By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Essays
Author: Meynell, Alice Christiana Thompson, 1847-1922
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Essays" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

Transcribed from the 1914 Burns & Oates edition by David Price, email

Essays by Alice Meynell



Ceres' Runaway
The Tow Path
The Tethered Constellations
Rushes and Reeds


A Northern Fancy
Anima Pellegrina!
A Point of Biography
The Honours of Mortality
The Little Language
A Counterchange
Harlequin Mercutio


The Rhythm of Life
Domus Angusta
Innocence and Experience
The Hours of Sleep


The Spirit of Place
Popular Burlesque
Have Patience, Little Saint
At Monastery Gates
The Sea Wall


Symmetry and Incident
The Plaid
The Flower
Unstable Equilibrium
Victorian Caricature
The Point of Honour


The Colour of Life
The Horizon
In July


The Seventeenth Century
Mrs. Dingley
Mrs. Johnson
Madame Roland


Fellow Travellers with a Bird
The Child of Tumult
The Child of Subsiding Tumult
The Unready
That Pretty Person
Under the Early Stars
The Illusion of Historic Time


One can hardly be dull possessing the pleasant imaginary picture of a
Municipality hot in chase of a wild crop--at least while the charming
quarry escapes, as it does in Rome.  The Municipality does not exist that
would be nimble enough to overtake the Roman growth of green in the high
places of the city.  It is true that there have been the famous
captures--those in the Colosseum, and in the Baths of Caracalla; moreover
a less conspicuous running to earth takes place on the Appian Way, in
some miles of the solitude of the Campagna, where men are employed in
weeding the roadside.  They slowly uproot the grass and lay it on the
ancient stones--rows of little corpses--for sweeping up, as at Upper
Tooting; one wonders why.  The governors of the city will not succeed in
making the Via Appia look busy, or its stripped stones suggestive of a
thriving commerce.  Again, at the cemetery within the now torn and
shattered Aurelian wall by the Porta San Paolo, they are often mowing of
buttercups.  "A light of laughing flowers along the grass is spread,"
says Shelley, whose child lies between Keats and the pyramid.  But a
couple of active scythes are kept at work there summer and spring--not
that the grass is long, for it is much overtopped by the bee-orchis, but
because flowers are not to laugh within reach of the civic vigilance.

Yet, except that it is overtaken and put to death in these accessible
places, the wild summer growth of Rome has a prevailing success and
victory.  It breaks all bounds, flies to the summits, lodges in the sun,
swings in the wind, takes wing to find the remotest ledges, and blooms
aloft.  It makes light of the sixteenth century, of the seventeenth, and
of the eighteenth.  As the historic ages grow cold it banters them alike.
The flagrant flourishing statue, the haughty facade, the broken pediment
(and Rome is chiefly the city of the broken pediment) are the
opportunities of this vagrant garden in the air.  One certain church,
that is full of attitude, can hardly be aware that a crimson snapdragon
of great stature and many stalks and blossoms is standing on its furthest
summit tiptoe against its sky.  The cornice of another church in the fair
middle of Rome lifts out of the shadows of the streets a row of
accidental marigolds.  Impartial to the antique, the mediaeval, the
Renaissance early and late, the newer modern, this wild summer finds its
account in travertine and tufa, reticulated work, brick, stucco and
stone.  "A bird of the air carries the matter," or the last sea-wind,
sombre and soft, or the latest tramontana, gold and blue, has lodged in a
little fertile dust the wild grass, wild wheat, wild oats!

If Venus had her runaway, after whom the Elizabethans raised hue and cry,
this is Ceres'.  The municipal authorities, hot-foot, cannot catch it.
And, worse than all, if they pause, dismayed, to mark the flight of the
agile fugitive safe on the arc of a flying buttress, or taking the place
of the fallen mosaics and coloured tiles of a twelfth-century tower, and
in any case inaccessible, the grass grows under their discomfited feet.
It actually casts a flush of green over their city _piazza_--the wide
light-grey pavements so vast that to keep them weeded would need an army
of workers.  That army has not been employed; and grass grows in a small
way, but still beautifully, in the wide space around which the tramway
circles.  Perhaps a hatred of its delightful presence is what chiefly
prompts the civic government in Rome to the effort to turn the _piazza_
into a square.  The shrub is to take the place not so much of the
pavement as of the importunate grass.  For it is hard to be beaten--and
the weed does so prevail, is so small, and so dominant!  The sun takes
its part, and one might almost imagine a sensitive Municipality in tears,
to see grass running, overhead and underfoot, through the "third" (which
is in truth the fourth) Rome.

When I say grass I use the word widely.  Italian grass is not turf; it is
full of things, and they are chiefly aromatic.  No richer scents throng
each other, close and warm, than these from a little hand-space of the
grass one rests on, within the walls or on the plain, or in the Sabine or
the Alban hills.  Moreover, under the name I will take leave to include
lettuce as it grows with a most welcome surprise on certain ledges of the
Vatican.  That great and beautiful palace is piled, at various angles, as
it were house upon house, here magnificent, here careless, but with
nothing pretentious and nothing furtive.  And outside one lateral window
on a ledge to the sun, prospers this little garden of random salad.
Buckingham Palace has nothing whatever of the Vatican dignity, but one
cannot well think of little cheerful cabbages sunning themselves on any
parapet it may have round a corner.

Moreover, in Italy the vegetables--the table ones--have a wildness, a
suggestion of the grass, from lands at liberty for all the tilling.
Wildish peas, wilder asparagus--the field asparagus which seems to have
disappeared from England, but of which Herrick boasts in his
manifestations of frugality--and strawberries much less than half-way
from the small and darkling ones of the woods to the pale and corpulent
of the gardens, and with nothing of the wild fragrance lost--these are
all Italian things of savage savour and simplicity.  The most cultivated
of all countries, the Italy of tillage, is yet not a garden, but
something better, as her city is yet not a town but something better, and
her wilderness something better than a desert.  In all the three there is
a trace of the little flying heels of the runaway.


The world at present is inclined to make sorry mysteries or unattractive
secrets of the methods and supplies of the fresh and perennial means of
life.  A very dull secret is made of water, for example, and the plumber
sets his seal upon the floods whereby we live.  They are covered, they
are carried, they are hushed, from the spring to the tap; and when their
voices are released at last in the London scullery, why, it can hardly be
said that the song is eloquent of the natural source of waters, whether
earthly or heavenly.  There is not one of the circumstances of this
capture of streams--the company, the water-rate, and the rest--that is
not a sign of the ill-luck of modern devices in regard to style.  For
style implies a candour and simplicity of means, an action, a gesture, as
it were, in the doing of small things; it is the ignorance of secret
ways; whereas the finish of modern life and its neatness seem to be
secured by a system of little shufflings and surprises.

Dress, among other things, is furnished throughout with such fittings;
they form its very construction.  Style does not exist in modern
arrayings, for all their prettiness and precision, and for all the
successes--which are not to be denied--of their outer part; the happy
little swagger that simulates style is but another sign of its absence,
being prepared by mere dodges and dexterities beneath, and the triumph
and success of the present art of raiment--"fit" itself--is but the
result of a masked and lurking labour and device.

The masters of fine manners, moreover, seem to be always aware of the
beauty that comes of pausing slightly upon the smaller and slighter
actions, such as meaner men are apt to hurry out of the way.  In a word,
the workman, with his finish and accomplishment, is the dexterous
provider of contemporary things; and the ready, well-appointed, and
decorated life of all towns is now altogether in his hands; whereas the
artist craftsman of other times made a manifestation of his means.  The
first hides the streams, under stress and pressure, in paltry pipes which
we all must make haste to call upon the earth to cover, and the second
lifted up the arches of the aqueduct.

The search of easy ways to live is not always or everywhere the way to
ugliness, but in some countries, at some dates, it is the sure way.  In
all countries, and at all dates, extreme finish compassed by hidden means
must needs, from the beginning, prepare the abolition of dignity.  This
is easy to understand, but it is less easy to explain the ill-fortune
that presses upon the expert workman, in search of easy ways to live, all
the ill-favoured materials, makes them cheap for him, makes them
serviceable and effectual, urges him to use them, seal them, and inter
them, turning the trim and dull completeness out to the view of the daily
world.  It is an added mischance.  Nor, on the other hand, is it easy to
explain the beautiful good luck attending the simpler devices which are,
after all, only less expert ways of labour.  In those happy conditions,
neither from the material, suggesting to the workman, nor from the
workman looking askance at his unhandsome material, comes a first
proposal to pour in cement and make fast the underworld, out of sight.
But fate spares not that suggestion to the able and the unlucky at their
task of making neat work of the means, the distribution, the traffick of

The springs, then, the profound wells, the streams, are of all the means
of our lives those which we should wish to see open to the sun, with
their waters on their progress and their way to us; but, no, they are
lapped in lead.

King Pandion and his friends lie not under heavier seals.

Yet we have been delighted, elsewhere, by open floods.  The hiding-place
that nature and the simpler crafts allot to the waters of wells are, at
their deepest, in communication with the open sky.  No other mine is so
visited; for the noonday sun himself is visible there; and it is fine to
think of the waters of this planet, shallow and profound, all charged
with shining suns, a multitude of waters multiplying suns, and carrying
that remote fire, as it were, within their unalterable freshness.  Not a
pool without this visitant, or without passages of stars.  As for the
wells of the Equator, you may think of them in their last recesses as the
daily bathing-places of light; a luminous fancy is able so to scatter
fitful figures of the sun, and to plunge them in thousands within those

Round images lie in the dark waters, but in the bright waters the sun is
shattered out of its circle, scattered into waves, broken across stones,
and rippled over sand; and in the shallow rivers that fall through
chestnut woods the image is mingled with the mobile figures of leaves.  To
all these waters the agile air has perpetual access.  Not so can great
towns be watered, it will be said with reason; and this is precisely the
ill-luck of great towns.

Nevertheless, there are towns, not, in a sense, so great, that have the
grace of visible wells; such as Venice, where every _campo_ has its
circle of carved stone, its clashing of dark copper on the pavement, its
soft kiss of the copper vessel with the surface of the water below, and
the cheerful work of the cable.

Or the Romans knew how to cause the parted floods to measure their plain
with the strong, steady, and level flight of arches from the watersheds
in the hills to the and city; and having the waters captive, they knew
how to compel them to take part, by fountains, in this Roman triumph.
They had the wit to boast thus of their brilliant prisoner.

None more splendid came bound to Rome, or graced captivity with a more
invincible liberty of the heart.  And the captivity and the leap of the
heart of the waters have outlived their captors.  They have remained in
Rome, and have remained alone.  Over them the victory was longer than
empire, and their thousands of loud voices have never ceased to confess
the conquest of the cold floods, separated long ago, drawn one by one,
alive, to the head and front of the world.

Of such a transit is made no secret.  It was the most manifest fact of
Rome.  You could not look to the city from the mountains or to the
distance from the city without seeing the approach of those perpetual
waters--waters bound upon daily tasks and minute services.  This, then,
was the style of a master, who does not lapse from "incidental
greatness," has no mean precision, out of sight, to prepare the finish of
his phrases, and does not think the means and the approaches are to be
plotted and concealed.  Without anxiety, without haste, and without
misgiving are all great things to be done, and neither interruption in
the doing nor ruin after they are done finds anything in them to betray.
There was never any disgrace of means, and when the world sees the work
broken through there is no disgrace of discovery.  The labour of
Michelangelo's chisel, little more than begun, a Roman structure long
exposed in disarray--upon these the light of day looks full, and the
Roman and the Florentine have their unrefuted praise.


Not excepting the falling stars--for they are far less sudden--there is
nothing in nature that so outstrips our unready eyes as the familiar
rain.  The rods that thinly stripe our landscape, long shafts from the
clouds, if we had but agility to make the arrowy downward journey with
them by the glancing of our eyes, would be infinitely separate, units, an
innumerable flight of single things, and the simple movement of intricate

The long stroke of the raindrop, which is the drop and its path at once,
being our impression of a shower, shows us how certainly our impression
is the effect of the lagging, and not of the haste, of our senses.  What
we are apt to call our quick impression is rather our sensibly tardy,
unprepared, surprised, outrun, lightly bewildered sense of things that
flash and fall, wink, and are overpast and renewed, while the gentle eyes
of man hesitate and mingle the beginning with the close.  These inexpert
eyes, delicately baffled, detain for an instant the image that puzzles
them, and so dally with the bright progress of a meteor, and part slowly
from the slender course of the already fallen raindrop, whose moments are
not theirs.  There seems to be such a difference of instants as invests
all swift movement with mystery in man's eyes, and causes the past, a
moment old, to be written, vanishing, upon the skies.

The visible world is etched and engraved with the signs and records of
our halting apprehension; and the pause between the distant woodman's
stroke with the axe and its sound upon our ears is repeated in the
impressions of our clinging sight.  The round wheel dazzles it, and the
stroke of the bird's wing shakes it off like a captivity evaded.
Everywhere the natural haste is impatient of these timid senses; and
their perception, outrun by the shower, shaken by the light, denied by
the shadow, eluded by the distance, makes the lingering picture that is
all our art.  One of the most constant causes of all the mystery and
beauty of that art is surely not that we see by flashes, but that nature
flashes on our meditative eyes.  There is no need for the impressionist
to make haste, nor would haste avail him, for mobile nature doubles upon
him, and plays with his delays the exquisite game of visibility.

Momently visible in a shower, invisible within the earth, the
ministration of water is so manifest in the coming rain-cloud that the
husbandman is allowed to see the rain of his own land, yet unclaimed in
the arms of the rainy wind.  It is an eager lien that he binds the shower
withal, and the grasp of his anxiety is on the coming cloud.  His sense
of property takes aim and reckons distance and speed, and even as he
shoots a little ahead of the equally uncertain ground-game, he knows
approximately how to hit the cloud of his possession.  So much is the
rain bound to the earth that, unable to compel it, man has yet found a
way, by lying in wait, to put his price upon it.  The exhaustible cloud
"outweeps its rain," and only the inexhaustible sun seems to repeat and
to enforce his cumulative fires upon every span of ground, innumerable.
The rain is wasted upon the sea, but only by a fantasy can the sun's
waste be made a reproach to the ocean, the desert, or the sealed-up
street.  Rossetti's "vain virtues" are the virtues of the rain, falling

Baby of the cloud, rain is carried long enough within that troubled
breast to make all the multitude of days unlike each other.  Rain, as the
end of the cloud, divides light and withholds it; in its flight warning
away the sun, and in its final fall dismissing shadow.  It is a threat
and a reconciliation; it removes mountains compared with which the Alps
are hillocks, and makes a childlike peace between opposed heights and
battlements of heaven.


A childish pleasure in producing small mechanical effects unaided must
have some part in the sense of enterprise wherewith you gird your
shoulders with the tackle, and set out, alone but necessary, on the even
path of the lopped and grassy side of the Thames--the side of meadows.

The elastic resistance of the line is a "heart-animating strain," only
too slight; and sensible is the thrill in it as the ranks of the
riverside plants, with their small summit-flower of violet-pink, are
swept aside like a long green breaker of flourishing green.  The line
drums lightly in the ears when the bushes are high and it grows taut; it
makes a telephone for the rush of flowers under the stress of your easy

The active delights of one who is not athletic are few, like the joys of
"feeling hearts" according to the erroneous sentiment of a verse of
Moore's.  The joys of sensitive hearts are many; but the joys of
sensitive hands are few.  Here, however, in the effectual act of towing,
is the ample revenge of the unmuscular upon the happy labourers with the
oar, the pole, the bicycle, and all other means of violence.  Here, on
the long tow-path, between warm, embrowned meadows and opal waters, you
need but to walk in your swinging harness, and so take your friends up-

You work merely as the mill-stream works--by simple movement.  At lock
after lock along a hundred miles, deep-roofed mills shake to the wheel
that turns by no greater stress, and you and the river have the same mere
force of progress.

There never was any kinder incentive of companionship.  It is the bright
Thames walking softly in your blood, or you that are flowing by so many
curves of low shore on the level of the world.

Now you are over against the shadows, and now opposite the sun, as the
wheeling river makes the sky wheel about your head and swings the lighted
clouds or the blue to face your eyes.  The birds, flying high for
mountain air in the heat, wing nothing but their own weight.  You will
not envy them for so brief a success.  Did not Wordsworth want a "little
boat" for the air?  Did not Byron call him a blockhead therefor?
Wordsworth had, perhaps, a sense of towing.

All the advantage of the expert is nothing in this simple industry.  Even
the athlete, though he may go further, cannot do better than you, walking
your effectual walk with the line attached to your willing steps.  Your
moderate strength of a mere everyday physical education gives you the
sufficient mastery of the tow-path.

If your natural walk is heavy, there is spirit in the tackle to give it
life, and if it is buoyant it will be more buoyant under the buoyant
burden--the yielding check--than ever before.  An unharnessed walk must
begin to seem to you a sorry incident of insignificant liberty.  It is
easier than towing?  So is the drawing of water in a sieve easier to the
arms than drawing in a bucket, but not to the heart.

To walk unbound is to walk in prose, without the friction of the wings of
metre, without the sweet and encouraging tug upon the spirit and the

No dead weight follows you as you tow.  The burden is willing; it depends
upon you gaily, as a friend may do without making any depressing show of
helplessness; neither, on the other hand, is it apt to set you at naught
or charge you with a make-believe.  It accompanies, it almost
anticipates; it lags when you are brisk, just so much as to give your
briskness good reason, and to justify you if you should take to still
more nimble heels.  All your haste, moreover, does but waken a more
brilliantly-sounding ripple.

The bounding and rebounding burden you carry (but it nearly seems to
carry you, so fine is the mutual good will) gives work to your figure,
enlists your erectness and your gait, but leaves your eyes free.  No
watching of mechanisms for the labourer of the tow-path.  What little
outlook is to be kept falls to the lot of the steerer smoothly towed.
Your easy and efficient work lets you carry your head high and watch the
birds, or listen to them.  They fly in such lofty air that they seem to
turn blue in the blue sky.  A flash of their flight shows silver for a
moment, but they are blue birds in that sunny distance above, as
mountains are blue, and horizons.  The days are so still that you do not
merely hear the cawing of the rooks--you overhear their hundred private
croakings and creakings, the soliloquy of the solitary places swept by

As for songs, it is September, and the silence of July is long at an end.
This year's robins are in full voice; and the only song that is not for
love or nesting--the childish song of boy-birds, the freshest and
youngest note--is, by a happy paradox, that of an autumnal voice.

Here is no hoot, nor hurry of engines, nor whisper of the cyclist's
wheel, nor foot upon a road, to overcome that light but resounding note.
Silent are feet on the grassy brink, like the innocent, stealthy soles of
the barefooted in the south.


It is no small thing--no light discovery--to find a river Andromeda and
Arcturus and their bright neighbours wheeling for half a summer night
around a pole-star in the waters.  One star or two--delicate visitants of
streams--we are used to see, somewhat by a sleight of the eyes, so fine
and so fleeting is that apparition.  Or the southern waves may show the
light--not the image--of the evening or the morning planet.  But this, in
a pool of the country Thames at night, is no ripple-lengthened light; it
is the startling image of a whole large constellation burning in the

These reflected heavens are different heavens.  On a darker and more
vacant field than that of the real skies, the shape of the Lyre or the
Bear has an altogether new and noble solitude; and the waters play a
painter's part in setting their splendid subject free.  Two movements
shake but do not scatter the still night: the bright flashing of
constellations in the deep Weir-pool, and the dark flashes of the vague
bats flying.  The stars in the stream fluctuate with an alien motion.
Reversed, estranged, isolated, every shape of large stars escapes and
returns, escapes and returns.  Fitful in the steady night, those
constellations, so few, so whole, and so remote, have a suddenness of
gleaming life.  You imagine that some unexampled gale might make them
seem to shine with such a movement in the veritable sky; yet nothing but
deep water, seeming still in its incessant flight and rebound, could
really show such altered stars.  The flood lets a constellation fly, as
Juliet's "wanton" with a tethered bird, only to pluck it home again.  At
moments some rhythmic flux of the water seems about to leave the darkly-
set, widely-spaced Bear absolutely at large, to dismiss the great stars,
and refuse to imitate the skies, and all the water is obscure; then one
broken star returns, then fragments of another, and a third and a fourth
flit back to their noble places, brilliantly vague, wonderfully visible,
mobile, and unalterable.  There is nothing else at once so keen and so

The aspen poplar had been in captive flight all day, but with no such
vanishings as these.  The dimmer constellations of the soft night are
reserved by the skies.  Hardly is a secondary star seen by the large and
vague eyes of the stream.  They are blind to the Pleiades.

There is a little kind of star that drowns itself by hundreds in the
river Thames--the many-rayed silver-white seed that makes journeys on all
the winds up and down England and across it in the end of summer.  It is
a most expert traveller, turning a little wheel a-tiptoe wherever the
wind lets it rest, and speeding on those pretty points when it is not
flying.  The streets of London are among its many highways, for it is
fragile enough to go far in all sorts of weather.  But it gets disabled
if a rough gust tumbles it on the water so that its finely-feathered feet
are wet.  On gentle breezes it is able to cross dry-shod, walking the

All unlike is this pilgrim star to the tethered constellations.  It is
far adrift.  It goes singly to all the winds.  It offers thistle plants
(or whatever is the flower that makes such delicate ashes) to the tops of
many thousand hills.  Doubtless the farmer would rather have to meet it
in battalions than in these invincible units astray.  But if the farmer
owes it a lawful grudge, there is many a rigid riverside garden wherein
it would be a great pleasure to sow the thistles of the nearest pasture.


Taller than the grass and lower than the trees, there is another growth
that feels the implicit spring.  It had been more abandoned to winter
than even the short grass shuddering under a wave of east wind, more than
the dumb trees.  For the multitudes of sedges, rushes, canes, and reeds
were the appropriate lyre of the cold.  On them the nimble winds played
their dry music.  They were part of the winter.  It looked through them
and spoke through them.  They were spears and javelins in array to the
sound of the drums of the north.

The winter takes fuller possession of these things than of those that
stand solid.  The sedges whistle his tune.  They let the colour of his
light look through--low-flying arrows and bright bayonets of winter day.

The multitudes of all reeds and rushes grow out of bounds.  They belong
to the margins of lands, the space between the farms and the river,
beyond the pastures, and where the marsh in flower becomes perilous
footing for the cattle.  They are the fringe of the low lands, the sign
of streams.  They grow tall between you and the near horizon of flat
lands.  They etch their sharp lines upon the sky; and near them grow
flowers of stature, including the lofty yellow lily.

Our green country is the better for the grey, soft, cloudy darkness of
the sedge, and our full landscape is the better for the distinction of
its points, its needles, and its resolute right lines.

Ours is a summer full of voices, and therefore it does not so need the
sound of rushes; but they are most sensitive to the stealthy breezes, and
betray the passing of a wind that even the tree-tops knew not of.
Sometimes it is a breeze unfelt, but the stiff sedges whisper it along a
mile of marsh.  To the strong wind they bend, showing the silver of their
sombre little tassels as fish show the silver of their sides turning in
the pathless sea.  They are unanimous.  A field of tall flowers tosses
many ways in one warm gale, like the many lovers of a poet who have a
thousand reasons for their love; but the rushes, more strongly tethered,
are swept into a single attitude, again and again, at every renewal of
the storm.

Between the pasture and the wave, the many miles of rushes and reeds in
England seem to escape that insistent ownership which has so changed
(except for a few forests and downs) the aspect of England, and has in
fact made the landscape.  Cultivation makes the landscape elsewhere,
rather than ownership, for the boundaries in the south are not
conspicuous; but here it is ownership.  But the rushes are a gipsy
people, amongst us, yet out of reach.  The landowner, if he is rather a
gross man, believes these races of reeds are his.  But if he is a man of
sensibility, depend upon it he has his interior doubts.  His property, he
says, goes right down to the centre of the earth, in the shape of a
wedge; how high up it goes into the air it would be difficult to say, and
obviously the shape of the wedge must be continued in the direction of
increase.  We may therefore proclaim his right to the clouds and their
cargo.  It is true that as his ground game is apt to go upon his
neighbour's land to be shot, so the clouds may now and then spend his
showers elsewhere.  But the great thing is the view.  A well-appointed
country-house sees nothing out of the windows that is not its own.  But
he who tells you so, and proves it to you by his own view, is certainly
disturbed by an unspoken doubt, if his otherwise contented eyes should
happen to be caught by a region of rushes.  The water is his--he had the
pond made; or the river, for a space, and the fish, for a time.  But the
bulrushes, the reeds!  One wonders whether a very thorough landowner, but
a sensitive one, ever resolved that he would endure this sort of thing no
longer, and went out armed and had a long acre of sedges scythed to

They are probably outlaws.  They are dwellers upon thresholds and upon
margins, as the gipsies make a home upon the green edges of a road.  No
wild flowers, however wild, are rebels.  The copses and their primroses
are good subjects, the oaks are loyal.  Now and then, though, one has a
kind of suspicion of some of the other kinds of trees--the Corot trees.
Standing at a distance from the more ornamental trees, from those of
fuller foliage, and from all the indeciduous shrubs and the conifers
(manifest property, every one), two or three translucent aspens, with
which the very sun and the breath of earth are entangled, have sometimes
seemed to wear a certain look--an extra-territorial look, let us call it.
They are suspect.  One is inclined to shake a doubtful head at them.

And the landowner feels it.  He knows quite well, though he may not say
so, that the Corot trees, though they do not dwell upon margins, are in
spirit almost as extra-territorial as the rushes.  In proof of this he
very often cuts them down, out of the view, once for all.  The view is
better, as a view, without them.  Though their roots are in his ground
right enough, there is a something about their heads--.  But the reason
he gives for wishing them away is merely that they are "thin."  A man
does not always say everything.


"I remember," said Dryden, writing to Dennis, "I remember poor Nat Lee,
who was then upon the verge of madness, yet made a sober and witty answer
to a bad poet who told him, 'It was an easy thing to write like a
madman.'  'No,' said he, ''tis a very difficult thing to write like a
madman, but 'tis a very easy thing to write like a fool.'"  Nevertheless,
the difficult song of distraction is to be heard, a light high note, in
English poetry throughout two centuries at least, and one English poet
lately set that untethered lyric, the mad maid's song, flying again.

A revolt against the oppression of the late sixteenth and early
seventeenth centuries--the age of the re-discovery of death; against the
crime of tragedies; against the tyranny of Italian example that had made
the poets walk in one way of love, scorn, constancy, inconstancy--may
have caused this trolling of unconsciousness, this tune of innocence, and
this carol of liberty, to be held so dear.  "I heard a maid in Bedlam,"
runs the old song.  High and low the poets tried for that note, and the
singer was nearly always to be a maid and crazed for love.  Except for
the temporary insanity so indifferently worn by the soprano of the now
deceased kind of Italian opera, and except that a recent French story
plays with the flitting figure of a village girl robbed of her wits by
woe (and this, too, is a Russian villager, and the Southern author may
have found his story on the spot, as he seems to aver) I have not met
elsewhere than in England this solitary and detached poetry of the treble
note astray.

At least, it is principally a northern fancy.  Would the steadfast
Cordelia, if she had not died, have lifted the low voice to that high
note, so delicately untuned?  She who would not be prodigal of words
might yet, indeed, have sung in the cage, and told old tales, and laughed
at gilded butterflies of the court of crimes, and lived so long in the
strange health of an emancipated brain as to wear out

   Packs and sects of great ones
   That ebb and flow by the moon.

She, if King Lear had had his last desire, might have sung the merry and
strange tune of Bedlam, like the slighter Ophelia and the maid called

It was surely the name of the maid who died singing, as Desdemona
remembers, that lingered in the ear of Wordsworth.  Of all the songs of
the distracted, written in the sanity of high imagination, there is
nothing more passionate than that beginning "'Tis said that some have
died for love."  To one who has always recognized the greatness of this
poem and who possibly had known and forgotten how much Ruskin prized it,
it was a pleasure to find the judgement afresh in _Modern Painters_,
where this grave lyric is cited for an example of great imagination.  It
is the mourning and restless song of the lover ("the pretty Barbara
died") who has not yet broken free from memory into the alien world of
the insane.

Barbara's lover dwelt in the scene of his love, as Dryden's Adam entreats
the expelling angel that he might do, protesting that he could endure to
lose "the bliss, but not the place."  (And although this dramatic
"Paradise Lost" of Dryden's is hardly named by critics except to be
scorned, this is assuredly a fine and imaginative thought.)  It is
nevertheless as a wanderer that the crazed creature visits the fancy of
English poets with such a wild recurrence.  The Englishman of the far
past, barred by climate, bad roads, ill-lighted winters, and the
intricate life and customs of the little town, must have been generally a
home-keeper.  No adventure, no setting forth, and small liberty, for him.
But Tom-a-Bedlam, the wild man in patches or in ribbons, with his wallet
and his horn for alms of food or drink, came and went as fitfully as the
storm, free to suffer all the cold--an unsheltered creature; and the
chill fancy of the villager followed him out to the heath on a journey
that had no law.  Was it he in person, or a poet for him, that made the
swinging song: "From the hag and the hungry goblin"?  If a poet, it was
one who wrote like a madman and not like a fool.

Not a town, not a village, not a solitary cottage during the English
Middle Ages was unvisited by him who frightened the children; they had a
name for him as for the wild birds--Robin Redbreast, Dicky Swallow,
Philip Sparrow, Tom Tit, Tom-a-Bedlam.  And after him came the "Abram
men," who were sane parodies of the crazed, and went to the fairs and
wakes in motley.  Evelyn says of a fop: "All his body was dressed like a
maypole, or a Tom-a-Bedlam's cap."  But after the Civil Wars they
vanished, and no man knew how.  In time old men remembered them only to
remember that they had not seen any such companies or solitary wanderers
of late years.

The mad maid of the poets is a vagrant too, when she is free, and not
singing within Bedlam early in the morning, "in the spring."  Wordsworth,
who dealt with the legendary fancy in his "Ruth," makes the crazed one a
wanderer in the hills whom a traveller might see by chance, rare as an
Oread, and nearly as wild as Echo herself:-

   I too have passed her in the hills
   Setting her little water-mills.

His heart misgives him to think of the rheumatism that must befall in
such a way of living; and his grave sense of civilization, _bourgeois_ in
the humane and noble way that is his own, restores her after death to the
company of man, to the "holy bell," which Shakespeare's Duke remembered
in banishment, and to the congregation and their "Christian psalm."

The older poets were less responsible, less serious and more sad, than
Wordsworth, when they in turn were touched by the fancy of the maid
crazed by love.  They left her to her light immortality; and she might be
drenched in dews; they would not desire to reconcile nor bury her.  She
might have her hair torn by the bramble, but her heart was light after
trouble.  "Many light hearts and wings"--she had at least the bird's
heart, and the poet lent to her voice the wings of his verses.

There is nothing in our poetry less modern than she.  The vagrant woman
of later feeling was rather the sane creature of Ebenezer Elliott's fine
lines in "The Excursion"--

   Bone-weary, many-childed, trouble-tried!
   Wife of my bosom, wedded to my soul!

Trouble did not "try" the Elizabethan wild one, it undid her.  She had no
child, or if there had ever been a child of hers, she had long forgotten
how it died.  She hailed the wayfarer, who was more weary than she, with
a song; she haunted the cheerful dawn; her "good-morrow" rings from
Herrick's poem, fresh as cock-crow.  She knows that her love is dead, and
her perplexity has regard rather to the many kinds of flowers than to the
old story of his death; they distract her in the splendid meadows.

All the tragic world paused to hear that lightest of songs, as the
tragedy of Hamlet pauses for the fitful voice of Ophelia.  Strange was
the charm of this perpetual alien, and unknown to us now.  The world has
become once again as it was in the mad maid's heyday, less serious and
more sad than Wordsworth; but it has not recovered, and perhaps will
never recover, that sweetness.  Blake's was a more starry madness.
Crabbe, writing of village sorrows, thought himself bound to recur to the
legend of the mad maid, but his "crazed maiden" is sane enough, sorrowful
but dull, and sings of her own "burning brow," as Herrick's wild one
never sang; nor is there any smile in her story, though she talks of
flowers, or, rather, "the herbs I loved to rear"; and perhaps she is the
surest of all signs that the strange inspiration of the past centuries
was lost, vanished like Tom-a-Bedlam himself.  It had been wholly
English, whereas the English eighteenth century was not wholly English.

It is not to be imagined that any hard Southern mind could ever have
played in poetry with such a fancy; or that Petrarch, for example, could
so have foregone the manifestation of intelligence and intelligible
sentiment.  And as to Dante, who put the two eternities into the
momentary balance of the human will, cold would be his disregard of this
northern dream of innocence.  If the mad maid was an alien upon earth,
what were she in the Inferno?  What word can express her strangeness
there, her vagrancy there?  And with what eyes would they see this dewy
face glancing in at the windows of that City?


A fugitive writer wrote not long ago on the fugitive page of a magazine:
"For our part, the drunken tinker [Christopher Sly] is the most real
personage of the piece, and not without some hints of the pathos that is
worked out more fully, though by different ways, in Bottom and Malvolio."
Has it indeed come to this?  Have the Zeitgeist and the Weltschmerz or
their yet later equivalents, compared with which "le spleen" of the
French Byronic age was gay, done so much for us?  Is there to be no
laughter left in literature free from the preoccupation of a sham real-
life?  So it would seem.  Even what the great master has not shown us in
his work, that your critic convinced of pathos is resolved to see in it.
By the penetration of his intrusive sympathy he will come at it.  It is
of little use now to explain Snug the joiner to the audience: why, it is
precisely Snug who stirs their emotions so painfully.  Not the lion; they
can make shift to see through that: but the Snug within, the human Snug.
And Master Shallow has the Weltschmerz in that latent form which is the
more appealing; and discouraging questions arise as to the end of old
Double; and Harpagon is the tragic figure of Monomania; and as to Argan,
ah, what havoc in "les entrailles de Monsieur" must have been wrought by
those prescriptions!  _Et patati, et patata_.

It may be only too true that the actual world is "with pathos delicately
edged."  For Malvolio living we should have had living sympathies; so
much aspiration, so ill-educated a love of refinement; so unarmed a
credulity, noblest of weaknesses, betrayed for the laughter of a
chambermaid.  By an actual Bottom the weaver our pity might be reached
for the sake of his single self-reliance, his fancy and resource
condemned to burlesque and ignominy by the niggard doom of circumstance.
But is not life one thing and is not art another?  Is it not the
privilege of literature to treat things singly, without the
after-thoughts of life, without the troublous completeness of the many-
sided world?  Is not Shakespeare, for this reason, our refuge?
Fortunately unreal is his world when he will have it so; and there we may
laugh with open heart at a grotesque man: without misgiving, without
remorse, without reluctance.  If great creating Nature has not assumed
for herself she has assuredly secured to the great creating poet the
right of partiality, of limitation, of setting aside and leaving out, of
taking one impression and one emotion as sufficient for the day.  Art and
Nature are complementary; in relation, not in confusion, with one
another.  And all this officious cleverness in seeing round the corner,
as it were, of a thing presented by literary art in the flat--(the
borrowing of similes from other arts is of evil tendency; but let this
pass, as it is apt)--is but another sign of the general lack of a sense
of the separation between Nature and her sentient mirror in the mind.  In
some of his persons, indeed, Shakespeare is as Nature herself,
all-inclusive; but in others--and chiefly in comedy--he is partial, he is
impressionary, he refuses to know what is not to his purpose, he is light-
heartedly capricious.  And in that gay, wilful world it is that he gives
us--or used to give us, for even the word is obsolete--the pleasure of

Now this fugitive writer has not been so swift but that I have caught him
a clout as he went.  Yet he will do it again; and those like-minded will
assuredly also continue to show how much more completely human, how much
more sensitive, how much more responsible, is the art of the critic than
the world has ever dreamt till now.  And, superior in so much, they will
still count their importunate sensibility as the choicest of their gifts.
And Lepidus, who loves to wonder, can have no better subject for his
admiration than the pathos of the time.  It is bred now of your mud by
the operation of your sun.  'Tis a strange serpent; and the tears of it
are wet.


