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Title: The Bibliotaph - and Other People
Author: Vincent, Leon H.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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And Other People



The Riverside Press, Cambridge



Four of these papers--the first Bibliotaph, and the notes on Keats,
Gautier, and Stevenson's _St. Ives_--are reprinted from the _Atlantic
Monthly_ by the kind permission of the editor.

I am also indebted to the literary editor of the _Springfield
Republican_ and to the editors of _Poet-Lore_, respectively, for
allowing me to reprint the paper on _Thomas Hardy_ and the lecture on
_An Elizabethan Novelist_.





A popular and fairly orthodox opinion concerning
book-collectors is that their vices are many, their virtues of a
negative sort, and their ways altogether past finding out. Yet the
most hostile critic is bound to admit that the fraternity of
bibliophiles is eminently picturesque. If their doings are
inscrutable, they are also romantic; if their vices are numerous, the
heinousness of those vices is mitigated by the fact that it is
possible to sin humorously. Regard him how you will, the sayings and
doings of the collector give life and color to the pages of those
books which treat of books. He is amusing when he is purely an
imaginary creature. For example, there was one Thomas Blinton. Every
one who has ever read the volume called _Books and Bookmen_ knows
about Thomas Blinton. He was a man who wickedly adorned his volumes
with morocco bindings, while his wife 'sighed in vain for some old
_point d'Alençon lace_.' He was a man who was capable of bidding
fifteen pounds for a Foppens edition of the essays of Montaigne,
though fifteen pounds happened to be 'exactly the amount which he owed
his plumber and gas-fitter, a worthy man with a large family.' From
this fictitious Thomas Blinton all the way back to Richard Heber, who
was very real, and who piled up books as other men heap together
vulgar riches, book-collectors have been a picturesque folk.

The name of Heber suggests the thought that all men who buy books are
not bibliophiles. He alone is worthy the title who acquires his
volumes with something like passion. One may buy books like a
gentleman, and that is very well. One may buy books like a gentleman
and a scholar, which counts for something more. But to be truly of the
elect one must resemble Richard Heber, and buy books like a gentleman,
a scholar, and a madman.

You may find an account of Heber in an old file of _The Gentleman's
Magazine_. He began in his youth by making a library of the classics.
Then he became interested in rare English books, and collected them
_con amore_ for thirty years. He was very rich, and he had never given
hostages to fortune; it was therefore possible for him to indulge his
fine passion without stint. He bought only the best books, and he
bought them by thousands and by tens of thousands. He would have held
as foolishness that saying from the Greek which exhorts one to do
nothing too much. According to Heber's theory, it is impossible to
have too many good books. Usually one library is supposed to be enough
for one man. Heber was satisfied only with eight libraries, and then
he was hardly satisfied. He had a library in his house at Hodnet. 'His
residence in Pimlico, where he died, was filled, like Magliabecchi's
at Florence, with books from the top to the bottom; every chair, every
table, every passage containing piles of erudition.' He had a house in
York Street which was crowded with books. He had a library in Oxford,
one at Paris, one at Antwerp, one at Brussels, and one at Ghent. The
most accurate estimate of his collections places the number at 146,827
volumes. Heber is believed to have spent half a million dollars for
books. After his death the collections were dispersed. The catalogue
was published in twelve parts, and the sales lasted over three years.

Heber had a witty way of explaining why he possessed so many copies of
the same book. When taxed with the sin of buying duplicates he replied
in this manner: 'Why, you see, sir, no man can comfortably do without
_three_ copies of a book. One he must have for his show copy, and he
will probably keep it at his country house; another he will require
for his own use and reference; and unless he is inclined to part with
this, which is very inconvenient, or risk the injury of his best copy,
he must needs have a third at the service of his friends.'

In the pursuit of a coveted volume Heber was indefatigable. He was not
of those Sybaritic buyers who sit in their offices while agents and
dealers do the work. 'On hearing of a curious book he has been known
to put himself into the mail-coach, and travel three, four, or five
hundred miles to obtain it, fearful to trust his commission to a
letter.' He knew the solid comfort to be had in reading a book
catalogue. Dealers were in the habit of sending him the advance sheets
of their lists. He ordered books from his death-bed, and for anything
we know to the contrary died with a catalogue in his fingers.

A life devoted to such a passion is a stumbling-block to the
practical man, and to the Philistine foolishness. Yet you may hear men
praised because up to the day of death they were diligent in
business,--business which added to life nothing more significant than
that useful thing called money. Thoreau used to say that if a man
spent half his time in the woods for the love of the woods he was in
danger of being looked upon as a loafer; but if he spent all his time
as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making Earth bald before
her time, he was regarded as an upright and industrious citizen.

Heber had a genius for friendship as well as for gathering together
choice books. Sir Walter Scott addressed verses to him. Professor
Porson wrote emendations for him in his favorite copy of _Athenæus_.
To him was inscribed Dr. Ferrier's poetical epistle on Bibliomania.
His virtues were celebrated by Dibdin and by Burton. In brief, the
sketch of Heber in The_ Gentleman's Magazine_ for January, 1834,
contains a list of forty-six names,--all men of distinction by birth,
learning, or genius, and all men who were proud to call Richard Heber
friend. He was a mighty hunter of books. He was genial, scholarly,
generous. Out-of-door men will be pleased to know that he was active
physically. He was a tremendous walker, and enjoyed tiring out his
bailiff by an all-day tramp.

Of many good things said of him this is one of the best: 'The learned
and curious, whether rich or poor, have always free access to his
library.' Thus was it possible for Scott very truthfully to say to
Heber, 'Thy volumes open as thy heart.'

No life of this Prince of Book-Hunters has been written, I believe.
Some one with access to the material, and a sympathy with the love of
books as books, should write a memoir of Heber the Magnificent. It
ought not to be a large volume, but it might well be about the size of
Henry Stevens's _Recollections of James_ _Lenox_. And if it were
equally readable it were a readable book indeed.

Dibdin thought that Heber's tastes were so catholic as to make it
difficult to classify him among hunters of books. The implication is
that most men can be classified. They have their specialties. What
pleases one collector much pleases another but little or not at all.
Collectors differ radically in the attitude they take with respect to
their volumes. One man buys books to read, another buys them to gloat
over, a third that he may fortify them behind glass doors and keep the
key in his pocket. Therefore have learned words been devised to make
apparent the varieties of motive and taste. These words begin with
_biblio_; you may have a _biblio_ almost anything.

Two interesting types of maniac are known respectively as the
bibliotaph and the biblioclast. A biblioclast is one who indulges
himself in the questionable pleasure of mutilating books in order more
sumptuously to fit out a particular volume. The disease is English in
origin, though some of the worst cases have been observed in America.
Clergymen and presidents of colleges have been known to be seized with
it. The victim becomes more or less irresponsible, and presently runs
mad. Such an one was John Bagford, of diabolical memory, who mutilated
not less than ten thousand volumes to form his vast collection of
title-pages. John Bagford died an unrepentant sinner, lamenting with
one of his later breaths that he could not live long enough to get
hold of a genuine Caxton and rip the initial page out of that.

The bibliotaph buries books; not literally, but sometimes with as much
effect as if he had put his books underground. There are several
varieties of him. The dog-in-the-manger bibliotaph is the worst; he
uses his books but little himself, and allows others to use them not
at all. On the other hand, a man may be a bibliotaph simply from
inability to get at his books. He may be homeless, a bachelor, a
denizen of boarding-houses, a wanderer upon the face of the earth. He
may keep his books in storage or accumulate them in the country,
against the day when he shall have a town house with proper library.

The most genial lover of books who has walked city streets for many a
day was a bibliotaph. He accumulated books for years in the huge
garret of a farmhouse standing upon the outskirts of a Westchester
County village. A good relative 'mothered' the books for him in his
absence. When the collection outgrew the garret it was moved into a
big village store. It was the wonder of the place. The country folk
flattened their noses against the panes and tried to peer into the
gloom beyond the half-drawn shades. The neighboring stores were in
comparison miracles of business activity. On one side was a
harness-shop; on the other a nondescript establishment at which one
might buy anything, from sunbonnets and corsets to canned salmon and
fresh eggs. Between these centres of village life stood the silent
tomb for books. The stranger within the gates had this curiosity
pointed out to him along with the new High School and the Soldiers'

By shading one's eyes to keep away the glare of the light, it was
possible to make out tall carved oaken cases with glass doors, which
lined the walls. They gave distinction to the place. It was not
difficult to understand the point of view of the dressmaker from
across the way who stepped over to satisfy her curiosity concerning
the stranger, and his concerning the books, and who said in a friendly
manner as she peered through a rent in the adjoining shade, 'It's
almost like a cathedral, ain't it?'

To an inquiry about the owner of the books she replied that he was
brought up in that county; that there were people around there who
said that he had been an exhorter years ago; her impression was that
now he was a 'political revivalist,' if I knew what that was.

The phrase seemed hopeless, but light was thrown upon it when, later,
I learned that this man of many buried books gave addresses upon the
responsibilities of citizenship, upon the higher politics, and upon
themes of like character. They said that he was humorous. The farmers
liked to hear him speak. But it was rumored that he went to colleges,
too. The dressmaker thought that the buying of so many books was
'wicked.' 'He goes from New York to Beersheba, and from Chicago to
Dan, buying books. Never reads 'em because he hardly ever comes here.'

It became possible to identify the Bibliotaph of the country store
with a certain mature youth who some time since 'gave his friends the
slip, chose land-travel or seafaring,' and has not returned to build
the town house with proper library. They who observed him closely
thought that he resembled Heber in certain ways. Perhaps this fact
alone would justify an attempt at a verbal portrait. But the
additional circumstance that, in days when people with the slightest
excuse therefor have themselves regularly photographed, this
old-fashioned youth refused to allow his 'likeness' to be taken,--this
circumstance must do what it can to extenuate minuteness of detail in
the picture, as well as over-attention to points of which a photograph
would have taken no account.

You are to conceive of a man between thirty-eight and forty years of
age, big-bodied, rapidly acquiring that rotund shape which is thought
becoming to bishops, about six feet high though stooping a little,
prodigiously active, walking with incredible rapidity, having large
limbs, large feet, large though well-shaped and very white hands; in
short, a huge fellow physically, as big of heart as of body, and, in
the affectionate thought of those who knew him best, as big of
intellect as of heart.

His head might be described as leonine. It was a massive head, covered
with a tremendous mane of brown hair. This was never worn long, but it
was so thick and of such fine texture that it constituted a real
beauty. He had no conceit of it, being innocent of that peculiar
German type of vanity which runs to hair, yet he could not prevent
people from commenting on his extraordinary hirsute adornment. Their
occasional remarks excited his mirth. If they spoke of it again, he
would protest. Once, among a small party of his closest friends, the
conversation turned upon the subject of hair, and then upon the beauty
of _his_ hair; whereupon he cried out, 'I am embarrassed by this
unnecessary display of interest in my Samsonian assertiveness.'

He loved to tease certain of his acquaintances who, though younger
than himself, were rapidly losing their natural head-covering. He
prodded them with ingeniously worded reflections upon their unhappy
condition. He would take as a motto Erasmus's unkind salutation, 'Bene
sit tibi cum tuo calvitio,' and multiply amusing variations upon it.
He delighted in sending them prescriptions and advertisements clipped
from newspapers and medical journals. He quoted at them the remark of
a pale, bald, blond young literary aspirant, who, seeing him, the
Bibliotaph, passing by, exclaimed audibly and almost passionately,
'Oh, I perfectly adore _hair_!'

Of his clothes it might be said that he did not wear them, but rather
dwelt at large in them. They were made by high-priced tailors and were
fashionably cut, but he lived in them so violently--that is, traveled
so much, walked so much, sat so long and so hard, gestured so
earnestly, and carried in his many pockets such an extraordinary
collection of notebooks, indelible pencils, card-cases, stamp-boxes,
penknives, gold toothpicks, thermometers, and what not--that within
twenty-four hours after he had donned new clothes all the artistic
merits of the garments were obliterated; they were, from every point
of view, hopelessly degenerate.

He was a scrupulously clean man, but there was a kind of civilized
wildness in his appearance which astonished people; and in perverse
moments he liked to terrify those who knew him but little by affirming
that he was a near relative of Christopher Smart, and then explaining
in mirth-provoking phrases that one of the arguments used for proving
Smart's insanity was that he did not love clean linen.

His appetite was large, as became a large and active person. He was a
very valiant trencher-man; and yet he could not have been said to love
eating for eating's sake. He ate when he was hungry, and found no
difficulty in being hungry three times a day. He should have been an
Englishman, for he enjoyed a late supper. In the proper season this
consisted of a bountiful serving of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, with
a glass of lemonade. As a variant upon the beverage he took milk. He
was the only man I have known, whether book-hunter or layman, who
could sleep peacefully upon a supper of cucumbers and milk.

There is probably no occult relation between first editions and
onions. The Bibliotaph was mightily pleased with both: the one, he
said, appealed to him æsthetically, the other dietetically. He
remarked of some particularly large Spanish onions that there was 'a
globular wholesomeness about them which was very gratifying;' and
after eating one he observed expansively that he felt 'as if he had
swallowed the earth and the fullness thereof.' His easy, good-humored
exaggerations and his odd comments upon the viands made him a pleasant
table companion: as when he described a Parker House Sultana Roll by
saying that 'it looked like the sanguinary output of the whole Crimean

High-priced restaurants did not please him as well as humbler and less
obtrusive places. But it was all one,--Delmonico's, the Bellevue, a
stool in the Twelfth Street Market, or a German café on Van Buren
Street. The humors of certain eating-houses gave him infinite delight.
He went frequently to the Diner's Own Home, the proprietor of which,
being both cook and Christian, had hit upon the novel plan of giving
Scriptural advice and practical suggestions by placards on the walls.
The Bibliotaph enjoyed this juxtaposition of signs: the first read,
'The very God of peace sanctify you wholly;' the second, 'Look out for
your Hat and Coat.'

The Bibliotaph had no home, and was reputed to live in his post-office
box. He contributed to the support of at least three clubs, but was
very little seen at any one of them. He enjoyed the large cities, and
was contented in whichever one he happened to find himself. He was
emphatically a city man, but what city was of less import. He knew
them all, and was happy in each. He had his favorite hotel, his
favorite bath, his work, bushels of newspapers and periodicals,
friends who rejoiced in his coming as children in the near advent of
Christmas, and finally book-shops in which to browse at his pleasure.
It was interesting to hear him talk about city life. One of his quaint
mannerisms consisted in modifying a well-known quotation to suit his
conversational needs. 'Why, sir,' he would remark, 'Fleet Street has a
very animated appearance, but I think the full tide of human existence
is at the corner of Madison and State.'

His knowledge of cities was both extensive and peculiar. I have heard
him name in order all the hotels on Broadway, beginning at the lower
end and coming up as far as hotels exist, branching off upon the
parallel and cross streets where there were noted caravansaries, and
connecting every name with an event of importance, or with the life
and fortunes of some noted man who had been guest at that particular
inn. This was knowledge more becoming in a guide, perhaps, but it will
illustrate the encyclopædic fullness of his miscellaneous information.

As was natural and becoming in a man born within forty miles of the
metropolis, he liked best the large cities of the East, and was least
content in small Western cities. But this was the outcome of no
illiberal prejudice, and there was a quizzical smile upon his lips and
a teasing look in his eyes when he bantered a Westerner. 'A man,' he
would sometimes say, 'may come by the mystery of childbirth into Omaha
or Kansas City and be content, but he can't come by Boston, New York,
or Philadelphia.' Then, a moment later, paraphrasing his remark, he
would add, 'To go to Omaha or Kansas City by way of New York and
Philadelphia is like being translated heavenward with such violence
that one _passes through_--into a less comfortable region!'

Strange to say, the conversation of this most omnivorous of
book-collectors was less of books than of men. True, he was deeply
versed in bibliographical details and dangerously accurate in his talk
about them, but, after all, the personality back of the book was the
supremely interesting thing. He abounded in anecdote, and could
describe graphically the men he had met, the orators he had heard, the
occasions of importance where he had been an interested spectator. His
conversation was delightfully fresh and racy because of the vividness
of the original impressions, the unusual force of the ideas which were
the copies of these impressions, and the fine artistic sense which
enabled him to determine at once what points should be omitted, and
what words should be used most fittingly to express the ideas

He had no pride in his conversational power. He was always modest, but
never diffident. I have seen him sit, a respectful listener,
absolutely silent, while some ordinary chatterer held the company's
attention for an hour. Many good talkers are unhappy unless they have
the privilege of exercising their gifts. Not so he. Sometimes he had
almost to be compelled to begin. On such occasions one of his
intimates was wont to quote from Boswell: 'Leave him to me, sir; I'll
make him rear.'

The superficial parts of his talk were more easily retained. In mere
banter, good-humored give-and-take, that froth and bubble of
conversational intercourse, he was delightful. His hostess, the wife
of a well-known comedian, apologized to him for having to move him out
of the large guest-chamber into another one, smaller and higher
up,--this because of an unexpected accession of visitors. He replied
that it did not incommode him; and as for being up another flight of
stairs, 'it was a comfort to him to know that when he was in a state
of somnolent helplessness he was as near heaven as it was possible to
get in an actor's house.' The same lady was taking him roundly to task
on some minor point in which he had quite justly offended her;
whereupon he turned to her husband and said, 'Jane worships but little
at the shrine of politeness because so much of her time is mortgaged
to the shrine of truth.'

When asked to suggest an appropriate and brief cablegram to be sent to
a gentleman who on the following day would become sixty years of age,
and who had taken full measure of life's joys, he responded, 'Send him
this: "_You don't look it, but you've lived like it._"'

His skill in witty retort often expressed itself by accepting a verbal
attack as justified, and elaborating it in a way to throw into shadow
the assault of the critic. At a small and familiar supper of bookish
men, when there was general dissatisfaction over an expensive but
ill-made salad, he alone ate with apparent relish. The host, who was
of like mind with his guests, said, 'The Bibliotaph doesn't care for
the quality of his food, if it has filling power.' To which he at once
responded, 'You merely imply that I am like a robin: I eat cherries
when I may, and worms when I must.'

His inscriptions in books given to his friends were often singularly
happy. He presented a copy of _Lowell's Letters_ to a gentleman and
his wife. The first volume was inscribed to the husband as follows:--

'To Mr. ---- ----, who is to the owner of the second volume of these
Letters what this volume is to that: so delightful as to make one glad
that there's another equally as good, if not better.'

In volume two was the inscription to the wife, worded in this

'To Mrs. ---- ----, without whom the owner of the first volume of
these Letters would be as that first volume without this one:
interesting, but incomplete.'

Perhaps this will illustrate his quickness to seize upon ever so minute
an occasion for the exercise of his humor. A young woman whom he admired,
being brought up among brothers, had received the nickname, half
affectionately and half patronizingly bestowed, of 'the Kid.' Among
her holiday gifts for a certain year was a book from the Bibliotaph, a
copy of _Old-Fashioned Roses_, with this dedication: 'To a Kid, had
Abraham possessed which, Isaac had been the burnt-offering.'

It is as a buyer and burier of books that the subject of this paper
showed himself in most interesting light. He said that the time to
make a library was when one was young. He held the foolish notion that
a man does not purchase books after he is fifty; I shall expect to see
him ransacking the shops after he is seventy, if he shall survive his
eccentricities of diet that long. He was an omnivorous buyer, picking
up everything he could lay his hands upon. Yet he had a clearly
defined motive for the acquisition of every volume. However absurd the
purchase might seem to the bystander, he, at any rate, could have
given six cogent reasons why he must have that particular book.

He bought according to the condition of his purse at a given time. If
he had plenty of money, it would be expensive publications, like those
issued by the Grolier Club. If he was financially depressed, he would
hunt in the out-of-door shelves of well-known Philadelphia bookshops.
It was marvelous to see what things, new and old, he was able to
extract from a ten-cent alcove. Part of the secret lay in this idea:
to be a good book-hunter one must not be too dainty; one must not be
afraid of soiling one's hands. He who observes the clouds shall not
reap, and he who thinks of his cuffs is likely to lose many a bookish
treasure. Our Bibliotaph generally parted company with his cuffs when
he began hunting for books. How many times have I seen those cuffs
with the patent fasteners sticking up in the air, as if reaching out
helplessly for their owner; the owner in the mean time standing high
upon a ladder which creaked under his weight, humming to himself as he
industriously examined every volume within reach. This ability to live
without cuffs made him prone to reject altogether that orthodox bit of
finish to a toilet. I have known him to spend an entire day in New
York between club, shops, and restaurant, with one cuff on, and the
other cuff--its owner knew not where.

He differed from Heber in that he was not 'a classical scholar of the
old school,' but there were many points in which he resembled the
famous English collector. Heber would have acknowledged him as a son
if only for his energy, his unquenchable enthusiasm, and the exactness
of his knowledge concerning the books which he pretended to know at
all. For not alone is it necessary that a collector should know
precisely what book he wants; it is even more important that he should
be able to know a book _as_ the book he wants when he sees it. It is a
lamentable thing to have fired in the dark, and then discover that you
have shot a wandering mule, and not the noble game you were in pursuit
of. One cannot take his reference library with him to the shops. The
tests, the criteria, must be carried in the head. The last and most
inappropriate moment for getting up bibliographical lore is that
moment when the pressing question is, to buy or not to buy. Master
Slender, in the play, learned the difficulties which beset a man whose
knowledge is in a book, and whose book is at home upon a shelf. It is
possible to sympathize with him when he exclaims, 'I had rather than
forty shillings I had my Book of Songs and Sonnets here!' In making
love there are other resources; all wooers are not as ill equipped as
Slender was. But in hunting rare books the time will be sure to come
when a man may well cry, 'I had rather than forty dollars I had my
list of first editions with me!'

The Bibliotaph carried much accurate information in his head, but he
never traveled without a thesaurus in his valise. It was a small
volume containing printed lists of the first editions of rare books.
The volume was interleaved; the leaves were crowded with manuscript
notes. An appendix contained a hundred and more autograph letters from
living authors, correcting, supplementing, or approving the printed
bibliographies. Even these authors' own lists were accurately
corrected. They needed it in not a few instances. For it is a wise
author who knows his own first edition. Men may write remarkable
books, and understand but little the virtues of their books from the
collector's point of view. Men are seldom clever in more ways than
one. Z. Jackson was a practical printer, and his knowledge as a
printer enabled him to correct sundry errors in the first folio of
Shakespeare. But Z. Jackson, as the Rev. George Dawson observes,
'ventured beyond the composing-case, and, having corrected blunders
made by the printers, corrected excellencies made by the poet.'

It was amusing to discover, by means of these autograph letters, how
seldom a good author was an equally good bibliographer. And this is as
it should be. The author's business is, not to take account of first
editions, but to make books of such virtue that bibliomaniacs shall be
eager to possess the first editions thereof. It is proverbial that a
poet is able to show a farmer things new to him about his own farm.
Turn a bibliographer loose upon a poet's works, and he will amaze the
poet with an account of _his_ own doings. The poet will straightway
discover that while he supposed himself to be making 'mere literature'
he was in reality contributing to an elaborate and exact science.

The Bibliotaph was not a blind enthusiast on the subject of first
editions. He was one of the few men who understood the exceeding great
virtues of second editions. He declared that a man who was so
fortunate as to secure a second edition of Henry Crabb Robinson's
_Diary_ was in better case than he who had bothered himself to obtain
a first. When it fell in with his mood to argue against that which he
himself most affected, he would quote the childish bit of doggerel
beginning 'The first the worst, the second the same,' and then grow
eloquent over the dainty Templeman Hazlitts which are chiefly third
editions. He thought it absurd to worry over a first issue of
Carlyle's _French Revolution_ if it were possible to buy at moderate
price a copy of the third edition, which is a well-nigh perfect book,
'good to the touch and grateful to the eye.' But this lover of books
grew fierce in his special mania if you hinted that it was also
foolish to spend a large sum on an _editio princeps_ of _Paradise
Lost_ or of _Robinson Crusoe_. There are certain authors concerning
the desirability of whose first editions it must not be disputed.

The singular readiness with which bookish treasures fell into his way
astonished less fortunate buyers. Rare Stevensons dropped into his
hand like ripe fruit from a tree. The most inaccessible of pamphlets
fawned upon him, begging to be purchased, just as the succulent little
roast pigs in _The New Paul and Virginia_ run about with knives and
forks in their sides pleading to be eaten. The Bibliotaph said he did
not despair of buying Poe's _Tamerlane_ for twenty-five cents one of
these days; and that a rarity he was sure to get sooner or later was a
copy of that English newspaper which announced Shelley's death under
the caption _Now he Knows whether there is a Hell or Not_.

He unconsciously followed Heber in that he disliked large-paper
copies. Heber would none of them because they took up too much room;
their ample borders encroached upon the rights of other books. Heber
objected to this as Prosper Mérimée objected to the gigantic English
hoopskirts of 1865,--there was space on Regent Street for but one
woman at a time.

Original as the Bibliotaph was in appearance, manners, habits, he was
less striking in what he did than in what he said. It is a pity that
no record of his talk exists. It is not surprising that there is no
such record, for his habits of wandering precluded the possibility of
his making a permanent impression. By the time people had fully
awakened to the significance of his presence among them he was gone.
So there grew up a legend concerning him, but no true biography. He
was like a comet, very shaggy and very brilliant, but he stayed so
brief a time in a place that it was impossible for one man to give
either the days or the thought to the reproduction of his more serious
and considered words. A greater difficulty was involved in the fact
that the Bibliotaph had many socii, but no fidus Achates. Moreover,
Achates, in this instance, would have needed the reportorial powers of
a James Boswell that he might properly interpret genius to the public.

This particular genius illustrated the misfortune of having too great
facility in establishing those relations which lie midway between
acquaintance and friendship. To put the matter in the form of a
paradox, he had so many _friends_ that he had no _friend_. Perhaps
this is unjust, but friendship has a touch of jealousy and
exclusiveness in it. He was too large-natured to say to one of his
admirers, 'Thou shalt have no other gods save myself;' but there were
those among the admirers who were quite prepared to say to him, 'We
prefer that thou shalt have no other worshipers in addition to us.'

People wondered that he seemed to have no care for a conventional home
life. He was taxed with want of sympathy with what makes even a humble
home a centre of light and happiness. He denied it, and said to his
accusers, 'Can you not understand that after a stay in _your_ home I
go away with much the feeling that must possess a lusty young calf
when his well-equipped mother tells him that henceforth he must find
means of sustenance elsewhere?'

He professed to have been once in love, but no one believed it. He
used to say that his most remarkable experience as a bachelor was in
noting the uniformity with which eligible young women passed him by on
the other side of the way. And when a married friend offered
condolence, with that sleek complacency of manner noteworthy in men
who are conscious of being mated for life better than they deserve,
the Bibliotaph said, with an admiring glance at the wife, 'Your
sympathy is supererogatory, sir, for I fully expect to become your
residuary legatee.'

It is most pleasing to think of this unique man 'buffeting his books'
in one of those temporary libraries which formed about him whenever he
stopped four or five weeks in a place. The shops were rifled of not a
few of their choicest possessions, and the spoils carried off to his
room. It was a joy to see him display his treasures, a delight to hear
him talk of them. He would disarm criticism with respect to the more
eccentric purchases by saying, 'You wouldn't approve of this, but _I_
thought it was curious,'--and then a torrent of facts, criticisms,
quotations, all bearing upon the particular volume which you were
supposed not to like; and so on, hour after hour. There was no limit
save that imposed by the receptive capacity of the guest. It reminded
one of the word spoken concerning a 'hard sitter at books' of the last
century, that he was a literary giant 'born to grapple with whole
libraries.' But the fine flavor of those hours spent in hearing him
discourse upon books and men is not to be recovered. It is evanescent,
spectral, now. This talk was like the improvisation of a musician who
is profoundly learned, but has in him a vein of poetry too. The talk
and the music strongly appeal to robust minds, and at the same time do
not repel the sentimentalist.

It is not to be supposed that the Bibliotaph pleased every one with
whom he came in contact. There were people whom his intellectual
potency affected in a disagreeable way. They accused him of applying
great mental force to inconsidered trifles. They said it was a
misfortune that so much talent was going to waste. But there is no
task so easy as criticising an able man's employment of his gifts.


To arrive at a high degree of pleasure in collecting a library, one
must travel. The Bibliotaph regularly traveled in search of his
volumes. His theory was that the collector must go to the book, not
wait for the book to come to him. No reputable sportsman, he said,
would wish the game brought alive to his back-yard for him to kill.
Half the pleasure was in tracking the quarry to its hiding-place. He
himself ordered but seldom from catalogues, and went regularly to and
fro among the dealers in books, seeking the volume which his heart
desired. He enjoyed those shops where the book-seller kept open house,
where the stock was large and surprises were common, where the
proprietor was prodigiously well-informed on some points and
correspondingly ill-informed on others. He bought freely, never
disputed a price, and laid down his cash with the air of a man who
believes that unspent money is the root of all evil.

These travels brought about three results: the making of friends, the
compilation of scrap-books, and the establishment of 'bins.' Before
speaking of any one of these points, a word on the satisfactions of
bibliographical touring.

In every town of considerable size, and in many towns of
inconsiderable size, are bookshops. It is a poor shop which does not
contain at least one good book. This book bides its time, and usually
outstays its welcome. But its fate is about its neck. Somewhere there
is a collector to whom that book is precious. They are made for one
another, the collector and the book; and it is astonishing how
infrequently they miss of realizing their mutual happiness. The
book-seller is a marriage-broker for unwedded books. His business is
to find them homes, and take a fee for so doing. Sugarman the Shadchan
was not more zealous than is your vendor of rare books.

Now, it is a curious fact that the most desirable of bookish treasures
are often found where one would be least likely to seek them. Montana
is a great State, nevertheless one does not think of going to Montana
for early editions of Shakespeare. Let the book-hunter inwardly digest
the following plain tale of a clergyman and a book of plays.

There is a certain collector who is sometimes called 'The Bishop.' He
is not a bishop, but he may be so designated; coming events have been
known to cast conspicuous shadows in the likeness of mitre and
crosier. The Bishop heard of a man in Montana who had an old book of
plays with an autograph of William Shakespeare pasted in it. Being a
wise ecclesiastic, he did not exclaim 'Tush' and 'Fie,' but proceeded
at once to go book-hunting in Montana. He went by proxy, if not in
person; the journey is long. In due time the owner of the volume was
found and the book was placed in the Bishop's hands for inspection. He
tore off the wrappers, and lo! it was a Fourth Folio of Shakespeare
excellently well preserved, and with what appeared to be the great
dramatist's signature written on a slip of paper and pasted inside the
front cover. The problem of the genuineness of that autograph does not
concern us. The great fact is that a Shakespeare folio turned up in
Montana. Now when he hears some one express desire for a copy of
Greene's _Groatsworth of Wit_, or any other rare book of Elizabeth's
time, the Bishop's thoughts fly toward the setting sun. Then he smiles
a notable kind of smile, and says, 'If I could get away I'd run out to
Montana and try to pick up a copy for you.'

