with each other," said Lady Brenda.

     "Intuition, madam," replied Johnson, "means the mental view; as
     you use it you mean a very quick and accurate mental view, followed
     immediately by an unconscious but correct process of deduction. The
     combination of the two, when they are nicely adjusted, constitutes
     a kind of judgment which, though it be not always so correct in its
     conclusions, as that exercised by ordinary logic, has nevertheless
     the advantage of quickness combined with tolerable precision. For,
     in matters of love, it is necessary to be quick."

     "Who sups with the devil must have a long spoon," said Francis,
     laughing.

     "And he who hopes to entertain an angel must keep his house clean,"
     returned the doctor.

     "Do you believe that people always fall in love very quickly?"
     asked Lady Brenda.

     "Frequently, though not always. Love dominates quite as much
     because its attacks are sudden and unexpected, as because most
     persons believe that to be in love is a desirable state."

     "Love," said Cæsar, "is a great general and a great strategist, for
     he rarely fails to surprise the enemy if he can, but he never
     refuses an open engagement when necessary."

[1]

    "_Cola diritto, sopra il verde smalto
        mi fur moetrati gli spiriti magni
        che del verderli in me stesso 'n esalto_"

    --INFERNO.

Strange as it may appear, it does not seem to be so much of a descent,
or of a break in the chain of continuity, to turn to hear William James
speak in letters, which have the effect of conversation. From the very
beginning of his precious book I somehow feel that I am part of the
little circle about him. The conversation goes on--Mr. James never loses
sight of the point of view and sympathies of the party of the second
part--and you are not made to feel as an eavesdropper.

Standing on the ladder, unhappily a rather shaky ladder, to put back
"With the Immortals" on the shelf, I pass Wells's great novel of
"Marriage," which I would clutch to read again, if I had not already
begun this Letter of James--written to his wife:

     I have often thought that the best way to define a man's character
     would be to seek out the particular mental or moral attitude in
     which, when it came upon him, he felt himself most deeply and
     intensely active and alive. At such moments there is a voice inside
     which speaks and says: "This is the real me!" And afterwards,
     considering the circumstances in which the man is placed, and
     noting how some of them are fitted to evoke this attitude, whilst
     others do not call for it, an outside observer may be able to
     prophesy where the man may fail, where succeed, where be happy and
     where miserable. Now as well as I can describe it, this
     characteristic attitude in me always involves an element of active
     tension, of holding my own, as it were, and trusting outward things
     to perform their part so as to make it a full harmony, but without
     any _guaranty_ that they will. Make it a guaranty--and the attitude
     immediately becomes to my consciousness stagnant and stingless.
     Take away the guaranty, and I feel (provided I am _überhaupt_ in
     vigorous condition) a sort of deep enthusiastic bliss, of bitter
     willingness to do and suffer anything, which translates itself
     physically by a kind of stinging pain inside my breast-bone (don't
     smile at this--it is to me an essential element of the whole
     thing!), and which, although it is a mere mood or emotion to which
     I can give no form in words, authenticates itself to me as the
     deepest principle of all active and theoretic determination which I
     possess....

Personal expression is, after all, what we long for in literature.
Cardinal Newman tells us, I think, in his "Idea of a University," that
it _is_ the very essence of literature. _Scientia_ is truth, or
conclusions stated as truths which stand irrespective of the personality
of the speaker or writer. But literature, to be literature, must be
personal. It is good literature when it is expressed plastically, and in
accordance with a good usage of its time. A reader like myself does not,
perhaps, trouble himself sufficiently with the philosophy of William
James as represented in these "Letters." One has a languid interest in
knowing what he thought of Bergson and Nietzsche or even of Hegel; but
for the constant reader his detachment or attachment to Aristotle and
St. Thomas Aquinas is not nearly so important as his personal
impressions of both the little things and the big things of our
contemporary life. Whether you are pragmatic or not, you must, if you
are at all in love with life, become a Jamesonian after you have read
the "Letters"! And his son, Mr. Henry James, who, we may hope, may
resemble his father in time, has arranged them so well, and kept himself
so tactfully in the background, that you feel, too, that whether young
Henry is a pragmatist or not, he is a most understanding human being.
The only way to read these "Letters" is to dip into them here and there,
as the only way to make a good salad is to pour the vinegar on drop by
drop. To use an oriental metaphor, the oil of appreciation is stimulated
by the acid of wit, the salt of wisdom, and the pepper of humour.
Frankly, since I discovered William James as a human being I have begun
to read him for the same reason that I read Pepys--for pure enjoyment!

A friend of mine, feeling that I had taken the "Letters of William
James" too frivolously, told me that I ought to go to Mr. Wells to
counteract my mediæval philosophy and too cheerful view of life. Just as
if I had not struggled with Mr. Wells, and irritated myself into a
temperature in trying to get through his latest preachments! I am not
quite sure what I said of Mr. Wells, but I find, in an article by Mr.
Desmond MacCarthy in the "New Statesman," just what I ought to have
said.

     This doctrine of the inspired priesthood of authors is exaggerated
     and dangerous. Neither has it, you see, prevented him from writing
     "The Wonderful Visit." Artists should feel, and if necessary be
     told, that they are on their honour to do their best. That will do.
     If they flatter themselves that they are messengers from the Father
     of Light whenever they put pen to paper, they are apt to take any
     emotional hubble-bubble in themselves as a sign that the Spirit has
     been brooding upon the waters, and pour out; though a short time
     afterwards they may let loose a spate flowing in a quite different
     direction. Sincerity of the moment is not sincerity; those who have
     watched England's prime minister know that.

William James helped me to wash the bad taste of Mr. Wells's god out of
my mouth. It seems remarkable that such a distinguished man of
talent--if he were dead, one would be justified in saying a man of
genius--should not have been able to invent a more attractive and potent
Deity. Voltaire, while making no definition, did better than that; but
Voltaire was a much cleverer man than Wells, and he had an education
such as no modern writer has. When Mr. Wells preaches, he becomes a
bore. Who, except the empty-minded, or those who, like the Athenians,
are always seeking new things, can take Mr. Wells's dogmatisms
seriously? Is it not in one of his "Sermones" that Horace tells us that
the merchant wants to be a sailor and the sailor a merchant? Does he not
begin with--_Qui fit, Mæcenas?_ But Horace says nothing of the authors
of fiction--Stevenson calls them very lightly "_filles de joie_,"--who
insist on being boldly and brutally theologians and philosophers. Horace
might have invented a better god than Wells; but he had too much good
taste and too much knowledge of man in the world to attempt it.

The more one reads of the very moderns, the more one falls in love with
the ancients. Take the peerless Horatius Flaccus, for instance. Do you
think anybody would read his Odes and Epodes and love him as we do if he
insisted that we should "sit under him" and assumed a pulpit manner?
This is as near as he ever comes to teaching us anything:

    _Lenit albescens animos capillus
    Litium et rixae cupidos protervae;
    Non ego hoc ferrem calidus juventa,
              Consule Planco._

Even Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who loved himself very much, showed in
his translations of "The Odes and Epodes" that he could almost love
something as well as himself. It does not become me to recommend
books--everybody to his own taste!--but I should like to say that for
those whose Latin has become only a faint perfume of attar of roses,
like that which is said to cling faintly to one of the desks of Marie
Antoinette at Versailles, the translations of our dear Horatius by Lord
Lytton is a very precious aid to a knowledge of one of the most charming
and most wise of pagan poets.

