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Letters on Literature by Andrew Lang

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Lucretius, when he can leave his attempts at scientific proof, the
closeness of his observation, his enjoyment of life, of Nature, and
his power of painting them, a certain largeness of touch, and noble
amplitude of manner--these, with a burning sincerity, mark him above
all others that smote the Latin lyre. Yet these great qualities are
half-crushed by his task, by his attempt to turn the atomic theory
into verse, by his unsympathetic effort to destroy all faith and
hope, because these were united, in his mind, with dread of Styx and

It is an almost intolerable philosophy, the philosophy of eternal
sleep, without dreams and without awakening. This belief is wholly
divorced from joy, which inspires all the best art. This negation
of hope has "close-lipped Patience for its only friend."

In vain does Lucretius paint pictures of life and Nature so large,
so glowing, so majestic that they remind us of nothing but the "Fete
Champetre" of Giorgione, in the Louvre. All that life is a thing we
must leave soon, and forever, and must be hopelessly lapped in an
eternity of blind silence. "I shall let men see the certain end of
all," he cries; "then will they resist religion, and the threats of
priests and prophets." But this "certain end" is exactly what
mortals do not desire to see. To this sleep they prefer even
tenebras Orci, vastasque lacunas.

They will not be deprived of gods, "the friends of man, merciful
gods, compassionate." They will not turn from even a faint hope in
those to the Lucretian deities in their endless and indifferent
repose and divine "delight in immortal and peaceful life, far, far
away from us and ours--life painless and fearless, needing nothing
we can give, replete with its own wealth, unmoved by prayer and
promise, untouched by anger."

Do you remember that hymn, as one may call it, of Lucretius to
Death, to Death which does not harm us. "For as we knew no hurt of
old, in ages when the Carthaginian thronged against us in war, and
the world was shaken with the shock of fight, and dubious hung the
empire over all things mortal by sea and land, even so careless, so
unmoved, shall we remain, in days when we shall no more exist, when
the bond of body and soul that makes our life is broken. Then
naught shall move us, nor wake a single sense, not though earth with
sea be mingled, and sea with sky." There is no hell, he cries, or,
like Omar, he says, "Hell is the vision of a soul on fire."

Your true Tityus, gnawed by the vulture, is only the slave of
passion and of love; your true Sisyphus (like Lord Salisbury in
Punch) is only the politician, striving always, never attaining; the
stone rolls down again from the hill-crest, and thunders far along
the plain.

Thus his philosophy, which gives him such a delightful sense of
freedom, is rejected after all these years of trial by men. They
feel that since those remotest days

"Quum Venus in silvis jungebat corpora amantum,"

they have travelled the long, the weary way Lucretius describes to
little avail, if they may not keep their hopes and fears. Robbed of
these we are robbed of all; it serves us nothing to have conquered
the soil and fought the winds and waves, to have built cities, and
tamed fire, if the world is to be "dispeopled of its dreams."
Better were the old life we started from, and dreams therewith,
better the free days -

"Novitas tum florida mundi
Pabula dia tulit, miseris mortablibus ampla;"

than wealth or power, and neither hope nor fear, but one certain end
of all before the eyes of all.

Thus the heart of man has answered, and will answer Lucretius, the
noblest Roman poet, and the least beloved, who sought, at last, by
his own hand, they say, the doom that Virgil waited for in the
season appointed.


To Philip Dodsworth, Esq., New York.

Dear Dodsworth,--Let me congratulate you on having joined the army
of book-hunters. "Everywhere have I sought peace and found it
nowhere," says the blessed Thomas e Kempis, "save in a corner with a
book." Whether that good monk wrote the "De Imitatione Christi" or
not, one always likes him for his love of books. Perhaps he was the
only book-hunter that ever wrought a miracle. "Other signs and
miracles which he was wont to tell as having happened at the prayer
of an unnamed person, are believed to have been granted to his own,
such as the sudden reappearance of a lost book in his cell." Ah, if
Faith, that moveth mountains, could only bring back the books we
have lost, the books that have been borrowed from us! But we are a
faithless generation.

From a collector so much older and better experienced in misfortune
than yourself, you ask for some advice on the sport of book-hunting.
Well, I will give it; but you will not take it. No; you will hunt
wild, like young pointers before they are properly broken.

Let me suppose that you are "to middle fortune born," and that you
cannot stroll into the great book-marts and give your orders freely
for all that is rich and rare. You are obliged to wait and watch an
opportunity, to practise that maxim of the Stoic's, "Endure and
abstain." Then abstain from rushing at every volume, however out of
the line of your literary interests, which seems to be a bargain.
Probably it is not even a bargain; it can seldom be cheap to you, if
you do not need it, and do not mean to read it.

Not that any collector reads all his books. I may have, and indeed
do possess, an Aldine Homer and Caliergus his Theocritus; but I
prefer to study the authors in a cheap German edition. The old
editions we buy mainly for their beauty, and the sentiment of their
antiquity and their associations.

But I don't take my own advice. The shelves are crowded with books
quite out of my line--a whole small library of tomes on the pastime
of curling, and I don't curl; and "God's Revenge against Murther,"
though (so far) I am not an assassin. Probably it was for love of
Sir Walter Scott, and his mention of this truculent treatise, that I
purchased it. The full title of it is "The Triumphs of God's
Revenge against the Crying and Execrable Sinne of (willful and
premeditated) Murther." Or rather there is nearly a column more of
title, which I spare you. But the pictures are so bad as to be
nearly worth the price. Do not waste your money, like your foolish
adviser, on books like that, or on "Les Sept Visions de Don
Francisco de Quevedo," published at Cologne, in 1682.

Why in the world did I purchase this, with the title-page showing
Quevedo asleep, and all his seven visions floating round him in
little circles like soap-bubbles? Probably because the book was
published by Clement Malassis, and perhaps he was a forefather of
that whimsical Frenchman, Poulet Malassis, who published for
Banville, and Baudelaire, and Charles Asselineau. It was a bad
reason. More likely the mere cheapness attracted me.

Curiosity, not cheapness, assuredly, betrayed me into another
purchase. If I want to read "The Pilgrim's Progress," of course I
read it in John Bunyan's good English. Then why must I ruin myself
to acquire "Voyage d'un Chrestien vers l'Eternite. Ecrit en
Anglois, par Monsieur Bunjan, F.M., en Bedtfort, et nouvellement
traduit en Francois. Avec Figures. A Amsterdam, chez Jean Boekholt
Libraire pres de la Bourse, 1685"? I suppose this is the oldest
French version of the famed allegory. Do you know an older? Bunyan
was still living and, indeed, had just published the second part of
the book, about Christian's wife and children, and the deplorable
young woman whose name was Dull.

As the little volume, the Elzevir size, is bound in blue morocco, by
Cuzin, I hope it is not wholly a foolish bargain; but what do I
want, after all, with a French "Pilgrim's Progress"? These are the
errors a man is always making who does not collect books with
system, with a conscience and an aim.

Do have a specially. Make a collection of works on few subjects,
well chosen. And what subjects shall they be? That depends on
taste. Probably it is well to avoid the latest fashion. For
example, the illustrated French books of the eighteenth century are,
at this moment, en hausse. There is a "boom" in them. Fifty years
ago Brunet, the author of the great "Manuel," sneered at them. But,
in his, "Library Companion," Dr. Dibdin, admitted their merit. The
illustrations by Gravelot, Moreau, Marillier, and the rest, are
certainly delicate, graceful, full of character, stamped with style.
But only the proofs before letters are very much valued, and for
these wild prices are given by competitive millionaires. You cannot
compete with them.

