Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Confessions of a Young Man by George Moore

Part 2 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

certain latitudes, and what subtle instinct led him to Norway in quest of
this fervent soul? The instincts of genius are unfathomable; but he who has
known the white northern women with their pure spiritual eyes, will aver
that instinct led him aright. I have known one, one whom I used to call
Seraphita; Coppee knew her too, and that exquisite volume, "L'Exile," so
Seraphita-like in the keen blond passion of its verse, was written to her,
and each poem was sent to her as it was written. Where is she now, that
flower of northern snow, once seen for a season in Paris? Has she returned
to her native northern solitudes, great gulfs of sea water, mountain rock,
and pine?

Balzac's genius is in his titles as heaven is in its stars: "Melmoth
Reconcilie," "Jesus-Christ en Flandres," "Le Revers d'un Grand Homme," "La
Cousine Bette." I read somewhere not very long ago, that Balzac was the
greatest thinker that had appeared in France since Pascal. Of Pascal's
claim to be a great thinker I confess I cannot judge. No man is greater
than the age he lives in, and, therefore, to talk to us, the legitimate
children of the nineteenth century, of logical proofs of the existence of
God strikes us in just the same light as the logical proof of the existence
of Jupiter Ammon. "Les Pensees" could appear to me only as infinitely
childish; the form is no doubt superb, but tiresome and sterile to one of
such modern and exotic taste as myself. Still, I accept thankfully, in its
sense of two hundred years, the compliment paid to Balzac; but I would add
that personally he seems to me to have shown greater wings of mind than any
artist that ever lived. I am aware that this last statement will make many
cry "fool" and hiss "Shakespeare!" But I am not putting forward these
criticisms axiomatically, but only as the expressions of an individual
taste, and interesting so far as they reveal to the reader the different
developments and the progress of my mind. It might prove a little tiresome,
but it would no doubt "look well," in the sense that going to church "looks
well," if I were to write in here ten pages of praise of our national bard.
I must, however, resist the temptation to "look well;" a confession is
interesting in proportion to the amount of truth it contains, and I will,
therefore, state frankly I never derived any profit whatsoever, and very
little pleasure from the reading of the great plays. The beauty of the
verse! Yes; he who loved Shelley so well as I could not fail to hear the
melody of--

"Music to hear, why hearest thou music sadly
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy."

Is not such music as this enough? Of course but I am a sensualist in
literature. I may see perfectly well that this or that book is a work of
genius, but if it doesn't "fetch me," it doesn't concern me, and I forget
its very existence. What leaves me cold to-day will madden me to-morrow.
With me literature is a question of sense, intellectual sense if you will,
but sense all the same, and ruled by the same caprices--those of the flesh?
Now we enter on very subtle distinctions. No doubt that there is the
brain-judgment and the sense-judgment of a work of art. And it will be
noticed that these two forces of discrimination exist sometimes almost
independently of each other, in rare and radiant instances confounded and
blended in one immense and unique love. Who has not been, unless perhaps
some dusty old pedant, thrilled and driven to pleasure by the action of a
book that penetrates to and speaks to you of your most present and most
intimate emotions. This is of course pure sensualism; but to take a less
marked stage. Why should Marlowe enchant me? why should he delight and
awake enthusiasm in me, while Shakespeare leaves me cold? The mind that can
understand one can understand the other, but there are affinities in
literature corresponding to, and very analogous to, sexual affinities--the
same unreasoned attractions, the same pleasures, the same lassitudes. Those
we have loved most we are most indifferent to. Shelley, Gautier, Zola,
Flaubert, Goncourt! how I have loved you all; and now I could not, would
not, read you again. How womanly, how capricious; but even a capricious
woman is constant, if not faithful to her _amant de coeur_. And so
with me; of those I have loved deeply there is but one that still may
thrill me with the old passion, with the first ecstacy--it is Balzac. Upon
that rock I built my church, and his great and valid talent saved me often
from destruction, saved me from the shoaling waters of new aestheticisms,
the putrid mud of naturalism, and the faint and sickly surf of the
symbolists. Thinking of him, I could not forget that it is the spirit and
not the flesh that is eternal; that, as it was thought that in the first
instance gave man speech, so to the end it shall still be thought that
shall make speech beautiful and rememberable. The grandeur and sublimity of
Balzac's thoughts seem to me to rise to the loftiest heights, and his range
is limitless; there is no passion he has not touched, and what is more
marvellous, he has given to each in art a place equivalent to the place it
occupies in nature; his intense and penetrating sympathy for human life and
all that concerns it enabled him to surround the humblest subjects with awe
and crown them with the light of tragedy. There are some, particularly
those who are capable of understanding neither and can read but one, who
will object to any comparison being drawn between the Dramatist and the
Novelist; but I confess that I--if the inherent superiority of verse over
prose, which I admit unhesitatingly, be waived--that I fail, utterly fail
to see in what Shakespeare is greater than Balzac. The range of the poet's
thought is of necessity not so wide, and his concessions must needs be
greater than the novelist's. On these points we will cry quits, and come at
once to the vital question--the creation. Is Lucien inferior to Hamlet? Is
Eugenie Grandet inferior to Desdemona? Is her father inferior to Shylock?
Is Macbeth inferior to Vautrin? Can it be said that the apothecary in the
"Cousine Bette," or the Baron Hulot, or the Cousine Bette herself is
inferior to anything the brain of man has ever conceived? And it must not
be forgotten that Shakespeare has had three hundred years and the advantage
of stage representation to impress his characters on the sluggish mind of
the world; and as mental impressions are governed by the same laws of
gravitation as atoms, our realisation of Falstaff must of necessity be more
vivid than any character in contemporary literature, although it were
equally great. And so far as epigram and aphorism are concerned, and here I
speak with absolute sincerity and conviction, the work of the novelist
seems to me richer than that of the dramatist. Who shall forget those
terrible words of the poor life-weary orphan in the boarding-house?
Speaking of Vautrin she says, "His look frightens me as if he put his hand
on my dress;" and another epigram from the same book, "Woman's virtue is
man's greatest invention." Find me anything in La Rochefoucauld that goes
more incisively to the truth of things. One more; here I can give the exact
words: "_La gloire est le soleil des morts._" It would be easy to
compile a book of sayings from Balzac that would make all "Maximes" and
"Pensees," even those of La Rochefoucauld or Joubert, seem trivial and
shallow.

Balzac was the great moral influence of my life, and my reading culminated
in the "Comedie Humaine." I no doubt fluttered through some scores of other
books, of prose and verse, sipping a little honey, but he alone left any
important or lasting impression upon my mind. The rest was like walnuts and
wine, an agreeable aftertaste.

But notwithstanding all this reading I can lay no claim to scholarship of
any kind; for save life I could never learn anything correctly. I am a
student only of ball rooms, bar rooms, streets, and alcoves. I have read
very little; but all I read I can turn to account, and all I read I
remember. To read freely, extensively, has always been my ambition, and my
utter inability to study has always been to me a subject of grave
inquietude,--study as contrasted with a general and haphazard gathering of
ideas taken in flight. But in me the impulse is so original to frequent the
haunts of men that it is irresistible, conversation is the breath of my
nostrils, I watch the movement of life, and my ideas spring from it
uncalled for, as buds from branches. Contact with the world is in me the
generating force; without it what invention I have is thin and sterile, and
it grows thinner rapidly, until it dies away utterly, as it did in the
composition of my unfortunate "Roses of Midnight."

Men and women, oh the strength of the living faces! conversation, oh the
magic of it! It is a fabulous river of gold where the precious metal is
washed up without stint for all to take, to take as much as he can carry.
Two old ladies discussing the peerage? Much may be learned, it is gold;
poets and wits, then it is fountains whose spray solidifies into jewels,
and every herb and plant is begemmed with the sparkle of the diamond and
the glow of the ruby.

I did not go to either Oxford or Cambridge, but I went to the "Nouvelle
Athenes." What is the "Nouvelle Athenes"? He who would know anything of my
life must know something of the academy of the fine arts. Not the official
stupidity you read of in the daily papers, but the real French academy, the
_cafe_. The "Nouvelle Athenes" is a _cafe_ on the Place Pigale.
Ah! the morning idlenesses and the long evenings when life was but a summer
illusion, the grey moonlights on the Place where we used to stand on the
pavements, the shutters clanging up behind us, loath to separate, thinking
of what we had left said, and how much better we might have enforced our
arguments. Dead and scattered are all those who used to assemble there, and
those years and our home, for it was our home, live only in a few pictures
and a few pages of prose. The same old story, the vanquished only are
victorious; and though unacknowledged, though unknown, the influence of the
"Nouvelle Athenes" is inveterate in the artistic thought of the nineteenth
century.

How magnetic, intense, and vivid are these memories of youth. With what
strange, almost unnatural clearness do I see and hear,--see the white face
of that _cafe_, the white nose of that block of houses, stretching up
to the Place, between two streets. I can see down the incline of those two
streets, and I know what shops are there; I can hear the glass-door of the
_cafe_ grate on the sand as I open it. I can recall the smell of every
hour. In the morning that of eggs frizzling in butter, the pungent
cigarette, coffee and bad cognac; at five o'clock the fragrant odour of
absinthe; and soon after the steaming soup ascends from the kitchen; and as
the evening advances, the mingled smells of cigarettes, coffee, and weak
beer. A partition, rising a few feet or more over the hats, separates the
glass front from the main body of the _cafe_. The usual marble tables
are there, and it is there we sat and aestheticised till two o'clock in the
morning. But who is that man? he whose prominent eyes flash with
excitement. That is Villiers de l'Isle-Adam. The last or the supposed last
of the great family. He is telling that girl a story--that fair girl with
heavy eyelids, stupid and sensual. She is, however, genuinely astonished
and interested, and he is striving to play upon her ignorance. Listen to
him. "Spain--the night is fragrant with the sea and the perfume of the
orange trees, you know--a midnight of stars and dreams. Now and then the
silence is broken by the sentries challenging--that is all. But not in
Spanish but in French are the challenges given; the town is in the hands of
the French; it is under martial law. But now an officer passes down a
certain garden, a Spaniard disguised as a French officer; from the balcony
the family--one of the most noble and oldest families Spain can boast of, a
thousand years, long before the conquest of the Moors--watches him. Well
then"--Villiers sweeps with a white feminine hand the long hair that is
falling over his face--he has half forgotten, he is a little mixed in the
opening of the story, and he is striving in English to "scamp," in French
to _escamoter_. "The family are watching, death if he is caught, if he
fails to kill the French sentry. The cry of a bird, some vague sound
attracts the sentry, he turns; all is lost. The Spaniard is seized. Martial
law, Spanish conspiracy must be put down. The French general is a man of
iron." (Villiers laughs, a short hesitating laugh that is characteristic of
him, and continues in his abrupt, uncertain way), "man of iron; not only he
declares that the spy must be beheaded, but also the entire family--a man
of iron that, ha, ha; and then, no you cannot, it is impossible for you to
understand the enormity of the calamity--a thousand years before the
conquest by the Moors, a Spaniard alone could--there is no one here, ha,
ha, I was forgetting--the utter extinction of a great family of the name,
the oldest and noblest of all the families in Spain, it is not easy to
understand that, no, not easy here in the 'Nouvelle Athenes'--ha, ha, one
must belong to a great family to understand, ha, ha.

"The father beseeches; he begs that one member may be spared to continue
the name--the youngest son--that is all; if he could be saved, the rest
what matter; death is nothing to a Spaniard; the family, the name, a
thousand years of name is everything. The general is, you know, a 'man of
iron.' 'Yes, one member of your family shall be respited, but on one
condition.' To the agonised family conditions are as nothing. But they
don't know the man of iron is determined to make a terrible example, and
they cry, 'Any conditions.' 'He who is respited must serve as executioner
to the others.' Great is the doom; you understand; but after all the name
must be saved. Then in the family council the father goes to his youngest
son and says, 'I have been a good father to you, my son; I have always been
a kind father, have I not? answer me; I have never refused you anything.
Now you will not fail us, you will prove yourself worthy of the great name
you bear. Remember your great ancestor who defeated the Moors, remember.'"
(Villiers strives to get in a little local colour, but his knowledge of
Spanish names and history is limited, and he in a certain sense fails.)
"Then the mother comes to her son and says, 'My son, I have been a good
mother, I have always loved you; say you will not desert us in this hour of
our great need.' Then the little sister comes, and the whole family kneels
down and appeals to the horror-stricken boy....