Every language in the world has its own phrase, fresh for the stranger's
fresh and alien sense of its signal significance; a phrase that is its
own essential possession, and yet is dearer to the speaker of other
tongues.  Easily--shall I say cheaply?--spiritual, for example, was the
nation that devised the name _anima pellegrina_, wherewith to crown a
creature admired.  "Pilgrim soul" is a phrase for any language, but
"pilgrim soul!" addressed, singly and sweetly to one who cannot be over-
praised, "pilgrim-soul!" is a phrase of fondness, the high homage of a
lover, of one watching, of one who has no more need of common flatteries,
but has admired and gazed while the object of his praises visibly
surpassed them--this is the facile Italian ecstasy, and it rises into an
Italian heaven.

It was by chance, and in an old play, that I came upon this impetuous,
sudden, and single sentence of admiration, as it were a sentence of life
passed upon one charged with inestimable deeds; and the modern editor had
thought it necessary to explain the exclamation by a note.  It was, he
said, poetical.

_Anima pellegrina_ seems to be Italian of no later date than
Pergolese's airs, and suits the time as the familiar phrase of the more
modern love-song suited the day of Bellini.  But it is only Italian,
bygone Italian, and not a part of the sweet past of any other European
nation, but only of this.

To the same local boundaries and enclosed skies belongs the charm of
those buoyant words:-

   Felice chi vi mira,
   Ma piu felice chi per voi sospira!

And it is not only a charm of elastic sound or of grace; that would be
but a property of the turn of speech.  It is rather the profounder
advantage whereby the rhymes are freighted with such feeling as the very
language keeps in store.  In another tongue you may sing, "happy who
looks, happier who sighs"; but in what other tongue shall the little
meaning be so sufficient, and in what other shall you get from so weak an
antithesis the illusion of a lovely intellectual epigram?  Yet it is not
worthy of an English reader to call it an illusion; he should rather be
glad to travel into the place of a language where the phrase _is_
intellectual, impassioned, and an epigram; and should thankfully for the
occasion translate himself, and not the poetry.

I have been delighted to use a present current phrase whereof the charm
may still be unknown to Englishmen--"_piuttosto bruttini_."  See what
an all-Italian spirit is here, and what contempt, not reluctant, but
tolerant and familiar.  You may hear it said of pictures, or works of art
of several kinds, and you confess at once that not otherwise should they
be condemned.  _Brutto_--ugly--is the word of justice, the word for any
language, everywhere translatable, a circular note, to be exchanged
internationally with a general meaning, wholesale, in the course of the
European concert.  But _bruttino_ is a soothing diminutive, a diminutive
that forbears to express contempt, a diminutive that implies innocence,
and is, moreover, guarded by a hesitating adverb, shrugging in the
rear--"rather than not."  "Rather ugly than not, and ugly in a little way
that we need say few words about--the fewer the better;" nay, this
paraphrase cannot achieve the homely Italian quality whereby the printed
and condemnatory criticism is made a family affair that shall go no
further.  After the sound of it, the European concert seems to be
composed of brass instruments.

How unlike is the house of English language and the enclosure into which
a traveller hither has to enter!  Do we possess anything here more
essentially ours (though we share it with our sister Germany) than our
particle "un"?  Poor are those living languages that have not our use of
so rich a negative.  The French equivalent in adjectives reaches no
further than the adjective itself--or hardly; it does not attain the
participle; so that no French or Italian poet has the words "unloved",
"unforgiven."  None such, therefore, has the opportunity of the gravest
and the most majestic of all ironies.  In our English, the words that are
denied are still there--"loved," "forgiven": excluded angels, who stand
erect, attesting what is not done, what is undone, what shall not be

No merely opposite words could have so much denial, or so much pain of
loss, or so much outer darkness, or so much barred beatitude in sight.
All-present, all-significant, all-remembering, all-foretelling is the
word, and it has a plenitude of knowledge.

We have many more conspicuous possessions that are, like this, proper to
character and thought, and by no means only an accident of untransferable
speech.  And it is impossible for a reader, who is a lover of languages
for their spirit, to pass the words of untravelled excellence, proper to
their own garden enclosed, without recognition.  Never may they be
disregarded or confounded with the universal stock.  If I would not so
neglect _piuttosto bruttini_, how much less a word dominating
literature!  And of such words of ascendancy and race there is no great
English author but has abundant possession.  No need to recall them.  But
even writers who are not great have, here and there, proved their full
consciousness of their birthright.  Thus does a man who was hardly an
author, Haydon the painter, put out his hand to take his rights.  He has
incomparable language when he is at a certain page of his life; at that
time he sate down to sketch his child, dying in its babyhood, and the
head he studied was, he says, full of "power and grief."

This is a phrase of different discovery from that which reveals a local
rhyme-balanced epigram, a gracious antithesis, taking an intellectual
place--_Felice chi vi mira_--or the art-critic's phrase--_piuttosto
bruttini_--of easy, companionable, and equal contempt.

As for French, if it had no other sacred words--and it has many--who
would not treasure the language that has given us--no, not that has given
us, but that has kept for its own--_ensoleille_?  Nowhere else is the sun
served with such a word.  It is not to be said or written without a
convincing sense of sunshine, and from the very word come light and
radiation.  The unaccustomed north could not have made it, nor the
accustomed south, but only a nation part-north and part-south; therefore
neither England nor Italy can rival it.  But there needed also the senses
of the French--those senses of which they say far too much in every
second-class book of their enormous, their general second-class, but
which they have matched in their time with some inimitable words.  Perhaps
that matching was done at the moment of the full literary consciousness
of the senses, somewhere about the famous 1830.  For I do not think
_ensoleille_ to be a much older word--I make no assertion.  Whatever its
origin, may it have no end!  They cannot weary us with it; for it seems
as new as the sun, as remote as old Provence; village, hill-side,
vineyard, and chestnut wood shine in the splendour of the word, the air
is light, and white things passing blind the eyes--a woman's linen, white
cattle, shining on the way from shadow to shadow.  A word of the sense of
sight, and a summer word, in short, compared with which the paraphrase is
but a picture.  For _ensoleille_ I would claim the consent of all
readers--that they shall all acknowledge the spirit of that French.  But
perhaps it is a mere personal preference that makes _le jour
s'annonce_ also sacred.

If the hymn, "Stabat Mater dolorosa," was written in Latin, this could be
only that it might in time find its true language and incomparable phrase
at last--that it might await the day of life in its proper German.  I
found it there (and knew at once the authentic verse, and knew at once
for what tongue it had been really destined) in the pages of the prayer-
book of an apple-woman at an Innsbruck church, and in the accents of her


There is hardly a writer now--of the third class probably not one--who
has not something sharp and sad to say about the cruelty of Nature; not
one who is able to attempt May in the woods without a modern reference to
the manifold death and destruction with which the air, the branches, the
mosses are said to be full.

But no one has paused in the course of these phrases to take notice of
the curious and conspicuous fact of the suppression of death and of the
dead throughout this landscape of manifest life.  Where are they--all the
dying, all the dead, of the populous woods?  Where do they hide their
little last hours, where are they buried?  Where is the violence
concealed?  Under what gay custom and decent habit?  You may see, it is
true, an earth-worm in a robin's beak, and may hear a thrush breaking a
snail's shell; but these little things are, as it were, passed by with a
kind of twinkle for apology, as by a well-bred man who does openly some
little solecism which is too slight for direct mention, and which a
meaner man might hide or avoid.  Unless you are very modern indeed, you
twinkle back at the bird.

But otherwise there is nothing visible of the havoc and the prey and
plunder.  It is certain that much of the visible life passes violently
into other forms, flashes without pause into another flame; but not all.
Amid all the killing there must be much dying.  There are, for instance,
few birds of prey left in our more accessible counties now, and many
thousands of birds must die uncaught by a hawk and unpierced.  But if
their killing is done so modestly, so then is their dying also.  Short
lives have all these wild things, but there are innumerable flocks of
them always alive; they must die, then, in innumerable flocks.  And yet
they keep the millions of the dead out of sight.

Now and then, indeed, they may be betrayed.  It happened in a cold
winter.  The late frosts were so sudden, and the famine was so complete,
that the birds were taken unawares.  The sky and the earth conspired that
February to make known all the secrets; everything was published.  Death
was manifest.  Editors, when a great man dies, are not more resolute than
was the frost of '95.

The birds were obliged to die in public.  They were surprised and forced
to do thus.  They became like Shelley in the monument which the art and
imagination of England combined to raise to his memory at Oxford.

Frost was surely at work in both cases, and in both it wrought wrong.
There is a similarity of unreason in betraying the death of a bird and in
exhibiting the death of Shelley.  The death of a soldier--_passe
encore_.  But the death of Shelley was not his goal.  And the death of
the birds is so little characteristic of them that, as has just been
said, no one in the world is aware of their dying, except only in the
case of birds in cages, who, again, are compelled to die with
observation.  The woodland is guarded and kept by a rule.  There is no
display of the battlefield in the fields.  There is no tale of the game-
bag, no boast.  The hunting goes on, but with strange decorum.  You may
pass a fine season under the trees, and see nothing dead except here and
there where a boy has been by, or a man with a trap, or a man with a gun.
There is nothing like a butcher's shop in the woods.

But the biographers have always had other ways than those of the wild
world.  They will not have a man to die out of sight.  I have turned over
scores of "Lives," not to read them, but to see whether now and again
there might be a "Life" which was not more emphatically a death.  But
there never is a modern biography that has taken the hint of Nature.  One
and all, these books have the disproportionate illness, the death out of
all scale.

Even more wanton than the disclosure of a death is that of a mortal
illness.  If the man had recovered, his illness would have been rightly
his own secret.  But because he did not recover, it is assumed to be news
for the first comer.  Which of us would suffer the details of any
physical suffering, over and done in our own lives, to be displayed and
described?  This is not a confidence we have a mind to make; and no one
is authorised to ask for attention or pity on our behalf.  The story of
pain ought not to be told of us, seeing that by us it would assuredly not
be told.

There is only one other thing that concerns a man still more exclusively,
and that is his own mental illness, or the dreams and illusions of a long
delirium.  When he is in common language not himself, amends should be
made for so bitter a paradox; he should be allowed such solitude as is
possible to the alienated spirit; he should be left to the "not himself,"
and spared the intrusion against which he can so ill guard that he could
hardly have even resented it.

The double helplessness of delusion and death should keep the door of
Rossetti's house, for example, and refuse him to the reader.  His mortal
illness had nothing to do with his poetry.  Some rather affected
objection is taken every now and then to the publication of some facts
(others being already well known) in the life of Shelley.  Nevertheless,
these are all, properly speaking, biography.  What is not biography is
the detail of the accident of the manner of his death, the detail of his
cremation.  Or if it was to be told--told briefly--it was certainly not
for marble.  Shelley's death had no significance, except inasmuch as he
died young.  It was a detachable and disconnected incident.  Ah, that was
a frost of fancy and of the heart that used it so, dealing with an
insignificant fact, and conferring a futile immortality.  Those are ill-
named biographers who seem to think that a betrayal of the ways of death
is a part of their ordinary duty, and that if material enough for a last
chapter does not lie to their hand they are to search it out.  They, of
all survivors, are called upon, in honour and reason, to look upon a
death with more composure.  To those who loved the dead closely, this is,
for a time, impossible.  To them death becomes, for a year,
disproportionate.  Their dreams are fixed upon it night by night.  They
have, in those dreams, to find the dead in some labyrinth; they have to
mourn his dying and to welcome his recovery in such a mingling of
distress and of always incredulous happiness as is not known even to
dreams save in that first year of separation.  But they are not

If death is the privacy of the woods, it is the more conspicuously secret
because it is their only privacy.  You may watch or may surprise
everything else.  The nest is retired, not hidden.  The chase goes on
everywhere.  It is wonderful how the perpetual chase seems to cause no
perpetual fear.  The songs are all audible.  Life is undefended,
careless, nimble and noisy.

It is a happy thing that minor artists have ceased, or almost ceased, to
paint dead birds.  Time was when they did it continually in that British
School of water-colour art, stippled, of which surrounding nations, it
was agreed, were envious.  They must have killed their bird to paint him,
for he is not to be caught dead.  A bird is more easily caught alive than

A poet, on the contrary, is easily--too easily--caught dead.  Minor
artists now seldom stipple the bird on its back, but a good sculptor and
a University together modelled their Shelley on his back, unessentially
drowned; and everybody may read about the sick mind of Dante Rossetti.


The brilliant talent which has quite lately and quite suddenly arisen, to
devote itself to the use of the day or of the week, in illustrated
papers--the enormous production of art in black and white--is assuredly a
confession that the Honours of Mortality are worth working for.  Fifty
years ago, men worked for the honours of immortality; these were the
commonplace of their ambition; they declined to attend to the beauty of
things of use that were destined to be broken and worn out, and they
looked forward to surviving themselves by painting bad pictures; so that
what to do with their bad pictures in addition to our own has become the
problem of the nation and of the householder alike.  To-day men have
began to learn that their sons will be grateful to them for few bequests.
Art consents at last to work upon the tissue and the china that are
doomed to the natural and necessary end--destruction; and art shows a
most dignified alacrity to do her best, daily, for the "process," and for

Doubtless this abandonment of hopes so large at once and so cheap costs
the artist something; nay, it implies an acceptance of the inevitable
that is not less than heroic.  And the reward has been in the singular
and manifest increase of vitality in this work which is done for so short
a life.  Fittingly indeed does life reward the acceptance of death,
inasmuch as to die is to have been alive.  There is a real circulation of
blood-quick use, brief beauty, abolition, recreation.  The honour of the
day is for ever the honour of that day.  It goes into the treasury of
things that are honestly and--completely ended and done with.  And when
can so happy a thing be said of a lifeless oil-painting?  Who of the wise
would hesitate?  To be honourable for one day--one named and dated day,
separate from all other days of the ages--or to be for an unlimited time


Tribulation, Immortality, the Multitude: what remedy of composure do
these words bring for their own great disquiet!  Without the remoteness
of the Latinity the thought would come too close and shake too cruelly.
In order to the sane endurance of the intimate trouble of the soul an
aloofness of language is needful.  Johnson feared death.  Did his noble
English control and postpone the terror?  Did it keep the fear at some
courteous, deferent distance from the centre of that human heart, in the
very act of the leap and lapse of mortality?  Doubtless there is in
language such an educative power.  Speech is a school.  Every language is
a persuasion, an induced habit, an instrument which receives the note
indeed but gives the tone.  Every language imposes a quality, teaches a
temper, proposes a way, bestows a tradition: this is the tone--the
voice--of the instrument.  Every language, by counterchange, returns to
the writer's touch or breath his own intention, articulate: this is his
note.  Much has always been said, many things to the purpose have been
thought, of the power and the responsibility of the note.  Of the
legislation and influence of the tone I have been led to think by
comparing the tranquillity of Johnson and the composure of Canning with
the stimulated and close emotion, the interior trouble, of those writers
who have entered as disciples in the school of the more Teutonic English.

For if every language be a school, more significantly and more
educatively is a part of a language a school to him who chooses that
part.  Few languages offer the choice.  The fact that a choice is made
implies the results and fruits of a decision.  The French author is
without these.  They are of all the heritages of the English writer the
most important.  He receives a language of dual derivation.  He may
submit himself to either University, whither he will take his impulse and
his character, where he will leave their influence, and whence he will
accept their re-education.  The Frenchman has certainly a style to
develop within definite limits; but he does not subject himself to
suggestions tending mainly hitherwards or thitherwards, to currents of
various race within one literature.  Such a choice of subjection is the
singular opportunity of the Englishman.  I do not mean to ignore the
necessary mingling.  Happily that mingling has been done once for all for
us all.  Nay, one of the most charming things that a master of English
can achieve is the repayment of the united teaching by linking their
results so exquisitely in his own practice, that words of the two schools
are made to meet each other with a surprise and delight that shall prove
them at once gayer strangers, and sweeter companions, than the world knew
they were.  Nevertheless there remains the liberty of choice as to which
school of words shall have the place of honour in the great and sensitive
moments of an author's style: which school shall be used for
conspicuousness, and which for multitudinous service.  And the choice
being open, the perturbation of the pulses and impulses of so many hearts
quickened in thought and feeling in this day suggests to me a deliberate
return to the recollectedness of the more tranquil language.  "Doubtless
there is a place of peace."

A place of peace, not of indifference.  It is impossible not to charge
some of the moralists of the eighteenth century with an indifference into
which they educated their platitudes and into which their platitudes
educated them.  Addison thus gave and took, until he was almost incapable
of coming within arm's-length of a real or spiritual emotion.  There is
no knowing to what distance the removal of the "appropriate sentiment"
from the central soul might have attained but for the change and renewal
in language, which came when it was needed.  Addison had assuredly
removed eternity far from the apprehension of the soul when his Cato
hailed the "pleasing hope," the "fond desire"; and the touch of war was
distant from him who conceived his "repulsed battalions" and his
"doubtful battle."  What came afterwards, when simplicity and nearness
were restored once more, was doubtless journeyman's work at times.  Men
were too eager to go into the workshop of language.  There were
unreasonable raptures over the mere making of common words.  "A
hand-shoe! a finger-hat! a foreword!  Beautiful!" they cried; and for the
love of German the youngest daughter of Chrysale herself might have
consented to be kissed by a grammarian.  It seemed to be forgotten that a
language with all its construction visible is a language little fitted
for the more advanced mental processes; that its images are material; and
that, on the other hand, a certain spiritualizing and subtilizing effect
of alien derivations is a privilege and an advantage incalculable--that
to possess that half of the language within which Latin heredities lurk
and Romanesque allusions are at play is to possess the state and security
of a dead tongue, without the death.

But now I spoke of words encountering as gay strangers, various in
origin, divided in race, within a master's phrase.  The most beautiful
and the most sudden of such meetings are of course in Shakespeare.
"Superfluous kings," "A lass unparalleled," "Multitudinous seas": we
needed not to wait for the eighteenth century or for the nineteenth or
for the twentieth to learn the splendour of such encounters, of such
differences, of such nuptial unlikeness and union.  But it is well that
we should learn them afresh.  And it is well, too, that we should not
resist the rhythmic reaction bearing us now somewhat to the side of the
Latin.  Such a reaction is in some sort an ethical need for our day.  We
want to quell the exaggerated decision of monosyllables.  We want the
poise and the pause that imply vitality at times better than headstrong
movement expresses it.  And not the phrase only but the form of verse
might render us timely service.  The controlling couplet might stay with
a touch a modern grief, as it ranged in order the sorrows of Canning for
his son.  But it should not be attempted without a distinct intention of
submission on the part of the writer.  The couplet transgressed against,
trespassed upon, used loosely, is like a law outstripped, defied--to the
dignity neither of the rebel nor of the rule.

To Letters do we look now for the guidance and direction which the very
closeness of the emotion taking us by the heart makes necessary.  Shall
not the Thing more and more, as we compose ourselves to literature,
assume the honour, the hesitation, the leisure, the reconciliation of the


Dialect is the elf rather than the genius of place, and a dwarfish master
of the magic of local things.

In England we hardly know what a concentrated homeliness it nourishes;
inasmuch as, with us, the castes and classes for whom Goldoni and Gallina
and Signor Fogazzaro have written in the patois of the Veneto, use no
dialect at all.

Neither Goldoni nor Gallina has charged the Venetian language with so
much literature as to take from the people the shelter of their almost
unwritten tongue.  Signor Fogazzaro, bringing tragedy into the homes of
dialect, does but show us how the language staggers under such a stress,
how it breaks down, and resigns that office.  One of the finest of the
characters in the ranks of his admirable fiction is that old manageress
of the narrow things of the house whose daughter is dying insane.  I have
called the dialect a shelter.  This it is; but the poor lady does not
cower within; her resigned head erect, she is shut out from that homely
refuge, suffering and inarticulate.  The two dramatists in their several
centuries also recognized the inability of the dialect.  They laid none
but light loads upon it.  They caused it to carry no more in their homely
plays than it carries in homely life.  Their work leaves it what it
was--the talk of a people talking much about few things; a people like
our own and any other in their lack of literature, but local and all
Italian in their lack of silence.

Common speech is surely a greater part of life to such a people than to
one less pleased with chatter or more pleased with books.  I am writing
of men, women, and children (and children are not forgotten, since we
share a patois with children on terms of more than common equality) who
possess, for all occasions of ceremony and opportunities of dignity, a
general, national, liberal, able, and illustrious tongue, charged with
all its history and all its achievements; for the speakers of dialect, of
a certain rank, speak Italian, too.  But to tamper with their dialect, or
to take it from them, would be to leave them houseless and exposed in
their daily business.  So much does their patois seem to be their refuge
from the heavy and multitudinous experiences of a literary tongue, that
the stopping of a fox's earth might be taken as the image of any act that
should spoil or stop the talk of the associated seclusion of their town,
and leave them in the bleakness of a larger patriotism.

The Venetian people, the Genoese, and the other speakers of languages
that might all have proved right "Italian" had not Dante, Petrarch and
Boccaccio written in Tuscan, can neither write nor be taught hard things
in their dialect, although they can live, whether easy lives or hard, and
evidently can die, therein.  The hands and feet that have served the
villager and the citizen at homely tasks have all the lowliness of his
patois, to his mind; and when he must perforce yield up their employment,
we may believe that it is a simple thing to die in so simple and so
narrow a language, one so comfortable, neighbourly, tolerant, and
compassionate; so confidential; so incapable, ignorant, unappalling,
inapt to wing any wearied thought upon difficult flight or to spur it
upon hard travelling.

Not without words is mental pain, or even physical pain, to be undergone;
but the words that have done no more than order the things of the narrow
street are not words to put a fine edge or a piercing point to any human
pang.  It may even well be that to die in dialect is easier than to die
in the eloquence of Manfred, though that declaimed language, too, is
doubtless a defence, if one of a different manner.

These writers in Venetian--they are named because in no other Italian
dialect has work so popular as Goldoni's been done, nor so excellent as
Signor Fogazzaro's--have left the unlettered local language in which they
loved to deal, to its proper limitations.  They have not given weighty
things into its charge, nor made it heavily responsible.  They have added
nothing to it; nay, by writing it they might even be said to have made it
duller, had it not been for the reader and the actor.  Insomuch as the
intense expressiveness of a dialect--of a small vocabulary in the mouth
of a dramatic people--lies in the various accent wherewith a southern
citizen knows how to enrich his talk, it remains for the actor to restore
its life to the written phrase.  In dialect the author is forbidden to
search for the word, for there is none lurking for his choice; but of
tones, allusions, and of references and inferences of the voice, the
speaker of dialect is a master.  No range of phrases can be his, but he
has the more or the less confidential inflection, until at times the
close communication of the narrow street becomes a very conspiracy.

Let it be borne in mind that dialect properly so called is something all
unlike, for instance, the mere jargon of London streets.  The difference
may be measured by the fact that Italian dialects have a highly organized
and orderly grammar.  The Londoner cannot keep the small and loose order
of the grammar of good English; the Genoese conjugates his patois verbs,
with subjunctives and all things of that handsome kind, lacked by the
English of Universities.

The middle class--the _piccolo mondo_--that shares Italian dialect with
the poor are more strictly local in their manners than either the opulent
or the indigent of the same city.  They have moreover the busy
intelligence (which is the intellect of patois) at its keenest.  Their
speech keeps them a sequestered place which is Italian, Italian beyond
the ken of the traveller, and beyond the reach of alteration.  And--what
is pretty to observe--the speakers are well conscious of the characters
of this intimate language.  An Italian countryman who has known no other
climate will vaunt, in fervent platitudes, his Italian sun; in like
manner he is conscious of the local character of his language, and tucks
himself within it at home, whatever Tuscan he may speak abroad.  A
properly spelt letter, Swift said, would seem to expose him and Mrs
Dingley and Stella to the eyes of the world; but their little language,
ill-written, was "snug."

Lovers have made a little language in all times; finding the nobler
language insufficient, do they ensconce themselves in the smaller?
discard noble and literary speech as not noble enough, and in despair
thus prattle and gibber and stammer?  Rather perhaps this departure from
English is but an excursion after gaiety.  The ideal lovers, no doubt,
would be so simple as to be grave.  That is a tenable opinion.
Nevertheless, age by age they have been gay; and age by age they have
exchanged language imitated from the children they doubtless never
studied, and perhaps never loved.  Why so?  They might have chosen broken
English of other sorts--that, for example, which was once thought amusing
in farce, as spoken by the Frenchman conceived by the Englishman--a
complication of humour fictitious enough, one might think, to please
anyone; or else a fragment of negro dialect; or the style of telegrams;
or the masterly adaptation of the simple savage's English devised by Mrs
Plornish in her intercourse with the Italian.  But none of these found
favour.  The choice has always been of the language of children.  Let us
suppose that the flock of winged Loves worshipping Venus in the Titian
picture, and the noble child that rides his lion erect with a background
of Venetian gloomy dusk, may be the inspirers of those prattlings.  "See
then thy selfe likewise art lyttle made," says Spenser's Venus to her

Swift was the best prattler.  He had caught the language, surprised it in
Stella when she was veritably a child.  He did not push her clumsily back
into a childhood he had not known; he simply prolonged in her a childhood
he had loved.  He is "seepy."  "Nite, dealest dea, nite dealest logue."
It is a real good-night.  It breathes tenderness from that moody and
uneasy bed of projects.


"Il s'est trompe de defunte."  The writer of this phrase had his sense of
that portly manner of French, and his burlesque is fine; but--the paradox
must be risked--because he was French he was not able to possess all its
grotesque mediocrity to the full; that is reserved for the English
reader.  The words are in the mouth of a widower who, approaching his
wife's tomb, perceives there another "monsieur."  "Monsieur," again; the
French reader is deprived of the value of this word, too, in its place;
it says little or nothing to him, whereas the Englishman, who has no word
of the precise bourgeois significance that it sometimes bears, but who
must use one of two English words of different allusion--man or I
gentleman--knows the exact value of its commonplace.  The serious
Parisian, then, sees "un autre monsieur;" as it proves anon, there had
been a divorce in the history of the lady, but the later widower is not
yet aware of this, and explains to himself the presence of "un monsieur"
in his own place by that weighty phrase, "Il s'est trompe de defunte."

The strange effect of a thing so charged with allusion and with national
character is to cause an English reader to pity the mocking author who
was debarred by his own language from possessing the whole of his own
comedy.  It is, in fact, by contrast with his English that an Englishman
does possess it.  Your official, your professional Parisian has a
vocabulary of enormous, unrivalled mediocrity.  When the novelist
perceives this he does not perceive it all, because some of the words are
the only words in use.  Take an author at his serious moments, when he is
not at all occupied with the comedy of phrases, and he now and then
touches a word that has its burlesque by mere contrast with English.
"L'Histoire d'un Crime," of Victor Hugo, has so many of these touches as
to be, by a kind of reflex action, a very school of English.  The whole
incident of the omnibus in that grave work has unconscious international
comedy.  The Deputies seated in the interior of the omnibus had been, it
will be remembered, shut out of their Chamber by the perpetrator of the
Coup d'Etat, but each had his official scarf.  Scarf--pish!--"l'echarpe!"
"Ceindre l'echarpe"--there is no real English equivalent.  Civic
responsibility never was otherwise adequately expressed.  An indignant
deputy passed his scarf through the window of the omnibus, as an appeal
to the public, "et l'agita."  It is a pity that the French reader, having
no simpler word, is not in a position to understand the slight burlesque.
Nay, the mere word "public," spoken with this peculiar French good faith,
has for us I know not what untransferable gravity.

There is, in short, a general international counterchange.  It is
altogether in accordance with our actual state of civilization, with its
extremely "specialized" manner of industry, that one people should make a
phrase, and another should have and enjoy it.  And, in fact, there are
certain French authors to whom should be secured the use of the literary
German whereof Germans, and German women in particular, ought with all
severity to be deprived.  For Germans often tell you of words in their
own tongue that are untranslatable; and accordingly they should not be
translated, but given over in their own conditions, unaltered, into safer
hands.  There would be a clearing of the outlines of German ideas, a
better order in the phrase; the possessors of an alien word, with the
thought it secures, would find also their advantage.

So with French humour.  It is expressly and signally for English ears.  It
is so even in the commonest farce.  The unfortunate householder, for
example, who is persuaded to keep walking in the conservatory "pour
retablir la circulation," and the other who describes himself "sous-chef
de bureau dans l'enregistrement," and he who proposes to "faire hommage"
of a doubtful turbot to the neighbouring "employe de l'octroi"--these and
all their like speak commonplaces so usual as to lose in their own
country the perfection of their dulness.  We only, who have the
alternative of plainer and fresher words, understand it.  It is not the
least of the advantages of our own dual English that we become sensible
of the mockery of certain phrases that in France have lost half their
ridicule, uncontrasted.

Take again the common rhetoric that has fixed itself in conversation in
all Latin languages--rhetoric that has ceased to have allusions, either
majestic or comic.  To the ear somewhat unused to French this proffers a
frequent comedy that the well-accustomed ear, even of an Englishman, no
longer detects.  A guard on a French railway, who advised two travellers
to take a certain train for fear they should be obliged to "vegeter" for
a whole hour in the waiting-room of such or such a station seemed to the
less practised tourist to be a fresh kind of unexpected humourist.

One of the phrases always used in the business of charities and
subscriptions in France has more than the intentional comedy of the farce-
writer; one of the most absurd of his personages, wearying his visitors
in the country with a perpetual game of bowls, says to them: "Nous jouons
cinquante centimes--les benefices seront verses integralement a la
souscription qui est ouverte a la commune pour la construction de notre
maison d'ecole."

"Fletrir," again.  Nothing could be more rhetorical than this perfectly
common word of controversy.  The comic dramatist is well aware of the
spent violence of this phrase, with which every serious Frenchman will
reply to opponents, especially in public matters.  But not even the comic
dramatist is aware of the last state of refuse commonplace that a word of
this kind represents.  Refuse rhetoric, by the way, rather than Emerson's
"fossil poetry," would seem to be the right name for human language as
some of the processes of the several recent centuries have left it.

The French comedy, then, is fairly stuffed with thin-S for an Englishman.
They are not all, it is true, so finely comic as "Il s'est trompe de
defunte."  In the report of that dull, incomparable sentence there is
enough humour, and subtle enough, for both the maker and the reader; for
the author who perceives the comedy as well as custom will permit, and
for the reader who takes it with the freshness of a stranger.  But if not
so keen as this, the current word of French comedy is of the same quality
of language.  When of the fourteen couples to be married by the mayor,
for instance, the deaf clerk has shuffled two, a looker-on pronounces:
"Il s'est empetre dans les futurs."  But for a reader who has a full
sense of the several languages that exist in English at the service of
the several ways of human life, there is, from the mere terminology of
official France, high or low--daily France--a gratuitous and uncovenanted
smile to be had.  With this the wit of the report of French literature
has not little to do.  Nor is it in itself, perhaps, reasonably comic,
but the slightest irony of circumstance makes it so.  A very little of
the mockery of conditions brings out all the latent absurdity of the
"sixieme et septieme arron-dissements," in the twinkling of an eye.  So
is it with the mere "domicile;" with the aid of but a little of the
burlesque of life, the suit at law to "reintegrer le domicile conjugal"
becomes as grotesque as a phrase can make it.  Even "a domicile"
merely--the word of every shopman--is, in the unconscious mouths of the
speakers, always awaiting the lightest touch of farce, if only an
Englishman hears it; so is the advice of the police that you shall
"circuler" in the street; so is the request, posted up, that you shall
not, in the churches.

So are the serious and ordinary phrases, "maison nuptiale," "maison
mortuaire," and the still more serious "repos dominical," "oraison
dominicale."  There is no majesty in such words.  The unsuspicious
gravity with which they are spoken broadcast is not to be wondered at,
the language offering no relief of contrast; and what is much to the
credit of the comic sensibility of literature is the fact that, through
this general unconsciousness, the ridicule of a thousand authors of
comedy perceives the fun, and singles out the familiar thing, and compels
that most elaborate dulness to amuse us.  _Us_, above all, by virtue of
the custom of counterchange here set forth.

Who shall say whether, by operation of the same exchange, the English
poets that so persist in France may not reveal something within the
English language--one would be somewhat loth to think so--reserved to the
French reader peculiarly?  Byron to the multitude, Edgar Poe to the
select?  Then would some of the mysteries of French reading of English be
explained otherwise than by the plainer explanation that has hitherto
satisfied our haughty curiosity.  The taste for rhetoric seemed to
account for Byron, and the desire of the rhetorician to claim a taste for
poetry seemed to account for Poe.  But, after all, _patatras_!  Who can


The first time that Mercutio fell upon the English stage, there fell with
him a gay and hardly human figure; it fell, perhaps finally, for English
drama.  That manner of man--Arlecchino, or Harlequin--had outlived his
playmates, Pantaleone, Brighella, Colombina, and the Clown.  A little of
Pantaleone survives in old Capulet, a little in the father of the Shrew,
but the life of Mercutio in the one play, and of the subordinate Tranio
in the other, is less quickly spent, less easily put out, than the
smouldering of the old man.  Arlecchino frolics in and out of the tragedy
and comedy of Shakespeare, until he thus dies in his lightest, his
brightest, his most vital shape.

Arlecchino, the tricksy and shifty spirit, the contriver, the busybody,
the trusty rogue, the wonder-worker, the man in disguise, the mercurial
one, lives on buoyantly in France to the age of Moliere.  He is officious
and efficacious in the skin of Mascarille and Ergaste and Scapin; but he
tends to be a lacquey, with a reference rather to Antiquity and the Latin
comedy than to the Middle Ages, as on the English stage his mere memory
survives differently to a later age in the person of "Charles, his
friend."  What convinces me that he virtually died with Mercutio is
chiefly this--that this comrade of Romeo's lives so keenly as to be fully
capable of the death that he takes at Tybalt's sword-point; he lived
indeed, he dies indeed.  Another thing that marks the close of a career
of ages is his loss of his long customary good luck.  Who ever heard of
Arlecchino unfortunate before, at fault with his sword-play, overtaken by
tragedy?  His time had surely come.  The gay companion was to bleed;
Tybalt's sword had made a way.  'Twas not so deep as a well nor so wide
as a church-door, but it served.

Some confusion comes to pass among the typical figures of the primitive
Italian play, because Harlequin, on that conventional little stage of the
past, has a hero's place, whereas when he interferes in human affairs he
is only the auxiliary.  He might be lover and bridegroom on the primitive
stage, in the comedy of these few and unaltered types; but when
Pantaloon, Clown, and Harlequin play with really human beings, then
Harlequin can be no more than a friend of the hero, the friend of the
bridegroom.  The five figures of the old stage dance attendance; they
play around the business of those who have the dignity of mortality;
they, poor immortals--a clown who does not die, a pantaloon never far
from death, who yet does not die, a Columbine who never attains
Desdemona's death of innocence or Juliet's death of rectitude and
passion--flit in the backward places of the stage.

Ariel fulfils his office, and is not of one kind with those he serves.  Is
there a memory of Harlequin in that delicate figure?  Something of the
subservient immortality, of the light indignity, proper to Pantaleone,
Brighella, Arlecchino, Colombina, and the Clown, hovers away from the
stage when Ariel is released from the trouble of human things.

Immortality, did I say?  It was immortality until Mercutio fell.  And if
some claim be made to it still because Harlequin has transformed so many
scenes for the pleasure of so many thousand children, since Mercutio
died, I must reply that our modern Harlequin is no more than a
_marionnette_; he has returned whence he came.  A man may play him, but
he is--as he was first of all--a doll.  From doll-hood Arlecchino took
life, and, so promoted, flitted through a thousand comedies, only to be
again what he first was; save that, as once a doll played the man, so now
a man plays the doll.  It is but a memory of Arlecchino that our children
see, a poor statue or image endowed with mobility rather than with life.

With Mercutio, vanished the light heart that had given to the serious
ages of the world an hour's refuge from the unforgotten burden of
responsible conscience; the light heart assumed, borrowed, made
dramatically the spectator's own.  We are not serious now, and no heart
now is quite light, even for an hour.


Times have been, it is said, merrier than these; but it is certain
nevertheless that laughter never was so honoured as now; were it not for
the paradox one might say, it never was so grave.  Everywhere the joke
"emerges"--as an "elegant" writer might have it--emerges to catch the
attention of the sense of humour; and everywhere the sense of humour
wanders, watches, and waits to honour the appeal.

It loiters, vaguely but perpetually willing.  It wears (let the violent
personification be pardoned) a hanging lip, and a wrinkle in abeyance,
and an eye in suspense.  It is much at the service of the vagrant
encounterer, and may be accosted by any chance daughters of the game.  It
stands in untoward places, or places that were once inappropriate, and is
early at some indefinite appointment, some ubiquitous tryst, with the
compliant jest.