It is better wholly to turn the back on these books and on any
others at the height of the fashion, unless you meet them for
fourpence on a stall. Even then should a gentleman take advantage
of a poor bookseller's ignorance? I don't know. I never fell into
the temptation, because I never was tempted. Bargains, real
bargains, are so rare that you may hunt for a lifetime and never
meet one.

The best plan for a man who has to see that his collection is worth
what it cost him, is probably to confine one's self to a single
line, say, in your case, first editions of new English, French, and
American books that are likely to rise in value. I would try, were
I you, to collect first editions of Longfellow, Bryant, Whittier,
Poe, and Hawthorne.

As to Poe, you probably will never have a chance. Outside of the
British Museum, where they have the "Tamerlane" of 1827, I have only
seen one early example of Poe's poems. It is "Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane,
and Minor Poems, by Edgar A. Poe. Baltimore: Hatch and Dunning,
1829, 8vo, pp. 71." The book "came to Mr. Locker (Mr. Frederick
Locker-Lampson), through Mr. R. H. Stoddard, the American poet." So
says Mr. Locker-Lampson's Catalogue. He also has the New York
edition of 1831.

These books are extraordinarily rare; you are more likely to find
them in some collection of twopenny rubbish than to buy them in the
regular market. Bryant's "Poems" (Cambridge, 1821) must also be
very rare, and Emerson's of 1847, and Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes's of
1836, and Longfellow's "Voices of the Night," 1839, and Mr. Lowell's
"A Year's Life;" none of these can be common, and all are desirable,
as are Mr. Whittier's "Legends of New England (1831), and "Poems"

Perhaps you may never be lucky enough to come across them cheap; no
doubt they are greatly sought for by amateurs. Indeed, all American
books of a certain age or of a special interest are exorbitantly
dear. Men like Mr. James Lenox used to keep the market up. One
cannot get the Jesuit "Relations"--shabby little missionary reports
from Canada, in dirty vellum.

Cartier, Perrot, Champlain, and the other early explorers' books are
beyond the means of a working student who needs them. May you come
across them in a garret of a farmhouse, or in some dusty lane of the
city. Why are they not reprinted, as Mr. Arber has reprinted
"Captain John Smith's Voyages, and Reports on Virginia"? The very
reprints, when they have been made, are rare and hard to come by.

There are certain modern books, new books, that "go up" rapidly in
value and interest. Mr. Swinburne's "Atalanta" of 1865, the quarto
in white cloth, is valued at twenty dollars. Twenty years ago one
dollar would have purchased it. Mr. Austin Dobson's "Proverbs in
Porcelain" is also in demand among the curious. Nay, even I may say
about the first edition of "Ballades in Blue China" (1880), as
Gibbon said of his "Essay on the Study of Literature:" "The
primitive value of half a crown has risen to the fanciful price of a
guinea or thirty shillings," or even more. I wish I had a copy
myself, for old sake's sake.

Certain modern books, "on large paper," are safe investments. The
"Badminton Library," an English series of books on sport, is at a
huge premium already, when on "large paper." But one should never
buy the book unless, as in the case of Dr. John Hill Burton's "Book-
Hunter" (first edition), it is not only on large paper, and not only
rare (twenty-five copies), but also readable and interesting. {7} A
collector should have the taste to see when a new book is in itself
valuable and charming, and when its author is likely to succeed, so
that his early attempts (as in the case of Mr. Matthew Arnold, Lord
Tennyson, and a few others of the moderns) are certain to become
things of curious interest.

You can hardly ever get a novel of Jane Austen's in the first
edition. She is rarer than Fielding or Smollett. Some day it may
be the same in Miss Broughton's case. Cling to the fair and witty
Jane, if you get a chance. Beware of illustrated modern books in
which "processes" are employed. Amateurs will never really value
mechanical reproductions, which can be copied to any extent. The
old French copper-plate engravings and the best English mezzo-tints
are so valuable because good impressions are necessarily so rare.

One more piece of advice. Never (or "hardly ever") buy an imperfect
book. It is a constant source of regret, an eyesore. Here have I
Lovelace's "Lucasta," 1649, without the engraving. It is
deplorable, but I never had a chance of another "Lucasta." This is
not a case of invenies aliam. However you fare, you will have the
pleasure of Hope and the consolation of books quietem inveniendam in
abditis recessibus et libellulis.


To the Lady Violet Lebas.

Dear Lady Violet,--I am not sure that I agree with you in your
admiration of Rochefoucauld--of the Reflexions, ou Sentences et
Maximes Morales, I mean. At least, I hardly agree when I have read
many of them at a stretch. It is not fair to read them in that way,
of course, for there are more than five hundred pensees, and so much
esprit becomes fatiguing. I doubt if people study them much. Five
or six of them have become known even to writers in the newspapers,
and we all copy them from each other.

Rochefoucauld says that a man may be too dull to be duped by a very
clever person. He himself was so clever that he was often duped,
first by the general honest dulness of mankind, and then by his own
acuteness. He thought he saw more than he did see, and he said even
more than he thought he saw. If the true motive of all our actions
is self-love, or vanity, no man is a better proof of the truth than
the great maxim-maker. His self-love took the shape of a brilliancy
that is sometimes false. He is tricked out in paste for diamonds,
now and then, like a vain, provincial beauty at a ball. "A clever
man would frequently be much at a loss," he says, "in stupid
company." One has seen this embarrassment of a wit in a company of
dullards. It is Rochefoucauld's own position in this world of men
and women. We are all, in the mass, dullards compared with his
cleverness, and so he fails to understand us, is much at a loss
among us. "People only praise others in hopes of being praised in
turn," he says. Mankind is not such a company of "log-rollers" as
he avers.

There is more truth in a line of Tennyson's about

"The praise of those we love,
Dearer to true young hearts than their own praise."

I venture to think we need not be young to prefer to hear the praise
of others rather than our own. It is not embarrassing in the first
place, as all praise of ourselves must be. I doubt if any man or
woman can flatter so discreetly as not to make us uncomfortable.
Besides, if our own performances be lauded, we are uneasy as to
whether the honour is deserved. An artist has usually his own
doubts about his own doings, or rather he has his own certainties.
About our friends' work we need have no such misgivings. And our
self-love is more delicately caressed by the success of our friends
than by our own. It is still self-love, but it is filtered, so to
speak, through our affection for another.

What are human motives, according to Rochefoucauld? Temperament,
vanity, fear, indolence, self-love, and a grain of natural
perversity, which somehow delights in evil for itself. He neglects
that other element, a grain of natural worth, which somehow delights
in good for itself. This taste, I think, is quite as innate, and as
active in us, as that other taste for evil which causes there to be
something not wholly displeasing in the misfortunes of our friends.

There is a story which always appears to me a touching proof of this
grain of goodness, as involuntary, as fatal as its opposite. I do
not remember in what book of travels I found this trait of native
excellence. The black fellows of Australia are very fond of sugar,
and no wonder, if it be true that it has on them an intoxicating
effect. Well, a certain black fellow had a small parcel of brown
sugar which was pilfered from his lair in the camp. He detected the
thief, who was condemned to be punished according to tribal law;
that is to say, the injured man was allowed to have a whack at his
enemy's head with a waddy, a short club of heavy hard wood. The
whack was duly given, and then the black who had suffered the loss
threw down his club, burst into tears, embraced the thief and
displayed every sign of a lively regret for his revenge.

That seems to me an example of the human touch that Rochefoucauld
never allows for, the natural goodness, pity, kindness, which can
assert itself in contempt of the love of self, and the love of
revenge. This is that true clemency which is a real virtue, and not
"the child of Vanity, Fear, Indolence, or of all three together."
Nor is it so true that "we have all fortitude enough to endure the
misfortunes of others." Everybody has witnessed another's grief
that came as near him as his own.