There is a certain gentleman who loves the literature of Queen Anne's
reign. He lives with Whigs and Tories, vibrates between coffee-house
and tea-table. He annoys his daughter by sometimes calling her
'Belinda,' and astonishes his wife with his mock-heroic apostrophes to
her hood and patches. He reads his _Spectator_ at breakfast while
other people batten upon newspapers only three hours old. He smiles
over the love-letters of Richard Steele, and reverences the name and
the writings of Joseph Addison. Indeed, his devotion to Addison is so
radical that he has actually been guilty of reading _The Campaign_ and
the _Dialogue on Medals_. This gentleman hunted books one day and was
not successful. It seemed to him that on this particular afternoon the
world was stuffed with Allison's histories of Europe, and Jeffrey's
contributions to the _Edinburgh Review_. His heart was filled with
bitterness and his nostrils with dust. Books which looked inviting
turned out to be twenty-second editions. Of fifty things upon his list
not one came to light. But it was predestined that he should not go
sorrowing to his home. He pulled out from a bottom shelf two musty
octavo volumes bound in dark brown leather, and each securely tied
with a string; for the covers had been broken from the backs. The
titles were invisible, the contents a mystery. The gentleman held the
unpromising objects in his hand and meditated upon them. They might be
a treatise on conic sections, or a Latin Grammar, and again they might
be a Book. He untied the string and opened one of the volumes. Was it
a breath of summer air from Isis that swept out of those pages, which
were as white as snow in spite of the lapse of nearly two centuries?
He read the title, MUSARUM ANGLICANARUM ANALECTA. The date was 1699.
He turned to the table of contents, and his heart gave a contented
throb. There was the name he wished to see, J. Addison, Magd. Coll:
The name occurred eight times. The dejected collector had found a
clean and uncut copy of those two volumes of contemporary Latin verse
compiled by Joseph Addison, when he was a young man at Oxford, and
printed at the Sheldonian Theatre. Addison contributed eight poems to
the second volume. The bookseller was willing to take seventy-five
cents for the set, and told the gentleman as he did up the package
that he was a comfort to the trade.

That night the gentleman read _The Battle of the Pigmies and the
Cranes_, while his wife read the evening edition of the _Lurid
Paragraph_. Now he says to his friends, 'Hunt books in the most
unpromising places, but make a thorough search. You may not discover a
Koh-i-noor, but you will be pretty sure to run upon some desirable
little thing which gives you pleasure and costs but a trifle.'

One effect of this adventure upon himself is that he cannot pass a
volume which is tied with a string. He spends his days and Saturday
nights in tying and untying books with broken covers. Even the
evidence of a clearly-lettered title upon the back fails to satisfy
him. He is restless until he has made a thorough search in the body of
the volume.

The Bibliotaph's own best strokes of fortune were made in
out-of-the-way places. But some god was on his side. For at his
approach the bibliographical desert blossomed like the rose. He used
to hunt books in Texas at one period in his life; and out of Texas
would he come, bringing, so it is said, first editions of George
Borrow and Jane Austen. It was maddening to be with him at such times,
especially if one had a gift for envy.

Yet why should one envy him his money, or his unerring hand and eye?
He paid for the book, but it was yours to read and to caress so long
as you would. If he took it from you it was only that he might pass it
on to some other friend. But if that volume once started in the
direction of the great tomb of books in Westchester County, no power
on earth could avail to restore it to the light of day.

It is pleasant to meditate upon past journeys with the Bibliotaph. He
was an incomparable traveling companion, buoyant, philosophic,
incapable of fatigue, and never ill. Yet it is a tradition current,
that he, the mighty, who called himself a friend to physicians,
because he never robbed them of their time either in or out of
office-hours, once succumbed to that irritating little malady known as
car-sickness. He succumbed, but he met his fate bravely and with the
colors of his wit flying. The circumstances are these:--

There is a certain railway thoroughfare which justly prides itself
upon the beauty of its scenery. This road passes through a
hill-country, and what it gains in the picturesque it loses in that
rectilinear directness most grateful to the traveler with a sensitive
stomach. The Bibliotaph often patronized this thoroughfare, and one
day it made him sick. As the train swept around a sharp curve, he
announced his earliest symptom by saying: 'The conspicuous advantages
of this road are that one gets views of the scenery and reviews of his

A few minutes later he suggested that the road would do well to change
its name, and hereafter be known as 'The Emetic G. and O.'

They who were with him proffered sympathy, but he refused to be
pitied. He thought he had a remedy. He discovered that by taking as
nearly as possible a reclining posture, he got temporary relief. He
kept settling more and more till at last he was nearly on his back.
Then he said: 'If it be true that the lower down we get the more
comfortable we are, the basements of Hell will have their

He was too ill to say much after this, but his last word, before the
final and complete extinction of his manhood, was, 'The influence of
this road is such that employees have been known involuntarily to
throw up their jobs.'

The Bibliotaph invariably excited comment and attention when he was
upon his travels. I do not think he altogether liked it. Perhaps he
neither liked it nor disliked it. He accepted the fact that he was not
as other men quite as he would have accepted any indisputable fact. He
used occasionally to express annoyance because of the discrepancy
between his reputation and appearance; in other words, because he
seemed a man of greater fame than he was. He suffered the petty
discomforts of being a personage, and enjoyed none of the advantages.
He declared that he was quite willing to be much more distinguished or
much less conspicuous. What he objected to was the Laodicean character
of his reputation as set over against the pronounced and even
startling character of his looks and manner.

He used also to note with amusement how indelible a mark certain early
ambitions and tentative studies had made upon him. People invariably
took him for a clergyman. They decided this at once and conducted
themselves accordingly. He made no protest, but observed that their
convictions as to how they should behave in his presence had
corollaries in the shape of very definite convictions as to how he
should carry himself before them. He thought that such people might be
described as moral trainers. They do not profess virtue themselves,
but they take a real pleasure in keeping you up to your profession.

The Bibliotaph had no explanation to give why he was so immediately
and invariably accounted as one in orders. He was quite sure that the
clerical look was innate, and by no means dependent upon the wearing
of a high vest or a Joseph Parker style of whisker; for once as he sat
in the hot room of a Turkish bath and in the Adamitic simplicity of
attire suitable to the temperature and the place, a gentleman who
occupied the chair nearest introduced conversation by saying, 'I beg
your pardon, sir, but are you not a clergyman?'

'This incident,' said the Bibliotaph, 'gave me a vivid sense of the
possibility of determining a man's profession by a cursory examination
of his cuticle.' Lowell's conviction about N. P. Willis was
well-founded: namely, that if it had been proper to do so, Willis
could have worn his own plain bare skin in a way to suggest that it
was a representative Broadway tailor's best work.

I imagine that few boys escape an outburst of that savage instinct for
personal adornment which expresses itself in the form of rude tattooing
upon the arms. The Bibliotaph had had his attack in early days, and
the result was a series of decorations of a highly patriotic character,
and not at all in keeping with South Kensington standards. I said to
him once, apropos of the pictures on his arms: 'You are a great
surprise to your friends in this particular.' 'Yes,' he replied, 'few
of them are aware that the volume of this Life is extra-illustrated.'

But that which he of necessity tolerated in himself he would not
tolerate in his books. They were not allowed to become pictorially
amplified. He saw no objection to inserting a rare portrait in a good
book. It did not necessarily injure the book, and it was one way of
preserving the portrait. Yet the thing was questionable, and it was
likely to prove the first step in a downward path. As to cramming a
volume with a heterogeneous mass of pictures and letters gathered from
all imaginable sources, he held the practice in abhorrence, and the
bibliographical results as fit only for the libraries of the
illiterate rich. He admitted the possibility of doing such a thing
well or ill; but at its best it was an ill thing skillfully done.

The Bibliotaph upon his travels was a noteworthy figure if only
because of the immense parcel of books with which he burdened himself.
That part of the journeying public which loves to see some new thing
puzzled itself mightily over the gentleman of full habit, who in
addition to his not inconsiderable encumbrance of flesh and luggage,
chose to carry about a shawl-strap loaded to utmost capacity with a
composite mass of books, magazines, and newspapers. It was enormously
heavy, and the way in which its component parts adhered was but a
degree short of the miraculous. He appeared hardly conscious of its
weight, for he would pick the thing up and literally _trip_ with it on
a toe certainly not light, but undeniably fantastic.

He carried the books about with him partly because he had just
purchased them and wished to study their salient points, and partly
because he was taking them to a 'bin.' There is no mystery about these
'bins.' They were merely places of temporary rest for the books before
the grand moving to the main library. But if not mysterious they were
certainly astonishing, because of their number and size. With respect
to number, one in every large city was the rule. With respect to size,
few people buy in a lifetime as many books as were sometimes heaped
together in one of these places of deposit. He would begin by leaving
a small bundle of books with some favorite dealer, then another, and
then another. As the collection enlarged, the accommodations would be
increased; for it was a satisfaction to do the Bibliotaph this favor,
he purchased so liberally and tipped the juvenile clerks in so royal a
manner. Nor was he always in haste to move out after he had once moved
in. One bookseller, speaking of the splendid proportions which the
'bin' was assuming, declared that he sometimes found it difficult to
adjust himself mentally to the situation; he couldn't tell when he
came to his place of business in the morning whether he was in his own
shop or the Bibliotaph's library.

The corner of the shop where the great collector's accumulations were
piled up was a centre of mirth and conversation if he himself chanced
to be in town. Men dropped in for a minute and stayed an hour. In some
way time appeared to broaden and leisure to grow more ample. Life had
an unusual richness, and warmth, and color, when the Bibliotaph was
by. There was an Olympian largeness and serenity about him. He seemed
almost pagan in the breadth of his hold upon existence. And when he
departed he left behind him what can only be described as great
unfilled mental spaces. I recall that a placard was hung up in his
particular corner with the inscription, 'English spoken here.' This
amused him. Later there was attached to it another strip upon which
was crayoned, 'Sir, we had much good talk,' with the date of the talk.
Still later a victim added the words, 'Yes, sir, on that day the
Bibliotaph tossed and gored a number of people admirably.'

It was difficult for the Bibliotaph not to emit intellectual sparks of
one kind or another. His habit of dealing with every fact as if it
deserved his entire mental force, was a secret of his originality.
Everything was worth while. If the fact was a serious fact, all the
strength of his mind would be applied to its exposition or defense. If
it was a fact of less importance, humor would appear as a means to the
conversational end. And he would grow more humorous as the topics grew
less significant. When finally he rioted in mere word-play, banter,
quizzing, it was a sign that he regarded the matter as worthy no
higher species of notice.

I like this theory of his wit so well that I am minded not to expose
it to an over-rigid test. The following small fragments of his talk
are illustrative of such measure of truth as the theory may contain.

Among the Bibliotaph's companions was one towards whose mind he
affected the benevolent and encouraging attitude of a father to a
budding child. He was asked by this friend to describe a certain
quaint and highly successful entertainer. This was the response: 'The
gentleman of whom you speak has the habit of coming before his
audience as an idiot and retiring as a genius. You and I, sir,
couldn't do that; we should sustain the first character consistently
throughout the entire performance.'

It was his humor to insist that all the virtues and gifts of a
distinguished collector were due for their expansion and development
to association with himself and the writer of these memories. He would
say in the presence of the distinguished collector: 'Henry will
probably one day forget us, but on the Day of Judgment, in any just
estimate of the causes of his success, the Lord won't.'

I have forgotten what the victim's retort was; it is safe to assume
that it was adequate.

This same collector had the pleasing habit of honoring the men he
loved, among whom the Bibliotaph was chief, with brightly written
letters which filled ten and fifteen half-sheets. But the average
number of words to a line was two, while a five-syllable word had
trouble in accommodating itself to a line and a half, and the sheets
were written only upon one side. The Bibliotaph's comment was: 'Henry
has a small brain output, but unlimited influence at a paper-mill.'

Of all the merry sayings in which the Bibliotaph indulged himself at
the expense of his closest friend this was the most comforting. A
gentleman present was complaining that Henry took liberties in
correcting his pronunciation. 'I have no doubt of the occasional need
of such correction, but it isn't often required, and not half so often
as he seems to think. I, on the other hand, observe frequent minor
slips in his use of language, but I do not feel at liberty to correct

The Bibliotaph began to apply salve to the bruised feelings of the
gentleman present as follows: 'The animus of Henry's criticism is
unquestionably envy. He probably feels how few flies there are in your
ointment. While you are astonished that in his case there should be so
little ointment for so many flies.'

The Bibliotaph never used slang, and the united recollections of his
associates can adduce but two or three instances in which he sunk
verbally so low as even to _hint_ slang. He said that there was one
town which in his capacity of public speaker he should like to visit.
It was a remote village in Virginia where there was a girls' seminary,
the catalogue of which set forth among advantages of location this:
that the town was one to which the traveling lecturer and the circus
never came. The Bibliotaph said, 'I should go there. For I am the one
when I am on the platform, and by the unanimous testimony of all my
friends I am the other when I am off.'

The second instance not only illustrates his ingenuity in trifles, but
also shows how he could occasionally answer a friend according to his
folly. He had been describing a visit which he had made in the
hero-worshiping days of boyhood to Chappaqua; how friendly and
good-natured the great farmer-editor was; how he called the Bibliotaph
'Bub,' and invited him to stay to dinner; how he stayed and talked
politics with his host; how they went out to the barn afterwards to
look at the stock; what Greeley said to him and what he said to
Greeley,--it was a perfect bit of word-sketching, spontaneous,
realistic, homely, unpretentious, irresistibly comic because of the
quaintness of the dialogue as reported, and because of the mental
image which we formed of this large-headed, round-bellied, precocious
youth, who at the age of sixteen was able for three consecutive hours
to keep the conversational shuttlecock in the air with no less a
person than Horace Greeley. Amid the laughter and comment which
followed the narration one mirthful genius who chose for the day to
occupy the seat of the scorner, called out to the Bibliotaph:--

'How old did you say you were at that time, "Bub"?'


'And did you wear whiskers?'

The query was insulting. But the Bibliotaph measured the flippancy of
the remark with his eye and instantly fitted an answer to the mental
needs of the questioner.

'Even if I had,' he said, 'it would have availed me nothing, for in
those days there was no wind.'

The Bibliotaph was most at home in the book-shop, on the street, or at
his hotel. He went to public libraries only in an emergency, for he
was impatient of that needful discipline which compelled him to ask
for each volume he wished to see. He had, however, two friends in
whose libraries one might occasionally meet him in the days when he
hunted books upon this wide continent. One was the gentleman to whom
certain letters on literature have been openly addressed, and who has
made a library by a process which involves wise selection and infinite
self-restraint. This priceless little collection contains no volume
which is imperfect, no volume which mars the fine sense of repose
begotten in one at the sight of lovely books becomingly clothed, and
no volume which is not worthy the name of literature. And there is
matter for reflection in the thought that it is not the library of a
rich man. Money cannot buy the wisdom which has made this collection
what it is, and without self-denial it is hardly possible to give the
touch of real elegance to a private library. When dollars are not
counted the assemblage of books becomes promiscuous. How may we better
describe this library than by the phrase Infinite riches in a little

There was yet another friend, the Country Squire, who revels in
wealth, buys large-paper copies, reads little but deeply, and raises
chickens. His library (the room itself, I mean) is a gentleman's
library, with much cornice, much plate-glass, and much carving;
whereof a wit said, 'The Squire has such a beautiful library, and no
place to put his books.'

These books are of a sort to rejoice the heart, but their tenure of
occupancy is uncertain. Hardly one of them but is liable to eviction
without a moment's notice. They have a look in their attitude which
indicates consciousness of being pilgrims and strangers. They seem to
say, 'We can tarry, we can tarry but a night.' Some have tarried two
nights, others a week, others a year, a few even longer. But aside
from a dozen or so of volumes, not one of the remaining three thousand
dares to affirm that it holds a permanent place in its owner's heart
of hearts. It is indeed a noble procession of books which has passed
in and out of those doors. A day will come in which the owner realizes
that he has as good as the market can furnish, and then banishments
will cease. One sighs not for the volumes which deserved exile, but
for those which were sent away because their master ceased to love

There was no friend with whom the Bibliotaph lived on easier terms
than with the Country Squire. They were counterparts. They
supplemented one another. The Bibliotaph, though he was born and bred
on a farm, had fled for his salvation to the city. The Squire, a man
of city birth and city education, had fled for his soul's health to
the country; he had rendered existence almost perfect by setting up an
urban home in rural surroundings. It was well said of that house that
it was finely reticent in its proffers of hospitality, and regally
magnificent in its kindness to those whom it delighted to honor.

It was in the Country Squire's library that the Bibliotaph first met
that actor with whom he became even more intimate than with the Squire
himself. The closeness of their relation suggested the days of the old
Miracle plays when the theatre and the Church were as hand in glove.
The Bibliotaph signified his appreciation of his new friend by giving
him a copy of a sixteenth-century book 'containing a pleasant
invective against Poets, Pipers, Players, Jesters, and such like
Caterpillars of a Commonwealth.' The Player in turn compiled for his
friend of clerical appearance a scrap-book, intended to show how evil
associations corrupt good actors.

This actor professed that which for want of a better term might be
called parlor agnosticism. The Bibliotaph was sturdily inclined
towards orthodoxy, and there was from time to time collision between
the two. It is my impression that the actor sometimes retired with
four of his five wits halting. But he was brilliant even when he
mentally staggered. Neither antagonist convinced the other, and after
a while they grew wearied of traveling over one another's minds.

It fell out on a day that the actor made a fine speech before a large
gathering, and mindful of stage effect he introduced a telling
allusion to an all-wise and omnipotent Providence. For this he was, to
use his own phrase, 'soundly spanked' by all his friends; that is, he
was mocked at, jeered, ridiculed. To what end, they said, was one an
agnostic if he weakly yielded his position to the exigencies of an
after-dinner speech. The Bibliotaph alone took pains to analyze his
late antagonist's position. He wrote to the actor congratulating him
upon his success. 'I wondered a little at this, remembering how
inconsiderable has been your practice; and I infer that it has been
inconsiderable, for I am aware how seldom an actor can be persuaded to
make a speech. I, too, was at first shocked when I heard that you had
made a respectful allusion to Deity; but I presently took comfort,
_remembering that your gods, like your grease-paints, are purely

He was always capital in these teasing moods. To be sure, he buffeted
one about tremendously, but his claws were sheathed, and there was a
contagiousness in his frolicsome humor. Moreover one learned to look
upon one's self in the light of a public benefactor. To submit to be
knocked about by the Bibliotaph was in a modest way to contribute to
the gayety of nations. If one was not absolutely happy one's self,
there was a chastened comfort in beholding the happiness of the

A small author wrote a small book, so small that it could be read in
less time than it takes to cover an umbrella, that is, 'while you
wait.' The Bibliotaph had Brobdingnagian joy of this book. He sat and
read it to himself in the author's presence, and particularly
diminutive that book appeared as its light cloth cover was outlined
against the Bibliotaph's ample black waistcoat. From time to time he
would vent 'a series of small private laughs,' especially if he was on
the point of announcing some fresh illustration of the fallibility of
inexperienced writers. Finally the uncomfortable author said, 'Don't
sit there and pick out the mistakes.' To which the Bibliotaph
triumphantly replied, 'What other motive is there for reading it at

He purchased every copy of this book which he could find, and when
asked by the author why he did so, replied, 'In order to withdraw it
from circulation.' A moment afterwards he added reflectively, 'But how
may I hope to withdraw a book from that which it has never had?'

He was apt to be severe in his judgment of books, as when he said of a
very popular but very feeble literary performance that it was an
argument for the existence of God. 'Such intensity of stupidity was
not realized without Infinite assistance.'

He could be equally emphatic in his comments upon men. Among his
acquaintance was a church dignitary who blew alternately hot and cold
upon him. When advised of some new illustration of the divine's
uncertainty of attitude, the Bibliotaph merely said, 'He's more of a
chameleon than he is a clergyman.'

That Bostonian would be deficient in wit who failed to enjoy this
remark. Speaking of the characteristics of American cities, the
Bibliotaph said, 'It never occurs to the Hub that anything of
importance can possibly happen at the periphery.'

He greatly admired the genial and philanthropic editor of a well-known
Philadelphia newspaper. Shortly after Mr. Childs's death some one
wrote to the Bibliotaph that in a quiet Kentucky town he had noticed a
sign over a shop-door which read, 'G. W. Childs, dealer in Tobacco and
Cigars.' There was something graceful in the Bibliotaph's reply. He
expressed surprise at Mr. Childs's new occupation, but declared that
for his own part he was 'glad to know that the location of Heaven had
at last been definitely ascertained.'

The Bibliotaph habitually indulged himself in the practice of
hero-worship. This propensity led him to make those glorified
scrap-books which were so striking a feature in his collection. They
were no commonplace affairs, the ugly result of a union of cheap
leather, newspaper-clippings and paste, but sumptuous books
resplendent in morocco and gilt tooling, the creations of an artist
who was eminent among binders. These scrap-books were chiefly devoted
to living men,--men who were famous, or who were believed to be on the
high road to fame. There was a book for each man. In this way did the
Bibliotaph burn incense before his Dii majores et minores.

These books were enriched with everything that could illustrate the
gifts and virtues of the men in whose honor they were made. They
contained rare manuscripts, rare pictures, autograph comments and
notes, a bewildering variety of records,--memorabilia which were above
price. Poets wrote humorous verse, and artists who justly held their
time as too precious to permit of their working for love decorated the
pages of the Bibliotaph's scrap-books. One does not abuse the word
'unique' when he applies it to these striking volumes.

The Bibliotaph did not always follow contemporary judgment in his
selection of men to be so canonized. He now and then honored a man
whose sense of the relation of achievement to fame would not allow him
to admit to himself that he deserved the distinction, and whose sense
of humor could not but be strongly excited at the thought of
deification by so unusual a process. It might be pleasant to consider
that the Bibliotaph cared so much for one's letters as to wish not to
destroy them, but it was awful to think of those letters as bound and
annotated. This was to get a taste of posthumous fame before
posthumous fame was due. The Bibliotaph added a new terror to life,
for he compelled one to live up to one's scrap-book. He reversed the
old Pagan formula, which was to the effect that 'So-and-So died and
was made a god.' According to the Bibliotaph's prophetic method, a man
was made a god first and allowed to die at his leisure afterward. Not
every one of that little company which his wisdom and love have marked
for great reputation will be able to achieve it. They are unanimously
grateful that he cared enough for them to wish to drag their humble
gifts into the broad light of publicity. But their gratitude is
tempered by the thought that perhaps he was only elaborately humorous
at their expense.

The Bibliotaph's intellectual processes were so vigorous and his
pleasure in mental activity for its own sake was so intense that he
was quite capable of deciding after a topic of discussion had been
introduced which side he would take. And this with a splendid disdain
of the merits of the cause which he espoused. I remember that he once
set out to maintain the thesis that a certain gentleman, as notable
for his virtues as he was conspicuous for lack of beauty, was
essentially a handsome man. The person who initiated the discussion by
observing that 'Mr. Blank was unquestionably a plain man' expected
from the Bibliotaph (if he expected any remark whatever) nothing
beyond a Platonic 'That I do most firmly believe.' He was not a little
astonished when the great book-collector began an elaborate and
exhaustive defense of the gentleman whose claims to beauty had been
questioned. At first it was dialogue, and the opponent had his share
of talk; but when in an unlucky moment he hinted that such energy
could only be the result of consciousness on the Bibliotaph's part
that he was in a measure pleading his own cause, the dialogue changed
to monologue. For the Bibliotaph girded up his loins and proceeded to
smite his opponent hip and thigh. All in good humor, to be sure, and
laughter reigned, but it was tremendous and it was logically
convincing. It was clearly not safe to have a reputation for good
looks while the Bibliotaph was in this temper. All the gentlemen were
in terror lest something about their countenances might be construed
as beauty, and men with good complexions longed for newspapers behind
which to hide their disgrace.

As for the disputant who had stirred up the monster, his situation was
as unenviable as it was comic to the bystanders. He had never before
dropped a stone into the great geyser. He was therefore unprepared for
the result. One likened him to an unprotected traveler in a heavy
rain-storm. For the Bibliotaph's unpremeditated speech was a very
cloud-burst of eloquence. The unhappy gentleman looked despairingly in
every direction as if beseeching us for the loan of a word-proof
umbrella. There was none to be had. We who had known a like experience
were not sorry to stand under cover and watch a fellow mortal undergo
this verbal drenching. The situation recalled one described by
Lockhart when a guest differed on a point of scholarship with the
great Coleridge. Coleridge began to 'exert himself.' He burst into a
steady stream of talk which broadened and deepened as the moments
fled. When finally it ceased the bewildered auditor pulled himself
together and exclaimed, 'Zounds, I was never so _be-thumped_ with
words in my life!'

People who had opportunity of observing the Bibliotaph were tempted to
speculate on what he might have become if he had not chosen to be just
what he was. His versatility led them to declare for this, that, and
the other profession, largely in accordance with their own personal
preferences. Lawyers were sure that he should have been an advocate;
ministers that he would have done well to yield to the 'call' he had
in his youth; teachers were positive that he would have made an
inspiring teacher. No one, so far as I know, ever told him that in
becoming a book-collector he had deprived the world of a great
musician; for he was like Charles Lamb in that he was sentimentally
inclined to harmony but organically incapable of a tune.

Yet he was so broad-minded that it was not possible for him to hold
even a neutral attitude in the presence of anything in which other
people delighted. I have known him to sit through a long and heavy
organ recital, not in a resigned manner but actively attentive,
clearly determined that if the minutest portion of his soul was
sensitive to the fugues of J. S. Bach he would allow that portion to
bask in the sunshine of an unwonted experience. So that from one point
of view he was the incarnation of tolerance as he certainly was the
incarnation of good-humor and generosity. He envied no man his gifts
from Nature or Fortune. He was not only glad to let live, but
painstakingly energetic in making the living of people a pleasure to
them, and he received with amused placidity adverse comments upon

Words which have been used to describe a famous man of this century I
will venture to apply in part to the Bibliotaph. 'He was a kind of
gigantic and Olympian school-boy, ... loving-hearted, bountiful,
wholesome and sterling to the heart's core.'


The Bibliotaph's major passion was for collecting books; but he had a
minor passion, the bare mention of which caused people to lift their
eyebrows suspiciously. He was a shameless, a persistent, and a
successful hunter of autographs. His desire was for the signatures of
living men of letters, though an occasional dead author would be
allowed a place in the collection, provided he had not been dead too
long. As a rule, however, the Bibliotaph coveted the 'hand of write'
of the man who was now more or less conspicuously in the public eye.
This autograph must be written in a representative work of the author
in question. The Bibliotaph would not have crossed the street to
secure a line from Ben Jonson's pen, but he mourned because the
autograph of the Rev. C. L. Dodgson was not forthcoming, nor likely to
be. His conception of happiness was this: to own a copy of the first
edition of _Alice in Wonderland_, upon the fly-leaf of which Lewis
Carroll had written his name, together with the statement that he had
done so at the Bibliotaph's request, and because that eminent
collector could not be made happy in any other Way.

The Bibliotaph liked the autograph of the modern man of letters
because it _was_ modern, and because there was a reasonable hope of
its being genuine. He loved genuineness. Everything about himself was
exactly what it pretended to be. From his soul to his clothing he was
honest. And his love for the genuine was only surpassed in degree by
his contempt for the spurious. I remember that some one gave him a bit
of silverware, a toilet article, perhaps, which he next day threw out
of a car window, because he had discovered that it was not sterling.
He scouted the suggestion that possibly the giver may not have known.
Such ignorance was inexcusable, he said. 'The likelier interpretation
was that the gift was symbolical of the giver.' The act seemed brutal,
and the comment thereon even more so. But to realize the atmosphere,
the setting of the incident, one must imagine the Bibliotaph's round
and comfortable figure, his humorous look, and the air of genial
placidity with which he would do and say a thing like this. It was as
impossible to be angry with him in behalf of the unfortunate giver of
cheap silver as to take offense at a tree or mountain. And it was
useless to argue the matter--nay it was folly, for he would
immediately become polysyllabic and talk one down.

It was this desire for genuine things which made him entirely
suspicious of autographs which had been bought and sold. He had no
faith in them, and he would weaken your faith, supposing you were a
collector of such things. Offer him an autograph of our first
president and he would reply, 'I don't believe that it's genuine; and
if it were I shouldn't care for it; I never had the honor of General
Washington's acquaintance.' The inference was that one could have a
personal relation with a living great man, and the chances were
largely in favor of getting an autograph that was not an object of

Few collectors in this line have been as happy as the Bibliotaph. The
problem was easily mastered with respect to the majority of authors.
As a rule an author is not unwilling to give such additional pleasure
to a reader of his book as may consist in writing his name in the
reader's copy. It is conceivable that the author may be bored by too
many requests of this nature, but he might be bored to an even greater
degree if no one cared enough for him to ask for his autograph. Some
writers resisted a little, and it was beautiful to see the Bibliotaph
bring them to terms. He was a highwayman of the Tom Faggus type, just
so adroit, and courteous, and daring. He was perhaps at his best in
cases where he had actually to hold up his victim; one may imagine the
scene,--the author resisting, the Bibliotaph determined and having the
masterful air of an expert who had handled just such cases before.

A humble satellite who disapproved of these proceedings read aloud to
the Bibliotaph that scorching little essay entitled _Involuntary
Bailees_, written by perhaps the wittiest living English essayist. An
involuntary bailee--as the essayist explains--is a person to whom
people (generally unknown to him) send things which he does not wish
to receive, but which _they_ are anxious to have returned. If a man
insists upon lending you a book, you become an involuntary bailee. You
don't wish to read the book, but you have it in your possession. It
has come to you by post, let us suppose, 'and to pack it up and send
it back again requires a piece of string, energy, brown paper, and
stamps enough to defray the postage.' And it is a question whether a
casual acquaintance 'has any right thus to make demands on a man's
energy, money, time, brown paper, string, and other capital and
commodities.' There are other ways of making a man an involuntary
bailee. You may ask him to pass judgment on your poetry, or to use his
influence to get your tragedy produced, or to do any one of a half
hundred things which he doesn't want to do and which you have no
business to ask him to do. The essayist makes no mention of the
particular form of sin which the Bibliotaph practiced, but he would
probably admit that malediction was the only proper treatment for the
idler who bothers respectable authors by asking them to write their
names in his copies of their books. For to what greater extent could
one trespass upon an author's patience, energy, brown paper, string,
and commodities generally? It was amusing to watch the Bibliotaph as
he listened to this arraignment of his favorite pursuit. The writer of
the essay admits that there may be extenuating circumstances. If the
autograph collector comes bearing gifts one may smile upon his suit.
If for example he accompanies his request for an autograph with
'several brace of grouse, or a salmon of noble proportions, or rare
old books bound by Derome, or a service of Worcester china with the
square mark,' he may hope for success. The essayist opines that such
gifts 'will not be returned by a celebrity who respects himself.'
'They bless him who gives and him who takes much more than tons of
manuscript poetry, and thousands of entreaties for an autograph.'

A superficial examination of the Bibliotaph's collection revealed the
fact that he had either used necromancy or given many gifts. The
reader may imagine some such conversation between the great collector
and one of his dazzled visitors:--

'Pray, how did you come by this?'

'His lordship has always been very kind in such matters.'

'And where did you get this?'

'I am greatly indebted to the Prime Minister for his complaisance.'

'But this poet is said to abhor Americans.'

'You see that his antipathy has not prevented his writing a stanza in
my copy of his most notable volume.'

'And this?'

'I have at divers times contributed the sum of five dollars to divers
Fresh Air funds.'