All literature becomes a field of easy assignations; there is a constant
signalling, an endless recognition.  Forms of approach are remitted.  And
the joke and the sense of humour, with no surprise of meeting, or no
gaiety of strangeness, so customary has the promiscuity become, go up and
down the pages of the paper and the book.  See, again, the theatre.  A
somewhat easy sort of comic acting is by so much the best thing upon our
present stage that little else can claim--paradox again apart--to be
taken seriously.

There is, in a word, a determination, an increasing tendency away from
the Oriental estimate of laughter as a thing fitter for women, fittest
for children, and unfitted for the beard.  Laughter is everywhere and at
every moment proclaimed to be the honourable occupation of men, and in
some degree distinctive of men, and no mean part of their prerogative and
privilege.  The sense of humour is chiefly theirs, and those who are not
men are to be admitted to the jest upon their explanation.  They will not
refuse explanation.  And there is little upon which a man will so value
himself as upon that sense, "in England, now."

Meanwhile, it would be a pity if laughter should ever become, like
rhetoric and the arts, a habit.  And it is in some sort a habit when it
is not inevitable.  If we ask ourselves why we laugh, we must confess
that we laugh oftenest because--being amused--we intend to show that we
are amused.  We are right to make the sign, but a smile would be as sure
a signal as a laugh, and more sincere; it would but be changing the
convention; and the change would restore laughter itself to its own
place.  We have fallen into the way of using it to prove something--our
sense of the goodness of the jest, to wit; but laughter should not thus
be used, it should go free.  It is not a demonstration, whether in logic,
or--as the word demonstration is now generally used--in emotion; and we
do ill to charge it with that office.

Something of the Oriental idea of dignity might not be amiss among such a
people as ourselves containing wide and numerous classes who laugh
without cause: audiences; crowds; a great many clergymen, who perhaps
first fell into the habit in the intention of proving that they were not
gloomy; but a vast number of laymen also who had not that excuse; and
many women who laugh in their uncertainty as to what is humorous and what
is not.  This last is the most harmless of all kinds of superfluous
laughter.  When it carries an apology, a confession of natural and genial
ignorance, and when a gentle creature laughs a laugh of hazard and
experiment, she is to be more than forgiven.  What she must not do is to
laugh a laugh of instruction, and as it were retrieve the jest that was
never worth the taking.

There are, besides, a few women who do not disturb themselves as to a
sense of humour, but who laugh from a sense of happiness.  Childish is
that trick, and sweet.  For children, who always laugh because they must,
and never by way of proof or sign, laugh only half their laughs out of
their sense of humour; they laugh the rest under a mere stimulation:
because of abounding breath and blood; because some one runs behind them,
for example, and movement does so jog their spirits that their legs fail
them, for laughter, without a jest.

If ever the day should come when men and women shall be content to signal
their perception of humour by the natural smile, and shall keep the laugh
for its own unpremeditated act, shall laugh seldom, and simply, and not
thrice at the same thing--once for foolish surprise, and twice for tardy
intelligence, and thrice to let it be known that they are amused--then it
may be time to persuade this laughing nation not to laugh so loud as it
is wont in public.  The theatre audiences of louder-speaking nations
laugh lower than ours.  The laugh that is chiefly a signal of the
laugher's sense of the ridiculous is necessarily loud; and it has the
disadvantage of covering what we may perhaps wish to hear from the
actors.  It is a public laugh, and no ordinary citizen is called upon for
a public laugh.  He may laugh in public, but let it be with private
laughter there.

Let us, if anything like a general reform be possible in these times of
dispersion and of scattering, keep henceforth our sense of humour in a
place better guarded, as something worth a measure of seclusion.  It
should not loiter in wait for the alms of a joke in adventurous places.
For the sense of humour has other things to do than to make itself
conspicuous in the act of laughter.  It has negative tasks of valid
virtue; for example, the standing and waiting within call of tragedy
itself, where, excluded, it may keep guard.

No reasonable man will aver that the Oriental manners are best.  This
would be to deny Shakespeare as his comrades knew him, where the wit "out-
did the meat, out-did the frolic wine," and to deny Ben Jonson's "tart
Aristophanes, neat Terence, witty Plautus," and the rest.  Doubtless
Greece determined the custom for all our Occident; but none the less
might the modern world grow more sensible of the value of composure.

To none other of the several powers of our souls do we so give rein as to
this of humour, and none other do we indulge with so little
fastidiousness.  It is as though there were honour in governing the other
senses, and honour in refusing to govern this.  It is as though we were
ashamed of reason here, and shy of dignity, and suspicious of temperance,
and diffident of moderation, and too eager to thrust forward that which
loses nothing by seclusion.


If life is not always poetical, it is at least metrical.  Periodicity
rules over the mental experience of man, according to the path of the
orbit of his thoughts.  Distances are not gauged, ellipses not measured,
velocities not ascertained, times not known.  Nevertheless, the
recurrence is sure.  What the mind suffered last week, or last year, it
does not suffer now; but it will suffer again next week or next year.
Happiness is not a matter of events; it depends upon the tides of the
mind.  Disease is metrical, closing in at shorter and shorter periods
towards death, sweeping abroad at longer and longer intervals towards
recovery.  Sorrow for one cause was intolerable yesterday, and will be
intolerable to-morrow; to-day it is easy to bear, but the cause has not
passed.  Even the burden of a spiritual distress unsolved is bound to
leave the heart to a temporary peace; and remorse itself does not
remain--it returns.  Gaiety takes us by a dear surprise.  If we had made
a course of notes of its visits, we might have been on the watch, and
would have had an expectation instead of a discovery.  No one makes such
observations; in all the diaries of students of the interior world, there
have never come to light the records of the Kepler of such cycles.  But
Thomas a Kempis knew of the recurrences, if he did not measure them.  In
his cell alone with the elements--"What wouldst thou more than these? for
out of these were all things made"--he learnt the stay to be found in the
depth of the hour of bitterness, and the remembrance that restrains the
soul at the coming of the moment of delight, giving it a more conscious
welcome, but presaging for it an inexorable flight.  And "rarely, rarely
comest thou," sighed Shelley, not to Delight merely, but to the Spirit of
Delight.  Delight can be compelled beforehand, called, and constrained to
our service--Ariel can be bound to a daily task; but such artificial
violence throws life out of metre, and it is not the spirit that is thus
compelled.  _That_ flits upon an orbit elliptically or parabolically or
hyperbolically curved, keeping no man knows what trysts with Time.

It seems fit that Shelley and the author of the "Imitation" should both
have been keen and simple enough to perceive these flights, and to guess
at the order of this periodicity.  Both souls were in close touch with
the spirits of their several worlds, and no deliberate human rules, no
infractions of the liberty and law of the universal movement, kept from
them the knowledge of recurrences.  _Eppur si muove_.  They knew that
presence does not exist without absence; they knew that what is just upon
its flight of farewell is already on its long path of return.  They knew
that what is approaching to the very touch is hastening towards
departure.  "O wind," cried Shelley, in autumn,

   O wind,
   If winter comes can spring be far behind?

They knew that the flux is equal to the reflux; that to interrupt with
unlawful recurrences, out of time, is to weaken the impulse of onset and
retreat; the sweep and impetus of movement.  To live in constant efforts
after an equal life, whether the equality be sought in mental production,
or in spiritual sweetness, or in the joy of the senses, is to live
without either rest or full activity.  The souls of certain of the
saints, being singularly simple and single, have been in the most
complete subjection to the law of periodicity.  Ecstasy and desolation
visited them by seasons.  They endured, during spaces of vacant time, the
interior loss of all for which they had sacrificed the world.  They
rejoiced in the uncovenanted beatitude of sweetness alighting in their
hearts.  Like them are the poets whom, three times or ten times in the
course of a long life, the Muse has approached, touched, and forsaken.
And yet hardly like them; not always so docile, nor so wholly prepared
for the departure, the brevity, of the golden and irrevocable hour.  Few
poets have fully recognized the metrical absence of their muse.  For full
recognition is expressed in one only way--silence.

It has been found that several tribes in Africa and in America worship
the moon, and not the sun; a great number worship both; but no tribes are
known to adore the sun, and not the moon.  On her depend the tides; and
she is Selene, mother of Herse, bringer of the dews that recurrently
irrigate lands where rain is rare.  More than any other companion of
earth is she the Measurer.  Early Indo-Germanic languages knew her by
that name.  Her metrical phases are the symbol of the order of
recurrence.  Constancy in approach and in departure is the reason of her
inconstancies.  Juliet will not receive a vow spoken in invocation of the
moon; but Juliet did not live to know that love itself has tidal
times--lapses and ebbs which are due to the metrical rule of the interior
heart, but which the lover vainly and unkindly attributes to some outward
alteration in the beloved.  For man--except those elect already named--is
hardly aware of periodicity.  The individual man either never learns it
fully, or learns it late.  And he learns it so late, because it is a
matter of cumulative experience upon which cumulative evidence is long
lacking.  It is in the after-part of each life that the law is learnt so
definitely as to do away with the hope or fear of continuance.  That
young sorrow comes so near to despair is a result of this young
ignorance.  So is the early hope of great achievement.  Life seems so
long, and its capacity so great, to one who knows nothing of all the
intervals it needs must hold--intervals between aspirations, between
actions, pauses as inevitable as the pauses of sleep.  And life looks
impossible to the young unfortunate, unaware of the inevitable and
unfailing refreshment.  It would be for their peace to learn that there
is a tide in the affairs of men, in a sense more subtle--if it is not too
audacious to add a meaning to Shakespeare--than the phrase was meant to
contain.  Their joy is flying away from them on its way home; their life
will wax and wane; and if they would be wise, they must wake and rest in
its phases, knowing that they are ruled by the law that commands all
things--a sun's revolutions and the rhythmic pangs of maternity.


The narrow house is a small human nature compelled to a large human
destiny, charged with a fate too great, a history too various, for its
slight capacities.  Men have commonly complained of fate; but their
complaints have been of the smallness, not of the greatness, of the human
lot.  A disproportion--all in favour of man--between man and his destiny
is one of the things to be taken for granted in literature: so frequent
and so easy is the utterance of the habitual lamentation as to the
trouble of a "vain capacity," so well explained has it ever been.

   Thou hast not half the power to do me harm
   That I have to be hurt,

discontented man seems to cry to Heaven, taking the words of the brave
Emilia.  But inarticulate has been the voice within the narrow house.
Obviously it never had its poet.  Little elocution is there, little
argument or definition, little explicitness.  And yet for every vain
capacity we may assuredly count a thousand vain destinies, for every
liberal nature a thousand liberal fates.  It is the trouble of the wide
house we hear of, clamorous of its disappointments and desires.  The
narrow house has no echoes; yet its pathetic shortcoming might well move
pity.  On that strait stage is acted a generous tragedy; to that
inadequate soul is intrusted an enormous sorrow; a tempest of movement
makes its home within that slender nature; and heroic happiness seeks
that timorous heart.

We may, indeed, in part know the narrow house by its
inarticulateness--not, certainly, its fewness of words, but its
inadequacy and imprecision of speech.  For, doubtless, right language
enlarges the soul as no other power or influence may do.  Who, for
instance, but trusts more nobly for knowing the full word of his
confidence?  Who but loves more penetratingly for possessing the ultimate
syllable of his tenderness?  There is a "pledging of the word," in
another sense than the ordinary sense of troth and promise.  The poet
pledges his word, his sentence, his verse, and finds therein a peculiar
sanction.  And I suppose that even physical pain takes on an edge when it
not only enforces a pang but whispers a phrase.  Consciousness and the
word are almost as closely united as thought and the word.  Almost--not
quite; in spite of its inexpressive speech, the narrow house is aware and
sensitive beyond, as it were, its poor power.

But as to the whole disparity between the destiny and the nature, we know
it to be general.  Life is great that is trivially transmitted; love is
great that is vulgarly experienced.  Death, too, is a heroic virtue; and
to the keeping of us all is death committed: death, submissive in the
indocile, modest in the fatuous, several in the vulgar, secret in the
familiar.  It is destructive, because it not only closes but contradicts
life.  Unlikely people die.  The one certain thing, it is also the one
improbable.  A dreadful paradox is perhaps wrought upon a little nature
that is incapable of death and yet is constrained to die.  That is a true
destruction, and the thought of it is obscure.

Happy literature corrects all this disproportion by its immortal pause.
It does not bid us follow man or woman to an illogical conclusion.  Mrs.
Micawber never does desert Mr. Micawber.  Considering her mental powers,
by the way, an illogical conclusion for her would be manifestly
inappropriate.  Shakespeare, indeed, having seen a life whole, sees it to
an end: sees it out, and Falstaff dies.  More than Promethean was the
audacity that, having kindled, quenched that spark.  But otherwise the
grotesque man in literature is immortal, and with something more
significant than the immortality awarded to him in the sayings of
rhetoric; he is perdurable because he is not completed.  His humours are
strangely matched with perpetuity.  But, indeed, he is not worthy to die;
for there is something graver than to be immortal, and that is to be
mortal.  I protest I do not laugh at man or woman in the world.  I thank
my fellow mortals for their wit, and also for the kind of joke that the
French so pleasantly call _une joyeusete_; these are to smile at.  But
the gay injustice of laughter is between me and the man or woman in a
book, in fiction, or on the stage in a play.

That narrow house--there is sometimes a message from its living windows.
Its bewilderment, its reluctance, its defect, show by moments from eyes
that are apt to express none but common things.  There are allusions
unawares, involuntary appeals, in those brief glances.  Far from me and
from my friends be the misfortune of meeting such looks in reply to pain
of our inflicting.  To be clever and sensitive and to hurt the foolish
and the stolid--"wouldst thou do such a deed for all the world?"


I shall not ask the commentators whether Blake used these two words in
union or in antithesis.  They assuredly have an inseverable union in the
art of literature.  The songs of Innocence and Experience are for each
poet the songs of his own separate heart and life; but to take the
cumulative experiences of other men, and to use these in place of the
virginal fruit of thought--whereas one would hardly consent to take them
for ordering even the most habitual of daily affairs--is to forgo
Innocence and Experience at once and together.  Obviously, Experience can
be nothing except personal and separate; and Innocence of a singularly
solitary quality is his who does not dip his hands into other men's
histories, and does not give to his own word the common sanction of other
men's summaries and conclusions.  Therefore I bind Innocence and
Experience in one, and take them as a sign of the necessary and noble
isolation of man from man--of his uniqueness.  But if I had a mind to
forgo that manner of personal separateness, and to use the things of
others, I think I would rather appropriate their future than their past.
Let me put on their hopes, and the colours of their confidence, if I must
borrow.  Not that I would burden my prophetic soul with unjustified
ambitions; but even this would be more tolerable than to load my memory
with an unjustifiable history.

And yet how differently do the writers of a certain kind of love-poetry
consider this matter.  These are the love-poets who have no reluctance in
adopting the past of a multitude of people to whom they have not even
been introduced.  Their verse is full of ready-made memories, various,
numerous, and cruel.  No single life--supposing it to be a liberal life
concerned with something besides sex--could quite suffice for so much
experience, so much disillusion, so much _deception_.  To achieve that
tone in its fullness it is necessary to take for one's own the
_praeterita_ (say) of Alfred de Musset and of the men who helped him--not
to live but--to have lived; it is necessary to have lived much more than
any man lives, and to make a common hoard of erotic remembrances with all
kinds of poets.

As the Franciscans wear each other's old habits, and one friar goes about
darned because of another's rending, so the poet of a certain order grows
cynical for the sake of many poets' old loves.  Not otherwise will the
resultant verse succeed in implying so much--or rather so many, in the
feminine plural.  The man of very sensitive individuality might hesitate
at the adoption.  The Franciscan is understood to have a fastidiousness
and to overcome it.  And yet, if choice were, one might wish rather to
make use of one's fellow men's old shoes than put their old secrets to
use, and dress one's art in a motley of past passions.  Moreover, to
utilize the mental experience of many is inevitably to use their verse
and phrase.  For the rest, all the traits of this love-poetry are
familiar enough.  One of them is the absence of the word of promise and
pledge, the loss of the earliest and simplest of the impulses of love:
which is the vow.  "Till death!"  "For ever!" are cries too simple and
too natural to be commonplace, and in their denial there is the least
tolerable of banalities--that of other men's disillusions.

Perfect personal distinctness of Experience would be in literature a
delicate Innocence.  Not a passage of cheapness, of greed, of assumption,
of sloth, or of any such sins in the work of him whose love-poetry were
thus true, and whose _pudeur_ of personality thus simple and inviolate.
This is the private man, in other words the gentleman, who will neither
love nor remember in common.


There are hours claimed by Sleep, but refused to him.  None the less are
they his by some state within the mind, which answers rhythmically and
punctually to that claim.  Awake and at work, without drowsiness, without
languor, and without gloom, the night mind of man is yet not his day
mind; he has night-powers of feeling which are at their highest in
dreams, but are night's as well as sleep's.  The powers of the mind in
dreams, which are inexplicable, are not altogether baffled because the
mind is awake; it is the hour of their return as it is the hour of a
tide's, and they do return.

In sleep they have their free way.  Night then has nothing to hamper her
influence, and she draws the emotion, the senses, and the nerves of the
sleeper.  She urges him upon those extremities of anger and love,
contempt and terror to which not only can no event of the real day
persuade him, but for which, awake, he has perhaps not even the capacity.
This increase of capacity, which is the dream's, is punctual to the
night, even though sleep and the dream be kept at arm's length.

The child, not asleep, but passing through the hours of sleep and their
dominions, knows that the mood of night will have its hour; he puts off
his troubled heart, and will answer it another time, in the other state,
by day.  "I shall be able to bear this when I am grown up" is not oftener
in a young child's mind than "I shall endure to think of it in the day-
time."  By this he confesses the double habit and double experience, not
to be interchanged, and communicating together only by memory and hope.

Perhaps it will be found that to work all by day or all by night is to
miss something of the powers of a complex mind.  One might imagine the
rhythmic experience of a poet, subject, like a child, to the time, and
tempering the extremities of either state by messages of remembrance and

Never to have had a brilliant dream, and never to have had any delirium,
would be to live too much in the day; and hardly less would be the loss
of him who had not exercised his waking thought under the influence of
the hours claimed by dreams.  And as to choosing between day and night,
or guessing whether the state of day or dark is the truer and the more
natural, he would be rash who should make too sure.

In order to live the life of night, a watcher must not wake too much.
That is, he should not alter so greatly the character of night as to lose
the solitude, the visible darkness, or the quietude.  The hours of sleep
are too much altered when they are filled by lights and crowds; and
Nature is cheated so, and evaded, and her rhythm broken, as when the
larks caged in populous streets make ineffectual springs and sing
daybreak songs when the London gas is lighted.  Nature is easily
deceived; and the muse, like the lark, may be set all astray as to the
hour.  You may spend the peculiar hours of sleep amid so much noise and
among so many people that you shall not be aware of them; you may thus
merely force and prolong the day.  But to do so is not to live well both
lives; it is not to yield to the daily and nightly rise and fall and to
be cradled in the swing of change.

There surely never was a poet but was now and then rocked in such a
cradle of alternate hours.  "It cannot be," says Herbert, "that I am he
on whom Thy tempests fell all night."

It is in the hours of sleep that the mind, by some divine paradox, has
the extremest sense of light.  Almost the most shining lines in English
poetry--lines that cast sunrise shadows--are those of Blake, written
confessedly from the side of night, the side of sorrow and dreams, and
those dreams the dreams of little chimney-sweepers; all is as dark as he
can make it with the "bags of soot"; but the boy's dream of the green
plain and the river is too bright for day.  So, indeed, is another
brightness of Blake's, which is also, in his poem, a child's dream, and
was certainly conceived by him in the hours of sleep, in which he woke to
write the Songs of Innocence:-

   O what land is the land of dreams?
   What are its mountains, and what are its streams?
   O father, I saw my mother there,
   Among the lilies by waters fair.
   Among the lambs clothed in white,
   She walk'd with her Thomas in sweet delight.

To none but the hours claimed and inspired by sleep, held awake by
sufferance of sleep, belongs such a vision.

Corot also took the brilliant opportunity of the hours of sleep.  In some
landscapes of his early manner he has the very light of dreams, and it
was surely because he went abroad at the time when sleep and dreams
claimed his eyes that he was able to see so spiritual an illumination.
Summer is precious for a painter, chiefly because in summer so many of
the hours of sleep are also hours of light.  He carries the mood of man's
night out into the sunshine--Corot did so--and lives the life of night,
in all its genius, in the presence of a risen sun.  In the only time when
the heart can dream of light, in the night of visions, with the rhythmic
power of night at its dark noon in his mind, his eyes see the soaring of
the actual sun.

He himself has not yet passed at that hour into the life of day.  To that
life belongs many another kind of work, and a sense of other kinds of
beauty; but the summer daybreak was seen by Corot with the extreme
perception of the life of night.  Here, at last, is the explanation of
all the memories of dreams recalled by these visionary paintings, done in
earlier years than were those, better known, that are the Corots of all
the world.  Every man who knows what it is to dream of landscape meets
with one of these works of Corot's first manner with a cry, not of
welcome only, but of recognition.  Here is morning perceived by the
spirit of the hours of sleep.


The wild man is alone at will, and so is the man for whom civilization
has been kind.  But there are the multitudes to whom civilization has
given little but its reaction, its rebound, its chips, its refuse, its
shavings, sawdust and waste, its failures; to them solitude is a right
foregone or a luxury unattained; a right foregone, we may name it, in the
case of the nearly savage, and a luxury unattained in the case of the
nearly refined.  These has the movement of the world thronged together
into some blind by-way.

Their share in the enormous solitude which is the common, unbounded, and
virtually illimitable possession of all mankind has lapsed, unclaimed.
They do not know it is theirs.  Of many of their kingdoms they are
ignorant, but of this most ignorant.  They have not guessed that they own
for every man a space inviolate, a place of unhidden liberty and of no
obscure enfranchisement.  They do not claim even the solitude of closed
corners, the narrow privacy of the lock and key; nor could they command
so much.  For the solitude that has a sky and a horizon they know not how
to wish.

It lies in a perpetual distance.  England has leagues thereof,
landscapes, verge beyond verge, a thousand thousand places in the woods,
and on uplifted hills.  Or rather, solitudes are not to be measured by
miles; they are to be numbered by days.  They are freshly and freely the
dominion of every man for the day of his possession.  There is loneliness
for innumerable solitaries.  As many days as there are in all the ages,
so many solitudes are there for men.  This is the open house of the
earth; no one is refused.  Nor is the space shortened or the silence
marred because, one by one, men in multitudes have been alone there
before.  Solitude is separate experience.  Nay, solitudes are not to be
numbered by days, but by men themselves.  Every man of the living and
every man of the dead might have had his "privacy of light."

It needs no park.  It is to be found in the merest working country; and a
thicket may be as secret as a forest.  It is not so difficult to get for
a time out of sight and earshot.  Even if your solitude be enclosed, it
is still an open solitude, so there be "no cloister for the eyes," and a
space of far country or a cloud in the sky be privy to your hiding-place.
But the best solitude does not hide at all.

This the people who have drifted together into the streets live whole
lives and never know.  Do they suffer from their deprivation of even the
solitude of the hiding-place?  There are many who never have a whole hour
alone.  They live in reluctant or indifferent companionship, as people
may in a boarding-house, by paradoxical choice, familiar with one another
and not intimate.  They live under careless observation and subject to a
vagabond curiosity.  Theirs is the involuntary and perhaps the
unconscious loss which is futile and barren.

One knows the men, and the many women, who have sacrificed all their
solitude to the perpetual society of the school, the cloister, or the
hospital ward.  They walk without secrecy, candid, simple, visible,
without moods, unchangeable, in a constant communication and practice of
action and speech.  Theirs assuredly is no barren or futile loss, and
they have a conviction, and they bestow the conviction, of solitude

Who has painted solitude so that the solitary seemed to stand alone and
inaccessible?  There is the loneliness of the shepherdess in many a
drawing of J.F. Millet.  The little figure is away, aloof.  The girl
stands so when the painter is gone.  She waits so on the sun for the
closing of the hours of pasture.  Millet has her as she looks, out of

Now, although solitude is a prepared, secured, defended, elaborate
possession of the rich, they too deny themselves the natural solitude of
a woman with a child.  A newly-born child is so nursed and talked about,
handled and jolted and carried about by aliens, and there is so much
importunate service going forward, that a woman is hardly alone long
enough to become aware, in recollection, how her own blood moves
separately, beside her, with another rhythm and different pulses.  All is
commonplace until the doors are closed upon the two.  This unique
intimacy is a profound retreat, an absolute seclusion.  It is more than
single solitude; it is a redoubled isolation more remote than mountains,
safer than valleys, deeper than forests, and further than mid-sea.

That solitude partaken--the only partaken solitude in the world--is the
Point of Honour of ethics.  Treachery to that obligation and a betrayal
of that confidence might well be held to be the least pardonable of all
crimes.  There is no innocent sleep so innocent as sleep shared between a
woman and a child, the little breath hurrying beside the longer, as a
child's foot runs.  But the favourite crime of the sentimentalist is that
of a woman against her child.  Her power, her intimacy, her opportunity,
that should be her accusers, are held to excuse her.  She gains the most
slovenly of indulgences and the grossest compassion, on the vulgar
grounds that her crime was easy.

Lawless and vain art of a certain kind is apt to claim to-day, by the
way, some such fondling as a heroine of the dock receives from common
opinion.  The vain artist had all the opportunities of the situation.  He
was master of his own purpose, such as it was; it was his secret, and the
public was not privy to his artistic conscience.  He does violence to the
obligations of which he is aware, and which the world does not know very
explicitly.  Nothing is easier.  Or he is lawless in a more literal
sense, but only hopes the world will believe that he has a whole code of
his own making.  It would, nevertheless, be less unworthy to break
obvious rules obviously in the obvious face of the public, and to abide
the common rebuke.

It has just been said that a park is by no means necessary for the
preparation of a country solitude.  Indeed, to make those far and wide
and long approaches and avenues to peace seems to be a denial of the
accessibility of what should be so simple.  A step, a pace or so aside,
is enough to lead thither.

A park insists too much, and, besides, does not insist very sincerely.  In
order to fulfil the apparent professions and to keep the published
promise of a park, the owner thereof should be a lover of long seclusion
or of a very life of loneliness.  He should have gained the state of
solitariness which is a condition of life quite unlike any other.  The
traveller who may have gone astray in countries where an almost life-long
solitude is possible knows how invincibly apart are the lonely figures he
has seen in desert places there.  Their loneliness is broken by his
passage, it is true, but hardly so to them.  They look at him, but they
are not aware that he looks at them.  Nay, they look at him as though
they were invisible.  Their un-self-consciousness is absolute; it is in
the wild degree.  They are solitaries, body and soul; even when they are
curious, and turn to watch the passer-by, they are essentially alone.
Now, no one ever found that attitude in a squire's figure, or that look
in any country gentleman's eyes.  The squire is not a life-long solitary.
He never bore himself as though he were invisible.  He never had the
impersonal ways of a herdsman in the remoter Apennines, with a blind,
blank hut in the rocks for his dwelling.  Millet would not even have
taken him as a model for a solitary in the briefer and milder sylvan
solitudes of France.  And yet nothing but a life-long, habitual, and wild
solitariness would be quite proportionate to a park of any magnitude.

If there is a look of human eyes that tells of perpetual loneliness, so
there is also the familiar look that is the sign of perpetual crowds.  It
is the London expression, and, in its way, the Paris expression.  It is
the quickly caught, though not interested, look, the dull but ready
glance of those who do not know of their forfeited place apart; who have
neither the open secret nor the close; no reserve, no need of refuge, no
flight nor impulse of flight; no moods but what they may brave out in the
street, no hope of news from solitary counsels.


The difficulty of dealing--in the course of any critical duty--with
decivilized man lies in this: when you accuse him of vulgarity--sparing
him no doubt the word--he defends himself against the charge of
barbarism.  Especially from new soil--remote, colonial--he faces you,
bronzed, with a half conviction of savagery, partly persuaded of his own
youthfulness of race.  He writes, and recites, poems about ranches and
canyons; they are designed to betray the recklessness of his nature and
to reveal the good that lurks in the lawless ways of a young society.  He
is there to explain himself, voluble, with a glossary for his own artless
slang.  But his colonialism is only provincialism very articulate.  The
new air does but make old decadences seem more stale; the young soil does
but set into fresh conditions the ready-made, the uncostly, the refuse
feeling of a race decivilizing.  He who played long this pattering part
of youth, hastened to assure you with so self-denying a face he did not
wear war-paint and feathers, that it became doubly difficult to
communicate to him that you had suspected him of nothing wilder than a
second-hand (figurative) dress coat.  And when it was a question not of
rebuke, but of praise, even the American was ill-content with the word of
the judicious who lauded him for some delicate successes in continuing
something of the literature of England, something of the art of France;
he was more eager for the applause that stimulated him to write poems in
prose form and to paint panoramic landscape, after brief training in
academies of native inspiration.  Even now English voices are constantly
calling upon America to begin--to begin, for the world is expectant.
Whereas there is no beginning for her, but instead a fine and admirable
continuity which only a constant care can guide into sustained advance.

But decivilized man is not peculiar to new soil.  The English town, too,
knows him in all his dailiness.  In England, too, he has a literature, an
art, a music, all his own--derived from many and various things of price.
Trash, in the fullness of its insimplicity and cheapness, is impossible
without a beautiful past.  Its chief characteristic--which is futility,
not failure--could not be achieved but by the long abuse, the rotatory
reproduction, the quotidian disgrace, of the utterances of Art,
especially the utterance by words.  Gaiety, vigour, vitality, the organic
quality, purity, simplicity, precision--all these are among the
antecedents of trash.  It is after them; it is also, alas, because of
them.  And nothing can be much sadder that such a proof of what may
possibly be the failure of derivation.

Evidently we cannot choose our posterity.  Reversing the steps of time,
we may, indeed choose backwards.  We may give our thoughts noble
forefathers.  Well begotten, well born our fancies must be; they shall be
also well derived.  We have a voice in decreeing our inheritance, and not
our inheritance only, but our heredity.  Our minds may trace upwards and
follow their ways to the best well-heads of the arts.  The very habit of
our thoughts may be persuaded one way unawares by their antenatal
history.  Their companions must be lovely, but need be no lovelier than
their ancestors; and being so fathered and so husbanded, our thoughts may
be intrusted to keep the counsels of literature.

Such is our confidence in a descent we know.  But, of a sequel which of
us is sure?  Which of us is secured against the dangers of subsequent
depreciation?  And, moreover, which of us shall trace the contemporary
tendencies, the one towards honour, the other towards dishonour?  Or who
shall discover why derivation becomes degeneration, and where and when
and how the bastardy befalls?  The decivilized have every grace as the
antecedent of their vulgarities, every distinction as the precedent of
their mediocrities.  No ballad-concert song, feign it sigh, frolic, or
laugh, but has the excuse that the feint was suggested, was made easy, by
some living sweetness once.  Nor are the decivilized to blame as having
in their own persons possessed civilization and marred it.  They did not
possess it; they were born into some tendency to derogation, into an
inclination for things mentally inexpensive.  And the tendency can hardly
do other than continue.

Nothing can look duller than the future of this second-hand and
multiplying world.  Men need not be common merely because they are many;
but the infection of commonness once begun in the many, what dullness in
their future!  To the eye that has reluctantly discovered this truth--that
the vulgarized are not _un_-civilized, and that there is no growth for
them--it does not look like a future at all.  More ballad-concerts, more
quaint English, more robustious barytone songs, more piecemeal pictures,
more colonial poetry, more young nations with withered traditions.  Yet
it is before this prospect that the provincial overseas lifts up his
voice in a boast or a promise common enough among the incapable young,
but pardonable only in senility.  He promises the world a literature, an
art, that shall be new because his forest is untracked and his town just
built.  But what the newness is to be he cannot tell.  Certain words were
dreadful once in the mouth of desperate old age.  Dreadful and pitiable
as the threat of an impotent king, what shall we name them when they are
the promise of an impotent people?  "I will do such things: what they are
yet I know not."


With mimicry, with praises, with echoes, or with answers, the poets have
all but outsung the bells.  The inarticulate bell has found too much
interpretation, too many rhymes professing to close with her inaccessible
utterance, and to agree with her remote tongue.  The bell, like the bird,
is a musician pestered with literature.

To the bell, moreover, men do actual violence.  You cannot shake together
a nightingale's notes, or strike or drive them into haste, nor can you
make a lark toll for you with intervals to suit your turn, whereas
wedding-bells are compelled to seem gay by mere movement and hustling.  I
have known some grim bells, with not a single joyous note in the whole
peal, so forced to hurry for a human festival, with their harshness made
light of, as though the Bishop of Hereford had again been forced to dance
in his boots by a merry highwayman.

The clock is an inexorable but less arbitrary player than the bellringer,
and the chimes await their appointed time to fly--wild prisoners--by twos
or threes, or in greater companies.  Fugitives--one or twelve taking
wing--they are sudden, they are brief, they are gone; they are delivered
from the close hands of this actual present.  Not in vain is the sudden
upper door opened against the sky; they are away, hours of the past.

Of all unfamiliar bells, those which seem to hold the memory most surely
after but one hearing are bells of an unseen cathedral of France when one
has arrived by night; they are no more to be forgotten than the bells in
"Parsifal."  They mingle with the sound of feet in unknown streets, they
are the voices of an unknown tower; they are loud in their own language.
The spirit of place, which is to be seen in the shapes of the fields and
the manner of the crops, to be felt in a prevalent wind, breathed in the
breath of the earth, overheard in a far street-cry or in the tinkle of
some black-smith, calls out and peals in the cathedral bells.  It speaks
its local tongue remotely, steadfastly, largely, clamorously, loudly, and
greatly by these voices; you hear the sound in its dignity, and you know
how familiar, how childlike, how life-long it is in the ears of the
people.  The bells are strange, and you know how homely they must be.
Their utterances are, as it were, the classics of a dialect.

Spirit of place!  It is for this we travel, to surprise its subtlety; and
where it is a strong and dominant angel, that place, seen once, abides
entire in the memory with all its own accidents, its habits, its breath,
its name.  It is recalled all a lifetime, having been perceived a week,
and is not scattered but abides, one living body of remembrance.  The
untravelled spirit of place--not to be pursued, for it never flies, but
always to be discovered, never absent, without variation--lurks in the by-
ways and rules over the towers, indestructible, an indescribable unity.
It awaits us always in its ancient and eager freshness.  It is sweet and
nimble within its immemorial boundaries, but it never crosses them.  Long
white roads outside have mere suggestions of it and prophecies; they give
promise not of its coming, for it abides, but of a new and singular and
unforeseen goal for our present pilgrimage, and of an intimacy to be
made.  Was ever journey too hard or too long that had to pay such a
visit?  And if by good fortune it is a child who is the pilgrim, the
spirit of place gives him a peculiar welcome, for antiquity and the
conceiver of antiquity (who is only a child) know one another; nor is
there a more delicate perceiver of locality than a child.  He is well
used to words and voices that he does not understand, and this is a
condition of his simplicity; and when those unknown words are bells, loud
in the night, they are to him as homely and as old as lullabies.

If, especially in England, we make rough and reluctant bells go in gay
measures, when we whip them to run down the scale to ring in a
wedding--bells that would step to quite another and a less agile march
with a better grace--there are belfries that hold far sweeter companies.
If there is no music within Italian churches, there is a most curious
local immemorial music in many a campanile on the heights.  Their way is
for the ringers to play a tune on the festivals, and the tunes are not
hymn tunes or popular melodies, but proper bell-tunes, made for bells.
Doubtless they were made in times better versed than ours in the
sub-divisions of the arts, and better able to understand the strength
that lies ready in the mere little submission to the means of a little
art, and to the limits--nay, the very embarrassments--of those means.  If
it were but possible to give here a real bell-tune--which cannot be, for
those melodies are rather long--the reader would understand how some
village musician of the past used his narrow means as a composer for the
bells, with what freshness, completeness, significance, fancy, and what
effect of liberty.