How much more true, and how greatly poetical is that famous maxim:
"Death and the Sun are two things not to be looked on with a steady
eye." This version is from the earliest English translation of
1698. The Maximes were first published in Paris in 1665. {8} "Our
tardy apish nation" took thirty-three years in finding them out and
appropriating them. This, too, is good: "If we were faultless, we
would observe with less pleasure the faults of others." Indeed, to
observe these with pleasure is not the least of our faults. Again,
"We are never so happy, nor so wretched, as we suppose." It is our
vanity, perhaps, that makes us think ourselves miserrimi.

Do you remember--no, you don't--that meeting in "Candide" of the
unfortunate Cunegonde and the still more unfortunate old lady who
was the daughter of a Pope? "You lament your fate," said the old
lady; "alas, you have known no such sorrows as mine!" "What! my
good woman!" says Cunegonde. "Unless you have been maltreated by
two Bulgarians, received two stabs from a knife, had two of your
castles burned over your head, seen two fathers and two mothers
murdered before your eyes, and two of your lovers flogged at two
autos-da-fe, I don't fancy that you can have the advantage of me.
Besides, I was born a baroness of seventy-two quarterings, and I
have been a cook." But the daughter of a Pope had, indeed, been
still more unlucky, as she proved, than Cunegonde; and the old lady
was not a little proud of it.

But can you call this true: "There is nobody but is ashamed of
having loved when once he loves no longer"? If it be true at all, I
don't think the love was much worth having or giving. If one really
loves once, one can never be ashamed of it; for we never cease to
love. However, this is the very high water of sentiment, you will
say; but I blush no more for it than M. le Duc de Rochefoucauld for
his own opinion. Perhaps I am thinking of that kind of love about
which he says: "True love is like ghosts; which everybody talks
about and few have seen." "Many be the thyrsus-bearers, few the
Mystics," as the Greek proverb runs. "Many are called, few are

As to friendship being "a reciprocity of interests," the saying is
but one of those which Rochefoucauld's vanity imposed on his wit.
Very witty it is not, and it is emphatically untrue. "Old men
console themselves by giving good advice for being no longer able to
set bad examples." Capital; but the poor old men are often good
examples of the results of not taking their own good advice. "Many
an ingrate is less to blame than his benefactor." One might add, at
least I will, "Every man who looks for gratitude deserves to get
none of it." "To say that one never flirts--is flirting." I rather
like the old translator's version of "Il y a de bons mariages; mais
il n'y en a point de delicieux"--"Marriage is sometimes convenient,
but never delightful."

How true is this of authors with a brief popularity: "Il y a des
gens qui ressemblent aux vaudevilles, qu'on ne chante qu'un certain
temps." Again, "to be in haste to repay a kindness is a sort of
ingratitude," and a rather insulting sort too. "Almost everybody
likes to repay small favours; many people can be grateful for
favours not too weighty, but for favours truly great there is scarce
anything but ingratitude." They must have been small favours that
Wordsworth had conferred when "the gratitude of men had oftener left
him mourning." Indeed, the very pettiness of the aid we can
generally render each other, makes gratitude the touching thing it
is. So much is repaid for so little, and few can ever have the
chance of incurring the thanklessness that Rochefoucauld found all
but universal.

"Lovers and ladies never bore each other, because they never speak
of anything but themselves." Do husbands and wives often bore each
other for the same reason? Who said: "To know all is to forgive
all"? It is rather like "On pardonne tant que l'on aime"--"As long
as we love we can forgive," a comfortable saying, and these are rare
in Rochefoucauld. "Women do not quite know what flirts they are" is
also, let us hope, not incorrect. The maxim that "There is a love
so excessive that it kills jealousy" is only a corollary from "as
long as we love, we forgive." You remember the classical example,
Manon Lescaut and the Chevalier des Grieux; not an honourable

"The accent of our own country dwells in our hearts as well as on
our tongues." Ah! never may I lose the Border accent! "Love's
Miracle! To cure a coquette." "Most honest women are tired of
their task," says this unbeliever. And the others? Are they never
aweary? The Duke is his own best critic after all, when he says:
"The greatest fault of a penetrating wit is going beyond the mark."
Beyond the mark he frequently goes, but not when he says that we
come as fresh hands to each new epoch of life, and often want
experience for all our years. How hard it was to begin to be
middle-aged! Shall we find old age easier if ever we come to its
threshold? Perhaps, and Death perhaps the easiest of all. Nor let
me forget, it will be long before you have occasion to remember,
that "vivacity which grows with age is not far from folly."


To Mr. Gifted Hopkins.

My Dear Hopkins,--The verses which you have sent me, with a request
"to get published in some magazine," I now return to you. If you
are anxious that they should be published, send them to an editor
yourself. If he likes them he will accept them from you. If he
does not like them, why should he like them because they are
forwarded by me? His only motive would be an aversion to
disobliging a confrere, and why should I put him in such an
unpleasant position?

But this is a very boorish way of thanking you for the premiere
representation of your little poem. "To Delia in Girton" you call
it, "recommending her to avoid the Muses, and seek the society of
the Graces and Loves." An old-fashioned preamble, and of the
lengthiest, and how do you go on? -

Golden hair is fairy gold,
Fairy gold that cannot stay,
Turns to leaflets green and cold,
At the ending of the day!
Laurel-leaves the Muses may
Twine about your golden head.
Will the crown reward you, say,
When the fairy gold is fled?

Daphne was a maid unwise -
Shun the laurel, seek the rose;
Azure, lovely in the skies,
Shines less gracious in the hose!

Don't you think, dear Hopkins, that this allusion to bas-bleus, if
not indelicate, is a little rococo, and out of date? Editors will
think so, I fear. Besides, I don't like "Fairy gold that cannot
stay." If Fairy Gold were a horse, it would be all very well to
write that it "cannot stay." 'Tis the style of the stable, unsuited
to songs of the salon.

This is a very difficult kind of verse that you are essaying, you
whom the laurels of Mr. Locker do not suffer to sleep for envy. You
kindly ask my opinion on vers de societe in general. Well, I think
them a very difficult sort of thing to write well, as one may infer
from this, that the ancients, our masters, could hardly write them
at all. In Greek poetry of the great ages I only remember one piece
which can be called a model--the AEolic verses that Theocritus wrote
to accompany the gift of the ivory distaff. It was a present, you
remember, to the wife of his friend Nicias, the physician of
Miletus. The Greeks of that age kept their women in almost Oriental
reserve. One may doubt whether Nicias would have liked it if
Theocritus had sent, instead of a distaff, a fan or a jewel. But
there is safety in a spinning instrument, and all the compliments to
the lady, "the dainty-ankled Theugenis," turn on her skill, and
industry, and housewifery. So Louis XIV., no mean authority, called
this piece of vers de societe "a model of honourable gallantry."

I have just looked all through Pomtow's pretty little pocket volumes
of the minor Greek poets, and found nothing more of the nature of
the lighter verse than this of Alcman's--[Greek text which cannot be
reproduced]. Do you remember the pretty paraphrase of it in "Love
in Idleness"?

"Maidens with voices like honey for sweetness that breathe desire,
Would that I were a sea bird with wings that could never tire,
Over the foam-flowers flying, with halcyons ever on wing,
Keeping a careless heart, a sea-blue bird of the spring."

It does not quite give the sense Alcman intended, the lament for his
limbs weary with old age--with old age sadder for the sight of the
honey-voiced girls.

The Greeks had not the kind of society that is the home of "Society
Verses," where, as Mr. Locker says, "a boudoir decorum is, or ought
always to be, preserved, where sentiment never surges into passion,
and where humour never overflows into boisterous merriment." Honest
women were estranged from their mirth and their melancholy.

