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Title: A Garden Diary - September 1899—September 1900
Author: Lawless, Emily
Language: English
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                            A GARDEN DIARY



                            A GARDEN DIARY
                    SEPTEMBER 1899--SEPTEMBER 1900

                                  BY
                             EMILY LAWLESS

                             METHUEN & CO.
                         36 ESSEX STREET W.C.
                                LONDON
                                 1901

                        TO THE GARDEN’S CHIEF OWNER,
                        AND THE GARDENER’S FRIEND

       A few leaves from this Diary (or something very similar),
        have already appeared in _The Garden_ and _The Pilot_.



A GARDEN DIARY



SEPTEMBER 1, 1899


“A wanderer is man from his birth,” and some of us who have done
comparatively little wandering in our own persons, have done our full
share of those less palpable divagations which may be performed within a
very small compass of the earth’s surface, nay even within the radius of
a single garden chair.

The gipsy dies hard in many people, and the dreams which have fluttered
round our youthful fancy flutter round it still, though youth may have
become a memory, and the chances of any serious explorations be reduced
to a scarce perceptible minimum. To be a traveller in the real and
heroic sense is a very great and a very stirring ambition. To have the
hope of wandering far and fruitfully; of bringing home the results of
those wanderings; such a hope and such an aspiration is one of the
biggest things that can be set before a youthful ambition. With a
disregard of probabilities, which, looking back, I can only characterise
as magnificent, such an ambition had I, in early days, set before
myself. To be a traveller on the great scale; a visitor of remote
solitudes, and practically untrodden shores; a discoverer of undescribed
forms; a rifler of Nature’s still unrifled treasure-houses--such was the
hope, and such the happy dream. The words “Unknown to science” floated
in those days before my youthful fancy, and were to it a shibboleth, as
other and more obviously stimulating words have been to other youthful
brains. Fate has not willed that any such resounding lot should be mine,
nor was it, to tell the truth, particularly likely that it should so
will it. To few of our race has it been given to add, by even a little,
to the knowledge of that race, and I am not aware that any portion of my
own equipment had particularly marked me out for this rôle that I had so
confidently assigned to myself.

Luckily we learn to grow down gracefully, as the sedums and the
pennyworts do. A lot that at ten years old seems unendurably pitiful in
its narrowness, at five times that mature age comes to be regarded as
quite a becoming lot, leaving room for plenty of easy self-respect, and
even for a spurt or two of the purest and most invigorating vanity. As
that down-growing process advances we assure ourselves, more and more
confidently, that all the really important, the vital part of such
explorations belongs to us, at least as much as to the explorers
themselves. If we have not thridded Amazonian forests in our own persons
with Mr. Bates, or Nicaraguan jungles with Mr. Belt, we know all that
those indefatigable travellers have seen, done, discovered, experienced,
and only need to take down their books from the shelf to be in the thick
of those experiences once more.

So too, with the rest--the botanists, zoologists,
paleontologists--greater, as well as less great. With the prince of them
all one starts once more upon that immortal _Voyage of the Beagle_,
which, besides circumnavigating the world, enables one to accumulate
those prodigious stores of observation, destined by-and-by to make one’s
own name famous to the world’s end, and to endow that world itself with
one or two practically new departments. With Professor Wallace, one
spends years in the Malay Archipelago, till the geography of even the
obscurer members of that bewildering group becomes rather more familiar
than that of the next parish. With Collingwood one pores over the
rock-pools of Chinese seas, which never before reflected human face, or
at most that of some shore-haunting Mongolian, uninterested in zoology.
With the savants of the _Challenger_ one sets forth, with all the pomp
of subsidised science, upon a three years’ cruise, in search of
Globigerinæ, of blind Decapoda, of Coccospheres, of Rhabdospheres, and
other long-titled occupants of abyssmal depths. And if one has been
tempted to now and then share the dismay felt by the youthful
lieutenant, upon being shown that single teaspoonful of grey slop, as
the result of nights of toil, which kept the whole crew of Her Majesty’s
ship from their bunks, well, one reflected that the wise men probably
knew what they were about, and that the teaspoonful in question could
hardly be an ordinary teaspoonful. Later, hand in hand one has journeyed
with other travellers, some biological, others merely exploratory, or
geographical. With Stanley groped for weeks in African forests, and been
shot at by unpleasant little beasts with hands. With Miss North
travelled far, yet unweariedly, in search of unknown flowering trees,
and other forms of vegetation. With Nansen, until one grew to feel
brittle as any icicle, and occasionally almost as callous as one. With
Mrs. Bishop, across many seas, and scenes; and last of all with Miss
Kingsley, the only one of these illustrious travellers in whose company
I have always felt entirely secure, sure that no dangerous animal--lion,
rattlesnake, cobra, shiny tattooed warrior, German trader, or the
like--would dare molest me while under her ægis.[A]

 [A] Written in September, 1899. Alas!

Yes, I have been a great explorer. The earth, and its multifarious
contents has lain below my feet, as the Pacific was believed by Keats to
have lain below those of Cortez, and if now and then I have been
troubled by a passing doubt, a “wild surmise” as to whether all these
places really have been seen by my own eyes, I have made haste to put
that misgiving aside, as His Majesty King George the Fourth was no doubt
in the habit of doing, whenever similar misgivings as to the heroic part
played by himself at the Battle of Waterloo crossed the royal mind.

To have been so far, and to have seen so much is good, but to have
retained a lowly spirit with it all is even better. To be able, with
Alphonse Karr, to set forth on the five hundred and first tour round
one’s garden, brimming with expectation, and all the certainty of new
discovery. To be as thrilled over the alternations between the nut-tree
walk in winter, and the alpine heights in summer, as ever the family of
the Vicar were over those between the blue parlour and the brown. These
are the things that really carry a traveller comfortably forward in an
easy jog-trot towards his predestined bourne. And if there happen to be
a pair of such travellers, a pair of such explorers, and if each of them
carries his or her own wallet, or knapsack, and if those two travellers
part often, yet often come together again, then what an opening up of
budgets takes place! What a retailing of adventures; what a comparison
of discoveries; what a vastly extended sense of the round world, and of
all the fulness thereof! That there are really great journeys to be
performed, great events in life, and great adventures to be met with, I
am quite willing to concede; also that there are very small journeyings,
very small events, and very small adventures. But the odd thing is that
no one seems ever able to decide for one finally and authoritatively
which is which!



SEPTEMBER 4, 1899


It has been wet, and is now fine again, consequently our view of the
downs exhibits those tones of vinous purple, shading into indigo, that
in moments of patriotic expansion I am apt to call Irish. I do not think
it is quite friendly of our neighbours, especially those who live upon
the ridge above our heads, to smile so significantly whenever that word
“view” happens to slip out, as it did just now, in alluding to our new
possession, and its prospects. For what, after all, is a view? The
question seems to suggest a reference to the dictionary, and here is
Webster, ponderous in brown calf. “View. 1st. Act of seeing, or
beholding; sight; survey; examination by the eye. 2nd. That which is
looked towards, or kept in sight; an appearance; a show.” Well, have we
not something to look towards, to keep in sight, some appearance, some
show? For that matter, so, it may be urged, has the habitant of the “two
pair back,” or the rustic whose prospect is limited to a survey of his
or her neighbours’ under garments,--those “short and simple flannels of
the poor” hung to dry in silhouette against a back fence. The truth is
it is not at all desirable to be so haughty. I will not go so far as to
say that it is unchristian, but it is certainly unbecoming, for are we
not all fellow-creatures? What if you _can_ command seven counties from
your windows? What if on one particular morning--to me incredible--you
did see three ships cross Shoreham gap? What if from your garden chair
you can be regaled by a fantasia of changing lights and shadows? be
lapped into peace upon summer afternoons, or stirred by the drama of
battle clouds, flung into blackness by a storm? Well, if you can, be
glad of it, but for pity’s sake abstain from bragging! “Gi’ God thanks,
and say no more o’ it.” Believe me it is not even commonly lucky to be
so proud, and I speak with some little authority upon that subject.

For as regards this matter of views, I too have been haughty to the
point of insupportableness. I too have believed that the possession of
wide prospects argued some peculiar, some ineffable superiority in
myself. There was a time when nothing short of an entire ocean, none of
your petty babbling channels, but the whole thundering Atlantic,
sufficed for my ambition. In those days only upon the largest
combination of sea, sky, mountain; sea-scape, land-scape, cloud-scape,
did it seem possible adequately to exist. As for a mere rustic
landscape, as for a confined one, as for a humdrum English one, above
all as for a landscape within fifty miles of London, why the mention of
such things merely moved my commiseration! Those were the days when to
be called upon to leave what is sometimes uncivilly called the ruder
island, and to repair, even temporarily, to the more prosperous one,
seemed a fall and a degradation hardly to be measured by words. When the
contraction of the horizon seemed like a contraction of all life, and of
all that made life worth having. When the remembrance that one would
have to wake in the morning with no dim blue line to greet one,
appeared, to a patriotic, a self-respecting being, to be a wrong and an
indignity hardly to be endured without revolt.

Such an attitude is, I now hold, unbecoming in mere mortals, and, like
other vaulting ambitions, is apt to precede a fall. The man who starts
in life determined to be either Cæsar, or nothing, frequently fails to
become Cæsar, whereas with regard to the other alternative, the gods are
quite capable of taking him at his word. Happily, life is for most of us
a liberal education, and the narrowing of the horizon comes to be
endured with a philosophy born of other, and more serious deprivations.
It may even be open to question whether any man or woman ever yet was
made the better by the possession of a noble view?

That he or she ought to have been made so is quite true, but as a matter
of fact, have they? We are moulded out of exceedingly stubborn stuff,
and are not often ennobled, I suspect, by the landscapes that surround
us, any more than we are by the pursuits we follow, or the names that we
carry about with us. Furthermore the essentials of all landscape show a
considerable similarity. Much the same sort of clouds and sunshine, much
the same sort of nights and days, much the same sort of summers and
winters, visit alike the tamest and the wildest of them. Even the more
dramatic and exciting fluctuations--snow, and hail, storm, and
lightning--exhibit a greater impartiality than might have been expected.
The gale that has just unroofed your lordly tower, has equally swept the
tiles off our humble porch; in the same way that moralists are fond of
assuring us that sickness and sorrow, loss and pain, old age and death,
fall equally upon the homes of beggars and of kings.

Never having belonged to the last of these classes, I cannot take it
upon me to answer for the discomforts that pertain to it. With regard to
the other, though I have often seen myself figuring, or upon the point
of figuring, amongst its sad and tattered ranks, the impression has
never been a particularly agreeable one, and I prefer, therefore, not to
dwell upon it. It was moreover the subject of landscapes, I think, not
of either kings or beggars, that was under discussion? But that is the
sort of thing that is always happening! Of all the unsatisfactory stock
to keep, ideas are in my experience the most unsatisfactory; equally
whether they are winged, or entirely wingless ones. As for a
diary--which, to be of the slightest use, ought to act as a kind of
crow-boy, or goose-girl, to them, and keep them in order--on the
contrary it seems merely to follow their waddlings and gyrations with
the most foolish, and unnecessary submissiveness. The result is that one
starts intending to fill a page with one subject, and before one has got
very far one discovers that in reality one is filling it up with quite
another!



SEPTEMBER 6, 1899.


We often say to one another that it is impossible that we can have been
only two years and a half in possession here, so greatly has the scene
changed in that time. Those two and a half years have done the work of
many, or so it appears to us in our innocent vanity. Where I am now
sitting three years ago stacks of raw planking rose out of the trampled
briers and bluebells. The house stood roofed, but the inside was
horrible. The reign of the Hammerer had spread to every creature with
ears. Even in my own little nursery-garden--chosen in the first instance
as the most remote spot--the sound of it went far to extinguish the
nightingales. Now quietude and a sense of comparative settlement has
stolen over the scene. Indoors, when the windows are open, the birds
have it all their own way. Outdoors there is still much to be done, much
to be harmonised and regulated, but the first sense of newness and
desecration has, I think, wholly passed away. This then seems to be an
appropriate moment for inaugurating a sort of running commentary upon
the garden and its surroundings; setting forth what the spade has
already done, and what the spade has still to do; what we possess in the
way of plants, and what we still visibly lack; laying bare above all our
failures and blunderings in the clearest of colours, with an eye, it is
to be hoped, to their rectification. Such a record, honestly kept, must
be a highly improving one to look back upon. A man’s proper
shortcomings, writ out fair in black and white, should contain very
edifying reading for that man himself, whatever it might be for anyone
else. The worst is that, like other amended sinners, we may come to burn
in time with the zeal of the missionary. Not content with our own
private flagellations and exhortations, we may sigh to exhort and to
flagellate others. Hence doubtless, that vast and increasing host of
garden books, which so greatly decorate our bookshelves.

Yet after all a garden is a world in miniature, and, like the world, has
a claim to be represented by many minds, surveying it from many sides.
If it takes all sorts to make a world, it must take a good many
varieties of gardeners to exhaust the subject of gardening. Assuming the
said gardener to be of the right sort, naturally we accept his
exhortations thankfully. Assuming him even not to be quite of the right
sort--a mere harmless fumbler and bungler--still ’twere rash to assume
that he can teach us nothing. Just as every garden--every real garden,
owned by its owner--provides lessons for other garden owners, so even
the written equivalent of such gardens, as long as they are genuine
ones, not bits of confectionery tossed up to look pretty on tables, may
claim the same praise. So frequently has this of late been brought home
to me by experience that, give me only a writer who has faithfully
toiled with his own spade, her own trowel, and I am ready to accept a
new book at his or her hands every week in the year!



SEPTEMBER 8, 1899


Our indefatigable old Cuttle has just come to tell me that the new
water-lily pond leaks, and that I must send for the bricklayer, in order
to upbraid him. I am sometimes asked whether Cuttle is our gardener, and
am always rather at a loss what to answer. Hardly, I suppose, seeing
that he declines to take much notice of any of our flowers, with the
exception of the roses, for which he has a passion. When he came to us
three years ago it was merely “on job” from the builders. Our grounds,
as grounds, had not then begun to exist. Cuttle stuck the first spade
into them then and there, and from that minute their existence began.
Since then he has grown to be more and more intimately identified with
them, and that to such an extent that I find it difficult now to
disentangle the one from the other. Followed by his obedient satellite
and shadow, he ranges at large over all that lies between their
holly-guarded boundaries. His spade, pick, axe, billhook are masters of
all that come within their reach. Walks, and shrubberies, lawn, and
flower-beds began within a short time of his appearance to emerge as if
by magic out of their primal chaos. Order grew out of disorder; symmetry
to be evolved, and light to break in upon the very duskiest of our
entanglements. We have a habit of telling our friends that we ourselves
“made” these grounds, but our part in the process has in reality been
chiefly to sit still, and point our wands. It is Cuttle, Cuttle alone,
who has been their real creator.

For sheer, beaver-like, apparently instinctive industry I have never in
my life known his equal. For rooted self-opinionatedness not, I must
add, very often. How he contrives to get through the amount of work he
achieves in the course of every day, still more how he induces his
subordinates to do the same, remains a perennial marvel to me.
Possibly--seeing that my gardening experiences have hitherto lain a long
way to the west of Surrey--my standard as regards manual labour is not
of the highest. That our Cuttle is a typical Surrey labourer I decline
however to believe, though theoretically that, and nothing loftier, is
his status. Early in our acquaintance he discovered my ingenuous
surprise over his prowess. Far from this suggesting to him that less
activity would serve the turn, it seems to have only spurred him on to
fresh and ever fresh assaults upon my astonishment. That there have now
and then been inconveniences in this excess of energy I am free to
confess, but that is hardly Cuttle’s fault. If, for instance, I remark
that such or such new work had better be begun next week, my remark is
usually received by him in apparently unheeding silence. Next day
however, when I return to the charge, I am told with a smile of pity
that the work in question is already done. As I have just hinted this
sometimes places me in a position of some little embarrassment.
Naturally the work produced at such high pressure rather represents
Cuttle’s ideal of what it ought to be than mine. To show anything but
delighted surprise would be to prove oneself utterly unworthy of such
devoted service, and it is only therefore by degrees, and in the most
circuitous and disingenuous fashion, that I am able little by little to
reinstate my own ideas upon the more or less mutilated ruins of his.

In these early days of September, we stand once more at a new parting of
the ways. Within the next six weeks all the essential part of what we
hope to see accomplished by next summer must be at all events prepared,
or it will be too late. Three chief undertakings at present engage our
energies. First there is the new little water-lily pond, and its outer
environment of bog. Secondly there is the “glade,” which, beginning at
the upper portion of the copse near the house, runs somewhat steeply
downhill to its lower end. Thirdly there is the “long” grass walk, which
passing first along the last named, is eventually to traverse the whole
of the lower portion of the copse, a distance of some six hundred yards,
crossing as it does so the region of the tallest bracken, emerging for a
while upon a gravel walk, which skirts the fence of our nursery-garden,
thence, through another stretch of copse, and between two tall heather
banks, into a fresh tract of birches and sweet chestnuts, till it
finally attains the gate opening out upon the little common at the top.

One somewhat serious problem underlies these, as indeed all similar
little enterprises. How far, one asks oneself, may the natural
conformation of any given piece of ground be legitimately modified?--the
most difficult, in my opinion, of the many small problems which confront
the gardener. The lamentable declivities, the yet more terrible
acclivities, which abound in a certain type of garden we all know;
objects calculated to bring the blush of embarrassment to all but a
hardened visitor’s cheek. Like other adornments it is less their
artificiality than their deplorable lack of Art that so distresses us.
These indeed are sad warnings, and, remembering them, it is well to
misdoubt our own judgment, and to ask ourselves whether it were not
better to abstain altogether from any attempts at modification, which
might lead to results so humiliating and so disastrous?

There are however more encouraging omens. Anyone who has observed how
casual, how purely accidental are many of the natural variations of
surface which nevertheless give us pleasure, has a right to ask himself
whether the spade may not be allowed to produce in a few days what sun,
wind, rain, and similar agents can achieve in a few years. I am inclined
to think that it may, only it must be a spade with eyes, and if possible
with a brain behind it, and both are unusual with spades. In any case
wisdom exhorts us to proceed very cautiously and modestly with all such
changes. To be sure that in the first place they are called for, and in
the second that they will suit with the features of our ground, and the
scene in which it is set. Else, if we neglect these precautions, we too
may come to swell the ranks of those who have made the very words
“landscape gardening” and “landscape gardener” sounds of terror to all
discriminating and nature-loving ears.

One of the least unsatisfactory ways of modifying one’s ground, and
relieving its monotony, is, it seems to me, the “glade.” Glades may of
course be of many forms, and may suggest many ideas. They may pierce
through the dusky heart of a wood, or they may lie nakedly and stonily
open to the sky. They may be furnished with trees, with bushes, with
heather, with grass, or with alpine plants. On the whole the easiest
glade to create, and certainly one of the pleasantest when made, is the
grassy one. Even a perfectly level bit of ground can be induced with
care to pass by gradations into a grassy glade, though where there is
some natural slope the matter is of course very much easier. In that
case all that is necessary is to add a sufficiency of earth on either
side of the upper part of our incline, leaving the lower to merge by
insensible degrees to the natural level. The essential point is not to
miss the right moment for the sowing of the grass seed. This month of
September is in this soil unquestionably the best month in the year for
that purpose. August is apt to be too hot, October may be frosty, while
spring sowings are in my experience exceedingly delusive. If the summer
that follows them is wet, all goes well. Seeing however that each summer
since we came here has been more thirsty than its predecessor, it were
hardly the part of prudence to rely upon that.

It has been a satisfaction to us to find that a moderate upturning of
the soil does not apparently disturb those inmates of it that we wish to
retain. Bluebells and bracken both have their roots at a depth to which
the spade in these operations need not penetrate, while to superimposed
earth they appear to be quite indifferent. The spring that followed our
first operations of this kind bluebells flowered better than usual, as
if glad to be freed from some of their troublesome neighbours,
especially probably that pest of copses, dog mercury. The introduced
bulbs, which now share the ground with them, are mostly of the taller
kinds, daffodils predominating, and for these the fact of the soil being
all newly upturned is an advantage. Our present plan is that the sides
of the glade shall remain permanently uncut, or cut at most once or
twice a year, the central, or walking space, being kept regularly mown.
The bulbs, being at the sides, will thus not suffer. Moreover the
considerable difference of height between mown and unmown grass is bound
to give height and emphasis to our little glade. As in the similar case
of planting rock gardens, such considerations may seem to some poor
devices. Yet upon the successful carrying out of them depends the whole
of that “general effect” which is all that such critics probably heed.
We are not, after all, Nature’s mandatories, and our little slopes are
not Alps, or even alpine meadows. If we can attain to so much as a
suggestion of the sort of thing we dream of we may rest content.



SEPTEMBER 11, 1899


Here on the bench beside me is a basketful of plants, not garden ones by
any means, but weeds, mere ugly weeds, detested, and detestable, which,
having pulled up, I was about to throw away. And, sitting down for a
moment before doing so, I chanced to turn over two or three of them in
idle mood, and in so doing have been captured unawares, as I have often
been before, by the wonder, the mystery, of those ordinary processes of
nature, which we all of us know so remarkably well, and which we
certainly as a rule take such uncommonly little heed of.

Matthew Arnold has somewhere counselled us to let our minds dwell upon
that great and inexhaustible word “Life,” till we learn to enter into
its meaning. It was a critic’s and a poet’s counsel, but it might still
more appropriately have been a naturalist’s or a botanist’s. Life is
indeed one of the unescapable mysteries, a mystery that expands and
grows as we consider it, even as the hosts of heaven seem to grow and
multiply as they recede before our straining gaze. For, if we even put
aside the more active animal world, and look merely at the comparatively
placid vegetable one, is it possible to think of it for a moment without
being overwhelmed, as it were stunned, by the vastness of its effects;
by the complexity of its untiring energy? To take only one of the
results of that energy. It is the plants of the world, especially those
which we are in the habit of calling its weeds, which constitute its
great restraining forces. The operations of inorganic nature tend for
the most part towards obliteration; towards the rubbing down of
landmarks, towards the effacing of all individuality in the landscape.
Water, tumbling as snow, hardens into ice, and rasps away continually at
the surfaces of the mountains. Rivers scrape off, and carry away with
them, every particle of earth that they meet with on their journey to
the sea. As for the sea, we know that its one object ever since it came
into existence has been, day by day, and at each returning tide, to
encroach upon, and devour more and more of the heritage of its brother
the earth. Seeing that the land we live on occupies only about a third
part of the superficies of the globe, it follows that the whole of what
is now dry land could easily be disposed of below the water; indeed it
has been ascertained that were it thus neatly tucked and tidied away,
the level of the ocean would be only altered by less than a hundred
feet. It is due mainly to the untiring vigour, to the extraordinary
binding power of plants, that this consummation has been averted. Their
office has been to hinder a tendency which, even if it had not ended in
the submergence of the whole earth, would at least have washed and pared
away its irregularities to one deadly monotonous level. Trees and bushes
do much in this direction, but it is the little clinging weeds, which as
gardeners we detest, and would so gladly annihilate: these
crowfoots--why not, by the way, crow_feet_?--with their crowding roots;
these knotgrasses, these clinging bind-weeds,--it is such as they,
backed by sea-spurreys, and bents, and by reeds and rushes innumerable,
that do more to keep the waters of the globe in order, and to maintain
dry land, than man, with all his dykes, dams, embankments, and such like
accumulations, since first he began to strut or to caper over its
surface.

But the journey which lies before one’s thoughts when once they embark
upon this river we call “Life,” is indeed too big for them even
imaginatively to attempt. Our boats are so small, and the river so wide,
that one soon loses sight of shore. Even if, abandoning these perplexing
living things, one falls back upon the mere inorganic forces of the
world, what a prodigious amount of energy here too comes into play!
Nature everywhere eternally building up, and with apparently no blind
hand, but with a most clear, definite, and shaping policy. It is good
for us to escape now and then out of our own hot and fussy little rooms,
into these larger, cooler spaces; yet, if a wholesome, it cannot be said
to be entirely a gratifying experience. For how soon, even in the
simplest of such matters, does one arrive, like the people in the
_Pilgrim’s Progress_ at a place called “Stop”? How soon does thought
practically cease, and one remains dumb and gasping, like some poor dull
beast, in a mere, vacant-eyed daze of wonder? “The mind of man"--it was
one who knew what he was talking about that said it--“is an indifferent
sort of musical instrument, with a certain range of notes, beyond which,
upon both sides, there is an infinitude of silence.”



SEPTEMBER 12, 1899


The Epic of Weeding has still to be written! It should be undertaken in
no light or frolic vein, but with all the gravity that the subject
demands. What I should wish to see would be either a careful scientific
treatise by a competent authority, or, what would perhaps be still
better, a great poem, which, like all the highest poetry, would go
straight to the very soul of the subject, and leave the votary of it
satisfied for ever. To the earnest-minded Weeder, most other occupations
seem comparatively subordinate. Blank is that day some portion of which
has not been devoted to faithful weeding. Blank is that night in which,
as he lays his head upon the pillow, he cannot say to himself that such,
or such a piece of ground has been thoroughly cleared, and will not
require to be done again--for quite a fortnight!

One disadvantage it certainly has, but then it is one that it shares
with all the other higher, and more absorbing pursuits. If inordinately
pursued, it tends to grow upon its votary, until everything else becomes
subsidiary. What was originally a virtue, may thus in time come near to
growing into a vice. Of this danger I am myself a proof. There have been
moments--not many, nevertheless some--when I have found myself sighing
for more weeds to conquer. Worse, I have had the greatest difficulty on
more than one occasion to keep myself from pouncing upon my neighbour’s
perfectly private chickweeds and groundsels, which I have happened to
catch sight of across a fence!

I notice in myself, and have observed in others, a lamentable lack of
accuracy as regards the proper names of weeds. Even some that I know the
best, and hate the hardest, I really cannot put any name to. Now this is
not as it should be. Everything, however detestable, has a name of its
own, and that name ought to be used. You may not like a man, but that is
hardly a reason for calling him “What’s-his-name,” or “Thingamy.” It is
true that in the West of Ireland it is regarded as a very unsafe thing
to mention any of the more malignant powers by their right names. The
_Sidh_, for instance, if spoken of by their proper title, invariably fly
at you, and do you a mischief. The only way of avoiding this peril is to
use some obscure and roundabout designation, which is not their real
name at all. I do not know whether the same mode of reasoning has ever
been held to apply to weeds. If so, I cannot say that the plan appears
to me to answer. At least I can safely swear that I have never called
one of them by its proper botanical name in my life, yet they rush in on
us from all sides, and persecute us none the less impishly.

There is one particularly diabolical individual, which has clearly
marked this garden as its prey, and marches continually to and fro of it
like a roaring lion. What its correct name is I shall in all probability
never know, though I have carefully cross-examined several botanical
works on the subject. It has narrow fleshy leaves; a mass of roots,
constructed of equal parts of pin wire and gutta-percha; the meanest of
pinky white flowers, and a smell like sour hay. It is not the leaves,
the flowers, the roots, or even the smell, that I so much object to. It
is the capacity it possesses of flinging out offshoots of itself to
incredible distances, which offshoots no sooner touch ground than they
begin to weave a kind of ugly green net over everything within reach,
enmeshing it all into as dense a mass of leaves and roots as is the
parent plant.

Although I am no nearer extirpating it than I was before, since
yesterday I have at least been able to name it, a satisfaction which
many a poor Speaker must have been thankful for, especially in an age
grown too picked and tender to allow of even the most obdurate
obstructor being despatched to either the Tower, or the Block.

It was Cuttle who provided me with that satisfaction, and it is not one
of the least of the many debts that I owe him.

“What can be the name of this thing, I wonder, Cuttle?” I said, rising
exhausted from an effort to hinder a fresh colony from enmeshing and
strangling a line of “Laurette Messimy” which had been recently planted
upon the top of a slope.

“I’m not sure as I can tell you its proper name, ma’am, but about here
_we_ calls it ‘Snaking Tommy.’”

