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Title: Aspects and Impressions
Author: Gosse, Edmund, 1849-1928
Language: English
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Aspects and Impressions


Edmund Gosse, C.B.

D.Litt. of Cambridge University; LL.D. of St. Andrews

Cassell and Company, Ltd

London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne


           My Friend
         JOHN C. SQUIRE
    Poet, Editor, and Critic

These Essays are mainly reprinted from _The Edinburgh Review_, _The
London Mercury_, _The Modern Languages Review_, and _The Fortnightly
Review_. "Malherbe and the Classical Reaction" was the Taylorian Lecture
at Oxford for 1920, and is included here by the courtesy of the
authorities of the University.



GEORGE ELIOT                                         1

HENRY JAMES                                         17

SAMUEL BUTLER                                       55

A NOTE ON CONGREVE                                  77


THE HÔTEL DE RAMBOUILLET                            97






THE WRITINGS OF M. CLEMENCEAU                      225

A VISIT TO THE FRIENDS OF IBSEN                    247

FAIRYLAND AND A BELGIAN ARIOSTO                    261


INDEX                                              291

Aspects and Impressions


In and after 1876, when I was in the habit of walking from the
north-west of London towards Whitehall, I met several times, driven
slowly homewards, a victoria which contained a strange pair in whose
appearance I took a violent interest. The man, prematurely ageing, was
hirsute, rugged, satyr-like, gazing vivaciously to left and right; this
was George Henry Lewes. His companion was a large, thickset sybil,
dreamy and immobile, whose massive features, somewhat grim when seen in
profile, were incongruously bordered by a hat, always in the height of
the Paris fashion, which in those days commonly included an immense
ostrich feather; this was George Eliot. The contrast between the
solemnity of the face and the frivolity of the headgear had something
pathetic and provincial about it.

All this I mention, for what trifling value it may have, as a purely
external impression, since I never had the honour of speaking to the
lady or to Lewes. We had, my wife and I, common friends in the gifted
family of Simcox--Edith Simcox (who wrote ingeniously and learnedly
under the pen-name of H. Lawrenny) being an intimate in the household at
the Priory. Thither, indeed, I was vaguely invited, by word of mouth, to
make my appearance one Sunday, George Eliot having read some pages of
mine with indulgence. But I was shy, and yet should probably have obeyed
the summons but for an event which nobody foresaw. On the 18th of
December, 1880, I was present at a concert given, I think, in the
Langham Hall, where I sat just behind Mrs. Cross, as she had then
become. It was chilly in the concert-room, and I watched George Eliot,
in manifest discomfort, drawing up and tightening round her shoulders a
white wool shawl. Four days later she was dead, and I was sorry that I
had never made my bow to her.

Her death caused a great sensation, for she had ruled the wide and
flourishing province of English prose fiction for ten years, since the
death of Dickens. Though she had a vast company of competitors, she did
not suffer through that period from the rivalry of one writer of her own
class. If the Brontës had lived, or Mrs. Gaskell, the case might have
been different, for George Eliot had neither the passion of _Jane Eyre_
nor the perfection of _Cranford_, but they were gone before we lost
Dickens, and so was Thackeray, who died while _Romola_ was appearing.
Charles Kingsley, whose _Westward Ho!_ had just preceded her first
appearance, had unluckily turned into other and less congenial paths.
Charles Reade, whose _It is Never Too Late to Mend_ (1856) had been her
harbinger, scarcely maintained his position as her rival. Anthony
Trollope, excellent craftsman as he was, remained persistently and
sensibly at a lower intellectual level. Hence the field was free for
George Eliot, who, without haste or hesitation, built up slowly such a
reputation as no one in her own time could approach.

The gay world, which forgets everything, has forgotten what a solemn,
what a portentous thing was the contemporary fame of George Eliot. It
was supported by the serious thinkers of the day, by the people who
despised mere novels, but regarded her writings as contributions to
philosophical literature. On the solitary occasion when I sat in company
with Herbert Spencer on the committee of the London Library he expressed
a strong objection to the purchase of fiction, and wished that for the
London Library no novels should be bought, "except, of course, those of
George Eliot." While she lived, critics compared her with Goethe, but to
the disadvantage of the sage of Weimar. People who started controversies
about evolutionism, a favourite Victorian pastime, bowed low at the
mention of her name, and her own strong good sense alone prevented her
from being made the object of a sort of priggish idolatry. A big-wig of
that day remarked that "in problems of life and thought which baffled
Shakespeare her touch was unfailing." For Lord Acton at her death "the
sun had gone out," and that exceedingly dogmatic historian observed, _ex
cathedrâ_, that no writer had "ever lived who had anything like her
power of manifold but disinterested and impartial sympathy. If Sophocles
or Cervantes had lived in the light of our culture, if Dante had
prospered like Manzoni, George Eliot might have had a rival." It is very
dangerous to write like that. A reaction is sure to follow, and in the
case of this novelist, so modest and strenuous herself, but so
ridiculously overpraised by her friends, it came with remarkable

The worship of an intellectual circle of admirers, reverberating upon a
dazzled and genuinely interested public, was not, however, even in its
palmiest days, quite unanimous. There were other strains of thought and
feeling making way, and other prophets were abroad. Robert Browning,
though an optimist, and too polite a man to oppose George Eliot
publicly, was impatient of her oracular manner. There was a struggle,
not much perceived on the surface of the reviews, between her faithful
worshippers and the new school of writers vaguely called pre-Raphaelite.
She loved Matthew Arnold's poetry, and in that, as in so much else, she
was wiser and more clairvoyant than most of the people who surrounded
her, but Arnold preserved an attitude of reserve with regard to her
later novels. She found nothing to praise or to attract her interest in
the books of George Meredith; on the other hand, Coventry Patmore, with
his customary amusing violence, voted her novels "sensational and
improper." To D. G. Rossetti they were "vulgarity personified," and his
brother defined them as "commonplace tempering the stuck-up." Swinburne
repudiated _Romola_ with vigour as "absolutely false." I dare say that
from several of these her great contemporaries less harsh estimates of
her work might be culled, but I quote these to show that even at the
height of her fame she was not quite unchallenged.

She was herself, it is impossible to deny, responsible for a good deal
of the tarnish which spread over the gold of her reputation. Her early
imaginative writings--in particular _Janet's Repentance_, _Adam Bede_,
the first two-thirds of _The Mill on the Floss_, and much of _Silas
Marner_--had a freshness, a bright vitality, which, if she could have
kept it burnished, would have preserved her from all effects of
contemporary want of sympathy. When we analyse the charm of the stories
just mentioned, we find that it consists very largely in their felicity
of expressed reminiscence. There is little evidence in them of the
inventive faculty, but a great deal of the reproductive. Now, we have to
remember that contemporaries are quite in the dark as to matters about
which, after the publication of memoirs and correspondence and
recollections, later readers are exactly informed. We may now know that
Sir Christopher Cheverel closely reproduces the features of a real Sir
Roger Newdigate, and that Dinah Morris is Mrs. Samuel Evans
photographed, but readers of 1860 did not know that, and were at liberty
to conceive the unknown magician in the act of calling up a noble
English gentleman and a saintly Methodist preacher from the depths of
her inner consciousness. Whether this was so or not would not matter to
anyone, if George Eliot could have continued the act of pictorial
reproduction without flagging. The world would have long gazed with
pleasure into the camera obscura of Warwickshire, as she reeled off one
dark picture after another, but unhappily she was not contented with her
success, and she aimed at things beyond her reach.

Her failure, which was, after all (let us not exaggerate), the partial
and accidental failure of a great genius, began when she turned from
passive acts of memory to a strenuous exercise of intellect. If I had
time and space, it would be very interesting to study George Eliot's
attitude towards that mighty woman, the full-bosomed caryatid of
romantic literature, who had by a few years preceded her. When George
Eliot was at the outset of her own literary career, which as we know was
much belated, George Sand had already bewitched and thrilled and
scandalized Europe for a generation. The impact of the Frenchwoman's
mind on that of her English contemporary produced sparks or flashes of
starry enthusiasm. George Eliot, in 1848, was "bowing before George Sand
in eternal gratitude to that great power of God manifested in her," and
her praise of the French peasant-idyls was unbounded. But when she
herself began to write novels she grew to be less and less in sympathy
with the French romantic school. A French critic of her own day laid
down the axiom that "il faut bien que le roman se rapproche de la poésie
ou de la science." George Sand had thrown herself unreservedly into the
poetic camp. She acknowledged "mon instinct m'eût poussée vers les
abîmes," and she confessed, with that stalwart good sense which carried
her genius over so many marshy places, that her temperament had often
driven her, "au mépris de la raison ou de la verité morale," into pure
romantic extravagance.

But George Eliot, whatever may have been her preliminary enthusiasms,
was radically and permanently anti-romantic. This was the source of her
strength and of her weakness; this, carefully examined, explains the
soaring and the sinking of her fame. Unlike George Sand, she kept to the
facts; she found that all her power quitted her at once if she dealt
with imaginary events and the clash of ideal passions. She had been
drawn in her youth to sincere admiration of the Indianas and Lelias of
her florid French contemporary, and we become aware that in the humdrum
years at Coventry, when the surroundings of her own life were arduous
and dusty, she felt a longing to spread her wings and fly up and out to
some dim Cloud-Cuckoo Land the confines of which were utterly vague to
her. The romantic method of Dumas, for instance, and even of Walter
Scott, appealed to her as a mode of escaping to dreamland from the
flatness and vulgarity of life under the "miserable reign of Mammon."
But she could not achieve such flights; her literary character was of a
totally different formation. What was fabulous, what was artificial, did
not so much strike her with disgust as render her paralysed. Her only
escape from mediocrity, she found, was to give a philosophical interest
to common themes. In consequence, as she advanced in life, and came more
under the influence of George Henry Lewes, she became less and less well
disposed towards the French fiction of her day, rejecting even Balzac,
to whom she seems, strangely enough, to have preferred Lessing. That
Lessing and Balzac should be names pronounced in relation itself throws
a light on the temper of the speaker.

Most novelists seem to have begun to tell stories almost as early as
musicians begin to trifle with the piano. The child keeps other children
awake, after nurse has gone about her business, by reeling off
inventions in the dark. But George Eliot showed, so far as records
inform us, no such aptitude in infancy or even in early youth. The
history of her start as a novel-writer is worthy of study. It appears
that it was not until the autumn of 1856 that she, "in a dreamy mood,"
fancied herself writing a story. This was, I gather, immediately on her
return from Germany, where she had been touring about with Lewes, with
whom she had now been living for two years. Lewes said to her, "You have
wit, description, and philosophy--those go a good way towards the
production of a novel," and he encouraged her to write about the virtues
and vices of the clergy, as she had observed them at Griff and at
Coventry. _Amos Barton_ was the immediate result, and the stately line
of stories which was to close in _Daniel Deronda_ twenty years later was
started on its brilliant career. But what of the author? She was a
storm-tried matron of thirty-seven, who had sub-edited the _Westminster
Review_, who had spent years in translating Strauss's _Life of Jesus_
and had sunk exhausted in a still more strenuous wrestling with the
_Tractatus Theologico-Politicus_ of Spinoza, who had worked with
Delarive at Experimental Physics in Geneva, and who had censured, as
superficial, John Stuart Mill's treatment of Whewell's _Moral
Philosophy_. This heavily-built Miss Marian Evans, now dubiously known
as Mrs. Lewes, whose features at that time are familiar to us by the
admirable paintings and drawings of Sir Frederick Burton, was in
training to be a social reformer, a moral philosopher, an apostle of the
creed of Christendom, an anti-theological professor, anything in the
world rather than a writer of idle tales.

But the tales proved to be a hundredfold more attractive to the general
public than articles upon taxation or translations from German sceptics.
We all must allow that at last, however tardily and surprisingly, George
Eliot had discovered her true vocation. Let us consider in what capacity
she entered this field of fiction. She entered it as an observer of life
more diligent and more meticulous perhaps than any other living person.
She entered it also with a store of emotional experience and with a
richness of moral sensibility which were almost as unique. She had
strong ethical prejudices, and a wealth of recollected examples by which
she could justify them. Her memory was accurate, minute, and well
arranged, and she had always enjoyed retrospection and encouraged
herself in the cultivation of it. She was very sympathetic, very
tolerant, and although she had lived in the very Temple of Priggishness
with her Brays and her Hennells and her Sibrees, she remained singularly
simple and unaffected. Rather sad, one pictures her in 1856, rather
dreamy, burdened with an excess of purely intellectual preoccupation,
wandering over Europe consumed by a constant, but unconfessed, nostalgia
for her own country, coming back to it with a sense that the Avon was
lovelier than the Arno. Suddenly, in that "dreamy mood," there comes
over her a desire to build up again the homes of her childhood, to
forget all about Rousseau and experimental physics, and to reconstruct
the "dear old quaintnesses" of the Arbury of twenty-five years before.

If we wish to see what it was which this mature philosopher and earnest
critic of behaviour had to produce for the surprise of her readers, we
may examine the description of the farm at Donnithorne in _Adam Bede_.
The solemn lady, who might seem such a terror to ill-doers, had yet a
packet of the most delicious fondants in the pocket of her bombazine
gown. The names of these sweetmeats, which were of a flavour and a
texture delicious to the tongue, might be Mrs. Poyser or Lizzie Jerome
or the sisters Dodson, but they all came from the Warwickshire factory
at Griff, and they were all manufactured with the sugar and spice of
memory. So long as George Eliot lived in the past, and extracted her
honey from those wonderful cottage gardens which fill her early pages
with their colour and their odour, the solidity and weight of her
intellectual methods in other fields did not interfere, or interfered in
a negligible way, with the power and intensity of the entertainment she
offered. We could wish for nothing better. English literature has, of
their own class, nothing better to offer than certain chapters of _Adam
Bede_ or than the beginning of _The Mill on the Floss_.

But, from the first, if we now examine coldly and inquisitively, there
was a moth sleeping in George Eliot's rich attire. This moth was
pedantry, the result, doubtless, of too much erudition encouraging a
natural tendency in her mind, which as we have seen was acquisitive
rather than inventive. It was unfortunate for her genius that after her
early enthusiasm for French culture she turned to Germany and became, in
measure, like so many powerful minds of her generation, Teutonized. This
fostered the very tendencies which it was desirable to eradicate. One
can but speculate what would have been the result on her genius of a
little more Paris and a little less Berlin. Her most successful
immediate rival in France was Octave Feuillet; the _Scenes of Clerical
Life_ answer in time to _Le Roman d'un Jeune Homme Pauvre_, and
_Monsieur de Camors to Felix Holt_. There could not be a stronger or
more instructive contrast than between the elegant fairyland of the one
and the robust realism of the other. But our admirable pastoral writer,
whose inward eye was stored with the harmonies and humours of
Shakespeare's country, was not content with her mastery of the past.
She looked forward to a literature of the future. She trusted to her
brain rather than to those tired servants, her senses, and more and more
her soul was invaded by the ambition to invent a new thing, the
scientific novel, dealing with the growth of institutions and the
analysis of individual character.

The critics of her own time were satisfied that she had done this, and
that she had founded the psychological novel. There was much to be said
in favour of such an opinion. In the later books it is an undeniable
fact that George Eliot displays a certain sense of the inevitable
progress of life which was new. It may seem paradoxical to see the
peculiar characteristics of Zola or of Mr. George Moore in
_Middlemarch_, but there is much to be said for the view that George
Eliot was the direct forerunner of those naturalistic novelists. Like
them, she sees life as an organism, or even as a progress. George Eliot
in her contemplation of the human beings she invents is a traveller, who
is provided with a map. No Norman church or ivied ruin takes her by
surprise, because she has seen that it was bound to come, and recognizes
it when it does come. Death, the final railway station, is ever in her
mind; she sees it on her map, and gathers her property around her to be
ready when the train shall stop. This psychological clairvoyance gives
her a great power when she does not abuse it, but unfortunately from the
very first there was in her a tendency, partly consequent on her mental
training, but also not a little on her natural constitution, to dwell in
a hard and pedagogic manner on it. She was not content to please, she
must explain and teach as well.

Her comparative failure to please made its definite appearance first in
the laboured and overcharged romance of _Romola_. But a careful reader
will detect it in her earliest writings. Quite early in _Amos Barton_,
for instance, when Mrs. Hackit observes of the local colliers that they
"passed their time in doing nothing but swilling ale and smoking, like
the beasts that perish," the author immediately spoils this delightful
remark by explaining, like a schoolmaster, that Mrs. Hackit was
"speaking, we may presume, in a remotely analogical sense." The laughter
dies upon our lips. Useless pedantry of this kind spoils many a happy
touch of humour, Mrs. Poyser alone perhaps having wholly escaped from
it. It would be entirely unjust to accuse George Eliot, at all events
until near the end of her life, of intellectual pride. She was, on the
contrary, of a very humble spirit, timorous and susceptible of
discouragement. But her humility made her work all the harder at her
task of subtle philosophical analysis. It would have been far better for
her if she had possessed less of the tenacity of Herbert Spencer and
more of the recklessness of George Sand. An amusing but painful example
of her Sisyphus temper, always rolling the stone uphill with groans and
sweat, is to be found in her own account of the way she "crammed up" for
the composition of _Romola_. She tells us of the wasting toil with which
she worked up innumerable facts about Florence, and in particular how
she laboured long over the terrible question whether Easter could have
been "retarded" in the year 1492. On this, Sir Leslie Stephen--one of
her best critics, and one of the most indulgent--aptly queries, "What
would have become of _Ivanhoe_ if Scott had bothered himself about the
possible retardation of Easter? The answer, indeed, is obvious, that
_Ivanhoe_ would not have been written."

The effect of all this on George Eliot's achievement was what must
always occur when an intellect which is purely acquisitive and
distributive insists on doing work that is appropriate only to
imagination. If we read very carefully the scene preceding Savonarola's
sermon to the Dominicans at San Marco, we perceive that it is built up
almost in Flaubert's manner, but without Flaubert's magic, touch by
touch, out of books. The author does not see what she describes in a
sort of luminous hallucination, but she dresses up in language of her
own what she has carefully read in Burlamacchi or in Villari. The most
conscientious labour, expended by the most powerful brain, is incapable
of producing an illusion of life by these means. George Eliot may even
possibly have been conscious of this, for she speaks again and again,
not of writing with ecstasy of tears and laughter, as Dickens did, but
of falling into "a state of so much wretchedness in attempting to
concentrate my thoughts on the construction of my novel" that nothing
but a tremendous and sustained effort of the will carried her on at all.
In this vain and terrible wrestling with incongruous elements she wore
out her strength and her joy, and it is heart-rending to watch so noble
a genius and so lofty a character as hers wasted in the whirlpool. One
fears that a sense of obscure failure added to her tortures, and one is
tempted to see a touch of autobiography in the melancholy of Mrs.
Transome (in _Felix Holt_), of whom we are told that "her knowledge and
accomplishments had become as valueless as old-fashioned stucco
ornaments, of which the substance was never worth anything, while the
form is no longer to the taste of any living mortal."

The notion that George Eliot was herself, in spite of all the laudation
showered upon her, consciously in want of some element essential for her
success is supported by the very curious fact that from 1864 to 1869,
that is to say through nearly one-quarter of her whole literary career,
she devoted herself entirely to various experiments in verse. She was so
preternaturally intelligent that there is nothing unlikely in the
supposition that she realized what was her chief want as a writer of
imaginative prose. She claims, and she will always be justified in
claiming, a place in the splendid roll of prominent English writers. But
she holds it in spite of a certain drawback which forbids her from ever
appearing in the front rank as a great writer. Her prose has fine
qualities of force and wit, it is pictorial and persuasive, but it
misses one prime but rather subtle merit, it never sings. The masters of
the finest English are those who have received the admonition _Cantate
Domino!_ They sing a new song unto the Lord. Among George Eliot's prose
contemporaries there were several who obeyed this command. Ruskin, for
instance, above all the Victorian prose-writers, shouts like the
morning-star. It is the peculiar gift of all great prosaists. Take so
rough an executant as Hazlitt: "Harmer Hill stooped with all its pines,
to listen to a poet, as he passed!" That is the chanting faculty in
prose, which all the greatest men possess; but George Eliot has no trace
of it, except sometimes, faintly, in the sheer fun of her peasants'
conversation. I do not question that she felt the lack herself, and that
it was this which, subconsciously, led her to make a profound study of
the art of verse.

She hoped, at the age of forty-four, to hammer herself into poetry by
dint of sheer labour and will-power. She read the great masters, and she
analysed them in the light of prosodical manuals. In 1871 she told
Tennyson that Professor Sylvester's "laws for verse-making had been
useful to her." Tennyson replied, "I can't understand that," and no
wonder. Sylvester was a facetious mathematician who undertook to teach
the art of poetry in so many lessons. George Eliot humbly working away
at Sylvester, and telling Tennyson that she was finding him "useful,"
and Tennyson, whose melodies pursued him, like bees in pursuit of a
bee-master, expressing a gruff good-natured scepticism--what a picture
it raises! But George Eliot persisted, with that astounding firmness of
application which she had, and she produced quite a large body of
various verse. She wrote a Comtist tragedy, _The Spanish Gypsy_, of
which I must speak softly, since, omnivorous as I am, I have never been
able to swallow it. But she wrote many other things, epics and sonnets
and dialogues and the rest of them, which are not so hard to read. She
actually printed privately for her friends two little garlands, _Agatha_
(1868) and _Brother and Sister_ (1869), which are the only "rare issues"
of hers sought after by collectors, for she was not given to
bibliographical curiosity. These verses and many others she polished and
re-wrote with untiring assiduity, and in 1874 she published a
substantial volume of them. I have been reading them over again, in the
intense wish to be pleased with them, but it is impossible--the root of
the matter is not in them. There is an Arion, which is stately in the
manner of Marvell. The end of this lyric is tense and decisive, but
there is the radical absence of song. George Eliot admired Wordsworth
very much: occasionally she reproduces very closely the duller parts of
_The Excursion_. In the long piece of blank verse called _A College
Breakfast Party_, which she wrote in 1874, almost all Tennyson's faults
are reconstructed on the plan of the Chinese tailor who carefully
imitates the rents in the English coat he is to copy. There is a
Goethe-like poem, of a gnomic order, called _Self and Life_, stuffed
with valuable thoughts as a turkey is stuffed with chestnuts.

And it is all so earnest and so intellectual, and it does so much credit
to Sylvester. After long consideration, I have come to the conclusion
that the following sonnet, from Brother and Sister, is the best piece of
sustained poetry that George Eliot achieved. It deals with the pathetic
and beautiful relations which existed between her and her elder brother
Isaac, the Tom Tulliver of _The Mill on the Floss:_

    His sorrow was my sorrow, and his joy
      Sent little leaps and laughs through all my frame;
    My doll seemed lifeless, and no girlish toy
      Had any reason when my brother came.
    I knelt with him at marbles, marked his fling,
      Cut the ringed stem and made the apple drop,
    Or watched him winding close the spiral string
      That looped the orbits of the humming-top.
    Grasped by such fellowship my vagrant thought
      Ceased with dream-fruit dream-wishes to fulfil;
    My aëry-picturing fantasy was taught
      Subjection to the harder, truer skill
    That seeks with deeds to grave a thought-tracked line,
    And by "What is" "What will be" to define.

How near this is to true poetry, and yet how many miles away!

At last George Eliot seems to have felt that she could never hope, with
all her intellect, to catch the unconsidered music which God lavishes
on the idle linnet and the frivolous chaffinch. She returned to her own
strenuous business of building up the psychological novel. She wrote
_Middlemarch_, which appeared periodically throughout 1872 and as a book
early the following year. It was received with great enthusiasm, as
marking the return of a popular favourite who had been absent for
several years. _Middlemarch_ is the history of three parallel lives of
women, who "with dim lights and tangled circumstances tried to shape
their thought and deed in noble agreement," although "to common eyes
their struggles seemed mere inconsistency and formlessness." The three
ineffectual St. Theresas, as their creator conceived them, were
Dorothea, Rosamond, and Mary, and they "shaped the thought and deed" of
Casaubon and Ladislaw and Fred Vincy. _Middlemarch_ is constructed with
unfailing power, and the picture of commonplace English country life
which it gives is vivacious after a mechanical fashion, but all the
charm of the early stories has evaporated, and has left behind it merely
a residuum of unimaginative satire. The novel is a very remarkable
instance of elaborate mental resources misapplied, and genius revolving,
with tremendous machinery, like some great water-wheel, while no water
is flowing underneath it.

When a realist loses hold on reality all is lost, and I for one can find
not a word to say in favour of _Daniel Deronda_, her next and last
novel, which came out, with popularity at first more wonderful than
ever, in 1876. But her inner circle of admirers was beginning to ask one
another uneasily whether her method was not now too calculated, her
effects too plainly premeditated. The intensity of her early works was
gone. Readers began to resent her pedantry, her elaboration of
allusions, her loss of simplicity. They missed the vivid rural scenes
and the flashes of delicious humour which had starred the serious pages
of _Adam Bede_ and _The Mill_ like the lemon-yellow pansies and
potentillas on a dark Welsh moor. They regretted the ease of the
conversation in her early books, where it had always been natural,
lively, and brief; it was now heavy and doctrinaire. Tennyson rebelled
against the pompousness, and said, in his blunt way, that Jane Austen
knew her business better, a courageous thing to say in Victorian circles
fifty years ago. Then came _Theophrastus Such_, a collection of cumbrous
and didactic essays which defy perusal; and finally, soon after her
death, her _Correspondence_, a terrible disappointment to all her
admirers, and a blow from which even the worship of Lord Acton never
recovered. Of George Eliot might have been repeated Swift's epitaph on
Sir John Vanbrugh:

    Lie heavy on him, earth, for he
    Laid many a heavy load on thee.

It was the fatal error of George Eliot, so admirable, so elevated, so
disinterested, that for the last ten years of her brief literary life
she did practically nothing but lay heavy loads on literature.

On the whole, then, it is not possible to regard the place which George
Eliot holds in English literature as so prominent a one as was rather
rashly awarded her by her infatuated contemporaries. It is the
inevitable result of "tall talk" about likeness to Dante and Goethe that
the figure so unduly magnified fails to support such comparisons when
the perspective is lengthened. George Eliot is unduly neglected now, but
it is the revenge of time on her for the praise expended on her works in
her lifetime. Another matter which militates against her fame to-day is
her strenuous solemnity. One of the philosophers who knelt at the
footsteps of her throne said that she was "the emblem of a generation
distracted between the intense need of believing and the difficulty of
belief." Well, we happen to live, fortunately or unfortunately for
ourselves, in a generation which is "distracted" by quite other
problems, and we are sheep that look up to George Eliot and are not fed
by her ponderous moral aphorisms and didactic ethical influence. Perhaps
another generation will follow us which will be more patient, and
students yet unborn will read her gladly. Let us never forget, however,
that she worked with all her heart in a spirit of perfect honesty, that
she brought a vast intelligence to the service of literature, and that
she aimed from first to last at the loftiest goal of intellectual
ambition. Where she failed, it was principally from an inborn lack of
charm, not from anything ignoble or impure in her mental disposition.
After all, to have added to the slender body of English fiction seven
novels the names of which are known to every cultivated person is not to
have failed, but to have signally, if only relatively, succeeded.



Voluminous as had been the writings of Henry James since 1875, it was
not until he approached the end of his career that he began to throw any
light on the practical events and social adventures of his own career.
He had occasionally shown that he could turn from the psychology of
imaginary characters to the record of real lives without losing any part
of his delicate penetration or his charm of portraiture. He had, in
particular, written the _Life of Hawthorne_ in 1879, between _Daisy
Miller_ and _An International Episode_; and again in 1903, at the height
of his latest period, he had produced a specimen of that period in his
elusive and parenthetical but very beautiful so-called _Life of W. W.
Story_. But these biographies threw no more light upon his own
adventures than did his successive volumes of critical and topographical
essays, in which the reader may seek long before he detects the sparkle
of a crumb of personal fact. Henry James, at the age of seventy, had not
begun to reveal himself behind the mask which spoke in the tones of a
world of imaginary characters.

So saying, I do not forget that in the general edition of his collected,
or rather selected, novels and tales, published from 1908 onwards, Henry
James prefixed to each volume an introduction which assumed to be wholly
biographical. He yielded, he said, "to the pleasure of placing on record
the circumstances" in which each successive tale was written. I well
recollect the terms in which he spoke of these prefaces before he began
to write them. They were to be full and confidential, they were to throw
to the winds all restraints of conventional reticence, they were to
take us, with eyes unbandaged, into the inmost sanctum of his soul. They
appeared at last, in small print, and they were extremely extensive, but
truth obliges me to say that I found them highly disappointing.
Constitutionally fitted to take pleasure in the accent of almost
everything that Henry James ever wrote, I have to confess that these
prefaces constantly baffle my eagerness. Not for a moment would I deny
that they throw interesting light on the technical craft of a
self-respecting novelist, but they are dry, remote, and impersonal to a
strange degree. It is as though the author felt a burning desire to
confide in the reader, whom he positively button-holes in the endeavour,
but that the experience itself evades him, fails to find expression, and
falls stillborn, while other matters, less personal and less important,
press in and take their place against the author's wish. Henry James
proposed, in each instance, to disclose "the contributive value of the
accessory facts in a given artistic case." This is, indeed, what we
require in the history or the autobiography of an artist, whether
painter or musician or man of letters. But this includes the production
of anecdotes, of salient facts, of direct historical statements, which
Henry James seemed in 1908 to be completely incapacitated from giving,
so that really, in the introductions to some of these novels in the
Collected Edition, it is difficult to know what the beloved novelist is
endeavouring to divulge. He becomes almost chimæra bombinating in a

Had we lost him soon after the appearance of the latest of these
prefaces--that prefixed to _The Golden Bowl_, in which the effort to
reveal something which is not revealed amounts almost to an agony--it
would have been impossible to reconstruct the life of Henry James by the
closest examination of his published writings. Ingenious commentators
would have pieced together conjectures from such tales as _The Altar of
the Dead_ and _The Lesson of the Master_, and have insisted, more or
less plausibly, on their accordance with what the author _must_ have
thought or done, endured or attempted. But, after all, these would have
been "conjectures," not more definitely based than what bold spirits
use when they construct lives of Shakespeare, or, for that matter, of
Homer. Fortunately, in 1913, the desire to place some particulars of the
career of his marvellous brother William in the setting of his
"immediate native and domestic air," led Henry James to contemplate,
with minuteness, the fading memories of his own childhood. Starting with
a biographical study of William James, he found it impossible to treat
the family development at all adequately without extending the survey to
his own growth as well, and thus, at the age of seventy, Henry became
for the first time, and almost unconsciously, an autobiographer.

He had completed two large volumes of _Memories_, and was deep in a
third, when death took him from us. _A Small Boy and Others_ deals with
such extreme discursiveness as is suitable in a collection of the
fleeting impressions of infancy, from his birth in 1843 to his all but
fatal attack of typhus fever at Boulogne-sur-Mer in (perhaps) 1857. I
say "perhaps" because the wanton evasion of any sort of help in the way
of dates is characteristic of the narrative, as it would be of childish
memories. The next instalment was _Notes of a Son and Brother_, which
opens in 1860, a doubtful period of three years being leaped over
lightly, and closes--as I guess from an allusion to George Eliot's
_Spanish Gypsy_--in 1868. The third instalment, dictated in the autumn
of 1914 and laid aside unfinished, is the posthumous _The Middle Years_,
faultlessly edited by the piety of Mr. Percy Lubbock in 1917. Here the
tale is taken up in 1869, and is occupied, without much attempt at
chronological order, with memories of two years in London. As Henry
James did not revise, or perhaps even re-read, these pages, we are free
to form our conclusion as to whether he would or would not have
vouchsafed to put their disjected parts into some more anatomical order.

Probably he would not have done so. The tendency of his genius had never
been, and at the end was less than ever, in the direction of concinnity.
He repudiated arrangement, he wilfully neglected the precise adjustment
of parts. The three autobiographical volumes will always be documents
precious in the eyes of his admirers. They are full of beauty and
nobility, they exhibit with delicacy, and sometimes even with splendour,
the qualities of his character. But it would be absurd to speak of them
as easy to read, or as fulfilling what is demanded from an ordinary
biographer. They have the tone of Veronese, but nothing of his
definition. A broad canvas is spread before us, containing many figures
in social conjuncture. But the plot, the single "story" which is being
told, is drowned in misty radiance. Out of this _chiaroscuro_ there leap
suddenly to our vision a sumptuous head and throat, a handful of roses,
the glitter of a satin sleeve, but it is only when we shut our eyes and
think over what we have looked at that any coherent plan is revealed to
us, or that we detect any species of composition. It is a case which
calls for editorial help, and I hope that when the three fragments of
autobiography are reprinted as a single composition, no prudery of
hesitation to touch the sacred ark will prevent the editor from
prefixing a skeleton chronicle of actual dates and facts. It will take
nothing from the dignity of the luminous reveries in their original

Such a skeleton will tell us that Henry James was born at 2 Washington
Place, New York, on April 15th, 1843, and that he was the second child
of his parents, the elder by one year being William, who grew up to be
the most eminent philosopher whom America has produced. Their father,
Henry James the elder, was himself a philosopher, whose ideas, which the
younger Henry frankly admitted to be beyond his grasp, were expounded by
William James in 1884, in a preface to their father's posthumous papers.
Henry was only one year old when the family paid a long visit to Paris,
but his earliest recollections were of Albany, whence the Jameses
migrated to New York until 1855. They then transferred their home to
Europe for three years, during which time the child Henry imbibed what
he afterwards called "the European virus." In 1855 he was sent to Geneva
for purposes of education, which were soon abandoned, and the whole
family began an aimless wandering through London, Paris,
Boulogne-sur-Mer, Newport, Geneva, and America again, nothing but the
Civil War sufficing to root this fugitive household in one abiding home.

Henry James's health forced him to be a spectator of the war, in which
his younger brothers fought. He went to Harvard in 1862 to study law,
but was now beginning to feel a more and more irresistible call to take
up letters as a profession, and the Harvard Law School left little or no
direct impression upon him. He formed a close and valuable friendship
with William Dean Howells, seven years his senior, and the pages of the
_Atlantic Monthly_, of which Howells was then assistant editor, were
open to him from 1865. He lived for the next four years in very poor
health, and with no great encouragement from himself or others, always
excepting Howells, at Cambridge, Massachusetts. Early in 1869 he
ventured to return to Europe, where he spent fifteen months in elegant
but fruitful vagabondage. There was much literary work done, most of
which he carefully suppressed in later life. The reader will, however,
discover, tucked away in the thirteenth volume of the Collected Edition,
a single waif from this rejected epoch, the tale called _A Passionate
Pilgrim_, written on his return to America in 1870. This visit to Europe
absolutely determined his situation; his arrival in New York stimulated
and tortured his nostalgia for the old world, and in May, 1872, he flew
back here once more to the European enchantment.

Here, practically, the biographical information respecting Henry James
which has hitherto been given to the world ceases, for the fragment of
_The Middle Years_, so far as can be gathered, contains few
recollections which can be dated later than his thirtieth year. It was
said of Marivaux that he cultivated no faculty but that _de ne vivre que
pour voir et pour entendre_. In a similar spirit Henry James took up his
dwelling in fashionable London lodgings in March, 1869. He had come from
America with the settled design of making a profound study of English
manners, and there were two aspects of the subject which stood out for
him above all others. One of these was the rural beauty of ancient
country places, the other was the magnitude--"the inconceivable
immensity," as he put it--of London. He told his sister, "The place sits
on you, broods on you, stamps on you with the feet of its myriad bipeds
and quadrupeds." From his lodgings in Half Moon Street, quiet enough in
themselves, he had the turmoil of the West End at his elbow, Piccadilly,
Park Lane, St. James's Street, all within the range of a five minutes'
stroll. He plunged into the vortex with incredible gusto, "knocking
about in a quiet way and deeply enjoying my little adventures." This was
his first mature experience of London, of which he remained until the
end of his life perhaps the most infatuated student, the most
"passionate pilgrim," that America has ever sent us.

But his health was still poor, and for his constitution's sake he went
in the summer of 1869 to Great Malvern. He went alone, and it is to be
remarked of him that, social as he was, and inclined to a deep
indulgence in the company of his friends, his habit of life was always
in the main a solitary one. He had no constant associates, and he did
not shrink from long periods of isolation, which he spent in reading and
writing, but also in a concentrated contemplation of the passing scene,
whatever it might be. It was alone that he now made a tour of the
principal English cathedral and university towns, expatiating to himself
on the perfection of the weather--"the dozen exquisite days of the
English year, days stamped with a purity unknown in climates where fine
weather is cheap." It was alone that he made acquaintance with Oxford,
of which city he became at once the impassioned lover which he continued
to be to the end, raving from Boston in 1870 of the supreme
gratifications of Oxford as "the most dignified and most educated" of
the cradles of our race. It was alone that during these enchanting weeks
he made himself acquainted with the unimagined loveliness of English
hamlets buried in immemorial leafage and whispered to by meandering
rivulets in the warm recesses of antiquity. These, too, found in Henry
James a worshipper more ardent, it may almost be averred, than any
other who had crossed the Atlantic to their shrine.

Having formed his basis for the main construction of his English
studies, Henry James passed over to the Continent, and conducted a
similar pilgrimage of entranced obsession through Switzerland and Italy.
His wanderings, "rapturous and solitary," were, as in England, hampered
by no social engagement; "I see no people to speak of," he wrote, "or
for that matter to speak to." He returned to America in April, 1870, at
the close of a year which proved critical in his career, and which laid
its stamp on the whole of his future work. He had been kindly received
in artistic and literary circles in London; he had conversed with
Ruskin, with William Morris, with Aubrey de Vere, but it is plain that
while he observed the peculiarities of these eminent men with the
closest avidity, he made no impression whatever upon them. The time for
Henry James to "make an impression" on others was not come yet; he was
simply the well-bred, rather shy, young American invalid, with excellent
introductions, who crossed the path of English activities, almost
without casting a shadow. He had published no book; he had no distinct
calling; he was a deprecating and punctilious young stranger from
somewhere in Massachusetts, immature-looking for all his
seven-and-twenty years.

Some further uneventful seasons, mainly spent in America but diversified
by tours in Germany and Italy, bring us to 1875, when Henry James came
over from Cambridge with the definite project, at last, of staying in
Europe "for good." He took rooms in Paris, at 29 Rue de Luxembourg, and
he penetrated easily into the very exclusive literary society which at
that time revolved around Flaubert and Edmond de Goncourt. This year in
Paris was another highly critical period in Henry James's intellectual
history. He was still, at the mature age of thirty-two, almost an
amateur in literature, having been content, up to that time, to produce
scarcely anything which his mature taste did not afterwards repudiate.
_The Passionate Pilgrim_ (1870), of which I have spoken above, is the
only waif and stray of the pre-1873 years which he has permitted to
survive. The first edition of this short story is now not easy of
reference, and I have not seen it; the reprint of 1908 is obviously, and
is doubtless vigorously, re-handled. Enough, however, remains of what
must be original to show that, in a rather crude, and indeed almost
hysterical form, the qualities of Henry James's genius were, in 1869,
what they continued to be in 1909. He has conquered, however, in _A
Passionate Pilgrim_, no command yet over his enthusiasm, his delicate
sense of beauty, his apprehension of the exquisite colour of antiquity.

From the French associates of this time he derived practical help in his
profession, though without their being aware of what they gave him. He
was warmly attracted to Gustave Flaubert, who had just published _La
Tentation de St. Antoine_, a dazzled admiration of which was the excuse
which threw the young American at the feet of the Rouen giant. This
particular admiration dwindled with the passage of time, but Henry James
continued faithful to the author of _Madame Bovary_. It was Turgenev who
introduced him to Flaubert, from whom he passed to Guy de Maupassant,
then an athlete of four-and-twenty, and still scintillating in that
blaze of juvenile virility which always fascinated Henry James. In the
train of Edmond de Goncourt came Zola, vociferous over his late
tribulation of having _L'Assommoir_ stopped in its serial issue;
Alphonse Daudet, whose recent _Jack_ was exercising over tens of
thousands of readers the tyranny of tears; and François Coppée, the
almost exact coeval of Henry James, and now author of a _Luthier de
Crémone_, which had placed him high among French poets. That the young
American, with no apparent claim to attention except the laborious
perfection of his French speech, was welcomed and ultimately received on
terms of intimacy in this the most exclusive of European intellectual
circles is curious. Henry James was accustomed to deprecate the notion
that these Frenchmen took the least interest in him: "they have never
read a line of me, they have never even persuaded themselves that there
was a line of me which anyone could read," he once said to me. How
should they, poor charming creatures, in their self-sufficing Latin
intensity, know what or whether some barbarian had remotely "written"?
But this does not end the marvel, because, read or not read, there was
Henry James among them, affectionately welcomed, talked to familiarly
about "technique," and even about "sales," like a fellow-craftsman.
There must evidently have developed by this time something modestly
"impressive" about him, and I cannot doubt that these Parisian masters
of language more or less dimly divined that he too was, in some medium
not by them to be penetrated, a master.

After this fruitful year in Paris, the first result of which was the
publication in London of his earliest surviving novel, _Roderick
Hudson_, and the completion of _The American_, Henry James left his
"glittering, charming, civilized Paris" and settled in London. He
submitted himself, as he wrote to his brother William in 1878, "without
reserve to that Londonizing process of which the effect is to convince
you that, having lived here, you may, if need be, abjure civilization
and bury yourself in the country, but may not, in pursuit of
civilization, live in any smaller town." He plunged deeply into the
study of London, externally and socially, and into the production of
literature, in which he was now as steadily active as he was elegantly
proficient. These novels of his earliest period have neither the
profundity nor the originality of those of his middle and final periods,
but they have an exquisite freshness of their own, and a workmanship the
lucidity and logic of which he owed in no small measure to his
conversations with Daudet and Maupassant, and to his, at that time
almost exclusive, reading of the finest French fiction. He published
_The American_ in 1877, _The Europeans_ and _Daisy Miller_ in 1878, and
_An International Episode_ in 1879. He might advance in stature and
breadth; he might come to disdain the exiguous beauty of these
comparatively juvenile books, but now at all events were clearly
revealed all the qualities which were to develop later, and to make
Henry James unique among writers of Anglo-Saxon race.

His welcome into English society was remarkable if we reflect that he
seemed to have little to give in return for what it offered except his
social adaptability, his pleasant and still formal amenity, and his
admirable capacity for listening. It cannot be repeated too clearly that
the Henry James of those early days had very little of the
impressiveness of his later manner. He went everywhere, sedately,
watchfully, graciously, but never prominently. In the winter of 1878-79
it is recorded that he dined out in London 107 times, but it is highly
questionable whether this amazing assiduity at the best dinner-tables
will be found to have impressed itself on any Greville or Crabb Robinson
who was taking notes at the time. He was strenuously living up to his
standard, "my charming little standard of wit, of grace, of good
manners, of vivacity, of urbanity, of intelligence, of what makes an
easy and natural style of intercourse." He was watching the rather gross
and unironic, but honest and vigorous, English upper-middle-class of
that day with mingled feelings, in which curiosity and a sort of remote
sympathy took a main part. At 107 London dinners he observed the
ever-shifting pieces of the general kaleidoscope with tremendous
acuteness, and although he thought their reds and yellows would have
been improved by a slight infusion of the Florentine harmony, on the
whole he was never weary of watching their evolutions. In this way the
years slipped by, while he made a thousand acquaintances and a dozen
durable friendships. It is a matter of pride and happiness to me that I
am able to touch on one of the latter.

It is often curiously difficult for intimate friends, who have the
impression in later years that they must always have known one another,
to recall the occasion and the place where they first met. That was the
case with Henry James and me. Several times we languidly tried to
recover those particulars, but without success. I think, however, that
it was at some dinner-party that we first met, and as the incident is
dubiously connected with the publication of the _Hawthorne_ in 1879,
and with Mr. (now Lord) Morley, whom we both frequently saw at that
epoch, I am pretty sure that the event took place early in 1880. The
acquaintance, however, did not "ripen," as people say, until the summer
of 1882, when in connexion with an article on the drawings of George Du
Maurier, which I was anxious Henry James should write--having heard him
express himself with high enthusiasm regarding these works of art--he
invited me to go to see him and to talk over the project. I found him,
one sunshiny afternoon, in his lodgings on the first floor of No. 3
Bolton Street, at the Piccadilly end of the street, where the houses
look askew into Green Park. Here he had been living ever since he came
over from France in 1876, and the situation was eminently characteristic
of the impassioned student of London life and haunter of London society
which he had now become.

Stretched on the sofa and apologizing for not rising to greet me, his
appearance gave me a little shock, for I had not thought of him as an
invalid. He hurriedly and rather evasively declared that he was not
that, but that a muscular weakness of his spine obliged him, as he said,
"to assume the horizontal posture" during some hours of every day in
order to bear the almost unbroken routine of evening engagements. I
think that this weakness gradually passed away, but certainly for many
years it handicapped his activity. I recall his appearance, seen then
for the first time by daylight; there was something shadowy about it,
the face framed in dark brown hair cut short in the Paris fashion, and
in equally dark beard, rather loose and "fluffy." He was in deep
mourning, his mother having died five or six months earlier, and he
himself having but recently returned from a melancholy visit to America,
where he had unwillingly left his father, who seemed far from well. His
manner was grave, extremely courteous, but a little formal and
frightened, which seemed strange in a man living in constant
communication with the world. Our business regarding Du Maurier was soon
concluded, and James talked with increasing ease, but always with a
punctilious hesitancy, about Paris, where he seemed, to my dazzlement,
to know even a larger number of persons of distinction than he did in

He promised, before I left, to return my visit, but news of the alarming
illness of his father called him suddenly to America. He wrote to me
from Boston in April, 1883, but he did not return to London until the
autumn of that year. Our intercourse was then resumed, and, immediately,
on the familiar footing which it preserved, without an hour's abatement,
until the sad moment of his fatal illness. When he returned to Bolton
Street--this was in August, 1883--he had broken all the ties which held
him to residence in America, a country which, as it turned out, he was
not destined to revisit for more than twenty years. By this means Henry
James became a homeless man in a peculiar sense, for he continued to be
looked upon as a foreigner in London, while he seemed to have lost
citizenship in the United States. It was a little later than this that
that somewhat acidulated patriot, Colonel Higginson, in reply to someone
who said that Henry James was a cosmopolitan, remarked, "Hardly! for a
cosmopolitan is at home even in his own country!" This condition made
James, although superficially gregarious, essentially isolated, and
though his books were numerous and were greatly admired, they were
tacitly ignored alike in summaries of English and of American current
literature. There was no escape from this dilemma. Henry James was
equally determined not to lay down his American birthright and not to
reside in America. Every year of his exile, therefore, emphasized the
fact of his separation from all other Anglo-Saxons, and he endured, in
the world of letters, the singular fate of being a man without a

The collection of his private letters, therefore, which has just been
published under the sympathetic editorship of Mr. Percy Lubbock, reveals
the adventures of an author who, long excluded from two literatures, is
now eagerly claimed by both of them, and it displays those movements of
a character of great energy and singular originality which
circumstances have hitherto concealed from curiosity. There was very
little on the surface of his existence to bear evidence to the
passionate intensity of the stream beneath. This those who have had the
privilege of seeing his letters know is marvellously revealed in his
private correspondence. A certain change in his life was brought about
by the arrival in 1885 of his sister Alice, who, in now confirmed
ill-health, was persuaded to make Bournemouth and afterwards Leamington
her home. He could not share her life, but at all events he could
assiduously diversify it by his visits, and Bournemouth had a second
attraction for him in the presence of Robert Louis Stevenson, with whom
he had by this time formed one of the closest of his friendships.
Stevenson's side of the correspondence has long been known, and it is
one of the main attractions which Mr. Lubbock held out to his readers
that Henry James's letters to Stevenson are now published. No episode of
the literary history of the time is more fascinating than the
interchange of feeling between these two great artists. The death of
Stevenson, nine years later than their first meeting, though long
anticipated, fell upon Henry James with a shock which he found at first
scarcely endurable. For a long time afterwards he could not bring
himself to mention the name of R. L. S. without a distressing agitation.

In 1886 the publication of _The Bostonians_, a novel which showed an
advance in direct or, as it was then styled, "realistic" painting of
modern society, increased the cleft which now divided him from his
native country, for _The Bostonians_ was angrily regarded as satirizing
not merely certain types, but certain recognizable figures in
Massachusetts, and that with a suggestive daring which was unusual.
Henry James, intent upon making a vivid picture, and already perhaps a
little out of touch with American sentiment, was indignant at the
reception of this book, which he ultimately, to my great disappointment,
omitted from his Collected Edition, for reasons which he gave in a long
letter to myself. Hence, as his works now appear, _The Princess
Casamassima_, of 1886, an essentially London adventure story, takes its
place as the earliest of the novels of his second period, although
preceded by admirable short tales in that manner, the most
characteristic of which is doubtless _The Author of Beltraffio_ (1885).
This exemplifies the custom he had now adopted of seizing an incident
reported to him, often a very slight and bald affair, and weaving round
it a thick and glittering web of silken fancy, just as the worm winds
round the unsightly chrysalis its graceful robe of gold. I speak of _The
Author of Beltraffio_, and after thirty-five years I may confess that
this extraordinarily vivid story was woven around a dark incident in the
private life of an eminent author known to us both, which I, having told
Henry James in a moment of levity, was presently horrified and even
sensibly alarmed to see thus pinnacled in the broad light of day.

After exhausting at last the not very shining amenities of his lodgings
in Bolton Street, where all was old and dingy, he went westward in 1886
into Kensington, and settled in a flat which was both new and bright, at
34 De Vere Gardens, Kensington, where he began a novel called _The
Tragic Muse_, on which he expended an immense amount of pains. He was
greatly wearied by the effort, and not entirely satisfied with the
result. He determined, as he said, "to do nothing but short lengths" for
the future, and he devoted himself to the execution of _contes_. But
even the art of the short story presently yielded to a new and, it must
be confessed, a deleterious fascination, that of the stage. He was
disappointed--he made no secret to his friends of his disillusion--in
the commercial success of his novels, which was inadequate to his needs.
I believe that he greatly over-estimated these needs, and that at no
time he was really pressed by the want of money. But he thought that he
was, and in his anxiety he turned to the theatre as a market in which to
earn a fortune. Little has hitherto been revealed with regard to this
"sawdust and orange-peel phase" (as he called it) in Henry James's
career, but it cannot be ignored any longer. The memories of his
intimate friends are stored with its incidents, his letters will be
found to be full of it.

Henry James wrote, between 1889 and 1894, seven or eight plays, on each
of which he expended an infinitude of pains and mental distress. At the
end of this period, unwillingly persuaded at last that all his agony was
in vain, and that he could never secure fame and fortune, or even a
patient hearing from the theatre-going public by his dramatic work, he
abandoned the hopeless struggle. He was by temperament little fitted to
endure the disappointments and delays which must always attend the
course of a dramatist who has not conquered a position which enables him
to browbeat the tyrants behind the stage. Henry James was punctilious,
ceremonious, and precise; it is not to be denied that he was apt to be
hasty in taking offence, and not very ready to overlook an impertinence.
The whole existence of the actor is lax and casual; the manager is the
capricious leader of an irresponsible band of egotists. Henry James lost
no occasion of dwelling, in private conversation, on this aspect of an
amiable and entertaining profession. He was not prepared to accept young
actresses at their own valuation, and the happy-go-lucky democracy of
the "mimes," as he bracketed both sexes, irritated him to the verge of

It was, however, with a determination to curb his impatience, and with a
conviction that he could submit his idiosyncrasies to what he called the
"passionate economy" of play-writing, that he began, in 1889, to
dedicate himself to the drama, excluding for the time being all other
considerations. He went over to Paris in the winter of that year,
largely to talk over the stage with Alphonse Daudet and Edmond de
Goncourt, and he returned to put the finishing touches on _The
American_, a dramatic version of one of his earliest novels. He finished
this play at the Palazzo Barbaro, the beautiful home of his friends, the
Daniel Curtises, in Venice, in June, 1890, thereupon taking a long
holiday, one of the latest of his extended Italian tours, through
Venetia and Tuscany. Edward Compton had by this time accepted _The
American_, being attracted by his own chances in the part of Christopher
Newman. When Henry James reappeared in London, and particularly when
the rehearsals began, we all noticed how deeply the theatrical virus had
penetrated his nature. His excitement swelled until the evening of
January 3rd, 1891, when _The American_ was acted at Southport by
Compton's company in anticipation of its appearance in London. Henry
James was kind enough to wish me to go down on this occasion with him to
Southport, but it was not possible. On the afternoon of the ordeal he
wrote to me from the local hotel: "After eleven o'clock to-night I may
be the world's--you know--and I may be the undertaker's. I count upon
you and your wife both to spend this evening in fasting, silence, and
supplication. I will send you a word in the morning, a wire if I can."
He was "so nervous that I miswrite and misspell."

The result, in the provinces, of this first experiment was not decisive.
It is true that he told Robert Louis Stevenson that he was enjoying a
success which made him blush. But the final result in London, where _The
American_ was not played until September, 1891, was only partly
encouraging. Henry James was now cast down as unreasonably as he had
been uplifted. He told me that "the strain, the anxiety, the peculiar
form and colour of the ordeal (not to be divined in the least in
advance)" had "sickened him to death." He used language of the most
picturesque extravagance about the "purgatory" of the performances,
which ran at the Opera Comique for two months. There was nothing in the
mediocre fortunes of this play to decide the questions whether Henry
James was or was not justified in abandoning all other forms of art for
the drama. We endeavoured to persuade him that, on the whole, he was not
justified, but he swept our arguments aside, and he devoted himself
wholly to the infatuation of his sterile task.

_The American_ had been dramatized from a published novel. Henry James
now thought that he should do better with original plots, and he wrote
two comedies, the one named _Tenants_ and the other _Disengaged_, of
each of which he formed high expectations. But, although they were
submitted to several managers, who gave them their customary loitering
and fluctuating attention, they were in every case ultimately refused.
Each refusal plunged the dramatist into the lowest pit of furious
depression, from which he presently emerged with freshly-kindled hopes.
Like the moralist, he never was but always to be blest. _The Album_ and
_The Reprobate_--there is a melancholy satisfaction in giving life to
the mere names of these stillborn children of his brain--started with
wild hopes and suffered from the same complete failure to satisfy the
caprice of the managers. At the close of 1893, after one of these
"sordid developments," he made up his mind to abandon the struggle. But
George Alexander promised that, if he would but persevere, he really and
truly would produce him infallibly at no distant date, and poor Henry
James could not but persevere. "I mean to wage this war ferociously for
one year more," and he composed, with infinite agony and deliberation,
the comedy of _Guy Domvile_.

The night of January 5th, 1895, was the most tragical in Henry James's
career. His hopes and fears had been strung up to the most excruciating
point, and I think that I have never witnessed such agonies of
parturition. _Guy Domvile_--which has never been printed--was a delicate
and picturesque play, of which the only disadvantage that I could
discover was that instead of having a last scene which tied up all the
threads in a neat conclusion, it left all those threads loose as they
would be in life. George Alexander was sanguine of success, and to do
Henry James honour such a galaxy of artistic, literary, and scientific
celebrity gathered in the stalls of the St. James's Theatre as perhaps
were never seen in a London playhouse before or since. Henry James was
positively storm-ridden with emotion before the fatal night, and full of
fantastic plans. I recall that one was that he should hide in the bar of
a little public-house down an alley close to the theatre, whither I
should slip forth at the end of the second act and report "how it was
going." This was not carried out, and fortunately Henry James resisted
the temptation of being present in the theatre during the performance.
All seemed to be going fairly well until the close, when Henry James
appeared and was called before the curtain--only to be subjected--to our
unspeakable horror and shame--to a storm of hoots and jeers and catcalls
from the gallery, answered by loud and sustained applause from the
stalls, the whole producing an effect of hell broke loose, in the midst
of which the author, as white as chalk, bowed and spread forth
deprecating hands and finally vanished. It was said at the time, and
confirmed later, that this horrible performance was not intended to
humiliate Henry James, but was the result of a cabal against George

Early next morning I called at 34 De Vere Gardens, hardly daring to
press the bell for fear of the worst of news, so shattered with
excitement had the playwright been on the previous evening. I was
astonished to find him perfectly calm; he had slept well and was
breakfasting with appetite. The theatrical bubble in which he had lived
a tormented existence for five years was wholly and finally broken, and
he returned, even in that earliest conversation, to the discussion of
the work which he had so long and so sadly neglected, the art of direct
prose narrative. And now a remarkable thing happened. The discipline of
toiling for the caprices of the theatre had amounted, for so redundant
an imaginative writer, to the putting on of a mental strait-jacket. He
saw now that he need stoop no longer to what he called "a meek and lowly
review of the right ways to keep on the right side of a body of people
who have paid money to be amused at a particular hour and place." Henry
James was not released from this system of vigorous renunciation without
a very singular result. To write for the theatre the qualities of
brevity and directness, of an elaborate plainness, had been perceived by
him to be absolutely necessary, and he had tried to cultivate them with
dogged patience for five years. But when he broke with the theatre, the
rebound was excessive. I recall his saying to me, after the fiasco of
_Guy Domvile_, "At all events, I have escaped for ever from the foul
fiend Excision!" He vibrated with the sense of release, and he began to
enjoy, physically and intellectually, a freedom which had hitherto been
foreign to his nature.


THE abrupt change in Henry James's outlook on life, which was the result
of his violent disillusion with regard to theatrical hopes and
ambitions, took the form of a distaste for London and a determination,
vague enough at first, to breathe for the future in a home of his own by
the sea. He thought of Bournemouth, more definitely of Torquay, but
finally his fate was sealed by his being offered, for the early summer
months of 1896, a small house on the cliff at Point Hill, Playden,
whence he could look down, as from an "eagle's nest," on the exquisite
little red-roofed town of Rye and over the wide floor of the marsh of
Sussex. When the time came for his being turned out of this retreat, he
positively could not face the problem of returning to the breathless
heat of London in August, and he secured the Vicarage in the heart of
Rye itself for two months more. Here, as earlier at Point Hill, I was
his guest, and it was wonderful to observe how his whole moral and
intellectual nature seemed to burgeon and expand in the new and
delicious liberty of country life. We were incessantly in the open air,
on the terrace (for the Vicarage, though musty and dim, possessed, like
the fresher Point Hill, a sea-looking terrace), sauntering round the
little town, or roving for miles and miles over the illimitable flats,
to Winchelsea, to Lydd, to the recesses of Walland Marsh--even, on one
peerless occasion, so far afield as to Midley Chapel and the Romneys.

Never had I known Henry James so radiant, so cheerful or so
self-assured. During the earlier London years there had hung over him a
sort of canopy, a mixture of reserve and deprecation, faintly darkening
the fullness of communion with his character; there always had seemed to
be something indefinably non-conductive between him and those in whom he
had most confidence. While the play-writing fit was on him this had
deepened almost into fretfulness; the complete freedom of intercourse
which is the charm of friendship had been made more and more difficult
by an excess of sensibility. Henry James had become almost what the
French call a _buisson d'épines_. It was therefore surprising and highly
delightful to find that this cloud had ceased to brood over him, and had
floated away, leaving behind it a laughing azure in which quite a new
and charming Henry James stood revealed. The summer of 1896, when by a
succession of happy chances I was much alone with him at Rye, rests in
my recollection as made exquisite by his serene and even playful
uniformity of temper, by the removal of everything which had made
intercourse occasionally difficult, and by the addition of forms of
amenity that had scarcely been foreshadowed. On reflection, however, I
find that I am mixing up memories of June at Point Hill and of September
at the Vicarage with the final Rye adventure, which must now be
chronicled. When he was obliged to turn out of his second refuge, he
returned to London, but with an ever-deepening nostalgia for the little
Sussex town where he had been happy. In the following summer the voice
of Venice called him so loudly that he stayed in London longer than
usual, meaning to spend the autumn and winter in Italy. He thought
meanwhile of Bournemouth and of Saxmundham. He went on his bicycle round
the desolate ghost of Dunwich, but his heart was whispering "Rye" to him
all the while. Nothing then seemed available, however, when suddenly the
unexpected vacancy of the most eligible residence conceivable settled,
in the course of a couple of days, the whole future earthly pilgrimage
of Henry James. The huge fact was immediately announced in a letter of
September 25th, 1897:

     I am just drawing a long breath from having signed--a few moments
     since--a most portentous parchment: the lease of a smallish,
     charming, cheap old house in the country--down at Rye--for 21
     years. (It was built about 1705.) It is exactly what I want and
     secretly and hopelessly coveted (since knowing it) without
     dreaming it would ever fall. But it has fallen--and has a beautiful
     room for you (the King's Room--George II's--who slept there);
     together with every promise of yielding me an indispensable retreat
     from May to October (every year). I hope you are not more sorry to
     take up the load of life that awaits, these days, the hunch of
     one's shoulders than I am. You'll ask me what I mean by "life."
     Come down to Lamb House and I'll tell you.

There were the most delightful possibilities in the property, which
included a small garden and lawn, the whole hemmed in by a peaceful old
red wall, plentifully tapestried with espaliers. The noble tower of Rye
church looked down into it, and Henry James felt that the chimes sounded
sweetly to him as he faced his garden in monastic quiet, the little
market-town packed tightly about him, yet wholly out of sight.

