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Title: Reginald Bateman—Teacher and Soldier - A Memorial Volume of Selections from his Lectures and Other Writings
Author: Bateman, Reginald
Language: English
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[Illustration: Cover]







The purpose of this volume is to commemorate the life and death of
Reginald John Godfrey Bateman, first Professor of English at the
University of Saskatchewan.  It was felt by the Governors and Faculty
of the University that his friends and old students would value a
representative selection from the lectures delivered by him within the
University and to the outside public.  Included in the selection are a
few poems which were found among his papers.  The lectures and essays
which are published here, being written for popular audiences or
literary gatherings inside the University, were never intended by their
author for publication as the original and considered critical work of
a Professor of English; doubtless, if such had been his purpose, much
that is printed here, originally hurriedly prepared during the busy
rush of a college session, would have been altered and recast.

While originality was one of Professor Bateman's most marked qualities,
the members of the committee entrusted with the preparation of this
volume for the press have not, in every case, regarded originality of
thought as a necessary qualification for inclusion.  In making their
selection they have rather been guided by the desire to give to his
friends and old students what, whether original in thought or not,
appeared to be in treatment and presentation most characteristic of the
man and teacher.

War--and herein lies its greatest tragedy--always takes heavy toll of
the promise and latent greatness of a nation, its youth and vigorous
young manhood.  Like many others who risked all and gave all in the
Great War, Reginald Bateman was cut off in his prime.

He was born in Ireland some thirty-eight years ago.  His schooldays
were spent under Dr. Biggs, often called the Irish Arnold, at Portora
Royal School, perhaps the greatest of Irish public schools, with a
tradition of scholarship which is centuries old.  On leaving school he
entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated with the Highest
Honours in Modern Literature.  In college his activities and interests
were wide, and he was an outstanding example of the student who
combines with distinction in scholarship, prominence in athletics and a
broad and human outlook on life.  In this as in other respects he was a
worthy representative of the spirit of his University.  After a few
years' experience of teaching in Ireland, he was appointed to the chair
of English at the University of Saskatchewan, being one of the original
four professors who, with President Murray, launched the University on
its educational career in 1909.  When a peaceful and unsuspecting world
was plunged, in August 1914, into the horrors of the most stupendous
war in its history, Professor Bateman quickly decided that his place
was in the fighting line, and he enlisted in the 28th Battalion in
September 1914, in company with another professor and many members of
our student body.  His ability to handle men, quickly became apparent;
he soon won his sergeant's stripes, and went to France with that rank.
In 1916 he was recalled to Canada to take command of the Saskatchewan
Company of the Western Universities' Battalion.  He proceeded to
England with the rank of major, and in 1917 reverted to the rank of
lieutenant in order to get again to France, where he was wounded in
action.  He was holding the rank of captain in the 46th Battalion when
he was killed on the 3rd of September 1918.  He had taken part in the
fighting toward the end of August when the Canadians made the first
breach in the Hindenburg Line.  The major of his battalion has written
that on the 2nd of September Captain Bateman gallantly led his company
into action. Dury was taken that day, and near that place on the night
of September 3rd he was killed by a shell at the Regimental
Headquarters, which were being held in a chalk quarry. On the 4th of
September the chaplain of the regiment gathered together a party who,
"amid the roar of guns and scream of shells paid their last respects to
a very gallant comrade and one of the best loved men in the Battalion."

Those who served under him as an officer bear witness that he had won
not only the men's implicit confidence by qualities of leadership of
the highest order, but also their very great affection by his personal
qualities.  The affection and respect which were the University's
tribute to his character were also the tribute of his comrades in
circumstances where a man's soul is stripped of all pretences in the
constant presence of death, and where the dread arbitrament of war must
reveal the good or evil that may lie hidden beneath the
conventionalities of ordinary life.  Strong in body and fearless in
spirit, Reginald Bateman possessed that courage which is neither the
product of discipline and rigorous training, nor the mere animal
quality which (to quote an early writer on the war) "is our inheritance
from a past in which men fought each one for himself that they might
survive," but that finer quality of courage which will face the most
appalling horrors because it has a vision of the future and a faith in
the destiny of mankind.

If Professor Bateman had survived, his career as a soldier would have
been but a glorious interlude in his life's work. During the years
spent by him at the University, his character and attainments had made
him an outstanding figure, and gave promise of a future even richer in
achievement. Intellectually, he was a signal example of the union of
great ability and imagination with the modesty of a fine spirit and a
sane and penetrating outlook on life. He was possessed of a breadth of
outlook that gave him clear insight in literary matters. His judgments
were always just, because based on essentials, while his humanity
enabled him to couple with the minutiae of scholarship a catholicity of
interpretation and a sanity of criticism which is not always found in
those who are most deeply versed in their subject. The respect of his
colleagues and of his students is definite proof of his great ability
as a teacher.  It was manifest to all that he gave himself
wholeheartedly to his work with that enjoyment and appreciation which
are essential characteristics of a true teacher.

The loss that the University in general has sustained by Professor
Bateman's death finds its counterpart in the personal sorrow of his
friends.  Those who were privileged to know him well are left
immeasurably poorer by his death but enriched by a memory that will
always remain with them.  For "his story lives on woven into the stuff
of other men's lives."  His wide human interests brought him into
sympathetic touch with many phases of life and gave him strength and
tolerance.  His true manliness, sincerity of character, and sociable
nature endeared him to all.  He was a delightful comrade, and many of
his colleagues must remember some flash of true humour which lit up the
prosaic tenor of an ordinary conversation or of some inordinately dull
Faculty Meeting.  The students of the University too shared in his
friendship.  His never-flagging interest in their activities, whether
literary, musical, or athletic, will always be remembered.

The University of Saskatchewan lost in the Great War many of its finest
spirits, and its losses reached their culmination in the death of
Reginald Bateman.

  Upon such sacrifices
  The gods themselves throw incense.




  Francis Thompson
  To the Memory of Dr. Biggs
  The Teaching of English
  My Last Duchess
  Christmas Shopping
  Realism in Wordsworth and Browning
  Synge--a Fragment
  Dickens and Thackeray
  Brains and Intellect
  The Eternal Silence



  The War
  In the Trenches
  On the Death of a Comrade

[Illustration: Reginald Bateman]





_A paper given before the Faculty Club in 1913_

The recent publication, April 1913, of the first collected edition of
Francis Thompson's works, followed in August by an authentic biography
of the poet, has focussed general attention upon the man and his work.
Hitherto, if known to the general reader at all, he has been known
mainly by one poem, _The Hound of Heaven_, and the majority of the
reading public has not yet discovered that Thompson is the author of a
large body of poetry fully worthy to rank with _The Hound of Heaven_ in
poetical quality.  Even to the few who are familiar with his poetry,
the story of his life, one of the most romantic in the annals of our
literature, came as a revelation.

To the inner circle of literary people Thompson as a poet has been
known for twenty years.  With his first volume of poems, published
1893, Thompson, as one admirer expressed it, "reached the peak of
Parnassus at a bound."  The critics, usually so conservative in their
estimate of a new poet, were not only favourable, but in most cases so
far forgot themselves as to become enthusiastic.  For parallels to the
austere passion and purity of Thompson's love-poetry, to the richness
and strangeness of his imagery, the splendour and luxuriance of his
vocabulary, and the loftiness of his inspiration, they turned without
apology to the greatest names of our literature.

From this unusually favourable first opinion there was naturally a
reaction.  Thompson's second volume of 1895, _Sister Songs_, and still
more his third volume of 1897, _New Poems_, with its increased
symbolism and mysticism, met with vicious abuse as well as generous
praise.  By 1907, however, the date of Thompson's death, his reputation
was well established, and from that time to the present, the tide of
criticism seems to have set strongly in his favour.  To-day few critics
would deny him to be the most remarkable of recent poets.

A fresh wave of interest was aroused last year when the complete and
final edition of his works was published.  This reawakened interest is
likely to have the effect of passing his merit again under review, and
we shall have some opportunity of judging whether he is to fade from
the sight of men like a brilliant but unlasting meteor, whether he is
to be like Keats and Shelley, the chosen poet of a small and select
circle of readers, or whether, like Tennyson and Browning, he is to win
the suffrages of the man on the street.

Personally, while I believe that Thompson will ultimately take a place
among the greatest of our nineteenth century poets, I think it
extremely unlikely that he will ever be popular.  The atmosphere he
lives in is too rare for the ordinary man to breathe with comfort.  His
emotions are too subtle, his passion too austere, his harmonies too
refined to catch the ear of the crowd.  A few of his poems, like _The
Hound of Heaven_, which is already widely known, may become popular,
but I can recall no other which seems to me likely to make an universal

Before passing to a sketch of Thompson's romantic career, let me dwell
for a short while on the more striking qualities of his genius.  My
first impressions of Thompson have to do more with style than with
subject matter.  To the literary critic making the acquaintance of a
new poet it matters less, perhaps, what the poet says than how he says
it.  Harmony, rhythm, language, technique--these things are of vital
importance.  It is true that we may often desire of our poets "more
matter and less art," but on the other hand matter without art has
never won the name of great poetry.  There is a largeness and finality
of utterance, an appearance of inevitability about the best work of the
great masters, that is unmistakable.  It is as if the Muse of Poetry
herself had spoken and not a mere mortal man.

  Last came and last did go
  The Pilot of the Galilean lake.

Such words as these grow not upon mortal soil.

What one looks for, then, first of all in a new poet is the grand
style, the authentic note, the phrases stamped with the tool of the
eternal graver.  In the search for it, one's only guide is instinct, an
instinct formed by constant study of what is admittedly the best.  And
the search for this distinction of style is doomed so often to be
disappointed that even a line or a phrase which seems to possess it is
gladly welcomed.

But in Thompson's case the inspiration is not confined to occasional
flashes.  No matter where I opened his book, almost every line seemed
to me to bear the hall-mark of great poetry.  Take even the six lines
of the dedication of _New Poems_ to Coventry Patmore; you find, I
think, that they ring true, that they have the great utterance.

  Lo, my book thinks to look Time's leaguer down,
  Under the banner of your spread renown!
  Or if these levies of impuissant rhyme
  Fall to the overthrow of assaulting Time,
  Yet this one page shall find oblivious shame,
  Armed with your crested and prevailing Name.

In reading Thompson's poems one has neither, as in the case of most
moderns, to adjust oneself to a completely new and perhaps freakish
style, nor to reconcile oneself to a more or less obvious imitation of
our greatest recent poets.  Thompson is not at all modern; to one
familiar with seventeenth century English literature he comes like an
old friend; and yet he is no imitator; he is absolutely individual.  If
a student of literature were given the poems without being told the
author, he would probably get the impression that some forgotten poet
of the seventeenth century had been re-discovered.  For Thompson's
poems do not smack of the nineteenth century; they have few echoes of
Tennyson or Browning or Swinburne or any nineteenth century poet
except, perhaps, Shelley; they have rather a strong flavour of our
elder poetry, and while rich, perhaps over-rich, in imagery, give one
an impression of close-knit, sinewy strength very different from the
milk-and-watery mildness or the sensuous lusciousness of much modern
verse.  This effect is enhanced by their vocabulary, which contains
many words strange to the modern ear, and which takes one back to Sir
Thomas Browne, Milton, Cowley, and Crashaw.

The _Ode to the Setting Sun_ and the _Anthem of Earth_ illustrate to
some extent another very prominent characteristic of Thompson, that he
is a daring and successful experimenter in metre and language.  He does
not follow slavishly in the beaten track of other poets; he frames
metrical moulds for himself to suit the quality of his own glowing
thought.  The poems are full of new and difficult metres, handled with
perfect mastery; they are full of experiments with language which most
modern poets would not dare to make, but which in Thompson nearly
always seem to justify themselves.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Thompson's poetry is the quality
of his imagery.  A great poet must be rich in imagery, for it is the
imagery of poetry that discloses to us its hidden soul.  Thompson's
imagery at once astonishes by its ingenuity and captivates by its
beauty.  In the former quality he rivals Cowley and Crashaw, in the
latter he is far beyond them.  One critic remarked that Thompson must
surely be Crashaw born again, but born greater.  If Thompson's imagery
has a fault, it is that there is too much of it; he himself recognized
this fault and endeavoured to correct it.  Alice Meynell remarked that
many poets could be furnished with imagery, not from the abundance of
Thompson's, but from its super-abundance.

Here are a few samples, chosen almost at random, of the quality of
Thompson's imagery:

  And now my heart is as a broken fount,
  Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
  From the dank thoughts that shiver
  Upon the sighful branches of my mind.

  Under my ruined passions fallen and sere
  The wild dreams stir, like little radiant girls,
  Whom in the moulted plumage of the year,
  Their comrades sweet have buried to the curls.

In a more commonplace style of imagery, but still splendidly handled,
is the following from _Sister Songs_:

  Or may this treasure-galleon of my verse,
  Fraught with its golden passion, oared with cadent rhyme,
  Set with a towering press of fantasies,
  Drop safely down the time,
  Leaving mine isled self behind it far,
  Soon to be sunken in the abysm of seas,
  (As down the years the splendour voyages
  From some long-ruined and night-submerged star).

The foregoing extracts impress one also with another noteworthy and
very important quality of Thompson's verse--its remarkable metrical
effects.  Watts-Dunton rightly says that in addition to intellectual
and emotional life, great poetry must have rhythmic life.  Unless the
rhythm of any metrical passage is so vivid, so natural, and so free
that it seems as though it could live, if need were, by its rhythm
alone, that passage, according to Watts-Dunton, has no right to exist
as poetry.  One sign by which one may know that poetry possesses
rhythmic life is that passages of it will sing themselves in one's head
for days after reading them.  Arnold Bennett tells us that after
reading _Sister Songs_ he went about for days repeating such passages

  The innocent moon, that nothing does but shine,
  Moves all the labouring surges of the world.

After reading Thompson first, I went about for days repeating over and
over again passages from his poems, not for their meaning, for the
meaning in many cases was not clear, but just for the sound and beat of
them, such passages as:

  On Ararat there grew a vine...


  I am Daniel's mystic mountain...

Everyone knows Kipling's picture of sunrise in _Mandalay_:

  An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay.

This is commonplace beside Thompson's version of the same thought in
_The Mistress of Vision_:

    East, ah, east of Himalay
    Dwell the nations underground;
    Hiding from the shock of Day,
    For the sun's uprising sound:
    Dare not issue from the ground
    At the tumults of the Day,
    So fearfully the sun doth sound,
    Clanging up beyond Cathay,
  For the great earth-quaking sunrise rolling up beyond Cathay.

Lastly, Thompson's poetry impresses one with a sense of sublimity, in
the strict, literal meaning of the word, which is _upliftedness_.
Thompson seems always uplifted to a high level of inspiration; his wing
seems never to flag nor his voice to tire.  The reason for this
consistent loftiness of Thompson's poetry is probably that to Thompson
the writing of poetry was an act of worship, and that the main spring
of his inspiration is religious enthusiasm.  He never wrote except when
he felt that he must write.  He was only, he says, the conduit-pipe
through which flowed the divine utterance.  Speaking of poets he says:

  We speak a lesson taught we know not how,
  And what it is that from us flows
  The hearer better than the utterer knows.

In every line of Thompson's verse one finds evidence of "the vision and
the faculty divine," and when after his brief period of song that
vision faded and that faculty failed, he wrote no more.  Thompson wrote
because he must write.  Like Keats he was haunted perpetually by an
image of the ideal Beauty, to which he was ever striving to attain.
Poetry sometimes seems to him his curse, and not his blessing.

  Deaf is he to the world's tongue;
  He scorneth for his song
  The loud
  Shouts of the crowd.

  He measureth world's pleasure
  World's ease, as Saints might measure;
  For hire
  Just love entire.

  He asks, not grudging pain;
  And knows his asking vain,
  And cries
  Love, love, and dies,

  In guerdon of long duty
  Unowned by Love or Beauty;
  And goes--
  Tell, tell who knows.

Francis Thompson was accustomed to crest all his manuscripts with the
sign of the cross; and just as all his verse may be said to have been
written under the inspiration of the cross, so his life may be said to
have been lived under its shadow.  The Hand that wrought out his
destiny must have placed over its finished work the sign of mingled
shame and glory, of suffering and triumph.  Life was too strong for
Thompson; it crushed him beneath its hurrying feet; it stunned him with
its tumults; it withheld from him the love for which his soul craved;
but out of the defeat of his life rose the triumph of his verse.

It seems that Thompson sank to the lowest depths of life's misery that
he might rise to its highest pinnacle of inspiration.  It was when
pitiless London had almost crushed the life out of him, and when his
eyes were blinded with pain to the things around him, that the heavenly
vision was clearest.  On the day when he, "poor thief of song," was
nailed to his bitterest cross, he heard most clearly a voice saying,
"To-day thou shalt be with me in Paradise."

It was in recollection of some such mood, experienced as an outcast on
the London streets, that he wrote the verses, _The Kingdom of God_,
found in manuscript among his papers after his death, which illustrate
as well as any other single poem the extraordinary inter-blending of
the seen and the unseen in his poetry.  His own words about Shelley
apply with equal force to himself: "He stood at the very junction lines
of the visible and invisible, and could shift the points as he willed."

Francis Thompson was born at Preston, Lancashire, in 1859, the son of
Charles Thompson, a doctor, afterwards in practice at
Ashton-under-Lyne.  His literary genius cannot be explained on any
theory of heredity.  The fact that his father seemed absolutely (and
almost culpably) blind to his son's artistic nature seems to me to
account in large measure for the tragedy of Thompson's youth.  Later,
when the son became famous, no one was more surprised than Charles
Thompson, but though the success of his son's poetry must have touched
his pride, it did not penetrate to his intellect, for he confessed that
he was quite unable to understand it.  We must, then, acquit Charles
Thompson of having any act or part in his son's literary attainments;
and from all accounts, his mother was equally innocent of literary

But, though the poet owed none of his genius to his parents, he owed
them something more important, something which proved to be the very
life-spring of that genius, namely, his religious enthusiasm.  Thompson
is first and last a religious poet.  In him and his contemporary,
Patmore, Roman Catholicism, which had for centuries, almost, in fact,
since the days of Dante, relinquished to poets of other faiths the
chief glories of song, found a voice.  The mysteries of religion were
Thompson's chief inspiration, the interpretation of them his highest
task.  His father and mother, and the majority of his uncles and aunts
were converts to the Roman Catholic Church; but whereas their spirit of
worship was dumb, in Thompson all that is best in Roman Catholicism is
glorified in shining verse.

Thompson, however, is not a sectarian poet.  He is too great for that.
It is the spirit of universal religion that breathes in his verse.  The
poetry of the Victorian era, which for many years had been groping
after religious faith, found with Thompson the note of absolute
certainty.  "The people that walked in darkness saw in him a great
light."  "To be the poet of the return to Patmore is somewhat," he
said, "but I would be the poet of the return to God."

Thompson, a sensitive, delicate child, was brought up with his two
sisters, and seems to have been remarkable in childhood chiefly for his
gentleness and capacity for make-believe.  At the age of eleven he left
the shelter of his home for Ushaw, a Roman Catholic college near
Durham, where he endured at first the same miseries as fall to the lot
of most high-strung, sensitive boys, when exposed to the brutalities of
a large English boarding school.  His was the fate of Cowper and
Shelley, and in Thompson's _Essay on Shelley_, which (leaving aside its
magnificence as a piece of prose writing) is valuable less for its
comments on Shelley than for the light which it throws on Thompson
himself, the remarks on the persecution endured at school by Shelley
are suggested by Thompson's own experiences.  Probably none of either
Thompson's teachers or schoolfellows perceived in him the tokens of
future greatness.  He passed through his school-days, as in the main he
passed through life, with his true self hidden from all observers under
an impenetrable reserve.

Thompson's father intended him for the priesthood, and to that end his
studies were directed during the whole seven years of his stay at
Ushaw.  Probably the training he received, particularly his study of
the Missal and hymns of the Church, had no small effect upon his later
verse.  Though he took a high place in his literary classes,
particularly in English, and though his teachers thought highly of his
ability, they became gradually convinced that his nervous timidity and
constitutional indolence rendered him unfit for the priesthood.  The
principal of the college wrote to that effect to his father in 1877,
while at the same time expressing his belief that if Thompson could
shake off his natural indolence he had ability to succeed in any career.

Thompson therefore returned home in 1877, to the great disappointment
of his parents.  The indolence which proved his undoing was, says his
biographer, Everard Meynell, only "one name of many for the
abstractions of Thompson's mind and the inactivities of his body."
Against this indolence he struggled nobly all his life.  Not a lifetime
of mornings spent in bed killed his desire to be up and doing.  Even in
the trembling hand of his last months he wrote out in big capitals on
pages torn from exercise books such texts as were calculated to
frighten him into his clothes.  In the morning when he woke his eyes
fell upon such words as these, "Thou wilt not he abed when the last
trump blows," "Thy sleep with the worms will be long enough," and so
on, but all in vain.  Thompson's indolence was not a mental but a
physical characteristic.  His poor, disordered body refused exertion
and was too sluggish for all Thompson's spiritual energy to rouse.
Apparently, however, this indolence and absence of mind would have
caused Thompson to fail in any regular profession, and perhaps his
father is as much to be pitied as blamed for his next strenuous attempt
to make Francis capable of earning his own livelihood.

After Thompson's failure at Ushaw, his father decided to prepare his
son for his own profession, and sent him to take a medical course at
Owen's College, Manchester.  For the following six years Thompson
pretended to study medicine.  He made the journey from home to lectures
every morning under compulsion, but once out of sight of the parental
eye his day was his own, and was spent anywhere rather than at the
lecture or in the dissecting room.  He wandered about Manchester, an
untidy, abstracted figure with trailing shoe-laces and careless dress,
indifferent to passers-by, and muttering a continual soliloquy.  He
haunted the libraries, museums, and galleries of the city, and while
his father thought his son was preparing himself to earn a competence
as a respectable practising physician, the son was really equipping
himself all unconsciously for the career which was to win him, not
indeed a competence, but an undying name in English poetry.  It was at
this time, in poring over our sixteenth and seventeenth century
writers, that Thompson acquired his wonderful vocabulary, which
contains so many forgotten words that the critics later accused him of
wholesale coinage, and which gives his verse that rich flavour of
antiquity which is no small part of its charm.