These hamlet-bells are the sweetest, as to their own voices, in the
world.  Then I speak of their antiquity I use the word relatively.  The
belfries are no older than the sixteenth or seventeenth century, the time
when Italy seems to have been generally rebuilt.  But, needless to say,
this is antiquity for music, especially in Italy.  At that time they must
have had foundries for bells of tender voices, and pure, warm, light, and
golden throats, precisely tuned.  The hounds of Theseus had not a more
just scale, tuned in a peal, than a North Italian belfry holds in leash.
But it does not send them out in a mere scale, it touches them in the
order of the game of a charming melody.  Of all cheerful sounds made by
man this is by far the most light-hearted.  You do not hear it from the
great churches.  Giotto's coloured tower in Florence, that carries the
bells for Santa Maria del Fiore and Brunelleschi's silent dome, does not
ring more than four contralto notes, tuned with sweetness, depth, and
dignity, and swinging one musical phrase which softly fills the country.

The village belfry it is that grows so fantastic and has such nimble
bells.  Obviously it stands alone with its own village, and can therefore
hear its own tune from beginning to end.  There are no other bells in
earshot.  Other such dovecote-doors are suddenly set open to the cloud,
on a _festa_ morning, to let fly those soft-voiced flocks, but the
nearest is behind one of many mountains, and our local tune is
uninterrupted.  Doubtless this is why the little, secluded, sequestered
art of composing melodies for bells--charming division of an art, having
its own ends and means, and keeping its own wings for unfolding by
law--dwells in these solitary places.  No tunes in a town would get this
hearing, or would be made clear to the end of their frolic amid such a
wide and lofty silence.

Nor does every inner village of Italy hold a bell-tune of its own; the
custom is Ligurian.  Nowhere so much as in Genoa does the nervous tourist
complain of church bells in the morning, and in fact he is made to hear
an honest rout of them betimes.  But the nervous tourist has not,
perhaps, the sense of place, and the genius of place does not signal to
him to go and find it among innumerable hills, where one by one, one by
one, the belfries stand and play their tunes.  Variable are those lonely
melodies, having a differing gaiety for the festivals; and a pitiful air
is played for the burial of a villager.

As for the poets, there is but one among so many of their bells that
seems to toll with a spiritual music so loud as to be unforgotten when
the mind goes up a little higher than the earth, to listen in thought to
earth's untethered sounds.  This is Milton's curfew, that sways across
one of the greatest of all the seashores of poetry--"the wide-watered."


The more I consider that strange inversion of idolatry which is the
motive of Guy Fawkes Day and which annually animates the by-streets with
the sound of processionals and of recessionals--a certain popular version
of "Lest we forget" their unvaried theme; the more I hear the cries of
derision raised by the makers of this likeness of something unworshipful
on the earth beneath, so much the more am I convinced that the national
humour is that of banter, and that no other kind of mirth so gains as
does this upon the public taste.

Here, for example, is the popular idea of a street festival; that day is
as the people will actually have it, with their own invention, their own
material, their own means, and their own spirit.  They owe nothing on
this occasion to the promptings or the subscriptions of the classes that
are apt to take upon themselves the direction and tutelage of the people
in relation to any form of art.  Here on every fifth of November the
people have their own way with their own art; and their way is to offer
the service of the image-maker, reversed in hissing and irony, to some
creature of their hands.

It is a wanton fancy; and perhaps no really barbarous people is capable
of so overturning the innocent plan of original portraiture.  To make a
mental image of all things that are named to the ear, or conceived in the
mind, being an industrious custom of children and childish people which
lapses in the age of much idle reading, the making of a material image is
the still more diligent and more sedulous act, whereby the primitive man
controls and caresses his own fancy.  He may take arms anon,
disappointed, against his own work; but did he ever do that work in
malice from the outset?

From the statue to the doll, images are all outraged in the person of the
guy.  If it were but an antithesis to the citizen's idea of something
admirable which he might carry in procession on some other day, the
carrying of the guy would be less gloomy; but he would hoot at a
suspicion that he might admire anything so much as to make a good-looking
doll in its praise.  There is absolutely no image-making art in the
practice of our people, except only this art of rags and contumely.  Or,
again, if the revenge taken upon a guy were that of anger for a certain
cause, the destruction would not be the work of so thin an annual malice
and of so heartless a rancour.

But the single motive is that popular irony which becomes daily--or so it
seems--more and more the holiday temper of the majority.  Mockery is the
only animating impulse, and a loud incredulity is the only intelligence.
They make an image of some one in whom they do not believe, to deride it.
Say that the guy is the effigy of an agitator in the cause of something
to be desired; the street man and boy have then two motives of mocking:
they think the reform to be not worth doing, and they are willing to
suspect the reformer of some kind of hypocrisy.  Perhaps the guy of this
occasion is most characteristic of all guys in London.  The people,
having him or her to deride, do not even wait for the opportunity of
their annual procession.  They anticipate time, and make an image when it
is not November, and sell it at the market of the kerb.

Hear, moreover, the songs which some nameless one makes for the citizens,
perhaps in thoughtful renunciation of the making of their laws.  These,
too, seem to have for their inspiration the universal taunt.  They are,
indeed, most in vogue when they have no meaning at all--this it is that
makes the _succes fou_ (and here Paris is of one mind with London) of
the street; but short of such a triumph, and when a meaning is
discernible, it is an irony.

Bank Holiday courtship (if the inappropriate word can be pardoned) seems
to be done, in real life, entirely by banter.  And it is the strangest
thing to find that the banter of women by men is the most mocking in the
exchange.  If the burlesque of the maid's tongue is provocative, that of
the man's is derisive.  Somewhat of the order of things as they stood
before they were inverted seems to remain, nevertheless, as a memory;
nay, to give the inversion a kind of lagging interest.  Irony is made
more complete by the remembrance, and by an implicit allusion to the
state of courtship in other classes, countries, or times.  Such an
allusion no doubt gives all its peculiar twang to the burlesque of love.

With the most strange submission these Englishwomen in their millions
undergo all degrees of derision from the tongues of men who are their
mates, equals, contemporaries, perhaps in some obscure sense their
suitors, and in a strolling manner, with one knows not what ungainly
motive of reserve, even their admirers.  Nor from their tongues only;
for, to pass the time, the holiday swain annoys the girl; and if he wears
her hat, it is ten to one that he has plucked it off with a humorous
disregard of her dreadful pins.

We have to believe that unmocked love has existence in the streets,
because of the proof that is published when a man shoots a woman who has
rejected him; and from this also do we learn to believe that a woman of
the burlesque classes is able to reject.  But for that sign we should
find little or nothing intelligible in what we see or overhear of the
drama of love in popular life.

In its easy moments, in its leisure, at holiday time, it baffles all
tradition, and shows us the spirit of comedy clowning after a fashion
that is insular and not merely civic.  You hear the same twang in country
places; and whether the English maid, having, like the antique, thrown
her apple at her shepherd, run into the thickets of Hampstead Heath or
among sylvan trees, it seems that the most humorous thing to be done by
the swain would be, in the opinion in vogue, to stroll another way.
Insular I have said, because I have not seen the like of this fashion
whether in America or elsewhere in Europe.

But the chief inversion of all, proved summarily by the annual inversion
of the worship of images on the fifth of November, is that of a sentence
of Wordsworth's--"We live by admiration."


Some considerable time must have gone by since any kind of courtesy
ceased, in England, to be held necessary in the course of communication
with a beggar.  Feeling may be humane, and the interior act most gentle;
there may be a tacit apology, and a profound misgiving unexpressed; a
reluctance not only to refuse but to be arbiter; a dislike of the office;
a regret, whether for the unequal distribution of social luck or for a
purse left at home, equally sincere; howbeit custom exacts no word or
sign, nothing whatever of intercourse.  If a dog or a cat accosts you, or
a calf in a field comes close to you with a candid infant face and
breathing nostrils of investigation, or if any kind of animal comes to
you on some obscure impulse of friendly approach, you acknowledge it.  But
the beggar to whom you give nothing expects no answer to a question, no
recognition of his presence, not so much as the turn of your eyelid in
his direction, and never a word to excuse you.

Nor does this blank behaviour seem savage to those who are used to
nothing else.  Yet it is somewhat more inhuman to refuse an answer to the
beggar's remark than to leave a shop without "Good morning."  When
complaint is made of the modern social manner--that it has no merit but
what is negative, and that it is apt even to abstain from courtesy with
more lack of grace than the abstinence absolutely requires--the habit of
manner towards beggars is probably not so much as thought of.  To the
simply human eye, however, the prevalent manner towards beggars is a
striking thing; it is significant of so much.

Obviously it is not easy to reply to begging except by the intelligible
act of giving.  We have not the ingenuous simplicity that marks the caste
answering more or less to that of Vere de Vere, in Italy, for example.  An
elderly Italian lady on her slow way from her own ancient ancestral
_palazzo_ to the village, and accustomed to meet, empty-handed, a certain
number of beggars, answers them by a retort which would be, literally
translated, "Excuse me, dear; I, too, am a poor devil," and the last word
she naturally puts into the feminine.

Moreover, the sentence is spoken in all the familiarity of the local
dialect--a dialect that puts any two people at once upon equal terms as
nothing else can do it.  Would it were possible to present the phrase to
English readers in all its own helpless good-humour.  The excellent woman
who uses it is practising no eccentricity thereby, and raises no smile.
It is only in another climate, and amid other manners, that one cannot
recall it without a smile.  To a mind having a lively sense of contrast
it is not a little pleasant to imagine an elderly lady of corresponding
station in England replying so to importunities for alms; albeit we have
nothing answering to the good fellowship of a broad patois used currently
by rich and poor, and yet slightly grotesque in the case of all
speakers--a dialect in which, for example, no sermon is ever preached,
and in which no book is ever printed, except for fun; a dialect
"familiar, but by no means vulgar."  Besides, even if our Englishwoman
could by any possibility bring herself to say to a mendicant, "Excuse me,
dear; I, too, am a poor devil," she would still not have the opportunity
of putting the last word punctually into the feminine, which does so
complete the character of the sentence.

The phrase at the head of this paper is the far more graceful phrase of
excuse customary in the courteous manners of Portugal.  And everywhere in
the South, where an almost well-dressed old woman, who suddenly begins to
beg from you when you least expected it, calls you "my daughter," you can
hardly reply without kindness.  Where the tourist is thoroughly well
known, doubtless the company of beggars are used to savage manners in the
rich; but about the byways and remoter places there must still be some
dismay at the anger, the silence, the indignation, and the inexpensive
haughtiness wherewith the opportunity of alms-giving is received by

In nothing do we show how far the West is from the East so emphatically
as we show it by our lofty ways towards those who so manifestly put
themselves at our feet.  It is certainly not pleasant to see them there;
but silence or a storm of impersonal protest--a protest that appeals
vaguely less to the beggars than to some not impossible police--does not
seem the most appropriate manner of rebuking them.  We have, it may be, a
scruple on the point of human dignity, compromised by the entreaty and
the thanks of the mendicant; but we have a strange way of vindicating
that dignity when we refuse to man, woman, or child the recognition of a
simply human word.  Nay, our offence is much the greater of the two.  It
is not merely a rough and contemptuous intercourse, it is the refusal of
intercourse--the last outrage.  How do we propose to redress those
conditions of life that annoy us when a brother whines, if we deny the
presence, the voice, and the being of this brother, and if, because
fortune has refused him money, we refuse him existence?

We take the matter too seriously, or not seriously enough, to hold it in
the indifference of the wise.  "Have patience, little saint," is a phrase
that might teach us the cheerful way to endure our own unintelligible
fortunes in the midst, say, of the population of a hill-village among the
most barren of the Maritime Alps, where huts of stone stand among the
stones of an unclothed earth, and there is no sign of daily bread.  The
people, albeit unused to travellers, yet know by instinct what to do, and
beg without the delay of a moment as soon as they see your unwonted
figure.  Let it be taken for granted that you give all you can; some form
of refusal becomes necessary at last, and the gentlest--it is worth while
to remember--is the most effectual.  An indignant tourist, one who to the
portent of a puggaree which, perhaps, he wears on a grey day, adds that
of ungovernable rage, is so wild a visitor that no attempt at all is made
to understand him; and the beggars beg dismayed but unalarmed,
uninterruptedly, without a pause or a conjecture.  They beg by rote,
thinking of something else, as occasion arises, and all indifferent to
the violence of the rich.

It is the merry beggar who has so lamentably disappeared.  If a beggar is
still merry anywhere, he hides away what it would so cheer and comfort us
to see; he practises not merely the conventional seeming, which is hardly
intended to convince, but a more subtle and dramatic kind of semblance,
of no good influence upon the morals of the road.  He no longer trusts
the world with a sight of his gaiety.  He is not a wholehearted
mendicant, and no longer keeps that liberty of unstable balance whereby
an unattached creature can go in a new direction with a new wind.  The
merry beggar was the only adventurer free to yield to the lighter touches
of chance, the touches that a habit of resistance has made imperceptible
to the seated and stable social world.

The visible flitting figure of the unfettered madman sprinkled our
literature with mad songs, and even one or two poets of to-day have, by
tradition, written them; but that wild source of inspiration has been
stopped; it has been built over, lapped and locked, imprisoned, led
underground.  The light melancholy and the wind-blown joys of the song of
the distraught, which the poets were once ingenious to capture, have
ceased to sound one note of liberty in the world's ears.  But it seems
that the grosser and saner freedom of the happy beggar is still the
subject of a Spanish song.

That song is gay, not defiant it is not an outlaw's or a robber's, it is
not a song of violence or fear.  It is the random trolling note of a man
who owes his liberty to no disorder, failure, or ill-fortune, but takes
it by choice from the voluntary world, enjoys it at the hand of
unreluctant charity; who twits the world with its own choice of bonds,
but has not broken his own by force.  It seems, therefore, the song of an
indomitable liberty of movement, light enough for the puffs of a zephyr


No woman has ever crossed the inner threshold, or shall ever cross it,
unless a queen, English or foreign, should claim her privilege.
Therefore, if a woman records here the slighter things visible of the
monastic life, it is only because she was not admitted to see more than
beautiful courtesy and friendliness were able to show her in guest-house
and garden.

The Monastery is of fresh-looking Gothic, by Pugin--the first of the
dynasty: it is reached by the white roads of a limestone country, and
backed by a young plantation, and it gathers its group of buildings in a
cleft high up among the hills of Wales.  The brown habit is this, and
these are the sandals, that come and go by hills of finer, sharper, and
loftier line, edging the dusk and dawn of an Umbrian sky.  Just such a
Via Crucis climbs the height above Orta, and from the foot of its final
crucifix you can see the sunrise touch the top of Monte Rosa, while the
encircled lake below is cool with the last of the night.  The same order
of friars keep that sub-Alpine Monte Sacro, and the same have set the
Kreuzberg beyond Bonn with the same steep path by the same fourteen
chapels, facing the Seven Mountains and the Rhine.

Here, in North Wales, remote as the country is, with the wheat green over
the blunt hill-tops, and the sky vibrating with larks, a long wing of
smoke lies round the horizon.  The country, rather thinly and languidly
cultivated above, has a valuable sub-soil, and is burrowed with mines;
the breath of pit and factory, out of sight, thickens the lower sky, and
lies heavily over the sands of Dee.  It leaves the upper blue clear and
the head of Orion, but dims the flicker of Sirius and shortens the steady
ray of the evening star.  The people scattered about are not mining
people, but half-hearted agriculturists, and very poor.  Their cottages
are rather cabins; not a tiled roof is in the country, but the slates
have taken some beauty with time, having dips and dimples, and grass upon
their edges.  The walls are all thickly whitewashed, which is a pleasure
to see.  How willingly would one swish the harmless whitewash over more
than half the colour--over all the chocolate and all the blue--with which
the buildings of the world are stained!  You could not wish for a better,
simpler, or fresher harmony than whitewash makes with the slight sunshine
and the bright grey of an English sky.

The grey-stone, grey-roofed monastery looks young in one sense--it is
modern; and the friars look young in another--they are like their
brothers of an earlier time.  No one, except the journalists of
yesterday, would spend upon them those tedious words, "quaint," or "old
world."  No such weary adjectives are spoken here, unless it be by the

With large aprons tied over their brown habits, the Lay Brothers work
upon their land, planting parsnips in rows, or tending a prosperous bee-
farm.  A young friar, who sang the High Mass yesterday, is gaily hanging
the washed linen in the sun.  A printing press, and a machine which
slices turnips, are at work in an outhouse, and the yard thereby is
guarded by a St Bernard, whose single evil deed was that under one of the
obscure impulses of a dog's heart--atoned for by long and self-conscious
remorse--he bit the poet; and tried, says one of the friars, to make
doggerel of him.  The poet, too, lives at the monastery gates, and on
monastery ground, in a seclusion which the tidings of the sequence of his
editions hardly reaches.  There is no disturbing renown to be got among
the cabins of the Flintshire hills.  Homeward, over the verge, from other
valleys, his light figure flits at nightfall, like a moth.

To the coming and going of the friars, too, the village people have
become well used, and the infrequent excursionists, for lack of
intelligence and of any knowledge that would refer to history, look at
them without obtrusive curiosity.  It was only from a Salvation Army girl
that you heard the brutal word of contempt.  She had come to the place
with some companions, and with them was trespassing, as she was welcome
to do, within the monastery grounds.  She stood, a figure for Bournemouth
pier, in her grotesque bonnet, and watched the son of the Umbrian
saint--the friar who walks among the Giotto frescoes at Assisi and
between the cypresses of Bello Sguardo, and has paced the centuries
continually since the coming of the friars.  One might have asked of her
the kindness of a fellow-feeling.  She and he alike were so habited as to
show the world that their life was aloof from its "idle business."  By
some such phrase, at least, the friar would assuredly have attempted to
include her in any spiritual honours ascribed to him.  Or one might have
asked of her the condescension of forbearance.  "Only fancy," said the
Salvation Army girl, watching the friar out of sight, "only fancy making
such a fool of one's self!"

The great hood of the friars, which is drawn over the head in Zurbaran's
ecstatic picture, is turned to use when the friars are busy.  As a pocket
it relieves the over-burdened hands.  A bottle of the local white wine
made by the brotherhood at Genoa, and sent to this house by the West, is
carried in the cowl as a present to the stranger at the gates.  The
friars tell how a brother resolved, at Shrovetide, to make pancakes, and
not only to make, but also to toss them.  Those who chanced to be in the
room stood prudently aside, and the brother tossed boldly.  But that was
the last that was seen of his handiwork.  Victor Hugo sings in _La
Legende des Siecles_ of disappearance as the thing which no creature
is able to achieve: here the impossibility seemed to be accomplished by
quite an ordinary and a simple pancake.  It was clean gone, and there was
an end of it.  Nor could any explanation of this ceasing of a pancake
from the midst of the visible world be so much as divined by the
spectators.  It was only when the brother, in church, knelt down to
meditate and drew his cowl about his head that the accident was

Every midnight the sweet contralto bells call the community, who get up
gaily to this difficult service.  Of all duties this one never grows easy
or familiar, and therefore never habitual.  It is something to have found
but one act aloof from habit.  It is not merely that the friars overcome
the habit of sleep.  The subtler point is that they can never acquire the
habit of sacrificing sleep.  What art, what literature, or what life but
would gain a secret security by such a point of perpetual freshness and
perpetual initiative?  It is not possible to get up at midnight without a
will that is new night by night.  So should the writer's work be done,
and, with an intention perpetually unique, the poet's.

The contralto bells have taught these Western hills the "Angelus" of the
French fields, and the hour of night--_l'ora di notte_--which rings
with so melancholy a note from the village belfries on the Adriatic
littoral, when the latest light is passing.  It is the prayer for the
dead: "Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord."

The little flocks of novices, on paschal evenings, are folded to the
sound of that evening prayer.  The care of them is the central work of
the monastery, which is placed in so remote a country because it is
principally a place of studies.  So much elect intellect and strength of
heart withdrawn from the traffic of the world!  True, the friars are not
doing the task which Carlyle set mankind as a refuge from despair.  These
"bearded counsellors of God" keep their cells, read, study, suffer, sing,
hold silence; whereas they might be "operating"--beautiful word!--upon
the Stock Exchange, or painting Academy pictures, or making speeches, or
reluctantly jostling other men for places.  They might be among the
involuntary busybodies who are living by futile tasks the need whereof is
a discouraged fiction.  There is absolutely no limit to the superfluous
activities, to the art, to the literature, implicitly renounced by the
dwellers within such walls as these.  The output--again a beautiful
word--of the age is lessened by this abstention.  None the less hopes the
stranger and pilgrim to pause and knock once again upon those monastery


A singular love of walls is mine.  Perhaps because of childish
association with mountain-climbing roads narrow in the bright shadows of
grey stone, hiding olive trees whereof the topmost leaves prick above
into the blue; or perhaps because of subsequent living in London, with
its too many windows and too few walls, the city which of all capitals
takes least visible hold upon the ground; or for the sake of some other
attraction or aversion, walls, blank and strong, reaching outward at the
base, are a satisfaction to the eyes teased by the inexpressive peering
of windows, by that weak lapse and shuffling which is the London "area,"
and by the helpless hollows of shop-fronts.

I would rather have a wall than any rail but a very good one of wrought-
iron.  A wall is the safeguard of simplicity.  It lays a long level line
among the indefinite chances of the landscape.  But never more majestic
than in face of the wild sea, the wall, steadying its slanting foot upon
the rock, builds in the serried ilex-wood and builds out the wave.  The
sea-wall is the wall at its best.  And fine as it is on the strong coast,
it is beautiful on the weak littoral and the imperilled levels of a
northern beach.

That sea wall is low and long; sea-pinks grow on the salt grass that
passes away into shingle at its foot.  It is at close quarters with the
winter sea, when, from the low coast with its low horizon, the sky-line
of sea is jagged.  Never from any height does the ocean-horizon show thus
broken and battered at its very verge, but from the flat coast and the
narrow world you can see the wave as far as you can see the water; and
the stormy light of a clear horizon is seen to be mobile and shifting
with the buoyant hillocks and their restless line.

Nowhere in Holland does there seem to be such a low sea-wall as secures
many a mile of gentle English coast to the east.  The Dutch dyke has not
that aspect of a lowly parapet against a tide; it springs with a look of
haste and of height; and when you first run upstairs from the encumbered
Dutch fields to look at the sea, there is nothing in the least like
England; and even the Englishman of to-day is apt to share something of
the old perversity that was minded to cast derision upon the Dutch in
their encounters with the tides.

There has been some fault in the Dutch, making them subject to the slight
derision of the nations who hold themselves to be more romantic, and, as
it were, more slender.  We English, once upon a time, did especially
flout the little nation then acting a history that proved worth the
writing.  It may be no more than a brief perversity that has set a number
of our writers to cheer the memory of Charles II.  Perhaps, even, it is
no more than another rehearsal of that untiring success at the expense of
the bourgeois.  The bourgeois would be more simple than, in fact, he is
were he to stand up every time to be shocked; but, perhaps, the image of
his dismay is enough to reward the fancy of those who practise the wanton
art.  And, when all is done, who performs for any but an imaginary
audience?  Surely those companies of spectators and of auditors are not
the least of the makings of an author.  A few men and women he achieves
within his books; but others does he create without, and to those figures
of all illusion makes the appeal of his art.  More candid is the author
who has no world, but turns that appeal inwards to his own heart.  He has
at least a living hearer.

This is by the way.  Charles II has been cheered; the feat is done, the
dismay is imagined with joy.  And yet the Merry Monarch's was a dismal
time.  Plague, fire, the arrears of pension from the French King
remembered and claimed by the restored throne of England, and the Dutch
in the Medway--all this was disaster.  None the less, having the vanity
of new clothes and a pretty figure, did we--especially by the mouth of
Andrew Marvell--deride our victors, making sport of the Philistines with
a proper national sense of enjoyment of such physical disabilities, or
such natural difficulties, or such misfavour of fortune, as may beset the

Especially were the denials of fortune matter for merriment.  They are so
still; or they were so certainly in the day when a great novelist found
the smallness of some South German States to be the subject of unsating
banter.  The German scenes at the end of "Vanity Fair," for example, may
prove how much the ridicule of mere smallness, fewness, poverty (and not
even real poverty, privation, but the poverty that shows in comparison
with the gold of great States, and is properly in proportion) rejoiced
the sense of humour in a writer and moralist who intended to teach
mankind to be less worldly.  In Andrew Marvell's day they were even more
candid.  The poverty of privation itself was provocative of the sincere
laughter of the inmost man, the true, infrequent laughter of the heart.
Marvell, the Puritan, laughed that very laughter--at leanness, at hunger,
cold, and solitude--in the face of the world, and in the name of
literature, in one memorable satire.  I speak of "Flecno, an English
Priest in Rome," wherein nothing is spared--not the smallness of the
lodging, nor the lack of a bed, nor the scantiness of clothing, nor the

   "This basso-rilievo of a man--"

personal meagreness is the first joke and the last.

It is not to be wondered at that he should find in the smallness of the
country of Holland matter for a cordial jest.  But, besides the
smallness, there was that accidental and natural disadvantage in regard
to the sea.  In the Venetians, commerce with the sea, conflict with the
sea, a victory over the sea, and the ensuing peace--albeit a less instant
battle and a more languid victory--were confessed to be noble; in the
Dutch they were grotesque.  "With mad labour," says Andrew Marvell, with
the spirited consciousness of the citizen of a country well above ground
and free to watch the labour at leisure, "with mad labour" did the Dutch
"fish the land to shore."

   How did they rivet with gigantic piles,
   Thorough the centre, their new-catched miles,
   And to the stake a struggling country bound,
   Where barking waves still bait the forced ground;
   Building their watery Babel far more high
   To reach the sea than those to scale the sky!

It is done with a jolly wit, and in what admirable couplets!

   The fish oft-times the burgher dispossessed,
   And sat, not as a meat, but as a guest.

And it is even better sport that the astonished tritons and sea-nymphs
should find themselves provided with a capital _cabillau_ of shoals of
pickled Dutchmen (heeren for herring, says Marvell); and it must be
allowed that he rhymes with the enjoyment of irony.  There is not a smile
for us in "Flecno," but it is more than possible to smile over this
"Character of Holland"; at the excluded ocean returning to play at leap-
frog over the steeples; at the rise of government and authority in
Holland, which belonged of right to the man who could best invent a
shovel or a pump, the country being so leaky:-

   Not who first sees the rising sun commands,
   But who could first discern the rising lands.

We have lost something more than the delighted laughter of Marvell, more
than his practical joke, and more than the heart that was light in so
burly a frame--we have lost with these the wild humour that wore so well
the bonds of two equal lines, and was wild with so much order, invention,
malice, gaiety, polish, equilibrium, and vitality--in a word, the
Couplet, the couplet of the past.  We who cannot stand firm within two
lines, but must slip beyond and between the boundaries, who tolerate the
couplets of Keats and imitate them, should praise the day of Charles II
because of Marvell's art, and not for love of the sorry reign.  We had
plague, fire, and the Dutch in the Medway, but we had the couplet; and
there were also the measures of those more poetic poets, hitherto called
somewhat slightingly the Cavalier poets, who matched the wit of the
Puritan with a spirit simpler and less mocking.

It was against an English fortress, profoundly walled, that some
remembered winter storms lately turned their great artillery.  It was a
time of resounding nights; the sky was so clamorous and so close, up in
the towers of the seaside stronghold, that one seemed to be indeed
admitted to the perturbed counsels of the winds.  The gale came with an
indescribable haste, hooting as it flew; it seemed to break itself upon
the heights, yet passed unbroken out to sea; in the voice of the sea
there were pauses, but none in that of the urgent gale with its hoo-hoo-
hoo all night, that clamoured down the calling of the waves.  That lack
of pauses was the strangest thing in the tempest, because the increase of
sound seemed to imply a lull before.  The lull was never perceptible, but
the lift was always an alarm.  The onslaught was instant, where would it
stop?  What was the secret extreme to which this hurry and force were
tending?  You asked less what thing was driving the flocks of the storm
than what was drawing them.  The attraction seemed the greater violence,
the more irresistible, and the more unknown.  And there were moments when
the end seemed about to be attained.

The wind struck us hasty blows, and unawares we borrowed, to describe it,
words fit for the sharp strokes of material things; but the fierce gale
is soft.  Along the short grass, trembling and cowering flat on the
scarped hill-side, against the staggering horse, against the flint walls,
one with the rock they grasp, the battery of the tempest is a quick and
enormous softness.  What down, what sand, what deep moss, what elastic
wave could match the bed and cushion of the gale?

This storm tossed the wave and the stones of the sea-wall up together.
The next day it left the waters white with the thrilling whiteness of
foam in sunshine.  It was only the Channel; and in such narrow waters you
do not see the distances, the wide levels of fleeting and floating foam,
that lie light between long wave and long wave on a Mediterranean coast,
regions of delicate and transitory brightness so far out that all the
waves, near and far, seem to be breaking at the same moment, one beyond
the other, and league beyond league, into foam.  But the Channel has its
own strong, short curl that catches the rushing shingle up with the
freshest of all noises and runs up with sudden curves, white upon the
white sea-wall, under the random shadow of sea-gulls and the light of a
shining cloud.


"It was resolved," said the morning paper, "to colour the borders of the
panels and other spaces of Portland stone with arabesques and other
patterns, but that no paint should be used, as paint would need renewing
from time to time.  The colours, therefore,"--and here is the passage to
be noted--"are all mixed with wax liquefied with petroleum; and the wax
surface sets as hard as marble. . . The wax is left time to form an
imperishable surface of ornament, which would have to be cut out of the
stone with a chisel if it was desired to remove it."  Not, apparently,
that a new surface is formed which, by much violence and perseverance,
could, years hence, be chipped off again; but that the "ornament" is
driven in and incorporate, burnt in and absorbed, so that there is
nothing possible to cut away by any industry.  In this humorous form of
ornament we are beforehand with Posterity.  Posterity is baffled.

Will this victory over our sons' sons be the last resolute tyranny
prepared by one age for the coercion, constraint, and defeat of the
future?  To impose that compulsion has been hitherto one of the strongest
of human desires.  It is one, doubtless, to be outgrown by the human
race; but how slowly that growth creeps onwards, let this success in the
stencilling of St Paul's teach us, to our confusion.  There is evidently
a man--a group of men--happy at this moment because it has been possible,
by great ingenuity, to force our posterity to have their cupola of St
Paul's with the stone mouldings stencilled and "picked out" with niggling
colours, whether that undefended posterity like it or not.  And this is a
survival of one of the obscure pleasures of man, attested by history.

It is impossible to read the Thirty-nine Articles, for example, and not
to recognize in those acts of final, all-resolute, eager, eternal
legislation one of the strongest of all recorded proofs of this former
human wish.  If Galileo's Inquisitors put a check upon the earth, which
yet moved, a far bolder enterprise was the Reformers' who arrested the
moving man, and inhibited the moving God.  The sixteenth century and a
certain part of the age immediately following seem to be times when the
desire had conspicuously become a passion.  Say the middle of the
sixteenth century in Italy and the beginning of the seventeenth in
England--for in those days we were somewhat in the rear.  _There_ is the
obstinate, confident, unreluctant, undoubting, and resolved seizure upon
power.  _Then_ was Rome rebuilt, re-faced, marked with a single sign and
style.  Then was many a human hand stretched forth to grasp the fate of
the unborn.  The fortunes and the thoughts of the day to come were to be
as the day then present would have them, if the dead hand--the living
hand that was then to die, and was to keep its hold in death--could by
any means make them fast.

Obviously, to build at all is to impose something upon an age that may be
more than willing to build for itself.  The day may soon come when no man
will do even so much without some impulse of apology.  Posterity is not
compelled to keep our pictures or our books in existence, nor to read nor
to look at them; but it is more or less obliged to have a stone building
in view for an age or two.  We can hardly avoid some of the forms of
tyranny over the future, but few, few are the living men who would
consent to share in this horrible ingenuity at St Paul's--this petroleum
and this wax.

In 1842 they were discussing the decoration of the Houses of Parliament,
and the efforts of all in council were directed upon the future.  How the
frescoes then to be achieved by the artists of the day should be made
secure against all mischances--smoke, damp, "the risk of bulging," even
accidents attending the washing of upper floors--all was discussed in
confidence with the public.  It was impossible for anyone who read the
papers then to escape from some at least of the responsibilities of
technical knowledge.  From Genoa, from Rome, from Munich especially, all
kinds of expert and most deliberate schemes were gathered in order to
defeat the natural and not superfluous operation of efficient and
effacing time.

The academic little capital of Bavaria had, at about the same date,
decorated a vast quantity of wall space of more than one order of
architecture.  Art revived and was encouraged at that time and place with
unparalleled obstinacy.  They had not the malice of the petroleum that
does violence to St Paul's; but they had instead an indomitable patience.
Under the commands of the master Cornelius, they baffled time and all his
work--refused his pardons, his absolutions, his cancelling indulgences--by
a perseverance that nothing could discourage.  Who has not known somewhat
indifferent painters mighty busy about their colours and varnishes?
Cornelius caused a pit to be dug for the preparation of the lime, and in
the case of the Ludwig Kirche this lime remained there for eight years,
with frequent stirrings.  This was in order that the whole fresco, when
at last it was entrusted to its bed, should be set there for immortality.
Nor did the master fail to thwart time by those mechanical means that
should avert the risk of bulging already mentioned.  He neglected no
detail.  He was provident, and he lay in wait for more than one of the
laws of nature, to frustrate them.  Gravitation found him prepared, and
so did the less majestic but not vain dispensation of accidents.  Against
bulging he had an underplot of tiles set on end; against possible
trickling from an upper floor he had asphalt; it was all part of the
human conspiracy.  In effect, the dull pictures at Munich seem to stand
well.  It would have been more just--so the present age thinks of these
preserved walls--if the day that admired them had had them exclusively,
and our day had been exempt.  The painted cathedrals of the Middle Ages
have undergone the natural correction; why not the Ludwig Kirche?

In 1842, then, the nations were standing, as it were, shoulder to
shoulder against the walk of time and against his gentle act and art.
They had just called iron into their cabal.  Cornelius came from Munich
to London, looked at the walls at Westminster, and put a heart of
confidence into the breast of the Commission.  The situation, he averred,
need not be too damp for immortality, with due care.  What he had done in
the Glyptothek and in the Pinacothek might be done with the best results
in England, in defiance of the weather, of the river, of the mere days,
of the divine order of alteration, and, in a word, of heaven and earth.

Meanwhile, there was that good servant of the law of change, lime that
had not been kept quite long enough, ready to fulfil its mission; they
would have none of it.  They evaded it, studied its ways, and put it to
the rout.  "Many failures that might have been hastily attributed to damp
were really owing to the use of lime in too fresh a state.  Of the
experimental works painted at Munich, those only have faded which are
known to have been done without due attention to the materials.  _Thus,
a figure of Bavaria, painted by Kaulbach, which has faded considerably,
is known to have been executed with lime that was too fresh_."  One
cannot refrain from italics: the way was so easy; it was only to take a
little less of this important care about the lime, to have a better
confidence, to be more impatient and eager, and all had been well:
_not_ to do--a virtue of omission.

This is not a matter of art-criticism.  It is an ethical question
hitherto unstudied.  The makers of laws have not always been obliged to
face it, inasmuch as their laws are made in part for the present, and in
part for that future whereof the present needs to be assured--that is,
the future is bound as a guaranty for present security of person or
property.  Some such hold upon the time to come we are obliged to claim,
and to claim it for our own sakes--because of the reflex effect upon our
own affairs, and not for the pleasure of fettering the time to come.
Every maker of a will does at least this.

Were the men of the sixteenth century so moderate?  Not they.  They found
the present all too narrow for the imposition of their will.  It did not
satisfy them to disinter and scatter the bones of the dead, nor to efface
the records of a past that offended them.  It did not satisfy them to
bind the present to obedience by imperative menace and instant
compulsion.  When they had burnt libraries and thrown down monuments and
pursued the rebels of the past into the other world, and had seen to it
that none living should evade them, then they outraged the future.

Whatever misgivings may have visited those dominant minds as to the
effectual and final success of their measures--would their writ run in
time as well as place, and were the nameless populations indeed their
subjects?--whatever questions may have peered in upon those rigid
counsels and upon those busy vigils of the keepers of the world, they
silenced by legislation and yet more legislation.  They wrote in statute
books; they would have written their will across the skies.  Their hearts
would have burnt for lack of records more inveterate, and of testimonials
that mankind should lack courage to question, if in truth they did ever
doubt lest posterity might try their lock.  Perhaps they did never so
much as foresee the race of the unnumbered and emancipated for whom their
prohibitions and penalties are no more than documents of history.