The Romans were little more fortunate. You cannot expect the genius
of Catullus not to "surge into passion," even in his hours of gayer
song, composed when

Multum lusimus in meis tabellis,
Ut convenerat esse delicatos,
Scribens versiculos uterque nostrum.

Thus the lighter pieces of Catullus, like the dedication of his
book, are addressed to men, his friends, and thus they scarcely come
into the category of what we call "Society Verses." Given the
character of Roman society, perhaps we might say that plenty of this
kind of verse was written by Horace and by Martial. The famous ode
to Pyrrha does not exceed the decorum of a Roman boudoir, and, as
far as love was concerned, it does not seem to have been in the
nature of Horace to "surge into passion." So his best songs in this
kind are addressed to men, with whom he drinks a little, and talks
of politics and literature a great deal, and muses over the
shortness of life, and the zest that snow-clad Soracte gives to the
wintry fire.

Perhaps the ode to Leuconoe, which Mr. Austin Dobson has rendered so
prettily in a villanelle, may come within the scope of this Muse,
for it has a playfulness mingled with its melancholy, a sadness in
its play. Perhaps, too, if Horace is to be done into verse, these
old French forms seem as fit vehicles as any for Latin poetry that
was written in the exotic measures of Greece. There is a foreign
grace and a little technical difficulty overcome in the English
ballade and villanelle, as in the Horatian sapphics and alcaics. I
would not say so much, on my own responsibility, nor trespass so far
on the domain of scholarship, but this opinion was communicated to
me by a learned professor of Latin. I think, too, that some of the
lyric measures of the old French Pleiad, of Ronsard and Du Bellay,
would be well wedded with the verse of Horace. But perhaps no
translator will ever please any one but himself, and of Horace every
man must be his own translator.

It may be that Ovid now and then comes near to writing vers de
societe, only he never troubles himself for a moment about the
"decorum of the boudoir." Do you remember the lines on the ring
which he gave his lady? They are the origin and pattern of all the
verses written by lovers on that pretty metempsychosis which shall
make them slippers, or fans, or girdles, like Waller's, and like
that which bound "the dainty, dainty waist" of the Miller's

"Ring that shalt bind the finger fair
Of my sweet maid, thou art not rare;
Thou hast not any price above
The token of her poet's love;
Her finger may'st thou mate as she
Is mated every wise with me!"

And the poet goes on, as poets will, to wish he were this favoured,
this fortunate jewel:

"In vain I wish! So, ring, depart,
And say 'with me thou hast his heart'!"

Once more Ovid's verses on his catholic affection for all ladies,
the brown and the blonde, the short and the tall, may have suggested
Cowley's humorous confession, "The Chronicle":

"Margarita first possessed,
If I remember well, my breast,
Margarita, first of all;"

and then follows a list as long as Leporello's.

What disqualifies Ovid as a writer of vers de societe is not so much
his lack of "decorum" as the monotonous singsong of his eternal
elegiacs. The lightest of light things, the poet of society, should
possess more varied strains; like Horace, Martial, Thackeray, not
like Ovid and (here is a heresy) Praed. Inimitably well as Praed
does his trick of antithesis, I still feel that it is a trick, and
that most rhymers could follow him in a mere mechanic art. But here
the judgment of Mr. Locker would be opposed to this modest opinion,
and there would be opposition again where Mr. Locker calls Dr. O. W.
Holmes "perhaps the best living writer of this species of verse."
But here we are straying among the moderns before exhausting the
ancients, of whom I fancy that Martial, at his best, approaches most
near the ideal.

Of course it is true that many of Martial's lyrics would be thought
disgusting in any well-regulated convict establishment. His
gallantry is rarely "honourable." Scaliger used to burn a copy of
Martial, once a year, on the altar of Catullus, who himself was far
from prudish. But Martial, somehow, kept his heart undepraved, and
his taste in books was excellent. How often he writes verses for
the bibliophile, delighting in the details of purple and gold, the
illustrations and ornaments for his new volume! These pieces are
for the few--for amateurs, but we may all be touched by his grief
for the little lass, Erotion. He commends her in Hades to his own
father and mother gone before him, that the child may not be
frightened in the dark, friendless among the shades

"Parvula ne nigras horrescat Erotion umbras
Oraque Tartarei prodigiosa canis."

There is a kind of playfulness in the sorrow, and the pity of a man
for a child; pity that shows itself in a smile. I try to render
that other inscription for the tomb of little Erotion:

Here lies the body of the little maid
From her sixth winter's snows her eager shade
Hath fleeted on!
Whoe'er thou be that after me shalt sway
My scanty farm,
To her slight shade the yearly offering pay,
So--safe from harm -
Shall thou and thine revere the kindly Lar,
And this alone
Be, through thy brief dominion, near or far,
A mournful stone!

Certainly he had a heart, this foul-mouthed Martial, who claimed for
the study of his book no serious hours, but moments of mirth, when
men are glad with wine, "in the reign of the Rose:" {9}

"Haec hora est tua, cum furit Lyaeus,
Cum regnat rosa, cum madent capilli;
Tunc mevel rigidi legant Catones."

But enough of the poets of old; another day we may turn to Carew and
Suckling, Praed and Locker, poets of our own speech, lighter lyrists
of our own time. {10}


To Mr. Gifted Hopkins.

Dear Gifted,--If you will permit me to use your Christian, and
prophetic, name--we improved the occasion lately with the writers of
light verse in ancient times. We decided that the ancients were not
great in verses of society, because they had, properly speaking, no
society to write verses for. Women did not live in the Christian
freedom and social equality with men, either in Greece or Rome--at
least not "modest women," as Mr. Harry Foker calls them in
"Pendennis." About the others there is plenty of pretty verse in
the Anthology. What you need for verses of society is a period in
which the social equality is recognized, and in which people are
peaceable enough and comfortable enough to "play with light loves in
the portal" of the Temple of Hymen, without any very definite
intentions, on either part, of going inside and getting married.

Perhaps we should not expect vers de societe from the Crusaders, who
were not peaceable, and who were very earnest indeed, in love or
war. But as soon as you get a Court, and Court life, in France,
even though the times were warlike, then ladies are lauded in artful
strains, and the lyre is struck leviore plectro. Charles d'Orleans,
that captive and captivating prince, wrote thousands of rondeaux;
even before his time a gallant company of gentlemen composed the
Livre des Cent Ballades, one hundred ballades, practically
unreadable by modern men. Then came Clement Marot, with his gay and
rather empty fluency, and Ronsard, with his mythological
compliments, his sonnets, decked with roses, and led like lambs to
the altar of Helen or Cassandra. A few, here and there, of his
pieces are lighter, more pleasant, and, in a quiet way, immortal,
such as the verses to his "fair flower of Anjou," a beauty of
fifteen. So they ran on, in France, till Voiture's time, and
Sarrazin's with his merry ballade of an elopement, and Corneille's
proud and graceful stanzas to Marquise de Gorla.

But verses in the English tongue are more worthy of our attention.
Mr. Locker begins his collection of them, Lyra Elegantiarum (no
longer a very rare book in England), as far back as Skelton's age,
and as Thomas Wyat's, and Sidney's; but those things, the lighter
lyrics of that day, are rather songs than poems, and probably were
all meant to be sung to the virginals by our musical ancestors.