Meanwhile the intellectual release had been none the less marked than
the physical. The earliest result of his final escape from the lures of
the Vivian of the stage had been the composition of a novel, _The Spoils
of Poynton_, in a manner entirely different from that of his earlier
long romances. This was published in 1897, and in the meantime he had
set to work on a longer and more ambitious romance, _What Maisie Knew_.
In these he began the exercise of what has been called his "later
manner," which it would be out of proportion to attempt to define in a
study which purports to be biographical rather than critical. It is
enough to remind the reader familiar with Henry James's writings that in
abandoning the more popular and conventional method of composition he
aimed at nothing less than a revolution in the art of the novelist.
While thus actively engaged in a new scheme of life, he found it more
and more difficult to break "the spell of immobility" which enveloped
him. He who had been so ready to start on any call of impulse in any
direction found it impossible to bring himself to respond, at Christmas,
1897, to the appeal of Madame Alphonse Daudet to come over to Paris to
grace the obsequies of her illustrious husband. The friends--and the
author of _Jack_ was the most intimate of James's Parisian
acquaintances--had not met after 1895, when Daudet had spent a month in
London mainly under the charge of Henry James, since which time the
French novelist's life had been sapped and drained from him by a disease
the symptoms of which were beginning to be painfully manifest when he
was with us in London. The old French friends were now disappearing.
Their places in Henry James's affection were partly filled by Paul
Bourget and by Maurice Barrès, whose remarkable and rather "gruesome"
book, _Les Déracinés_, now supplied James with an endless subject of
talk and reflection.

The first novel actually completed at Lamb House was _The Awkward Age_,
which was ready for the printers early in 1898. The ecstasy with which
he settled down to appreciate his new surroundings is reflected in that
novel, where the abode of Mr. Longdon is neither more nor less than a
picture of Lamb House. It was a wonderful summer and autumn, and, as
Henry James said: "The air of the place thrilled all the while with the
bliss of birds, the hum of little lives unseen, and the flicker of white
butterflies." The MS. of _The Awkward Age_ was no sooner finished than
he took up the germ of an incident dimly related to him years before at
Addington, by Archbishop Benson, and wove it into _The Turn of the
Screw_, a sort of moral (or immoral) ghost story which not a few readers
consider to be the most powerful of all his writings, and which others
again peculiarly detest. I admit myself to be a hanger-on of the former
group, and I have very vivid recollections of the period when _The Turn
of the Screw_ was being composed. The author discussed it with a freedom
not usual with him. I remember that when he had finished it he said to
me one day: "I had to correct the proofs of my ghost story last night,
and when I had finished them I was so frightened that I was afraid to go
upstairs to bed!"

By the close of 1898 he had got rid of the flat in De Vere Gardens,
which had become a mere burden to him, and had taken what he called an
"invaluable south-looking, Carlton-Gardens-sweeping bedroom" at the
Reform Club in Pall Mall, which served his brief and sudden pilgrimages
to town for many seasons. Lamb House, in the course of this year, became
his almost exclusive residence, and it is to be noted that at the same
time a remarkable change came over the nature of his correspondence. He
had been a meticulous but not very inspired letter-writer in early
youth; his capacity for epistolary composition and his appetite for it
had developed remarkably in the middle years (1882-1890). During the
hectic period of his theatrical ambition it had dwindled again. But when
he settled finally at Rye, spreading himself in luxurious contentment
within the protection of his old brick garden-wall, the pink and purple
surface of which stood in his fancy as a sort of bodyguard of security
passed down for that particular purpose through mild ages of
restfulness, as soon as he sat, with his household gods about him, in
the almost cotton-woolly hush of Lamb House, he began to blossom out
into a correspondent of a new and splendid class. The finest and most
characteristic letters of Henry James start with his fifty-fifth year,
and they continue to expand in volume, in richness and in
self-revelation almost to the close of his life. On this subject Mr.
Percy Lubbock, than whom no one has known better the idiosyncrasies of
Henry James, has described his method of correspondence in a passage
which could not be bettered:

     The rich apologies for silence and backwardness that preface so
     many of his letters must be interpreted in the light, partly indeed
     of his natural luxuriance of phraseology, but much more of his
     generous conception of the humblest correspondent's claim on him
     for response. He could not answer a brief note of friendliness but
     with pages of abounding eloquence. He never dealt in the mere small
     change of intercourse; the postcard and the half-sheet did not
     exist for him; a few lines of enquiry would bring from him a
     bulging packet of manuscript, overwhelming in its disproportion. No
     wonder that with this standard of the meaning of a letter he often
     groaned under his postal burden. He discharged himself of it, in
     general, very late at night; the morning's work left him too much
     exhausted for more composition until then. At midnight he would sit
     down to his letter-writing and cover sheet after sheet, sometimes
     for hours, with his dashing and not very readable script.
     Occasionally he would give up a day to the working off of arrears
     by dictation, seldom omitting to excuse himself to each
     correspondent in turn for the infliction of the "fierce legibility"
     of type.

This amplitude of correspondence was the outcome of an affectionate
solicitude for his friends, which led him in another direction, namely,
in that of exercising a hospitality towards them for which he had never
found an opportunity before. He did not, however, choose to collect
anything which might remotely be called "a party"; what he really
preferred was the presence of a single friend at a time, of a companion
who would look after himself in the morning, and be prepared for a
stroll with his host in the afternoon, and for a banquet of untrammelled
conversation under the lamp or on the expanse of the lawn after the
comfortable descent of nightfall.

His practice in regard to such a visitor was always to descend to the
railway station below the town to welcome the guest, who would instantly
recognize his remarkable figure hurrying along the platform. Under the
large soft hat would be visible the large pale face, anxiously scanning
the carriage-windows and breaking into smiles of sunshine when the
new-comer was discovered. Welcome was signified by both hands waved
aloft, lifting the skirts of the customary cloak, like wings. Then,
luggage attended to, and the arm of the guest securely seized, as though
even now there might be an attempt at escape, a slow ascent on foot
would begin up the steep streets, the last and steepest of all leading
to a discreet door which admitted directly to the broad hall of Lamb
House. Within were, to right and left, the pleasant old rooms, with low
windows opening straight into the garden, which was so sheltered and
economized as to seem actually spacious. Further to the left was a lofty
detached room, full of books and lights, where in summer Henry James
usually wrote, secluded from all possible disturbance. The ascent of
arrival from the railway grew to be more and more interesting as time
went on, and as the novelist became more and more a familiar and
respected citizen, it was much interrupted at last by bows from ladies
and salaams from shop-keepers; many little boys and girls, the latter
having often curtsied, had to be greeted and sometimes patted on the
head. These social movements used to inspire in me the inquiry: "Well,
how soon are you to be the Mayor-Elect of Rye?" a pleasantry which was
always well received. So obviously did Henry James, in the process of
years, become the leading inhabitant that it grew to seem no
impossibility. Stranger things had happened! No civic authority would
have been more conscientious and few less efficient.

His outward appearance developed in accordance with his moral and
intellectual expansion. I have said that in early life Henry James was
not "impressive"; as time went on his appearance became, on the
contrary, excessively noticeable and arresting. He removed the beard
which had long disguised his face, and so revealed the strong lines of
mouth and chin, which responded to the majesty of the skull. In the
breadth and smoothness of the head--Henry James became almost wholly
bald early in life--there was at length something sacerdotal. As time
went on, he grew less and less Anglo-Saxon in appearance and more Latin.
I remember once seeing a Canon preaching in the Cathedral of Toulouse
who was the picture of Henry James in his unction, his gravity, and his
vehemence. Sometimes there could be noted--what Henry would have hated
to think existing--a theatrical look which struck the eye, as though he
might be some retired _jeune premier_ of the Français, _jeune_ no
longer; and often the prelatical expression faded into a fleeting
likeness to one or other celebrated Frenchman of letters (never to any
Englishman or American), somewhat of Lacordaire in the intolerable
scrutiny of the eyes, somewhat of Sainte-Beuve, too, in all except the
mouth, which, though mobile and elastic, gave the impression in rest of
being small. All these comparisons and suggestions, however, must be
taken as the barest hints, intended to mark the tendency of Henry
James's radically powerful and unique outer appearance. The beautiful
modelling of the brows, waxing and waning under the stress of
excitement, is a point which singularly dwells in the memory.

It is very difficult to give an impression of his manner, which was
complex in the extreme, now restrained with a deep reserve, now suddenly
expanding, so as to leave the auditor breathless, into a flood of
exuberance. He had the habit of keeping his friends apart from one
another; his intimacies were contained in many watertight compartments.
He disliked to think that he was the subject of an interchange of
impressions, and though he who discussed everybody and everything with
the most penetrating and analysing curiosity must have known perfectly
well that he also, in his turn, was the theme of endless discussion, he
liked to ignore it and to feign to be a bodiless spectator. Accordingly,
he was not apt to pay for the revelations, confidences, guesses and what
not which he so eagerly demanded and enjoyed by any coin of a similar
species. He begged the human race to plunge into experiences, but he
proposed to take no plunge himself, or at least to have no audience when
he plunged.

So discreet was he, and so like a fountain sealed, that many of those
who were well acquainted with him have supposed that he was mainly a
creature of observation and fancy, and that life stirred his intellect
while leaving his senses untouched. But every now and then he disclosed
to a friend, or rather admitted such a friend to a flash or glimpse of
deeper things. The glimpse was never prolonged or illuminated, it was
like peering down for a moment through some chasm in the rocks dimmed by
the vapour of a clash of waves. One such flash will always leave my
memory dazzled. I was staying alone with Henry James at Rye one summer,
and as twilight deepened we walked together in the garden. I forget by
what meanders we approached the subject, but I suddenly found that in
profuse and enigmatic language he was recounting to me an experience,
something that had happened, not something repeated or imagined. He
spoke of standing on the pavement of a city, in the dusk, and of gazing
upwards across the misty street, watching, watching for the lighting of
a lamp in a window on the third storey. And the lamp blazed out, and
through bursting tears he strained to see what was behind it, the
unapproachable face. And for hours he stood there, wet with the rain,
brushed by the phantom hurrying figures of the scene, and never from
behind the lamp was for one moment visible the face. The mysterious and
poignant revelation closed, and one could make no comment, ask no
question, being throttled oneself by an overpowering emotion. And for a
long time Henry James shuffled beside me in the darkness, shaking the
dew off the laurels, and still there was no sound at all in the garden
but what our heels made crunching the gravel, nor was the silence broken
when suddenly we entered the house and he disappeared for an hour.

But the gossamer thread of narrative must be picked up once more, slight
as it is. Into so cloistered a life the news of the sudden loss of
Edward Burne-Jones in June, 1898, fell with a sensation; he had "seen
the dear man, to my great joy, only a few hours before his death." In
the early spring of the next year Henry James actually summoned
resolution to go abroad again, visiting at Hyères Paul Bourget and the
Vicomte Melchior de Vogüé (of whose _Le Roman Russe_ and other essays he
was a sturdy admirer), and proceeding to Rome, whence he was "whirled by
irresistible Marion Crawford off to Sorrento, Capri, Naples," some of
these now seen for the first time. He came back to England and to Lamb
House at the end of June, to find that his novel of _The Awkward Age_,
which was just published, was being received with a little more
intelligence and sympathetic comprehension than had been the habit of
greeting his productions, what he haughtily, but quite justly, called
"the lurid asininity" of the Press in his regard now beginning to be
sensibly affected by the loyalty of the little clan of those who saw
what he was "driving at" in the new romances, and who valued it as a
pearl of price. Nevertheless, there was still enough thick-witted
denunciation of his novels to fill his own "clan" with anger, while some
even of those who loved him best admitted themselves bewildered by _The
Awkward Age_. Nothing is more steadily cleared away by time than the
impression of obscurity that hangs over a really fine work of
imagination when it is new. Twenty years have now passed, and no candid
reader any longer pretends to find this admirable story "bewildering."

The passing of old friends was partly healed by the coming of new
friends, and it was about this time that Mr. H. G. Wells, Mr. Rudyard
Kipling, and Mr. W. E. Norris began to be visited and corresponded with.
In 1900 and 1901 Henry James was slowly engaged, with luxurious throes
of prolonged composition, in dictating _The Ambassadors_, which he
"tackled and, for various reasons, laid aside," only to attack it again
"with intensity and on the basis of a simplification that made it
easier" until he brought it successfully through its voluminous career.
In the summer of 1902 Mrs. Wharton, who had dedicated to him, as a
stranger, her novel of _The Valley of Decision_, became a personal
acquaintance, and soon, and till the end, one of the most valued and
intimate of his friends. This event synchronized with the publication of
his own great book, _The Wings of a Dove_. It was followed by _The
Golden Bowl_. He now turned from such huge schemes as this--which in his
fatigue he described as "too inordinately drawn out and too inordinately
rubbed in"--to the composition of short stories, in which he found both
rest and refreshment.

On this subject, the capabilities of the _conte_ as a form of peculiarly
polished and finished literature, he regaled me--and doubtless other
friends--at this time with priceless observations. I recall a radiant
August afternoon when we sallied from his high abode and descended to
the mud of the winding waters of the Brede, where, on the shaky bridge
across the river, leaning perilously above the flood, Henry James held
forth on the extraordinary skill of Guy de Maupassant, whose posthumous
collection, _Le Colporteur_, had just reached him, and on the importance
of securing, as that inimitable artist so constantly secured, one
straight, intelligible action which must be the source of all vitality
in what, without it, became a mere wandering anecdote, more or less
vaguely ornamented. Henry James was at this time, I think, himself
engaged upon the series of short stories which ultimately appeared under
the title of _The Better Sort_, each one, as he said, being the
exhibition of a case of experience or conduct. He collected and
published in these years several such volumes of short compositions, in
which he endeavoured, and admirably effected his endeavour, to combine
neatness of handling with that beauty of conception which became more
and more the object of his passionate desire. The reader naturally
recalls such perfect specimens of his craft as _The Real Right Thing and
The Beast in the Jungle_.

For many years he had let his fancy toy with the idea of returning, on a
visit only, to America. In 1904 this project really took shape, and the
long-debated journey actually took place. He terminated another extended
romance, _The Golden Bowl_, and in August set sail for New York,
ostensibly for the purpose of writing a book of American impressions.
The volume called _The American Scene_, published in 1906, gives his
account of the adventure, or rather of certain parts of it. He lived
through the first autumn with his family in the mountains of New
Hampshire, and, after a sojourn in Cambridge, spent Christmas in New
York. He then went south in search of warmth, which he found at last in
Florida. By way of Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis he reached
California in April, 1905. He delivered in various American Colleges two
lectures, specially written for the purpose, which came out as a little
volume in the United States, but have not yet appeared in England. His
impressions of America, in the volume which he published after his
return, stop with Florida, and give therefore no record of the extreme
pleasure which he experienced in California, of which his private
letters were full. He declared, writing on April 5th, 1905, from
Coronado Beach, that "California has completely bowled me over.... The
flowers, the wild flowers, just now in particular, which fairly _rage_
with radiance over the land, are worthy of some purer planet than
this.... It breaks my heart to have so stinted myself here"; but return
eastward was imperative, and in August, 1905, he was back again safe in
the silence of Lamb House.

Throughout the following autumn and winter he was, as he said,
"squeezing out" his American impressions, which did not flow so easily
as he had hoped they would. Many other enterprises hung temptingly
before him, and distracted his thoughts from that particular occupation.
Moreover, just before his plan for visiting the United States had taken
shape, he had promised to write for a leading firm of English publishers
"a romantical-psychological-pictorial-social" book about London, and in
November, 1905, he returned to this project with vivacity. There is a
peculiar interest about works that great writers mean to compose and
never succeed in producing, and this scheme of a great picturesque book
about London is like a ghost among the realities of Henry James's
invention. He spoke about it more often and more freely than he did
about his solid creations; I feel as though I had handled and almost as
though I had read it. Westminster was to have been the core of the
matter, which was to circle out concentrically to the City and the
suburbs. Henry James put me under gratified contribution by coming
frequently to the House of Lords in quest of "local colour," and I took
him through the corridors and up into garrets of the Palace where never
foreign foot had stepped before. There was not, to make a clean breast
of it, much "local colour" to be wrung out, but Henry James was
indefatigable in curiosity. What really did thrill him was to stand
looking down from one of the windows of the Library on the Terrace,
crowded with its motley afternoon crew of Members of both Houses and
their guests of both sexes. He liked that better than to mingle with the
throng itself, and he should have written a superb page on the scene,
with its background of shining river and misty towers. Alas! it will not
be read until we know what songs the Sirens sang.

All through the quiet autumn and winter of 1906 he was busy preparing
the collective and definite, but far from complete, edition of his
novels and tales which began to appear some twelve months later. This
involved a labour which some of his friends ventured to disapprove of,
since it included a re-writing into his latest style of the early
stories which possessed a charm in their unaffected immaturity. Henry
James was conscious, I think, of the arguments which might be brought
against this reckless revision, but he rejected them with violence. I
was spending a day or two with him at Lamb House when _Roderick Hudson_
was undergoing, or rather had just undergone, the terrible trial; so the
revised copy, darkened and swelled with MS. alterations, was put into my
hands. I thought--I dare say I was quite mistaken--that the whole
perspective of Henry James's work, the evidence of his development and
evolution, his historical growth, were confused and belied by this
wholesale tampering with the original text. Accordingly I exclaimed
against such dribbling of new wine into the old bottles. This was after
dinner, as we sat alone in the garden-room. All that Henry James--though
I confess, with a darkened countenance--said at the time was, "The only
alternative would have been to put the vile thing"--that is to say the
graceful tale of _Roderick Hudson_--"behind the fire and have done with
it!" Then we passed to other subjects, and at length we parted for the
night in unruffled cheerfulness. But what was my dismay, on reaching the
breakfast-table next morning, to see my host sombre and taciturn, with
gloom thrown across his frowning features like a veil. I inquired rather
anxiously whether he had slept well. "Slept!" he answered with dreary
emphasis. "Was I likely to sleep when my brain was tortured with all the
cruel and--to put it plainly to you--monstrous insinuations which you
had brought forward against my proper, my necessary, my absolutely
inevitable corrections of the disgraceful and disreputable style of
_Roderick Hudson_?" I withered, like a guilty thing ashamed, before the
eyes that glared at me over the coffee-pot, and I inly resolved that not
one word of question should ever escape my lips on this subject again.

Early in 1907 he was tempted once more, after so long absence, to
revisit France. While in America he had acquired the habit of motoring,
which he learned to enjoy so much that it became the greatest physical
pleasure of his life, and one which seemed definitely to benefit his
health. He motored through a great part of France, and then proceeded to
his beloved Italy, where he spent some radiant summer days under the
pines near Vallombrosa, and later some more with his lifelong friend
Mrs. Curtis in her wonderful Palazzo Barbaro in Venice. Ten weeks in
Paris must be added to the foreign record of this year, almost the last
of those which Henry James was able to dedicate to the Latin world that
he loved so well and comprehended so acutely. The "nightmare," as he
called it, of his Collected Edition kept him closely engaged for months
after his return--it ultimately ran into a range of twenty-four
volumes--but he was also sketching a novel, _The Ivory Tower_, which was
to embody some of his American recollections; this was never finished.
He met new friends of the younger generation, such as Hugh Walpole and
Rupert Brooke, and they gave him great happiness.

He seemed to be approaching old age in placidity and satisfaction when,
towards the end of 1909, he was seized by a mysterious group of
illnesses which "deprived him of all power to work and caused him
immeasurable suffering of mind." Unfortunately his beloved brother
William was also failing in health, and had come to Europe in the vain
search for recovery; their conditions painfully interacted. The whole
year 1910 was one of almost unmitigated distress. Henry accompanied Mr.
and Mrs. William back to their home in New Hampshire, where in the
autumn not only the eminent philosopher, but a third brother, Robertson
James, died, leaving Henry solitary indeed, and weighed upon by a cloud
of melancholy which forbade him to write or almost to speak. Out of this
he passed in the spring of 1911, and returned to Lamb House, where he
had another sharp attack of illness in the autumn of 1912. It was now
felt that the long pale winters over the marsh at Rye were impossible
for him, and the bedroom at the Reform Club insufficient. He therefore
rented a small flat high up over the Thames in Cheyne Walk, where he was
henceforth to spend half of each year and die. He sat, on the occasion
of his seventieth birthday, to Mr. Sargent for the picture which is now
one of the treasures of the National Portrait Gallery; this was
surprisingly mutilated, while being exhibited at the Royal Academy, by a
"militant suffragette"; Henry James was extraordinarily exhilarated by
having been thus "impaired by the tomahawk of the savage," and displayed
himself as "breasting a wondrous high-tide of postal condolence in this
doubly-damaged state." This was his latest excitement before the war
with Germany drowned every other consideration.

The record of the last months of Henry James's life is told in the
wonderful letters that he wrote between the beginning of August, 1914,
and the close of November, 1915. He was at Rye when the war broke out,
but he found it absolutely impossible to stay there without daily
communication with friends in person, and, contrary to his lifelong
habit, he came posting up to London in the midst of the burning August
weather. He was transfigured by the events of those early weeks,
overpowered, and yet, in his vast and generous excitement, himself
overpowering. He threw off all the languor and melancholy of the recent
years, and he appeared actually grown in size as he stalked the streets,
amazingly moved by the unexpected nightmare, "the huge horror of
blackness" which he saw before him. "The plunge of civilization into the
abyss of blood and darkness by the wanton feat of these two infamous
autocrats" made him suddenly realize that the quiet years of prosperity
which had preceded 1914 had been really, as he put it, "treacherous,"
and that their perfidy had left us unprotected against the tragic
terrors which now faced our world. It was astonishing how great Henry
James suddenly seemed to become; he positively loomed above us in his
splendid and disinterested faith. His first instinct had been horror at
the prospect; his second anger and indignation against the criminals;
but to these succeeded a passion of love and sympathy for England and
France, and an unyielding but anxious and straining confidence in their
ultimate success. Nothing could express this better than the language of
a friend who saw him constantly and studied his moods with penetrating
sympathy. Mr. Percy Lubbock says:

     To all who listened to him in those days it must have seemed that
     he gave us what we lacked--a voice; there was a trumpet note in it
     that was heard nowhere else and that alone rose to the height of
     the truth.

The impression Henry James gave in these first months of the war could
not be reproduced in better terms. To be in his company was to be
encouraged, stimulated and yet filled with a sense of the almost
intolerable gravity of the situation; it was to be moved with that
"trumpet note" in his voice, as the men fighting in the dark defiles of
Roncevaux were moved by the sound of the oliphant of Roland. He drew a
long breath of relief in the thought that England had not failed in her
manifest duty to France, nor "shirked any one of the implications of the
Entente." When, as at the end of the first month, things were far from
exhilarating for the Allies, Henry James did not give way to despair,
but he went back to Rye, possessing his soul in waiting patience,
"bracing himself unutterably," as he put it, "and holding on somehow
(though to God knows what!) in presence of the perpetrations so
gratuitously and infamously hideous as the destruction of Louvain and
its accompaniments."

At Lamb House he sat through that gorgeous tawny September, listening
to the German guns thundering just across the Channel, while the advance
of the enemy through those beautiful lands which he knew and loved so
well filled him with anguish. He used to sally forth and stand on the
bastions of his little town, gazing over the dim marsh that became
sand-dunes, and then sea, and then a mirage of the white cliffs of
French Flanders that were actually visible when the atmosphere grew
transparent. The anguish of his execration became almost the howl of
some animal, of a lion of the forest with the arrow in his flank, when
the Germans wrecked Reims Cathedral. He gazed and gazed over the sea
south-east, and fancied that he saw the flicker of the flames. He ate
and drank, he talked and walked and thought, he slept and waked and
lived and breathed only the War. His friends grew anxious, the tension
was beyond what his natural powers, transfigured as they were, could be
expected to endure, and he was persuaded to come back to Chelsea,
although a semblance of summer still made Rye attractive.

During this time his attitude towards America was marked by a peculiar
delicacy. His letters expressed no upbraiding, but a yearning,
restrained impatience that took the form of a constant celebration of
the attitude of England, which he found in those early months
consistently admirable. In his abundant and eloquent letters to America
he dealt incessantly on the shining light which events were throwing on
"England's moral position and attitude, her predominantly incurable
good-nature, the sublimity or the egregious folly, one scarcely knows
which to call it, of her innocence in face of the most prodigiously
massed and worked-out intentions of aggression." He admitted, with every
gesture of courtesy, that America's absence from the feast of allied
friendship on an occasion so unexampled, so infinitely momentous, was a
bitter grief to him, but he was ready to believe it a necessity. For his
own part, almost immediately on his return to London in October, 1914,
Henry James began to relieve the mental high pressure by some kinds of
practical work for which nothing in his previous life had fitted him,
but into which he now threw himself with even exhausting ardour. He had
always shrunk from physical contact with miscellaneous strangers, but
now nothing seemed unwelcome save aloofness which would have divided him
from the sufferings of others. The sad fate of Belgium particularly
moved him, and he found close to his flat in Cheyne Walk a centre for
the relief of Belgian refugees, and he was active in service there. A
little later on he ardently espoused the work of the American Volunteer
Motor Ambulance Corps. His practical experiences and his anxiety to take
part in the great English movement for relief of the Belgians and the
French are reflected in the essays which were collected in 1919 under
the title of _Within the Rim_.

We were, however, made anxious by the effect of all this upon his
nerves. The magnificent exaltation of spirit which made him a trumpeter
in the sacred progress of the Allies was of a nature to alarm us as much
as it inspirited and rejoiced us. When we thought of what he had been in
1911, how sadly he had aged in 1912, it was not credible that in 1915 he
could endure to be filled to overflowing by this tide of febrile
enthusiasm. Some of us, in the hope of diverting his thoughts a little
from the obsession of the war, urged him to return to his proper work;
and he responded in part to our observations, while not abandoning his
charitable service. He was at work on _The Ivory Tower_ when the war
began, but he could not recover the note of placidity which it demanded,
and he abandoned it in favour of a novel begun in 1900 and then laid
aside, _The Sense of the Past_. He continued, at the same time, his
reminiscences, and was writing the fragment published since his death as
_The Middle Years_. But all this work was forced from him with an
effort, very slowly; the old sprightly running of composition was at an
end, the fact being that his thoughts were now incessantly distracted by
considerations of a far more serious order.

The hesitations of Mr. Wilson, and Henry James's conviction that in the
spring of 1915 the United States government was "sitting down in
meekness and silence under the German repudiation of every engagement
she solemnly took with" America, led to his taking a step which he felt
to be in many respects painful, but absolutely inevitable. His heart was
so passionately united with England in her colossal effort, and he was
so dismally discouraged by the unending hesitation of America, that he
determined to do what he had always strenuously refused to do before,
namely, apply for British naturalization. Mr. Asquith (then Prime
Minister), Sir George Prothero (the Editor of the _Quarterly Review_),
and I had the honour and the gratification of being chosen his sponsors.
In the case of so illustrious a claimant the usual formalities were
passed over, and on July 26th, 1915, Henry James became a British
subject. Unhappily he did not live to see America join the Allies, and
so missed the joy for which he longed above all others.

But his radiant enthusiasm was burning him out. In August he had a
slight breakdown, and his autumn was made miserable by an affection of
the heart. He felt, he said, twenty years older, but "still, I
cultivate, I at least attempt, a brazen front." He still got about, and
I saw him at Westminster on the evening of November 29th. This was, I
believe, the last time he went out, and two days later, on the night
between the 1st and the 2nd of December, he had a stroke. He partly
rallied and was able to receive comfort from the presence of his
sister-in-law, Mrs. William James, who hurried across the Atlantic to
nurse him. At the New Year he was awarded the highest honour which the
King can confer on a British man of letters, the Order of Merit, the
insignia of which were brought to his bedside by Lord Bryce. On February
28th, 1916, he died, within two months of his 73rd birthday. His body
was cremated, and the funeral service held at that "altar of the dead"
which he had loved so much, Chelsea Old Church, a few yards from his own



Let it be said at once that Mr. Henry Festing Jones's _Life of Samuel
Butler_ tells the history of a very remarkable man with a vividness
which leaves nothing to be desired. This is not a vain compliment; it is
a tribute which common justice demands on an unusual occasion. There
were ninety-nine chances in a hundred that Butler's life would never be
adequately, or even intelligently, recorded. Nature and circumstance had
done their best to make him obscure and incomprehensible. The situation
has been saved by two facts: the first, that Butler was excessively
interested in himself; the second, that Mr. Jones was always--not merely
since Butler's death, but always--excessively interested in Butler.
These are not conditions which are essential to the success of biography
in every case, especially when the general unanimity of admiration has
made all the contemporaries of a great man in some sort his biographers,
but they are absolutely required to preserve for us the features of an
eccentric and isolated person who failed almost all through his life to
attract admiration, and who laid himself out to be completely
misunderstood when the tide should at last turn in his favour. We are
preserved from such a loss by the meticulous attention which Samuel
Butler paid to himself, and by the infatuated zeal with which Mr. Jones
adopted, continued, and developed that attention. Butler lives twice
over, or rather has never ceased to live, in the mind and humour of Mr.
Henry Festing Jones.

We move in an age which prides itself more and more on being able to see
the mote in the eye of its immediate predecessor. But Samuel Butler was
the precursor of this rebellion, and is historically notable as the
earliest anti-Victorian. He was born at a moment which was to prove less
rich than almost any other of the remarkable nineteenth century, in
producing men who were to be eminent for intellectual talent. It almost
looks as though Nature, which had been so profuse, and was presently to
become so liberal again, paused for a few years, while she prepared to
let the Victorian Age proper wear itself out. The immediate
contemporaries of Butler were Shorthouse, whose _John Inglesant_ started
a new sentimentality, and William Morris, who combined a fresh aspect of
romance with an investigation of the bases of society which was
essentially revolutionary; with these were T. H. Green, who introduced a
new Hegelian spirit into philosophical speculation, and John Richard
Green, who re-examined the foundations of our history. But none of these
men displayed any real parallelism with Butler, by whose work they were
none of them at any time affected, and of whom perhaps none of them ever
heard. The only other name which can be quoted in this connexion is that
of Lecky, who may indeed be regarded as the exact opposite of Butler in
almost every respect--successful from earliest youth, at peace with the
world, reverently acceptive of every Victorian formula, and blandly
unconscious that everything was not permanently for the best in the best
of all possible worlds.

Butler is a curious example of a man of something very like genius, who
passed through a long life in the midst of intelligent fellow-men, not
rebuffing their attentions, but encouraging them; not escaping by a
mordid modesty from criticism, but doing everything in his power to
exasperate it; and yet failing to be observed. The strange thing about
his case is that he lived, mostly in London, for sixty-six years, and
that until nearly the close of that time scarcely anyone felt more than
the most tepid and casual curiosity about him. The only similar case
that occurs to the memory in the history of nineteenth-century
literature is Borrow, who in like manner, but not with a like desolating
completeness, simply was unable to catch the eye of criticism. When
each of these writers died, it seemed impossible that either of them
would ever occupy half a page in any history of literature. It now seems
equally difficult to suppose that any such history, if possessing the
least pretension to completeness, will in future omit either of them.
This is quite apart from any question which may present itself as to the
probability of a decline in the present "fashion" for them both. It
merely expresses the fact that while Borrow and Butler alike walked all
through their lives invisible, for the rest of time they must both be
patent, whether liked or disliked.

Borrow affected a certain disdain for the laudation which would not come
his way, and in later life seemed to have relinquished any desire to
move in the mouths of men. But Butler never ceased to long for fame, and
probably to expect it. Towards the close of his life, whenever he was
asked what new work might be expected from his ingenious pen, he used to
look demure and answer, "I am editing my remains; I wish 'to leave
everything in order for my executors.'" This was looked upon as a joke,
but it turns out to have been strictly true. No one ever laboured more
to appear at his best--in strict accordance with truth, but still, at
his best--to the world after his decease. His assiduities were like
those of the dying Narcissa--

    And Betty, give those cheeks a little red,
    One wouldn't, sure, look horrid when one's dead!

He recovered as many of his own letters as he could and annotated them;
he arranged the letters of his friends; he copied, edited, indexed, and
dated all this mass of correspondence, and he prepared those "Notes"
which have since his death provided his admirers with their choicest
repast. In doing all this he displayed an equal _naïveté_ and
enthusiasm. Mr. Festing Jones, to whom all this industry has of course
been invaluable, puts the matter in a nutshell when he says that Butler
"was not contemplating publication, but neither was he contemplating
oblivion." He was simply putting the rouge-pot within Betty's reach.

Here is Butler's own account of the matter, and it throws a strong light
upon his character:

     People sometimes give me to understand that it is a piece of
     ridiculous conceit on my part to jot down so many notes about
     myself, since it implies a confidence that I shall one day be
     regarded as an interesting person. I answer that neither I nor they
     can form any idea as to whether I shall be wanted when I am gone or
     no. The chances are that I shall not.

But he was not inclined to take any risks. He was the residuary of his
own temperament, and if by chance posterity were to wake up and take a
violent interest in him, he personally would be to blame, and would
incur a very serious responsibility, if there were no documents
forthcoming to satisfy the curiosity of the new generation. It is to his
frank response to this instinct of self-preservation that we owe the
very exhaustive and faithful narrative of Mr. Festing Jones, as we did
the precious "Note-books" of 1912.

In consideration of the eagerness and sympathy with which Butler is
followed by an active group of admirers among the young writers of
to-day, it may be doubtful whether the extraordinary minuteness of
Butler's observation, continued as it is with an equally extraordinary
fullness by his biographer, may not have an evil effect in encouraging a
taste for excessive discursiveness in authorship of this class. There
have been very distinguished examples lately of abandonment to an
unchecked notation of detail. It is scarcely necessary to refer to the
texture of the later novels of Henry James, or to the amazing _Côté de
chez Swann_ of M. Marcel Proust, which latter is one of the most
characteristic successes of the moment. This widespread tendency to
consider every slight observation, whether phenomenal or emotional,
worthy of the gravest and tenderest analysis, develops at an epoch when
the world is becoming congested with printed matter, and when one might
imagine that conciseness and selection would be the qualities naturally
in fashion. Neither Samuel Butler nor his biographer conceives it
possible that anything can be negligible; to them the meanest flower
that blows by the wayside of experience gives thoughts that cannot be
brought to lie within one or even within ten pages. The complacency with
which Butler annotates his own childish letters to his mother is
equalled only by the gravity with which Mr. Jones examines those very

Not without a qualm, however, do I note this redundancy, since it is a
source of pleasure to all but the hasty reader, who, indeed, should be
advised not to approach Butler at all. The charm of his mind lies in its
divagations, its inconsistencies, its puerile and lovable
self-revelations, and all these are encouraged by the wandering style
common to the author and to his biographer. One of the most
clear-sighted of his friends, trying to sum up his character at his
death, said that "he was too versatile a genius ever to be in the front
rank of one particular line, and he had too much fun in him to be really
serious when he ought to have been." But why ought he to have been
"really serious," and why should he have sought "front rank" in one
particular line? This is the inevitable way in which a man of ingenious
originality is misjudged by those who have loved him most and who think
they understood him best. Butler was not remarkable, and does not now
deserve the reputation which his name enjoys, on account of the subjects
about which he chose to write, nor on account of the measure of decorum
with which he approached those themes, but in consequence of the sinuous
charm, the irregular and arresting originality of his approach itself,
his fame having been indeed rather delayed, and the purgatory of his
obscurity prolonged, by the want of harmony between most of the subjects
he selected and the manner in which it was native to himself to treat
those subjects. In other words, what makes Butler a difficult theme for
analysis is that, unlike most authors, his genius is not illuminated,
but positively obscured for a student of to-day, by the majority of his
controversial writings. He was not a prophet; he was an inspired
"crank." He is most characteristic, not when he is discussing Evolution,
or Christianity, or the Sonnets of Shakespeare, or the Trapanese Origin
of the "Odyssey," but when he is meandering along, endlessly,
paradoxically, in the act of written conversation about everything at
large and nothing in particular, with himself as the central theme.

The most valuable of Butler's imaginative writings, and indeed the most
important from almost every point of view, are the two romances which
stand respectively at the opening and at the close of his career, like
two golden pillars supporting the roof of his reputation. His earliest
publication (for the slight and brief budget of letters from New Zealand
was not published by himself) was Erewhon--or "Nowhere"--a fantastic
Utopia of the class started a century and a half ago by Paltock in his
fascinating adventures of _Peter Wilkins_. Like Wilkins, the hero of
_Erewhon_ flies from civilization, and discovers in the Antarctic world
a race of semi-human beings, who obey a strict code of morals consistent
in itself, but in complete divergence from ours on many important
points. I discover no evidence that Butler ever saw Paltock's romance,
and he would probably have been scornful of the Glums and Gowries, and
of the gentle winged people wrapped in throbbing robes of their own
substance. But I think some dim report of an undiscovered country where
ethics were all turned topsy-turvy may have started him on _Erewhon_.
The other novel, that which closes Butler's career as a writer, is _The
Way of All Flesh_, without a careful consideration of which, by the
light of information now supplied by Mr. Festing Jones, no sketch of
Butler's career can, for the future, be attempted.

As early as 1873, Butler confided to Miss Savage--of whose place in his
life and influence upon his genius I shall presently have to speak--that
he was contemplating the composition of an autobiographical novel. She
read the opening, and wrote, "as far as it goes it is perfect, and if
you go on as you have begun, it will be a beautiful book." In case he
got tired of it, what he had already written might make "a very nice
finished sketch for a magazine." Evidently Miss Savage, who had an
almost uncanny penetration into Butler's nature, had little confidence
in his perseverance in the conduct of so large a design. She urged him
on, however, and it very early occurred to her that the value of the
story would consist in its complete veracity as an autobiography. She
faced Butler with the charge that he was not being faithful to himself
in this matter, and she said, "Is the narrator of the story to be an
impartial historian or a special pleader?" Butler wriggled under her
strictures, but failed to escape from them. Finally she faced him with a
direct question:

     You have chosen the disguise of an old man of seventy-three
     [exactly double Butler's real age at that time], and must speak and
     act as such. An old man of seventy-three would scarcely talk as you
     do, unless he was constantly in your company, and was a very docile
     old man indeed--and I don't think the old man who is telling the
     story is at all docile.

Young or old, Butler was never "docile," and he was not inclined to give
up his idealism without a struggle. But Miss Savage was indomitable. She
continued to undermine what she called "the special pleader," on the
ground that "I prefer an advocate in flesh and blood." Under this
pressure, and stimulated by Miss Savage's ingenuous annotations, Butler
adopted more and more a realistic tone, and kept the story more and more
closely on autobiographic lines. It was progressing steadily when Butler
had to go to Canada on the business expedition which cost him so many
months of his life, and when he returned to London he did not resume the
novel. He took it up again in 1878, and disliked it; it needed Miss
Savage's energy to start him again with proper gusto. Mr. Festing Jones
was by this time upon the spot, and though he does not say so, he
probably supported Miss Savage. They were the Aaron and Hur who held up
the arms of this incorrigible "special pleader," and insisted that he
should stick to the truth, and not embroider it. In 1884 _The Way of All
Flesh_ was finished; in 1885 it underwent some revision, and after that
was not touched again.

So long as Butler was alive, the uncompromising revelations of his
family life, and the bitterness of the censure of living persons, which
the novel contained, made it impossible to dream of issuing it. To do so
would have been to break a nest of hornets over Butler's pate. But the
moment he was dead, his executor, the late Mr. R. A. Streatfeild, acting
upon the author's known wishes, published _The Way of All Flesh_. This
was in 1903, and the publication synchronized with the surprising burst
of critical appreciation which the announcement of Butler's death had
awakened in the Press. In almost all unprejudiced quarters the value of
_The Way of All Flesh_ as a sincere and masterly contribution to
imaginative literature, was acknowledged, although it took five years
more for a second edition of the book to be called for. Butler, however,
was recognized at last as an author of distinguished merit, and there
was a reverberation of curiosity concerning so remarkable a man who had
walked about among us for nearly seventy years without attracting any
particular attention. This curiosity, it was indicated by his admirers,
could now be assuaged by a study of _The Way of All Flesh_, which was a
faithful portrait of the writer, and of all the persons who had checked
his growth or encouraged his development. So the legend was started that
no real _Life of Samuel_ Butler was required, because in _The Way of All
Flesh_ we already possessed a complete one.

Apart from the fact that the best of autobiographies can never be the
"real life," because it can never depict the man quite as others saw
him, it now transpires--and this is perhaps the most important feature
of Mr. Festing Jones's admirable volumes--that the novel cannot be
accepted as an autobiography sound at all points. In spite of the
warnings of Miss Savage, and, oddly enough, most of all in the person of
Miss Savage herself, Butler was incapable of confronting the incidents
of his own life without colouring them, and without giving way to
prejudice in the statement of plain facts. He disliked excessively the
atmosphere of middle-class Evangelicism in which he had been brought up,
and we must dislike it too, but we need not dislike the persons involved
so bitterly as Butler did. It was narrow, sterile and cruel, and it
deserved no doubt the irony which Butler expended upon it. So long as we
regard _The Way of All Flesh_ as a story, invented with the help of
recollections which the novelist was at liberty to modify in any way he
thought desirable, there is no quarrel to be picked with any part of it.
But when we are led, as we have been, to take it as a full and true
record of Butler's own life, with nothing changed but the names of the
persons, we see by the light of Mr. Festing Jones that this is an
absolutely untenable position. _The Way of All Flesh_ is not an
autobiography, but a romance founded on recollection.

The author of _Erewhon_, who was christened Samuel, not in honour of the
author of _Hudibras_, but in memory of his own grandfather, the Bishop
of Lichfield and Coventry, was the son of Canon Thomas Butler, incumbent
of Langor-with-Branston, in Nottinghamshire, where the younger Samuel
was born on the 4th of December, 1835. Readers of _The Way of All Flesh_
may recognize the Butler family at Langor in the very unflattering
picture of the Pontifexes in that novel. The Bishop's grandson disliked
him very much indeed--"bullying, irritable, stupid old turkey-cock"--until
1887, when he got hold of the Bishop's letters and papers, "and fell
over head and ears in love with him." He excused his earlier sarcasms by
saying--"When I wrote harshly describing him, I knew nothing about my
grandfather except that he had been a great schoolmaster--and I do not
like schoolmasters; and then a bishop--and I do not like bishops; and
that he was supposed to be like my father." For the latter, who is
Theobald Pontifex in _The Way of All Flesh_, he never expressed any
leniency whatever, yet it is impossible to avoid hoping that if he had
studied his father, as at the age of fifty he studied his grandfather,
he might have relented a little in that instance also.

Ernest Pontifex says, in _The Way of All Flesh_, that he could remember
no feeling towards his parents during his childhood except fear and
shrinking. To Butler, fathers in general, as a class, were "capable de
tout," like the prophet Habakkuk. Mr. Festing Jones prints a very
explicit paper he has found on this subject, the least distressing
paragraph in which is the last, where Butler says, "An unkind fate never
threw two men together who were more naturally uncongenial than my
father and myself." Canon Butler was an evangelical clergyman of the
Simeonite type, which flourished so intensely before and during the
development of the High Church revival. He believed in bringing up
children rigidly, from their infancy, in the strict practice of external
religion. If they were recalcitrant, the love of God must be driven into
them by their being whipped or shut up in a cupboard, or docked of some
little puerile pleasure. Samuel Butler secretly rebelled, from babyhood,
against this stern evangelical discipline, and the Canon, who had no
imagination, simply redoubled his severities. It is an amusing touch, in
this record of a dismal childhood, to learn that Samuel was excessively
pleased, at the age of eight, by hearing an Italian lady in Naples say
that a dear young friend of hers--poor unfortunate fellow, _povero
disgrasiato_!--had been obliged to murder his uncle and his aunt.
Probably the pleasure the little boy felt in hearing of this
"misfortune" was the earliest expression of that rebellious and
fantastic dislike of conventionality which was to run through the whole
series of the man's works.

In the letters from Butler to his family, written at school and at
college, there is, however, no trace of the violent antagonism which he
afterwards believed that he had always felt. It is true that a boy who
writes to his father and mother, and indeed in similar circumstances a
man too, is constrained to resign himself to a certain innocent
hypocrisy. Very few children are able to send to their parents, and very
few parents are able to endure from their children, a perfectly sincere
description of their crude sentiments during adolescence. But if Samuel
Butler was really tormented at home, as Ernest Pontifex was, it is odd
that some note of hostility should not have crept into his juvenile
correspondence. However, Mr. Festing Jones, who is as judicious as a
Lord of Appeal, seems to entertain no doubt that Canon Butler was a holy
horror, so that we must bow to his opinion.

The earliest overt evidence of a falling out between father and son is
delayed until, in Mr. Jones's unfaltering narrative, we reach the son's
twenty-third year. He does not seem, at first, to have combated his
father's obstinate demand that he should take orders in the Church of
England. That Canon Butler, a clergyman of clergymen, should have
desired to see his Samuel take this step, ought not to seem
unreasonable, though it certainly proved unlucky. In the novel, it will
be remembered, Ernest Pontifex actually was ordained, but to this length
Samuel Butler never proceeded. He went to a parish in the east of London
to work with a parson who had been one of his grandfather's pupils at
Shrewsbury. There his faith in the efficacy of infant baptism was
shaken, and presently falling, brought down about his ears the whole
fabric of Simeonite Christianity in which he had so assiduously been
trained. He suddenly, and no doubt abruptly, wrote to the Canon and said
that he "declined to be ordained." From a carnal as well as a spiritual
point of view this must have been a nasty shock for his parents, and Mr.
Festing Jones tells us "there was a long and painful correspondence."
This he mercifully spares us, but refers us to _The Way of All Flesh_,
where Butler made dauntless use of it.

The financial situation was difficult. Canon Butler was fairly
well-to-do, but he had other children to provide for, and Samuel, who
refused to be a clergyman, went on refusing, as it must have seemed to
his father, to be anything at all. Like the poet Cowley, he

    neither great at Court nor in the War,
    Nor at the Exchange would be, nor at the wrangling Bar.

All professions were suggested, and each in vain. At last it was decided
that Samuel should emigrate to New Zealand, and become a sheep farmer.
Only nine years earlier, a Church of England colony had been founded at
Canterbury, in the South Island, and the town of Christchurch had been
founded. It had enjoyed a great success, and by the year 1859, when
Butler landed, almost all the sheep lands had been already taken up. At
last he found an unoccupied run at the "back of beyond," and built a
little homestead for himself, which he called Mesopotamia. It is
needless to dwell on this episode of Butler's life, further than to
point out that it proved him capable of sustained physical industry and
of considerable financial adroitness. The remainder of his career hardly
suggests the possession of either. The New Zealand episode is
sufficiently dealt with in Butler's own book, _A First Year in
Canterbury Settlement_, which, by the way, shows no trace of the
author's subsequent merit as a writer. In June, 1864, he sailed homeward
from the port of Lyttelton, but not alone, and we now approach the
strangest incident of his life.

It was to be expected that the £4,400 which Butler had received from his
father in 1859 would by this time have dwindled to zero. Not at all; it
had swelled to £8,000. But just before he left New Zealand a young man,
called Charles Pauli, whom he had known but very slightly as a
journalist in Christchurch, and who had no claim upon Butler of any sort
or species, came to him and asked him to pay for his passage back to
England, and to advance him £200 a year for three years. "To me," wrote
Butler in 1897, "in those days this seemed perfectly easy; and Pauli, I
have not the smallest doubt, intended and fully believed--for his
temperament was always sanguine--that he should be able to repay me."
Butler had very little insight into the "temperament" of Pauli, and the
whole of the extraordinary story increases our conviction that this
sardonic and sarcastic analyst of imaginary life was as powerless as a
child in face of reality. The dreadful Pauli adventure, told for the
first time by Mr. Festing Jones, in his deliberate, unimpassioned way,
is the most amazing revelation of simplicity traded upon by fraud that
it is possible to imagine.

There soon proved to be a complete absence of harmony in the tastes of
Butler and Pauli, who had really nothing in common. Yet they settled
together, when they arrived in London, in rooms in Clifford's Inn, Fleet
Street. There Butler lived for all the rest of his life, thirty-eight
years; but presently Pauli went elsewhere. Then the relations of the two
became incomprehensible. Pauli was very irritable, and constantly found
fault with Butler. He refused to let Butler know his address, and yet
was continually sponging upon him. He said that he could get no help
from his own parents, and that Butler stood between him and starvation.
For three years Pauli did not attempt to work. At last, in 1867, he was
called to the Bar. He lunched with Butler three times a week, when he
always said that he was earning nothing. Butler's own statement, written
in 1898, the year after Pauli's death, is as follows:

     I have no means of ascertaining how much Pauli had from me between
     the years 1864 and 1881 (but it exceeded £3,500). I kept no
     accounts; I took no receipts from him; the understanding was that
     he would repay me when he came into his reversion.... In 1879 I
     only admitted to my father having helped Pauli from time to time;
     the fact was, I had done everything.... I had more than shared
     every penny I had with him, but I believed myself to be doing it
     out of income, and to have a right to do it.

Throughout the long periods in which Butler was hard pressed for
sufficient money to exist--times in which there were painful and
unseemly squabbles about an allowance between his father and himself--he
was supporting Pauli, whose means of subsistence he took no pains to
investigate, and who, in full cognition of Butler's attenuated sources
of income, punctually took half for himself. Mr. Festing Jones's
statement is amazing:

     Pauli was called to the Bar in 1867, and took chambers in Lincoln's
     Inn for his work. He told Butler where they were, so that he could
     write if he had any communication to make to him that would not
     wait till they met; but Butler was not to go there. Of course, he
     could have gone, but he did not. He could have found out in a
     hundred ways where Pauli lived if he had set about it; but, knowing
     that Pauli did not wish it, he did nothing.

At last, in 1897, after having shared his poverty with this strange
friend for thirty-three years, Butler read in _The Times_ that Pauli was
dead. Then, at last, he made inquiries, and found that for a great many
years past Pauli's income from the law had exceeded £700 a year, and for
nearly twenty had been over £1,000. Pauli left £9,000, not a penny of it
to Butler, whose parasite he had been for the greater part of his life,
when every five-pound note was of consequence to Butler. One knows not
which to be more astounded at--heartless greediness on the one side, or
fatuous simplicity on the other. When all the evidence came out at last
beyond all further concealment, Butler wrote: "I understand now why
Pauli preserved such an iron silence when I implored him to deal with me
somewhat after the fashion in which I had dealt with him." [That is to
say, in telling him precisely what Butler's exact financial position
was.] "The iniquity of the whole thing, as it first struck me in full
force, upset me."

This "squalid and miserable story" is told with inexorable fullness by
Mr. Festing Jones. What is very remarkable about it is the evidence it
gives of Butler's irregular penetration into character. He could be
extremely acute in one direction and absolutely obtuse in another. The
incredible indulgence which permitted him to be the dupe and victim of a
scoundrel like Pauli for more than thirty years seems incompatible with
the intense and suspicious analysis which he expended on the motives of
his father. After all, when the worst of Canon Butler is admitted, he
was a Christian and a gentleman by the side of the appalling Pauli. Yet
Butler would sacrifice his father, and actually tell falsehoods, for the
purpose of screening and enriching Pauli (see Vol. I., p. 114), of whose
villainy he could at any moment have assured himself, and with whom he
practically admits that he had nothing in common.

The Pauli episode is valuable in supplying light on certain defects in
Butler's intellectual composition. In measure, it tends to explain the
inconsistencies, the irregularities of his mental life, and of his
action as a scholar. He was the opposite of those who see life steadily,
and see it whole. He had no wide horizons, but he investigated a corner
or a section of a subject with a burning glass which left all other
parts of the surface in darkness. There were Paulis on his mental
horizon; there were in almost everything he approached passages where
his want of appreciation, his want (let us boldly say) of elementary
insight, produced the oddest effect of imperfection. His literary
judgments were _saugrenu_ to the last extreme. What are we to think of a
man who lays if down that "Blake was no good because he learnt Italian
to study Dante, and Dante was no good because he was so fond of Virgil,
and Virgil was no good because Tennyson ran him; and as for Tennyson,
well, Tennyson goes without saying"? There is no critical meaning in
such outbursts; they would be almost imbecile in their aimless petulance
if we did not understand that Virgil and Dante and Blake lay in the dark
segment of Butler's vision, and that he had not so much formed an
adverse opinion of their merits as no opinion at all. If, as
surprisingly he did on every occasion, he heaped contempt on Virgil, it
was simply because he wanted to get Virgil well out of the way of Homer,
on whom his enthusiasm was concentrated.

It was so in all things. Butler despised the great Venetian painters,
not because he had devoted attention to their faults, but because they
stood in the way of Giovanni and Gentile Bellini, to whom he had
dedicated a frenzied cult. "Titian, Leonardo, Raffaelle and Michel
Angelo, well, to speak quite plainly, I like none of them," he wrote in
the last year of his life. In music it was just the same. Butler
attached himself, from early youth to the grave, to Handel in an almost
maniacal infatuation. In order to clear a space, as it were, round this
solitary object of his worship, he covered Beethoven and Bach with
contempt; and if anyone forced him to listen to the "Requiem" of Mozart,
he stopped his ears and hummed "Loathsome urns, disclose your treasure,"
to drown the hideous Austrian discord. For Butler, "Bach wriggles;
Wagner writhes." All the masterpieces of the world of music he sweeps
together in a universal disapproval as "heartless failures," whereas of
Handel's least remarkable passages he calls out, "Can human genius do
more?" The result is that Butler is interesting and sometimes valuable
when he praises; when he blames, he is sometimes amusing, but more often
impertinent and tiresome. What is the point of calling Plato one of the
"Seven Humbugs of Christendom," or of talking of "that damned Republic"?
To pretend to admire these peevish outbursts, however much we may be
stimulated by the better sides of Butler's intelligence, is abject.

No section of Mr. Resting Jones's biography is more interesting than
that in which, in the patient, judicious manner in which he so eminently
excels, he depicts the relation of Butler to Miss Savage. Readers of
_The Way of All Flesh_ are familiar with the figure of Alethea Pontifex,
who occupies the position of heroine in that novel. It has long been
known that this was the portrait of a friend whom Butler had studied,
confided in, and deeply valued. In what degree it was an accurate
portrait has not hitherto been known. I have no hesitation in saying
that the chapters which deal with this situation--and they are executed
with as much delicacy as realism--form the most unhackneyed and the
most exciting section of Mr. Jones's volumes. They illuminate in
portions, and they leave darker than ever in other parts, the rugged
surface of Butler's extraordinary character; and I regret that
exigencies of space do not permit me to do justice to documents so
remarkable. But yet, something I must say.

The Alethea of the novel was so far from being an exact portrait that
the sitter, after studying every line and touch of it, is supposed, was
supposed by Butler himself, not to have perceived that it was intended
for her. This, however, we must regard as hardly possible in the case of
one so passionately clear-sighted, but there were many reasons why she
should adopt such an attitude. Eliza Mary Ann Savage was a governess,
whom Butler met about 1870, when he and she were art students together
at Heatherley's. They were nearly of the same age, which at that time
would be thirty-four. They were immediately drawn together by a singular
parallelism in temper and sympathy. Miss Savage read the MS. of Erewhon,
and minutely criticized it. From this time, 1871 to 1885, when she died,
Butler submitted to her everything he wrote, and, obstinate as he was in
the face of all other censures, invariably remodelled his work in
accordance with her criticisms and suggestions. She supported him in all
his enthusiasms, and shared all his prejudices. She was a very well-read
woman, and was able to follow Butler into the remotest recesses of his
studies. She responded to his lightest touch like a delicate musical
instrument, and yet was rigid in opposing any divergence from what she
conceived to be the normal line his talent ought to take. She was as
stringently hostile to Christianity, as contemptuous of Darwin and
Huxley, as infatuated about Handel, as haughtily an enfant terrible of
the intelligence as he was, and the degree to which the admirers of
Butler's books are indebted to her can never be definitely known, but is
certainly very great.

Alethea Pontifex, in _The Way of All Flesh_, is tall, handsome, with
fine blue eyes. Miss Savage was short, insignificant, and plain, with
brown eyes; she suffered from hip disease; physically, she was quite
unattractive. This introduces into the real history an element of pathos
and of pain which raises it to a far higher level of human interest than
the novel has to offer us. To Miss Savage, in her isolated state, Butler
was the whole world; and it is perfectly evident--Mr. Festing Jones need
not hesitate so conscientiously in admitting it--that she was
absorbingly, unalterably in love with Butler. She lived, quite
unupbraiding, in the intermittent light of his countenance. For nearly
twenty years they were, mentally, like a devoted husband and wife, yet
the anomaly of their relations never struck Butler, to whom Miss Savage
was a comrade of perfect sympathy, and no more. He did not observe,
until Miss Savage was dead, that she had felt towards him otherwise than
he felt towards her. He wrote, "I valued her, but she perfectly
understood that I could do no more." Did she? Mr. Festing Jones prints a
sonnet of Butler's, written in 1901, which seems to me to be one of the
most amazing pieces of self-revelation that I know:

    And now, though twenty years are come and gone,
      That little lame lady's face is with me still;
    Never a day but what, on every one,
      She dwells with me as dwell she ever will.
    She said she wished I knew not wrong from right;
      It was not that; I knew, and would have chosen
    Wrong if I could, but, in my own despite,
      Power to choose wrong in my chilled veins was frozen.
    'Tis said that if a woman woo, no man
      Should leave her till she have prevailed; and, true,
    A man will yield for pity if he can,
      But if the flesh rebels, what can he do?
          I could not; hence I grieve my whole life long
          The wrong I did in that I did no wrong.

Such fragments of Miss Savage's letters as Mr. Festing Jones prints show
that she was an admirable correspondent. Butler put her letters together
in a separate collection, edited, annotated, and ready for the Press.
This is to be published some day in a volume by itself, and will have a
pathetic value. But I confess to a certain feeling of regret that the
inner being of this obscure, pathetic, and self-sacrificing woman should
be immolated any further on the altar of Butler's egotism. My own
instinct would be to say: Let poor Miss Savage, out of whose painful and
imperfect existence so much "copy" has already been made, sleep on
undisturbed under her mouldering headstone at Finchley. But Mr. Festing
Jones knows best.

The most agreeable parts of this biography, at all events those which
give us the most genial impression of Butler as a companion, deal with
his repeated visits to Italy. These tours inspired, or were used to
produce material for, a very pleasant section of his literary work. If
we distinguish between the wit and picturesqueness of the ornament in
Butler's controversial writings, and the actual basal texture of those
writings, I do not see how a reasonable criticism can any longer pretend
to set high value on his angry denunciations of the whole Darwinian
theory of evolution, or on his diatribes about Unconscious Memory. There
is a terrible work of his, published in 1887, called _Luck or Cunning as
the Main Means of Organic Modification_; there is another, of 1882,
called _Evolution, Old and New_. They are unreadable. His religious
polemic was even more disagreeable than his scientific, and the
lumbering sarcasm of the attack on Christianity, called _The Fair
Haven_, is an epitome of all that is most unpleasing in the attitude of
Butler. Unctuous sarcasm so sustained as to deceive the very elect, and
"affectation of the tone of indignant orthodoxy," have a tendency to
grow rancid in the passage of years, and to become exceedingly
unappetizing. Samuel Butler, whose rashness was astounding, had the
courage to call his homonym of the _Analogy_ a "poor creature"! What
would Joseph Butler, revisiting the glimpses of the moon, think of the
author of _The Fair Haven_?

There is nothing of this incongruity in the books which are founded on
memories of Italian travel. Here the charm of Butler's style is
expended, with a thousand oddities and playfulnesses, on subjects which
blossom in its atmosphere. It is very strange that _Alps and
Sanctuaries_ (1882), and _Ex Voto_ (1888), should share the neglect
which was so unbrokenly the fate of Butler's publications, for these
were charming and original to a high degree, and they illustrate,
without any disadvantage, the whimsical penetration of his mind and the
playful melody of his style at its best. _The Authoress of the Odyssey_
(1897), which Hellenists found it impossible to take as a serious
contribution to scholarship, was another of these by-products of travel
in Sicily, and contained very numerous pages, which, whether convincing
or no, were exceedingly picturesque and entertaining. No cultivated man
or woman will, in the future, visit Trapani or ascend to the platforms
of Mount Eryx without remembering how Butler was taken to the grotto
where Ulysses hid his treasure, or how the Sicilian descendants of the
Cyclopes treated him as a royal personage.

Not much new light is thrown on the purely literary characteristics of
Butler by Mr. Festing Jones's biography. He has not dwelt at length on
the individual works, nor at all on the general position of their author
among his contemporaries. He left himself no space to go into such
questions, being fully occupied with the task of interpreting and
illuminating the personal characteristics of his subject. He is an
unflinching portraitist, and in a painting of Oliver Cromwell from the
life would be sure to do full justice to the wen. The rugged surface of
Samuel Butler lends itself to such realism--and I will not say that Mr.
Jones does not approach the confines of the superfluous in the excessive
minuteness of his notes. We are assured that Butler took eight
handkerchiefs and three pairs of socks with him when he went abroad, and
that he very wisely carried diarrhœa pills in the handle half of his
Gladstone bag. When Butler bought himself a new wash-hand basin, in
1887, the fact is duly recorded. We are told that once, in 1886, he
swept every corner of every room of his lodgings with tea-leaves, and
that it made him perspire freely. That there will be readers who do not
care how many times Butler brushed his hair every day, nor on what
occasion he wore "the high hat which appears in the corner of the
picture in his room," I am not inclined to deny, but I am not of them.
These little things, recounted with Mr. Festing Jones's humorous
serenity, are my delight. If some contemporary had recorded the fact
that Shakespeare habitually soaked the crust of his manchet in his last
mouthful of sack, or that he wore out his left shoe faster than his
right, how grateful we should be for the information. Only, there must
come into our consideration: Are Butler and Shakespeare figures of equal
significance, apart from their shoes and their hair-brushes?

