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Title: On Nothing & Kindred Subjects
Author: Belloc, Hilaire
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_King's Land,

December the 13th, 1907

My dear Maurice,

It was in Normandy, you will remember, and in the heat of the year,
when the birds were silent in the trees and the apples nearly ripe,
with the sun above us already of a stronger kind, and a somnolence
within and without, that it was determined among us (the jolly
company!) that I should write upon Nothing, and upon all that is
cognate to Nothing, a task not yet attempted since the Beginning of
the World.

Now when the matter was begun and the subject nearly approached, I
saw more clearly that this writing upon Nothing might be very grave,
and as I looked at it in every way the difficulties of my adventure
appalled me, nor am I certain that I have overcome them all. But I
had promised you that I would proceed, and so I did, in spite of my
doubts and terrors.

For first I perceived that in writing upon this matter I was in
peril of offending the privilege of others, and of those especially
who are powerful to-day, since I would be discussing things very
dear and domestic to my fellow-men, such as The Honour of Politicians,
The Tact of Great Ladies, The Wealth of Journalists, The Enthusiasm
of Gentlemen, and the Wit of Bankers. All that is most intimate and
dearest to the men that make our time, all that they would most defend
from the vulgar gaze,--this it was proposed to make the theme of a
common book.

In spite of such natural fear and of interests so powerful to detain
me, I have completed my task, and I will confess that as it grew it
enthralled me. There is in Nothing something so majestic and so high
that it is a fascination and spell to regard it. Is it not that
which Mankind, after the great effort of life, at last attains, and
that which alone can satisfy Mankind's desire? Is it not that which
is the end of so many generations of analysis, the final word of
Philosophy, and the goal of the search for reality? Is it not the
very matter of our modern creed in which the great spirits of our
time repose, and is it not, as it were, the culmination of their
intelligence? It is indeed the sum and meaning of all around!

How well has the world perceived it and how powerfully do its
legends illustrate what Nothing is to men!

You know that once in Lombardy Alfred and Charlemagne and the Kaliph
Haroun-al-Raschid met to make trial of their swords. The sword of
Alfred was a simple sword: its name was Hewer. And the sword of
Charlemagne was a French sword, and its name was Joyeuse. But the
sword of Haroun was of the finest steel, forged in Toledo, tempered
at Cordova, blessed in Mecca, damascened (as one might imagine) in
Damascus, sharpened upon Jacob's Stone, and so wrought that when one
struck it it sounded like a bell. And as for its name, By Allah!
that was very subtle---for it had no name at all.

Well then, upon that day in Lombardy Alfred and Charlemagne and the
Kaliph were met to take a trial of their blades. Alfred took a pig
of lead which he had brought from the Mendip Hills, and swiping the
air once or twice in the Western fashion, he cut through that lead
and girded the edge of his sword upon the rock beneath, making a
little dent.

Then Charlemagne, taking in both hands his sword Joyeuse, and aiming
at the dent, with a laugh swung down and cut the stone itself right
through, so that it fell into two pieces, one on either side, and
there they lie today near by Piacenza in a field.

Now that it had come to the Kaliph's turn, one would have said there
was nothing left for him to do, for Hewer had manfully hewn lead,
and Joyeuse had joyfully cleft stone.

But the Kaliph, with an Arabian look, picked out of his pocket a
gossamer scarf from Cashmir, so light that when it was tossed into
the air it would hardly fall to the ground, but floated downwards
slowly like a mist. This, with a light pass, he severed, and
immediately received the prize. For it was deemed more difficult by
far to divide such a veil in mid-air, than to cleave lead or even

I knew a man once, Maurice, who was at Oxford for three years, and
after that went down with no degree. At College, while his friends
were seeking for Truth in funny brown German Philosophies, Sham
Religions, stinking bottles and identical equations, he was lying on
his back in Eynsham meadows thinking of Nothing, and got the Truth
by this parallel road of his much more quickly than did they by theirs;
for the asses are still seeking, mildly disputing, and, in a cultivated
manner, following the gleam, so that they have become in their Donnish
middleage a nuisance and a pest; while he--that other--with the Truth
very fast and firm at the end of a leather thong is dragging her
sliding, whining and crouching on her four feet, dragging her reluctant
through the world, even into the broad daylight where Truth most hates
to be.

He it was who became my master in this creed. For once as we lay
under a hedge at the corner of a road near Bagley Wood we heard far
off the notes of military music and the distant marching of a
column; these notes and that tramp grew louder, till there swung
round the turning with a blaze of sound five hundred men in order.
They passed, and we were full of the scene and of the memories of
the world, when he said to me: "Do you know what is in your heart?
It is the music. And do you know the cause and Mover of that music?
It is the Nothingness inside the bugle; it is the hollow Nothingness
inside the Drum."

Then I thought of the poem where it says of the Army of the Republic:

  The thunder of the limber and the rumble of a hundred of the guns.
  And there hums as she comes the roll of her innumerable drums.

I knew him to be right.

From this first moment I determined to consider and to meditate upon

Many things have I discovered about Nothing, which have proved it--to
me at least--to be the warp or ground of all that is holiest. It is
of such fine gossamer that loveliness was spun, the mists under the
hills on an autumn morning are but gross reflections of it; moonshine
on lovers is earthy compared with it; song sung most charmingly and
stirring the dearest recollections is but a failure in the human
attempt to reach its embrace and be dissolved in it. It is out of
Nothing that are woven those fine poems of which we carry but vague
rhythms in the head:--and that Woman who is a shade, the_ Insaisissable,
_whom several have enshrined in melody--well, her Christian name, her
maiden name, and, as I personally believe, her married name as well,
is Nothing. I never see a gallery of pictures now but I know how the
use of empty spaces makes a scheme, nor do I ever go to a play but I
see how silence is half the merit of acting and hope some day for
absence and darkness as well upon the stage. What do you think the
fairy Melisende said to Fulk-Nerra when he had lost his soul for her
and he met her in the Marshes after twenty years? Why, Nothing--what
else could she have said? Nothing is the reward of good men who alone
can pretend to taste it in long easy sleep, it is the meditation of
the wise and the charm of happy dreamers. So excellent and final is
it that I would here and now declare to you that Nothing was the gate
of eternity, that by passing through Nothing we reached our every
object as passionate and happy beings--were it not for the Council
of Toledo that restrains my pen. Yet ... indeed, indeed when I think
what an Elixir is this Nothing I am for putting up a statue nowhere,
on a pedestal that shall not exist, and for inscribing on it in
letters that shall never be written:



So I began to write my book, Maurice: and as I wrote it the dignity
of what I had to do rose continually before me, as does the dignity
of a mountain range which first seemed a vague part of the sky, but
at last stands out august and fixed before the traveller; or as the
sky at night may seem to a man released from a dungeon who sees it
but gradually, first bewildered by the former constraint of his
narrow room but now gradually enlarging to drink in its immensity.
Indeed this Nothing is too great for any man who has once embraced
it to leave it alone thenceforward for ever; and finally, the
dignity of Nothing is sufficiently exalted in this: that Nothing is
the tenuous stuff from which the world was made.

For when the Elohim set out to make the world, first they debated
among themselves the Idea, and one suggested this and another
suggested that, till they had threshed out between them a very
pretty picture of it all. There were to be hills beyond hills, good
grass and trees, and the broadness of rivers, animals of all kinds,
both comic and terrible, and savours and colours, and all around the
ceaseless streaming of the sea.

Now when they had got that far, and debated the Idea in detail, and
with amendment and resolve, it very greatly concerned them of what
so admirable a compost should be mixed. Some said of this, and some
said of that, but in the long run it was decided by the narrow
majority of eight in a full house that Nothing was the only proper
material out of which to make this World of theirs, and out of
Nothing they made it: as it says in the Ballade:

  Dear, tenuous stuff, of which the world was made.

And again in the Envoi:

  Prince, draw this sovereign draught in your despair,
  That when your riot in that rest is laid,
  You shall be merged with an Essential Air:--
  Dear, tenuous stuff, of which the world was made!

Out of Nothing then did they proceed to make the world, this sweet
world, always excepting Man the Marplot. Man was made in a muddier
fashion, as you shall hear.

For when the world seemed ready finished and, as it were,
presentable for use, and was full of ducks, tigers, mastodons,
waddling hippopotamuses, lilting deer, strong-smelling herbs, angry
lions, frowsy snakes, cracked glaciers, regular waterfalls, coloured
sunsets, and the rest, it suddenly came into the head of the
youngest of these strong Makers of the World (the youngest, who had
been sat upon and snubbed all the while the thing was doing, and
hardly been allowed to look on, let alone to touch), it suddenly
came into his little head, I say, that he would make a Man.

Then the Elder Elohim said, some of them, "Oh, leave well alone!
send him to bed!" And others said sleepily (for they were tired),
"No! no! let him play his little trick and have done with it, and
then we shall have some rest." Little did they know!... And others
again, who were still broad awake, looked on with amusement and
applauded, saying: "Go on, little one! Let us see what you can do."
But when these last stooped to help the child, they found that all
the Nothing had been used up (and that is why there is none of it
about to-day). So the little fellow began to cry, but they, to
comfort him, said: "Tut, lad! tut! do not cry; do your best with
this bit of mud. It will always serve to fashion something."

So the jolly little fellow took the dirty lump of mud and pushed it
this way and that, jabbing with his thumb and scraping with his
nail, until at last he had made Picanthropos, who lived in Java and
was a fool; who begat Eoanthropos, who begat Meioanthropos, who
begat Pleioanthropos, who begat Pleistoanthropos, who is often mixed
up with his father, and a great warning against keeping the same
names in one family; who begat Paleoanthropos, who begat Neoanthropos,
who begat the three Anthropoids, great mumblers and murmurers with
their mouths; and the eldest of these begat Him whose son was He,
from whom we are all descended.

He was indeed halting and patchy, ill-lettered, passionate and rude;
bald of one cheek and blind of one eye, and his legs were of
different sizes, nevertheless by process of ascent have we, his
descendants, manfully continued to develop and to progress, and to
swell in everything, until from Homer we came to Euripides, and from
Euripides to Seneca, and from Seneca to Boethius and his peers; and
from these to Duns Scotus, and so upwards through James I of England
and the fifth, sixth or seventh of Scotland (for it is impossible to
remember these things) and on, on, to my Lord Macaulay, and in the
very last reached YOU, the great summits of the human race and last
perfection of the ages READERS OF THIS BOOK, and you also Maurice,
to whom it is dedicated, and myself, who have written it for gain.




Among the sadder and smaller pleasures of this world I count this
pleasure: the pleasure of taking up one's pen.

It has been said by very many people that there is a tangible pleasure
in the mere act of writing: in choosing and arranging words. It has
been denied by many. It is affirmed and denied in the life of Doctor
Johnson, and for my part I would say that it is very true in some rare
moods and wholly false in most others. However, of writing and the
pleasure in it I am not writing here (with pleasure), but of the
pleasure of taking up one's pen, which is quite another matter.

Note what the action means. You are alone. Even if the room is
crowded (as was the smoking-room in the G.W.R. Hotel, at Paddington,
only the other day, when I wrote my "Statistical Abstract of
Christendom"), even if the room is crowded, you must have made
yourself alone to be able to write at all. You must have built up
some kind of wall and isolated your mind. You are alone, then; and
that is the beginning.

If you consider at what pains men are to be alone: how they climb
mountains, enter prisons, profess monastic vows, put on eccentric
daily habits, and seclude themselves in the garrets of a great town,
you will see that this moment of taking up the pen is not least
happy in the fact that then, by a mere association of ideas, the
writer is alone.

So much for that. Now not only are you alone, but you are going to

When people say "create" they flatter themselves. No man can create
anything. I knew a man once who drew a horse on a bit of paper to amuse
the company and covered it all over with many parallel streaks as he
drew. When he had done this, an aged priest (present upon that occasion)
said, "You are pleased to draw a zebra." When the priest said this the
man began to curse and to swear, and to protest that he had never seen
or heard of a zebra. He said it was all done out of his own head, and
he called heaven to witness, and his patron saint (for he was of the Old
English Territorial Catholic Families--his patron saint was Aethelstan),
and the salvation of his immortal soul he also staked, that he was as
innocent of zebras as the babe unborn. But there! He persuaded no one,
and the priest scored. It was most evident that the Territorial was
crammed full of zebraical knowledge.

All this, then, is a digression, and it must be admitted that there
is no such thing as a man's "creating". But anyhow, when you take up
your pen you do something devilish pleasing: there is a prospect
before you. You are going to develop a germ: I don't know what it
is, and I promise you I won't call it creation--but possibly a god
is creating through you, and at least you are making believe at
creation. Anyhow, it is a sense of mastery and of origin, and you
know that when you have done, something will be added to the world,
and little destroyed. For what will you have destroyed or wasted? A
certain amount of white paper at a farthing a square yard (and I am
not certain it is not pleasanter all diversified and variegated with
black wriggles)--a certain amount of ink meant to be spread and
dried: made for no other purpose. A certain infinitesimal amount of
quill--torn from the silly goose for no purpose whatsoever but to
minister to the high needs of Man.

Here you cry "Affectation! Affectation! How do I know that the
fellow writes with a quill? A most unlikely habit!" To that I answer
you are right. Less assertion, please, and more humility. I will
tell you frankly with what I am writing. I am writing with a
Waterman's Ideal Fountain Pen. The nib is of pure gold, as was the
throne of Charlemagne, in the "Song of Roland." That throne (I need
hardly tell you) was borne into Spain across the cold and awful
passes of the Pyrenees by no less than a hundred and twenty mules,
and all the Western world adored it, and trembled before it when it
was set up at every halt under pine trees, on the upland grasses.
For he sat upon it, dreadful and commanding: there weighed upon him
two centuries of age; his brows were level with justice and
experience, and his beard was so tangled and full, that he was
called "bramble-bearded Charlemagne." You have read how, when he
stretched out his hand at evening, the sun stood still till he had
found the body of Roland? No? You must read about these things.

Well then, the pen is of pure gold, a pen that runs straight away
like a willing horse, or a jolly little ship; indeed, it is a pen so
excellent that it reminds me of my subject: the pleasure of taking
up one's pen.

God bless you, pen! When I was a boy, and they told me work was
honourable, useful, cleanly, sanitary, wholesome, and necessary to
the mind of man, I paid no more attention to them than if they had
told me that public men were usually honest, or that pigs could fly.
It seemed to me that they were merely saying silly things they had
been told to say. Nor do I doubt to this day that those who told me
these things at school were but preaching a dull and careless round.
But now I know that the things they told me were true. God bless
you, pen of work, pen of drudgery, pen of letters, pen of posings,
pen rabid, pen ridiculous, pen glorified. Pray, little pen, be
worthy of the love I bear you, and consider how noble I shall make
you some day, when you shall live in a glass case with a crowd of
tourists round you every day from 10 to 4; pen of justice, pen of
the _saeva indignatio_, pen of majesty and of light. I will
write with you some day a considerable poem; it is a compact between
you and me. If I cannot make one of my own, then I will write out
some other man's; but you, pen, come what may, shall write out a
good poem before you die, if it is only the _Allegro_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The pleasure of taking up one's pen has also this, peculiar among
all pleasures, that you have the freedom to lay it down when you
will. Not so with love. Not so with victory. Not so with glory.

Had I begun the other way round, I would have called this Work, "The
Pleasure of laying down one's Pen." But I began it where I began it,
and I am going on to end it just where it is going to end.

What other occupation, avocation, dissertation, or intellectual
recreation can you cease at will? Not bridge--you go on playing to
win. Not public speaking--they ring a bell. Not mere converse--you
have to answer everything the other insufficient person says. Not
life, for it is wrong to kill one's self; and as for the natural end
of living, that does not come by one's choice; on the contrary, it
is the most capricious of all accidents.

But the pen you lay down when you will. At any moment: without
remorse, without anxiety, without dishonour, you are free to do this
dignified and final thing (I am just going to do it).... You lay it


To begin at the beginning is, next to ending at the end, the whole
art of writing; as for the middle you may fill it in with any rubble
that you choose. But the beginning and the end, like the strong
stone outer walls of mediaeval buildings, contain and define the

And there is more than this: since writing is a human and a living
art, the beginning being the motive and the end the object of the
work, each inspires it; each runs through organically, and the two
between them give life to what you do.

So I will begin at the beginning and I will lay down this first
principle, that religion and the full meaning of things has nowhere
more disappeared from the modern world than in the department of
Guide Books.

For a Guide Book will tell you always what are the principal and
most vulgar sights of a town; what mountains are most difficult to
climb, and, invariably, the exact distances between one place and
another. But these things do not serve the End of Man. The end of
man is Happiness, and how much happier are you with such a
knowledge? Now there are some Guide Books which do make little
excursions now and then into the important things, which tell you
(for instance) what kind of cooking you will find in what places,
what kind of wine in countries where this beverage is publicly
known, and even a few, more daring than the rest, will give a hint
or two upon hiring mules, and upon the way that a bargain should be
conducted, or how to fight.

But with all this even the best of them do not go to the moral heart
of the matter. They do not give you a hint or an idea of that which
is surely the basis of all happiness in travel. I mean, the art of
gaining respect in the places where you stay. Unless that respect is
paid you you are more miserable by far than if you had stayed at
home, and I would ask anyone who reads this whether he can remember
one single journey of his which was not marred by the evident
contempt which the servants and the owners of taverns showed for him
wherever he went?

It is therefore of the first importance, much more important than
any question of price or distance, to know something of this art; it
is not difficult to learn, moreover it is so little exploited that
if you will but learn it you will have a sense of privilege and of
upstanding among your fellows worth all the holidays which were ever
taken in the world.

Of this Respect which we seek, out of so many human pleasures, a
facile, and a very false, interpretation is that it is the privilege
of the rich, and I even knew one poor fellow who forged a cheque and
went to gaol in his desire to impress the host of the "Spotted Dog,"
near Barnard Castle. It was an error in him, as it is in all who so
imagine. The rich in their degree fall under this contempt as
heavily as any, and there is no wealth that can purchase the true
awe which it should be your aim to receive from waiters, serving-wenches,
boot-blacks, and publicans.

I knew a man once who set out walking from Oxford to Stow-in-the-Wold,
from Stow-in-the-Wold to Cheltenham, from Cheltenham to Ledbury, from
Ledbury to Hereford, from Hereford to New Rhayader (where the Cobbler
lives), and from New Rhayader to the end of the world which lies a
little west and north of that place, and all the way he slept rough
under hedges and in stacks, or by day in open fields, so terrified
was he at the thought of the contempt that awaited him should he pay
for a bed. And I knew another man who walked from York to Thirsk, and
from Thirsk to Darlington, and from Darlington to Durham, and so on
up to the border and over it, and all the way he pretended to be
extremely poor so that he might be certain the contempt he received
was due to nothing of his own, but to his clothes only: but this was
an indifferent way of escaping, for it got him into many fights with
miners, and he was arrested by the police in Lanchester; and at
Jedburgh, where his money did really fail him, he had to walk all
through the night, finding that no one would take in such a
tatterdemalion. The thing could be done much more cheaply than that,
and much more respectably, and you can acquire with but little practice
one of many ways of achieving the full respect of the whole house, even
of that proud woman who sits behind glass in front of an enormous
ledger; and the first way is this:--

As you come into the place go straight for the smoking-room, and
begin talking of the local sport: and do not talk humbly and
tentatively as so many do, but in a loud authoritative tone. You
shall insist and lay down the law and fly into a passion if you are
contradicted. There is here an objection which will arise in the
mind of every niggler and boggler who has in the past very properly
been covered with ridicule and become the butt of the waiters and
stable-yard, which is, that if one is ignorant of the local sport,
there is an end to the business. The objection is ridiculous. Do you
suppose that the people whom you hear talking around you are more
learned than yourself in the matter? And if they are do you suppose
that they are acquainted with your ignorance? Remember that most of
them have read far less than you, and that you can draw upon an
experience of travel of which they can know nothing; do but make the
plunge, practising first in the villages of the Midlands, I will
warrant you that in a very little while bold assertion of this kind
will carry you through any tap-room or bar-parlour in Britain.

I remember once in the holy and secluded village of Washington under
the Downs, there came in upon us as we sat in the inn there a man whom
I recognised though he did not know me--for a journalist--incapable of
understanding the driving of a cow, let alone horses: a prophet, a
socialist, a man who knew the trend of things and so forth: a man who
had never been outside a town except upon a motor bicycle, upon which
snorting beast indeed had he come to this inn. But if he was less than
us in so many things he was greater than us in this art of gaining
respect in Inns and Hotels. For he sat down, and when they had barely
had time to say good day to him he gave us in minutest detail a great
run after a fox, a run that never took place. We were fifteen men in
the room; none of us were anything like rich enough to hunt, and the
lie went through them like an express. This fellow "found" (whatever
that may mean) at Gumber Corner, ran right through the combe (which,
by the way, is one of those bits of land which have been stolen bodily
from the English people), cut down the Sutton Road, across the railway
at Coates (and there he showed the cloven hoof, for your liar always
takes his hounds across the railway), then all over Egdean, and killed
in a field near Wisborough. All this he told, and there was not even a
man there to ask him whether all those little dogs and horses swam
the Rother or jumped it. He was treated like a god; they tried to
make him stop but he would not. He was off to Worthing, where I have
no doubt he told some further lies upon the growing of tomatoes
under glass, which is the main sport of that district. Similarly, I
have no doubt, such a man would talk about boats at King's Lynn,
murder with violence at Croydon, duck shooting at Ely, and racing

Then also if you are in any doubt as to what they want of you, you
can always change the scene. Thus fishing is dangerous for even the
poor can fish, and the chances are you do not know the names of the
animals, and you may be putting salt-water fish into the stream of
Lambourne, or talking of salmon upon the Upper Thames. But what is
to prevent you putting on a look of distance and marvel, and
conjuring up the North Atlantic for them? Hold them with the cold
and the fog of the Newfoundland seas, and terrify their simple minds
with whales.

A second way to attain respect, if you are by nature a silent man,
and one which I think is always successful, is to write before you
go to bed and leave upon the table a great number of envelopes which
you should address to members of the Cabinet, and Jewish money-lenders,
dukes, and in general any of the great. It is but slight labour, and
for the contents you cannot do better than put into each envelope one
of those advertisements which you will find lying about. Then next
morning you should gather them up and ask where the post is: but you
need not post them, and you need not fear for your bill. Your bill
will stand much the same, and your reputation will swell like a sponge.

And a third way is to go to the telephone, since there are
telephones nowadays, and ring up whoever in the neighbourhood is of
the greatest importance. There is no law against it, and when you
have the number you have but to ask the servant at the other end
whether it is not somebody else's house. But in the meanwhile your
night in the place is secure.

And a fourth way is to tell them to call you extremely early, and
then to get up extremely late. Now why this should have the effect
it has I confess I cannot tell. I lay down the rule empirically and
from long observation, but I may suggest that perhaps it is the
combination of the energy you show in early rising, and of the
luxury you show in late rising: for energy and luxury are the two
qualities which menials most admire in that governing class to which
you flatter yourself you belong. Moreover the strength of will with
which you sweep aside their inconvenience, ordering one thing and
doing another, is not without its effect, and the stir you have
created is of use to you.

And the fifth way is to be Strong, to Dominate and to Lead. To be
one of the Makers of this world, one of the Builders. To have the
more Powerful Will. To arouse in all around you by mere Force of
Personality a feeling that they must Obey. But I do not know how
this is done.


There is not anything that can so suddenly flood the mind with shame
as the conviction of ignorance, yet we are all ignorant of nearly
everything there is to be known. Is it not wonderful, then, that we
should be so sensitive upon the discovery of a fault which must of
necessity be common to all, and that in its highest degree? The
conviction of ignorance would not shame us thus if it were not for
the public appreciation of our failure.

If a man proves us ignorant of German or the complicated order of
English titles, or the rules of Bridge, or any other matter, we do
not care for his proofs, so that we are alone with him: first
because we can easily deny them all, and continue to wallow in our
ignorance without fear, and secondly, because we can always counter
with something we know, and that he knows nothing of, such as the
Creed, or the history of Little Bukleton, or some favourite book.
Then, again, if one is alone with one's opponent, it is quite easy
to pretend that the subject on which one has shown ignorance is
unimportant, peculiar, pedantic, hole in the corner, and this can be
brazened out even about Greek or Latin. Or, again, one can turn the
laugh against him, saying that he has just been cramming up the
matter, and that he is airing his knowledge; or one can begin making
jokes about him till he grows angry, and so forth. There is no
necessity to be ashamed.

But if there be others present? Ah! _Hoc est aliud rem_, that
is another matter, for then the biting shame of ignorance suddenly
displayed conquers and bewilders us. We have no defence left. We are
at the mercy of the discoverer, we own and confess, and become
insignificant: we slink away.

Note that all this depends upon what the audience conceive ignorance
to be. It is very certain that if a man should betray in some cheap
club that he did not know how to ride a horse, he would be broken
down and lost, and similarly, if you are in a country house among
the rich you are shipwrecked unless you can show acquaintance with
the Press, and among the poor you must be very careful, not only to
wear good cloth and to talk gently as though you owned them, but
also to know all about the rich. Among very young men to seem
ignorant of vice is the ruin of you, and you had better not have
been born than appear doubtful of the effects of strong drink when
you are in the company of Patriots. There was a man who died of
shame this very year in a village of Savoy because he did not know
the name of the King reigning over France to-day, and it is a common
thing to see men utterly cast down in the bar-rooms off the Strand
because they cannot correctly recite the opening words of "Boys of
the Empire." There are schoolgirls who fall ill and pine away
because they are shown to have misplaced the name of Dagobert III in
the list of Merovingian Monarchs, and quite fearless men will blush
if they are found ignoring the family name of some peer. Indeed,
there is nothing so contemptible or insignificant but that in some
society or other it is required to be known, and that the ignorance
of it may not at any moment cover one with confusion. Nevertheless
we should not on that account attempt to learn everything there is
to know (for that is manifestly impossible), nor even to learn
everything that is known, for that would soon prove a tedious and
heart-breaking task; we should rather study the means to be employed
for warding off those sudden and public convictions of Ignorance
which are the ruin of so many.

These methods of defence are very numerous and are for the most part
easy of acquirement. The most powerful of them by far (but the most
dangerous) is to fly into a passion and marvel how anyone can be
such a fool as to pay attention to wretched trifles. "Powerful,"
because it appeals to that strongest of all passions in men by which
they are predisposed to cringe before what they think to be a
superior station in society. "Dangerous," because if it fail in its
objects this method does not save you from pain, and secures you in
addition a bad quarrel, and perhaps a heavy beating. Still it has
many votaries, and is more often carried off than any other. Thus,
if in Bedfordshire, someone catches you erring on a matter of crops,
you profess that in London such things are thought mere rubbish and
despised; or again, in the society of professors at the
Universities, an ignorance of letters can easily be turned by an
allusion to that vapid life of the rich, where letters grow
insignificant; so at sea, if you slip on common terms, speak a
little of your luxurious occupations on land and you will usually be

There are other and better defences. One of these is to turn the
attack by showing great knowledge on a cognate point, or by
remembering that the knowledge your opponent boasts has been
somewhere contradicted by an authority. Thus, if some day a friend
should say, as continually happens in a London club:

"Come, let us hear you decline [Greek: tetummenos on]," you can
answer carelessly:

"You know as well as I do that the form is purely Paradigmatic: it
is never found."

Or again, if you put the Wrekin by an error into Staffordshire, you
can say, "I was thinking of the Jurassic formation which is the
basis of the formation of----" etc. Or, "Well, Shrewsbury ...
Staffordshire?... Oh! I had got my mind mixed up with the graves of
the Staffords." Very few people will dispute this, none will follow
it. There is indeed this difficulty attached to such a method, that
it needs the knowledge of a good many things, and a ready
imagination and a stiff face: but it is a good way.

Yet another way is to cover your retreat with buffoonery, pretending
to be ignorant of the most ordinary things, so as to seem to have
been playing the fool only when you made your first error. There is
a special form of this method which has always seemed to me the most
excellent by far of all known ways of escape. It is to show a steady
and crass ignorance of very nearly everything that can be mentioned,
and with all this to keep a steady mouth, a determined eye, and
(this is essential) to show by a hundred allusions that you have on
your own ground an excellent store of knowledge.

This is the true offensive-defensive in this kind of assault, and
therefore the perfection of tactics.

Thus if one should say:

"Well, it was the old story. [Greek: Anankae]."

It might happen to anyone to answer: "I never read the play."

This you will think perhaps an irremediable fall, but it is not, as
will appear from this dialogue, in which the method is developed:

SAPIENS. But, Good Heavens, it isn't a play!

IGNORAMUS. Of course not. I know that as well as you, but the
character of [Greek: Anankae] dominates the play. You won't deny

SAPIENS. You don't seem to have much acquaintance with Liddell and

IGNORAMUS. I didn't know there was anyone called Liddell in it, but
I knew Scott intimately, both before and after he succeeded to the

SAPIENS. But I mean the dictionary.

IGNORAMUS. I'm quite certain that his father wouldn't let him write
a dictionary. Why, the library at Bynton hasn't been opened for

If, after five minutes of that, Ignoramus cannot get Sapiens
floundering about in a world he knows nothing of, it is his own

But if Sapiens is over-tenacious there is a final method which may
not be the most perfect, but which I have often tried myself, and
usually with very considerable success:

SAPIENS. Nonsense, man. The Dictionary. The _Greek_ dictionary.

IGNORAMUS. What has _Ananti_ to do with Greek?

SAPIENS. I said [Greek: Anankae].

IGNORAMUS. Oh! h----h! you said [Greek: anankae], did you? I thought
you said Ananti. Of course, Scott didn't call the play Ananti, but
Ananti was the principal character, and one always calls it that in
the family. It is very well written. If he hadn't that shyness about
publishing ... and so forth.