"'He will not prove himself unworthy of our name,' cries the father. 'Now,
my son, courage, take the axe firmly, do what I ask you, courage, strike
straight.' The father's head falls into the sawdust, the blood all over the
white beard; then comes the elder brother, and then another brother; and
then, oh, the little sister was almost more than he could bear, and the
mother had to whisper, 'Remember your promise to your father, to your dead
father.' The mother laid her head on the block, but he could not strike.
'Be not the first coward of our name, strike; remember your promise to us
all,' and her head was struck off."

"And the son," the girl asks, "what became of him?"

"He never was seen, save at night, walking, a solitary man, beneath the
walls of his castle in Granada."

"And whom did he marry?"

"He never married."

Then after a long silence some one said,--

"Whose story is that?"

"Balzac's."

At that moment the glass door of the _cafe_ grated upon the sanded
floor, and Manet entered. Although by birth and by art essentially
Parisian, there was something in his appearance and manner of speaking that
often suggested an Englishman. Perhaps it was his dress--his clean-cut
clothes and figure. That figure! those square shoulders that swaggered as
he went across a room and the thin waist; and that face, the beard and
nose, satyr-like shall I say? No, for I would evoke an idea of beauty of
line united to that of intellectual expression--frank words, frank passion
in his convictions, loyal and simple phrases, clear as well-water,
sometimes a little hard, sometimes, as they flowed away, bitter, but at the
fountain head sweet and full of light. He sits next to Degas, that
round-shouldered man in suit of pepper and salt. There is nothing very
trenchantly French about him either, except the large necktie; his eyes are
small and his words are sharp, ironical, cynical. These two men are the
leaders of the impressionist school. Their friendship has been jarred by
inevitable rivalry. "Degas was painting 'Semiramis' when I was painting
'Modern Paris,'" says Manet. "Manet is in despair because he cannot paint
atrocious pictures like Durant, and be feted and decorated; he is an
artist, not by inclination, but by force. He is as a galley slave chained
to the oar," says Degas. Different too are their methods of work. Manet
paints his whole picture from nature, trusting his instinct to lead him
aright through the devious labyrinth of selection. Nor does his instinct
ever fail him, there is a vision in his eyes which he calls nature, and
which he paints unconsciously as he digests his food, thinking and
declaring vehemently that the artist should not seek a synthesis, but
should paint merely what he sees. This extraordinary oneness of nature and
artistic vision does not exist in Degas, and even his portraits are
composed from drawings and notes. About midnight Catulle Mendes will drop
in, when he has corrected his proofs. He will come with his fine paradoxes
and his strained eloquence. He will lean towards you, he will take you by
the arm, and his presence is a nervous pleasure. And when the _cafe_
is closed, when the last bock has been drunk, we shall walk about the great
moonlight of the Place Pigale, and through the dark shadows of the streets,
talking of the last book published, he hanging on to my arm, speaking in
that high febrile voice of his, every phrase luminous, aerial, even as the
soaring moon and the fitful clouds. Duranty, an unknown Stendal, will come
in for an hour or so; he will talk little and go away quietly; he knows,
and his whole manner shows that he knows that he is a defeated man; and if
you ask him why he does not write another novel, he will say, "What's the
good, it would not be read; no one read the others, and I mightn't do even
as well if I tried again." Paul Alexis, Leon Diex, Pissarro, Cabaner, are
also frequently seen in the "Nouvelle Athenes."

Cabaner! the world knows not the names of those who scorn the world:
somewhere in one of the great populous churchyards of Paris there is a
forgotten grave, and there lies Cabaner. Cabaner! since the beginning there
have been, till the end of time there shall be Cabaners; and they shall
live miserably and they shall die miserable, and shall be forgotten; and
there shall never arise a novelist great enough to make live in art that
eternal spirit of devotion, disinterestedness, and aspiration, which in
each generation incarnates itself in one heroic soul. Better than those who
stepped to opulence and fame upon thee fallen thou wert; better,
loftier-minded, purer; thy destiny was to fall that others might rise upon
thee, thou wert one of the noble legion of the conquered; let praise be
given to the conquered, for the brunt of victory lies with the conquered.
Child of the pavement, of strange sonnets and stranger music, I remember
thee; I remember the silk shirts, the four sous of Italian cheese, the roll
of bread, and the glass of milk;--the streets were thy dining-room. And the
five-mile walk daily to the suburban music hall where five francs were
earned by playing the accompaniments of comic songs. And the wonderful room
on the fifth floor, which was furnished when that celebrated heritage of
two thousand francs was paid. I remember the fountain that was bought for a
wardrobe, and the American organ with all the instruments of the orchestra,
and the plaster casts under which the homeless ones that were never denied
a refuge and a crust by thee slept. I remember all, and the buying of the
life-size "Venus de Milo." Something extraordinary would be done with it, I
knew, but the result exceeded my wildest expectation. The head must needs
be struck off, so that the rapture of thy admiration should be secure from
all jarring reminiscence of the streets.

Then the wonderful story of the tenor, the pork butcher, who was heard
giving out such a volume of sound that the sausages were set in motion
above him; he was fed, clothed, and educated on the five francs a day
earned in the music hall in the Avenue de la Motte Piquet; and when he made
his _debut_ at the Theatre Lyrique, thou wert in the last stage of
consumption and too ill to go to hear thy pupil's success. He was
immediately engaged by Mapleson and taken to America.

I remember thy face, Cabaner; I can see it now--that long sallow face
ending in a brown beard, and the hollow eyes, the meagre arms covered with
a silk shirt, contrasting strangely with the rest of the dress. In all thy
privation and poverty, thou didst never forego thy silk shirt. I remember
the paradoxes and the aphorisms, if not the exact words, the glamour and
the sentiment of a humour that was all thy own. Never didst thou laugh; no,
not even when in discussing how silence might be rendered in music, thou
didst say, with thy extraordinary Pyrenean accent, "_Pour rendre le
silence en music il me faudrait trois orchestres militaires._" And when
I did show thee some poor verses of mine, French verses, for at this time I
hated and had partly forgotten my native language--

"My dear Dayne, you always write about love, the subject is nauseating."

"So it is, so it is; but after all Baudelaire wrote about love and lovers;
his best poem...."

"_C'est vrai, mais il s'agissait d'une charogne et cela releve beaucoup
la chose._"

I remember, too, a few stray snatches of thy extraordinary music, "music
that might be considered by Wagner as a little too advanced, but which
Liszt would not fail to understand;" also thy settings of sonnets where the
_melody_ was continued uninterruptedly from the first line to the
last; and that still more marvellous feat, thy setting, likewise with
unbroken melody, of Villon's ballade "Les Dames du Temps Jadis;" and that
Out-Cabanering of Cabaner, the putting to music of Cros's "Hareng Saur."

And why didst thou remain ever poor and unknown? Because of something too
much, or something too little? Because of something too much! so I think,
at least; thy heart was too full of too pure an ideal, too far removed from
all possible contagion with the base crowd.

But, Cabaner, thou didst not labour in vain; thy destiny, though obscure,
was a valiant and fruitful one; and, as in life, thou didst live for others
so now in death thou dost live in others. Thou wert in an hour of wonder
and strange splendour when the last tints and lovelinesses of romance
lingered in the deepening west; when out of the clear east rose with a
mighty effulgence of colour and lawless light Realism; when showing aloft
in the dead pallor of the zenith, like a white flag fluttering faintly,
Symbolists and Decadents appeared. Never before was there so sudden a flux
and conflux of artistic desire, such aspiration in the soul of man, such
rage of passion, such fainting fever, such cerebral erethism. The roar and
dust of the daily battle of the Realists was continued under the flush of
the sunset, the arms of the Romantics glittered, the pale spiritual
Symbolists watched and waited, none knowing yet of their presence. In such
an hour of artistic convulsion and renewal of thought thou wert, and thou
wert a magnificent rallying point for all comers; it was thou who didst
theorise our confused aspirations, and by thy holy example didst save us
from all base commercialism, from all hateful prostitution; thou wert ever
our high priest, and from thy high altar turned to us the white host, the
ideal, the true and living God of all men.

Cabaner, I see you now entering the "Nouvelle Athenes;" you are a little
tired after your long weary walk, but you lament not and you never cry out
against the public that will accept neither your music nor your poetry. But
though you are tired and footsore, you are ready to aestheticise till the
_cafe_ closes; for you the homeless ones are waiting: there they are,
some three or four, and you will take them to your strange room, furnished
with the American organ, the fountain, and the decapitated Venus, and you
give them a crust each and cover them with what clothes you have; and, when
clothes are lacking, with plaster casts, and though you will take but a
glass of milk yourself, you will find a few sous to give them _lager_
to cool their thirsty throats. So you have ever lived--a blameless life is
yours, no base thought has ever entered there, not even a woman's love; art
and friends, that is all.

Reader, do you know of anything more angelic? If you do you are more
fortunate than I have been.

CHAPTER VII

THE SYNTHESIS OF THE NOUVELLE ATHENES

Two dominant notes in my character--an original hatred of my native
country, and a brutal loathing of the religion I was brought up in. All the
aspects of my native country are violently disagreeable to me, and I cannot
think of the place I was born in without a sensation akin to nausea. These
feelings are inherent and inveterate in me. I am instinctively averse to my
own countrymen; they are at once remote and repulsive; but with Frenchmen I
am conscious of a sense of nearness; I am one with them in their ideas and
aspirations, and when I am with them, I am alive with a keen and
penetrating sense of intimacy. Shall I explain this by atavism? Was there a
French man or woman in my family some half dozen generations ago? I have
not inquired. The English I love, and with a love that is foolish--mad,
limitless; I love them better than the French, but I am not so near to
them. Dear, sweet Protestant England, the red tiles of the farmhouse, the
elms, the great hedgerows, and all the rich fields adorned with spreading
trees, and the weald and the wold, the very words are passionately
beautiful ... southern England, not the north--there is something Celtic in
the north,--southern England, with its quiet, steadfast faces;--a smock
frock is to me one of the most delightful things in the world; it is so
absolutely English. The villages clustered round the greens, the spires of
the churches pointing between the elm trees.... This is congenial to me;
and this is Protestantism. England is Protestantism, Protestantism is
England. Protestantism is strong, clean, and westernly, Catholicism is
eunuch-like, dirty, and Oriental.... Yes, Oriental; there is something even
Chinese about it. What made England great was Protestantism, and when she
ceases to be Protestant she will fall.... Look at the nations that have
clung to Catholicism, starving moonlighters and starving brigands. The
Protestant flag floats on every ocean breeze, the Catholic banner hangs
limp in the incense silence of the Vatican. Let us be Protestant, and
revere Cromwell.

* * * * *

_Garcon, un bock!_ I write to please myself, just as I order my
dinner; if my books sell I cannot help it--it is an accident.

But you live by writing.

Yes, but life is only an accident--art is eternal.

* * * * *

What I reproach Zola with is that he has no style; there is nothing you
won't find in Zola from Chateaubriand to the reporting in the
_Figaro_.

He seeks immortality in an exact description of a linendraper's shop; if
the shop conferred immortality it should be upon the linendraper who
created the shop, and not on the novelist who described it.

And his last novel "l'Oeuvre," how terribly spun out, and for a franc a
line in the "Gil Blas." Not a single new or even exact observation. And
that terrible phrase repeated over and over again--"La Conquete de Paris."
What does it mean? I never knew any one who thought of conquering
Paris;--no one ever spoke of conquering Paris except, perhaps, two or three
provincials.

* * * * *

You must have rules in poetry, if it is only for the pleasure of breaking
them, just as you must have women dressed, if it is only for the pleasure
of imagining them as Venuses.

* * * * *

Fancy, a banquet was given to Julien by his pupils! He made a speech in
favour of Lefevre, and hoped that every one there would vote for Lefevre.
Julien was very eloquent. He spoke of _Le grand art, le nu_, and
Lefevre's unswerving fidelity to _le nu_ ... elegance, refinement, an
echo of ancient Greece: and then,--what do you think? when he had exhausted
all the reasons why the medal of honour should be accorded to Lefevre, he
said, "I ask you to remember, gentlemen, that he has a wife and eight
children." Is it not monstrous?

