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Escape and Other Essays by Arthur Christopher Benson

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dozen villages round about it which have sprung from the same
needs, the same history; and yet these have missed the unconsidered
charm of Haslingfield, which man did not devise, nor does nature
inevitably bring, but which is instantly recognisable and strangely

Such charm seems to arise partly out of a subtle orderliness and a
simple appropriateness, and partly from a blending of delicate and
pathetic elements in a certain unascertained proportion. It seems
to touch unknown memories into life, and to give a hint of the
working of some half-whimsical, half-tenderly concerned spirit,
brooding over its work, adding a touch of form here and a dash of
colour there, and pleased to see, when all is done, that it is

If one looks closely at life, one sees the same quality in
humanity, in men and women, in books and pictures, and yet one
cannot tell what goes to the making of it. It seems to be a thing
which no energy or design can capture, but which alights here and
there, blowing like the wind at will. It is not force or
originality or inventiveness; very often it is strangely lacking in
any masterful quality at all; but it has always just the same
wistful appeal, which makes one desire to understand it, to take
possession of it, to serve it, to win its favour. It is as when the
child in Francis Thompson's poem seems to say, "I hire you for
nothing." That is exactly it: there is nothing offered or bestowed,
but one is at once magically bound to serve it for love and
delight. There is nothing that one can expect to get from it, and
yet it goes very far down into the soul; it is behind the maddening
desire which certain faces, hands, voices, smiles excite--the
desire to possess, to claim, to know even that no one else can
possess or claim them, which lies at the root of half the jealous
tragedies of life.

Some personalities have charm in a marvellous degree, and if, as
one looks into the old records of life, one discovers figures that
seem to have laid an inexplicable hold on their circles, and to
have passed through life in a tempest of applause and admiration,
one may be sure that charm has been the secret.

Take the case of Arthur Hallam, the inspirer of "In Memoriam." I
remember hearing Mr. Gladstone say, with kindled eye and emphatic
gesture, that Arthur Hallam was the most perfect being physically,
morally, and intellectually that he had ever seen or hoped to see.
He said, I remember, with a smile: "The story of Milnes Gaskell's
friendship with Hallam was curious. You must know that people fell
in love very easily in those days; there was a Miss E-- of whom
Hallam was enamoured, and Milnes Gaskell abandoned his own
addresses to her in favour of Hallam, in order to gain his

Yet the portrait of Hallam which hangs in the provost's house at
Eton represents a rosy, solid, rather heavy-featured young man,
with a flushed face,--Mr. Gladstone said that this was caused by
overwork,--who looks more like a young country bumpkin on the
opera-bouffe stage than an intellectual archangel.

Odder still, the letters, poems, and remains of Hallam throw no
light on the hypnotic effect he produced; they are turgid,
elaborate, and wholly uninteresting; nor does he seem to have been
entirely amiable. Lord Dudley told Francis Hare that he had dined
with Henry Hallam, the historian, who was Arthur Hallam's father,
in the company of the son, in Italy, adding, "It did my heart good
to sit by and hear how the son snubbed the father, remembering how
often the father had unmercifully snubbed me."

There is a hint of beauty in the dark eyes and the down-dropped
curve of the mobile lip in the portrait, and one need not quote "In
Memoriam" to prove how utterly the charm of Hallam subjugated the
Tennyson circle. Wit, swiftness of insight, beauty, lovableness--
all seem to have been there; and it remains that Arthur Hallam was
worshipped and adored by his contemporaries with a fierce jealousy
of devotion. Nothing but the presence of an overmastering charm can
explain this conspiracy of praise; and perhaps there is no better
proof of it than that his friends could detect genius in letters
and poems which seem alike destitute of promise and performance.

There is another figure of earlier date who seems to have had the
same magnetic gift in an even more pre-eminent degree. There is a
portrait by Lawrence of Lord Melbourne that certainly gives a hint,
and more than a hint, of the extraordinary charm which enveloped
him; the thick, wavy hair, the fine nose, the full, but firmly
moulded, lips, are attractive enough. But the large, dark eyes
under strongly marked eyebrows, which are at once pathetic,
passionate, ironical, and mournful, evoke a singular emotion. Every
gift that men hold to be advantageous was showered upon Melbourne.
He was well born, wealthy, able; he was full of humour, quick to
grasp a subject, an omnivorous reader and student, a famous
sportsman. He won the devotion of both men and women. His marriage
with the lovely and brilliant Lady Caroline Ponsonby, whose heart
was broken and mind shattered by her hopeless passion for Byron,
showed how he could win hearts. There is no figure of all that
period of whom one would rather possess a personal memoir. Yet
despite all his fame and political prestige, he was an unhappy,
dissatisfied man, who tasted every experience and joy of life, and
found that there was nothing in it.

The dicta of his that are preserved vibrate between cynicism,
shrewdness, wisdom, and tenderness. "Stop a bit," he said, as the
cabinet went downstairs after a dinner to discuss the corn laws.
"Is it to lower the price of bread or isn't it? It doesn't much
matter which, but we must all say the same thing." Yet, after all,
it is the letters and diaries of Queen Victoria that reveal the
true secret of Melbourne's charm. His relation to his girl-
sovereign is one of the most beautiful things in latter-day
history. Melbourne loved her half paternally, half chivalrously,
while it is evident that the Queen's affection for her gallant and
attractive premier was of a quality which escaped her own
perception. He humoured her, advised her, watched over her; in
return, she idolised him, noted down his smallest sayings,
permitted him to behave and talk just as he would. She lovingly
records his little ways and fancies--how he fell asleep after
dinner, how he always took two apples, and hid one in his lap while
he ate the other.

"I asked him if he meant to cat it. He thought not, and said, 'But
I like to have the power of doing so.' I observed, hadn't he just
as well the power of doing so when the apples were in the dish on
the table? He laughed and said, 'Not the FULL power.'"

Melbourne was full of prejudices and whims and hatreds, but his
charity was boundless, and he always had a good word for an enemy.
He excused the career of Henry VIII to the Queen by saying, "You
see, those women bothered him so." And when he was superseded by
Peel, he combated the Queen's dislike of her new premier, and did
his best to put Peel in a favourable light. When Peel made his
first appearance at Windsor, shy and awkward, and holding himself
like a dancing-master, it was Melbourne who broke the awkward pause
by going up to Peel, and saying in an undertone, "For God's sake,
go and talk to the Queen!" When I was privileged to work through
all Melbourne's letters to the Queen, so carefully preserved and
magnificently bound, I was greatly touched by the sweetness and
tenderness of them, the gentle ironical flavour, the delicate
freedom, and the little presents and remembrances they exchanged up
to the end.

Melbourne can hardly be called a very great man,--he had not the
purpose or tenacity for that, and he thought both too
contemptuously and too indulgently of human nature,--but I know of
no historical figure who is more wholly transfused and penetrated
by the aroma of charm. Everything that he did and said had some
distinction and unusualness: perceptive observation, ripe wisdom,
and, with it all, the petulant attractiveness of the spoiled and
engaging child. And yet even so, one is baffled, because it is not
the profundity or the gravity of what he said that impresses; it is
rather the delicate and fantastic turn he gave to a thought or a
phrase that makes his simplest deductions from life, his most
sensible bits of counsel, appear to have something fresh and
interesting about them, though prudent men have said much the same
before, and said it heavily and solemnly.

Not that charm need be whimsical and freakish, though it is perhaps
most beautiful when there is something of the child about it,
something naive and unconventional. There are men, of whom I think
that Cardinal Newman was pre-eminently one, who seem to have had
the appeal of a pathetic sort of beauty and even helplessness.
Newman seems to have always been surprised to find himself so
interesting to others, and perhaps rather over-shadowed by the
responsibility of it. He was romantically affectionate, and the
tears came very easily at the call of emotion. Such incidents as
that when Newman said good-bye to his bare room at Littlemore, and
kissed the door-posts and the bed in a passion of grief, show what
his intensity of feeling might be.

It is not as a rule the calm and controlled people who have this
attractiveness for others; it is rather those who unite with an
enchanting kind of playfulness an instinct to confide in and to
depend upon protective affection. Very probably there is some deep-
seated sexual impulse involved, however remotely and unconsciously,
in this species of charm. It is the appeal of the child that exults
in happiness, claims it as a right, uses it with a pretty
petulance,--like the feigned enmity of the kitten and the puppy,--
and when it is clouded over, requires tearfully that it shall be
restored. That may seem an undignified comparison for a prince of
the church. But Newman was artist first, and theologian a long way
afterward; he needed comfort and approval and even applause; and he
evoked, together with love and admiration, the compassion and
protective chivalry of his friends. His writings have little
logical or intellectual force; their strength is in their ineffable
and fragrant charm, their ordered grace, their infinite pathos.

The Greek word for this subtle kind of beauty is charis, and the
Greeks are worth hearing on the subject, because they, of all the
nations that ever lived, were penetrated by it, valued it, looked
out for it, worshipped it. The word itself has suffered, as all
large words are apt to suffer, when they are transferred to another
language, because the big, ultimate words of every tongue connote a
number of ideas which cannot be exactly rendered by a single word
in another language. Let us be mildly philological for a moment,
and realise that the word charis in Greek is the substantive of
which the verb is chairo, to rejoice. We translate the word charis
by the English word "grace," which means, apart from its theological
sense, a rich endowment of charm and beauty, a thing which is
essentially a gift, and which cannot be captured by taking thought.
When we say that a thing is done with a perfect grace, we mean that
it seems entirely delightful, appropriate, seemly, and beautiful.
It pleases every sense; it is done just as it should be done,
easily, courteously, gently, pleasantly, with a confidence which is
yet modest, and with a rightness that has nothing rigid or
unamiable about it. To see a thing so done, whatever it may be,
leaves us with an envious desire that we might do the thing in the
same way. It seems easy and effortless, and the one thing worth
doing; and this is where the moral appeal of beauty lies, in the
contagious sort of example that it sets. But when we clumsily
translate the word by "grace," we lose the root idea of the word,
which has a certain joyfulness about it. A thing done with charis
is done as a pleasure, naturally, eagerly, out of the heart's
abundance; and that is the appeal of things so done to the ordinary
mind, that they seem to well up out of a beautiful and happy
nature, as the clear spring rises from the sandy floor of the pool.
The act is done, or the word spoken, out of a tranquil fund of joy,
not as a matter of duty, or in reluctant obedience to a principle,
but because the thing, whatever it is, is the joyful and beautiful
thing to do.

