Confessions of a Young Man
George Moore

Part 3 out of 3

be great and limited; by one word he may light up an abyss of soul; but
there must be this one magical and unique word. Shakespeare gives us the
word, Balzac, sometimes, after pages of vain striving, gives us the word,
Tourgueneff gives it with miraculous certainty; but Henry James, no; a
hundred times he flutters about it; his whole book is one long flutter near
to the one magical and unique word, but the word is not spoken; and for
want of the word his characters are never resolved out of the haze of
nebulae. You are on a bowing acquaintance with them; they pass you in the
street, they stop and speak to you, you know how they are dressed, you
watch the colour of their eyes. When I think of "A Portrait of a Lady,"
with its marvellous crowd of well-dressed people, it comes back to me
precisely as an accurate memory of a fashionable soiree--the staircase with
its ascending figures, the hostess smiling, the host at a little distance
with his back turned; some one calls him. He turns; I can see his white kid
gloves; the air is as sugar with the odour of the gardenias; there is
brilliant light here; there is shadow in the further rooms; the women's
feet pass to and fro beneath the stiff skirts; I call for my hat and coat;
I light a cigar; I stroll up Piccadilly ... a very pleasant evening; I have
seen a good many people I knew; I have observed an attitude, and an
earnestness of manner that proved that a heart was beating.

Mr. James might say, "If I have done this, I have done a great deal," and I
would answer, "No doubt you are a man of great talent, great cultivation
and not at all of the common herd; I place you in the very front rank, not
only of novelists but of men of letters."

I have read nothing of Henry James's that did suggest the manner of a
scholar; but why should a scholar limit himself to empty and endless
sentimentalities? I will not taunt him with any of the old taunts--why does
he not write complicated stories? Why does he not complete his stories? Let
all this be waived. I will ask him only why he always avoids decisive
action? Why does a woman never say "I will"? Why does a woman never leave
the house with her lover? Why does a man never kill a man? Why does a man
never kill himself? Why is nothing ever accomplished? In real life murder,
adultery, and suicide are of common occurrence; but Mr. James's people live
in a calm, sad, and very polite twilight of volition. Suicide or adultery
has happened before the story begins, suicide or adultery happens some
years hence, when the characters have left the stage, but bang in front of
the reader nothing happens. The suppression or maintenance of story in a
novel is a matter of personal taste; some prefer character-drawing to
adventures, some adventures to character-drawing; that you cannot have both
at once I take to be a self-evident proposition; so when Mr. Lang says, "I
like adventures," I say, "Oh, do you?" as I might to a man who says "I like
sherry," and no doubt when I say I like character-drawing, Mr. Lang says,
"Oh, do you?" as he might to a man who says, "I like port." But Mr. James
and I are agreed on essentials, we prefer character-drawing to adventures.
One, two, or even three determining actions are not antagonistic to
character-drawing, the practice of Balzac, and Flaubert, and Thackeray
prove that. Is Mr. James of the same mind as the poet Verlaine--

"La nuance, pas la couleur,
Seulement la nuance,
. . . .
Tout le reste est litterature."

In connection with Henry James I had often heard the name of W.D. Howells.
I bought some three or four of his novels. I found them pretty, very
pretty, but nothing more,--a sort of Ashby Sterry done into very neat
prose. He is vulgar, is refined as Henry James; he is more domestic; girls
with white dresses and virginal looks, languid mammas, mild witticisms,
here, there, and everywhere; a couple of young men, one a little cynical,
the other a little over-shadowed by his love, a strong, bearded man of
fifty in the background; in a word, a Tom Robertson comedy faintly spiced
with American. Henry James went to France and read Tourgueneff. W.D.
Howells stayed at home and read Henry James. Henry James's mind is of a
higher cast and temper; I have no doubt at one time of his life Henry James
said, I will write the moral history of America, as Tourgueneff wrote the
moral history of Russia--he borrowed at first hand, understanding what he
was borrowing. W.D. Howells borrowed at second hand, and without
understanding what he was borrowing. Altogether Mr. James's instincts are
more scholarly. Although his reserve irritates me, and I often regret his
concessions to the prudery of the age,--no, not of the age but of
librarians,--I cannot but feel that his concessions, for I suppose I must
call them concessions, are to a certain extent self-imposed, regretfully,
perhaps ... somewhat in this fashion--"True, that I live in an age not very
favourable to artistic production, but the art of an age is the spirit of
that age; if I violate the prejudices of the age I shall miss its spirit,
and an art that is not redolent of the spirit of its age is an artificial
flower, perfumeless, or perfumed with the scent of flowers that bloomed
three hundred years ago." Plausible, ingenious, quite in the spirit of Mr.
James's mind; I can almost hear him reason so; nor does the argument
displease me, for it is conceived in a scholarly spirit. Now my conception
of W.D. Howells is quite different--I see him the happy father of a
numerous family; the sun is shining, the girls and boys are playing on the
lawn, they come trooping in to a high tea, and there is dancing in the

My fat landlady lent me a novel by George Meredith,--"Tragic Comedians"; I
was glad to receive it, for my admiration of his poetry, with which I was
slightly acquainted, was very genuine indeed. "Love in a Valley" is a
beautiful poem, and the "Nuptials of Attila," I read it in the _New
Quarterly Review_ years ago, is very present in my mind, and it is a
pleasure to recall its chanting rhythm, and lordly and sombre
refrain--"Make the bed for Attila." I expected, therefore, one of my old
passionate delights from his novels. I was disappointed, painfully
disappointed. But before I say more concerning Mr. Meredith, I will admit
at once frankly and fearlessly, that I am not a competent critic, because
emotionally I do not understand him, and all except an emotional
understanding is worthless in art. I do not make this admission because I
am intimidated by the weight and height of the critical authority with
which I am overshadowed, but from a certain sense, of which I am as
distinctly conscious, viz., that the author is, how shall I put it? the
French would say "quelqu'un," that expresses what I would say in English. I
remember, too, that although a man may be able to understand anything, that
there must be some modes of thoughts and attitudes of mind which we are so
naturally antagonistic to, so entirely out of sympathy with, that we are in
no true sense critics of them. Such are the thoughts that come to me when I
read Mr. George Meredith. I try to console myself with such reflections,
and then I break forth, and crying passionately:--jerks, wire splintered
wood. In Balzac, which I know by heart, in Shakespeare, which I have just
begun to love, I find words deeply impregnated with the savour of life; but
in George Meredith there is nothing but crackjaw sentences, empty and
unpleasant in the mouth as sterile nuts. I could select hundreds of phrases
which Mr. Meredith would probably call epigrams, and I would defy anyone to
say they were wise, graceful or witty. I do not know any book more tedious
than "Tragic Comedians," more pretentious, more blatant; it struts and
screams, stupid in all its gaud and absurdity as a cockatoo. More than
fifty pages I could not read.

How, I asked myself, could the man who wrote the "Nuptials of Attila" write
this? but my soul returned no answer, and I listened as one in a hollow
mountain side. My opinion of George Meredith never ceases to puzzle me. He
is of the north, I am of the south. Carlyle, Mr. Robert Browning, and
George Meredith are the three essentially northern writers; in them there
is nothing of Latin sensuality and subtlety.

I took up "Rhoda Fleming." I found some exquisite bits of description in
it, but I heartily wished them in verse, they were motives for poems; and
there was some wit. I remember a passage very racy indeed, of middle-class
England. Antony, I think is the man's name, describes how he is interrupted
at his tea; a paragraph of seven or ten lines with "I am having my tea, I
am at my tea," running through it for refrain. Then a description of a
lodging-house dinner: "a block of bread on a lonely plate, and potatoes
that looked as if they had committed suicide in their own steam." A little
ponderous and stilted, but undoubtedly witty. I read on until I came to a
young man who fell from his horse, or had been thrown from his horse, I
never knew which, nor did I feel enough interest in the matter to make
research; the young man was put to bed by his mother, and once in bed he
began to talk!... four, five, six, ten pages of talk, and such talk! I can
offer no opinion why Mr. George Meredith committed them to paper; it is not
narrative, it is not witty, nor is it sentimental, nor is it profound. I
read it once; my mind astonished at receiving no sensation cried out like a
child at a milkless breast. I read the pages again ... did I understand?
Yes, I understood every sentence, but they conveyed no idea, they awoke no
emotion in me; it was like sand, arid and uncomfortable. The story is
surprisingly commonplace--the people in it are as lacking in subtlety as
those of a Drury Lane melodrama.

"Diana of the Crossways" I liked better, and had I had absolutely nothing
to do I might have read it to the end. I remember a scene with a rustic--a
rustic who could eat hog a solid hour--that amused me. I remember the
sloppy road in the Weald, and the vague outlines of the South Downs seen in
starlight and mist. But to come to the great question, the test by which
Time will judge us all--the creation of a human being, of a live thing that
we have met with in life before, and meet for the first time in print, and
who abides with us ever after. Into what shadow has not Diana floated?
Where are the magical glimpses of the soul? Do you remember in "Peres et
Enfants," when Tourgueneff is unveiling the woman's, shall I say,
affection, for Bazaroff, or the interest she feels in him? and exposing at
the same time the reasons why she will never marry him.... I wish I had the
book by me, I have not seen it for ten years.

After striving through many pages to put Lucien, whom you would have loved,
whom I would have loved, that divine representation of all that is young
and desirable in man, before the reader, Balzac puts these words in his
mouth in reply to an impatient question by Vautrin, who asks him what he
wants, what he is sighing for, "_D'etre celebre et d'etre
aime_,"--these are soul-waking words, these are Shakespeare words.

Where in "Diana of the Crossways" do we find soul-evoking words like these?
With tiresome repetition we are told that she is beautiful, divine; but I
see her not at all, I don't know if she is dark, tall, or fair; with
tiresome reiteration we are told that she is brilliant, that her
conversation is like a display of fireworks, that the company is dazzled
and overcome; but when she speaks the utterances are grotesque, and I say
that if any one spoke to me in real life as she does in the novel, I should
not doubt for an instant that I was in the company of a lunatic. The
epigrams are never good, they never come within measurable distance of La
Rochefoucauld, Balzac, or even Goncourt. The admirers of Mr. Meredith
constantly deplore their existence, admitting that they destroy all
illusion of life. "When we have translated half of Mr. Meredith's
utterances into possible human speech, then we can enjoy him," says the
_Pall Mall Gazette_. We take our pleasures differently; mine are
spontaneous, and I know nothing about translating the rank smell of a
nettle into the fragrance of a rose, and then enjoying it.

