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Title: Boon, The Mind of the Race, The Wild Asses of the Devil, and The Last Trump; - Being a First Selection from the Literary Remains of George Boon, Appropriate to the Times
Author: Wells, H. G. (Herbert George), 1866-1946
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                     Boon, The Mind of the Race,
                     The Wild Asses of the Devil,
                         _and_ The Last Trump


                   Being a First Selection from the
                   Literary Remains of George Boon,
                       Appropriate to the Times


                     Prepared for Publication by
                            REGINALD BLISS
             AUTHOR OF "THE COUSINS OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE,"
              "A CHILD'S HISTORY OF THE CRYSTAL PALACE,"
                 "FIRELIGHT RAMBLES," "EDIBLE FUNGI,"
                "WHALES IN CAPTIVITY," AND OTHER WORKS


                                 WITH
                     An Ambiguous Introduction by
                             H. G. WELLS


                        T. FISHER UNWIN, LTD.
                       LONDON; ADELPHI TERRACE


                      _First published in 1915_


                        (All rights reserved)



INTRODUCTION


Whenever a publisher gets a book by one author he wants an Introduction
written to it by another, and Mr. Fisher Unwin is no exception to the
rule. Nobody reads Introductions, they serve no useful purpose, and
they give no pleasure, but they appeal to the business mind, I think,
because as a rule they cost nothing. At any rate, by the pressure of a
certain inseparable intimacy between Mr. Reginald Bliss and myself,
this Introduction has been extracted from me. I will confess that I
have not read his book through, though I have a kind of first-hand
knowledge of its contents, and that it seems to me an indiscreet,
ill-advised book....

I have a very strong suspicion that this Introduction idea is designed
to entangle me in the responsibility for the book. In America, at any
rate, "The Life of George Meek, Bath Chairman," was ascribed to me
upon no better evidence. Yet any one who likes may go to Eastbourne
and find Meek with chair and all complete. But in view of the
complications of the book market and the large simplicities of the
public mind, I do hope that the reader--and by that I mean the
reviewer--will be able to see the reasonableness and the necessity of
distinguishing between me and Mr. Reginald Bliss. I do not wish to
escape the penalties of thus participating in, and endorsing, his
manifest breaches of good taste, literary decorum, and friendly
obligation, but as a writer whose reputation is already too crowded
and confused and who is for the ordinary purposes of every day known
mainly as a novelist, I should be glad if I could escape the public
identification I am now repudiating. Bliss is Bliss and Wells is
Wells. And Bliss can write all sorts of things that Wells could not
do.

This Introduction has really no more to say than that.

                                                      H. G. WELLS.



CONTENTS



INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER THE FIRST
THE BACK OF MISS BATHWICK AND GEORGE BOON

CHAPTER THE SECOND
BEING THE FIRST CHAPTER OF "THE MIND OF THE RACE"

CHAPTER THE THIRD
THE GREAT SLUMP, THE REVIVAL OF LETTERS, AND THE GARDEN BY THE SEA

CHAPTER THE FOURTH
OF ART, OF LITERATURE, OF MR HENRY JAMES

CHAPTER THE FIFTH
OF THE ASSEMBLING AND OPENING OF THE WORLD CONFERENCE ON THE MIND OF
THE RACE

CHAPTER THE SIXTH
OF NOT LIKING HALLERY AND THE ROYAL SOCIETY FOR THE DISCOURAGEMENT OF
LITERATURE

CHAPTER THE SEVENTH
WILKINS MAKES CERTAIN OBJECTIONS

CHAPTER THE EIGHTH
THE BEGINNING OF "THE WILD ASSES OF THE DEVIL"

CHAPTER THE NINTH
THE HUNTING OF THE WILD ASSES OF THE DEVIL

CHAPTER THE TENTH
THE STORY OF THE LAST TRUMP



       BOON, THE MIND OF THE RACE, THE WILD ASSES OF THE DEVIL,
                        _and_ THE LAST TRUMP



CHAPTER THE FIRST

The Back of Miss Bathwick and George Boon


§ 1

It is quite probable that the reader does not know of the death of
George Boon, and that "remains" before his name upon the title-page
will be greeted with a certain astonishment. In the ordinary course of
things, before the explosion of the war, the death of George Boon
would have been an event--oh! a three-quarters of a column or more in
the _Times_ event, and articles in the monthlies and reminiscences. As
it is, he is not so much dead as missing. Something happened at the
eleventh hour--I think it was chiefly the Admiralty report of the
fight off the Falkland Islands--that blew his obituary notices clean
out of the papers. And yet he was one of our most popular writers, and
in America I am told he was in the "hundred thousand class." But now
we think only of Lord Kitchener's hundred thousands.

It is no good pretending about it. The war has ended all that. Boon
died with his age. After the war there will be a new sort of
book-trade and a crop of new writers and a fresh tone, and everything
will be different. This is an obituary, of more than George Boon.... I
regard the outlook with profound dismay. I try to keep my mind off it
by drilling with the Shrewsbury last line of volunteers and training
down the excrescences of my physical style. When the war is over will
be time enough to consider the prospects of a superannuated man of
letters. We National Volunteers are now no mere soldiers on paper; we
have fairly washable badges by way of uniform; we have bought
ourselves dummy rifles; we have persuaded the War Office to give us a
reluctant recognition on the distinct understanding that we have
neither officers nor authority. In the event of an invasion, I
understand, we are to mobilize and ... do quite a number of useful
things. But until there is an invasion in actual progress, nothing is
to be decided more precisely than what this whiff of printer's
shrapnel, these four full stops, conveys....


§ 2

I must confess I was monstrously disappointed when at last I could get
my hands into those barrels in the attic in which Boon had stored his
secret writings. There was more perhaps than I had expected; I do not
complain of the quantity, but of the disorder, the incompleteness, the
want of discipline and forethought.

Boon had talked so often and so convincingly of these secret books he
was writing, he had alluded so frequently to this or that great
project, he would begin so airily with "In the seventeenth chapter of
my 'Wild Asses of the Devil,'" or "I have been recasting the third
part of our 'Mind of the Race,'" that it came as an enormous shock to
me to find there was no seventeenth chapter; there was not even a
completed first chapter to the former work, and as for the latter,
there seems nothing really finished or settled at all beyond the
fragments I am now issuing, except a series of sketches of Lord
Rosebery, for the most part in a toga and a wreath, engaged in a
lettered retirement at his villa at Epsom, and labelled "Patrician
Dignity, the Last Phase"--sketches I suppress as of no present
interest--and a complete gallery of imaginary portraits (with several
duplicates) of the Academic Committee that has done so much for
British literature (the Polignac prize, for example, and Sir Henry
Newbolt's professorship) in the last four or five years. So
incredulous was I that this was all, that I pushed my inquiries from
their original field in the attic into other parts of the house,
pushed them, indeed, to the very verge of ransacking, and in that I
greatly deepened the want of sympathy already separating me from Mrs.
Boon. But I was stung by a thwarted sense of duty, and quite resolved
that no ill-advised interference should stand between me and the
publication of what Boon has always represented to me as the most
intimate productions of his mind.

Yet now the first rush of executorial emotion is over I can begin to
doubt about Boon's intention in making me his "literary executor." Did
he, after all, intend these pencilled scraps, these marginal
caricatures, and--what seems to me most objectionable--annotated
letters from harmless prominent people for publication? Or was his
selection of me his last effort to prolong what was, I think, if one
of the slightest, one also of the most sustained interests of his
life, and that was a prolonged faint jeering at my expense? Because
always--it was never hidden from me--in his most earnest moments Boon
jeered at me. I do not know why he jeered at me, it was always rather
pointless jeering and far below his usual level, but jeer he did. Even
while we talked most earnestly and brewed our most intoxicating
draughts of project and conviction, there was always this scarce
perceptible blossom and flavour of ridicule floating like a drowning
sprig of blue borage in the cup. His was indeed essentially one of
those suspended minds that float above the will and action; when at
last reality could be evaded no longer it killed him; he never really
believed nor felt the urgent need that goads my more accurate nature
to believe and do. Always when I think of us together, I feel that I
am on my legs and that he sits about. And yet he could tell me things
I sought to know, prove what I sought to believe, shape beliefs to a
conviction in me that I alone could never attain.

He took life as it came, let his fancy play upon it, selected,
elucidated, ignored, threw the result in jest or observation or
elaborate mystification at us, and would have no more of it.... He
would be earnest for a time and then break away. "The Last Trump" is
quite typical of the way in which he would turn upon himself. It sets
out so straight for magnificence; it breaks off so abominably. You
will read it.

Yet he took things more seriously than he seemed to do.

This war, I repeat, killed him. He could not escape it. It bore him
down. He did his best to disregard it. But its worst stresses caught
him in the climax of a struggle with a fit of pneumonia brought on by
a freak of bathing by moonlight--in an English October, a thing he did
to distract his mind from the tension after the Marne--and it
destroyed him. The last news they told him was that the Germans had
made their "shoot and scuttle" raid upon Whitby and Scarborough. There
was much circumstantial description in the morning's paper. They had
smashed up a number of houses and killed some hundreds of people,
chiefly women and children. Ten little children had been killed or
mutilated in a bunch on their way to school, two old ladies at a
boarding-house had had their legs smashed, and so on.

"Take this newspaper," he said, and held it out to his nurse. "Take
it," he repeated irritably, and shook it at her.

He stared at it as it receded. Then he seemed to be staring at distant
things.

"Wild Asses of the Devil," he said at last. "Oh! Wild Asses of the
Devil! I thought somehow it was a joke. It wasn't a joke. There they
are, and the world is theirs."

And he turned his face to the wall and never spoke again.


§ 3

But before I go on it is necessary to explain that the George Boon I
speak of is not exactly the same person as the George Boon, the Great
Writer, whose fame has reached to every bookshop in the world. The
same bodily presence perhaps they had, but that is all. Except when he
chose to allude to them, those great works on which that great fame
rests, those books and plays of his that have made him a household
word in half a dozen continents, those books with their style as
perfect and obvious as the gloss upon a new silk hat, with their flat
narrative trajectory that nothing could turn aside, their unsubdued
and apparently unsubduable healthy note, their unavoidable humour, and
their robust pathos, never came between us. We talked perpetually of
literature and creative projects, but never of that "output" of his.
We talked as men must talk who talk at all, with an untrammelled
freedom; now we were sublime and now curious, now we pursued
subtleties and now we were utterly trivial, but always it was in an
undisciplined, irregular style quite unsuitable for publication. That,
indeed, was the whole effect of the George Boon I am now trying to
convey, that he was indeed essentially not for publication. And this
effect was in no degree diminished by the fact that the photograph of
his beautiful castellated house, and of that extraordinarily
irrelevant person Mrs. Boon--for I must speak my mind of her--and of
her two dogs (Binkie and Chum), whom he detested, were, so to speak,
the poulet and salade in the menu of every illustrated magazine.

The fact of it is he was one of those people who will _not_
photograph; so much of him was movement, gesture, expression,
atmosphere, and colour, and so little of him was form. His was the
exact converse of that semi-mineral physical quality that men call
handsome, and now that his career has come to its sad truncation I see
no reason why I should further conceal the secret of the clear,
emphatic, solid impression he made upon all who had not met him. It
was, indeed, a very simple secret;--

_He never wrote anything for his public with his own hand._

He did this of set intention. He distrusted a certain freakishness of
his finger-tips that he thought might have injured him with his
multitudinous master. He knew his holograph manuscript would certainly
get him into trouble. He employed a lady, the lady who figures in his
will, Miss Bathwick, as his amanuensis. In Miss Bathwick was all his
security. She was a large, cool, fresh-coloured, permanently young
lady, full of serious enthusiasms; she had been faultlessly educated
in a girls' high school of a not too modern type, and she regarded
Boon with an invincible respect. She wrote down his sentences
(spelling without blemish in all the European languages) as they came
from his lips, with the aid of a bright, efficient, new-looking
typewriter. If he used a rare word or a whimsical construction, she
would say, "I beg your pardon, Mr. Boon," and he would at once correct
it; and if by any lapse of an always rather too nimble imagination he
carried his thoughts into regions outside the tastes and interests of
that enormous _ante-bellum_ public it was his fortune to please, then,
according to the nature of his divagation, she would either cough or
sigh or--in certain eventualities--get up and leave the room.

By this ingenious device--if one may be permitted to use the
expression for so pleasant and trustworthy an assistant--he did to a
large extent free himself from the haunting dread of losing his public
by some eccentricity of behaviour, some quirk of thought or
fluctuation of "attitude" that has pursued him ever since the great
success of "Captain Clayball," a book he wrote to poke fun at the
crude imaginings of a particularly stupid schoolboy he liked, had put
him into the forefront of our literary world.


§ 4

He had a peculiar, and, I think, a groundless terror of the public of
the United States of America, from which country he derived the larger
moiety of his income. In spite of our remonstrances, he subscribed to
the New York _Nation_ to the very end, and he insisted, in spite of
fact, reason, and my earnest entreaties (having regard to the future
unification of the English-speaking race), in figuring that
continental empire as a vain, garrulous, and prosperous female of
uncertain age, and still more uncertain temper, with unfounded
pretensions to intellectuality and an ideal of refinement of the most
negative description, entirely on the strength of that one sample. One
might as well judge England by the _Spectator_. My protests seemed
only to intensify his zest in his personification of Columbia as the
Aunt Errant of Christendom, as a wild, sentimental, and advanced
maiden lady of inconceivable courage and enterprise, whom everything
might offend and nothing cow. "I know," he used to say, "something
will be said or done and she'll have hysterics; the temptation to
smuggle something through Miss Bathwick's back is getting almost too
much for me. I _could_, you know. Or some one will come along with
something a little harder and purer and emptier and more emphatically
handsome than I can hope to do. I shall lose her one of these days....
How can I hope to keep for ever that proud and fickle heart?"

And then I remember he suddenly went off at a tangent to sketch out a
great novel he was to call "Aunt Columbia." "No," he said, "they would
suspect that--'Aunt Dove.'" She was to be a lady of great,
unpremeditated wealth, living on a vast estate near a rather crowded
and troublesome village. Everything she did and said affected the
village enormously. She took the people's children into her
employment; they lived on her surplus vegetables. She was to have a
particularly troublesome and dishonest household of servants and a
spoiled nephew called Teddy. And whenever she felt dull or energetic
she drove down into the village and lectured and blamed the
villagers--for being overcrowded, for being quarrelsome, for being
poor and numerous, for not, in fact, being spinster ladies of enormous
good fortune.... That was only the beginning of one of those vast
schemes of his that have left no trace now in all the collection.

His fear of shocking America was, I think, unfounded; at any rate, he
succeeded in the necessary suppressions every time, and until the day
of his death it was rare for the American press-cuttings that were
removed in basketfuls almost daily with the other debris of his
breakfast-table to speak of him in anything but quasi-amorous tones.
He died for them the most spiritual as well as the most intellectual
of men; "not simply intellectual, but lovable." They spoke of his
pensive eyes, though, indeed, when he was not glaring at a camera they
were as pensive as champagne, and when the robust pathos bumped
against the unavoidable humour as they were swept along the narrow
torrent of his story they said with all the pleasure of an apt
quotation that indeed in his wonderful heart laughter mingled with
tears.


§ 5

I think George Boon did on the whole enjoy the remarkable setting of
his philosophical detachment very keenly; the monstrous fame of him
that rolled about the world, that set out east and came back
circumferentially from the west and beat again upon his doors. He
laughed irresponsibly, spent the resulting money with an intelligent
generosity, and talked of other things. "It is the quality of life,"
he said, and "The people love to have it so."

I seem to see him still, hurrying but not dismayed, in flight from the
camera of an intrusive admirer--an admirer not so much of him as of
his popularity--up one of his garden walks towards his agreeable
study. I recall his round, enigmatical face, an affair of rosy
rotundities, his very bright, active eyes, his queer, wiry, black hair
that went out to every point in the heavens, his ankles and neck and
wrists all protruding from his garments in their own peculiar way,
protruding a little more in the stress of flight. I recall, too, his
general effect of careless and, on the whole, commendable dirtiness,
accentuated rather than corrected by the vivid tie of soft
orange-coloured silk he invariably wore, and how his light paces
danced along the turf. (He affected in his private dominions trousers
of faint drab corduroy that were always too short, braced up with
vehement tightness, and displaying claret-coloured socks above his
easy, square-toed shoes.) And I know that even that lumbering camera
coming clumsily to its tripod ambush neither disgusted nor vulgarized
him. He liked his game; he liked his success and the opulent
stateliness it gave to the absurdities of Mrs. Boon and all the
circumstances of his profoundly philosophical existence; and he liked
it all none the worse because it was indeed nothing of himself at all,
because he in his essence was to dull intelligences and commonplace
minds a man invisible, a man who left no impression upon the
camera-plate or moved by a hair's breadth the scale of a materialist
balance.


§ 6

But I will confess the state of the remains did surprise and
disappoint me.

His story of great literary enterprises, holograph and conducted in
the profoundest secrecy, tallied so completely with, for example,
certain reservations, withdrawals that took him out of one's company
and gave him his evident best companionship, as it were, when he was
alone. It was so entirely like him to concoct lengthy books away from
his neatly ordered study, from the wise limitations of Miss Bathwick's
significant cough and her still more significant back, that we all, I
think, believed in these unseen volumes unquestioningly. While those
fine romances, those large, bright plays, were being conceived in a
publicity about as scandalous as a royal gestation, publicly planned
and announced, developed, written, boomed, applauded, there was, we
knew, this undercurrent of imaginative activity going on, concealed
from Miss Bathwick's guardian knowledge, withdrawn from the stately
rhythm of her keys. What more natural than to believe he was also
writing it down?

Alas! I found nothing but fragments. The work upon which his present
fame is founded was methodical, punctual and careful, and it
progressed with a sort of inevitable precision from beginning to end,
and so on to another beginning. Not only in tone and spirit but in
length (that most important consideration) he was absolutely
trustworthy; his hundred thousand words of good, healthy,
straightforward story came out in five months with a precision almost
astronomical. In that sense he took his public very seriously. To have
missed his morning's exercises behind Miss Bathwick's back would have
seemed to him the most immoral--nay, worse, the most uncivil of
proceedings.

"She wouldn't understand it," he would say, and sigh and go.

But these scraps and fragments are of an irregularity diametrically
contrasting with this. They seem to have been begun upon impulse at
any time, and abandoned with an equal impulsiveness, and they are
written upon stationery of a variety and nature that alone would
condemn them in the eyes of an alienist. The handwriting is always
atrocious and frequently illegible, the spelling is strange, and
sometimes indecently bad, the punctuation is sporadic, and many of the
fragments would be at once put out of court as modern literature by
the fact that they are written in pencil on _both sides of the paper_!
Such of the beginnings as achieve a qualified completeness are of
impossible lengths; the longest is a piece--allowing for gaps--of
fourteen thousand words, and another a fragment shaping at about
eleven. These are, of course, quite impossible sizes, neither essay
nor short story nor novel, and no editor or publisher would venture to
annoy the public with writings of so bizarre a dimension. In addition
there are fragments of verse. But I look in vain for anything beyond
the first chapter of that tremendous serial, "The Wild Asses of the
Devil," that kept on day by day through June and July to the very
outbreak of the war, and only a first chapter and a few illustrations
and memoranda and fragments for our "Mind of the Race," that went on
intermittently for several years. Whole volumes of that great
hotchpotch of criticism are lost in the sandbanks of my treacherous
memory for ever.

Much of the matter, including a small MS. volume of those brief verses
called Limericks (personal always, generally actionable, and
frequently lacking in refinement), I set aside at an early date. Much
else also I rejected as too disjointed and unfinished, or too
eccentric. Two bizarre fragments called respectively "Jane in Heaven"
and "An Account of a Play," I may perhaps find occasion to issue at a
later date, and there were also several brief imitations of Villiers
de l'Isle Adam quite alien to contemporary Anglo-Saxon taste, which
also I hold over. Sometimes upon separate sheets, sometimes in the
margins of other compositions, and frequently at the end of letters
received by him I found a curious abundance of queer little drawings,
caricatures of his correspondents, burlesque renderings of
occurrences, disrespectful sidenotes to grave and pregnant utterances,
and the like. If ever the correspondence of George Boon is published,
it will have to be done in _fac-simile_. There is a considerable
number of impressions of the back of Miss Bathwick's head, with and
without the thread of velvet she sometimes wore about her neck, and
quite a number of curiously idealized studies of that American reading
public he would always so grotesquely and annoyingly insist on calling
"Her." And among other things I found a rendering of myself as a
short, flattened little object that has a touch of malignity in it I
had no reason to expect. Few or none of these quaint comments are
drawn with Indian ink upon millboard in a manner suitable for
reproduction, and even were they so, I doubt whether the public would
care for very many of them. (I give my own portrait--it is singularly
unlike me--to show the style of thing he did.)

[Illustration]

Of the "Mind of the Race" I may perhaps tell first. I find he had
written out and greatly embellished the singularly vivid and detailed
and happily quite imaginary account of the murder of that eminent
litterateur, Dr. Tomlinson Keyhole, with which the "Mind of the Race"
was to have concluded; and there are an extraordinarily offensive
interview with Mr. Raymond Blathwayt (which, since it now "dates" so
markedly, I have decided to suppress altogether) and an unfinished
study of "the Literary Statesmen of the Transition Years from the
Nineteenth to the Twentieth Centuries" (including a lengthy comparison
of the greatness of Lords Bryce and Morley, a eulogy of Lord Morley
and a discussion whether he has wit or humour) that were new to me.
And perhaps I may note at this point the twenty sixpenny washing books
in which Boon had commenced what I am firmly convinced is a general
index of the works of Plato and Aristotle. It is conceivable he did
this merely as an aid to his private reading, though the idea of a
popular romancer reading anything will come to the general reader with
a little shock of surprise.

[Illustration: _Boon's idea of_ Aristotle _(in modern dress), from the
washing books_.

(_When asked_, "Why _in modern dress?" Boon replied simply that he
would be._)]

For my own part and having in memory his subtle and elusive talk, I am
rather inclined to think that at one time he did go so far as to
contemplate a familiar and humorous commentary upon these two pillars
of the world's thought. An edition of them edited and copiously
illustrated by him would, I feel sure, have been a remarkable addition
to any gentleman's library. If he did turn his mind to anything of the
sort he speedily abandoned the idea again, and with this mention and
the note that he detested Aristotle, those six and twenty washing
books may very well follow the bulk of the drawings and most of the
verse back into their original oblivion....

[Illustration: _Boon's idea of_ Plato, _from the washing books_.

(Boon absolutely rejected the Indian Bacchus bust as a portrait of
_Plato_. When asked why, he remarked merely that it wasn't like him.)]


§ 7

But now you will begin to understand the nature of the task that lies
before me. If I am to do any justice to the cryptic George Boon, if
indeed I am to publish anything at all about him, I must set myself to
edit and convey these books whose only publication was in fact by word
of mouth in his garden arbours, using these few fragments as the
merest accessories to that. I have hesitated, I have collected
unfavourable advice, but at last I have resolved to make at least one
experimental volume of Boon's remains. After all, whatever we have of
Aristotle and Socrates and all that we most value of Johnson comes
through the testimony of hearers. And though I cannot venture to
compare myself with Boswell....

I know the dangers I shall run in this attempt to save my friend from
the devastating expurgations of his written ostensible career. I
confess I cannot conceal from myself that, for example, I must needs
show Boon, by the standards of every day, a little treacherous.

When I thrust an arm into one or other of the scores of densely packed
bins of press cuttings that cumber the attics of his castellated
mansion and extract a sample clutch, I find almost invariably praise,
not judicious or intelligent praise perhaps, but slab and generous
praise, paragraphs, advice, photographs, notices, notes, allusions and
comparisons, praise of the unparalleled gloss on his style by Doctor
Tomlinson Keyhole under the pseudonym of "Simon up to Snuff," praise
of the healthiness of the tone by Doctor Tomlinson Keyhole under the
pseudonym of "The Silver Fish," inspired announcements of some
forthcoming venture made by Doctor Tomlinson Keyhole under the
pseudonym of "The True-Born Englishman," and interesting and exalting
speculations as to the precise figure of Boon's income over Dr.
Tomlinson Keyhole's own signature; I find chatty, if a little
incoherent, notices by Braybourne of the most friendly and helpful
sort, and interviews of the most flattering description by this
well-known litterateur and that. And I reflect that while all this was
going on, there was Boon on the other side of Miss Bathwick's rampart
mind, not only not taking them and himself seriously, not only not
controlling his disrespectful internal commentary on these excellent
men, but positively writing it down, regaling himself with the
imagined murder of this leader of thought and the forcible abduction
to sinister and melancholy surroundings of that!

And yet I find it hard to do even this measure of justice to my
friend. He was treacherous, it must be written, and yet he was, one
must confess, a singularly attractive man. There was a certain quality
in his life--it was pleasant. When I think of doing him justice I am
at once dashed and consoled by the thought of how little he cared how
I judged him. And I recall him very vividly as I came upon him on one
occasion.

He is seated on a garden roller--an implement which makes a faultless
outdoor seat when the handle is adjusted at a suitable angle against a
tree, and one has taken the precaution to skid the apparatus with a
piece of rockery or other convenient object. His back is against the
handle, his legs lie in a boneless curve over the roller, and an inch
or so of native buff shows between the corduroy trousers and the
claret-coloured socks. He appears to be engaged partly in the
degustation of an unappetizing lead pencil, and partly in the
contemplation of a half-quire of notepaper. The expression of his
rubicund face is distinctly a happy one. At the sound of my approach
he looks up. "I've been drawing old Keyhole again!" he says like a
schoolboy.

[Illustration]

Nevertheless, if critics of standing are to be drawn like this by
authors of position, then it seems to me that there is nothing before
us but to say Good-bye for ever to the Dignity of Letters.



CHAPTER THE SECOND

Being the First Chapter of "The Mind of the Race"


§ 1

It was one of Boon's peculiarities to maintain a legend about every
one he knew, and to me it was his humour to ascribe a degree of moral
earnestness that I admit only too sadly is altogether above my
quality. Having himself invented this great project of a book upon the
Mind of the Race which formed always at least the thread of the
discourse when I was present, he next went some way towards foisting
it upon me. He would talk to me about it in a tone of remonstrance,
raise imaginary difficulties to propositions I was supposed to make
and superstitions I entertained, speak of it as "this book Bliss is
going to write"; and at the utmost admit no more than collaboration.
Possibly I contributed ideas; but I do not remember doing so now very
distinctly. Possibly my influence was quasi-moral. The proposition
itself fluctuated in his mind to suit this presentation and that, it
had more steadfastness in mine. But if I was the anchorage he was the
ship. At any rate we planned and discussed a book that Boon pretended
that I was writing and that I believed him to be writing, in entire
concealment from Miss Bathwick, about the collective mind of the whole
human race.

Edwin Dodd was with us, I remember, in one of those early talks, when
the thing was still taking form, and he sat on a large inverted
flowerpot--we had camped in the greenhouse after lunch--and he was
smiling, with his head slightly on one side and a wonderfully foxy
expression of being on his guard that he always wore with Boon. Dodd
is a leading member of the Rationalist Press Association, a militant
agnostic, and a dear, compact man, one of those Middle Victorians who
go about with a preoccupied, caulking air, as though, after having
been at great cost and pains to banish God from the Universe, they
were resolved not to permit Him back on any terms whatever. He has
constituted himself a sort of alert customs officer of a materialistic
age, saying suspiciously, "Here, now, what's this rapping under the
table here?" and examining every proposition to see that the Creator
wasn't being smuggled back under some specious new generalization.
Boon used to declare that every night Dodd looked under his bed for
the Deity, and slept with a large revolver under his pillow for fear
of a revelation.... From the first Dodd had his suspicions about this
collective mind of Boon's. Most unjustifiable they seemed to me then,
but he had them.

"You must admit, my dear Dodd----" began Boon.

"I admit nothing," said Dodd smartly.

"You perceive something more extensive than individual wills and
individual processes of reasoning in mankind, a body of thought, a
trend of ideas and purposes, a thing made up of the synthesis of all
the individual instances, something more than their algebraic sum,
losing the old as they fall out, taking up the young, a common Mind
expressing the species----"

"Oh--figuratively, perhaps!" said Dodd.


§ 2

For my own part I could not see where Dodd's "figuratively" comes in.
The mind of the race is as real to me as the mind of Dodd or my own.
Because Dodd is completely made up of Dodd's right leg plus Dodd's
left leg, plus Dodd's right arm plus Dodd's left arm plus Dodd's head
and Dodd's trunk, it doesn't follow that Dodd is a mere figurative
expression....