And so the word became the fundamental idea of the Christian life:
the grace of God was the power that floods the whole of the earlier
teaching of the gospel, before the conflict with the ungracious and
suspicious world began--the serene, uncalculating life, lived
simply and purely, not from any grim principle of asceticism, but
because it was beautiful to live so. It stood for the joy of life,
as opposed to its cares and anxieties and ambitions; it was
beautiful to share happiness, to give things away, to live in love,
to find joy in the fresh mintage of the earth, the flowers, the
creatures, the children, before they were clouded and stained by
the strife and greed and enmity of the world. The exquisite quality
of the first soft touches of the gospel story comes from the fact
that it all rose out of a heart of joy, an overflowing certainty of
the true values of life, a determination to fight the uglier side
of life by opposing to it a simplicity and a sweetness that claimed
nothing, and exacted nothing but a right to the purest sort of
happiness--the happiness of a loving circle of friends, where the
sacrifice of personal desires is the easiest and most natural thing
in the world, because such sacrifice is both the best reward and
the highest delight of love. It was here that the strength of
primitive Christianity lay, that it seemed the possession of a
joyful secret that turned all common things, and even sorrow and
suffering, to gold. If a man could rejoice in tribulation, he was
on his way to be invulnerable.

It is not a very happy business to trace the decay of a great and
noble idea; but one can catch a glimpse of the perversion of
"grace" in the hands of our Puritan ancestors, when it became a
combative thing, which instead of winning the enemies of the Lord
by its patient sweetness, put an edge on the sword of holiness, and
enabled the staunch Christian to hew the Amalekites hip and thigh;
so that the word, which had stood for a perfectly peaceful and
attractive charm, became the symbol of righteous persecution, and
flowered in cries of anguish and spilled blood.

We shall take a long time before we can crawl out of the shadow of
that dark inheritance; but there are signs in the world of an
awakening brotherliness; and perhaps we may some day come back to
the old truth, so long mishandled, that the essence of all religion
is a spirit of beauty and of joy, bent on giving rather than
receiving; and so at last we may reach the perception that the
fruitful strength of morality lies not in its terror, its
prohibitions, its coercions, but in its good-will, its tolerance,
its dislike of rebuke and censure, its rapturous acceptance of all
generous and chivalrous and noble ways of living.

And thus, then, I mean by charm not a mere superficial gracefulness
which can be learned, as good manners are learned, through a
certain code of behaviour, but a thing which is the flower and
outward sign of a beautiful attitude to life; an eagerness to
welcome everything which is fine and fresh and unstained; that
turns away the glance from things unlovely and violent and greedy
not in a disapproving or a self-righteous spirit, because it is
respectable to be shocked, but in a sense of shame and disgrace
that such cruel and covetous and unclean things should be. If one
takes a figure like that of St. Francis of Assisi, who for all the
superstition and fanaticism with which the record is intermingled,
showed a real reflection and restoration of the old Christian joy
of life, we shall see that he had firm hold of the secret. St.
Francis's love of nature, of animals, of flowers, of children, his
way of breaking into song about the pleasant things of earth, his
praise of "our sister the Water, because she is very serviceable to
us and humble and clean," show the outrush of an overpowering joy.
He had the courage to do what very few men and women ever dare to
do, and that is to make a clean sweep of property and its
complications; but even so, the old legend distorts some of this
into a priggish desire to set a good example, to warn and rebuke
and improve the occasion. But St. Francis's asceticism is the only
kind of asceticism that has any charm, the self-denial, namely,
that springs from a sense of enjoyment, and is practised from a
feeling of its beauty, and not as a matter of timid and anxious
calculation. It is true that St. Francis was haunted by the
medieval nightmare of the essential vileness of the body, and
spurred it too hard. But apart from this, one recognises in him a
poet, and a man of ineffable charm, who found the company of
sinners at least as attractive as the company of saints, for the
simple reason that the sinner is often enough well meaning and
humble, and is spared at least the ugliness of respectable self-
righteousness, which is of all things most destructive of the sense
of proportion, and most divorced from natural joy. St. Francis took
human nature as he found it, and recognised that failure has a
beauty which is denied to success, for the simple reason that
conscious failure makes a man both grateful and affectionate, while
success too often makes him cold and hard.

And there is thus a wonderful fragrance about all that St. Francis
did and said, though he must have been sorely tried by his stupid
and pompous followers, who constantly misunderstood and
misrepresented him, and dragged into the light what was meant to be
the inner secret of his soul. There are few figures in the roll of
saints so profoundly beautiful and touching as that of St. Francis,
because he had in a pre-eminent degree that childlike freshness and
trustfulness which is the secret of all charm.

Charm is of course not the same thing as beauty, but only a
subdivision of it. There are many things in nature and in art, from
the Matterhorn to "Samson Agonistes," that have no charm, but that
appeal to a different range of emotions, the sublime, the majestic,
the awe-inspiring, things in the presence of which we are hardly at
ease; but charm is essentially a comfortable quality, something
that one gathers to one's heart, and if there is a mystery about
it, as there is about all beautiful things, it is not a mystery of
which one would be afraid to know the secret. Charm is the quality
which makes one desire to linger upon one's pilgrimage, that cries
to the soul to halt, to rest, to be content. It is intimate,
reassuring, and appealing; and the shadow of it is the gentle
pathos, which is in itself half a luxury of sadness, in the thought
that sweet things must have an end. As Herrick wrote to the

Stay, stay
Until the hasting day
Has run
But to the evensong:
And, having prayed together, we
Will go with you along.

We have short time to stay, as you,
We have as short a spring;
As quick a growth to meet decay
As you, or anything.

In such a mood as that there is no sense of terror or despair at
the quick-coming onset of death; no more dread of what may be than
there is when the hamlet, with its little roofs and tall trees, is
folded in the arms of the night, as the sunset dies behind the
hill. Beauty may be a terrible thing, as in the sheeted cataract,
with all its boiling eddies, or in the falling of the lightning
from the womb of the cloud. There is desolation behind that,
gigantic movement, ruthless force; but charm comes like a signal of
security and good-will, and even its inevitable end is lit with
something of mercy and quietness. The danger of charm is that it is
the mother of sentiment; and the danger of sentiment is not that it
is untrue, but that it takes from us the sense of proportion; we
begin to be unable to do without our little scenes and sunsets; and
the eye gets so used to dwelling upon the flower-strewn pleasaunce,
with its screening trees, that it cannot bear to face the far
horizon, with its menace of darkness and storm.

Yet we are very grateful to those who can teach us to turn our eyes
to the charm which surrounds us, and a life which is lived without
such perception is apt to be a rough and hurrying thing, even
though it may also be both high and austere. Like most of life, the
true success lies in not choosing one force and neglecting another,
but in an expectant kind of compromise. The great affairs and facts
of life flash upon us, whether we will or no; and even the man
whose mind is bent upon the greatest hopes and aims may find
strength and consolation in the lesser and simpler delights. Mighty
spirits like, let us say, Carlyle and Ruskin, were not hampered or
distracted from their further quest by the microscopic eye, the
infinite zest for detail, which characterised both. No one ever
spoke so finely as Carlyle of the salient features of moorland and
hill, and the silence so deep that it was possible to hear the far-
off sheep cropping the grass; no one ever noted so instantaneously
the vivid gesture or the picturesque turn of speech, or dwelt more
intently upon the pathetic sculpture of experience seen in the old
humble workaday faces of country-folk. No one ever delighted more
ecstatically than Ruskin in the colour of the amber cataract, with
its soft, translucent rims, its flying spray, or in the dim
splendours of some half-faded fresco, or in the intricate facade of
the crumbling, crag-like church front. But they did not stay there;
indeed, Carlyle, in his passionate career among verities and
forces, hardly took enough account of the beauty so patiently
entwined with mortal things; while Ruskin's sharpest agonies were
endured when he found, to his dismay, that men and women could not
be induced by any appeal or invective to heed the message of

It is true that, however we linger, however passionately we love
the small, sweet, encircling joys and delights of life, the tragic
experience comes to us, whether we will or no. None escapes. And
thus our care must be not to turn our eyes away from what in
sterner moments we are apt to think mere shows and vanities, but to
use them serenely and temperately. St. Augustine, in a magnificent
apologue upon the glories and subtleties of light, can only end by
the prayer that his heart may not thereby be seduced from heavenly
things; but that is the false kind of asceticism, and it is nothing
more than a fear of life, if our only concern with it is to shun
and abhor the joy it would fain give us. But we may be sure that
life has a meaning for us in its charm and loveliness; not the
whole meaning, but still an immense significance. To make life into
a continuous flight, a sad expectancy, a perpetual awe, is wilfully
to select one range of experiences and to neglect its kindness and
its good-will. We may grow weak in our sentiment if we make a
tragedy out of life, if we cannot bear to have our comfortable
arrangements disordered, our little circle of pleasures broken
through. The triumph is to be ready for the change, and to know
that if the perfect summer day comes to an end, the power that
shaped it so, and made the heart swift to love it, has yet larger
surprises and glories in store. If we do that, then the charm of
life takes its place in our spirits as the evidence of something
joyful, wistful, pleasant, bound up with the essence of things; if
it disappears, like the gold or azure thread of the tapestry, it is
only to emerge in the pattern farther on; and the victory is not to
attach ourselves to the particular touches of beauty and fineness
which we see in the familiar scene and the well-loved circle, but
to recognise beauty as a spirit, a quality which is for ever making
itself felt, for ever beckoning and whispering to us, and which
will not fail us even if for a time the urgent wind drives us far
into the night and the storm, among the crash of the breakers, and
the scream of loud winds over the sea.



The liquid kindling of the twilight, the western glow of clear-
burning fires, bringing no weariness of heat but the exquisite
coolness of darkling airs, is of all the ceremonial of the day the
most solemn and sacred moment. The dawn has its own splendours, but
it brightens out of secret mists and folded clouds into the common
light of day, when the burden must be resumed and the common
business of the world renewed again. But the sunset wanes from
glory and majesty into the stillness of the star-hung night, when
tired eyes may close in sleep, and rehearse the mystery of death;
and so the dying down of light, with the suspension of daily
activities, is of the nature of a benediction. Dawn brings the
consecration of beauty to a new episode of life, bidding the soul
to remember throughout the toil and eagerness of the day that the
beginning was made in the innocent onrush of dewy light; but when
the evening comes, the deeds and words of the daylight are
irrevocable facts, and the mood is not one of forward-looking hope
and adventure, but of unalterable memory, and of things dealt with
so and not otherwise, which nothing can henceforward change or
modify. If in the morning we feel that we have power over life, in
the evening we know that, whether we have done ill or well, life's
power over ourselves has been asserted, and that thus and thus the
record must stand.

And so the mood of evening is the larger and the wiser mood,
because we must think less of ourselves and more of God. In the
dawn it seems to us that we have our part to play, and that
nothing, not even God, can prevent us from exercising our will upon
the life about us; but in the evening we begin to wonder how much,
after all, we have the strength to effect; we see that even our
desires and impulses have their roots far back in a past which no
restlessness of design or energy can touch; till we end by
thankfulness that we have been allowed to feel and to experience
the current of life at all. I sat the other day by the bedside of
an old and gracious lady, the widow of a great artist, whose works
with all their shapely form and dusky flashes of rich colour hung
on the walls of her room. She had lived for many years in the
forefront of a great fellowship of art and endeavour; she had seen
and known intimately all the greatest figures in the art and
literature of the last generation; and she was awaiting with
perfect serenity and dignity the close. She said to me with a deep
emotion, "Ah, the only thing that I desire is that I may continue
to FEEL--that brings suffering in abundance with it, but while we
suffer we are at least alive. Once or twice in my life I have felt
the numbness of anguish, when a blow had fallen, and I could not
even suffer. That is the only thing which I dread--not death, nor
silence, but only the obliteration of feeling and love." That was a
wonderful saying, full of life and energy. She did not wish to
recall the old days, nor hanker after them with an unsatisfied
pain; and I saw that an immortal spirit dwelt in that frail body,
like a bird in an outworn cage.