Mr. Meredith's conception of life is crooked, ill-balanced, and out of
tune. What remains?--a certain lustiness. You have seen a big man with
square shoulders and a small head, pushing about in a crowd, he shouts and
works his arms, he seems to be doing a great deal, in reality he is doing
nothing; so Mr. Meredith appears to me, and yet I can only think of him as
an artist; his habit is not slatternly, like those of such literary hodmen
as Mr. David Christie Murray, Mr. Besant, Mr. Buchanan. There is no trace
of the crowd about him. I do not question his right of place, I am out of
sympathy with him, that is all; and I regret that it should be so, for he
is one whose love of art is pure and untainted with commercialism, and if I
may praise it for nought else, I can praise it for this.

I have noticed that if I buy a book because I am advised, or because I
think I ought, my reading is sure to prove sterile. _Il faut que cela,
vient de moi_, as a woman once said to me, speaking of her caprices; a
quotation, a chance word heard in an unexpected quarter. Mr. Hardy and Mr.
Blackmore I read because I had heard that they were distinguished
novelists; neither touched me, I might just as well have bought a daily
paper; neither like nor dislike, a shrug of the shoulders--that is all.
Hardy seems to me to bear about the same relation to George Eliot as Jules
Breton does to Millet--a vulgarisation never offensive, and executed with
ability. The story of an art is always the same,... a succession of
abortive but ever strengthening efforts, a moment of supreme concentration,
a succession of efforts weakening the final extinction. George Eliot
gathered up all previous attempts, and created the English peasant; and
following her peasants there came an endless crowd from Devon, Yorkshire,
and the Midland Counties, and, as they came, they faded into the palest
shadows until at last they appeared in red stockings, high heels and were
lost in the chorus of opera. Mr. Hardy was the first step down. His work is
what dramatic critics would call good, honest, straightforward work. It is
unillumined by a ray of genius, it is slow and somewhat sodden. It reminds
me of an excellent family coach--one of the old sort hung on C springs--a
fat coachman on the box and a footman whose livery was made for his
predecessor. In criticising Mr. Meredith I was out of sympathy with my
author, ill at ease, angry, puzzled; but with Mr. Hardy I am on quite
different terms, I am as familiar with him as with the old pair of trousers
I put on when I sit down to write; I know all about his aims, his methods;
I know what has been done in that line, and what can be done.

I have heard that Mr. Hardy is country bred, but I should not have
discovered this from his writings. They read to me more like a report, yes,
a report,--a conscientious, well-done report, executed by a thoroughly
efficient writer sent down by one of the daily papers. Nowhere do I find
selection, everything is reported, dialogues and descriptions. Take for
instance the long evening talk between the farm people when Oak is seeking
employment. It is not the absolute and literal transcript from nature after
the manner of Henri Monier; for that it is a little too diluted with Mr.
Hardy's brains, the edges are a little sharpened and pointed, I can see
where the author has been at work filing; on the other hand, it is not
synthesized--the magical word which reveals the past, and through which we
divine the future--is not seized and set triumphantly as it is in "Silas
Marner." The descriptions do not flow out of and form part of the
narrative, but are wedged in, and often awkwardly. We are invited to assist
at a sheep-shearing scene, or at a harvest supper, because these scenes are
not to be found in the works of George Eliot, because the reader is
supposed to be interested in such things, because Mr. Hardy is anxious to
show how jolly country he is.

Collegians, when they attempt character-drawing, create monstrosities, but
a practised writer should be able to create men and women capable of moving
through a certain series of situations without shocking in any violent way
the most generally applicable principles of common sense. I say that a
practised writer should be able to do this; that they sometimes do not is a
matter which I will not now go into, suffice it for my purpose if I admit
that Mr. Hardy can do this. In farmer Oak there is nothing to object to;
the conception is logical, the execution is trustworthy; he has legs, arms,
and a heart; but the vital spark that should make him of our flesh and of
our soul is wanting, it is dead water that the sunlight never touches. The
heroine is still more dim, she is stuffy, she is like tow; the rich farmer
is a figure out of any melodrama, Sergeant Troy nearly quickens to life;
now and then the clouds are liquescent, but a real ray of light never

The story-tellers are no doubt right when they insist on the difficulty of
telling a story. A sequence of events--it does not matter how simple or how
complicated--working up to a logical close, or, shall I say, a close in
which there is a sense of rhythm and inevitableness is always indicative of
genius. Shakespeare affords some magnificent examples, likewise Balzac,
likewise George Eliot, likewise Tourgueneff; the "Oedipus" is, of course,
the crowning and final achievement in the music of sequence and the massy
harmonies of fate. But in contemporary English fiction I marvel, and I am
repeatedly struck by the inability of writers, even of the first-class, to
make an organic whole of their stories. Here, I say, the course is clear,
the way is obvious, but no sooner do we enter on the last chapters than the
story begins to show incipient shiftiness, and soon it doubles back and
turns, growing with every turn weaker like a hare before the hounds. From a
certain directness of construction, from the simple means by which Oak's
ruin is accomplished in the opening chapters, I did not expect that the
story would run hare-hearted in its close, but the moment Troy told his
wife that he never cared for her, I suspected something was wrong; when he
went down to bathe and was carried out by the current I knew the game was
up, and was prepared for anything, even for the final shooting by the rich
farmer, and the marriage with Oak, a conclusion which of course does not
come within the range of literary criticism.

"Lorna Doone" struck me as childishly garrulous, stupidly prolix, swollen
with comments not interesting in themselves and leading to nothing. Mr.
Hardy possesses the power of being able to shape events; he can mould them
to a certain form; that he cannot breathe into them the spirit of life I
have already said, but "Lorna Doone" reminds me of a third-rate Italian
opera, _La Fille du Regiment_, or _Ernani_; it is corrupt with
all the vices of the school, and it does not contain a single passage of
real fervour or force to make us forget the inherent defects of the art of
which it is a poor specimen. Wagner made the discovery, not a very
wonderful one after all when we think, that an opera had much better be
melody from end to end. The realistic school following on Wagner's
footsteps discovered that a novel had much better be all narrative--an
uninterrupted flow of narrative. Description is narrative, analysis of
character is narrative, dialogue is narrative; the form is ceaselessly
changing, but the melody of narration is never interrupted.

But the reading of "Lorna Doone" calls to my mind, and very vividly, an
original artistic principle of which English romance writers are either
strangely ignorant or neglectful, viz., that the sublimation of the
_dramatis personae_ and the deeds in which they are involved must
correspond, and their relationship should remain unimpaired. Turner's
"Carthage" is nature transposed and wonderfully modified. Some of the
passages of light and shade there--those of the balustrade--are fugues, and
there his art is allied to Bach in sonority and beautiful combination.
Turner knew that a branch hung across the sun looked at separately was
black, but he painted it light to maintain the equipoise of atmosphere. In
the novel the characters are the voice, the deeds are the orchestra. But
the English novelist takes 'Arry and 'Arriet, and without question allows
them to achieve deeds; nor does he hesitate to pass them into the realms of
the supernatural. Such violation of the first principles of narration is
never to be met with in the elder writers. Achilles stands as tall as Troy,
Merlin is as old and as wise as the world. Rhythm and poetical expression
are essential attributes of dramatic genius, but the original sign of race
and mission is an instinctive modulation of man with the deeds he attempts
or achieves. The man and the deed must be cognate and equal, and the
melodic balance and blending are what first separate Homer and Hugo from
the fabricators of singular adventures. In Scott leather jerkins, swords,
horses, mountains, and castles harmonise completely and fully with food,
fighting, words, and vision of life; the chords are simple as Handel's, but
they are as perfect. Lytton's work, although as vulgar as Verdi's is, in
much the same fashion, sustained by a natural sense of formal harmony; but
all that follows is decadent,--an admixture of romance and realism, the
exaggerations of Hugo and the homeliness of Trollope; a litter of ancient
elements in a state of decomposition.

The spiritual analysis of Balzac equals the triumphant imagination of
Shakespeare, and by different roads they reach the same height of tragic
awe, but when improbability, which in these days does duty for imagination,
is mixed with the familiar aspects of life, the result is inchoate and
rhythmless folly, I mean the regular and inevitable alternation and
combination of pa and ma, and dear Annie who lives at Clapham, with the
Mountains of the Moon, and the secret of eternal life; this violation of
the first principles of art--that is to say, of the rhythm of feeling and
proportion, is not possible in France. I ask the reader to recall what was
said on the subject of the Club, Tavern, and Villa. We have a surplus
population of more than two million women, the tradition that chastity is
woman's only virtue still survives, the Tavern and its adjunct Bohemianism
have been suppressed, and the Villa is omnipotent and omnipresent;
tennis-playing, church on Sundays, and suburban hops engender a craving for
excitement for the far away, for the unknown; but the Villa with its
tennis-playing, church on Sundays, and suburban hops will not surrender its
own existence, it must take a part in the heroic deeds that happen in the
Mountains of the Moon; it will have heroism in its own pint pot. Achilles
and Merlin must be replaced by Uncle Jim and an undergraduate; and so the
Villa is the author of "Rider Haggard," "Hugh Conway," "Robert Buchanan,"
and the author of "The House on the Marsh."

I read two books by Mr. Christie Murray, "Joseph's Coat" and "Rainbow
Gold," and one by Messrs. Besant and Rice,--"The Seamy Side." It is
difficult to criticise such work, there is absolutely nothing to say but
that it is as suited to the mental needs of the Villa as the baker's loaves
and the butcher's rounds of beef are to the physical. I do not think that
any such literature is found in any other country. In France some three or
four men produce works of art, the rest of the fiction of the country is
unknown to men of letters. But "Rainbow Gold," I take the best of the
three, is not bad as a second-rate French novel is bad; it is excellent as
all that is straightforward is excellent; and it is surprising to find that
work can be so good, and at the same time so devoid of artistic charm. That
such a thing should be is one of the miracles of the Villa.

I have heard that Mr. Besant is an artist in the "Chaplain of the Fleet"
and other novels, but this is not possible. The artist shows what he is
going to do the moment he puts pen to paper, or brush to canvas; he
improves on his first attempts, that is all; and I found "The Seamy Side"
so very common, that I cannot believe for a moment that its author or
authors could write a line that would interest me.

