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A Writer's Recollections (In Two Volumes), Volume II by Mrs. Humphry Ward

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A WRITER'S RECOLLECTIONS (IN TWO VOLUMES), VOLUME II

BY MRS. HUMPHRY WARD

Published November, 1918

[Illustration: HENRY JAMES]

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I. LONDON IN THE 'EIGHTIES

II. LONDON FRIENDS

III. THE PUBLICATION OF "ROBERT ELSMERE"

IV. FIRST VISITS TO ITALY

V. AMALFI AND ROME. HAMPDEN AND "MARCELLA"

VI. "HELBECK OF BANNISDALE"

VII. THE VILLA BARBERINI. HENRY JAMES

VIII. ROMAN FRIENDS. "ELEANOR"

EPILOGUE

ILLUSTRATIONS

HENRY JAMES

ARTHUR BALFOUR

GOLDWIN SMITH

M. JUSSERAND

CHAPTER I

LONDON IN THE 'EIGHTIES

The few recollections of William Forster that I have put together in the
preceding volume lead naturally, perhaps, to some account of my
friendship and working relations at this time with Forster's most
formidable critic in the political press--Mr. John Morley, now Lord
Morley. It was in the late 'seventies, I think, that I first saw Mr.
Morley. I sat next him at the Master's dinner-table, and the impression
he made upon me was immediate and lasting. I trust that a great man, to
whom I owed much, will forgive me for dwelling on some of the incidents
of literary comradeship which followed!

My husband and I, on the way home, compared notes. We felt that we had
just been in contact with a singular personal power combined with a
moral atmosphere which had in it both the bracing and the charm that,
physically, are the gift of the heights. The "austere" Radical, indeed,
was there. With regard to certain vices and corruptions of our life and
politics, my uncle might as well have used Mr. Morley's name as that of
Mr. Frederick Harrison, when he presented us, in "Friendship's Garland,"
with Mr. Harrison setting up a guillotine in his back garden. There was
something--there always has been something--of the somber intensity of
the prophet in Mr. Morley. Burke drew, as we all remember, an
ineffaceable picture of Marie Antoinette's young beauty as he saw it in
1774, contrasting it with the "abominable scenes" amid which she
perished. Mr. Morley's comment is:

But did not the protracted agonies of a nation deserve the tribute
of a tear? As Paine asked, were men to weep over the plumage and
forget the dying bird? ... It was no idle abstraction, no
metaphysical right of man for which the French cried, but only the
practical right of being permitted, by their own toil, to save
themselves and the little ones about their knees from hunger and
cruel death.

The cry of the poor, indeed, against the rich and tyrannous, the cry of
the persecuted Liberal, whether in politics or religion, against his
oppressors--it used to seem to me, in the 'eighties, when, to my
pleasure and profit, I was often associated with Mr. Morley, that in his
passionate response to this double appeal lay the driving impulse of his
life and the secret of his power over others. While we were still at
Oxford he had brought out most of his books: _On Compromise_--the fierce
and famous manifesto of 1874--and the well-known volumes on the
Encyclopedists, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot. It was not for nothing that
he had been a member of Pattison's college; and a follower of John
Stuart Mill. The will to look the grimmest facts of life and destiny in
the face, without flinching, and the resolve to accept no "anodyne" from
religion or philosophy, combined with a ceaseless interest in the human
fate and the human story, and a natural, inbred sympathy for the many
against the few, for the unfortunate against the prosperous; it was
these ardors and the burning sincerity with which he felt them, that
made him so great a power among us, his juniors by half a generation. I
shall never lose the impression that _Compromise_, with its almost
savage appeal for sincerity in word and deed, made upon me--an
impression which had its share in _Robert Elsmere_.

But together with this tragic strenuousness there was always the
personal magic which winged it and gave it power. Mr. Morley has known
all through his life what it was to be courted, by men and women alike,
for the mere pleasure of his company; in which he resembled another man
whom both he and I knew well--Sir Alfred Lyall. It is well known that
Mr. Gladstone was fascinated by the combination in his future biographer
of the Puritan, the man of iron conviction, and the delightful man of
letters. And in my own small sphere I realized both aspects of Mr.
Morley during the 'eighties. Just before we left Oxford I had begun to
write reviews and occasional notes for the _Pall Mall_, which he was
then editing; after we settled in London, and he had become also editor
of _Macmillan_, he asked me, to my no little conceit, to write a monthly
_causerie_ on a book or books for that magazine. I never succeeded in
writing nearly so many; but in two years I contributed perhaps eight or
ten papers--until I became absorbed in _Robert Elsmere_ and Mr. Morley
gave up journalism for politics. During that time my pleasant task
brought me into frequent contact with my editor. Nothing could have been
kinder than his letters; at the same time there was scarcely one of them
that did not convey some hint, some touch of the critical goad,
invaluable to the recipient. I wrote him a letter of wailing when he
gave up the editorship and literature and became Member for Newcastle.
Such a fall it seemed to me then! But Mr. Morley took it patiently. "Do
not lament over your friend, but pray for him!" As, indeed, one might
well do, in the case of one who for a few brief months--in 1886--was to
be Chief Secretary for Ireland, and again in 1892-95.

It was, indeed, in connection with Ireland that I became keenly and
personally aware of that other side of Mr. Morley's character--the side
which showed him the intransigent supporter of liberty at all costs and
all hazards. It was, I suppose, the brilliant and pitiless attacks in
the _Pall Mall_ on Mr. Forster's Chief-Secretaryship, which, as much as
anything else, and together with what they reflected in the Cabinet,
weakened my uncle's position and ultimately led to his resignation in
the spring of 1882. Many of Mr. Forster's friends and kinsfolk resented
them bitterly; and among the kinsfolk, one of them, I have reason to
know, made a strong private protest. Mr. Morley's attitude in reply
could only have been that which is well expressed by a sentence of
Darmesteter's about Renan: "So pliant in appearance, so courteous in
manner, he became a bar of iron as soon as one sought to wrest from him
an act or word contrary to the intimate sense of his conscience."

But no man has a monopoly of conscience. The tragedy was that here were
two men, both democrats, both humanitarians, but that an executive
office, in a time of hideous difficulty, had been imposed upon the one,
from which the other--his critic--was free. Ten years later, when Mr.
Morley was Chief Secretary, it was pointed out that the same statesman
who had so sincerely and vehemently protested in the case of William
Forster and Mr. Balfour against the revival of "obsolete" statutes, and
the suppression of public meetings, had himself been obliged to put
obsolete statutes in operation sixteen times, and to prohibit twenty-six
public meetings. These, however, are the whirligigs of politics, and no
politician escapes them.

In my eyes Lord Morley's crowning achievement in literature is his
biography of Mr. Gladstone. How easy it would have been to smother Mr.
Gladstone in stale politics!--and how stale politics may become in that
intermediate stage before they pass finally into history! English
political literature is full of biography of this kind. The three
notable exceptions of recent years which occur to me are Mr. Churchill's
_Life_ of his father, the Disraeli biography still in progress, and the
_Gladstone_. But it would be difficult indeed to "stale" the story of
either Lord Randolph or Dizzy. A biographer would have to set about it
of malice prepense. In the case, however, of Mr. Gladstone, the danger
was more real. Anglican orthodoxy, eminent virtue, unfailing decorum; a
comparatively weak sense of humor, and a literary gift much inferior to
his oratorical gift, so that the most famous of his speeches are but
cold reading now; interminable sentences, and an unfailing relish for
detail all important in its day, but long since dead and buried; the
kind of biography that, with this material, half a dozen of Mr.
Gladstone's colleagues might have written of him, for all his greatness,
rises formidably on the inward eye. The younger generation waiting for
the historian to come--except in the case of those whose professional
duty as politicians it would have been to read it--might quite well have
yawned and passed by.

But Mr. Morley's literary instinct, which is the artistic instinct,
solved the problem. The most interesting half of the book will always, I
think, be the later half. In the great matters of his hero's earlier
career--Free Trade, the Crimean War, the early budgets, the slow
development of the Liberal leader from the Church and State Conservative
of 1832, down to the franchise battle of the 'sixties and the "great
Ministry," as Mr. Morley calls it, of 1868, the story is told, indeed,
perhaps here and there at too great length, yet with unfailing ease and
lucidity. The teller, however, is one who, till the late 'seventies, was
only a spectator, and, on the whole, from a distance, of what he is
describing, who was indeed most of the time pursuing his own special
aims--i.e., the hewing down of orthodoxy and tradition, together with
the preaching of a frank and uncompromising agnosticism, in the
_Fortnightly Review_; aims which were, of all others, most opposed to
Mr. Gladstone's. But with the 'eighties everything changes. Mr. Morley
becomes a great part of what he tells. During the intermediate
stage--marked by his editorship of the _Pall Mall Gazette_--the tone of
the biography grows sensibly warmer and more vivid, as the writer draws
nearer and nearer to the central scene; and with Mr. Morley's election
to Newcastle and his acceptance of the Chief-Secretaryship in 1885, the
book becomes the fascinating record of not one man, but two, and that
without any intrusion whatever on the rights of the main figure. The
dreariness of the Irish struggle is lightened by touch after touch that
only Mr. Morley could have given. Take that picture of the somber,
discontented Parnell, coming, late in the evening, to Mr. Morley's room
in the House of Commons, to complain of the finance of the Home Rule
Bill--Mr. Gladstone's entrance at 10.30 P.M., after an exhausting
day--and he, the man of seventy-seven, sitting down to work between the
Chief Secretary and the Irish leader, till at last, with a sigh of
weariness at nearly 1 A.M., the tired Prime Minister pleads to go to
bed. Or that most dramatic story, later on, of Committee Room No. 15,
where Mr. Morley becomes the reporter to Mr. Gladstone of that moral and
political tragedy, the fall of Parnell; or a hundred other sharp lights
upon the inner and human truth of things, as it lay behind the political
spectacle. All through the later chapters, too, the happy use of
conversations between the two men on literary and philosophical matters
relieves what might have been the tedium of the end. For these vivid
notes of free talk not only bring the living Gladstone before you in the
most varied relation to his time; they keep up a perpetually interesting
comparison in the reader's mind between the hero and his biographer. One
is as eager to know what Mr. Morley is going to say as one is to listen
to Mr. Gladstone. The two men, with their radical differences and their
passionate sympathies, throw light on each other, and the agreeable
pages achieve a double end, without ever affecting the real unity of the
book. Thus handled, biography, so often the drudge of literature, rises
into its high places and becomes a delight instead of an edifying or
informing necessity.

I will add one other recollection of this early time--i.e., that in
1881 the reviewing of Mr. Morley's _Cobden_ in the _Times_ fell to my
husband, and as those were the days of many-column reviews, and as the
time given for the review was _exceedingly_ short, it could only be done
at all by a division of labor. We divided the sheets of the book, and we
just finished in time to let my husband rush off to Printing House
Square and correct the proofs as they went through the press for the
morning's issue. In those days, as is well known, the _Times_ went to
press much later than now, and a leader-writer rarely got home before 4,
and sometimes 5, A.M.

* * * * *

I find it extremely difficult, as I look back, to put any order into the
crowding memories of those early years in London. They were
extraordinarily stimulating to us both, and years of great happiness. At
home our children were growing up; our own lives were branching out into
new activities and bringing us always new friends, and a more
interesting share in that "great mundane movement" which Mr. Bottles
believed would perish without him. Our connection with the _Times_ and
with the Forsters, and the many new acquaintances and friends we made at
this time in that happy meeting-ground of men and causes--Mrs. Jeune's
drawing-room--opened to us the world of politicians; while my husband's
four volumes on _The English Poets_, published just as we left Oxford,
volumes to which all the most prominent writers of the day had
contributed, together with the ever-delightful fact that Matthew Arnold
was my uncle, brought us the welcome of those of our own _métier_ and
way of life; and when in 1884 my husband became art critic of the paper,
a function which he filled for more than five and twenty years, fresh
doors opened on the already crowded scene, and fresh figures stepped in.