The Bibliotaph could not be convinced that his sin of autograph
collecting was not venial. When authors denied his requests, on the
ground that they were intrusions, he was inclined to believe that
selfishness lay at the basis of their motives. Some men are quite
willing to accept great fame, but they resent being obliged to pay the
penalties. They wish to sit in the fierce light which beats on an
intellectual throne, but they are indignant when the passers-by stop
to stare at them. They imagine that they can successfully combine the
glory of honorable publicity with the perfect retirement enjoyed only
by aspiring mediocrity. The Bibliotaph believed that he was a
missionary to these people. He awakened in them a sense of their
obligations toward their admirers. The principle involved is akin to
that enunciated by a certain American philosopher, who held that it is
an act of generosity to borrow of a man once in a while; it gives that
man a lively interest in the possible success or possible failure of
your undertaking.

He levied autographic toll on young writers. For mature men of letters
with established reputations he would do extraordinary and difficult
services. A famous Englishman, not a novelist by profession, albeit he
wrote one of the most successful novels of his day, earnestly desired
to own if possible a complete set of all the American pirated editions
of his book. The Bibliotaph set himself to this task, and collected
energetically for two years. The undertaking was considerable, for
many of the pirated editions were in pamphlet, and dating from twenty
years back. It was almost impossible to get the earliest in a spotless
condition. Quantities of trash had to be overhauled, and weeks might
elapse before a perfect copy of a given edition would come to light.
Books are dirty, but pamphlets are dirtier. The Bibliotaph declared
that had he rendered an itemized bill for services in this matter, the
largest item would have been for Turkish baths.

Here was a case in which the collector paid well for the privilege of
having a signed copy of a well-loved author's novel. He begrudged no
portion of his time or expenditure. If it pleased the great Englishman
to have upon his shelves, in compact array and in spotless condition,
these proofs of what he _didn't_ earn by the publication of his books
in America, well and good. The Bibliotaph was delighted that so modest
a service on his part could give so apparently great a pleasure. The
Englishman must have had the collecting instinct, and he must have
been philosophical, since he could contemplate with equanimity these
illegitimate volumes.

The conclusion of the story is this: The work of collecting the
reprints was finished. The last installment reached the famous
Englishman during an illness which subsequently proved fatal. They
were spread upon the coverlid of the bed, and the invalid took a great
and humorous satisfaction in looking them over. Said the Bibliotaph,
recounting the incident in his succinct way, 'They reached him on his
death-bed,--and made him willing to go.'

The Bibliotaph was true to the traditions of the book-collecting
brotherhood, in that he read but little. His knowledge of the world
was fresh from life, not 'strained through books,' as Johnson said of
a certain Irish painter whom he knew at Birmingham. But the Bibliotaph
was a mighty devourer of book-catalogues. He got a more complete
satisfaction, I used to think, in reading a catalogue than in reading
any other kind of literature. To see him unwrapping the packages which
his English mail had brought was to see a happy man. For in addition
to books by post, there would be bundles of sale-catalogues. Then
might you behold his eyes sparkle as he spread out the tempting lists;
the humorous lines about the corners of his mouth deepened, and he
would take on what a little girl who watched him called his 'pussy-cat
look.' Then with an indelible pencil in his huge and pudgy left fist
(for the Bibliotaph was a Benjaminite), he would go through the pages,
checking off the items of interest, rolling with delight in his chair
as he exclaimed from time to time, 'Good books! Such good books!' Say
to him that you yourself liked to read a catalogue, and his response
was pretty sure to be, 'Pleasant, isn't it?' This was expressive of a
high state of happiness, and was an allusion. For the Bibliotaph was
once with a newly-married man, and they two met another man, who, as
the conversation proceeded, disclosed the fact that he also had but
recently been wed. Whereupon the first bridegroom, marveling that
there could be another in the world so exalted as himself, exclaimed
with sympathetic delight, 'And _you_, too, are married.' 'Yes,' said
the second, 'pleasant, isn't it?' with much the same air that he would
have said, 'Nice afternoon.' This was one of the incidents which made
the Bibliotaph skeptical about marriage. But he adopted the phrase as
a useful one with which to express the state of highest mental and
spiritual exaltation.

People wondered at the extent of his knowledge of books. It was very
great, but it was not incredible. If a man cannot touch pitch without
being defiled, still less can he handle books without acquiring
bibliographical information. I am not sure that the Bibliotaph ever
heard of that professor of history who used to urge his pupils to
handle books, even when they could not get time to read them. 'Go to
the library, take down the volumes, turn over the leaves, read the
title-pages and the tables of contents; information will stick to
you'--this was the professor's advice. Information acquired in this
way may not be profound, but so far as it goes it is definite and
useful. For the collector it is indispensable. In this way the
Bibliotaph had amassed his seemingly phenomenal knowledge of books. He
had handled thousands and tens of thousands of volumes, and he never
relinquished his hold upon a book until he had 'placed' it,--until he
knew just what its rank was in the hierarchy of desirability.

Between a diligent reading of catalogues and an equally diligent
rummaging among the collections of third and fourth rate old
book-shops, the Bibliotaph had his reward. He undoubtedly bought a
deal of trash, but he also lighted upon nuggets. For example, in
Leask's Life of Boswell is an account of that curious little romance
entitled _Dorando_. This so-called _Spanish Tale_, printed for J.
Wilkie at the Bible in St. Paul's Church-Yard, was the work of James
Boswell. It was published anonymously in 1767, and he who would might
then have bought it for 'one shilling.' It was to be 'sold also by J.
Dodsley in Pall Mall, T. Davies in Russell-Street, Covent Garden, and
by the Book-sellers of Scotland.' This T. Davies was the very man who
introduced Boswell to Johnson. He was an actor as well as a
bookseller. _Dorando_ was a story with a key. Under the names of Don
Stocaccio, Don Tipponi, and Don Rodomontado real people were
described, and the facts of the 'famous Douglas cause' were presented
to the public. The little volume was suppressed in so far as that was
possible. It is rare, so rare that Boswell's latest biographer speaks
of it as the 'forlorn hope of the book-hunter,' though he doubts not
that copies of it are lurking in some private collection. One copy at
least is lurking in the Bibliotaph's library. He bought it, not for a
song to be sure, but very reasonably. The Bibliotaph declares that
this book is good for but one thing,--to shake in the faces of Boswell
collectors who haven't it.

The Bibliotaph had many literary heroes. Conspicuous among them were
Professor Richard Porson and Benjamin Jowett, the late master of
Balliol. The Bibliotaph collected everything that related to these two
men, all the books with which they had had anything to do, every
newspaper clipping and magazine article which threw light upon their
manners, habits, modes of thought. He especially loved to tell
anecdotes of Porson. He knew many. He had an interleaved copy of J.
Selby Watson's Life of Porson into which were copied a multitude of
facts not to be found in that amusing biography. The Bibliotaph used
to say that he would rather have known Porson than any other man of
his time. He used to quote this as one of the best illustrations of
Porson's wit, and one of the finest examples of the retort satiric to
be found in any language. One of Porson's works was assailed by
Wakefield and by Hermann, scholars to be sure, but scholars whose
scholarship Porson held in contempt. Being told of their attack Porson
only said that 'whatever he wrote in the future should be written in
such a way that those fellows wouldn't be able to reach it with their
fore-paws if they stood on their hind-legs to get at it!'

The Bibliotaph gave such an air of contemporaneity to his stories of
the great Greek professor that it seemed at times as if they were the
relations of one who had actually known Porson. So vividly did he
portray the marvels of that compound of thirst and scholarship that no
one had the heart to laugh when, after one of his narrations, a
gentleman asked the Bibliotaph if he himself had studied under Porson.

'Not _under_ him but _with_ him,' said the Bibliotaph. 'He was my
coeval. Porson, Richard Bentley, Joseph Scaliger, and I were all
students together.'

Speaking of Jowett the Bibliotaph once said that it was wonderful to
note how culture failed to counteract in an Englishman that
disposition to heave stones at an American. Jowett, with his
remarkable breadth of mind and temper, was quite capable of observing,
with respect to a certain book, that it was American, 'yet in perfect
taste.' 'This,' said the Bibliotaph, 'is as if one were to say, "The
guests were Americans, but no one expectorated on the carpet."' The
Bibliotaph thought that there was not so much reason for this
attitude. The sins of Englishmen and Americans were identical, he
believed, but the forms of their expression were different. 'Our sin
is a voluble boastfulness; theirs is an irritating, unrestrainable,
all-but-constantly manifested, satisfied self-consciousness. The same
results are reached by different avenues. We praise ourselves; they
belittle others.' Then he added with a smile: 'Thus even in these
latter days are the Scriptures exemplified; the same spirit with
varying manifestations.'

He was once commenting upon Jowett's classification of humorists.
Jowett divided humorists 'into three categories or classes; those who
are not worth reading at all; those who are worth reading once, but
once only; and those who are worth reading again and again and for
ever.' This remark was made to Swinburne, who quotes it in his all too
brief _Recollections of Professor Jowett_. Swinburne says that the
starting-point of their discussion was the _Biglow Papers_, which
'famous and admirable work of American humour' Jowett placed in the
second class. Swinburne himself thought that the _Biglow Papers_ was
too good for the second class and not quite good enough for the third.
'I would suggest that a fourth might be provided, to include such
examples as are worth, let us say, two or three readings in a

The Bibliotaph made a variety of comments on this, but I remember only
the following; it is a reason for not including the _Biglow Papers_ in
Jowett's third and crowning class. 'Humor to be popular permanently
must be general rather than local, and have to do with a phase of
character rather than a fact of history; that is, it must deal in a
great way with what is always interesting to all men. Humor that does
not meet this requirement is not likely, when its novelty has worn
off, to be read even occasionally save by those who enjoy it as an
intellectual performance or who are making a critical study of its
author.' The observation, if not profound, is at least sensible, and
it illustrates very well the Bibliotaph's love of alliteration and
antithesis. But it is easier to remember and to report his caustic and
humorous remarks.

The Country Squire had a card-catalogue of the books in his library,
and he delighted to make therein entries of his past and his new
purchases. But it was not always possible to find upon the shelves
books that were mentioned in the catalogue. The Bibliotaph took
advantage of a few instances of this sort to prod his moneyed friend.
He would ask the Squire if he had such-and-such a book. The Squire
would say that he had, and appeal to his catalogue in proof of it.
Then would follow a search for the volume. If, as sometimes happened,
no book corresponding to the entry could be found, the Bibliotaph
would be satirical and remark:--

'I'll tell you what you ought to name your catalogue.'


'Great expectations!'

Another time he said, 'This is not a list of your books, this is a
list of the things that you intend to buy;' or he would suggest that
the Squire would do well to christen his catalogue _Vaulting
Ambition_. Perhaps the variation might take this form. After a
fruitless search for some book, which upon the testimony of the
catalogue was certainly in the collection, the Bibliotaph would
observe, 'This catalogue might not inappropriately be spoken of as the
substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.'
Another time the Bibliotaph said to the Squire, calling to mind the
well-known dictum as to the indispensableness of certain books,
'Between what one sees on your shelves and what one reads in your
card-catalogue one would have reason to believe that you were a

Once the Bibliotaph said to me in the presence of the Squire: 'I think
that our individual relation to books might be expressed in this way.
You read books but you don't buy them. I buy books but I don't read
them. The Squire neither reads them nor buys them,--only
card-catalogues them!'

To all this the Squire had a reply which was worldly, emphatic, and
adequate, but the object of this study is not to exhibit the virtues
of the Squire's speech, witty though it was.

One of the Bibliotaph's friends began without sufficient provocation
to write verse. The Bibliotaph thought that if the matter were taken
promptly in hand the man could be saved. Accordingly, when next he
gave this friend a book he wrote upon a fly-leaf: 'To a Poet who is
nothing if not original--and who is not original!' And the injured
rhymester exclaimed when he read the inscription: 'You deface every
book you give me.'

He could pay a compliment, as when he was dining with a married pair
who were thought to be not yet disenchanted albeit in the tenth year
of their married life. The lady was speaking to the Bibliotaph, but in
the eagerness of conversation addressed him by her husband's first
name. Whereupon he turned to the husband and said: 'Your wife implies
that I am a repository of grace and a bundle of virtues, and calls me
by your name.'

He once sent this same lady, apropos of the return of the shirt-waist
season, a dozen neckties. In the box was his card with these words
penciled upon it: 'A contribution to the man-made dress of a God-made

The Squire had great skill in imitating the cries of various domestic
fowl, as well as dogs, cats, and children. Once, in a moment of social
relaxation, he was giving an exhibition of his power to the vast
amusement of his guests. When he had finished, the Bibliotaph said:
'The theory of Henry Ward Beecher that every man has something of the
animal in him is superabundantly exemplified in _your_ case. You, sir,
have got the whole Ark.'

There was a quaint humor in his most commonplace remarks. Of all the
fruits of the earth he loved most a watermelon. And when a
fellow-traveler remarked, 'That watermelon which we had at dinner was
bad,' the Bibliotaph instantly replied: 'There is no such thing as a
_bad_ watermelon. There are watermelons, and _better_ watermelons.'

I expressed astonishment on learning that he stood six feet in his
shoes. He replied: 'People are so preoccupied in the consideration of
my thickness that they don't have time to observe my height.'

Again, when he was walking through a private park which contained
numerous monstrosities in the shape of painted metal deer on
pedestals, pursued (also on pedestals) by hunters and dogs, the
Bibliotaph pointed to one of the dogs and said, 'Cave cast-iron

He once accompanied a party of friends and acquaintances to the summit
of Mt. Tom. The ascent is made in these days by a very remarkable
inclined plane. After looking at the extensive and exquisite view, the
Bibliotaph fell to examining his return coupon, which read, 'Good for
one Trip Down.' Then he said: 'Let us hope that in a post-terrestrial
experience our tickets will not read in this way.'

He was once ascending in the unusually commodious and luxurious
elevator of a new ten-story hotel and remarked to his companion: 'If
we can't be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, we can at
least start in that direction under not dissimilar conditions.' He
also said that the advantage of stopping at this particular hotel was
that you were able to get as far as possible from the city in which it
was located.

He studied the dictionary with great diligence and was unusually
accurate in his pronunciation. He took an amused satisfaction in
pronouncing exactly certain words which in common talk had shifted
phonetically from their moorings. This led a gentleman who was
intimate with the Bibliotaph to say to him, 'Why, if I were to
pronounce that word among my kinsfolk as you do they'd think I was
crazy.' 'What you mean,' said the Bibliotaph, 'is, that they would
look upon it in the light of supererogatory supplementary evidence.'

He himself indulged overmuch in alliteration, but it was with humorous
intent; and critics forgave it in him when they would have reprehended
it in another. He had no notion that it was fine. Taken, however, in
connection with his emphatic manner and sonorous voice he produced a
decided and original effect. Meeting the Squire's wife after a
considerable interval, I asked whether her husband had been behaving
well. She replied 'As usual.' Whereupon the Bibliotaph said, 'You mean
that his conduct in these days is characterized by a plethora of
intention and a paucity of performance.'

He objected to enlarging the boundaries of words until they stood for
too many things. Let a word be kept so far as was reasonable to its
earlier and authorized meaning. Speaking of the word 'symposium,'
which has been stretched to mean a collection of short articles on a
given subject, the Bibliotaph said that he could fancy a honey-bee
which had been feasting on pumice until it was unable to make the line
characteristic of its kind, explaining to its queen that it had been
to a symposium; but that he doubted if we ought to allow any other

The Bibliotaph got much amusement from what he insisted were the
ill-concealed anxieties of his friend the actor on the subject of a
future state. 'He has acquired,' said the Bibliotaph, 'both a pathetic
and a prophetic interest in that place which begins as heaven does,
but stops off monosyllabically.'

The two men were one day discussing the question of the permanency of
fame, how ephemeral for example was that reputation which depended
upon the living presence of the artist to make good its claim; how an
actor, an orator, a singer, was bound to enjoy his glory while it
lasted, since at the instant of his death all tangible evidence of
greatness disappeared; he could not be proven great to one who had
never seen and heard him. Having reached this point in his
philosophizing the Bibliotaph's player-friend became sentimental and
quoted a great comedian to the effect that 'a dead actor was a mighty
useless thing.' 'Certainly,' said the Bibliotaph, 'having exhausted
the life that now is, and having no hope of the life that is to come.'

Sometimes it pleased the Bibliotaph to maintain that his friend of the
footlights would be in the future state a mere homeless wanderer,
having neither positive satisfaction nor positive discomfort. For the
actor was wont to insist that even if there were an orthodox heaven
its moral opposite were the desirable locality; all the clever and
interesting fellows would be down below. 'Except yourself,' said the
Bibliotaph. 'You, sir, will be eliminated by your own reasoning. You
will be denied heaven because you are not good, and hell because you
are not great.'

On the whole it pleased the Bibliotaph to maintain that his friend's
course was downward, and that the sooner he reconciled himself to his
undoubted fate the better. 'Why speculate upon it?' he said paternally
to the actor, 'your prospective comparisons will one day yield to
reminiscent contrasts.'

The actor was convinced that the Bibliotaph's own past life needed
looking into, and he declared that when he got a chance he was going
to examine the great records. To which the Bibliotaph promptly
responded: 'The books of the recording angel will undoubtedly be open
to your inspection if you can get an hour off to come up. The
probability is that you will be overworked.'

The Bibliotaph never lost an opportunity for teasing. He arrived late
one evening at the house of a friend where he was always heartily
welcome, and before answering the chorus of greetings, proceeded to
kiss the lady of the mansion, a queenly and handsome woman. Being
asked why he--who was a large man and very shy with respect to women,
as large men always are--should have done this thing, he answered that
the kiss had been sent by a common friend and that he had delivered it
at once, 'for if there was anything he prided himself upon it was a
courageous discharge of an unpleasant duty.'

Once when he had been narrating this incident he was asked what reply
the lady had made to so uncourteous a speech. 'I don't remember,' said
the Bibliotaph, 'it was long ago; but my opinion is that she would
have been justified in denominating me by a monosyllable beginning
with the initial letter of the alphabet and followed by successive

One of the Bibliotaph's fellow book-hunters owned a chair said to have
been given by Sir Edwin Landseer to Sir Walter Scott. The chair was
interesting to behold, but the Bibliotaph after attempting to sit in
it immediately got up and declared that it was not a genuine relic:
'Sir Edwin had reason to be grateful to rather than indignant at Sir
Walter Scott.'

He said of a highly critical person that if that man were to become a
minister he would probably announce as the subject of his first
sermon: 'The conditions that God must meet in order to be acceptable
to me.' He said of a poor orator who had copyrighted one of his most
indifferent speeches, that the man 'positively suffered from an excess
of caution.' He remarked once that the great trouble with a certain
lady was 'she labored under the delusion that she enjoyed occasional
seasons of sanity.'

The _nil admirari_ attitude was one which he never affected, and he
had a contempt for men who denied to the great in literature and art
that praise which was their due. This led him to say apropos of an
obscure critic who had assailed one of the poetical masters: 'When the
Lord makes a man a fool he injures him; but when He so constitutes him
that the man is never happy unless he is making that fact public, He
insults him.'

He enjoyed speculating on the subject of marriage, especially in the
presence of those friends who unlike himself knew something about it
empirically. He delighted to tell his lady acquaintances that their
husbands would undoubtedly marry a second time if they had the chance.
It was inevitable. A man whose experience has been fortunate is bound
to marry again, because he is like the man who broke the bank at Monte
Carlo. A man who has been unhappily married marries again because like
an unfortunate gamester he has reached the time when his luck has got
to change. The Bibliotaph then added with a smile: 'I have the idea
that many men who marry a second time do in effect what is often done
by unsuccessful gamblers at Monte Carlo; they go out and commit

The Bibliotaph played but few games. There was one, however, in which
he was skillful. I blush to speak of it in these days of much muscular
activity. What have golfers, and tennis-players, and makers of century
runs to do with croquet? Yet there was a time when croquet was spoken
of as 'the coming game;' and had not Clintock's friend Jennings
written an epic poem upon it in twelve books, which poem he offered to
lend to a certain brilliant young lady? But Gwendolen despised boys
and cared even less for their poetry than for themselves.

At the house of the Country Squire the Bibliotaph was able to gratify
his passion for croquet, and verily he was a master. He made a
grotesque figure upon the court, with his big frame which must stoop
mightily to take account of balls and short-handled mallets, with his
agile manner, his uncovered head shaggy with its barbaric profusion of
hair (whereby some one was led to nickname him Bibliotaph Indetonsus),
with the scanty black alpaca coat in which he invariably played--a
coat so short in the sleeves and so brief in the skirt that the figure
cut by the wearer might almost have passed for that of Mynheer Ten
Broek of many-trowsered memory. But it was vastly more amusing to
watch him than to play with him. He had a devil 'most undoubted.' Only
with the help of black art and by mortgaging one's soul would it have
been possible to accomplish some of the things which he accomplished.
For the materials of croquet are so imperfect at best that chance is
an influential element. I've seen tennis-players in the intervals of
_their_ game watch the Bibliotaph with that superior smile suggestive
of contempt for the puerility of his favorite sport. They might even
condescend to take a mallet for a while to amuse _him_; but presently
discomfited they would retire to a game less capricious than croquet
and one in which there was reasonable hope that a given cause would
produce its wonted effect.

The Bibliotaph played strictly for the purpose of winning, and took
savage joy in his conquests. In playing with him one had to do two
men's work; one must play, and then one must summon such philosophy as
one might to suffer continuous defeat, and such wit as one possessed
to beat back a steady onslaught of daring and witty criticisms. 'I
play like a fool,' said a despairing opponent after fruitless effort
to win a just share of the games. 'We all have our moments of
unconsciousness,' purred the Bibliotaph blandly in response. This same
despairing opponent, who was an expert in everything he played, said
that there was but one solace after croquet with the Bibliotaph; he
would go home and read Hazlitt's essay on the Indian Jugglers.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here ends the account of the Bibliotaph. From these inadequate notes
it is possible to get some little idea of his habits and conversation.
The library is said to be still growing. Packages of books come
mysteriously from the corners of the earth and make their way to that
remote and almost inaccessible village where the great collector hides
his treasures. No one has ever penetrated that region, and no one, so
far as I am aware, has ever seen the treasures. The books lie
entombed, as it were, awaiting such day of resurrection as their owner
shall appoint them. The day is likely to be long delayed. Of the
collector's whereabouts now no one of his friends dares to speak
positively; for at the time when knowledge of him was most exact THE
BIBLIOTAPH was like a newly-discovered comet,--his course was



'The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people
that can write know anything.' So said a man who, during a busy
career, found time to add several fine volumes to the scanty number of
good books. And in a vivacious paragraph which follows this initial
sentence he humorously anathematizes the literary life. He shows
convincingly that 'secluded habits do not tend to eloquence.' He says
that the 'indifferent apathy' so common among studious persons is by
no means favorable to liveliness of narration. He proves that men who
will not live cannot write; that people who shut themselves up in
libraries have dry brains. He avows his confidence in the 'original
way of writing books,' the way of the first author, who must have
looked at things for himself, 'since there were no books for him to
copy from;' and he challenges the reader to prove that this original
way is not the best way. 'Where,' he asks, 'are the amusing books from
voracious students and habitual writers?'

This startling arraignment of authors has been made by other men than
Walter Bagehot. Hazlitt in his essay on the 'Ignorance of the Learned'
teaches much the same doctrine. Its general truth is indisputable,
though Bagehot himself makes exception in favor of Sir Walter Scott.
But the two famous critics are united in their conviction that learned
people are generally dull, and that books which are the work of
habitual writers are not amusing.

There are as a matter of course more exceptions than one. Thomas Hardy
is a distinguished exception. Thomas Hardy is an 'habitual writer,'
but he is always amusing. The following paragraphs are intended to
emphasize certain causes of this quality in his work, the quality by
virtue of which he chains the attention and proves himself the most
readable novelist now living. That he does attract and hold is clear
to any one who has tried no more than a half-dozen pages from one of
his best stories. He has the fatal habit of being interesting,--fatal
because it robs you who read him of time which you might else have
devoted to 'improving' literature, such as history, political economy,
or light science. He destroys your peace of mind by compelling your
sympathies in behalf of people who never existed. He undermines your
will power and makes you his slave. You declare that you will read but
one more chapter and you weakly consent to make it two chapters. As a
special indulgence you spoil a working day in order to learn about the
_Return of the Native_, perhaps agreeing with a supposititious 'better
self' that you will waste no more time on novels for the next six
months. But you are of ascetic fibre indeed if you do not follow up
the book with a reading of _The Woodlanders_ and _The Mayor of

There is a reason for this. If the practiced writer often fails to
make a good book because he knows nothing, Mr. Hardy must succeed in
large part because he knows so much. The more one reads him the more
is one impressed with the extent of his knowledge. He has an intimate
acquaintance with an immense number of interesting things.

He knows men and women--if not all sorts and all conditions, at least
a great many varieties of the human animal. Moreover, his men are men
and his women are women. He does not use them as figures to accentuate
a landscape, or as ventriloquist's puppets to draw away attention from
the fact that he himself is doing all the talking. His people have
individuality, power of speech, power of motion. He does not tell you
that such a one is clever or witty; the character which he has created
does that for himself by doing clever things and making witty remarks.
In an excellent story by a celebrated modern master there is a young
lady who is declared to be clever and brilliant. Out of forty or fifty
observations which she makes, the most extraordinary concerns her
father; she says, 'Isn't dear papa delightful?' At another time she
inquires whether another gentleman is not also delightful. Hardy's
resources are not so meagre as this. When his people talk we
listen,--we do not endure.

He knows other things besides men and women. He knows the soil, the
trees, the sky, the sunsets, the infinite variations of the landscape
under cloud and sunshine. He knows horses, sheep, cows, dogs, cats. He
understands the interpretation of sounds,--a detail which few
novelists comprehend or treat with accuracy; the pages of his books
ring with the noises of house, street, and country. Moreover there is
nothing conventional in his transcript of facts. There is no evidence
that he has been in the least degree influenced by other men's minds.
He takes the raw stuff of which novels are made and moulds it as he
will. He has an absolutely fresh eye, as painters sometimes say. He
looks on life as if he were the first literary man, 'and none had ever
lived before him.' Paraphrasing Ruskin, one may say of Hardy that in
place of studying the old masters he has studied what the old masters
studied. But his point of view is his own. His pages are not
reminiscent of other pages. He never makes you think of something you
have read, but invariably of something you have seen or would like to
see. He is an original writer, which means that he takes his material
at first hand and eschews documents. There is considerable evidence
that he has read books, but there is no reason for supposing that
books have damaged him.

Dr. Farmer proved that Shakespeare had no 'learning.' One might
perhaps demonstrate that Thomas Hardy is equally fortunate. In that
case he and Shakespeare may felicitate one another. Though when we
remember that in our day it is hardly possible to avoid a tincture of
scholarship, we may be doing the fairer thing by these two men if we
say that the one had small Greek and the other has adroitly concealed
the measure of Greek, whether great or small, which is in his
possession. To put the matter in another form, though Hardy may have
drunk in large quantity 'the spirit breathed from dead men to their
kind,' he has not allowed his potations to intoxicate him.

This paragraph is not likely to be misinterpreted unless by some
honest soul who has yet to learn that 'literature is not sworn
testimony.' Therefore it may be well to add that Mr. Hardy undoubtedly
owns a collection of books, and has upon his shelves dictionaries and
encyclopedias, together with a decent representation of those works
which people call 'standard.' But it is of importance to remember
this: That while he may be a well-read man, as the phrase goes, he is
not and never has been of that class which Emerson describes with pale
sarcasm as 'meek young men in libraries.' It is clear that Hardy has
not 'weakened his eyesight over books,' and it is equally clear that
he has 'sharpened his eyesight on men and women.' Let us consider a
few of his virtues.


In the first place he tells a good story. No extravagant praise is due
him for this; it is his business, his trade. He ought to do it, and
therefore he does it. The 'first morality' of a novelist is to be able
to tell a story, as the first morality of a painter is to be able to
handle his brush skillfully and make it do his brain's intending.
After all, telling stories in an admirable fashion is rather a
familiar accomplishment nowadays. Many men, many women are able to
make stories of considerable ingenuity as to plot, and of thrilling
interest in the unrolling of a scheme of events. Numberless writers
are shrewd and clever in constructing their 'fable,' but they are
unable to do much beyond this. Walter Besant writes good stories;
Robert Buchanan writes good stories; Grant Allen and David Christie
Murray are acceptable to many readers. But unless I mistake greatly
and do these men an injustice I should be sorry to do them, their
ability ceases just at this point. They tell good stories and do
nothing else. They write books and do not make literature. They are
authors by their own will and not by grace of God. It may be said of
them as Augustine Birrell said of Professor Freeman and the Bishop of
Chester, that they are horny-handed sons of toil and worthy of their
wage. But one would like to say a little more. Granting that this is
praise, it is so faint as to be almost inaudible. If Hardy only wrote
good stories he would be merely doing his duty, and therefore
accounted an unprofitable servant. But he does much besides.

He fulfills one great function of the literary artist, which is to
mediate between nature and the reading public. Such a man is an eye
specialist. Through his amiable offices people who have hitherto been
blind are put into condition to see. Near-sighted persons have
spectacles fitted to them--which they generally refuse to wear, not
caring for literature which clears the mental vision.

Hardy opens the eyes of the reader to the charm, the beauty, the
mystery to be found in common life and in every-day objects. So alert
and forceful an intelligence rarely applies its energy to fiction. The
result is that he makes an almost hopelessly high standard. The
exceptional man who comes after him may be a rival, but the majority
of writing gentlemen can do little more than enviously admire. He
seems to have established for himself such a rule as this, that he
will write no page which shall not be interesting. He pours out the
treasures of his observation in every chapter. He sees everything,
feels everything, sympathizes with everything. To be sure he has an
unusually rich field for work. In _The Mayor of Casterbridge_ is an
account of the discovery of the remains of an old Roman soldier. One
would expect Hardy to make something graphic of the episode. And so he
does. You can almost see the warrior as he lies there 'in an oval
scoop in the chalk, like a chicken in its shell; his knees drawn up to
his chest; his spear against his arm; an urn at his knees, a jar at
his throat, a bottle at his mouth; and mystified conjecture pouring
down upon him from the eyes of Casterbridge street-boys and men.'

The real virtue in this bit of description lies in the few words
expressive of the mental attitude of the onlookers. And it is a nice
distinction which Hardy makes when he says that 'imaginative
inhabitants who would have felt an unpleasantness at the discovery of
a comparatively modern skeleton in their gardens were quite unmoved by
these hoary shapes. They had lived so long ago, their hopes and
motives were so widely removed from ours, that between them and the
living there seemed to stretch a gulf too wide for even a spirit to

He takes note of that language which, though not articulate, is in
common use among yeomen, dairymen, farmers, and the townsfolk of his
little world. It is a language superimposed upon the ordinary
language. 'To express satisfaction the Casterbridge market-man added
to his utterance a broadening of the cheeks, a crevicing of the eyes,
a throwing back of the shoulders.' 'If he wondered ... you knew it
from perceiving the inside of his crimson mouth and the target-like
circling of his eyes.' The language of deliberation expressed itself
in the form of 'sundry attacks on the moss of adjoining walls with the
end of his stick' or a 'change of his hat from the horizontal to the
less so.'