Horace says:

    Postumus, Postumus, the years glide by us,
    Alas! no piety delays the wrinkles,
      Nor old age imminent,
        Nor the indomitable hand of Death.

We might have, in spite of the awful examples of Mr. Wells and the other
preachers, who ought to confine themselves to finer things, desired that
Horace should have gone further and told us what kind of books we ought
to read in our old age. His choice was naturally limited; it was
impossible for him to buy a book every week, or every month. The
publishers were not so active in those days. But he might have indicated
the kind of book that old age might read, in order to renew its youth. I
have tried "Robinson Crusoe,"--the unequalled--and "Swiss Family
Robinson"; but they seem too grown up for me now. I have taken to "King
Solomon's Mines" and "Treasure Island" and that perfect gem of
excitement and illusion, "The Mutineers," by Charles Boardman Hawes. I
read it, and I'm young again. I trust that some enterprising bookseller
will unblushingly compile a library for the old, and begin it with "The
Mutineers!" The main difficulty with the Old or the Near Old is that the
fear of shocking the Young makes them such hypocrites. They pretend that
they like Mr. Wells and the other preachers; they express intense
interest in new and ponderous books, in the presence of Youth--when they
ought to yawn frankly and bury themselves in romances. But if the Old
really want to save their faces, and at the same time enjoy glimpses of
that fountain of youth which we long for at every age, let them acquire
two books--Clifford Smyth's "The Gilded Man" and "The Quest of El
Dorado," by Dr. J. A. Zahm, whose _nom de plume_ was H. J. Mozans. There
you have the real stuff. Together, these two books are a combination of
just what the Old need to found dreams on. If a man does not smoke he
cannot dream with any facility when he grows old; and if he has not
possessed himself of these two volumes, he cannot have acquired that
basis for dreams which the energetic Aged greatly need. "The Gilded Man"
is frankly a romance, and yet, strangely enough, a romance of facts, and
"The Quest of El Dorado" is the only volume in the English language when
it deals with the El Dorado; it has all the most attractive qualities of
a romance.

But they are not enough. To them I add, "Bob, Son of Battle," which the
author of "Alice For Short," discovered late in life. It is the greatest
animal-human story ever written, for Owd Bob is nobly human, and the
Black Killer devilishly human, and yet they are dogs; not fabulous dogs,
invented by clever writers. A great book! It is too thrilling; it
reminds of "Wuthering Heights"; I shall, therefore, read this evening
some of Henry Van Dyke's Canadian stories, and end the day with "Pride
and Prejudice."



CHAPTER V

BOOKS AT RANDOM


Among nature books that gave me many happy hours on the banks of the
Delaware--imperial river!--is Charles C. Abbott's "Upland and Meadow."
"Better," Mr. Abbott says, "repeat the twelve labours of Hercules than
attempt to catalogue the varied forms of life found in the area of an
average ramble!" _Soit!_ And better than that, "to feel that whatever
creature we may meet will prove companionable--that is, no stranger, but
rather an amusing and companionable friend--assures both pleasure and
profit whenever we chance abroad."

Who that has made "Upland and Meadow" his companion can forget the
extracts from the diary of the Ancient Man, dated Ninth Month, 1734, in
the Delaware Valley? Noisy guns had reduced the number of wild ducks and
geese, he says, even then. But, nevertheless, Watson's Creek was often
black with the smaller fowl.

     I do seldom see the great swans, but father says that they are not
     unusual in the wide stretches of the Delaware.

Happy day! when the wedge-shaped battalions of wild geese were almost as
frequently seen as the spattering sparrows now!

     Father allowed me [writes the good Quaker boy, in 1734] to
     accompany my Indian friend, Oconio, to Watson's creek, that we may
     gather wild fowl after the Indian manner. With great eagerness, I
     accompanied Oconio, and thus happened it. We did reach the widest
     part of that creek early in the morning, I think the sun was
     scarcely an half-hour high. Oconio straightway hid himself in the
     tall grass by the water, while I was bidden to lie in the tall
     grass at a little distance. With his bow and arrows, Oconio quickly
     shot a duck that came near, by swimming within a short distance of
     him. I marvelled much with what skill he shot, for his arrow
     pierced the head of the duck which gave no alarming cry.... Oconio
     now did fashion a circlet of green boughs, and so placed them about
     his head and shoulders that I saw not his face; he otherwise
     disrobed and walked into the stream. He held in one hand a shotten
     duck, so that it swam lustily, and, so equipped, was in the midst
     of a cluster of fowl, of which he deftly seized several so quickly
     that their fellows took no alarm. These he strangled beneath the
     water, and, when he had three of them, came back with caution to
     where the thick bushes concealed him. He desired that I should do
     the same, and with much hesitation I disrobed and assumed the
     disguise Oconio had fashioned; then I put forth boldly towards the
     gathered fowl, at which they did arise with a great clamour, and
     were gone. I marvel much why this should have been, but Oconio did
     not make it clear, and I forbore, through foolish pride, to ask
     him. And let it not be borne in mind against me [pleads the good
     Quaker boy] that, when I reached my home, I wandered to the barn,
     and writing an ugly word upon the door, sat long and gazed at it.
     Chagrin doth make me feel very meek, I find, but I set no one an
     example by speech or act, in thus soothing my feelings in so
     worldly a manner.

This example may be commended to players of golf, who are inclined to be
"worldly." The episode of Oconio at the best is too long to quote; it,
too, has its lesson! One reads Mr. Abbott's defence of the skunk
cabbage, for it harbours at its root

     the earliest salamanders, the pretty Maryland yellow throat nests
     in the hollows of its broad leaves, and rare beetles find a
     congenial home in the shelter it affords.

"Upland and Meadow" gives one occasion for thought on the subject of
raccoons. "Foolish creatures, like opossums, thrive while cunning coons
are forced to quest or die."

For a stroll by the Thames--I mean the New England Thames--there is no
book like Ik Marvel's "Dream Life," but for a day near the
Delaware--imperial river!--give me "Upland and Meadow."

And then with what assurance of satisfaction may one turn for
refreshment to the continual charm of John Burroughs's books, "Riverby"
and "Pepacton." Burroughs's opinions upon the problems of humanity are
more tiresome than John Bunyan's opinions on theology; but to go with
him among the birds and the plants, to hope with him that the soaring
lark of England may find its way down through Canada to our hedges, to
look with him into the nests in the shrubs that border our roads is to
begin to feel that joy in being an American of the soil that no other
author gives. He cured the young New England poets and the singers of
the Berkshire Hills and of the Catskills of celebrating the English
thrush and the nightingale, as if those birds sang on the Palisades.

There is an epithet I should like to apply to John Burroughs, but he
might not like it if he were alive. I recall the case of a pleasant
Englishman who admired two American girls very much, because, as he
said, they were "so homely." In fact, they were rather pretty girls, and
he had not used the term in reference to their looks. It is the word
with which I like to describe John Burroughs. Forty years ago, I met him
at Richard Watson Gilder's. He was young then, and delightfully
"homely" in the sense in which the Englishman used the word. Some of the
refined ladies at Mrs. Gilder's objected to his "crude speech," for even
in the eighties there were still _précieuses_. The truth is that his
rural use of the vernacular was part of the charm. It never spoiled his
style; but it gave that touch of homeliness to it which smelt of the
good soil of the country.

