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´╗┐Title: Imaginary Portraits
Author: Pater, Walter, 1839-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Imaginary Portraits" ***

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Walter Pater

4th edition





Valenciennes, September 1701.

They have been renovating my father's large workroom. That delightful,
tumble-down old place has lost its moss-grown tiles and the green
weather-stains we have known all our lives on the high whitewashed
wall, opposite which we sit, in the little sculptor's yard, for the
coolness, in summertime. Among old Watteau's workpeople came his son,
"the genius," my father's godson and namesake, a dark-haired youth,
whose large, unquiet eyes seemed perpetually wandering to the various
drawings which lie exposed here. My father will have it that he is a
genius indeed, and a painter born. We have had our September Fair in
the Grande Place, a wonderful stir of sound and colour in the wide,
open space beneath our windows. And just where the crowd was busiest
young Antony was found, hoisted into one of those empty niches of the
old Hotel de Ville, sketching the scene to the life, but with a kind of
grace--a marvellous tact of omission, as my father pointed out to us,
in dealing with the vulgar reality seen from one's own window--which
has made trite old Harlequin, Clown, and Columbine, seem like people in
some fairyland; or like infinitely clever tragic actors, who, for the
humour of the thing, have put on motley for once, and are able to throw
a world of serious innuendo into their burlesque looks, with a sort of
comedy which shall be but tragedy seen from the other side. He brought
his sketch to our house to-day, and I was present when my father
questioned him and commended his work. But the lad seemed not greatly
pleased, and left untasted the glass of old Malaga which was offered to
him.  His father will hear nothing of educating him as a painter. Yet
he is not ill-to-do, and has lately built himself a new stone house,
big and grey and cold. Their old plastered house with the black
timbers, in the Rue des Cardinaux, was prettier; dating from the time
of the Spaniards, and one of the oldest in Valenciennes.

October 1701.

Chiefly through the solicitations of my father, old Watteau has
consented to place Antony with a teacher of painting here. I meet him
betimes on the way to his lessons, as I return from Mass; for he still
works with the masons, but making the most of late and early hours, of
every moment of liberty. And then he has the feast-days, of which there
are so many in this old-fashioned place. Ah! such gifts as his, surely,
may once in a way make much industry seem worth while. He makes a
wonderful progress. And yet, far from being set-up, and too easily
pleased with what, after all, comes to him so easily, he has, my father
thinks, too little self-approval for ultimate success. He is apt, in
truth, to fall out too hastily with himself and what he produces. Yet
here also there is the "golden mean." Yes! I could fancy myself
offended by a sort of irony which sometimes crosses the half-melancholy
sweetness of manner habitual with him; only that as I can see, he
treats himself to the same quality.

October 1701.

Antony Watteau comes here often now. It is the instinct of a natural
fineness in him, to escape when he can from that blank stone house,
with so little to interest, and that homely old man and woman. The
rudeness of his home has turned his feeling for even the simpler graces
of life into a physical want, like hunger or thirst, which might come
to greed; and methinks he perhaps overvalues these things. Still, made
as he is, his hard fate in that rude place must needs touch one. And
then, he profits by the experience of my father, who has much knowledge
in matters of art beyond his own art of sculpture; and Antony is not
unwelcome to him. In these last rainy weeks especially, when he can't
sketch out of doors, when the wind only half dries the pavement before
another torrent comes, and people stay at home, and the only sound from
without is the creaking of a restless shutter on its hinges, or the
march across the Place of those weary soldiers, coming and going so
interminably, one hardly knows whether to or from battle with the
English and the Austrians, from victory or defeat:--Well! he has become
like one of our family. "He will go far!" my father declares. He would
go far, in the literal sense, if he might--to Paris, to Rome. It must
be admitted that our Valenciennes is a quiet, nay! a sleepy place;
sleepier than ever since it became French, and ceased to be so near the
frontier. The grass is growing deep on our old ramparts, and it is
pleasant to walk there--to walk there and muse; pleasant for a tame,
unambitious soul such as mine.

December 1792.

Antony Watteau left us for Paris this morning. It came upon us quite
suddenly. They amuse themselves in Paris. A scene-painter we have here,
well known in Flanders, has been engaged to work in one of the Parisian
play-houses; and young Watteau, of whom he had some slight knowledge,
has departed in his company. He doesn't know it was I who persuaded the
scene-painter to take him; that he would find the lad useful. We
offered him our little presents--fine thread-lace of our own making for
his ruffles, and the like; for one must make a figure in Paris, and he
is slim and well-formed. For myself, I presented him with a silken
purse I had long ago embroidered for another. Well! we shall follow his
fortunes (of which I for one feel quite sure) at a distance. Old
Watteau didn't know of his departure, and has been here in great anger.

December 1703.

Twelve months to-day since Antony went to Paris! The first struggle
must be a sharp one for an unknown lad in that vast, overcrowded place,
even if he be as clever as young Antony Watteau. We may think, however,
that he is on the way to his chosen end, for he returns not home;
though, in truth, he tells those poor old people very little of
himself. The apprentices of the M. Metayer for whom he works, labour
all day long, each at a single part only,--coiffure, or robe, or
hand,--of the cheap pictures of religion or fantasy he exposes for sale
at a low price along the footways of the Pont Notre-Dame. Antony is
already the most skilful of them, and seems to have been promoted of
late to work on church pictures. I like the thought of that. He
receives three livres a week for his pains, and his soup daily.

May 1705.

Antony Watteau has parted from the dealer in pictures a bon marche and
works now with a painter of furniture pieces (those headpieces for
doors and the like, now in fashion) who is also concierge of the Palace
of the Luxembourg. Antony is actually lodged somewhere in that grand
place, which contains the king's collection of the Italian pictures he
would so willingly copy. Its gardens also are magnificent, with
something, as we understand from him, altogether of a novel kind in
their disposition and embellishment. Ah! how I delight myself, in fancy
at least, in those beautiful gardens, freer and trimmed less stiffly
than those of other royal houses. Methinks I see him there, when his
long summer-day's work is over, enjoying the cool shade of the stately,
broad-foliaged trees, each of which is a great courtier, though it has
its way almost as if it belonged to that open and unbuilt country
beyond, over which the sun is sinking.

His thoughts, however, in the midst of all this, are not wholly away
from home, if I may judge by the subject of a picture he hopes to sell
for as much as sixty livres--Un Depart de Troupes, Soldiers
Departing--one of those scenes of military life one can study so well
here at Valenciennes.

June 1705.

Young Watteau has returned home--proof, with a character so independent
as his, that things have gone well with him; and (it is agreed!) stays
with us, instead of in the stone-mason's house. The old people suppose
he comes to us for the sake of my father's instruction. French people
as we are become, we are still old Flemish, if not at heart, yet on the
surface. Even in French Flanders, at Douai and Saint Omer, as I
understand, in the churches and in people's houses, as may be seen from
the very streets, there is noticeable a minute and scrupulous air of
care-taking and neatness. Antony Watteau remarks this more than ever on
returning to Valenciennes, and savours greatly, after his lodging in
Paris, our Flemish cleanliness, lover as he is of distinction and
elegance. Those worldly graces he seemed when a young lad to hunger and
thirst for, as though truly the mere adornments of life were its
necessaries, he already takes as if he had been always used to them.
And there is something noble--shall I say?--in his half-disdainful way
of serving himself with what he still, as I think, secretly values
over-much. There is an air of seemly thought--le bel serieux--about
him, which makes me think of one of those grave old Dutch statesmen in
their youth, such as that famous William the Silent. And yet the effect
of this first success of his (of more importance than its mere money
value, as insuring for the future the full play of his natural powers)
I can trace like the bloom of a flower upon him; and he has, now and
then, the gaieties which from time to time, surely, must refresh all
true artists, however hard-working and "painful."

July 1705.

The charm of all this--his physiognomy and manner of being--has touched
even my young brother, Jean-Baptiste. He is greatly taken with Antony,
clings to him almost too attentively, and will be nothing but a
painter, though my father would have trained him to follow his own
profession. It may do the child good. He needs the expansion of some
generous sympathy or sentiment in that close little soul of his, as I
have thought, watching sometimes how his small face and hands are moved
in sleep. A child of ten who cares only to save and possess, to hoard
his tiny savings! Yet he is not otherwise selfish, and loves us all
with a warm heart. Just now it is the moments of Antony's company he
counts, like a little miser. Well! that may save him perhaps from
developing a certain meanness of character I have sometimes feared for

August 1705.

We returned home late this summer evening--Antony Watteau, my father
and sisters, young Jean-Baptiste, and myself--from an excursion to
Saint-Amand, in celebration of Antony's last day with us. After
visiting the great abbey-church and its range of chapels, with their
costly encumbrance of carved shrines and golden reliquaries and funeral
scutcheons in the coloured glass, half seen through a rich enclosure of
marble and brasswork, we supped at the little inn in the forest.
Antony, looking well in his new-fashioned, long-skirted coat, and
taller than he really is, made us bring our cream and wild strawberries
out of doors, ranging ourselves according to his judgment (for a hasty
sketch in that big pocket-book he carries) on the soft slope of one of
those fresh spaces in the wood, where the trees unclose a little, while
Jean-Baptiste and my youngest sister danced a minuet on the grass, to
the notes of some strolling lutanist who had found us out. He is
visibly cheerful at the thought of his return to Paris, and became for
a moment freer and more animated than I have ever yet seen him, as he
discoursed to us about the paintings of Peter Paul Rubens in the church
here. His words, as he spoke of them, seemed full of a kind of rich
sunset with some moving glory within it. Yet I like far better than any
of these pictures of Rubens a work of that old Dutch master, Peter
Porbus, which hangs, though almost out of sight indeed, in our church
at home. The patron saints, simple, and standing firmly on either side,
present two homely old people to Our Lady enthroned in the midst, with
the look and attitude of one for whom, amid her "glories" (depicted in
dim little circular pictures, set in the openings of a chaplet of pale
flowers around her) all feelings are over, except a great pitifulness.
Her robe of shadowy blue suits my eyes better far than the hot
flesh-tints of the Medicean ladies of the great Peter Paul, in spite of
that amplitude and royal ease of action under their stiff court
costumes, at which Antony Watteau declares himself in dismay.

August 1705.

I am just returned from early Mass. I lingered long after the office
was ended, watching, pondering how in the world one could help a small
bird which had flown into the church but could find no way out again. I
suspect it will remain there, fluttering round and round distractedly,
far up under the arched roof till it dies exhausted. I seem to have
heard of a writer who likened man's life to a bird passing just once
only, on some winter night, from window to window, across a
cheerfully-lighted hall. The bird, taken captive by the ill-luck of a
moment, re-tracing its issueless circle till it expires within the
close vaulting of that great stone church:--human life may be like that
bird too!

Antony Watteau returned to Paris yesterday. Yes!--Certainly, great
heights of achievement would seem to lie before him; access to regions
whither one may find it increasingly hard to follow him even in
imagination, and figure to one's self after what manner his life moves

January 1709.

Antony Watteau has competed for what is called the Prix de Rome,
desiring greatly to profit by the grand establishment founded at Rome
by Lewis the Fourteenth, for the encouragement of French artists. He
obtained only the second place, but does not renounce his desire to
make the journey to Italy. Could I save enough by careful economies for
that purpose? It might be conveyed to him in some indirect way that
would not offend.

February 1712.

We read, with much pleasure for all of us, in the Gazette to-day, among
other events of the world, that Antony Watteau had been elected to the
Academy of Painting under the new title of Peintre des Fetes Galantes,
and had been named also Peintre du Roi. My brother, Jean-Baptiste, ran
to tell the news to old Jean-Philippe and Michelle Watteau.

A new manner of painting! The old furniture of people's rooms must
needs be changed throughout, it would seem, to accord with this
painting; or rather, the painting is designed exclusively to suit one
particular kind of apartment. A manner of painting greatly prized, as
we understand, by those Parisian judges who have had the best
opportunity of acquainting themselves with whatever is most enjoyable
in the arts:--such is the achievement of the young Watteau! He looks to
receive more orders for his work than he will be able to execute.  He
will certainly relish--he, so elegant, so hungry for the colours of
life--a free intercourse with those wealthy lovers of the arts, M. de
Crozat, M. de Julienne, the Abbe de la Roque, the Count de Caylus, and
M. Gersaint, the famous dealer in pictures, who are so anxious to lodge
him in their fine hotels, and to have him of their company at their
country houses. Paris, we hear, has never been wealthier and more
luxurious than now: and the great ladies outbid each other to carry his
work upon their very fans. Those vast fortunes, however, seem to change
hands very rapidly. And Antony's new manner? I am unable even to divine
it--to conceive the trick and effect of it--at all. Only, something of
lightness and coquetry I discern there, at variance, methinks, with his
own singular gravity and even sadness of mien and mind, more answerable
to the stately apparelling of the age of Henry the Fourth, or of Lewis
the Thirteenth, in these old, sombre Spanish houses of ours.

March 1713.

We have all been very happy,--Jean-Baptiste as if in a delightful
dream. Antony Watteau, being consulted with regard to the lad's
training as a painter, has most generously offered to receive him for
his own pupil. My father, for some reason unknown to me, seemed to
hesitate the first; but Jean-Baptiste, whose enthusiasm for Antony
visibly refines and beautifies his whole nature, has won the necessary
permission, and this dear young brother will leave us to-morrow. Our
regrets and his, at his parting from us for the first time, overtook
our joy at his good fortune by surprise, at the last moment, as we were
about to bid each other good-night. For a while there had seemed to be
an uneasiness under our cheerful talk, as if each one present were
concealing something with an effort; and it was Jean-Baptiste himself
who gave way at last. And then we sat down again, still together, and
allowed free play to what was in our hearts, almost till morning, my
sisters weeping much. I know better how to control myself. In a few
days that delightful new life will have begun for him: and I have made
him promise to write often to us. With how small a part of my whole
life shall I be really living at Valenciennes!

January 1714.

Jean-Philippe Watteau has received a letter from his son to-day. Old
Michelle Watteau, whose sight is failing, though she still works (half
by touch, indeed) at her pillow-lace, was glad to hear me read the
letter aloud more than once. It recounts--how modestly, and almost as a
matter of course!--his late successes. And yet!--does he, in writing to
these old people, purposely underrate his great good fortune and
seeming happiness, not to shock them too much by the contrast between
the delicate enjoyments of the life he now leads among the wealthy and
refined, and that bald existence of theirs in his old home? A life,
agitated, exigent, unsatisfying! That is what this letter really
discloses, below so attractive a surface. As his gift expands so does
that incurable restlessness one supposed but the humour natural to a
promising youth who had still everything to do. And now the only
realised enjoyment he has of all this might seem to be the thought of
the independence it has purchased him, so that he can escape from one
lodging-place to another, just as it may please him. He has already
deserted, somewhat incontinently, more than one of those fine houses,
the liberal air of which he used so greatly to affect, and which have
so readily received him. Has he failed truly to grasp the fact of his
great success and the rewards that lie before him? At all events, he
seems, after all, not greatly to value that dainty world he is now
privileged to enter, and has certainly but little relish for his own
works--those works which I for one so thirst to see.

March 1714.

We were all--Jean-Philippe, Michelle Watteau, and ourselves--half in
expectation of a visit from Antony; and to-day, quite suddenly, he is
with us. I was lingering after early Mass this morning in the church of
Saint Vaast. It is good for me to be there. Our people lie under one of
the great marble slabs before the jube, some of the memorial brass
balusters of which are engraved with their names and the dates of their
decease. The settle of carved oak which runs all round the wide nave is
my father's own work. The quiet spaciousness of the place is itself
like a meditation, an "act of recollection," and clears away the
confusions of the heart. I suppose the heavy droning of the carillon
had smothered the sound of his footsteps, for on my turning round, when
I supposed myself alone, Antony Watteau was standing near me. Constant
observer as he is of the lights and shadows of things, he visits places
of this kind at odd times. He has left Jean-Baptiste at work in Paris,
and will stay this time with the old people, not at our house; though
he has spent the better part of to-day in my father's workroom. He
hasn't yet put off, in spite of all his late intercourse with the great
world, his distant and preoccupied manner--a manner, it is true, the
same to every one. It is certainly not through pride in his success, as
some might fancy, for he was thus always. It is rather as if, with all
that success, life and its daily social routine were somewhat of a
burden to him.

April 1714.

At last we shall understand something of that new style of his-the
Watteau style--so much relished by the fine people at Paris. He has
taken it into his kind head to paint and decorate our chief salon--the
room with the three long windows, which occupies the first floor of the

The room was a landmark, as we used to think, an inviolable milestone
and landmark, of old Valenciennes fashion--that sombre style, indulging
much in contrasts of black or deep brown with white, which the
Spaniards left behind them here. Doubtless their eyes had found its
shadows cool and pleasant, when they shut themselves in from the
cutting sunshine of their own country. But in our country, where we
must needs economise not the shade but the sun, its grandiosity weighs
a little on one's spirits. Well! the rough plaster we used to cover as
well as might be with morsels of old figured arras-work, is replaced by
dainty panelling of wood, with mimic columns, and a quite aerial
scrollwork around sunken spaces of a pale-rose stuff and certain oval
openings--two over the doors, opening on each side of the great couch
which faces the windows, one over the chimney-piece, and one above the
buffet which forms its vis-a-vis--four spaces in all, to be filled by
and by with "fantasies" of the Four Seasons, painted by his own hand.
He will send us from Paris arm-chairs of a new pattern he has devised,
suitably covered, and a clavecin. Our old silver candlesticks look well
on the chimney-piece. Odd, faint-coloured flowers fill coquettishly the
little empty spaces here and there, like ghosts of nosegays left by
visitors long ago, which paled thus, sympathetically, at the decease of
their old owners; for, in spite of its new-fashionedness, all this
array is really less like a new thing than the last surviving result of
all the more lightsome adornments of past times. Only, the very walls
seem to cry out:--No! to make delicate insinuation, for a music, a
conversation, nimbler than any we have known, or are likely to find
here. For himself, he converses well, but very sparingly. He assures
us, indeed, that the "new style" is in truth a thing of old days, of
his own old days here in Valenciennes, when, working long hours as a
mason's boy, he in fancy reclothed the walls of this or that house he
was employed in, with this fairy arrangement--itself like a piece of
"chamber-music," methinks, part answering to part; while no too
trenchant note is allowed to break through the delicate harmony of
white and pale red and little golden touches. Yet it is all very
comfortable also, it must be confessed; with an elegant open place for
the fire, instead of the big old stove of brown tiles. The ancient,
heavy furniture of our grandparents goes up, with difficulty, into the
garrets, much against my father's inclination. To reconcile him to the
change, Antony is painting his portrait in a vast perruque and with
more vigorous massing of light and shadow than he is wont to permit

June 1714.

He has completed the ovals:--The Four Seasons. Oh! the summerlike
grace, the freedom and softness, of the "Summer"--a hayfield such as we
visited to-day, but boundless, and with touches of level Italian
architecture in the hot, white, elusive distance, and wreaths of
flowers, fairy hayrakes and the like, suspended from tree to tree, with
that wonderful lightness which is one of the charms of his work. I can
understand through this, at last, what it is he enjoys, what he selects
by preference, from all that various world we pass our lives in. I am
struck by the purity of the room he has re-fashioned for us--a sort of
MORAL purity; yet, in the FORMS and COLOURS of things. Is the actual
life of Paris, to which he will soon return, equally pure, that it
relishes this kind of thing so strongly? Only, methinks 'tis a pity to
incorporate so much of his work, of himself, with objects of use, which
must perish by use, or disappear, like our own old furniture, with mere
change of fashion.