There is less room for divergence of judgment on the question of the way
in which Mr. Jones has revealed the moral and social characteristics of
his hero. Here he could hardly be excessive. The amiability, the
ruggedness, the nervous instability, the obstinacy as of a rock, the
tenderness and the sardonic bitterness which made up so strange an
amalgam, are all frankly revealed. It is for us to arrange them, if we
can, into a consistent portrait of a most inconsistent figure. Here is,
taken at random, an entry of Butler's own, which gives a good example of
several of his characteristics:

     17th April 1895. I travelled from Patros to Athens with a young
     Turk, about thirty years old, and his dog--an English terrier. We
     were alone in the carriage the greater part of the time, and I
     suppose the poor dog was bored; at any rate, after a while, he made
     up to me. He licked me all over my face, and then began to pretend
     that my coat pocket had got a rat in it which he must catch. I was
     so flattered at being made up to by anyone or anything who seemed
     to tell me I was a nice person, that I let him go on and hunt for
     rats all over me, till at last his master interposed in beautiful
     English, and then we talked. He was a Secretary to the Turkish
     Legation, and was very clever and nice.

The incident could hardly be more trifling, but it is inimitably told;
and it reveals not merely a mastery of minute description, but the
self-tormenting temperament of a man of extraordinary talent who, for
some unfathomable reason, though love was in his heart, was for ever out
of harmony with the world, and suspicious of those whom he would fain
have ingratiated. Those are the main lineaments which Mr. Festing
Jones's biography reveals, and they are those of a miniaturist touching
his ivory with a fastidious brush, and of a "born orphan" who could not
find a home in the wilderness of jarring humanity.


Congreve's principal Continental critic has remarked that literary
history has behaved towards him in a very stepmotherly fashion (_sehr
stiefmütterlich_). There is no other English poet of equal rank of the
last two centuries and a half whose biography has been so persistently
neglected. When, in 1888, I wrote my _Life of Congreve_ I had had no
predecessor since John Oldmixon, masquerading under the pseudonym of
"Charles Wilson," published that farrago of lies and nonsense which he
called _Memoirs of The Life, Writings and Amours of William Congreve,
Esq._, in 1730. In this kingdom of the blind, however one-eyed, I
continue to be king, since in the thirty-three years succeeding the
issue of my biography no one has essayed to do better what I did as well
as I could. The only exception is the _William Congreve, sein Leben und
seine Lustspiele_, published in 1897 by Dr. D. Schmid, who was, I
believe, and perhaps still is, a professor in the University of Graz in
Austria. I darted, full of anticipation, to the perusal of Dr. Schmid's
volume, but was completely disappointed. He reposes upon me with a
touching uniformity; he quotes me incessantly and with courteous
acknowledgment; but I am unable to discover in his whole monograph one
grain of fact, or correction of fact, not known to me in 1888.

In spite of this, I have always believed that someone with more patience
and skill than I possess would be able to add much to our knowledge of a
man who lived with the Pope and Swift and Addison of whom we know so
much. The late George A. Aitken, who seemed to carry about with him a
set of Röntgen rays which he applied to the members of the Age of Anne,
would have been the man to do it. Not very long before his lamented
death I urged the task upon Aitken; but his mind was set on other
things, on Prior in particular. I do not know why it is that Congreve,
one of the great dramatists of the world, perhaps our greatest social
playwright, seems to lack personal attractiveness. It is a scandal that
he has never been edited. His plays are frequently, but always
imperfectly, reprinted, and without any editorial care. I was rejoiced
to see that Mr. Montague Summers, than whom no one living is more
competent to carry out such a labour, proposed to edit Congreve's plays.
But even he did not intend to include the poems, the novel, or the
letters; and I have heard no more of his project. To the book collector
the folio publications of Congreve in verse are precious and amusing,
but they have never attracted the notice of a bibliographer. Scholarship
has, indeed, been _stiefmütterlich_ towards Congreve, as the Austrian
critic said.

My excuse for recalling this subject is the fact that I am able, through
the kindness of Mr. Thos. J. Wise, to announce the existence of a work
by Congreve hitherto unknown and unsuspected in its original form. In
the matchless library of Mr. Wise there lurks an anonymous quarto of
which the complete title is: "_An Impossible Thing._ A Tale. London:
Printed: And Sold by J. Roberts in Warwick-Lane, MDCCXX." This was shown
by Mr. Wise to several of our best authorities, who combined in the
conjecture that it must be a hitherto unknown work by Prior. Yet since
the poet's death--and this shows how little anybody reads Congreve--the
contents of Mr. Wise's quarto have appeared in each successive edition
of the Poems. But before this was perceived the truth had dawned upon
Mr. Wise, who, turning over the _Historical Account of the English
Poets_, a publication by Curll in 1720, found that the following entry
occurs in the "Corrigenda":

Mr. Congreve. This Gentleman has lately oblig'd us with two Tales from
Fontaine, entitled,

    I. The Impossible Thing.
    II. The Man That lost his Heifer.

These form his pamphlet of the same year, 1720. When Mr. Wise was kind
enough to point this out to me it was only left for me to add that the
anonymous _Historical Account_ was the work of Giles Jacob, the friend
whose notes on Congreve's life form the nucleus of all we know about
him. Thus the authorship of the two poems was proved. And it was only
after that proof that I turned to the index of the old editions and
found there the two poems, lurking unsuspected. I blush to recall the
painful incident.

However, the separate publication of the two poems in a quarto of 1720
is a wholly unrecorded fact, and important to bibliographers. _The
Peasant in Search of his Heifer_ is added apparently as an
after-thought, to fill up the sheet. _An Impossible Thing_ opens with
these lines:

    To thee, Dear Dick, this Tale I send,
    Both as a Critick and a Friend.
    I tell it with some Variation
    (Not altogether a Translation)
    From _La Fontaine_; an Author, _Dick_,
    Whose Muse would touch thee to the quick.
    The Subject is of that same kind
    To which thy Heart seems most inclin'd.
    How Verse may alter it, God knows;
    Thou lov'st it well, I'm sure, in Prose.
    So without Preface, or Pretence,
    To hold thee longer in Suspense,
    I shall proceed, as I am able,
    To the Recital of my Fable.

He does proceed, not without considerable indelicacy, but in excellent
running verse. The "Dick" who was to enjoy it I conjecture--and in this
Mr. Austin Dobson confirmed me--to have been Richard Shelton, who is
connected with Prior's _Alma and A Case Stated_. Prior and Congreve have
so much in common that it is tantalizing not to be able to persuade
them to throw light upon one another; they were haunting the same
coffee-houses when Swift was writing to Stella in 1710.

The discovery, after 200 years, of a unique copy of an unsuspected
separate publication by Congreve confirms a suspicion of mine that other
such pamphlets may exist. The earliest attempt at a bibliography was
made by Giles Jacob, evidently under the poet's own eye, in 1720. Jacob
gives a list of poems, with which "the ingenious Mr. Congreve, besides
his excellent Dramatick Works, has oblig'd the Publick," but he adds no
dates. Of these poems the first is _An Epistle to the Right Honourable
Charles Lord Halifax_, and the six next are odes of each of which we
possess the text in folio form. But of the _Epistle to Halifax_ no
separate edition is known, and it appears first in the octavo of 1710.
But I cannot help suspecting that Giles Jacob possessed, or could refer
to, a folio sheet of (probably) 1694, the year in which Halifax, to
reward Congreve for the dedication of _The Double Dealer_, is supposed
to have appointed him a Commissioner for licensing hackney coaches. But
I have shown how confused is all the evidence with regard to Congreve's
offices, which roused Thackeray to such superfluous indignation. Perhaps
the shilly-shallying of Charles Montague had something to do with the
suppression of an original folio of the _Epistle_, if it ever existed.
In any case, a single sheet with, or more likely without, the signature
of Mr. Congreve is worth looking out for.

As thirty-three years have passed since my _Life of Congreve_ was
published I venture to take occasion to mention here one or two slight
matters which I should like any possessors of that volume to
interpolate. If I had the opportunity to issue a new edition I should
further enlarge on a matter which I did make prominent, the very leading
part which the veteran Dryden took in advancing the fortunes of his
young and hitherto unknown rival. The episode is a charming one, and I
have now some instances of it which escaped me in 1888. As is known,
Congreve came up from the country some time in 1692. He was introduced
by Southerne to Dryden, who took a great fancy to him at once. Dryden
was preparing a composite translation of _Juvenal_, and he gave the
young man the Eleventh Satire to turn. Next came Dryden's Persius, to
which Congreve prefixed a splendid poem of compliment: the triumph of
_The Old Bachelor_ followed in January. All this, and more, I worked
out; but one very interesting evidence of Dryden's assiduous kindness
escaped me. In 1705 was published as a folio pamphlet the _Ode on Mrs.
Arabella Hunt singing_, and I supposed that this was the original
appearance of this pindaric, which is one of Congreve's best. But my
attention has been arrested by observing that 1705 was the year in which
Arabella Hunt died, and also that so early as 1693 Dryden published this
ode in his _Third Miscellany_. The Arabella Hunt ode therefore belongs
to the beginning, and not, as I supposed, to the close, of Congreve's
brief poetic career. It is a beautiful thing:

    Let all be hushed, each softest motion cease;
    Be every loud tempestuous thought at peace;
    And every ruder gasp of breath
    Be calm, as in the arms of Death,

and ends with a Keats-like couplet:

    Wishing forever in that state to lie,
    For ever to be dying so, yet never die.

It is now plain that this ode was published as a book at the death of
the singer, but had been composed at least twelve years earlier. Another
instance of Dryden's connexion with Congreve, which I observed too late
to record it, is the fact that the latter contributed a song to the
_Love Triumphant_ of the former in 1694. In the dedication of that play
Dryden speaks of "my most ingenious friend, Mr. Congreve," who has
observed "the mechanic unities" of time and space strictly. _Love
Triumphant_ was Dryden's last play, and its failure was complete. A
spiteful letter-writer of the time gloats over its damnation because it
will "vex huffing Dryden and Congreve to madness." All this confirms the
idea that the elder poet's complaisance in the younger was matter of
general knowledge, and Dryden's withdrawal from the ungrateful theatre
must have been a blow to Congreve, who, however, practically stepped at
once into Dryden's shoes.

Another biographical crumb. Charles Hopkins, one of the poet-sons of
Ezekiel Hopkins, the once-famous Bishop of Derry, was a _protégé_ of
Dryden, and in 1697 brought out his second play, _Boadicea_, which he
dedicated to Congreve in a long poem, from which we learn that Hopkins
was an intimate friend and disciple of the author of _The Double

    You taught me first my Genius and my Power,
    Taught me to know my own, but gave me more.

He praises Congreve's verses, and then goes on to say, in lines of
conspicuous warmth and sincerity:

    Nor does your Verse alone our Passions move;
    Beyond the Poet, we the Person love.
    In you, and almost only you, we find
    Sublimity of Wit and Candour of the Mind.
    Both have their Charms, and both give that delight.
    'Tis pity that you should, or should not write.

He proceeds, enthusiastically, in this strain, and closes at last in
words which still carry a melodious echo:

    Here should I, not to tire your patience, end,
    But who can part so soon, with such a Friend?
    You know my Soul, like yours, without design,
    You know me yours, and I too know you mine.
    I owe you all I am, and needs must mourn
    My want of Power to make you some return.
    Since you gave all, do not a part refuse,
    But take this slender Offering of the Muse.
    Friendship, from servile Interest free, secures
    My Love, sincerely, and entirely yours.

This is by no means the only occasion on which Charles Hopkins
proclaimed his gratitude and affection. As early as 1694 he paid a
tribute of friendship to Congreve, who wrote a prologue to Hopkins's
first tragedy, _Pyrrhus King of Epirus_ (1695). I think we may presume
that it was owing to the greater poet's influence that Pyrrhus was put
on the stage, for Congreve wrote a prologue, in which he warmly
recommended it, saying:

    'Tis the first Flight of a just-feather'd Muse,

adding, to the audience:

    Then spare the Youth; or if you'll damn the Play,
    Let him but first have his, then take your Day,

words which Congreve would hardly have used unless he had been
responsible for the production.

It is odd that Hopkins should speak so humbly and Congreve dwell on his
friend's inexperience, since Hopkins was at least six years older than
Congreve, who was now twenty-seven and pretended to be only twenty-five.
He enjoyed no further advantage from the devoted attachment of Charles
Hopkins, who retired immediately to his father's home in Londonderry.
Already he felt the decay of "a weak and sickly tenement," and his last
play, pathetically entitled _Friendship Improv'd_ (1697), was sent to
London from Londonderry with a preface that bewailed his broken health.
According to Giles Jacob, he was "a martyr to the cause of hard
drinking, and a too Passionate fondness for the fair Sex." The same
authority says that Hopkins "was always more ready to serve others than
mindful of his own Affairs," and we can well believe it. An hour before
his death, which took place in 1700, Charles Hopkins, "when in great
pain," wrote a last copy of verses, which have been preserved. And so
Congreve lost this most faithful henchman at the very moment when his
own last and perhaps greatest play, _The Way of the World_, failed on
the stage, and when he was most in need of sympathy.

Now for a white sheet to wrap both Congreve and myself. In 1888 I took
credit, and not unjustly, for having discovered that Congreve prefixed
verses to the first edition of a little rare book called _Reliquæ
Gethinianæ_, which were never reprinted until I restored them, and that
these were entirely different from those he prefixed to the third
edition of the same book in 1703, the latter alone having been always
since reprinted among Congreve's verses. Both poems are conceived in a
Donne-like spirit of hyperbole. Grace, Lady Gethin, about whom I have
found out more since my _Life of Congreve_ was published, was a young
Irish lady, Miss Norton, who married an Irish baronet, Sir Richard
Gethin, and died at the age of twenty-one in 1697. She secured a wide
reputation for learning and piety, and she was actually buried in
Westminster Abbey. Her essays--with mortuary folding-plates, again in
the spirit of Donne--were posthumously published and produced a
favourable sensation. But to my great confusion Leslie Stephen, who had
(marvellously) studied Lady Gethin, pointed out to me, when he read my
biography, that she was a fraud, conscious or unconscious. Her so-called
works were cribbed out of several seventeenth-century writers of
morality, but particularly out of Bacon. She had copied them into her
commonplace book, doubtless without guile. My dear friend and master
grimly remarked, "I wonder neither you nor Congreve spotted 'reading
makes a full man'!" But he never said a word in print about our
negligence, which deepens my remorse. I suspect that Congreve, like
myself, did not read the _Reliquiæ_ very carefully, but it is strange
that no other of Lady Gethin's numerous contemporary admirers discovered
the mare's-nest.

In 1888 I was not able to describe Congreve's ode on the Taking of Namur
in its original form, but since then I have secured a copy of the first
edition of 1695. The title is _A Pindarique Ode, Humbly Offer'd to the
King, On His Taking Namure. By Mr. Congreve._ There are many differences
of text, showing that the poet subjected the poem to careful revision.
In this first form, the King, afterwards spoken of as "William," is
described and addressed as "Nassaw"; perhaps the poet was advised that
His Majesty did not care to be incessantly reminded of his Dutch origin.
Here is a cancelled passage, describing the horrors of the attack:

    Cataracts of Fire Precipitate are driv'n
    On their Adventurous Heads, as Ruin rain'd from Heaven...
        Echoes each scalding step resound,
    And horrid Flames, bellowing to be unbound,
    Tumble with hollow rage in Cavern'd Ground.

Perhaps Congreve thought this was too boisterous. In the Namur ode there
are curious reminiscences of the battle of the angels in Paradise Lost.
There was no half-title to this folio, let collectors take notice.

The complete neglect which has overtaken the minor writings of Congreve
is regrettable. His odes and pastorals are deformed by a too-conscious
rhetoric, and his imagery is apt to be what is called "artificial," that
is to say, no longer in fashion. But they bear evidence of high
cultivation and an elevated sense of style. When Dr. Johnson said that
_The Mourning Muse of Alexis_ (1695) was "a despicable effusion" he fell
into the sin of over-statement. I admit that this agony of regret for
the death of good Queen Mary II may not have been very sincere, and that
the imagery is often vapid. Yet the poem is an interesting and a skilful
exercise in a species of art which has its place in the evolution of our
literature. It is not so good as Marvell would have made it earlier or
as Collins later. But in 1695 I know not who could have done it better
except Dryden, and even he, if more vigorous, was not commonly so
melodious. That Congreve could not write a tolerable song I frankly
admit. To book-collectors, however, the separate minor publications of
our poet seem to offer a field which is still unharvested. With Mr.
Wise's new discovery, and with the posthumous _Letter to Viscount
Cobham_, there are some nine or ten separate publications, besides the
four (or five, with _The Judgment of Paris_ of 1701) quarto plays. When
to these we add the controversial pamphlets and _Squire Trelooby_, in
its two forms of 1704 and 1734, we have quite an interesting little body
of first editions for the bibliophile to expend his energy in

Lovers of pleasure will think small beer of these desultory annotations.
But in the case of a great dramatist like Congreve, whose career is very
imperfectly known to us, I hold that all information is welcome, even
though the separate details of it seem to be trivial. I present these
glimmerings in the hope that they may not be useless to the future
editor and biographer, whoever he may be, whose lamp will throw my taper
into the shade.


No modern poet offers a more interesting field for critical examination
in his MSS. than Swinburne does, and in perhaps no other can the
movement of mind, under changes of mood, be so accurately followed. His
prose MSS. have a somewhat heavy uniformity, from which little is to be
gathered, but the aspect of his written verse is so diverse as to be
almost bewildering in its changes of form, not merely from one group of
years to another, but even in the effusions of a single day. After long
consideration, and a study of a multitude of MSS. written between 1857
and 1909, I have come to the conclusion that the critical value of
Swinburne's drafts depends very much upon the spirit in which he
happened to compose his poems. There were evidently three methods in his
use. Some time ago there turned up a large number of dramatic and
lyrical exercises, written by Swinburne as an undergraduate. These have
greatly modified our conception of his early work, and they reveal in
the apparently idle youth an amazing persistence in self-apprenticeship
to the craft of verse. I hope to find leisure on a future occasion to
describe these interesting and voluminous papers: in the meantime I only
mention them here, in order to point out that they are written, with
curious uniformity, and with very few corrections, in a hard, angular
handwriting which Swinburne presently abandoned, but which resembles the
formal script in which his later Putney poems appear to be composed.

I say "appear to be," because I am convinced, and my conviction is
supported by the evidence of those who lived with him, that he adopted
in later life the practice of composing and practically finishing his
poems in his head before he put anything down on paper. He used to be
heard walking up and down his room at The Pines, and then pausing
awhile, evidently to write down what he had polished in his head. This
accounts for the "clean" look of most of his later MSS., which appear to
be first drafts, and yet have few corrections. What we now discover from
the undergraduate MSS. of which I have spoken above is that, apparently,
he adopted in early youth the plan to which he was to revert in old age.
But of this plan there might be two varieties; Swinburne might work up
his stanzas to perfection in his brain before writing anything, or he
might be inspired with such a flow of language that the finished poem
would slip smoothly from his brain. Doubtless there was something of
both these in his practice, but I incline to think the former by far the
most frequent. From neither can we obtain much impression of the
mechanism of his invention.

But there was a third method, of which I am about to describe a
peculiarly interesting example, which the poet adopted in the hey-dey of
his poetical career. Soon after he left Oxford, perhaps in 1860, his
handwriting changed its character; it became less boyish, but more
crabbed and careless. I think that the weakness of his wrist may have
been the cause of this alteration. It is particularly marked in the
period from 1862 to 1870. His later writing was emphatic in its stiff
inelegance, but usually legible; the script of his middle period was, at
its best, lax and straggling, at its worst almost indecipherable. But it
varied extravagantly, so much so that it is often difficult to believe
that the same pen, and still more that the same hour, could have
produced such violently diverse exhibitions. It has gradually dawned
upon me, while helping Mr. Wise to disentangle an accumulation of rough
copies and fragments, that the cause of this diversity lay in the degree
of excitement which Swinburne put into the act of composition. He was
always paroxysmal, always the victim of excruciating intellectual
excitement which descended upon him like the beak of the Promethean
vulture. To discover the points at which, in a particular composition,
this fury of inspiration fell upon him, is to get a little closer to the
secret of Swinburne's astonishing virtuosity, and is my excuse for the
following observations.

So many of Swinburne's MSS. have been preserved, principally in the
newspaper bundles which he so oddly carried with him, without ever
examining, through all his peregrinations from Oxford to Putney, that it
is particularly vexatious that those which we could least afford to
spare, those of his blossoming period from 1861 to 1868, are very
exiguously represented. No scrap of _The Queen Mother_ has turned up,
nor of the published form of _Rosamond_ (an undergraduate sketch of this
play remains). The original MS. of _Chastelard_ exists only in a few
fragments, the MS. sold in New York in 1913 being a clean copy for the
press. According to the evidence of George Meredith, the first draft of
_Laus Veneris_ was written in red ink; the existing version, though
containing corrections and cancelled passages, is written in black ink,
and shows no sign of the frenzy of composition; it is evidently a
transcript. Of _Poems and Ballads_ no general MS. exists, but portions
of the "copy" sent to the printers are in various collections. Most of
these are transcripts, and show no sign of emotion or excitement.
Several first drafts of _Poems and Ballads_, however, have been
preserved, and of these the most remarkable that I have examined is that
of _Anactoria_, of which I will now give some account.

Swinburne's first drafts offer none of the attractions which collectors
of autographs commonly desiderate. They are never signed and rarely
headed. That of the long poem afterwards called _Anactoria_ has neither
a title nor the Greek epigraph from Sappho. It is written, or rather
wildly scribbled, on both sides of six sheets of blue foolscap, the
water-mark of one of which is 1863, doubtless the date of the
composition of the poem. These sheets were thrown away, and came into
our hands in a great disorder of papers, mostly worthless, which left
The Pines after Watts-Dunton's death. As we turned them over, in the
welter of manuscript, my eye caught the line

    Lilies, and languor of the Lesbian air,

and I realized what lay before us. Scattered through the bundle, five
sheets were identified, but unfortunately one sheet was missing. By a
happy chance, this also turned up in another parcel three years later,
and the first draft is now, I believe, complete, although one passage in
the published poem, as I shall presently show, is absent.

The text begins high up on the first sheet, and offers no peculiarity in
the opening eight lines, which, with the slight exception of "Sting"
instead of "Blind" in line 2, are identical with the published version
of 1866. The handwriting is the usual script of Swinburne in the 60's,
crabbed, but plain and calm. Suddenly, with line 7, a sort of frenzy
takes the poet's pen, and at the side of the paper, in lines that slope
more and more rapidly downwards, and in such a stumbling and trembling
hand that they are with great difficulty to be spelt out, are
interpolated the lines:

    Severed the bones that bleach, the flesh that cleaves,
    And let our sifted ashes drop like leaves.
    I feel thy blood against my blood; my pain
    Pains thee, and lips bruise lips, and vein stings vein.

Then, in very small clear script, opposite this outburst, is written, by
itself, like a solo on a flute:

    Let fruit be crushed on fruit, let flower on flower,
    Breast kindle breast and either burn one hour.

To this immediately follows:

    In her high place in Paphos,

which is the opening of line 64 in the published version. But the first
draft stops here, leaving that half-line uncancelled, and proceeds
quietly, in a large hand,

    Saw love, a burning flame from crown to feet,

and so on for six lines which are now to be found in the middle of the
poem. Thereupon follows a breathless interlude of six couplets,
scribbled with extreme violence and so curiously interwoven that the
only way to explain their relation is to quote them:

    I would my love could slay thee; I am satiated
    With seeing thee live, and fain would have thee dead,
    Vex thee with amorous agonies, and shake
    Life at thy lips, and leave it there to ache;
    Strain out thy soul with pangs too soft to kill,
    Intolerable interludes, and infinite ill;
    I would earth had thy body as fruit to eat,
    And no mouth but some serpent's found thee sweet.
    I would find grievous ways to have thee slain,
    Intense device, and superflux of pain,
    Relapse and reluctation of the breath,
    Dumb tunes and shuddering semitones of death.

If this passage be compared with the published text, it will be observed
that firstly, there are, with the single alteration of "kill" for
"slay," no verbal modifications whatever: and that secondly the couplets
are shifted about like counters in a game, or as if they were solid
objects which might be put here, there, or anywhere in a liquid setting.
The first draft of _A Song of Italy_, now in the possession of Mr. Thos.
J. Wise, presents the same characteristics, though in a less degree.

We are still on the opening sheet of the draft of _Anactoria_, and it
now presents to us, quietly and conscientiously written in the middle of
the page:

    For I beheld in sleep the light that is
    In her high place in Paphos, heard the kiss
    Of body and soul that mix with eager tears,
    And laughter stinging thro' the eyes and ears,

a sort of _tessera_ evidently left there to be fitted in whenever a
favourable blank presented itself; we find it, without the smallest
change of language, fixed in the middle of the poem. It is noticeable
that the fragment "In her high place in Paphos" is now utilized.

A storm of excitement presently ruffles the poet, and he turns the sheet
in such agitation that he holds it upside-down. Without leading up to it
in any way, he starts a passage

    _She came and touched me, saying_ "Who doth thee wrong,

which closes abruptly with lines which may be cited because they contain
several of the very rare instances in which the draft slightly differs
verbally from the text of 1866:

    Ah, wilt thou slay me lest I kiss thee dead?
    _"Be of good cheer, wilt thou forget?" she_ said:
    _"For_ she that flies shall follow for thy sake,
    _For_ she shall give thee gifts that _will_ not take,
    Shall kiss that _will_ not kiss thee" (yea, kiss me)
    "When _I would_ not, etc."

We presently come across the only Couplet in the whole poem which was
cancelled in the first draft, and yet reappears in the published text.
This is:

    Bound with her myrtles, beaten with her rods,
    The young men and the maidens and the gods,

now very effectively introduced into the argument, but in the first
draft destroyed with a whirling movement of the pen, so that it looks as
if a dust-storm involved it. Written with frenzied violence, almost
perpendicularly, the draft then presents a couplet:

    Taught the sun ways to travel, woven most fine
    The moonbeams, shed the starbeams forth as wine,

for which a place is now found immediately before the "Bound with her
myrtles" couplet. The ecstasy of the poet seems to have suddenly flagged
here, and there follows immediately, in sedate script, with even lines,
the passage

    Alas, that neither moon nor sun nor dew
    Nor all cold things can purge me wholly through,
    Assuage me nor allay me nor appease,
    Till supreme sleep shall bring me bloodless ease,
    Till time wax faint in all his periods,

which now takes its place near the very close of the poem. The actual
closing lines are, in like fashion, appended to the third page of the
draft. They read as follows:

    Till fate undo the bondage of the gods,
    And lay to slake _the unquenchable desire
    Lethean lotus on a lip of fire,_
    And _pour_ around and over and under me
    _The wake of_ the insuperable sea.

There was evidently on the poet's part no original intention of
utilizing these lines as a conclusion to the poem. I give them here
because they present the solitary instance of important verbal
alteration to be found in the whole text of 1866.

It would baffle the most meticulous investigation to restore the
innumerable false starts, broken lines, and rejected readings which
underlie the text of the Draft. There is no question here of Swinburne's
creating or polishing anything in his mind, the whole work of
composition proceeds on the paper itself, and what is very curious is
the fact that nothing of any merit or technical beauty seems, so far as
it is possible to decipher the cancelled verses, to be lost. As soon as
ever the expression became adequate the line was left, and was never
modified; as long as it was inadequate, it was pitilessly rejected, and
the verse not passed till it satisfied the ear and imagination of the
poet. What is interesting is that this work was carried out with the
pen, and not, as was the practice in Swinburne's later years, with the
mind; and nothing could be more opposed to the popular notion of
Swinburne as the inspired improvisatore than all this evidence of
intense laborious application to his creative task. In fact the more the
original MSS. of Swinburne are examined, the more clearly is he revealed
to us as an artist equally sedulous and sensitive, working by fits and
starts, in gusts of overwhelming emotion, but always sufficiently master
of himself to recognize, with finality, when the exact form of
expression had been reached. Having recognized it, he did not, like
Tennyson, Landor and other poets, fidget any further with it, but left
it verbally permanent.

On the other hand, the draft of _Anactoria_ proves, what we might have
suspected, that if Swinburne completed his verbal text in his first
movement of laboured inspiration, he made no effort then to build up his
poem. It may be observed that _Dolores_ is a rosary of stanza-beads on
an invisible string; in other words, that the string might be broken,
the beads shaken together, and the stanzas arranged in an entirely new
sequence, without any injury to the effect of the poem. In other cases,
and these some of Swinburne's finest lyrics, the same want of
progression is to be noted. But we have not been able to witness the
process before, nor were we prepared to find it working in a poem which
is so elegiacal as _Anactoria_. Yet the evidence of the First Draft is
positive. It is now clear that Swinburne forged his brilliant
Dryden-like couplets as though each one were a stanza, and practically
treated them as bits of mosaic to be fitted, in cooler blood, into a
scheme not present to his mind when his inspiration seized him.

We seem, therefore, to be in the presence of a curious phenomenon.
Whereas in the case of most poets the general outline of the work
precedes the execution of it in detail, Swinburne offers us the paradox
of an execution carried to the utmost finish before the act of evolution
begins. He takes a bag-ful of couplets, all polished to the finest
point, and--on some subsequent occasion--he builds these up into a poem
which has the aspect of inevitable growth. The First Draft of
_Anactoria_, which I have attempted to describe, is totally
unintelligible, a chaos of Rodin-like fragments, unless we accept this
theory of the poet's method.

One point remains to be stated. The published text of _Anactoria_
contains 304 lines. Of these I have found, scattered over the tract of
delirious manuscript, 270. It is curious that not a single verse should
have been added by the poet when he came to distribute and arrange his
cluster of couplets, the solitary accession to the text being the solid
passage of 34 lines in the middle of the poem, beginning

    Or say what God above all gods and years
    With offering and blood-sacrifice of tears.

Of this, not a single trace is to be found in the Draft. My first
supposition was that the sheet containing these lines was lost, as might
well be when we consider the accidental and fortuitous way in which the
rest was retrieved. But I have come to the conclusion that this is not
the case. The text in the Draft stops at the line

    _The mystery of the cruelty of things_

without any sign that the idea of the impassive harshness of Fate was to
be expanded. The 34 lines which now follow have, moreover, a character
that distinguishes them from the rest of _Anactoria_, with which they
are not quite in keeping. They leave the individual passion of Sappho
entirely out of sight, and they are instinct with an order of
theological ideas which occupied Swinburne in 1864 and 1865, when he was
writing _Atalanta in Calydon_ and the earliest of _Songs before
Sunrise_. They are on a higher philosophical plane than the melodious
ravings of the love-sick poetess, and the more we read them, the more
may we be persuaded that they are an after-thought.


THE fashion of the moment, whether in literature or in art, whether in
England or in France, favours what is rough, vivid and undisciplined. A
new generation of readers welcomes the lyrical effusions of the cowboy,
the lumberman, the tramp, and even the apache. It accepts Bubu de
Montparnasse as a hero and does not shrink from overhearing the
confidences of a burglar. There is no reason why we should exercise our
sarcasm over these _naïvetés_ of taste, while indeed, as social beings,
we are even entitled to rejoice at them, since, in the language of
practical æstheticism, a positive always involves a negative. If this
age dotes on the dirtiness of tramps, it is because every one of us is
obliged to be occupied and clean; and if the apache is the object of our
poetry, it is because, in our extremely settled, confident and
comfortable lives, we miss the excitement of being in personal danger.
But let the delicate social balance of our existence be again disturbed,
let us become practically accustomed to starvation and outrage and
murder, and not another strophe would our poets address to the drunken
navvy or the grimy bathchair-man. If London or Paris were to burn, if
only for a fortnight, literature and art would hurry back to the study
of princesses and to the language of the Golden Age.[1]

No more striking instance of this oscillation is to be found in history
than is afforded by France at the opening of the seventeenth century, in
the creation of what is called the vie de salon. This movement, the most
civilizing, the most refining in the intellectual life of France, was
the direct outcome of the convulsion of the civil wars. It was the
ugliness, the wickedness, the brutality of the reigns of the later
Valois which made the best minds of Paris determine to be gentle,
beautiful and delicate under Louis XIII. Forty years of savage rapine
had laid a severe embargo upon civilization, and no picture of France in
1625 can be complete without a glance at the background of 1575. In that
half-century of administrative disorder, in the bitter and distracted
state of country life, the population had lost confidence in virtue, and
had become rude and dishonest. One of the Venetian ambassadors,
travelling through France, declared of the Frenchmen whom he met, that
"the sight of blood had made them cunning, coarse and wild." If such was
the condition of the countryside, the towns were even worse. There
resulted from the misery after the siege of Paris a universal weariness,
a longing for tolerance in man to man, a yearning for refinement in
private life, for security, for cultivation, for repose of mind and body
and estate.

That Henri IV was a Protestant has led, perhaps, to some injustice being
done to his memory in a Catholic country. But he deserved well of France
in this critical moment. Every necessity of life had become
extravagantly dear, every branch of industry depressed, if not extinct,
when he came to the throne. He set himself to be the guardian of trade,
and of the arts. He rebuilt cities, and a contemporary reported of him
that "no sooner was he master of Paris, than the streets were swarming
with masons." The shrewdness of Henri IV broke down the old
superstition, of which Sully made himself the obstinate spokesman, that
agriculture was the only source of wealth for France. The King persisted
in encouraging the manufactures of silk and linen; in widening the
circle of commercial interests; in teaching Frenchmen to achieve wealth
and honour as architects, painters, sculptors and cabinet-makers. The
prestige of the military nobles grew less and less, that of the
_bourgeoisie_ grew more and more, while between them a new class,
refined, intelligent, a little timid and supple in their professional
adroitness, that _nouvelle aristocratic de robe_, of which M. Lavisse
has spoken, came to the front and gave its tone to the surface of life.

The general trend of the best thought, at the beginning of the
seventeenth century, was towards the polishing of society, left
roughened and rusty by the long wars of religion. But the court of Henri
IV was too coarse, and too little in sympathy with the mental
aspirations of the age, to carry out this design, which needed other
influences than those which could emanate from Marie de Médicis.
Meanwhile, the great importance of the provincial centres had rapidly
declined, and it was Paris that gave the tone to France. This then was
the moment when a peculiarly Parisian centre was needed, independent of
the court, yet in political sympathy with it, a centre of imagination
and intelligence not too austere in its morals, not too pedantic in its
judgments, to include the characteristic minds of the age, whatever
their limitation or peculiarity; and yet definitely, unflinchingly and
for a sufficient length of time, radiating politeness and authority.
Such a Parisian centre must be aristocratic, yet liberal and
intelligent; it must lay down rules of conduct, and contrive to get them
obeyed; it must be recognized and haunted by the first men and women of
the century; it must be actuated in equal proportions by the genius of
discipline, and by that of easy grace and accomplished gallantry. In
short, it must be what Providence astonishingly provided for French
society at that moment of its sorest need, the unparalleled Hôtel de
Rambouillet, with, as its prophetess and châtelaine, one of the most
charming women who have ever occupied the pen of the memoir-maker.

In observing the history of the famous Chambre Bleue, it cannot but
strike an English critic how far more articulate French opinion was than
English in the seventeenth century. Although, as we shall presently see,
documents have been slow in forthcoming, they existed, and still exist,
in profusion. But while we can now study, almost from day to day, the
intrigues, the amusements and the enthusiasms of the group in the Rue
Saint-Thomas, the record of a similar _salon_ open in England at the
same epoch is still shrouded in a darkness which is likely never to be
penetrated. So far as we can venture to judge there must have been many
points of likeness between the Marquise de Rambouillet and Lucy Countess
of Bedford. The circle of the friends of each was illustrious. Donne was
a greater poet-divine than Cospeau or Godeau; our national vanity may
fairly set Daniel and Drayton against Voiture and Chapelain, while even
Corneille is not shamed by being balanced by Ben Jonson. The coterie of
the Countess of Bedford may probably have been less wealthy, less
sparkling, more provincial than that of Madame de Rambouillet, but the
melancholy thing is that we lack the opportunity of comparing them. Save
for vague allusions in the poets, and for a dim tradition of politeness,
we form no detailed impression of the feasts of wit at Twickenham,
whereas about those in the Rue Saint-Thomas we know almost as much as
heart can wish. In the communication of social impressions England stood
much farther behind France in the seventeenth century than the
individual genius of her writers accounts for. We have, however, one
possible recompense: the field of irresponsible conjecture is infinitely
wider in our island chronicle. In France, even the craziest of faddists
could not hope for a hearing if he suggested that the tragedies of
Pierre Corneille were secretly written by Richelieu in his lighter

On the history of the Hôtel de Rambouillet the documents which survive
are very numerous, and probably have not yet been exhaustively examined.
The seventeenth century in France was awake to the importance of its own
immortality, and set down the records of its social and literary glory
with complacency. The memorials of the Hôtel de Rambouillet to be found
scattered over the works of such contemporaries as Segrais, Pellisson
and Conrart have long been known. The poems and correspondence of
Voiture, of course, form a mine of treasure, which was first competently
worked by Ubicini in his edition of Voiture's works. It is now sifted
to its last crumb of gold by M. Émile Magne in the eloquent and learned
volumes which he has just published. There is also, and most important
of all, Tallemant des Réaux, of whom I shall presently speak at greater
length. M. Magne and M. Collas, with Voiture and Chapelain respectively
in their particular thoughts, have turned over the priceless wealth of
MSS. in the _Archives nationales_. It is probable that we now possess,
thanks to the researches of these scholars, as full an account of the
Hôtel de Rambouillet as we are likely to obtain. It may be pointed out
that these exact records, founded upon positive documents, show the
danger of such hypotheses as not a few previous historians have rashly
taken up. In the light of present knowledge, it is necessary to use not
merely Roederer (1835), but even the more accurate Livet (1870), with

The Hôtel existed, as a centre of light and civility, for nearly seventy
years, and involved the whole careers of two generations. Its history,
which was developed by circumstances, and somewhat modified in its
course by changes of taste, found no chronicler until it had existed
some twenty years. That preliminary period, from the death of Henri IV
to the arrival of Tallemant and Voiture, is precisely the time about
which we should like to know most, and about which we are doomed to know
least. The violent close of the reign, in a last wild crime, had, as we
see from every species of evidence, brought with it a longing for
serenity and repose. The keynote of the best society became a
cultivation of simplicity, refinement, and delicacy. This growth of a
new spirit was identified with the Marquis and Marquise of Rambouillet,
but exactly how at first we are at a loss to tell, and even M. Magne is
silent. A careful setting side by side of scattered impressions may
enable us, however, while avoiding these hypotheses of which we have
given warning, to form some idea of the foundation of the Hôtel and its

Charles d'Angennes, Marquis of Rambouillet and Pisani, who has given
its title to the celebrated union of hearts, must not long detain us,
for the excellent reason that not much is recorded about him. He was
probably born about 1577, and he died in Paris in 1652, having become
blind about twelve years earlier. His eyesight was very peculiar;
perhaps he was colour-blind. On this subject he was sensitive, and tried
to conceal his condition. On one occasion, when the Duc de Montausier,
who was known to have recently ordered a gorgeous scarlet costume,
appeared at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, his host called out "Ah! Monsieur,
la belle escarlate!"--which was unlucky, because the Duc had happened to
call in a black suit. Tallemant says that the Marquis "avait
terriblement d'esprit, mais un peu frondeur." In this he doubtless
resembled most of the wits of that age, who liked to let their
antagonists feel that there were claws under the fur. In wit his wife,
with her sweet consideration and delicate humorous tact, was
immeasurably his superior; it was she, and not he, who gave the Hôtel
its famous amenity. We must not measure this in all things by our
standards. About 1625 there was quite an inundation of spiteful, and
sometimes obscene, verse in France, and this has to be taken into
consideration in dealing with the _salons_. The Hôtel de Rambouillet
kept this in some check, but was amply aware of the entertainment to be
got by clothing satire--what Agrippa d'Aubigné called _la malplaisante
vérité_--in smooth and well-turned verse. The Marquis was himself a
versifier, and he shared to the full his wife's respect for letters.

There is nothing, however, to show that this agreeable man would have
been able, by his unaided talents, to make a mark upon the age he lived
in. He was the satellite of an infinitely more refulgent luminary, his
extraordinary wife. If there is such a thing as social genius, on the
same lines as literary or artistic genius, this was undoubtedly
possessed, in a very high degree, by Catherine de Vivonne, Marquise de
Rambouillet. She was born at Rome in 1588; half an Italian, her mother
was a Roman princess, Julia Savella; and when, long afterwards, the
Marquise had become not merely French, but almost the culture of France
incarnate, she loved to dwell on her Italian parentage. Tallemant tells
us that she always thought the Savelli the best family in the world; it
was her faith. At the age of six, she became a naturalized French
citizen, and in January, 1600, being in her twelfth year, she was
married to Charles d'Angennes, who, his father being still alive, was
then Vidame du Mans. Her own sober and stately father, the Marquis de
Pisani, was just dead. He had left Catherine a conspicuous heiress. In
later years, she spoke with characteristic humour of the way in which
she was intimidated, poor child of twelve, by her husband's years, since
he was twenty-three, and she said that she had never become quite used
to feeling grown-up in his presence. But this was her whimsical way of
talking, for there really existed between them the closest and most
intimate affection. The Marquis and the Marquise were always in love
with one another, throughout their extended married life of more than
half a century; and in that age of light loves and cynical
relationships, even baseless ill-nature never found any serious charge
of frivolity to bring against this gracious lady.

It is true that it could not be difficult to show complaisance to
Catherine de Rambouillet. She was never dull, never inattentive, never
indiscreet. We hear that she had an extraordinary native gift for being
present when she was wanted, and occupied elsewhere when her company
would have been inconvenient. As years grew upon her, it seems as though
this instinct for pleasing became a little too emphatic. Almost the only
fault which any chronicler brings against her is that, towards the end,
she was not critical enough, that she liked too many people, that her
individuality melted into a general indulgence. But she was surrounded
by petulant poets and snarling courtiers, and that this mild censure of
her should be insinuated is, probably, but another tribute to her tact.
She was like Milton's Lady; not indeed "chained up in alabaster," but
serene, open-eyed and gay in the midst of a monstrous rout of ambitions
and vanities which often resembled "stabled wolves or tigers at their
prey." One of her most striking characteristics obviously was her power
of ruling a society from its centre without making her rule oppressive.
All the anecdotes of her discipline in her _salon_ show the coolness of
her judgment and the velvet strength of her hand. She was capable of
strong dislike, yet with an Italian faculty for concealing it. She hated
Louis XIII to the inmost fibre of her being, for what seemed to her his
despicable qualities, yet he never discovered it.

Those who regard Catherine de Rambouillet as one of the most engaging
figures of Europe in the seventeenth century, must regret that, from an
age where portrait-painting was so largely cultivated, no picture of her
has come down to us. All we know is that she was beautiful and tall; the
poets compared her to a pine tree. It was supposed that she never
consented to sit to a painter, but M. Magne has discovered that there
were portraits. Scudéry, he believes, possessed engravings from
paintings by Van Mol and by du Cayer. The earlier of these, painted in
1645, represented her gazing at the dead body of her father. These works
of art appear to be hopelessly lost. We are thrown back on the written
"portraits," in the alembicated style of the middle of the century,
which adorn a host of novels and poems. Of these the fullest is that
introduced by Madeleine de Scudéry into the seventh volume of her huge
romance, _Le Grand Cyrus_. M. Emile Magne, confronted with the
"precious" terms of this description, and the vagueness of it, loses his
temper with poor Mlle. de Scudéry, whom he calls _cette pécore_. It is
true that the physical details which would interest us are omitted, but
it is hardly true to say, that "il est impossible de rien démêler au
griffonage [de Mlle. de Scudéry], sinon que Mme. de Rambouillet était
belle." This is not quite just, and to avenge the great Madeleine for
being called a _pécore_, I will quote, what M. Magne surprisingly omits,
part of the character of Cléomire, the pseudonym of Mme. de Rambouillet
in _Cyrus_:

     She is tall and graceful. The delicacy of her complexion is beyond
     expression. The eyes of Cléomire are so admirably beautiful that no
     painter has ever been able to do justice to them. All her passions
     are in subjection to her good sense.

This might be more precise, but the touch about the eyes is helpful.
Chapelain celebrated (in 1666, just after her death)

    Cet air, cette douceur, cette grâce, ce port,
    Ce chef d'œuvre admiré du Midi jusqu'au Nord;

And Tallemant, always the best reporter, speaks of the permanent beauty
of her complexion, which she would never consent to touch artificially.
The only concession to fashion which she made in old age was to rouge
her lips, which had turned blue. Tallemant wished she would not do even
this. When she was very old, her head shook with a sort of palsy; this
was attributed to her having indulged too much in the eating of pounded
ambergris, but perhaps a more obvious reason could be found for so
natural an infirmity.

In an age so troubled and so turbulent as that of Henri IV, public
attention was concentrated in wonderment on the serene beatitude of the
Rambouillets. "So rest, for ever rest, O princely pair!" the admiring
court might be conceived as saying to a couple so dignified, so calm and
so unaffected in their attachment. "Tout le monde admire la magnifique
entente, à travers leur vie limpide, du Marquis et de la Marquise."
Their limpid life--that was the just description of a mode of conduct so
rare in that age, and at that social elevation, as to be relatively
unique. What existences the reverse of limpid, lives tortured and turbid
and mud-stained, do memoir-writers of that time, the Segrais and the
Tallemants, reveal on all sides of them! Both were gifted, and each was
persuaded of the excellence of learning and literature, although in
talents the wife considerably surpassed the husband. Madame de
Rambouillet was versed in several literatures. She spoke Italian and
Spanish, the two fashionable languages of the time, to perfection. She
loved all beautiful objects, and not one of the fine arts failed to find
eager appreciation from her. In order to enjoy the sources of poetic
distinction, she taught herself Latin, that she might read Virgil in the
original. But she soon relaxed these studies, which might easily have
landed her in pedantry. She became the mother of seven children, to
whose bringing-up she gave strict attention. She found that her health,
although her constitution was good, needed care. Perhaps she gave way, a
little, to an amiable Italian indolence; at all events, the
strenuousness which her early years had threatened subsided into a
watchful, hospitable, humorous and memorable hospitality. If there could
be rank maintained in such matters, Madame de Rambouillet would probably
take place as the most admirable hostess in history.

But, to entertain, a house was needed. The old Marquis de Pisani had
bought, in 1599, a ramshackle dwelling, close to the Louvre, in the Rue
Saint-Thomas, which became, at his death, the property of his daughter.
In 1604 when, it is to be noted, she was only sixteen years of age, she
pulled it down and built the famous Hôtel on the site.

Young as she was, it is certain that the Marquise was herself the
architect of the Hôtel de Rambouillet. A professional architect had been
called in to rebuild the house, but when he submitted his designs to her
they dissatisfied her by their conventionality. Tallemant describes
them--a saloon on one side, a bedroom on the other, a staircase in the
middle, nothing could be more poor. Moreover, the courtyard was pinched
in extent and irregular in shape. One evening, after she had been
dreaming over the drawings, the young Marquise called out "Quick! some
paper! I have thought of what I want!" She had been trained to use a
pencil, and she immediately drew out an elevation, which the builders
followed point by point. Her design was so bold, so original, and so
handsome, that the house made a sensation in Paris. The Queen-Mother,
when she built the Luxembourg, sent her architects to study the Hôtel
de Rambouillet before they started their plans.

In all this matter of the foundation of the Hôtel and the opening of the
famous _salon_, M. Magne has made considerable discoveries, which should
be distinguished from much in his charming books in which he has had no
choice but to follow earlier published authorities. He has made
excellent use of the _Inventaires_ of 1652, 1666 and 1671, to which
attention had, however, already been drawn by M. Charles Sauze. But a
ground plan of the Hôtel de Rambouillet, from a contemporary map of
Paris by Gomboust, is less known, and a reproduction of this is a
singular aid to the reader of M. Magne's _Voiture_. We see that it stood
actually next door to the famous Hôtel de Chevreuse, in comparison with
which, in its sparkling newness, in its slated turrets and its charming
combinations of pale stone and salmon-coloured brick, it seemed an
expression of the new age in a triumphant defiance of the old. From both
houses could be seen, just across the quiet Rue Saint-Thomas, and over a
strip of waste ground, the massive contour of the Louvre; a great
garden, on the west side, stretched away behind the house, down to the
corner of the Rue de Richelieu.

M. Magne has discovered that M. and Mme. de Rambouillet took up their
abode in their new house early in 1607; this fixes what has hitherto
been quite vague, the commencement of the Hôtel de Rambouillet. But the
Marquise was still only nineteen years of age, and it would be a mistake
to suppose that, precocious as people were in those days, she began at
once to exercise her celebrated hospitality, or to fill the rooms with
tapestry, statues and men of wit. This came on gradually and naturally,
without any violence of forethought. It has been suggested that the
Marquise founded her _salon_, or, less pompously, began to gather
congenial friends about her, in 1613. It is difficult to say on what
documents this exact date is based. Her known aversion from Louis XIII,
and her growing preference for receiving her friends at home over
appearing in a crowd at court--both of them, doubtless, symptoms of her
personal delicacy, which shrank from the suspicion of roughness--were
probably emphasized after the murder of Concini in 1617, when the great
nobles, who had defied the weak regency of Marie de Médicis, boldly
swept back into Paris. Doubtless this was the time when Madame de
Rambouillet began to practise a more cloistered virtue among the
splendour and fragility of her treasures, and first intimated to noble
and elegant friends, who were scandalized by the rowdiness of the
Louvre, that here was an asylum where they might discuss poetry for
hours on the velvet of her incrusted couches, or walk, in solemn ranks,
among the parterres of her exquisite walled garden.

The character of pedantry and preciosity which the Hôtel afterwards
incurred, is not to be traced in any of its original features. In its
early years there was no atmosphere of "intellectual beatitude" about
it. But that a certain intellectual standard was set up from the very
first it is impossible to question. From the compliments of the earliest
inmates of the Hôtel to the eulogistic epitaphs which were scattered on
the hearse of the Marquise, all her devotees agree in celebrating her
passionate love of literature. Clumsy phrases, rude expressions, the
coarseness of a language still in process of purification, were a
positive distress to her; and Tallemant has a droll anecdote about the
agitation into which she was thrown by the use of so vulgar a word as
"scurvy," _teigneux_, in an epigram which was being read to her. With
these tendencies, she was peculiarly fitted to welcome to her intimacy
the man who of all others was at that time most occupied with the task
of correcting and clarifying the French language. An inevitable
attraction must have drawn Malherbe to the doors of the Hôtel de

It would be of interest, and even of some importance, if we could
discover the date at which Malherbe began to frequent the Hôtel de
Rambouillet, since there can be little doubt that it was to him that it
owed its intellectual direction. Unfortunately, this is not easy to do.
The poet Racan, whose invaluable notes and anecdotes were adopted by
Tallemant to form the body of the _historiette_ on Malherbe, did not
anticipate how grateful posterity would be for a few dates sprinkled
here and there over his narrative. But the fact that Tallemant here took
the line, so very unusual with him, of adopting somebody else's life of
one of his heroes, can only be accounted for by the double supposition
that Malherbe could not be omitted from his gallery, and yet had quitted
the scene too early for Tallemant to know much about him at first hand.
He must indeed have arrived at the Hôtel very soon after its formation,
since he was sixty-two years of age when we suppose it to have begun,
and in 1628 he died. The Duc de Broglie was probably right when he
conjectured that Malherbe was practically the first, and as long as he
lived the foremost, of the literary clan which met in the Chambre Bleue.
Racan, who accompanied and may have introduced the elder poet to the
Hôtel de Rambouillet, says that it was "sur les vieux jours de Malherbe"
that the latter had the curious conversation about the proper heroic
name, or poetic pseudonym, which ought to fix all future references to
the Marquise, a conversation which led to his writing an eclogue in
which he calls himself Mélibée and his disciple Arcan. I quote
Tallemant, who is quoting Racan:

     "The very day that he sketched out this eclogue, fearing that the
     name Arthénice [Catherine] if it were used of two persons [for
     Racan had addressed Catherine Chabot as Arthénice, in a pastoral]
     would make a confusion between those two persons, Malherbe passed
     the whole afternoon with Racan turning the name about. All they
     could make of it was Arthénice, Eracinte and Carintée. The first of
     those they considered the prettiest, but as Racan was using this
     also in a pastoral, Malherbe concluded by choosing Rodante."

Unfortunately Madame de Rambouillet, who had plenty of humour, declined
the name of Rodante, which would better have adorned a mouse than a
great lady, and Malherbe threw his consideration for Racan to the
winds. Madame de Rambouillet became for him and remained

    Celle pour qui je fis le beau nom d'Arthénice,

and he called her

    Cette jeune bergère à qui les destinées
    Sembloient avoir donné mes dernières années.

We gather that the sound judgment and the exquisite charm of Madame de
Rambouillet attracted Malherbe away from the other _salons_ which he
affected, particularly from those of the Vicomtesse d'Aulchy and of
Madame des Loges. It was the latter lady whose ears the grim poet
soundly boxed in her own house on a celebrated occasion. He was a
formidable guest as well as a tyrant in literature.

But the relations of Malherbe with Madame de Rambouillet during the last
ten years of his life were kept on a level of unruffled dignity on the
one side and on the other. It is evident that the Marquise was
predisposed to accept _la Doctrine_ which Malherbe, with so splendid a
force and pride, was about to impose upon his countrymen. No man of
letters has lived, in any country, who was more possessed than he by the
necessity of watching over the purity of language, of cultivating in
prose and verse a simple, lucid, and logical style, of removing from the
surface of literature, by an arrogant discipline, all traces of
obscurity, pomposity and looseness. He held the honour of the French
language above all other obligations, and the stories of his sacrificing
questions of personal interest, and even affection, to his passion for
correct diction, for a noble manner of writing and speaking, are
eloquent of the austere and dry genius of this masterful rather than
charming poet, who, nevertheless, had so profound and so lasting an
influence on French letters. Such a man as this, fanatically possessed
by an abstract ambition, needs the sympathy of a wise and beneficent
woman, and the old Malherbe, in the twilight of his days, found such an
Egeria in Catherine de Rambouillet. It was in the Hôtel that the famous
discussions on the value, selection, and meaning of words, on nobility
in eloquence, on purity and force in versification, first took place,
and the heat from them radiated through France. The new era of style
found its cradle in the Chambre Bleue.

But what was this Blue Room, this mysterious and azure grot in which the
genius of French classic poetry went through its transformation? There
was not much mystery about it. It was a room, deep in the magnificence
of the Hôtel, where the Marquise was in the habit of receiving the
familiar visits of her best friends. The novelty of it was its colour;
all other _salons_ in Paris being at that time painted red or drab. Out
of the Blue Room there opened a more secret retreat, her _cabinet_ or
_alcove_, where she could withdraw from all companionship, and spend her
time in reading or meditating. The furniture of the whole Hôtel de
Rambouillet was on a scale of opulent splendour, but the rarity of the
objects brought together was concentrated in the _cabinet_, which was,
as M. Magne puts it, a sort of altar which the Marquise raised to
herself. Every object in it was fragile, brilliant, and precious. In the
days when Malherbe frequented the Hôtel, it is probable that no inner
room existed. Tallemant gives us the very odd history of what led to its
formation. The Marquise in her youth was active and ready to expose
herself to the weather, but about 1623 she began to be threatened by an
_incommodité_, which made her unable to bear exposure to heat. She had
been in the habit of taking long walks in Paris, but one summer's day,
when the sun suddenly came out while she was strolling at La
Cour-la-Reine, on the Champs Elysées, she nearly fainted, and was
threatened with erysipelas. The following winter, the first time that
she drew up her chair to read by the fire, the same phenomenon came on.
She was now divided between perishing with cold or suffering miseries of
heat, and she therefore invented, taking the idea from the Spanish
"alcove," a little supplementary room, where she could sit close to her
friends, while they gathered round the hearth, and yet not be smitten by
the flames. In 1656, in the great winter, we hear of her, now an
elderly woman, lying on her bed, heaped over with furs, but not daring
to have a fire in sight.

Her energy did not leave her because of this disability. The
letter-writers of the period describe her extraordinary activity. She
had a great love of pretty and elaborate practical jokes which were in
the taste of the time. Hers, however, were distinguished by the fact
that they were never indecent and never ill-natured. But when an idea
occurred to Madame de Rambouillet, she rested not until the wild scheme
was accomplished. Voiture and Tallemant are full of instances of her
fertility. One instance out of many was the passion which she expended
in making a cascade in the park at Rambouillet, to startle a party of
guests. The water had to be brought up from the little tarn of
Montorgueil, and the Marquise superintended every spade and every pipe.
Carried on by her enthusiastic presence, a team of workmen laboured
night and day to complete the prodigious plaything, conducting their
ingenious hydraulics by the flare of torches. I could fill pages with
the proofs of her gaiety, her ingenuity, the amazing freshness and
vivacity of her mind, but the reader can turn to the original sources
for them. It may be suggested that, while the various independent
authorities really confirm the legend in its outline, when they tell the
same story, it will generally be found that Tallemant tells it more
naturally and more exactly than Segrais or Voiture. It is also to be
remembered that it was Tallemant who observed longest and most closely,
and brought least suspicion of vanity to bear on his relation. There is
a phrase buried somewhere in the vast tissue of the _Historiettes_ which
deserves to be better known. Speaking incidentally of the Marquise de
Rambouillet, Tallemant betrays that she was really the source of all his
inspiration: "c'est d'elle que je tiens la plus grande et la meilleure
partie de ce que j'ai escrit et que j'escriray dans ce livre." This
gives his statements their peculiar authority with regard to that Blue
Room, which he elsewhere calls "le rendez-vous de ce qu'il y avait de
plus galant à la Cour, et de plus joly parmy les beaux-esprits du
siècle." He quite frequently introduces an anecdote with the words "J'ay
ouy dire à Mme. de Rambouillet."

It would therefore be ungrateful to speak of the Hôtel de Rambouillet
without paying a tribute to the strange quality of Tallemant des Réaux.
French criticism, in applauding his industry, has hardly done justice to
the talent, almost the genius, of this extraordinary man. With an
unrivalled gift of observation, he combined that clear objective sense
of the value of little things, which is so valuable in a memoir-writer,
and he is the very prince of those biographers to whom nothing regarding
the subjects of their art seems common or unclean. He has the keen eye
for detail of his English contemporary, John Aubrey, and his
_Historiettes_ are really, in the sense of Aubrey, _Minutes of Lives_.
But Tallemant has much more design in his work, and a broader sense of
the relation of moral and intellectual values. Saint-Simon, who was a
child when Tallemant died, has more passion, a more impetuous and
broader sweep of style, and a more intelligent appreciation of the scene
of life. It was not for Tallemant des Réaux to paint "des grands
fresques historiques." He is as trivial and as picturesque as Boswell,
as crude as Pepys, and, like them both, he is completely indifferent to
what other people may find scandalous. He moved in the best society, and
he was of it; but in his lifetime no one seems to have paid him much
attention. Voiture was often in the centre of the stage at the Hôtel de
Rambouillet, and what answered in those days to limelight followed him
whenever he made one of his brilliant appearances; Tallemant was a
shadowy super, hanging about in the wings, but he was always there.

He had the best right in the world to be there. Gédéon Tallemant was a
close kinsman of the Marquis, whose sister, Marie de Rambouillet, had
married the biographer's father, a Huguenot banker of Bordeaux, head of
one of the best provincial families of the day. Gédéon was born at La
Rochelle in 1619, and was therefore thirty years younger than his
cousin's wife, the famous châtelaine of the Hôtel de Rambouillet, whom
he adored.[2] When he came to Paris, about 1637, her coterie was already
at its height, but he was immediately admitted to it, and no doubt began
no less immediately to ask questions and to take notes. He had every
possible opportunity; his brother and a cousin were members of the new
French Academy: his father was a Mæcenas to Corneille and others: he
himself married (in January, 1646) his cousin Elizabeth de Rambouillet,
a union which made him the familiar of La Fontaine and La Sablière. In
1650 he bought the château and estate of Plessis-Rideau, in Touraine,
and by letters-patent changed the name to Les Réaux, which he then
adopted as a surname. Here he entertained his lifelong friends--the
associates of the Hôtel, and other men of high professional rank, Patru,
Ablancourt, the Père Rapin. He knew absolutely everybody; he was
adorably indiscreet; and those who associated with him perceived in him
only a wonderful talker (Maucroix says that he "racontait aussy bien
qu'homme de France"), and a lover of poetry who started writing an
_Œdipe_ before Corneille. What few of them knew was that this
obliging friend and graceful companion was putting down in an immense
MS. all the anecdotes, all the intrigues, all the tricks of manner, all
the traits of character, of the multitude of his polite acquaintances.
He has left more than 500 of his little highly finished portraits of
people he knew, and he knew everyone in that age and place worth

It is doubtful at what particular time he wrote the _Historiettes_. He
was composing, or perhaps revising, part of them in 1657, but some must
be later, and many may be earlier in date than that; it is probable that
he ceased writing in 1665. He has been accused of being a spiteful
chronicler of the vices of the great, and he has been charged with a
love of looseness. But his own description is more just: "Je prétends
dire le bien et le mal, sans dissimuler la vérité." He writes with an
air of humorous malice, pleased to draw the cloak off the limbs of
hypocrisy, but not moved by any strong moral indignation. Like Pepys, he
enjoyed giving a disinterested picture of the details of ordinary
private life, but was rather more cynically amused by them than
scandalized. He wrote, or at least intended to write, _Mémoires de la
régence d'Anne d'Autriche,_ but this has totally disappeared, and we
need not regret it. Gédéon Tallemant is amply immortalized by the
_Historiettes_, which fill ten closely printed volumes in the excellent
edition of MM. Monmerqué and Paulin of Paris. They are like the work of
some brilliant Dutch painter of sordid interiors. He is not always well
inspired. He says nothing more adequate about Pascal than that he was
"ce garçon qui inventa une machine admirable pour l'arithmétique," but
Pascal was hardly of his world. In 1685 Tallemant became a Catholic,
converted by the Père Rapin, and, having outlived all his friends, he
died, probably in November, 1692, leaving a huge MS., the principal
subject of which is an analysis of the society that met within the Hôtel
de Rambouillet.