Admirable Cuttle! “Snaking Tommy” of course! The instant I heard it I
felt convinced that in that preliminary naming of all plants and animals
performed by Adam in the garden of Eden, that, and no other, must have
been the name bestowed upon this. It is true some theologian might
assure me that there were no weeds in the garden of Eden, but that I
think is not particularly likely, because, whether there were weeds in
that garden or not, there are certainly no theologians in this one.
Moreover we all know that the snake was there, to everyone’s
immeasurable discomfort. And if the snake, why not, let me ask, “Snaking
Tommy”?



SEPTEMBER 14, 1899


However it may be in other gardens, seed-sowing, I find, to be the very
centre and kernel of this one. The sowing of seeds is apt to be
accounted merely a matter of the raising of a due supply of annuals,
salpiglossis, nicotiana, lobelia, nemophila, clarkia, bartonia, godetia,
“and a long etcetera.” With us it is the permanent, the perennial
occupants of our flower-beds which must either be grown from seed, or
else not grown at all. This fact was early impressed upon our minds, and
in a very summary and effectual fashion, such as Nature’s fashion of
instilling indispensable truths for the most part is.

It was three years ago, and we were a pair of destitute garden-owners.
We had however good friends, with large gardens. The connection was
perfectly self-evident. Without a moment’s hesitation the basket went
round. The response was noble. Plants came to us from North, South,
East, and West, especially West. Alas for those plants!

They were just what we wanted; they were moved at the right time; they
were packed with care; they were not unreasonably long on the road; they
arrived to all appearance in excellent health; they were received with
all the respect they deserved, and their wants provided for as far as
our poor knowledge of those wants enabled us to cater for them. Never
were elaborate arrangements less handsomely rewarded. Seasons returned,
but never have to us returned those plants so generously bestowed, so
hopefully planted. In my private garden-book a list of them still
exists, and a very black list it is to refer to. There they stand, as
they were written down in all the pride of proprietorship. Unhappily a
later entry shows a large round _O_ standing out prominently against
nearly every one of them. Now a round _O_ in that book signifies Death.

From this disaster we arose chastened gardeners. It was determined that
no more guileless plants should be brought to such a fate; no more
kindly owners exploited for so inadequate a result. Remembering the
good, dark, comfortable earth from which most of those plants came;
sadly surveying the very different earth to which they had been
consigned, the cause of their doom could hardly be called mysterious.

Friendly gardens, unless labouring under our own disabilities, being
thus excluded, the question remained how were the flower-beds to get
themselves filled? Only one answer to that question has ever presented
itself to the professional gardening mind, and that is “Send to the
nurseryman.”

Now that nurseryman may or may not be an excellent one. Ours, as it
happens, may fairly I think be called so. Good or bad he is never a
functionary to be approached without deference, at least by those in
whose eyes Thrift stands for something in the battle of life. “But
common plants are _so_ cheap” one is often told. Very likely, they may
be; indeed, judging by their catalogues, nurserymen stand habitually
astonished before the spectacle of their own moderation. An average
herbaceous plant--a lupin, or a larkspur, let us say--costs as a rule
about ninepence. It may sink as low as sixpence, or it may rise as high
as a shilling. Anybody, it will be argued, can afford sixpence; some
people have been known to spend a whole shilling without wincing. A very
short walk along any ordinary garden border, calculating as one goes the
number of sixpennyworths it would take to fill it, will be found an
excellent corrective for such lightheartedness. I made such a
calculation myself only the other day, and the result was an eminently
sobering one.

Seeds on the other hand are honestly cheap. There are expensive
seedsmen, but generally speaking, threepence is the price of a
fair-sized packet of the commoner perennials, and sixpence for one of
the scarcer kinds. This initial difference is, however, an infinitesimal
part of the real one. It is the magnificent possibilities, the vast
fecundity of those sixpences, as compared with the others, which is the
real point. Not one plant, but dozens of plants, often hundreds of
plants, may be the result of a single successful sowing, nor is the time
lost by such sowings nearly as great as people seem to imagine.

But the number of plants to be had in the course of a year by this means
is only part of the advantage to be gained by it. The great advantage is
that by so doing one’s plants become acquainted betimes with the
qualities of the soil in which they find themselves, and, so getting
acquainted, they reconcile themselves to it, as we most of us do
reconcile ourselves to any environment, however little naturally to our
taste, which has compassed us round from babyhood. To come to details.
Alpine plants, though small to look at, are for the most part tolerably
dear to buy. If a man, “whatever his sex!” loves his alpines, is
determined to have them, has a fairly big alpine garden or border to
fill, but will not be at the trouble of rearing them from seed, then I
shall be rather sorry for that man’s pocket. A few of them--notably the
Androsaces--are not amiable in the matter of germination, and these
therefore require a mother-plant or two to begin upon. Others, of which
the gentians may be taken as a type, are unendurably slow in appearing,
though, if a safe place can be found for their seed-box, and it is then
forgotten, the time passes! The great majority of alpines, fortunately,
will grow perfectly well from seed, even ultra-fastidious ones, such as
Silene acaulis, or Ramondia pyrenaica, which for that reason rank high
in nurserymen’s catalogues, doing perfectly well with care, and, of
course, at a fiftieth part of the cost.

Details like these have a sordid ring, and I have to remind myself that
it is upon the successful wrestling with them that one’s ultimate
failure or triumph wholly hinges. Thrift, moreover, is the badge of
every proper-minded husbandman, and it is according to the thriftiness
of his husbandry that Nature rewards his labours. “But Nature,” I hear
some caviller exclaim, “Nature is herself the most reckless of
spend-thrifts. She is the very mother, grandmother, and
great-grandmother of extravagance. She squanders her treasures as the
rain-clouds squander their raindrops, and tosses her wealth abroad like
dust upon the desert air”! True, she does do all this, but I am not
aware that she ever specially desired that her children should follow
her example. “What are your poor little savings? your petty
extravagancies?” we might imagine her saying, “that they should be
likened to mine?” Further, by an odd paradox, it is upon her
wastefulness that our thrift rests most securely. We possess say one
solitary plant of some given kind, and we find that with that single
plant her lavishness has freely provided us with the material of a
hundred, possibly many hundred others. There is scarcely a plant we can
name that by some means or another--by division, by layers, by seeds, by
cuttings, or by some other equally simple variation of the garden
craft--may not be multiplied almost without limit. Truly there is
something staggering about such fecundity, and the brain of even the
strongest gardener might be expected to whirl as he contemplates it.
Following in imagination the history of almost any flowering
plant--yonder pimpernel astray on the gravel will do--giving it only
time enough, a fair field, and not too many rivals, and we shall find
that it has gone far towards peopling every waste place within reach;
nay, if the process could be continued long enough, by the mere law of
its organic existence its descendants are capable of reddening their
entire native countryside for a dozen miles around.



SEPTEMBER 16, 1899


Few forms of frailty are more lamentable than vanity, and few variations
of vanity have for some time back seemed to me more stamped with
puerility than garden vanity. Can anything be imagined more childish, or
less worthy of a reasonable human being, than for A or Z to pride
themselves on the fact that whereas _Horificus globuratus fl. pl._
flourishes like a weed in their gardens, it entirely refuses to grow in
those of B or X, despite the fact that B and X have remade the greater
part of their borders, in a spirit of slavish emulation? The same
argument applies, even more forcibly, to other details, such as the
making of cuttings, or layers, the carrying of tender plants through the
winter, the satisfactory growing of vegetables, and so forth; operations
which ought to be approached in the largest and most enlightened spirit,
and never for a moment made the subject of mere petty self-satisfaction,
or of a narrow and arrogant self-laudation.

This point being thoroughly settled, I now proceed to draw out a list of
plants grown successfully from seed by ourselves during the last three
years; premising that this is only our _first_ list, chiefly of
rock-plant seedlings, and that I shall have another, much longer, and
_much_ more important one to draw up when the right time comes!

  Alyssum alpestre.
  ”       montanum.
  ”       saxatile.
  Anemone Blanda.
  ”       Japonica.
  ”       fulgens.
  Aquilegia alpina.
  ”         cœrulea.
  ”         canadensis.
  ”         Jaeschkaui.
  ”         vulgaris.
  ”         vulgaris var. grandiflora
  alba.
  Arenaria montana.
  Antirrhinum (various).
  Armeria Laucheana.
  ”       vulgaris.
  ”       vulgaris var. rosea.
  ”       vulgaris var. alba.
  Aster alpinus.
  Aubrietia deltoides.
  ”         Frœbelli.
  ”         Leichtlini.
  Campanula Carpatica.
  ”         garganica.
  Campanula pumila.
  ”         turbinata.
  ”         rotundifolia.
  ”         rotundifolia var. alba.
  Cerastium tomentosum.
  Cheiranthus alpinus.
  Dianthus alpinus.
  ”        cæsius.
  ”        cruentus.
  ”        deltoides.
  ”        deltoides var. albus.
  Draba aizoides.
  Dryas octopetala.
  Erinus alpinus.
  Erysimum pumilum.
  Erodium Manescavi.
  ”       macradenium.
  Geranium cinereum.
  ”        sanguineum.
  ”        striatum.
  Gentiana acaulis.
  ”        verna.
  Geum montanum.
  Gypsophilla prostrata.
  Helianthemum (various).
  Heuchera sanguinea.
  Ionopsidium acaule (annual).
  Linaria alpina.
  ”       anticaria.
  ”       cymbalaria.
  Linum alpinum.
  Lychnis alpina.
  Myosotis alpestris.
  ”        azorica.
  Meconopsis cambrica.
  Ononis rotundifolia.
  Oxalis floribunda.
  Phlox amœna }
  ”     setacea  } cuttings
  ”     subulata } easier.
  Potentilla nepalenses.
  Papaver alpinum.
  ”       nudicaule.
  ”       ” var. miniatum.
  ”       pilosum.
  Primula Cashmeriana.
  Primula cortusoides.
  ”       denticulata.
  ”       japonica.
  ”       rosea (self-sown).
  Ramondia pyrenaica.
  Ranunculus montanus.
  Saponaria ocymoides.
  ”         ocymoides var.
  splendens.
  Saxifraga (various; division
  easier).
  Silene acaulis.
  ”      alpestris.
  ”      Schafta.
  Statice maritima.
  ”       ”         var. carnea.
  ”       ”         var. alba.
  Thymus (various; division
  again easier).
  Tunica saxifraga.
  Veronica prostrata.
  Vesicaria utriculata.

From this list I have carefully omitted all our defeats. Victors I
observe, invariably do so!



SEPTEMBER 25, 1899


The gardener seems to pass amongst his kinsfolk and acquaintance for a
rather feeble, but more or less meditative sort of man. His trade is
held, I perceive, to be productive of some of the milder forms of
philosophy. Like the angler he enjoys a rather supercilious
consideration on that account from his more violently active brethren.

“You are such a patient fellow,” they say. “You don’t care how long you
stay pottering over one small spot. Such quiet ways of going on would
never do for _us_!”

This may be the case, but I cannot say that I have personally observed,
either in myself, or other gardeners, any tendency to exhibit more
placidity over the cares and crosses of a garden, than over any of the
other cares and crosses of existence. As for philosophy, a certain sort
of cheap moralising a garden is certainly rather productive of. It
sprouts unheeded along the walks, and may be extracted with greater
facility than most of the weeds. That “life is short”; that “flesh is
grass”; that man groweth up in the spring time, and is cut down in the
autumn--such innocent and obvious sprouts of morality as these may
certainly be gathered in a good many of its neglected corners. With
regard to all the larger and more vital growths of philosophy, I am
afraid that they require to be successfully sought for upon wider and
more strenuous battlefields.

Lessons of course may be gathered in a garden, as in most other places.
For the owner, the most wholesome of these is perhaps that he never
really is its owner at all. His garden possesses him--many of us know
only too well what it is to be possessed by a garden--but he never, in
any true sense of the word, possesses it. He remains one of its
appanages, like its rakes or its watering-pots; a trifle more permanent,
perhaps, than an annual, but with no claim assuredly to call himself a
perennial.

In no garden is this fact more startlingly the case than in those that
we have, as we fatuously call it, “made” ourselves. For the owners of
such a garden, the precariousness of their tenure is the first thing, I
think, that is forced upon their attention. And the reason is simple. In
older ones, the reign of the primitive has, to a greater or less extent,
ceased, and the reign of the artificial has become the rule. The Wild
still flourishes in them, but it has become a mere pariah, a vegetable
outcast. Chickweed on the walks, nettles in the shrubbery, daisies in
the lawn. “What does this mean? Who gave you leave to be here? Away with
you at once, intruders that you are!” that is the habitual standpoint.
Now in a new garden, especially a garden that has been won out of the
adjacent woodlands, the sense of intrusion is felt--ought to be felt--to
be all the other way. It is the so-called owners who are here the
trespassers; the unwarrantable intruders; the squatters of a few
months’, at most of a few years’, standing. The bracken, the
honeysuckles, the briers, the birds--these are the established
proprietors; it is they that can show all the documents of original
possession. We may have to eject them, but at least it should be done
respectfully; with such compensation for disturbance as would be
adjudged in any properly constituted agrarian court in the Universe.

Only yesterday these reflections were forced upon my mind as I found
myself, for the third time engaged in a life and death struggle with the
bracken, which has once more invaded our newly made flower borders, and
threatens to gather their whole contents bodily into its capacious
grasp. This is, and always must be, a peculiarly humiliating sort of
struggle to be engaged in, and not the less so if one remains
temporarily the victor. In the first place, one is deeply conscious of
the vandalism of trying to get rid of an object immeasurably more
beautiful than any of the plants one thrusts it aside for. In the second
place, there is a sense of absurdity and futility, which is strongly
upon one all the time. Mrs. Partington, in her efforts at sweeping back
the Atlantic Ocean with her broom, was hardly a more conspicuous
instance of misplaced energy than such attempts to suppress and control
the exuberant green waves, the abounding vitality, of our own
magnificent, indomitable bracken.

Even where humiliating struggles like these have ceased to be necessary,
how slight an excrescence this whole business that we call ownership
really is; how strong, how deeply rooted the state of things which it
has momentarily superseded. Let the so-called owner relax his
self-assertiveness for ever so short a period; let him and his myrmidons
depart for a while upon their travels, and how swiftly the whole fabric
rushes remorselessly back to its original condition. And why not? What
can be more absolutely to be expected? Nor need we even stop at the
garden, the farm, the house, or any similar chattel. Even ourselves,
sophisticated little creatures though we be, in how many ways we remain
the accessories, rather than the masters, of our environment? For a
time, especially in towns, we manage to conceal this truth from
ourselves. We pretend that we have remodelled matters to our liking;
that Nature has become our follower; that our law, not hers, runs
through the planet; that we set the tune, and that she merely plays it.

Oh rash, and hurrying ignorance! Put the holder of so untenable a
doctrine alone, for ever so short a time, especially in the winter, in
the solitary depths of the country, and how soon a perception of his or
her own utter transitoriness will begin to break through the thinly
formed crust of the new, and the superimposed. Let him lift his garden
latch, and step out beyond it into the open country. Let him saunter
alone in the woods after dusk. Let him walk across the solitary,
blackened heather. Let him look down upon the floods, lace-making over
the lowlands. Let him--without taking so much trouble as this--merely
lean out of his window after dusk, amid the thickening shadows, and he
must be of a remarkably unimpressionable turn of mind if the sense of
his own shadowiness, his own inherent transitoriness, is not the
clearest, strongest, and most convincing of all his sensations.

Thus vanity provides its own solution, and the little inflated soul is
driven into puncturing its own proudly swelling balloon. We
discover--sometimes with no little dismay--that it is not alone in our
flower-beds that the wild and the tame, the temporary and the permanent,
the real and the artificial, meet, jostle, and rub shoulders together.
Sir Primitive is a remarkably difficult person to escape from. His blood
still courses unheeded through our own veins, and he is as much a part
of ourselves as he is a part of the most sophisticated of our plants or
our animals. We may imagine that we have left him behind us, and
outgrown his teachings, and the very next day something will occur to
show us that he is at our elbows all the time, as strong, as fresh, and
as absolutely unaffected by any little modern innovations as he ever
was.



SEPTEMBER 26, 1899


Yet, although undoubtedly our ancestor, Sir Primitive stands a good way
back on the family tree, and other influences have grown up since his
time to disturb his teachings. The fear of becoming too tidy, for
instance, does not at first sight seem to be a very reasonable fear. It
has not been imputed to many people as a failing, especially to those
who happen to have been born to the westward of St. George’s Channel!
Nevertheless there are moments when a wild passion for tidiness, a
perfect thirst and craving for order, seems to sweep across the soul
like a wave; when everything else that one habitually cares for is flung
back, and overwhelmed before it, even as the hosts of Pharaoh were flung
back, and overwhelmed before the cold, subduing waters of the Red Sea.

We are all the children of our age; there is no getting over that fact;
heirs of a hardly won civilisation, let us call ourselves Wild
Wilfulness, or any other law-defying name, as much as we please.
Yearning to show that our spirits are above all trammels, that we are as
free as the birds in the air, we nevertheless all sit in identical
armchairs, eat the food the cooks provide us, and in most other respects
exhibit about as much originality as so many stair-rods.

It is only necessary to consider what happens every day of the week in
the garden to perceive that this is the case. We have adopted the most
independent line possible; we have vowed that _our_ gardens shall be
natural ones, or nothing. We adore flowery wildernesses, we declare. We
want our plants to grow as Nature intended them to do, and not as the
hireling gardener does. We intend to put a limit to the eternal
bolstering up of our soil with all sorts of extraneous elements; above
all we will have nothing to say to the clipping of our shrubs into
unreal shapes, nor yet to the planting of our bulbs, and other flowering
plants into lines, squares, and parallelograms, but all shall be a
melting and a blending of one harmonious form into another; every
detail, as far as the eye can reach, being subordinated to the larger
and more important spirit of the landscape as a whole.

So we say! And yet, after the flag of freedom has been thus
ostentatiously raised, what happens? As often as not we find ourselves,
by the logic of facts, and by the realities of the situation, forced
slowly to retreat, as other and equally eminent strategists have been
forced before us. A flowery wilderness is delightful, but unless its
owner is content with the flowers that grow in it by nature, or a few,
very cautious additions, his flowery wilderness is apt after a time to
become a wilderness, minus the flowers. Then perhaps a reaction sets in.
A sense of failure gradually overtakes the too ardent amateur. The reins
of authority drop more and more listlessly from his hands; until at last
he lets them fall altogether, and, with a smile of kindly pity, the
momentarily dispossessed professional once more resumes full, and
henceforth undivided sway.

From so humiliating a finale may all the kindly divinities that watch
over gardens deliver ourselves! Nevertheless there have been moments
when such a fate has seemed to draw near, and even to look one in the
eyes. Only three days ago I was engaged in that breathless struggle with
the bracken. For the last two, aided by Cuttle and his assistant, I have
been fighting ankle-deep against a perfect forest of couch-grass, which
had practically overwhelmed the whole of our nursery-garden, helped
rather than hindered by the fence, with which we had innocently hoped to
keep back, not alone rabbits, but every other trespasser.

Worse than the conduct of the couch-grass, because of a certain personal
element in it, has been the conduct of the rose-campion. Now I have been
exceedingly kind to that rose-campion. Again and again I have intervened
to rescue it, when it was on the point of being rooted out, and
consigned to the dust-heap. Only last spring I carried its roots by
hundreds with my own hands, and re-established them in a special
reservation ground, where they might spread unmolested over a good
half-acre or so of copse. What has been the result? They have indeed
clothed their allotted space, but, not content with this, they have
burst like a horde of Ojibeway Indians, or some such aborigines, out of
their reservation, across the frontiers of civilisation, sending out
myriads of seedlings ahead of them, like a flight of skirmishers, and
are now nearly as numerous collectively, and far more luxuriant
individually, in the nursery, than they are in the copse itself!

Incidents like these wound one, and are more trying for that reason to
the amateur gardener than to the professional one, who probably regards
them as only to be expected. I am far from saying that they constitute a
sufficient reason for surrender, but they certainly seem to need the aid
of a higher quality than mere secular doggedness, to enable one to
grapple with them as one ought. It is moreover such occurrences as
these that produce that extraordinary thirst for order, that very
unlooked-for passion for tidiness, which I just now noted. After a day
or two passed in such struggles as these one begins to understand the
pride of the colonist in pure, speckless Ugliness; in beautifully clean,
naked earth, varied by straight lines of split-wood fences, or the like.
I have not as yet reached that point myself, and am glad to feel that I
can still tolerate Nature. All the same a sort of nurseryman’s attitude
towards everything tainted with wildness is fast gaining upon me, and
unless I can check both it, and this overweening love of tidiness while
there is time, I plainly foresee that there will shortly be nothing else
left!



SEPTEMBER 29, 1899


“Fountains; they are a great beauty and refreshment, but pools mar all,
and make the garden unwholesome, full of flies and frogs.”

For two persons who have just been at some pains to establish a pool in
their grounds, this is a hard saying! That the judgment has much to
support it, apart from the weight of its utterer, I cannot deny. At the
same time a better case can, I think, be made out for the culprits than
may appear at first sight. Fountains in a copse, be they never so
limpid, never so sparkling, would be stamped with an unendurable stamp
of artificiality. Pools on the other hand, though there are certainly
not many in these copses of ours, are at all events not inconceivable.
In the present case we flatter ourselves that the particular spot we
have selected for our pool was intended by Nature to contain one, and
nothing but the incurable aridity of these dry hillsides hindered her
from carrying out that intention. Where every drop of water has to be
watched over like hid treasure, it may be doubted whether the amount
that we can afford to have trickling through it in summer will suffice
to hinder the water in it from becoming yellow, brown, or green. That is
a point however which remains for future discovery. Our main
preoccupation at present rests with the planting of the edges of our
pool, especially with the clothing of the bank which, rising to the
north of it, will absorb most of the midday sun, and will require
therefore the most attention.

In its present condition a good deal of that bank looks bare to
desperation, yet I strongly suspect that summer will prove it to have
the reverse fault of being crowded with a dense, and inextricably
entangled mass of vegetation. Fortunately half its present inhabitants,
being biennials, will depart after the first season, when, the prospect
clearing, the permanent inhabitants will stand forth confest and
visible.

Omitting this temporary part of its furniture, I will jot the others
down as they stand, which will enable us to see what we have, and also
to form a better idea of what we still lack.

First and foremost a kindly gift; two large clumps of Arundo donax,
easily supreme anywhere as pond-side decoration, the more so, as they
quickly attain to their full size. No other plant of the reedy order,
not even excepting a bamboo, gives quite the same impression of
vigorous, of almost insolent energy as does this one. It adapts itself
moreover perfectly to our sandy soil, and so long as one sees that it
receives a reasonable amount of moisture, seems to ask for little else.
Next follow two or three plants of Arundinaria japonica, and below these
again Arundinaria, or Bambusa palmata, skirting the edge of the pond,
and passing on into the so-called bog. This last came from Kildare,
where it has established itself, and run practically wild along the edge
of a lake. Here it seems to do its growing more slowly, but the plants
are spreading, and I think promise fairly. Below the other bamboos, but
above palmata come two large plants of Astilbe rivularis, placed so that
their arching leaves will overhang their lower neighbours, and all but
touch the water. Next, turning the corner of the pond, come various
low-growing bushes. Berberis Darwini below, with the faithful
Aquifolium, and the taller stenophylla above, ending in a fringe of
bog-myrtle, and of Rodgersia podophylla, among which some Solomon’s seal
are now barely discernible. After these come a few plants of
Hemerocallis, both fulva and flava, which need continual dividing in the
borders, but seem to flower well, and give no further trouble so long as
they are within reach of an occasional splash. Acanthuses appear to be
in the same position, the difference between their growth in wet and dry
soil being extraordinary; indeed when one remembers how they abound in
Spain and Italy, one fails to understand the limp and desolated aspect
they see fit to assume here, under a very much more moderate
dispensation of drought.

Next follows Funkia Sieboldi. Funkias are all meritorious plants, but
Sieboldi, to my mind, towers head and shoulders above the rest. Apart
from the beauty of the flower, its grey-green, almost iridescent foliage
is like no other leaf that grows, and when the two are combined the
result is High art, art at its best point. Such praise is, however,
merely impertinent. It is more pertinent to say that the whole genus,
but especially Sieboldi, belong to that very limited category of plants
that are at once fit for the most orthodox of beds or borders, while at
the same time they are free enough, and independent-looking enough, not
to seem ridiculous in a bit of pure “wildness” such as this little
pond-side purports to be. This is far from being a common virtue. One
only needs to run over such words as “Hollyhock,” “Begonia,”
“Pelargonium,” to perceive in a moment what would be intolerable outside
of a more or less stiff parterre. It is not so much a question of
beauty, as of fitness and adaptability, perhaps also of freedom from
certain set associations, which, having once rooted themselves in our
minds, make it impossible for us ever to rearrange our impressions, and
recast them in a new form. This however is a digression. To go on with
my list.

Upon the actual edge of the pond we are at this moment planting some two
dozen varieties of Iris Kæmpferi. These have recently come from Haarlem,
and being still new-comers, have their destiny ahead of them. The common
yellow iris, best and handsomest of all native, water-edge plants, had
only to be transplanted, as it was already flourishing close at hand. As
a successor to it comes Ranunculus Lingua, another indispensable native,
but one that requires sharp watching; its capabilities as a coloniser
being unlimited, the long, pink-tipped suckers pushing forward into the
water at a rate that would soon turn any limited space of it into a mere
jungle of triumphant buttercups.

In the part of the bank which, sloping rather quickly away, inclines
towards the “glade,” come various low-growing shrubs, which carry the
line down to the region of heather, which in its turn brings it to the
level of the grass. The tallest of these,--rather too tall for the
place,--is Viburnum opulus, common beside many a Surrey pond, but not
nearly enough grown in gardens, as the best of amateur gardeners has
recently reminded us. Its cultivated relation, Viburnum plicatum, is
just beyond it, placed there, not because there is the slightest
occasion for its being upon the water’s edge, simply because it happens
to be one of those plants that never seem quite happy unless they have
abundance of space to move about in, the long shoots, laden with
blossom, having a wonderful power of reaching out to distances that at
first sight seem to be quite beyond their grasp. Another plant of which
the same may be said is Hydrangea paniculata. So far ours have spent
their existence dully in tubs, the idea being that they required winter
protection. Judging by some that were experimented upon last winter this
seems to be a mistake, and I propose to try a few here, by way of
successors to the foregoing, with which their equally industrious sprays
seem to possess a sort of kinship.

Our grassy “glade” being now all but reached the remaining corner of the
bank has been filled with various grass-leaved flowering plants, which
seemed to come in appropriately. Of these the largest is Libertia
formosa, green all the year round, and in summer bristling with white,
iris-like flowers, and, by way of plant-fellow to it, Sisyrinchium
Bermudianum (Plague upon these polysyllabic dog-latinists!), one of the
friendliest of little plants that ever pined for a decent English name.
Put it where one will--on a bank, in a bog, in a flower-bed--it seems
equally happy and appropriate; always compact, yet increasing as
rapidly as any weed; above all continually in flower, even, so I noticed
last winter, in the middle of frost and snow, and when its leaves were
so brittle that they snapped when they were touched, like any icicle.

My list seems to be already stretching to a tolerable length, yet there
are plenty of things that have not yet found their way into it. Here is
Bocconia cordata, for instance, impossible to do without in such a spot.
Here are the spider-worts, both blue and white. Here are various
spiræas, chiefly low-growing ones, such as “Anthony Waterer” and
palmata, the latter only happy in a more or less damp place. In the
peat-filled hollow beyond quite a little crowd of claimants rise up for
notice. A good many of these are now only satisfactory in the
retrospect. Of such are Primula japonica, and Primula rosea,
sorry-looking tufts of brown shreds, with no new leaves as yet showing.
Cypripedium spectabile is in the same plight, but Hellonias bullata is
still green, Gentiana asclepiadea has a flower or two showing, Lobelia
cardinalis, both the older and newer varieties, look red and happy, and
Schizostylis coccinea promises fairly, though it never behaves with us
quite as it ought to do, and as I have known it behave in kindlier
soils.

Turning to the region of mere dryness, three or four rough stone steps,
and a ridiculous little ridge, lead towards the azalea corner.