The novel called _The Woodlanders_ is filled with notable
illustrations of an interest in minute things. The facts are
introduced unobtrusively and no great emphasis is laid upon them. But
they cling to the memory. Giles Winterbourne, a chief character in
this story, 'had a marvelous power in making trees grow. Although he
would seem to shovel in the earth quite carelessly there was a sort of
sympathy between himself and the fir, oak, or beech that he was
operating on; so that the roots took hold of the soil in a few days.'
When any of the journeymen planted, one quarter of the trees died
away. There is a graphic little scene where Winterbourne plants and
Marty South holds the trees for him. 'Winterbourne's fingers were
endowed with a gentle conjurer's touch in spreading the roots of each
little tree, resulting in a sort of caress under which the delicate
fibres all laid themselves out in their proper direction for growth.'
Marty declared that the trees began to 'sigh' as soon as they were put
upright, 'though when they are lying down they don't sigh at all.'
Winterbourne had never noticed it. 'She erected one of the young pines
into its hole, and held up her finger; the soft musical breathing
instantly set in, which was not to cease night or day till the grown
tree should be felled--probably long after the two planters had been
felled themselves.'

Later on in the story there is a description of this same Giles
Winterbourne returning with his horses and his cider apparatus from a
neighboring village. 'He looked and smelt like autumn's very brother,
his face being sunburnt to wheat color, his eyes blue as corn flowers,
his sleeves and leggings dyed with fruit stains, his hands clammy with
the sweet juice of apples, his hat sprinkled with pips, and everywhere
about him that atmosphere of cider which at its first return each
season has such an indescribable fascination for those who have been
born and bred among the orchards.'

Hardy throws off little sketches of this sort with an air of
unconsciousness which is fascinating.... It may be a sunset, or it may
be only a flake of snow falling upon a young girl's hair, or the light
from lanterns penetrating the shutters and flickering over the ceiling
of a room in the early winter morning,--no matter what the
circumstance or happening is, it is caught in the act, photographed in
permanent colors, made indelible and beautiful.

Hardy's art is tyrannical. It compels one to be interested in that
which delights him. It imposes its own standards. There is a rude
strength about the man which readers endure because they are not
unwilling to be slaves to genius. You may dislike sheep, and care but
little for the poetical aspect of cows, if indeed you are not inclined
to question the existence of poetry in cows; but if you read _Far from
the Madding Crowd_ you can never again pass a flock of sheep without
being conscious of a multitude of new thoughts, new images, new
matters for comparison. All that dormant section of your soul which
for years was in a comatose condition on the subject of sheep is
suddenly and broadly awake. Read _Tess_ and at once cows and a dairy
have a new meaning to you. They are a conspicuous part of the setting
of that stage upon which poor Tess Durbeyfield's life drama was

But Hardy does not flaunt his knowledge in his reader's face. These
things are distinctly means to an end, not ends in themselves. He has
no theory to advance about keeping bees or making cider. He has taken
no little journeys in the world. On the contrary, where he has
traveled at all, he has traveled extensively. He is like a tourist who
has been so many times abroad that his allusions are naturally and
unaffectedly made. But the man just back from a first trip on the
continent has astonishment stamped upon his face, and he speaks of
Paris and of the Alps as if he had discovered both. Zola is one of
those practitioners who, big with recently acquired knowledge, appear
to labor under the idea that the chief end of a novel is to convey
miscellaneous information. This is probably a mistake. Novels are not
handbooks on floriculture, banking, railways, or the management of
department stores. One may make a parade of minute details and
endlessly wearisome learning and gain a certain credit thereby; but
what if the details and the learning are chiefly of value in a
dictionary of sciences and commerce? Wisdom of this sort is to be
sparingly used in a work of art.

In these matters I cannot but feel that Hardy has a reticence so
commendable that praise of it is superfluous and impertinent. After
all, men and women are better than sheep and cows, and had he been
more explicit, he would have tempted one to inquire whether he
proposed making a story or a volume which might bear the title _The
Wessex Farmer's Own Hand-Book_, and containing wise advice as to pigs,
poultry, and the useful art of making two heads of cabbage grow where
only one had grown before.


Among the most engaging qualities of this writer is humor. Hardy is a
humorous man himself and entirely appreciative of the humor that is in
others. According to a distinguished philosopher, wit and humor
produce love. Hardy must then be in daily receipt of large measures of
this 'improving passion' from his innumerable readers on both sides of
the Atlantic.

His humor manifests itself in a variety of ways; by the use of witty
epithet; by ingenious description of a thing which is not strikingly
laughable in itself, but which becomes so from the closeness of his
rendering; by a leisurely and ample account of a character with
humorous traits,--traits which are brought artistically into
prominence as an actor heightens the complexion in stage make-up; and
finally by his lively reproductions of the talk of village and country
people,--a class of society whose everyday speech has only to be heard
to be enjoyed. I do not pretend that the sources of Hardy's humor are
exhausted in this analysis, but the majority of illustrations can be
assigned to some one of these divisions.

He is usually thought to be at his best in descriptions of farmers,
village mechanics, laborers, dairymen, men who kill pigs, tend sheep,
furze-cutters, masons, hostlers, loafers who do nothing in particular,
and while thus occupied rail on Lady Fortune in good set terms.
Certainly he paints these people with affectionate fidelity. Their
virile, racy talk delights him. His reproductions of that talk are
often intensely realistic. Nearly every book has its chorus of human
grotesques whose mere names are a source of mirth. William Worm,
Grandfer Cantle, 'Corp'el' Tullidge, Christopher Coney, John Upjohn,
Robert Creedle, Martin Cannister, Haymoss Fry, Robert Lickpan, and
Sammy Blore,--men so denominated should stand for comic things, and
these men do. William Worm, for example, was deaf. His deafness took
an unusual form; he heard fish frying in his head, and he was not
reticent upon the subject of his infirmity. He usually described
himself by the epithet 'wambling,' and protested that he would never
pay the Lord for his making,--a degree of self-knowledge which many
have arrived at but few have the courage to confess. He was once
observed in the act of making himself 'passing civil and friendly by
overspreading his face with a large smile that seemed to have no
connection with the humor he was in.' Sympathy because of his deafness
elicited this response: 'Ay, I assure you that frying o' fish is going
on for nights and days. And, you know, sometimes 'tisn't only fish,
but rashers o' bacon and inions. Ay, I can hear the fat pop and fizz
as nateral as life.'

He was questioned as to what means of cure he had tried.

'Oh, ay bless ye, I've tried everything. Ay, Providence is a merciful
man, and I have hoped he'd have found it out by this time, living so
many years in a parson's family, too, as I have; but 'a don't seem to
relieve me. Ay, I be a poor wambling man, and life's a mint o'

One knows not which to admire the more, the appetizing realism in
William Worm's account of his infirmity, or the primitive state of his
theological views which allowed him to look for special divine favor
by virtue of the ecclesiastical conspicuousness of his late residence.

Hardy must have heard, with comfort in the thought of its literary
possibilities, the following dialogue on the cleverness of women. It
occurs in the last chapter of _The Woodlanders_. A man who is always
spoken of as the 'hollow-turner,' a phrase obviously descriptive of
his line of business, which related to wooden bowls, spigots,
cheese-vats, and funnels, talks with John Upjohn.

'What women do know nowadays!' he says. 'You can't deceive 'em as you
could in my time.'

'What they knowed then was not small,' said John Upjohn. 'Always a
good deal more than the men! Why, when I went courting my wife that is
now, the skillfulness that she would show in keeping me on her pretty
side as she walked was beyond all belief. Perhaps you've noticed that
she's got a pretty side to her face as well as a plain one?'

'I can't say I've noticed it particular much,' said the hollow-turner

'Well,' continued Upjohn, not disconcerted, 'she has. All women under
the sun be prettier one side than t'other. And, as I was saying, the
pains she would take to make me walk on the pretty side were unending.
I warrent that whether we were going with the sun or against the sun,
uphill or downhill, in wind or in lewth, that wart of hers was always
toward the hedge, and that dimple toward me. There was I too simple to
see her wheelings and turnings; and she so artful though two years
younger, that she could lead me with a cotton thread like a blind ham;
... no, I don't think the women have got cleverer, for they was never


These men have sap and juice in their talk. When they think they think
clearly. When they speak they express themselves with an energy and
directness which mortify the thin speech of conventional persons. Here
is Farfrae, the young Scotchman, in the tap-room of the Three Mariners
Inn of Casterbridge, singing of his ain contree with a pathos quite
unknown in that part of the world. The worthies who frequent the place
are deeply moved. 'Danged if our country down here is worth singing
about like that,' says Billy Wills, the glazier,--while the literal
Christopher Coney inquires, 'What did ye come away from yer own
country for, young maister, if ye be so wownded about it?' Then it
occurs to him that it wasn't worth Farfrae's while to leave the fair
face and the home of which he had been singing to come among such as
they. 'We be bruckle folk here--the best o' us hardly honest
sometimes, what with hard winters, and so many mouths to fill, and
God-a'mighty sending his little taties so terrible small to fill 'em
with. We don't think about flowers and fair faces, not we--except in
the shape of cauliflowers and pigs' chaps.'

I should like to see the man who sat to Artist Hardy for the portrait
of Corporal Tullidge in _The Trumpet-Major_. This worthy, who was deaf
and talked in an uncompromisingly loud voice, had been struck in the
head by a piece of shell at Valenciennes in '93. His left arm had been
smashed. Time and Nature had done what they could, and under their
beneficent influences the arm had become a sort of anatomical
rattle-box. People interested in Corp'el Tullidge were allowed to see
his head and hear his arm. The corp'el gave these private views at any
time, and was quite willing to show off, though the exhibition was apt
to bore him a little. His fellows displayed him much as one would a
'freak' in a dime museum.

'You have got a silver plate let into yer head, haven't ye, corp'el?'
said Anthony Cripplestraw. 'I have heard that the way they mortised
yer skull was a beautiful piece of workmanship. Perhaps the young
woman would like to see the place.'

The young woman was Anne Garland, the sweet heroine of the story; and
Anne didn't want to see the silver plate, the thought of which made
her almost faint. Nor could she be tempted by being told that one
couldn't see such a 'wownd' every day. Then Cripplestraw, earnest to
please her, suggested that Tullidge rattle his arm, which Tullidge
did, to Anne's great distress.

'Oh, it don't hurt him, bless ye. Do it, corp'el?' said Cripplestraw.

'Not a bit,' said the corporal, still working his arm with great
energy. There was, however, a perfunctoriness in his manner 'as if the
glory of exhibition had lost somewhat of its novelty, though he was
still willing to oblige.' Anne resisted all entreaties to convince
herself by feeling of the corporal's arm that the bones were 'as loose
as a bag of ninepins,' and displayed an anxiety to escape. Whereupon
the corporal, 'with a sense that his time was getting wasted,'
inquired: 'Do she want to see or hear any more, or don't she?'

This is but a single detail in the account of a party which Miller
Loveday gave to soldier guests in honor of his son John,--a
description the sustained vivacity of which can only be appreciated
through a reading of those brilliant early chapters of the story.

Half the mirth that is in these men comes from the frankness with
which they confess their actual thoughts. Ask a man of average morals
and average attainments why he doesn't go to church. You won't know
any better after he has given you his answer. Ask Nat Chapman, of the
novel entitled _Two on a Tower_, and you will not be troubled with
ambiguities. He doesn't like to go because Mr. Torkingham's sermons
make him think of soul-saving and other bewildering and uncomfortable
topics. So when the son of Torkingham's predecessor asks Nat how it
goes with him, that tiller of the soil answers promptly: 'Pa'son
Tarkenham do tease a feller's conscience that much, that church is no
holler-day at all to the limbs, as it was in yer reverent father's

The unswerving honesty with which they assign utilitarian motives for
a particular line of conduct is delightful. Three men discuss a
wedding, which took place not at the home of the bride but in a
neighboring parish, and was therefore very private. The first doesn't
blame the new married pair, because 'a wedding at home means five and
six handed reels by the hour, and they do a man's legs no good when
he's over forty.' A second corroborates the remark and says: 'True.
Once at the woman's house you can hardly say nay to being one in a
jig, knowing all the time that you be expected to make yourself worth
your victuals.'

The third puts the whole matter beyond the need of further discussion
by adding: 'For my part, I like a good hearty funeral as well as
anything. You've as splendid victuals and drink as at other parties,
and even better. And it don't wear your legs to stumps in talking over
a poor fellow's ways as it do to stand up in hornpipes.'

Beings who talk like this know their minds,--a rather unwonted
circumstance among the sons of men,--and knowing them, they do the
next most natural thing in the world, which is to speak the minds they

There is yet another phase of Hardy's humor to be noted: that humor,
sometimes defiant, sometimes philosophic, which concerns death and its
accompaniments. It cannot be thought morbid. Hardy is too fond of
Nature ever to degenerate into mere morbidity. He has lived much in
the open air, which always corrects a tendency to 'vapors.' He takes
little pleasure in the gruesome, a statement in support of which one
may cite all his works up to 1892, the date of the appearance of
_Tess_. This paper includes no comment in detail upon the later books;
but so far as _Tess_ is concerned it would be critical folly to speak
of it as morbid. It is sad, it is terrible, as _Lear_ is terrible, or
as any one of the great tragedies, written by men we call 'masters,'
is terrible. _Jude_ is psychologically gruesome, no doubt; but not
absolutely indefensible. Even if it were as black a book as some
critics have painted it, the general truth of the statement as to the
healthfulness of Hardy's work would not be impaired. This work judged
as a whole is sound and invigorating. He cannot be accused of
over-fondness for charnel-houses or ghosts. He does not discourse of
graves and vaults in order to arouse that terror which the thought of
death inspires. It is not for the purpose of making the reader
uncomfortable. If the grave interests him, it is because of the
reflections awakened. 'Man, proud man,' needs that jog to his memory
which the pomp of interments and aspect of tombstones give. Hardy has
keen perception of that humor which glows in the presence of death and
on the edge of the grave. The living have such a tremendous advantage
over the dead, that they can neither help feeling it nor avoid a
display of the feeling. When the lion is buried the dogs crack jokes
at the funeral. They do it in a subdued manner, no doubt, and with a
sense of proprieties, but nevertheless they do it. Their immense
superiority is never so apparent as at just this moment.

This humor, which one notes in Hardy, is akin to the humor of the
grave-diggers in _Hamlet_, but not so grim. I have heard a country
undertaker describe the details of the least attractive branch of his
uncomfortable business with a pride and self-satisfaction that would
have been farcical had not the subject been so depressing. This would
have been matter for Hardy's pen. There are few scenes in his books
more telling than that which shows the operations in the family vault
of the Luxellians, when John Smith, Martin Cannister, and old Simeon
prepare the place for Lady Luxellian's coffin. It seems hardly wise to
pronounce this episode as good as the grave-diggers' scene in
_Hamlet_; that would shock some one and gain for the writer the
reputation of being enthusiastic rather than critical. But I profess
that I enjoy the talk of old Simeon and Martin Cannister quite as much
as the talk of the first and second grave-diggers.

Simeon, the shriveled mason, was 'a marvelously old man, whose skin
seemed so much too large for his body that it would not stay in
position.' He talked of the various great dead whose coffins filled
the family vault. Here was the stately and irascible Lord George:--

'Ah, poor Lord George,' said the mason, looking contemplatively at the
huge coffin; 'he and I were as bitter enemies once as any could be
when one is a lord and t'other only a mortal man. Poor fellow! He'd
clap his hand upon my shoulder and cuss me as familiar and neighborly
as if he'd been a common chap. Ay, 'a cussed me up hill and 'a cussed
me down; and then 'a would rave out again and the goold clamps of his
fine new teeth would glisten in the sun like fetters of brass, while
I, being a small man and poor, was fain to say nothing at all. Such a
strappen fine gentleman as he was too! Yes, I rather liken en
sometimes. But once now and then, when I looked at his towering
height, I'd think in my inside, "What a weight you'll be, my lord, for
our arms to lower under the inside of Endelstow church some day!"'

'And was he?' inquired a young laborer.

'He was. He was five hundred weight if 'a were a pound. What with his
lead, and his oak, and his handles, and his one thing and t'other'--here
the ancient man slapped his hand upon the cover with a force that
caused a rattle among the bones inside--'he half broke my back when I
took his feet to lower en down the steps there. "Ah," saith I to John
there--didn't I, John?--"that ever one man's glory should be such a
weight upon another man!" But there, I liked my Lord George

It may be observed that as Hardy grows older his humor becomes more
subtle or quite dies away, as if serious matters pressed upon his
mind, and there was no time for being jocular. Some day, perhaps, if
he should rise to the dignity of an English classic, this will be
spoken of as his third period, and critics will be wise in the
elucidation thereof. But just at present this third period is
characterized by the terms 'pessimistic' and 'unhealthy.'

That he is a pessimist in the colloquial sense admits of little
question. Nor is it surprising; it is rather difficult not to be. Not
a few persons are pessimists and won't tell. They preserve a fair
exterior, but secretly hold that all flesh is grass. Some people
escape the disease by virtue of much philosophy or much religion or
much work. Many who have not taken up permanent residence beneath the
roof of Schopenhauer or Von Hartmann are occasional guests. Then there
is that great mass of pessimism which is the result, not of thought,
but of mere discomfort, physical and super-physical. One may have
attacks of pessimism from a variety of small causes. A bad stomach
will produce it. Financial difficulties will produce it. The
light-minded get it from changes in the weather.

That note of melancholy which we detect in many of Hardy's novels is
as it should be. For no man can apprehend life aright and still look
upon it as a carnival. He may attain serenity in respect to it, but he
can never be jaunty and flippant. He can never slap life upon the back
and call it by familiar names. He may hold that the world is
indisputably growing better, but he will need to admit that the world
is having a hard time in so doing.

Hardy would be sure of a reputation for pessimism in some quarters if
only because of his attitude, or what people think is his attitude,
toward marriage. He has devoted many pages and not a little thought to
the problems of the relations between men and women. He is
considerably interested in questions of 'matrimonial divergence.' He
recognizes that most obvious of all obvious truths, that marriage is
not always a success; nay, more than this, that it is often a
makeshift, an apology, a pretense. But he professes to undertake
nothing beyond a statement of the facts. It rests with the public to
lay his statement beside their experience and observation, and thus
take measure of the fidelity of his art.

He notes the variety of motives by which people are actuated in the
choice of husbands and wives. In the novel called _The Woodlanders_,
Grace Melbury, the daughter of a rich though humbly-born yeoman, has
unusual opportunities for a girl of her class, and is educated to a
point of physical and intellectual daintiness which make her seem
superior to her home environment. Her father has hoped that she will
marry her rustic lover, Giles Winterbourne, who, by the way, is a man
in every fibre of his being. Grace is quite unspoiled by her life at a
fashionable boarding school, but after her return her father feels
(and Hardy makes the reader feel) that in marrying Giles she will
sacrifice herself. She marries Dr. Fitzspiers, a brilliant young
physician, recently come into the neighborhood, and in so doing she
chooses for the worse. The character of Dr. Fitzspiers is summarized
in a statement he once made (presumably to a male friend) that 'on one
occasion he had noticed himself to be possessed by five distinct
infatuations at the same time.'

His flagrant infidelities bring about a temporary separation; Grace is
not able to comprehend 'such double and treble-barreled hearts.' When
finally they are reunited the life-problem of each still awaits an
adequate solution. For the motive which brings the girl back to her
husband is only a more complex phase of the same motive which chiefly
prompted her to marry him. Hardy says that Fitzspiers as a lover acted
upon Grace 'like a dram.' His presence 'threw her into an atmosphere
which biased her doings until the influence was over.' Afterward she
felt 'something of the nature of regret for the mood she had

But this same story contains two other characters who are unmatched in
fiction as the incarnation of pure love and self-forgetfulness. Giles
Winterbourne, whose devotion to Grace is without wish for happiness
which shall not imply a greater happiness for her, dies that no breath
of suspicion may fall upon her. He in turn is loved by Marty South
with a completeness which destroys all thought of self. She enjoys no
measure of reward while Winterbourne lives. He never knows of Marty's
love. But in that last fine paragraph of this remarkable book, when
the poor girl places the flowers upon his grave she utters a little
lament which for beauty, pathos, and realistic simplicity is without
parallel in modern fiction. Hardy was never more of an artist than
when writing the last chapter of _The Woodlanders_.

After all, a book in which unselfish love is described in terms at
once just and noble cannot be dangerously pessimistic, even if it also
takes cognizance of such hopeless cases as a man with a chronic
tendency to fluctuations of the heart.

The matter may be put briefly thus: In Hardy's novels one sees the
artistic result of an effort to paint life as it is, with much of its
joy and a deal of its sorrow, with its good people and its selfish
people, its positive characters and its Laodiceans, its men and women
who dominate circumstances, and its unhappy ones who are submerged.
These books are the record of what a clear-eyed, sane, vigorous,
sympathetic, humorous man knows about life; a man too conscious of
things as they are to wish grossly to exaggerate or to disguise them;
and at the same time so entirely aware how much poetry as well as
irony God has mingled in the order of the world as to be incapable of
concealing that fact either. He is of such ample intellectual frame
that he makes the petty contentions of literary schools appear
foolish. I find a measure of Hardy's mind in passages which set forth
his conception of the preciousness of life, no matter what the form in
which life expresses itself. He is peculiarly tender toward brute
creation. In that paragraph which describes Tess discovering the
wounded pheasants in the wood, Hardy suggests the thought, quite new
to many people, that chivalry is not confined to the relations of man
to man or of man to woman. There are still weaker fellow-creatures in
Nature's teeming family. What if we are unmannerly or unchivalrous
toward them?

He abounds in all manner of pithy sayings, many of them wise, a few of
them profound, and not one which is unworthy a second reading. It is
to be hoped that he will escape the doubtful honor of being
dispersedly set forth in a 'Wit and Wisdom of Thomas Hardy.' Such
books are a depressing species of literature and seem chiefly designed
to be given away at holiday time to acquaintances who are too
important to be put off with Christmas cards, and not important enough
to be supplied with gifts of a calculable value.

One must praise the immense spirit and vivacity of scenes where
something in the nature of a struggle, a moral duel, goes on. In such
passages every power at the writer's command is needed; unerring
directness of thought, and words which clothe this thought as an
athlete's garments fit the body. Everything must count, and the
movement of the narrative must be sustained to the utmost. The
chess-playing scene between Elfride and Knight in _A Pair of Blue
Eyes_ is an illustration. Sergeant Troy displaying his skill in
handling the sword--weaving his spell about Bathsheba in true snake
fashion, is another example. Still more brilliant is the gambling
scene in _The Return of the Native_, where Wildeve and Diggory Venn,
out on the heath in the night, throw dice by the light of a lantern
for Thomasin's money. Venn, the reddleman, in the Mephistophelian garb
of his profession, is the incarnation of a good spirit, and wins the
guineas from the clutch of the spendthrift husband. The scene is
immensely dramatic, with its accompaniments of blackness and silence,
Wildeve's haggard face, the circle of ponies, known as heath-croppers,
which are attracted by the light, the death's-head moth which
extinguishes the candle, and the finish of the game by the light of
glow-worms. It is a glorious bit of writing in true bravura style.

His books have a quality which I shall venture to call 'spaciousness,'
in the hope that the word conveys the meaning I try to express. It is
obvious that there is a difference between books which are large and
books which are merely long. The one epithet refers to atmosphere, the
other to number of pages. Hardy writes large books. There is room in
them for the reader to expand his mind. They are distinctly
out-of-door books, 'not smacking of the cloister or the library.' In
reading them one has a feeling that the vault of heaven is very high,
and that the earth stretches away to interminable distances upon all
sides. This quality of largeness is not dependent upon number of
pages; nor is length absolute as applied to books. A book may contain
one hundred pages and still be ninety-nine pages too long, for the
reason that its truth, its lesson, its literary virtue, are not
greater than might be expressed in a single page.

Spaciousness is in even less degree dependent upon miles. The
narrowness, geographically speaking, of Hardy's range of expression is
notable. There is much contrast between him and Stevenson in this
respect. The Scotchman has embodied in his fine books the experiences
of life in a dozen different quarters of the globe. Hardy, with more
robust health, has traveled from Portland to Bath, and from
'Wintoncester' to 'Exonbury,'--journeys hardly more serious than from
the blue bed to the brown. And it is better thus. No reader of _The
Return of the Native_ would have been content that Eustacia Vye should
persuade her husband back to Paris. Rather than the boulevards one
prefers Egdon heath, as Hardy paints it, 'the great inviolate place,'
the 'untamable Ishmaelitish thing' which its arch-enemy, Civilization,
could not subdue.

He is without question one of the best writers of our time, whether
for comedy or for tragedy; and for extravaganza, too, as witness his
lively farce called _The Hand of Ethelberta_. He can write dialogue or
description. He is so excellent in either that either, as you read it,
appears to make for your highest pleasure. If his characters talk, you
would gladly have them talk to the end of the book. If he, the author,
speaks, you would not wish to interrupt. More than most skillful
writers, he preserves that just balance between narrative and

His best novels prior to the appearance of _Tess_, are _The
Woodlanders_, _Far from the Madding Crowd_, _The Return of the
Native_, and _The Mayor of Casterbridge_. These four are the bulwarks
of his reputation, while a separate and great fame might be based
alone on that powerful tragedy called by its author _Tess of the

Criticism which glorifies any one book of a given author at the
expense of all his other books is profitless, if not dangerous.
Moreover, it is dangerous to have a favorite author as well as a
favorite book of that favorite author. A man's choice of books, like
his choice of friends, is usually inexplicable to everybody but
himself. However, the chief object in recommending books is to make
converts to the gospel of literature according to the writer of these
books. For which legitimate purpose I would recommend to the reader
who has hitherto denied himself the pleasure of an acquaintance with
Thomas Hardy, the two volumes known as _The Woodlanders_ and _The
Return of the Native_. The first of these is the more genial because
it presents a more genial side of Nature. But the other is a noble
piece of literary workmanship, a powerful book, ingeniously framed,
with every detail strongly realized; a book which is dramatic,
humorous, sincere in its pathos, rich in its word-coloring, eloquent
in its descriptive passages; a book which embodies so much of life and
poetry that one has a feeling of mental exaltation as he reads.

Surely it is not wise in the critical Jeremiahs so despairingly to
lift up their voices, and so strenuously to bewail the condition of
the literature of the time. The literature of the time is very well,
as they would see could they but turn their fascinated gaze from the
meretricious and spectacular elements of that literature to the work
of Thomas Hardy and George Meredith. With such men among the most
influential in modern letters, and with Barrie and Stevenson among the
idols of the reading world, it would seem that the office of public
Jeremiah should be continued rather from courtesy than from an
overwhelming sense of the needs of the hour.


One would like to know whether a first reading in the letters of Keats
does not generally produce something akin to a severe mental shock. It
is a sensation which presently becomes agreeable, being in that
respect like a plunge into cold water, but it is undeniably a shock.
Most readers of Keats, knowing him, as he should be known, by his
poetry, have not the remotest conception of him as he shows himself in
his letters. Hence they are unprepared for this splendid exhibition of
virile intellectual health. Not that they think of him as morbid,--his
poetry surely could not make this impression,--but rather that the
popular conception of him is, after all these years, a legendary
Keats, the poet who was killed by reviewers, the Keats of Shelley's
preface to the _Adonais_, the Keats whose story is written large in
the world's book of Pity and of Death. When the readers are confronted
with a fair portrait of the real man, it makes them rub their eyes.
Nay, more, it embarrasses them. To find themselves guilty of having
pitied one who stood in small need of pity is mortifying. In plain
terms, they have systematically bestowed (or have attempted to bestow)
alms on a man whose income at its least was bigger than any his
patrons could boast. Small wonder that now and then you find a reader,
with large capacity for the sentimental, who looks back with terror to
his first dip into the letters.

The legendary Keats dies hard; or perhaps we would better say that
when he seems to be dying he is simply, in the good old fashion of
legends, taking out a new lease of life. For it is as true now as when
the sentence was first penned, that 'a mixture of a lie doth ever add
pleasure.' Among the many readers of good books, there will always be
some whose notions of the poetical proprieties suffer greatly by the
facts of Keats's history. It is so much pleasanter to them to think
that the poet's sensitive spirit was wounded to death by bitter words
than to know that he was carried off by pulmonary disease. But when
they are tired of reading _Endymion_, _Isabella_, and _The Eve of St.
Agnes_ in the light of this incorrect conception, let them try a new
reading in the light of the letters, and the masculinity of this very
robust young maker of poetry will prove refreshing.

The letters are in every respect good reading. Rather than deplore
their frankness, as one critic has done, we ought to rejoice in their
utter want of affectation, in their boyish honesty. At every turn
there is something to amuse or to startle one into thinking. We are
carried back in a vivid way to the period of their composition. Not a
little of the pulsing life of that time throbs anew, and we catch
glimpses of notable figures. Often, the feeling is that we have been
called in haste to a window to look at some celebrity passing by, and
have arrived just in time to see him turn the corner. What a touch of
reality, for example, does one get in reading that 'Wordsworth went
rather huff'd out of town'! One is not in the habit of thinking of
Wordsworth as capable of being 'huffed,' but the writer of the letters
feared that he was. All of Keats's petty anxieties and small doings,
as well as his aspirations and his greatest dreams, are set down here
in black on white. It is a complete and charming revelation of the
man. One learns how he 'went to Hazlitt's lecture on Poetry, and got
there just as they were coming out;' how he was insulted at the
theatre, and wouldn't tell his brothers; how it vexed him because the
Irish servant said that his picture of Shakespeare looked exactly like
her father, only 'her father had more color than the engraving;' how
he filled in the time while waiting for the stage to start by counting
the buns and tarts in a pastry-cook's window, 'and had just begun on
the jellies;' how indignant he was at being spoken of as 'quite the
little poet;' how he sat in a hatter's shop in the Poultry while Mr.
Abbey read him some extracts from Lord Byron's 'last flash poem,' _Don
Juan_; how some beef was carved exactly to suit his appetite, as if he
'had been measured for it;' how he dined with Horace Smith and his
brothers and some other young gentlemen of fashion, and thought them
all hopelessly affected; in a word, almost anything you want to know
about John Keats can be found in these letters. They are of more value
than all the 'recollections' of all his friends put together. In their
breezy good-nature and cheerfulness they are a fine antidote to the
impression one gets of him in Haydon's account, 'lying in a white bed
with a book, hectic and on his back, irritable at his weakness and
wounded at the way he had been used. He seemed to be going out of life
with a contempt for this world, and no hopes of the other. I told him
to be calm, but he muttered that if he did not soon get better he
would destroy himself.' This is taking Keats at his worst. It is well
enough to know that he seemed to Haydon as Haydon has described him,
but few men appear to advantage when they are desperately ill. Turn to
the letters written during his tour in Scotland, when he walked twenty
miles a day, climbed Ben Nevis, so fatigued himself that, as he told
Fanny Keats, 'when I am asleep you might sew my nose to my great toe
and trundle me around the town, like a Hoop, without waking me. Then I
get so hungry a Ham goes but a very little way, and fowls are like
Larks to me.... I take a whole string of Pork Sausages down as easily
as a Pen'orth of Lady's fingers.' And then he bewails the fact that
when he arrives in the Highlands he will have to be contented 'with an
acre or two of oaten cake, a hogshead of Milk, and a Cloaths basket of
Eggs morning, noon, and night.' Here is the active Keats, of honest
mundane tastes and an athletic disposition, who threatens' to cut all
sick people if they do not make up their minds to cut Sickness.'