Dodd, I remember, protested he had a self-consciousness that held all
these constituents together, but there was a time when Dodd was six
months old, let us say, and there are times now when Dodd sleeps or is
lost in some vivid sensation or action, when that clear sense of self
is in abeyance. There is no reason why the collective mind of the
world should not presently become at least as self-conscious as Dodd.
Boon, indeed, argued that that was happening even now, that our very
talk in the greenhouse was to that synthetic over-brain like a child's
first intimations of the idea of "me." "It's a _fantastic_ notion,"
said Dodd, shaking his head.

But Boon was fairly launched now upon his topic, and from the first, I
will confess, it took hold of me.

"You mustn't push the analogy of Dodd's mind too far," said Boon.
"These great Over-minds----"

"So there are several!" said Dodd.

"They fuse, they divide. These great Over-minds, these race minds,
share nothing of the cyclic fate of the individual life; there is no
birth for them, no pairing and breeding, no inevitable death. That is
the lot of such intermediate experimental creatures as ourselves. The
creatures below us, like the creatures above us, are free from
beginnings and ends. The Amoeba never dies; it divides at times, parts
of it die here and there, it has no sex, no begetting. (Existence
without a love interest. My God! how it sets a novelist craving!)
Neither has the germ plasm. These Over-minds, which for the most part
clothe themselves in separate languages and maintain a sort of
distinction, stand to us as we stand to the amoebæ or the germ cells
we carry; they are the next higher order of being; they emerge above
the intense, intensely defined struggle of individuals which is the
more obvious substance of lives at the rank of ours; they grow, they
divide, they feed upon one another, they coalesce and rejuvenate. So
far they are like amoebæ. But they think, they accumulate experiences,
they manifest a collective will."

"Nonsense!" said Dodd, shaking his head from side to side.

"But the thing is manifest!"

"I've never met it."

"You met it, my dear Dodd, the moment you were born. Who taught you to
talk? Your mother, you say. But whence the language? Who made the
language that gives a bias to all your thoughts? And who taught you to
think, Dodd? Whence came your habits of conduct? Your mother, your
schoolmaster were but mouthpieces, the books you read the mere
forefront of that great being of Voices! There it is--your antagonist
to-day. You are struggling against it with tracts and arguments...."

But now Boon was fairly going. Physically, perhaps, we were the
children of our ancestors, but mentally we were the offspring of the
race mind. It was clear as daylight. How could Dodd dare to argue? We
emerged into a brief independence of will, made our personal
innovation, became, as it were, new thoughts in that great
intelligence, new elements of effort and purpose, and were presently
incorporated or forgotten or both in its immortal growth. Would the
Race Mind incorporate Dodd or dismiss him? Dodd sat on his flowerpot,
shaking his head and saying "Pooh!" to the cinerarias; and I listened,
never doubting that Boon felt the truth he told so well. He came near
making the Race soul incarnate. One felt it about us, receptive and
responsive to Boon's words. He achieved personification. He spoke of
wars that peoples have made, of the roads and cities that grow and the
routes that develop, no man planning them. He mentioned styles of
architecture and styles of living; the gothic cathedral, I remember,
he dwelt upon, a beauty, that arose like an exhalation out of
scattered multitudes of men. He instanced the secular abolition of
slavery and the establishment of monogamy as a development of
Christian teaching, as things untraceable to any individual's purpose.
He passed to the mysterious consecutiveness of scientific research,
the sudden determination of the European race mind to know more than
chance thoughts could tell it....

"Francis Bacon?" said Dodd.

"Men like Bacon are no more than bright moments, happy thoughts, the
discovery of the inevitable word; the race mind it was took it up, the
race mind it was carried it on."

"Mysticism!" said Dodd. "Give me the Rock of Fact!" He shook his head
so violently that suddenly his balance was disturbed; clap went his
feet, the flowerpot broke beneath him, and our talk was lost in the
consequent solicitudes.

[Illustration: _Dodd the Agnostic just before the flowerpot broke._]


§ 3

Now that I have been searching my memory, I incline rather more than I
did to the opinion that the bare suggestion at any rate of this
particular Book did come from me. I probably went to Boon soon after
this talk with Dodd and said a fine book might be written about the
Mind of Humanity, and in all likelihood I gave some outline--I have
forgotten what. I wanted a larger picture of that great Being his
imagination had struck out. I remember at any, rate Boon taking me
into his study, picking out Goldsmith's "Inquiry into the Present
State of Polite Learning," turning it over and reading from it.
"Something in this line?" he said, and read:

    "'Complaints of our degeneracy in literature as well as in
    morals I own have been frequently exhibited of late.... The
    dullest critic who strives at a reputation for delicacy, by
    showing he cannot be pleased ...'

"The old, old thing, you see! The weak protest of the living."

He turned over the pages. "He shows a proper feeling, but he's a
little thin.... He says some good things. But--'The age of Louis XIV,
notwithstanding these respectable names, is still vastly, superior.'
Is it? Guess the respectable names that age of Louis XIV could
override!--Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Montesquieu, D'Alembert! And
now tell me the respectable names of the age of Louis XIV. And the
conclusion of the whole matter--

    "'Thus the man who, under the patronage of the great might
    have done honour to humanity, when only patronized by the
    bookseller becomes a thing a little superior to the fellow who
    works at the press.'

"'The patronage of the great'! 'Fellow who works at the press'!
Goldsmith was a damnably genteel person at times in spite of the
'Vicar'! It's printed with the long 's,' you see. It all helps to
remind one that times have changed." ...

I followed his careless footsteps into the garden; he went
gesticulating before me, repeating, "'An Inquiry into the State of
Polite Learning'! That's what your 'Mind of the Race' means. Suppose
one did it now, we should do it differently in every way, from that."

"Yes, but how should we do it?" said I.

The project had laid hold upon me. I wanted a broad outline of the
whole apparatus of thinking and determination in the modern State;
something that should bring together all its various activities, which
go on now in a sort of deliberate ignorance of one another, which
would synthesize research, education, philosophical discussion, moral
training, public policy. "There is," I said, "a disorganized abundance
now."

"It's a sort of subconscious mind," said Boon, seeming to take me
quite seriously, "with a half instinctive will...."

We discussed what would come into the book. One got an impression of
the enormous range and volume of intellectual activity that pours
along now, in comparison with the jejune trickle of Goldsmith's days.
Then the world had--what? A few English writers, a few men in France,
the Royal Society, the new Berlin Academy (conducting its transactions
in French), all resting more or less upon the insecure patronage of
the "Great"; a few schools, public and private, a couple of dozen of
universities in all the world, a press of which _The Gentleman's
Magazine_ was the brightest ornament. Now----

It is a curious thing that it came to us both as a new effect, this
enormously greater size of the intellectual world of to-day. We didn't
at first grasp the implications of that difference, we simply found it
necessitated an enlargement of our conception. "And then a man's
thoughts lived too in a world that had been created, lock, stock, and
barrel, a trifle under six thousand years ago!..."

We fell to discussing the range and divisions of our subject. The main
stream, we settled, was all that one calls "literature" in its broader
sense. We should have to discuss that principally. But almost as
important as the actual development of ideas, suggestions, ideals, is
the way they are distributed through the body of humanity, developed,
rendered, brought into touch with young minds and fresh minds, who are
drawn so into participation, who themselves light up and become new
thoughts. One had to consider journalism, libraries, book
distribution, lecturing, teaching. Then there is the effect of laws,
of inventions.... "Done in a large, dull, half-abstract way," said
Boon, "one might fill volumes. One might become an Eminent
Sociologist. You might even invent terminology. It's a chance----"

We let it pass. He went on almost at once to suggest a more congenial
form, a conversational novel. I followed reluctantly. I share the
general distrust of fiction as a vehicle of discussion. We would, he
insisted, invent a personality who would embody our Idea, who should
be fanatically obsessed by this idea of the Mind of the Race, who
should preach it on all occasions and be brought into illuminating
contact with all the existing mental apparatus and organization of the
world. "Something of your deep, moral earnestness, you know, only a
little more presentable and not quite so vindictive," said Boon, "and
without your--lapses. I seem to see him rather like Leo Maxse: the
same white face, the same bright eyes, the same pervading suggestion
of nervous intensity, the same earnest, quasi-reasonable voice--but
instead of that anti-German obsession of his, an intelligent passion
for the racial thought. He must be altogether a fanatic. He must think
of the Mind of the Race in season and out of season. Collective
thought will be no joke to him; it will be the supremely important
thing. He will be passionately a patriot, entirely convinced of your
proposition that 'the thought of a community is the life of a
community,' and almost as certain that the tide of our thought is
ebbing."

"Is it?" said I.

"I've never thought. The 'Encyclopædia Britannica' says it is."

"We must call the 'Encyclopædia Britannica.'"

"As a witness--in the book--rather! But, anyhow, this man of ours will
believe it and struggle against it. It will make him ill; it will
spoil the common things of life for him altogether. I seem to see him
interrupting some nice, bright, clean English people at tennis. 'Look
here, you know,' he will say, 'this is all very well. But have you
_thought_ to-day? They tell me the Germans are thinking, the
Japanese.' I see him going in a sort of agony round and about
Canterbury Cathedral. 'Here are all these beautiful, tranquil
residences clustering round this supremely beautiful thing, all these
well-dressed, excellent, fresh-coloured Englishmen in their beautiful
clerical raiment--deans, canons--and what have they _thought_, any of
them? I keep my ear to the _Hibbert Journal_, but is it enough?'
Imagine him going through London on an omnibus. He will see as clear
as the advertisements on the hoardings the signs of the formal
breaking up of the old Victorian Church of England and Dissenting
cultures that have held us together so long. He will see that the
faith has gone, the habits no longer hold, the traditions lie lax like
cut string--there is nothing to replace these things. People do this
and that dispersedly; there is democracy in beliefs even, and any
notion is as good as another. And there is America. Like a burst
Haggis. Intellectually. The Mind is confused, the Race in the violent
ferment of new ideas, in the explosive development of its own
contrivances, has lost its head. It isn't thinking any more; it's
stupefied one moment and the next it's diving about----

"It will be as clear as day to him that a great effort of intellectual
self-control must come if the race is to be saved from utter confusion
and dementia. And nobody seems to see it but he. He will go about
wringing his hands, so to speak. I fancy him at last at a
writing-desk, nervous white fingers clutched in his black hair. 'How
can I put it so that they _must_ attend and see?'"

So we settled on our method and principal character right away. But we
got no farther because Boon insisted before doing anything else on
drawing a fancy portrait of this leading character of ours and
choosing his name. We decided to call him Hallery, and that he should
look something like this--

[Illustration: _Hallery preparing to contradict._]

That was how "The Mind of the Race" began, the book that was to have
ended at last in grim burlesque with Hallery's murder of Dr. Tomlinson
Keyhole in his villa at Hampstead, and the conversation at dawn with
that incredulous but literate policeman at Highgate--he was reading a
World's Classic--to whom Hallery gave himself up.



CHAPTER THE THIRD

The Great Slump, the Revival of Letters, and the Garden by the Sea


§ 1

The story, as Boon planned it, was to begin with a spacious
Introduction. We were to tell of the profound decadence of letters at
the opening of the Twentieth Century and how a movement of revival
began. A few notes in pencil of this opening do exist among the
Remains, and to those I have referred. He read them over to me....

"'We begin,'" he said, "'in a minor key. The impetus of the Romantic
movement we declare is exhausted; the Race Mind, not only of the
English-speaking peoples but of the whole world, has come upon a
period of lethargy. The Giants of the Victorian age----'"

My eye discovered a familiar binding among the flower-pots. "You have
been consulting the 'Encyclopædia Britannica,'" I said.

He admitted it without embarrassment.

"I have prigged the whole thing from the last Victorian Edition--with
some slight variations.... 'The Giants of the Victorian age had
passed. Men looked in vain for their successors. For a time there was
an evident effort to fill the vacant thrones; for a time it seemed
that the unstinted exertions of Miss Marie Corelli, Mr. Hall Caine,
Mrs. Humphry Ward, and the friends of Mr. Stephen Phillips might go
some way towards obliterating these magnificent gaps. And then, slowly
but surely, it crept into men's minds that the game was up----'"

"You will alter that phrase?" I said.

"Certainly. But it must serve now ... 'that, humanly speaking, it was
impossible that anything, at once so large, so copious, so broadly and
unhesitatingly popular, so nobly cumulative as the Great Victorian
Reputations could ever exist again. The Race seemed threatened with
intellectual barrenness; it had dropped its great blossoms, and stood
amidst the pile of their wilting but still showy petals, budless and
bare. It is curious to recall the public utterances upon literature
that distinguished this desolate and melancholy time. It is a chorus
of despair. There is in the comments of such admirable but ageing
critics as still survived, of Mr. Gosse, for example, and the
venerable Sir Sidney Colvin and Mr. Mumchance, an inevitable
suggestion of widowhood; the judges, bishops, statesmen who are called
to speak upon literature speak in the same reminiscent, inconsolable
note as of a thing that is dead. Year after year one finds the
speakers at the Dinner of the Royal Literary Fund admitting the
impudence of their appeal. I remember at one of these festivities
hearing the voice of Mr. Justice Gummidge break.... The strain, it is
needless to say, found its echo in Dr. Tomlinson Keyhole; he confessed
he never read anything that is less than thirty years old with the
slightest enjoyment, and threw out the suggestion that nothing new
should be published--at least for a considerable time--unless it was
clearly shown to be posthumous....

"'Except for a few irresistible volumes of facetiousness, the reading
public very obediently followed the indications of authority in these
matters, just as it had followed authority and sustained the Giants in
the great Victorian days. It bought the long-neglected
classics--anything was adjudged a classic that was out of
copyright--it did its best to read them, to find a rare smack in their
faded allusions, an immediate application for their forgotten topics.
It made believe that architects were still like Mr. Pecksniff and
schoolmasters like Squeers, that there were no different women from
Jane Austen's women, and that social wisdom ended in Ruskin's fine
disorder. But with the decay, of any intellectual observation of the
present these past things had lost their vitality. A few resolute
people maintained an artificial interest in them by participation in
quotation-hunting competitions and the like, but the great bulk of the
educated classes ceased presently to read anything whatever. The
classics were still bought by habit, as people who have lost faith
will still go to church; but it is only necessary to examine some
surviving volume of this period to mark the coruscation of printer's
errors, the sheets bound in upside down or accidentally not inked in
printing or transferred from some sister classic in the same series,
to realize that these volumes were mere receipts for the tribute paid
by the pockets of stupidity to the ancient prestige of thought....

"'An air of completion rested upon the whole world of letters. A
movement led by Professor Armstrong, the eminent educationist, had
even gone some way towards banishing books from the schoolroom--their
last refuge. People went about in the newly invented automobile and
played open-air games; they diverted what attention they had once
given to their minds to the more rational treatment of their stomachs.
Reading became the last resort of those too sluggish or too poor to
play games; one had recourse to it as a substitute for the ashes of
more strenuous times in the earlier weeks of mourning for a near
relative, and even the sale of classics began at last to decline. An
altogether more satisfying and alluring occupation for the human
intelligence was found in the game of Bridge. This was presently
improved into Auction Bridge. Preparations were made for the erection
of a richly decorative memorial in London to preserve the memory of
Shakespeare, an English Taj Mahal; an Academy of uncreative literature
was established under the Presidency of Lord Reay (who had never
written anything at all), and it seemed but the matter of a few years
before the goal of a complete and final mental quiet would be attained
by the whole English-speaking community....'"


§ 2

"You know," I said, "that doesn't exactly represent----"

"Hush!" said Boon. "It was but a resting phase! And at this point I
part company with the 'Encyclopædia.'"

"But you didn't get all that out of the 'Encyclopædia'?"

"Practically--yes. I may have rearranged it a little. The
Encyclopædist is a most interesting and representative person. He
takes up an almost eighteenth-century attitude, holds out hopes of a
revival of Taste under an Academy, declares the interest of the great
mass of men in literature is always 'empirical,' regards the great
Victorian boom in letters as quite abnormal, and seems to ignore what
you would call that necessary element of vitalizing thought.... It's
just here that Hallery will have to dispute with him. We shall have to
bring them together in our book somehow.... Into this impressive scene
of decline and the ebb of all thinking comes this fanatic Hallery of
ours, reciting with passionate conviction, 'the thought of a nation is
the life of a nation.' You see our leading effect?"

He paused. "We have to represent Hallery as a voice crying in the
wilderness. We have to present him in a scene of infinite intellectual
bleakness, with the thinnest scrub of second-rate books growing
contemptibly, and patches of what the Encyclopædist calls
tares--wind-wilted tares--about him. A mournful Encyclopædist like
some lone bird circling in the empty air beneath the fading stars....
Well, something of that effect, anyhow! And then, you know, suddenly,
mysteriously one grows aware of light, of something coming, of
something definitely coming, of the dawn of a great Literary
Revival...."

"How does it come?"

"Oh! In the promiscuous way of these things. The swing of the
pendulum, it may be. Some eminent person gets bored at the prospect of
repeating that rigmarole about the great Victorians and our present
slackness for all the rest of his life, and takes a leaf from one of
Hallery's books. We might have something after the fashion of the
Efficiency and Wake-up-England affair. Have you ever heard guinea-fowl
at dawn?"

"I've heard them at twilight. They say, 'Come back. Come back.' But
what has that to do with----"

"Nothing. There's a movement, a stir, a twittering, and then a sudden
promiscuous uproar, articles in the reviews, articles in the
newspapers, paragraphs, letters, associations, societies, leagues. I
imagine a very great personality indeed in the most extraordinary and
unexpected way coming in...." (It was one of Boon's less amiable
habits to impute strange and uncanny enterprises, the sudden adoption
of movements, manias, propagandas, adhesion to vegetarianism,
socialism, the strangest eccentricities, to the British royal family.)
"As a result Hallery finds himself perforce a person of importance.
'The thought of a nation is the life of a nation,' one hears it from
royal lips; 'a literature, a living soul, adequate to this vast
empire,' turns up in the speech of a statesman of the greatest
literary pretensions. Arnold White responds to the new note. The
_Daily Express_ starts a Literary Revival on its magazine page and
offers a prize. The _Times_ follows suit. Reports of what is afoot
reach social circles in New York.... The illumination passes with a
dawnlike swiftness right across the broad expanse of British life,
east and west flash together; the ladies' papers and the motoring
journals devote whole pages to 'New Literature,' and there is an
enormous revival of Book Teas.... That sort of thing, you
know--extensively."


§ 3

"So much by way of prelude. Now picture to yourself the immediate
setting of my conference. Just hand me that book by the
'Encyclopædia.'"

It was Mallock's "New Republic." He took it, turned a page or so,
stuck a finger in it, and resumed.

"It is in a narrow, ill-kept road by the seaside, Bliss. A long wall,
plaster-faced, blotched and peeling, crested with uncivil glass
against the lower orders, is pierced by cast-iron gates clumsily
classical, and through the iron bars of these there is visible the
deserted gatekeeper's lodge, its cracked windows opaque with
immemorial dirt, and a rich undergrowth of nettles beneath the rusty
cypresses and stone-pines that border the carriage-way. An automobile
throbs in the road; its occupants regard a board leaning all askew
above the parapet, and hesitate to descend. On the board, which has
been enriched by the attentions of the passing boy with innumerable
radiant mud pellets, one reads with difficulty--

      +-----------------------------------------------------+
      |                                                     |
      |               THIS CLASSICAL VILLA                  |
      |                                                     |
      |  with magnificent gardens in the Victorian-Italian  |
      |        style reaching down to the sea, and          |
      |     replete with Latin and Greek inscriptions,      |
      |    a garden study, literary associations, fully     |
      |       matured Oxford allusions, and a great         |
      |           number of conveniently arranged           |
      |                   bedrooms, to be                   |
      |                                                     |
      |                     LET OR SOLD.                    |
      |                                                     |
      |                 _Apply to the owner_,               |
      |                  Mr. W. H. MALLOCK,                 |
      |                                                     |
      |                 original author of                  |
      |                 "The New Republic."                 |
      |                                                     |
      |                    _Key within_.                    |
      |                                                     |
      +-----------------------------------------------------+

"'This _must_ be it, my dear Archer,' says one of the occupants of the
motor-car, and he rises, throws aside his furs, and reveals--the
urbane presence of the Encyclopædist. He descends, and rings a
clangorous bell.... Eh?"

"It's the garden of the 'New Republic'?"

"Exactly. Revisited. It's an astonishing thing. Do you know the date
of the 'New Republic'? The book's nearly forty years old! About the
time of Matthew Arnold's 'Friendship's Garland,' and since that time
there's been nothing like a systematic stocktaking of the
English-speaking mind--until the Encyclopædist reported 'no effects.'
And I propose to make this little party in the motor-car a sort of
scratch expedition, under the impetus of the proposed Revival of
Thought. They are prospecting for a Summer Congress, which is to go
into the state of the republic of letters thoroughly. It isn't perhaps
quite Gosse's style, but he has to be there--in a way he's the
official British man of letters--but we shall do what we can for him,
we shall make him show a strong disposition towards protective ironies
and confess himself not a little bothered at being dragged into the
horrid business. And I think we must have George Moore, who has played
uncle to so many movements and been so uniformly disappointed in his
nephews. And William Archer, with that face of his which is so exactly
like his mind, a remarkably fine face mysteriously marred by an
expression of unscrupulous integrity. And lastly, Keyhole."

"Why Keyhole?" I asked.

"Hallery has to murder some one. I've planned that--and who _would_ he
murder but Keyhole?... And we have to hold the first meeting in
Mallock's garden to preserve the continuity of English thought.

"Very well! Then we invent a morose, elderly caretaker, greatly
embittered at this irruption. He parleys for a time through the gate
with all the loyalty of his class, mentions a number of discouraging
defects, more particularly in the drainage, alleges the whole place is
clammy, and only at Gosse's clearly enunciated determination to enter
produces the key."

Boon consulted his text. "Naturally one would give a chapter to the
Villa by the Sea and Mallock generally. Our visitors explore. They
visit one scene after another familiar to the good Mallockite; they
descend 'the broad flights of steps flanked by Gods and Goddesses'
that lead from one to another of the 'long, straight terraces set with
vases and Irish yews,' and the yews, you know, have suffered from the
want of water, the vases are empty, and ivy, under the benediction of
our modest climate, has already veiled the classical freedom--the
conscientious nudity, one might say--of the statuary. The laurels have
either grown inordinately or perished, and the 'busts of orators,
poets, and philosophers' 'with Latin inscriptions,' stand either
bleakly exposed or else swallowed up, in a thicket. There is a
pleasing struggle to translate the legends, and one gathers
scholarship is not extinct in England.

"The one oasis in a universal weediness is the pond about the 'scaly
Triton,' which has been devoted to the culture of spring onions, a
vegetable to which the aged custodian quite superfluously avows
himself very 'partial.' The visitors return to the house, walk along
its terrace, survey its shuttered front, and they spend some time
going through its musty rooms. Dr. Keyhole distinguishes himself by
the feverish eagerness of his curiosity about where Leslie slept and
where was the boudoir of Mrs. Sinclair. He insists that a very sad and
painful scandal about these two underlies the _New Republic_, and
professes a thirsty desire to draw a veil over it as conspicuously as
possible. The others drag him away to the summer dining-room, now a
great brier tangle, where once Lady Grace so pleasantly dined her
guests. The little arena about the fountain in a porphyry basin they
do not find, but the garden study they peer into, and see its inkpot
in the shape of a classical temple, just as Mr. Mallock has described
it, and the windowless theatre, and, in addition, they find a small
private gas-works that served it. The old man lets them in, and by the
light of uplifted vestas they see the decaying, rat-disordered ruins
of the scene before which Jenkinson who was Jowett, and Herbert who
was Ruskin, preached. It is as like a gorge in the Indian Caucasus as
need be. The Brocken act-drop above hangs low enough to show the toes
of the young witch, still brightly pink....

"They go down to the beach, and the old man, with evil chuckles,
recalls a hitherto unpublished anecdote of mixed bathing in the
'seventies, in which Mrs. Sinclair and a flushed and startled Dr.
Jenkinson, Greek in thought rather than action, play the chief parts,
and then they wade through a nettle-bed to that 'small classical
portico' which leads to the locked enclosure containing the three
tombs, with effigies after the fashion of Genoa Cemetery. But the key
of the gate is lost, so that they cannot go in to examine them, and
the weeds have hidden the figures altogether.

"'That's a pity,' some one remarks, 'for it's here, no doubt, that old
Laurence lies, with his first mistress and his last--under these
cypresses.'

"The aged custodian makes a derisive noise, and every one turns to
him.

"'I gather you throw some doubt?' the Encyclopædist begins in his
urbane way.

"'Buried--under the cypresses--first mistress and last!' The old man
makes his manner invincibly suggestive of scornful merriment.

"'But isn't it so?'

"'Bless y'r 'art, _no_! Mr. Laurence--buried! Mr. Laurence worn't
never alive!'

"'But there was a _young_ Mr. Laurence?'

"'That was Mr. Mallup 'imself, that was! 'E was a great mistifier was
Mr. Mallup, and sometimes 'e went about pretendin' to be Mr. Laurence
and sometimes he was Mr. Leslie, and sometimes----But there, you'd
'ardly believe. 'E got all this up--cypresses, chumes, everythink--out
of 'is 'ed. Po'try. Why! 'Ere! Jest come along 'ere, gents!'

"He leads the way along a narrow privet alley that winds its
surreptitious way towards an alcove.

"'Miss Merton,' he says, flinging the door of this open.

"'The Roman Catholic young person?' says Dr. Tomlinson Keyhole.

"'Quite right, sir,' says the aged custodian.

"They peer in.

"Hanging from a peg the four visitors behold a pale blue dress cut in
the fashion of the 'seventies, a copious 'chignon' of fair hair, large
earrings, and on the marble bench a pair of open-work stockings and
other articles of feminine apparel. A tall mirror hangs opposite these
garments, and in a little recess convenient to the hand are the dusty
and decaying materials for a hasty 'make-up.'

"The old custodian watches the effect of this display upon the others
with masked enjoyment.

"'You mean Miss Merton _painted_?' said the Encyclopædist, knitting
his brows.

"'Mr. Mallup did,' says the aged custodian.

"'You mean----?'

"'Mr. Mallup was Miss Merton. 'E got _'er_ up too. Parst 'er orf as a
young lady, 'e did. Oh, 'e was a great mistifier was Mr. Mallup. None
of the three of 'em wasn't real people, really; he got 'em all up.'

"'She had sad-looking eyes, a delicate, proud mouth, and a worn,
melancholy look,' muses Mr. Archer.

"'And young Laurence was in love with her,' adds the Encyclopædist....

"'They was all Mr. Mallup,' says the aged custodian. 'Made up out of
'is 'ed. And the gents that pretended they was Mr. 'Uxley and Mr.
Tyndall in disguise, one was Bill Smithers, the chemist's assistant,
and the other was the chap that used to write and print the _Margate
Advertiser_ before the noo papers come.'"



CHAPTER THE FOURTH

Of Art, of Literature, of Mr. Henry James


§ 1

The Garden by the Sea chapter was to have gone on discursively with a
discussion upon this project of a conference upon the Mind of the
Race. The automobile-ful of gentlemen who had first arrived was to
have supplied the opening interlocutors, but presently they were to
have been supplemented by the most unexpected accessories. It would
have been an enormously big dialogue if it had ever been written, and
Boon's essentially lazy temperament was all against its ever getting
written. There were to have been disputes from the outset as to the
very purpose that had brought them all together. "A sort of literary
stocktaking" was to have been Mr. Archer's phrase. Repeated.
Unhappily, its commercialism was to upset Mr. Gosse extremely; he was
to say something passionately bitter about its "utter lack of
dignity." Then relenting a little, he was to urge as an alternative
"some controlling influence, some standard and restraint, a new and
better Academic influence." Dr. Keyhole was to offer his journalistic
services in organizing an Academic plebiscite, a suggestion which was
to have exasperated Mr. Gosse to the pitch of a gleaming silence.

In the midst of this conversation the party is joined by Hallery and
an American friend, a quiet Harvard sort of man speaking meticulously
accurate English, and still later by emissaries of Lord Northcliffe
and Mr. Hearst, by Mr. Henry James, rather led into it by a
distinguished hostess, by Mr. W. B. Yeats, late but keen, and by that
Sir Henry Lunn who organizes the Swiss winter sports hotels. All these
people drift in with an all too manifestly simulated accidentalness
that at last arouses the distrust of the elderly custodian, so that
Mr. Orage, the gifted editor of the _New Age_, arriving last, is
refused admission. The sounds of the conflict at the gates do but
faintly perturb the conference within, which is now really getting to
business, but afterwards Mr. Orage, slightly wounded in the face by a
dexterously plied rake and incurably embittered, makes his existence
felt by a number of unpleasant missiles discharged from over the wall
in the direction of any audible voices. Ultimately Mr. Orage gets into
a point of vantage in a small pine-tree overlooking the seaward corner
of the premises, and from this he contributes a number of comments
that are rarely helpful, always unamiable, and frequently in the worst
possible taste.