Thoreau's "Walden" always reminds me--a far-fetched comparison but I
will not apologize for it--of "As You Like It" played in one way by
Dybwad, the Norwegian actress, and by Julia Marlowe in another. Madame
Dybwad, being nearer to the Elizabethan time in her daily life, gives us
an Elizabethan maiden with a touch of "homeliness"; but Julia Marlowe's,
like Ada Rehan's "Rosalind," has something of the artificial character
of Watteau. "Walden," then, is somewhat too varnished; but "Riverby" and
"Pepacton" are "homely" and "homey."

To return to memoirs for a moment, that most delightful of all mental
dissipations for a leisurely man. In looking for the second volume of
"Walden"--for fear that I should have done Thoreau an injustice--I find
the "Memoirs of the Comtesse de Boigne." One cannot imagine anything
more unlike Madame de Boigne than Thoreau and John Burroughs! Why is
Madame de Boigne on the same shelf with these two lovers of nature?
Madame de Boigne was never a lover of nature. She loved the world and
the manifestations of the world, and--not to be ungallant--she is more
like an irritated mosquito than like the elegant _camellia japonica_ to
which she would prefer to be compared.

There is a great deal of solid comfort in the revelations of Madame de
Boigne; she is at times so very untruthful that her malice does no real
harm; she is so very clever; and she paints interiors so well; and gives
the atmosphere of French Society before and during the Revolution in a
most fascinating way. She always thinks the worst, of course; but a
writer of memoirs who always thought the best would be as painfully
uninteresting as Froude is when he describes the character of Henry
VIII. But this is a digression.

Mr. John Addington Symonds speaks of the style of Sir Thomas Browne as
displaying a "rich maturity and heavy-scented blossom." Mr. Mencken
cannot accuse any modern Englishman or American of imitating, in his
desire to be academic, Browne's hyperlatinism or his use of Latin words,
like "corpage," "confinium," "angustias," or "Vivacious abominations"
and "congaevous generations."

Mr. Symonds says:

     He professes a mixture of the boldest scepticism and the most
     puerile credulity. But his scepticism is the prelude to confessions
     of impassioned faith, and his credulity is the result of tortuous
     reflections on the enigmas of life and revelation. Perhaps the
     following paragraph enables us to understand the permanent temper
     of his mind most truly:

     "As for those wingy mysteries in divinity, and airy subtleties in
     religion, which have unhinged the brains of better heads, they
     never stretched the pia mater of mine. Methinks there be not
     impossibilities enough in religion for an active faith: the deepest
     mysteries ours contains have not only been illustrated but
     maintained by syllogism and the rule of reason. I love to lose
     myself in a mystery; to pursue my reason to an O altitudo! 'Tis my
     solitary recreation to pose my apprehension with those involved
     enigmas and riddles of the Trinity, Incarnation, and Resurrection.
     I can answer all the objections of Satan and my rebellious reason
     with that odd resolution I learned of Tertullian, _Certum est quia
     impossible est_. I desire to exercise my faith in the difficultest
     point, for to credit ordinary and visible objects, is not faith,
     but persuasion."

Leaving all question of theology, or criticism of theology, aside, Sir
Thomas lends himself to those moments when a man wants to dip a little
into the interior life. It is a strange thing that nearly all the modern
novelists who describe men seem to think that their interior life is
purely emotional. Even Mr. Hugh Walpole,[2] my favourite among the
writers in the spring of middle age, is inclined to make his heroes, or
his semi-heroes (there are no good real honest villains in fiction now)
lead lives that are not at all interior. And yet every man either leads
an interior life, or longs to lead an interior life, of which he seldom
talks. He wants inarticulately to know something of the art of
meditation; his dissatisfaction with life, even when he is successful,
is largely due to the fact that he has never been taught how to
cultivate the spiritual sense. This is an art. In it St. Francis de
Sales was very proficient. It gave George Herbert and a group of his
imitators great contentment in the state to which they were called. As a
book of secular meditation the "Religio Medici" is full of good points.
For instance, Sir Thomas starts one on the road to meditation on the
difference between democracy and freedom, humanity and nationalism in
this way:

     Let us speak like politicians; there is a nobility without
     heraldry, a natural dignity, whereby one man is ranked with another
     filed before him, according to the quality of his desert and
     pre-eminence of his good parts. Though the corruption of these
     times and the bias of present practice wheel another way, thus it
     was in the first and primitive commonwealths, and is yet in the
     integrity and cradle of well-ordered politics: till corruption
     getteth ground;--ruder desires labouring after that which wiser
     considerations contemn;--every one having a liberty to amass and
     heap up riches, and they a license or faculty to do or purchase
     anything.

[2] Mr. Walpole has almost forfeited the allegiance of people who
    admired his quality of well-bred distinction by writing in "The
    Young Enchanted" of George Eliot as a "horse-faced genius."

There are singular beings who have tried to read "Religio Medici"
continuously. Was it Shakespeare, whose works were presented to one of
this class? "How do you like Shakespeare?" the amiable donor asked. "I
can't say yet; I have not finished him!" It seems almost miraculous that
human beings should exist who take this attitude toward Sir Thomas
Browne, his "Urn Burial" or his "Christian Morals." It seems almost more
miraculous that this attitude should be taken toward Montaigne, and that
some folk should prefer the "Essays of Montaigne" in the pleasant,
curtailed edition of John Florio's translation, edited by Justin Huntly
McCarthy! These small books are convenient, no doubt. If you cannot have
the original French, or the leisure to browse over the big volume of
Florio's old book as it was written, Mr. McCarthy's edition is an
agreeable but not satisfactory substitute. It somehow or other reminds
one of that appalling series of cutdown "Classics," so largely
recommended to a public that is seduced to run and read. A condensed
edition of Froissart may do very well for boys; but who can visualize
the kind of mind content with a reduced version of "Vanity Fair"?

Montaigne is a city of refuge from the whirling words of the uplifters.
At times I have been compelled from a sense of duty, a mistaken one, to
read whole pages of Mr. Wells, whose "Marriage" and "The New
Machiavelli" and "Tono-Bungay," will be remembered when "Mr.
Britling"--by the way, what did Mr. Britling see through?--shall be
forgotten. As an antidote, I invariably turn to Montaigne. It amazed me
to hear Montaigne called a skeptic. He is even more reverent toward the
eternal verities than Sir Thomas Browne, and he has fewer superstitions.
It was his humanity and his love for religion that turned him from
Aristotle to Plato, and yet he is no fanatic for Plato. He is a real
amateur of good books. Listen to this:

     As for Cicero, I am of the common judgment, that besides learning
     there was an exquisite eloquence in him: He was a good citizen, of
     an honest, gentle nature, as are commonly fat and burly men: for so
     was he. But to speake truly of him, full of ambitious vanity and
     remisse niceness. And I know not well how to excuse him, in that he
     deemed his Poesie worthy to be published. It is no great
     imperfection to make bad verses, but it is an imperfection in him
     that he never perceived how unworthy they were of the glorie of his
     name. Concerning his eloquence it is beyond all comparison, and I
     verily believe that none shall ever equall it.

Montaigne sorrowed it a thousand times that ever the book written by
Brutus on Virtue was lost. He consoles himself, however, by remembering
that Brutus is so well represented in Plutarch. He would rather know
what talk Brutus had with some of his familiar friends in his tent on
the night before going to battle than the speech he made to his army. He
had no sympathy with eloquent prefaces, or with circumlocutions that
keep the reader back from the real matter of books. He does not want to
hear heralds or criers. How he would have hated the flare of trumpets
that precedes the entrance of the best sellers! And the blazing
"jackets," the lowest form of modern art, would have made him rip out
the favourite oaths of his province with violence.