Indeed, the letters are so pleasant and amusing in the way they
exhibit minor traits, habits, prejudices, and the like, that it is a
temptation to dwell upon these things. How we love a man's
weaknesses--if we share them! I do not know that Keats would have
given occasion for an anecdote like that told of a certain book-loving
actor, whose best friend, when urged to join the chorus of praise that
was quite universally sung to this actor's virtues, acquiesced by
saying amiably, 'Mr. Blank undoubtedly has genius, but he can't
spell;' yet there are comforting evidences that Keats was no servile
follower of the 'monster Conventionality' even in his spelling, while
in respect to the use of capitals he was a law unto himself. He
sprinkled them through his correspondence with a lavish hand, though
at times he grew so economical that, as one of his editors remarks, he
would spell Romeo with a small _r_, Irishman with a small _i_, and God
with a small _g_.

It is also a pleasure to find that, with his other failings, he had a
touch of book-madness. There was in him the making of a first-class
bibliophile. He speaks with rapture of his black-letter Chaucer, which
he proposes to have bound 'in Gothique,' so as to unmodernize as much
as possible its outward appearance. But to Keats books were literature
or they were not literature, and one cannot think that his affections
would twine about ever so bookish a volume which was merely 'curious.'

One reads with sympathetic amusement of Keats's genuine and natural
horror of paying the same bill twice, 'there not being a more
unpleasant thing in the world (saving a thousand and one others).' The
necessity of preserving adequate evidence that a bill had been paid
was uppermost in his thought quite frequently; and once when, at Leigh
Hunt's instance, sundry packages of papers belonging to that eminently
methodical and businesslike man of letters were to be sorted out and
in part destroyed, Keats refused to burn any, 'for fear of demolishing

But the reader will chance upon few more humorous passages than that
in which the poet tells his brother George how he cures himself of the
blues, and at the same time spurs his flagging powers of invention:
'Whenever I find myself growing vaporish I rouse myself, wash and put
on a clean shirt, brush my hair and clothes, tie my shoe-strings
neatly, and, in fact, adonize, as if I were going out--then all clean
and comfortable, I sit down to write. This I find the greatest
relief.' The virtues of a clean shirt have often been sung, but it
remained for Keats to show what a change of linen and a general
_adonizing_ could do in the way of furnishing poetic stimulus. This is
better than coffee, brandy, absinthe, or falling in love; and it
prompts one to think anew that the English poets, taking them as a
whole, were a marvelously healthy and sensible breed of men.

It is, however, in respect to the light they throw upon the poet's
literary life that the letters are of highest significance. They
gratify to a reasonable extent that natural desire we all have to see
authorship in the act. The processes by which genius brings things to
pass are so mysterious that our curiosity is continually piqued; and
our failure to get at the real thing prompts us to be more or less
content with mere externals. If we may not hope to see the actual
process of making poetry, we may at least study the poet's manuscript.
By knowing of his habits of work we flatter ourselves that we are a
little nearer the secret of his power.

We must bear in mind that Keats was a boy, always a boy, and that he
died before he quite got out of boyhood. To be sure, most boys of
twenty-six would resent being described by so juvenile a term. But one
must have successfully passed twenty-six without doing anything in
particular to understand how exceedingly young twenty-six is. And to
have wrought so well in so short a time, Keats must have had from the
first a clear and noble conception of the nature of his work, as he
must also have displayed extraordinary diligence in the doing of it.
Perhaps these points are too obvious, and of a sort which would
naturally occur to any one; but it will be none the less interesting
to see how the letters bear witness to their truth.

In the first place, Keats was anything but a loafer at literature. He
seems never to have dawdled. A fine healthiness is apparent in all
allusions to his processes of work. 'I read and write about eight
hours a day,' he remarks in a letter to Haydon. Bailey, Keats's Oxford
friend, says that the fellow would go to his writing-desk soon after
breakfast, and stay there until two or three o'clock in the afternoon.
He was then writing _Endymion_. His stint was about 'fifty lines a
day, ... and he wrote with as much regularity, and apparently with as
much ease, as he wrote his letters.... Sometimes he fell short of his
allotted task, but not often, and he would make it up another day. But
he never forced himself.' Bailey quotes, in connection with this,
Keats's own remark to the effect that poetry would better not come at
all than not to come 'as naturally as the leaves of a tree.' Whether
this spontaneity of production was as great as that of some other
poets of his time may be questioned; but he would never have deserved
Tom Nash's sneer at those writers who can only produce by 'sleeping
betwixt every sentence.' Keats had in no small degree the 'fine
extemporal vein' with 'invention quicker than his eye.'

We uncritically feel that it could hardly have been otherwise in the
case of one with whom poetry was a passion. Keats had an infinite
hunger and thirst for good poetry. His poetical life, both in the
receptive and productive phases of it, was intense. Poetry was meat
and drink to him. He could even urge his friend Reynolds to talk about
it to him, much as one might beg a trusted friend to talk about one's
lady-love, and with the confidence that only the fitting thing would
be spoken. 'Whenever you write, say a word or two on some passage in
Shakespeare which may have come rather new to you,'--a sentence which
shows his faith in the many-sidedness of the great poetry. Shakespeare
was forever 'coming new' to _him_, and he was 'haunted' by particular
passages. He loved to fill the cup of his imagination with the
splendors of the best poets until the cup overflowed. 'I find I cannot
exist without Poetry,--without eternal Poetry; half the day will not
do,--the whole of it; I began with a little, but habit has made me a
leviathan.' He tells Leigh Hunt, in a letter written from Margate,
that he thought so much about poetry, and 'so long together,' that he
could not get to sleep at night. Whether this meant in working out
ideas of his own, or living over the thoughts of other poets, is of
little importance; the remark shows how deeply the roots of his life
were imbedded in poetical soil. He loved a debauch in the verse of
masters of his art. He could intoxicate himself with Shakespeare's
sonnets. He rioted in 'all their fine things said unconsciously.' We
are tempted to say, by just so much as he had large reverence for
these men, by just so much he was of them.

Undoubtedly, this ability to be moved by strong imaginative work may
be abused until it becomes a maudlin and quite disordered sentiment.
Keats was too well balanced to be carried into appreciative excesses.
He knew that mere yearning could not make a poet of one any more than
mere ambition could. He understood the limits of ambition as a force
in literature. Keats's ambition trembled in the presence of Keats's
conception of the magnitude of the poetic office. 'I have asked myself
so often why I should be a poet more than other men, seeing how great
a thing it is.' Yet he had honest confidence. One cannot help liking
him for the fine audacity with which he pronounces his own work
good,--better even than that of a certain other great name in English
literature; one cannot help loving him for the sweet humility with
which he accepts the view that, after all, success or failure lies
entirely without the range of self-choosing. There is a point of view
from which it is folly to hold a poet responsible even for his own
poetry, and when _Endymion_ was spoken of as 'slipshod' Keats could
reply, 'That it is so is no fault of mine.... The Genius of Poetry
must work out its own salvation in a man.... That which is creative
must create itself. In _Endymion_ I leaped headlong into the sea, and
thereby have become better acquainted with the soundings, the
quicksands, and the rocks, than if I had stayed upon the green shore,
and piped a silly pipe, and took tea and comfortable advice. I was
never afraid of failure; for I would sooner fail than not be among the

Well might a man who could write that last sentence look upon poetry
not only as a responsible, but as a dangerous pursuit. Men who aspire
to be poets are gamblers. In all the lotteries of the literary life
none is so uncertain as this. A million chances that you don't win the
prize to one chance that you do. It is a curious thing that ever so
thoughtful and conscientious an author may not know whether he is
making literature or merely writing verse. He conforms to all the
canons of taste in his own day; he is devout and reverent; he shuns
excesses of diction, and he courts originality; his verse seems to
himself and to his unflattering friends instinct with the spirit of
his time, but twenty years later it is old-fashioned. Keats, with all
his feeling of certainty, stood with head uncovered before that power
which gives poetical gifts to one, and withholds them from another.
Above all would he avoid self-delusion in these things. 'There is no
greater Sin after the seven deadly than to flatter one's self into an
idea of being a great Poet.'

Keats, if one may judge from a letter written to John Taylor in
February, 1818, had little expectation that his _Endymion_ was going
to be met with universal plaudits. He doubtless looked for fair
treatment. He probably had no thought of being sneeringly addressed as
'Johnny,' or of getting recommendations to return to his 'plasters,
pills, and ointment boxes.' In fact, he looked upon the issue as
entirely problematical. He seemed willing to take it for granted that
in _Endymion_ he had but moved into the go-cart from the
leading-strings. 'If _Endymion_ serves me for a pioneer, perhaps I
ought to be content, for thank God I can read and perhaps understand
Shakespeare to his depths; and I have, I am sure, many friends who if
I fail will attribute any change in my life to humbleness rather than
pride,--to a cowering under the wings of great poets rather than to
bitterness that I am not appreciated.' And for evidence of any
especial bitterness because of the lashing he received one will search
the letters in vain. Keats was manly and good-humored, most of his
morbidity being referred directly to his ill health. The trouncing he
had at the hands of the reviewers was no more violent than the one
administered to Tennyson by Professor Wilson. Critics, good and bad,
can do much harm. They may terrorize a timid spirit. But a greater
terror than the fear of the reviewers hung over the head of John
Keats. He stood in awe of his own artistic and poetic sense. He could
say with truth that his own domestic criticism had given him pain
without comparison beyond what _Blackwood_ or the _Quarterly_ could
possibly inflict. If he had had any terrible heart-burning over their
malignancy, if he had felt that his life was poisoned, he could hardly
have forborne some allusion to it in his letters to his brother,
George Keats. But he is almost imperturbable. He talks of the episode
freely, says that he has been urged to publish his _Pot of Basil_ as a
reply to the reviewers, has no idea that he can be made ridiculous by
abuse, notes the futility of attacks of this kind, and then, with a
serene conviction that is irresistible, adds, 'I think I shall be
among the English Poets after my death!'

Such egoism of genius is magnificent; the more so as it appears in
Keats because it runs parallel with deep humility in the presence of
the masters of his art. Naturally, the masters who were in their
graves were the ones he reverenced the most and read without stint.
But it was by no means essential that a poet be a dead poet before
Keats did him homage. It is impossible to think that Keats's attitude
towards Wordsworth was other than finely appreciative, in spite of the
fact that he applauded Reynolds's _Peter Bell_, and inquired almost
petulantly why one should be teased with Wordsworth's 'Matthew with a
bough of wilding in his hand.' But it is also impossible that his
sense of humor should not have been aroused by much that he found in
Wordsworth. It was Wordsworth he meant when he said, 'Every man has
his speculations, but every man does not brood and peacock over them
till he makes a false coinage and deceives himself,'--a sentence, by
the way, quite as unconsciously funny as some of the things he laughed
at in the works of his great contemporary.

It will be pertinent to quote here two or three of the good critical
words which Keats scattered through his letters. Emphasizing the use
of simple means in his art, he says, 'I think that poetry should
surprise by a fine excess, and not by singularity; it should strike
the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost
a remembrance.'

'We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us.... Poetry should
be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one's soul, and
does not startle it or amaze it with itself, but with its subject.' Or
as Ruskin has put the thing with respect to painting, 'Entirely
first-rate work is so quiet and natural that there can be no dispute
over it.'

Keats appears to have been in no sense a hermit. With the exception of
Byron, he was perhaps less of a recluse than any of his poetical
contemporaries. With respect to society he frequently practiced total
abstinence; but the world was amusing, and he liked it. He was fond of
the theatre, fond of whist, fond of visiting the studios, fond of
going to the houses of his friends. But he would run no risks; he was
shy and he was proud. He dreaded contact with the ultra-fashionables.
Naturally, his opportunities for such intercourse were limited, but he
cheerfully neglected his opportunities. I doubt if he ever bewailed
his humble origin; nevertheless, the constitution of English society
would hardly admit of his forgetting it. He had that pardonable pride
which will not allow a man to place himself among those who, though
outwardly fair-spoken, offer the insult of a hostile and patronizing
mental attitude.

Most of his friendships were with men, and this is to his credit. The
man is spiritually warped who is incapable of a deep and abiding
friendship with one of his own sex; and to go a step farther, that man
is utterly to be distrusted whose only friends are among women. We may
not be prepared to accept the radical position of a certain young
thinker, who proclaims, in season, but defiantly, that 'men are the
idealists, after all;' yet it is easy to comprehend how one may take
this point of view. The friendships of men are a vastly more
interesting and poetic study than the friendships of men and women.
This is in the nature of the case. It is the usual victory of the
normal over the abnormal. As a rule, it is impossible for a friendship
to exist between a man and woman, unless the man and woman in question
be husband and wife. Then it is as rare as it is beautiful. And with
men, the most admirable spectacle is not always that where attendant
circumstances prompt to heroic display of friendship, for it is often
so much easier to die than to live. But you may see young men pledging
their mutual love and support in this difficult and adventurous quest
of what is noblest in the art of living. Such love will not urge to a
theatrical posing, and it can hardly find expression in words. Words
seem to profane it. I do not say that Keats stood in such an ideal
relation to any one of his many friends whose names appear in the
letters. He gave of himself to them all, and he received much from
each. No man of taste and genius could have been other than flattered
by the way in which Keats approached him. He was charming in his
attitude toward Haydon; and when Haydon proposed sending Keats's
sonnet to Wordsworth, the young poet wrote, 'The Idea of your sending
it to Wordsworth put me out of breath--you know with what Reverence I
would send my well wishes to him.'

But interesting as a chapter on Keats's friendships with men would be,
we are bound to confess that in dramatic intensity it would grow pale
when laid beside that fiery love passage of his life, his acquaintance
with Fanny Brawne. The thirty-nine letters given in the fourth volume
of Buxton Forman's edition of _Keats's Works_ tell the story of this
affair of a poet's heart. These are the letters which Mr. William
Watson says he has never read, and at which no consideration shall
ever induce him to look. But Mr. Watson reflects upon people who have
been human enough to read them when he compares such a proceeding on
his own part (were he able to be guilty of it) to the indelicacy of
'listening at a keyhole or spying over a wall.' This is not a just
illustration. The man who takes upon himself the responsibility of
being the first to open such intimate letters, and adds thereto the
infinitely greater responsibility of publishing them in so attractive
a form that he who runs will stop running in order to read,--such an
editor will need to satisfy Mr. Watson that in so doing he was not
listening at a keyhole or spying over a wall. For the general public,
the wall is down, and the door containing the keyhole thrown open.
Perhaps our duty is not to look. I, for one, wish that great men would
not leave their love letters around. Nay, I wish you a better wish
than that: it is that the perfect taste of the gentleman and scholar
who gave us in its present form the correspondence of Carlyle and
Emerson, the early and later letters of Carlyle, and the letters of
Lowell might have control of the private papers of every man of genius
whose teachings the world holds dear. He would need for this an
indefinite lease upon life; but since I am wishing, let me wish
largely. There is need of such wishing. Many editors have been called,
and only two or three chosen.

But why one who reads the letters of Keats to Fanny Brawne should have
any other feeling than that of pity for a poor fellow who was so
desperately in love as to be wretched because of it I do not see. Even
a cynic will grant that Keats was not disgraced, since it is very
clear that he did not yield readily to what Dr. Holmes calls the great
passion. He had a complacent boyish superiority of attitude with
respect to all those who are weak enough to love women. 'Nothing,' he
says, 'strikes me so forcibly with a sense of the ridiculous as love.
A man in love I do think cuts the sorryest figure in the world. Even
when I know a poor fool to be really in pain about it I could burst
out laughing in his face. His pathetic visage becomes irresistible.'
Then he speaks of that dinner party of stutterers and squinters
described in the _Spectator_, and says that it would please him more
'to scrape together a party of lovers.' If this letter be genuine and
the date of it correctly given, it was written three months after he
had succumbed to the attractions of Fanny Brawne. Perhaps he was
trying to brave it out, as one may laugh to conceal embarrassment.

In a much earlier letter than this he hopes he shall never marry, but
nevertheless has a good deal to say about a young lady with fine eyes
and fine manners and a 'rich Eastern look.' He discovers that he can
talk to her without being uncomfortable or ill at ease. 'I am too much
occupied in admiring to be awkward or in a tremble.... She kept me
awake one night as a tune of Mozart's might do.... I don't cry to take
the moon home with me in my pocket, nor do I fret to leave her behind
me.' But he was not a little touched, and found it easy to fill two
pages on the subject of this dark beauty. She was a friend of the
Reynolds family. She crosses the stage of the Keats drama in a very
impressive manner, and then disappears.

The most extraordinary passage to be met with in relation to the
poet's attitude towards women is in a letter written to Benjamin
Bailey in July, 1818. As a partial hint towards its full meaning I
would take two phrases in _Daniel Deronda_. George Eliot says of
Gwendolen Harleth that there was 'a certain fierceness of maidenhood
in her,' which expression is quoted here only to emphasize the girl's
feeling towards men as described a little later, when Rex Gascoigne
attempted to tell her his love. Gwendolen repulsed him with a sort of
fury that was surprising to herself. The author's interpretative
comment is, '_The life of passion had begun negatively in her._'

So one might say of Keats that the life of passion began negatively in
him. He was conscious of a hostility of temper towards women. 'I am
certain I have not a right feeling toward women--at this moment I am
striving to be just to them, but I cannot.' He certainly started with
a preposterously high ideal, for he says that when a schoolboy he
thought a fair woman a pure goddess. And now he is disappointed at
finding women only the equals of men. This disappointment helps to
give rise to that antagonism which is almost inexplicable save as
George Eliot's phrase throws light upon it. He thinks that he insults
women by these perverse feelings of unprovoked hostility. 'Is it not
extraordinary,' he exclaims, 'when among men I have no evil thoughts,
no malice, no spleen; I feel free to speak or to be silent; ... I am
free from all suspicion, and comfortable. When I am among women, I
have evil thoughts, malice, spleen; I cannot speak or be silent; I am
full of suspicions, and therefore listen to nothing; I am in a hurry
to be gone.' He wonders how this trouble is to be cured. He speaks of
it as a prejudice produced from 'a gordian complication of feelings,
which must take time to unravel.' And then, with a good-humored,
characteristic touch, he drops the subject, saying, 'After all, I do
think better of women than to suppose they care whether Mister John
Keats, five feet high, likes them or not.'

Three or four months after writing these words he must have begun his
friendly relations with the Brawne family. This would be in October or
November, 1818. Keats's description of Fanny is hardly flattering, and
not even vivid. What is one to make of the colorless expression 'a
fine style of countenance of the lengthened sort'? But she was fair to
him, and any beauty beyond that would have been superfluous. We look
at the silhouette and sigh in vain for trace of the loveliness which
ensnared Keats. But if our daguerreotypes of forty years ago can so
entirely fail of giving one line of that which in its day passed for
dazzling beauty, let us not be unreasonable in our demands upon the
artistic capabilities of a silhouette. Not infrequently is it true
that the style of dress seems to disfigure. But we have learned, in
course of experience, that pretty women manage to be pretty, however
much fashion, with their cordial help, disguises them.

It is easy to see from the letters that Keats was a difficult lover.
Hard to please at the best, his two sicknesses, one of body and one of
heart, made him whimsical. Nothing less than a woman of genius could
possibly have managed him. He was jealous, perhaps quite unreasonably
so. Fanny Brawne was young, a bit coquettish, buoyant, and he
misinterpreted her vivacity. She liked what is commonly called 'the
world,' and so did he when he was well; but looking through the
discolored glass of ill health, all nature was out of harmony. For
these reasons it happens that the letters at times come very near to
being documents in love-madness. Many a line in them gives sharp pain,
as a record of heart-suffering must always do. You may read Richard
Steele's love letters for pleasure, and have it. The love letters of
Keats scorch and sting; and the worst of it is that you cannot avoid
reflecting upon the transitory character of such a passion. Withering
young love like this does not last. It may burn itself out, or, what
is quite as likely, it may become sober and rational. But in its
earlier maddened state it cannot possibly last; a man would die under
it. Men as a rule do not so die, for the race of the Azra is nearly

These Brawne letters, however, are not without their bright side; and
it is wonderful to see how Keats's elastic nature would rebound the
instant that the pressure of the disease relaxed. He is at times
almost gay. The singing of a thrush prompts him to talk in his natural
epistolary voice: 'There's the Thrush again--I can't afford it--he'll
run me up a pretty Bill for Music--besides he ought to know I deal at
Clementi's.' And in the letter which he wrote to Mrs. Brawne from
Naples is a touch of the old bantering Keats when he says that 'it's
misery to have an intellect in splints.' He was never strong enough to
write again to Fanny, or even to read her letters.

I should like to close this reading with a few sentences from a letter
written to Reynolds in February, 1818. Keats says: 'I had an idea that
a man might pass a very pleasant life in this manner--let him on a
certain day read a certain Page of full Poesy or distilled Prose, and
let him wander with it, and muse upon it, ... and prophesy upon it,
and dream upon it, until it becomes stale--but when will it do so?
Never! When Man has arrived at a certain ripeness in intellect any one
grand and spiritual passage serves him as a starting post towards all
the "two-and-thirty Palaces." How happy is such a voyage of
conception, what delicious diligent Indolence!... Nor will this
sparing touch of noble Books be any irreverence to their Writers--for
perhaps the honors paid by Man to Man are trifles in comparison to the
Benefit done by great Works to the Spirit and pulse of good by their
mere passive existence.'

May we not say that the final test of great literature is that it be
able to be read in the manner here indicated? As Keats read, so did he
write. His own work was

              'accomplished in repose
    Too great for haste, too high for rivalry.'


The fathers in English literature were not a little given to writing
books which they called 'anatomies.' Thomas Nash, for example, wrote
an _Anatomy of Absurdities_, and Stubbes an _Anatomy of Abuses_.
Greene, the novelist, entitled one of his romances _Arbasto, the
Anatomy of Fortune_. The most famous book which bears a title of this
kind is the _Anatomy of Melancholy_, by Robert Burton. It is notable,
first, for its inordinate length; second, for its readableness,
considering the length and the depth of it; third, for its prodigal
and barbaric display of learning; and last, because it is said to have
had the effect of making the most indolent man of letters of the
eighteenth century get up betimes in the morning. Why Dr. Johnson
needed to get up in order to read the _Anatomy of Melancholy_ will
always be an enigma to some. Perhaps he did not get up. Perhaps he
merely sat up and reached for the book, which would have been placed
conveniently near the bed. For the virtue of the act resided in the
circumstance of his being awake and reading a good book two hours
ahead of his wonted time for beginning his day. If he colored his
remark so as to make us think he got up and dressed before reading, he
may be forgiven. It was innocently spoken. Just as a man who lives in
one room will somehow involuntarily fall into the habit of speaking of
that one room in the plural, so the doctor added a touch which would
render him heroic in the eyes of those who knew him. I should like a
pictorial book-plate representing Dr. Johnson, in gown and nightcap,
sitting up in bed reading the _Anatomy of Melancholy_, with Hodge, the
cat, curled up contentedly at his feet.

It would be interesting to know whether Johnson ever read, in bed or
out, a book called _Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit_. It was published in
the spring of 1579 by Gabriel Cawood, 'dwelling in Paules Churchyard,'
and was followed one year later by a second part, _Euphues and his
England_. These books were the work of John Lyly, a young Oxford
Master of Arts. According to the easy orthography of that time (if the
word orthography may be applied to a practice by virtue of which every
man spelled as seemed right in his own eyes), Lyly's name is found in
at least six forms: Lilye, Lylie, Lilly, Lyllie, Lyly, and Lylly.
Remembering the willingness of _i_ and _y_ to bear one another's
burdens, we may still exclaim, with Dr. Ingleby, 'Great is the mystery
of archaic spelling!' Great indeed when a man sometimes had more suits
of letters to his name than suits of clothes to his back. That the
name of this young author was pronounced as was the name of the
flower, lily, seems the obvious inference from Henry Upchear's verses,
which contain punning allusions to Lyly and Robert Greene:--

    'Of all the flowers a Lillie once I lov'd
    Whose laboring beautie brancht itself abroad,' etc.

Original editions of the _Anatomy of Wit_ and its fellow are very
rare. Probably there is not a copy of either book in the United
States. This statement is ventured in good faith, and may have the
effect of bringing to light a hitherto neglected copy.[1] Strange it
is that princely collectors of yore appear not to have cared for
_Euphues_. Surely one would not venture to affirm that John, Duke of
Roxburghe, might not have had it if he had wanted it. The book is not
to be found in his sale catalogue; he had Lyly's plays in quarto,
seven of them each marked 'rare,' and he had two copies of a
well-known book called _Euphues Golden Legacie_, written by Thomas
Nash. The Perkins Sale catalogue shows neither of Lyly's novels. List
after list of the spoils of mighty book-hunters has only a blank where
the _Anatomy of Wit_ ought to be. From this we may argue great
scarcity, or great indifference, or both. In the compact little
reprint made by Professor Arber one may read this moral tale, which
was fashionable when Shakespeare was a youth of sixteen. For
convenience it will be advisable to speak of it as a single work in
two parts, for such it practically is.

    [1] The writer of this paper once sent to that fine scholar
        and gracious gentleman, Professor Edward Arber, to inquire
        whether in his opinion one might hope to buy at a modest
        price a copy of either the first or the second part of
        _Euphues_. Professor Arber's reply was amusingly emphatic:
        'You might as well try to purchase one of Mahomet's old
        slippers.' But in July of 1896 there were four copies of
        this old novel on sale at one New York bookstore. One of
        the copies was of great beauty, consisting of the two
        parts of the story bound up together in a really sumptuous
        fashion. The price was not large as prices of such books
        go, but on the other hand ''a was not small.'

To pronounce upon this romance is not easy. We read a dozen or two of
pages, and say, 'This is very fantastical humours.' We read further,
and are tempted to follow Sir Hugh to the extent of declaring, 'This
is lunatics.' One may venture the not profound remark that it takes
all sorts of books to make a literature. _Euphues_ is one of the books
that would prompt to that very remark. For he who first said that it
takes all sorts of people to make a world was markedly impressed with
the differences between those people and himself. He had in mind
eccentric folk, types which deviate from the normal and the sane. So
_Euphues_ is a very Malvolio among books, cross-gartered and wreathed
as to its countenance with set smiles. The curious in literary history
will always enjoy such a production. The verdict of that part of the
reading world which keeps a book alive by calling for fresh copies of
it after the old copies are worn out is against _Euphues_. It had a
vivacious existence between 1579 and 1636, and then went into a
literary retirement lasting two hundred and thirty-six years. When it
again came before the public it was introduced as 'a great
bibliographical rarity.' Its fatal old-fashionedness hangs like a
millstone about its neck. In the poems of Chaucer and the dramas of
Shakespeare are a thousand touches which make the reader feel that
Chaucer and Shakespeare are his contemporaries, that they have written
in his own time, and published but yesterday. Read _Euphues_, and you
will say to yourself, 'That book must have been written three hundred
years ago, and it looks its age.' Yet it has its virtues. One may not
say of it, as Johnson said of the _Rehearsal_, that it 'has not wit
enough to keep it sweet.' Neither may he, upon second thought,
conclude that 'it has not vitality enough to preserve it from
putrefaction.' It has, indeed, a bottom of good sense; and so had
Malvolio. It is filled from end to beginning with wit, or with what
passed for wit among many readers of that day. Often the wit is of a
tawdry and spectacular sort,--mere verbal wit, the use of a given word
not because it is the best word, the most fitting word, but because
the author wants a word beginning with the letter G, or the letter M,
or the letter F, as the case may be. On the second page of Greene's
_Arbasto_ is this sentence: 'He did not so much as vouchsafe to give
an _eare_ to my _parle_, or an _eye_ to my _person_.' Greene learned
this trick from Lyly, who was a master of the art. The sentence
represents one of the common forms in _Euphues_, such as this: 'To the
stomach _quatted_ with _dainties_ all _delicates_ seem _queasie_.'
Sometimes the balance is preserved by three words on a side. For
example, the companions whom Euphues found in Naples practiced arts
'whereby they might either _soake_ his _purse_ to reape _commodotie_,
or _sooth_ his _person_ to winne _credite_.' Other illustrations are
these: I can neither '_remember_ our _miseries_ without _griefe_, nor
_redresse_ our _mishaps_ without _grones_.' 'If the _wasting_ of our
_money_ might not _dehort_ us, yet the _wounding_ of our _mindes_
should _deterre_ us.' This next sentence, with its combination of K
sounds, clatters like a pair of castanets: 'Though Curio bee as hot as
a toast, yet Euphues is as cold as a clocke, though hee bee a cocke of
the game, yet Euphues is content to bee craven and crye creake.'

Excess of alliteration is the most obvious feature of Lyly's style.
That style has been carefully analyzed by those who are learned in
such things. The study is interesting, with its talk of alliteration
and transverse alliteration, antithesis, climax, and assonance. In
truth, one does not know which to admire the more, the ingenuity of
the man who constructed the book, or the ingenuity of the scholars who
have explained how he did it. Between Lyly on the one hand, and the
grammarians on the other, the reader is almost tempted to ask if this
be literature or mathematics. Whether Lyly got his style from Pettie
or Guevara is an important question, but he made it emphatically his
own, and it will never be called by any other name than Euphuism. The
making of a book on this plan is largely the result of astonishing
mental gymnastics. It commands respect in no small degree, because
Lyly was able to keep it up so long. To walk from New York to Albany,
as did the venerable Weston not so very long since, is a great test of
human endurance. But walking is the employment of one's legs and body
in God's appointed way of getting over the ground. Suppose a man were
to undertake to hop on one leg from New York to Albany, the utility or
the æsthetic value of the performance would be less obvious. The most
successful artist in hopping could hardly expect applause from the
right-minded. He would excite attention because he was able to hop so
far, and not because he was the exponent of a praiseworthy method of
locomotion. Lyly gained eminence by doing to a greater extent than any
man a thing that was not worth doing at all. One is more astonished at
Lyly's power of endurance as author than at his own power of endurance
as reader. For the volume is actually readable even at this day. Did
Lyly not grow wearied of perpetually riding these alliterative
trick-ponies? Apparently not. The book is 'executed' with a vivacity,
a dash, a 'go,' that will captivate any reader who is willing to meet
the author halfway. _Euphues_ became the rage, and its literary style
the fashion. How or why must be left to him to explain who can tell
why sleeves grow small and then grow big, why skirts are at one time
only two and a half yards around and at another time five and a half
or eight yards around. An Elizabethan gentleman might be too poor to
dress well, but he would squander his last penny in getting his ruff
starched. Lyly's style bristles with extravagances of the starched
ruff sort, which only serve to call attention to the intellectual
deficiencies in the matter of doublet and hose.