At his death that MS. vanished, "as rare things will." It turned up
again in a library at Montigny-Lencoup in 1803. We may note, as a
curious coincidence, that while the publication of Evelyn's _Diary_
dates from 1818, and while the deciphering of Pepys began in 1819, it
was in 1820, that Châteaugiron set to work at copying out the
_Historiettes_, which were not published until 1835. Three of the most
important MS. memoirs of the seventeenth century were thus independently
examined for the first time at practically the same moment of the
nineteenth. Each publication was an event in literary history.

No such concealment, no such late discovery, has marked the course of
Voiture, whose letters and poems were published by his nephew Pinchesne
in 1650, only two years after the poet's death. In this remarkable
miscellany, which has been incessantly reprinted, and which forms one of
the recognized lesser classics of France, we find ourselves breathing
the very atmosphere of the Hôtel de Rambouillet. It is, indeed, amusing
to reflect that, for fifteen years before her death, the Marquise and
all her circle possessed, and shared with a wide public, this elaborate
body of evidence as to their friendships, their tastes, and their
amusements. In the _Œuvres_ of Voiture, reprinted at least seventeen
times during the lifetime of the Marquise, the world at large was
admitted to the conversations of the Blue Room, and it eagerly responded
to the invitation. There was something about the supple genius of
Voiture, at once daring and discreet, apparently tearing every veil off
an intimacy, and yet in fact wrapping it in an impenetrable gauze of
mystery, which made him the ideal revealer to excite and baffle
curiosity, so that though he tells so much, as he stands at the top of
the stairs of the Hôtel and takes the town into his confidence, yet he
leaves plenty of things untold, to be whispered into the ears of
posterity by Tallemant and Conrart.

The father of Voiture was a shopkeeper who sold wine at the sign of the
Chapeau de Roses at Amiens, and there his son Vincent was born in 1595.
The author of _Alcidalis et Zélide_, was therefore the contemporary of
Herrick and of George Herbert. If the last-mentioned had not rejected
"the painted pleasures of a Court-life" for the retirements of a saint,
he might have been the English Voiture, with his charming gifts and
ingenious graces. The year 1626, which saw Herbert adopt the solemn
vocation of a priest, is probably that in which Voiture, introduced by
Chardebonne, took up his station for the rest of his life, as principal
literary oracle and master of the gaieties in the Hôtel de Rambouillet.
His father was honestly supplying wine to the Queen-Mother, Marie de
Médicis, and there was no question in his son's case, as in that of some
others, of doubtful or partial nobility. Vincent Voiture was frankly and
openly a _bourgeois_, admitted into that strictly guarded aristocracy
because of his abundant talents, his wit, his pleasantness, his
delicious social qualities, and also because it was part of the scheme
of the Marquise de Rambouillet to break down the boredom of the
exclusive privilege of rank for its own sake.

The main principle of the Hôtel was a study of the art of how to
behave. The rules of _la bienséance_ were strictly laid down there,
after close discussion among persons of light and leading. There was a
strong resistance made to the roughness of the country noble, to the
awkwardness of the ordinary citizen, to the inky fingers of the pedant,
to the slovenly petticoat, the disordered wig, the bespattered boot. The
attention of both sexes was persistently called to these matters of
behaviour and _tenue_, which had an importance at that date which we may
easily, in our twentieth-century intolerance, ridicule and ignore. We
see the comic side of this extreme solicitude about dress and ceremony,
etiquette and behaviour, in such a book as Furetière's amusing _Roman
Bourgeois_ (1666), but we may see the seriousness, the stately value of
it, in the tragedies of Corneille and the maxims of La Rochefoucauld.
The school of _la politesse_ became that in which every talent must
graduate, however grave its after-labours were to be. Even the solemn
Baillet, writing the life of no less dignified a person than Descartes,
mentions that the philosopher passed, like all other well-bred lads,
"aux promenades, au jeu et aux autres divertissements qui font
l'occupation des personnes de qualité et des honnêtes gens du siècle."
In this school, the elegant and supple Voiture, impregnated with the
literature of _Amadis de Gaule_, and with the language of Spanish
chivalry, intimidated by no hyperbole of compliment, capable alike of
plunging into the deep waters and of swimming safe to shore, always on
the verge of absurdity, always gliding down the agreeable side of it,
persistent, subtle, entertaining, extravagant--in this school Voiture
was the triumphant, the unmastered master. His best letters, his best
sonnets, show him to have been able, at his most vibrating moments, to
rise out of this element of billets-doux to better things. He is of all
composers of society verse and prose the lightest and the swiftest, and
we may say to those who sneer at so unique a talent what Madame de
Sévigné said of them in her day: "Tant pis pour ceux qui ne l'entendent

If one literary figure is more closely identified with the Hôtel de
Rambouillet than Voiture, it must be Chapelain. It is therefore curious
that while M. Magne was preparing his picturesque volumes on the former,
M. Collas should be independently writing the earliest biography of the
latter. These coincidences are odd, but we are accustomed to them; they
show that a subject is "in the air." When Chapelain made his first
appearance at the Hôtel, perhaps in 1635, Voiture had long been
installed there. They fell out at first sight, like dog and cat. When
the author of the _Préface de l'Adone_ stumbled over the precious floor,
dressed like a scarecrow, in hunting boots and dirty linen, and made his
clownish obeisance to the Marquise, she shrank a little from him, and
Voiture broke into a scream of elfish laughter. Madame de Rambouillet
never learned to care for Chapelain, and when he made clumsy love to
Mlle. Paulet, "the lioness," the Blue Room shook with mirth. But when
Mlle. Julie became a great personage, and especially as soon as the Duc
de Montausier introduced the pure cultivation of pedantry into the
Hôtel, the strong character of Chapelain asserted itself, while the
death of Voiture left him unquestioned in authority. Grotesque as
Chapelain was, he had a wonderful talent for adapting himself to
circumstances, and his conversation, though massive and solemn, had
charm, which even his enemies admitted to be extraordinary. Chapelain
was never on those terms of petted intimacy with his host and hostess
which the insinuating Voiture enjoyed, but he conquered a position of
more genuine respect and esteem.

But to follow M. Collas and M. Magne into the later years of the Hôtel,
when Mlle. de Rambouillet gave to the Blue Room a peculiar air of her
own, would be impossible for us, with the limited space at our command.
We must not go further than 1641, the year in which was produced the
celebrated _Guirlande de Julie_. After this point, not merely does the
character of the scene change, and its tone become less pleasing, or at
least less sympathetic, but for the reviewer the abundance of trees
makes the wood itself almost invisible. Here we may point to an example
of the superabundance of French material, which may almost console us
for the comparative dimness and bareness of the contemporary English
landscape. In dealing with this crowded age, M. Magne and M. Collas have
shown a learned adroitness and the happy logic to which scholars of
their race are trained. Of the two, M. Magne is the more vivacious, as
befits the biographer of Voiture. M. Collas has more difficulty in
reconciling us with the tedious and pedantic Chapelain, who,
nevertheless, as the founder of modern criticism and the mainstay of the
infant Académie Française, deserved to find a biographer at last. The
worst of it is that while Voiture, dancing-master to the Muses if you
will, and _petit-maître_ in excelsis, is at least a brisk and highly
diverting personality, poor Chapelain, the typical academician, the
mediocre poet, the spider at the heart of the wide intellectual web of
his time, is not man enough to awaken our vivid sympathies. Moreover, to
conclude on a note of bathos, M. Collas has neglected to append an index
to his vast compendium of facts.

We must therefore refrain from entering the labyrinths of the later
_préciosité_, amusing as they are, and must continue to concentrate our
attention on the clearness, the sweetness, the purity with which the
founder of the Hôtel, the great Madame de Rambouillet, throughout her
long life, created an atmosphere of sympathy and unity around her. As
long as she was paramount there, and until the influence of her daughter
and her daughter's husband, together with her own languor, pushed her a
little into the second line, gaiety was in the ascendant at the famous
Hôtel. It is needful to assure ourselves of this, because in the later
days it became purely intellectual, and dry in its priggishness. M.
Magne, it is true, attributes this change not so much to the pedantic
Latinism of the Duc de Montausier, and the hair-splitting of the
academicians, as to the decay produced by gaiety itself. In an ingenious
passage he says:

     The taste for badinage perverted in Voiture the taste for beauty.
     His genius glittered, quivered, frisked and palpitated, and the
     smile he wore was ever melting into irony. To depth he deliberately
     preferred an elegant futility. He was impregnated with the quality
     to which the age had given, in a noble sense, the name of
     gallantry. But, in reacting everywhere against vulgar roughness,
     the very excess of his effort landed him at last in preciosity.

It never had that deplorable effect upon Madame de Rambouillet herself,
on whose charming figure, swaying like a young pine-tree of the forest,
we must fix our attention, if we would see only what was best in that
remarkable and so vividly French revival of civilization which took
place under Louis XIII. Her purity of conduct was combined with no
uncouth prudery. She refrained from judging others hardly, but she
preserved, without a lapse, her own high standard of behaviour. She had
a lively horror of scandal, and desired that those about her, if they
could not contrive to be virtuous, should at least be discreet. It was
detestable to her to hear the gallants of the court boasting of their
conquests. She said, in her amusing way, that if she herself could ever
have been persuaded to leave the path of propriety, she must have chosen
for a paramour some unctuous and secret prelate, but that she had never
discovered one whom she could trust. It was her temperament, both of
heart and brain, which led her to rejoice in the new spirit of Malherbe,
whose simple, firm and lucid verses responded, after a revel of
romanticism, to her classic craving for harmony and dignity. In Racan's
pastoral poems, she welcomed a recovered love of country pleasures, and
the graceful convention of a shepherd. She liked private letters,
hitherto so pompous, to be composed in such terms that one seemed to
hear the writer's voice chatting at the chimney-corner. Richelieu,
although M. Magne denies the legend of his _Discours sur l'Amour_, used
to come to the Blue Room to have a good laugh with its delightful
occupant, and everyone unbent in her sweet and easy presence. Tallemant
has a story of no less dignified a personage than the Cardinal de La
Valette romping with the Rambouillet children, and discovered by the
Marquise hiding from them under a bed.

The close of the life of this marvellous woman was a sad one. She
outlived all her early friends, even outlived the prestige of her own
Blue Room. Six days after her death, Robinet composed a sort of funeral
ode to her memory, closing with an epitaph, which, as it is little
known, may be given here. It was written in January, 1666:

        Ci gist la divine Arthénice,
        Qui fut l'illustre protectrice
    Des Arts que les neuf Sœurs inspirent aux humains.
        Rome luy donna la naissance;
        Elle vint rétablir en France
        La gloire des anciens Romains.
        Sa maison, des vertus le temple,
    Sert aux particuliers d'un merveilleux exemple,
    Et pourrait bien instruire encor les souverains.

This is not very good poetry, but it would be difficult to sum up more
neatly the services of Madame de Rambouillet to France and to


In contemplating the chart of literary history we are confronted by
phenomena which more or less closely resemble those marked on the
geographical map. The surface is not uniform, but diversified by ups and
downs, of the feature that we call taste or fashion. A special interest
attaches to what may be described as the watersheds of literature, the
periods which display these changes of direction in thought and
language. I propose to bring before you briefly some characteristics of
one of the most saliently marked of all these points of alteration, that
which led irresistibly and imminently to the classical school, as it is
called, in France, and from France ultimately to the whole of Europe.
Before doing so, I must draw your attention to the fact that while most
of us are led to give special heed to movements which tend, like the
Romantic renaissance of poetry in England two centuries later, to the
emancipation and even the revolution of literature, that of which I am
about to speak was deliberately introduced in the interests of law and
order, and was in all its features conservative, and, if you choose to
call it so, retrogressive. It did not aim at enlarging the field of
expression, but at enclosing it within rules, excluding from it
eccentricities and licentious freaks, and rendering it subservient to a
rigorous discipline. In this University of Oxford, where the practice of
poetry is now conducted with so much ardour and with such audacity of
experiment, you may or may not, as you please, see any parallel between
the condition of France in 1595 and our own condition to-day. My
purpose is, with your leave, to describe the former without criticizing
the latter.

The sixteenth century had been a period of great activity in the
literature of France, where the interaction of two vast forces, the
Renaissance and the Reformation, had introduced wholly new forms of
expression into the language. Prose had started from its mediæval
condition into full modernity in Calvin, and then in Montaigne. In
poetry, with which we are concerned to-day, there had existed since 1550
the brilliant and feverish army of versifiers who accompanied Ronsard,
"the Prince of Poets," and claimed with him to have created out of the
rude elements of the Middle Ages a literary art which linked modern
France directly with ancient Greece. While England was still languishing
under the early Tudors, and Italy had grown weary of her burst of
chivalrous epic, France gave the world the spectacle of a society
palpitating with literary ambition. Ronsard's magnificent audacity had
conquered for poetry, an art which had hitherto enjoyed little honour in
France, the foremost position in the world of mental activity. Verse,
which had been treated as a butterfly skipping from flower to flower,
was now celebrated by the Pléiade as a temple, as a sunrise, as the
apotheosis of the intellect. Immensely flattered by being suddenly
lifted to the status of a priesthood, all the budding versifiers of
France, who a generation earlier would have withered into
insignificance, expanded into affluent and profuse blossom. By the year
1560 it was "roses, roses all the way," but the misfortune was that the
flowers were foreign, had been transplanted from Greece and Rome and
Italy, and were not really native to the soil of France.

During the next generation, under conditions with which we have no time
to occupy us to-day, there was a steady, indeed an almost precipitous
decline in the quality of French verse. If we turn to our own literature
of half a century later, we see a parallel decline in the drama down
from Shakespeare to Shirley and the later disciples of Ben Jonson. We
all know how disconcerting it is to pass from the sheer beauty of the
great Elizabethans to the broken verse and the mixture of flatness and
violence of the lesser poets of the Commonwealth. But in France the
decadence had been still more striking, because of the extremely high
line adopted by Ronsard and Du Bellay in their prose manifestos. The
doctrine of the Pléiade had been as rigorous and lofty as a creed in
literature could well be, and it rose to an altogether higher plane than
was dreamed of by the English critics half a century later. No dignity,
no assurance of high and pure poetic resolution could surpass the
apparent aim of the manifestos of 1549. Frenchmen, it seemed, had
nothing to do but follow these exalted precepts and to produce the most
wonderful poetry which the world had seen since the days of Pindar and
Sappho. We cannot to-day enter into the question why these high hopes
were almost immediately shattered, except so far as to suggest that
excellent principles are sometimes insufficient to produce satisfactory
practice. We have to look abruptly this afternoon into the conditions of
French poetry in the last years of the sixteenth century, and to realize
that those conditions had brought French literature to a point where
reform was useless and revolution was inevitable.

There was no slackening--and I ask your particular attention to this
fact--there was no slackening in the popularity of the poetic art. There
existed, in 1595, as great a crowd of versifiers as had been called
forth fifty years earlier by the splendour of the Pléiade. A feature of
poetic history which is worthy of our notice is that an extreme
abundance of poetical composition is by no means necessarily connected
with the wholesomeness and vigour of the art at that moment. There was a
crowd of poets in France during the reign of Henri IV, but they were
distinguished more by their exuberance and their eccentricity than by
their genius. I shall, in a few moments, endeavour to give you an idea
of their character. In the meantime, let us be content to remark that
the exquisite ideals of the Pléiade had degenerated into extravagant
conventionality, into which an attempt was made to infuse life by a
spasmodic display of verbal fireworks. The charm of sobriety, of
simplicity, was wholly disregarded, and the importance of logic and
discipline in literature ignored and outraged. The earlier theory, a
very dangerous one, had been that poetry was the language of the gods
rather than of men, that it was _grandiloquentia_, an oracular
inspiration. Being above mankind in its origin, it was not for mortal
men to question its authority. It possessed a celestial freedom, it was
emancipated from all rules save what it laid down for itself. Let us see
what was the effect of this arrogance.

The scope of imaginative literature as practised by the Pléiade had been
curiously narrow, so much so that it is difficult to distinguish the
work of different hands except by the dexterity of the technique. The
odes and pastorals of the lesser masters are just like those of Ronsard,
except that Ronsard is very much more skilful. But by the close of the
century there was a wide divergence between the various poets in their
themes and their points of view. Two of them greatly excelled their
contemporaries in eminence and popularity, and these two were as unlike
each other in substance as it was easy for them to be. The elder of
these two was Salluste du Bartas, a writer whose quartos are now allowed
to gather dust on the shelves, and who, when he died in 1590, was, with
the exception of Tasso, the most eminent European writer of verse. His
influence on English poetry in the next generation was immense.
Translations of his works by Joshua Sylvester and others had begun to
appear before his death, and were extremely popular. Du Bartas possessed
qualities of intellect and art which are by no means to be despised, but
his taste was execrable. He wished to create a national religious poetry
on a large scale, and he has been called the "Milton manqué de la
France." Du Bartas is all relinquished to evangelical and moral
exhortation, and his immense _Les Semaines_, besides being one of the
longest, is the most unblushingly didactic encyclopædia of verse that
was ever put forth as a poem. He had a very heavy hand, and he sowed
with the whole sack. Our own Bishop Joseph Hall of Norwich, who called
him "some French angel, girt with bays," described Du Bartas as--

    The glorious Sallust, moral, true, divine,
    Who, all inspired with a holy rage,
    Makes Heaven his subject, and the earth his stage.

In his own time his myriad admirers preferred him above "golden Homer
and great Maro." His earnestness and his cleverness--among other things
he was the first man after the Renaissance to see that the obsession of
the heathen gods was ridiculous in a Christian literature--his abundance
and his vehemence, made Du Bartas a very formidable figure in the path
of any possible reform.

As an instance of the violence of fancy and gaudy extravagance of
language which had become prevalent with the decline of the Pléiade, I
will now present to you what I select as a favourable, not a ridiculous,
example of the art of Du Bartas. He wishes to paraphrase the simple
statement in Genesis that, on the fourth day, God set the stars in the
firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth. This is how he does
it, as translated by Joshua Sylvester:

    Even as a peacock, prickt with love's desire,
    To woo his mistress, strutting stately by her,
    Spreads round the rich pride of his pompous vail,
    His azure wings and starry-golden tail,
    With rattling pinions wheeling still about,
    The more to set his beauteous beauty out,--
    The Firmament, as feeling like above,
    Displays his pomp, pranceth about his love,
    Spreads his blue curtain, mixt with golden marks,
    Set with gilt spangles, sown with glistening sparks,
    Sprinkled with eyes, speckled with tapers bright,
    Powdered with stars streaming with glorious light,
    To inflame the Earth the more, with lover's grace
    To take the sweet fruit of his kind embrace.

Our first impression of such a passage as this is one of admiration of
its colour and of its ingenuity. It is more than rich, it is sumptuous;
the picture of the wheeling peacock is original and brilliantly
observed. But there commendation must cease. What could be meaner or
less appropriate than to compare the revolution of the starry firmament
as it proceeded from its Creator's hand with the strut of a conceited
bird in a poultry-yard? The works of Du Bartas are stuffed full with
these strained and fantastic similes, his surface sparkles with the
glitter of tinsel and pinchbeck. At every turn something majestic
reminds him of an embroidery, of a false jewel, of something picturesque
and mean. The planets, in their unison, are like the nails in a
cart-wheel; when darkness comes on, heaven is playing at blind man's
buff; the retreat of the armies of the King of Assyria reminds the poet
of a gamekeeper drawing his ferret. He desires the snow to fall that it
may "perriwig with wool the bald-pate woods." All is extravagant and
false, all is offensive to the modesty of nature.

Du Bartas is stationed at the left wing of the army of poets. The right
is held by Philippe Desportes, whose name has recently been made
familiar to us by Sir Sidney Lee's investigations into the extraordinary
way in which his works were pillaged in his lifetime by our Elizabethan
sonneteers. Even Shakespeare seems to have read, and possibly imitated,
Desportes's _Amours de Diane_. The producer in vast quantities of a kind
of work which is exactly in the fashion of the moment is sure of a wide
popular welcome, and the cleverness of Desportes was to see that after
the death of Ronsard French taste went back on the severity of Du
Bellay's classicism, and returned to the daintiness and artificial
symmetry of the Petrarchists. It has been said that to the Italians of
the sixteenth century Petrarch had become what Homer was to the Greeks
and Virgil to the Latins. He was the unquestioned leader, the
unchallenged exemplar. This infatuation, which spread through Europe, is
of importance to us in our inquiry to-day, for Petrarch was really the
worm, the crested and luminous worm, at the root of sixteenth-century
poetry. It was extremely easy to imitate the amorous conceits of the
Italian imitators of Petrarch, and of these imitators in France by far
the most abundant, skilful, and unwearying was Philippe Desportes, to
whom Petrarch's ingenious elocution appeared, as it appeared to all the
critics of Europe, "pure beauty itself." By the close of the century it
was no longer the greater Italians, such as Francesco Molza, who
represented at its height the victorious heresy of Petrarchism, it was a
Frenchman, of whom our own great lyrist, Lodge, in his _Margarite of
America_ in 1596, wrote: "few men are able to second the sweet conceits
of Philippe Desportes, whose poetical writings are ordinarily in
everybody's hand." Desportes exercised over the whole of Europe an
authority which surpassed that of Tennyson over the British Empire at
the height of his reputation.

Here, then, was another and still more formidable lion couched at the
gate of poetry to resist all possible reform. The career of Desportes
had been one of unbroken prosperity. He had become, without an effort,
the wealthiest and the most influential person of letters of his time.
His courtly elegance had enabled him to be all things to all men, and
although a priest of unblemished character, he had attended one Valois
king after another without betraying his inward feelings by a single
moral grimace. He had found no difficulty in celebrating the virtues of
Henri III, and the anecdote about him that is best known is that he had
been rewarded with an abbey for the homage of a single sonnet. He had
exaggerated all the tricks of his predecessors with a certain sweetness
and brilliance of his own, which had fascinated the polite world. The
best that can be said of Desportes is that he was an artificer of
excellent skill, who manufactured metrical jewellery by rearranging
certain commonplaces, such as that teeth are pearls, that lips are
roses, that cheeks are lilies, that hair is a golden network. But I will
give you his own statement of his aim, not attempting to paraphrase his
remarkable language. Desportes gives the following account of his

I desire to build a temple to my chaste goddess. My eye shall be the
lamp, and the immortal flame which ceaselessly consumes me shall serve
as candle. My body shall be the altar, and my sighs the vows, and I will
intone the service in thousands and thousands of verses.

What a ridiculous confusion of imagery! Here we have a man whose body is
an altar, and whose eye--one of whose eyes--is a lamp, and whose passion
is the candle in that lamp, and whose mouth and throat are detached from
his body, and are performing miracles in the vicinity. This is to take
Desportes at his worst, and it is only fair to admit that the reader who
winnows the vast floor of his work will find some grains of pure gold
left. But the mass of these sonnets and odes and madrigals is
extraordinarily insipid and cold, the similes are forced and grotesque,
and everywhere pedantry takes the place of passion. When there is beauty
it is artificial and affected, it is an Alexandrine beauty, it is the
colour of the dying dolphin.

Such was the poetry which occupied the taste of France at the close of
the sixteenth century, and whether its form was brief and amorous, as in
the sonnets of Desportes, or long-winded and hortatory, as in the sacred
epics of Du Bartas, it was uniformly exaggerated, lifeless, and
incorrect. In all its expressions it was characterized by an abuse of
language, and indeed, in the hands of the poets of the late Valois
kings, the French tongue was hurrying down to ruin. One curious vice
consisted in the fabrication of new phrases and freshly coined composite
words. Of these latter, some one has counted no fewer than 300 in the
writings of Du Bartas alone, and Professor Paul Morillot has observed
that the licence which the poets of that age indulged in has been the
cause of subsequent poverty in that direction, French having received
and rejected such a glut of new and useless words as to have lost all
appetite for additions of vocabulary. Another vice of the period was the
ceaseless cultivation, in season and out of season, of a sort of
antithetical wit. The sincerity of Nature was offended at every turn by
the monstrous cleverness of the writer, who evidently was thinking far
more about himself than about his subject. Here is an example:

    Weep on, mine eyes, weep much, ye have seen much,
    And now in water let your penance be,
    Since 'twas in fire that you committed sin,

and so on, with wearisome iteration of the hyperbole. We were to suffer
from the same disease fifty years later, when a great English poet,
capable of far nobler things, was to call the eyes of St. Mary Magdalene

    Two walking baths, two weeping motions,
    Portable and compendious oceans.

An excellent grammarian, M. Ferdinand Brunot, has remarked that at the
end of the sixteenth century a lawless individualism--and in this term
he sums up all the component parts of literature, style, grammar,
treatment, and tone--had set in; that everybody had become a law to
himself; and that the French language was suffering from the incessant
disturbance caused by "the fantastic individuality of writers" both in
prose and verse.

This chaotic state of things, which threatened French literature with
anarchy and French logic with bankruptcy, was brought to a standstill
and successfully confronted by the energy and determination of a single
person. I recollect no other instance in the history of literature in
which one individual has contrived to stem the whole flood of national
taste. Of course, an instinct of French lucidity and reasonableness must
have been ready to respond to the doctrine of the new critic, yet it is
none the less certain that through the early years of the struggle there
remains no evidence of his having been supported by any associate
opinion. I dare say you recollect a famous Japanese print which
represents a young lady standing on the edge of a cliff, and gazing
calmly out to sea while she restrains the action of a great plunging
horse by simply holding one of her feet down upon the reins. In the same
way the runaway Pegasus of France was held, and was reduced to
discipline, by the almost unparalleled resolution of a solitary man.
This was François Malherbe, whose name, but perhaps very little else,
will be familiar to you. I hope to show you that this poet, by the
clearness of his vision and his rough independence, brought about a
revolution in literature which was unparalleled. He cut a clear stroke,
as with a hatchet, between the sixteenth century and all that came after
it down to the romantic revival at the beginning of the nineteenth
century, and he did this by sheer force of character. Malherbe was not a
great poet, but he was a great man, and he is worthy of our close

François Malherbe was a Norman; there is a hint of the family having
come from Suffolk, in which case the name may have been Mallerby, but we
need not dwell on that. His parents were Calvinists, and he was born at
Caen in 1555. This was, you observe, between the births of Spenser and
Shakespeare; and Rabelais was just dead. Cervantes was eight years old,
Lope de Vega was to be born seven years later. We ought to notice these
dates: they give us a sense of what was preparing in Europe, and what
was passing away; a great period of transition was about to expand.
Until he was thirty years of age Malherbe appears to have taken no
interest whatever in poetry; he was a soldier, a military secretary, a
man of business. Then he went to live in Provence, where he read the
Italian verse fashionable in his day, and began to imitate it. The
kindest and most enthusiastic of his later disciples told Tallemant that
Malherbe's early poems were "pitiful." We can judge for ourselves, since
at the age of thirty-two he published a paraphrase, or rather a series
of selections from Tansillo's _Lagrime di San Pietro_. The bad poets of
the age were lachrymose to the last degree. Nothing but the honour of
addressing you to-day would have induced me to read these "Tears of St.
Peter." I have done so, and have even amused myself by paraphrasing some
of them, but these I will not inflict upon you. It is sufficient to
assure you that up to the age of forty the verses of Malherbe were not
merely, as Racan put it, pitiful, but marred by all the ridiculous
faults of the age. After all, I must give you a single example. This is
translated literally from "The Tears of St. Peter":

    Aurora, in one hand, forth from her portals led,
    Holds out a vase of flowers, all languishing and dead;
    And with the other hand empties a jar of tears;
    While through a shadowy veil, woven of mist and storm,
    That hides her golden hair, she shows in mortal form
    All that a soul can feel of cruel pains and fears.

At what moment Malherbe observed that this was a detestable way of
writing, and conceived the project of a great reversal of opinion, we do
not know. His early life, and just that part of it on which we should
like light to be thrown, remains impenetrably obscure. But we do know
that when he arrived in Paris he had formulated his doctrine and laid
out his plan of campaign. At Aix-en-Provence he had been admitted to the
meetings of a literary society, the chief ornament of which was the
celebrated orator and moralist Du Vair, who ought perhaps to be
considered as in some directions the master of Malherbe. The ideas of Du
Vair have been traced in some of Malherbe's verses, and the poet
afterwards said, in his dictatorial way, "There is no better writer in
our language than M. Du Vair." It was probably the dignity of the
orator's attitude and the severity of his taste in rhetoric which
encouraged the poet to adopt a similar lucidity and strenuousness in
verse. The two men, who were almost exactly of the same age, may perhaps
be most safely looked upon as parallel reformers, the one of French
verse, the other of French prose.

Few things would be more interesting to us, in our present mood, than to
know how Malherbe, arriving in Paris at the mature age of fifty, set
about his revolution. He found the polite world tired of frigid
conceits and extravagant sentimentality, above all tired of the licence
of the poets and the tricks which they were taking with the French
language. There was undoubtedly a longing for order and regularity, such
as invariably follows a period of revolutionary lawlessness, but no one
was giving this sentiment a voice. What was wanted after such a glut of
ornament and exuberance was an arbiter and tyrant of taste who should
bring poetry rigidly into line with decency, plainness, and common
sense, qualities which had long been thought unnecessary to, and even
ridiculously incompatible with, literature of a high order. All this we
may divine, but what is very difficult to understand is the mode in
which Malherbe became the recognized tyrant of taste. It was not by the
production, and still less by the publication, of quantities of verse
composed in accordance with his own new doctrine. Malherbe had hesitated
long in the retirement of the country, waiting to be summoned to Court.
Somehow, although he had published no book and can scarcely have been
known to more than a handful of persons, he had a few powerful friends,
and among them, strange to say, three poets whose work was
characteristic of everything which it was to be Malherbe's mission to
destroy. These were the Cardinal Du Perron, Bertaut, and Vauquelin de la
Fresnaye. They formed the van of the poetical army of the moment, and it
is a very curious thing that these three remarkable writers, each of
whom remained faithful to the tradition of Ronsard, should have welcomed
with open arms the rebel who was to cover Ronsard with ridicule. With a
divine simplicity, they opened the wicket and let the wolf in among the
sheep. They urged the King to invite Malherbe to Court, and, when His
Majesty delayed, Malherbe very characteristically did not wait for a
summons. He came to Paris of his own accord in 1605, was presented to
Henri IV, and composed in September of that year the long ode called a
"Prayer for the King on his going to Limoges." This is the earliest
expression of classical verse in the French language.

In those days the intelligent favour of the King did more for a
reputation than a dozen glowing reviews in the chief newspapers will do
to-day. We must give credit to Henri IV for the promptitude with which
he perceived that the cold new poetry, which must have sounded very
strangely on his ears accustomed to the lute of Desportes and the
trumpet of Du Bartas, was exactly what was wanted in France. He himself
had laboured to bring back to this country, distracted as it had been in
its late political disorders, the virtues of law, logic, and discipline.
He recognized in this grim, middle-aged Norman gentleman the same
desires, but directed to the unity and order of literature. A recent
French historian has pointed out that "the very nature of Malherbe's
talent, its haughty, solemn, and majestic tone, rendered him peculiarly
fitted to become the official and, as it were, the impersonal singer of
the King's great exploits, and to engrave in letters of brass, as on a
triumphal monument, the expression of public gratitude and admiration."
Malherbe, as has been said, was appointed "the official poet of the
Bourbon dynasty."

The precious correspondence with his Provençal friend Peiresc, which
Malherbe kept up from 1606 till his death in 1628, a correspondence
which was still unknown a hundred years ago, throws a good deal of light
upon the final years of the poet, and in particular on the favour with
which he was entertained at Court. There are more than 200 of these
letters, which nevertheless, like most such collections of that age,
succeed in concealing from us the very facts which we are most anxious
to hear about. Thus, while Malherbe expatiates to Peiresc about queens
and princes, he tells us nothing, or next to nothing, about the literary
life in which we know that he made so disconcerting a figure. But that
most enchanting of gossips, Tallemant des Réaux, has preserved for us an
anecdote of a highly illuminating nature. We have seen that the
supremacy in French poetry had been held for many years by Philippe
Desportes, who was now approaching the close of a long life of sumptuous
success. It could not be a matter of indifference to the last and most
magnificent of the Ronsardists that an upstart, till now unheard of,
should suddenly be welcomed at Court. He desired his nephew, Mathurin
Régnier--himself a man of genius, but not in our picture to-day--he
desired Régnier to bring this M. de Malherbe to dinner. They arrived,
but were late, and dinner stood already on the table. The old Desportes
received Malherbe with all the politeness conceivable, and said that he
wished to give him a copy of the new edition of his _Psalms_, in which
he had made many corrections and additions. Such a compliment from the
acknowledged head of French poetry was extreme, but Malherbe had already
made up his mind to bring down the reputation of Desportes with a crash,
as Samson destroyed the gates of Dagon in Gaza. Desportes was starting
to go upstairs to fetch the book, when Malherbe in rough country fashion
(_rustiquement_) told him he had seen it already, that it was not worth
while to let his soup grow cold, for it was likely to be better than his
_Psalms_ were. Upon this they sat down to dinner at once, but Malherbe
said nothing more, and when dinner was done he went away, leaving the
host heart-broken and young Régnier furious. This must have been very
soon after Malherbe's arrival in Paris, for Desportes died in 1606.

All that has been recorded of the manners and conversation of Malherbe
tends to explain this story. He could be courtly and even magnificent,
and he had a bluff kind of concentrated politeness, when he chose to
exercise it, which was much appreciated by the royal family. He was a
tall, handsome man, with keen eyes, authoritative and even domineering,
generally silent in society, but ready to break in with a brusque
contradiction of what somebody else was saying. He was a scorner of
human frailty, believing himself to be above the reach of all emotional
weakness. The violent force, which burned arrogantly in his spirit,
comes out in everything which is preserved about him, in his verses, in
his letters, in the anecdotes of friends and enemies. His retorts were
like those of Dr. Samuel Johnson, but without the healing balsam of
Johnson's tenderness. There was nothing tender about Malherbe, and we
may admit that he could not have carried out his work if there had been.
His intellectual conscience was implacable; he allowed nothing in the
world to come between him and his inexorable doctrine. When he learned
that the Vicomtesse d'Auchy (Charlotte des Ursins), the "Caliste" of his
own verses, had been encouraging a poet of the old school, he went to
her house, pushed into her bedroom, and slapped her face as she lay upon
her bed.

Tallemant tells us that "meditation and art made a poet" of Malherbe,
_non nascitur sed fit_. At no time did he learn to write with ease, and
after so many years spent in the passionate cultivation of the Muse, his
poetical writings are contained in as narrow a compass as those of Gray,
who confessed that his "works" were so small that they might be mistaken
for those of a pismire. Malherbe had long pauses during which he seemed
to do nothing at all except meditate and lay down the law. Balzac, who
was one of those young men in whose company he delighted, declares that
whenever Malherbe had written a thousand verses he rested for ten years.
All this was part of a studied frugality. The Ronsardists and their
followers had been lavish in everything; they had poured out floods of
slack verse, loose in construction, faulty in grammar. If a slight
difficulty presented itself to them, they evaded it, they leaped over
it. Having no reverence for the French language, they invented hideous
and reckless words, they stretched or curtailed syllables, in order to
fit the scansion. There is recorded a saying of Malherbe which is
infinitely characteristic. When he was asked what, in fact, was his
object in all he was doing, he replied that he proposed "to rescue
French poetry from the hands of the little monsters who were
dishonouring it." The glorious Desportes, the sublime Du Bartas, the
rest of the glittering and fashionable Petrarchists of Paris, what were
they in the eyes of this implacable despot of the new intellectual
order? They were simply "little monsters" who were "dishonouring" what
he worshipped with a fanatic zeal, the language of France.

When we turn to his own poetry, we see what there was in it which
fascinated the opening seventeenth century. After all the tortures and
the spasms, the quietude of it was delicious. If you go to Malherbe now,
you must learn to put aside all your romantic preoccupations. His verse
is very largely concerned with negations: it is _not_ ornamented, it is
not preposterous, it is not pedantic. It swept away all the insincere
imagery and all the violent oddities of the earlier school. For example,
Bertaut had written, wishing to explain his tears:

    By the hydraulic of mine eyes
  The humid vapours of my grief are drawn
    Through vacuums of my sighs.

Desportes had talked of a lover who was "intoxicated by the delectation
of the concert of the divine harmony" of his mistress. All this
preciousness, all this affectation of the use of scientific terms in
describing simple emotions, was the object of Malherbe's ruthless
disdain. Ronsard had said, "The more words we have in our language, the
more perfect it will be." Malherbe replied, "No, certainly not, if they
are useless and grotesque words, dragged by the hair of their heads out
of Greek and Latin, an outrage on the purity of French grammar." He
advised his disciples to eject the monstrous creations of the
neo-Hellenes, and to go down to the quays of Paris and listen to the
dock-labourers. They used genuine French words which ought to be
redeemed from vulgar use, and brought back to literary service.

The existing poems of Malherbe, written at intervals during the last
twenty years of his life, are largely pieces of circumstance. They are
odes on public events, such as the retaking of Marseilles, the official
journeys of the King, the regency of the Queen Mother, and the alliance
between France and Spain. They are elegies on the deaths of private
persons, a subject on which Malherbe expatiates with the utmost dignity
and solemnity. They are sonnets, very unlike the glittering rosy
gimcracks of the preceding generation, but stiff with stately
compliment and colourless art. There is no exact English analogue to
the poetry of Malherbe, because in the seventeenth century whenever
English verse, except in the hands of Milton, aimed at an effect of
rhetorical majesty, its stream became clouded. We may observe the case
of Cowley, who, I think, had certainly read Malherbe and was influenced
by him, in spite of the diametrical views they nourished with regard to
the merit of Pindar. Cowley, at his rare and occasional best, has the
same serious music, the same clear roll of uplifted enthusiasm, the same
absolute assurance as Malherbe. He has the same felicity in his sudden
and effective openings. But there is too frequently confusion, artifice,
and negligence in Cowley. In Malherbe all is perfectly translucent,
nothing turbid is allowed to confuse the vision, no abuse of wit is left
to dazzle the attention or trip up steadily advancing progress of
thought. It is not easy to give an impression in English of the movement
of this clear and untrammelled advance. But here are a couple of stanzas
from the 1611 Ode to the Queen Regent on occasion of the King's
Mediterranean expedition:

    Ah! may beneath thy son's proud arm down fall
      The bastions of the Memphian wall,
    And from Marseilles to Tyre itself extend
           His empire without end.

    My wishes, p'rhaps, are wild; but--by your leave--
      What cannot ardent prayer achieve?
    And if the gods reward your service so
           They'll pay but what they owe.

By general consent the crown of Malherbe's poetic genius is the famous
"Consolation to Monsieur Du Périer on the death of his daughter." It
contains the best-known line of Malherbe--

    Et, Rose, elle a vécu ce que vivent les roses,

about which I would merely say that it is one of those accidental
romantic verses which occur here and there in all the great classical
poets. There are several in Pope, where they are no more characteristic
of his general style than is this of Malherbe's. So far from being the
chief line in the poem, it is, in spite of its beauty, the least
important to us in our present inquiry. The "Consolation" consists of
twenty-one stanzas, written long after the sad event of the death of the
young lady, whose name, by the way, was not Rose, but Marguerite. The
advice which the poet gives to the stricken father is stoical and Roman.
Weary yourself no more with these useless and prolonged lamentations;
but henceforth be wise, and love a shadow as a shadow, and extinguish
the memory of extinguished ashes. The instances of Priam and Alcides may
seem to have little in them to cheer Du Périer, but we must remember
that antiquity was held a more sacred authority three hundred years ago
than it is now. Malherbe, with great decorum, recalls to Du Périer the
fact that he himself has lost two beloved children. The poor man under
his thatched roof is subject to the laws of death, nor can the guard on
watch at the gates of the Louvre protect our kings against it. To
complain of the inevitable sacrifice, and to lose patience with
Providence, is to lack wisdom. The only philosophy which can bring
repose to a heart bereaved is implicit submission to the will of God.

All this may not seem very original, but it is exquisitely phrased, and
it is sensible, dignified, and wholesome. There is in it a complete
absence of the ornament and circumstance of death which had taken so
preposterous a place in the abundant elegiac poetry of the sixteenth
century. We are familiar with the grotesque and sumptuous appeals to the
_macabre_ which we meet with in Raleigh, in Donne, in Quarles, all the
dismal trappings of the tomb and embroideries of the winding-sheet. They
are wholly set aside by Malherbe, whose sonnet on the death of his son
is worthy of special study. This young man, who was the pride of the
poet's life, was killed in a duel, or, as the father vociferously
insisted, murdered by a treacherous ruffian. Malherbe made the courts
ring with his appeals, but he also composed a sonnet, which is a
typical example of his work. It is not what we should call "poetical,"
but in clearness, in force, in full capacity to express exactly what the
author had in mind to say, it is perfect. We seem to hear the very cry
of the fierce old man shrieking for revenge on the slayer of his son.
The sonnet was composed some time after the event, for the whole art of
Malherbe was the opposite of improvisation. One amusing instance of his
deliberate method is to be found in the history of his ode to console
President Nicolas de Verdun on the death of his wife. Malherbe composed
his poem so slowly, that while he was writing it the President widower
not merely married a second time, but died. The poet, with consummate
gravity, persisted in his task, and was able to present the widow with
the consolation which her late husband should have received after the
death of her predecessor.

During thirty years of growing celebrity, Malherbe fought for his
doctrine. He had but slowly become a convert to his own laws, but when
once they were clearly set out in his brain, he followed them
scrupulously, and he insisted that the world should obey them too. It
seems a strange thing that it was the young men who followed him first,
and with most enthusiasm, until the fashionable ladies of Paris began to
compete with one another in support of the classical doctrine, and in
repudiation of their old favourite Desportes, whose fame came down
clattering in a single night, like Beckford's tower at Fonthill.
Malherbe brought poetry into line with the Court and the Church, in a
decent formality. Largely, as is always the case in the history of
literature, the question was one more of language than of substance.
Take, for example, the "Stanzas to Alcandre on the Return of Oranthe to
Fontainebleau," and you will find them as preposterous in sentiment, as
pretentious and affected in conception, as any sonnet of Desportes,
perhaps more so, but their diction is perfectly simple and graceful, and
they are composed in faultless modern French. Long before Molière was
born Malherbe was in the habit of reading his verses to an old servant,
and if there was a single phrase which gave her difficulty, he would
scrupulously revise it.

He was supported by a sublime conviction of his own value. It was a
commonplace in all the poetical literature of the sixteenth century to
claim immortality. Desportes had told his mistress that she would live
for ever like the Phoenix, in the flame of his sonnets. We all remember
Shakespeare's boast that "not marble, nor the gilded monuments of
princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme." But no one was ever more
certain of leaving behind him a lasting monument than Malherbe. He said,
addressing the King:

    All pour their praise on you, but not with equal hand,
    For while a common work survives one year or two,
    What Malherbe writes is stamped with immortality.

The self-gratulation at the close of the noble "Île de Ré" ode is quite
disconcerting. In this case, also, he reminds the King that

    The great Amphion, he whose voice was nonpareil,
      Amazed the universe by fanes it lifted high;
    Yet he with all his art has builded not so well
             As by my verse have I.

His boast, extravagant as it sounds, was partly justified. Not in his
own verse, but in that which his doctrine encouraged others to
write--and not in verse only, but in prose, and in the very arrangement
and attitude of the French intellect--Malherbe's influence was
wide-spreading, was potent, and will never be wholly superseded. He
found French, as a literary language, confused, chaotic, no longer in
the stream of sound tradition. He cleared out the channel, he dredged
away the mud and cut down the weeds; and he brought the pure water back
to its proper course. Let us not suppose that he did this completely, or
that his authority was not challenged. It was, and Malherbe did not
live to see the victory of his ideas. He did not survive long enough to
found the Académie, or to welcome Vaugelas, the great grammarian who
would have been the solace of his old age. There were still many men of
talent, such as Pélisson and Agrippa d'Aubigné, who resisted his
doctrine. But he had made his great appeal for order and regularity; he
had wound his slug-horn in the forest. He had poured his ideas into the
fertile brain of Richelieu; he had started the momentous discussions of
the Hôtel Rambouillet. He had taught a new generation to describe
objects in general terms, to express natural ideas with simplicity, to
select with scrupulous care such words as were purely French and no
others, to eschew hiatus and inversion and to purify rhyme, to read the
ancients with sympathetic attention but not to pillage them. His own
limitations were marked. He seems to have had no sense whatever for
external nature; while he overvalued a mathematical exactitude of
balance in versification and a grandiose severity in rhetoric.

But we are not attempting this afternoon to define the French Classic
School, but merely to comprehend how and when it came into being. It
preceded our own Classic School by the fifty years which divide Malherbe
from Dryden, who, in like manner, but with far less originality, freed
poetry from distortion, prolixity, and artifice. When Malherbe died no
one could guess how prodigious would be the effect of his teaching.
Indeed, at that moment, October 6, 1628, there might even seem to be a
certain retrogression to the old methods, a certain neglect of the new
doctrine, which seemed to have been faintly taken up. But, looking back,
we now see that at the moment of Malherbe's death, Corneille was on the
point of appearing, while there were children in the nurseries who were
to be La Fontaine, Pascal, Molière, Mme. de Sévigné, Bossuet. Boileau
and Racine were not even born, for Malherbe sowed early and the harvest
came late.

The ruling passion accompanied this resolute reformer to the very close
of his career. His faithful disciple, Racan, his Boswell, has drawn for
us the last scene:

     One hour before he died, Mr. de Malherbe woke with a start out of a
     deep slumber, to rebuke his hostess, who was also his nurse, for
     using an expression which he did not consider to be correct French.
     When his confessor ventured to chide him, he replied that he could
     not help it, and that he wished to preserve up to the moment of his
     death the purity of the French language.


For three centuries past there have been frequent discussions as to the
possibility of founding an Academy of Letters in England, but it was not
until June, 1910, that a modest and partial experiment in this direction
was successfully made. After long deliberations between two accredited
bodies, the Royal Society of Literature and the Society of Authors,
thirty-three persons were nominated to form, within the corporation of
the former, an Academic Committee which should attempt to exercise
something resembling the functions of the Académie Française. Lord
Morley was elected President, and now, without claiming any excessive
publicity, this Academic Committee, founded for the protection and
encouragement of a pure English style in prose and verse, has occupied a
position in letters which gives every evidence of persisting and
increasing. It was assailed, as was natural and right, by satire and by
caricature, but it has survived the attacks which were directed against
it, and there can be little doubt that, with good luck, it may become a
prominent feature of our intellectual and social system. Already,
although so young, it has received that consecration of death which
makes it a part of history. No fewer than eight, that is to say nearly a
quarter, of its original members have passed away, and among them those
delicate humanists Butcher and Verrall, a poet so philosophical as
Alfred Lyall, critics of such fine temper as Andrew Lang and Edward
Dowden. Like the Académie Française, the Academic Committee has its
_parti des ducs_, and it mourns the loss of an exquisite amateur, George
Wyndham. These men leave to their successors the memory of lives
devoted to the purest literature.[4]

This, then, seems a not inappropriate moment for considering more
closely in detail than has commonly been done, the circumstances
attending the most successful experiment that the world has seen to
create and sustain a public body whose duty it should be to guard the
purity of a national language and to insure the permanence of its best
literary forms. It will not be necessary here to do more than remind our
readers that the Académie Française was not the earliest corporation in
Europe, or even in France, which was formed for the purpose of carrying
out these difficult and perilous designs. It was simply the most
successful and the most durable. As early as about the year 1490, an
Academy was founded in Florence in the deepest piety of the Renaissance.
Its motives were pathetically Greek. The gardens of the Medicis were to
represent Academe; Arno was to be its Cephisus; in the great Plotinist,
Marsiglio Ficino, it was to find its incomparable leader, its visible
Plato. By the sixteenth century, Italy was full of imitations; there
were the Intronati at Siena, the Della Crusca at Florence, the Otiosi at
Bologna, the Humoristi and the Fantastici in Rome. In France itself, in
1570, the poets of the Pléiade instituted, under Charles IX, their
Académie de Musique et de Poésie, which became in due course the
Académie du Palais, and died inglorious during the Civil Wars. Later
there was founded, in Savoy, that Académie Florimontane, which
flourished for a little while under St. François de Sales. It was in
imitation of those vague and ephemeral institutions that, supported by
the powerful patronage of Richelieu, the great corporation which still
exercises so lively an influence in France came, in the fulness of the
seventeenth century, into permanent existence. It is too seldom realized
out of what accidental conjunction of circumstances it arose, and how
humble and unfavourable were the auspices which attended its birth.

The French Academy came into the world so silently, and was long so
inconspicuous, that it is difficult to point to its exact source. But
there is no doubt that its inception was due to the hospitable temper
and the intellectual curiosity of a young man whose name deserves well
of the world. He was not a great writer, nor even a great scholar, but
he possessed to an extraordinary degree the gift of literary solidarity.
In the year 1629, Valentin Conrart, who was twenty-six years of age, was
living in a convenient and agreeable house at the corner of the Rue
Saint Martin and the Rue des Vielles-Etuves. About this time his
relative, probably his cousin, Antoine Godeau, two years younger than
Conrart, came up to Paris from Dreux to seek his fortune. It is thought
that he lodged with his cousin; at all events Conrart looked after him
in his universally obliging way. Godeau confessed that he wrote verses,
and he showed them to Conrart, who adored poetry, and who burned to
spread an appreciation of it. He thought his kinsman's verses good, and
he invited a few of his literary friends to come and listen to them. No
doubt he asked them to dinner, for he had a famous cook; and after
dinner the company settled down to listen. The poet was excessively
short and preposterously ugly, but he was subtle and agreeable, and he
already possessed to a conspicuous degree the art of pleasing.

When the future bishop of Grasse and Vence had recited his poems, which
were love-pieces and doubtless of a light description--for he afterwards
begged them back from Conrart and burned them--the conversation became
general, and the evening passed so pleasantly that the company was
unanimous that these instructive and entertaining meetings must be
repeated. There were eight of these friends gathered together, all
authors or men intimately occupied with literature. They were agreed in
determining to keep up their discussions, and first of all it was
proposed that they should meet successively in each other's houses. But
no one of them was rich, and Conrart's house was far the most
comfortably situated; he was anxious to be the perpetual host, and the
rest were glad to give way to him. They decided to meet once every week
to discuss literature and language in Conrart's house at the corner of
the Rue Saint Martin. The names of the eight friends are not equally
celebrated in the history of French literature; most of them, indeed,
are not celebrated at all; but I must record them here, before I
proceed, because of the leading part they took at the inception of the
Académie. They were Chapelain, Conrart, Godeau, Gombauld, Philippe
Habert, Habert de Cerisy, Sérisay, and Malleville. We must try to form
some impression of each of them, though most are but fugitive and
phantasmal figures.

Of Valentin Conrart a tolerably clear image can be formed by collating
what the memoir-writers have recorded of him. It was much noted that he
was no scholar; like Shakespeare he had little Latin and less Greek;
indeed it was roundly asserted that he had none of either. But he
studied much Italian and Spanish, and he had a fine library exclusively
of modern literature. He wrote a great deal in prose and verse, but
mainly for his private pleasure; he kept a prudent silence about his
works, which were understood to be mediocre. He was always an invalid;
already, in his youth, he began to be a sufferer from the gout, which
was to torture him for thirty years. But pain did not affect his temper,
nor his extraordinary gregariousness. He lived for the small enjoyments
of others. He was the confidant of everybody, the healer of all quarrels
and disputes. As time went on, and Conrart became absorbed in the duties
of perpetual Secretary to the Académie, his qualities may have become
exaggerated. His enemies began to say that he was too indulgent, too
easy-going with offenders. The super-subtle declared that he had become
infatuated with his own friendliness, and that he went through Paris
murmuring "Ah! ma belle amitié!" He was a great depositary of secrets,
and liked nothing so much as to run about--or rather, poor man! to
hobble about--pouring oil upon troubled waters. Tallemant des Réaux, who
hated him, says that Conrart had an unpleasant wife, whose face was like
a gingerbread nut, but we need not believe all that Tallemant des Réaux

Conrart, however, with all his serviceable friendliness, could not have
done much without Chapelain, who was really the founder of the Académie.
Jean Chapelain was not merely an active man of letters, he was the man
of letters pure and simple. He had, in that age of intellectual
curiosity, a passion for literature not surpassed, if equalled, by a
single contemporary. M. Lanson has shown, what scarcely needed showing,
that Chapelain was no artist, but if he was a bad poet, he was intensely
interested in the technique of poetry. He has been called the founder of
French criticism; he had pertinacity, courage, and a passionate love for
the French language. Perhaps he was the inventor of the law of the Three
Unities in drama. His influence in French thought lasted until the days
of Boileau. In 1629 Chapelain was thirty-five years of age, old enough
and dogmatic enough to impress his will and his opinions on his younger
companions. Because he was a detestable epic and a ridiculous lyric
poet, because we cannot be drawn by wild horses to read the _Pucelle_ or
the _Ode à Richelieu_, we must not overlook the fact that Chapelain was
one of the great intellectual forces of his time, although when the
meetings began he had scarcely printed anything except the
much-discussed _Préface de l'Adone_ (1623). Ceremonious and yet rough, a
courtier and yet a sort of astute Diogenes, hating all luxury and
ruining himself to buy rare books, a stormy petrel in every literary
tempest, Chapelain presents to us the shrewd and violent figure of a
captain who steered the youthful Académie through its vicissitudes into
safe anchorage.

Among all these young men, there was one old man, and he too, like
Chapelain, was an authentic man of letters. This was Jean Ogier, Sieur
de Gombauld, who was not less than sixty years of age already. He had
been born youngest son in the fourth marriage of a redoubtable Huguenot
of Xaintogne, and he came to Paris towards the end of the reign of Henry
IV, with a mass of strange MSS. He was very poor, very proud,
extravagant and eccentric to the last degree. He managed to appear at
Court, and there must have been something striking about him, since his
fortune began by Marie de Médicis noticing him at the coronation of
Louis XIII. It was said that she saw in him a striking likeness to a man
of whom she had been very fond years before in Florence. After the
ceremony, the Queen-Mother sent for Gombauld, and he was attached to her
Court, where he was called "le Beau Ténébreux," but he remained very shy
and helpless. He nourished a frenzied passion for her Majesty, yet was
incapable of speech or movement in her presence; during his brief
splendour at Court, he wrote the most famous of his works, the romance
of _Endymion_ (1624), in which the Queen-Mother appeared as that leading
character, "La Lune." There are delightful stories of the _gaucherie_
and pathetic simplicity of this old poet, who was a very fine country
gentleman, always carefully dressed, holding his tall, spare figure well
upright, and with quantities of real hair pushing out his wig on all
sides. Gombauld, in spite of "La Lune," could never feel at his ease in
the presence of fine ladies, and sighed for a farmer's daughter. After
the death of Richelieu, all the pensions were struck off, and Gombauld
grew very poor and wrinkled. He was touched with the mania of
persecution, and became rather a terror to his fellow-Academicians, one
of whom called him "the most ceremonious and the most mysterious of
men." He grew to be very unhappy, but like Tithonus could not die, and
he was "a white-haired shadow roaming like a dream" in the world of
Molière and Racine. He died, at the age of ninety-six, in 1666, having
been born in the lifetime of Ronsard, and out-living the birth of

The other four members of the original group have not left so deep a
mark on the history of literature. Jacques de Sérisay was accustomed to
literary coteries, for he had been a constant attendant on Montaigne's
adopted daughter, that enthusiastic and grotesque old maid, Mlle. Marie
de Gournay, who loved to collect the wits around her "shadow" and her
cat, Donzelle. Sérisay cannot have been a man of letters of much force,
since his works, to the end of time, consisted of half a tragedy, which
he could never finish. Later on he contrived to read this fragment aloud
to Richelieu, who yielded to fatigue before the end of the exercise.
This vague person was known as "le délicat Sérisay." Then, there was
Claude de Malleville, who had just come back from attending Bassompierre
in England. He was a man of considerable originality of character, and
afterwards a power in the Académie. He liked the pleasant informality of
the meetings at Conrart's house, and objected to their being turned into
official sessions. We shall see that he stood alone, a little later, in
stout opposition to the proposals of the Cardinal. Malleville was a
little wisp of a man, with black locks and dim dark eyes. He translated
vaguely and amorously from the Italian, and had a great deal to do with
the composition of the Guirlande de Julie. Except for some Ovidian
Epistles, which he is said to have published as early as 1620,
Malleville's own poems were posthumous. M. Magne says that Malleville
was "un faiseur de bibus" (a term of contempt almost beyond the range of
translation) "qui frétillait autour des jupes"; but that is because he
opposed Boisrobert. Shadows they were, and shadows they pursued.

Most shadowy of all are to us now the two Haberts. Germain Habert, the
youngest of the original Academicians, wrote a very affected poem on the
metamorphosis of the eyes of Phillis into stars. As he grew older he
neglected Phillis to devote himself to good works. Ménage, who was his
friend, says he was "un des plus beaux esprits de son temps." But where
are the evidences of his wit? His brother, Philippe Habert, is the last
of the original coterie and the faintest phantom of them all. He was a
soldier in the artillery, and he was killed, in 1637, at the siege of
Emery, crushed under a wall that had been accidentally blown up by
gunpowder. Just before this melancholy event, Philippe Habert had
prophetically published his poem called _Le Temple de la Mort_, which
was very much admired, but is now not easily accessible. He was a cold
and solemn young man, reserved in manner, but held to be both brave and

Such were the eight companions who met, week by week, all innocent and
unconscious, to discuss in familiar intercourse every species of
subject--business, the news of the day, the movement of letters. If any
one of them had written something, as frequently happened, he would read
it aloud, and ask for criticism, which would be frankly given. Often
their discussions would end in a stroll through the streets, or in a
meal prepared by Conrart's really estimable _chef_. It was a delightful
time, and, in after years, when the Académie was celebrated and
powerful, the original members looked back wistfully at this happy
period of almost pastoral quietude. Pellisson, interviewing the
survivors in a later generation, says that "Ils parlent encore
aujourd'hui de ce premier âge de l'Académie, comme d'un âge d'or, durant
lequel avec toute l'innocence et toute la liberté des premiers siècles,
sans bruit et sans pompe, et sans autres lois que celles de l'amitié,
ils goûtaient ensemble tout ce que la société des esprits et la vie
raisonnable ont de plus doux et de plus charmant."

It is curious and interesting to find that this "little clan," as Keats
would call it, contrived to preserve its unity and its privacy for
several years. The friends met, as we have seen, with remarkable
frequency, yet they did not quarrel, nor grow bored, nor break up
through the action of any outward accident. It is, surely, even in much
quieter centuries than ours, unusual that a party of this kind should
continue to exist, suspended as in a vacuum, not dwindling nor
increasing, and unknown to the world outside. In those Valois times,
such a collection of persons would be in danger of being accused of
political plotting, and so the visitors to Conrart were pledged to an
absolute silence. This pledge was first broken by Malleville, who told
Nicolas Faret, apparently in 1632. Faret was a young provincial lawyer,
lately arrived in Paris from the town of Bourg-en-Bresse. He was still
very poor, but ingenious and active; he was a disciple of the great
grammarian, Vaugelas, and later the intimate of Molière. He was a jolly
man, with chestnut hair and rubicund face; his figure grew massive as
the years went by. Faret was consumed with curiosity, and when he had
once wormed the secret of the meetings out of Malleville, he gave the
latter no peace until he consented to introduce him. Faret had just
published a book of some merit and considerable popularity, _L'Honnête
Homme_, a breviary of how a gentleman should behave, a sort of
courtier's _vade mecum_; and he brought an early copy of this with him
as a credential. Faret was an active, boisterous person, boon companion
of the more gifted poet Saint-Amant. He had no sooner secured a footing
in Conrart's house than he made himself very useful to the body, for he
was by far the most businesslike of the group. It was Faret who, in
1634, drew up the original scheme for the foundation of the Académie. He
did not add much to the glory of the corporation, when once it was
formed, for the other members complained that he did not attend the
meetings unless there was some practical business on hand, and that then
he was apt to be drunk. Faret, who was attached to Henry of Lorraine,
the comte d'Harcourt, and served as his go-between with Richelieu, was
not a very shining Académicien, but he had his temporary value.

Faret's chief merit was that he brought to the meetings a man of letters
who was destined to take a very prominent place, for the time being,
both in the French Academy and in literary life--namely, Jean Desmarets
de Saint-Sorlin. He was an indefatigable writer, and a man exactly
suited to be useful to a group of literary persons, because he had
experience of the world, great enthusiasm for the craft of letters, and
a wide and humorous outlook on life. Chapelain, glancing back many years
later, defined Desmarets as "un des esprits les plus faciles de ce
temps," and that is just what he was, an inexhaustible and rapid
producer of prose and verse in the spirit and fashion of the age. He was
much valued by Richelieu, who forced him, against his will, to
collaborate in the composition of tragedies. Desmarets had no dramatic
inspiration, but he was able to satisfy the Cardinal. At the time of
which we are speaking, probably in 1633, Desmarets was brought to
Conrart's house by Faret and received a courteous welcome. It was
characteristic of him that, instantly entering into the spirit of the
company, he pulled out of his pocket the proof-sheets of his new prose
romance _Ariane_, and asked leave to submit them to discussion.