Such was Boon's plan for the second chapter of "The Mind of the Race."
But that chapter he never completely planned. At various times Boon
gave us a number of colloquies, never joining them together in any
regular order. The project of taking up the discussion of the Mind of
the Race at the exact point Mr. Mallock had laid it down, and taking
the villa by the sea for the meeting-place, was at once opposed by
Hallery and his American friend with an evidently preconcerted
readiness. They pointed out the entire democratization of thought and
literature that had been going on for the past four decades. It was no
longer possible to deal with such matters in the old aristocratic
country-house style; it was no longer possible to take them up from
that sort of beginning; the centre of mental gravity among the
English-speaking community had shifted socially and geographically;
what was needed now was something wider and ampler, something more in
the nature of such a conference as the annual meeting of the British
Association. Science left the gentleman's mansion long ago; literature
must follow it--had followed it. To come back to Mr. Lankester's Villa
by the sea was to come back to a beaten covert. The Hearst
representative took up a strongly supporting position, and suggested
that if indeed we wished to move with the times the thing to do was to
strike out boldly for a special annex of the Panama Exhibition at San
Francisco and for organization upon sound American lines. It was a
case, he said, even for "exhibits." Sir Henry Lunn, however, objected
that in America the Anglo-Saxon note was almost certain to be too
exclusively sounded; that we had to remember there were vigorous
cultures growing up and growing up more and more detachedly upon the
continent of Europe; we wanted, at least, their reflected lights ...
some more central position.... In fact, Switzerland ... where also
numerous convenient hotels ... patronized, he gathered from the
illustrated papers, by Lord Lytton, Mrs. Asquith, Mr. F. R. Benson ...
and all sorts of helpful leading people.


§ 2

Meanwhile Boon's plan was to make Mr. George Moore and Mr. Henry James
wander off from the general dispute, and he invented a dialogue that
even at the time struck me as improbable, in which both gentlemen
pursue entirely independent trains of thought.

Mr. Moore's conception of the projected symposium was something rather
in the vein of the journeyings of Shelley, Byron, and their charming
companions through France to Italy, but magnified to the dimensions of
an enormous pilgrimage, enlarged to the scale of a stream of refugees.
"What, my dear James," he asked, "is this mind of humanity at all
without a certain touch of romance, of adventure? Even Mallock
appreciated the significance of _frou-frou_; but these fellows behind
here...."

To illustrate his meaning better, he was to have told, with an
extraordinary and loving mastery of detail, of a glowing little
experience that had been almost forced upon him at Nismes by a pretty
little woman from Nebraska, and the peculiar effect it had had, and
particularly the peculiar effect that the coincidence that both
Nebraska and Nismes begin with an "N" and end so very differently, had
had upon his imagination....

Meanwhile Mr. James, being anxious not merely to state but also to
ignore, laboured through the long cadences of his companion as an
indefatigable steam-tug might labour endlessly against a rolling sea,
elaborating his own particular point about the proposed conference.

"Owing it as we do," he said, "very, very largely to our friend Gosse,
to that peculiar, that honest but restless and, as it were, at times
almost malignantly ambitious organizing energy of our friend, I cannot
altogether--altogether, even if in any case I should have taken so
extreme, so devastatingly isolating a step as, to put it violently,
_stand out_; yet I must confess to a considerable anxiety, a kind of
distress, an apprehension, the terror, so to speak, of the kerbstone,
at all this stream of intellectual trafficking, of going to and fro,
in a superb and towering manner enough no doubt, but still essentially
going to and fro rather than in any of the completed senses of the
word _getting there_, that does so largely constitute the aggregations
and activities we are invited to traverse. My poor head, such as it is
and as much as it can and upon such legs--save the mark!--as it can
claim, must, I suppose, play its inconsiderable part among the wheels
and the rearings and the toots and the whistles and all this uproar,
this--Mm, Mm!--let us say, this _infernal_ uproar, of the occasion;
and if at times one has one's doubts before plunging in, whether after
all, after the plunging and the dodging and the close shaves and
narrow squeaks, one does begin to feel that one is getting through,
whether after all one _will_ get through, and whether indeed there is
any getting through, whether, to deepen and enlarge and display one's
doubt quite openly, there is in truth any sort of ostensible and
recognizable other side attainable and definable at all, whether to
put this thing with a lucidity that verges on the brutal, whether our
amiable and in most respects our adorable Gosse isn't indeed preparing
here and now, not the gathering together of a conference but the
assembling, the _meet_, so to speak, of a wild-goose chase of an
entirely desperate and hopeless description."

At that moment Mr. George Moore was saying: "Little exquisite
shoulders without a touch of colour and with just that suggestion of
rare old ivory in an old shop window in some out-of-the-way corner of
Paris that only the most patent abstinence from baths and the
brutality of soaping----"

Each gentleman stopped simultaneously.

Ahead the path led between box-hedges to a wall, and above the wall
was a pine-tree, and the Editor of the _New Age_ was reascending the
pine-tree in a laborious and resolute manner, gripping with some
difficulty in his hand a large and very formidable lump of
unpleasantness....

With a common impulse the two gentlemen turned back towards the house.

Mr. James was the first to break the momentary silence. "And so, my
dear Moore, and so--to put it shortly--without any sort of positive
engagement or entanglement or pledge or pressure--I _came_. And at the
proper time and again with an entirely individual detachment and as
little implication as possible I shall _go_...."

Subsequently Mr. James was to have buttonholed Hallery's American, and
in the warm bath of his sympathy to have opened and bled slowly from
another vein of thought.

"I admit the abundance of--what shall I say?--_activities_ that our
friend is summoning, the tremendous wealth of matter, of material for
literature and art, that has accumulated during the last few decades.
No one could appreciate, could savour and watch and respond, more than
myself to the tremendous growing clangour of the mental process as the
last half-century has exhibited it. But when it comes to the
enterprise of gathering it together, and not simply just gathering it
together, but gathering it _all_ together, then surely one must at
some stage ask the question, _Why_ all? Why, in short, attempt to a
comprehensiveness that must be overwhelming when in fact the need is
for a selection that shall not merely represent but elucidate and
lead. Aren't we, after all, all of us after some such indicating
projection of a leading digit, after such an insistence on the
outstandingly essential in face of this abundance, this saturation,
this fluid chaos that perpetually increases? Here we are gathering
together to celebrate and summarize literature in some sort of
undefined and unprecedented fashion, and for the life of me I find it
impossible to determine what among my numerous associates and friends
and--to embrace still larger quantities of the stuff in hand--my
contemporaries is considered to be the literature in question. So
confused now are we between matter and treatment, between what is
stated and documented and what is prepared and presented, that for the
life of me I do not yet see whether we are supposed to be building an
ark or whether by immersion and the meekest of submersions and an
altogether complete submission of our distended and quite helpless
carcasses to its incalculable caprice we are supposed to be
celebrating and, in the whirling uncomfortable fashion of flotsam at
large, indicating and making visible the whole tremendous cosmic
inundation...."

[Illustration: _Mr. James converses with Mr. George Moore upon matters
of vital importance to both of them._]


§ 3

It was entirely in the quality of Boon's intellectual untidiness that
for a time he should go off at a tangent in pursuit of Mr. Henry James
and leave his literary picnic disseminated about the grounds of Mr.
Mallock's villa. There, indeed, they remained. The story when he took
it up again picked up at quite a different point.

I remember how Boon sat on the wall of his vegetable garden and
discoursed upon James, while several of us squatted about on the
cucumber-frames and big flowerpots and suchlike seats, and how over
the wall Ford Madox Hueffer was beating Wilkins at Badminton. Hueffer
wanted to come and talk too; James is one of his countless
subjects--and what an omniscient man he is too!--but Wilkins was too
cross to let him off....

So that all that Hueffer was able to contribute was an exhortation not
to forget that Henry James knew Turgenev and that he had known them
both, and a flat denial that Dickens was a novelist. This last was the
tail of that Pre-Raphaelite feud begun in _Household Words_, oh!
generations ago....

"Got you there, my boy!" said Wilkins. "Seven, twelve."

We heard no more from Hueffer.

"You see," Boon said, "you can't now talk of literature without going
through James. James is unavoidable. James is to criticism what
Immanuel Kant is to philosophy--a partially comprehensible essential,
an inevitable introduction. If you understand what James is up to and
if you understand what James is not up to, then you are placed. You
are in the middle of the critical arena. You are in a position to lay
about you with significance. Otherwise....

"I want to get this Hallery of mine, who is to be the hero of 'The
Mind of the Race,' into a discussion with Henry James, but that, you
know, is easier said than imagined. Hallery is to be one of those
enthusiastic thinkers who emit highly concentrated opinion in gobbets,
suddenly. James--isn't...."

Boon meditated upon his difficulties. "Hallery's idea of literature is
something tremendously comprehensive, something that pierces always
down towards the core of things, something that carries and changes
all the activities of the race. This sort of thing."

He read from a scrap of paper--

"'The thought of a community is the life of that community, and if the
collective thought of a community is disconnected and fragmentary,
then the community is collectively vain and weak. That does not
constitute an incidental defect but essential failure. Though that
community have cities such as the world has never seen before, fleets
and hosts and glories, though it count its soldiers by the army corps
and its children by the million, yet if it hold not to the reality of
thought and formulated will beneath these outward things, it will
pass, and all its glories will pass, like smoke before the wind, like
mist beneath the sun; it will become at last only one more vague and
fading dream upon the scroll of time, a heap of mounds and pointless
history, even as are Babylon and Nineveh.'"

"I've heard that before somewhere," said Dodd.

"Most of this dialogue will have to be quotation," said Boon.

"He makes literature include philosophy?"

"Everything. It's all the central things. It's the larger Bible to
him, a thing about which all the conscious direction of life revolves.
It's alive with passion and will. Or if it isn't, then it ought to
be.... And then as the antagonist comes this artist, this man who
seems to regard the whole seething brew of life as a vat from which
you skim, with slow, dignified gestures, works of art. ... Works of
art whose only claim is their art.... Hallery is going to be very
impatient about art."

"Ought there to be such a thing as a literary artist?" some one said.

"Ought there, in fact, to be Henry James?" said Dodd.

"I don't think so. Hallery won't think so. You see, the discussion
will be very fundamental. There's contributory art, of course, and a
way of doing things better or worse. Just as there is in war, or
cooking. But the way of doing isn't the end. First the end must be
judged--and then if you like talk of how it is done. Get there as
splendidly as possible. But get there. James and George Moore, neither
of them take it like that. They leave out getting there, or the thing
they get to is so trivial as to amount to scarcely more than an
omission...."

Boon reflected. "In early life both these men poisoned their minds in
studios. Thought about pictures even might be less studio-ridden than
it is. But James has never discovered that a novel isn't a picture....
That life isn't a studio....

"He wants a novel to be simply and completely _done_. He wants it to
have a unity, he demands homogeneity.... Why _should_ a book have
that? For a picture it's reasonable, because you have to see it all at
once. But there's no need to see a book all at once. It's like wanting
to have a whole county done in one style and period of architecture.
It's like insisting that a walking tour must stick to one valley....

"But James _begins_ by taking it for granted that a novel is a work of
art that must be judged by its oneness. Judged first by its oneness.
Some one gave him that idea in the beginning of things and he has
never found it out. He doesn't find things out. He doesn't even seem
to want to find things out. You can see that in him; he is eager to
accept things--elaborately. You can see from his books that he accepts
etiquettes, precedences, associations, claims. That is his
peculiarity. He accepts very readily and then--elaborates. He has, I
am convinced, one of the strongest, most abundant minds alive in the
whole world, and he has the smallest penetration. Indeed, he has no
penetration. He is the culmination of the Superficial type. Or else he
would have gone into philosophy and been greater even than his
wonderful brother.... But here he is, spinning about, like the most
tremendous of water-boatmen--you know those insects?--kept up by
surface tension. As if, when once he pierced the surface, he would
drown. It's incredible. A water-boatman as big as an elephant. I was
reading him only yesterday 'The Golden Bowl'; it's dazzling how never
for a moment does he go through."

"Recently he's been explaining himself," said Dodd.

"His 'Notes on Novelists.' It's one sustained demand for the picture
effect. Which is the denial of the sweet complexity of life, of the
pointing this way and that, of the spider on the throne. Philosophy
aims at a unity and never gets there.... That true unity which we all
suspect, and which no one attains, if it is to be got at all it is to
be got by penetrating, penetrating down and through. The picture, on
the other hand, is forced to a unity because it can see only one
aspect at a time. I am doubtful even about that. Think of Hogarth or
Carpaccio. But if the novel is to follow life it must be various and
discursive. Life is diversity and entertainment, not completeness and
satisfaction. All actions are half-hearted, shot delightfully with
wandering thoughts--about something else. All true stories are a felt
of irrelevances. But James sets out to make his novels with the
presupposition that they can be made continuously relevant. And
perceiving the discordant things, he tries to get rid of them. He sets
himself to pick the straws out of the hair of Life before he paints
her. But without the straws she is no longer the mad woman we love. He
talks of 'selection,' and of making all of a novel definitely _about_
a theme. He objects to a 'saturation' that isn't oriented. And he
objects, if you go into it, for no clear reason at all. Following up
his conception of selection, see what in his own practice he omits. In
practice James's selection becomes just omission and nothing more. He
omits everything that demands digressive treatment or collateral
statement. For example, he omits opinions. In all his novels you will
find no people with defined political opinions, no people with
religious opinions, none with clear partisanships or with lusts or
whims, none definitely up to any specific impersonal thing. There are
no poor people dominated by the imperatives of Saturday night and
Monday morning, no dreaming types--and don't we all more or less live
dreaming? And none are ever decently forgetful. All that much of
humanity he clears out before he begins his story. It's like cleaning
rabbits for the table.

"But you see how relentlessly it follows from the supposition that the
novel is a work of art aiming at pictorial unities!

"All art too acutely self-centred comes to this sort of thing. James's
denatured people are only the equivalent in fiction of those
egg-faced, black-haired ladies, who sit and sit, in the Japanese
colour-prints, the unresisting stuff for an arrangement of blacks....

"Then with the eviscerated people he has invented he begins to make up
stories. What stories they are! Concentrated on suspicion, on a gift,
on possessing a 'piece' of old furniture, on what a little girl may or
may not have noted in an emotional situation. These people cleared for
artistic treatment never make lusty love, never go to angry war, never
shout at an election or perspire at poker; never in any way _date_....
And upon the petty residuum of human interest left to them they focus
minds of a Jamesian calibre....

"The only living human motives left in the novels of Henry James are a
certain avidity, and an entirely superficial curiosity. Even when
relations are irregular or when sins are hinted at, you feel that
these are merely attitudes taken up, gambits before the game of
attainment and over-perception begins.... His people nose out
suspicions, hint by hint, link by link. Have you ever known living
human beings do that? The thing his novel is _about_ is always there.
It is like a church lit but without a congregation to distract you,
with every light and line focused on the high altar. And on the altar,
very reverently placed, intensely there, is a dead kitten, an
egg-shell, a bit of string.... Like his 'Altar of the Dead,' with
nothing to the dead at all.... For if there was they couldn't all be
candles and the effect would vanish.... And the elaborate, copious
emptiness of the whole Henry James exploit is only redeemed and made
endurable by the elaborate, copious wit. Upon the desert his selection
has made Henry James erects palatial metaphors.... The chief fun, the
only exercise, in reading Henry James is this clambering over vast
metaphors....

"Having first made sure that he has scarcely anything left to express,
he then sets to work to express it, with an industry, a wealth of
intellectual stuff that dwarfs Newton. He spares no resource in the
telling of his dead inventions. He brings up every device of language
to state and define. Bare verbs he rarely tolerates. He splits his
infinitives and fills them up with adverbial stuffing. He presses the
passing colloquialism into his service. His vast paragraphs sweat and
struggle; they could not sweat and elbow and struggle more if God
Himself was the processional meaning to which they sought to come. And
all for tales of nothingness.... It is leviathan retrieving pebbles.
It is a magnificent but painful hippopotamus resolved at any cost,
even at the cost of its dignity, upon picking up a pea which has got
into a corner of its den. Most things, it insists, are beyond it, but
it can, at any rate, modestly, and with an artistic singleness of
mind, pick up that pea...."


§ 4

"A little while ago," said Boon, suddenly struggling with his trouser
pocket and producing some pieces of paper, "I sketched out a novel,
and as it was rather in the manner of Henry James I think perhaps you
might be interested by it now. So much, that is, as there is of it. It
is to be called 'The Spoils of Mr. Blandish,' and it is all about this
particular business of the selective life. Mr. Blandish, as I saw him,
was pretty completely taken from the James ideal.... He was a man with
an exquisite apprehension of particulars, with just that sense of
there being a rightness attainable, a fitness, a charm, a finish....
In any little affair.... He believed that in speech and still more
that in writing there was an inevitable right word, in actions great
and small a mellowed etiquette, in everything a possible perfection.
He was, in fact, the very soul of Henry James--as I understand it....
This sort of man--

[Illustration: _Mr. Blandish going delicately through life. "Oh no! oh
no! But _Yes!_ and _This is it!_"_]

"Going delicately."

I was able to secure the sketch.

"He didn't marry, he didn't go upon adventures; lust, avarice,
ambition, all these things that as Milton says are to be got 'not
without dust and heat,' were not for him. Blood and dust and heat--he
ruled them out. But he had independent means, he could live freely and
delicately and charmingly, he could travel and meet and be delighted
by all the best sorts of people in the best sorts of places. So for
years he enriched his resonances, as an admirable violin grows richer
with every note it sounds. He went about elaborately, avoiding
ugliness, death, suffering, industrialism, politics, sport, the
thought of war, the red blaze of passion. He travelled widely in the
more settled parts of the world. Chiefly he visited interesting and
ancient places, putting his ever more exquisite sensorium at them,
consciously taking delicate impressions upon the refined wax of his
being. In a manner most carefully occasional, he wrote. Always of
faded places. His 'Ypres' was wonderful. His 'Bruges' and his 'Hour of
Van Eyk'....

"Such," said Boon, "is the hero. The story begins, oh! quite in the
James manner with----" He read--

"'At times it seemed inaccessible, a thing beyond hope, beyond
imagining, and then at times it became so concrete an imagination, a
desire so specific, so nearly expressed, as to grow if not to the
exact particulars of longitude and latitude, yet at any rate so far as
county and district and atmosphere were concerned, so far indeed as an
intuition of proximity was concerned, an intimation that made it seem
at last at certain moments as if it could not possibly be very much
farther than just round the corner or over the crest....'

"But I've left a good bit of that to write up. In the book there will
be pages and sheets of that sentence. The gist is that Mr. Blandish
wants a house to live in and that he has an idea of the kind of house
he wants. And the chapter, the long, unresting, progressing chapter,
expands and expands; it never jumps you forward, it never lets you
off, you can't skip and you can't escape, until there comes at last a
culminating distension of statement in which you realize more and more
clearly, until you realize it with the unforgettable certainty of a
thing long fought for and won at last, that Mr. Blandish has actually
come upon the house and with a vigour of decision as vivid as a flash
of lightning in a wilderness of troubled clouds, as vivid indeed as
the loud, sonorous bursting of a long blown bladder, has said '_This
is it!_' On that '_This is it_' my chapter ends, with an effect of
enormous relief, with something of the beautiful serenity that follows
a difficult parturition.

"The story is born.

"And then we leap forward to possession.

"'And here he was, in the warmest reality, in the very heart of the
materialization of his dream----' He has, in fact, got the house. For
a year or so from its first accidental discovery he had done nothing
but just covet the house; too fearful of an overwhelming
disappointment even to make a definite inquiry as to its
accessibility. But he has, you will gather, taken apartments in the
neighbourhood, thither he visits frequently, and almost every day when
he walks abroad the coveted house draws him. It is in a little seaside
place on the east coast, and the only available walks are along the
shore or inland across the golf-links. Either path offers tempting
digressions towards _it_. He comes to know it from a hundred aspects
and under a thousand conditions of light and atmosphere.... And while
still in the early stage he began a curious and delicious secret
practice in relationship. You have heard of the Spaniard in love, in
love with a woman he had seen but once, whom he might never see again,
a princess, etiquette-defended, a goddess, and who yet, seeing a
necklace that became her, bought it for the joy of owning something
that was at least by fitness hers. Even so did Mr. Blandish begin to
buy first one little article and then, the fancy growing upon him more
and more, things, 'pieces' they call them, that were in the vein of
Samphire House. And then came the day, the wonderful day, when as he
took his afternoon feast of the eye, the door opened, some one came
out towards him....

"It was incredible. They were giving him tea with hot, inadvisable
scones--but their hotness, their close heaviness, he accepted with a
ready devotion, would have accepted had they been ten times as hot and
close and heavy, not heedlessly, indeed, but gratefully, willingly
paying his price for these astonishing revelations that without an
effort, serenely, calmly, dropped in between her gentle demands
whether he would have milk and her mild inquiries as to the exact
quantity of sugar his habits and hygienic outlook demanded, that his
hostess so casually made. These generous, heedless people were talking
of departures, of abandonments, of, so they put it, selling the dear
old place, if indeed any one could be found to buy a place so old and
so remote and--she pointed her intention with a laugh--so very, very
dear. Repletion of scones were a small price to pay for such a
glowing, such an incredible gift of opportunity, thrust thus straight
into the willing, amazed hands....

"He gets the house. He has it done up. He furnishes it, and every
article of furniture seems a stroke of luck too good to be true. And
to crown it all I am going to write one of those long crescendo
passages that James loves, a sentence, pages of it, of happy event
linking to happy event until at last the incredible completion, a
butler, unquestionably Early Georgian, respectability, competence
equally unquestionable, a wife who could cook, and cook well, no
children, no thought or possibility of children, and to crown all, the
perfect name--Mutimer!

[Illustration: _Mutimer at first._]

"All this you must understand is told retrospectively as Blandish
installs himself in Samphire House. It is told to the refrain, 'Still,
fresh every morning, came the persuasion "This is too good to be
true."' And as it is told, something else, by the most imperceptible
degrees, by a gathering up of hints and allusions and pointing
details, gets itself told too, and that is the growing realization in
the mind of Blandish of a something extra, of something not quite
bargained for,--the hoard and the haunting. About the house hangs a
presence....

"He had taken it at first as a mere picturesque accessory to the whole
picturesque and delightful wreathing of association and tradition
about the place, that there should be this ancient flavour of the
cutlass and the keg, this faint aroma of buried doubloons and
Stevensonian experiences. He had assumed, etc.... He had gathered,
etc.... And it was in the most imperceptible manner that beyond his
sense of these takings and assumptions and gatherings there grew his
perception that the delicate quiver of appreciation, at first his
utmost tribute to these illegal and adventurous and sanguinary
associations, was broadening and strengthening, was, one hardly knew
whether to say developing or degenerating, into a nervous reaction,
more spinal and less equivocally agreeable, into the question, sensed
rather than actually thought or asked, whether in fact the place
didn't in certain lights and certain aspects and at certain
unfavourable moments come near to evoking the ghost--if such sorites
are permissible in the world of delicate shades--of the ghost, of the
ghost of a shiver--of _aversion_....

"And so at page a hundred and fifty or thereabouts we begin to get
into the story," said Boon.

"You wade through endless marshes of subtle intimation, to a sense of
a Presence in Samphire House. For a number of pages you are quite
unable to tell whether this is a ghost or a legend or a foreboding or
simply old-fashioned dreams that are being allusively placed before
you. But there is an effect piled up very wonderfully, of Mr.
Blandish, obsessed, uneasy, watching furtively and steadfastly his
guests, his callers, his domestics, continually asking himself, 'Do
they note it? Are they feeling it?'

"We break at last into incidents. A young friend of the impossible
name of Deshman helps evolve the story; he comes to stay; he seems to
feel the influence from the outset, he cannot sleep, he wanders about
the house.... Do others know? _Others?_... The gardener takes to
revisiting the gardens after nightfall. He is met in the shrubbery
with an unaccountable spade in his hand and answers huskily. Why
should a gardener carry a spade? Why should he answer huskily? Why
should the presence, the doubt, the sense of something else elusively
in the air about them, become intensified at the encounter? Oh!
conceivably of course in many places, but just _there_! As some sort
of protection, it may be.... Then suddenly as Mr. Blandish sits at his
lonely but beautifully served dinner he becomes aware for the first
time of a change in Mutimer.

[Illustration: _Mutimer at the end of a year._]

"Something told him in that instant that Mutimer also _knew_....

"Deshman comes again with a new and disconcerting habit of tapping the
panelling and measuring the thickness of the walls when he thinks no
one is looking, and then a sister of Mr. Blandish and a friend, a
woman, yet not so much a woman as a disembodied intelligence in a
feminine costume with one of those impalpable relationships with
Deshman that people have with one another in the world of Henry James,
an association of shadows, an atmospheric liaison. Follow some almost
sentenceless conversations. Mr. Blandish walks about the shrubbery
with the friend, elaborately getting at it--whatever it is--and in
front of them, now hidden by the yew hedges, now fully in view, walks
Deshman with the married and settled sister of Mr. Blandish....

"'So,' said Mr. Blandish, pressing the point down towards the newly
discovered sensitiveness, 'where we feel, he it seems _knows_.'

"She seemed to consider.

"'He doesn't know completely,' was her qualification.

"'But he has something--something tangible.'

"'If he can make it tangible.'

"On that the mind of Mr. Blandish played for a time.

"'Then it isn't altogether tangible yet?'

"'It isn't tangible enough for him to go upon.'

"'Definitely something.'

"Her assent was mutely concise.

"'That we on our part----?'

"The _we_ seemed to trouble her.

"'He knows more than you do,' she yielded.

"The gesture, the half turn, the momentary halt in the paces of Mr.
Blandish, plied her further.

"'More, I think, than he has admitted--to any one.'

"'Even to you?'

"He perceived an interesting wave of irritation. 'Even to me,' he had
wrung from her, but at the price of all further discussion.

"Putting the thing crassly," said Boon, "Deshman has got wind of a
hoard, of a treasure, of something--Heaven as yet only knows what
something--buried, imbedded, in some as yet unexplained way
incorporated with Samphire House. On the whole the stress lies rather
on treasure, the treasure of smuggling, of longshore practices, of
illegality on the high seas. And still clearer is it that the amiable
Deshman wants to get at it without the participation of Mr. Blandish.
Until the very end you are never quite satisfied why Deshman wants to
get at it in so private a fashion. As the plot thickens you are played
about between the conviction that Deshman wants the stuff for himself
and the firm belief of the lady that against the possible intervention
of the Treasury, he wants to secure it for Mr. Blandish, to secure it
at least generously if nefariously, lest perhaps it should fall under
the accepted definition and all the consequent confiscations of
treasure trove. And there are further beautiful subtleties as to
whether she really believes in this more kindly interpretation of the
refined but dubitable Deshman.... A friend of Deshman's, shameless
under the incredible name of Mimbleton, becomes entangled in this
thick, sweet flow of narrative--the James method of introducing a
character always reminds me of going round with the lantern when one
is treacling for moths. Mimbleton has energy. He presses. Under a
summer dawn of delicious sweetness Mimbleton is found insensible on
the croquet lawn by Mr. Blandish, who, like most of the characters in
the narrative from first to last, has been unable to sleep. And at the
near corner of the house, close to a never before remarked ventilator,
is a hastily and inaccurately refilled excavation....

"Then events come hurrying in a sort of tangled haste--making
sibyl-like gestures.

"At the doorway Mutimer appears--swaying with some profound emotion.
He is still in his evening attire. He has not yet gone to bed. In
spite of the dawn he carried a burning candle--obliquely. At the sight
of his master he withdraws--backwards and with difficulty....

"Then," said Boon, "I get my crowning chapter: the breakfast, a
peculiar _something_, something almost palpable in the
atmosphere--Deshman hoarse and a little talkative, Mimbleton with a
possibly nervous headache, husky also and demanding tea in a thick
voice, Mutimer waiting uneasily, and Mr. Blandish, outwardly calm, yet
noting every particular, thinking meanings into every word and
movement, and growing more and more clear in his conviction that
_Mutimer knows--knows everything_....

[Illustration: _Mutimer as the plot thickens._]

"Book two opens with Mr. Blandish practically in possession of the
facts. Putting the thing coarsely, the treasure is--1813 brandy, in
considerable quantities bricked up in a disused cellar of Samphire
House. Samphire House, instead of being the fine claret of a refuge
Mr. Blandish supposed, is a loaded port. But of course in the novel we
shall not put things coarsely, and for a long time you will be by no
means clear what the 'spirit' is that Mr. Blandish is now resolved to
exorcise. He is, in fact, engaged in trying to get that brandy away,
trying to de-alcoholize his existence, trying--if one must put the
thing in all the concrete crudity of his fundamental intention--to
sell the stuff....