At this time, too, Thompson made the acquaintance of De Quincey, "his
very own De Quincey," a writer to whose career Thompson's in many
respects bears an extraordinary resemblance.  De Quincey naturally drew
his attention to opium, with disastrous results.  Opium-eating was in
the air of Manchester, the cotton-spinners being much addicted to its
use, and Thompson became a victim.  With a short interval he was a user
of opium to the end of his days.  It is difficult to estimate the
effect of the drug habit on Thompson's writings; personally, I doubt
that it had any effect.  It certainly had no direct effect, for we have
his own solemn assurance that none of his published verse (except one
poem, _The Dream Tryst_) was written under its influence.  In fact, his
first outburst of poetry came apparently as a result of his temporary
breaking-off of the drug habit, after he had been rescued from the
London streets; and during the few years of his poetic productiveness
he seems to have freed himself from the influence of opium.  Thompson
thought too highly of poetry and of his mission as a poet to use opium
as a stimulus to verse-making.  In the latter years of his life he went
back again to the drug as a relief from incessant physical weakness and
misery, and who that has not suffered equally can blame him?

But though opium affected Thompson's genius little, if at all, it
certainly affected his character, and made whatever was weak and slack,
weaker and slacker.  He proved a complete failure at Owen's College,
and was given a trial at Glasgow with similar results.  His father was
in despair.  Hundreds of pounds from his scanty income had been spent
for lectures to which his son had not listened, for the fees of
examiners who got no papers to examine, and for courses in dissection
during which Francis had not been once to the dissecting table.  Opium,
however, cannot be blamed for Thompson's failure; he must have failed
anyway; it only made his failure more complete and hopeless.  On the
other hand, it had undoubtedly in one way a beneficial physical effect.
On this subject his biographer remarks: "It staved off the assaults of
tuberculosis; it gave him the wavering strength that made life just
possible for him, whether on the streets, or through all those other
distresses and discomforts that it was his character deeply to resent,
but not to remove by any normal courses."

Dr. Thompson took Francis away from college and next set him to work
with a surgical instrument maker.  There he remained two weeks.  His
next attempt at work was as agent for a new encyclopaedia.  This book
it took him two months to read through, and he did not sell a single
copy.  His father then told him that he must enlist.  Thompson obeyed
without a word.  He was rejected as physically unfit, but not before he
had gone through a weary period of marching and drill in the endeavour
to expand his chest to the necessary inches.  Thompson once more
returned home, as he did from each successive failure, saying simply,
"I have not succeeded," and vouchsafing no explanation.  There were
apparently no confidences between Thompson and his father; Dr. Thompson
knew nothing of his son's literary ambitions.  His comment when later
he found his son welcomed as a poet was: "If the lad had but told me!"
but it is doubtful, as Mr. Mills says, "that the worthy doctor regarded
the greenest of poetic laurels as a fair exchange for a thriving
medical practice."

This time Thompson's reception seems to have been unusually chilling,
and in a hopeless mood he left home without saying good-bye, and
started for London with no money but his fare, and with no baggage but
a volume of Blake in one pocket and Aeschylus in another.  Friendless,
incompetent, aimless, he threw himself into the maw of the great city
which has devoured so many poets, and soon plumbed the very depths of
poverty and despair.  For three years he drifted about London, sinking
continually lower, and the astonishing thing is that he came through
the ordeal alive.

His feeble attempts at finding and doing "work" soon ceased, and then
he knew what it meant to walk in rags and herd with the outcasts of the
street, to sleep in a fourpenny doss-house, or, if he had no money, on
the Embankment, to suffer hunger and pain and cold.  An attempt to
establish himself as a boot-black met with the usual ill-success that
attended all Thompson's practical efforts, and the time came when, for
a week, his only earning was sixpence for holding a horse's head.
Later still, he was on the streets day and night successively for
fifteen days, and sank into a kind of stupor, moving about in a sort of
half-consciousness as in a walking nightmare.

From this pitiable state he was rescued temporarily by a Mr. McMaster,
a pious and kindly boot-maker who made a practice of assisting such
unfortunates.  He had designs on Thompson's soul, but when Thompson,
even in his destitute condition, refused to allow his soul to be
tampered with, McMaster wisely concluded that the next best thing was
to save Thompson's body; and he did so.  Thompson was taken into the
shop, and proving hopeless at boot-making, was made errand-boy at five
shillings a week.  Here he got a chance to write, and covered the
bootmaker's discarded account books with prose and poetry; and,
according to McMaster, even submitted manuscripts to several magazines,
but apparently without success.

Opium, the effects of which were mistaken by McMaster for those of
drink, lost Thompson this situation, and he was again thrown on the
streets to sink even lower than before.  It was at this time that he
received the indelible impressions of the London streets which he
recorded years after in his review of General Booth's _Darkest
England_: "A region whose hedgerows have set to brick, whose soil is
chilled to stone; where flowers are sold and women; where the men
wither and the stars; whose streets to me on the most glittering day
are black.  For I unveil their secret meanings.  I read their human
hieroglyphs.  I diagnose from a hundred occult signs the disease which
perturbs their populous pulses.  Misery cries out to me from the
kerb-stone; despair passes me by in the ways; I discern limbs laden
with fetters impalpable but not imponderable; I hear the shaking of
invisible lashes; I see men dabbled with their own oozing life."

It was at this time that Thompson, like De Quincey, was befriended by a
girl of the streets, who noticed his forlorn condition and whose
motherly instincts were roused by his helplessness.  "Weakness and
confidence, humility and reverence, were gifts unknown to her except at
his hands, and she repaid them with graces as lovely as a child's, and
as unhesitating as a saint's."  When Thompson was finally rescued by
Wilfrid Meynell, she fled from him, fearing that his friendship with
her might prejudice his chances of better things.  "They will not
understand our friendship," she said, and then, "I always knew you were
a genius."  She changed her lodgings and Thompson sought her in vain.

In _Sister Songs_, in a passage addressed to Sylvia (that is, little
Madeline Meynell) he pays a beautiful tribute to the childishness of
this girl.

  Once--in that nightmare-time which still doth haunt
  My dreams, a grim, unbidden visitant--
     *      *      *      *      *
  I waited the inevitable last.
  Then there came past
  A child; like thee, a spring-flower; but a flower
  Fallen from the budded coronal of Spring,
  And through the city-streets blown withering.
  She passed,--O brave, sad, lovingest, tender thing!
  And of her own scant pittance did she give,
  That I might eat and live:
  Then fled, a swift and trackless fugitive.
  Therefore I kissed in thee
  The heart of Childhood, so divine for me;
  And her, through what sore ways,
  And what unchildish days,
  Borne from me now, as then, a trackless fugitive.

In February 1887 came the crisis of Thompson's fate.  At that time
Thompson scraped together a few shillings somehow and began to decipher
and put together the half-obliterated manuscript of his article on
_Paganism, Old and New_, written, I suppose, at McMaster's.  "I came
simultaneously to my last page and my last halfpenny," says Thompson,
"and went forth to drop the manuscript in the letter-box of the
Catholic magazine, _Merrie England_.  Next day I spent the halfpenny on
two boxes of matches and began the struggle for life."

Among all the important letters that have been posted since man became
a letter-writing animal, that letter of Thompson's to the editor of
_Merrie England_ holds, it seems to me, a prominent place.  One
trembles to think what might have happened if that manuscript had never
reached the editor or been overlooked by him.  In all probability
Thompson would have died of starvation in the streets of London, and a
poet who may prove to be one of the first in our literature would have
gone "mute and inglorious" to an outcast's grave.  But though it lay
pigeon-holed for six months without receiving the attention of a busy
editor, in due course the letter and accompanying manuscript were read.

To no better man could Thompson have appealed than the editor of
_Merrie England_, Wilfrid Meynell, a man whose hand was ever stretched
out to help the unfortunate.  At present, however, he knew nothing of
Thompson except that his essay showed a master-hand.  After some
difficulty Meynell managed to get into communication with the author
through a druggist to whom Thompson owed money for opium, and many days
after, Mr. Meynell, in his workroom, was told that Mr. Thompson wished
to see him.  "Show him up," he said, and was left alone.  What follows
is told in the words of Everard Meynell:

"Then the door opened and a strange hand was thrust in.  The door
closed but Thompson had not entered.  Again it opened, again it shut.
At the third attempt, a very waif of a man came in.  No such figure had
been looked for; more ragged and unkempt than the average beggar, with
no shirt beneath his coat, and bare feet in broken shoes, he found my
father at a loss for words."

Wilfrid Meynell then, with immense patience and kindness, set about the
task of rescuing Thompson.  Thompson was not an easy man to rescue.
Reserved and secretive by habit, he made no confidences and asked no
favours.  He did not seem at first to realize that salvation for him
was possible, and that he could earn his living by writing.  At any
rate, it was only by the exercise of considerable tact and patience
that Mr. Meynell succeeded in obtaining any of his confidence.

Physically, Thompson had suffered severely in his long struggle with
starvation.  "He will not live," was the doctor's verdict, "and you
hasten his death by denying his whims and opium."  Meynell, however,
took the risk and sent Thompson to a private hospital.

The experiment succeeded.  Thompson secured a fresh lease of life, and,
for the time, renounced opium.  All lovers of literature owe a debt of
gratitude to Meynell for his astonishing kindness and unselfishness
towards Thompson at this time and to the end of the poet's life.  Few
would have taken the trouble, amid the cares of a busy life, to look
after Thompson, who in many ways was as incapable of managing his own
affairs as a child.  Meynell found him work, and for the remaining
years of his life Thompson secured a scanty living by his pen.  His
poetry brought him little, but review work and occasional articles for
such magazines as the _Athenæum_ gave him generally enough to live on,
and anything that was lacking was supplied by Meynell.

Soon after Thompson's rescue comes the extraordinary spectacle of the
outburst of his poetic talent.  Here was a man of letters of the first
rank whose genius had blossomed fresh and fair from the filth of the
London streets.  His long proximity with vice and degradation of the
worst kind had not cast even a shadow on the purity of Thompson's
spirit; and his poetry rose from the slums of London as stainless as
Venus from the ocean.

The Meynells furnished Thompson with much of his poetic inspiration.
Meynell had introduced Thompson to his own family.  His wife, Alice
Meynell, the poetess, became the saint of Thompson's adoration, two of
the children, Monica and Madeline, were revelations to him of the
beauty of girlhood; and he repaid the sheltering care and attention
shown him by the family by conferring on them all he had to give, the
best fruits of his genius.

To Mrs. Meynell he addressed the beautiful poems of his first volume,
entitled _Love in Dian's Lap_; to Monica Meynell several of the best
poems in that volume; and to Monica and Madeline his second volume
entitled _Sister Songs_.  His affection for Wilfrid Meynell is
expressed in a few lines entitled _To W. M._

  O Tree of many branches!  One thou hast
  Thou barest not, but graftedst on thee.  Now
  Should all men's thunders break on thee, and leave
  Thee reft of bough and blossom, that one branch
  Shall cling to thee, my Father, Brother, Friend,
  Shall cling to thee unto the end of end.

Thompson's verses were all he had to give in return for the Meynells'
kindness, and to my mind they were a rich recompense for the continual
trouble, anxiety, and petty annoyances which he dealt out to his
friends with lavish hands.

In the ordinary intercourse and business of daily life, Francis
Thompson was not only deficient, he was impossible.  The practice of
the elementary habits of order and method, which to other men are the
necessities and commonplaces of daily life, was to Thompson an
insurmountable difficulty.  His life is one long record of broken
promises, unkept appointments, and other trials of the patience and
tempers of all who had to do with him.  He would keep an appointment
anywhere from an hour or more to two or three days late, and be full of
contrition, excuses, and explanations.  The inherent sweetness and
loveableness of the man atoned for much, but still we cannot but praise
the Meynells for their unwavering kindness to this difficult genius.
Wilfrid Meynell had to act continually as a buffer between Thompson and
irate landladies, impatient editors, exasperated publishers, and
disappointed interviewers.  He had to see that the poet's rent was
paid, and that he had the wherewithal to clothe and feed himself.

Thompson's incurable shabbiness and eccentricities made it difficult to
introduce him into polite society, even if he had been capable of
arriving in time for any social function; and though a brilliant talker
when _tête-à-tête_ with a sympathetic listener, in ordinary
conversation he was more remarkable for the futility of his endless
repetitions than for anything else.  And yet he was never uncouth or
awkward.  His manners were gentle; his speech was that of a polished
gentleman; his worn face could light up with beautiful ardour, and his
frail body never lost its essential dignity.  His laugh, too, was
always ready at the slightest pleasantry.

He made a wildly picturesque figure as he wandered through the London
streets in these latter days, generally completely unconscious of his
surroundings, and with a continual muttered soliloquy.  With his old
brown cape, which he wore in the hottest weather, "his disastrous hat,"
his old satchel for review books slung over his shoulder, and his wild
worn face, he looked like some picturesque pedlar who had just stepped
out of a romance of the Middle Ages.  In all the countless times that
Everard Meynell met Thompson in the streets of London he never once
surprised him in a conscious moment.  That Thompson ever took the right
turning or found his way home safely is a fact for which his friends
could offer no adequate explanation.  Mr. Lewis Hind, editor of _The
Academy_ while Thompson was a contributor, says: "In memory I see him
one miserable November afternoon, communing with the Seraphim and
frolicking with the young-eyed Cherubim in Chancery Lane.  The roads
were ankle-deep in slush; a thin icy rain was falling; the yellow fog
enwrapped the pedestrians squelching down the lane, and going through
them in a narrow path, I saw Francis Thompson, wet and mud-spattered.
But he was not unhappy.  What is a day of unpleasant weather to one who
lives in eternity?  His lips were moving, his head was raised, for
above the roof of the Chancery Lane Safe Deposit Company, in the murk
of the fog, he saw beatific visions."

Thompson's affection for his few friends was perhaps the brightest spot
in this latter part of his life.  For the rest, the record of it is
mainly one of loneliness and poverty.  He ate at poor tables of
boarding-house or restaurant fare, he lived in comfortless rooms
rendered more comfortless still by his untidiness, he had no
possessions, not even books.  All that he left at his death was a tin
box of rubbish, "pipes that would not draw, pens that would not write,
unopened letters, a lamp without a wick."

It would not be right to regard Thompson as an entirely unhappy man.  I
should think his hours of joy were at least as many as his hours of
sorrow, and as intense.  One observer speaks of him thus: "He gave me
the impression of concealing within him two inexhaustible reservoirs of
sorrow and joy; ebullitions from each appear in his poetry; but in his
talks with me he rarely drew except from the fountain of joy."  He
practised in his life the "stark doctrine of renunciation" which alone
can lead man to the higher levels of inspiration, and which he has
stated for us in _The Mistress of Vision_.  In this poem the "Land of
Luthany" represents for Thompson the poet's supreme vision.

Thompson's worst trial was not being able to write poetry.  For the
last six years the consolations of poetry, as well as the pains of
poetry, were denied him.  After the volume of 1897 his Muse deserted
him, and he would not sing without inspiration.  With the exception of
a few occasional pieces, he wrote, in these later years, nothing but
prose, prose as fine in its way as his poetry.

In November 1907 Thompson's rare spirit was set free from the fetters
of his worthless body.  "He left to those who loved him," said Meynell,
"the memory of an unique personality and to English poetry an
imperishable name."

I shall conclude with a very brief review of Thompson's work.  Francis
Thompson's writings are not remarkable for their bulk.  Three
fair-sized volumes hold them all.  What is remarkable about them is the
consistently high quality of both prose and poetry; they both possess
the stamp of distinction, the master-touch, the great utterance.

Of the prose perhaps the finest thing is the Essay on Shelley, but
Thompson seemed incapable of writing anything that was not fine.
Within certain limits he seems to me to be a critic of the very highest
calibre.  A complete and sound literary theory could be put together
from his critical essays.

The poetry was published in three volumes during Thompson's lifetime.
We saw that it was the first volume of 1893 that took the literary
world by storm, and justly so.  It is nearly all magnificent.  Besides
_The Hound of Heaven_, by general consent the greatest religious poem
and one of the greatest odes in the language, and _The Dead Cardinal of
Westminster_, it contains a series of love-poems of the very highest
quality addressed to Alice Meynell, some exquisite verses on children,
and many other gems.  Thompson's love-poems are among the finest in our
language, but are not, of course, love-poems in the ordinary sense of
the word.  They express, as one critic said, "a sort of sublimated
enthusiasm for the beauty of womanhood," and their enthusiasm was
linked to Thompson's religion by being for him an earthly type of his
adoration of the Virgin Mother, the crown and pinnacle of idealized

The second volume, published in 1895, consisted of one long poem in two
parts, _Sister Songs_, addressed to the sisters Monica and Madeline
Meynell.  The first part seems to me to be spoiled by over-luxuriance,
but the second is grand poetry.  One short quotation must suffice:

  Eve no gentlier lays her cooling cheek
  On the burning brow of the sick earth,
  Sick with death, and sick with birth,
  Aeon to aeon, in secular fever twirled,
  Than thy shadow soothes this weak
  And distempered being of mine.
  In all I work, my hand includeth thine;
  Thou rushest down in every stream
  Whose passion frets my spirit's deepening gorge;
  Unhood'st mine eyas-heart, and fliest my dream;
  Thou swing'st the hammers of my forge!
  As the innocent moon, that nothing does but shine,
  Moves all the labouring surges of the world.
  Pierce where thou wilt the springing thought in me
  And there thy pictured countenance lies enfurled,
  As in the cut fern lies the imaged tree.
  This poor song that sings of thee,
  This fragile song, is but a curled
  Shell outgathered from thy sea,
  And murmurous still of its nativity.

Thompson's third and last volume was published in 1897, under the title
_New Poems_.  This volume contains some of his longest and most
elaborate compositions.  Like many of the poems in Volume One outside
those already noticed, the most important poems of Volume Three are
expressions of Thompson's religious mysticism, and with this is
combined a free use of symbolism derived from the Hebrew Prophets and
the Eastern mythologies.  Although no one can fail to recognize the
splendour of the poetry in this third volume, a full appreciation of it
requires a somewhat special equipment.  "The main region of Mr.
Thompson's poetry," says Patmore, "is the inexhaustible and hitherto
almost unworked mine of Catholic philosophy."  To one not specially
versed in that philosophy, an attempt to give an appreciation of the
poems is a dangerous task, and one full of pitfalls.

Suffice it to say that Thompson's mysticism is not an apparently
aimless plunging about in the darkness of the void like that of
Maeterlinck and other modern mystics.  Thompson's mysticism was kept
within bounds and given a definite direction by common sense and the
authority of the Church.  "Dante," he said, "is a perfect rebuke to
those who believe that a mystical genius must be dissociated from
common sense.  Every such poet should be able to give a clear and
logical prose _résumé_ of his teaching as terse as a page of scholastic
philosophy."  And so we find that the rule of Thompson's practice is
summed up in the words, "To the Poet life is full of visions, to the
Mystic it is one vision."  Having regarded the visions as a poet, and
set them down as a mystic, he would call them one.  The one great
vision enfolded and explained them all.  Such is the explanation of his
poems, _The Orient Ode_, _The Anthem of Earth_, and _The Ode to the
Setting Sun_.

To treat Thompson fairly one should give his deeper poems careful
study, but Thompson does not always write of deep and doubtful things.
More often indeed his faith is as the faith of a little child.  We are
told on high authority that we must become as little children if we are
to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  It was as a little child that Thompson
sought to enter there, and it is among the children of Heaven that
Thompson would take his place.

To his godchild he writes:

  And when, immortal mortal, droops your head,
  And you, the child of deathless song, are dead;
  Then, as you search with unaccustomed glance
  The ranks of Paradise for my countenance,
  Turn not your tread along the Uranian sod
  Among the bearded counsellors of God;
  For if in Eden as on earth are we,
  I sure shall keep a younger company:
  Pass where beneath their rangéd gonfalons
  The starry cohorts shake their shielded suns,
  The dreadful mass of their enridgèd spears;
  Pass where majestical the eternal peers,
  The stately choice of the great Saintdom, meet--
  A silvern segregation, globed complete
  In sandalled shadow of the Triune feet;
  Pass by where wait, young poet-wayfarer,
  Your cousined clusters, emulous to share
  With you the roseal lightnings burning 'mid their hair;
  Pass the crystalline sea, the Lampads seven:--
  Look for me in the nurseries of Heaven.



  From out the darkness of the vanished years,
  The voice of Milton peals; his mighty song
  Rings down the centuries, its note still strong
  As when it burst upon our fathers' ears.

  Amid the unnumber'd harmonies that swell
  From bards of earth to break round heaven's throne,
  His part, clear heard amid the mingled tone,
  Rolls full and solemn, like a deep-voiced bell.

  A spirit strong with more than mortal strength,
  When in life's battle he had borne his share,
  He passed from out the tumult and the care,
  And climbed upon the mountain tops at length.

  There, with blind eyes turned to the Promised Land,
  Waiting the dawn of an unending day,
  His soul went forth in that tremendous lay
  The eternal heights and breadths and depths which spanned.

  Poor, lonely and forgot, though he endured
  The bitter thought of labour spent in vain,
  And saw invaded by a godless train
  The land whose liberty he deemed assured;

  Yet not for that did he "abate one jot
  Of heart or hope"; scorning to cringe or cower,
  Steadfast he stood like some majestic tower,
  That feels the tempest's blast, but wavers not.

  From rulers of the earth he asked no grace,
  Nor leaned upon the love of human heart,
  Lofty and passionless he drew apart,
  And communed with the Highest face to face.

  Far from the din and toil of mortal kind
  His spirit's barque was borne; serene and high
  He brooded on the unfathomed mystery
  Of thoughts that burden the Eternal Mind.

  For Freedom he had stood, in her defence
  His best had given; where'er the fight was keen,
  Ever amid the foremost had he been
  Down-bearing tyranny's battalions dense.

  For that he left his ease and hopes of fame;
  Endured the heat and burden of the day;
  And while his lyre mute and forgotten lay,
  Laboured to clear from wrong his country's name.

  And now, that task fulfilled, his voice once more
  Breaks forth into a fuller, richer song,
  "Not changed to hoarse or mute," sublime and strong,
  The noblest heard among the sons of men.

  A strain full worthy of his subject high--
  Sin, Death, and Hell, and our eternal woe;
  The gloomy majesty of Heaven's great foe,
  Hurling defiance to the vaulted sky;

  The work of Christ, Immortal Son of God,
  The warring hosts of fiends to darkness hurl'd,
  Creation and the birth of this round world,
  And man brought low beneath th' Almighty rod.

  His throne is set where the immortals are,
  Where Dante, crowned with laurel, smiles serene,
  And Virgil wears his garland ever green,
  And Homer shines undimmed, a fadeless star.



An old Portora boy's tribute to the late Dr. Biggs (accidentally
drowned in Lough Erne, July 1904)

  Calm was the evening; and the lake as calm
    Showed not a ripple on its placid breast;
  Peaceful was Nature, when the one we loved
    Passed quietly to his rest.

  Not racked by pain, nor marred by fell disease,
    He bowed beneath the Almighty's chastening rod---
  With heart at ease, and praise upon his lips,
    He went to meet his God.

  The tears and anguish of the bed of death
    A loving Father spared his closing eye--
  The gentle murmuring waters sang his dirge;
    The soft winds breathed a sigh.

