Yet Again
Max Beerbohm

Part 3 out of 3

preponderates; for antiquities appeal with greatest force to the one
race that has none of them; and it is ever the Americans who hang the
most tenaciously, in the greatest numbers, on the vergers' tired lips.
We of the elder races are capable of taking antiquities as a matter of
course. Certainly, such of us as reside in London take Westminster
Abbey as a matter of course. A few of us will be buried in it, but
meanwhile we don't go to it, even as we don't go to the Tower, or the
Mint, or the Monument. Only for some special purpose do we go--as to
hear a sensational bishop preaching, or to see a monarch anointed. And
on these rare occasions we cast but a casual glance at the Abbey--that
close-packed chaos of beautiful things and worthless vulgar things.
That the Abbey should be thus chaotic does not seem strange to us; for
lack of orderliness and discrimination is an essential characteristic
of the English genius. But to the Frenchman, with his passion for
symmetry and harmony, how very strange it must all seem! How very
whole-hearted a generalising `Tiens! must he utter when he leaves the

My own special purpose in coming is to see certain old waxen effigies
that are here. [In its original form this essay had the good fortune
to accompany two very romantic drawings by William Nicholson--one of
Queen Elizabeth's effigy, the other of Charles II.'s.] A key grates in
the lock of a little door in the wall of (what I am told is) the North
Ambulatory; and up a winding wooden staircase I am ushered into a tiny
paven chamber. The light is dim, through the deeply embrased and
narrow window, and the space is so obstructed that I must pick my way
warily. All around are deep wooden cupboards, faced with glass; and I
become dimly aware that through each glass some one is watching me.
Like sentinels in sentry-boxes, they fix me with their eyes, seeming
as though they would challenge me. How shall I account to them for my
presence? I slip my note-book into my pocket, and try, in the dim
light, to look as unlike a spy as possible. But I cannot, try as I
will, acquit myself of impertinence. Who am I that I should review
this `ragged regiment'? Who am I that I should come peering in upon
this secret conclave of the august dead? Immobile and dark, very gaunt
and withered, these personages peer out at me with a malign dignity,
through the ages which separate me from them, through the twilight in
which I am so near to them. Their eyes... Come, sir, their eyes are
made of glass. It is quite absurd to take wax-works seriously. Wax-
works are not a serious form of art. The aim of art is so to imitate
life as to produce in the spectator an illusion of life. Wax-works, at
best, can produce no such illusion. Don't pretend to be illuded. For
its power to illude, an art depends on its limitations. Art never can
be life, but it may seem to be so if it do but keep far enough away
from life. A statue may seem to live. A painting may seem to live.
That is because each is so far away from life that you do not apply
the test of life to it. A statue is of bronze or marble, than either
of which nothing could be less flesh-like. A painting is a thing in
two dimensions, whereas man is in three. If sculptor or painter tried
to dodge these conventions, his labour would be undone. If a painter
swelled his canvas out and in according to the convexities and
concavities of his model, or if a sculptor overlaid his material with
authentic flesh-tints, then you would demand that the painted or
sculptured figure should blink, or stroke its chin, or kick its foot
in the air. That it could do none of these things would rob it of all
power to illude you. An art that challenges life at close quarters is
defeated through the simple fact that it is not life. Wax-works, being
so near to life, having the exact proportions of men and women, having
the exact texture of skin and hair and habiliments, must either be
made animate or continue to be grotesque and pitiful failures.
Lifelike? They? Rather do they give you the illusion of death. They
are akin to photographs seen through stereoscopic lenses--those
photographs of persons who seem horribly to be corpses, or, at least,
catalepts; and... You see, I have failed to cheer myself up. Having
taken up a strong academic line, and set bravely out to prove to
myself the absurdity of wax-works, I find myself at the point where I
started, irrefutably arguing to myself that I have good reason to be
frightened, here in the Chapel of Abbot Islip, in the midst of these,
the Abbot's glowering and ghastly tenants. Catalepsy! death! that is
the atmosphere I am breathing.

If I were writing in the past tense, I might pause here to consider
whether this emotion was a genuine one or a mere figment for literary
effect. As I am writing in the present tense, such a pause would be
inartistic, and shall not be made. I must seem not to be writing, but
to be actually on the spot, suffering. But then, you may well ask, why
should I stay here, to suffer? why not beat a hasty retreat? The
answer is that my essay would then seem skimpy; and that you,
moreover, would know hardly anything about the wax-works. So I must
ask you to imagine me fighting down my fears, and consoling myself
with the reflection that here, after all, a sense of awe and
oppression is just what one ought to feel--just what one comes for. At
Madame Tussaud's exhibition, by which I was similarly afflicted some
years ago, I had no such consolation. There my sense of fitness was
outraged. The place was meant to be cheerful. It was brilliantly lit.
A band was playing popular tunes. Downstairs there was even a
restaurant. (Let fancy fondly dwell, for a moment, on the thought of a
dinner at Madame Tussaud's: a few carefully-selected guests, and a
menu well thought out; conversation becoming general; corks popping;
quips flying; a sense of bien-e^tre; `thank you for a most delightful
evening.') Madame's figures were meant to be agreeable and lively
presentments. Her visitors were meant to have a thoroughly good time.
But the Islip Chapel has no cheerful intent. It is, indeed, a place
set aside, with all reverence, to preserve certain relics of a grim,
yet not unlovely, old custom. These fearful images are no stock-in-
trade of a showman; we are not invited to `walk-up' to them. They were
fashioned with a solemn and wistful purpose. The reason of them lies
in a sentiment which is as old as the world--lies in man's vain revolt
from the prospect of death. If the soul must perish from the body, may
not at least the body itself be preserved, somewhat in the semblance
of life, and, for at least a while, on the face of the earth? By
subtle art, with far-fetched spices, let the body survive its day and
be (even though hidden beneath the earth) for ever. Nay more, since
death cause it straightway to dwindle somewhat from the true semblance
of life, let cunning artificers fashion it anew--fashion it as it was.
Thus, in the earliest days of England, the kings, as they died, were
embalmed, and their bodies were borne aloft upon their biers, to a
sepulture long delayed after death. In later days, an image of every
king that died was forthwith carved in wood, and painted according to
his remembered aspect, and decked in his own robes; and, when they had
sealed his tomb, the mourners, humouring, to the best of their power,
his hatred of extinction, laid this image upon the tomb's slab, and
left it so. In yet later days, the pretence became more realistic. The
hands and the face were modelled in wax; and the figure stood upright,
in some commanding posture, on a valanced platform above the tomb. Nor
were only the kings thus honoured. Every one who was interred in the
Abbey, whether in virtue of lineage or of achievements, was honoured
thus. It was the fashion for every great lady to write in her will
minute instructions as to the posture in which her image was to be
modelled, and which of her gowns it was to be clad in, and with what
of her jewellery it was to glitter. Men, too, used to indulge in such
precautions. Of all the images thus erected in the Abbey, there remain
but a few. The images had to take their chance, in days that were
without benefit of police. Thieves, we may suppose, stripped the
finery from many of them. Rebels, we know, broke in, less ignobly, and
tore many of them limb from limb, as a protest against the governing
classes. So only a poor remnant, a `ragged regiment,' has been
rallied, at length, into the sanctuary of Islip's Chapel. Perhaps, if
they were not so few, these images would not be so fascinating.

Yes, I am fascinated by them now. Terror has been toned to wonder. I
am filled with a kind of wondering pity. My academic theory about wax-
works has broken down utterly. These figures--kings, princes,
duchesses, queens--all are real to me now, and all are infinitely
pathetic, in the dignity of their fallen and forgotten greatness. With
what inalienable majesty they wear their rusty velvets and faded
silks, flaunting sere ruffles of point-lace, which at a touch now
would be shivered like cobwebs! My heart goes out to them through the
glass that divides us. I wish I could stay with them, bear them
company, always. I think they like me. I am afraid they will miss me.
Perhaps it would be better for us never to have met. Even Queen
Elizabeth, beholding whom, as she stands here, gaunt and imperious and
appalling, I echo the words spoken by Philip's envoy, `This woman is
possessed of a hundred thousand devils'--even she herself, though she
gazes askance into the air, seems to be conscious of my presence, and
to be willing me to stay. It is a relief to meet the friendly
bourgeois eye of good Queen Anne. It has restored my common sense.
`These figures really are most curious, most interesting...' and anon
I am asking intelligent questions about the contents of a big press,
which, by special favour, has been unlocked for me.

Perhaps the most romantic thing in the Islip Chapel is this press.
Herein, huddled one against another in dark recesses, lie the battered
and disjected remains of the earlier effigies--the primitive wooden
ones. Edward I. and Eleanor are known to be among them; and Henry VII.
and Elizabeth of York; and others not less illustrious. Which is
which? By size and shape you can distinguish the men from the women;
but beyond that is mere guesswork, be you never so expert. Time has
broken and shuffled these erst so significant effigies till they have
become as unmeaning for us as the bones in one of the old plague-pits.
I feel that I ought to be more deeply moved than I am by this sad
state of things. But I seem to have exhausted my capacity for
sentiment; and I cannot rise to the level of my opportunity. Would
that I were Thackeray! Dear gentleman, how promptly and copiously he
would have wept and moralised here, in his grandest manner, with that
perfect technical mastery which makes even now his tritest and
shallowest sermons sound remarkable, his hollowest sentiment ring
true! What a pity he never came to beat the muffled drum, on which he
was so supreme a performer, around the Islip Chapel! As I make my way
down the stairs, I am trying to imagine what would have been the
cadence of the final sentence in this essay by Thackeray. And, as I
pass along the North Ambulatory, lo! there is the same verger with a
new party; and I catch the words `was interred with great pomp on St.
Simon's and St. Jude's Day October 28 1307 in 1774 the tomb was opened


They often tell me that So-and-so has no sense of humour. Lack of this
sense is everywhere held to be a horrid disgrace, nullifying any
number of delightful qualities. Perhaps the most effective means of
disparaging an enemy is to lay stress on his integrity, his erudition,
his amiability, his courage, the fineness of his head, the grace of
his figure, his strength of purpose, which has overleaped all
obstacles, his goodness to his parents, the kind word that he has for
every one, his musical voice, his freedom from aught that in human
nature is base; and then to say what a pity it is that he has no sense
of humour. The more highly you extol any one, the more eagerly will
your audience accept anything you may have to say against him.
Perfection is unloved in this imperfect world, but for imperfection
comes instant sympathy. Any excuse is good enough for exalting the bad
or stupid brother of us, but any stick is a valued weapon against him
who has the effrontery to have been by Heaven better graced than we.
And what could match for deadliness the imputation of being without
sense of humour? To convict a man of that lack is to strike him with
one blow to a level with the beasts of the field--to kick him, once
and for all, outside the human pale. What is it that mainly
distinguishes us from the brute creation? That we walk erect? Some
brutes are bipeds. That we do not slay one another? We do. That we
build houses? So do they. That we remember and reason? So, again, do
they. That we converse? They are chatterboxes, whose lingo we are not
sharp enough to master. On no possible point of superiority can we
preen ourselves save this: that we can laugh, and that they, with one
notable exception, cannot. They (so, at least, we assert) have no
sense of humour. We have. Away with any one of us who hasn't!