"Now in real life you would just go and sell it. But people in the
novels of Henry James do not do things in the inattentive, offhand,
rather confused, and partial way of reality: they bring enormous
brains to bear upon the minutest particulars of existence. Mr.
Blandish, following the laws of that world, has not simply to sell his
brandy: he has to sell it subtly, intricately, interminably, with a
delicacy, with a dignity....

"He consults friends--impalpable, intricate, inexhaustible friends.

"There are misunderstandings. One old and trusted intimate concludes
rather hastily that Mr. Blandish is confessing that he has written a
poem, another that he is making a proposal of marriage, another that
he wishes an introduction to the secretary of the Psychical Research
Society.... All this," said Boon, "remains, perhaps indefinitely, to
be worked out. Only the end, the end, comes with a rush. Deshman has
found for him--one never gets nearer to it than the 'real right
people.' The real right people send their agent down, a curious blend
of gentleman and commercial person he is, to investigate, to verify,
to estimate quantities. Ultimately he will--shall we say it?--make an
offer. With a sense of immense culmination the reader at last
approaches the hoard....

"You are never told the thing exactly. It is by indefinable
suggestions, by exquisite approaches and startings back, by
circumlocution the most delicate, that your mind at last shapes its
realization, that--the last drop of the last barrel has gone and that
Mutimer, the butler, lies dead or at least helpless--in the inner
cellar. And a beautiful flavour, ripe and yet rare, rich without
opulence, hangs--_diminuendo morendo_--in the air...."



CHAPTER THE FIFTH

Of the Assembling and Opening of the World Conference on the Mind of
the Race


§ 1

It must be borne in mind that not even the opening chapter of this
huge book, "The Mind of the Race," was ever completely written. The
discussion in the Garden by the Sea existed merely so far as the
fragment of dialogue I have quoted took it. I do not know what Mr.
Gosse contributed except that it was something bright, and that
presently he again lost his temper and washed his hands of the whole
affair and went off with Mr. Yeats to do a little Academy thing of
their own round a corner, and I do not know what became of the
emissaries of Lord Northcliffe and Mr. Hearst. One conversation drops
out of mind and another begins; it is like the battle of the Aisne
passing slowly into the battle of the Yser. The idea develops into the
holding of a definite congress upon the Mind of the Race at some
central place. I don't think Boon was ever very clear whether that
place was Chautauqua, or Grindelwald, or Stratford, or Oxford during
the Long Vacation, or the Exhibition grounds at San Francisco. It was,
at any rate, some such place, and it was a place that was speedily
placarded with all sorts of bills and notices and counsels, such as,
"To the Central Hall," or "Section B: Criticism and Reviewing," or
"Section M: Prose Style," or "Authors' Society (British) Solicitors'
Department," or "Exhibit of the Reading Room of the British Museum."

Manifestly the model of a meeting of the British Association for the
Advancement of Science dominated his mind more and more, until at last
he began to concoct a presidential address. And he invented a man
called J. B. Pondlebury, very active and illiterate, but an excellent
organizer, trained by Selfridge, that Marshal Field of London, who is
very directive throughout. J. B. Pondlebury orders the special trains,
contrives impossible excursions, organizes garden fêtes and water
parties, keeps people together who would prefer to be separated, and
breaks up people who have been getting together. Through all these
things drifts Hallery, whose writings started the idea, and sometimes
he is almost, as it were, leader and sometimes he is like a drowned
body in the torrent below Niagara--Pondlebury being Niagara.

On the whole the atmosphere of the great conference was American, and
yet I distinctly remember that it was the Special Train to Bâle of
which he gave us an account one afternoon; it was a night journey of
considerable eventfulness, with two adjacent carriages de luxe
labelled respectively "Specially Reserved for Miss Marie Corelli," and
"Specially Reserved for Mr. and Mrs. George Bernard Shaw," with
conspicuous reiterations. The other compartments were less exclusive,
and contained curious minglings of greatness, activity, and
reputation. Sir J. M. Barrie had an upper berth in a _wagon-lit_,
where he remained sympathetically silent above a crowd of younger
reputations, a crowd too numerous to permit the making of the lower
berth and overflowing into the corridor. I remember Boon kept jamming
new people into that congestion. The whole train, indeed, was to be
fearfully overcrowded. That was part of the joke. James Joyce I recall
as a novelist strange to me that Boon insisted was a "first-rater." He
represented him as being of immense size but extreme bashfulness. And
he talked about D. H. Lawrence, St. John Ervine, Reginald Wright
Kauffman, Leonard Merrick, Viola Meynell, Rose Macaulay, Katherine
Mansfield, Mary Austin, Clutton Brock, Robert Lynd, James Stephens,
Philip Guedalla, H. M. Tomlinson, Denis Garstin, Dixon Scott, Rupert
Brooke, Geoffrey Young, F. S. Flint, Marmaduke Pickthall, Randolph S.
Bourne, James Milne----

"Through all the jam, I think we must have Ford Madox Hueffer,
wandering to and fro up and down the corridor, with distraught blue
eyes, laying his hands on heads and shoulders, the Only Uncle of the
Gifted Young, talking in a languid, plangent tenor, now boasting about
trivialities, and now making familiar criticisms (which are invariably
ill-received), and occasionally quite absent-mindedly producing
splendid poetry...."

Like most authors who have made their way to prominence and profit,
Boon was keenly sympathetic with any new writer who promised to do
interesting work, and very ready with his praise and recognition. That
disposition in these writing, prolific times would alone have choked
the corridor. And he liked young people even when their promises were
not exactly convincing. He hated to see a good book neglected, and was
for ever ramming "The Crystal Age" and "Said the Fisherman" and "Tony
Drum" and "George's Mother" and "A Hind Let Loose" and "Growing Pains"
down the throats of his visitors. But there were very human and
definite limits to his appreciations. Conspicuous success, and
particularly conspicuous respectable success, chilled his generosity.
Conrad he could not endure. I do him no wrong in mentioning that; it
is the way with most of us; and a score of flourishing contemporaries
who might have liked tickets for the Conference special would have
found great difficulty in getting them.

There is a fascination in passing judgements and drawing up class
lists. For a time the high intention of the Mind of the Race was
forgotten while we talked the narrow "shop" of London literary
journalism, and discovered and weighed and log-rolled and--in the case
of the more established--blamed and condemned. That Bâle train became
less and less like a train and more and more like a descriptive
catalogue.

For the best part of an afternoon we talked of the young and the new,
and then we fell into a discussion about such reputations as
Pickthall's and W. H. Hudson's and the late Stephen Crane's,
reputations ridiculously less than they ought to be, so that these
writers, who are certainly as securely classic as Beckford or Herrick,
are still unknown to half the educated English reading public. Was it
due to the haste of criticism or the illiteracy of publishers? That
question led us so far away from the special Bâle train that we never
returned to it. But I know that we decided that the real and
significant writers were to be only a small portion of the crowd that
congested the train; there were also to be endless impostors,
imitators, editors, raiders of the world of print.... At every
important station there was to be a frightful row about all these
people's tickets, and violent attempts to remove doubtful cases....
Then Mr. Clement K. Shorter was to come in to advise and help the
conductor.... Ultimately this led to trouble about Mr. Shorter's own
credentials....

Some of Boon's jokes about this train were, to say the best of them,
obvious. Mr. Compton Mackenzie was in trouble about his excess
luggage, for example. Mr. Upton Sinclair, having carried out his ideal
of an innocent frankness to a logical completeness in his travelling
equipment, was forcibly wrapped in blankets by the train officials.
Mr. Thomas Hardy had a first-class ticket but travelled by choice or
mistake in a second-class compartment, his deserted place being
subsequently occupied by that promising young novelist Mr. Hugh
Walpole, provided with a beautiful fur rug, a fitted dressing-bag, a
writing slope, a gold-nibbed fountain pen, innumerable introductions,
and everything that a promising young novelist can need. The brothers
Chesterton, Mr. Maurice Baring, and Mr. Belloc sat up all night in the
_wagon-restaurant_ consuming beer enormously and conversing upon
immortality and whether it extends to Semitic and Oriental persons. At
the end of the train, I remember, there was to have been a horse-van
containing Mr. Maurice Hewlett's charger--Mr. Hewlett himself, I
believe, was left behind by accident at the Gare de Lyons--Mr.
Cunninghame Graham's Arab steed, and a large, quiet sheep, the
inseparable pet of Mr. Arthur Christopher Benson....

There was also, I remember, a description of the whole party running
for early coffee, which gave Boon ample and regrettable opportunities
for speculations upon the _déshabille_ of his contemporaries. Much of
the detail of that invention I prefer to forget, but I remember Mr.
Shaw was fully prepared for the emerging with hand-painted pyjamas,
over which he was wearing a saffron dressing-gown decorated in green
and purple scrolls by one of the bolder artists associated with Mr.
Roger Fry, and as these special train allusions are all that I can
ever remember Boon saying about Shaw, and as the drawing does in
itself amount to a criticism, I give it here....

[Illustration: _How Mr. Shaw knocked them all on Bâle platform, and
got right into the middle of the picture. Remark his earnest face.
This surely is no mountebank._]


§ 2

Boon was greatly exercised over the problem of a president.

"Why have a president?" Dodd helped.

"There must be a Presidential Address," said Boon, "and these things
always do have a president."

"Lord Rosebery," suggested Wilkins.

"Lord Morley," said Dodd.

"Lord Bryce."

Then we looked at one another.

"For my own part," said Boon, "if we are going in for that sort of
thing, I favour Lord Reay.

"You see, Lord Reay has never done anything at all connected with
literature. Morley and Bryce and Rosebery have at any rate written
things--historical studies, addresses, things like that--but Reay has
never written anything, and he let Gollancz make him president of the
British Academy without a murmur. This seems to mark him out for this
further distinction. He is just the sort of man who would be made--and
who would let himself be made--president of a British affair of this
sort, and they would hoist him up and he would talk for two or three
hours without a blush. Just like that other confounded peer--what was
his name?--who bored and bored and bored at the Anatole France
dinner.... In the natural course of things it would be one of these
literary lords...."

"What would he say?" asked Dodd.

"Maunderings, of course. It will make the book rather dull. I doubt if
I can report him at length.... He will speak upon contemporary
letters, the lack of current achievement.... I doubt if a man like
Lord Reay ever reads at all. One wonders sometimes what these British
literary aristocrats do with all their time. Probably he left off
reading somewhere in the eighties. He won't have noted it, of course,
and he will be under the impression that nothing has been written for
the past thirty years."

"Good Lord!" said Wilkins.

"And he'll say that. Slowly. Steadily. Endlessly. Then he will thank
God for the English classics, ask where now is our Thackeray? where
now our Burns? our Charlotte Brontë? our Tennyson? say a good word for
our immortal bard, and sit down amidst the loud applause of thousands
of speechlessly furious British and American writers...."

"I don't see that this will help your book forward," said Dodd.

"No, but it's a proper way of beginning. Like Family Prayers."

"I suppose," said Wilkins, "if you told a man of that sort that there
were more and better poets writing in English beautifully in 1914 than
ever before he wouldn't believe it. I suppose if you said that Ford
Madox Hueffer, for example, had produced sweeter and deeper poetry
than Alfred, Lord Tennyson, he'd have a fit."

"He'd have nothing of the kind. You could no more get such an idea
into the head of one of these great vestiges of our Gladstonian days
than you could get it into the seat of a Windsor chair.... And people
don't have fits unless something has got into them.... No, he'd
reflect quite calmly that first of all he'd never heard of this
Hueffer, then that probably he was a very young man. And, anyhow, one
didn't meet him in important places.... And after inquiry he would
find out he was a journalist.... And then probably he'd cease to
cerebrate upon the question...."


§ 3

"Besides," said Boon, "we must have one of our literary peers because
of America."

"You're unjust to America," I said.

"No," said Boon. "But Aunt Dove--I know her ways."

That led to a long, rambling discussion about the American literary
atmosphere. Nothing that I could say would make him relent from his
emphatic assertion that it is a spinster atmosphere, an atmosphere in
which you can't say all sorts of things and where all sorts of things
have to be specially phrased. "And she can't stand young things and
crude things----"

"America!" said Wilkins.

"The America I mean. The sort of America that ought to supply young
new writers with caresses and--nourishment. ...Instead of which you
get the _Nation_.... That bleak acidity, that refined appeal to take
the child away."

"But they don't produce new young writers!" said Wilkins.

"But they do!" said Boon. "And they strangle them!"

It was extraordinary what a power metaphors and fancies had upon Boon.
Only those who knew him intimately can understand how necessary Miss
Bathwick was to him. He would touch a metaphor and then return and sip
it, and then sip and drink and swill until it had intoxicated him
hopelessly.

"America," said Boon, "can produce such a supreme writer as Stephen
Crane--the best writer of English for the last half-century--or Mary
Austin, who used to write---- What other woman could touch her? But
America won't own such children. It's amazing. It's a case of
concealment of birth. She exposes them. Whether it's Shame--or a
Chinese trick.... She'll sit never knowing she's had a Stephen Crane,
adoring the European reputation, the florid mental gestures of a
Conrad. You see, she can tell Conrad 'writes.' It shows. And she'll
let Mary Austin die of neglect, while she worships the 'art' of Mary
Ward. It's like turning from the feet of a goddess to a pair of
goloshes. She firmly believes that old quack Bergson is a bigger man
than her own unapproachable William James.... She's incredible. I tell
you it's only conceivable on one supposition.... I'd never thought
before about these disgraceful sidelights on Miss Dove's career....

"We English do make foundlings of some of her little victims,
anyhow.... But why hasn't she any natural instinct in the matter?

"Now, if one represented that peculiar Bostonian intellectual
gentility, the _Nation_ kind of thing, as a very wicked, sour
lady's-maid with a tremendous influence over the Spinster's
conduct...."

His mind was running on.

"I begin to see a melodramatic strain in this great novel, 'Miss
Dove.'... 'Miss Dove's Derelicts.'... Too broad, I am afraid. If one
were to represent Sargent and Henry James as two children left out one
cold night in a basket at a cottage in the village by a mysterious
stranger, with nothing but a roll of dollars and a rough drawing of
the Washington coat-of-arms to indicate their parentage....

"Then when they grow up they go back to the big house and she's almost
kind to them....

"Have you ever read the critical articles of Edgar Allan Poe? They're
very remarkable. He is always demanding an American Literature. It is
like a deserted baby left to die in its cradle, weeping and wailing
for its bottle.... What he wanted, of course, was honest and
intelligent criticism.

"To this day America kills her Poes...."

"But confound it!" said Wilkins, "America does make discoveries for
herself. Hasn't she discovered Lowes Dickinson?"

"But that merely helps my case. Lowes Dickinson has just the qualities
that take the American judgement; he carries the shadow of King's
College Chapel about with him wherever he goes; he has an unobtrusive
air of being doubly starred in Baedeker and not thinking anything of
it. And also she took Noyes to her bosom. But when has American
criticism ever had the intellectual pluck to proclaim an American?

"And so, you see," he remarked, going off again at a tangent, "if we
are going to bid for American adhesions there's only one course open
to us in the matter of this presidential address.... Lord Morley...."

"You're a little difficult to follow at times," said Wilkins.

"Because he's the man who's safest not to say anything about babies
or--anything alive.... Obviously a literary congress in America must
be a festival in honour of sterility.

"Aunt Dove demands it. Like celebrating the virginity of Queen
Elizabeth...."


§ 4

I find among the fragments of my departed friend some notes that seem
to me to be more or less relevant here. They are an incomplete report
of the proceedings of a section S, devoted to _Poiometry_, apparently
the scientific measurement of literary greatness. It seems to have
been under the control of a special committee, including Mr. James
Huneker, Mr. Slosson, Sir Thomas Seccombe, Mr. James Douglas, Mr.
Clement K. Shorter, the acting editor of the _Bookman_, and the
competition editress of the _Westminster Gazette_....

Apparently the notes refer to some paper read before the section. Its
authorship is not stated, nor is there any account of its reception.
But the title is "The Natural History of Greatness, with especial
reference to Literary Reputations."

The opening was evidently one of those rapid historical sketches
frequent in such papers.

"Persuasion that human beings are sometimes of disproportionate size
appears first in the Egyptian and Syrian wall paintings.... Probably
innate.... The discouragement of the young a social necessity in all
early societies. In all societies?... Exaggerated stories about the
departed.... Golden ages. Heroic ages. Ancestor worship.... Dead dogs
better than living lions.... Abraham. Moses. The Homeric reputation,
the first great literary cant. Resentment against Homer's exaggerated
claims on the part of intelligent people. Zoilus. Caricature of the
Homerists in the Satyricon. Other instances of unorthodox ancient
criticism.... Shakespeare as an intellectual nuisance.... Extreme
suffering caused to contemporary writers by the Shakespeare legend....

"Another form of opposition to these obsessions is the creation of
countervailing reputations. Certain people in certain ages have
resolved to set up Great Men of their own to put beside these Brocken
spectres from the past. This marks a certain stage of social
development, the beginning of self-consciousness in a civilized
community. Self-criticism always begins in self-flattery. Virgil as an
early instance of a Great Man of set intentions; deliberately put up
as the Latin Homer....

"Evolution of the greatness of Aristotle during the Middle Ages.

"Little sense of contemporary Greatness among the Elizabethans.

"Comparison with the past the prelude to Great-Man-Making, begins with
such a work as Swift's 'Battle of the Books.' Concurrently the decline
in religious feeling robs the past of its half-mystical prestige. The
Western world ripe for Great Men in the early nineteenth century. The
Germans as a highly competitive and envious people take the lead. The
inflation of Schiller. The greatness of Goethe. Incredible dullness of
"Elective Affinities," of "Werther," of "Wilhelm Meister's
Apprenticeship." The second part of "Faust" a tiresome muddle. Large
pretentiousness of the man's career. Resolve of the Germans to have a
Great Fleet, a Great Empire, a Great Man. Difficulty in finding a
suitable German for Greatening. Expansion of the Goethe legend. German
efficiency brought to bear on the task. Lectures. Professors. Goethe
compared to Shakespeare. Compared to Homer. Compared to Christ.
Compared to God. Discovered to be incomparable....

"Stimulation of Scotch activities. The Scotch also passionately and
aggressively patriotic. Fortunate smallness of Scotland and lack of
adjacent docile Germans has alone saved the world from another
Prussia. Desperation of the search for a real Scotch First Rater. The
discovery that Burns was as great as Shakespeare. Greater. The booming
of Sir Walter Scott. Wake up, England! The production of Dickens. The
slow but enormous discovery of Wordsworth. Victorian age sets up as a
rival to the Augustine. Selection of Great Men in every department.
The Great Victorian painters. Sir Frederick Leighton, compared with
Titian and Michael Angelo. Tennyson as Virgil. Lord Tennyson at the
crest of the Victorian Greatness wave. His hair. His cloak. His noble
bearing. His aloofness. His Great Pipe. His price per word. His
intellectual familiarities with Queen Victoria....

"Longfellow essentially an American repartee....

"Ingratitude of British Royal Family to those who contributed to the
Victorian Greatness period, shown in the absence of representative
Great Men from the Buckingham Palace Monument. Victoria did not do it
all. Compare the Albert Memorial....

"Interesting task to plan an alternative pedestal. Proposal to make
designs for a monument to our own times. Symbolic corner groups by
Will Dyson. Frieze of representative men by Max. Canopy by Wyndham
Lewis. Lost opportunity for much bright discussion....

"Analysis of literary greatness. Is any literary achievement essential
to greatness? Probably a minute minimum indispensable. Burns.
Fitzgerald. But compare Lord Acton and Lord Reay. Necessity of a
marked personality. Weaknesses, but no unpopular vices. Greatness
blighted by want of dignity. Laurence Sterne. Reciprocal duty of those
made Great not to distress their Public. But imperfectly established
scandal or complexity of relationship may give scope for vindications
and research. Or a certain irregularity of life may create a loyal and
devoted following of sympathizers. Shelley.... Then capable advocacy
is needed and a critical world large enough to be effective but small
enough to be unanimous. Part an able publisher may play in
establishing and developing a Great Man.... Quiet Push, not Noisy
Push. Injury done by tactless advertisement.... The element of
luck....

"These are the seeds of greatness, but the growth depends upon the
soil. The best soil is a large uncritical public newly come to
reading, a little suspicious of the propriety of the practice and in a
state of intellectual snobbishness. It must also be fairly uniform and
on some common basis of ideas. Ideally represented by the reading
publics of Germany, Britain, the United States, and France in the
middle nineteenth century....

"Decline in the output of Greatness towards the end of the Victorian
time. Probably due in all cases to an enlargement of the reading
public to unmanageable dimensions. No reputation sufficiently elastic
to cover it. The growth of Chicago, New York, and the West destroyed
the preponderance of Boston in America, and the Civil War broke the
succession of American Great Men. Rarity of new American-born
Greatnesses after the war. Dumping of established greatnesses from
England gave no chance to the native market. No Protection for America
in this respect. In Great Britain the board schools create big masses
of intelligent people inaccessible to the existing machinery by which
Greatness is imposed. The Greatness output in Britain declines also in
consequence. Mrs. Humphry Ward, the last of the British Victorian
Great. Expressed admiration of Mr. Gladstone for her work. Support of
the _Spectator_. Profound respect of the American people. Rumour that
she is represented as a sea goddess at the base of the Queen Victoria
Memorial unfounded. Nobody is represented on the Queen Victoria
Memorial except Queen Victoria.... Necessity after the epoch of Mrs.
Ward of more and more flagrant advertisement to reach the enlarged
public, so that at last touch is lost with the critical centres. Great
Men beyond the Limit. Self-exploded candidates for Greatness.
Boomsters. Best Sellers. Mr. Hall Caine as the shocking example....

"Other causes contributing to the decay of Greatness among literary
men. Competition of politicians, princes, personages generally for the
prestige of the literary man. Superior initial advantage in
conspicuousness. The genuine writer handicapped. The process already
beginning at the crest of the period. Queen Victoria's 'Leaves from a
Highland Diary.' Mr. Gladstone and the higher windiness. Later
developments. The Kaiser as a man of letters. Mr. Roosevelt as writer
and critic. The Essays of President Wilson. The case of Lord Rosebery.
Mr. Haldane as a philosopher. As a critic. His opinion of Goethe.
Compare the royal and noble authors of Byzantium. Compare the Roman
Emperor becoming Pontifex Maximus. Compare the cannibal chief in a
general's hat....

"Return of the literary men as such to a decent obscurity. From which
they are unlikely to emerge again. This an unmixed blessing. So long
as good writing and sound thinking are still appreciated the less we
hear about authors the better. Never so little recognized Greatness
and never so much wise, subtle, sweet, and boldly conceived literary
work as now. This will probably continue. [He was writing before the
war.] The English-reading literary world too large now for the
operations of Greatening. Doubtful case of Rabindranath Tagore.
Discuss this. Special suitability of India as a basis for Greatness.
India probably on the verge of a Greatness period....

"Disrespect a natural disposition in the young. Checked and subdued in
small societies, but now happily rampant in the uncontrollable
English-speaking communities. The new (undignified) criticism. The
_English Review_. Mr. Austin Harrison and the street-boy style. The
literature of the chalked fence. The _New Age_. Literary carbolic
acid--with an occasional substitution of vitriol.... Insurrection of
the feminine mind against worship. Miss Rebecca West as the last birth
of time. A virile-minded generation of young women indicated. Mrs.
Humphry Ward blushes publicly for the _Freewoman_ in the _Times_.
Hitherto Greatness has demanded the applause of youth and feminine
worship as necessary conditions. As necessary to its early stages as
down to an eider chick. Impossible to imagine Incipient Greatness
nestling comfortably upon Orage, Austin Harrison, and Rebecca West.
Dearth of young Sidney Colvins.... Unhappy position of various
derelict and still imperfectly developed Great surviving from the old
times. Arnold Bennett as an aborted Great Man. Would have made a Great
Victorian and had a crowd of satellite helpers. Now no one will ever
treasure his old hats and pipes....

"Idea of an experimental resurrection of those who still live in our
hearts. If Goethe had a second time on earth----? Could he do it now?
Would Lord Haldane perceive him? Imaginary description of Lord
Haldane's recognition of a youthful Goethe. They meet by accident
during a walking tour in Germany. Amiable aloofness of Lord Haldane.
His gradual discovery of an intellectual superior in his modest
companion. Public proclamation of his find.... Doubts....

"Peroration. Will the world be happy without Literary Greatnesses?
Improvise and take a cheerful line upon this question."

[Illustration: _Miss Rebecca West, pensive, after writing her
well-known opinion of that Great Good Woman-Soul, Miss Ellen Key._]


§ 5

Ultimately, against every possibility of the case, Boon decided that
the President of his conference must be Hallery. And he wrote his
presidential address. But he never read that address to us. Some
shyness I think restrained him. I dig it out here now for the first
time, a little astonished at it, disposed to admire something in its
spirit.... But yet one has to admit that it shows an extraordinary
lapse from Boon's accustomed mocking humour.

Here is the opening.

"Hallery then advanced to the edge of the platform and fumbled with
his manuscript. His face was very white and his expression bitterly
earnest. With an appearance of effort he began, omitting in his
nervousness any form of address to his audience--

"'For the most part, the life of human communities has been as
unconscious as the life of animals. They have been born as unknowingly
as the beasts; they have followed unforeseen and unheeded destinies,
and destruction has come to them from forces scarcely anticipated and
not understood. Tribes, nations beyond counting, have come and passed,
with scarcely a mental activity beyond a few legends, a priestly guess
at cosmogony, a few rumours and traditions, a list of kings as bare as
a schoolboy's diary, a war or so, a triumph or so.... We are still
only in the beginning of history--in the development, that is, of a
racial memory; we have as yet hardly begun to inquire into our racial
origins, our racial conditions, our racial future.... Philosophy,
which is the discussion of the relation of the general to the
particular, of the whole to the part, of the great and yet vague life
of the race to the intense yet manifestly incomplete life of the
individual, is still not three thousand years old. Man has lived
consciously as man it may be for hundreds of thousands of years, he
has learnt of himself by talking to his fellows, he has expressed
personal love and many personal feelings with a truth and beauty that
are well nigh final, but the race does but begin to live as a
conscious being. It begins to live as a conscious being, and as it
does so, the individual too begins to live in a new way, a greater,
more understanding, and more satisfying way. His thoughts apprehend
interests beyond himself and beyond his particular life....'

"At this point Hallery became so acutely aware of his audience that
for some seconds he could not go on reading. A number of people in
various parts of the hall had suddenly given way to their coughs, a
bald-headed gentleman about the middle of the assembly had discovered
a draught, and was silently but conspicuously negotiating for the
closing of a window by an attendant, and at the back a
cultivated-looking young gentleman was stealing out on tiptoe.

[Illustration: _The first departure._]

"For a moment Hallery was distressed by the thought that perhaps he
might have taken a more amusing line than the one he had chosen, and
then, realizing how vain were such regrets and rather quickening his
pace, he resumed the reading of his address--

"'You see that I am beginning upon a very comprehensive scale, for I
propose to bring within the scope of this conference all that arises
out of these two things, out of the realization of the incompleteness
of man's individual life on the one hand and out of the realization of
a greater being in which man lives, of a larger racial life and ampler
references upon the other. All this much--and with a full awareness of
just how much it is--I am going to claim as literature and our
province. Religion, I hold, every religion so far as it establishes
and carries ideas, is literature, philosophy is literature, science is
literature; a pamphlet or a leading article. I put all these things
together----'

"At this point there was a second departure.

[Illustration: _The second departure._]

Almost immediately followed by a third.

[Illustration: _The third departure._]

"Hallery halted for a second time and then gripped the reading-desk
with both hands, and, reading now with a steadily accelerated
velocity, heeded his audience no more--

"'I put all these things together because, indeed, it is only
associations of antiquity and prescription and prestige can separate
them. Altogether they constitute the great vague body of man's
super-personal mental life, his unselfish life, his growing life, as a
premeditating, self-conscious race and destiny. Here in growing
volume, in this comprehensive literature of ours, preserved, selected,
criticized, re-stated, continually rather more fined, continually
rather more clarified, we have the mind, not of a mortal but of an
immortal adventurer. Whom for the moment, fractionally,
infinitesimally, whenever we can forget ourselves in pure feeling, in
service, in creative effort or disinterested thought, we are
privileged in that measure to become. This wonder that we celebrate,
this literature, is the dawn of human divinity. . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .'"