* * * * *

But it is you who are monstrous, you who expect to fashion the whole world
in conformity with your aestheticisms ... a vain dream, and if realised it
would result in an impossible world. A wife and children are the basis of
existence, and it is folly to cry out because an appeal to such interests
as these meet with response ... it will be so till the end of time.

* * * * *

And these great interests that are to continue to the end of time began two
years ago, when your pictures were not praised in the _Figaro_ as much
as you thought they should be.

* * * * *

Marriage--what an abomination! Love--yes, but not marriage. Love cannot
exist in marriage, because love is an ideal; that is to say, something not
quite understood--transparencies, colour, light, a sense of the unreal. But
a wife--you know all about her--who her father was, who her mother was,
what she thinks of you and her opinion of the neighbours over the way.
Where, then, is the dream, the _au dela_? There is none. I say in
marriage an _au dela_ is impossible ... the endless duet of the marble
and the water, the enervation of burning odours, the baptismal whiteness of
women, light, ideal tissues, eyes strangely dark with kohl, names that
evoke palm trees and ruins, Spanish moonlight or maybe Persepolis. The
monosyllable which epitomises the ennui and the prose of our lives is heard
not, thought not there--only the nightingale-harmony of an eternal yes.
Freedom limitless; the Mahometan stands on the verge of the abyss, and the
spaces of perfume and colour extend and invite him with the whisper of a
sweet unending yes. The unknown, the unreal.... Thus love is possible,
there is a delusion, an _au dela_.

* * * * *

Good heavens! and the world still believes in education, in teaching people
the "grammar of art." Education is fatal to any one with a spark of
artistic feeling. Education should be confined to clerks, and even them it
drives to drink. Will the world learn that we never learn anything that we
did not know before? The artist, the poet, painter, musician, and novelist
go straight to the food they want, guided by an unerring and ineffable
instinct; to teach them is to destroy the nerve of the artistic instinct,
it is fatal. But above all in painting ... "correct drawing," "solid
painting." Is it impossible to teach people, to force it into their heads
that there is no such thing as correct drawing, and that if drawing were
correct it would be wrong? Solid painting; good heavens! Do they suppose
that there is one sort of painting that is better than all others, and that
there is a receipt for making it as for making chocolate! Art is not
mathematics, it is individuality. It does not matter how badly you paint,
so long as you don't paint badly like other people. Education destroys
individuality. That great studio of Julien's is a sphinx, and all the poor
folk that go there for artistic education are devoured. After two years
they all paint and draw alike, every one; that vile execution,--they call
it execution,--_la paet, la peinture au premier coup_. I was over in
England last year, and I saw some portraits by a man called Richmond. They
were horrible, but I liked them because they weren't like painting. Stott
and Sargent are clever fellows enough; I like Stott the best. If they had
remained at home and hadn't been taught, they might have developed a
personal art, but the trail of the serpent is over all they do--that vile
French painting, _le morceau_, etc. Stott is getting over it by
degrees. He exhibited a nymph this year. I know what he meant; it was an
interesting intention. I liked his little landscapes better ... simplified
into nothing, into a couple of primitive tints, wonderful clearness, light.
But I doubt if he will find a public to understand all that.

* * * * *

Democratic art! Art is the direct antithesis to democracy.... Athens! a few
thousand citizens who owned many thousand slaves, call that democracy! No!
what I am speaking of is modern democracy--the mass. The mass can only
appreciate simple and _naive_ emotions, puerile prettiness, above all
conventionalities. See the Americans that come over here; what do they
admire? Is it Degas or Manet they admire? No, Bouguereau and Lefevre. What
was most admired at the International Exhibition?--The Dirty Boy. And if
the medal of honour had been decided by a _plebiscite_, the dirty boy
would have had an overwhelming majority. What is the literature of the
people? The idiotic stories of the _Petit Journal_. Don't talk of
Shakespeare, Moliere, and the masters; they are accepted on the authority
of the centuries. If the people could understand _Hamlet_, the people
would not read the _Petit Journal_; if the people could understand
Michel Angelo, they would not look at our Bouguereau or your Bouguereau,
Sir F. Leighton. For the last hundred years we have been going rapidly
towards democracy, and what is the result? The destruction of the
handicrafts. That there are still good pictures painted and good poems
written proves nothing, there will always be found men to sacrifice their
lives for a picture or a poem. But the decorative arts which are executed
in collaboration, and depend for support on the general taste of a large
number, have ceased to exist. Explain that if you can. I'll give you five
thousand, ten thousand francs to buy a beautiful clock that is not a copy
and is not ancient, and you can't do it. Such a thing does not exist. Look
here; I was going up the staircase of the Louvre the other day. They were
putting up a mosaic; it was horrible; every one knows it is horrible. Well,
I asked who had given the order for this mosaic, and I could not find out;
no one knew. An order is passed from bureau to bureau, and no one is
responsible; and it will be always so in a republic, and the more
republican you are the worse it will be.

* * * * *

The world is dying of machinery; that is the great disease, that is the
plague that will sweep away and destroy civilisation; man will have to rise
against it sooner or later.... Capital, unpaid labour, wage-slaves, and all
the rest--stuff.... Look at these plates; they were painted by machinery;
they are abominable. Look at them. In old times plates were painted by the
hand, and the supply was necessarily limited to the demand, and a china in
which there was always something more or less pretty, was turned out; but
now thousands, millions of plates are made more than we want, and there is
a commercial crisis; the thing is inevitable. I say the great and the
reasonable revolution will be when mankind rises in revolt, and smashes the
machinery and restores the handicrafts.

* * * * *

Goncourt is not an artist, notwithstanding all his affectation and
outcries; he is not an artist. _Il me fait l'effet_ of an old woman
shrieking after immortality and striving to beat down some fragment of it
with a broom. Once it was a duet, now it is a solo. They wrote novels,
history, plays, they collected _bric-a-brac_--they wrote about their
_bric-a-brac_; they painted in water-colours, they etched--they wrote
about their water-colours and etchings; they have made a will settling that
the _bric-a-brac_ is to be sold at their death, and the proceeds
applied to founding a prize for the best essay or novel, I forget which it
is. They wrote about the prize they are going to found; they kept a diary,
they wrote down everything they heard, felt, or saw, _radotage de vieille
femme_; nothing must escape, not the slightest word; it might be that
very word that might confer on them immortality; everything they heard, or
said, must be of value, of inestimable value. A real artist does not
trouble himself about immortality, about everything he hears, feels, and
says; he treats ideas and sensations as so much clay wherewith to create.

And then the famous collaboration; how it was talked about, written about,
prayed about; and when Jules died, what a subject for talk for articles; it
all went into pot. Hugo's vanity was Titanic, Goncourt's is puerile.

And Daudet?

Oh, Daudet, _c'est de la bouillabaisse_.

* * * * *

Whistler, of all artists, is the least impressionist; the idea people have
of his being an impressionist only proves once again the absolute inability
of the public to understand the merits or the demerits of artistic work.
Whistler's art is absolutely classical; he thinks of nature, but he does
not see nature; he is guided by his mind, and not by his eyes; and the best
of it is he says so. Oh, he knows it well enough! Any one who knows him
must have heard him say, "Painting is absolutely scientific; it is an exact
science." And his work is in accord with his theory; he risks nothing, all
is brought down, arranged, balanced, and made one,--a well-determined
mental conception, I admire his work; I am merely showing how he is
misunderstood, even by those who think they understand. Does he ever seek a
pose that is characteristic of the model, a pose that the model repeats
oftener than any other?--Never. He advances the foot, puts the hand on the
hip, etc., with a view to rendering his _idea_. Take his portrait of
Duret. Did he ever see Duret in dress clothes? Probably not. Did he ever
see Duret with a lady's opera cloak?--I am sure he never did. Is Duret in
the habit of going to the theatre with ladies? No; he is a
_litterateur_ who is always in men's society, rarely in ladies'. But
these facts mattered nothing to Whistler as they matter to Degas, or to
Manet. Whistler took Duret out of his environment, dressed him up, thought
out a scheme--in a word, painted his idea without concerning himself in the
least with the model. Mark you, I deny that I am urging any fault or flaw;
I am merely contending that Whistler's art is not modern art, but classic
art--yes, and severely classical, far more classical than Titian's or
Velasquez;--from an opposite pole as classical as Ingres. No Greek
dramatist ever sought the synthesis of things more uncompromisingly than
Whistler. And he is right. Art is not nature. Art is nature digested. Art
is a sublime excrement. Zola and Goncourt cannot, or will not understand
that the artistic stomach must be allowed to do its work in its own
mysterious fashion. If a man is really an artist he will remember what is
necessary, forget what is useless; but if he takes notes he will interrupt
his artistic digestion, and the result will be a lot of little touches,
inchoate and wanting in the elegant rhythm of the synthesis.

* * * * *

I am sick of synthetical art; we want observation direct and unreasoned.
What I reproach Millet with is that it is always the same thing, the same
peasant, the same _sabot_, the same sentiment. You must admit that it
is somewhat stereotyped.

* * * * *

What does that matter; what is more stereotyped than Japanese art? But that
does not prevent it from being always beautiful.

* * * * *

People talk of Manet's originality; that is just what I can't see. What he
has got, and what you can't take away from him, is a magnificent execution.
A piece of still life by Manet is the most wonderful thing in the world;
vividness of colour, breadth, simplicity, and directness of
touch--marvellous!

* * * * *

French translation is the only translation; in England you still continue
to translate poetry into poetry, instead of into prose. We used to do the
same, but we have long ago renounced such follies. Either of two things--if
the translator is a good poet, he substitutes his verse for that of the
original;--I don't want his verse, I want the original;--if he is a bad
poet, he gives us bad verse, which is intolerable. Where the original poet
put an effect of caesura, the translator puts an effect of rhyme; where the
original poet puts an effect of rhyme, the translator puts an effect of
caesura. Take Longfellow's "Dante." Does it give as good an idea of the
original as our prose translation? Is it as interesting reading? Take
Bayard Taylor's translation of "Goethe." Is it readable? Not to any one
with an ear for verse. Will any one say that Taylor's would be read if the
original did not exist. The fragment translated by Shelley is beautiful,
but then it is Shelley. Look at Swinburne's translations of Villon. They
are beautiful poems by Swinburne, that is all; he makes Villon speak of a
"splendid kissing mouth." Villon could not have done this unless he had
read Swinburne. "Heine," translated by James Thomson, is not different from
Thomson's original poems; "Heine," translated by Sir Theodore Martin, is
doggerel.

* * * * *

But in English blank verse you can translate quite as literally as you
could into prose?

* * * * *

I doubt it, but even so, the rhythm of the blank line would carry your mind
away from that of the original.

* * * * *

But if you don't know the original?

The rhythm of the original can be suggested in prose judiciously used; even
if it isn't, your mind is at least free, whereas the English rhythm must
destroy the sensation of something foreign. There is no translation except
a word-for-word translation. Baudelaire's translation of Poe, and Hugo's
translation of Shakespeare, are marvellous in this respect; a pun or joke
that is untranslatable is explained in a note.

* * * * *

But that is the way young ladies translate--word for word!

* * * * *

No; 'tis just what they don't do; they think they are translating word for
word, but they aren't. All the proper names, no matter how unpronounceable,
must be rigidly adhered to; you must never transpose versts into
kilometres, or roubles into francs;--I don't know what a verst is or what a
rouble is, but when I see the words I am in Russia. Every proverb must be
rendered literally, even if it doesn't make very good sense; if it doesn't
make sense at all, it must be explained in a note. For example, there is a
proverb in German: "_Quand le cheval est selle il faut le monter_;" in
French there is a proverb: "_Quand le vin est tire il faut le boire._"
Well, a translator who would translate _quand le cheval_, etc., by
_quand le vin_, etc., is an ass, and does not know his business. In
translation, only a strictly classical language should be used; no word of
slang, or even word of modern origin should be employed; the translator's
aim should be never to dissipate the illusion of an exotic. If I were
translating the "Assommoir" into English, I should strive after a strong,
flexible, but colourless language, something--what shall I say?--a sort of
a modern Addison.