However much one may enjoy the onrush and vividness of life--I for
one find that, though vitality runs now in more definite and
habitual channels, though one has done with making vague impulsive
experiments, though one wastes less time in undertaking doubtful
enterprises, yet there is a great gain in the concentration of
energy, and in the certain knowledge of what one's definite work
really is.

Far from finding the spring and motion of life diminished, I feel
that the current of it runs with a sharper and clearer intensity,
because I have learned my limitations, and expend no energy in
useless enterprises. I have learned what the achievements are which
come joyfully bearing their sheaves with them, and what are the
trivial and fruitless aims. When I was younger I desired to be
known and recognised and deferred to. I wanted to push my way
discreetly into many companies, to produce an impression, to create
a sense of admiration. Now as the sunset draws nearer, and the
enriched light, withdrawn from the farther horizon, begins to
pulsate more intensely in the quarter whence it must soon
altogether fade, I begin to see that vague and widely ranging
effects have a thinness and shallowness about them. It is a poor
thing just to see oneself transiently reflected in a hundred little
mirrors. There is no touch of reality about that. Little greetings,
casual flashes of courteous talk, petty compliments--these are
things that fade as soon as they are born. The only thing worth
doing is a little bit of faithful and solid work, something given
away which costs one real pain, a few ideas and thoughts worked
patiently out, a few hearts really enlivened and inspirited. And
then, too, comes the consciousness that much of one's cherished
labour is of no use at all except to oneself; that work is not a
magnificent gift presented to others, but a wholesome privilege
conceded to oneself, that the love which brought with it but a
momentary flash of self-regarding pleasure is not love at all, and
that only love which means suffering--not delicate regrets and
luxurious reveries, but hard and hopeless pain--is worth the name
of love at all. Those are some of the lights of sunset, the
enfolding gleams that are on their way to death, and which yet
testify that the light which wanes and lapses here, drawn
reluctantly away from dark valley and sombre woodland, is yet
striding ahead over dewy uplands and breaking seas, past the
upheaving shoulder of the world.

But best of all the gifts of sunset to the spirit is the knowledge
that behind all the whirling web of daylight, beyond all the noise
and laughter and appetite and drudgery of life, lies the spirit of
beauty that cannot be always revealed or traced in the louder and
more urgent pageantry of the day. The sunset has the power of
weaving a subtle and remote mystery over a scene that by day has
nothing to show but a homely and obvious animation. I was
travelling the other day and passed, just as the day began to
decline, through the outskirts of a bustling, seaport town. It had
all the interest and curiosity of life. Crowded warehouses,
swinging up straw-packed crates into projecting penthouses;
steamers with red-stained funnels, open-mouthed tubes, gangways,
staircase heads, dangling boats, were moored by bustling wharves.
One could not divine the use of half the strangely shaped objects
with which the scene was furnished, or what the business could be
of all the swarming and hurrying figures. Deep sea-horns blew and
whistles shrilled, orders were given, hands waved. It was life at
its fullest and busiest, but it was life demanding and enforcing
its claim and concealing its further purposes. It was just a
glimpse of something full of urgent haste, but pleasanter to watch
than to mix with; then we passed through a wilderness of little
houses, street after street, yard after yard. Presently we were
rushing away from it all past a lonely sea-creek that ran far up
into the low-lying land. That had a more silent life of its own;
old dusky hulks lay at anchor in the channel; the tide ebbed away
from mudflats and oozy inlets, the skeletons of worn-out boats
stood up out of the weltering clay. Gradually, as the sun went down
among orange stains and twisted cloud-wreaths, the creek narrowed
and beyond lay a mysterious promontory with shadowy woods and low
bare pasture-lands, with here and there a tower standing up or a
solitary sea-mark, or a hamlet of clustered houses by the water's
edge, while the water between grew paler and stiller, reflecting
the wan green of the sky. It is not easy to describe the effect of
this scene, thus magically transfigured, upon the mind; but it is a
very real and distinct emotion, though its charm depends upon the
fact that it shifts the reality of the world to a further point,
away from the definite shapes and colours, the tangible and visible
relations of things, which become for an instant like a translucent
curtain through which one catches a glimpse of a larger and more
beautiful reality. The specific hopes, fears, schemes, designs,
purposes of life, suddenly become an interlude and not an end. They
do not become phantasmal and unreal, but they are known for a brief
moment as only temporary conditions, which by their hardness and
sharpness obscure a further and larger life, existing before they
existed, and extending itself beyond their momentary pact and
influence. All that one is engaged in busily saying and doing and
enacting is seen in that instant to be only as a ripple on a deep
pool. It does not make the activities of life either futile or
avoidable; it only gives the mystical sense, that however urgent
and important they may seem, there is something further, larger,
greater, beyond them, of which they are a real part, but only a

Moreover, in my own experience, the further secret, whatever it is,
is by no means wholly joyful and not at all light-hearted. It seems
to me at such times that it is rather solemn, profound, serious,
difficult, and sad. But it is not a heavy or depressing sadness--
indeed, the thought is at once hopeful and above everything
beautiful. It has nothing that is called sentimental about it. It
is not full of rest and content and peace; it is rather strong and
stern, though it is gentle too; but it is the kind of gentle
strength which faces labour and hardness, not troubled by them, and
indeed knowing that only thus can the secret be attained. There is
no hint of easy, childlike happiness about the mood; there is a
happiness in it, but it is an old and a wise happiness that has
learned how to wait and is fully prepared for endurance. There is
no fretfulness in it, no chafing over dreams unrealised, no
impatience or disappointment. But it does not speak of an
untroubled bliss--rather of a deep, sad and loving patience, which
expects no fulfilment, no easy satisfaction of desire.

It always seems to me that the quality which most differentiates
men is the power of recognising the Unknown. Some natures acquiesce
buoyantly or wretchedly in present conditions, and cannot in any
circumstances look beyond them; some again have a deep distaste for
present conditions whatever they are; and again there are some who
throw themselves eagerly and freely into present conditions, use
experience, taste life, enjoy, grieve, dislike, but yet preserve a
consciousness of something above and beyond. The idealist is one
who has a need in his soul to worship, to admire, to love. The
mistake made too often by religious idealists is to believe that
this sense of worship can only be satisfied by religious and, even
more narrowly, by ecclesiastical observance. For there are many
idealists to whom religion with its scientific creeds and definite
dogmas seems only a dreary sort of metaphysic, an attempt to define
what is beyond definition. But there are some idealists who find
the sense of worship and the consciousness of an immortal power in
the high passions and affections of life. To these the human form,
the spirit that looks out from human eyes, are the symbols of their
mystery. Others find it in art and music, others again in the
endless loveliness of nature, her seas and streams, her hills and
woods. Others again find it in visions of helping and raising
mankind out of base conditions, or in scientific investigation of
the miraculous constitution of nature. It has a hundred forms and
energies; but the one feature of it is the sense of some vast and
mysterious Power, which holds the world in its grasp--a Power which
can be dimly apprehended and even communicated with. Prayer is one
manifestation of this sense, though prayer is but a formulation of
one's desires for oneself and for the world.

But the essential and vital part of the mystery is not what the
soul asks of it, but the signals which it makes to the soul. And
here I am but recording my own experience when I say that the
lights and gleams of sunset, its golden inlets and cloud-ripples,
the dusky veil it weaves about the world, is for my own spirit the
solemnity which effects for me what I believe that the mass effects
for a devoted Catholic--the unfolding in hints and symbols of the
mysteries of God. An unbeliever may look on at a mass and see
nothing but the vesture and the rite, a drama of woven paces and
waving hands, when a believer may become aware of the very presence
of the divine. And the sunset has for me that same unveiling of the
beauty of God; it illumines and transfigures life; it shows me
visibly and sacredly that beauty pure and stainless runs from end
to end of the universe, and calls upon me to adore it, to prostrate
myself before its divine essence. The fact that another may see it
carelessly and indifferently makes no difference. It only means
that not thus does he perceive God. But, for myself, I know no
experience more wholly and deeply religious than when I pass in
solitude among deep stream-fed valleys, or over the wide fenland,
or through the familiar hamlet, and see the dying day flame and
smoulder far down in the west among cloudy pavilions or in tranquil
spaces of clear sky. Then the well-known land whose homely, day-
long energies I know seems to gather itself together into a far and
silent adoration, to commit itself trustfully and quietly to God,
to receive His endless benediction, and in that moment to become
itself eternal in a soft harmony of voiceless praise and passionate



There are days--perhaps it is well that they are not more common--
when by some singular harmony of body and spirit, every little
sound and sight strikes on the senses with a peculiar sharpness and
distinctness of quality, has a keen and racy savour, and comes as
delightfully home to the mind as cool well-water to thirsty lips.
Everything seems in place, in some well-designed combination or
symphony of the senses; and more than that--the sound, the sight,
whatever it be, sets free a whole train of far-reaching and
mysterious thoughts, that seem to flash the secret of life on the
spirit--or rather hint it in a tender, smiling way, as a mother
nods a delighted acquiescence to the eager questions of a child
face to face with some happy surprise. That day of January was just
such a day to me, as we drove along the dreary road from Marazion
to Helston, by ruined mine-towers with their heaps of scoriae,
looking out to the sea on the one hand, and on the other to the
low, monotonous slopes of tilth and pasture, rising and falling
like broad-backed waves, with here and there a wild and broken wood
of firs, like the forest of Broceliande, or a holt of wind-brushed,
fawn-coloured ash-trees, half empurpled by the coming of spring, in
some rushy dingle by the stream side.

It was a cool grey day, with a haze over the sea, the gusty sky of
yesterday having hardened into delicate flakes of pearly cloud,
like the sand on some wave-beaten beach. It was all infinitely soft
and refreshing to the eye, that outspread pastoral landscape, seen
in a low dusk, like the dusk of a winter dawn.

It was then that in a little hollow to our right we saw the old
House of Pengersick--what a grim, lean, hungry sort of name! We
made our way down along a little road, the big worn flints standing
up out of the gravel, by brakes of bramble, turf-walls where the
ferns grew thick, by bits of wild upland covered with gorse and
rusty bracken, and down at last to the tiny hamlet--four or five
low white houses, in little gardens where the escallonia grew thick
and glossy, the purple veronica bloomed richly, and the green
fleshy mesembryanthemum tumbled and dripped over the fences. The
tower itself rose straight out of a farmyard, where calves stared
through the gate, pigs and hens routed and picked in the mire. I
have seldom seen so beautiful a bit of building: it was a great
square battlemented tower, with a turret, the mullioned windows
stopped up with sea-worn boulders. The whole built of very peculiar
stone, of a dark grey tinge, weathered on the seaward side to a
most delicate silvery grey, with ivy sprawling over it in places,
like water shot out from a pail over a stone floor. There were just
a few traces of other buildings in the sheds and walls, and bits of
carved stonework piled up in a rockery. No doubt the little farm
itself and the cottages were all built out of the ruins.