Here cistuses of various kinds have their home, and, being fairly
sheltered, do well, though several require remembering in the winter. I
find the same to be the case here with regard to the rosemaries,
especially the younger plants, as they grow older they seem to harden.
Lavenders fortunately are safe everywhere, in all weathers, and the same
may be said of Skimmia japonica and Fortunei, two of the most
satisfactory of small winter-flowering shrubs. These with a few tufts of
Andromeda floribunda, and a small jungle of alpine rhododendron, bring
us up to the azalea corner.

All these plants, especially the more recently planted ones, will need
pretty constant looking after during the next year or so, but once that
crucial period of their existence is over, it is my hope--possibly only
my delusion--that they will learn so to arrange their affairs as merely
to require the sort of attention that is necessary to see that they do
not overcrowd one another, or--what is more serious--become invaded by
wild neighbours, rose-campions, and the like, swarming in upon them to
the point of suffocation. The safest way of avoiding this is undoubtedly
to cover the ground with low, carpeting growths, which will remain green
nearly all the year round, and at the same time not make too severe a
demand upon the soil. The number of such kindly little evergreens, or
semi-evergreens is a constant surprise when one comes to collect them,
and the fact that there should be so many speaks volumes for a climate
that we are none of us ever weary of abusing. Apart from absolute
rock-plants, nearly all of which are evergreen, there are a number of
others, which rarely or never lose their leaves, and whose presence
saves banks and hollows like these from the reproach of bareness, and
further takes away--certainly ought to take away--all excuses for
visitations from that Tool of the Destroyer, the pitchfork. Of such
plants none are better than certain campanulas, including our own
hairbells, both the blue and the white. Wood-sorrels again are excellent
in a shady place, or, for a sunnier one, there is their energetic cousin
Oxalis floribunda, in this soil the most undaunted of colonisers,
growing all the winter. “Creeping Jenny” again, and “Blue-eyed Mary,”
delightful things with delightful names, will cover as much space as
they are allowed to do. Of the more easily grown forget-me-nots there
are at least four kinds--palustris, for planting close to the water, or
in it; dissitiflora, happy all the summer, so long as it gets a little
shade; sylvatica and alpestris, growing anywhere, and everywhere.
Epimediums, again, are excellent, though apt to get a little rusty in
the winter. So is Tellina grandiflora, an unwisely named plant, since
its strength lies, not in its flowers, but its leaves. Thymes, too, are
always available; likewise potentillas, erysimums, and veronicas, though
these last may seem to be trenching upon the rock-plant region. Then, if
we want larger growths, are there not all the megaseas, which may be
torn in pieces two or three times a year, if we like? Of low-growing
shrubs, such as Euonymus radicans, the various creeping cotoneasters,
the savin, Gaultheria shallon, and others, there is no lack. Yet
another, and one of the best of them all, Cornus canadensis, a true
shrub, and an evergreen one, although no larger than a wild
wood-strawberry.

But I find myself growing breathless, and the list of such kindly
“carpeters” is in reality only begun. Flinging down woodruffs, wild
pansies, foam-flowers, sedums, mossy saxifrages, waldsteinias, and
periwinkles, as one might out of a basket, I will only now delay to find
room for a few rock-pinks, particularly for these four--cæsius,
cruentus, atro-rubens, and deltoides,--all of which may be sown
broadcast in the spring, and all of which, especially the last, may be
trusted to hold their own against any but the biggest and most ferocious
of natives.

We have been honest caterers for our clients, as far as preparation
went, and my hope, I may say my ideal, is that they will henceforward be
content with receiving merely surface nourishment from time to time, and
will neither look for or need that eternal process of renewal, and as a
consequence of disorganisation, which is the bane, though I am willing
to admit the unavoidable bane, of nearly every flower-bed and border.

Ideals are odd things, and this one of mine seems, even as I write it
down, about as ridiculous and puny an ideal as any forlorn idealist was
ever driven into making a boast of! Such as it is, however, I cling to
it tenaciously. After all what does it mean? Written out a little large
it means repose of mind, and a freedom from the strain of change; it
even means a certain sense of finality, and that at a very sensitive
spot in one’s small environment.

To a greater or less extent we all sigh for finality. Nobody has ever
attained to it, that I have heard of, and not many people would perhaps
relish it if they could do so. None the less it remains, something
haunting; a dimly descried presence, to us vaguely desirable. To sit at
ease under their own vines; to be at rest in their own shaded places,
has from the earliest days flattered the imaginations of men, busy and
idle ones alike. Dawdlers in sunny places, and haunters of gardens like
ourselves are naturally assigned to the second of these categories.
Since we have to support the reproach of idleness, let us at least then
take heed that we secure the comfort of it. If Leisure is an
acquaintance of ours he is an acquaintance of so few people nowadays,
that we had better make the most of him. Now fuss the good man detests,
and change, merely for change’s sake, is undoubtedly one of the very
worst forms of fuss. Like every other pursuit and following,
horticulture no doubt has its battlefields, and those who go out upon
them must expect charge and countercharge, rapid assault and varying
vicissitude, like other heroes upon other battlefields. For me such
combats, I am free to confess, have not even a vicarious charm; Peace
being the only deity to whom I would willingly raise even the smallest
of garden altars. With other out-of-door conditions we all aver that it
is their stability, their adorable unchangeableness, which lends them in
our eyes their most persistent charm. Why then are we not to look for
the same charm in our gardens, which after all come nearest home? That
it is a charm easy of attainment I were loth to asseverate, but that
seems hardly a reason for not endeavouring to attain to it. It is in
this direction at all events that my own private plottings and plannings
propose to turn. If I must moil and delve; if I must plant, dig, and
contrive now, it is with the fixed and fond determination of before long
sitting resolutely down, and doing absolutely nothing!



OCTOBER 27, 1899


Who dare forecast even his nearest future?

These last four weeks have been so charged with anxiety--not only, or
even chiefly, war anxieties--that I have not made so much as a single
entry in this diary. In fact there has been nothing to record. The poor
little garden; its flowers; its weeds; the copse surrounding it; the
entire _mise-en-scène_, with all the quips and jests which in sunnier
hours it gives rise to, seems to have vanished bodily. It is as though
the whole thing, erstwhile not without its own little importance, had
dwindled to the size of one of those infinitesimal specks, which one
sometimes sees in feverish dreams; specks so dim and small, so well-nigh
invisible, that one wonders how in the first place one ever discovered
them, and why, having done so, one should take the trouble of trying to
keep them in sight. That being the case it is as well that I am leaving
home to-morrow for several weeks, and, since I shall be chiefly in
London, have a good excuse for leaving the garden diary, like the
garden itself, behind me. Possibly, by the time I return to them, the
old, now submerged, landmarks may have risen once more to the surface,
or I may have grown a little better used to this changed landscape;
seeing that we all have to get used to every variety of landscape; every
admixture of weather; every cruel, blinding storm; every rain-washed
shore, or bitter, wreck-strewn sea, which meets us in this very odd
journey that we call our lives.



CHRISTMAS-DAY, 1899


There was a slight sprinkling of snow this morning, yet the garden looks
exceedingly black. Save for a scarce discernible white line here and
there, everything in it seems stiff, and hard, and black as iron;
crumpled iron leaves against an iron floor. Black is the livery, not
alone of sorrow, but of dismay, so that the garden does very well just
now to wear it. There are moments in the individual life, moments, so it
appears, even in an entire nation’s life, when the ordinary scheme of
things seems to dissolve and change; when all the familiar landmarks for
the time being melt away, and disappear under our eyes.

Standing here, staring blankly out of the window, I feel myself for the
moment a sort of embodiment of all the other, vacant-eyed starers out of
windows, up and down over the face of the country this Christmas
morning. How many of them there must be! How many must be staring down
at the dull ground, and telling themselves they will never care to walk
in, or to look at their gardens again. It may not be an actual garden,
but at least it will be a figurative one; some special plot of
happiness; some quarter-acre of habitual enjoyment. I hope, indeed I
feel sure, that in the great majority of cases they will sooner or later
enjoy it again. Father Time is at bottom a kindly creature, kindlier
than when in trouble we are inclined to believe him to be. For the
moment however the idea seems unrealisable, and would scarcely be
welcome if it were realised.

For hardly-pressed humanity there is, I believe, only one really
satisfactory way of dealing with misfortune, which is--to refuse to
believe in it! That is, I find, the method that our excellent Cuttle in
the garden has adopted with regard to most of the recent events in South
Africa. Anything exceptionally disagreeable, especially anything that
has to do with the surrender of Englishmen, no matter under what
circumstances, he simply declines to believe in. It is not that he is
ignorant. He reads his paper diligently; he knows everything that is in
it, but he refuses to accept more of the contents than he considers
proper. When, a few weeks ago, the first of our Natal mishaps occurred,
and the number of English prisoners captured was posted up in the
village hall, Cuttle informed me the next morning that he had seen it,
but that there wasn’t a word of truth in it! I demurred, but he stuck to
his guns steadily. It was the same last Monday, when I saw him for the
first time after our two most recent misfortunes, that of the Modder and
the Tugela.

“This is bad news, Cuttle,” I said, as we met outside the greenhouse.

“Well ma’am, they do try to make it out to be baddish, but I wouldn’t
believe it, if I was you.”

“But it is in all the papers, Cuttle.”

“Very likely it is ma’am, but what of that? I don’t hold with none of
those papers. They must be a-stuffing themselves out with something.”

“But I’m afraid the generals admit it themselves.”

“Excuse me ma’am, but that’s just where you’re making a great mistake.
We don’t know nothing about what the generals admit. All we know is that
the papers _say_ they admit it, which is a very different story. Mark my
words, you’ll find that it’ll turn out to be some of their muddlings.
Just you mark my words for it, that’s how it is.”

I said meekly “I hope so, Cuttle,” and walked away, for really I had not
the heart to try and shake his incredulity. Not that I imagine I could
have done so had I tried. That good, homespun garment of British pride
in which he had wrapped himself was proof against any assaults that I
could have brought to bear upon it. I wish with all my heart that he
would lend us each a piece of it. We want it badly. Pray heaven and all
its saints that we may none of us ever need it much worse than we do
this Christmas-day, 1899!

       *       *       *       *       *

CHRISTMAS-DAY, 4 P.M.

Since luncheon I have been to see a neighbour, in the vague hope that
some fresh war news might have arrived this morning. There was none of
course, and I walked home again between banks of withered bracken and
trailing bramble, under the big tree-hollies, glistening all over their
surfaces with a thousand reminders of Christmas, and of its gifts.
England is so big, and old, and sensible that she does not generally
care about Christmas presents, but there is one present that, I take it,
she would dearly like to have to-day. Shiploads of holly, forests of
mistletoe are hers for the asking, but that one little leaf of victor’s
laurel that she wants so badly, that she would so gladly pin upon that
broad breast of hers, this, it seems, is denied her. It may come
to-morrow. It _must_, we all, not alone Cuttle, feel convinced, come
before long, but it will not come in time for her Christmas-box.

What an odd convention it is, when one thinks of it, that habit of
embodying a country in an individual! Considered seriously the whole
contention is absurd. To talk of a nation as a person is to talk sheer
nonsense. If one handles the idea a little it tumbles to pieces in one’s
fingers. The fiction of unity resolves itself into a mere vortex of
atoms, all moving in different ways, and moreover with a different
general drift in each successive generation. As a matter of fact I doubt
whether Englishmen, who are nothing if not practical, ever do think of
their own country as an individual, unless one of them happens to be
called upon to design a coin or a cartoon. The whole idea is extraneous,
a survival from classical days, and the lumbering absurdities which are
now and then dragged about the streets only go to prove how far from the
genius of the people such representations really are.

Perhaps it is because I am not English that I find myself falling so
readily into the trick. There was a time,--not a very recent one--when I
thought of England habitually in that light, and in the most truculent
fashion possible. In my eyes she stood visibly out as the Great Bully,
the Supreme Tyrant, red with the blood of Ireland and Irish heroes. It
was always _she_ and _her_ then; indeed it was only by keeping up the
fiction of an incarnate Saxondom that indignation could be retained at
the proper boiling point. To turn from the past to the present was to
spoil the whole effect. In place of War, Famine, Massacre, one only got
dull political controversies, or equally dull agrarian disturbances. For
the Raleighs, the Sydneys, the Straffords, the Cromwells,--vast
impressive figures, large and lurid--only a group of rather harassed
gentlemen, “well-meaning English officials,” painfully endeavouring to
steer their way so as to offend everyone as little as possible. Yes, I
had quite a respectable capacity for hatred in those days, and
England--that historic England of which I knew absolutely
nothing--enjoyed the greater part of it. Especially, I remember, that I
used to gloat over the notion of some day or other a great national
HUMILIATION befalling her--a Sedan, a Moscow--I hardly knew what;
retribution at all events in some very visible and dramatic form. With
what glee I used to picture her standing helplessly before the nations;
without a friend or an ally to turn to; naked and ashamed; crushed
bleeding to the earth, as she had so often crushed Ireland; a mark for
every wagging head----

Well, well, thus we play the fool, and the spirits of the wise sit in
the clouds and mock us! Here am I walking home along an English lane,
and almost wringing my hands in despair because such a very mild and
colourless version of those old cherished dreams has befallen mine
ancient enemy!

       *       *       *       *       *

CHRISTMAS-DAY, 6 P.M.

I forgot to record quite an unlooked-for little pleasure which befell me
on my way home this afternoon; one of those little incidents which are
nothing in themselves, yet which mean much to us, and never more so than
when life is going ill.

I had got as far as the grassy entrance to our copse when a sudden
dazzling gleam of sunlight shot across it, sweeping over the fields
beyond, and away up to the top of the downs. Though the day had been
fairly fine for the time of year, the expectation of so dramatic a
finale to it had never for a moment crossed my mind, and I stood gazing
about me almost as if something had happened; feeling in fact as if
something desirable and unlooked for _had_ happened.

The yellow oak scrub--withered but not leafless--glowed with a sudden
russet splendour. Upon the little garden wall the terra-cotta pots shone
with a momentary reminiscence of that Italy where they were born and
baked. The air seemed to tingle; the tall birches glistened, one sheen
of feathery silver up to their tiniest towering twigs. It was a kindly
thought of whichever divinity sent that most unexpected and satisfactory
beam to cheer this particular day. It did not last long of course, and
the gloom of a winter’s night has followed quickly. For all that
Christmas 1899 will never seem quite so dark, never so absolutely
despairing in the retrospect, as it would have done without that last
benevolent gleam at eventide.



JANUARY 3, 1900


The satisfactions of intercourse are apt to be overrated, yet there are
times when they are certainly not without their uses. Living for the
moment alone--if anyone can be said to be alone who possesses a few good
neighbours, and one kind dog--I find myself in an oddly dualistic
condition of mind. In bodily presence I am here at H----, engaged in
sundry important avocations. I am path making; copse cutting; plant
protecting; I am even bricks-and-mortar superintending in a small way.
To my own private consciousness I am really engaged in quite another set
of preoccupations, and a very long way from these green downs, and
rustling oak copses of ours. The experience does not pretend to be
particularly original, seeing that a large number of other people’s
experience would probably just now bear it out. Solitude however
emphasises these sort of odd dualities, and endows them with an air of
greater distinction. Are mortals better and wiser, or worse and more
foolish when they are alone?

The wisdom of the ages has hitherto declined to answer that question, a
fact which probably proves its wisdom. Better or not, one thing is at
least certain, and that is that they are extremely different. “Men
descend to meet,” says Emerson, and he may be right. I am inclined
myself however to think that that profundity, that peculiar mental
greatness of which, like others, I am perfectly conscious when I am
alone, is less a solid than a gaseous greatness; a sort of exaltation,
dependent for the most part upon the fact of there being no one to
contradict me. We are all of us at all times microcosms, but never are
we so completely microcosms as when we are quite by ourselves. Then we
seem to swell into a perfectly multitudinous host, all the members of
which exhibit a singular unanimity, and moreover a touching desire to
endorse our own views, however often these may contradict one another!

Like many other honest-minded civilians, my thoughts have of late been
considerably taken up with schemes of amateur strategy. The plans of
campaign that I have formulated in the course of the last two months
would have puzzled Von Moltke, and might even have gone far to surprise
Napoleon! If I have not forwarded any of them to our Generals in South
Africa it has been mainly because I felt that it might be kinder to
allow them to go on in their own way without any assistance of mine. I
heard lately of someone, by the way, who actually had telegraphed out
her recommendations to Sir Redvers Buller. As the story reached me the
telegram took this form: “Please try to relieve Ladysmith.” I hope for
the credit of human nature that the tale is true, but if so there is a
simple innocence about this form of admonition of which I fear that I
should have been personally quite incapable. My own ideas, my own forms
of suggestion, are entirely different. They are large, nay grandiose,
and moreover they are extremely intricate. As I walk about over these
lanes and downs I see strategical possibilities in all directions, which
cause me to thrill over the magnitude of my own conceptions.

Towards evening, especially, the sense of what might be,--of what, for
aught anyone can say to the contrary, still may be,--rises almost
palpably; a beckoning ghostly phantom of the Great Coming Invasion.
Dorking--that scene of crushing British disaster--is not far off; were I
to clamber up the opposite ridge I should be looking down on it.
Moreover, between one landscape and another the difference becomes much
less when all detail is reduced to one vast blur. I have a friendly
knoll upon which I sometimes take my stand towards sunset hour, and from
which I have of late conjured up Biggars-bergs, inaccessible and
kopje-covered as heart could desire. It is true that the enemy holding
them is absolutely invisible, but then so he probably would be in any
case. Evening has moreover in my experience an odd power of loosening
the tie of the actual. The mind seems to be less fixed to its shell than
in the earlier, and more garish hours of the day. As the shadows
lengthen stronger and stronger becomes the impression that the world is
after all but a small place, and that the scenes that one is thinking of
are nearly, if not quite, as close as those that one is actually looking
at. Thought flits over the wave-crests between this and South Africa
more lightly than one of Mother Carey’s chickens, and alights dry-shod
upon the veldt. One is amongst them. One is standing in the midst of
them. One can see, literally all but see, that tattered, sunburnt,
rather dilapidated-looking host--friends, cousins, kinsfolk; countrymen
and fellow-subjects at all events. How odd you all look, dear friends,
and yet how familiar! Big English frames, shrewd Scotch faces, tender,
devil-may-care Irish hearts. Surely one knows you? Surely you are very
near to us, disguise yourselves as you may? The setting may be new, the
remoteness considerable, but neither setting nor remoteness can hinder
one from feeling at home in the midst of you!



JANUARY 6, 1900


“Bullets--The air was a sieve of them.--They beat upon the boulders like
a million hammers. They tore the turf like a harrow!”

These three lines came out of a recent number of the _Daily Mail_, and
they describe Elandslaagte. Is it, I wonder, because Literature is so
much more familiar to me than War that I seem to require the aid of the
one in order to bring home to me the reality of the other? These three
lines are certainly literature, literature of the impressionist kind,
which, if not the best in the abstract, is at any rate the best for such
a purpose. Trying to put oneself into the position of such a bystander
as the writer of them, I am able to fancy that if the bullets came thick
enough they really _might_ seem to tear the turf like a harrow. In what
way exactly the air could be said to be a sieve of them, I am not clear,
yet the phrase seems to live, and therefore to carry its own
justification. As it happens I was out yesterday in a rather
exceptionally imposing hail-storm. It was so dry that there was no
occasion to hurry, and I stood still for a while to study effects. The
stones, as they pattered and rattled round me, might--danger apart--have
quite served as a suggestion of the other sort of rattling and
pattering. Looking at them dispassionately I inquired of myself, “Would
one run?” and Truth--there being no one else present--promptly replied,
“Madly!” So, save for the grace of acquired training, I take it would
nearly everybody. My hail bullets seemed to be in a prodigious hurry,
and were being prodigally, if not very scientifically, directed by
marksmen concealed somewhere above Leith hill. They hissed, they danced,
they ricochetted off the trees, they bespattered the ground in all
directions in a very businesslike and realistic fashion. There was a
good deal of snow still lying unmelted in corners, and into that snow
the new-comers as they fell cut deep little pits, and disappeared from
sight in an instant. Elsewhere they drove in white flocks over the
ground, hardly melting at all. They were not quite so large as carrots,
as someone assured me that he had once seen hailstones, but they were
certainly as large as fair-sized gooseberries. Through such a furious
hail--only appropriately black--the famous Bagarrah cavalry rode to
their deaths last September year. Through such a hail, as thick, as
fierce, as brutally indifferent, who that one knows, that one cares for,
may not be riding or walking to-day?



JANUARY 8, 1900


We have been enveloped all this morning in a cloud of smoke, not exactly
battlesmoke, but nearly as thick, perhaps, in these days of smokeless
powder, rather thicker. Our indefatigable Cuttle has decreed that we
must at all costs get rid of those mountains of garden rubbish, which
seem to be for ever accumulating. Hence this smoke! Never in my life did
I see such volumes! They rolled in blackish blue columns all about our
leafless copse, till towards the afternoon, a wind getting up, they were
swept finally westward, across the downs, somewhere in the direction of
Guildford.

Personally I like the smell, acrid though it undoubtedly is. The pile
itself is moreover the nearest approach one ever gets in these
degenerate days to a bonfire, for which I still retain the most
infantile affection, and which never seems to be so familiar, or so
endearing, as upon the afternoon of a winter’s day. Who can explain
those incredibly remote, yet at the same time perfectly definite
feelings of association, of which we are all at times more or less
aware? Why should certain perfectly commonplace things awaken dreams,
reminiscences, suggestions; whereas others, every bit equally qualified
to do so, find us blank, and indifferent? Of all such aids to impersonal
memory, commend me to an out-of-door fire! The wild, keen smell of it.
The red eye of flame, blinking at one out of the heap. The sleepy rolls
of smoke, tumbling about, and making one’s eyes water. The sudden
“crick, crick, crackle” of a snapping twig, travelling sharply through
the frosty air. All these separately, or the whole combined, bring with
them trains of association that have been accumulating very much longer,
or I am much mistaken, than the course of any one single lifetime.
Reminiscences, who can tell, of that remote day when the human hearth
was for the most part not an indoor, but an out-of-door one?

A friend and neighbour of ours has recently improved upon such casual
burnings by having what may be called a permanent bonfire in her
grounds, and I wonder more people who love their gardens, and spend
whole winters in the country, do not adopt the plan. In one respect it
is certainly an inferior bonfire, for its main constituents are, not
leaves and sticks, but anthracite coal. To make amends, it burns merrily
away night and day, only needing to be replenished, I am assured, once
in twenty-four hours. Her garden lies in the heart of a big pinewood,
and the fire has its home in an open lodge or gazebo, supported by larch
poles, without door or window, but made possible to sit in in cold
weather, by being match-boarded upon two sides, the south and south-east
sides alone being widely open. Until one has actually tried, it is
difficult to believe how comfortable one can be in such a spot even on a
very frosty evening, both feet extended to the blaze, and a rug tucked
round one to keep off stray draughts. As daylight wanes the red glow
increases, lighting up the big pine trunks, and awakening in one’s mind
vagrant suggestions of camp fires, and forest settlements, while at
other times it has the practical advantage of making many garden
operations possible which, without such a speedy refuge to fly to, would
in this chill-evoking climate of ours scarce be practicable.

It is odd what minute deviations from the everyday stir the mind, and
help it to shake off that crust of routine, which it ought to be the aim
of all of us to get rid of. In these days too, one is thankful to
anything that gives a stir to existence, apart from the weary
newspapers. It is, I think, one of the few merits of winter that spots,
at other times tame to flatness, seem in fierce, or exceptionally cold
weather to revert to an older, and a wilder condition. Snow admittedly
recreates everything; our most familiar paths and shrubberies, nay our
very stable runnels, growing quite arctic and hyperborean-looking under
its disguise. Apart from snow, the same impression is produced by any
really strong atmospheric variation. Crackling grass, and glittering
ice-bound trees, awaken one set of suggestions. Roaring winds, a
drenched earth, and inky clouds tumbling wildly over the sky, arouse
quite others. Even objects inside the garden, plants that have been
perhaps put there by one’s own hands; clumps say, of bamboos and reedy
grasses--Arundo donax or the like--assume suddenly new, and slightly
savage aspects when one sees them sweeping to and fro, or buckling like
so many fishing rods under the lash of a sudden tempest. The commonplace
is not really unescapable, though it often seems as though it were.
There are wider, freer notes, which only need awakening to stir, and
thrill us with their presence. The imagination leaps to meet them, and
feels them to be its right. For we are all heirs to a large inheritance,
though we are apt, as a rule, to be forgetful of the fact.



JANUARY 10, 1900


Two kindly days in a desperately grim winter have had the effect of
reawakening in one’s mind half-forgotten thrillings; thrillings after
long grass, and green shadows; after a thousand eye-caressing tints;
after the pure, delicious life and companionship of flowers. There are
times when all this seems rather to pain than to please. When the
persistency of such perishable things appears but an added wrong, but an
additional unkindness. Why should these last, and other, and higher
ones, _not_ last? we demand; one of those questions which, seeing that
they can never be answered, it were as well, perhaps, that they should
remain permanently unasked.

Walking briskly along the lanes this morning, with a determination to
think only of what lay immediately below my eyes, I have been struck
afresh, as often before, by the capabilities of beauty possessed even by
the poorest plots of ground; plots which, far from having been
intentionally beautified, have been stripped, on the contrary, for
utilitarian reasons of such beauty as Nature had originally endowed them
with. Yet, under the influence of a little kindly sunshine, how they
still gleam, those poor plots; how the few green things left in them
manage to prink themselves out, and to respond genially to that genial
greeting! “And is it not slightly discreditable,” I reflected, “that we,
who call ourselves gardeners, and have deliberately taken in hand
similar, often much better plots, specially with an eye to beautifying
them, should again and again completely fail in doing so; should again
and again spend thought, time, money, and the sweat of the brow--chiefly
of other people’s brows--and all that they should, as often as not, be
rather worse at the end than at the beginning?”

The truth is that this business of “beautifying,” into which many of us
have recklessly plunged, is a very much more difficult and a very much
more delicate operation than we are prepared to admit. To the truly
discerning, the truly nature-loving eye, the smallest scrap of
plant-producing ground, the homeliest corner of earth--“long heath,
brown furze, anything"--has potentialities of beauty and interest which
even the best gardener rarely develops as they might, and ought to be
developed. It is not merely that individually our powers are weak, our
taste poor, our ignorance great, our imagination defective, but that
over and above all this we have in most cases not the faintest idea of
what we are aiming at. With no clear vision of what we propose
ultimately to produce, how in the name of reason can we hope to produce
it, or anything else worth having?

The cause of the mischance in nine cases out of ten lies in the fact
that we attempt too much. Our original combination may have been good,
but we want to make it still better. Our gold gets overgilt; our lilies
are painted till they almost cease to be lilies at all, and the result
is failure all along the line. This sounds the reverse of encouraging,
but I am not sure but what it is in some respects better that it should
be so. I suspect that all gardeners--professionals and amateurs, experts
and gropers,--are just now rather in a state of flux and indecision. Two
chief schools hold the field, and are in some respects mutually
destructive of one another. There is the school which avows itself the
faithful, not to say the servile, follower and imitator of Nature, and
there is the school that proposes to itself to improve upon her. The
tendency of the first is to develop a good deal of picturesque disorder,
a pleasant, rather easy-going sense of repose, and possibly some want of
definite form and colour. The tendency of the second, or rather of its
members, is to regard the garden as a battle-ground; colour, size,
brilliancy, height, as so many tests of their own personal victory, and
every plant, species and hybrid alike, as objects for them to shape and
manipulate at their own good pleasure.

Will these two divergent schools ultimately combine into one harmonious
whole? Will the over-strenuous science of the second strengthen and
reform the airy, somewhat weed-encouraging grace of the first? Will the
aspiration after beauty of the one, in time relax the utilitarian
tension of the other? These are questions which must be left to be
resolved in the still unplumbed future. Possibly the gardener of the
twenty-first or twenty-second century may be able to reply to them!