If the tyrannous day of our fathers had but possessed the means of these
our more diffident times!  They, who would have written their present and
actual will upon the skies, might certainly have written it in petroleum
and wax upon the stone.  Fate did them wrong in withholding from their
hands this means of finality and violence.  Into our hands it has been
given at a time when the student of the race thought, perhaps, that we
had been proved in the school of forbearance.  Something, indeed, we may
have learnt therein, but not enough, as we now find.

We have not yet the natural respect for the certain knowledge and the
probable wisdom of our successors.  A certain reverend official document,
not guiltless of some confusion of thought, lately recommended to the
veneration of the present times "those past ages with their store of
experience."  Doubtless, as the posterity of their predecessors our
predecessors had experience, but, as our ancestors, none--none.
Therefore, if they were a little reverend our own posterity is right
reverend.  It is a flippant and novelty-loving humour that so flatters
the unproved past and refuses the deference due to the burden of years
which is ours, which--grown still graver--will be our children's.


The art of Japan has none but an exterior part in the history of the art
of nations.  Being in its own methods and attitude the art of accident,
it has, appropriately, an accidental value.  It is of accidental value,
and not of integral necessity.  The virtual discovery of Japanese art,
during the later years of the second French Empire, caused Europe to
relearn how expedient, how delicate, and how lovely Incident may look
when Symmetry has grown vulgar.  The lesson was most welcome.  Japan has
had her full influence.  European art has learnt the value of position
and the tact of the unique.  But Japan is unlessoned, and (in all her
characteristic art) content with her own conventions; she is local,
provincial, alien, remote, incapable of equal companionship with a world
that has Greek art in its own history--Pericles "to its father."

Nor is it pictorial art, or decorative art only, that has been touched by
Japanese example of Incident and the Unique.  Music had attained the
noblest form of symmetry in the eighteenth century, but in music, too,
symmetry had since grown dull; and momentary music, the music of phase
and of fragment, succeeded.  The sense of symmetry is strong in a
complete melody--of symmetry in its most delicate and lively and least
stationary form--balance; whereas the _leit-motif_ is isolated.  In
domestic architecture Symmetry and Incident make a familiar
antithesis--the very commonplace of rival methods of art.  But the same
antithesis exists in less obvious forms.  The poets have sought
"irregular" metres.  Incident hovers, in the very act of choosing its
right place, in the most modern of modern portraits.  In these we have,
if not the Japanese suppression of minor emphasis, certainly the Japanese
exaggeration of major emphasis; and with this a quickness and buoyancy.
The smile, the figure, the drapery--not yet settled from the arranging
touch of a hand, and showing its mark--the restless and unstationary
foot, and the unity of impulse that has passed everywhere like a single
breeze, all these have a life that greatly transcends the life of
Japanese art, yet has the nimble touch of Japanese incident.  In passing,
a charming comparison may be made between such portraiture and the aspect
of an aspen or other tree of light and liberal leaf; whether still or in
motion the aspen and the free-leafed poplar have the alertness and
expectancy of flight in all their flocks of leaves, while the oaks and
elms are gathered in their station.  All this is not Japanese, but from
such accident is Japanese art inspired, with its good luck of

What symmetry is to form, that is repetition in the art of ornament.
Greek art and Gothic alike have series, with repetition or counterchange
for their ruling motive.  It is hardly necessary to draw the distinction
between this motive and that of the Japanese.  The Japanese motives may
be defined as uniqueness and position.  And these were not known as
motives of decoration before the study of Japanese decoration.  Repetition
and counterchange, of course, have their place in Japanese ornament, as
in the diaper patterns for which these people have so singular an
invention, but here, too, uniqueness and position are the principal
inspiration.  And it is quite worth while, and much to the present
purpose, to call attention to the chief peculiarity of the Japanese
diaper patterns, which is _interruption_.  Repetition there must
necessarily be in these, but symmetry is avoided by an interruption which
is, to the Western eye, at least, perpetually and freshly unexpected.  The
place of the interruptions of lines, the variation of the place, and the
avoidance of correspondence, are precisely what makes Japanese design of
this class inimitable.  Thus, even in a repeating pattern, you have a
curiously successful effect of impulse.  It is as though a separate
intention had been formed by the designer at every angle.  Such renewed
consciousness does not make for greatness.  Greatness in design has more
peace than is found in the gentle abruptness of Japanese lines, in their
curious brevity.  It is scarcely necessary to say that a line, in all
other schools of art, is long or short according to its place and
purpose; but only the Japanese designer so contrives his patterns that
the line is always short; and many repeating designs are entirely
composed of this various and variously-occurring brevity, this prankish
avoidance of the goal.  Moreover, the Japanese evade symmetry, in the
unit of their repeating patterns, by another simple device--that of
numbers.  They make a small difference in the number of curves and of
lines.  A great difference would not make the same effect of variety; it
would look too much like a contrast.  For example, three rods on one side
and six on another would be something else than a mere variation, and
variety would be lost by the use of them.  The Japanese decorator will
vary three in this place by two in that, and a sense of the defeat of
symmetry is immediately produced.  With more violent means the idea of
symmetry would have been neither suggested nor refuted.

Leaving mere repeating patterns and diaper designs, you find, in Japanese
compositions, complete designs in which there is no point of symmetry.  It
is a balance of suspension and of antithesis.  There is no sense of lack
of equilibrium, because place is, most subtly, made to have the effect of
giving or of subtracting value.  A small thing is arranged to reply to a
large one, for the small thing is placed at the precise distance that
makes it a (Japanese) equivalent.  In Italy (and perhaps in other
countries) the scales commonly in use are furnished with only a single
weight that increases or diminishes in value according as you slide it
nearer or farther upon a horizontal arm.  It is equivalent to so many
ounces when it is close to the upright, and to so many pounds when it
hangs from the farther end of the horizontal rod.  Distance plays some
such part with the twig or the bird in the upper corner of a Japanese
composition.  Its place is its significance and its value.  Such an art
of position implies a great art of intervals.  The Japanese chooses a few
things and leaves the space between them free, as free as the pauses or
silences in music.  But as time, not silence, is the subject, or
material, of contrast in musical pauses, so it is the measurement of
space--that is, collocation--that makes the value of empty intervals.  The
space between this form and that, in a Japanese composition, is valuable
because it is just so wide and no more.  And this, again, is only another
way of saying that position is the principle of this apparently wilful

Moreover, the alien art of Japan, in its pictorial form, has helped to
justify the more stenographic school of etching.  Greatly transcending
Japanese expression, the modern etcher has undoubtedly accepted moral
support from the islands of the Japanese.  He too etches a kind of
shorthand, even though his notes appeal much to the spectator's
knowledge, while the Oriental shorthand appeals to nothing but the
spectator's simple vision.  Thus the two artists work in ways dissimilar.
Nevertheless, the French etcher would never have written his signs so
freely had not the Japanese so freely drawn his own.  Furthermore still,
the transitory and destructible material of Japanese art has done as much
as the multiplication of newspapers, and the discovery of processes, to
reconcile the European designer--the black and white artist--to working
for the day, the day of publication.  Japan lives much of its daily life
by means of paper, painted; so does Europe by means of paper, printed.
But as we, unlike those Orientals, are a destructive people, paper with
us means short life, quick abolition, transformation, re-appearance, a
very circulation of life.  This is our present way of surviving
ourselves--the new version of that feat of life.  Time was when to
survive yourself meant to secure, for a time indefinitely longer than the
life of man, such dull form as you had given to your work; to intrude
upon posterity.  To survive yourself, to-day, is to let your work go into
daily oblivion.

Now, though the Japanese are not a destructive people, their paper does
not last for ever, and that material has clearly suggested to them a
different condition of ornament from that with which they adorned old
lacquer, fine ivory, or other perdurable things.  For the transitory
material they keep the more purely pictorial art of landscape.  What of
Japanese landscape?  Assuredly it is too far reduced to a monotonous
convention to merit the serious study of races that have produced Cotman
and Corot.  Japanese landscape-drawing reduces things seen to such
fewness as must have made the art insuperably tedious to any people less
fresh-spirited and more inclined to take themselves seriously than these
Orientals.  A preoccupied people would never endure it.  But a little
closer attention from the Occidental student might find for their evasive
attitude towards landscape--it is an attitude almost traitorously
evasive--a more significant reason.  It is that the distances, the
greatness, the winds and the waves of the world, coloured plains, and the
flight of a sky, are all certainly alien to the perceptions of a people
intent upon little deformities.  Does it seem harsh to define by that
phrase the curious Japanese search for accidents?  Upon such search these
people are avowedly intent, even though they show themselves capable of
exquisite appreciation of the form of a normal bird and of the habit of
growth of a normal flower.  They are not in search of the perpetual
slight novelty which was Aristotle's ideal of the language poetic ("a
little wildly, or with the flower of the mind," says Emerson of the way
of a poet's speech)--and such novelty it is, like the frequent pulse of
the pinion, that keeps verse upon the wing; no, what the Japanese are
intent upon is perpetual slight disorder.  In Japan the man in the fields
has eyes less for the sky and the crescent moon than for some stone in
the path, of which the asymmetry strikes his curious sense of pleasure in
fortunate accident of form.  For love of a little grotesque strangeness
he will load himself with the stone and carry it home to his garden.  The
art of such a people is not liberal art, not the art of peace, and not
the art of humanity.  Look at the curls and curves whereby this people
conventionally signify wave or cloud.  All these curls have an attitude
which is like that of a figure slightly malformed, and not like that of a
human body that is perfect, dominant, and if bent, bent at no lowly or
niggling labour.  Why these curves should be so charming it would be hard
to say; they have an exquisite prankishness of variety, the place where
the upward or downward scrolls curl off from the main wave is delicately
unexpected every time, and--especially in gold embroideries--is
sensitively fit for the material, catching and losing the light, while
the lengths of waving line are such as the long gold threads take by

A moment ago this art was declared not human.  And, in fact, in no other
art has the figure suffered such crooked handling.  The Japanese have
generally evaded even the local beauty of their own race for the sake of
perpetual slight deformity.  Their beauty is remote from our sympathy and
admiration; and it is quite possible that we might miss it in pictorial
presentation, and that the Japanese artist may have intended human beauty
where we do not recognise it.  But if it is not easy to recognise, it is
certainly not difficult to guess at.  And, accordingly, you are generally
aware that the separate beauty of the race, and its separate dignity,
even--to be very generous--has been admired by the Japanese artist, and
is represented here and there occasionally, in the figure of warrior or
mousme.  But even with this exception the habit of Japanese
figure-drawing is evidently grotesque, derisive, and crooked.  It is
curious to observe that the search for slight deformity is so constant as
to make use, for its purposes, not of action only, but of perspective
foreshortening.  With us it is to the youngest child only that there
would appear to be mirth in the drawing of a man who, stooping violently
forward, would seem to have his head "beneath his shoulders."  The
European child would not see fun in the living man so presented,
but--unused to the same effect "in the flat"--he thinks it prodigiously
humorous in a drawing.  But so only when he is quite young.  The Japanese
keeps, apparently, his sense of this kind of humour.  It amuses him, but
not perhaps altogether as it amuses the child, that the foreshortened
figure should, in drawing and to the unpractised eye, seem distorted and
dislocated; the simple Oriental appears to find more derision in it than
the simple child.  The distortion is not without a suggestion of
ignominy.  And, moreover, the Japanese shows derision, but not precisely
scorn.  He does not hold himself superior to his hideous models.  He
makes free with them on equal terms.  He is familiar with them.

And if this is the conviction gathered from ordinary drawings, no need to
insist upon the ignoble character of those that are intentional

Perhaps the time has hardly come for writing anew the praises of
symmetry.  The world knows too much of the abuse of Greek decoration, and
would be glad to forget it, with the intention of learning that art
afresh in a future age and of seeing it then anew.  But whatever may be
the phases of the arts, there is the abiding principle of symmetry in the
body of man, that goes erect, like an upright soul.  Its balance is
equal.  Exterior human symmetry is surely a curious physiological fact
where there is no symmetry interiorly.  For the centres of life and
movement within the body are placed with Oriental inequality.  Man is
Greek without and Japanese within.  But the absolute symmetry of the
skeleton and of the beauty and life that cover it is accurately a
principle.  It controls, but not tyrannously, all the life of human
action.  Attitude and motion disturb perpetually, with infinite
incidents--inequalities of work, war, and pastime, inequalities of
sleep--the symmetry of man.  Only in death and "at attention" is that
symmetry complete in attitude.  Nevertheless, it rules the dance and the
battle, and its rhythm is not to be destroyed.  All the more because this
hand holds the goad and that the harrow, this the shield and that the
sword, because this hand rocks the cradle and that caresses the unequal
heads of children, is this rhythm the law; and grace and strength are
inflections thereof.  All human movement is a variation upon symmetry,
and without symmetry it would not be variation; it would be lawless,
fortuitous, and as dull and broadcast as lawless art.  The order of
inflection that is not infraction has been explained in a most
authoritative sentence of criticism of literature, a sentence that should
save the world the trouble of some of its futile, violent, and weak
experiments: "Law, the rectitude of humanity," says Mr Coventry Patmore,
"should be the poet's only subject, as, from time immemorial, it has been
the subject of true art, though many a true artist has done the Muse's
will and knew it not.  As all the music of verse arises, not from
infraction but from inflection of the law of the set metre; so the
greatest poets have been those the _modulus_ of whose verse has been most
variously and delicately inflected, in correspondence with feelings and
passions which are the inflections of moral law in their theme.  Law puts
a strain upon feeling, and feeling responds with a strain upon law.
Furthermore, Aristotle says that the quality of poetic language is a
continual _slight_ novelty.  In the highest poetry, like that of Milton,
these three modes of inflection, metrical, linguistical, and moral, all
chime together in praise of the truer order of life."

And like that order is the order of the figure of man, an order most
beautiful and most secure when it is put to the proof.  That perpetual
proof by perpetual inflection is the very condition of life.  Symmetry is
a profound, if disregarded because perpetually inflected, condition of
human life.

The nimble art of Japan is unessential; it may come and go, may settle or
be fanned away.  It has life and it is not without law; it has an obvious
life, and a less obvious law.  But with Greece abides the obvious law and
the less obvious life: symmetry as apparent as the symmetry of the form
of man, and life occult like his unequal heart.  And this seems to be the
nobler and the more perdurable relation.


It is disconcerting to hear of the plaid in India.  Our dyes, we know,
they use in the silk mills of Bombay, with the deplorable result that
their old clothes are dull and unintentionally falsified with
infelicitous decay.  The Hindus are a washing people; and the sun and
water that do but dim, soften, and warm the native vegetable dyes to the
last, do but burlesque the aniline.  Magenta is bad enough when it is
itself; but the worst of magenta is that it spoils but poorly.  No bad
modern forms and no bad modern colours spoil well.  And spoiling is an
important process.  It is a test--one of the ironical tests that come too
late with their proofs.  London portico-houses will make some such ruins
as do chemical dyes, which undergo no use but derides them, no accidents
but caricature them.  This is an old enough grievance.  But the plaid!

The plaid is the Scotchman's contribution to the decorative art of the
world.  Scotland has no other indigenous decoration.  In his most
admirable lecture on "The Two Paths," Ruskin acknowledged, with a passing
misgiving, that his Highlanders had little art.  And the misgiving was
but passing, because he considered how fatally wrong was the art of
India--"it never represents a natural fact.  It forms its compositions
out of meaningless fragments of colour and flowings of line . . . It will
not draw a man, but an eight-armed monster; it will not draw a flower,
but only a spiral or a zig-zag."  Because of this aversion from Nature
the Hindu and his art tended to evil, we read.  But of the Scot we are
told, "You will find upon reflection that all the highest points of the
Scottish character are connected with impressions derived straight from
the natural scenery of their country."

What, then, about the plaid?  Where is the natural fact there?  If the
Indian, by practising a non-natural art of spirals and zig-zags, cuts
himself off "from all possible sources of healthy knowledge or natural
delight," to what did the good and healthy Highlander condemn himself by
practising the art of the plaid?  A spiral may be found in the vine, and
a zig-zag in the lightning, but where in nature is the plaid to be found?
There is surely no curve or curl that can be drawn by a designing hand
but is a play upon some infinitely various natural fact.  The smoke of
the cigarette, more sensitive in motion than breath or blood, has its
waves so multitudinously inflected and reinflected, with such flights and
such delays, it flows and bends upon currents of so subtle influence and
impulse as to include the most active, impetuous, and lingering curls
ever drawn by the finest Oriental hand--and that is not a Hindu hand, nor
any hand of Aryan race.  The Japanese has captured the curve of the
section of a sea-wave--its flow, relaxation, and fall; but this is a
single movement, whereas the line of cigarette-smoke in a still room
fluctuates in twenty delicate directions.  No, it is impossible to accept
the saying that the poor spiral or scroll of a human design is anything
but a participation in the innumerable curves and curls of nature.

Now the plaid is not only "cut off" from natural sources, as Ruskin says
of Oriental design--the plaid is not only cut off from nature, and cut
off from nature by the yard, for it is to be measured off in inorganic
quantity; but it is even a kind of intentional contradiction of all
natural or vital forms.  And it is equally defiant of vital tone and of
vital colour.  Everywhere in nature tone is gradual, and between the
fainting of a tone and the failing of a curve there is a charming
analogy.  But the tartan insists that its tone shall be invariable, and
sharply defined by contrasts of dark and light.  As to colour, it has
colours, not colour.

But that plaid should now go so far afield as to decorate the noble
garment of the Indies is ill news.  True, Ruskin saw nothing but cruelty
and corruption in Indian life or art; but let us hear an Indian maxim in
regard to those who, in cruel places, are ready sufferers: "There," says
the _Mahabharata_, "where women are treated with respect, the very gods
are said to be filled with joy.  Women deserve to be honoured.  Serve ye
them.  Bend your will before them.  By honouring women ye are sure to
attain to the fruition of all things."  And the rash teachers of our
youth would have persuaded us that this generous lesson was first learnt
in Teutonic forests!

Nothing but extreme lowliness can well reply, or would probably be
suffered to reply, to this Hindu profession of reverence.  Accordingly
the woman so honoured makes an offering of cakes and oil to the souls of
her mother-in-law, grandmother-in-law, and great-grandmother-in-law, in
gratitude for their giving her a good husband.  And to go back for a
moment to Ruskin's contrast of the two races, it was assuredly under the
stress of some too rash reasoning that he judged the lovely art of the
East as a ministrant to superstition, cruelty, and pleasure, whether
wrought upon the temple, the sword, or the girdle.  The innocent art of
innocent Hindu women for centuries decked their most modest heads, their
dedicated and sequestered beauty, their child-loving breasts, and
consecrated chambers.


There is a form of oppression that has not until now been confessed by
those who suffer from it or who are participants, as mere witnesses, in
its tyranny.  It is the obsession of man by the flower.  In the shape of
the flower his own paltriness revisits him--his triviality, his sloth,
his cheapness, his wholesale habitualness, his slatternly ostentation.
These return to him and wreak upon him their dull revenges.  What the
tyranny really had grown to can be gauged nowhere so well as in country
lodgings, where the most ordinary things of design and decoration have
sifted down and gathered together, so that foolish ornament gains a
cumulative force and achieves a conspicuous commonness.  Stem and petal
and leaf--the fluent forms that a man has not by heart but certainly by
rote--are woven, printed, cast, and stamped wherever restlessness and
insimplicity have feared to leave plain spaces.  The most ugly of all
imaginable rooms, which is probably the parlour of a farm-house arrayed
for those whom Americans call summer-boarders, is beset with flowers.  It
blooms, a dry, woollen, papery, cast-iron garden.  The floor flourishes
with blossoms adust, poorly conventionalized into a kind of order; the
table-cover is ablaze with a more realistic florescence; the wall-paper
is set with bunches; the rigid machine-lace curtain is all of roses and
lilies in its very construction; over the muslin blinds an impotent sprig
is scattered.  In the worsted rosettes of the bell-ropes, in the plaster
picture-frames, in the painted tea-tray and on the cups, in the pediment
of the sideboard, in the ornament that crowns the barometer, in the
finials of sofa and arm-chair, in the finger-plates of the "grained"
door, is to be seen the ineffectual portrait or to be traced the stale
inspiration of the flower.  And what is this bossiness around the grate
but some blunt, black-leaded garland?  The recital is wearisome, but the
retribution of the flower is precisely weariness.  It is the persecution
of man, the haunting of his trivial visions, and the oppression of his
inconsiderable brain.

The man so possessed suffers the lot of the weakling--subjection to the
smallest of the things he has abused.  The designer of cheap patterns is
no more inevitably ridden by the flower than is the vain and transitory
author by the phrase.  In literature as in all else man merits his
subjection to trivialities by his economical greed.  A condition for
using justly and gaily any decoration would seem to be a measure of
reluctance.  Ornament--strange as the doctrine sounds in a world
decivilized--was in the beginning intended to be something jocund; and
jocundity was never to be achieved but by postponement, deference, and
modesty.  Nor can the prodigality of the meadows in May be quoted in
dispute.  For Nature has something even more severe than modertion: she
has an innumerable singleness.  Her buttercup meadows are not prodigal;
they show multitude, but not multiplicity, and multiplicity is exactly
the disgrace of decoration.  Who has ever multiplied or repeated his
delights? or who has ever gained the granting of the most foolish of his
wishes--the prayer for reiteration?  It is a curious slight to generous
Fate that man should, like a child, ask for one thing many times.  Her
answer every time is a resembling but new and single gift; until the day
when she shall make the one tremendous difference among her gifts--and
make it perhaps in secret--by naming one of them the ultimate.  What, for
novelty, what, for singleness, what, for separateness, can equal the
last?  Of many thousand kisses the poor last--but even the kisses of your
mouth are all numbered.


It is principally for the sake of the leg that a change in the dress of
man is so much to be desired.  The leg, completing as it does the form of
man, should make a great part of that human scenery which is at least as
important as the scenery of geological structure, or the scenery of
architecture, or the scenery of vegetation, but which the lovers of
mountains and the preservers of ancient buildings have consented to
ignore.  The leg is the best part of the figure, inasmuch as it has the
finest lines and therewith those slender, diminishing forms which, coming
at the base of the human structure, show it to be a thing of life by its
unstable equilibrium.  A lifeless structure is in stable equilibrium; the
body, springing, poised, upon its fine ankles and narrow feet, never
stands without implying and expressing life.  It is the leg that first
suggested the phantasy of flight.  We imagine wings to the figure that is
erect upon the vital and tense legs of man; and the herald Mercury,
because of his station, looks new-lighted.  All this is true of the best
leg, and the best leg is the man's.  That of the young child, in which
the Italian schools of painting delighted, has neither movement nor
supporting strength.  In the case of the woman's figure it is the foot,
with its extreme proportional smallness, that gives the precious
instability, the spring and balance that are so organic.  But man should
no longer disguise the long lines, the strong forms, in those lengths of
piping or tubing that are of all garments the most stupid.  Inexpressive
of what they clothe as no kind of concealing drapery could ever be, they
are neither implicitly nor explicitly good raiment.  It is hardly
possible to err by violence in denouncing them.  Why, when an indifferent
writer is praised for "clothing his thought," it is to modern raiment
that one's agile fancy flies--fain of completing the metaphor!

The human scenery: yes, costume could make a crowd something other than
the mass of sooty colour--dark without depth--and the multiplication of
undignified forms that fill the streets, and demonstrate, and meet, and
listen to the speaker.  For the undistinguished are very important by
their numbers.  These are they who make the look of the artificial world.
They are man generalized; as units they inevitably lack something of
interest; all the more they have cumulative effect.  It would be well if
we could persuade the average man to take on a certain human dignity in
the clothing of his average body.  Unfortunately he will be slow to be
changed.  And as to the poorer part of the mass, so wretched are their
national customs--and the wretchedest of them all the wearing of other
men's old raiment--that they must wait for reform until the reformed
dress, which the reformers have not yet put on, shall have turned second-


There has been no denunciation, and perhaps even no recognition, of a
certain social immorality in the caricature of the mid-century and
earlier.  Literary and pictorial alike, it had for its aim the
vulgarizing of the married woman.  No one now would read Douglas Jerrold
for pleasure, but it is worth while to turn up that humourist's serial,
"Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures," which were presumably considered good
comic reading in the "Punch" of that time, and to make acquaintance with
a certain ideal of the grotesque.  Obviously to make a serious comment on
anything which others consider or have considered humorous is to put
oneself at a disadvantage.  He who sees the joke holds himself somewhat
the superior of the man who would see it, such as it is, if he thought it
worth his eyesight.  The last-named has to bear the least tolerable of
modern reproaches--that he lacks humour; but he need not always care.  Now
to turn over Douglas Jerrold's monologues is to find that people in the
mid-century took their mirth principally from the life of the _arriere
boutique_.  On that shabby stage was enacted the comedy of literature.
Therefore we must take something of the vulgarity of Jerrold as a
circumstance of the social ranks wherein he delighted.  But the essential
vulgarity is that of the woman.  There is in some old "Punch" volume a
drawing by Leech--whom one is weary of hearing named the gentle, the
refined--where the work of the artist has vied with the spirit of the
letterpress.  Douglas Jerrold treats of the woman's jealousy, Leech of
her stays.  They lie on a chair by the bed, beyond description gross.  And
page by page the woman is derided, with an unfailing enjoyment of her
foolish ugliness of person, of manners, and of language.  In that time
there was, moreover, one great humourist, one whom I infinitely admire;
he, too, I am grieved to remember, bore his part willingly in vulgarizing
the woman; and the part that fell to him was the vulgarizing of the act
of maternity.  Woman spiteful, woman suing man at the law for evading her
fatuous companionship, woman incoherent, woman abandoned without
restraint to violence and temper, woman feigning sensibility--in none of
these ignominies is woman so common and so foolish for Dickens as she is
in child-bearing.

I named Leech but now.  He was, in all things essential, Dickens's
contemporary.  And accordingly the married woman and her child are
humiliated by his pencil; not grossly, but commonly.  For him she is
moderately and dully ridiculous.  What delights him as humorous is that
her husband--himself wearisome enough to die of--is weary of her, finds
the time long, and tries to escape her.  It amuses him that she should
furtively spend money over her own dowdiness, to the annoyance of her
husband, and that her husband should have no desire to adorn her, and
that her mother should be intolerable.  It pleases him that her baby,
with enormous cheeks and a hideous rosette in its hat--a burlesque
baby--should be a grotesque object of her love, for that too makes subtly
for her abasement.  Charles Keene, again--another contemporary, though he
lived into a later and different time.  He saw little else than common
forms of human ignominy--indignities of civic physique, of stupid
prosperity, of dress, of bearing.  He transmits these things in greater
proportion than he found them--whether for love of the humour of them, or
by a kind of inverted disgust that is as eager as delight--one is not
sure which is the impulse.  The grossness of the vulgarities is rendered
with a completeness that goes far to convince us of a certain
sensitiveness of apprehension in the designer; and then again we get
convinced that real apprehension--real apprehensiveness--would not have
insisted upon such things, could not have lived with them through almost
a whole career.  There is one drawing in the "Punch" of years ago, in
which Charles Keene achieved the nastiest thing possible to even the
invention of that day.  A drunken citizen, in the usual broadcloth, has
gone to bed, fully dressed, with his boots on and his umbrella open, and
the joke lies in the surprise awaiting, when she awakes, the wife asleep
at his side in a night-cap.  Every one who knows Keene's work can imagine
how the huge well-fed figure was drawn, and how the coat wrinkled across
the back, and how the bourgeois whiskers were indicated.  This obscene
drawing is matched by many equally odious.  Abject domesticity,
ignominies of married life, of middle-age, of money-making; the old
common jape against the mother-in-law; abominable weddings: in one
drawing a bridegroom with shambling side-long legs asks his bride if she
is nervous; she is a widow, and she answers, "No, never was."  In all
these things there is very little humour.  Where Keene achieved fun was
in the figures of his schoolboys.  The hint of tenderness which in really
fine work could never be absent from a man's thought of a child or from
his touch of one, however frolic or rowdy the subject in hand, is
absolutely lacking in Keene's designs; nevertheless, we acknowledge that
there is humour.  It is also in some of his clerical figures when they
are not caricatures, and certainly in "Robert," the City waiter of
"Punch."  But so irresistible is the derision of the woman that all
Charles Keene's persistent sense of vulgarity is intent centrally upon
her.  Never for any grace gone astray is she bantered, never for the
social extravagances, for prattle, or for beloved dress; but always for
her jealousy, and for the repulsive person of the man upon whom she spies
and in whom she vindicates her ignoble rights.  If this is the shopkeeper
the possession of whom is her boast, what then is she?

This great immorality, centring in the irreproachable days of the
Exhibition of 1851, or thereabouts--the pleasure in this particular form
of human disgrace--has passed, leaving one trace only: the habit by which
some men reproach a silly woman through her sex, whereas a silly man is
not reproached through his sex.  But the vulgarity of which I have
written here was distinctively English--the most English thing that
England had in days when she bragged of many another--and it was not able
to survive an increased commerce of manners and letters with France.  It
was the chief immorality destroyed by the French novel.


Not without significance is the Spanish nationality of Velasquez.  In
Spain was the Point put upon Honour; and Velasquez was the first
Impressionist.  As an Impressionist he claimed, implicitly if not
explicitly, a whole series of delicate trusts in his trustworthiness; he
made an appeal to the confidence of his peers; he relied on his own
candour, and asked that the candid should rely upon him; he kept the
chastity of art when other masters were content with its honesty, and
when others saved artistic conscience he safeguarded the point of honour.
Contemporary masters more or less proved their position, and convinced
the world by something of demonstration; the first Impressionist simply
asked that his word should be accepted.  To those who would not take his
word he offers no bond.  To those who will, he grants the distinction of
a share in his responsibility.

Somewhat unrefined, in comparison with his lofty and simple claim to be
believed on a suggestion, is the commoner painter's production of his
credentials, his appeal to the sanctions of ordinary experience, his self-
defence against the suspicion of making irresponsible mysteries in art.
"You can see for yourself," the lesser man seems to say to the world,
"thus things are, and I render them in such manner that your intelligence
may be satisfied."  This is an appeal to average experience--at the best
the cumulative experience; and with the average, or with the sum, art
cannot deal without derogation.  The Spaniard seems to say: "Thus things
are in my pictorial sight.  Trust me, I apprehend them so."  We are not
excluded from his counsels, but we are asked to attribute a certain
authority to him, master of the craft as he is, master of that art of
seeing pictorially which is the beginning and not far from the end--not
far short of the whole--of the art of painting.  So little indeed are we
shut out from the mysteries of a great Impressionist's impression that
Velasquez requires us to be in some degree his colleagues.  Thus may each
of us to whom he appeals take praise from the praised: he leaves my
educated eyes to do a little of the work.  He respects my responsibility
no less--though he respects it less explicitly--than I do his.  What he
allows me would not be granted by a meaner master.  If he does not hold
himself bound to prove his own truth, he returns thanks for my trust.  It
is as though he used his countrymen's courteous hyperbole and called his
house my own.  In a sense of the most noble hostship he does me the
honours of his picture.

Because Impressionism with all its extreme--let us hope its
ultimate--derivatives is so free, therefore is it doubly bound.  Because
there is none to arraign it, it is a thousand times responsible.  To
undertake this art for the sake of its privileges without confessing its
obligations--or at least without confessing them up to the point of
honour--is to take a vulgar freedom: to see immunities precisely where
there are duties, and an advantage where there is a bond.  A very mob of
men have taken Impressionism upon themselves, in several forms and under
a succession of names, in this our later day.  It is against all
probabilities that more than a few among these have within them the point
of honour.  In their galleries we are beset with a dim distrust.  And to
distrust is more humiliating than to be distrusted.  How many of these
landscape-painters, deliberately rash, are painting the truth of their
own impressions?  An ethical question as to loyalty is easily answered;
truth and falsehood as to fact are, happily for the intelligence of the
common conscience, not hard to divide.  But when the _dubium_ concerns
not fact but artistic truth, can the many be sure that their
sensitiveness, their candour, their scruple, their delicate equipoise of
perceptions, the vigilance of their apprehension, are enough?  Now
Impressionists have told us things as to their impressions--as to the
effect of things upon the temperament of this man and upon the mood of
that--which should not be asserted except on the artistic point of
honour.  The majority can tell ordinary truth, but should not trust
themselves for truth extraordinary.  They can face the general judgement,
but they should hesitate to produce work that appeals to the last
judgement, which is the judgement within.  There is too much reason to
divine that a certain number of those who aspire to differ from the
greatest of masters have no temperaments worth speaking of, no point of
view worth seizing, no vigilance worth awaiting, no mood worth waylaying.
And to be, _de parti pris_, an Impressionist without these!  O
Velasquez!  Nor is literature quite free from a like reproach in her own
things.  An author, here and there, will make as though he had a word
worth hearing--nay, worth over-hearing--a word that seeks to withdraw
even while it is uttered; and yet what it seems to dissemble is all too
probably a platitude.  But obviously, literature is not--as is the craft
and mystery of painting--so at the mercy of a half-imposture, so guarded
by unprovable honour.  For the art of painting is reserved that shadowy
risk, that undefined salvation.  If the artistic temperament--tedious
word!--with all its grotesque privileges, becomes yet more common than it
is, there will be yet less responsibility; for the point of honour is the
simple secret of the few.


Red has been praised for its nobility as the colour of life.  But the
true colour of life is not red.  Red is the colour of violence, or of
life broken open, edited, and published.  Or if red is indeed the colour
of life, it is so only on condition that it is not seen.  Once fully
visible, red is the colour of life violated, and in the act of betrayal
and of waste.  Red is the secret of life, and not the manifestation
thereof.  It is one of the things the value of which is secrecy, one of
the talents that are to be hidden in a napkin.  The true colour of life
is the colour of the body, the colour of the covered red, the implicit
and not explicit red of the living heart and the pulses.  It is the
modest colour of the unpublished blood.

So bright, so light, so soft, so mingled, the gentle colour of life is
outdone by all the colours of the world.  Its very beauty is that it is
white, but less white than milk; brown, but less brown than earth; red,
but less red than sunset or dawn.  It is lucid, but less lucid than the
colour of lilies.  It has the hint of gold that is in all fine colour;
but in our latitudes the hint is almost elusive.  Under Sicilian skies,
indeed, it is deeper than old ivory; but under the misty blue of the
English zenith, and the warm grey of the London horizon, it is as
delicately flushed as the paler wild roses, out to their utmost, flat as
stars, in the hedges of the end of June.

For months together London does not see the colour of life in any mass.
The human face does not give much of it, what with features, and beards,
and the shadow of the top-hat and _chapeau melon_ of man, and of the
veils of woman.  Besides, the colour of the face is subject to a thousand
injuries and accidents.  The popular face of the Londoner has soon lost
its gold, its white, and the delicacy of its red and brown.  We miss
little beauty by the fact that it is never seen freely in great numbers
out-of-doors.  You get it in some quantity when all the heads of a great
indoor meeting are turned at once upon a speaker; but it is only in the
open air, needless to say, that the colour of life is in perfection, in
the open air, "clothed with the sun," whether the sunshine be golden and
direct, or dazzlingly diffused in grey.

The little figure of the London boy it is that has restored to the
landscape the human colour of life.  He is allowed to come out of all his
ignominies, and to take the late colour of the midsummer north-west
evening, on the borders of the Serpentine.  At the stroke of eight he
sheds the slough of nameless colours--all allied to the hues of dust,
soot, and fog, which are the colours the world has chosen for its
boys--and he makes, in his hundreds, a bright and delicate flush between
the grey-blue water and the grey-blue sky.  Clothed now with the sun, he
is crowned by-and-by with twelve stars as he goes to bathe, and the
reflection of an early moon is under his feet.

So little stands between a gamin and all the dignities of Nature.  They
are so quickly restored.  There seems to be nothing to do, but only a
little thing to undo.  It is like the art of Eleonora Duse.  The last and
most finished action of her intellect, passion, and knowledge is, as it
were, the flicking away of some insignificant thing mistaken for art by
other actors, some little obstacle to the way and liberty of Nature.

All the squalor is gone in a moment, kicked off with the second boot, and
the child goes shouting to complete the landscape with the lacking colour
of life.  You are inclined to wonder that, even undressed, he still
shouts with a Cockney accent.  You half expect pure vowels and elastic
syllables from his restoration, his spring, his slenderness, his
brightness, and his glow.  Old ivory and wild rose in the deepening
midsummer sun, he gives his colours to his world again.