Belief in the general humorousness of the human race is the more deep-
rooted for that every man is certain that he himself is not without
sense of humour. A man will admit cheerfully that he does not know one
tune from another, or that he cannot discriminate the vintages of
wines. The blind beggar does not seek to benumb sympathy by telling
his patrons how well they are looking. The deaf and dumb do not
scruple to converse in signals. `Have you no sense of beauty?' I said
to a friend who in the Accademia of Florence suggested that we had
stood long enough in front of the `Primavera.' `No!' was his simple,
straightforward, quite unanswerable answer. But I have never heard a
man assert that he had no sense of humour. And I take it that no such
assertion ever was made. Moreover, were it made, it would be a lie.
Every man laughs. Frequently or infrequently, the corners of his mouth
are drawn up into his cheeks, and through his parted lips comes his
own particular variety, soft or loud, of that noise which is called
laughter. Frequently or infrequently, every man is amused by
something. Every man has a sense of humour, but not every man the same
sense. A may be incapable of smiling at what has convulsed B, and B
may stare blankly when he hears what has rolled A off his chair. Jokes
are so diverse that no one man can see them all. The very fact that he
can see one kind is proof positive that certain other kinds will be
invisible to him. And so egoistic in his judgment is the average man
that he is apt to suspect of being humourless any one whose sense of
humour squares not with his own. But the suspicion is always false,
incomparably useful though it is in the form of an accusation.

Having no love for the public, I have often accused that body of
having no sense of humour. Conscience pricks me to atonement. Let me
withdraw my oft-made imputation, and show its hollowness by examining
with you, reader (who are, of course, no more a member of the public
than I am), what are the main features of that sense of humour which
the public does undoubtedly possess.

The word `public' must, like all collective words, be used with
caution. When we speak of our hair, we should remember not only that
the hairs on our heads are all numbered, but also that there is a
catalogue raisonne' in which every one of those hairs is shown to be
in some respect unique. Similarly, let us not forget that `public'
denotes a collection not of identical units, but of units separable
and (under close scrutiny) distinguishable one from another. I have
said that not every man has the same sense of humour. I might have
said truly that no two men have the same sense of humour, for that no
two men have the same brain and heart and experience, by which things
the sense of humour is formed and directed. One joke may go round the
world, tickling myriads, but not two persons will be tickled in
precisely the same way, to precisely the same degree. If the
vibrations of inward or outward laughter could be (as some day,
perhaps, they will be) scientifically registered, differences between
them all would be made apparent to us. `Oh,' is your cry, whenever you
hear something that especially amuses you, `I must tell that to'
whomever you credit with a sense of humour most akin to your own. And
the chances are that you will be disappointed by his reception of the
joke. Either he will laugh less loudly than you hoped, or he will say
something which reveals to you that it amuses him and you not in quite
the same way. Or perhaps he will laugh so long and loudly that you are
irritated by the suspicion that you have not yourself gauged the full
beauty of it. In one of his books (I do not remember which, though
they, too, I suppose, are all numbered) Mr. Andrew Lang tells a story
that has always delighted and always will delight me. He was in a
railway-carriage, and his travelling-companions were two strangers,
two silent ladies, middle-aged. The train stopped at Nuneaton. The two
ladies exchanged a glance. One of them sighed, and said, `Poor Eliza!
She had reason to remember Nuneaton!'... That is all. But how much!
how deliciously and memorably much! How infinite a span of conjecture
is in those dots which I have just made! And yet, would you believe
me? some of my most intimate friends, the people most like to myself,
see little or nothing of the loveliness of that pearl of price.
Perhaps you would believe me. That is the worst of it: one never
knows. The most sensitive intelligence cannot predict how will be
appraised its any treasure by its how near soever kin.

This sentence, which I admit to be somewhat mannered, has the merit of
bringing me straight to the point at which I have been aiming; that,
though the public is composed of distinct units, it may roughly be
regarded as a single entity. Precisely because you and I have
sensitive intelligences, we cannot postulate certainly anything about
each other. The higher an animal be in grade, the more numerous and
recondite are the points in which its organism differs from that of
its peers. The lower the grade, the more numerous and obvious the
points of likeness. By `the public' I mean that vast number of human
animals who are in the lowest grade of intelligence. (Of course, this
classification is made without reference to social `classes.' The
public is recruited from the upper, the middle, and the lower class.
That the recruits come mostly from the lower class is because the
lower class is still the least well-educated. That they come in as
high proportion from the middle class as from the less well-educated
upper class, is because the `young Barbarians,' reared in a more
gracious environment, often acquire a grace of mind which serves them
as well as would mental keenness.) Whereas in the highest grade, to
which you and I belong, the fact that a thing affects you in one way
is no guarantee that it will not affect me in another, a thing which
affects one man of the lowest grade in a particular way is likely to
affect all the rest very similarly. The public's sense of humour may
be regarded roughly as one collective sense.

It would be impossible for any one of us to define what are the things
that amuse him. For him the wind of humour bloweth where it listeth.
He finds his jokes in the unlikeliest places. Indeed, it is only there
that he finds them at all. A thing that is labelled `comic' chills his
sense of humour instantly--perceptibly lengthens his face. A joke that
has not a serious background, or some serious connexion, means nothing
to him. Nothing to him, the crude jape of the professional jester.
Nothing to him, the jangle of the bells in the wagged cap, the thud of
the swung bladder. Nothing, the joke that hits him violently in the
eye, or pricks him with a sharp point. The jokes that he loves are
those quiet jokes which have no apparent point--the jokes which never
can surrender their secret, and so can never pall. His humour is an
indistinguishable part of his soul, and the things that stir it are
indistinguishable from the world around him. But to the primitive and
untutored public, humour is a harshly definite affair. The public can
achieve no delicate process of discernment in humour. Unless a joke
hits in the eye, drawing forth a shower of illuminative sparks, all is
darkness. Unless a joke be labelled `Comic. Come! why don't you
laugh?' the public is quite silent. Violence and obviousness are thus
the essential factors. The surest way of making a thing obvious is to
provide it in some special place, at some special time. It is thus
that humour is provided for the public, and thus that it is easy for
the student to lay his hand on materials for an analysis of the
public's sense of humour. The obviously right plan for the student is
to visit the music-halls from time to time, and to buy the comic
papers. Neither these halls nor these papers will amuse him directly
through their art, but he will instruct himself quicklier and
soundlier from them than from any other source, for they are the
authentic sources of the public's laughter. Let him hasten to
patronise them.

He will find that I have been there before him. The music-halls I have
known for many years. I mean, of course, the real old-fashioned music-
halls, not those depressing palaces where you see by grace of a
biograph things that you have seen much better, and without a
headache, in the street, and pitiable animals being forced to do
things which Nature has forbidden them to do--things which we can do
so very much better than they, without any trouble. Heaven defend me
from those meaningless palaces! But the little old music-halls have
always attracted me by their unpretentious raciness, their quaint
monotony, the reality of the enjoyment on all those stolidly rapt
faces in the audience. Without that monotony there would not be the
same air of general enjoyment, the same constant guffaws. That
monotony is the secret of the success of music-halls. It is not enough
for the public to know that everything is meant to be funny, that
laughter is craved for every point in every `turn.' A new kind of
humour, however obvious and violent, might take the public unawares,
and be received in silence. The public prefers always that the old
well-tested and well-seasoned jokes be cracked for it. Or rather, not
the same old jokes, but jokes on the same old subjects. The quality of
the joke is of slight import in comparison with its subject. It is the
matter, rather than the treatment, that counts, in the art of the
music-hall. Some subjects have come to be recognised as funny. Two or
three of them crop up in every song, and before the close of the
evening all of them will have cropped up many times. I speak with
authority, as an earnest student of the music-halls. Of comic papers I
know less. They have never allured me. They are not set to music--an
art for whose cheaper and more primitive forms I have a very real
sensibility; and I am not, as I peruse one of them, privy to the
public's delight: my copy cannot be shared with me by hundreds of
people whose mirth is wonderful to see and hear. And the bare contents
are not such as to enchant me. However, for the purpose of this essay,
I did go to a bookstall and buy as many of these papers as I could
see--a terrific number, a terrific burden to stagger away with.

I have gone steadily through them, one by one. My main impression is
of wonder and horror at the amount of hebdomadal labour implicit in
them. Who writes for them? Who does the drawings for them--those
thousands of little drawings, week by week, so neatly executed? To
think that daily and nightly, in so many an English home, in a room
sacred to the artist, sits a young man inventing and executing designs
for Chippy Snips! To think how many a proud mother must be boasting to
her friends: `Yes, Edward is doing wonderfully well--more than
fulfilling the hopes we always had of him. Did I tell you that the
editor of Natty Tips has written asking him to contribute to his
paper? I believe I have the letter on me. Yes, here it is,' etc.,
etc.! The awful thing is that many of the drawings in these comic
papers are done with very real skill. Nothing is sadder than to see
the hand of an artist wasted by alliance to a vacant mind, a common
spirit. I look through these drawings, conceived all so tritely and
stupidly, so hopelessly and helplessly, yet executed--many of them--so
very well indeed, and I sigh over the haphazard way in which mankind
is made. However, my concern is not with the tragedy of these
draughtsmen, but with the specific forms taken by their humour. Some
of them deal in a broad spirit with the world-comedy, limiting
themselves to no set of funny subjects, finding inspiration in the
habits and manners of men and women at large. `HE WON HER' is the
title appended to a picture of a young lady and gentleman seated in a
drawing-room, and the libretto runs thus: `Mabel: Last night I dreamt
of a most beautiful woman. Harold: Rather a coincidence. I dreamt of
you, too, last night.' I have selected this as a typical example of
the larger style. This style, however, occupies but a small space in
the bulk of the papers that lie before me. As in the music-halls, so
in these papers, the entertainment consists almost entirely of
variations on certain ever-recurring themes. I have been at pains to
draw up a list of these themes. I think it is exhaustive. If any
fellow-student detect an omission, let him communicate with me.
Meanwhile, here is my list:--

Hen-pecked husbands
Old maids
Frenchmen, Germans, Italians, Niggers (not Russians, or other
foreigners of any denomination)
Long hair (worn by a man)
Bad cheese
`Shooting the moon' (slang expression for leaving a lodging-house
without paying the bill).