"The Romans in their religion," he says, "were wont to say 'Hoc age';
which in ours we say, 'Sursum corda.'"

He goes to a book as he goes to a good dinner; he does not care for the
_hors d'œuvres_. Note how he rushes with rather rough weapons to the
translation, by his dying father's command, of _Theologia naturalis sive
liber creaturarum magistri Raimondi de Sebonde_. He thinks that it is a
good antidote for the "new fangles" of Luther, who is leading the vulgar
to think for themselves and to reject authority. His analysis of himself
in the essay "Of Cruelty" is the message of a sane man to sane men; and
he does not hesitate to point out the fact that no hatred is so absolute
as that which Christians can cover with the cloak of Christianity. The
discord between zeal for religion and the fury of nationality concerns
him greatly, and he does not hesitate to read a well-deserved lesson to
his contemporaries on the subject.

In Montaigne's time the theories which Machiavelli had gathered together
in "The Prince," governed Europe. One can see that they do not satisfy
Montaigne. To him they are nefarious.

"'The Prince,'" declares Villari, "had a more direct action on real life
than any other book in the world, and a larger share in emancipating
Europe from the Middle Ages."

It is a shocking confession to make, and yet the "Essays" of Michel de
Montaigne give me as much pleasure, but not so much edification, as the
precious sentences of Thomas à Kempis. They are foils; at first sight
there seems to be no relationship between them; and yet at heart Michel
de Montaigne, who was really not a skeptic, has much in common with
Thomas à Kempis. If there were no persons in the world capable of being
Montaignes, Thomas à Kempis would have written for God alone. He would
have resembled an altar railing which I once heard Father Faber had
erected. On the side toward the altar it was foliated and exquisitely
carved in a manner that pleased Ruskin. On the outer side, the side
toward the people and not the side toward the Presence of God, it was
entirely plain and unornamented!

The friendship of Thomas à Kempis I owe to George Eliot. Emerson might
easily perish; Plato might go, and even Horace be drowned in his last
supply of Falernian; Marcus Aurelius and even Rudyard Kipling might
exist only in tradition; but the loss of all their works would be as
nothing compared to the loss of that little volume which is a marvellous
guide to life. The translations of Thomas à Kempis into English vary in
value. Certain dissenters have cut out the very soul of À Kempis in
deleting the passages on the Holy Eucharist. Think of Bowdlerizing
Thomas à Kempis! He was, above all, a mystic, and all the philosophy of
his love of Christ limps when the mystical centre of it, the Eucharist,
is cut out. If that meeting in the upper room had not taken place during
the paschal season, if Christ had not offered His body and blood, soul
and divinity to his amazed, yet reverent, disciples, Thomas à Kempis
would never have written "The Following of Christ." The Bible, even the
New Testament, is full of sayings which, as St. James says of St. Paul's
Epistles, are not easy sayings, but what better interpretation of the
doctrines of Christ as applied to everyday life can there be found than
in this precious little book?

You may talk of Marcus Aurelius and gather what comfort you can from the
philosophy of Thoreau's "Walden"--which might, after all, be more
comfortable if it were more pagan. The Pan of Thoreau was a respectable
Pan, because he was a Unitarian; you may find some comfort in Keble's
"Christian Year" if you can; but À Kempis overtops all! It is strange,
too, what an appeal this great mystic has to the unbelievers in
Christianity. It is a contradiction we meet with every day. And George
Eliot was a remarkable example of this, for, in spite of her habitual
reverence, she cannot be said to have accepted orthodox dogmas. Another
paradox seems to be in the fact that Thomas à Kempis appeals so directly
and consciously to the confirmed mystic and to those who have secluded
themselves from the world. At first, I must confess that I found this a
great obstacle to my joy in having found him.

If Montaigne frequently drove me to À Kempis, À Kempis almost as
frequently in the beginning drove me back to Montaigne. It was not
until I had become more familiar with the New Testament that I began to
see that À Kempis spoke as one soul to another. In this world for him
there were only three Facts--God, his own soul, and the soul to whom he
spoke.

It was a puzzle to me to observe that so many of my friends who looked
on the Last Supper as a mere symbol of love and hospitality, should
cling to "The Following of Christ" with such devotion. Even the example
of an intellectual friend of mine, a Bostonian who had lived much in
Italy, could not make it clear. He often asserted that he did not
believe in God; and yet he was desolate if on a certain day in the year
he did not pay some kind of tribute at the shrine of St. Antony of
Padua!

I have known him to break up a party in the Adirondacks in order to
reach the nearest church where it was possible for him to burn a candle
in honour of his favourite saint on this mysterious anniversary! As long
as he exists, as long as he continues to burn candles--_les chandelles
d'un athée_--I shall accept without understanding the enthusiasm of so
many lovers of À Kempis, who cut out the mystical longings for the
reception of that divine food which Christ gave out in the upper room.
À Kempis says:

     My soul longs to be nourished with Thy body; my heart desires to be
     united with Thee.

     Give Thyself to me and it is enough; for without Thee no comfort is
     available.

     Without Thee I cannot subsist; and without Thy visitation I cannot
     live.

     And, therefore, I must come often to Thee, and receive Thee for the
     remedy, and for the health and strength of my soul; lest perhaps I
     faint in the way, if I be deprived of this heavenly food.

     For so, O most merciful Jesus, Thou wast pleased once to say, when
     Thou hadst been preaching to the people, and curing sundry
     diseases: "I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in
     the way."

     Deal now in like manner with me, who has left Thyself in the
     sacrament for the comfort of Thy faithful.

     For Thou art the most sweet reflection of the soul; and he that
     shall eat Thee worthily shall be partaker and heir of everlasting
     glory.

To every soul, oppressed and humble, À Kempis speaks more poignantly
than even David, in that great cry of the heart and soul, the De
Profundis:

     Behold, then, O Lord, my abjection and frailty [Ps. xxiv. 18],
     every way known to Thee.

     Have pity on me and draw me out of the mire [Ps. lxviii. 15], that
     I stick not fast therein, that I may not be utterly cast down
     forever.

     This it is which often drives me back and confounds me in Thy
     sight, to find that I am so subject to fall and have so little
     strength to resist my passions.

     And although I do not altogether consent, yet their assaults are
     troublesome and grievous to me, and it is exceedingly irksome to
     live thus always in a conflict.

     Hence my infirmity is made known to me, because wicked thoughts do
     always much more easily rush in upon me than they can be cast out
     again.

     Oh, that Thou, the most mighty God of Israel, the zealous lover of
     faithful souls, wouldst behold the labour and sorrow of Thy
     servant, and stand by me in all my undertakings.

     Strengthen me with heavenly fortitude, lest the old man, the
     miserable flesh, not fully subject to the spirit, prevail and get
     the upper hand, against which we must fight as long as we breathe
     in this most wretched life.

     Alas! what kind of life is this, where afflictions and miseries are
     never wanting; where all things are full of snares and enemies.

There is no pessimism here, for Thomas à Kempis gives the remedies, the
only remedies offered to the world since light was created before the
sun. He offers no maudlin consolation; to him the sins of the intellect
are worse than the sins of the flesh. He believed in hell, which he
never defined, as devoutly as Dante, who did describe it. They both knew
their hearts and the world; and the world has never invented any remedy
so effective as that which À Kempis offers.