It is easy to replace man, and it will take no great time, where Nature
has lapsed, to replace Nature.  It is always to do, by the happily easy
way of doing nothing.  The grass is always ready to grow in the
streets--and no streets could ask for a more charming finish than your
green grass.  The gasometer even must fall to pieces unless it is
renewed; but the grass renews itself.  There is nothing so remediable as
the work of modern man--"a thought which is also," as Mr Pecksniff said,
"very soothing."  And by remediable I mean, of course, destructible.  As
the bathing child shuffles off his garments--they are few, and one brace
suffices him--so the land might always, in reasonable time, shuffle off
its yellow brick and purple slate, and all the things that collect about
railway stations.  A single night almost clears the air of London.

But if the colour of life looks so well in the rather sham scenery of
Hyde Park, it looks brilliant and grave indeed on a real sea-coast.  To
have once seen it there should be enough to make a colourist.  O
memorable little picture!  The sun was gaining colour as it neared
setting, and it set not over the sea, but over the land.  The sea had the
dark and rather stern, but not cold, blue of that aspect--the dark and
not the opal tints.  The sky was also deep.  Everything was very
definite, without mystery, and exceedingly simple.  The most luminous
thing was the shining white of an edge of foam, which did not cease to be
white because it was a little golden and a little rosy in the sunshine.
It was still the whitest thing imaginable.  And the next most luminous
thing was the little child, also invested with the sun and the colour of

In the case of women, it is of the living and unpublished blood that the
violent world has professed to be delicate and ashamed.  See the curious
history of the political rights of woman under the Revolution.  On the
scaffold she enjoyed an ungrudged share in the fortunes of party.
Political life might be denied her, but that seems a trifle when you
consider how generously she was permitted political death.  She was to
spin and cook for her citizen in the obscurity of her living hours; but
to the hour of her death was granted a part in the largest interests,
social, national, international.  The blood wherewith she should,
according to Robespierre, have blushed to be seen or heard in the
tribune, was exposed in the public sight unsheltered by her veins.

Against this there was no modesty.  Of all privacies, the last and the
innermost--the privacy of death--was never allowed to put obstacles in
the way of public action for a public cause.  Women might be, and were,
duly suppressed when, by the mouth of Olympe de Gouges, they claimed a
"right to concur in the choice of representatives for the formation of
the laws"; but in her person, too, they were liberally allowed to bear
political responsibility to the Republic.  Olympe de Gouges was
guillotined.  Robespierre thus made her public and complete amends.


To mount a hill is to lift with you something lighter and brighter than
yourself or than any meaner burden.  You lift the world, you raise the
horizon; you give a signal for the distance to stand up.  It is like the
scene in the Vatican when a Cardinal, with his dramatic Italian hands,
bids the kneeling groups to arise.  He does more than bid them.  He lifts
them, he gathers them up, far and near, with the upward gesture of both
arms; he takes them to their feet with the compulsion of his expressive
force.  Or it is as when a conductor takes his players to successive
heights of music.  You summon the sea, you bring the mountains, the
distances unfold unlooked-for wings and take an even flight.  You are but
a man lifting his weight upon the upward road, but as you climb the
circle of the world goes up to face you.

Not here or there, but with a definite continuity, the unseen unfolds.
This distant hill outsoars that less distant, but all are on the wing,
and the plain raises its verge.  All things follow and wait upon your
eyes.  You lift these up, not by the raising of your eyelids, but by the
pilgrimage of your body.  "Lift thine eyes to the mountains."  It is then
that other mountains lift themselves to your human eyes.

It is the law whereby the eye and the horizon answer one another that
makes the way up a hill so full of universal movement.  All the landscape
is on pilgrimage.  The town gathers itself closer, and its inner harbours
literally come to light; the headlands repeat themselves; little cups
within the treeless hills open and show their farms.  In the sea are many
regions.  A breeze is at play for a mile or two, and the surface is
turned.  There are roads and curves in the blue and in the white.  Not a
step of your journey up the height that has not its replies in the steady
motion of land and sea.  Things rise together like a flock of
many-feathered birds.

But it is the horizon, more than all else, you have come in search of.
That is your chief companion on your way.  It is to uplift the horizon to
the equality of your sight that you go high.  You give it a distance
worthy of the skies.  There is no distance, except the distance in the
sky, to be seen from the level earth; but from the height is to be seen
the distance of this world.  The line is sent back into the remoteness of
light, the verge is removed beyond verge, into a distance that is
enormous and minute.

So delicate and so slender is the distant horizon that nothing less near
than Queen Mab and her chariot can equal its fineness.  Here on the edges
of the eyelids, or there on the edges of the world--we know no other
place for things so exquisitely made, so thin, so small and tender.  The
touches of her passing, as close as dreams, or the utmost vanishing of
the forest or the ocean in the white light between the earth and the air;
nothing else is quite so intimate and fine.  The extremities of a
mountain view have just such tiny touches as the closeness of closed eyes
shuts in.

On the horizon is the sweetest light.  Elsewhere colour mars the
simplicity of light; but there colour is effaced, not as men efface it,
by a blur or darkness, but by mere light.  The bluest sky disappears on
that shining edge; there is not substance enough for colour.  The rim of
the hill, of the woodland, of the meadow-land, of the sea--let it only be
far enough--has the same absorption of colour; and even the dark things
drawn upon the bright edges of the sky are lucid, the light is among
them, and they are mingled with it.  The horizon has its own way of
making bright the pencilled figures of forests, which are black but

On the horizon, moreover, closes the long perspective of the sky.  There
you perceive that an ordinary sky of clouds--not a thunder sky--is not a
wall but the underside of a floor.  You see the clouds that repeat each
other grow smaller by distance; and you find a new unity in the sky and
earth that gather alike the great lines of their designs to the same
distant close.  There is no longer an alien sky, tossed up in
unintelligible heights above a world that is subject to intelligible

Of all the things that London has foregone, the most to be regretted is
the horizon.  Not the bark of the trees in its right colour; not the
spirit of the growing grass, which has in some way escaped from the
parks; not the smell of the earth unmingled with the odour of soot; but
rather the mere horizon.  No doubt the sun makes a beautiful thing of the
London smoke at times, and in some places of the sky; but not there, not
where the soft sharp distance ought to shine.  To be dull there is to put
all relations and comparisons in the wrong, and to make the sky lawless.

A horizon dark with storm is another thing.  The weather darkens the line
and defines it, or mingles it with the raining cloud; or softly dims it,
or blackens it against a gleam of narrow sunshine in the sky.  The stormy
horizon will take wing, and the sunny.  Go high enough, and you can raise
the light from beyond the shower, and the shadow from behind the ray.
Only the shapeless and lifeless smoke disobeys and defeats the summer of
the eyes.

Up at the top of the seaward hill your first thought is one of some
compassion for sailors, inasmuch as they see but little of their sea.  A
child on a mere Channel cliff looks upon spaces and sizes that they
cannot see in the Pacific, on the ocean side of the world.  Never in the
solitude of the blue water, never between the Cape of Good Hope and Cape
Horn, never between the Islands and the West, has the seaman seen
anything but a little circle of sea.  The Ancient Mariner, when he was
alone, did but drift through a thousand narrow solitudes.  The sailor has
nothing but his mast, indeed.  And but for his mast he would be isolated
in as small a world as that of a traveller through the plains.

Round the plains the horizon lies with folded wings.  It keeps them so
perpetually for man, and opens them only for the bird, replying to flight
with flight.

A close circlet of waves is the sailor's famous offing.  His offing
hardly deserves the name of horizon.  To hear him you might think
something of his offing, but you do not so when you sit down in the
centre of it.

As the upspringing of all things at your going up the heights, so steady,
so swift, is the subsidence at your descent.  The further sea lies away,
hill folds down behind hill.  The whole upstanding world, with its looks
serene and alert, its distant replies, its signals of many miles, its
signs and communications of light, gathers down and pauses.  This flock
of birds which is the mobile landscape wheels and goes to earth.  The
Cardinal weighs down the audience with his downward hands.  Farewell to
the most delicate horizon.


One has the leisure of July for perceiving all the differences of the
green of leaves.  It is no longer a difference in degrees of maturity,
for all the trees have darkened to their final tone, and stand in their
differences of character and not of mere date.  Almost all the green is
grave, not sad and not dull.  It has a darkened and a daily colour, in
majestic but not obvious harmony with dark grey skies, and might look, to
inconstant eyes, as prosaic after spring as eleven o'clock looks after
the dawn.

Gravity is the word--not solemnity as towards evening, nor menace as at
night.  The daylight trees of July are signs of common beauty, common
freshness, and a mystery familiar and abiding as night and day.  In
childhood we all have a more exalted sense of dawn and summer sunrise
than we ever fully retain or quite recover; and also a far higher
sensibility for April and April evenings--a heartache for them, which in
riper years is gradually and irretrievably consoled.

But, on the other hand, childhood has so quickly learned to find daily
things tedious, and familiar things importunate, that it has no great
delight in the mere middle of the day, and feels weariness of the summer
that has ceased to change visibly.  The poetry of mere day and of late
summer becomes perceptible to mature eyes that have long ceased to be
sated, have taken leave of weariness, and cannot now find anything in
nature too familiar; eyes which have, indeed, lost sight of the further
awe of midsummer daybreak, and no longer see so much of the past in April
twilight as they saw when they had no past; but which look freshly at the
dailiness of green summer, of early afternoon, of every sky of any form
that comes to pass, and of the darkened elms.

Not unbeloved is this serious tree, the elm, with its leaf sitting close,
unthrilled.  Its stature gives it a dark gold head when it looks alone to
a late sun.  But if one could go by all the woods, across all the old
forests that are now meadowlands set with trees, and could walk a county
gathering trees of a single kind in the mind, as one walks a garden
collecting flowers of a single kind in the hand, would not the harvest be
a harvest of poplars?  A veritable passion for poplars is a most
intelligible passion.  The eyes do gather them, far and near, on a whole
day's journey.  Not one is unperceived, even though great timber should
be passed, and hill-sides dense and deep with trees.  The fancy makes a
poplar day of it.  Immediately the country looks alive with signals; for
the poplars everywhere reply to the glance.  The woods may be all
various, but the poplars are separate.

All their many kinds (and aspens, their kin, must be counted with them)
shake themselves perpetually free of the motionless forest.  It is easy
to gather them.  Glances sent into the far distance pay them a flash of
recognition of their gentle flashes; and as you journey you are suddenly
aware of them close by.  Light and the breezes are as quick as the eyes
of a poplar-lover to find the willing tree that dances to be seen.

No lurking for them, no reluctance.  One could never make for oneself an
oak day so well.  The oaks would wait to be found, and many would be
missed from the gathering.  But the poplars are alert enough for a
traveller by express; they have an alarum aloft, and do not sleep.  From
within some little grove of other trees a single poplar makes a slight
sign; or a long row of poplars suddenly sweep the wind.  They are salient
everywhere, and full of replies.  They are as fresh as streams.

It is difficult to realize a drought where there are many poplars.  And
yet their green is not rich; the coolest have a colour much mingled with
a cloud-grey.  It does but need fresh and simple eyes to recognize their
unfaded life.  When the other trees grow dark and keep still, the poplar
and the aspen do not darken--or hardly--and the deepest summer will not
find a day in which they do not keep awake.  No waters are so vigilant,
even where a lake is bare to the wind.

When Keats said of his Dian that she fastened up her hair "with fingers
cool as aspen leaves," he knew the coolest thing in the world.  It is a
coolness of colour, as well as of a leaf which the breeze takes on both
sides--the greenish and the greyish.  The poplar green has no glows, no
gold; it is an austere colour, as little rich as the colour of willows,
and less silvery than theirs.  The sun can hardly gild it; but he can
shine between.  Poplars and aspens let the sun through with the wind.  You
may have the sky sprinkled through them in high midsummer, when all the
woods are close.

Sending your fancy poplar-gathering, then, you ensnare wild trees,
beating with life.  No fisher's net ever took such glancing fishes, nor
did the net of a constellation's shape ever enclose more vibrating


During a part of the year London does not see the clouds.  Not to see the
clear sky might seem her chief loss, but that is shared by the rest of
England, and is, besides, but a slight privation.  Not to see the clear
sky is, elsewhere, to see the cloud.  But not so in London.  You may go
for a week or two at a time, even though you hold your head up as you
walk, and even though you have windows that really open, and yet you
shall see no cloud, or but a single edge, the fragment of a form.

Guillotine windows never wholly open, but are filled with a doubled glass
towards the sky when you open them towards the street.  They are,
therefore, a sure sign that for all the years when no other windows were
used in London, nobody there cared much for the sky, or even knew so much
as whether there were a sky.

But the privation of cloud is indeed a graver loss than the world knows.
Terrestrial scenery is much, but it is not all.  Men go in search of it;
but the celestial scenery journeys to them.  It goes its way round the
world.  It has no nation, it costs no weariness, it knows no bonds.  The
terrestrial scenery--the tourist's--is a prisoner compared with this.  The
tourist's scenery moves indeed, but only like Wordsworth's maiden, with
earth's diurnal course; it is made as fast as its own graves.  And for
its changes it depends upon the mobility of the skies.  The mere green
flushing of its own sap makes only the least of its varieties; for the
greater it must wait upon the visits of the light.  Spring and autumn are
inconsiderable events in a landscape compared with the shadows of a

The cloud controls the light, and the mountains on earth appear or fade
according to its passage; they wear so simply, from head to foot, the
luminous grey or the emphatic purple, as the cloud permits, that their
own local colour and their own local season are lost and cease, effaced
before the all-important mood of the cloud.

The sea has no mood except that of the sky and of its winds.  It is the
cloud that, holding the sun's rays in a sheaf as a giant holds a handful
of spears, strikes the horizon, touches the extreme edge with a delicate
revelation of light, or suddenly puts it out and makes the foreground

Every one knows the manifest work of the cloud when it descends and
partakes in the landscape obviously, lies half-way across the mountain
slope, stoops to rain heavily upon the lake, and blots out part of the
view by the rough method of standing in front of it.  But its greatest
things are done from its own place, aloft.  Thence does it distribute the

Thence does it lock away between the hills and valleys more mysteries
than a poet conceals, but, like him, not by interception.  Thence it
writes out and cancels all the tracery of Monte Rosa, or lets the pencils
of the sun renew them.  Thence, hiding nothing, and yet making dark, it
sheds deep colour upon the forest land of Sussex, so that, seen from the
hills, all the country is divided between grave blue and graver sunlight.

And all this is but its influence, its secondary work upon the world.  Its
own beauty is unaltered when it has no earthly beauty to improve.  It is
always great: above the street, above the suburbs, above the gas-works
and the stucco, above the faces of painted white houses--the painted
surfaces that have been devised as the only things able to vulgarise
light, as they catch it and reflect it grotesquely from their importunate
gloss.  This is to be well seen on a sunny evening in Regent Street.

Even here the cloud is not so victorious as when it towers above some
little landscape of rather paltry interest--a conventional river heavy
with water, gardens with their little evergreens, walks, and shrubberies;
and thick trees impervious to the light, touched, as the novelists always
have it, with "autumn tints."  High over these rises, in the enormous
scale of the scenery of clouds, what no man expected--an heroic sky.  Few
of the things that were ever done upon earth are great enough to be done
under such a heaven.  It was surely designed for other days.  It is for
an epic world.  Your eyes sweep a thousand miles of cloud.  What are the
distances of earth to these, and what are the distances of the clear and
cloudless sky?  The very horizons of the landscape are near, for the
round world dips so soon; and the distances of the mere clear sky are
unmeasured--you rest upon nothing until you come to a star, and the star
itself is immeasurable.

But in the sky of "sunny Alps" of clouds the sight goes farther, with
conscious flight, than it could ever have journeyed otherwise.  Man would
not have known distance veritably without the clouds.  There are
mountains indeed, precipices and deeps, to which those of the earth are
pigmy.  Yet the sky-heights, being so far off, are not overpowering by
disproportion, like some futile building fatuously made too big for the
human measure.  The cloud in its majestic place composes with a little
Perugino tree.  For you stand or stray in the futile building, while the
cloud is no mansion for man, and out of reach of his limitations.

The cloud, moreover, controls the sun, not merely by keeping the custody
of his rays, but by becoming the counsellor of his temper.  The cloud
veils an angry sun, or, more terribly, lets fly an angry ray, suddenly
bright upon tree and tower, with iron-grey storm for a background.  Or
when anger had but threatened, the cloud reveals him, gentle beyond hope.
It makes peace, constantly, just before sunset.

It is in the confidence of the winds, and wears their colours.  There is
a heavenly game, on south-west wind days, when the clouds are bowled by a
breeze from behind the evening.  They are round and brilliant, and come
leaping up from the horizon for hours.  This is a frolic and haphazard

All unlike this is the sky that has a centre, and stands composed about
it.  As the clouds marshalled the earthly mountains, so the clouds in
turn are now ranged.  The tops of all the celestial Andes aloft are swept
at once by a single ray, warmed with a single colour.  Promontory after
league-long promontory of a stiller Mediterranean in the sky is called
out of mist and grey by the same finger.  The cloudland is very great,
but a sunbeam makes all its nations and continents sudden with light.

All this is for the untravelled.  All the winds bring him this scenery.
It is only in London, for part of the autumn and part of the winter, that
the unnatural smoke-fog comes between.  And for many and many a day no
London eye can see the horizon, or the first threat of the cloud like a
man's hand.  There never was a great painter who had not exquisite
horizons, and if Corot and Crome were right, the Londoner loses a great

He loses the coming of the cloud, and when it is high in air he loses its
shape.  A cloud-lover is not content to see a snowy and rosy head piling
into the top of the heavens; he wants to see the base and the altitude.
The perspective of a cloud is a great part of its design--whether it lies
so that you can look along the immense horizontal distances of its floor,
or whether it rears so upright a pillar that you look up its mountain
steeps in the sky as you look at the rising heights of a mountain that
stands, with you, on the earth.

The cloud has a name suggesting darkness; nevertheless, it is not merely
the guardian of the sun's rays and their director.  It is the sun's
treasurer; it holds the light that the world has lost.  We talk of
sunshine and moonshine, but not of cloud-shine, which is yet one of the
illuminations of our skies.  A shining cloud is one of the most majestic
of all secondary lights.  If the reflecting moon is the bride, this is
the friend of the bridegroom.

Needless to say, the cloud of a thunderous summer is the most beautiful
of all.  It has spaces of a grey for which there is no name, and no other
cloud looks over at a vanishing sun from such heights of blue air.  The
shower-cloud, too, with its thin edges, comes across the sky with so
influential a flight that no ship going out to sea can be better worth
watching.  The dullest thing perhaps in the London streets is that people
take their rain there without knowing anything of the cloud that drops
it.  It is merely rain, and means wetness.  The shower-cloud there has
limits of time, but no limits of form, and no history whatever.  It has
not come from the clear edge of the plain to the south, and will not
shoulder anon the hill to the north.  The rain, for this city, hardly
comes or goes; it does but begin and stop.  No one looks after it on the
path of its retreat.


Another good reason that we ought to leave blank, unvexed, and
unencumbered with paper patterns the ceiling and walls of a simple house
is that the plain surface may be visited by the unique designs of
shadows.  The opportunity is so fine a thing that it ought oftener to be
offered to the light and to yonder handful of long sedges and rushes in a
vase.  Their slender grey design of shadows upon white walls is better
than a tedious, trivial, or anxious device from the shop.

The shadow has all intricacies of perspective simply translated into line
and intersecting curve, and pictorially presented to the eyes, not to the
mind.  The shadow knows nothing except its flat designs.  It is single;
it draws a decoration that was never seen before, and will never be seen
again, and that, untouched, varies with the journey of the sun, shifts
the interrelation of a score of delicate lines at the mere passing of
time, though all the room be motionless.  Why will design insist upon its
importunate immortality?  Wiser is the drama, and wiser the dance, that
do not pause upon an attitude.  But these walk with passion or pleasure,
while the shadow walks with the earth.  It alters as the hours wheel.

Moreover, while the habit of your sunward thoughts is still flowing
southward, after the winter and the spring, it surprises you in the
sudden gleam of a north-westering sun.  It decks a new wall; it is shed
by a late sunset through a window unvisited for a year past; it betrays
the flitting of the sun into unwonted skies--a sun that takes the
midsummer world in the rear, and shows his head at a sally-porte, and is
about to alight on an unused horizon.  So does the grey drawing, with
which you have allowed the sun and your pot of rushes to adorn your room,
play the stealthy game of the year.

You need not stint yourself of shadows, for an occasion.  It needs but
four candles to make a hanging Oriental bell play the most buoyant
jugglery overhead.  Two lamps make of one palm-branch a symmetrical
countercharge of shadows, and here two palm-branches close with one
another in shadow, their arches flowing together, and their paler greys
darkening.  It is hard to believe that there are many to prefer a
"repeating pattern."

It must be granted to them that a grey day robs of their decoration the
walls that should be sprinkled with shadows.  Let, then, a plaque or a
picture be kept for hanging on shadowless clays.  To dress a room once
for all, and to give it no more heed, is to neglect the units of the

Shadows within doors are yet only messages from that world of shadows
which is the landscape of sunshine.  Facing a May sun you see little
except an infinite number of shadows.  Atoms of shadow--be the day bright
enough--compose the very air through which you see the light.  The trees
show you a shadow for every leaf, and the poplars are sprinkled upon the
shining sky with little shadows that look translucent.  The liveliness of
every shadow is that some light is reflected into it; shade and shine
have been entangled as though by some wild wind through their million

The coolness and the dark of night are interlocked with the unclouded
sun.  Turn sunward from the north, and shadows come to life, and are
themselves the life, the action, and the transparence of their day.

To eyes tired and retired all day within lowered blinds, the light looks
still and changeless.  So many squares of sunshine abide for so many
hours, and when the sun has circled away they pass and are extinguished.
Him who lies alone there the outer world touches less by this long
sunshine than by the haste and passage of a shadow.  Although there may
be no tree to stand between his window and the south, and although no
noonday wind may blow a branch of roses across the blind, shadows and
their life will be carried across by a brilliant bird.

To the sick man a cloud-shadow is nothing but an eclipse; he cannot see
its shape, its color, its approach, or its flight.  It does but darken
his window as it darkens the day, and is gone again; he does not see it
pluck and snatch the sun.  But the flying bird shows him wings.  What
flash of light could be more bright for him than such a flash of

It is the pulse of life, where all change had seemed to be charmed.  If
he had seen the bird itself he would have seen less--the bird's shadow
was a message from the sun.

There are two separated flights for the fancy to follow, the flight of
the bird in the air, and the flight of its shadow on earth.  This goes
across the window blind, across the wood, where it is astray for a while
in the shades; it dips into the valley, growing vaguer and larger, runs,
quicker than the wind, uphill, smaller and darker on the soft and dry
grass, and rushes to meet its bird when the bird swoops to a branch and

In the great bird country of the north-eastern littoral of England, about
Holy Island and the basaltic rocks, the shadows of the high birds are the
movement and the pulse of the solitude.  Where there are no woods to make
a shade, the sun suffers the brilliant eclipse of flocks of pearl-white
sea birds, or of the solitary creature driving on the wind.  Theirs is
always a surprise of flight.  The clouds go one way, but the birds go all
ways: in from the sea or out, across the sands, inland to high northern
fields, where the crops are late by a month.  They fly so high that
though they have the shadow of the sun under their wings, they have the
light of the earth there also.  The waves and the coast shine up to them,
and they fly between lights.

Black flocks and white they gather their delicate shadows up, "swift as
dreams," at the end of their flight into the clefts, platforms, and
ledges of harbourless rocks dominating the North Sea.  They subside by
degrees, with lessening and shortening volleys of wings and cries until
there comes the general shadow of night wherewith the little shadows
close, complete.

The evening is the shadow of another flight.  All the birds have traced
wild and innumerable paths across the mid-May earth; their shadows have
fled all day faster than her streams, and have overtaken all the movement
of her wingless creatures.  But now it is the flight of the very earth
that carries her clasped shadow from the sun.


All Englishmen know the name of Lucy Hutchinson; and of her calling and
election to the most wifely of all wifehoods--that of a soldier's
wife--history has made her countrymen aware.  Inasmuch as Colonel
Hutchinson was a political soldier, moreover, she is something more than
his biographer--his historian.  And she convinces her reader that her
Puritan principles kept abreast of her affections.  There is no
self-abandonment; she is not precipitate; keeps her own footing; wife of
a soldier as she is, would not have armed him without her own previous
indignation against the enemy.  She is a soldier at his orders, but she
had warily and freely chosen her captain.

Briefly, and with the dignity that the language of her day kept unmarred
for her use, she relates her own childhood and youth.  She was a child
such as those serious times desired that a child should be; that is, she
was as slightly a child, and for as brief a time, as might be.  Childhood,
as an age of progress, was not to be delayed, as an age of imperfection
was to be improved, as an age of inability was not to be exposed except
when precocity distinguished it.  It must at any rate be shortened.  Lucy
Apsley, at four years old, read English perfectly, and was "carried to
sermons, and could remember and repeat them exactly."  "At seven she had
eight tutors in several qualities."  She outstripped her brothers in
Latin, albeit they were at school and she had no teacher except her
father's chaplain, who, poor gentleman, was "a pitiful dull fellow."  She
was not companionable.  Her many friends were indulged with "babies"
(that is, dolls) and these she pulled to pieces.  She exhorted the maids,
she owned, "much."  But she also heard much of their love stories, and
acquired a taste for sonnets.

It was a sonnet, and indeed one of her own writing, that brought about
her acquaintance with Mr. Hutchinson.  The sonnet was read to him, and
discussed amongst his friends, with guesses at the authorship; for a
young woman did not, in that world, write a sonnet without a feint of
hiding its origin.  One gentleman believed a woman had made it.  Another
said, if so, there were but two women capable of making it; but he owned,
later, that he said "two" out of civility (very good civility of a kind
that is not now practised) to a lady who chanced to be present; but that
he knew well there was but one; and he named her.  From her future
husband Lucy Apsley received that praise of exceptions wherewith women
are now, and always will be, praised: "Mr. Hutchinson," she says,
"fancying something of rationality in the sonnet beyond the customary
reach of a she-wit, could scarcely believe it was a woman's."

He sought her acquaintance, and they were married.  Her treasured
conscience did not prevent her from noting the jealousy of her young
friends.  A generous mind, perhaps, would rather itself suffer jealousy
than be quick in suspecting, or complacent in causing, or precise in
setting it down.  But Mrs. Hutchinson doubtless offered up the envy of
her companions in homage to her Puritan lover's splendour.  His austerity
did not hinder him from wearing his "fine, thick-set head of hair" in
long locks that were an offence to many of his own sect, but, she says,
"a great ornament to him."  But for herself she has some dissimulated
vanities.  She was negligent of dress, and when, after much waiting and
many devices, her suitor first saw her, she was "not ugly in a careless
riding-habit."  As for him, "in spite of all her indifference, she was
surprised (she writes) with some unusual liking in her soul when she saw
this gentleman, who had hair, eyes, shape, and countenance enough to
beget love in any one."  He married her as soon as she could leave her
chamber, when she was so deformed by small-pox that "the priest and all
that saw her were affrighted to look at her; but God recompensed his
justice and constancy by restoring her."

The following are some of the admirable sentences that prove Lucy
Hutchinson a woman of letters in a far more serious sense than our own
time uses.  One phrase has a Stevenson-like character, a kind of gesture
of language; this is where she praises her husband's "handsome management
of love." {1} She thus prefaces her description of her honoured lord: "If
my treacherous memory have not lost the dearest treasure that ever I
committed to its trust--."  She boasts of her country in lofty phrase:
"God hath, as it were, enclosed a people here, out of the waste common of
the world."  And again of her husband: "It will be as hard to say which
was the predominant virtue in him as which is so in its own nature."  "He
had made up his accounts with life and death, and fixed his purpose to
entertain both honourably."  "The heat of his youth a little inclined him
to the passion of anger, and the goodness of his nature to those of love
and grief; but reason was never dethroned by them, but continued governor
and moderator of his soul."

She describes sweetly certain three damsels who had "conceived a
kindness" for her lord, their susceptibility, their willingness, their
"admirable tempting beauty," and "such excellent good-nature as would
have thawed a rock of ice"; but she adds no less beautifully, "It was not
his time to love."  In her widowhood she remembered that she had been
commanded "not to grieve at the common rate of women"; and this is the
lovely phrase of her grief: "As his shadow, she waited on him everywhere,
till he was taken to that region of light which admits of none, and then
she vanished into nothing."

She has an invincible anger against the enemies of her husband and of the
cause.  The fevers, "little less than plagues," that were common in that
age carry them off exemplarily by families at a time.  An adversary is
"the devil's exquisite solicitor."  All Royalists are of "the wicked
faction."  She suspected his warders of poisoning Colonel Hutchinson in
the prison wherein he died.  The keeper had given him, under pretence of
kindness, a bottle of excellent wine, and the two gentlemen who drank of
it died within four months.  A poison of strange operation!  "We must
leave it to the great day, when all crimes, how secret soever, will be
made manifest, whether they added poison to all their other iniquity,
whereby they certainly murdered this guiltless servant of God."  When he
was near death, she adds, "a gentlewoman of the Castle came up and asked
him how he did.  He told her, Incomparably well, and full of faith."

On the subject of politics, Mrs. Hutchinson writes, it must be owned,
platitudes; but all are simple, and some are stated with dignity.  Her
power, her integrity, her tenderness, her pomp, the liberal and public
interests of her life, her good breeding, her education, her exquisite
diction, are such as may well make a reader ask how and why the
literature of England declined upon the vulgarity, ignorance, cowardice,
foolishness, that became "feminine" in the estimation of a later age;
that is, in the character of women succeeding her, and in the estimation
of men succeeding her lord.  The noble graces of Lucy Hutchinson, I say,
may well make us marvel at the downfall following--at Goldsmith's
invention of the women of "The Vicar or Wakefield" in one age, and at
Thackeray's invention of the women of "Esmond" in another.

Mrs. Hutchinson has little leisure for much praise of the natural beauty
of sky and landscape, but now and then in her work there appears an
abiding sense of the pleasantness of the rural world--in her day an
implicit feeling rather than an explicit.  "The happiness of the soil and
air contribute all things that are necessary to the use or delight of
man's life."  "He had an opportunity of conversing with her in those
pleasant walks which, at the sweet season of the spring, invited all the
neighbouring inhabitants to seek their joys."  And she describes a dream
whereof the scene was in the green fields of Southwark.  What an England
was hers!  And what an English!  A memorable vintage of our literature
and speech was granted in her day; we owe much to those who--as she
did--gathered it in.


We cannot do her honour by her Christian name. {2}  All we have to call
her by more tenderly is the mere D, the D that ties her to Stella, with
whom she made the two-in-one whom Swift loved "better a thousand times
than life, as hope saved."  MD, without full stops, Swift writes it eight
times in a line for the pleasure of writing it.  "MD sometimes means
Stella alone," says one of many editors.  "The letters were written
nominally to Stella and Mrs. Dingley," says another, "but it does not
require to be said that it was really for Stella's sake alone that they
were penned."  Not so.  "MD" never stands for Stella alone.  And the
editor does not yet live who shall persuade one honest reader, against
the word of Swift, that Swift loved Stella only, with an ordinary love,
and not, by a most delicate exception, Stella and Dingley, so joined that
they make the "she" and "her" of every letter.  And this shall be a paper
of reparation to Mrs. Dingley.

No one else in literary history has been so defrauded of her honours.  In
love "to divide is not to take away," as Shelley says; and Dingley's half
of the tender things said to MD is equal to any whole, and takes nothing
from the whole of Stella's half.  But the sentimentalist has fought
against Mrs. Dingley from the outset.  He has disliked her, shirked her,
misconceived her, and effaced her.  Sly sentimentalist--he finds her
irksome.  Through one of his most modern representatives he has but
lately called her a "chaperon."  A chaperon!

MD was not a sentimentalist.  Stella was not so, though she has been
pressed into that character; D certainly was not, and has in this respect
been spared by the chronicler; and MD together were "saucy charming MD,"
"saucy little, pretty, dear rogues," "little monkeys mine," "little
mischievous girls," "nautinautinautidear girls," "brats," "huzzies both,"
"impudence and saucy-face," "saucy noses," "my dearest lives and
delights," "dear little young women," "good dallars, not crying dallars"
(which means "girls"), "ten thousand times dearest MD," and so forth in a
hundred repetitions.  They are, every now and then, "poor MD," but
obviously not because of their own complaining.  Swift called them so
because they were mortal; and he, like all great souls, lived and loved,
conscious every day of the price, which is death.

The two were joined by love, not without solemnity, though man, with his
summary and wholesale ready-made sentiment, has thus obstinately put them
asunder.  No wholesale sentiment can do otherwise than foolishly play
havoc with such a relation.  To Swift it was the most secluded thing in
the world.  "I am weary of friends, and friendships are all monsters,
except MD's;" "I ought to read these letters I write after I have done.
But I hope it does not puzzle little Dingley to read, for I think I mend:
but methinks," he adds, "when I write plain, I do not know how, but we
are not alone, all the world can see us.  A bad scrawl is so snug; it
looks like PMD."  Again: "I do not like women so much as I did.  MD, you
must know, are not women."  "God Almighty preserve you both and make us
happy together."  "I say Amen with all my heart and vitals, that we may
never be asunder ten days together while poor Presto lives."  "Farewell,
dearest beloved MD, and love poor, poor Presto, who has not had one happy
day since he left you, as hope saved."

With them--with her--he hid himself in the world, at Court, at the bar of
St. James's coffee-house, whither he went on the Irish mail-day, and was
"in pain except he saw MD's little handwriting."  He hid with them in the
long labours of these exquisite letters every night and morning.  If no
letter came, he comforted himself with thinking that "he had it yet to be
happy with."  And the world has agreed to hide under its own manifold and
lachrymose blunders the grace and singularity--the distinction--of this
sweet romance.  "Little, sequestered pleasure-house"--it seemed as though
"the many could not miss it," but not even the few have found it.

It is part of the scheme of the sympathetic historian that Stella should
be the victim of hope deferred, watching for letters from Swift.  But day
and night Presto complains of the scantiness of MD's little letters; he
waits upon "her" will: "I shall make a sort of journal, and when it is
full I will send it whether MD writes or not; and so that will be
pretty."  "Naughty girls that will not write to a body!"  "I wish you
were whipped for forgetting to send.  Go, be far enough, negligent
baggages."  "You, Mistress Stella, shall write your share, and then comes
Dingley altogether, and then Stella a little crumb at the end; and then
conclude with something handsome and genteel, as 'your most humble
cumdumble.'"  But Scott and Macaulay and Thackeray are all exceedingly
sorry for Stella.

Swift is most charming when he is feigning to complain of his task: "Here
is such a stir and bustle with this little MD of ours; I must be writing
every night; O Lord, O Lord!"  "I must go write idle things, and twittle
twattle."  "These saucy jades take up so much of my time with writing to
them in the morning."  Is it not a stealthy wrong done upon Mrs. Dingley
that she should be stripped of all these ornaments to her name and
memory?  When Swift tells a woman in a letter that there he is "writing
in bed, like a tiger," she should go gay in the eyes of all generations.

They will not let Stella go gay, because of sentiment; and they will not
let Mrs. Dingley go gay, because of sentiment for Stella.  Marry come up!
Why did not the historians assign all the tender passages (taken very
seriously) to Stella, and let Dingley have the jokes, then?  That would
have been no ill share for Dingley.  But no, forsooth, Dingley is allowed

There are passages, nevertheless, which can hardly be taken from her.  For
now and then Swift parts his dear MD.  When he does so he invariably
drops those initials and writes "Stella" or "Ppt" for the one, and "D" or
"Dingley" for the other.  There is no exception to this anywhere.  He is
anxious about Stella's "little eyes," and about her health generally;
whereas Dingley is strong.  Poor Ppt, he thinks, will not catch the "new
fever," because she is not well; "but why should D escape it, pray?"  And
Mrs. Dingley is rebuked for her tale of a journey from Dublin to Wexford.
"I doubt, Madam Dingley, you are apt to lie in your travels, though not
so bad as Stella; she tells thumpers."  Stella is often reproved for her
spelling, and Mrs. Dingley writes much the better hand.  But she is a
puzzle-headed woman, like another.  "What do you mean by my fourth
letter, Madam Dinglibus?  Does not Stella say you had my fifth, goody
Blunder?"  "Now, Mistress Dingley, are you not an impudent slut to except
a letter next packet?  Unreasonable baggage!  No, little Dingley, I am
always in bed by twelve, and I take great care of myself."  "You are a
pretending slut, indeed, with your 'fourth' and 'fifth' in the margin,
and your 'journal' and everything.  O Lord, never saw the like, we shall
never have done."  "I never saw such a letter, so saucy, so journalish,
so everything."  Swift is insistently grateful for their inquiries for
his health.  He pauses seriously to thank them in the midst of his
prattle.  Both women--MD--are rallied on their politics: "I have a fancy
that Ppt is a Tory, I fancy she looks like one, and D a sort of trimmer."