But though Hallery went on, I do not, on reflection, think that I
will. I doubt if Boon ever decided to incorporate this extraordinary
Presidential Address in our book; I think perhaps he meant to revise
it or substitute something else. He wanted to state a case for the
extreme importance of literature, and to my mind he carried his
statement into regions mystical, to say the least of it, and likely to
be considered blasphemous by many quite right-minded people. For
instance, he made Hallery speak of the Word that links men's minds. He
brings our poor, mortal, mental activities into the most extraordinary
relationship with those greater things outside our lives which it is
our duty to revere as much as possible and to think about as little as
possible; he draws no line between them.... He never, I say, read the
paper to us.... I cannot guess whether he did not read it to us
because he doubted himself or because he doubted us, and I do not even
care to examine my own mind to know whether I do or do not believe in
the thesis he sets so unhesitatingly down. In a sense it is no doubt
true that literature is a kind of over-mind of the race, and in a
sense, no doubt, the Bible and the Koran, the Talmud and the Prayer
Book are literature. In a sense Mr. Upton Sinclair's "Bible" for
Socialists of bits from ancient and modern writings is literature. In
a sense, too, literature does go on rather like a continuous mind
thinking.... But I feel that all this is just in a sense.... I don't
really believe it. I am not quite sure what I do really believe, but I
certainly recoil from anything so crudely positive as Hallery's wild
assertions.... It would mean worshipping literature. Or at least
worshipping the truth in literature....

Of course, one knows that real literature is something that has to do
with leisure and cultivated people and books and shaded lamps and all
that sort of thing. But Hallery wants to drag in not only cathedrals
and sanctuaries, but sky-signs and hoardings.... He wants literature
to embrace whatever is in or whatever changes the mind of the race,
except purely personal particulars. And I think Boon was going to make
Hallery claim this, just in order to show up against these tremendous
significances the pettiness of the contemporary literary life, the
poverty and levity of criticism, the mean business side of modern
book-making and book-selling....

Turning over the pages of this rejected address, which I am sure the
reader would not thank me for printing, I do come upon this
presentable passage, which illustrates what I am saying--

"So that every man who writes to express or change or criticize an
idea, every man who observes and records a fact in the making of a
research, every man who hazards or tests a theory, every artist of any
sort who really expresses, does thereby, in that very act,
participate, share in, become for just that instant when he is novel
and authentically _true_, the Mind of the Race, the thinking divinity.
Do you not see, then, what an arrogant worship, what a sacramental
thing it is to lift up brain and hand and say, '_I too will add_'? We
bring our little thoughts as the priest brings a piece of common bread
to consecration, and though we have produced but a couplet or a dozen
lines of prose, we have nevertheless done the parallel miracle. And
all reading that is reading with the mind, all conscious subjugation
of our attention to expressed beauty, or expressed truth, is
sacramental, is communion with the immortal being. We lift up our
thoughts out of the little festering pit of desire and vanity which is
one's individual self into that greater self...."

So he talks, and again presently of "that world-wide immortal
communion incessant as the march of sun and planets amidst the
stars...."

And then, going on with his vast comparison, for I cannot believe this
is more than a fantastic parallelism: "And if the mind that does, as
we say, create is like the wafer that has become miraculously divine,
then though you may not like to think of it, all you who give out
books, who print books and collect books, and sell books and lend
them, who bring pictures to people's eyes, set things forth in
theatres, hand out thought in any way from the thinking to the
attentive mind, all you are priests, you do a priestly office, and
every bookstall and hoarding is a wayside shrine, offering consolation
and release to men and women from the intolerable prison of their
narrow selves...."


§ 6

That, I think, is what Boon really at the bottom of his heart felt and
believed about literature.

And yet in some way he could also not believe it; he could recognize
something about it that made him fill the margin of the manuscript of
this address with grotesque figures of an imaginary audience going
out. They were, I know, as necessary to his whole conception as his
swinging reference to the stars; both were as much part of his
profound belief as the gargoyle on the spire and the high altar are
necessary parts of a Gothic cathedral. And among other figures I am
amused rather than hurt to find near the end this of myself--

[Illustration: _Too high-pitched even for Reginald._]



CHAPTER THE SIXTH

Of not liking Hallery and the Royal Society for the Discouragement of
Literature


§ 1

In the same peculiar receptacle in which I find this presidential
address I found a quantity of other papers and scraps of paper, upon
which Boon, I should judge, had been thinking about that address and
why he was ashamed to produce it to us, and why he perceived that this
audience would dislike Hallery so much that he was obliged to admit
that they would go out before his lecture was finished, and why he
himself didn't somehow like this Hallery that he had made. All these
writings are in the nature of fragments, some are illegible and more
are incomprehensible; but it is clear that his mind attacked these
questions with a most extraordinary width of reference. I find him
writing about the One and the Many, the General and the Particular,
the Species and the Individual, declaring that it is through "the
dimensions (_sic_) of space and time" that "individuation" becomes
possible, and citing Darwin, Heraclitus, Kant, Plato, and Tagore, all
with a view to determining just exactly what it was that irritated
people in the breadth and height and expression of Hallery's views. Or
to be more exact, what he knew would have irritated people with these
views if they had ever been expressed.

Here is the sort of thing that I invite the intelligent reader to link
up if he can with the very natural phenomenon of a number of quite
ordinary sensible people hostile and in retreat before a tedious,
perplexing, and presumptuous discourse--

"The individual human mind spends itself about equally in headlong
flight from the Universal, which it dreads as something that will
envelop and subjugate it, and in headlong flight to the Universal,
which it seeks as a refuge from its own loneliness and silliness. It
knows very certainly that the Universal will ultimately comprehend and
incorporate it, yet it desires always that the Universal should
_mother_ it, take it up without injuring it in the slightest degree,
foment and nourish its egotism, cherish fondly all its distinctions,
give it all the kingdoms of existence to play with....

"Ordinary people snuggle up to God as a lost leveret in a freezing
wilderness might snuggle up to a Siberian tiger....

"You see that man who flies and seeks, who needs and does not want,
does at last get to a kind of subconscious compromise over the matter.
Couldn't he perhaps get the Infinite with the chill off? Couldn't he
perhaps find a warm stuffed tiger? He cheats himself by hiding in what
he can pretend is the goal. So he tries to escape from the pursuit of
the living God to dead gods, evades religion in a church, does his
best to insist upon time-honoured formulæ; God must have a button on
the point. And it is our instinctive protection of the subconscious
arrangement that makes us so passionately resentful at raw religion,
at crude spiritual realities, at people who come at us saying harsh
understandable things about these awful matters.... _They may wake the
tiger!..._

"We like to think of religion as something safely specialized,
codified, and put away. Then we can learn the rules and kick about a
bit. But when some one comes along saying that science is religion,
literature is religion, business--they'll come to that
presently!--business is religion!...

"It spoils the afternoon....

"But that alone does not explain why Hallery, delivering his insistent
presidential address, is detestable to his audience--for it is quite
clear that he is detestable. I'm certain of it. No, what is the matter
there is that the aggression of the universal is pointed and
embittered by an all too justifiable suspicion that the individual who
maintains it is still more aggressive, has but armed himself with the
universal in order to achieve our discomfiture.... It's no good his
being modest; that only embitters it. It is no good his making
disavowals; that only shows that he is aware of it....

"Of course I invented Hallery only to get this burthen off myself....

"All spiritual truths ought to be conveyed by a voice speaking out of
a dark void. As Hardy wants his spirits to speak in the 'Dynasts.'
Failing that, why should we not deal with these questions through the
anonymity of a gramophone?...

"A modern religion founded on a mysterious gramophone which was
discovered carefully packed in a box of peculiar construction on a
seat upon Primrose Hill....

"How well the great organized religions have understood this! How
sound is the effort to meet it by shaving a priest's head or obliging
him to grow a beard, putting him into canonicals, drilling him and
regimenting him, so as to make him into a mere type....

"If I were to found a religion, I think I should insist upon masked
priests...."


§ 2

This idea that the defensive instinct of the individuality, Jealousy,
is constantly at war not only with other individualities but with all
the great de-individualizing things, with Faith, with Science, with
Truth, with Beauty; that out of its resentments and intricate devices
one may draw the explanation of most of the perplexities and humours
of the intellectual life, indeed the explanation of most life and of
most motives, is the quintessence of Boon. The Mind of the Race toils
through this jungle of jealous individuality to emerge. And the
individual, knowing that single-handed he hasn't a chance against the
immortal, allies himself with this and that, with sham immortalities,
and partially effaced and partially confuted general things. And so it
sets up its Greatnesses, to save it from greatness, its solemnities to
preserve it from the overwhelming gravity of truth. "See," it can say,
"I have my gods already, thank you. I do not think we will discuss
this matter further."

I admit the difficulty of following Boon in this. I admit, too, that I
am puzzled about his Mind of the Race. Does he mean by that expression
a Great Wisdom and Will that must be, or a Great Wisdom and Will that
might be?

But here he goes on with the topic of Hallery again.

"I invented Hallery to get rid of myself, but, after all, Hallery is
really no more than the shadow of myself, and if I were impersonal and
well bred, and if I spoke behind a black screen, it would still be as
much my voice as ever. I do not see how it is possible to prevent the
impersonal things coming by and through persons; but at any rate we
can begin to recognize that the person who brings the message is only
in his way like the messenger-boy who brings the telegrams. The writer
may have a sensitive mind, the messenger-boy may have nimble heels;
that does not make him the creator of the thing that comes. Then I
think people will be able to listen to such lectures as this of
Hallery's without remembering all the time that it's a particular
human being with a white face and a lisp.... And perhaps they will be
able to respect literature and fine thought for the sake of the
general human mind for which they live and for the sake of their own
receptiveness...."


§ 3

And from that Boon suddenly went off into absurdities.

"Should all literature be anonymous?" he asks at the head of a sheet
of notes.

"But one wants an author's name as a brand. Perhaps a number would
suffice. Would authors write if they remained unknown? Mixed motives.
Could one run a church with an unsalaried priesthood? But certainly
now the rewards are too irregular, successful authors are absurdly
flattered and provoked to impossible ambitions. Could we imitate the
modern constitutional State by permitting limited ambitions but
retaining all the higher positions inaccessible to mere enterprise and
merit? Hereditary Novelists, Poets, and Philosophers, for example. The
real ones undistinguished. Hereditary Historians and Scientific Men
are already practical reality. Then such mischievous rewards and
singlings out as the Nobel Prize could be distributed among these
Official Intellectuals by lot or (better) by seniority. It would
prevent much heartburning...."

These last notes strike me as an extraordinary declension from the, at
least, exalted argument of the preceding memoranda. But they do serve
to emphasize the essence of--what shall I call it?--Boonism, the idea
that there is a great collective mental process going on in many
minds, and that it is impertinent and distracting to single out
persons, great men, groups and schools, coteries and Academies. The
flame burns wide and free. It is here; it is gone. You had it; you
have it not. And again you see it plainly, stretching wide across the
horizon....


§ 4

But after these scrappy notes about Jealousy and how people protect
their minds against ideas, and especially the idea which is God, and
against the mental intrusions of their fellow-creatures conveying
ideas, I understand better the purport of that uninvited society,
which he declared insisted upon coming to the Great Conference upon
the Mind of the Race, and which held such enthusiastic and crowded
meetings that at last it swamped all the rest of the enterprise. It
was, he declared, to the bitter offence of Dodd, a society with very
much the same attitude towards all impersonal mental activities that
the Rationalist Press Association has to Religion, and it was called
the Royal Society for the Discouragement of Literature.

"Why 'Royal'?" I asked.

"Oh--obviously," he said....

This Royal Society was essentially an organization of the conservative
instincts of man. Its aim was to stop all this thinking....

And yet in some extraordinary way that either I did not note at the
time or that he never explained, it became presently the whole
Conference! The various handbills, pamphlets in outline, notes for
lectures, and so forth, that accompanied his notes of the Proceedings
of the Royal Society may either be intended as part of the sectional
proceedings of the great conference or as the production of this
hostile organization. I will make a few extracts from the more legible
of these memoranda which render the point clearer.


§ 5

Publishers and Book Distributors

(_Comparable to the Priest who hands the Elements and as much upon
their Honour._)

The Publisher regrets that the copy for this section is missing, and
fears that the substance of it must be left to the imagination of the
reader. This is the more regrettable as the section was probably of a
highly technical nature.


§ 6

The Young Reviewer

Here, again, Mr. Boon's notes are not to be found, and repeated
applications to Mr. Bliss have produced nothing but a vague telegram
to "go ahead."


§ 7

The Schoolmaster and Literature

"Essentially the work of the schoolmaster is to prepare the young and
naturally over-individualized mind for communion with the Mind of the
Race. Essentially his curriculum deals with modes of expression, with
languages, grammar, the mathematical system of statement, the various
scientific systems of statement, the common legend of history. All
leads up, as the scholar approaches adolescence, to the introduction
to living literature, living thought, criticism, and religion. But
when we consider how literature is taught in schools----"

Here the writing leaves off abruptly, and then there is written in
very minute letters far down the page and apparently after an interval
for reflection--

    "Scholastic humour

    _O God!_"



CHAPTER THE SEVENTH

Wilkins makes Certain Objections


§ 1

Wilkins the author began to think about the Mind of the Race quite
suddenly. He made an attack upon Boon as we sat in the rose-arbour
smoking after lunch. Wilkins is a man of a peculiar mental
constitution; he alternates between a brooding sentimental egotism and
a brutal realism, and he is as weak and false in the former mood as he
is uncompromising in the latter. I think the attraction that certainly
existed between him and Boon must have been the attraction of
opposites, for Boon is as emotional and sentimental in relation to the
impersonal aspects of life as he is pitiless in relation to himself.
Wilkins still spends large portions of his time thinking solemnly
about some ancient trouble in which he was treated unjustly; I believe
I once knew what it was, but I have long since forgotten. Yet when his
mind does get loose from his own "case" for a bit it is, I think, a
very penetrating mind indeed. And, at any rate, he gave a lot of
exercise to Boon.

"All through this book, Boon," he began.

"What book?" asked Dodd.

"This one we are in. All through this book you keep on at the idea of
the Mind of the Race. It is what the book is about; it is its theme.
Yet I don't see exactly what you are driving at. Sometimes you seem to
be making out this Mind of the Race to be a kind of God----"

"A synthetic God," said Boon. "If it is to be called a God at all."

Dodd nodded as one whose worst suspicions are confirmed.

"Then one has to assume it is a continuing, coherent mind, that is
slowly becoming wider, saner, profounder, more powerful?"

Boon never likes to be pressed back upon exact statements. "Yes," he
said reluctantly. "In general--on the whole--yes. What are you driving
at?"

"It includes all methods of expression from the poster when a play is
produced at His Majesty's Theatre, from the cheering of the crowd when
a fireman rescues a baby, up to--Walter Pater."

"So far as Pater expresses anything," said Boon.

"Then you go on from the elevation this idea of a secular quasi-divine
racial mental progress gives you, to judge and condemn all sorts of
decent artistic and literary activities that don't fall in or don't
admit that they fall in...."

"Something of that idea," said Boon, growing a little
testy--"something of that idea."

"It gives you an opportunity of annoying a number of people you don't
like."

"If I offend, it is their fault!" said Boon hotly. "Criticism can have
no friendships. If they like to take it ill.... My criticism is
absolutely, honest.... Some of them are my dearest friends."

"They won't be," said Wilkins, "when all this comes out.... But,
anyhow, your whole case, your justification, your thesis is that there
is this Mind of the Race, overriding, dominating---- And that you are
its Prophet."

"Because a man confesses a belief, Wilkins, that doesn't make him a
Prophet. I don't set up--I express."

"Your Mind of the Race theory has an elegance, a plausibility, I
admit," said Wilkins.

Dodd's expression indicated that it didn't take him in. He compressed
his lips. Not a bit of it.

"But is this in reality true? Is this what exists and goes on? We
people who sit in studies and put in whole hours of our days thinking
and joining things together do get a kind of coherence into our ideas
about the world. Just because there is leisure and time for us to
think. But are you sure that is the Race at all? That is my point.
Aren't we intellectually just a by-product? If you went back to the
time of Plato, you would say that the idea of his "Republic" was what
was going on in the Mind of the Race then. But I object that that was
only the futile fancy of a gentleman of leisure. What was really going
on was the gathering up of the Macedonian power to smash through
Greece, and then make Greece conquer Asia. Your literature and
philosophy are really just the private entertainment of old gentlemen
out of the hurly-burly and ambitious young men too delicate to hunt or
shoot. Thought is nothing in the world until it begins to operate in
will and act, and the history of mankind doesn't show now, and it
never has shown, any consecutive relation to human thinking. The real
Mind of the Race is, I submit, something not literary at all, not
consecutive, but like the inconsecutive incoherences of an idiot----"

"No," said Boon, "of a child."

"You have wars, you have great waves of religious excitement, you have
patriotic and imperial delusions, you have ill-conceived and
surprising economic changes----"

"As if humanity as a whole were a mere creature of chance and
instinct," said Boon.

"Exactly," said Wilkins.

"I admit that," said Boon. "But my case is that sanity grows. That
what was ceases to be. The mind of reason gets now out of the study
into the market-place."

"You mean really, Boon, that the Mind of the Race isn't a mind that
_is_, it is just a mind that becomes."

"That's what it's all about," said Boon.

"And that is where I want to take you up," said Wilkins. "I want to
suggest that the Mind of the Race may be just a gleam of conscious
realization that passes from darkness to darkness----"

"_No_," said Boon.

"Why not?"

"Because I will not have it so," said Boon.


§ 2

There can be no denying that from quite an early stage in the
discussion Boon was excited and presently on the verge of ill-temper.
This dragging of his will into a question of fact showed, I think, the
beginning of his irritation. And he was short and presently rather
uncivil in his replies to Wilkins.

Boon argued that behind the individualities and immediacies of life
there was in reality a consecutive growth of wisdom, that larger
numbers of people and a larger proportion of people than ever before
were taking part in the World Mind process, and that presently this
would become a great conscious general thinking of the race together.

Wilkins admitted that there had been a number of starts in the
direction of impersonal understanding and explanation; indeed, there
was something of the sort in every fresh religious beginning; but he
argued that these starts do not show a regular progressive movement,
and that none of them had ever achieved any real directive and
unifying power over their adherents; that only a few Christians had
ever grasped Christianity, that Brahminism fell to intellectual powder
before it touched the crowd, that nowadays there was less sign than
ever of the honest intellectuals getting any hold whatever upon the
minds and movements of the popular mass....

"The Mind of the Race," said Wilkins, "seems at times to me much more
like a scared child cowering in the corner of a cage full of apes."

Boon was extraordinarily disconcerted by these contradictions.

"It will grow up," he snatched.

"If the apes let it," said Wilkins. "You can see how completely the
thinkers and poets and all this stuff of literature and the study
don't represent the real Mind, such as it is, of Humanity, when you
note how the mass of mankind turns naturally to make and dominate its
own organs of expression. Take the popular press, take the popular
theatre, take popular religion, take current fiction, take the
music-hall, watch the development of the cinematograph. There you have
the real body of mankind expressing itself. If you are right, these
things should fall in a kind of relationship to the intellectual
hierarchy. But the intellectual hierarchy goes and hides away in
country houses and beautiful retreats and provincial universities and
stuffy high-class periodicals. It's afraid of the mass of men, it
dislikes and dreads the mass of men, and it affects a pride and
aloofness to cover it. Plato wanted to reorganize social order and the
common life; the young man in the twopenny tube was the man he was
after. He wanted to exercise him and teach him exactly what to do with
the young woman beside him. Instead of which poor Plato has become
just an occasion for some Oxford don to bleat about his unapproachable
style and wisdom...."

"I admit we're not connected up yet," said Boon.

"You're more disconnected than ever you were. In the Middle Ages there
was something like a connected system of ideas in Christendom, so that
the Pope and the devout fishwife did in a sense march together...."

You see the wrangling argument on which they were launched.

Boon maintained that there was a spreading thought process, clearly
perceptible nowadays, and that those detachments of Wilkins' were not
complete. He instanced the cheap editions of broad-thinking books, the
variety of articles in the modern newspaper, the signs of wide
discussions. Wilkins, on the other hand, asserted a predominant
intellectual degeneration.... Moreover, Wilkins declared, with the
murmurous approval of Dodd, that much even of the Academic thought
process was going wrong, that Bergson's Pragmatism for Ladies was a
poor substitute even for Herbert Spencer, that the boom about
"Mendelism" was a triumph of weak thinking over comprehensive ideas.

"Even if we leave the masses out of account, it is still rather more
than doubtful if there is any secular intellectual growth."

And it is curious to recall now that as an instance of a degenerative
thought process among educated people Wilkins instanced modern
Germany. Here, he said, in the case of a Mind covering over a hundred
million people altogether, was a real retrocession of intellectual
freedom. The pretentious expression of instinctive crudity had always
been the peculiar weakness of the German mind. It had become more and
more manifest, he said, as nationalism had ousted foreign influence.
You see what pretty scope for mutual contradiction there was in all
this. "Let me get books," cried Wilkins, "and I will read you samples
of the sort of thing that passes for thinking in Germany. I will read
you some of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, some of Nietzsche's boiling
utterance, some of Schopenhauer."

"Let me," said Wilkins, "read a passage I have picked almost haphazard
from Schopenhauer. One gets Schopenhauer rammed down one's throat as a
philosopher, as a deep thinker, as the only alternative to the
Hegelian dose. And just listen----"

He began to read in a voice of deliberate malice, letting his voice
italicize the more scandalous transitions of what was certainly a very
foolish and ill-knit piece of assertion.

    "'Little men have a decided inclination for big women, and
    _vice versâ_; and indeed in a little man the preference for
    big women will be so much the more passionate if he himself
    was begotten by a big father, and only remains little through
    the influence of his mother; because he has inherited from his
    father the vascular system and its energy which was able to
    supply a large body with blood. If, on the other hand, his
    father and grandfather were both little, that inclination will
    make itself less felt. At the foundation of the aversion of a
    big woman to big men lies _the intention of Nature_ to avoid
    too big a race.... Further, the consideration as to the
    complexion is very decided. Blondes prefer dark persons or
    brunettes; but the latter seldom prefer the former. _The
    reason is_, that fair hair and blue eyes are in themselves a
    variation from the type, almost an abnormity, analogous to
    white mice, or at least to grey horses. In no part of the
    world, not even in the vicinity of the Pole, are they
    indigenous, except in Europe, and are clearly of Scandinavian
    origin. I may here express my opinion in passing that the
    white colour of the skin is not natural to man, but that by
    nature he has a black or brown skin, like _our forefathers the
    Hindus_; that consequently a white man has never originally
    sprung from the womb of Nature, and that thus there is no such
    thing as a white race, much as this is talked of, but every
    white man is a faded or bleached one. Forced into this strange
    world, where he only exists like an exotic plant, and like
    this requires in winter the hothouse, in the course of
    thousands of years man became white. The gipsies, an Indian
    race which immigrated only about four centuries ago, show the
    transition from the complexion of the Hindu to our own.
    _Therefore_ in sexual love Nature strives to return to dark
    hair and brown eyes as the primitive type; but the white
    colour of the skin has become second nature, though not so
    that the brown of the Hindu repels us. Finally, each one also
    seeks in the particular parts of the body the corrective of
    his own defects and aberrations, and does so the more
    decidedly the more important the part is. _Therefore_
    snub-nosed individuals have an inexpressible liking for
    hook-noses, parrot-faces; and it is the same with regard to
    all other parts. Men with excessively slim, long bodies and
    limbs can find beauty in a body which is even beyond measure
    stumpy and short.... Whoever is himself in some respects very
    perfect does not indeed seek and love imperfection in this
    respect, but is yet more easily reconciled to it than others;
    because he himself insures the children against great
    imperfection of this part. For example, whoever is himself
    very white will not object to a yellow complexion; but whoever
    has the latter will find dazzling whiteness divinely
    beautiful.' (You will note that he perceives he has
    practically contradicted this a few lines before, and that
    evidently he has gone back and stuck in that saving clause
    about a white skin being second nature.) 'The rare case in
    which a man falls in love with a decidedly ugly woman occurs
    when, beside the exact harmony of the degree of sex explained
    above, the whole of her abnormities are precisely the
    opposite, and thus the corrective, of his. The love is then
    wont to reach a high degree....'

"And so on and so on," said Wilkins. "Just a foolish, irresponsible
saying of things. And all this stuff, this celibate cerebration, you
must remember, is not even fresh; it was said far more funnily and
pleasantly by old Campanella in his 'City of the Sun.' And, mind you,
this isn't a side issue Schopenhauer is upon; it isn't a moment of
relaxation; this argument is essential to the whole argument of his
philosophy...."

"But after all," said Boon, "Schopenhauer is hardly to be considered a
modern. He was pre-Darwinian."

"Exactly why I begin with him," said Wilkins. "He was a contemporary
of Darwin, and it was while Darwin was patiently and industriously
building up evidence, that this nonsense, a whole torrent of it, a
complete doctrine about the Will to Live, was being poured out. But
what I want you to notice is that while the sort of cautious massing
of evidence, the close reasoning, the honesty and veracity, that
distinguished the method of Darwin and Huxley, are scarcely to be met
with anywhere to-day, this spouting style of doing things is
everywhere. Take any of the stuff of that intellectual jackdaw,
Bernard Shaw, and you will find the Schopenhauer method in full
development; caught-up ideas, glib, irrational transitions, wild
assertions about the Life Force, about the effects of alcohol, about
'fear-poisoned' meat, about medical science, about economic processes,
about Russia, about the Irish temperament and the English
intelligence, about the thoughts and mental processes of everybody and
every sort of mind, stuff too incoherent and recklessly positive ever
to be systematically answered. And yet half at least of the
English-speaking intelligenzia regards Shaw as a part of the thought
process of the world. Schopenhauer was a pioneer in the game of
impudent assertion, very properly disregarded by his own generation;
Shaw's dementia samples this age. You see my case? In any rationally
trained, clear-headed period Shaw would have been looked into,
dissected, and disposed of long ago.... And here I have two other of
the voices that this time respects. It is all my argument that they
are respected now enormously, Boon; not merely that they exist. Men to
talk and write foolishly, to make groundless positive statements and
to misapprehend an opponent there have always been, but this age now
tolerates and accepts them. Here is that invalid Englishman, Houston
Stewart Chamberlain, who found a more congenial, intellectual
atmosphere in Germany, and this is his great book, 'The Foundations of
the Nineteenth Century.' This book has been received with the utmost
solemnity in the highest quarters; nowhere has it been handed over to
the derision which is its only proper treatment. You remember a rather
readable and rather pretentious history we had in our schooldays, full
of bad ethnology about Kelts and Anglo-Saxons, called J. R. Green's
'History of the English People'; it was part of that movement of
professorial barbarity, of braggart race-Imperialism and
anti-Irishism, of which Froude and Freeman were leaders; it smelt of
Carlyle and Germany, it helped provoke the Keltic Renascence. Well,
that was evidently, the germ of Herr Chamberlain. Here----"

Wilkins turned over the pages.

"Here he is, in fairly good form. It is a section called 'The Turning
Point,' and it's quite on all fours with Schopenhauer's 'our ancestors
the Hindus.' It is part of a sketch in outline of the history of the
past. 'The important thing,' he says, is to 'fix the turning-point of
the history of Europe.' While he was at it he might just as well have
_fixed_ the equator of the history of Europe and its sparking-plug and
the position of its liver. Now, listen--

    "'The awakening of the Teutonic peoples to the consciousness
    of their all-important vocation as the founders of a
    completely new civilization and culture marks the
    turning-point; the year 1200 can be designated the central
    moment of this awakening.'

"Just consider that. He does not even trouble to remind us of the very
considerable literature that must exist, of course, as evidence of
that awakening. He just flings the statement out, knowing that his
sort of follower swallows all such statements blind, and then,
possibly with some qualms of doubt about what may have been happening
in Spain and Italy and India and China and Japan, he goes on--

    "'Scarcely any one will have the hardihood to deny that the
    inhabitants of Northern Europe have become the makers of the
    world's history. At no time have they stood alone ... others,
    too, have exercised influence--indeed great influence--upon
    the destinies of mankind, but then _always merely as opponents
    of the men from the north_....'

"Poor Jenghiz Khan, who had founded the Mogul Empire in India just
about that time, and was to lay the foundations of the Yuen dynasty,
and prepare the way for the great days of the Mings, never knew how
_mere_ his relations were with these marvellous 'men from the north.'
The Tartars, it is true, were sacking Moscow somewhere about twelve
hundred.... But let us get on to more of the recital of Teutonic
glories.

    "'If, however, the Teutons were not the only people who
    moulded the world's history' (generous admission) 'they
    unquestionably' (that _unquestionably_!) 'deserve the first
    place; all those who appear as genuine shapers of the
    destinies of mankind, whether as builders of States or as
    discoverers of new thoughts and of original art' (oh Japan! oh
    Ming dynasty! oh art and life of India!) 'belong to the
    Teutonic race. The impulse given by the Arabs is short lived'
    (astronomy, chemistry, mathematics, modern science
    generally!); 'the Mongolians destroy but do not create
    anything' (Samarkand, Delhi, Pekin); 'the great Italians of
    the _rinascimento_ were _all_ born either in the north,
    saturated with Lombardic, Gothic, and Frankish blood, or in
    the extreme Germano-Hellenic south; in Spain it was the
    Western Goths who formed the element of life; the Jews are
    working out their "Renaissance" of to-day by following in
    every sphere as closely as possible the example of the
    Teutonic peoples.'