Mr. Robert Buchanan is a type of artist that every age produces
unfailingly: Catulle Mendes is his counterpart in France,--but the pallid
Portuguese Jew with his Christ-like face, and his fascinating fervour is
more interesting than the spectacled Scotchman. Both began with volumes of
excellent but characterless verse, and loud outcries about the dignity of
art, and both have--well ... Mr. Robert Buchanan has collaborated with Gus
Harris, and written the programme poetry for the Vaudeville Theatre; he has
written a novel, the less said about which the better--he has attacked men
whose shoestrings he is not fit to tie, and having failed to injure them,
he retracted all he said, and launched forth into slimy benedictions. He
took Fielding's masterpiece, degraded it, and debased it; he wrote to the
papers that Fielding was a genius in spite of his coarseness, thereby
inferring that he was a much greater genius since he had sojourned in this
Scotch house of literary ill-fame. Clarville, the author of "Madame Angot,"
transformed Madame Marneff into a virtuous woman; but he did not write to
the papers to say that Balzac owed him a debt of gratitude on that account.

The star of Miss Braddon has finally set in the obscure regions of
servantgalism; Ouida and Rhoda Broughton continue to rewrite the books they
wrote ten years ago; Mrs. Lynn Linton I have not read. The "Story of an
African Farm" was pressed upon me. I found it sincere and youthful,
disjointed but well-written; descriptions of sand-hills and ostriches
sandwiched with doubts concerning a future state, and convictions regarding
the moral and physical superiority of women: but of art nothing; that is to
say, art as I understand it,--rhythmical sequence of events described with
rhythmical sequence of phrase.

I read the "Story of Elizabeth" by Miss Thackeray. It came upon me with all
the fresh and fair naturalness of a garden full of lilacs and blue sky, and
I thought of Hardy, Blackmore, Murray, and Besant as of great warehouses
where everything might be had, and even if the article required were not in
stock it could be supplied in a few days at latest. The exquisite little
descriptions, full of air, colour, lightness, grace; the French life seen
with such sweet English eyes; the sweet little descriptions all so gently
evocative. "What a tranquil little kitchen it was, with a glimpse of the
courtyard outside, and the cocks and hens, and the poplar trees waving in
the sunshine, and the old woman sitting in her white cap busy at her homely
work." Into many wearisome pages these simple lines have since been
expanded, without affecting the beauty of the original. "Will Dampier
turned his broad back and looked out of the window. There was a moment's
silence. They could hear the tinkling of bells, the whistling of the sea,
the voices of the men calling to each other in the port, the sunshine
streamed in; Elly was standing in it, and seemed gilt with a golden
background. She ought to have held a palm in her hand, poor little martyr!"
There is sweet wisdom in this book, wisdom that is eternal, being simple;
and near may not come the ugliness of positivism, nor the horror of
pessimism, nor the profound greyness of Hegelism, but merely the genial
love and reverence of a beautiful-minded woman.

Such charms as these necessitate certain defects, I should say limitations.
Vital creation of character is not possible to Miss Thackeray, but I do not
rail against beautiful water-colour indications of balconies, vases,
gardens, fields, and harvesters because they have not the fervid glow and
passionate force of Titian's Ariadne; Miss Thackeray cannot give us a
Maggie Tulliver, and all the many profound modulations of that
Beethoven-like countryside: the pine wood and the cripple; this aunt's
linen presses, and that one's economies; the boy going forth to conquer the
world, the girl remaining at home to conquer herself; the mighty river
holding the fate of all, playing and dallying with it for a while, and
bearing it on at last to final and magnificent extinction. That sense of
the inevitable which had the Greek dramatists wholly, which had George
Eliot sufficiently, that rhythmical progression of events, rhythm and
inevitableness (two words for one and the same thing) is not there. Elly's
golden head, the back-ground of austere French Protestants, is sketched
with a flowing water-colour brush, I do not know if it is true, but true or
false in reality, it is true in art. But the jarring dissonance of her
marriage is inadmissible; it cannot be led up to by chords no matter how
ingenious, the passage, the attempts from one key to the other, is
impossible; the true end is the ruin, by death or lingering life, of Elly
and the remorse of the mother.

One of the few writers of fiction who seems to me to possess an ear for the
music of events is Miss Margaret Veley. Her first novel, "For Percival,"
although diffuse, although it occasionally flowed into by-channels and
lingered in stagnating pools, was informed and held together, even at ends
the most twisted and broken, by that sense of rhythmic progression which is
so dear to me, and which was afterwards so splendidly developed in
"Damocles." Pale, painted with grey and opaline tints of morning passes the
grand figure of Rachel Conway, a victim chosen for her beauty, and crowned
with flowers of sacrifice. She has not forgotten the face of the maniac,
and it comes back to her in its awful lines and lights when she finds
herself rich and loved by the man whom she loves. The catastrophe is a
double one. Now she knows she is accursed, and that her duty is to trample
out her love. Unborn generations cry to her. The wrath and the lamentation
of the chorus of the Greek singer, the intoning voices of the next-of-kin,
the pathetic responses of voices far in the depths of ante-natal night,
these the modern novelist, playing on an inferior instrument, may suggest,
but cannot give: but here the suggestion is so perfect that we cease to
yearn for the real music, as, reading from a score, we are satisfied with
the flute and bassoons that play so faultlessly in soundless dots.

There is neither hesitation nor doubt. Rachel Conway puts her dreams away,
she will henceforth walk in a sad and shady path; her interests are centred
in the child of the man she loves, and as she looks for a last time on the
cloud of trees, glorious and waving green in the sunset that encircles her
home, her sorrow swells once again to passion, and, we know, for the last

The mechanical construction of M. Scribe I had learnt from M. Duval; the
naturalistic school had taught me to scorn tricks, and to rely on the
action of the sentiments rather than on extraneous aid for the bringing
about of a _denouement_; and I thought of all this as I read
"Disenchantment" by Miss Mabel Robinson, and it occurred to me that my
knowledge would prove valuable when my turn came to write a novel, for the
_mise en place_, the setting forth of this story, seemed to me so
loose, that much of its strength had dribbled away before it had rightly
begun. But the figure of the Irish politician I accept without reserve. It
seems to me grand and mighty in its sorrowfulness. The tall, dark-eyed,
beautiful Celt, attainted in blood and brain by generations of famine and
drink, alternating with the fervid sensuousness of the girl, her Saxon
sense of right alternating with the Celt's hereditary sense of revenge, his
dreamy patriotism, his facile platitudes, his acceptance of literature as a
sort of bread basket, his knowledge that he is not great nor strong, and
can do nothing in the world but love his country; and as he passes his
thirtieth year the waxing strong of the disease, nervous disease complex
and torturous; to him drink is at once life and death; an article is bread,
and to calm him and collect what remains of weak, scattered thought, he
must drink. The woman cannot understand that caste and race separate them;
and the damp air of spent desire, and the grey and falling leaves of her
illusions fill her life's sky. Nor is there any hope for her until the
husband unties the awful knot by suicide.

I will state frankly that Mr. R.L. Stevenson never wrote a line that failed
to delight me; but he never wrote a book. You arrive at a strangely just
estimate of a writer's worth by the mere question: "What is he the author
of?" for every writer whose work is destined to live is the author of one
book that outshines the other, and, in popular imagination, epitomises his
talent and position. What is Shakespeare the author of? What is Milton the
author of? What is Fielding the author of? What is Byron the author of?
What is Carlyle the author of? What is Thackeray the author of? What is
Zola the author of? What is Mr. Swinburne the author of? Mr. Stevenson is
the author of shall I say, "Treasure Island," or what?

I think of Mr. Stevenson as a consumptive youth weaving garlands of sad
flowers with pale, weak hands, or leaning to a large plate-glass window,
and scratching thereon exquisite profiles with a diamond pencil.

I do not care to speak of great ideas, for I am unable to see how an idea
can exist, at all events can be great out of language; an allusion to Mr.
Stevenson's verbal expression will perhaps make my meaning clear. His
periods are fresh and bright, rhythmical in sound, and perfect realizations
of their sense; in reading you often think that never before was such
definiteness united to such poetry of expression; every page and every
sentence rings of its individuality. Mr. Stevenson's style is over smart,
well-dressed, shall I say, like a young man walking in the Burlington
Arcade? Yes, I will say so, but, I will add, the most gentlemanly young man
that ever walked in the Burlington. Mr. Stevenson is competent to
understand any thought that might be presented to him, but if he were to
use it, it would instantly become neat, sharp, ornamental, light, and
graceful; and it would lose all its original richness and harmony. It is
not Mr. Stevenson's brain that prevents him from being a thinker, but his

Another thing that strikes me in thinking of Stevenson (I pass over his
direct indebtedness to Edgar Poe, and his constant appropriation of his
methods), is the unsuitableness of the special characteristics of his
talent to the age he lives in. He wastes in his limitations, and his talent
is vented in prettinesses of style. In speaking of Mr. Henry James, I said
that, although he had conceded much to the foolish, false, and hypocritical
taste of the time, the concessions he made had in little or nothing
impaired his talent. The very opposite seems to me the case with Mr.
Stevenson. For if any man living in this end of the century needed freedom
of expression for the distinct development of his genius, that man is R.L.
Stevenson. He who runs may read, and he with any knowledge of literature
will, before I have written the words, have imagined Mr. Stevenson writing
in the age of Elizabeth or Anne.

Turn your platitudes prettily, but write no word that could offend the
chaste mind of the young girl who has spent her morning reading the Colin
Campbell divorce case; so says the age we live in. The penny paper that may
be bought everywhere, that is allowed to lie on every table, prints seven
or eight columns of filth, for no reason except that the public likes to
read filth; the poet and novelist must emasculate and destroy their work
because.... Who shall come forward and make answer? Oh, vile, filthy, and
hypocritical century, I at least scorn you.

But this is not a course of literature but the story of the artistic
development of me, Edward Dayne; so I will tarry no longer with mere
criticism, but go direct to the book to which I owe the last temple in my
soul--"Marius the Epicurean." Well I remember when I read the opening
lines, and how they came upon me sweetly as the flowing breath of a bright
spring. I knew that I was awakened a fourth time, that a fourth vision of
life was to be given to me. Shelley had revealed to me the unimagined skies
where the spirit sings of light and grace; Gautier had shown me how
extravagantly beautiful is the visible world and how divine is the rage of
the flesh; and with Balzac I had descended circle by circle into the nether
world of the soul, and watched its afflictions. Then there were minor
awakenings. Zola had enchanted me with decoration and inebriated me with
theory; Flaubert had astonished with the wonderful delicacy and subtlety of
his workmanship; Goncourt's brilliant adjectival effects had captivated me
for a time, but all these impulses were crumbling into dust, these
aspirations were etiolated, sickly as faces grown old in gaslight.