You might argue that one week's budget of comic papers is no real
criterion--that the recurrence of these themes may be fortuitous. My
answer to that objection is that this list coincides exactly with a
list which (before studying these papers) I had made of the themes
commonest, during the past few years, in the music-halls. This twin
list, which results from separate study of the two chief forms of
public entertainment, may be taken as a sure guide to the goal of our

Let us try to find some unifying principle, or principles, among the
variegated items. Take the first item--Mothers-in-law. Why should the
public roar, as roar it does, at the mere mention of that
relationship? There is nothing intrinsically absurd in the notion of a
woman with a married daughter. It is probable that she will sympathise
with her daughter in any quarrel that may arise between husband and
wife. It is probable, also, that she will, as a mother, demand for her
daughter more unselfish devotion than the daughter herself expects.
But this does not make her ridiculous. The public laughs not at her,
surely. It always respects a tyrant. It laughs at the implied concept
of the oppressed son-in-law, who has to wage unequal warfare against
two women. It is amused by the notion of his embarrassment. It is
amused by suffering. This explanation covers, of course, the second
item on my list--Hen-pecked husbands. It covers, also, the third and
fourth items. The public is amused by the notion of a needy man put to
double expense, and of a woman who has had no chance of fulfilling her
destiny. The laughter at Jews, too, may be a survival of the old Jew-
baiting spirit (though one would have thought that even the British
public must have begun to realise, and to reflect gloomily, that the
whirligig of time has so far revolved as to enable the Jews to bait
the Gentiles). Or this laughter may be explained by the fact which
alone can explain why the public laughs at Frenchmen, Germans,
Italians, Niggers. Jews, after all, are foreigners, strangers. The
British public has never got used to them, to their faces and tricks
of speech. The only apparent reason why it laughs at the notion of
Frenchmen, etc., is that they are unlike itself. (At the mention of
Russians and other foreigners it does not laugh, because it has no
idea what they are like: it has seen too few samples of them.)

So far, then, we have found two elements in the public's humour:
delight in suffering, contempt for the unfamiliar. The former motive
is the more potent. It accounts for the popularity of all these other
items: extreme fatness, extreme thinness, baldness, sea-sickness,
stuttering, and (as entailing distress for the landlady) `shooting the
moon.' The motive of contempt for the unfamiliar accounts for long
hair (worn by a man). Remains one item unexplained. How can mirth
possibly be evoked by the notion of bad cheese? Having racked my
brains for the solution, I can but conjecture that it must be the mere
ugliness of the thing. Why any one should be amused by mere ugliness I
cannot conceive. Delight in cruelty, contempt for the unfamiliar, I
can understand, though I cannot admire them. They are invariable
elements in children's sense of humour, and it is natural that the
public, as being unsophisticated, should laugh as children laugh. But
any nurse will tell you that children are frightened by ugliness. Why,
then, is the public amused by it? I know not. The laughter at bad
cheese I abandon as a mystery. I pitch it among such other insoluble
problems, as Why does the public laugh when an actor and actress in a
quite serious play kiss each other? Why does it laugh when a meal is
eaten on the stage? Why does it laugh when any actor has to say

If they cannot be solved soon, such problems never will be solved. For
Mr. Forster's Act will soon have had time to make apparent its
effects; and the public will proudly display a sense of humour as
sophisticated as our own.


When a `sensational' case is being tried, the court is well filled by
lay persons in need of a thrill. Their presence seems to be rather
resented as a note of frivolity, a discord in the solemnity of the
function, even a possible distraction for the judge and jury. I am not
a lawyer, nor a professionally solemn person, and I cannot work myself
up into a state of indignation against the interlopers. I am, indeed,
one of them myself. And I am worse than one of them. I do not merely
go to this or that court on this or that special occasion. I frequent
the courts whenever I have nothing better to do. And it is rarely
that, as one who cares to study his fellow-creatures, I have anything
better to do. I greatly wonder that the courts are frequented by so
few other people who have no special business there.

I can understand the glamour of the theatre. You find yourself in a
queerly-shaped place, cut off from the world, with plenty of gilding
and red velvet or blue satin. An orchestra plays tunes calculated to
promote suppressed excitement. Presently up goes a curtain, revealing
to you a mimic world, with ladies and gentlemen painted and padded to
appear different from what they are. It is precisely the people most
susceptible to the glamour of the theatre who are the greatest
hindrances to serious dramatic art. They will stand anything, no
matter how silly, in a theatre. Fortunately, there seems to be a
decline in the number of people who are acutely susceptible to the
theatre's glamour. I rather think the reason for this is that the
theatre has been over-exploited by the press. Quite old people will
describe to you their early playgoings with a sense of wonder, an
enthusiasm, which--leaving a wide margin for the charm that past
things must always have--will not be possible to us when we babble to
our grandchildren. Quite young people, people ranging between the ages
of four and five, who have seen but one or two pantomimes, still seem
to have the glamour of the theatre full on them. But adolescents, and
people in the prime of life, do merely, for the most part, grumble
about the quality of the plays. Yet the plays of our time are somewhat
better than the plays that were written for our elders. Certainly the
glamour of the theatre has waned. And so much the better for the
drama's future.

It is a matter of concern, that future, to me who have for so long a
time been a dramatic critic. A man soon comes to care, quite
unselfishly, about the welfare of the thiing in which he has
specialised. Of course, I care selfishly too. For, though it is just
as easy for a critic to write interestingly about bad things as about
good things, he would rather, for choice, be in contact with good
things. It is always nice to combine business and pleasure. But one
regrets, even then, the business. If I were a forensic critic, my
delight in attending the courts would still be great; but less than it
is in my irresponsibility. In the courts I find satisfied in me just
those senses which in the theatre, nearly always, are starved. Nay, I
find them satisfied more fully than they ever could be, at best, in
any theatre. I do not merely fall back on the courts, in disgust of
the theatre as it is. I love the courts better than the theatre as it
ideally might be. And, I say again, I marvel that you leave me so much
elbow-room there.

No artificial light is needed, no scraping of fiddles, to excite or
charm me as I pass from the echoing corridor, through the swing-doors,
into the well of this or that court. It matters not much to me what
case I shall hear, so it be of the human kind, with a jury and with
witnesses. I care little for Chancery cases. There is a certain
intellectual pleasure in hearing a mass of facts subtly wrangled over.
The mind derives therefrom something of the satisfaction that the eye
has in watching acrobats in a music-hall. One wonders at the
ingenuity, the agility, the perfect training. Like acrobats, these
Chancery lawyers are a relief from the average troupe of actors and
actresses, by reason of their exquisite alertness, their thorough
mastery (seemingly exquisite and thorough, at any rate, to the dazzled
layman). And they have a further advantage in their material. The
facts they deal with are usually dull, but seldom so dull as facts
become through the fancies of the average playwright. It is seldom
that an evening in a theatre can be so pleasantly and profitably spent
as a day in a Chancery court. But it is ever into one or another of
the courts of King's Bench that I betake myself, for choice. Criminal
trials, of which I have seen a few, I now eschew absolutely. I cannot
stomach them. I know that it is necessary for the good of the
community that such persons as infringe that community's laws should
be punished. But, even were the mode of punishment less barbarous than
it is, I should still prefer not to be brought in sight of a prisoner
in the dock. Perhaps because I have not a strongly developed
imagination, I have little or no public spirit. I cannot see the
commonweal. On the other hand, I have plenty of personal feeling. And
I have enough knowledge of men and women to know that very often the
best people are guilty of the worst things. Is the prisoner in the
dock guilty or not guilty of the offence with which he is charged?
That is the question in the mind of the court. What sort of man is he?
That is the question in my own mind. And the answer to the other
question has no bearing whatsoever on the answer to this one. The
English law assumes the prisoner innocent until he shall have been
proved guilty. And, seeing him there a prisoner, a man who happens to
have been caught, while others (myself included) are pleasantly at
large after doing, unbeknown, innumerable deeds worse in the eyes of
heaven than the deed with which this man is charged--deeds that do not
prevent us from regarding our characters as quite fine really--I
cannot but follow in my heart the example of the English law and
assume (pending proof, which cannot be forthcoming) that the prisoner
in the dock has a character at any rate as fine as my own. The war
that this assumption wages in my breast against the fact that the man
will perhaps be sentenced is too violent a war not to discommode me.
Let justice be done. Or rather, let our rough-and-ready, well-meant
endeavours towards justice go on being made. But I won't be there to
see, thank you very much.

It is the natural wish of every writer to be liked by his readers. But
how exasperating, how detestable, the writer who obviously touts for
our affection, arranging himself for us in a mellow light, and
inviting us, with gentle persistence, to note how lovable he is! Many
essayists have made themselves quite impossible through their
determination to remind us of Charles Lamb--`St. Charles,' as they
invariably call him. And the foregoing paragraph, though not at all
would-be-Lamb-like in expression, looks to me horribly like a blatant
bid for your love. I hasten to add, therefore, that no absolutely
kind-hearted person could bear, as I rejoice, to go and hear cases
even in the civil courts. If it be true that the instinct of cruelty
is at the root of our pleasure in theatrical drama, how much more is
there of savagery in our going to look on at the throes of actual
litigation--real men and women struggling not in make-believe, but in
dreadful earnest! I mention this aspect merely as a corrective to what
I had written. I do not pretend that I am ever conscious, as I enter a
court, that I am come to gratify an evil instinct. I am but conscious
of being glad to be there, on tiptoe of anticipation, whether it be to
hear tried some particular case of whose matter I know already
something, or to hear at hazard whatever case happen to be down for
hearing. I never tire of the aspect of a court, the ways of a court.
Familiarity does but spice them. I love the cold comfort of the pale
oak panelling, the scurrying-in-and-out of lawyers' clerks, the
eagerness and ominousness of it all, the rustle of silk as a K.C.
edges his way to his seat and twists his head round for a quick
whispered parley with his junior, while his client, at the solicitors'
table, twists his head round to watch feverishly the quick mechanical
nods of the great man's wig--the wig that covers the skull that
contains the brain that so awfully much depends on. I love the mystery
of those dark-green curtains behind the exalted Bench. One of them
will anon be plucked aside, with a stentorian `Silence!' Thereat up we
jump, all of us as though worked by one spring; and in shuffles
swiftly My Lord, in a robe well-fashioned for sitting in, but not for
walking in anywhere except to a bath-room. He bows, and we bow;
subsides, and we subside; and up jumps some grizzled junior--`My Lord,
may I mention to your Lordship the case of "Brown v. Robinson and
Another"?' It is music to me ever, the cadence of that formula. I
watch the judge as he listens to the application, peering over his
glasses with the lack-lustre eyes that judges have, eyes that stare
dimly out through the mask of wax or parchment that judges wear. My
Lord might be the mummy of some high tyrant revitalised after
centuries of death and resuming now his sway over men. Impassive he
sits, aloof and aloft, ramparted by his desk, ensconced between
curtains to keep out the draught--for might not a puff of wind scatter
the animated dust that he consists of? No creature of flesh and blood
could impress us quite as he does, with a sense of puissance quite so
dispassionate, so supernal. He crouches over us in such manner that we
are all of us levelled one with another, shorn of aught that elsewhere
differentiates us. The silk-gownsmen, as soon as he appears, fade to
the semblance of juniors, of lawyers' clerks, of jurymen, of oneself.
Always, indeed, in any public place devoted to some special purpose,
one finds it hard to differentiate the visitors, hard to credit them
with any private existence. Cast your eye around the tables of a
cafe': how subtly similar all the people seem! How like a swarm of
gregarious insects, in their unity of purpose and of aspect! Above
all, how homeless! Cast your eye around the tables of a casino's
gambling-room. What an uniform and abject herd, huddled together with
one despondent impulse! Here and there, maybe, a person whom we know
to be vastly rich; yet we cannot conceive his calm as not the calm of
inward desperation; cannot conceive that he has anything to bless
himself with except the roll of bank-notes that he has just produced
from his breast-pocket. One and all, the players are levelled by the
invisible presence of the goddess they are courting. Well, the visible
presence of the judge in a court of law oppresses us with a yet keener
sense of lowliness and obliteration. He crouches over us, visible
symbol of the majesty of the law, and we wilt to nothingness beneath
him. And when I say `him' I include the whole judicial bench. Judges
vary, no doubt. Some are young, others old, by the calendar. But the
old ones have an air of physical incorruptibility--are `well-
preserved,' as by swathes and spices; and the young ones are just as
mummified as they. Some of them are pleased to crack jokes; jokes of
the sarcophagus, that twist our lips to obsequious laughter, but send
a chill through our souls. There are `strong' judges and weak ones (so
barristers will tell you). Perhaps--who knows?--Minos was a strong
judge, and Aeacus and Rhadamanthus were weak ones. But all three seem
equally terrible to us. And so seem, in virtue of their position, and
of the manner and aspect it invests them with, all the judges of our
own high courts.