"Drink to me only with thine eyes," says the great Ben Jonson, or
sings it rather. The words, that he versified out of the Greek
prose of Philostratus, cannot be thought of without the tune. It is
the same with Carew's "He that loves a rosy cheek," or with "Roses,
their sharp spines being gone." The lighter poetry of Carew's day
is all powdered with gold dust, like the court ladies' hair, and is
crowned and diapered with roses, and heavy with fabulous scents from
the Arabian phoenix's nest. Little Cupids flutter and twitter here
and there among the boughs, as in that feast of Adonis which
Ptolemy's sister gave in Alexandria, or as in Eisen's vignettes for
Dorat's Baisers:

"Ask me no more whither do stray
The golden atoms of the day;
For in pure love did Heaven prepare
These powders to enrich your hair."

It would be affectation, Gifted, if you rhymed in that fashion for
the lady of your love, and presented her, as it were, with cosmical
cosmetics, and compliments drawn from the starry spaces and deserts,
from skies, phoenixes, and angels. But it was a natural and pretty
way of writing when Thomas Carew was young. I prefer Herrick the
inexhaustible in dainties; Herrick, that parson-pagan, with the soul
of a Greek of the Anthology, and a cure of souls (Heaven help them!)
in Devonshire. His Julia is the least mortal of these "daughters of
dreams and of stories," whom poets celebrate; she has a certain
opulence of flesh and blood, a cheek like a damask rose, and "rich
eyes," like Keats's lady; no vaporous Beatrice, she; but a handsome
English wench, with

"A cuff neglectful and thereby
Ribbons to flow confusedly;
A winning wave, deserving note
In the tempestuous petticoat."

Then Suckling strikes up a reckless military air; a warrior he is
who has seen many a siege of hearts--hearts that capitulated, or
held out like Troy-town, and the impatient assailant whistles:

"Quit, quit, for shame: this will not move,
This cannot take her.
If of herself she will not love,
Nothing can make her -
The devil take her."

So he rides away, curling his moustache, hiding his defeat in a big
inimitable swagger. It is a pleasanter piece in which Suckling,
after a long leaguer of a lady's heart, finds that Captain honour is
governor of the place, and surrender hopeless. So he departs with a

"March, march (quoth I), the word straight give,
Let's lose no time but leave her:
That giant upon air will live,
And hold it out for ever."

Lovelace is even a better type in his rare good things of the
military amorist and poet. What apology of Lauzun's, or Bussy
Rabutin's for faithlessness could equal this? -

"Why dost thou say I am forsworn,
Since thine I vowed to be?
Lady, it is already morn;
It was last night I swore to thee
That fond impossibility."

Has "In Memoriam" nobler numbers than the poem, from exile, to
Lucasta? -

"Our Faith and troth
All time and space controls,
Above the highest sphere we meet,
Unseen, unknown, and greet as angels greet."

How comes it that in the fierce fighting days the soldiers were so
tuneful, and such scholars? In the first edition of Lovelace's
"Lucasta" there is a flock of recommendatory verses, English, Latin,
even Greek, by the gallant Colonel's mess-mates and comrades. What
guardsman now writes like Lovelace, and how many of his friends
could applaud him in Greek? You, my Gifted, are happily of a
pacific disposition, and tune a gentle lyre. Is it not lucky for
swains like you that the soldiers have quite forsworn sonneting?
When a man was a rake, a poet, a warrior, all in one, what chance
had a peaceful minor poet like you or me, Gifted, against his
charms? Sedley, when sober, must have been an invincible rival--
invincible, above all, when he pretended constancy:

"Why then should I seek further store,
And still make love anew?
When change itself can give no more
'Tis easy to be true."

How infinitely more delightful, musical, and captivating are those
Cavalier singers--their numbers flowing fair, like their scented
lovelocks--than the prudish society poets of Pope's day. "The Rape
of the Lock" is very witty, but through it all don't you mark the
sneer of the contemptuous, unmanly little wit, the crooked dandy?
He jibes among his compliments; and I do not wonder that Mistress
Arabella Fermor was not conciliated by his long-drawn cleverness and
polished lines. I prefer Sackville's verses "written at sea the
night before an engagement":

"To all you ladies now on land
We men at sea indite."

They are all alike, the wits of Queen Anne; and even Matt Prior,
when he writes of ladies occasionally, writes down to them, or at
least glances up very saucily from his position on his knees. But
Prior is the best of them, and the most candid:

"I court others in verse--but I love thee in prose;
And they have my whimsies, but thou hast my heart."

Yes, Prior is probably the greatest of all who dally with the light
lyre which thrills to the wings of fleeting Loves--the greatest
English writer of vers de societe; the most gay, frank, good-
humoured, tuneful and engaging.

Landor is great, too, but in another kind; the bees that hummed over
Plato's cradle have left their honey on his lips; none but Landor,
or a Greek, could have written this on Catullus:

"Tell me not what too well I know
About the Bard of Sirmio -
Yes, in Thalia's son
Such stains there are as when a Grace
Sprinkles another's laughing face
With nectar, and runs on!"

That is poetry deserving of a place among the rarest things in the
Anthology. It is a sorrow to me that I cannot quite place Praed
with Prior in my affections. With all his gaiety and wit, he
wearies one at last with that clever, punning antithesis. I don't
want to know how

"Captain Hazard wins a bet,
Or Beaulieu spoils a curry" -

and I prefer his sombre "Red Fisherman," the idea of which is
borrowed, wittingly or unwittingly, from Lucian.

Thackeray, too careless in his measures, yet comes nearer Prior in
breadth of humour and in unaffected tenderness. Who can equal that
song, "Once you come to Forty Year," or the lines on the Venice
Love-lamp, or the "Cane-bottomed Chair"? Of living English writers
of verse in the "familiar style," as Cowper has it, I prefer Mr.
Locker when he is tender and not untouched with melancholy, as in
"The Portrait of a Lady," and Mr. Austin Dobson, when he is not
flirting, but in earnest, as in the "Song of Four Seasons" and "The
Dead Letter." He has ingenuity, pathos, mastery of his art, and,
though the least pedantic of poets, is "conveniently learned."

Of contemporary Americans, if I may be frank, I prefer the verse of
Mr. Bret Harte, verse with so many tunes and turns, as comic as the
"Heathen Chinee," as tender as the lay of the ship with its crew of
children that slipped its moorings in the fog. To me it seems that
Mr. Bret Harte's poems have never (at least in this country) been
sufficiently esteemed. Mr. Lowell has written ("The Biglow Papers"
apart) but little in this vein. Mr. Wendell Holmes, your delightful
godfather, Gifted, has written much with perhaps some loss from the
very quantity. A little of vers de societe, my dear Gifted, goes a
long way, as you will think, if ever you sit down steadily to read
right through any collection of poems in this manner. So do not add
too rapidly to your own store; let them be "few, but roses" all of


By Mrs. Andrew Lang.

[This letter is excluded from this version of the eText until the
copyright status of Mrs. Andrew Lang's work in the UK can be


To Miss Girton, Cambridge.

Dear Miss Girton,--Yes, I fancy Gerard de Nerval is one of that
rather select party of French writers whom Mrs. Girton will allow
you to read. But even if you read him, I do not think you will care
very much for him. He is a man's author, not a woman's; and yet one
can hardly say why. It is not that he offends "the delicacy of your
sex," as Tom Jones calls it; I think it is that his sentiment,
whereof he is full, is not of the kind you like. Let it be admitted
that, when his characters make love, they might do it "in a more
human sort of way."

In this respect, and in some others, Gerard de Nerval resembles
Edgar Poe. Not that his heroes are always attached to a belle morte
in some distant Aiden; not that they have been for long in the
family sepulchre; not that their attire is a vastly becoming shroud-
-no, Aurelie and Sylvie, in Les Filles de Feu, are nice and natural
girls; but their lover is not in love with them "in a human sort of
way." He is in love with some vaporous ideal, of which they faintly
remind him. He is, as it were, the eternal passer-by; he is a
wanderer from his birth; he sees the old chateau, or the farmer's
cottage, or even the bright theatre, or the desert tent; he sees the
daughters of men that they are fair and dear, in moonlight, in
sunlight, in the glare of the footlights, and he looks, and longs,
and sighs, and wanders on his fatal path. Nothing can make him
pause, and at last his urgent spirit leads him over the limit of
this earth, and far from the human shores; his delirious fancy
haunts graveyards, or the fabled harbours of happy stars, and he who
rested never, rests in the grave, forgetting his dreams or finding
them true.