Pending that desirable, but still rather remote, contingency, I have
left the lanes, and returned homeward, and am now looking down at our
own somewhat chaotic little garden, with its small brown beds, each
edged with a neat white frost-frill. Poor little garden! I have felt so
oblivious of it of late that a certain compunction comes over me as I
look at it. After all, gratitude for such good things as have come in
one’s way is an undoubted part of decent living, and the most practical
way of showing that gratitude is to make the best of them. Well, the
year is still young; there will be time enough for fulfilling that, and
every other small social obligation in the course of it. Eleven and a
half months! What unknown things have you got hidden away? What secrets,
as yet unguessed at by any of us, do you keep concealed behind those
picturesque, and friendly-sounding names of yours?



JANUARY 20, 1900


The wind this morning was excruciatingly cold, with a hungry whistle,
that belied the pale sunrays, which were doing their best to redeem the
situation. On such a morning the good gardener’s thoughts, even before
going out, fly to the younger and weaklier amongst his plants, and his
imagination towards devising new shelters, and, if possible, more
efficient ones. Creepers are, as a rule, easily protected; either there
is a wall, against which mats can be laid, or, at worst, some post that
they can be fastened to. It is shrubs in the open that present the
greatest difficulty; nightcaps of sacking, or tents of matting not
adding to the picturesqueness even of a winter garden.

Our more recently planted rhododendrons look anything but happy, and I
have just been begging Cuttle to bestow a good shovelful of nourishment
about the roots of each of them. It is not protection that they need,
for they are hardy enough, but they sicken in this thin, dry soil,
which seems to reach them through their two-foot blanket of peat.

Even when well grown and long established, rhododendrons hardly seem to
me to be quite the ideal thing for these rustling oak copses of ours. We
plant them, partly for the sake of their colour in its season, partly
because we need evergreens, and the common ponticum is one of the best
of evergreens, but they seem to me to remain exotics, and not altogether
happy ones. There are two distinct varieties of scenery with both of
which rhododendrons consort magnificently. One is heavy, boggy ground,
deep, dark, and oozy, under large trees, into the recesses of which they
can settle, spreading out in all directions, re-rooting themselves as
they choose in the black earth; their flowers catching the divided
sunrays, and turning every hollow place into a pool of colour. Another,
and a yet more ideal place is a steep hillside, provided that it is
furnished with boulders, and provided that the said boulders are not of
limestone. There is one such hillside above the Bay of Dublin which I
find it difficult to believe might not be able to hold its own, even
though confronted with any similar extent of ground amongst the
Himalayas themselves. It begins as a ravine, rising out of a rather thin
wood. As one mounts the ravine opens, and the trees fall back. The
boulders, with which the slopes are covered, rise higher and higher, and
larger and larger, till they tower into the air over one’s head, perfect
monoliths. In and out, above, behind, and between them grow the
rhododendrons, in their flowering season an absolute feast of colour,
the sort of thing that in a cultivated age pilgrimages will be formed to
venerate. To see them in such a place is to get a new impression of the
possibilities of heroic gardening. One’s eyes are caught, one’s whole
mind and spirit is swept away upon a tide of colour; the grey micaceous
granite of the ravine, the heather looking down over its top, the long
blue river of sky, even the sea and its ships, seeming to be merely so
many adjuncts and accessories of the central picture.

Such conditions are not to be found every day in the week, or in
everybody’s back garden. We have to work out our own redemption, each of
us as we best can, with such materials as the Fates have lent us.
Happily, as regards natural conditions, here in West Surrey, the
garden-lover, whatever other difficulties he may have to contend with,
has much to be grateful for. Thanks to its blessed unproductiveness, the
harrow has literally in many cases never passed over its soil; its very
weeds being mostly those of Nature’s own introduction, not imported
ones. Her handiwork is still plainly visible on every side. She looks
up at him out of the bracken with an aspect not very different from what
she wore at the Prime, and if he wishes to spoil her--well, he has to do
it for himself! This to many excellent gardeners would seem a poor
compensation for a sadly unproductive soil, and a deplorable lack of
summer moisture. There are others, however, to whom a certain sense of
indwelling peace, a certain feeling of underlying harmony, are the first
of all requirements. Now both of these are more easily _found_ than
made.



FEBRUARY 5, 1900


Not to devote an indefinite number of hours to the reading of war news;
to eschew the luxury of idle hands, less on account of Dr. Watts’
reasons against it, as on account of more personal ones, which have
taught me to reprobate the practice. Here are a couple of respectable
resolutions for a bitterly cold February morning. “Books, and work, and
healthful play”! Could a more commendable little programme be invented?
or one that might be followed with greater advantage by many of us who
only exhibit our superiority by laughing at it?

Into which of the two latter categories gardening is to be ranged I am
not quite clear; it depends, I should say, upon the number of
rose-campions, “Snaking Tommys” and the like, that are to be found in
the garden in question. Winter is supposed to be a time of year which
gives comparatively little scope to the energies of the amateur
gardener. If so, then in this respect, if in no other, I am in luck’s
way this winter, for there is abundance to be done here; work moreover
which must either be attended to now, or else not done at all. With such
weather as we have of late had there is no margin either for dawdling.
To-day seems to be an off day with the frost fiend’s gang, and we must
try, therefore, to push our own work forward before they are back upon
us in renewed strength. By the look of the sky, and the general feeling
of things, it is evident that they are only just round the corner, and
collecting themselves for a fresh assault. As I crossed the open end of
the “glade” just now the wind met me with an edge, cruel and cutting as
spite, or hatred. A few aconites and snowdrops are pushing out their
flower-tips, but it is a mere bit of gallant bravado upon their part. By
night the stars, seen through any uncurtained window, seem to wink at
one derisively, and winter is still at the very top of its strength.



FEBRUARY 7, 1900


“At the very top of its strength!” Cold as it has been of late, I hardly
expected to find no garden left when I got up to-day! So it is however.
Late last night everything seemed normal. This morning our little Dutch
garden has vanished utterly; swept out of existence as though it had
never existed. From centre to margin--beds, borders, walks, red walls,
everything--the entire little depression has been covered with a uniform
white blanket, effacing it completely, and restoring the landscape to
what it was before man, woman, or measuring tapes arrived to trouble it.
For the plants this new state of things is an improvement, but how about
our work? Behold us suddenly reduced to a state of deadlock; all our
various little activities brought to an absolute standstill. The paths
that were being cut through the copse; the ground that was being got
ready for grass-sowing; the flower-beds that had to be clipped into the
right shape; the heather that was being brought from a distant common,
where it could be cut discreetly; the entire bustle of the garden has
been brought to a condition of arrest. Into the middle of our fussy
little rhythm Nature has dropped her own imperious full-stop. Against
that full-stop there is no appeal. In vain one protests that one is
really in a great hurry; that unless these flower-beds are made, unless
yonder piece of ground is got ready for grass-sowing, March will be upon
us, and close at its heels, April; that the spring is coming on, and
that we _must_ get our work done. To this remonstrance Nature merely
opens her eyes with a mildly sarcastic air, and replies, “Must you?” It
is the case of the old woman of the nursery tale over again, who _had_
to get her pig over the stile in order to give her old man his supper.
In that case she did, after many repulses, find a complacent beast, I
think, who undertook the task. The right spring was touched; the spell
broken, and the whole state of deadlock dissolved at once. How we are to
obtain so desirable a dissolution I have yet to learn. I see no spring
to touch; no bird, beast, or element that could be appealed to with the
slightest hope of success. The sky, iron-grey, with vicious, inky
streaks across it, does not seem promising; neither does the wind, which
keeps to its beloved north-east. The earth is invisible, consequently is
for the moment out of reckoning; while as for the birds and beasts,
they are much more disposed to turn to us for help, than to make any
friendly propositions the other way.

It may be mere vanity upon my part, but it always seems to me that small
birds recognise their heavy, wingless, two-legged kinsfolk with less
difficulty during this sort of weather than at any other time of the
year. The fact that one bribes them to such recognition by vulgar doles
of breadcrumbs may have something to say to the matter, but I fancy that
I read a distinctly kindlier expression in their eyes. They glance at us
with an air of comparative condescension. They perceive that we share
their own helplessness; that we are not so very different from
themselves, only bigger and stupider. For instance, I have been publicly
snubbed this whole winter by the tomtits. Under the eye and to the
knowledge of the entire garden I set up a large post, hung over with
cocoa-nuts for their convenience. Some of these cocoa-nuts were sawn
into slices, others, more artfully, into rings, and I pleased myself by
believing that they would sit and swing in them, as they pecked an
unfamiliar, but not unpalatable meal. Will it be believed that not one
tomtit has deigned to touch those cocoa-nuts? They have hopped to and
fro on the boughs almost within peck of them, yet never so much as tried
to ascertain whether they were eatable or not. They preferred, in fact,
not to do so; in _their_ family, they practically sent me word, they
never ate victuals that had not been selected by themselves; other
people might do so, and they had heard that sparrows were less
particular, but it had never been _their_ custom. I felt--as anyone
would feel under the circumstances! To-day for the first time, thanks to
the friendly connivance of the snow, this fastidiousness has broken
down. With elation I perceive my disdainful blue neighbours, not only
pecking at, but actually sitting and swinging in the long-despised brown
rings. I am trying to bear my triumph meekly, and am helped towards
doing so by reminding myself of the well-known fact that in times of
stress and famine social distinctions are apt to break down. I shall
have to wait till the weather relaxes to see whether this amiability is
anything more than a truce, born of the hour of trouble, and not
intended to last beyond it.

We are apt to talk as if the hyperborean conditions were no concern of
ours, yet, as Alphonse Karr long ago remarked, we have only to sit still
to find that these, and most other extremes of climate have come round
to us. It was the tropical or sub-tropical regions of the globe that not
long ago were good enough to send us specimens of their weather, as
enterprising trades-people enclose samples of their goods in envelopes.

There were many days last summer--to be accurate, I believe, there were
forty-three--when it was by no means necessary to go to the Sahara in
order to ascertain what a condition of almost unendurable drought could
be like. For the present I feel that these two samples will suffice me.
I cannot, unfortunately, return them, since I do not know their sender’s
address, but I feel under no obligation to charter either camels or
whale-boats, in order to go and make their acquaintance upon a larger
scale.

As for the mere ferocity and killing powers of Nature we are not without
a taste of her capacity even in that respect. Apart from the wild
creatures, which have to look out for themselves, she exacts in weather
like this a pretty stiff list of victims from the old, the weakly, and
the very young. My energetic chow Mongo insisted upon my taking him for
a late run through the snow this afternoon, and, as we stood for a
moment near the stile, there came up a melancholy little chorus of
bleatings from some sheepfold in the valley below us. I peered over into
the white darkness, but could see nothing; Mongo licked his lips, and I
earnestly trust that he was not thinking of mutton. It may be mere
weakness on my part, but I have always felt glad that in my various
communings with the good green earth I have stopped short at the garden,
the wood, the bog, the hillside, and have never once stepped into the
paddock or the farmyard. In reading lately Mr. Rider Haggard’s _Farmer’s
Year_, I found my pleasure a good deal interfered with by the eternal
and the detestable apparition of the butcher! Whenever the small lambs,
that frisked so delicately, were beginning to grow plump; whenever
certain Irish bullocks, whose vicissitudes one followed, were pronounced
to be not improving as they ought; even when the old milch cow, who had
given so much good milk, and had brought so many calves into the world,
began to flag--always there was that abominable apparition in a smeared
apron waiting for them close at hand, or peering in sinister fashion
from round a corner. No, whatever other functionary I might be willing
to share my pursuits with, assuredly I could never consent to share them
with Mr. Bones! The objection may be merely sentimental, but so are most
of our likings and dislikings merely sentimental. As for these green
clients of ours, it is true that they do die pretty frequently upon our
hands, and the fact is, no doubt, very distressing, the more so as in
nine cases out of ten we are aware that it is entirely our own fault. In
their case there are at least no heartrending cries or groans, heard or
unheard. They go to their own place in peace, wafted as it were by slow
music towards the gentlest of dissolutions. While as for ourselves, if
we are their murderers, well, we manage to hold up our heads, and take
particular care never to allude to the subject. On the contrary, we put
on an air of extra cheerfulness, and make haste to plant something
else!



FEBRUARY 10, 1900


That resolution about the war and its newspapers I still feel to have
been the right one. Unfortunately, like many excellent resolutions, it
has only one drawback, which is that it is impossible to keep to it! The
situation has grown too strained; it clutches at one like a demon; it
rides one all day like some waking nightmare. In vain I assure myself
that the proper attitude for all non-combatants is one of absolute
patience. That it becomes us just now to study patience, as we might
study one of the fine arts; to learn, that is to say, either to go about
our own concerns, or else to wait till we are told--as we might be at
the end of an operation--“All over!” “All well!” This, I have no doubt,
is the proper and patriotic attitude, only how is it to be attained? or
who is sufficient for such placidity? It is not so many days since I
opened my paper at eight o’clock in the morning, and the message
heliographed by Sir George White to Sir Redvers Buller sprang to meet
my eye. “Very hard pressed” and immediately below it the comment--“Here
the light failed”!

“Here the light failed!” That seems indeed to be the summary of the
whole situation. One question at least we are all forced to ask, if not
with our lips, at least inwardly. What of Ladysmith? Will it; can it now
be reached? and if not what is the alternative? Such thoughts are
gadflies, and would drive the tamest mad. Restlessness gets possession
of one. The thirst for news, more news, ever more, and more, becomes a
possession; one that is no sooner slaked than it revives afresh. My
particular garden boy has been turned into a mere newspaper boy, and
spends his whole days running downhill to the station, on the bare
chance of another paper having come in, or of someone having seen
someone, who may possibly know something.

Has it often happened I wonder in the history of a country that this
sort of external and public news--the news of the street and of the
newspaper--becomes to each individual his own absolutely private news;
news that for the moment seems to supersede even the acutest personal
grief; news that makes the tears start, the pulses throb, the heart, at
apprehension of what may be going to happen, literally stand still from
fear? The thought of Ladysmith, it is no exaggeration to say, amounts
to an agony. One feels it in one’s very bones. Fear of what its fate may
be is the last thought at night, and one awakens to remember it with a
sensation of despair which would be ridiculous were it not so real.

For the odd part of it is that not a single creature near and dear to me
is shut up within those walls. My interest in it is therefore a purely
external one, the interest of a citizen, nothing more. If we--myself,
and others in the like case--feel it thus acutely, how must the
situation stand to-day, to-morrow, all these pitiless, interminable
days, to some?



FEBRUARY 12, 1900


I had occasion to go to Guildford yesterday despite the weather, and met
in the train our eminent horticultural acquaintance, Mr. R. P. We have
always a good deal to say to one another on the subject of our
respective gardens, although his is a long-established and renowned one,
ours such a callow young thing that it is hardly fit as yet to be called
a garden at all. On this occasion, seeing that he was coming from
London, my first remark was not a horticultural one.

“Is there anything fresh?” I asked. “News seems so often to come in just
after the morning papers are out.”

“Fresh? Oh, you mean about the war? No, I think not. Everybody seems to
be pretty sick over the whole business. I saw Sir F. J. the day before
yesterday, and he was very much in the dumps about it. He says the
Tommies out there don’t like it one bit. That they have got their tails
regularly between their legs, and I’m sure _I_ don’t wonder.”

“How dare he!--I mean I don’t believe a word of that!” I exclaimed.
“Anything else I am willing to believe, but not that. We have got our
tails between our legs here at home if you like; I am quite ready to
admit that. But they! Never!”

“Well, I don’t know. I only tell you what I hear. They have had a
baddish time, you must remember. Stormberg and all that!--quite enough
to give anyone the jumps, _I_ should say. Of course it has been kept out
of the papers. In the papers the Tommies always figure as heroes. Is
Anemone Blanda in flower with you yet?"--this with a sudden rise of
animation.

“Anemone Blanda?” I repeated, feeling slightly confused by the rapidity
of the transition. “Yes. At least no. I think not--I haven’t looked
lately.”

“It is with me! Sixteen tufts in full flower--beauties! I shelter them a
bit of course, but only to save them from getting knocked about. You
never saw such a colour as they are! Yours were the pale blue ones,
weren’t they? I know there’s a lot of that sort in the trade that are
sold as Anemone Blanda, but they’re not the right Blanda at all. Mine
are as blue as, oh, as blue as--blue paint.”

“We have numbers of bulbs at present in flower,” I said severely.
“Scillas and chinodoxas, and daffodils, and tulips, and Iris Alata, and
many others.”

“Ah, potted bulbs. They’re poor sort of things generally, don’t you
think? Some people, I believe, like them though.”

“We have Cyclamen Coum in flower out of doors,” I added; garden vanity,
or more probably deflected ill-humour, arousing in me a sudden spirit of
violent horticultural rivalry.

“Oh, you have, have you?"--this in a tone of somewhat enhanced respect.
“Don’t you shelter it at all?”

“Not in the least!” I replied contemptuously. “We grow it out in the
copse; on the stones; in all directions. It is a perfect weed with us.
No weather seems to make the slightest difference.”

I am really surprised that I did not assert that we had Orchids and
Bougainvillæas growing out of doors in the snow! It is probable that I
should have done so in another five minutes, for irritation sometimes
takes the oddest forms. Luckily for my veracity our roads just then
diverged; my horticultural acquaintance getting out at the next station,
and I continuing on my way to Guildford.

I don’t think I have ever in my life felt more ruffled, more thoroughly
exasperated than I was by that most uncalled-for remark about the
Tommies. Had they been all individually my sons or my nephews I doubt
if I could have felt more insulted! I adore my garden, and yield to no
one in my estimation of its supreme importance as a topic; still there
are moments when even horticulture must learn to bow its head; when the
reputation of one’s Flag rises to a higher place in one’s estimation
than even the reputation of one’s flower-beds. “Anemone Blanda!” I
repeated several times to myself in the course of the afternoon, and
each time with a stronger feeling of exasperation. “_Anemone Blanda_,
indeed!”



FEBRUARY 13, 1900


If what lies beyond the next few weeks could be suddenly laid open to
us, what should we see? It is, I am aware, rank cowardice upon my part,
but if by merely ruffling over the blank pages of this diary which I
hold in my hand I could in an instant find out, I know that I should
refuse to do so. The same feeling has beset me before now, but hitherto
always with regard to personal matters; never, so far as I can remember,
with regard to public ones. Three weeks! It is not a very long time.
Only a few more crocuses and scillas will be out in our little Dutch
garden; only a few more oaks and chestnuts cut in the copse, yet within
that time the fate of Ladysmith must be decided. Should help fail to
reach it--and it may well prove impossible--what shall we see? what will
the world see? what will our various enemies see? Only two alternatives
appear to be open: an unbelievable surrender, and an only too easily
believable slaughter. That last of course is the central thought, the
unendurable one; the vision that hangs before one’s eyes day and night.
Death upon those iron hills; death without the possibility of
accomplishing anything; death under the most unendurable of conditions;
shot helplessly, like the furred or the feathered beasts of a _battue_.
I write it down deliberately, in the hope of thereby getting rid of it,
for it haunts one unendurably. With that perversity, which makes us all
at times our own most ingenious torturer, my mind revolves continually
around the disaster before it comes, and fills up every detail with the
most diabolical distinctness. “Fall of Ladysmith! Fall of Ladysmith!
Destruction of the garrison!” It seems to reverberate along the roads;
it presents itself upon every village hoarding, as a friend of mine saw
it several times this winter upon those of the Paris boulevards. Before
I open my paper in the morning it seems to be hidden under the folds,
ready like an asp to spring out and poison me. At night I fall asleep to
the thought of it, and in my dreams it performs wild and Weirtz-like
antics, projecting itself in and out of them with all that monstrous
reduplication which the besetting idea has a way of achieving for
itself, when the brain that originated it is nominally asleep, and at
peace.



LONDON, FEBRUARY 16, 1900


God be thanked! God be thanked! one of them, at least, is safe.
Kimberley has been relieved, and the others, assuredly the others will
follow? This leap from a midnight of gloom to a midday of joy has been
almost too great; life, even for the most placid, has become too
breathless, too crowded; let me pause a moment and recapitulate. I came
to London upon Saint Valentine’s day, the 14th; S. S. being on her way
south; circumstances delayed her a day, and in that day all this
happened. We had gone to see a friend; she left me to take a turn in the
Park; in a few minutes she returned breathlessly; she had met a
park-keeper and he had told her the news. Five minutes more we were both
in the park; had caught the same inspired park-keeper, and had fallen
upon him simultaneously.

“Is it true? How do you know? Who told you?”

“Quite true ma’am. Quite true ladies. You’ll find it written up at the
War Office.”

“But how? Where did they get in from? The enemy were right across;
so----”

“Well ladies, as I understand it were like this. General French was sent
north, and he fetched a big circuit as it were so. And----”

With our umbrellas we drew a hasty but effectual scheme of attack upon
the park gravel, then hurried away from our gold-braided informant in
the direction of Pall Mall.

Oddly enough St. James’s Palace did not appear to be in the least
irradiated by the intelligence! its grim old face remained as
unresponsive, and as dirty as usual. Everything else however had caught
the glamour. It shone upon the cabs, or at any rate upon their cabbies;
it lit up the sea of mud; it seemed to float along the pavements scoured
by a recent shower. Men were coming out of the clubs in groups, talking
loudly; everyone talked loudly; not an acquaintance was in sight, yet
they seemed to be all acquaintances; more than acquaintances, friends,
dear friends; we looked benignantly at them, and they looked benignantly
back at us. In London; in St. James’ Street! Tall or short, stiff or
pompous, young or old, it was all one; they were brothers; brothers in a
common joy, brothers in a common relief from an all but maddening dread.
To smile for no reason in some perfectly decorous stranger’s face
seemed to be the most usual, the most natural behaviour. Safe! Safe! It
was a chime, one which needed no joy bells to make it sound louder.
Surely for us at least it was worth the strain, worth the long suspense,
the almost hopeless anxiety for this? And Ladysmith? and Mafeking? The
turn has come; the tide has changed! We shall shortly hear the same news
of them. We shall be rejoicing over both of them to-morrow!



SURREY, FEBRUARY 26, 1900


There is a little tapestry fire-screen in my sitting-room here, which
has been disturbing me quite seriously all this winter. It represents a
group of Boers--when the tapestry was made I take it the word was spelt
_boors_--of various ages and sexes, but all equally convulsed with
laughter. The central figure is a big, square-jawed, good-natured
looking fellow, who holds aloft in his hands a tiny, red-coated toy
manikin, which he is causing to perform ridiculous antics for the
amusement of a solid infant of two or three years old, who is trying to
reach it. At a table close by an old man sits eating, in a suit of what
appears to be greasy grey corduroys. He also grins with satisfaction at
the performance. So does a woman--presumably the mother of the solid
infant--who looks back laughingly from a doorway, over the dish which
she carries in her hands. Other Boers, or boors, are to be seen in the
background, all equally convulsed by the ludicrous figure cut by little
Red-coat; all distorting jaws--wide enough by nature--into grimaces
expressive of appreciation at his ridiculous position.

Since the original of this piece of tapestry was painted over three
hundred years ago by a painter named Teniers, it is not at all likely
that it was meant to represent our Boers of to-day, nor that the
ridiculous little manikin in the red coat could be meant for an
unfortunate _Rooinek_! In spite of that fact I have been unable for
months to endure to look at this side of my harmless little fire-screen.
Every morning on entering my sitting-room my first act has been to push
it up through its sliding groove, until only a pair of prodigiously
stout calves, and one infant’s shoe remain to be seen. To-day--and I
write the fact down as a sign of changed times--my fire-screen remains
untouched! More than this, I have found a malignant satisfaction in
sitting down before it, and, as I warmed my feet--damp with gardening
operations--surveying the row of grinning faces, with the little red
manikin still performing his degrading antics in their midst.

“Laugh away, my friends!” I remarked. “Laugh away! Make the most of your
time. Don’t disturb yourselves pray on my account. The unfortunate
_Rooinek_ is no doubt, as you say, a very ridiculous and helpless sort
of creature. At the same time don’t be too sure that he may not make a
sudden leap yet out of your fingers! Stranger things have happened.”

So many caricaturists, friendly and unfriendly, have made capital out of
this struggle of ours that I rather wonder none of them seem to have hit
upon this familiar Teniers. That accuracy that pertains to all genius is
plainly visible, moreover, as one looks at it, for the
portraits--evidently they are portraits--might be those of any group of
our worthy enemies to-day. As for the old fellow at the table, it might
be Oom Paul himself in proper person; the same air of somewhat
sanctimonious rectitude; the same broad fleshy nose, the same protruding
chin, the same semicircular sweep of grizzled beard. It sets one
reflecting upon the persistency of national types. Centuries rise, and
grow, and fade away; wars are made and cease again, but probably few
things in this fluctuating world change so little, or with such a
snail-like slowness, as the few broad lines upon which the
characteristics of any given race have once got themselves legibly
inscribed.



MARCH 1, 1900


Surely we need no satirist to point out the ironies of life, for they
are for ever with us! Here is the latest in my own experience:--

After all my arrangements, my care about telegrams, my determination not
to be defrauded of even half an hour’s satisfaction, I have heard at
last of the relief of Ladysmith from a child by the roadside; from a
child? nay but from a baby, a smudgy-faced cottage infant, that could
barely walk, and certainly was quite unable to talk! It happened in this
wise. I was hurrying along the lane on my way to take the train for
Godalming, having waited till the last minute in hopes of a telegram
which never came. My morning papers had told me nothing, or nothing
beyond vague surmises, which I was quite competent to provide for
myself; consequently I was famishing for more substantial fare. I had
nearly reached the village, and was hurrying round the last corner.
Suddenly out of one of the cottage doors came this creature, dragging
after it a stick with something red tied to it, which I entirely failed
to distinguish as having been even intended for a flag. Either it
stumbled, or from sheer force of circumstances simply sat down in the
middle of the road, right in front of me. I was delayed an instant, and
in that instant out flew its mother, and plucked it to its feet again,
with a sound maternal smack.

“There ain’t no sense in yer being run over, is there, ye little fule,
not if Ladysmith _is_ relieved!”

“Ladysmith!” I was upon the two of them in an instant, and had seized
the bigger one by the arm, though she was not an acquaintance of mine.

“What did you say? _Is_ Ladysmith relieved?”

“Lor bless you ma’am, don’t you know? Why hours and hours ago! _We_
heard of it a little afore eleven we did!”

“But are you certain? Is there no mistake this time?”

“Mistake? Bless you, no ma’am, there ain’t no mistake! Why it were stuck
up at the office by Mr. Smith hisself, just gone quarter to the hour. I
was a-coming along with my husband’s second breakfast, for he’s working
now for Mr. Bellew at the Mills. So as I was passing close to the office
‘Whatever is all this about,’ thinks I, for there was eight or ten
people a-standin’ there, and a-readin’ somethink. And with that I
sees----”

I too had seen something! A flag--unmistakably a Union Jack--hanging
near the Church, I had overlooked it in my hurry. At sight of that,
excitement, combined with the fear of missing my train, overcame my
politeness, and I flew down the lane in the direction of the station.

The train was caught, but only by the narrowest margin. I sprang into a
carriage, all but shaking hands as I did so with an absolutely unknown
old gentleman, who was its only other occupant. Everyone knows the
shrinking, the more than maidenly dread of the solitary travelling _he_,
for the unknown travelling _she_, however harmless the latter may look.
On this occasion public interest overcame even that terror. As a river
bursts through its banks, so my old gentleman burst into a torrent of
repressed information. He had just come from London; he had witnessed
the scene at the Mansion House; he described to me the Lord Mayor coming
to the window with a telegram in his hands; he dilated upon the crowds,
the cheering, the flags, the block in the streets; above all upon the
central fact of the situation, which was that he had himself been
thereby made twenty minutes late at his board, or meeting, whatever it
was. “For the first time in twenty-five years!--the very first time!
They couldn’t make out _what_ had happened to me; thought I must have
been run over!” he assured me several times between Guildford and
Godalming.

Well, well, it has come at last! All is right, all is well, and we may
go back to our own little concerns; our housekeepings, and our
marketings, our weedings, and our seed-sowing, with lighter; let us
hope, perhaps also, with a trifle gratefuller hearts?