From the tower itself--it has a few bare rooms filled with farm
lumber--one can see down the valley to the long grey line of the
Prah sands, and the low dusky cliffs of Hove point, where the waves
were breaking white.

I suppose it needed to be a strong place. The Algiers and Sallee
pirates used to make descents upon this coast till a comparatively
recent date. As late as 1636 they kidnapped seven boats and forty-
two fishermen off the Manacles, none of whom were ever heard of
again. Eighty fishermen from Looe were captured in one day, and
there is a complaint extant from the justices of Cornwall to the
lord lieutenant that in one year Cornwall had lost above a thousand
mariners thus!

But there was also another side to the picture; the natives all
along this coast were dreadful wreckers and plunderers themselves,
and made little account of burning a ship and knocking the
survivors on the head. The very parish, Germoe, in which Pengersick
stands, had as bad a name as any in Cornwall:

God keep us from rocks and shelving sands,
And save us from Breage and Germoe men's hands,

runs the old rhyme. And there is an evil old story of how a
treasure ship, the St. Andrew of Portugal, went ashore at Gunwalloe
in January 1526. There were thousands of cakes of copper and silver
on board, plate, pearls, jewels, chains, brooches, arras, satins,
velvets, sets of armour for the King of Portugal, and a huge chest
of coined gold.

The wretched crew got most of the treasure to land and stacked it
on the cliffs, when John Milliton of Pengersick, with a St. Aubyn
and a Godolphin, came down with sixty armed men, and took all the
treasure away. Complaints were made, and the three gentlemen
protested that they had but ridden down to save the crew, had found
them destitute, and had even given them money. But I daresay the
big guest-chamber of Pengersick was hung with Portuguese arras for
many a long year afterwards.

The Millitons died out, and their land passed by purchase or
marriage to the descendants of another of the three pious squires,
Godolphin of Godolphin--and belongs to-day to his descendant, the
Duke of Leeds.

One would have thought that men could not have borne to live so, in
such deadly insecurity. But probably they troubled their heads
little about the pirates, kept the women and children at home, and
set a retainer on the cliff in open weather, to scan the offing for
the light-rigged barques, while poorer folk took their chance. We
live among a different set of risks now, and think little of them,
as the days pass.

The life of the tower was simple and hardy enough--some fishing and
hunting, some setting of springes on the moor for woodcock and
rabbits, much farmwork, solid eating and drinking, and an
occasional carouse--a rude, plentiful, healthy life, perhaps not as
far removed from our own as we like to believe.

But the old tower spoke to me to-day of different things, of the
buried life of the past, of the strange drift of human souls
through the world for their little span of life, love, and sorrow,
and all so pathetically ignorant of what goes before and follows
after, why it so comes about, and what is the final aim of the will
we blindly serve. Here was a house of men, I said to myself, with
the same hopes and fears and fancies as myself, and yet none of
them, could I recall them, could give me any reason for the life we
thus hurriedly live, so much of it entirely joyful and delightful,
so much of it distasteful and afflicting. On a sunny day of summer,
with the sea a sapphire blue, set with great purple patches, the
scent of the gorse in the air, the sound of the clear stream in
one's ears, what could be sweeter than to live? and even on dark
days, when the wind volleys up from the sea, and the rain dashes on
the windows, and the gulls veer and sail overhead, the great guest-
room with its fire of wreckage, the women working, the children
playing about, must have been a pleasant place enough. But even to
the strongest and boldest of the old squires the end came, as the
waggon with the coffin jolted along the stony lane, and the bell of
Germoe came faintly over the hill.

But I could not think of that to-day, with a secret joy in my
heart; I thought rather of the splendid mystery of life, that seems
to screen from us something more gracious still--the steep velvet
sky full of star-dust, the flush of spring in sunlit orchards, the
soft, thunderous echoes of great ocean billows, the orange glow of
sunset behind dark woods: all that background of life; and then the
converse of friend with friend, the intercepted glance of wondering
eyes, the whispered message of the heart. All this, and a crowd of
other sweet images and fancies came upon me in a rush to-day, like
scents from a twilight garden, as I watched the old silvery tower
stand up bluff and square, with the dark moorland behind it, and
the little houses clustering about its feet.



I wonder if any human being has ever expended as much sincere and
unrequited love upon the little pastoral villages about Cambridge
as I have. No one ever seems to me to take the smallest interest in
them or to know them apart or to remember where they are. It is
true that it takes a very faithful lover to distinguish instantly
and impeccably between Histon, Hinxton, Hauxton, Harston, and
Harlton; but to me they have all of them a perfectly distinct
quality, and make a series of charming little pastoral pictures in
the mind. Who shall justly and perfectly assess the beautiful
claims of Great and Little Eversden? I doubt if any inhabitant of
Cambridge but myself and one friend of mine, a good man and true,
could do it. Yet it is as pleasant to have a connoisseurship in
villages as to have a connoisseurship in wines or cigars, though it
is not so regarded.

What is the charm of them? That I cannot say. It is a mystery, like
the charm of all sweet things; and further, what is the meaning of
love for an inanimate thing, with no individuality, no personality,
no power of returning love? The charm of love is that one discerns
some spirit making signals back. "I like you to be here, I trust
you, I am glad to be with you, I wish to give you something, to
increase your joy, as mine is increased." That, or something like
that, is what one reads in the eyes and faces and gestures of those
whom one dares to love. One would otherwise be sadly and mournfully
alone if one could not come across the traces of something, some
one whose heart leaps up and whose pulse quickens at the proximity
of comrade and friend and lover. But even so there is always the
thought of the parting ahead, when, after the sharing of joy, each
has to go on his way alone.

Then, one may love animals; but that is a very strange love, for
the man and the animal cannot understand each other. The dog may be
a true and faithful comrade, and there really is nothing in the
world more wonderful than the trustful love of a dog for a man. One
may love a horse, I suppose, though the horse is a foolish creature
at best; one may have a sober friendship with a cat, though a cat
does little more than tolerate one; and a bird can be a merry
little playfellow: but the terror of wild animals for men has
something rather dreadful about it, because it stands for many
centuries of cruel wrong-doing.

And one may love, too, with a wistful sort of love the works of
men, pictures, music, statues; but that, I think, is because one
discerns a human figure at the end of a vista--a figure hurrying
away through the ages, but whom one feels one could have loved had
time and place only allowed.

But when it comes to loving trees and flowers, streams and hills,
buildings and fields, what is it that happens? I have a perfectly
distinct feeling about these little villages hereabouts. Some are
to me like courteous strangers, some like dull and indifferent
people, some like pleasant, genial folk whom I am mildly pleased to
see; but with some I have a real and devoted friendship. I like
visiting them, and if I cannot visit them, I think of them; when I
am far away the thought of them comes across me, and I am glad to
think of them waiting there for me, nestling under their hill, the
smoke going up above the apple-orchards.

One or two of them are particularly beloved because I visited them
first thirty years ago, when I was an undergraduate, and the
thought of the old days and the old friendships springs up again
like a sweet and far-off fragrance when I enter them. Yet I do not
know any of the people who live in these villages, though by dint
of going there often there are a few people by whom I am recognised
and saluted.

But let me take one village in particular, and I will not name it,
because one ought not to publish the names of those whom one loves.
What does it consist of? It straggles along a rough and ill-laid
lane, under a little wold, once a sheep-walk, now long ploughed up.
The soil of the wold is pale, so that in the new-ploughed fields
there rest soft, creamlike shadows when the evening sun falls
aslant. There are two or three substantial farmhouses of red brick,
comfortable old places, with sheds and ricks and cattle-byres and
barns close about them. And I think it is strange that the scent of
a cattle-byre, with its rich manure and its oozing pools, is not
ungrateful to the human sense. It ought to be, but it is not. It
gives one, by long inheritance, no doubt, a homelike feeling.

Then there are many plastered, white-walled, irregular cottages,
very quaint and pretty, perhaps a couple of centuries old, very ill
built, no doubt, but enchanting to look at; there is a new
schoolhouse, very ugly at present, with its smart red brick and its
stone facings--ugly because it does not seem to have grown up out
of the place, but to have been brought there by rail; and there are
a few new yellow-brick cottages, probably much pleasanter to live
in than the old ones, but with no sort of interest or charm. The
whole is surrounded by little fields, orchards, closes, paddocks,
and a good many great elms stand up above the house-roofs. There is
one quaint old farm, with a moat and a dove-cote and a fine, old
mellow brick wall surrounded by little pollarded elms, very quiet
and characteristic; and then there is a big, ancient church, by
whom built one cannot divine, because there is no squire in the
village, and the farmers and labourers could no more build such a
church now than they could build a stellar observatory. It would
cost nowadays not less than ten thousand pounds, and there is no
record of who gave the money or who the architect was. It has a
fine tower and a couple of solid bells; it has a few bits of good
brass-work, a chandelier and some candlesticks, and it has a fine
eighteenth-century tomb in a corner, with a huge slab of black
basalt on the top, and a heraldic shield and a very obsequious
inscription, which might apply to anyone, and yet could be true of
nobody. Why the particular old gentleman should want to sleep
there, or who was willing to spend so much on his lying in state,
no one knows, and I fear that no one cares except myself.

There are a few little bits of old glass in the church, in the
traceries of the windows, just enough to show that some one liked
making pretty things, and that some one else cared enough to pay
for them. And then there is a solid rectory by the church,
inhabited for centuries by fellows of a certain Cambridge college.
I do not expect that they lived there very much. Probably they rode
over on Sundays, read two services, and had a cold luncheon in
between; perhaps they visited a sick parishioner, and even came
over on a week-day for a marriage or a funeral; and I daresay that
in the summer, when the college was deserted, they came and lived
there for a few weeks, rather bored, and longing for the warm
combination room and the college port and the gossip and stir of
the place.

That is really all, I think. And what is there to love in all that?

Well, it is a little space of earth in which life has been going on
for I daresay a thousand years. The whole place has grown slowly up
out of the love and care and work of man. Perhaps there were
nothing but little huts and hovels at first, with a tiny rubble
church; then the houses grew a little bigger and better. Perhaps it
was emptied again by the Black Death, which took a long toll of
victims hereabouts. Shepherds, ploughmen, hedgers, ditchers,
farmers, an ale-house-keeper, a shopkeeper or two, and a priest--
that has been the village for a thousand years. Patient, stupid,
toilsome, unimaginative, kindly little lives, I daresay. Not much
interested in one another, ill educated, gossipy, brutish,
superstitious, but surprised perhaps into sudden passions of love,
and still more surprised perhaps by the joys of fatherhood and
motherhood; with children of all ages growing up, pretty and
engaging and dirty and amusing and naughty, fading one by one into
dull and sober age, and into decrepitude, and the churchyard at the
end of all!