It is the divine remedy of love; but love cannot exist without the fear
of hurting or offending the Beloved.

The best book yet written on the causes that made for the World War and
on their remedy is "The Rebuilding of Europe," by David Jayne Hill.
There we find this quotation from Villari illuminated:

     but it would be more exact to say that Machiavelli's work written
     in 1513 and published in 1532 was the perfect expression of an
     emancipation from moral restraints far advanced. The
     Christ-idealism of the Middle Ages had already largely disappeared.
     The old grounds of obligation had been swept away. Men looked for
     their safety to the nation-state rather than to the solidarity of
     Christendom; and the state, as Machiavelli's gospel proclaimed it,
     consisted in absolute and irresponsible control exercised by one
     man who should embody its unity, strength, and authority.

Montaigne felt rather than understood the cruelty and brutality of the
state traditions of his time; and these traditions were seriously
combatted when the United States made brave efforts both at Versailles
and Washington. Doctor Hill sums up the essential principles which
guided the world from the Renascence to the year 1918:

     (1) The essence of a State is "sovereignty," defined as "supreme
     power." (2) A sovereign State has the right to declare war upon any
     other sovereign State for any reason that seems to it sufficient.
     (3) An act of conquest by the exercise of superior military force
     entitles the conqueror to the possession of the conquered
     territory. (4) The population goes with the land and becomes
     subject to the will of the conqueror.

What member of the memorable conference, which began at Washington on
November 12, 1921, would have dared to assert these unmoral principles,
accepted alike by the Congress of Vienna and the Congress of Berlin, in
principle? King John of England looked on their negation as an unholy
novelty, though that negation was the leaven of the best of the life of
the Middle Ages.

There can be no doubt that the germ of the idea of freedom was kept
alive, in the miasma which poisoned "The Prince" and Machiavelli's
world, by men like Sir Thomas Browne and Montaigne. A better
understanding of the principles of these men would have made Milton less
autocratic--Lucifer, though a rebel, was not a democrat--and Voltaire
less destructive. And yet Voltaire, for whom the French Republic lately
named a war vessel, was the friend of Frederick the Great and of
Catherine II. Doctor Hill, to whom some of the passages in Sir Thomas
Browne and Montaigne sent me, says:

     Down to the invasion of Belgium in 1914 the most odious crime ever
     committed against a civilized people was, no doubt, the first
     partition of Poland; yet at the time not a voice was raised against
     it. Louis XV. was "infinitely displeased," but he did not even
     reply to the King of Poland's appeal for help. George III. coolly
     answered that "justice ought to be the invariable rule of
     sovereigns"; but concluded, "I fear, however, misfortunes have
     reached the point where redress can be had from the hands of the
     Almighty alone." Catherine II. thought justice satisfied when
     "everyone takes something." Frederick II. wrote to his brother,
     "The partition will unite the three religions, Greek, Catholic, and
     Calvinist; for we would take our communion from the same
     consecrated body, which is Poland." Only Maria Theresa felt a
     twinge of conscience. She took but she felt the shame of it. She
     wrote: "We have by our moderation and fidelity to our engagements
     acquired the confidence, I may venture to say the admiration, of
     Europe.... One year has lost it all. I confess, it is difficult to
     endure it, and that nothing in the world has cost me more than the
     loss of our good name." It is a strange phenomenon that in matters
     where the unsophisticated human conscience so promptly pronounces
     judgment and spontaneously condemns, the solid mass of moral
     conviction should count for nothing in affairs of state. Against it
     a purely national prejudice has never failed to prevail.

Montaigne does not formulate his comparisons so clearly; nor does Sir
Thomas Browne touch so unerringly the canker in the root of the
politics of his time; but one cannot saturate oneself in the works of
either without contrasting them with the physiocrats of the eighteenth
century, who tore up the cockles and the wheat together.

Of all American writers Mr. H. L. Mencken is the most adventurous, and
one might almost say the cleverest. He could not be dull if he tried.
This is admirably exemplified in "The American Language," which appears
in a second edition, revised and enlarged and dated 1921. We are told
that Mencken was born in Baltimore on September 12, 1880; that his
family has been settled in Maryland for nearly a hundred years; and that
he is of mixed ancestry, chiefly German, Irish, and English. He is,
therefore, a typical American, and well qualified to write on "The
American Language." Mr. Mencken truly says that the weakest courses in
our universities are those which concern themselves with written and
spoken English. He adds that such grammar as is taught in our schools
and colleges

     is a grammar standing four-legged upon the theorizings and false
     inferences of English Latinists of a past generation, eager only to
     break the wild tongue of Shakespeare to a rule; and its frank aim
     is to create in us a high respect for a book language which few of
     us ever actually speak and not many of us even learn to write. That
     language, elaborately artificial though it may be, undoubtedly has
     merits. It shows a sonority and a stateliness that you must go to
     the Latin and the Golden Age to match; its "highly charged and
     heavy-shotted" periods, in Matthew Arnold's phrase, serve admirably
     the obscurantist purposes of American pedagogy and of English
     parliamentary oratory and leader-writing; it is something new for
     the literary artists of both countries to prove their skill upon by
     flouting it. But to the average American, bent upon expressing his
     ideas, not stupendously but merely clearly, it must always remain
     something vague and remote, like Greek history or the properties of
     the parabola, for he never speaks it or hears it spoken, and seldom
     encounters it in his everyday reading. If he learns to write it,
     which is not often, it is with a rather depressing sense of its
     artificiality. He may master it as a Korean, bred in the colloquial
     Onmun, may master the literary Korean-Chinese, but he never thinks
     in it or quite feels it.

Mr. Mencken is both instructive and destructive; but he is not so
constructive as to build a road through the marsh of confusion into
which that conflict of dialects in the English language--a language
which is grammarless and dependent upon usage--has left us. He tells us
that good writing consists, as in the case of Howells, in deliberately
throwing overboard the principles so elaborately inculcated, or, as in
the case of Lincoln, in standing unaware of them. Whether this is true
in the case of Howells or not, it must be remembered that Lincoln was
fed, through his reading, on the results of those linguistic principles
which are with us in English tradition. It is the usage of Cardinal
Newman or Hawthorne or Stevenson or Agnes Repplier, or of Lincoln
himself, which those who want to write good English follow rather than
the elaborate rules of confused English grammar which are forgotten
almost as soon as they are learned.

Personally, in youthful days, I could make nothing out of the "grammar"
of the English language until I had begun to study Latin prosody; and
then it became clear to me that only a few bones in the structure of
English, taken from the Latin practice, were valuable; that the flesh of
the English tongue would not fit the whole skeleton.

As the English language, spoken everywhere, must depend on good usage,
and the bad usage of to-day often becomes the good usage of to-morrow,
it is regrettable that no scientific study of the American vocabulary or
of the influences lying at the root of American word-formation--to quote
Mr. Mencken--has as yet been made. The elder student was content with
correcting the examples of bad English in Blair's "Rhetoric." Later, he
read "The Dean's English," very popular at one time, Richard Grant
White's "Words and Their Uses," and perhaps a little book called "The
Verbalist." To this, one of the most bewildering books on the manner of
writing English ever written, Herbert Spencer's "Philosophy of Style"
was added. Whether it is Herbert Spencer's lack of a sense of humour or
the fallibility of his theories that has put him somewhat out of date is
not easy to say. In no book of his is a sense of humour so lacking as in
the "Philosophy of Style." Its principles have a perennial value and
nearly every author on style, since Spencer wrote, has repeated them
with variations; but Spencer's method of presenting them is as involved
as any method adopted by a philosopher could be--and that is saying a
good deal.