July 1714.

On the last day of Antony Watteau's visit we made a party to Cambrai.
We entered the cathedral church: it was the hour of Vespers, and it
happened that Monseigneur le Prince de Cambrai, the author of
Telemaque, was in his place in the choir. He appears to be of great
age, assists but rarely at the offices of religion, and is never to be
seen in Paris; and Antony had much desired to behold him. Certainly it
was worth while to have come so far only to see him, and hear him give
his pontifical blessing, in a voice feeble but of infinite sweetness,
and with an inexpressibly graceful movement of the hands. A veritable
grand seigneur! His refined old age, the impress of genius and honours,
even his disappointments, concur with natural graces to make him seem
too distinguished (a fitter word fails me) for this world. Omnia
vanitas! he seems to say, yet with a profound resignation, which makes
the things we are most of us so fondly occupied with look petty enough.
Omnia vanitas! Is that indeed the proper comment on our lives, coming,
as it does in this case, from one who might have made his own all that
life has to bestow? Yet he was never to be seen at court, and has lived
here almost as an exile. Was our "Great King Lewis" jealous of a true
grand seigneur or grand monarque by natural gift and the favour of
heaven, that he could not endure his presence?

July 1714.

My own portrait remains unfinished at his sudden departure. I sat for
it in a walking-dress, made under his direction--a gown of a peculiar
silken stuff, falling into an abundance of small folds, giving me "a
certain air of piquancy" which pleases him, but is far enough from my
true self. My old Flemish faille, which I shall always wear, suits me

I notice that our good-hearted but sometimes difficult friend said
little of our brother Jean-Baptiste, though he knows us so anxious on
his account--spoke only of his constant industry, cautiously, and not
altogether with satisfaction, as if the sight of it wearied him.

September 1714.

Will Antony ever accomplish that long-pondered journey to Italy? For
his own sake, I should be glad he might. Yet it seems desolately far,
across those great hills and plains. I remember how I formed a plan for
providing him with a sum sufficient for the purpose. But that he no
longer needs.

With myself, how to get through time becomes sometimes the
question,--unavoidably; though it strikes me as a thing unspeakably sad
in a life so short as ours. The sullenness of a long wet day is
yielding just now to an outburst of watery sunset, which strikes from
the far horizon of this quiet world of ours, over fields and
willow-woods, upon the shifty weather-vanes and long-pointed windows of
the tower on the square--from which the Angelus is sounding-with a
momentary promise of a fine night.  I prefer the Salut at Saint Vaast.
The walk thither is a longer one, and I have a fancy always that I may
meet Antony Watteau there again, any time; just as, when a child,
having found one day a tiny box in the shape of a silver coin, for long
afterwards I used to try every piece of money that came into my hands,
expecting it to open.

September 1714.

We were sitting in the Watteau chamber for the coolness, this sultry
evening. A sudden gust of wind ruffled the lights in the sconces on the
walls: the distant rumblings, which had continued all the afternoon,
broke out at last; and through the driving rain, a coach, rattling
across the Place, stops at our door: in a moment Jean-Baptiste is with
us once again; but with bitter tears in his eyes;--dismissed!

October 1714.

Jean-Baptiste! he too, rejected by Antony! It makes our friendship and
fraternal sympathy closer. And still as he labours, not less sedulously
than of old, and still so full of loyalty to his old master, in that
Watteau chamber, I seem to see Antony himself, of whom Jean-Baptiste
dares not yet speak,--to come very near his work, and understand his
great parts. So Jean-Baptiste's work, in its nearness to his, may
stand, for the future, as the central interest of my life. I bury
myself in that.

February 1715.

If I understand anything of these matters, Antony Watteau paints that
delicate life of Paris so excellently, with so much spirit, partly
because, after all, he looks down upon it or despises it. To persuade
myself of that, is my womanly satisfaction for his preference--his
apparent preference--for a world so different from mine. Those
coquetries, those vain and perishable graces, can be rendered so
perfectly, only through an intimate understanding of them. For him, to
understand must be to despise them; while (I think I know why) he
nevertheless undergoes their fascination. Hence that discontent with
himself, which keeps pace with his fame. It would have been better for
him--he would have enjoyed a purer and more real happiness--had he
remained here, obscure; as it might have been better for me!

It is altogether different with Jean-Baptiste. He approaches that life,
and all its pretty nothingness, from a level no higher than its own;
and beginning just where Antony Watteau leaves off in disdain, produces
a solid and veritable likeness of it and of its ways.

March 1715.

There are points in his painting (I apprehend this through his own
persistently modest observations) at which he works out his purpose
more excellently than Watteau; of whom he has trusted himself to speak
at last, with a wonderful self-effacement, pointing out in each of his
pictures, for the rest so just and true, how Antony would have managed
this or that, and, with what an easy superiority, have done the thing
better--done the impossible.

February 1716.

There are good things, attractive things, in life, meant for one and
not for another--not meant perhaps for me; as there are pretty clothes
which are not suitable for every one. I find a certain immobility of
disposition in me, to quicken or interfere with which is like physical
pain. He, so brilliant, petulant, mobile! I am better far beside
Jean-Baptiste--in contact with his quiet, even labour, and manner of
being. At first he did the work to which he had set himself, sullenly;
but the mechanical labour of it has cleared his mind and temper at
last, as a sullen day turns quite clear and fine by imperceptible
change. With the earliest dawn he enters his workroom, the Watteau
chamber, where he remains at work all day. The dark evenings he spends
in industrious preparation with the crayon for the pictures he is to
finish during the hours of daylight. His toil is also his amusement: he
goes but rarely into the society whose manners he has to re-produce.
The animals in his pictures, pet animals, are mere toys: he knows it.
But he finishes a large number of works, door-heads, clavecin cases,
and the like. His happiest, his most genial moments, he puts, like
savings of fine gold, into one particular picture (true opus magnum, as
he hopes), The Swing. He has the secret of surprising effects with a
certain pearl-grey silken stuff of his predilection; and it must be
confessed that he paints hands--which a draughtsman, of course, should
understand at least twice as well other people--with surpassing

March 1716.

Is it the depressing result of this labour, of a too exacting labour? I
know not. But at times (it is his one melancholy!) he expresses a
strange apprehension of poverty, of penury and mean surroundings in old
age; reminding me of that childish disposition to hoard, which I
noticed in him of old. And then--inglorious Watteau, as he is!--at
times that steadiness, in which he is so great a contrast to Antony, as
it were accumulates, changes, into a ray of genius, a grace, an
inexplicable touch of truth, in which all his heaviness leaves him for
a while, and he actually goes beyond the master; as himself protests to
me, yet modestly. And still, it is precisely at those moments that he
feels most the difference between himself and Antony Watteau. "In THAT
country, ALL the pebbles are golden nuggets," he says; with perfect

June 1716.

'Tis truly in a delightful abode that Antony Watteau is just now
lodged--the hotel or town-house of M. de Crozat, which is not only a
comfortable dwelling-place, but also a precious museum lucky people go
far to see. Jean-Baptiste, too, has seen the place, and describes it.
The antiquities, beautiful curiosities of all sorts--above all, the
original drawings of those old masters Antony so greatly admires-are
arranged all around one there, that the influence, the genius, of those
things may imperceptibly play upon and enter into one, and form what
one does. The house is situated near the Rue Richelieu, but has a large
garden bout it. M. de Crozat gives his musical parties there, and
Antony Watteau has painted the walls of one of the apartments with the
Four Seasons, after the manner of ours, but doubtless improved by
second thoughts. This beautiful place is now Antony's home for a while.
The house has but one story, with attics in the mansard roofs, like
those of a farmhouse in the country. I fancy Antony fled thither for a
few moments, from the visitors who weary him; breathing the freshness
of that dewy garden in the very midst of Paris. As for me, I suffocate
this summer afternoon in this pretty Watteau chamber of ours, where
Jean-Baptiste is at work so contentedly.

May 1717.

In spite of all that happened, Jean-Baptiste has been looking forward
to a visit to Valenciennes which Antony Watteau had proposed to make.
He hopes always--has a patient hope--that Antony's former patronage of
him may be revived. And now he is among us, actually at his
work-restless and disquieting, meagre, like a woman with some nervous
malady. Is it pity, then, pity only, one must feel for the brilliant
one? He has been criticising the work of Jean-Baptiste, who takes his
judgments generously, gratefully. Can it be that, after all, he
despises and is no true lover of his own art, and is but chilled by an
enthusiasm for it in another, such as that of Jean-Baptiste? as if
Jean-Baptiste over-valued it, or as if some ignobleness or blunder,
some sign that he has really missed his aim, started into sight from
his work at the sound of praise--as if such praise could hardly be
altogether sincere.

June 1717.

And at last one has actual sight of his work--what it is. He has
brought with him certain long-cherished designs to finish here in
quiet, as he protests he has never finished before. That charming
Noblesse--can it be really so distinguished to the minutest point, so
naturally aristocratic? Half in masquerade, playing the drawing-room or
garden comedy of life, these persons have upon them, not less than the
landscape he composes, and among the accidents of which they group
themselves with such a perfect fittingness, a certain light we should
seek for in vain upon anything real. For their framework they have
around them a veritable architecture--a tree-architecture--to which
those moss-grown balusters, termes, statues, fountains, are really but
accessories. Only, as I gaze upon those windless afternoons, I find
myself always saying to myself involuntarily, "The evening will be a
wet one." The storm is always brooding through the massy splendour of
the trees, above those sun-dried glades or lawns, where delicate
children may be trusted thinly clad; and the secular trees themselves
will hardly outlast another generation.

July 1717.

There has been an exhibition of his pictures in the Hall of the Academy
of Saint Luke; and all the world has been to see.

Yes! Besides that unreal, imaginary light upon these scenes, these
persons, which is pure gift of his, there was a light, a poetry, in
those persons and things themselves, close at hand WE had not seen. He
has enabled us to see it: we are so much the better-off thereby, and I,
for one, the better. The world he sets before us so engagingly has its
care for purity, its cleanly preferences, in what one is to SEE--in the
outsides of things-and there is something, a sign, a memento, at the
least, of what makes life really valuable, even in that. There, is my
simple notion, wholly womanly perhaps, but which I may hold by, of the
purpose of the arts.

August 1717.

And yet! (to read my mind, my experience, in somewhat different terms)
methinks Antony Watteau reproduces that gallant world, those patched
and powdered ladies and fine cavaliers, so much to its own
satisfaction, partly because he despises it; if this be a possible
condition of excellent artistic production. People talk of a new era
now dawning upon the world, of fraternity, liberty, humanity, of a
novel sort of social freedom in which men's natural goodness of heart
will blossom at a thousand points hitherto repressed, of wars
disappearing from the world in an infinite, benevolent ease of
life--yes! perhaps of infinite littleness also. And it is the outward
manner of that, which, partly by anticipation, and through pure
intellectual power, Antony Watteau has caught, together with a
flattering something of his own, added thereto. Himself really of the
old time--that serious old time which is passing away, the impress of
which he carries on his physiognomy--he dignifies, by what in him is
neither more nor less than a profound melancholy, the essential
insignificance of what he wills to touch in all that, transforming its
mere pettiness into grace. It looks certainly very graceful, fresh,
animated, "piquant," as they love to say--yes! and withal, I repeat,
perfectly pure, and may well congratulate itself on the loan of a
fallacious grace, not its own. For in truth Antony Watteau is still the
mason's boy, and deals with that world under a fascination, of the
nature of which he is half-conscious methinks, puzzled at "the queer
trick he possesses," to use his own phrase. You see him growing ever
more and more meagre, as he goes through the world and its applause.
Yet he reaches with wonderful sagacity the secret of an adjustment of
colours, a coiffure, a toilette, setting I know not what air of real
superiority on such things. He will never overcome his early training;
and these light things will possess for him always a kind of
representative or borrowed worth, as characterising that impossible or
forbidden world which the mason's boy saw through the closed gateways
of the enchanted garden. Those trifling and petty graces, the insignia
to him of that nobler world of aspiration and idea, even now that he is
aware, as I conceive, of their true littleness, bring back to him, by
the power of association, all the old magical exhilaration of his
dream--his dream of a better world than the real one. There, is the
formula, as I apprehend, of his success--of his extraordinary hold on
things so alien from himself. And I think there is more real hilarity
in my brother's fetes champetres--more truth to life, and therefore
less distinction. Yes! The world profits by such reflection of its
poor, coarse self, in one who renders all its caprices from the height
of a Corneille. That is my way of making up to myself for the fact that
I think his days, too, would have been really happier, had he remained
obscure at Valenciennes.

September 1717.

My own poor likeness, begun so long ago, still remains unfinished on
the easel, at his departure from Valenciennes--perhaps for ever; since
the old people departed this life in the hard winter of last year, at
no distant time from each other. It is pleasanter to him to sketch and
plan than to paint and finish; and he is often out of humour with
himself because he cannot project into a picture the life and spirit of
his first thought with the crayon. He would fain begin where that
famous master Gerard Dow left off, and snatch, as it were with a single
stroke, what in him was the result of infinite patience. It is the sign
of this sort of promptitude that he values solely in the work of
another. To my thinking there is a kind of greed or grasping in that
humour; as if things were not to last very long, and one must snatch
opportunity. And often he succeeds. The old Dutch painter cherished
with a kind of piety his colours and pencils. Antony Watteau, on the
contrary, will hardly make any preparations for his work at all, or
even clean his palette, in the dead-set he makes at improvisation. 'Tis
the contrast perhaps between the staid Dutch genius and the petulant,
sparkling French temper of this new era, into which he has thrown
himself. Alas! it is already apparent that the result also loses
something of longevity, of durability--the colours fading or changing,
from the first, somewhat rapidly, as Jean-Baptiste notes. 'Tis true, a
mere trifle alters or produces the expression. But then, on the other
hand, in pictures the whole effect of which lies in a kind of harmony,
the treachery of a single colour must needs involve the failure of the
whole to outlast the fleeting grace of those social conjunctions it is
meant to perpetuate. This is what has happened, in part, to that
portrait on the easel. Meantime, he has commanded Jean-Baptiste to
finish it; and so it must be.

October 1717.

Antony Watteau is an excellent judge of literature, and I have been
reading (with infinite surprise!) in my afternoon walks in the little
wood here, a new book he left behind him--a great favourite of his; as
it has been a favourite with large numbers in Paris.* Those pathetic
shocks of fortune, those sudden alternations of pleasure and remorse,
which must always lie among the very conditions of an irregular and
guilty love, as in sinful games of chance:--they have begun to talk of
these things in Paris, to amuse themselves with the spectacle of them,
set forth here, in the story of poor Manon Lescaut--for whom fidelity
is impossible, vulgarly eager for the money which can buy pleasures,
such as hers--with an art like Watteau's own, for lightness and grace.
Incapacity of truth, yet with such tenderness, such a gift of tears, on
the one side: on the other, a faith so absolute as to give to an
illicit love almost the regularity of marriage! And this is the book
those fine ladies in Watteau's "conversations," who look so exquisitely
pure, lay down on the cushion when the children run up to have their
laces righted. Yet the pity of it! What floods of weeping! There is a
tone about which strikes me as going well with the grace of these
leafless birch-trees against the sky, the pale silver of their bark,
and a certain delicate odour of decay which rises from the soil. It is
all one half-light; and the heroine, nay! The hero himself also, that
dainty Chevalier des Grieux, with all his fervour, have, I think, but a
half-life in them truly, from the first. And I could fancy myself
almost of their condition sitting here alone this evening, in which a
premature touch of winter makes the world look but an inhospitable
place of entertainment for one's spirit. With so little genial warmth
to hold it there, one feels that the merest accident might detach that
flighty guest altogether. So chilled at heart things seem to me, as I
gaze on that glacial point in the motionless sky, like some mortal spot
whence death begins to creep over the body!

*Possibly written at this date, but almost certainly not printed till
many years later.--Note in Second Edition.

And yet, in the midst of this, by mere force of contrast, comes back to
me, very vividly, the true colour, ruddy with blossom and fruit, of the
past summer, among the streets and gardens of some of our old towns we
visited; when the thought of cold was a luxury, and the earth dry
enough to sleep on. The summer was indeed a fine one; and the whole
country seemed bewitched. A kind of infectious sentiment passed upon
us, like an efflux from its flowers and flowerlike
architecture--flower-like to me at least, but of which I never felt the
beauty before.

And as I think of that, certainly I have to confess that there is a
wonderful reality about this lovers' story; an accordance between
themselves and the conditions of things around them, so deep as to make
it seem that the course of their lives could hardly have been other
than it was. That impression comes, perhaps, wholly of the writer's
skill; but, at all events, I must read the book no more.

June 1718.

And he has allowed that Mademoiselle Rosalba--"ce bel esprit"--who can
discourse upon the arts like a master, to paint his portrait: has
painted hers in return! She holds a lapful of white roses with her two
hands. Rosa Alba--himself has inscribed it! It will be engraved, to
circulate and perpetuate it the better.

One's journal, here in one's solitude, is of service at least in this,
that it affords an escape for vain regrets, angers, impatience. One
puts this and that angry spasm into it, and is delivered from it so.

And then, it was at the desire of M. de Crozat that the thing was done.
One must oblige one's patrons. The lady also, they tell me, is
consumptive, like Antony himself, and like to die. And he, who has
always lacked either the money or the spirits to make that
long-pondered, much-desired journey to Italy, has found in her work the
veritable accent and colour of those old Venetian masters he would so
willingly have studied under the sunshine of their own land. Alas! How
little peace have his great successes given him; how little of that
quietude of mind, without which, methinks, one fails in true dignity of

November 1718.

His thirst for change of place has actually driven him to England, that
veritable home of the consumptive. Ah me! I feel it may be the
finishing stroke. To have run into the native country of consumption!
Strange caprice of that desire to travel, which he has really indulged
so little in his life--of the restlessness which, they tell me, is
itself a symptom of this terrible disease!

January 1720.

As once before, after long silence, a token has reached us, a slight
token that he remembers--an etched plate, one of very few he has
executed, with that old subject: Soldiers on the March. And the weary
soldier himself is returning once more to Valenciennes, on his way from
England to Paris.

February 1720.

Those sharply-arched brows, those restless eyes which seem larger than
ever--something that seizes on one, and is almost terrible, in his
expression--speak clearly, and irresistibly set one on the thought of a
summing-up of his life. I am reminded of the day when, already with
that air of seemly thought, le bel serieux, he was found sketching,
with so much truth to the inmost mind in them, those picturesque
mountebanks at the Fair in the Grande Place; and I find, throughout his
course of life, something of the essential melancholy of the comedian.
He, so fastidious and cold, and who has never "ventured the
representation of passion," does but amuse the gay world; and is aware
of that, though certainly unamused himself all the while. Just now,
however, he is finishing a very different picture--that too, full of
humour--an English family-group, with a little girl riding a wooden
horse: the father, and the mother holding his tobacco-pipe, stand in
the centre.

March 1720.

To-morrow he will depart finally. And this evening the Syndics of the
Academy of Saint Luke came with their scarves and banners to conduct
their illustrious fellow-citizen, by torchlight, to supper in their
Guildhall, where all their beautiful old corporation plate will be
displayed. The Watteau salon was lighted up to receive them. There is
something in the payment of great honours to the living which fills one
with apprehension, especially when the recipient of them looks so like
a dying man. God have mercy on him!

April 1721.

We were on the point of retiring to rest last evening when a messenger
arrived post-haste with a letter on behalf of Antony Watteau, desiring
Jean-Baptiste's presence at Paris. We did not go to bed that night; and
my brother was on his way before daylight, his heart full of a strange
conflict of joy and apprehension.

May 1721.

A letter at last! from Jean-Baptiste, occupied with cares of all sorts
at the bedside of the sufferer. Antony fancying that the air of the
country might do him good, the Abbe Haranger, one of the canons of the
Church of Saint Germain l'Auxerrois, where he was in the habit of
hearing Mass, has lent him a house at Nogent-sur-Marne. There he
receives a few visitors. But in truth the places he once liked best,
the people, nay! the very friends, have become to him nothing less than
insupportable. Though he still dreams of change, and would fain try his
native air once more, he is at work constantly upon his art; but solely
by way of a teacher, instructing (with a kind of remorseful diligence,
it would seem) Jean-Baptiste, who will be heir to his unfinished work,
and take up many of his pictures where he has left them. He seems now
anxious for one thing only, to give his old "dismissed" disciple what
remains of himself and the last secrets of his genius. His
property--9000 livres only--goes to his relations. Jean-Baptiste has
found these last weeks immeasurably useful.

For the rest, bodily exhaustion perhaps, and this new interest in an
old friend, have brought him tranquillity at last, a tranquillity in
which he is much occupied with matters of religion. Ah! it was ever so
with me. And one lives also most reasonably so.--With women, at least,
it is thus, quite certainly. Yet I know not what there is of a pity
which strikes deep, at the thought of a man, a while since so strong,
turning his face to the wall from the things which most occupy men's
lives. 'Tis that homely, but honest cure of Nogent he has caricatured
so often, who attends him.

July 1721.

Our incomparable Watteau is no more! Jean-Baptiste returned
unexpectedly. I heard his hasty footsteps on the stairs. We turned
together into that room; and he told his story there. Antony Watteau
departed suddenly, in the arms of M. Gersaint, on one of the late hot
days of July. At the last moment he had been at work upon a crucifix
for the good cure of Nogent, liking little the very rude one he
possessed. He died with all the sentiments of religion.

He has been a sick man all his life. He was always a seeker after
something in the world that is there in no satisfying measure, or not
at all.


Almost every people, as we know, has had its legend of a "golden age"
and of its return--legends which will hardly be forgotten, however
prosaic the world may become, while man himself remains the aspiring,
never quite contented being he is. And yet in truth, since we are no
longer children, we might well question the advantage of the return to
us of a condition of life in which, by the nature of the case, the
values of things would, so to speak, lie wholly on their surfaces,
unless we could regain also the childish consciousness, or rather
unconsciousness, in ourselves, to take all that adroitly and with the
appropriate lightness of heart. The dream, however, has been left for
the most part in the usual vagueness of dreams: in their waking hours
people have been too busy to furnish it forth with details. What
follows is a quaint legend, with detail enough, of such a return of a
golden or poetically-gilded age (a denizen of old Greece itself
actually finding his way back again among men) as it happened in an
ancient town of medieval France.

Of the French town, properly so called, in which the products of
successive ages, not with-out lively touches of the present, are
blended together harmoniously, with a beauty SPECIFIC--a beauty
cisalpine and northern, yet at the same time quite distinct from the
massive German picturesque of Ulm, or Freiburg, or Augsburg, and of
which Turner has found the ideal in certain of his studies of the
rivers of France, a perfectly happy conjunction of river and town being
of the essence of its physiognomy--the town of Auxerre is perhaps the
most complete realisation to be found by the actual wanderer.
Certainly, for picturesque expression it is the most memorable of a
distinguished group of three in these parts,--Auxerre, Sens,
Troyes,--each gathered, as if with deliberate aim at such effect, about
the central mass of a huge grey cathedral.

Around Troyes the natural picturesque is to be sought only in the rich,
almost coarse, summer colouring of the Champagne country, of which the
very tiles, the plaster and brickwork of its tiny villages and great,
straggling, village-like farms have caught the warmth. The cathedral,
visible far and wide over the fields seemingly of loose wild-flowers,
itself a rich mixture of all the varieties of the Pointed style down to
the latest Flamboyant, may be noticed among the greater French churches
for breadth of proportions internally, and is famous for its almost
unrivalled treasure of stained glass, chiefly of a florid, elaborate,
later type, with much highly conscious artistic contrivance in design
as well as in colour. In one of the richest of its windows, for
instance, certain lines of pearly white run hither and thither, with
delightful distant effect, upon ruby and dark blue. Approaching nearer
you find it to be a Travellers' window, and those odd lines of white
the long walking-staves in the hands of Abraham, Raphael, the Magi, and
the other saintly patrons of journeys. The appropriate provincial
character of the bourgeoisie of Champagne is still to be seen, it would
appear, among the citizens of Troyes. Its streets, for the most part in
timber and pargeting, present more than one unaltered specimen of the
ancient hotel or town-house, with forecourt and garden in the rear; and
its more devout citizens would seem even in their church-building to
have sought chiefly to please the eyes of those occupied with mundane
affairs and out of doors, for they have finished, with abundant outlay,
only the vast, useless portals of their parish churches, of surprising
height and lightness, in a kind of wildly elegant Gothic-on-stilts,
giving to the streets of Troyes a peculiar air of the grotesque, as if
in some quaint nightmare of the Middle Age.

At Sens, thirty miles away to the west, a place of far graver aspect,
the name of Jean Cousin denotes a more chastened temper, even in these
sumptuous decorations. Here all is cool and composed, with an almost
English austerity. The first growth of the Pointed style in
England--the hard "early English" of Canterbury--is indeed the creation
of William, a master reared in the architectural school of Sens; and
the severity of his taste might seem to have acted as a restraining
power on all the subsequent changes of manner in this place--changes in
themselves for the most part towards luxuriance. In harmony with the
atmosphere of its great church is the cleanly quiet of the town, kept
fresh by little channels of clear water circulating through its
streets, derivatives of the rapid Vanne which falls just below into the
Yonne. The Yonne, bending gracefully, link after link, through a
never-ending rustle of poplar trees, beneath lowly vine-clad hills,
with relics of delicate woodland here and there, sometimes close at
hand, sometimes leaving an interval of broad meadow, has all the
lightsome characteristics of French river-side scenery on a smaller
scale than usual, and might pass for the child's fancy of a river, like
the rivers of the old miniature-painters, blue, and full to a fair
green margin. One notices along its course a greater proportion than
elsewhere of still untouched old seignorial residences, larger or
smaller. The range of old gibbous towns along its banks, expanding
their gay quays upon the water-side, have a common character--Joigny,
Villeneuve, Julien-du-Sault--yet tempt us to tarry at each and examine
its relics, old glass and the like, of the Renaissance or the Middle
Age, for the acquisition of real though minor lessons on the various
arts which have left themselves a central monument at
Auxerre.--Auxerre! A slight ascent in the winding road! and you have
before you the prettiest town in France--the broad framework of
vineyard sloping upwards gently to the horizon, with distant white
cottages inviting one to walk: the quiet curve of river below, with all
the river-side details: the three great purple-tiled masses of Saint
Germain, Saint Pierre, and the cathedral of Saint Etienne, rising out
of the crowded houses with more than the usual abruptness and
irregularity of French building. Here, that rare artist, the
susceptible painter of architecture, if he understands the value alike
of line and mass of broad masses and delicate lines, has "a subject
made to his hand."

A veritable country of the vine, it presents nevertheless an expression
peaceful rather than radiant. Perfect type of that happy mean between
northern earnestness and the luxury of the south, for which we prize
midland France, its physiognomy is not quite happy--attractive in part
for its melancholy. Its most characteristic atmosphere is to be seen
when the tide of light and distant cloud is travelling quickly over it,
when rain is not far off, and every touch of art or of time on its old
building is defined in clear grey. A fine summer ripens its grapes into
a valuable wine; but in spite of that it seems always longing for a
larger and more continuous allowance of the sunshine which is so much
to its taste. You might fancy something querulous or plaintive in that
rustling movement of the vine-leaves, as blue-frocked Jacques Bonhomme
finishes his day's labour among them.

To beguile one such afternoon when the rain set in early and walking
was impossible, I found my way to the shop of an old dealer in
bric-a-brac. It was not a monotonous display, after the manner of the
Parisian dealer, of a stock-in-trade the like of which one has seen
many times over, but a discriminate collection of real curiosities. One
seemed to recognise a provincial school of taste in various relics of
the housekeeping of the last century, with many a gem of earlier times
from the old churches and religious houses of the neighbourhood. Among
them was a large and brilliant fragment of stained glass which might
have come from the cathedral itself. Of the very finest quality in
colour and design, it presented a figure not exactly conformable to any
recognised ecclesiastical type; and it was clearly part of a series. On
my eager inquiry for the remainder, the old man replied that no more of
it was known, but added that the priest of a neighbouring village was
the possessor of an entire set of tapestries, apparently intended for
suspension in church, and designed to portray the whole subject of
which the figure in the stained glass was a portion.

Next afternoon accordingly I repaired to the priest's house, in reality
a little Gothic building, part perhaps of an ancient manor-house, close
to the village church. In the front garden, flower-garden and potager
in one, the bees were busy  among the autumn growths--many-coloured
asters, bignonias, scarlet-beans, and the old-fashioned parsonage
flowers. The courteous owner readily showed me his tapestries, some of
which hung on the walls of his parlour and staircase by way of a
background for the display of the other curiosities of which he was a
collector. Certainly, those tapestries and the stained glass dealt with
the same theme. In both were the same musical instruments--pipes,
cymbals, long reed-like trumpets. The story, indeed, included the
building of an organ, just such an instrument, only on a larger scale,
as was standing in the old priest's library, though almost soundless
now, whereas in certain of the woven pictures the hearers appear as if
transported, some of them shouting rapturously to the organ music. A
sort of mad vehemence prevails, indeed, throughout the delicate
bewilderments of the whole series--giddy dances, wild animals leaping,
above all perpetual wreathings of the vine, connecting, like some mazy
arabesque, the various presentations of one oft-repeated figure,
translated here out of the clear-coloured glass into the sadder,
somewhat opaque and earthen hues of the silken threads. The figure was
that of the organ-builder himself, a flaxen and flowery creature,
sometimes wellnigh naked among the vine-leaves, sometimes muffled in
skins against the cold, sometimes in the dress of a monk, but always
with a strong impress of real character and incident from the veritable
streets of Auxerre. What is it? Certainly, notwithstanding its grace,
and wealth of graceful accessories, a suffering, tortured figure. With
all the regular beauty of a pagan god, he has suffered after a manner
of which we must suppose pagan gods incapable. It was as if one of
those fair, triumphant beings had cast in his lot with the creatures of
an age later than his own, people of larger spiritual capacity and
assuredly of a larger capacity for melancholy. With this fancy in my
mind, by the help of certain notes, which lay in the priest's curious
library, upon the history of the works at the cathedral during the
period of its finishing, and in repeated examination of the old
tapestried designs, the story shaped itself at last.

Towards the middle of the thirteenth century the cathedral of Saint
Etienne was complete in its main outlines: what remained was the
building of the great tower, and all that various labour of final
decoration which it would take more than one generation to accomplish.
Certain circumstances, however, not wholly explained, led to a somewhat
rapid finishing, as it were out of hand, yet with a marvellous fulness
at once and grace. Of the result much has perished, or been transferred
elsewhere; a portion is still visible in sumptuous relics of stained
windows, and, above all, in the reliefs which adorn the western
portals, very delicately carved in a fine, firm stone from Tonnerre, of
which time has only browned the surface, and which, for early mastery
in art, may be compared with the contemporary work of Italy. They come
nearer than the art of that age was used to do to the expression of
life; with a feeling for reality, in no ignoble form, caught, it might
seem, from the ardent and full-veined existence then current in these
actual streets and houses. Just then Auxerre had its turn in that
political movement which broke out sympathetically, first in one, then
in another of the towns of France, turning their narrow, feudal
institutions into a free, communistic life--a movement of which those
great centres of popular devotion, the French cathedrals, are in many
instances the monument. Closely connected always with the assertion of
individual freedom, alike in mind and manners, at Auxerre this
political stir was associated also, as cause or effect, with the figure
and character of a particular personage, long remembered. He was the
very genius, it would appear, of that new, free, generous manner in
art, active and potent as a living creature.

As the most skilful of the band of carvers worked there one day, with a
labour he could never quite make equal to the vision within him, a
finely-sculptured Greek coffin of stone, which had been made to serve
for some later Roman funeral, was unearthed by the masons. Here, it
might seem, the thing was indeed done, and art achieved, as far as
regards those final graces, and harmonies of execution, which were
precisely what lay beyond the hand of the medieval workman, who for his
part had largely at command a seriousness of conception lacking in the
old Greek. Within the coffin lay an object of a fresh and brilliant
clearness among the ashes of the dead--a flask of lively green glass,
like a great emerald. It might have been "the wondrous vessel of the
Grail." Only, this object seemed to bring back no ineffable purity, but
rather the riotous and earthy heat of old paganism itself. Coated
within, and, as some were persuaded, still redolent with the tawny
sediment of the Roman wine it had held so long ago, it was set aside
for use at the supper which was shortly to celebrate the completion of
the masons' work. Amid much talk of the great age of gold, and some
random expressions of hope that it might return again, fine old wine of
Auxerre was sipped in small glasses from the precious flask as supper
ended. And, whether or not the opening of the buried vessel had
anything to do with it, from that time a sort of golden age seemed
indeed to be reigning there for a while, and the triumphant completion
of the great church was contemporary with a series of remarkable wine
seasons. The vintage of those years was long remembered. Fine and
abundant wine was to be found stored up even in poor men's cottages;
while a new beauty, a gaiety, was abroad, as all the conjoint arts
branched out exuberantly in a reign of quiet, delighted labour, at the
prompting, as it seemed, of the singular being who came suddenly and
oddly to Auxerre to be the centre of so pleasant a period, though in
truth he made but a sad ending.

A peculiar usage long perpetuated itself at Auxerre. On Easter Day the
canons, in the very centre of the great church, played solemnly at
ball. Vespers being sung, instead of conducting the bishop to his
palace, they proceeded in order into the nave, the people standing in
two long rows to watch. Girding up their skirts a little way, the whole
body of clerics awaited their turn in silence, while the captain of the
singing-boys cast the ball into the air, as high as he might, along the
vaulted roof of the central aisle to be caught by any boy who could,
and tossed again with hand or foot till it passed on to the portly
chanters, the chaplains, the canons themselves, who finally played out
the game with all the decorum of an ecclesiastical ceremony. It was
just then, just as the canons took the ball to themselves so gravely,
that Denys--Denys l'Auxerrois, as he was afterwards called--appeared
for the first time. Leaping in among the timid children, he made the
thing really a game. The boys played like boys, the men almost like
madmen, and all with a delightful glee which became contagious, first
in the clerical body, and then among the spectators. The aged Dean of
the Chapter, Protonotary of his Holiness, held up his purple skirt a
little higher, and stepping from the ranks with an amazing levity, as
if suddenly relieved of his burden of eighty years, tossed the ball
with his foot to the venerable capitular Homilist, equal to the
occasion. And then, unable to stand inactive any longer, the laity
carried on the game among themselves, with shouts of not too boisterous
amusement; the sport continuing till the flight of the ball could no
longer be traced along the dusky aisles.

Though the home of his childhood was but a humble one--one of those
little cliff-houses cut out in the low chalky hillside, such as are
still to be found with inhabitants in certain districts of France-there
were some who connected his birth with the story of a beautiful country
girl, who, about eighteen years before, had been taken from her own
people, not unwillingly, for the pleasure of the Count of Auxerre. She
had wished indeed to see the great lord, who had sought her privately,
in the glory of his own house; but, terrified by the strange splendours
of her new abode and manner of life, and the anger of the true wife,
she had fled suddenly from the place during the confusion of a violent
storm, and in her flight given birth prematurely to a child. The child,
a singularly fair one, was found alive, but the mother dead, by
lightning-stroke as it seemed, not far from her lord's chamber-door,
under the shelter of a ruined ivy-clad tower. Denys himself certainly
was a joyous lad enough. At the cliff-side cottage, nestling actually
beneath the vineyards, he came to be an unrivalled gardener, and, grown
to manhood, brought his produce to market, keeping a stall in the great
cathedral square for the sale of melons and pomegranates, all manner of
seeds and flowers (omnia speciosa camporum), honey also, wax tapers,
sweetmeats hot from the frying-pan, rough home-made pots and pans from
the little pottery in the wood, loaves baked by the aged woman in whose
house he lived. On that Easter Day he had entered the great church for
the first time, for the purpose of seeing the game.

And from the very first, the women who saw him at his business, or
watering his plants in the cool of the evening, idled for him. The men
who noticed the crowd of women at his stall, and how even fresh young
girls from the country, seeing him for the first time, always loitered
there, suspected--who could tell what kind of powers? hidden under the
white veil of that youthful form; and pausing to ponder the matter,
found themselves also fallen into the snare. The sight of him made old
people feel young again. Even the sage monk Hermes, devoted to study
and experiment, was unable to keep the fruit-seller out of his mind,
and would fain have discovered the secret of his charm, partly for the
friendly purpose of explaining to the lad himself his perhaps more than
natural gifts with a view to their profitable cultivation.

It was a period, as older men took note, of young men and their
influence. They took fire, no one could quite explain how, as if at his
presence, and asserted a wonderful amount of volition, of insolence,
yet as if with the consent of their elders, who would themselves
sometimes lose their balance, a little comically. That revolution in
the temper and manner of individuals concurred with the movement then
on foot at Auxerre, as in other French towns, for the liberation of the
commune from its old feudal superiors. Denys they called Frank, among
many other nicknames. Young lords prided themselves on saying that
labour should have its ease, and were almost prepared to take freedom,
plebeian freedom (of course duly decorated, at least with wild-flowers)
for a bride. For in truth Denys at his stall was turning the grave,
slow movement of politic heads into a wild social license, which for a
while made life like a stage-play. He first led those long processions,
through which by and by "the little people," the discontented, the
despairing, would utter their minds. One man engaged with another in
talk in the market-place; a new influence came forth at the contact;
another and then another adhered; at last a new spirit was abroad
everywhere. The hot nights were noisy with swarming troops of
dishevelled women and youths with red-stained limbs and faces, carrying
their lighted torches over the vine-clad hills, or rushing down the
streets, to the horror of timid watchers, towards the cool spaces by
the river. A shrill music, a laughter at all things, was everywhere.
And the new spirit repaired even to church to take part in the novel
offices of the Feast of Fools. Heads flung back in ecstasy--the morning
sleep among the vines, when the fatigue of the night was
over--dew-drenched garments--the serf lying at his ease at last: the
artists, then so numerous at the place, caught what they could,
something, at least, of the richness, the flexibility of the visible
aspects of life, from all this. With them the life of seeming idleness,
to which Denys was conducting the youth of Auxerre so pleasantly,
counted but as the cultivation, for their due service to man, of
delightful natural things. And the powers of nature concurred. It
seemed there would be winter no more. The planet Mars drew nearer to
the earth than usual, hanging in the low sky like a fiery red lamp. A
massive but well-nigh lifeless vine on the wall of the cloister,
allowed to remain there only as a curiosity on account of its immense
age, in that great season, as it was long after called, clothed itself
with fruit once more. The culture of the grape greatly increased. The
sunlight fell for the first time on many a spot of deep woodland
cleared for vine-growing; though Denys, a lover of trees, was careful
to leave a stately specimen of forest growth here and there.

When his troubles came, one characteristic that had seemed most amiable
in his prosperity was turned against him--a fondness for oddly grown or
even misshapen, yet potentially happy, children; for odd animals also:
he sympathised with them all, was skilful in healing their maladies,
saved the hare in the chase, and sold his mantle to redeem a lamb from
the butcher. He taught the people not to be afraid of the strange, ugly
creatures which the light of the moving torches drew from their
hiding-places, nor think it a bad omen that approached. He tamed a
veritable wolf to keep him company like a dog. It was the first of many
ambiguous circumstances about him, from which, in the minds of an
increasing number of people, a deep suspicion and hatred began to
define itself. The rich bestiary, then compiling in the library of the
great church, became, through his assistance, nothing less than a
garden of Eden--the garden of Eden grown wild. The owl alone he
abhorred. A little later, almost as if in revenge, alone of all animals
it clung to him, haunting him persistently among the dusky stone
towers, when grown gentler than ever he dared not kill it. He moved
unhurt in the famous menagerie of the castle, of which the common
people were so much afraid, and let out the lions, themselves timid
prisoners enough, through the streets during the fair. The incident
suggested to the somewhat barren pen-men of the day a "morality"
adapted from the old pagan books--a stage-play in which the God of Wine
should return in triumph from the East. In the cathedral square the
pageant was presented, amid an intolerable noise of every kind of
pipe-music, with Denys in the chief part, upon a gaily-painted chariot,
in soft silken raiment, and, for headdress, a strange elephant-scalp
with gilded tusks.

And that unrivalled fairness and freshness of aspect:--how did he alone
preserve it untouched, through the wind and heat? In truth, it was not
by magic, as some said, but by a natural simplicity in his living. When
that dark season of his troubles arrived he was heard begging
querulously one wintry night, "Give me wine, meat; dark wine and brown
meat!"--come back to the rude door of his old home in the cliff-side.
Till that time the great vine-dresser himself drank only water; he had
lived on spring-water and fruit. A lover of fertility in all its forms,
in what did but suggest it, he was curious and penetrative concerning
the habits of water, and had the secret of the divining-rod. Long
before it came he could detect the scent of rain from afar, and would
climb with delight to the great scaffolding on the unfinished tower to
watch its coming over the thirsty vine-land, till it rattled on the
great tiled roof of the church below; and then, throwing off his
mantle, allow it to bathe his limbs freely, clinging firmly against the
tempestuous wind among the carved imageries of dark stone.

It was on his sudden return after a long journey (one of many
inexplicable disappearances), coming back changed somewhat, that he ate
flesh for the first time, tearing the hot, red morsels with his
delicate fingers in a kind of wild greed. He had fled to the south from
the first forbidding days of a hard winter which came at last. At the
great seaport of Marseilles he had trafficked with sailors from all
parts of the world, from Arabia and India, and bought their wares,
exposed now for sale, to the wonder of all, at the Easter fair--richer
wines and incense than had been known in Auxerre, seeds of marvellous
new flowers, creatures wild and tame, new pottery painted in raw gaudy
tints, the skins of animals, meats fried with unheard-of condiments.
His stall formed a strange, unwonted patch of colour, found suddenly
displayed in the hot morning.

The artists were more delighted than ever, and frequented his company
in the little manorial habitation, deserted long since by its owners
and haunted, so that the eyes of many looked evil upon it, where he had
taken up his abode, attracted, in the first instance, by its rich
though neglected garden, a tangle of every kind of creeping, vine-like
plant. Here, surrounded in abundance by the pleasant materials of his
trade, the vine-dresser as it were turned pedant and kept school for
the various artists, who learned here an art supplementary to their
own,--that gay magic, namely (art or trick) of his existence, till they
found themselves grown into a kind of aristocracy, like veritable gens
fleur-de-lises, as they worked together for the decoration of the great
church and a hundred other places beside. And yet a darkness had grown
upon him. The kind creature had lost something of his gentleness.
Strange motiveless misdeeds had happened; and, at a loss for other
causes, not the envious only would fain have traced the blame to Denys.
He was making the younger world mad. Would he make himself Count of
Auxerre? The lady Ariane, deserted by her former lover, had looked
kindly upon him; was ready to make him son-in-law to the old count her
father, old and not long for this world. The wise monk Hermes bethought
him of certain old readings in which the Wine-god, whose part Denys had
played so well, had his contrast, his dark or antipathetic side; was
like a double creature, of two natures, difficult or impossible to
harmonise. And in truth the much-prized wine of Auxerre has itself but
a fugitive charm, being apt to sicken and turn gross long before the
bottle is empty, however carefully sealed; as it goes indeed, at its
best, by hard names, among those who grow it, such as Chainette and

A kind of degeneration, of coarseness--the coarseness of satiety, and
shapeless, battered-out appetite--with an almost savage taste for
carnivorous diet, had come over the company. A rumour went abroad of
certain women who had drowned, in mere wantonness, their newborn babes.
A girl with child was found hanged by her own act in a dark cellar. Ah!
if Denys also had not felt himself mad! But when the guilt of a murder,
committed with a great vine-axe far out among the vineyards, was
attributed vaguely to him, he could but wonder whether it had been
indeed thus, and the shadow of a fancied crime abode with him. People
turned against their favourite, whose former charms must now be counted
only as the fascinations of witchcraft. It was as if the wine poured
out for them had soured in the cup. The golden age had indeed come back
for a while:--golden was it, or gilded only, after all? and they were
too sick, or at least too serious, to carry through their parts in it.
The monk Hermes was whimsically reminded of that after-thought in pagan
poetry, of a Wine-god who had been in hell. Denys certainly, with all
his flaxen fairness about him, was manifestly a sufferer. At first he
thought of departing secretly to some other place. Alas! his wits were
too far gone for certainty of success in the attempt. He feared to be
brought back a prisoner. Those fat years were over. It was a time of
scarcity. The working people might not eat and drink of the good things
they had helped to store away. Tears rose in the eyes of needy
children, of old or weak people like children, as they woke up again
and again to sunless, frost-bound, ruinous mornings; and the little
hungry creatures went prowling after scattered hedge-nuts or dried
vine-tendrils. Mysterious, dark rains prevailed throughout the summer.
The great offices of Saint John were fumbled through in a sudden
darkness of unseasonable storm, which greatly damaged the carved
ornaments of the church, the bishop reading his mid-day Mass by the
light of the little candle at his book. And then, one night, the night
which seemed literally to have swallowed up the shortest day in the
year, a plot was contrived by certain persons to take Denys as he went
and kill him privately for a sorcerer. He could hardly tell how he
escaped, and found himself safe in his earliest home, the cottage in
the cliff-side, with such a big fire as he delighted in burning upon
the hearth. They made a little feast as well as they could for the
beautiful hunted creature, with abundance of waxlights.

And at last the clergy bethought themselves of a remedy for this evil
time. The body of one of the patron saints had lain neglected somewhere
under the flagstones of the sanctuary. This must be piously exhumed,
and provided with a shrine worthy of it. The goldsmiths, the jewellers
and lapidaries, set diligently to work, and no long time after, the
shrine, like a little cathedral with portals and tower complete, stood
ready, its chiselled gold framing panels of rock crystal, on the great
altar. Many bishops arrived, with King Lewis the Saint himself
accompanied by his mother, to assist at the search for and disinterment
of the sacred relics. In their presence, the Bishop of Auxerre, with
vestments of deep red in honour of the relics, blessed the new shrine,
according to the office De benedictione capsarum pro reliquiis. The
pavement of the choir, removed amid a surging sea of lugubrious chants,
all persons fasting, discovered as if it had been a battlefield of
mouldering human remains. Their odour rose plainly above the plentiful
clouds of incense, such as was used in the king's private chapel. The
search for the Saint himself continued in vain all day and far into the
night. At last from a little narrow chest, into which the remains had
been almost crushed together, the bishop's red-gloved hands drew the
dwindled body, shrunken inconceivably, but still with every feature of
the face traceable in a sudden oblique ray of ghastly dawn.

That shocking sight, after a sharp fit as though a demon were going out
of him, as he rolled on the turf of the cloister to which he had fled
alone from the suffocating church, where the crowd still awaited the
Procession of the relics and the Mass De reliquiis quae continentur in
Ecclesiis, seemed indeed to have cured the madness of Denys, but
certainly did not restore his gaiety. He was left a subdued, silent,
melancholy creature. Turning now, with an odd revulsion of feeling, to
gloomy objects, he picked out a ghastly shred from the common bones on
the pavement to wear about his neck, and in a little while found his
way to the monks of Saint Germain, who gladly received him into their
workshop, though secretly, in fear of his foes.

The busy tribe of variously gifted artists, labouring rapidly at the
many works on hand for the final embellishment of the cathedral of St.
Etienne, made those conventual buildings just then cheerful enough to
lighten a melancholy, heavy even as that of our friend Denys. He took
his place among the workmen, a conventual novice; a novice also as to
whatever concerns any actual handicraft. He could but compound sweet
incense for the sanctuary. And yet, again by merely visible presence,
he made himself felt in all the varied exercise around him of those
arts which address themselves first of all to sight. Unconsciously he
defined a peculiar manner, alike of feeling and expression, to those
skilful hands at work day by day with the chisel, the pencil, or the
needle, in many an enduring form of exquisite fancy. In three
successive phases or fashions might be traced, especially in the carved
work, the humours he had determined. There was first wild gaiety,
exuberant in a wreathing of life-like imageries, from which nothing
really present in nature was excluded. That, as the soul of Denys
darkened, had passed into obscure regions of the satiric, the grotesque
and coarse. But from this time there was manifest, with no loss of
power or effect, a well-assured seriousness, somewhat jealous and
exclusive, not so much in the selection of the material on which the
arts were to work, as in the precise sort of expression that should be
induced upon it. It was as if the gay old pagan world had been BLESSED
in some way; with effects to be seen most clearly in the rich miniature
work of the manuscripts of the capitular library,--a marvellous Ovid
especially, upon the pages of which those old loves and sorrows seemed
to come to life again in medieval costume, as Denys, in cowl now and
with tonsured head, leaned over the painter, and led his work, by a
kind of visible sympathy, often unspoken, rather than by any formal

Above all, there was a desire abroad to attain the instruments of a
freer and more various sacred music than had been in use hitherto--a
music that might express the whole compass of souls now grown to
manhood. Auxerre, then as afterwards, was famous for its liturgical
music. It was Denys, at last, to whom the thought occurred of combining
in a fuller tide of music all the instruments then in use. Like the
Wine-god of old, he had been a lover and patron especially of the music
of the pipe, in all its varieties. Here, too, there had been evident
those three fashions or "modes":--first, the simple and pastoral, the
homely note of the pipe, like the piping of the wind itself from off
the distant fields; then, the wild, savage din, that had cost so much
to quiet people, and driven excitable people mad. Now he would compose
all this to sweeter purposes; and the building of the first organ
became like the book of his life: it expanded to the full compass of
his nature, in its sorrow and delight. In long, enjoyable days of wind
and sun by the river-side, the seemingly half-witted "brother" sought
and found the needful varieties of reed. The carpenters, under his
instruction, set up the great wooden passages for the thunder; while
the little pipes of pasteboard simulated the sound of the human voice
singing to the victorious notes of the long metal trumpets. At times
this also, as people heard night after night those wandering sounds,
seemed like the work of a madman, though they awoke sometimes in wonder
at snatches of a new, an unmistakable new music. It was the triumph of
all the various modes of the power of the pipe, tamed, ruled, united.
Only, on the painted shutters of the organ-case Apollo with his lyre in
his hand, as lord of the strings, seemed to look askance on the music
of the reed, in all the jealousy with which he put Marsyas to death so

Meantime, the people, even his enemies, seemed to have forgotten him.
Enemies, in truth, they still were, ready to take his life should the
opportunity come; as he perceived when at last he ventured forth on a
day of public ceremony. The bishop was to pronounce a blessing upon the
foundations of a new bridge, designed to take the place of the ancient
Roman bridge which, repaired in a thousand places, had hitherto served
for the chief passage of the Yonne. It was as if the disturbing of that
time-worn masonry let out the dark spectres of departed times. Deep
down, at the core of the central pile, a painful object was
exposed--the skeleton of a child, placed there alive, it was rightly
surmised, in the superstitious belief that, by way of vicarious
substitution, its death would secure the safety of all who should pass
over. There were some who found themselves, with a little surprise,
looking round as if for a similar pledge of security in their new
undertaking. It was just then that Denys was seen plainly, standing, in
all essential features precisely as of old, upon one of the great
stones prepared for the foundation of the new building. For a moment he
felt the eyes of the people upon him full of that strange humour, and
with characteristic alertness, after a rapid gaze over the grey city in
its broad green framework of vineyards, best seen from this spot, flung
himself down into the water and disappeared from view where the stream
flowed most swiftly below a row of flour-mills. Some indeed fancied
they had seen him emerge again safely on the deck of one of the great
boats, loaded with grapes and wreathed triumphantly with flowers like a
floating garden, which were then bringing down the vintage from the
country; but generally the people believed their strange enemy now at
last departed for ever. Denys in truth was at work again in peace at
the cloister, upon his house of reeds and pipes. At times his fits came
upon him again; and when they came, for his cure he would dig eagerly,
turned sexton now, digging, by choice, graves for the dead in the
various churchyards of the town. There were those who had seen him thus
employed (that form seeming still to carry something of real sun-gold
upon it) peering into the darkness, while his tears fell sometimes
among the grim relics his mattock had disturbed.

In fact, from the day of the exhumation of the body of the Saint in the
great church, he had had a wonderful curiosity for such objects, and
one wintry day bethought him of removing the body of his mother from
the unconsecrated ground in which it lay, that he might bury it in the
cloister, near the spot where he was now used to work. At twilight he
came over the frozen snow. As he passed through the stony barriers of
the place the world around seemed curdled to the centre--all but
himself, fighting his way across it, turning now and then right-about
from the persistent wind, which dealt so roughly with his blond hair
and the purple mantle whirled about him. The bones, hastily gathered,
he placed, awefully but without ceremony, in a hollow space prepared
secretly within the grave of another.

Meantime the winds of his organ were ready to blow; and with difficulty
he obtained grace from the Chapter for a trial of its powers on a
notable public occasion, as follows. A singular guest was expected at
Auxerre. In recompense for some service rendered to the Chapter in
times gone by, the Sire de Chastellux had the hereditary dignity of a
canon of the church. On the day of his reception he presented himself
at the entrance of the choir in surplice and amice, worn over the
military habit. The old count of Chastellux was lately dead, and the
heir had announced his coming, according to custom, to claim his
ecclesiastical privilege. There had been long feud between the houses
of Chastellux and Auxerre; but on this happy occasion an offer of peace
came with a proposal for the hand of the Lady Ariane.

The goodly young man arrived, and, duly arrayed, was received into his
stall at vespers, the bishop assisting. It was then that the people
heard the music of the organ, rolling over them for the first time,
with various feelings of delight. But the performer on and author of
the instrument was forgotten in his work, and there was no
re-instatement of the former favourite. The religious ceremony was
followed by a civic festival, in which Auxerre welcomed its future
lord. The festival was to end at nightfall with a somewhat rude popular
pageant, in which the person of Winter would be hunted blindfold
through the streets. It was the sequel to that earlier stage-play of
the Return from the East in which Denys had been the central figure.
The old forgotten player saw his part before him, and, as if
mechanically, fell again into the chief place, monk's dress and all. It
might restore his popularity: who could tell? Hastily he donned the
ashen-grey mantle, the rough haircloth about the throat, and went
through the preliminary matter. And it happened that a point of the
haircloth scratched his lip deeply, with a long trickling of blood upon
the chin. It was as if the sight of blood transported the spectators
with a kind of mad rage, and suddenly revealed to them the truth. The
pretended hunting of the unholy creature became a real one, which
brought out, in rapid increase, men's evil passions. The soul of Denys
was already at rest, as his body, now borne along in front of the
crowd, was tossed hither and thither, torn at last limb from limb. The
men stuck little shreds of his flesh, or, failing that, of his torn
raiment, into their caps; the women lending their long hairpins for the
purpose. The monk Hermes sought in vain next day for any remains of the
body of his friend. Only, at nightfall, the heart of Denys was brought
to him by a stranger, still entire. It must long since have mouldered
into dust under the stone, marked with a cross, where he buried it in a
dark corner of the cathedral aisle.

So the figure in the stained glass explained itself. To me, Denys
seemed to have been a real resident at Auxerre. On days of a certain
atmosphere, when the trace of the Middle Age comes out, like old marks
in the stones in rainy weather, I seemed actually to have seen the
tortured figure there--to have met Denys l'Auxerrois in the streets.


It was a winter-scene, by Adrian van de Velde, or by Isaac van Ostade.
All the delicate poetry together with all the delicate comfort of the
frosty season was in the leafless branches turned to silver, the furred
dresses of the skaters, the warmth of the red-brick house fronts under
the gauze of white fog, the gleams of pale sunlight on the cuirasses of
the mounted soldiers as they receded into the distance. Sebastian van
Storck, confessedly the most graceful performer in all that skating
multitude, moving in endless maze over the vast surface of the frozen
water-meadow, liked best this season of the year for its expression of
a perfect impassivity, or at least of a perfect repose. The earth was,
or seemed to be, at rest, with a breathlessness of slumber which suited
the young man's peculiar temper. The heavy summer, as it dried up the
meadows now lying dead below the ice, set free a crowded and competing
world of life, which, while it gleamed very pleasantly russet and
yellow for the painter Albert Cuyp, seemed wellnigh to suffocate
Sebastian van Storck. Yet with all his appreciation of the national
winter, Sebastian was not altogether a Hollander. His mother, of
Spanish descent and Catholic, had given a richness of tone and form to
the healthy freshness of the Dutch physiognomy, apt to preserve its
youthfulness of aspect far beyond the period of life usual with other
peoples. This mixed expression charmed the eye of Isaac van Ostade, who
had painted his portrait from a sketch taken at one of those skating
parties, with his plume of squirrel's tail and fur muff, in all the
modest pleasantness of boyhood. When he returned home lately from his
studies at a place far inland, at the proposal of his tutor, to
recover, as the tutor suggested, a certain loss of robustness,
something more than that cheerful indifference of early youth had
passed away. The learned man, who held, as was alleged, the doctrines
of a surprising new philosophy, reluctant to disturb too early the fine
intelligence of the pupil entrusted to him, had found it, perhaps, a
matter of honesty to send back to his parents one likely enough to
catch from others any sort of theoretic light; for the letter he wrote
dwelt much on the lad's intellectual fearlessness. "At present," he had
written, "he is influenced more by curiosity than by a care for truth,
according to the character of the young. Certainly, he differs
strikingly from his equals in age, by his passion for a vigorous
intellectual gymnastic, such as the supine character of their minds
renders distasteful to most young men, but in which he shows a
fearlessness that at times makes me fancy that his ultimate destination
may be the military life; for indeed the rigidly logical tendency of
his mind always leads him out upon the practical. Don't misunderstand
me! At present, he is strenuous only intellectually; and has given no
definite sign of preference, as regards a vocation in life. But he
seems to me to be one practical in this sense, that his theorems will
shape life for him, directly; that he will always seek, as a matter of
course, the effective equivalent to--the line of being which shall be
the proper continuation of--his line of thinking. This intellectual
rectitude, or candour, which to my mind has a kind of beauty in it, has
reacted upon myself, I confess, with a searching quality." That
"searching quality," indeed, many others also, people far from being
intellectual, had experienced--an agitation of mind in his
neighbourhood, oddly at variance with the composure of the young man's
manner and surrounding, so jealously preserved.

In the crowd of spectators at the skating, whose eyes followed, so
well-satisfied, the movements of Sebastian van Storck, were the mothers
of marriageable daughters, who presently became the suitors of this
rich and distinguished youth, introduced to them, as now grown to man's
estate, by his delighted parents. Dutch aristocracy had put forth all
its graces to become the winter morn: and it was characteristic of the
period that the artist tribe was there, on a grand footing,--in
waiting, for the lights and shadows they liked best. The artists were,
in truth, an important body just then, as a natural consequence of the
nation's hard-won prosperity; helping it to a full consciousness of the
genial yet delicate homeliness it loved, for which it had fought so
bravely, and was ready at any moment to fight anew, against man or the
sea. Thomas de Keyser, who understood better than any one else the kind
of quaint new Atticism which had found its way into the world over
those waste salt marshes, wondering whether quite its finest type as he
understood it could ever actually be seen there, saw it at last, in
lively motion, in the person of Sebastian van Storck, and desired to
paint his portrait. A little to his surprise, the young man declined
the offer; not graciously, as was thought.

Holland, just then, was reposing on its laurels after its long contest
with Spain, in a short period of complete wellbeing, before troubles of
another kind should set in. That a darker time might return again, was
clearly enough felt by Sebastian the elder--a time like that of William
the Silent, with its insane civil animosities, which would demand
similarly energetic personalities, and offer them similar
opportunities. And then, it was part of his honest geniality of
character to admire those who "get on" in the world. Himself had been,
almost from boyhood, in contact with great affairs. A member of the
States-General which had taken so hardly the kingly airs of Frederick
Henry, he had assisted at the Congress of Munster, and figures
conspicuously in Terburgh's picture of that assembly, which had finally
established Holland as a first-rate power. The heroism by which the
national wellbeing had been achieved was still of recent memory--the
air full of its reverberation, and great movement. There was a
tradition to be maintained; the sword by no means resting in its
sheath. The age was still fitted to evoke a generous ambition; and this
son, from whose natural gifts there was so much to hope for, might play
his part, at least as a diplomatist, if the present quiet continued.
Had not the learned man said that his natural disposition would lead
him out always upon practice? And in truth, the memory of that Silent
hero had its fascination for the youth. When, about this time, Peter de
Keyser, Thomas's brother, unveiled at last his tomb of wrought bronze
and marble in the Nieuwe Kerk at Delft, the young Sebastian was one of
a small company present, and relished much the cold and abstract
simplicity of the monument, so conformable to the great, abstract, and
unuttered force of the hero who slept beneath.

In complete contrast to all that is abstract or cold in art, the home
of Sebastian, the family mansion of the Storcks--a house, the front of
which still survives in one of those patient architectural pieces by
Jan van der Heyde--was, in its minute and busy wellbeing, like an
epitome of Holland itself with all the good-fortune of its "thriving
genius" reflected, quite spontaneously, in the national taste. The
nation had learned to content itself with a religion which told little,
or not at all, on the outsides of things. But we may fancy that
something of the religious spirit had gone, according to the law of the
transmutation of forces, into the scrupulous care for cleanliness, into
the grave, old-world, conservative beauty of Dutch houses, which meant
that the life people maintained in them was normally affectionate and

The most curious florists of Holland were ambitious to supply the
Burgomaster van Storck with the choicest products of their skill for
the garden spread below the windows on either side of the portico, and
along the central avenue of hoary beeches which led to it. Naturally
this house, within a mile of the city of Haarlem, became a resort of
the artists, then mixing freely in great society, giving and receiving
hints as to the domestic picturesque. Creatures of leisure--of leisure
on both sides--they were the appropriate complement of Dutch
prosperity, as it was understood just then. Sebastian the elder could
almost have wished his son to be one of them: it was the next best
thing to the being an influential publicist or statesman. The Dutch had
just begun to see what a picture their country was--its canals, and
boompjis, and endless, broadly-lighted meadows, and thousands of miles
of quaint water-side: and their painters, the first true masters of
landscape for its own sake, were further informing them in the matter.
They were bringing proof, for all who cared to see, of the wealth of
colour there was all around them in this, supposably, sad land. Above
all, they developed the old Low-country taste for interiors. Those
innumerable genre pieces--conversation, music, play--were in truth the
equivalent of novel-reading for that day; its own actual life, in its
own proper circumstances, reflected in various degrees of idealisation,
with no diminution of the sense of reality (that is to say) but with
more and more purged and perfected delightfulness of interest.
Themselves illustrating, as every student of their history knows, the
good-fellowship of family life, it was the ideal of that life which
these artists depicted; the ideal of home in a country where the
preponderant interest of life, after all, could not well be out of
doors. Of the earth earthy--genuine red earth of the old Adam--it was
an ideal very different from that which the sacred Italian painters had
evoked from the life of Italy, yet, in its best types, was not without
a kind of natural religiousness. And in the achievement of a type of
beauty so national and vernacular, the votaries of purely Dutch art
might well feel that the Italianisers, like Berghem, Boll, and Jan
Weenix went so far afield in vain.

The fine organisation and acute intelligence of Sebastian would have
made him an effective connoisseur of the arts, as he showed by the
justice of his remarks in those assemblies of the artists which his
father so much loved. But in truth the arts were a matter he could but
just tolerate. Why add, by a forced and artificial production, to the
monotonous tide of competing, fleeting existence? Only, finding so much
fine art actually about him, he was compelled (so to speak) to adjust
himself to it; to ascertain and accept that in it which should least
collide with, or might even carry forward a little, his own
characteristic tendencies. Obviously somewhat jealous of his
intellectual interests, he loved inanimate nature, it might have been
thought, better than man. He cared nothing, indeed, for the warm
sandbanks of Wynants, nor for those eerie relics of the ancient Dutch
woodland which survive in Hobbema and Ruysdael, still less for the
highly-coloured sceneries of the academic band at Rome, in spite of the
escape they provide one into clear breadth of atmosphere. For though
Sebastian van Storck refused to travel, he loved the distant--enjoyed
the sense of things seen from a distance, carrying us, as on wide wings
of space itself, far out of one's actual surrounding. His preference in
the matter of art was, therefore, for those prospects a vol
d'oiseau--of the caged bird on the wing at last--of which Rubens had
the secret, and still more Philip de Koninck, four of whose choicest
works occupied the four walls of his chamber; visionary escapes, north,
south, east, and west, into a wide-open though, it must be confessed, a
somewhat sullen land. For the fourth of them he had exchanged with his
mother a marvellously vivid Metsu, lately bequeathed to him, in which
she herself was presented. They were the sole ornaments he permitted
himself. From the midst of the busy and busy-looking house, crowded
with the furniture and the pretty little toys of many generations, a
long passage led the rare visitor up a winding staircase, and (again at
the end of a long passage) he found himself as if shut off from the
whole talkative Dutch world, and in the embrace of that wonderful quiet
which is also possible in Holland at its height all around him. It was
here that Sebastian could yield himself, with the only sort of love he
had ever felt, to the supremacy of his difficult thoughts.--A kind of
EMPTY place! Here, you felt, all had been mentally put to rights by the
working-out of a long equation, which had zero is equal to zero for its
result. Here one did, and perhaps felt, nothing; one only thought. Of
living creatures only birds came there freely, the sea-birds
especially, to attract and detain which there were all sorts of
ingenious contrivances about the windows, such as one may see in the
cottage sceneries of Jan Steen and others. There was something,
doubtless, of his passion for distance in this welcoming of the
creatures of the air. An extreme simplicity in their manner of life
was, indeed, characteristic of many a distinguished Hollander--William
the Silent, Baruch de Spinosa, the brothers de Witt. But the simplicity
of Sebastian van Storck was something different from that, and
certainly nothing democratic. His mother thought him like one
disembarrassing himself carefully, and little by little, of all
impediments, habituating himself gradually to make shift with as little
as possible, in preparation for a long journey.

The Burgomaster van Storck entertained a party of friends, consisting
chiefly of his favourite artists, one summer evening. The guests were
seen arriving on foot in the fine weather, some of them accompanied by
their wives and daughters, against the light of the low sun, falling
red on the old trees of the avenue and the faces of those who advanced
along it:--Willem van Aelst, expecting to find hints for a
flower-portrait in the exotics which would decorate the
banqueting-room; Gerard Dow, to feed his eye, amid all that glittering
luxury, on the combat between candle-light and the last rays of the
departing sun; Thomas de Keyser, to catch by stealth the likeness of
Sebastian the younger. Albert Cuyp was there, who, developing the
latent gold in Rembrandt, had brought into his native Dordrecht a heavy
wealth of sunshine, as exotic as those flowers or the eastern carpets
on the Burgomaster's tables, with Hooch, the indoor Cuyp, and Willem
van de Velde, who painted those shore-pieces with gay ships of war,
such as he loved, for his patron's cabinet. Thomas de Keyser came, in
company with his brother Peter, his niece, and young Mr. Nicholas Stone
from England, pupil of that brother Peter, who afterwards married the
niece. For the life of Dutch artists, too, was exemplary in matters of
domestic relationship, its history telling many a cheering story of
mutual faith in misfortune. Hardly less exemplary was the comradeship
which they displayed among themselves, obscuring their own best gifts
sometimes, one in the mere accessories of another man's work, so that
they came together to-night with no fear of falling out, and spoiling
the musical interludes of Madame van Storck in the large back parlour.
A little way behind the other guests, three of them together, son,
grandson, and the grandfather, moving slowly, came the
Hondecoeters--Giles, Gybrecht, and Melchior. They led the party before
the house was entered, by fading light, to see the curious poultry of
the Burgomaster go to roost; and it was almost night when the
supper-room was reached at last. The occasion was an important one to
Sebastian, and to others through him. For (was it the music of the
duets? he asked himself next morning, with a certain distaste as he
remembered it all, or the heady Spanish wines poured out so freely in
those narrow but deep Venetian glasses?) on this evening he approached
more nearly than he had ever yet done to Mademoiselle van Westrheene,
as she sat there beside the clavecin looking very ruddy and fresh in
her white satin, trimmed with glossy crimson swans-down.

So genially attempered, so warm, was life become, in the land of which
Pliny had spoken as scarcely dry land at all. And, in truth, the sea
which Sebastian so much loved, and with so great a satisfaction and
sense of wellbeing in every hint of its nearness, is never far distant
in Holland. Invading all places, stealing under one's feet, insinuating
itself everywhere along an endless network of canals (by no means such
formal channels as we understand by the name, but picturesque rivers,
with sedgy banks and haunted by innumerable birds) its incidents
present themselves oddly even in one's park or woodland walks; the ship
in full sail appearing suddenly among the great trees or above the
garden wall, where we had no suspicion of the presence of water. In the
very conditions of life in such a country there was a standing force of
pathos. The country itself shared the uncertainty of the individual
human life; and there was pathos also in the constantly renewed,
heavily-taxed labour, necessary to keep the native soil, fought for so
unselfishly, there at all, with a warfare that must still be maintained
when that other struggle with the Spaniard was over. But though
Sebastian liked to breathe, so nearly, the sea and its influences,
those were considerations he scarcely entertained. In his passion for
Schwindsucht--we haven't the word--he found it pleasant to think of the
resistless element which left one hardly a foot-space amidst the
yielding sand; of the old beds of lost rivers, surviving now only as
deeper channels in the sea; of the remains of a certain ancient town,
which within men's memory had lost its few remaining inhabitants, and,
with its already empty tombs, dissolved and disappeared in the flood.

It happened, on occasion of an exceptionally low tide, that some
remarkable relics were exposed to view on the coast of the island of
Vleeland. A countryman's waggon overtaken by the tide, as he returned
with merchandise from the shore! you might have supposed, but for a
touch of grace in the construction of the thing--lightly wrought
timber-work, united and adorned by a multitude of brass fastenings,
like the work of children for their simplicity, while the rude, stiff
chair, or throne, set upon it, seemed to distinguish it as a chariot of
state. To some antiquarians it told the story of the overwhelming of
one of the chiefs of the old primeval people of Holland, amid all his
gala array, in a great storm. But it was another view which Sebastian
preferred; that this object was sepulchral, namely, in its motive--the
one surviving relic of a grand burial, in the ancient manner, of a king
or hero, whose very tomb was wasted away.--Sunt metis metae! There came
with it the odd fancy that he himself would like to have been dead and
gone as long ago, with a kind of envy of those whose deceasing was so
long since over.

On more peaceful days he would ponder Pliny's account of those primeval
forefathers, but without Pliny's contempt for them. A cloyed Roman
might despise their humble existence, fixed by necessity from age to
age, and with no desire of change, as "the ocean poured in its flood
twice a day, making it uncertain whether the country was a part of the
continent or of the sea." But for his part Sebastian found something of
poetry in all that, as he conceived what thoughts the old Hollander
might have had at his fishing, with nets themselves woven of seaweed,
waiting carefully for his drink on the heavy rains, and taking refuge,
as the flood rose, on the sand-hills, in a little hut constructed but
airily on tall stakes, conformable to the elevation of the highest
tides, like a navigator, thought the learned writer, when the sea was
risen, like a ship-wrecked mariner when it was retired. For the fancy
of Sebastian he lived with great breadths of calm light above and
around him, influenced by, and, in a sense, living upon them, and
surely might well complain, though to Pliny's so infinite surprise, on
being made a Roman citizen.

And certainly Sebastian van Storck did not felicitate his people on the
luck which, in the words of another old writer, "hath disposed them to
so thriving a genius." Their restless ingenuity in making and
maintaining dry land where nature had willed the sea, was even more
like the industry of animals than had been that life of their
forefathers. Away with that tetchy, feverish, unworthy agitation! with
this and that, all too importunate, motive of interest! And then, "My
son!" said his father, "be stimulated to action!" he, too, thinking of
that heroic industry which had triumphed over nature precisely where
the contest had been most difficult.

Yet, in truth, Sebastian was forcibly taken by the simplicity of a
great affection, as set forth in an incident of real life of which he
heard just then. The eminent Grotius being condemned to perpetual
imprisonment, his wife determined to share his fate, alleviated only by
the reading of books sent by friends. The books, finished, were
returned in a great chest. In this chest the wife enclosed the husband,
and was able to reply to the objections of the soldiers who carried it
complaining of its weight, with a self-control, which she maintained
till the captive was in safety, herself remaining to face the
consequences; and there was a kind of absoluteness of affection in
that, which attracted Sebastian for a while to ponder on the practical
forces which shape men's lives. Had he turned, indeed, to a practical
career it would have been less in the direction of the military or
political life than of another form of enterprise popular with his
countrymen. In the eager, gallant life of that age, if the sword fell
for a moment into its sheath, they were for starting off on perilous
voyages to the regions of frost and snow in search after that
"North-Western passage," for the discovery of which the States-General
had offered large rewards. Sebastian, in effect, found a charm in the
thought of that still, drowsy, spellbound world of perpetual ice, as in
art and life he could always tolerate the sea. Admiral-general of
Holland, as painted by Van der Helst, with a marine background by
Backhuizen:--at moments his father could fancy him so.

There was still another very different sort of character to which
Sebastian would let his thoughts stray, without check, for a time. His
mother, whom he much resembled outwardly, a Catholic from Brabant, had
had saints in her family, and from time to time the mind of Sebastian
had been occupied on the subject of monastic life, its quiet, its
negation. The portrait of a certain Carthusian prior, which, like the
famous statue of Saint Bruno, the first Carthusian, in the church of
Santa Maria degli Angeli at Rome, could it have spoken, would have
said, "Silence!" kept strange company with the painted visages of men
of affairs. A great theological strife was then raging in Holland.
Grave ministers of religion assembled sometimes, as in the painted
scene by Rembrandt, in the Burgomaster's house, and once, not however
in their company, came a renowned young Jewish divine, Baruch de
Spinosa, with whom, most unexpectedly, Sebastian found himself in
sympathy, meeting the young Jew's far-reaching thoughts half-way, to
the confirmation of his own; and he did not know that his visitor, very
ready with the pencil, had taken his likeness as they talked on the
fly-leaf of his note-book. Alive to that theological disturbance in the
air all around him, he refused to be moved by it, as essentially a
strife on small matters, anticipating a vagrant regret which may have
visited many other minds since, the regret, namely, that the old,
pensive, use-and-wont Catholicism, which had accompanied the nation's
earlier struggle for existence, and consoled it therein, had been taken
from it. And for himself, indeed, what impressed him in that old
Catholicism was a kind of lull in it--a lulling power--like that of the
monotonous organ-music, which Holland, Catholic or not, still so
greatly loves. But what he could not away with in the Catholic religion
was its unfailing drift towards the concrete--the positive imageries of
a faith, so richly beset with persons, things, historical incidents.

Rigidly logical in the method of his inferences, he attained the poetic
quality only by the audacity with which he conceived the whole sublime
extension of his premises. The contrast was a strange one between the
careful, the almost petty fineness of his personal surrounding--all the
elegant conventionalities of life, in that rising Dutch family--and the
mortal coldness of a temperament, the intellectual tendencies of which
seemed to necessitate straightforward flight from all that was
positive. He seemed, if one may say so, in love with death; preferring
winter to summer; finding only a tranquillising influence in the
thought of the earth beneath our feet cooling down for ever from its
old cosmic heat; watching pleasurably how their colours fled out of
things, and the long sand-bank in the sea, which had been the rampart
of a town, was washed down in its turn. One of his acquaintance, a
penurious young poet, who, having nothing in his pockets but the
imaginative or otherwise barely potential gold of manuscript verses,
would have grasped so eagerly, had they lain within his reach, at the
elegant outsides of life, thought the fortunate Sebastian, possessed of
every possible opportunity of that kind, yet bent only on dispensing
with it, certainly a most puzzling and comfortless creature. A few
only, half discerning what was in his mind, would fain have shared his
intellectual clearness, and found a kind of beauty in this youthful
enthusiasm for an abstract theorem. Extremes meeting, his cold and
dispassionate detachment from all that is most attractive to ordinary
minds came to have the impressiveness of a great passion. And for the
most part, people had loved him; feeling instinctively that somewhere
there must be the justification of his difference from themselves. It
was like being in love: or it was an intellectual malady, such as
pleaded for forbearance, like bodily sickness, and gave at times a
resigned and touching sweetness to what he did and said. Only once, at
a moment of the wild popular excitement which at that period was easy
to provoke in Holland, there was a certain group of persons who would
have shut him up as no well-wisher to, and perhaps a plotter against,
the common-weal. A single traitor might cut the dykes in an hour, in
the interest of the English or the French. Or, had he already committed
some treasonable act, who was so anxious to expose no writing of his
that he left his very letters unsigned, and there were little
stratagems to get specimens of his fair manuscript? For with all his
breadth of mystic intention, he was persistent, as the hours crept on,
to leave all the inevitable details of life at least in order, in
equation. And all his singularities appeared to be summed up in his
refusal to take his place in the life-sized family group (tres
distingue et tres soigne remarks a modern critic of the work) painted
about this time. His mother expostulated with him on the matter:--she
must needs feel, a little icily, the emptiness of hope, and something
more than the due measure of cold in things for a woman of her age, in
the presence of a son who desired but to fade out of the world like a
breath--and she suggested filial duty. "Good mother," he answered,
"there are duties towards the intellect also, which women can but
rarely understand."

The artists and their wives were come to supper again, with the
Burgomaster van Storck. Mademoiselle van Westrheene was also come, with
her sister and mother. The girl was by this time fallen in love with
Sebastian; and she was one of the few who, in spite of his terrible
coldness, really loved him for himself. But though of good birth she
was poor, while Sebastian could not but perceive that he had many
suitors of his wealth. In truth, Madame van Westrheene, her mother, did
wish to marry this daughter into the great world, and plied many arts
to that end, such as "daughterful" mothers use. Her healthy freshness
of mien and mind, her ruddy beauty, some showy presents that had
passed, were of a piece with the ruddy colouring of the very house
these people lived in; and for a moment the cheerful warmth that may be
felt in life seemed to come very close to him,--to come forth, and
enfold him. Meantime the girl herself taking note of this, that on a
former occasion of their meeting he had seemed likely to respond to her
inclination, and that his father would readily consent to such a
marriage, surprised him on the sudden with those coquetries and
importunities, all those little arts of love, which often succeed with
men. Only, to Sebastian they seemed opposed to that absolute nature we
suppose in love. And while, in the eyes of all around him to-night,
this courtship seemed to promise him, thus early in life, a kind of
quiet happiness, he was coming to an estimate of the situation, with
strict regard to that ideal of a calm, intellectual indifference, of
which he was the sworn chevalier. Set in the cold, hard light of that
ideal, this girl, with the pronounced personal views of her mother, and
in the very effectiveness of arts prompted by a real affection,
bringing the warm life they prefigured so close to him, seemed vulgar!
And still he felt himself bound in honour; or judged from their manner
that she and those about them thought him thus bound. He did not
reflect on the inconsistency of the feeling of honour (living, as it
does essentially, upon the concrete and minute detail of social
relationship) for one who, on principle, set so slight a value on
anything whatever that is merely relative in its character.

The guests, lively and late, were almost pledging the betrothed in the
rich wine. Only Sebastian's mother knew; and at that advanced hour,
while the company were thus intently occupied, drew away the
Burgomaster to confide to him the misgiving she felt, grown to a great
height just then. The young man had slipped from the assembly; but
certainly not with Mademoiselle van Westrheene, who was suddenly
withdrawn also. And she never appeared again in the world. Already,
next day, with the rumour that Sebastian had left his home, it was
known that the expected marriage would not take place. The girl,
indeed, alleged something in the way of a cause on her part; but seemed
to fade away continually afterwards, and in the eyes of all who saw her
was like one perishing of wounded pride. But to make a clean breast of
her poor girlish worldliness, before she became a beguine, she
confessed to her mother the receipt of the letter--the cruel letter
that had killed her. And in effect, the first copy of this letter,
written with a very deliberate fineness, rejecting her--accusing her,
so natural, and simply loyal! of a vulgar coarseness of character--was
found, oddly tacked on, as their last word, to the studious record of
the abstract thoughts which had been the real business of Sebastian's
life, in the room whither his mother went to seek him next day,
littered with the fragments of the one portrait of him in existence.

The neat and elaborate manuscript volume, of which this letter formed
the final page (odd transition! by which a train of thought so abstract
drew its conclusion in the sphere of action) afforded at length to the
few who were interested in him a much-coveted insight into the
curiosity of his existence; and I pause just here to indicate in
outline the kind of reasoning through which, making the "Infinite" his
beginning and his end, Sebastian had come to think all definite forms
of being, the warm pressure of life, the cry of nature itself, no more
than a troublesome irritation of the surface of the one absolute mind,
a passing vexatious thought or uneasy dream there, at its height of
petulant importunity in the eager, human creature.

The volume was, indeed, a kind of treatise to be:--a hard, systematic,
well-concatenated train of thought, still implicated in the
circumstances of a journal. Freed from the accidents of that particular
literary form with its unavoidable details of place and occasion, the
theoretic strain would have been found mathematically continuous. The
already so weary Sebastian might perhaps never have taken in hand, or
succeeded in, this detachment of his thoughts; every one of which,
beginning with himself as the peculiar and intimate apprehension of
this or that particular day and hour, seemed still to protest against
such disturbance, as if reluctant to part from those accidental
associations of the personal history which had prompted it, and so
become a purely intellectual abstraction.

The series began with Sebastian's boyish enthusiasm for a strange, fine
saying of Doctor Baruch de Spinosa, concerning the Divine Love:--That
whoso loveth God truly must not expect to be loved by him in return. In
mere reaction against an actual surrounding of which every circumstance
tended to make him a finished egotist, that bold assertion defined for
him the ideal of an intellectual disinterestedness, of a domain of
unimpassioned mind, with the desire to put one's subjective side out of
the way, and let pure reason speak.

And what pure reason affirmed in the first place, as the "beginning of
wisdom," was that the world is but a thought, or a series of thoughts:
that it exists, therefore, solely in mind. It showed him, as he fixed
the mental eye with more and more of self-absorption on the phenomena
of his intellectual existence, a picture or vision of the universe as
actually the product, so far as he really knew it, of his own lonely
thinking power--of himself, there, thinking: as being zero without him:
and as possessing a perfectly homogeneous unity in that fact. "Things
that have nothing in common with each other," said the axiomatic
reason, "cannot be understood or explained by means of each other." But
to pure reason things discovered themselves as being, in their essence,
thoughts:--all things, even the most opposite things, mere
transmutations, of a single power, the power of thought. All was but
conscious mind. Therefore, all the more exclusively, he must minister
to mind, to the intellectual power, submitting himself to the sole
direction of that, whithersoever it might lead him. Everything must be
referred to, and, as it were, changed into the terms of that, if its
essential value was to be ascertained. "Joy," he said, anticipating
Spinosa--that, for the attainment of which men are ready to surrender
all beside--"is but the name of a passion in which the mind passes to a
greater perfection or power of thinking; as grief is the name of the
passion in which it passes to a less."

Looking backward for the generative source of that creative power of
thought in him, from his own mysterious intellectual being to its first
cause, he still reflected, as one can but do, the enlarged pattern of
himself into the vague region of hypothesis. In this way, some, at all
events, would have explained his mental process. To him that process
was nothing less than the apprehension, the revelation, of the greatest
and most real of ideas--the true substance of all things. He, too, with
his vividly-coloured existence, with this picturesque and sensuous
world of Dutch art and Dutch reality all around that would fain have
made him the prisoner of its colours, its genial warmth, its struggle
for life, its selfish and crafty love, was but a transient perturbation
of the one absolute mind; of which, indeed, all finite things whatever,
time itself, the most durable achievements of nature and man, and all
that seems most like independent energy, are no more than petty
accidents or affections. Theorem and corollary! Thus they stood:

"There can be only one substance: (corollary) it is the greatest of
errors to think that the non-existent, the world of finite things seen
and felt, really is: (theorem): for, whatever is, is but in that:
(practical corollary): one's wisdom, therefore, consists in hastening,
so far as may be, the action of those forces which tend to the
restoration of equilibrium, the calm surface of the absolute,
untroubled mind, to tabula rasa, by the extinction in one's self of all
that is but correlative to the finite illusion--by the suppression of

In the loneliness which was gathering round him, and, oddly enough, as
a somewhat surprising thing, he wondered whether there were, or had
been, others possessed of like thoughts, ready to welcome any such as
his veritable compatriots. And in fact he became aware just then, in
readings difficult indeed, but which from their all-absorbing interest
seemed almost like an illicit pleasure, a sense of kinship with certain
older minds. The study of many an earlier adventurous theorist
satisfied his curiosity as the record of daring physical adventure, for
instance, might satisfy the curiosity of the healthy. It was a
tradition--a constant tradition--that daring thought of his; an echo,
or haunting recurrent voice of the human soul itself, and as such
sealed with natural truth, which certain minds would not fail to heed;
discerning also, if they were really loyal to themselves, its practical
conclusion.--The one alone is: and all things beside are but its
passing affections, which have no necessary or proper right to be.

As but such "accidents" or "affections," indeed, there might have been
found, within the circumference of that one infinite creative thinker,
some scope for the joy and love of the creature. There have been
dispositions in which that abstract theorem has only induced a renewed
value for the finite interests around and within us. Centre of heat and
light, truly nothing has seemed to lie beyond the touch of its
perpetual summer. It has allied itself to the poetical or artistic
sympathy, which feels challenged to acquaint itself with and explore
the various forms of finite existence all the more intimately, just
because of that sense of one lively spirit circulating through all
things--a tiny particle of the one soul, in the sunbeam, or the leaf.
Sebastian van Storck, on the contrary, was determined, perhaps by some
inherited satiety or fatigue in his nature, to the opposite issue of
the practical dilemma. For him, that one abstract being was as the
pallid Arctic sun, disclosing itself over the dead level of a glacial,
a barren and absolutely lonely sea. The lively purpose of life had been
frozen out of it. What he must admire, and love if he could, was
"equilibrium," the void, the tabula rasa, into which, through all those
apparent energies of man and nature, that in truth are but forces of
disintegration, the world was really settling. And, himself a mere
circumstance in a fatalistic series, to which the clay of the potter
was no sufficient parallel, he could not expect to be "loved in
return." At first, indeed, he had a kind of delight in his thoughts--in
the eager pressure forward, to whatsoever conclusion, of a rigid
intellectual gymnastic, which was like the making of Euclid. Only,
little by little, under the freezing influence of such propositions,
the theoretic energy itself, and with it his old eagerness for truth,
the care to track it from proposition to proposition, was chilled out
of him. In fact, the conclusion was there already, and might have been
foreseen, in the premises. By a singular perversity, it seemed to him
that every one of those passing "affections"--he too, alas! at
times--was for ever trying to be, to assert ITSELF, to maintain its
isolated and petty self, by a kind of practical lie in things; although
through every incident of its hypothetic existence it had protested
that its proper function was to die. Surely! those transient affections
marred the freedom, the truth, the beatific calm, of the absolute
selfishness, which could not, if it would, pass beyond the
circumference of itself; to which, at times, with a fantastic sense of
wellbeing, he was capable of a sort of fanatical devotion. And those,
as he conceived, were his moments of genuine theoretic insight, in
which, under the abstract "perpetual light," he died to self; while the
intellect, after all, had attained a freedom of its own through the
vigorous act which assured him that, as nature was but a thought of
his, so himself also was but the passing thought of God.

No! rather a puzzle only, an anomaly, upon that one, white, unruffled
consciousness! His first principle once recognised, all the rest, the
whole array of propositions down to the heartless practical conclusion,
must follow of themselves. Detachment: to hasten hence: to fold up
one's whole self, as a vesture put aside: to anticipate, by such
individual force as he could find in him, the slow disintegration by
which nature herself is levelling the eternal hills:--here would be the
secret of peace, of such dignity and truth as there could be in a world
which after all was essentially an illusion. For Sebastian at least,
the world and the individual alike had been divested of all effective
purpose. The most vivid of finite objects, the dramatic episodes of
Dutch history, the brilliant personalities which had found their parts
to play in them, that golden art, surrounding us with an ideal world,
beyond which the real world is discernible indeed, but etherealised by
the medium through which it comes to one: all this, for most men so
powerful a link to existence, only set him on the thought of
escape--means of escape--into a formless and nameless infinite world,
quite evenly grey. The very emphasis of those objects, their
importunity to the eye, the ear, the finite intelligence, was but the
measure of their distance from what really is. One's personal presence,
the presence, such as it is, of the most incisive things and persons
around us, could only lessen by so much, that which really is. To
restore tabula rasa, then, by a continual effort at self-effacement!
Actually proud at times of his curious, well-reasoned nihilism, he
could but regard what is called the business of life as no better than
a trifling and wearisome delay. Bent on making sacrifice of the rich
existence possible for him, as he would readily have sacrificed that of
other people, to the bare and formal logic of the answer to a query
(never proposed at all to entirely healthy minds) regarding the remote
conditions and tendencies of that existence, he did not reflect that if
others had inquired as curiously as himself the world could never have
come so far at all--that the fact of its having come so far was itself
a weighty exception to his hypothesis. His odd devotion, soaring or
sinking into fanaticism, into a kind of religious mania, with what was
really a vehement assertion of his individual will, he had formulated
duty as the principle to hinder as little as possible what he called
the restoration of equilibrium, the restoration of the primary
consciousness to itself--its relief from that uneasy, tetchy, unworthy
dream of a world, made so ill, or dreamt so weakly--to forget, to be

And at length this dark fanaticism, losing the support of his pride in
the mere novelty of a reasoning so hard and dry, turned round upon him,
as our fanaticism will, in black melancholy. The theoretic or
imaginative desire to urge Time's creeping footsteps, was felt now as
the physical fatigue which leaves the book or the letter unfinished, or
finishes eagerly out of hand, for mere finishing's sake, unimportant
business. Strange! that the presence to the mind of a metaphysical
abstraction should have had this power over one so fortunately endowed
for the reception of the sensible world. It could hardly have been so
with him but for the concurrence of physical causes with the influences
proper to a mere thought. The moralist, indeed, might have noted that a
meaner kind of pride, the morbid fear of vulgarity, lent secret
strength to the intellectual prejudice, which realised duty as the
renunciation of all finite objects, the fastidious refusal to be or do
any limited thing. But besides this it was legible in his own
admissions from time to time, that the body, following, as it does with
powerful temperaments, the lead of mind and the will, the intellectual
consumption (so to term it) had been concurrent with, had strengthened
and been strengthened by, a vein of physical phthisis--by a merely
physical accident, after all, of his bodily constitution, such as might
have taken a different turn, had another accident fixed his home among
the hills instead of on the shore. Is it only the result of disease? he
would ask himself sometimes with a sudden suspicion of his intellectual
cogency--this persuasion that myself, and all that surrounds me, are
but a diminution of that which really is?--this unkindly melancholy?

The journal, with that "cruel" letter to Mademoiselle van Westrheene
coming as the last step in the rigid process of theoretic deduction,
circulated among the curious; and people made their judgments upon it.
There were some who held that such opinions should be suppressed by
law; that they were, or might become, dangerous to society. Perhaps it
was the confessor of his mother who thought of the matter most justly.
The aged man smiled, observing how, even for minds by no means
superficial, the mere dress it wears alters the look of a familiar
thought; with a happy sort of smile, as he added (reflecting that such
truth as there was in Sebastian's theory was duly covered by the
propositions of his own creed, and quoting Sebastian's favourite pagan
wisdom from the lips of Saint Paul) "in Him, we live, and move, and
have our being."

Next day, as Sebastian escaped to the sea under the long, monotonous
line of wind-mills, in comparative calm of mind--reaction of that
pleasant morning from the madness of the night before--he was making
light, or trying to make light, with some success, of his late
distress. He would fain have thought it a small matter, to be
adequately set at rest for him by certain well-tested influences of
external nature, in a long visit to the place he liked best: a desolate
house, amid the sands of the Helder, one of the old lodgings of his
family property now, rather, of the sea-birds, and almost surrounded by
the encroaching tide, though there were still relics enough of hardy,
sweet things about it, to form what was to Sebastian the most perfect
garden in Holland. Here he could make "equation" between himself and
what was not himself, and set things in order, in preparation towards
such deliberate and final change in his manner of living as
circumstances so clearly necessitated.

As he stayed in this place, with one or two silent serving people, a
sudden rising of the wind altered, as it might seem, in a few dark,
tempestuous hours, the entire world around him. The strong wind changed
not again for fourteen days, and its effect was a permanent one; so
that people might have fancied that an enemy had indeed cut the dykes
somewhere--a pin-hole enough to wreck the ship of Holland, or at least
this portion of it, which underwent an inundation of the sea the like
of which had not occurred in that province for half a century. Only,
when the body of Sebastian was found, apparently not long after death,
a child lay asleep, swaddled warmly in his heavy furs, in an upper room
of the old tower, to which the tide was almost risen; though the
building still stood firmly, and still with the means of life in
plenty. And it was in the saving of this child, with a great effort, as
certain circumstances seemed to indicate, that Sebastian had lost his

His parents were come to seek him, believing him bent on
self-destruction, and were almost glad to find him thus. A learned
physician, moreover, endeavoured to comfort his mother by remarking
that in any case he must certainly have died ere many years were
passed, slowly, perhaps painfully, of a disease then coming into the
world; disease begotten by the fogs of that country--waters, he
observed, not in their place, "above the firmament"--on people grown
somewhat over-delicate in their nature by the effects of modern luxury.


One stormy season about the beginning of the present century, a great
tree came down among certain moss-covered ridges of old masonry which
break the surface of the Rosenmold heath, exposing, together with its
roots, the remains of two persons. Whether the bodies (male and female,
said German bone-science) had been purposely buried there was
questionable. They seemed rather to have been hidden away by the
accident, whatever it was, which had caused death--crushed, perhaps,
under what had been the low wall of a garden--being much distorted, and
lying, though neatly enough discovered by the upheaval of the soil, in
great confusion. People's attention was the more attracted to the
incident because popular fancy had long run upon a tradition of buried
treasures, golden treasures, in or about the antiquated ruin which the
garden boundary enclosed; the roofless shell of a small but
solidly-built stone house, burnt or overthrown, perhaps in the time of
the wars at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Many persons went
to visit the remains lying out on the dark, wild plateau, which
stretches away above the tallest roofs of the old grand-ducal town,
very distinctly outlined, on that day, in deep fluid grey against a sky
still heavy with coming rain. No treasure, indeed, was forthcoming
among the masses of fallen stone. But the tradition was so far
verified, that the bones had rich golden ornaments about them; and for
the minds of some long-remembering people their discovery set at rest
an old query. It had never been precisely known what was become of the
young Duke Carl, who disappeared from the world just a century before,
about the time when a great army passed over those parts, at a
political crisis, one result of which was the final absorption of his
small territory in a neighbouring dominion. Restless, romantic,
eccentric, had he passed on with the victorious host, and taken the
chances of an obscure soldier's life? Certain old letters hinted at a
different ending--love-letters which provided for a secret meeting,
preliminary perhaps to the final departure of the young Duke (who, by
the usage of his realm, could only with extreme difficulty go whither,
or marry whom, he pleased) to whatever worlds he had chosen, not of his
own people. The minds of those still interested in the matter were now
at last made up, the disposition of the remains suggesting to them the
lively picture of a sullen night, the unexpected passing of the great
army, and the two lovers rushing forth wildly at the sudden tumult
outside their cheerful shelter, caught in the dark and trampled out so,
surprised and unseen, among the horses and heavy guns.

Time, at the court of the Grand-duke of Rosenmold, at the beginning of
the eighteenth century might seem to have been standing still almost
since the Middle Age--since the days of the Emperor Charles the Fifth,
at which period, by the marriage of the hereditary Grand-duke with a
princess of the Imperial house, a sudden tide of wealth, flowing
through the grand-ducal exchequer, had left a kind of golden
architectural splendour on the place, always too ample for its
population. The sloping Gothic roofs for carrying off the heavy snows
still indented the sky--a world of tiles, with space uncurtailed for
the awkward gambols of that very German goblin, Hans Klapper, on the
long, slumberous, northern nights. Whole quarryfuls of wrought stone
had been piled along the streets and around the squares, and were now
grown, in truth, like nature's self again, in their rough, time-worn
massiveness, with weeds and wild flowers where their decay accumulated,
blossoming, always the same, beyond people's memories, every summer, as
the storks came back to their platforms on the remote chimney-tops.
Without, all was as it had been on the eve of the Thirty Years' War:
the venerable dark-green mouldiness, priceless pearl of architectural
effect, was unbroken by a single new gable. And within, human life--its
thoughts, its habits, above all, its etiquette--had keen put out by no
matter of excitement, political or intellectual, ever at all, one might
say, at any time. The rambling grand-ducal palace was full to
overflowing with furniture, which, useful or useless, was all
ornamental, and none of it new. Suppose the various objects, especially
the contents of the haunted old lumber-rooms, duly arranged and
ticketed, and their Highnesses would have had a historic museum, after
which those famed "Green Vaults" at Dresden would hardly have counted
as one of the glories of Augustus the Strong. An immense heraldry, that
truly German vanity, had grown, expatiating, florid, eloquent, over
everything, without and within--windows, house-fronts, church walls,
and church floors. And one-half of the male inhabitants were big or
little State functionaries, mostly of a quasi decorative order--the
treble-singer to the town-council, the court organist, the court poet,
and the like--each with his deputies and assistants, maintaining, all
unbroken, a sleepy ceremonial, to make the hours just noticeable as
they slipped away. At court, with a continuous round of ceremonies,
which, though early in the day, must always take place under a jealous
exclusion of the sun, one seemed to live in perpetual candle-light.

It was in a delightful rummaging of one of those lumber-rooms, escaped
from that candle-light into the broad day of the uppermost windows,
that the young Duke Carl laid his hand on an old volume of the year
1486, printed in heavy type, with frontispiece, perhaps, by Albert
Duerer--Ars Versificandi: The Art of Versification: by Conrad Celtes.
Crowned poet of the Emperor Frederick the Third, he had the right to
speak on that subject; for while he vindicated as best he might old
German literature against the charge of barbarism, he did also a man's
part towards reviving in the Fatherland the knowledge of the poetry of
Greece and Rome; and for Carl, the pearl, the golden nugget, of the
volume was the Sapphic ode with which it closed--To Apollo, praying
that he would come to us from Italy, bringing his lyre with him: Ad
Apollinem, Ut ab Italis cum lyra ad Germanos veniat. The god of light,
coming to Germany from some more favoured world beyond it, over leagues
of rainy hill and mountain, making soft day there: that had ever been
the dream of the ghost-ridden yet deep-feeling and certainly meek
German soul; of the great Duerer, for instance, who had been the friend
of this Conrad Celtes, and himself, all German as he was, like a gleam
of real day amid that hyperborean German darkness--a darkness which
clave to him, too, at that dim time, when there were violent robbers,
nay, real live devils, in every German wood. And it was precisely the
aspiration of Carl himself. Those verses, coming to the boy's hand at
the right moment, brought a beam of effectual daylight to a whole
magazine of observation, fancy, desire, stored up from the first
impressions of childhood. To bring Apollo with his lyre to Germany! It
was precisely that he, Carl, desired to do--was, as he might flatter
himself, actually doing.

The daylight, the Apolline aurora, which the young Duke Carl claimed to
be bringing to his candle-lit people, came in the somewhat questionable
form of the contemporary French ideal, in matters of art and
literature--French plays, French architecture, French
looking-glasses--Apollo in the dandified costume of Lewis the
Fourteenth. Only, confronting the essentially aged and decrepit graces
of his model with his own essentially youthful temper, he invigorated
what he borrowed; and with him an aspiration towards the classical
ideal, so often hollow and insincere, lost all its affectation. His
doating grandfather, the reigning Grand-duke, afforded readily enough,
from the great store of inherited wealth which would one day be the
lad's, the funds necessary for the completion of the vast unfinished
Residence, with "pavilions" (after the manner of the famous Mansard)
uniting its scattered parts; while a wonderful flowerage of
architectural fancy, with broken attic roofs, passed over and beyond
the earlier fabric; the later and lighter forms being in part carved
adroitly out of the heavy masses of the old, honest, "stump Gothic"
tracery. One fault only Carl found in his French models, and was
resolute to correct. He would have, at least within, real marble in
place of stucco, and, if he might, perhaps solid gold for gilding.
There was something in the sanguine, floridly handsome youth, with his
alertness of mind turned wholly, amid the vexing preoccupations of an
age of war, upon embellishment and the softer things of life, which
soothed the testy humours of the old Duke, like the quiet physical
warmth of a fire or the sun. He was ready to preside with all ceremony
at a presentation of Marivaux's Death of Hannibal, played in the
original, with such imperfect mastery of the French accent as the
lovers of new light in Rosenmold had at command, in a theatre copied
from that at Versailles, lined with pale yellow satin, and with a
picture, amid the stucco braveries of the ceiling, of the Septentrional
Apollo himself, in somewhat watery red and blue. Innumerable wax lights
in cut-glass lustres were a thing of course. Duke Carl himself, attired
after the newest French fashion, played the part of Hannibal. The old
Duke, indeed, at a council-board devoted hitherto to matters of state,
would nod very early in certain long discussions on matters of
art--magnificent schemes, from this or that eminent contractor, for
spending his money tastefully, distinguishings of the rococo and the
baroque. On the other hand, having been all his life in close
intercourse with select humanity, self-conscious and arrayed for
presentation, he was a helpful judge of portraits and the various
degrees of the attainment of truth therein--a phase of fine art which
the grandson could not value too much. The sergeant-painter and the
deputy sergeant-painter were, indeed, conventional performers enough;
as mechanical in their dispensation of wigs, finger-rings, ruffles, and
simpers, as the figure of the armed knight who struck the bell in the
Residence tower. But scattered through its half-deserted rooms, state
bed-chambers and the like, hung the works of more genuine masters,
still as unadulterate as the hock, known to be two generations old, in
the grand-ducal cellar. The youth had even his scheme of inviting the
illustrious Antony Coppel to the court; to live there, if he would,
with the honours and emoluments of a prince of the blood. The
illustrious Mansard had actually promised to come, had not his sudden
death taken him away from earthly glory.

And at least, if one must forgo the masters, masterpieces might be had
for their price. For ten thousand marks--day ever to be remembered!--a
genuine work of "the Urbinate," from the cabinet of a certain
commercially-minded Italian grand-duke, was on its way to Rosenmold,
anxiously awaited as it came over rainy mountain-passes, and along the
rough German roads, through doubtful weather. The tribune, the throne
itself, were made ready in the presence-chamber, with hangings in the
grand-ducal colours, laced with gold, together with a speech and an
ode. Late at night, at last, the waggon was heard rumbling into the
courtyard, with the guest arrived in safety, but, if one must confess
one's self, perhaps forbidding at first sight. From a comfortless
portico, with all the grotesqueness of the Middle Age, supported by
brown, aged bishops, whose meditations no incident could distract, Our
Lady looked out no better than an unpretending nun, with nothing to say
the like of which one was used to hear. Certainly one was not
stimulated by, enwrapped, absorbed in the great master's doings; only,
with much private disappointment, put on one's mettle to defend him
against critics notoriously wanting in sensibility, and against one's
self. In truth, the painter whom Carl most unaffectedly enjoyed, the
real vigour of his youthful and somewhat animal taste finding here its
proper sustenance, was Rubens--Rubens reached, as he is reached at his
best, in well-preserved family portraits, fresh, gay, ingenious, as of
privileged young people who could never grow old. Had not he, too,
brought something of the splendour of a "better land" into those
northern regions; if not the glowing gold of Titian's Italian sun, yet
the carnation and yellow of roses or tulips, such as might really grow
there with cultivation, even under rainy skies? And then, about this
time something was heard at the grand-ducal court of certain mysterious
experiments in the making of porcelain; veritable alchemy, for the
turning of clay into gold. The reign of Dresden china was at hand, with
one's own world of little men and women more delightfully diminutive
still, amid imitations of artificial flowers. The young Duke braced
himself for a plot to steal the gifted Herr Boettcher from his enforced
residence, as if in prison, at the fortress of Meissen. Why not bring
pots and wheels to Rosenmold, and prosecute his discoveries there? The
Grand-duke, indeed, preferred his old service of gold plate, and would
have had the lad a virtuoso in nothing less costly than gold--gold

For, in truth, regarding what belongs to art or culture, as elsewhere,
we may have a large appetite and little to feed on. Only, in the things
of the mind, the appetite itself counts for so much, at least in
hopeful, unobstructed youth, with the world before it. "You are the
Apollo you tell us of, the northern Apollo," people were beginning to
say to him, surprised from time to time by a mental purpose beyond
their guesses--expressions, liftings, softly gleaming or vehement
lights, in the handsome countenance of the youth, and his effective
speech, as he roamed, inviting all about him to share the honey, from
music to painting, from painting to the drama, all alike florid in
style, yes! and perhaps third-rate. And so far consistently throughout
he had held that the centre of one's intellectual system must be
understood to be in France. He had thoughts of proceeding to that
country, secretly, in person, there to attain the very impress of its

Meantime, its more portable flowers came to order in abundance. That
the roses, so to put it, were but excellent artificial flowers,
redolent only of musk, neither disproved for Carl the validity of his
ideal nor for our minds the vocation of Carl himself in these matters.
In art, as in all other things of the mind, again, much depends on the
receiver; and the higher informing capacity, if it exist within, will
mould an unpromising matter to itself, will realise itself by
selection, and the preference of the better in what is bad or
indifferent, asserting its prerogative under the most unlikely
conditions. People had in Carl, could they have understood it, the
spectacle, under those superficial braveries, of a really heroic effort
of mind at a disadvantage. That rococo seventeenth-century French
imitation of the true Renaissance, called out in Carl a boundless
enthusiasm, as the Italian original had done two centuries before. He
put into his reception of the aesthetic achievements of Lewis the
Fourteenth what young France had felt when Francis the First brought
home the great Da Vinci and his works. It was but himself truly, after
all, that he had found, so fresh and real, among those artificial roses.

He was thrown the more upon such outward and sensuous products of
mind--architecture, pottery, presently on music--because for him, with
so large intellectual capacity, there was, to speak properly, no
literature in his mother-tongue. Books there were, German books, but of
a dulness, a distance from the actual interests of the warm, various,
coloured life around and within him, to us hardly conceivable. There
was more entertainment in the natural train of his own solitary
thoughts, humoured and rightly attuned by pleasant visible objects,
than in all the books he had hunted through so carefully for that
all-searching intellectual light, of which a passing gleam of interest
gave fallacious promise here or there. And still, generously, he held
to the belief, urging him to fresh endeavour, that the literature which
might set heart and mind free must exist somewhere, though court
librarians could not say where. In search for it he spent many days in
those old book-closets where he had lighted on the Latin ode of Conrad
Celtes. Was German literature always to remain no more than a kind of
penal apparatus for the teasing of the brain? Oh for a literature set
free, conterminous with the interests of life itself.

In music, it might be thought, Germany had already vindicated its
spiritual liberty. One and another of those North-german towns were
already aware of the youthful Sebastian Bach. The first notes had been
heard of a music not borrowed from France, but flowing, as naturally as
springs from their sources, out of the ever musical soul of Germany
itself. And the Duke Carl was a sincere lover of music, himself playing
melodiously on the violin to a delighted court. That new Germany of the
spirit would be builded, perhaps, to the sound of music. In those other
artistic enthusiasms, as the prophet of the French drama or the
architectural taste of Lewis the Fourteenth, he had contributed himself
generously, helping out with his own good-faith the inadequacy of their
appeal. Music alone hitherto had really helped HIM, and taken him out
of himself. To music, instinctively, more and more he was dedicate; and
in his desire to refine and organise the court music, from which, by
leave of absence to official performers enjoying their salaries at a
distance, many parts had literally fallen away, like the favourite
notes of a worn-out spinet, he was ably seconded by a devoted youth,
the deputy organist of the grand-ducal chapel. A member of the Roman
Church amid a people chiefly of the Reformed religion, Duke Carl would
creep sometimes into the curtained court pew of the Lutheran Church, to
which he had presented its massive golden crucifix, to listen to the
chorales, the execution of which he had managed to time to his liking,
relishing, he could hardly explain why, those passages of a pleasantly
monotonous and, as it might seem, unending melody--which certainly
never came to what could rightly be called an ending here on earth; and
having also a sympathy with the cheerful genius of Dr. Martin Luther,
with his good tunes, and that ringing laughter which sent dull goblins

At this time, then, his mind ran eagerly for awhile on the project of
some musical and dramatic development of a fancy suggested by that old
Latin poem of Conrad Celtes--the hyperborean Apollo, sojourning, in the
revolutions of time, in the sluggish north for a season, yet Apollo
still, prompting art, music, poetry, and the philosophy which
interprets man's life, making a sort of intercalary day amid the
natural darkness; not meridian day, of course, but a soft derivative
daylight, good enough for us. It would be necessarily a mystic piece,
abounding in fine touches, suggestions, innuendoes. His vague proposal
was met half-way by the very practical executant power of his friend or
servant, the deputy organist, already pondering, with just a satiric
flavour (suppressible in actual performance, if the time for that
should ever come) a musical work on Duke Carl himself; Balder, an
Interlude. He was contented to re-cast and enlarge the part of the
northern god of light, with a now wholly serious intention. But still,
the near, the real and familiar, gave precision to, or actually
superseded, the distant and the ideal. The soul of the music was but a
transfusion from the fantastic but so interesting creature close at
hand. And Carl was certainly true to his proposed part in that he
gladdened others by an intellectual radiance which had ceased to mean
warmth or animation for himself. For him the light was still to seek in
France, in Italy, above all in old Greece, amid the precious things
which might yet be lurking there unknown, in art, in poetry, perhaps in
very life, till Prince Fortunate should come.

Yes! it was thither, to Greece, that his thoughts were turned during
those romantic classical musings while the opera was made ready. That,
in due time, was presented, with sufficient success. Meantime, his
purpose was grown definite to visit that original country of the Muses,
from which the pleasant things of Italy had been but derivative; to
brave the difficulties in the way of leaving home at all, the
difficulties also of access to Greece, in the present condition of the

At times the fancy came that he must really belong by descent to a
southern race, that a physical cause might lie beneath this strange
restlessness, like the imperfect reminiscence of something that had
passed in earlier life. The aged ministers of heraldry were set to work
(actually prolonging their days by an unexpected revival of interest in
their too well-worn function) at the search for some obscure rivulet of
Greek descent--later Byzantine Greek, perhaps,--in the Rosenmold
genealogy. No! with a hundred quarterings, they were as indigenous,
incorruptible heraldry reasserted, as the old yew-trees' asquat on the

And meantime those dreams of remote and probably adventurous travel
lent the youth, still so healthy of body, a wing for more distant
expeditions than he had ever yet inclined to, among his own wholesome
German woodlands. In long rambles, afoot or on horseback, by day and
night, he flung himself, for the resettling of his sanity, on the
cheerful influences of their simple imagery; the hawks, as if asleep on
the air below him; the bleached crags, evoked by late sunset among the
dark oaks; the water-wheels, with their pleasant murmur, in the
foldings of the hillside.

Clouds came across his heaven, little sudden clouds, like those which
in this northern latitude, where summer is at best but a flighty
visitor, chill out the heart, though but for a few minutes at a time,
of the warmest afternoon. He had fits of the gloom of other
people--their dull passage through and exit from the world, the
threadbare incidents of their lives, their dismal funerals--which,
unless he drove them away immediately by strenuous exercise, settled
into a gloom more properly his own. Yet at such times outward things
also would seem to concur unkindly in deepening the mental shadow about
him, almost as if there were indeed animation in the natural world,
elfin spirits in those inaccessible hillsides and dark ravines, as old
German poetry pretended, cheerfully assistant sometimes, but for the
most part troublesome, to their human kindred. Of late these fits had
come somewhat more frequently, and had continued. Often it was a weary,
deflowered face that his favourite mirrors reflected. Yes! people were
prosaic, and their lives threadbare:---all but himself and organist
Max, perhaps, and Fritz the treble-singer. In return, the people in
actual contact with him thought him a little mad, though still ready to
flatter his madness, as he could detect. Alone with the doating old
grandfather in their stiff, distant, alien world of etiquette, he felt
surrounded by flatterers, and would fain have tested the sincerity even
of Max, and Fritz who said, echoing the words of the other, "Yourself,
Sire, are the Apollo of Germany!"

It was his desire to test the sincerity of the people about him, and
unveil flatterers, which in the first instance suggested a trick he
played upon the court, upon all Europe. In that complex but wholly
Teutonic genealogy lately under research, lay a much-prized thread of
descent from the fifth Emperor Charles, and Carl, under direction, read
with much readiness to be impressed all that was attainable concerning
the great ancestor, finding there in truth little enough to reward his
pains. One hint he took, however. He determined to assist at his own

That he might in this way facilitate that much-desired journey occurred
to him almost at once as an accessory motive, and in a little while
definite motives were engrossed in the dramatic interest, the pleasing
gloom, the curiosity, of the thing itself. Certainly, amid the living
world in Germany, especially in old, sleepy Rosenmold, death made great
parade of itself. Youth even, in its sentimental mood, was ready to
indulge in the luxury of decay, and amuse itself with fancies of the
tomb; as in periods of decadence or suspended progress, when the world
seems to nap for a time, artifices for the arrest or disguise of old
age are adopted as a fashion, and become the fopperies of the young.
The whole body of Carl's relations, saving the drowsy old grandfather,
already lay buried beneath their expansive heraldries: at times the
whole world almost seemed buried thus--made and re-made of the
dead--its entire fabric of politics, of art, of custom, being
essentially heraldic "achievements," dead men's mementoes such as
those. You see he was a sceptical young man, and his kinsmen dead and
gone had passed certainly, in his imaginations of them, into no other
world, save, perhaps, into some stiffer, slower, sleepier, and more
pompous phase of ceremony--the last degree of court etiquette--as they
lay there in the great, low-pitched, grand-ducal vault, in their
coffins, dusted once a year for All Souls' Day, when the court
officials descended thither, and Mass for the dead was sung, amid an
array of dropping crape and cobwebs. The lad, with his full red lips
and open blue eyes, coming as with a great cup in his hands to life's
feast, revolted from the like of that, as from suffocation. And still
the suggestion of it was everywhere. In the garish afternoon, up to the
wholesome heights of the Heiligenberg suddenly from one of the villages
of the plain came the grinding death-knell. It seemed to come out of
the ugly grave itself, and enjoyment was dead. On his way homeward
sadly, an hour later, he enters by chance the open door of a village
church, half buried in the tangle of its churchyard. The rude coffin is
lying there of a labourer who had but a hovel to live in. The enemy
dogged one's footsteps! The young Carl seemed to be flying, not from
death simply, but from assassination.

And as these thoughts sent him back in the rebounding power of youth,
with renewed appetite, to life and sense, so, grown at last familiar,
they gave additional purpose to his fantastic experiment. Had it not
been said by a wise man that after all the offence of death was in its
trappings? Well! he would, as far as might be, try the thing, while,
presumably, a large reversionary interest in life was still his. He
would purchase his freedom, at least of those gloomy "trappings," and
listen while he was spoken of as dead. The mere preparations gave
pleasant proof of the devotion to him of a certain number, who entered
without question into his plans. It is not difficult to mislead the
world concerning what happens to those who live at the artificial
distance from it of a court, with its high wall of etiquette. However
the matter was managed, no one doubted, when, with a blazon of
ceremonious words, the court news went forth that, after a brief
illness, according to the way of his race, the hereditary Grand-duke
was deceased. In momentary regret, bethinking them of the lad's taste
for splendour, those to whom the arrangement of such matters belonged
(the grandfather now sinking deeper into bare quiescence) backed by the
popular wish, determined to give him a funeral with even more than
grand-ducal measure of lugubrious magnificence. The place of his repose
was marked out for him as officiously as if it had been the
delimitation of a kingdom, in the ducal burial vault, through the
cobwebbed windows of which, from the garden where he played as a child,
the young Duke had often peered at the faded glories of the immense
coroneted coffins, the oldest shedding their velvet tatters around
them. Surrounded by the whole official world of Rosenmold, arrayed for
the occasion in almost forgotten dresses of ceremony as if for a
masquerade, the new coffin glided from the fragrant chapel where the
Requiem was sung, down the broad staircase lined with peach-colour and
yellow marble, into the shadows below. Carl himself, disguised as a
strolling musician, had followed it across the square through a
drenching rain, on which circumstance he overheard the old people
congratulate the "blessed" dead within, had listened to a dirge of his
own composing brought out on the great organ with much bravura by his
friend, the new court organist, who was in the secret, and that night
turned the key of the garden entrance to the vault, and peeped in upon
the sleepy, painted, and bewigged young pages whose duty it would be
for a certain number of days to come to watch beside their late
master's couch.

And a certain number of weeks afterwards it was known that "the mad
Duke" had reappeared, to the dismay of court marshals. Things might
have gone hard with the youth had the strange news, at first as
fantastic rumour, then as matter of solemn enquiry, lastly as
ascertained fact, pleasing or otherwise, been less welcome than it was
to the grandfather, too old, indeed, to sorrow deeply, but grown so
decrepit as to propose that ministers should possess themselves of the
person of the young Duke, proclaim him of age and regent. From those
dim travels, presenting themselves to the old man, who had never been
fifty miles away from home, as almost lunar in their audacity, he would
come back--come back "in time," he murmured faintly, eager to feel that
youthful, animating life on the stir about him once more.

Carl himself, now the thing was over, greatly relishing its satiric
elements, must be forgiven the trick of the burial and his still
greater enormity in coming to life again. And then, duke or no duke, it
was understood that he willed that things should in no case be
precisely as they had been. He would never again be quite so near
people's lives as in the past--a fitful, intermittent visitor--almost
as if he had been properly dead; the empty coffin remaining as a kind
of symbolical "coronation incident," setting forth his future relations
to his subjects. Of all those who believed him dead one human creature
only, save the grandfather, had sincerely sorrowed for him; a woman, in
tears as the funeral train passed by, with whom he had sympathetically
discussed his own merits. Till then he had forgotten the incident which
had exhibited him to her as the very genius of goodness and strength;
how, one day, driving with her country produce into the market, and,
embarrassed by the crowd, she had broken one of a hundred little police
rules, whereupon the officers were about to carry her away to be fined,
or worse, amid the jeers of the bystanders, always ready to deal hardly
with "the gipsy," at which precise moment the tall Duke Carl, like the
flash of a trusty sword, had leapt from the palace stair and caused her
to pass on in peace. She had half detected him through his disguise; in
due time news of his reappearance had been ceremoniously carried to her
in her little cottage, and the remembrance of her hung about him not
ungratefully, as he went with delight upon his way.

The first long stage of his journey over, in headlong flight night and
day, he found himself one summer morning under the heat of what seemed
a southern sun, at last really at large on the Bergstrasse, with the
rich plain of the Palatinate on his left hand; on the right hand
vineyards, seen now for the first time, sloping up into the crisp
beeches of the Odenwald. By Weinheim only an empty tower remained of
the Castle of Windeck. He lay for the night in the great whitewashed
guest-chamber of the Capuchin convent.

The national rivers, like the national woods, have a family likeness:
the Main, the Lahn, the Moselle, the Neckar, the Rhine. By help of such
accommodation as chance afforded, partly on the stream itself, partly
along the banks, he pursued the leisurely winding course of one of the
prettiest of these, tarrying for awhile in the towns, grey, white, or
red, which came in his way, tasting their delightful native "little"
wines, peeping into their old overloaded churches, inspecting the
church furniture, or trying the organs. For three nights he slept, warm
and dry, on the hay stored in a deserted cloister, and, attracted into
the neighbouring minster for a snatch of church music, narrowly escaped
detection. By miraculous chance the grimmest lord of Rosenmold was
there within, recognised the youth and his companions--visitors
naturally conspicuous, amid the crowd of peasants around them--and for
some hours was upon their traces. After unclean town streets the
country air was a perfume by contrast, or actually scented with
pinewoods. One seemed to breathe with it fancies of the woods, the
hills, and water--of a sort of souls in the landscape, but cheerful and
genial now, happy souls! A distant group of pines on the verge of a
great upland awoke a violent desire to be there--seemed to challenge
one to proceed thither. Was their infinite view thence? It was like an
outpost of some far-off fancy land, a pledge of the reality of such.
Above Cassel, the airy hills curved in one black outline against a
glowing sky, pregnant, one could fancy, with weird forms, which might
be at their old diableries again on those remote places ere night was
quite come there. At last in the streets, the hundred churches, of
Cologne, he feels something of a "Gothic" enthusiasm, and all a
German's enthusiasm for the Rhine.

Through the length and breadth of the Rhine country the vintage was
begun. The red ruins on the heights, the white-walled villages, white
Saint Nepomuc upon the bridges, were but isolated high notes of
contrast in a landscape, sleepy and indistinct under the flood of
sunshine, with a headiness in it like that of must, of the new wine.
The noise of the vineyards came through the lovely haze, still, at
times, with the sharp sound of a bell--death-bell, perhaps, or only a
crazy summons to the vintagers. And amid those broad, willowy reaches
of the Rhine at length, from Bingen to Mannheim, where the brown hills
wander into airy, blue distance, like a little picture of paradise, he
felt that France was at hand. Before him lay the road thither, easy and
straight.--That well of light so close! But, unexpectedly, the
capricious incidence of his own humour with the opportunity did not
suggest, as he would have wagered it must, "Go, drink at once!" Was it
that France had come to be of no account at all, in comparison of
Italy, of Greece? or that, as he passed over the German land, the
conviction had come, "For you, France, Italy, Hellas, is here!"--that
some recognition of the untried spiritual possibilities of meek Germany
had for Carl transferred the ideal land out of space beyond the Alps or
the Rhine, into future time, whither he must be the leader? A little
chilly of humour, in spite of his manly strength, he was journeying
partly in search of physical heat. To-day certainly, in this great
vineyard, physical heat was about him in measure sufficient, at least
for a German constitution. Might it be not otherwise with the
imaginative, the intellectual, heat and light; the real need being that
of an interpreter--Apollo, illuminant rather as the revealer than as
the bringer of light? With large belief that the Eclaircissement, the
Aufklaerung (he had already found the name for the thing) would indeed
come, he had been in much bewilderment whence and how. Here, he began
to see that it could be in no other way than by action of informing
thought upon the vast accumulated material of which Germany was in
possession: art, poetry, fiction, an entire imaginative world,
following reasonably upon a deeper understanding of the past, of
nature, of one's self--an understanding of all beside through the
knowledge of one's self. To understand, would be the indispensable
first step towards the enlargement of the great past, of one's little
present, by criticism, by imagination. Then, the imprisoned souls of
nature would speak as of old. The Middle Age, in Germany, where the
past has had such generous reprisals, never far from us, would reassert
its mystic spell, for the better understanding of our Raffaelle. The
spirits of distant Hellas would reawake in the men and women of little
German towns. Distant times, the most alien thoughts, would come near
together, as elements in a great historic symphony. A kind of ardent,
new patriotism awoke in him, sensitive for the first time at the words
NATIONAL poesy, NATIONAL art and literature, GERMAN philosophy. To the
resources of the past, of himself, of what was possible for German
mind, more and more his mind opens as he goes on his way. A free, open
space had been determined, which something now to be created, created
by him, must occupy. "Only," he thought, "if I had coadjutors! If these
thoughts would awake in but one other mind?"

At Strasbourg, with its mountainous goblin houses, nine stories high,
grouped snugly, in the midst of that inclement plain, like a great
stork's nest around the romantic red steeple of its cathedral, Duke
Carl became fairly captive to the Middle Age. Tarrying there week after
week he worked hard, but (without a ray of light from others) in one
long mistake, at the chronology and history of the coloured windows.
Antiquity's very self seemed expressed there, on the visionary images
of king or patriarch, in the deeply incised marks of character, the
hoary hair, the massive proportions, telling of a length of years
beyond what is lived now. Surely, past ages, could one get at the
historic soul of them, were not dead but living, rich in company, for
the entertainment, the expansion, of the present; and Duke Carl was
still without suspicion of the cynic afterthought that such historic
soul was but an arbitrary substitution, a generous loan of one's self.

The mystic soul of Nature laid hold on him next, saying, "Come!
understand, interpret me!" He was awakened one morning by the jingle of
sledge-bells along the street beneath his windows. Winter had descended
betimes from the mountains: the pale Rhine below the bridge of boats on
the long way to Kehl was swollen with ice, and for the first time he
realised that Switzerland was at hand. On a sudden he was captive to
the enthusiasm of the mountains, and hastened along the valley of the
Rhine by Alt Breisach and Basle, unrepelled by a thousand difficulties,
to Swiss farmhouses and lonely villages, solemn still, and untouched by
strangers. At Grindelwald, sleeping at last in the close neighbourhood
of the greater Alps, he had the sense of an overbrooding presence, of
some strange new companions around him. Here one might yield one's self
to the unalterable imaginative appeal of the elements in their highest
force and simplicity--light, air, water, earth. On very early spring
days a mantle was suddenly lifted; the Alps were an apex of natural
glory, towards which, in broadening spaces of light, the whole of
Europe sloped upwards. Through them, on the right hand, as he journeyed
on, were the doorways to Italy, to Como or Venice, from yonder peak
Italy's self was visible!--as, on the left hand, in the South-german
towns, in a high-toned, artistic fineness, in the dainty, flowered
ironwork for instance, the overflow of Italian genius was traceable.
These things presented themselves at last only to remind him that, in a
new intellectual hope, he was already on his way home. Straight through
life, straight through nature and man, with one's own self-knowledge as
a light thereon, not by way of the geographical Italy or Greece, lay
the road to the new Hellas, to be realised now as the outcome of
home-born German genius. At times, in that early fine weather, looking
now not southwards, but towards Germany, he seemed to trace the
outspread of a faint, not wholly natural, aurora over the dark northern
country. And it was in an actual sunrise that the news came which
finally put him on the directest road homewards. One hardly dared
breathe in the rapid uprise of all-embracing light which seemed like
the intellectual rising of the Fatherland, when up the straggling path
to his high beech-grown summit (was one safe nowhere?) protesting over
the roughness of the way, came the too familiar voices (ennui itself
made audible) of certain high functionaries of Rosenmold, come to claim
their new sovereign, close upon the runaway.

Bringing news of the old Duke's decease! With a real grief at his
heart, he hastened now over the ground which lay between him and the
bed of death, still trying, at quieter intervals, to snatch profit by
the way; peeping, at the most unlikely hours, on the objects of his
curiosity, waiting for a glimpse of dawn through glowing church
windows, penetrating into old church treasuries by candle-light, taxing
the old courtiers to pant up, for "the view," to this or that
conspicuous point in the world of hilly woodland. From one such at
last, in spite of everything with pleasure to Carl, old Rosenmold was
visible--the attic windows of the Residence, the storks on the
chimneys, the green copper roofs baking in the long, dry German summer.
The homeliness of true old Germany!  He too felt it, and yearned
towards his home.

And the "beggar-maid" was there. Thoughts of her had haunted his mind
all the journey through, as he was aware, not unpleased, graciously
overflowing towards any creature he found dependent upon him. The mere
fact that she was awaiting him, at his disposition, meekly, and as
though through his long absence she had never quitted the spot on which
he had said farewell, touched his fancy, and on a sudden concentrated
his wavering preference into a practical decision. "King Cophetua"
would be hers. And his goodwill sunned her wild-grown beauty into
majesty, into a kind of queenly richness. There was natural majesty in
the heavy waves of golden hair folded closely above the neck, built a
little massively; and she looked kind, beseeching also, capable of
sorrow. She was like clear sunny weather, with bluebells and the green
leaves, between rainy days, and seemed to embody Die Ruh auf dem
Gipfel--all the restful hours he had spent of late in the wood-sides
and on the hilltops. One June day, on which she seemed to have
withdrawn into herself all the tokens of summer, brought decision to
our lover of artificial roses, who had cared so little hitherto for the
like of her. Grand-duke perforce, he would make her his wife, and had
already re-assured her with lively mockery of his horrified ministers.
"Go straight to life!" said his new poetic code; and here was the
opportunity;--here, also, the real "adventure," in comparison of which
his previous efforts that way seemed childish theatricalities, fit only
to cheat a little the profound ennui of actual life. In a hundred
stolen interviews she taught the hitherto indifferent youth the art of

Duke Carl had effected arrangements for his marriage, secret, but
complete and soon to be made public. Long since he had cast complacent
eyes on a strange architectural relic, an old grange or hunting-lodge
on the heath, with he could hardly have defined what charm of
remoteness and old romance. Popular belief amused itself with reports
of the wizard who inhabited or haunted the place, his fantastic
treasures, his immense age. His windows might be seen glittering afar
on stormy nights, with a blaze of golden ornaments, said the more
adventurous loiterer. It was not because he was suspicious still, but
in a kind of wantonness of affection, and as if by way of giving yet
greater zest to the luxury of their mutual trust that Duke Carl added
to his announcement of the purposed place and time of the event a
pretended test of the girl's devotion. He tells her the story of the
aged wizard, meagre and wan, to whom she must find her way alone for
the purpose of asking a question all-important to himself. The fierce
old man will try to escape with terrible threats, will turn, or half
turn, into repulsive animals. She must cling the faster; at last the
spell will be broken; he will yield, he will become a youth once more,
and give the desired answer.

The girl, otherwise so self-denying, and still modestly anxious for a
private union, not to shame his high position in the world, had wished
for one thing at least--to be loved amid the splendours habitual to
him. Duke Carl sends to the old lodge his choicest personal
possessions. For many days the public is aware of something on hand; a
few get delightful glimpses of the treasures on their way to "the place
on the heath." Was he preparing against contingencies, should the great
army, soon to pass through these parts, not leave the country as
innocently as might be desired?

The short grey day seemed a long one to those who, for various reasons,
were waiting anxiously for the darkness; the court people fretful and
on their mettle, the townsfolk suspicious, Duke Carl full of amorous
longing. At her distant cottage beyond the hills, Gretchen kept herself
ready for the trial. It was expected that certain great military
officers would arrive that night, commanders of a victorious host
making its way across Northern Germany, with no great respect for the
rights of neutral territory, often dealing with life and property too
rudely to find the coveted treasure. It was but one episode in a cruel
war. Duke Carl did not wait for the grandly illuminated supper prepared
for their reception. Events precipitated themselves. Those officers
came as practically victorious occupants, sheltering themselves for the
night in the luxurious rooms of the great palace. The army was in fact
in motion close behind its leaders, who (Gretchen warm and happy in the
arms, not of the aged wizard, but of the youthful lover) are discussing
terms for the final absorption of the duchy with those traitorous old
councillors. At their delicate supper Duke Carl amuses his companion
with caricature, amid cries of cheerful laughter, of the sleepy
courtiers entertaining their martial guests in all their pedantic
politeness, like people in some farcical dream. A priest, and certain
chosen friends to witness the marriage, were to come ere nightfall to
the grange. The lovers heard, as they thought, the sound of distant
thunder. The hours passed as they waited, and what came at last was not
the priest with his companions. Could they have been detained by the
storm? Duke Carl gently re-assures the girl--bids her believe in him,
and wait. But through the wind, grown to tempest, beyond the sound of
the violent thunder--louder than any possible thunder--nearer and
nearer comes the storm of the victorious army, like some disturbance of
the earth itself, as they flee into the tumult, out of the intolerable
confinement and suspense, dead-set upon them.

The Enlightening, the Aufklaerung, according to the aspiration of Duke
Carl, was effected by other hands; Lessing and Herder, brilliant
precursors of the age of genius which centered in Goethe, coming well
within the natural limits of Carl's lifetime. As precursors Goethe
gratefully recognised them, and understood that there had been a
thousand others, looking forward to a new era in German literature with
the desire which is in some sort a "forecast of capacity," awakening
each other to the permanent reality of a poetic ideal in human life,
slowly forming that public consciousness to which Goethe actually
addressed himself. It is their aspirations I have tried to embody in
the portrait of Carl.

"A hard winter had covered the Main with a firm footing of ice. The
liveliest social intercourse was quickened thereon. I was unfailing
from early morning onwards; and, being lightly clad, found myself, when
my mother drove up later to look on, fairly frozen. My mother sat in
the carriage, quite stately in her furred cloak of red velvet, fastened
on the breast with thick gold cord and tassels.

"'Dear mother,' I said, on the spur of the moment, 'give me your furs,
I am frozen.'

"She was equally ready. In a moment I had on the cloak. Falling below
the knee, with its rich trimming of sables, and enriched with gold, it
became me excellently. So clad I made my way up and down with a
cheerful heart."

That was Goethe, perhaps fifty years later. His mother also related the
incident to Bettina Brentano;--"There, skated my son, like an arrow
among the groups. Away he went over the ice like a son of the gods.
Anything so beautiful is not to be seen now. I clapped my hands for
joy. Never shall I forget him as he darted out from one arch of the
bridge, and in again under the other, the wind carrying the train
behind him as he flew." In that amiable figure I seem to see the
fulfilment of the Resurgam on Carl's empty coffin--the aspiring soul of
Carl himself, in freedom and effective, at last.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Imaginary Portraits" ***

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