* * * * *

What, don't you know the story about Mendes?--when _Chose_ wanted to
marry his sister? _Chose's_ mother, it appears, went to live with a
priest. The poor fellow was dreadfully cut up; he was brokenhearted; and he
went to Mendes, his heart swollen with grief, determined to make a clean
breast of it, let the worst come to the worst. After a great deal of
beating about the bush, and apologising, he got it out. You know Mendes,
you can see him smiling a little; and looking at _Chose_ with that
white cameo face of his he said, "_Avec quel meilleur homme voulez-vous
que votre mere se fit? vous n'avez donc, jeune homme, aucun sentiment
religieux._"

* * * * *

Victor Hugo, he is a painter on porcelain; his verse is mere decoration,
long tendrils and flowers; and the same thing over and over again.

* * * * *

How to be happy!--not to read Baudelaire and Verlaine, not to enter the
_Nouvelle Athenes_, unless perhaps to play dominoes like the
_bourgeois_ over there, not to do anything that would awake a too
intense consciousness of life,--to live in a sleepy country side, to have a
garden to work in, to have a wife and children, to chatter quietly every
evening over the details of existence. We must have the azaleas out
to-morrow and thoroughly cleansed, they are devoured by insects; the tame
rook has flown away; mother lost her prayer-book coming from church, she
thinks it was stolen. A good, honest, well-to-do peasant, who knows nothing
of politics, must be very nearly happy;--and to think there are people who
would educate, who would draw these people out of the calm satisfaction of
their instincts, and give them passions! The philanthropist is the Nero of
modern times.

CHAPTER VIII

EXTRACT FROM A LETTER

Why did you not send a letter? We have all been writing to you for the last
six months, but no answer--none. Had you written one word I would have
saved all. The poor concierge was in despair; she said the
_proprietaire_ would wait if you had only said when you were coming
back, or if you only had let us know what you wished to be done. Three
quarters rent was due, and no news could be obtained of you, so an auction
had to be called. It nearly broke my heart to see those horrid men tramping
over the delicate carpets, their coarse faces set against the sweet colour
of that beautiful English cretonne.... And all the while the pastel by
Manet, the great hat set like an aureole about the face--'the eyes deep set
in crimson shadow,' 'the fan widespread across the bosom' (you see I am
quoting your own words), looking down, the mistress of that little paradise
of tapestry. She seemed to resent the intrusion. I looked once or twice
half expecting those eyes 'deep set in crimson shadow' to fill with tears.
But nothing altered her great dignity; she seemed to see all, but as a
Buddha she remained impenetrable....

"I was there the night before the sale. I looked through the hooks, taking
notes of those I intended to buy--those which we used to read together when
the snow lay high about the legs of the poor faun in _terre cuite_,
that laughed amid the frosty _boulingrins_. I found a large packet of
letters which I instantly destroyed. You should not be so careless; I
wonder how it is that men are always careless about their letters.

"The sale was announced for one o'clock. I wore a thick veil, for I did not
wish to be recognised; the concierge of course knew me, but she can be
depended upon. The poor old woman was in tears, so sorry was she to see all
your pretty things sold up. You left owing her a hundred francs, but I have
paid her; and talking of you we waited till the auctioneer arrived.
Everything had been pulled down; the tapestry from the walls, the picture,
the two vases I gave you were on the table waiting the stroke of the
hammer. And then the men, all the _marchands de meubles_ in the
_quartier_, came upstairs, spitting and talking coarsely--their foul
voices went through me. They stamped, spat, pulled the things about,
nothing escaped them. One of them held up the Japanese dressing-gown and
made some horrible jokes; and the auctioneer, who was a humorist, answered,
"If there are any ladies' men present, we shall have some spirited
bidding." The pastel I bought, and I shall keep it and try to find some
excuse to satisfy my husband, but I send you the miniature, and I hope you
will not let it be sold again. There were many other things I should have
liked to have bought but I did not dare--the organ that you used to play
hymns on and I waltzes on, the Turkish lamp which we could never agree
about ... but when I saw the satin shoes which I gave you to carry the
night of that adorable ball, and which you would not give back, but nailed
up on the wall on either side of your bed and put matches in, I was seized
with an almost invincible desire to steal them. I don't know why, _un
caprice de femme_. No one but you would have ever thought of converting
satin shoes into match boxes. I wore them at that delicious ball; we danced
all night together, and you had an explanation with my husband (I was a
little afraid for a moment, but it came out all right), and we went and sat
on the balcony in the soft warm moonlight; we watched the glitter of
epaulets and gas, the satin of the bodices, the whiteness of passing
shoulders; we dreamed the massy darknesses of the park, the fairy light
along the lawny spaces, the heavy perfume of the flowers, the pink of the
camellias; and you quoted something: '_les camelias du balcon ressemblent
a des desirs mourants._' It was horrid of you: but you always had a
knack of rubbing one up the wrong way. Then do you not remember how we
danced in one room, while the servants set the other out with little
tables? That supper was fascinating! I suppose it was these pleasant
remembrances which made me wish for the shoes, but I could not summon up
courage enough to buy them, and the horrid people were comparing me with
the pastel; I suppose I did look a little mysterious with a double veil
bound across my face. The shoes went with a lot of other things--and oh, to
whom?

"So now that pretty little retreat in the _Rue de la Tour des Dames_
is ended for ever for you and me. We shall not see the faun in _terre
cuite_ again; I was thinking of going to see him the other day, but the
street is so steep; my coachman advised me to spare the horse's hind legs.
I believe it is the steepest street in Paris. And your luncheon parties,
how I did enjoy them, and how Fay did enjoy them too; and what I risked,
shortsighted as I am, picking my way from the tramcar down to that
out-of-the-way little street! Men never appreciate the risks women run for
them. But to leave my letters lying about--I cannot forgive that. When I
told Fay she said, 'What can you expect? I warned you against flirting with
boys.' I never did before--never.

"Paris is now just as it was when you used to sit on the balcony and I read
you Browning. You never liked his poetry, and I cannot understand why. I
have found a new poem which I am sure would convert you; you should be
here. There are lilacs in the room and the _Mont Valerien_ is
beautiful upon a great lemon sky, and the long avenue is merging into
violet vapour.

"We have already begun to think of where we shall go to this year. Last
year we went to P----, an enchanting place, quite rustic, but within easy
distance of a casino. I had vowed not to dance, for I had been out every
night during the season, but the temptation proved irresistible, and I gave
way. There were two young men here, one the Count of B----, the other the
Marquis of G----, one of the best families in France, a distant cousin of
my husband. He has written a book which every one says is one of the most
amusing things that has appeared for years, _c'est surtout tres
Parisien_. He paid me great attentions, and made my husband wildly
jealous. I used to go out and sit with him amid the rocks, and it was
perhaps very lucky for me that he went away. We may return there this year;
if so, I wish you would come and spend a month; there is an excellent hotel
where you would be very comfortable. We have decided nothing as yet. The
Duchesse de ---- is giving a costume ball; they say it is going to be a most
wonderful affair. I don't know what money is not going to be spent upon the
cotillion. I have just got home a fascinating toilette. I am going as a
_Pierrotte_; you know, a short skirt and a little cap. The Marquise
gave a ball some few days ago. I danced the cotillion with L----, who, as
you know, dances divinely; _il m'a fait la cour_, but it is of course
no use, you know that.

"The other night we went to see the _Maitre-Forges_, a fascinating
play, and I am reading the book; I don't know which I like the best. I
think the play, but the book is very good too. Now that is what I call a
novel; and I am a judge, for I have read all novels. But I must not talk
literature, or you will say something stupid. I wish you would not make
foolish remarks about men that _tout-Paris_ considers the cleverest.
It does not matter so much with me, I know you, but then people laugh at
you behind your back, and that is not nice for me. The _marquise_ was
here the other day, and she said she almost wished you would not come on
her 'days,' so extraordinary were the remarks you made. And by the way, the
_marquise_ has written a book. I have not seen it, but I hear that it
is really too _decollete_. She is _une femme d'esprit_, but the
way she affiche's herself is too much for any one. She never goes anywhere
now without _le petit_ D----. It is a great pity.

"And now, my dear friend, write me a nice letter, and tell me when you are
coming back to Paris. I am sure you cannot amuse yourself in that hateful
London; the nicest thing about you was that you were really _tres_
Parisien. Come back and take a nice apartment on the Champs Elysees. You
might come back for the Duchesse's ball. I will get an invitation for you,
and will keep the cotillion for you. The idea of running away as you did,
and never telling any one where you were going to. I always said you were a
little cracked. And letting all your things be sold! If you had only told
me! I should like so much to have had that Turkish lamp. Yours--"

How like her that letter is;--egotistical, vain, foolish; no, not
foolish--narrow, limited, but not foolish; worldly, oh, how worldly! and
yet not repulsively so, for there always was in her a certain intensity of
feeling that saved her from the commonplace, and gave her an inexpressible
charm. Yes, she is a woman who can feel, and she has lived her life and
felt it very acutely, very sincerely--sincerely?... like a moth caught in a
gauze curtain! Well, would that preclude sincerity? Sincerity seems to
convey an idea of depth, and she was not very deep, that is quite certain.
I never could understand her;--a little brain that span rapidly and hummed
a pretty humming tune. But no, there was something more in her than that.
She often said things that I thought clever, things that I did not forget,
things, that I should like to put into books. But it was not brain power;
it was only intensity of feeling--nervous feeling. I don't know ...
perhaps.... She has lived her life ... yes, within certain limits she has
lived her life. None of us do more than that. True. I remember the first
time I saw her. Sharp, little, and merry--a changeable little sprite. I
thought she had ugly hands; so she has, and yet I forgot all about her
hands before I had known her a month. It is now seven years ago. How time
passes! I was very young then. What battles we have had, what quarrels!
Still we had good times together. She never lost sight of me, but no
intrusion; far too clever for that. I never got the better of her but once
... once I did, _enfin_! She soon made up for lost ground. I wonder
what the charm was. I did not think her pretty, I did not think her clever;
that I know.... I never knew if she cared for me, never. There were moments
when.... Curious, febrile, subtle little creature, oh, infinitely subtle,
subtle in everything, in her sensations subtle; I suppose that was her
charm, subtleness. I never knew if she cared for me, I never knew if she
hated her husband,--one never knew her,--I never knew how she would receive
me. The last time I saw her ... that stupid American would take her
downstairs, no getting rid of him, and I was hiding behind one of the
pillars in the Rue de Rivoli, my hand on the cab door. However, she could
not blame me that time--and all the stories she used to invent of my
indiscretions; I believe she used to get them up for the sake of the
excitement. She was awfully silly in some ways, once you got her into a
certain line; that marriage, that title, and she used to think of it night
and day. I shall never forget when she went into mourning for the Count de
Chambord. And her tastes, oh, how bourgeois they were! That salon; the
flagrantly modern clock, brass work, eight hundred francs on the Boulevard
St. Germain, the cabinets, brass work, the rich brown carpet, and the
furniture set all round the room geometrically, the great gilt mirror, the
ancestral portrait, the arms and crest everywhere, and the stuffy bourgeois
sense of comfort; a little grotesque no doubt;--the mechanical admiration
for all that is about her, for the general atmosphere, the _Figaro_,
that is to say Albert Wolf, _l'homme le plus spirituel de Paris,
c'est-a-dire, dans le monde_, the success of Georges Ohnet and the
talent of Gustave Dore. But with all this vulgarity of taste certain
appreciations, certain ebullitions of sentiment, within the radius of
sentiment certain elevations and depravities,--depravities in the
legitimate sense of the word, that is to say, a revolt against the
commonplace....

Ha, ha, ha! how I have been dreaming. I wish I had not been awoke from my
reverie, it was pleasant.

The letter just read indicates, if it does not clearly tell, the changes
that have taken place in my life; and it is only necessary to say that one
morning, a few months ago, when my servant brought me some summer honey and
a glass of milk to my bedside, she handed me an unpleasant letter. My
agent's handwriting, even when I knew the envelope contained a cheque, has
never quite failed to produce a sensation of repugnance in me;--so hateful
is any sort of account, that I avoid as much as possible even knowing how I
stand at my banker's. Therefore the odour of honey and milk, so evocative
of fresh flowers and fields, was spoilt that morning for me; and it was
some time before I slipped on that beautiful Japanese dressing-gown, which
I shall never see again, and read the odious epistle.

That some wretched farmers and miners should refuse to starve, that I may
not be deprived of my _demi-tasse_ at _Tortoni's_; that I may not
be forced to leave this beautiful retreat, my cat and my python--monstrous.
And these wretched creatures will find moral support in England; they will
find pity!