Lastly, or rather Penultimately, there is the method of upsetting
the plates and dishes, breaking your chair, setting fire to the
house, shooting yourself, or otherwise swallowing all the memory of
your shame in a great catastrophe.

But that is a method for cowards; the brave man goes out into the
hall, comes back with a stick, and says firmly, "You have just
deliberately and cruelly exposed my ignorance before this company; I
shall, therefore, beat you soundly with this stick in the presence
of them all."

This you then do to him or he to you, _mutatis mutandis, ceteris
paribus_; and that is all I have to say on Ignorance.


Harmonides of Ephesus says in one of his treatises upon method (I
forget which, but I think the fifth) that a matter is very often
more clearly presented by way of example than in the form of a
direct statement and analysis. I have determined to follow the
advice of this great though pagan authority in what you will now
read or not read, according to your inclination.

As I was sitting one of these sunny mornings in my little Park,
reading an article upon vivisection in the _Tablet_ newspaper,
a Domestic [Be seated, be seated, I pray you!] brought me a letter
upon a Silver Salver [Be covered!]

Which reminds me, why do people say that silver is the only perfect
spondee in the English language? Salver is a perfectly good spondee;
so is North-Cape; so is great-coat; so is High-Mass; so is
Wenchthorpe; so is forewarp, which is the rope you throw out from
the stem to the little man in the boat who comes to moor you along
the west gully in the Ramsgate Harbour; so is Longnose, the name of
a buoy, and of a reef of rocks just north of the North Foreland; so
are a great many other words. But I digress. I only put in these
words to show you in case you had any dissolving doubts remaining
upon the matter, that the kind of stuff you read is very often all
nonsense, and that you must not take things for granted merely
because they are printed. I have watched you doing it from time to
time, and have been torn between pity and anger. But all that is
neither here nor there. This habit of parenthesis is the ruin of
good prose. As I was saying, example clearly put down without
comment is very often more powerful than analysis for the purpose of

The Domestic brought me a letter upon a Silver Salver. I took it and
carefully examined the outside.

They err who will maintain through thick and thin upon a mere theory
and without any true experience of the world, that it matters not
what the outside of a letter may be so long as the contents provoke
terror or amusement. The outside of a letter should appeal to one.
When one gets a letter with a halfpenny stamp and with the flap of
the letter stuck inside, and with the address on the outside
typewritten, one is very apt to throw it away. I believe that there
is no recorded case of such a letter containing a cheque, a summons,
or an invitation to eat good food, and as for demand notes, what are
they? Then again those long envelopes which come with the notice,
"Paid in bulk," outside instead of a stamp--no man can be moved by
them. They are very nearly always advertisements of cheap wine.

Do not misunderstand me: cheap wine is by no means to be despised.
There are some sorts of wine the less you pay for them the better
they are--within reason; and if a Gentleman has bought up a bankrupt
stock of wine from a fellow to whom he has been lending money, why
on earth should he not sell it again at a reasonable profit, yet
quite cheap? It seems to be pure benefit to the world. But I
perceive that all this is leading me from my subject.

I took up the letter, I say, and carefully examined the outside. It
was written in the hand of an educated man. It was almost illegible,
and had all the appearance of what an honest citizen of some culture
might write to one hurriedly about some personal matter. I noticed
that it had come from the eastern central district, but when you
consider what an enormous number of people live there during the
day, that did not prejudice me against it.

Now, when I opened this letter, I found it written a little more
carefully, but still, written, not printed, or typewritten, or
manifolded, or lithographed, or anything else of that kind. It was

The art of writing ... but Patience! Patience!...

It was written. It was very cordial, and it appealed directly, only
the style was otiose, but in matters of the first importance style
is a hindrance.

_Telephone No. 666.

The Mercury,

15th Nishan 5567.

Dear Sir,--Many people wonder, especially in your profession,_
[what is It?] _why a certain Taedium Vitae seizes them towards
five o'clock in the afternoon. The stress and hurry of modern life
have forced so many of Us to draw upon Our nervous energy that We
imagine that_ [Look at that 'that'! The whole Elizabethan
tradition chucked away!] _We are exceeding our powers, and when
this depression comes over Us, we think it necessary to take a rest,
and Let up from working. This is an erroneous supposition. What it
means is that Our body has received insufficient nutriment during
the last twenty-four hours, and that Nature is craving for more

We shall be very happy to offer you, through the medium of this
paper, a special offer of our Essence of The Ox. This offer will
only remain open until Derby Day, during which period a box of our
Essence of The Ox will be sent to you Free, if you will enclose the
following form, and send it to Us in the stamped envelope, which
accompanies this letter.

Very faithfully yours,_


It seemed to me a most extraordinary thing. I had never written for
Ullmo and his _Mercury_, and I could do them no good in the world,
either here or in Johannesburg. I was never likely to write for
him at all. He is not very pleasant; He is by no means rich; He is
ill-informed. He has no character at all, apart from rather unsuccessful
money-grubbing, and from a habit of defending with some virulence,
but with no capacity, his fellow money-grubbers throughout the
world. However, I thought no more about it, and went on reading
about "Vivisection."

Two days later I got a letter upon thick paper, so grained as to
imitate oak, and having at the top a coat-of-arms of the most
complicated kind. This coat-of-arms had a little lamb on it,
suspended by a girdle, as though it were being slung on board ship;
there were also three little sheaves of wheat, a sword, three
panthers, some gules, and a mullet. Above it was a helmet, and there
were two supporters: one was a man with a club, and the other was
another man without a club, both naked. Underneath was the motto,
"Tout à Toi." This second letter was very short.

_Dear Sir,--Can you tell me why you have not answered Our letter
re the Essence of the Ox? Derby Day is approaching, and the
remaining time is very short. We made the offer specially to you,
and we had at least expected the courtesy of an acknowledgment. You
will understand that the business of a great newspaper leaves but
little time for private charity, but we are willing to let the offer
remain open for three days longer, after which date--_

How easy it would be to criticise this English! To continue:

_--after which date the price will inevitably be raised to One
Shilling.--We remain, etc._

I had this letter framed with the other, and I waited to see what
would happen, keeping back from the bank for fear of frightening the
fish, and hardly breathing.

What happened was, after four or five days, a very sad letter which
said that Ullmo expected better things from me, but that He knew
what the stress of modern life was, and how often correspondence
fell into arrears. He sent me a smaller specimen box of the Essence
of The Ox. I have it still.

And there it is. There is no moral; there is no conclusion or
application. The world is not quite infinite--but it is
astonishingly full. All sorts of things happen in it. There are all
sorts of different men and different ways of action, and different
goals to which life may be directed. Why, in a little wood near
home, not a hundred yards long, there will soon burst, in the spring
(I wish I were there!), hundreds of thousands of leaves, and no one
leaf exactly like another. At least, so the parish priest used to
say, and though I have never had the leisure to put the thing to the
proof, I am willing to believe that he was right, for he spoke with


I appeal loudly to the Muse of History (whose name I forget and you
never knew) to help me in the description of this house, for--

The Muse of Tragedy would overstrain herself on it;

The Muse of Comedy would be impertinent upon it;

The Muse of Music never heard of it;

The Muse of Fine Arts disapproved of it;

The Muse of Public Instruction ... (Tut, tut! There I was nearly
making a tenth Muse! I was thinking of the French Ministry.)

The Muse of Epic Poetry did not understand it;

The Muse of Lyric Poetry still less so;

The Muse of Astronomy is thinking of other things;

The Muse Polyhymnia (or Polymnia, who, according to Smith's
_Dictionary of Antiquities_, is commonly represented in a
pensive attitude) has no attribute and does no work.

And as for little Terpsichore whose feet are like the small waves in
summer time, she would laugh in a peal if I asked her to write,
think of, describe, or dance in this house (and that makes eleven
Muses. No matter; better more than less).

Yet it was a house worthy of description and careful inventory, and
for that reason I have appealed to the Muse of History whose
business it is to set down everything in order as it happens,
judging between good and evil, selecting facts, condensing
narratives, admitting picturesque touches, and showing her further
knowledge by the allusive method or use of the dependent clause.
Well then, inspired, I will tell you exactly how that house was
disposed. First, there ran up the middle of it a staircase which,
had Horace seen it (and heaven knows he was the kind of man to live
in such a house), he would have called in his original and striking
way "Res Angusta Domi," for it was a narrow thing. Narrow do I call
it? Yes--and yet not so narrow. It was narrow enough to avoid all
appearance of comfort or majesty, yet not so narrow as to be quaint
or snug. It was so designed that two people could walk exactly
abreast, for it was necessary that upon great occasions the ladies
should be taken down from the drawing-room by the gentlemen to the
dining-room, yet it would have been a sin and a shame to make it
wider than that, and the house was not built in the days of
crinolines. Upon these occasions it was customary for the couples to
go down in order and in stately fashion, and the hostess went last;
but do not imagine that there was any order of precedence. Oh, no!
Far from it, they went as they were directed.

This staircase filled up a kind of Chimney or Funnel, or rather
Parallelepiped, in the house: half-way between each floor was a
landing where it turned right round on itself, and on each floor a
larger landing flanked by two doors on either side, which made four
altogether. This staircase was covered with Brussels carpet (and let
me tell you in passing that no better covering for stairs was ever
yet invented; it wears well and can be turned, and when the uppers
are worn you can move the whole thing down one file and put the steps
where the uppers were. None of your cocoanut stuff or gimcracks for
the honest house: when there is money you should have Brussels, when
you have none linoleum--but I digress). The stair-rods were of brass
and beautifully polished, the banisters of iron painted to look like
mahogany; and this staircase, which I may take to be the emblem of a
good life lived for duty, went up one pair, and two pair, and three
pair--all in the same way, and did not stop till it got to the top.
But just as a good life has beneath it a human basis so this (heaven
forgive me!) somewhat commonplace staircase changed its character
when it passed the hall door, and as it ran down to the basement had
no landing, ornament, carpet or other paraphernalia, but a sound
flight of stone steps with a cold rim of unpainted metal for the hand.

The hall that led to these steps was oblong and little furnished.
There was a hat-rack, a fireplace (in which a fire was not lit) and
two pictures; one a photograph of the poor men to whom the owner
paid weekly wages at his Works, all set out in a phalanx, or rather
fan, with the Owner of the House (and them) in the middle, the other
a steel engraving entitled "The Monarch of the Forest," from a
painting by Sir Edwin Landseer. It represented a stag and was very

On the ground floor of the House (which is a libel, for it was some
feet above the ground, and was led up to by several steps, as the
porch could show) there were four rooms--the Dining-room, the
Smoking-room, the Downstairs-room and the Back-room. The Dining-room
was so called because all meals were held in it; the Smoking-room
because it was customary to smoke all over the house (except the
Drawing-room); the Back-room because it was at the back, and the
Downstairs-room because it was downstairs. Upon my soul, I would
give you a better reason if I had one, but I have none. Only I may
say that the Smoking-room was remarkable for two stuffed birds, the
Downstairs-room from the fact that the Owner lived in it and felt at
ease there, the Back-room from the fact that no one ever went into
it (and quite right too), while the Dining-room--but the Dining-room
stands separate.

The Dining-room was well carpeted; it had in its midst a large
mahogany table so made that it could get still larger by the
addition of leaves inside; there were even flaps as well. It had
eleven chairs, and these in off-times stood ranged round the wall
thinking of nothing, but at meal times were (according to the number
wanted) put round the table. It is a theory among those who believe
that a spirit nourishes all things from within, that there was some
competition amongst these chairs as to which should be used at
table, so dull, forlorn and purposeless was their life against the
wall. Seven pictures hung on that wall; not because it was a mystic
number, but because it filled up all the required space; two on each
side of the looking-glass and three large ones on the opposite wall.
They were all of them engravings, and one of them at least was that
of a prominent statesman (Lord Beaconsfield), while the rest had to
do with historical subjects, such as the visit of Prince Albert to
the Exhibition of 1851, and I really forget what else. There was a
Chiffonier at the end of the room in which the wines and spirits
were kept, and which also had a looking-glass above it; also a white
cloth on the top for no reason on earth. An arm-chair (in which the
Owner sat) commonly stood at the head of the table; this remained
there even between meals, and was a symbol that he was master of the
house. Four meals were held here. Breakfast at eight, dinner at one,
tea at six, and a kind of supper (when the children had gone to bed)
at nine or so. But what am I saying--_quo Musa Historiae
tendis?_--dear! dear! I thought I was back again in the old
times! a thousand pardons. At the time my story opens--and closes
also for that matter (for I deal of the Owner and the House _in
articulo mortis_ so to speak; on the very edge of death)--it was
far otherwise. Breakfast was when you like (for him, however, always
at the same old hour, and there he would sit alone, his wife dead,
his son asleep--trying to read his newspaper, but staring out from
time to time through the window and feeling very companion-less).
Dinner was no longer dinner; there was "luncheon" to which nobody
came except on Saturdays. Then there was another thing (called by
the old name of dinner) at half-past seven, and what had happened to
supper no one ever made out. Some people said it had gone to
Prince's, but certainly the Owner never followed it there.

On the next floor was the Drawing-room, noted for its cabinet of
curiosities, its small aquarium, its large sofa, its piano and its
inlaid table. The back of the drawing-room was another room beyond
folding doors. This would have been convenient if a dance had ever
been given in the house. On the other side were the best bedroom and
a dressing-room. Each in its way what might be expected, save that at
the head of the best bed were two little pockets as in the time of our
grandfathers; also there was a Chevalier looking-glass and on the
dressing-table a pin-cushion with pins arranged in a pattern. The
fire-place and the mantelpiece were of white marble and had on them
two white vases picked out in bright green, a clock with a bronze
upon it representing a waiter dressed up partly in fifteenth-century
plate and partly in twelfth-century mail, and on the wall were two
Jewish texts, each translated into Jacobean English and illuminated
with a Victorian illumination. One said: "He hath prevented all my
ways." The other said: "Wisdom is better than Rubies." But the gothic
"u" was ill made and it looked like "Rabies." There was also in the
room a good wardrobe of a kind now difficult to get, made out of cedar
and very reasonable in arrangement. There was, moreover (now it occurs
to me), a little table for writing on; there was writing paper with
"Wood Thorpe" on it, but there were no stamps, and the ink was dry in
the bottles (for there were two bottles).

Well, now, shall I be at the pains of telling you what there was
upstairs? Not I! I am tired enough as it is of detailing all these
things. I will speak generally. There were four bedrooms. They were
used by the family, and above there was an attic which belonged to
the servants. The decoration of the wall was everywhere much the
same, save that it got a little meaner as one rose, till at last, in
the top rooms of all, there was nothing but little photographs of
sweethearts or pictures out of illustrated papers stuck against the
walls. The wall-paper, that had cost 3_s_. 3_d_. a piece in the hall and
dining-room, and 7_s_. 6_d_. in the drawing-room, suddenly began to
cost 1_s_. 4_d_. in the upper story and the attic was merely whitewashed.

One thing more there was, a little wooden gate. It had been put
there when the children were little, and had remained ever since at
the top of the stairs. Why? It may have been mere routine. It may
have been romance. The Owner was a practical man, and the little
gate was in the way; it was true he never had to shut and open it on
his way to bed, and but rarely even saw it. Did he leave it there
from a weak sentiment or from a culpable neglect? He was not a
sentimental man; on the other hand, he was not negligent. There is a
great deal to be said on both sides, and it is too late to discuss
that now.

Heaven send us such a house, or a house of some kind; but Heaven
send us also the liberty to furnish it as we choose. For this it was
that made the Owner's joy: he had done what he liked in his own
surroundings, and I very much doubt whether the people who live in
Queen Anne houses or go in for timber fronts can say the same.


The other day I noticed that my Muse, who had long been ailing,
silent and morose, was showing signs of actual illness.

Now, though it is by no means one of my habits to coddle the dogs,
cats and other familiars of my household, yet my Muse had so pitiful
an appearance that I determined to send for the doctor, but not
before I had seen her to bed with a hot bottle, a good supper, and
such other comforts as the Muses are accustomed to value. All that
could be done for the poor girl was done thoroughly; a fine fire was
lit in her bedroom, and a great number of newspapers such as she is
given to reading for her recreation were bought at a neighbouring
shop. When she had drunk her wine and read in their entirety the
_Daily Telegraph_, the _Morning Post_, the _Standard_, the _Daily
Mail_, the _Daily Express_, the _Times_, the _Daily News_, and
even the _Advertiser_, I was glad to see her sink into a profound

I will confess that the jealousy which is easily aroused among
servants when one of their number is treated with any special
courtesy gave me some concern, and I was at the pains of explaining
to the household not only the grave indisposition from which the
Muse suffered, but also the obligation I was under to her on account
of her virtues: which were, her long and faithful service, her
willingness, and the excess of work which she had recently been
compelled to perform. Her fellow-servants, to my astonishment and
pleasure, entered at once into the spirit of my apology: the still-room
maid offered to sit up with her all night, or at least until the
trained nurse should arrive, and the groom of the chambers, with
a good will that I confess was truly surprising in one of his proud
nature, volunteered to go himself and order straw for the street
from a neighbouring stable.

The cause of this affection which the Muse had aroused in the whole
household I subsequently discovered to lie in her own amiable and
unselfish temper. She had upon two occasions inspired the knife-boy
to verses which had subsequently appeared in the _Spectator_,
and with weekly regularity she would lend her aid to the cook in the
composition of those technical reviews by which (as it seemed) that
domestic increased her ample wages.

The Muse had slept for a full six hours when the doctor arrived--a
specialist in these matters and one who has before now been called
in (I am proud to say) by such great persons as Mr. Hichens, Mr.
Churchill, and Mr. Roosevelt when their Muses have been out of
sorts. Indeed, he is that doctor who operated for aphasia upon the
Muse of the late Mr. Rossetti just before his demise. His fees are
high, but I was willing enough to pay, and certainly would never
have consented--as have, I regret to say, so many of my unworthy
contemporaries--to employ a veterinary surgeon upon such an

The great specialist approached with a determined air the couch
where the patient lay, awoke her according to the ancient formula,
and proceeded to question her upon her symptoms. He soon discovered
their gravity, and I could see by his manner that he was anxious to
an extreme. The Muse had grown so weak as to be unable to dictate
even a little blank verse, and the indisposition had so far affected
her mind that she had no memory of Parnassus, but deliriously
maintained that she had been born in the home counties--nay, in the
neighbourhood of Uxbridge. Her every phrase was a deplorable
commonplace, and, on the physician applying a stethoscope and
begging her to attempt some verse, she could give us nothing better
than a sonnet upon the expansion of the Empire. Her weakness was
such that she could do no more than awake, and that feebly, while
she professed herself totally unable to arise, to expand, to soar,
to haunt, or to perform any of those exercises which are proper to
her profession.

When his examination was concluded the doctor took me aside and
asked me upon what letters the patient had recently fed. I told him
upon the daily Press, some of the reviews, the telegrams from the
latest seat of war, and occasionally a debate in Parliament. At this
he shook his head and asked whether too much had not recently been
asked of her. I admitted that she had done a very considerable
amount of work for so young a Muse in the past year, though its
quality was doubtful, and I hastened to add that I was the less to
blame as she had wasted not a little of her powers upon others
without asking my leave; notably upon the knife-boy and the cook.

The doctor was then good enough to write out a prescription in Latin
and to add such general recommendations as are commonly of more
value than physic. She was to keep her bed, to be allowed no modern
literature of any kind, unless Milton and Swift may be admitted as
moderns, and even these authors and their predecessors were to be
admitted in very sparing quantities. If any signs of inversion,
archaism, or neologistic tendencies appeared he was to be summoned
at once; but of these (he added) he had little fear. He did not
doubt that in a few weeks we should have her up and about again, but
he warned me against letting her begin work too soon.

"I would not," he said, "permit her to undertake any effort until
she can inspire within one day of twelve hours at least eighteen
quatrains, and those lucid, grammatical, and moving. As for single
lines, tags, fine phrases, and the rest, they are no sign whatever
of returning health, if anything of the contrary."

He also begged that she might not be allowed any Greek or Latin for
ten days, but I reassured him upon the matter by telling him that
she was totally unacquainted with those languages--at which he
expressed some pleasure but even more astonishment.

At last he told me that he was compelled to be gone; the season had
been very hard, nor had he known so general a breakdown among the
Muses of his various clients.

I thought it polite as I took him to the door to ask after some of
his more distinguished patients; he was glad to say that the
Archbishop of Armagh's was very vigorous indeed, in spite of the age
of her illustrious master. He had rarely known a more inventive or
courageous female, but when, as I handed him into his carriage, I
asked after that of Mr. Kipling, his face became suddenly grave; and
he asked me, "Have you not heard?"

"No," said I; but I had a fatal presentiment of what was to follow,
and indeed I was almost prepared for it when he answered in solemn

"She is dead."


There lives in the middle of the Weald upon the northern edge of a
small wood where a steep brow of orchard pasture goes down to a
little river, a Recluse who is of middle age and possessed of all
the ordinary accomplishments; that is, French and English literature
are familiar to him, he can himself compose, he has read his
classical Latin and can easily decipher such Greek as he has been
taught in youth. He is unmarried, he is by birth a gentleman, he
enjoys an income sufficient to give him food and wine, and has for
companion a dog who, by the standard of dogs, is somewhat more
elderly than himself.

This dog is called Argus, not that he has a hundred eyes nor even two,
indeed he has but one; for the other, or right eye, he lost the sight
of long ago from luxury and lack of exercise. This dog Argus is neither
small nor large; he is brown in colour and covered--though now but
partially--with curly hair. In this he resembles many other dogs, but
he differs from most of his breed in a further character, which is
that by long association with a Recluse he has acquired a human manner
that is unholy. He is fond of affected poses. When he sleeps it is with
that abandonment of fatigue only naturally to be found in mankind. He
watches sunsets and listens mournfully to music. Cooked food is dearer
to him than raw, and he will eat nuts--a monstrous thing in a dog and
proof of corruption.

Nevertheless, or, rather, on account of all this, the dog Argus is
exceedingly dear to his master, and of both I had the other day a
singular revelation when I set out at evening to call upon my

The sun had set, but the air was still clear and it was light enough
to have shot a bat (had there been bats about and had one had a gun)
when I knocked at the cottage door and opened it. Right within, one
comes to the first of the three rooms which the Recluse possesses,
and there I found him tenderly nursing the dog Argus, who lay
groaning in the arm-chair and putting on all the airs of a Christian
man at the point of death.

The Recluse did not even greet me, but asked me only in a hurried
way how I thought the dog Argus looked. I answered gravely and in a
low tone so as not to disturb the sufferer, that as I had not seen
him since Tuesday, when he was, for an elderly dog, in the best of
health, he certainly presented a sad contrast, but that perhaps he
was better than he had been some few hours before, and that the
Recluse himself would be the best judge of that.

My friend was greatly relieved at what I said, and told me that he
thought the dog was better, compared at least with that same
morning; then, whether you believe it or not, he took him by the
left leg just above the paw and held it for a little time as though
he were feeling a pulse, and said, "He came back less than twenty-four
hours ago!" It seemed that the dog Argus, for the first time in fourteen
years, had run away, and that for the first time in perhaps twenty or
thirty years the emotion of loss had entered into the life of the
Recluse, and that he had felt something outside books and outside
the contemplation of the landscape about his hermitage.

In a short time the dog fell into a slumber, as was shown by a
number of grunts and yaps which proved his sleep, for the dog Argus
is of that kind which hunts in dreams. His master covered him
reverently rather than gently with an Indian cloth and, still
leaving him in the armchair, sat down upon a common wooden chair
close by and gazed pitifully at the fire. For my part I stood up and
wondered at them both, and wondered also at that in man by which he
must attach himself to something, even if it be but a dog, a
politician, or an ungrateful child.

When he had gazed at the fire a little while the Recluse began to
talk, and I listened to him talking:

"Even if they had not dug up so much earth to prove it I should have
known," said he, "that the Odyssey was written not at the beginning
of a civilisation nor in the splendour of it, but towards its close.
I do not say this from the evening light that shines across its
pages, for that is common to all profound work, but I say it because
of the animals, and especially because of the dog, who was the only
one to know his master when that master came home a beggar to his
own land, before his youth was restored to him, and before he got
back his women and his kingship by the bending of his bow, and
before he hanged the housemaids and killed all those who had
despised him."

"But how," said I (for I am younger than he), "can the animals in
the poem show you that the poem belongs to a decline?"

"Why," said he, "because at the end of a great civilisation the air
gets empty, the light goes out of the sky, the gods depart, and men
in their loneliness put out a groping hand, catching at the
friendship of, and trying to understand, whatever lives and suffers
as they do. You will find it never fail that where a passionate
regard for the animals about us, or even a great tenderness for
them, is to be found there is also to be found decay in the State."

"I hope not," said I. "Moreover, it cannot be true, for in the
Thirteenth Century, which was certainly the healthiest time we ever
had, animals were understood; and I will prove it to you in several

He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, saying, "In the rough
and in general it is true; and the reason is the reason I have given
you, that when decay begins, whether of a man or of a State, there
comes with it an appalling and a torturing loneliness in which our
energies decline into a strong affection for whatever is constantly
our companion and for whatever is certainly present upon earth. For
we have lost the sky."

"Then if the senses are so powerful in a decline of the State there
should come at the same time," said I, "a quick forgetfulness of the
human dead and an easy change of human friendship?"

"There does," he answered, and to that there was no more to be said.

"I know it by my own experience," he continued. "When, yesterday, at
sunset, I looked for my dog Argus and could not find him, I went out
into the wood and called him: the darkness came and I found no trace
of him. I did not hear him barking far off as I have heard him
before when he was younger and went hunting for a while, and three
times that night I came back out of the wild into the warmth of my
house, making sure he would have returned, but he was never there.
The third time I had gone a mile out to the gamekeeper's to give him
money if Argus should be found, and I asked him as many questions
and as foolish as a woman would ask. Then I sat up right into the
night, thinking that every movement of the wind outside or of the
drip of water was the little pad of his step coming up the
flagstones to the door. I was even in the mood when men see unreal
things, and twice I thought I saw him passing quickly between my
chair and the passage to the further room. But these things are
proper to the night and the strongest thing I suffered for him was
in the morning.

"It was, as you know, very bitterly cold for several days. They
found things dead in the hedgerows, and there was perhaps no running
water between here and the Downs. There was no shelter from the
snow. There was no cover for my friend at all. And when I was up at
dawn with the faint light about, a driving wind full of sleet filled
all the air. Then I made certain that the dog Argus was dead, and
what was worse that I should not find his body: that the old dog had
got caught in some snare or that his strength had failed him through
the cold, as it fails us human beings also upon such nights,
striking at the heart.

"Though I was certain that I would not see him again yet I went on
foolishly and aimlessly enough, plunging through the snow from one
spinney to another and hoping that I might hear a whine. I heard
none: and if the little trail he had made in his departure might
have been seen in the evening, long before that morning the drift
would have covered it.

"I had eaten nothing and yet it was near noon when I returned,
pushing forward to the cottage against the pressure of the storm,
when I found there, miserably crouched, trembling, half dead, in the
lee of a little thick yew beside my door, the dog Argus; and as I
came his tail just wagged and he just moved his ears, but he had not
the strength to come near me, his master."

[Greek: ourae men rh ho g esaene kai ouata kabbalen ampho, asson d
ouket epeita dunaesato oio anaktos elthemen.]

"I carried him in and put him here, feeding him by force, and I have
restored him."

All this the Recluse said to me with as deep and as restrained
emotion as though he had been speaking of the most sacred things, as
indeed, for him, these things were sacred.

It was therefore a mere inadvertence in me, and an untrained habit
of thinking aloud, which made me say:

"Good Heavens, what will you do when the dog Argus dies?"

At once I wished I had not said it, for I could see that the Recluse
could not bear the words. I looked therefore a little awkwardly
beyond him and was pleased to see the dog Argus lazily opening his
one eye and surveying me with torpor and with contempt. He was
certainly less moved than his master.

Then in my heart I prayed that of these two (unless The God would
make them both immortal and catch them up into whatever place is
better than the Weald, or unless he would grant them one death
together upon one day) that the dog Argus might survive my friend,
and that the Recluse might be the first to dissolve that long
companionship. For of this I am certain, that the dog would suffer
less; for men love their dependents much more than do their
dependents them; and this is especially true of brutes; for men are
nearer to the gods.


When I was a boy--

What a phrase! What memories! O! Noctes Coenasque Deûm! Why, then,
is there something in man that wholly perishes? It is against sound
religion to believe it, but the world would lead one to imagine it.
The Hills are there. I see them as I write. They are the cloud or
wall that dignified my sixteenth year. And the river is there, and
flows by that same meadow beyond my door; from above Coldwatham the
same vast horizon opens westward in waves of receding crests more
changeable and more immense than is even our sea. The same sunsets
at times bring it all in splendour, for whatever herds the western
clouds together in our stormy evenings is as stable and as vigorous
as the County itself. If, therefore, there is something gone, it is
I that have lost it.

Certainly something is diminished (the Priests and the tradition of
the West forbid me to say that the soul can perish), certainly
something is diminished--what? Well, I do not know its name, nor has
anyone known it face to face or apprehended it in this life, but the
sense and influence--alas! especially the memory of It, lies in the
words "When I was a boy," and if I write those words again in any
document whatsoever, even in a lawyer's letter, without admitting at
once a full-blooded and galloping parenthesis, may the Seven Devils
of Sense take away the last remnant of the joy they lend me.

When I was a boy there was nothing all about the village or the
woods that had not its living god, and all these gods were good. Oh!
How the County and its Air shone from within; what meaning lay in
unexpected glimpses of far horizons; what a friend one was with the

Well, all I can say to the Theologians is this:

"I will grant you that the Soul does not decay: you know more of
such flimsy things than I do. But you, on your side, must grant me
that there is Something which does not enter into your systems. That
has perished, and I mean to mourn it all the days of my life. Pray
do not interfere with that peculiar ritual."