The setting of it all was twofold--in the first place, our dear old
house in Russell Square, and, in the next, the farm on Rodborough
Common, four miles from Godalming, where, amid a beauty of gorse and
heather that filled every sense on a summer day with the mere joy of
breathing and looking, our children and we spent the holiday hours of
seven goodly years. The Russell Square house has been, so to speak,
twice demolished and twice buried, since we lived in it. Some of its
stones must still lie deep under the big hotel which now towers on its
site. That it does not still exist somewhere, I can hardly believe. The
westerly sun seems to me still to be pouring into the beautiful little
hall, built and decorated about 1750, with its panels of free scrollwork
in blue and white, and to be still glancing through the drawing-rooms to
the little powder-closet at the end, my tiny workroom, where I first
sketched the plan of _Robert Elsmere_ for my sister Julia Huxley, and
where, after three years, I wrote the last words. If I open the door of
the back drawing-room, there, to the right, is the children's
school-room. I see them at their lessons, and the fine plane-trees that
look in at the window. And up-stairs there are the pleasant bedrooms and
the nurseries. It was born, the old house, in the year of the Young
Pretender, and, after serving six generations, perhaps as faithfully as
it served us, it "fell on sleep." There should be a special Elysium,
surely, for the houses where the fates have been kind and where people
have been happy; and a special Tartarus for those--of Oedipus or
Atreus--in which "old, unhappy, far-off things" seem to be always
poisoning the present.

As to Borough Farm--now the head-quarters of the vast camp which
stretches to Hindhead--it stood then in an unspoiled wilderness of
common and wood, approached only by what we called "the sandy track"
from the main Portsmouth Road, with no neighbors for miles but a few
scattered cottages. Its fate had been harder than that of 61 Russell
Square. The old London house has gone clean out of sight, translated,
whole and fair, into a world of memory. But Borough and the common are
still here--as war has made them. Only--may I never see them again!

It was in 1882, the year of Tel-el-Kebir, when we took Peperharrow
Rectory (the Murewell Vicarage of _Robert Elsmere_) for the summer, that
we first came across Borough Farm. We left it in 1889. I did a great
deal of work, there and in London, in those seven years. The _Macmillan_
papers I have already spoken of. They were on many subjects--Tennyson's
"Becket," Mr. Pater's "Marius," "The Literature of Introspection," Jane
Austen, Keats, Gustavo Becquer, and various others. I still kept up my
Spanish to some extent, and I twice examined--in 1882 and 1888--for the
Taylorian scholarship in Spanish at Oxford, our old friend, Doctor
Kitchin, afterward Dean of Durham, writing to me with glee that I should
be "making history" as "the first woman examiner of men at either
University." My colleague on the first occasion was the old Spanish
scholar, Don Pascual de Gayangos, to whom the calendaring of the Spanish
MSS. in the British Museum had been largely intrusted; and the second
time, Mr. York Powell of Christ Church--I suppose one of the most
admirable Romance scholars of the time--was associated with me. But if I
remember right, I set the papers almost entirely, and wrote the report
on both occasions. It gave me a feeling of safety in 1888, when my
knowledge, such as it was, had grown very rusty, that Mr. York Powell
overlooked the papers, seeing that to set Scholarship questions for
postgraduate candidates is not easy for one who has never been through
any proper "mill"! But they passed his scrutiny satisfactorily, and in
1888 we appointed as Taylorian Scholar a man to whom for years I
confidently looked for _the_ history of Spain--combining both the
Spanish and Arabic sources--so admirable had his work been in the
examination. But, alack! that great book has still to be written. For
Mr. Butler Clarke died prematurely in 1904, and the hope died with him.

For the _Times_ I wrote a good many long, separate articles before 1884,
on "Spanish Novels," "American Novels," and so forth; the "leader" on
the death of Anthony Trollope; and various elaborate reviews of books on
Christian origins, a subject on which I was perpetually reading, always
with the same vision before me, growing in clearness as the
years passed.

But my first steps toward its realization were to begin with the short
story of _Miss Bretherton_, published in 1884, and then the translation
of Amiel's _Journal Intime_, which appeared in 1885. _Miss Bretherton_
was suggested to me by the brilliant success in 1883 of Mary Anderson,
and by the controversy with regard to her acting--as distinct from her
delightful beauty and her attractive personality--which arose between
the fastidious few and the enchanted many. I maintained then, and am
quite sure now, that Isabel Bretherton was in no sense a portrait of
Miss Anderson. She was to me a being so distinct from the living actress
that I offered her to the world with an entire good faith, which seems
to myself now, perhaps thirty years later, hardly less surprising than
it did to the readers of the time. For undoubtedly the situation in the
novel was developed out of the current dramatic debate. But it became to
me just _a_ situation--_a_ problem. It was really not far removed from
Diderot's problem in the _Paradoxe sur le Comédien_. What is the
relation of the actor to the part represented? One actress is
plain--Rachel; another actress is beautiful, and more than beautiful,
delightful--Miss Anderson. But all the time, is there or is there not a
region in which all these considerations count for nothing in comparison
with certain others? Is there a dramatic _art_--exacting, difficult,
supreme--or is there not? The choice of the subject, at that time, was,
it may be confessed, a piece of naïveté, and the book itself was young
and naïve throughout. But something in it has kept it in circulation all
this while; and for me it marks with a white stone the year in which it
appeared. For it brought me my first critical letter from Henry James;
it was the first landmark in our long friendship.

Beloved Henry James! It seems to me that my original meeting with him
was at the Andrew Langs' in 1882. He was then forty-two, in the prime of
his working life, and young enough to be still "Henry James, Junior," to
many. I cannot remember anything else of the Langs' dinner-party except
that we were also invited to meet the author of _Vice Versa_, "which Mr.
Lang thinks"--as I wrote to my mother--"the best thing of its kind since
Dickens." But shortly after that, Mr. James came to see us in Russell
Square and a little incident happened which stamped itself for good on a
still plastic memory. It was a very hot day; the western sun was beating
on the drawing-room windows, though the room within was comparatively
dark and cool. The children were languid with the heat, and the
youngest, Janet, then five, stole into the drawing-room and stood
looking at Mr. James. He put out a half-conscious hand to her; she came
nearer, while we talked on. Presently she climbed on his knee. I suppose
I made a maternal protest. He took no notice, and folded his arm round
her. We talked on; and presently the abnormal stillness of Janet
recalled her to me and made me look closely through the dark of the
room. She was fast asleep, her pale little face on the young man's
shoulder, her long hair streaming over his arm. Now Janet was a most
independent and critical mortal, no indiscriminate "climber up of
knees"; far from it. Nor was Mr. James an indiscriminate lover of
children; he was not normally much at home with them, though _always_
good to them. But the childish instinct had in fact divined the profound
tenderness and chivalry which were the very root of his nature; and he
was touched and pleased, as one is pleased when a robin perches on
one's hand.

From that time, as the precious bundle of his letters shows, he became
the friend of all of us--myself, my husband, and the children; though
with an increased intimacy from the 'nineties onward. In a subsequent
chapter I will try and summarize the general mark left on me by his
fruitful and stainless life. His letter to me about _Miss Bretherton_ is
dated December 9, 1884. He had already come to see me about it, and
there was never any critical discussion like his, for its suggestion of
a hundred points of view, its flashing of unexpected lights, its witness
to the depth and richness of his own artistic knowledge.

The whole thing is delicate and distinguished [he wrote me] and the
reader has the pleasure and security of feeling that he is with a
woman (distinctly a woman!) who knows how (rare bird!) to write. I
think your idea, your situation, interesting in a high degree--But
[and then come a series of most convincing "buts"! He objects
strongly to the happy ending]. I wish that your actress had been
carried away from Kendal [her critical lover, who worships herself,
but despises her art] altogether, carried away by the current of her
artistic life, the sudden growth of her power, and the excitement,
the ferocity and egotism (those of the artist realizing success, I
mean; I allude merely to the normal dose of those elements) which
the effort to create, to "arrive" (once she had had a glimpse of her
possible successes) would have brought with it. (Excuse that
abominable sentence.) Isabel, the Isabel you describe, has too much
to spare for Kendal--Kendal being what he is; and one doesn't feel
her, see her, enough, as the pushing actress, the _cabotine_! She
lapses toward him as if she were a failure, whereas you make her out
a great success. No!--she wouldn't have thought so much of him at
such a time as that--though very possibly she would have come back
to him later.

The whole letter, indeed, is full of admirable criticism, sprung from a
knowledge of life, which seemed to me, his junior by twelve years,
unapproachably rich and full. But how grateful I was to him for the
criticism!--how gracious and chivalrous was his whole attitude toward
the writer and the book! Indeed, as I look over the bundle of letters
which concern this first novel of mine, I am struck by the good fortune
which brought me such mingled chastening and praise, in such long
letters, from judges so generous and competent. Henry James, Walter
Pater, John Morley, "Mr. Creighton" (then Emmanuel Professor at
Cambridge), Cotter Morrison, Sir Henry Taylor, Edmond Scherer--they are
all there. Besides the renewal of the old throb of pleasure as one reads
them, one feels a sort of belated remorse that so much trouble was taken
for so slight a cause! Are there similar friends nowadays to help the
first steps of a writer? Or is there no leisure left in this choked
life of ours?

The decisive criticism, perhaps, of all, is that of Mr. Creighton: "I
find myself carried away by the delicate feeling with which the
development of character is traced." But--"You wrote this book as a
critic not as a creator. It is a sketch of the possible worth of
criticism in an unregenerate world. This was worth doing once; but if
you are going on with novels you must throw criticism overboard and let
yourself go, as a partner of common joys, common sorrows, and common
perplexities. There--I have told you what I think, just as I think it."

* * * * *

_Miss Bretherton_ was a trial trip, and it taught me a good deal. When
it came out I had nearly finished the translation of Amiel, which
appeared in 1885, and in March of that year some old friends drove me up
the remote Westmorland valley of Long Sleddale, at a moment when the
blackthorn made lines of white along the lanes; and from that day onward
the early chapters of _Robert Elsmere_ began to shape themselves in my
mind. All the main ideas of the novel were already there. Elsmere was to
be the exponent of a freer faith; Catharine had been suggested by an old
friend of my youth; while Langham was the fruit of my long communing
with the philosophic charm and the tragic impotence of Amiel. I began
the book in the early summer of 1885, and thenceforward it absorbed me
until its appearance in 1888.

The year 1885, indeed, was one of expanding horizons, of many new
friends, of quickened pulses generally. The vastness of London and its
myriad interests seemed to be invading our life more and more. I can
recall one summer afternoon, in particular, when, as I was in a hansom
driving idly westward toward Hyde Park Gate, thinking of a hundred
things at once, this consciousness of _intensification_, of a heightened
meaning in everything--the broad street, the crowd of moving figures and
carriages, the houses looking down upon it--seized upon me with a rush.
"Yes, it is good--the mere living!" Joy in the infinite variety of the
great city as compared with the "cloistered virtue" of Oxford; the sheer
pleasure of novelty, of the kind new faces, and the social discoveries
one felt opening on many sides; the delight of new perceptions, new
powers in oneself--all this seemed to flower for me in those few minutes
of reverie--if one can apply such a word to an experience so vivid. And
meanwhile the same intensity of pleasure from nature that I had always
been capable of flowed in upon me from new scenes; above all, from
solitary moments at Borough Farm, in the heart of the Surrey commons,
when the September heather blazed about me; or the first signs of spring
were on the gorse and the budding trees; or beside some lonely pool; and
always heightened now by the company of my children. It was a stage--a
normal stage, in normal life. But I might have missed it so easily! The
Fates were kind to us in those days.

As to the social scene, let me gather from it first a recollection of
pure romance. One night at a London dinner-party I found myself sent
down with a very stout gentleman, an American Colonel, who proclaimed
himself an "esoteric Buddhist," and provoked in me a rapid and vehement
dislike. I turned my back upon him and examined the table. Suddenly I
became aware of a figure opposite to me, the figure of a young girl who
seemed to me one of the most ravishing creatures I had ever seen. She
was very small, and exquisitely made. Her beautiful head, with its mass
of light-brown hair; the small features and delicate neck; the clear,
pale skin, the lovely eyes with rather heavy lids, which gave a slight
look of melancholy to the face; the grace and fire of every movement
when she talked; the dreamy silence into which she sometimes fell,
without a trace of awkwardness or shyness. But how vain is any mere
catalogue to convey the charm of Laura Tennant--the first Mrs. Alfred
Lyttelton--to those who never saw her!