I hearken in awe to the toneless murmur in which My Lord comments on
the application in the case of `Brown v. Robinson and Another.' He
says something about the Court of Crown Cases Reserved... Ah, what
place on this earth bears a name so mystically majestic? Even in the
commonest forensic phrases there is often this solemnity of cadence,
always a quaintness, that stirs the imagination... The grizzled junior
dares interject something `with submission,' and is finally advised to
see `my learned brother in chambers.' `As your Lordship pleases.'...
We pass to the business of the day. I settle myself to enjoy the
keenest form of aesthetic pleasure that is known to me.

Aesthetic, yes. In the law-courts one finds an art-form, as surely as
in the theatre. What is drama? Its theme is the actions of certain
opposed persons, historical or imagined, within a certain period of
time; and these actions, these characters, must be shown to us in a
succinct manner, must be so arranged that we know just what in them is
essential to our understanding of them. Very similar is the art-form
practised in the law-courts. The theme of a law-suit is the actions of
certain actual opposed persons within a certain period of time; and
these actions, these characters, must be set forth succinctly, in
such-wise that we shall know just as much as is essential to our
understanding of them. In drama, the presentment is, in a sense, more
vivid. It is not--not usually, at least--retrospective. We see the
actions being committed, hear the words as they are uttered. But how
often do we have an illusion of their reality? Seldom. It is seldom
that a masterpiece in drama is performed perfectly by an ideal cast.
In a law-court, on the other hand, it is always in perfect form that
the matter is presented to us. First the outline of the story, in the
speech for the plaintiff; then this outline filled in by the
examination of the plaintiff himself; then the other side of the story
adumbrated by his cross-examination. Think of the various further
stages of a law-suit, culminating in the judge's summing up; and you
will agree with me that the whole thing is a perfect art-form. Drama,
at its best, is clumsy, arbitrary, unsatisfying, by comparison. But
what makes a law-suit the most fascinating, to me, of all art-forms,
is that not merely its material, but the chief means of its
expression, is life itself. Here, cited before us, are the actual
figures in the actual story that has been told to us. Here they are,
not as images to be evoked through the medium of printed page, or of
painted canvas, or of disinterested ladies and gentlemen behind
footlights. Actual, authentic, they stand before us, one by one, in
the harsh light of day, to be made to reveal all that we need to know
of them.

The most interesting witnesses, I admit, are they who are determined
not to accommodate us--not to reveal themselves as they are, but to
make us suppose them something quite different. All witnesses are more
or less interesting. As I have suggested, there is no such thing as a
dull law-suit. Nothing that has happened is negligible. And, even so,
every human being repays attention--especially so when he stands forth
on his oath. The strangeness of his position, and his consciousness of
it, suffice in themselves to make him interesting. But it is
disingenuousness that makes him delightful. And the greatest of all
delights that a law-court can give us is a disingenuous witness who is
quick-minded, resourceful, thoroughly master of himself and his story,
pitted against a counsel as well endowed as himself. The most vivid
and precious of my memories is of a case in which a gentleman, now
dead, was sued for breach of promise, and was cross-examined
throughout a whole hot day in midsummer by the late Mr. Candy. The
lady had averred that she had known him for many years. She called
various witnesses, who testified to having seen him repeatedly in her
company. She produced stacks of letters in a handwriting which no
expert could distinguish from his. The defence was that these letters
were written by the defendant's secretary, a man who was able to
imitate exactly his employer's handwriting, and who was, moreover,
physically a replica of his employer. He was dead now; and the
defendant, though he was a very well-known man, with many friends, was
unable to adduce any one who had seen that secretary dead or alive.
Not a soul in court believed the story. As it was a complicated story,
extending over many years, to demolish it seemed child's play. Mr.
Candy was no child. His performance was masterly. But it was not so
masterly as the defendant's; and the suit was dismissed. In the light
of common sense, the defendant hadn't a leg to stand on. Technically,
his case was proved. I doubt whether I shall ever have a day of such
acute mental enjoyment as was the day of that cross-examination.

I suppose that the most famous cross-examination in our day was Sir
Charles Russell's of Pigott. It outstands by reason of the magnitude
of the issue, and the flight and suicide of the witness. Had Pigott
been of the stuff to stand up to Russell, and make a fight of it, I
should regret far more keenly than I do that I was not in court. As it
is, my regret is keen enough. I was reading again, only the other day,
the verbatim report of Pigott's evidence, in one of the series of
little paper volumes published by The Times; and I was revelling again
in the large perfection with which Russell accomplished his too easy
task. Especially was I amazed to find how vividly Russell, as I
remember him, lived again, and could be seen and heard, through the
medium of that little paper volume. It was not merely as though I had
been in court, and were now recalling the inflections of that deep,
intimidating voice, the steadfast gaze of those dark, intimidating
eyes, and were remembering just at what points the snuff-box was
produced, and just how long the pause was before the pinch was taken
and the bandana came into play. It was almost as though these effects
were proceeding before my very eyes--these sublime effects of the
finest actor I have ever seen. Expressed through a perfect technique,
his personality was overwhelming. `Come, Mr. Pigott,' he is reported
as saying, at a crucial moment, `try to do yourself justice. Remember!
you are face to face with My Lords.' How well do I hear, in that awful
hortation, Russell's pause after the word `remember,' and the lowered
voice in which the subsequent words were uttered slowly, and the
richness of solemnity that was given to the last word of all, ere the
thin lips snapped together--those lips that were so small, yet so
significant, a feature of that large, white, luminous and inauspicious
face. It is an hortation which, by whomsoever delivered, would tend to
dispirit the bravest and most honest of witnesses. The presence of a
judge is always, as I have said, oppressive. The presence of three is
trebly so. Yet not a score of them serried along the bench could have
outdone in oppressiveness Sir Charles Russell. He alone, among the
counsel I have seen, was an exception to the rule that by a judge
every one in court is levelled. On the bench, in his last years, he
was not notably more predominant than he ever had been. And the reason
of his predominance at the Bar was not so much in the fact that he had
no rival in swiftness, in subtlety, in grasp, as in the passionate
strength of his nature, the intensity that in him was at the root of
the grand manner.

In the courts, as in parliament and in the theatre, the grand manner
is a thing of the past. Mr. Lloyd-George is not, in style and method,
more remote from Gladstone, nor Mr. George Alexander from Macready,
than is Mr. Rufus Isaacs, the type of modern advocate, from Russell.
Strength, passion, sonorousness, magnificence of phrasing, are things
which the present generation vaguely approves in retrospect; but it
would titter at a contemporary demonstration of them. While I was
reading Pigott's cross-examination, an idea struck me; why do not the
managers of our theatres, always querulous about the dearth of plays,
fall back on scenes from famous trials? A trial-scene in a play,
though usually absurd, is almost always popular. Why not give us
actual trial-scenes? They could not, of course, be nearly so exciting
as the originals, for the simple reason that they would not be real;
but they would certainly be more exciting than the average play. Thus
I mused, hopefully. But I was brought up sharp by the reflection that
it were hopeless to look for an actor who could impersonate Russell--
could fit his manner to Russell's words, or indeed to the words of any
of those orotund advocates. To reproduce recent trials would be a
hardly warrantable thing. The actual participators in them would have
a right to object (delighted though many of them would be). Vain,
then, is my dream of theatres invigorated by the leavings of the law-
courts. On the other hand, for the profit of the law-courts, I have a
quite practicable notion. They provide the finest amusement in London,
for nothing. Why for nothing? Let some scale of prices for admission
be drawn up--half-a-guinea, say, for a seat in the well of the court,
a shilling for a seat in the gallery, five pounds for a seat on the
Then, I dare swear, people would begin to realise how fine the
amusement is.



Harlequin dances, and, over the park he dances in, surely there is
thunder brooding. His figure stands out, bright, large, and fantastic.
But all around him is sultry twilight, and the clouds, pregnant with
thunder, lower over him as he dances, and the elms are dim with
unusual shadow. There is a tiny river in the dim distance. Under one
of the nearest elms you may descry a square tomb, topped with an urn.
What lord or lady underlies it? I know not. Harlequin dances. Sheathed
in his gay suit of red and green and yellow lozenges, he ambles
lightly over the gravel. At his feet lie a tambourine and a mask.
Brown ferns fringe his pathway. With one hand he clasps the baton to
his hip, with the other he points mischievously to his forehead. He
wears a flat, loose cap of yellow. There is a ruff about his neck, and
a pair of fine buckles to his shoes, and he always dances. He has his
back to the thunderclouds, but there is that in his eyes which tells
us that he has seen them, and that he knows their presage. He is
afraid. Yet he dances. Never, howsoever slightly, swerves he, see!
from his right posture, nor fail his feet in their pirouette. All a`
merveille! Nor fades the smile from his face, though he smiles through
the tarnished air of a sultry twilight, under the shadow of impending


Here they are met.