When I was a boy I knew Nature as a child knows its nurse, and Tea I
denounced for a drug. I found to support this fine instinct many
arguments, all of which are still sound, though not one of them
would prevent me now from drinking my twentieth cup. It was
introduced late and during a corrupt period. It was an exotic. It
was a sham exhilarant to which fatal reactions could not but attach.
It was no part of the Diet of the Natural Man. The two nations that
alone consume it--the English and the Chinese--are become, by its
baneful influence on the imagination, the most easily deceived in
the world. Their politics are a mass of bombastic illusions. Also it
dries their skins. It tans the liver, hardens the coats of the
stomach, makes the brain feverishly active, rots the nerve-springs;
all that is still true. Nevertheless I now drink it, and shall drink
it; for of all the effects of Age none is more profound than this:
that it leads men to the worship of some one spirit less erect than
the Angels. A care, an egotism, an irritability with regard to
details, an anxious craving, a consummate satisfaction in the
performance of the due rites, an ecstasy of habit, all proclaim the
senile heresy, the material Religion. I confess to Tea.

All is arranged in this Cult with the precision of an ancient creed.
The matter of the Sacrifice must come from China. He that would
drink Indian Tea would smoke hay. The Pot must be of metal, and the
metal must be a white metal, not gold or iron. Who has not known the
acidity and paucity of Tea from a silver-gilt or golden spout? The
Pot must first be warmed by pouring in a little _boiling_ water
(the word _boiling_ should always be underlined); then the
water is poured away and a few words are said. Then the Tea is put
in and unrolls and spreads in the steam. Then, in due order, on
these expanding leaves _Boiling_ Water is largely poured and
the god arises, worthy of continual but evil praise and of the
thanks of the vicious, a Deity for the moment deceitfully kindly to
men. Under his influence the whole mind receives a sharp vision of
power. It is a phantasm and a cheat. Men can do wonders through
wine; through Tea they only think themselves great and clear--but
that is enough if one has bound oneself to that strange idol and
learnt the magic phrase on His Pedestal, [Greek: ARISTON MEN TI],
for of all the illusions and dreams men cherish none is so grandiose
as the illusion of conscious power within.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, then, it fades.... I begin to see that this cannot continue
... of Tea it came, inconsecutive and empty; with the influence of
Tea dissolving, let these words also dissolve.... I could wish it
had been Opium, or Haschisch, or even Gin; you would have had
something more soaring for your money.... _In vino Veritas. In
Aqua satietas. In_ ... What is the Latin for Tea? What! Is there
no Latin word for Tea? Upon my soul, if I had known that I would
have let the vulgar stuff alone.


I do not like Them. It is no good asking me why, though I have
plenty of reasons. I do not like Them. There would be no particular
point in saying I do not like Them if it were not that so many
people doted on Them, and when one hears Them praised, it goads one
to expressing one's hatred and fear of Them.

I know very well that They can do one harm, and that They have
occult powers. All the world has known that for a hundred thousand
years, more or less, and every attempt has been made to propitiate
Them. James I. would drown Their mistress or burn her, but
_They_ were spared. Men would mummify Them in Egypt, and
worship the mummies; men would carve Them in stone in Cyprus, and
Crete and Asia Minor, or (more remarkable still) artists, especially
in the Western Empire, would leave Them out altogether; so much was
Their influence dreaded. Well, I yield so far as not to print Their
name, and only to call Them "They", but I hate Them, and I'm not
afraid to say so.

If you will take a little list of the chief crimes that living
beings can commit you will find that They commit them all. And They
are cruel; cruelty is even in Their tread and expression. They are
hatefully cruel. I saw one of Them catch a mouse the other day (the
cat is now out of the bag), and it was a very much more sickening
sight, I fancy, than ordinary murder. You may imagine that They
catch mice to eat them. It is not so. They catch mice to torture them.
And what is worse, They will teach this to Their children--Their
children who are naturally innocent and fat, and full of goodness,
are deliberately and systematically corrupted by Them; there is
diabolism in it.

Other beings (I include mankind) will be gluttonous, but gluttonous
spasmodically, or with a method, or shamefacedly, or, in some way or
another that qualifies the vice; not so They. They are gluttonous
always and upon all occasions, and in every place and for ever. It
was only last Vigil of All Fools' Day when, myself fasting, I filled
up the saucer seven times with milk and seven times it was emptied,
and there went up the most peevish, querulous, vicious complaint and
demand for an eighth. They will eat some part of the food of all
that are in the house. Now even a child, the most gluttonous one
would think of all living creatures, would not do that. It makes a
selection, _They_ do not. _They_ will drink beer. This is not a theory;
I know it; I have seen it with my own eyes. They will eat special foods;
They will even eat dry bread. Here again I have personal evidence of
the fact; They will eat the dog's biscuits, but never upon any occasion
will They eat anything that has been poisoned, so utterly lacking are
They in simplicity and humility, and so abominably well filled with
cunning by whatever demon first brought their race into existence.

They also, alone of all creation, love hateful noises. Some beings
indeed (and I count Man among them) cannot help the voice with which
they have been endowed, but they know that it is offensive, and are
at pains to make it better; others (such as the peacock or the
elephant) also know that their cry is unpleasant. They therefore use
it sparingly. Others again, the dove, the nightingale, the thrush,
know that their voices are very pleasant, and entertain us with them
all day and all night long; but They know that Their voices are the
most hideous of all the sounds in the world, and, knowing this, They
perpetually insist upon thrusting those voices upon us, saying, as
it were, "I am giving myself pain, but I am giving you more pain,
and therefore I shall go on." And They choose for the place where
this pain shall be given, exact and elevated situations, very close
to our ears. Is there any need for me to point out that in every
city they will begin their wicked jar just at the time when its
inhabitants must sleep? In London you will not hear it till after
midnight; in the county towns it begins at ten; in remote villages
as early as nine.

Their Master also protects them. They have a charmed life. I have
seen one thrown from a great height into a London street, which when
It reached it It walked quietly away with the dignity of the Lost
World to which It belonged.

If one had the time one could watch Them day after day, and never
see Them do a single kind or good thing, or be moved by a single
virtuous impulse. They have no gesture for the expression of
admiration, love, reverence or ecstasy. They have but one method of
expressing content, and They reserve that for moments of physical
repletion. The tail, which is in all other animals the signal for
joy or for defence, or for mere usefulness, or for a noble anger, is
with Them agitated only to express a sullen discontent.

All that They do is venomous, and all that They think is evil, and
when I take mine away (as I mean to do next week--in a basket), I
shall first read in a book of statistics what is the wickedest part
of London, and I shall leave It there, for I know of no one even
among my neighbours quite so vile as to deserve such a gift.


Railways have changed the arrangement and distribution of crowds and
solitude, but have done nothing to disturb the essential contrast
between them.

The more behindhand of my friends, among whom I count the weary men
of the towns, are ceaselessly bewailing the effect of railways and
the spoiling of the country; nor do I fail, when I hear such
complaints, to point out their error, courteously to hint at their
sheep-like qualities, and with all the delicacy imaginable to let
them understand they are no better than machines repeating worn-out
formulae through the nose. The railways and those slow lumbering
things the steamboats have not spoilt our solitudes, on the contrary
they have intensified the quiet of the older haunts, they have
created new sanctuaries, and (crowning blessing) they make it easy
for us to reach our refuges.

For in the first place you will notice that new lines of travel are
like canals cut through the stagnant marsh of an old civilisation,
draining it of populace and worry, and concentrating upon themselves
the odious pressure of humanity.

You know (to adopt the easy or conversational style) that you and I
belong to a happy minority. We are the sons of the hunters and the
wandering singers, and from our boyhood nothing ever gave us greater
pleasure than to stand under lonely skies in forest clearings, or to
find a beach looking westward at evening over unfrequented seas. But
the great mass of men love companionship so much that nothing seems
of any worth compared with it. Human communion is their meat and
drink, and so they use the railways to make bigger and bigger hives
for themselves.

Now take the true modern citizen, the usurer. How does the usurer
suck the extremest pleasure out of his holiday? He takes the train
preferably at a very central station near the Strand, and (if he can
choose his time) on a foggy and dirty day; he picks out an express
that will take him with the greatest speed through the Garden of Eden,
nor does he begin to feel the full savour of relaxation till a row of
abominable villas' appears on the southern slope of what were once the
downs; these villas stand like the skirmishers of a foul army deployed:
he is immediately whirled into Brighton and is at peace. There he has
his wish for three days; there he can never see anything but houses,
or, if he has to walk along the sea, he can rest his eye on herds of
unhappy people and huge advertisements, and he can hear the newspaper
boys telling lies (perhaps special lies he has paid for) at the top of
their voices; he can note as evening draws on the pleasant glare of gas
upon the street mud and there pass him the familiar surroundings of
servility, abject poverty, drunkenness, misery, and vice. He has his
music-hall on the Saturday evening with the sharp, peculiar finish of
the London accent in the patriotic song, he has the London paper on
Sunday to tell him that his nastiest little Colonial War was a crusade,
and on Monday morning he has the familiar feeling that follows his
excesses of the previous day.... Are you not glad that such men and
their lower-fellows swarm by hundreds of thousands into the "resorts"?
Do you not bless the railways that take them so quickly from one Hell
to another.

Never let me hear you say that the railways spoil a countryside;
they do, it is true, spoil this or that particular place--as, for
example, Crewe, Brighton, Stratford-on-Avon--but for this
disadvantage they give us I know not how many delights. What is more
English than the country railway station? I defy the eighteenth
century to produce anything more English, more full of home and rest
and the nature of the country, than my junction. Twenty-seven trains
a day stop at it or start from it; it serves even the expresses.
Smith's monopoly has a bookstall there; you can get cheap Kipling
and Harmsworth to any extent, and yet it is a theme for English
idylls. The one-eyed porter whom I have known from childhood; the
station-master who ranges us all in ranks, beginning with the Duke
and ending with a sad, frayed and literary man; the little chaise in
which the two old ladies from Barlton drive up to get their paper of
an evening, the servant from the inn, the newsboy whose mother keeps
a sweetshop--they are all my village friends. The glorious Sussex
accent, whose only vowel is the broad "a", grows but more rich and
emphatic from the necessity of impressing itself upon foreign
intruders. The smoke also of the train as it skirts the Downs is
part and parcel of what has become (thanks to the trains) our
encloistered country life; the smoke of the trains is a little
smudge of human activity which permits us to match our incomparable
seclusion with the hurly-burly from which we have fled. Upon my
soul, when I climb up the Beacon to read my book on the warm turf,
the sight of an engine coming through the cutting is an emphasis of
my selfish enjoyment. I say "There goes the Brighton train", but the
image of Brighton, with its Anglo-Saxons and its Vision of Empire,
does not oppress me; it is a far-off thing; its life ebbs and flows
along that belt of iron to distances that do not regard me.

Consider this also with regard to my railway: it brings me what I
want in order to be perfect in my isolation. Those books discussing
Problems: whether or not there is such an idea as right; the
inconvenience of being married; the worry of being Atheist and yet
living upon a clerical endowment,--these fine discussions come from
a library in a box by train and I can torture myself for a shilling,
whereas, before the railways, I should have had to fall back on the
_Gentleman's Magazine_ and the County History. In the way of
newspapers it provides me with just the companionship necessary to a
hermitage. Often and often, after getting through one paper, I
stroll down to the junction and buy fifteen others, and so enjoy the
fruits of many minds.

Thanks to my railway I can sit in the garden of an evening and read
my paper as I smoke my pipe, and say, "Ah! That's Buggin's work. I
remember him well; he worked for Rhodes.... Hullo! Here's Simpson at
it again; since when did they buy _him_?..." And so forth. I lead
my pastoral life, happy in the general world about me, and I serve,
as sauce to such healthy meat, the piquant wickedness of the town;
nor do I ever note a cowardice, a lie, a bribery, or a breach of
trust, a surrender in the field, or a new Peerage, but I remember
that my newspaper could not add these refining influences to my life
but for the _railway_ which I set out to praise at the beginning of
this and intend to praise manfully to the end.

Yet another good we owe to railways occurs to me. They keep the
small towns going.

Don't pester me with "economics" on that point; I know more
economics than you, and I say that but for the railways the small
towns would have gone to pieces. There never yet was a civilisation
growing richer and improving its high roads in which the small towns
did not dwindle. The village supplied the local market with bodily
necessaries; the intellectual life, the civic necessities had to go
into the large towns. It happened in the second and third centuries
in Italy; it happened in France between Henri IV and the Revolution;
it was happening here before 1830.

Take those little paradises Ludlow and Leominster; consider Arundel,
and please your memory with the admirable slopes of Whitchurch; grow
contented in a vision of Ledbury, of Rye, or of Abingdon, or of
Beccles with its big church over the river, or of Newport in the
Isle of Wight, or of King's Lynn, or of Lymington--you would not
have any of these but for the railway, and there are 1800 such in
England--one for every tolerable man.

Valognes in the Cotentin, Bourg-d'Oysan down in the Dauphiné in its
vast theatre of upright hills, St. Julien in the Limousin,
Aubusson-in-the-hole, Puy (who does not connect beauty with the
word?), Mansle in the Charente country--they had all been half dead
for over a century when the railway came to them and made them
jolly, little, trim, decent, self-contained, worthy, satisfactory,
genial, comforting and human [Greek: politeiae], with clergy, upper
class, middle class, poor, soldiers, yesterday's news, a college,
anti-Congo men, fools, strong riders, old maids, and all that makes
a state. In England the railway brought in that beneficent class,
the gentlemen; in France, that still more beneficent class, the
Haute Bourgeoisie.

I know what you are going to say; you are going to say that there
were squires before the railways in England. Pray have you
considered how many squires there were to go round? About half a
dozen squires to every town, that is (say) four gentlemen, and of
those four gentlemen let us say two took some interest in the place.
It wasn't good enough ... and heaven help the country towns now if
they had to depend on the great houses! There would be a smart dog-cart
once a day with a small (vicious and servile) groom in it, an actor, a
foreign money-lender, a popular novelist, or a newspaper owner jumping
out to make his purchases and driving back again to his host's within
the hour. No, no; what makes the country town is the Army, the Navy,
the Church, and the Law--especially the retired ones.

Then think of the way in which the railways keep a good man's
influence in a place and a bad man's out of it. Your good man loves
a country town, but he must think, and read, and meet people, so in
the last century he regretfully took a town house and had his little
house in the country as well. Now he lives in the country and runs
up to town when he likes.

He is always a permanent influence in the little city--especially if
he has but £400 a year, which is the normal income of a retired
gentleman (yes, it is so, and if you think it is too small an
estimate, come with me some day and make an inquisitorial tour of my
town). As for the vulgar and cowardly man, he hates small towns
(fancy a South African financier in a small town!), well, the
railway takes him away. Of old he might have had to stay there or
starve, now he goes to London and runs a rag, or goes into
Parliament, or goes to dances dressed up in imitation of a soldier;
or he goes to Texas and gets hanged--it's all one to me. He's out of
my town.

And as the railways have increased the local refinement and virtue,
so they have ennobled and given body to the local dignitary. What
would the Bishop of Caen (he calls himself Bishop of Lisieux and
Bayeux, but that is archaeological pedantry); what, I say, would the
Bishop of Caen be without his railway? A Phantom or a Paris magnate.
What the Mayor of High Wycombe? Ah! what indeed! But I cannot waste
any more of this time of mine in discussing one aspect of the
railway; what further I have to say on the subject shall be
presented in due course in my book on _The Small Town of
Christendom_ [Footnote: _The Small Town of Christendom: an
Analytical Study_. With an Introduction by Joseph Reinach. Ulmo
et Cie. £25 nett.] I will close this series of observations with a
little list of benefits the railway gives you, many of which would
not have occurred to you but for my ingenuity, some of which you may
have thought of at some moment or other, and yet would never have
retained but for my patient labour in this.

The railway gives you seclusion. If you are in an express alone you
are in the only spot in Western Europe where you can be certain of
two or three hours to yourself. At home in the dead of night you may
be wakened by a policeman or a sleep-walker or a dog. The heaths are
populous. You cannot climb to the very top of Helvellyn to read your
own poetry to yourself without the fear of a tourist. But in the
corner of a third-class going north or west you can be sure of your
own company; the best, the most sympathetic, the most brilliant in
the world.

The railway gives you sharp change. And what we need in change is
surely keenness. For instance, if one wanted to go sailing in the
old days, one left London, had a bleak drive in the country, got
nearer and nearer the sea, felt the cold and wet and discomfort
growing on one, and after half a day or a day's gradual introduction
to the thing, one would at last have got on deck, wet and wretched,
and half the fun over. Nowadays what happens? Why, the other day, a
rich man was sitting in London with a poor friend; they were
discussing what to do in three spare days they had. They said "let
us sail." They left London in a nice warm, comfortable, rich-padded,
swelly carriage at four, and before dark they were letting
everything go, putting on the oilies, driving through the open in
front of it under a treble-reefed storm jib, praying hard for their
lives in last Monday's gale, and wishing to God they had stayed at
home--all in the four hours. That is what you may call piquant, it
braces and refreshes a man.

For the rest I cannot detail the innumerable minor advantages of
railways; the mild excitement which is an antidote to gambling; the
shaking which (in moderation) is good for livers; the meeting
familiarly with every kind of man and talking politics to him; the
delight in rapid motion; the luncheon-baskets; the porters; the
solid guard; the strenuous engine-driver (note this next time you
travel--it is an accurate observation). And of what other kind of
modern thing can it be said that more than half pay dividends?
Thinking of these things, what sane and humorous man would ever
suggest that a part of life, so fertile in manifold and human
pleasure, should ever be bought by the dull clique who call
themselves "the State", and should yield under such a scheme yet
_more_, yet _larger_, yet _securer_ salaries to the younger sons.


I might have added in this list I have just made of the advantages
of Railways, that Railways let one mix with one's fellow-men and
hear their continual conversation. Now if you will think of it,
Railways are the only institutions that give us that advantage. In
other places we avoid all save those who resemble us, and many men
become in middle age like cabinet ministers, quite ignorant of their
fellow-citizens. But in Trains, if one travels much, one hears every
kind of man talking to every other and one perceives all England.

It is on this account that I have always been at pains to note what
I heard in this way, especially the least expected, most startling,
and therefore most revealing dialogues, and as soon as I could to
write them down, for in this way one can grow to know men.

Thus I have somewhere preserved a hot discussion among some miners
in Derbyshire (voters, good people, voters remember) whether the
United States were bound to us as a colony "like Egypt." And I once
heard also a debate as to whether the word were Horizon or Horizon;
this ended in a fight; and the Horizon man pushed the Horizon man
out at Skipton, and wouldn't let him get into the carriage again.

Then again I once heard two frightfully rich men near Birmingham
arguing why England was the richest and the Happiest Country in the
world. Neither of these men was a gentleman but they argued politely
though firmly, for they differed profoundly. One of them, who was
almost too rich to walk, said it was because we minded our own
affairs, and respected property and were law-abiding. This (he said)
was the cause of our prosperity and of the futile envy with which
foreigners regarded the homes of our working men. Not so the other:
_he_ thought that it was the Plain English sense of Duty that
did the trick: he showed how this was ingrained in us and appeared
in our Schoolboys and our Police: he contrasted it with Ireland, and
he asked what else had made our Criminal Trials the model of the
world? All this also I wrote down.

Then also once on a long ride (yes, "ride". Why not?) through
Lincolnshire I heard two men of the smaller commercial or salaried
kind at issue. The first, who had a rather peevish face, was looking
gloomily out of window and was saying, "Denmark has it: Greece has
it--why shouldn't we have it? Eh? America has it and so's Germany--why
shouldn't we have it?" Then after a pause he added, "Even France has
it--why haven't we got it?" He spoke as though he wouldn't stand it
much longer, and as though France were the last straw.

The other man was excitable and had an enormous newspaper in his
hand, and he answered in a high voice, "'Cause we're too sensible,
that's why! 'Cause we know what we're about, we do."

The other man said, "Ho! Do we?"

The second man answered, "Yes: we do. What made England?"

"Gord," said the first man.

This brought the second man up all standing and nearly carried away
his fore-bob-stay. He answered slowly--

"Well ... yes ... in a manner of speaking. But what I meant to say
was like this, that what made England was Free Trade!" Here he
slapped one hand on to the other with a noise like that of a pistol,
and added heavily: "And what's more, I can prove it."

The first man, who was now entrenched in his position, said again,
"Ho! Can you?" and sneered.

The second man then proved it, getting more and more excited. When
he had done, all the first man did was to say, "You talk

Then there was a long silence: very strained. At last the Free
Trader pulled out a pipe and filled it at leisure, with a light sort
of womanish tobacco, and just as he struck a match the Protectionist
shouted out, "No you don't! This ain't a smoking compartment. I
object!" The Free Trader said, "O! that's how it is, is it?" The
Protectionist answered in a lower voice and surly, "Yes: that's

They sat avoiding each other's eyes till we got to Grantham. I had
no idea that feeling could run so high, yet neither of them had a
real grip on the Theory of International Exchange.

But by far the most extraordinary conversation and perhaps the most
illuminating I ever heard, was in a train going to the West Country
and stopping first at Swindon.

It passed between two men who sat in corners facing each other.

The one was stout, tall, and dressed in a tweed suit. He had a gold
watch-chain with a little ornament on it representing a pair of
compasses and a square. His beard was brown and soft. His eyes were
very sodden. When he got in he first wrapped a rug round and round
his legs, then he took off his top hat and put on a cloth cap, then
he sat down.

The other also wore a tweed suit and was also stout, but he was not
so tall. His watch-chain also was of gold (but of a different
pattern, paler, and with no ornament hung on it). His eyes also were
sodden. He had no rug. He also took off his hat but put no cap upon
his head. I noticed that he was rather bald, and in the middle of
his baldness was a kind of little knob. For the purposes of this
record, therefore, I shall give him the name "Bald," while I shall
call the other man "Cap."

I have forgotten, by the way, to tell you that Bald had a very large
nose, at the end of which a great number of little veins had
congested and turned quite blue.

CAP (_shuts up Levy's paper, "The Daily Telegraph," and opens
Harmsworth's "Daily Mail," Shuts that up and looks fixedly at_ BALD):
I ask your pardon ... but isn't your name Binder?

BALD (_his eyes still quite sodden_): That is my name. Binder's my
name. (_He coughs to show breeding_.) Why! (_his eyes getting a
trifle less sodden_) if you aren't Mr. Mowle! Well, Mr. Mowle, sir,
how are you?

CAP (_with some dignity_): Very well, thank you, Mr. Binder.
How, how's Mrs. Binder and the kids? All blooming?

BALD: Why, yes, thank you, Mr. Mowle, but Mrs. Binder still has
those attacks (_shaking his head_). Abdominal (_continuing to
shake his head_). Gastric. Something cruel.

CAP: They do suffer cruel, as you say, do women, Mr. Binder
(_shaking his head too--but more slightly_). This indigestion--ah!

BALD (_more brightly_): Not married yet, Mr. Mowle?

CAP (_contentedly and rather stolidly_): No, Mr. Binder. Nor
not inclined to neither. (_Draws a great breath._) I'm a single
man, Mr. Binder, and intend so to adhere. (_A pause to think._)
That's what I call (_a further pause to get the right phrase_)
"single blessedness." Yes, (_another deep breath_) I find life
worth living, Mr. Binder.

BALD (_with great cunning_): That depends upon the liver.
(_Roars with laughter._)

CAP (_laughing a good deal too, but not so much as_ BALD): Ar!
That was young Cobbler's joke in times gone by.

BALD (_politely_): Ever see young Cobbler now, Mr. Mowle?

CAP (_with importance_): Why yes, Mr. Binder; I met him at the
Thersites' Lodge down Brixham way--only the other day. Wonderful
brilliant he was ... well, there ... (_his tone changes_) he
was sitting next to me--(_thoughtfully_)--as, might be here--(_putting
Harmsworth's paper down to represent Young Cobbler_)--and here like,
would be Lord Haltingtowres.

BALD (_his manner suddenly becoming very serious_):  He's a
fine man, he is! One of those men I respect.

CAP (_with still greater seriousness_): You may say that, Mr.
Binder. No respecter of persons--talks to me or you or any of them
just the same.

BALD (_vaguely_): Yes, they're a fine lot! (_Suddenly_)
So's Charlie Beresford!

CAP (_with more enthusiasm than he had yet shown_): I say ditto
to that, Mr. Binder! (_Thinking for a few moments of the
characteristics of Lord Charles Beresford._) It's pluck--that's
what it is--regular British pluck (_Grimly_) That's the kind of
man--no favouritism.

BALD: Ar! it's a case of "Well done, Condor!"

CAP: Ar! you're right there, Mr. Binder.

BALD (_suddenly pulling a large flask out of his pocket and
speaking very rapidly_): Well, here's yours, Mr. Mowle. (_He
drinks out of it a quantity of neat whisky, and having drunk it rubs
the top of his flask with his sleeve and hands it over politely to_)

Cap (_having drunk a lot of neat whisky also, rubbed his sleeve
over it, screwed on the little top and  giving that long gasp which
the occasion demands_): Yes, you're right there--"Well done.

At this point the train began to go slowly, and just as it stopped
at the station I heard Cap begin again, asking Bald on what occasion
and for what services Lord Charles Beresford had been given his

Full of the marvels of this conversation I got out, went into the
waiting-room and wrote it all down. I think I have it accurately
word for word.

But there happened to me what always happens after all literary
effort; the enthusiasm vanished, the common day was before me. I
went out to do my work in the place and to meet quite ordinary
people and to forget, perhaps, (so strong is Time) the fantastic
beings in the train. In a word, to quote Mr. Binyon's admirable

  "The world whose wrong
   Mocks holy beauty and our desire returned."


The reason the Dead do not return nowadays is the boredom of it.

In the old time they would come casually, as suited them, without
fuss and thinly, as it were, which is their nature; but when such
visits were doubted even by those who received them and when new and
false names were given them the Dead did not find it worth while. It
was always a trouble; they did it really more for our sakes than for
theirs and they would be recognised or stay where they were.

I am not certain that they might not have changed with the times and
come frankly and positively, as some urged them to do, had it not
been for Rabelais' failure towards the end of the Boer war. Rabelais
(it will be remembered) appeared in London at the very beginning of
the season in 1902. Everybody knows one part of the story or
another, but if I put down the gist of it here I shall be of
service, for very few people have got it quite right all through,
and yet that story alone can explain why one cannot get the dead to
come back at all now even in the old doubtful way they did in the
'80's and early '90's of the last century.

There is a place in heaven where a group of writers have put up a
colonnade on a little hill looking south over the plains. There are
thrones there with the names of the owners on them. It is a sort of

Rabelais was quarrelling with some fool who had missed fire with a
medium and was saying that the modern world wanted positive
unmistakable appearances: he said he ought to know, because he had
begun the modern world. Lucian said it would fail just as much as
any other way; Rabelais hotly said it wouldn't. He said he would
come to London and lecture at the London School of Economics and
establish a good solid objective relationship between the two
worlds. Lucian said it would end badly. Rabelais, who had been
drinking, lost his temper and did at once what he had only been
boasting he would do. He materialised at some expense, and he
announced his lecture. Then the trouble began, and I am honestly of
opinion that if we had treated the experiment more decently we
should not have this recent reluctance on the part of the Dead to
pay us reasonable attention.

In the first place, when it was announced that Rabelais had returned
to life and was about to deliver a lecture at the London School of
Economics, Mrs. Whirtle, who was a learned woman, with a well-deserved
reputation in the field of objective psychology, called it a rumour
and discredited it (in a public lecture) on these three grounds:

(_a_) That Rabelais being dead so long ago would not come back
to life now.

(_b_) That even if he did come back to life it was quite out of
his habit to give lectures.

(_c_) That even if he had come back to life and did mean to
lecture, he would never lecture at the London School of Economics,
which was engaged upon matters principally formulated since
Rabelais' day and with which, moreover, Rabelais' "essentially
synthetical" mind would find a difficulty in grappling.

All Mrs. Whirtle's audience agreed with one or more of these
propositions except Professor Giblet, who accepted all three saving
and excepting the term "synthetical" as applied to Rabelais' mind.
"For," said he, "you must not be so deceived by an early use of the
Inducto-Deductive method as to believe that a sixteenth-century man
could be, in any true sense, synthetical." And this judgment the
Professor emphasized by raising his voice suddenly by one octave.
His position and that of Mrs. Whirtle were based upon that thorough
summary of Rabelais' style in Mr. Effort's book on French
literature: each held a sincere position, nevertheless this cold
water thrown on the very beginning of the experiment did harm.

The attitude of the governing class did harm also. Lady Jane Bird saw
the announcement on the placards of the evening papers as she went
out to call on a friend. At tea-time a man called Wantage-Verneyson,
who was well dressed, said that he knew all about Rabelais, and a
group of people began to ask questions together: Lady Jane herself
did so. Mr. Wantage-Verneyson is (or rather was, alas!) the second
cousin of the Duke of Durham (he is--or rather was, alas!--the son of
Lord and Lady James Verneyson, now dead), and he said that Rabelais
was written by Urquhart a long time ago; this was quite deplorable
and did infinite harm. He also said that every educated man had read
Rabelais, and that he had done so. He said it was a protest against
Rome and all that sort of thing. He added that the language was
difficult to understand. He further remarked that it was full of
footnotes, but that he thought these had been put in later by scholars.
Cross-questioned on this he admitted that he did not see what scholars
could want with Rabelais. On hearing this and the rest of his
information several ladies and a young man of genial expression began
to doubt in their turn.