Of plot or story there is but little. The hero, Euphues, who gives the
title to the romance, is a young, clever, and rich Athenian. He visits
Naples, where his money and wit attract many to his side. By his
careless, pleasure-seeking mode of life he wakens the fatherly
interest of a wise old gentleman, Eubulus, who calls upon him to warn
him of his danger. The conversation between the two is the first and
not the least amusing illustration of the courtly verbal fencing with
which the book is filled. The advice of the old man only provokes
Euphues into making the sophistical plea that his style of living is
right because nature prompts him to it; and he leaves Eubulus 'in a
great quandary' and in tears. Nevertheless, the old gentleman has the
righteous energy which prompts him to say to the departing Euphues,
already out of hearing, 'Seeing thou wilt not buy counsel at the first
hand good cheap, thou shalt buy repentance at the second hand, at such
unreasonable rate, that thou wilt curse thy hard pennyworth, and ban
thy hard heart.' Euphues takes to himself a new sworn brother, one
Philautus, who carries him to visit his lady-love, Lucilla. Lucilla is
rude at first, but becomes enamored of Euphues's conversational power,
and finally of himself. In fact, she unceremoniously throws over her
former lover, and tells her father that she will either marry Euphues
or else lead apes in hell. This causes a break in the friendship
between Euphues and Philautus, and there is an exchange of formidably
worded letters, in which Philautus reminds Euphues that all Greeks are
liars, and Euphues quotes Euripides to the effect that all is lawful
in love. Lucilla, who is fickle, suddenly dismisses her new cavalier
for yet a third, while Euphues and Philautus, in the light of their
common misfortune, fall upon each other's necks and are reconciled.
Both profess themselves to have been fools, while Euphues, as the
greater and more recent fool, composes a pamphlet against love. This
he calls a 'cooling-card.' It is addressed primarily to Philautus, but
contains general advice for 'all fond lovers.' Euphues's own cure was
radical, for he says, 'Now do I give a farewell to the world, meaning
rather to macerate myself with melancholy, than pine in folly, rather
choosing to die in my study amidst my books than to court it in Italy
in the company of ladies.' He returns to Athens, applies himself to
the study of philosophy, becomes public reader in the University, and,
as crowning evidence that he has finished sowing his wild oats,
produces three volumes of lectures. Realizing how much of his own
youth has been wasted, he writes a pamphlet on the education of the
young, a dialogue with an atheist, and these, with a bundle of
letters, make up the first part of the _Anatomy of Wit_. From one of
the letters we learn that Lucilla was as frail as she was beautiful,
and that she died in evil report. The story, including the diatribe
against love, is about as long as _The Vicar of Wakefield_. It begins
as a romance and ends as a sermon.

The continuation of the novel, _Euphues and his England_, is a little
over a third longer than Part One. The two friends carry out their
project of visiting England. After a wearisome voyage they reach
Dover, view the cliffs and the castle, and then proceed to Canterbury.
Between Canterbury and London they stop for a while with a 'comely
olde gentleman,' Fidus, who keeps bees and tells good stories. He also
gives sound advice as to the way in which strangers should conduct
themselves. A lively bit of writing is the account which Fidus gives
of his commonwealth of bees. It is not according to Lubbock, but is
none the less amusing. In London the two travelers become favorites at
the court. Philautus falls in love, to the great annoyance of Euphues,
who argues mightily with him against such folly. The two gentlemen
expend vast resources of stationery and language upon the subject.
They quarrel violently, and Euphues becomes so irritated that he must
needs go and rent new lodgings, 'which by good friends he quickly got,
and there fell to his _Pater noster_, where awhile,' says Lyly
innocently, 'I will not trouble him in his prayers.' They are
reconciled later, and Philautus obtains permission to love; but he has
discovered in the mean time that the lady will not have him. The
account of his passion, how it 'boiled and bubbled,' of his visit to
the soothsayer to purchase love charms, his stately declamations to
Camilla and her elaborate replies to him, of his love letter concealed
in a pomegranate, and her answer stitched into a copy of Petrarch,--is
all very lively reading, much more so than that dreary love-making
between Pyrocles and Philoclea, or between any other pair of the many
exceedingly tiresome folk in Sidney's _Arcadia_. Grant that it is
deliciously absurd. It is not to be supposed that a clever
eighteen-year-old girl, replying to a declaration of love, will talk
in the language of a trained nurse, and say: 'Green sores are to be
dressed roughly lest they fester, tettars are to be drawn in the
beginning lest they spread, Ringworms to be anointed when they first
appear lest they compass the whole body, and the assaults of love to
be beaten back at the first siege lest they undermine at the second.'
Was ever suitor in this fashion rejected! It makes one think of some
of the passages in the _History of John Buncle_, where the hero pours
out a torrent of passionate phrases, and the 'glorious' Miss Noel, in
reply, begs that they may take up some rational topic of conversation;
for example, what is _his_ view of that opinion which ascribes
'primævity and sacred prerogatives' to the Hebrew language.

But Philautus does not break his heart over Camilla's rejection. He is
consoled with the love of another fair maiden, marries her, and
settles in England. Euphues goes back to Athens, and presently retires
to the country, where he follows the calling of one whose profession
is melancholy. Like most hermits of culture, he leaves his address
with his banker. We assume this, for he was very rich; it is not
difficult to be a hermit on a large income. The book closes with a
section called 'Euphues Glasse for Europe,' a thirty-page panegyric on
England and the Queen.

They say that this novel was very popular, and certain causes of its
popularity are not difficult to come at. A large measure of the
success that _Euphues_ had is due to the commonplaceness of its
observations. It abounds in proverbs and copy-book wisdom. In this
respect it is as homely as an almanac. John Lyly had a great store of
'miscellany thoughts,' and he cheerfully parted with them. His book
succeeded as Tupper's _Proverbial Philosophy_ and Watts' _On the Mind_
succeeded. People believed that they were getting ideas, and people
like what they suppose to be ideas if no great effort is required in
the getting of them. It is astonishing how often the world needs to be
advised of the brevity of time. Yet every person who can wade in the
shallows of his own mind and not wet his shoe-tops finds a sweet
melancholy and a stimulating freshness in the thought that time is
short. John Lyly said, 'There is nothing more swifter than time,
nothing more sweeter,'--and countless Elizabethan gentlemen and ladies
underscored that sentence, or transferred it to their commonplace
books,--if they had such painful aids to culture,--and were comforted
and edified by the discovery that brilliant John Lyly had made. This
glib command of the matter-of-course, with a ready use of the proverb
and the 'old said saw,' is a marked characteristic of the work. It
emphasizes the youth of its author. We learn what could not have been
new even in 1579, that 'in misery it is a great comfort to have a
companion;' that 'a new broom sweepeth clean;' that 'delays breed
dangers;' that 'nothing is so perilous as procrastination;' that 'a
burnt child dreadeth the fire;' that it is well not to make
comparisons 'lest comparisons should seem odious;' that 'it is too
late to shut the stable door when the steed is stolen;' that 'many
things fall between the cup and the lip;' and that 'marriages are made
in heaven, though consummated on earth.' With these old friends come
others, not altogether familiar of countenance, and quaintly archaic
in their dress: 'It must be a wily mouse that shall breed in the cat's
ear;' 'It is a mad hare that will be caught with a tabor, and a
foolish bird that stayeth the laying salt on her tail, and a blind
goose that cometh to the fox's sermon.' Lyly would sometimes translate
a proverb; he does not tell us that fine words butter no parsnips, but
says, 'Fair words fat few,'--which is delightfully alliterative, but
hardly to be accounted an improvement. Expressions that are
surprisingly modern turn up now and then. One American street urchin
taunts another by telling him that he doesn't know enough to come in
when it rains. The saying is at least three hundred years old, for
Lyly says, in a dyspeptic moment, 'So much wit is sufficient for a
woman as when she is in the rain can warn her to come out of it.'

Another cause of the popularity of _Euphues_ is its sermonizing. The
world loves to hear good advice. The world is not nervously anxious to
follow the advice, but it understands the edification that comes by
preaching. With many persons, to have heard a sermon is almost
equivalent to having practiced the virtues taught in the sermon.
Churches are generally accepted as evidences of civilization. A man
who is exploiting the interests of a new Western town will invariably
tell you that it has so many churches. Also, an opera-house. The
English world above all other worlds loves to hear good advice.
England is the natural home of the sermon. Jusserand notes, almost
with wonder, that in the annual statistics of the London publishers
the highest numbers indicate the output of sermons and theological
works. Then come novels. John Lyly was ingenious; he combined good
advice and storytelling. Not skillfully, hiding the sermon amid lively
talk and adventure, but blazoning the fact that he was going to
moralize as long as he would. He shows no timidity, even declares upon
one of his title-pages that in this volume 'there is small offense by
lightness given to the wise, and less occasion of looseness proffered
to the wanton.' Such courage in this day would be apt seriously to
injure the sale of a novel. Did not Ruskin declare that Miss Edgeworth
had made virtue so obnoxious that since her time one hardly dared
express the slightest bias in favor of the Ten Commandments? Lyly knew
the public for which he acted as literary caterer. They liked sermons,
and sermons they should have. Nearly every character in the book
preaches, and Euphues is the most gifted of them all. Even that old
gentleman of Naples who came first to Euphues because his heart bled
to see so noble a youth given to loose living has the tables turned
upon him, for Euphues preaches to the preacher upon the sovereign duty
of resignation to the will of God.

A noteworthy characteristic is the frequency of Lyly's classical
allusions. If the only definition of pedantry be 'vain and
ostentatious display of learning,' I question if we may dismiss Lyly's
wealth of classical lore with the word 'pedantry.' He was fresh from
his university life. If he studied at all when he was at Oxford, he
must have studied Latin and Greek, for after these literatures little
else was studied. Young men and their staid tutors were compelled to
know ancient history and mythology. Like Heine, they may have taken a
'real delight in the mob of gods and goddesses who ran so jolly naked
about the world.' In the first three pages of the _Anatomy of Wit_
there are twenty classical names, ten of them coupled each with an
allusion. Nobody begins a speech without a reference of this nature
within calling distance. Euphues and Philautus fill their talk with
evidences of a classical training. The ladies are provided with apt
remarks drawn from the experiences of Helen, of Cornelia, of Venus, of
Diana, and Vesta. Even the master of the ship which conveyed Euphues
from Naples to England declaims about Ulysses and Julius Cæsar. This
naturally destroys all dramatic effect. Everybody speaks Euphuism,
though classical allusion alone is not essentially Euphuistic. John
Lyly would be the last man to merit any portion of that fine praise
bestowed by Hazlitt upon Shakespeare when he said that Shakespeare's
genius 'consisted in the faculty of transforming himself at will into
whatever he chose.' Lyly's genius was the opposite of this; it
consisted in the faculty of transforming everybody into a
reduplication of himself. There is no change in style when the
narrative parts end and the dialogue begins. All the persons of the
drama utter one strange tongue. They are no better than the characters
in a Punch and Judy show, where one concealed manipulator furnishes
voice for each of the figures. But in Lyly's novel there is not even
an attempt at the most rudimentary ventriloquism.

What makes the book still less a reflection of life is that the
speakers indulge in interminably long harangues. No man (unless he
were a Coleridge) would be tolerated who talked in society at such
inordinate length. When the characters can't talk to one another they
retire to their chambers and declaim to themselves. They polish their
language with the same care, open the classical dictionary, and have
at themselves in good set terms. Philautus, inflamed with love of
Camilla, goes to his room and pronounces a ten-minute discourse on the
pangs of love, having only himself for auditor. They are amazingly
patient under the verbal inflictions of one another. Euphues, angry
with Philautus for having allowed himself to fall in love, takes him
to task in a single speech containing four thousand words. If Lyly had
set out with the end in view of constructing a story by putting into
it alone 'what is not life,' his product would have been what we find
it now. One could easily believe the whole affair to have been
intended for a tremendous joke were it not that the tone is so
serious. We are accustomed to think of youth as light-hearted: but
look at a serious child,--there is nothing more serious in the world.
Lyly was twenty-six years when he first published. Much of the
seriousness in his romance is the burden of twenty-six years'
experience of life, a burden greater perhaps than he ever afterward

Being, as we take it, an unmarried man, Lyly gives directions for
managing a wife. He believes in the wholesome doctrine that a man
should select his own wife. 'Made marriages by friends' are dangerous.
'I had as lief another should take measure by his back of my apparel
as appoint what wife I shall have by his mind.' He prefers in a wife
'beauty before riches, and virtue before blood.' He holds to the
radical English doctrine of wifely submission; there is no swerving
from the position that the man is the woman's 'earthly master,'[2] but
in taming a wife no violence is to be employed. Wives are to be
subdued with kindness. 'If their husbands with great threatenings,
with jars, with brawls, seek to make them tractable, or bend their
knees, the more stiff they make them in the joints, the oftener they
go about by force to rule them, the more froward they find them; but
using mild words, gentle persuasions, familiar counsel, entreaty,
submission, they shall not only make them to bow their knees, but to
hold up their hands, not only cause them to honor them, but to stand
in awe of them.' By such methods will that supremest good of an
English home be brought about, namely, that the wife shall stand in
awe of her husband.

    [2] Lady Burton's Dedication of her husband's
        biography,--'To my earthly master,' etc.

The young author admits that some wives have the domineering instinct,
and that way danger lies. A man must look out for himself. If he is
not to make a slave of his wife, he is also not to be too submissive;
'that will cause her to disdain thee.' Moreover, he must have an eye
to the expenditure. She may keep the keys, but he will control the
pocket-book. The model wife in Ecclesiastes had greater privileges;
she could not only consider a piece of ground, but she could buy it if
she liked it. Not so this well-trained wife of Lyly's novel. 'Let all
the keys hang at her girdle, but the purse at thine, so shalt thou
know what thou dost spend, and how she can spare.' But in setting
forth his theory for being happy though married, Lyly, methinks,
preaches a dangerous doctrine in this respect: he hints at the
possibility of a man's wanting, in vulgar parlance, to go on a spree,
expresses no question as to the propriety of his so doing, but says
that if a man does let himself loose in this fashion his wife must not
know it. 'Imitate the kings of Persia, who when they were given to
riot kept no company with their wives, but when they used good order
had their queens even at the table.' In short, the wife was to
duplicate the moods of her husband. 'Thou must be a glass to thy wife,
for in thy face must she see her own; for if when thou laughest she
weep, when thou mournest she giggle, the one is a manifest sign she
delighteth in others, the other a token she despiseth thee.' John Lyly
was a wise youth. He struck the keynote of the mode in which most
incompatible marriages are played when he said that it was a bad sign
if one's wife giggled when one was disposed to be melancholy.

An interesting study is the author's attitude toward foreign travel.
It would appear to have been the fashion of the time to indulge in
much invective against foreign travel, but nevertheless--to travel.
Many men believed with young Valentine that 'home keeping youth have
ever homely wits,' while others were rather of Ascham's mind when he
said, 'I was once in Italy, but I thank God my stay there was only
nine days.' Lyly came of a nation of travelers. Then as now it was
true that there was no accessible spot of the globe upon which the
Englishman had not set his foot. Nomadic England went abroad;
sedentary England stayed at home to rail at him for so doing. Aside
from that prejudice which declared that all foreigners were fools,
there was a well-founded objection to the sort of traveling usually
described as seeing the world. Young men went upon the continent to
see questionable forms of pleasure, perhaps to practice them. Whether
justly or not, common report named Italy as the higher school of
pleasurable vices, and Naples as the city where one's doctorate was to
be obtained. Gluttony and licentiousness are the sins of Naples.
Eubulus tells Euphues that in that city are those who 'sleep with meat
in their mouths, with sin in their hearts, and with shame in their
houses.' There is no limit to the inconveniences of traveling. 'Thou
must have the back of an ass to bear all, and the snout of a swine to
say nothing.... Travelers must sleep with their eyes open lest they be
slain in their beds, and wake with their eyes shut lest they be
suspected by their looks.' Journeys by the fireside are better. 'If
thou covet to travel strange countries, search the maps, there shalt
thou see much with great pleasure and small pains, if to be conversant
in all courts, read histories, where thou shalt understand both what
the men have been and what their manners are, and methinketh there
must be much delight where there is no danger.' Perhaps Lyly intended
to condemn traveling with character unformed. A boy returned with more
vices than he went forth with pence, and was able to sin both by
experience and authority. Lest he should be thought to speak with
uncertain voice upon this matter Lyly gives Euphues a story to tell in
which the chief character describes the effect of traveling upon
himself. 'There was no crime so barbarous, no murder so bloody, no
oath so blasphemous, no vice so execrable, but that I could readily
recite where I learned it, and by rote repeat the peculiar crime of
every particular country, city, town, village, house, or chamber.'
Here, indeed, is no lack of plain speech.

In the section called 'Euphues and his Ephoebus' twenty-nine pages are
devoted to the question of the education of youth. It is largely taken
from Plutarch. Some of the points are these: that a mother shall
herself nurse her child, that the child shall be early framed to
manners, 'for as the steele is imprinted in the soft waxe, so learning
is engraven in ye minde of an young Impe.' He is not to hear 'fonde
fables or filthy tales.' He is to learn to pronounce distinctly and to
be kept from 'barbarous talk,' that is, no dialect and no slang. He is
to become expert in martial affairs, in shooting and darting, and he
must hunt and hawk for his 'honest recreation.' If he will not study,
he is not to be 'scourged with stripes, but threatened with words, not
_dulled with blows_, like servants, the which, the more they are
beaten the better they bear it, and the less they care for it.' In
taking this position Lyly is said to be only following Ascham. Ascham
was not the first in his own time to preach such doctrine. Forty years
before the publication of _The Schoolmaster_, Sir Thomas Elyot, in his
book called _The Governour_, raised his voice against the barbarity of
teachers 'by whom the wits of children be dulled,'--almost the very
words of John Lyly.

_Euphues_, besides being a treatise on love and education, is a sort
of Tudor tract upon animated nature. It should be a source of joy
unspeakable to the general reader if only for what it teaches him in
the way of natural history. How much of what is most gravely stated
here did John Lyly actually believe? It is easy to grant so orthodox a
statement of physical fact as that 'the Sunne doth harden the durte,
and melte the waxe;' but ere the sentence be finished, the author
calls upon us to believe that 'Perfumes doth refresh the Dove and kill
the Betill.' The same reckless extravagance of remark is to be noted
whenever bird, beast, or reptile is mentioned. The crocodile of
Shakespeare's time must have been a very contortionist among beasts,
for, says Lyly, 'when one approacheth neere unto him, [he] gathereth
up himselfe into the roundnesse of a ball, but running from him,
stretcheth himselfe into the length of a tree.' Perhaps the fame of
this creature's powers grew in the transmission of the narrative from
the banks of the Nile to the banks of the Thames. The ostrich was
human in its vanity according to Lyly; men and women sometimes pull
out their white hairs, but 'the Estritch, that taketh the greatest
pride in her feathers, picketh some of the worst out and burneth
them.' Nay, more than that, being in 'great haste she pricketh none
but hirselfe which causeth hir to runne when she would rest.' We shall
presently expect to hear that ostriches wear boots by the straps of
which they lift themselves over ten-foot woven-wire fences. But Lyly
used the conventional natural history that was at hand, and troubled
himself in no respect to inquire about its truth or falsity.

There is yet another cause of the popularity of this book in its own
time, which has been too little emphasized. It is that trumpet blast
of patriotism with which the volume ends. We feel, as we read the
thirty pages devoted to the praise of England and the Queen, that this
is right, fitting, artistic, and we hope that it is tolerably sincere.
Flattery came easily to men in those days, and there was small hope of
advancement for one who did not master the art. But there is a glow of
earnestness in these paragraphs rather convincing to the skeptic. Nor
would the book be complete without this eulogy. We have had everything
else; a story for who wanted a story, theories upon the education of
children, a body of mythological divinity, a discussion of methods of
public speaking, advice for men who are about to marry, a theological
sparring match, in which a man of straw is set up to be knocked down,
and _is_ knocked down, a thousand illustrations of wit and curious
reading, and now, as a thing that all men could understand, the author
tells Englishmen of their own good fortune in being Englishmen, and is
finely outspoken in praise of what he calls 'the blessed Island.'

This is an old-fashioned vein, to be sure,--the _ad captandum_ trick
of a popular orator bent upon making a success. It is not looked upon
in all places with approval. 'Our unrivaled prosperity' was a phrase
which greatly irritated Matthew Arnold. Here in America, are we not
taught by a highly fastidious journal that we may be patriotic if we
choose, but we must be careful how we let people know it? We mustn't
make a fuss about it. We mustn't be blatant. The star-spangled banner
on the public schools is at best a cheap and vulgar expression of
patriotism. But somehow even this sort of patriotism goes with the
people, and perhaps these instincts of the common folk are not
entirely to be despised. Many a reader of _Euphues_, who cared but
little for its elaborated style, who was not moved by its orthodoxy,
who didn't read books simply because they were fashionable, must have
felt his pulse stirred by Lyly's chant of England's greatness. For
Euphues is John Lyly, and John Lyly's creed was substantially that of
the well-known hero of a now forgotten comic opera, 'I am an

In the thin disguise of the chief character of his story the author
describes the happy island, its brave gentlemen and rich merchants,
its fair ladies and its noble Queen. The glories of London, which he
calls the storehouse and mart of all Europe, and the excellence of
English universities, 'out of which do daily proceed men of great
wisdom,' are alike celebrated. England's material wealth in mines and
quarries is amply set forth, also the fine qualities of the breed of
cattle, and the virtues of English spaniels, hounds, and mastiffs; for
these constitute a sort of good that all could appreciate. He is
satirical at the expense of his countrymen's dress,--'there is nothing
in England more constant than the inconstancie of attire,'--but
praises their silence and gravity at their meals. They have wise
ministers in the court, and devout guardians of the true religion and
of the church. 'O thrice happy England, where such councilors are,
where such people live, where such virtue springeth.'

In the paragraphs relating to the queen, Lyly grows positively
eloquent. He praises her matchless beauty, her mercy, patience, and
moderation, and emphasizes the fact of her virginity to a degree that
would have satisfied the imperial votaress herself if but once she had
considered her admirer's words: 'O fortunate England that hath such a
Queen; ungratefull, if thou pray not for her; wicked, if thou do not
love her; miserable, if thou lose her.' He calls down Heaven's
blessings upon her that she may be 'triumphant in victories like the
Palm tree, fruitful in her age like the Vine, in all ages prosperous,
to all men gracious, in all places glorious: so that there be no end
of her praise, until the end of all flesh.'

With passages such as these, this interesting book draws to a
conclusion. A most singular and original book, worthy to be read,
unless, indeed, the reading of these out-of-the-way volumes were found
to encroach upon time belonging by right of eminent intellectual
domain to Chaucer and to Shakespeare, to Spenser and to Milton. That
_Euphues_ is in no exact sense a novel admits of little question. It
is also a brilliant illustration of how not to write English.
Nevertheless it is very amusing, and its disappearance would be a
misfortune, since it would eclipse the innocent gayety of many a man
who loves to bask in that golden sunshine which streams from the pages
of old English books.


It is by no means necessary that one be a man of letters in order to
write a good book. Some very admirable books have been written by men
who gave no especial thought to literature as an art. They wrote
because they were so fortunate as to find themselves in possession of
ideas, and not because they had determined to become authors.
Literature as such implies sophistication, and people who devote
themselves to literature do so from a variety of motives. But these
writers of whom I now speak have a less complex thought back of their
work. They do not, for example, propose pleasure to the reader as an
object in writing. Their aim is single. They recount an experience, or
plead a cause. Literature with them is always a means to an end. They
are like pedestrians who never look upon walking as other than a
rational process for reaching a given place. It does not occur to them
that walking makes for health and pleasure, and that it is also an
exercise for displaying a graceful carriage, the set of the shoulders,
the poise of the head.

To be sure one runs the risk of being deceived in this matter. The
actress who plays the part of an unaffected young girl, for aught that
the spectator knows to the contrary may be a pronounced woman of the
world. Not every author who says to the public 'excuse my untaught
manner' is on this account to be regarded as a literary ingénu. His
simplicity awakens distrust. The fact that he professes to be a layman
is a reason for suspecting him. He is probably an adept, a master of
the wiles by which readers are snared.

But aside from the cases in which deception is practiced, or at least
attempted, there is in the world a respectable body of literature
which is not the work of literary men. Its chief characteristic is
sincerity. The writers of these books are so busy in telling the truth
that they have no time to think of literature.

Among the more readable of these pieces is that unpretentious volume
in which Dr. Joseph Priestley relates the story of his life. For in
classing this book with the writings of authors who are not men of
letters one surely does not go wide of the mark. There is a sense in
which it is entirely proper to say that Priestley was not a literary
man. He produced twenty-five volumes of 'works,' but they were for use
rather than for art. He wrote on science, on grammar, on theology, on
law. He published controversial tracts: 'Did So-and-So believe
so-and-so or something quite different?' and then a discussion of the
'grounds' of this belief. He made 'rejoinders,' 'defenses,'
'animadversions,' and printed the details of his _Experiments on
Different Kinds of Air_. This is distinctly uninviting. Let me propose
an off-hand test by which to determine whether or no a given book is
literature. _Can you imagine Charles Lamb in the act of reading that
book?_ If you can; it's literature; if you can't, it isn't. I find it
difficult to conceive of Charles Lamb as mentally immersed in the
_Letter to an Anti-pædobaptist_ or the _Doctrine of Phlogiston
Established_, but it is natural to think of him turning the pages of
Priestley's Memoir, reading each page with honest satisfaction and
pronouncing the volume to be worthy the title of A BOOK.

It is a plain unvarnished tale and entirely innocent of those arts by
the practice of which authors please their public. There is no
eloquence, no rhetoric, no fine writing of any sort. The two or three
really dramatic events in Priestley's career are not handled with a
view to producing dramatic effect. There are places where the author
might easily have become impassioned. But he did not become
impassioned. Not a few paragraphs contain unwritten poems. The
simple-hearted Priestley was unconscious of this, or if conscious,
then too modest to make capital of it. He had never aspired to the
reputation of a clever writer, but rather of a useful one. His aim was
quite as simple when he wrote the Memoir as when he wrote his various
philosophical reports. He never deviated into brilliancy. He set down
plain statements about events which had happened to him, and people
whom he had known. Nevertheless the narrative is charming, and the
reasons of its charm are in part these:--

In the first place the book belongs to that department of literature
known as autobiography. Autobiography has peculiar virtues. The
poorest of it is not without some flavor of life, and at its best it
is transcendent. A notable value lies in its power to stimulate. This
power is very marked in Priestley's case, where the self-delineated
portrait is of a man who met and overcame enormous difficulties. He
knew poverty and calumny, both brutal things. He had a thorn in the
flesh,--for so he himself characterized that impediment in his speech
which he tried more or less unsuccessfully all his life to cure. He
found his scientific usefulness impaired by religious and political
antagonisms. He tasted the bitterness of mob violence; his house was
sacked, his philosophical instruments destroyed, his manuscripts and
books scattered along the highway. But as he looked back upon these
things he was not moved to impatience. There is a high serenity in his
narrative as becomes a man who has learned to distinguish between the
ephemeral and the permanent elements of life.

Yet it is not impossible that autobiography of this sort has an effect
the reverse of stimulating upon some people. It is pleasanter to read
of heroes than to be a hero oneself. The story of conquest is
inspiring, but the actual process is apt to be tedious. One's nerves
are tuned to a fine energy in reading of Priestley's efforts to
accomplish a given task. 'I spent the latter part of every week with
Mr. Thomas, a Baptist minister, ... who had no liberal education. Him
I instructed in Hebrew, and by that means made myself a considerable
proficient in that language. At the same time I learned Chaldee and
Syriac and just began to read Arabic' This seems easy in the telling,
but in reality it was a long, a monotonous, an exhausting process.
Think of the expenditure of hours and eyesight over barbarous
alphabets and horrid grammatical details. One must needs have had a
mind of leather to endure such philological and linguistic wear and
tear. Priestley's mind not only cheerfully endured it but actually
toughened under it. The man was never afraid of work. Take as an
illustration his experience in keeping school.

He had pronounced objections to this business, and he registered his
protest. But suppose the alternative is to teach school or to starve.
A man will then teach school. I don't know that this was quite the
situation in which Priestley found himself, though he needed money. He
may have hesitated to enter a profession which in his time required a
more extensive muscular equipment than he was able to furnish. The old
English schoolmasters were 'bruisers.' They had thick skins, hard
heads, and solid fists. The symbols of their office were a Greek
grammar and a flexible rod. They were skillful either with the book or
the birch. It has taken many years to convince the world that the
short road to the moods and tenses does not necessarily lie through
the valley of the shadow of flogging. Perhaps Priestley objected to
school-mastering because it was laborious. It was indeed laborious as
he practiced it. One marvels at his endurance. His school consisted of
about thirty boys, and he had a separate room for about half-a-dozen
young ladies. 'Thus I was employed from seven in the morning until
four in the afternoon, without any interval except one hour for
dinner; and I never gave a holiday on any consideration, the red
letter days excepted. Immediately after this employment in my own
school-rooms I went to teach in the family of Mr. Tomkinson, an
eminent attorney, ... and here I continued until seven in the
evening.' Twelve consecutive hours of teaching, less one hour for
dinner! It was hardly necessary for Priestley to add that he had 'but
little leisure for reading.'

He laid up no money from teaching, but like a true man of genius spent
it upon books, a small air-pump, an electrical machine. By training
his advanced pupils to manipulate these he 'extended the reputation'
of his school. This was playing at science. Several years were yet to
elapse before he should acquire fame as an original investigator.

This autobiography is valuable because it illustrates the events of a
remarkable time. He who cares about the history of theological
opinion, the history of chemical science, the history of liberty, will
read these pages with keen interest. Priestley was active in each of
these fields. Men famous for their connection with the great movements
of the period were among his friends and acquaintance. He knew
Franklin and Richard Price. John Canton, who was the first man in
England to verify Franklin's experiments, was a friend of Priestley.
So too were Smeaton the engineer, James Watt, Boulton, Josiah
Wedgewood, and Erasmus Darwin. He knew Kippis, Lardner, Parr, and had
met Porson and Dr. Johnson. His closest friend for many years was
Theophilus Lindsey. One might also mention the great Lavoisier,
Magellan the Jesuit philosopher, and a dozen other scientific,
ecclesiastical, and political celebrities. The Memoir, however, is
almost as remarkable for what it does not tell concerning these people
as for what it does. Priestley was not anecdotal. And he is only a
little less reticent about himself than he is about others. He does
indeed describe his early struggles as a dissenting minister, but the
reader would like a little more expansiveness in the account of his
friendships and his chemical discoveries. These discoveries were made
during the time that he was minister at the Mill-hill Chapel, Leeds.
Here he began the serious study of chemistry. And that without
training in the science as it was then understood. At Warrington he
had heard a series of chemical lectures by Dr. Turner of Liverpool, a
gentleman whom Americans ought to regard with amused interest, for he
was the man who congratulated his fellows in a Liverpool debating
society that while they had just lost the _terra firma_ of thirteen
colonies in America, they had gained, under the generalship of Dr.
Herschel, a _terra incognita_ of much greater extent _in nubibus_.
Priestley not only began his experiments without any great store of
knowledge, but also without apparatus save what he devised for himself
of the cheapest materials. In 1772 he published his first important
scientific tract, 'a small pamphlet on the method of impregnating
water with fixed air.' For this he received the Copley medal from the
Royal Society. On the first of August, 1774, he discovered oxygen.
Nobody in Leeds troubled particularly to inquire what this dissenting
minister was about with his vials and tubes, his mice and his plants.
Priestley says that the only person who took 'much interest' was Mr.
Hey, a surgeon. Mr. Hey was a 'zealous Methodist' and wrote answers to
Priestley's theological papers. Arminian and Socinian were at peace if
science was the theme. When Priestley departed from Leeds, Hey begged
of him the 'earthen trough' in which all his experiments had been
made. This earthen trough was nothing more nor less than a washtub of
the sort in common local use. So independent is genius of the
elaborate appliances with which talent must produce results.