  Not far were ready hands and loving hearts--
    His voice they heard not, nor his peril knew;
  Alone God met him; and that solemn scene
    Was veiled from human view.

  O raise him gently from the wat'ry depths;
    And gaze with reverence on that noble head
  Stamped with the beauty of a lofty soul,
    A spirit that is fled.

  All lines of grief, all trace of human care
    Death's kindly hand has smoothed from his brow;
  And perfect peace alone and holy calm
    Are seen there now.

  Weep ye no more, sad mourners; let us cease
    To wail the sudden stroke with idle breath;
  Pure was his life; his soul seven times refined
    And ripe for death.

  With eyes that strove to pierce the veil of time
    And view the Unseen, he ran his mortal race;
  The veil is passed; with clearer vision now
    He sees Him face to face.

  Perhaps some coming grief, some sorrow dread
    Or wasting sickness, fraught with heavy woe,
  The All-seeing saw, and stretched His saving arm
    To snatch him from the blow.

  Weep not for him, but for ourselves bereft
    Of a strong champion in this earthly strife;
  A rock to which his weaker brethren clung
    Amid the storms of life.

  Weep not for him, but mourn for those young lives
    Orphaned so soon of teacher and of guide;
  The flock left shepherdless, their loved one's form
    Torn quickly from their side.

  Where, in the wide world, shall we find again
    So wise a counsellor, a friend so true?
  Nay, cease regrets, but let us up and strive,
    As he has done, to do.

  Still from the grave he speaks; revealed by death,
    Shines clearer forth the beauty of his life;
  Still the good fight he fought gives us new strength
    To conquer in the strife.


  _Two Lectures given to the Class in Education
  in the University_


In this lecture I propose to tell you not how English ought to be
taught, but simply how I teach English.  I know nothing of pedagogy; I
have never attended a Normal School; I have read very few books on
teaching in general, and only one on the teaching of English in
particular; I know nothing of the methods which you yourselves are
being taught to employ.  I ask you, then, to take my lectures simply as
a personal document, a relation of what I have gathered from my own
experience.  Such a document, if sincere, must be valuable, and I need,
I think, make no apology if I mention as discoveries of my own, methods
and principles which are, perhaps, commonplaces with the educationalist.

In the matter of teaching every man must work out his own salvation; I
believe that he cannot take his methods ready-made from another.  The
method which suits me and gets me the best result may not suit you.
And so, though I believe that every teacher of English ought to follow
certain general principles which I will try to lay down, I believe also
that it is a fatal mistake for any man to attempt to model his way of
teaching exactly upon that of another.  To-day, then, I propose simply
to tell you of some of the things which I discovered for myself, some
of the difficulties I met with, some of the faults which I have
overcome, or am still trying to overcome.

I see before myself still a long and weary road, which must be
travelled before I reach anything approaching my ideal.  In fact, I
hope, as every teacher ought to hope, that I shall never reach a point
where I can say I am satisfied, for as sure as I do, I shall know that
I have ceased to make progress.  As long as a man struggles, he is
advancing; when he ceases to struggle, he has ceased to advance; and
when he ceases to advance, it is almost certain that he has commenced
to go backward.

For the purposes of this lecture I shall take the teaching of English
to mean the teaching of English literature only.  I have had no
experience of High School work, and therefore my remarks refer to the
teaching of average University students of the first or second year,
very much the same sort of students as you have to deal with in your
High Schools.  The methods I adopt with my Honour Classes differ widely
from those I use with pass students.

Before one attempts to describe his method of teaching, he should make
very clear his conception of the object for which the subject is
studied.  One may read a piece of literature, for example, in many
different ways.  One may treat it as a piece of art, a record of life,
a truth that some fellow-man has seen in a moment of clear-sightedness,
has "snatched from the eternal silence," and has set down that we may
see it too.  Again, one may read it with a view to its structure, as an
example of literary technique; or one may treat it as an historical
document, a reflection of the spirit of the age which produced it; or,
again, as an exercise in philology, as material for the study of words.
According as one object or another predominates, so will the method of
teaching change; if one object is sought to the exclusion of all
others, the method of teaching will, of course, vary with the object in
view.  The philologist will subordinate everything to the study of
philology; the historian will fasten all his attention on the evidences
of date, the local references, the flavour of contemporary philosophy,
politics, religion, or whatever it may be; the technician will be
entirely occupied with form, metre, structure.

_Hamlet_, for example, may be treated as a work of art, as the history
of a man doomed to destruction through an inherent and fatal flaw, a
human soul caught in the web of circumstance and tortured to death; or
it may be treated as a study in the language of the Elizabethans; or as
an example of the stagecraft of Shakespeare; or even as material for
constructing ingenious cipher messages revealing the fact that, as
Shakespeare was utterly unable to write plays for himself, Bacon kindly
wrote them for him.

The first question which the teacher of literature must ask is, what is
the relative importance of all these objects for which literature may
be studied.  Which should be the main end of our teaching, and which
should be subordinate?  On the answer he gives to that question will
depend the method of his teaching.

Personally, I have no doubt whatever as to which of these things is the
most important, although I may have some doubts as to the relative
importance of the others.  To me a piece of literature is first and
foremost a work of art, a record of life in forms of truth and beauty,
a spiritual revelation; it speaks to my intellect, but only that,
through my intellect, it may reach my heart.  If it reaches my
intellect only, if it penetrates no farther, if it does not become part
of my being, if the experience it records does not become _my_
experience, then it is of little value to me, it is not _my_ piece of
literature, and I want no literature that I cannot make my own.

I wish sincerely that we could root out for ever and utterly abolish
the false notion that most students and many teachers have, that
Literature is not an important subject, that it is only a side-line,
very nice to know something about, but not in the same class with
"useful" and practical subjects like history and science.  This is a
tremendous and a fatal misconception.  It is by Art and Art alone that
Humanity progresses; progress in Science or in mere knowledge does not
necessarily mean progress in any of those things in which Man stands
supreme above the rest of creation, those spiritual qualities which
raise him to the level of the Divine.  We know that a man may take a
course in Science, or any purely intellectual subject, and come out at
the end of it still uncultured and coarse-minded, with low ideals, with
the higher instincts undeveloped; he may go through a course of
Literature, too, it is true, and emerge in a similar condition, but not
if the Literature has been properly presented to him, and if he has
really assimilated the best thoughts of the highest minds.

Art is the source of our highest pleasure, the capacity for which
raises us above the beast.  Without that capacity, men are no better
than sheep or goats "who nourish a blind life within the brain."

  A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,
  Its loveliness increases; it will never
  Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
  A bower quiet for us, and a sleep,
  Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

Not only is Literature the source of our highest pleasure, but it is
the source of our highest development.  It is the most potent factor in
the slow process of raising Humanity to a higher spiritual level; it is
the true motive power of the world.

Well might the poet say of himself and his fellow poets:

  We are the music-makers,
    We are the dreamers of dreams,
  Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
    And sitting by desolate streams;--

  World-losers and world-forsakers,
    On whom the pale moon gleams:
  We are the movers and the shakers
    Of the world for ever it seems.

  One man with a dream, at pleasure,
    Shall go forth and conquer a crown:
  And three with a new song's measure
    Can trample a kingdom down.

Assuming, then, that the appreciation of literature as art, as the
record of spiritual experience, is the principal thing to be gained
from its study, the question arises how is such an appreciation to be

In what I am going to say on this subject, I will speak of poetry, and
you will understand my remarks to apply in a lesser degree to prose.

Poetry is the finest flower of the human mind; and therefore the most
difficult of all things to appreciate.  In writing poetry the whole of
a man's being is in a state of intense activity.  His intellect, his
emotion, his imagination, are all roused to the highest pitch.  He is
lifted for the time being to a plane of experience much higher than the
normal; he is giving out the very best that is in him.

Wordsworth has described for us how the poetic mood drove him
distracted with intensity of thought over hill and dale, and how when
the mood had passed he would return to his friends pale and utterly
exhausted both in mind and body.

  His own mind did like a tempest strong
  Come to him thus and drove the weary wight along.

All poetry worth reading is the result of some such exalted mood as
that, and poetry so written cannot be read in cold blood.  Poetry which
leaves you cold, with your emotions untouched, which does not in some
measure lift you out of yourself, is either not poetry at all, or else
poetry which you have not the capacity to appreciate.

One appreciates a poem only in so far as one reproduces it
sympathetically in oneself; that is, only so far as one feels over
again the emotions which the writer who produced it felt as he gave
them expression.  In other words, by the appreciation of literature one
gains at second-hand the highest spiritual experience.

It follows that one can appreciate poetry only to the extent to which
one is capable of such experience.  No one can appreciate fully all
kinds of poetry; if any one could do so, it would mean that he was a
universal genius, since the whole range of emotional experience would
have to be within his control.  The extent of the average man's powers
of appreciation is distinctly limited; some can sympathize only with
the more obvious and elemental emotions, while some are capable of
appreciating more subtle and refined shades of feeling.  That is why
nearly every one can appreciate to some extent a poet like Shakespeare,
who always deals with big, elemental emotions, although, since
Shakespeare is at the same time able to express the most subtle
feelings, there are few who can appreciate him in full.  This is why it
is more difficult to appreciate Wordsworth than
Shakespeare--Wordsworth's emotions are more out of the range of
ordinary experience--and still more difficult to appreciate Shelley,
whose range of emotion is often entirely alien from experience.

The point I wish to make is that a teacher can teach properly only
poetry which he himself is capable of appreciating, and therefore
literature is the most difficult of all subjects to teach, since it
requires in the individual certain qualifications beyond the merely
intellectual.  For the lack of these qualifications, no brilliancy of
intellect can compensate.

The teacher who knows a piece of poetry with his head only can never
teach it as it ought to be taught.  He may be able to repeat it word
for word, he may know all about its history, its philology, its
structure, but if he has not felt it, if he has not reproduced it
sympathetically within himself, he cannot teach it.  Similarly the
student, unless he is capable of sympathizing with such emotions as are
recorded in poetry, will be unable to get more than a head knowledge of
it.  If this power of sympathizing is present in ever so small a
degree, it can be indefinitely developed under the inspiration of a
good teacher.

What follows then?  First, that a teacher who lacks the higher
appreciation of literature can certainly never teach it to others,
although probably thirty or forty per cent. of his pupils, more gifted
than himself by Nature in this respect, will get an appreciation in
spite of him.  Secondly, that even supposing a teacher has this
appreciation, it will be of little use to him, unless he has the power
of communicating it to others, that is, of awakening in them sympathy
with what he himself feels.

Assuming, then, that the teacher has this appreciation, what is the
best way of communicating it?  There are, perhaps, only two possible
ways.  One is by talking about the poem, by trying to describe its
effect upon one; but the better and more effective way is by reading,
by vocal interpretation.  All literature, but especially poetry, is
written not for the eye, but for the ear.  Its appeal, then, should be
made, not through the eye but through the ear.  The sound of the words,
not singly, but in groups, the rhythm, the intonation, all these give
the atmosphere of a poem.  Sound is to a poem what colour is to a
picture.  Get away from the printed word, the mere symbol; it means
something for the head, it is true, but nothing for the heart until it
is translated into sound.

The first thing a teacher of literature must do, then, is to learn to
read.  He need not take a course in elocution; stamping, gesticulating,
waving his arms, shouting, whispering, hissing, and other tricks of the
professional elocutionist will benefit him little; all that is
necessary is that he should be able, by the intonation of his voice, to
convey to his students the effect which a poem has made upon himself.
Diligent practice, the subjection of the voice to the will--these are
what he needs.  The average man cannot hope to reach any very high
degree of efficiency as a reader, but all that the teacher needs is to
be able to read clearly, with a voice well controlled and capable of
expressing various shades of emotion, with a good sense of rhythm and
the grouping of vowel sounds.

The first thing, then, for one who would teach literature is to
endeavour to reach at least that stage of vocal culture which I have
described.  Of course, a good deal may be done in the way of conveying
appreciation of a poem by talking about it, but to talk about a poem
well is almost as difficult as to read it well, and at the best is not
nearly so effective.

Assuming that a man is equipped with these essentials, a true
appreciation of literature and the power of communicating his
appreciation to others, how is he to approach the teaching of a piece
of literature?

The first thing he must do is to assimilate it thoroughly himself, to
go over it again and again, to practise again and again the vocal
interpretation of it, to be sure that he has caught the spirit not only
of the whole, but of the smallest part, that no shade of meaning,
however subtle, has escaped him.

"We must long inhale," says Corson, "the choral atmosphere of a work of
genius before we attempt, if we attempt at all, any intellectual
formulation of it; which formulation must necessarily be comparatively
limited, because genius, as genius, is transcendental, and therefore
outside the domain of the intellect."

Then, having assimilated it, let him go further and get a background
for it.  Let him know, if possible, its history, what suggested it,
under what circumstances it was composed, its relation to other
writings of the poet and of the age, what the best critics have said
about it, and so on.  Let him endeavour to neglect no scrap of
information which will increase his own appreciation and understanding
of the poem.  When he has done all this, then, and not till then, is he
ready to teach it.  If he has plenty of time and a small class, he will
probably begin by trying to find out how far his pupils have
assimilated the spirit of the poem.  His task is then to interpret the
piece of literature, to try to give the student the impression it has
made on him, what it means to him, what emotions it arouses in him.
This is to be done by reading it, or, if the piece is long, by reading
such parts of it as will form a connected whole, filling in with
descriptive narrative.  In many cases it will be necessary before
attempting an interpretation to say a few words which will enable the
pupil to listen to the reading in the proper frame of mind, and will
create the proper atmosphere for him.

When the first impression has been made, the work has only just begun.
Suppose one has hit the right keynote, that the class has caught the
spirit of the poem; there will still be much of it which is
unintelligible or misty to them.

Not realizing this, I used to make a mistake when I first began to
teach.  I thought it was necessary that the pupils should understand
the poem in detail before they could get the general effect.  I used,
therefore, to begin by analysis, by pulling the poem to pieces, showing
its structure, the order of ideas, the meaning of words, and when I
thought everything was perfectly clear I would give the general effect,
or very often would leave that to the students themselves.  This was a
fatal mistake.  By going through the process of analysis first, I had
rendered an appreciation of the piece as a whole ever so much more
difficult; while if I had begun by trying to get the general effect,
and had succeeded, no amount of analysis could have destroyed that
first impression.

On this point Professor Corson says: "The spiritual appeals which are
made by every form of art, be it in colour, in sound, in stone, in
poetry, or whatever may be the medium employed, must be responded to
directly, immediately (in the literal sense of the word), or not at
all.  Of course, the extent of the response may be indefinitely
increased.  But there must be, to begin with, a direct, immediate
response, however limited it may be.  There is no roundabout way to
such appeals.  The inductive method is not applicable to spiritual
matters.  The very word _induction_, is absurd, in connection with the
spiritual.  It belongs exclusively to the intellectual domain."

When the first impression has been made, then will come the analysis,
and I am convinced that this analysing process is one which the
student, especially the young student, cannot dispense with, and which
is an exceedingly valuable mental training.

The analysis will include a treatment not only of the literary form of
the poem, but a thorough study of its language, of the historical and
literary allusions contained in it, of any images or metaphors which
may be obscure, and, in fact, anything which will contribute to a
better understanding of the poem as a whole.  The teacher will now
probably ask: "How far is this process of analysis to go?  Must one
study the philology of every word, must one analyse the metre of every
poem?"  I have already given the answer to these questions.  I said
that the analysis would include a study of anything which _will
contribute to the better understanding of the poem as a whole_.  There
is the secret.  The total effect must never be lost sight of.  The
metre is to be studied only to an extent which will enable the student
to catch the rhythm and read the poem correctly for himself.  Names and
technicalities matter not a whit.  He may never have heard of an iambic
pentameter, or an anapaest, or a trochee, but as long as he grasps the
rhythm and sees the relations of the various parts of the literary
structure, he knows all that is necessary for a thorough appreciation
of the poem as a whole.  Similarly, the derivation of a word should
never be given unless it helps to the better understanding of the sense
of the word _as that word is used in the particular passage under
discussion_; otherwise the obtrusion of the etymology is simply an

Some teachers make interpretation by paraphrase a prominent part of
this analytical process; this should be avoided.  It may be necessary
sometimes to paraphrase difficult passages, but not one-tenth as often
as most teachers and editors consider it necessary.  A paraphrase is at
best an inferior rendering, a substitution of something similar, but of
a lower kind, often a substitution of the baldest prose for the highest
poetry.  "I pray thee avoid it."  Some editors are over-fond of
analysis; probably because they wish to show they are earning the money
they get for editing.  Let the poem, as far as possible, tell its own
story in its own words.

When the analytic or discursive process has been completed, what
remains?  A return to the general.  Having considered the poem in its
parts, one now endeavours to reproduce the effect of the poem as a
whole, but this time, if the analysis has been well done, the effect
ought to be greatly heightened.  The student will now see, not through
a glass darkly, but will meet the poet face to face.

There are two things to be observed with regard to this process from
the general, through the discursive, back to the general again.  One is
that the processes should, if possible, be kept separate; that one
should keep, if possible, at the same level throughout any one lesson.
This cannot be done if one changes from appreciation to analysis and
back again on the same day.  The second is that the analytic process is
best left as far as possible to the student himself.  I myself used to
make the mistake of doing too much for the student; I used to try to
analyse the poem thoroughly for him in class.  I now think it better
simply to point out difficulties and leave them to the student to
solve, to suggest questions and leave them to the student to answer.
The work may not be so thoroughly done, but the student receives a
valuable stimulus which he would otherwise miss.  I always give an
opportunity for any difficulties which the student is unable to solve
for himself to be brought to me.


In my last lecture I tried to emphasize what I considered to be the
most important objects of literary study, _i.e._, the appreciation of
literature as art.  I said that I thought it necessary that the teacher
of English should have both a true appreciation of literature himself
and the capacity for arousing appreciation in others.  I pointed out
that the teacher's first duty was to awaken in his students a response
to the inner life or soul of the piece of literature with which he was
dealing, that the best way of doing so was by a good vocal
interpretation; and that it was therefore the duty of every teacher of
English to learn to read well.  I suggested that after the first
response had been gained, there should come a thorough analysis, a
study of form, structure, philology, and exact meaning, but that this
process of analysis should be carried only so far as was necessary to a
thorough appreciation of the work as a whole.

I now come to the question of how far a study of the history of
literature is desirable for the ordinary student, I mean the student
who does not desire to specialize in the subject.

Personally, I am a firm believer in the historical method of dealing
with literature, not only because I think that a knowledge of the
history of literature greatly heightens one's appreciation of literary
works, but because I believe that many students, who would otherwise
never do so, are by this method led to take an interest in, and so
gradually acquire a taste for, literature.

Some books (using the word _book_ in the sense of any literary work)
are for all time--Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, Shakespeare; some books
are for their own time only; some books are for their own time and a
limited period afterwards.  But whatever be the vitality of a book, no
matter to which of these classes it belongs, there is no doubt that it
belongs in the first instance to its own time, and cannot help being to
some degree a reflection of the spirit of the age in which it was
produced.  This means that not only may the book be used as an
historical document, as a means of catching the spirit of its age, but
that, conversely, a study of the epoch at which it was produced cannot
fail to illuminate to a greater or less degree the meaning of the book.

Critics like Taine and Sainte-Beuve looked on books as primarily
historical documents.  Behind the book one looked for the man, behind
the man one found the innumerable circumstances which went to mould his
personality.  In this way of looking at things the individual becomes
of comparatively small importance; he is interesting mainly because he
is a type of his age; his book is interesting because it reveals the

Much can be said for this deterministic way of looking at literature,
and some excellent results have been produced by Taine's style of
criticism, but few critics of to-day would look on it with favour.
To-day, the book is of primary importance; the man and the age are
studied that they may throw light on the book.  However exaggerated the
historical method, as carried out by Taine, may appear, I think we must
admit that in a modified form it may be of very great value.

We all know that a literary work is flavoured by the personality of the
writer.  From our experience as teachers we learn that we can read a
personal document more sympathetically if we know who wrote it.

I have sometimes commenced to read an essay under the impression that
it was written by a student A, and have been annoyed at certain ways of
thinking and methods of expression that seemed to me forced and
unnatural; I have turned to the back of the essay, seen the name of the
writer, discovered my mistake, and re-read the essay with the
personality of B instead of A at the back of my mind, and then the
essay seemed to me to go smoothly, and to be characteristic of the

Undoubtedly, the book takes a distinct and peculiar tinge from the
personality of the author, and therefore to get the proper atmosphere,
to read a book with thorough sympathy, we should find out all that we
possibly can about the man who wrote it.  Of course, the thing works
both ways.  We study the man that we may better appreciate his book; we
study the book to find the man.  How little can be done in some cases
towards determining the personality of the man from his book is shown
by the outstanding instance of Shakespeare.  More than three hundred
years' study of that marvellous book has entirely failed to reveal the
personality of the author; upon that question critics are still in
hopeless conflict.

Again, since the personality of a man is undoubtedly moulded, to a
large extent, by his age and environment, we should go farther back
still, and having studied our man, we should relate him to his age.

No writer is so individualistic that he can wholly escape the tinge of
his epoch.  I will venture to say that no one who has been accustomed
to study literature by the historical method, and to recognize in books
the contemporary flavour, would be likely to take, say, a piece of
prose written in the first half of the seventeenth century for the
product of the eighteenth or nineteenth century, or could possibly
mistake a typical sixteenth-century lyric for a typical
nineteenth-century one.

If we study our literature, then, historically as well as artistically,
our books will be to us not only works of art, but something more; they
will become linked to long trains of association, which will carry us
out into the life and happiness and suffering of our fellow-men, and
further still, out into the shock and sway of great world-movements,
into the sphere where the Time-spirit weaves unceasingly the web of

Let me give you an example of how this way of treating literature can
be carried out with even a junior class.

I have been studying with the Freshmen some of Goldsmith's poetry, _The
Traveller_ and _The Deserted Village_.  We first took the poems in
themselves, studied them as works of art, read them, tried to get the
spirit, then analysed and studied them in detail.  We next went on to a
study of the life of Goldsmith.  We followed his strange and romantic
career, followed him in his sufferings and struggles and triumphs, saw
him in his weakness and in his strength.  Further than that, we saw him
in relation to his contemporaries.  We became acquainted through him
with the famous circle of which he was a member, the circle of wits and
scholars that gathered round Johnson--Burke, Reynolds, Garrick, and the
rest.  We then learned something of the literary ideals of that school,
and how they determined the form of Goldsmith's work.  We saw, too, how
Johnson and Goldsmith helped to set literature free from the bonds of
patronage.  We saw something of the politics and the social conditions
of the age.