The English of the universities hold that Americans are the slave of
Webster's Dictionary; and this is true of a certain limited class of
Americans. The English public speaker allows himself more freedom in the
matter of pronunciation than very scrupulous Americans do. Lord
Balfour's speeches at the Washington Conference offered several
examples of this.

"The Supreme Court of the United States has decided that Webster's
Dictionary is _the_ American dictionary, and I propose to consider all
its decisions as final," said, in hot argument, a New York lawyer who
habitually uses "dontcha know" and "I wanta." Shakespeare, he regards as
an author whose English ought to be corrected; and he became furious
over what he called the mispronunciation of "apotheosis," which he said
a favourite preacher had not uttered according to Webster. And I have
known literary societies in the South to be disrupted over the use of
the word "nasty" by a Northern woman; and, as for "bloody," Mr. Mencken
shows us that one of the outrages committed by Mr. Shaw against English
convention was his permitting the heroine of "Pygmalion" to use it on
the stage. There is one Americanism, however, against which, as far as I
can find, Mr. Mencken does not protest. It is the use of the word
"consummated" in a phrase like "the marriage was consummated in the
First Baptist Church at high noon"!

In spite of democratic disapproval, some will still hold that "lift" is
better than "elevator," and "station" better than "dépot." Though these
are departures from the current vernacular. We speak English often when
our critical friends in England imagine that we are speaking American. I
have known a gentleman in New Jersey who has cultivated English
traditions of speech, to shrink in horror at the mention of "flap-jack"
and "ice-cream." He could never find a substitute in _real_ English for
"flap-jack," but he always substituted "ices" for "ice-cream." On one
occasion I heard him inveigh against the horror of the word "pies," for
those "detestable messy things sold by the ton to the uncivilized"; and
he spent the time of lunch in pointing out that no such composition
really existed in polite society; but when his "cook general" was seen
approaching with an unmistakable "pie," the kind supposed by the readers
of advertisements to be made by "mothers," and ordered hastily because
of the coming of the unexpected guest, he was cast down. The guest tried
to save the situation by speaking of the obnoxious pastry as "a tart."
The host shook his head--"a tart," in English, could never be covered!

Mr. Mencken shows us that "flap-jack," "molasses," "home-spun,"
"ice-cream" are old English; that "Bub," which used to shock London
visitors to Old Philadelphia, is a bit of provincial English; and that
"muss" is found in "Antony and Cleopatra." I wish I had known that when
I was young; it would have saved me a bad mark for paraphrasing
"Menelaus and Paris got into a muss over Helen." But probably the use of
"row" to express that little difficulty would not have saved me!

The best judge of Madeira in Philadelphia always said "cheer" for
"chair" and "sasser" for "saucer" and "tay" for "tea" and "obleged" for
"obliged"; and he drank from his saucer, too; and his table was always
provided with little dishes, like butter plates, for the discarded cups.
His example gave me a profound contempt for those newly rich in learning
who laugh without understanding, who are the slaves of the dictionary,
and who are so "vastly" meticulous. This old gentleman was an education
in himself; he had lived at the "English court"--or near it--and when he
came to visit us once a year, we listened enraptured. I once fell from
grace; but not from my reverence for him, by making a mistake in my
search for knowledge which involved his age. It was very easy to ask
him whether Anne Boleyn had asked for a "cheer" but not easy to escape
from the family denunciation that followed. It seemed that he had not
lived at or near the court of Henry VIII!

Mr. Mencken explains why the use of "sick" for "ill" is taboo in
England, except among the very youngest Realists. And, by the way, Mr.
Hugh Walpole in "The Young Enchanted" goes so far in one of the speeches
of the atrocious Mrs. Tennsen, that the shocking word "bloody" used by
Mr. Bernard Shaw on one famous occasion sinks into a pastel tint! Mr.
Mencken says:

     The Pilgrims brought over with them the English of James I. and the
     Authorized Version, and their descendants of a century later,
     inheriting it, allowed the fundamentals to be but little changed by
     the academic overhauling that the mother tongue was put to during
     the early part of the Eighteenth Century.

The Bible won against the prudery of the new English; prudery will go
very far, and I can recall the objection of an evangelical lady, in
Philadelphia, who disliked the nightly saying of the "Ave Maria" by a
little Papist relative. This was not on religious grounds; it was
because of "blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus," in the prayer. The
little Papist had been taught to repeat the salutation of the Angel
Gabriel in Latin, so, at bedtime, he changed to "Benedictus fructus
ventris tui" and the careful lady thought it sounded "more decent"!

Poker players may be interested in Mr. Mencken's revelation that "ante"
came into our language through the Spanish; he says,

     cinch was borrowed from the Spanish "cincha" in the early Texas
     days, though its figurative use did not come in until much later.

It is pleasant to note the soundness of Mr. Mencken's judgment in regard
to that very great philologer, the Dane, Doctor Jespersen, and he
quotes, in favour of the clarity and directness of the English language,
another great Dane, Doctor Thomson. Doctor Jespersen admits that our
tongue has a certain masculine ungainliness. It has rare elements of
strength in its simplicity. In English the subject almost invariably
precedes the verb and the object follows it; even in English poetry this
usage is seldom violated. In Tennyson, its observance might be counted
at 80,

     but in the poetry of Holger Drachmann, the Dane, it falls to 61, in
     Anatole France's prose, to 66, in Gabriele d' Annunzio to 49, and
     in the poetry of Goethe to 30.

That our language has only five vowels, which have to do duty for more
than a score of sounds, is a grave fault; and the unhappy French
preacher who, from an English pulpit, pronounced "plough" as "pluff" had
much excuse. But on the other hand, why do the French make us say "fluer
de lis," instead of "fleur de lee"? And "Rheims"? How many
conversational pitfalls is "Rheims" responsible for!

There is no book that ought to give the judicious such quiet pleasure or
more food for thought or for stimulating conversation than Mr. Mencken's
"The American Language," except Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy,"
Boswell's "Johnson," the "Devout Life" of Saint Francis de Sales,
Pepys's "Diary," the "Letters" of Madame de Sévigné, Beveridge's "Life"
of Marshall, and the "Memoirs" of Gouverneur Morris! It is a book for
odd moments; yet it is a temptation to continuous reading; and a
precious treasure is its bibliography! And how pleasant it is to verify
the quotations in a library; preferably with the snow falling in thick
flakes, and an English victim who cannot escape, even after dinner is
announced. Mr. Mencken is a benefactor!

It is very remarkable that Mr. Mencken's audacious disregard of English
grammar in theory has not impaired the clearness of his point of view
and of his own style. If dead authors could write after the manner in
which Mr. Andrew Lang has written to them, I should like to read Herbert
Spencer's opinions of Mr. Mencken's volumes. If Sir Oliver Lodge and Sir
Conan Doyle want really to please a small but discriminating public, let
them induce Herbert Spencer to analyze Mr. Mencken's statements on the
growth of the English language! In my time we were expected to take
Spencer's "Philosophy of Style" very seriously. There is no doubt that
his principles have been repeated by every writer on style, including
Dr. Barrett Wendell in his important "English Composition," since Mr.
Spencer wrote; but the method of Spencer's expression of his principles
reminds one of the tangled wood in which Dante languished before he met
Beatrice.