I asked to be introduced to her as soon as we left the dining-room, and
we spent the evening in a corner together.

I fell in love with her there and then. The rare glimpses of her that
her busy life and mine allowed made one of my chief joys thenceforward,
and her early death was to me--as to so many, many others!--a grief
never forgotten.

The recent biography of Alfred Lyttelton--War Minister in Mr. Balfour's
latest Cabinet--skilfully and beautifully done by his second wife, has
conveyed to the public of thirty years later some idea of Laura's
imperishable charm. And I greatly hope that it may be followed some day
by a collection of her letters, for there are many in existence, and,
young as she was, they would, I believe, throw much light upon a crowded
moment in our national life. Laura was the fourth daughter of Sir
Charles Tennant, a rich Glasgow manufacturer, and the elder sister of
Mrs. Asquith. She and her sisters came upon the scene in the early
'eighties; and without any other extrinsic advantage but that of wealth,
which in this particular case would not have taken them very far, they
made a conquest--the younger two, Laura and Margot, in particular--of a
group of men and women who formed a kind of intellectual and social
_élite_; who were all of them accomplished; possessed, almost all of
them, of conspicuous good looks, or of the charm that counts as much;
and among whom there happened to be a remarkable proportion of men who
have since made their mark on English history. My generation knew them
as "The Souls." "The Souls" were envied, mocked at, caricatured, by
those who were not of them. They had their follies--why not? They were
young, and it was their golden day. Their dislike of convention and
routine had the effect on many--and those not fools--of making
convention and routine seem particularly desirable. But there was not, I
think, a young man or woman admitted to their inner ranks who did not
possess in some measure a certain quality very difficult to isolate and
define. Perhaps, to call it "disinterestedness" comes nearest. For they
were certainly no seekers after wealth, or courters of the great. It
might be said, of course, that they had no occasion; they had as much
birth and wealth as any one need want, among themselves. But that does
not explain it. For push and greed are among the commonest faults of an
aristocracy. The immortal pages of Saint Simon are there to show it.
"Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," says the
Gospel. Now the "treasure" among The Souls was, ultimately--or at least
tended to be--something spiritual. The typical expression of it, at its
best, is to be found in those exquisite last words left by Laura
Lyttelton for her husband, which the second Mrs. Alfred Lyttelton has,
as I think, so rightly published. That unique "will," which for thirty
years before it appeared in print was known to a wide circle of persons,
many of whom had never seen the living Laura, was the supreme expression
of a quality which, in greater or lesser degree, The Souls seemed to
demand of one another, and of those who wished to join their band. Yet,
combined with this passion, this poetry, this religious feeling, was
first the maddest delight in simple things--in open air and physical
exercise; then, a headlong joy in literature, art, music, acting; a
perpetual spring of fun; and a hatred of all the solemn pretenses that
too often make English society a weariness.

No doubt there is something--perhaps much--to be said on the other side.
But I do not intend to say it. I was never a Soul, nor could have been.
I came from too different a world. But there were a certain number of
persons--of whom I was one--who were their "harborers" and spectators. I
found delight in watching them. They were quite a new experience to me;
and I saw them dramatically, like a scene in a play, full of fresh
implications and suggestions. I find in an old letter to my mother an
account of an evening at 40 Grosvenor Square, where the Tennants lived.

It was not an evening party--we joined a dinner party there, after
dining somewhere else. So that the rooms were empty enough to let
one see the pretty creatures gathered in it, to perfection. In the
large drawing-room, which is really a ball-room with a polished
floor, people were dancing, or thought-reading, or making music, as
it pleased them.

Mr. Balfour was there, with whom we had made friends, as fellow-guests,
on a week-end visit to Oxford, not long before; Alfred Lyttelton, then
in the zenith of his magnificent youth; Lord Curzon, then plain Mr.
Curzon, and in the Foreign Office; Mr. Harry Gust; Mr. Rennell Rodd, now
the British Ambassador in Rome, and many others--a goodly company of
young men in their prime. And among the women there was a very high
proportion of beauty, but especially of grace. "The half-lit room, the
dresses and the beauty," says my letter, "reminded one of some _festa_
painted by Watteau or Lancret." But with what a difference! For, after
all, it was English, through and through.

A little after this evening, Laura Tennant came down to spend a day at
Borough Farm with the children and me. Another setting! Our principal
drawing-room there in summer was a sand-pit, shaded by an old ash-tree
and haunted by innumerable sand-martins. It was Ascension Day, and the
commons were a dream of beauty. Our guest, I find, was to have come down
"with Mr. Balfour and Mr. Burne-Jones." But in the end she came down
alone; and we talked all day, sitting under hawthorns white with bloom,
wandering through rushy fields ablaze with marsh marigold and orchis.
She wrote to me the same evening after her return to London:

I sit with my eyes resting on the medieval purple of the
sweet-breathing orchis you gave me, and my thoughts feasting on the
wonderful beauty of the snowy blossom against the blue.... This has
been a real Ascension Day.

Later in the year--in November--she wrote to me from Scotland--she was
then twenty-one:

I am still in Scotland, but don't pity me, for I love it more than
anything else in the wide world. If you could only hear the wind
throwing his arm against my window, and sobbing down the glen. I
think I shall never have a Lover I am so fond of as the wind. None
ever serenaded me so divinely. And when I open my window wide and
ask him what he wants, and tell him I am quite ready to elope with
him now--this moment--he only moans and sighs thro' my outblown
hair--and gives me neuralgia.... I read all day, except when I am
out with my Lover, or playing with my little nephew and niece, both
of whom I adore--for they are little poets. We have had a houseful
ever since August, so I am delighted to get a little calm. It is so
dreadful never, never to be alone--and really the housemaid would do
just as well! and yet, whenever I go to my sanctum I am routed out
as if I was of as much use as plums to plum pudding, and either made
to play lawn-tennis or hide-and-seek, or to talk to a young man
whose only idea of the Infinite is the Looking-glass. All these are
the trials that attend the "young lady" of the house. Poor devil!
Forgive strong language--but really my sympathy is deep.

I have, however, some really nice friends here, and am not entirely
discontented. Mr. Gerald Balfour left the other day. He is very
clever--and quite beautiful--like a young god. I wonder if you know
him. I know you know Arthur.... Lionel Tennyson, who was also here
with Gerald Balfour, has a splendid humor--witty and "fin," which is
rare in England. Lord Houghton, Alfred Lyttelton, Godfrey Webb,
George Curzon, the Chesterfields, the Hayters, Mary Gladstone, and a
lot more have been here. I went north, too, to the land of Thule and
was savagely happy. I wore no hat--no gloves--I bathed, fished,
boated, climbed, and kissed the earth, and danced round a cairn. It
was opposite Skye at a Heaven called Loch Ailsa.... Such
beauty--such weather--such a fortnight will not come again. Perhaps
it would be unjust to the crying world for one human being to have
more of the Spirit of Delight; but one is glad to have tasted of the
cup, and while it was in my hands I drank deeply.

I have read very little. I am hungering for a month or two's
silence.

But there was another lover than the west wind waiting for this most
lovable of mortals. A few days afterward she wrote to me from a house in
Hampshire, where many of her particular friends were gathered, among
them Alfred Lyttelton.

The conversation is pyrotechnic--and it is all quite delightful. A
beautiful place--paradoxical arguments--ideals raised and
shattered--temples torn and battered--temptations given way
to--newspapers unread--acting--rhyming--laughing--_ad infinitum_. I
wish you were here!

Six weeks afterward she was engaged to Mr. Lyttelton. She was to be
married in May, and in Easter week of that year we met her in Paris,
where she was buying her trousseau, enjoying it like a child, making
friends with all her dressmakers, and bubbling over with fun about it.
"It isn't 'dressing,'" she said, "unless you apply main force to them.
What they _want_ is always--_presque pas de corsage, et pas du
tout de manches!_"

One day she and Mr. Lyttelton and Mr. Balfour and one or two others came
to tea with us at the Hotel Chatham to meet Victor Cherbuliez. The
veteran French novelist fell in love with her, of course, and their
talk--Laura's French was as spontaneous and apparently as facile as her
English--kept the rest of us happy. Then she married in May, with half
London to see, and Mr. Gladstone--then Prime Minister--mounted on the
chair to make the wedding-speech. For by her marriage Laura became the
great man's niece, since Alfred Lyttelton's mother was a sister of Mrs.
Gladstone.

Then in the autumn came the hope of a child--to her who loved children
so passionately. But all through the waiting time she was overshadowed
by a strangely strong presentiment of death. I went to see her sometimes
toward the end of it, when she was resting on her sofa in the late
evening, and used to leave her listening for her husband's step, on his
return from his work, her little weary face already lit up with
expectation. The weeks passed, and those who loved her began to be
anxious. I went down to Borough Farm in May, and there, just two years
after she had sat with us under the hawthorn, I heard the news of her
little son's birth, and then ten days later the news of her death.

With that death a ray of pure joy was quenched on earth. But Laura
Lyttelton was not only youth and delight--she was also embodied love. I
have watched her in a crowded room where everybody wanted her, quietly
seek out the neglected person there, the stranger, the shy secretary or
governess, and make her happy--bring her in--with an art that few
noticed, because in her it was nature. When she died she left an
enduring mark in the minds of many who have since governed or guided
England; but she was mourned also by scores of humble folk, and by
disagreeable folk whom only she befriended. Mrs. Lyttelton quotes a
letter written by the young wife to her husband:

Tell me you love me and always will. Tell me, so that when I dream I
may dream of Love, and when I sleep dreamless Love may be holding me
in his wings, and when I wake Love may be the spirit in my feet, and
when I die Love may be the Angel that takes me home.

And in the room of death, when the last silence fell on those gathered
there, her sister Margot--by Laura's wish, expressed some time
before--read aloud the "will," in which she spoke her inmost heart.
Since its publication it belongs to those records of life and feeling
which are part of our common inheritance.

"She was a flame, beautiful, dancing, ardent," writes the second Mrs.
Lyttelton. "The wind of life was too fierce for such a spirit; she could
not live in it."

I make no apology for dwelling on the life and earthly death of this
young creature who was only known to a band--though a large band--of
friends during her short years. Throughout social and literary history
there have been a few apparitions like hers, which touch with peculiar
force, in the hearts of men and women, the old, deep, human notes which
"make us men." Youth, beauty, charm, death--they are the great themes
with which all art, plastic or literary, tries to conjure. It is given
to very few to handle them simply, yet sufficiently; with power, yet
without sentimentality. Breathed into Laura's short life, they affected
whose who knew her like the finest things in poetry.

CHAPTER II

LONDON FRIENDS

It was in 1874, as I have already mentioned, that on an introduction
from Matthew Arnold we first made friends with M. Edmond Scherer, the
French writer and Senator, who more than any other person--unless,
perhaps, one divides the claim between him and M. Faguet--stepped into
the critical chair of Sainte Beuve, after that great man's death. For M.
Scherer's weekly reviews in the _Temps_ (1863-78) were looked for by
many people over about fifteen years, as persons of similar tastes had
looked for the famous "Lundis," in the _Constitutionnel_ of an earlier
generation.

We went out to call upon the Scherers at Versailles, coupling with it,
if I remember right, a visit to the French National Assembly then
sitting in the Chateau. The road from the station to the palace was deep
in snow, and we walked up behind two men in ardent conversation, one of
them gesticulating freely. My husband asked a man beside us, bound also,
it seemed, for the Assembly, who they were. "M. Gambetta and M. Jules
Favre," was the answer. So there we had in front of us the intrepid
organizer of the Government of National Defense, whose services to
France France will never forget, and the unfortunate statesman to whom
it fell, under the tyrannic and triumphant force of Germany (which was
to prove, as we now know, in the womb and process of time, more fatal to
herself than to France!), to sign away Alsace-Lorraine. And we had only
just settled ourselves in our seats when Gambetta was in the tribune,
making a short but impassioned speech. I but vaguely remember what the
speech was about, but the attitude of the lion head thrown back, and the
tones of the famous voice, remain with me--as it rang out in the
recurrent phrase: _"Je proteste!--Messieurs, je proteste!"_ It was the
attitude of the statue in the Place du Carrousel, and of the
_meridional_, Numa Roumestan, in Daudet's well-known novel. Every word
said by the speaker seemed to enrage the benches of the Right, and the
tumult was so great at times that we were still a little dazed by it
when we reached the quiet of the Scherers' drawing-room.