Pity, that most vile of all vile virtues, has never been known to me. The
great pagan world I love knew it not. Now the world proposes to interrupt
the terrible austere laws of nature which ordain that the weak shall be
trampled upon, shall be ground into death and dust, that the strong shall
be really strong,--that the strong shall be glorious, sublime. A little
bourgeois comfort, a little bourgeois sense of right, cry the moderns.

Hither the world has been drifting since the coming of the pale socialist
of Galilee; and this is why I hate Him, and deny His divinity. His divinity
is falling, it is evanescent in sight of the goal He dreamed; again He is
denied by His disciples. Poor fallen God! I, who hold nought else pitiful,
pity Thee, Thy bleeding face and hands and feet, Thy hanging body; Thou at
least art picturesque, and in a way beautiful in the midst of the sombre
mediocrity, towards which Thou hast drifted for two thousand years, a flag;
and in which Thou shalt find Thy doom as I mine, I, who will not adore Thee
and cannot curse Thee now. For verily Thy life and Thy fate has been
greater, stranger and more Divine than any man's has been. The chosen
people, the garden, the betrayal, the crucifixion, and the beautiful story,
not of Mary, but of Magdalen. The God descending to the harlot! Even the
great pagan world of marble and pomp and lust and cruelty, that my soul
goes out to and hails as the grandest, has not so sublime a contrast to
show us as this.

Come to me, ye who are weak. The Word went forth, the terrible disastrous
Word, and before it fell the ancient gods, and the vices that they
represent, and which I revere, are outcast now in the world of men; the
Word went forth, and the world interpreted the Word, blindly, ignorantly,
savagely, for two thousand years, but nevertheless nearing every day the
end--the end that Thou in Thy divine intelligence foresaw, that finds its
voice to-day (enormous though the antithesis may be, I will say it) in the
_Pall Mall Gazette_. What fate has been like Thine? Betrayed by Judas
in the garden, denied by Peter before the cock crew, crucified between
thieves, and mourned for by a harlot, and then sent bound and bare, nothing
changed, nothing altered, in Thy ignominious plight, forthward in the
world's van the glory and symbol of a man's new idea--Pity. Thy day is
closing in, but the heavens are now wider aflame with Thy light than ever
before--Thy light, which I, a pagan, standing on the last verge of the old
world, declare to be darkness, the coming night of pity and justice which
is imminent, which is the twentieth century. The bearers have relinquished
Thy cross, they leave Thee in the hour of Thy universal triumph, Thy crown
of thorns is falling, Thy face is buffeted with blows, and not even a reed
is placed in Thy hand for sceptre; only I and mine are by Thee, we who
shall perish with Thee, in the ruin Thou hast created.

Injustice we worship; all that lifts us out of the miseries of life is the
sublime fruit of injustice. Every immortal deed was an act of fearful
injustice; the world of grandeur, of triumph, of courage, of lofty
aspiration, was built up on injustice. Man would not be man but for
injustice. Hail, therefore, to the thrice glorious virtue injustice! What
care I that some millions of wretched Israelites died under Pharaoh's lash
or Egypt's sun? It was well that they died that I might have the pyramids
to look on, or to fill a musing hour with wonderment. Is there one amongst
us who would exchange them for the lives of the ignominious slaves that
died? What care I that the virtue of some sixteen-year-old maiden was the
price paid for Ingres' _La Source_? That the model died of drink and
disease in the hospital, is nothing when compared with the essential that I
should have _La Source_, that exquisite dream of innocence, to think
of till my soul is sick with delight of the painter's holy vision. Nay
more, the knowledge that a wrong was done--that millions of Israelites died
in torments, that a girl, or a thousand girls, died in the hospital for
that one virginal thing, is an added pleasure which I could not afford to
spare. Oh, for the silence of marble courts, for the shadow of great
pillars, for gold, for reticulated canopies of lilies; to see the great
gladiators pass, to hear them cry the famous "Ave Caesar," to hold the
thumb down, to see the blood flow, to fill the languid hours with the
agonies of poisoned slaves! Oh, for excess, for crime! I would give many
lives to save one sonnet by Baudelaire; for the hymn, "_A la tres-chere,
a la tres-belle, qui remplit mon coeur de clarte_," let the first-born
in every house in Europe be slain; and in all sincerity I profess my
readiness to decapitate all the Japanese in Japan and elsewhere, to save
from destruction one drawing by Hokee. Again I say that all we deem sublime
in the world's history are acts, of injustice; and it is certain that if
mankind does not relinquish at once, and for ever, its vain, mad, and fatal
dream of justice, the world will lapse into barbarism. England was great
and glorious, because England was unjust, and England's greatest son was
the personification of injustice--Cromwell.

But the old world of heroes is over now. The skies above us are dark with
sentimentalism, the sand beneath us is shoaling fast, we are running with
streaming canvas upon ruin; all ideals have gone; nothing remains to us for
worship but the Mass, the blind, inchoate, insatiate Mass; fog and fen land
before us, we shall founder in putrefying mud, creatures of the ooze and
rushes about us--we, the great ship that has floated up from the antique
world. Oh, for the antique world, its plain passion, its plain joys in the
sea, where the Triton blew a plaintive blast, and the forest where the
whiteness of the nymph was seen escaping! We are weary of pity, we are
weary of being good; we are weary of tears and effusion, and our
refuge--the British Museum--is the wide sea shore and the wind of the
ocean. There, there is real joy in the flesh; our statues are naked, but we
are ashamed, and our nakedness is indecency: a fair, frank soul is mirrored
in those fauns and nymphs; and how strangely enigmatic is the soul of the
antique world, the bare, barbarous soul of beauty and of might!

CHAPTER IX

But neither Apollo nor Buddha could help or save me. One in his exquisite
balance of body, a skylark-like song of eternal beauty, stood lightly
advancing; the other sat sombrously contemplating, calm as a beautiful
evening. I looked for sorrow in the eyes of the pastel--the beautiful
pastel that seemed to fill with a real presence the rich autumnal leaves
where the jays darted and screamed. The twisted columns of the bed rose,
burdened with great weight of fringes and curtains, the python devoured a
guinea pig, the last I gave him; the great white cat came to me. I said all
this must go, must henceforth be to me an abandoned dream, a something, not
more real than a summer meditation. So be it, and, as was characteristic of
me, I broke with Paris suddenly, without warning anyone. I knew in my heart
of hearts that I should never return, but no word was spoken, and I
continued a pleasant delusion with myself; I told my _concierge_ that
I would return in a month, and I left all to be sold, brutally sold by
auction, as the letter I read in the last chapter charmingly and touchingly
describes.

Not even to Marshall did I confide my foreboding that Paris would pass out
of my life, that it would henceforth be with me a beautiful memory, but
never more a practical delight. He and I were no longer living together; we
had parted a second time, but this time without bitterness of any kind; he
had learnt to feel that I wanted to live alone, and had moved away into the
Latin quarter, whither I made occasional expeditions. I accompanied him
once to the old haunts, but various terms of penal servitude had scattered
our friends, and I could not interest myself in the new. Nor did Marshall
himself interest me as he had once done. To my eager taste, he had grown
just a little trite. My affection for him was as deep and sincere as ever;
were I to meet him now I would grasp his hand and hail him with firm, loyal
friendship; but I had made friends in the Nouvelle Athenes who interested
me passionately, and my thoughts were absorbed by and set on new ideals,
which Marshall had failed to find sympathy for, or even to understand. I
had introduced him to Degas and Manet, but he had spoken of Jules Lefevre
and Bouguereau, and generally shown himself incapable of any higher
education; he could not enter where I had entered, and this was alienation.
We could no longer even talk of the same people; when I spoke of a certain
_marquise_, he answered with an indifferent "Do you really think so?"
and proceeded to drag me away from my glitter of satin to the dinginess of
print dresses. It was more than alienation, it was almost separation; but
he was still my friend, he was the man, and he always will be, to whom my
youth, with all its aspirations, was most closely united. So I turned to
say good-bye to him and to my past life. Rap--rap--rap!

"Who's there?"

"I--Dayne."

"I've got a model."

"Never mind your model. Open the door. How are you? what are you painting?"

"This; what do you think of it?"

"It is prettily composed. I think it will come out all right. I am going to
England; come to say good-bye."

"Going to England! What will you do in England?"

"I have to go about money matters; very tiresome. I had really begun to
forget there was such a place."

"But you are not going to stay there?"

"Oh, no!"

"You will be just in time to see the Academy."

The conversation turned on art, and we aestheticised for an hour. At last
Marshall said, "I am really sorry, old chap, but I must send you away;
there's that model."

The girl sat waiting, her pale hair hanging down her back, a very picture
of discontent.

"Send her away."

"I asked her to come out to dinner."

"D----n her ... Well, never mind, I must spend this last evening with you;
you shall both dine with me. _Je quitte Paris demain matin, peut-etre
pour longtemps; je voudrais passer ma derniere soiree avec mon ami; alors
si vous voulez bien me permettre, mademoiselle, je vous invite tous les
deux a diner; nous passerons la soiree ensemble si cela vous est
agreable?_"

"_Je veux bien, monsieur._"

Poor Marie! Marshall and I were absorbed in each other and art. It was
always so. We dined in a gargotte, and afterwards we went to a students'
hall; and it seems like yesterday. I can see the moon sailing through a
clear sky, and on the pavement's edge Marshall's beautiful, slim, manly
figure, and Marie's exquisite gracefulness. She was Lefevre's Chloe; so
every one sees her now. Her end was a tragic one. She invited her friends
to dinner, and with the few pence that remained she bought some boxes of
matches, boiled them, and drank the water. No one knew why; some said it
was love.

I went to London in an exuberant necktie, a tiny hat; I wore large trousers
and a Capoul beard; and I looked, I believe, as unlike an Englishman as a
drawing by Grevin. In the smoking-room of Morley's Hotel I met my agent, an
immense nose, and a wisp of hair drawn over a bald skull. He explained,
after some hesitation, that I owed him a few thousands, and that the
accounts were in his portmanteau. I suggested taking them to a solicitor to
have them examined. The solicitor advised me strongly to contest them. I
did not take the advice, but raised some money instead, and so the matter
ended so far as the immediate future was concerned. The years the most
impressionable, from twenty to thirty, when the senses and the mind are the
widest awake, I, the most impressionable of human beings, had spent in
France, not among English residents, but among that which is the
quintessence of the nation; I, not an indifferent spectator, but an
enthusiast, striving heart and soul to identify himself with his
environment, to shake himself free from race and language and to recreate
himself as it were in the womb of a new nationality, assuming its ideals,
its morals, and its modes of thought, and I had succeeded strangely well,
and when I returned home England was a new country to me; I had, as it
were, forgotten everything. Every aspect of street and suburban garden was
new to me; of the manner of life of Londoners I knew nothing. This sounds
incredible, but it is so; I saw, but I could realise nothing. I went into a
drawing-room, but everything seemed far away--a dream, a presentment,
nothing more; I was in touch with nothing; of the thoughts and feelings of
those I met I could understand nothing, nor could I sympathise with them:
an Englishman was at that time as much out of my mental reach as an
Esquimaux would be now. Women were nearer to me than men, and I will take
this opportunity to note my observation, for I am not aware that any one
else has observed that the difference between the two races is found in the
men, not in the women. French and English women are psychologically very
similar; the standpoint from which they, see life is the same, the same
thoughts interest and amuse them; but the attitude of a Frenchman's mind is
absolutely opposed to that of an Englishman; they stand on either side of a
vast abyss, two animals different in colour, form, and temperament;--two
ideas destined to remain irrevocably separate and distinct. I have heard of
writing and speaking two languages equally well: this was impossible to me,
and I am convinced that if I had remained two more years in France I should
never have been able to identify my thoughts with the language I am now
writing in, and I should have written it as an alien. As it was I only just
escaped this detestable fate. And it was in the last two years, when I
began to write French verse and occasional _chroniques_ in the papers,
that the great damage was done. I remember very well indeed one day, while
arranging an act of a play I was writing with a friend, finding suddenly to
my surprise that I could think more easily and rapidly in French than in
English; but with all this I did not learn French. I chattered, and I felt
intensely at home in it; yes, I could write a sonnet or a ballade almost
without a slip, but my prose required a good deal of alteration, for a
greater command of language is required to write in prose than in verse. I
found this in French and also in English. For when I returned from Paris,
my English terribly corrupt with French ideas and forms of thought, I could
write acceptable English verse, but even ordinary newspaper prose was
beyond my reach, and an attempt I made to write a novel drifted into a
miserable failure; but the following poems opened to me the doors of a
first-class London newspaper, and I was at once entrusted with some
important critical work:

THE SWEETNESS OF THE PAST

As sailors watch from their prison
For the faint grey line of the coasts,
I look to the past re-arisen,
And joys come over in hosts
Like the white sea birds from their roosts.