Desmarets was rich and influential, and he had the true Academic spirit.
He became a prominent public character, and Controller-General of the
King's Army, but he never lost his close hold upon the Académie, of
which he was elected the first Chancellor. In the moment of transition,
the dark hour before the dawn, he was eminently useful, for when, in
1633, Conrart married, and it was no longer convenient to meet in his
house, Desmarets transferred the whole cluster of bees to a new hive,
the sumptuous Hôtel Pellevé, which he had just rebuilt at the corner of
the Rue du Roi de Sicile and of the Rue Tison. Then, and not till then,
did they begin seriously to think of founding an Academy. Desmarets's
numerous writings have stood the test of time very ill. His epic of
_Clovis_ was ridiculed by Boileau, and perhaps the only work of his
which can be read to-day without boredom is his comedy of _Les
Visionnaires_ (1635), a merry piece of literary criticism, in which the
various coteries of that day, and the famous salons, are satirized.
Nevertheless, it is not beyond the range of possibility that, in these
days of revival, somebody may be found to resuscitate Desmarets de

In that entertaining volume, _Le Plaisant Abbé de Boisrobert_, the great
rival of Desmarets has already found an eloquent resuscitator, M. Magne.
François de Metel de Boisrobert is an unedifying figure of a scapegrace
priest, whose giggling face is seen peeping round most doors in the
scandalous memoirs of the time. No one was more contemptuously insulted,
no one more bitterly ridiculed, than Richelieu's supple jackal, the
author of _Anaxandre et Orazie_ and of _Pyrandre_. These heroic works
of faded imagination are read no longer, nor the _Recueil de Lettres
Nouvelles_ nor _Le Sacrifice des Muses_. On the other hand, the sarcasms
of the epigrammatists and the scandalous tales of contemporaries
continue to invest the memory of Boisrobert with a nasty odour. M.
Magne, who brings a marvellous erudition to the task, has bravely
endeavoured to redeem a talent and a character so deeply compromised. We
cannot join in the whole of his white-washing, but we may admit that he
has proved the "plaisant abbé" to be neither the dunce nor the
blackguard that legend had painted him. Moreover, it is quite certain
that he exercised a most useful energy in the foundation of the French

When the indiscretion of Faret brought Desmarets to the literary
meetings in Conrart's house, it had the inevitable result of exciting
the jealous curiosity of Boisrobert. He was the great rival of Desmarets
in the affection and confidence of Richelieu, and we may be certain that
when "le plaisant abbé" found out that Desmarets was attending secret
and mysterious assemblies, he plainly intimated to Faret that he also
must be taken into the secret or else he would report the plot to the
Cardinal. Accordingly, some time in 1633, Boisrobert too was brought to
Conrart's house, and instantly conceived a great scheme for his own
honour and the glory of French literature. He clung, through every
storm, to the robes of Richelieu, who had originally disliked him, but
who proved in the long run powerless to resist the devotion and the
entertainment which Boisrobert provided. The poet took no snub; on one
occasion when Richelieu had rudely ignored him, he flung himself on his
knees, crying "You let the dogs eat the crumbs which fall from your
table. Am I not a dog?" The Cardinal admitted that he was, and
thenceforth Boisrobert occupied an intimate place in Richelieu's
household, sometimes as a retriever, more often as a poodle. It is
impossible to deny that Boisrobert was a poltroon, but in his lifelong
devotion to the Académie he really behaved extremely well. The secret,
no doubt, was that with the minimum of regard for purity of conduct, the
"plaisant abbé" combined a genuine solicitude for the purity of

It was Boisrobert who first conceived the idea that an Academy of
Letters might be useful to Richelieu and Richelieu indispensable to an
Academy of Letters. For this scheme he deserves great credit, and we
gather that it was first to the Cardinal and not first to Conrart's
friends that he spoke. It seems probable that the latter had already
begun to suggest among themselves that their relation might be
permanent. There is a letter dated as early as December, 1632, in which
Godeau, writing to Chapelain, seems to speak of the Académie as already
a recognized thing. If we may suppose that Louis Giry, the Hellenist,
who was not an original member, but whose name is mentioned as that of
one of Conrart's friends, was already a visitor, the body now consisted
of twelve persons, with all of whom I have endeavoured to make my
readers acquainted. It was after one of the meetings in 1633 that, as
Pellisson tells us, having observed what kind of books had been
examined, and that the conversation had not been a commerce of
compliment and flattery, where each person gave praise that in his turn
he might receive it, but that faults of style, and even very small ones,
had been seized upon boldly and frankly for discussion, Boisrobert was
"fulfilled with joy and admiration." It crossed his mind that this was
the very toy to enliven the petulant leisure of his Cardinal. When that
scheme occurred to "le plaisant abbé" the Académie Française practically
started into being.

No small part of the success of the policy of Richelieu came from the
brilliant intuition which he had of the importance of regulating
intellectual effort. He did not ignore the Press, as had so stupidly
been done before his day, but he had no idea of leaving it to follow its
own devices. In 1626 he had used a very remarkable expression; he had
said "Les faiseurs de livres serviraient grandement le roi et ceux qui
sont auprès de lui, s'ils ne se mêlaient de parler de leurs actions ni
en bien ni en mal." Literature was to be encouraged and protected, on
the understanding that it would attend to its own affairs, and not
disturb the King's government with _libelles_ which were none of its
concern. Richelieu's genuine enthusiasm for scholarship and poetry is
not to be questioned, but with it all he was pre-eminently an ambitious
statesman. Public policy was the business of his life, literature his
enchanting relaxation and entertainment. But he wished to be master in
the temple of the Muses, no less than in the King's palace, and he would
only protect the authorship of the day on the terms of being recognized
as its absolute tyrant. He was to be the Miltiades of letters, but once
acknowledge his authority, and he became literature's "best and truest
friend." His lightning intelligence had perceived, in 1631, the
importance of journalism, and he had protected the earliest of French
newspapers, the _Gazette_, on the understanding that it proceeded from
his own official cabinet. It was his scheme to break the prestige of the
nobility, and in carrying out his plans, he was glad of the support of
the intellectual classes. He was aided, of course, by the development of
public feeling in this direction.

There can be little doubt that it was by Boisrobert rather than by
Desmarets that the Cardinal was originally informed of the literary
meetings in the house of Conrart. His curiosity was vividly awakened.
Knots of persons meeting privately and with regularity were the objects
of his lively suspicion, and there is some reason to suppose that his
first impulse was to break up the company and forbid the meetings. But
Boisrobert, who held his ear, reassured him.

     He did not fail [says our earliest authority] to give a favourable
     report of the little assembly in whose deliberations he had taken a
     part, and of the persons who composed it; and the Cardinal, whose
     temper was naturally attuned to great designs, and who loved the
     French language to infatuation, being himself an excellent writer,
     after having praised the scheme, asked M. Boisrobert whether these
     persons would not like to become a corporation, and to meet
     regularly, and under public authority.

He desired Boisrobert to put this proposition before the next meeting,
as from himself.

It appears that at first the idea was not received with enthusiasm. The
friends were simple men of letters, not ambitious of power, and timid in
the face of such formidable patronage. But the Cardinal consulted
Chapelain, and won him over to his views. There can be no doubt that
Desmarets and Faret supported a plan from which they could reap nothing
but personal advantage. When the ground was ready and the hour was ripe,
Boisrobert came down to a meeting, with a definite proposal from the
Cardinal, who offered to these gentlemen his protection for their
Society, the public compliment of Letters Patent, and also--this was so
like the vehement _bonhomie_ of Richelieu--a promise of personal
affection "en toutes rencontres" for each of them individually. The
friends were, in fact, to be attached in permanence to his personal

The meeting at which Boisrobert made this startling announcement was one
of which it would be interesting indeed to have a detailed report.
Unfortunately, this is wanting. But we know that the friends were
smitten with timidity and dismay. Scarcely any one of them but expressed
his vexation, and regretted that the Cardinal had done them this most
unwelcome honour, that he had come down from his majestic heights to
"troubler la douceur et la familiarité de leurs conférences." We can
imagine the agitation and the anxiety, the babble of voices which had
never before been raised above the tone of scholarly amenity. Those who
were pledged to support the scheme doubtless held their peace until the
storm had subsided, and until Sérisay and Malleville, who were the most
intractable opponents, had done their worst in denunciation of it. Then
the voices of the supporters were heard, and someone, doubtless the
honey-tongued Boisrobert, suggested that as Sérisay was master of the
household to the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, and Malleville secretary to
the Maréchal de Bassompierre, it would, unjustly but most inevitably, be
believed that they were incited by the enmity which their respective
patrons were supposed (but how unfairly!) to nourish against the
Cardinal. This impressed the company, and Sérisay withdrew his
opposition, but Malleville continued to be intractable. It was
important, however, that the reply of the infant Academy to the Cardinal
should be cordial, and that it should be unanimous.

Chapelain, who had held his arguments in reserve, now came forward with
that mixture of tact and force which was his great quality. He was
certainly the most eminent man of letters in the assembly, and the
others supposed him to be more independent than he really was. As a
matter of fact, he had succumbed to the fascination of the Cardinal,
who, to put it vulgarly, had Chapelain safe in his pocket. With a great
show of impartiality, the poet put before his friends the sensible view
that, no doubt, it would have been more agreeable to continue in private
their confidential gatherings, but that it was no longer a question of
what was agreeable. They had--he would not insist on pointing out
how--lost all chance of keeping themselves to themselves. The secret was
out, and they had attracted the attention of the most formidable of men,
one who was in the habit of being implicitly obeyed, and who was not
accustomed to meet with resistance; that this all-powerful statesman
would not forgive the insult of their refusing his proffer of
protection, and that he would find a way to chastise each individual
member. But certainly, the first thing he would be sure to do would be
to disperse their assembly and destroy a society which all of them had
already begun to hope would be immortal. Nothing more was heard of
Malleville's "minority report"; the infant Academy surrendered
unanimously. Before the company dispersed, M. de Boisrobert was desired
to convey to Monsieur le Cardinal the very humble thanks of the assembly
for the honour he designed to show them, and to assure him that, though
none of them had ever dreamed of such distinction, they were all of
them resolved to carry out the wishes of his Eminence.

Richelieu always responded to this sort of attitude. He expressed to "le
plaisant abbé" his great satisfaction, and no doubt they laughed
together in private over the oddities of Conrart's guests, for such was
their habit, and such the influence of Boisrobert over his master. A
doctor once facetiously recommended, when the Cardinal was ill, "two
drams of Boisrobert after every meal." But in public, and in fact,
Richelieu took the most lively interest in the scheme. One is inclined
to believe, that, by a flash of prophetic imagination, this great man
saw what a place the Académie Française would take in the French order
of things during three coming centuries at least. He urged the friends
to meet without delay, now no longer at Conrart's, but in Desmarets's
palatial hôtel, "et à penser sérieusement à l'établissement de
l'Académie." All this was early in 1634, probably in February.

The first direction which the Cardinal deigned to give to the
embarrassed and slightly terrified friends was that they should add to
their number, or in his own words that "ces Messieurs grossirent leur
Compagnie de plusieurs personnes considérables pour leur mérite." This
appears to have been begun at the official sitting of March 20, 1634,
and that may be considered as the date of the formation of the Académie.
Existing members sat round the table, no doubt, and names were suggested
and voted for. It would be a somewhat rough-and-ready choice, and the
critical attitude would not be precisely that which would meet with
approval at the Institut to-day. But the errors of choice have been
abundantly exaggerated by those who have written loosely on this
subject. Before the end of 1634 they had added, it seems, twenty-three
names to their original list of eleven (or twelve), so that the Académie
now consisted of about thirty-five men. Among these, it is perfectly
true that there existed many obscurities and some obvious nonentities.
But, besides those whom we have already described, the names now
appeared of Balzac, Maynard, Gomberville, Saint-Amant, Racan, Vaugelas,
and Voiture. All these were writers extremely eminent in the literature
of their own age, and not one of them but is interesting and
distinguished still. Not to have included them in a French Academy would
have been a grave and obvious error.

Some of the accusations brought against the infant Academy are absurd.
It has been vilified for omitting to make Molière and Pascal original
members; the latter was eleven years of age at the time and the former
twelve! Descartes was, of course, already one of the intellectual
glories of France, but he was a wanderer over the face of Europe, and
still only known as a writer in Latin. Arnauld d'Antilly was elected,
but refused to take his place. Like Pascal, Brébeuf was still a
schoolboy. Pierre Corneille, who was very little known in 1634, and not
a resident in Paris, was elected later, and so was Lamothe le Vayer.
Charles Sorel, the author of _Francion_ and _Le Berger Extravagant_, who
was historiographer of France and a satirist of merit, was not invited
to join, it is true; but his caustic pen had spared no one, and he was
essentially "unclubable." Scarron in 1634 was only a wild young buck
about town. There remains unexplained--and I confess there seems to me
to remain alone--the strange omission of Rotrou, a tragic poet of high
distinction who never formed part of the French Academy. Since 1632 he
had been the friend of Chapelain, and the Cardinal was devoted to him.
That Rotrou's duties as a magistrate forced him to reside at Dreux is
the only reason which I can think of to account for his absence from the
list of 1634. If there was one other representative man of letters
eligible, and yet omitted from that list, my memory is at fault.

Among those who were invited there was one whose support was absolutely
essential to the youthful society. It may be said, without exaggeration,
that the Académie Française could not have survived contemporary
ridicule if it had failed to secure the co-operation of Jean Louis Guez
de Balzac. In 1634 Balzac was thirty-seven years of age and by far the
most prominent man of letters in France. The first volume of his famous
_Lettres_--which were not letters in our sense, but chatty and yet
elaborate essays on things in general--had appeared in 1624, and had
created what the Abbé d'Olivet described as "a general revolution among
persons of culture." Balzac immediately took his place as the official
leader and divinity of what were afterwards known as the Précieuses; but
he was a great deal more than that: he was the enchanting artist of a
new French prose. "Le grand Epistolier de France" was to French prose
all, and more than all, that Malherbe (who died in 1628) was to French
verse. Brunetière has dwelt on Balzac's great service to letters, in the
studied cultivation of harmony and lucidity, order and movement. His
_Lettres_ ushered in a new epoch in the production of prose, far more
sudden and obvious than was brought about half a century later, in
English, by the _Essays_ of Sir William Temple, but similar to that in
character. The most agreeable present any man of fashion could make to
his mistress, says Ménage, was a copy of Balzac's book, and yet the
gravest of scholars was not too learned to imitate its cadences.

The objects which the infant French Academy set before itself were the
encouragement of grace and nobility of style in all persons employing
the French language, and, as a corollary to this, the persistent effort
to raise that language, in all particulars, until it should become an
instrument for expression as delicate, as forcible and as comprehensive
as Latin and Greek had been in their palmiest hours. But these were the
very objects which Balzac had first, and most imperiously, impressed
upon his readers, and there was a sense in which it could be said that
the new body was merely emphasizing and extending, giving legislative
authority to, ideas which were the property of Balzac. It was therefore
obvious that whosoever was made an original member, the "grand
Epistolier" should not be missing. This was obvious to the wise
Boisrobert, of whom Balzac himself amusingly said that he was
"circomspectissime" in the smallest actions of his life. As early as
March 13, 1634, and therefore in all probability before anyone else was
approached, Boisrobert took care that Balzac was invited to join the new

But it was one thing to whistle to Balzac, and quite another for him to
come at the call. His character was not an agreeable one; he was
excessively proud, painfully shy, quivering with self-consciousness,
ever ready to take offence. Tallemant des Réaux, putting the universal
opinion into an epigram, said that if ever there was an _animal gloriæ_
it was Balzac. He was a finished hypochondriac, with his finger ever on
his own pulse; before he was thirty he described himself as more
battered than a ship that has sailed three times to the Indies. He was a
hermit, hating society, and scarcely ever leaving that garden of amber
and musk within the walls of his castle of Balzac which hung above the
mingling waters of the Charente and the Touvre. But Balzac, whose
character and temperament had many points of likeness to those of Pope,
knew the value of friendship, though he was capable of amazing
disloyalty under the pressure of vanity. Conrart, Boisrobert, Chapelain,
and even perhaps the magnificent Cardinal himself--for there is talk of
a pension--brought simultaneous pressure to bear, and Balzac consented
to let his name appear in the list of original members of the Académie.
This did not induce in him much zeal for the works or deeds of his
nominal colleagues, upon whom, from his far-away garden-terraces, he
looked down with great contempt. Still, the Académie Française was in
existence, for Balzac was of the number.

Among the other original members, Voiture and Gomberville, the author of
_Polexandre_, have never lost their little place in the crowded history
of French literature. Saint-Amant and Maynard, who sank out of sight for
a long time, are now regarded with more honour than ever before since
their death. Honorat de Beuil, Marquis de Racan, is one of the minor
classics of his country. A dreamy, blundering man, innocent and vague,
his whole outlook upon life was that of a pastoral poet. He had "no
common sense," we are told, but walked in a cloud conducting an
imaginary flock and murmuring his beautiful Virgilian verses. Racan
took the Academy more seriously than any other member; he never missed a
sitting. But he could not be depended on. Once, the Academy met to
listen to an address by the Marquis de Racan, who entered, holding one
torn sheet of paper in his hand. "Gentlemen," he said, "I was bringing
you my oration, but my great greyhound has chewed it up. Here it is!
Make what you can of it, for I don't know it by heart, and I have no
copy." The story of how old Mlle. de Gournay was gulled by successive
impostors who pretended to be Racan, and then at length spurned the real
poet, as an obvious idiot, is too long to be told here in detail. At the
close of his life, Racan had allowed himself to retain no friends except
his fellow academicians, so completely had he become absorbed in the

These illustrious names, however, are not sufficient to prevent the eye
which runs down the list of original members from being startled by the
obscurity of at least half the names. It must be remembered that in 1635
it was no envied distinction or disputed honour to form part of this new
and untried corporation. The labours of the academicians were
disinterested, for the Académie was not yet endowed, and there was
little or no reward offered, besides the favour of the Cardinal, for the
zealous labours of scholarship. Moreover, it was necessary to silence
opposition and disarm ridicule. The general feeling of the public, as
reflected in the action of parliament, was hostile. Louis XIII himself,
although he had passed the Letters Patent, was far from favourable to
his Minister's literary project, as we learn from a letter of Chapelain.
But Richelieu was passionately bent on its success, and we see from
Tallemant that whenever the Académie made a step in advance, the
Cardinal was at no pains to conceal his lively satisfaction. But there
were more seats than eminent men of letters to fill them, and
consequently almost anyone who would consent or could be inveigled was
elected. Scarron says the only thing that some of the original Immortals
were fit for was to snuff candles or to sweep the floor. There was a
class of academicians who were styled "the children of the pity of
Boisrobert," because the "plaisant abbé," in filling up the _fauteuils_,
was merciful to needy men of letters without talent, and fetched them in
so that they might eat a piece of bread. They were buoyed up with the
hope that Richelieu would bring in an age of gold for scribblers.

But another element must not be forgotten. There was a great temptation
to turn poachers into gamekeepers, and a certain number of the original
members of the Académie Française were wits whose bitterness Richelieu
himself, or Chapelain, or Boisrobert, dreaded. Maynard was one of these,
but perhaps the most curious example was a man called Bautru. He was no
writer, for one scurrilous piece in the _Cabinet Satirique_ represents
his complete works. But he was a savage practical joker, whose tongue
was universally dreaded. His wit seems to have been ready. He was a
"libertine" in the sense of that day, and openly irreligious. One day,
he was caught taking his hat off to a crucifix as he passed in the
street. "Ah! then," said his friends, "you are on better terms with God
than we supposed?" "On bowing terms; we don't speak," Bautru replied. In
1642, he called our Charles I "a calf led from market to market; and
presently they will take him to the shambles," he prophetically added.
His was an evil tongue with a sharp edge to it, which it was safest to
have inside the Académie, and there were others of the same sort among
the false celebrities, _les passe-volans_ or dummies, whose presence in
the original list is at first so disconcerting.

In order to give dignity and discipline to their assemblies, the
Academicians now created three offices, those of Director, Chancellor,
and Perpetual Secretary; these were held by Sérisay, Desmarets, and
Conrart respectively. They appointed the famous printer, Jean Camusat,
their librarian and typographer, meeting sometimes at his house for
easier correction of the press. On the 20th of March, 1634, they settled
on their all-important name, and thenceforth were to the world
"l'Académie françoise." Two days later, in a very long letter, they
detailed to the Cardinal the objects and functions of their body, not
failing to begin with the request that he would permit them to publish
his own tragedies and pastorals. This document is very interesting
to-day. In it the new Academy proposes to cleanse the French language
from all the ordure which it has contracted from vulgar and ignorant
usage; to establish the exact sense of words; seriously to examine the
subject and treatment of prose, the style of the whole, the harmony of
periods, the propriety in the use of words. Moreover, the Academicians
undertook to examine the books of one another with a meticulous
attention to faults of style and grammar. This "Projet," which was
drafted by Faret, was submitted to Richelieu, and printed in an edition
of thirty copies, in May, 1634.

In this first manifesto, which was kept extremely secret, nothing was
said about the plan of a Dictionary. But Chapelain's heart had been set
upon that from the first, and he did not forget to bring it forward. He
insisted, in season and out of season, on the necessity of labouring in
unison "for the purity of our language and for its capacity to develop
the loftiest eloquence." On the 27th of March he brought forward his
idea of a Dictionary. Balzac supported him by letter, Vaugelas offered
his invaluable grammatical services, and at last the Academy so far
accepted the idea as to instruct Chapelain and Vaugelas to report on the
subject. But this was not until 1637, so that we must realize that the
French Academy had existed three years before it finally settled down to
the work with which its early existence is most popularly identified.
But for the persistency of Chapelain this might never have been

On the other hand, the Academicians were very busily engaged over their
statutes, which were drawn up by one of the latest of the original
members, Hay du Chastelet, a learned lawyer of high repute. They were
passed and accepted by the Cardinal, before the close of 1634. It was,
very properly, Conrart himself who drafted the Letters Patent, a very
long and dignified document, which Louis XIII signed in Paris on the
29th of January, 1635. But now came the first difficulty which beset
the primrose path of the young Académie. It was not enough for the King
to sign the Letters Patent; they had to be _vérifiées_ by Parliament;
and this was not done until the 10th of July, 1637. There has been much
discussion as to the cause of this delay, which was intensely irksome to
the Cardinal and threatened the existence of the infant association. It
was early thought that the Parliament suspected Richelieu of having a
design in creating the Académie which was much more directly political
than appeared on the surface. If so, the placid and modest demeanour of
the Academicians ultimately disarmed hostility, and they obtained their
Letters Patent.

At this point we must draw our inquiry to a close, since the foundation
of the Académie Française was completed by this action on the part of
the Parliament. It will be seen that eight years had gone by since the
first meetings of selected men of letters had taken place in Conrart's
house, and that many tedious formalities had to be completed before the
body was in a position even to begin its work. The humble nature of the
origin of the Académie Française, the surprising and painful adventures
of its youth, and the glories of its subsequent existence, should make
us indulgent to the slow growth of any similar institution. Rome is not
the only corporation which was not built in a day.


Burke, in his _Reflections on the Revolution in France_ (1790), although
he called Rousseau an "eccentric observer of human nature," had not
attempted to deny his penetration. He wrote of him, already without
sympathy, as one who for the sake of playing upon that love of the
marvellous which is inherent in man, desired extraordinary situations,
"giving rise to new and unlooked-for strokes in politics and morals."
But he gave the Genevese philosopher credit for nothing worse than
levity; he had raised up political and social paradoxes in the spirit in
which a story-teller, eager to arouse the attention of an idle audience,
evokes giants and fairies to satisfy the credulity of his hearers. And
Burke has the indulgence to admit that, "I believe, were Rousseau alive,
and in one of his lucid intervals, he would be shocked at the fanatical
frenzy of his scholars, who ... are servile imitators; and even in their
incredulity discover an implicit faith."

But when events had rapidly developed, and Burke came to write the
flaming sentences of his great _Letter to a Member of the National
Assembly_ (1791), the importance of Rousseau's influence in bringing
about the events which Burke so passionately deplored had greatly
widened and deepened. He saw that the very blood of Rousseau had been
transfused into the veins of the National Assembly of France. "Him they
study," he wrote, "him they meditate; him they turn over in all the time
they can spare from the laborious mischief of the day, or the debauches
of the night. Rousseau is their canon of holy writ; in his life he is
their canon of _Polyclitus_; he is their standard figure of
perfection." Burke felt obliged to denounce, with his unparalleled
wealth of picturesque eloquence, the fatal character of the fascination
exercised by the author of the _Lettres de la Montague_ and the

To Burke, thus brought face to face with what he believed to be the very
Ragnarok of the gods, the ruin of all which made life in Europe worth
living, it now became a religious duty to expose the malefic character
of the charming, exquisite pleadings of the revolutionary of Geneva. He
declared that the virtue propounded by Rousseau was not virtue at all,
but "a selfish, flattering, seductive, ostentatious vice." This was a
theory new to Englishmen, a theory which had, of course, in faltering
accents, been here and there suggested by opponents, but never before
deliberately and logically asserted by a great master of English
oratory. Burke spoke, not merely with the immense prestige of his
position, but as one who had been subjected to the personal charm of
Rousseau, and who had studied him in his lifetime, not merely without
prejudice, but with sympathy and admiration. His grave censure of the
philosopher came with unction from the lips of one who was known to have
been in communication with him, during his first visit to London, almost
from day to day.[5] Burke spoke with authority to a large section of the
public when he stated that he had gradually become persuaded that
Rousseau "entertained no principle either to guide his heart, or to
guide his understanding, but _vanity_." He did not deny the charm of
Rousseau's writing, or pretend to depreciate his incomparable talents,
but he pronounced him to be deranged and eccentric, and to have gloried
in the illumination of the obscure and vulgar vices. He described the
_Confessions_, over which the English world had bowed in transports of
emotional adulation, as the record of "a life that, with wild defiance,
he flings in the face of his Creator." Violence carried Burke so far as
to describe Rousseau as a man, by his own account, without a single
virtue. There can be no question that this diatribe, prominently brought
forward by the first of English orators, in a work which was read by
every educated man in Great Britain, sapped the reputation of Rousseau
amongst our countrymen, and led to the gradual decline of his fame in
England all down the nineteenth century.

The attack on Rousseau, contained in many fulminating pages of the
_Letter to a Member of the National Assembly_, is extravagant and
unjust. We read it now with a certain indignation, tempered by a mild
amusement. It should have been injured by its absurd denunciation of
Frenchmen and of the French nation, in whom Burke saw little but a
furious congeries of dancing-masters, fiddlers, and _valets-de-chambre_.
But there were already in England, in the reaction of terror brought
about by the French Revolution, many who were delighted to accept this
grotesque perversion of the truth, and Burke, with all his powers of
speech, all his knowledge of his countrymen, knew how to play upon the
alarms and the ignorances of the English. He had, at all events, the
dangerous gift of unqualified statement, and when he solemnly declared,
as if by reluctant conviction, that "the writings of Rousseau lead
directly to shameful evil" both in theory and practice, there were
thousands only too ready to accept the warning.

We may observe, too, that Burke was the earliest English critic of
weight who suggested that the exquisite literary art of Rousseau had its
limitations. His remarks are worthy of being quoted at length, since
they contain the germ of the English attitude through the whole of the
nineteenth century:--

     I have often wondered how he comes to be so much more admired and
     followed on the Continent than he is here. Perhaps a secret charm
     in the language may have its share in this extraordinary
     difference. We certainly perceive, and to a degree we feel, in this
     writer, a style glowing, animated, enthusiastic; at the same time
     that we find it lax, diffuse, and not in the best taste of
     composition; all the members of the piece being pretty equally
     laboured and expended, without any due selection or subordination
     of parts. He is generally too much on the stretch, and his manner
     has little variety. We cannot rest upon any of his works, though
     they contain observations which occasionally discover a
     considerable insight into human nature.

The attacks of Burke upon their idol were not accepted tamely by the
Whigs, or by the Radical wing of their party, which included most of the
intellectual men of the time. It was recognized that Burke spoke with
excessive violence, and that his emotion was largely provoked by
political apprehensions which were not shared by the more enlightened of
his countrymen. It was easily pointed out that the great orator's
objection to Rousseau was founded on a predilection for aristocracy, a
dread of innovation, an abhorrence for abstract politics, rather than on
a serious and philosophical consideration of Rousseau's contributions to
literature. There were many indignant replies to his denunciation, the
most effective being those contained in Sir James Mackintosh's famous
_Vindiciæ Gallicæ_. Mackintosh, with less eloquence but far more
knowledge, denied the responsibility of Rousseau for the excesses of the
Revolution, and suggested that Burke had not made himself acquainted
with the _Contrat Social_. Rousseau was vindicated as one of the
immortal band of sages "who unshackled and emancipated the human mind,"
and he was assured a place in eternal glory, by the side of Locke and

All that was generous, all that was enthusiastic in English opinion, was
still marshalled on the side of Rousseau, but Burke's measured attack,
so universally considered, was the gradual cause of an ever-increasing
defection. For the time being, however, this was confined to the more
timid and the less intelligent part of the community. Burke had assailed
in Rousseau the politician and the moralist, but although it was evident
that he was out of sympathy with the imaginative writer, his diatribe
did little at first to weaken the spell of the sentimental and literary
writings. There was no sign, in 1800, that the _Nouvelle Héloïse_ had
lost its magic for English readers, though it may be doubted whether
these were so numerous as they had been twenty years earlier. The famous
romance had been the direct precursor of the school of romantic-sentimental
novels in England, but it would take us too far back to consider in any
detail its influence on Holcroft, whose _Hugh Trevor_ dates from 1797;
on Bage, in such romances as _Hermsprong_ (1796); on Mrs. Inchbold, in
_Nature and Art_ (1796); and on Charlotte Smith. But it must be
remembered that these popular novelists lived well on into the
nineteenth century, and that their romances were still widely read, and
by advanced thinkers warmly accepted, long after our period begins.
Moreover, in William Godwin (1756-1836), once known as "the immortal
Godwin," we have the most pronounced type in English literature of the
novelist started and supported by a devotion to the principles of
Rousseau. _Caleb Williams_ (1794) is still a minor English classic, and
_Fleetwood_ (1804) is an example of a Rousseau novel actually written
within the confines of our century. But with these names the list of the
novelists directly inspired by the _Nouvelle Héloïse_, and in a much
lesser degree by _Emile_, practically ceases, and the advent of Walter
Scott gave them their _coup de grâce_.

The excessive admiration of Englishmen for the imaginative writings of
Rousseau was already on the wane, or rather it was beginning to be
old-fashioned. That very remarkable work, _The Diary of a Lover of
Literature_, by Thomas Green (1769-1825), gives us a valuable insight
into the critical opinions of the opening years of the nineteenth
century. It was published in 1810, but it reflects the feeling of a
slightly earlier time. It represents the views of an independent and
transitional thinker, remote from all the literary cliques, who read
extensively in his hermitage at Ipswich, and it mirrors the mind of the
average educated Englishman between 1795 and 1805. We discover that
there were persons of cultivation in England at that time who did not
hesitate deliberately to pronounce that Rousseau was, "without
exception, the greatest genius and the finest writer that ever lived."
This opinion the judicious Green is by no means able to endorse; but he
makes a very curious confession which throws a strong light on the best
English opinion in 1800. The Lover of Literature says that Rousseau is a
character "who has by turns transported me with the most violent and
opposite emotions of delight and disgust, admiration and contempt,
indignation and pity." He points out, with great acumen, the peculiar
conditions of Rousseau's "distempered sensibility," and says that his
wrath against evil-doing burns "in consuming fire." Green's analysis of
Rousseau's genius is very ingenious and glowing, but he sees spots in
the sun, and thus, at the immediate opening of the new century, we meet
with high critical commendation, but also with the faint beginnings of

It is necessary to note that the earliest objections made to Rousseau's
influence by Englishmen were political. They were not directed against
the _Nouvelle Héloïse_, nor _Emile_, nor the _Confessions_, but against
the _Contrat Social_. The name of Rousseau was used, in connexion with
this work, to justify the horrors of the French Revolution, the
_jacqueries_, the September massacres. Serious English people, whom
Burke had originally awakened to suspicion, became more and more
persuaded that it was the doctrine of Rousseau which had conducted Louis
XVI to the scaffold. The book itself was never much read in England, but
it formed part of a tradition. It was understood to have consecrated the
violent acts of the Revolution, and English people began to shrink from
a name so tainted with blood. This view found a striking exponent in the
opening number of the _Edinburgh Review_, where Jeffrey, reviewing
Monnier's _Influence attribuée aux Philosophes_, warned his readers with
earnest unction against "the presumptuous and audacious maxims" of
Rousseau, which had a natural tendency to do harm. The arguments of the
_Contrat Social_ were exposed by the Whig critic as unsettling the
foundations of political duty, and as teaching the citizens of every
established Government that they were enslaved, and had the power of
being free. Whatever influence Rousseau still had, and in 1802 it was
already waning, the _Edinburgh Review_ solemnly declared to be
"unquestionably pernicious."

By English politicians of the Tory type, Rousseau was now regarded with
growing suspicion. They looked back to first causes, and found him at
the end of the vista. They blamed him all the more because they still
lay under the spell of his style and his sentiment. He was beginning to
be regarded with more disapproval than other and more definitely
revolutionary philosophers, than Condorcet, for instance, as being more
presumptuous and less logical, more "improvident," to use the expression
of an early English critic. There was no considerable desire in England
for the subversion of monarchy, and it was only in countries where there
was a wish to believe that kings were toppling from their thrones that
the political writings of the arch-firebrand could expect to find a
welcome. All such speculation had been pleasant enough before the great
revolution set in in France, but England, thrilled for a moment by
Quixotic hopes, had turned into another path, where Rousseau had not led
her, nor could ever be her companion. He appeared as a demagogue and a
disturber of the public peace, as an apostle of change and crisis and
unrest. In England everyone, or almost everyone, craved a respite from
such ideas, and his prestige began to sink. Let us note, then, that
beyond question the earliest objection to Rousseau came from the
political side.

The personal character of the Genevese philosopher was still little
known. It was revealed, in certain unfavourable aspects, by several
collections of memoirs, which now began to be published. Those of
Marmontel, in 1805, were widely read in England, and were recommended to
a large circle of readers by Jeffrey in a famous essay. The anecdotes,
so amusing and often so piquant, appeared to the Scotch critic and to
his British audience more discreditable than Marmontel, who belonged to
an earlier and looser generation, had intended them to seem. From 1805
began to arise in England the conception of a Rousseau full of cruel
vanity, implacable, calumnious, and wholly wanting in that frankness and
bluff candour upon which John Bull delights to pride himself. But the
splendour of his writings was still uncontested. In 1809, the _Edinburgh
Review_ said of the _Contrat Social_ that "it contains some deep
observations, and many brilliant and elevated thoughts, along with a
good deal, we admit, of impracticable and very questionable theory." The
_Confessions_ was not much read, but the precise Jeffrey did not
hesitate to recommend it, in 1806, as in some respects the most
interesting of books, and in 1807 Capel Lofft declared, "If I had five
millions of years to live upon the earth, I would read Rousseau daily
with increasing delight."

It would take us too far to consider how the sentimental Pantisocracy of
the youthful Lake Poets coincided with the direct influence of Rousseau.
That movement, moreover, belongs to the eighteenth, not the nineteenth
century, since it was all over by 1794. But so far as it was an outcome
of the teaching of Rousseau, the reaction which followed it was not
favourable to the prestige of works which now came to seem almost
hateful to the Lake Poets. Wordsworth branched away irrevocably, and his
account of the Saturnian Reign in _The Excursion_ (finished in 1805)
would have given little satisfaction to Rousseau. Southey was early, and
permanently, disgusted with himself for having supposed that the
millennium would be ushered in from Geneva. But perhaps the best example
of the revulsion of opinion which followed the juvenile raptures of the
Lake Poets is to be found in the pages of _The Friend_ (1809-10), where
Coleridge derides

     Rousseau, the dreamer of love-sick tales, and the spinner of
     speculative cobwebs; shy of light as the mole, but quick-eared,
     too, for every whisper of the public opinion; the teacher of stoic
     pride in his principles, yet the victim of morbid vanity in his
     feelings and conduct.

Yet this was premature, as an expression of general critical
disapprobation. In November, 1809, the high Tory organ, the _Quarterly
Review_,[6] spoke, without a shade of disapproval, of "the tremendous
fidelity" of the picture of life in the _Confessions_. In 1812, the same
severe periodical, then forming the most dreaded tribunal of British
intellectual taste, devoted several pages to an examination of the moral
character of Rousseau, and the result was by no means unfavourable. The
writer was John Herman Merivale (1779-1844), who declared that
"Rousseau's system of morality is as little practicable as would be a
system of politics invented by one who had always lived in a state of
savage independence," and suggested, but without bitterness, that
portions of the _Nouvelle Héloïse_ betrayed "a certain lack of just
moral taste and feeling." The _Confessions_ are described in faltering
terms which suggest that Merivale had not read them with any attention.
On the whole, we find, up to this point, no difference between the views
of Englishmen and of similarly placed Frenchmen. Even Shelley, in his
_Proposals for an Association_ (1812), blames the tendency of some of
Rousseau's political writings in exactly the conventional Continental

But a brief and limited, though splendid revival was now approaching,
the last which the reputation of Rousseau was to enjoy in England. We
must note the sphere within which this esoteric celebration of his
genius was confined; it was not an explosion of national enthusiasm, but
the defiant glorification of a power which had already begun to decline;
it was not a general expression of approval, but the effort of a group
of revolutionaries. It was roused, no doubt, by the attitude of the
official critics who were affecting to think that the influence of
Rousseau was exploded. The _Quarterly_ had said in 1813, "As it is
probable that we may not soon be again in the company of this
extraordinary man, we would willingly take leave of him in good humour,"
and though it was quite unable to keep up this attitude of dignified
dismissal, and returned to the attack in April, 1814, nevertheless that
was the tone adopted towards Rousseau, as of a man played out, and
rapidly being forgotten.

The publication of the voluminous _Correspondence_ of Grimm, which was
much read in England, led Englishmen to review the subject of the
character and writings of Rousseau, and in the remarks which
contemporaries made in 1813 and 1814 we may trace a rapid cooling of
their enthusiasm. The scorn of all French habits of thought and conduct,
which immediately succeeded the anxious and wearisome period of the
Napoleonic wars, makes itself particularly felt in the English attitude
towards Rousseau, who was regarded as the source from which all the
revolutionary sorrows of Europe had directly proceeded. The _Quarterly
Review_ for April, 1814, pronounced a judgment upon Rousseau, of which a
portion must be quoted here, since it may be considered as the original
indictment, the document which served to start the unfavourable opinion
which now became more and more that which sober and conservative
Englishmen were to adopt during the next fifty years. The opening lines
give a new warning, which was to gain more and more in emphasis, while
the end repeats praise which was conventional in 1814, but was already
fading, and was soon to disappear.

It says:--

     A writer who professes to instruct mankind is bound to deliver
     precepts of morality. But it is by inflaming the passions, and by
     blotting out the line which separates virtue from vice, that
     Rousseau undertakes to teach young ladies to be chaste, and young
     men to respect the rights of hospitality. His heroine, indeed, in
     conformity to his own example, is always prating about virtue, even
     at the time when she deviates most essentially from its precepts;
     but to dogmatize is not to be innocent. Yet, with all its defects,
     there are numerous passages in this celebrated work which astonish
     by their eloquence. Language, perhaps, never painted the conflicts
     of love in colours more animated and captivating than in the letter
     written by St. Preux when wandering among the rocks of Meillerie.

Unfortunately, the name of this critic is unknown.

But the charm was not to be broken without a violent effort being made
to restore to Rousseau his earlier supremacy. It came from the group of
brilliant Radical writers, who had not accepted the Toryism of the
ruling classes, to whom the discredited principles of the Revolution
were more dear than they had ever been, and who pinned their attractive
and enthusiastic æsthetic reforms to the voluptuous ecstasy of the
_Nouvelle Héloïse_ and the chimerical sentiment of _Emile_. Already, in
_The Round_ _Table_ (1814), Hazlitt had recommended the _Confessions_ as
the "most valuable" of all Rousseau's writings; he was presently in his
_Liber Amoris_ (1823) to produce the work which of all important books
of the English nineteenth century was to reproduce most closely the
manner of the Genevese master. Two years later, having made a very
careful examination of the works, Hazlitt published his essay _On the
Character of Rousseau_, which was not surpassed, or approached, as a
study of the great writer until the appearance of Lord Morley's
monograph, nearly sixty years afterwards.

Hazlitt exposes the baneful effect of Burke's attacks, while
acknowledging that from his own, the Tory point of view, Burke was
justified in taking the line that he did. It is perfectly true that "the
genius of Rousseau levelled the towers of the Bastille with the dust,"
but Hazlitt, an intellectual revolutionary, exults in the admission.
Hazlitt allows, nevertheless, that the exaggerated hopes founded upon
such books as the _Contrat Social_ have been followed by inevitable
disappointment. It was, however, not the fault of Rousseau, but of his
sanguine and absurd disciples, that Europe, or particularly England, has
"lost confidence in social man." Ecstatic admirers of his inspired
visions had expected the advent of Rousseau to bring in a millennium,
and in the disappointment founded on the excesses of the French
Revolution they had turned, with ingratitude, upon the pure and Utopian
dreamer who had drawn things as they should be, not as it was humanly
possible that they ever could be. The writings of Rousseau, he declares,
are looked up to with admiration by friends and foes alike as possessing
"the true revolutionary leaven," but it needs political foresight and a
rare capacity of imagination to perceive that this operates, through
temporary upheaval and distraction, to produce an ultimate harmony and a
beneficent beauty. In the course of his writings, Hazlitt frequently
quotes Rousseau, and always with admiration. He is the most illuminating
and the most thoughtful of all his early English critics.

In the summer of 1816 the two young poets of the day who displayed the
most extraordinary genius in England, or perhaps in Europe, made
acquaintance with one another for the first time, and instantly
determined to travel together. They met in Switzerland, intoxicated with
the unfamiliar beauty around them, and Byron took the Villa Diodati,
close to Geneva, where he and Shelley steeped themselves in the
_Nouvelle Héloïse_ under the shadow of Mont Blanc. In June they started
together round the lake on a journey, which turned into a pilgrimage. In
Shelley's _Letters_ may be read the enthusiastic account of the poets'
visit to Meillerie. Shelley refrained from gathering acacia and roses
from Gibbon's garden at Lausanne, "fearing to outrage the greater and
more sacred name of Rousseau, the contemplation of whose imperishable
creations had left no vacancy in his heart for mortal things." As they
sauntered along the shores of the enchanted Leman, the friends "read
Julie all day." They lived, with the characters of the great romance, in
an endless melancholy transport. Byron's enthusiasm took the form of the
famous stanzas in "Childe Harold III," beginning:

    Here the self-torturing sophist, wild Rousseau.

It is a remarkable instance of the complete decline of the prestige of
Rousseau in England that Byron's editor of 1899 is astonished that
Byron and Shelley "should not only worship at the shrine of Rousseau,
but take delight in reverently tracing the footsteps of St. Preux and
Julie." He is so completely disconcerted that he can only exclaim, "But
to each age its own humour!" The age of 1899 was certainly not in the
humour for Rousseau, but it was almost to go beyond the boundaries of
reason to denounce, as this editor did, in the face of Byron's raptures,
"the unspeakable philanderings" of Rousseau. Such was not the poet's
judgment when, in a trance of pleasure, he visited all the scenes of the
_Nouvelle Héloïse_. To Byron the long-drawn loves of St. Preux and of
Julie seemed "most passionate, yet not impure," and he vivaciously
proclaimed their creator as the one prophet of Ideal Beauty. The five or
six stanzas mentioned above are so well-known as to be positively
hackneyed. We no longer set on them any very high poetical value; we see
that none of them are good as verses, and that some of them are bad. But
the whole passage retains its full interest for us. It is a perfectly
logical statement of the author's unbounded admiration for Rousseau, and
in particular for the "burning page, distempered though it seems," upon
which are celebrated the devouring loves of Julie and St. Preux.

Further on, in the same poem, Byron rose to far purer heights of style.
The invocation to Clarens, in the texture of which the result of his
recent intercourse with Shelley may be plainly perceived, is probably
the most impassioned tribute ever paid by one great writer to the
literature of another.

    All things are here of _him_; from the black pines,
      Which are his shade on high, and the loud roar
    Of torrents, where he listeneth, to the vines
      Which slope his green path downward to the shore,
      Where the bow'd waters meet him, and adore,
    Kissing his feet with murmurs, and the wood,
      The covert of old trees, with trunks all hoar,
    But light leaves, young as joy, stands where it stood,
    Offering to him, and his, a populous solitude.
    A populous solitude of bees and birds,
      And fairy-form'd and many-colour'd things,
    Who worship him with thoughts more sweet than words,
      And innocently open their glad wings,
      Fearless and full of life.

This was a challenge, addressed by the most powerful poet of the day,
and couched in idolatrous language, which it was not possible that those
in England who were opposed to the influence of Rousseau could fail to
take up. Nor did Byron pause here. Writing from Diodati, July, 1816, his
famous _Sonnet to Lake Leman_, Rousseau's was the first illustrious name
he mentioned in the brief roll of "Heirs of Immortality." Enthusiasm for
the _Nouvelle Héloïse_ led directly to the composition of _The Prisoner
of Chillon_. Byron discussed and repudiated, with Stendhal in 1817, his
mother's old dream that he closely resembled Rousseau. All that
prevented his embracing this notion, and insisting on being considered
an avatar of the philosopher, was his perception of something turbid in
the character of Rousseau, hostile to the fiery ideal of 1816. The
English poet preferred to be thought to resemble "an alabaster vase
lighted up within." But all his life the memory of Jean Jacques
continued to haunt him; he recollected the _ranz des vaches_ when he was
writing _The Two Foscari_ (1821) and _la pervenche_ in the fourteenth
canto of _Don Juan_ (December, 1823). When Byron died at Missolonghi the
latest and the most passionate of Rousseau's English admirers passed
away with him.

The rapture of the sentimental poets was not allowed to pass unrebuffed.
In October, 1816, no less an authority on romance, no less sane and
typical, and yet moderate and sound exponent of English feeling than Sir
Walter Scott took up his parable against the sentimentality of the
disciples of Rousseau. In reviewing "Childe Harold III" in the
_Quarterly_, Walter Scott takes Byron severely to task for his
exaggerated praise of Rousseau. He says of himself that he is "almost
ashamed to avow the truth--he had never been able to feel the interest
or discover the merit of the _Nouvelle Héloïse_.... The dulness of the
story is the last apology for its exquisite immorality." It is
impossible to overestimate the importance of this utterance of Walter
Scott, who was at that very moment bringing forth the amazing series of
his own novels, which were to destroy the taste of his countrymen for
all such works of the imagination as Rousseau had produced. Scott is no
less condemnatory of the political influence of the philosopher. Deeply
blaming the French Revolution, he styles Rousseau "a primary apostle" of
it. "On the silliness of Rousseau," on the subject of political
equality, "it is at this time of day, thank God! useless to expatiate."
This was a counter-blast, indeed, to the melodious trumpetings of Byron
and Shelley.

To a reputation already much reduced, the publication, in 1818, of the
_Mémoires et Conversations_ of Madame d'Epinay was a serious blow. These
were very much discussed in England, and Jeffrey called the special
attention of his readers to the lady's revelations of Rousseau's
"eccentricity, insanity, and vice." This produced a painful effect. It
was urged by English critics that Jean Jacques, who had been held up as
a portent of almost divine moral beauty, seemed, on the contrary, to
have claimed, "as the reward of genius and fine writing, an exemption
from all moral duties." Jeffrey called indignant attention to the "most
rooted and disgusting selfishness" of Rousseau, and quoted with approval
the _boutade_ of Diderot, "Cet homme est un forcené." The publication of
Madame de Staël's _Œuvres Inédites_, brought out by Madame Necker
Saussure in 1820, further lowered the English estimate of the "selfish
and ungrateful" Rousseau. He was still praised for his "warmth of
imagination," but told that he was vastly inferior to Madame de Staël in
style. The _Edinburgh Review_ now proclaimed, as a painful discovery,
that Rousseau's affection for mankind was entirely theoretical, and "had
no living objects in this world," and blushed at the "very scandalous
and improper" facts about his private life which were now more and more
frequently being revealed.

The publication of Simondi's _Voyage en Suisse_ (1822), which was widely
read in England, continued the work of denigration. Simondi spoke with
contempt and even with bitterness, of the character of Rousseau. His
English critics pointed out that, although a republican, Simondi rose
above political prejudice. He called the _Confessions_ the most
admirable, but at the same time the most vile of all the productions of
genius. Jeffrey, once again, was eloquent in the denunciation of
Rousseau's personal character, which there seemed to be no one left in
England to defend. This was about the time that special attention began
to be drawn to Rousseau's exposure of his natural children, which had
long been known, but which now began to excite English disgust.
Moreover, the loose way in which Rousseau treated fact and logic
irritated the newer school of English and Scotch politicians much more
than it had their predecessors, and the invectives of Burke were revived
and confirmed. There were still some private, though few public,
admirers of Rousseau in England. Carlyle was too original not to
perceive the value of the Genevan philosopher's historical attitude, and
not to feel a genuine sympathy for his character. But we find him
quoting (in 1823) the habits of "John James," as he chose to call him,
not adversely but a little slightingly.

Almost the latest eulogist of Rousseau, before Morley, was the veteran
Republican poet Walter Savage Landor, whose admirable _Malesherbes and
Rousseau_ appeared, almost unnoticed, in the third series of the
_Imaginary Conversations_ (1828). This interesting composition was
certainly not written when Landor reviewed his unpublished writings in
1824; we may probably date it 1826. It was a belated expression of the
enthusiasm of a preceding generation, in full sympathy with the attitude
of Hazlitt and Byron. It attracted no attention, for England was by this
time wholly out of touch with the old preference of the impulse of the
individual in opposition to the needs of the State. There was in
England a growing cultivation of science, and by its side a growing
suspicion of rhetoric, and both of these discouraged what was
superficially lax in the views and in the expression of Rousseau. The
_Discourse on the Origin of Inequality_, which had delighted an earlier
generation of English Liberals, was now re-examined, and was rejected
with impatience as "dangerous moonshine," supported by illogical and
even ridiculous arguments. Moreover, the study of anthropology was
advancing out of the state of infancy, and was occupying serious minds
in England, who were exasperated by Rousseau's fantastic theory of the
purity of savage society, and a Golden Age of primal innocence.
Moreover, as Morley long afterwards pointed out, from about the year
1825, there was a rapid increase in England of the superficial
cultivation of letters, and particularly of scientific investigation. At
the same time, the temper of the English nation repelled, with anger,
the notion that a Swiss philosopher, of discredited personal character,
could be allowed to denounce the science and literature of Europe.

Thus from every point of view, the hold which Rousseau had held on
English admiration was giving way. His influence was like a snow man in
the sun; it melted and dripped from every limb, from all parts of its
structure. But probably what did more than anything else to exclude
Rousseau from English sympathy, and to drive his works out of popular
attention, was the sterner code of conduct which came in, as a reaction
to the swinish coarseness of the late Georgian period. We must pay some
brief attention to a moral and religious phenomenon which was probably
more than any other fatal to the prestige of Rousseau.

The great feature of the new Evangelical movement was an insistence on
points of conduct which had, indeed, always been acknowledged in the
English Church as theoretically important, but which were now exalted
into a lively pre-eminence. There was suddenly seen, throughout the
country, a marvellous increase in religious zeal, in the urging of
penitence, contrition and unworldliness upon young minds, in the
activity which made practical and operative what had hitherto been
largely nominal. There was a very wide awakening of the sense of sin,
and a quickening, even a morbid and excessive quickening, of the
Christian instinct to put off "the old man, which is corrupt according
to the deceitful lusts, and to put on the new man, which, after God, is
created in righteousness and true holiness." This conviction of sin and
humble acceptance of righteousness was to be accompanied by a
cultivation of all the contrite and retired and decent aptitudes of
conduct, so that not only should no wrong be done to the soul of others,
but no offence given. These were the objects which occupied the active
and holy minds of the early Evangelists, and of none of them more
practically, in relation to the studies and the reading of the young,
than of the great leader of the movement, Charles Simeon (1756-1836).

We have forgotten, to a great extent, the amazing influence which the
preaching and the practice of these leading Evangelicals exercised in
England between 1820 and 1840. It is certain that the young scholars of
Cambridge who surrounded Simeon from 1810 onwards were much more
numerous and no less active than those who surrounded Newman and Pusey
at Oxford about 1835; while in each case the disciples trained in the
school of enthusiasm were soon dispersed, to spread the flame of zeal
throughout the length and breadth of the Three Kingdoms. In the preface
of his famous _Helps to Composition_, a work of epoch-making character,
Simeon boldly proposed three tests to be applied to any species of
literature. When confronted by a book, the reader should ask, "Does it
uniformly tend to humble the Sinner, to exalt the Saviour, to promote
holiness?" A work that lost sight of any one of these three points was
to be condemned without mercy. The simplicity and freshness of the
Evangelicals, their ridicule of what was called "the dignity of the
pulpit," their active, breathless zeal in urging what they thought a
purer faith upon all classes of society, gave them a remarkable power
over generous and juvenile natures. They were wealthy, they were
powerful, they stormed the high places of society, and it may without
exaggeration be said that for the time being they changed the whole
character of the surface of English social life.

The work of the Evangelicals, in emphasizing the strong reaction against
the coarseness of the Georgian era, has been greatly forgotten in
England, and on the Continent has never been in the least understood. It
is responsible, to deal solely with what interests us in our present
inquiry, for the prudery and "hypocrisy" of which European criticism so
universally accuses our Victorian literature and habits of thought. It
is perhaps useless to contend against a charge so generally brought
against English ideas, and this is not the place to attempt it. But, so
far as Rousseau is concerned, it is necessary to point out that to a
generation which revolted against lasciviousness in speech, and which
believed that an indecent looseness in art and literature was a sin
against God, the charm of the _Nouvelle Héloïse_ and of the
_Confessions_ could not be apparent. It is of no service to talk about
"hypocrisy"; English readers simply disliked books of that sort, and
there must be an end of it.

A single example may serve to show how rapid the change had been. Sir
James Edward Smith (1759-1828) was an eminent botanist, who travelled
widely and wrote many letters. In 1832 his _Memoirs and Correspondence_
were published, a lively work which was much read. But Smith, living at
the close of the eighteenth century, had been an ardent admirer of
Rousseau, and this appeared glaringly in his letters. Reviewers in 1832
had to find excuses for his "charitable eye" and to attribute his
partiality to Rousseau's being a botanist. There was quite a flutter,
almost a scandal. One critic plainly said that Sir J. E. Smith's
"character would not have suffered if he had made some abatement from
his extravagant eulogy" of Rousseau. The _Edinburgh Review_ was very
severe, and regretted that the worthy botanist had not realized that
"religious toleration does not imply the toleration of immorality," and
that "licentiousness of speculation is as hostile to civil liberty as
licentiousness of conduct." A critic of the same period roundly says
that "the vices and opinions of Rousseau are of so malignant an aspect
that the virtues which accompany them serve only to render them more

Thus Rousseau, who in 1800 was regarded in England, even by his enemies,
as the most enchanting of writers, had by 1835 sunken to be regarded as
despicable, not to be quoted by decent people, not to be read even in
secret. He was seldom mentioned, save to be reviled. The career of
Rousseau does not come within the scope of Hallam as a critic, yet that
historian was unable, in the second volume of his _Literature of Europe_
(1838), to resist a sneer at the _Contrat Social_, while he describes
Rousseau's arguments as an "insinuation" and a "calumny." We find so
grave and dignified an historian as Burton using his _Life of Hume_
(1846) as a means of placing Rousseau in the most odious light possible,
and without a word of sympathy. To the younger Herman Merivale, in 1850,
the influence of Rousseau seemed "simply mischievous," but he rejoiced
to think that his fame was "a by-gone fashion." Having, in October,
1853, been led to express an ambiguous comment on the _Confessions_,
Mrs. Jameison, then the leading English art critic, hastened to excuse
herself by explaining that "of course, we speak without reference to the
immorality which deforms that work." It would be easy to multiply such
expressions, but difficult, indeed, in the middle of the century, to
find a responsible word published by an English writer in praise of

After this, till John Morley's monograph, there is very little to be
recorded. Rousseau passed out of sight and out of mind, and was known
only to those few who went to foreign sources of inspiration in that age
of hard British insularity. But we have lately learned that there were
two great authors who, in the seclusion of their own libraries, were now
subjecting themselves to the fascination of the Genevan. On February
9th, 1849, George Eliot wrote thus privately to a friend:

     It would signify nothing to me if a very wise person were to stun
     me with proofs that Rousseau's views of life, religion, and
     government are miserably erroneous--that he was guilty of some of
     the worst _bassesses_ that have degraded civilized man. I might
     admit all this: and it would not be the less true that Rousseau's
     genius has sent that electric thrill through my intellectual and
     moral frame which has wakened me to new perceptions.... The rushing
     mighty wind of his imagination has so quickened my faculties that I
     have been able to shape more definitely for myself ideas which had
     previously dwelt as dim _Ahnungen_ in my soul; the fire of his
     genius has so fused together old thoughts and prejudices, that I
     have been ready to make new combinations.

Even more remarkable is the evidence which Edward Cook, in his _Life of
Ruskin_ (1911) has produced with regard to the attitude of that
illustrious writer. It was in 1849, just when George Eliot was finding
her spirit quickened by the inspiration of Rousseau, that John Ruskin,
at the age of thirty, made a pilgrimage to Les Charmettes. The political
revolt which coloured all his later years was now beginning to move in
him, and for the first time he felt affinities existing between his own
nature and that of Rousseau. This consciousness increased upon him. In
1862 he wrote, "I know of no man whom I more entirely resemble than
Rousseau. If I were asked whom of all men of any name in past time I
thought myself to be grouped with, I should answer unhesitatingly--Rousseau.
I judge by the _Nouvelle Héloïse_, the _Confessions_, the writings of
Politics and the life in the Ile St. Pierre." In 1866 Ruskin added, "The
intense resemblance between me and Rousseau increases upon my mind more
and more." Finally, in _Preterita_ (1886) he openly acknowledged his
life-long debt to Rousseau. We may therefore set down the impact of
Rousseau upon Ruskin as marking the main influence of the Genevese
writer's genius upon English literature in the nineteenth century, but
this was sympathetic, subterraneous, and, in a sense, secret. Without
Rousseau, indeed, there never would have been Ruskin, yet we are only
now beginning to recognize the fact.

Of the overt cult of Rousseau, even of careful and detailed examination
of his works, there was none until Mr. (now Viscount) Morley published
his brilliant monograph in 1873. This famous book, so remarkable for its
gravity and justice, its tempered enthusiasm, its absence of prejudice,
the harmony and illumination of its parts, is the one exception to the
public neglect of Jean Jacques by nineteenth-century Englishmen. It
removed the reproach of our insular ignorance; it rose at once to the
highest level of Continental literature on the subject. The monograph of
Morley has become a classic. Incessantly reprinted, it has remained the
text-book of English students of Rousseau. It is needless in this place
to draw attention to its eminent qualities, or to the fact that it
contained, and continues to contain, _lacunæ_ which the eminent writer
has not attempted to fill up by the light of later research. In
particular, it is impossible not to regret that Lord Morley was
unacquainted with the documents, so learnedly edited and lucidly
arranged by Mr. L. J. Courtois, on the events of Rousseau's sojourn in
England. But Lord Morley, immersed in the duties of a statesman, seems
long ago to have lost all interest in the subject which he illuminated
so brilliantly nearly fifty years ago.

The wide publicity given to Morley's book did not, strangely enough,
lead to any great revival of the study of Rousseau in Great Britain.
English readers were content to accept the statements and the views of
Morley without any special attempt to examine or continue them. There
was no outburst of Rousseau study in England in consequence of the
volumes of 1873. English translations of his works continued to be few
and poor, and over the _Nouvelle Héloïse_ and the _Confessions_ there
still hung a cloud of reproach. They were held to be immoral, and dull
in their immorality. During the last decade of the century, however, a
certain quickening of interest began to show itself in a variety of
ways. A Rousseauiste, who excelled all other disciples in the vehemence
of her admiration, was revealed in 1895 by the _Studies in the France of
Voltaire and Rousseau_ of Mrs. Frederika Macdonald. These, however,
were at first but little noticed, and the labours of this lady,
culminating in her violent and excessive, but learned and original _New
Criticism of J. J. Rousseau_ (1906) and _The Humane Philosophy_ (1908)
belong to the twentieth century. It is to be hoped that the essays of
Mrs. Macdonald may stimulate a new body of workers to remove the stigma
which has lain on England for a hundred years of being dry with cynical
neglect of Rousseau while all the rest of the threshing-floor of Europe
was wet with the dews of vivifying criticism.


Many English lovers of French poetry would have been sorry, though none
could have been surprised, if public opinion in France had been too much
agitated by the stupendous events of the War to spare a thought for one
of the greatest of modern poets on the occasion of his hundredth
birthday. But it was not so; on the eighteenth of October, 1918, when
the fighting had approached its culminating point, and when all the
fortunes of the world seemed hanging in the balance, the serenity of
French criticism found room, between the bulletins of battle, for a word
of reminder that the author of _Poèmes Antiques_ and _Poèmes Barbares_
was born a century before in the tropic island of La Réunion. The
recognition was not very copious, nor was it universally diffused, but
in no circumstances would it have been either the one or the other.
Leconte de Lisle has never been, and will never be, a "popular" writer.
He appeals to a select group, a limited circle, which neither expands
nor contracts. His fame has never been excessive, and it will never
disappear. It is modest, reserved, and durable.