The discoveries brought fame, especially upon the Continent, and led
Lord Shelburne to invite Priestley to become his 'literary companion.'
Dr. Price was the intermediary in effecting this arrangement.
Priestley's nominal post was that of 'librarian,' and he now and then
officiated as experimentalist extraordinary before Lord Shelburne's
guests. The compensation was not illiberal, and the relation seems to
have been as free from degrading elements as such relations can be.
Priestley was not a sycophant even in the day when men of genius
thought it no great sin to give flattery in exchange for dinners. It
was never his habit to burn incense before the great simply because
the great liked the smell of incense and were accustomed to it. On the
other hand, Shelburne appears to have treated the philosopher with
kindness and delicacy, and the situation was not without difficulties
for his lordship.

Among obvious advantages which Priestley derived from this residence
were freedom from financial worry, time for writing and experimenting,
a tour on the Continent, and the privilege of spending the winter
season of each year in London.

It was during these London visits that he renewed his acquaintance
with Dr. Franklin. They were members of a club of 'philosophical
gentlemen' which met at stated times at the London Coffee House,
Ludgate Hill. There were few days upon which the Father of Pneumatic
Chemistry and the Father of Electrical Science did not meet. When
their talk was not of dephlogisticated air and like matters it was
pretty certain to be political. The war between England and America
was imminent. Franklin dreaded it. He often said to Priestley that 'if
the difference should come to an open rupture, it would be a war of
_ten years_, and he should not live to see the end of it.' He had no
doubt as to the issue. 'The English may take all our great towns, but
that will not give them possession of the country,' he used to say.
Franklin's last day in England was given to Priestley. The two friends
spent much of the time in reading American newspapers, especially
accounts of the reception which the Boston Port Bill met with in
America, and as Franklin read the addresses to the inhabitants of
Boston, from the places in the neighborhood, 'the tears trickled down
his cheeks.' He wrote to Priestley from Philadelphia just a month
after the battle of Lexington, briefly describing that lively episode,
and mentioning his pleasant six weeks voyage with weather 'so moderate
that a London wherry might have accompanied us all the way.' At the
close of his letter he says: 'In coming over I made a valuable
philosophical discovery, which I shall communicate to you when I can
get a little time. At present I am extremely hurried.' In October of
that year, 1775, Franklin wrote to Priestley about the state of
affairs in America. His letter contains one passage which can hardly
be hackneyed from over-quotation. Franklin wants Priestley to tell
'our dear good friend,' Dr. Price, that America is 'determined and
unanimous.' 'Britain at the expense of three millions has killed 150
yankees this campaign, which is 20,000 l. a head; and at Bunker's
Hill, she gained a mile of ground, all of which she lost again, by our
taking post on Ploughed Hill. During the same time 60,000 children
have been born in America.' From these data Dr. Price is to calculate
'the time and expense necessary to kill us all, and conquer the whole
of our territory.' Then the letter closes with greetings 'to the club
of honest whigs at the London Coffee House.'

Seven years later Franklin's heart was still faithful to the club. He
writes to Priestley from France: 'I love you as much as ever, and I
love all the honest souls that meet at the London Coffee House.... I
labor for peace with more earnestness that I may again be happy in
your sweet society.' Franklin thought that war was folly. In a letter
to Dr. Price, he speaks of the great improvements in natural
philosophy, and then says: 'There is one improvement in moral
philosophy which I wish to see: the discovery of a plan that would
induce and oblige nations to settle their disputes without first
cutting one another's throats.'

Priestley lamented that a man of Franklin's character and influence
'should have been an unbeliever in Christianity, and also have done as
much as he did to make others unbelievers.' Franklin acknowledged that
he had not given much attention to the evidences of Christianity, and
asked Priestley to recommend some 'treatises' on the subject 'but not
of great length.' Priestley suggested certain chapters of Hartley's
_Observations on Man_, and also what he himself had written on the
subject in his _Institutes of Natural and Revealed Religion_. Franklin
had promised to read whatever books his friend might advise and give
his 'sentiments on them.' 'But the American war breaking out soon
after, I do not believe,' says Priestley, 'that he ever found himself
sufficiently at leisure for the discussion.'

Priestley valued his own scientific reputation not a little for the
weight it gave, among skeptics, to his arguments in support of his
religious belief. He found that all the philosophers in Paris were
unbelievers. They looked at him with mild astonishment when they
learned that he was not of the same mind. They may even have thought
him a phenomenon which required scientific investigation. 'As I chose
on all occasions to appear as a Christian, I was told by some of them
that I was the only person they had ever met with, of whose
understanding they had any opinion, who professed to believe
Christianity.' Priestley began to question them as to what they
supposed Christianity was, and with the usual result,--they were not
posted on the subject.

In 1780 Priestley went to Birmingham. In the summer of 1791 occurred
that remarkable riot, perhaps the most dramatic event in the
philosopher's not unpicturesque career. This storm had long been
gathering, and when it broke, the principal victim of its anger was, I
verily believe, more astonished than frightened. The Dissenters were
making unusual efforts to have some of their civil disabilities
removed. Feeling against them was especially bitter. In Birmingham
this hostility was intensified by the public discourses of Mr. Madan,
'the most respectable clergyman of the town,' says Priestley. He
published 'a very inflammatory sermon ... inveighing against the
Dissenters in general, and myself in particular.' Priestley made a
defense under the title of _Familiar Letters to the Inhabitants of
Birmingham_. This produced a 'reply' from Madan, and 'other letters'
from his opponent. Being a conspicuous representative of that body
which was most 'obnoxious to the court' it is not surprising that
Priestley should have been singled out for unwelcome honors. The
feeling of intolerance was unusually strong. It was said--I don't know
how truly--that at a confirmation in Birmingham tracts were
distributed against Socinianism in general and Priestley in
particular. Very reputable men thought they did God service in
inflaming the minds of the rabble against this liberal-minded
gentleman. Priestley's account of the riot in the Memoir is singularly
temperate. It might even be called tame. He was quite incapable of
posing, or of playing martyr to an audience of which a goodly part was
sympathetic and ready to believe his sufferings as great as he chose
to make them appear. One could forgive a slight outburst of
indignation had the doctor chosen so to relieve himself. 'On occasion
of the celebration of the anniversary of the French revolution, on
July 14, 1791, by several of my friends, but with which I had little
to do, a mob, encouraged by some persons in power, first burned the
meeting-house in which I preached, then another meeting-house in the
town, and then my dwelling-house, demolishing my library, apparatus,
and as far as they could everything belonging to me.... Being in some
personal danger on this occasion I went to London.'

A much livelier account from Priestley's own hand and written the next
day after the riot is found in a letter to Theophilus Lindsay. 'The
company were hardly gone from the inn before a drunken mob rushed into
the house and broke all the windows. They then set fire to our
meeting-house and it is burned to the ground. After that they gutted,
and some say burned the old meeting. In the mean time some friends
came to tell me that I and my house were threatened, and another
brought a chaise to convey me and my wife away. I had not presence of
mind to take even my MSS.; and after we were gone the mob came and
demolished everything, household goods, library, and apparatus.' The
letter differs from the Memoir in saying that 'happily no fire could
be got.' Priestley afterwards heard that 'much pains was taken, but
without effect, to get fire from my large electrical machine which
stood in the Library.'

It is rather a curious fact that Priestley was not at the inn where
the anniversary was celebrating. While the company there were chanting
the praises of liberty he was at home playing backgammon with his
wife, a remarkably innocent and untreasonable occupation. Mr. Arthur
Young visited the scene of the riot a few days later and had thoughts
upon it. 'Seeing, as I passed, a house in ruins, on inquiry I found
that it was Dr. Priestley's. I alighted from my horse, and walked over
the ruins of that laboratory which I had left home with the
expectation of reaping instruction in; of that laboratory, the labours
of which have not only illuminated mankind but enlarged the sphere of
science itself; which has carried its master's fame to the remotest
corner of the civilized world; and will now with equal celerity convey
the infamy of its destruction to the disgrace of the age and the
scandal of the British name.' It is not necessary to supplement Arthur
Young's burst of indignation with private bursts of our own. We can
afford to be as philosophic over the matter as Priestley was. That
feeling was hot against him even in London is manifest from the fact
that the day after his arrival a hand-bill was distributed beginning
with the words: 'Dr. Priestley is a damned rascal, an enemy both to
the religious and political constitution of this country, a fellow of
a treasonable mind, consequently a bad Christian.' The 'bad Christian'
thought it showed 'no small degree of courage' in Mr. William Vaughan
to receive him into his house. 'But it showed more in Dr. Price's
congregation at Hackney to invite me to succeed him.' The invitation
was not unanimous, as Priestley with his characteristic passion for
exactness is at pains to tell the reader. Some of the members
withdrew, 'which was not undesirable.'

People generally looked askance at him. If he was upon one side of the
street the respectable part of the world made it convenient to pass by
on the other side. He even found his relations with his philosophical
acquaintance 'much restricted.' 'Most of the members of the Royal
Society shunned him,' he says. This seems amusing and unfortunate.
Apparently one's qualifications as a scientist were of little avail if
one happened to hold heterodox views on the Trinity, or were of
opinion that more liberty than Englishmen then had would be good for
them. Priestley resigned his fellowship in the Royal Society.

One does not need even mildly to anathematize the instigators of that
historic riot. They were unquestionably zealous for what they believed
to be the truth. Moreover, as William Hutton observed at the time,
'It's the right of every Englishman to walk in darkness if he
chooses.' The method employed defeated its own end. Persecution is an
unsafe investment and at best pays a low rate of interest. No
dignified person can afford to indulge in it. There's the danger of
being held up to the laughter of posterity. It has happened so many
times that the unpopular cause has become popular. This ought to teach
zealots to be cautious. What would Madan have thought if he could have
been told that within thirty years one of his own coadjutors in this
affair would have publicly expressed regret for the share he had in
it? Madan has his reward, three quarters of a column in the
_Dictionary of National Biography_. But to-day Priestley's statue
stands in a public square of Birmingham opposite the Council House.
Thus do matters get themselves readjusted in this very interesting

Rutt's Life of Priestley (that remarkable illustration of how to make
a very poor book out of the best materials) contains a selection of
the addresses and letters of condolence which were forthcoming at this
time. Some of them are stilted and dull, but they are actual
'documents,' and the words in them are alive with the passion of that
day. They make the transaction very real and close at hand.

Priestley was comparatively at ease in his new home. Yet he could not
entirely escape punishment. There were 'a few personal insults from
the lowest of the rabble.' Anxiety was felt lest he might again
receive the attentions of a mob. He humorously remarked: 'On the 14th
of July, 1792, it was taken for granted by many of my neighbors that
my house was to come down just as at Birmingham the year before.' The
house did not come down, but its occupant grew ill at ease, and within
another two years he had found a new home in the new nation across the

It is hardly exact to say that he was 'driven' from England, as some
accounts of his life have it. Mere personal unpopularity would not
have sufficed for this. But at sixty-one a man hasn't as much fight in
him as at forty-five. He is not averse to quiet. Priestley's three
sons were going to America because their father thought that they
could not be 'placed' to advantage in a country so 'bigoted' as their
native land was then. 'My own situation, if not hazardous, was become
unpleasant, so that I thought my removal would be of more service to
the cause of truth than my longer stay in England.'

The sons went first and laid the foundations of the home in
Northumberland, Pennsylvania. The word 'Susquehanna' had a magic sound
to Englishmen. On March 30, 1794, Priestley delivered his farewell
discourse. April 6 he passed with his friends the Lindsays in Essex
Street, and a day later went to Gravesend. For the details of the
journey one must go to his correspondence.

His last letters were written from Deal and Falmouth, April 9 and 11.
The vessel was six weeks in making the passage. The weather was bad
and the travelers experienced everything 'but shipwreck and famine.'
There was no lack of entertainment, for the ocean was fantastic and
spectacular. Not alone were there the usual exhibitions of
flying-fish, whales, porpoises, and sharks, but also 'mountains of ice
larger than the captain had ever seen before,'--for thus early had
transatlantic captains learned the art of pronouncing upon the
exceptional character of a particular voyage for the benefit of the
traveler who is making that voyage. They saw water-spouts, 'four at
one time.' The billows were 'mountain-high, and at night appeared to
be all on fire.' They had infinite leisure, and scarcely knew how to
use it. Mrs. Priestley wrote 'thirty-two large pages of paper.' The
doctor read 'the whole of the Greek Testament and the Hebrew Bible as
far as the first book of Samuel.' He also read through Hartley's
second volume, and 'for amusement several books of voyages and Ovid's
Metamorphoses.' 'If I had [had] a Virgil I should have read him
through, too. I read a great deal of Buchanan's poems, and some of
Petrarch's _de remediis_, and Erasmus's Dialogues; also Peter Pindar's
poems, ... which pleased me much more than I expected. He is Paine in

On June 1 the ship reached Sandy Hook. Three days later Dr. and Mrs.
Priestley 'landed at the Battery in as private a manner as possible,
and went immediately to Mrs. Loring's lodging-house close by.' The
next morning the principal inhabitants of New York came to pay their
respects and congratulations; among others Governor Clinton, Dr.
Prevoost, bishop of New York; Mr. Osgood, late envoy to Great Britain;
the heads of the college; most of the principal merchants, and many
others; for an account of which amenities one must read Henry Wansey's
_Excursion to the United States in the Summer of 1794_, published by
Salisbury in 1796, a most amusing and delectable volume.

Priestley missed seeing Vice-president John Adams by one day. Adams
had sailed for Boston on the third. But he left word that Boston was
'better calculated' for Priestley than any other part of America, and
that 'he would find himself very well received if he should be
inclined to settle there.'

Mrs. Priestley in a letter home says: 'Dr. P. is wonderfully pleased
with everything, and indeed I think he has great reason from the
attentions paid him.' The good people became almost frivolous with
their dinner-parties, receptions, calls, and so forth. Then there were
the usual addresses from the various organizations,--one from the
Tammany Society, who described themselves as 'a numerous body of
freemen, who associate to cultivate among them the love of liberty,
and the enjoyment of the happy republican government under which they
live.' There was an address from the 'Democratic Society,' one from
the 'Associated Teachers in the City of New York,' one from the
'Republican Natives of Great Britain and Ireland,' one from the
'Medical Society.'

The pleasure was not unmixed. Dr. Priestley the theologian had a less
cordial reception than Dr. Priestley the philosopher and martyr. The
orthodox were considerably disturbed by his coming. 'Nobody asks me to
preach, and I hear there is much jealousy and dread of me.' In
Philadelphia at a Baptist meeting the minister bade his people beware,
for 'a Priestley had entered the land.' But the heretic was very
patient and earnest to do what he might for the cause of 'rational'
Christianity. The widespread infidelity distressed him. He mentioned
it as a thing to be wondered at that in America the lawyers were
almost universally unbelievers. He lost no time in getting to work. On
August 27, when he had been settled in Northumberland only a month, he
wrote to a friend that he had just got Paine's _Age of Reason_, and
thought to answer it. By September 14 he had done so. 'I have
transcribed for the press my answer to Mr. Paine, whose work is the
weakest and most absurd as well as most arrogant of anything I have
yet seen.'

Priestley was fully conscious of the humor of his situation. He was
trying to save the public, including lawyers, from the mentally
debilitating effects of reading Paine's _Age of Reason_, while at the
same time all the orthodox divines were warning their flocks of the
danger consequent upon having anything to do with _him_.

Honors and rumors of honors came to him. He was talked of for the
presidency of colleges yet to be founded, and was invited to
professorships in colleges that actually were. He went occasionally to
Philadelphia, a frightful journey from Northumberland in those days.
Through his influence a Unitarian society was established. He gave
public discourses, and there was considerable curiosity to see and
hear so famous a man. 'I have the use of Mr. Winchester's pulpit every
morning ... and yesterday preached my first sermon.' He was told that
'a great proportion of the members of Congress were present,' and we
know that 'Mr. Vice-President Adams was a regular attendant.'

In company with his friend Mr. Russell, Priestley went to take tea
with President Washington. They stayed two hours 'as in any private
family,' and at leavetaking were invited 'to come at any time without

About a year later Priestley saw again Washington, who had finished
his second term of office. 'I went to take leave of the late
president. He seemed not to be in very good spirits. He invited me to
Mt. Vernon, and said he thought he should hardly go from home twenty
miles as long as he lived.'

Priestley was not to have the full measure of the rest which he
coveted. He had left England to escape persecution, and persecution
followed him. Cobbett, who had assailed him in a scurrilous pamphlet
at the time of his emigration, continued his attacks. Priestley was
objectionable because he was a friend of France. Moreover he had
opinions about things, some of which he freely expressed,--a habit he
had contracted so early in life as to render it hopeless that he
should ever break himself of it. Cobbett's virulence was so great as
to excite the astonishment of Mr. Adams, who said to Priestley, 'I
wonder why the man abuses you;' when a hint from Adams, Priestley
thought, would have prevented it all. But it was not easy to control
William Cobbett. Adams may have thought that Cobbett was a being
created for the express purpose of being let alone. There are such
beings. Every one knows, or can guess, to what sort of animal Churton
Collins compared Dean Swift, when the Dean was in certain moods.
William Cobbett, too, had his moods.

Yet it is impossible to read Priestley's letters between 1798 and 1801
without indignation against those who preyed upon his peace of mind.
He writes to Lindsay: 'It is nothing but a firm faith in a good
Providence that is my support at present: but it is an effectual one.'
His 'never failing resource' was the 'daily study of the Scriptures.'
In moments of depression he loved to read the introduction to
Hartley's second volume, those noble passages beginning: 'Whatever be
our doubts, fears, or anxieties, whether selfish or social, whether
for time or eternity, our only hope and refuge must be in the infinite
power, knowledge and goodness of God.'

Priestley was indeed a remarkable man. His services to science were
very great. He laid the foundations of notable structures which,
however, other men were to rear. He might have been a greater man had
he been less versatile. And yet his versatility was one source of his
greatness. He clung to old-fashioned notions, defending the doctrine
of 'philogiston' after it had been abandoned by nearly every other
chemist of repute. For this he has been ridiculed. But he was not
ridiculous, he was singularly open-minded. He knew that his reputation
as a philosopher was under a cloud. 'Though all the world is at
present against me, I see no reason to despair of the old system; and
yet, _if I should see reason to change my opinion, I think I should
rather feel a pride in making the most public acknowledgment of it_.'
These are words which Professor Huxley might well have quoted in his
beautiful address on Priestley delivered at Birmingham, for they are
the perfect expression and symbol of the fair-minded man.

He was as modest as he was fair-minded. When it was proposed that he
should accompany Captain Cook's expedition to the South Seas, and the
arrangements were really completed, he was objected to because of his
political and religious opinions. Dr. Reinhold Foster was appointed in
his stead. He was a person 'far better qualified,' said Priestley.
Again when he was invited to take the chair of Chemistry at
Philadelphia he refused. This for several reasons, the chief of which
was that he did not believe himself fitted for it. One would naturally
suppose that the inventor of soda-water and the discoverer of oxygen
would have been able to give lectures to young men on chemistry. But
Priestley believed that he 'could not have acquitted himself in it to
proper advantage.' 'Though I have made discoveries in some branches of
chemistry, I never gave much attention to the common routine of it,
and know but little of the common processes.'

Priestley still awaits a biographer. The two thick volumes compiled by
Rutt more than sixty-three years ago have not been reprinted, nor are
they likely to be. But a life so precious in its lessons should be
recorded in just terms. It would be an inspiring book, and its title
might well be 'The Story of a Man of Character.' Not the least of its
virtues would consist in ample recognition of Joseph Priestley's
unwavering confidence that all things were ordered for the best; and
then of his piety, which prompted him to say, as he looked back upon
his life: 'I am thankful to that good Providence which always took
more care of me than ever I took of myself.'


Hero-worship is appropriate only to youth. With age one becomes cynical,
or indifferent, or perhaps too busy. Either the sense of the marvelous
is dulled, or one's boys are just entering college and life is agreeably
practical. Marriage and family cares are good if only for the reason
that they keep a man from getting bored. But they also stifle his
yearnings after the ideal. They make hero-worship appear foolish. How
can a man go mooning about when he has just had a good cup of coffee
and a snatch of what purports to be the news, while an attractive and
well-dressed woman sits opposite him at breakfast-table, and by her
mere presence, to say nothing of her wit, compels him to be respectable
and to carry a level head? The father of a family and husband of a
federated club woman has no business with hero-worship. Let him leave
such folly to beardless youth.

But if a man has never outgrown the boy that was in him, or has never
married, then may he do this thing. He will be happy himself, and
others will be happy as they consider him. Indeed, there is something
altogether charming about the personality of him who proves faithful
to his early loves in literature and art; who continues a graceful
hero-worship through all the caprices of literary fortune; and who,
even though his idol may have been dethroned, sets up a private shrine
at which he pays his devotions, unmindful of the crowd which hurries
by on its way to do homage to strange gods.

Some men are born to be hero-worshipers. Théophile Gautier is an
example. If one did not love Gautier for his wit and his good-nature,
one would certainly love him because he dared to be sentimental. He
displayed an almost comic excess of emotion at his first meeting with
Victor Hugo. Gautier smiles as he tells the story; but he tells it
exactly, not being afraid of ridicule. He went to call upon Hugo with
his friends Gérard de Nerval and Pétrus Borel. Twice he mounted the
staircase leading to the poet's door. His feet dragged as if they had
been shod with lead instead of leather. His heart throbbed; cold sweat
moistened his brow. As he was on the point of ringing the bell, an
idiotic terror seized him, and he fled down the stairs, four steps at
a time, Gérard and Pétrus after him, shouting with laughter. But the
third attempt was successful. Gautier saw Victor Hugo--and lived. The
author of _Odes et Ballades_ was just twenty-eight years old. Youth
worshiped youth in those great days.

Gautier said little during that visit, but he stared at the poet with
all his might. He explained afterwards that one may look at gods,
kings, pretty women, and great poets rather more scrutinizingly than
at other persons, and this too without annoying them. 'We gazed at
Hugo with admiring intensity, but he did not appear to be

What brings Gautier especially to mind is the appearance within a few
weeks of an amusing little volume entitled _Le Romantisme et l'éditeur
Renduel_. Its chief value consists, no doubt, in what the author, M.
Adolphe Jullien, has to say about Renduel. That noted publisher must
have been a man of unusual gifts and unusual fortune. He was a
fortunate man because he had the luck to publish some of the best
works of Victor Hugo, Sainte-Beuve, Théophile Gautier, Alfred de
Musset, Gérard de Nerval, Charles Nodier, and Paul Lacroix; and he was
a gifted man because he was able successfully to manage his troop of
geniuses, neither quarreling with them himself nor allowing them to
quarrel overmuch with one another. Renduel's portrait faces the
title-page of the volume, and there are two portraits of him besides.
There are fac-similes of agreements between the great publisher and
his geniuses. There is a famous caricature of Victor Hugo with a brow
truly monumental. There is a caricature of Alfred de Musset with a
figure like a Regency dandy,--a figure which could have been acquired
only by much patience and unremitted tight-lacing; also one of Balzac,
which shows that that great novelist's waist-line had long since
disappeared, and that he had long since ceased to care. What was a
figure to him in comparison with the flesh-pots of Paris!

One of the best of these pictorial satires is Roubaud's sketch of
Gautier. It has a teasing quality, it is diabolically fascinating. It
shows how great an art caricature is in the hands of a master.

But the highest virtue of a good new book is that it usually sends the
reader back to a good old book. One can hardly spend much time upon
Renduel; he will remember that Gautier has described that period when
hero-worship was in the air, when the sap of a new life circulated
everywhere, and when he himself was one of many loyal and enthusiastic
youths who bowed the head at mention of Victor Hugo's name. The reader
will remember, too, that Gautier was conspicuous in that band of
Romanticists who helped to make _Hernani_ a success the night of its
first presentation. Gautier believed that to be the great event of his
life. He loved to talk about it, dream about it, write of it.

There was a world of good fellowship among the young artists,
sculptors, and poets of that day. They took real pleasure in shouting
Hosanna to Victor Hugo and to one another. Even Zola, the
Unsentimental, speaks of _ma tristesse_ as he reviews that delightful
past. He cannot remember it, to be sure, but he has read about it. He
thinks ill of the present as he compares the present with 'those dead
years.' Writers then belonged to a sort of heroic brotherhood. They
went out like soldiers to conquer their literary liberties. They were
kings of the Paris streets. 'But we,' says Zola in a pensive strain,
'we live like wolves each in his hole.' I do not know how true a
description this is of modern French literary society, but it is not
difficult to make one's self think that those other days were the days
of magnificent friendships between young men of genius. It certainly
was a more brilliant time than ours. It was flamboyant, to use one of
Gautier's favorite words.

Youth was responsible for much of the enthusiasm which obtained among
the champions of artistic liberty. These young men who did honor to
the name of Hugo were actually young. They rejoiced in their youth.
They flaunted it, so to speak, in the faces of those who were without
it. Gautier says that young men of that day differed in one respect
from young men of this day; modern young men are generally in the
neighborhood of fifty years of age.

Gautier has described his friends and comrades most felicitously. All
were boys, and all were clever. They were poor and they were happy.
They swore by Scott and Shakespeare, and they planned great futures
for themselves.

Take for an example Jules Vabre, who owed his reputation to a certain
Essay on the Inconvenience of Conveniences. You will search the
libraries in vain for this treatise. The author did not finish it. He
did not even commence it,--only talked about it. Jules Vabre had a
passion for Shakespeare, and wanted to translate him. He thought of
Shakespeare by day and dreamed of Shakespeare by night. He stopped
people in the street to ask them if they had read Shakespeare.

He had a curious theory concerning language. Jules Vabre would not
have said, As a man thinks so is he, but, As a man drinks so is he.
According to Gautier's statement, Vabre maintained the paradox that
the Latin languages needed to be 'watered' (_arroser_) with wine, and
the Anglo-Saxon languages with beer. Vabre found that he made
extraordinary progress in English upon stout and extra stout. He went
over to England to get the very atmosphere of Shakespeare. There he
continued for some time regularly 'watering' his language with English
ale, and nourishing his body with English beef. He would not look at a
French newspaper, nor would he even read a letter from home. Finally
he came back to Paris, anglicized to his very galoshes. Gautier says
that when they met, Vabre gave him a 'shake hand' almost energetic
enough to pull the arm from the shoulder. He spoke with so strong an
English accent that it was difficult to understand him; Vabre had
almost forgotten his mother tongue. Gautier congratulated the exile
upon his return, and said, 'My dear Jules Vabre, in order to translate
Shakespeare it is now only necessary for you to learn French.'

Gautier laid the foundations of his great fame by wearing a red
waistcoat the first night of _Hernani_. All the young men were
fantastic in those days, and the spirit of carnival was in the whole
romantic movement. Gautier was more courageously fantastic than other
young men. His costume was effective, and the public never forgot him.
He says with humorous resignation: 'If you pronounce the name of
Théophile Gautier before a Philistine who has never read a line of our
works, the Philistine knows us, and remarks with a satisfied air, "Oh
yes, the young man with the red waistcoat and the long hair." ... Our
poems are forgotten, but our red waistcoat is remembered.' Gautier
cheerfully grants that when everything about him has faded into
oblivion this gleam of light will remain, to distinguish him from
literary contemporaries whose waistcoats were of soberer hue.

The chapter in his _Histoire du Romantisme_ in which Gautier tells how
he went to the tailor to arrange for the most spectacular feature of
his costume is lively and amusing. He spread out the magnificent piece
of cherry-colored satin, and then unfolded his design for a
'pour-point,' like a 'Milan cuirass.' Says Gautier, using always his
quaint editorial _we_, 'It has been said that we know a great many
words, but we don't know words enough to express the astonishment of
our tailor when we lay before him our plan for a waistcoat.' The man
of shears had doubts as to his customer's sanity.

'Monsieur,' he exclaimed, 'this is not the fashion!'

'It will be the fashion when we have worn the waistcoat once,' was
Gautier's reply. And he declares that he delivered the answer with a
self-possession worthy of a Brummel or 'any other celebrity of

It is no part of this paper to describe the innocently absurd and
good-naturedly extravagant things which Gautier and his companions
did, not alone the first night of _Hernani_, but at all times and in
all places. They unquestionably saw to it that Victor Hugo had fair
play the evening of February 25, 1830. The occasion was an historic
one, and they with their Merovingian hair, their beards, their
waistcoats, and their enthusiasm helped to make it an unusually lively
and picturesque occasion.

I have quoted a very few of the good things which one may read in
Gautier's _Histoire du Romantisme_. The narrative is one of much
sweetness and humor. It ought to be translated for the benefit of
readers who know Gautier chiefly by _Mademoiselle de Maupin_ and that
for reasons among which love of literature is perhaps the least

It is pleasant to find that Renduel confirms the popular view of
Gautier's character. M. Jullien says that Renduel never spoke of
Gautier but in praise. 'Quel bon garçon!' he used to say. 'Quel brave
coeur!' M. Jullien has naturally no large number of new facts to give
concerning Gautier. But there are eight or nine letters from Gautier
to Renduel which will be read with pleasure, especially the one in
which the poet says to the publisher, 'Heaven preserve you from
historical novels, and your eldest child from the smallpox.'

Gautier must have been both generous and modest. No mere egoist could
have been so faithful in his hero-worship or so unpretentious in his
allusions to himself. One has only to read the most superficial
accounts of French literature to learn how universally it is granted
that Gautier had skillful command of that language to which he was
born. Yet he himself was by no means sure that he deserved a master's
degree. He quotes one of Goethe's sayings,--a saying in which the
great German poet declares that after the practice of many arts there
was but one art in which he could be said to excel, namely, the art of
writing in German; in that he was almost a master. Then Gautier
exclaims, 'Would that _we_, after so many years of labor, had become
almost a master of the art of writing in French! But such ambitions
are not for us!'

Yet they were for him; and it is a satisfaction to note how invariably
he is accounted, by the artists in literature, an eminent man among
many eminent men in whose touch language was plastic.


A certain critic said of Stevenson that he was 'incurably literary;'
the phrase is a good one, being both humorous and true. There is
comfort in the thought that such efforts as may have been made to keep
him in the path of virtuous respectability failed. Rather than _do_
anything Stevenson preferred to loaf and to write books. And he early
learned that considerable loafing is necessary if one expects to
become a writer. There is a sense in which it is true that only lazy
people are fit for literature. Nothing is so fruitful as a fine gift
for idleness. The most prolific writers have been people who seemed to
have nothing to do. Every one has read that description of George Sand
in her latter years, 'an old lady who came out into the garden at
mid-day in a broad-brimmed hat and sat down on a bench or wandered
slowly about. So she remained for hours looking about her, musing,
contemplating. She was gathering impressions, absorbing the universe,
steeping herself in Nature; and at night she would give all this forth
as a sort of emanation.' One shudders to think what the result might
have been if instead of absorbing the universe George Sand had done
something practical during those hours. But the Scotchman was not like
George Sand in any particular that I know of save in his perfect
willingness to bask in the sunshine and steep himself in Nature. His
books did not 'emanate.' The one way in which he certainly did not
produce literature was by improvisation. George Sand never revised her
work; it might almost be said that Robert Louis Stevenson never did
anything else.

Of his method we know this much. He himself has said that when he went
for a walk he usually carried two books in his pocket, one a book to
read, the other a note-book in which to put down the ideas that came
to him. This remark has undoubtedly been seized upon and treasured in
the memory as embodying a secret of his success. Trusting young souls
have begun to walk about with note-books: only to learn that the
note-book was a detail, not an essential, in the process.