I had not thought of the simple and unaffected joy of the heart of natural
things; the colour of the open air, the many forms of the country, the
birds flying,--that one making for the sea; the abandoned boat, the dwarf
roses and the wild lavender; nor had I thought of the beauty of mildness in
life, and how by a certain avoidance of the wilfully passionate, and the
surely ugly, we may secure an aspect of temporal life which is abiding and
soul-sufficing. A new dawn was in my brain, fresh and fair, full of wide
temples and studious hours, and the lurking fragrance of incense; that such
a vision of life was possible I had no suspicion, and it came upon me
almost with the same strength, almost as intensely, as that divine song of
the flesh,--Mademoiselle de Maupin.

Certainly, in my mind, these books will be always intimately associated;
and when a few adventitious points of difference be forgotten, it is
interesting to note how firm is the alliance, and how cognate and co-equal
the sympathies on which it is based; the same glad worship of the visible
world, and the same incurable belief that the beauty of material things is
sufficient for all the needs of life. Mr. Pater can join hands with Gautier
in saying--_je trouve la terre aussi belle que le ciel, et je pense que
la correction de la forme est la vertu_. And I too join issue; I too
love the great pagan world, its bloodshed, its slaves, its injustice, its
loathing of all that is feeble.

But "Marius the Epicurean" was more to me than a mere emotional influence,
precious and rare though that may be, for this book was the first in
English prose I had come across that procured for me any genuine pleasure
in the language itself, in the combination of words for silver or gold
chime, and unconventional cadence, and for all those lurking half-meanings,
and that evanescent suggestion, like the odour of dead roses, that words
retain to the last of other times and elder usage. Until I read "Marius"
the English language (English prose) was to me what French must be to the
majority of English readers. I read for the sense and that was all; the
language itself seemed to me coarse and plain, and awoke in me neither
aesthetic emotion nor even interest. "Marius" was the stepping-stone that
carried me across the channel into the genius of my own tongue. The
translation was not too abrupt; I found a constant and careful invocation
of meaning that was a little aside of the common comprehension, and also a
sweet depravity of ear for unexpected falls of phrase, and of eye for the
less observed depths of colours, which although new was a sort of sequel to
the education I had chosen, and a continuance of it in foreign, but not
wholly unfamiliar medium, and having saturated myself with Pater, the
passage to De Quincey was easy. He, too, was a Latin in manner and in
temper of mind; but he was truly English, and through him I passed to the
study of the Elizabethan dramatists, the real literature of my race, and
washed myself clean.



Awful Emma has undressed and put the last child away--stowed the last child
away in some mysterious and unapproachable corner that none knows of but
she; the fat landlady has ceased to loiter about my door, has ceased to
pester me with offers of brandy and water, tea and toast, the inducements
that occur to her landlady's mind; the actress from the Savoy has ceased to
walk up and down the street with the young man who accompanied her home
from the theatre; she has ceased to linger on the doorstep talking to him,
her key has grated in the lock, she has come upstairs, we have had our
usual midnight conversation on the landing, she has told me her latest
hopes of obtaining a part, and of the husband whom she was obliged to
leave; we have bid each other good-night, she has gone up the creaky
staircase. I have returned to my room, littered with MS. and queer
publications; the night is hot and heavy, but now a wind is blowing from
the river. I am listless and lonely.... I open a book, the first book that
comes to hand ... it is _Le Journal des Goncourts_, p. 358, the end of
a chapter:--

"_It is really curious that it should be the four men the most free from
all taint of handicraft and all base commercialism, the four pens the most
entirely devoted to art, that were arraigned before the public prosecutor:
Baudelaire, Flaubert, and ourselves._"

Yes it is indeed curious, and I will not spoil the piquancy of the moral by
a comment. No comment would help those to see who have eyes to see, no
comment would give sight to the hopelessly blind. Goncourt's statement is
eloquent and suggestive enough; I leave it a naked simple truth; but I
would put by its side another naked simple truth. This: If in England the
public prosecutor does not seek to override literature, the means of
tyranny are not wanting, whether they be the tittle-tattle of the nursery
or the lady's drawing-room, or the shameless combinations entered into by
librarians.... In England as in France those who loved literature the most
purely, who were the least mercenary in their love, were marked out for
persecution, and all three were driven into exile. Byron, Shelley, and
George Moore; and Swinburne, he, too, who loved literature for its own
sake, was forced, amid cries of indignation and horror, to withdraw his
book from the reach of a public that was rooting then amid the garbage of
the Yelverton divorce case. I think of these facts and think of
Baudelaire's prose poem, that poem in which he tells how a dog will run
away howling if you hold to him a bottle of choice scent, but if you offer
him some putrid morsel picked out of some gutter hole, he will sniff round
it joyfully, and will seek to lick your hand for gratitude. Baudelaire
compared that dog to the public. Baudelaire was wrong: that dog was a ----.

* * * * *

When I read Balzac's stories of Vautrin and Lucien de Rubempre, I often
think of Hadrian and the Antinous. I wonder if Balzac did dream of
transposing the Roman Emperor and his favourite into modern life. It is the
kind of thing that Balzac would think of. No critic has ever noticed this.

* * * * *

Sometimes, at night, when all is still, and I look out on that desolate
river, I think I shall go mad with grief, with wild regret for my beautiful
_appartement_ in _Rue de la Tour des Dames_. How different is the
present to the past! I hate with my whole soul this London lodging, and all
that concerns it--Emma, and eggs and bacon, the fat lascivious landlady and
her lascivious daughter; I am sick of the sentimental actress who lives
upstairs, I swear I will never go out to talk to her on the landing again.
Then there is failure--I can do nothing, nothing; my novel I know is
worthless; my life is a weak leaf, it will flutter out of sight presently.
I am sick of everything; I wish I were back in Paris; I am sick of reading;
I have nothing to read. Flaubert bores me. What nonsense has been talked
about him! Impersonal! Nonsense, he is the most personal writer I know.
That odious pessimism! How sick I am of it, it never ceases, it is lugged
in _a tout dropos_, and the little lyrical phrase with which he winds
up every paragraph, how boring it is. Happily, I have "A Rebours" to read,
that prodigious book, that beautiful mosaic. Huysmans is quite right, ideas
are well enough until you are twenty, afterwards only words are bearable
... a new idea, what can be more insipid--fit for members of parliament....
Shall I go to bed? No.... I wish I had a volume of Verlaine, or something
of Mallarme's to read--Mallarme for preference. I remember Huysmans speaks
of Mallarme in "A Rebours." In hours like these a page of Huysmans is as a
dose of opium, a glass of some exquisite and powerful liqueur.

"The decadence of a literature irreparably attacked in its organism,
weakened by the age of ideas, overworn by the excess of syntax, sensible
only of the curiosity which fevers sick people, but nevertheless hastening
to explain everything in its decline, desirous of repairing all the
omissions of its youth, to bequeath all the most subtle souvenirs of its
suffering on its deathbed, is incarnate in Mallarme in most consummate and
absolute fashion....

"The poem in prose is the form, above all others, they prefer; handled by
an alchemist of genius, it should contain in a state of meat the entire
strength of the novel, the long analysis and the superfluous description of
which it suppresses ... the adjective placed in such an ingenious and
definite way, that it could not be legally dispossessed of its place, would
open up such perspectives, that the reader would dream for whole weeks
together on its meaning at once precise and multiple, affirm the present,
reconstruct the past, divine the future of the souls of the characters
revealed by the light of the unique epithet. The novel thus understood,
thus condensed into one or two pages, would be a communion of thought
between a magical writer and an ideal reader, a spiritual collaboration by
consent between ten superior persons scattered through the universe, a
delectation offered to the most refined, and accessible only to them."

Huysmans goes to my soul like a gold ornament of Byzantine workmanship;
there is in his style the yearning charm of arches, a sense of ritual, the
passion of the mural, of the window. Ah! in this hour of weariness for one
of Mallarme's prose poems! Stay, I remember I have some numbers of _La
Vogue_. One of the numbers contains, I know, "Forgotten Pages;" I will
translate word for word, preserving the very rhythm, one or two of these
miniature marvels of diction:--


"Since Maria left me to go to another star--which? Orion, Altair, or thou,
green Venus? I have always cherished solitude. What long days I have passed
alone with my cat. By alone, I mean without a material being, and my cat is
a mystical companion--a spirit. I can, therefore, say that I have passed
whole days alone with my cat, and, alone with one of the last authors of
the Latin decadence; for since that white creature is no more, strangely
and singularly I have loved all that the word _fall_ expresses. In
such wise that my favourite season of the year is the last weary days of
summer, which immediately precede autumn, and the hour I choose to walk in
is when the sun rests before disappearing, with rays of yellow copper on
the grey walls and red copper on the tiles. In the same way the literature
that my soul demands--a sad voluptuousness--is the dying poetry of the last
moments of Rome, but before it has breathed at all the rejuvenating
approach of the barbarians, or has begun to stammer the infantile Latin of
the first Christian poetry.

"I was reading, therefore, one of those dear poems (whose paint has more
charm for me than the blush of youth), had plunged one hand into the fur of
the pure animal, when a barrel organ sang languidly and melancholy beneath
my window. It played in the great alley of poplars, whose leaves appear to
me yellow, even in the spring-tide, since Maria passed there with the tall
candles for the last time. The instrument is the saddest, yes, truly; the
piano scintillates, the violin opens the torn soul to the light, but the
barrel-organ, in the twilight of remembrance, made me dream despairingly.
Now it murmurs an air joyously vulgar which awakens joy in the heart of the
suburbs, an air old-fashioned and commonplace. Why do its flourishes go to
my soul, and make me weep like a romantic ballad? I listen, imbibing it
slowly, and I do not throw a penny out of the window for fear of moving
from my place, and seeing that the instrument is not singing itself.


"The old Saxony clock, which is slow, and which strikes thirteen amid its
flowers and gods, to whom did it belong? Thinkest that it came from Saxony
by the mail coaches of old time?

"(Singular shadows hang about the worn-out panes.)