M. Scherer rose to greet us, and to introduce us to his wife and
daughters. A tall, thin man, already white-haired, with something in his
aspect which suggested his Genevese origin--something at once ascetic
and delicately sensitive. He was then in his sixtieth year, deputy for
the Seine-et-Oise, and an important member of the Left Center. The year
after we saw him he became a Senator, and remained so through his life,
becoming more Conservative as the years went on. But his real importance
was as a man of letters--one of the recognized chiefs of French
literature and thought, equally at war with the forces of Catholic
reaction, then just beginning to find a leader in M. Bourget, and with
the scientific materialism of M. Taine. He was--when we first knew
him--a Protestant who had ceased to believe in any historical religion;
a Liberal who, like another friend of ours, Mr. Goschen, about the same
time was drifting into Conservatism; and also a man of strong and subtle
character to whom questions of ethics were at all times as important as
questions of pure literature. Above all, he was a scholar, specially
conversant with England and English letters. He was, for instance, the
"French critic on Milton," on whom Matthew Arnold wrote one of his most
attractive essays; and he was fond of maintaining--and proving--that
when French people _did_ make a serious study of England, and English
books, which he admitted was rare, they were apt to make fewer mistakes
about us than English writers make about France.

Dear M. Scherer!--I see him first in the little suite of carpetless
rooms, empty save for books and the most necessary tables and chairs,
where he lived and worked at Versailles; amid a library "read, marked,
learned, and inwardly digested," like that of Lord Acton, his English
junior. And then, in a winter walk along the Champs-Élysées, a year or
two later, discussing the prospects of Catholicism in France: "They
haven't a man--a speaker--a book! It is a real drawback to us Liberals
that they are so weak, so negligible. We have nothing to hold us
together!" At the moment Scherer was perfectly right. But the following
years were to see the flowing back of Catholicism into literature, the
Universities, the École Normale. Twenty years later I quoted this remark
of Scherer's to a young French philosopher. "True, for its date," he
said. "There was then scarcely a single Catholic in the École Normale
[i.e., at the headwaters of French education]. There are now a great
many. _But they are all Modernists!_" Since then, again, we have seen
the growing strength of Catholicism in the French literature of
imagination, in French poetry and fiction. Whether in the end it will
emerge the stronger for the vast stirring of the waters caused by the
present war is one of the most interesting questions of the present day.

But I was soon to know Edmond Scherer more intimately. I imagine that it
was he who in 1884 sent me a copy of the _Journal Intime_ of Henri
Frédéric Amiel, edited by himself. The book laid its spell upon me at
once; and I felt a strong wish to translate it. M. Scherer consented and
I plunged into it. It was a delightful but exacting task. At the end of
it I knew a good deal more French than I did at the beginning! For the
book abounded in passages that put one on one's mettle and seemed to
challenge every faculty one possessed. M. Scherer came over with his
daughter Jeanne--a _schöne Seele_, if ever there was one--and we spent
hours in the Russell Square drawing-room, turning and twisting the most
crucial sentences this way and that.

But at last the translation and my Introduction were finished and the
English book appeared. It certainly obtained a warm welcome both here
and in America. There is something in Amiel's mystical and melancholy
charm which is really more attractive to the Anglo-Saxon than the French
temper. At any rate, in the English-speaking countries the book spread
widely, and has maintained its place till now.

The _Journal_ is very interesting to me [wrote the Master of
Balliol]. It catches and detains many thoughts that have passed over
the minds of others, which they rarely express, because they must
take a sentimental form, from which most thinkers recoil. It is all
about "self," yet it never leaves an egotistical or affected
impression. It is a curious combination of skepticism and religious
feeling, like Pascal, but its elements are compounded in different
proportions and the range of thought is far wider and more
comprehensive. On the other hand, Pascal is more forcible, and looks
down upon human things from a higher point of view.

Why was he unhappy? ... But, after all, commentaries on the lives of
distinguished men are of very doubtful value. There is the
life--take it and read it who can.

Amiel was a great genius, as is shown by his power of style.... His
_Journal_ is a book in which the thoughts of many hearts are
revealed.... There are strange forms of mysticism, which the
poetical intellect takes. I suppose we must not try to explain them.
Amiel was a Neo-Platonist and a skeptic in one.

For myself [wrote Walter Pater], I shall probably think, on
finishing the book, that there was still something Amiel might have
added to those elements of natural religion which he was able to
accept at times with full belief and always with the sort of hope
which is a great factor in life. To my mind, the beliefs and the
function in the world of the historic Church form just one of those
obscure but all-important possibilities which the human mind is
powerless effectively to dismiss from itself, and might wisely
accept, in the first place, as a workable hypothesis. The supposed
facts on which Christianity rests, utterly incapable as they have
become of any ordinary test, seem to me matters of very much the
same sort of assent we give to any assumptions, in the strict and
ultimate sense, moral. The question whether those facts are real
will, I think, always continue to be what I should call one of the
_natural_ questions of the human mind.

A passage, it seems to me, of considerable interest as throwing light
upon the inner mind of one of the most perfect writers, and most
important influences of the nineteenth century. Certainly there is no
sign in it, on Mr. Pater's part, of "dropping Christianity"; very much
the contrary.

* * * * *

But all this time, while literary and meditative folk went on writing
and thinking, how fast the political world was rushing!

Those were the years, after the defeat of the first Home Rule Bill, and
the dismissal of Mr. Gladstone, of Lord Salisbury's Government and Mr.
Balfour's Chief-Secretaryship. As I look back upon them--those five
dramatic years culminating first in the Parnell Commission, and then in
Parnell's tragic downfall and death, I see everything grouped round Mr.
Balfour. From the moment when, in succession to Sir Michael Hicks Beach,
Mr. Balfour took over the Chief-Secretaryship, his sudden and swift
development seemed to me the most interesting thing in politics. We had
first met him, as I have said, on a week-end visit to the Talbots at
Oxford. It was then a question whether his health would stand the rough
and tumble of politics. I recollect he came down late and looked far
from robust. We traveled up to London with him, and he was reading Mr.
Green's _Prolegomena to Ethics_, which, if I remember right, he was to
review for _Mind_.

He was then a member of the Fourth Party, and engaged--though in a
rather detached fashion--in those endless raids and excursions against the
"Goats"--i.e., the bearded veterans of his own party, Sir Stafford
Northcote in particular, of which Lord Randolph was the leader. But
compared to Lord Randolph he had made no Parliamentary mark. One thought
of him as the metaphysician, the lover of music, the delightful
companion, always, I feel now, in looking back, with a prevailing
consciousness of something reserved and potential in him, which gave a
peculiar importance and value to his judgments of men and things. He was
a leading figure among "The Souls," and I remember some delightful
evenings in his company before 1886, when the conversation was entirely
literary or musical.

Then, with the Chief-Secretaryship there appeared a new Arthur Balfour.
The courage, the resource, the never-failing wit and mastery with which
he fought the Irish members in Parliament, put down outrage in Ireland,
and at the same time laid the foundation in a hundred directions of that
social and agrarian redemption of Ireland on which a new political
structure will some day be reared--is perhaps even now about to
rise--these things make one of the most brilliant, one of the most
dramatic, chapters in our modern history.

[Illustration: ARTHUR JAMES BALFOUR]

It was in 1888, two years after Mr. Forster's death, that we found
ourselves for a Sunday at Whittinghame. It was, I think, not long before
the opening of the Special Commission which was to inquire into the
charges brought by the _Times_ against the Parnellites and the Land
League. Nothing struck me more in Mr. Balfour than the absence in him of
any sort of excitement or agitation, in dealing with the current charges
against the Irishmen. It seemed to me that he had quietly accepted the
fact that he was fighting a revolution, and, while perfectly clear as to
his own course of action, wasted no nervous force on moral reprobation
of the persons concerned. His business was to protect the helpless, to
punish crime, and to expose the authors of it, whether high or low. But
he took it as a job to be done--difficult--unpleasant--but all in the
way of business. The tragic or pathetic emotion that so many people were
ready to spend upon it he steadily kept at a distance. His nerve struck
me as astonishing, and the absence of any disabling worry about things
past. "One can only do one's best at the moment," he said to me once, _à
propos_ of some action of the Irish government which had turned out
badly--"if it doesn't succeed, better luck next time! Nothing to be
gained by going back upon things." After this visit to Whittinghame, I
wrote to my father:

I came away more impressed and attracted by Arthur Balfour than
ever. If intelligence and heart and pure intentions can do anything
for Ireland, he at least has got them all. Physically he seems to
have broadened and heightened since he took office, and his manner,
which was always full of charm, is even brighter and kindlier than
it was--or I fancied it. He spoke most warmly of Uncle Forster.

And the interesting and remarkable thing was the contrast between an
attitude so composed and stoical, and his delicate physique, his
sensitive, sympathetic character. All the time, of course, he was in
constant personal danger. Detectives, much to his annoyance, lay in wait
for us as we walked through his own park, and went with him in London
wherever he dined. Like my uncle, he was impatient of being followed and
guarded, and only submitted to it for the sake of other people. Once, at
a dinner-party at our house, he met an old friend of ours, one of the
most original thinkers of our day, Mr. Philip Wicksteed, economists
Dante scholar, and Unitarian minister. Ha and Mr. Balfour were evidently
attracted to each other, and when the time for departure came, the two,
deep in conversation, instead of taking cabs, walked off together in the
direction of Mr. Balfour's house in Carlton Gardens. The detectives
below-stairs remained for some time blissfully unconscious of what had
happened. Then word reached them; and my husband, standing at the door
to see a guest off, was the amused spectator of the rush in pursuit of
two splendid long-legged fellows, who had, however, no chance whatever
of catching up the Chief Secretary.

Thirty years ago, almost! And during that time the name and fame of
Arthur Balfour have become an abiding part of English history. Nor is
there any British statesman of our day who has been so much loved by his
friends, so little hated by his opponents, so widely trusted by
the nation.

* * * * *

As to the Special Commission and the excitement produced by the _Times_
attack on the Irish Members, including the publication of the forged
Parnell letter in 1887, our connection with the _Times_ brought us, of
course, into the full blast of it. Night after night I would sit up,
half asleep, to listen to the different phases of the story when in the
early hours of the morning my husband came back from the _Times_,
brimful of news, which he was as eager to tell as I to hear. My husband,
however, was only occasionally asked to write upon Ireland, and was not
in the inner counsels of the paper on that subject. We were both very
anxious about the facsimiled letter, and when, after long preliminaries,
the Commission came to the _Times_ witnesses, I well remember the dismay
with which I heard the first day of Mr. Macdonald's examination. Was
that _all_? I came out of the Court behind Mr. Labouchere and Sir George
Lewis, and in Mr. Labouchere's exultation one read the coming
catastrophe. I was on the Riviera when Pigott's confession, flight, and
suicide held the stage; yet even at that distance the shock was great.
The _Times_ attack was fatally discredited, and the influence of the
great paper temporarily crippled. Yet how much of that attack was sound,
how much of it was abundantly justified! After all, the report of the
Commission--apart altogether from the forged letter or letters--
certainly gave Mr. Balfour in Ireland later on the reasoned support of
English opinion in his hand-to-hand struggle with the Land League
methods, as the Commission had both revealed and judged them. After
thirty years one may well admit that the Irish land system had to go,
and that the Land League was "a sordid revolution," with both the crimes
and the excuses of a revolution. But at the time, British statesmen had
to organize reform with one hand, and stop boycotting and murder with
the other; and the light thrown by the Commission on the methods of
Irish disaffection was invaluable to those who were actually grappling
day by day with the problems of Irish government.