Well, I think all that pathetic and mysterious, and beautiful with
the beauty that reality has. I want to know who all the folks were,
what they looked like, what they cared about or thought about, how
they made terms with pain and death, what they hoped, expected,
feared, and what has become of them. Everyone as urgently and
vehemently and interestedly alive as I myself, and yet none of them
with the slightest idea of how they got there or whither they were
going--the great, helpless, good-natured, passive army of men and
women, pouring like a stream through the world, and borne away on
the wings of the wind. They were glad to be alive, no doubt, when
the sun fell on the apple-orchard, and the scent of the fruit was
in the air, and the bees hummed round the blossoms, when people
smile at each other and say kind and meaningless things; they were
afraid, no doubt, as they lay in pain in the stuffy attics, with
the night wind blustering round the chimney-stack, and hoped to be
well again. Then there were occasions and treats, the Sunday
dinner, the wedding, the ride in the farm-cart to Cambridge, the
visit of the married sister from her home close by. I do not
suppose they knew or cared what was happening in the world. War and
politics made little difference to them. They knew about the
weather, they cared perhaps about their work, they liked the Sunday
holiday--all very dim and simple, thoughts not expressed, feelings
not uttered, experience summed up in little bits of phrases. Yet I
like to think that they were pleased with the look of the place
without knowing why. I don't deceive myself about all this, or make
it out as idyllic. I don't exactly wish to have lived thus, and I
expect it was coarse, greedy, dull, ugly, a great deal of it; but
though I can think fine thoughts about it, and put my thoughts into
musical words, I do not honestly believe that my life, my hopes, my
feelings differ very much from the experience of these old people.

Of course I have books and pictures and intellectual fancies and
ideas; but that is only an elaborate game that I play, the things I
notice and recognise: but I expect the old hearts and minds were at
work, too, noticing and observing and recording; and all my
flourish of talk and thought is only a superficial affair.

And what consecrates and lights up the little place for me, touches
it with golden hues, makes it moving, touching, beautiful, is the
thought of all that strange, unconscious life, the love and hate,
the fear and the content, the joy and sorrow, that has surged to
and fro among the thatched roofs and apple-orchards so many
centuries before I came into being, and will continue when I am
trodden into the dust.

When I came here first thirty years ago, exploring with a friend
long dead the country-side, it was, I am sure, the same thought
that made the place beautiful. I could not then put it into words;
I have learned to do that since, and word-painting is a very
pleasant pastime. It was a hot, bright summer day--I recall the
scent of the clover in the air--and there came on me that curious
uplifting of the heart, that wonder as to what all the warmth and
scent, the green-piled tree, the grazing cows, the children
trotting to and fro, could possibly mean, or why it was all so
utterly delightful. It was not a religious feeling, but there was a
sense of a great, good-natured, beauty-loving mind behind it all--a
mind very like our own, and yet even then with a shadow striking
across it--the shadow of pain and grief and hollow farewells.

I was not a very contented boy in those days, in some bewilderment
of both mind and heart, having had my first experience that life
could be hard and intricate. The world was sweeter to me, though
not so interesting as it now is; but I had just the same deep
desire as I have now, though it has not been satisfied, to find
something strong and secure and permanent, some heart to trust
utterly and entirely, something that could understand and comfort
and explain and reassure, a power which one could clasp hands with,
as a child lays its delicate finger in a strong, enfolding palm,
and never be in any doubt again. It is one's weakness which is so
tiring, so disappointing; and yet I do not want a careless,
indifferent, brutal, healthy strength at all. It is the strength of
love and peace that I want, not to be afraid, not to be troubled.
It is all somewhere, I do not doubt:

Yet, oh, the place could I but find!

I have been through my village this very day. The sun was just
beginning to slope to the west; the sun poured out his rays of gold
from underneath the shadow of a great, dark, up-piled cloud--the
long rays which my nurse used to tell me were sucking up water, but
which I believed to be the eye of God. The trees were bare, but the
elm-buds were red, and the willow-rods were crimson with spring;
the little stream bubbled clearly off the hill; and the cottage
gardens were full of up-thrusting blades; while the mezereons were
all aflame with bloom. Life moving, pausing, rushing past! I
wonder. When I pass the gate, if I see the dawn of that other
morning, I cannot help feeling that I shall want to see my little
village again, to loiter down the lane among the white-gabled
houses. Shall I be much wiser then than I am now? Shall I have seen
or heard something which will set my anxious mind at rest? Who can
tell me? And yet the old, gnarled apple-boughs, with the blue sky
behind them, and the new-springing grass all seem to hold the
secret, which I want as much to interpret and make my own as when I
wandered through the hamlet under the wold more than thirty years



There is a movement nowadays among the philosophers who study the
laws of thought, to lay a strong emphasis upon the phenomena of
dreams; what part of us is it that enacts with such strange zest
and vividness, and yet with so mysterious a disregard of ordinary
motives and conventions, the pageant of dreams? Like many other
things which befall us in daily life, dreams are so familiar a
fact, that we often forget to wonder at the marvellousness of it
all. The two points about dreams which seem to me entirely
inexplicable are: firstly, that they are so much occupied with
visual impressions, and secondly, that though they are all self-
invented and self-produced, they yet contrive to strike upon the
mind with a marvellous freshness of emotion and surprise. Let us
take these two points a little more in detail.

When one awakes from a vivid dream one generally has the impression
of a scene of some kind, which has been mainly received through the
medium of the eye. I suppose that this varies with different
people, but my own dreams are rather sharply divided into certain
classes. I am oftenest a silent spectator of landscapes of
ineffable beauty, such as a great river, as blue as sapphire,
rolling majestically down between vast sandstone cliffs, or among
wooded hills, piled thick with trees rich in blossom; or I see
stately buildings crowded together among woodlands, with long
carved fronts of stone and airy towers. These dreams are peculiarly
uplifting and stimulating, and I wake from them with an
extraordinary sense of beauty and wonder; or else I see from some
window or balcony a great ceremony of some quite unintelligible
kind proceeding, a procession with richly dressed persons walking
or riding, or a religious pomp taking place in a dim pillared
interior. All such dreams pass by in absolute silence. I have no
idea where I am, nor what is happening, nor am I curious to know.
No voice is upraised, and there is no one at hand to converse with.

Then again there are dreams of which the substance is animated and
vivid conversation. I have long and confidential talks with people
like the Pope or the Tsar of Russia. They ask my advice, they quote
my books, and I am surprised to find them so familiar and
accessible. Or I am in a strange house with an unknown party of
guests, and person after person comes up to tell me all kinds of
interesting facts and details. Or else, as often happens to me, I
meet people long since dead; I dream constantly, for instance,
about my father. I see him by chance at a railway station, we
congratulate ourselves upon the happy accident of meeting; he takes
my arm, he talks smilingly and indulgently; and the only way in
which the knowledge that he is dead affects the dream is that I
feel bewildered at having seen so little of him of late, and even
ask him where he has been for so long that we have not met oftener.

Very occasionally I hear music in a dream. I well remember hearing
four musicians with little instruments like silver flutes play a
quartet of infinite sweetness; but most of my adventures take place
either among fine landscapes or in familiar conversation.

At one time, as a child, I had an often repeated dream. We were
then living in an old house at Lincoln, called the Chancery. It was
a large rambling place, with some interesting medieval features,
such as a stone winding staircase, a wooden Tudor screen, built
into a wall, and formerly belonging to the chapel of the house,
There were, moreover, certain quite unaccountable spaces, where the
external measurements of passages did not correspond with the
measurement of rooms within. This fact excited our childish
imagination, and probably was the origin of the dream.

It always began in the same way. I would appear to be descending a
staircase which led up into a lobby, and would find that a certain
step rattled as I trod upon it. Upon examination the step proved to
be hinged, and on opening it, the head of a staircase appeared,
leading downwards. Though, as I say, the dream was often repeated,
it was always with the same shock of surprise that I made the
discovery. I used to squeeze in through the opening, close the step
behind me, and go down the stairs; the place was dimly lighted with
some artificial light, the source of which I could never discover.
At the bottom a large vaulted room was visible, of great extent,
fitted with iron-barred stalls as in a stable. These stalls were
tenanted by animals; there were dogs, tigers, and lions. They were
all very tame, and delighted to see me. I used to go into the
stalls one by one, feed and play with the animals, and enjoy myself
very much. There was never any custodian to be seen, and it never
occurred to me to wonder how the animals had got there, nor to whom
they belonged. After spending a long time with my menagerie, I used
to return; and the only thing that seemed of importance to me was
that I should not be seen leaving the place. I used to raise the
step cautiously and listen, so as to be sure that there was no one
about; generally in the dream some one came down the stairs over my
head; and I then waited, crouched below, with a sense of delightful
adventure, until the person had passed by, when I cautiously
extricated myself. This dream became quite familiar to me, so that
I used to hope in my mind, on going to bed, that I might be about
to see the animals. but I was often disappointed, and dreamed of
other things. This dream visited me at irregular intervals for I
should say about two or three years, and then I had it no more; but
the singular fact about it was that it always came with the same
sense of wonder and delight, and while actually dreaming it, I
never realised that I had seen it before.

The only other tendency to a recurring dream that I have ever
noticed was in the course of the long illness of which I have
written elsewhere; my dreams were invariably pleasant and agreeable
at that time; but I constantly had the experience in the course of
them of seeing something of a profound blackness. Sometimes it was
a man in a cloak, sometimes an open door with an intensely black
space within, sometimes a bird, like a raven or a crow; oftenest of
all it took the shape of a small black cubical box, which lay on a
table, without any apparent lid or means of opening it. This I used
to take up in my hands, and find very heavy; but the predominance
of some intensely black object, which I have never experienced
before or since, was too marked to be a mere coincidence; and I
have little doubt that it was some obscure symptom of my condition,
and had some definite physical cause. Indeed, at the same time, I
was occasionally aware of the presence of something black in waking
hours, not a thing definitely seen, but existing dimly in a visual
cell. After I recovered, this left me, and I have never seen it

These are the more coherent kind of dreams; but there is another
kind of a vaguely anxious character, which consist of endless
attempts to catch trains, or to fulfil social engagements, and are
full of hurry and dismay. Or one dreams that one has been condemned
to death for some unknown offence, and the time draws near; some
little while ago I spent the night under these circumstances
interviewing different members of the Government in a vain attempt
to discover the reasons for my condemnation; they could none of
them give me a specific account of the affair, and could only
politely deplore that it was necessary to make an example. "Depend
upon it," said Mr. Lloyd-George to me, "SUBSTANTIAL justice will
be done!" "But that is no consolation to me," I said. "No," he
replied kindly, "it would hardly amount to that!"

But out of all this there emerges the fact that after a vivid
dream, one's memory is full of pictures of things seen quite as
distinctly, indeed often more distinctly, than in real life. I have
a clearer recollection of certain dream-landscapes than I have of
many scenes actually beheld with the eye; and this sets me
wondering how the effect is brought about, and how the memory is
enabled to store what appears to be a visual impression, by some
reflex action of the nerves of sight.