He was commonly described as a Creole. His father, an army
surgeon--exiled by the service to what used to be called the Ile
Bourbon--was a pure Breton. Charles Marie René Leconte de Lisle, after
several excursions to India, which left strong traces on his poetry,
arrived still young in France, and ultimately settled in Paris. Thus he
lived for half a century, in great simplicity and uniformity, surrounded
by adoring friends, but little known to the public. In middle life he
became a librarian at the Luxembourg; as old age was approaching, he
found himself elected to succeed Victor Hugo at the French Academy. If
he was not exactly poor, his means were strictly moderate; and the most
unpleasant event of his whole life was the discovery, at the fall of the
Empire, that, although his opinions were republican, he had been
receiving a pension from the government of Napoleon III. Nothing could
be more ridiculous than the outcry then raised against him; for he was a
poet hidden in the light of thought, and no politician. It was an honour
to any government, and no shame to the austerest poet, that modest
public help should enable a man like Leconte de Lisle to exist without
anxiety. There can hardly be said to have been any other event in this
dignified and blameless career.

There is a danger--but there is also a fascination--in the instinct
which leads us, when we observe literature broadly, to find relations or
parallelisms between independent and diverse personalities. In the most
striking examples, however, where there has been no actual influence at
work, these parallelisms are apt to be very misleading. Where it is
impossible not to observe elements of likeness, as between Byron and
Musset, we may take them to be actual, and no matters of chance. But the
similarity, in certain aspects, between Alfred de Vigny and Thomas
Hardy, between André Chénier and Keats, between Crabbe and Verhaeren,
must be accidental, and is founded on a comparison between very limited
portions of the work of each. Nevertheless, for purposes of
illumination, it is sometimes useful--on what we may call the Lamarckian
system--to see where the orbits of certain eminent writers of
distinctive originality approach nearest to one another.

It is admitted that Leconte de Lisle is pre-eminently gifted among the
poets of France in certain clearly defined directions. His poems, which
are marked by a concinnity of method which sometimes degenerates into
monotony, are distinguished above all others by their haughty
concentration of effort, by their purity of outline, and by their
extreme precision in the use of definite imagery. They aim, with
unflinching consistency, at a realization of beauty so abstract that
the forms by which it is interpreted to the imagination are almost
wholly sculpturesque. Is there an English poet of whom, at his best, the
same language might be used? There is one, and only one, and that is
Walter Savage Landor. It cannot but be stimulating to the reader to put
side by side, let us say, the opening lines of _The Hamadryad_ and of
_Khirón_, or the dialogue of _Niobé_ and that of _Thrasymedes and
Eunoë_, and to see how closely related is the manner in which the
English and the French poet approach their themes. The spirit of pagan
beauty broods over _Hypatie et Cyrille_ as it does over the mingled
prose and verse of _Pericles and Aspasia_, and with the same religious
_desiderium_. We shall not find another revelation of the cupuscular
magnificence of the farthermost antiquity so striking as Landor's
_Gebir_, unless we seek it in the _Kaïn_ of Leconte de Lisle.

But we should not drive this parallel too far. If the breadth and
majesty of vision which draw these two poets together are notable, not
less so are their divergencies. Landor, who so often appears to be on
the point of uttering something magical which never gets past his lips,
is one of the most unequal of writers. He ascends and descends, with
disconcerting abruptness, from an exquisite inspiration to the darkest
level of hardness. Leconte de Lisle, on the other hand, is the victim of
no vicissitudes of style: he floats in the empyrean, borne up apparently
without an effort at a uniform height, like his own Condor:

    _Il dort dans l'air glacé, les ailes toutes grandes._

Many readers--particularly those on whom the romantic heresy has laid
its hands with the greatest violence--resent this Olympian
imperturbability; and the charge has been frequently brought, and is
still occasionally repeated, that Leconte de Lisle is lacking in
sensibility, that he dares to be "impassible" in an age when every heart
is worn, palpitating, on the sleeve of the impulsive lyrist. He was
accused, as the idle world always loves to accuse the visionary, of
isolating himself from his kind with a muttered _odi profanum vulgus et
arceo_. Such an opinion is founded on the aspect of reserve which his
vast legendary pictures suggest, and on the impersonal and severely
objective attitude which he adopts with regard to history and nature.
His poems breathe a disdain of life and of the resilience of human
appetite (_La Mort de Valmiki_), a love of solitude (_Le Désert_), a
determination to gaze on spectacles of horror without betraying nervous
emotion (_Le Massacre de Mona_), which seem superhuman and almost
inhuman. He was accused, in his dramas--which were perhaps the most
wilful, the least spontaneous part of his work--of affecting a Greek
frightfulness which outran the early Greeks themselves. Francisque
Sarcey said that Leconte de Lisle, in his tragedy of _Les Erinnyes_,
scratched the face of Æschylus, as though he did not find it bloody
enough already.

The subjects which Leconte de Lisle prefers are never of a sort to
promote sentimentality or even sensibility. He writes of Druids moaning
along the edge of hyperborean cliffs, of elephants marching in set
column across hot brown stretches of sand, of the black panther crouched
among the scarlet cactus-blossoms, of the polar bear lamenting among the
rocks, of the Syrian sages whose beards drip with myrrh as they sit in
council under the fig-tree of Naboth. He writes of humming-birds and of
tigers, of Malay pirates and of the sapphire cup of Bhagavat, of
immortal Zeus danced round by the young Oceanides, and of Brahma seeking
the origin of things in the cascades of the Sacred River. These are not
themes which lend themselves to personal effusion, or on which the poet
can be expected to embroider any confessions of his egotism. If Leconte
de Lisle chooses to be thus remote from common human interests--that is
to say, from the emotions of our vulgar life to-day--his is the
responsibility, and it is one which he has fully recognized. But that
his genius was not wholly marmoreal, nor of an icy impassibility, the
careful study of his works will amply assure us.

It is strange that even very careful critics have been led to overlook
the personal note in the poems of Leconte de Lisle: probably because the
wail of self-pity is so piercing in most modern verse that it deadens
the ear to the discreet murmur of the stoic poet's confession. Hence
even Anatole France has been led to declare that the author of _Poèmes
Barbares_ has determined to be as obstinately absent from his work as
God is from creation; and that he has never breathed a word about
himself, his secret wishes, or his personal ideals. But what is such a
passage as the following if not a revelation of the soul of the poet in
its innermost veracity?

    _O jeunesse sacrée, irréparable joie,
    Félicité perdue, où l'âme en pleurs se noie!
    O lumière, ô fratcheur des monts calmes et bleus,
    Des coteaux et des bois feuillages onduleux,
    Aubes d'un jour divin, chants des mers fortunées,
    Florissante vigueur de mes belles années...
    Vous vivez, vous chantez, vous palpitez encor,
    Saintes réalités, dans vos horizons d'or!
    Mais, ô nature, ô ciel, flois sacrés, monts sublimes,
    Bois dont les vents amis sont murmurer les cimes,
    Formes de l'idéal, magnifiques aux yeux,
    Vous avez disparu de mon cœur oublieux!
    Et voici que, lassé de voluptés amères,
    Haletant du désir de mes mille chimères,
    Hélas! j'ai désappris les hymnes d'autrefois,
    Et que mes dieux trahis n'entendent plus ma voix._

This is a note more often heard, perhaps, in English than in French
poetry. It is the lament of Wordsworth for the "visionary gleam" that
has fled, for "the glory and the dream" that fade into the light of
common day.

Leconte de Lisle is unsparing with the results of his erudition, and
this probably confirms the popular notion of his remoteness. Here,
however, returning for a moment to Landor, we may observe that he is
never so close-packed and never so cryptic as the author of _Chrysaor_
and _Gunlaug_. What Leconte de Lisle has to tell us about mysterious
Oriental sages and mythical Scandinavian heroes may be unfamiliar to the
reader, but is never rendered obscure by his mode of narration. Nothing
could be less within our ordinary range of experience than the adventure
of _Le Barde de Temrah_, who arrives at dawn from a palace of the Finns,
in a chariot drawn by two white buffaloes; but Leconte de Lisle recounts
it voluminously, in clear, loud language which leaves no sense of doubt
on the listener's mind as to what exactly happened.

His Indian studies became less precise in the _Poèmes Barbares_ than
they had been in the early _Poèmes Antiques_; perhaps under the stress
of greater knowledge. But he had been from early youth personally
acquainted with the Indian landscapes which he describes. With the
ancient Sanscrit literature, I suppose he had mainly an acquaintance
through translations, of which those by Burnouf may have inspired him
most. Whether, if he had lived to read Professor Jacobi's proof that
Valmiki was a historical character, and the author in its original form
of the earliest and greatest epic of India, the _Ramayana_, Leconte de
Lisle would have been annoyed to remember that he had treated Valmiki as
a mythical person, symbolically devoured by white ants, it is impossible
to say. Probably not, for he only chose these ancient instances to
illustrate from the contemplative serenity of Brahmanism his own calm
devotion to the eternal principle of beauty.

    _Bhagavat! Bhagavat! Essence des Essences,_
    _Source de la beauté, fleuve des Renaissances,_
    _Lumière qui fait vivre et mourir à la fois._

Probably no other European poet has interpreted with so much exactitude,
because with so intense a sympathy, the cosmogony and mythology of the
Puranas, with their mystic genealogies of gods and kings.

The harmony and sonorous fullness of the verse of Leconte de Lisle were
noted from the first, even by those who had least sympathy with the
subjects of it. He achieved the extreme--we may almost say the
excessive--purity of his language by a tireless study of the Greeks and
of the great French poets of the seventeenth century, with whom he had a
remarkable sympathy at a time when they were generally in disfavour. His
passion for the art of Racine may be compared with the close attention
which Keats gave to the versification of Dryden. He greatly venerated
the genius of Victor Hugo, who was perhaps the only contemporary poet of
France who exercised any influence over the style of Leconte de Lisle.
It is difficult to define in what that influence consisted; the two men
had essentially as little resemblance as Reims Cathedral has to the
Parthenon, Victor Hugo being as extravagantly Gothic as Leconte de Lisle
was Attic. But the younger poet was undoubtedly fascinated by the
tumultuous cadences of his more various, and, we must admit, more
prodigious predecessor. They agreed, moreover, in appealing to the ear
rather than to the eye. Verlaine has described Leconte de Lisle's
insistence on the vocal harmonies of verse, and he adds: "When he
recited his own poems, a lofty emotion seemed to vibrate through his
whole noble figure, and his auditors were drawn to him by an
irresistible sympathy." It must have been a wonderful experience to hear
him, for instance, chant the iron _terze rime_ of _Le Jugement de
Konor_, or the voluptuous languor of _Nourmahal_.

Much has been said about the sculpturesque character of Leconte de
Lisle's poems. But a comparison of them to friezes of figures carved out
of white marble scarcely does justice to their colour, though it may
indicate the stability of their form. It would be more accurate to
compare them to the shapes covered with thin ivory and ornamented with
gold and jewels, in which the Greeks, and even Pheidias himself,
delighted. The _Poèmes Antiques_ are, in fact, chryselephantine. But
Leconte de Lisle was a painter also, and perhaps the chief difference
to be observed between the early compositions and the _Poèmes Barbares_
consists in the pictorial abundance of the latter. His descriptions have
the character of broadly-brushed cartoons of scenes which are usually
exotic, as of some Puvis de Chavannes who had made a leisurely voyage in
Orient seas. Leconte de Lisle floods his canvas with light, and his
favourite colours are white and golden yellow; even his fiercest
tragedies are luminous. India he sees not as prosaic travellers have
seen it, but in a blaze of dazzling splendour:

    _Tes fleuves sont pareils aux pythons lumineux_
    _Qui sur les palmiers verts enroulent leurs beaux nœuds;_
    _Ils glissent au détour de tes belles collines_
    _En guirlandes d'argent, d'azur, de perles fines._

It is natural that a nature so eminently in harmony with the visual
world, and so pagan in all its instincts, should be indifferent or even
hostile to Christianity. His stoic genius, solidly based on the faiths
of India and of Hellas, finds the virtues of humility and of tender
resignation contemptible. In the very remarkable dialogue, _Hypatie et
Cyrille_, Leconte de Lisle defines, with the voice of the Neoplatonist,
his own conception of religious truth. It is one in which _Le vil
Galiléen_ has neither part nor lot. We have to recognize in his temper a
complete disdain of all the consolations of the Christian faith, or
rather an inability to conceive in what they consist, and no phenomenon
in literature is more curious than that, after a single generation,
French poetry should have returned to the aggressive piety which strikes
an English reader as so incomprehensible in M. Francis Jammes and in M.
Paul Claudel. But poetry has many mansions.

The person of Leconte de Lisle is described to us as characteristic of
his work. He was very handsome, with a haughty carriage of the head on a
neck "as pure and as solid as a column of marble." A monocle, which
never left his right eye, gave a modern touch to an aspect which might
else have been too rigorously antique. A droll little pseudo-anecdote,
set by Théodore de Banville in his inimitable amalgam of wit and fancy,
illuminates the effect which Leconte de Lisle produced upon his
contemporaries. I take it from that delicious volume, too little
remembered to-day, the _Camées Parisiens_, of 1873:

     Leconte de Lisle was walking with Æschylus one day, in the ideal
     fatherland of tragedy, when, while he was conversing with the old
     hero of Salamis and of Platea, he suddenly observed that his
     companion was so bald that a tortoise might easily mistake his
     skull for a polished rock. Not wishing, therefore, to humiliate the
     titanic genius, and yet not able without regret to give up an
     ornament the indispensable beauty of which was obvious, he made up
     his mind to be totally bald in front, while retaining on the back
     of his head the silken and curly wealth of an Apollonian

It was perhaps in the course of these walks with Æschylus that Leconte
de Lisle formed the habit of spelling Clytemnestre "Klytaimnestra." The
austerities of his orthography attracted a great deal of attention, and
cannot be said to have succeeded in remoulding French or spelling.
People continue to write "Cain," although the poet insisted on "Kaïn,"
and even, in his sternest moments, on "Qaïn." He believed that his text
gained picturesqueness, and even exactitude of impression, by those
curious archaisms. They are, at least, characteristic of the movement of
his mind, and the reader who is offended by them must have come to the
reading with a determination to be displeased. His vocabulary is more
difficult; and sometimes, it must be confessed, more questionable. He
uses, without explanation or introduction, the most extraordinary terms.
Ancient Roman emperors are said to have shown their largess by putting
real pearls into the dishes which they set before their guests. This was
generous; but the guest who broke his tooth upon a gift must have wished
that the pearl had been more conventionally bestowed upon him. So the
reader of Leconte de Lisle may be excused if he resents the sudden
apparition of such strange words as "bobres," "bigaylles," and
"pennbaz" in the text of this charming poet.

In spite of these eccentricities, which are in fact quite superficial,
and in spite of a suspicion of pedantry which occasionally holds the
reader's attention at arm's length, there is no French poet of our day
more worthy of the attention of a serious English student. Leconte de
Lisle cultivated the art of poetry with the most strenuous dignity and
impersonality. He had a great reverence for the French language, and not
a little of the zeal of the classic writers of the seventeenth century
who aimed at the technical perfection of literature. He is lucid and
direct almost beyond parallel. In England, among those who approach
French literature with more enthusiasm than judgment, there is a
tendency to plunge at once into what is fashionable for the moment on
the Boulevard Saint Michel. We have seen British girls and boys
affecting to appreciate Verlaine, and even Mallarmé, without having the
smallest acquaintance with Racine or Alfred de Vigny. It is pure
snobisme to pretend to admire Prose pour Des Esseintes when you are
unable to construe Montaigne. For all such foreign folly, the rigorous
versification, the pure and lucid language, and the luminous fancy of
Leconte de Lisle may be recommended as a medicine.



The importance of literary criticism in the higher education of a race
has been recognized in no country in the world except France. Elsewhere
there have arisen critics of less, or more, or even of extreme merit,
but nowhere else has there been a systematic training in literature
which has embraced a whole generation, and has been intimately combined
with ethics. The line of action which Matthew Arnold vainly and
pathetically urged on the Anglo-Saxon world has been unobtrusively but
most effectively taken by France for now more than half a century. When
the acrid and ridiculous controversy between the Classical and the
Romantic schools died down, criticism in France became at once more
reasonable and more exact. The fatuous formula which has infected all
races, and is not yet extirpated in this country--the "I do not like
you, Dr. Fell, the reason why I cannot tell"--passed into desuetude. It
was implicitly recognized that it is your duty, if you express a view,
to be able to "tell" on what principles it is founded. In fact, if we
concentrate our attention on the progress of French professional
criticism, we see it becoming steadily more philosophical and less

But about 1875, after the period of Taine and Renan, and, in a quite
other field, after that of Gautier and Paul de Saint Victor, we find
criticism in Paris rapidly tending in two important directions, becoming
on the one hand more and more exact, almost scientific, on the other
daringly personal and impressionist. Ferdinand Brunetière, who was a man
of extraordinary force of character, gave a colour to the whole scheme
of literary instruction throughout France. He resisted the idea that
literature was merely an entertainment or a pastime. He asserted that it
was the crown and apex of a virile education, and he declared its aim to
be the maintenance and progress of morality. With Brunetière everything
was a question of morals. He was a strong man, and a fighting man; he
enjoyed disputation and snuffed the breath of battle. He advanced the
impersonality of literature and stamped on the pride of authors. In the
year 1900, an observer glancing round professorial circles had to admit
that the influence of Brunetière had become paramount. His arbitrary
theory of the _évolution des genres_, founded on Herbert Spencer and
Darwin, and applied to the study of literature, pervaded the schools.

But the vehement tradition of Brunetière was undermined from the first
by his two greatest rivals, Anatole France and Jules Lemaître, whose
character was the exact opposite of his. They were "impressionist"
critics, occupied with their own personal adventures among books, and
not actively concerned with ethics. Their influence, especially that of
Lemaître, since Anatole France retired from criticism before the close
of the century, tempered what was rigid and insensitive in the
too-vehement dogmatism of Brunetière, but they did not form a camp
distinct from his. The sodality of the French Academy kept them together
in a certain happy harmony, in spite of their contrast of character.
Brunetière died in 1906, Lemaître in 1914; the effect of the one upon
education, of the other upon social culture, had been immense, but it
had not advanced since 1900. With the new century, new forces had come
into prominence, and of the two most important of these we speak to-day.

It was the fate of France to lose, within a few months, the two most
prominent critics of the period succeeding that of which I have just
spoken. The death of Emile Faguet and of Remy de Gourmont marks another
stage in the progress of criticism, and closes another chapter in its
history. That their methods and modes of life were excessively
different; that their efforts, if not hostile, were persistently
opposed; that one was the most professorial of professors, the other the
freest of free lances; that each, in a word, desired to be what the
other was not; adds a piquancy to the task of considering them side by
side. The first thing we perceive, in such a parallel, is the
superficial contrast; the second is the innate similitude, so developed
that these spirits in opposition are found in reality to represent, in a
sort of inimical unison, the whole attitude towards literature of the
generation in which they flourished. Their almost simultaneous
disappearance leaves the field clear for other procedures under their
guidance. In the extremely copious published writings of these two
eminent men the name of each of them will scarcely be found. They
worked, in their intense and fervid spheres, out of sight of one
another. But, now both are dead, it is interesting to see how close to
each other they were in their essential attitude, and how typical their
activity is of the period between 1895 and 1915.

If anyone should rashly engage to write the life of Emile Faguet, he
would find himself limited to the task of composing what the critic
himself, in speaking of Montaigne, calls "the memoirs of a man who never
had any occupation but thinking." Through the whole of a life which
approached the term of threescore years and ten, Faguet was absorbed,
more perhaps than any other man of his time, in the contemplation of the
printed page. He said of himself, "I have never stopped reading, except
to write, nor writing, except to read." In any other country but France,
this preoccupation would have led to dreariness and pedantry, if not to
a permanent and sterile isolation. But in France purely literary
criticism, the examination and constant re-examination of the classics
of the nation, takes an honoured and a vivid place in the education of
the young. The literary teaching of the schools is one of the moral and
intellectual forces of the France of to-day, and Faguet, who was the
very type, and almost the exaggeration, of that tendency in teaching,
was preserved from pedantry by the immense sympathy which surrounded
him. His capacity for comprehending books, and for making others
comprehend them, found response from a grateful and thirsty multitude of

Emile Faguet was born, on the 17th of December, 1847, at La
Roche-sur-Yon, in Vendée, where his father was professor at the local
lycée. M. Victor Faguet, who had received a prize for a translation of
Sophocles into verse, nourished high academic ambitions for his son.
From the noiseless annals of the future critic's childhood a single
anecdote has been preserved, namely that, when he was a schoolboy, he
solemnly promised his father that he would become a member of the French
Academy. All his energy was centred towards that aim. He passed through
the regular course which attends young men who study for the
professoriate in France, and at last he became a professor himself at
Bordeaux, and then in Paris. But in that career, as Dr. Johnson
sententiously observed, "Unnumber'd suppliants croud Preferment's Gate,"
and at thirty-five Emile Faguet was still quite undistinguished. He saw
his juniors, and in particular Lemaître and Brunetière, speed far in
front of him, but he showed neither impatience nor ill-temper. Gradually
he became a writer, but it was not until 1885 that his _Les Grands
Maîtres du XVIe Siècle_ attracted the attention of the public. He
began to be famous at the age of forty, when his _Etudes Littéraires sur
le XIXe Siècle_, clear, well arranged, amusing and informing, proved
to French readers that here was a provider of substantial literature,
always intelligent, never tiresome, who was exactly to their taste. From
that time forth the remaining thirty years of Faguet's life extended
themselves in a ceaseless cheerful industry of lecturing, writing, and
interpreting, which bore fruit in a whole library of published books,
perhaps surpassing in bulk what is known as the "output" of any other
mortal man.

Though ever more concerned with ideas than with persons, Faguet did not
disdain, in happy, brief, and salient lines, to sketch the authors who
had written the books he analysed. Let us attempt a portrait of himself
as he appeared in the later years of his life. No one ever less achieved
the conventional type of academician. His person was little known in
society, for he scarcely ever dined out. He had so long been a
provincial professor that he never threw off a country look. In sober
fact, Emile Faguet, with his brusque, stiff movements, his rough brush
of a black moustache, and his conscientious walk, looked more like a
non-commissioned officer in mufti than an ornament of the Institut. He
was active in the streets, stumping along with an umbrella always
pressed under his arm; on his round head there posed for ever a kind of
ancient billycock hat. He had a supreme disdain for dress, and for the
newspapers which made jokes about his clothing. He lived in a little
stuffy apartment in the Rue Monge--on the fifth storey, if I remember
right. He was an old bachelor, and the visitor, cordially welcomed to
his rooms, was struck by the chaos of books--chairs, tables, the floor
itself being covered with volumes, drowned in printed matter. Just space
enough swept out to hold the author's paper and ink was the only oasis
in the desert of books. I remember that, at the height of his fame and
prosperity, there was no artificial light in his rooms. That army of his
publications was marshalled by the sole aid of a couple of candles.
Everything about him, but especially the frank dark eyes lifted in his
ingenuous face, breathed an air of unaffected probity and simplicity,
and of a kind of softly hurrying sense that life was so short, and there
were so many books to read and to write, that there could be no time
left for nonsense.

His image will long recur to the inner vision of his friends, as he went
marching to his lecture or to his newspaper-office, nonchalant and easy,
with his hands in his pockets, his elbow squeezing that enormous
umbrella to his side. In the evening he would go, inelegantly dressed,
in the same loosely martial way, to the theatre, for which he had an
inordinate affection. He was not a "first-nighter," but dropped in to
see a new piece whenever he wanted copy for his _feuilleton_. His
lectures, it is reported, were familiar and conversational, with
frequent repetition and copious quotation, the whole poured out as a man
tells a story which he intimately knows, with an inexhaustible flow of
thoughts and facts. Sometimes he was so vivacious as to be a little
paradoxical, and led a laugh against himself. He stood before his
students, formidable only in his erudition, easy of approach, austere
and gay. His congested rooms in the Rue Monge were open to any young
inquirer, but it was observed that Faguet never asked what the name of
his visitor was, but how old he was. The younger the student, the less
dogmatic was the professor, but the more familiar, abundant,
sympathetic. It was noticeable in all his relations, with young and old
alike, that Faguet's one aim invariably seemed to be honestly to make
his interlocutor comprehend the matter in hand.

Some recollections of the outer presence of Emile Faguet should not be
without value to us in fixing the character of his inner life, the
spirit which pervaded his profuse and honest labour. No one in the
history of literature has been more distinguished for intellectual
probity; and no one has cared less for appearances, or for the
glorification of his own character and cleverness. His value as a critic
consists primarily in his capacity for thoroughly understanding what
each author under consideration meant by this or that expression of his
art. Faguet does not allow himself to be stung into eloquence by the
touch of a master-mind, as Lemaître does, nor does he fly off from his
subject on the wings of an imperative suggestion, like Anatole France,
but he sticks close to the matter in hand, so close that he reaches
comprehension by becoming absorbed in it. There is no writer on
literature who has ever crept so completely into the skin of each old
author as Faguet has done. He makes the dry bones live; he resuscitates
the dead, and revives in them all that was essential in their original
life, all that was really vital in them, even if it be ultimately to
condemn the taste or the tendency exhibited. The first object with him
is to vivify; to analyse and dissect come next.

He was open to all impressions, and he was particularly admirable in his
periodical surveys of the four great centuries of French verse and
prose, because of his unflagging open-mindedness. He saw the living
thread of literary history, running, a pulsating stream, from Rabelais
to Flaubert. He had followed it so often, up and down, this way and
that, that no curve of it, no backwater was unfamiliar to him. Lassitude
is as unknown to Faguet as it was to Shelley's "Skylark." His curiosity
is always awake; no shadow of satiety ever comes near him. He was a
Titan in his way, but never a "weary Titan"; he never felt "the orb of
his fate," though it embraced so much, to be "too vast." The more
elaborate or complex an author was, the more actively and ingeniously
Faguet penetrated his work, smoothing out the complexities, throwing
light into every dark corner. But it is very proper to notice that even
where he devotes himself with what seems the most absorbing care to the
investigation of a particular mind, he is always essentially detached
from it, always ready to quit one tenement of genius and adapt himself
with alacrity to another, like a soldier-crab, whose tender extremity
will fit itself to any shell-habitation.

In one of his criticisms of Montesquieu--and on no French classic has he
been more constantly felicitous--Faguet speaks of the faculty possessed
by that prince of intelligence of wandering among souls, and of studying
their spiritual experience "comme un anatomiste étudie le jeu des
organes." The author of the _Esprit des Lois_ took wide views and
surveyed a vast expanse of society, but he was equally apt to map out a
square inch of mossy rock at his feet. "Il a du reste beaucoup écrit,
_comme en marge de ses grands livres_." These words remind us of a
section of Emile Faguet's writings which is peculiarly stimulating and
useful. It is illustrated to great perfection in what is perhaps the
most fascinating specimen of his vast and various production, the volume
called _En lisant les Beaux Vieux Livres_, which he published so lately
as 1911. This was followed by _En lisant Corneille_ in 1913 and _En
lisant Molière_ in 1914. If the war had not intervened and if his own
health had not failed him, it is probable that Faguet would have
extended and developed this section of his work, which exhibited the
ripest fruit of his subtle and vigorous criticism.

The method which he adopted in these treatises was to take a portion of
a well-known book or a short poem, and read it with his imaginary
audience exactly as though they, and he, had never met with it before.
In _En lisant les Beaux Vieux Livres_ he takes a score of such passages,
and analyses them without pedantry, eagerly, curiously, cordially. He
explains what the author meant, shows how he has succeeded in expressing
his meaning, points out the ingenuities of thought and the felicities of
language, and in short exhibits the piece of hackneyed prose or verse as
though it had just been discovered. The process may sound perfunctory
and pedagogic, but, conducted as Faguet conducts them, these little
excursions are not less delightful than original. He takes things that
everybody knows--such as Montaigne on Friendship, or Bossuet on the
Romans, or a couple of La Bruyère's portraits; he takes a long poem,
like Alfred de Vigny's _La Maison du Berger_, or a short lyric, like
Victor Hugo's _Le Semeur_; he takes the character of Sévère in
_Polyeucte_ or a landscape out of the memoirs of Chateaubriand, and he
illuminates these familiar things until the reader not merely sees in
them what he never saw before, but has gained a method of reading by
which he will in future extract infinite new pleasures from re-reading
old familiar books.

In this system of analysis by conversation consists the chief
originality of Faguet's criticism. The idea of it was not entirely new;
so long ago as the seventeenth century Descartes said that "la lecture
est une conversation continue avec les plus honnêtes gens des siècles
passés." But it had not been planned on a practical basis until Faguet
sketched out these enchanting books of his, in which we seem to see him
seated, smiling, at a table, the volume open before him, expounding it
to an eager circle of intelligent young people. In these conversations,
Faguet had not the weight of Brunetière or the sparkle of Lemaître; he
was simpler than the one and soberer than the other. He achieved the
dream of the teacher when he discovered how to write books which please
and are useful at the same time. He avoided, by a whole continent, the
vapid dreariness of the usual English manual, which looks upon the rose
of Sharon and the lily of the valley as fit only to be pressed between
sheets of blotting-paper in a _hortus siccus_. Faguet is always in
earnest, although he sometimes indulges in immense humour and vivacity,
not of the Parisian variety, but highly exhilarating. When he suddenly
confesses to us that Balzac had "the temperament of an artist and the
soul of a commercial traveller," or when he sums up an entirely grave
summary of Pindare-Le Brun by telling us that "c'était un homme de
beaucoup d'esprit, d'un caractère très méprisable, et excellent ouvrier
de vers," it is no schoolmaster that speaks to pupils, but a friend who
takes his intimates into his confidence.

It has been the habit to depreciate the style of Faguet, which indeed
does not set out to be exquisite, and cannot compare with those of
several of his great predecessors. He has been charged, in his zeal for
the matter of literature, with a neglect of its form. It is true that
his phrases are apt to be curt; he gives little attention to the conduct
of a sentence, further than to define in it his precise intention. But
his criticism has a great purity of design, which is in itself an
element of style. It sets forth to accomplish a certain purpose and it
carries out this aim with the utmost economy of means. No writer less
than Faguet, to use a vulgar expression, "slops about all over the
shop." He has at least this negative beauty of writing, and he adds to
it another, the gift of discussing great authors in a tone that is in
sympathy with their peculiarities. An instance of this, among a hundred,
may be cited from his _Dix-huitième Siècle_; summing up what he has to
impress upon us about Marivaux, he defines that author in these terms;
"C'est un précieux qui est assez rare et qu'on s'interdit de condamner
au moment même qu'on le désapprouve, parce qu'on n'est pas sans en jouir
dans le moment même qu'on en souffre." It would hardly be possible to
put more of critical value into so few words, but moreover it is said as
Marivaux himself might say it.

Faguet had his prejudices, as every honest man may have. He adored the
seventeenth and he loved the nineteenth centuries, but he had almost an
aversion from the eighteenth. He put Buffon first among the writers of
that age, and Montesquieu next; so loyal a spirit as Faguet's could not
but be cordially attracted by Vauvenargues. But the lack of poetry, and,
as he asserted, the lack of philosophy of the Encyclopædists annoyed
him, and for their greatest name, for Voltaire, he had a positive
hatred. Faguet found it difficult to be just to Diderot, and difficult
to tolerate Rousseau, but to love Voltaire he made no effort whatever;
he acknowledged that feat to be impossible. He did not fear to
contradict himself, and about Rousseau his opinion grew steadily more
favourable, until, in 1913, he positively published five independent
volumes on this one writer alone. But Faguet could never persuade
himself to approach Voltaire with any face but a wry one. Yet, even
here, his antipathy is scarcely to be perceived on the surface. Faguet
always leaves the judgment of his reader independent. He puts the facts
before him; his own irony marks the line of thought which he suggests;
but he is careful never to attempt to bully the reader into acceptance.
Brunetière is apt to be vociferous in persuasion; Faguet never raises
his voice.

In 1899, being called upon to sum up the qualities of the leading French
critics from 1850 onwards, Faguet found himself confronted with his own
name and work. It was characteristic of his candour and simplicity that
he did not shrink from the task of describing himself, and that he
undertook it without false modesty or affectation. When he comes to
describe Emile Faguet he is as detached, as calmly analytic, as he is
when he speaks of Théophile Gautier or M. René Doumic. He defines the
qualities, acknowledges the limitations, and hints at the faults of his
subject. I do not know a case in all literary history where a writer has
spoken of himself in terms more severely judicial. He closes this
remarkable little study with words which we may quote here for their
curious personal interest no less than as an example of Faguet's style:

     Laborieux, du reste, assez méthodique, consciencieux, en poussant
     la conscience jusqu'à être peu bienveillant, ou en ne sachant pas
     pousser le scrupule consciencieux jusqu'à la bienveillance, il a pu
     rendre et il a rendu des services appréciables aux étudiants en
     littérature, qui étaient le public qu'il a toujours visé. Sans
     abandonner la critique, qu'il est à croire qu'il aimera toujours,
     il s'est un peu tourné depuis quelques années du côté des études
     sociologiques, où c'est à d'autres qu'à nous qu'il appartient
     d'apprécier ses efforts.

In this connexion a phrase of the great critic may be recalled. When the
war broke out in 1914, someone who knew Faguet's absorbing love of books
sympathized with him on the blow to literature. He responded, in a tone
of reproof, "L'avenir national est une chose autrement importante que
l'avenir littéraire."

Those sociological interests were steadily emphasized. Faguet became,
not less in love with great books, but more inclined to turn from their
technical to their ethical value. He became himself a moralist, after
having in so many eloquent volumes analysed the works and the characters
of the politicians and teachers of the nineteenth century. He possessed
a finished faculty for amusing and pleasing while he instructed, and it
was remarkable that in these treatises of his late middle life he
addressed a much wider public than he had ever reached before. His
_Commentaire du Discours sur les Passions_ was a link between the
earlier purely literary treatises and the later analyses of
psychological phenomena, but it was highly successful. Even more
universally popular were the little books on _Friendship_ and _Old Age_,
which enjoyed a larger circulation than any other contemporary works of
their class. Faguet was pleased at his popularity, and felt that he was
recognized as belonging to that "vieille race de moralistes exacts et
fins" of whom La Rochefoucauld had been the precursor. Of these moral
studies, the most abundantly discussed was that which dealt with _Le
Culte de l'Incompétence_ (1910), a book which bears a very remarkable
relation to the state of France when war broke out.

Towards the end of his life, Faguet became a great power in France. He
exercised, from that book-bewildered room in the Rue Monge, a patriotic,
amiable, fraternal influence which permeated every corner of the
French-speaking world. But his health, which had long been failing, gave
way under the strain of the war. He had never given himself any rest
from perpetual literary labour, and he had always said that he knew that
before he was seventy years of age he should be "buried and forgotten."
A third stroke of paralysis carried away the greatest living friend of
literature in France on the 7th of June, 1916, in his sixty-ninth year.
Buried he is at last, to their sorrow, but his compatriots will not
readily forget him.

It is not easy to find common terms in which to describe Faguet and his
remarkable contemporary, Remy de Gourmont. Their two circles of
influence were far-reaching, but did not touch. In the very extensive
literature of each the other is perhaps never mentioned. We may suppose
that it would be almost impossible for a French observer to review them
together without allowing the scale to descend in favour of this name or
of that. But here may come in the use of foreign criticism, which
regards the whole field from a great distance, and without passion. The
contrast between these two writers, both honest, laborious and fruitful,
both absorbed in and submerged by literature, both eager to discover
truth in all directions, was yet greater than their similarity. We have
briefly observed in Faguet the university professor, the great public
interpreter of masterpieces. In Remy de Gourmont, on the other hand, we
meet the man who, scornful of mediocrity and tolerant of nothing but
what is exquisite, stands apart from the crowd, and will scarcely share
his dream with a disciple. Faguet, like a Lord Chancellor of Letters, is
versed in all the legislation of the mind, and lives in a perpetual
elucidation of it. Gourmont, standing in the outer court, attracts the
young and the audacious around him by protesting that no laws exist save
those which are founded on an artist's own eclecticism. Together, or
rather back to back, they addressed almost everyone who was intelligent
in France between 1895 and 1914.

We have seen in Emile Faguet a typical member of the middle class. Remy
de Gourmont was an aristocrat both by descent and by temperament. He was
born on the 4th of April, 1858, in the château of La Motte, near
Bazoches-en-Houlme, in the Orne; during his childhood his parents moved
to a still more romantic little manor-house at Mesnil-Villement. These
Norman landscapes are constantly introduced into Gourmont's stories. His
race was of considerable antiquity and distinction; his mother traced
her descent from the great poet, Malherbe; a paternal ancestor was that
Gilles de Gourmont who printed in France the earliest books in Greek and
in Hebrew character. A passion for the Muses, like a fragrant
atmosphere, surrounded the boy from his cradle. He arrived in Paris at
the age of twenty-five, provincially instructed, but already of a
marvellous erudition. He was appointed assistant librarian at the
Bibliothèque Nationale, where for eight years he browsed at will on all
the secret and forgotten wonders of the past, indulging to the full an
insatiable literary curiosity. In 1890 he published a novel, _Sixtine_,
a sort of diary of a very complicated mind which believes itself to be
in love, but cannot be quite sure. It was "cerebral," without action of
any kind, an absurd book, but ingeniously--too ingeniously--written. The
historic interest of _Sixtine_ rests in the fact that it led the
reaction against the naturalism of Zola and the psychology of M. Paul
Bourget. Gourmont now achieved a single English reader, for _Sixtine_
was read by Henry James, but with more curiosity than approval.

Although hardly a book of permanent value, _Sixtine_ had a lasting
effect on the career of its author. It expressed with remarkable
exactitude the sentiments of the group of young men who were now coming
to the front in France. Gourmont became the champion of the "vaporeux,
nuancé et sublimisé" literature which started about 1890. He accepted
"symbolism," and he became the leader of the symbolist movement, of
which his stern mental training and curious erudition permitted him to
be the brain. He was the prophet of Mallarmé, of Verlaine, of
Maeterlinck, of Huysmans, and at the same time he welcomed each younger
revolutionary. All this, of course, was not done in a day, but
reconciliation with the intellectual conventions was made impossible by
a fact which must not be ignored in any sketch of Remy de Gourmont, and
indeed ought to be faced with resolution. In 1891 he was dismissed from
the public service and from the Library, for an article which he
published entitled _Le Joujou Patriotisme_, in which he poured contempt
upon the Army, and openly advocated the abandonment of any idea of the
"Revanche." The chastisement was a severe one, and had an effect on the
whole remainder of Gourmont's life. About the same time his health gave
way, and excluded him from all society, for he was invaded by an
unsightly growth in the face. His hermitage was high up in an old house
in the Rue des Saints Pères, near the quay, and there he sat, day in,
day out, surrounded by his books, in solitude, a monk of literature.

For the next eight or nine years, Gourmont, abandoning politics, in
which he had made so luckless an adventure, devoted himself exclusively
to art and letters. He joined the staff of the _Mercure de France_; and
under its director, and his life-long friend, M. Vallette, he took part
in all the symbolist polemics of the hour. He defended each new man of
merit with his active partisanship; he wrote ceaselessly; verse, art
criticism, humanism, novels, every species of fantastic and esoteric
literature flowed from his abundant pen. These books, many of them
preposterous in their shape, "limited editions" produced in conditions
of archiepiscopal splendour of binding and type, possess, it must be
admitted, little positive value. They are blossoms in the flower-garden
of that heyday of sensuous "symbolism," of which we had a pale
reflection in our London _Yellow Books_ and _Savoy Reviews_. The most
interesting of the publications of Remy de Gourmont during these
feverish years is the little volume called _L'Idéalisme_ (1893), in
which he sought to restore to the word "idéal" what he called its
"aristocratic value." A passage may be quoted from an essay in this
elegant and ridiculous treatise, on the beauty of words, irrespective of
their meaning:

     Quelles réalités me donneront les saveurs que je rève à ce fruit de
     l'Inde et des songes, le myrobolan,--ou les couleurs royales dont
     je pare l'omphax, ou ses lointaines gloires?

     Quelle musique est comparable à la sonorité pure des mots obscurs,
     ô cyclamor? Et quelle odeur à tes émanations vierges, ô

Stevenson--the R.L.S. of "Penny plain and Twopence coloured"--would have
delighted in this.

Gourmont became tired of symbolism rather suddenly, and he buried it in
two volumes which were the best he had yet published: the _Livres des
Masques_ of 1896 and 1898. These have a lasting value as documents, and
they mark the beginning of the author's permanent work as a critic of
letters. In them he insisted on the warning not to let new genius pass
ungreeted because it was eccentrically draped or unfamiliarly featured.
These two volumes are a precious indication of what French independent
literature was at the very close of the nineteenth century, and it is
interesting after twenty years of development and change to note how few
mistakes Remy de Gourmont made in his characterization of types. He took
a central place among these symbolists, grouping around him the men of
genuine talent, repulsing pretenders who were charlatans and
discouraging mere imitators; marshalling, in short, a ferocious little
army of genius in its attack upon the conventions and the traditions of
the age. Time rolls its wheel, and it is amusing to notice that several
of these fierce young revolutionaries are now members of the French

At the close of the century Remy de Gourmont abandoned symbolism, and
the world of ideas took possession of him. He plunged deeper into the
study of philosophy, grammar, and history, and he explored new provinces
of knowledge, particularly in the direction of ethnography and biology.
In the midst of this acquisitive labour he was stirred to the
composition of one remarkable work after another, and to this period
belong the four successive publications, which, in the whole of
Gourmont's vast production, stand out as the most interesting and
important which he has written. His reputation stands four-square on
_L'Esthétique de la Langue Française_ (1899), _La Culture des Idées_
(1900), _Le Chemin de Velours_ (1902), and _Le Problème du Style_
(1902). During the thirteen years which followed he wrote incessantly,
and the widening circle of his admirers always found much to praise in
what he produced. But now that we see his life-work as a whole it seems
more and more plain that he revealed his genius freshly and fully in
these four books of his prime, and in a world so crowded as ours the
reader who has much to attract him may be recommended to these as broad
and perhaps sufficient exponents of the character of Gourmont's

It has been said by one of his earliest associates, M. Louis Dumur, that
Gourmont was always "le bon chasseur du mensonge humain." This is a
friendly way of describing his intellectual dogmatism and his restless
habit of analysis. He took nothing for granted, and, whether he desired
to be so or not, he was a destructive force. He describes himself, in
one of his rather rare paragraphs of self-portraiture, as "un esprit
désintéressé de tout, et intéressé à tout," and this very accurately
defines his attitude. He strikes us as ceaselessly hovering over
hitherto uncontested facts in the passionate desire of proving them to
be fallacies. The epithet "paradoxical," which is often misapplied,
appears to be exactly appropriate to the method of Remy de Gourmont,
which starts by denying the truth of something which everybody has taken
for granted, and then supporting the reversed position by rapid and
ingenious argument. He is unable to accept any convention until he has
resolutely turned it inside out, examined it in every hostile light, and
so dusted and furbished it that it has ceased to be conventional. He was
indefatigable in these researches, and so ingenious as to be often
bewildering and occasionally tiresome.

He has left no book more characteristic than _Le Chemin de Velours_,
which he called a study in the dissociation of ideas. He chose a very
illuminating tag from Pascal as his motto: "ni la contradiction n'est
marque de fausseté, ni l'incontradiction n'est marque de vérité." The
whole treatise is a comparison between the Jansenist and the Jesuit
system of morals, as revealed in the _Provincial Letters_. Like many
Frenchmen of recent years, Remy de Gourmont liked religion to be
championed, but never by a believer. Neither Port Royal nor the Society
of Jesus would thank him for his disinterested support, but he defends
them, alternately and destructively, with an immense fund of vivacity.
No one has defined more luminously the evangelical doctrine of
Jansenius, Bishop of Ypres, and for a while the reader thinks that the
balance will descend on the Jansenist side. But Gourmont is scandalized
to see Calvinism banging the door of salvation in people's faces, while
he applauds the humanity of the Jesuits in holding it wide open, and in
spreading between birth and death a velvet carpet for delicate souls. He
analyses the works of Sarrasa, a Flemish Jesuit, who in 1618 produced an
_Ars semper gaudendi_ which was, according to Gourmont, neither more nor
less than a treatise on the way to make the best of both worlds.
Gourmont was endlessly amused by the indiscreet admissions of Father

Nevertheless, the Jesuit type shocked him more than the Jansenist. He
admired the logical penetration of Pascal, his rigidity of thought, his
unalterable ideal of duty, more than the easy-going casuistry of his
opponents. He thought that Protestantism, which rests on abstraction,
was a purer type of religion than the mitigated and humanized
Christianity of Catholicism. But he was irritated by the way in which
Port Royal pushed their spiritual logic to extremes, and he dared to
suggest that Pascal would have been a better and a more useful man if he
had consented to be less holy. Gourmont speculated ingeniously what
would have been the future of philosophical literature if Pascal,
instead of retiring to Port Royal, had joined Descartes in Holland. On
the whole he decides against the Jansenists, because although he sees
that they were noble he suspects them of being inhuman, and of laying
intolerable and needless burdens upon the spirit of man. Remy de
Gourmont considered evangelical Christianity an Oriental religion, not
well fitted for Latin Europe. In all the schisms and heresies of the
churches he thought he saw the Western mind revolting against a
dogmatism which came from Jerusalem. The Jansenist is a pessimist; the
Jesuit, on the other hand, cultivates optimism; he pretends, at all
events, that the soul should be free and joyous, to which end he rolls
out his velvet road towards salvation. Remy de Gourmont concludes that
the final effect of _Les Provinciales_ is to make the reader love the
Jesuits, and when he comes to sum up the matter he is on the side of the
Society, because nothing wounds a civilized man so deeply as the
negation of his free will. It will be seen that neither party gains much
from his sardonic and fugitive approbation.

After 1902 a further transformation began to be visible in the genius of
Remy de Gourmont. An improvement in his health permitted him to mingle a
little with other human beings, and to become less exclusively an
anchorite of the intellect. Having pushed his individualist theories to
their extreme, he withdrew from his violent expression of them, and he
took a new and pleasing interest in public life. He continued to seek
consolation for the disappointments of art in philosophy and science,
and he developed a positive passion for ideas. He founded the _Revue des
Idées_, which had a considerable vogue in the intellectual world. But
his chief activity henceforward was as a publicist. His incessant short
essays, mainly published in the _Mercure de France_, became an element
in the life of thousands of cultivated readers. They dealt briefly with
questions of the day, concerning all that can arrest the attention of an
educated man or woman. The author collected them in volumes which
present the quintessence of his later manner, four of _Epilogues_, three
of _Promenades Littéraires_, three of _Promenades Philosophiques_, and
so forth. These dogmatic expressions of his conception of life were
written in a style more fluid, more buoyant, and less obscure than he
had previously used, and they achieved a great popularity, especially
among women. Meantime, as a critic, he showed less and less interest in
the exceptional and the unwholesome, of which he had been the fantastic
defender, and more in the great standard authors of France. In 1905 he
opened with an anthology from Gérard de Nerval a series of _Les Plus
Belles Pages_, which he continued until the war with admirable judgment.

The war found Remy de Gourmont not totally unprepared. He had always
unflinchingly avowed himself an aristocrat and an anarchist; it was his
way of expressing his horror at vulgarity and tyranny. He had chosen to
be disconcerting in his vindictive pursuit of sentimentality and folly.
He had thought it fitting to be a determined enemy to militarism. It was
difficult for a critic with so fine an ear as his to tolerate patriotic
verses which did not scan. But the ripening years had sobered him, and
he made after 1911 a much more careful examination of the destiny of his
country. He saw that with all his scepticism he had been the dupe of
Teutonic culture, and he repudiated the Nietzsche whom he had done so
much to introduce to Parisian readers. From August, 1914, Remy de
Gourmont put aside all his literary and scientific work, and devoted
himself wholly to a patriotic comment on the war. His short articles in
_La France_ form an admirable volume, _Pendant l'Orage_, by which all
his petulance in times of peace is more than redeemed. The anguish of
the struggle killed him, as it had killed so many others. Remy de
Gourmont was seated at his writing-table, with a protest against the
outrage upon Reims half-completed before him, when a stroke of apoplexy
put an instant period to his life. This was on the 29th of September,

In one of his best books, _Le Problème du Style_ (1902), Remy de
Gourmont remarks in his aphoristic way, "Il y a une forme générale de la
sensibilité qui s'impose à tous les hommes d'une même période." This is
excessive in its application, but it is sufficiently true to be a useful
guide to the historian. Between 1890 and 1905 there was exhibited, not
merely in France and England, but all over Europe, a "general form of
sensibility" of which Gourmont was the ablest, the most vociferous, and
the most ingenious representative. It is important to try to analyse
this condition or fashion of taste, since, although it has already
passed into the region of things gone by and of "les neiges d'antan," it
has not ceased to be memorable. Our comprehension of it is not helped by
ticketing it "decadent" or "unhealthy," for those are empty adjectives
of prejudice. What was really involved in it was a revolt against
sentimentality and against the tendency to repeat with complacency the
outworn traditions of art. This was its negative side, worthy of all
encouragement. What was not quite so certainly meritorious was its
positive action. It was a demand for an exclusively personal æsthetic,
for an art severely divorced from all emotions except the purely
intellectual ones, the sensuousness of this school of writers being
essentially cerebral. It descended in England from Walter Pater, in
France from Baudelaire, and it aimed at a supreme delicacy of execution,
an exquisite avoidance of everything vulgar and second-hand. The young
men who fought for it considered that the only thing essential was to
achieve what they called a "personal vision" of life. In the pursuit of
it they were willing to be candid at the risk of perversity, while they
obstinately denied that there should be any relation between art and
morals. But Remy de Gourmont, who had been their leader in aiming at an
impossible perfection, lived long enough to see the whole intellect and
conscience of France pressing along a path to greatness which he and his
disciples had never perceived in all the excursions of their



In the year 1893, after a succession of events which are still
remembered with emotion, M. Clemenceau fell from political eminence, not
gradually or by transitions of decay, but with theatrical suddenness
like that of a Lucifer "hurled headlong flaming from the ætherial sky."
His enemies, rewarded beyond their extreme hopes, gazed down into the
abyss and thought that they discerned his "cadavre politique" lying
motionless at the bottom. They rejoiced to believe that he would trouble
them no more. He had passed the age of fifty years, and all his hopes
were broken, all his ambitions shattered. They rubbed their hands
together, and smiled; "we shall hear no more of _him_!" But they did not
know with what manner of man they were dealing. What though the field
was lost? All was not lost:

                The unconquerable Will,
    And study of revenge, immortal hate,
    And courage never to submit or yield;
    And what is else not to be overcome?

So brilliant an array of mingled intelligence, pertinacity, vigour, and
high spirits have rarely been seen united, and the possessor of these
qualities was not likely to be silenced by the most formidable junta of
intriguers. As a matter of fact, he turned instantly to a new sphere of
action, and became the man of letters of whom I propose to speak in
these pages. But for his catastrophe in 1893, it is probable that M.
Clemenceau would never have become an author.

A brief summary of his early life is needed to bring the series of his
published works into due relief. Georges Clemenceau was the second son
of a family of six; he was born on the 28th of September, 1841, and was
therefore a little younger than Joseph Chamberlain and Lord Morley, and
a little older than Sir Charles Dilke. His birthplace was a hamlet close
to the old and picturesque town of Fontenay-le-Comte, in the Vendée,
where his father practised as a doctor. There can be no doubt that
Benjamin Clemenceau, an old provincial "bleu," materialist and Jacobin,
exercised a great influence on the mind of his son, who accepted, with a
docility remarkable in so firm an individual, the traditions of his race
and family. We are told that the elder Clemenceau "communicated to his
son his hatred of injustice, his independence, his scientific worship of
facts, his refusal to bow to anything less than the verdict of
experiment." There was also a professional tradition to which young
Georges Clemenceau assented. For three hundred years, without a break,
his forebears had been doctors. I do not think that any of his
biographers has observed the fact that Fontenay-le-Comte, though so
small a place, has always been a centre of advanced scientific thought.
It has produced a line of eminent physicians, for Pierre Brissot was
born there in the fifteenth century, Sébastian Collin in the sixteenth,
and Mathurin Brisson in the eighteenth. There can be little doubt that
these facts were in the memory of the elder Clemenceau and were
transmitted to his son.

Fontenay-le-Comte is on the western edge of the Bocage of Poitou, not to
be confounded with the delicious woodland Bocage which lies south and
west of Caen. The Poitou Bocage is a more limited and a more remote
district, little visited by tourists, a rolling country of heatherland
clustered with trees, and split up by little torrential chasms. It is
often to be recognized in M. Clemenceau's sketches of landscapes, and is
manifestly the scene of part of his novel, _Les Plus Forts_. The natural
capital of this Bocage is Nantes, lying full to the north of Fontenay,
and thither the young man went at an early age to study at the Lycée. It
was at the hospital at Nantes that his first introduction to medicine
was made. Thence he finally departed in 1860, another _déraciné_, to
fight for his fortunes in Paris. He brought little with him save a
letter of introduction from his father to Etienne Arago. For five years
he worked indomitably at his medical studies, refreshing his brain
occasionally by brief holidays spent at his father's rough and ancient
manor-house of Aubraie, in his native Bocage.

He took his degree of M.D. in 1865, and presented a thesis _De la
Génération des Eléments anatomiques_, which was immediately published,
and which caused some stir in professional circles. It is said to
contain a vigorous refutation of some of the doctrines of Auguste Comte,
and in particular to deprecate a growing agnosticism among men of
science. The axiom, "Supprimer les questions, n'est pas y répondre," is
quoted from it, and again the characteristic statement, "Nous ne sommes
pas de ceux qui admettent avec l'école positiviste que la science ne
peut fournir aucun renseignement sur l'énigme des choses." The thesis
dealt, moreover, according to M. Pierre Quillard, who has had the
courage to unearth and to analyse it, with "les organismes rudimentaires
des néphélés, des hirudinées et glossiphonies," subjects the very names
of which are horrifying to the indolent lay reader. The young savant,
shaking off the burden of his studies, escaped to London, where he
appears to have made the acquaintance, through Admiral Maxse, of several
Englishmen who were about to become famous in the world of politics and
letters. But perhaps these friendships are of later date; as the memoirs
of the mid-Victorians come more and more to light, the name of M.
Clemenceau will be looked for in the record.

He went to the United States in 1866, and took an engagement as French
master in a girls' school at Stamford, in Connecticut, a seaside haunt
of tired New Yorkers in summer. A little later, Verlaine was
under-master in a boys' school at Bournemouth. How little we guess, when
we take our walks abroad, that genius, and foreign genius too, may be
lurking in the educational procession! M. Clemenceau appears to look
back on Stamford with complacency; he accompanied "dans leurs
promenades les jeunes misses américaines: c'étaient de libres et
délicieuses chevauchées, des excursions charmantes au long des routes
ombreuses qui sillonnent les riants parages" of Long Island Sound. He
declares that the happy and lighthearted years at Stamford were those in
which his temperament "acheva de se fortifier et de s'affiner." It was
in the course of one of the "suaves équipées" that he ventured to
propose to one of the young American "misses." This was Miss Mary
Plummer, whom he married after a preliminary visit to France.

For the next quarter of a century Clemenceau was exclusively occupied
with politics. In 1870 he was settled in Montmartre, in a circle of
workmen and little employés whose bodily maladies he relieved, and whose
souls he inflamed with his ardent dreams of a humanitarian paradise when
once the hated Empire should fall. Suddenly the war broke out, and the
Empire was shattered. The government of defence nominated Dr. Clemenceau
Mayor of Montmartre, the most violent centre of revolutionary emotion,
where the excesses of the Commune presently began. He represented
Montmartre at Bordeaux in 1871, and in 1876 Montmartre, which had
remained faithful to its doctor-mayor, sent him again to the Chamber of
Deputies as its representative. This is not the occasion on which to
enter into any detail with regard to the ceaseless activity which he
displayed in a purely political capacity between 1870 and 1893. It is
enshrined in the history of the Republic, and will occupy the pens of
innumerable commentators of French affairs. We can only record that in
1889, M. Clemenceau, who had refused many pressing invitations to leave
Paris for Draguignan, consented to take up his election as deputy for
the Provençal department.

The career of M. Clemenceau as deputy for the Var came to an end in
1893, after the explosion of the Panama scandal. On the 8th of August in
that year he pronounced an apologia over his political life, an address
full of dignity and fire, in which the failure of his ambition was
acknowledged. His figure was never more attractive than it was at that
distressing moment, when he found himself the object of almost universal
public disfavour. He had, perhaps, over-estimated the vigour of his own
prestige; he had browbeaten the political leaders of the day, he had
stormed like a bull the china-shops of the little political hucksters,
he had contemptuously exposed the intrigues of the baser sort of
political politician. He disdained popularity so proudly, that one of
his own supporters urged him to cultivate the hatred of the crowd with a
little less coquettishness. But he was a political Don Quixote, not to
be held nor bound; he could but rush straight upon his own temporary

The means which his enemies employed to displace him were contemptible
in the extreme, but their malice was easily accounted for. He had
excited the deep resentment of all the supporters of General Boulanger,
who accused him of being the cause of their favourite's fall, and with
having betrayed him in 1888. The fanatics of the Panama scandal
endeavoured to prove that his newspaper, _La Justice_, had supported the
schemes and accepted the cheques of the egregious Cornelius Herz. The
Anglophobes, who unhappily numbered too many of the less thinking
population of France at that time, accused him of intriguing with the
English Government to the detriment of the Republic, and they went so
far as to produce documents, forged by the notorious mulatto, Norton,
which they pretended had been stolen from our embassy in Paris. "Qu'il
parle anglais," was one accusation shouted at Clemenceau in the Chamber
on the 4th of June, 1888. Calamities of every sort, public and private,
gathered round his undaunted head. At last he could ignore these attacks
no longer, and on a fateful day he rose to put himself right before
Parliament. It was too late; his appearance was greeted by an icy
silence, and, as he said himself, he glanced round to see none but the
hungry faces of men longing for the moment when they could trample on
his corpse. Magnificent as was his defence, it availed him nothing
against such a combination of malignities; even his few friends, losing
courage, failed to support him. The legislative elections were at hand,
and the enemies of M. Clemenceau very cleverly organized a press
propaganda, which presented him to the French public in an absolutely
odious light. He went down to address his Provençal constituents, and in
the little mountain town of Salernes he delivered the remarkable speech
to which reference has been made. All in vain: on the 20th of August,
1893, he was ignominiously rejected by the electors of the Var in favour
of a local nonentity, and his career as a member of parliament ended.[7]

These circumstances, which paralysed for many years the parliamentary
activity of Clemenceau, have to be borne in mind when we examine his
literary record. Without delay, in that spirit of prompt acceptance of
the inevitable which has never ceased to mark his buoyant, elastic
character, he threw himself into a new employment. He became, in his
fifty-third year, one of the most active and persistent journalists in
France. His fiery independence and his audacious vivacity pointed him
out at once to editors who had the wit to cater for the better, that is
to say for the livelier, class of readers. M. Clemenceau, a free lance
if ever there was one, became the terror and the delight of _Le Figaro_,
_La Justice_, and _Le Journal_, while to _La Dépêche de Toulouse_ he
contributed articles which presupposed a wider horizon and depended less
on the passion of the moment. Future bibliographers, it may be, will
search the files of these and other newspapers of that day for more and
more numerous examples of his fecundity, since he embraced all subjects
in what he called the huge forest of social existence. An exhibition of
pictures, a new novel, an accident in the suburbs, a definition of God
by M. Jules Simon, a joke by M. Francis Maynard, the effect of champagne
upon labour unrest, the architecture of Chicago--nothing came amiss to
the pen of a man whose curiosity about life was boundless, and whose
facility in expression was volcanic.

But there was a certain group of subjects which, at this critical hour
in his career, particularly attracted the attention of M. Clemenceau,
and these give a special colour to the earliest, and perhaps the most
remarkable, collection of his essays. A student of the temperament of
the great statesman, as he has since then so pre-eminently shown himself
to be, is bound to give his mind to the volume called _La Mêlée Sociale_
which M. Clemenceau published in 1895. This was practically his earliest
bid for purely literary distinction, since the juvenile theses on
anatomical subjects, and the translations from John Stuart Mill, hardly
come within the category of literature. Between 1876 and 1885 M.
Clemenceau had printed, or had permitted to be circulated, a certain
number of his speeches in the Chamber; I have traced eight of these in
the catalogue of M. Le Blond. These formed a very small fraction of his
abundant eloquence in Parliament, and they were not particularly
finished as specimens of lettered oratory. But between 1885 and 1895 we
do not find even such slender evidences as these of the politician's
desire to pose as an author. The publication of _La Mêlée Sociale_,
therefore, was, to speak practically, an experiment; it was the
challenge of a new writer, or at least of a publicist who had never
before competed with the recognized creators of books.

It is obvious that in making this experiment M. Clemenceau exercised a
great deal of care and forethought. The articles reprinted are not
presented haphazard, nor without an evident intention of producing the
best effect possible. They are selected on a peculiar system from the
mass of the journalist's miscellaneous output. The collection has a
central idea, and this is developed in a very remarkable preface, which
remains one of the author's most philosophical and most elaborate
compositions. This central idea is the tragical one of the great vital
conflict which pervades the world, has always pervaded it, and must ever
remain unaffected by the superficial improvements of civilization. All
through the universe the various living organisms are in a condition of
ceaseless contest. Everywhere something conquers something else which is
conquered, and life sustains itself and ensures its own permanence by
spreading death around it. Life, in fact, depends on death for its
sustaining energy, and the fiercer the passion of vitality the more
vehemently flourishes the instinct of destruction.