"And thy Venetian mirror, deep as a cold fountain in its banks of gilt
work; what is reflected there? Ah! I am sure that more than one woman
bathed there in her beauty's sin; and, perhaps, if I looked long enough, I
should see a naked phantom.

"Wicked one, thou often sayest wicked things.

"(I see the spiders' webs above the lofty windows.)

"Our wardrobe is very old; see how the fire reddens its sad panels! the
weary curtains are as old, and the tapestry on the arm-chairs stripped of
paint, and the old engravings, and all these old things. Does it not seem
to thee that even these blue birds are discoloured by time?

"(Dream not of the spiders' webs that tremble above the lofty windows.)

"Thou lovest all that, and that is why I live by thee. When one of my poems
appeared, didst thou not desire, my sister, whose looks are full of
yesterdays, the words, the grace of faded things? New objects displease
thee; thee also do they frighten with their loud boldness, and thou feelest
as if thou shouldest use them--a difficult thing indeed to do, for thou
hast no taste for action.

"Come, close thy old German almanack that thou readest with attention,
though it appeared more than a hundred years ago, and the Kings it
announces are all dead, and, lying on this antique carpet, my head leaned
upon thy charitable knees, on the pale robe, oh! calm child, I will speak
with thee for hours; there are no fields, and the streets are empty, I will
speak to thee of our furniture.

"Thou art abstracted?

"(The spiders' webs are shivering above the lofty windows.)"

To argue about these forgotten pages would be futile. We, the "ten superior
persons scattered through the universe" think these prose poems the
concrete essence, the osmazome of literature, the essential oil of art,
others, those in the stalls, will judge them to be the aberrations of a
refined mind, distorted with hatred of the commonplace; the pit will
immediately declare them to be nonsense, and will return with satisfaction
to the last leading article in the daily paper.

* * * * *

"_J'ai fait mes adieux a ma mere et je viens pour vous faire les
miens_ and other absurdities by Ponson du Terrail amused us many a year
in France, and in later days similar bad grammar by Georges Ohnet has not
been lost upon us, but neither Ponson du Terrail nor Georges Ohnet sought
literary suffrage, such a thing could not be in France, but in England,
Rider Haggard, whose literary atrocities are more atrocious than his
accounts of slaughter, receives the attention of leading journals and
writes about the revival of Romance. As it is as difficult to write the
worst as the best conceivable sentence, I take this one and place it for
its greater glory in my less remarkable prose:--

"_As we gazed on the beauties thus revealed by Good, a spirit of
emulation filled our breasts, and we set to work to get ourselves up as
well as we could._"

A return to romance! a return to the animal, say I.

* * * * *

One thing that cannot be denied to the realists: a constant and intense
desire to write well, to write artistically. When I think of what they have
done in the matter of the use of words, of the myriad verbal effects they
have discovered, of the thousand forms of composition they have created,
how they have remodelled and refashioned the language in their untiring
striving for intensity of expression for the very osmazome of art, I am
lost in ultimate wonder and admiration. What Hugo did for French verse,
Flaubert, Goncourt, Zola, and Huysmans have done for French prose. No more
literary school than the realists has ever existed, and I do not except
even the Elizabethans. And for this our failures are more interesting than
the vulgar successes of our opponents; for when we fall into the sterile
and distorted, it is through our noble and incurable hatred of the
commonplace of all that is popular.

The healthy school is played out in England; all that could be said has
been said; the successors of Dickens, Thackeray, and George Eliot have no
ideal, and consequently no language; what can be more pudding than the
language of Mr. Hardy, and he is typical of a dozen other writers, Mr.
Besant, Mr. Murray, Mr. Crawford? The reason of this heaviness of thought
and expression is that the avenues are closed, no new subject matter is
introduced, the language of English fiction has therefore run stagnant. But
if the realists should catch favour in England the English tongue may be
saved from dissolution, for with the new subjects they would introduce, new
forms of language would arise.

* * * * *

I wonder why murder is considered less immoral than fornication in

* * * * *

I feel that it is almost impossible for the same ear to seize music so
widely differing as Milton's blank verse and Hugo's alexandrines, and it
seems to me especially strange that critics varying in degree from Matthew
Arnold to the obscure paragraphist, never seem even remotely to suspect,
when they passionately declare that English blank verse is a more perfect
and complete poetic instrument than French alexandrines, that the
imperfections which they aver are inherent in the latter exist only in
their British ears, impervious to a thousand subtleties. Mr. Matthew Arnold
does not hesitate to say that the regular rhyming of the lines is
monotonous. To my ear every line is different; there is as much variation
in Charles V.'s soliloquy as in Hamlet's; but be this as it may, it is not
unworthy of the inmates of Hanwell for critics to inveigh against _la,
rime pleine_, that which is instinctive in the language as accent in
ours, that which is the very genius of the language.

But the principle has been exaggerated, deformed, caricatured until some of
the most modern verse is little more than a series of puns--in art as in
life the charm lies in the unexpected, and it is annoying to know that the
only thought of _every_ poet is to couple _les murs_ with _des
fruits trop murs_, and that no break in the absolute richness of sound
is to be hoped for. Gustave Kahn whose beautiful volume "Les Palais
Nomades" I have read with the keenest delight, was the first to recognise
that an unfailing use of _la rime pleine_ might become cloying and
satiating, and that, by avoiding it sometimes and markedly and maliciously
choosing in preference a simple assonance, new and subtle music might be

"Les Palais Nomades" is a really beautiful book, and it is free from all
the faults that make an absolute and supreme enjoyment of great poetry an
impossibility. For it is in the first place free from those pests and
parasites of artistic work--ideas. Of all literary qualities the creation
of ideas is the most fugitive. Think of the fate of an author who puts
forward a new idea to-morrow in a book, in a play, in a poem. The new idea
is seized upon, it becomes common property, it is dragged through newspaper
articles, magazine articles, through books, it is repeated in clubs,
drawing-rooms; it is bandied about the corners of streets; in a week it is
wearisome, in a month it is an abomination. Who has not felt a sickening
feeling come over him when he hears such phrases as "To be or not to be,
that is the question"? Shakespeare was really great when he wrote "Music to
hear, why hearest thou music sadly?" not when he wrote, "The apparel oft
proclaims the man." Could he be freed from his ideas what a poet we should
have! Therefore, let those who have taken firsts at Oxford devote their
intolerable leisure to preparing an edition from which everything
resembling an idea shall be firmly excluded. We might then shut up our
Marlowes and our Beaumonts and resume our reading of the bard, and these
witless beings would confer happiness on many, and crown themselves with
truly immortal bays. See the fellows! their fingers catch at scanty wisps
of hair, the lamps are burning, the long pens are poised, and idea after
idea is hurled out of existence.

Gustave Kahn took counsel of the past, and he has successfully avoided
everything that even a hostile critic might be tempted to term an idea; for
this I am grateful to him. Nor is his volume a collection of miscellaneous
verses bound together. He has chosen a certain sequence of emotions; the
circumstances out of which these emotions have sprung are given in a short
prose note. "Les Palais Nomades" is therefore a novel in essence;
description and analysis are eliminated, and only the moments when life
grows lyrical with suffering are recorded; recorded in many varying metres
conforming only to the play of the emotion, for, unlike many who, having
once discovered a tune, apply it promiscuously to every subject they treat,
Kahn adapts his melody to the emotion he is giving expression to, with the
same propriety and grace as Nature distributes perfume to her flowers. For
an example of magical transition of tone I turn to _Intermede_.

"Chere apparence viens aux couchants illumines
Veux-tu mieux des matins albes et calmes
Les soirs et les matins ont des calmes rosatres
Les eaux ont des manteaux de cristal irise
Et des rythmes de calmes palmes
Et l'air evoque de calmes musique de patres.

* * * * *

Viens sous des tendelets aux fleuves souriants
Aux lilas palis des nuits d'Orient
Aux glauques etendues a falbalas d'argent
A l'oasis des baisers urgents
Seulement vit le voile aux seuls Orients.

* * * * *

Quel que soit le spectacle et quelle que soit la rame
Et quelle que soit la voix qui s'affame et brame,
L'oublie du lointain des jours chatouille et serre,
Le lotos de l'oubli s'est fane dans mes serres,

Cependant tu m'aimais a jamais?
Adieu pour jamais."

The repetitions of Edgar Poe seem hard and mechanical after this, so
exquisite and evanescent is the rhythm, and the intonations come as sweetly
and suddenly as a gust of perfume; it is as the vibration of a fairy
orchestra, flute and violin disappearing in a silver mist; but the clouds
break, and all the enchantment of a spring garden appears in a shaft of
sudden sunlight.

"L'ephemere idole, au frisson du printemps,
Sentant des renouveaux eclore,
Le guepa de satins si lointains et d'antan
Rose exiles des flores!

"Le jardin rima ses branches de lilas;
Aux murs, les roses tremieres;
La terre etala, pour feter les las,
Des divans vert lumiere;

"Des rires ailes peuplerent le jardin;
Souriants des caresses breves,
Des oiseaux joyeux, jaunes, incarnadins
Vibrerent aux ciels de reve."

But to the devil with literature, I am sick of it; who the deuce cares if
Gustave Kahn writes well or badly. Yesterday I met a chappie whose views of
life coincide with mine. "A ripping good dinner," he says; "get a skinful
of champagne inside you, go to bed when it is light, and get up when you
are rested." This seems to me as concise as it is admirable; indeed there
is little to add to it ... a note or two concerning women might come in,
but I don't know, "a skinful of champagne" implies everything.

Each century has its special ideal, the ideal of the nineteenth is a young
man. The seventeenth century is only woman--see the tapestries, the
delightful goddesses who have discarded their hoops and heels to appear in
still more delightful nakedness, the noble woods, the tall castles, with
the hunters looking round; no servile archaeology chills the fancy, it is
but a delightful whim; and this treatment of antiquity is the highest proof
of the genius of the seventeenth century. See the Fragonards--the ladies in
high-peaked bodices, their little ankles showing amid the snow of the
petticoats. Up they go; you can almost hear their light false voices into
the summer of the leaves, where Loves are garlanded even as of roses. Masks
and arrows are everywhere, all the machinery of light and gracious days. In
the Watteaus the note is more pensive; there is satin and sunset, plausive
gestures and reluctance--false reluctance; the guitar is tinkling, and
exquisite are the notes in the languid evening; and there is the Pierrot,
that marvellous white animal, sensual and witty and glad, the soul of the
century--ankles and epigrams everywhere, for love was not then sentimental,
it was false and a little cruel; see the furniture and the polished floor,
and the tapestries with whose delicate tints and decorations the high hair
blends, the footstool and the heel and the calf of the leg that is
withdrawn, showing in the shadows of the lace; look at the satin of the
bodices, the fan outspread, the wigs so adorably false, the knee-breeches,
the buckles on the shoes, how false; adorable little comedy, adorably
mendacious; and how sweet it is to feast on these sweet lies, it is a
divine delight to us, wearied with the hideous sincerity of newspapers.
Then it was the man who knelt at the woman's feet, it was the man who
pleaded and the woman who acceded; but in our century the place of the man
is changed, it is he who holds the fan, it is he who is besought; and if
one were to dream of continuing the tradition of Watteau and Fragonard in
the nineteenth century, he would have to take note of and meditate deeply
and profoundly on this, as he sought to formulate and synthesize the erotic
spirit of our age.