Then there is the second point, that of the lively emotions stirred
by dreams. It would really appear that there must be two distinct
personalities at work, without any connection between them, one
unconsciously inventing and the other consciously observing. I
dreamed not long ago that I was walking beside the lake at
Riseholme, the former palace of the bishops of Lincoln, where I
often went as a child. I saw that the level of the lake had sunk,
and that there was a great bank of shingle between the water and
the shore, on which I proceeded to pace. I was attracted by
something sticking out of the bank, and on going up to it, I saw
that it was the base of a curious metal cup. I pulled it out and
saw that I had found a great golden chalice, much dimmed with age
and weather. Then I saw that farther in the bank there were a
number of cups, patens, candlesticks, flagons, of great antiquity
and beauty. I then recollected that I had heard as a child (this
was wholly imaginary, of course) that there had once been a great
robbery of cathedral plate at Lincoln, and that one of the bishops
had been vaguely suspected of being concerned in it; and I saw at
once that I had stumbled on the hoard, stowed there no doubt by
guilty episcopal hands--I even recollected the name of the bishop

Now as a matter of fact one part of my mind must have been ahead
inventing this story, while the other part of the mind was
apprehending it with astonishment and excitement. Yet the observant
part of the mind was utterly unaware of the fact that I was myself
originating it all. And the only natural inference would seem to be
that there is a real duality of mind at work.

For when one is composing a story, in ordinary waking moments, one
has the sense that one is inventing and controlling the incidents.
In dreams this sense of proprietorship is utterly lost; one seems
to have no power over the inventive part of the mind; one can only
helplessly follow its lead, and be amazed at its creations. And
yet, sometimes, in a dream of tragic intensity, as one begins to
awake, a third person seems to intervene, and says reassuringly
that it is only a dream. This intervention seems to disconcert the
inventor, who then promptly retires, while it brings sudden relief
to the timid and frightened observer. It would seem then that the
rational self reasserts itself, and that the two personalities, one
of which has been creating and the other observing, come in like
dogs to heel.

Another very curious part of dreams is that they concern themselves
so very little with the current thoughts of life. My dreams are
mostly composed, as I have said, of landscapes, ceremonies,
conversations, sensational adventures, muddling engagements. When I
was a schoolmaster, I seldom dreamed of school; now that I am no
longer a schoolmaster, I do sometimes dream of school, of trying to
keep order in immense classrooms, or hurrying about in search of my
form. When I had my long and dreary illness, lasting for two years,
I invariably had happy dreams. Now that I am well again, I often
have dreams of causeless and poignant melancholy. It is the rarest
thing in the world for me to be able to connect my dreams with
anything which has recently happened; I cannot say that marvellous
landscapes, ceremonies, conversations with exalted personages,
sensational incidents, play any considerable part in my life; and
yet these are the constituent elements in my dreams. The scientific
students of psychology say that the principal stuff of dreams seems
to be furnished by the early experience of life; and when they are
dealing with mental ailments, they say that delusions and
obsessions are often explained by the study of the dreams of
diseased brains, which point as a rule either to some unfulfilled
desire, or to some severe nervous shock sustained in childhood. But
I cannot discern any predominant cause of my own elaborate visions;
the only physical cause which seems to me to be very active in
producing dreams is if I am either too hot or too cold in bed. A
sudden change of temperature in the night is the one thing which
seems to me quite certain to produce a great crop of dreams.

Another very curious fact about my dreams is that I am wholly
deserted by any moral sense. I have stolen interesting objects, I
have even killed people in dreams, without adequate cause; but I am
then entirely devoid of remorse, and only anxious to escape
detection. I have never felt anything of the nature of shame or
regret in a dream. I find myself anxious indeed, but fertile in
expedients for escaping unscathed. On the other hand, certain
emotions are very active in dreams. I sometimes appear to go with a
brother or sister through the rooms or gardens of a house, which on
awaking proves to be wholly imaginary, and recall with my companion
all sorts of pathetic and delightful incidents of childhood which
seem to have taken place there.

Again, though much of my life is given to writing, I hardly ever
find myself composing anything in a dream. Once I wrote a poem in
my sleep, a curious Elizabethan lyric, which may be found in the
Oxford Book of Verse, called "The Phoenix." It is not the sort of
thing that I have ever written before or since. It came to me on
the night before my birthday, in 1891, I think, when I was staying
with a friend at the Dun Bull Hotel, by Hawes Water in Westmorland.
I scribbled the lyric down on awaking. I afterwards added a verse,
thinking the poem incomplete. I published it in a book of poems,
and showed the proof to a friend, who said to me, pointing to the
added stanza: "Ah, you must omit that stanza--it is quite out of
keeping with the rest of the poem!"

But this is a quite unique experience, except that I once dreamed I
was present at a confirmation service, at which a very singular
hymn was sung, which I recollected on waking, and which is far too
grotesque to write down, being addressed, as it was, to the bishop
who was to perform the rite. At the time, however, it seemed to me
both moving and appropriate.

It is often said that dreams only take place either when one is
just going to sleep or beginning to awake. But that is not my
experience. I have occasionally been awakened suddenly by some loud
sound, and on those occasions I have come out of dreams of an
intensity and vividness that I have never known equalled. Neither
is it true in my experience that dreamful sleep is unrefreshing. I
should say it was rather the other way. Profound and heavy sleep is
generally to me a sign that I am not very well; but a sleep full of
happy and interesting dreams is generally succeeded by a feeling of
freshness and gaiety, as if one had been both rested and well

These are only a few scattered personal experiences, and I have no
philosophy of dreams to suggest. It is in my case an inherited
power. My father was the most vivid and persistent dreamer I have
ever met, and his dreams had a quality of unexpectedness and
interest of which I have never known the like. The dream of his,
which I have told in his biography, of the finding of the grave of
the horse of Titus Oates, seems to me one of the most extraordinary
pieces of invention I have ever heard, because of the conversation
which took place before he realised what the slab actually was.

He dreamed that he was standing in Westminster Abbey with Dean
Stanley, looking at a small cracked slab of slate with letters on
it. "We've found it," said Stanley. "Yes," said my father, "and how
do you account for it?" "Why," said Stanley, "I suppose it is
intended to commemorate the fact that the animal innocence was not
affected by the villainies of the master." "Of course!" said my
father, who was still quite unaware what the inscription referred
to. He then saw on the slab the letters ITI CAPITANI, and knew that
the stone was one that had marked the grave of Titus Oates' horse,
and that the whole inscription must have been EQUUS TITI CAPITANI,-
-"The horse of Titus the Captain"--the "Captain" referring to the
fact that my father then recollected that Titus Oates had been a
Train-band Captain.

My only really remarkable dream containing a presentiment or rather
a clairvoyance of a singular kind, hardly explicable as a mere
coincidence, has occurred to me since I began this paper.

On the night of December 8, 1914, I dreamed that I was walking
along a country road, between hedges. To the left was a little
country house, in a park. I was proposing to call there, to see, I
thought, an old friend of mine, Miss Adie Browne, who has been dead
for some years, though in my dream I thought of her as alive.

I came up with four people, walking along the road in the same
direction as myself. There was an elderly man, a younger man, red-
haired, walking very lightly, in knickerbockers, and two boys whom
I took to be the sons of the younger man. I recognised the elder
man as a friend, though I cannot now remember who he appeared to
be. He nodded and smiled to me, and I joined the party. Just as I
did so, the younger man said, "I am going to call on a lady, an
elderly cousin of mine, who lives here!" He said this to his
companions, not to me, and I became aware that he was speaking of
Miss Adie Browne. The older man said to me, "You have not been
introduced," and then, presenting the younger man, he said, "This
is Lord Radstock!" We shook hands and I said, "Do you know, I am
very much surprised; I understood Lord Radstock to be a much older

I do not remember any more of the dream; but it had been very
vivid, and when I was called, I went over it in my mind. A few
minutes later, the Times of December 9 was brought to my bedroom,
and opening it, I saw the sudden death of Lord Radstock announced.
I had not known that he was ill, and indeed had never thought of
him for years; but the strange thing is this, that he was a cousin
of Miss Adie Browne's, and she used to tell me interesting stories
about him. I do not suppose that since her death I have ever heard
his name mentioned, and I had never met him. So that, as a matter
of fact, when I dreamed my dream, the old Lord Radstock was dead,
and his son, who is a man of fifty-four, was the new Lord Radstock.
The man I saw in my dream was not, I should say, more than about
forty-five; but I remember little of him, except that he had red

I do not take in an evening paper, but I do not think there was any
announcement of Lord Radstock's illness, on the previous day; in
fact his death seems to have been quite sudden and unexpected.
Apart from coincidence, the rational explanation might be that my
mind was in some sort of telepathic communication with that of my
old and dear friend Miss Adie Browne, who is indeed often in my
mind, and one would also have to presuppose that her spirit was
likewise aware of her cousin Lord Radstock's death. I do not
advance this as the only explanation, but it seems to me a not
impossible one of a mysterious affair.

My conclusion, such as it is, would be that the rational and moral
faculties are in suspense in dreams, and that it is a wholly
primitive part of one's essence that is at work. The creative power
seems to be very strong, and to have a vigorous faculty of
combining and exaggerating the materials of memory; but it deals
mainly with rather childish emotions, with shapes and colours, with
impressive and distinguished people, with things marvellous and
sensational, with troublesome and perplexed adventures. It does not
go far in search of motives; in the train-catching dreams, for
instance, I never know exactly where I am going, or what is the
object of my journey; in the ceremonial dreams, I seldom have any
notion of what is being celebrated.

But what I cannot in the least understand is the complete
withdrawal of consciousness from the inventive part of the mind,
especially when the observant part is so eagerly and alertly aware
of all that is happening. Moreover, I can never understand the
curious way in which dream-experiences, so vivid at the time, melt
away upon awakening. If one rehearses a dream in memory the moment
one awakes, it becomes a very distinct affair. If one does not do
this, it fades swiftly, and though one has a vague sense of rich
adventures, half an hour later there seems to be no power whatever
of recovering them.

Strangest of all, the inventive power in dreams seems to have a
range and an intensity which does not exist when one is awake. I
have not the slightest power, in waking life, of conceiving and
visualising the astonishing landscapes which I see in dreams. I can
recall actual scenes with great distinctness, but the glowing
colour and the prodigious forms of my landscape visions are wholly
beyond my power of thought.

Lastly, I have never had any dream of any real or vital
significance, any warning or presentiment, anything which bore in
the least degree upon the issues of life.

There is a beautiful passage in the "Purgatorio" of Dante about the
dawn: he writes

In that hour
When near the dawn the swallow her sad song,
Haply remembering ancient grief, renews;
And when our minds, more wanderers from the flesh
And less by thought restrained, are, as 't were, full
Of holy divination in their dreams.