My claim is that, in consequence of that study, those students, when
they return to _The Traveller_ and _The Deserted Village_ to read them
again for their own pleasure or to review them for their examination,
will find their pleasure in them greatly enhanced by having at the back
of their minds the personality of the author and the spirit of his
time.  Things that seemed stiff and pedantic to them before will be
forgiven or passed over now, because they will know that they do not
belong to Goldsmith himself, but are only a condition of his writing
imposed on him by his age; they will appreciate better all those
passages in which the kindliness and sympathy and generosity of the
author are strongly marked, and finally they will feel hovering around
these living documents not only the spirit of the dead author, but the
spirit of the great old Doctor Johnson, with the spook of Boswell
probably still in attendance, and all that noble and witty company who
walked and talked on earth so many years ago.

I have heard people object to the study of the history of literature by
young students on this ground--that it must mean to a large extent a
memorizing of names and dates, a mere empty repetition of facts about
works that have never been read.

To that objection I do not now attach very much weight, although at one
time I did.  In the first place, the study need not be a mere empty
repetition.  A skilful description of the contents of a work will give
a student a very fair idea of its spirit and meaning, and often arouse
in him a desire to read it for himself.  In the second place, it is
good for him that he should have the benefit of the experience of the
most competent students and critics of English literature, so that he
may know what is best worth reading, and so that when he comes to
continue his studies for himself, if he ever does, he may spend his
time to the best advantage.  One does not object to studying the map of
a country, even if there is no intention of visiting all the places
marked thereon.

I would say, then, that the best plan with the young student who has
had some elementary training in the appreciation of literature is to
take some representative works of a particular period, and through a
careful study of them in the way I have described, reach out and grasp
the whole period in its essential features.

So much for the history of literature.  Now to retrace our steps, and
return to what I said in my first lecture about the method of attacking
a particular literary work.  I daresay it sounded simple and easy
enough; first get your general effect, let the poem make its own
impression as a unit, as a work of art; then will come your analysis,
and then a return to the general.

But it is in the application of this simple principle to different
kinds of literature that the teacher will find his greatest problems.
Every new work will provide a new puzzle.  How much need I say about
this by way of introduction?  What is the best way to present this?
What illustrative extracts should I make from this?  How much help
should I give the student with this?

A teacher has to teach the First Book of _Paradise Lost_.  He has three
quarters of an hour or an hour to make his first impression; on that
first impression may depend the whole success of his teaching.  It is
obvious that with young students it will not do to plunge straight into
a reading of the poem; they must be prepared for the reading; an
atmosphere must be created; they must come to the reading in a proper,
receptive attitude.  How much introduction is necessary?

Personally, I spend one whole hour talking about the poem.  I point out
as well as I can the plan of the whole poem, and how that plan is
carried out, so as to get the relation of the First Book to the whole;
I talk a little about epic poetry in general and what one is to expect
from an epic poem; I point out the magnitude of Milton's task, the
spirit in which he approached his work, the purpose and meaning of that
work, and in every way I try to arouse an attitude of interest and

The next day, I do not begin to take up Book I in fragments, but I give
a reading designed to give the story of the whole book in a series of
the most striking passages, strung together by connecting narrative.

We are now ready to study the poem analytically, and as we take up each
part and dissect it, the students always have in view the relation of
each part to the whole book, and, from the first lecture, to the whole

How to teach a play of Shakespeare is a subject that might well demand
a whole lecture to itself.  Shakespeare is undoubtedly the best
material for teaching literature that we have, and is suitable for all
grades, from the lowest to the highest.  Of course, I need scarcely say
that the method of treatment and presentation for honour students will
naturally differ entirely from that appropriate to beginners.

But there is one thing certain, that a play of Shakespeare, whether one
teaches it to beginners or to advanced students, demands on the part of
the teacher a most intense study.  He must be soaked in it; he must be
thoroughly familiar with it down to the smallest detail; he must have
thought out the setting of every scene; he must have formed a clear
conception of every character; he must have decided definitely the
exact tone and emphasis with which every speech should be delivered;
and lastly, he must decide how he may most effectively present it to
his students.

But this, you will say, is putting too big a demand upon the teacher.
It is a demand which few of us are able to fulfil, but I am convinced
myself that every teacher should keep such an ideal in view, and work
toward it patiently.  I have been studying _Hamlet_ off and on myself
for ten years, I have been teaching it for four, and I am only just
beginning to get some confidence about it now.  I hope perhaps if I
study it for ten years more to be able to teach it with some success.

The great actor Salvini studied the part of Lear for eight years before
he made any attempt to commit it to memory.

Shakespeare is thus, in a sense, the most difficult of all authors to
teach, for one can never exhaust him; in another sense he is the
easiest, for even the poorest teacher cannot help making some effect
with him.  The latter fact, however, should not make us content with
slovenly work.

In this connection I may say that I am convinced that the greatest aid
to success on the part of the teacher of English literature is
painstaking and exact study for himself--not to be content with
something that will do, but to absorb and reabsorb the spirit of the
best works, and never to be satisfied that he knows them well enough.
The number of works that he can know thus thoroughly will be limited at
first, but their range will be constantly increasing; and therefore the
work that he will be compelled to do in a more or less imperfect
fashion will be constantly decreasing.

As an example of how a single poem can be made sometimes to serve as an
introduction to the whole of an author's work or to a large portion of
it, let us take a very short and simple poem of Browning and see what
can be made of it.  Let me read to you _A Woman's Last Word_.

Probably this poem, like many of Browning's, produces at the first
reading only a vague and indefinite impression, a sort of groping
sensation, in short, a wonder as to what it is all about.

Let us analyse it.  Whence did the difficulty arise?  Evidently not
from the language.  It was from the fact that we did not know what went
before; that from what is given us here, a mere scrap of experience, we
had to construct the whole; and from the fact that we had to follow a
sequence of thoughts suggested by circumstances unknown to us, instead
of, as is usual in poetry, a series of actions or events which serve as
a backbone or substructure for the thought.

Herein lie the two main difficulties of appreciating that large class
of Browning poetry known under the heading, _dramatic monologues_.

They are _dramatic_ because they are spoken not in the person of the
author, but in that of some imaginary character, whose personality the
author assumes, but they differ from drama, as it is generally
understood, first, because they are monologues, not dialogues;
secondly, the circumstances, occasions, and settings of the monologues,
instead of being suggested at the outset, are only indicated from time
to time, and have to be picked up as we go along; thirdly, we have to
follow a sequence of thoughts without any help from accompanying events
or actions; and lastly, we are given no information, except
incidentally, as to what goes before and comes after.

In other dramatic monologues of Browning the problem becomes more
complicated, first, from the fact that in most of them he attempts to
reveal a character, not merely a psychological situation, as in _A
Woman's Last Word_; secondly, from the extraordinary variety of the
characters he attempts to present.

The characters into whose mouths Browning puts his poems are a very
varied assortment.  In one poem, perhaps, it is a Greek philosopher who
speaks, in the next a modern English divine; now it is an Italian duke
of the sixteenth century, and now an Italian patriot of the nineteenth
century.  Each of these personages has a definite atmosphere and a
typical environment, and that atmosphere and environment we must
construct for ourselves before we can appreciate the poem properly.

Take, for example, the two poems, _Fra Lippo Lippi_ and _Andrea del
Sarto_.  Each of these deals not only with the character and some of
the history of an individual Italian painter, but sets forth in
addition a particular phase in the development of Italian art, and at
the same time gives us an insight into Browning's theory of art.  To
appreciate these poems, then, we must know something of the history of
the historic personages who are represented as speaking, something of
the Italy of their time; we must know in outline at least something of
the history of Italian art, and have some knowledge of the
technicalities of painting.  Very many of Browning's poems are
concerned with periods and personages about whom the ordinary reader
knows nothing, hence the absolute need of some sort of a commentary, or
of constant recourse to an encyclopaedia in reading him.

There is another difficulty connected with Browning's favourite form,
the dramatic monologue.  Most of these poems are only scraps of
experience; we get no information, except by hints, of what has gone
before; we are equally left to guess what comes after.  The problem
before us is something like that of reconstructing a whole conversation
of which we have overheard only a small part.

Again, many of the poems do not describe a series of events, but only a
series of thoughts or reflections.  Hence there is nothing or very
little to guide us in grasping the connection between the various parts
of the poem, and many of the poems have to be read and re-read many
times before the meaning begins to dawn on us.

In _A Woman's Last Word_ there is not a single difficult phrase.  The
whole difficulty arises from the fact that it is a scrap, and from the
fact that it is a series of thoughts without any action to thread them
together and to make them definite.

Browning's poems are sometimes difficult to read because the ideas
which he is expressing are profound and difficult to grasp; but far
more often they are difficult because of his extraordinary way of
expressing perfectly simple and easy ideas.

For example, here is a perfectly easy and obvious thought--that every
day we see men winning money and reputation by mere imitation of some
style that has caught the public taste, while the original inventor or
discoverer of that style lives in obscurity and neglect.  How does
Browning express it?

  Hobbs hints blue--straight he turtle eats,
  Nobbs prints blue--claret crowns his cup,
  Nokes outdares Stokes in azure feats--
  Both gorge.  Who finished the murex up?
  What porridge had John Keats?

The point about the murex in this extract illustrates another
difficulty with Browning, his assumption of knowledge on the part of
his reader of all sorts of curious and out-of-the-way information.  He
is full of allusions to technical points in such things as painting,
music, medicine, and classical scholarship which are as a rule known to
only specialists in these particular subjects.

I might mention lastly in this connection a peculiarity of Browning's
thought, namely, its tremendous rapidity.  Let me illustrate.  A
beginner works out a problem in mathematics; he feels his way step by
step; he puts down everything in order, and in going over the question
we can follow easily every detail of the reasoning.  A master
mathematician confronted with the same problem would see his way from
the beginning right through to the end; he would leave out half of the
intermediate steps because to him they were quite obvious and not worth
putting down, and when we came to look over his work we might
completely fail to see how he had reached his conclusion.

So with Browning.  Browning skips from thought to thought with great
rapidity, leaving intermediate steps to be filled in by the
intelligence of the reader.  As Chesterton says, if Browning had to
describe a quarrel between two men which culminated in one calling the
other a liar and knocking him downstairs, he would probably do it
something like this:

  What then?  You lie--and doormat below stairs
  Takes bump from back.

That is to say, he would be in such a hurry to get his man to the
bottom of the stairs that he would leave out half of the intermediate

I have given you this fairly full discussion as an example of how a
rather difficult thing may be done, namely, how a single poem may
sometimes be used to give an introduction to a poet and prepare a class
for reading the remainder of his work.

Before I close let me give you a couple of things I have discovered
about teaching which may be useful to you.  First, it is more important
to be physically fit than to be well prepared.  If you feel well and
look it, your class will be in good humour even if you are not well
prepared.  Be worried and tired, and your class will soon become
worried and tired too.  Secondly, it is better to teach too little than
too much.  Do not subject your class to mental indigestion.  Thirdly,
one should always try to appear interested.  Lastly, one should never
appear to be in a hurry.  Nothing annoys a class more than to be rushed
madly from point to point without a breathing space.


  _A paper given in 1911 to a Church Society that wished
  guidance for literary study_

In this poem Browning takes his subject from the midst of the
Renaissance period in Italy, a period when the revival of classical
learning was accompanied by a breakdown in the authority of the Church.
The conventions of ages were swept away in a few years, and side by
side with the new culture, scepticism, cynicism, robbery, lust, and
murder prevailed in high places, even in the palaces of the Popes
themselves.  Under a thin veneer of culture, society became rotten to
the core.

The word _Ferrara_ at the head of the poem gives us the clue to the
period.  Ferrara is an ancient Italian town, and was at one time the
seat of a powerful duchy.  The ancient ducal palace still frowns down
from its eminence upon the country around.  The Duke of Ferrara at the
period of our poem was one of the most powerful noblemen of Italy.

The speaker in this monologue is the Duke of Ferrara, a typical
Renaissance product, cultured and cold and cruel.  He is showing the
picture of his late wife to an envoy from some Count or other who has
sent to negotiate a marriage for his daughter with the widowed Duke.

The first thing to do with a poem like this is to make it live.  We
will read it.

The character we have represented here is one probably not uncommon at
the period.  The Duke is a man of intellect, imbued with the new
culture, a critic and collector of art treasures.  He combines with
this appreciation of art, an utter selfishness and cynicism.  His heart
is incapable of tenderness or emotion.  He has an immense pride in his
rank and in his ancient name, and an impatience of anything that would
derogate from his dignity.

Can you picture him, the polished old villain, as he stands before the
picture of the girl he has cruelly done to death and points out its
beauties with delicate jewelled finger?  On his cultured but sensual
features the critical appreciation of a connoisseur for the skill of
the artist mingles with some recollection of and pride in the beauty of
his former duchess; but of affection there is not a sign, of remorse
not a trace.

He married a young girl who probably was contracted to him by her
parents without having any voice in the matter.  He bestows on her his
name and rank, and in return demands--_everything_, her abject
submission to his every whim, her complete indifference to everything
and everybody but himself.  It was too much.  The poor girl could not
crush all the humanity out of her heart, nor the vitality out of her
body.  The Duke saw, with cold disapproval, her fresh interest and
pleasure in all around her, her delight in every attention that was
offered her, her ever-ready smile.  He wanted all these things for
himself, and for nobody else.  That smile must be for him alone.  But
unfortunately the Duchess liked whatever "she looked on, and her looks
went everywhere," she had a kind word and glance for everybody.

  This grew; I gave commands;
  Then all smiles stopped together.

In other words, he did away with her, had her murdered, an easy thing
for a man of his power at this epoch.  First, however, he had her
portrait painted.  If he could not have the Duchess all to himself, he
could at least have her picture entirely his own,

            ... since none puts by
  The curtain I have drawn for you, but I.

He is thinking now of marrying again.  Some Count snaps at the bait,
the chance of this magnificent alliance for his daughter.  Better to
kill her with his own hand than to let her pass into the clutches of
the Duke.  The Duke's object in showing the envoy the picture is
probably partly to get the opportunity of letting him know in time what
he expects from his wife, so that when the messenger returns he may
warn his young lady to keep her smiles under strict control.

Notice how Browning indicates the attitude of the envoy.  First he is
struck by the marvellous face of the Duchess--

  The depth and passion of its earnest glance.

At last he essays a word in her defence,

  Who'd stoop to blame
  This sort of trifling?

and when the Duke has finished, he sits a little stupefied at the
revelation that has been made, and still gazing at the picture.  Even
when the Duke rises he does not stir, and the latter has to rouse him,
a little impatiently, "Will't please you rise?"

To me the most striking thing about this poem is its suggestiveness.
It suggests infinitely more than it expresses.  It expresses merely a
fragment of a conversation; it suggests a whole tragedy.

Browning has, in these few lines, with delicate and curious skill,
given us first the Renaissance atmosphere, a mixture of culture and
refinement, delight in art and beauty, with immorality and crime; he
has suggested to us the characters of the two actors in the drama from
which this poem is but a fragment, the polished and cynical Duke and
the girl who is sacrificed to his position and wealth; he has even
suggested the mixture of deference, loathing, and fear with which the
envoy listens to the Duke's description.  There are anatomists who from
a single bone of any animal will construct the whole skeleton; and so
from this scrap which Browning has here given us we can construct the
complete drama.

The poem is, as I have remarked, typical of a whole class of Browning's
poetry.  These poems are usually called _dramatic monologues_, but
perhaps the title given to them by Stopford Brooke is on the whole more
suggestive.  He calls them _imaginative representations_.

These poems are, in the first place, the utterance of one person, at a
single time, and in one place.  Some individual is influenced or
induced by some unusual opportunity or circumstance to reveal himself.
The veil which conceals his inmost heart is lifted for a moment and we
get a glimpse into its depths.

They have a certain dramatic element.  Browning himself styled this
poem a _dramatic romance_.  They are dramatic in that they are
objective as regards the author; the poet is not uttering his own
thoughts.  The circumstances under which the monologue is spoken are
usually dramatic (_i.e._, such as a playwright might choose to bring
out some trait of character), the background, scenery, and even the
action is vividly suggested, and there are usually subsidiary figures
whose attitude towards the central actor is carefully indicated.

The chief point to notice about these poems is that the poet studies
not merely an individual as such, the working out of passion in a
single soul, but he takes that individual as a type of some special
period, some phase of historical development, some special era of
thought.  It was Browning's way of using history for poetical purposes,
and it was completely his own.  This poem is not a very good example,
because the personages and events described are not peculiar to any one
epoch, but may occur wherever there are two people unhappily married.
But even here we have in the Duke not only an intensely interesting,
even if objectionable, type of human being, but the concentrated
essence of a certain side of the Italian Renaissance.

Browning, in his series of _imaginative representations_ has covered a
big field.  _Artemis Prologuizer, Caliban on Setebos, The Bishop Orders
his Tomb, Fra Lippo Lippi, A Death in the Desert, Cleon_, and many
others cover an immense range, from Greek mythology through early and
late Renaissance down to the modern life of Europe.  "The poet can
place us with ease and truth at Corinth, Athens or Rome, in Paris,
Vienna or London, and wherever we go with him we are at home."
Scenery, character, time, place, and action are all suitably and
harmoniously blended, the characters are vividly alive.  The
qualifications which Browning brought to these poems were, first, a
wide historical knowledge, not so much of separate events as of the
main trend of thought in a given period; an intense imaginative power;
a wide knowledge of human nature; and last, but not least, in his
Italian poems, a familiar acquaintance with "a multitude of small
intimate details of the customs, clothing, architecture, popular dress,
talk and scenery of the towns and country of Italy from the thirteenth
century to modern times."  The poem under consideration gives us only a
glimpse of the skill with which Browning handles this particular type;
but I hope it will be sufficient to induce those who are not acquainted
with Browning's other work to study it further.


  "O whither are you going,
  My friend, I'd fain be knowing,
  O whither are you going
  With that air of do-and-dare?
  O what the destination
  Of your grim determination,
  Of your bloody resolution
  And your fierce defiant stare?"

  "I am going Christmas shopping,"
  Said the hero, freely mopping
  Beads of nervous perspiration
  From his broad and gallant brow,
  "I am going forth to-day
  In this bellicose array
  To do my Christmas shopping,
  Or to perish in the fray."

  *      *      *      *      *

  "O whence are you returning,
  My friend, I'd fain be learning,
  O whence are you returning
  With that bloodstained weary air?
  With that battered shirt and collar
  And without a single dollar,
  And with piles of useless lumber
  That would make a dustman stare?"

  "I have done my Christmas shopping,"
  Said the hero, almost dropping,
  "You may send to fetch the doctor,
  Though I cannot pay his fee;
  My story is romantic,
  For the fight was fierce and frantic,
  And I bought a lot of articles
  I didn't even see;
  But I've done my Christmas shopping
  (For I take a lot of stopping),
  I have done my Christmas shopping,
  And that's enough for me."


  _A paper read to the Faculty Club during the
  session_ 1911-12

What is Realism?  Realism means what it says--truth to reality and
fact.  The realist expresses imaginative conceptions in terms of the
actual world around him, in terms of the objects which he can see and
describe accurately; the idealist gets away from fact, and creates an
imaginative world which differs from the real.

The idealist who writes of love, talks about raptures and bliss and
gates of heaven; the realist describes the wave of the girl's hair, the
colour of her dress, the way in which the man stands and looks, and
leaves the reader to supply the emotional background.  The idealist who
writes of death talks about ashes to ashes, dust to dust, the common
goal of mortality, the gate of everlasting life; the realist describes
the sick man's ghastly pallor, his wavering pulse, his gasping breath,
the clock ticking out the minutes in the silence of the chamber of

A realist in fiction like Balzac or Flaubert or their imitator, Arnold
Bennett, seems almost photographic in the accuracy of his descriptions;
and yet so artistic is the selection of the details described that
though we get the impression of absolute reality, the emotional
atmosphere is often intense.  Realism, when well done, is an admirable
literary method, but it may and often does degenerate into a vice.  In
the hands of Zola it becomes a medium for the conveyance of sickening,
sordid, or disgusting detail.

The kind of realism with which I wish to deal is _realism in
poetry_--the phrase seems almost a contradiction in terms--and I am
taking for my purpose certain phases of the work of Wordsworth and

Wordsworth and Browning, two poets in many respects direct antitheses
of one another, are not usually classed together in any way.  There is,
however, one class of poetry which Browning was the first to develop to
a large extent, in which Wordsworth may be said to have been a pioneer;
in fact, Browning actually succeeded in a kind of poetry of which
Wordsworth barely saw the possibility.  I do not mean to suggest that
Browning was in any way a disciple or conscious imitator of Wordsworth;
but that we see in full flower in Browning's poetry a certain artistic
method of which in Wordsworth's poetry we can just perceive the germ.

The kind of poetry to which I refer is one which is frequent in
Browning, and which, in fact, has often been regarded as not poetry at
all--I mean such utterly unpretentious, prosaic, uncouth, rough, or at
times even grotesque verse as we find in poems like _Bishop Blougram's
Apology, Mr. Sludge the Medium, Old Pictures in Florence, Master Hugues
of Saxe-Gotha_, much of _The Ring and the Book_, and Browning's later
work generally.  Such verse produces the effect of an exact
reproduction of the actual.  It is so realistic that it seems at times
lacking in art.

No work which is an exact, or nearly exact, reproduction of the actual
can be a work of art.  A work of art is based on man's experience of
what is, but is always modified and altered by his conception of what
ought to be.

It was here that Wordsworth failed.  His realistic poetry is too close
to the actual.  The intensely realistic effect of Browning's poems is
an illusion; otherwise his claim to be a poetic artist disappears in so
far as these poems are concerned.

I wish to indicate the nature of these effects, and to inquire how far
Browning was anticipated by Wordsworth.

Wordsworth was perhaps the chief representative of the Romantic
School--the title given to the group of poets who dominated English
Literature at the commencement of the nineteenth century.  The spirit
of the age to which their work gave expression was one of question and
revolt, the spirit which found its most remarkable political expression
in the French Revolution.  Question of established beliefs, revolt
against established rules and conventions, was the keynote of literary
as well as of social and political life.

The attitude of the Romantic School is indicated by its name.  Romance
is that element in literature which appeals to the sense of the
marvellous in man, which awakens his capacity for wonder.  In the
eighteenth century, under the régime of Pope and the Classical School,
wonder had been dead.  It was an age of acceptance and submission;
acceptance of certain definite conventions, submission to certain fixed
rules.  Correctness was more desired than imagination, and polish than

It was against the barren conventions and narrow outlook of the
Classical School that Wordsworth and his fellows revolted.  The spirit
of wonder toward Nature and toward Man sprang into new life.

My meaning will be illustrated by the following lines:

  A primrose by a river's brim
  A yellow primrose was to him,
  And it was nothing more.

They might have been written of Pope.  What was the primrose to

  To me the meanest flower that blows can give
  Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

I do not wish, however, to talk to-night of Wordsworth's attitude
towards Nature.  It is with just two aspects of the Romantic Revolt
that I have to deal, one relating to subject matter, the other to form.