"That dodge of claiming all the great figures of the non-Teutonic
nations as Teutons is carried out to magnificent extremes. Dante is a
Teuton on the strength of his profile and his surname, and there is
some fine play about the race of Christ. He came from Galilee,
notoriously non-Jewish, and so on; but Lord Redesdale, who writes a
sympathetic Introduction, sets the seal on the Teutonic nationality of
Christ by reminding us that Joseph was only the putative father....

"It makes a born Teuton like myself feel his divinity," said Wilkins,
and read, browsing: "'From the moment the Teuton awakes a new world
begins to open out----' Um! Um!... Oh, here we are again!--

    "'It is equally untrue that our culture is a renaissance of
    the Hellenic and the Roman; it was only after the birth of the
    Teutonic peoples that the renaissance of past achievements was
    possible and not _vice versâ_.'... I wonder what exactly
    _vice versâ_ means there!... 'The mightiest creators of that
    epoch--a Shakespeare, a Michael Angelo--_do not know a word of
    Greek or Latin_.'

"The stalwart ignorance of it! Little Latin and less Greek even Ben
Jonson allowed our William, and manifestly he was fed on Tudor
translations. And the illiteracy of Michael Angelo is just an
inspiration of Chamberlain's. He knows his readers. Now, in itself
there is no marvel in this assertive, prejudiced, garrulous ignorance;
it is semi-sober Bierhalle chatter, written down; and, God forgive us!
most of us have talked in this way at one time or another; the sign
and the wonder for you, Boon, is that this stuff has been taken quite
seriously by all Germany and England and America, that it is accepted
as first-rank stuff, that it has never been challenged, cut up, and
sent to the butterman. It is Modern Thought. It is my second sample of
the contemporary Mind of the Race. And now, gentlemen, we come to the
third great intellectual high-kicker, Nietzsche. Nietzsche, I admit,
had once a real and valid idea, and his work is built upon that real
and valid idea; it is an idea that comes into the head of every
intelligent person who grasps the idea of the secular change of
species, the idea of Darwinism, in the course of five or six minutes
after the effective grasping. This is the idea that _man is not
final_. But Nietzsche was so constituted that to get an idea was to
receive a revelation; this step, that every bright mind does under
certain circumstances take, seemed a gigantic stride to him, a stride
only possible to him, and for the rest of his lucid existence he
resounded variations, he wrote epigrammatic cracker-mottoes and sham
Indian apophthegms, round and about his amazing discovery. And the
whole thing is summed up in the title of Dr. Alexander Tille's 'Von
Darwin bis Nietzsche,' in which this miracle of the obvious, this
necessary corollary, is treated as a huge advance of the mind of
mankind. No one slays this kind of thing nowadays. It goes on and goes
on, a perpetually reinforced torrent of unreason washing through the
brain of the race. There was a time when the general intelligence
would have resisted and rejected Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Chamberlain,
Shaw; now it resists such invasions less and less. That, Boon, is my
case."

Wilkins, with his little pile of books for reference, his sombre
manner, and his persistence, was indeed curiously suggestive of an
advocate opening a trial. The Mind of the Race was far less of a
continuity than it was when a generally recognized and understood
orthodox Christianity held it together, as a backbone holds together
the ribs and limbs and head of a body. That manifestly was what he was
driving at, as Dodd presently complained. In those stabler days every
one with ideas, willingly or unwillingly, had to refer to that
doctrinal core, had to link up to it even if the connection was used
only as a point of departure. Now more and more, as in these three
examples, people began irresponsibly in the air, with rash assertions
about life and race and the tendency of things. And the louder they
shouted, the more fantastic and remarkable they were, the more likely
they were to gather a following and establish a fresh vortex in the
deliquescent confusion.

On the whole, Boon was disposed to tolerate these dispersed
beginnings. "We attack truth in open order," he said, "instead of in
column."

"I don't mind fresh beginnings," said Wilkins; "I don't mind open
order, but I do object to blank ignorance and sheer misconception. It
isn't a new beginning for Schopenhauer to say we are descended from
Hindus; it is just stupidity and mental retrogression. We are no more
descended from Hindus than Hindus are descended from us; that we may
have a common ancestry is quite a different thing. One might as well
say that the chimpanzee is descended from a gorilla or a gorilla from
a chimpanzee. And it isn't any sort of truth, it is just a loud lie,
that the 'Germanic' peoples realized anything whatever in the year
1200. But all these--what shall I call them?--_moderns_ are more and
more up to that kind of thing, stating plausible things that have
already been disproved, stating things erroneously, inventing
pseudo-facts, and so getting off with a flourish. In the fields of
ideas, and presently in the fields of action, these wildly kicking
personalities have swamped any orderly progress; they have arrested
and disowned all that clearing up of thought and all that patient,
triumphant arrangement of proven fact which characterized the late
eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century. During that
time the great analysis of biological science went on, which
culminated in an entire revision of our conceptions of species, which
opened a conceivable and hitherto undreamed-of past and future to the
human imagination, which seemed to have revised and relaid the very
foundations of philosophical discussion. And on that foundation, what
has been done?"

"Naturally," cried Boon, "after a great achievement there must be a
pause. The Mind of the Race must have its digestive interludes."

"But this is indigestion! First comes Herbert Spencer, with his
misconception of the life process as a struggle of individuals to
survive. His word 'Evolution' is the quintessence of the
misunderstanding; his image of a steadfast, mechanical unfolding
through selfishness, masked plausibly and disastrously the intricate,
perplexing vision of the truth. From that sort of thing we go at a
stride to the inevitable Super Man, the megatherium individual of
futurity, the large egoist, and all that nonsense. Then comes a swarm
of shallow, incontinent thinkers, anxious to find a simple driving
force with a simple name for the whole process; the 'Life Force' and
'Will,' and so on. These things, my dear Boon, are just the appalling
bubbles of gas that show how completely the Mind of the Race has
failed to assimilate...."

"It is remarkable," said Boon, "how a metaphor may run away with the
clearest of thinkers. The Mind of the Race is not so consistently
gastric as all that."

"You started the metaphor," said Wilkins.

"And you mounted it and it bolted with you. To these unpleasant
consequences.... Well, I hold, on the contrary, that after the
superficialities of the sixties and seventies and eighties people's
minds have been getting a firmer and firmer grip upon the reality of
specific instability. The new body of intellectual experiment, which
isn't indigestion at all but only a preliminary attack, is all that
mass of trial thinking that one lumps together in one's mind when one
speaks of Pragmatism. With the breakdown of specific boundaries the
validity of the logical process beyond finite ends breaks down. We
make our truth for our visible purposes as we go along, and if it does
not work we make it afresh. We see life once more as gallant
experiment. The boundaries of our universe recede not only in time and
space but thought. The hard-and-fast line between the scientific and
the poetic method disappears...."

"And you get Bergson," said Wilkins triumphantly.

"Bergson is of that class and type that exploits the affairs of
thought. But I refuse to have Pragmatism judged by Bergson. He takes
hold of the unfinished inquiries that constitute the movement of
Pragmatism and he makes a soft scepticism for delicate minds with easy
ways back to any old-established orthodoxy they may regret."

"But here is my case again," said Wilkins. "It is only through Bergson
that the Mind of the Race, the great operating mass mind out there,
can take hold of this new system of ideas...."


§ 3

But now Boon and Wilkins were fairly launched upon a vital and
entirely inconclusive controversy. Was the thought process of the
world growing, spreading, progressing, or was it going to pieces? The
one produced a hundred instances of the enlarging and quickening of
men's minds, the other replied by instancing vulgarities, distortions,
wide acceptance of nonsense. Did public advertisements make a more
intelligent or less intelligent appeal now than they used to do? For
half an afternoon they fought over the alleged degeneration of the
_Times_, multiplying instances, comparing the "Parnellism and Crime"
pamphlet with Lord Northcliffe's war indiscretions, and discussing the
comparative merits of Mr. Moberly Bell's campaign to sell the
twenty-year-old "Encyclopædia Britannica" and found a "Book Club" that
should abolish booksellers, with the displayed and illustrated
advertisements of the new period.

The talk, you see, went high and low and came to no conclusion; but I
think that on the whole Wilkins did succeed in shaking Boon's
half-mystical confidence in the inevitableness of human wisdom. The
honours, I think, lay with Wilkins. Boon did seem to establish that in
physical science there had been, and was still, a great and growing
process; but he was not able to prove, he could only express his
faith, that the empire of sanity was spreading to greater and more
human issues. He had to fall back upon prophecy. Presently there would
be another big lunge forward, and so forth. But Wilkins, on his side,
was able to make a case for a steady rotting in political life, an
increase in loudness, emptiness, and violence in the last twenty
years: he instanced Carsonism, the methods of Tariff Reform, the
vehement Feminist movement, the malignant silliness of the "rebel"
Labour Press, the rankness of German "patriotism."...

"But there are young people thinking," said Boon at last. "It isn't
just these matured showings. Where one youth thought thirty years ago,
fifty are thinking now. These wild, loud things are just an irruption.
Just an irruption...."

The mocker was distressed.

The idea of active intellectual wrongness distressed him so much that
he cast aside all his detachment from Hallery, and showed plainly that
to this imaginary Hallery's idea of a secular growth of wisdom in
mankind he himself was quite passionately clinging....


§ 4

He was so distressed that one day he talked about it to me alone for
some time.

"Wilkins," he said, "insists on Facts. It is difficult to argue with
him on that basis. You see, I don't intend Hallery's view to be an
induction from facts. It's a conviction, an intuition. It is not the
sort of thing one perceives after reading the newspaper placards or
looking at the bookshelves in the British Museum. It's something one
knows for certain in the middle of the night. There is the Mind of the
Race, I mean. It is something General; it is a refuge from the
Particular and it is in the nature of God. That's plain, isn't it? And
through it there is Communion. These phases, these irruptions are
incidents. If all the world went frantic; if presently some horrible
thing, some monstrous war smashed all books and thinking and
civilization, still the mind would be there. It would immediately go
on again and presently it would pick up all that had been done
before--just as a philosopher would presently go on reading again
after the servant-girl had fallen downstairs with the crockery.... It
keeps on anyhow....

"Oh! I don't know _how_, my dear fellow. I can't explain. I'm not
telling you of something I've reasoned out and discovered; I'm telling
you of something I _know_. It's faith if you like. It keeps on and I
know it keeps on--although I can't for the life of me tell how...."

He stopped. He flushed.

"That, you see, is Hallery's point of view," he said awkwardly.

"But Wilkins perhaps wouldn't contradict that. His point is merely
that to be exact about words, that God-Mind, that General Mind of
yours, isn't exactly to be called the Mind of the Race."

"But it is the Mind of the Race," said Boon. "It is the Mind of the
Race. Most of the Race is out of touch with it, lost to it. Much of
the Race is talking and doing nonsense and cruelty; astray, absurd.
That does not matter to the Truth, Bliss. It matters to Literature. It
matters because Literature, the clearing of minds, the release of
minds, the food and guidance of minds, is the way, Literature is
illumination, the salvation of ourselves and of every one from
isolations...."

"Might be," I suggested.

"Must be," he said. "Oh! I know I've lived behind Miss Bathwick....
But I'm breaking out.... One of these days I will begin to dictate to
her--and not mind what she does.... I'm a successful
nobody--superficially--and it's only through my private thoughts and
private jeering that I've come to see these things...."



CHAPTER THE EIGHTH

The Beginning of "The Wild Asses of the Devil"


§ 1

One day a little time after the argument with Wilkins, Boon told me he
would read me a story. He read it from a pencilled manuscript. After
some anxious seeking I have found most of it again and put it
together. Only a few pages are missing. Here is the story. I am sorry
to say it was never finished. But he gave me a very clear conception
of the contemplated end. That I will indicate in its place. And I
think you will see how its idea springs from the talk with Wilkins I
have had to render in the previous chapter.


§ 2

There was once an Author who pursued fame and prosperity in a
pleasant villa on the south coast of England. He wrote stories of an
acceptable nature and rejoiced in a growing public esteem, carefully
offending no one and seeking only to please. He had married under
circumstances of qualified and tolerable romance a lady who wrote
occasional but otherwise regular verse, he was the father of a little
daughter, whose reported sayings added much to his popularity, and
some of the very best people in the land asked him to dinner. He was a
deputy-lieutenant and a friend of the Prime Minister, a literary
knighthood was no remote possibility for him, and even the Nobel
prize, given a sufficient longevity, was not altogether beyond his
hopes. And this amount of prosperity had not betrayed him into any
un-English pride. He remembered that manliness and simplicity which
are expected from authors. He smoked pipes and not the excellent
cigars he could have afforded. He kept his hair cut and never posed.
He did not hold himself aloof from people of the inferior and less
successful classes. He habitually travelled third class in order to
study the characters he put into his delightful novels; he went for
long walks and sat in inns, accosting people; he drew out his
gardener. And though he worked steadily, he did not give up the care
of his body, which threatened a certain plumpness and what is more to
the point, a localized plumpness, not generally spread over the system
but exaggerating the anterior equator. This expansion was his only
care. He thought about fitness and played tennis, and every day, wet
or fine, he went for at least an hour's walk....

Yet this man, so representative of Edwardian literature--for it is in
the reign of good King Edward the story begins--in spite of his
enviable achievements and prospects, was doomed to the most exhausting
and dubious adventures before his life came to its unhonoured end....

Because I have not told you everything about him. Sometimes--in the
morning sometimes--he would be irritable and have quarrels with his
shaving things, and there were extraordinary moods when it would seem
to him that living quite beautifully in a pleasant villa and being
well-off and famous, and writing books that were always good-humoured
and grammatical and a little distinguished in an inoffensive way, was
about as boring and intolerable a life as any creature with a soul to
be damned could possibly pursue. Which shows only that God in putting
him together had not forgotten that viscus the liver which is usual on
such occasions....

[Illustration]

The winter at the seaside is less agreeable and more bracing than the
summer, and there were days when this Author had almost to force
himself through the wholesome, necessary routines of his life, when
the south-west wind savaged his villa and roared in the chimneys and
slapped its windows with gustsful of rain and promised to wet that
Author thoroughly and exasperatingly down his neck and round his
wrists and ankles directly he put his nose outside his door. And the
grey waves he saw from his window came rolling inshore under the
hurrying grey rain-bursts, line after line, to smash along the
undercliff into vast, feathering fountains of foam and sud and send a
salt-tasting spin-drift into his eyes. But manfully he would put on
his puttees and his water-proof cape and his biggest brierwood pipe,
and out he would go into the whurryballoo of it all, knowing that so
he would be all the brighter for his nice story-writing after tea.

On such a day he went out. He went out very resolutely along the
seaside gardens of gravel and tamarisk and privet, resolved to oblige
himself to go right past the harbour and up to the top of the east
cliff before ever he turned his face back to the comforts of fire and
wife and tea and buttered toast....

And somewhere, perhaps half a mile away from home, he became aware of
a queer character trying to keep abreast of him.

His impression was of a very miserable black man in the greasy,
blue-black garments of a stoker, a lascar probably from a steamship in
the harbour, and going with a sort of lame hobble.

As he passed this individual the Author had a transitory thought of
how much Authors don't know in the world, how much, for instance, this
shivering, cringing body might be hiding within itself, of inestimable
value as "local colour" if only one could get hold of it for "putting
into" one's large acceptable novels. Why doesn't one sometimes tap
these sources? Kipling, for example, used to do so, with most
successful results.... And then the Author became aware that this
enigma was hurrying to overtake him. He slackened his pace....

The creature wasn't asking for a light; it was begging for a box of
matches. And, what was odd, in quite good English.

The Author surveyed the beggar and slapped his pockets. Never had he
seen so miserable a face. It was by no means a prepossessing face,
with its aquiline nose, its sloping brows, its dark, deep, bloodshot
eyes much too close together, its V-shaped, dishonest mouth and
drenched chin-tuft. And yet it was attractively animal and pitiful.
The idea flashed suddenly into the Author's head: "Why not, instead of
going on, thinking emptily, through this beastly weather--why not take
this man back home now, to the warm, dry study, and give him a hot
drink and something to smoke, and _draw him out_?"

Get something technical and first-hand that would rather score off
Kipling.

"Its damnably cold!" he shouted, in a sort of hearty, forecastle
voice.

"It's worse than that," said the strange stoker.

"It's a hell of a day!" said the Author, more forcible than ever.

"Don't remind me of hell," said the stoker, in a voice of inappeasable
regret.

The Author slapped his pockets again. "You've got an infernal cold.
Look here, my man--confound it! would you like a hot grog?..."

[Illustration]


§ 3

The scene shifts to the Author's study--a blazing coal fire, the
stoker sitting dripping and steaming before it, with his feet inside
the fender, while the Author fusses about the room, directing the
preparation of hot drinks. The Author is acutely aware not only of the
stoker but of himself. The stoker has probably never been in the home
of an Author before; he is probably awe-stricken at the array of
books, at the comfort, convenience, and efficiency of the home, at the
pleasant personality entertaining him.... Meanwhile the Author does
not forget that the stoker is material, is "copy," is being watched,
_observed_. So he poses and watches, until presently he forgets to
pose in his astonishment at the thing he is observing. Because this
stoker is rummier than a stoker ought to be----

He does not simply accept a hot drink; he informs his host just how
hot the drink must be to satisfy him.

"Isn't there something you could put in it--something called red
pepper? I've tasted that once or twice. It's good. If you could put in
a bit of red pepper."

"If you can stand that sort of thing?"

"And if there isn't much water, can't you set light to the stuff? Or
let me drink it boiling, out of a pannikin or something? Pepper and
all."

Wonderful fellows, these stokers! The Author went to the bell and
asked for red pepper.

And then as he came back to the fire he saw something that he
instantly dismissed as an optical illusion, as a mirage effect of the
clouds of steam his guest was disengaging. The stoker was sitting, all
crouched up, as close over the fire as he could contrive; and he was
holding his black hands, not to the fire but _in_ the fire, holding
them pressed flat against two red, glowing masses of coal.... He
glanced over his shoulder at the Author with a guilty start, and then
instantly the Author perceived that the hands were five or six inches
away from the coal.

Then came smoking. The Author produced one of his big cigars--for
although a conscientious pipe-smoker himself he gave people cigars;
and then, again struck by something odd, he went off into a corner of
the room where a little oval mirror gave him a means of watching the
stoker undetected. And this is what he saw.

He saw the stoker, after a furtive glance at him, deliberately turn
the cigar round, place the lighted end in his mouth, inhale strongly,
and blow a torrent of sparks and smoke out of his nose. His firelit
face as he did this expressed a diabolical relief. Then very hastily
he reversed the cigar again, and turned round to look at the Author.
The Author turned slowly towards him.

"You like that cigar?" he asked, after one of those mutual pauses that
break down a pretence.

"It's admirable."

"Why do you smoke it the other way round?"

The stoker perceived he was caught. "It's a stokehole trick," he said.
"Do you mind if I do it? I didn't think you saw."

"Pray smoke just as you like," said the Author, and advanced to watch
the operation.

It was exactly like the fire-eater at a village fair. The man stuck
the burning cigar into his mouth and blew sparks out of his nostrils.
"Ah!" he said, with a note of genuine satisfaction. And then, with the
cigar still burning in the corner of his mouth, he turned to the fire
and _began to rearrange the burning coals with his hands_ so as to
pile up a great glowing mass. He picked up flaming and white-hot lumps
as one might pick up lumps of sugar. The Author watched him,
dumbfounded.

"I say!" he cried. "You stokers get a bit tough."

The stoker dropped the glowing piece of coal in his hand. "I forgot,"
he said, and sat back a little.

"Isn't that a bit--_extra_?" asked the Author, regarding him. "Isn't
that some sort of trick?"

"We get so tough down there," said the stoker, and paused discreetly
as the servant came in with the red pepper.

"Now you can drink," said the Author, and set himself to mix a drink
of a pungency that he would have considered murderous ten minutes
before. When he had done the stoker reached over and added more red
pepper.

"I don't quite see how it is your hand doesn't burn," said the Author
as the stoker drank. The stoker shook his head over the uptilted
glass.

"Incombustible," he said, putting it down. "Could I have just a tiny
drop more? Just brandy and pepper, if you _don't_ mind. Set alight. I
don't care for water except when it's super-heated steam."

And as the Author poured out another stiff glass of this incandescent
brew, the stoker put up his hand and scratched the matted black hair
over his temple. Then instantly he desisted and sat looking wickedly
at the Author, while the Author stared at him aghast. For at the
corner of his square, high, narrow forehead, revealed for an instant
by the thrusting back of the hair, a curious stumpy excrescence had
been visible; and the top of his ear--he had a pointed top to his ear!

"A-a-a-a-h!" said the Author, with dilated eyes.

"A-a-a-a-h!" said the stoker, in hopeless distress.

"But you aren't----!"

"I know--I know I'm not. I know.... I'm a devil. A poor, lost,
homeless devil."

And suddenly, with a gesture of indescribable despair, the apparent
stoker buried his face in his hands and burst into tears.

"Only man who's ever been decently kind to me," he sobbed. "And
now--you'll chuck me out again into the beastly wet and cold....
Beautiful fire.... Nice drink.... Almost homelike.... Just to torment
me.... Boo-ooh!"

And let it be recorded to the credit of our little Author, that he did
overcome his momentary horror, that he did go quickly round the table,
and that he patted that dirty stoker's shoulder.

"There!" he said. "There! Don't mind my rudeness. Have another nice
drink. Have a hell of a drink. I won't turn you out if you're
unhappy--on a day like this. Have just a mouthful of pepper, man, and
pull yourself together."

And suddenly the poor devil caught hold of his arm. "Nobody good to
me," he sobbed. "Nobody good to me." And his tears ran down over the
Author's plump little hand--scalding tears.


§ 4

All really wonderful things happen rather suddenly and without any
great emphasis upon their wonderfulness, and this was no exception to
the general rule. This Author went on comforting his devil as though
this was nothing more than a chance encounter with an unhappy child,
and the devil let his grief and discomfort have vent in a manner that
seemed at the time as natural as anything could be. He was clearly a
devil of feeble character and uncertain purpose, much broken down by
harshness and cruelty, and it throws a curious light upon the general
state of misconception with regard to matters diabolical that it came
as a quite pitiful discovery to our Author that a devil could be
unhappy and heart-broken. For a long time his most earnest and
persistent questioning could gather nothing except that his guest was
an exile from a land of great warmth and considerable entertainment,
and it was only after considerable further applications of brandy and
pepper that the sobbing confidences of the poor creature grew into the
form of a coherent and understandable narrative.

And then it became apparent that this person was one of the very
lowest types of infernal denizen, and that his role in the dark realms
of Dis had been that of watcher and minder of a herd of sinister
beings hitherto unknown to our Author, the Devil's Wild Asses, which
pastured in a stretch of meadows near the Styx. They were, he
gathered, unruly, dangerous, and enterprising beasts, amenable only to
a certain formula of expletives, which instantly reduced them to
obedience. These expletives the stoker-devil would not repeat; to do
so except when actually addressing one of the Wild Asses would, he
explained, involve torments of the most terrible description. The bare
thought of them gave him a shivering fit. But he gave the Author to
understand that to crack these curses as one drove the Wild Asses to
and from their grazing on the Elysian fields was a by no means
disagreeable amusement. The ass-herds would try who could crack the
loudest until the welkin rang.

And speaking of these things, the poor creature gave a picture of
diabolical life that impressed the Author as by no means unpleasant
for any one with a suitable constitution. It was like the Idylls of
Theocritus done in fire; the devils drove their charges along burning
lanes and sat gossiping in hedges of flames, rejoicing in the warm,
dry breezes (which it seems are rendered peculiarly bracing by the
faint flavour of brimstone in the air), and watching the harpies and
furies and witches circling in the perpetual afterglow of that
inferior sky. And ever and again there would be holidays, and one
would take one's lunch and wander over the sulphur craters picking
flowers of sulphur or fishing for the souls of usurers and publishers
and house-agents and land-agents in the lakes of boiling pitch. It was
good sport, for the usurers and publishers and house-agents and
land-agents were always eager to be caught; they crowded round the
hooks and fought violently for the bait, and protested vehemently and
entertainingly against the Rules and Regulations that compelled their
instant return to the lake of fire.

And sometimes when he was on holiday this particular devil would go
through the saltpetre dunes, where the witches-brooms grow and the
blasted heath is in flower, to the landing-place of the ferry whence
the Great Road runs through the shops and banks of the Via Dolorosa to
the New Judgement Hall, and watch the crowds of damned arriving by the
steam ferry-boats of the Consolidated Charon Company. This
steamboat-gazing seems about as popular down there as it is at
Folkestone. Almost every day notable people arrive, and, as the devils
are very well informed about terrestrial affairs--for of course all
the earthly newspapers go straight to hell--whatever else could one
expect?--they get ovations of an almost undergraduate intensity. At
times you can hear their cheering or booing, as the case may be, right
away on the pastures where the Wild Asses feed. And that had been this
particular devil's undoing.

He had always been interested in the career of the Rt. Hon. W. E.
Gladstone....

He was minding the Wild Asses. He knew the risks. He knew the
penalties. But when he heard the vast uproar, when he heard the eager
voices in the lane of fire saying, "It's Gladstone at last!" when he
saw how quietly and unsuspiciously the Wild Asses cropped their
pasture, the temptation was too much. He slipped away. He saw the
great Englishman landed after a slight struggle. He joined in the
outcry of "Speech! Speech!" He heard the first delicious promise of a
Home Rule movement which should break the last feeble links of
Celestial Control....

And meanwhile the Wild Asses escaped--according to the rules and the
prophecies....


§ 5

The little Author sat and listened to this tale of a wonder that never
for a moment struck him as incredible. And outside his rain-lashed
window the strung-out fishing smacks pitched and rolled on their way
home to Folkestone harbour....

The Wild Asses escaped.

They got away to the world. And his superior officers took the poor
herdsman and tried him and bullied him and passed this judgement upon
him: that he must go to the earth and find the Wild Asses, and say to
them that certain string of oaths that otherwise must never be
repeated, and so control them and bring them back to hell. That--or
else one pinch of salt on their tails. It did not matter which. One by
one he must bring them back, driving them by spell and curse to the
cattle-boat of the ferry. And until he had caught and brought them all
back he might never return again to the warmth and comfort of his
accustomed life. That was his sentence and punishment. And they put
him into a shrapnel shell and fired him out among the stars, and when
he had a little recovered he pulled himself together and made his way
to the world.

But he never found his Wild Asses and after a little time he gave up
trying.

He gave up trying because the Wild Asses, once they had got out of
control, developed the most amazing gifts. They could, for instance,
disguise themselves with any sort of human shape, and the only way in
which they differed then from a normal human being was--according to
the printed paper of instructions that had been given to their
custodian when he was fired out--that "their general conduct remains
that of a Wild Ass of the Devil."

"And what interpretation can we put upon _that_?" he asked the
listening Author.

And there was one night in the year--Walpurgis Night, when the Wild
Asses became visibly great black wild asses and kicked up their hind
legs and brayed. They had to. "But then, of course," said the devil,
"they would take care to shut themselves up somewhere when they felt
that coming on."

Like most weak characters, the stoker devil was intensely egotistical.
He was anxious to dwell upon his own miseries and discomforts and
difficulties and the general injustice of his treatment, and he was
careless and casually indicative about the peculiarities of the Wild
Asses, the matter which most excited and interested the Author. He
bored on with his doleful story, and the Author had to interrupt with
questions again and again in order to get any clear idea of the
situation.

The devil's main excuse for his nervelessness was his profound
ignorance of human nature. "So far as I can see," he said, "they might
all be Wild Asses. I tried it once----"

"Tried what?"

"The formula. You know."

"Yes?"

"On a man named Sir Edward Carson."

"Well?"

"_Ugh!_" said the devil.

"Punishment?"

"Don't speak of it. He was just a professional lawyer-politician who
had lost his sense of values.... How was _I_ to know?... But our
people certainly know how to hurt...."

After that it would seem this poor devil desisted absolutely from any
attempt to recover his lost charges. He just tried to live for the
moment and make his earthly existence as tolerable as possible. It was
clear he hated the world. He found it cold, wet, draughty.... "I can't
understand why everybody insists upon living outside of it," he said.
"If you went inside----"

He sought warmth and dryness. For a time he found a kind of
contentment in charge of the upcast furnace of a mine, and then he was
superseded by an electric-fan. While in this position he read a vivid
account of the intense heat in the Red Sea, and he was struck by the
idea that if he could get a job as stoker upon an Indian liner he
might snatch some days of real happiness during that portion of the
voyage. For some time his natural ineptitude prevented his realizing
this project, but at last, after some bitter experiences of
homelessness during a London December, he had been able to ship on an
Indiaward boat--only to get stranded in Folkestone in consequence of a
propeller breakdown. And so here he was!