MARCH 3, 1900


Our good old Cuttle is leaving us; will be gone by this time next week,
and I feel more sorry than seems quite reasonable! To-day, when we began
talking the matter over together, a suspicious huskiness in my voice
warned me that I should do well to get away from the subject before my
character for propriety was quite lost!

It is better I know for many reasons that he should leave. He cannot,
indeed will not, undertake sole charge of both flower and kitchen
garden, and to have anyone over him in either department is not to be
dreamed of. Moreover his own home is four miles away, all up and down a
long crooked lane, and a walk like that after a hard day’s work would be
enough to try anyone half his age. Under ordinary circumstances the
departure of a man who, though he has been with us now nearly three
years, came at first as a mere jobber, would be a small affair on either
side. Our poor old Cuttle is however so identified with the very
existence of this little possession of ours that to lose him seems like
losing a piece, and moreover a considerable piece of it. If the pegs and
the marking-tapes have been our contributions, all the solid work, the
earth turning and delving, the trenching, the grass-sowing, the cutting
down of trees, above all the interminable pitchfork operations, have
been his, and his satellite’s. Surely then he has a right to regard
himself as its creator? Our good, old, kindly, argumentative Cuttle! The
familiar little nooks and corners, cultivated, wild, half wild, will
hardly seem so entirely themselves; hardly so intimately familiar,
without your friendly face!



MARCH 5, 1900


Allah be praised for a leisurely life! I have been visiting A. R. D.,
whose days are filled with large and various activities; whose
responsibilities are great; whose hours of work are long; of leisure few
and scanty. I admire such indomitable workers, with an admiration which
increases with every year I live, but I envy them, Oh ye gods, not at
all!

“Cling to the peace of obscurity; they shall be happy that love thee.”
Where, I wonder, have I acquired that rather ignominious injunction?
There is a seventeenth-century flavour about it which makes it sound
respectable, yet at bottom I suppose it is merely a counsel of laziness.
Work, far from the curse, is the alleviation of the curse; of that I am
as convinced as anybody. At the same time a good deal of the work that
goes on around one seems to be rather the product of the unasked
volition of the worker, than of any violent external necessity.
Obscurity and laziness moreover are far from interchangeable terms,
seeing that the majority of the hard-workers of the world are, and as a
necessity always will be, obscure. It is only in our little fussy
artistic or literary coteries that the two ideas have attained to a sort
of accidental connection. Personally I have a relish, I might almost say
a passion for obscurity. The retort is of course easy, and I am able to
reply to myself that the alternative has never been pressed upon my
attention with any very urgent insistence. That is true, but does not
really affect the matter. Honestly, I do regard obscurity as a blessing,
apart from such satisfactions it may provide for laziness. For what does
it mean? It means that you belong to yourself; that you have your years,
your days, hours, and minutes undisposed of, unbargained for, unwatched,
and unwished for by anybody. It means that you are free to go in and out
without witnesses; free as the grass, free rather as the birds of the
air. Further, I am inclined to think that only Obscurity can properly
and heartily enjoy his sunsets, moon-rises, spring mornings, running
streams, first flowers, and all the rest of the good cheap joys that lie
about his path. The known and admired person is expected to make capital
out of such matters, and he probably does so too, poor fellow! Yet upon
the untrammelled enjoyment of such things how much, not only of the
satisfaction, but of the peace of life depends? As was said by
one--who, by the way, was very far himself from being an
Obscurity--“Nothing startles me beyond the moment. A setting sun will
always set me to rights, and if a sparrow comes hopping to my window, I
can take part in its existence, and pick about the gravel.”



MARCH 7, 1900


A sentimentalist sleeps in nearly everyone, whether he is aware of the
fact or not; just as we are all potential poets or lovers, though some
of us undoubtedly under rather a deep disguise. My particular vein of
sentiment has lately taken the form of linking together sundry small
spots here with others far away, upon the other side of St. George’s
boisterous channel. Thus I have a Burren corner, a West Galway corner, a
Kerry corner, a Kildare corner, even a green memento or two of the great
lost forest of Ossory, of which only a few shadowy remnants survive to a
remote, but happily not an indifferent generation.

That pleasure is to be found in such childishness might at first sight
seem incredible. Since it is so, there is no use, however, in refusing
to recognise it oneself. Take the Burren, for instance. Burren the wild,
the remote, the austere, the solitary; to the few who know it a region
absolutely unique, with its cyclopean terraces sloping slowly to the
waves, that moan and mutter eternally around their bases. To represent
the Burren--even the Burren plants--by three or four tiers of stones,
which are not even limestones, might well seem even to oneself the very
acme of absurdity. I refuse however to be ashamed of it, and if my Dryas
octopetala and my Helianthemum canum, my Potentilla fruticosa, and my
Cystopteris fragilis would but accept such hospitality as I can offer
them; would but pretend that fragments of lime rubbish are slabs of
limestone, I should be content, and ask no more of them.

Some are kindly enough, but others are hopelessly supercilious, and I am
at my wits’ end how to cater for them. If distinguished visitors would
only condescend to mention their wants plainly, how gladly, I have often
thought, would one hasten to satisfy them. When they merely look
disgusted, and, after sulking hopelessly for some months, die upon one’s
hands, what is an unfortunate host or hostess to do? Here is
Helianthemum canum, for instance, which for the last nine months I have
been keeping from dying, as it were by main force. Up to now I have in a
measure succeeded, and have even occasionally flattered myself that it
was beginning to resign itself. I know perfectly well however that it
has in reality made up its mind upon the subject, and that one of these
mornings I shall hurry out to my “Burren” corner, only to find
Helianthemum canum looking black but satisfied, having just succeeded in
dying triumphantly on my hands!



MARCH 8, 1900


The pace at which some plants, no matter how discouraging the weather,
manage to swell out their tissues, and to spring aloft under one’s very
eyes, is an unfailing marvel, and in this unpropitious soil the marvel
seems all the greater. So many quite common plants decline to live in it
in its natural state, that one’s gratitude goes out all the more to the
few that are willing to put up with us as we are. Foremost amongst such
obliging vegetables stand the mulleins, and foremost amongst the
mulleins stands that really noble person, Verbascum olympicum. If it has
a fault it is that it is _too_ good-natured, and _too_ vigorous. Not
only does it attain to its robust proportions at a rate that takes one’s
breath away, but further it increases so rapidly, and with such a
reckless prodigality, as threatens to people the whole neighbourhood
with its descendants. Seeing that each of such descendants requires as
much space for its development as does its parent, the perplexed
gardener wonders at times how he is to dispose of his too obliging
property, and ends by being not a little embarrassed by his own wealth.

There was one day last summer, when, returning home after a short
absence, and going into the garden, I was not a little startled to
discover what a congregation of the giants we had unwittingly been
entertaining. A giant may of course be highly ornamental, and a giant
that is eight feet high, and of a bright canary-yellow throughout the
greater part of that length, is almost bound to be so. There were--I
took the trouble to count them--one hundred and eleven such giants at
that moment all in flower together in the garden. Now considering that
the proportions of that garden are not those of Kew or Versailles, there
is no denying that one hundred and eleven bright yellow giants, all
occupying it at the same time, affected the mind with a certain sense of
surplusage! They stood in rows along the grassy paths; they shouldered
one another, and everything else out of any place they had been allowed
to spring up in; they appeared unexpectedly in out-of-the-way corners of
the copse, where the elderly oak-scrub found itself reduced to the
position of a mere underling at the feet of these aspiring biennials. To
come suddenly round a corner was to receive an impression of being
surrounded by a crowd of gigantic, lemon-coated attendants, all standing
respectfully at attention, an experience naturally rather trying to mere
modest humanity.

There is another equally large and complacent biennial, which, on
account perhaps of that very complacence, I find myself constantly
treating with the scantiest civility. It has not I think quite the solid
strength and impressive bearing of the great mullein, but as regards
height, is often even more gigantesque. This is the large variety of
Œnothera biennis, familiar to most people as Œnothera Lamarckiana,
but possessing no English name that I am aware of beyond the generic,
and not very descriptive one of “Evening primrose.” There are a good
many varieties of evening primroses in gardens, both perennials and
biennials, and a few true species, of which missouriensis, otherwise
macrocarpa, is undoubtedly one of the best. Lamarckiana on the other
hand is hardly a subject for the garden proper. As a tenant of steep
banks, of rough borders; of all sorts of half, or three-quarter wild
places, it has in this soil no competitor, or only finds such
competitors in the two biggest of the mulleins.

I have been trying this year the experiment of planting it along both
sides of the green walk that crosses the upper part of our copse.
Whether it will endure the amount of shade that it will find there
remains to be seen. It is a sun-lover by nature, like most of its tribe,
but its growth is so redundant that a little curtailment of it will do
it no great harm. Though less spreading, it requires almost more room
than the verbascums, for, if the space it covers is less, it is a true
biennial, never failing in my experience to flower the year after it is
sown. With Verbascum olympicum this is not so. There are some here at
this moment that were sown three years ago, and have not yet flowered.
They will do so no doubt this year, and with that event the cycle of
their existence ends. The worst is that the gap they leave when they die
is large; moreover, as in the case of foxgloves, the black stump is both
an ugly object in itself, and a difficult one to get rid of. When are we
to possess a really good perennial foxglove I wonder? There is a
perennial _yellow_ one, but it is a poor thing, hardly worthy of its
name. Perennial verbascums are also few in number, most of the family
showing a more or less aloe-like fashion of flowering. In their case one
is able to console oneself. The imagination grows a trifle giddy in fact
at the thought of every mullein one has seen spring from seed remaining
as a permanent possession; always equally towering, and equally
clamorous of space and sunlight. Many-acred would be the garden that
could support them all!



MARCH 19, 1900


Some way back in this diary I was unwise enough to inveigh against that
“pleasant herb called Vanity,” especially in its relation to gardens. A
greater error I now feel there could not be, and I am convinced that if
we only took care to cultivate a sufficient supply of it, it would not
only be a satisfaction in itself, but an immense stimulus to the
successful cultivation of all other desirable plants.

This is not, I am aware, the general view. The general idea being that
the herb in question is a mere weed, one that will not only grow
everywhere, and at all seasons, but that grows the most luxuriantly upon
the poorest soil. Now this is certainly not the case. What amount of it
is grown in other gardens I cannot say, no report--or only a very
indirect one--being forwarded to any of the regular gardening
periodicals. That there are poor varieties of it I am willing to admit,
but a really good “strain” is always worth securing, if it can be done
legitimately, and so I am sure every successful gardener would be the
first to say. So convinced do I feel of its value that there are many
succulent, and quite wholesome vegetables, that I would gladly see
thrown away in order to make room for more of it!

That admirable essayist, and, from his own account, horticulturist also,
Sir Thomas Browne, evidently grew a good deal of it in _his_ garden,
though with the odd humour that prevails amongst its cultivators, he
imagined that he had very little, in fact none at all. Here is the
_Religio Medici_, so I have only to turn to his panegyric of it, a
panegyric all the more satisfactory because he apparently intended it to
be the reverse. Perhaps though, as Mr. Pepys would say, “That was in
mirth.”

“I thank God amongst those millions of vices I do inherit and hold from
Adam, I have escaped this one.” [Millions of vices! now may heaven help
thee, Sir Thomas! however one must remember that he was a rhetorician.]
“Those petty acquisitions, and reputed perfections, that advance and
elevate the conceits of other men, add no feather unto mine. I have seen
a grammarian tower and plume himself over a single line in Horace, and
show more pride in the construction of one ode, than the Author in the
composure of the whole book. For my own part, besides the jargon and
patois of several provinces, I understand no less than six languages;
yet I protest I have no higher conceit of myself than had our fathers
before the confusion of Babel, when there was but one language in the
world, and none to boast himself either linguist or critick. I have not
only seen several countries, beheld the nature of their climes, the
chorography of their provinces, topography of their cities, but
understand their several laws, customs, and policies; yet cannot all
this persuade the dullness of my spirit unto such an opinion of myself
as I behold in nimbler and conceited heads, that never looked a degree
beyond their nests. I know the names, and somewhat more, of all the
constellations in my horizon; yet I have seen a prating mariner, that
could only name the Pointers, and the North star, out-talk me, and
conceit himself a whole sphere above me. I know most of the plants of my
country, and of those about me, yet....”

Nay Sir Thomas, dear Sir Thomas, let me not follow thee longer in this
vein, else might one of the devoutest of thy followers lose some share
of that devoutness! I hastily ruffle thy pages over, feeling certain
before long of coming upon thee in a worthier one.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have been longer over my search than I expected, having set my heart
upon finding one particular passage, which I failed to do, a fact
hardly to be wondered at, since, as it turned out, there was no copy of
_The Garden of Cyrus_ in the house. I have found it however, at last,
safely hidden, like a sprig of myrtle, in the tight embrace of an
ancient notebook.

“But the quincunx of heaven runs low, and ’tis time to close the first
parts of knowledge. We are unwilling to spin out our awaking thoughts
into the phantasms of sleep, which often continueth precogitations,
making cables, and cobwebs, and wildernesses of handsome graves. Beside
Hippocrates hath spoke so little, and the oneirocritical (!) masters
have left such frigid interpretations from plants, that there is little
encouragement to dream of Paradise itself. Nor will the sweetest
delights of gardens afford much comfort in sleep; wherein the dullness
of that sense shakes hands with delectable odours; and, though in the
bed of Cleopatra, can hardly with any delight raise up the ghost of a
rose.

“Night, which Pagan theology could make the daughter of Chaos, affords
no advantage to the description of order, although no lower than that
mass can we derive its genealogy. All things began in order, so shall
they end, and so shall they begin again; according to the Ordainer of
order, and of the mystical mathematicks of the city of heaven.

“Though Somnus in Homer be sent to rouse up Agamemnon, I find no such
effects in these drowsy approaches of sleep. To keep our eyes open
longer were but to act our Antipodes. The huntsmen are up in America,
and they are already past their first sleep in Persia. But who can be
drowsy at that hour which freed us from everlasting sleep? or have
slumbering thoughts at that time when sleep itself must end, and, as
some conjecture, all shall awake again?”

       *       *       *       *       *

Most melodious of rhetoricians, and most whimsical of prose-poets, I bid
you a good-night. For by a coincidence which you would be the first to
appreciate, twelve o’clock is striking even as I copy your last line,
and I light a bedroom candle with the sound of those dim
prognostications, and thunderous conjectures of yours still ringing
sonorously about my ears. They do not alarm me, however; nay I would
gladly carry them with me past the ivory gate. For, as you yourself
say----

“Happy are they that go to bed with grand music like Pythagoras, or have
ways to compose the fantastical spirit, whose unruly wanderings take off
inward sleep, filling our heads with St. Anthony’s visions, or the
dreams of Lipara, in the sober chambers of rest.”



MARCH 20, 1900


From the defence of Vanity, to the defence of England! “Attend to your
transitions, my boy,” is said to have been the reply of a veteran
orator, when pressed by a junior for some axiom that would sum up the
whole art of oratory in a sentence. Literature also, like oratory, has
to attend to her transitions, else dire confusion, and the just
indignation of her readers, is the result. The diarist stands upon a
slightly different footing. If there is such a being as a literary
libertine, or harmless law-breaker, he perhaps is entitled to the name.
His pages are filled up according to no settled plan, and with an eye to
no particular convention. He claims to be free as the wind upon the
tree-tops, free as all our unwritten moods, which are rarely quite the
same for many consecutive hours. Such at least, is the claim of this
particular diarist. To-day, for instance, leaving the garden, and all
that relates to it, to take care of themselves, he has wandered away
upon the theme, of all things in the world, of _Invasion_, moved
thereto, partly by the desire which assails us at all times, of dilating
upon what one knows least, partly by the equally inborn desire of
running counter to conventions upon which one has been brought up, and
which have been instilled into one’s mind ever since one could walk
unaided.

That the difference between soldiers and civilians is an absolute
difference, clear as glass, hard as adamant, is one of those
conventions. Until the other day I never remember hearing it so much as
questioned. Yet how does that fact now stand in the face of all that we
have been hearing, seeing, reading about, during the last five months?
If one thing more than another has been brought home to us by this
present struggle it is that under modern conditions a civilian--without
the slightest pretensions to be anything else, so long only as he is a
good marksman--is not only as valuable, but under many circumstances,
far _more_ valuable than the average soldier, who as a rule can just
shoot, and nothing more, who has all the finer parts of his art still to
learn, and is not at all likely to learn it when he has no more
leisurely target to practise upon than the living man.

It is upon the strength of this revolution that I have been indulging
this morning in a private Invasion of my own, specially designed for the
exaltation of the rifle-shooting civilian, in whose doings I take a
natural interest. Plans of Invasion are always rather fascinating,
whatever the realities are likely to be. On this occasion I have only
allowed myself a very small and cheap Invasion, just enough to put our
rifle-shooting civilian standing in it and asking how he is to behave
himself. It is not coming off in the orthodox place, which I take to be
nearly opposite the bathing sands of Boulogne, but upon quite a new
theatre, namely upon the shores of Dublin Bay. My invaders are probably
French, but may be anything else, it does not in the least matter.
Whoever they are they have succeeded in evading the Channel Fleet, have
run the gauntlet of the forts--no impossible feat--and have disembarked
some forty or fifty thousand strong somewhere between the Bailey of
Howth and the foot of Bray Head.

As for their purpose in landing, so far as my information extends, it is
simply to do as much damage as can be conveniently accomplished within a
given time. If the defending fleet remains entangled elsewhere, and they
can be reinforced, so much the better. In any case France can afford to
lose some twenty or thirty thousand recruits in a good cause. Moreover
he would be a poor sort of Frenchman who for the sake of burning,
harassing, shooting, raiding, racking, ruining, and generally running
amuck, amongst British possessions, would not run the risk of capture,
and the, not after all, very uncomfortable, entertainment of a prisoner
of war. Here, then, stands our military position; and now comes the
question of what in such a case, are the rights and duties of the
ordinary, peaceable but rifle-shooting civilian?

First let me clear the ground for myself a little. In the course of
certain profound researches upon the whole art and practice of war as
laid down in the _Débâcle_, _La Guerre et la Paix_, and other recondite
manuals, I have learnt that in the case of invasion the barrier between
civilians and professional soldiers is even stricter and more menacing
than at other times. The soldier, let his capacity or incapacity be what
it may, is entitled in case of capture to honourable treatment. He may
be nearly starved to death, if provisions run short, as the French
soldier-prisoners were after Sedan. He may be shot out of hand, if he
endeavours to escape, but with these trifling exceptions he is a person
having definite rights and a definite status; a person the cold-blooded
slaughter of whom would stamp the perpetrator of such a deed as a brute,
no gentleman, and a man generally to be avoided, even by his own side.
Turning now to the position of a civilian during invasion, I learn, by
studying the same authorities, that he is an individual without rights
of any kind should he attempt--no matter upon what provocation--to touch
a weapon in war time. Although the weapon in question be his own
familiar rifle or fowling-piece; although the spot he proposes to defend
with it is his own hearth, with his own wife and daughters standing
beside it, he is liable--legally and honourably liable, for that is the
whole point--to be led away from that hearth, settled comfortably with
his back against the nearest wall, and then and there uncomplainingly
shot, his wife and the rest of his family looking on. This I am assured,
or used to be assured, is the whole law and the gospel, as the law and
the gospel is laid down for military purposes; a law the carrying out of
which is not only permitted, but is the bounden duty of every honourable
soldier and Christian officer. In no other way, so I have always been
told, could the protection of the civil population be guaranteed during
invasion. If a man, merely because the property destroyed is his own,
were free to pot--we call it nowadays to snipe--at the destroyer of that
property, what in such a case would become, one was asked, of the poor
defenceless soldiery?

So much for the old rule, now for its modern application. Bearing all
this in mind, I look away to South Africa, and what do I see? I see a
crowd of fighting men, upon hardly one of whom--our own regulars and
militia of course excepted--can I succeed in discovering any of the
recognisable marks of a soldier. Here and there one or two such may be
discerned, but the bulk are purely and avowedly civilian. They have
walked out of their shops, their farms, their offices, their
counting-houses, their clubs, or wherever else they come from, precisely
as we see them. They can shoot, or they think so; they can ride--more or
less--but in spite of these accomplishments they are no more soldiers
than is the diarist who dips this eminently civilian pen into this
utterly unmilitary inkpot. If the German commanders of 1870 refused to
see in the _francs tireurs_ anything but unrecognisable freebooters; if
Napoleon declined to accord the Tyrolese marksmen and their heroic
leader decent treatment, mainly on the grounds that the latter was an
innkeeper, what would either of them have said to the bulk of those
fighting upon both sides to-day in South Africa?

All this, however, is merely preliminary. Our invasion is no problematic
peril this time, but a peril that has actually arrived. They have
_come_, the aggressors! they are already standing upon our sacred shore!
the question now is what are we to do with them? Can there be any doubt
upon that subject? Up, arm yourselves, and away! high and low, young and
old, brave and the reverse--women first, as befits their daring! Up, and
at the villains! Let them not carry their purpose an inch further. Let
not one of them return to boast of where he has been! Yet hark! what
sound is that? Surely it is not the luncheon bell? How _exceedingly_
inconvenient! Well, our invasion must be postponed for the moment. After
all, as Peter Plymley wrote to his brother Abraham, “It is three
centuries since an English pig has fallen in a fair battle upon English
ground”; so, though this particular struggle is coming off not on
English but Irish ground, it is not likely to be all over before this
afternoon.



MARCH 20, 1900. 3 P.M.


That interruption disposed of, we now return to our Invasion. Owing,
perhaps, to the dilatory nature of our proceedings, the invaders have
already left the coast, and pushed their way some distance inland, the
result being that matters are beginning to look exceedingly
uncomfortable for the unfortunate invaded. The regular army in Ireland
happens to be at an exceptionally low ebb. It has been heavily drawn on
lately to fill up vacancies at the seat of war, no one in authority
having of course dreamt of anything so improbable as a sudden incursion
into Dublin Bay. The Commander-in-Chief is reported to be half dead with
work and worry at the Royal Hospital. His subordinates are behaving like
heroes. The “Polis"--otherwise the Royal Irish Constabulary--are doing
soldiers’ work, and doing it a good deal better than most soldiers.
Dublin is believed to be for the moment safe, but the condition of the
country immediately south of it is critical to a degree. No one seems to
be certain what the opinion of the bulk of the people really is.
Invaders, especially French ones, are historically dear to their hearts,
but the thing has been sprung upon them this time with rather
uncomfortable rapidity, and there is something extremely sickening, so
everybody admits, about the smell of burning roofs.

Immediately upon landing, the enemy established their headquarters, with
no little strategical discretion, in a naturally defensible position
upon the Wicklow Hills, from which point they are cheerfully engaged in
sending out raiding parties over the whole of the adjacent country. The
portion of Kildare nearest Wicklow has already been overrun, and most of
its villages burnt, despite their nearness to the Curragh; Naas and
Sallins are reported as likely to be the next assailed. The suddenness
of the catastrophe has strained the military resources almost to
breaking point, and the soldiers are forced to be kept together, not
only to defend the approaches to the metropolis, but also in the hope of
being able to bring on a general engagement in some more hopeful
position than against the fortified camp in Wicklow. The result is that,
beyond a limited number of constabulary, the general in command of the
district is unable to spare a man for the protection of the smaller
places.

Before that harassed and overdriven officer there suddenly appears--the
Civilian! How many, or how few, is a detail. Few or many they are all
civilians, undiluted, country-bred civilians, good shots and good
riders; men of varying ages, but all with a more or less intimate
knowledge of the local conditions. They are--but generalities are so
unsatisfactory--let me take one of them, and suppose myself to be him,
and I can be multiplied afterwards as required. Here I am; big and
strong, level-headed and resolute; no boy--far from it--but sound in
health and vigorous, a local magnate in a small way, fairly good at most
sports, rather more than fairly good at rifle-shooting; a familiar
figure formerly at Wimbledon, more recently at Bisley. Nothing can be
further from my intentions than to obtrude my services; I wish that
clearly to be understood. At the same time if I can be of any use under
the circumstances, you had better say so!

With South Africa fresh in all our minds, can there be any question as
to the answer? What more desirable material could unfortunate,
under-manned commander have, or desire? As to what he could do with me
there are plenty of answers ready. He might place me in certain chosen
positions, rifle and field-glass beside me, and desire me to pick off
certain of the enemy’s officers, who are known to be surveying the
country. He might fill a country house or two with me and others like
me, and so prepare pleasant little surprises for those who expected to
find them vacant. He might do many things, only--and this is the point I
am trying to arrive at--would he venture to do any of them? If such a
man as I am representing myself to be were liable to be treated as the
Germans in 1870 treated French fighting civilians, including women, and
as the French would no doubt have treated German ones, in such a case it
is hard to see how any responsible commander dare run such a risk,
however great his need, or our willingness to serve. Risks are of course
of the essence of war, but there are risks and risks. No one proposes to
hunt with the hounds, and then run with the hares; to fight while
fighting is reasonably safe, and afterwards slip hurriedly back into
mufti; to play a soldier’s part, yet claim the immunities of civilians.
Let the risks be no worse than those which any soldier runs, and our
faithful civilian is satisfied, and asks no more. There are, however,
risks which it is hardly proper, hardly I may say decent, for any
self-respecting man to run. That our typical civilian would be really
liable in these days to be shot in cold blood, most people would find a
difficulty in conceiving, yet how does he stand officially? above all,
how does he stand internationally? Have the risks of so monstrous, so
utterly abhorrent a contingency, been once and for ever removed? and if
so, since when? This is the point that one would like extremely to have
authoritatively cleared up, seeing that the number of civilians, capable
at a pinch of defending their own homes, possibly even their own fields
and parishes, seem likely as the years go on to increase. Organised, or
unorganised, the straight-shooting civilian has arrived, and he proposes
to stay. He is still, however, an entirely new factor in the body
politic, and, like other new-comers, he requires therefore to be neatly
adjusted to the rest. That under no circumstances he could be of any
use, few, I take it, would be bold enough to assert. These are hardly
days when any possibly useful national asset can be left with safety
upon the shelf. Let our sturdy civilian be able, in case of capture, to
claim the same amount of amenity that is accorded in all decent warfare
to the captured soldier, in that case I should say--speaking, of course,
merely as a fool--that the more of him we had the better and the more
comfortable for all of us.



MARCH 26, 1900


A view, a brand-new view, and in a garden supposed to be viewless! That
our best point as regards scenery lies in the direction of the Dorking
downs, is I think beyond question. The worst of it is that lying as they
do nearly due north of us, the more of them we show the more the wind
catches at our plants. Openings upon this side have, consequently, to be
thought out with care, and executed only after long deliberation.

This time I think we are safe. A space of copse, ending in a fence, over
which in summer tree-lupins and everlasting peas tumble together in
friendly confusion, has been cleared. What was lately solid copse,
fifteen to twenty feet high, has sunk to a mere russet-coloured growth,
just bracken height, no more; three feet to four feet, that is to say,
rising occasionally to five. This makes a broadish space, in which
bracken and bramble, stunted elder, seedling birch, two or three low
thorns, and some wild guelder-roses sprout together. Past this,
sweeping up from the region of the larches, comes our new grass walk,
eleven feet wide, consequently a walk of pride to people who have
hitherto subsisted upon two-foot tracks! With a fine easy curve it turns
away to the south, making for the gate which divides the garden from the
copse. That turn being shared by the new opening, will I think ensure
that no new rush of cold air can come tearing in upon the flower-beds.
But for this no hatchet or billhook would have been conducted to the
spot by me. Our new little view is--_pace_ our neighbour’s opinions--a
remarkably nice little view, but did it display Alps or Andes, in place
of the despised Dorking downs, the right-minded gardener would in the
latter case hesitate; might even feel in the end that it would be too
dearly purchased.

Now for the next question, and a serious one. Are we to allow ourselves
to make any garden use of this new clearing or not? This touches upon
the larger question of meddling generally. To meddle, or not to meddle?
Is it permissible--as regards what lies outside the strict garden
boundaries--to interfere, or ought we to leave the whole matter to
Nature, in other words to Chance?