But it is for Dingley separately that Swift endured a wild bird in his
lodgings.  His man Patrick had got one to take over to her in Ireland.
"He keeps it in a closet, where it makes a terrible litter; but I say
nothing; I am as tame as a clout."

Forgotten Dingley, happy in this, has not had to endure the ignominy, in
a hundred essays, to be retrospectively offered to Swift as an unclaimed
wife; so far so good.  But two hundred years is long for her to have gone
stripped of so radiant a glory as is hers by right.  "Better, thanks to
MD's prayers," wrote the immortal man who loved her, in a private
fragment of a journal, never meant for Dingley's eyes, nor for Ppt's, nor
for any human eyes; and the rogue Stella has for two centuries stolen all
the credit of those prayers, and all the thanks of that pious


Through the long history of human relations, which is the history of the
life of our race, there sounds at intervals the clamour of a single voice
which has not the tone of oratory, but asks, answers, interrupts itself,
interrupts--what else?  Whatever else it interrupts is silence; there are
pauses, but no answers.  There is the jest without the laugh, and again
the laugh without the jest.  And this is because the letters written by
Madame de Sevigne were all saved, and not many written to her; because
Swift burnt the letters that were the dearest things in life to him,
while "MD" both made a treasury of his; and because Prue kept all the
letters which Steele wrote to her from their marriage-day onwards, and
Steele kept none of hers.

In Swift's case the silence is full of echoes; that is to say, his
letters repeat the phrases of Stella's and Dingley's, to play with them,
flout them, and toss them back against the two silenced voices.  He never
lets the word of these two women fall to the ground; and when they have
but blundered with it, and aimed it wide, and sent it weakly, he will
catch it, and play you twenty delicate and expert juggling pranks with it
as he sends it back into their innocent faces.  So we have something of
MD's letters in the "journal," and this in the only form in which we
desire them, to tell the truth; for when Swift gravely saves us some
specimens of Stella's wit, after her death, as she spoke them, and not as
he mimicked them, they make a sorry show.

In many correspondences, where one voice remains and the other is gone,
the retort is enough for two.  It is as when, the other day, the half of
a pretty quarrel between nurse and child came down from an upper floor to
the ears of a mother who decided that she need not interfere.  The voice
of the undaunted child it was that was audible alone, and it replied,
"I'm not; _you_ are"; and anon, "I'll tell _yours_."  Nothing was really
missing there.

But Steele's letters to Prue, his wife, are no such simple matter.  The
turn we shall give them depends upon the unheard tone whereto they reply.
And there is room for conjecture.  It has pleased the more modern of the
many spirits of banter to supply Prue's eternal silence with the voice of
a scold.  It is painful to me to complain of Thackeray; but see what a
figure he makes of Prue in "Esmond."  It is, says the nineteenth-century
humourist, in defence against the pursuit of a jealous, exacting,
neglected, or evaded wife that poor Dick Steele sends those little notes
of excuse: "Dearest Being on earth, pardon me if you do not see me till
eleven o'clock, having met a schoolfellow from India"; "My dear, dear
wife, I write to let you know I do not come home to dinner, being obliged
to attend some business abroad, of which I shall give you an account
(when I see you in the evening), as becomes your dutiful and obedient
husband"; "Dear Prue, I cannot come home to dinner.  I languish for your
welfare"; "I stay here in order to get Tonson to discount a bill for me,
and shall dine with him to that end"; and so forth.  Once only does
Steele really afford the recent humourist the suggestion that is
apparently always so welcome.  It is when he writes that he is invited to
supper to Mr. Boyle's, and adds: "Dear Prue, do not send after me, for I
shall be ridiculous."  But even this is to be read not ungracefully by a
well-graced reader.  Prue was young and unused to the world.  Her
husband, by the way, had been already married; and his greater age makes
his constant deference all the more charming.

But with this one exception, Steele's little notes, kept by his wife
while she lived, and treasured after her death by her daughter and his,
are no record of the watchings and dodgings of a London farce.  It is
worth while to remember that Steele's dinner, which it was so often
difficult to eat at home, was a thing of midday, and therefore of mid-
business.  But that is a detail.  What is desirable is that a reasonable
degree of sweetness should be attributed to Prue; for it is no more than
just.  To her Steele wrote in a dedication: "How often has your
tenderness removed pain from my aching head, how often anguish from my
afflicted heart.  If there are such beings as guardian angels, they are
thus employed.  I cannot believe one of them to be more good in
inclination, or more charming in form, than my wife."

True, this was for the public; but not so were these daily notes; and
these carry to her his assurance that she is "the beautifullest object in
the world.  I know no happiness in this life in any degree comparable to
the pleasure I have in your person and society."  "But indeed, though you
have every perfection, you have an extravagant fault, which almost
frustrates the good in you to me; and that is, that you do not love to
dress, to appear, to shine out, even at my request, and to make me proud
of you, or rather to indulge the pride I have that you are mine."  The
correction of the phrase is finely considerate.

Prue cannot have been a dull wife, for this last compliment is a reply,
full of polite alacrity, to a letter from her asking for a little
flattery.  How assiduously, and with what a civilized absence of
uncouthness, of shame-facedness, and of slang of the mind, with what
simplicity, alertness, and finish, does he step out at her invitation,
and perform!  She wanted a compliment, though they had been long married
then, and he immediately turned it.  This was no dowdy Prue.

Her request, by the way, which he repeats in obeying it, is one of the
few instances of the other side of the correspondence--one of the few
direct echoes of that one of the two voices which is silent.

The ceremony of the letters and the deferent method of address and
signature are never dropped in this most intimate of letter-writing.  It
is not a little depressing to think that in this very form and state is
supposed, by the modern reader, to lurk the stealthiness of the husband
of farce, the "rogue."  One does not like the word.  Is it not clownish
to apply it with intention to the husband of Prue?  He did not pay, he
was always in difficulties, he hid from bailiffs, he did many other
things that tarnish honour, more or less, and things for which he had to
beg Prue's special pardon; but yet he is not a fit subject for the
unhandsome incredulity which is proud to be always at hand with an ironic
commentary on such letters as his.

I have no wish to bowdlerize Sir Richard Steele, his ways and words.  He
wrote to Prue at night when the burgundy had been too much for him, and
in the morning after.  He announces that he is coming to her "within a
pint of wine."  One of his gayest letters--a love-letter before the
marriage, addressed to "dear lovely Mrs. Scurlock"--confesses candidly
that he had been pledging her too well: "I have been in very good
company, where your health, under the character of the woman I loved
best, has been often drunk; so that I may say that I am dead drunk for
your sake, which is more than _I die for you_."

Steele obviously drank burgundy wildly, as did his "good company"; as did
also the admirable Addison, who was so solitary in character and so
serene in temperament.  But no one has, for this fault, the right to put
a railing accusation into the mouth of Prue.  Every woman has a right to
her own silence, whether her silence be hers of set purpose or by
accident.  And every creature has a right to security from the banterings
peculiar to the humourists of a succeeding age.  To every century its own
ironies, to every century its own vulgarities.  In Steele's time they had
theirs.  They might have rallied Prue more coarsely, but it would have
been with a different rallying.  Writers of the nineteenth century went
about to rob her of her grace.

She kept some four hundred of these little letters of her lord's.  It was
a loyal keeping.  But what does Thackeray call it?   His word is
"thrifty."  He says: "There are four hundred letters of Dick Steele's to
his wife, which that thrifty woman preserved accurately."

"Thrifty" is a hard word to apply to her whom Steele styled, in the year
before her death, his "charming little insolent."  She was ill in Wales,
and he, at home, wept upon her pillow, and "took it to be a sin to go to
sleep."  Thrifty they may call her, and accurate if they will; but she
lies in Westminster Abbey, and Steele called her "your Prueship."


This paper shall not be headed "Tetty."  What may be a graceful enough
freedom with the wives of other men shall be prohibited in the case of
Johnson's, she with whose name no writer until now has scrupled to take
freedoms whereto all graces were lacking.  "Tetty" it should not be, if
for no other reason, for this--that the chance of writing "Tetty" as a
title is a kind of facile literary opportunity; it shall be denied.  The
Essay owes thus much amends of deliberate care to Dr. Johnson's wife.
But, indeed, the reason is graver.  What wish would he have had but that
the language in the making whereof he took no ignoble part should
somewhere, at some time, treat his only friend with ordinary honour?

Men who would trust Dr. Johnson with their orthodoxy, with their
vocabulary, and with the most intimate vanity of their human wishes,
refuse, with every mark of insolence, to trust him in regard to his wife.
On that one point no reverence is paid to him, no deference, no respect,
not so much as the credit due to our common sanity.  Yet he is not
reviled on account of his Thrale--nor, indeed, is his Thrale now
seriously reproached for her Piozzi.  It is true that Macaulay, preparing
himself and his reader "in his well-known way" (as a rustic of Mr.
Hardy's might have it) for the recital of her second marriage, says that
it would have been well if she had been laid beside the kind and generous
Thrale when, in the prime of her life, he died.  But Macaulay has not
left us heirs to his indignation.  His well-known way was to exhaust
those possibilities of effect in which the commonplace is so rich.  And
he was permitted to point his paragraphs as he would, not only by calling
Mrs. Thrale's attachment to her second husband "a degrading passion," but
by summoning a chorus of "all London" to the same purpose.  She fled, he
tells us, from the laughter and hisses of her countrymen and countrywomen
to a land where she was unknown.  Thus when Macaulay chastises Mrs.
Elizabeth Porter for marrying Johnson, he is not inconsistent, for he
pursues Mrs. Thrale with equal rigour for her audacity in keeping gaiety
and grace in her mind and manners longer than Macaulay liked to see such
ornaments added to the charm of twice "married brows."

It is not so with succeeding essayists.  One of these minor biographers
is so gentle as to call the attachment of Mrs. Thrale and Piozzi "a
mutual affection."  He adds, "No one who has had some experience of life
will be inclined to condemn Mrs. Thrale."  But there is no such courtesy,
even from him, for Mrs. Johnson.  Neither to him nor to any other writer
has it yet occurred that if England loves her great Englishman's memory,
she owes not only courtesy, but gratitude, to the only woman who loved
him while there was yet time.

Not a thought of that debt has stayed the alacrity with which a
caricature has been acclaimed as the only possible portrait of Mrs.
Johnson.  Garrick's school reminiscences would probably have made a much
more charming woman grotesque.  Garrick is welcome to his remembrances;
we may even reserve for ourselves the liberty of envying those who heard
him.  But honest laughter should not fall into that tone of common
antithesis which seems to say, "See what are the absurdities of the
great!  Such is life!  On this one point we, even we, are wiser than Dr.
Johnson--we know how grotesque was his wife.  We know something of the
privacies of her toilet-table.  We are able to compare her figure with
the figures we, unlike him in his youth, have had the opportunity of
admiring--the figures of the well-bred and well-dressed."  It is a sorry
success to be able to say so much.

But in fact such a triumph belongs to no man.  When Samuel Johnson, at
twenty-six, married his wife, he gave the dull an advantage over himself
which none but the dullest will take.  He chose, for love, a woman who
had the wit to admire him at first meeting, and in spite of first sight.
"That," she said to her daughter, "is the most sensible man I ever met."
He was penniless.  She had what was no mean portion for those times and
those conditions; and, granted that she was affected, and provincial, and
short, and all the rest with which she is charged, she was probably not
without suitors; nor do her defects or faults seem to have been those of
an unadmired or neglected woman.  Next, let us remember what was the
aspect of Johnson's form and face, even in his twenties, and how little
he could have touched the senses of a widow fond of externals.  This one
loved him, accepted him, made him happy, gave to one of the noblest of
all English hearts the one love of its sombre life.  And English
literature has had no better phrase for her than Macaulay's--"She
accepted, with a readiness which did her little honour, the addresses of
a suitor who might have been her son."

Her readiness did her incalculable honour.  But it is at last worth
remembering that Johnson had first done her incalculable honour.  No one
has given to man or woman the right to judge as to the worthiness of her
who received it.  The meanest man is generally allowed his own counsel as
to his own wife; one of the greatest of men has been denied it.  "The
lover," says Macaulay, "continued to be under the illusions of the
wedding day till the lady died."  What is so graciously said is not
enough.  He was under those "illusions" until he too died, when he had
long passed her latest age, and was therefore able to set right that
balance of years which has so much irritated the impertinent.  Johnson
passed from this life twelve years older than she, and so for twelve
years his constant eyes had to turn backwards to dwell upon her.  Time
gave him a younger wife.

And here I will put into Mrs. Johnson's mouth, that mouth to which no one
else has ever attributed any beautiful sayings, the words of Marceline
Desbordes-Valmore to the young husband she loved: "Older than thou!  Let
me never see thou knowest it.  Forget it!  I will remember it, to die
before thy death."

Macaulay, in his unerring effectiveness, uses Johnson's short sight for
an added affront to Mrs. Johnson.  The bridegroom was too weak of
eyesight "to distinguish ceruse from natural bloom."  Nevertheless, he
saw well enough, when he was old, to distinguish Mrs. Thrale's dresses.
He reproved her for wearing a dark dress; it was unsuitable, he said, for
her size; a little creature should show gay colours "like an insect."  We
are not called upon to admire his wife; why, then, our taste being thus
uncompromised, do we not suffer him to admire her?  It is the most
gratuitous kind of intrusion.  Moreover, the biographers are eager to
permit that touch of romance and grace in his relations to Mrs. Thrale,
which they officially deny in the case of Mrs. Johnson.  But the
difference is all on the other side.  He would not have bidden his wife
dress like an insect.  Mrs. Thrale was to him "the first of womankind"
only because his wife was dead.

Beauclerc, we learn, was wont to cap Garrick's mimicry of Johnson's love-
making by repeating the words of Johnson himself in after-years--"It was
a love-match on both sides."  And obviously he was as strange a lover as
they said.  Who doubted it?  Was there any other woman in England to give
such a suitor the opportunity of an eternal love?  "A life radically
wretched," was the life of this master of Letters; but she, who has
received nothing in return except ignominy from these unthankful Letters,
had been alone to make it otherwise.  Well for him that he married so
young as to earn the ridicule of all the biographers in England; for by
doing so he, most happily, possessed his wife for nearly twenty years.  I
have called her his only friend.  So indeed she was, though he had
followers, disciples, rivals, competitors, and companions, many degrees
of admirers, a biographer, a patron, and a public.  He had also the
houseful of sad old women who quarrelled under his beneficent protection.
But what friend had he?  He was "solitary" from the day she died.

Let us consider under what solemn conditions and in what immortal phrase
the word "solitary" stands.  He wrote it, all Englishmen know where.  He
wrote it in the hour of that melancholy triumph when he had been at last
set free from the dependence upon hope.  He hoped no more, and he needed
not to hope.  The "notice" of Lord Chesterfield had been too long
deferred; it was granted at last, when it was a flattery which Johnson's
court of friends would applaud.  But not for their sake was it welcome.
To no living ear would he bring it and report it with delight.

He was indifferent, he was known.  The sensitiveness to pleasure was
gone, and the sensitiveness to pain, slights, and neglect would
thenceforth be suffered to rest; no man in England would put that to
proof again.  No man in England, did I say?  But, indeed, that is not so.
No slight to him, to his person, or to his fame could have had power to
cause him pain more sensibly than the customary, habitual, ready-made
ridicule that has been cast by posterity upon her whom he loved for
twenty years, prayed for during thirty-two years more, who satisfied one
of the saddest human hearts, but to whom the world, assiduous to admire
him, hardly accords human dignity.  He wrote praises of her manners and
of her person for her tomb.  But her epitaph, that does not name her, is
in the greatest of English prose.  What was favour to him?  "I am
indifferent . . . I am known . . . I am solitary, and cannot impart it."


The articulate heroine has her reward of appreciation and her dues of
praise; it is her appropriate fortune to have it definitely measured, and
generally on equal terms.  She takes pains to explain herself, and is
understood, and pitied, when need is, on the right occasions.  For
instance, Madame Roland, a woman of merit, who knew her "merit's name and
place," addressed her memoirs, her studies in contemporary history, her
autobiography, her many speeches, and her last phrase at the foot of the
undaunting scaffold, to a great audience of her equals (more or less)
then living and to live in the ages then to come--her equals and those
she raises to her own level, as the heroic example has authority to do.

Another woman--the Queen--suffered at that time, and suffered without the
command of language, the exactitude of phrase, the precision of
judgement, the proffer of prophecy, the explicit sense of Innocence and
Moderation oppressed in her person.  These were Madame Roland's; but the
other woman, without eloquence, without literature, and without any
judicial sense of history, addresses no mere congregation of readers.
Marie Antoinette's unrecorded pangs pass into the treasuries of the
experience of the whole human family.  All that are human have some part
there; genius itself may lean in contemplation over that abyss of woe;
the great poets themselves may look into its distances and solitudes.
Compassion here has no measure and no language.  Madame Roland speaks
neither to genius nor to complete simplicity; Marie Antoinette holds her
peace in the presence of each, dumb in her presence.

Madame Roland had no dumbness of the spirit, as history, prompted by her
own musical voice, presents her to a world well prepared to do her
justice.  Of that justice she had full expectation; justice here, justice
in the world--the world that even when universal philosophy should reign
would be inevitably the world of mediocrity; justice that would come of
enlightened views; justice that would be the lesson learnt by the nations
widely educated up to some point generally accessible; justice well
within earthly sight and competence.  This confidence was also her
reward.  For what justice did the Queen look?  Here it is the "abyss that
appeals to the abyss."

Twice only in the life of Madame Roland is there a lapse into silence,
and for the record of these two poor failures of that long, indomitable,
reasonable, temperate, explicit utterance which expressed her life and
mind we are debtors to her friends.  She herself has not confessed them.
Nowhere else, whether in her candid history of herself, or in her wise
history of her country, or in her judicial history of her contemporaries,
whose spirit she discerned, whose powers she appraised, whose errors she
foresaw; hardly in her thought, and never in her word, is a break to be
perceived; she is not silent and she hardly stammers; and when she tells
us of her tears--the tears of youth only--her record is voluble and all
complete.  For the dignity of her style, of her force, and of her
balanced character, Madame Roland would doubtless have effaced the two
imperfections which, to us who would be glad to admire in silence her
heroic figure, if that heroic figure would but cease to talk, are finer
and more noble than her well-placed language and the high successes of
her decision and her endurance.  More than this, the two failures of this
unfailing woman are two little doors opened suddenly into those wider
spaces and into that dominion of solitude which, after all, do doubtless
exist even in the most garrulous soul.  By these two outlets Manon Roland
also reaches the region of Marie Antoinette.  But they befell her at the
close of her life, and they shall be named at the end of this brief

Madame Roland may seem the more heroic to those whose suffrages she seeks
in all times and nations because of the fact that she manifestly
suppresses in her self-descriptions any signs of a natural gaiety.  Her
memoirs give evidence of no such thing; it is only in her letters, not
intended for the world, that we are aware of the inadvertence of moments.
We may overhear a laugh at times, but not in those consciously sprightly
hours that she spent with her convent-school friend gathering fruit and
counting eggs at the farm.  She pursued these country tasks not without
offering herself the cultivated congratulation of one whom cities had
failed to allure, and who bore in mind the examples of Antiquity.  She
did not forget the death of Socrates.  Or, rather, she finds an occasion
to reproach herself with having once forgotten it, and with having
omitted what another might have considered the tedious recollection of
the condemnation of Phocion.  She never wearied of these examples.  But
it is her inexhaustible freshness in these things that has helped other
writers of her time to weary us.

In her manner of telling her story there is an absence of all
exaggeration, which gives the reader a constant sense of security.  That
virtue of style and thought was one she proposed to herself and attained
with exact consciousness of success.  It would be almost enough (in the
perfection of her practice) to make a great writer; even a measure of it
goes far to make a fair one.  Her moderation of statement is never
shaken; and if she now and then glances aside from her direct narrative
road to hazard a conjecture, the error she may make is on the generous
side of hope and faith.  For instance, she is too sure that her Friends
(so she always calls the _Girondins_, using no nicknames) are safe,
whereas they were then all doomed; a young man who had carried a harmless
message for her--a mere notification to her family of her arrest--receives
her cheerful commendation for his good feeling; from a note we learn that
for this action he suffered on the scaffold and that his father soon
thereafter died of grief.  But Madame Roland never matched such a
delirious event as this by any delirium of her own imagination.  The
delirium was in things and in the acts of men; her mind was never hurried
from its sane self-possession, when the facts raved.

It was only when she used the rhetoric ready to her hand that she stooped
to verbal violence; _et encore_!  References to the banishment of
Aristides and the hemlock of Socrates had become toy daggers and bending
swords in the hands of her compatriots, and she is hardly to be accused
of violence in brandishing those weapons.  Sometimes, refuse rhetoric
being all too ready, she takes it on her pen, in honest haste, as though
it were honest speech, and stands committed to such a phrase as this:
"The dregs of the nation placed such a one at the helm of affairs."

But her manner was not generally to write anything but a clear and
efficient French language.  She never wrote for the love of art, but
without some measure of art she did not write; and her simplicity is
somewhat altered by that importunate love of the Antique.  In "Bleak
House" there is an old lady who insisted that the name "Mr. Turveydrop,"
as it appeared polished on the door-plate of the dancing master, was the
name of the pretentious father and not of the industrious son--albeit,
needless to say, one name was common to them.  With equal severity I aver
that when Madame Roland wrote to her husband in the second person
singular she was using the _tu_ of Rome and not the _tu_ of Paris.  French
was indeed the language; but had it been French in spirit she would (in
spite of the growing Republican fashion) have said _vous_ to this "homme
eclaire, de moeurs pures, a qui l'on ne peut reprocher que sa grande
admiration pour les anciens aux depens des modernes qu'il meprise, et le
faible de trop aimer a parler de lui."  There was no French _tu_ in her
relations with this husband, gravely esteemed and appraised, discreetly
rebuked, the best passages of whose Ministerial reports she wrote, and
whom she observed as he slowly began to think he himself had composed
them.  She loved him with a loyal, obedient, and discriminating
affection, and when she had been put to death, he, still at liberty, fell
upon his sword.

This last letter was written at a moment when, in order to prevent the
exposure of a public death, Madame Roland had intended to take opium in
the end of her cruel imprisonment.  A little later she chose that those
who oppressed her country should have their way with her to the last.
But, while still intending self-destruction, she had written to her
husband: "Forgive me, respectable man, for disposing of a life that I had
consecrated to thee."  In quoting this I mean to make no too-easy effect
with the word "respectable," grown grotesque by the tedious gibe of our
own present fashion of speech.

Madame Roland, I have said, was twice inarticulate; she had two spaces of
silence, one when she, pure and selfless patriot, had heard her
condemnation to death.  Passing out of the court she beckoned to her
friends, and signified to them her sentence "by a gesture."  And again
there was a pause, in the course of her last days, during which her
speeches had not been few, and had been spoken with her beautiful voice
unmarred; "she leant," says Riouffe, "alone against her window, and wept
there three hours."


To attend to a living child is to be baffled in your humour, disappointed
of your pathos, and set freshly free from all the preoccupations.  You
cannot anticipate him.  Blackbirds, overheard year by year, do not
compose the same phrases; never two leitmotifs alike.  Not the tone, but
the note alters.  So with the uncovenanted ways of a child you keep no
tryst.  They meet you at another place, after failing you where you
tarried; your former experiences, your documents are at fault.  You are
the fellow traveller of a bird.  The bird alights and escapes out of time
to your footing.

No man's fancy could be beforehand, for instance, with a girl of four
years old who dictated a letter to a distant cousin, with the sweet and
unimaginable message: "I hope you enjoy yourself with your loving dolls."
A boy, still younger, persuading his mother to come down from the heights
and play with him on the floor, but sensible, perhaps, that there was a
dignity to be observed none the less, entreated her, "Mother, do be a
lady frog."  None ever said their good things before these indeliberate
authors.  Even their own kind--children--have not preceded them.  No
child in the past ever found the same replies as the girl of five whose
father made that appeal to feeling which is doomed to a different,
perverse, and unforeseen success.  He was rather tired with writing, and
had a mind to snare some of the yet uncaptured flock of her sympathies.
"Do you know, I have been working hard, darling?  I work to buy things
for you."  "Do you work," she asked, "to buy the lovely puddin's?"  Yes,
even for these.  The subject must have seemed to her to be worth
pursuing.  "And do you work to buy the fat?  I don't like fat."

The sympathies, nevertheless, are there.  The same child was to be
soothed at night after a weeping dream that a skater had been drowned in
the Kensington Round Pond.  It was suggested to her that she should
forget it by thinking about the one unfailing and gay subject--her
wishes.  "Do you know," she said, without loss of time, "what I should
like best in all the world?  A thundred dolls and a whistle!"  Her mother
was so overcome by this tremendous numeral, that she could make no offer
as to the dolls.  But the whistle seemed practicable.  "It is for me to
whistle for cabs," said the child, with a sudden moderation, "when I go
to parties."  Another morning she came down radiant.  "Did you hear a
great noise in the miggle of the night?  That was me crying.  I cried
because I dreamt that Cuckoo [a brother] had swallowed a bead into his

The mere errors of children are unforeseen as nothing is--no, nothing
feminine--in this adult world.  "I've got a lotter than you," is the word
of a very young egotist.  An older child says, "I'd better go, bettern't
I, mother?"  He calls a little space at the back of a London house, "the
backy-garden."  A little creature proffers almost daily the reminder at
luncheon--at tart-time: "Father, I hope you will remember that I am the
favourite of the crust."  Moreover, if an author set himself to invent
the naif things that children might do in their Christmas plays at home,
he would hardly light upon the device of the little _troupe_ who, having
no footlights, arranged upon the floor a long row of candle-shades.

"It's _jolly_ dull without you, mother," says a little girl who--gentlest
of the gentle--has a dramatic sense of slang, of which she makes no
secret.  But she drops her voice somewhat to disguise her feats of
metathesis, about which she has doubts and which are involuntary: the
"stand-wash," the "sweeping-crosser," the "sewing chamine."  Genoese
peasants have the same prank when they try to speak Italian.

Children forget last year so well that if they are Londoners they should
by any means have an impression of the country or the sea annually.  A
London little girl watches a fly upon the wing, follows it with her
pointing finger, and names it "bird."  Her brother, who wants to play
with a bronze Japanese lobster, asks "Will you please let me have that

At times children give to a word that slight variety which is the most
touching kind of newness.  Thus, a child of three asks you to save him.
How moving a word, and how freshly said!  He had heard of the "saving" of
other things of interest--especially chocolate creams taken for
safe-keeping--and he asks, "Who is going to save me to-day?  Nurse is
going out, will you save me, mother?"  The same little variant upon
common use is in another child's courteous reply to a summons to help in
the arrangement of some flowers, "I am quite at your ease."

A child, unconscious little author of things told in this record, was
taken lately to see a fellow author of somewhat different standing from
her own, inasmuch as he is, among other things, a Saturday Reviewer.  As
he dwelt in a part of the South-west of the town unknown to her, she
noted with interest the shops of the neighbourhood as she went, for they
might be those of the _fournisseurs_ of her friend.  "That is his bread
shop, and that is his book shop.  And that, mother," she said finally,
with even heightened sympathy, pausing before a blooming _parterre_ of
confectionery hard by the abode of her man of letters, "that, I suppose,
is where he buys his sugar pigs."

In all her excursions into streets new to her, this same child is intent
upon a certain quest--the quest of a genuine collector.  We have all
heard of collecting butterflies, of collecting china-dogs, of collecting
cocked hats, and so forth; but her pursuit gives her a joy that costs her
nothing except a sharp look-out upon the proper names over all
shop-windows.  No hoard was ever lighter than hers.  "I began three weeks
ago next Monday, mother," she says with precision, "and I have got thirty-
nine."  "Thirty-nine what?"  "Smiths."

The mere gathering of children's language would be much like collecting
together a handful of flowers that should be all unique, single of their
kind.  In one thing, however, do children agree, and that is the
rejection of most of the conventions of the authors who have reported
them.  They do not, for example, say "me is"; their natural reply to "are
you?" is "I are."  One child, pronouncing sweetly and neatly, will have
nothing but the nominative pronoun.  "Lift I up and let I see it
raining," she bids; and told that it does not rain resumes, "Lift I up
and let I see it not raining."

An elder child had a rooted dislike to a brown corduroy suit ordered for
her by maternal authority.  She wore the garments under protest, and with
some resentment.  At the same time it was evident that she took no
pleasure in hearing her praises sweetly sung by a poet, her friend.  He
had imagined the making of this child in the counsels of Heaven, and the
decreeing of her soft skin, of her brilliant eyes, and of her hair--"a
brown tress."  She had gravely heard the words as "a brown dress," and
she silently bore the poet a grudge for having been the accessory of
Providence in the mandate that she should wear the loathed corduroy.  The
unpractised ear played another little girl a like turn.  She had a phrase
for snubbing any anecdote that sounded improbable.  "That," she said,
more or less after Sterne, "is a cotton-wool story."

The learning of words is, needless to say, continued long after the years
of mere learning to speak.  The young child now takes a current word into
use, a little at random, and now makes a new one, so as to save the
interruption of a pause for search.  I have certainly detected, in
children old enough to show their motives, a conviction that a word of
their own making is as good a communication as another, and as
intelligible.  There is even a general implicit conviction among them
that the grown-up people, too, make words by the wayside as occasion
befalls.  How otherwise should words be so numerous that every day brings
forward some hitherto unheard?  The child would be surprised to know how
irritably poets are refused the faculty and authority which he thinks to
belong to the common world.

There is something very cheerful and courageous in the setting-out of a
child on a journey of speech with so small baggage and with so much
confidence in the chances of the hedge.  He goes free, a simple
adventurer.  Nor does he make any officious effort to invent anything
strange or particularly expressive or descriptive.  The child trusts
genially to his hearer.  A very young boy, excited by his first sight of
sunflowers, was eager to describe them, and called them, without allowing
himself to be checked for the trifle of a name, "summersets."  This was
simple and unexpected; so was the comment of a sister a very little
older.  "Why does he call those flowers summersets?" their mother said;
and the girl, with a darkly brilliant look of humour and penetration,
answered, "because they are so big."  There seemed to be no further
question possible after an explanation that was presented thus charged
with meaning.

To a later phase of life, when a little girl's vocabulary was, somewhat
at random, growing larger, belong a few brave phrases hazarded to express
a meaning well realized--a personal matter.  Questioned as to the eating
of an uncertain number of buns just before lunch, the child averred, "I
took them just to appetize my hunger."  As she betrayed a familiar
knowledge of the tariff of an attractive confectioner, she was asked
whether she and her sisters had been frequenting those little tables on
their way from school.  "I sometimes go in there, mother," she confessed;
"but I generally speculate outside."

Children sometimes attempt to cap something perfectly funny with
something so flat that you are obliged to turn the conversation.  Dryden
does the same thing, not with jokes, but with his sublimer passages.  But
sometimes a child's deliberate banter is quite intelligible to elders.
Take the letter written by a little girl to a mother who had, it seems,
allowed her family to see that she was inclined to be satisfied with
something of her own writing.  The child has a full and gay sense of the
sweetest kinds of irony.  There was no need for her to write, she and her
mother being both at home, but the words must have seemed to her worthy
of a pen:--"My dear mother, I really wonder how you can be proud of that
article, if it is worthy to be called a article, which I doubt.  Such a
unletterary article.  I cannot call it letterature.  I hope you will not
write any more such unconventionan trash."

This is the saying of a little boy who admired his much younger sister,
and thought her forward for her age: "I wish people knew just how old she
is, mother, then they would know she is onward.  They can see she is
pretty, but they can't know she is such a onward baby."

Thus speak the naturally unreluclant; but there are other children who in
time betray a little consciousness and a slight _mefiance_ as to where
the adult sense of humour may be lurking in wait for them, obscure.  These
children may not be shy enough to suffer any self-checking in their talk,
but they are now and then to be heard slurring a word of which they do
not feel too sure.  A little girl whose sensitiveness was barely enough
to cause her to stop to choose between two words, was wont to bring a cup
of tea to the writing-table of her mother, who had often feigned
indignation at the weakness of what her Irish maid always called "the
infusion."  "I'm afraid it's bosh again, mother," said the child; and
then, in a half-whisper, "Is bosh right, or wash, mother?"  She was not
told, and decided for herself, with doubts, for bosh.  The afternoon cup
left the kitchen an infusion, and reached the library "bosh"


A poppy bud, packed into tight bundles by so hard and resolute a hand
that the petals of the flower never afterwards lose the creases, is a
type of the child.  Nothing but the unfolding, which is as yet in the non-
existing future, can explain the manner of the close folding of
character.  In both flower and child it looks much as though the process
had been the reverse of what it was--as though a finished and open thing
had been folded up into the bud--so plainly and certainly is the future
implied, and the intention of compressing and folding-close made

With the other incidents of childish character, the crowd of impulses
called "naughtiness" is perfectly perceptible--it would seem heartless to
say how soon.  The naughty child (who is often an angel of tenderness and
charm, affectionate beyond the capacity of his fellows, and a very
ascetic of penitence when the time comes) opens early his brief campaigns
and raises the standard of revolt as soon as he is capable of the
desperate joys of disobedience.

But even the naughty child is an individual, and must not be treated in
the mass.  He is numerous indeed, but not general, and to describe him
you must take the unit, with all his incidents and his organic qualities
as they are.  Take then, for instance, one naughty child in the reality
of his life.  He is but six years old, slender and masculine, and not
wronged by long hair, curls, or effeminate dress.  His face is delicate
and too often haggard with tears of penitence that Justice herself would
be glad to spare him.  Some beauty he has, and his mouth especially is so
lovely as to seem not only angelic but itself an angel.  He has
absolutely no self-control and his passions find him without defence.
They come upon him in the midst of his usual brilliant gaiety and cut
short the frolic comedy of his fine spirits.

Then for a wild hour he is the enemy of the laws.  If you imprison him,
you may hear his resounding voice as he takes a running kick at the door,
shouting his justification in unconquerable rage.  "I'm good now!" is
made as emphatic as a shot by the blow of his heel upon the panel.  But
if the moment of forgiveness is deferred, in the hope of a more promising
repentance, it is only too likely that he will betake himself to a
hostile silence and use all the revenge yet known to his imagination.
"Darling mother, open the door!" cries his touching voice at last; but if
the answer should be "I must leave you for a short time, for punishment,"
the storm suddenly thunders again.  "There (crash!) I have broken a
plate, and I'm glad it is broken into such little pieces that you can't
mend it.  I'm going to break the 'lectric light."  When things are at
this pass there is one way, and only one, to bring the child to an
overwhelming change of mind; but it is a way that would be cruel, used
more than twice or thrice in his whole career of tempest and defiance.
This is to let him see that his mother is troubled.  "Oh, don't cry!  Oh,
don't be sad!" he roars, unable still to deal with his own passionate
anger, which is still dealing with him.  With his kicks of rage he
suddenly mingles a dance of apprehension lest his mother should have
tears in her eyes.  Even while he is still explicitly impenitent and
defiant he tries to pull her round to the light that he may see her face.
It is but a moment before the other passion of remorse comes to make
havoc of the helpless child, and the first passion of anger is quelled

Only to a trivial eye is there nothing tragic in the sight of these great
passions within the small frame, the small will, and, in a word, the
small nature.  When a large and sombre fate befalls a little nature, and
the stage is too narrow for the action of a tragedy, the disproportion
has sometimes made a mute and unexpressed history of actual life or
sometimes a famous book; it is the manifest core of George Eliot's story
of _Adam Bede_, where the suffering of Hetty is, as it were, the eye of
the storm.  All is expressive around her, but she is hardly articulate;
the book is full of words--preachings, speeches, daily talk, aphorisms,
but a space of silence remains about her in the midst of the story.  And
the disproportion of passion--the inner disproportion--is at least as
tragic as that disproportion of fate and action; it is less intelligible,
and leads into the intricacies of nature which are more difficult than
the turn of events.