Here, by the balustrade, these lords and lusty ladies are met to romp
and wanton in the fulness of love, under the solstice of a noon in
midsummer. Water gushes in fantastic arcs from the grotto, making a
cold music to the emblazoned air, while a breeze swells the sun-shot
satin of every lady's skirt, and tosses the ringlets that hang like
bunches of yellow grapes on either side of her brow, and stirs the
plumes of her gallant. But the very breeze is laden with heat, and the
fountain's noise does but whet the thirst of the grass, the flowers,
the trees. The earth sulks under the burden of the unmerciful sun.
Love itself, one had said, would be languid here, pale and supine,
and, faintly sighing for things past or for future things, would sink
into siesta. But behold! these are no ordinary lovers. The gushing
fountains are likelier to run dry there in the grotto than they to
falter in their redundant energy. These sanguine lords and ladies
crave not an instant's surcease. They are tyrants and termagants of

If they are thus at noon, here under the sun's rays, what, one
wonders, must be their manner in the banqueting hall, when the tapers
gleam adown the long tables, and the fruits are stripped of their
rinds, and the wine brims over the goblets, all to the music of the
viols? Somehow, one cannot imagine them anywhere but in this sunlight.
To it they belong. They are creatures of Nature, pagans untamed,
lawless and unabashed. For all they are robed in crimson and saffron,
and are with such fine pearls necklaced, these dames do exhale from
their exuberant bodies the essence of a quite primitive and simple
era; but for the ease of their deportment in their frippery, they
might be Maenads in masquerade. They have nothing of the coyness that
civilisation fosters in women, are as fearless and unsophisticated as
men. A `wooing' were wasted on them, for they have no sense of
antagonism, and seek not by any means to elude men. They meet men even
as rivers meet the sea. Even as, when fresh water meets salt water in
the estuary, the two tides revolve in eddies and leap up in foam, so
do these men and women laugh and wrestle in the rapture of
concurrence. How different from the first embrace which marks the
close of a wooing! that moment when the man seeks to conceal his
triumph under a semblance of humility, and the woman her humiliation
under a pretty air of patronage. Here, in the Garden of Love, they
have none of those spiritual reservations and pretences. Nor is here
any savour of fine romance. Nothing is here but the joy of satisfying
a physical instinct--a joy that expresses itself not in any exaltation
of words or thoughts, but in mere romping. See! Some of the women are
chasing one another through the grotto. They are rushing headlong
under the fountain. What though their finery be soaked? Anon they will
come out and throw themselves on the grass, and the sun will quickly
dry them.

Leave them, then, to their riot. Look upon these others who sit and
stand here in a voluptuous bevy, hand in hand under the brazen sun, or
flaunt to and fro, lolling in one another's arms and laughing in one
another's faces. And see how closely above them hover the winged
loves! One, upside down in the air, sprinkles them with rose-leaves;
another waves over them a blazing torch; another tries to frighten
them with his unarrowed bow. Another yet has dared to descend into the
group; he nestles his fat cheek on a lady's lap, and is not rebuked.
These little chubby Cythareans know they are privileged to play any
pranks here. Doubtless they love to be on duty in this garden, for
here they are patted and petted, and have no real work to do. At close
of day, when they fly back to their mother, there is never an unmated
name in the report they bring her; and she, belike, being pleased with
them, allows them to sit up late, and to have each a slice of ambrosia
and a sip of nectar. But elsewhere they have hard work, and often fly
back in dread of Venus' anger. At that other balustrade, where
Watteau, remembering this one, painted for us the `Plaisirs du Bal,'
how often they have lain in ambush, knowing that were one of them to
show but the tip of his wings those sedate and migniard masqueraders
would faint for very shame; yet ever hoping that they might, by their
unseen presence, turn that punctilio of flirtation into love. And
always they have flown back from Dulwich unrequited for all the pains
they had taken, and pouting that Venus should ever send them on so
hard an errand. But a day in this garden is always for them a dear
holiday. They live in dread lest Venus discover how superfluous they
are here. And so, knowing that the hypocrite's first dupe must be
himself, they are always pretending to themselves that they are of
some use. See that child yonder, perched on the balustrade, reading
aloud from a scroll the praise of love as earnestly as though his
congregation were of infidels. And that other, to the side, pushing
two lovers along as though they were the veriest laggarts. The torch-
bearer, too, and the archer, and the sprinkler of the rose-leaves--
they are all, after their kind, trying to persuade themselves that
they are needed. All but he who leans over and nestles his fat cheek
on a lady's lap, as fondly and confidingly as though she were his
mother... And truly, the lady is very like his mother. So, indeed, are
all the other ladies. Strange! In all their faces is an uniformity of
divine splendour. Can it be that Venus, impatient of mere sequences of
lovers, has obtained leave of Jove to multiply herself, and that to-
day by a wild coincidence her every incarnation has trysted an adorer
to this same garden? Look closely! It must be so...

Hush! Let us keep her secret.


PAUVRETTE! no wonder she is startled. All came on her so suddenly. A
moment since, she was alone on this island. Theseus had left her. Her
lover had crept from her couch as she lay sleeping, and had sailed
away with his comrades, noiselessly, before the sun rose and woke her.
>From the top of yonder hillock she had seen the last sail of his
argosy fading over the sea-line. Vainly she had waved her arms, and
vainly her cries had echoed through all the island. She had run
distraught through the valleys, the goats scampering before her to
their own rocks. She had strayed, wildly weeping, along the shore, and
the very sky had seemed to mock her. At length, spent with sorrow and
wan with her tears, she had lain upon the sand. Above her the cliff
sloped gently down to the shore, and all around her was the hot
noontide, and no sound save the rustling of the sea over the sand.
Theseus had left her. The sea had taken him from her. Let the sea take
her in its tide.... Suddenly--what was that?--she leapt up and
listened. Voices, voices, the loud clash of cymbals! She looked round
for some place to hide in. Too late! Some man (goat or man) came
bounding towards her down the cliff. Another came after him. Then
others, a whole company, and with them many naked, abominable women,
laughing and shrieking and waving leafy wands, as they rushed down
towards her. And in their midst, in a brazen chariot drawn by
panthers, sped one whose yellow hair streamed far behind him in the
wind. And from his chariot he sprang and stood before her.

But she shrinks from his smile. She shrinks from the riot and ribaldry
that encompass her. She is but a young bride whom the bridegroom has
betrayed, and she would fain be alone in the bitterness of her anguish
and her humiliation. Why have they come, these creatures who are
stamping and reeling round her, these flushed women who clap the
cymbals, and these wild men with the hoofs and the horns of goats? How
should they comfort her? She is not of their race; no! nor even of
their time. She stands among them, just as Bergeron saw her, a
delicate, timid figurine du dix-huitie`me sie`cle. With her powdered
hair and her hooped skirt and her stiff bodice of rose silk, she seems
more fit for the consolations of some old Monsignore than for the
homage of these frenzied Pagans and the amorous regard of their
master. At him, pressing her shut fan to her lips, she is gazing
across her shoulder. With one hand she seems to ward him from her. Her
whole body is bent to flight, but she is `affear'd of her own feet.'
She is well enough educated to know that he who smiles at her is no
mortal, but Bacchus himself, the very lord of Naxos. He stands before
her, the divine debauchee racemiferis frontem circumdatus uvis; and
all around her, a waif on his territory, are the symbols of his
majesty and his power. It is in his honour that the ivy trails down
the cliff, and are not the yews and the firs and the fig-trees that
overshadow the cliff's edge all sacred to him? and the vines beyond,
are they not all his? His four panthers are clawing the sand, and four
tipsy Satyrs hold them, the impatient beasts, by their bridles.
Another Satyr drags to execution a goat that he has caught cropping
the vine; and in his slanted eyes one can see thirst for the blood of
his poor cousin. The Maenads are dancing in one another's arms, and
their tresses are coiled and crowned with tiny serpents. One of them
kneels apart, sucking a great wine-skin. And yonder, that old cupster,
Silenus, that horrible old favourite, wobbles along on a donkey, and
would tumble off, you may be sure, were he not upheld by two fairly
sober Satyrs. But the eyes of Ariadne are fixed only on the smooth-
faced god. See how he smiles back at her with that lascivious
condescension which is all that a god's love can be for a mortal girl!
In his hand he holds a long thyrsus. Behind him is borne aloft a
chaplet of seven gold stars.

Ariadne is but a little waif in the god's power. Not Theseus himself
could protect her. One tap of the god's wand, and, lo! she, too, would
be filled with the frenzy of worship, and, with a wild cry, would join
the dancers, his for ever. But the god is not unscrupulous. He would
fain win her by gentle and fair means, even by wedlock. That chaplet
of seven stars is his bridal offering. Why should not she accept it?
Why should she be coy of his desire? It is true that he drinks. But in
time, may be, a wife might be able to wean him from the wine-skin, and
from the low company he affects. That will be for time to show. And,
meanwhile, how brilliant a match! Not even Pasiphae", her mother, ever
contemplated for her such splendour. In her great love, Ariadne risked
her whole future by eloping with Theseus. For her--the daughter of a
far mightier king than Aegeus, and, on the distaff side, the
granddaughter of Apollo--even marriage with Theseus would have been a
me'salliance. And now, here is a chance, a chance most marvellous, of
covering her silly escapade. She will be sensible, I think, though she
is still a little frightened. She will accept this god's suit, if only
to pique Theseus--Theseus, who, for all his long, tedious anecdotes of
how he slew Procrustes and the bull of Marathon and the sow of
Cromyon, would even now lie slain or starving in her father's
labyrinth, had she not taken pity on him. Yes, it was pity she felt
for him. She never loved him. And then, to think that he, a mere
mortal, dared to cast her off--oh, it is too absurd, it is too


`Credo in Dominum' were the words this monk wrote in the dust of the
high-road, as he lay a-dying there of Cavina's dagger; and they,
according to the Dominican record, were presently washed away by his
own blood--`rapida profusio sui sanguinis delevit professionem suoe
fidei.' Yet they had not been written in vain. On Cavina himself their
impression was less delible, for did he not submit himself to the
Church, and was he not, after absolution, received into that monastery
which his own victim had founded? Here, before this picture by
Bellini, one looks instinctively for the three words in the dust. They
are not yet written there; for scarcely, indeed, has the dagger been
planted in the Saint's breast. But here, to the right, on this little
scroll of parchment that hangs from a fence of osiers, there are some
words written, and one stoops to decipher them... JOANNES BELLINUS

Now, had the Saint and his brother Dominican not been waylaid on their
journey, they would have passed by this very fence, and would have
stooped, as we do, to decipher the scroll, and would have very much
wondered who was Bellinus, and what it was that he had done. The
woodmen and the shepherd in the olive-grove by the roadside, the
cowherds by the well, yonder--they have seen the scroll, I dare say,
but they are not scholars enough to have read its letters. Cavina and
his comrade in arms, lying in wait here, probably did not observe it,
so intent were they for that pious and terrible Inquisitor who was to
pass by. How their hearts must have leapt when they saw him, at
length, with his companion, coming across that little arched bridge
from the town--a conspicuous, unmistakable figure, clad in the pied
frock of his brotherhood and wearing the familiar halo above his
closely-shorn pate.

Cavina stands now over the fallen Saint, planting the short dagger in
his heart. The other Dominican is being chased by Cavina's comrade,
his face wreathed in a bland smile, his hands stretched childishly
before him. Evidently he is quite unconscious how grave his situation
is. He seems to think that this pursuit is merely a game, and that if
he touch the wood of the olive-trees first, he will have won, and that
then it will be his turn to run after this man in the helmet. Or does
he know perhaps that this is but a painting, and that his pursuer will
never be able to strike him, though the chase be kept up for many
centuries? In any case, his smile is not at all seemly or dramatic.
And even more extraordinary is the behaviour of the woodmen and the
shepherd and the cowherds. Murder is being done within a yard or two
of them, and they pay absolutely no attention. How Tacitus would have
delighted in this example of the `inertia rusticorum'! It is a great
mistake to imagine that dwellers in quiet districts are more easily
excited by any event than are dwellers in packed cities. On the
contrary, the very absence of `sensations' produces an atrophy of the
senses. It is the constant supply of `sensations' which creates a real
demand for them in cities. Suppose that in our day some specially
unpopular clergyman were martyred `at the corner of Fenchurch Street,'
how the `same old crush' would be intensified! But here, in this quiet
glade 'twixt Milan and Como, on this quiet, sun-steeped afternoon in
early Spring, with a horrible outrage being committed under their very
eyes, these callous clowns pursue their absurd avocations, without so
much as resting for one moment to see what is going on.