The position of a young man in the nineteenth century is the most enviable
that has ever fallen to the lot of any human creature. He is the rare bird,
and is feted, flattered, adored. The sweetest words are addressed to him,
the most loving looks are poured upon him. The young man can do no wrong.
Every house is open to him, and the best of everything is laid before him;
girls dispute the right to serve him; they come to him with cake and wine,
they sit circle-wise and listen to him, and when one is fortunate to get
him alone she will hang round his neck, she will propose to him, and will
take his refusal kindly and without resentment. They will not let him stoop
to tie up his shoe lace, but will rush and simultaneously claim the right
to attend on him. To represent in a novel a girl proposing marriage to a
man would be deemed unnatural, but nothing is more common; there are few
young men who have not received at least a dozen offers, nay, more; it is
characteristic, it has become instinctive for girls to choose, and they
prefer men not to make love to them; and every young man who knows his
business avoids making advances, knowing well that it will only put the
girl off.

In a society so constituted, what a delightful opening there is for a young
man. He would have to waltz perfectly, play tennis fairly, the latest novel
would suffice for literary attainments; billiards, shooting, and hunting,
would not come in amiss, for he must not be considered a useless being by
men; not that women are much influenced by the opinion of men in their
choice of favourites, but the reflex action of the heart, although not so
marked as that of the stomach, exists and must be kept in view, besides a
man who would succeed with women, must succeed with men; the real Lovelace
is loved by all. Like gravitation, love draws all things. Our young man
would have to be five feet eleven, or six feet, broad shoulders, light
brown hair, deep eyes, soft and suggestive, broad shoulders, a thin neck,
long delicate hands, a high instep. His nose should be straight, his face
oval and small, he must be clean about the hips, and his movements must be
naturally caressing. He comes into the ball-room, his shoulders well back,
he stretches his hand to the hostess, he looks at her earnestly (it is
characteristic of him to think of the hostess first, he is in her house,
the house is well-furnished, and is suggestive of excellent meats and
wines). He can read through the slim woman whose black hair, a-glitter with
diamonds, contrasts with her white satin; an old man is talking to her, she
dances with him, and she refused a young man a moment before. This is a bad
sign; our Lovelace knows it; there is a stout woman of thirty-five, who is
looking at him, red satin bodice, doubtful taste. He looks away; a little
blonde woman fixes her eyes on him, she looks as innocent as a child;
instinctively our Lovelace turns to his host. "Who is that little blonde
woman over there, the right hand corner?" he asks. "Ah, that is Lady ----."
"Will you introduce me?" "Certainly." Lovelace has made up his mind. Then
there is a young oldish girl, richly dressed; "I hear her people have a
nice house in a hunting country, I will dance with her, and take the mother
into supper, and, if I can get a moment, will have a pleasant talk with the
father in the evening."

In manner Lovelace is facile and easy; he never says no, it is always yes,
ask him what you will; but he only does what he has made up his mind it is
his advantage to do. Apparently he is an embodiment of all that is
unselfish, for he knows that after he has helped himself, it is advisable
to help some one else, and thereby make a friend who, on a future occasion,
will be useful to him. Put a violinist into a room filled with violins, and
he will try every one. Lovelace will put each woman aside so quietly that
she is often only half aware that she has been put aside. Her life is
broken; she is content that it should be broken. The real genius for love
lies not in getting into, but getting out of love.

* * * * *

I have noticed that there are times when every second woman likes you. Is
love, then, a magnetism which we sometimes possess and exercise
unconsciously, and sometimes do not possess?


And now, hypocritical reader, I will answer the questions which have been
agitating you this long while, which you have asked at every stage of this
long narrative of a sinful life. Shake not your head, lift not your finger,
exquisitely hypocritical reader; you can deceive me in nothing. I know the
baseness and unworthiness of your soul as I know the baseness and
unworthiness of my own. This is a magical _tete-a-tete_, such a one as
will never happen in your life again; therefore I say let us put off all
customary disguise, let us be frank: you have been angrily asking,
exquisitely hypocritical reader, why you have been _forced_ to read
this record of sinful life; in your exquisite hypocrisy, you have said over
and over again what good purpose can it serve for a man to tell us of his
unworthiness unless, indeed, it is to show us how he may rise, as if on
stepping stones of his dead self, to higher things, etc. You sighed, O
hypocritical friend, and you threw the magazine on the wicker table, where
such things lie, and you murmured something about leaving the world a
little better than you found it, and you went down to dinner and lost
consciousness of the world in the animal enjoyment of your stomach. I hold
out my hand to you, I embrace you, you are my brother, and I say, undeceive
yourself, you will leave the world no better than you found it. The pig
that is being slaughtered as I write this line will leave the world better
than it found it, but you will leave only a putrid carcase fit for nothing
but the grave. Look back upon your life, examine it, probe it, weigh it,
philosophise on it, and then say, if you dare, that it has not been a very
futile and foolish affair. Soldier, robber, priest, Atheist, courtesan,
virgin, I care not what you are, if you have not brought children into the
world to suffer your life has been as vain and as harmless as mine has
been. I hold out my hand to you, we are brothers; but in my heart of hearts
I think myself a cut above you, because I do not believe in leaving the
world better than I found it; and you, exquisitely hypocritical reader,
think that you are a cut above me because you say you would leave the world
better than you found it. The one eternal and immutable delight of life is
to think, for one reason or another, that we are better than our
neighbours. This is why I wrote this book, and this is why it is affording
you so much pleasure, O exquisitely hypocritical reader, my friend, my
brother, because it helps you to the belief that you are not so bad after
all. Now to resume.

The knell of my thirtieth year has sounded, in three or four years my youth
will be as a faint haze on the sea, an illusive recollection; so now while
standing on the last verge of the hill, I will look back on the valley I
lingered in. Do I regret? I neither repent nor do I regret; and a fool and
a weakling I should he if I did. I know the worth and the rarity of more
than fifteen years of systematic enjoyment. Nature provided me with as
perfect a digestive apparatus, mental and physical, as she ever turned out
of her workshop; my stomach and brain are set in the most perfect equipoise
possible to conceive, and up and down they went and still go with measured
movement, absorbing and assimilating all that is poured into them without
friction or stoppage. This book is a record of my mental digestions; but it
would take another series of confessions to tell of the dinners I have
eaten, the champagne I have drunk! and the suppers! seven dozen of oysters,
pate-de-foie-gras, heaps of truffles, salad, and then a walk home in the
early morning, a few philosophical reflections suggested by the appearance
of a belated street-sweeper, then sleep, quiet and gentle sleep.

I have had the rarest and most delightful friends. Ah, how I have loved my
friends; the rarest wits of my generation were my boon companions;
everything conspired to enable me to gratify my body and my brain; and do
you think this would have been so if I had been a good man? If you do you
are a fool, good intentions and bald greed go to the wall, but subtle
selfishness with a dash of unscrupulousness pulls more plums out of life's
pie than the seven deadly virtues. If you are a good man you want a bad one
to convert; if you are a bad man you want a bad one to go out on the spree
with. And you, my dear, my exquisite reader, place your hand upon your
heart, tell the truth, remember this is a magical _tete-a-tete_ which
will happen never again in your life, admit that you feel just a little
interested in my wickedness, admit that if you ever thought you would like
to know me that it is because I know a good deal that you probably don't;
admit that your mouth waters when you think of rich and various pleasures
that fell to my share in happy, delightful Paris; admit that if this book
had been an account of the pious books I had read, the churches I had been
to, and the good works I had done, that you would not have bought it or
borrowed it. Hypocritical reader, think, had you had courage, health, and
money to lead a fast life, would you not have done so? You don't know, no
more do I; I have done so, and I regret nothing except that some infernal
farmers and miners will not pay me what they owe me and enable me to
continue the life that was once mine, and of which I was so bright an
ornament. How I hate this atrocious Strand lodging-house, how I long for my
apartment in _Rue de la Tour des Dames_, with all its charming
adjuncts, palms and pastels, my cat, my python, my friends, blond hair and

It was not long before I wearied of journalism; the daily article soon
grows monotonous, even when you know it will be printed, and this I did not
know; my prose was very faulty, and my ideas were unsettled, I could not go
to the tap and draw them off, the liquor was still fermenting; and partly
because my articles were not very easily disposed of, and partly because I
was weary of writing on different subjects, I turned my attention to short
stories. I wrote a dozen with a view to preparing myself for a long novel.
Some were printed in weekly newspapers, others were returned to me from the
magazines. But there was a publisher in the neighbourhood of the Strand,
who used to frequent a certain bar. I saw the chance, and I seized it. This
worthy man conducted his business as he dressed himself, sloppily; a dear
kind soul, quite witless and quite _h_-less. From long habit he would
make a feeble attempt to drive a bargain, but he generally let himself in:
he was, in a word, a literary stepping-stone. Hundreds had made use of him.
If a fashionable author asked two hundred pounds for a book out of which he
would be certain to make three, it was ten to one that he would allow the
chance to drift away from him; but after having refused a dozen times the
work of a Strand loafer whom he was in the habit of "treating," he would
say, "Send it in, my boy, send it in, I'll see what can be done with it."
There was a long counter, and the way to be published by Mr. B. was to
straddle on the counter and play with a black cat. There was an Irishman
behind this counter who, for three pounds a week, edited the magazine, read
the MS., looked after the printer and binder, kept the accounts when he had
a spare moment, and entertained the visitors. I did not trouble Messrs.
Macmillan and Messrs. Longman with polite requests to look at my MS., but
straddled on the counter, played with the cat, joked with the Irishman, was
treated by Mr. B., and in the natural order of things my stories went into
the magazine, and were paid for. Strange were the ways of this office;
Shakespeare might have sent in prose and poetry, but he would have gone
into the wastepaper basket had he not previously straddled. For those who
were in the swim this was a matter of congratulation; straddling, we would
cry, "We want no blooming outsiders coming along interfering with our
magazine. And you, Smith, you devil, you had a twenty-page story in last
month and cut me out. O'Flanagan, do you mind if I send you in a couple of
poems as well as my regular stuff, that will make it all square?" "I'll try
to manage it; here's the governor." And looking exactly like the
unfortunate Mr. Sedley, Mr. B. used to slouch along, and he would fall into
his leather armchair, the one in which he wrote the cheques. The last time
I saw that chair it was standing in the street, alas! in the hands of the