I suppose that it would be possible to interpret one's dreams
symbolically; but in my own case my dream-experiences all seem to
belong to a wholly different person from myself, a light-hearted,
childish, careless creature, full of animation and inquisitiveness,
buoyant and thoughtless, content to look neither forwards nor
backwards, wholly without responsibility or intelligence, just
borne along by the pleasure of the moment, perfectly harmless and
friendly as a rule, a sort of cheerful butterfly. That is not in
the least my waking temperament; but it fills me sometimes with an
uneasy suspicion that it is more like myself than I know.



I am going to try to put into words a very singular and very
elusive experience which visits me not infrequently. I cannot say
when it began, but I first became aware of it about four years ago.

It takes the form of an instantaneous mental vision, not very
distinct but still not to be mistaken for anything else, of two
people, a husband and wife, who are living somewhere in a large
newly built house. The husband is a man of, I suppose, about forty--
the wife is a trifle younger, and they are childless. The husband
is an active, well-built man with light, almost golden hair, rather
coarse in texture, and with a pointed beard of the same hue. He has
fine, clean-cut, muscular hands, and he wears, as I see him, a
rough, rather shabby suit of light, homespun cloth. The wife is of
fair complexion, a beautiful woman, with brown hair, and dressed, I
think, in a very simple and rather peculiar dress. They are people
of high principle, wealthy, and with cultivated tastes. They care
for music and books and art. The husband has no profession. They
live in a wide, well-wooded landscape, I am inclined to think in
Sussex, in a newly built house, as I have said, of white plaster
and timber, tiled, with many gables and with two large, bow-
windowed rooms, rather low, the big mullioned oriels of which, with
leaded roofs, are a rather conspicuous feature of the house. The
house stands on a slightly rising ground, in a park-like demesne
of a few acres, well timbered, and with open paddocks of grass. The
house is approached by a drive from the main road, with two big
gateposts of brick, and a white gate between. To the right of the
house among the trees is the louvre of a stable. There is a terrace
just in front of the house, full of flowers, with a low brick wall
in front of it separating it from the field. I see the house and
its surroundings more clearly than I see the figures themselves.

I cannot see the interior of the house at all clearly, with the
exception of one room. I do not know where the front door is, nor
have I ever seen any of the upper rooms. The one exception is a big
room on the right of the house as one looks at it from the main
road. This room I see with great distinctness. It is large and low,
papered with a white paper and with a parquetry floor, designed for
a music room. There is a grand piano, but what I see most clearly
are a good many books, rather inconveniently placed in low white
bookcases which run round most of the room, under the windows, with
three shelves in each. It seems to me to be a bad arrangement,
because it would be necessary to stoop down so much for the books,
but I do not think that there is much reading done in the room.
There are several low armchairs draped in a highly coloured chintz
with a white ground; there are pictures on the walls, but I cannot
see them distinctly. I think they are water-colours. The curtains
are of a very peculiar and bright blue. A low window-seat runs
round the oriel, with cushions of the same blue. It is in this room
only that I see the two people, always together; and I have never
seen anyone else in the house. They are seen in certain definite
positions, oftenest standing together looking out of the window,
which must face the west, because I see the sunset out of it. As a
rule, the woman's hand is passed through the man's arm.

The vision simply flashes across my mind like a picture, whatever I
am doing at the time. Sometimes I see it several times in a week,
sometimes not for weeks together. I should recognise the house in a
moment if I saw it; I do not think I should recognise the people. I
cannot see the shapes of their features or their expressions, but I
can see the bloom on the wife's cheek and its pure outline.

To the best of my knowledge I have never seen either the people or
the house in real life; and yet I have strongly the sense that it
is a real house and that the people are real. it does not seem to
me like a mere imagination, because it comes too distinctly and too
accurately for that. Nor does it seem to me to be a mere
combination of things which I have seen. The curious part of it is
that some parts of the vision are absolutely clear--thus I can see
the very texture of the smooth plaster of the house, and the oak
beams inset; and I can also see the fabric of the man's clothes and
the colour of his hair; but, however much I interrogate my memory
or my fancy about other details, they are all involved in a sort of
mist which I cannot pierce. It is this which convinces me of the
reality of the house, and makes me believe that it is not
imagination; because, if it were, I think I should have enlarged my
vision of the whole; but this I cannot do. There is a door, for
instance, in the music-room, which is sometimes open, but even so
I cannot see anything outside in the hall or passage to which it
leads. Moreover, though I can recollect the visions with absolute
distinctness, I cannot evoke them. I may be reading or writing, and
I suddenly see in my mind the house across the meadows; or I am in
the music-room, and the two figures are standing together in the

So strongly do I feel the actuality of it all, that if this book
should fall into the hands of the people to whom the vision refers,
I will ask them to communicate with me. I have no idea what their
past has been, but I know their characters well. The fact that they
have no children is a sorrow to them, but has served to centre
their affections strongly on each other. The husband is a very
tranquil and unaffected man. There is no sort of pose about his
life. He just lives as he likes best. He is unambitious, and he has
no sense of a duty owed to others. But this is not coupled with any
sense of contempt or aloofness--he is invariably kind and gentle.
He is an intellectual man, highly trained and clear-minded. The
wife has less knowledge of the technique of artistic things, but a
very fine, natural, critical taste. She cares, however, less for
the things themselves than because her husband cares for them; but
I do not think that she knows this. They have always enjoyed good
health, and I cannot discern that they have had troubles of any
kind. And I have the strongest sense of a perfectly natural high-
mindedness about both, a healthy instinct for what is right and
fine. They are absolutely without meanness; and they are entirely
free from any sort of morbidity or dreariness. They have travelled
a good deal, but they now seldom leave home; they designed and
built their own house. One curious thing is that I have never heard
music in the house, nor have I ever seen them reading, and yet I
feel that they are much occupied with music and books.

What is the possible explanation of this curious vision? I have
sometimes wondered if they have been brought into some unconscious
rapport with me through one of my books. It seems to me just
possible that when I have seen them standing together there may be
some phrase in one of my books which has struck them and which they
are accustomed to remember; and I think it may be some phrase about
the sunset, because it is at sunset that I generally see them. But
this does not explain my vision of the house, because I have never
seen either of them outside of the house, and I have several times
seen the music-room with no one in it; how does the vision of the
house, which is so strangely distinct, come to me?

They inspire me with a great feeling of respect and friendship; the
vision is very beautiful, and is always attended by a great sense
of pleasure. I feel that it does me good in some obscure way to be
brought into touch with them. Yet I can never retain my hold on the
scene for more than an instant; it is just there and then it is

It is a very strange thing to be conscious of two quite distinct
personalities, and yet without any power of winding myself any
further into their thoughts. There seems to be no vital contact. I
am admitted, as it were, at certain times to a sight of the place,
but I am sure that there is no sort of volition on their part about
it; I do not feel that their thoughts are ever bent actually upon
me, as I exist, but perhaps upon something connected with me.

I must add that, though I am a great dreamer at night and have
always at all times a strong power of mental visualisations, I am
not accustomed to be controlled by it, but rather to control it;
and I have never at any time had any sort of similar vision, of a
thing apart from memory or fancy.

I do believe very firmly in the telepathic faculty. I think that
our thoughts are much affected both consciously and unconsciously
by the thoughts of others. I believe thought takes place in a
spiritual medium and that there is much interlacing and
transference of thought. I have never tried any definite
experiments in it, but I have had frequent evidence of my thoughts
being affected by the thoughts of my friends. It seems to me that
this may be a case of some open channel of communication, as if two
wires had become in some way entangled. The whole method of thought
is so obscure that it is hard to say under what conditions this
takes place. But I allow myself the happiness of believing that the
place and the people of whom I have been so often aware are real
and tangible existences, and that impressions of things unseen and
unrecognised by me have passed into my brain, so that some secret
fellowship has been established. It would be a great joy to me if
this could be definitely established; and I am not without hopes
that this piece of writing may by some happy chance be the bearer
of definite tidings to two people whom unseen I love, and whose
thought may have been bent aimlessly perhaps and indistinctly upon
mine, but never without some touch of kinship and goodwill.



I am going to try, in these few pages, to draw water out of a deep
well--the well of which William Morris wrote as the "Well at the
World's End." I shall try to describe a very strange and secret
experience, which visits me rarely and at unequal intervals;
sometimes for weeks together not at all, sometimes several times in
a day. When it happens it is not strange at all, nor wonderful; the
only wonder about it is that it does not happen more often, because
it seems at the moment to be the one true thing in a world of vain
shadows; everything else falls away, becomes accidental and remote,
like the lights, let me say, of some unknown town, which one sees
as one travels by night and as one twitches aside the curtain from
the window of a railway-carriage, in a sudden interval between two
profound slumbers. The train has relaxed its speed; one looks out;
the red and green signal lamps hang high in the air; and one glides
past a sleeping town, the lamps burning quietly in deserted
streets; there are house-fronts below, in a long thoroughfare
suddenly visible from end to end; above, there are indeterminate
shadows, the glimmering faces of high towers; it is all ghost-like
and mysterious; one only knows that men live and work there; and
then the tides of slumber flow in upon the brain, and one dives
thirstily to the depths of sleep.

Before I say more about it, I will just relate my last taste of the
mood. I was walking alone in the autumn landscape; bare fields
about me; the trees of a village to my right touched sharply with
gold and russet red; some white-gabled cottages clustered
together, and there was a tower among the trees; it was near
sunset, and the sun seemed dragging behind him to the west long
wisps of purple and rusty clouds touched with fire; below me to the
left a stream passing slowly among rushes and willow-beds, all
beautiful and silent and remote. I had an anxious matter in my
mind, a thing that required, so it seemed to me, careful
deliberation to steer a right course among many motives and
contingencies. I had gone out alone to think it over. I weighed
this against that, and it seemed to me that I was headed off by
some obstacle whichever way I turned. Whatever I desired to do
appeared to be disadvantageous and even hurtful. "Yes," I said to
myself, "this is one of those cases where whatever I do, I shall
wish I had done differently! I see no way out." It was then that a
deeper voice still seemed to speak in me, the voice of something
strong and quiet and even indolent, which seemed half-amused,
half-vexed, by my perturbation. It said, "When you have done
reasoning and pondering, I will decide." Then I thought that a sort
of vague, half-spoken, half-dumb dialogue followed.

"What are you?" I said. "What right have you to interfere?"

The other voice did not trouble to answer; it only seemed to laugh
a lazy laugh.

"I am trying to think this all out," I said, half-ashamed, half-
vexed. "You may help me if you will; I am perplexed--I see no way
out of it!"

"Oh, you may think as much as you like," said the other voice. "I
am in no hurry, I can wait."

"But I AM in a hurry," I said, "and I cannot wait. This has got to
be settled somehow, and without delay."

"I shall decide when the time comes," said the voice to me.

"Yes, but you do not understand," I said, feeling partly irritated
and partly helpless. "There is this and that, there is so-and-so to
be considered, there is the effect on these other persons to be
weighed; there is my own position too--I must think of my health--
there are a dozen things to be taken into account."

"I know," said the voice; "I do not mind your balancing all these
things if you wish. I shall take no heed of that! I repeat that,
when you have finished thinking it out, I shall decide."

"Then you know what you mean to do?" said I, a little angered.