He paused.

"But about these Wild Asses?" said the Author.

The mournful, dark eyes looked at him hopelessly.

"Mightn't they do a lot of mischief?" asked the Author.

"They'll do no end of mischief," said the despondent devil.

"Ultimately you'll catch it for that?"

"Ugh!" said the stoker, trying not to think of it.


§ 6

Now the spirit of romantic adventure slumbers in the most unexpected
places, and I have already told you of our plump Author's discontents.
He had been like a smouldering bomb for some years. Now, he burst out.
He suddenly became excited, energetic, stimulating, uplifting.

[Illustration: _The Author uplifts the devil._]

He stood over the drooping devil.

"But my dear chap!" he said. "You must pull yourself together. You
must do better than this. These confounded brutes may be doing all
sorts of mischief. While you--shirk...."

And so on. Real ginger.

"If I had some one to go with me. Some one who knew his way about."

The Author took whisky in the excitement of the moment. He began to
move very rapidly about his room and make short, sharp gestures. You
know how this sort of emotion wells up at times. "We must work from
some central place," said the Author. "To begin with, London perhaps."

It was not two hours later that they started, this Author and this
devil he had taken to himself, upon a mission. They went out in
overcoats and warm underclothing--the Author gave the devil a thorough
outfit, a double lot of Jaeger's extra thick--and they were resolved
to find the Wild Asses of the Devil and send them back to hell, or at
least the Author was, in the shortest possible time. In the picture
you will see him with a field-glass slung under his arm, the better to
watch suspected cases; in his pocket, wrapped in oiled paper, is a lot
of salt to use if by chance he finds a Wild Ass when the devil and his
string of oaths is not at hand. So he started. And when he had caught
and done for the Wild Asses, then the Author supposed that he would
come back to his nice little villa and his nice little wife, and to
his little daughter who said the amusing things, and to his
popularity, his large gilt-edged popularity, and--except for an added
prestige--be just exactly the man he had always been. Little knowing
that whosoever takes unto himself a devil and goes out upon a quest,
goes out upon a quest from which there is no returning----

Nevermore.

[Illustration: _Precipitate start of the Wild Ass hunters._]



CHAPTER THE NINTH

The Hunting of the Wild Asses of the Devil


§ 1

At this point the surviving manuscript comes to an abrupt end.

But Boon read or extemporized far beyond this point.

He made a figure that was at once absurd and pitiful of his little
Author making this raid upon the world, resolved to detect and
exorcise these suspected Wild Asses, and he told us at great length of
how steadily and inevitably the poor enthusiast entangled himself in
feuds and false accusations, libels and denunciations, free fights,
burglaries, and so to universal execration in a perpetually tightening
coil. "I'll stick to it," he squeaks, with every fresh blow of Fate.
Behind him, with a developing incurable bronchitis that could never be
fatal, toiled the devil, more and more despondent, more and more
draggle-tailed, voiceless and unhelpful.

After a time he was perpetually trying to give his Author the slip.

But continually it is clearer that there _were_ diabolical Wild Asses
loose and active in the affairs of the world....

One day the Author had an inspiration. "Was your lot the only lot that
ever escaped?"

"Oh no!" said the devil. "Ages before--there were some. It led to an
awful row. Just before the Flood. They had to be drowned out. That's
why they've been so stiff with me.... I'm not quite sure whether they
didn't interbreed. They say in hell that the world has never been
quite the same place since."...

You see the scope this story gave Boon's disposition to derision.
There were endless things that Boon hated, movements that seemed to
him wanton and mischievous, outbreaks of disastrous violence, evil
ideas. I should get myself into as much hot water as his Author did if
I were to tell all this poor man's adventures. He went to Ulster, he
pursued prominent Tariff Reformers, he started off to Mexico and came
back to investigate Pan-Germanism. I seem to remember his hanging for
days about the entrance to Printing House Square.... And there was a
scene in the House of Commons. The Author and the devil had been
tracking a prominent politician--never mind whom--with the growing
belief that here at last they had one of them. And Walpurgis Night
grew near. Walpurgis Night came.

"We must not lose sight of him," said the Author, very alert and
ruthless. "If necessary we must smash the windows, blow open doors."

But the great man went down to the House as though nothing could
possibly happen. They followed him.

"He will certainly rush home," said the Author, as the clock crept
round to half-past eleven. "But anyhow let us get into the Strangers'
Gallery and keep our eyes on him to the last."

They managed it with difficulty.

I remember how vividly Boon drew the picture for us: the rather bored
House, a coming and going of a few inattentive Members, the nodding
Speaker and the clerks, the silent watchers in the gallery, a little
flicker of white behind the grille. And then at five minutes to twelve
the honourable Member arose....

"We were wrong," said the Author.

"The draught here is fearful," said the devil. "Hadn't we better go?"

The honourable Member went on speaking showy, memorable, mischievous
things. The seconds ticked away. And then--then it happened.

The Author made a faint rattling sound in his throat and clung to the
rail before him. The devil broke into a cold sweat. There, visible to
all men, was a large black Wild Ass, kicking up its heels upon the
floor of the House. And braying.

And nobody was minding!

The Speaker listened patiently, one long finger against his cheek. The
clerks bowed over the papers. The honourable Member's two colleagues
listened like men under an anæsthetic, each sideways, each with his
arm over the back of the seat. Across the House one Member was
furtively writing a letter and three others were whispering together.

The Author felt for the salt, then he gripped the devil's wrist.

"Say those words!" he shouted quite loudly--"say those words! Say them
now. Then--we shall have him."

But you know those House of Commons ushers. And at that time their
usual alertness had been much quickened by several Suffragette
outrages. Before the devil had got through his second sentence or the
Author could get his salt out of his pocket both devil and Author were
travelling violently, scruff and pant-seat irresistibly gripped, down
Saint Stephen's Hall....


§ 2

"And you really begin to think," said Wilkins, "that there has been an
increase in violence and unreasonableness in the world?"

"My case is that it is an irruption," said Boon. "But I do begin to
see a sort of violence of mind and act growing in the world."

"There has always been something convulsive and extravagant in human
affairs," said Wilkins. "No public thing, no collective thing, has
ever had the sanity of men thinking quietly in a study."

And so we fell to discussing the Mind of the Race again, and whether
there was indeed any sanity growing systematically out of human
affairs, or whether this Mind of the Race was just a poor tormented
rag of partial understanding that would never control the blind forces
that had made and would destroy it. And it was inevitable that such a
talk should presently drift to the crowning human folly, to that
crowned Wild Ass of the Devil, aggressive militarism. That talk was
going on, I remember, one very bright, warm, sunny day in May, or it
may be in June, of 1914. And we talked of militarism as a flourish, as
a kicking up of the national heels, as extravagance and waste; but,
what seems to me so singular now, we none of us spoke of it or thought
of it as a thing that could lead to the full horror of a universal
war. Human memory is so strange and treacherous a thing that I doubt
now if many English people will recall our habitual disregard in those
days of war as a probability. We thought of it as a costly, foolish
threatening, but that it could actually happen----!


§ 3

Some things are so shocking that they seem to have given no shock at
all, just as there are noises that are silences because they burst the
ears. And for some days after the declaration of war against Germany
the whole business seemed a vast burlesque. It was incredible that
this great people, for whom all Western Europe has mingled, and will
to the end of time mingle, admiration with a certain humorous
contempt, was really advancing upon civilization, enormously armed,
scrupulously prepared, bellowing, "Deutschland, Deutschland ueber
Alles!" smashing, destroying, killing. We felt for a time, in spite of
reason, that it was a joke, that presently Michael would laugh....

But by Jove! the idiot wasn't laughing....

For some weeks nobody in the circle about Boon talked of anything but
the war. The Wild Asses of the Devil became an allusion, to indicate
all this that was kicking Europe to splinters. We got maps, and still
more maps; we sent into the town for newspapers and got special
intelligence by telephone; we repeated and discussed rumours. The
Belgians were showing pluck and resource, but the French were
obviously shockingly unprepared. There were weeks--one may confess it
now that they have so abundantly proved the contrary--when the French
seemed crumpling up like pasteboard. They were failing to save the
line of the Meuse, Maubeuge, Lille, Laon; there were surrenders, there
was talk of treachery, and General French, left with his flank
exposed, made a costly retreat. It was one Sunday in early September
that Wilkins came to us with a _Sunday Observer_. "Look," he said,
"they are down on the Seine! They are sweeping right round behind the
Eastern line. They have broken the French in two. Here at Senlis they
are almost within sight of Paris...."

Then some London eavesdropper talked of the British retreat.
"Kitchener says our Army has lost half its fighting value. Our base is
to be moved again from Havre to La Rochelle...."

Boon sat on the edge of his hammock.

"The Germans must be beaten," he said. "The new world is killed; we go
back ten thousand years; there is no light, no hope, no thought nor
freedom any more unless the Germans are beaten.... Until the Germans
are beaten there is nothing more to be done in art, in literature, in
life. They are a dull, envious, greedy, cunning, vulgar, interfering,
and intolerably conceited people. A world under their dominance will
be intolerable. I will not live in it...."

"I had never believed they would do it," said Wilkins....

"Both my boys," said Dodd, "have gone into the Officers' Training
Corps. They were in their cadet corps at school."

"Wasn't one an engineer?" asked Boon.

"The other was beginning to paint rather well," said Dodd. "But it all
has to stop."

"I suppose I shall have to do something," said the London
eavesdropper. "I'm thirty-eight.... I can ride and I'm pretty fit....
It's a nuisance."

"What is a man of my kind to do?" asked Wilkins. "I'm forty-eight."

"I can't believe the French are as bad as they seem," said Boon. "But,
anyhow, we've no business to lean on the French.... But I wonder
now---- Pass me that map."


§ 4

Next week things had mended, and the French and British were pushing
the Germans back from the Marne to the Aisne. Whatever doubts we had
felt about the French were dispelled in that swift week of recovery.
They were all right. It was a stupendous relief, for if France had
gone down, if her spirit had failed us, then we felt all liberalism,
all republicanism, all freedom and light would have gone out in this
world for centuries.

But then again at the Aisne the Germans stood, and our brisk rush of
hope sobered down towards anxiety as the long flanking movement
stretched towards the sea and the Antwerp situation developed....

By imperceptible degrees our minds began to free themselves from the
immediate struggle of the war, from strategy and movements, from the
daily attempt to unriddle from reluctant and ambiguous dispatches,
Dutch rumours, censored gaps, and uninforming maps what was happening.
It became clear to us that there were to be no particular dramatic
strokes, no sudden, decisive battles, no swift and clear conclusions.
The struggle began to assume in our minds its true proportions, its
true extent, in time, in space, in historical consequence. We had
thought of a dramatic three months' conflict and a redrawn map of
Europe; we perceived we were in the beginnings of a far vaster
conflict; the end of an age; the slow, murderous testing and
condemnation of whole systems of ideas that had bound men uneasily in
communities for all our lives. We discussed--as all the world was
discussing--the huge organization of sentiment and teaching that had
produced this aggressive German patriotism, this tremendous national
unanimity. Ford Madox Hueffer came in to tell us stories of a
disciplined professoriate, of all education turned into a war
propaganda, of the deliberate official mental moulding of a whole
people that was at once fascinating and incredible. We went over
Bernhardi and Treitschke; we weighed Nietzsche's share in that mental
growth. Our talk drifted with the changing season and Boon's sudden
illness after his chill, from his garden to his sitting-room, where he
lay wrapped up upon a sofa, irritable and impatient with this
unaccustomed experience of ill-health.

"You see how much easier it is to grow an evil weed than a wholesome
plant," he said. "While this great strong wickedness has developed in
Germany, what thought have we had in our English-speaking community?
What does our world of letters amount to? Clowns and dons and prigs,
cults of the precious and cults of style, a few squeaking
author-journalists and such time-serving scoundrels as I, with my
patent Bathwick filter, my twenty editions, and my thousands a year.
None of us with any sense of a whole community or a common purpose!
Where is our strength to go against that strength of the heavy German
mind? Where is the Mind of our Race?"

He looked at me with tired eyes.

"It has been a joke with us," he said.

"Is there no power of thought among free men strong enough to swing
them into armies that can take this monster by the neck? Must men be
bullied for ever? Are there no men to think at least as earnestly as
one climbs a mountain, and to write with their uttermost pride? Are
there no men to face truth as those boys at Mons faced shrapnel, and
to stick for the honour of the mind and for truth and beauty as those
lads stuck to their trenches? Bliss and I have tried to write of all
the world of letters, and we have found nothing to write about but
posturing and competition and sham reputations, and of dullness and
impudence hiding and sheltering in the very sheath of the sword of
thought.... For a little while after the war began our people seemed
noble and dignified; but see now how all Britain breaks after its
first quiet into chatter about spies, sentimentality about the
architecture of Louvain, invasion scares, the bitter persecution of
stray Germans, and petty disputes and recriminations like a pool under
a breeze. And below that nothing. While still the big thing goes on,
ungrasped, day after day, a monstrous struggle of our world against
the thing it will not have.... No one is clear about what sort of
thing we will have. It is a nightmare in which we try continually to
escape and have no-whither to escape.... What is to come out of this
struggle? Just anything that may come out of it, or something we mean
_shall_ come out of it?"

He sat up in his bed; his eyes were bright and he had little red spots
in his cheeks.

"At least the Germans stand for something. It may be brutal, stupid,
intolerable, but there it is--a definite intention, a scheme of
living, an order, Germanic Kultur. But what the devil do _we_ stand
for? Was there anything that amounted to an intellectual life at all
in all our beastly welter of writing, of nice-young-man poetry, of
stylish fiction and fiction without style, of lazy history, popular
philosophy, slobbering criticism, Academic civilities? Is there
anything here to hold a people together? Is there anything to make a
new world? A literature ought to dominate the mind of its people. Yet
here comes the gale, and all we have to show for our racial thought,
all the fastness we have made for our souls, is a flying scud of paper
scraps, poems, such poems! casual articles, whirling headlong in the
air, a few novels drowning in the floods...."


§ 5

There were times during his illness and depression when we sat about
Boon very much after the fashion of Job's Comforters. And I remember
an occasion when Wilkins took upon himself the responsibility for a
hopeful view. There was about Wilkins's realistic sentimentality
something at once akin and repugnant to Boon's intellectual mysticism,
so that for a time Boon listened resentfully, and then was moved to
spirited contradiction. Wilkins declared that the war was like one of
those great illnesses that purge the system of a multitude of minor
ills. It was changing the spirit of life about us; it would end a vast
amount of mere pleasure-seeking and aimless extravagance; it was
giving people a sterner sense of duty and a more vivid apprehension of
human brotherhood. This ineffective triviality in so much of our
literary life of which Boon complained would give place to a sense of
urgent purpose....

"War," said Boon, turning his face towards Wilkins, "does nothing but
destroy."

"All making is destructive," said Wilkins, while Boon moved
impatiently; "the sculptor destroys a block of marble, the painter
scatters a tube of paint...."

Boon's eye had something of the expression of a man who watches
another ride his favourite horse.

"See already the new gravity in people's faces, the generosities, the
pacification of a thousand stupid squabbles----"

"If you mean Carsonism," said Boon, "it's only sulking until it can
cut in again."

"I deny it," said Wilkins, warming to his faith. "This is the firing
of the clay of Western European life. It stops our little arts
perhaps--but see the new beauty that comes.... We can well spare our
professional books and professional writing for a time to get such
humour and wonder as one can find in the soldiers' letters from the
front. Think of all the people whose lives would have been slack and
ignoble from the cradle to the grave, who are being twisted up now to
the stern question of enlistment; think of the tragedies of separation
and danger and suffering that are throwing a stern bright light upon
ten thousand obscure existences...."

"And the noble procession of poor devils tramping through the slush
from their burning homes, God knows whither! And the light of fire
appearing through the cracks of falling walls, and charred bits of old
people in the slush of the roadside, and the screams of men
disembowelled, and the crying of a dying baby, in a wet shed full of
starving refugees who do not know whither to go. Go on, Wilkins."

"Oh, if you choose to dwell on the horrors----!"

"The one decent thing that we men who sit at home in the warm can do
is to dwell on the horrors and do our little best to make sure that
never, never shall this thing happen again. And that won't be done,
Wilkins, by leaving War alone. War, war with modern machines, is a
damned great horrible trampling monster, a filthy thing, an indecency;
we aren't doing anything heroic, we are trying to lift a foul
stupidity off the earth, we are engaged in a colossal sanitary job.
These men who go for us into the trenches, they come back with no
illusions. They know how dirty and monstrous it is. They are like men
who have gone down for the sake of the people they love to clear out a
choked drain. They have no illusions about being glorified. They only
hope they aren't blood-poisoned and their bodies altogether ruined.
And as for the bracing stir of it, they tell me, Wilkins, that their
favourite song now in the trenches is--

  "'Nobody knows how bored we are,
      Bored we are,
      Bored we are,
  Nobody knows how bored we are,
      And nobody seems to care.'

Meanwhile you sit at home and feel vicariously ennobled."

He laid his hand on a daily newspaper beside him.

"Oh, you're not the only one. I will make you ashamed of yourself,
Wilkins. Here's the superlative to your positive. Here's the sort of
man I should like to hold for five minutes head downwards in the bilge
of a trench, writing on the Heroic Spirit in the _Morning Post_. He's
one of your gentlemen who sit in a room full of books and promise
themselves much moral benefit from the bloodshed in France. Coleridge,
he says, Coleridge--the heroic, self-controlled Spartan Coleridge was
of his opinion and very hard on Pacificism--Coleridge complained of
peace-time in such words as these: 'All individual dignity and power,
engulfed in courts, committees, institutions.... One benefit-club for
mutual flattery.'... And then, I suppose, the old loafer went off to
sponge on somebody.... And here's the stuff the heroic, spirited
Osborn, the _Morning Post_ gentleman--unhappily not a German, and
unhappily too old for trench work--quotes with delight
now--_now!_--after Belgium!--

  "'My spear, my sword, my shaggy shield!
  With these I till, with these I sow,
  With these I reap my harvest field--
  No other wealth the gods bestow:
  With these I plant the fertile vine,
  With these I press the luscious wine.

  My spear, my sword, my shaggy shield!
  They make me lord of all below--
  For those who dread my spear to wield,
  Before my shaggy shield must bow.
  Their fields, their vineyards, they resign,
  And all that cowards have is mine.'

"He goes on to this--

    "'It is in vain that the Pacificist rages at such staunch
    braggadocio. It blares out a political truth of timeless
    validity in words that are by no means politic. Sparta was the
    working model in ancient times of the State that lives by and
    for warfare, though never despising the rewards of an astute
    diplomacy; she was the Prussia of antiquity....

    "'Spartan ideal of duty and discipline.'...

"You see the spirit of him! You see what has got loose! It is a real
and potent spirit; you have to reckon with it through all this
business. To this sort of mind the 'Pacificist' is a hateful fool. The
Pacificist prefers making vineyards, painting pictures, building
Gothic cathedrals, thinking clear thoughts to bawling "Bruteland,
Bruteland, over all!" and killing people and smashing things up. He is
a maker. That is what is intended here by a 'coward.' All real
creative activity is hateful to a certain ugly, influential,
aggressive type of mind, to this type of mind that expresses itself
here in England through the _Morning Post_ and _Spectator_. Both these
papers are soaked through and through with a genuine detestation of
all fine creation, all beauty, all novelty, all frank, generous, and
pleasant things. In peace-time they maintain an attitude of dyspeptic
hostility to free art, to free literature, to fresh thought. They
stand uncompromisingly for ugliness, dullness, and restriction--as
ends in themselves. When you talk, Wilkins, of the intellectual good
of the war, I ask you to note the new exultation that has come into
these evil papers. When they speak of the 'moral benefits' of war they
mean the smashing up of everything that they hate and we care for.
They mean reaction. This good man Osborn, whom I have never seen or
heard of before, seems to be quintessential of all that side. I can
imagine him. I believe I could reconstruct him from this article I
have here, just as anatomists have reconstructed extinct monsters from
a single bone. He is, I am certain, a don. The emotional note suggests
Oxford. He is a classical scholar. And that is the extent of his
knowledge. Something in this way."

He began to sketch rapidly.

[Illustration: _Fancy portrait of Mr. E. B. Osborn, singing about his
sword and his shield and his ruthless virility, and all that sort of
thing._]

"You have to realize that while the Pacificists talk of the horrible
ugliness of war and the necessity of establishing an everlasting
world-peace, whiskered old ladies in hydropaths, dons on the _Morning
Post_, chattering district visitors and blustering, bellowing parsons,
people who are ever so much more representative of general humanity
than we literary oddities--all that sort of people tucked away
somewhere safe, are in a state of belligerent lustfulness and
prepared--oh, prepared to give the very eyes of everybody else in this
country, prepared to sacrifice the lives of all their servants and see
the poor taxed to the devil, first for a victory over Germany and then
for the closest, silliest, loudest imitation of Prussian swagger on
our part (with them, of course, on the very top of it all) that we can
contrive. That spirit is loose, Wilkins. All the dowagers are mewing
for blood, all the male old women who teach classics and dream of
re-action at Oxford and Cambridge, are having the time of their lives.
They trust to panic, to loud accusations, to that fear of complexity
that comes with fatigue. They trust to the exhaustion of delicate
purposes and sensitive nerves. And this force-loving, bullying
silliness is far more likely to come out on top, after the distresses
of this war, after the decent men are dead in the trenches and the
wise ones shouted to silence, than any finely intellectual,
necessarily difficult plan to put an end for ever to all such
senseless brutalities."

"I think you underrate the power of--well, modern sanity," said
Wilkins.

"Time will show," said Boon. "I hope I do."

"This man Osborn, whoever he may be, must be just a fantastic
extremist.... I do not see that he is an answer to my suggestion that
for the whole mass of people this war means graver thought, steadier
thought, a firmer collective purpose. It isn't only by books and
formal literature that people think. There is the tremendous effect of
realized and accumulated facts----"

"Wilkins," said Boon, "do not cuddle such illusions. It is only in
books and writings that facts get assembled. People are not grasping
any comprehensive effects at all at the present time. One day one
monstrous thing batters on our minds--a battleship is blown up or a
hundred villagers murdered--and next day it is another. We do not so
much think about it as get mentally scarred.... You can see in this
spy hunt that is going on and in the increasing denunciations and
wrangling of the papers how the strain is telling.... Attention is
overstrained and warms into violence. People are reading no books.
They are following out no conclusions. No intellectual force whatever
is evident dominating the situation. No organization is at work for a
sane peace. Where is any _power_ for Pacificism? Where is any strength
on its side? America is far too superior to do anything but trade, the
liberals here sniff at each other and quarrel gently but firmly on
minor points, Mr. Norman Angell advertises himself in a small magazine
and resents any other work for peace as though it were an infringement
of his copyright. Read the daily papers; go and listen to the talk of
people! Don't theorize, but watch. The mind you will meet is not in
the least like a mind doing something slowly but steadfastly; far more
is it like a mind being cruelly smashed about and worried and sticking
to its immediate purpose with a narrower and narrower intensity. Until
at last it is a pointed intensity. It is like a dying man strangling a
robber in his death-grip.... We shall beat them, but we shall be dead
beat doing it.... You see, Wilkins, I have tried to think as you do.
In a sort of way this war has inverted our relations. I say these
things now because they force themselves upon me...."

Wilkins considered for some moments.

"Even if nothing new appears," he said at last, "the mere beating down
and discrediting of the militarist system leaves a world released...."

"But will it be broken down?" said Boon. "Think of the Osborns."

And then he cried in a voice of infinite despair: "No! War is just the
killing of things and the smashing of things. And when it is all over,
then literature and civilization will have to begin all over again.
They will have to begin lower down and against a heavier load, and the
days of our jesting are done. The Wild Asses of the Devil are loose
and there is no restraining them. What is the good, Wilkins, of
pretending that the Wild Asses are the instruments of Providence
kicking better than we know? It is all evil. Evil. An evil year. And I
lie here helpless, spitting and spluttering, with this chill upon my
chest.... I cannot say or write what I would.... And in the days of my
sunshine there were things I should have written, things I should have
understood...."


§ 6

Afterwards Boon consoled himself very much for a time by making
further speculative sketches of Mr. Osborn, as the embodiment of the
Heroic Spirit. I append one or two of the least offensive of these
drawings.

[Illustration: _Fancy sketch of Mr. Osborn (the Heroic Spirit)
compelling his tailor to make him trousers for nothing.

  My weapon with my tailor speaks,
  It cuts my coat and sews my breeks._]

[Illustration: _Mr. Osborn, in a moment of virile indignation, swiping
St. Francis of Assisi one with a club._]

[Illustration: _The soul of Mr. Osborn doing a war dance (as a Spartan
Red Indian) in order to work itself up for a_ "Morning Post"
_article._]

[Illustration: _Mr. Osborn's dream of himself as a Prussian Spartan
refreshing himself with Hero's food (fresh human liver) and drink
(blood and champagne) after a good Go In at some Pacificist softs._]


§ 7

Boon's pessimistic outlook on the war had a profoundly depressing
effect upon me. I do all in my power to believe that Wilkins is right,
and that the hopelessness that darkened Boon's last days was due to
the overshadowing of his mind by his illness. It was not simply that
he despaired of the world at large; so far as I am concerned, he
pointed and barbed his opinion by showing how inevitable it was that
the existing publishing and book trade would be shattered to
fragments. Adapted as I am now to the necessities of that trade,
incapable as I am of the fresh exertions needed to bring me into a
successful relationship to the unknown exigencies of the future, the
sense of complete personal ruin mingled with and intensified the
vision he imposed upon me of a world laid waste. I lay awake through
long stretches of the night contemplating now my own life, no longer
in its first vigour, pinched by harsh necessities and the fiercer
competition of a young and needy generation, and now all life with its
habits and traditions strained and broken. My daily fatigues at drill
and the universal heavy cold in the head that has oppressed all
Britain this winter almost more than the war, have added their quota
to my nightly discomfort. And when at last I have slept I have been
oppressed with peculiar and melancholy dreams.

One is so vividly in my mind that I am obliged to tell it here,
although I am doubtful whether, except by a very extreme stretching of
the meaning of words, we can really consider it among the Remains of
George Boon.

It was one of those dreams of which the scenery is not so much a
desolate place as desolation itself, and I was there toiling up great
steepnesses with a little box of something in my hand. And I knew, in
that queer confused way that is peculiar to dreams, that I was not
myself but that I was the Author who is the hero of the Wild Asses of
the Devil, and also that I was neither he nor I, but all sorts of
authors, the spirit of authorship, no Author in particular but the
Author at large, and that, since the melancholy devil had deserted
me--he had sneaked off Heaven knows whither--it rested with me and
with me alone to discover and catch and send out of this tormented
world those same Wild Asses of the Devil of which you have read. And
so I had salt in my box, Attic Salt, a precious trust, the one thing
in all the universe with which I could subdue them.

And then suddenly there I was amidst all those very asses of which I
have told you. There they were all about me, and they were more wild
and horrible than I can describe to you. It was not that they were
horrible in any particular way, they were just horrible, and they
kicked up far over head, and leapt and did not even seem to trouble to
elude my poor ineffectual efforts to get within salting distance of
them. I toiled and I pursued amidst mad mountains that were suddenly
marble flights of stairs that sloped and slid me down to precipices
over which I floated; and then we were in soft places knee-deep in
blood-red mud; and then they were close to my face, eye to eye,
enormous revolving eyes, like the lanterns of lighthouses; and then
they swept away, and always I grew smaller and feebler and more
breathless, and always they grew larger, until only their vast legs
danced about me on the sward, and all the rest was hidden. And all the
while I was tugging at my box of Attic Salt, to get it open, to get a
pinch. Suddenly I saw they were all coming down upon me, and all the
magic salt I had was in the box that would not open....

I saw the sward they trampled, and it was not sward, it was living
beings, men hurt by dreadful wounds, and poor people who ran in
streaming multitudes under the beating hoofs, and a lichenous growth
of tender things and beautiful and sweet and right things on which
they beat, splashing it all to blood and dirt. I could not open my
box. I could not open my box. And a voice said: "Your box! Your box!
Laugh at them for the fools they are, and at the salt sting of
laughter back they will fly to hell!"

But I could not open my box, for I thought of my friend's sons and
dear friends of my own, and there was no more spirit in me. "We cannot
laugh!" I cried. "We cannot laugh! Another generation! Another
generation may have the heart to do what we cannot do."

And the voice said: "Courage! Only your poor courage can save us!"

But in my dream I could do no more than weep pitifully and weep, and
when I woke up my eyes were wet with tears.