It was probably at Mrs. Jeune's that I first saw Mr. Goschen, and we
rapidly made friends. His was a great position at that time. Independent
of both parties, yet trusted by both; at once disinterested and
sympathetic; a strong Liberal in some respects, an equally strong
Conservative in others--he never spoke without being listened to, and
his support was eagerly courted both by Mr. Gladstone, from whom he had
refused office in 1880, without, however, breaking with the Liberal
party, and by the Conservatives, who instinctively felt him their
property, but were not yet quite clear as to how they were to finally
capture him. That was decided in 1886, when Mr. Goschen voted in the
majority that killed the Home Rule Bill, and more definitely in the
following year when Randolph Churchill resigned the Exchequer in a fit
of pique, thinking himself indispensable, and not at all expecting Lord
Salisbury to accept his resignation. But, in his own historic phrase, he
"forgot Goschen," and Mr. Goschen stepped easily into his shoes and
remained there.

I find from an old diary that the Goschens dined with us in Russell
Square two nights before the historic division on the Home Rule Bill,
and I remember how the talk raged and ranged. Mr. Goschen was an
extremely agreeable talker, and I seem still to hear his husky voice,
with the curious deep notes in it, and to be looking into the large but
short-sighted and spectacled eyes--he refused the Speakership mainly on
the grounds of his sight--of which the veiled look often made what he
said the more racy and unexpected. A letter he wrote me in 1886, after
his defeat at Liverpool, I kept for many years as the best short
analysis I had ever read of the Liberal Unionist position, and the
probable future of the Liberal party.

Mrs. Goschen was as devoted a wife as Mrs. Gladstone or Mrs. Disraeli,
and the story of the marriage was a romance enormously to Mr. Goschen's
credit. Mr. Goschen must have been a most faithful lover, and he
certainly was a delightful friend. We stayed with them at Seacox, their
home in Kent, and I remember one rainy afternoon there, the greater part
of which I spent listening to his talk with John Morley, and--I
think--Sir Alfred Lyall. It would have been difficult to find a trio of
men better worth an audience.

Mrs. Goschen, though full of kindness and goodness, was not literary,
and the house was somewhat devoid of books, except in Mr. Goschen's
study. I remember J.R.G.'s laughing fling when Mrs. Goschen complained
that she could not get _Pride and Prejudice_, which he had recommended
to her, "from the library." "But you could have bought it for sixpence
at the railway bookstall," said J.R.G. Mr. Goschen himself, however, was
a man of wide cultivation, as befitted the grandson of the intelligent
German bourgeois who had been the publisher of both Schiller and Goethe.
His biography of his grandfather in those happy days before the present
life-and-death struggle between England and Germany has now a kind of
symbolic value. It is a study by a man of German descent who had become
one of the most trusted of English statesmen, of that earlier German
life--with its measure, its kindness, its idealism--on which Germany has
turned its back. The writing of this book was the pleasure of his later
years, amid the heavy work which was imposed upon him as a Free-Trader,
in spite of his personal friendship for Mr. Chamberlain, by the Tariff
Reform campaign of 1903 onward; and the copy which he gave me reminds me
of many happy talks with him, and of my own true affection for him. I am
thankful that he did not live to see 1914.

Lord Goschen reminds me of Lord Acton, another new friend of the
'eighties. Yet Lord Acton had been my father's friend and editor, in the
_Home and Foreign Review_, long before he and I knew each other. Was
there ever a more interesting or a more enigmatic personality than Lord
Acton's? His letters to Mrs. Drew, addressed, evidently, in many cases,
to Mr. Gladstone, through his daughter, have always seemed to me one of
the most interesting documents of our time. Yet I felt sharply, in
reading them, that the real man was only partially there; and in the new
series of letters just published (October, 1917) much and welcome light
is shed upon the problem of Lord Acton's mind and character. The
perpetual attraction for me, as for many others, lay in the contrast
between Lord Acton's Catholicism and the universalism of his learning;
and, again, between what his death revealed of the fervor and simplicity
of his Catholic faith, and the passion of his Liberal creed.
Oppression--tyranny--persecution--those were the things that stirred
his blood. He was a Catholic, yet he fought Ultramontanism and the
Papal, Curia to the end; he never lost his full communion with the
Church of Rome, yet he could never forgive the Papacy for the things it
had done, and suffered to be done; and he would have nothing to do with
the excuse that the moral standards of one age are different from those
of another, and therefore the crimes of a Borgia weigh more lightly and
claim more indulgence than similar acts done in the nineteenth century.

There is one moral standard for all Christians--there has never been
more than one [he would say, inexorably]. The Commandments and the
Sermon on the Mount have been always there. It was the wickedness of
men that ignored them in the fifteenth century--it is the wickedness
of men that ignores them now. Tolerate them in the past, and you
will come to tolerate them in the present and future.

It was in 1885 that Mr.--then recently made Professor--Creighton, showed
me at Cambridge an extraordinarily interesting summary, in Lord Acton's
handwriting, of what should be the principles--the ethical
principles--of the modern historian in dealing with the past. They were,
I think, afterward embodied in an introduction to a new edition of
_Machiavelli_. The gist of them, however, is given in a letter written
to Bishop Creighton in 1887, and printed in the biography of the Bishop.
Here we find a devout Catholic attacking an Anglican writer for applying
the epithets "tolerant and enlightened" to the later medieval Papacy.

These men [i.e., the Popes of the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries] [he says] instituted a system of persecution.... The
person who authorizes the act shares the guilt of the person who
commits it.... Now the Liberals think persecution a crime of a worse
order than adultery, and the acts done by Ximenes [through the
agency of the Spanish Inquisition] considerably worse than the
entertainment of Roman courtesans by Alexander VIth.

These lines, of course, point to the Acton who was the lifelong friend
of Dollinger and fought, side by side with the Bavarian scholar, the
promulgation of the dogma of Papal Infallibility, at the Vatican Council
of 1870. But while Dollinger broke with the Church, Lord Acton never
did. That was what made the extraordinary interest of conversation with
him. Here was a man whose denunciation of the crimes and corruption of
Papal Rome--of the historic Church, indeed, and the clergy in
general--was far more unsparing than that of the average educated
Anglican. Yet he died a devout member of the Roman Church in which he
was born; after his death it was revealed that he had never felt a
serious doubt either of Catholic doctrine or of the supernatural mission
of the Catholic Church; and it was to a dearly loved daughter on her
death-bed that he said, with calm and tender faith, "My child, you will
soon be with Jesus Christ." All his friends, except the very few who
knew him most intimately, must, I think, have been perpetually puzzled
by this apparent paradox in his life and thought. Take the subject of
Biblical criticism. I had many talks with him while I was writing
_Robert Elsmere_, and was always amazed at his knowledge of what Liddon
would have called "German infidel" books. He had read them all, he
possessed them all, he knew a great deal about the lives of the men who
had written them, and he never spoke of them, both the books and the
writers, without complete and, as it seemed to me, sympathetic
tolerance. I remember, after the publication of the dialogue on "The New
Reformation," in which I tried to answer Mr. Gladstone's review of
_Robert Elsmere_ by giving an outline of the history of religious
inquiry and Biblical criticism from Lessing to Harnack, that I met Lord
Acton one evening on the platform of Bletchley station, while we were
both waiting for a train. He came up to me with a word of congratulation
on the article. "I only wish," I said, "I had been able to consult you
more about it." "No, no," he said. "_Votre siège est faite_! But I think
you should have given more weight to so-and-so, and you have omitted
so-and-so." Whereupon we walked up and down in the dusk, and he poured
out that learning of his, in that way he had--so courteous, modest,
thought-provoking--which made one both wonder at and love him.

As to his generosity and kindness toward younger students, it was
endless. I asked him once, when I was writing for _Macmillan_, to give
me some suggestions for an article on Chateaubriand. The letter I
received from him the following morning is a marvel of knowledge,
bibliography, and kindness. And not only did he give me such a "scheme"
of reading as would have taken any ordinary person months to get
through, but he arrived the following day in a hansom, with a number of
the books he had named, and for a long time they lived on my shelves.
Alack! I never wrote the article, but when I came to the writing of
_Eleanor_, for which certain material was drawn from the life of
Chateaubriand, his advice helped me. And I don't think he would have
thought it thrown away. He never despised novels!

Once on a visit to us at Stocks, there were nine books of different
sorts in his room which I had chosen and placed there. By Monday morning
he had read them all. His library, when he died, contained about 60,000
volumes--all read; and it will be remembered that Lord Morley, to whom
Mr. Carnegie gave it, has handed it on to the University of Cambridge.

In 1884, when I first knew him, however, Lord Acton was every bit as
keen a politician as he was a scholar. As is well known, he was a poor
speaker, and never made any success in Parliament; and this was always,
it seemed to me, the drop of gall in his otherwise happy and
distinguished lot. But if he was never in an English Cabinet, his
influence over Mr. Gladstone through the whole of the Home Rule struggle
gave him very real political power. He and Mr. Morley were the constant
friends and associates to whom Mr. Gladstone turned through all that
critical time. But the great split was rushing on, and it was also in
1884 that, at Admiral Maxse's one night at dinner, I first saw Mr.
Chamberlain, who was to play so great a part in the following years. It
was a memorable evening to me, for the other guest in a small party was
M. Clémenceau.

M. Clémenceau was then at the height of his power as the maker and
unmaker of French Ministries. It was he more than any other single man
who had checkmated the Royalist reaction of 1877 and driven MacMahon
from power; and in the year after we first met him he was to bring Jules
Ferry to grief over _L'affaire de Tongkin_. He was then in the prime of
life, and he is still (1917), thirty-three years later,[1] one of the
most vigorous of French political influences. Mr. Chamberlain, in 1884,
was forty-eight, five years older than the French politician, and was at
that time, of course, the leader of the Radicals, as distinguished from
the old Liberals, both in the House of Commons and Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet.

How many great events, in which those two men were to be concerned, were
still in the "abysm of time," as we sat listening to them at Admiral
Maxse's dinner-table!--Clémenceau, the younger, and the more fiery and
fluent; Chamberlain, with no graces of conversation, and much less ready
than the man he was talking with, but producing already the impression
of a power, certain to leave its mark, if the man lived, on English
history. In a letter to my father after the dinner-party, I described
the interest we had both felt in M. Clémenceau. "Yet he seems to me a
light weight to ride such a horse as the French democracy!"

[Footnote 1: These lines were written shortly before, on the overthrow
of M. Panlevé. M. Clémenceau, at the age of seventy-seven, became Prime
Minister of France, at what may well be the deciding moment of French
destiny (January, 1918).]

In the following year, 1885, I remember a long conversation on the
Gordon catastrophe with Mr. Chamberlain at Lady Jeune's. It was evident,
I thought, that his mind was greatly exercised by the whole story of
that disastrous event. He went through it from step to step, ending up
deliberately, but with a sigh, "I have never been able to see, from day
to day, and I do not see now, how the Ministry could have taken any
other course than that they did take."

Yet the recently published biography of Sir Charles Dilke shows clearly
how very critical Mr. Chamberlain had already become of his great
leader, Mr. Gladstone, and how many causes were already preparing the
rupture of 1886.

* * * * *

I first met Mr. Browning in 1884 or 1885, if I remember right, at a
Kensington dinner-party, where he took me down. A man who talked loud and
much was discoursing on the other side of the table; and a spirit of
opposition had clearly entered into Mr. Browning.

_À propos_ of some recent acting in London we began to talk of Molière,
and presently, as though to shut out the stream of words opposite, which
was damping conversation, the old poet--how the splendid brow and the
white hair come back to me!--fell to quoting from the famous sonnet
scene in "Le Misanthrope": first of all, Alceste's rage with Phillinte's
flattery of the wretched verses declaimed by Oronte--"_Morbleu! vil
complaisant, vous louez des sottises_"; then the admirable fencing
between Oronte and Alceste, where Alceste at first tries to convey his
contempt for Oronte's sonnet indirectly, and then bursts out:

"_Ce n'est que jeu de mots, qu'affectation pure,
Et ce n'est point ainsi que parle la nature_!"

breaking immediately into the _vieille chanson_, one line of which is
worth all the affected stuff that Célimène and her circle admire.

Browning repeated the French in an undertone, kindling as he went, I
urging him on, our two heads close together. Every now and then he would
look up to see if the plague outside was done, and, finding it still
went on, would plunge again into the seclusion of our tête-à-tête; till
the _chanson_ itself--"_Si le roi m'avoit donné--Paris, sa grand'
ville"_--had been said, to his delight and mine.

The recitation lasted through several courses, and our hostess once or
twice threw uneasy glances toward us, for Browning was the "lion" of the
evening. But, once launched, he was not to be stopped; and as for me, I
shall always remember that I heard Browning--spontaneously, without a
moment's pause to remember or prepare--recite the whole, or almost the
whole, of one of the immortal things in literature.

He was then seventy-two or seventy-three. He came to see us once or
twice in Russell Square, but, alack! we arrived too late in the London
world to know him well. His health began to fail just about the time
when we first met, and early in 1889 he died in the Palazzo Rezzonico.

He did not like _Robert Elsmere_, which appeared the year before his
death; and I was told a striking story by a common friend of his and
mine, who was present at a discussion of the book at a literary house.
Browning, said my friend, was of the party. The discussion turned on the
divinity of Christ. After listening awhile, Browning repeated, with some
passion, the anecdote of Charles Lamb in conversation with Leigh Hunt,
on the subject of "Persons one would wish to have seen"; when, after
ranging through literature and philosophy, Lamb added:

"But without mentioning a name that once put on a semblance of
mortality ... there is only one other Person. If Shakespeare was to
come into the room, we should rise up to meet him; but if that
Person was to come into it, we should fall down and try to kiss the
hem of His garment."

Some fourteen years after his death I seemed to be brought very near in
spirit to this great man, and--so far as a large portion of his work is
concerned--great poet. We were in Venice. I was writing the _Marriage of
William Ashe_, and, being in want of a Venetian setting for some of the
scenes, I asked Mr. Pen Browning, who was, I think, at Asolo, if he
would allow me access to the Palazzo Rezzonico, which was then
uninhabited. He kindly gave me free leave to wander about it as I liked;
and I went most days to sit and write in one of the rooms of the
_mezzanin_. But when all chance of a tourist had gone, and the palace
was shut, I used to walk all about it in the rich May light, finding it
a little creepy! but endlessly attractive and interesting. There was a
bust of Mr. Browning, with an inscription, in one of the rooms, and the
place was haunted for me by his great ghost. It was there he had come to
die, in the palace which he had given to his only son, whom he adored.
The _concierge_ pointed out to me what he believed to be the room in
which he passed away. There was very little furniture in it. Everything
was chill and deserted. I did not want to think of him there. I liked to
imagine him strolling in the stately hall of the palace with its vast
chandelier, its pillared sides and Tiepolo ceiling, breathing in the
Italian spirit which through such long years had passed into his, and
delighting, as a poet delights--not vulgarly, but with something of a
child's adventurous pleasure--in the mellow magnificence of the
beautiful old place.

* * * * *

Mr. Lowell is another memory of these early London days. My first sight
of him was at Mr. and Mrs. Westlake's house--in a temper! For some one
had imprudently talked of "Yankeeisms," perhaps with some "superior"
intonation. And Mr. Lowell--the Lowell of _A Certain Condescension in
Foreigners_--had flashed out: "It's you English who don't know your own
language and your own literary history. Otherwise you would realize that
most of what you call 'Yankeeisms' are merely good old English which you
have thrown away."

Afterward, I find records of talks with him at Russell Square, then of
Mrs. Lowell's death in 1885, and finally of dining with him in the
spring of 1887, just before his return to America. At that dinner was
also the German Ambassador, Count Hatzfeldt, a handsome man, with a
powerful, rather somber face. I remember some talk with him after dinner
on current books and politics. Just thirty years ago! Mr. Lowell had
then only four years to live. He and all other diplomats had just passed
through an anxious spring. The scare of another Franco-German war had
been playing on the nerves of Europe, started by the military party in
Germany, merely to insure the passing of the famous Army law of that
year--the first landmark in that huge military expansion of which we see
the natural fruit in the present Armageddon.

A week or two before this dinner the German elections had given the
Conservatives an enormous victory. Germany, indeed, was in the full
passion of economic and military development--all her people growing
rich--intoxicated, besides, with vague dreams of coming power. Yet I
have still before me the absent, indecipherable look of her
Ambassador--a man clearly of high intelligence--at Mr. Lowell's table.
Thirty years--and at the end of them America was to be at grips with
Germany, sending armies across the Atlantic to fight in Europe. It would
have been as impossible for any of us, on that May evening in Lowndes
Square, even to imagine such a future, as it was for Macbeth to credit
the absurdity that Birnam wood would ever come to Dunsinane!

A year later Mr. Lowell came back to London for a time in a private
capacity, and I got to know him better and to like him much.... Here is
a characteristic touch in a note I find among the old letters:

I am glad you found something to like in my book and much obliged to
you for saying so. Nobody but Wordsworth ever got beyond need of
sympathy, and he started there!

CHAPTER III

THE PUBLICATION OF _ROBERT ELSMERE_

It was in 1885, after the completion of the Amiel translation, that I
began _Robert Elsmere_, drawing the opening scenes from that expedition
to Long Sleddale in the spring of that year which I have already
mentioned. The book took me three years, nearly, to write. Again and
again I found myself dreaming that the end was near and publication only
a month or two away, only to sink back on the dismal conviction that the
second, or the first, or the third volume--or some portion of each--must
be rewritten, if I was to satisfy myself at all. I actually wrote the
last words of the last chapter in March, 1887, and came out afterward,
from my tiny writing-room at the end of the drawing-room, shaken with
tears, and wondering, as I sat alone on the floor, by the fire, in the
front room, what life would be like, now that the book was done! But it
was nearly a year after that before it came out, a year of incessant
hard work, of endless rewriting, and much nervous exhaustion. For all
the work was saddened and made difficult by the fact that my mother's
long illness was nearing its end and that I was torn incessantly between
the claim of the book and the desire to be with her whenever I could
possibly be spared from my home and children. Whenever there was a
temporary improvement in her state, I would go down to Borough alone to
work feverishly at revision, only to be drawn back to her side before
long by worse news. And all the time London life went on as usual, and
the strain at times was great.

The difficulty of finishing the book arose first of all from its length.
I well remember the depressed countenance of Mr. George Smith--who was
to be to me through fourteen years afterward the kindest of publishers
and friends--when I called one day in Waterloo Place, bearing a
basketful of typewritten sheets. "I am afraid you have brought us a
perfectly unmanageable book!" he said; and I could only mournfully agree
that so it was. It was far too long, and my heart sank at the thought of
all there was still to do. But how patient Mr. Smith was over it! and
how generous in the matter of unlimited fresh proofs and endless
corrections. I am certain that he had no belief in the book's success;
and yet, on the ground of his interest in _Miss Bretherton_ he had made
liberal terms with me, and all through the long incubation he was always
indulgent and sympathetic.

The root difficulty was of course the dealing with such a subject in a
novel at all. Yet I was determined to deal with it so, in order to reach
the public. There were great precedents--Froude's _Nemesis of Faith_,
Newman's _Loss and Gain_, Kingsley's _Alton Locke_--for the novel of
religious or social propaganda. And it seemed to me that the novel was
capable of holding and shaping real experience of any kind, as it
affects the lives of men and women. It is the most elastic, the most
adaptable of forms. No one has a right to set limits to its range. There
is only one final test. Does it interest?--does it appeal? Personally, I
should add another. Does it make in the long run for _beauty_? Beauty
taken in the largest and most generous sense, and especially as
including discord, the harsh and jangled notes which enrich the
rest--but still Beauty--as Tolstoy was a master of it?

But at any rate, no one will deny that _interest_ is the crucial matter.

There are five and twenty ways
Of constructing tribal lays--
And every single one of them is right!

always supposing that the way chosen quickens the breath and stirs the
heart of those who listen. But when the subject chosen has two aspects,
the one intellectual and logical, the other poetic and emotional, the
difficulty of holding the balance between them, so that neither
overpowers the other, and interest is maintained, is admittedly great.

I wanted to show how a man of sensitive and noble character, born for
religion, comes to throw off the orthodoxies of his day and moment, and
to go out into the wilderness where all is experiment, and spiritual
life begins again. And with him I wished to contrast a type no less fine
of the traditional and guided mind, and to imagine the clash of two such
tendencies of thought as it might affect all practical life, and
especially the life of two people who loved each other.

Here then, to begin with, were Robert and Catharine. Yes, but Robert
must be made intellectually intelligible. Closely looked at, all
novel-writing is a sort of shorthand. Even the most simple and broadly
human situation cannot really be told in full. Each reader in following
it unconsciously supplies a vast amount himself. A great deal of the
effect is owing to things quite out of the picture given--things in the
reader's own mind, first and foremost. The writer is playing on common
experience; and mere suggestion is often far more effective than
analysis. Take the paragraph in Turguénieff's _Lisa_--it was pointed out
to me by Henry James--where Lavretsky on the point of marriage, after
much suffering, with the innocent and noble girl whom he adores,
suddenly hears that his intolerable first wife, whom he had long
believed dead, is alive. Turguénieff, instead of setting out the
situation in detail, throws himself on the reader: "It was dark.
Lavretsky went into the garden, and walked up and down there till dawn."

That is all. And it is enough. The reader who is not capable of sharing
that night walk with Lavretsky, and entering into his thoughts, has read
the novel to no purpose. He would not understand, though Lavretsky or
his creator were to spend pages on explaining.

But in my case, what provoked the human and emotional crisis--what
produced the _story_--was an intellectual process. Now the difficulty
here in using suggestion--which is the master tool of the novelist--is
much greater than in the case of ordinary experience. For the conscious
use of the intellect on the accumulated data of life, through history
and philosophy, is not ordinary experience. In its more advanced forms,
it only applies to a small minority of the human race.

Still, in every generation, while a minority is making or taking part in
the intellectual process itself, there is an atmosphere, a diffusion,
produced around them, which affects many thousands who have but little
share--but little _conscious_ share, at any rate--in the actual process.

Here, then, is the opening for suggestion--in connection with the
various forms of imagination which enter into Literature; with poetry,
and fiction, which, as Goethe saw, is really a form of poetry. And a
quite legitimate opening. For to use it is to quicken the intellectual
process itself, and to induce a larger number of minds to take part
in it.

The problem, then, in intellectual poetry or fiction, is so to suggest
the argument, that both the expert and the popular consciousness may
feel its force, and to do this without overstepping the bounds of poetry
or fiction; without turning either into mere ratiocination, and so
losing the "simple, sensuous, passionate" element which is their
true life.

It was this problem which made _Robert Elsmere_ take three years to
write, instead of one. Mr. Gladstone complained, in his famous review of
it, that a majestic system which had taken centuries to elaborate, and
gathered into itself the wisest brains of the ages, had gone down in a
few weeks or months before the onslaught of the Squire's arguments; and
that if the Squire's arguments were few, the orthodox arguments were
fewer! The answer to the first part of the charge is that the
well-taught schoolboy of to-day is necessarily wiser in a hundred
respects than Sophocles or Plato, since he represents not himself, but
the brainwork of a hundred generations since those great men lived. And
as to the second, if Mr. Gladstone had seen the first redactions of the
book--only if he had, I fear he would never have read it!--he would
hardly have complained of lack of argument on either side, whatever he
might have thought of its quality. Again and again I went on writing for
hours, satisfying the logical sense in oneself, trying to put the
arguments on both sides as fairly as possible, only to feel despairingly
at the end that it must all come out. It might be decent controversy;
but life, feeling, charm, _humanity_, had gone out of it; it had ceased,
therefore, to be "making," to be literature.

So that in the long run there was no other method possible than
suggestion--and, of course, _selection_!--as with all the rest of one's
material. That being understood, what one had to aim at was so to use
suggestion as to touch the two zones of thought--that of the scholar and
that of what one may call the educated populace; who, without being
scholars, were yet aware, more or less clearly, of what the scholars
were doing. It is from these last that "atmosphere" and "diffusion"
come; the atmosphere and diffusion which alone make wide penetration for
a book illustrating an intellectual motive possible. I had to learn
that, having read a great deal, I must as far as possible wipe out the
traces of reading. All that could be done was to leave a few sign-posts
as firmly planted as one could, so as to recall the real journey to
those who already knew it, and, for the rest, to trust to the floating
interest and passion surrounding a great controversy--the _second_
religious battle of the nineteenth century--with which it had seemed to
me, both in Oxford and in London, that the intellectual air was charged.

I grew very weary in the course of the long effort, and often very
despairing. But there were omens of hope now and then; first, a letter
from my dear eldest brother, the late W.T. Arnold, who died in 1904,
leaving a record as journalist and scholar which has been admirably told
by his intimate friend and colleague, Mr. (now Captain) C.E. Montague.
He and I had shared many intellectual interests connected with the
history of the Empire. His monograph on _Roman Provincial
Administration_, first written as an Arnold Essay, still holds the
field; and in the realm of pure literature his one-volume edition of
Keats is there to show his eagerness for beauty and his love of English
verse. I sent him the first volume in proof, about a year before the
book came out, and awaited his verdict with much anxiety. It came one
May day in 1889. I happened to be very tired and depressed at the
moment, and I remember sitting alone for a little while with the letter
in my hand, without courage to open it. Then at last I opened it.

Warm congratulation--Admirable!--Full of character and color....
_Miss Bretherton_ was an intellectual exercise. This is quite a
different affair, and has interested and touched me deeply, as I
feel sure it will all the world. The biggest thing that--with a few
other things of the same kind--has been done for years.

Well!--that was enough to go on with, to carry me through the last
wrestle with proofs and revision. But by the following November nervous
fatigue made me put work aside for a few weeks, and we went abroad for
rest, only to be abruptly summoned home by my mother's state.
Thenceforward I lived a double life--the one overshadowed by my mother's
approaching death, the other amid the agitation of the book's appearance
and all the incidents of its rapid success.

I have already told the story in the Introduction to the Library Edition
of _Robert Elsmere_, and I will only run through it here as rapidly as
possible, with a few fresh incidents and quotations. There was never any
doubt at all of the book's fate, and I may repeat again that, before Mr.
Gladstone's review of it, the three volumes were already in a third
edition, the rush at all the libraries was in full course, and Matthew
Arnold--so gay and kind, in those March weeks before his own sudden
death!--had clearly foreseen the rising boom. "I shall take it with me
to Bristol next week and get through it there, I hope [but he didn't
achieve it!]. It is one of my regrets not to have known the Green of
your dedication." And a week or two later he wrote an amusing letter to
his sister, describing a country-house party at beautiful Wilton, Lord
Pembroke's home near Salisbury, and the various stages in the book
reached by the members of the party, including Mr. Goschen, who were all
reading it, and all talking of it. I never, however, had any criticism
of it from him, except of the first volume, which he liked. I doubt very
much whether the second and third volumes would have appealed to him. My
uncle was a Modernist long before the time. In _Literature and Dogma_ he
threw out in detail much of the argument suggested in _Robert Elsmere_,
but to the end of his life he was a contented member of the Anglican
Church, so far as attendance at her services was concerned, and belief
in her mission of "edification" to the English people. He had little
sympathy with people who "went out." Like Mr. Jowett, he would have
liked to see the Church slowly reformed and "modernized" from within. So
that with the main theme of my book--that a priest who doubts must
depart--he could never have had full sympathy. And in the course of
years--as I showed in a later novel written twenty-four years after
_Robert Elsmere_--I feel that I have very much come to agree with him!
These great national structures that we call churches are too precious
for iconoclast handling, if any other method is possible. The strong
assertion of individual liberty within them, as opposed to the attempt
to break them down from without; that seems to me now the hopeful
course. A few more heresy trials like those which sprang out of _Essays
and Reviews_, or the persecution of Bishop Colenso, would let in fresh
life and healing nowadays, as did those old stirrings of the waters. The
first Modernist bishop who stays in his place forms a Modernist chapter
and diocese around him, and fights the fight where he stands, will do
more for liberty and faith in the Church, I now sadly believe, than
those scores of brave "forgotten dead" who have gone out of her for
conscience' sake, all these years.

But to return to the book. All through March the tide of success was
rapidly rising; and when I was able to think of it I was naturally
carried away by the excitement and astonishment of it. But with the
later days of March a veil dropped between me and the book. My mother's
suffering and storm-beaten life was coming rapidly to its close, and I
could think of nothing else. In an interval of slight improvement,
indeed, when it seemed as though she might rally for a time, I heard Mr.
Gladstone's name quoted for the first time in connection with the book.
It will be remembered that he was then out of office, having been
overthrown on the Home Rule Question in 1886, and he happened to be
staying for an Easter visit with the Warden of Keble, and Mrs. Talbot,
who was his niece by marriage. I was with my mother, about a mile away,
and Mrs. Talbot, who came to ask for news of her, reported to me that
Mr. Gladstone was deep in the book. He was reading it, pencil in hand,
marking all the passages he disliked or quarreled with, with the Italian
"_Ma_!"--and those he approved of with mysterious signs which she who
followed him through the volumes could not always decipher. Mr. Knowles,
she reported, the busy editor of the _Nineteenth Century_, was trying to
persuade the great man to review it. But "Mr. G." had not made up
his mind.

Then all was shut out again. Through many days my mother asked
constantly for news of the book, and smiled with a flicker of her old
brightness when anything pleased her in a letter or review. But finally
there came long hours when to think or speak of it seemed sacrilege. And
on April 7th she died.

* * * * *

The day after her death I saw Mr. Gladstone at Keble. We talked for a
couple of hours, and then when I rose to go he asked if I would come
again on the following morning before he went back to town. I had been
deeply interested and touched, and I went again for another long visit.
My account, written down at the time, of the first day's talk, has been
printed as an appendix to the Library Edition of the book. Of the second
conversation, which was the more interesting of the two since we came to
much closer quarters in it, my only record is the following letter to
my husband:

I have certainly had a wonderful experience last night and this
morning! Last night two hours' talk with Gladstone, this morning,
again an hour and a half's strenuous argument, during which the
great man got quite white sometimes and tremulous with interest and
excitement.... The talk this morning was a battle royal over the
book and Christian evidences. He was _very_ charming personally,
though at times he looked stern and angry and white to a degree, so
that I wondered sometimes how I had the courage to go on--the drawn
brows were so formidable! There was one moment when he talked of
"trumpery objections," in his most House of Commons manner. It was
as I thought. The new lines of criticism are not familiar to him,
and they really press him hard. He meets them out of Bishop Butler,
and things analogous. But there is a sense, I think, that question
and answer don't fit, and with it ever-increasing interest
and--sometimes--irritation. His own autobiographical reminiscences
were wonderfully interesting, and his repetition of the 42d
psalm--"Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks"--_grand_!

He said that he had never read any book on the hostile side written
in such a spirit of, "generous appreciation" of the Christian side.

Yes, those were hours to which I shall always look back with gratitude
and emotion. Wonderful old man! I see him still standing, as I took
leave of him, one hand leaning on the table beside him, his lined,
pallid face and eagle eyes framed in his noble white hair, shining amid
the dusk of the room. "There are still two things left for me to do!" he
said, finally, in answer to some remark of mine. "One is to carry Home
Rule; the other is to prove the intimate connection between the Hebrew
and Olympian revelations!"

Could any remark have been more characteristic of that double life of
his--the life of the politician and the life of the student--which kept
him fresh and eager to the end of his days? Characteristic, too, of the
amateurish element in all his historical and literary thinking. In
dealing "with early Greek mythology, genealogy, and religion," says his
old friend, Lord Bryce, Mr. Gladstone's theories "have been condemned by
the unanimous voice of scholars as fantastic." Like his great
contemporary, Newman--on whom a good deal of our conversation turned--he
had no critical sense of evidence; and when he was writing on _The
Impregnable Rock of Scripture_ Lord Acton, who was staying at Hawarden
at the time, ran after him in vain, with Welhausen or Kuenen under his
arm, if haply he might persuade his host to read them.

But it was not for that he was born; and those who look back to the
mighty work he did for his country in the forty years preceding the Home
Rule split can only thank the Powers "that hold the broad Heaven" for
the part which the passion of his Christian faith, the eagerness of his
love for letters--for the Homer and the Dante he knew by heart--played
in refreshing and sustaining so great a soul. I remember returning,
shaken and uplifted, through the April air, to the house where my mother
lay in death; and among my old papers lies a torn fragment of a letter
thirty years old, which I began to write to Mr. Gladstone a few days
later, and was too shy to send.

This morning [says the letter, written from Fox How, on the day of
my mother's funeral] we laid my dear Mother to rest in her grave
among the mountains, and this afternoon I am free to think a little
over what has befallen me personally and separately during this past
week. It is not that I wish to continue our argument--quite the
contrary. As I walked home from Keble on Monday morning, I felt it a
hard fate that I should have been arguing, rather than listening....
Argument, perhaps, was inevitable, but none the less I felt
afterward as though there were something incongruous and unfitting
in it. In a serious discussion it seemed to me right to say plainly
what I felt and believed; but if in doing so I have given pain, or
expressed myself on any point with a too great trenchancy and
confidence, please believe that I regret it very sincerely. I shall
always remember our talks. If consciousness lasts "beyond these
voices"--my inmost hope as well as yours--we shall know of all these
things. Till then I cherish the belief that we are not so far apart
as we seem.

But there the letter abruptly ended, and was never sent. I probably
shrank from the added emotion of sending it, and I found it again the
other day in a packet that had not been looked at for many years. I
print it now as evidence of the effect that Mr. Gladstone's personality
could produce on one forty years younger than himself, and in sharp
rebellion at that time against his opinions and influence in two main
fields--religion and politics.

* * * * *

Four days later, Monday, April 16th, my husband came into my room with
the face of one bringing ill tidings. "Matthew Arnold is dead!" My
uncle, as many will remember, had fallen suddenly in a Liverpool street
while walking with his wife to meet his daughter, expected that day from
America, and without a sound or movement had passed away. The heart
disease which killed so many of his family was his fate also. A merciful
one it always seemed to me, which took him thus suddenly and without
pain from the life in which he had played so fruitful and blameless a
part. That word "blameless" has always seemed to me particularly to fit
him. And the quality to which it points was what made his humor so
sharp-tipped and so harmless. He had no hidden interest to serve--no
malice--not a touch, not a trace of cruelty--so that men allowed him to
jest about their most sacred idols and superstitions and bore him
no grudge.

To me his death at that moment was an irreparable personal loss. For it
was only since our migration to London that we had been near enough to
him to see much of him. My husband and he had become fast friends, and
his visits to Russell Square, and our expeditions to Cobham, where he
lived, in the pretty cottage beside the Mole, are marked in memory with
a very white stone. The only drawback to the Cobham visits were the
"dear, dear boys!"--i.e., the dachshunds, Max and Geist, who, however
adorable in themselves, had no taste for visitors and no intention of
letting such intruding creatures interfere with their possession of
their master. One would go down to Cobham, eager to talk to "Uncle Matt"
about a book or an article--covetous, at any rate, of _some_ talk with
him undisturbed. And it would all end in a breathless chase after Max,
through field after field where the little wretch was harrying either
sheep or cows, with the dear poet, hoarse with shouting, at his heels.
The dogs were always _in the party_, talked to, caressed, or scolded
exactly like spoiled children; and the cat of the house was almost
equally dear. Once, at Harrow, the then ruling cat--a tom--broke his
leg, and the house was in lamentation. The vet was called in, and hurt
him horribly. Then Uncle Matt ran up to town, met Professor Huxley at
the Athenaeum, and anxiously consulted him. "I'll go down with you,"
said Huxley. The two traveled back instanter to Harrow, and, while Uncle
Matt held the cat, Huxley--who had begun life, let it be remembered, as
surgeon to the _Rattlesnake_!--examined him, the two black heads
together. There is a rumor that Charles Kingsley was included in the
consultation. Finally the limb was put in splints and left to nature.
All went well.

Nobody who knew the modest Cobham cottage while its master lived will
ever forget it; the garden beside the Mole, where every bush and
flower-bed had its history; and that little study-dressing-room where
some of the best work in nineteenth-century letters was done. Not a
great multitude of books, but all cherished, all read, each one the
friend of its owner. No untidiness anywhere; the ordinary litter of an
author's room was quite absent. For long after his death the room
remained just as he had left it, his coat hanging behind the door, his
slippers beside his chair, the last letters he had received, and all the
small and simple equipment of his writing-table ready to his hand,
waiting for the master who would never know "a day of return." In that
room--during fifteen years, he wrote _God and the Bible_, the many
suggestive and fruitful Essays, including the American addresses, of his
later years--seeds, almost all of them, dropped into the mind of his
generation for a future harvesting; a certain number of poems, including
the noble elegiac poem on Arthur Stanley's death, "Geist's Grave" and
"Poor Matthias"; a mass of writing on education which is only now,
helped by the war, beginning to tell on the English mind; and the
endlessly kind and gracious letters to all sorts and conditions of
men--and women--the literary beginner, the young teacher wanting advice,
even the stranger greedy for an autograph. Every little playful note to
friends or kinsfolk he ever wrote was dear to those who received it; but
he--the most fastidious of men--would have much disliked to see them all
printed at length in Mr. Russell's indiscriminate volumes. He talked to
me once of his wish to make a small volume--"such a little one!"--of
George Sand's best letters. And that is just what he would have wished
for himself.

Among the letters that reached me on my uncle's death was one from Mr.
Andrew Lang denouncing almost all the obituary notices of him. "Nobody
seems to know that he _was a poet_!" cries Mr. Lang. But his poetic
blossoming was really over with the 'sixties, and in the hubbub that
arose round his critical and religious work--his attempts to drive
"ideas" into the English mind, in the 'sixties and 'seventies--the main
fact that he, with Browning and Tennyson, _stood for English poetry_, in
the mid-nineteenth century, was often obscured and only slowly
recognized. But it was recognized, and he himself had never any real
doubt of it, from the moment when he sent the "Strayed Reveller" to my
father in New Zealand in 1849, to those later times when his growing
fame was in all men's ears. He writes to his sister in 1878:

It is curious how the public is beginning to take my poems to its
bosom after long years of comparative neglect. The wave of thought
and change has rolled on until people begin to find a significance
and an attraction in what had none for them formerly.

But he had put it himself in poetry long before--this slow emergence
above the tumult and the shouting of the stars that are to shine upon
the next generation. Mr. Garnett, in the careful and learned notice of
my uncle's life and work in the _Dictionary of National Biography_, says
of his poetry that "most of it" is "immortal." This, indeed, is the
great, the mystic word that rings in every poet's ear from the
beginning. And there is scarcely any true poet who is not certain that
sooner or later his work will "put on immortality." Matthew Arnold
expressed, I think, his own secret faith, in the beautiful lines of his
early poem, "The Bacchanalia--or the New Age":

The epoch ends, the world is still.
The age has talk'd and work'd its fill--

* * * * *

And in the after-silence sweet,
Now strife is hush'd, our ears doth meet,
Ascending pure, the bell-like fame
Of this or that down-trodden name,
Delicate spirits, push'd away
In the hot press of the noonday.
And o'er the plain, where the dead age
Did its now silent warfare wage--
O'er that wide plain, now wrapt in gloom,
Where many a splendor finds its tomb,
Many spent fames and fallen nights--
The one or two immortal lights
Rise slowly up into the sky
To shine there everlastingly,
Like stars over the bounding hill.
The epoch ends, the world is still.

* * * * *

It was on the way home from Laleham, after my uncle's burial there, that
Mr. George Smith gave me fresh and astonishing news of _Robert
Elsmere's_ success. The circulating libraries were being fretted to
death for copies, and the whirlwind of talk was constantly rising. A
little later in the same month of April, if I remember right, I was
going from Waterloo to Godalming and Borough Farm, when, just as the
train was starting, a lady rushed along the platform, waving a book
aloft and signaling to another lady who was evidently waiting to see her
off. "I've got it--I've got it!" she said, triumphantly. "Get in,
ma-am--get in!" said the porter, bundling her into the compartment where
I sat alone. Then she hung out of the window, breathlessly talking.
"They told me no chance for weeks--not the slightest! Then--just as I
was standing at the counter, who should come up but somebody bringing
back the first volume. Of course it was promised to somebody else; but
as I was _there_, I laid hands on it, and here it is!" The train went
off, my companion plunged into her book, and I watched her as she turned
the pages of the familiar green volume. We were quite alone. I had half
a mind to say something revealing; but on the whole it was more amusing
to sit still!

And meanwhile letters poured in.

"I try to write upon you," wrote Mr. Gladstone; "wholly despair of
satisfying myself--cannot quite tell whether to persevere or desist."
Mr. Pater let me know that he was writing on it for the _Guardian_. "It
is a _chef d'oeuvre_ after its kind, and justifies the care you have
devoted to it." "I see," said Andrew Lang, on April 30th, "that _R.E._
is running into as many editions as _The Rights of Man_ by Tom Paine....
You know he is not _my_ sort (at least unless you have a ghost, a
murder, a duel, and some savages)." Burne-Jones wrote, with the fun and
sweetness that made his letters a delight:

Not one least bitter word in it!--threading your way through
intricacies of parsons so finely and justly.... As each new one came
on the scene, I wondered if you would fall upon him and rend
him--but you never do.... Certainly I never thought I should devour
a book about parsons--my desires lying toward--"time upon once there
was a dreadful pirate"--but I am back again five and thirty years
and feeling softened and subdued with memories you have wakened up
so piercingly--and I wanted to tell you this.

And in the same packet lie letters from the honored and beloved Edward
Talbot, now Bishop of Winchester, Stopford Brooke--the Master of
Balliol--Lord Justice Bowen--Professor Huxley--and so many, many more.
Best of all, Henry James! His two long letters I have already printed,
naturally with his full leave and blessing, in the Library Edition of
the novel. Not his the grudging and faultfinding temper that besets the
lesser man when he comes to write of his contemporaries! Full of
generous honor for what he thought good and honest work, however faulty,
his praise kindled--and his blame no less. He appreciated so fully
_your_ way of doing it; and his suggestion, alongside, of what would
have been _his_ way of doing it, was so stimulating--touched one with so
light a Socratean sting, and set a hundred thoughts on the alert. Of
this delightful critical art of his his letters to myself over many
years are one long illustration.

And now--"There is none like him--none!" The honeyed lips are silent and
the helping hand at rest.

With May appeared Mr. Gladstone's review--"the refined criticism of
_Robert Elsmere_"--"typical of his strong points," as Lord Bryce
describes it--certainly one of the best things he ever wrote. I had no
sooner read it than, after admiring it, I felt it must be answered. But
it was desirable to take time to think how best to do it. At the moment
my one desire was for rest and escape. At the beginning of June we took
our eldest two children, aged eleven and thirteen, to Switzerland for
the first time. Oh! the delight of Glion! with its hay-fields thick with
miraculous spring flowers, the "peak of Jaman delicately tall," and that
gorgeous pile of the Dent du Midi, bearing up the June heaven, to the
east!--the joy of seeing the children's pleasure, and the relief of the
mere physical rebound in the Swiss air, after the long months of strain
and sorrow! My son, a slip of a person in knickerbockers, walked over
the Simplon as though Alps were only made to be climbed by boys of
eleven; and the Defile of Gondo, Domo d'Ossola, and beautiful
Maggiore--they were all new and heavenly to each member of the party.
Every year now there was growing on me the spell of Italy, the historic,
the Saturnian land; and short as this wandering was, I remember, after
it was over, and we turned homeward across the St. Gothard, leaving
Italy behind us, a new sense as of a hidden treasure in life--of
something sweet and inexhaustible always waiting for one's return; like
a child's cake in a cupboard, or the gold and silver hoard of Odysseus
that Athene helped him to hide in the Ithacan cave.

Then one day toward the end of June or the beginning of July my husband
put down beside me a great brown paper package which the post had just
brought. "There's America beginning!" he said, and we turned over the
contents of the parcel in bewilderment. A kind American friend had made
a collection for me of the reviews, sermons, and pamphlets that had been
published so far about the book in the States, the correspondences, the
odds and ends of all kinds, grave and gay. Every mail, moreover, began
to bring me American letters from all parts of the States. "No book
since _Uncle Tom's Cabin_ has had so sudden and wide a diffusion among
all classes of readers," wrote an American man of letters, "and I
believe that no other book of equal seriousness ever had so quick a
hearing. I have seen it in the hands of nursery-maids and of shopgirls
behind the counters; of frivolous young women who read every novel that
is talked about; of business men, professors, and students.... The
proprietors of those large shops where anything--from a pin to a
piano--can be bought, vie with each other in selling the cheapest
edition. One pirate put his price even so low as four cents--two pence!"
(Those, it will be remembered, were the days before Anglo-American
copyright.)

Oliver Wendell Holmes, to whom I was personally a stranger, wrote to me
just such a letter as one might have dreamed of from the "Autocrat":
"One of my elderly friends of long ago called a story of mine you may
possibly have heard of--_Elsie Venner_--'a medicated novel,' and such
she said she was not in the habit of reading. I liked her expression; it
titillated more than it tingled. _Robert Elsmere_ I suppose we should
all agree is 'a medicated novel'--but it is, I think, beyond question,
the most effective and popular novel we have had since _Uncle
Tom's Cabin_."

A man of science, apparently an agnostic, wrote, severely: "I regret the
popularity of _Robert Elsmere_ in this country. Our Western people are
like sheep in such matters. They will not see that the book was written
for a people with a State Church on its hands, so that a gross
exaggeration of the importance of religion was necessary. It will revive
interest in theology and retard the progress of rationalism."

Another student and thinker from one of the universities of the West,
after a brilliant criticism of the novel, written about a year after its
publication, winds up, "The book, here, has entered into the evolution
of a nation."

Goldwin Smith--my father's and uncle's early friend--wrote me from
Canada:

The Grange, Toronto, _Oct. 31, 1888._

My dear Mrs. Ward,--You may be amused by seeing what a stir you are
making even in this sequestered nook of the theological world, and
by learning that the antidote to you is _Ben-Hur_. I am afraid, if
it were so, I should prefer the poison to the antidote.

The state of opinion on this Continent is, I fancy, pretty much that
to which Robert Elsmere would bring us--Theism, with Christ as a
model of character, but without real belief in the miraculous part
of Christianity. Churches are still being everywhere built, money is
freely subscribed, young men are pressing into the clerical
profession, and religion shows every sign of vitality. I cannot help
suspecting, however, that a change is not far off. If it comes, it
will come with a vengeance; for over the intellectual dead level of
this democracy opinion courses like the tide running in over a flat.

As the end of life draws near I feel like the Scotchman who, being
on his death-bed when the trial of O'Connell was going on, desired
his Minister to pray for him that he might just live to see what
came of O'Connell. A wonderful period of transition in all things,
however, has begun, and I should like very much to see the result.
However, it is too likely that very rough times may be coming and
that one will be just as well out of the way.

* * * * *

Yours most truly, GOLDWIN SMITH.

Exactly twenty years from the date of this letter I was in Toronto for
the first time, and paid my homage to the veteran fighter who, living as
he did amid a younger generation, hotly resenting his separatist and
anti-Imperial views and his contempt for their own ideal of an equal and
permanent union of free states under the British flag, was yet
generously honored throughout the Dominion for his services to
literature and education. He had been my father's friend at
Oxford--where he succeeded to Arthur Stanley's tutorship at University
College--and in Dublin. And when I first began to live in Oxford he was
still Regius Professor, inhabiting a house very near that of my parents,
which was well known to me afterward through many years as the house of
the Max Müllers. I can remember the catastrophe it seemed to all his
Oxford friends when he deserted England for America, despairing of the
republic, as my father for a while in his youth had despaired, and sick
of what seemed to him the forces of reaction in English life. I was
eighteen when _Endymion_ came out, with Dizzy's absurd attack on the
"sedentary" professor who was also a "social parasite." It would be
difficult to find two words in the English language more wholly and
ludicrously inappropriate to Goldwin Smith; and the furious letter to
the _Times_ in which he denounced "the stingless insults of a coward"
might well have been left unwritten. But I was living then among Oxford
Liberals, and under the shadow of Goldwin Smith's great reputation as
historian and pamphleteer, and I can see myself listening with an angry
and sympathetic thrill to my father as he read the letter aloud. Then

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