There is no doubt that Mr. Spencer makes us think of writing as a
science and art; his philosophy of style is right enough. But while he
provokes puzzled thought, he does no more. There is more meat in Robert
Louis Stevenson's "A College Magazine" than in all the complications in
style in the brochure of the idol of the eighties.

And a greater stylist than even Stevenson is the author of a little
volume which I keep by my side ever since Mr. Frederick O'Brien and the
terrifying Gaugain have turned us to the islands of the Pacific. It is
Charles Warren Stoddard's "South Sea Idyls." And if one wants to know
how to read for pleasure or comfort--for reading or writing does not
come by nature--there is "Moby Dick," by Herman Melville, the close
friend of the Hawthornes and a writer so American that Mr. Mencken must
love him. But he ought to be read as a novelist.

Mr. Herbert Spencer and "The South Sea Idyls" bring the _flâneur_--the
chief business of a _flâneur_ of the pavements (we were forbidden in old
Philadelphia to say "sidewalks") is to look into unrelated shop-windows;
but the _flâneur_ among books finds none of his shop-windows
unrelated--back to Mr. Mencken, who does not give us the genesis of a
word that sounded something like "sadie." It meant "thank you." Every
Pennsylvania child used it, until the elegants interfered, and they
often did interfere. You might say "apothecary" or "chemist"; but you
should never say "druggist." I trust that it is no breach of confidence
to repeat that the devout and very distinguished of modern
Philadelphians, Mr. John Drew, discovered that there were two languages
in his neighbourhood, one for the ears of his parents and one for the
boys in the street. One was very much in the position of the Yorkshire
lad I met the other day. "But you haven't a Yorkshire accent!" "No,
sir," he said, "my parents whipped it out of me." But there is, in New
York City, at least the beginning of one American language--the language
of the street.

       *       *       *       *       *

In considering the impression that books have usually made on me, I have
often asked myself why they are such an unfailing source of pleasure and
even of joy. Every reader has, of course, his own answer to this. For
the plots of novels, I have always had very little respect, although I
believe, with Anthony Trollope, that a plot is absolutely necessary to a
really good novel, and that it is the very soul of a romance. Of
memoirs--even the apocryphal writings of the Marquise de Créquy have
always been very agreeable to me; I have never been so dull or so tired,
that I could not find some solace in the Diary of Mr. Pepys, in the
Autobiography of Franklin, in the peerless journal of Mr. Boswell; and
even the revelations of Madame Campan, as a last resource, were worth
returning to. As for the diary of Madame d'Arblay, it reproduces so
admirably the struggles of a bright spirit against the dullest of all
atmospheres, that it seems like a new discovery in psychology. And now
comes Professor Tinker's "Young Boswell" and those precious diaries
including that of Mrs. Pepys by a certain E. Barrington. Life _is_ worth
living!

I must confess that I have never found any poet excepting King David
whom I liked because he taught me anything. Didactic "poetry" wearies
me, probably because it is not poetry at all. When people praise
Thompson's "Hound of Heaven," because it is dogmatic, I am
surprised--for if I found anything dogmatic in it, it would lose all its
splendour for me. The Apocalypse and "The Hound of Heaven" are glorious
visions of truth at a white heat.

Tennyson's "Two Voices" loses all its value when it ceases to be a
picture and becomes an important sermon. And as for Spenser, the
didactic symbolism of his "Faerie Queen" might be lost forever with no
great disadvantage to posterity if his splendid "Epithalamion" could be
preserved. Browning's optimism has always left me cold, and I never
could quite understand why most of his readers have set him down as a
great philosopher. All may be well with the world, but I could never see
that Browning's poetry proved it in any way. When the time comes for a
cultivated English world--a thoughtful English-speaking world--to weigh
the merits of English-speaking poets, Browning will be found among the
first. Who has done anything finer in English than "A Grammarian's
Funeral"? Or "My Last Duchess," or "A Toccata of Galuppi's" or some of
the passages in "Pippa Passes"? Who has conceived a better fable for a
poem than that of "Pippa"? And as for Keats, the world he discovered for
us is of greater value to the faculties of the mind than all the
philosophies of Wordsworth.

To me, the intense delight I have in novels and poems is due to their
power of taking me out of myself, of enlightening me as to my own
faults and peculiarities, not by preaching but by example, and of
raising me to a higher plane of toleration and of gaiety of heart.

As I grow older, I find that the phrase Stevenson once applied to works
of fiction becomes more and more regrettable. He compared the followers
of this consoling art to "_filles de joie_." He doubtless meant that
these goddesses--"_les filles de joie_" are always young--gave us
visions of the joy of life; that they might be sensuous without being
sensual; but his phrase falls far short of the truth. There are novels,
like Mrs. Jackson's "Ramona," which are joyous and serious at once. Or
take "The Cardinal's Snuff Box" or "Pepita Jiminez."

Every constant reader has his favourite essayists. As a rule, he reads
them to be soothed or to be amused. In making my confession, I must say
that only a few of the essayists really amuse me. They are, as a rule,
more witty than humorous, and generally they make one self-conscious,
being self-conscious themselves. There are a hundred different types of
the essayist. Each of us has his favourite bore among them. Once I found
all the prose works of a fine poet and friend of mine, Aubrey de Vere,
on the shelves of a constant reader. "Why?" I asked. "The result of a
severe sense of duty!" he said.

Madame Roland tried hard for a title of nobility and failed, though she
gained in the end a greater title. Her works are insufferably and
complacently conceited, and yet I always look at their bindings with
respect. Mrs. Blashfield, who died too soon, has given us, in her first
volume--unfortunately the only one--a new view of this Empress of
Didacticism. It is strange indeed that Madame Roland could have been
nourished by that most stimulating of all books--"The Devout Life of St.
Francis de Sales." Monseigneur de Sales is, to my mind, the most
practical of all the essayists, even when he puts his essays in the form
of letters. Next comes Fénelon's and--I know that I shall shock those
who regard his philosophy as merely Deistic--next comes, for his power
of stimulation, Emerson.

It has certainly occurred to me, perhaps too late, that these
confessions may be taken as didactic in themselves; in writing them I
have had not the slightest intention of improving anybody's mind but
simply of relieving my own, by button-holing the reader who happens to
come my way. I should like to add that what is called the coarseness of
the eighteenth-century novel and romance is much more healthful than the
nasty brutality of a school of our novelists--who make up for their lack
of talent and of wide experience by trying to excite animal instincts.
Eroticism may be delicately treated; but art has nothing in common with
the process of "cooking stale cabbage over farthing candles," to use
Charles Reade's phrase.

If my habit of constant reading had not taught me the value of calmness
and patience, I should like to say, with violent emphasis, that a reason
for thanking God is that Americans have produced a literature--the
continuation of an older literature with variations, it is true,--that
has added to the glory of civilization. To prove this, I need mention
only one book, "The Scarlet Letter," and I am glad to end my book by
writing the name of Hawthorne. Literary comparisons with England, or
with France, Italy, Spain, or any of the other continental nations, are
no longer to our disadvantage. It is the fashion of the American who
writes of American books to put--in his own mind, at least--a title to
his discourse that reminds me of Miss Blanche Amory's "Mes Larmes." It
is an outworn tradition. American literature is robust enough for
smiles.