I love not the indelicate present,
The future's unknown to our quest,
To-day is the life of the peasant,
But the past is a haven of rest--
The things of the past are the best.

The rose of the past is better
Than the rose we ravish to-day,
'Tis holier, purer, and fitter
To place on the shrine where we pray
For the secret thoughts we obey.

There are there no deceptions or changes,
And there all is lovely and still;
No grief nor fate that estranges,
Nor hope that no life can fulfil,
But ethereal shelter from ill.

The coarser delights of the hour
Tempt, and debauch, and deprave,
And we joy in a poisonous flower,
Knowing that nothing can save
Our flesh from the fate of the grave.

But sooner or later returning
In grief to the well-loved nest,
Our souls filled with infinite yearning,
We cry, in the past there is rest,
There is peace, its joys are the best.

NOSTALGIA

Fair were the dreamful days of old,
When in the summer's sleepy shade,
Beneath the beeches on the wold,
The shepherds lay and gently played
Music to maidens, who, afraid,
Drew all together rapturously,
Their white soft hands like white leaves laid,
In the old dear days of Arcady.

Men were not then as they are now
Haunted and terrified by creeds,
They sought not then, nor cared to know
The end that as a magnet leads,
Nor told with austere fingers beads,
Nor reasoned with their grief and glee,
But rioted in pleasant meads
In the old dear days of Arcady.

The future may be wrong or right,
The present is distinctly wrong,
For life and love have lost delight,
And bitter even is our song;
And year by year grey doubt grows strong,
And death is all that seems to dree.
Wherefore with weary hearts we long
For the old dear days of Arcady.

ENVOI

Glories and triumphs ne'er shall cease,
But men may sound the heavens and sea,
One thing is lost for aye--the peace
Of the old dear days of Arcady.

And so it was that I came to settle down in a Strand lodging-house,
determined to devote myself to literature, and to accept the hardships of a
literary life. I had been playing long enough, and now I was resolved to
see what I could do in the world of work. I was anxious for proof,
peremptory proof, of my capacity or incapacity. A book! No. I required an
immediate answer, and journalism alone could give me that. So I reasoned in
the Strand lodging-house. And what led me to that house? Chance, or a
friend's recommendation? I forget. It was uncomfortable, hideous, and not
very clean: but curious, as all things are curious when examined closely.
Let me tell you about my rooms. The sitting-room was a good deal longer
than it was wide; it was panelled with deal, and the deal was painted a
light brown; behind it there was a large bedroom: the floor was covered
with a ragged carpet, and a big bed stood in the middle of the floor. But
next to the sitting-room was a small bedroom which was let for ten
shillings a week; and the partition wall was so thin that I could hear
every movement the occupant made. This proximity was intolerable, and
eventually I decided on adding ten shillings to my rent, and I became the
possessor of the entire flat. In the room above me lived a pretty young
woman, an actress at the Savoy Theatre. She had a piano, and she used to
play and sing in the mornings, and in the afternoon, friends--girls from
the theatre--used to come and see her; and Emma, the maid-of-all-work, used
to take them up their tea; and, oh! the chattering and the laughter. Poor
Miss L----; she had only two pounds a week to live on, but she was always
in high spirits except when she could not pay the hire of her piano; and I
am sure that she now looks back with pleasure and thinks of those days as
very happy ones.

She was a tall girl, a thin figure, and she had large brown eyes; she liked
young men, and she hoped that Mr. Gilbert would give her a line or two in
his next opera. Often have I come out on the landing to meet her; we used
to sit on those stairs talking, long after midnight, of what?--of our
landlady, of the theatre, of the most suitable ways of enjoying ourselves
in life. One night she told me she was married; it was a solemn moment. I
asked in a sympathetic voice why she was not living with her husband. She
told me, but the reason of the separation I have forgotten in the many
similar reasons for separations and partings which have since been confided
to me. The landlady bitterly resented our intimacy, and I believe Miss
L---- was charged indirectly for her conversations with me in the bill. On
the first floor there was a large sitting-room and bedroom, solitary rooms
that were nearly always unlet. The landlady's parlour was on the ground
floor, her bedroom was next to it, and further on was the entrance to the
kitchen stairs, whence ascended Mrs. S----'s brood of children, and Emma,
the awful servant, with tea things, many various smells, that of ham and
eggs predominating.

Emma, I remember you--you are not to be forgotten--up at five o'clock every
morning, scouring, washing, cooking, dressing those infamous children;
seventeen hours at least out of the twenty-four at the beck and call of
landlady, lodgers, and quarrelling children; seventeen hours at least out
of the twenty-four drudging in that horrible kitchen, running up stairs
with coals and breakfasts and cans of hot water; down on your knees before
a grate, pulling out the cinders with those hands--can I call them hands?
The lodgers sometimes threw you a kind word, but never one that recognised
that you were akin to us, only the pity that might be extended to a dog.
And I used to ask you all sorts of cruel questions, I was curious to know
the depth of animalism you had sunk to, or rather out of which you had
never been raised. And you generally answered innocently and naively
enough. But sometimes my words were too crude, and they struck through the
thick hide into the quick, into the human, and you winced a little; but
this was rarely, for you were very nearly, oh, very nearly an animal: your
temperament and intelligence was just that of a dog that has picked up a
master, not a real master, but a makeshift master who may turn it out at
any moment. Dickens would sentimentalise or laugh over you; I do neither. I
merely recognise you as one of the facts of civilisation. You looked--well,
to be candid,--you looked neither young nor old; hard work had obliterated
the delicate markings of the years, and left you in round numbers something
over thirty. Your hair was reddish brown, and your face wore that plain
honest look that is so essentially English. The rest of you was a mass of
stuffy clothes, and when you rushed up stairs I saw something that did not
look like legs; a horrible rush that was of yours, a sort of cart-horse
like bound. I have spoken angrily to you; I have heard others speak angrily
to you, but never did that sweet face of yours, for it was a sweet
face--that sweet, natural goodness that is so sublime--lose its expression
of perfect and unfailing kindness. Words convey little sense of the real
horrors of the reality. Life in your case meant this: to be born in a slum,
and to leave it to work seventeen hours a day in a lodging-house; to be a
Londoner, but to know only the slum in which you were born and the few
shops in the Strand at which the landlady dealt. To know nothing of London
meant in your case not to know that it was not England; England and London!
you could not distinguish between them. Was England an island or a
mountain? you had no notion. I remember when you heard that Miss L---- was
going to America, you asked me, and the question was sublime: "Is she going
to travel all night?" You had heard people speak of travelling all night,
and that was all you knew of travel or any place that was not the Strand. I
asked you if you went to church, and you said "No, it makes my eyes bad." I
said, "But you don't read; you can't read." "No, but I have to look at the
book." I asked you if you had heard of God; you hadn't; but when I pressed
you on the point you suspected I was laughing at you, and you would not
answer, and when I tried you again on the subject I could see that the
landlady had been telling you what to say. But you had not understood, and
your conscious ignorance, grown conscious within the last couple of days,
was even more pitiful than your unconscious ignorance when you answered
that you couldn't go to church because it made your eyes bad. It is a
strange thing to know nothing; for instance, to live in London and to have
no notion of the House of Commons, nor indeed of the Queen, except perhaps
that she is a rich lady; the police--yes, you knew what a policeman was
because you used to be sent to fetch one to make an organ-man or a Christy
minstrel move on. To know of nothing but a dark kitchen, grates, eggs and
bacon, dirty children; to work seventeen hours a day and to get cheated out
of your wages; to answer, when asked, why you did not get your wages or
leave if you weren't paid, that you "didn't know how Mrs. S---- would get
on without me."

This woman owed you forty pounds, I think, so I calculated it from what you
told me; and yet you did not like to leave her because you did not know how
she would get on without you. Sublime stupidity! At this point your
intelligence stopped. I remember you once spoke of a half-holiday; I
questioned you, and I found your idea of a half-holiday was to take the
children for a walk and buy them some sweets. I told my brother of this and
he said--Emma out for a half-holiday! why, you might as well give a mule a
holiday. The phrase was brutal, but it was admirably descriptive of you.
Yes, you are a mule, there is no sense in you; you are a beast of burden, a
drudge too horrible for anything but work; and I suppose, all things
considered, that the fat landlady with a dozen children did well to work
you seventeen hours a day, and cheat you out of your miserable wages. You
had no friends; you could not have a friend unless it were some forlorn cat
or dog; but you once spoke to me of your brother, who worked in a potato
store, and I was astonished, and I wondered if he were as awful as you.
Poor Emma! I shall never forget your kind heart and your unfailing good
humour; you were born beautifully good as a rose is born with perfect
perfume; you were as unconscious of your goodness as the rose of its
perfume. And you were taken by this fat landlady as 'Arry takes a rose and
sticks it in his tobacco-reeking coat; and you will be thrown away, shut
out of doors when health fails you, or when, overcome by base usage, you
take to drink. There is no hope for you; even if you were treated better
and paid your wages there would be no hope. That forty pounds even, if they
were given to you, would bring you no good fortune. They would bring the
idle loafer, who scorns you now as something too low for even his kisses,
hanging about your heels and whispering in your ears. And his whispering
would drive you mad, for your kind heart longs for kind words; and then
when he had spent your money and cast you off in despair, the gin shop and
the river would do the rest. Providence is very wise after all, and your
best destiny is your present one. We cannot add a pain, nor can we take
away a pain; we may alter, but we cannot subtract nor even alleviate. But
what truisms are these; who believes in philanthropy nowadays?

* * * * *

"Come in."

"Oh, it is you, Emma!"

"Are you going to dine at home to-day, sir?"

"What can I have?"

"Well, yer can 'ave a chop or a steak."

"Anything else?"

"Yes, yer can 'ave a steak, or a chop, or--"

"Oh yes, I know; well then, I'll have a chop. And now tell me, Emma, how is
your young man? I hear you have got one, you went out with him the other
night."

"Who told yer that?"

"Ah, never mind; I hear everything."

"I know, from Miss L----."

"Well, tell me, how did you meet him, who introduced him?"

"I met 'im as I was a-coming from the public 'ouse with the beer for
missus' dinner."

"And what did he say?"

"He asked me if I was engaged; I said no. And he come round down the lane
that evening."

"And he took you out?"

"Yes."

"And where did you go?"

"We went for a walk on the Embankment."

"And when is he coming for you again?"

"He said he was coming last evening, but he didn't."

"Why didn't he?"

"I dunno; I suppose because I haven't time to go out with him. So it was
Miss L---- that told you; well, you do 'ave chats on the stairs. I suppose
you likes talking to 'er."

"I like talking to everybody, Emma; I like talking to you."

"Yes, but not as you talks to 'er; I 'ears you jes do 'ave fine times. She
said this morning that she had not seen you for this last two nights--that
you had forgotten 'er, and I was to tell yer."

"Very well, I'll come out to-night and speak to her."

"And missus is so wild about it, and she daren't say nothing 'cause she
thinks yer might go."

* * * * *

A young man in a house full of women must be almost supernaturally
unpleasant if he does not occupy a great deal of their attention. Certain
at least it is that I was the point of interest in that house; and I found
there that the practice of virtue is not so disagreeable as many young men
think it. The fat landlady hovered round my doors, and I obtained perfectly
fresh eggs by merely keeping her at her distance; the pretty actress, with
whom I used to sympathise with on the stairs at midnight, loved me better,
and our intimacy was more strange and subtle, because it was pure, and it
was not quite unpleasant to know that the awful servant dreamed of me as
she might of a star, or something equally unattainable; but the landlady's
daughter, a nasty girl of fifteen, annoyed me with her ogling, which was a
little revolting, but the rest was, and I speak quite candidly, not wholly
unpleasant. It was not aristocratic, it is true, but, I repeat, it was not
unpleasant, nor do I believe that any young man, however refined, would
have found it unpleasant.