All this is too vague for you, I do not doubt, but for me the man
and his work have an attraction I cannot very well explain, like the
personal influence of one who is your friend, though other people
cannot see what you see in him.

Gerard de Nerval (that was only his pen-name) was a young man of the
young romantic school of 1830; one of the set of Hugo and Gautier.
Their gallant, school-boyish absurdities are too familiar to be
dwelt upon. They were much of Scott's mind when he was young, and
translated Burger, and "wished to heaven he had a skull and cross-
bones." Two or three of them died early, two or three subsided into
ordinary literary gentlemen (like M. Maquet, lately deceased), two,
nay three, became poets--Victor Hugo, Theophile Gautier, and Gerard
de Nerval. It is not necessary to have heard of Gerard; even that
queer sham, the lady of culture, admits without a blush that she
knows not Gerard. Yet he is worth knowing.

What he will live by is his story of "Sylvie;" it is one of the
little masterpieces of the world. It has a Greek perfection. One
reads it, and however old one is, youth comes back, and April, and a
thousand pleasant sounds of birds in hedges, of wind in the boughs,
of brooks trotting merrily under the rustic bridges. And this fresh
nature is peopled by girls eternally young, natural, gay, or
pensive, standing with eager feet on the threshold of their life,
innocent, expectant, with the old ballads of old France on their
lips. For the story is full of those artless, lisping numbers of
the popular French Muse, the ancient ballads that Gerard collected
and put in the mouth of Sylvie, the pretty peasant girl.

Do you know what it is to walk alone all day on the Border, and what
good company to you the burn is that runs beside the highway? Just
so companionable is the music of the ballads in that enchanted
country of Gerard's fancy, in the land of the Valois. All the while
you read, you have a sense of the briefness of the pleasure, you
know that the hero cannot rest here, that the girls and their loves,
the cottage and its shelter, are not for him. He is only passing
by, happy yet wistful, far untravelled horizons are alluring him,
the great city is drawing him to herself and will slay him one day
in her den, as Scylla slew her victims.

Conceive Gerard living a wild life with wilder young men and women
in a great barrack of an old hotel that the painters amused
themselves by decorating. Conceive him coming home from the play,
or rather from watching the particular actress for whom he had a
distant, fantastic passion. He leaves the theatre and takes up a
newspaper, where he reads that tomorrow the Archers of Senlis are to
meet the Archers of Loisy. These were places in his native
district, where he had been a boy. They recalled many memories; he
could not sleep that night; the old scenes flashed before his half-
dreaming eyes. This was one of the visions.

"In front of a chateau of the time of Henri IV., a chateau with
peaked lichen-covered roofs, with a facing of red brick varied by
stonework of a paler hue, lay a wide, green lawn set round with
limes and elms, and through the leaves fell the golden rays of the
setting sun. Young girls were dancing in a circle on the mossy
grass, to the sound of airs that their mothers had sung, airs with
words so pure and natural that one felt one's self indeed in that
old Valois land, where for a thousand years has beat the heart of

"I was the only boy in the circle whither I had led my little
friend, Sylvie, a child of a neighbouring hamlet; Sylvie, so full of
life, so fresh, with her dark eyes, her regular profile, her
sunburnt face. I had loved nobody, I had seen nobody but her, till
the daughter of the chateau, fair and tall, entered the circle of
peasant girls. To obtain the right to join the ring she had to
chant a scrap of a ballad. We sat round her, and in a fresh, clear
voice she sang one of the old ballads of romance, full of love and
sadness . . . As she sang, the shadow of the great trees grew
deeper, and the broad light of the risen moon fell on her alone, she
standing without the listening circle. Her song was over, and no
one dared to break the silence. A light mist arose from the mossy
ground, trailing over the grass. We seemed to be in Paradise."

So the boy twisted a wreath for this new enchantress, the daughter
of a line of nobles with king's blood in her veins. And little
brown, deserted Sylvie cried.

All this Gerard remembered, and remembering, hurried down to the old
country place, and met Sylvie, now a woman grown, beautiful,
unspoiled, still remembering the primitive songs and fairy tales.
They walked together through the woods to the cottage of the aunt of
Sylvie, an old peasant woman of the richer class. She prepared
dinner for them, and sent De Nerval for the girl, who had gone to
ransack the peasant treasures in the garret.

Two portraits were hanging there--one that of a young man of the
good old times, smiling with red lips and brown eyes, a pastel in an
oval frame. Another medallion held the portrait of his wife, gay,
piquante, in a bodice with ribbons fluttering, and with a bird
perched on her finger. It was the old aunt in her youth, and
further search discovered her ancient festal-gown, of stiff brocade.
Sylvie arrayed herself in this splendour; patches were found in a
box of tarnished gold, a fan, a necklace of amber.

The holiday attire of the dead uncle, who had been a keeper in the
royal woods, was not far to seek, and Gerard and Sylvie appeared
before the aunt, as her old self, and her old lover. "My children!"
she cried and wept, and smiled through her tears at the cruel and
charming apparition of youth. Presently she dried her tears, and
only remembered the pomp and pride of her wedding. "We joined
hands, and sang the naive epithalamium of old France, amorous, and
full of flowery turns, as the Song of Songs; we were the bride and
the bridegroom all one sweet morning of summer."

I translated these fragments long ago in one of the first things I
ever tried to write. The passages are as touching and fresh, the
originals I mean, as when first I read them, and one hears the voice
of Sylvie singing:

"A Dammartin, l'y a trois belles filles,
L'y en a z'une plus belle que le jour!"

So Sylvie married a confectioner, and, like Marion in the "Ballad of
Forty Years," "Adrienne's dead" in a convent. That is all the
story, all the idyll. Gerard also wrote the idyll of his own
delirium, and the proofs of it (Le Reve et la Vie) were in his
pocket when they found him dead in La Rue de la Vieille Lanterne.

Some of his poems have a sweetness and careless grace, like the
grace of his favourite old ballads. One cannot translate things
like this:

"Ou sont nos amoureuses?
Elles sont au tombeau!
Elles sont plus heureuses
Dans un sejour plus beau."

But I shall try the couplets on a Greek air:

"Neither good morn nor good night."

The sunset is not yet, the morn is gone;
Yet in our eyes the light hath paled and passed;
But twilight shall be lovely as the dawn,
And night shall bring forgetfulness at last!

Gerard's poems are few; the best are his vision of a lady with gold
hair and brown eyes, whom he had loved in an earlier existence, and
his humorous little piece on a boy's love for a fair cousin, and on
their winter walk together, and the welcome smell of roast turkey
which greets them on the stairs, when they come home. There are
also poems of his madness, called Chimeres, and very beautiful in
form. You read and admire, and don't understand a line, yet it
seems that if we were a little more or a little less mad we would

"Et j'ai deux fois vainqueur traverse l'Acheron:
Modulant tour e tour sur la lyre d'Orphee
Les soupirs de la sainte et les cris de la fee."

Here is an attempt to translate the untranslatable, the sonnet
called -

"El Desdichado."

I am that dark, that disinherited,
That all dishonoured Prince of Aquitaine,
The Star upon my scutcheon long hath fled;
A black sun on my lute doth yet remain!
Oh, thou that didst console me not in vain,
Within the tomb, among the midnight dead,
Show me Italian seas, and blossoms wed,
The rose, the vine-leaf, and the golden grain.