A Hack in Grub Street whom Painful Labour had driven to Despair and
Mysticism read the announcement with curiosity rather than
amazement, fully believing that the Great Dead, visiting as they do
the souls, may also come back rarely to the material cities of men.
One thing, however, troubled him, and that was how Rabelais, who had
slept so long in peace beneath the Fig Tree of the Cemetery of St.
Paul, could be risen now when his grave was weighed upon by No. 32
of the street of the same name. Howsoever, he would have guessed
that the alchemy of that immeasurable mind had in some way got rid
of the difficulty, and really the Hack must be forgiven for his
faith, since one learned enough to know so much about sites, history
and literature, is learned enough to doubt the senses and to accept
the Impossible; unfortunately the fact was vouched for in eight
newspapers of which he knew too much and was not accepted in the
only sheet he trusted. So he doubted too.

John Bowles, of Lombard Street, read the placards and wrought
himself up into a fury saying, "In what other country would these
cursed Boers be allowed to come and lecture openly like this? It is
enough to make one excuse the people who break up their meetings."
He was a little consoled, however, by the thought that his country
was so magnanimous, and in the calmer mood of self-satisfaction went
so far as to subscribe £5 to a French newspaper which was being
founded to propagate English opinions on the Continent. He may be

Peter Grierson, attorney, was so hurried and overwrought with the
work he had been engaged on that morning (the lending of £1323 to a
widow at 5 1/4 per cent., [which heaven knows is reasonable!] on
security of a number of shares in the London and North-Western
Railway) that he misread the placard and thought it ran "Rabelais
lecture at the London School Economics";  disturbed for a moment at
the thought of so much paper wasted in time of war for so paltry an
announcement, he soon forgot about the whole business and went off
to "The Holborn," where he had his lunch comfortably standing up at
the buffet, and then went and worked at dominoes and cigars for two

Sir Judson Pennefather, Cabinet Minister and Secretary of State for
Public Worship, Literature and the Fine Arts--

But what have I to do with all these; absurd people upon whom the
news of Rabelais' return fell with such varied effect? What have you
and I to do with men and women who do not, cannot, could not, will
not, ought not, have not, did, and by all the thirsty Demons that
serve the lamps of the cavern of the Sibyl, _shall_ not count
in the scheme of things as worth one little paring of Rabelais'
little finger nail? What are they that they should interfere with
the great mirific and most assuaging and comfortable feast of wit to
which I am now about to introduce you!--for know that I take you now
into the lecture-hall and put you at the feet of the past-master of
all arts and divinations (not to say crafts and homologisings and
integrativeness), the Teacher of wise men, the comfort of an
afflicted world, the uplifter of fools, the energiser of the
lethargic, the doctor of the gouty, the guide of youth, the
companion of middle age, the _vade mecum_ of the old, the
pleasant introducer of inevitable death, yea, the general solace of
mankind. Oh! what are you not now about to hear! If anywhere there
are rivers in pleasant meadows, cool heights in summer, lovely
ladies discoursing upon smooth lawns, or music skilfully befingered
by dainty artists in the shade of orange groves, if there is any
left of that wine of Chinon from behind the _Grille_ at four
francs a bottle (and so there is, I know, for I drank it at the last
Reveillon by St. Gervais)--I say if any of these comforters of the
living anywhere grace the earth, you shall find my master Rabelais
giving you the very innermost and animating spirit of all these good
things, their utter flavour and their saving power in the
quintessential words of his incontestably regalian lips. So here,
then, you may hear the old wisdom given to our wretched generation
for one happy hour of just living and we shall learn, surely in this
case at least, that the return of the Dead was admitted and the
Great Spirits were received and honoured.

       *       *       *       *       *

But alas! No. (which is not a _nominativus pendens_, still less
an anacoluthon but a mere interjection). Contrariwise, in the place
of such a sunrise of the mind, what do you think we were given? The
sight of an old man in a fine red gown and with a University cap on
his head hurried along by two policemen in the Strand and followed
by a mob of boys and ruffians, some of whom took him for Mr. Kruger,
while others thought he was but a harmless mummer. And the
magistrate (who had obtained his position by a job) said these
simple words: "I do not know who you are in reality nor what foreign
name mask under your buffoonery, but I do know on the evidence of
these intelligent officers, evidence upon which I fully rely and
which you have made no attempt to contradict, you have disgraced
yourself and the hall of your kind hosts and employers by the use of
language which I shall not characterise save by telling you that it
would be comprehensible only in a citizen of the nation to which you
have the misfortune to belong. Luckily you were not allowed to
proceed for more than a moment with your vile harangue which (if I
understand rightly) was in praise of wine. You will go to prison for
twelve months. I shall not give you the option of a fine: but I can
promise you that if you prefer to serve with the gallant K. O.
Fighting Scouts your request will be favourably entertained by the
proper authorities."

Long before this little speech was over Rabelais had disappeared,
and was once more with the immortals cursing and swearing that he
would not do it again for 6,375,409,702 sequins, or thereabouts, no,
nor for another half-dozen thrown in as a makeweight.

There is the whole story.

I do not say that Rabelais was not over-hasty both in his appearance
and his departure, but I do say that if the Physicists (and notably
Mrs. Whirtle) had shown more imagination, the governing class a
wider reading, and the magistracy a trifle more sympathy with the
difference of tone between the sixteenth century and our own time,
the deplorable misunderstanding now separating the dead and the
living would never have arisen; for I am convinced that the Failure
of Rabelais' attempt has been the chief cause of it.


My dear little Anglo-Saxons, Celt-Iberians and Teutonico-Latin
oddities---The time has come to convey, impart and make known to you
the dreadful conclusions and horrible prognostications that flow,
happen, deduce, derive and are drawn from the truly abominable
conditions of the social medium in which you and I and all poor
devils are most fatally and surely bound to draw out our miserable

Note, I say "existence" and not "existences." Why do I say
"existence", and not "existences"? Why, with a fine handsome plural
ready to hand, do I wind you up and turn you off, so to speak, with
a piffling little singular not fit for a half-starved newspaper
fellow, let alone a fine, full-fledged, intellectual and well-read
vegetarian and teetotaller who writes in the reviews? Eh? Why do I
say "existence"?--speaking of many, several and various persons as
though they had but one mystic, combined and corporate personality
such as Rousseau (a fig for the Genevese!) portrayed in his
_Contrat Social_ (which you have never read), and such as
Hobbes, in his _Leviathan_ (which some of you have heard of),
ought to have premised but did not, having the mind of a lame,
halting and ill-furnished clockmaker, and a blight on him!

Why now "existence" and not "existences"? You may wonder; you may
ask yourselves one to another mutually round the tea-table putting
it as a problem or riddle. You may make a game of it, or use it for
gambling, or say it suddenly as a catch for your acquaintances when
they come up from the suburbs. It is a very pretty question and
would have been excellently debated by Thomas Aquinas in the
Jacobins of St. Jacques, near the Parloir aux Bourgeois, by the gate
of the University; by Albertus Magnus in the Cordeliers, hard by the
College of Bourgoyne; by Pic de la Mirandole, who lived I care not a
rap where and debated I know not from Adam how or when; by Lord
Bacon, who took more bribes in a day than you and I could compass in
a dozen years; by Spinoza, a good worker of glass lenses, but a
philosopher whom I have never read nor will; by Coleridge when he
was not talking about himself nor taking some filthy drug; by John
Pilkington Smith, of Norwood, Drysalter, who has, I hear, been
lately horribly bitten by the metaphysic; and by a crowd of others.

But that's all by the way. Let them debate that will, for it leads
nowhere unless indeed there be sharp revelation, positive
declaration and very certain affirmation to go upon by way of Basis
or First Principle whence to deduce some sure conclusion and
irrefragable truth; for thus the intellect walks, as it were, along
a high road, whereas by all other ways it is lurching and stumbling
and boggling and tumbling in I know not what mists and brambles of
the great bare, murky twilight and marshy hillside of philosophy,
where I also wandered when I was a fool and unoccupied and lacking
exercise for the mind, but from whence, by the grace of St. Anthony
of Miranella and other patrons of mine, I have very happily
extricated myself. And here I am in the parlour of the "Bugle" at
Yarmouth, by a Christian fire, having but lately come off the sea
and writing this for the edification and confirmation of honest

What, then, of the question, _Quid de quuerendo? Quantum?
Qualiter? Ubi? Cur? Quid? Quando? Quomodo? Quum? Sive an non?_

Ah! There you have it. For note you, all these interrogative
categories must be met, faced, resolved and answered exactly--or you
have no more knowledge of the matter than the _Times_ has of
economics or the King of the Belgians of thorough-Bass. Yea, if you
miss, overlook, neglect, or shirk by reason of fatigue or indolence,
so much as one tittle of these several aspects of a question you
might as well leave it altogether alone and give up analysis for
selling stock, as did the Professor of Verbalism in the University
of Adelaide to the vast solace and enrichment of his family.

For by the neglect of but one of these final and fundamental
approaches to the full knowledge of a question the world has been
irreparably, irretrievably and permanently robbed of the certain
reply to, and left ever in the most disastrous doubt upon, this most
important and necessary matter--namely, _whether real existence
can be predicated of matter._

For Anaxagoras of Syracuse, that was tutor to the Tyrant Machion,
being in search upon this question for a matter of seventy-two
years, four months, three days and a few odd hours and minutes, did,
in extreme old age, as he was walking by the shore of the sea, hit,
as it were in a flash, upon six of the seven answers, and was able
in one moment, after so much delay and vexatious argument for and
against with himself, to resolve the problem upon the points of
_how, why, when, where, how much_, and _in what_, matter might or might
not be real, and was upon the very nick of settling the last little
point--namely, _sive an non_ (that is, whether it _were_ real or no)--when,
as luck would have it, or rather, as his own beastly appetite and senile
greed would have it, he broke off sharp at hearing the dinner-gong or
bell, or horn, or whatever it was--for upon these matters the King was
indifferent (_de minimis non curat rex_), and so am I--and was poisoned
even as he sat at table by the agents of Pyrrhus.

By this accident, by this mere failure upon _one_ of the Seven
Answers, it has been since that day never properly decided whether
or no this true existence was or was not predicable of matter; and
some believing matter to be there have treated it pompously and
given it reverence and adored it in a thousand merry ways, but
others being confident it was not there have starved and fallen off
edges and banged their heads against corners and come plump against
high walls; nor can either party convince the other, nor can the
doubts of either be laid to rest, nor shall it from now to the Day
of Doom be established whether there is a Matter or is none; though
many learned men have given up their lives to it, including
Professor Britton, who so despaired of an issue that he drowned
himself in the Cam only last Wednesday. But what care I for him or
any other Don?

So there we are and an answer must be found, but upon my soul I
forget to what it hangs, though I know well there was some question
propounded at the beginning of this for which I cared a trifle at
the time of asking it and you I hope not at all. Let it go the way
of all questions, I beg of you, for I am very little inclined to
seek and hunt through all the heap that I have been tearing through
this last hour with Pegasus curvetting and prancing and flapping his
wings to the danger of my seat and of the cities and fields below

Come, come, there's enough for one bout, and too much for some. No
good ever came of argument and dialectic, for these breed only angry
gestures and gusty disputes (_de gustibus non disputandum_) and
the ruin of friendships and the very fruitful pullulation of
Dictionaries, textbooks and wicked men, not to speak of
Intellectuals, Newspapers, Libraries, Debating-clubs, bankruptcies,
madness, _Petitiones elenchi_ and ills innumerable.

I say live and let live; and now I think of it there was something
at the beginning and title of this that dealt with a warning to ward
you off a danger of some kind that terrified me not a little when I
sat down to write, and that was, if I remember right, that a friend
had told me how he had read in a book that the damnable Brute
CAPITAL was about to swallow us all up and make slaves of us and
that there was no way out of it, seeing that it was fixed, settled
and grounded in economics, not to speak of the procession of the
Equinox, the Horoscope of Trimegistus, and _Old Moore's
Almanack_. Oh! Run, Run! The Rich are upon us! Help! Their hot
breath is on our necks! What jaws! What jaws!

Well, what must be must be, and what will be will be, and if the
Rich are upon us with great open jaws and having power to enslave
all by the very fatal process of unalterable laws and at the bidding
of Blind Fate as she is expounded by her prophets who live on milk
and newspapers and do woundily talk Jew Socialism all day long; yet
is it proved by the same intellectual certitude and irrefragable
method that we shall not be caught before the year 1938 at the
earliest and with luck we may run ten years more: why then let us
make the best of the time we have, and sail, ride, travel, write,
drink, sing and all be friends together; and do you go about doing
good to the utmost of your power, as I heartily hope you will,
though from your faces I doubt it hugely. A blessing I wish you all.


One cannot do a greater service now, when a dangerous confusion of
thought threatens us with an estrangement of classes, than to
distinguish in all we write between Capitalism--the result of a
blind economic development--and the persons and motives of those who
happen to possess the bulk of the means of Production.

Capitalism may or may not have been a Source of Evil to Modern
Communities--it may have been a necessary and even a beneficent
phase in that struggle upward from the Brute which marks our
progress from Gospel Times until the present day--but whether it has
been a good or a bad phase in Economic Evolution, it is not
Scientific and it is not English to confuse the system with the
living human beings attached to it, and to contrast "Rich" and
"Poor," insisting on the supposed luxury and callousness of the one
or the humiliations and sufferings of the other.

To expose the folly--nay, the wickedness--of that attitude I have
but to take some very real and very human case of a rich man--a very
rich man--who suffered and suffered deeply merely _as_ a man:
one whose suffering wealth did not and could not alleviate.

One very striking example of this human bond I am able to lay before
you, because the gentleman in question has, with fine human
sympathy, permitted his story to be quoted.

The only stipulation he made with me was first that I should conceal
real names and secondly that I should write the whole in as
journalistic and popular a method as possible, so that his very
legitimate grievance in the matter I am about to describe should be
as widely known as possible and also in order to spread as widely as
possible the lesson it contains that _the rich also are men_.

To change all names etc., a purely mechanical task, I easily
achieved. Whether I have been equally successful in my second object
of catching the breezy and happy style of true journalism it is for
my readers to judge. I can only assure them that my intentions are

       *       *       *       *       *

I have promised my friend to set down the whole matter as it

"The Press," he said to me, "is the only vehicle left by which one
can bring pressure to bear upon public opinion. I hope you can do
something for me.... You write, I believe", he added, "for the

I said I did.

"Well," he answered, "you fellows that write for the newspapers have
a great advantage ...!"

At this he sighed deeply, and asked me to come and have lunch with
him at his club, which is called "The Ragamuffins" for fun, and is
full of jolly fellows. There I ate boiled mutton and greens, washed
down with an excellent glass, or maybe a glass and a half, of
Belgian wine--a wine called Chateau Bollard.

I noticed in the room Mr. Cantor, Mr. Charles, Sir John Ebbsmith,
Mr. May, Mr. Ficks, "Joe" Hesketh, Matthew Fircombe, Lord Boxgrove,
old Tommy Lawson, "Bill", Mr. Compton, Mr. Annerley, Jeremy (the
trainer), Mr. Mannering, his son, Mr. William Mannering, and his
nephew Mr. "Kite" Mannering, Lord Nore, Pilbury, little Jack Bowdon,
Baxter ("Horrible" Baxter) Bayney, Mr. Claversgill, the solemn old
Duke of Bascourt (a Dane), Ephraim T. Seeber, Algernon Gutt,
Feverthorpe (whom that old wit Core used to call "_Feather_thorpe"),
and many others with whose names I will not weary the reader, for he
would think me too reminiscent and digressive were I to add to the list
"Cocky" Billings, "Fat Harry", Mr. Muntzer, Mr. Eartham, dear, courteous,
old-world Squire Howle, and that prime favourite, Lord Mann. "Sambo"
Courthorpe, Ring, the Coffee-cooler, and Harry Sark, with all the
Forfarshire lot, also fell under my eye, as did Maxwell, Mr. Gam----

However, such an introduction may prove overlong for the complaint I
have to publish. I have said enough to show the position my friend
holds. Many of my readers on reading this list will guess at once
the true name of the club, and may also come near that of my
distinguished friend, but I am bound in honour to disguise it under
the veil of a pseudonym or _nom de guerre_; I will call him Mr.

Mr. Quail, then, was off to shoot grouse on a moor he had taken in
Mull for the season; the house and estate are well known to all of
us; I will disguise the moor under the pseudonym or _nom de
guerre_ of "Othello". He was awaited at "Othello" on the evening
of the eleventh; for on the one hand there is an Act most strictly
observed that not a grouse may be shot until the dawn of August
12th, and on the other a day passed at "Othello" with any other
occupation but that of shooting would be hell.

Mr. Quail, therefore, proposed to travel to "Othello" by way of
Glasgow, taking the 9.47 at St. Pancras on the evening of the
10th--last Monday--and engaging a bed on that train.

It is essential, if a full, Christian and sane view is to be had of
this relation, that the reader should note the following details:--

Mr. Quail had _engaged_ the bed. He had sent his cheque for it
a week before and held the receipt signed "T. Macgregor,

True, there was a notice printed very small on the back of the
receipt saying the company would not be responsible in any case of
disappointment, overcrowding, accident, delay, robbery, murder, or
the Act of God; but my friend Mr. Quail very properly paid no
attention to that rubbish, knowing well enough (he is a J.P.) that a
man cannot sign himself out of his common-law rights.

In order to leave ample time for the train, my friend Mr. Quail
ordered dinner at eight--a light meal, for his wife had gone to the
Engadine some weeks before. At nine precisely he was in his carriage
with his coachman on the box to drive his horses, his man Mole also,
and Piggy the little dog in with him. He knows it was nine, because
he asked the butler what time it was as he left the dining-room, and
the butler answered "Five minutes to nine, my Lord"; moreover, the
clock in the dining-room, the one on the stairs and his own watch,
all corroborated the butler's statement.

He arrived at St. Pancras. "If," as he sarcastically wrote to the
company, "your _own clocks_ are to be trusted," at 9.21.

So far so good. He had twenty-six minutes to spare. On his carriage
driving up to the station he was annoyed to discover an enormous
seething mob through which it was impossible to penetrate, swirling
round the booking office and behaving with a total lack of
discipline which made the confusion ten thousand times worse than it
need have been.

"I wish," said Mr. Quail to me later, with some heat, "I wish I
could have put some of those great hulking brutes into the ranks for
a few months! Believe me, conscription would work wonders!" Mr.
Quail himself holds a commission in the Yeomanry, and knows what he
is talking about. But that is neither here nor there. I only mention
it to show what an effect this anarchic mob produced upon a man of
Mr. Quail's trained experience.

His man Mole had purchased the tickets in the course of the day;
unfortunately, on being asked for them he confessed in some
confusion to having mislaid them.

Mr. Quail was too well bred to make a scene. He quietly despatched his
man Mole to the booking office with orders to get new tickets while
he waited for him at an appointed place near the door. He had not been
there five minutes, he had barely seen his man struggle through the
press towards the booking office, when a hand was laid upon his
shoulder and a policeman told him in an insolent and surly tone to
"move out of it." Mr. Quail remonstrated, and the policeman--who, I am
assured, was only a railway servant in disguise--_bodily and physically_
forced him from the doorway.

To this piece of brutality Mr. Quail ascribes all his subsequent
misfortunes. Mr. Quail was on the point of giving his card, when he
found himself caught in an eddy of common people who bore him off
his feet; nor did he regain them, in spite of his struggles, until
he was tightly wedged against the wall at the further end of the

Mr. Quail glanced at his watch, and found it to be twenty minutes to
ten. There were but seven minutes left before his train would start,
and his appointment with his man, Mole, was hopelessly missed unless
he took the most immediate steps to recover it.

Mr. Quail is a man of resource; he has served in South Africa, and
is a director of several companies. He noticed that porters pushing
heavy trollies and crying "By your leave" had some chance of forging
through the brawling welter of people. He hailed one such; and
stretching, as best he could, from his wretched fix, begged him to
reach the door and tell his man Mole where he was. At the same time--as
the occasion was most urgent (for it was now 9.44)--he held out half a
sovereign. The porter took it respectfully enough, but to Mr. Quail's
horror the menial had no sooner grasped the coin than he made off in
the opposite direction, pushing his trolley indolently before him and
crying "By your leave" in a tone that mingled insolence with a coarse

Mr. Quail, now desperate, fought and struggled to be free--there
were but two minutes left--and he so far succeeded as to break
through the human barrier immediately in front of him. It may be he
used some necessary violence in this attempt; at any rate a woman of
the most offensive appearance raised piercing shrieks and swore that
she was being murdered.

The policeman (to whom I have before alluded) came jostling through
the throng, seized Mr. Quail by the collar, and crying "What!
Again?" treated him in a manner which (in the opinion of Mr. Quail's
solicitor) would (had Mr. Quail retained his number) have warranted
a criminal prosecution.

Meanwhile Mr. Quail's man Mole was anxiously looking for him, first
at the refreshment bar, and later at the train itself. Here he was
startled to hear the Guard say "Going?" and before he could reply he
was (according to his own statement) thrust into the train which
immediately departed, and did not stop till Peterborough; there the
faithful fellow assures us he alit, returning home in the early
hours of the morning.

Mr. Quail himself was released with a torn coat and collar, his
eye-glasses smashed, his watch-chain broken, and smarting under a
warning from the policeman not to be caught doing it again.

He went home in a cab to find every single servant out of the house,
junketing at some music-hall or other, and several bottles of wine,
with a dozen glasses, standing ready for them against their return,
on his own study table.

The unhappy story need not be pursued. Like every misfortune it bred
a crop of others, some so grievous that none would expose them to
the public eye, and one consequence remote indeed but clearly
traceable to that evening nearly dissolved a union of seventeen
years. I do not believe that any one of those who are for ever
presenting to us the miseries of the lower classes, would have met a
disaster of this sort with the dignity and the manliness of my
friend, and I am further confident that the recital of his suffering
here given will not have been useless in the great debate now
engaged as to the function of wealth in our community.


There was once a little Whig....

Ugh! The oiliness, the public theft, the cowardice, the welter of
sin! One cannot conceive the product save under shelter and in the
midst of an universal corruption.

Well, then, there was once a little Tory. But stay; that is not a
pleasant thought....

Well, then there was once a little boy whose name was Joseph, and
now I have launched him, I beg you to follow most precisely all that
he said, did and was, for it contains a moral. But I would have you
bear me witness that I have withdrawn all harsh terms, and have
called him neither Whig nor Tory. Nevertheless I will not deny that
had he grown to maturity he would inevitably have been a politician.
As you will be delighted to find at the end of his short biography,
he did not reach that goal. He never sat upon either of the front
benches. He never went through the bitter business of choosing his
party and then ratting when he found he had made a mistake. He never
so much as got his hand into the public pocket. Nevertheless read
his story and mark it well. It is of immense purport to the State.

       *       *       *       *       *

When little Joseph was born, his father (who could sketch remarkably
well and had rowed some years before in his College boat) was
congratulated very warmly by his friends. One lady wrote to him:
"_Your_ son cannot fail to add distinction to an already famous
name"--for little Joseph's father's uncle had been an Under
Secretary of State. Then another, the family doctor, said heartily,
"Well, well, all doing excellently; another Duggleton" (for little
Joseph's father's family were Duggletons) "and one that will keep
the old flag flying."

Little Joseph's father's aunt whose husband had been the Under
Secretary, wrote and said she was longing to see the _last
Duggleton_, and hinted that a Duggleton the more was sheer gain
to This England which Our Fathers Made. His father put his name down
that very day for the Club and met there Baron Urscher, who promised
every support "if God should spare him to the time when he might
welcome another Duggleton to these old rooms." The baron then
recalled the names of Charlie Fox and Beau Rimmel, that was to say,
Brummel. He said an abusive word or two about Mr. Gladstone, who was
then alive, and went away.

Little Joseph for many long weeks continued to seem much like
others, and if he had then died (as some cousins hoped he would, and
as, indeed, there seemed to be a good chance on the day that he
swallowed the pebble at Bournemouth) I should have no more to write
about. There would be an end of little Joseph so far as you and I
are concerned; and as for the family of Duggleton, why any one but
the man who does Society Notes in the _Evening Yankee_ should
write about them I can't conceive.

Well, but little Joseph did not die--not just then, anyhow. He lived
to learn to speak, and to talk, and to put out his tongue at
visitors, let alone interrupting his parents with unpleasing remarks
and telling lies. It was early observed that he did all these things
with a _je-ne-scais-quoy_ and a _verve_ quite different from the manner
of his little playmates. When one day he moulded out, flattened and
unshaped the waxen nose of a doll of his, it was apparent to all that
it had been very skilfully done, and showed a taste for modelling,
and the admiration this excited was doubled when it was discovered
that he had called the doll "Aunt Garry". He took also to drawing
things with a pencil as early as eight years old, and for this talent
his father's house was very suitable, for Mrs. Duggleton had nice
Louis XV furniture, all white and gold, and a quaint new brown-paper
medium on her walls. Colour, oddly enough, little Joseph could not
pretend to; but he had a remarkably fine ear, and was often heard,
before he was ten years old, singing some set of words or other over
and over again very loudly upon the staircase to a few single notes.

It seems incredible, but it is certainly true, that he even composed
_verses_ at the age of eleven, wherein "land" and "strand",
"more" and "shore" would frequently recur, the latter being commonly
associated with England, to which, his beloved country, the
intelligent child would add the epithet "old".

He was, a short time after this, discovered playing upon words and
would pun upon "rain" and "reign", as also upon "Wales" the country
(or rather province, for no patriot would admit a Divided Crown) and
"Whales"--the vast Oceanic or Thalassic mammals that swim in Arctic

He asked questions that showed a surprising intelligence and at the
same time betrayed a charming simplicity and purity of mind. Thus he
would cross-examine upon their recent movements ladies who came to
call, proving them very frequently to have lied, for he was puzzled
like most children by the duplicity of the gay world. Or again, he
would ask guests at the dinner table how old they were and whether
they liked his father and mother, and this in a loud and shrill way
that provoked at once the attention and amusement of the select
coterie (for coterie it was) that gathered beneath his father's

As is so often the case with highly strung natures, he was morbidly
sensitive in his self-respect. Upon one occasion he had invented
some boyish nickname or other for an elderly matron who was present
in his mother's drawing-room, and when that lady most forcibly urged
his parent to chastise him he fled to his room and wrote a short
note in pencil forgiving his dear mamma her intimacy with his
enemies and announcing his determination to put an end to his life.
His mother on discovering this note pinned to her chair gave way to
very natural alarm and rushed upstairs to her darling, with whom she
remonstrated in terms deservedly severe, pointing out the folly and
wickedness of self-destruction and urging that such thoughts were
unfit for one of his tender years, for he was then barely thirteen.

This incident and many others I could quote made a profound
impression upon the Honourable Mr. and Mrs. Duggleton, who, by the
time of their son's adolescence, were convinced that Providence had
entrusted them with a vessel of no ordinary fineness. They discussed
the question of his schooling with the utmost care, and at the age
of fifteen sent "little Joseph", as they still affectionately called
him, to the care of the Rev. James Filbury, who kept a small but
exceedingly expensive school upon the banks of the River Thames.

The three years that he spent at this establishment were among the
happiest in the life of his father's private secretary, and are
still remembered by many intimate friends of the family.

He was twice upon the point of securing the prize for Biblical
studies and did indeed take that for French and arithmetic. Mr.
Filbury assured his father that he had the very highest hopes of his
career at the University. "Joseph," he wrote, "is a fine, highly
tempered spirit, one to whom continual application is difficult, but
who is capable of high flights of imagination not often reached by
our sturdy English boyhood.... I regret that I cannot see my way to
reducing the charge for meat at breakfast. Joseph's health is
excellent, and his scholarship, though by no means ripe, shows
promise of that ..." and so forth.

I have no space to give the letter in full; it betrays in every line
the effect this gifted youth had produced upon one well acquainted
with the marks of future greatness;--for Mr. Filbury had been the
tutor and was still the friend of the Duke of Buxton, the sometime
form-master of the present Bishop of Lewes and the cousin of the
late Joshua Lambkin of Oxford.

Little Joseph's entry into college life abundantly fulfilled the
expectations held of him. The head of his college wrote to his
great-aunt (the wife of the Under Secretary of State) "... he has
something in him of what men of Old called prophecy and we term
genius ...", old Dr. Biddlecup the Dean asked the boy to dinner, and
afterwards assured his father that little Joseph was the image of
William Pitt, whom he falsely pretended to have seen in childhood,
and to whom the Duggletons were related through Mrs. Duggleton's
grandmother, whose sister had married the first cousin of the
Saviour of Europe.

Dr. Biddlecup was an old man and may not have been accurate in his
historical pretensions, but the main truth of what he said was
certain, for Joseph resembled the great statesman at once in his
physical appearance, for he was sallow and had a turned-up nose: in
his gifts: in his oratory which was ever remarkable at the social
clubs and wines--and alas! in his fondness for port.

Indeed, little Joseph had to pay the price of concentrating in
himself the genius of three generations, he suffered more than
one of the temptations that assault men of vigorous imagination. He
kept late hours, drank--perhaps not always to excess but always
over-frequently--and gambled, if not beyond his means, at least with
a feverish energy that was ruinous to his health. He fell desperately
ill in the fortnight before his schools, but he was granted an
_aegrotat_, a degree equivalent in his case to a First Class in
Honours, and he was asked by one or other of the Colleges to compete
for a Fellowship; it was, however, given to another candidate.

After this failure he went home, and on his father's advice,
attempted political work; but the hurry and noise of an election
disgusted him, and it is feared that his cynical and highly
epigrammatic speeches were another cause of his defeat.

Sir William Mackle, who had watched the boy with the tenderest
interest and listened to his fancied experiences with a father's
patience, ordered complete rest and change, and recommended the
South of France; he was sent thither with a worthless friend or
rather dependent, who permitted the lad to gamble and even to borrow
money, and it was this friend to whom Sir William (in his letter to
the Honourable Mr. Duggleton acknowledging receipt of his cheque)
attributed the tragedy that followed.