To lay down the law dogmatically upon this point would be to lay it down
for every garden in Great Britain, or all not girded by kitchen
gardens, or ploughed fields. Such a prospect, though enticing, might
take some little time to carry out. Confining oneself for the moment to
the immediate case, one finds that like most other cases, political, or
horticultural, it is mainly one of compromise. Were our copse beginning
to dwindle perilously, then, with a politician of the last generation, I
should exclaim “_Can’t_ you leave it alone?” Seeing that, though we have
been chopping assiduously ever since we came, two-thirds of our space is
still covered with uninvaded copse, the case seems to me to be a fair
one for experiment.

That being decided upon, what to experiment with becomes the next
question, and here aspect is clearly the ruling factor. That no early
morning sun will reach the place even in summer is certain. Four
respectable oaks, of quite a gentlemanly girth, stand along the fence,
and forbid it. They are not near enough for their roots to do much
damage, but the firstlings of the sun’s rays they will certainly keep to
themselves. This being so, there is a limit clearly as to what will
answer. All things considered, especially with regard to the fact that
the brambles could hardly be dislodged without a wrench which would
disorganise everything, I am inclined to give my vote for more brambles,
only this time civilised ones. There are plenty fortunately to choose
from. There is, for instance, Rubus odoratus, showing a vigour, and a
turn for colonisation hardly to be exceeded by the very wildest of wild
brambles. There is the cut-leafed bramble; there is the bramble of the
Nootka Sound; there is the whitewashed bramble; there is the
salmon-berry; the cloudberry; the bramble of the Rocky Mountains, and
others, all of which I already in fancy see tossing themselves up and
down the bracken, and over their wilder brethren, in one delicious froth
of white or rose-coloured blossom.

Another, and a yet more fascinating vision, sweeping over the field of
my mind, has for a moment given it pause. What of a jungle, not of
brambles, but of roses? None of your trim standards, of course, but some
of the freer kinds--Rosa alba, Rosa lucida, Rosa brunonis, with some
Ayrshires, some Dundee ramblers, and one commanding thicket of the
biggest of the Polyanthas? It is a heady vision, and as a portion of the
natural “wildness” might intoxicate the brain of Lord Bacon himself. In
gardening it does not do, however, to be too easily intoxicated. We have
to keep a sober head; we have to look at the matter from all its points
of view; there is the question of aspect, already touched upon; there is
the question of soil; above all there is the question of
fertilisation--dear, delicate word! No, we must not allow ourselves to
be carried off our feet by any vision, however roseate. We have always
been a pair of sober horticulturists, and we will continue to be so
still. Our rose-jungle must wait. It is only postponed: we will have it
yet, and in a better place. Even if we never _did_ have it, even if the
postponement had to be an eternal one, is it not, one sometimes asks
oneself, the gardens that never have been planted--“whose flowers ne’er
fed the bee”; whose dusky scented walks no foot has ever trod, that
yield the deepest, the most unqualified enjoyment? “Heard melodies are
sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.” What then of unseen gardens? What
wealth of blossoms! what a flood of sunshine, which yet never scorches!
what green and translucent groves, which at the same time are never
damp! what order, without the faintest touch of formality! what
wildness, what heavenly entanglements, without so much as an approach to
confusion! But I perceive that I am again wandering out of the domain of
horticulture, into a much less attainable region, and it may be as well,
therefore, to pause.



MARCH 28, 1900


Had we embarked upon a little stone house, instead of a little red-brick
one, should we, I wonder, have had the energy to bestow upon ourselves a
small flagged and stonewalled garden as an adjunct to it? I doubt it.
For one thing flagged gardens are, I imagine, costly affairs. Moreover I
have never myself seen a new one that appealed to me as quite
satisfactory. An old, grey-walled, and grey-flagged garden, as part of
an old, grey farmhouse, or manor, is one of the most ideal possessions
that the heart of man could sigh after. Like most other ideal
possessions, to have it, it is, unfortunately, necessary as a rule to
have been born to it.

Be this as it may, I have never ceased to rejoice that we had the energy
to embark at once upon our little red-brick garden. The comfort of
knowing that there is always one spot sure to be clean, sure to be dry,
sure to be a satisfaction to step into, even in such weather as we have
of late been afflicted with, is a boon that can hardly be overrated. As
a mere matter of appearance, the red-brick garden seems to be at least
as “natural” an appanage of the red-brick house as the little grey-stone
garden of the grey-stone one. Both require a certain amount of thought
and contrivance, especially as regards proportion, but once this is
attained, they soon learn to wear that inevitable aspect, which in
garden making, as in all the other arts, great and small, is the first,
and surely the least dispensable of all requirements?

That the grey-stone garden is on the whole the higher species of the two
I admit. At the same time the red-brick one has this great advantage
over its stony brother that it is essentially a winter’s day garden,
whereas the stone one may, and in bad weather does, look grim, to the
point of being almost forbidding. In both gardens some amount of
hindrance is apt to arise with regard to the laying down of the walks.
Flagging is a costly process, and where the walks are very narrow, the
laying down of stone flags must be a matter of some difficulty. The same
applies, though not quite to the same extent, to the red-brick garden.
That it ought to be tiled, just as the other ought to be flagged, I feel
sure. At the same time good, red gravel, or even bricks, broken fine,
mixed with sand, and rolled, answers fairly. Another question arises in
the matter of vases. Terra-cotta ones of the right design are not easily
come by in this country, and, when come by, they often cost more than if
imported direct from Italy. These, however, are details, while the
question of what to plant in such gardens is still more obviously an
open one. That the more of glaucous, grey-blue tints--such as that found
in the foliage of carnations--we have the better, is I think certain,
while if small bushes are wanted, lavender will provide the same shade.
Where both walls and walks are of red brick, blue, white and violet seem
to be the right prevailing colours; reds and yellows only to be admitted
slowly, and with precaution. All this, however, savours of dogmatism!

The supreme moment for such little plots is of course their spring-bulb
time. Most people call them Dutch gardens, and whether common in Holland
or not, the tulip undoubtedly seems born to flourish in them. When the
tulips are over, plenty of other things come on however to take their
places. Pansies, for instance, never look better than in such gardens,
whether as a carpet for tea-roses, or in beds by themselves. The smaller
campanulas, especially the white hairbells, the small double daisies,
and a host of other things of the same sort, answer perfectly, while, if
we want to stretch out our bulb season all we can, sparaxis, ixias,
bobartias, the early white gladioli, and others, are all ready to hand,
followed by the various lesser irises, winding up, at perhaps their best
point, with xiphium and xiphioides.

The one indispensable point--here again dogmatism appears!--is that such
gardens should be so close to the house as to keep up the idea of being
merely an adjunct, or flowery courtyard to it. With this idea in our
minds anything like distance is fatal. You must be free to step into
your garden from your door, or with no more interval than two or three
steps, or the breadth of a gravel walk. Garden fanatics as many of us
already are, and--as life increases in strenuousness--more and more will
yearly become, it is our interest obviously to spin out our playtime all
we can. Now nothing so helps us towards this, or so effectually
counteracts our Arch-enemy, as to have some little settled place so
cunningly contrived that even _his_ malignity, backed by its worst
agents--sleet, hail, fierce winds, cutting rains,--fails to reduce it to
a condition of mere despairing sloppiness; mere forlorn, and
death-suggesting desolation.



MARCH 29, 1900


Who would believe in being seriously tormented by a plague of oaks? Such
nevertheless has been our lot for the last few weeks. As plagues go they
are certainly better than locusts, not to speak of others that we read
of in the Bible. For all that we find them quite troublesome enough.
Although so young that they were only dropped from the parent bough last
autumn, they already cling to the ground with all the tenacity of their
ancestors; the most exasperated pull causing considerable fatigue to the
puller, but producing no effect whatever upon the youthful athlete. Many
of them are in the engaging condition of being still attached to their
natal acorn, which, acting as a sort of grappling iron, effectually
hinders their being drawn up, even through the soft soil of our
flower-borders. Last year was a most bountiful one for acorns, and every
sty in the neighbourhood revelled in plenty. Since we do not ourselves
keep pigs, we hope that another season we may be less blessed!

Biologists have a theory--they would call it a law--which they call the
law of “Multiplication in Geometrical Progression.” By that law the
plants of any region would, under favouring conditions, increase from a
hundred to a thousandfold every year. Happily for people who wish to
walk about they never really do anything of the sort; on the contrary,
the population of any given district, apart from man’s interference,
remains for the most part all but stationary. Until a parent is
considerate enough to die, and make way for it, every green child that
is born is bound to die in its infancy. These little oaks of ours are an
excellent example of that fact, as well as of the summary fashion with
which Nature is in the habit of wielding her maternal sceptre. They are,
as anyone can see, as hale and as vigorous as could be desired; hearts
of oak, every one of them, and they know it. Not an oaklet amongst them
but sees itself in nightly visions as an umbrageous giant, lifting high
in air a mighty trunk, and spreading out branches that all the fowls of
the air could lodge upon with comfort. Alas, for so much prospective
dignity! Every one of these youthful monarchs is doomed to an early
death, and it is merely a question of what stage of immaturity he will
be called upon to perish at!

There is yet another biological dictum which these deluded young
sovereigns may serve to illustrate. Before Darwin, or any other
expositor, laid it down in prose, it had been already laid down in
unforgettable verse--thus:--

    “No being on this earthly ball
     Is like another, all and all.”

Nothing certainly on this earthly ball can be truer. Never two living
beings came into the world precisely alike, and these baby oaks differ
each of them in some imperceptible fashion from its baby brother. Here
is a handful plucked at random out of the flower-beds that will prove
it. In this one that I hold in my fingers, it is easy to see that the
future giant would have been a somewhat thick-set, and stunted colossus.
This one again has already a tendency to self-division, and would
probably have ended by becoming forked. Yet again this one would, if it
had been spared--appropriate phrase--have grown up to be the very ideal
of oaks; a glory of the woods; star-proof; sun-proof; magnificent in its
life, and in its death destined to be converted into the very
straightest and most wind-defying of masts. This last, by the way, is
not a loss that we need delay to weep over, seeing that long before it
could have reached maturity, masts will in all probability have gone to
join the other relics of the past; even yachts being converted probably
by that time into little electrical monsters, with ingenious
arrangements for enabling them to become submarine ones, whenever the
wars of that date threaten to interfere with the comfort of their
owners.

Poor baby oaks! They gave me a great deal of trouble to pull up, and
now, with that inopportune remorse, sometimes ascribed to murderers, I
am disposed to grow quite pitiful over them. They have been so spoilt,
moreover, in the process, that they are not even worth putting into a
flower-vase. Imagine having been potentially capable of serving as the
tutelary deity, the beloved shade, the _rendezvous_ of all the lovers of
a parish for possibly half a dozen generations, and being found actually
unfit to fill a bow-pot for an hour! Could poet or pessimist hit upon
instance of malicious destiny more dramatically or tragically complete?



APRIL 2, 1900


At last we are in April. The winter corner is turned, and a new era
entered upon. But April this year is an incongruous sort of an April,
though the incongruity is possibly only in one’s own fancy. We are apt
to fashion our notions of the becoming, and to expect Nature to conform
to them. A desperately dry April it certainly is. The days are hard, and
cold, parched, and nipping; at night the wind howls, but with no
accompaniment of desirable drops. The garden cries to the sky for rain,
but no rain falls upon it, yet the only days I have spent in London were
days of unceasing downpour. Such favouring of the Metropolis at the
expense of the country is manifestly unjust.

April is such a lovely word, that it ought also to be always a lovely
thing. If one imagines it--or rather her--as she might appear to us in
dreams, or an allegory, we should deck her out of course in the
tenderest green. Floating gossamers would hover around her; small pink
buds would bend down to kiss her small pink feet. So encompassed she
would come to meet us along the wood paths, a vision of grace and
maidenly beauty; the traditional smile on her lips, the equally
traditional tear in her eye. She would look up in our faces with an
appealing glance, and then begin suddenly to weep, she herself knew not
why. A maiden with the most maidenly of dreams, enclosing a whole
enchanted world of visionary hopes, fears, delights, anticipations,
which it would be the dull business of Experience to dissipate as the
year rolled on.

But April, as she presents herself before us this year, is not that sort
of maiden at all. She is a remarkably uncompromising sort of young
woman, with hardly any visible green about her costume. She does not
care for the colour apparently, but prefers drabs, and greys, and
browns. As for tears she is not nearly as much given to them as we could
desire. She thinks poorly of them evidently, and considers them out of
date. Her smiles too are doled out in the same penurious fashion as her
tears. She gives us what no doubt she considers our due of both, but
nothing to spare. Her impulses are all dull, decorous, mechanical; as
for her feet, far from being bare, they are clad in warm winter shoes
and stockings, which indeed they have every reason to be.

Doubtless I am old-fashioned, but I cannot admire such sedate damsels.
Give me a little more spontaneity; a little more youthful impetuosity
and dash--

    “Robes loosely flowing, hair as free;
     Such sweet neglect more taketh me.”

To drop metaphor, which has a tendency to drop itself, we are in despair
over this dryness, and as a consequence have had to resort already to
the aid of our watering-pots. Now in April the watering-pot ought in my
opinion to be still reposing in its tool shed, with the early spider
weaving his first web across its spout. So strongly is this impressed
upon my mind that I feel as if there were something illicit, something I
might almost go so far as to call unprincipled, in resorting to its
assistance thus prematurely. After all though, a gardener’s first
virtue, I reflect, is to save his plants, and unless we promptly take
some step of the kind, ours for a surety will for the most part die.



APRIL 11, 1900


One advantage we have secured out of our dry April. Ever since our
arrival we have wanted an additional water-stand for the garden, but
various causes, chiefly I think dislike to making any more inroads upon
the bracken, have hindered us from setting one up. When it comes to
dragging watering-pots several hundred yards while the year is still
only three months old, imagination pictures what fatigues will be ours
in July and August. A new stand accordingly has been established, and an
ugly scar the laying of it has made through the copse. Now however that
part of the business is done; the grass sods, carefully laid on one
side, are back in their places again, and one must only hope that the
bracken, safely curled away underground, knows little or nothing about
the transaction.

As its practical outcome we have, rising out of the ground, a short
stiff pipe of lead, which has been more or less dexterously hidden away
in the heart of one of our stunted oaks. I am ashamed to confess the
intense, the childish satisfaction I found this morning in turning our
new tap for the first time, and seeing the water gush out in one free
bound, as if glad of its escape; looking as clear too, as if newly come
from the heart of a glacier, or upon its way to the edge of some
Atlantic cliff, there to be caught by the wind, as I have often seen it
caught, and sent back high overhead, in one dancing, rainbow-coloured
feather of light.

“Take you at your commonest, at your ugliest, and what a lovely thing
you are!” I thought, as I let the tap run for a few minutes, and stood
to watch the water beginning to create little rills and runnels for
itself, and to feed the dry copse, the dead leaves, brambles, withered
bracken, everything within reach, with the first full rush of its
benevolence.

I do not know that I am more given than other people to proclaiming
aloud that I have too many blessings; that Nature has been too generous,
and too bountiful in her benefits on my behalf. Now and then however it
has occurred to me to ask myself what I--or, for that matter, other
people--have done to deserve this free unstinted gift of clear, pure
water. In and out of our houses; through our pipes and conduits; into
all our tubs and washhand basins, it flows and flows continually, and we
take it as an absolute matter of course that it should do so, rarely
even taking the trouble to say “Thank you.”

By way of commentary upon the above reflection I have just taken up a
newspaper from the table, and this is what has met my eye. It is an
extract apparently out of a letter home.

“We found some water at last near Stinkfontein"--suggestive name--“but
the place was very shallow, and the mud black and deep. We could not get
the horses to look at it, but the men drank it greedily, and drank it
too at the only place where they could reach it, which was where the
hoofs had churned it into a blackish liquor, thick as soup.”

Poor Tommy! Yet there are people who declare that you are not fond of
water! Evidently this is another of those libels of which you have been
too long the subject.



APRIL 17, 1900


The west wind this morning had a rolling sonorousness which sent my
thoughts flying, swift as light, across all the little intervening
ridges, over the plains, over the villages, across endless housetops,
through multitudinous suburbs, over the big, ugly, stately town; out
again, over fresh sweeps of more or less encumbered green fields,
hedgerows, lanes, roads; past meadows and orchards, redolent of
centuries of care; past brickfields and coalfields, redolent only of
defiling greed; over a fretful space of sea; across more fields, less
enclosed, less cultivated, but certainly not less green. On and on
breathlessly, until I stood--free of all encumbrances, free of any
thought of luggage, conveyance, or the need of a roof to shelter
under--upon a very familiar spot, close to the tumbling breast of the
Atlantic.

The clearness, or lack of clearness, with which certain familiar spots
rise before the eye is one of the minor mysteries of life; mysteries
which like many larger ones we are never likely to clear up entirely to
our satisfaction. There are moments in my experience when such a spot as
this that I am thinking of, is in a sense _more_ vivid to me away from
it than if I were standing there in person; when every tuft of bog
myrtle becomes clearly visible; every yard of “drift” or of “boulder
clay” shows in its entirety; the very stones fallen from them, and lying
like small cannon-balls upon the beach, being all able to be counted.
The waves toss; the clouds roll wearily; the seaweed rises and falls, as
it naturally would. No scene in a cinematograph could by any possibility
be clearer.

This is the vivid condition. An hour later one tries to conjure up the
same familiar scene, and not a detail will rise to one’s bidding. Not a
leaf, not a stone, not a wave will become manifest. Clearness is gone. A
dull, blurred impression is all that remains. The landscape as a whole
may be there, but its details are lost. That living,
multitudinous-tinted foreground has vanished as though it had never
existed.

It must have been the scent of the bog plants which conferred that
momentary impression upon me this morning. That scents “open the wards
of memory with a key” we all know. They do more, for they sweep away for
the moment those films which ordinarily cover the mental eye, so that
during that moment we really do see. Of all scents commend me for this
awakening quality to the boggy ones. They alone in my experience are
really transformatory. For the brief time that their aroma is in one’s
nostrils one actually _is_ in the place that they recall.

It is a proof of the demoralising effect of ownership that one of my
first impulses nowadays is a desire to transfer the plants that I see,
sometimes that I merely remember, from where they are to where I happen
to want them. Yet, when one thinks of it, what an outrage! Why should
one desire to do anything of the sort? Conceive the contrast, the
downfall; the roominess, the elemental breadth, the cool, rain-saturated
comfort of the one setting; the cramped limitation, the unpalatable
dryness of the other. Not that I would for worlds disparage our own
faithful coppice; to do so would be to show myself the merest of
ingrates. Was I not an alien, and did it not befriend me? Was I not
roofless, and did it not offer its soil for us to lift a roof over?
Still, when one tries to place the one scene beside the other the
contrast becomes farcical. The very wind--the cold, unsentimental
wind--must be sensible of such a difference. How much more then a
root-extending, acutely sensitive, living thing!

I have a profound affection for bog plants, which I hope some of them
respond to, for they thrive fairly. Others are exceedingly difficult to
establish, and rarely look anything but starved and homesick. Amongst
these are the butterworts. Why the translation should so particularly
affect them I have yet to learn, but the fact is unmistakable. Not all
the water of all our taps, not all the peat of all our hillsides will
persuade them to be contented. In vain I have wooed them with the
wettest spots I could find; in vain erected poor semblances of tussocks
for their benefit; have puddled the peat till it seemed impossible that
any creature unprovided with eyes could distinguish it from a bit of
real bog. No, die they will, and die they hitherto always have.

The sundews, on the other hand, are much less hard to please. Indeed,
considering that at least one species grows wild within a few miles of
us, it would be the height of affectation were they to refuse to
tolerate us. I find myself falling into the habit of thinking that I am
inhabiting here a region of eternal thirstiness, devoid of the materials
of sustaining any vegetable more requiring in the matter of water than a
gaillardia. Yet, when one considers the matter seriously, England is not
precisely the Great Sahara! There are brown streams, purling brooks,
dripping wells, rushy meadows, even puddles and bog-holes, to be found a
good deal nearer to this spot than the Atlantic. We are purblind
citizens all of us; apt to dogmatise largely upon an uncommonly small
substratum of knowledge. Like the moles and the blindworms we know
remarkably well the few inches that we can actually feel and touch; but
with regard to what John Locke calls “the rest of the vast expansum,”
that we give up to fog and practical non-existence, thereby saving
ourselves from the trouble of knowing anything about it.



APRIL 18, 1900


Yet even dull, and quite unfeathered bipeds have their glimmerings now
and then of sense, and of instinct. There are hours in which the great
Mother befriends them, as she does the rest of her two-legged,
four-legged, or many-legged offspring. That she should continue to do so
is I think amiable, and rather surprising on her part, when one
considers how they disobey and deride her; how they sit day after day in
stuffy rooms, eating dinners of many courses; hardly ever getting up to
see the sun rise, or doing any of the other things she directs, and
which her better-behaved scholars invariably do.

In spite of this, when the right winds blow, when the spring is afoot,
and the leaves are beginning to bud, she allows the old visions to
return to them. She brings back the old voices from the old haunts, to
whisper once more in their ears, so that for the moment they forget the
years that the locust has eaten, and their own incredible stupidities,
and all that has been, and time rolls itself up like a scroll, and they
are once again in very deed, though but for a little while, as they once
were.

There is a spot in a hill-wood barely a mile from this door, to which I
have been a good many times this spring, and which each time I go gives
me a curiously homely feeling. Ireland seems to breathe in it, even West
Ireland, though I can hardly say why, the only apparent reason being the
rather unpatriotic one that the fir trees, of which the wood consists,
have been sadly neglected. It covers an unusually steep bit of hillside,
and below expands into a tangle of brakes and brambles, circling about a
hollow place, which in my mind’s eye I conceive to be a boggy pool,
though, were I to clamber down to it, I should probably find it to be
dust-dry. Far and near not a roof is within sight, else were that
illusion for a certainty lost. Moreover, the only bit of distance
visible seems to be houseless also, and in these grey, rather
despondent-looking spring days wears just a touch of that wistful
indefiniteness, the lack of which, one is apt to assert, amongst many
beauties, to be England’s most conspicuous blemish.

Until the last great summons comes for us, we can never, happily,
entirely lose what has once formed a part of our little mental
patrimony. We may deliberately discard it, or, what oftener happens, it
may get unintentionally overlaid with other matters, so that it appears
to be gone, but a little search, or some happy accident, brings it
flying swiftly back, and the pleasure of that repossession is so great
that it seems almost worth while that the thing should have been
temporarily mislaid.

Of all such inalienable possessions the love of out-of-door life is
surely the most inalienable? And is it not profoundly natural that it
should be so? For this race, to which one belongs, was after all born
under an open sky, even though every individual of which it is composed
may have been born to-day under roofs. We do not any longer require the
comfort of sheltering boughs, nor yet to nestle at night in moss-lined
hollows, but the thought of such places still lurks in our blood, and
the life of out-of-doors remains as much a part of the natural
inheritance of a man, as it is a part of the inheritance of a fox, or of
a wood-pigeon, or of a tiger moth.

Back, back--like the touch of half-forgotten greetings--comes a flood of
remembrances to the heart. Back flows the old stream along its old
channels. No longer tearing along with a wild tumultuous rush, but still
sweeping by, full and clear, with a pleasant afternoon patter, and
showing many an unlooked-for nook, many a forgotten corner along its
banks, once we surrender ourselves frankly to its guidance. Back the
scenes return; ever back and back; now vividly; now with a dream-like
vagueness; scenes, some of them, that we have ourselves known, others to
which we have only as it were a communal right. Waking hours under the
flickering shade of leaves; life as it was lived in a larger, freer
world; a world without walls or hedgerows; without sign-posts, or
notice-boards; a world without towns, or smoke; without dust, or crowds.

It has been often debated, and not perhaps very profitably, which of two
types of men see deepest into that great arcanum of life which we
roughly call Nature. Is it the Man of Science, whose business it is to
chronicle what he sees and learns, but who must never travel half an
inch beyond his brief? who must cling to fact, as the samphire-picker
clings to his rope, and never for an instant relax his hold of it? Or is
it on the other hand the Singer, who is only too ready to toss all fact
to the winds, and to account it mere dust, and dregs and dross, so he
can awaken in himself, and pass on to others, some hint, some passing
impression, of what he would probably himself call the soul of things?

Time was when the barrier between these two types was held to be an
absolutely impassable one. We call ours a prosaic age, but it is
certainly one of its better points, and a mitigation of that prose, that
those barriers hardly appear to us so absolutely impregnable as they
once were. If we have never seen a great scientist combined with a
great poet it is at least not inconceivable that the world may some day
behold such a combination. Even within the generation just over, and in
utilitarian England, there have been one or two men who have given us at
all events an inkling of so desirable a possibility.

Given a mind that can feed on knowledge, without becoming surfeited by
it; a mind to which it has become so familiar that it has grown to be as
it were organic; a mind for which facts are no longer heavy, but light,
so that it can play with them, as an athlete plays with his iron balls,
and send them flying aloft, like birds through the air. Given such a
mind, so fed by knowledge, so constituted by nature, and it is not easy
to see limits to the realms of thought and of discovery, to the feats of
reconstruction, still more perhaps to the feats of reconciliation, which
may not, some day or other, be open to it.



APRIL 26, 1900


The reddening of our sundew patch has brought back to my mind various
sundew experiments, carried on long since, with all the zeal of youth
and enthusiasm. In this, as in every other walk of biology, the
investigators of those days, amateur and scientist alike, followed with
docility in the wake of their master. Darwin played the tune, and all
the rest of us, great and small, danced to his piping.

To the best of my recollection my own investigations were chiefly
carried on standing stork fashion upon a tussock, surrounded by an inky
opacity, which threatened to draw the investigator downwards with a
clutch, more tenacious and formidable than that of any sundew. To the
faithful Irish botanist the poverty of the Flora of Ireland as compared
with that of Great Britain has always been a serious humiliation. In
this respect these Droseraceæ form an exception. Of the few British
species all, I think, are to be found upon the bogs of the West of
Ireland, the largest of them--appropriately called anglica--being much
commoner in Ireland than elsewhere in these islands.

A very slight acquaintance with their habits could hardly fail, I think,
to convince even the most sceptical that their roots are mainly employed
as anchors, and water-pipes, while for a supply of that nitrogen which
every plant requires they are chiefly, if not exclusively, dependent
upon insects. Of these the two lesser species would appear to content
themselves with the smallest of Diptera and Lepidoptera, whereas anglica
will occasionally tackle larger prey, and I have myself seen it with a
good-sized moth (a noctua) attached to and nearly covering the entire
disk, the long tentacle-like hairs being closely inflected over the
victim, whose struggles are soon put an end to, once the sticky
secretion exuding from the hairs closes above the trachea. When the leaf
re-opens nearly the whole of the insect (be it fly, moth or beetle) will
be found to have disappeared, even the wings being reduced to a few
glittering fragments. No animal substance in fact comes amiss; fragments
of bone, hide, meat-fibrine, and even, according to one authority, tooth
enamel, softening, and in time dissolving under the powerful solvent
secreted by the glands. Whether the Droseraceæ have the power of
attracting their prey, or must wait until chance sends it within their
clutches, seems undecided. In the case of a little Portuguese relative,
one Drosophylum lusitanicum (growing, unlike other members of the
family, upon _dry_ hills in the neighbourhood of Oporto) such a power
appears undoubtedly to exist, the people of the neighbourhood using it
as a flycatcher, and hanging it upon their walls for that express
purpose.