Say, am I Love or Phoebus? have I been
Or Lusignan or Biron? By a Queen
Caressed within the Mermaid's haunt I lay,
And twice I crossed the unpermitted stream,
And touched on Orpheus' lyre as in a dream,
Sighs of a Saint, and laughter of a Fay!


To Richard Wilby, Esq., Eton College, Windsor.

My Dear Dick,--It is very good of you, among your severe studies at
Eton, to write to your Uncle. I am extremely pleased to hear that
your football is appreciated in the highest circles, and shall be
happy to have as good an account of your skill in making Latin

I am glad you like "She," Mr. Rider Haggard's book which I sent you.
It is "something like," as you say, and I quite agree with you, both
in being in love with the heroine, and in thinking that she preaches
rather too much. But, then, as she was over two thousand years old,
and had lived for most of that time among cannibals, who did not
understand her, one may excuse her for "jawing," as you say, a good
deal, when she met white men. You want to know if "She" is a true
story. Of course it is!

But you have read "She," and you have read all Cooper's, and
Marryat's, and Mr. Stevenson's books, and "Tom Sawyer," and
"Huckleberry Finn," several times. So have I, and am quite ready to
begin again. But, to my mind, books about "Red Indians" have always
seemed much the most interesting. At your age, I remember, I bought
a tomahawk, and, as we had also lots of spears and boomerangs from
Australia, the poultry used to have rather a rough time of it.

I never could do very much with a boomerang; but I could throw a
spear to a hair's breadth, as many a chicken had occasion to
discover. When you go home for Christmas I hope you will remember
that all this was very wrong, and that you will consider we are
civilized people, not Mohicans, nor Pawnees. I also made a stone
pipe, like Hiawatha's, but I never could drill a hole in the stem,
so it did not "draw" like a civilized pipe.

By way of an awful warning to you on this score, and also, as you
say you want a true book about Red Indians, let me recommend to you
the best book about them I ever came across. It is called "A
Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner, during
Thirty Years' Residence among the Indians," and it was published at
New York by Messrs. Carvill, in 1830.

If I were an American publisher, instead of a British author (how I
wish I was!) I'd publish "John Tanner" again, or perhaps cut a good
deal out, and make a boy's book of it. You are not likely to get it
to buy, but Mr. Steevens, the American bookseller, has found me a
copy. If I lend you it, will you be kind enough to illustrate it on
separate sheets of paper, and not make drawings on the pages of the
book? This will, in the long run, be more satisfactory to yourself,
as you will be able to keep your pictures; for I want "John Tanner"
back again: and don't lend him to your fag-master.

Tanner was born about 1780; he lived in Kentucky. Don't you wish
you had lived in Kentucky in Colonel Boone's time? The Shawnees
were roaming about the neighbourhood when Tanner was a little boy.
His uncle scalped one of them. This made bad feeling between the
Tanners and the Shawnees; but John, like any boy of spirit, wished
never to learn lessons, and wanted to be an Indian brave. He soon
had more of being a brave than he liked; but he never learned any
more lessons, and could not even read or write.

One day John's father told him not to leave the house, because from
the movements of the horses, he knew that Indians were in the woods.
So John seized the first chance and nipped out, and ran to a walnut
tree in one of the fields, where he began filling his straw hat with
walnuts. At that very moment he was caught by two Indians, who
spilled the nuts, put his hat on his head, and bolted with him. One
of the old women of the tribe had lost her son, and wanted to adopt
a boy, and so they adopted Johnny Tanner. They ran with him till he
was out of breath, till they reached the Ohio, where they threw him
into a canoe, paddled across, and set off running again.

In ten days' hard marching they reached the camp, and it was worse
than going to a new school, for all the Indians kicked John Tanner
about, and "their dance," he says, "was brisk and cheerful, after
the manner of the scalp dance!" Cheerful for John! He had to lie
between the fire and the door of the lodge, and every one who passed
gave him a kick. One old man was particularly cruel. When Tanner
was grown up, he came back to that neighbourhood, and the first
thing he asked was, "Where is Manito-o-geezhik?"

"Dead, two months since."

"It is well that he is dead," said John Tanner. But an old female
chief, Net-ko-kua, adopted him, and now it began to be fun. For he
was sent to shoot game for the family. Could anything be more
delightful? His first shot was at pigeons, with a pistol. The
pistol knocked down Tanner; but it also knocked down the pigeon. He
then caught martins--and measles, which was less entertaining. Even
Indians have measles! But even hunting is not altogether fun, when
you start with no breakfast and have no chance of supper unless you
kill game.

The other Red Indian books, especially the cheap ones, don't tell
you that very often the Indians are more than half-starved. Then
some one builds a magic lodge, and prays to the Great Spirit.
Tanner often did this, and he would then dream how the Great Spirit
appeared to him as a beautiful young man, and told him where he
would find game, and prophesied other events in his life. It is
curious to see a white man taking to the Indian religion, and having
exactly the same sort of visions as their red converts described to
the Jesuit fathers nearly two hundred years before.

Tanner saw some Indian ghosts, too, when he grew up. On the bank of
the Little Saskawjewun there was a capital camping-place where the
Indians never camped. It was called Jebingneezh-o-shin-naut--"the
place of two Dead Men." Two Indians of the same totem had killed
each other there. Now, their totem was that which Tanner bore, the
totem of his adopted Indian mother. The story was that if any man
camped there, the ghosts would come out of their graves; and that
was just what happened. Tanner made the experiment; he camped and
fell asleep. "Very soon I saw the two dead men come and sit down by
my fire opposite me. I got up and sat opposite them by the fire,
and in this position I awoke." Perhaps he fell asleep again, for he
now saw the two dead men, who sat opposite to him, and laughed and
poked fun and sticks at him. He could neither speak nor run away.
One of them showed him a horse on a hill, and said, "There, my
brother, is a horse I give you to ride on your journey home, and on
your way you can call and leave the horse, and spend another night
with us." So, next morning, he found the horse and rode it, but he
did not spend another night with the ghosts of his own totem. He
had seen enough of them.

Though Tanner believed in his own dreams of the Great Spirit, he did
not believe in those of his Indian mother. He thought she used to
prowl about in the daytime, find tracks of a bear or deer, watch
where they went to, and then say the beast's lair had been revealed
to her in a dream. But Tanner's own visions were "honest Injun."
Once, in a hard winter, Tanner played a trick on the old woman. All
the food they had was a quart of frozen bears' grease, kept in a
kettle with a skin fastened over it. But Tanner caught a rabbit
alive and popped him under the skin. So when the old woman went for
the bears' grease in the morning, and found it alive, she was not a
little alarmed.

But does not the notion of living on frozen pomatum rather take the
gilt off the delight of being an Indian? The old woman was as brave
and resolute as a man, but in one day she sold a hundred and twenty
beaver skins and many buffalo robes for rum. She always entertained
all the neighbouring Indians as long as the rum lasted, and Tanner
had a narrow escape of growing up a drunkard. He became such a
savage that when an Indian girl carelessly allowed his wigwam to be
burned, he stripped her of her blanket and turned her out for the
night in the snow.

So Tanner grew up in spite of hunger and drink. Once, when
starving, and without bullets, he met a buck moose. If he killed
the moose he would be saved, if he did not he would die. So he took
the screws out of the lock of his rifle, loaded with them in place
of bullets, tied the lock on with string, fired, and killed the

Tanner was worried into marrying a young squaw (at least he says he
did it because the girl wanted it), and this led to all his sorrows-
-this and a quarrel with a medicine-man. The medicine-man accused
him of being a wizard, and his wife got another Indian to shoot him.
Tanner was far from surgeons, and he actually hacked out the bullet
himself with an old razor. Another wounded Indian once amputated
his own arm. The ancient Spartans could not have been pluckier.
The Indians had other virtues as well as pluck. They were honest
and so hospitable, before they knew white men's ways, that they
would give poor strangers new mocassins and new buffalo cloaks.