The poet's eye in Shakespeare's time

  Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
  And as imagination bodies forth
  The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
  Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
  A local habitation and a name.

With Pope, poetry was confined mainly to man as he exists in society,
and was largely concerned with satirizing social defects; Wordsworth
dealt with men as human beings, as mysterious manifestations of the
infinite, creatures trailing clouds of glory, coming we know not
whence, going we know not whither.  To him, as to Burns, rank and
station were nothing.  Any human being, however humble, was worthy to
be the poet's theme.  He claimed for the misfortunes of Lucy Gray or
the miserable mother, the Idiot Boy or Peter Bell, the same
consideration as Sophocles for the sorrows of OEdipus and the lofty
line of Thebes.

Gray, an eighteenth century poet in whom romantic tendencies are found,
shows the same spirit in the _Elegy_ when he writes of the humble dead
who lie beneath the soil:

  Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
  Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
  Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
  The short and simple annals of the poor.

Wordsworth, then, enlarged the scope of poetry to include any human
experience, however humble.

There was another side to Wordsworth's revolt.  He revolted not only
against the limitations of subject imposed on the poets by
eighteenth-century ideals, but also against the limitations of form.
Pope and his followers had been poets of practically a single metre,
the heroic couplet.  Their tricks, mannerisms, and phraseology had been
exalted into a _poetic diction_, or, rather, jargon, by countless
imitators, and poems written in any other style were not allowed
admission to the best company.  A field, for example, had to be either
a _verdant mead_ or a _grassy sward_, or it could not decently make its
appearance in poetry.  As late as the beginning of the nineteenth
century a rainbow is to Campbell _Heaven's ethereal bow_, and a musket
becomes, in poetical dress, _a glittering tube_.  Wordsworth claimed
for the poet the right of using the language of everyday life, plain,
simple, and unadorned.

Such is a very brief and insufficient outline of the two main points in
Wordsworth's _poetic theory_, which were developed at great length by
Wordsworth himself in his prefaces and by Coleridge in the _Biographia

It is to just one small part of Wordsworth's _poetic practice_ that I
wish to draw your attention.  I mean certain studiously simple and
realistic poems written in deliberate illustration of his theories.
The first of them were published in the famous _Lyrical Ballads_ of
1798, a work which burst like a bombshell upon an astonished literary
world, and aroused more scorn, indignation, and controversy than
perhaps any other volume of poetry ever published.

The _Lyrical Ballads_ was in the nature of a challenge.  It contained
an announcement of Wordsworth's new theories, together with
illustrations of them by himself and Coleridge.  Many of the poems were
admirable, but in many others Wordsworth is at his worst.

A generation brought up in the principles of Pope and nourished on such
verse as _The Pleasures of Hope_ could not away with poems like _The
Idiot Boy_, or _Alice Fell_, or even _We Are Seven_.

There is no doubt that Wordsworth went much too far in his zeal for the
new theories, and was unfortunately without a sense of humour which
might have saved him from absurdities.  As an illustration of
Wordsworth at his worst, let us take _The Idiot Boy_, one of the poems
in the _Lyrical Ballads_.  The very outline of the plot would make the
ghost of Pope rise in indignation from the grave.  Old Susan Gale, a
peasant woman, is very ill.  Her neighbour, Betty Foy, comes to attend
on her, accompanied by her only son, Johnny, an idiot.  Susan gets
worse, and the doctor must be sent for.  Betty dare not leave her, and
so the only alternative is to send the idiot boy to fetch him.  I need
not complete the story, but will quote a few stanzas from the poem:

  But when the pony moved his legs,
  Oh! then for the poor idiot boy!
  For joy he cannot hold the bridle,
  For joy his head and heels are idle,
  He's idle all for very joy.

  And Susan's growing worse and worse,
  And Betty's in a sad quandary;
  And then there's nobody to say
  If she must go, or she must stay!
  She's in a sad quandary.

  "Oh Doctor!  Doctor! where's my Johnny?"
  "I'm here, what is't you want with me?"
  "Oh sir! you know I'm Betty Foy
  And I have lost my poor dear boy
  You know him--him you often see;

  "He's not so wise as some folks be."
  "The Devil take his wisdom!" said
  The Doctor looking somewhat grim,
  "What, woman, should I know of him?"
  And grumbling, he went back to bed.

This from a poet who could write _The Solitary Reaper_ or _Milton, thou
should'st be living at this hour_, or such magnificent philosophical
poetry as we find in _The Prelude, Tintern Abbey_, and _The Excursion_,
where Wordsworth treats of

        the mind of man,
  The haunt and the main region of my song;

or such splendid descriptive passages as are scattered everywhere
through his works, visions worthy to rank with Shakespeare's

  Cloud-capped towers and gorgeous palaces.

Other examples of Wordsworth's simple style are all too numerous, and
may be found in such poems as _Peter Bell_, which relates the story of
a tinker and a donkey (in parts an admirable poem), _Alice Fell_, which
tells the sorrow of a little girl for her tattered cloak, _The
Brothers_, and _Michael_.  These are not, by any means, all bad; in
fact, when Wordsworth can forget for a while that he is writing to
illustrate a theory, flashes of his natural style break out, producing
odd effects of incongruity.  Some of the poems which appeared in the
_Lyrical Ballads_ are admirable, such as _Her Eyes are Wild_ and _The
Affliction of Margaret_.

To us who have, since Wordsworth's time, been trained to a wider scope
of appreciation in poetry, it will seem strange that even the worst of
them should have aroused such adverse criticism, but even to us it is
evident that Wordsworth in them is not at his best, that he is writing
a style which is not natural to him.  And yet it was these poems which,
for a time, attracted most attention from Wordsworth's contemporaries,
and prejudiced Byron, Horace Smith, Peacock, and many others against
his greater poetry.

Wordsworth, though he failed in his attempt, had got hold of a true
idea--that the most common things in life are pregnant with poetry, and
that there are many subjects, not susceptible of ordinary poetical
treatment, which may yet be handled in such a simple, unpretentious way
as to retain their essential outlines, while the emotional element is
subtly indicated rather than actually expressed.  As a very ordinary
landscape will be transformed into a thing of beauty under the rays of
the setting sun, so commonplace subjects may take on a new appearance
under the influence of the poet's imagination.  Care must be taken,
however, not to idealize too much.  It would be impossible, for
example, to lift such a subject as _The Idiot Boy_ into the realm of
the ideal.

Now if we turn to Browning, we find that he also deals with subjects of
this kind.  Let us consider his treatment of one or two of them.  In
_The Spanish Cloister_ he takes as his subject the mean and petty
jealousy of one commonplace monk for another.  Or, again, he takes a
sick man, stretched on his death-bed, putting aside impatiently the
ministrations of the parson, as his half-dazed thoughts go back to a
rather sordid love affair which was yet the brightest spot in his past.
Other examples are _Sludge the Medium_, and the cynical and worldly
Bishop Blougram endeavouring after dinner over the nuts and wine to
justify his appearance of orthodoxy to Gigadibs, the scribbler and
shallow rationalist:

  So, you despise me, Mr. Gigadibs.
  No deprecation--nay, I beg you, sir!
  Beside 'tis our engagement: don't you know,
  I promised, if you'd watch a dinner out,
  We'd see truth dawn together?--truth that peeps
  Over the glass's edge when dinner's done,
  And body gets its sop and holds its noise
  And leaves soul free a little.  Now's the time--
  'Tis break of day!  You do despise me then.
  And if I say, "despise me,"--never fear--
  I know you do not in a certain sense--
  Not in my arm-chair for example: here,
  I well imagine you respect my place
  (Status, _entourage_, worldly circumstance)
  Quite to its value---very much indeed
  --Are up to the protesting eyes of you
  In pride at being seated here for once--
  You'll turn it to such capital account!
  When somebody, through years and years to come,
  Hints of the bishop--names me--that's enough--
  "Blougram?  I knew him"--(into it you slide)
  "Dined with him once, a Corpus Christi Day,
  All alone, we two--he's a clever man--
  And after dinner--why, the wine you know--
  Oh, there was wine, and good!--what with the wine...
  'Faith, we began upon all sorts of talk!
  He's no bad fellow, Blougram--he had seen
  Something of mine he relished--some review--
  He's quite above their humbug in his heart,
  Half-said as much, indeed--the thing's his trade--
  I warrant, Blougram 's sceptical at times--
  How otherwise?  I liked him, I confess!"
  _Che ch'è_, my dear sir, as we say at Rome,
  Don't you protest now!  It's fair give and take;
  You have had your turn and spoken your home truths--
  The hand's mine now, and here you follow suit.

Could anything be more easy, conversational, realistic?  And yet every
now and then we find throughout the poem touches of the noblest poetry
introduced so skilfully that there is no sense of incongruity.  For
example, the Bishop in the course of his argument says that absolute
unbelief is just as impossible as absolute faith.

  And now what are we? unbelievers both,
  Calm and complete, determinately fixed
  To-day, to-morrow, and for ever, pray?
  You'll guarantee me that?  Not so, I think.
  In no-wise! all we've gained is, that belief,
  As unbelief before, shakes us by fits,
  Confounds us like its predecessor.  Where's
  The gain? how can we guard our unbelief?
  Make it bear fruit to us?--the problem here.
  Just when we are safest, there's a sunset-touch,
  A fancy from a flower-bell, some one's death,
  A chorus-ending from Euripides--
  And that's enough for fifty hopes and fears
  As old and new at once as Nature's self,
  To rap and knock and enter in our soul,
  Take hands and dance there, a fantastic ring,
  Round the ancient idol, on his base again--
  The grand Perhaps! we look on helplessly--
  There the old misgivings, crooked questions are--
  This good God--what he could do, if he would,
  Would, if he could--then must have done long since:
  If so, when, where, and how? some way must be--
  Once feel about, and soon or late you hit
  Some sense, in which it might be, after all.
  Why not, "The Way, the Truth, the Life?"

Browning's love poetry does not properly enter into this discussion,
since love is a common theme of poets, and this discussion deals with
Browning's treatment of apparently unpoetical themes; but Browning's
choice and treatment of situation in his love poems are so unusual as
to bring them into the same class as his other realistic poems.  Take
as an example:

  See, how she looks now, drest
  In a sledging-cap and vest.
    'Tis a huge fur cloak--
    Like a reindeer's yoke
  Falls the lappet along the breast:
    Sleeves for her arms to rest,
  Or to hang, as my love likes best.

These few examples will serve to show that the essential principles of
Browning's realism and Wordsworth's are the same.  Browning, like
Wordsworth, claimed for poetry a greater licence both in subject matter
and in form, but he went farther than Wordsworth in both.  Wordsworth
took for his new subjects the humble joys and sorrows of the poor--but
all was fish that came to Browning's net.  Any psychological situation,
any out-of-the-way corner of human experience, became in his hands
matter for poetry.  Then as to form, Wordsworth merely refrained from
the conventional language of poetry, but Browning boldly used language
that was frankly unpoetical--uncouth, unmusical, rough, rhyming
grotesquely, accented outrageously.  Perhaps his most important advance
on Wordsworth was in the use of the dramatic form--nearly all
Browning's poems of the sort described are dramatic monologues--for
when the speaker is professedly not the poet, we are less inclined to
find an incongruity in unpoetical language.  Browning, by adopting the
dramatic form, gets at things from the subjective point of view, from
the inside.  Wordsworth tried to describe them objectively from the
point of view of a spectator.

Browning, then, practically discovered a new poetical form which
enabled him to bring within the scope of poetical treatment subjects
never so treated before.  He found a new field for poetry and found new
forms to suit it.  He entered land which Wordsworth had only beheld
from afar, and which, indeed, Wordsworth never could have entered.

Browning saw that familiar objects, everyday doings and sayings,
commonplace happenings which seem to the ordinary observer prosaic and
barren, are, to the poet, pregnant with underlying emotion.

Ordinary poetry deals with the obviously poetical things, or converts
the everyday things of life into poetry by depriving them of some of
their actuality.  Browning contrives to give us things as they are,
with all the harshness and crudeness of real life, and yet to make us
feel the underlying element of poetry.  About his most brutally
realistic poem, there is a subtle atmosphere of emotion.

Browning, like Shakespeare, dares to place side by side the grotesque,
the beautiful, the tragic, the ludicrous.  He can do it by virtue of
his unassuming form.  Take, for example, _Old Pictures in Florence_.
There we get the dirt of the old streets, the very must and smell of
the second-hand dealer's stores, the filthy canvas and peeling fresco,
but we get also the tragedy of the wronged Old Masters, and a noble
conception of the development of art.

In _Bishop Blougram_ we get the wine, the nuts, the plausible
conversation, but we get also the spectacle, pregnant with emotional
possibilities, of two human midgets in the presence of the Almighty,
the one daring lightly to compound with his Maker, the other lightly to
deny Him.

The value of this inquiry, if it have any value, is to show that those
poetical forms which are often assumed to be due to a radical defect in
Browning's work as poetry, were really a deliberate artistic method,
deliberate in the sense that Carlyle's style is deliberate.  The style,
with both Carlyle and Browning, is indeed the man, but each had to find
the style which would express him best.  Carlyle, in his early work,
wrote like Macaulay; Browning, in his early work, wrote like Shelley.
And whenever Browning, in his later poems, met with a subject capable
of conventional poetical treatment, he did not hesitate so to treat it.

I need only instance such poems as _Saul, Abt Vogler, The Guardian
Angel_, and _Prospice_.  I shall quote the last of these poems:

  Fear death?--to feel the fog in my throat,
    The mist in my face,
  When the snows begin, and the blasts denote
    I am nearing the place,
  The power of the night, the press of the storm,
    The post of the foe;
  Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form,
    Yet the strong man must go;
  For the journey is done and the summit attained,
    And the barriers fall,
  Though a battle's to fight ere the guerdon be gained,
    The reward of it all.
  I was ever a fighter, so--one fight more,
    The best and the last!
  I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forbore,
    And bade me creep past.
  No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers,
    The heroes of old,
  Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's arrears
    Of pain, darkness, and cold.
  For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave,
    The black minute's at end,
  And the elements' rage, the fiend-voices that rave,
    Shall dwindle, shall blend,
  Shall change, shall become a peace out of pain,
    Then a light, then thy breast,
  O thou soul of my soul!  I shall clasp thee again,
    And with God be at rest!

Can anyone after hearing that poem maintain that Browning was
incapable, when he wished, of dispensing with eccentricities?

In conclusion, I should like to say that the subject I have been
treating has nothing to do with the obscurity of Browning's poetry.
His obscurity has nothing to do with his realism.


_Incomplete notes of an Address to a Study Club_

Three years ago, in July 1910, died John Millington Synge, Irish
dramatist, whose name will probably be better known twenty years hence,
perhaps one hundred and twenty years hence, than it is to-day.

Those who know Ireland only by hearsay, or from books, or even from the
stage, will be slow at first to appreciate his work; but we who know
and love the real Ireland, we, who have wandered through her glens and
by her streams, and looked upon her wonderful skies, who have felt
within ourselves her sadness, her mirth, and her poetry, must at once
acknowledge that in the work of Synge the soul of Ireland has, for the
first time, received adequate expression.  In that small island, a
green speck in the tumbling billows of the Atlantic, right in the heart
of the barren conventionalism of modern civilization, there still
remains, if one knows where to look for it, the Celtic spirit in all
its original purity; there is still to be found a glamour and a mystery
as fine as any that lingers on the shores of old Romance.

Many have found and felt these things, but they have been silent, for
they have been restrained from speech by a sense that such things could
not be interpreted in words.  Synge was the first to find the medium by
which they might be expressed.  "He was a solitary, undemonstrative
man," says his friend Yeats, "never asking pity, nor complaining, nor
seeking sympathy; all folded up in brooding intellect, knowing nothing
of new books and newspapers, reading the great masters alone; and he
was but the more hated because he gave his country what it needed, an
unmoved mind, where there is a perpetual last day, a trumpeting and
coming up to judgment."

Thus, it seems to me, Synge will be slow in winning recognition from
the masses of his countrymen.  He saw them too clearly, and painted too
accurate a portrait of them to be flattering; they recognize their
weaknesses and are indignant, while they fail to see that he has
painted also their fine poetical qualities, their romance, and their

Again the same writer: "In Ireland, he loved only what was wild in its
people and in the grey wintry sides of many glens."  All the rest, all
that one reasoned over, fought for, read of in leading articles, all
that came from Education, all that came down from young
Ireland--aroused in him little interest.  Perhaps its only effect on
him was to awaken in him first that irony which, once awakened, he
turned upon the whole of life.

The scene of Synge's later literary work--the work which counts--was
the Abbey Theatre, a small and unpretentious building, hidden away in a
side street near the Dublin quays.  Here is a central point for the
Irish Dramatic Movement, a movement recognized by all competent critics
as being one of the most significant things in modern literature.
Lovers of literature of the present generation who have been walking in
a vain shadow, groping their way uneasily amid realistic novels,
paradoxical problem plays, pale poems, and epigrammatic essays, turn
with relief to a literature which is realistic, and at the same time
rich and poetical, and which shows unmistakable signs of real vitality.

At the Abbey Theatre one may see the peasant life of modern Ireland and
hear the beautiful legends of her past portrayed by native actors, with
a fidelity and a force which have never been surpassed on any stage.
Their acting is a true "holding of the mirror up to Nature"--there are
no stage tricks, no declamations, no poses, no sound and fury--the
scene is perhaps the rude interior of a peasant cottage in some Irish
village, or of a hut in some lonely glen, or the side of a windy hill
or open field, where the sun shines and the air is mild and the breeze
fresh and kindly.  The figures that fill the scene bear no resemblance
to the traditional buffoon, who, on most stages, is made to do duty for
an Irishman; their speech is quite unlike the traditional brogue which
is commonly supposed to be the medium of communication between Irish
peasants; the characters represented are primitive but poetical, wild
but noble; their dialogue is rich with humour and imagination, and is
spoken with a charming and musical intonation.  In the movements and
words of the people we see on the stage, there is no appearance of
acting; they talk easily and naturally, their gestures are few and
altogether free from exaggeration or striving after effect.  Their
whole performance is simple and apparently without effort; and yet I
have again and again been far more profoundly stirred by this
unpretentious acting, I have had a far deeper sense of the tragedy and
comedy and mystery of life in this little Abbey Theatre than I have
ever received from the elaborate productions of the London stage.

The Irish National Theatre was founded in 1899 by W. B. Yeats and Lady
Gregory, who, ever since its inception, have devoted their time and
thought and work almost exclusively to perfecting this new drama.  The
result has amply justified their faithful labour.  The Irish National
Theatre has already given to the world an entirely original style of
acting, a company of actors "unrivalled in the quality which they
profess," and now known not only in Ireland, but all over Britain and
America, and also several dramatists of extraordinary merit.

Of these dramatists Synge is undoubtedly the most remarkable.  His
production is small and extends over only a few years, but it is of a
quality unknown in English literature since Elizabethan times.  "It has
been claimed for him," says Mr. Bickley, "that he is the greatest
imaginative dramatist who has written English since Shakespeare, or at
least since the Puritans closed the theatres in 1642."  This claim may
at first sight seem extravagant, especially to those who know the very
limited range and quantity of Synge's work, but on reflection it is
clear that if one admits that Synge is a great dramatist, one is forced
also to admit that he is the first since Shakespeare.  What have we had
in drama since Shakespeare?  A number of classical or
pseudo-Shakespearean verse plays, most of them extremely dreary, from
Addison to Swinburne, the brilliant but tawdry comedy of intrigue of
the Restoration, the later eighteenth-century society comedy of
Goldsmith and Sheridan, and the modern drawing-room dramas of Shaw and
Wilde--to none of which the term great can properly be applied.

A study of the causes of the decay of the drama would be a most
interesting one, but the topic is too large and too difficult to be
attempted in a short paper.  Suffice it to say, that Synge appeared to
believe that the modern drama suffered from two main defects.  Either
it lacked reality, or it lacked poetry.  The drama which was
imaginative and poetical was alien from real life, the drama which
attempted a realistic picture of life was flat and joyless and anaemic.

According to this idea two main things were necessary to a re-creation
of the drama.  First, the type of life in which there still remained
some vigour, colour, and poetry; where convention had not crushed out
all elemental emotions and produced a barren artificial uniformity;
secondly, an artistic language by which that life might be expressed.
Synge found both these requisites among the Irish peasantry of
Connemara and the Aran Islands.  In Mr. Bickley's books we learn how W.
B. Yeats found Synge.  Synge was then twenty-six.  "He had wandered
among people whose life is as picturesque as that of the Middle Ages,
playing his fiddle to Italian sailors and listening to stories in
Bavarian woods, but life had cast no light into his writings."

Following Yeats' advice, Synge left France and went to live at Aran, a
group of stony islands at the entrance of Galway Bay.  "There he lived
the peasants' life, learned their language and discovered his own
possibilities."  In the Aran peasants he found a people with "an
imagination, fiery and magnificent and tender," and at the same time
with the elemental emotions strongly in evidence, a just mixture of God
and brute.  Synge found splendid material for a drama at once human and
beautiful; in their language, English spoken by men who thought in
Gaelic, that is, English coloured by Celtic imagination, he found his
medium of expression.  The result was the half-dozen plays which will
probably survive most of the other writing of this generation.

To find the Ireland of romance, Synge returned again and again to Aran,
to Kerry and to the Blaskets.  "He was a drifting, silent man, full of
hidden passion, and loved wild islands, because there, set out in the
light of day, he saw what lay hidden in himself."  He liked to enter
the houses of the people and sit quietly listening to their talk.  In
the dialect of Aran "the cadence is long and meditative as befits the
thought of men who are much alone, and who, when they meet in each
other's houses--as is their way at the day's end--listen patiently,
each man speaking in turn for some little time, and taking pleasure in
the vaguer meaning of the words and in their sounds.  Their thought,
when not merely practical, is as full of traditional wisdom and
extravagant pictures as some Aeschylean chorus."

Synge wrote down words and phrases wherever he went, and found the
Irish dialect so rich a thing that he had begun translating into it
fragments of the great literatures of the world and had planned a
complete version of the _Imitation of Christ_.  He attached great
importance to the discovery of this dramatic dialect.

In Synge's plays is not to be found any definite philosophy; he was
that rarest of things--a pure artist.  "He loves all that has edge, all
that is salt in the mouth, all that is rough to the hand, all that
heightens the emotions by contrast, all that stings into life the sense
of tragedy."

All his plays, except the beautiful _Deirdre_, in which he goes back to
Irish legend for his plot, deal with modern peasant life in Ireland,
and range from the rollicking comedy of the _Tinker's Wedding_, through
the irony of the _Playboy of the Western World_, and the _Shadow of the
Glen_, to the pure and magnificent tragedy of _Riders to the Sea_.  I
shall never forget the impression made upon me by the latter play when
I saw it acted for the first time in the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, acted
as only the Irish players can act it.  I have seen it often since, and
never without being deeply stirred, but that first performance was a
revelation and opened up a new world of thought and feeling.