This meat-eating habit or instinct (whichever we may agree to call it)
is shared to a greater or less extent by all the Droseraceæ, such as the
Venus’s fly-trap, the Byblis gigantea of Australia, and a small but
curious aquatic cousin, known to botanists by the formidable name of
Aldrovanda vesiculosa, whose tiny leaves have the power of shutting
vice-like over every unfortunate insect which approaches them, and which
thus finds itself enclosed in a floating prison. If eminently
characteristic of them, this carnivorousness is by no means confined
however to the sundews, and their allies. If anything the Pinguiculas,
for instance, rather exceed them in voracity. Few plants are at once so
beautiful, and so interesting from the problems to which their
distribution gives rise, as is the great Irish butterwort--Pinguicula
grandiflora. Unknown to England and Scotland; unknown to the whole north
of Europe; unknown even to the rest of Ireland; its viscid green
rosettes may be seen on most of the lowlands of Kerry, and upon many of
the bogs of south Cork. For nine months of the year that is all that
there is to see. In June a flower-stalk rises out of the centre of the
rosette, crowned with a pendulous bell of the most pellucid, the most
ethereal shade of violet. Happily for the susceptibilities of the
investigator this is not the flesh-eating portion of the plant, that
office being strictly confined to the leaves. Stooping down and
examining these leaves we find that, whereas some are flat, others are
slightly dog-eared along the edges. If further we unroll a few of the
dog-ears we discover the remains, not of one alone, but often of a dozen
unfortunate flies and midges, in all stages of assimilation; some
already half-digested, others still alive, and struggling to escape from
their glutinous prison. If further we place a fragment of bone, of meat,
or indeed of any nitrogenous substance, upon the edge of one of the
fully expanded leaves, we shall find that little by little the leaf
begins curling upwards, until the two edges approach, and then join.
Finally the morsel is lost to sight, becoming entirely immersed in its
bath of secretion, where it remains until all its nutritive parts are
absorbed.

Viscous as the whole surface of the leaf is, it does not seem as if this
process of digestion was carried on with the same rapidity in the centre
as at the sides, and, as there are in this case no long hairs to act as
locomotive organs, it often happens that one may see flies and other
small insects lying partially dried up and useless in the centre of the
leaf. In one respect this viscidity appears at first sight to be
inconvenient, the entire surface of the leaf being often covered with
twigs, leaves, particles of boggy fibre, and such-like matters, which
the plant has apparently no power of getting rid of. In the end this may
prove however to be an advantage rather than otherwise, since it has
been ascertained that the Pinguiculas feed, not alone on animal, but
also on vegetable substances; the extreme stickiness of the leaves
causes them moreover to act as a chevaux-de-frise, thus hindering small
but industrious ants from making their way up the flower-stalks to the
corolla.

Yet another little group of bog-plants, namely, the Utricularias, or
bladderworts, are meat eaters. In their case the fly-catching apparatus
is situated, not in the leaves, but in certain small attached
air-bladders, which are constructed almost exactly upon the principle of
an eel-trap, and which, if opened, may generally be found to contain
flies. Thus we see how discovery may be anticipated, and how one of
man’s most boasted attributes--that of the Destroyer--may be wrested
from him by a miserable little green bog-weed! Before the first Celtic
hunter flung spear at wolf or stag; before the Firbolgs, or the
Tuatha-da-Daanans--cunning workers and craftsmen--had set up any gins
or traps in the wilderness; before the first monk or abbot had arranged
ingeniously devised weirs, wherein the salmon--seemingly by
miracle--rang a bell to announce its own arrival; before any of these
things had been done, or thought of, little Utricularia minor and little
Utricularia intermedia had set up their own primitive green eel-traps in
the yet unvisited wastes of Iar-Connaught.



MAY 5, 1900


Few events are more gratifying than to find oneself taken more seriously
by other people than by oneself, and I am pleased therefore to discover
that our palpably artificial little pond has been taken possession of by
a colony of frogs, which must have travelled some distance to make its
acquaintance, frog-haunted ponds or even ditches being by no means
abundant on these dry hillsides of ours.

I have never myself met more than one species of frog in these islands.
Professor Bell, however, speaks of another, Rana Scotica, which he held
to be distinct, but the difference seems to be mainly one of size. It is
extremely difficult to persuade anyone who has noticed the multitudes of
frogs which swarm in Ireland that they were only introduced there
artificially, and as lately as the beginning of last century. Such,
nevertheless, is the fact, and the date of the event is, moreover, a
tolerably fixed one. It was a Dr. Gunthers, or Guithers, who, in the
year 1705, turned out a handful of spawn into a ditch near Trinity
College. For some years the frogs appear to have contented themselves
with the neighbourhood of that University, but sixteen years later, in
1721, they were found forty miles away, from which point they seem to
have rapidly extended themselves over the whole island. Incidentally the
fact is confirmed by a great, if hardly a zoological authority, namely,
Dean Swift. In his _Considerations about Maintaining the Poor_, which
appeared in the year 1726, in the course of thundering against certain
fire offices, which had the impertinence to be English, he declares that
“their marks upon our houses spread faster and further than a colony of
frogs.” The portent, therefore, it is plain, had reached his ears.

Coincidences are attractive things, and it is satisfactory to discover
that as regards earlier times we are again able to fortify our mere lay
zoology upon the authority of an eminent ecclesiastic. This time it was
St. Donatus, bishop of Etruria, who, writing in the ninth century,
assured the world, upon his episcopal authority, that no frogs or toads
existed, or, moreover, could exist in Ireland. Three centuries later
Giraldus Cambrensis tells us, however, that in his time a frog was taken
alive near Waterford, and brought into court, Robert de la Poer being
then warden. “Whereat,” he says, “Duvenold, King of Ossory, a man of
sense amongst his people, beat upon his head, and spake thus: ‘That
reptile is the bearer of doleful news to Ireland.’” Giraldus is careful,
however, to assure us that “no man will venture to suppose that this
reptile was ever born in Ireland, for the mud there does not, as in
other countries, contain the germs from which frogs are bred”; indeed,
in another part of the _Topographia Hibernica_ we learn that frogs,
toads, and snakes, if accidentally brought to Ireland, on being cast
ashore, immediately “turning on their backs, do burst and die.” This
statement is corroborated by a still more illustrious authority, that of
the Venerable Bede, whom Giraldus quotes as follows: “No reptile is
found there” (in Ireland), “neither can any serpent live in it, for,
though oft carried there out of Britain, so soon as the ship draws near
the land, and _the scent of the air from off the shore reaches them_,
immediately they die.” So efficacious was the very dust of Ireland that
on “gardens or other places in foreign lands being sprinkled with it,
immediately all venomous reptiles are driven away.” So, too, with
fragments of the skins and bones of animals born and bred in Ireland;
indeed, parings from Irish manuscripts, and scraps of the leather with
which Irish books were bound, were amongst the accredited cures for
snakebite until well on in the Middle Ages. Of his own personal
experience Giraldus relates to us how, upon a certain occasion, a thong
of Irish leather was, in his presence, drawn round a toad, and that,
“coming to the thong, the animal fell backward as if stunned. It then
tried the opposite side of the circle, but, meeting the thong all round,
it shrank from it as if it were pestiferous. At last, digging a hole
with its feet in the centre of the circle, it disappeared in the
presence of much people.”

Our frogs and toads are not likely at present to become an affliction to
us. Should they ever do so I must certainly send for some Irish leather,
or, failing that, for a pinch of Irish dust, and try its effect upon
them. An influence that has been vouched for by such a variety of
authorities ought to retain something of its ancient potency. Scientific
experiments in any case are always interesting!



MAY 8, 1900


Returning to our pond this morning to see whether the water-lilies
propose flowering this season, I find that the frogs have been
depositing spawn along its edges, so that the thongs of Irish leather
may become necessary sooner than I expected!

All the same I am delighted to see the frog-spawn, for I have an
affection for tadpoles. Youthful associations cluster pretty thickly
around them, but apart from such a merely sentimental attachment, there
is a satisfaction, I may say a zoologic thrill, about this transition of
a water-living and water-breathing animal into an air-breathing one; a
transition going on, moreover, not at some remote, and more or less
dubious geologic age, but under one’s very eyes, even, as in this case,
in the middle of one’s own decorous, shaven lawn.

It is difficult to remember that frogs breathe air as much as we do
ourselves. Unlike ourselves, and their other zoologic betters, they do
so, however, not by alternate contractions and dilations of the chest,
Nature not having provided them with ribs, but by the doubtless more
archaic process of swallowing air. Not only would a frog die if kept too
long under water, but--seeing that it can only swallow air by shutting
its mouth--were that mouth kept forcibly open it would equally die, and
from the same cause, namely, want of breath. Tadpoles, on the other
hand, are strictly water-breathers, and until they have shed their
gills, have no more need to go to the surface to breathe than a fish
has. That, by the way is not an absolutely accurate illustration, seeing
that certain fishes _do_ need to go to the surface for air. The famous
Anabas, or “climbing perch” of India, is such an air-breathing fish, the
air reaching it by means of cavities on either side of its gills, and if
prevented from reaching the surface, and renewing the supply, it would
“drown like a dog,” or so the scientists assert. Such cases, however,
can hardly be called normal. Fishes that can live comfortably for days
out of the water, that can nest in a bush, and travel across a
particularly dry country, are not likely to be met with in zoologic
rambles about this parish.

Returning to our Irish frogs, it is an odd fact, especially considering
their recent introduction, that in addition to swarming over the
lowlands, and in every place dear to frogs, they have learnt to climb
long distances up hill, and to establish themselves in ponds separated
widely from any others, often not even fed by streams, and moreover
destitute of nearly all other animal inhabitants, with the exception of
certain minute molluscs, which are believed by zoologists to have
reached them upon the feet of wading birds, and that at such a remote
period of time that they have become what are practically new species.

Many years ago, on reaching the top of Mweelrea, the leading mountain of
Connemara, I remember my surprise at finding swarms of young tadpoles
wriggling along the margin of a small pond, nearly upon the actual
summit. They were still in the engaging comma-like stage, before legs
had begun to dawn upon their consciousness, and seemed to have
remarkably little to eat, for the water was crystal clear. The pond was
one of that attractive kind known as _corries_, held by the geologists,
doubtless truly, to be of glacial origin; a delicious clean-cut oval;
pure rock, from marge to marge; gouged, as if by the chisel of Michael
Angelo, from the matrix in which it lay. But for the unmistakable
evidence of the tadpoles it would, to any reasonable imagination, have
suggested the bath of some mountain nymph very much sooner than
frog-spawn.

We are all of us to-day evolutionists, if some of us still with a
certain amount of reservation, and to the evolutionist tadpoles must
always prove interesting acquaintances. They provide us with at least an
inkling as to the fashion in which your unadulterated water-breather may
have been converted into an air-breather, and by means of no process
more recondite than that of losing its gills. That such conversions do
take place, and under certain circumstances remain permanent, has been
proved in the well-known case of the axolotl, or Mexican gilled
salamander. As long ago as the year 1867, while conducting some
experiments at the Jardin des Plantes, M. Duméril startled the zoologic
world of Paris by communicating the fact that, out of a number of
axolotls kept in the collection there, about thirty had left the water,
and had assumed the form of what had hitherto been regarded as an
absolutely distinct genus of land salamander, known as amplystoma. This
discovery made at the time a prodigious stir, not so much on account of
a water-breathing creature losing its gills, and becoming an
air-breather, for that was a phenomenon which might be seen every
spring, and in most of the ditches round Paris, but because the axolotl
was known to breed, and that it therefore appeared to indicate the
exceedingly anomalous case of a larval form proving to be fertile.

How the feat of transformation was to be actually witnessed was the next
problem, and it is pleasant to remember that it was through the energy
and perseverance of a woman naturalist, Fraulein Marie von Chauvin, that
the matter was finally cleared up. By continually damping the specimens
of axolotl kept by her on land, and assiduously feeding them, she was
able to preserve two out of five through the gradual process of
decreasing their gill-tufts, and tail-fins, changing their skins, and so
forth. Finally to her own and everyone’s triumph, the complete
amplystoma form was assumed, and the transformation was thereby
accomplished. The world has seen a fair number of miracles since it
began to run its course, and perhaps not the least difficult of those
miracles to receive with absolute credulity have been some of its
natural ones!



MAFEKING-DAY, 1900


It is the nineteenth of May. S. S. has returned, and the east wind which
has long been vexing our souls has departed for the moment, and a soft
caressing zephyr blows seductively. The garden, comforted by recent
showers, is smiling one broad smile from the red steps at the top of it
to the new pergola at the bottom. And now this morning comes the news of
the Relief of Mafeking. Joy for the victors; joy for the nation; joy for
everything and everybody. Flags flutter from all the posts; the dogs
strut about in new tricolor rosettes; “the air breaks into a mist with
bells.” All this is well, very well. Only; only. A few lines coming by
the same post, a single short note, and for one person that May sunshine
is blotted out as effectually as though the very orb itself had
perished. The garden with all its flowers; the copse surrounding it, new
clad in gala attire; the whole cheerful little picture has become
darkened; its atmosphere changed; its pleasant anticipations turned
into a simple mockery. Even to-day’s news sounds thin and unreal, and
the tale of Mafeking is as it were the tale of some defence read of long
since in an ancient, a seldom-opened history, the actors and heroes of
which have long vanished and been forgotten. We are but poor, bedimmed
mirrors all of us, and what we reflect is rarely the real thing, more
often only some blurred and distorted image projected by our own sad
selves.



MAY 26, 1900


That Nature is cruel is not to be denied; the evidences of that cruelty
are written out large and red in every woodland, under every hedgerow.
That she can be also unaccountably pitiful, or at all events take pains
to appear so, is fortunately equally true, and it is a truth that at
times comes very near to the heart. This morning at a very early hour
there was a tenderness, a kind of hovering serenity over everything,
that appealed to one like a benediction. The air itself seemed changed;
sanctified. The familiar little paths one walked along were like the
approaches to some as yet invisible Temple.

There are certain pictures of Jean Francois Millet’s in which this
quality of sanctity is the first thing that strikes one, the more so
that the obviously religious element is conspicuously absent from them.
His “Angelus” has always seemed to me a poorer composition in this
respect than some others. When one sees a man standing with his hat off
in the middle of a field, in the company of a woman, who clasps her
hands, and looks down, one knows what one is expected to feel. When on
the other hand one sees only a childish-looking farm-drudge knitting, a
number of greedy sheep feeding, and a rough dog watching them, where,
one asks oneself in perplexity, does the religious element come in? That
it is to be found in the “Bergère” is however, unmistakable, and equally
unmistakably was it to be found in the copse this morning, though how it
got there, or who implanted it, I were rash were I to attempt to
explain.

Assuredly man is by nature a devotional creature, however little of the
dogmatic may mingle with his devotions. He may avert his ear from the
church-going bell, he may refuse to label himself with the label of any
particular denomination, but it is only to be overtaken with awe in the
heart of a forest, and to fall on his knees, as it were, in some green
secluded spot of the wilderness. The sense of something benignant close
at hand, of some pitying eye surveying one, is so vivid at certain
moments of one’s life that it actually needs a rough conscious effort if
one would shake it off. Even the sense of the vastness of that arena
upon which our poor little drama is being played out, even this habitual
impression becomes less grimly crushing at such moments than usual. What
if it is colossal, one says to oneself, and what if, as compared to it,
ourselves and our troubles are infinitesimal? what if they count no more
in the scheme of things than do the afflictions of a broken-legged
mouse, or of a crushed beetle? Very well; be it so. The mouse and the
beetle have, after all, each their allotted place in that scheme. Nay
for aught we know to the contrary, each may have its own incalculable
hour; each may be susceptible of the same profound, if intangible,
consolation.



JUNE 2, 1900


The revolving year has brought us back at last to June. Here is June,
and here are all the June flowers. If June were only always really June,
and if our hearts could always keep time to its weather, then were earth
paradise, and any remoter one might be relegated to the remotest of
Greek kalends. June however is by no means invariably June, while as for
our hearts they are like our eyes, which have a fashion of blinking
sometimes at the light, as those of owls are reported to do, preferring
their own shadowy places, and the night, which at least brings kindly
dreams. Yet are kindly dreams, it may be asked, really the kindliest,
seeing that we wake from them, and know that they are false? Are not
ugly dreams, are not even terrible ones, better, seeing that we wake
from them, and say to ourselves that matters, after all, are not quite
so bad as _that_? It is a question, and, like many questions, a good
deal easier asked than answered.

    “If there were dreams to sell,
     Pleasant, and sad as well,
     And the crier rang his bell,
     Which would you buy?”

It is not the time, however, now for dreams, or for dream thoughts. It
is nine o’clock in the morning, and everybody ought therefore to be wide
awake and smiling. The garden at all events is performing its duty in
both these respects, and seems, moreover, to be making encouraging
little signals, like some humble but rather impatient suitor, who wishes
to observe that he has really been waiting a long time, and deserves a
little attention. Perhaps it does. Perhaps, seeing that it is there, and
that we are here, it ought not to fare worse at our hands than our own
dull bodies, which have to be clothed and fed, put to bed, and taken up
again, whatever the less material portion may be feeling at the time.
Here on my table I see is a list of some of our latest seedlings. They
are not alpines this time, only common border plants, with a sprinkling
of candidates for naturalisation, of which this copse can absorb almost
any amount, so long as they are of the right sort. It is not a long
list, and will not therefore take very long to transcribe.

Here it is:-

  Adonis vernalis.
    ” pyrenaica.
  Alströmeria aurantiaca.
  Anchusa italica.
  Anthemis tinctoria.
  Aponogeton (self-sown).
  Armeria cephalotes.
    ”    ””  alba.
  Aster amellus.
    ” ericoides.
  Campanula pyramidalis.
  Catananche cærulea.
  Commelina cælestis.
  Chionodoxa sardensis.
  Cimicifuga fœtida.
  Chelone (Penstemon) barbata.
  Clematis graveolens.
  Cobæa scandens.
  Convolvulus sylvatica.
  Coreopsis lanceolata.
    ” tenuifolia.
  Cistus laurifolius.
    ” formosus.
  Cyclamen Coum.
    ” europæum.
    ” hederæfolium.
  Cytisus scoparius.
    ”           ”     albus.
    ” Andreanus.
  Cytisus præcox.
  Delphinium (various).
  Dictamnus fraxinella.
  Dipsacus laciniatus.
  Doronicum austriacum.
    ” plantaginum
    ” excelsum.
  Eccremocarpus scaber.
  Echinops Ritro.
    ” ruthenicus.
  Erigeron speciosus.
  Eryngium amethystinum.
    ” Olivierianum.
  Onopordon arabicum.
    ” illyricum.
  Ferula tingitana.
  Francoa appendiculata.
  Gaillardia grandiflora.
  Gypsophila paniculata.
  Heuchera sanguinea.
  Hypericum calycinum.
    ” olympicum.
  Iberis corifolia.
    ” sempervirens.
  Lathyrus latifolius grandiflorus.
  Lilium tigrinum (from bulblets in axils).
  Lupinus arboreus.
    ” polyphyllus.
  Lupinus polyphyllus alba.
  Lythrum salicaria superbum.
  Libertia formosa.
  Lobelia cardinalis.
  Muscari armeniacum, } slow.
    ” conicum,        }
  Meconopsis cambrica
    ” nepalensis
  Meconopsis Wallichi.
  Mimulus cardinalis.
  Myosotis dissitiflora.
    ” sylvatica.
    ” palustris semperflorens.

My list appears to be a longer one than I thought. I have as yet only
reached the N’s, yet my energies have quite come to an end for the
present. I will put off the remainder of it therefore for a day or two.



JUNE 8, 1900


I had intended going doggedly on this morning with the list of our
seed-sowings, but another impulse has come, and the sowings must stand
over for the moment. Something in the look of to-day’s sky and earth--a
brand new earth after last night’s rain--has brought a new, and a most
unlooked-for wave of exhilaration to my mental shores, and the
visitation is just now too rare and comforting not to be met half way
with the keenest of hospitality.

“Life is a flux of moods,” and to the fluctuations of those moods there
is assuredly no limit. If we are eternally surprised by our own
limitations, our own torpidity and dullness, there are also--and for
this heaven be thanked--some possibilities of surprise upon the other
side, and that for the oldest, the saddest, the least alert amongst us.
A hundred hours of intolerable dullness and stagnation pass over our
heads. Then comes the hundred and first, and lo! the dull brain wakes,
and the deaf ear hears. A new perception of the unperceived relationship
of things; a new perception of the invisible splendours lying unnoticed
around us, becomes for the moment almost startlingly visible. Such hours
are the only really countable ones, the chief solace of existence, the
one clear reason, one is tempted to say, of our poor encumbered, stunted
little lives. For their sakes, if for no other reason, it were well
worth the trouble of being born, and of all the aches and ills that
belong to that very singular estate; worth our meeting gallantly, if
possible merrily, the thousand petty pinpricks, the slings and arrows of
outrageous fortune, the occasional alienation of those one loves best,
nay--if it must be so--even the fell assaults of Giant Despair and all
his abominable brood.

For the suggestiveness of what lies about us is no mere fancy, but is
absolutely real; real as the light upon yonder tree-tops; real as the
sorrow in our hearts; real as the love that makes all things endurable;
real as the death which puts an end to pain. At this very moment, now
passing over my head, there is lying about me--close to my eyes, could I
but discern it--the materials alike of the loftiest poetry, and of the
most riddle-solving science. Disregarded and unheeded there they lie,
ready alike for the greatest singer in his happiest mood, for the most
era-making of discoverers, nay, for aught I can tell to the contrary,
for the seer, the saint, and the prophet in their hours of highest, and
most God-inspired contemplation.

For the raw materials of inspiration are eternally at hand, only
invisibly. They are as present here this morning as they ever were;
present in the earth and its green things; in the common face of day; in
the comings and goings of the clouds, and of men; in the changes of the
sky, and of our own poor lives. The light that is gilding yonder cumulus
is as capable of inspiring great thoughts here to-day in a Surrey copse,
as ever it was in Delphi, or in Argos, or in Jerusalem. It may awaken
just as resounding emotions, it may inspire just as great deeds to the
hearts of yonder passers-by in a dogcart, as it did to the Assailants of
Troy, or to the Seekers of the Golden Fleece. The constituents of all
greatness, of all poetry, heroism, and sanctity are for ever amongst us.
It is only the right recipients of them that are alas! so scanty.

And yet, even though we are not quite the right recipients, it is well
for us that such gleams come. Who shall say that an existence which is
capable of being even thus temporarily lifted above itself is not for
that very reason a goodly and a desirable one? What proportion of
discomfort, what proportion even of sheer pain, of numbing weakness, of
crushing sorrow were not worth enduring so long as one knew--knew as a
matter of absolute certainty--that they would be now and again pierced
by gleams of such celestial potency? The hard thing, and the thing that
for all mortals will always be hardest to bear patiently, is--not the
uncertainty even--so much as the desperate transitoriness of such
visitations. Almost before we have time to see and to confer with them,
our enchanting visitors have spread out their gauzy wings, and have
vanished beyond recall. They are gone, but where they are gone to, or
when they will next revisit us we have not the faintest notion. Ariel
and Titania have disappeared into the abyss, but Caliban and Bottom on
the contrary remain permanently behind, and are continually at our
elbows. At this very moment, and while I am still thinking about it, the
light is shifting rapidly. The day has grown older; more crowded. A
thousand bloated nothings have sprung up like so many fungi in the path.
Shadows, slight, but impenetrable, have gathered over the foreground. My
own mood too has shifted, and what a while ago seemed so clear has grown
fainter and fainter, and seems to be upon the point of disappearing
altogether. The good little hour has passed!



JULY 7, 1900


Once more the great outside tide of life has beaten down the little
barricades that one erects against it, and has come thundering in over
them in an avalanche, tossing them to right and left, as though they
were so many straws in its path! This week that has just ended has been
for millions--for all Europe, for the whole world in fact--stamped with
the impress of what one would fain still hope to be an incredible
horror. Personally this Pekin nightmare has centred itself for me in the
fact that E. B. was reported to be still there. Recently she was known
to have been there, and whether she had, or had not left seemed at first
impossible to ascertain. At last, though not until after days of
suspense, of uncertainty, of growing hopelessness, came the
telegram--“Safe at Hong Kong,” and the relief is greater than it is
easy, without exaggeration, to put into words.

So great has been that relief that for me it has perceptibly altered the
whole situation, as I suppose it was inevitable that it should do.
Nevertheless, the tragedy as a tragedy remains, and if anything seems to
be deepening daily. The newspapers certainly do nothing to minimise it;
perhaps they would say that it was hardly their province to do so! Such
headings, however, as “The Chinese Cawnpore!” “Last shots reserved for
the women!” “White children carried on spears!” seem to be rather more
than it is their absolute duty to offer to their readers! As regards
hope, no one appears to have any left, so that it seems mere optimism to
cherish any. A ray reached us two days ago from our neighbour S. B., who
had heard of a reassuring telegram from someone in Sir R. Hart’s
employment in Pekin. No such gleam, however, seems to have travelled
down to the murky depths of our newspapers, so that one can only fear
that there must be some mistake.

It is with a sort of angry helplessness, mixed with an instinctive
feeling of self-defence, that one turns from such accumulated, such
carefully elaborated horrors, and tries to forget them in whatever
little pursuit happens to lie nearest to one’s hand. It is not
particularly creditable to one’s humanity that one should succeed in
doing so, and there is no denying that one’s attitude is essentially
that of a kitten, or other small Unreasonable, which runs after its
ball, though disaster may be hovering, or conflagration about to
involve, it and everyone else. Happily, we are made so, just as surely
as the kitten is so made. We catch at straws, and in nine cases out of
ten the straw saves us. Were it not for this same blessed prerogative of
being interested in trifles, what, one sometimes asks oneself, would
become of all our poor wits? or where on a journey so full of loss and
sorrow, shock and trouble, would they have got to before the final goal
is reached?



JULY 14, 1900


With a mind full of China, and its abominations, I happened this
afternoon to take up _The Opium Eater_, and opened full upon the
passages describing the results of the Malay’s visit. What imagery to be
sure! What an amazing rhetorician! Certainly if all life were the
feverish dream, the half nightmare, one is tempted sometimes to call it,
no greater exponent of its terrors has ever existed than Thomas de
Quincey. Take this as a prelude.

“The Malay has been a frightful enemy for months. I have been every
night, through his means, transported into Asiatic scenes. I know not
whether others share my feelings on this point, but I have often thought
that if I were compelled to forego England, and to live in China, and
among Chinese manners, and modes of life and scenery I should go mad.
The causes of my horror lie deep, and some of them must be common to
others. Southern Asia in general is the seat of awful images and
associations. As the cradle of the human race it would alone have a dim
and reverential feeling connected with it. But there are other
reasons.... The mere antiquity of Asiatic things, of their institutions,
histories, modes of faith, etc., is so impressive, that to me the vast
age of the race and name overpowers the sense of youth in the
individual. A young Chinese seems to me an antediluvian man renewed....
It contributes much to these feelings that Southern Asia is and has been
for thousands of years, the part of the earth most swarming with human
life. The great _officina gentium_. Man is a weed in these regions. The
vast empires into which the enormous population of Asia has always been
cast, give a further sublimity to the feelings associated with all
Oriental names and images. In China, over and above what it has in
common with the rest of Southern Asia, I am terrified by the modes of
life, by the manners, and the barrier of utter abhorrence and want of
sympathy, placed between us by feelings deeper than I can analyse. I
could sooner live with lunatics, or brute animals.”

Now for the dream proper.

“Under the connecting feeling of tropical heat and vertical sunlights, I
brought together all creatures, birds, beasts, reptiles, all trees and
plants, usages and appearances, that are found in all tropical regions,
and assembled them together in China, or Indostan. From kindred
feelings I soon brought Egypt and all her gods under the same law. I was
stared at, grinned at, hooted at, chattered at, by monkeys, by
paraquets, by cockatoos. I ran into pagodas; and was fixed for centuries
at the summit, or in secret rooms; I was the idol; I was the priest; I
was worshipped; I was sacrificed; I fled from the wrath of Brahma
through all the forests of Asia: Vishnu hated me; Seeva laid wait for
me. I came suddenly upon Isis and Osiris; I had done a deed, they said,
which the ibis and the crocodile trembled at. I was buried for a
thousand years in stone coffins, with mummies and sphinxes, in narrow
chambers, at the heart of eternal pyramids. I was kissed with cancerous
kisses by crocodiles, and laid, confounded with all unutterable slimy
things, amongst reeds and Nilotic mud.”