The imagination of the author of _La Mêlée Sociale_ broods upon the
monstrous facts of natural history. If he traverses a woodland, he is
conscious of a silent army of beasts and birds and insects, and even of
trees and plants, which are waging ceaseless battle against others of
their kind. If he begins to stir the soil of a meadow with his foot, he
refrains with a shudder, since millions of corpses lie but just below
the surface of the fruitful earth. He peers down into the depths of the
sea, only to recognize that a prodigious and unflagging massacre of
living forms is necessary to keep the ocean habitable for those who
survive. Everywhere, throughout the universe, he finds carnage
triumphant; and eternal warfare is the symbol of the instinct of

It will be seen that the new author approached literature definitely
from the scientific side, but also that he placed himself almost
exclusively under the direction of English minds. M. Clemenceau, in that
intense and unceasing contemplation of life which has been his most
remarkable characteristic, has always been inspired by English models.
In his early youth he was deeply impressed with the teaching of J. S.
Mill, and in later years he was manifestly under the successive sway of
Sir Charles Lyell and of Herbert Spencer. But by the time he collected
his essays in _La Mêlée Sociale_, he was completely infatuated by the
system of Darwin. He had long been familiar with _The Origin of
Species_ and _The Descent of Man_; the death of Darwin in 1882 had
deprived him of a master and, as it seemed, a friend, while the
publication of the _Life and Letters_ in 1887 had given a coherency and,
we may say, an atmosphere, to his conception of the illustrious English
savant. When, therefore, M. Clemenceau put together the material of _La
Mêlée Sociale_, he did so in the quality of an advanced Darwinian, and
he produced his first book almost as a tribute of affection to the
memory of the greatest exponent of the tragedy of natural selection. But
the habit of his mind, and no doubt the conditions of his own fortunes,
led him into a field more tragical than any haunted by the spirit of the
placid philosopher of Down. Charles Darwin refrained from pushing his
observations to such sinister conclusions as this:

     La mort, partout la mort. Les continents et les mers gémissent de
     l'effroyable offrande de massacre. C'est le cirque, l'immense
     Collysée de la Terre, où tout ce qui ne pouvait vivre que de mort,
     se pare de lumière et de vie pour mourir. De l'herbe à l'éléphant,
     pas d'autre loi que la loi du plus fort. Au nom de la même loi, le
     dernier né de l'évolution vivante confond tout ce qui est de vie
     dans une prodigieuse hécatombe offerte à la suprématie de sa race.
     Point de pitié. Le pouce retourné commande la mort. L'âme ingrate
     répudie l'antique solidarité des êtres enlacés en la chaîne des
     générations transformées. Le cœur dur est fermé. Tout ce qui
     échappe au carnage prémédité, voulu, s'entretue pour la gloire du
     grand barbare. La splendeur de la floraison de vie s'éteint dans le
     sang, pour en renaître, pour y sombrer encore. Et le cirque,
     toujours vidé, s'emplit toujours.

This passage may be taken as characteristic of the manner of M.
Clemenceau in his most reflective mood, in the "style bref, mais clair
et vibrant," which Octave Mirbeau commended. This way of writing would
err on the side of rhetoric, were it not so concise and rapid, so full
of the gusto of life even in its celebration of death. For, in the pages
of _La Mêlée Sociale_, M. Clemenceau shows himself interpenetrated by
the sorrows rather than sustained by the possibilities of the tormented
inhabitants of earth. Recent events, in his own life and in the history
of the French nation, had impressed on his consciousness the inherent
cruelty of human beings to one another. Like Wordsworth, and with a far
sharper personal pang, he had good reason to lament what man has made of
man. Moreover, the months which had extended between M. Clemenceau's
political fall and the publication of _La Mêlée Sociale_ had been marked
by violent unrest and by a succession of political crimes. Anarchism,
hitherto more a theory and a threat than a practical element in the
existence of the people, had taken startling prominence. In quick and
formidable succession the crimes of Vaillant, of Emile Henry, of Caserio
and others, had filled the minds of men with alarm and horror. These
events, and the strikes in various trades with their attendant sabotage,
and the unrest among the miners, and the earliest germination of that
new disease of the State, syndicalism,--all these and many other
evidences of renewed bitterness in the struggle for life created in the
mind of M. Clemenceau an obsession which is reflected in every chapter
of _La Mêlée Sociale_. As a physician, no less than as a publicist, he
diagnosed the "misère physiologique" of the age, and he railed against
those in power who touched with the tips of their white kid gloves the
maladies which were blackening the surface and substance of human
society. In the memory of the attempt made last February to assassinate
M. Clemenceau, a special interest attaches to his discussion of this
class of murders, of which he gave a remarkably close and prolonged
analysis, little conceiving, of course, that he would live to be himself
the object of a crime at which the whole world would shudder.

The reader who wishes the literary aspect of M. Clemenceau's mind to be
revealed to him in its greatest amenity may next be recommended to turn
to the preface of the volume entitled _Le Grand Pan_, which appeared in
1896. The book itself consists of seventy little essays, reprinted from
the _Figaro_, the _Echo de Paris_, and other newspapers. These have
nothing or very little to do with Pan, but they are eked out and given
determination by a long rhapsody in honour of the goat-foot son of
Callista, treated as the symbol of natural, as opposed to supernatural
science. Everybody knows the famous passage in Plutarch which describes
how Thamous the pilot, sailing out of the Gulf of Corinth towards the
Ionian Sea on the eve of the crucifixion of Christ, heard a voice
announce that "Great Pan is dead!"

    And that dismal cry rose slowly
    And sank slowly through the air,
    Full of spirit's melancholy
    And eternity's despair!
    And they heard the words it said--
    Pan is dead--Great Pan is dead--
           Pan, Pan is dead.

In a passage of rare picturesque beauty M. Clemenceau reproduces the
animated and mysterious scene. He had himself lately returned from a
visit to Greece, which had deeply stirred the sources of his
sensibility. He recalled how the sun, in a transparency of pale gold,
sank behind the blue mass of Ithaca, tinged with rose-colour the crags
of the Echinades, and bathed the mountains and the sea in the delicate
enchantment of sunset. He was sensitive to the paroxysm of pleasure such
an experience produces, and he conceived himself standing by the side of
the grammarian, Epitherses, on board the merchant-vessel, at the very
moment when there sounded three times from the shore the name of
Thamous, the Egyptian pilot, who answered at length, and received the
mysterious command, "When thou art opposite Palodes, announce that the
great Pan is dead!" The recesses of the mountains, the caves on the
island, the solitude of the drear battle-field of Actium, took up the
hollow cry and reverberated it in a thousand accents of despair, with
groans and shrieks of sorrow and confused bewailing, while all nature
united in the echoing lamentation, "Pan, great Pan, is dead!"

In this strange way M. Clemenceau opens an essay in defence of a purely
positivist theory of human existence. He describes the doctrine of the
pagan divinities, under the tyranny of Christianity, and he predicts
their resurrection under clearer and calmer auspices. For M. Clemenceau,
Pan is the symbol of life in its harmonious and composite action, and
science is the intelligent worship of Pan. This despised and fallen god,
who seemed for one dark moment to be dead, survives and will return to
his faithful adorers, has indeed returned already, and turns the tables
on his priestly persecutors. The apparent death of Pan was but a sleep
and a forgetting; the spirit of humanity, dominated for a moment by
superstition and ignorance, seemed to be lying bound and mute, but it is
vocal again, and its powers prove to be unshackled. The Orphic hymn, in
dark numbers, had pronounced the sky and the sea, earth the universal
and fire the immortal, to be the limbs of Pan. Under the early sway of
Christianity the office and meaning of the pagan gods faded into mist;
they seemed to disappear for ever. Darkness gathered over the sweet
natural influences of the physical world, and reality was bartered for a
feverish dream of heaven and hell.

But the gods were only preparing in silence for their ultimate
resuscitation. Lactantius said that "Idols and religion are two
incompatible things"; in his famous _De Origine Erroris_, conscious of
the necessity of recognizing a central force of energy in nature, the
earliest Christian philosopher repulsed the notion of polytheism, and
insisted that piety can exist only in the worship of the one God. He,
like the Christian Fathers before him, shut up the spirit of man in a
prison from which there seemed no escape. But the polytheists, thus
violently Christianized against their will, remained pagan in essence,
and they escaped, as by a miracle, from the furies of the Gospel and the
Koran. The revolt was held in check through the Middle Ages; in the
Renaissance it became victorious, and the first activity of man in
liberty was an unconscious but none the less real restitution of the old
liberating deities. The shepherds of Arcadia saw the blood come back
into the marble face and hands of their dead god. Pan was moving on the
earth once more, for he had triumphed over the sterile forces of
dissolution. Pan, as ancient as social order itself, radiant master of
the beneficent powers of light, has once more become the supreme deity.
This, put briefly, is the thesis of M. Clemenceau.

The influence of Renan is manifest through the whole of this rhapsody,
which is unique among the writings of its author. M. Clemenceau had
followed the track of Pan through the valleys of Arcadia, and up the
rocky pathways that rise abruptly from the stony bed of Alpheus. An
actual visit to Greece, the date of which I have not verified, appears
to have influenced his imagination; he says, "je l'ai voulu chercher,
moi-même; au dépit de Thamous, près des antiques sources dolentes," and
he tells us how an avalanche of falling stones and a clatter of cloven
hoofs overhead often made him fancy the deity almost within his grasp.
In these passages M. Clemenceau reveals himself more plainly than
anywhere else as an imaginative positivist, who permits his fancy to
play with romantic and even fantastic visions, yet who is none the less
essentially emancipated from everything but reality. He is never the
dupe of his own symbol. He rejects natural religion no less firmly than
revealed religion, and he will not submit his conscience to any
supernatural authority. The reader, if he has the patience to do so, may
follow the close parallelism of the purely intellectual positivism of
the author with the charming, supple, elusive philosophy of Renan in his
_L'Avenir de la Science_.

In no other of his writings is M. Clemenceau quite so emancipated from
the prejudice of the moment as he is m the preface to _Le Grand Pan_.
His central idea is one of satisfaction in the survival of the spirits
of the dead gods, to whom, of course, he gives his own formula of
definition. Nothing in history seems to affect him more painfully than
the tragedy of the massacre of the sacred statues under Theodosius,
when, as Gibbon has so eloquently described, the most high gods were
exposed to the derision of the crowd, and then melted down. Where M.
Clemenceau's emotion seems to be slightly deficient in logic is the
parallel between these ancient gods who retain his sympathy, and the
strictly impersonal forces of which he acknowledges them a symbol. He
delights in Apollo, Pan, and Jove, and speaks of them almost as though
they were individuals, yet he admits no sentimentality with regard to
what they represent. On the whole, his attitude is not one of benignity.
He confesses that nature reveals nothing but a system of forces
interacting upon one another; it is not moral and it is not beneficent.
Here the tone of _Le Grand Pan_ becomes identical with that of _La Mêlée
Sociale_. But we demand a clear definition of the central symbol. What
does M. Clemenceau really mean us to understand by Pan? We push him up
into a corner; we refuse to let him take refuge in his Renanesque
imaginations, and we extract an answer at last. Pan is the source of all
moral and intellectual action:

     Pan nous commande. II faut agir. L'action est le principe, l'action
     est le moyen, l'action est le but. L'action obstinée de tout
     l'homme au profit de tous, l'action désintéressée, supérieure aux
     puériles glorioles, aux rémunérations des rêves d'éternité, comme
     aux desespérances des batailles perdues ou de l'inéluctable mort,
     l'action en évolution d'idéal, unique force et totale vertu.

The career of M. Clemenceau has been marked throughout by sudden and
spasmodic crises, rather than by slow evolution of events. If this is
true of his political history, it is repeated in his literary record. We
need not, therefore, affect surprise at finding him, at the age of
fifty-seven, and in the midst of the most bewildering distractions,
produce his one and only novel, a modern story deliberately conducted
to its close in four hundred pages. When _Les Plus Forts_ was published,
in 1898, its author was extremely out of the fashion, and it passed
almost unobserved from the press. Not a single Parisian critic, so far
as I have discovered, gave it any serious attention, and it sank at once
into an obscurity out of which the immense recent vogue of M. Clemenceau
has only lately drawn it. _Les Plus Forts_ was issued at the darkest
moment of the statesman's reversal, when he was repudiated by the great
majority of those who adore him to-day. He had actually gone so far as
to speak of his own as a "vie manquée," when a fresh opportunity of
perilous service to the State fell in his way.

In October, 1897, M. Ernest Vaughan, who had laid by a very considerable
sum of money for the purpose of founding an efficient social and
literary newspaper, approached Clemenceau with the offer of the
editorship in chief. The famous _L'Aurore_ came into existence, and it
set sail at once in the stormy waters of the Dreyfus affair. Terrific
was the clash of passions around the name of the mysterious Jew, whose
exact character and definite purpose will perhaps never be completely
elucidated. M. Clemenceau did not hesitate to throw the weight of his
pen into the unpopular scale. When Esterhazy was acquitted he almost
lost his self-control; with furious irony and snarling invectives he
lashed the populace into a frenzy. Then followed (on the 13th of
January, 1898) the famous intervention of Zola, in a manifesto which
rang from one end of the civilized world to the other. This was
_J'accuse_, the admirably effective title of which, so M. Maurice Le
Blond assures us, was the invention of Clemenceau. Next month, at the
Zola trial, Clemenceau defended the cause of justice in the teeth of
enemies who did not refrain from threatening his very life, and for two
years _L'Aurore_, in the midst of the frenzied Dreyfus hurly-burly, was
unflagging in its attacks and its rejoinders.

At such a moment M. Clemenceau sat down to write his solitary novel. It
would be fulsome to represent _Les Plus Forts_ as a masterpiece of
fiction, though in the present flush of the author's celebrity some have
dared so to describe it. As a matter of fact it owes the interest which
it possesses almost entirely to the light which it throws on the
character of its author. As a mere romance, _Les Plus Forts_ suffers
from the fact that its author, gifted in so many other directions, is
not an effective narrator. As Dr. Johnson mischievously said of
Congreve's one novel, _Incognita_, it is easier to praise _Les Plus
Forts_ than to read it. The scene is laid in a village deep in the heart
of Poitou, and commentators have recognized a close reproduction of
Mouilleron-en-Paradis, the hamlet near Fontenay where M. Clemenceau was
born. At the moment of his fiercest struggle in Paris, his thoughts
turned back to the cool woods and the still waters of his old home in
the west, to the land of hollow valleys, and to the inexpressive
sixteenth-century château which the doctor's child learned to regard as
the symbol of rapine and tyranny in the past.

We are introduced to M. Henri, marquis de Puymaufray, a man of over
sixty, solitary, a confirmed bachelor, not so good a shot as he used to
be. The lonely old man comes back, defeated by life, to his château in
Poitou. The mise-en-scène is lugubrious in the extreme, punctuated by
the shrieking peacocks at noon and the hooting owls at night. When this
impression has been sketched in, we turn back to the hero's early
history, and follow the adventures of a young buck of the Second Empire,
brought up to despise science, modern thought, the action of democracy
in every form. He begins as a pontifical zouave in bondage to Rome; he
ends as a sort of anarchist. The biography of the young and stupid
nobleman is thus made a peg on which to hang dissertations on all the
principal maladies which affected French society a quarter of a century
ago. There is an exaggerated forceful woman, the Vicomtesse de
Fourchamps, who plays a sustained but obscure part in the intrigue. What
does she want? It is difficult to say; she is always "preparing for the
battle" or attempting to "conquer" somebody. "Il faut conquérir," she
incessantly repeats; she is a kind of tigress, and she seems to be, in
petticoats, a type of every social and political movement of which M.
Clemenceau disapproves.

The Parisian scenes in M. Clemenceau's novel are not very amusing, and,
oddly enough, they are weighed down by a sort of heavy gorgeousness,
somewhat in the mode of Disraeli not at his best. All the characters
preach, and the reader comes to sympathize with the vicomtesse when she
declares herself "agacée des sermons du marquis." The young girl, Claude
Harlé, is a somewhat shadowy heroine. She passes as the daughter of a
rich industrial, but she is in reality the child of Puymaufray, who was
the lover of her mother, since deceased. It is easy to understand that
M. Clemenceau has taken this pathetic and tremulous figure as
representative of what is chimerical in the society of the day. In her
original condition, he puts into her mouth the crude sentiments which
are supposed to be nurtured by the enemies of democracy. Claude calmly
states that "the good God has instituted two classes of human beings,
the rich and the poor, and it is our duty to maintain our inferiors in
the practices of religion." A good deal of art is required to remove
from such speeches as these the crude appearance of falsity; and it may
be remarked that the pious characters in _Les Plus Forts_ are not more
like real human beings than are the atheists in M. Paul Bourget's later

What is of extraordinary interest in _Les Plus Forts_ is not the story
itself, which is thin, nor the conduct of the adventures, which is
stilted, but the temper and attitude of the writer. If we ask ourselves
what is the principal characteristic of this novel, the answer must
be--the intensity of action of the personages; they seem to have springs
of steel in their insides; they run when other people walk, and cannot
move without leaping in the air. "Il faut aux conquérants la pleine
sécurité de leur corps. Où l'âme conduit, la bête doit suivre." The book
is full of strange utterances of this order, which reveal the violence
of the author's temperament in flashes of odd light. The episodes, the
conversations, are little more than a series of irregular theses on
various aspects of the struggle for life. The world is regarded as
simply "le syndicat des plus forts," and this idea underlies the title
of the book. We are not allowed to forget it, even when our attention is
being switched away to the discipline of little Chinese children in a
missionary settlement, or to the importance of encouraging a
manufacturer of paper in Ceylon.

What is perhaps the most characteristic passage of M. Clemenceau's
single novel may be quoted as an example both of his philosophy and of
his style. It occurs in the course of a long conversation between father
and daughter.

     Certes non, l'argent n'est pas tout. Il est trop, simplement.
     L'argent n'est pas tout, mais il a le genre humain pour clientèle,
     car il est devenu, de force libératrice, l'egoïsme tangible en
     rondelles de métal. Voilà pourquoi tout cède à l'universelle
     attraction qui n'est pas suffisamment contre-balancée par d'autres.
     L'argent n'est pas tout. Pourtant autour de lui se rassemblent
     toutes les autres puissances sociales, et celles-là même qui
     s'annoncèrent protectrices des hommes, aussitôt installées, par lui
     se sont agglomérées en tyrannie. Il a remplacé la force brutale,
     dit-on ... à la condition de l'exprimer par d'autres signes. Contre
     l'expression du monde, il y avait Dieu autrefois, a dit quelqu'un.
     Peut-être. J'ai toujours trouvé Dieu du côté des plus forts.

M. Clemenceau did not pause, meanwhile, from his journalistic labours,
and he continued to offer to the public of Paris successive selections
from the mass of his productions. On each of these occasions a preface,
composed with more than usual care, gave the keynote to the series of
essays, or rather suggested a tone of mind in which the reader would do
well to study them. In the introduction to the volume of 1900, called
_Au Fil des Jours_, the author returned to his favourite theme, the
struggle against the universally destructive forces of Nature. The life
of man is concentrated on resistance to the persistent attacks upon it
made by an army of inimical forces. The pride of existence is humbled by
the inevitable fatality which governs the fortunes of the Olympian gods
themselves. And it is useless to appeal, with the sentimental
pantheists, to the beneficence of Nature, for Nature is the most
relentless, the most indomitable of our enemies. In that extraordinary
little tragedy of Victor Hugo, _Mangeront-ils_, the vain appeal is made:

                        Est-ce pas,
    Nature, que tu hais les semeurs de trépas,
    Qui dans l'air frappent l'aigle et sur l'eau la sarcelle,
    Et font partout saigner la vie universelle?

With the clairvoyance of the biologist, M. Clemenceau divines the vanity
of these remonstrances, and from the terrible cruelty of Nature he sees
no relief save in vigorous action. "Toute âme haute veut être de la
mêlée." The most troublous epochs are battles for the ideal, even at
their worst moments. The only way to resist the destructive fatality of
Nature is to strive for an amelioration of the lot of the human race. In
all this, the texture of which is occasionally a little stretched when
it is made to cover newspaper articles on the lighting of Paris or a
show of prize pigeons, M. Clemenceau displays his eager wish to
subordinate all his writing to a set of philosophical ideas. He has
always held that the general impulses on which our daily existence
depends reach us through the channels of thought. He is, therefore, a
philosopher by determination, and he bases his own intellectual system
on Pasteur and Spencer, on Darwin and J. S. Mill, on Taine and Renan. I
have already spoken of the immense influence evidently exercised on
Clemenceau by Renan's early and least ripe work _L'Avenir de la
Science_. No doubt it was the reading of that remarkable book which led
Clemenceau, already biassed in favour of materialism, to transfer to
science all the passion which an earlier generation, and since his
middle age a later generation, gave to religion. It must be understood
that he does not belong in habit of mind or intellectual aspiration to
the characteristic French tradition of to-day.

The great merit of M. Clemenceau, in the agitated years when he wielded
a pen that was like a rapier, consisted in his fearless and disdainful
audacity. He fought in literature exactly as he has always fought in
politics, with the air of one who had no wish to conciliate his
opponent, but always to browbeat him, to crush him by the weight of his
argument, and then run him through the body with his irony. When we turn
over the pages of his books, which suffer an inevitable loss from the
fugitive nature of the themes on which they mainly expatiate, we are
astounded at the ceaseless agility of the lucid, restless brain of the
man. He is an acrobat, incessantly flinging himself with aerial
lightness into some new impossible position. An article a day for
twenty-five years--what an expenditure of vital force that seems to sum
up; and yet to-day, at the age of seventy-eight, the indefatigable brain
and body seem as elastic as ever! The fullness of the material in M.
Clemenceau's articles has always been a matter of amazement to those who
know how much clever journalism is of the kind Francisque Sarcey
described when he said, "You may turn the tap as much as you please; if
the cistern is empty, nothing but wind comes out!" But M. Clemenceau
seemed always full, and copious as was the output, the reader had always
the impression that there was much more behind.

We may regret that while the great politician was chiefly engaged in
writing, namely between 1893 and 1903, he was obliged by circumstances
to expend so much of his experience and his condition upon occasional
issues. In turning over his pages, we must not forget that he wrote, not
in the calm retirement of a study, but out in the street, in the midst
of the battle and heat of the day. His insatiable appetite for action
drove him forth into the madding crowd. There has always been something
encyclopædic about his passion for knowledge, for practical acquaintance
with the actual practice of life. He has cultivated a genius for
observation, and his feverish career has been spent in pursuing
knowledge day by day, without giving himself time to arrange the
trophies of his pursuit. He has published no systematic scheme of his
philosophy, but has left us to gather it as well as we may from his
prefaces, and most of all from _Le Grand Pan_. As an author, we may sum
him up as the latest, and in some respects the most vigorous and agile,
of the disciples of the Encyclopædists. Like them, through a long and
breathless career, he has ceaselessly striven to struggle upward into
the light of knowledge.



In the summer of 1872 I received special leave from the Principal
Librarian of the British Museum to visit Denmark and Norway for the
purpose of reporting on the state of current literature in those
countries. Of my Danish experiences I have given an account in my book
called _Two Visits to Denmark_ (Smith, Elder & Co., 1911); but hitherto
I have not published any of my Norwegian adventures. I am led to do so
now, in consequence of a letter which I have just received from Rektor
Frederik Ording, of Holmestrand, who is engaged on a biographical study
of "Henrik Ibsen's Ungdomsvenner," and who tells me that it has become
almost impossible to obtain information about the particular group of
men of letters whom I conversed with more than forty-five years ago.
They are all long since dead, and no one survives who recollects them in
their prime. No one--so it appears--but me! The fact is a solemnizing
one. I feel like the Moses of the poet:

    Je vivrai donc toujours puissant et solitaire?
    Laissez-moi m'endormir du sommeil de la terre;

but before I am allowed by Norway to do that, it seems that I am called
upon to disgorge my recollections. They are, I am afraid, though founded
on a full journal, rather slight.

Ibsen, as is well known, was at that time, and had long been, an exile
from his native country, where his plays were ill received and his
character subjected to a great deal of stupid insult. But there was a
small circle of his early friends who remained true to the devotion
which his genius had inspired in them. When I was in Copenhagen, it was
impressed upon me that these men formed the real Norway, the fine flower
of Norse culture and intelligence, and it was to them that I took
introductions. They were mainly jurists, archæologists and historians,
whose studies into the annals of their country had given them a
determination to support existing institutions. They were called
"Conservatives," and by the radical press were treated as though their
ideas were desperately retrograde. But in any other country but Norway,
fifty years ago, they would have been called advanced Liberals. They
desired to introduce broad and sweeping reforms, and they were
particularly desirous to follow the example of England. If I understand
their position aright, they were rather Constitutionalists than
Conservatives, for their first idea always was to bring their views into
line with the Constitution.

A short time before my visit, the barrier which surrounded and isolated
the group of men of whom I speak had been emphasized by the development
of the Venstre, the national radical party, which was urged on and
supported by the Peasants' party. The debates in the Storthing in 1871
and 1872 had been very bitter, and public opinion was sharply, but
unequally, divided over the burning question of the admission of
ministers to the national assembly. Without going further into the
obscurity of foreign politics, it is enough to say here that the group
into which I was for a short time admitted as an indulged and attentive
guest, had the hope that, with all its talents and knowledge, it would
be called upon to take over the government of the country. It was
thought that Aschehoug would oust the radical Sverdrup as the next Prime
Minister. The reign of constitutionalism would begin; the peasant
leaders would be sent back to their farms; and Norway would open a
splendid period of conservative re-action. In this, the friends were
supported by the most powerful newspaper of the country, _Morgenbladet_,
which like themselves had long been frankly democratic, but had recently
taken a very strong line in opposition to the Left. _Morgenbladet_ was
boisterously attacked by _Dagbladet_, the rival newspaper, edited by
Samuel Bætzmann, a bearded and very tall young man, who was pointed out
to me in the street, with execration and contempt, by Jakob Lökke.

The hope of my friends was not realized. The whole tendency of Norwegian
life was in the opposite direction, and a few days after I left
Christiania, the death of King Carl had the effect of still further
encouraging the Liberals. The group I had known were swept out of public
life by the tide of radicalism, and suffered the obscuration which
awaits the unsuccessful politician. Now, as it appears, when all passion
has died down, there is a great curiosity about men whose talents and
accomplishments, as well as their high patriotism, were an asset in the
civilization of Norway at a critical moment. Hence, when it is almost
too late, and when I am left the only survivor, I am appealed to for my
recollections, pale and slight as they must be.

Late, then, in the summer of 1872 I arrived in Christiania, armed with
cards and letters of introduction from friends in Copenhagen, and with a
recommendation from Tennyson to Professor Ludwig Kristensen Daa, who had
been very civil to the poet when he visited Norway. I arrived in the
midst of the excitement caused by the recent celebration of the 1,000
years' festival, and in particular we crossed Prince Oskar who was
returning to Stockholm from being present at Haugesund on that occasion,
when he had unveiled a colossal symbolic statue of Harald Fairhair.
Before my first evening closed in, I hastened to explore the length of
the city right up Carl Johans Gade to the New Park; and in the
Eidsvoldplads, a square opposite the Storthing House, I received a
little shock, for gazing up at the new bronze statue of Harald Fairhair,
I saw the drapery rise and flutter in the wind. This was not a replica
of the national statue at Haugesund, but an independent design, put up
in lath and plaster to see whether public opinion approved of it. It
occurred to me afterwards that it was the symbol of the stalwart
conservatism of the group of friends of whom I am about to speak, who
trusted to their heroic attitude to impress public opinion--and failed.

Early next morning I called on Jakob Lökke (1829-1881), who was
head-master of the Christiania Cathedral School, and the leading
educational authority in Norway. I had been able to be of some
assistance to Lökke in London during the year 1871, and his hospitable
and genial acquaintance was now very valuable to me. Close to the great
church of Our Saviour, in the centre of the city, in the first house on
the left-hand side of the Stor Gade, Mr. and Mrs. Lökke had an apartment
on the third storey in which they received a small, but extremely
distinguished, circle of guests. Lökke was pompous in manner and a
touchy man, but full of warmth and generosity under a somewhat difficult
surface. His hospitality to me, on this occasion, was untiring, and it
was wholly owing to him that I was admitted to the remarkable group of
Norse Tories who were making so resolute and so vain a struggle to stem
the rising flood of radicalism. Lökke's "tredie étage" in Stor Gade was
a typical home of lost causes, and the group of friends were all ardent
supporters of Ibsen, whose satirical temper was then looked upon askance
by the various popular parties.

The first person to whom Lökke presented me was Emil Stang (born 1834),
the son of the then prime minister of Norway, Frederik Stang, and a
leading advocate. He became very cordial when he learned that I was bent
on introducing Ibsen to the English public, and had begun to do so; and
he told me that he held a brief for the poet at that moment. It will be
remembered that Ibsen then resided in Dresden. Taking advantage of this
exile, a Danish publisher of the baser sort had produced a pirated
edition of the _Warriors of Helgeland_, with an announcement that a
similar reprint of _Madam Inger at Osterraad_ would follow. Stang
laughed as he told me of Ibsen's gigantic anger at this offence; he had
immediately put the matter into Stang's hands, and had desired him to
get a full indemnity from the Danish publisher. But it was the usual
case of trying to bleed a stone. The man would not even withdraw his
edition, though no more was said of the projected piracy of _Madam
Inger_. Mr. Stang told me that the case was still dragging through the
courts; I never learned the result.

Lökke took me to the University Library to see the Librarian, Ludwig
Daae (not to be confounded with Daa), who was born in 1834 and died in
1910. The visit was untimely, for Daae had not arrived, and only one
single clerk was on duty. This man was ready to be friendly, but he was
being bullied by the Principal Librarian of the University of Stralsund,
a typical loud-voiced Prussian, to whom I took a violent dislike. The
librarian was acquainted with Lökke and attached himself to us; he spoke
with great contempt of the Library of the British Museum, which he said
he knew very well. We proceeded to the Record Office, in order to see
Mr. Michael Birkeland (1830-1897), the Master of the Rolls, of whom I
shall have much to relate. The Record Office (Riksarkivet) was then in
the same clump of buildings as the Storthing House. We did not find
Birkeland in, but we found an even more illustrious person, J. E. W.
Sars (1835-1915), who was already deep in the preparation of those works
which have made him famous as the most philosophical of Norwegian
historians. He was shortly after my visit appointed Professor of History
in the University of Christiania.

My introduction to Ludwig Daae was only postponed. The next time I
called at Lökke's house, a little shabby man with a beard, with woefully
dishevelled hair and snuff-coloured old coat, was dancing a sort of
lonely pirouette in the middle of the floor, while he talked. He stopped
at my entrance, and Jakob Lökke, coming forward, presented me to him as
to "the Librarian of the University, Ludwig Daae." "The author of that
delightful _Gamle Kristiania_?" I asked. "Ah, do you know my book?" he
said, and seemed pleased. I felt very much drawn to Ludwig Daae from the
first, and he spoke Norwegian so plainly and elegantly that it was
particularly easy for me to follow him. All through the rest of my
visit to Christiania I had the benefit of his kindliness and wit, his
ingenuousness and his fund of knowledge. His book, _Gamle Kristiania_, a
picturesque series of essays on the history of the city up to 1800, was
familiar to me, and I had written a long review of it in the _Spectator_
for Richard Holt Hutton, in which I had ventured to say that it would be
impossible for any one in future to attempt a history of modern
Norwegian affairs without the help of Mr. Daae's admirable book.

The name of this gentleman offered much difficulty, because, by a very
odd coincidence, there were at that moment three unrelated persons whose
names were in sound identical. There was Ludwig K. Daa, and there were
two Ludwig Daaes, my friend, and a politician whom I did not meet.
Norwegians themselves found the identity of the three very confusing. My
Ludwig Daae had begun his literary career with an ecclesiastic history
of the diocese of Throndhjem, published in 1863, and had gradually
extended his range from church to general history, but his gift really
lay in the picturesquely biographical. He had just been made lector in
æsthetics in the Cathedral School when I saw him, but he held this but a
very short time, being soon after my visit appointed Professor of
History at the University.

I had now the honour of being admitted every day to the company of Daae
and his friends, and it was clearly explained to me that they formed a
compact and still influential body of resistance to the subversive
policy of Björnson, Sverdrup and the terrible peasant Jaabæk, whom they
regarded with peculiar apprehension. Hans Christian Andersen had given
me a note of introduction to Björnson, and in spite of the objections of
my new friends, I found that I could not resist the temptation to use
it. Accordingly I went to the house in Munkedamsveien which Björnson
shared with the philosopher G. V. Lyng (1827-1884) whom I had met in
Denmark. They occupied a small house in a long suburban lane on the edge
of the city. I had been told that the poet was very formidable, and as I
waited in the hall, I heard him growling "Saa! saa? saa!" over the card
and note I had sent in. I quaked, but I plunged; I was ushered into a
pretty room with trellised windows, where a large and even burly man
(Björnson was then under forty), who was sitting astride the end of a
narrow sofa, rose vehemently to receive me. His long limbs, his athletic
frame, and especially his remarkably forcible face, surrounded by a mane
of wavy brown hair, and illuminated by full blue eyes behind flashing
spectacles, gave an instant impression of physical vigour. He was
truculently cordial, and lifted his ringing tones in civil conversation.
Resuming his singular attitude astride the sofa, he entered affably into
a loud torrent of talk, lolling back, shaking his great head, suddenly
bringing himself up into a sitting posture to shout out, with a palm
pressed upon either knee, some question or statement.

His full and finely modulated voice, with his clear enunciation, greatly
aided his not a little terrified visitor in appreciating his remarks,
but he spoke at great speed, and it strained the attention of a
foreigner to follow his somewhat florid volubility. He expressed himself
highly pleased with the reception his romances had received in England,
but seemed surprised that his dramas were not known. He recommended to
me a new viking-play, called _Sigurd Jorsalfar_, which he had just sent
to press, and which had been refused "though with the loveliest music by
Grieg ever heard out of a dream" by the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, a
repulse which Björnson flatly attributed to the malignity of the
manager, Molbech. He promised to send me to London a copy of _Sigurd
Jorsalfar_ as soon as it was published, and he was so amiable as to keep
his word.

This little adventure in the headquarters of the opposition was not at
all well regarded in Stor Gade. Accordingly I was taken, as a
counterbalancing influence, to be presented at his country parsonage of
Vest Aker to the old poet and folk-lorist Jörgen Moe (1813-1882). Lökke
and Daae were my companions on this visit to the celebrated collector,
in common with Asbjörnsen, of the so universally admired Norse legends
and fairy-tales. The situation of Vest Aker is magnificent; as we drove
past the little church to the court of the "præstegaard," the whole of
the head-waters of the Christiania Fjord wound and sparkled below us,
golden in the blue circle of the hills. Moe, dressed in clerical black,
with the white ruff round his throat, greeted us delicately. He was a
charming man, with his soft voice and beautiful stag-like eyes; a
perfectly gracious and venerable figure, not incapable, however, of
receiving a mild excitement from the fact that his poems were presently
to be introduced to the English public. Almost immediately after my
visit Jörgen Moe was appointed Bishop of Christianssand. As we came back
from Vest Aker, my guides showed me the grave of the biographer and
bibliographer, Botten-Hansen (1824-1869), and the famous grotto of
Wergeland, once in the country, but, already in 1872, touched by the
outskirts of the city. As we were crossing the streets in the
neighbourhood of the Uranienborg Church, a pale old face appeared for a
moment at an upper window. Daae said this was the house where Johan
Sebastian Welhaven (1807-1873) was being nursed, and he thought that it
was Welhaven we had seen. Lökke did not think it was, so that I shall
never know whether I did, or did not, catch a glimpse of the illustrious
and the dying author of _Norges Dæmring_. My companions were much
amused, and I think gratified, by my eager interest in all these
literary associations.

I now left the capital for a little tour by myself in Ringeriget and
Gudbrandsdalen, where I had an invitation to meet Asbjörnsen, with whom
I had corresponded from London. He had been staying at Ringebo, at the
parsonage of the Dean (_Provst_) of Gudbrandsdalen, Dr. Neils Christian
Hald (1808-1885). I did not, however, go thither directly, but at the
advice of Daae, posted over the hills to Drammen, a magnificent drive by
a very circuitous route. Daae had given me letters of introduction; he
had passed his youth in that town, and was Professor of History there
until he was brought to Christiania. His friends received me with
generous hospitality, and among the merchant princes of Drammen I found
a greater appearance of luxury than I happened to meet with in the
capital. When I finally reached Ringebo, I was disappointed to find that
Asbjörnsen had been obliged to leave for Romsdalen, on his duties as
Torvmester or Forester-General. I was equally unlucky in an attempt to
see the poet Kristoffer Jansen (1841-1899) at his schoolhouse at
Fykse-in-Gausdal, for he was spending the holidays at Tromsö, in
Finmark. After a most enjoyable stay in the picturesque parsonage of the
kind Halds, I returned to Christiania.

On the 7th of August I was back in Stor Gade, and was helping Lökke with
the notes to a school-book in English literature which he was just
publishing; afterwards we called on the Hellenist, Frederik Ludwig Vibe
(1803-1881), who was Librarian of the Cathedral School, and a great ally
of Lökke and Daae. I was shown his translation of Æschylus into Norse.
My acquaintance with the group of Ibsen's friends was now further
extended, for on the evening of the next day (August 8), Ludwig Daae
asked me to supper, and, when I arrived, I found, beside the host,
Michael Birkeland and Dr. Oluf Rygh.

I have already mentioned Birkeland's position at the Rolls Office, which
he had entered in 1852, and now commanded. He was not, I think,
ambitious of literary fame, and he had at that time published, of an
original kind, little except pamphlets. His best-known work was his
minutely executed _Reports of the earliest sessions of the Storthing_,
but this was only a part of his multifarious research into the whole
political history of the country. Birkeland was the life and soul of the
_Norske historiske Forening_ (Norwegian Historical Society), which then
and since did so much for the science of history. He was constantly
publishing for the government inedited matter from the very copious
archives under his charge. Underneath the mask of the archivist he
barely concealed a burning political ambition to be a part of the new
constitutional life of Norway. The Master of the Rolls was one of the
most attractive men I met in Scandinavia. He was still, in early middle
age, very handsome, well set-up, with a fine head excellently poised
above broad shoulders, and with brilliant, dancing eyes. The fault of
Norwegians in that day was their deadly seriousness, and their excessive
sensitiveness to the slightest indication of criticism. But Birkeland
was superior to this local weakness, and was genial, without the least
pomposity. The fourth member of our party, Oluf Rygh (1833-1899), was
united with Birkeland in his devotion to archaeology. He also had at
that time published very little, but I was told that his investigations
were of the highest value, as indeed they amply proved to be. He was the
bosom-friend of Birkeland, with whom he formed a singular contrast,
being as reserved as the other was effusive, and a small, squat figure,
with a round bald head and a bare face, horny and spectacled, which
reminded my pert fancy of the shell of a crab.

Daae's house, where we met, was in the country, to the west of
Christiania, on the Drammensvej, and close to the sea, with a fine view
across the fjord to the royal palace of Oskarshal. There was much
conversation at supper about politics, and my companions were emphatic
in their conviction that the only hope for a healthy development of the
Norwegian nation was a return to conservative methods. Daae spoke with
deep resentment of the "fanatical measures of the Radical party," and
with horror of the present leader Sören Jaabæk (born 1814), who had just
become very prominent owing to his being refused Holy Communion by his
parish priest, Pastor Lassen, as a protest against his republican views.
My friends thought that the incumbent of Lyngdal had behaved with
courage and propriety in "fencing the table" against him. When the meal
was concluded, Birkeland proposed my health, and, standing up in the
Norse fashion, made a little speech. He said "Englishmen often come to
us that they may climb our mountains or fish in our lakes, but it is
rare indeed for a young man of letters to visit us that he may
investigate what is most dear to us, our native literature, the labour
of our hearts and our heads." He also spoke at length with regard to the
1,000 years' festival, which appeared to occupy the thoughts of the
whole group.

We all came away together, Daae accompanying us to the boundary of the
city. At this western end, Christiania then (1872) consisted of very new
and fantastic villas whose inhabitants, Daae told me, had never got over
the affront which the poet Welhaven had paid them of calling their
suburb Snobopolis: which name still stuck to it. It was midnight when we
reached the heart of the city, and as the hour boomed forth from the
Cathedral, Birkeland held me there in the great square while he
discoursed on the history of the building, and on the vestiges of
Catholic architecture in Norway.

On the 9th of August, I spent the morning with Lökke in his study, and
then we paid a visit to L. K. Daa (1809-1877), the ethnographer and
archæologist. I have said that even Norwegians were easily confused
between Daae and Daa, and they escaped from the dilemma by calling the
younger "Bibliothekaren" and the elder "Grænskeren," the title of the
newspaper he had edited. Daa, to whom I presented Tennyson's message,
was extremely gracious, and he took me over to the Ethnological Museum,
of which he was Director, and showed me some objects recently come to
him from Lapland and Finland. Daa was a man of great eccentricity of
appearance, tall and gaunt, with limbs flung wildly about, and his fine
head recklessly bestrewn with disordered hair, grizzled and reddish. He
was very restless and active, and talked English admirably; he admitted
to me that he was a full-blown Anglomaniac. Daa was very much pleased to
hear from me that Tennyson recollected their meeting when the poet
visited Norway in 1858; Daa had served on that occasion as Tennyson's
cicerone. He told me that there was great trouble caused by the English
poet's extreme near-sightedness, which made him unable to drive himself
in the little karjol which was then the only mode of conveyance in the
interior of Norway.

Next day, I went with Lökke to visit the lexicographer and inventor of
the "landsmaal," Ivar Aasen (1813-1896), who lived in one little room,
containing a bed, two chairs and a few shelves of linguistic books. He
has exercised an immense influence on the language and literature of his
country. I found Aasen a prematurely shrivelled little man, with a
parchment face, thin, shy and nervous. In conversation he was dull,
until Lökke spoke about philology, when his eyes began to sparkle and
his cheeks to flush. He talked, then, quite fast, but with a curious
inward manner of speech; I confess I could not understand what he was

In the afternoon Lökke and Birkeland took me for a long drive to
Frognersæteren, a cottage high up in the mountain above Christiania,
whence there is a magnificent view over the whole valley, and even to
the Swedish frontier. The fjord, though seven miles away, seems at our
feet, and is visible as far down as Moss. Up at the sæter we were
received by Professor Torkel Aschehoug (1822-1909), who had been so kind
as to wish that I should be presented to him. Aschehoug was the leading
jurist of Norway, perhaps of Scandinavia, at that time. His great book
on the Laws of Norway, which was appearing in slow instalments,
contained in a form never before approached the history and the essence
of the national constitution. He had been for a quarter of a century
professor of civil law at the University of Christiania; he had taken
up, and pushed much farther, the investigations of J. R. Keyser, when
that eminent jurist died in 1864. But the extraordinary respect with
which Aschehoug was regarded in the group of friends was founded on
other qualities than were included in his scientific reputation. He had
been drawn more and more definitely into practical politics; for the
last four years he had been the leading member of the Storthing for
Christiania. I was told that he was "the coming man," the heaven-born
leader of the constitutional party which was about to reorganize Norway,
and drive back the onset of the horde of radicals and peasants. I was
told to observe Aschehoug, for I should live to see him the greatest
politician in the North of Europe.

When we found him at the sæter, my companions greeted him with a mixture
of warm affection and deep respect. He reminded me, in the eyes and
mouth, and in his general bearing, of Mr. Gladstone. Aschehoug was very
polite to me, but I found him alarming, and was glad that he mainly
talked politics with Birkeland. In the evening Birkeland, whose kindness
to me was untiring, took me across to the eastern side of Christiania,
to Oslo, the city which was destroyed to build the new capital. He
showed me what he believed to be the sites of the mediæval palace and
cathedral; and, so far as he could judge, the exact scene of the great
battle between Haakon and Skule, which Ibsen paints in his
_Kongsemnerne_. It was thrilling to go over the vestiges of the ancient
city with so enthusiastic and so learned a guide as Birkeland. As it
grew late, we supped together at a restaurant, and then Birkeland, in
very high spirits, declared he would show me "the night-side" of
Christiania. However, we saw nothing very exciting or amusing.

Of the subsequent days of my visit to Christiania, whence I returned to
Hull towards the end of August, I find nothing particular to relate. My
last evening was spent at the Lökkes', in company with Daae, Birkeland
and a very lively Mr. Thoresen, who was a near relative of Ibsen and
related amusing anecdotes of the poet's manners. Lökke went down to the
quay with me next morning, and stood waving his hat as the "Scotia"
slipped down the fjord.


It has often been said--it was said in a well-known passage by the elder
Disraeli--that in order to appreciate the beauty of fairyland we must
make ourselves as little children listening to the wondrous tales of a
nurse. But there seems to be a fallacy contained in this explanation of
the spell. It cannot be contrived. No sedate, crafty, timid old man of
the world can make himself as a little child merely that he may enjoy
certain ancient poetry in a melodious stanza. Nor, on the other hand, is
it obvious that real children, especially children of the modern sort,
possess that ductile _naïveté_, that breathless and delicious credulity,
which fairyland demands. I believe, and I speak not without observation,
that children, as a rule, like stories best which deal with such themes
as dogs that run after ducks, and grown up people that tumble out of
motors. They like their tales to be realistic, rather hard, entirely
within their experience. Hans Christian Andersen, in his _eventyr_--so
falsely translated "fairy-tales"--took advantage of this fact and made a
world-wide success by inventing stories in which play-things and
articles of furniture and animals come to life and act on the
conventional principles of society. That is what children like. They
have been so short a time among us that the banalities of experience are
still fresh to them, and nothing so amusing as what is pure

We may be quite sure that _The Faerie Queene_, which is the main classic
of this sort of art in the world's literature, was not written for
children. The ordinary infant would be unspeakably bewildered and bored
by the visit of Duessa to the Lady of Night, and by the exploits of
Arthegal and Talus. It might take a faint pleasure in Una being followed
by the Lion, as Mary was by the little Lamb; and the fight between St.
George and the Dragon (where Spenser appears almost at his worst) might
arrest wondering attention. But what is incomparable in Spenser is
exactly what would fail to amuse a child. We may be quite sure that it
was no audience from the nursery which the poet sought to fascinate. Yet
it is true that his poetry appeals only to the child at heart. What we
have to do is to define for ourselves what we mean by a child at heart,
and we shall soon perceive that the object of our thoughts is not, in
the literal sense, a child at all.

Perhaps youth rather than childhood is the image we require. With the
advance out of infancy into adolescence, the mystery of existence first
becomes palpable and visible to the fingers and the eyes of those who
are born to enjoy it. We fall into an error, however, if we imagine that
it is given to every one who pleases to arrive at this blissful
condition of wonder. The world is very old, and it is troubled about
many things; it is full of tiresome exigencies and solemn frivolities.
The denizens of it are, as a rule, incapable of seeing or conceiving
wonders. If the Archangel Michael appeared at noonday to an ordinary
member of the House of Commons, the legislator would mistake his
celestial visitant for an omnibus conductor. He would rejoice at having
sufficient common sense and knowledge of the world to make so
intelligent an error. But those who are privileged to walk within the
confines of fairyland are not of this class. They are members of a
little clan who still share the adolescence of the world; for, as this
world is, in the main, dusty, dry, old, and given to fussing about
questions of finance, and yet has nooks where the air is full of dew and
silence, so among men there are still always a few who bear no mark upon
their foreheads, and move undistinguished in the crowd, in whom,
nevertheless, the fairies still confide.

It will be a surprise to many, and it may be a painful surprise, to
learn that there are fathers of families, persons "engaged in the City,"
and holding reputable appointments, who faithfully believe in magical
princesses and in fays that dance by moonlight. These persons form the
audience in whom Spenser--as, in other times and other climes, such
poets as Ariosto and Camoens--seek and find their devotees. It is a fact
that there are people of a later age who are still what we call
"children in heart," whose hearts are bold, whose judgment is free,
whose inner eye is limpid and bright. These men and women are sensitive
still, although the searching, grinding wave of the world has gone over
them. They live, in spite of all conventional experience, in a state of
suspended credulity. They are ready for any amazement. They nourish,
persistently, a desire to wander forth beyond the possibilities of
experience, to enjoy the impossible, and to invade the inaccessible.
Life for them, in spite of the geographers and the disenchanting
encyclopædias, and that general suffusion of knowledge (upon all of
which we congratulate ourselves)--life, in spite of all these, is still
the vast forest, mapped out, indeed, but by them and theirs untraced.

Persons of this fortunate temperament store up an endless stock of good
faith wherewith to face the teller of wonderful tales. And of all those
to whom they listen, still, after three hundred years, Spenser is the
most irresistible enchanter. It has always been admitted that his poetry
is the most "poetical" that can be met with; that is to say, that it is
the least mingled with elements which are not of the very essence of
poetry. More than all other writers, Spenser takes us out of our
everyday atmosphere into a state of things which could not be foreseen
by any cleverness of our own reflection. He is easily supreme in the
cosmogony of his enchantments. He confessed that his verse was no
"matter of just memory," and it is evident that he did not wish it to
be. He simply resigned himself to the exquisite pleasure of being lost
in the mazes of a mysterious and fabulous woodland.

The poets, in successive ages, have delighted in bearing witness to this
witchery of _The Faerie Queene_. There is no instance of this more
pleasingly expressed, nor more appropriate to our argument, than that of
Cowley, who says, in his delicious essay _Of Myself_: "There was wont
to lie in my mother's parlour (I know not by what accident, for she
herself never in her life read any book but of devotion), but there was
wont to lie Spenser's Works. This I happened to fall upon (before I was
twelve years old), and was infinitely delighted with the stories of the
knights and giants and monsters and brave houses, which I found
everywhere there--though my understanding had little to do with all
this--and by degrees with the tinkling of the rhyme and dance of the
numbers." We may doubt whether the child Cowley had not more of a man's
taste than the man Cowley had of the heart of a child; but, at all
events, he entered with exactly the proper spirit into that miraculous
country where "birds, voices, instruments, winds, waters, all agree."
And it is in this spirit that hundreds of the elect have read the
marvellous poem in successive ages, and will continue to read it until
time itself has passed away.

_The Faerie Queene_ is not "about" any thing. There is nothing of
serious import to be deduced from its line of argument. The subject
wanders hither and thither, awakening fitful melodies in the brain of
its creator, as the wind does on the strings of an Æolian harp. The
music swells and declines, the harmonies gather to a loud ecstasy or
dwindle to a melancholy murmur, under the caprices of a spirit that
cannot be discerned and that seems to be under no intellectual control.
In saying this, I am not ignorant of Spenser's protestation of a moral
purpose, nor do I charge him with the smallest insincerity for having
written that apologetic letter to Sir Walter Raleigh, in which he makes
what he calls "a pleasing analysis" of the way in which the poem
illustrates "the twelve private moral virtues, as Aristotle hath
devised." It was necessary that he should have a skeleton of meaning
underneath his elaborate dream, not merely for the sake of contemporary
decency, lest in that strenuous age he should be cast forth as one that
cumbered the ground, but for the sake of his art as well, which needed a
steady basis of material as much as a picture needs its canvas or a
statue its marble.

Moreover, _The Faerie Queene_ must celebrate Queen Elizabeth, just as
"Orlando Furioso" must praise the House of Este. It was in feudal
societies, under the protection of princes, that these romantic
enterprises had to be conducted, if they were conducted at all. There
was a pleasant confusion, like that of coloured strands in a solemn
tapestry, between the laudation of the Sovereign and the celebration of
the virtues. Sometimes the monarch was not so virtuous as the poet could
have wished; sometimes his Court was as little like fairyland as was
humanly possible. That only added to the skill of the poet; that only
added rainbow colours to the fabric of the invention.

Then there was always the allegory, with which, in fact, anything on
earth could be connected, in the course of which not only could no
compliment be excessive, but no attribution could be so certain that it
was not able, under pressure, to be denied. Positive persons, in our
rash age, do much profane the allegory, which, nevertheless, is
essential to all fairy poetry. Without it, what would become of _The
Romaunt of the Rose_, or of _The Dream of Poliphile_; what, even, of the
_Divine Comedy_? Hazlitt merrily says that people "are afraid of
allegory, as if it would bite them.... If they do not meddle with the
allegory, the allegory will not meddle with them." The fact is, persons
who hate fairy poetry make the allegory an excuse for their aversion,
which is like saying that you hate the flavour of olives because they
have stones in them.

It is a peculiarity of the romance of fairyland that it never introduces
us to fairies. Nothing is so prosaic as a fairy, seen in the broad light
of Early Victorian illustration. A little being in short skirts and
sandals, standing on one toe on the tip of a rosebud, with a spangle in
her sleek hair and a wand in her taper fingers--nothing is more
repulsive to the Muses. But the whole secret of the great fairy poets is
that they are engaged in searching for fairies without ever suffering
the disenchantment of finding them. There are none, I think, in the
broad pages of Spenser; even, by a beautiful pleasantry, the Fairie
Queene herself being entirely absent throughout the poem, at all events
as we now possess it.

The personages in _The Faerie Queene_, noble and miraculous as they are,
are not of the fairy persuasion at all. They wander through the forests
in the hope of coming upon these supernatural denizens, but they never
succeed in doing so. The Holy Grail appeared far oftener to the Knights
of the Round Table than a real fairy was perceived by Paradel or
Blandamour. These men of chivalry were much interested in the subject,
but, as a rule, they were poorly instructed. It was in the House of
Temperance that Sir Guyon found the book, that hight _Antiquity of
Faeryland_, which seems to have been a sort of _Who's Who_, or _Complete
Peerage_ of the supernatural world. He flew to the perusal of it, and
wherever in it

                  "he greedily did look,
    Offspring of Elves and Fairies there he found,"

but he found no examples on the

                          "island, waste and void,
    That floated in the midst of that great lake,"

(where it is impossible not to believe that Mr. W. B. Yeats would have
been more successful).

A critic has said that nothing is closer to an intensely lyrical song
than a violently burlesque story. The sense of beauty immediately evoked
by the one is suggested, conversely, or in the way of topsy-turvy, by
the other. This principle had been introduced into literature--or at
least into modern literature, for the Greeks had it illustrated in
Aristophanes--a hundred years before the time of Spenser, by the
_Morgante Maggiore_ of Pulci, where Orlando, the pink of romantic
chivalry, comes into collision with certain "immeasurable giants" and
other wild absurdities. The atmosphere of that poem is perfectly

    Twelve Paladins had Charles in court, of whom
      The wisest and most famous was Orlando;
    Him traitor Gan conducted to the tomb
      In Roncesvalles, as the villain planned to,
    While the horn rang so loud, and knelled the doom
      Of their sad rout, though he did all knight can do;
    And Dante in his Comedy has given
    To him a happy seat with Charles in heaven.

But, in another turn, we find this splendid Orlando lifting his sword to
give his beautiful lady, Aldabelle, a smack on the face with the flat of
it. This is burlesque, and Pulci seems to have been the inventor of the
_genre_. He was followed by Boiardo, who wrote of Orlando in love, and
by Ariosto, who described the madness of Orlando, and by a multitude of
other sixteenth century poets, who described, in this epic mixture of
lyricism and burlesque, various other episodes in the life of the hero.
It was from them, from these Italian precursors, whom Spenser had read
so carefully, that he borrowed the ugly and violent elements which he
introduces, so much to the scandal of some critics, into the embroidered
texture of _The Faerie Queene_.

In all this, however, which is very characteristic of the romance of
fairy poetry, we do wrong to be scandalized. The ugly things, like the
misfortunes of Braggadochio and his Squire (in _The Faerie Queene_), and
the fantastic things, like the journey of Alstolfo to the Moon to
recover the wits of Orlando (in Ariosto), are just as necessary to our
pleasure as the description of the Bower of Bliss, or of Angelica's
flight from Rinaldo. They are all part of that desire to escape from the
obvious and the commonplace features of life which inspires this whole
class of poetry. Those who are naturally conscious that life runs at a
dead level desire to heighten it, and whether this is done in the lyric
spirit or in the burlesque, or in both at once, matters very little. The
essential thing is to lift the spirit and quicken the pulse.

The only consolation which comes to people of this fatigued and wistful
temperament is that which they receive from a persuasion of the reality
of what is marvellous and incredible. Like the theologians, such readers
believe certain things to be true because it is impossible that they
should be true. They do not ask why, or where, or when, the incidents
happened; they are satisfied with the vision and with all its chimerical
wonders. In their dreams they see Belphœbe hurrying through the
woodland, her hair starred as thick as snow by the petals of the wild
roses her tempestuous flight has shaken down upon it, and they do not
ask what she represents, nor whither she hastens, nor her relation to
fact and history:

    And in her hand a sharp boar-spear she held,
      And at her back a bow and quiver gay,
    Stuft with steel-headed darts, wherewith she quelled
      The savage beasts in her victorious play,
      Knit with a golden bauldrick, which forelay
    Athwart her snowy breast.

Who needs to ask whither Belphœbe goes, or what she means? She is a
vision created for the deep contentment of those in whom the longing for
noble images and uplifted desires and generous, childlike dreams is

Critics like to assume that the enthusiasm which breeds this kind of
chivalrous poetry is dead and buried in the classics. They no more
expect to see a new _Faerie Queene_ published than to hear of a new dodo
inhabiting the plantations of the interior of Madagascar. But in
literature it is always unsafe to say that a door is closed for ever; if
we are rash enough to make such an assertion, it is sure to fly open in
our faces. It was a commonplace of criticism ten years ago that the epic
would never reappear in literature, and behold Mr. Doughty presents us
with a _Dawn in Britain_ which is as long as the _Lusiads_ would be if
_Paradise Lost_ were tacked on to the tail of it. Last week I read in a
very positive volume that the Pastoral can never revisit the cold
glimpses of a world that has exchanged its interest in shepherds for a
solicitude about miners and chauffeurs. My instant reflection on
reading that opinion was to wonder how soon a young poet would publish a
fresh set of Bucolics, with the contest of Damaetas and Menalcas set
forth to a new tune upon the Pans' pipes.

For this reason I cannot say that I was astonished, although much
interested, to find a young man--and, I venture to think, a young man of
some genius--reviving the old music of the magic woodland, which had
seemed to be dead, or closed, since the seventeenth century. It is a
wish to make his work a little known to English readers which has led me
to venture on some remarks to-day about the Romance of Fairyland. M.
Albert Mockel is a Fleming, and if M. Octave Mirbeau, in a celebrated
article in the Paris _Figaro_, had not called M. Maeterlinck the Belgian
Shakespeare, I should have been tempted to describe M. Mockel as the
Belgian Spenser. I may go so far as to call him a Belgian Ariosto. M.
Mockel has not enjoyed the same popularity as his eminent countryman;
perhaps he had no Octave Mirbeau to immortalize him with a gorgeous
paradox. But in 1891 M. Mockel, who must then have been very youthful,
published a poem, entitled _Chantefable_, which was enough to inspire
great hopes of his future among not a few judicious readers. He has done
nothing, in my judgment, to justify those hopes so fully as he now has
in the volume he has published, called, _Contes pour les Enfants
d'hier_, with ingenious illustrations by M. Auguste Donnay. These
illustrations are very clever, although they would never have been drawn
had it not been for Aubrey Beardsley's _Morte d'Arthur_ (1893). M.
Donnay is skilful, and he emulates Beardsley's wonderful, pure line,
without always perfectly attaining to it.

But the book itself is of a more classic cast, and deserves longer
attention. Here, to quite a remarkable extent, we find the old
stateliness of the fabulous society, the old ceremonial procession of
wonderful events and incredible people. Here, once more, we enter a
world as audaciously designed as Ariosto's, as intricately splendid as
Spenser's. Here, again, is what a critic of _The Faerie Queene_ has
called "the inexhaustible succession of circumstance, fantasy, and
incident." The vulgarity of present existence is buried under such a
panoply and magnificence of fable that the grown-up children, the
blessed _enfants d'hier_, can forget and ignore it.

It would be tedious to retell briefly, in poor words, the brilliant
stories which owe so much to the solemn and highly-coloured language in
which they are deliberately narrated. But I cannot refrain from giving
an outline of the last of them, _The Island of Rest_. In M. Mockel's
gallery there is no more magnificent figure than that of Jerzual, Prince
of Urmonde. We may call him the Roland of our Belgian Boiardo. All the
world is aware of the mysterious end of Prince Jerzual; he went away
over the waves of the sea, and nothing was ever heard of him again. But
only M. Mockel knows what happened, and he has now consented to reveal

Jerzual had loved the ineffable Alise, Princess of Avigorre, and to
secure her love he had vowed that he would offer her the suzerainty of
the Heights, a mysterious country surrounded by peaks of silver and
crystal. Unfortunately, though he searched the habitable globe, the
whereabouts of this marvellous region escaped him. One day, in despair,
as he rode his magic horse, Bellardian, he came to the edge of a cliff,
where the ocean stretched at his feet. Tired of his vain adventures,
Jerzual flung the reins on the mane of Bellardian, and spurred him
onward. The obedient steed leaped the cliff, and descended on the
surface of the waters, which undulated gently beneath him, but bore up
both horse and rider. They galloped over the calm sea for hours and
hours, for days and days, until at last a fairy island appeared on the
horizon, and displayed, as they approached, a silver zone of pure peaks,
lifted like a tiara high over the ring of green and golden verdure. This
was the land of Jerzual's desire, but neither the white Bellardian nor
his incomparable master succeeded in landing upon that exquisite shore
without prolonged adventures, which it is not my business to recount.
Suffice to say, that they sank in safety on the sands at last.

How they were discovered there by Aigueline, the cruel daughter of the
Sea, and sole inhabitant of the island; how the heart of Jerzual
fluctuated in the terrible dilemma between his present good fortune and
his duty to the Princess; how staunch and uplifted poor Bellardian was,
and how strange and pitiful his fate; how the enchantments of Aigueline
were broken at last; and how, when the disillusioned Jerzual walked in
frenzy upon the sands of the island shore, he saw the shallop of the
Princess of Avigorre sail by, with banners flying from it which were not
his, but those of his rival, Ellerion, Prince of Argilea; this, and much
more, and all of it equally gorgeous and convincing, must be read in the
delightful pages of M. Mockel's _Contes pour les Enfants d'hier_.