Cavina plants the dagger methodically, and the Inquisitor himself is
evidently filled with that intense self-consciousness which sustains
all martyrs in their supreme hour and makes them, it may be,
insensible to actual pain. One feels that this martyr will write his
motto in the dust with a firm hand. His whole comportment is quite
exemplary. What irony that he should be unobserved! Even we,
posterity, think far less of St. Peter than of Bellini when we see
this picture; St. Peter is no more to us than the blue harmony of
those little hills beyond, or than that little sparrow perched on a
twig in the foreground. After all, there have been so many martyrs--
and so many martyrs named Peter--but so few great painters. The little
screed on the fence is no mere vain anachronism. It is a sly, rather
malicious symbol. PERIIT PETRUS: BILLINUS FECIT, as who should say.


Over them, ever over them, floats the Blue Bird; and they, the
ennuye'es and the ennuyants, the ennuyantes and the ennuye's, these
Parisians of 1830, are lolling in a charmed, charming circle, whilst
two of their order, the young Duc de Belhabit et Profil-Perdu with the
girl to whom he has but recently been married, move hither or thither
vaguely, their faces upturned, making vain efforts to lure down the
elusive creature. The haze of very early morning pervades the garden
which is the scene of their faint aspiration. One cannot see very
clearly there. The ladies' furbelows are blurred against the foliage,
and the lilac-bushes loom through the air as though they were white
clouds full of rain. One cannot see the ladies' faces very clearly.
One guesses them, though, to be supercilious and smiling, all with the
curved lips and the raised eyebrows of Experience. For, in their time,
all these ladies, and all their lovers with them, have tried to catch
this same Blue Bird, and have been full of hope that it would come
fluttering down to them at last. Now they are tired of trying, knowing
that to try were foolish and of no avail. Yet it is pleasant for them
to see, as here, others intent on the old pastime. Perhaps--who
knows?--some day the bird will be trapped... Ah, look! Monsieur Le Duc
almost touched its wing! Well for him, after all, that he did not more
than that! Had he caught it and caged it, and hung the gilt cage in
the boudoir of Madame la Duchesse, doubtless the bird would have
turned out to be but a moping, drooping, moulting creature, with not a
song to its little throat; doubtless the blue colour is but dye, and
would soon have faded from wings and breast. And see! Madame la
Duchesse looks a shade fatigued. She must not exert herself too much.
Also, the magic hour is all but over. Soon there will be sunbeams to
dispel the dawn's vapour; and the Blue Bird, with the sun sparkling on
its wings, will have soared away out of sight. Allons! The little
rogue is still at large.


Look! Across the plain yonder, those three figures, dark and gaunt
against the sky.... Who are they? What are they? One of them is
pointing with rigid arm towards the gnarled trees that from the
hillside stretch out their storm-broken boughs and ragged leaves
against the sky. Shifting thither, my eye discerns through the shadows
two horsemen, riding slowly down the incline. Hush! I hold up a
warning finger to my companion, lest he move. On what strange and
secret tryst have we stumbled? They must not know they are observed.
Could we creep closer up to them? Nay, the plain is so silent: they
would hear us; and so barren: they would surely see us. Here, under
cover of this rock, we can crouch and watch them.... We discern now
more clearly those three expectants. One of them has a cloak of faded
blue; it is fluttering in the wind. Women or men are they? Scarcely
human they seem: inauspicious beings from some world of shadows,
magically arisen through that platform of broken rock whereon they
stand. The air around, even the fair sky above, is fraught by them
with I know not what of subtle bale. One would say they had been
waiting here for many days, motionless, eager but not impatient,
knowing that at this hour the two horsemen would come. And we--it is
strange--have we not ere now beheld them waiting? In some waking
dream, surely, we have seen them, and now dimly recognise them. And
the two horsemen, forcing their steeds down the slope--them, too, we
have seen, even so. The light through a break in the trees faintly
reveals them to us. They are accoutred in black armour. They seem not
to be yet aware of the weird figures confronting them across the
plain. But the horses, with some sharper instinct, are aware and
afraid, straining, quivering. One of them throws back its head, but
dares not whinny. As though under some evil spell, all nature seems to
be holding its breath. Stealthily, noiselessly, I turn the leaves of
my catalogue... `Macbeth and the Witches.' Why, of course!

Of the two horsemen, which is Macbeth, which Banquo? Though we peer
intently, we cannot in those distant shadows distinguish which is he
that shall be king hereafter, which is he that shall merely beget
kings. It is mainly in virtue of this very vagueness and mystery of
manner that the picture is so impressive. An illustration should stir
our fancy, leaving it scope and freedom. Most illustrations, being
definite, do but affront us. Usually, Shakespeare is illustrated by
some Englishman overawed by the poet's repute, and incapable of
treating him, as did Corot, vaguely and offhand. Shakespeare expressed
himself through human and superhuman characters; therefore in England
none but a painter of figures would dare illustrate him. Had Corot
been an Englishman, this landscape would have had nothing to do with
Shakespeare. Luckily, as an alien, he was untrammelled by piety to the
poet. He could turn Shakespeare to his own account. In this picture,
obviously, he was creating, and only in a secondary sense
illustrating. For him the landscape was the thing. Indeed, the five
little figures may have been inserted by him as an afterthought, to
point and balance the composition. Vaguely he remembered hearing of
Macbeth, or reading it in some translation. Ce Sac-espe`re...un beau' romantique. Hugo he would not have attempted to
illustrate. But Sac-espe`re--why not? And so the little figures came
upon the canvas, dim sketches. Charles Lamb disliked theatrical
productions of Shakespeare's plays, because of the constraint thus
laid on his imagination. But in the theatre, at least, we are diverted
by movement, recompensed by the sound of the poet's words and (may be)
by human intelligence interpreting his thoughts; whereas from a
definite painting of Shakespearean figures we get nothing but an
equivalent for the mimes' appearance: nothing but the painter's bare
notion (probably quite incongruous with our notion) of what these
figures ought to look like. Take Macbeth as an instance. From a
definite painting of him what do we get? At worst, the impression of a
kilted man with a red beard and red knees, brandishing a claymore. At
best, a sombre barbarian doing nothing in particular. In either case,
all the atmosphere, all the character, all the poetry, all that makes
Macbeth live for us, is lost utterly. If these definite illustrations
of Shakespeare's human figures affront us, how much worse is it when
an artist tries his hand at the figures that are superhuman! Imagine
an English illustrator's projection of the weird sisters--with long
grey beards duly growing on their chins, and belike one of them duly
holding in her hand a pilot's thumb. It is because Corot had no
reverence for Shakespeare's text--because he was able to create in his
own way, with scarcely a thought of Shakespeare, an independent
masterpiece--that this picture is worthy of its theme. The largeness
of the landscape in proportion to the figures seems to show us the
tragedy in its essential relation to the universe. We see the heath
lying under infinity, under true sky and winds. No hint of the theatre
is there. All is as the poet may have conceived it in his soul. And
for us Corot's brush-work fills the place of Shakespeare's music. Time
has tessellated the surface of the canvas; but beauty, intangible and
immortal, dwells in its depths safely--dwells there even as it dwells
in the works of Shakespeare, though the folios be foxed and seared.

The longer we gaze, the more surely does the picture illude us and
enthral us, steeping us in that tragedy of `the fruitless crown and
barren sceptre.' We forget all else, watching the unkind witches as
they await him whom they shall undo, driving him to deeds he dreams
not of, and beguiling him, at length, to his doom. Against `the set of
sun' they stand forth, while he who shall be king hereafter, with the
comrade whom he shall murder, rides down to them, guileless of aught
that shall be. Privy to his fate, we experience a strange compassion.
Anon the fateful colloquy will begin. `All hail, Macbeth' the
unearthly voices will be crying across the heath. Can nothing be done?
Can we stand quietly here while... Nay, hush! We are powerless. These
witches, if we tried to thwart them, would swiftly blast us. There are
things with which no mortal must meddle. There are things which no
mortal must behold. Come away!

So, casting one last backward look across the heath, we, under cover
of the rock, steal fearfully away across the parquet floor of the


It is not among the cardboard glades of the King's Theatre, nor,
indeed, behind any footlights, but in a real and twilit garden that
Grisi, gimp-waisted sylphid, here skips for posterity. To her right,
the roses on the trellis are not paper roses--one guesses them quite
fragrant. And that is a real lake in the distance; and those delicate
pale trees around it, they too are quite real. Yes! surely this is the
garden of Grisi's villa at Uxbridge; and her guests, quoting Lord
Byron's `al fresco, nothing more delicious,' have tempted her to a
daring by-show of her genius. To her left there is a stone cross,
which has been draped by one of the guests with a scarf bearing the
legend GISELLE. It is Sunday evening, I fancy, after dinner. Cannot
one see the guests, a group entranced by its privilege--the ladies
with bandeaux and with little shawls to ward the dew from their
shoulders; the gentlemen, D'Orsayesque all, forgetting to puff the
cigars which the ladies, `this once,' have suffered them to light? One
sees them there; but they are only transparent phantoms between us and
Grisi, not interrupting our vision. As she dances--the peerless
Grisi!--one fancies that she is looking through them at us, looking
across the ages to us who stand looking back at her. Her smile is but
the formal Cupid's-bow of the ballerina; but I think there is a
clairvoyance of posterity in the large eyes, and, in the pose, a self-
consciousness subtler than merely that of one who, dancing, leads all
men by the heart-strings. A something is there which is almost
shyness. Clearly, she knows it to be thus that she will be remembered;
feels this to be the moment of her immortality. Her form is all but in
profile, swaying far forward, but her face is full-turned to us. Her
arms float upon the air. Below the stark ruff of muslin about her
waist, her legs are as a tilted pair of compasses; one point in the
air, the other impinging the ground. One tiptoe poised ever so lightly
upon the earth, as though the muslin wings at her shoulders were not
quite strong enough to bear her up into the sky! So she remains,
hovering betwixt two elements; a creature exquisitely ambiguous, being
neither aerial nor of the earth. She knows that she is mortal, yet is
conscious of apotheosis. She knows that she, though herself must
perish, is imperishable; for she sees us, her posterity, gazing fondly
back at her. She is touched. And we, a little envious of those who did
once see Grisi plain, always shall find solace in this pretty picture
of her; holding it to be, for all the artificiality of its convention,
as much more real as it is prettier than the stringent ballet-girls of


What monster have we here? Who is he that sprawls thus, ventrirotund,
against the huge oozing wine-skin? Wide his nose, narrowly-slit his
eyes, and with little teeth he smiles at us through a beard of bright
russet--a beard soft as the russet coat of a squirrel, and sprouting
in several tiers according to the several chins that ascend behind it
from his chest. Nude he is but for a few dark twists of drapery. One
dimpled foot is tucked under him, the other cocked before him. With a
bifurcated fist (such is his hand) he pillows the bald dome of his
head. He seems to be very happy, sprawling here in the twilight. The
wine oozes from the wine-skin; but he, replete, takes no heed of it.
On the ground before him are a few almond-blossoms, blown there by the
wind. He is snuffing their fragrance, I think.