JULY 28, 1900


The last ten or twelve days have been different from any that I ever
remember before. Circumstances have made them so, yet it has seemed as
though there were something about themselves that has, as it were,
affected those circumstances. For one thing it has been extraordinarily
hot, so that we have been thankful for every breath of air that has
travelled to us across the downs. The new little water-lily pond has
been most kindly, and has contrived to produce an amazing illusion of
coolness, while the oaks in whose shadow it lies have provided us with
the reality of shade. We two have sat day after day for hours beside it,
and the minutes have slipped along, like bubbles upon some very slow
stream. There is a strange sense of unreality over everything; a sense
that everything is very near its end. The hours of a summer’s day, and
the years of a man’s life seem to be much the same thing, and the one
hardly longer than the other. The chimes from the clock across the
valley are almost the only sounds that break in upon our stillness, for
the birds sing very little just now. It has been a most strange
fortnight; curiously unreal; extraordinarily dreamy and spectral-like.
One by one its days have slipped by, very, very slowly, yet now that
they are almost gone I say to myself--“How terribly swiftly!”



AUGUST 1, 1900


There are times--surely we all know them--when the injustices of life,
of the individual destiny, seem more than can be silently endured. “Why
should this? and this? and this be?” we ask. “To what end such
superfluous happiness heaped upon one head, such equally uncalled-for
refusals of it consigned to another? What does it mean? or who is the
better for such unendurable partiality?”

The question is the oldest of all questions, yet it is the question of
to-day, as it will be the question of to-morrow, and of many more
to-morrows. Job asked it about himself, as some of us ask it about those
whom we know to be infinitely better than ourselves. Moreover it is not
alone the apparent injustice of a life as a whole, but of the several
parts of it, that we murmur at. There are acts of courage, of silent
endurance, of unrecognised heroism, which only need to be performed in
some more conspicuous fashion, or upon a larger field, to awaken the
whole world to admiration. Yet they pass away unnoticed; oblivion
enshrouds them, and they are never so much as heard of.

When such suppressions, such seeming injustices, occur at the beginning
of things, while the sun is still high, and Time seems a friendly
factor, one is able to reassure oneself. One says--“Wait a little
longer!” “The time will come!” When such illusion, however, is no longer
possible; when the sands have run out, or been scattered in mid-career;
what is one to say _then_? What faith, what philosophy, what stoicism,
or what mixture of all three, will enable one to accept it without
complaint?



AUGUST 4, 1900


Of the vicissitudes of this year there seem to be no end! After we have
mourned over these victims of Pekin as men mourn over those for whom
there is absolutely no hope; after we have enumerated their names, like
the names upon a death-roll, and all but held a national funeral service
in their memory; and after we have followed their last moments; gloried
in its heroism; wept over its tragedy; starved, sighed, bled, almost
died with them; lo, it appeareth now that none of them are dead at all!
Was ever an entire continent in the history of the world so mercilessly
defrauded before of its tears?

I have no notion how they may feel about it themselves, but my
impression is that were I the responsible head of a daily newspaper I
should prefer to immure myself from society for the next few days! There
is a pile of such papers at this moment in my sanctum, which I have just
been turning over, and reading a few of the headlines with some little
inward entertainment. Not that I pretend for a moment to have been one
whit wiser, or less lugubrious myself! Far from it. We have all been a
flight of ravens and screech-owls together, only that some of us have
screeched and flapped our wings a little more energetically, and in
rather a more public fashion than the rest!



AUGUST 6, 1900.


Few of the minor experiences of life are, I think, more consoling than
to come across some small link in the chain of natural law, over the
right connections of which one has long groped blindly. Such a little
bit of good luck befell me only yesterday. In itself it was what one
calls the veriest trifle; simply a question as to the relationship of
certain obscure organisms, profoundly uninteresting to the world at
large. To myself it seemed, for a while at all events, to be of some
little consequence. It imparted--for fully ten minutes--an entirely new
impression of a vast, a peaceful, and a most orderly progress. It seemed
to open up vistas into the perfection, into the breadth, no less than
the complexity, of that great scheme of Life, of which we ourselves form
a part. It came as a sudden vision, as a conception of possibilities--I
hardly know what to call it--the vividness of which it would be
difficult without exaggeration to put into words.

For those who, like myself, are the mere irresponsible camp-followers of
science, the importance of any given solution seems often to be less in
what it actually teaches us, than in what it allows us indirectly to
guess at. The new fact may or may not be important, but the ideas that
it starts in our minds can hardly fail to be so. In the imaginative
realm there is literally no limit to the revelations to which the
tiniest of natural phenomena may not serve as an introduction. The fact
itself may be the minutest of facts; a mere pin-point, a scarce
perceptible chink of light, but it is a chink in the walls as it were of
a great cathedral of discovery, the doors of which may, for anything one
knows to the contrary, be thrown widely open to oneself, and to everyone
else to-morrow.

This, if I am not misleading myself, is the real attractiveness of every
pursuit which has the elucidation of Nature for its end and aim; one
perhaps most felt, or at all events most enjoyed, by the more ignorant
of her votaries. Properly directed ignorance is in truth a most
desirable haze, and when some stray beam does traverse its obscurity,
how great is the illumination which follows! What may not be possible
where there is no dead-weight of fact to keep our feet upon the solid
earth; no panoply of unescapable knowledge to bid our pleasant fancies
nay?

Even for those less comfortably unfettered by circumstances, it must be
an alleviation surely of the prose of life that in this region of the
ideas no man can ever positively say what may not be in store for him.
However tame, however dull his foreground, there is always the chance of
something ahead; something that when it comes, will sweep his thoughts
away with it to the very verge of the horizon. There is never a day,
there is hardly an hour, in which some new idea may not be upon its
road. Now a really new idea for the time being remakes life. It is a
solvent which dissolves all old impressions, and rebuilds them anew. Men
live by ideas, as surely, almost as literally, as they live by bread,
and a world into which no new idea ever entered would be a dead world,
tenanted only by corpses.

The strange thing is that we should any of us doubt this, or that in
those innermost citadels which we call our brains, we should really very
greatly care about anything else. Surely for people so oddly
circumstanced as ourselves the quest for ideas, ever larger, ever more
comprehensive ideas, is the only perfectly rational occupation? Stranded
upon the shores of the Unknown; rocked to and fro by all the winds of
mystery; ignorant of whence precisely we came, whither precisely we are
going; for people in so strange a position as this to be continually on
the quest for some new intimation, for some further hint, or
indication, seems as natural as for shipwrecked sailors to be for ever
on the watch for sails.

I remember--it is years since, yet the impression is as clear as though
it were yesterday--one who, during the vigils of a sleepless night,
slipped suddenly into a dream. And in that dream it seemed to the
dreamer as though he stood upon a narrow-topped hill, encompassed by all
the stars, and lifted high in air above the slumbering earth. And,
looking upwards, he was aware of a sky, immeasurably vaster and higher,
or so he thought, than he had ever observed any sky to be before. And,
still gazing into that vast sky, the dreamer perceived that it was
filled with what at first he took to be snowflakes. Looking more closely
he saw that, if snowflakes, then they were snowflakes lit up by all the
colours of the prism. And one of these snowflakes, just then slowly
descending, touched the dreamer’s head with a soft, but quite a sensible
impact. And as it touched him, lo, a new thought sprang up, alive,
full-fledged, wonderful, within his brain; a thought absolutely
unsuspected by him before; vast, formative, irresistible, like some new
law of Evolution, or of Gravitation. And, with it, light seemed to break
in upon him from every side at once, and a great joy, and a sense of
elasticity such as he had never known before. And a voice said--“These
are the thoughts with which this earth of yours has been built up, and
all yonder other earths, of which this is one of the very least.” And
another voice said--“They are as the sands of the sea for multitude, and
of the secrets hidden in them, and of the wonder, and satisfaction, and
delight of those secrets there is no end.”

Then that sleeper awoke, and, though the night was still long and dark,
the thought of his dream remained with him, and was like the song of a
thrush in his heart until the morning.



AUGUST 10, 1900


Life; Life the indomitable, the multifarious; Life, as it rises in the
scale, becoming conscious of itself--the thought of this recurs again
and again to one’s mind, and each time with a greater sense of power,
and of a sort of consolation. What limit need be assigned, one asks
oneself, to its capabilities, to the endless transformations, to the
possibilities, as yet unguessed at, which may have been destined for it
by its Inventor from the beginning of things? If the mere personal
consciousness, the precarious personal life, is rarely without an
element of discomfort, in this larger sense that personal life all but
disappears, and with the loss of it comes--not perhaps actual joy, that
could hardly be looked for--but at least a great exhilaration, an
extraordinary sense of width, of serenity, and of detachment.

As the mind descends deeper and deeper into that serene abyss it seems
to shake itself free for the time being from all that confused,
battling, disturbing sea in which its daily lot is cast. As that
downward course continues, all that appertains to the surface becomes
more and more dreamlike, as it might to a diver, and the mind widens and
strengthens insensibly with each descending fathom. “Life” is indeed a
marvellous shibboleth; a spell that unlocks innumerable doors; a word of
varied and manifold meanings. Merely to write it down, merely to utter
it, seems to clear the atmosphere. Mental fogs of all kinds at that
touch roll up their dingy tents, and depart. An impression of
morning--fresh, imperishable morning--hovers around it; youth, health,
fecundity, vigour belong to it. All the winds of Spring--“driving sweet
buds, like flocks to feed in air"--rush after it, and fan it on its
course. The sense of the good green earth, and of all those good green
things that belong to it, pours in a stream of joy through even the
dreariest veins. “And if one little planet is able to show it in this
inexhaustible profusion, what of all the other planets?” one thinks.
“What of those countless other worlds, all belonging to the same great
plan; all built and upheld by the same architectonic hand; all strung,
as it were, upon one great string, and vibrating eternally to a single
immortal touch?”



AUGUST 18, 1900


Standing, shortly after dusk yesterday evening, upon the edge of the
slope which drops suddenly into the valley enclosing our village and its
church, my ear was filled with a variety of sounds, all of them
familiar, yet none somehow quite recognisable; all with a certain
strangeness about them, born no doubt of the mist and of the oncoming
obscurity.

Sounds which reach our ears after nightfall never seem to be quite the
same sounds as in the daytime, even though they may be produced by
exactly the same means. Commonplace in reality, they are never perfectly
commonplace in their effect. They awaken curious echoes. They bring back
odd, and half-vanished thoughts. They play the same rather uncanny
tricks with the brain as they doubtless did in the days of the
Patriarchs, or of the Shepherd Kings. The bark of a dog half a mile away
will conjure up visions of hunting scenes, swift and phantasmagoric as
the pageant of a dream. The sharp “click-clack” of a horse’s hoof; the
crunching of a waggon-wheel; most of all, perhaps, the thin,
lamentable, bleating of sheep floating up from the valley; all these set
vibrating fibres within us which have their roots as far back in the
history of the race as anything well can be. Our life of to-day, with
all its crowded impedimenta, tends at such moments to sink suddenly, and
to disappear. We realise--if only during the duration of a lightning
flash--that we are standing, not in the least upon any apex, merely upon
some small peak on one of the sides of the great organic mountain. That
we are looking at a scene which has witnessed the arrival of our race,
as of other races, upon it, and which will assuredly one day witness its
departure again. That all that we can discern is but, as it were, a few
front streaks upon the surface of an ocean, rolling on without bourne or
limit. And at that realisation the mind is apt to start, and to shiver
instinctively, as before some yawning gulf, opening unexpectedly below
the feet.

Such little mental peaks afford, in truth, but a dizzy standing ground,
and are best, perhaps for that reason, not ascended too often. Just as
the trade of the astronomer is said to need a sound leaven of stolidity
before it can be safely embarked upon, so only a very strong head can
with safety peer long into a void, hardly less perturbing and
intoxicating than that into which it is his business to pry. Those
capricious little particles, upon which all our comfort depends,
dislike it, and they are probably right in doing so. It is true that
what we call the Past, that which is entirely put away, and done with,
might seem to be a harmless enough subject of contemplation. So
conceivably it might be, were it not for the fact that in following it
one is apt to find oneself brought suddenly face to face with the other,
and the far more formidable brother; the one whose kingdom lies, not
behind us, but ahead. At those dim barriers all real advance is
inexorably stayed; into the recesses beyond them no secular lantern has
ever peered; while even our most authoritative, our most convinced
guides, can at best assure us as to its geography with hesitating, and
often curiously conflicting voices.

To abstain from all attempts at peering into that obscurity is more
perhaps than can be asked of mortals. The less of such peerings we
indulge in, however, surely the better, because the saner, because,
also, the more trustful. Of all the cataracts of words, poured in verbal
Niagaras over this momentous topic, have there been many, I wonder,
wiser or truer than these of old Hooker? I write them down as they have
lodged in my memory; probably therefore quite incorrectly.

“Rash were it for the feeble mind of man to wade far into the doings of
the Almighty. For though ’tis Joy to know Him, and Pride to make mention
of His name, yet our deepest Wisdom is to know that we know Him not, and
our truest Homage is our Silence.”



AUGUST 25, 1900


From gropings along unlit ways, and towards an undiscoverable goal, what
a pleasant experience it is to turn suddenly back to the well-trodden
paths of a near and a tried companionship! It is almost an exact
parallel to the sensations of the child who, having rushed out of its
home into the wild winter night, full of hollow reverberations, and
perturbing gleams, suddenly retreats, and finds itself once more beside
the hearth, with an absolutely new sense of its security, and wide-armed
delightfulness.

Upon few topics has more ink been expended than upon this one of
friendship. As regards one point all the pens have I think been agreed,
and that is that diversity constitutes its soundest basis. If a truism,
this is at least one of those truisms that every day’s experience throws
into new relief. Friendship demands absolutely no conformity, but lives,
thrives, and has its being upon the most absolutely radical differences.
Friend and friend may differ by nearly everything that can
differentiate one human being from another. By the tenour of their
thoughts; by the circumstances of their lives; by the very texture of
their brains, their souls, their hearts, their entire natures.
Friendship makes light of such little discrepancies as these. Its roots
push down to a stratum where even the largest of them become mere
accidents, and at that serene depth they meet and lock securely under
them all.

To say that such a tie is the great ameliorator of life, the soother of
its sorrows, the encourager of its brighter moments, is to say
ridiculously little. To say that it is one that we could hardly endure
to think of existing without, is to say almost less. The very notion of
such a deprivation produces a sort of vertigo; a species of mental
confusion, akin to the thought of losing identity itself. Worse, indeed,
for it is not merely the everyday, the vulgar self, that such a
loss--supposing it to be complete--would deprive one of. It is that
other, better, and more shining self, which only really exists inside
the enchanted walls of a loving, sympathetic friendship. Within those
fostering walls it grows, expands, and flourishes, but outside of them
it sickens, pines away, and dies.

It is a very singular tie, when one reflects a little upon it; so close
often that no nearness of blood, no identity of name, could, so far as
one can see, make it any closer. It seems to be antecedent, not alone
to itself, but to the whole social warp and woof, of which it is an
outcome. Just as the trees in one wood seem, to anyone who wanders often
in it, to have acquired a sort of identity, so two who have walked for
some time very closely together, though they may differ as widely as an
ash does from a pine, as an oak does from a hornbeam, acquire a sort of
similarity, due to the same sunshine having warmed, the same storms
having shaken and darkened both. It is well to speak a good word now and
then of a personage whom one habitually abuses, so let it be recorded in
favour of that odd compound of good and ill which we call our existence
that, if it has thwarted our desires, dwarfed our ambitions, nipped in
our joys, chilled back our aspirations, cut down our hopes, and not
infrequently wrung our hearts, at least----it has given us our
friends!



SEPTEMBER 4, 1900


Surely people live fast in these days, even the very slowest of them! I
find myself turning back of a morning to the thoughts of the Transvaal,
and of the struggle still going on there, with the oddest sense of
renewal; as of one trying to rekindle dead fires, or to reawaken some
set of well-nigh obliterated emotions. When did it begin, this war,
which seems to have been going on throughout the greater part of one’s
lifetime? which the newspapers have again and again announced to be just
over, but with which they nevertheless manage to fill several columns
every morning? It is perhaps a mere personal impression, due to closer
anxieties, but to myself the fears and perturbations of last spring seem
often almost incredibly remote. There are moments when they appear to be
as out of date for any practical purpose as the alarms that convulsed
our grandfathers and grandmothers two generations ago. _E pur si muove!_
It is still going on, this war of ours, and seems likely moreover, to
do so for a considerable time longer. Botha, De Wet, Delarey, with half
a dozen more guerrilla leaders, are swarming about, active as ants, and
at least as dangerous as hornets. We have got Pretoria, but we have
emphatically _not_ got our new colonies, though both, I see, are now
officially annexed. That we shall get them some day or other, and that
the last of England’s big daughters will--in the course, say of the
coming century--become as friendly and tolerant of her as are the other
two, a good many people seem to expect. Possibly. The very moderate view
she takes of the motherly function will certainly be a help in that
direction. In these days grown-up daughters are not expected fortunately
to be deferential--especially, perhaps, to their mothers.

The closing scenes of a war have a tendency to awaken in some
speculative minds thoughts of war as a whole; of the entire attitude of
man as a combative being. So long as the particular struggle we have
been watching remains at the acute stage, so long especially as the
faintest doubt exists as to its final result, such a merely academic
attitude is impossible. Pride; dignity; honour; fear of what may be;
anger, perhaps, at what has been; all these rush in a tide through even
the most tepid veins, and everything else is for the time being as
though it were not. When however the struggle is nearing its end; when
the trumpets are beginning to sound the recall, and the fighting, even
if it still goes on, appears on both sides to be growing somewhat
perfunctory; then thoughts of what it all means, thoughts of War in the
abstract, make themselves felt, and in place of hanging breathlessly
over the newspapers, one wonders, as one saunters to and fro the garden,
whether this same instinct of combativeness really is an integral part
of man’s nature? Whether, in other words, it is an absolutely incurable
disease, congenital to the species, or merely a sort of youthful malady,
destined, like other youthful maladies, to pass away, as a very slowly
evolving race attains nearer and nearer to its full maturity?

In a year when the roll and rumble of cannon have never ceased even for
a day; when the rattle of rifle-shot has seemed like something that had
become part of every brain; when all public life has centred round a
single point, and the most reticent of races has flung its reticence
utterly to the winds; in such a year so remote and speculative a fashion
of looking at the matter strikes even the speculator himself as somewhat
thin, and cold-blooded. “What right,” he turns round, and asks himself
hotly, “what right have you, or such as you, people who, far from taking
any part in the struggle, have kept out of even the very wind and whiff
of it! Who have chartered no yachts, nursed no wounded, sung no war
songs, or even--lowest of all the efforts of patriotism--so much as
composed any! Who have remained at home the whole time; tending your own
gardens, culling your own fancies, and sorrowing over your own sorrows.
What right have such as you--idlers, cumberers, that you are!--so much
as to mention the word “war” at all?

“Very true,” the other self answers submissively. And yet again, he
reflects, as he looks around him, is it not, after all, just such little
plots as these that the earthquake of battle has this year shaken the
most fiercely? Is it not such gardens as these--not this one perhaps,
but others almost identical; flowery places, where the robins peck
about, and where no hostile foot has ever trod--is it not against these
that the harshest blows have been struck, where the cruellest wounds
have been received? Quick, quick, as in a dream, fancy conjures up a
vision--a procession, rather--floating along upon the soft bands of
autumn sunshine; a procession of mothers, of sisters, of betrothed ones,
of wives. As each in turn passes by memory evokes the face, or the
faces, that belong to it; then turns to linger last and longest with the
mothers. Ah, those mothers! God’s pity, above all others, rest this year
with the mothers. For whom hope can never be anything again but a
delusive word; for whom the future can hold _no_ compensations; for
whom the very things that they love the best--their gardens; the walks
they pace along; the flowers that they stoop to pick--must henceforth
seem all bestreaked and shadowed over by the red, abhorrent shadow of
the battlefield. Truly the garden is a place of peace, but it may also
be a place of the most cruel, the most undeserved war, and the bullets
that have been speeding thousands of miles away, have too often found
their last, and their deadliest targets within its circle.



SEPTEMBER 10, 1900


The year has more than run its complete round since these loosely
connected jottings were begun, so that it is high time that they shut
the cover down upon themselves, and withdrew into a corner.
Diary-keeping, like knitting, like whittling, like any other of the
minor distractions, begins often with more or less effort, yet after a
time becomes, first a habit, finally almost a necessity. Entered upon
without any particular motive, it creates a place for itself, it fills a
void, it becomes a solace. The practice of the diarist varies, of
course, almost infinitely. It may mean merely that conscientious daily
record, to which alone the words “journal,” “diary,” “day-book” properly
belong, or it may enlarge its scope until it covers all those looser,
and necessarily more intermittent outpourings, in which most of us from
time to time indulge, whether for our weal or our woe depends largely
upon circumstances.

One merit it certainly has. Few mediums of thought are equally fluid;
few admit of greater variety; more diversity of mood; more ranging from
topic to topic. Possibly the most satisfactory of all its developments
is when it enables us to follow some well-beloved pursuit, keeping pace
with its minutest ramifications, losing ourselves, as it were, in its
existence, and thereby evading half those irritating points, half those
wounding asperities that belong to every human lot. Amongst such beloved
and healing pursuits that of gardening stands prominently forward. I
have been assured that there are superior persons by whom it is held in
exceedingly low repute; who regard it as a symptom, indeed, of mental
degeneration, and, as a resource, below stamp-collecting, and about on a
par with the acquisition of the idiot stitch. Were it my lot to be
acquainted with any such superior persons there is one punishment that I
must confess I should dearly love to bestow upon them; which is that
they should first desperately need the comfort of such a solace, and
afterwards--upon due probation and penitence--that they should come to
find it! Few ideas are more bigoted, more essentially narrow and
foolish, than this one about the elevating, or the non-elevating effect
of our pursuits. It is upon a par with the equally pestilent notion that
it is the narrowness of our lives, or the obscurity of our lots, that
keeps our swelling souls from greatness. Greatness, like genius, is
dependent upon no such trumpery circumstances, but is a self-existent
quality, not to be concealed though it were hidden under all the rocks
of Mount Ararat, or had every wave in the Atlantic piled upon its head.
Let us then assert, roundly assert, that no pursuit--certainly no
natural pursuit--can with any accuracy be called petty. It is, moreover,
the great advantage of all such out-of-door pursuits that they enable
their followers to confer with Nature at first hand, and not through any
intermediary. This is recognised in the case of what are called the
higher natural pursuits, but it is equally true of all. Like many other
potentates Nature has her unpleasant, even her very dangerous aspects,
but it is one of her best points that she is no respecter of persons.
She is an autocrat, and an autocrat in whose eyes all subjects stand
upon precisely the same level. At her court there is no superior, and no
inferior. Geologist, botanist, zoologist, horticulturist--beetle-hunter,
stone-breaker, weed-picker, crab-catcher--it matters not what we call
ourselves, or what others call us, so long as it is herself alone we
follow, she receives us all alike. Within those imperial and open-doored
halls of hers all rapidly find their own level; all may speak to her on
occasion face to face; all present their own credentials, and all are
accepted by her with the same serene, the same absolutely indifferent
toleration.

It is not even as if her greater secrets were reserved for the wiser and
the more erudite of her followers, and were withheld from those that
were less erudite, for the same partial revelations, the same profound
concealments, seem, so far as can be ascertained, to be allotted to all
alike. The Sphinx which looks up out of the heart of a toadflax or a
columbine is the same Sphinx that speaks out of the stilly night, out of
the clouds, out of the primæval rocks, out of the stars, and out of the
inviolable sea. “And this,” she possibly murmurs, “is my lesson which I
give to you. Cease to occupy yourself wholly with the shows of the
surface, the toys of to-day; things which come and go, which pass and
end in an hour. Look a little deeper. Follow any of these brown roots
down to where the motherly earth receives them, and the dews and the
rain nourish them, and all the complicated chemistry of my workshops
have been at work from the beginning to bring them to perfection. On and
on, deeper and deeper yet, towards that vaster laboratory across whose
threshold even I have never glanced. There, in that incredible
remoteness, thou and I; the small brown worm, and the goodly oak; the
old, worn-out worlds, and the new, as yet only half-born stars; all the
gay shows of this little green earth, and all the unknown things of the
immeasurable Cosmos, meet, and are on a level. There is neither larger
or smaller there, neither younger or older, neither wiser or more
foolish, neither less or more important. For out of it came that by
means of which all this that we see and know has come. There, once for
all, was uttered that spell of which this huge teeming universe is but
the outcome. There Life herself was born, and it may be therefore other
powers, greater and more wide-embracing than even Life herself. But of
what that spell consists, or what the name of it is, no bird, or beast,
or man, or possibly other creature, has hitherto so much as even begun
to guess.”



SEPTEMBER 11, 1900


So one ends. Yet, even in the very act of ending, qualms arise. Thinking
of what lies under one’s hand, no longer as a sheaf of familiar
manuscript, but as a full-blown book, printed, bound, stitched, and a’
the lave o’ it, misgivings awake, and are lively. Only yesterday I
sounded the praises of the diary, and I do so still; yet the manifest
destiny of every diary is to live a life of absolute seclusion, and,
when it has served its turn, to feed the fire. It is true that one may
murmur something to oneself about “subjective”; “subjective forms of
literature,” but the words ring hollow, and have little validity. In a
well-known passage Carlyle has described a visit which he paid to the
Sage of Highgate, whom he found sitting in his Dodona oak
grove--otherwise Mr. Gilman’s house and garden--“as a kind of Magus,
girt in mystery and enigma.” “I still recollect,” Carlyle says, “his
‘object,’ and ‘subject,’ and how he sang and snuffled them into
‘om-m-mject’ and ‘sum-m-mject,’ with a kind of solemn shake or quaver,
as he rolled along.” The diarist need not necessarily roll along, and
has no pretensions certainly to be called a sage, yet he too is apt now
and again to murmur “sum-m-mject,” “sum-m-mjective,” with a sound that
even in his own ears rather resembles that of some bumble-bee upon a
summer’s morning; extremely self-important, that is to say, but not
particularly lucid. It is true that so far as self-importance is
concerned he stands absolutely excused, seeing that egotism is his
profession. To cease to be egotistic is to cease to be a diarist
altogether. This is as clear as it is satisfactory, but it can hardly be
said to meet the point. There is nothing odd, of course, about a man or
a woman being confidential with himself or herself; it is when they
proceed to drop their confidences into other, and less indulgent ears,
that the oddity begins.

There are moreover seasons when such outpourings seem even less
appropriate than others, and this year--September to September--appears,
looking back, to be one of these. It has been a black, a despairingly
black, twelve months for thousands; how black, how despairing, few of
those thousands would have credited when it began. Amongst those
incredulous ones, though on somewhat different grounds, the diarist
might have been reckoned. Diary-keeping is not entirely a matter of
egotism and of introspection, of fun, and of frolic, though it may
appear to the non-diarist to be. What a nice innocent-looking book it
seems, when its spaces are all blank, and the days they refer to are not
yet born! yet such a book may come to look like a mere fragment of
malicious destiny, bound in calf or calico. Holding it in his hands the
would-be diarist turns the leaves over one by one with a smile. How will
this, and this, and this space be filled up? he wonders. What odd little
adventures will they have to record? What absurdities of his own, or of
others, to recount? What books read? what expeditions made? what trees
or shrubs planted? So he sets jauntily forth on his self-appointed task,
to be met by--- What? A thought to give the lightest pause.

And yet, and yet. Let the very worst come to pass that can come to pass,
even so an attitude of mere unmitigated despair hardly befits fast
disappearing mortals, whose breath is in their nostrils. Looking
backwards may seem all gloom and pain, and looking forward no better,
possibly rather worse, and yet assuredly it is _not_ all gloom, or all
pain. Enchanting things spring up by thousands in the ugliest of clefts,
and the barest of trees may serve as a perch for some winter-singing
robin. Sorrow itself, carried out into the open air, under the
benignant arch of heaven, changes in some degree its character. It is
Sorrow still, but it is Sorrow with a difference. It seems to merge into
the category of other things; terrible ones, it is true, but still
natural--earthquakes, volcanoes, avalanches, pestilences, and so
forth--things that we shrink from, but that we cannot reasonably resent.
The sense of wrong, of hardship, of bitterness, of personal injustice,
seems by degrees to melt away from it, and therefore it can be better
faced. At least it is well that we should tell ourselves so.

                                THE END

                               PLYMOUTH

                        WILLIAM BRENDON AND SON

                               PRINTERS





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to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

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

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



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