It can smile and laugh. It can be serious and not self-conscious. It is
rapidly taking to itself all the best traditions of the older literature
and assimilating them. Christopher Morley and Heywood Broun and Don
Marquis and Mencken write--at their best--as lightly and as trippingly
as any past master of the _feuilleton_. There is nobody writing in the
daily press in Paris to-day who does the _feuilleton_ as well as they do
it. If you ask me whether I, as a constant reader, pay much attention to
what they say, I shall answer, No. But their method is the thing. Will
they live? Of course not. Is Émile de Girardin alive? Or all the clever
ones that James Huneker found buried and could not revive? One still
reads the "Portraits de Femmes," of Sainte-Beuve; but Sainte-Beuve was
something more than a "columnist." And these folk will be, too, in time!
At any rate, they are good enough for the present.

Who, writing in French or in any language, _outre-mer_, does better, or
as well, as Holliday? And where is the peer of Charles S. Brooks in
"Hints to Pilgrims"? "Luca Sarto," the best novel of old Italian life by
an American--since Mrs. Wharton's "Valley of Decision"--proved him to be
a fine artist. He perhaps knew his period better psychologically than
Mrs. Wharton, but here there's room for argument. Mrs. Wharton, although
she is an admirable artist, grows indifferent and insular at long
intervals.

"Luca Sarto" dropped like the gentle rain from heaven; and then came
"Hints to Pilgrims." This I wanted to write about in the _Yale Review_,
but the selfish editor, Mr. Cross, said that he preferred to keep it for
himself!

"Hints to Pilgrims" is the essence of the modern essay. Strangely
enough, it sent me back to the "Colour of Life" by the only real
_précieuse_ living in our world to-day, Alice Meynell; and I read that
with new delight between certain paragraphs in Brooks's paper "On
Finding a Plot." Why is not "Hints to Pilgrims" in its fourteenth
edition? Or why has it no _claque_? The kind of _claque_ that is so
common now--which opens suddenly like a chorus of cicadas in the "Idylls
of Theocritus"? After all, your education must have been well begun
before you can enjoy "Hints to Pilgrims," while for "Huckleberry Finn"
the less education you have, the better. Mr. Brooks writes:

     Let us suppose, for example, that Carmen, before she got into that
     ugly affair with the Toreador, had settled down in Barchester
     beneath the towers. Would the shadow of the cloister, do you think,
     have cooled her Southern blood? Would she have conformed to the
     decent gossip of the town? Or, on the contrary, does not a hot
     colour always tint the colder mixture? Suppose that Carmen came to
     live just outside the Cathedral close and walked every morning with
     her gay parasol and her pretty swishing skirts past the Bishop's
     window.

     We can fancy his pen hanging dully above his sermon, with his eyes
     on space for any wandering thought, as if the clouds, like treasure
     ships upon a sea, were freighted with riches for his use. The
     Bishop is brooding on an address to the Ladies' Sewing Guild. He
     must find a text for his instructive finger. It is a warm spring
     morning and the daffodils are waving in the borders of the grass. A
     robin sings in the hedge with an answer from his mate. There is
     wind in the tree-tops with lively invitation to adventure, but the
     Bishop is bent to his sober task. Carmen picks her way demurely
     across the puddles in the direction of the Vicarage. Her eyes turn
     modestly toward his window. Surely she does not see him at his
     desk. That dainty inch of scarlet stocking is quite by accident. It
     is the puddles and the wind frisking with her skirt.

     "Eh! Dear me!" The good man is merely human. He pushes up his
     spectacles for nearer sight. He draws aside the curtain. "Dear me!
     Bless my soul! Who is the lady? Quite a foreign air. I don't
     remember her at our little gatherings for the heathen." A text is
     forgotten. The clouds are empty caravels. He calls to Betsy, the
     housemaid, for a fresh neckcloth and his gaiters. He has recalled a
     meeting with the Vicar and goes out whistling softly, to disaster.

You do not find delightful fooling like this every day; and there is
much more of it. Take this:

     Suppose, for a better example, that the cheerful Mark Tapley, who
     always came out strong in adversity, were placed in a modern
     Russian novel. As the undaunted Taplovitch he would have shifted
     its gloom to a sunny ending. Fancy our own dear Pollyanna, the glad
     girl, adopted by an aunt in "Crime and Punishment." Even
     Dostoyevsky must have laid down his doleful pen to give her at last
     a happy wedding--flower-girls and angel-food, even a shrill soprano
     behind the hired palms and a table of cut glass.

     Oliver Twist and Nancy--merely acquaintances in the original
     story--with a fresh hand at the plot, might have gone on a bank
     holiday to Margate. And been blown off shore. Suppose that the
     whole excursion was wrecked on Treasure Island and that everyone
     was drowned except Nancy, Oliver, and perhaps the trombone player
     of the ships' band, who had blown himself so full of wind for
     fox-trots on the upper deck that he couldn't sink. It is Robinson
     Crusoe, lodging as a handsome bachelor on the lonely
     island--observe the cunning of the plot!--who battles with the
     waves and rescues Nancy. The movie-rights alone of this are worth a
     fortune. And then Crusoe, Oliver, Friday, and the trombone player
     stand a siege from John Silver and Bill Sikes, who are pirates,
     with Spanish doubloons in a hidden cove. And Crusoe falls in love
     with Nancy. Here is a tense triangle. But youth goes to youth.
     Crusoe's whiskers are only dyed their glossy black. The trombone
     player, by good luck (you see now why he was saved from the wreck),
     is discovered to be a retired clergyman--doubtless a Methodist. The
     happy knot is tied. And then--a sail! A sail! Oliver and Nancy
     settle down in a semi-detached near London, with oyster shells
     along the garden path and cat-tails in the umbrella jar. The story
     ends prettily under their plane-tree at the rear--tea for three,
     with a trombone solo, and the faithful Friday and Old Bill,
     reformed now, as gardener, clipping together the shrubs against the
     sunny wall.

When I found Brooks, I felt again the pang of loss, that Theodore
Roosevelt had not read "Hints to Pilgrims," before he passed into "the
other room" and eternal light shone upon him! He would have discovered
"Hints to Pilgrims," and celebrated it as soon as any of us.

How he loved books! And he seemed to have read all the right things in
his youth; you forgot time and kicked Black Care away when he talked
with you about them. He could drop from Dante to Brillat-Savarin (in
whom he had not much interest, since he was a _gourmet_ and did not
regard sausages as the highest form of German art!) and his descents and
ascents from book to book were as smooth as Melba's sliding scales--and
her scales were smoother than Patti's.

Do you remember his "Dante in the Bowery," and "The Ancient Irish
Sagas"? He caught fire at the quotation from the "Lament of Deirdre";
and concluded at once that the Celts were the only people who, before
Christianity invented chivalry, understood the meaning of romantic love.
It is a great temptation to write at length on the books he liked, and
how he fought for them, and explained them, and lived with them.
Thinking of him, the most constant of book-lovers, I can only say,
"Farewell and Hail!"


THE END

[Transcriber's notes:
People using this book as a reference should be aware that some of
the spelling and quotations are not necessarily accurate.
Some obvious printing errors were corrected
(gu'une->qu'une p96; natio->nation p223)
Consistent archaic spellings of names of people and times were retained
as is.
Accenting was not 'corrected'.
Some potential printer's errors left as is include:
Gaugain may be Gauguin p237 (Paul Gauguin from context)
Who the Holliday refered to in chapter V p244 was is unknown.]





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ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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