But if I was offered a choice between a chop and steak in the evening, in
the morning I had to decide between eggs and bacon and bacon and eggs. A
knocking at the door, "Nine o'clock, sir; 'ot water sir; what will you have
for breakfast?" "What can I have?" "Anything you like, sir. You can have
bacon and eggs, or--" "Anything else?"--Pause.--"Well, sir, you can have
eggs and bacon, or--" "Well, I'll have eggs and bacon."

The streets seemed to me like rat holes, dark and wandering as chance
directed, with just an occasional rift of sky, seen as if through an
occasional crevice, so different from the boulevards widening out into
bright space with fountains and clouds of green foliage. The modes of life
were so essentially opposed. I am thinking now of intellectual rather than
physical comforts. I could put up with even lodging-house food, but I found
it difficult to forego the glitter and artistic enthusiasm of the cafe. The
tavern, I had heard of the tavern.

Some seventy years ago the Club superseded the Tavern, and since then all
literary intercourse has ceased in London. Literary clubs have been
founded, and their leather arm-chairs have begotten Mr. Gosse; but the
tavern gave the world Villon and Marlowe. Nor is this to be wondered at.
What is wanted is enthusiasm and devil-may-careism; and the very aspect of
a tavern is a snort of defiance at the hearth, the leather arm-chairs are
so many salaams to it. I ask, Did any one ever see a gay club room? Can any
one imagine such a thing? You can't have a club room without mahogany
tables, you can't have mahogany tables without magazines--_Longmans_,
with a serial by Rider Haggard, the _Nineteenth Century_, with an
article, "The Rehabilitation of the Pimp in Modern Society," by W.E.
Gladstone--a dulness that's a purge to good spirits, an aperient to
enthusiasm; in a word, a dulness that's worth a thousand a year. You can't
have a club without a waiter in red plush and silver salver in his hand;
then you can't bring a lady to a club, and you have to get into a corner to
talk about them. Therefore I say a club is dull.

As the hearth and home grew all-powerful it became impossible for the
husband to tell his wife that he was going to the tavern; everyone can go
to the tavern, and no place in England where everyone can go is considered
respectable. This is the genesis of the Club--out of the Housewife by
Respectability. Nowadays every one is respectable--jockeys, betting-men,
actors, and even actresses. Mrs. Kendal takes her children to visit a
duchess, and has naughty chorus girls to tea, and tells them of the joy of
respectability. There is only one class left that is not respectable, and
that will succumb before long; how the transformation will be effected I
can't say, but I know an editor or two who would be glad of an article on
the subject.

Respectability!--a suburban villa, a piano in the drawing-room, and going
home to dinner. Such things are no doubt very excellent, but they do not
promote intensity of feeling, fervour of mind; and as art is in itself an
outcry against the animality of human existence, it would be well that the
life of the artist should be a practical protest against the so-called
decencies of life; and he can best protest by frequenting a tavern and
cutting his club. In the past the artist has always been an outcast; it is
only latterly he has become domesticated, and judging by results, it is
clear that if Bohemianism is not a necessity it is at least an adjuvant.
For if long locks and general dissoluteness were not an aid and a way to
pure thought, why have they been so long his characteristics? If lovers
were not necessary for the development of poet, novelist, and actress, why
have they always had lovers--Sappho, George Eliot, George Sand, Rachel,
Sara? Mrs. Kendal nurses children all day and strives to play Rosalind at
night. What infatuation, what ridiculous endeavour! To realise the
beautiful woodland passion and the idea of the transformation, a woman must
have sinned, for only through sin may we learn the charm of innocence. To
play Rosalind a woman must have had more than one lover, and if she has
been made to wait in the rain and has been beaten she will have done a
great deal to qualify herself for the part. The ecstatic Sara makes no
pretence to virtue, she introduces her son to an English duchess, and
throws over a nation for the love of Richepein, she can, therefore, say as
none other--

"Ce n'est plus qu'une ardeur dans mes veines cachee,
C'est Venus tout entiere a sa proie attachee."

Swinburne, when he dodged about London, a lively young dog, wrote "Poems
and Ballads," and "Chastelard," since he has gone to live at Putney, he has
contributed to the _Nineteenth Century_, and published an interesting
little volume entitled, "A Century of Rondels," in which he continues his
plaint about his mother the sea.

Respectability is sweeping the picturesque out of life; national costumes
are disappearing. The kilt is going or gone in the highlands, and the smock
in the southlands, even the Japanese are becoming Christian and
respectable; in another quarter of a century silk hats and pianos will be
found in every house in Jeddo. Too true that universal uniformity is the
future of the world; and when Mr. Morris speaks of the democratic art to be
when the world is socialistic, I ask, whence will the unfortunates draw
their inspiration? To-day our plight is pitiable enough--the duke, the
jockey-boy, and the artist are exactly alike; they are dressed by the same
tailor, they dine at the same clubs, they swear the same oaths, they speak
equally bad English, they love the same women. Such a state of things is
dreary enough, but what unimaginable dreariness there will be when there
are neither rich nor poor, when all have been educated, when self-education
has ceased. A terrible world to dream of, worse, far worse, in darkness and
hopelessness than Dante's lowest circle of hell. The spectre of famine, of
the plague, of war, etc., are mild and gracious symbols compared with that
menacing figure, Universal Education, with which we are threatened, which
has already eunuched the genius of the last five-and-twenty years of the
nineteenth century, and produced a limitless abortion in that of future
time. Education, I tremble before thy dreaded name. The cruelties of Nero,
of Caligula, what were they?--a few crunched limbs in the amphitheatre; but
thine, O Education, are the yearning of souls sick of life, of maddening
discontent, of all the fearsome and fathomless sufferings of the mind. When
Goethe said "More light," he said the wickedest and most infamous words
that human lips ever spoke. In old days, when a people became too highly
civilised the barbarians came down from the north and regenerated that
nation with darkness; but now there are no more barbarians, and sooner or
later I am convinced that we shall have to end the evil by summary
edicts--the obstruction no doubt will be severe, the equivalents of
Gladstone and Morley will stop at nothing to defeat the Bill; but it will
nevertheless be carried by patriotic Conservative and Unionist majorities,
and it will be written in the Statute Book that not more than one child in
a hundred shall be taught to read, and no more than one in ten thousand
shall learn the piano.

Such will be the end of Respectability, but the end is still far distant.
We are now in a period of decadence growing steadily more and more acute.
The old gods are falling about us, there is little left to raise our hearts
and minds to, and amid the wreck and ruin of things only a snobbery is left
to us, thank heaven, deeply graven in the English heart; the snob is now
the ark that floats triumphant over the democratic wave; the faith of the
old world reposes in his breast, and he shall proclaim it when the waters
have subsided.

In the meanwhile Respectability, having destroyed the Tavern, and created
the Club, continues to exercise a meretricious and enervating influence on
literature. All audacity of thought and expression has been stamped out,
and the conventionalities are rigorously respected. It has been said a
thousand times that an art is only a reflection of a certain age; quite so,
only certain ages are more interesting than others, and consequently
produce better art, just as certain seasons produce better crops. We heard
in the Nouvelle Athenes how the Democratic movement, in other words,
Respectability, in other words, Education, has extinguished the
handicrafts; it was admitted that in the more individual arts--painting and
poetry--men would be always found to sacrifice their lives for a picture or
a poem: but no man is, after all, so immeasurably superior to the age he
lives in as to be able to resist it wholly; he must draw sustenance from
some quarter, and the contemplation of the past will not suffice. Then the
pressure on him from without is as water upon the diver; and sooner or
later he grows fatigued and comes to the surface to breathe; he is as a
flying-fish pursued by sharks below and cruel birds above; and he neither
dives as deeply nor flies as high as his freer and stronger ancestry. A
daring spirit in the nineteenth century would have been but a timid nursery
soul indeed in the sixteenth. We want tumult and war to give us
forgetfulness, sublime moments of peace to enjoy a kiss in; but we are
expected to be home to dinner at seven, and to say and do nothing that
might shock the neighbours. Respectability has wound itself about society,
a sort of octopus, and nowhere are you quite free from one of its horrible
suckers. The power of the villa residence is supreme: art, science,
politics, religion, it has transformed to suit its requirements. The villa
goes to the Academy, the villa goes to the theatre, and therefore the art
of to-day is mildly realistic; not the great realism of idea, but the puny
reality of materialism; not the deep poetry of a Peter de Hogue, but the
meanness of a Frith--not the winged realism of Balzac, but the degrading
naturalism of a coloured photograph. To my mind there is no sadder
spectacle of artistic debauchery than a London theatre; the overfed
inhabitants of the villa in the stalls hoping for gross excitement to
assist them through their hesitating digestions; an ignorant mob in the pit
and gallery forgetting the miseries of life in imbecile stories reeking of
the sentimentality of the back stairs. Were other ages as coarse and as
common as ours? It is difficult to imagine Elizabethan audiences as not
more intelligent than those that applaud Mr. Pettit's plays. Impossible
that an audience that could sit out Edward II. could find any pleasure in
such sinks of literary infamies as _In the Ranks_ and _Harbour
Lights_. Artistic atrophy is benumbing us, we are losing our finer
feeling for beauty, the rose is going back to the briar. I will not speak
of the fine old crusted stories, ever the same, on which every drama is
based, nor yet of the musty characters with which they are peopled--the
miser in the old castle counting his gold by night, the dishevelled woman
whom he keeps for ambiguous reasons confined in a cellar. Let all this be
waived. We must not quarrel with the ingredients. The miser and the old
castle are as true, and not one jot more true, than the million events
which go to make up the phenomena of human existence. Not at these things
considered separately do I take umbrage, but at the miserable use that is
made of them, the vulgarity of the complications evolved from them, and the
poverty of beauty in the dialogue.

Not the thing itself, but the idea of the thing evokes the idea.
Schopenhauer was right; we do not want the thing, but the idea of the
thing. The thing itself is worthless; and the moral writers who embellish
it with pious ornamentation are just as reprehensible as Zola, who
embellishes it with erotic arabesques. You want the idea drawn out of
obscuring matter, this can best be done by the symbol. The symbol, or the
thing itself, that is the great artistic question. In earlier ages it was
the symbol; a name, a plume, sufficed to evoke the idea; now we evoke
nothing, for we give everything; the imagination of the spectator is no
longer called into play. In Shakespeare's days to create wealth in a
theatre it was only necessary to write upon a board, "A magnificent
apartment in a palace." This was no doubt primitive and not a little
barbarous, but it was better by far than by dint of anxious archaeology to
construct the Doge's palace upon the stage. By one rich pillar, by some
projecting balustrade taken in conjunction with a moored gondola, we should
strive to evoke the soul of the city of Veronese: by the magical and
unequalled selection of a subtle and unexpected feature of a thought or
aspect of a landscape, and not by the up-piling of extraneous detail, are
all great poetic effects achieved.

"By the tideless dolorous inland sea,
In a land of sand, of ruin, and gold."

And, better example still,

"Dieu que le son du cor est triste au fond des bois,"

that impeccable, that only line of real poetry Alfred de Vigny ever wrote;
and being a great poet Shakespeare consciously or unconsciously observed
more faithfully than any other poet these principles of art; and, as is
characteristic of the present day, nowhere do we find these principles so
grossly violated as in the representation of his plays. I had painful proof
of this some few nights after my arrival in London. I had never seen
Shakespeare acted, and I went to the Lyceum and there I saw that exquisite
love song--for _Romeo and Juliet_ is no more than a love song in
dialogue--tricked out in silks and carpets and illuminated building, a
vulgar bawd suited to the gross passion of an ignorant public. I hated all
that with the hatred of a passionate heart, and I longed for a simple
stage, a few simple indications, and the simple recitation of that story of
the sacrifice of the two white souls for the reconciliation of two great
families. My hatred did not reach to the age of the man who played the
boy-lover, but to the offensiveness with which he thrust his individuality
upon me, longing to realize the poet's divine imagination: and the woman,
too, I wished with my whole soul away, subtle and strange though she was,
and I yearned for her part to be played by a youth as in old time: a youth
cunningly disguised, would be a symbol; and my mind would be free to
imagine the divine Juliet of the poet, whereas I could but dream of the
bright eyes and delicate mien and motion of the woman who had thrust
herself between me and it.