CHAPTER THE TENTH

The Story of the Last Trump


§ 1

"After this war," said Wilkins, "after its revelation of horrors and
waste and destruction, it is impossible that people will tolerate any
longer that system of diplomacy and armaments and national aggression
that has brought this catastrophe upon mankind. This is the war that
will end war."

"Osborn," said Boon, "Osborn."

"But after all the world has seen----!"

"The world doesn't see," said Boon....

Boon's story of the Last Trump may well come after this to terminate
my book. It has been by no means an easy task to assemble the various
portions of this manuscript. It is written almost entirely in pencil,
and sometimes the writing is so bad as to be almost illegible. But
here at last it is, as complete, I think, as Boon meant it to be. It
is his epitaph upon his dream of the Mind of the Race.


§ 2

The Story of the Last Trump

The story of the Last Trump begins in Heaven and it ends in all sorts
of places round about the world....

Heaven, you must know, is a kindly place, and the blessed ones do not
go on for ever singing Alleluia, whatever you may have been told. For
they too are finite creatures, and must be fed with their eternity in
little bits, as one feeds a chick or a child. So that there are
mornings and changes and freshness, there is time to condition their
lives. And the children are still children, gravely eager about their
playing and ready always for new things; just children they are, but
blessèd as you see them in the pictures beneath the careless feet of
the Lord God. And one of these blessèd children routing about in an
attic--for Heaven is, of course, full of the most heavenly attics,
seeing that it has children--came upon a number of instruments stored
away, and laid its little chubby hands upon them....

Now indeed I cannot tell what these instruments were, for to do so
would be to invade mysteries.... But one I may tell of, and that was a
great brazen trumpet which the Lord God had made when He made the
world--for the Lord God finishes all His jobs--to blow when the time
for our Judgement came round. And He had made it and left it; there it
was, and everything was settled exactly as the Doctrine of
Predestination declares. And this blessèd child conceived one of those
unaccountable passions of childhood for its smoothness and brassiness,
and he played with it and tried to blow it, and trailed it about with
him out of the attic into the gay and golden streets, and, after many
fitful wanderings, to those celestial battlements of crystal of which
you have doubtless read. And there the blessed child fell to counting
the stars, and forgot all about the Trumpet beside him until a
flourish of his elbow sent it over....

Down fell the trump, spinning as it fell, and for a day or so, which
seemed but moments in heaven, the blessed child watched its fall until
it was a glittering little speck of brightness....

When it looked a second time the trump was gone....

I do not know what happened to that child when at last it was time for
Judgement Day and that shining trumpet was missed. I know that
Judgement Day is long overpassed, because of the wickedness of the
world; I think perhaps it was in A.D. 1000 when the expected Day
should have dawned that never came, but no other heavenly particulars
do I know at all, because now my scene changes to the narrow ways of
this Earth....

And the Prologue in Heaven ends.


§ 3

And now the scene is a dingy little shop in Caledonian Market, where
things of an incredible worthlessness lie in wait for such as seek
after an impossible cheapness. In the window, as though it had always
been there and never anywhere else, lies a long, battered, discoloured
trumpet of brass that no prospective purchaser has ever been able to
sound. In it mice shelter, and dust and fluff have gathered after the
fashion of this world. The keeper of the shop is a very old man, and
he bought the shop long ago, but already this trumpet was there; he
has no idea whence it came, nor its country or origin, nor anything
about it. But once in a moment of enterprise that led to nothing he
decided to call it an Ancient Ceremonial Shawm, though he ought to
have known that whatever a shawm may be the last thing it was likely
to be is a trumpet, seeing that they are always mentioned together.
And above it hung concertinas and melodeons and cornets and tin
whistles and mouth-organs and all that rubbish of musical instruments
which delight the hearts of the poor. Until one day two blackened
young men from the big motor works in the Pansophist Road stood
outside the window and argued.

They argued about these instruments in stock and how you made these
instruments sound, because they were fond of argument, and one
asserted and the other denied that he could make every instrument in
the place sound a note. And the argument rose high, and led to a bet.

"Supposing, of course, that the instrument is in order," said Hoskin,
who was betting he could.

"That's understood," said Briggs.

And then they called as witnesses certain other young and black and
greasy men in the same employment, and after much argument and
discussion that lasted through the afternoon, they went in to the
little old dealer about teatime, just as he was putting a blear-eyed,
stinking paraffin-lamp to throw an unfavourable light upon his always
very unattractive window. And after great difficulty they arranged
that for the sum of one shilling, paid in advance, Hoskin should have
a try at every instrument in the shop that Briggs chose to indicate.

And the trial began.

The third instrument that was pitched upon by Briggs for the trial was
the strange trumpet that lay at the bottom of the window, the trumpet
that you, who have read the Introduction, know was the trumpet for the
Last Trump. And Hoskin tried and tried again, and then, blowing
desperately, hurt his ears. But he could get no sound from the
trumpet. Then he examined the trumpet more carefully and discovered
the mice and fluff and other things in it, and demanded that it should
be cleaned; and the old dealer, nothing loth, knowing they were used
to automobile-horns and such-like instruments, agreed to let them
clean it on condition that they left it shiney. So the young men,
after making a suitable deposit (which, as you shall hear, was
presently confiscated), went off with the trumpet, proposing to clean
it next day at the works and polish it with the peculiarly excellent
brass polish employed upon the honk-honk horns of the firm. And this
they did, and Hoskin tried again.

But he tried in vain. Whereupon there arose a great argument about the
trumpet, whether it was in order or not, whether it was possible for
any one to sound it. For if not, then clearly it was outside the
condition of the bet.

Others among the young men tried it, including two who played wind
instruments in a band and were musically knowing men. After their own
failure they were strongly on the side of Hoskin and strongly against
Briggs, and most of the other young men were of the same opinion.

"Not a bit of it," said Briggs, who was a man of resource. "_I_'ll
show you that it can be sounded."

And taking the instrument in his hand, he went towards a peculiarly
powerful foot blow-pipe that stood at the far end of the toolshed.
"Good old Briggs!" said one of the other young men, and opinion veered
about.

Briggs removed the blow-pipe from its bellows and tube, and then
adjusted the tube very carefully to the mouthpiece of the trumpet.
Then with great deliberation he produced a piece of bees-waxed string
from a number of other strange and filthy contents in his pocket and
tied the tube to the mouthpiece. And then he began to work the treadle
of the bellows.

"Good old Briggs!" said the one who had previously admired him.

And then something incomprehensible happened.

It was a flash. Whatever else it was, it was a flash. And a sound that
seemed to coincide exactly with the flash.

Afterwards the young men agreed to it that the trumpet blew to bits.
It blew to bits and vanished, and they were all flung upon their
faces--not backward, be it noted, but on their faces--and Briggs was
stunned and scared. The toolshed windows were broken and the various
apparatus and cars around were much displaced, and _no traces of the
trumpet were ever discovered_.

That last particular puzzled and perplexed poor Briggs very much. It
puzzled and perplexed him the more because he had had an impression,
so extraordinary, so incredible, that he was never able to describe it
to any other living person. But his impression was this: that the
flash that came with the sound came, not from the trumpet but to it,
that it smote down to it and took it, and that its shape was in the
exact likeness of a hand and arm of fire.


§ 4

And that was not all, that was not the only strange thing about the
disappearance of that battered trumpet. There was something else, even
more difficult to describe, an effect as though for one instant
something opened....

The young men who worked with Hoskin and Briggs had that clearness of
mind which comes of dealing with machinery, and they all felt this
indescribable something else, as if for an instant the world wasn't
the world, but something lit and wonderful, larger----

This is what one of them said of it.

"I felt," he said, "just for a minute--as though I was blown to
Kingdom Come."

"It is just how it took me," said another. "'Lord,' I says, 'here's
Judgement Day!' and then there I was sprawling among the flies...."

But none of the others felt that they could say anything more definite
than that.


§ 5

Moreover, there was a storm. All over the world there was a storm that
puzzled meteorology, a moment's gale that left the atmosphere in a
state of wild swaygog, rains, tornadoes, depressions, irregularities
for weeks. News came of it from all the quarters of the earth.

All over China, for example, that land of cherished graves, there was
a dust-storm, dust leaped into the air. A kind of earthquake shook
Europe--an earthquake that seemed to have at heart the peculiar
interests of Mr. Algernon Ashton; everywhere it cracked mausoleums and
shivered the pavements of cathedrals, swished the flower-beds of
cemeteries, and tossed tombstones aside. A crematorium in Texas blew
up. The sea was greatly agitated, and the beautiful harbour of Sydney,
in Australia, was seen to be littered with sharks floating upside down
in manifest distress....

And all about the world a sound was heard like the sound of a trumpet
instantly cut short.


§ 6

But this much is only the superficial dressing of the story. The
reality is something different. It is this: that in an instant, and
for an instant, the dead lived, and all that are alive in the world
did for a moment see the Lord God and all His powers, His hosts of
angels, and all His array looking down upon them. They saw Him as one
sees by a flash of lightning in the darkness, and then instantly the
world was opaque again, limited, petty, habitual. That is the
tremendous reality of this story. Such glimpses have happened in
individual cases before. The Lives of the saints abound in them. Such
a glimpse it was that came to Devindranath Tagore upon the burning
ghat at Benares. But this was not an individual but a world
experience; the flash came to every one. Not always was it quite the
same, and thereby the doubter found his denials, when presently a sort
of discussion broke out in the obscurer Press. For this one testified
that it seemed that "One stood very near to me," and another saw "all
the hosts of heaven flame up towards the Throne."

And there were others who had a vision of brooding watchers, and
others who imagined great sentinels before a veiled figure, and some
one who felt nothing more divine than a sensation of happiness and
freedom such as one gets from a sudden burst of sunshine in the
spring.... So that one is forced to believe that something more than
wonderfully wonderful, something altogether strange, was seen, and
that all these various things that people thought they saw were only
interpretations drawn from their experiences and their imaginations.
It was a light, it was beauty, it was high and solemn, it made this
world seem a flimsy transparency....

Then it had vanished....

And people were left with the question of what they had seen, and just
how much it mattered.


§ 7

A little old lady sat by the fire in a small sitting-room in West
Kensington. Her cat was in her lap, her spectacles were on her nose;
she was reading the morning's paper, and beside her, on a little
occasional table, was her tea and a buttered muffin. She had finished
the crimes and she was reading about the Royal Family. When she had
read all there was to read about the Royal Family, she put down the
paper, deposited the cat on the hearthrug, and turned to her tea. She
had poured out her first cup and she had just taken up a quadrant of
muffin when the trump and the flash came. Through its instant duration
she remained motionless with the quadrant of muffin poised halfway to
her mouth. Then very slowly she put the morsel down.

"Now what was that?" she said.

She surveyed the cat, but the cat was quite calm. Then she looked
very, very hard at her lamp. It was a patent safety lamp, and had
always behaved very well. Then she stared at the window, but the
curtains were drawn and everything was in order.

"One might think I was going to be ill," she said, and resumed her
toast.


§ 8

Not far away from this old lady, not more than three-quarters of a
mile at most, sat Mr. Parchester in his luxurious study, writing a
perfectly beautiful, sustaining sermon about the Need of Faith in God.
He was a handsome, earnest, modern preacher, he was rector of one of
our big West End churches, and he had amassed a large, fashionable
congregation. Every Sunday, and at convenient intervals during the
week, he fought against Modern Materialism, Scientific Education,
Excessive Puritanism, Pragmatism, Doubt, Levity, Selfish
Individualism, Further Relaxation of the Divorce Laws, all the Evils
of our Time--and anything else that was unpopular. He believed quite
simply, he said, in all the old, simple, kindly things. He had the
face of a saint, but he had rendered this generally acceptable by
growing side whiskers. And nothing could tame the beauty of his voice.

He was an enormous asset in the spiritual life of the metropolis--to
give it no harsher name--and his fluent periods had restored faith and
courage to many a poor soul hovering on the brink of the dark river of
thought....

And just as beautiful Christian maidens played a wonderful part in the
last days of Pompeii, in winning proud Roman hearts to a hated and
despised faith, so Mr. Parchester's naturally graceful gestures, and
his simple, melodious, trumpet voice won back scores of our half-pagan
rich women to church attendance and the social work of which his
church was the centre....

And now by the light of an exquisitely shaded electric lamp he was
writing this sermon of quiet, confident belief (with occasional hard
smacks, perfect stingers in fact, at current unbelief and rival
leaders of opinion) in the simple, divine faith of our fathers....

When there came this truncated trump and this vision....


§ 9

Of all the innumerable multitudes who for the infinitesimal fraction
of a second had this glimpse of the Divinity, none were so blankly and
profoundly astonished as Mr. Parchester. For--it may be because of his
subtly spiritual nature--he _saw_, and seeing believed. He dropped his
pen and let it roll across his manuscript, he sat stunned, every drop
of blood fled from his face and his lips and his eyes dilated.

While he had just been writing and arguing about God, there _was_ God!

The curtain had been snatched back for an instant; it had fallen
again; but his mind had taken a photographic impression of everything
that he had seen--the grave presences, the hierarchy, the effulgence,
the vast concourse, the terrible, gentle eyes. He felt it, as though
the vision still continued, behind the bookcases, behind the pictured
wall and the curtained window: _even now there was judgement!_

For quite a long time he sat, incapable of more than apprehending this
supreme realization. His hands were held out limply upon the desk
before him. And then very slowly his staring eyes came back to
immediate things, and fell upon the scattered manuscript on which he
had been engaged. He read an unfinished sentence and slowly recovered
its intention. As he did so, a picture of his congregation came to him
as he saw it from the pulpit during his evening sermon, as he had
intended to see it on the Sunday evening that was at hand, with Lady
Rupert in her sitting and Lady Blex in hers and Mrs. Munbridge, the
rich and in her Jewish way very attractive Mrs. Munbridge, running
them close in her adoration, and each with one or two friends they had
brought to adore him, and behind them the Hexhams and the Wassinghams
and behind them others and others and others, ranks and ranks of
people, and the galleries on either side packed with worshippers of a
less dominant class, and the great organ and his magnificent choir
waiting to support him and supplement him, and the great altar to the
left of him, and the beautiful new Lady Chapel, done by Roger Fry and
Wyndham Lewis and all the latest people in Art, to the right. He
thought of the listening multitude, seen through the haze of the
thousand electric candles, and how he had planned the paragraphs of
his discourse so that the notes of his beautiful voice should float
slowly down, like golden leaves in autumn, into the smooth tarn of
their silence, word by word, phrase by phrase, until he came to--

"Now to God the Father, God the Son----"

And all the time he knew that Lady Blex would watch his face and Mrs.
Munbridge, leaning those graceful shoulders of hers a little forward,
would watch his face....

Many people would watch his face.

All sorts of people would come to Mr. Parchester's services at times.
Once it was said Mr. Balfour had come. Just to hear him. After his
sermons, the strangest people would come and make confessions in the
beautifully furnished reception-room beyond the vestry. All sorts of
people. Once or twice he had asked people to come and listen to him;
and one of them had been a very beautiful woman. And often he had
dreamt of the people who might come: prominent people, influential
people, remarkable people. But never before had it occurred to Mr.
Parchester that, a little hidden from the rest of the congregation,
behind the thin veil of this material world, there was another
auditorium. And that God also, God also, watched his face.

And watched him through and through.

Terror seized upon Mr. Parchester.

He stood up, as though Divinity had come into the room before him. He
was trembling. He felt smitten and about to be smitten.

He perceived that it was hopeless to try and hide what he had written,
what he had thought, the unclean egotism he had become.

"I did not know," he said at last.

The click of the door behind him warned him that he was not alone. He
turned and saw Miss Skelton, his typist, for it was her time to come
for his manuscript and copy it out in the specially legible type he
used. For a moment he stared at her strangely.

She looked at him with those deep, adoring eyes of hers. "Am I too
soon, sir?" she asked in her slow, unhappy voice, and seemed prepared
for a noiseless departure.

He did not answer immediately. Then he said: "Miss Skelton, the
Judgement of God is close at hand!"

And seeing she stood perplexed, he said--

"Miss Skelton, how can you expect me to go on acting and mouthing this
Tosh when the Sword of Truth hangs over us?"

Something in her face made him ask a question.

"Did _you_ see anything?" he asked.

"I thought it was because I was rubbing my eyes."

"Then indeed there is a God! And He is watching us now. And all this
about us, this sinful room, this foolish costume, this preposterous
life of blasphemous pretension----!"

He stopped short, with a kind of horror on his face.

With a hopeless gesture he rushed by her. He appeared wild-eyed upon
the landing before his manservant, who was carrying a scuttle of coal
upstairs.

"Brompton," he said, "what are you doing?"

"Coal, sir."

"Put it down, man!" he said. "Are you not an immortal soul? God is
here! As close as my hand! Repent! Turn to Him! The Kingdom of Heaven
is at hand!"


§ 10

Now if you are a policeman perplexed by a sudden and unaccountable
collision between a taxicab and an electric standard, complicated by a
blinding flash and a sound like an abbreviated trump from an
automobile horn, you do not want to be bothered by a hatless clerical
gentleman suddenly rushing out of a handsome private house and telling
you that "the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" You are respectful to him
because it is the duty of a policeman to be respectful to Gentlemen,
but you say to him, "Sorry I can't attend to that now, sir. One thing
at a time. I've got this little accident to see to." And if he
persists in dancing round the gathering crowd and coming at you again,
you say: "I'm afraid I must ask you just to get away from here, sir.
You aren't being a 'elp, sir." And if, on the other hand, you are a
well-trained clerical gentleman, who knows his way about in the world,
you do not go on pestering a policeman on duty after he has said that,
even although you think God is looking at you and Judgement is close
at hand. You turn away and go on, a little damped, looking for some
one else more likely to pay attention to your tremendous tidings.

And so it happened to the Reverend Mr. Parchester.

He experienced a curious little recession of confidence. He went on
past quite a number of people without saying anything further, and the
next person he accosted was a flower-woman sitting by her basket at
the corner of Chexington Square. She was unable to stop him at once
when he began to talk to her because she was tying up a big bundle of
white chrysanthemums and had an end of string behind her teeth. And
her daughter who stood beside her was the sort of girl who wouldn't
say "Bo!" to a goose.

"Do you know, my good woman," said Mr. Parchester, "that while we poor
creatures of earth go about our poor business here, while we sin and
blunder and follow every sort of base end, close to us, above us,
around us, watching us, judging us, are God and His holy angels? I
have had a vision, and I am not the only one. I have _seen_. We are
_in_ the Kingdom of Heaven now and here, and Judgement is all about us
now! Have you seen nothing? No light? No sound? No warning?"

By this time the old flower-seller had finished her bunch of flowers
and could speak. "I saw it," she said. "And Mary--she saw it."

"Well?" said Mr. Parchester.

"But, Lord! It don't _mean_ nothing!" said the old flower-seller.


§ 11

At that a kind of chill fell upon Mr. Parchester. He went on across
Chexington Square by his own inertia.

He was still about as sure that he had seen God as he had been in his
study, but now he was no longer sure that the world would believe that
he had. He felt perhaps that this idea of rushing out to tell people
was precipitate and inadvisable. After all, a priest in the Church of
England is only one unit in a great machine; and in a world-wide
spiritual crisis it should be the task of that great machine to act as
one resolute body. This isolated crying aloud in the street was
unworthy of a consecrated priest. It was a dissenting kind of thing to
do. A vulgar individualistic screaming. He thought suddenly that he
would go and tell his Bishop--the great Bishop Wampach. He called a
taxicab, and within half an hour he was in the presence of his
commanding officer. It was an extraordinarily difficult and painful
interview....

You see, Mr. Parchester believed. The Bishop impressed him as being
quite angrily resolved not to believe. And for the first time in his
career Mr. Parchester realized just how much jealous hostility a
beautiful, fluent, and popular preacher may arouse in the minds of the
hierarchy. It wasn't, he felt, a conversation. It was like flinging
oneself into the paddock of a bull that has long been anxious to gore
one.

"Inevitably," said the Bishop, "this theatricalism, this star-turn
business, with its extreme spiritual excitements, its exaggerated soul
crises and all the rest of it, leads to such a breakdown as afflicts
you. Inevitably! You were at least wise to come to me. I can see you
are only in the beginning of your trouble, that already in your mind
fresh hallucinations are gathering to overwhelm you, voices, special
charges and missions, strange revelations.... I wish I had the power
to suspend you right away, to send you into retreat...."

Mr. Parchester made a violent effort to control himself. "But I tell
you," he said, "that I saw God!" He added, as if to reassure himself:
"More plainly, more certainly, than I see you."

"Of course," said the Bishop, "this is how strange new sects come into
existence; this is how false prophets spring out of the bosom of the
Church. Loose-minded, excitable men of your stamp----"

Mr. Parchester, to his own astonishment, burst into tears. "But I tell
you," he wept, "He is here. I have seen. I know."

"Don't talk such nonsense!" said the Bishop. "There is no one here but
you and I!"

Mr. Parchester expostulated. "But," he protested, "He is omnipresent."

The Bishop controlled an expression of impatience. "It is
characteristic of your condition," he said, "that you are unable to
distinguish between a matter of fact and a spiritual truth.... Now
listen to me. If you value your sanity and public decency and the
discipline of the Church, go right home from here and go to bed. Send
for Broadhays, who will prescribe a safe sedative. And read something
calming and graceful and purifying. For my own part, I should be
disposed to recommend the 'Life of Saint Francis of Assisi.'...."


§ 12

Unhappily Mr. Parchester did not go home. He went out from the
Bishop's residence stunned and amazed, and suddenly upon his
desolation came the thought of Mrs. Munbridge....

She would understand....

He was shown up to her own little sitting-room. She had already gone
up to her room to dress, but when she heard that he had called, and
wanted very greatly to see her, she slipped on a loose, beautiful
tea-gown _négligé_ thing, and hurried to him. He tried to tell her
everything, but she only kept saying "There! there!" She was sure he
wanted a cup of tea, he looked so pale and exhausted. She rang to have
the tea equipage brought back; she put the dear saint in an arm-chair
by the fire; she put cushions about him, and ministered to him. And
when she began partially to comprehend what he had experienced, she
suddenly realized that she too had experienced it. That vision had
been a brain-wave between their two linked and sympathetic brains. And
that thought glowed in her as she brewed his tea with her own hands.
He had been weeping! How tenderly he felt all these things! He was
more sensitive than a woman. What madness to have expected
understanding from the Bishop! But that was just like his
unworldliness. He was not fit to take care of himself. A wave of
tenderness carried her away. "Here is your tea!" she said, bending
over him, and fully conscious of her fragrant warmth and sweetness,
and suddenly, she could never afterwards explain why she was so, she
was moved to kiss him on his brow....

How indescribable is the comfort of a true-hearted womanly friend! The
safety of it! The consolation!...

About half-past seven that evening Mr. Parchester returned to his own
home, and Brompton admitted him. Brompton was relieved to find his
employer looking quite restored and ordinary again. "Brompton," said
Mr. Parchester, "I will not have the usual dinner to-night. Just a
single mutton cutlet and one of those quarter-bottles of Perrier Jouet
on a tray in my study. I shall have to finish my sermon to-night."

(And he had promised Mrs. Munbridge he would preach that sermon
specially for her.)


§ 13

And as it was with Mr. Parchester and Brompton and Mrs. Munbridge, and
the taxi-driver and the policeman and the little old lady and the
automobile mechanics and Mr. Parchester's secretary and the Bishop, so
it was with all the rest of the world. If a thing is sufficiently
strange and great no one will perceive it. Men will go on in their own
ways though one rose from the dead to tell them that the Kingdom of
Heaven was at hand, though the Kingdom itself and all its glory became
visible, blinding their eyes. They and their ways are one. Men will go
on in their ways as rabbits will go on feeding in their hutches within
a hundred yards of a battery of artillery. For rabbits are rabbits,
and made to eat and breed, and men are human beings and creatures of
habit and custom and prejudice; and what has made them, what will
judge them, what will destroy them--they may turn their eyes to it at
times as the rabbits will glance at the concussion of the guns, but it
will never draw them away from eating their lettuce and sniffing after
their does....


§ 14

There was something of invalid peevishness even in the handwriting of
Boon's last story, the Story of the Last Trump.

Of course, I see exactly what Boon is driving at in this fragment.

The distresses of the war had for a time broken down his faith in the
Mind of the Race, and so he mocked at the idea that under any sort of
threat or warning whatever men's minds can move out of the grooves in
which they run. And yet in happier moods that was his own idea, and my
belief in it came from him. That he should, in his illness, fall away
from that saving confidence which he could give to me, and that he
should die before his courage returned, seems just a part of the
inexplicable tragedy of life. Because clearly this end of the Story of
the Last Trump is forced and false, is unjust to life. I know how
feebly we apprehend things, I know how we forget, but because we
forget it does not follow that we never remember, because we fail to
apprehend perfectly it does not follow that we have no understanding.
And so I feel that the true course of the Story of the Last Trump
should have been far larger and much more wonderful and subtle than
Boon made it. That instant vision of God would not have been dismissed
altogether. People might have gone on, as Boon tells us they went on,
but they would have been haunted nevertheless by a new sense of deep,
tremendous things....

Cynicism is humour in ill-health. It would have been far more
difficult to tell the story of how a multitude of commonplace people
were changed by a half-dubious perception that God was indeed close at
hand to them, a perception that they would sometimes struggle with and
deny, sometimes realize overwhelmingly; it would have been a
beautiful, pitiful, wonderful story, and it may be if Boon had lived
he would have written it. He could have written it. But he was too ill
for that much of writing, and the tired pencil turned to the easier
course....

I can't believe after all I know of him, and particularly after the
intimate talk I have repeated, that he would have remained in this
mood. He would, I am certain, have altered the Story of the Last
Trump. He must have done so.

And so, too, about this war, this dreadful outbreak of brutish
violence which has darkened all our lives, I do not think he would
have remained despairful. As his health mended, as the braveries of
spring drew near, he would have risen again to the assurance he gave
me that the Mind is immortal and invincible.

Of course there is no denying the evil, the black evils of this war;
many of us are impoverished and ruined, many of us are wounded, almost
all of us have lost friends and suffered indirectly in a hundred ways.
And all that is going on yet. The black stream of consequence will
flow for centuries. But all this multitudinous individual unhappiness
is still compatible with a great progressive movement in the general
mind. Being wounded and impoverished, being hurt and seeing things
destroyed, is as much living and learning as anything else in the
world. The tremendous present disaster of Europe may not be, after
all, a disaster for mankind. Horrible possibilities have to be
realized, and they can be realized only by experience; complacencies,
fatuities have to be destroyed; we have to learn and relearn what Boon
once called "the bitter need for honesty." We must see these things
from the standpoint of the Race Life, whose days are hundreds of
years....

Nevertheless, such belief cannot alter for me the fact that Boon is
dead and our little circle is scattered. I feel that no personal
comfort nor any further happiness of the mind remains in store for me.
My duties as his literary executor still give me access to the dear
old house and the garden of our security, and, in spite of a
considerable coolness between myself and Mrs. Boon--who would
willingly have all this material destroyed and his reputation rest
upon his better-known works--I make my duty my excuse to go there
nearly every day and think. I am really in doubt about many matters. I
cannot determine, for example, whether it may not be possible to make
another volume from the fragments still remaining over after this one.
There are great quantities of sketches, several long pieces of Vers
Libre, the story of "Jane in Heaven," the draft of a novel. And so I
go there and take out the papers and fall into fits of thinking. I
turn the untidy pages and think about Boon and of all the stream of
nonsense and fancy that was so much more serious to him and to me than
the serious business of life. I go there, I know, very much as a cat
hangs about its home after its people have departed--that is to say, a
little incredulously and with the gleam of a reasonless hope....

There must, I suppose, come a limit to these visitations, and I shall
have to go about my own business. I can see in Mrs. Boon's eye that
she will presently demand conclusive decisions. In a world that has
grown suddenly chilly and lonely I know I must go on with my work
under difficult and novel conditions (and now well into the routines
of middle age) as if there were no such things as loss and
disappointment. I am, I learned long ago, an uncreative, unimportant
man. And yet, I suppose, I do something; I count; it is better that I
should help than not in the great task of literature, the great task
of becoming the thought and the expressed intention of the race, the
task of taming violence, organizing the aimless, destroying error, the
task of waylaying the Wild Asses of the Devil and sending them back to
Hell. It does not matter how individually feeble we writers and
disseminators are; we have to hunt the Wild Asses. As the feeblest
puppy has to bark at cats and burglars. And we have to do it because
we know, in spite of the darkness, the wickedness, the haste and hate,
we know in our hearts, though no momentary trumpeting has shown it to
us, that judgement is all about us and God stands close at hand.

Yes, we go on.

But I wish that George Boon were still in the world with me, and I
wish that he could have written a different ending to the Story of the
Last Trump.



The Gresham Press

UNWIN BROTHERS, LIMITED

WOKING AND LONDON





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large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

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

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



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