But conservative though we were in matters concerning "copy," though all
means were taken to protect ourselves against interlopers, one who had not
passed the preliminary stage of straddling would occasionally slip through
our defences. I remember one especially. It was a hot summer's day, we were
all on the counter, our legs swinging, when an enormous young man entered.
He must have been six feet three in height. He was shown into Mr. B.'s
room, he asked him to read a MS., and he fled, looking very frightened.
"Wastepaper basket, wastepaper basket," we shouted when Mr. B. handed us
the roll of paper. "What an odd-looking fish he is!" said O'Flanagan; "I
wonder what his MS. is like." We remonstrated in vain, O'Flanagan took the
MS. home to read, and returned next morning convinced that he had
discovered an embryo Dickens. The young man was asked to call, his book was
accepted, and we adjourned to the bar.

A few weeks afterwards this young man took rooms in the house next to me on
the ground floor. He was terribly inflated with his success, and was
clearly determined to take London by storm. He had been to Oxford, and to
Heidelberg, he drank beer and smoked long pipes, he talked of nothing else.
Soon, very soon, I grew conscious that he thought me a simpleton; he
pooh-poohed my belief in Naturalism and declined to discuss the symbolist
question. He curled his long legs upon the rickety sofa and spoke of the
British public as the "B.P.," and of the magazine as the "mag." There were
generally tea-things and jam-pots on the table. In a little while he
brought a little creature about five feet three to live with him, and when
the little creature and the long creature went out together, it was like
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza setting forth in quest of adventures in the
land of Strand. The little creature indulged in none of the loud, rasping
affectation of humour that was so maddening in the long creature; the
little creature was dry, hard, and sterile, and when he did join in the
conversation it was like an empty nut between the teeth--dusty and bitter.
He was supposed to be going in for the law, but the part of him to which he
drew our attention was his knowledge of the Elizabethan dramatists. He kept
a pocket-book, in which he held an account of his reading. Holding the
pocket-book between finger and thumb, he would say, "Last year I read ten
plays by Nash, twelve by Peele, six by Greene, fifteen by Beaumont and
Fletcher, and eleven anonymous plays,--fifty-four in all." He neither
praised nor blamed, he neither extolled nor criticised; he told you what he
had read, and left you to draw your own conclusions.

What the little creature thought of the long creature I never discovered,
but with every new hour I became freshly sensible that they held me in
still decreasing estimation. This, I remember, was wildly irritating to me.
I knew myself infinitely superior to them; I knew the long creature's novel
was worthless; I knew that I had fifty books in me immeasurably better than
it, and savagely and sullenly I desired to trample upon them, to rub their
noses in their feebleness; but oh, it was I who was feeble! and full of
visions of a wider world I raged up and down the cold walls of impassable
mental limitations. Above me there was a barred window, and, but for my
manacles, I would have sprung at it and torn it with my teeth. Then passion
was so strong in me that I could scarce refrain from jumping off the
counter, stamping my feet, and slapping my friends in the face, so tepid
were their enthusiasms, so thin did their understanding appear to me. The
Straddlers seemed inclined for a moment to take the long creature very
seriously, and in the office which I had marked down for my own I saw him
installed as a genius.

Fortunately for my life and my sanity, my interests were, about this time,
attracted into other ways--ways that led into London life, and were
suitable for me to tread. In a restaurant where low-necked dresses and
evening clothes crushed with loud exclamations, where there was ever an
odour of cigarette and brandy and soda, I was introduced to a Jew of whom I
had heard much, a man who had newspapers and race horses. The bright witty
glances of his brown eyes at once prejudiced me in his favour, and it was
not long before I knew that I had found another friend. His house was what
was wanted, for it was so trenchant in character, so different to all I
knew of, that I was forced to accept it, without likening it to any French
memory and thereby weakening the impression. It was a house of champagne,
late hours, and evening clothes, of literature and art, of passionate
discussions. So this house was not so alien to me as all else I had seen in
London; and perhaps the cosmopolitanism of this charming Jew, his
Hellenism, in fact, was a sort of plank whereon I might pass and enter
again into English life. I found in Curzon Street another "Nouvelle
Athenes," a Bohemianism of titles that went back to the Conquest, a
Bohemianism of the ten sovereigns always jingling in the trousers pocket,
of scrupulous cleanliness, of hansom cabs, of ladies' pet names; of
triumphant champagne, of debts, gaslight, supper-parties, morning light,
coaching; a fabulous Bohemianism; a Bohemianism of eternal hardupishness
and eternal squandering of money,---money that rose at no discoverable
well-head and flowed into a sea of boudoirs and restaurants, a sort of
whirlpool of sovereigns in which we were caught, and sent eddying through
music halls, bright shoulders, tresses of hair, and slang; and I joined in
the adorable game of Bohemianism that was played round and about Piccadilly
Circus, with Curzon Street for a magnificent rallying point.

After dinner a general "clear" was made in the direction of halls and
theatres, a few friends would drop in about twelve, and continue their
drinking till three or four; but Saturday night was gala night--at
half-past eleven the lords drove up in their hansoms, then a genius or two
would arrive, and supper and singing went merrily until the chimney sweeps
began to go by, and we took chairs and bottles into the street and entered
into discussion with the policeman. Twelve hours later we struggled out of
our beds, and to the sound of church bells we commenced writing. The paper
appeared on Tuesday. Our host sat in a small room off the dining-room from
which he occasionally emerged to stimulate our lagging pens.

But I could not learn to see life paragraphically. I longed to give a
personal shape to something, and personal shape could not be achieved in a
paragraph nor in an article. True it is that I longed for art, but I longed
also for fame, or was it notoriety? Both. I longed for fame, fame, brutal
and glaring, fame that leans to notoriety. Out with you, liars that you
are, tell the truth, say you would sell the souls you don't believe in, or
do believe in, for notoriety. I have known you attend funerals for the sake
of seeing your miserable names in the paper. You, hypocritical reader, who
are now turning up your eyes and murmuring "horrid young man"--examine your
weakly heart, and see what divides us; I am not ashamed of my appetites, I
proclaim them, what is more I gratify them; you're silent, you refrain, and
you dress up natural sins in hideous garments of shame, you would sell your
wretched soul for what I would not give the parings of my finger-nails
for--paragraphs in a society paper. I am ashamed of nothing I have done,
especially my sins, and I boldly confess that I then desired notoriety. I
walked along the streets mad; I turned upon myself like a tiger. "Am I
going to fail again as I have failed before?" I asked myself. "Will my
novel prove as abortive as my paintings, my poetry, my journalism?" I
looked back upon my life,--mediocrity was branded about my life. "Would it
be the same to the end?" I asked myself a thousand times by day, and a
thousand times by night. We all want notoriety, our desire for notoriety is
hideous if you will, but it is less hideous when it is proclaimed from a
brazen tongue than when it hides its head in the cant of human
humanitarianism. Humanity be hanged! Self, and after self a friend; the
rest may go to the devil; and be sure that when any man is more stupidly
vain and outrageously egotistic than his fellows, he will hide his
hideousness in humanitarianism. Victor Hugo was hideous with self, and the
innermost stench of the humanitarianism he vented about him is unbearable
to any stomach, not excepting even Mr. Swinburne's, who occasionally holds
his nose with one hand while he waves the censer with the other. Humanity
be hanged! Men of inferior genius, Victor Hugo and Mr. Gladstone, take
refuge in it. Humanity is a pigsty, where liars, hypocrites, and the
obscene in spirit congregate; it has been so since the great Jew conceived
it, and it will be so till the end. Far better the blithe modern pagan in
his white tie and evening clothes, and his facile philosophy. He says, "I
don't care how the poor live; my only regret is that they live at all;" and
he gives the beggar a shilling.

We all want notoriety; our desires on this point, as upon others, are not
noble, but the human is very despicable vermin and only tolerable when it
tends to the brute, and away from the evangelical. I will tell you an
anecdote which is in itself an admirable illustration of my craving for
notoriety; and my anecdote will serve a double purpose,--it will bring me
some of the notoriety of which I am so desirous, for you, dear, exquisitely
hypocritical reader, will at once cry, "Shame! Could a man be so wicked as
to attempt to force on a duel, so that he might make himself known through
the medium of a legal murder?" You will tell your friends of this horribly
unprincipled young man, and they will, of course, instantly want to know
more about him.

It was a gala night in Curzon Street, the lords were driving up in hansoms;
shouts and oaths; some seated on the roofs with their legs swinging inside;
the comics had arrived from the halls; there were ladies, many ladies;
choruses were going merrily in the drawing-room; one man was attempting to
kick the chandelier, another stood on his head on the sofa. There was a
beautiful young lord there, that sort of figure that no woman can resist.
There was a delightful chappie who seemed inclined to empty the mustard-pot
down my neck; him I could keep in order, but the beautiful lord I saw was
attempting to make a butt of me. With his impertinences I did not for a
moment intend to put up; I did not know him, he was not then, as he is now,
if he will allow me to say so, a friend. About three or half-past the
ladies retired, and the festivities continued with unabated vigour. We had
passed through various stages, not of intoxication, no one was drunk, but
of jubilation; we had been jocose and rowdy, we had told stories of all
kinds. The young lord and I did not "pull well together," but nothing
decidedly unpleasant occurred until someone proposed to drink to the
downfall of Gladstone. The beautiful lord got on his legs and began a
speech. Politically it was sound enough, but much of it was plainly
intended to turn me into ridicule. I answered sharply, working gradually up
crescendo, until at last, to bring matters to a head, I said,

"I don't agree with you; the Land Act of '81 was a necessity."

"Anyone who thinks so must be a fool."

"Very possibly, but I don't allow people to address such language to me,
and you must be aware that to call anyone a fool, sitting with you at table
in the house of a friend, is the act of a cad."

There was a lull, then a moment after he said,

"I only meant politically."

"And I only meant socially."

He advanced a step or two and struck me across the face with his finger
tips; I took up a champagne bottle, and struck him across the head and
shoulders. Different parties of revellers kept us apart, and we walked up
and down on either side of the table swearing at each other. Although I was
very wrath, I had had a certain consciousness from the first that if I
played my cards well I might come very well out of the quarrel; and as I
walked down the street I determined to make every effort to force on a
meeting. If the quarrel had been with one of the music hall singers I
should have backed out of it, but I had everything to gain by pressing it.
I grasped the situation at once. All the Liberal press would be on my side,
the Conservative press would have nothing to say against me, no woman in it
and a duel with a lord in it would be carrion for the society papers. But
the danger? To the fear of death I do not think I was ever susceptible. I
should have been afraid of a row with a music hall singer, because I should
have had much to lose by rowing with him, but as matters stood I had too
much to gain to consider the possibilities of danger. Besides there was no
need to consider. I knew very well there was no reality in it. I had broken
sixteen plates consecutively at the order to fire dozens of times; and yet
it was three to one against my shooting a man at twenty paces; so it was
ten thousand to one against a man, who had probably only fired off a
revolver half-a-dozen times in a back yard, hitting me. In the gallery you
are firing at white on black, on the ground you are firing at black upon a
neutral tint, a very different matter. In the gallery there is nothing to
disturb you; there is not a man opposite you with a pistol in his hand. In
the gallery you are calm and collected, you have risen at your ordinary
hour, you are returning from a stroll through the sunlight; on the ground
your nerves are altered by unusual rising, by cold air, by long
expectation. It was three to one against my killing him, it was a hundred
to one against his killing me. So I calculated the chances, so much as I
took the trouble to calculate the chances, but in truth I thought very
little of them; when I want to do anything I do not fear anything, and I
sincerely wanted to shoot this young man. I did not go to bed at once, but
sat in the armchair thinking. Presently a cab came rattling up to the door,
and one of the revellers came upstairs. He told me that everything had been
arranged; I told him that I was not in the habit of allowing others to
arrange my affairs for me, and went to bed. One thing, and only one thing
puzzled me, who was I to ask to be my second? My old friends were
scattered, they had disappeared; and among my new acquaintances I could not
think of one that would do. None of the Straddlers would do, that was
certain; I wanted some one that could be depended upon, and whose social
position was above question. Among my old friends I could think of some
half-dozen that would suit me perfectly, but where were they? Ten years'
absence scatters friends as October scatters swallows. At last my thoughts
fixed themselves on one man. I took a hansom and drove to his house. I
found him packing up, preparing to go abroad. This was not fortunate. I
took a seat on the edge of the dining-room table, and told him I wanted him
to act for me in an affair of honour. I told him the story in outline. "I
suppose," he said, "it was about one or two in the morning?"

"Later than that," I said; "it was about seven."

"My dear fellow, he struck you, and not very hard, I should imagine; you
hit him with a champagne bottle, and now you want to have him out. I don't
mind acting as intermediary, and settling the affair for you; he will no
doubt regret he struck you, and you will regret you struck him; but really
I cannot act for you, that is to say, if you are determined to force on a
meeting. Just think; supposing you were to shoot him, a man who has really
done you no wrong."

"My dear ----, I did not come here to listen to moral reflections; if you
don't like to act for me, say so."

I telegraphed to Warwickshire to an old friend:--"Can I count on you to act
for me in an affair of honour?" Two or three hours after the reply came.
"Come down here and stay with me for a few days, we'll talk it over." I
ground my teeth; what was to be done? I must wire to Marshall and ask him
to come over; English people evidently will have nothing to do with serious
duelling. "Of all importance. Come over at once and act for me in an affair
of honour. Bring the count with you; leave him at Boulogne; he knows the
colonel of the ----." The next day I received the following: "Am burying my
father; so soon as he is underground will come." Was there ever such
luck?... He won't be here before the end of the week. These things demand
the utmost promptitude. Three or four days afterwards dreadful Emma told me
a gentleman was upstairs taking a bath. "Holloa, Marshall, how are you? Had
a good crossing? Awful good of you to come.... The poor old gentleman went
off quite suddenly, I suppose?"

"Yes; found dead in his bed. He must have known he was dying, for he lay
quite straight as the dead lie, his hands by his side ... wonderful
presence of mind."

"He left no money?"

"Not a penny; but I could manage it all right. Since my success at the
Salon, I have been able to sell my things. I am only beginning to find out
now what a success that picture was. _Je t'assure, je fais

"_Tu crois ca ... on fait l'ecole apres vingt ans de travail._"

"_Mon ami, je t'assure, j'ai un public qui me suit._"

"_Mon ami, veux-tu que je te dis ce que tu a fait; tu a fait encore une
vulgarization, une jolie vulgarization, je veux bien, de la note inventee
par Millet; tu a ajoute la note claire inventee par Manet, enfin tu suis
avec talent le mouvement moderne, voila tout._"

"_Parlons d'autre chose: sur la question d'art on ne s'entend jamais._"

When we were excited Marshall and I always dropped into French.

"And now tell me," he said, "about this duel."

I could not bring myself to admit, even to Marshall, that I was willing to
shoot a man for the sake of the notoriety it would bring me, not because I
feared in him any revolt of conscience, but because I dreaded his sneers;
he was known to all Paris, I was an obscure something, living in an obscure
lodging in London. Had Marshall suspected the truth he would have said
pityingly, "My dear Dayne, how can you be so foolish? why will you not be
contented to live?" etc.... Such homilies would have been maddening; he was
successful, I was not; I knew there was not much in him, _un feu de
paille_, no more, but what would I not have done and given for that
_feu de paille_? So I was obliged to conceal my real motives for
desiring a duel, and I spoke strenuously of the gravity of the insult and
the necessity of retribution. But Marshall was obdurate. "Insult?" he said.
"He hit you with his hand, you hit him with the champagne bottle; you can't
have him out after that, there is nothing to avenge, you wiped out the
insult yourself; if you had not struck him with the champagne bottle the
case would be different."

We went out to dine, we went to the theatre, and after the theatre we went
home and aestheticised till three in the morning. I spoke no more of the
duel, I was sick of it; luck, I saw, was against me, and I let Marshall
have his way. He showed his usual tact, a letter was drawn up in which my
friend withdrew the blow of his hand, I withdrew the blow of the bottle,
and the letter was signed by Marshall and two other gentlemen.

Hypocritical reader, you draw your purity garments round you, you say, "How
very base;" but I say unto you remember how often you have longed, if you
are a soldier in her Majesty's army, for war,--war that would bring every
form of sorrow to a million fellow-creatures, and you longed for all this
to happen, because it might bring your name into the _Gazette_.
Hypocritical reader, think not too hardly of me; hypocritical reader, think
what you like of me, your hypocrisy will alter nothing; in telling you of
my vices I am only telling you of your own; hypocritical reader, in showing
you my soul I am showing you your own; hypocritical reader, exquisitely
hypocritical reader, you are my brother, I salute you.

Day passed over day: I lived in that horrible lodging; I continued to
labour at my novel; it seemed an impossible task--defeat glared at me from
every corner of that frouzy room. My English was so bad, so thin,--stupid
colloquialisms out of joint with French idiom. I learnt unusual words and
stuck them up here and there; they did not mend the style. Self-reliance
had been lost in past failures; I was weighed down on every side, but I
struggled to bring the book somehow to a close. Nothing mattered to me, but
this one thing. To put an end to the landlady's cheating, and to bind
myself to remain at home, I entered into an arrangement with her that she
was to supply me with board and lodgings for three pounds a week, and
henceforth resisting all Curzon Street temptations, I trudge home through
November fogs, to eat a chop in a frouzy lodging-house. I studied the
horrible servant as one might an insect under a microscope. "What an
admirable book she would make, but what will the end be? if I only knew the
end!" I had more and more difficulty in keeping the fat landlady at arm's
length, and the nasty child was well beaten one day for lingering about my
door. I saw poor Miss L. nightly, on the stairs of this infamous house, and
I never wearied of talking to her of her hopes and ambitions, of the young
man she admired. She used to ask me about my novel.

Poor Miss L.! Where is she? I do not know, but I shall not forget the time
when I used to listen for her footstep on the midnight stairs. Often I was
too despondent, when my troubles lay too heavily and darkly upon me, I let
her go up to her garret without a word. Despondent days and nights when I
cried, Shall I never pass from this lodging? shall I never be a light in
that London, long, low, misshapen, that dark monumental stream flowing
through the lean bridges; and what if I were a light in this umber-coloured
mass,--shadows falling, barges moored midway in a monumental stream?
Happiness abides only in the natural affections--in a home and a sweet
wife. Would she whom I saw to-night marry me? How sweet she was in her
simple naturalness, the joys she has known have been slight and pure, not
violent and complex as mine. Ah, she is not for me, I am not fit for her, I
am too sullied for her lips.... Were I to win her could I be dutiful,

"Young men, young men whom I love, dear ones who have rejoiced with me, not
the least of our pleasures is the virtuous woman; after excesses there is
reaction, all things are good in nature, and they are foolish young men who
think that sin alone should be sought for. The feast is over for me, I have
eaten and drunk; I yield my place, do you eat and drink as I have; do you
be young as I was. I have written it! The word is not worth erasure, if it
is not true to-day it will be in two years hence; farewell! I yield my
place, do you be young as I was, do you love youth as I did; remember you
are the most interesting beings under heaven, for you all sacrifices will
be made, you will be feted and adored upon the condition of remaining young
men. The feast is over for me, I yield my place, but I will not make this
leavetaking more sorrowful than it is already by afflicting you with advice
and instruction how to obtain what I have obtained. I have spoken bitterly
against education, I will not strive to educate you, you will educate
yourselves. Dear ones, dear ones, the world is your pleasure, you can use
it at your will. Dear ones, I see you all about me still, I yield my place;
but one more glass I will drink with you; and while drinking I would say my
last word--were it possible I would be remembered by you as a young man:
but I know too well that the young never realise that the old were not born
old. Farewell."

I shivered; the cold air of morning blew in my face, I closed the window,
and sitting at the table, haggard and overworn, I continued my novel.



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