But not with symbol and subtle suggestion has the villa to do, but with
such stolid, intellectual fare as corresponds to its material wants. The
villa has not time to think, the villa is the working bee. The tavern is
the drone. It has no boys to put to school, no neighbours to study, and is
therefore a little more refined, or, should I say? depraved, in its taste.
The villa in one form or other has always existed, and always will exist so
long as our present social system holds together. It is the basis of life,
and more important than the tavern. Agreed: but that does not say that the
tavern was not an excellent corrective influence to the villa, and that its
disappearance has not had a vulgarising effect on artistic work of all
kinds, and the club has been proved impotent to replace it, the club being
no more than the correlative of the villa. Let the reader trace villa
through each modern feature. I will pass on at once to the circulating
library, at once the symbol and glory of villaism.

The subject is not unfamiliar to me; I come to it like the son to his
father, like the bird to its nest. (Singularly inappropriate comparison,
but I am in such excellent humour to-day; humour is everything. It is said
that the tiger will sometimes play with the lamb! Let us play.) We have the
villa well in our mind. The father who goes to the city in the morning, the
grown-up girls waiting to be married, the big drawing-room where they play
waltz music, and talk of dancing parties. But waltzes will not entirely
suffice, nor even tennis; the girls must read. Mother cannot keep a censor
(it is as much as she can do to keep a cook, housemaid, and page-boy),
besides the expense would be enormous, even if nothing but shilling and
two-shilling novels were purchased. Out of such circumstances the
circulating library was hatched.

The villa made known its want, and art fell on its knees. Pressure was put
on the publishers, and books were published at 31s. 6d.; the dirty, outside
public was got rid of, and the villa paid its yearly subscription, and had
nice large handsome books that none but the _elite_ could obtain, and
with them a sense of being put on a footing of equality with my Lady This
and Lady That, and certainty that nothing would come into the hands of dear
Kate and Mary and Maggie that they might not read, and all for two guineas
a year. English fiction became pure, and the garlic and assafoetida with
which Byron, Fielding, and Ben Jonson so liberally seasoned their works,
and in spite of which, as critics say, they were geniuses, have disappeared
from our literature. English fiction became pure, dirty stories were to be
heard no more, were no longer procurable. But at this point human nature
intervened; poor human nature! when you pinch it in in one place it bulges
out in another, after the fashion of a lady's figure. Human nature has from
the earliest time shown a liking for dirty stories; dirty stories have
formed a substantial part of every literature (I employ the words "dirty
stories" in the circulating library sense); therefore a taste for dirty
stories may be said to be inherent in the human animal. Call it a disease
if you will--an incurable disease--which, if it is driven inwards, will
break out in an unexpected quarter in a new form and with redoubled
virulence. This is exactly what has happened. Actuated by the most laudable
motives, Mudie cut off our rations of dirty stories, and for forty years we
were apparently the most moral people on the face of the earth. It was
confidently asserted that an English woman of sixty would not read what
would bring the blush of shame to the cheeks of a maiden of any other
nation. But humiliation and sorrow were awaiting Mudie. True it is that we
still continued to subscribe to his library, true it is that we still
continued to go to church, true it is that we turned our faces away when
_Mdlle. de Maupin_ or the _Assommoir_ was spoken of; to all
appearance we were as good and chaste as even Mudie might wish us; and no
doubt he looked back upon his forty years of effort with pride; no doubt he
beat his manly breast and said, "I have scorched the evil one out of the
villa; the head of the serpent is crushed for evermore;" but lo, suddenly,
with all the horror of an earthquake, the slumbrous law courts awoke, and
the burning cinders of fornication and the blinding and suffocating smoke
of adultery were poured upon and hung over the land. Through the mighty
columns of our newspapers the terrible lava rolled unceasing, and in the
black stream the villa, with all its beautiful illusions, tumbled and
disappeared.

An awful and terrifying proof of the futility of human effort, that there
is neither bad work nor good work to do, nothing but to await the coming of
the Nirvana.

I have written much against the circulating library, and I have read a
feeble defence or two; but I have not seen the argument that might be
legitimately put forward in its favour. It seems to me this: the
circulating library is conservatism, art is always conservative; the
circulating library lifts the writer out of the precariousness and noise of
the wild street of popular fancy into a quiet place where passion is more
restrained and there is more reflection. The young and unknown writer is
placed at once in a place of comparative security, and he is not forced to
employ vile and degrading methods of attracting attention; the known
writer, having a certain market for his work, is enabled to think more of
it and less of the immediate acclamation of the crowd; but all these
possible advantages are destroyed and rendered _nil_ by the veracious
censorship exercised by the librarian.

* * * * *

There is one thing in England that is free, that is spontaneous, that
reminds me of the blitheness and nationalness of the Continent;--but there
is nothing French about it, it is wholly and essentially English, and in
its communal enjoyment and its spontaneity it is a survival of Elizabethan
England--I mean the music-hall; the French music-hall seems to me silly,
effete, sophisticated, and lacking, not in the popularity, but in the
vulgarity of an English hall--I will not say the Pavilion, which is too
cosmopolitan, dreary French comics are heard there--for preference let us
say the Royal. I shall not easily forget my first evening there, when I saw
for the time a living house--the dissolute paragraphists, the elegant
mashers (mark the imaginativeness of the slang), the stolid, good-humoured
costers, the cheerful lights o' love, the extraordinary comics. What
delightful unison of enjoyment, what unanimity of soul, what communality of
wit; all knew each other, all enjoyed each other's presence; in a word,
there was life. Then there were no cascades of real water, nor London
docks, nor offensively rich furniture, with hotel lifts down which some one
will certainly be thrown, but one scene representing a street; a man comes
on--not, mind you, in a real smock-frock, but in something that suggests
one--and sings of how he came up to London, and was "cleaned out" by
thieves. Simple, you will say; yes, but better than a _fricassee_ of
_Faust_, garnished with hags, imps, and blue flame; better, far better
than a drawing-room set at the St. James's, with an exhibition of passion
by Mrs. and Mr. Kendal; better, a million times better than the cheap
popularity of Wilson Barrett--an elderly man posturing in a low-necked
dress to some poor slut in the gallery; nor is there in the hall any
affectation of language, nor that worn-out rhetoric which reminds you of a
broken-winded barrel-organ playing _a, che la morte_, bad enough in
prose, but when set up in blank verse awful and shocking in its more than
natural deformity--but bright quips and cracks fresh from the back-yard of
the slum where the linen is drying, or the "pub" where the unfortunate wife
has just received a black eye that will last her a week. That inimitable
artist, Bessie Bellwood, whose native wit is so curiously accentuated that
it is sublimated, that it is no longer repellent vulgarity but art, choice
and rare--see, here she comes with "What cheer, Rea; Rea's on the job." The
sketch is slight, but is welcome and refreshing after the eternal
drawing-room and Mrs. Kendal's cumbrous domesticity; it is curious, quaint,
perverted, and are not these the _aions_ and the attributes of art?
Now see that perfect comedian, Arthur Roberts, superior to Irving because
he is working with living material; how trim and saucy he is! and how he
evokes the soul, the brandy-and-soda soul, of the young men, delightful and
elegant in black and white, who are so vociferously cheering him, "Will you
stand me a cab-fare, ducky, I am feeling so awfully queer?" The soul, the
spirit, the entity of Piccadilly Circus is in the words, and the scene the
comedian's eyes--each look is full of suggestion; it is irritating, it is
magnetic, it is symbolic, it is art.

Not art, but a sign, a presentiment of an art, that may grow from the
present seeds, that may rise into some stately and unpremeditated
efflorescence, as the rhapsodist rose to Sophocles, as the miracle play
rose through Peele and Nash to Marlowe, hence to the wondrous summer of
Shakespeare, to die later on in the mist and yellow and brown of the autumn
of Crowes and Davenants. I have seen music-hall sketches, comic interludes
that in their unexpectedness and naive naturalness remind me of the comic
passages in Marlowe's _Faustus_, I waited (I admit in vain) for some
beautiful phantom to appear, and to hear an enthusiastic worshipper cry out
in his agony:--

"Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.
Her lips suck forth my soul; see where it flies!
Come, Helen, come; give me my soul again.
Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips,
And all is dross that is not Helena."

And then the astonishing change of key:--

"I will be Paris, and for love of thee,
Instead of Troy shall Wurtemberg be sacked," etc.

The hall is at least a protest against the wearisome stories concerning
wills, misers in old castles, lost heirs, and the woeful solutions of such
things--she who has been kept in the castle cellar for twenty years
restored to the delights of hair-pins and a mauve dress, the _ingenue_
to the protecting arm, etc. The music-hall is a protest against Mrs.
Kendal's marital tendernesses and the abortive platitudes of Messrs. Pettit
and Sims; the music-hall is a protest against Sardou and the immense
drawing-room sets, rich hangings, velvet sofas, etc., so different from the
movement of the English comedy with its constant change of scene. The
music-hall is a protest against the villa, the circulating library, the
club, and for this the "'all" is inexpressibly dear to me.

But in the interests of those illiterate institutions called theatres it is
not permissible for several characters to narrate events in which there is
a sequel, by means of dialogue, in a music-hall. If this vexatious
restriction were removed it is possible, if it is not certain, that while
some halls remained faithful to comic songs and jugglers others would
gradually learn to cater for more intellectual and subtle audiences, and
that out of obscurity and disorder new dramatic forms, coloured and
permeated by the thought and feeling of to-day, might be definitely
evolved. It is our only chance of again possessing a dramatic literature.

CHAPTER X

It is said that young men of genius come to London with great poems and
dramas in their pockets and find every door closed against them.
Chatterton's death perpetuated this legend. But when I, Edward Dayne, came
to London in search of literary adventure, I found a ready welcome.
Possibly I should not have been accorded any welcome had I been anything
but an ordinary person. Let this be waived. I was as covered with "fads" as
a distinguished foreigner with stars. Naturalism I wore round my neck,
Romanticism was pinned over the heart, Symbolism I carried like a toy
revolver in my waistcoat pocket, to be used on an emergency. I do not judge
whether I was charlatan or genius, I merely state that I found all--actors,
managers, editors, publishers, docile and ready to listen to me. The world
may be wicked, cruel, and stupid, but it is patient; on this point I will
not be gainsaid, it is patient; I know what I am talking about; I maintain
that the world is patient. If it were not, what would have happened? I
should have been murdered by the editors of (I will suppress names), torn
in pieces by the sub-editors, and devoured by the office boys. There was no
wild theory which I did not assail them with, there was no strange plan for
the instant extermination of the Philistine, which I did not press upon
them, and (here I must whisper), with a fair amount of success, not
complete success I am glad to say--that would have meant for the editors a
change from their arm-chairs to the benches of the Union and the plank beds
of Holloway. The actress when she returned home from the theatre, suggested
I had an enemy, a vindictive enemy, who dogged my steps; but her stage
experience led her astray. I had no enemy except myself; or to put it
scientifically, no enemy except the logical consequences of my past life
and education, and these caused me a great and real inconvenience. French
wit was in my brain, French sentiment was in my heart; of the English soul
I knew nothing, and I could not remember old sympathies, it was like
seeking forgotten words, and if I were writing a short story, I had to
return in thought to Montmartre or the Champs Elysees for my characters.
That I should have forgotten so much in ten years seems incredible, and it
will be deemed impossible by many, but that is because few are aware of how
little they know of the details of life, even of their own, and are
incapable of appreciating the influence of their past upon their present.
The visible world is visible only to a few, the moral world is a closed
book to nearly all. I was full of France, and France had to be got rid of,
or pushed out of sight before I could understand England; I was like a
snake striving to slough its skin.

Handicapped as I was with dangerous ideas, and an impossible style, defeat
was inevitable. My English was rotten with French idiom; it was like an
ill-built wall overpowered by huge masses of ivy; the weak foundations had
given way beneath the weight of the parasite; and the ideas I sought to
give expression to were green, sour, and immature as apples in August.

Therefore before long the leading journal that had printed two poems and
some seven or eight critical articles, ceased to send me books for review,
and I fell back upon obscure society papers. Fortunately it was not
incumbent on me to live by my pen; so I talked, and watched, and waited
till I grew akin to those around me, and my thoughts blended with, and took
root in my environment. I wrote a play or two, I translated a French opera,
which had a run of six nights, I dramatized a novel, I wrote short stories,
and I read a good deal of contemporary fiction.

The first book that came under my hand was "A Portrait of a Lady," by Henry
James. Each scene is developed with complete foresight and certainty of
touch. What Mr. James wants to do he does. I will admit that an artist may

Book of the day: