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Books and Characters by Lytton Strachey

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Kelsall discharged his duties as literary executor with exemplary care.
The manuscripts were fragmentary and confused. There were three distinct
drafts of _Death's Jest Book_, each with variations of its own; and from
these Kelsall compiled his first edition of the drama, which appeared in
1850. In the following year he brought out the two volumes of poetical
works, which remained for forty years the only record of the full scope
and power of Beddoes' genius. They contain reprints of _The Brides'
Tragedy_ and _Death's Jest Book_, together with two unfinished
tragedies, and a great number of dramatic fragments and lyrics; and the
poems are preceded by Kelsall's memoir of his friend. Of these rare and
valuable volumes the Muses' Library edition is almost an exact reprint,
except that it omits the memoir and revives _The Improvisatore_. Only
one other edition of Beddoes exists--the limited one brought out by Mr.
Gosse in 1890, and based upon a fresh examination of the manuscripts.
Mr. Gosse was able to add ten lyrics and one dramatic fragment to those
already published by Kelsall; he made public for the first time the true
story of Beddoes' suicide, which Kelsall had concealed; and, in 1893, he
followed up his edition of the poems by a volume of Beddoes' letters. It
is clear, therefore, that there is no one living to whom lovers of
Beddoes owe so much as to Mr. Gosse. He has supplied most important
materials for the elucidation of the poet's history: and, among the
lyrics which he has printed for the first time, are to be found one of
the most perfect specimens of Beddoes' command of unearthly pathos--_The
Old Ghost_--and one of the most singular examples of his vein of
grotesque and ominous humour--_The Oviparous Tailor_. Yet it may be
doubted whether even Mr. Gosse's edition is the final one. There are
traces in Beddoes' letters of unpublished compositions which may still
come to light. What has happened, one would like to know, to _The Ivory
Gate_, that 'volume of prosaic poetry and poetical prose,' which Beddoes
talked of publishing in 1837? Only a few fine stanzas from it have ever
appeared. And, as Mr. Gosse himself tells us, the variations in _Death's
Jest Book_ alone would warrant the publication of a variorum edition of
that work--'if,' he wisely adds, for the proviso contains the gist of
the matter--'if the interest in Beddoes should continue to grow.'

'Say what you will, I am convinced the man who is to awaken the drama
must be a bold, trampling fellow--no creeper into worm-holes--no reviver
even--however good. These reanimations are vampire-cold.' The words
occur in one of Beddoes' letters, and they are usually quoted by
critics, on the rare occasions on which his poetry is discussed, as an
instance of the curious incapacity of artists to practise what they
preach. But the truth is that Beddoes was not a 'creeper into
worm-holes,' he was not even a 'reviver'; he was a reincarnation.
Everything that we know of him goes to show that the laborious and
elaborate effort of literary reconstruction was quite alien to his
spirit. We have Kelsall's evidence as to the ease and abundance of his
composition; we have the character of the man, as it shines forth in his
letters and in the history of his life--records of a 'bold, trampling
fellow,' if ever there was one; and we have the evidence of his poetry
itself. For the impress of a fresh and vital intelligence is stamped
unmistakably upon all that is best in his work. His mature blank verse
is perfect. It is not an artificial concoction galvanized into the
semblance of life; it simply lives. And, with Beddoes, maturity was
precocious, for he obtained complete mastery over the most difficult and
dangerous of metres at a wonderfully early age. Blank verse is like the
Djin in the Arabian Nights; it is either the most terrible of masters,
or the most powerful of slaves. If you have not the magic secret, it
will take your best thoughts, your bravest imaginations, and change them
into toads and fishes; but, if the spell be yours, it will turn into a
flying carpet and lift your simplest utterance into the highest heaven.
Beddoes had mastered the 'Open, Sesame' at an age when most poets are
still mouthing ineffectual wheats and barleys. In his twenty-second
year, his thoughts filled and moved and animated his blank verse as
easily and familiarly as a hand in a glove. He wishes to compare, for
instance, the human mind, with its knowledge of the past, to a single
eye receiving the light of the stars; and the object of the comparison
is to lay stress upon the concentration on one point of a vast
multiplicity of objects. There could be no better exercise for a young
verse-writer than to attempt his own expression of this idea, and then
to examine these lines by Beddoes--lines where simplicity and splendour
have been woven together with the ease of accomplished art.

How glorious to live! Even in one thought
The wisdom of past times to fit together,
And from the luminous minds of many men
Catch a reflected truth; as, in one eye,
Light, from unnumbered worlds and farthest planets
Of the star-crowded universe, is gathered
Into one ray.

The effect is, of course, partly produced by the diction; but the
diction, fine as it is, would be useless without the phrasing--that art
by which the two forces of the metre and the sense are made at once to
combat, to combine with, and to heighten each other. It is, however,
impossible to do more than touch upon this side--the technical side--of
Beddoes' genius. But it may be noticed that in his mastery of
phrasing--as in so much besides--he was a true Elizabethan. The great
artists of that age knew that without phrasing dramatic verse was a dead
thing; and it is only necessary to turn from their pages to those of an
eighteenth-century dramatist--Addison, for instance--to understand how
right they were.

Beddoes' power of creating scenes of intense dramatic force, which had
already begun to show itself in _The Brides' Tragedy_, reached its full
development in his subsequent work. The opening act of _The Second
Brother_--the most nearly complete of his unfinished tragedies--is a
striking example of a powerful and original theme treated in such a way
that, while the whole of it is steeped in imaginative poetry, yet not
one ounce of its dramatic effectiveness is lost. The duke's next
brother, the heir to the dukedom of Ferrara, returns to the city, after
years of wandering, a miserable and sordid beggar--to find his younger
brother, rich, beautiful, and reckless, leading a life of gay
debauchery, with the assurance of succeeding to the dukedom when the
duke dies. The situation presents possibilities for just those bold and
extraordinary contrasts which were so dear to Beddoes' heart. While
Marcello, the second brother, is meditating over his wretched fate,
Orazio, the third, comes upon the stage, crowned and glorious, attended
by a train of singing revellers, and with a courtesan upon either hand.
'Wine in a ruby!' he exclaims, gazing into his mistress's eyes:

I'll solemnize their beauty in a draught
Pressed from the summer of an hundred vines.

Meanwhile Marcello pushes himself forward, and attempts to salute his

_Orazio_. Insolent beggar!

_Marcello_. Prince! But we must shake hands.
Look you, the round earth's like a sleeping serpent,
Who drops her dusky tail upon her crown
Just here. Oh, we are like two mountain peaks
Of two close planets, catching in the air:
You, King Olympus, a great pile of summer,
Wearing a crown of gods; I, the vast top
Of the ghosts' deadly world, naked and dark,
With nothing reigning on my desolate head
But an old spirit of a murdered god,
Palaced within the corpse of Saturn's father.

They begin to dispute, and at last Marcello exclaims--

Aye, Prince, you have a brother--

_Orazio_. The Duke--he'll scourge you.

_Marcello_. Nay, _the second_, sir,
Who, like an envious river, flows between
Your footsteps and Ferrara's throne....

_Orazio_. Stood he before me there,
By you, in you, as like as you're unlike,
Straight as you're bowed, young as you are old,
And many years nearer than him to Death,
The falling brilliancy of whose white sword
Your ancient locks so silverly reflect,
I would deny, outswear, and overreach,
And pass him with contempt, as I do you.
Jove! How we waste the stars: set on, my friends.

And so the revelling band pass onward, singing still, as they vanish
down the darkened street:

Strike, you myrtle-crowned boys,
Ivied maidens, strike together!...

and Marcello is left alone:

I went forth
Joyfully, as the soul of one who closes
His pillowed eyes beside an unseen murderer,
And like its horrible return was mine,
To find the heart, wherein I breathed and beat,
Cold, gashed, and dead. Let me forget to love,
And take a heart of venom: let me make
A staircase of the frightened breasts of men,
And climb into a lonely happiness!
And thou, who only art alone as I,
Great solitary god of that one sun,
I charge thee, by the likeness of our state,
Undo these human veins that tie me close
To other men, and let your servant griefs
Unmilk me of my mother, and pour in
Salt scorn and steaming hate!

A moment later he learnt that the duke has suddenly died, and that the
dukedom is his. The rest of the play affords an instance of Beddoes'
inability to trace out a story, clearly and forcibly, to an appointed
end. The succeeding acts are crowded with beautiful passages, with vivid
situations, with surprising developments, but the central plot vanishes
away into nothing, like a great river dissipating itself among a
thousand streams. It is, indeed, clear enough that Beddoes was
embarrassed with his riches, that his fertile mind conceived too easily,
and that he could never resist the temptation of giving life to his
imaginations, even at the cost of killing his play. His conception of
Orazio, for instance, began by being that of a young Bacchus, as he
appears in the opening scene. But Beddoes could not leave him there; he
must have a romantic wife, whom he has deserted; and the wife, once
brought into being, must have an interview with her husband. The
interview is an exquisitely beautiful one, but it shatters Orazio's
character, for, in the course of it, he falls desperately in love with
his wife; and meanwhile the wife herself has become so important and
interesting a figure that she must be given a father, who in his turn
becomes the central character in more than one exciting scene. But, by
this time, what has happened to the second brother? It is easy to
believe that Beddoes was always ready to begin a new play rather than
finish an old one. But it is not so certain that his method was quite as
inexcusable as his critics assert. To the reader, doubtless, his faulty
construction is glaring enough; but Beddoes wrote his plays to be acted,
as a passage in one of his letters very clearly shows. 'You are, I
think,' he writes to Kelsall, 'disinclined to the stage: now I confess
that I think this is the highest aim of the dramatist, and should be
very desirous to get on it. To look down on it is a piece of
impertinence, as long as one chooses to write in the form of a play,
and is generally the result of one's own inability to produce anything
striking and affecting in that way.' And it is precisely upon the stage
that such faults of construction as those which disfigure Beddoes'
tragedies matter least. An audience, whose attention is held and
delighted by a succession of striking incidents clothed in splendid
speech, neither cares nor knows whether the effect of the whole, as a
whole, is worthy of the separate parts. It would be foolish, in the
present melancholy condition of the art of dramatic declamation, to wish
for the public performance of _Death's Jest Book_; but it is impossible
not to hope that the time may come when an adequate representation of
that strange and great work may be something more than 'a possibility
more thin than air.' Then, and then only, shall we be able to take the
true measure of Beddoes' genius.

Perhaps, however, the ordinary reader finds Beddoes' lack of
construction a less distasteful quality than his disregard of the common
realities of existence. Not only is the subject-matter of the greater
part of his poetry remote and dubious; his very characters themselves
seem to be infected by their creator's delight in the mysterious, the
strange, and the unreal. They have no healthy activity; or, if they
have, they invariably lose it in the second act; in the end, they are
all hypochondriac philosophers, puzzling over eternity and dissecting
the attributes of Death. The central idea of _Death's Jest Book_--the
resurrection of a ghost--fails to be truly effective, because it is
difficult to see any clear distinction between the phantom and the rest
of the characters. The duke, saved from death by the timely arrival of
Wolfram, exclaims 'Blest hour!' and then, in a moment, begins to ponder,
and agonise, and dream:

And yet how palely, with what faded lips
Do we salute this unhoped change of fortune!
Thou art so silent, lady; and I utter
Shadows of words, like to an ancient ghost,
Arisen out of hoary centuries
Where none can speak his language.

Orazio, in his brilliant palace, is overcome with the same feelings:

Methinks, these fellows, with their ready jests,
Are like to tedious bells, that ring alike
Marriage or death.

And his description of his own revels applies no less to the whole
atmosphere of Beddoes' tragedies:

Voices were heard, most loud, which no man owned:
There were more shadows too than there were men;
And all the air more dark and thick than night
Was heavy, as 'twere made of something more
Than living breaths.

It would be vain to look, among such spectral imaginings as these, for
guidance in practical affairs, or for illuminating views on men and
things, or for a philosophy, or, in short, for anything which may be
called a 'criticism of life.' If a poet must be a critic of life,
Beddoes was certainly no poet. He belongs to the class of writers of
which, in English literature, Spenser, Keats, and Milton are the
dominant figures--the writers who are great merely because of their art.
Sir James Stephen was only telling the truth when he remarked that
Milton might have put all that he had to say in _Paradise Lost_ into a
prose pamphlet of two or three pages. But who cares about what Milton
had to say? It is his way of saying it that matters; it is his
expression. Take away the expression from the _Satires_ of Pope, or from
_The Excursion_, and, though you will destroy the poems, you will leave
behind a great mass of thought. Take away the expression from
_Hyperion_, and you will leave nothing at all. To ask which is the
better of the two styles is like asking whether a peach is better than a
rose, because, both being beautiful, you can eat the one and not the
other. At any rate, Beddoes is among the roses: it is in his expression
that his greatness lies. His verse is an instrument of many modulations,
of exquisite delicacy, of strange suggestiveness, of amazing power.
Playing on it, he can give utterance to the subtlest visions, such as

Just now a beam of joy hung on his eyelash;
But, as I looked, it sunk into his eye,
Like a bruised worm writhing its form of rings
Into a darkening hole.

Or to the most marvellous of vague and vast conceptions, such as this:

I begin to hear
Strange but sweet sounds, and the loud rocky dashing
Of waves, where time into Eternity
Falls over ruined worlds.

Or he can evoke sensations of pure loveliness, such as these:

So fair a creature! of such charms compact
As nature stints elsewhere: which you may find
Under the tender eyelid of a serpent,
Or in the gurge of a kiss-coloured rose,
By drops and sparks: but when she moves, you see,
Like water from a crystal overfilled,
Fresh beauty tremble out of her and lave
Her fair sides to the ground.

Or he can put into a single line all the long memories of adoration:

My love was much;
My life but an inhabitant of his.

Or he can pass in a moment from tiny sweetness to colossal turmoil:

I should not say
How thou art like the daisy in Noah's meadow,
On which the foremost drop of rain fell warm
And soft at evening: so the little flower
Wrapped up its leaves, and shut the treacherous water
Close to the golden welcome of its breast,
Delighting in the touch of that which led
The shower of oceans, in whose billowy drops
Tritons and lions of the sea were warring,
And sometimes ships on fire sunk in the blood,
Of their own inmates; others were of ice,
And some had islands rooted in their waves,
Beasts on their rocks, and forest-powdering winds,
And showers tumbling on their tumbling self,
And every sea of every ruined star
Was but a drop in the world-melting flood.

He can express alike the beautiful tenderness of love, and the hectic,
dizzy, and appalling frenzy of extreme rage:--

... What shall I do? I speak all wrong,
And lose a soul-full of delicious thought
By talking. Hush! Let's drink each other up
By silent eyes. Who lives, but thou and I,
My heavenly wife?...
I'll watch thee thus, till I can tell a second
By thy cheek's change.

In that, one can almost feel the kisses; and, in this, one can almost
hear the gnashing of the teeth. 'Never!' exclaims the duke to his son

There lies no grain of sand between
My loved and my detested! Wing thee hence,
Or thou dost stand to-morrow on a cobweb
Spun o'er the well of clotted Acheron,
Whose hydrophobic entrails stream with fire!
And may this intervening earth be snow,
And my step burn like the mid coal of Aetna,
Plunging me, through it all, into the core,
Where in their graves the dead are shut like seeds,
If I do not--O, but he is my son!

Is not that tremendous? But, to find Beddoes in his most characteristic
mood, one must watch him weaving his mysterious imagination upon the
woof of mortality. One must wander with him through the pages of
_Death's Jest Book_, one must grow accustomed to the dissolution of
reality, and the opening of the nettled lips of graves; one must learn
that 'the dead are most and merriest,' one must ask--'Are the ghosts
eaves-dropping?'--one must realise that 'murder is full of holes.' Among
the ruins of his Gothic cathedral, on whose cloister walls the Dance of
Death is painted, one may speculate at ease over the fragility of
existence, and, within the sound of that dark ocean,

Whose tumultuous waves
Are heaped, contending ghosts,

one may understand how it is that

Death is mightier, stronger, and more faithful
To man than Life.

Lingering there, one may watch the Deaths come down from their cloister,
and dance and sing amid the moonlight; one may laugh over the grotesque
contortions of skeletons; one may crack jokes upon corruption; one may
sit down with phantoms, and drink to the health of Death.

In private intercourse Beddoes was the least morbid of human beings. His
mind was like one of those Gothic cathedrals of which he was so
fond--mysterious within, and filled with a light at once richer and less
real than the light of day; on the outside, firm, and towering, and
immediately impressive; and embellished, both inside and out, with
grinning gargoyles. His conversation, Kelsall tells us, was full of
humour and vitality, and untouched by any trace of egoism or
affectation. He loved discussion, plunging into it with fire, and
carrying it onward with high dexterity and good-humoured force. His
letters are excellent: simple, spirited, spicy, and as original as his
verse; flavoured with that vein of rattling open-air humour which had
produced his school-boy novel in the style of Fielding. He was a man
whom it would have been a rare delight to know. His character, so
eminently English, compact of courage, of originality, of imagination,
and with something coarse in it as well, puts one in mind of Hamlet: not
the melodramatic sentimentalist of the stage; but the real Hamlet,
Horatio's Hamlet, who called his father's ghost old truepenny, who
forged his uncle's signature, who fought Laertes, and ranted in a grave,
and lugged the guts into the neighbour room. His tragedy, like
Hamlet's, was the tragedy of an over-powerful will--a will so strong as
to recoil upon itself, and fall into indecision. It is easy for a weak
man to be decided--there is so much to make him so; but a strong man,
who can do anything, sometimes leaves everything undone. Fortunately
Beddoes, though he did far less than he might have done, possessed so
rich a genius that what he did, though small in quantity, is in quality
beyond price. 'I might have been, among other things, a good poet,' were
his last words. 'Among other things'! Aye, there's the rub. But, in
spite of his own 'might have been,' a good poet he was. Perhaps for him,
after all, there was very little to regret; his life was full of high
nobility; and what other way of death would have befitted the poet of
death? There is a thought constantly recurring throughout his
writings--in his childish as in his most mature work--the thought of the
beauty and the supernal happiness of soft and quiet death. He had
visions of 'rosily dying,' of 'turning to daisies gently in the grave,'
of a 'pink reclining death,' of death coming like a summer cloud over
the soul. 'Let her deathly life pass into death,' says one of his
earliest characters, 'like music on the night wind.' And, in _Death's
Jest Book_, Sibylla has the same thoughts:

O Death! I am thy friend,
I struggle not with thee, I love thy state:
Thou canst be sweet and gentle, be so now;
And let me pass praying away into thee,
As twilight still does into starry night.

Did his mind, obsessed and overwhelmed by images of death, crave at last
for the one thing stranger than all these--the experience of it? It is
easy to believe so, and that, ill, wretched, and abandoned by Degen at
the miserable Cigogne Hotel, he should seek relief in the gradual
dissolution which attends upon loss of blood. And then, when he had
recovered, when he was almost happy once again, the old thoughts,
perhaps, came crowding back upon him--thoughts of the futility of life,
and the supremacy of death and the mystical whirlpool of the unknown,
and the long quietude of the grave. In the end, Death had grown to be
something more than Death to him--it was, mysteriously and
transcendentally, Love as well.

Death's darts are sometimes Love's. So Nature tells,
When laughing waters close o'er drowning men;
When in flowers' honied corners poison dwells;
When Beauty dies: and the unwearied ken
Of those who seek a cure for long despair
Will learn ...

What learning was it that rewarded him? What ghostly knowledge of
eternal love?

If there are ghosts to raise,
What shall I call,
Out of hell's murky haze,
Heaven's blue pall?
--Raise my loved long-lost boy
To lead me to his joy.--
There are no ghosts to raise;
Out of death lead no ways;
Vain is the call.

--Know'st thou not ghosts to sue?
No love thou hast.
Else lie, as I will do,
And breathe thy last.
So out of Life's fresh crown
Fall like a rose-leaf down.
Thus are the ghosts to woo;
Thus are all dreams made true,
Ever to last!



In the whole of French literature it would be difficult to point to a
figure at once so important, so remarkable, and so little known to
English readers as Henri Beyle. Most of us are, no doubt, fairly
familiar with his pseudonym of 'Stendhal'; some of us have read _Le
Rouge et Le Noir_ and _La Chartreuse de Parme_; but how many of us have
any further knowledge of a man whose works are at the present moment
appearing in Paris in all the pomp of an elaborate and complete edition,
every scrap of whose manuscripts is being collected and deciphered with
enthusiastic care, and in honour of whose genius the literary
periodicals of the hour are filling entire numbers with exegesis and
appreciation? The eminent critic, M. Andre Gide, when asked lately to
name the novel which stands in his opinion first among the novels of
France, declared that since, without a doubt, the place belongs to one
or other of the novels of Stendhal, his only difficulty was in making
his choice among these; and he finally decided upon _La Chartreuse de
Parme_. According to this high authority, Henri Beyle was indisputably
the creator of the greatest work of fiction in the French language, yet
on this side of the Channel we have hardly more than heard of him! Nor
is it merely as a writer that Beyle is admired in France. As a man, he
seems to have come in, sixty or seventy years after his death, for a
singular devotion. There are 'Beylistes,' or 'Stendhaliens,' who dwell
with rapture upon every detail of the master's private life, who extend
with pious care the long catalogue of his amorous adventures, who
discuss the shades of his character with the warmth of personal
friendship, and register his opinions with a zeal which is hardly less
than sectarian. But indeed it is precisely in these extremes of his
French devotees that we shall find a clue to the explanation of our own
indifference. Beyle's mind contained, in a highly exaggerated form, most
of the peculiarly distinctive elements of the French character. This
does not mean that he was a typical Frenchman; far from it. He did not,
like Voltaire or Hugo, strike a note to which the whole national genius
vibrated in response. He has never been, it is unlikely that he ever
will be, a popular writer. His literary reputation in France has been
confined, until perhaps quite lately, to a small distinguished circle.
'On me lira,' he was fond of saying, 'vers 1880'; and the 'Beylistes'
point to the remark in triumph as one further proof of the almost divine
prescience of the great man. But in truth Beyle was always read by the
_elite_ of French critics and writers--'the happy few,' as he used to
call them; and among these he has never been without enthusiastic
admirers. During his lifetime Balzac, in an enormous eulogy of _La
Chartreuse de Parme_, paid him one of the most magnificent compliments
ever received by a man of letters from a fellow craftsman. In the next
generation Taine declared himself his disciple; a little later--'vers
1880,' in fact--we find Zola describing him as 'notre pere a tous,' and
M. Bourget followed with elaborate incense. To-day we have writers of
such different tendencies as M. Barres and M. Gide acclaiming him as a
supreme master, and the fashionable idolatry of the 'Beylistes.' Yet, at
the same time, running parallel to this stream of homage, it is easy to
trace a line of opinion of a totally different kind. It is the opinion
of the more solid, the more middle-class elements of French life. Thus
Sainte-Beuve, in two characteristic 'Lundis,' poured a great deal of
very tepid water upon Balzac's flaming panegyric. Then Flaubert--'vers
1880,' too--confessed that he could see very little in Stendhal. And,
only a few years ago, M. Chuquet, of the Institute, took the trouble to
compose a thick book in which he has collected with scrupulous detail
all the known facts concerning the life and writings of a man whom he
forthwith proceeds to damn through five hundred pages of faint praise.
These discrepancies are curious: how can we account for such odd
differences of taste? How are we to reconcile the admiration of Balzac
with the dislike of Flaubert, the raptures of M. Bourget and M. Barres
with the sniffs of Sainte-Beuve and M. Chuquet of the Institute? The
explanation seems to be that Beyle occupies a position in France
analogous to that of Shelley in England. Shelley is not a national hero,
not because he lacked the distinctive qualities of an Englishman, but
for the opposite reason--because he possessed so many of them in an
extreme degree. The idealism, the daring, the imagination, and the
unconventionality which give Shakespeare, Nelson, and Dr. Johnson their
place in our pantheon--all these were Shelley's, but they were his in
too undiluted and intense a form, with the result that, while he will
never fail of worshippers among us, there will also always be Englishmen
unable to appreciate him at all. Such, _mutatis mutandis_--and in this
case the proviso is a very large one--is the position of Beyle in
France. After all, when Bunthorne asked for a not-too-French French bean
he showed more commonsense than he intended. Beyle is a too-French
French writer--too French even for the bulk of his own compatriots; and
so for us it is only natural that he should be a little difficult. Yet
this very fact is in itself no bad reason for giving him some attention.
An understanding of this very Gallic individual might give us a new
insight into the whole strange race. And besides, the curious creature
is worth looking at for his own sake too.

But, when one tries to catch him and pin him down on the
dissecting-table, he turns out to be exasperatingly elusive. Even his
most fervent admirers cannot agree among themselves as to the true
nature of his achievements. Balzac thought of him as an artist, Taine
was captivated by his conception of history, M. Bourget adores him as a
psychologist, M. Barres lays stress upon his 'sentiment d'honneur,' and
the 'Beylistes' see in him the embodiment of modernity. Certainly very
few writers have had the good fortune to appeal at once so constantly
and in so varied a manner to succeeding generations as Henri Beyle. The
circumstances of his life no doubt in part account for the complexity of
his genius. He was born in 1783, when the _ancien regime_ was still in
full swing; his early manhood was spent in the turmoil of the Napoleonic
wars; he lived to see the Bourbon reaction, the Romantic revival, the
revolution of 1830, and the establishment of Louis Philippe; and when he
died, at the age of sixty, the nineteenth century was nearly half-way
through. Thus his life exactly spans the interval between the old world
and the new. His family, which belonged to the magistracy of Grenoble,
preserved the living tradition of the eighteenth century. His
grandfather was a polite, amiable, periwigged sceptic after the manner
of Fontenelle, who always spoke of 'M. de Voltaire' with a smile
'melange de respect et d'affection'; and when the Terror came, two
representatives of the people were sent down to Grenoble, with the
result that Beyle's father was pronounced (with a hundred and fifty
others) 'notoirement suspect' of disaffection to the Republic, and
confined to his house. At the age of sixteen Beyle arrived in Paris,
just after the _coup d'etat_ of the 18th Brumaire had made Bonaparte
First Consul, and he immediately came under the influence of his cousin
Daru, that extraordinary man to whose terrific energies was due the
organisation of Napoleon's greatest armies, and whose leisure
moments--for apparently he had leisure moments--were devoted to the
composition of idylls in the style of Tibullus and to an enormous
correspondence on literary topics with the poetasters of the day. It was
as a subordinate to this remarkable personage that Beyle spent nearly
the whole of the next fifteen years of his life--in Paris, in Italy, in
Germany, in Russia--wherever the whirling tempest of the Napoleonic
policy might happen to carry him. His actual military experience was
considerably slighter than what, in after years, he liked to give his
friends to understand it had been. For hardly more than a year, during
the Italian campaign, he was in the army as a lieutenant of dragoons:
the rest of his public service was spent in the commissariat department.
The descriptions which he afterwards delighted to give of his adventures
at Marengo, at Jena, at Wagram, or at the crossing of the Niemen have
been shown by M. Chuquet's unkind researches to have been imaginary.
Beyle was present at only one great battle--Bautzen. 'Nous voyons fort
bien,' he wrote in his journal on the following day, 'de midi a trois
heures, tout ce qu'on peut voir d'une bataille, c'est a dire rien.' He
was, however, at Moscow in 1812, and he accompanied the army through the
horrors of the retreat. When the conflagration had broken out in the
city he had abstracted from one of the deserted palaces a finely bound
copy of the _Faceties_ of Voltaire; the book helped to divert his mind
as he lay crouched by the campfire through the terrible nights that
followed; but, as his companions showed their disapproval of anyone who
could smile over Akakia and Pompignan in such a situation, one day he
left the red-morocco volume behind him in the snow.

The fall of Napoleon threw Beyle out of employment, and the period of
his literary activity began. His books were not successful; his fortune
gradually dwindled; and he drifted in Paris and Italy, and even in
England, more and more disconsolately, with thoughts of suicide
sometimes in his head. But in 1830 the tide of his fortunes turned. The
revolution of July, by putting his friends into power, brought him a
competence in the shape of an Italian consulate; and in the same year he
gained for the first time some celebrity by the publication of _Le Rouge
et Le Noir_. The rest of his life was spent in the easy discharge of his
official duties at Civita Vecchia, alternating with periods of
leave--one of them lasted for three years--spent in Paris among his
friends, of whom the most distinguished was Prosper Merimee. In 1839
appeared his last published work--_La Chartreuse de Parme_; and three
years later he died suddenly in Paris. His epitaph, composed by himself
with the utmost care, was as follows:


The words, read rightly, indicate many things--his adoration of Italy
and Milan, his eccentricity, his scorn of the conventions of society and
the limits of nationality, his adventurous life, his devotion to
literature, and, lastly, the fact that, through all the varieties of his
experience--in the earliest years of his childhood, in his agitated
manhood, in his calm old age--there had never been a moment when he was
not in love.

Beyle's work falls into two distinct groups--the first consisting of his
novels, and the second of his miscellaneous writings, which include
several biographies, a dissertation on Love, some books of criticism and
travel, his letters and various autobiographical fragments. The bulk of
the latter group is large; much of it has only lately seen the light;
and more of it, at present in MS. at the library of Grenoble, is
promised us by the indefatigable editors of the new complete edition
which is now appearing in Paris. The interest of this portion of Beyle's
writings is almost entirely personal: that of his novels is mainly
artistic. It was as a novelist that Beyle first gained his celebrity,
and it is still as a novelist--or rather as the author of _Le Rouge et
Le Noir_ and _La Chartreuse de Parme_ (for an earlier work, _Armance_,
some short stories, and some later posthumous fragments may be left out
of account)--that he is most widely known to-day. These two remarkable
works lose none of their significance if we consider the time at which
they were composed. It was in the full flood of the Romantic revival,
that marvellous hour in the history of French literature when the
tyranny of two centuries was shattered for ever, and a boundless wealth
of inspirations, possibilities, and beauties before undreamt-of suddenly
burst upon the view. It was the hour of Hugo, Vigny, Musset, Gautier,
Balzac, with their new sonorities and golden cadences, their new lyric
passion and dramatic stress, their new virtuosities, their new impulse
towards the strange and the magnificent, their new desire for diversity
and the manifold comprehension of life. But, if we turn to the
contemporaneous pages of Stendhal, what do we find? We find a succession
of colourless, unemphatic sentences; we find cold reasoning and exact
narrative; we find polite irony and dry wit. The spirit of the
eighteenth century is everywhere; and if the old gentleman with the
perruque and the 'M. de Voltaire' could have taken a glance at his
grandson's novels, he would have rapped his snuff-box and approved. It
is true that Beyle joined the ranks of the Romantics for a moment with a
_brochure_ attacking Racine at the expense of Shakespeare; but this was
merely one of those contradictory changes of front which were inherent
in his nature; and in reality the whole Romantic movement meant nothing
to him. There is a story of a meeting in the house of a common friend
between him and Hugo, in which the two men faced each other like a
couple of cats with their backs up and their whiskers bristling. No
wonder! But Beyle's true attitude towards his great contemporaries was
hardly even one of hostility: he simply could not open their books. As
for Chateaubriand, the god of their idolatry, he loathed him like
poison. He used to describe how, in his youth, he had been on the point
of fighting a duel with an officer who had ventured to maintain that a
phrase in _Atala_--'la cime indeterminee des forets'--was not
intolerable. Probably he was romancing (M. Chuquet says so); but at any
rate the story sums up symbolically Beyle's attitude towards his art. To
him the whole apparatus of 'fine writing'--the emphatic phrase, the
picturesque epithet, the rounded rhythm--was anathema. The charm that
such ornaments might bring was in reality only a cloak for loose
thinking and feeble observation. Even the style of the eighteenth
century was not quite his ideal; it was too elegant; there was an
artificial neatness about the form which imposed itself upon the
substance, and degraded it. No, there was only one example of the
perfect style, and that was the _Code Napoleon_; for there alone
everything was subordinated to the exact and complete expression of what
was to be said. A statement of law can have no place for irrelevant
beauties, or the vagueness of personal feeling; by its very nature, it
must resemble a sheet of plate glass through which every object may be
seen with absolute distinctness, in its true shape. Beyle declared that
he was in the habit of reading several paragraphs of the Code every
morning after breakfast 'pour prendre le ton.' This again was for long
supposed to be one of his little jokes; but quite lately the searchers
among the MSS. at Grenoble have discovered page after page copied out
from the Code in Beyle's handwriting. No doubt, for that wayward lover
of paradoxes, the real joke lay in everybody taking for a joke what _he_
took quite seriously.

This attempt to reach the exactitude and the detachment of an official
document was not limited to Beyle's style; it runs through the whole
tissue of his work. He wished to present life dispassionately and
intellectually, and if he could have reduced his novels to a series of
mathematical symbols, he would have been charmed. The contrast between
his method and that of Balzac is remarkable. That wonderful art of
materialisation, of the sensuous evocation of the forms, the qualities,
the very stuff and substance of things, which was perhaps Balzac's
greatest discovery, Beyle neither possessed nor wished to possess. Such
matters were to him of the most subordinate importance, which it was no
small part of the novelist's duty to keep very severely in their place.
In the earlier chapters of _Le Rouge et Le Noir_, for instance, he is
concerned with almost the same subject as Balzac in the opening of _Les
Illusions Perdues_--the position of a young man in a provincial town,
brought suddenly from the humblest surroundings into the midst of the
leading society of the place through his intimate relations with a woman
of refinement. But while in Balzac's pages what emerges is the concrete
vision of provincial life down to the last pimple on the nose of the
lowest footman, Beyle concentrates his whole attention on the personal
problem, hints in a few rapid strokes at what Balzac has spent all his
genius in describing, and reveals to us instead, with the precision of a
surgeon at an operation, the inmost fibres of his hero's mind. In fact,
Beyle's method is the classical method--the method of selection, of
omission, of unification, with the object of creating a central
impression of supreme reality. Zola criticises him for disregarding 'le

Il y a [he says] un episode celebre dans 'Le Rouge et Le Noir,' la
scene ou Julien, assis un soir a cote de Mme. de Renal, sous les
branches noires d'un arbre, se fait un devoir de lui prendre la
main, pendant qu'elle cause avec Mme. Derville. C'est un petit
drame muet d'une grande puissance, et Stendhal y a analyse
merveilleusement les etats d'ame de ses deux personnages. Or, le
milieu n'apparait pas une seule fois. Nous pourrions etre n'importe
ou dans n'importe quelles conditions, la scene resterait la meme
pourvu qu'il fit noir ... Donnez l'episode a un ecrivain pour qui
les milieux existent, et dans la defaite de cette femme, il fera
entrer la nuit, avec ses odeurs, avec ses voix, avec ses voluptes
molles. Et cet ecrivain sera dans la verite, son tableau sera plus

More complete, perhaps; but would it be more convincing? Zola, with his
statistical conception of art, could not understand that you could tell
a story properly unless you described in detail every contingent fact.
He could not see that Beyle was able, by simply using the symbol 'nuit,'
to suggest the 'milieu' at once to the reader's imagination. Everybody
knows all about the night's accessories--'ses odeurs, ses voix, ses
voluptes molles'; and what a relief it is to be spared, for once in a
way, an elaborate expatiation upon them! And Beyle is perpetually
evoking the gratitude of his readers in this way. 'Comme il insiste
peu!' as M. Gide exclaims. Perhaps the best test of a man's intelligence
is his capacity for making a summary. Beyle knew this, and his novels
are full of passages which read like nothing so much as extraordinarily
able summaries of some enormous original narrative which has been lost.

It was not that he was lacking in observation, that he had no eye for
detail, or no power of expressing it; on the contrary, his vision was of
the sharpest, and his pen could call up pictorial images of startling
vividness, when he wished. But he very rarely did wish: it was apt to
involve a tiresome insistence. In his narratives he is like a brilliant
talker in a sympathetic circle, skimming swiftly from point to point,
taking for granted the intelligence of his audience, not afraid here and
there to throw out a vague 'etc.' when the rest of the sentence is too
obvious to state; always plain of speech, never self-assertive, and
taking care above all things never to force the note. His famous
description of the Battle of Waterloo in _La Chartreuse de Parme_ is
certainly the finest example of this side of his art. Here he produces
an indelible impression by a series of light touches applied with
unerring skill. Unlike Zola, unlike Tolstoi, he shows us neither the
loathsomeness nor the devastation of a battlefield, but its
insignificance, its irrelevant detail, its unmeaning grotesquenesses and
indignities, its incoherence, and its empty weariness. Remembering his
own experience at Bautzen, he has made his hero--a young Italian
impelled by Napoleonic enthusiasm to join the French army as a volunteer
on the eve of the battle--go through the great day in such a state of
vague perplexity that in the end he can never feel quite certain that he
really _was_ at Waterloo. He experiences a succession of trivial and
unpleasant incidents, culminating in his being hoisted off his horse by
two of his comrades, in order that a general, who has had his own shot
from under him, might be supplied with a mount; for the rest, he crosses
and recrosses some fields, comes upon a dead body in a ditch, drinks
brandy with a _vivandiere_, gallops over a field covered with dying men,
has an indefinite skirmish in a wood--and it is over. At one moment,
having joined the escort of some generals, the young man allows his
horse to splash into a stream, thereby covering one of the generals
with muddy water from head to foot. The passage that follows is a good
specimen of Beyle's narrative style:

En arrivant sur l'autre rive, Fabrice y avait trouve les generaux
tout seuls; le bruit du canon lui sembla redoubler; ce fut a peine
s'il entendit le general, par lui si bien mouille, qui criait a son

Ou as-tu pris ce cheval?

Fabrice etait tellement trouble, qu'il repondit en Italien: _l'ho
comprato poco fa_. (Je viens de l'acheter a l'instant.)

Que dis-tu? lui cria le general.

Mais le tapage devint tellement fort en ce moment, que Fabrice ne
put lui repondre. Nous avouerons que notre heros etait fort peu
heros en ce moment. Toutefois, la peur ne venait chez lui qu'en
seconde ligne; il etait surtout scandalise de ce bruit qui lui
faisait mal aux oreilles. L'escorte prit le galop; on traversait
une grande piece de terre labouree, situee au dela du canal, et ce
champ etait jonche de cadavres.

How unemphatic it all is! What a paucity of epithet, what a reticence in
explanation! How a Romantic would have lingered over the facial
expression of the general, and how a Naturalist would have analysed that
'tapage'! And yet, with all their efforts, would they have succeeded in
conveying that singular impression of disturbance, of cross-purposes, of
hurry, and of ill-defined fear, which Beyle with his quiet terseness has

It is, however, in his psychological studies that the detached and
intellectual nature of Beyle's method is most clearly seen. When he is
describing, for instance, the development of Julien Sorel's mind in _Le
Rouge et Le Noir_, when he shows us the soul of the young peasant with
its ignorance, its ambition, its pride, going step by step into the
whirling vortex of life--then we seem to be witnessing not so much the
presentment of a fiction as the unfolding of some scientific fact. The
procedure is almost mathematical: a proposition is established, the
inference is drawn, the next proposition follows, and so on until the
demonstration is complete. Here the influence of the eighteenth century
is very strongly marked. Beyle had drunk deeply of that fountain of
syllogism and analysis that flows through the now forgotten pages of
Helvetius and Condillac; he was an ardent votary of logic in its
austerest form--'la lo-gique' he used to call it, dividing the syllables
in a kind of awe-inspired emphasis; and he considered the ratiocinative
style of Montesquieu almost as good as that of the _Code Civil_.

If this had been all, if we could sum him up simply as an acute and
brilliant writer who displays the scientific and prosaic sides of the
French genius in an extreme degree, Beyle's position in literature would
present very little difficulty. He would take his place at once as a
late--an abnormally late--product of the eighteenth century. But he was
not that. In his blood there was a virus which had never tingled in the
veins of Voltaire. It was the virus of modern life--that new
sensibility, that new passionateness, which Rousseau had first made
known to the world, and which had won its way over Europe behind the
thunder of Napoleon's artillery. Beyle had passed his youth within
earshot of that mighty roar, and his inmost spirit could never lose the
echo of it. It was in vain that he studied Condillac and modelled his
style on the Code; in vain that he sang the praises of _la lo-gique_,
shrugged his shoulders at the Romantics, and turned the cold eye of a
scientific investigator upon the phenomena of life; he remained
essentially a man of feeling. His unending series of _grandes passions_
was one unmistakable sign of this; another was his intense devotion to
the Fine Arts. Though his taste in music and painting was the taste of
his time--the literary and sentimental taste of the age of Rossini and
Canova--he nevertheless brought to the appreciation of works of art a
kind of intimate gusto which reveals the genuineness of his emotion. The
'jouissances d'ange,' with which at his first entrance into Italy he
heard at Novara the _Matrimonio Segreto_ of Cimarosa, marked an epoch in
his life. He adored Mozart: 'I can imagine nothing more distasteful to
me,' he said, 'than a thirty-mile walk through the mud; but I would
take one at this moment if I knew that I should hear a good performance
of _Don Giovanni_ at the end of it.' The Virgins of Guido Reni sent him
into ecstasies and the Goddesses of Correggio into raptures. In short,
as he himself admitted, he never could resist 'le Beau' in whatever form
he found it. _Le Beau!_ The phrase is characteristic of the peculiar
species of ingenuous sensibility which so oddly agitated this sceptical
man of the world. His whole vision of life was coloured by it. His sense
of values was impregnated with what he called his 'espagnolisme'--his
immense admiration for the noble and the high-sounding in speech or act
or character--an admiration which landed him often enough in hysterics
and absurdity. Yet this was the soil in which a temperament of caustic
reasonableness had somehow implanted itself. The contrast is surprising,
because it is so extreme. Other men have been by turns sensible and
enthusiastic: but who before or since has combined the emotionalism of a
schoolgirl with the cold penetration of a judge on the bench? Beyle, for
instance, was capable of writing, in one of those queer epitaphs of
himself which he was constantly composing, the high-falutin' words 'Il
respecta un seul homme: Napoleon'; and yet, as he wrote them, he must
have remembered well enough that when he met Napoleon face to face his
unabashed scrutiny had detected swiftly that the man was a play-actor,
and a vulgar one at that. Such were the contradictions of his double
nature, in which the elements, instead of being mixed, came together, as
it were, in layers, like superimposed strata of chalk and flint.

In his novels this cohabitation of opposites is responsible both for
what is best and what is worst. When the two forces work in unison the
result is sometimes of extraordinary value--a product of a kind which it
would be difficult to parallel in any other author. An eye of icy gaze
is turned upon the tumultuous secrets of passion, and the pangs of love
are recorded in the language of Euclid. The image of the surgeon
inevitably suggests itself--the hand with the iron nerve and the swift
knife laying bare the trembling mysteries within. It is the intensity of
Beyle's observation, joined with such an exactitude of exposition, that
makes his dry pages sometimes more thrilling than the wildest tale of
adventure or all the marvels of high romance. The passage in _La
Chartreuse de Parme_ describing Count Mosca's jealousy has this quality,
which appears even more clearly in the chapters of _Le Rouge et Le Noir_
concerning Julien Sorel and Mathilde de la Mole. Here Beyle has a
subject after his own heart. The loves of the peasant youth and the
aristocratic girl, traversed and agitated by their overweening pride,
and triumphing at last rather over themselves than over each
other--these things make up a gladiatorial combat of 'espagnolismes,'
which is displayed to the reader with a supreme incisiveness. The climax
is reached when Mathilde at last gives way to her passion, and throws
herself into the arms of Julien, who forces himself to make no response:

Ses bras se roidirent, tant l'effort impose par la politique etait
penible. Je ne dois pas meme me permettre de presser contre mon
coeur ce corps souple et charmant; ou elle me meprise, ou elle me
maltraite. Quel affreux caractere!

Et en maudissant le caractere de Mathilde, il l'en aimait cent fois
plus; il lui semblait avoir dans ses bras une reine.

L'impassible froideur de Julien redoubla le malheur de Mademoiselle
de la Mole. Elle etait loin d'avoir le sang-froid necessaire pour
chercher a deviner dans ses yeux ce qu'il sentait pour elle en cet
instant. Elle ne put se resoudre a le regarder; elle tremblait de
rencontrer l'expression du mepris.

Assise sur le divan de la bibliotheque, immobile et la tete tournee
du cote oppose a Julien, elle etait en proie aux plus vives
douleurs que l'orgueil et l'amour puissent faire eprouver a une ame
humaine. Dans quelle atroce demarche elle venait de tomber!

Il m'etait reserve, malheureuse que je suis! de voir repoussees les
avances les plus indecentes! Et repoussees par qui? ajoutait
l'orgueil fou de douleur, repoussees par un domestique de mon pere.

C'est ce que je ne souffrirai pas, dit-elle a haute voix.

At that moment she suddenly sees some unopened letters addressed to
Julien by another woman.

--Ainsi, s'ecria-t-elle hors d'elle-meme, non seulement vous etes
bien avec elle, mais encore vous la meprisez. Vous, un homme de
rien, mepriser Madame la Marechale de Fervaques!

--Ah! pardon, mon ami, ajouta-t-elle en se jetant a ses genoux,
meprise-moi si tu veux, mais aime-moi, je ne puis plus vivre privee
de ton amour. Et elle tomba tout a fait evanouie.

--La voila donc, cette orgueilleuse, a mes pieds! se dit Julien.

Such is the opening of this wonderful scene, which contains the
concentrated essence of Beyle's genius, and which, in its combination of
high passion, intellectual intensity, and dramatic force, may claim
comparison with the great dialogues of Corneille.

'Je fais tous les efforts possibles pour etre _sec_,' he says of
himself. 'Je veux imposer silence a mon coeur, qui croit avoir beaucoup
a dire. Je tremble toujours de n'avoir ecrit qu'un soupir, quand je
crois avoir note une verite.' Often he succeeds, but not always. At
times his desire for dryness becomes a mannerism and fills whole pages
with tedious and obscure argumentation. And, at other times, his
sensibility gets the upper hand, throws off all control, and revels in
an orgy of melodrama and 'espagnolisme.' Do what he will, he cannot keep
up a consistently critical attitude towards the creatures of his
imagination: he depreciates his heroes with extreme care, but in the end
they get the better of him and sweep him off his feet. When, in _La
Chartreuse de Parme_, Fabrice kills a man in a duel, his first action is
to rush to a looking-glass to see whether his beauty has been injured by
a cut in the face; and Beyle does not laugh at this; he is impressed by
it. In the same book he lavishes all his art on the creation of the
brilliant, worldly, sceptical Duchesse de Sanseverina, and then, not
quite satisfied, he makes her concoct and carry out the murder of the
reigning Prince in order to satisfy a desire for amorous revenge. This
really makes her perfect. But the most striking example of Beyle's
inability to resist the temptation of sacrificing his head to his heart
is in the conclusion of _Le Rouge et Le Noir_, where Julien, to be
revenged on a former mistress who defames him, deliberately goes down
into the country, buys a pistol, and shoots the lady in church. Not only
is Beyle entranced by the _bravura_ of this senseless piece of
brutality, but he destroys at a blow the whole atmosphere of impartial
observation which fills the rest of the book, lavishes upon his hero the
blindest admiration, and at last, at the moment of Julien's execution,
even forgets himself so far as to write a sentence in the romantic
style: 'Jamais cette tete n'avait ete aussi poetique qu'au moment ou
elle allait tomber.' Just as Beyle, in his contrary mood, carries to an
extreme the French love of logical precision, so in these rhapsodies he
expresses in an exaggerated form a very different but an equally
characteristic quality of his compatriots--their instinctive
responsiveness to fine poses. It is a quality that Englishmen in
particular find it hard to sympathise with. They remain stolidily
unmoved when their neighbours are in ecstasies. They are repelled by the
'noble' rhetoric of the French Classical Drama; they find the tirades of
Napoleon, which animated the armies of France to victory, pieces of
nauseous clap-trap. And just now it is this side--to us the obviously
weak side--of Beyle's genius that seems to be most in favour with French
critics. To judge from M. Barres, writing dithyrambically of Beyle's
'sentiment d'honneur,' that is his true claim to greatness. The
sentiment of honour is all very well, one is inclined to mutter on this
side of the Channel; but oh, for a little sentiment of humour too!

The view of Beyle's personality which his novels give us may be seen
with far greater detail in his miscellaneous writings. It is to these
that his most modern admirers devote their main attention--particularly
to his letters and his autobiographies; but they are all of them highly
characteristic of their author, and--whatever the subject may be, from a
guide to Rome to a life of Napoleon--one gathers in them, scattered up
and down through their pages, a curious, dimly adumbrated
philosophy--an ill-defined and yet intensely personal point of view--_le
Beylisme_. It is in fact almost entirely in this secondary quality that
their interest lies; their ostensible subject-matter is unimportant. An
apparent exception is the book in which Beyle has embodied his
reflections upon Love. The volume, with its meticulous apparatus of
analysis, definition, and classification, which gives it the air of
being a parody of _L'Esprit des Lois_, is yet full of originality, of
lively anecdote and keen observation. Nobody but Beyle could have
written it; nobody but Beyle could have managed to be at once so
stimulating and so jejune, so clear-sighted and so exasperating. But
here again, in reality, it is not the question at issue that is
interesting--one learns more of the true nature of Love in one or two of
La Bruyere's short sentences than in all Beyle's three hundred pages of
disquisition; but what is absorbing is the sense that comes to one, as
one reads it, of the presence, running through it all, of a restless and
problematical spirit. 'Le Beylisme' is certainly not susceptible of any
exact definition; its author was too capricious, too unmethodical, in
spite of his _lo-gique_, ever to have framed a coherent philosophy; it
is essentially a thing of shreds and patches, of hints, suggestions, and
quick visions of flying thoughts. M. Barres says that what lies at the
bottom of it is a 'passion de collectionner les belles energies.' But
there are many kinds of 'belles energies,' and some of them certainly do
not fit into the framework of 'le Beylisme.' 'Quand je suis arrete par
des voleurs, ou qu'on me tire des coups de fusil, je me sens une grande
colere contre le gouvernement et le cure de l'endroit. Quand au voleur,
il me plait, s'il est energique, car il m'amuse.' It was the energy of
self-assertiveness that pleased Beyle; that of self-restraint did not
interest him. The immorality of the point of view is patent, and at
times it appears to be simply based upon the common selfishness of an
egotist. But in reality it was something more significant than that. The
'chasse au bonheur' which Beyle was always advocating was no respectable
epicureanism; it had about it a touch of the fanatical. There was
anarchy in it--a hatred of authority, an impatience with custom, above
all a scorn for the commonplace dictates of ordinary morality. Writing
his memoirs at the age of fifty-two, Beyle looked back with pride on the
joy that he had felt, as a child of ten, amid his royalist family at
Grenoble, when the news came of the execution of Louis XVI. His father
announced it:

--C'en est fait, dit-il avec un gros soupir, ils l'ont assassine.

Je fus saisi d'un des plus vifs mouvements de joie que j'ai eprouve
en ma vie. Le lecteur pensera peut-etre que je suis cruel, mais tel
j'etais a 5 X 2, tel je suis a 10 X 5 + 2 ... Je puis dire que
l'approbation des etres, que je regarde comme faibles, m'est
absolument indifferente.

These are the words of a born rebel, and such sentiments are constantly
recurring in his books. He is always discharging his shafts against some
established authority; and, of course, he reserved his bitterest hatred
for the proudest and most insidious of all authorities--the Roman
Catholic Church. It is odd to find some of the 'Beylistes' solemnly
hailing the man whom the power of the Jesuits haunted like a nightmare,
and whose account of the seminary in _Le Rouge et Le Noir_ is one of the
most scathing pictures of religious tyranny ever drawn, as a prophet of
the present Catholic movement in France. For in truth, if Beyle was a
prophet of anything he was a prophet of that spirit of revolt in modern
thought which first reached a complete expression in the pages of
Nietzsche. His love of power and self-will, his aristocratic outlook,
his scorn of the Christian virtues, his admiration of the Italians of
the Renaissance, his repudiation of the herd and the morality of the
herd--these qualities, flashing strangely among his observations on
Rossini and the Coliseum, his reflections on the memories of the past
and his musings on the ladies of the present, certainly give a
surprising foretaste of the fiery potion of Zarathustra. The creator of
the Duchesse de Sanseverina had caught more than a glimpse of the
transvaluation of all values. Characteristically enough, the appearance
of this new potentiality was only observed by two contemporary forces in
European society--Goethe and the Austrian police. It is clear that
Goethe alone among the critics of the time understood that Beyle was
something more than a novelist, and discerned an uncanny significance in
his pages. 'I do not like reading M. de Stendhal,' he observed to
Winckelmann, 'but I cannot help doing so. He is extremely free and
extremely impertinent, and ... I recommend you to buy all his books.' As
for the Austrian police, they had no doubt about the matter. Beyle's
book of travel, _Rome, Naples et Florence_, was, they decided,
pernicious and dangerous in the highest degree; and the poor man was
hunted out of Milan in consequence.

It would be a mistake to suppose that Beyle displayed in his private
life the qualities of the superman. Neither his virtues nor his vices
were on the grand scale. In his own person he never seems to have
committed an 'espagnolisme.' Perhaps his worst sin was that of
plagiarism: his earliest book, a life of Haydn, was almost entirely
'lifted' from the work of a learned German; and in his next he embodied
several choice extracts culled from the _Edinburgh Review_. On this
occasion he was particularly delighted, since the _Edinburgh_, in
reviewing the book, innocently selected for special approbation the very
passages which he had stolen. It is singular that so original a writer
should have descended to pilfering. But Beyle was nothing if not
inconsistent. With all his Classicism he detested Racine; with all his
love of music he could see nothing in Beethoven; he adored Italy, and,
so soon as he was given his Italian consulate, he was usually to be
found in Paris. As his life advanced he grew more and more wayward,
capricious, and eccentric. He indulged in queer mystifications, covering
his papers with false names and anagrams--for the police, he said, were
on his track, and he must be careful. His love-affairs became less and
less fortunate; but he was still sometimes successful, and when he was
he registered the fact--upon his braces. He dreamed and drifted a great
deal. He went up to San Pietro in Montorio, and looking over Rome, wrote
the initials of his past mistresses in the dust. He tried to make up his
mind whether Napoleon after all _was_ the only being he respected;
no--there was also Mademoiselle de Lespinasse. He went to the opera at
Naples and noted that 'la musique parfaite, comme la pantomime parfaite,
me fait songer a ce qui forme actuellement l'objet de mes reveries et me
fait venir des idees excellentes: ... or, ce soir, je ne puis me
dissimuler que j'ai le malheur _of being too great an admirer of Lady
L...._' He abandoned himself to 'les charmantes visions du Beau qui
souvent encore remplissent ma tete a l'age de _fifty-two_.' He wondered
whether Montesquieu would have thought his writings worthless. He sat
scribbling his reminiscences by the fire till the night drew on and the
fire went out, and still he scribbled, more and more illegibly, until at
last the paper was covered with hieroglyphics undecipherable even by M.
Chuquet himself. He wandered among the ruins of ancient Rome, playing to
perfection the part of cicerone to such travellers as were lucky enough
to fall in with him; and often his stout and jovial form, with the
satyric look in the sharp eyes and the compressed lips, might be seen by
the wayside in the Campagna, as he stood and jested with the reapers or
the vine-dressers or with the girls coming out, as they had come since
the days of Horace, to draw water from the fountains of Tivoli. In more
cultivated society he was apt to be nervous; for his philosophy was
never proof against the terror of being laughed at. But sometimes, late
at night, when the surroundings were really sympathetic, he could be
very happy among his friends. 'Un salon de huit ou dix personnes,' he
said, 'dont toutes les femmes ont eu des amants, ou la conversation est
gaie, anecdotique, et ou l'on prend du punch leger a minuit et demie,
est l'endroit du monde ou je me trouve le mieux.'

And in such a Paradise of Frenchmen we may leave Henri Beyle.



The Pitt nose has a curious history. One can watch its transmigrations
through three lives. The tremendous hook of old Lord Chatham, under
whose curve Empires came to birth, was succeeded by the bleak
upward-pointing nose of William Pitt the younger--the rigid symbol of an
indomitable _hauteur_. With Lady Hester Stanhope came the final stage.
The nose, still with an upward tilt in it, had lost its masculinity; the
hard bones of the uncle and the grandfather had disappeared. Lady
Hester's was a nose of wild ambitions, of pride grown fantastical, a
nose that scorned the earth, shooting off, one fancies, towards some
eternally eccentric heaven. It was a nose, in fact, altogether in the

Noses, of course, are aristocratic things; and Lady Hester was the child
of a great aristocracy. But, in her case, the aristocratic impulse,
which had carried her predecessors to glory, had less fortunate results.
There has always been a strong strain of extravagance in the governing
families of England; from time to time they throw off some peculiarly
ill-balanced member, who performs a strange meteoric course. A century
earlier, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was an illustrious example of this
tendency: that splendid comet, after filling half the heavens, vanished
suddenly into desolation and darkness. Lady Hester Stanhope's spirit was
still more uncommon; and she met with a most uncommon fate.

She was born in 1776, the eldest daughter of that extraordinary Earl
Stanhope, Jacobin and inventor, who made the first steamboat and the
first calculating machine, who defended the French Revolution in the
House of Lords and erased the armorial bearings--'damned aristocratical
nonsense'--from his carriages and his plate. Her mother, Chatham's
daughter and the favourite sister of Pitt, died when she was four years
old. The second Lady Stanhope, a frigid woman of fashion, left her
stepdaughters to the care of futile governesses, while 'Citizen
Stanhope' ruled the household from his laboratory with the violence of a
tyrant. It was not until Lady Hester was twenty-four that she escaped
from the slavery of her father's house, by going to live with her
grandmother, Lady Chatham. On Lady Chatham's death, three years later,
Pitt offered her his protection, and she remained with him until his
death in 1806.

Her three years with Pitt, passed in the very centre of splendid power,
were brilliant and exciting. She flung herself impetuously into the
movement and the passion of that vigorous society; she ruled her uncle's
household with high vivacity; she was liked and courted; if not
beautiful, she was fascinating--very tall, with a very fair and clear
complexion, and dark-blue eyes, and a countenance of wonderful
expressiveness. Her talk, full of the trenchant nonchalance of those
days, was both amusing and alarming: 'My dear Hester, what are you
saying?' Pitt would call out to her from across the room. She was
devoted to her uncle, who warmly returned her affection. She was
devoted, too--but in a more dangerous fashion--to the intoxicating
Antinous, Lord Granville Leveson Gower. The reckless manner in which she
carried on this love-affair was the first indication of something
overstrained, something wild and unaccountable, in her temperament. Lord
Granville, after flirting with her outrageously, declared that he could
never marry her, and went off on an embassy to St. Petersburg. Her
distraction was extreme: she hinted that she would follow him to Russia;
she threatened, and perhaps attempted, suicide; she went about telling
everybody that he had jilted her. She was taken ill, and then there were
rumours of an accouchement, which, it was said, she took care to
_afficher_, by appearing without rouge and fainting on the slightest
provocation. In the midst of these excursions and alarums there was a
terrible and unexpected catastrophe. Pitt died. And Lady Hester
suddenly found herself a dethroned princess, living in a small house in
Montague Square on a pension of L1200 a year.

She did not abandon society, however, and the tongue of gossip continued
to wag. Her immediate marriage with a former lover, Mr. Hill, was
announced: 'il est bien bon,' said Lady Bessborough. Then it was
whispered that Canning was 'le regnant'--that he was with her 'not only
all day, but almost all night.' She quarrelled with Canning and became
attached to Sir John Moore. Whether she was actually engaged to marry
him--as she seems to have asserted many years later--is doubtful; his
letters to her, full as they are of respectful tenderness, hardly
warrant the conclusion; but it is certain that he died with her name on
his lips. Her favourite brother, Charles, was killed beside him; and it
was natural that under this double blow she should have retired from
London. She buried herself in Wales; but not for long. In 1810 she set
sail for Gibraltar with her brother James, who was rejoining his
regiment in the Peninsula. She never returned to England.

There can be no doubt that at the time of her departure the thought of a
lifelong exile was far from her mind. It was only gradually, as she
moved further and further eastward, that the prospect of life in
England--at last even in Europe--grew distasteful to her; as late as
1816 she was talking of a visit to Provence. Accompanied by two or three
English fellow travellers, her English maid, Mrs. Fry, her private
physician, Dr. Meryon, and a host of servants, she progressed, slowly
and in great state, through Malta and Athens, to Constantinople. She was
conveyed in battleships, and lodged with governors and ambassadors.
After spending many months in Constantinople, Lady Hester discovered
that she was 'dying to see Napoleon with her own eyes,' and attempted
accordingly to obtain passports to France. The project was stopped by
Stratford Canning, the English Minister, upon which she decided to visit
Egypt, and, chartering a Greek vessel, sailed for Alexandria in the
winter of 1811. Off the island of Rhodes a violent storm sprang up; the
whole party were forced to abandon the ship, and to take refuge upon a
bare rock, where they remained without food or shelter for thirty hours.
Eventually, after many severe privations, Alexandria was reached in
safety; but this disastrous voyage was a turning-point in Lady Hester's
career. At Rhodes she was forced to exchange her torn and dripping
raiment for the attire of a Turkish gentleman--a dress which she never
afterwards abandoned. It was the first step in her orientalization.

She passed the next two years in a triumphal progress. Her appearance in
Cairo caused the greatest sensation, and she was received in state by
the Pasha, Mehemet Ali. Her costume on this occasion was gorgeous: she
wore a turban of cashmere, a brocaded waistcoat, a priceless pelisse,
and a vast pair of purple velvet pantaloons embroidered all over in
gold. She was ushered by chamberlains with silver wands through the
inner courts of the palace to a pavilion in the harem, where the Pasha,
rising to receive her, conversed with her for an hour. From Cairo she
turned northwards, visiting Jaffa, Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus. Her
travelling dress was of scarlet cloth trimmed with gold, and, when on
horseback, she wore over the whole a white-hooded and tasselled burnous.
Her maid, too, was forced, protesting, into trousers, though she
absolutely refused to ride astride. Poor Mrs. Fry had gone through
various and dreadful sufferings--shipwreck and starvation, rats and
black-beetles unspeakable--but she retained her equanimity. Whatever
her Ladyship might think fit to be, _she_ was an Englishwoman to the
last, and Philippaki was Philip Parker and Mustapha Mr. Farr.

Outside Damascus, Lady Hester was warned that the town was the most
fanatical in Turkey, and that the scandal of a woman entering it in
man's clothes, unveiled, would be so great as to be dangerous. She was
begged to veil herself, and to make her entry under cover of darkness.
'I must take the bull by the horns,' she replied, and rode into the
city unveiled at midday. The population were thunderstruck; but at last
their amazement gave way to enthusiasm, and the incredible lady was
hailed everywhere as Queen, crowds followed her, coffee was poured out
before her, and the whole bazaar rose as she passed. Yet she was not
satisfied with her triumphs; she would do something still more glorious
and astonishing; she would plunge into the desert and visit the ruins of
Palmyra, which only half-a-dozen of the boldest travellers had ever
seen. The Pasha of Damascus offered her a military escort, but she
preferred to throw herself upon the hospitality of the Bedouin Arabs,
who, overcome by her horsemanship, her powers of sight, and her courage,
enrolled her a member of their tribe. After a week's journey in their
company, she reached Palmyra, where the inhabitants met her with wild
enthusiasm, and under the Corinthian columns of Zenobia's temple crowned
her head with flowers. This happened in March 1813; it was the apogee of
Lady Hester's life. Henceforward her fortunes gradually but steadily

The rumour of her exploits had spread through Syria, and from the year
1813 onwards, her reputation was enormous. She was received everywhere
as a royal, almost as a supernatural, personage: she progressed from
town to town amid official prostrations and popular rejoicings. But she
herself was in a state of hesitation and discontent. Her future was
uncertain; she had grown scornful of the West--must she return to it?
The East alone was sympathetic, the East alone was tolerable--but could
she cut herself off for ever from the past? At Laodicea she was suddenly
struck down by the plague, and, after months of illness, it was borne in
upon her that all was vanity. She rented an empty monastery on the
slopes of Mount Lebanon, not far from Sayda (the ancient Sidon), and
took up her abode there. Then her mind took a new surprising turn; she
dashed to Ascalon, and, with the permission of the Sultan, began
excavations in a ruined temple with the object of discovering a hidden
treasure of three million pieces of gold. Having unearthed nothing but
an antique statue, which, in order to prove her disinterestedness, she
ordered her appalled doctor to break into little bits, she returned to
her monastery. Finally, in 1816, she moved to another house, further up
Mount Lebanon, and near the village of Djoun; and at Djoun she remained
until her death, more than twenty years later.

Thus, almost accidentally as it seems, she came to the end of her
wanderings, and the last, long, strange, mythical period of her
existence began. Certainly the situation that she had chosen was
sublime. Her house, on the top of a high bare hill among great
mountains, was a one-storied group of buildings, with many ramifying
courts and out-houses, and a garden of several acres surrounded by a
rampart wall. The garden, which she herself had planted and tended with
the utmost care, commanded a glorious prospect. On every side but one
the vast mountains towered, but to the west there was an opening,
through which, in the far distance, the deep blue Mediterranean was
revealed. From this romantic hermitage, her singular renown spread over
the world. European travellers who had been admitted to her presence
brought back stories full of Eastern mystery; they told of a peculiar
grandeur, a marvellous prestige, an imperial power. The precise nature
of Lady Hester's empire was, indeed, dubious; she was in fact merely the
tenant of her Djoun establishment, for which she paid a rent of L20 a
year. But her dominion was not subject to such limitations. She ruled
imaginatively, transcendentally; the solid glory of Chatham had been
transmuted into the phantasy of an Arabian Night. No doubt she herself
believed that she was something more than a chimerical Empress. When a
French traveller was murdered in the desert, she issued orders for the
punishment of the offenders; punished they were, and Lady Hester
actually received the solemn thanks of the French Chamber. It seems
probable, however, that it was the Sultan's orders rather than Lady
Hester's which produced the desired effect. In her feud with her
terrible neighbour, the Emir Beshyr, she maintained an undaunted front.
She kept the tyrant at bay; but perhaps the Emir, who, so far as
physical force was concerned, held her in the hollow of his hand, might
have proceeded to extremities if he had not received a severe
admonishment from Stratford Canning at Constantinople. What is certain
is that the ignorant and superstitious populations around her feared and
loved her, and that she, reacting to her own mysterious prestige, became
at last even as they. She plunged into astrology and divination; she
awaited the moment when, in accordance with prophecy, she should enter
Jerusalem side by side with the Mahdi, the Messiah; she kept two sacred
horses, destined, by sure signs, to carry her and him to their last
triumph. The Orient had mastered her utterly. She was no longer an
Englishwoman, she declared; she loathed England; she would never go
there again; and if she went anywhere, it would be to Arabia, to 'her
own people.'

Her expenses were immense--not only for herself but for others, for she
poured out her hospitality with a noble hand. She ran into debt, and was
swindled by the moneylenders; her steward cheated her, her servants
pilfered her; her distress was at last acute. She fell into fits of
terrible depression, bursting into dreadful tears and savage cries. Her
habits grew more and more eccentric. She lay in bed all day, and sat up
all night, talking unceasingly for hour upon hour to Dr. Meryon, who
alone of her English attendants remained with her, Mrs. Fry having
withdrawn to more congenial scenes long since. The doctor was a
poor-spirited and muddle-headed man, but he was a good listener; and
there he sat while that extraordinary talk flowed on--talk that scaled
the heavens and ransacked the earth, talk in which memories of an
abolished past--stories of Mr. Pitt and of George III., vituperations
against Mr. Canning, mimicries of the Duchess of Devonshire--mingled
phantasmagorically with doctrines of Fate and planetary influence, and
speculations on the Arabian origin of the Scottish clans, and
lamentations over the wickedness of servants; till the unaccountable
figure, with its robes and its long pipe, loomed through the
tobacco-smoke like some vision of a Sibyl in a dream. She might be
robbed and ruined, her house might crumble over her head; but she talked
on. She grew ill and desperate; yet still she talked. Did she feel that
the time was coming when she should talk no more?

Her melancholy deepened into a settled gloom when the news came of her
brother James's death. She had quarrelled with all her English friends,
except Lord Hardwicke--with her eldest brother, with her sister, whose
kind letters she left unanswered; she was at daggers drawn with the
English consul at Alexandria, who worried her about her debts. Ill and
harassed, she hardly moved from her bedroom, while her servants rifled
her belongings and reduced the house to a condition of indescribable
disorder and filth. Three dozen hungry cats ranged through the rooms,
filling the courts with frightful noises. Dr. Meryon, in the midst of it
all, knew not whether to cry or laugh. At moments the great lady
regained her ancient fire; her bells pealed tumultuously for hours
together; or she leapt up, and arraigned the whole trembling household
before her, with her Arab war-mace in her hand. Her finances grew more
and more involved--grew at length irremediable. It was in vain that the
faithful Lord Hardwicke pressed her to return to England to settle her
affairs. Return to England, indeed! To England, that ungrateful,
miserable country, where, so far as she could see, they had forgotten
the very name of Mr. Pitt! The final blow fell when a letter came from
the English authorities threatening to cut off her pension for the
payment of her debts. Upon that, after dispatching a series of furious
missives to Lord Palmerston, to Queen Victoria, to the Duke of
Wellington, she renounced the world. She commanded Dr. Meryon to return
to Europe, and he--how could he have done it?--obeyed her. Her health
was broken, she was over sixty, and, save for her vile servants,
absolutely alone. She lived for nearly a year after he left her--we know
no more. She had vowed never again to pass through the gate of her
house; but did she sometimes totter to her garden--that beautiful garden
which she had created, with its roses and its fountains, its alleys and
its bowers--and look westward at the sea? The end came in June 1839. Her
servants immediately possessed themselves of every moveable object in
the house. But Lady Hester cared no longer: she was lying back in her
bed--inexplicable, grand, preposterous, with her nose in the air.



Clio is one of the most glorious of the Muses; but, as everyone knows,
she (like her sister Melpomene) suffers from a sad defect: she is apt to
be pompous. With her buskins, her robes, and her airs of importance she
is at times, indeed, almost intolerable. But fortunately the Fates have
provided a corrective. They have decreed that in her stately advances
she should be accompanied by certain apish, impish creatures, who run
round her tittering, pulling long noses, threatening to trip the good
lady up, and even sometimes whisking to one side the corner of her
drapery, and revealing her undergarments in a most indecorous manner.
They are the diarists and letter-writers, the gossips and journalists of
the past, the Pepyses and Horace Walpoles and Saint-Simons, whose
function it is to reveal to us the littleness underlying great events
and to remind us that history itself was once real life. Among them is
Mr. Creevey. The Fates decided that Mr. Creevey should accompany Clio,
with appropriate gestures, during that part of her progress which is
measured by the thirty years preceding the accession of Victoria; and
the little wretch did his job very well.

It might almost be said that Thomas Creevey was 'born about three of
the clock in the afternoon, with a white head and something a round
belly.' At any rate, we know nothing of his youth, save that he was
educated at Cambridge, and he presents himself to us in the early years
of the nineteenth century as a middle-aged man, with a character and a
habit of mind already fixed and an established position in the world. In
1803 we find him what he was to be for the rest of his life--a member of
Parliament, a familiar figure in high society, an insatiable gossip
with a rattling tongue. That he should have reached and held the place
he did is a proof of his talents, for he was a very poor man; for the
greater part of his life his income was less than L200 a year. But those
were the days of patrons and jobs, pocket-boroughs and sinecures; they
were the days, too, of vigorous, bold living, torrential talk, and
splendid hospitality; and it was only natural that Mr. Creevey,
penniless and immensely entertaining, should have been put into
Parliament by a Duke, and welcomed in every great Whig House in the
country with open arms. It was only natural that, spending his whole
political life as an advanced Whig, bent upon the destruction of abuses,
he should have begun that life as a member for a pocket-borough and
ended it as the holder of a sinecure. For a time his poverty was
relieved by his marriage with a widow who had means of her own; but Mrs.
Creevey died, her money went to her daughters by her previous husband,
and Mr. Creevey reverted to a possessionless existence--without a house,
without servants, without property of any sort--wandering from country
mansion to country mansion, from dinner-party to dinner-party, until at
last in his old age, on the triumph of the Whigs, he was rewarded with a
pleasant little post which brought him in about L600 a year. Apart from
these small ups and downs of fortune, Mr. Creevey's life was
static--static spiritually, that is to say; for physically he was always
on the move. His adventures were those of an observer, not of an actor;
but he was an observer so very near the centre of things that he was by
no means dispassionate; the rush of great events would whirl him round
into the vortex, like a leaf in an eddy of wind; he would rave, he would
gesticulate, with the fury of a complete partisan; and then, when the
wind dropped, he would be found, like the leaf, very much where he was
before. Luckily, too, he was not merely an agitated observer, but an
observer who delighted in passing on his agitations, first with his
tongue, and then--for so the Fates had decided--with his pen. He wrote
easily, spicily, and persistently; he had a favourite stepdaughter,
with whom he corresponded for years; and so it happens that we have
preserved to us, side by side with the majestic march of Clio (who, of
course, paid not the slightest attention to him), Mr. Creevey's
exhilarating _pas de chat_.

Certainly he was not over-given to the praise of famous men. There are
no great names in his vocabulary--only nicknames: George III. is 'Old
Nobs,' the Regent 'Prinney,' Wellington 'the Beau,' Lord John Russell
'Pie and Thimble,' Brougham, with whom he was on friendly terms, is
sometimes 'Bruffam,' sometimes 'Beelzebub,' and sometimes 'Old
Wickedshifts'; and Lord Durham, who once remarked that one could 'jog
along on L40,000 a year,' is 'King Jog.' The latter was one of the great
Whig potentates, and it was characteristic of Creevey that his
scurrility should have been poured out with a special gusto over his
own leaders. The Tories were villains, of course--Canning was all
perfidy and 'infinite meanness,' Huskisson a mass of 'intellectual
confusion and mental dirt,' Castlereagh ... But all that was obvious and
hardly worth mentioning; what was really too exacerbating to be borne
was the folly and vileness of the Whigs. 'King Jog,' the 'Bogey,'
'Mother Cole,' and the rest of them--they were either knaves or
imbeciles. Lord Grey was an exception; but then Lord Grey, besides
passing the Reform Bill, presented Mr. Creevey with the Treasurership of
the Ordnance, and in fact was altogether a most worthy man.

Another exception was the Duke of Wellington, whom, somehow or other, it
was impossible not to admire. Creevey, throughout his life, had a trick
of being 'in at the death' on every important occasion; in the House, at
Brooks's, at the Pavilion, he invariably popped up at the critical
moment; and so one is not surprised to find him at Brussels during
Waterloo. More than that, he was the first English civilian to see the
Duke after the battle, and his report of the conversation is admirable;
one can almost hear the 'It has been a damned serious business. Bluecher
and I have lost 30,000 men. It has been a damned nice thing--the
nearest run thing you ever saw in your life,' and the 'By God! I don't
think it would have done if I had not been there.' On this occasion the
Beau spoke, as was fitting, 'with the greatest gravity all the time, and
without the least approach to anything like triumph or joy.' But at
other times he was jocular, especially when 'Prinney' was the subject.
'By God! you never saw such a figure in your life as he is. Then he
speaks and swears so like old Falstaff, that damn me if I was not
ashamed to walk into the room with him.'

When, a few years later, the trial of Queen Caroline came on, it was
inevitable that Creevey should be there. He had an excellent seat in the
front row, and his descriptions of 'Mrs. P.,' as he preferred to call
her Majesty, are characteristic:

Two folding doors within a few feet of me were suddenly thrown
open, and in entered her Majesty. To describe to you her appearance
and manner is far beyond my powers. I had been taught to believe
she was as much improved in looks as in dignity of manners; it is
therefore with much pain I am obliged to observe that the nearest
resemblance I can recollect to this much injured Princess is a toy
which you used to call Fanny Royds (a Dutch doll). There is another
toy of a rabbit or a cat, whose tail you squeeze under its body,
and then out it jumps in half a minute off the ground into the air.
The first of these toys you must suppose to represent the person of
the Queen; the latter the manner by which she popped all at once
into the House, made a _duck_ at the throne, another to the Peers,
and a concluding jump into the chair which was placed for her. Her
dress was black figured gauze, with a good deal of trimming, lace,
&c., her sleeves white, and perfectly episcopal; a handsome white
veil, so thick as to make it very difficult to me, who was as near
to her as anyone, to see her face; such a back for variety and
inequality of ground as you never beheld; with a few straggling
ringlets on her neck, which I flatter myself from their appearance
were not her Majesty's own property.

Mr. Creevey, it is obvious, was not the man to be abashed by the
presence of Royalty.

But such public episodes were necessarily rare, and the main stream of
his life flowed rapidly, gaily, and unobtrusively through the fat
pastures of high society. Everywhere and always he enjoyed himself
extremely, but his spirits and his happiness were at their highest
during his long summer sojourns at those splendid country houses whose
hospitality he chronicles with indefatigable _verve_. 'This house,' he
says at Raby, 'is itself _by far_ the most magnificent and unique in
several ways that I have ever seen.... As long as I have heard of
anything, I have heard of being driven into the hall of this house in
one's carriage, and being set down by the fire. You can have no idea of
the magnificent perfection with which this is accomplished.' At Knowsley
'the new dining-room is opened; it is 53 feet by 37, and such a height
that it destroys the effect of all the other apartments.... There are
two fireplaces; and the day we dined there, there were 36 wax candles
over the table, 14 on it, and ten great lamps on tall pedestals about
the room.' At Thorp Perrow 'all the living rooms are on the ground
floor, one a very handsome one about 50 feet long, with a great bow
furnished with rose-coloured satin, and the whole furniture of which
cost L4000.' At Goodwood the rooms were done up in 'brightest yellow
satin,' and at Holkham the walls were covered with Genoa velvet, and
there was gilding worth a fortune on 'the roofs of all the rooms and the
doors.' The fare was as sumptuous as the furniture. Life passed amid a
succession of juicy chops, gigantic sirloins, plump fowls, pheasants
stuffed with pate de foie gras, gorgeous Madeiras, ancient Ports. Wine
had a double advantage: it made you drunk; it also made you sober: it
was its own cure. On one occasion, when Sheridan, after days of riotous
living, showed signs of exhaustion, Mr. and Mrs. Creevey pressed upon
him 'five or six glasses of light French wine' with excellent effect.
Then, at midnight, when the talk began to flag and the spirits grew a
little weary, what could be more rejuvenating than to ring the bell for
a broiled bone? And one never rang in vain--except, to be sure, at King
Jog's. There, while the host was guzzling, the guests starved. This was
too much for Mr. Creevey, who, finding he could get nothing for
breakfast, while King Jog was 'eating his own fish as comfortably as
could be,' fairly lost his temper.

My blood beginning to boil, I said: 'Lambton, I wish you could tell
me what quarter I am to apply to for some fish.' To which he
replied in the most impertinent manner: 'The servant, I suppose.' I
turned to Mills and said pretty loud: 'Now, if it was not for the
fuss and jaw of the thing, I would leave the room and the house
this instant'; and dwelt on the damned outrage. Mills said: 'He
hears every word you say': to which I said: 'I hope he does.' It
was a regular scene.

A few days later, however, Mr. Creevey was consoled by finding himself
in a very different establishment, where 'everything is of a
piece--excellent and plentiful dinners, a fat service of plate, a fat
butler, a table with a barrel of oysters and a hot pheasant, &c.,
wheeled into the drawing-room every night at half-past ten.'

It is difficult to remember that this was the England of the Six Acts,
of Peterloo, and of the Industrial Revolution. Mr. Creevey, indeed,
could hardly be expected to remember it, for he was utterly unconscious
of the existence--of the possibility--of any mode of living other than
his own. For him, dining-rooms 50 feet long, bottles of Madeira, broiled
bones, and the brightest yellow satin were as necessary and obvious a
part of the constitution of the universe as the light of the sun and
the law of gravity. Only once in his life was he seriously ruffled; only
once did a public question present itself to him as something alarming,
something portentous, something more than a personal affair. The
occasion is significant. On March 16, 1825, he writes:

I have come to the conclusion that our Ferguson is _insane._ He
quite foamed at the mouth with rage in our Railway Committee in
support of this infernal nuisance--the loco-motive Monster,
carrying _eighty tons_ of goods, and navigated by a tail of smoke
and sulphur, coming thro' every man's grounds between Manchester
and Liverpool.

His perturbation grew. He attended the committee assiduously, but in
spite of his efforts it seemed that the railway Bill would pass. The
loco-motive was more than a joke. He sat every day from 12 to 4; he led
the opposition with long speeches. 'This railway,' he exclaims on May
31, 'is the devil's own.' Next day, he is in triumph: he had killed the

Well--this devil of a railway is strangled at last.... To-day we
had a clear majority in committee in our favour, and the promoters
of the Bill withdrew it, and took their leave of us.

With a sigh of relief he whisked off to Ascot, for the festivities of
which he was delighted to note that 'Prinney' had prepared 'by having 12
oz. of blood taken from him by cupping.'

Old age hardly troubled Mr. Creevey. He grew a trifle deaf, and he
discovered that it was possible to wear woollen stockings under his silk
ones; but his activity, his high spirits, his popularity, only seemed to
increase. At the end of a party ladies would crowd round him. 'Oh, Mr.
Creevey, how agreeable you have been!' 'Oh, thank you, Mr. Creevey! how
useful you have been!' 'Dear Mr. Creevey, I laughed out loud last night
in bed at one of your stories.' One would like to add (rather late in
the day, perhaps) one's own praises. One feels almost affectionate; a
certain sincerity, a certain immediacy in his response to stimuli, are
endearing qualities; one quite understands that it was natural, on the
pretext of changing house, to send him a dozen of wine. Above all, one
wants him to go on. Why should he stop? Why should he not continue
indefinitely telling us about 'Old Salisbury' and 'Old Madagascar'? But
it could not be.

Le temps s'en va, le temps s'en va, Madame;
Las! Le temps non, mais nous, nous en allons.

It was fitting that, after fulfilling his seventy years, he should catch
a glimpse of 'little Vic' as Queen of England, laughing, eating, and
showing her gums too much at the Pavilion. But that was enough: the
piece was over; the curtain had gone down; and on the new stage that was
preparing for very different characters, and with a very different style
of decoration, there would be no place for Mr. Creevey.



Algarotti, 144, 145, 152
Anne, Queen, 106
Arnold, Matthew, 10
Arouet. _See_ 'Voltaire'

Bailey, Mr. John, 4-7, 9-12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22
Balzac, 220, 221, 225, 226, 227
Barres, M., 220, 21, 234
Beddoes, Dr. Thomas, 194-196
Beddoes, Thos. Lovell, 193-216
Beethoven, 237
Berkeley, 106
Bernhardt, 23
Bernieres, Madame de, 96, 107
Bernstorff, 76
Berry, Miss, 67, 68
Beshyr, Emir, 247
Bessborough, Lady, 243
Bevan, Mr. C.D., 196
Beyle, Henri, 219-238
Blake, 36, 63, 179-190
Bluecher, 255
Boileau, 62
Bolingbroke, 99, 101, 103, 104, 111
Bonaparte, 222
Boswell, 59
Boufflers, Comtesse de, 76
Boufflers, Marquise de, 75
Bourget, M., 220, 221
Brandes, Dr., 43, 51
Brink, Mr. Ten, 43
Broome, Major, 101
Brougham, 255
Browne, Sir Thomas, 27-28
Buffon, 80, 154
Burke, 76
Butler, Bishop, 29, 106

Canning, George, 243, 247, 255
Canning, Stratford, 243, 247
Caraccioli, 76
Carlyle, 93, 137, 144, 160
Caroline, Queen, 256
Carteret, 106
Castlereagh, 255
Cellini, 68
Chasot, 152, 153
Chateaubriand, 225
Chatelet, Madame du, 113, 141-143
Chatham, Lady, 242
Chatham, Lord, 241
Chesterfield, Lord, 63
Choiseul, Duc de, 79
Choiseul, Duchesse de, 70, 85, 86
Chuquet, M., 220, 221, 223, 238
Cicero, 68
Cimarosa, 230
Claude, 17
Coleridge, 16, 30, 62, 63
Colles, Mr. Ramsay, 194, 195
Collins, Anthony, 110, 111
Collins, Churton, 93, 98, 103
Condillac, 230
Congreve, 101
Conti, Prince de, 96
Corneille, 80, 129
Correggio, 231
Cowley, 196
Creevey, Mr., 253-260

D'Alembert, 70, 75, 131, 162, 166
Dante, 10
d'Argens, 152
d'Argental, 72
Darget, 152
Daru, 222
Davy, Sir Humphry, 195
Deffand, Madame du, 67-89, 97
Degen, 203
d'Egmont, Madame, 72
Denham, 62
Denis, Madame, 149, 150
d'Epinay, Madame, 165, 167, 168, 169, 171-174
Descartes, 113
Desnoiresterres 93
Devonshire, Duchess of, 247
d'Houdetot, Madame, 171
Diderot, 70, 166-175
Diogenes, 115
Donne, 62
Dowden, Prof., 42, 43, 45, 49, 51
Dryden, 4, 22, 29, 62
Durham, Lord, 255

Ecklin, Dr., 203, 204
Edgeworth, Miss, 195, 196
Euler, 154, 155

Falkener, Everard, 98
Fielding, 80, 197
Flaubert, 220, 221
Fleury, Cardinal, 112
Fontenelle, 73, 222
Foulet, M. Lucien, 93, 94, 96, 98, 103, 105
Fox, Charles James, 76, 78
Frederick the Great, 137
Fry, Mrs., 243, 244, 247
Furnivall, Dr., 42, 43

Gautier, 225
Gay, 102
George III, 247, 255
Gibbon, 29, 76, 80
Gide, M. Andre, 219, 220, 227
Goethe, 237
Gollancz, Sir I., 43, 49
Goncourts, De, 10
Gosse, Mr., 27-31, 35, 115, 204, 205
Gramont, Madame de, 79
Granville, Lord, 242
Gray, 60, 62
Grey, Lord, 255
Grimm, 166-174

Hardwicke, Lord, 248
Hegetschweiler, 202
Helvetius, 230
Henault, 72, 75
Herrick, 38
Higginson, Edward, 100
Hill, Dr. George Birkbeck, 59, 63
Hill, Mr., 243
Hugo, Victor, 62, 225
Hume, 30, 112, 114, 167, 169
Huskisson, 255

Ingres, 3

Johnson, Dr., 22, 28-30, 32, 59-63, 103, 221
Jordan, 140
Jourdain, Mr., 154

Keats, 211
Kelsall, Thomas Forbes, 200, 203, 204, 209
Klopstock, 186
Koenig, 155

La Beaumelle, 154
Lamb, Charles, 30, 188, 194
Lambton, 258
La Mettrie, 152-154, 158
Lanson, M., 93, 100
Latimer, 31
Lecouvreur, Adrienne, 95
Lee, Sir Sidney, 43
Leibnitz, 155
Lemaitre, M., 4-6, 17, 18
Lemaur, 70
Lespinasse, Mlle. de, 70, 71, 75, 86, 238
Leveson Gower, Lord Granville, 242
Locke, 29, 110, 112, 113, 115
Louis Philippe, 222
Louis XIV., 71
Lulli, 70
Luxembourg, Marechale de, 77, 83

Macaulay, 137
Macdonald, Mrs. Frederika, 164-173
Maine, Duchesse du, 71, 74
Malherbe, 62
Marlborough, Duke of, 105
Marlborough, Duchess of, 101
Marlowe, 197
Massillon, 74
Matignon, Marquis de, 84
Maupertuis, 153-156, 158, 159, 161
Mehemet Ali, 244
Merimee, Prosper, 223
Meryon, Dr., 243, 247, 248
Middleton, 111
Milton, 10, 16, 211
Mirepoix, Bishop of, 142
Mirepoix, Marechale de, 76
Moliere, 134
Moncrif, 72
Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley, 241
Montespan, Madame de, 74
Montesquieu, 78, 107, 230, 238
Moore, Sir John, 243
Morley, Lord, 110, 167, 172
Moses, 115
Mozart, 23, 230
Musset, 225

Napoleon, 67, 230, 231, 234, 238
Necker, 84
Nelson, 221
Newton, Sir Isaac, 100, 106, 112, 113

Pascal, 36, 112
Pater, 31
Peterborough, Lord, 102, 103
Pitt, William, the younger, 241-243, 247
Plato, 185
Poellnitz, 152
Pompadour, Madame de, 143
Pont-de-Veyle, 72, 75
Pope, 4, 22, 34, 38, 103, 106, 211
Prie, Madame de, 71, 94, 96
Prior, 63
Proctor, Bryan Waller, 200, 203
Puffendorf, 76

Quinault, 70

Racine, 3-24, 80, 129-131, 225, 237
Raleigh, Sir Walter, 45, 179, 183, 185
Regent, the Prince, 255
Reni, Guido, 231
Reynolds, Sir Joshua, 30, 186, 188
Richardson, 80
Richelieu, 73
Rohan-Chabot, Chevalier de, 94, 96, 98
Rossetti, 183
Rousseau, 85, 165-175, 230
Rubens, 34
Russell, Lord John, 255

Sainte-Beuve, 10, 12, 18, 61, 167, 220
Saint-Lambert, 172
Saint-Simon, 80, 179-183
Sampson, Mr. John, 179-183
Sanadon, Mlle., 84
Shaftesbury, 110
Shakespeare, 3, 4, 14, 34, 41-56, 80, 112, 132, 221, 225
Shelley, 23, 38
Sheridan, 257
Sophocles, 132
Spenser, 211
Stanhope, Lady Hester, 241-249
'Stendhal.' _See_ Beyle, Henri
Stephen, Sir James, 211
Sully, Duc de, 95, 105
Swift, 29, 101, 104, 106
Swinburne, 184

Taine, 220, 221
Thevenart, 70
Thomson, 63
Tindal, 111
Toland, 110, 111
Tolstoi, 228
Toynbee, Mrs. Paget, 67-69, 75
Turgot, 70, 169

Velasquez, 34
Vigny, 225
Virgil, 14, 23
Voltaire, 69, 70, 72, 75, 79-81, 83, 93-117, 121-134, 137-162, 174, 188

Walpole, Horace, 30, 63, 67, 68, 69-71, 75, 76, 78-80, 86-89, 103, 104, 106
Webster, 36
Wellington, Duke of, 255
White, W.A., 180
Winckelmann, 237
Wolf, 138
Wollaston, 111
Woolston, 111
Wordsworth, 16, 62, 63, 184
Wuertemberg, Duke of, 156

Yonge, Miss, 134
Young, Dr., 101

Zola, 220, 227, 228

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