He who writes while he walks cannot write very much, but he may, if he
chooses, write very well. He may turn over the rubbish of his
vocabulary until he finds some exquisite and perfect word with which
to bring out his meaning. This word need not be unusual; and if it is
'exquisite' then exquisite only in the sense of being fitted with rare
exactness to the idea. Stevenson wrote so well in part because he
wrote so deliberately. He knew the vulgarity of haste, especially in
the making of literature. He knew that finish counted for much,
perhaps for half. Has he not been reported as saying that it wasn't
worth a man's while to attempt to be a writer unless he was quite
willing to spend a day if the need were, on the turn of a single
sentence? In general this means the sacrifice of earthly reward; it
means that a man must work for love and let the ravens feed him. That
scriptural source has been distinctly unfruitful in these latter days,
and few authors are willing to take a prophet's chances. But Stevenson
was one of the few.

He laid the foundations of his reputation with two little volumes of
travel. _An Inland Voyage_ appeared in 1878; _Travels with a Donkey in
the Cevennes_, in 1879. These books are not dry chronicles of drier
facts. They bear much the same relation to conventional accounts of
travel that flowers growing in a garden bear to dried plants in a
herbarium. They are the most friendly and urbane things in modern
English literature. They have been likened to Sterne's _Sentimental
Journey_. The criticism would be better if one were able to imagine
Stevenson writing the adventure of the _fille de chambre_, or could
conceive of Lawrence Sterne writing the account of the meeting with
the Plymouth Brother. 'And if ever at length, out of our separate and
sad ways, we should all come together into one common-house, I have a
hope to which I cling dearly, that my mountain Plymouth Brother will
hasten to shake hands with me again.' That was written twenty years
ago and the Brother was an old man then. And now Stevenson is gone.
How impossible it is not to wonder whether they have yet met in that
'one common-house.' 'He feared to intrude, but he would not willingly
forego one moment of my society; and he seemed never weary of shaking
me by the hand.'

The _Inland Voyage_ contains passages hardly to be matched for beauty.
Let him who would be convinced read the description of the forest
Mormal, that forest whose breath was perfumed with nothing less
delicate than sweet brier. 'I wish our way had always lain among
woods,' says Stevenson. 'Trees are the most civil society.'

Stevenson's traveling companion was a young English baronet. The two
adventurers paddled in canoes through the pleasant rivers and canals
of Belgium and North France. They had plenty of rain and a variety of
small misadventures; but they also had sunshine, fresh air, and
experiences among the people of the country such as they could have
got in no other way. They excited not a little wonder, and the common
opinion was that they were doing the journey for a wager; there seemed
to be no other reason why two respectable gentlemen, not poor, should
work so hard and get so wet.

This was conceived in a more adventurous vein than appears at first
sight. In an unsubdued country one contends with beasts and men who
are openly hostile. But when one is a stranger in the midst of
civilization and meets civilization at its back door, he is astonished
to find how little removed civilization is from downright savagery.
Stevenson and his companion learned as they could not have learned
otherwise how great deference the world pays to clothes. Whether your
heart is all right turns out a matter of minor importance; but--_are
your clothes all right_? If so, smiles, and good beds at respectable
inns; if not, a lodging in a cow-shed or beneath any poor roof which
suffices to keep off the rain. The voyagers had constantly to meet the
accusation of being peddlers. They denied it and were suspected afresh
while the denial was on their lips. The public mind was singularly
alert and critical on the subject of peddlers.

At La Fere, 'of Cursed Memory,' they had a rebuff which nearly spoiled
their tempers. They arrived in a rain. It was the finest kind of a
night to be indoors 'and hear the rain upon the windows.' They were
told of a famous inn. When they reached the carriage entry 'the rattle
of many dishes fell upon their ears.' They sighted a great field of
snowy table-cloth, the kitchen glowed like a forge. They made their
triumphal entry, 'a pair of damp rag-and-bone men, each with a limp
India-rubber bag upon his arm.' Stevenson declares that he never had a
sound view of that kitchen. It seemed to him a culinary paradise
'crowded with the snowy caps of cookmen, who all turned round from
their sauce-pans and looked at us with surprise.' But the landlady--a
flushed, angry woman full of affairs--there was no mistaking her. They
asked for beds and were told to find beds in the suburbs: 'We are too
busy for the like of you!' They said they would dine then, and were
for putting down their luggage. The landlady made a run at them and
stamped her foot: 'Out with you--out of the door,' she screeched.

I once heard a young Englishman who had been drawn into some
altercation at a continental hotel explain a discreet movement on his
own part by saying: 'Now a French cook running amuck with a carving
knife in his hand would have bean a nahsty thing to meet, you know.'
There were no knives in this case, only a woman's tongue. Stevenson
says that he doesn't know how it happened, 'but next moment we were
out in the rain, and I was cursing before the carriage entry like a
disappointed mendicant.'

'It's all very fine to talk about tramps and morality. Six hours of
police surveillance (such as I have had) or one brutal rejection from
an inn door change your views upon the subject, like a course of
lectures. As long as you keep in the upper regions, with all the world
bowing to you as you go, social arrangements have a very handsome air;
but once get under the wheels and you wish society were at the devil.
I will give most respectable men a fortnight of such a life, and then
I will offer them twopence for what remains of their morality.'

Stevenson declares that he could have set the temple of Diana on fire
that night if it had been handy. 'There was no crime complete enough
to express my disapproval of human institutions.' As for the baronet,
he was horrified to learn that he had been taken for a peddler again;
and he registered a vow before Heaven never to be uncivil to a
peddler. But before making that vow he particularized a complaint for
every joint in the landlady's body.

To read _An Inland Voyage_ is to be impressed anew with the thought
that some men are born with a taste for vagabondage. They are
instinctively for being on the move. Like the author of that book they
travel 'not to go any where but to go.' If they behold a stage-coach
or a railway train in motion they heartily wish themselves aboard.
They are homesick when they stop at home, and are only at home when
they are on the move. Talk to them of foreign lands and they are
seized with unspeakable heart-ache and longing. Stevenson met an
omnibus driver in a Belgian village who looked at him with thirsty
eyes because he was able to travel. How that omnibus driver 'longed to
be somewhere else and see the round world before he died.' 'Here I
am,' said he. 'I drive to the station. Well. And then I drive back
again to the hotel. And so on every day and all the week round. My
God, is that life?' Stevenson opined that this man had in him the
making of a traveler of the right sort; he might have gone to Africa
or to the Indies after Drake. 'But it is an evil age for the gipsily
inclined among men. He who can sit squarest on a three-legged stool,
he it is who has the wealth and glory.'

In his _Travels with a Donkey_ the author had no companionship but
such as the donkey afforded; and to tell the truth this companionship
was almost human at times. He learned to love the quaint little beast
which shared his food and his trials. 'My lady-friend' he calls her.
Modestine was her name; 'she was patient, elegant in form, the color
of an ideal mouse and inimitably small.' She gave him trouble, and at
times he felt hurt and was distant in manner towards her. Modestine
carried the luggage. She may not have known that R. L. Stevenson wrote
books, but she knew as by instinct that R. L. Stevenson had never
driven a donkey. She wrought her will with him, that is, she took her
own gait. 'What that pace was there is no word mean enough to
describe; it was something as much slower than a walk as a walk is
slower than a run.' He must belabor her incessantly. It was an ignoble
toil, and he felt ashamed of himself besides, for he remembered her
sex. 'The sound of my own blows sickened me. Once when I looked at her
she had a faint resemblance to a lady of my acquaintance who had
formerly loaded me with kindness; and this increased my horror of my

From time to time Modestine's load would topple off. The villagers
were delighted with this exhibition and laughed appreciatively. 'Judge
if I was hot!' says Stevenson. 'I remembered having laughed myself
when I had seen good men struggling with adversity in the person of a
jack-ass, and the recollection filled me with penitence. That was in
my old light days before this trouble came upon me.'

He had a sleeping-bag, waterproof without, blue sheep's wool within,
and in this portable house he passed his nights afield. Not always by
choice, as witness his chapter entitled 'A Camp in the Dark.' There
are two or three pages in that chapter which come pretty near to
perfection,--if there be such a thing as perfection in literature. I
don't know who could wish for anything better than the paragraphs in
which Stevenson describes falling asleep in the tempest, and awaking
next morning to see the 'world flooded with a blue light, the mother
of dawn.' He had been in search of an adventure all his life, 'a pure
dispassionate adventure, such as befell early and heroic voyagers,'
and he thinks that he realized a fraction of his daydreams when that
morning found him, an inland castaway, 'as strange to his surroundings
as the first man upon the earth.'

Passages like these indicate Stevenson's quality. He was no
carpet-knight; he had the true adventurer's blood in his veins. He and
Drake and the Belgian omnibus-driver should have gone to the Indies
together. Better still, the omnibus driver should have gone with
Drake, and Stevenson should have gone with Amyas Leigh. They say that
Stevenson traveled in search of health. Without doubt; but think how
he _would_ have traveled if he had had good health. And one has
strange mental experiences alone with the stars. That came of sleeping
in the fields 'where God keeps an open house.' 'I thought I had
rediscovered one of those truths which are revealed to savages and hid
from political economists.'

Much as he gloried in his solitude he 'became aware of a strange
lack;' for he was human. And he gave it as his opinion that 'to live
out of doors with the woman a man loves is of all lives the most
complete and free.' It may be so. Such a woman would need to be of
heroic physical mould, and there is danger that she would turn out of
masculine mould as well. Isopel Berners was of such sort. Isopel could
handle her clenched fists like a prizefighter. She was magnificent in
the forest, and never so perfectly in place as when she backed up
George Borrow in his fight with the Flaming Tinman. Having been in the
habit of taking her own part, she was able to give pertinent advice at
a critical moment. 'It's of no use flipping at the Flaming Tinman with
your left hand,' she said, 'why don't you use your right?' Isopel
called Borrow's right arm 'Long Melford.' And when the Flaming Tinman
got his knock-down blow from Borrow's right, Isopel exclaimed, 'Hurrah
for Long Melford; there is nothing like Long Melford for shortness all
the world over!'

But what an embarrassing personage Miss Berners would have been
transferred from the dingle to the drawing-room; nay, how impossible
it is to think of that athletic young goddess as _Miss_ Berners! The
distinctions and titles of conventional society refuse to cling even
to her name. I wonder how Stevenson would have liked Isopel Berners.

And now his philosophy. Yet somehow 'philosophy' seems a big word for
so unpretentious a theory of life as his. Stevenson didn't
philosophize much; he was content to live and to enjoy. He was
deliberate, and in general he would not suffer himself to be driven.
He resembled an admirable lady of my acquaintance who, when urged to
get something done by a given time, usually replied that 'time was
made for slaves.' Stevenson had the same feeling. He says: 'Hurry is
the resource of the faithless. When a man can trust his own heart and
those of his friends to-morrow is as good as to-day. And if he die in
the mean while, why, then, there he dies, and the question is solved.'

You think this a poor philosophy? But there must be all kinds of
philosophy; the people in the world are not run into one mould like so
much candle-grease. And because of this, his doctrine of Inaction and
Postponement, stern men and practical women have frowned upon
Stevenson. In their opinion instead of being up and doing he
consecrated too many hours to the idleness of literature. They feel
towards him as Hawthorne fancied his ancestor the great witch judge
would have felt towards _him_. Hawthorne imagines that ghostly and
terrible ancestor looking down upon him and exclaiming with infinite
scorn, 'A writer of storybooks. What kind of employment is that for an
immortal soul?'

To many people nothing is more hateful than this willingness to hold
aloof and let things drift. That any human being should acquiesce with
the present order of the world appears monstrous to these earnest
souls. An Indian critic once called Stevenson 'a faddling Hedonist.'
Stevenson quotes the phrase with obvious amusement and without
attempting to gainsay its accuracy.

But if he allowed the world to take its course he expected the same
privilege. He wished neither to interfere nor to be interfered with.
And he was a most cheerful nonconformist withal. He says: 'To know
what you prefer instead of humbly saying amen to what the world tells
you you ought to prefer is to have kept your soul alive.' Independence
and optimism are vital parts of his unformulated creed. He hated
cynicism and sourness. He believed in praise of one's own good estate.
He thought it was an inspiriting thing to hear a man boast, 'so long
as he boasts of what he really has.' If people but knew this they
would boast 'more freely and with a better grace.'

Stevenson was humorously alive to the old-fashioned quality of his
doctrine of happiness and content. He says in the preface to an
_Inland Voyage_ that although the book 'runs to considerably over a
hundred pages, it contains not a single reference to the imbecility of
God's universe, nor so much as a single hint that I could have made a
better one myself--I really do not know where my head can have been.'
But while this omission will, he fears, render his book
'philosophically unimportant' he hopes that 'the eccentricity may
please in frivolous circles.'

Stevenson could be militant. His letter on Father Damien shows that.
But there was nothing of the professional reformer about him. He had
no hobby, and he was the artist first and then the philanthropist.
This is right; it was the law of his being. Other men are better
equipped to do the work of humanity's city missionaries than was he.
Let their more rugged health and less sensitive nerves bear the
burden; his poet's mission was not the less important.

The remaining point I have to note, among a number which might be
noted, is his firm grasp of this idea: that whether he is his
brother's keeper or not he is at all events his brother's brother. It
is 'philosophy' of a very good sort to have mastered this conception
and to have made the life square with the theory. This doctrine is
fashionable just now, and thick books have been written on the
subject, filled with wise terms and arguments. I don't know whether
Stevenson bothered his head with these matters from a scientific point
of view or not, but there are many illustrations of his interest. Was
it this that made him so gentle in his unaffected manly way? He
certainly understood how difficult it is for the well-to-do member of
society to get any idea not wholly distorted of the feelings and
motives of the lower classes. He believed that certain virtues resided
more conspicuously among the poor than among the rich. He declared
that the poor were more charitably disposed than their superiors in
wealth. 'A workman or a peddler cannot shutter himself off from his
less comfortable neighbors. If he treats himself to a luxury he must
do it in the face of a dozen who cannot. And what should more directly
lead to charitable thoughts?' But with the advent of prosperity a man
becomes incapable of understanding how the less fortunate live.
Stevenson likens that happy individual to a man going up in a balloon.
'He presently passes through a zone of clouds and after that merely
earthly things are hidden from his gaze. He sees nothing but the
heavenly bodies, all in admirable order and positively as good as new.
He finds himself surrounded in the most touching manner by the
attentions of Providence, and compares himself involuntarily with the
lilies and the sky-larks. He does not precisely sing, of course; but
then he looks so unassuming in his open landau! If all the world dined
at one table this philosophy would meet with some rude knocks.'

In the three years since Stevenson's death many additions have been
made to the body of literature by him and about him. There are
letters, finished and unfinished novels, and recollections by the
heaping handful. Critics are considerably exercised over the question
whether any, or all, or only two or three of his books are to last.
The matter has, I believe, been definitely decided so that posterity,
whatever other responsibilities it has, will at least not have that
one; and anything that we can do to relieve the future of its burdens
is altruism worthy the name.

Stevenson was one of the best tempered men that ever lived. He never
prated about goodness, but was unaffectedly good and sunny-hearted as
long as he lived. Of how many men can it be said, as it _can_ be said
of him, that he was sick all his days and never uttered a whimper?
What rare health of mind was this which went with such poor health of
body! I've known men to complain more over toothache than Stevenson
thought it worth while to do with death staring him in the face. He
did not, like Will o' the Mill, live until the snow began to thicken
on his head. He never knew that which we call middle age.

He worked harder than a man in his condition should have done. At
times he felt the need to write for money; and this was hostile to his
theory of literature. He wrote to his friend Colvin: 'I sometimes sit
and yearn for anything in the nature of an income that would come
in--mine has all got to be gone and fished for with the immortal mind
of man. What I want is an income that really comes in of itself while
all you have to do is just to blossom and exist and sit on chairs.'

I wish he might have had it; I can think of no other man whose
indolence would have been so profitable to the world.


With the publication of _St. Ives_ the catalogue of Stevenson's
important writings has closed. In truth it closed several years
ago,--in 1891, to be exact,--when _Catriona_ was published. Nothing
which has appeared since that date can modify to any great extent the
best critical estimate of his novels. Neither _Weir of Hermiston_ nor
_St. Ives_ affects the matter. You may throw them into the scales with
his other works, and then you may take them out; beyond a mere
trembling the balance is not disturbed. But suppose you were to take
out _Kidnapped_, or _Treasure Island_, or _The Master of Ballantrae_,
the loss would be felt at once and seriously. And unless he has left
behind him, hidden away among his loose papers, some rare and perfect
sketch, some letter to posterity which shall be to his reputation what
Neil Paraday's lost novel in _The Death of the Lion_ might have been
to his, _St. Ives_ may be regarded as the epilogue.

Stevenson's death and the publication of this last effort of his fine
genius may tend to draw away a measure of public interest from that
type of novel which he, his imitators, and his rivals have so
abundantly produced. This may be the close of a 'period' such as we
read about in histories of literature.

If the truth be told, has not our generation had enough of duels,
hair-breadth escapes, post-chaises, and highwaymen, mysterious
strangers muffled in great-coats, and pistols which always miss fire
when they shouldn't? To say positively that we _have_ done with all
this might appear extravagant in the light of the popularity of
certain modern heroic novels. But it might not be too radical a view
if one were to maintain that these books are the expression of
something temporary and accidental, that they sustain a chronological
relation to modern literature rather than an essential one.

Matthew Arnold spoke of Heine as a sardonic smile on the face of the
Zeitgeist. Let us say that these modern stories in the heroic vein are
a mere heightening of color on the cheeks of that interesting young
lady, the Genius of the modern novel--a heightening of color _on_ the
cheeks, for the color comes from without and not from within. It is a
matter of no moment. Artificial red does no harm for once, and looks
well under gaslight.

These novels of adventure which we buy so cheerfully, read with such
pleasure, and make such a good-natured fuss over, are for the greater
part an expression of something altogether foreign to the deeper
spirit of modern fiction. Surely the true modern novel is the one
which reflects the life of to-day. And life to-day is easy, familiar,
rich in material comforts, and on the whole without painfully striking
contrasts and thrilling episodes. People have enough to eat,
reasonable liberty, and a degree of patience with one another which
suggests indifference. A man may shout aloud in the market-place the
most revolutionary opinions, and hardly be taken to task for it; and
then on the other hand we have got our rulers pretty well under
control. This paragraph, however, is not the peroration of a eulogy
upon 'our unrivaled happiness.' It attempts merely to lay stress on
such facts as these, that it is not now possible to hang a clergyman
of the Church of England for forgery, as was done in 1777; that a man
may not be deprived of the custody of his own children because he
holds heterodox religious opinions, as happened in 1816. There is
widespread toleration; and civilization in the sense in which Ruskin
uses the word has much increased. Now it is possible for a Jew to
become Prime Minister, and for a Roman Catholic to become England's
Poet Laureate.

If, then, life is familiar, comfortable, unrestrained, and easy, as it
certainly seems to be, how are we to account for the rise of this
semihistoric, heroic literature? It is almost grotesque, the contrast
between the books themselves and the manner in which they are
produced. One may picture the incongruous elements of the
situation,--a young society man going up to his suite in a handsome
modern apartment house, and dictating romance to a type-writer. In the
evening he dines at his club, and the day after the happy launching of
his novel he is interviewed by the representative of a newspaper
syndicate, to whom he explains his literary method, while the
interviewer makes a note of his dress and a comment on the decoration
of his mantelpiece.

Surely romance written in this way--and we have not grossly
exaggerated the way--bears no relation to modern literature other than
a chronological one. _The Prisoner of Zenda_ and _A Gentleman of
France_, to mention two happy and pleasing examples of this type of
novel, are not modern in the sense that they express any deep feeling
or any vital characteristic of to-day. They are not instinct with the
spirit of the times. One might say that these stories represent the
novel in its theatrical mood. It is the novel masquerading. Just as a
respectable bookkeeper likes to go into private theatricals, wear a
wig with curls, a slouch hat with ostrich feathers, a sword and
ruffles, and play a part to tear a cat in, so does the novel like to
do the same. The day after the performance the whole artificial
equipment drops away and disappears. The bookkeeper becomes a
bookkeeper once more and a natural man. The hour before the footlights
has done him no harm. True, he forgot his lines at one place, but what
is a prompter for if not to act in such an emergency? Now that it is
over the affair may be pronounced a success,--particularly in the
light of the gratifying statement that a clear profit has been
realized towards paying for the new organ.

This is a not unfair comparison of the part played by these books in
modern fiction. The public likes them, buys them, reads them; and
there is no reason why the public should not. In proportion to the
demand for color, action, posturing, and excessive gesticulation,
these books have a financial success; in proportion to the
conscientiousness of the artist who creates them they have a literary
vitality. But they bear to the actual modern novel a relation not
unlike that which _The Castle of Otranto_ bears to _Tom
Jones_,--making allowance of course for the chronological discrepancy.

From one point the heroic novel is a protest against the commonplace
and stupid elements of modern life. According to Mr. Frederic Harrison
there is no romance left in us. Life is stale and flat; yet even Mr.
Harrison would hardly go to the length of declaring that it is also
commercially unprofitable. The artificial apartment-house romance is
one expression of the revolt against the duller elements in our
civilization; and as has often been pointed out, the novel of
psychological horrors is another expression.

There are a few men, however, whose work is not accounted for by
saying that they love theatrical pomp and glitter for its own sake, or
that they write fiction as a protest against the times in which they
live. Stevenson was of this number. He was an adventurer by
inheritance and by practice. He came of a race of adventurers,
adventurers who built lighthouses and fought with that bold outlaw,
the Sea. He himself honestly loved, and in a measure lived, a wild
life. There is no truer touch of nature than in the scene where St.
Ives tells the boy Rowley that he is a hunted fugitive with a price
set upon his head, and then enjoys the tragic astonishment depicted in
the lad's face.

Rowley 'had a high sense of romance and a secret cultus for all
soldiers and criminals. His traveling library consisted of a chap-book
life of Wallace, and some sixpenny parts of the Old Bailey Sessions
Papers; ... and the choice depicts his character to a hair. You can
imagine how his new prospects brightened on a boy of this disposition.
To be the servant and companion of a fugitive, a soldier, and a
murderer rolled in one--to live by stratagems, disguises, and false
names, in an atmosphere of midnight and mystery so thick that you
could cut it with a knife--was really, I believe, more dear to him
than his meals, though he was a great trencher-man and something of a
glutton besides. For myself, as the peg by which all this romantic
business hung, I was simply idolized from that moment; and he would
rather have sacrificed his hand than surrendered the privilege of
serving me.'

One can believe that Stevenson was a boy with tastes and ambitions
like Rowley. But for that matter Rowley stands for universal

Criticism of _St. Ives_ becomes both easy and difficult by reason of
the fact that we know so much about the book from the author's point
of view. He wrote it in trying circumstances, and never completed it;
the last six chapters are from the pen of a practiced story-teller,
who follows the author's known scheme of events. Stevenson was almost
too severe in his comment upon his book. He says of _St. Ives_:--

'It is a mere tissue of adventures; the central figure not very well
or very sharply drawn; no philosophy, no destiny, to it; some of the
happenings very good in themselves, I believe, but none of them
_bildende_, none of them constructive, except in so far perhaps as
they make up a kind of sham picture of the time, all in italics, and
all out of drawing. Here and there, I think, it is well written; and
here and there it's not.... If it has a merit to it, I should say it
was a sort of deliberation and swing to the style, which seems to me
to suit the mail-coaches and post-chaises with which it sounds all
through. 'Tis my most prosaic book.'

One must remember that this is epistolary self-criticism, and that it
is hardly to be looked upon in the nature of an 'advance notice.'
Still more confidential and epistolary is the humorous and reckless
affirmation that _St. Ives_ is 'a rudderless hulk.' 'It's a pagoda,'
says Stevenson in a letter dated September, 1894, 'and you can just
feel--or I can feel--that it might have been a pleasant story if it
had only been blessed at baptism.'

He had to rewrite portions of it in consequence of having received
what Dr. Johnson would have called 'a large accession of new ideas.'
The ideas were historical. The first five chapters describe the
experiences of French prisoners of war in Edinburgh Castle. St. Ives
was the only 'gentleman' among them, the only man with ancestors and a
right to the 'particle.' He suffered less from ill treatment than from
the sense of being made ridiculous. The prisoners were dressed in
uniform,--'jacket, waistcoat, and trousers of a sulphur or mustard
yellow, and a shirt of blue-and-white striped cotton.' St. Ives
thought that 'some malignant genius had found his masterpiece of irony
in that dress.' So much is made of this point that one reads with
unusual interest the letter in which Stevenson bewails his 'miserable
luck' with _St. Ives_; for he was halfway through it when a book,
which he had ordered six months before, arrived, upsetting all his
previous notions of how the prisoners were cared for. Now he must
change the thing from top to bottom. 'How could I have dreamed the
French prisoners were watched over like a female charity school, kept
in a grotesque livery, and shaved twice a week?' All his points had
been made on the idea that they were 'unshaved and clothed anyhow.' He
welcomes the new matter, however, in spite of the labor it entails.
And it is easy to see how he has enriched the earlier chapters by
accentuating St. Ives's disgust and mortification over his hideous
dress and stubby chin.

The book has a light-hearted note, as a romance of the road should
have. The events take place in 1813; they might have occurred fifty or
seventy-five years earlier. For the book lacks that convincing
something which fastens a story immovably within certain chronological
limits. It is the effect which Thomas Hardy has so wonderfully
produced in that little tale describing Napoleon's night-time visit to
the coast of England; the effect which Stevenson himself was equally
happy in making when he wrote the piece called _A Lodging for a

_St. Ives_ has plenty of good romantic stuff in it, though on the
whole it is romance of the conventional sort. It is too well bred, let
us say too observant of the forms and customs which one has learned to
expect in a novel of the road. There is an escape from the castle in
the sixth chapter, a flight in the darkness towards the cottage of the
lady-love in the seventh chapter, an appeal to the generosity of the
lady-love's aunt, a dragon with gold-rimmed eyeglasses, in the ninth
chapter. And so on. We would not imply that all this is lacking in
distinction, but it seems to want that high distinction which
Stevenson could give to his work. Ought one to look for it in a book
confessedly unsatisfactory to its author, and a book which was left

There is a pretty account of the first meeting between St. Ives and
Flora. One naturally compares it with the scene in which David Balfour
describes his sensations and emotions when the spell of Catriona's
beauty came upon him. Says David:--

'There is no greater wonder than the way the face of a young woman
fits in a man's mind and stays there, and he could never tell you why;
it just seems it was the thing he wanted.'

This is quite perfect, and in admirable keeping with the genuine
simplicity of David's character:--

'She had wonderful bright eyes like stars; ... and whatever was the
cause, I stood there staring like a fool.'

This is more concise than St. Ives's description of Flora; but St.
Ives was a man of the world who had read books, and knew how to
compare the young Scotch beauty to Diana:--

'As I saw her standing, her lips parted, a divine trouble in her eyes,
I could have clapped my hands in applause, and was ready to acclaim
her a genuine daughter of the winds.'

The account of the meeting with Walter Scott and his daughter on the
moors does not have the touch of reality in it that one would like.
Here was an opportunity, however, of the author's own making.

There are flashes of humor, as when St. Ives found himself locked in
the poultry-house 'alone with half a dozen sitting hens. In the
twilight of the place all fixed their eyes on me severely, and seemed
to upbraid me with some crying impropriety.'

There are sentences in which, after Stevenson's own manner, real
insight is combined with felicitous expression. St. Ives is commenting
upon the fact that he has done a thing which most men learned in the
wisdom of this world would have pronounced absurd; he has 'made a
confidant of a boy in his teens and positively smelling of the
nursery.' But he has no cause to repent it. 'There is none so apt as a
boy to be the adviser of any man in difficulties like mine. To the
beginnings of virile common sense he adds the last lights of the
child's imagination.'

Men have been known to thank God when certain authors died,--not
because they bore the slightest personal ill-will, but because they
knew that as long as the authors lived nothing could prevent them from
writing. In thinking of Stevenson, however, one cannot tell whether he
experiences the more a feeling of personal or of literary loss,
whether he laments chiefly the man or the author. It is not possible
to separate the various cords of love, admiration, and gratitude which
bind us to this man. He had a multitude of friends. He appealed to a
wider audience than he knew. He himself said that he was read by
journalists, by his fellow novelists, and by boys. Envious admiration
might prompt a less successful writer to exclaim, 'Well, isn't that
enough?' No, for to be truly blest one must have women among one's
readers. And there are elect ladies not a few who know Stevenson's
novels; yet it is a question whether he has reached the great mass of
female novel-readers. Certainly he is not well known in that circle of
fashionable maidens and young matrons which justly prides itself upon
an acquaintance with Van Bibber. And we can hardly think he is a
familiar name to that vast and not fashionable constituency which
battens upon the romances of Marie Corelli under the impression that
it is perusing literature, while he offers no comfort whatever to that
type of reader who prefers that a novel shall be filled with hard
thinking, with social riddles, theological problems, and 'sexual
theorems.' Stevenson was happy with his journalists and boys. Among
all modern British men of letters he was in many ways the most highly
blest; and his career was entirely picturesque and interesting. Other
men have been more talked about, but the one thing which he did not
lack was discriminating praise from those who sit in high critical

He was prosperous, too, though not grossly prosperous. It is no new
fact that the sales of his books were small in proportion to the
magnitude of his contemporary fame. People praised him tremendously,
but paid their dollars for entertainment of another quality than that
supplied by his fine gifts. _An Inland Voyage_ has never been as
popular as _Three Men in a Boat_, nor _Treasure Island_ and
_Kidnapped_ as _King Solomon's Mines_; while _The Black Arrow_, which
Mr. Lang does not like, and Professor Saintsbury insists is 'a
wonderfully good story,' has not met a wide public favor at all.
_Travels with a Donkey_, which came out in 1879, had only reached its
sixth English edition in 1887. Perhaps that is good for a book so
entirely virtuous in a literary way, but it was not a success to keep
a man awake nights.

We have been told that it is wrong to admire _Jekyll and Hyde_, that
the story is 'coarse,' an 'outrage upon the grand allegories of the
same motive,' and several other things; nay, it is even hinted that
this popular tale is evidence of a morbid strain in the author's
nature. Rather than dispute the point it is a temptation to urge upon
the critic that he is not radical enough, for in Stevenson's opinion
all literature might be only a 'morbid secretion.'

The critics, however, agree in allowing us to admire without stint
those smaller works in which his characteristic gifts displayed
themselves at the best. _Thrawn Janet_ is one of these, and the story
of Tod Lapraik, told by Andie Dale in _Catriona_, is another.
Stevenson himself declared that if he had never written anything
except these two stories he would still have been a writer. We hope
that there would be votes cast for _Will o' the Mill_, which is a
lovely bit of literary workmanship. And there are a dozen besides

He was an artist of undoubted gifts, but he was an artist in small
literary forms. His longest good novels are after all little books.
When he attempted a large canvas he seemed not perfectly in command of
his materials, though he could use those materials as they could have
been used by no other artist. There is nothing in his books akin to
that broad and massive treatment which may be felt in a novel like
_Rhoda Fleming_ or in a tragedy like _Tess of the D'Urbervilles_.

Andrew Lang was right when he said of Stevenson: He is a 'Little
Master,' but of the Little Masters the most perfect and delightful.

The Riverside Press


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