It seems, then, that this passionate play is acted within the narrow
limits of a child's nature far oftener than in those of an adult and
finally formed nature.  And this, evidently, because there is unequal
force at work within a child, unequal growth and a jostling of powers and
energies that are hurrying to their development and pressing for exercise
and life.  It is this helpless inequality--this untimeliness--that makes
the guileless comedy mingling with the tragedies of a poor child's day.
He knows thus much--that life is troubled around him and that the fates
are strong.  He implicitly confesses "the strong hours" of antique song.
This same boy--the tempestuous child of passion and revolt--went out with
quiet cheerfulness for a walk lately, saying as his cap was put on, "Now,
mother, you are going to have a little peace."  This way of accepting his
own conditions is shared by a sister, a very little older, who, being of
an equal and gentle temper, indisposed to violence of every kind and
tender to all without disquiet, observes the boy's brief frenzies as a
citizen observes the climate.  She knows the signs quite well and can at
any time give the explanation of some particular outburst, but without
any attempt to go in search of further or more original causes.  Still
less is she moved by the virtuous indignation that is the least charming
of the ways of some little girls.  _Elle ne fait que constater_.
Her equanimity has never been overset by the wildest of his moments, and
she has witnessed them all.  It is needless to say that she is not
frightened by his drama, for Nature takes care that her young creatures
shall not be injured by sympathies.  Nature encloses them in the innocent
indifference that preserves their brains from the more harassing kinds of

Even the very frenzy of rage does not long dim or depress the boy.  It is
his repentance that makes him pale, and Nature here has been rather
forced, perhaps--with no very good result.  Often must a mother wish that
she might for a few years govern her child (as far as he is governable)
by the lowest motives--trivial punishments and paltry rewards--rather
than by any kind of appeal to his sensibilities.  She would wish to keep
the words "right" and "wrong" away from his childish ears, but in this
she is not seconded by her lieutenants.  The child himself is quite
willing to close with her plans, in so far as he is able, and is
reasonably interested in the results of her experiments.  He wishes her
attempts in his regard to have a fair chance.  "Let's hope I'll be good
all to-morrow," he says with the peculiar cheerfulness of his ordinary
voice.  "I do hope so, old man."  "Then I'll get my penny.  Mother, I was
only naughty once yesterday; if I have only one naughtiness to-morrow,
will you give me a halfpenny?"  "No reward except for real goodness all
day long."  "All right."

It is only too probable that this system (adopted only after the failure
of other ways of reform) will be greatly disapproved as one of bribery.
It may, however, be curiously inquired whether all kinds of reward might
not equally be burlesqued by that word, and whether any government,
spiritual or civil, has ever even professed to deny rewards.  Moreover,
those who would not give a child a penny for being good will not hesitate
to fine him a penny for being naughty, and rewards and punishments must
stand or fall together.  The more logical objection will be that goodness
is ideally the normal condition, and that it should have, therefore, no
explicit extraordinary result, whereas naughtiness, being abnormal,
should have a visible and unusual sequel.  To this the rewarding mother
may reply that it is not reasonable to take "goodness" in a little child
of strong passions as the normal condition.  The natural thing for him is
to give full sway to impulses that are so violent as to overbear his

But, after all, the controversy returns to the point of practice.  What
is the thought, or threat, or promise that will stimulate the weak will
of the child, in the moment of rage and anger, to make a sufficient
resistance?  If the will were naturally as well developed as the
passions, the stand would be soon made and soon successful; but as it is
there must needs be a bracing by the suggestion of joy or fear.  Let,
then, the stimulus be of a mild and strong kind at once, and mingled with
the thought of distant pleasure.  To meet the suffering of rage and
frenzy by the suffering of fear is assuredly to make of the little
unquiet mind a battle-place of feelings too hurtfully tragic.  The penny
is mild and strong at once, with its still distant but certain joys of
purchase; the promise and hope break the mood of misery, and the will
takes heart to resist and conquer.

It is only in the lesser naughtiness that he is master of himself.  The
lesser the evil fit the more deliberate.  So that his mother, knowing
herself to be not greatly feared, once tried to mimic the father's voice
with a menacing, "What's that noise?"  The child was persistently crying
and roaring on an upper floor, in contumacy against his French nurse,
when the baritone and threatening question was sent pealing up the
stairs.  The child was heard to pause and listen and then to say to his
nurse, "Ce n'est pas Monsieur; c'est Madame," and then, without further
loss of time, to resume the interrupted clamours.

Obviously, with a little creature of six years, there are two things
mainly to be done--to keep the delicate brain from the evil of the
present excitement, especially the excitement of painful feeling, and to
break the habit of passion.  Now that we know how certainly the special
cells of the brain which are locally affected by pain and anger become
hypertrophied by so much use, and all too ready for use in the future at
the slightest stimulus, we can no longer slight the importance of habit.
Any means, then, that can succeed in separating a little child from the
habit of anger does fruitful work for him in the helpless time of his
childhood.  The work is not easy, but a little thought should make it
easy for the elders to avoid the provocation which they--who should ward
off provocations--are apt to bring about by sheer carelessness.  It is
only in childhood that our race knows such physical abandonment to sorrow
and tears, as a child's despair; and the theatre with us must needs copy
childhood if it would catch the note and action of a creature without


There is a certain year that is winged, as it were, against the flight of
time; it does so move, and yet withstands time's movement.  It is full of
pauses that are due to the energy of change, has bounds and rebounds, and
when it is most active then it is longest.  It is not long with languor.
It has room for remoteness, and leisure for oblivion.  It takes great
excursions against time, and travels so as to enlarge its hours.  This
certain year is any one of the early years of fully conscious life, and
therefore it is of all the dates.  The child of Tumult has been living
amply and changefully through such a year--his eighth.  It is difficult
to believe that his is a year of the self-same date as that of the adult,
the men who do not breast their days.

For them is the inelastic, or but slightly elastic, movement of things.
Month matched with month shows a fairly equal length.  Men and women
never travel far from yesterday; nor is their morrow in a distant light.
There is recognition and familiarity between their seasons.  But the
Child of Tumult has infinite prospects in his year.  Forgetfulness and
surprise set his east and his west at immeasurable distance.  His Lethe
runs in the cheerful sun.  You look on your own little adult year, and in
imagination enlarge it, because you know it to be the contemporary of
his.  Even she who is quite old, if she have a vital fancy, may face a
strange and great extent of a few years of her life still to come--his
years, the years she is to live at his side.

Reason seems to be making good her rule in this little boy's life, not so
much by slow degrees as by sudden and fitful accessions.  His speech is
yet so childish that he chooses, for a toy, with blushes of pleasure, "a
little duck what can walk"; but with a beautifully clear accent he greets
his mother with the colloquial question, "Well, darling, do you know the
latest?"  "The _what_?"  "The latest: do you know the latest?"  And then
he tells his news, generally, it must be owned, with some reference to
his own wrongs.  On another occasion the unexpected little phrase was
varied; the news of the war then raging distressed him; a thousand of the
side he favoured had fallen.  The child then came to his mother's room
with the question: "Have you heard the saddest?"  Moreover the "saddest"
caused him several fits of perfectly silent tears, which seized him
during the day, on his walks or at other moments of recollection.  From
such great causes arise such little things!  Some of his grief was for
the nation he admired, and some was for the triumph of his brother, whose
sympathies were on the other side, and who perhaps did not spare his

The tumults of a little child's passions of anger and grief, growing
fewer as he grows older, rather increase than lessen in their
painfulness.  There is a fuller consciousness of complete capitulation of
all the childish powers to the overwhelming compulsion of anger.  This is
not temptation; the word is too weak for the assault of a child's passion
upon his will.  That little will is taken captive entirely, and before
the child was seven he knew that it was so.  Such a consciousness leaves
all babyhood behind and condemns the child to suffer.  For a certain
passage of his life he is neither unconscious of evil, as he was, nor
strong enough to resist it, as he will be.  The time of the subsiding of
the tumult is by no means the least pitiable of the phases of human life.
Happily the recovery from each trouble is ready and sure; so that the
child who had been abandoned to naughtiness with all his will in an
entire consent to the gloomy possession of his anger, and who had later
undergone a haggard repentance, has his captivity suddenly turned again,
"like rivers in the south."  "Forget it," he had wept, in a kind of
extremity of remorse; "forget it, darling, and don't, don't be sad;" and
it is he, happily, who forgets.  The wasted look of his pale face is
effaced by the touch of a single cheerful thought, and five short minutes
can restore the ruin, as though a broken little German town should in the
twinkling of an eye be restored as no architect could restore it--should
be made fresh, strong, and tight again, looking like a full box of toys,
as a town was wont to look in the new days of old.

When his ruthless angers are not in possession the child shows the growth
of this tardy reason that--quickened--is hereafter to do so much for his
peace and dignity, by the sweetest consideration.  Denied a second
handful of strawberries, and seeing quite clearly that the denial was
enforced reluctantly, he makes haste to reply, "It doesn't matter,
darling."  At any sudden noise in the house his beautiful voice, with all
its little difficulties of pronunciation, is heard with the sedulous
reassurance: "It's all right, mother, nobody hurted ourselves!"  He is
not surprised so as to forget this gentle little duty, which was never
required of him, but is of his own devising.

According to the opinion of his dear and admired American friend, he says
all these things, good and evil, with an English accent; and at the
American play his English accent was irrepressible.  "It's too comic; no,
it's too comic," he called in his enjoyment; being the only perfectly
fearless child in the world, he will not consent to the conventional
shyness in public, whether he be the member of an audience or of a
congregation, but makes himself perceptible.  And even when he has a
desperate thing to say, in the moment of absolute revolt--such a thing as
"I _can't_ like you, mother," which anon he will recant with convulsions
of distress--he has to "speak the thing he will," and when he recants it
is not for fear.

If such a child could be ruled (or approximately ruled, for inquisitorial
government could hardly be so much as attempted) by some small means
adapted to his size and to his physical aspect, it would be well for his
health, but that seems at times impossible.  By no effort can his elders
altogether succeed in keeping tragedy out of the life that is so unready
for it.  Against great emotions no one can defend him by any forethought.
He is their subject; and to see him thus devoted and thus wrung, thus
wrecked by tempests inwardly, so that you feel grief has him actually by
the heart, recalls the reluctance--the question--wherewith you perceive
the interior grief of poetry or of a devout life.  Cannot the Muse,
cannot the Saint, you ask, live with something less than this?  If this
is the truer life, it seems hardly supportable.  In like manner it should
be possible for a child of seven to come through his childhood with
griefs that should not so closely involve him, but should deal with the
easier sentiments.

Despite all his simplicity, the child has (by way of inheritance, for he
has never heard them) the self-excusing fictions of our race.  Accused of
certain acts of violence, and unable to rebut the charge with any effect,
he flies to the old convention: "I didn't know what I was doing," he
avers, using a great deal of gesticulation to express the temporary
distraction of his mind.  "Darling, after nurse slapped me as hard as she
could, I didn't know what I was doing, so I suppose I pushed her with my
foot."  His mother knows as well as does Tolstoi that men and children
know what they are doing, and are the more intently aware as the stress
of feeling makes the moments more tense; and she will not admit a plea
which her child might have learned from the undramatic authors he has
never read.

Far from repenting of her old system of rewards, and far from taking
fright at the name of a bribe, the mother of the Child of Tumult has only
to wish she had at command rewards ample and varied enough to give the
shock of hope and promise to the heart of the little boy, and change his
passion at its height.


It is rashly said that the senses of children are quick.  They are, on
the contrary, unwieldy in turning, unready in reporting, until advancing
age teaches them agility.  This is not lack of sensitiveness, but mere
length of process.  For instance, a child nearly newly born is cruelly
startled by a sudden crash in the room--a child who has never learnt to
fear, and is merely overcome by the shock of sound; nevertheless, that
shock of sound does not reach the conscious hearing or the nerves but
after some moments, nor before some moments more is the sense of the
shock expressed.  The sound travels to the remoteness and seclusion of
the child's consciousness, as the roar of a gun travels to listeners half
a mile away.

So it is, too, with pain, which has learnt to be so instant and eager
with us of later age that no point of time is lost in its touches--direct
as the unintercepted message of great and candid eyes, unhampered by
trivialities; even so immediate is the communication of pain.  But you
could count five between the prick of a surgeon's instrument upon a
baby's arm and the little whimper that answers it.  The child is then too
young, also, to refer the feeling of pain to the arm that suffers it.
Even when pain has groped its way to his mind it hardly seems to bring
local tidings thither.  The baby does not turn his eyes in any degree
towards his arm or towards the side that is so vexed with vaccination.  He
looks in any other direction at haphazard, and cries at random.

See, too, how slowly the unpractised apprehension of an older child
trudges after the nimbleness of a conjurer.  It is the greatest failure
to take these little _gobe-mouches_ to a good conjurer.  His successes
leave them cold, for they had not yet understood what it was the good man
meant to surprise them withal.  The amateur it is who really astonishes
them.  They cannot come up even with your amateur beginner, performing at
close quarters; whereas the master of his craft on a platform runs quite
away at the outset from the lagging senses of his honest audience.

You may rob a child of his dearest plate at table, almost from under his
ingenuous eyes, send him off in chase of it, and have it in its place and
off again ten times before the little breathless boy has begun to
perceive in what direction his sweets have been snatched.

Teachers of young children should therefore teach themselves a habit of
awaiting, should surround themselves with pauses of patience.  The simple
little processes of logic that arrange the grammar of a common sentence
are too quick for these young blunderers, who cannot use two pronouns but
they must confuse them.  I never found that a young child--one of
something under nine years--was able to say, "I send them my love" at the
first attempt.  It will be "I send me my love," "I send them their love,"
"They send me my love"; not, of course, through any confusion of
understanding, but because of the tardy setting of words in order with
the thoughts.  The child visibly grapples with the difficulty, and is

It is no doubt this unreadiness that causes little children to like twice-
told tales and foregone conclusions in their games.  They are not eager,
for a year or two yet to come, for surprises.  If you hide and they
cannot see you hiding, their joy in finding you is comparatively small;
but let them know perfectly well what cupboard you are in, and they will
find you with shouts of discovery.  The better the hiding-place is
understood between you the more lively the drama.  They make a convention
of art for their play.  The younger the children the more dramatic; and
when the house is filled with outcries of laughter from the breathless
breast of a child, it is that he is pretending to be surprised at finding
his mother where he bade her pretend to hide.  This is the comedy that
never tires.  Let the elder who cannot understand its charm beware how he
tries to put a more intelligible form of delight in the place of it; for,
if not, he will find that children also have a manner of substitution,
and that they will put half-hearted laughter in the place of their
natural impetuous clamours.  It is certain that very young children like
to play upon their own imaginations, and enjoy their own short game.

There is something so purely childlike in the delays of a child that any
exercise asking for the swift apprehension of later life, for the flashes
of understanding and action, from the mind and members of childhood, is
no pleasure to see.  The piano, for instance, as experts understand it,
and even as the moderately-trained may play it, claims all the immediate
action, the instantaneousness, most unnatural to childhood.  There may
possibly be feats of skill to which young children could be trained
without this specific violence directed upon the thing characteristic of
their age--their unreadiness--but virtuosity at the piano cannot be one
of them.  It is no delight, indeed, to see the shyness of children, or
anything that is theirs, conquered and beaten; but their poor little
slowness is so distinctively their own, and must needs be physiologically
so proper to their years, so much a natural condition of the age of their
brain, that of all childishnesses it is the one that the world should
have the patience to attend upon, the humanity to foster, and the
intelligence to understand.

It is true that the movements of young children are quick, but a very
little attention would prove how many apparent disconnexions there are
between the lively motion and the first impulse; it is not the brain that
is quick.  If, on a voyage in space, electricity takes thus much time,
and light thus much, and sound thus much, there is one little jogging
traveller that would arrive after the others had forgotten their journey,
and this is the perception of a child.  Surely our own memories might
serve to remind us how in our childhood we inevitably missed the
principal point in any procession or pageant intended by our elders to
furnish us with a historical remembrance for the future.  It was not our
mere vagueness of understanding, it was the unwieldiness of our senses,
of our reply to the suddenness of the grown up.  We lived through the
important moments of the passing of an Emperor at a different rate from
theirs; we stared long in the wake of his Majesty, and of anything else
of interest; every flash of movement, that got telegraphic answers from
our parents' eyes, left us stragglers.  We fell out of all ranks.  Among
the sights proposed for our instruction, that which befitted us best was
an eclipse of the moon, done at leisure.  In good time we found the moon
in the sky, in good time the eclipse set in and made reasonable progress;
we kept up with everything.

It is too often required of children that they should adjust themselves
to the world, practised and alert.  But it would be more to the purpose
that the world should adjust itself to children in all its dealings with
them.  Those who run and keep together have to run at the pace of the
tardiest.  But we are apt to command instant obedience, stripped of the
little pauses that a child, while very young, cannot act without.  It is
not a child of ten or twelve that needs them so; it is the young creature
who has but lately ceased to be a baby, slow to be startled.

We have but to consider all that it implies of the loitering of senses
and of an unprepared consciousness--this capacity for receiving a great
shock from a noise and this perception of the shock after two or three
appreciable moments--if we would know anything of the moments of a baby

Even as we must learn that our time, when it is long, is too long for
children, so must we learn that our time, when it is short, is too short
for them.  When it is exceedingly short they cannot, without an unnatural
effort, have any perception of it.  When children do not see the jokes of
the elderly, and disappoint expectation in other ways, only less
intimate, the reason is almost always there.  The child cannot turn in
mid-career; he goes fast, but the impetus took place moments ago.


During the many years in which "evolution" was the favourite word, one
significant lesson--so it seems--was learnt, which has outlived
controversy, and has remained longer than the questions at issue--an
interesting and unnoticed thing cast up by the storm of thoughts.  This
is a disposition, a general consent, to find the use and the value of
process, and even to understand a kind of repose in the very wayfaring of
progress.  With this is a resignation to change, and something more than
resignation--a delight in those qualities that could not be but for their

What, then, is this but the admiration, at last confessed by the world,
for childhood?  Time was when childhood was but borne with, and that for
the sake of its mere promise of manhood.  We do not now hold, perhaps,
that promise so high.  Even, nevertheless, if we held it high, we should
acknowledge the approach to be a state adorned with its own conditions.

But it was not so once.  As the primitive lullaby is nothing but a
patient prophecy (the mother's), so was education, some two hundred years
ago, nothing but an impatient prophecy (the father's) of the full stature
of body and mind.  The Indian woman sings of the future hunting.  If her
song is not restless, it is because she has a sense of the results of
time, and has submitted her heart to experience.  Childhood is a time of
danger; "Would it were done."  But, meanwhile, the right thing is to put
it to sleep and guard its slumbers.  It will pass.  She sings prophecies
to the child of his hunting, as she sings a song about the robe while she
spins, and a song about bread as she grinds corn.  She bids good speed.

John Evelyn was equally eager, and not so submissive.  His child--"that
pretty person" in Jeremy Taylor's letter of condolence--was chiefly
precious to him inasmuch as he was, too soon, a likeness of the man he
never lived to be.  The father, writing with tears when the boy was dead,
says of him: "At two and a half years of age he pronounced English,
Latin, and French exactly, and could perfectly read in these three
languages."  As he lived precisely five years, all he did was done at
that little age, and it comprised this: "He got by heart almost the
entire vocabulary of Latin and French primitives and words, could make
congruous syntax, turn English into Latin, and _vice versa_, construe
and prove what he read, and did the government and use of relatives,
verbs, substantives, ellipses, and many figures and tropes, and made a
considerable progress in Comenius's 'Janua,' and had a strong passion for

Grant that this may be a little abated, because a very serious man is not
to be too much believed when he is describing what he admires; it is the
very fact of his admiration that is so curious a sign of those hasty
times.  All being favourable, the child of Evelyn's studious home would
have done all these things in the course of nature within a few years.  It
was the fact that he did them out of the course of nature that was, to
Evelyn, so exquisite.  The course of nature had not any beauty in his
eyes.  It might be borne with for the sake of the end, but it was not
admired for the majesty of its unhasting process.  Jeremy Taylor mourns
with him "the strangely hopeful child," who--without Comenius's "Janua"
and without congruous syntax--was fulfilling, had they known it, an
appropriate hope, answering a distinctive prophecy, and crowning and
closing a separate expectation every day of his five years.

Ah! the word "hopeful" seems, to us, in this day, a word too flattering
to the estate of man.  They thought their little boy strangely hopeful
because he was so quick on his way to be something else.  They lost the
timely perfection the while they were so intent upon their hopes.  And
yet it is our own modern age that is charged with haste!

It would seem rather as though the world, whatever it shall unlearn, must
rightly learn to confess the passing and irrevocable hour; not slighting
it, or bidding it hasten its work, not yet hailing it, with Faust, "Stay,
thou art so fair!"  Childhood is but change made gay and visible, and the
world has lately been converted to change.

Our fathers valued change for the sake of its results; we value it in the
act.  To us the change is revealed as perpetual; every passage is a goal,
and every goal a passage.  The hours are equal; but some of them wear
apparent wings.

_Tout passe_.  Is the fruit for the flower, or the flower for the
fruit, or the fruit for the seeds which it is formed to shelter and
contain?  It seems as though our forefathers had answered this question
most arbitrarily as to the life of man.

All their literature dealing with children is bent upon this haste, this
suppression of the approach to what seemed then the only time of
fulfilment.  The way was without rest to them.  And this because they had
the illusion of a rest to be gained at some later point of this unpausing

Evelyn and his contemporaries dropped the very word child as soon as
might be, if not sooner.  When a poor little boy came to be eight years
old they called him a youth.  The diarist himself had no cause to be
proud of his own early years, for he was so far indulged in idleness by
an "honoured grandmother" that he was "not initiated into any rudiments"
till he was four years of age.  He seems even to have been a youth of
eight before Latin was seriously begun; but this fact he is evidently, in
after years, with a total lack of a sense of humour, rather ashamed of,
and hardly acknowledges.  It is difficult to imagine what childhood must
have been when nobody, looking on, saw any fun in it; when everything
that was proper to five years old was defect.  A strange good conceit of
themselves and of their own ages had those fathers.

They took their children seriously, without relief.  Evelyn has nothing
to say about his little ones that has a sign of a smile in it.  Twice are
children not his own mentioned in his diary.  Once he goes to the wedding
of a maid of five years old--a curious thing, but not, evidently, an
occasion of sensibility.  Another time he stands by, in a French
hospital, while a youth of less than nine years of age undergoes a
frightful surgical operation "with extraordinary patience."  "The use I
made of it was to give Almighty God hearty thanks that I had not been
subject to this deplorable infirmitie."  This is what he says.

See, moreover, how the fashion of hurrying childhood prevailed in
literature, and how it abolished little girls.  It may be that there were
in all ages--even those--certain few boys who insisted upon being
children; whereas the girls were docile to the adult ideal.  Art, for
example, had no little girls.  There was always Cupid, and there were the
prosperous urchin-angels of the painters; the one who is hauling up his
little brother by the hand in the "Last Communion of St. Jerome" might be
called Tommy.  But there were no "little radiant girls."  Now and then an
"Education of the Virgin" is the exception, and then it is always a
matter of sewing and reading.  As for the little girl saints, even when
they were so young that their hands, like those of St. Agnes, slipped
through their fetters, they are always recorded as refusing importunate
suitors, which seems necessary to make them interesting to the mediaeval
mind, but mars them for ours.

So does the hurrying and ignoring of little-girl-childhood somewhat
hamper the delight with which readers of John Evelyn admire his most
admirable Mrs. Godolphin.  She was Maid of Honour to the Queen in the
Court of Charles II.  She was, as he prettily says, an Arethusa "who
passed through all those turbulent waters without so much as the least
stain or tincture in her christall."  She held her state with men and
maids for her servants, guided herself by most exact rules, such as that
of never speaking to the King, gave an excellent example and instruction
to the other maids of honour, was "severely careful how she might give
the least countenance to that liberty which the gallants there did
usually assume," refused the addresses of the "greatest persons," and was
as famous for her beauty as for her wit.  One would like to forget the
age at which she did these things.  When she began her service she was
eleven.  When she was making her rule never to speak to the King she was
not thirteen.

Marriage was the business of daughters of fourteen and fifteen, and
heroines, therefore, were of those ages.  The poets turned April into
May, and seemed to think that they lent a grace to the year if they
shortened and abridged the spring of their many songs.  The particular
year they sang of was to be a particularly fine year, as who should say a
fine child and forward, with congruous syntax at two years old, and
ellipses, figures, and tropes.  Even as late as Keats a poet would not
have patience with the process of the seasons, but boasted of untimely
flowers.  The "musk-rose" is never in fact the child of mid-May, as he
has it.

The young women of Addison are nearly fourteen years old.  His fear of
losing the idea of the bloom of their youth makes him so tamper with the
bloom of their childhood.  The young heiress of seventeen in the
"Spectator" has looked upon herself as marriageable "for the last six
years."  The famous letter describing the figure, the dance, the wit, the
stockings of the charming Mr. Shapely is supposed to be written by a girl
of thirteen, "willing to settle in the world as soon as she can."  She
adds, "I have a good portion which they cannot hinder me of."  This
correspondent is one of "the women who seldom ask advice before they have
bought their wedding clothes."  There was no sense of childhood in an age
that could think this an opportune pleasantry.

But impatience of the way and the wayfaring was to disappear from a later
century--an age that has found all things to be on a journey, and all
things complete in their day because it is their day, and has its
appointed end.  It is the tardy conviction of this, rather than a
sentiment ready made, that has caused the childhood of children to seem,
at last, something else than a defect.


Play is not for every hour of the day, or for any hour taken at random.
There is a tide in the affairs of children.  Civilization is cruel in
sending them to bed at the most stimulating time of dusk.  Summer dusk,
especially, is the frolic moment for children, baffle them how you may.
They may have been in a pottering mood all day, intent upon all kinds of
close industries, breathing hard over choppings and poundings.  But when
late twilight comes, there comes also the punctual wildness.  The
children will run and pursue, and laugh for the mere movement--it does so
jolt their spirits.

What remembrances does this imply of the hunt, what of the predatory
dark?  The kitten grows alert at the same hour, and hunts for moths and
crickets in the grass.  It comes like an imp, leaping on all fours.  The
children lie in ambush and fall upon one another in the mimicry of

The sudden outbreak of action is complained of as a defiance and a
rebellion.  Their entertainers are tired, and the children are to go
home.  But, with more or less of life and fire, the children strike some
blow for liberty.  It may be the impotent revolt of the ineffectual
child, or the stroke of the conqueror; but something, something is done
for freedom under the early stars.

This is not the only time when the energy of children is in conflict with
the weariness of men.  But it is less tolerable that the energy of men
should be at odds with the weariness of children, which happens at some
time of their jaunts together, especially, alas! in the jaunts of the

Of games for the summer dusk when it rains, cards are most beloved by
children.  Three tiny girls were to be taught "old maid" to beguile the
time.  One of them, a nut-brown child of five, was persuading another to
play.  "Oh come," she said, "and play with me at new maid."

The time of falling asleep is a child's immemorial and incalculable hour.
It is full of traditions, and beset by antique habits.  The habit of
prehistoric races has been cited as the only explanation of the fixity of
some customs in mankind.  But if the inquirers who appeal to that
beginning remembered better their own infancy, they would seek no
further.  See the habits in falling to sleep which have children in their
thralldom.  Try to overcome them in any child, and his own conviction of
their high antiquity weakens your hand.

Childhood is antiquity, and with the sense of time and the sense of
mystery is connected for ever the hearing of a lullaby.  The French sleep-
song is the most romantic.  There is in it such a sound of history as
must inspire any imaginative child, falling to sleep, with a sense of the
incalculable; and the songs themselves are old.  "Le Bon Roi Dagobert"
has been sung over French cradles since the legend was fresh.  The nurse
knows nothing more sleepy than the tune and the verse that she herself
slept to when a child.  The gaiety of the thirteenth century, in "Le Pont
d'Avignon," is put mysteriously to sleep, away in the _tete a tete_
of child and nurse, in a thousand little sequestered rooms at night.
"Malbrook" would be comparatively modern, were not all things that are
sung to a drowsing child as distant as the day of Abraham.

If English children are not rocked to many such aged lullabies, some of
them are put to sleep to strange cradle-songs.  The affectionate races
that are brought into subjection sing the primitive lullaby to the white
child.  Asiatic voices and African persuade him to sleep in the tropical
night.  His closing eyes are filled with alien images.


He who has survived his childhood intelligently must become conscious of
something more than a change in his sense of the present and in his
apprehension of the future.  He must be aware of no less a thing than the
destruction of the past.  Its events and empires stand where they did,
and the mere relation of time is as it was.  But that which has fallen
together, has fallen in, has fallen close, and lies in a little heap, is
the past itself--time--the fact of antiquity.

He has grown into a smaller world as he has grown older.  There are no
more extremities.  Recorded time has no more terrors.  The unit of
measure which he holds in his hand has become in his eyes a thing of
paltry length.  The discovery draws in the annals of mankind.  He had
thought them to be wide.

For a man has nothing whereby to order and place the floods, the states,
the conquests, and the temples of the past, except only the measure which
he holds.  Call that measure a space of ten years.  His first ten years
had given him the illusion of a most august scale and measure.  It was
then that he conceived Antiquity.  But now!  Is it to a decade of ten
such little years as these now in his hand--ten of his mature years--that
men give the dignity of a century?  They call it an age; but what if life
shows now so small that the word age has lost its gravity?

In fact, when a child begins to know that there is a past, he has a most
noble rod to measure it by--he has his own ten years.  He attributes an
overwhelming majesty to all recorded time.  He confers distance.  He, and
he alone, bestows mystery.  Remoteness is his.  He creates more than
mortal centuries.  He sends armies fighting into the extremities of the
past.  He assigns the Parthenon to a hill of ages, and the temples of
Upper Egypt to sidereal time.

If there were no child, there would be nothing old.  He, having conceived
old time, communicates a remembrance at least of the mystery to the mind
of the man.  The man perceives at last all the illusion, but he cannot
forget what was his conviction when he was a child.  He had once a
persuasion of Antiquity.  And this is not for nothing.  The enormous
undeception that comes upon him still leaves spaces in his mind.

But the undeception is rude work.  The man receives successive shocks.  It
is as though one strained level eyes towards the horizon, and then were
bidden to shorten his sight and to close his search within a poor half
acre before his face.  Now, it is that he suddenly perceives the hitherto
remote, remote youth of his own parents to have been something familiarly
near, so measured by his new standard; again, it is the coming of Attila
that is displaced.  Those ten last years of his have corrected the world.
There needs no other rod than that ten years' rod to chastise all the
imaginations of the spirit of man.  It makes history skip.

To have lived through any appreciable part of any century is to hold
thenceforth a mere century cheap enough.  But, it may be said, the
mystery of change remains.  Nay, it does not.  Change that trudges
through our own world--our contemporary world--is not very mysterious.  We
perceive its pace; it is a jog-trot.  Even so, we now consider, jolted
the changes of the past, with the same hurry.

The man, therefore, who has intelligently ceased to be a child scans
through a shortened avenue the reaches of the past.  He marvels that he
was so deceived.  For it was a very deception.  If the Argonauts, for
instance, had been children, it would have been well enough for the child
to measure their remoteness and their acts with his own magnificent
measure.  But they were only men and demi-gods.  Thus they belong to him
as he is now--a man; and not to him as he was once--a child.  It was
quite wrong to lay the child's enormous ten years' rule along the path
from our time to theirs; that path must be skipped by the nimble yard in
the man's present possession.  Decidedly the Argonauts are no subject for
the boy.

What, then?  Is the record of the race nothing but a bundle of such
little times?  Nay, it seems that childhood, which created the illusion
of ages, does actually prove it true.  Childhood is itself Antiquity--to
every man his only Antiquity.  The recollection of childhood cannot make
Abraham old again in the mind of a man of thirty-five; but the beginning
of every life is older than Abraham.  _There_ is the abyss of time.  Let
a man turn to his own childhood--no further--if he would renew his sense
of remoteness, and of the mystery of change.

For in childhood change does not go at that mere hasty amble; it rushes;
but it has enormous space for its flight.  The child has an apprehension
not only of things far off, but of things far apart; an illusive
apprehension when he is learning "ancient" history--a real apprehension
when he is conning his own immeasurable infancy.  If there is no
historical Antiquity worth speaking of, this is the renewed and
unnumbered Antiquity for all mankind.

And it is of this--merely of this--that "ancient" history seems to
partake.  Rome was founded when we began Roman history, and that is why
it seems long ago.  Suppose the man of thirty-five heard, at that present
age, for the first time of Romulus.  Why, Romulus would be nowhere.  But
he built his wall, as a matter of fact, when every one was seven years
old.  It is by good fortune that "ancient" history is taught in the only
ancient days.  So, for a time, the world is magical.

Modern history does well enough for learning later.  But by learning
something of antiquity in the first ten years, the child enlarges the
sense of time for all mankind.  For even after the great illusion is over
and history is re-measured, and all fancy and flight caught back and
chastised, the enlarged sense remains enlarged.  The man remains capable
of great spaces of time.  He will not find them in Egypt, it is true, but
he finds them within, he contains them, he is aware of them.  History has
fallen together, but childhood surrounds and encompasses history,
stretches beyond and passes on the road to eternity.

He has not passed in vain through the long ten years, the ten years that
are the treasury of preceptions--the first.  The great disillusion shall
never shorten those years, nor set nearer together the days that made
them.  "Far apart," I have said, and that "far apart" is wonderful.  The
past of childhood is not single, is not motionless, nor fixed in one
point; it has summits a world away one from the other.  Year from year
differs as the antiquity of Mexico from the antiquity of Chaldea.  And
the man of thirty-five knows for ever afterwards what is flight, even
though he finds no great historic distances to prove his wings by.

There is a long and mysterious moment in long and mysterious childhood,
which is the extremest distance known to any human fancy.  Many other
moments, many other hours, are long in the first ten years.  Hours of
weariness are long--not with a mysterious length, but with a mere length
of protraction, so that the things called minutes and half-hours by the
elderly may be something else to their apparent contemporaries, the
children.  The ancient moment is not merely one of these--it is a space
not of long, but of immeasurable, time.  It is the moment of going to
sleep.  The man knows that borderland, and has a contempt for it: he has
long ceased to find antiquity there.  It has become a common enough
margin of dreams to him; and he does not attend to its phantasies.  He
knows that he has a frolic spirit in his head which has its way at those
hours, but he is not interested in it.  It is the inexperienced child who
passes with simplicity through the marginal country; and the thing he
meets there is principally the yet further conception of illimitable

His nurse's lullaby is translated into the mysteries of time.  She sings
absolutely immemorial words.  It matters little what they may mean to
waking ears; to the ears of a child going to sleep they tell of the
beginning of the world.  He has fallen asleep to the sound of them all
his life; and "all his life" means more than older speech can well

Ancient custom is formed in a single spacious year.  A child is beset
with long traditions.  And his infancy is so old, so old, that the mere
adding of years in the life to follow will not seem to throw it further
back--it is already so far.  That is, it looks as remote to the memory of
a man of thirty as to that of a man of seventy.  What are a mere forty
years of added later life in the contemplation of such a distance?  Pshaw!


{1}  It is worth noting that long after the writing of this paper, and
the ascription of a Stevenson-like character to the quoted phrase, a
letter of Stevenson's was published, and proved that he had read Lucy
Hutchinson's writings, and that he did not love her.  "I have possessed
myself of Mrs. Hutchinson, whom, of course, I admire, etc. . . I
sometimes wish the old Colonel had got drunk and beaten her, in the
bitterness of my spirit. . . The way in which she talks of herself makes
one's blood run cold."  He was young at that time of writing, and perhaps
hardly aware of the lesson in English he had taken from her.  We know
that he never wasted the opportunity for such a lesson; and the fact that
he did allow her to administer one to him in right seventeenth-century
diction is established--it is not too bold to say so--by my recognition
of his style in her own.  I had surely caught the retrospective reflex
note, heard first in his voice, recognized in hers.

{2}  I found it afterwards: it was Rebecca.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Essays" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
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.