Who is he? `Ho-Tei,' you tell me; `god of increase, god of the corn-
fields and rice-fields, patron of all little children in Japan--a
blend of Dionysus and Santa Claus.' So? Then his look belies him. He
is far too fat to care for humanity, too gross to be divine. I suspect
he is but some self-centred sage, whom Hokusai beheld with his own
eyes in a devious corner of Yedo. A hermit he is, surely; one not more
affable than Diogenes, yet wiser than he, being at peace with himself
and finding (as it were) the honest man without emerging from his own
tub; a complacent Diogenes; a Diogenes who has put on flesh. Looking
at him, one is reminded of that over-swollen monster gourd which to
young Nevil Beauchamp and his Marquise, as they saw it from their
river-boat, `hanging heavily down the bank on one greenish yellow
cheek, in prolonged contemplation of its image in the mirror below,'
so sinisterly recalled Monsieur le Marquis. But to us this `self-
adored, gross bald Cupid' has no such symbolism, and we revel as
whole-heartedly as he in his monstrous contours. `I am very
beautiful,' he seems to murmur. And we endorse the boast. At the same
time, we transfer to Hokusai the credit which this glutton takes all
to himself. It is Hokusai who made him, delineating his paunch in that
one soft summary curve, and echoing it in the curve of the wine-skin
that swells around him. Himself, as a living man, were too loathsome
for words; but here, thanks to Hokusai, he is not less admirable than
Pheidias' Hermes, or the Discobolus himself. Yes! Swathed in his
abominable surplusage of bulk, he is as fair as any statue of
astricted god or athlete that would suffer not by incarnation...

Presently, we forget again that he is unreal. He seems alive to us,
and somehow he is still beautiful. `It is a beauty,' like that of Mona
Lisa, `wrought out from within upon the flesh, the' adipose `deposit,
little cell by cell, of strange thoughts and fantastic reveries and
exquisite passions.' It is the beauty of real fatness--that fatness
which comes from within, and reacts on the soul that made it, until
soul and body are one deep harmony of fat; that fatness which gave us
the geniality of Silenus, of the late Major O'Gorman; which soothes
all nerves in its owner, and creates the earthy, truistic wisdom of
Sancho Pauza, of Fran‡isque Sarcey; which makes a man selfish, because
there is so much of him, and venerable because he seems to be a knoll
of the very globe we live on, and lazy inasmuch as the form of
government under which he lives is an absolute gastrocracy--the belly
tyrannising over the members whom it used to serve, and wielding its
power as unscrupulously as none but a promoted slave could.

Such is the true fatness. It is not to be confounded with mere
stoutness. Contrast with this Japanese sage that orgulous hidalgo who,
in black velvet, defies modern Prussia from one of Velasquez's
canvases in Berlin. Huge is that other, and gross; and, so puffed his
cheeks are that the light, cast up from below, strives vainly to creep
over them to his eyes, like a tourist vainly striving to creep over a
boulder on a mountainside. Yet is he not of the hierarchy of true
fatness. He bears his bulk proudly, and would sit well any charger
that were strong enough to bear him, and, if such a steed were not in
stables, would walk the distance swingingly. He is a man of action, a
fighter, an insolent dominator of men and women. In fact, he is merely
a stout man--uniform with Porthos, and Arthur Orton, and Sir John
Falstaff; spiced, like them, with charlatanism and braggadocio, and
not the less a fine fellow for that. Indeed, such bulk as his and
theirs is in the same kind as that bulk which, lesser in degree, is
indispensable to greatness in practical affairs. No man, as Prince
Bismarck declared, is to be trusted in state-craft until he can show a
stomach. A lack of stomach betokens lack of mental solidity, of
humanity, of capacity for going through with things; and these three
qualities are essential to statesmanship. Poets and philosophers can
afford to be thin--cannot, indeed, afford to be otherwise; inasmuch as
poetry and philosophy thrive but in the clouds aloft, and a stomach
ballasts you to earth. Such ballast the statesman must have. Thin
statesmen may destroy, but construct they cannot; have achieved chaos,
but cosmos never.

But why prate history, why evoke phantoms of the past, when we can
gaze on this exquisitely concrete thing--this glad and simple creature
of Hokusai? Let us emulate his calm, enjoy his enjoyment as he sprawls
before us--pinguis, iners, placidus--in the pale twilight. Let us not
seek to identify him as god or mortal, nor guess his character from
his form. Rather, let us take him as he is; for all time the perfect
type of fatness.

Lovely and excessive monster! Monster immensurable! What belt could
inclip you? What blade were long enough to prick the heart of you?


Never, I suppose, was a painter less maladif in his work than Morland,
that lover of simple and sun-bright English scenes. Probably, this
picture of his is all cheerful in intention. Yet the effect of it is

Superficially, the scene is cheerful enough. Our first impression is
of a happy English home, of childish high-spirits and pretty manners.
We note how genial a lady is the visitor, and how eager the children
are to please. One of them trips respectfully forward--a wave of
yellow curls fresh and crisp from the brush, a rustle of white muslin
fresh and crisp from the wash. She is supported on one side by her
grown-up sister, on the other by her little brother, who displays the
nectarine already given to him by the kind lady. Splendid in far-
reaching furbelows, that kind lady holds out both her hands, beaming
encouragement. On her ample lap is a little open basket with other
ripe nectarines in it--one for every child.

Modest, demure, the girl trips forward as though she were dancing a
quadrille. In the garden, just beyond the threshold, stand two smaller
sisters, shyly awaiting their turn. They, too, are in their Sunday-
best, and on the tiptoe of excitement--infant coryphe'es, in whom, as
they stand at the wings, stage-fright is overborne by the desire to be
seen and approved. I fancy they are rehearsing under their breath the
`Yes, ma' am,' and the `No, ma'am,' and the `I thank you, ma'am, very
much,' which their grown-up sister has been drilling into them during
the hurried toilet they have just been put through in honour of this
sudden call.

How anxious their mother is during the ceremony of introduction! How
keenly, as she sits there, she keeps her eyes fixed on the visitor's
face! Maternal anxiety, in that gaze, seems to be intensified by
social humility. For this is no ordinary visitor. It is some great
lady of the county, very rich, of high fashion, come from a great
mansion in a great park, bringing fruit from one of her own many hot-
houses. That she has come at all is an act of no slight condescension,
and the mother feels it. Even so did homely Mrs. Fairchild look up to
Lady Noble. Indeed, I suspect that this visitor is Lady Noble herself,
and that the Fairchilds themselves are neighbours of this family.
These children have been coached to say `Yes, my lady,' and `No, my
lady,' and `I thank you, my lady, very much'; and their mother has
already been hoping that Mrs. Fairchild will haply pass through the
lane and see the emblazoned yellow chariot at the wicket. But just now
she is all maternal--`These be my jewels.' See with what pride she
fingers the sampler embroidered by one of her girls, knowing well that
`spoilt' Miss Augusta Noble could not do such embroidery to save her
life--that life which, through her Promethean naughtiness in playing
with fire, she was so soon to lose.

Other exemplary samplers hang on the wall yonder. On the mantelshelf
stands a slate, with an ink-pot and a row of tattered books, and other
tokens of industry. The schoolroom, beyond a doubt. Lady Noble has
expressed a wish to see the children here, in their own haunt, and her
hostess has led the way hither, somewhat flustered, gasping many
apologies for the plainness of the apartment. A plain apartment it is:
dark, bare-boarded, dingy-walled. And not merely a material gloom
pervades it. There is a spiritual gloom, also--the subtly oppressive
atmosphere of a room where life has not been lived happily.

Though these children are cheerful now, it is borne in on us by the
atmosphere (as preserved for us by Morland's master-hand) that their
life is a life of appalling dismalness. Even if we had nothing else to
go on, this evidence of our senses were enough. But we have other
things to go on. We know well the way in which children of this period
were brought up. We remember the life of `The Fairchild Family,' those
putative neighbours of this family--in any case, its obvious
contemporaries; and we know that the life of those hapless little
prigs was typical of child-life in the dawn of the nineteenth century.
Depend on it, this family (whatever its name may be: the Thompsons, I
conjecture) is no exception to the dismal rule. In this schoolroom,
every day is a day of oppression, of forced endeavour to reach an
impossible standard of piety and good conduct--a day of tears and
texts, of texts quoted and tears shed, incessantly, from morning unto
evening prayers. After morning prayers (read by Papa), breakfast. The
bread-and-butter of which, for the children, this meal consists, must
be eaten (slowly) in a silence by them unbroken except with prompt
answers to such scriptural questions as their parents (who have ham-
and-eggs) may, now and again, address to them. After breakfast, the
Catechism (heard by Mamma). After the Catechism, a hymn to be learnt.
After the repetition of this hymn, arithmetic, caligraphy, the use of
the globes. At noon, a decorous walk with Papa, who for their benefit
discourses on the General Depravity of Mankind in all Countries after
the Fall, occasionally pausing by the way to point for them some moral
of Nature. After a silent dinner, the little girls sew, under the
supervision of Mamma, or of the grown-up sister, or of both these
authorities, till the hour in which (if they have sewn well) they reap
permission to play (quietly) with their doll. A silent supper, after
which they work samplers. Another hymn to be learnt and repeated.
Evening prayers. Bedtime: `Good-night, dear Papa; good-night, dear

Such, depend on it, is the Thompsons' curriculum. What a painful
sequence of pictures a genre-painter might have made of it! Let us be
thankful that we see the Thompsons only in this brief interlude of
their life, tearless and unpinafored, in this hour of strange
excitement, glorying in that Sunday-best which on Sundays is to them
but a symbol of intenser gloom.