There is at present no record of Lord Wolseley, who died just too
recently to be included in the latest Supplement of the _Dictionary of
National Biography_. His memory loiters in the limbo which always
surrounds the famous dead for a few years after their decease. Then
follow, in due course, the official Life and the selected
correspondence; and so finally the monument is unveiled for the pigeons
of the Press to perch upon. To my friends, Sir Frederick Maurice and Sir
George Arthur, have been entrusted the duty of arranging the memoirs of
our greatest modern soldier, and their work will be formidable, for the
Great War, of which Wolseley, in flashes of genius, had prescience, has
swept over us, and has confused the landmarks of our memories. I feel
sure that they will bring judgment and discretion to their task, which
is a noble one. But they will certainly, and properly, be inclined to
concentrate their effort on the military aspects of their subject, since
Lord Wolseley was a soldier before everything else, and so completely a
soldier that other aspects must be dwarfed in contemplation of his
military glory. These may easily, indeed, be excluded altogether, and I
therefore venture to recall, before it is too late, certain scenes which
I observed during a prolonged and delighted acquaintanceship, in which
the sword ceased to be "vambrashed," as the Elizabethans used to say,
and in which the great general was simply an amateur of letters, eager
to talk about books and even ambitious to write them. I shall not fall
into the error of describing him as a great author, but I think that it
may be amusing to preserve some intellectual sketch of a character
essentially imposing in very different surroundings.

Lord Wolseley was not prominent before the world as a man of letters,
and I shall not pretend that he could claim that particular distinction,
though he wrote easily and well. Of his best books I shall have
something presently to say. But I think it is known to only a very few
survivors that he had a predilection and even a passion for literature,
which he shared, I should think, with no man of action of his time. He
was an insatiate reader, and his reading covered a surprising range. For
a man to whom life offered excitement and animation in almost every
direction, it was notable how much time he found to spare for
intellectual amusement. He attributed his love of reading to the
influence of his Irish mother. He said once to me, "I would sooner live
upon porridge in a bookroom than upon venison and truffles where books
were not," and this meant much from one who was by no means indifferent
to the truffles and the venison of life. The curious thing is that this
obsession with literature nowhere peeps out in his published works, and
is notably absent in his autobiography, _The Story of a Soldier's Life_,
where we should particularly expect to find traces of it. For this
defect in the general portraiture of that book there are reasons, upon
which I may touch later on. It is a useful chain of military records,
but it is a portrait of its author in full uniform, with cocked hat and
sword. It was my good fortune to see him always in mufti, and if I essay
a snapshot of him I am bound to show him with a book in his hand.

My acquaintance with Lord Wolseley began in 1888, and I owed it to a
common friend whom I never cease to deplore, the ever-ingenious Andrew
Lang. I have forgotten how these two came together, but they had a great
appreciation of each other's company. Wolseley was now just fifty-five,
but he looked much younger, and he flashed about as though the spirit of
April still laughed at him. The first thing which struck an observer on
meeting him was that he had the gestures of a boy; the elastic
footstep, the abruptly vivid movements, one would almost say were those
of a happy child. In 1888 Lord and Lady Wolseley were still inhabiting a
small house in Hill Street, but immediately after I first knew them they
moved to the Ranger's House in Greenwich Park, the scene for me of
delightful memories during the next two years. Wolseley was at that time
Adjutant-General of the Forces, under Stanhope, and afterwards
Commander-in-Chief in Ireland under Campbell-Bannerman. He worked hard
every day at the War Office, and came down to Greenwich in the afternoon
like any civil servant or bank clerk. His life at that time was marked
by the serene and unaffected simplicity which always seemed to me the
cardinal feature of his personal character. Much in Wolseley had an
appearance of inconsistency. For instance, it cannot be questioned that
he demanded a great deal from those who worked under him professionally,
nor that he was careful of his own prestige. But when he was released
from his military work, he became the least assuming of mankind.
Moreover--and this makes the attempt to paint him particularly
difficult--he was not, to the public eye, conspicuous, as other great
generals have been, through demeanour or appearance. I used often to be
surprised, when we were walking together in the street, to notice how
few people recognized him, although he was then at the height of his

In September, 1889, when my wife and I were going over to the Continent,
we observed a shortish gentleman, in tourist dress, pacing the deck of
the steamer, and we said to each other: "Does not that man remind you of
somebody?" Presently he stopped before us, smiling, and it was Wolseley.
He was going alone to Metz, from which point he proposed to make a tour
of personal observation round all the battlefields of 1870. He said that
there were inconsistencies in the published accounts, and that he had
meditated over them till it was impossible for him to rest until he had
settled his difficulties by independent inspection. He told us not to
say we had met him, and it was an example of that want of
conspicuousness, which I have noted, that, although it was broad
daylight, and he then one of the most famous figures in England, no one
else did seem to recognize him. He had theories about the Franco-German
campaign for which he sought confirmation. I begged him to let me know
what the result might be, and so he wrote to me, from Brunswick, on
October 4th:

     I postponed writing to you until my tour round the battle-fields
     should have finished, as I could not tell what to write upon the
     subject until I had studied the ground. I need scarcely tell you
     that I knew the chief episodes of each great fight very well before
     I came abroad. The German account of the events is so full and
     truthful that no student of war has any excuse for ignorance. With
     that book, and maps and plans, I have carefully studied every phase
     of every battle-field from Sedan in the North to Strasburg in the
     South, and I find I could not write upon the subject without
     expressions of opinion that would be very unpleasant to many men
     now alive. The Germans outnumbered the French in nearly all those
     battles to a large extent, and though the French allowed themselves
     to be surprised, and their leaders committed every possible
     mistake, the errors of the Germans were very glaring upon many
     occasions. Almost all their battles were not only fought in a
     manner entirely different from what was intended, but, in nearly
     every case, they were brought on without, and on some occasions
     contrary to, the positive orders and intentions of the Generals.

When I saw him at Greenwich soon after his return he spoke more plainly
still. He said that he had found, to his great surprise, that the
Germans, whose luck, he declared, had been incredible, had been very
nearly defeated more than once or twice. He had been particularly
excited by his inspection of the battlefield of Gravelotte. If that
battle had not, he said, been won by what was really "a fluke," the day
would have closed upon the German Army in about the most unfortunate
position an army could possibly be placed in. All this struck me,
ignorant of tactics as I am, as so very interesting that I entreated
him to change his mind and write a complete record of his observations
on the battlefields. But he said that the praise of German strategy had
reached such a pitch of infatuation in England that he should be
"accused of all sorts of things." Nevertheless, I pressed him to write
down his experience, even if he kept it private. He finally promised
that he would do so that winter, but I never heard any more about it.
His last words were "I dare not publish my views," and presently he had
to go off to Newcastle on military business, which quite diverted his
thoughts. It must be observed that we trusted in those days wholly to
German historians, and that the French account, which confirmed Lord
Wolseley to the letter, was not published until ten years later.

It was while I was walking with him in Greenwich Park one afternoon
about this time that I first realized that he had any literary ambition.
He acknowledged a constant temptation to use his pen. I had thought of
him as a reader, but hardly as a writer, although he had published his
soldiers' _Pocket-Book for Field Service_ some twenty years before. I
learned afterwards, from Andrew Lang, that Lord Wolseley had produced a
novel, under a feigned name; this I had never seen, and Lang did not
encourage me to hunt for it. But now, with considerable leisure, he was
ready to be encouraged to write on matters at the fringe of his daily
occupation. He did not, however, see any particular theme lying in wait
for him. During a visit I had lately paid to the United States I had
enjoyed a good deal of conversation with two of the leading generals of
the Civil War, with Philip Henry Sheridan and with William Tecumseh
Sherman. It was Sherman who made the celebrated march to the sea from
Atlanta to Savannah at the end of 1864; his tenacity and clairvoyance
delighted Wolseley, who was nevertheless inclined to blame Sherman for
an excess of ruthlessness in his methods. He laughed when I told him
that I had heard Sherman, when teased at a supper-party for destroying
some town, first deny the charge, and then, when it was daringly
repeated, turn round on the railer like an old snow-leopard, and cry:
"Next time I'll burn the whole darned city to the ground."

With Sheridan, Wolseley was in much more complete sympathy. He set him
on the very summit as a fighting general, and he said that he had
contrived a mobility of cavalry in action which was unprecedented. I
think he had known Sheridan personally in his early days on the
frontier. I remember his saying that, if he himself were conducting a
great battle, he should like nothing better than to have the victor of
Opequam on a camp-stool by his side. His memory took fire at what I was
able to recall of the conversation of the two great American generals.
His chief hero, however, was Lee, and I remember that he put the
Confederate general by the side of Marlborough and far above Wellington.
I used the occasion to suggest to him that he should write down his
ideas regarding the strategic careers of these Americans. He liked the
notion, and Mr. Rice, who was then editing the _North American Review_,
having been communicated with, an invitation came to Wolseley which he
accepted, and wrote, in 1889, one or perhaps several articles, which
have never, I think, been reprinted. The life at Ranger's House was very
quiet; the Wolseleys rarely dined in town, and the General's existence
was almost that of a recluse. I remember we were all very much amused
when his valet, a dashing character, suddenly gave warning, his sole
cause of complaint being that he was losing caste by remaining in the
service of "so very quiet a nobleman, who does not even go to the

All this was completely changed in 1890 when Wolseley was appointed
Commander of the Forces in Ireland. He wrote to announce the fact to me
in July, and said that it was "rather a wrench going," but that he felt
he should like it when he got to Dublin. "A more active, out-of-door
life will be good for me," he opined. It was a great business moving all
the family possessions, for both husband and wife were ardent collectors
of bric-à-brac, and the treasures went by sea. The gallant couple, whose
nostrils snuffed adventure as wild horses do their pasture, thoroughly
enjoyed their position at the beautiful Dublin house, depressingly known
as the Royal Hospital. Wolseley took to getting up at 5.30 every
morning, and no day was long enough for his activities and his
hospitalities. The political crisis was more severe than usual, but
Wolseley cared very little about politics, and his buoyant energy and
boundless good nature made his house the one bright spot in an otherwise
dismal Dublin. That, at least, is how it struck me during an enchanting
visit I paid to the Royal Hospital in the midst of the resistance to
Lord Rosebery's "predominant partner." Wolseley gave up any thought of
periodical literature; when I urged it he said he was "always being
attacked for writing." I do not quite know who can have "attacked" him
or why, but he had other things to attend to.

He was not, however, unoccupied. It was while he was in Ireland that he
composed his _Life of the Duke of Marlborough_, of which he finished two
volumes in the spring of 1893 and published them a year later. The notes
for it had occupied him for many years, he said, "on board ship, in
camp, and often at long intervals of time when on duty abroad and in the
field." He made a tour, as I well remember, to the scenes of Churchill's
childhood, before he left Greenwich in 1890, and his descriptions of Ash
House and the valley of the Axe were jotted down on the spot. The _Life
of Marlborough_ is Wolseley's principal contribution to literature. It
is characteristically written, with that buoyancy and freshness which
were inherent in his nature, but which do not appear so vividly in his
other publications. The account of the Battle of Sedgemoor, which
occupies an entire chapter, is almost a masterpiece; this is Wolseley,
the writer, at his highest level. Unfortunately, this admirable book is,
and will remain, a fragment, and posterity has a prejudice against what
is unfinished. The second volume closes in 1702, when Marlborough's
political intrigues had come to an end and William III. was placing him
at the head of the allied forces in Flanders. This was, of course, the
division of his career, and naturally closed a volume. But the military
fun was only just going to begin, and what everybody wanted from Lord
Wolseley, of all men in the world, was an account of the great

This, however, was never performed, why, we can only conjecture. The
book was, on the whole, very well received, but, naturally, everyone
noted that it stopped in the middle of the story. In answer to an
anxious inquiry which I sent off on receiving my copy of the two
volumes, Wolseley wrote:

     I hope the book will pay the publisher. If it does, I shall write
     the military part of Marlborough's life, which, of course, would be
     to me a more interesting undertaking than describing my hero
     through a period already well known from the pages of our greatest
     historical novelist, Macaulay.

This shows that, in April, 1894, no part of the continuation was
actually written, but I doubt not that he had made copious notes of some
of the 1702-1710 campaigns. Indeed, on one occasion much later, when I
was trying to urge him to return to so congenial an enterprise, he told
me that the Battle of Malplaquet was actually finished; and Mr. Richard
Bentley informs me that this MS. was actually at one time in his
father's hands. Wolseley also is known to have described the march along
the Danube in 1705, but not reaching the Battle of Blenheim. These
fragments must surely exist among Lord Wolseley's MSS., and I urge Sir
George Arthur to make careful search for them. They ought to be well
worthy of publication. That, at the age of sixty-one, and in active
State employment, Lord Wolseley did not feel able to pursue his hero
over the innumerable battlefields from Venloo to Oudenarde is easily
comprehensible, but that he should have stopped just where he did is
lamentable. We may wish that he had been inspired to start, instead of
stopping, at 1702.

A side of Lord Wolseley's mental temperament which was little known was
his sympathy with the imaginative literature of the East. He could not,
I suppose, be called a scholar, but he had more acquaintance with
Oriental languages than was generally suspected. In particular, the
poetry of Persia exercised a great fascination over him. He studied both
Persian and Hindustani for a couple of years, and kept a learned Munshi
with him all that time as a travelling tutor. This man had a passion for
the poets, and, as Wolseley told me, constantly held him in conversation
on the subject of Persian history and made him read Persian books.
Wolseley learned quotations from the poets by heart, and afterwards, in
speaking with exalted or highly-educated natives of India, he found that
the apt introduction of such tags from the classics was greatly
appreciated, and was made the subject of compliment. Wolseley was very
amusing about this.

As I happened to be President of the Omar Khayyám Club in 1897, I
thought that a speech from the Field-Marshal at the annual banquet would
introduce a charming novelty into that mild orgy of red wine and red
roses. Although very busy, for he had lately been made Commander-in-Chief,
he "jumped," as we say, at the invitation, and made his appearance as
the Guest of the Evening. It was not for me to hint procedure to so
illustrious a visitor, but I confess I dreaded lest the clash of swords
might jar a little on our floral festivity. I need have had no fear.
When the moment came for Lord Wolseley to rise (he had told me that he
felt so shy that his "heart was in his mouth," but he showed no sign of
discomposure) he assured the company that he had been misrepresented as
a man of blood, but that he was, on the contrary, a lover of roses and
red wine. He confessed that he knew Omar only in the translation of
FitzGerald; I was aware--but kept my counsel--that he had only known
that since his invitation to dine. He said that in India he had never
heard the name of Omar pronounced, but he expatiated largely on those of
Hafiz and Firdousi. The rules of the Club excluded reporters, and I have
always been sorry that no record survives of this charming little
discourse. What does survive is a delicious poem in Austin Dobson's
best vein, which was handed round to the guests in privately printed
form. This piece described the scene and those present, beginning with

                I note
    Our _Rustum_ here, without red coat,

a touch which pleased the Field-Marshal.

Lord Wolseley had taken an active part in the Chinese War of 1860, and I
remember his telling me that on his appointment as deputy to accompany
Sir Hugh Grant to Hong-Kong he ransacked every library and bookshop in
Calcutta for books about China. His account of the campaign, up to the
surrender of Pekin in November, 1860, was published in his _Narrative of
the War with China_, a work founded on the letters he sent home by each
successive mail; it can conveniently be read in chapters XXVII. to XXXI.
of _The Story of a Soldier's Life_. But what is not told there is that
he preserved to the end of his days a very sympathetic interest in the
civic manners of the Chinese, whom he preferred to any other Oriental
race, having at one time or another tested them all. In his published
writings Lord Wolseley dwells mainly on the perfidy of the ruling
classes in China, and on the ease with which Lord Elgin allowed himself
to be taken in by the treacherous Chinese Ministers. He expressed horror
at the crime of the escort who beheaded Captain Brabazon at the
Pa-li-cheaou Bridge, an event which had a peculiar effect on Wolseley,
because it was by a mere accident that Brabazon, at the last moment, had
taken Wolseley's place in his absence on another business. The want of
elementary scruple in the Chinese authorities was shocking to a
straightforward British soldier. But, after all, we were at war with

On the other hand, what Wolseley loved to expatiate on in private
conversation was the sterling virtue of the ordinary Chinese civilian. I
recollect how on one occasion, when Sir Francis de Winton was dining at
Ranger's House, and expressed some views over-indulgent to the Turks,
Lord Wolseley turned upon him, sparkling with indignation, and swore
that no Turk could hold a candle to a Chinaman, the cleanest, the most
temperate, the most philosophical creature in the world. In vain did De
Winton protest that he meant no dishonour to China. Wolseley was started
on his hobby-horse, and gave us no peace till he had delivered quite a
little oration on the wonderful merits of the disciples of Confucius.
This was in 1889, and long afterwards the zeal for China was eating him
up at intervals. I find a letter to myself, dated April 17th, 1901, in
which he tells me that he is reading Professor H. A. Giles's _History of
Chinese Literature_:

     I wonder how deep he has gone in it. The only man I ever knew who
     had more than dipped into that vast subject was Sir T. Wade, an old
     friend of mine. I have known many men who spoke Chinese well, some
     even spoke it fluently--Sir Harry Parkes, for instance--but Wade
     was the only Englishman I ever met who had probed down deep into
     the Chinese classics. He often laughed at the notion of any Fan qui
     being well acquainted with them, so great was their volume and so
     numerous the works to be studied. Indeed very few Chinamen are
     thoroughly well read in their own classical literature. When we
     moved upon the Summer Palace in 1860, the Emperor fled in haste,
     leaving upon a little table the book he had just been reading. I
     always regretted not having taken possession of it, instead of
     letting it be destroyed. It was a classical work.

On the night of October 12th, 1899, when the Boer war was declared, my
wife and I shared with Lord and Lady Wolseley a box at the performance
of Shakespeare's _King John_. Like almost everyone else except
Kitchener, the Commander-in-Chief assured us that the war would be a
short one; he was radiant and calm on that memorable evening. There were
many verses in the play which seemed appropriate to the occasion, and
when King John declaimed--

    Here have we war for war, and blood for blood,
    Controlment for controlment.

Wolseley whispered "and Victoria for Mr. Krüger!" It was exhilarating,
though as it turned out not wholly satisfactory, to listen to King
John's proud reply to Chattilion:

    For ere thou canst report, I will be there;
    The thunder of my cannon shall be heard--
    So hence!

But I must not trespass within the circle of our coming disenchantment.

A few months later Lord Wolseley handed over the Command-in-Chief to
Lord Roberts, and he presently retired to a farmhouse at Glynde, near
Lewes, where he resided for a number of years, more and more secluded
from the world, but devoted to his garden and his books. Once more he
became a voracious reader of miscellaneous literature. Here he liked to
be informed of what was going on in the world of letters, and to see as
frequently as he could a few friends who wrote. Among these, I think
there was none whom he valued more than Henry James, a very old friend,
earlier, I think, than Andrew Lang or myself. It might be supposed that
there was little in common between the active soldier and the exquisite
and meticulous dreamer, but, on the contrary, their mutual esteem was
persistent, and Wolseley delighted in the conversation of Henry James,
although he sometimes allowed himself to smile at the novelist's halting
and deliberate utterance. Wolseley, on the other hand, was an emphatic,
spontaneous talker, not very particular in selecting the very best word
or in rounding the most harmonious period. It was amusing to hear them
together, the one so short and sharp, the other so mellifluous and
hesitating, yet their admiration, each for the other, was continuous.

I do not think that Wolseley was ever more happy than in the first
years of his residence at Glynde, the world forgetting, by the world
forgot. But a certain insidious melancholy soon began to invade him. He
gradually cut himself off from all his round of London engagements, and
he never once, if I remember right, attended the House of Lords after
his retirement from the War Office. He was not in the least degree
invalided or deprived of nervous energy, but he felt that in the long,
strenuous years of service he had earned a holiday, and now he took it.
He made, perhaps, few new friends, but he was careful to cultivate the
old ones, and no one was ever more assiduous in the art of friendship.
He clung to old associations and to old faces--"they can't escape me," I
remember his saying. He liked to see them at Glynde, where they always
received a glowing, almost a boisterous, welcome. The house lies in a
sort of glen between two ranges of the beautiful Sussex downs, and
Wolseley loved to climb these eminences with a familiar companion. He
was particularly apt to take such a friend eastward along the lanes to
Firle and then up to the summit of the beacon above Alciston. This was
one of his favourite afternoon excursions, and from this vantage he
would sweep the coastline from Seaford to Pevensey, and dilate on its
strategic capabilities.

Of such excursions as these I have the happiest memory. The exercise
always seemed to stir the General's brain to especial activity. His
rapid, vehement voice rang out in full sonority in the silence of the
great rolling Down, and his thoughts seemed to move with more ease than
usual in the high, cold air of autumn. His imagination worked with a
vitality which almost persuaded his ignorant companion that he also was
a strategical genius, so easy did the problems of military movement seem
when outrolled by Wolseley's warm voice and punctuated by the sweep of
his walking-stick. It was impossible not to feel that "this exceptional
combination of mental gifts with untiring physical power and stern
resolution" made our wonderful friend unique in his class and time. One
was amazed to find one's self entrusted with the professional secrets
of which one was really so unworthy a recipient. But it was
characteristic of Wolseley that, with all his fire and abruptness, he
was incapable of the smallest element of patronage. He lifted his
friends, in a whirl of generous illusion, up to a level with himself,
and insisted on their sharing his conceptions. No one ever possessed a
more fascinating gift for persuading the person he talked with that the
friend's powers and capacities were equal to his own. The impression
could only be momentary, but it was extremely grateful while it lasted.

Few things in private conversation are more winning than lack of
discretion. I cannot pretend that Lord Wolseley was a cautious speaker,
and I think his company would have been much less entertaining than it
was if he had minced his words or hedged his opinions. He had spent
twenty years or more of his life in a prodigious enterprise, no less
than the entire remodelling of the British Army. He had seen with
Napoleonic clearness what sweeping reforms were needed, and he had not
felt the smallest hesitation in setting about their introduction. But he
had originally been quite alone in this perilous enterprise. Hercules
had come to the cattle-yard of Augeas and had found it clogged with the
mire of generations. He set about turning the course of Alpheus and
Peneus, rivers of Whitehall, and he sent their waters rushing through
the stable. With his besom he began to scrub the refuse out of every
corner. But the old-fashioned stablemen were not pleased to be
disturbed, and Augeas, in consternation, refused to give Hercules his
reward. Thereupon there arose loud and lasting clamours, in the midst of
which the work, frustrated as far as mediocrity found possible, went
forward steadily, but in a wind of exasperation. There was rage on both
sides, recrimination, injury; and even the monarch of Elis was not
disengaged from the struggle. If these things are an allegory, it is a
very transparent one, and it need not be translated. It suffices to say
that he would have little insight into human character who should
express surprise at any vehemence of expression, with regard to those
who opposed his cleansing activities, which the Nemean hero might give
way to in private conversation. He was tired with fighting those of his
own household and he was sick from the stupidity of persons clothed with
brief authority.

If, however, Lord Wolseley expended the treasures of what could at call
be a very lively vocabulary on the men who had hindered his life's work,
nothing could exceed his loyal memory of the few who had found courage
to support him. Among the latter, Mr. Cardwell and Lord Northbrook stood
pre-eminent, particularly the former, of whom I remember many tributes
of the warmest appreciation. I have often heard Wolseley say that he
came back from the Crimea with a sense of horror at all the shortcomings
of our military system, and that his criticisms met with none but the
most languid attention except from Cardwell. It was a highly fortunate
circumstance that these two came together, for Cardwell at home in
England had come to the same conclusions as Wolseley had in the four
quarters of the globe. He was able, as Secretary for War from 1868 to
1874, to put into practical shape the ideas which Wolseley had, by his
high gift of imagination, seen in the field itself to be necessary.
Wolseley believed that, but for Cardwell's unflinching support, his
enemies would have contrived to have him honourably deported to some
command at the Antipodes where his tiresome brain would have ceased to
worry the War Office. The fiercest of the fight gathered about the year
1872, when "the old school" would hardly believe that anyone calling
himself a gentleman could make himself so intolerably objectionable as
did this horrible Sir Garnet Wolseley. At this time Cardwell, in the
face of every species of intrigue and resistance, shielded his assistant
from his opponents. Later on he helped him to collect around him the
ablest soldiers of promise on whom the army of the future depended. I
never heard Wolseley speak of anyone with so much regret as of Cardwell,
cut off, by failing health, in the midst of his labours.

It was Lord Northbrook who chiefly aided and abetted Wolseley in his
scheme for sending General Gordon off up the Nile. When the tragedy was
complete, Lord Northbrook inclined to think that their action had been
"a terrible mistake." But Wolseley never would admit that it had been a
mistake. He persisted that it was the only thing to do, and that the
responsibility for failure rested on Mr. Gladstone and his Government.
There was nothing that Wolseley loved better than to recount the
adventure of his seeing Gordon off to the Soudan on November 18th, 1883,
and his dramatic conversation at the London railway station. Gordon was
settled in the train when Wolseley asked: "By the way, General, I
suppose you have plenty of money?" "Not a penny!" And Wolseley would
recount how he dashed in a hansom to his bank, and brought back the
bank-notes just in time for the perfectly indifferent Gordon to slip
them into his pocket as the train went off.

Before he left town in 1900 Lord Wolseley had begun, at the suggestion
of some of his friends who regretted that so much high experience of
life should be wasted, to prepare his own autobiography. As I took a
special interest in this project, I was told (December 1st, 1900), that
he had "written, at odd moments, many pages for the Memoirs, but, of
course, they have still to be pumice-stoned down and put into shape."
The sudden cessation from all administrative activity had threatened to
be rather disastrous, but, as I have said, he took his retirement to
Glynde very serenely, and this business of the autobiography promised to
be the best antidote to languor. When one saw him in the next years, it
stood always in the background; its progress was reported like the
growth of a slow fruit, which stuck on the bough, but was not swelling
as it should. At last, in his seventy-first year, I received, not
without surprise, the announcement that it was ripe and ready for the
market. A little further delay, and there appeared, in two fat volumes,
_The Story of a Soldier's Life_. The copy which reached me from the
author generously acknowledged the "valuable advice" that I had "so
often kindly given." But I dare not take this tribute to my soul, for,
as a matter of fact, the book bears no trace of external advice. It is a
very strange production, and may be succinctly described as an editing
from earlier records by himself of fragments of a story the details of
which the author had forgotten.

There is no question that, as an autobiography, _The Story of a
Soldier's Life_ is disappointing. It was undertaken too late, and it
could never have been written at all, save for the fact that Wolseley
had, in earlier years, kept copious journals and written long letters
when he was abroad on his various campaigns. These letters and journals
were collected and typed, and a secretary helped to put them together
and give a certain amount of cohesion to the narrative. The book was
strangely edited; the preface appears in the second volume, the
dedication is repeated twice, there is no account whatever of the
circumstances in which the Memoir was compiled. What is more serious is
that the personal and intimate life of the author is entirely neglected.
When he had not before him letters from the Crimea or the Red River,
from China or Ashantee, he had nothing to go upon but the newspapers.

The sad cause of all this cannot be concealed. Although his physical
health, and indeed in essentials his mental health, were unimpaired, he
had begun to suffer from a radical decay of memory. This was already
becoming obvious before he left the War Office, and it grew rapidly in
intensity. It was a very curious infirmity, for it dealt chiefly with
what I may call immediate memory. For instance, in these later years, if
an old friend came to see him on a carefully prepared visit, he would
recognize him instantly, with the old ardour, but would say: "I'm
delighted to see you, no one told me you were coming!" If a little later
on the same occasion he was called away for a few minutes, he would
return with a repeated welcome: "Oh! how nice to see you--nobody told me
you were coming!" This painful affliction has to be mentioned, if only
because it explains the strange construction of _The Story of a
Soldier's Life_. It grew upon him, until it wove a curtain which
concealed him from all intercourse with the world. In perfect physical
health, but needing and receiving the most assiduous attention, he lived
on, mainly at Mentone, until he completed his eightieth year. But his
wonderful and beneficent life had really come to an end ten years




Aasen, Ivar, his influence on Norse language and literature, 258

Ablancourt, Tallemant des Réaux and, 114

Academic Committee, an English, and its functions, 145

Académie Française, and its foundation, 145 _et seq_.

Acton, Lord, 3, 15

_Adam Bede_, 4, 8

_Agatha_, 12

Aitken, George A., 77-78

_Album, The_, by Henry James, 33

_Alcidalis et Zélide_, 116

Alexander, George, 33

Allegory, the, as an essential to fairy poetry, 265

_Alma_, Prior's, 79

_Alps and Sanctuaries_, 74

_Altar of the Dead, The_, 18

_Ambassadors, The_, 44

_American Scene, The_, 45

_American, The_, 25, 31

American Volunteer Motor Ambulance Corps, Henry James and, 52

_Amos Barton_, 6, 9

_Anactoria_, Swinburne's first draft of, 87 _et seq_.

_Analogy of Religion_, Joseph Butler's, 73

_Anaxandre et Orazie_, 154

Andersen, Hans Christian, 261

Angelo, Michel (_see_ Michel Angelo)

Angennes, Charles d' (_see_ Rambouillet, Marquis)

Anglican revival, the, its opposite school, 64

Anglo-Catholic movement, the, 186

Antilly, Arnauld d', 161

Arago, Etienne, Clemenceau's introduction to, 227

_Ariane_, Desmarets's, 154

_Arion_, G. Eliot's, 13

Ariosto, 263, 267

Arnold, Matthew, 3, 203

Arthur, Sir George, and the memoirs of Lord Wolseley, 273

Asbjörnsen, Norwegian folk-lorist, 253

Aschehoug, Prof. Torkel, 248, 258

Asquith, Right Hon. H. H., 53

_Assommoir, L'_, 24

_Atalanta in Calydon_, 95

_Atlantic Monthly_, the, Henry James as contributor to, 21

Aubigné, Agrippa d', and Malherbe, 143 his definition of satire, 102

Aubrey, John, as memoir-writer, 113

Auchy, Vicomtesse d', 110, 137

_Au Fils des Jours_, 242

_Author of Beltraffio, The_, 30

_Authoress of the Odyssey, The_, 74

_Avenir de la Science, L'_, 237, 243

_Awkward Age, The_, 38, 43


Bach, J. S., Samuel Butler and, 70

Bætzmann, Samuel, editor of _Dagbladet_, 249

Bage, Robert, 173

Balzac, Honoré de, 6, 211

Balzac, Jean Louis Guez de, 137, 160-168

Banville, Théodore de, 201

_Barde de Temrah, Le_, 198

Barrès, Maurice, 38

Bartas, Salluste du (_see_ Du Bartas)

Baudelaire, 222

Bautru, 165

Beardsley, Aubrey, 269

_Beast in the Jungle, The_, Henry James's, 45

Bedford, Countess of, and her _salon_, 100

Beethoven, Samuel Butler's contempt for music of, 70

Bellay, J. du (_see_ Du Bellay)

Bellini, Gentile, 70

Benson, Archbishop, and Henry James, 38

Bentley, Mr. Richard, 280

_Berger Extravagant, Le_, 161

Bertaut, Jean, 134, 138

_Better Sort, The_, 45

Beuil, Honorat de (_see_ Racan)

Birkeland, Michael, 251-259

Björnson, Björnstjerne, 252-3

Blake, William, 69

Boiardo, 267

Boileau, and Desmarets, 154

Boisrobert, François de Metel de, 154-158, 163

Bologna, the Otiosi at, 146

_Bostonians, The_, 29

Botten-Hansen, Norwegian biographer, 254

Boulanger, General, Clemenceau and, 229

Bourget, M. Paul, 38, 43, 215

Brabazon, Captain, execution of, by a Chinese escort, 282

Brébeuf, 161

Brisson, Mathurin, 226

Brissot, Pierre, 226

Broglie, Duc de, and Malherbe's visits to Hôtel de Rambouillet, 109

Brooke, Rupert, Henry James's friendship with, 48

_Brother and Sister_, a sonnet from, 13 privately printed by George
Eliot, 12

Browning, Robert, and George Eliot, 3

Brunetière, Ferdinand, 162, 203-4

Brunot, M. Ferdinand, 131

Bryce, Lord, conveys insignia of Order of Merit to bedside of Henry
James, 53

Buffon, 212

Burke, Edmund, 169 _et seq_.

Burlamacchi, 10

Burne-Jones, Sir Edward, 43

Burnouf, 198

Burton, John Hill, and Rousseau, 188

Burton, Sir Frederick, his paintings of George Eliot, 7

Butcher, S. H., 145

Butler, Canon Thomas, 63-65

Butler, Samuel, 60-73


_Cabinet Satirique_, 165

_Caleb Williams_, 173

California, Henry James on, 46

Calvin, Jean, 124

_Camées Parisiens_, Théodore de Banville's, 201

Camoens, 263

Camusat, Jean, 165

_Canterbury Settlement, A First Year in, Butler's_, 66

Cardwell, Mr., Lord Wolseley's tributes to, 287

Carlyle, Thomas, and Rousseau, 184

_Case Stated, A_, 79

Cayer's portrait of Catherine de Rambouillet, 104

Cerisy, Habert de, 148

Chabot, Catherine, Racan and, 109

_Chantefable_, Albert Mockel's, 269

Chapelain, Jean, 100, 105, 118, 119, 148, 149, 153, 158, 159

_Chastelard_, Swinburne's original MS. of, 89

Chastelet, Hay du, 166

Chelsea Old Church, funeral service of Henry James at, 53

Chénier, André, 194

Children and their love of fairy tales, 261 _et seq_.

_Chinese Literature, History of_, Prof. H. A. Giles's, 283

Chinese War (1860), the, Lord Wolseley's reminiscences of, 282

_Chrysaor_, 198

Classical reaction, the, Malherbe and, 123 _et seq_.

Claudel, M. Paul, 200

Clemenceau, Benjamin, 226

Clemenceau, Georges, 225-245

"Cléomire," the pseudonym of Mme. de Rambouillet in _Cyrus_, 104

_Clovis_, Desmarets's, 154

Cobham, Viscount, Congreve's posthumous _Letter_ to, 85

Coleridge on Rousseau, 176

Collas, M., and the memorials of the Hôtel de Rambouillet, 100

_College Breakfast Party, A_, 13

Collin, Sébastian, 226

Colporteur, Le, Guy de Maupassant's, 45

_Commentaire du Discours sur les Passions_, Faguet's, 213

Compton, Edward, 31

Comte, Auguste, 227

Concini, murder of, 108

_Confessions_, Rousseau's, 170

Congreve, William, 77-85

Conrart, Valentin, 100, 147, 148, 165, 166

_Contes pour les Enfants d'hier_, 269 _et seq_.

_Contrat Social_, Rousseau's, 172, 174, 176

Cook, Sir Edward, his _Life of Ruskin_, 189

Coppée, François, and Henry James, 24

Corneille, Pierre, 100, 161

Cospeau, at Hôtel de Rambouillet, 100

_Côté de chez Swann_, Marcel Proust's, 58

Courtois, M. Louis J., 170 (note), 190

Cowley, Abraham, 139, 263

Crabbe, compared with Verhaeren, 194

_Cranford_, 2

Crawford, Marion, 43

Cross, Mrs. (_see_ Eliot, George)

_Culte de l'Incompétence, Le_, 214

_Culture des Idées, La_, 218

Curtis, Daniel, 31, 48


Daa, Prof. Ludwig Kristensen, 252, 257

Daae, Ludwig, 252-256

_Daisy Miller_, Henry James's, 17, 25

D'Angennes, Charles, Marquis of Rambouillet and Pisani (_see_
Rambouillet, Marquis)

Daniel, Samuel, and the Countess of Bedford's _salon_, 100

_Daniel Deronda_, 6, 14

D'Antilly, Arnauld (see Antilly)

Darwin, Charles, 73, 233, 234

D'Aubigné, Agrippa (_see_ Aubigné)

Daudet, Alphonse, 24, 31, 37

_Dawn in Britain_, Mr. Doughty's, 268

D'Epinay, Madame (_see_ Epinay)

_Déracinés, Les_, 38

Descartes, 117, 161, 210.

_Désert, Le_, a poem by Leconte de Lisle, 196

Desmarets, Jean, and the French Academy, 153, 165

Desportes, Philippe, 129-138

De Vere, Aubrey, 23

De Vogüé (_see_ Vogüé)

_Diary of a Lover of Literature, The_, 173, 174

Dickens, Charles, 2, 11

Diderot, 183

_Discours sur l'Amour_, 120

_Disengaged_, a comedy by Henry James, 32

Disraeli, Isaac, and the beauty of fairyland, 261

_Dix-huitième Siècle_, Faguet's, 211

Dobson, Austin, 79, 146 (note), 282

_Dolores_, 94

_Don Juan_, 182

Donnay, Auguste, illustrates _Contes pour les Enfants d'hier_, 269

Donne, John, 100

_Double Dealer, The_, dedication of, 80

Doumic, M. René, Faguet and, 212

Dowden, Edward, 145

_Dream of Poliphile, The_, 265

Dreyfus affair, the, 239

Dryden, 80, 81, 199

Du Bartas, Salluste, 126-128

Du Bellay, J., 125

Du Maurier, George, 27

Dumur, M. Louis, 218

Du Périer, M., Malherbe's "Consolation" to, 139, 140

Du Perron, Cardinal, Malherbe and, 134

Du Vair, M., Malherbe on, 133


Easter, and the question of its retardation, 10

_Edinburgh Review_, 174, 175, 176, 183, 187

Elgin, Lord, and the perfidy of Chinese rulers, 282

Eliot, George, 1-16

_Emile_, 173

_En lisant Corneille_, Faguet's, 209

_En lisant les Beaux Vieux Livres_, Faguet's, 209, 210

_Endymion_, Gombauld's, 150

_English Poets, Historical Account of the_, Giles Jacob's, 78, 79

_Epilogues_, Remy de Gourmont's, 221

Epinay, Madame d', _Mémoires et Conversations_ of, 183

_Epistle to Halifax_, Congreve's, 80

_Erewhon_, Samuel Butler's, 60

_Erinnyes, Les_, Leconte de Lisle's tragedy of, 196

_Esprit des Lois_, 209

_Esthétique de la Langue Française, L'_, publication of, 218

_Etudes Littéraires_, Faguet's, 206

_Europe, Literature of_, Hallam's, 188

_Europeans, The_, 25

Evangelical movement in England, the, 185 _et seq_.

Evans, Isaac, the original of Tom Tulliver, 13

Evans, Marian (_see_ Eliot, George)

Evans, Mrs. Samuel, the original of Dinah Morris, 4

Evelyn's _Diary_, publication of, 115

_Evolution, Old and New_, Butler's, 73

_Excursion, The_, Wordsworth's, 176


_Faerie Queene, The_, 261-266

Faguet, Emile, 203-214

_Fair Haven, The_, Butler's attack on Christianity in, 73

Fairyland, the spell of, 261 _et seq_.

Faret, Nicolas, 152-4

_Felix Holt_, 8, 11

Feuillet, Octave, as rival to George Eliot, 8

Ficino, Marsiglio, and the Florence Academy, 146

Flaubert, Gustave, 10, 23, 24

_Fleetwood_, an English example of a Rousseau novel, 173

Florence, foundation of an Academy in, 146

Fontenay-le-Comte, 226

France, Anatole, 197, 204

_Francion_, and its author, 161

French Academy, foundation of, and its founders, 147 _et seq_.

French Classic School, when and how it came into being, 123 _et seq_.

_French Revolution, Reflections on the_, Burke's, 169

French Revolution, the, Rousseau and, 174

_Friend, The_, Coleridge's strictures on Rousseau in, 176

_Friendship Improv'd_, Charles Hopkins's last play, 83

Furetière's _Roman Bourgeois_, 117


_Gamle Kristiania_, Ludwig Daae's, 251, 252

Gaskell, Mrs., 2

Gautier, Théophile, Faguet and, 212

_Gebir_, Landor's, 195

Gethin, Lady, 84

Giles, Prof. H. A., his _History of Chinese Literature_, 283

Giry, Louis, and the French Academy, 156

Godeau, Antoine, 100, 147, 148

Godwin, William, 173

_Golden Bowl, The_, 18, 44, 45

Gombauld, 148-150

Gomberville, 160

Gomboust, 107

Goncourt, Edmond de, 23, 31

Gordon, General, his Nile expedition, and the result, 288

Gourmont, Gilles de, 221

Gourmont, Remy de, 214-224

Gournay, Mlle. de, 150, 164

_Grand Cyrus, Le_, a description of Catherine de Rambouillet in, 104

_Grand Pan, Le_, Clemenceau's, 234, 237

Green, John Richard, 56

Green, Thomas, his _Diary of a Lover of Literature_, 173, 174

Green, T. H., 56

Grieg, Edvard Hagerup, 253

Grimm's _Correspondence_, 178

_Guirlande de Julie_, 118, 151

_Gunlaug_, 198

_Guy Domvile_ produced at St. James's Theatre, 33, 34


Habert, Germain, and the French Academy, 151

Habert, Philippe, and the inception of the French Academy, 149, 151

Hald, Dr. Neils Christian, 254

Halifax, Charles Lord, rewards Congreve for dedication of _The Double
Dealer_, 80

Hall, Bishop Joseph, on Du Bartas, 127

Hallam, on Rousseau, 188

_Hamadryad, The_, 195

Handel, Samuel Butler's infatuation for music of, 70

Hardy, Thomas, compared with Alfred de Vigny, 194

_Hawthorne_, publication of Henry James's, 17, 27

Hazlitt, William, 12, 179, 180, 265

_Helps to Composition_, Simeon's, 186

Henri IV, 98, 99, 134, 135

Herbert, George, 116

_Hermsprong_, Bage's, 173

Higginson, Colonel, his definition of a cosmopolitan, 28

_History of Chinese Literature_, Lord Wolseley and, 283

Holcroft, Thomas, _Hugh Trevor_ of, 173

Homer, Samuel Butler's enthusiasm for, 69

_Honnête Homme, L'_, Faret's, 153

Hopkins, Charles, 82, 83

Hopkins, Ezekiel, Bishop of Derry, 82

Hôtel de Chevreuse, Paris, 107

Hôtel de Rambouillet, the, 97 _et seq_.

Howells, William Dean, his friendship with Henry James, 21

_Hugh Trevor_, Holcroft's, 173

Hugo, Victor, 193, 199, 210, 243

Hume, Burton's _Life_ of, 188

Hunt, Mrs. Arabella, Congreve's _Ode_ on, 81

Hutton, Richard Holt, editor of the _Spectator_, 252

Hyères, Henry James visits Paul Bourget at, 43

Hyndman, Mr., and Clemenceau, 230 (note)


Ibsen, Henrik, a visit to the friends of, 247 _et seq_.

_Imaginary Conversations_, W. S. Landor's, 184

_Impossible Thing, An_, Mr. Wise's copy of, 78, 79

Inchbold, Mrs., Rousseau's influence on, 173

_Incognita_, Congreve's, 240

_International Episode, An_, 17, 25

_Island of Rest, The_, an outline of, 270

_It is Never Too Late to Mend_, 2

_Ivory Tower, The_, an unfinished novel by Henry James, 48, 52


Jaabæk, Sören, Norwegian politician, 252, 256

_Jack_, Alphonse Daudet's success with, 24

Jacob, Giles, _Historical Account_, 79, 80, 83

Jacobi, Professor, his researches in Sanscrit literature, 198

Jameison, Mrs., comments on Rousseau's _Confessions_, 188

James, Henry, 17-53

James, Henry, the elder, 20

James, William, 19, 20, 48, 49

Jammes, M. Francis, 200

_Jane Eyre_, 2

_Janet's Repentance_, 4

Jansen, Kristoffer, Norwegian poet, 255

Jansenists, the, 219, 220

Jeffrey, Francis, 174, 176, 183, 184

Jesuits, the, Gourmont and, 219, 220

Jesus, Strauss's _Life of_, 6

_John Inglesant_, Shorthouse's, 56

Johnson, Dr., 85, 240

Jones, Mr. Henry Festing, 77 _et seq_.

Jonson, Ben, 100

_Joujou Patriotisme, Le_, Gourmont's article, and its results, 216

_Joyeuse Jeunesse de Tallemant_, 114 (note)

_Judgment of Paris, The_, 86

_Jugement de Konor, Le_, 199

_Juvenal_, Dryden's composite translation of, 81


_Kaïn_, Leconte de Lisle's, 195

Keats, 194, 199

Keyser, J. R., death of, 258

_Khirón_, 195

Kingsley, Charles, 2

Kipling, Mr. Rudyard, Henry James and, 44

Kitchener, Lord, and the Boer War, 283

_Kongsemnerne_, Ibsen's, 259


Lactantius, 236

_Lagrime di San Pietro_, author's paraphrase of, 132

Lake Poets, the, and Rousseau, 176

Landor, Walter Savage, 184, 195

Lang, Andrew, 145, 274, 284

Lanson, M., on Chapelain, 149

La Rochefoucauld, Maxims of, 117

Lassen, Pastor, and Sören Jaabæk, 256

_Laus Veneris_, first draft of Swinburne's, 89

Lavisse, M., 99

"Lawrenny, H." (_see_ Simcox)

Lecky, W, E. H., 56

Lee, Robert Edward, Confederate general, Lord Wolseley's opinion of, 278

Lee, Sir Sidney, and Desportes, 128

Lemaître, Jules, 204

Leonardo, Samuel Butler on, 70

Les Réaux (_see_ Tallemant)

Lessing, George Eliot and, 6

_Lesson of the Master, The_, 18

_Letter to Viscount Cobham_, Congreve's, 85

_Lettres_, Balzac's, 162

Lewes, George Henry, 1, 6

_Liber Amoris_, Hazlitt's, 179

_Life of Congreve_, Gosse's, 77

_Life of Marlborough_, Wolseley's, 279

Lisle, Leconte de, 193-202

_Literature of Europe_, Hallam's, 188

Livet, his history of Hôtel de Rambouillet, 101

_Livres des Masques_, Gourmont's, 217

Lodge, Thomas, on Desportes, 129

Lofft, Capel, 176

Loges, Madame de, 110

Lökke, Jakob, 249-259

_Love Triumphant_, Congreve's contribution to, 81

Lubbock, Mr. Percy, 19, 28, 39, 50

_Luthier de Crémone_, Coppée's, 24

Luxembourg, the, modelled on the Hôtel de Rambouillet, 107

Lyell, Sir Charles, 232

Lyng, G. V., Norwegian philosopher, 252


Mackintosh, Sir James, 172

_Madam Inger at Osterraad_, a threatened pirated edition of, 250

_Madame Bovary_, 24

Maeterlinck, M., Gourmont and, 216; Octave Mirbeau's description of,

Magne, M. Emile, 101, 104, 107, 184, 151, 154, 155

_Maison du Berger, La_, Alfred de Vigny's, 210

Malherbe, François, 108-110, 132-143

Mallarmé, S., 216

Malleville, Claude de, 148, 151, 159

_Man That lost his Heifer, The_, 79

_Mangeront-ils_, tragedy, by Victor Hugo, 243

Marie de Médicis, 108, 150

Marivaux, 21, 211

Marlborough, Duke of, Lord Wolseley's _Life_ of, 279

Marmontel, memoirs of, 175

Mary II, Queen, Congreve's ode on death of, 85

Maucroix on Tallemant, 114

Maupassant, Guy de, 24, 45

Maurice, Sir Frederick, 273

Maurier, George du (_see_ Du Maurier)

Maxse, Admiral, 227

Maynard, 160, 163

_Mêlée Social, La_, 231, 233

Ménage, M., 151, 162

Meredith, George, 89

Merivale, Herman, 188

Merivale, John Herman, 177

Michel Angelo, Samuel Butler on, 70

_Middle Years, The_, 19, 21, 52

_Middlemarch_, 9, 14

Mill, John Stuart, 7, 231, 243

_Mill on the Floss, The_, 4, 8, 13

Mirbeau, Octave, 233, 269

Mockel, Albert, 269 et seq.

Moe, Jörgen, appointed Bishop of Christianssand, 253, 254

Molière, 161

Molza, Francesco, and the heresy of Petrarchism, 129

Monnier's _Influence attribuée aux philosophes_, 174

_Monsieur de Camors_, 8

_Montagne, Lettres de la_, Rousseau's, 170

Montague, Charles, 80

Montaigne, 124, 150

Montausier, Duc de, 103, 118

Montesquieu, Faguet's estimate of, 212

_Morgante Maggiore_, burlesque of, 266, 267

Morillot, Professor Paul, on French poetry, 130

Morley, John (Viscount), 27, 145, 179

Morris, William, 23, 56

_Morte d'Arthur_, Beardsley's, 269

_Mourning Muse of Alexis, The_, Dr. Johnson on, 85


Namur, Congreve's ode on the taking of, 84-5

_Narrative of the War with China_, Lord Wolseley's, 282

_Nature and Art_, Mrs. Inchbold's, 173

Nerval, Gérard de, 221

_New Criticism of J. J. Rousseau_, 191

Newdigate, Sir Roger, the original of Christopher Cheverel, 4

Nicholas de Verdun, 141

Nietzsche, 221

_Norges Dæmring_, Welhaven's, 254

Norse legends, celebrated collectors of, 253

Northbrook, Lord, Wolseley and, 287, 288

Norwegian Historical Society, the, 255

_Notes of a Son and Brother_, 19

_Nourmahal_, Leconte de Lisle's, 199

_Nouvelle Héloïse_, 173, 182


_Ode à Richelieu_, 149

_Œdipe_, Tallemant's, 114

Ogier, Jean, Sieur de Gombauld (_see_ Gombauld)

_Old Bachelor, The_, 81

Oldmixon, John, his _Life_ of Congreve, 77

Olivet, Abbé d', on Balzac's _Lettres_, 162

Ording, Rektor Frederik, 247

_Origin of Inequality, Discourse on_, 185

Oskar, Prince, unveils a statue of Harald Fairhair, 249


Parkes, Sir Harry, 283

Pascal, 115, 161, 220

_Passionate Pilgrim, A_, 21, 23

Pasteur, Clemenceau influenced by, 243

Pater, Walter, 222

Patmore, Coventry, 3

Patru, 114

Pauli, Charles, 67, 68

Peiresc, Malherbe's correspondence with, 135

Pélisson, 100, 143, 152

_Pendant l'Orage_, de Gourmont's, 222

Pepys's _Diary_, 115

_Pericles and Aspasia_, 195

Petrarch and his imitators, 128

Pillans, James, 177 (note)

Pinchesne, 115

Pindare-Le Brun, Faguet on, 211

_Pindarique Ode_, Congreve's, 84

Pisani, Marquis de, 103

_Plaisant Abbé de Boisrobert, Le_, 154

Plato, "one of the seven humbugs of Christendom," 70

Plummer, Miss Mary, marries M. Clemenceau, 228

_Plus Belles Pages, Les_, 221

_Plus Forts, Les_, 226, 239, 240

_Pocket-Book for Field Service_, Lord Wolseley's, 277

_Poèmes Antiques_, 193, 198, 199

_Poèmes Barbares_, 193, 197, 198, 200

_Poems and Ballads_, Swinburne's, first drafts of, 88

_Polexandre_, 163

_Polyeucte_, 210

_Preface de l'Adone_, Chapelain's, 118, 149

_Preterita_, Ruskin's acknowledgment to Rousseau in, 189

_Princess Casamassima, The_, 29

Prior, Matthew, 79

_Prisoner of Chillon, The_, 182

_Problème du Style, Le_, publication of, 218, 222

_Promenades Littéraires_, 221

_Promenades Philosophiques_, 221

_Proposals for an Association_, Shelley's, 177

_Prose pour des Esseintes_, 202

Prothero, Sir George, as sponsor for Henry James, 53

Proust, M. Marcel, his _Côté de chez Swann_, 58

_Provincial Letters_, 219

_Provinciales, Les_, 220

_Pucelle_, 149

Pulci, as inventor of the _genre_, 266, 267

_Pyrandre_, 155

_Pyrrhus, King of Epirus_, 83


_Quarterly Review_, the, and Rousseau, 177, 178, 182

Quillard, M. Pierre, 227


Rabelais, 132

Racan, 109, 120, 132, 133, 144, 160, 164

Racine, 199

Raleigh, Sir Walter, Spenser's analysis of _The Faerie Queene_ and, 264

_Ramayana_, 198

Rambouillet, Elizabeth de, 114

Rambouillet, Hôtel de (_see_ Hôtel de Rambouillet)

Rambouillet, Marquis de, 102

Rambouillet, Marquise de, and her _salon_, 100 _et seq_.

Rapin, Père, and Tallemant des Réaux, 114, 115

Reade, Charles, as rival of George Eliot, 2

_Real Right Thing, The_, 45

_Recueil de Lettres Nouvelles_, 155

_Reflections on the Revolution in France_, 169

Régnier, Mathurin, 136

_Reliquiæ Gethinianæ_, 84

Renan, 237, 243

_Reprobate, The_, refused by stage managers, 33

Richelieu, 100, 120, 143, 146-164

_Richelieu, Ode à_, 149

Roberts, Earl, 284

Robinet, 121

Robinson, Crabb, 26

_Roderick Hudson_, Henry James's, 25, 47

_Roman Bourgeois_, Furetière's, 117

_Roman d'un Jeune Homme Pauvre, Le_, 8

_Romaunt of the Rose, The_, 265

_Romola_, 10

Ronsard, 124, 137, 138

_Rosamond_, Swinburne's, 89

Rosebery, Earl of, 279

Rossetti, D. G., 3

Rotrou, 161

_Round Table_, Hazlitt's, 179

Rousseau, 169-191

Royal Society of Literature, the, 145

Ruskin, John, 11, 23, 189

Rye, Henry James at, 35 _et seq_.

Rygh, Dr. Oluf, 255, 256


_Sacrifice des Muses_, _Le_, 155

Saint-Amant, 153, 160, 163

Saint-Simon, 113

Saint-Sorlin, Desmarets de (_see_ Desmarets)

Saint Victor, Paul de, 203

Sales, François de, Saint, 146

Sand, George, 5

Sarcey, Francisque, 196, 244

Sargent, Mr. J. S., 49

Sarrasa, Father, 219

Sars, J. E. W., 251

Saussure, Madame Necker, publishes Madame de Staël's _Œuvres
Inédites_, 183

Sauze, M. Charles, and the foundation of the Hôtel de Rambouillet, 107

Savage, Miss Eliza Mary Ann, 60 _et seq_.

Savella, Julia, mother of Catherine de Vivonne, 102

Savoy, the Académie Florimontane in, 146

Scarron, 164

_Scenes of Clerical Life_, 8

Schmid, Dr. D., 77

Scott, Sir Walter, 5, 173, 182, 183

Scudéry, 104

Scudéry, Madeleine de, her pen-"portrait" of Catherine de Rambouillet,

Sedgemoor, Battle of, Lord Wolseley's account of, 279

Segrais, memoirs of, 100

_Self and Life_, poem by George Eliot, 13

_Semaines_, _Les_, of Du Bartas, 126

_Semeur_, _Le_, Victor Hugo's, 210

_Sense of the Past_, _The_, an unfinished novel by Henry James, 52

Sérisay, Jacques de, 148, 150, 165

Sévigné, Madame de, 117

Shelley, 177, 180

Shelton, Richard, 79

Sheridan, General Philip Henry, 277, 278

Sherman, General William Tecumseh, 277

Siena, the Intronati at, 146

_Sigurd Jorsalfar_, 253

_Silas Marner_, 4

Simcox, Edith ("H. Lawrenny"), 1

Simeon, Charles, leader of the Evangelical movement, 186

Simondi, on the character of Rousseau, 184

_Sixtine_, 215

_Small Boy and Others, A_, 19

Smith, Charlotte, 173

Smith, Sir James Edward, 187

_Song of Italy, A_, first draft of, 91

_Songs before Sunrise_, 95

_Sonnet to Lake Leman_, Byron's, 182

Sorel, Charles, author of _Francion_, 161

Southerne, 81

Southey, and Rousseau, 176

_Spanish Gypsy, The_, 12

Spencer, Herbert, 2, 232, 243 objects to purchase of fiction, 2

Spenser, Edmund, 262, 263, 267

Spinoza's _Tractatus Theologico-Politicus_, 6

_Spoils of Poynton, The_, 37

_Squire Trelooby_, 86

Staël, Madame de, her _Œuvres Inédites_, 183

Stang, Emil, 250

Stang, Frederik, 250

Stendhal, Byron and, 182

Stephen, Sir Leslie, 10, 84

Stevenson, Robert Louis, 29

_Story of a Soldier's Life, The_, 274, 288

_Story, W. W., Life of_, 17

Straus's _Life of Jesus_, George Eliot's translation of, 6

Streatfeild, R. A., 62

_Studies in the France of Voltaire and Rousseau_, 190

Summers, Mr. Montague, 78

Sverdrup, Norwegian politician, 252

Swift, Jonathan, 15

Swinburne, Algernon Charles, 88 _et seq_.

Sylvester, Joshua, translates poems of Du Bartas, 126, 127

Sylvester, Professor, his laws for verse-making, 12


Taine, H., 243

Tallemant, Gédéon (des Réaux), 103, 108-115, 137, 148, 163

Tansillo's _Lagrime di San Pietro_, Malherbe's paraphrase of, 132

Taylorian Lecture (1920), the, at Oxford, 123

_Temple de la Mort_, _Le_, by Philippe Habert, 151

Temple, Sir William, _Essays_ of, 162

_Tenants_, a comedy by Henry James, 32

Tennyson, Lord, 12, 15, 69, 249

_Tentation de St. Antoine_, Flaubert's, 24

Thackeray, W. M., 2, 80

_Theophrastus Such_, 15

_Thrasymedes and Eunoë_, 195

Titian, Samuel Butler on, 70

_Tragic Muse_, _The_, Henry James's, 30

Trollope, Anthony, 2

Turgenev introduces Henry James to Flaubert, 24

_Turn of the Screw_, _The_, Henry James's ghost story, 38

_Two Foscari_, _The_, 182

_Two Visits to Denmark_, author's, 247


UBICINI'S edition of Voiture's works, 100

Ursins, Charlotte des (_see_ Auchy, Vicomtesse d')


VALLETTE, M., director of the _Mercure de France_, 216

_Valmiki_, _La Mort de_, 196

Vanbrugh, Sir John, 15

Van Mol, paints portrait of Catherine de Rambouillet, 104

Vaugelas, 143, 160, 166

Vauquelin de la Fresnaye, Malherbe and, 134

Vauvenargues, 212

Vayer, Lamothe de, 161

Vega, Lope de, 132

Vere, Aubrey de (_see_ De Vere)

Verhaeren, Émile, 194

Verlaine, 216, 227

Vibe, Frederik Ludwig, 255

Vigny, Alfred de, 194

_Vindiciæ Gallicæ_, Sir James Mackintosh's, 172

_Visionnaires_, _Les_, Desmarets's comedy of, 154

Vivonne, Catherine de (_see_ Rambouillet, Marquise de)

Vogüé, Vicomte Melchior de, 43

Voiture, Vincent, 100, 113, 116-119, 161, 163

Voltaire, 212

_Voyage en Suisse_, criticism of Rousseau in, 184


Wade, Sir T., Lord Wolseley on, 283

Wagner, Samuel Butler on, 70

Walpole, Mr. Hugh, 48

_Warriors of Helgeland_, a pirated edition of, 250

_Way of All Flesh, The_, 60, 62, 63

_Way of the World, The_, Congreve's, 83

Welhaven, Johan Sebastian, 254, 257

Wells, Mr. H. G., 44

Wergeland, grotto of, 254

_Westminster Review_, the, George Eliot as sub-editor of, 6

_Westward Ho!_, 2

Wharton, Mrs., 44

_What Maisie Knew_, 37

Whewell's _Moral Philosophy_, J. S. Mill's treatment of, censured by
George Eliot, 7

"Wilson, Charles" (_see_ Oldmixon, John)

_Wings of a Dove, The_, 44

Winton, Sir Francis de, 282-3

Wise, Mr. Thos. J., 78, 91

_Within the Rim_, 52

Wolseley, Lady, 275, 278

Wolseley, Viscount, 273-290

Wordsworth, 13, 176


Yeats, Mr. W. B., 266


Zola, Emile, 24, 215, 239



[1] I leave these airy words of prophecy as they stood in 1912 before
the cataclysm! (1922.)

[2] Much fresh light on his career was thrown by M. Émile Magne in his
_Joyeuse Jeunesse de Tallemant des Réaux,_ 1921.

[3] Delivered before the University of Oxford as the Taylorian Lecture
for 1920.

[4] Since this was written the Academic Committee has lost Henry James,
Lady Ritchie and Austin Dobson.

[5] By far the best account of Rousseau's visit to England is contained
in _Le Séjour de J. J. Rousseau en Angleterre_ (1766-1767), published
from original documents by M. Louis J. Courtois (A. Jullian, Genève,

[6] The writer, as I am courteously informed by the present editor of
the _Quarterly Review_, was James Pillans (1778-1864), the Scottish
educational reformer, the "paltry Pillans" of Byron's satire in _English
Bards and Scottish Reviewers_.

[7] A very interesting account of the events which led to the fall of M.
Clemenceau is given in the autobiography of the late Mr. Hyndman, who
had the advantage of enjoying M. Clemenceau's friendship from an early
date. He considers that the French statesman might have faced the storm
with success if he would but have consented to make terms with the
Socialists. But he would not do so: he replied to Mr. Hyndman--"It is as
useless to base any practical policy upon Socialist principles as it is
chimerical to repose any confidence in Socialist votes." When Mr.
Hyndman urged that this attitude of hostility to all parties might lose
him his seat in the Var, Clemenceau "laughed at the very idea of such a
defeat." Nor has the conflict between him and the revolutionary
Socialists ever ceased.

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