Will it bore you, my dear Dick, if I tell you of an old Indian's
death? It seems a pretty and touching story. Old Pe-shau-ba was a
friend of Tanner. One day he fell violently ill. He sent for
Tanner and said to him: "I remember before I came to live in this
world, I was with the Great Spirit above. I saw many good and
desirable things, and among others a beautiful woman. And the Great
Spirit said: 'Pe-shau-ba, do you love the woman?' I told him I
did. Then he said, 'Go down and spend a few winters on earth. You
cannot stay long, and you must remember to be always kind and good
to my children whom you see below.' So I came down, but I have
never forgotten what was said to me.

"I have always stood in the smoke between the two bands when my
people fought with their enemies . . . I now hear the same voice
that talked to me before I came into the world. It tells me I can
remain here no longer." He then walked out, looked at the sun, the
sky, the lake, and the distant hills; then came in, lay down
composedly in his place, and in a few minutes ceased to breathe.

If we would hardly care to live like Indians, after all (and Tanner
tired of it and came back, an old man, to the States), we might
desire to die like Pe-shau-ba, if, like him, we had been "good and
kind to God's children whom we meet below." So here is a Christmas
moral for you, out of a Red Indian book, and I wish you a merry
Christmas and a happy New Year.


Reynolds's Peter Bell.

When the article on John Hamilton Reynolds ("A Friend of Keats") was
written, I had not seen his "Peter Bell" (Taylor and Hessey, London,
1888). This "Lyrical Ballad" is described in a letter of Keats's
published by Mr. Sidney Colvin in Macmillan's Magazine, August,
1888. The point of Reynolds's joke was to produce a parody before
the original. Reynolds was annoyed by what Hood called "The Betty
Foybles" of Wordsworth, and by the demeanour of a poet who was
serious, not only in season, but out of season. Moreover,
Wordsworth had damned "a pretty piece of heathenism" by Keats, with
praise which was faint even from Wordsworth to a contemporary. In
the circumstances, as Wordsworth was not yet a kind of solemn shade,
whom we see haunting the hills, and hear chanting the swan song of
the dying England, perhaps Reynolds's parody scarce needs excuse.
Mr. Ainger calls it "insolent," meaning that it has an unkind tone
of personal attack. That is, unluckily, true, but to myself the
parody appears remarkably funny, and quite worthy of "the sneering
brothers, the vile Smiths," as Lamb calls the authors of "Rejected
Addresses." Lamb wrote to tell Wordsworth that he did not see the
fun of the parody--perhaps it is as well that we should fail to see
the fun of jests broken on our friends. But will any Wordsworthian
deny to-day the humour of this? -

"He is rurally related;
Peter Bell hath country cousins,
(He had once a worthy mother),
Bells and Peters by the dozens,
But Peter Bell he hath no brothers,
Not a brother owneth he,
Peter Bell he hath no brother;
His mother had no other son,
No other son e'er called her 'mother,'
Peter Bell hath brother none."

As Keats says in a review he wrote for The Examiner, "there is a
pestilent humour in the rhymes, and an inveterate cadence in some of
the stanzas that must be lamented." In his review Keats tried to
hurt neither side, but his heart was with Reynolds; "it would be
just as well to trounce Lord Byron in the same manner."

People still make an outcry over the trouncing of Keats. It was
bludgeonly done, but only part of a game, a kind of horseplay at
which most men of letters of the age were playing. Who but regrets
that, in his "Life of Keats," Mr. Colvin should speak as if Sir
Walter Scott had, perhaps, a guilty knowledge of the review of Keats
in Blackwood! There is but a tittle of published evidence to the
truth of a theory in itself utterly detestable, and, to every one
who understands the character of Scott, wholly beyond possibility of
belief. Even if Lockhart was the reviewer, and if Scott came to
know it, was Scott responsible for what Lockhart did in 1819 or
1820, the very time when Mrs. Shelley thought he was defending
Shelley in Blackwood (where he had praised her Frankenstein), and
when she spoke of Sir Walter as "the only liberal man in the
faction"? Unluckily Keats died, and his death was absurdly
attributed to a pair of reviews which may have irritated him, and
which were coarse, and cruel even for that period of robust
reviewing. But Keats knew very well the value of these critiques,
and probably resented them not much more than a football player
resents being "hacked" in the course of the game. He was very
willing to see Byron and Wordsworth "trounced," and as ready as
Peter Corcoran in his friend's poem to "take punishment" himself.
The character of Keats was plucky, and his estimate of his own
genius was perfectly sane. He knew that he was in the thick of a
literary "scrimmage," and he was not the man to flinch or to repine
at the consequences.


Portraits of Virgil and Lucretius.

In the Letter on Virgil some remarks are made on a bust of the poet.
It is wholly fanciful. Our only vestiges of a portrait of Virgil
are in two MSS.; the better of the two is in the Vatican. The
design represents a youth, with dark hair and a pleasant face,
seated reading. A desk is beside him, and a case for manuscript, in
shape like a band-box. (See Visconti, "Icon. Rom." i. 179, plate
13.) Martial tells us that portraits of Virgil were illuminated on
copies of his "AEneid." The Vatican MS. is of the twelfth century.
But every one who has followed the fortunes of books knows that a
kind of tradition often preserves the illustrations, which are
copied and recopied without material change. (See Mr. Jacobs's
"Fables of Bidpai," Nutt, 1888.) Thus the Vatican MS. may preserve
at least a shadow of Virgil.

If there be any portrait of Lucretius, it is a profile on a sard,
published by Mr. Munro in his famous edition of the poet. The
letters LVCR are inscribed on the stone, and appear to be
contemporary with the gem. This, at least, is the opinion of Mr. A.
S. Murray, of the late Mr. C. W. King, Braun, and Muller. On the
other hand, Bernouilli ("Rom. Icon." i. 247) regards this, and
apparently most other Roman gems with inscriptions, as "apocryphal."
The ring, which was in the Nott collection, is now in my possession.
If Lucretius were the rather pedantic and sharp-nosed Roman of the
gem, his wife had little reason for the jealousy which took so
deplorable a form. Cold this Lucretius may have been, volatile--
never! {11}


{1} This was written during the lifetime of Mr. Arnold and Mr.

{2} Since this was written, Mr. Bridges has made his lyrics
accessible in "Shorter Poems." (G. Bell and Sons: 1890)

{3} Macmillans.

{4} Reynolds was, perhaps, a little irreverent. He anticipated
Wordsworth's "Peter Bell" by a premature parody, "Peter Bell the

{5} Appendix on Reynolds's "Peter Bell."

{6} "Aucassin and Nicolette" has now been edited, annotated, and
equipped with a translation by Mr. F. W. Bourdillon (Kegan Paul &
Trench, 1887).

{7} Edinburgh, 1862.

{8} The Elzevir piracy was rather earlier.

{9} Pindar, perhaps, in one of his fragments, suggested that pretty
Cum regnat Rosa.

{10} See next letter.

{11} Mr. Munro calls the stone "a black agate," and does not
mention its provenance. The engraving in his book does no justice
to the portrait. There is another gem representing Lucretius in the
Vatican: of old it belonged to Leo X. The two gems are in all
respects similar. A seal with this head, or one very like it,
belonged to Evelyn, the friend of Mr. Pepys.

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