"No, I do not know just yet," said the voice; "but I shall know
when the time comes; there will be no doubt at all."

"Then I suppose I shall have to do what you decide?" I said, angry
but impressed.

"Yes, you will do what I decide," said the voice; "you know that
perfectly well."

"Then what is the use of my taking all this trouble?" I said.

"Oh, you may just as well look into it," said the voice; "that is
your part! You are only my servant, after all. You have got to work
the figures and the details out, and then I shall settle. Of course
you must do your part--it is not all wasted. What is wasted is your
fretting and fussing!"

"I am anxious," I said. "I cannot help being anxious!"

"That is a pity!" said the voice. "It hurts you and it hurts me
too, in a way. You disturb me, you know; but I cannot interfere
with you; I must wait."

"But are you sure you will do right?" I said.

"I shall do what must be done," said the voice. "If you mean, shall
I regret my choice, that is possible; at least you may regret it.
But it will not have been a mistake."

I was puzzled at this, and for a time the voice was silent, so that
I had leisure to look about me. I had walked some way while the
dialogue went on, and I was now by the stream, which ran full and
cold into a pool beside the bridge, a pool like a clouded jewel.
How beautiful it was! . . . The old thoughts began again, the old
perplexities. "If he says THAT," I said to myself, thinking of an
opponent of my plan, "then I must be prepared with an answer--it
is a weak point in my case; perhaps it would be better to write;
one says what one thinks; not what one means to say. . . ."

"Still at work?" said the voice. "You are having a very
uncomfortable time over there. I am sorry for that! Yet I cannot
think why you do not understand!"

"What ARE you?" I said impatiently.

There was no answer to that.

"You seem very strong and patient!" I said at last. "I think I
rather like you, and I am sure that I trust you; but you irritate
me, and you will not explain. Cannot you help me a little? You seem
to me to be out of sight--the other side of a wall. Cannot you
break it down or look over?"

"You would not like that," said the voice; "it would be
inconvenient, even painful; it would upset your plans very much.
Tell me--you like life, do you not?"

"Yes," I said, "I like life--at least I am very much interested in
it. I do not feel sure if I like it; I think you know that better
than I do. Tell me, do I like it?"

"Yes," said the voice; "at least I do. You have guessed right for
once; it matters more what I like than what you like. You see, I
believe in God, for one thing."

"So do I," I said eagerly. "I have reached that point! I am sure He
is there. It is largely a question of argument, and I have really
no doubt, no doubt at all. There are difficulties of course--
difficulties about personality and intention; and then there is the
origin of evil--I have thought much about that, and I have arrived
at a solution; it is this. I can explain it best by an analogy. . . ."

There came a laugh from the other side of the wall, not a scornful
laugh or an idle laugh, but a laugh kind and compassionate, like a
father with a child on his knee; and the voice said, "I have seen
Him--I see Him! He is here all about us, and He is yonder. He is
not coming to meet us, as you think. . . . Dear me, how young you
must be. . . . I had forgotten."

This struck me dumb for an instant; then I said, "You frighten me!
Who are you, what are you, . . . WHERE are you?"

And then the voice said, in a tone of the deepest and sweetest
love, as if surprised and a little pained, "My child!"

And then I heard it no more; and I went back to my cares and
anxieties. But it was as the voice had said, and when the time came
to decide, I had no doubt at all what to do.

Now I have told all this in the nearest and simplest words that I
can find. I have had to use similitudes of voices and laughter and
partition-walls, because one can only use the language which one
knows. But it is all quite true and real, more real than a hundred
talks which one holds with men and women whose face and dress one
sees in rooms and streets, and with whom one bandies words about
things for which one does not care. There was indeed some one
present with me, whom I knew perfectly well though I could not
discern him, whom I had known all my life, who had gone about with
me and shared all my experiences, in so far as he chose. But before
I go on to speak further, I will tell one more experience, which
came at a time when I was very unhappy, longing to escape from
life, looking forward mournfully to death.

It had been under similar circumstances--a dreadful argument
proceeding in my mind as to what I could do to get back to
happiness again, whom to consult, where to go, whether to give up
my work, whether to add to it, what diet to use, how to get sleep
which would not visit me.

"Can't you help me?" I said over and over again to the other
person. At last the answer came, very faint and far away.

"I am sick," said the voice, "and I cannot come forth!"

That frightened me exceedingly, because I felt alone and weak. So I
said, "Is it my fault? Is it anything that I have done?"

"I have had a blow," said the other voice. "You dealt it me--but it
is not your fault--you did not know."

"What can I do?" I said.

"Ah, nothing," said the voice. "You must not disturb me! I am
trying to recover, and I shall recover. Go on with your play, if
you can, and do not heed me."

"My play!" I said scornfully. "Do you not know I am miserable?"

The voice gave a sigh. "You hurt me," it said. "I am weak and
faint; but you can help me; be as brave as you can. Try not to
think or grieve. I shall be able to help you again soon, but not
now. . . . Ah, leave me to myself," it added. "I must sleep, a long
sleep; it is your turn to help!"

And then I heard no more; till a day long after, when the voice
came to me on a bright morning by the sea, with the clear waves
breaking and hissing on the shingle; the voice came blithe and
strong, "I am well again; you have done your part, dear one! Give
me your burden, and I will carry it; it is your time of joy!"

And then for a long time after that I did not hear the voice, and I
was full of delight, hour by hour, grudging even the time I must
spend in sleep, because it kept me from the life I loved.

These then are some of the talks we have held together, that Other
One and I. But I must say this, that he will not always come for
being called. I sometimes call to him and get no answer; sometimes
he cries out beside me suddenly in the air. He seems to have a life
of his own, quite distinct from mine. Sometimes when I am fretted
and vexed, he is quietly joyful and elate, and then my troubles die
away, like the footsteps of the wind upon water; and sometimes when
I would be happy and contented, he is heavy and displeased, and
takes no heed of me; and then I too fall into sorrow and gloom. He
is much the stronger, and it matters far more to me what he feels
than what I feel. I do not know how he is occupied--very little, I
think, and what is strangest of all, he changes somewhat; very
slowly and imperceptibly; but he has changed more than I have in
the course of my life. I do not change at all, I think. I can say
better what I think, I am more accomplished and skilful; but the
thought and motive is unaltered from what it was when I was a
child. But he is different in some ways. I have only gone on
perceiving and remembering, and sometimes forgetting. But he does
not forget; and here I feel that I have helped him a little, as a
servant can help his master to remember the little things he has to

I think that many people must have similar experiences to this.
Tennyson had, when he wrote "The Two Voices," and I have seen hints
of the same thing in a dozen books. The strange thing is that it
does not help one more to be strong and brave, because I know this,
if I know anything, that when the anxious and careful part of me
lies down at last to rest, I shall slip past the wall which now
divides us, and be clasped close in the arms of that Other One;
nay, it will be more than that! I shall be merged with him, as the
quivering water-drop is merged with the fountain; that will be a
blessed peace; and I shall know, I think, without any questioning
or wondering, many things that are obscure to me now, under these
low-hung skies, which after all I love so well. . . .




It certainly seems, looking back to the early years, that I have
altered very little--hardly at all, in fact! The little thing,
whatever it is, that sits at the heart of the machine, the speck of
soul-stuff that is really ME, is very much the same creature,
neither old nor young; confident, imperturbable, with a strange
insouciance of its own, knowing what it has to do. I have done many
things, gathered many impressions, ransacked experience, enjoyed,
suffered; but whatever I have argued, expressed, tried to believe,
aimed at, hoped, feared, has hardly affected that central core of
life at all. And I feel as though that strange, dumb, cheerful
self--it is always cheerful, I think--had played the part all along
of a silent and not very critical spectator of all I have tried to
be. The mind, the reason, the emotion, have each of them expanded,
acquired knowledge, learned skill, but that innermost cell has lain
there, sleepless, perceptive, dreaming head on hand, watching,
seldom making a sign of either approval or disapproval.

In childhood it was more dominant than it is now, perhaps. It went
its way more securely, because, in my case at least, the mind was,
in those far-off days, strangely inactive. The whole nature was
bent upon observation. Ruskin is the only writer who has described
what was precisely my own experience, when he says that as a child
he lived almost entirely in the region of SIGHT. It was the only
part of me, the eye, that was then furiously and untiringly awake.
Taste, smell, touch, had each of them at moments a sharp
consciousness; but it was the shape, the form, the appearance of
things, that interested me, took up most of my time and energy,
occupied me unceasingly. Even now my memory ranges, with lively
precision, over the home, the garden, the heathery moorland, the
firwoods, the neighbouring houses of the scene where I lived. I can
see the winding walks, the larch shrubberies, the flower-borders,
the very grain of the brickwork; while in the house itself, the
wall papers, the furniture, the patterns of carpets and chintzes,
are all absolutely clear to the memory.

Thus I lived, from day to day and from year to year, in the moment
as it passed; but I remember no touch of speculation or curiosity
as to how or why things existed as they did. The house, the
arrangements, the servants, the meal-times, the occupations were
all simply accepted as they were, just the will of my parents
taking shape. I never thought of interrogating or altering
anything. Life came to me just so. I remember no sharp emotions, no
dominant affections. My parents seemed to me kind and powerful; but
it did not occur to me that, if I had died, they would feel any
particular grief. I was just a part of their arrangements; and my
idea of life was simply to manage so that I should be as little
interfered with as possible, and go my way, annexing such little
property as I could, and learning the appearance of the things that
were too large to be annexed.

Then my elder brother went off to school. I do not remember being
sorry, or missing his company; in fact, I rather welcomed the
additional independence it gave me. I was glad in a mild way when
he came back for the holidays; but I do not recollect the faintest
curiosity about what he did at school, or what it was all like. He
told us some stories about boys and masters; but it was all quite
remote, like a fairy-tale; and then the time gradually drew near
when I too was to go to school; but I remember neither interest or
curiosity or excitement or anxiety. I think I rather enjoyed a few
extra presents, and the packing of my school-box with a
consciousness of proprietorship. And then the day came, and I
drifted off like thistledown into the big world.


My father and mother took us down to school. It was a fine place
at Mortlake, called Temple Grove, near Richmond Park. Mortlake was
hardly more than an old-fashioned village then, in the country, not
joined to London as it is now by streets and rows of villas. It was
a place of big suburban mansions, with high walls everywhere,
cedars looking over, towering chestnuts, big classical gate-posts.
Temple Grove, so called from the statesman, the patron of Swift,
was a large, solid, handsome house with fine rooms, and large
grounds well timbered. Schoolrooms and dormitories had been tacked
on to the house, but all built in a solid, spacious way. It was
dignified, but bare and austere. We arrived, and went in to see the
headmaster, Mr. Waterfield, a tall, handsome, extremely alarming
man, with curled hair and beard and flashing eyes. He was a fine
gentleman, a brilliant talker, and an excellent teacher, though
unnecessarily severe. I had been used to see my father, who was
then himself headmaster of Wellington College, treated with obvious
deference; but Waterfield, who was an old family friend, met him

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