"Had he not," wrote the distinguished physician, "permitted our poor
Joseph to borrow money of him; had he resolutely refused to drink
wine at dinner; had he locked Joseph up in his room every evening at
the opening hour of the Casino, we should not have to deplore the
loss of one of England's noblest." Nor did the false friend make
things easier for the bereaved father by suggesting ere twelve short
months had elapsed that the sums Joseph had borrowed of him should
be repaid.

Joseph, one fatal night, somewhat heated by wine, had heard a
Frenchman say to an Italian at his elbow certain very outrageous
things about one Mazzini. The pair were discussing a local
bookmaker, but the boy, whose passion for Italian unity is now well
known, imagined that the Philosopher and Statesman was in question;
he fell into such a passion and attacked these offensive foreigners
with such violence as to bring on an attack from which he did not
recover: his grave now whitens the hillside of the Monte Resorto (in
French Mont-resort).

He left some fifty short poems in the manner of Shelley, Rossetti
and Swinburne, and a few in an individual style that would surely
have developed with age. These have since been gathered into a
volume and go far to prove the truth of his father's despairing cry:
"Joseph," the poor man sobbed as he knelt by the insanitary
curtained bed on which the body lay, "Joseph would have done for the
name of Duggleton in literature what my Uncle did for it in

His portrait may be found in _Annals of the Rutlandshire
Gentry_, a book recently published privately by subscriptions of
two guineas, payable to the gentleman who produced that handsome


If this page does not appal you, nothing will.

If these first words do not fill you with an uneasy presentiment of
doom, indeed, indeed you have been hitherto blessed in an ignorance
of woe.

It is lost! What is lost? The revelation this page was to afford.
The essay which was to have stood here upon page 127 of my book: the
noblest of them all.

The words you so eagerly expected, the full exposition which was to
have brought you such relief, is not here.

It was lost just after I wrote it. It can never be re-written; it is

Much depended upon it; it would have led you to a great and to a
rapidly acquired fortune; but you must not ask for it. You must turn
your mind away. It cannot be re-written, and all that can take its
place is a sort of dirge for departed and irrecoverable things.

"Lugete o Veneres Cupidinesque," which signifies "Mourn oh! you
pleasant people, you spirits that attend the happiness of mankind":
"et quantum est hominum venustiorum," which signifies "and you such
mortals as are chiefly attached to delightful things." _Passer_, etc.,
which signifies my little, careful, tidy bit of writing, _mortuus est_,
is lost. I lost it in a cab.

It was a noble and accomplished thing. Pliny would have loved it who
said: "Ea est stomachi mei natura ut nil nisi merum atque totum
velit," which signifies "such is the character of my taste that it
will tolerate nothing but what is absolute and full." ... It is no
use grumbling about the Latin. The nature of great disasters calls
out for that foundational tongue. They roll as it were (do the great
disasters of our time) right down the emptiness of the centuries
until they strike the walls of Rome and provoke these sonorous
echoes worthy of mighty things.

It was to have stood here instead of this, its poor apologist. It
was to have filled these lines, this space, this very page. It is
not here. You all know how, coming eagerly to a house to see someone
dearly loved, you find in their place on entering a sister or a
friend who makes excuses for them; you all know how the mind grows
blank at the news and all nature around one shrivels. It is a worse
emptiness than to be alone. So it is with me when I consider this as
I write it, and then think of That Other which should have taken its
place; for what I am writing now is like a little wizened figure
dressed in mourning and weeping before a deserted shrine, but That
Other which I have lost would have been like an Emperor returned
from a triumph and seated upon a throne.

Indeed, indeed it was admirable! If you ask me where I wrote it, it
was in Constantine, upon the Rock of Cirta, where the storms come
bowling at you from Mount Atlas and where you feel yourself part of
the sky. At least it was there in Cirta that I blocked out the
thing, for efforts of that magnitude are not completed in one place
or day. It was in Cirta that I carved it into form and gave it a
general life, upon the 17th of January, 1905, sitting where long ago
Massinissa had come riding in through the only gate of the city,
sitting his horse without stirrups or bridle. Beside me, as I wrote,
an Arab looked carefully at every word and shook his head because he
could not understand the language; but the Muses understood and
Apollo, which were its authors almost as much as I. How graceful it
was and yet how firm! How generous and yet how particular! How easy,
how superb, and yet how stuffed with dignity! There ran through it,
half-perceived and essential, a sort of broken rhythm that never
descended to rhetoric, but seemed to enliven and lift up the order
of the words until they were filled with something approaching
music; and with all this the meaning was fixed and new, the order
lucid, the adjectives choice, the verbs strong, the substantives
meaty and full of sap. It combined (if I may say so with modesty)
all that Milton desired to achieve, with all that Bacon did in the
modelling of English.... And it is gone. It will never be seen or
read or known at all. It has utterly disappeared nor is it even
preserved in any human memory--no, not in my own.

I kept it for a year, closely filing, polishing, and emending it
until one would have thought it final, and even then I continued to
develop and to mould it. It grew like a young tree in the corner of
a fruitful field and gave an enduring pleasure. It never left me by
night or by day; it crossed the Pyrenees with me seven times and the
Mediterranean twice. It rode horses with me and was become a part of
my habit everywhere. In trying to ford the Sousseyou I held it high
out of the water, saving it alone, and once by a camp fire I woke
and read it in the mountains before dawn. My companions slept on
either side of me. The great brands of pine glowed and gave me
light; there was a complete silence in the forest except for the
noise of water, and in the midst of such spells I was so entranced
by the beauty of the thing that when I had done my reading I took a
dead coal from the fire and wrote at the foot of the paper: "There
is not a word which the most exuberant could presume to add, nor one
which the most fastidious would dare to erase." All that glory has

I know very well what the cabman did. He looked through the trap-door
in the top of the roof to see if I had left anything behind. It was
in Vigo Street, at the corner, that the fate struck. He looked and
saw a sheet or two of paper--something of no value. He crumpled it up
and threw it away, and it joined the company which men have not been
thought worthy to know. It went to join Calvus and the dreadful books
of the Sibyl, and those charred leaves which were found on the floor
where Chatterton lay dead.

I went three times to Scotland Yard, allowing long intervals and
torturing myself with hope. Three times my hands thought to hold it,
and three times they closed on nothingness. A policeman then told me
that cabmen very rarely brought him written things, but rather
sticks, gloves, rings, purses, parcels, umbrellas, and the crushed
hats of drunken men, not often verse or prose; and I abandoned my

There are some reading this who may think me a trifle too fond and
may doubt the great glory to which I testify here. They will
remember how singularly the things we no longer possess rise upon
the imagination and enlarge themselves, and they will quote that
pathetic error whereby the dead become much dearer to us when we can
no longer smile into their faces or do them the good we desire. They
will suggest (most tenderly) that loss and the enchantment of memory
have lent a thought too much of radiance and of harmony to what was
certainly a noble creation of the mind, but still human and shot
with error.

To such a criticism I cannot reply, I have no longer, alas! the best
of replies, the Thing Itself, the Achievement: and not having that I
have nothing. I am without weapons. Who shall convince of
personality, of beauty, or of holiness, unless they be seen and
felt? So it is with letters, and if I am not believed--or even if I
am--it is of little moment, for the beloved object is rapt away.

Its matter--if one can say that anything so manifold and exalted had
a mere subject--its matter was the effect of the piercing of the
Suez Canal upon coastwise trade in the Mediterranean, but it is
profane to bring before the general gaze a title which can tell the
world nothing of the iridescence and vitality it has lost.

I will not console myself with the uncertain guess that things
perished are in some way recoverable beyond the stars, nor hope to
see and read again the artistry and the result whose loss I have
mourned in these lines; but if, as the wisest men imagine, there is
a place of repose for whatever most deserves it among the shades,
there either I or others worthier may read what will never be read
by living eyes or praised by living lips again. It may be so. But
the loss alone is certain.


There was once a man called Mahmoud. He had other names, such as
Ali, Akbar, and Shmaeil, and so forth, with which I will not trouble
you, because in very short stories it is important not to confuse
the mind. I have been assured of this by many authorities, some of
whom make a great deal of money by short stories, and all of whom
know a great deal about the way in which they ought to be written.

Now I come to think of it, I very much doubt whether this is a short
story at all, for it has no plot so far and I do not see any plot
developing. No matter. The thing is to say what one has to say
humbly but fully. Providence will look after the rest.

So, as I was saying, there was a man called Mahmoud. He lived in a
country entirely made of sand. There were hills which on the maps
were called mountains, but when you came to look at them they were
only a lot more sand, and there was nothing about them except an
aspect of sand heaped up. You may say, "How, then, did Mahmoud build
a house?" He did not. He lived in a tent. "But," you continue, "what
did he do about drinking?" Well, it was Mahmoud's habit to go to a
place where he knew that by scratching a little he would find bad
water, and there he would scratch a little and find it, and, being
an abstemious man, he needed but a drop.

The sun in Mahmoud's country was extremely hot. It stood right up
above one's head and looked like the little thing that you get in
the focus of a burning glass. The sun made it almost impossible to
move, except in the early morning or at evening, and even during the
night it was not particularly cool. It never rained in this place.

There were no rivers and no trees. There was no grass, and the only
animal was a camel. The camel was content to eat a kind of scrub
that grew here and there on the sand, and it drank the little water
Mahmoud could afford it, and was permanently happy. So was Mahmoud.
Beneath him the sand sloped down until it met the sea, which was
tepid on account of the great heat, and in which were a lot of fish,
pearls, and other things. Every now and then Mahmoud would force a
son or domestic of his to go down and hoick out a pearl, and this
pearl he would exchange for something that he absolutely needed,
such as a new tent or a new camel, and then he went on living the
way he had been living before.

Now, one day there came to this part of the world a man called
Smith. He was dressed as you and I are, in trousers and a coat and
boots, and he had a billycock hat on. He had a foolish, anxious
face. He did not keep his word particularly; and he was exceedingly
fond of money. He had spent most of his life accumulating all sorts
of wealth in a great bag, and he landed with this bag in Mahmoud's
country, and Mahmoud  was as polite to him as the heat would allow.
Then Mahmoud said to him:

"You appear to be a very rich man."

And Smith said:

"I am," and opened his bag and showed a great quantity of things. So
Mahmoud was pleased and astonished, and fussed a good deal
considering the climate, and got quite a quantity of pearls out of
the sea, and gave them to Smith, who let him have a gun, but a bad
one; and he, Smith, retained a good rifle. Then Smith sat down and
waited for about six months, living on the provisions he had brought
in his bag, until Mahmoud said to him:

"What have you come to do here?"

And Smith said:

"Why, to tell you the honest truth, I have come to protect you."

So Mahmoud thought a long time, smoking a pipe, because he did not
understand a word of what Smith had said. Then Mahmoud said:

"All right, protect away," and after that there was a silence for
about another six months, and nothing had happened.

Mahmoud did not mind being protected, because it made no difference
to him, and after a certain time he had got all he wanted out of
Smith, and was tired of bothering about the pearls. So he and Smith
just lived side by side doing nothing in particular, except that
Smith went on protecting and that Mahmoud went on being protected.
But while Mahmoud was perfectly content to be protected till
Doomsday, being an easy-going kind of fellow, Smith was more and
more put out. He was a trifle irritable by nature. The climate did
not suit him. He drank beer and whisky and other things quite
dangerous under such a sun, and he came out all over like the
measles. He tried to pass the time riding on a camel. At first he
thought it great sport, but after a little he got tired of that
also. He began to write poetry, all about Mahmoud, and as Mahmoud
could not read it did not much matter. Then he wrote poetry about
himself, making out Mahmoud to be excessively fond of him, and this
poetry he read to himself, and it calmed him; but as Mahmoud did not
know about this poetry, Smith got bored with it, and, his irritation
increasing, he wrote more poetry, showing Mahmoud to be a villain
and a serf, and showing himself, Smith, to be under a divine

Now, just when things had come to this unpleasant state Mahmoud got
up and shook himself and began skipping and dancing outside the door
of his tent and running round and round it very fast, and waving his
hands in the air, and shouting incongruous things.

Smith was exceedingly annoyed by this. He had never gone on like
that himself, and he did not see why Mahmoud should. But Mahmoud had
lived there a good deal longer than Smith had, and he knew that it
was absolutely necessary. There were stories of people in the past
who had felt inclined to go on like this and had restrained
themselves with terrible consequences. So Mahmoud went on worse than
ever, running as fast as he could out into the sand, shouting,
leaping into the air, and then running back again as fast as he
could, and firing off his gun and calling upon his god.

Smith, whose nerves were at the last stretch, asked Mahmoud savagely
what he was about. To this Mahmoud gave no reply, save to twirl
round rapidly upon one foot and to fall down foaming at the mouth.
Smith, therefore, losing all patience, said to Mahmoud:

"If you do not stop I will shoot you by way of protecting you
against yourself."

Mahmoud did not know what the word protected meant, but he
understood the word shoot, and shouting with joy, he blew off
Smith's hat with his gun, and said:

"A fight! a fight!"

For he loved fighting when he was in this mood, while Smith detested

Smith, however, remembered that he had come there to protect
Mahmoud; he set his teeth, aimed with his rifle, fired at Mahmoud,
and missed.

Mahmoud was so surprised at this that he ran at Smith, and rolled
him over and over on the ground. Then they unclenched, both very
much out of breath, and Smith said:

"Will you or will you not be protected?"

Mahmoud said he should be delighted. Moreover, he said that he had
given his word that he would be protected, and that he was not a man
to break his word.

After that he took Smith by the hand and shook it up and down for
about five minutes, until Smith was grievously put out.

When they were friends again. Smith said to Mahmoud:

"Will you not go down into the sea and get me some more pearls?"

"No," said Mahmoud, "I am always very exhausted after these

Then Smith sat down by the seashore and began to cry, thinking of
his home and of the green trees and of the North, and he wrote
another poem about the burden that he had borne, and of what a great
man he was and how he went all over the world protecting people, and
how brave he was, and how Mahmoud also was very brave, but how he
was much braver than Mahmoud. Then he said:

"Mahmoud, I am going away back to my distant home, unless you will
get me more pearls."

But Mahmoud said:

"I cannot get you any more pearls because it is too hot, and if only
you will stop you can go on doing some protecting, which, upon my
soul, I do like better than anything in the world."

And even as he said this he began jumping about and shouting strange
things and waving his gun, and Smith at once went away.

Then Mahmoud sat down sadly by the sea, and thought of how Smith had
protected him, and how now all that was passed and the old
monotonous life would begin again. But Smith went home, and all his
neighbours asked how it was that he protected so well, and he wrote
a book to enlighten them, called _How I Protected Mahmoud_.
Then all his neighbours read this book and went out in a great boat
to do something of the same kind. And Smith could not refrain from

Mahmoud, however, by his lonely shore, regretted more and more this
episode in his dull life, and he wept when he remembered the
fantastic Smith, who had such an enormous number of things in his
bag and who had protected him; and he also wrote a poem, which is
rather difficult to understand in connection with the business, but
which to him exactly described it. And the poem went like this;
having no metre and no rhyming, and being sung to three notes and a
quarter in a kind of wail:

"When the jackal and the lion meet it is full moon; it is full moon
and the gazelles are abroad."

"Why are the gazelles abroad when the jackal and the lion meet: when
it is full moon in the desert and there is no wind?"

"There is no wind because the gazelles are abroad, the moon is at
the full, and the lion and the jackal are together."

"Where is he that protected me and where is the great battle and the
shouts and the feasting afterwards, and where is that bag?"

"But we dwell in the desert always, and men do not visit us, and the
lion and the jackal have met, and it is full moon, O gazelles!"

Mahmoud was so pleased with this song that he wrote it down, a thing
he only did with one song out of several thousands, for he wrote
with difficulty, but I think it a most ridiculous song, and I far
prefer Smith's, though you would never know it had to do with the
same business.


One day Peter and Paul--I knew them both, the dear fellows: Peter
perhaps a trifle wild, Paul a little priggish, but that is no
matter--one day, I say, Peter and Paul (who lived together in rooms off
Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, a very delightful spot) were talking
over their mutual affairs.

"My dear Paul," said Peter, "I wish I could persuade you to this
expenditure. It will be to our mutual advantage. Come now, you have
ten thousand a year of your own and I with great difficulty earn a
hundred; it is surprising that you should make the fuss you do.
Besides which you well know that this feeding off packing-cases is
irksome; we really need a table and it will but cost ten pounds."

To all this Paul listened doubtfully, pursing up his lips, joining
the tips of his fingers, crossing his legs and playing the solemn
fool generally.

"Peter," said he, "I mislike this scheme of yours. It is a heavy
outlay for a single moment. It would disturb our credit, and yours
especially, for your share would come to five pounds and you would
have to put off paying the Press-Cutting agency to which you
foolishly subscribe. No; there is an infinitely better way than this
crude idea of paying cash down in common. I will lend the whole sum
of ten pounds to our common stock and we will each pay one pound a
year as interest to myself for the loan. I for my part will not
shirk my duty in the matter of this interest and I sincerely trust
you will not shirk yours."

Peter was so delighted with this arrangement that his gratitude knew
no bounds. He would frequently compliment himself in private on the
advantage of living with Paul, and when he went out to see his
friends it was with the jovial air of the Man with the Bottomless
Purse, for he did not feel the pound a year he had to pay, and Paul
always seemed willing to undertake similar expenses on similar
terms. He purchased a bronze over-mantel, he fitted the rooms with
electric light, he bought (for the common use) a large prize dog for
£56, and he was for ever bringing in made dishes, bottles of wine
and what not, all paid for by this lending of his. The interest
increased to £20 and then to £30 a year, but Paul was so rigorously
honest, prompt and exact in paying himself the interest that Peter
could not bear to be behindhand or to seem less punctual and upright
than his friend. But so high a proportion of his small income going
in interest left poor Peter but a meagre margin for himself and he
had to dine at Lockhart's and get his clothes ready made, which (to
a refined and sensitive soul such as his) was a grievous trial.

Some little time after a Fishmonger who had attained to Cabinet rank
was married to the daughter of a Levantine and London was in
consequence illuminated. Paul said to Peter in his jovial way, "It
is imperative that we should show no meanness upon this occasion. We
are known for the most flourishing and well-to-do pair of bachelors
in the neighbourhood, and I have not hesitated (for I know I had
your consent beforehand) to go to Messrs. Brock and order an immense
quantity of fireworks for the balcony on this auspicious occasion.
Not a word. The loan is mine and very freely do I make it to our
Mutual Position."

So that night there was an illumination at their flat, and the
centre-piece was a vast combination of roses, thistles, shamrocks,
leeks, kangaroos, beavers, schamboks, and other national emblems,
and beneath it the motto, "United we stand, divided we fall: Peter
and Paul," in flaming letters two feet high.

Peter was after this permanently reduced to living upon rice and to
mending his own clothes; but he could easily see how fair the
arrangement was, and he was not the man to grumble at a free
contract. Moreover, he was expecting a rise in salary from the
editor of the _Hoot_, in which paper he wrote "Woman's World",
and signed it "Emily".

At the close of the year Peter had some difficulty in meeting the
interest, though Paul had, with true business probity, paid his on
the very day it fell due. Peter therefore approached Paul with some
little diffidence and hesitation, saying:

"Paul: I trust you will excuse me, but I beg you will be so very
good as to see your way, if possible, to granting me an extension of
time in the matter of paying my interest."

Paul, who was above everything regular and methodical, replied:

"Hum, chrm, chrum, chrm. Well, my dear Peter, it would not be
generous to press you, but I trust you will remember that this money
has not been spent upon my private enjoyment. It has gone for the
glory of our Mutual Position; pray do not forget that, Peter; and
remember also that if you have to pay interest, so have I, so have
I. We are all in the same boat, Peter, sink or swim; sink or
swim...." Then his face brightened, he patted Peter genially on the
shoulder and added: "Do not think me harsh, Peter. It is necessary
that I should keep to a strict, business-like way of doing things,
for I have a large property to manage; but you may be sure that my
friendship for you is of more value to me than a few paltry
sovereigns. I will lend you the sum you owe to the interest on the
Common Debt, and though in strict right you alone should pay the
interest on this new loan I will call half of it my own and you
shall pay but £1 a year on it for ever."

Peter's eyes swam with tears at Paul's generosity, and he thanked
his stars that his lot had been cast with such a man. But when Paul
came again with a grave face and said to him, "Peter, my boy, we
must insure at once against burglars: the underwriters demand a
hundred pounds," his heart broke, and he could not endure the
thought of further payments. Paul, however, with the quiet good
sense that characterised him, pointed out the necessity of the
payment and, eyeing Peter with compassion for a moment, told him
that he had long been feeling that he (Peter) had been unfairly
taxed. "It is a principle" (said Paul) "that taxation should fall
upon men in proportion to their ability to pay it. I am determined
that, whatever happens, you shall in future pay but a third of the
interest that may accrue upon further loans." It was in vain that
Peter pointed out that, in his case, even a thirtieth would mean
starvation; Paul was firm and carried his point.

The wretched Peter was now but skin and bone, and his earning power,
small as it had ever been, was considerably lessened. Paul began to
fear very seriously for his invested funds: he therefore kept up
Peter's spirits as best he could with such advice as the following:--

"Dear Peter, do not repine; your lot is indeed hard, but it has its
silver lining. You are the member of a partnership famous among all
other bachelor-residences for its display of fireworks and its fine
furniture. So valuable is the room in which you live that the
insurance alone is the wonder and envy of our neighbours. Consider
also how firm and stable these loans make our comradeship. They give
me a stake in the rooms and furnish a ready market for the spare
capital of our little community. The interest WE pay upon the fund
is an evidence of our social rank, and all London stares with
astonishment at the flat of Peter and Paul, which can without an
effort buy such gorgeous furniture at a moment's notice."

But, alas! these well-meant words were of no avail. On a beautiful
spring day, when all the world seemed to be holding him to the joys
of living, Peter passed quietly away in his little truckle bed,
unattended even by a doctor, whose fees would have necessitated a
loan the interest of which he could never have paid.

Paul, on the death of Peter, gave way at first to bitter
recrimination. "Is this the way," he said, "that you repay years of
unstinted generosity?  Nay, is this the way you meet your sacred
obligations? You promised upon a thousand occasions to pay your
share of the interest for ever, and now like a defaulter you abandon
your post and destroy half the revenue of our firm by one
intempestive and thoughtless act! Had you but possessed a little
property which, properly secured, would continue to meet the claims
you had incurred, I had not blamed you. But a man who earns all that
he possesses has no right to pledge himself to perpetual payment
unless he is prepared to live for ever!"

Nobler thoughts, however, succeeded this outburst, and Paul threw
himself upon the bed of his Departed Friend and moaned. "Who now
will pay me an income in return for my investments?  All my fortune
is sunk in this flat, though I myself pay the interest never so
regularly, it will not increase my fortune by one farthing! I shall
as I live consume a fund which will never be replenished, and within
a short time I shall be compelled to work for my living!"

Maddened by this last reflection, he dashed into the street, hurried
northward through-the-now-rapidly-gathering-darkness, and drowned
himself in the Regent's Canal, just where it runs by the Zoological
Gardens, under the bridge that leads to the cages of the larger

Thus miserably perished Peter and Paul, the one in the thirtieth,
the other in the forty-seventh year of his age, both victims to
their ignorance of _Mrs. Fawcett's Political Economy for the
Young_, the _Nicomachean Ethics_, Bastiat's _Economic Harmonies, The
Fourth Council of Lateran on Unfruitful Loans and Usury, The Speeches
of Sir Michael Hicks-Beach and Mr. Brodrick (now Lord Midleton), The
Sermons of St. Thomas Aquinas_, under the head "Usuria,"
Mr. W. S. Lilly's First _Principles in Politics_, and other works
too numerous to mention.


"_Saepe miratus sum_," I have often wondered why men were
blamed for seeking to know men of title. That a man should be blamed
for the acceptance of, or uniformity with, ideals not his own is
right enough; but a man who simply reveres a Lord does nothing so
grave: and why he should not revere such a being passes my

The institution of Lords has for its object the creation of a high
and reverend class; well, a man looks up to them with awe or
expresses his reverence and forthwith finds himself accused! Get rid
of Lords by all means, if you think there should be none, but do not
come pestering me with a rule that no Lord shall be considered while
you are making them by the bushel for the special purpose of being
considered--_ad considerandum_ as Quintillian has it in his
highly Quintillianarian essay on I forget what.

I have heard it said that what is blamed in snobs, _snobinibus
quid reatumst_, is not the matter but the manner of their
worship. Those who will have it so maintain that we should pay to
rank a certain discreet respect which must not be marred by crude
expression. They compare snobbishness to immodesty, and profess that
the pleasure of acquaintance with the great should be so enjoyed
that the great themselves are but half-conscious of the homage
offered them: this is rather a subtle and finicky critique of what
is in honest minds a natural restraint.

I knew a man once--Chatterley was his name, Shropshire his county,
and racing his occupation--who said that a snob was blamed for the
offence he gave to Lords themselves. Thus we do well (said this man
Chatterley) to admire beautiful women, but who would rush into a
room and exclaim loudly at the ladies it contained? So (said this
man Chatterley) is it with Lords, whom we should never forget, but
whom we should not disturb by violent affection or by too persistent
a pursuit.

Then there was a nasty drunken chap down Wapping way who had seen
better days; he had views on dozens of things and they were often
worth listening to, and one of his fads was to be for ever preaching
that the whole social position of an aristocracy resided in a veil
of illusion, and that hands laid too violently on this veil would
tear it. It was only by a sort of hypnotism, he said, that we
regarded Lords as separate from ourselves. It was a dream, and a
rough movement would wake one out of it. Snobbishness (he said) did
violence to this sacred film of faith and might shatter it, and
hence (he pointed out) was especially hated by Lords themselves. It
was interesting to hear as a theory and delivered in those
surroundings, but it is exploded at once by the first experience of
High Life and its solid realities.

There is yet another view that to seek after acquaintance with men
of position in some way hurts one's own soul, and that to strain
towards our superiors, to mingle our society with their own, is
unworthy, because it is destructive of something peculiar to
ourselves. But surely there is implanted in man an instinct which
leads him to all his noblest efforts and which is, indeed, the
motive force of religion, the instinct by which he will ever seek to
attain what he sees to be superior to him and more worthy than the
things of his common experience. It seems to be proper, therefore,
that no man should struggle against the very natural attraction
which radiates from superior rank, and I will boldly affirm that he
does his country a good service who submits to this force.

The just appetite for rank gives rise to two kinds of duty, one or
the other of which each of us in his sphere is bound to regard.
There is first for much the greater part of men the duty of showing
respect and deference to men of title, by which I do not mean only
Lords absolute (which are Barons, Viscounts, Earls, Marquises and
Dukes), but also Lords in gross, that is the whole body of lords,
including lords by courtesy, ladies, their wives and mothers,
honourables and cousins--especially heirs of Lords, and to some
extent Baronets as well. Secondly, there is the duty of those few
within whose power it lies to become Lords, Lords to become, lest
the aristocratic element in our Constitution should decline. The
most obvious way of doing one's duty in this regard if one is
wealthy is to purchase a peerage, or a Baronetcy at the least, and
when I consider how very numerous are the fortunes to which a sum of
twenty or thirty thousand pounds is not really a sacrifice, and how
few of their possessors exercise a tenacious effort to acquire rank
by the disbursement of money, I cannot but fear for the future of
the country! It is no small sign of our times that we should read so
continually of large bequests to public charities made by men who
have had every opportunity for entering the Upper House but who
preferred to remain unnoted in the North of England and to leave
their posterity no more dignified than they were themselves.

There is a yet more restricted class to whom it is open to become
Lords by sheer merit. The one by gallant conduct in the field,
another by a pretty talent for verse, a third by scientific
research. And if any of my readers happen to be a man of this kind
and yet hesitate to undertake the effort required of him, I would
point out that our Constitution in its wisdom adds certain very
material advantages to a peerage of this kind. It is no excuse for a
man of military or scientific eminence to say that his income would
not enable him to maintain such a dignity. Parliament is always
ready to vote a sufficient grant of money, and even were it not so,
it is quite possible to be a Lord and yet to be but poorly provided
with the perishable goods of this world, as is very clearly seen in
the case of no fewer than eighty-two Barons, fourteen Earls, and
three dukes, a list of whom I had prepared for printing in these
directions but have most unfortunately mislaid.

Again, even if one's private means be small, and if Parliament by
some neglect omit to endow one's new splendour, the common sense of
England will come to the help of any man so situated if he is worth
his salt. He will with the greatest ease obtain positions of
responsibility and emolument, notably upon the directorate of public
companies, and can often, if he finds his salary insufficient,
persuade his fellow-directors to increase it, whether by threatening
them with exposure or by some other less drastic and more convivial

If after reading these lines there is anyone who still doubts the
attitude that an honest man should take upon this matter, it is
enough to point out in conclusion how Providence itself appears to
have designed the whole hierarchy of Lords with a view to tempting
man higher and ever higher. Thus, if some reader of this happens to
be a baron, he might think perhaps that it is not worth a further
effort to receive another grade of distinction. He would be wrong,
for such an advance gives a courtesy title to his daughters; one
more step and the same benefit accrues to his sons. After that there
is indeed a hiatus, nor have I ever been able to see what advantage
is held out to the viscount who desires to become a marquis--unless,
indeed, it be marquises that become viscounts. Anyhow, it is the
latter title which is the less English and the less manly and which
I am glad to hear it is proposed to abolish by a short, one-clause
bill in the next Session of Parliament. Above these, the dukes in
the titles of their wives and the mode in which they are addressed
stand alone. There is, therefore, no stage in a man's upward
progress upon this ancient and glorious ladder where he will not
find some great reward for the toil of ascending. In view of these
things, I for my part hope, in common with many another, that the
foolish pledge given some years ago when the Liberal Party was in
opposition, that it would create no more Lords, will be revised now
that it has to consider the responsibilities of office; a revision
for which there is ample precedent in the case of other pledges
which were as rashly made but of which a reconsideration has been
found necessary in practice.

NOTE.--_I find I am wrong upon Viscounts, but as I did not
discover this until my book was in the press I cannot correct it.
The remainder of the matter is accurate enough, and may be relied on
by the student._



The sad and lamentable history of Jack Bull, son of the late John
Bull, India Merchant, wherein it will be seen how this prosperous
merchant left an heir that ran riot with 'Squires, trainbands, Black
men, and Soldiers, and squandered all his substance, so that at last
he came to selling penny tokens in front of the Royal Exchange in
Threadneedle Street, and is now very miserably writing for the

John Bull, whom I knew very well, drove a great trade in tea, cotton
goods, and bombazine, as also in hardware, all manner of cutlery,
good and bad, and especially sea-coal, and was very highly respected
in the City of London, of which he was twice Sheriff and once Lord
Mayor. When he went abroad some begged of him, and to these he would
give a million or so at a time openly in the street, so that a crowd
would gather and cry, "Lord! what a generous fellow is this Mr.
Bull!" Some, again, of better station would pluck his sleeve and
take him aside into Broad Street Corner or Mansion House Court, and
say, "Mr. Bull, a word in your ear. I have more paper about than I
care for in these hard times, and I could pay you handsomely for a
short loan." These always found Mr. Bull willing and ready, sure and
silent, and, withal, cheaper at a discount than any other. For
buying cloth all came to Bull; and for buying other wares his house
was preferred to those of Frog and Hans and the rest, because he was
courteous and ready, always to be found in his office (which was
near the Wool-pack in Leaden Hall Street, next to Mr. Marlow's, the
Methodist preacher), and moreover he was very attentive to little
things. This last habit he would call the soul of business. In such
fashion Mr. Bull had accumulated a sum of five hundred thousand
million pounds, or thereabouts, and when he died the neighbours said
this and that spiteful thing about his son Jack whom he had trained
up to the business, making out that _they knew more than they
cared to say_, that _Jack was not John_, that _they had heard of Pride
going before a fall_, and so much tittle-tattle as jealousy will breed.
But they were very much disappointed in their malice, for this same
Jack went sturdily to work and trod in his father's steps, so that
his wealth increased even beyond what he had inherited, and he had at
last more risks upon the sea in one way and another than any other
merchant in the City. And if you would know how Jack (who was, to
tell the truth, more flighty and ill-informed than his father) came to
go so wisely, it was thus: Old John had left him a few directions writ
up in pencil on the mantelpiece, which ran in this way:---

1. Never go into an adventure unless the feeling of your neighbours
be with you.

2. Spend no more than you earn--nay, put by every year.

3. Put out no money for show in your business but only for use, save
only on the occasion of the Lord Mayor's Show, your taking of an
office, or on the occasion of public holidays, as, when the King's
wife or daughter lies in.

4. Live and let live, for be sure your business can only thrive on
the condition that others do also.

5. Vex no man at your door; buy and sell freely.

6. Do not associate with Drunkards, Brawlers and Poets; and God's
blessing be with you.

Now when Jack was grown to about thirty years old, he came, most
unfortunately, upon a certain Sir John Snipe, Bart., that was a very
scandalous young squire of Oxfordshire, and one that had published
five lyrics and a play (enough to warn any Bull against him), who
spoke to him somewhat in this fashion:---

"La! Jack, what a pity you and I should live so separate! I'll be
bound you're the best fellow in the world, the very backbone of the
country. To be sure there's a silly old-fashioned lot of Lumpkins in
our part that will have it you're no gentleman, but I say, 'Gentle
is as Gentle does,' and fair play's a jewel. I will enter your
counting-house as soon as drink to you, as I do here."

Whereat Jack cried--

"God 'a' mercy, a very kind gentleman! Be welcome to my house. Pray
take it as your own. I think you may count me one of you? Eh? Be
seated. Come, how can I serve you?": and at last he had this
Jackanapes taking a handsome salary for doing nothing.

When Jack's friends would reproach him and say, "Oh, Jack, Jack,
beware this fine gentleman; he will be your ruin," Jack would
answer, "A plague on all levellers," or again, "What if he be a
gentleman? So that he have talent 'tis all I seek," or yet further,
"Well, gentle or simple, thank God he's an honest Englishman."
Whereat Jack added to the firm, Isaacs of Hamburg, Larochelle of
Canada, Warramugga of Van Dieman's Land, Smuts Bieken of the Cape of
Good Hope, and the Maharajah of Mahound of the East Indies that was
a plaguey devilish-looking black fellow, pock-marked, and with a
terrible great paunch to him.

So things went all to the dogs with poor Jack, that would hear no
sense or reason from his father's old friends, but was always seen
arm in arm with Sir John Snipe, Warra Mugga, the Maharajah and the
rest; drinking at the sign of the "Beerage," gambling and dicing at
"The Tape," or playing fisticuffs at the "Lord Nelson," till at last
he quarrelled with all the world but his boon companions and, what
was worse, boasted that his father's brother's son, rich Jonathan
Spare, was of the company. So if he met some dirty dog or other in
the street he would cry, "Come and sup to-night, you shall meet
Cousin Jonathan!" and when no Jonathan was there he would make a
thousand excuses saying, "Excuse Jonathan, I pray you, he has
married a damned Irish wife that keeps him at home"; or, "What!
Jonathan not come? Oh! we'll wait awhile. He never fails, for we are
like brothers!" and so on; till his companions came to think at last
that he had never met or known Jonathan; which was indeed the case.

About this time he began to think himself too fine a gentleman to
live over the shop as his father had done, and so asked Sir John
Snipe where he might go that was more genteel; for he still had too
much sense to ask any of those other outlandish fellows' advice in
such a matter. At last, on Snipe's bespeaking, he went to Wimbledon,
which is a vastly smart suburb, and there, God knows, he fell into a
thousand absurd tricks so that many thought he was off his head.

He hired a singing man to stand before his door day and night
singing vulgar songs out of the street in praise of Dick Turpin and
Molly Nog, only forcing him to put in his name of Jack Bull in the
place of the Murderer or Oyster Wench therein celebrated.

He would drink rum with common soldiers in the public-houses and
then ask them in to dinner to meet gentlemen, saying "These are
heroes and gentlemen, which are the two first kinds of men," and
they would smoke great pipes of tobacco in his very dining-room to
the general disgust.

He would run out and cruelly beat small boys unaware, and when he
had nigh killed them he would come back and sit up half the night
writing an account of how he had fought Tom Mauler of Bermondsey and
beaten him in a hundred and two rounds, which (he would add) no man
living but he could do.

He would hang out of his window a great flag with a challenge on it
"to all the people of Wimbledon assembled, or to any of them
singly," and then he would be seen at his front gate waving a great
red flag and gnawing a bone like a dog, saying that he loved Force
only, and would fight all and any.

When he received any print, newspaper, book or pamphlet that praised
any but himself, he would throw it into the fire in a kind of
frenzy, calling God to witness that he was the only person of
consequence in the world, that it was a horrible shame that he was
so neglected, and Lord knows what other rubbish.

In this spirit he quarrelled with all his fellow-underwriters and
friends and comrades, and that in the most insolent way. For knowing
well that Mr. Frog had a shrew of a wife, he wrote to him daily
asking "if he had had a domestic broil of late, and how his poor
head felt since it was bandaged." To Mr. Hans, who lived in a small
way and loved gardening, he sent an express "begging him to mind his
cabbages and leave gentlemen to their greater affairs." To Niccolini
of Savoy, the little swarthy merchant, he sent indeed a more polite
note, but as he said in it "that he would be very willing to give
him charity and help him as he could" and as he added "for my father
it was that put you up in business" (which was a monstrous lie, for
Frog had done this) he did but offend. Then to Mr. William Eagle,
that was a strutting, arrogant fellow, but willing to be a friend,
he wrote every Monday to say that the house of Bull was lost unless
Mr. Eagle would very kindly protect it and every Thursday to
challenge him to mortal combat, so that Mr. Eagle (who, to tell the
truth, was no great wit, but something of a dullard and moreover
suffering from a gathering in the ear, a withered arm, and poor
blood) gave up his friendship and business with Bull and took to
making up sermons and speeches for orators.

He would have no retainers but two, whose common names were Hocus
and Pocus, but as he hated the use of common names and as no one had
heard of Hocus' lineage (nor did he himself know it) he called him,
Hocus, "Freedom" as being a high-sounding and moral name for a
footman and Pocus (whose name was of an ordinary decent kind) he
called "Glory" as being a good counterweight to Freedom; both these
were names in his opinion very decent and well suited for a
gentleman's servants.

Now Freedom and Glory got together in the apple closet and put it to
each other that, as their master was evidently mad it would be a
thousand pities to take no advantage of it, and they agreed that
whatever bit of jobbing Hocus Freedom should do, Pocus Glory should
approve; and contrariwise about. But they kept up a sham quarrel to
mask this; thus Hocus was for Chapel, Pocus for Church, and it was
agreed Hocus should denounce Pocus for drinking Port.

The first fruit of their conspiracy was that Hocus recommended his
brother and sister, his two aunts and nieces and four nephews, his
own six children, his dog, his conventicle-minister, his laundress,
his secretary, a friend of whom he had once borrowed five pounds,
and a blind beggar whom he favoured, to various posts about the
house and to certain pensions, and these Jack Bull (though his
fortune was already dwindling) at once accepted.

Thereupon Pocus loudly reproached Hocus in the servants' hall,
saying that the compact had only stood for things in reason, whereat
Hocus took off his coat and offered to "Take him on," and Pocus,
thinking better of it, managed for his share to place in the
household such relatives as he could, namely, Cohen to whom he was
in debt, Bernstein his brother-in-law and all his family of five
except little Hugh that blacked the boots for the Priest, and so was
already well provided for.

In this way poor Jack's fortune went to rack and ruin. The clerks in
his office in the City (whom he now never saw) would telegraph to him
every making-up day that there was loss that had to be met, but to
these he always sent the same reply, namely, "Sell stock and scrip to
the amount"; and as that phrase was costly, he made a code-word, to
wit, "Prosperity," stand for it. Till one day they sent word "There
is nothing left." Then he bethought him how to live on credit, but
this plan was very much hampered by his habit of turning in a passion
on all those who did not continually praise him. Did an honest man
look in and say, "Jack, there is a goat eating your cabbages," he
would fly into a rage and say, "You lie, Pro-Boer, my cabbages are
sacred, and Jove would strike the goat dead that dared to eat them,"
or if a poor fellow should touch his hat in the street and say,
"Pardon, sir, your buttons are awry," he would answer, "Off, villain!
Zounds, knave! Know you not that my Divine buttons are the model of
things?" and so forth, until he fell into a perfect lunacy.

But of how he came to selling tokens of little leaden soldiers at a
penny in front of the Exchange, and of how at last he even fell to
writing for the papers, I will not tell you; for, _imprimis_,
it has not happened yet, nor do I think it will, and in the second
place I am tired of writing.


It so happened that one day I was riding my horse Monster in the
Berkshire Hills right up above that White Horse which was dug they
say by this man and by that man, but no one knows by whom; for I was
seeing England, a delightful pastime, but a somewhat anxious one if
one is riding a horse. For if one is alone one can sleep where one
chooses and walk at one's ease, and eat what God sends one and spend
what one has; but when one is responsible for any other being
(especially a horse) there come in a thousand farradiddles, for of
everything that walks on earth, man (not woman--I use the word in
the restricted sense) is the freest and the most unhappy.

Well, then, I was riding my horse and exploring the Island of
England, going eastward of a summer afternoon, and I had so ridden
along the ridge of the hills for some miles when I came, as chance
would have it, upon a very extraordinary being.

He was a man like myself, but his horse, which was grazing by his
side, and from time to time snorting in a proud manner, was quite
unlike my own. This horse had all the strength of the horses of
Normandy, all the lightness, grace, and subtlety of the horses of
Barbary, all the conscious value of the horses that race for rich
men, all the humour of old horses that have seen the world and will
be disturbed by nothing, and all the valour of young horses who have
their troubles before them, and race round in paddocks attempting to
defeat the passing trains. I say all these things were in the horse,
and expressed by various movements of his body, but the list of
these qualities is but a hint of the way in which he bore himself;
for it was quite clearly apparent as I came nearer and nearer to
this strange pair that the horse before me was very different (as
perhaps was the man) from the beings that inhabit this island.

While he was different in all qualities that I have mentioned--or
rather in their combination--he also differed physically from most
horses that we know, in this, that from his sides and clapt along
them in repose was growing a pair of very fine sedate and noble
wings. So habited, with such an expression and with such gestures of
his limbs, he browsed upon the grass of Berkshire, which, if you
except the grass of Sussex and the grass perhaps of Hampshire, is
the sweetest grass in the world. I speak of the chalk-grass; as for
the grass of the valleys, I would not eat it in a salad, let alone
give it to a beast.

The man who was the companion rather than the master of this
charming animal sat upon a lump of turf singing gently to himself
and looking over the plain of Central England, the plain of the
Upper Thames, which men may see from these hills. He looked at it
with a mixture of curiosity, of memory, and of desire which was very
interesting but also a little pathetic to watch. And as he looked at
it he went on crooning his little song until he saw me, when with
great courtesy he ceased and asked me in the English language
whether I did not desire companionship.

I answered him that certainly I did, though not more than was
commonly the case with me, for I told him that I had had
companionship in several towns and inns during the past few days,
and that I had had but a few hours' bout of silence and of

"Which period," I added, "is not more than sufficient for a man of
my years, though I confess that in early youth I should have found
it intolerable."

When I had said this he nodded gravely, and I in my turn began to
wonder of what age he might be, for his eyes and his whole manner
were young, but there was a certain knowledge and gravity in his
expression and in the posture of his body which in another might
have betrayed middle age. He wore no hat, but a great quantity of
his own hair, which was blown about by the light summer wind upon
these heights. As he did not reply to me, I asked him a further
question, and said:

"I see you are gazing upon the plain. Have you interests or memories
in that view? I ask you without compunction so delicate a question
because it is as open to you to lie as it was to me when I lied to
them only yesterday morning, a little beyond Wayland's Cave, telling
them that I had come to make sure of the spot where St. George
conquered the Dragon, though, in truth, I had come for no such
purpose, and telling them that my name was so-and-so, whereas it was
nothing of the kind."

He brightened up at this, and said: "You are quite right in telling
me that I am free to lie if I choose, and I would be very happy to
lie to you if there were any purpose in so doing, but there is none.
I gaze upon this plain with the memories that are common to all men
when they gaze upon a landscape in which they have had a part in the
years recently gone by. That is, the plain fills me with a sort of
longing, and yet I cannot say that the plain has treated me
unjustly. I have no complaint against it. God bless the plain!"
After thinking a few moments, he added: "I am fond of Wantage;
Wallingford has done me no harm; Oxford gave me many companions; I
was not drowned at Dorchester beyond the Little Hills; and the best
of men gave me a true farewell in Faringdon yonder. Moreover, Cumnor
is my friend. Nevertheless, I like to indulge in a sort of sadness
when I look over this plain."

I then asked him whither he would go next.

He answered: "My horse flies, and I am therefore not bound to any
particular track or goal, especially in these light airs of summer
when all the heaven is open to me."

As he said this I looked at his mount and noticed that when he shook
his skin as horses will do in the hot weather to rid themselves of
flies, he also passed a little tremor through his wings, which were
large and goose-grey, and, spreading gently under that effort,
seemed to give him coolness.

"You have," said I, "a remarkable horse."

At this word he brightened up as men do when something is spoken of
that interests them nearly, and he answered: "Indeed, I have! and I
am very glad you like him. There is no such other horse to my
knowledge in England, though I have heard that some still linger in
Ireland and in France, and that a few foals of the breed have been
dropped of late years in Italy, but I have not seen them.

"How did you come by this horse?" said I; "if it is not trespassing
upon your courtesy to ask you so delicate a question."

"Not at all; not at all," he answered. "This kind of horse runs wild
upon the heaths of morning and can be caught only by Exiles: and I
am one.... Moreover, if you had come three or four years later than
you have I should have been able to give you an answer in rhyme, but
I am sorry to say that a pestilent stricture of the imagination, or
rather, of the compositive faculty so constrains me that I have not
yet finished the poem I have been writing with regard to the
discovery and service of this beast."

"I have great sympathy with you," I answered, "I have been at the
ballade of Val-ès-Dunes since the year 1897 and I have not yet
completed it."

"Well, then," he said, "you will be patient with me when I tell you
that I have but three verses completed." Whereupon without further
invitation he sang in a loud and clear voice the following verse:

  _It's ten years ago to-day you turned me out of doors
  To cut my feet on flinty lands and stumble down the shores.
  And I thought about the all in all ..._

"The '_all in all_,'" I said, "is weak."

He was immensely pleased with this, and, standing up, seized me by
the hand. "I know you now," he said, "for a man who does indeed
write verse. I have done everything I could with those three
syllables, and by the grace of Heaven I shall get them right in
time. Anyhow, they are the stop-gap of the moment, and with your
leave I shall reserve them, for I do not wish to put words like
'tumty tum' into the middle of my verse."

I bowed to him, and he proceeded:

  _And I thought about the all in all, and more than I could tell;
  But I caught a horse to ride upon and rode him very well.
  He had flame behind the eyes of him and wings upon his side--
       And I ride; and I ride!_

"Of how many verses do you intend this metrical composition to be?"
said I, with great interest.

"I have sketched out thirteen," said he firmly, "but I confess that
the next ten are so embryonic in this year 1907 that I cannot sing
them in public." He hesitated a moment, then added: "They have many
fine single lines, but there is as yet no composition or unity about
them." And as he recited the words "composition" and "unity" he
waved his hand about like a man sketching a cartoon.

"Give me, then," said I, "at any rate the last two." For I had
rapidly calculated how many would remain of his scheme.

He was indeed pleased to be so challenged, and continued to sing:

  _And once atop of Lambourne Down, towards the hill of Clere,
  I saw the host of Heaven in rank and Michael with his spear
  And Turpin, out of Gascony, and Charlemagne the lord,
  And Roland of the Marches with his hand upon his sword
  For fear he should have need of it;--and forty more beside!
       And I ride; and I ride!
  For you that took the all in all..._

"That again is weak," I murmured.

"You are quite right," he said gravely, "I will rub it out." Then he
went on:

  _For you that took the all in all, the things you left were
  A loud Voice for singing, and keen Eyes to see,
  And a spouting Well of Joy within that never yet was dried!
       And I ride!_

He sang this last in so fierce and so exultant a manner that I was
impressed more than I cared to say, but not more than I cared to
show. As for him, he cared little whether I was impressed or not; he
was exalted and detached from the world.

There were no stirrups upon the beast. He vaulted upon it, and said
as he did so:

"You have put me into the mood, and I must get away!"

And though the words were abrupt, he _did_ speak them with such
a grace that I will always remember them!

He then touched the flanks of his horse with his heels (on which
there were no spurs) and at once beating the air powerfully twice or
thrice with its wings it spurned the turf of Berkshire and made out
southward and upward into the sunlit air, a pleasing and a glorious

In a very little while they had dwindled to a point of light and
were soon mixed with the sky. But I went on more lonely along the
crest of the hills, very human, riding my horse Monster, a mortal
horse--I had almost written a human horse. My mind was full of

Some of those to whom I have related this adventure criticise it by
the method of questions and of cross-examination proving that it
could not have happened precisely where it did; showing that I left
the vale so late in the afternoon that I could not have found this
man and his mount at the hour I say I did, and making all manner of
comments upon the exact way in which the feathers (which they say
are those of a bird) grew out of the hide of the horse, and so
forth. There are no witnesses of the matter, and I go lonely, for
many people will not believe, and those who do believe believe too


Once there was a Man who lived in a House at the Corner of a Wood
with an excellent landscape upon every side, a village about one
mile off, and a pleasant stream flowing over chalk and full of
trout, for which he used to fish.

This man was perfectly happy for some little time, fishing for the
trout, contemplating the shapes of clouds in the sky, and singing
all the songs he could remember in turn under the high wood, till
one day he found, to his annoyance, that there was strapped to his
back a Burden.

However, he was by nature of a merry mood, and began thinking of all
the things he had read about Burdens. He remembered an uncle of his
called Jonas (ridiculous name) who had pointed out that Burdens,
especially if borne in youth, strengthen the upper deltoid muscle,
expand the chest, and give to the whole figure an erect and graceful
poise. He remembered also reading in a book upon "Country Sports"
that the bearing of heavy weights is an excellent training for all
other forms of exercise, and produces a manly and resolute carriage,
very useful in golf, cricket and Colonial wars. He could not forget
his mother's frequent remark that a Burden nobly endured gave
firmness, and at the same time elasticity, to the character, and
altogether he went about his way taking it as kindly as he could;
but I will not deny that it annoyed him.

In a few days he discovered that during sleep, when he lay down, the
Burden annoyed him somewhat less than at other times, though the
memory of it never completely left him. He would therefore sleep for
a very considerable number of hours every day, sometimes retiring to
rest as early as nine o'clock, nor rising till noon of the next day.
He discovered also that rapid and loud conversation, adventure,
wine, beer, the theatre, cards, travel, and so forth made him forget
his Burden for the time being, and he indulged himself perhaps to
excess in all these things. But when the memory of his Burden would
return to him after each indulgence, whether working in his garden,
or fishing for trout, or on a lonely walk, he began reluctantly to
admit that, on the whole, he felt uncertainty and doubt as to
whether the Burden was really good for him.

In this unpleasing attitude of mind he had the good fortune one day
to meet with an excellent Divine who inhabited a neighbouring
parish, and was possessed of no less a sum than £29,000. This
Ecclesiastic, seeing his whilom jocund Face fretted with the Marks
of Care, put a hand gently upon his shoulder and said:

"My young friend, I easily perceive that you are put out by this
Burden which you bear upon your shoulders. I am indeed surprised
that one so intelligent should take such a matter so ill. What! Do
you not know that burdens are the common lot of humanity? I myself,
though you may little suspect it, bear a burden far heavier than
yours, though, true, it is invisible, and not strapped on to my
shoulders by gross material thongs of leather, as is yours. The
worthy Squire of our parish bears one too; and with what manliness!
what ease! what abnegation! Believe me, these other Burdens of which
you never hear, and which no man can perceive, are for that very
reason the heaviest and the most trying. Come, play the man! Little
by little you will find that the patient sustenance of this Burden
will make you something greater, stronger, nobler than you were, and
you will notice as you grow older that those who are most favoured
by the Unseen bear the heaviest of such impediments."

With these last words recited in a solemn, and, as it were, an
inspired voice, the Hierarch lifted an immense stone from the
roadway, and placing it on the top of the Burden, so as considerably
to add to its weight, went on his way.

The irritation of the Man was already considerable when his family
called upon him--his mother, that is, his younger sister, his cousin
Jane, and her husband--and after they had eaten some of his food and
drunk some of his beer they all sat out in the garden with him and
talked to him somewhat in this manner:

"We really cannot pity you much, for ever since you were a child
whatever evil has happened to you has been your own doing, and
probably this is no different from the rest.... What can have
possessed you to get putting upon your back an ugly, useless, and
dangerous great Burden! You have no idea how utterly out of fashion
you seem, stumbling about the roads like a clodhopper, and going up
and downstairs as though you were on the treadmill.... For the
Lord's sake, at least have the decency to stay at home and not to
disgrace the family with your miserable appearance!"

Having said so much they rose, and adding to his burden a number of
leaden weights they had brought with them, went on their way and
left him to his own thoughts.

You may well imagine that by this time the irritation of the Man had
gone almost past bearing. He would quarrel with his best friends,
and they, in revenge, would put something more on to the burden,
till he felt he would break down. It haunted his dreams and filled
most of his waking thoughts, and did all those things which burdens
have been discovered to do since the beginning of time, until at
last, though very reluctantly, he determined to be rid of it.

Upon hearing of this resolution his friends and acquaintances raised
a most fearful hubbub; some talked of sending for the police, others
of restraining him by force, and others again of putting him into an
asylum, but he broke away from them all, and, making for the open
road, went out to see if he could not rid himself of this abominable

Of himself he could not, for the Burden was so cunningly strapped on
that his hands could not reach it, and there was magic about it, and
a spell; but he thought somewhere there must be someone who could
tell him how to cast it away.

In the very first ale-house he came to he discovered what is common
to such places, namely, a batch of politicians, who laughed at him
very loudly for not knowing how to get rid of burdens. "It is done,"
they said, "by the very simple method of paying one of us to get on
top and undo the straps." This the man said he would be very willing
to do, whereat the politicians, having fought somewhat among
themselves for the money, desisted at last in favour of the most
vulgar, who climbed on to the top of the man's burden, and remained
there, viewing the landscape and commenting in general terms upon
the nature of public affairs, and when the man complained a little,
the politician did but cuff him sharply on the side of the head to
teach him better manners.

Yet a little further on he met with a Scientist, who told him in
English Greek a clear and simple method of getting rid of the
burden, and, since the Man did not seem to understand, he lost his
temper, and said, "Come, let me do it," and climbed up by the side
of the Politician. Once there the Scientist confessed that the
problem was not so easy as he had imagined.

"But," said he, "now that I am here, you may as well carry me, for
it will be no great additional weight, and meanwhile I will spend
most of my time in trying to set you free."

And the third man he met was a Philosopher with quiet eyes; a person
whose very gestures were profound. Taking by the hand the Man, now
fevered and despairing, he looked at him with a mixture of
comprehension and charity, and he said:

"My poor fellow, your eyes are very wild and staring and bloodshot.
How little you understand the world!" Then he smiled gently, and
said, "Will you never learn?"

And without another word he climbed up on the top of the burden and
seated himself by the side of the other two.

After this the man went mad.

The last time I saw him he was wandering down the road with his
burden very much increased. He was bearing not only these original
three, but some Kings and Tax-gatherers and Schoolmasters, several
Fortune-tellers, and an Old Admiral. He was blind, and they were
goading him. But as he passed me he smiled and gibbered a little,
and told me it was in the nature of things, and went on downward

_This Parable I think, as I re-read it, demands a KEY, lest it
prove a stumbling-block to the muddle-headed and a perplexity to the
foolish. Here then is the KEY:_--

_The_ MAN _is a_ MAN. _His_ BURDEN _is that Burden
which men often feel themselves to be bearing as they advance from
youth to manhood. The_ RELATIVES _(his mother, his sister, his
cousins, etc.) are a Man's_ RELATIVES _and the little weights
they add to the_ BURDEN _are the little additional weights a
Man's_ RELATIVES _commonly add to his burden. The_ PARSON
_represents a_ PARSON, _and the_ POLITICIAN, _the_
OLD ADMIRAL, _stand severally for an_ OLD ADMIRAL, TAX-GATHERERS,

_The_ POLITICIANS _who fight for the_ MONEY
_represent_ POLITICIANS, _and the_ MONEY _they struggle
for is the_ MONEY _for which Politicians do ceaselessly jostle
and barge one another. The_ MOST VULGAR _in whose favour the
others desist, represents the_ MOST VULGAR _who, among Politicians,
invariably obtains the largest share of whatever public money is going._

_The_ MADNESS _of the Man at the end, stands for the_ MADNESS
_which does as a fact often fall upon Men late in life if their
Burdens are sufficiently increased._

_I trust that with this Key the Parable will be clear to all._


In that part of the Thames where the river begins to feel its life
before it knows its name the counties play with it upon either side.
It is not yet a boundary. The parishes upon the northern bank are
sometimes as truly Wiltshire as those to the south. The men upon the
farms that look at each other over the water are close neighbours;
they use the same words and the way they build their houses is the
same. Between them runs the beginning of the Thames.

From the surface of the water the whole prospect is sky, bounded by
reeds; but sitting up in one's canoe one sees between the reeds
distant hills to the southward, or, on the north, trees in groups,
and now and then the roofs of a village; more often the lonely group
of a steading with a church close by.

Floating down this stream quite silently, but rather swiftly upon a
summer's day, I saw on the bank to my right a very pleasant man. He
was perhaps a hundred yards or two hundred ahead of me when I first
caught sight of him, and perceived that he was a clergyman of the
Church of England. He was fishing.

He was dressed in black, even his hat was black (though it was of
straw), but his collar was of such a kind as his ancestors had worn,
turned down and surrounded by a soft white tie. His face was clear
and ruddy, his eyes honest, his hair already grey, and he was gazing
intently upon the float; for I will not conceal it that he was
fishing in that ancient manner with a float shaped like a sea-buoy
and stuck through with a quill. So fish the yeomen to this day in
Northern France and in Holland. Upon such immutable customs does an
ancient State repose, which, if they are disturbed, there is danger
of its dissolution.

As I so looked at him and rapidly approached him I took care not to
disturb the water with my paddle, but to let the boat glide far from
his side, until in the pleasure of watching him, I got fast upon the
further reeds. There she held and I, knowing that the effort of
getting her off would seriously stir the water, lay still. Nor did I
speak to him, though he pleased me so much, because a friend of mine
in Lambourne had once told me that of all things in Nature what a
fish most fears is the voice of a man.

He, however, first spoke to me in a sort of easy tone that could
frighten no fish. He said "Hullo!"

I answered him in a very subdued voice, for I have no art where
fishes are concerned, "Hullo!"

Then he asked me, after a good long time, whether his watch was
right, and as he asked me he pulled out his, which was a large,
thick, golden watch, and looked at it with anxiety and dread. He
asked me this, I think, because I must have had the look of a tired
man fresh from the towns, and with the London time upon him, and yet
I had been for weeks in no town larger than Cricklade: moreover, I
had no watch. Since, none the less, it is one's duty to uplift,
sustain, and comfort all one's fellows I told him that his watch was
but half a minute fast, and he put it back with a greater content
than he had taken it out; and, indeed, anyone who blames me for what
I did in so assuring him of the time should remember that I had
other means than a watch for judging it. The sunlight was already
full of old kindness, the midges were active, the shadow of the
reeds on the river was of a particular colour, the haze of a
particular warmth; no one who had passed many days and nights
together sleeping out and living out under this rare summer could
mistake the hour.

In a little while I asked him whether he had caught any fish. He
said he had not actually caught any, but that he would have caught
several but for accidents, which he explained to me in technical
language. Then he asked me in his turn where I was going to that
evening. I said I had no object before me, that I would sleep when I
felt sleepy, and wake when I felt wakeful, and that I would so drift
down Thames till I came to anything unpleasant, when it was my
design to leave my canoe at once, to tie it up to a post, and to go
off to another place, "for," I told him, "I am here to think about
Peace, and to see if She can be found." When I said this his face
became moody, and, as though such portentous thoughts required
action to balance them, he strained his line, lifted his float
smartly from the water (so that I saw the hook flying through the
air with a quarter of a worm upon it), and brought it down far up
the stream. Then he let it go slowly down again as the water carried
it, and instead of watching it with his steady and experienced eyes
he looked up at me and asked me if, as yet, I had come upon any clue
to Peace, that I expected to find Her between Cricklade and Bablock
Hythe. I answered that I did not exactly expect to find Her, that I
had come out to think about Her, and to find out whether She could
be found. I told him that often and often as I wandered over the
earth I had clearly seen Her, as once in Auvergne by Pont-Gibaud,
once in Terneuzen, several times in Hazlemere, Hampstead, Clapham,
and other suburbs, and more often than I could tell in the Weald:
"but seeing Her," said I, "is one thing and holding Her is another.
I hardly propose to follow all Her ways, but I do propose to
consider Her nature until I know so much as to be able to discover
Her at last whenever I have need, for I am convinced by this time
that nothing else is worth the effort of a man ... and I think I
shall achieve my object somewhere between here and Bablock Hythe."

He told me without interest that there was nothing attractive in the
pursuit or in its realisation.

I answered with equal promptitude that the whole of attraction was
summed up in it: that to nothing else did we move by nature, and to
nothing else were we drawn but to Peace. I said that a completion
and a fulfilment were vaguely demanded by a man even in very early
youth, that in manhood the desire for them became a passion and in
early middle age so overmastering and natural a necessity that all
who turned aside from it and attempted to forget it were justly
despised by their fellows and were some of them money-makers, some
of them sybarites, but all of them perverted men, whose hard eyes,
weak mouths, and fear of every trial sufficiently proved the curse
that was upon them. I told him as heatedly as one can speak lying
back in a canoe to a man beyond a little river that he, being older
than I, should know that everything in a full man tended towards
some place where expression is permanent and secure; and then I told
him that since I had only seen such a place far off as it were, but
never lived in, I had set forth to see if I might think out the way
to it, "and I hope," I said, "to finish the problem not so far down
as Bablock Hythe, but nearer by, towards New Bridge or even higher,
by Kelmscott."

He asked me, after a little space, during which he took off the
remnant of the worm and replaced it by a large new one, whether when
I said "Peace" I did not really mean "Harmony."

At this phrase a suspicion rose in my mind; it seemed to me that I
knew the school that had bred him, and that he and I should be
acquainted. So I was appeased and told him I did not mean Harmony,
for Harmony suggested that we had to suit ourselves to the things
around us or to get suited to them. I told him what I was after was
no such German Business, but something which was Fruition and more
than Fruition--full power to create and at the same time to enjoy, a
co-existence of new delight and of memory, of growth, and yet of
foreknowledge and an increasing reverence that should be
increasingly upstanding, and high hatred as well as high love
justified; for surely this Peace is not a lessening into which we
sink, but an enlargement which we merit and into which we rise and
enter--"and this," I ended, "I am determined to obtain before I get
to Bablock Hythe."

He shook his head determinedly and said my quest was hopeless.

"Sir," said I, "are you acquainted with the Use of Sarum?"

"I have read it," he said, "but I do not remember it well." Then,
indeed, indeed I knew that he was of my own University and of my own
college, and my heart warmed to him as I continued:

"It is in Latin; but, after all, that was the custom of the time."

"Latin," he answered, "was in the Middle Ages a universal tongue."

"Do you know," said I, "that passage which begins 'Illam Pacem----'?"

At this moment the float, which I had almost forgotten but which he
in the course of our speeches had more and more remembered, began to
bob up and down violently, and, if I may so express myself, the
Philosopher in him was suddenly swamped by the Fisherman. He struck
with the zeal and accuracy of a conqueror; he did something
dexterous with his rod, flourished the line and landed a
magnificent--ah! There the whole story fails, for what on earth was
the fish?

Had it been a pike or a trout I could have told it, for I am well
acquainted with both; but this fish was to me as a human being is to
a politician: this fish was to me unknown....


In a valley of the Apennines, a little before it was day, I went
down by the side of a torrent wondering where I should find repose;
for it was now some hours since I had given up all hope of
discovering a place for proper human rest and for the passing of the
night, but at least I hoped to light upon a dry bed of sand under
some overhanging rock, or possibly of pine needles beneath closely
woven trees, where one might get sleep until the rising of the sun.

As I still trudged, half expectant and half careless, a man came up
behind me, walking quickly as do mountain men: for throughout the
world (I cannot tell why) I have noticed that the men of the
mountains walk quickly and in a sprightly manner, arching the foot,
and with a light and general gait as though the hills were waves and
as though they were in thought springing upon the crests of them.
This is true of all mountaineers. They are but few.

This man, I say, came up behind me and asked me whether I were going
towards a certain town of which he gave me the name, but as I had
not so much as heard of this town I told him I knew nothing of it. I
had no map, for there was no good map of that district, and a bad
map is worse than none. I knew the names of no towns except the
large towns on the coast. So I said to him:

"I cannot tell anything about this town, I am not making towards it.
But I desire to reach the sea coast, which I know to be many hours
away, and I had hoped to sleep overnight under some roof or at least
in some cavern, and to start with the early morning; but here I am,
at the end of the night, without repose and wondering whether I can
go on."

He answered me:

"It is four hours to the sea coast, but before you reach it you will
find a lane branching to the right, and if you will go up it (for it
climbs the hill) you will find a hermitage. Now by the time you are
there the hermit will be risen."

"Will he be at his prayers?" said I.

"He says no prayers to my knowledge," said my companion lightly;
"for he is not a hermit of that kind. Hermits are many and prayers
are few. But you will find him bustling about, and he is a very
hospitable man. Now as it so happens that the road to the sea coast
bends here round along the foot of the hills, you will, in his
company, perceive the port below you and the populace and the high
road, and yet you will be saving a good hour in distance of time,
and will have ample rest before reaching your vessel, if it is a
vessel indeed that you intend to take."

When he had said these things I thanked him and gave him a bit of
sausage and went along my way, for as he had walked faster than me
before our meeting and while I was still in the dumps, so now I
walked faster than him, having received good news.

All happened just as he had described. The dawn broke behind me over
the noble but sedate peaks of the Apennines; it first defined the
heights against the growing colours of the sun, it next produced a
general warmth and geniality in the air about me; it last displayed
the downward opening of the valley, and, very far off, a plain that
sloped towards the sea.

Invigorated by the new presence of the day I went forward more
rapidly, and came at last to a place where a sculptured panel made
out of marble, very clever and modern, and representing a mystery,
marked the division between two ways; and I took the lane to my
right as my companion of the night hours had advised me.

For perhaps a mile or a little more the lane rose continually
between rough walls intercepted by high banks of thorn, with here
and there a vineyard, and as it rose one had between the breaches of
the wall glimpses of an ever-growing sea: for, as one rose, the sea
became a broader and a broader belt, and the very distant islands,
which at first had been but little clouds along the horizon, stood
out and became parts of the landscape, and, as it were, framed all
the bay.

Then at last, when I had come to the height of the hill, to where it
turned a corner and ran level along the escarpment of the cliffs
that dominated the sea plain, I saw below me a considerable stretch
of country, between the fall of the ground and the distant shore,
and under the daylight which was now full and clear one could
perceive that all this plain was packed with an intense cultivation,
with houses, happiness and men.

Far off, a little to the northward, lay the mass of a town; and
stretching out into the Mediterranean with a gesture of command and
of desire were the new arms of the harbour.

To see such things filled me with a complete content. I know not
whether it be the effect of long vigil, or whether it be the effect
of contrast between the darkness and the light, but certainly to
come out of a lonely night spent on the mountains, down with the
sunlight into the civilisation of the plain, is, for any man that
cares to undergo the suffering and the consolation, as good as any
experience that life affords. Hardly had I so conceived the view
before me when I became aware, upon my right, of a sort of cavern,
or rather a little and carefully minded shrine, from which a
greeting proceeded.

I turned round and saw there a man of no great age and yet of a
venerable appearance. He was perhaps fifty-five years old, or
possibly a little less, but he had let his grey-white hair grow
longish and his beard was very ample and fine. It was he that had
addressed me. He sat dressed in a long gown in a modern and rather
luxurious chair at a low long table of chestnut wood, on which he
had placed a few books, which I saw were in several languages and
two of them not only in English, but having upon them the mark of an
English circulating library which did business in the great town at
our feet. There was also upon the table a breakfast ready of white
bread and honey, a large brown coffee-pot, two white cups, and some
goat's milk in a bowl of silver. This meal he asked me to share.

"It is my custom," he said, "when I see a traveller coming up my
mountain road to get out a cup and a plate for him, or, if it is
midday, a glass. At evening, however, no one ever comes."

"Why not?" said I.

"Because," he answered, "this lane goes but a few yards further
round the edge of the cliff, and there it ends in a precipice; the
little platform where we are is all but the end of the way. Indeed,
I chose it upon that account, seeing, when I first came here, that
from its height and isolation it was well fitted for my retreat."

I asked him how long ago that was, and he said nearly twenty years.
For all that time, he added, he had lived there, going down into the
plain but once or twice in a season and having for his rare
companions those who brought him food and the peasants on such days
as they toiled up to work at their plots towards the summit; also,
from time to time, a chance traveller like myself. But these, he
said, made but poor companions, for they were usually such as had
missed their way at the turning and arrived at that high place of
his out of breath and angry. I assured him that this was not my
case, for a man had told me in the night how to find his hermitage
and I had come of set purpose to see him. At this he smiled.

We were now seated together at table eating and talking so, when I
asked him whether he had a reputation for sanctity and whether the
people  brought him food. He answered with a little hesitation that
he had a reputation, he thought, for necromancy rather than anything
else, and that upon this account it was not always easy to persuade
a messenger to bring him the books in French and English which he
ordered from below, though these were innocent enough, being, as a
rule, novels written by women or academicians, records of travel,
the classics of the Eighteenth Century, or the biographies of aged
statesmen.  As for food, the people of the place did indeed bring it
to him, but not, as in an idyll, for courtesy; contrariwise, they
demanded heavy payment, and his chief difficulty was with bread;
for stale bread was intolerable to him. In the matter of religion he
would not say that he had none, but rather that he had several
religions; only at this season of the year, when everything was
fresh, pleasant and entertaining, he did not make use of any of
them, but laid them all aside. As this last saying of his had no
meaning for me I turned to another matter and said to him:

"In any solitude contemplation is the chief business of the soul.
How, then, do you, who say you practise no rites, fill up your
loneliness here?"

In answer to this question he became more animated, spoke with a
sort of laugh in his voice, and seemed as though he were young again
and as though my question had aroused a whole lifetime of good

"My contemplation," he said, not without large gestures, "is this
wide and prosperous plain below: the great city with its harbour and
ceaseless traffic of ships, the roads, the houses building, the
fields yielding every year to husbandry, the perpetual activities of
men. I watch my kind and I glory in them, too far off to be
disturbed by the friction of individuals, yet near enough to have a
daily companionship in the spectacle of so much life. The mornings,
when they are all at labour, I am inspired by their energy; in the
noons and afternoons I feel a part of their patient and vigorous
endurance; and when the sun broadens near the rim of the sea at
evening, and all work ceases, I am filled with their repose. The
lights along the harbour front in the twilight and on into the
darkness remind me of them when I can no longer see their crowds and
movements, and so does the music which they love to play in their
recreation after the fatigues of the day, and the distant songs
which they sing far into the night.

"I was about thirty years of age, and had seen (in a career of
diplomacy) many places and men; I had a fortune quite insufficient
for a life among my equals. My youth had been, therefore, anxious,
humiliated, and worn when, upon a feverish and unhappy holiday taken
from the capital of this State, I came by accident to the cave and
platform which you see. It was one of those days in which the air
exhales revelation, and I clearly saw that happiness inhabited the
mountain corner. I determined to remain for ever in so rare a
companionship, and from that day she has never abandoned me. For a
little while I kept a touch with the world by purchasing those
newspapers in which I was reported shot by brigands or devoured by
wild beasts, but the amusement soon wearied me, and now I have
forgotten the very names of my companions."

We were silent then until I said: "But some day you will die here
all alone."

"And why not?" he answered calmly. "It will be a nuisance for those
who find me, but I shall be indifferent altogether."

"That is blasphemy," says I.

"So says the priest of St. Anthony," he immediately replied--but
whether as a reproach, an argument, or a mere commentary I could not

In a little while he advised me to go down to the plain before the
heat should incommode my journey. I left him, therefore, reading a
book of Jane Austen's, and I have never seen him since.

Of the many strange men I have met in my travels he was one of the
most strange and not the least fortunate. Every word I have written
about him is true.


Ten years ago, I think, or perhaps a little less or perhaps a little
more, I came in the Euston Road--that thoroughfare of Empire--upon a
young man a little younger than myself whom I knew, though I did not
know him very well. It was drizzling and the second-hand booksellers
(who are rare in this thoroughfare) were beginning to put out the
waterproof covers over their wares. This disturbed my acquaintance,
because he was engaged upon buying a cheap book that should really
satisfy him.

Now this was difficult, for he had no hobby, and the book which
should satisfy him must be one that should describe or summon up,
or, it is better to say, hint at--or, the theologians would say,
reveal, or the Platonists would say _recall_--the Unknown Country,
which he thought was his very home.

I had known his habit of seeking such books for two years, and had
half wondered at it and half sympathised. It was an appetite partly
satisfied by almost any work that brought to him the vision of a
place in the mind which he had always intensely desired, but to
which, as he had then long guessed, and as he is now quite certain,
no human paths directly lead. He would buy with avidity travels to
the moon and to the planets, from the most worthless to the best. He
loved Utopias and did not disregard even so prosaic a category as
books of real travel, so long as by exaggeration or by a glamour in
the style they gave him a full draught of that drug which he
desired. Whether this satisfaction the young man sought was a
satisfaction in illusion (I have used the word "drug" with
hesitation), or whether it was, as he persistently maintained, the
satisfaction of a memory, or whether it was, as I am often tempted
to think, the satisfaction of a thirst which will ultimately be
quenched in every human soul I cannot tell. Whatever it was, he
sought it with more than the appetite with which a hungry man seeks
food. He sought it with something that was not hunger but passion.

That evening he found a book.

It is well known that men purchase with difficulty second-hand books
upon the stalls, and that in some mysterious way the sellers of
these books are content to provide a kind of library for the poorer
and more eager of the public, and a library admirable in this, that
it is accessible upon every shelf and exposes a man to no control,
except that he must not steal, and even in this it is nothing but
the force of public law that interferes. My friend therefore would
in the natural course of things have dipped into the book and left
it there; but a better luck persuaded him. Whether it was the
beginning of the rain or a sudden loneliness in such terrible
weather and in such a terrible town, compelling him to seek a more
permanent companionship with another mind, or whether it was my
sudden arrival and shame lest his poverty should appear in his
refusing to buy the book--whatever it was, he bought that same. And
since he bought the Book I also have known it and have found in it,
as he did, the most complete expression that I know of the Unknown
Country, of which he was a citizen--oddly a citizen, as I then
thought, wisely as I now conceive.

All that can best be expressed in words should be expressed in
verse, but verse is a slow thing to create; nay, it is not really
created: it is a secretion of the mind, it is a pearl that gathers
round some irritant and slowly expresses the very essence of beauty
and of desire that has lain long, potential and unexpressed, in the
mind of the man who secretes it. God knows that this Unknown Country
has been hit off in verse a hundred times. If I were perfectly sure
of my accents I would quote two lines from the Odyssey in which the
Unknown Country stands out as clear as does a sudden vision from a
mountain ridge when the mist lifts after a long climb and one sees
beneath one an unexpected and glorious land; such a vision as greets
a man when he comes over the Saldeu into the simple and secluded
Republic of the Andorrans. Then, again, the Germans in their idioms
have flashed it out, I am assured, for I remember a woman telling me
that there was a song by Schiller which exactly gave the revelation
of which I speak. In English, thank Heaven, emotion of this kind,
emotion necessary to the life of the soul, is very abundantly
furnished. As, who does not know the lines:

  Blessed with that which is not in the word
  Of man nor his conception: Blessed Land!

Then there is also the whole group of glimpses which Shakespeare
amused himself by scattering as might a man who had a great oak
chest full of jewels and who now and then, out of kindly fun, poured
out a handful and gave them to his guests. I quote from memory, but
I think certain of the lines run more or less like this:

  Look how the dawn in russet mantle clad
  Stands on the steep of yon high eastern hill.

And again:

  Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day
  Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Which moves me to digress.... How on earth did any living man pull
it off as well as that? I remember arguing with a man who very
genuinely thought the talent of Shakespeare was exaggerated in
public opinion, and discovering at the end of a long wrangle that he
was not considering Shakespeare as a poet. But as a poet, then, how
on earth did he manage it?

Keats did it continually, especially in the _Hyperion_. Milton
does it so well in the Fourth Book of _Paradise Lost_ that I
defy any man of a sane understanding to read the whole of that book
before going to bed and not to wake up next morning as though he had
been on a journey. William Morris does it, especially in the verses
about a prayer over the corn; and as for Virgil, the poet Virgil, he
does it continually like a man whose very trade it is. Who does not
remember the swimmer who saw Italy from the top of the wave?

Here also let me digress. How do the poets do it? (I do not mean
where do they get their power, as I was asking just now of
Shakespeare, but how do the words, simple or complex, produce that
effect?) Very often there is not any adjective, sometimes not any
qualification at all: often only one subject with its predicate and
its statement and its object. There is never any detail of
description, but the scene rises, more vivid in colour, more exact
in outline, more wonderful in influence, than anything we can see
with our eyes, except perhaps those things we see in the few moments
of intense emotion which come to us, we know not whence, and expand
out into completion and into manhood.

Catullus does it. He does it so powerfully in the opening lines of

_Vesper adest_ ...

that a man reads the first couplet of that Hymeneal, and immediately
perceives the Apennines.

The nameless translator of the Highland song does it, especially
when he advances that battering line--

  And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.

They all do it, bless their hearts, the poets, which leads me back
again to the mournful reflection that it cannot be done in prose....

Little friends, my readers, I wish it could be done in prose, for if
it could, and if I knew how to do it, I would here present to you
that Unknown Country in such a fashion that every landscape which
you should see henceforth would be transformed, by the appearing
through it, the shining and uplifting through it, of the Unknown
Country upon which reposes this tedious and repetitive world.

Now you may say to me that prose can do it, and you may quote to me
the end of the _Pilgrim's Progress_, a very remarkable piece of
writing. Or, better still, as we shall be more agreed upon it, the
general impression left upon the mind by the book which set me
writing--Mr. Hudson's _Crystal Age_. I do not deny that prose
can do it, but when it does it, it is hardly to be called prose, for
it is inspired. Note carefully the passages in which the trick is
worked in prose (for instance, in the story of Ruth in the Bible,
where it is done with complete success), you will perceive an
incantation and a spell. Indeed this same episode of Ruth in exile
has inspired two splendid passages of European verse, of which it is
difficult to say which is the more national, and therefore the
greatest, Victor Hugo's in the _Legende des Siecles_ or Keats's
astounding four lines.

There was a shepherd the other day up at Findon Fair who had come
from the east by Lewes with sheep, and who had in his eyes that
reminiscence of horizons which makes the eyes of shepherds and of
mountaineers different from the eyes of other men. He was occupied
when I came upon him in pulling Mr. Fulton's sheep by one hind leg
so that they should go the way they were desired to go. It happened
that day that Mr. Fulton's sheep were not sold, and the shepherd
went driving them back through Findon Village, and up on to the high
Downs. I went with him to hear what he had to say, for shepherds
talk quite differently from other men. And when we came on to the
shoulder of Chanctonbury and looked down upon the Weald, which
stretched out like the Plains of Heaven, he said to me: "I never
come here but it seems like a different place down below, and as
though it were not the place where I have gone afoot with sheep
under the hills. It seems different when you are looking down at
it." He added that he had never known why. Then I knew that he, like
myself, was perpetually in perception of the Unknown Country, and I
was very pleased. But we did not say anything more to each other
about it until we got down into Steyning. There we drank together
and we still said nothing more about it, so that to this day all we
know of the matter is what we knew when we started, and what you
knew when I began to write this, and what you are now no further
informed upon, namely, that there is an Unknown Country lying
beneath the places that we know, and appearing only in moments of

Whether we shall reach this country at last or whether we shall not,
it is impossible to determine.


A woman whose presence in English letters will continue to increase
wrote of a cause to which she had dedicated her life that it was
like that Faery Castle of which men became aware when they wandered
upon a certain moor. In that deserted place (the picture was taken
from the writings of Sir Walter Scott) the lonely traveller heard
above him a noise of bugles in the air, and thus a Faery Castle was
revealed; but again, when the traveller would reach it, a doom comes
upon him, and in the act of its attainment it vanishes away.

We are northern, full of dreams in the darkness; this Castle is
caught in glimpses, a misty thing. It is seen a moment--then it
mixes once again with the mist of our northern air, and when that
mist has lifted from the heath there is nothing before the watcher
but a bare upland open to the wind and roofed only by hurrying
cloud. Yet in the moment of revelation most certainly the traveller
perceived it, and the call of its bugle-guard was very clear. He
continues his way perceiving only the things he knows--trees bent by
the gale, rude heather, the gravel of the path, and mountains all
around. In that landscape he has no companion; yet he cannot but be
haunted, as he goes, by towers upon which he surely looked, and by
the sharp memory of bugle-notes that still seem to startle his

In our legends of Western Europe this Castle perpetually returns. It
has been seen not only on the highlands of Ireland, of Wales, of
Brittany, of the Asturias, of Normandy, and of Auvergne, but in the
plains also, and on those river meadows where wealth comes so fast
that even simple men early forget the visions of the hills. The
imagination, or rather the speech, of our race has created or
recognised throughout our territory this stronghold which was not
altogether of the world.

Queen Iseult, as she sat with Tristan in a Castle Garden, towards
the end of a summer night, whispered to him: "Tristan, they say that
this Castle is Faëry; it is revealed at the sound of a Trumpet, but
presently it vanishes away," and as she said it the bugles rang

Raymond of Saragossa saw this Castle, also, as he came down from the
wooded hills after he had found the water of life and was bearing it
towards the plain. He saw the towers quite clearly and also thought
he heard the call upon that downward road at whose end he was to
meet with Bramimonde. But he saw it thence only, in the exaltation
of the summits as he looked over the falling forest to the plain and
the Sierra miles beyond. He saw it thence only. Never after upon
either bank of Ebro could he come upon it, nor could any man assure
him of the way.

In the Story of Val-es-Dunes, Hugh the Fortinbras out of the
Cotentin had a castle of this kind. For when, after the battle, they
count the dead, the Priest finds in the sea-grass among other bodies
that of this old Lord....

  ... and Hugh that trusted in his glass,
      But rode not home the day;
  Whose title was the Fortinbras
      With the Lords of his Array.

This was that old Hugh the Fortinbras who had been Lord to the
Priest's father, so that when the battle was engaged the Priest
watched him from the opposing rank, and saw him fall, far off, just
as the line broke and before the men of the Caux country had room to
charge. It was easy to see him, for he rode a high horse and was
taller than other Normans, and when his horse was wounded....

  ... The girth severed and the saddle swung
      And he went down;
  He never more sang winter songs
      In his High Town.

  In his High Town that Faery is
      And stands on Harcourt Lea;
  To summon him up his arrier-ban
  His writ beyond the mountain ran.
  My father was his serving-man;
      Although the farm was free.
  Before the angry wars began
      He was a friend to me!

  In his High Town that Faery is
      And stands on Harcourt bay;
  The Fisher driving through the night
      Makes harbour by that castle height
      And moors him till the day:
  But with the broadening of the light
      It vanishes away.

So the Faery Castle comes in by an illusion in the Ballad of the
Battle of Val-es-Dunes.

       *       *       *       *       *

What is this vision which our race has so symbolised or so seen and
to which are thus attached its oldest memories? It is the miraculous
moment of intense emotion in which whether we are duped or
transfigured we are in touch with a reality firmer than the reality
of this world. The Faery Castle is the counterpart and the example
of those glimpses which every man has enjoyed, especially in youth,
and which no man even in the dust of middle age can quite forget. In
these were found a complete harmony and satisfaction which were not
negative nor dependent upon the absence of discord--such completion
as criticism may conceive--but as positive as colour or as music,
and clothed as it were in a living body of joy.

The vision may be unreal or real, in either case it is valid: if it
is unreal it is a symbol of the world behind the world. But it is no
less a symbol; even if it is unreal it is a sudden seeing of the
place to which our faces are set during this unbroken marching of

Once on the Sacramento River a little before sunrise I looked
eastward from a boat and saw along the dawn the black edge of the
Sierras. The peaks were as sharp as are the Malvern from the
Cotswold, though they were days and days away. They made a broad
jagged band intensely black against the glow of the sky. I drew them
so. A tiny corner of the sun appeared between two central peaks:--at
once the whole range was suffused with glory. The sun was wholly
risen and the mountains had completely disappeared,--in the place
where they had been was the sky of the horizon.

At another time, also in a boat, I saw beyond a spit of the Tunisian
coast, as it seemed a flat island. Through the heat, with which the
air trembled, was a low gleam of sand, a palm or two, and, less
certainly, the flats and domes of a white native village. Our
course, which was to round the point, went straight for this island,
and, as we approached, it became first doubtful, then flickering,
then a play of light upon the waves. It was a mirage, and it had
melted into the air.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a part of us, as all the world knows, which is immixed with
change and by change only can live. There is another part which lies
behind motion and time, and that part is ourselves. This diviner
part has surely a stronghold which is also an inheritance. It has a
home which perhaps it remembers and which certainly it conceives at
rare moments during our path over the moor.

This is that Faëry Castle. It is revealed at the sound of a trumpet;
we turn our eyes, we glance and we perceive it; we strain to reach
it--in the very effort of our going the doom of human labour falls
upon us and it vanishes away.

It is real or unreal. It is unreal like that island which I thought
to see some miles from Africa, but which was not truly there: for
the ship when it came to the place that island had occupied sailed
easily over an empty sea. It is real, like those high Sierras which
I drew from the Sacramento River at the turn of the night and which
were suddenly obliterated by the rising sun.

Where the vision is but mirage, even there it is a symbol of our
goal; where it stands fast and true, for however brief a moment, it
can illumine, and should determine the whole of our lives. For such
sights are the manifestation of that glory which lies permanent
beyond the changing of the world. Of such a sort are the young
passionate intentions to relieve the burden of mankind, first love,
the mood created by certain strains of music, and--as I am willing
to believe--the Walls of Heaven.


The ship had sailed northward in an even manner and under a sky that
was full of stars, when the dawn broke and the full day quickly
broadened over the Mediterranean. With the advent of the light the
salt of the sea seemed stronger, and there certainly arose a new
freshness in the following air; but as yet no land appeared. Until
at last, seated as I was alone in the fore part of the vessel, I
clearly saw a small unchanging shape far off before me, peaked upon
the horizon and grey like a cloud. This I watched, wondering what
its name might be, who lived upon it, or what its fame was; for it
was certainly land.

I watched in this manner for some hours--perhaps for two--when the
island, now grown higher, was so near that I could see trees upon
it; but they were set sparsely, as trees are on a dry land, and most
of them seemed to be thorn trees.

It was at this moment that a man who had been singing to himself in
a low tone aft came up to me and told me that this island was called
the Island of Goats and that there were no men upon it to his
knowledge, that it was a lonely place and worth little. But by this
time there had risen beyond the Island of Goats another and much
larger land.

It lay all along the north in a mountainous belt of blue, and any
man coming to it for the first time or unacquainted with maps would
have said to himself: "I have found a considerable place." And,
indeed, the name of the island indicates this, for it is called
Majorca, "The Larger Land." Towards this, past the Island of Goats,
and past the Strait, we continued to sail with a light breeze for
hours, until at last we could see on this shore also sparse trees;
but most of them were olive trees, and they were relieved with the
green of cultivation up the high mountain sides and with the white
houses of men.

The deck was now crowded with people, most of whom were coming back
to their own country after an exile in Africa among un-Christian and
dangerous things. The little children who had not yet known Europe,
having been born beyond the sea, were full of wonder; but their
parents, who knew the shortness of human life and its trouble, were
happy because they had come back at last and saw before them the
known jetties and the familiar hills of home. As I was surrounded by
so much happiness, I myself felt as though I had come to the end of
a long journey and was reaching my own place, though I was, in
reality, bound for Barcelona, and after that up northward through
the Cerdagne, and after that to Perigord, and after that to the
Channel, and so to Sussex, where all journeys end.