But their very joy is in itself tragic. It reveals to us, in a flash,
the tragedy of their whole existence. That so much joy should result
from mere suspension of the usual re'gime, the sight of Lady Noble,
the anticipation of a nectarine! For us there is no comfort in the
knowledge that their present degree of joy is proportionate to their
usual degree of gloom, that for them the Law of Compensation drops
into the scale of these few moments an exact counter-weight of joy to
the misery accumulated in the scale of all their other moments. We,
who do not live their life, who regard Lady Noble as a mere Hecuba,
and who would accept one of her nectarines only in sheer politeness,
cannot rejoice with them that do rejoice thus, can but pity them for
all that has led up to their joy. We may reflect that the harsh system
on which they are reared will enable them to enjoy life with infinite
gusto when they are grown up, and that it is, therefore, a better
system than the indulgent modern one. We may reflect, further, that it
produces a finer type of man or woman, less selfish, better-mannered,
more capable and useful. The pretty grown-up daughter here, leading
her little sister by the hand, so gracious and modest in her mien, so
sunny and affectionate, so obviously wholesome and high-principled--is
she not a walking testimonial to the system? Yet to us the system is
not the less repulsive in itself. Its results may be what you please,
but its practice were impossible. We are too tender, too sentimental.
We have not the nerve to do our duty to children, nor can we bear to
think of any one else doing it. To children we can do nothing but
`spoil' them, nothing but bless their hearts and coddle their souls,
taking no thought for their future welfare. And we are justified,
maybe, in our flight to this opposite extreme. Nobody can read one
line ahead in the book of fate. No child is guaranteed to become an
adult. Any child may die to-morrow. How much greater for us the sting
of its death if its life shall not have been made as pleasant as
possible! What if its short life shall have been made as unpleasant as
possible? Conceive the remorse of Mrs. Thompson here if one of her
children were to die untimely--if one of them were stricken down now,
before her eyes, by this surfeit of too sudden joy!

However, we do not fancy that Mrs. Thompson is going to be thus
afflicted. We believe that there is a saving antidote in the cup of
her children's joy. There is something, we feel, that even now
prevents them from utter ecstasy. Some shadow, even now, hovers over
them. What is it? It is not the mere atmosphere of the room, so
oppressive to us. It is something more definite than that, and even
more sinister. It looms aloft, monstrously, like one of those
grotesque actual shadows which a candle may cast athwart walls and
ceiling. Whose shadow is it? we wonder, and, wondering, become sure
that it is Mr. Thompson's--Papa's.

The papa of Georgian children! We know him well, that awfully massive
and mysterious personage, who seemed ever to his offspring so remote
when they were in his presence, so frighteningly near when they were
out of it. In Mrs. Turner's Cautionary Stories in Verse he occurs
again and again. Mr. Fairchild was a perfect type of him. Mr. Bennet,
when the Misses Lizzie, Jane and Lydia were in pinafores, must have
been another perfect type: we can reconstruct him as he was then from
the many fragments of his awfulness which still clung to him when the
girls had grown up. John Ruskin's father, too, if we read between the
lines of Praeterita, seems to have had much of the authentic monster
about him. He, however, is disqualified as a type by the fact that he
was `an entirely honest merchant.' For one of the most salient
peculiarities in the true Georgian Papa was his having apparently no
occupation whatever--his being simply and solely a Papa. Even in
social life he bore no part: we never hear of him calling on a
neighbour or being called on. Even in his own household he was seldom
visible. Except at their meals, and when he took them for their walk,
and when they were sent to him to be reprimanded, his children never
beheld him in the flesh. Mamma, poor lady, careful of many other
things, superintended her children unremittingly, to keep them in the
thorny way they should go. Hers the burden and heat of every day, hers
to double the ro^les of Martha and Cornelia, that her husband might be
left ever calmly aloof in that darkened room, the Study. There, in a
high armchair, with one stout calf crossed over the other, immobile
throughout the long hours sate he, propping a marble brow on a dexter
finger of the same material. On the table beside him was a vase of
flowers, daily replenished by the children, and a closed volume. It is
remarkable that in none of the many woodcuts in which he has been
handed down to us do we see him reading; he is always meditating on
something he has just read. Occasionally, he is fingering a portfolio
of engravings, or leaning aside to examine severely a globe of the
world. That is the nearest he ever gets to physical activity. In him
we see the static embodiment of perfect wisdom and perfect
righteousness. We take him at his own valuation, humbly. Yet we have a
queer instinct that there was a time when he did not diffuse all this
cold radiance of good example. Something tells us that he has been a
sinner in his day--a rattler of the ivories at Almack's, and an ogler
of wenches in the gardens of Vauxhall, a sanguine backer of the Negro
against the Suffolk Bantam, and a devil of a fellow at boxing the
watch and wrenching the knockers when Bow Bells were chiming the small
hours. Nor do we feel that he is a penitent. He is too Olympian for
that. He has merely put these things behind him--has calmly, as a
matter of business, transferred his account from the worldly bank to
the heavenly. He has seen fit to become `Papa.' As such, strong in the
consciousness of his own perfection, he has acquired, gradually,
quasi-divine powers over his children. Himself invisible, we know that
he can always see them. Himself remote, we know that he is always with
them, and that always they feel his presence. He prevents them in all
their ways. The Mormon Eye is not more direly inevitable than he.
Whenever they offend in word or deed, he knows telepathically, and
fixes their punishment, long before they are arraigned at his

At this moment, as at all others, Mr. Thompson has his inevitable eye
on his children, and they know that it is on them. He is well enough
pleased with them at this moment. But alas! we feel that ere the sun
sets they will have incurred his wrath. Presently Lady Noble will have
finished her genial inspection, and have sailed back, under convoy of
the mother and the grown-up daughter, to the parlour, there to partake
of that special dish of tea which is even now being brewed for her.
When the children are left alone, their pent excitement will overflow
and wash them into disgrace. Belike, they will quarrel over the
nectarines. There will be bitter words, and a pinch, and a scratch,
and a blow, screams, a scrimmage. The rout will be heard afar in the
parlour. The grown-up sister will hasten back and be beheld suddenly,
a quelling figure, on the threshold: `For shame, Clara! Mary, I wonder
at you! Henry, how dare you, sir? Silence, Ethel! Papa shall hear of
this.' Flushed and rumpled, the guilty four will hang their heads,
cowed by authority and by it perversely reconciled one with another.
Authority will bid them go upstairs `this instant,' there to shed
their finery and resume the drab garb of every day. From the bedroom-
windows they will see Lady Noble step into her yellow chariot and
drive away. Envy--an inarticulate, impotent envy--will possess their
hearts: why cannot they be rich, and grown-up, and bowed to by every
one? When the chariot is out of sight, envy will be superseded by the
play-instinct. Silently, in their hearts, the children will play at
being Lady Noble.... Mamma's voice will be heard on the stairs,
rasping them back to the realities. Sullenly they will go down to the
schoolroom, and resume their tasks. But they will not be able to
concentrate their unsettled minds. The girls will make false stitches
in the pillow-slips which they had been hemming so neatly when the
yellow chariot drove up to the front-door; and Master Harry will be
merely dazed by that page of the Delectus which he had almost got by
heart. Their discontent will be inspissated by the knowledge that they
are now worse-off than ever--are in dire disgrace, and that even now
the grown-up sister is `telling Papa' (who knows already, and has but
awaited the formal complaint). Presently the grown-up sister will come
into the schoolroom, looking very grave: `Children, Papa has something
to say to you.' In the Study, to which, quaking, they will proceed, an
endless sermon awaits them. The sin of Covetousness will be expatiated
on, and the sins of Discord and Hatred, and the eternal torment in
store for every child who is guilty of them. All four culprits will be
in tears soon after the exordium. Before the peroration (a graphic
description of the Lake of Fire) they will have become hysterical.
They will be sent supperless to bed. On the morrow they will have to
learn and repeat the chapter about Cain and Abel. A week, at least,
will have elapsed before they are out of disgrace. Such are the
inevitable consequences of joy in a joyless life. It were well for
these children had `The Visit' never been paid.

Morland, I suppose, discerned naught of all this tragedy in his
picture. To him, probably, the thing was an untainted idyll, was but
one of those placid homely scenes which he loved as dearly as could
none but the brawler and vagabond that he was. And yet... and yet...
perhaps he did intend something of what we discern here. He may have
been thinking, bitterly, of his own childhood, and of the home he ran
away from.



Mr. Edmund Gosse, in THE WORLD: `We may find it hard to realise that
Max may become a classic, but I see no other essayist who seems to
have more chance of it.... There is no question of "reserved places"
on Parnassus, but it is my individual conviction that where La
Bruye`re and Addison and Stevenson are, there Max will be.... It is
perhaps his final charm as an essayist that, underneath a ceremonious
style, an exquisite demeanour and advance, a low voice, a graceful
hearing, a polished cadence, there exists a powerful, sometimes what
almost seems a furious independence of character.'

THE TIMES: `So few men can trifle without being silly or be intimate
without being tiresome, so few have either the mental power or the
unity of vision necessary for a decent transition from mood to mood,
that essayists fit to be ranked with Steele, Addison, Stevenson, are
still few. Mr. Max Beerbohm has proved his title.... There, where
every idea is the author's, and every phrase is scrupulously adapted
to the best expression by the author of his own idea, we get the true
originality in art. Through all the play of fancy, the wit and humour,
the swift transitions, the caprice and jesting, that ultimate
sincerity shines; and it is that which lights Mr. Beerbohm's fine
taste and knowledge of his craft to beauty.'

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: `As an artist whose medium is the essay, Mr. Max
Beerbohm should stand for this generation as Lamb stands for the first
generation of the nineteenth century.'

THE DAILY NEWS: `He has wit, and charm, and good humour--and these are
the qualities which characterise this completely delightful volume of

THE MORNING LEADER: `Max sees himself in a hundred different ways. In
any capacity he is unique. He remains our best essayist.'

THE OBSERVER: `Charles Lamb a` la Max is never obtrusive. It is only
the ghost of him that stalks in and about. We soon fall away from the
reminiscence; and the caricaturist becomes a personality.'

Mr. Sidney Dark in THE DAILY EXPRESS: `Max is always delightful in his
dainty, leisurely tolerance of everybody and everything. No other
living writer could have produced "Yet Again." It is individual--and
thoroughly good to read.'

THE EVENING STANDARD: `Mr. Beerbohm is always in holiday mood; and
this we gradually catch from him. We begin by enjoying him; we end by
enjoying life and ourselves.'

THE NATION: `Blessed are they who possess the gift of extracting
sunbeams from cucumbers.... The simplicity of Mr. Beerbohm's themes
serves but to enhance the elegance of his mind.'

Mr. G. S. Street in THE ENGLISHWOMAN: `I trust sincerely I shall not
damage his reputation if I say that the play of his fancy is never
inconsistent with two strong qualities of his mind and temperament, a
sound judgment and a kindly heart.'

Mr. W. H. Chesson in THE DAILY CHRONICLE: `He is undoubtedly one of
our benefactors. He excels in the humour which creates humour.'

THE GLOBE: `In their different ways, all these essays will delight the
appreciative reader, and we can only bid him or her buy, beg, borrow,
or steal Max's latest volume immediately.'

Mr. James Douglas in LONDON OPINION: `The style of these essays is not
eccentric, and yet it is dyed with the hues of a personality as rich
and rare as Elia's own, There is no contemporary prose which is so
uncorrupted by current influences, and which is so sure to defy the
corrosion of time. In a hundred years it will not be a dated or
derelict thing. Its colour and its cadence will delight the
connoisseur then as the colour and cadence of Lamb's prose delights
him now.'

THE MORNING POST: `He is naturally gifted with something that is
called talent in life and genius after death.'


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