_Riders to the Sea_ is a short, simple, one-act play, taking, perhaps,
twenty minutes to act; but in that twenty minutes the spectator plunges
deep into the mystery and tragedy of life, before him black and
bottomless depths of suffering; he becomes aware of Destiny hovering, a
grim unseen presence, over the little lives of men.  The background of
the little play is the vast remorseless sea, and over it broods


_An Essay found among Professor Bateman's early papers_

To attempt anything like an adequate discussion of two literary giants
like Dickens and Thackeray in a short paper of this kind is like
undertaking to empty Niagara with a quart pot.  It is obvious that I
can hope to do no more than indicate in a rather sketchy way some of
the main points of difference and resemblance in our two authors.  In
doing so I shall naturally pay somewhat more attention to Dickens than
to Thackeray.  With the exception of _Esmond_, Thackeray's work is all
very much of the same kind, and displays a considerably smaller degree
of variety and versatility than that of Dickens.  One requires less
guidance for an intelligent appreciation of Thackeray than for an
intelligent appreciation of Dickens.  The merits of Thackeray's work
are easily seen and easily defined; a recognition of them is largely a
matter of reason, and can confidently be expected from any intelligent
reader.  But Dickens is an author much more difficult to understand.
His faults as well as his merits are gigantic; but then he frequently
gets credit for faults which are not there, and sometimes even some of
his greatest merits are construed as faults.  The true appreciation of
Dickens requires a larger exercise of the imagination than in the case
of Thackeray.  In other words, it is more a matter of feeling than of
reason.  Ask many a lover of Dickens to give a reason for the faith
that is in him, and he may find it difficult to satisfy you.

Take, for example, Dickens's humorous characters.  There are some who
cannot be got to admit that Mr. Toots, Sim Tappertit, Sairey Gamp, and
others of that ilk are divinely humorous and inspired creations; some
will only admit that at best they are but "excellent fooling"; others
will even characterize them as mere buffoonery.  It is an inferior
class of mind, however, which rejects the abnormal merely on account of
its abnormality, and votes the improbable impossible, because it fails
to fit in with previously conceived ideas of right and wrong.
Criticism is useless in the case of people who hold such a view.  I may
assert, with all the force of which I am capable, that Mr. Toots is the
best thing in Dombey; that age cannot wither Sairey Gamp any more than
Cleopatra, and that she will blossom in perennial freshness while the
language endures; but if you ask me for a reason, I can give none.  It
is no more possible to give a reason for liking Sairey Gamp than for
disliking Dr. Fell.  We can enjoy with Thackeray the skilful dissection
of a character like that of Becky Sharp, and penetrate with him the
innermost recesses of her mighty little soul; but Dickens himself could
not have penetrated the secret of the composition of Sairey Gamp.  In
her presence criticism is dumb.  We must be content to stand in humble
and reverent admiration and satisfy ourselves with exclaiming, "Behold,
it is very good."  I shall return again to this point of
characterization, but I must now say something of the position held by
Dickens and Thackeray in the historical development of the novel.

Though undoubtedly the two greatest novelists of the Early Victorian
school, Dickens and Thackeray are alike in exercising very little
apparent influence on the development of the contemporary novel of
manners.  They both look back rather than forward.  They set the crown
and consummation on the work of the early eighteenth-century group of
writers.  Dickens derives from Smollett, and Thackeray from Fielding.
When Dickens as a boy discovered in an old garret that precious pile of
dusty eighteenth-century books, _Peregrine Pickle, Humphrey Clinker_
and the rest, which he absorbed with such loving eagerness, he little
thought that he was destined to be a second and a greater Smollett.

The characteristic type of English novel was defined by Richardson,
Fielding, and their school at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
It aimed at a dramatic representation of contemporary life and manners;
it took, in fact, the place of the drama as the popular form of
literature.  With the decay of the Fielding novel came a reaction, and
opposed to the lusty and vivid realism of _Tom Jones_ and _Humphrey
Clinker_ we get the sham mediaevalism, the dungeon-keeps, the echoing
chambers, the hollow-voiced spectres, and the absurd sentiment of
Horace Walpole's _Castle of Otranto_, and its imitators.  This was a
sort of side stream in the history of the novel, which nevertheless
created the taste for historical romance, fed later by the novels of
Scott.  Scott stands apart from the main stream of English fiction,
though his style exercised an immense influence on later novelists.
After the mediaeval relapse, the contemporary novel of manners was
continued at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the
nineteenth century by Fanny Burney and Jane Austen.  The latter died in
1817; between 1814 and 1832 Scott's novels fill the field of fiction;
and then, between about 1835 and 1860, come Dickens and Thackeray with
their contemporaries, of whom perhaps the most remarkable were Lytton
and Disraeli.  In none of these writers, however, must we look for the
foundation of the characteristic Victorian novel--the novel of George
Eliot and George Meredith.  The founder of that novel was Charlotte
Brontë.  Her _Jane Eyre_ and Thackeray's _Vanity Fair_ were published
in the same year, 1848, and were reviewed together in a famous number
of the _Quarterly_.  The two works represent two distinct schools of
fiction.  Between the Dickens-Thackeray novel and the Brontë-Eliot
novel there is a great gulf fixed.  Dickens and Thackeray stand out
from their time like two solitary giants.

Perhaps now it might be well to remind you briefly of the main facts in
the literary history of the two men.  Dickens's first great work,
_Pickwick_, appeared in 1837, five years after the death of Scott.  It
was at once received with acclamation.  His next book, _Oliver Twist_,
though it must have come as a sort of shock after _Pickwick_, did not
stem the tide of appreciation.  Like Oliver himself, every one was soon
asking for more.  They did not ask in vain.  During the next two
decades, the forties and fifties, Dickens poured forth novel after
novel with surprising rapidity.  Pickwick, Sam Weller, Fagin, Squeers,
Micawber soon became household words.  Dickens won a popularity of
which we can form no true conception.  There has been nothing like it
in our time.  England and America were taken by storm; even France was
infected with the prevailing enthusiasm.

During the days of Dickens' early popularity a clever young man had
been making a name for himself as a humorist and satirist in the pages
of _Fraser's Magazine, Punch_, and similar journals.  This was William
Makepeace Thackeray.  In 1838, the year after _Pickwick_, Thackeray
began a series known as the _Yellow Plush Papers_; during the next ten
years he produced a great variety of journalistic work, short stories,
sketches and essays, and wrote, in addition, two satirical novels,
_Catherine_ and _Barry Lyndon_.  In 1848 he burst on the world as a
great novelist with _Vanity Fair_, and within ten years more he had
published _Pendennis, Esmond, The Newcomes_, and _The Virginians_.
This brings us up to 1859.  By that year Dickens had produced his best
work; Thackeray had only four more years to live; and he was followed
to the grave by Dickens in 1870.  From this account it is apparent that
Dickens made a much bigger stir than Thackeray in the contemporary
literary world.  He was the leviathan who frolicked at will in the sea
of popular appreciation.  Thackeray was a much smaller fish.

Considering Dickens and Thackeray first strictly as novelists, we find
a point of resemblance in the fact that, from the point of view of
form, they are both uncommonly bad novelists.  A good novel, like any
other work of art, must have some unity about it.  The incidents must
not be bundled in pell-mell, but must all contribute to the working out
of some central idea or situation.  Then we must have an element of
romance, and this ought to regulate the subordination of the
characters.  The characters in every romance are essentially three, as
Chesterton puts it, St. George, the Princess, and the Dragon; that is,
St. George, something that loves and fights; the Princess, something
that is loved and fought for; while the Dragon represents the
opposition.  Other characters besides these three there may and must
be, but they serve as mere machinery or scenery as far as the romance
is concerned.

Now let us consider the novels of Dickens and Thackeray from these
points of view.  As regards incident they are almost wholly lacking in
unity.  We cannot exactly deny them plots.  They develop stories and
interesting stories, but it is not an orderly development.  Dickens
strings his incidents together almost haphazard, and so, to a large
extent, does Thackeray.  (By the way, in these remarks on Thackeray I
do not include _Esmond_, which is magnificent, but is not really

In the greater part of his writing Dickens had no central aim or motive
in view; he wrote, so to speak, from hand to mouth.  Most of his books
in fact were written for periodicals in monthly parts, and it is safe
to say that nobody, and least of all Dickens himself, knew exactly what
a month would bring forth.  I am here again speaking generally; there
are some exceptions, notably the _Tale of Two Cities_--which stands
almost as much apart from the rest of Dickens's work as _Esmond_ does
from the rest of Thackeray's--and the unfinished _Edwin Drood_.  Of
Thackeray we may say that he may have had some central aim or motive in
his novels, but if so, he paid little attention to it, and did not
allow it to impede his rambling progress in the smallest degree.  We
may take it, then, as generally true that the novels of Dickens and
Thackeray are rough-hewn and sometimes shapeless.  In the case of
Dickens this characteristic seldom annoys, but it is otherwise with
Thackeray.  I doubt, for example, if there is anyone here who has read
and enjoyed every word of that fearfully digressive and dropsical
novel, _The Newcomes_.

Again, as regards characters, in neither novelist do we get an orderly
subordination.  Dickens, perhaps, is the worst offender in this
respect.  In Thackeray, the hero and heroine are usually in a sense the
most important personages, though crowds of personages who have really
nothing to do with the story bulk very largely, and though in _Vanity
Fair_ there is no hero at all.  But in Dickens, the personages who
ought to be most important have frequently very little to do with the
novel.  As a rule, the leading characters, hero, heroine, and villain,
are lifeless and uninteresting, and only serve to connect loosely a
great amount of strictly secondary matter.

The really important characters in Dickens are the _unimportant_ ones,
those who are introduced _en passant_, and who might as well be
anywhere else as far as the story is concerned.  In _Nicholas Nickleby_
Nicholas himself does not interest me, neither does his sister, neither
do Madeline Bray and Mr. Bray, neither does Ralph Nickleby.  The people
who do interest me are people like Mrs. Nickleby, Mantalini, the
Squeers family, the Kenwigs, and Vincent Crummies.  In _Martin
Chuzzlewit_ the least important character is Martin himself, but his
life serves as a string upon which are hung Pecksniff, Todger's
Boarding House and all that therein was, Chevy Slime, Esq., Sairey
Gamp, Betsy Prigg, Mr. Mould, Elijah Pogram, and many others in whose
company there is endless delight.  All these, however, might just as
well have been hung on the string of _Nicholas Nickleby_ or _David
Copperfield_ or _Bleak House_ or almost any of the other books.
Similarly all through.  In _Dombey_ Florence is a nonentity, Walter Gay
is a nonentity, Dombey himself is a "made character," well-made, but
not created.  In _David Copperfield_ David begins by being a reality,
but tails off into an abstraction.  In _A Tale of Two Cities_ Darnay
does not exist, and Lucie Manette only barely exists.  In both Dickens
and Thackeray, in fact, the romantic element is really subordinate, in
Dickens very much so; and in neither writer do St. George, the
Princess, and the Dragon ever become all-important.  Both writers, in
fact, are to be judged piece-meal, as creators of situations and
characters, rather than in the bulk as creators of novels.

The keynote of the work of both our authors was struck in two of their
first works of any note.  In 1848 Thackeray published in _Punch_ the
series of papers entitled the _Book of Snobs_, which marks his
dedication to the especial task of unmasking the pretence and sham
which underlay the whole of English public and private life.  His
definition of the word _snob_ was comprehensive.  "The snob," says
Thackeray, "is a child of aristocratical societies.  Perched on his
step of the long social ladder, he respects the man on the step above
and despises the man on the step below, without enquiring what they are
worth, solely on account of their position; in his innermost heart he
finds it natural to kiss the boots of the first, and to kick the
second."  Starting with this definition, Thackeray lashed unsparingly
all classes of society from the highest to the lowest.  He discovered
and unmasked snobs of all descriptions, church snobs, military snobs,
literary snobs, country snobs, political snobs, Continental snobs.  In
this book Thackeray appears as the caustic satirist of every sort of
social hypocrisy, and this character he maintains in his novels.
_Pendennis, Vanity Fair_, and _The Newcomes_ are largely _Books of
Snobs_ worked into the form of novels.

Dickens's first important work was his _Sketches by Boz_, a series of
papers in which he describes various aspects and phases of the life of
the English lower middle class.  Though somewhat crude in style and
occasionally even vulgar in tone, these papers are seldom completely
commonplace, and many of the characteristics of the mature Dickens can
be discerned there in embryo.  They have a distinction of manner and a
suggestion of creative power which is unmistakable, and they mark the
dedication of Dickens to his especial task, the sympathetic though
exaggerated painting of the poorer middle classes.  While Thackeray
took his stand on the universal sham and corruption of our social
system, lashing hypocrisy and showing up the rottenness which lay
hidden beneath the whited sepulchres of society, Dickens revealed the
treasures which were buried beneath the rubbish-heap designated as the
"poorer middle classes."  Just as Thackeray's novels are glorified
_Books of Snobs_, so Dickens's novels are, for the most part, glorified
_Sketches by Boz_.  His early works, though called novels, are
undisguisedly a series of sketches loosely strung together.
_Pickwick_, of course, is absolutely episodic.  It was begun to supply
the letterpress to a series of drawings by a popular artist, and when
Dickens commenced he had no aim except to get his characters into such
amusing situations as would afford scope to the illustrator.  As the
book goes on, however, it begins to get hold of Dickens, and the change
is seen especially in the character of Pickwick, who begins as an
elderly crank about whom Dickens does not care a jot, but develops into
one of the most lovable old gentlemen of fiction.  However, the fact
remains that _Pickwick_ has not the remotest vestige of a plot, and can
by no stretch of the imagination be called a novel.  Again, _Oliver
Twist_, as Chesterton remarks, is really not a novel, and might,
without losing much, have been published as a series of papers entitled
_The Workhouse, A Thieves' Den_, and so on.  _Nicholas Nickleby_ might
similarly have been published as a series of papers entitled _A
Yorkshire School, A Provincial Theatre_, and so on.  The fact that all
these sketches are strung together on the lives of those shadowy
personages Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby does not at all affect
their real character.  After _Nicholas Nickleby_ the books begin to
lose, to some extent, this sketchiness, that is, the episodes are more
closely and skilfully interwoven into a connected whole, but still
Dickens, the novelist, never quite emerges from Boz, the essayist.

These remarks about Dickens naturally lead me to say something about
the development of our two authors.  About Thackeray I cannot say very
much.  By the time he emerges from the undercurrent of journalistic
work, all the essentials of the mature Thackeray seem almost fully
developed.  _Barry Lyndon_ is almost as mature in style as _Vanity
Fair_.  _Vanity Fair_ itself, Thackeray's first work of importance, is
also his greatest work.  That is, instead of working up to a climax as
a novelist, Thackeray began at the top and worked downwards.  Of
course, we must remember that when he wrote it he had reached the age
of thirty-seven.  The subsequent novels, with the exception of
_Esmond_, mark a deterioration, and not an advance.

I must here make a slight digression to speak of _Esmond_.  Into this
brilliant historical patch Thackeray threw all his great knowledge of,
and love for, the eighteenth century.  He was soaked in
eighteenth-century literature and history--witness his _Four Georges_
and _English Humourists_; and in _Esmond_ he assumed with consummate
skill the eighteenth-century manner.

In this novel Thackeray casts off completely his mask of cynicism, and
appears as a man of noble feeling and deep sympathy, who could write a
polished, pure, and straightforward English style.  We feel, however,
that the book is after all only a brilliant freak, and that the real
Thackeray is the cynical, the satirical, and the caustic Thackeray of
_Vanity Fair_.  _Esmond_ stands to the rest of Thackeray's work
somewhat in the relation of _Romola_ to George Eliot's other novels.
In both the atmosphere is artificial, the result of long and careful
study, and in both the deception is so perfect that the artificiality
is almost impossible to detect.  In two of his novels Dickens took
historical subjects, namely in _Barnaby Rudge_ and the _Tale of Two
Cities_.  The latter is the acme of Dickens's attainments in the
descriptive style, and is perhaps more restrained and artistic than any
of his other works.  In brilliant imagination and vivid representation
of an historical phase he more than equals Thackeray, though his novel
falls short of _Esmond_ in characterization.  Esmond, Beatrix, and Lady
Castlewood are much better than Darnay, Lucie, and the Doctor, though
Sidney Carton, perhaps, is as fine as anything in Thackeray.

To return to the question of development, we may say that Thackeray's
style was fully developed during his career as a journalist, essayist,
and writer of short stories, and that we find its culminating point in
_Vanity Fair_.

In the case of Dickens, however, we can trace a well-marked, if rapid,
advance.  _Sketches by Boz_ are distinctly crude.  _Pickwick Papers_
are a startling advance on one side of Dickens's art.  We find in them
the vigour, versatility, and exuberance of a youthful and tremendous
imagination.  They display inexhaustible resource and gigantic humour.
Dickens lavished enough genius on them to do ten ordinary men for a
lifetime, and yet he did it with perfect ease.  We feel that he enjoyed
himself in writing them, that he revelled in the task.  Every
character, down to the smallest, lives.  Mr. John Swanker and Mr. Cyrus
Bantam, for example, are as real to us as Mr. Sam Weller and Mr.
Pickwick.  Pickwick is one of the greatest of humorous portraits in
literature.  It is as great as the _Canterbury Tales_.  It is wonderful
that a young writer who in _Sketches by Boz_ had only been feeling his
way should, at one bound, reach the height of excellence which we find
in _Pickwick_.  The incidents are commonplace enough.  The jokes are
the sort of jokes which are still the stock-in-trade of the ha'penny
comic--jokes about mothers-in-law, red-nosed curates, and falling on
the ice, about getting drunk, and fighting, and fatness, and sitting
upon one's hat.  But what a difference between the treatment of Dickens
and that of the uninspired humorists.

_Pickwick_, however, as I have said, represents only one side of
Dickens's art, but perhaps the greatest side, the humorous delineation
of character.  There is as yet no trace of Dickens the novelist (for by
no stretch of the imagination can _Pickwick_ be called a novel), of
Dickens the master of pathos, of Dickens the descriptive artist.  There
is, however, to be found in _Pickwick_ traces of a youthful phase in
Dickens's character, a somewhat morbid leaning towards the horrible and
criminal, afterwards toned down and corrected by his strong common
sense, but never wholly absent.  This trait is to be found in some of
the short stories inserted in _Pickwick_, notably _The Madman's Tale_.
The latter story might have served as a warning to some very discerning
critic of the startling change to be found in Dickens's next book,
_Oliver Twist_.  In this work the lavish humour of _Pickwick_ dwindles
down to very small proportions, and is decidedly overweighed by the
horrible and morbid.  The murder of Nancy and the death of Bill Sykes
are only equalled for vivid awfulness a couple of times in Dickens's
later books, notably in _Bleak House_ and in _Martin Chuzzlewit_.  In
_Oliver Twist_ appears a new element which was to take a prominent
place in Dickens's future work, the element of social reform.  Social
reform had already produced the workhouse.  Dickens started his reform
by attacking the workhouse.  But Dickens is not yet a novelist.  The
romantic element is absent in _Oliver Twist_; the hero is only a child.

It was in his fourth book, _Nicholas Nickleby_, that we find Dickens
definitely deciding to write romance.  Accordingly he introduces an
impossibly good St. George, throws in a Princess and a Dragon half-way
through for his benefit, and tries to make an orthodox novel.  He
succeeds, however, in making only a very poor imitation of one.
Nicholas himself is a hopelessly badly-drawn character; and in fact
nearly everywhere in the story that Dickens tries to be definitely
romantic and orthodox he sinks below the level of the ha'penny

In his next book, _The Old Curiosity Shop_ (1840), he almost abandons
his good intentions formed with _Nicholas Nickleby_, and we return to
the realm of sketches and sketchiness.  He is progressing, however, in
the use of forcible and restrained language.  _Barnaby Rudge_ (1841) is
splendid of its kind, the best bit of actual writing Dickens had yet
done, though it is rather a series of brilliant pictures than an
orthodox novel.  The hero is an idiot, but nevertheless not so idiotic
as was Nicholas Nickleby.  In _Martin Chuzzlewit_ (1844) we get an
attempt at romance.  Martin is a hero a little more life-like than the
much-abused Nicholas.  In this book Dickens's powers of satire come out
at their best in his pictures of American society, and his power of
humorous characterization is also at its height in Pecksniff, Sairey
Gamp, and many of the minor characters.  The melodramatic side of
Dickens's art unfortunately comes out unpleasantly strong in the
description of old Chuzzlewit and his hopeful son, Jonas.  At this
point all Dickens's characteristic traits may be said to be fully
developed.  From this time, except in _David Copperfield_, which marks
the culmination of his powers, and in the _Tale of Two Cities_, there
is a distinct decline.  _Dombey_ is in parts magnificent, but a sort of
gloom hangs over most of the book, relieved only by such bright patches
as Mr. Toots, Bunsby, and Susan Nipper.  Major Bagstock is the most
unpleasant of Dickens's humorous characters.  In this novel Dickens
trespassed on Thackeray's preserves with disastrous results.  His
attempted satire on fashionable society and fashionable marriages, in
the Cleopatra-Edith-Carker episodes, should be compared with
Thackeray's treatment of a similar subject in _The Newcomes_.  Still,
there is nothing crude about the style of _Dombey_; it has the strength
and force of maturity.  After _David Copperfield_, which is known and
loved by every one, and which is the most purely natural and wholly
lovable of Dickens's books, we get a series of what may be called
splendid failures in _Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Hard Times, Our
Mutual Friend_, and _Great Expectations_.  They all contain magnificent
patches, but they fail to impress one like the earlier books.  It is
some time now since I read _Bleak House_, and I must say I have very
faint recollections of the greater part of it, whereas the earlier
works are unforgettable.

Proceeding now to a consideration of Dickens and Thackeray as
humorists, we may say, in a general way, that Thackeray's humour is
largely incidental to his style, whereas the humour is the very root
and groundwork of Dickens's best and most characteristic writing.  It
is difficult to define humour, but it seems to me that it consists, to
a considerable extent, in an unexpected overthrow of the strictly
logical.  Mr. Micawber, the weak and foolish, the obvious failure in
life, logically ought to be the most despairing and miserable of men.
The fact, however, that so far from harbouring self-contempt, Mr.
Micawber has a self-confidence which nothing can destroy, and that so
far from retiring with disgust from a world which offers him nothing
but kicks, he has the most childlike faith in his ultimate acquirement
of unlimited halfpence, strikes us as being such a curious and blessed
reversal of the logical order of things that we are pleased with Mr.
Micawber.  Instead of despising him, we love him.  Micawber is
undoubtedly a fool.  Nearly all Dickens's great characters are fools.
They are persons whom we should avoid in real life; but the gospel of
Dickens, as Chesterton says, "is to suffer fools gladly."  "Every
instant we neglect a great fool merely because he is foolish.  Every
day we neglect Tootses and Swivellers, Guppys and Joblings.  Every day
we are missing a monster whom we might love, and an imbecile whom we
should certainly admire."  The humour of Dickens took the failures of
life and turned them into successes.  True humour is seldom far
separated from pathos, and with Dickens, even while we laugh, we pity
and we love.  With Thackeray we laugh, but as a rule we do not love nor
pity, we despise.  The element of pathos is in general absent from
Thackeray's humour; hence it is not really true humour at all; it is an
inverted way of looking at things which strikes us as being funny.  But
the critic is always with Thackeray, hidden beneath the humorist.  It
is impossible for him to produce a lovable fool, for it is impossible
for him to conceal the fact that he knows his character is a fool, and
despises him accordingly.  Take Jos. Sedley in _Vanity Fair_.  The big
Anglo-Indian was just the stuff of which a good Dickens's character is
made.  He is just the right sort of fool.  But Thackeray goes out of
his way to make him as contemptible as he is laughable, and in the end
we are extremely glad to be rid of Mr. Jos.

In other words, with Thackeray the humour is nearly always overweighed
by the satire.  Thackeray is always considered as a satirist _par
excellence_.  But Dickens also is a satirist of another and perhaps a
more effective kind.  Thackeray's satire is the keen, cold, pitiless
dissection of a surgeon.  He lays bare every motive, every contemptible
little spring of action.  He tries, indeed, by his humorous manner to
convince us that he is not all the time desperately in earnest, but
behind it all we feel the preacher warning us, holding up examples for
us, imploring us not to be or do likewise.  In the character of Mr.
Osborne, for example, we have the city magnate, self-made and able, but
the slave of money.  He is under the impression that money can make up
for the vulgarity and coarseness of which he is vaguely conscious.
When poor Sedley, his old friend, is broken, he casts him off without
pity; along with Sedley's money, all his value in Osborne's eyes had
disappeared.  The latter lavished his wealth in trying to make his son
a gentleman, and the result is that miserable cad, George Osborne, who
despises his father, disappoints his wishes out of obstinacy, marries
Amelia out of bravado, tires of her and proceeds to flirt with Becky
Sharp, and dies a hero's death at Waterloo because he cannot help
himself.  Thackeray shows it all up without mercy, and he is always
showing up similar things in great profusion.  His satire depends
largely for its effect on his _manner_.  He conceals from us his
indignation and contempt for the vices he describes, and writes of them
carelessly, almost flippantly, as if they were the most natural things
in the world.  This is another effect gained by the reversal of the
logical.  But is such satire effective?  I doubt it.  I doubt that all
Thackeray's analysis of the vice and rottenness of fashionable society
ever turned one sinner from the evil of his ways.  People do not mind
being shown up, although they hate to be made ridiculous.  Now
Dickens's method of satirizing was to make the objects which he
attacked ridiculous.  He took the weak points of a man or an
institution, carried them to extremes and showed their logical
absurdity.  When people saw in the person of Bumble what workhouse
beadles were--not bad, not vicious--but absurd institutions, they
desired to get rid of them.  Dickens might have abused Yorkshire
schools till he was blue in the face, have analysed and shown up their
weak points, and written to the papers, and yet might have done little
good.  Instead, he drew Squeers, and while people laughed consumedly,
they also made a mental note that such persons as Squeers were an
absurd blot on our social system and should forthwith be abolished.
When Dickens wished to satirize America, he did not make an exhaustive
analysis of the American system.  He simply accepted its absurdities,
exaggerated them to the utmost limit, embodied them in Elijah Pogram,
Jefferson Brick, and their fellows, and drew a crushing satirical
picture of a state of society eaten up with self-conceit.  When a man
beholds his natural face in a distorting mirror, he is not quite so
pleased with himself as before; and when the Americans beheld
themselves in the mirror of _Martin Chuzzlewit_ they were not pleased
either.  If Thackeray had taken on himself to analyse and expose their
moral corruption, they would probably have felt flattered.  Dickens's
method of satire was the _reductio ad absurdum_, and appealed to the
imagination.  Further, Thackeray's satire was generally aimed at
individuals and had for its object moral reform.  We must admit,
however, in favour of Thackeray's method that it produced brilliant,
consistent, and life-like pictures of society such as Dickens was
wholly incapable of drawing.  If you want real life, go to Thackeray;
but if you wish to get out of this world for a while, and take a short
holiday in another and a more pleasant world, go to Dickens.  I hope no
one will think that I am here belittling the genius of Thackeray.
_Vanity Fair_ will ever stand as one of the most brilliant works of
fiction in the language.  It is more consistently good than anything
Dickens ever did.  As a humorous and, at the same time, dreadfully
caustic picture of society it is incomparable.  In breadth of view and
variety of incident it rivals _Tom Jones_; in minute observation of
detail it reminds one of Jane Austen.

It is as a creator of character that, in my opinion, Dickens has his
greatest advantage over Thackeray.  The man who maintains that Dickens
is a genius of the first order must be finally driven to take his stand
on Dickens's characters.  Thackeray's characters are photographic; they
are excellent copies of life.  Yet, admirable as many of them are, we
can never quite get away from the suspicion that they were made for a
purpose.  Thackeray takes them to pieces with such skill that we are
half inclined to think that he also puts them together.  But Dickens's
characters are pure creatures of the imagination.  They are not studies
of, but splendid additions to, the human race.  Dickens does not
analyse their motives, and could not if he would.  He describes them,
and we feel that they are alive.  The very smallest of them is
indelibly impressed on our imagination.  Dickens conquered Thackeray
completely in his minor characters.  I have read _The Newcomes_
recently, for example, but I have no clear idea of the distinction
between Mrs. Brian Newcome and Mrs. Hobson Newcome; I have read
_Chuzzlewit_ less recently, but I am quite clear about Mr. Chevy Slime
and Mr. Tigg.

Thackeray produced a tremendous variety of characters, but the large
majority of them, I should say, are unpleasant.  Thackeray, when all is
said and done, was first and last a moralist; and it was his aim as a
moralist to make his characters unpleasant.  There are few lovable
characters in _Pendennis_; there are none in _Vanity Fair_.  The few
respectable characters are all figure-heads, and as for the remainder,
if it were not for the humour and dramatic force with which they are
pictured to us, the description of such people as Becky Sharp, Sir Pitt
Crawley, Lord Steyne, and Jos. Sedley could give little pleasure.  As
it is, one feels that outside the pages of Thackeray one would give a
good deal to avoid meeting them.  But who would not give his dearest
possession for the privilege of beholding in the flesh Sam Weller, Mr.
Micawber, Sairey Gamp, Mr. Dick, and even such unmitigated scoundrels
as Jingle and Squeers.  There are in Dickens many sorts of characters,
but only one sort is great--the characters whom Dickens himself found
amusing.  The characters he admired, such as Nicholas, are wooden; the
characters he hated are too hateful; but the characters, whether
pleasant or unpleasant, in whom he found something amusing are all at
least interesting.  Those whom he found amusing and at the same time
lovable are his greatest characters.

The persons in Dickens's pages whom I call his _great_ characters are
frequently accused of being impossible.  You might as well say that a
hippopotamus or a duck-billed platypus is impossible because it does
not suit your ideas of what is right and proper.  The existence of the
hippopotamus is its justification, and it is so also with a Dickens
character.  It is obviously not copied, nor is it a mere abstraction.
It is vividly alive.  _You_ could not have created it, and you know
that nobody else but Dickens could.  I think it quite possible that a
very clever man might produce a Colonel Newcome, or a Blanche Amory, or
even a Becky Sharp; but I assert that no one but Dickens could produce
a Sairey Gamp or a Mr. Toots, and that nobody would be mad enough to

Dickens's characters are improbable, that I grant you.  But any man
with a marked individuality is improbable.  It is all the people in the
world to one against his being what he is.  Dickens's characters are
just a little more improbable, that is all.  Dickens's work is called
by Chesterton rather mythology than history or fiction, the mythology
of the lower middle class.  Micawber and Pecksniff, like Falstaff and
Lear, Hector and Achilles, are immortal realities, an undying
possession of humanity.  Their alleged _impossibility_ is, in fact,
their passport to immortality.  Thackeray's exact copies of life may
grow faded and out of date; but Dickens's creations will never be any
more impossible than when he created them.  They will never be too
impossible for our acceptance.  The glories of a Toots and a Swiveller
were veiled from the eyes of Thackeray.  If he could have conceived
such characters, he would have exposed their weaknesses (an easy task),
and covered them with ridicule and contempt.  But as depicted by the
kindly hand of Dickens, who is not ready to own them as fellow
creatures and admit that they are lovable?

The mention of Pecksniff reminds me that Dickens is sometimes accused
of merely attaching a label to his characters, of making them living
embodiments of some trait or peculiarity; in other words, that Dickens,
like Ben Jonson, made his characters mere illustrations of some
particular humour.  Thus Mark Tapley may be designated by the word
"jolly," Micawber will always be "hoping for something to turn up,"
Pecksniff will always be playing the hypocrite.  But though Pecksniff
is first and foremost a hypocrite, and though Dickens's purpose is
undoubtedly to impress on us and exaggerate his hypocrisy, he has all
the other essentials of a human being.  He can, for example, get drunk.
Let me read a few extracts from that marvellous scene from _Martin
Chuzzlewit_ when Mr. Pecksniff gets tipsy at Todgers' Boarding House.
If any one, after reading it, can still assert that it is an
abstraction or impossible, I give him up in despair.

The gentlemen, after the toasts have been drunk, rejoin the ladies:

Mr. Pecksniff had followed his younger friends up-stairs and taken a
chair at the side of Mrs. Todgers.  He had also spilt a cup of coffee
over his legs without appearing to be aware of the circumstance; nor
did he seem to know that there was muffin on his knee.

"And how have they used you down-stairs, sir?" asked the hostess.

"Their conduct has been such, my dear madam," said Mr. Pecksniff, "as I
can never think of without emotion, or remember without a tear.  Oh,
Mrs. Todgers!"

"My goodness!" exclaimed the lady.  "How low you are in your spirits,

"I am a man, my dear madam," said Mr. Pecksniff, shedding tears, and
speaking with an imperfect articulation, "but I am also a father.  I am
also a widower.  My feelings, Mrs. Todgers, will not consent to be
entirely smothered, like the young children in the Tower.  They are
grown up, and the more I press the bolster on them, the more they look
round the corner of it."

He suddenly became conscious of the bit of muffin, and stared at it
intently: shaking his head the while, in a forlorn and imbecile manner,
as if he regarded it as his evil genius, and mildly reproached it.

"She was beautiful, Mrs. Todgers," he said, turning his glazed eye
again upon her, without the least preliminary notice.  "She had a small

"So I have heard," said Mrs. Todgers with great sympathy.

"Those are her daughters," said Mr. Pecksniff, pointing out the young
ladies, with increased emotion.

Mrs. Todgers had no doubt about it.

"Mercy and Charity," said Mr. Pecksniff, "Charity and Mercy.  Not
unholy names, I hope?"

"Mr. Pecksniff!" cried Mrs. Todgers.  "What a ghastly smile!  Are you
ill, sir?"

He pressed his hand upon her arm, and answered in a solemn manner, and
a faint voice, "Chronic."

"Chronic?" cried the frightened Mrs. Todgers.

"Chron-ic," he repeated with some difficulty.  "Chronic.  A chronic
disorder.  I have been its victim from childhood.  It is carrying me to
my grave."

"Heaven forbid!" cried Mrs. Todgers.

"Yes, it is," said Mr. Pecksniff, reckless with despair.  "I am rather
glad of it, upon the whole.  You are like her, Mrs. Todgers."

"Don't squeeze me so tight, pray, Mr. Pecksniff.  If any of the
gentlemen should notice us."

"For her sake," said Mr. Pecksniff.  "Permit me.  In honour of her
memory.  For the sake of a voice from the tomb.  You are _very_ like
her, Mrs. Todgers!  What a world this is!"

"Ah!  Indeed you may say that!" cried Mrs. Todgers.

"I am afraid it is a vain and thoughtless world," said Mr. Pecksniff,
overflowing with despondency.  "These young people about us.  Oh! what
sense have they of their responsibilities?  None.  Give me your other
hand, Mrs. Todgers."

The lady hesitated, and said "she didn't like."

"Has a voice from the grave no influence?" said Mr. Pecksniff with
dismal tenderness.  "This is irreligious!  My dear creature."

"Hush!" urged Mrs. Todgers.  "Really you mustn't."

"It's not me," said Mr. Pecksniff.  "Don't suppose it's me: it's the
voice; it's her voice."

Mrs. Pecksniff, deceased, must have had an unusually thick and husky
voice for a lady, and rather a stuttering voice, and to say the truth
somewhat of a drunken voice, if it had ever borne much resemblance to
that in which Mr. Pecksniff spoke just then.  But perhaps this was
delusion on his part.

"It has been a day of enjoyment, Mrs. Todgers, but still it has been a
day of torture.  It has reminded me of my loneliness.  What am I in the

"An excellent gentleman, Mr. Pecksniff," said Mrs. Todgers.

"There is consolation in that too," cried Mr. Pecksniff.  "Am I?"

"There is no better man living," said Mrs. Todgers, "I am sure."

Mr. Pecksniff smiled through his tears, and slightly shook his head....
"Chronic--chronic!  Let's have a little drop of something to drink."

"Bless my life, Miss Pecksniffs!" cried Mrs. Todgers, aloud, "your dear
pa 's took very poorly!"

Mr. Pecksniff straightened himself by a surprising effort, as every one
turned hastily towards him; and standing on his feet, regarded the
assembly with a look of ineffable wisdom.  Gradually it gave place to a
smile; a feeble, helpless, melancholy smile; bland almost to
sickliness.  "Do not repine, my friends," said Mr. Pecksniff, tenderly.
"Do not weep for me.  It is chronic."  And with these words, after
making a futile attempt to pull off his shoes, he fell into the

In conclusion, I am sorry that I have not time to discuss the actual
style of our two writers.  I had hoped to dwell a little on Dickens's
descriptive power, in which he far excels Thackeray; on that wonderful
photographic imagination of his which impresses on our minds the
scenery of his novels down to the smallest details as vividly as it was
impressed on his own, on his splendid handling of crowds and big stage
effects.  I am afraid that in the foregoing remarks I have dwelt too
much on Dickens's strong points; I have said nothing of his cheap
melodrama, his maudlin pathos, his frequent bad taste; but after all,
these are but comparatively small blots on a great genius, and they
nearly always occur where Dickens is trying to impress us in a way that
does not come naturally to him.  I am afraid, also, that I have
emphasized mainly Thackeray's weak points and neglected his strong
ones.  I set off, however, avowedly as a champion of Dickens, and I
should find it hard to pose as an impartial judge, for while I only
admire Thackeray, I love Dickens.


This poem and the poem entitled "Eternal Silence" were found among
Professor Bateman's papers.  While there is some doubt as to their
authorship, there are indications that they are probably his


  No man will ever know;
  Not though for countless years
  Not though with toil and tears
  Millions of human brains
  Ever more strong and clear,
  Rise on this planet here;
  And with more perfect skill,
  With cunning greater still
  Than any yet attains,
  Probe for the mystery.

  Why all these burning suns
  Ringed with their planets
  Driving through endless space?
  By what strange accident
  Rose there to consciousness
  On this poor ball of earth
  A being aware,
  Who can wonder and question?
  A speck in the Universe,
  Who looks up aghast
  At the glittering riddle
  That night ever brings him?
  One speck that dissents
  From the law of the Whole,
  The one interruption
  To the balanced perfection,
  The voiceless and passionless life
  Of the meaningless Whole?

  And when, in countless years,
  At last comes the moment
  When this little system,
  The sun and the moon and the stars that are seven,
  Shall crash to its doom
  'Gainst some on-coming sphere-world,
  And with infinite roaring
  And hideous combustion,
  Burst all into atoms
  And seething abysses
  Of nebulae, fiery and whirling,
  Then, with it shall perish
  The last fading traces
  Of life and of love
  And of human endeavour
  That are left on this cold, lifeless earth-star;

  And so shall go on
  For ever and ever
  Through infinite spaces,
  World making and breaking,
  And Man's little moment,
  His life on this planet,
  A drop in the ages,
  Shall pass unlamented,
  Shall pass unrecurring,
  A strange inexplicable chance
  In the meaningless Whole.


_A fugitive production--occasion unknown_

Accepting the well-known dictum of Appius Claudius that the government
is the belly of the body-politic, and the general mob of citizens "the
limbs and outward flourishes," what section of the community, shall we
say, constitutes the brains?  We might, at first, be inclined to assign
the role of "brains" to those members of the community who are
particularly occupied with the pursuit of learning, such as, for
example (to take a large and representative class), University
professors.  A little reflection, however, suffices to show that we
should be mistaken.  The men who are usually spoken of as the "brains
of the community" are of a very different type from University
professors.  They are men who maintain fair round bellies and expansive
watch chains, who ride in automobiles and smoke imposing cigars.
Clearly, University professors are not in this class.

Where, then, shall we place those members of the community who make the
pursuit of knowledge for its own sake their chief occupation?  It may
help us towards the solution of this weighty problem if we make a
distinction between brains and intellect, and call such people as
professors, philosophers, and poets the "intellect" of the community.
We shall then have to define clearly what we mean by "brains," and what
we mean by "intellect."

"Brains" are what a man uses when he has some practical end in view,
such as more money in his pocket, better food to eat, better clothes to
wear; "intellect" deals with problems (usually classed as "academic")
which have no immediate commercial value--such as whether the sun goes
round the earth or the earth round the sun, or why an apple falls to
the ground.  "Brains" are generally admired, because everybody can see
the results which they achieve; "intellect" is usually treated with
neglect or indifference because it works in a sphere which is far out
of range of the common vision.

What, then, is the justification for the maintenance in a community of
a purely intellectual class of people, occupied with problems which
have nothing to do with actual life, and which apparently contribute
nothing to the common stock of "useful" knowledge, the kind of
knowledge that can be turned into money.  Why, for example, do we
maintain at great expense in our universities professors of literature,
philosophy, and pure science to devote their time to the study of
merely academic problems, and to teach our sons and daughters such a
smattering of these things as is of no practical use to them whatever,
and which causes most of them a good deal of trouble and annoyance?

It is easy to understand why we should maintain professors of such
subjects as engineering, dentistry, and agriculture, for engines and
teeth are both things that will not allow themselves to be neglected,
and it is undoubtedly a good thing to make two blades of grass grow
where only one grew before.  But why should a man be afraid to devote
his time to making an appreciation of Greek tragedy grow where none
grew before, or to try to arouse an interest in such a problem as the
psychology of metre.

It may be argued, of course, that University professors provide a good
deal of amusement for their students, that their personal
peculiarities, carefully observed through four years of class-room
work, often furnish rich entertainment at convivial gatherings.  Or,
again, it may be urged that the study of professors (in so far as
professors can be regarded as human) is the study of human nature, and
that students who observe their professors carefully are gaining an
acquaintance with a practical branch of the science of anthropology.
But neither of these answers to our question can be regarded as wholly

Let us consider briefly the function of intellect in the individual,
and see if it will throw any light on the function of the intellectual
class in the community.  When intellect is developed at all in the
average citizen, its sole function seems to be to make him either
uncomfortable or objectionable.  For suppose a small puny growth of
intellect does appear in a man, it generally has one of two effects;
either it makes him _dissatisfied_ with himself, troubled with vague
yearnings after a higher life, worried with misgivings on religious
questions, annoyed by the feeling that he ought to be able to enjoy
books and pictures and music which afford him no real enjoyment; or, he
becomes abnormally _satisfied_ with himself, propounds half-baked
theories of the universe, teems with criticisms of books which he has
not read or does not understand, or bubbles over with solutions of
problems upon which he has never seriously pondered.

The one thing that such men can seldom be got to do is to set to work
to develop that little growth of intellect, to feed and nourish it by
the study of literature and philosophy, so that they may at last be
enabled to think out problems for themselves, or at least to appreciate
intelligently the solutions of them which great thinkers have placed on
record.  When, oh when, will men understand that intellectual things
are not an amusement nor a hobby, to be taken up as a side-line in
one's spare time, but that the appreciation of the things of the
intellect is the reward of the most difficult and baffling of all kinds
of labour; that one will appreciate Plato or Sophocles, Shakespeare or
Milton, Descartes or Newton, precisely in proportion to the distance
which one has climbed along the rugged path which leads to the
intellectual peaks upon which those giants of thought sit eternally
throned, that the cultivation of the intellect is not the work of four
years or forty years, but of a lifetime, nay, of many lifetimes?

  To spend uncounted years of pain,
    Again, again, and yet again,
  In working out in heart and brain,
    The problem of our being here,
  To gather facts from far and near,
    Upon the mind to hold them clear
  And knowing more may yet appear,
    Unto one's latest breath to fear,
  The premature result to draw--
    Is the object, end and law,
  And purpose of our being here?

asks Clough, and to this question all our greatest thinkers have

It is the few who are convinced of the value and seriousness of
intellectual things, and who do not flinch from the self-sacrifice and
apparently fruitless labour which the pursuit of such things involves,
that humanity as a whole owes its progress.  If it were not for these
men, whom Bunyan would call the intellectual Greathearts of the
community, we should still, as a race, be sunk in barbarism.  Intellect
in the average man is allowed to atrophy; in the small percentage who
strive after culture it accomplishes nothing of value, but it is the
latter people who form the rank and file of the intellectual army.
Gradually, little by little, that army is advancing;.  every now and
then some great general appears--a Plato, a Shakespeare, a Newton, a
Kant, a Darwin--and under his leadership a victory is won; now this
outpost of the hosts of darkness is captured, now that, and the flag of
the human intellect is raised upon its ramparts.  Meanwhile, the mass
of mankind trudges on heavily, often two or three centuries behind.
Next arrive the inventors, the reformers, the men of constructive
intellect, who take the results of the great thinkers and plan their
application to life; and lastly come the men of "brains" in their fur
coats and fair round bellies, promote their companies, organize their
industries, make their political speeches, and finally gather in the
shekels, and also most of the honour and glory.  By this time the
intellectual army is again far ahead, attacking the next outpost of the
kingdom of chaos and Old Night.  And so humanity moves onward and

What, then, is the function of the academic class in the community?
Simply to keep the flag of human intellect flying, a work which, in
most cases, involves some self-sacrifice in those who devote themselves
to it.  A professor, for example, though a man of intellect, is not
necessarily devoid of brains, and he might well turn those brains to
advantage in some more lucrative profession.  As it is, he is compelled
to a large extent to sacrifice his individuality, to degrade his
intellect with drudgery which is beneath it, to stand as a mere
intermediary or conduit-pipe between the student and knowledge.  At the
same time, if, out of the hundreds of students who pass through his
hands in one academic year, he succeeds in inspiring even a single
individual with a true desire for culture, his existence for that year
is fully justified, for has he not added one member to the band of
intellectual pioneers who will finally, we hope, take possession, in
the name of humanity, of the whole universe of thought?

            Come, my friends,
  Push off, and sitting well in order, smite
  The sounding furrows, for our purpose holds
  To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
  Of all the western stars until we die.
  It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
  It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles
  And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.


  Around this rolling sphere of Man
    There lies a vast Unknown,
  Beyond the space that he can scan
    With tracts of starlight sown.

  Beneath the shadow of th' Unknown
    From age to age he stands,
  And to the Void in wavering hope
    He stretches praying hands.

  But in the Void no signs appear,
    It stands unbroken still,
  And from the void no word of cheer,
    But silence deep and chill.

  And when the upstart race of men
    Has ceased from all this earth,
  When past is their brave strife with Fate,
    When past are Death and Birth;

  When lifeless, sightless, blank and cold
    The home of man's poor breath;
  Still will this ball through space be rolled,
    In Silence deep as death.




[Illustration: Reginald Bateman]


_This address, which aroused much criticism in the press, is compiled
from a newspaper report and some notes found among Professor Bateman's
papers.  It is probably incomplete, but is included because of the
interest attaching to it._

_The address was delivered before the University Y.M.C.A. on Sunday, 25
October 1914, on the eve of the departure of Professor Bateman's
battalion.  This was in the early days of the war, before the magnitude
of the struggle had been generally realized, and there were those who
had tried to persuade Professor Bateman that his higher duty lay at
home.  His address was prompted in part by this circumstance, and was a
vindication of his enlisting.  It was also prompted by a colleague's
address from the same platform contrasting Samuel, who "hewed Agag in
pieces," with Christ, Who commanded Peter to "put up the sword"--a plea
for the peaceful settlement of personal and national disputes.
Professor Bateman had for several years declined to address the
University Y.M.C.A., because he had never before felt that he had a
message for them._

_So, although there is here much of the young man glorying in his
strength and rejoicing to run the race, the address was not penned
without thought and consideration._

We hear much, perhaps too much, at the present time of the horrors of
war; I wish to-day to speak to you of its blessings.  Far be it from me
to minimize the dark side of war.  Only those who have actually
experienced warfare can form an adequate idea of the horrors of
campaigns and battlefields.  But I wish to impress on you to-day the
fact that war has compensations, and that it is by no means an
unmitigated evil.

The Power Who manifests Himself to us in the phenomena of this Universe
has apparently decreed that war should be the supreme test of both the
nation and the individual.  Biologically, struggle and self-sacrifice
by one generation on behalf of the next are the conditions of the
perpetuation of a species.  A similar law of competition seems to hold
for those aggregates of men which we call nations.  History teaches
that once a nation ceases to struggle or to be prepared to struggle for
its existence, once it loses its military spirit and the willingness to
fight to the death, if need be, for its national honour, its greatness
invariably declines, and its growth ceases.

Of course, competition among nations may be carried on by other means
than by war.  Commercial rivalry, diplomatic rivalry, artistic rivalry,
are all important means of progress, but war is the one supreme, the
only entirely adequate test of a nation's spiritual quality.

Readiness for war is a token of national righteousness.  In the sense
in which I use the words, readiness for war does not mean a national
spirit of militarism and aggressiveness, the spirit which has so often
proved the downfall of great military powers.  It is a readiness which
is the result of a clean and vigorous national life during times of
peace; a readiness which springs not so much from direct military
training as from a high national idea of physical and mental fitness.
The ideal soldier is not he who has been drilled into a military
machine in times of peace, but he who is physically and mentally fit to
become an efficient soldier, if need be, on short notice in time of war.

Self-sacrifice, self-denial, temperance, hardihood, discipline,
obedience, order, method, organizing power, intelligence, purity of
public life, chastity, industry, resolution are some only of the
national and individual attributes which go towards producing the
efficiency of modern armaments.

The broad rule which one deduces from a general survey of the history
of human progress--a rule to which, no doubt, some exceptions can be
found--is that the failure of nations to meet the test of war has
always been the result of the decay of national morality, and that
success in war has been an indication of national virtue.  Right has
not, indeed, always been might, but right has always tended to create

Rome conquered Greece because her sons were hardier, stronger, and more
imbued with the spirit of self-sacrifice; Rome herself, centuries
later, fell a victim to the inroads of the Goths because of the
corruption of her national virtue and the decay of her military spirit
through self-indulgence and immorality.  The refined sensuality of the
Roman could not withstand the rude virtue of the barbarian.  "And
generally," to quote Harold Wyatt, "history has repeatedly proved that
efficiency in war, or for war, is God's test of a nation's soul.  By
that test it stands, or by that test it falls.  This is the ethical
content of competition.  This is the determining factor of human
history.  This is the justification of war."

The terrible punishment provided by war for national depravity has
been, perhaps, the chief stimulus in the progress of mankind.  Behind
the horror and havoc of the field of battle, therefore, is working a
Power which makes for righteousness, and which has ordained that the
nation which, from the righteousness of its cause and its fitness to
defend that cause, best deserves the victory, shall win it.

Such is apparently the law of human progress, and we must accept it as
we accept other seemingly unpleasant facts of our present existence; as
we accept, for example, the fact of death.  It is only by death that
life is possible; it is only by struggle and self-sacrifice that
national progress is possible.

Do not, therefore, be lulled into a sense of false security by the talk
of universal peace, or by assertions that the present war must be the
last in human history; but determine that, should you have the
opportunity, you will do your part to make the nation to which you
belong fit for its supreme test, the test of war.  If you do not, you
are a traitor to the past generations who won by struggle and
self-sacrifice the heritage which you now enjoy, and to the future
generations, who demand that you shall pass on that heritage, not
diminished, but increased.

But take care that you do not mistake a national spirit of greed and
aggressiveness for virtue.  Remember Kipling's warning that military
force should be used only for the defence or enforcement of just rights
or for those which you truly and firmly believe to be just.

  The tumult and the shouting dies;
    The captains and the kings depart;
  Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
    An humble and a contrite heart.
  Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
  Lest we forget--lest we forget!

  If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
    Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
  Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
    Or lesser breeds without the Law--
  Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
  Lest we forget--lest we forget!

  For heathen heart that puts her trust
    In reeking tube and iron shard,
  All valiant dust that builds on dust
    And, guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
  For frantic boast and foolish word--
  Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

National greed and aggressiveness must, sooner or later, bring their
own punishment.

Now let us look at war from the standpoint of the individual.  The
sacrifice of individual lives is for many men the most prominent fact
of war.  They look upon a field of battle, and are filled with dismay
at the sight of heaped-up carnage and garments rolled in blood, but
fail to find there the radiance of high endeavour and the glow of great
achievement.  Like Carlyle, in his famous _reductio ad absurdum_ of war
in the _Sartor_, they see only the physical side of war, and neglect
its ethical and spiritual content.  Of course, this is a piece of
perversity on Carlyle's part.

What, speaking in quite unofficial language, is the net-purport and
upshot of war?  To my own knowledge, for example, there dwell and toil,
in the British village of Dumdrudge usually some five hundred souls.
From these, by certain "Natural Enemies" of the French, there are
successively selected, during the French war, say thirty able-bodied
men: Dumdrudge, at her own expense, has suckled and nursed them: she
has, not without difficulty and sorrow, fed them up to manhood, and
even trained them to crafts, so that one can weave, another build,
another hammer, and the weakest can stand under thirty stone
avoirdupois.  Nevertheless, amid much weeping and swearing, they are
selected; all dressed in red; and shipped away, at the public charges,
some two-thousand miles, or say only to the south of Spain; and fed
there till wanted.  And now to that same spot, in the south of Spain,
are thirty similar French artisans, from a French Dumdrudge, in like
manner wending: till at length, after infinite effort, the two parties
come into actual juxtaposition: and Thirty stands fronting Thirty, each
with a gun in his hand.  Straightway the word "Fire!" is given: and
they blow the souls out of one another; and in place of sixty brisk
useful craftsmen the world has sixty dead carcasses, which it must
bury, and anew shed tears for.  Had these men any quarrel?  Busy as the
Devil is, not the smallest!  They lived far enough apart; were the
entirest strangers; nay, in so wide a Universe, there was even,
unconsciously, by Commerce, some mutual helpfulness between them.  How
then?  Simpleton! their Governors had fallen-out; and instead of
shooting one another, had the cunning to make these poor blockheads
shoot.  Alas, so it is in Deutschland, and hitherto in all other lands;
still as of old, "what devilry soever Kings do, the Greeks must pay the
piper!"  In that fiction of the English Smollett, it is true, the final
Cessation of War is perhaps prophetically shadowed forth; where the two
Natural Enemies, in person, take each a Tobacco-pipe, filled with
Brimstone; light the same, and smoke in one another's faces, till the
weaker gives in: but from such predicted Peace-Era, what blood-filled
trenches, and contentious centuries, may still divide us!

But what if these men of Dumdrudge are not blockheads at all, but
high-souled, clear-sighted men?  What if they do not go to the war
because their rulers tell them to, but because they believe in the
justice of their cause, and consider it not only a duty but a privilege
to lay down their lives, if necessary, to maintain it?

Tennyson gets a nearer view of the truth in _Maud_, when he represents
war as the purifier which purges the corruption of a too-long-continued
peace, and which saves nation and individual alike from sloth and
selfishness.  Peace under a just and beneficent government is surely a
blessing of the first magnitude.  But those who enjoy it, and surely
this applies to us, must never forget at what price that blessing was
bought and at what price it must be maintained.  They must not grow
petty and self-indulgent, and forget that they possess a heritage won
for them by the sacrifice of others.  Is it not far better that they
should feel a thrill of patriotism at the rude touch of war, and die
striking a blow for freedom, than that they should live to a
dishonoured old age, seeking beggarly gain?  Let us have less talk of
the horrors of war and more talk of its blessings.

Most of those who speak of "the horrors of war" fail to recognize that
it is those horrors which give war its great, its inestimable value.
It would, no doubt, be very pleasant if war could be conducted in a
polite and gentlemanly way, if it could be arranged that nobody would
get killed, and that wounds and bloodshed would be reduced to a
minimum.  If that were so, we could all play at the game.  But where
would be our heroes, our hearts of triple steel?  Where would be their
victories over death and the fear of death, and their leading of
captivity captive?  We could then, like Falstaff, fill up our armies
with "toasts-and-butter, with hearts in their bellies no bigger than
pins' heads," and nobody would be a jot the worse.  But war robbed of
its terror would be war without glory, and one of the greatest and
grandest of experiences which Destiny allows to man would no longer be
possible.  To endure gladly the most severe labour and hardship, to
grapple with a mortal foe in deadly strife, a strife without mercy and
without remorse, to pass through Hell unterrified, to wrest one's life
by main force from the very jaws of death, and to do all this, not for
pay, but for one's country, this is, perhaps, the very climax of human

And what of the many who do not win through, but must leave their
bodies upon the field of battle?  We may not agree with Horace that
such a death is "sweet and becoming," but surely it is sweeter and more
becoming than the majority of deaths which men are called on to endure.
Who would not rather die in the fullness of strength, with the shout of
battle upon his lips, than succumb to the attacks of some disease which
degrades the body and unhinges the mind, and pass away at last from a
fleshly house that is no longer fit for the soul to inhabit, wringing
the hearts of the bystanders with incoherent babblings?

The death roll of war, still far from complete, reaches back into the
unfathomable past which lies far beyond the ken of man.  The immensity
of that death roll is dreadful to contemplate.  But a past unstained by
the blood of human strife would be more dreadful still.  No doubt there
would be to-day more people living in the world, but those high virtues
which are realized to the full in war and war alone--courage and
self-sacrifice--would be dead beyond all hope of resurrection.  It was
war which gave birth to the ideals of chivalry and honour; it is war
which keeps those ideals alive in an age of sordid commercialism.  It
is the possibility of war, however remotely realized, which makes our
young men keep their bodies clean and strong, and their souls free from
that lowest form of selfishness, the selfishness of Parolles, which
puts life before honour, which says:

"Let me live, sir, in a dungeon, in the stocks, or anywhere, so I may

When the more dangerous of lower animals have been tamed or
exterminated, when locomotion by land, air, and sea has become safe and
easy, when--greatest blessing of all--war has ceased to exist, then
surely we shall see the return of the Golden Age.  Perhaps so, but it
will be a Golden Age enjoyed by a spineless and emasculated race of
beings, who have forgotten the meaning of the words courage, honour,
and self-sacrifice.


_An address given in Saskatoon to a number of returned men and
colleagues on the first anniversary of the battle of St. Julien.
Professor Bateman had been recalled from France to take command of the
Saskatchewan Company of the Western Universities' Battalion._

Twelve months ago, on April 22nd, when day broke upon the battlefields
of Flanders, the new Canadian army, which had wallowed all winter in
the mud of Salisbury, had yet to prove their mettle as fighting men.
Ere the sun set that day, they had already won the title, given them
throughout the Empire when the story of the fight was known, of
"Glorious Canadians."  The reputation won at Ypres and St. Julien was
fully maintained at the battles of Festubert and Givenchy.

Although we soldiers of the Second Contingent experienced fighting on a
smaller scale than our comrades of the First, we had quite enough to
enable us to realize, as one who has not been there never can, a great
deal of what the first lot went through.  I think it is no exaggeration
to say that no soldiers of the Second or succeeding contingents think
it necessary to look anywhere but to the First Canadians for their
highest example of self-sacrifice and devotion to duty.

I have heard people at home complain that they find it hard to get any
information from returned soldiers as to their experience, or to get
any real idea of what the fighting is like.  I think the reason is that
we are afraid of giving people a false impression, and that it is
impossible to make people grasp the reality of conditions of warfare
which have no parallel in history.  Everybody at home expects a tale of
glory and heroism, but the days of pomp and circumstance of battle are
over, and it is only the ideals for which we are fighting that can
dignify the mean and ugly reality of present-day war.  Besides, when I
look back upon the one or two little affairs out of the common in which
I have taken part, my impressions are a curious mixture of distinctness
and vagueness, as of a dream or nightmare rather than of a real
experience, and such impressions are difficult to put into words.

I was in and out of the trenches for six months as an N.C.O., and was
in the front line every time but one, so that as far as the ordinary
routine of trench life goes, I am qualified to speak.  The shortest
phrase I know of which attempts to sum up life in the trenches is "Days
of unendurable monotony and moments of indescribable fear."  That
phrase, as far as it goes, is a good description, but it leaves out two
important aspects of trench life, the humorous and the picturesque.  It
is only a sense of humour that can make the monotony of trench life
endurable.  Any man who went up to the front line expecting to find the
heroic defenders grimly defiant and serious over their task would
probably be more shocked than amused to find men busy arguing over the
division of a pot of jam while Fritz was generously spraying our line
with shrapnel; or to discover that some fellow was more elated over
having swiped someone else's brazier than if he had bayonetted a dozen
Fritzes; or to discover that the breaking of a rum jar was considered a
greater calamity by the whole company than if our trench had been blown
to pieces.

I have often sat in my dug-out, just a little way down the
communication trench, and listened to a ration party going up to the
front line in the dark with their heavy loads, wading through mud,
plunging into holes, falling over broken trench mats, and I have heard
with great pleasure the flow of language; it was immense, nothing like
it is to be heard from any other troops in the world's history.

And then there was the picturesque side.  My recollections of the
trenches come back to me chiefly as a series of pictures.

I see the velvety blackness of the night, cut by streaks of light as
the flares go up continually along the front, as far as the eye can
see, then shed their weird radiance over the mysterious region of No
Man's Land, while every moving thing beneath their light lies still as
death till darkness comes again to hide them from the searching eyes
that never cease to scan the space between the trenches.  I see the
muffled sentries at their posts on the firing step; I hear the
irregular _crack, crack_ of rifle fire along the line as they shoot at
a flash from the other trench, or at some moving object dimly seen
through the darkness; then comes the sharp crackle of rifle fire or the
_rat-a-tat-tat_ of the machine-gun as we open upon one of Fritz's
working parties.  I see the flash and hear the bang of bursting
shrapnel, or the distant _woosh_ and _cr-r-rump_ of the high explosive;
or there is the dull _pop_ from Fritz's line, and high in the air a
tract of light makes its way towards our trench.  We hear the familiar
_whoo-oo-oo-oosh_, and we know that one of the dreaded aerial torpedoes
is on its way; we wait with horrible suspense for the sickening thud
and roar of the explosion, and wonder whether it has got anyone this
time, and whether the next is coming our way; or we are roughly
awakened from the deep sleep of exhaustion by someone excitedly pulling
at our legs and shouting, "Gas!"  We crawl quickly out of the dug-out
into the darkness to find our comrades "standing to" all along the
trench in their weird gas helmets, and presently discover with relief
that a nervous listening post has mistaken the mist, which is rolling
up from Fritz's trench, for the dreaded chlorine.  Or we turn from our
posts as we hear the shuffle of the stretcher-bearers along the trench,
and we wish some unlucky (or lucky) comrade a safe passage to Blighty.
Then there are nights to look back upon around the battered old brazier
in the dug-out, when things were quiet, and we smoked a pipe or sang a
song, and thought of what we should do when we got that leave that
never seemed to come, or the "rest" which had been promised us every
time we came out of the trenches for the last three months.  And then
there was the tramp back to billets through the shell-torn streets of a
deserted Flemish village, and the blessed relief of flinging down the
pack and rolling up in our blankets for the first straight sleep of
many nights.

But best of all to look back upon are the good comrades we found in the
trenches, whom we knew we could trust to the death, if need be.
However much we appreciate the comfort of home and the kindness of
friends here, the deepest thoughts of every returned soldier are now,
and will ever be while this war lasts, with the boys they left behind
them, "holding the line."


_Written in England while impatiently waiting to get back to France.
Professor Bateman had been recalled from the trenches, where he was
sergeant, to become major of the Western Universities' Battalion, and
then was forced to wait in England after this unit was broken up, while
in France his former battalion was preparing for Vimy.  This letter was
written shortly after its capture._

April 29th, 1917.

Dear J. V.,

"Letter received and contents noted."

I can understand how you feel about Maunsell's death.  Personally, I
have long ago given up theorizing about what may or may not be at the
back of phenomena.  I confine myself to what I can see and know and
reason about, and I find that I have quite as much as I can handle even
in that narrow sphere.  Once one gets into the region of the
supernatural, one man's dream or speculation is just as good or as
worthless as another's, for neither has any foundation in experience,
and experience gives us our only possible basis for the construction of
theories about life.

So, though you may allow your thoughts at times to get out of hand and
wander about gropingly in a nebulous unknown, you ought not to allow
any baseless theories that result to disturb your peace of mind.  If
you attach any importance to such propositions about the unknown, you
can find plenty of comforting ones evolved by greater brains than
yours, which you would do better to accept than allow yourself to be
worried and made less effective for the business of life by the
pessimistic result of your own thinking.

Constant brain work has a tendency to make a man morbid in his
speculations.  A free, open-air life, practical problems and contact
with men who do things rather than theorize about them is a great
corrective.  No one yet has gone anywhere near solving the riddle of
the unknown, and it may fairly be supposed that the human brain is at
present incapable of tackling the problem successfully.  It may be that
the perpetual struggle after a solution may, in ages to come, result in
the evolution of a brain which can find an answer to the riddle of
life, in the same way as the constant reaching of the giraffe after
food resulted in the production of a neck sufficiently long to solve
the giraffe's food problem.

Meantime, we must be content to get along with such knowledge as we
have, or else accept a supernatural revelation which is bound at the
best to be a bit dim and unsatisfactory, because it is communicated to
us by means of the same imperfect brain.

Personally, I don't think it matters very much what you believe about
the supernatural if you base your actions upon a sane view of what
experience has shown to be best.  To get and give as much happiness as
possible seems to be our plain duty, and if abnormalities on a
tremendous scale like this war crop up, it is the duty of every one to
get to work and sacrifice, if necessary, his own chance of happiness in
order to restore a state of things where happiness is possible for
others.  (By happiness, I mean contentment, usually temporary, with
things as they are.)

Experience has given us ample proof of where happiness is to be found
as far as it can be realized in this life, and every one ought to be
able to avoid those actions which would seem to bring happiness, but
which have been shown by experience to result in the long run in
dissatisfaction.  Of course, very few are wise enough to accept the
experience of others, and most men have to get stung many times over
before they learn the lessons which countless billions before them
learned in precisely the same way.

Curiously enough, the highest happiness of which humans are capable
seems to be found in the sacrifice of self.  Maunsell's magnificent
devotion to duty and splendid death are of far greater value to us than
his continuing to live could have been, and though he could not have
fully realized that fact himself, he certainly would not have been
happy if he had declined the privilege of giving up his own happiness
that general happiness might be secured for the world, thereby
paradoxically finding the greatest happiness of all.  If he still
continues to live, and can look back on earthly experiences, he would
probably not desire to change his own fate.

You can see from all this that my desire to get back to the front is,
in the main, selfish.  I simply cannot be content to stay here handling
a job which absorbs scarcely any of my ability or energy, and which
could be as well or better done by some one who is not fit to fight.  I
went away from the front with the full intention of returning there
with men whom I had trained to take their part in the scrap.  I have
been prevented by circumstances from carrying out my scheme, and I
shall always regret that I did not consider that those who were
actually at the front with me had a greater claim on me than any
others.  If I had stayed on, I should have got my commission and should
have valued it much more than the one I actually did get.  I might have
been killed, but I was prepared for that, and I think there is no
better way a man can die.  It is comparatively seldom in the world's
history that a man gets the chance to die splendidly.  Most deaths are
somewhat inglorious endings to not very glorious careers.  A war like
the present gives a man a chance to cancel at one stroke all the
pettiness of his life.

Therefore I think it is up to me to do all I can to get back to France
and finish what I began.  If I fail to get there, it won't be my fault,
and I won't worry about it.  If I depended on the powers that be, I
should probably be here for the duration of the war, and it is possible
that I may be.  But I am determined that it is not going to be my fault
if I am.

I did not intend, when I sat down, to write you more than a brief note.
I think my first sentence shows that.  All the rest came of itself, and
I hope you won't be bored stiff by reading it.

Best of luck in the "Wall,"[*]

Yours ever,

If you are ever up against it for cash, or if there is any other way
that I can help you, I shall be very sore with you if you don't let me

If you want some good light reading to take your mind off Syriac and
other ancient noises by which people communicated one with the other,
try some of O. Henry's books--_The Four Million, Options, Whirligigs_
(very light reading and amusing), Hodder and Stoughton.

[*] Wall Biblical Scholarship, Dublin University.


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