The harbour had about it that Mediterranean-go-as-you-please which
everywhere in the Mediterranean distinguishes harbours. It was as
though the men of that sea had said: "It never blows for long: let
us build ourselves a rough refuge and to-morrow sail away." We
neared this harbour, but we flew no flag and made no signal. Beneath
us the water was so clear that all one need have done to have
brought the vessel in if one had not known the channel would have
been to lean over the side and to keep the boy at the helm off the
very evident shallows and the crusted rocks by gestures of one's
hands, for the fairway was like a trench, deep and blue. So we slid
into Palma haven, and as we rounded the pier the light wind took us
first abeam and then forward; then we let go and she swung up and
was still. They lowered the sails.

The people who were returning were so full of activity and joy that
it was like a hive of bees; but I no longer felt this as I had felt
their earlier and more subdued emotion, for the place was no longer
distant or mysterious as it had been when first its sons and
daughters had come up on deck to welcome it and had given me part of
their delight. It was now an evident and noisy town; hot, violent,
and strong. The houses had about them a certain splendour, the
citizens upon the quays a satisfied and prosperous look. Its
streets, where they ran down towards the sea, were charmingly clean
and cared for, and the architecture of its wealthier mansions seemed
to me at once unusual and beautiful, for I had not yet seen Spain.
Each house, so far as I could make out from the water, was entered
by a fine sculptured porch which gave into a cool courtyard with
arcades under it, and most of the larger houses had escutcheons
carved in stone upon their walls.

But what most pleased me and also seemed most strange was to see
against the East a vast cathedral quite Northern in outline, except
for a severity and discipline of which the North is incapable save
when it has steeped itself in the terseness of the classics.

This monument was far larger than anything in the town. It stood out
separate from the town and dominated it upon its seaward side,
somewhat as might an isolated hill, a shore fortress of rock. It was
almost bare of ornament; its stones were very carefully worked and
closely fitted, and little waves broke ceaselessly along the base of
its rampart. Landwards, a mass of low houses which seemed to touch
the body of the building did but emphasise its height. When I had
landed I made at once for this cathedral, and with every step it
grew greater.

We who are of the North are accustomed to the enormous; we have
unearthly sunsets and the clouds magnify our hills. The Southern men
see nothing but misproportion in what is enormous. They love to have
things in order, and violence in art is odious to them. This high
and dreadful roof had not been raised under the influences of the
island; it had surely been designed just after the re-conquest from
the Mohammedans, when a turbulent army, not only of Gascons and
Catalans, but of Normans also and of Frisians, and of Rhenish men,
had poured across the water and had stormed the sea-walls. On this
account the cathedral had about it in its sky-line and in its
immensity, and in the Gothic point of its windows, a Northern air.
But in its austerity and in its magnificence it was Spaniard.

As I passed the little porch of entry in the side wall I saw a man.
He was standing silent and alone; he was not blind and perhaps not
poor, and as I passed he begged the charity not of money but of
prayers. When I had entered the cool and darkness of the nave, his
figure still remained in my mind, and I could not forget it. I
remembered the straw hat upon his head and the suit of blue canvas
which he wore, and the rough staff of wood in his hand. I was
especially haunted by his expression, which was patient and masqued
as though he were enduring a pain and chose to hide it.

The nave was empty. It was a great hollow that echoed and re-echoed;
there were no shrines and no lamps, and no men or women praying, and
therefore the figure at the door filled my mind more and more, until
I went out and asked him if he was in need of money, of which at
that moment I had none. He answered that his need was not for money
but only for prayers.

"Why," said I, "do you need prayers?"

He said it was because his fate was upon him.

I think he spoke the truth. He was standing erect and with dignity,
his eyes were not disturbed, and he repeatedly refused the alms of

"No one" said I, "should yield to these moods."

He answered nothing, but looked pensive like a man gazing at a
landscape and remembering his life.

But it was now the hour when the ship was to be sailing again, and I
could not linger, though I wished very much to talk more with him. I
begged him to name a shrine where a gift might be of especial value
to him. He said that he was attached to no one shrine more than to
any other, and then I went away regretfully, remembering how
earnestly he had asked for prayers.

This was in Palma of Majorca not two years ago. There are many such
men, but few who speak so humbly.

When I had got aboard again the ship sailed out and rounded a
lighthouse point and then made north to Barcelona. The night fell,
and next morning there rose before us the winged figures that crown
the Custom House of that port and are an introduction to the glories
of Spain.


A Young Man of my acquaintance having passed his twenty-eighth
birthday, and wrongly imagining this date to represent the Grand
Climacteric, went by night in some perturbation to an Older Man and
spoke to him as follows:

"Sir! I have intruded upon your leisure in order to ask your advice
upon certain matters."

The Older Man, whose thoughts were at that moment intently set upon
money, looked up in a startled way and attempted to excuse himself,
suffering as he did from the delusion that the Young Man was after a
loan. But the Young Man, whose mind was miles away from all such
trifling things, continued to press him anxiously without so much as
noticing that he had perturbed his Senior.

"I have come, Sir," said he, "to ask your opinion, advice,
experience, and guidance upon something very serious which has
entered into my life, which is, briefly, that I feel myself to be
growing old."

Upon hearing this so comforting and so reasonable a statement the
Older Man heaved a profound sigh of relief and turning to him a
mature and smiling visage (as also turning towards him his person
and in so doing turning his Polished American Hickory Wood Office
Chair), answered with a peculiar refinement, but not without
sadness, "I shall be happy to be of any use I can"; from which order
and choice of words the reader might imagine that the Older Man was
himself a Colonial, like his chair. In this imagination the reader,
should he entertain it, would be deceived.

The Younger Man then proceeded, knotting his forehead and putting
into his eyes that troubled look which is proper to virtue and to

"Oh, Sir! I cannot tell you how things seem to be slipping from me!
I smell less keenly and taste less keenly, I enjoy less keenly and
suffer less keenly than I did. Of many things which I certainly
desired I can only say that I now desire them in a more confused
manner. Of certain propositions in which I intensely believed I can
only say that I now see them interfered with and criticised
perpetually, not, as was formerly the case, by my enemies, but by
the plain observance of life, and what is worse, I find growing in
me a habit of reflection for reflection's sake, leading nowhere--and
a sort of sedentary attitude in which I watch but neither judge nor
support nor attack any portion of mankind."

The Older Man, hearing this speech, congratulated his visitor upon
his terse and accurate methods of expression, detailed to him the
careers in which such habits of terminology are valuable, and also
those in which they are a fatal fault.

"Having heard you," he said, "it is my advice to you, drawn from a
long experience of men, to enter the legal profession, and, having
entered it, to supplement your income with writing occasional
articles for the more dignified organs of the Press. But if this
prospect does not attract you (and, indeed, there are many whom it
has repelled) I would offer you as an alternative that you should
produce slowly, at about the rate of one in every two years, short
books compact of irony, yet having running through them like a
twisted thread up and down, emerging, hidden, and re-emerging in the
stuff of your writing, a memory of those early certitudes and even
of passion for those earlier revelations."

When the Older Man had said this he sat silent for a few moments and
then added gravely, "But I must warn you that for such a career you
need an accumulated capital of at least £30,000."

The Young Man was not comforted by advice of this sort, and was
determined to make a kind of war upon the doctrine which seemed to
underlie it. He said in effect that if he could not be restored to
the pristine condition which he felt to be slipping from him he
would as lief stop living.

On hearing this second statement the Older Man became extremely

"Young Man," said he, "Young Man, consider well what you are saying!
The poet Shakespeare in his most remarkable effort, which, I need
hardly tell you, is the tragedy of _Hamlet, or the Prince of
Denmark,_ has remarked that the thousand doors of death stand
open. I may be misquoting the words, and if I am I do so boldly and
without fear, for any fool with a book at his elbow can get the
words right and yet not understand their meaning. Let me assure you
that the doors of death are not so simply hinged, and that any
determination to force them involves the destruction of much more
than these light though divine memories of which you speak; they
involve, indeed, the destruction of the very soul which conceives
them. And let me assure you, not upon my own experience, but upon
that of those who have drowned themselves imperfectly, who have
enlisted in really dangerous wars, or who have fired revolvers at
themselves in a twisted fashion with their right hands, that, quite
apart from that evil to the soul of which I speak, the evil to the
mere body in such experiments is so considerable that a man would
rather go to the dentist than experience them.... You will forgive
me," he added earnestly, "for speaking in this gay manner upon an
important philosophical subject, but long hours of work at the
earning of my living force me to some relaxation towards the end of
the day, and I cannot restrain a frivolous spirit even in the
discussion of such fundamental things.... No, do not, as you put it,
'stop living.' It hurts, and no one has the least conception of
whether it is a remedy. What is more, the life in front of you will
prove, after a few years, as entertaining as the life which you are
rapidly leaving."

The Young Man caught on to this last phrase, and said, "What do you
mean by 'entertaining'?"

"I intend," said the Older Man, "to keep my advice to you in the
note to which I think such advice should be set. I will not burden
it with anything awful, nor weight an imperfect diction with
absolute verities in which I do indeed believe, but which would be
altogether out of place at this hour of the evening. I will not deny
that from eleven till one, and especially if one be delivering an
historical, or, better still, a theological lecture, one can without
loss of dignity allude to the permanent truth, the permanent beauty,
and the permanent security without which human life wreathes up like
mist and is at the best futile, at the worst tortured. But you must
remember that you have come to me suddenly with a most important
question, after dinner, that I have but just completed an essay upon
the economic effect of the development of the Manchurian coalfields,
and that (what is more important) all this talk began in a certain
key, and that to change one's key is among the most difficult of
creative actions.... No, Young Man, I shall not venture upon the
true reply to your question."

On hearing this answer the Young Man began to curse and to swear and
to say that he had looked everywhere for help and had never found
it; that he was minded to live his own life and to see what would
come of it; that he thought the Older Man knew nothing of what he
was talking about, but was wrapping it all up in words; that he had
clearly recognised in the Older Man's intolerable prolixity several
clichés or ready-made phrases; that he hoped on reaching the Older
Man's age he would not have been so utterly winnowed of all
substance as to talk so aimlessly; and finally that he prayed God
for a personal development more full of justice, of life, and of
stuff than that which the Older Man appeared to have suffered or

On hearing these words the Older Man leapt to his feet (which was
not an easy thing for him to do) and as one overjoyed grasped the
Younger Man by the hand, though the latter very much resented such
antics on the part of Age.

"That is it! That is it!" cried the Older Man, looking now far too
old for his years. "If I have summoned up in you that spirit I have
not done ill! Get you forward in that mood and when you come to my
time of life you will be as rotund and hopeful a fellow as I am

But having heard these words the Young Man left him in disgust.

The Older Man, considering all these things as he looked into the
fire when he was alone, earnestly desired that he could have told
the Young Man the exact truth, have printed it, and have produced a
proper Gospel. But considering the mountains of impossibility that
lay in the way of such public action, he sighed deeply and took to
the more indirect method. He turned to his work and continued to
perform his own duty before God and for the help of mankind. This,
on that evening, was for him a review upon the interpretation of the
word _haga_ in the Domesday Inquest. This kept him up till a
quarter past one, and as he had to take a train to Newcastle at
eight next morning it is probable that much will be forgiven him
when things are cleared.


  _C'est ma Jeunesse qui s'en va.
    Adieu! la tres gente compagne--
  Oncques ne suis moins gai pour ça
  (C'est ma Jeunesse qui s'en va)
  Et lon-lon-laire, et lon-lon-là
    Peut-etre perd's; peut-etre gagne.
  C'est ma Jeunesse qui s'en va._

(From the Author's MSS.  In the library of the Abbey of Theleme.)

Host: Well, Youth, I see you are about to leave me, and since it is
in the terms of your service by no means to exceed a certain period
in my house, I must make up my mind to bid you farewell.

Youth: Indeed, I would stay if I could; but the matter lies as you
know in other hands, and I may not stay.

Host: I trust, dear Youth, that you have found all comfortable while
you were my guest, that the air has suited you and the company?

Youth: I thank you, I have never enjoyed a visit more; you may say
that I have been most unusually happy.

Host: Then let me ring for the servant who shall bring down your

Youth: I thank you civilly! I have brought them down already--see,
they are here. I have but two, one very large bag and this other
small one.

Host: Why, you have not locked the small one! See it gapes!

Youth (_somewhat embarrassed_): My dear Host ... to tell the
truth ... I usually put it off till the end of my visits ... but the
truth ... to tell the truth, my luggage is of two kinds.

Host: I do not see why that need so greatly confuse you.

Youth (_still more embarrassed_): But you see--the fact is--I
stay with people so long that--well, that very often they forget
which things are mine and which belong to the house ... And--well,
the truth is that I have to take away with me a number of things
which ... which, in a word, you may possibly have thought your own.

Host (_coldly_): Oh!

Youth (_eagerly_): Pray do not think the worse of me--you know
how strict are my orders.

Host (_sadly_): Yes, I know; you will plead that Master of
yours, and no doubt you are right.... But tell me, Youth, what are
those things?

Youth: They fill this big bag. But I am not so ungracious as you
think. See, in this little bag, which I have purposely left open,
are a number of things properly mine, yet of which I am allowed to
make gifts to those with whom I lingered--you shall choose among
them, or if you will, you shall have them all.

Host: Well, first tell me what you have packed in the big bag and
mean to take away.

Youth: I will open it and let you see. (_He unlocks it and pulls
the things out_.) I fear they are familiar to you.

Host: Oh! Youth! Youth! Must you take away all of these? Why, you
are taking away, as it were, my very self! Here is the love of
women, as deep and changeable as an opal; and here is carelessness
that looks like a shower of pearls. And here I see--Oh! Youth, for
shame!--you are taking away that silken stuff which used to wrap up
the whole and which you once told me had no name, but which lent to
everything it held plenitude and satisfaction. Without it surely
pleasures are not all themselves. Leave me that at least.

Youth: No, I must take it, for it is not yours, though from courtesy
I forbore to tell you so till now. These also go: Facility, the
ointment; Sleep, the drug; Full Laughter, that tolerated all
follies. It was the only musical thing in the house. And I must
take--yes, I fear I must take Verse.

HOST: Then there is nothing left!

YOUTH: Oh! yes! See this little open bag which you may choose from!
Feel it!

HOST (_lifting it_): Certainly it is very heavy, but it rattles
and is uncertain.

YOUTH: That is because it is made up of divers things having no
similarity; and you may take all or leave all, or choose as you
will. Here (_holding up a clout_) is Ambition: Will you have

HOST (_doubtfully_): I cannot tell.... It has been mine and yet
... without those other things....

YOUTH (_cheerfully_): Very well, I will leave it. You shall
decide on it a few years hence. Then, here is the perfume Pride.
Will you have that?

HOST: No; I will have none of it. It is false and corrupt, and only
yesterday I was for throwing it out of window to sweeten the air in
my room.

YOUTH: So far you have chosen well; now pray choose more.

HOST: I will have this--and this--and this. I will take Health
(_takes it out of the bag_), not that it is of much use to me
without those other things, but I have grown used to it. Then I will
take this (_takes out a plain steel purse and chain_), which is
the tradition of my family, and which I desire to leave to my son. I
must have it cleaned. Then I will take this (_pulls out a trinket_),
which is the Sense of Form and Colour. I am told it is of less value
later on, but it is a pleasant ornament ... And so, Youth, goodbye.

Youth (_with a mysterious smile_): Wait--I have something else
for you (_he feels in his ticket pocket_); no less a thing
(_he feels again in his watch pocket_) than (_he looks a trifle anxious
and feels in his waistcoat pockets_) a promise from my Master, signed
and sealed, to give you back all I take and more in Immortality! (_He
feels in his handkerchief pocket._)

Host: Oh! Youth!

Youth (_still feeling_): Do not thank me! It is my Master you
should thank. (_Frowns_.) Dear me! I hope I have not lost it!
(_Feels in his trousers pockets._)

Host (_loudly_): Lost it?

Youth (_pettishly_): I did not say I had lost it! I said I
hoped I had not ... (_feels in his great-coat pocket, and pulls
out an envelope_). Ah! Here it is! (_His face clouds over_.)
No, that is the message to Mrs. George, telling her the time has
come to get a wig ... (_Hopelessly_): Do you know I am afraid I
have lost it! I am really very sorry--I cannot wait. (_He goes


I knew a man once who made a great case of Death, saying that he
esteemed a country according to its regard for the conception of
Death, and according to the respect which it paid to that
conception. He also said that he considered individuals by much the
same standard, but that he did not judge them so strictly in the
matter, because (said he) great masses of men are more permanently
concerned with great issues; whereas private citizens are disturbed
by little particular things which interfere with their little
particular lives, and so distract them from the general end.

This was upon a river called Boutonne, in Vendée, and at the time I
did not understand what he meant because as yet I had had no
experience of these things. But this man to whom I spoke had had
three kinds of experience; first, he had himself been very probably
the occasion of Death in others, for he had been a soldier in a war
of conquest where the Europeans were few and the Barbarians many!
secondly, he had been himself very often wounded, and more than once
all but killed; thirdly, he was at the time he told me this thing an
old man who must in any case soon come to that experience or
catastrophe of which he spoke.

He was an innkeeper, the father of two daughters, and his inn was by
the side of the river, but the road ran between. His face was more
anxiously earnest than is commonly the face of a French peasant, as
though he had suffered more than do ordinarily that very prosperous,
very virile, and very self-governing race of men. He had also about
him what many men show who have come sharply against the great
realities, that is, a sort of diffidence in talking of ordinary
things. I could see that in the matters of his household he allowed
himself to be led by women. Meanwhile he continued to talk to me
over the table upon this business of Death, and as he talked he
showed that desire to persuade which is in itself the strongest
motive of interest in any human discourse.

He said to me that those who affected to despise the consideration
of Death knew nothing of it; that they had never seen it close and
might be compared to men who spoke of battles when they had only
read books about battles, or who spoke of sea-sickness though they
had never seen the sea. This last metaphor he used with some pride,
for he had crossed the Mediterranean from Provence to Africa some
five or six times, and had upon each occasion suffered horribly;
for, of course, his garrison had been upon the edge of the desert,
and he had been a soldier beyond the Atlas. He told me that those
who affected to neglect or to despise Death were worse than children
talking of grown-up things, and were more like prigs talking of
physical things of which they knew nothing.

I told him then that there were many such men, especially in the
town of Geneva. This, he said, he could well believe, though he had
never travelled there, and had hardly heard the name of the place.
But he knew it for some foreign town. He told me, also, that there
were men about in his own part of the world who pretended that since
Death was an accident like any other, and, moreover, one as certain
as hunger or as sleep, it was not to be considered. These, he said,
were the worst debaters upon his favourite subject.

Now as he talked in this fashion I confess that I was very bored. I
had desired to go on to Angouléme upon my bicycle, and I was at that
age when all human beings think themselves immortal. I had desired
to get off the main high road into the hills upon the left, to the
east of it, and I was at an age when the cessation of mundane
experience is not a conceivable thing. Moreover, this innkeeper had
been pointed out to me as a man who could give very useful
information upon the nature of the roads I had to travel, and it had
never occurred to me that he would switch me off after dinner upon a
hobby of his own. To-day, after a wider travel, I know well that all
innkeepers have hobbies, and that an abstract or mystical hobby of
this sort is amongst the best with which to pass an evening. But no
matter, I am talking of then and not now. He kept me, therefore,
uninterested as I was, and continued:

"People who put Death away from them, who do not neglect or despise
it but who stop thinking about it, annoy me very much. We have in
this village a chemist of such a kind. He will have it that, five
minutes afterwards, a man thinks no more about it." Having gone so
far, the innkeeper, clenching his hands and fixing me with a
brilliant glance from his old eyes, said:

"With such men I will have nothing to do!"

Indeed, that his chief subject should be treated in such a fashion
was odious to him, and rightly, for of the half-dozen things worth
strict consideration, there is no doubt that his hobby was the
chief, and to have one's hobby vulgarly despised is intolerable.

The innkeeper then went on to tell me that so far as he could make
out it was a man's business to consider this subject of Death
continually, to wonder upon it, and, if he could, to extract its
meaning. Of the men I had met so far in life, only the Scotch and
certain of the Western French went on in this metaphysical manner:
thus a Breton, a Basque, and a man in Ecclefechan (I hope I spell it
right) and another in Jedburgh had already each of them sent me to
my bed confused upon the matter of free will. So this Western
innkeeper refused to leave his thesis. It was incredible to him that
a Sentient Being who perpetually accumulated experience, who grew
riper and riper, more and more full of such knowledge as was native
to himself and complementary to his nature, should at the very
crisis of his success in all things intellectual and emotional,
cease suddenly. It was further an object to him of vast curiosity
why such a being, since a future was essential to it, should find
that future veiled.

He presented to me a picture of men perpetually passing through a
field of vision out of the dark and into the dark. He showed me
these men, not growing and falling as fruits do (so the modern
vulgar conception goes) but alive throughout their transit: pouring
like an unbroken river from one sharp limit of the horizon whence
they entered into life to that other sharp limit where they poured
out from life, not through decay, but through a sudden catastrophe.

"I," said he, "shall die, I do suppose, with a full consciousness of
my being and with a great fear in my eyes. And though many die
decrepit and senile, that is not the normal death of men, for men
have in them something of a self-creative power, which pushes them
on to the further realisation of themselves, right up to the edge of
their doom."

I put his words in English after a great many years, but they were
something of this kind, for he was a metaphysical sort of man.

It was now near midnight, and I could bear with such discussions no
longer; my fatigue was great and the hour at which I had to rise
next day was early. It was, therefore, in but a drowsy state that I
heard him continue his discourse. He told me a long story of how he
had seen one day a company of young men of the New Army, the
conscripts, go marching past his house along the river through a
driving snow. He said that first he heard them singing long before
he saw them, that then they came out like ghosts for a moment
through the drift, that then in the half light of the winter dawn
they clearly appeared, all in step for once, swinging forward,
muffled in their dark blue coats, and still singing to the lift of
their feet; that then on their way to the seaport, they passed again
into the blinding scurry of the snow, that they seemed like ghosts
again for a moment behind the veil of it, and that long after they
had disappeared their singing could still be heard.

By this time I was most confused as to what lesson he would convey,
and sleep had nearly overcome me, but I remember his telling me that
such a sight stood to him at the moment and did still stand for the
passage of the French Armies perpetually on into the dark, century
after century, destroyed for the most part upon fields of battle. He
told me that he felt like one who had seen the retreat from Moscow,
and he would, I am sure, had I not determined to leave him and to
take at least some little sleep, have asked me what fate there was
for those single private soldiers, each real, each existent, while
the Army which they made up and of whose "destruction" men spoke,
was but a number, a notion, a name. He would have pestered me, if my
mind had still been active, as to what their secret destinies were
who lay, each man alone, twisted round the guns after the failure to
hold the Bridge of the Beresina. He might have gone deeper, but I
was too tired to listen to him any more.

This human debate of ours (and very one-sided it was!) is now
resolved, for in the interval since it was engaged the innkeeper
himself has died.


Of all the simple actions in the world! Of all the simple actions in
the world!

One would think it could be done with less effort than the heaving
of a sigh.... Well--then, one would be wrong.

There is no case of Coming to an End but has about it something of
an effort and a jerk, as though Nature abhorred it, and though it be
true that some achieve a quiet and a perfect end to one thing or
another (as, for instance, to Life), yet this achievement is not
arrived at save through the utmost toil, and consequent upon the
most persevering and exquisite art.

Now you can say that this may be true of sentient things but not of
things inanimate. It is true even of things inanimate.

Look down some straight railway line for a vanishing point to the
perspective: you will never find it. Or try to mark the moment when
a small target becomes invisible. There is no gradation; a moment it
was there, and you missed it--possibly because the Authorities were
not going in for journalism that day, and had not chosen a dead calm
with the light full on the canvas. A moment it was there and then,
as you steamed on, it was gone. The same is true of a lark in the
air. You see it and then you do not see it, you only hear its song.
And the same is true of that song: you hear it and then suddenly you
do not hear it. It is true of a human voice, which is familiar in
your ear, living and inhabiting the rooms of your house. There comes
a day when it ceases altogether--and how positive, how definite and
hard is that Coming to an End.

It does not leave an echo behind it, but a sharp edge of emptiness,
and very often as one sits beside the fire the memory of that voice
suddenly returning gives to the silence about one a personal force,
as it were, of obsession and of control. So much happens when even
one of all our million voices Comes to an End.

It is necessary, it is august and it is reasonable that the great
story of our lives also should be accomplished and should reach a
term: and yet there is something in that hidden duality of ours
which makes the prospect of so natural a conclusion terrible, and it
is the better judgment of mankind and the mature conclusion of
civilisations in their age that there is not only a conclusion here
but something of an adventure also. It may be so.

Those who solace mankind and are the principal benefactors of it, I
mean the poets and the musicians, have attempted always to ease the
prospect of Coming to an End, whether it were the Coming to an End
of the things we love or of that daily habit and conversation which
is our life and is the atmosphere wherein we loved them. Indeed this
is a clear test whereby you may distinguish the great artists from
the mean hucksters and charlatans, that the first approach and
reveal what is dreadful with calm and, as it were, with a purpose to
use it for good while the vulgar catchpenny fellows must liven up
their bad dishes as with a cheap sauce of the horrible, caring
nothing, so that their shrieks sell, whether we are the better for
them or no.

The great poets, I say, bring us easily or grandly to the gate: as
in that _Ode to a Nightingale_ where it is thought good (in an
immortal phrase) to pass painlessly at midnight, or, in the glorious
line which Ronsard uses, like a salute with the sword, hailing "la
profitable mort."

The noblest or the most perfect of English elegies leaves, as a sort
of savour after the reading of it, no terror at all nor even too
much regret, but the landscape of England at evening, when the smoke
of the cottages mixes with autumn vapours among the elms; and even
that gloomy modern _Ode to the West Wind_, unfinished and
touched with despair, though it will speak of--

  ... that outer place forlorn
  Which, like an infinite grey sea, surrounds
  With everlasting calm the land of human sounds;

yet also returns to the sacramental earth of one's childhood where
it says:

  For now the Night completed tells her tale
  Of rest and dissolution: gathering round
  Her mist in such persuasion that the ground
  Of Home consents to falter and grow pale.
  And the stars are put out and the trees fail.
  Nor anything remains but that which drones
  Enormous through the dark....

And again, in another place, where it prays that one may at the last
be fed with beauty---

  ... as the flowers are fed
  That fill their falling-time with generous breath:
  Let me attain a natural end of death,
  And on the mighty breast, as on a bed,
  Lay decently at last a drowsy head,
  Content to lapse in somnolence and fade
  In dreaming once again the dream of all things made.

The most careful philosophy, the most heavenly music, the best
choice of poetic or prosaic phrase prepare men properly for man's
perpetual loss of this and of that, and introduce us proudly to the
similar and greater business of departure from them all, from
whatever of them all remains at the close.

To be introduced, to be prepared, to be armoured, all these are
excellent things, but there is a question no foresight can answer
nor any comprehension resolve. It is right to gather upon that
question the varied affections or perceptions of varying men.

I knew a man once in the Tourdenoise, a gloomy man, but very rich,
who cared little for the things he knew. This man took no pleasure
in his fruitful orchards and his carefully ploughed fields and his
harvests. He took pleasure in pine trees; he was a man of groves and
of the dark. For him that things should come to an end was but part
of an universal rhythm; a part pleasing to the general harmony, and
making in the music of the world about him a solemn and, oh, a
conclusive chord. This man would study the sky at night and take
from it a larger and a larger draught of infinitude, finding in this
exercise not a mere satisfaction, but an object and goal for the
mind; when he had so wandered for a while under the night he seemed,
for the moment, to have reached the object of his being.

And I knew another man in the Weald who worked with his hands, and
was always kind, and knew his trade well; he smiled when he talked
of scythes, and he could thatch. He could fish also, and he knew
about grafting, and about the seasons of plants, and birds, and the
way of seed. He had a face full of weather, he fatigued his body, he
watched his land. He would not talk much of mysteries, he would
rather hum songs. He loved new friends and old. He had lived with
one wife for fifty years, and he had five children, who were a
policeman, a schoolmistress, a son at home, and two who were
sailors. This man said that what a man did and the life in which he
did it was like the farmwork upon a summer's day. He said one works
a little and rests, and works a little again, and one drinks, and
there is a perpetual talk with those about one. Then (he would say)
the shadows lengthen at evening, the wind falls, the birds get back
home. And as for ourselves, we are sleepy before it is dark.

Then also I knew a third man who lived in a town and was clerical
and did no work, for he had money of his own. This man said that all
we do and the time in which we do it is rather a night than a day.
He said that when we came to an end we vanished, we and our works,
but that we vanished into a broadening light.

Which of these three knew best the nature of man and of his works,
and which knew best of what nature was the end?

       *       *       *       *       *

Why so glum, my Lad, or my Lass (as the case may be), why so heavy
at heart? Did you not know that you also must Come to an End?

Why, that woman of Etaples who sold such Southern wine for the
dissipation of the Picardian Mist, her time is over and gone and the
wine has been drunk long ago and the singers in her house have
departed, and the wind of the sea moans in and fills their hall. The
Lords who died in Roncesvalles have been dead these thousand years
and more, and the loud song about them grew very faint and dwindled
and is silent now: there is nothing at all remains.

It is certain that the hills decay and that rivers as the dusty
years proceed run feebly and lose themselves at last in desert
sands; and in its aeons the very firmament grows old. But evil also
is perishable and bad men meet their judge. Be comforted.

Now of all endings, of all Comings to an End none is so hesitating
as the ending of a book which the Publisher will have so long and
the writer so short: and the Public (God Bless the Public) will have
whatever it is given.

Books, however much their lingering, books also must Come to an End.
It is abhorrent to their nature as to the life of man. They must be
sharply cut off. Let it be done at once and fixed as by a spell and
the power of a Word; the word


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