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Notes on Life and Letters by Joseph Conrad

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This etext was prepared by David Price
ccx074@coventry.ac.uk, from the 1921 J. M. Dent edition.

Notes on Life & Letters
by Joseph Conrad


Author's note
PART I--Letters




I don't know whether I ought to offer an apology for this
collection which has more to do with life than with letters. Its
appeal is made to orderly minds. This, to be frank about it, is a
process of tidying up, which, from the nature of things, cannot be
regarded as premature. The fact is that I wanted to do it myself
because of a feeling that had nothing to do with the considerations
of worthiness or unworthiness of the small (but unbroken) pieces
collected within the covers of this volume. Of course it may be
said that I might have taken up a broom and used it without saying
anything about it. That, certainly, is one way of tidying up.

But it would have been too much to have expected me to treat all
this matter as removable rubbish. All those things had a place in
my life. Whether any of them deserve to have been picked up and
ranged on the shelf--this shelf--I cannot say, and, frankly, I have
not allowed my mind to dwell on the question. I was afraid of
thinking myself into a mood that would hurt my feelings; for those
pieces of writing, whatever may be the comment on their display,
appertain to the character of the man.

And so here they are, dusted, which was but a decent thing to do,
but in no way polished, extending from the year '98 to the year
'20, a thin array (for such a stretch of time) of really innocent
attitudes: Conrad literary, Conrad political, Conrad reminiscent,
Conrad controversial. Well, yes! A one-man show--or is it merely
the show of one man?

The only thing that will not be found amongst those Figures and
Things that have passed away, will be Conrad EN PANTOUFLES. It is
a constitutional inability. SCHLAFROCK UND PANTOFFELN! Not that!
Never! . . . I don't know whether I dare boast like a certain South
American general who used to say that no emergency of war or peace
had ever found him "with his boots off"; but I may say that
whenever the various periodicals mentioned in this book called on
me to come out and blow the trumpet of personal opinions or strike
the pensive lute that speaks of the past, I always tried to pull on
my boots first. I didn't want to do it, God knows! Their Editors,
to whom I beg to offer my thanks here, made me perform mainly by
kindness but partly by bribery. Well, yes! Bribery? What can you
expect? I never pretended to be better than the people in the next
street, or even in the same street.

This volume (including these embarrassed introductory remarks) is
as near as I shall ever come to DESHABILLE in public; and perhaps
it will do something to help towards a better vision of the man, if
it gives no more than a partial view of a piece of his back, a
little dusty (after the process of tidying up), a little bowed, and
receding from the world not because of weariness or misanthropy but
for other reasons that cannot be helped: because the leaves fall,
the water flows, the clock ticks with that horrid pitiless
solemnity which you must have observed in the ticking of the hall
clock at home. For reasons like that. Yes! It recedes. And this
was the chance to afford one more view of it--even to my own eyes.

The section within this volume called Letters explains itself,
though I do not pretend to say that it justifies its own existence.
It claims nothing in its defence except the right of speech which I
believe belongs to everybody outside a Trappist monastery. The
part I have ventured, for shortness' sake, to call Life, may
perhaps justify itself by the emotional sincerity of the feelings
to which the various papers included under that head owe their
origin. And as they relate to events of which everyone has a date,
they are in the nature of sign-posts pointing out the direction my
thoughts were compelled to take at the various cross-roads. If
anybody detects any sort of consistency in the choice, this will be
only proof positive that wisdom had nothing to do with it. Whether
right or wrong, instinct alone is invariable; a fact which only
adds a deeper shade to its inherent mystery. The appearance of
intellectuality these pieces may present at first sight is merely
the result of the arrangement of words. The logic that may be
found there is only the logic of the language. But I need not
labour the point. There will be plenty of people sagacious enough
to perceive the absence of all wisdom from these pages. But I
believe sufficiently in human sympathies to imagine that very few
will question their sincerity. Whatever delusions I may have
suffered from I have had no delusions as to the nature of the facts
commented on here. I may have misjudged their import: but that is
the sort of error for which one may expect a certain amount of

The only paper of this collection which has never been published
before is the Note on the Polish Problem. It was written at the
request of a friend to be shown privately, and its "Protectorate"
idea, sprung from a strong sense of the critical nature of the
situation, was shaped by the actual circumstances of the time. The
time was about a month before the entrance of Roumania into the
war, and though, honestly, I had seen already the shadow of coming
events I could not permit my misgivings to enter into and destroy
the structure of my plan. I still believe that there was some
sense in it. It may certainly be charged with the appearance of
lack of faith and it lays itself open to the throwing of many
stones; but my object was practical and I had to consider warily
the preconceived notions of the people to whom it was implicitly
addressed, and also their unjustifiable hopes. They were
unjustifiable, but who was to tell them that? I mean who was wise
enough and convincing enough to show them the inanity of their
mental attitude? The whole atmosphere was poisoned with visions
that were not so much false as simply impossible. They were also
the result of vague and unconfessed fears, and that made their
strength. For myself, with a very definite dread in my heart, I
was careful not to allude to their character because I did not want
the Note to be thrown away unread. And then I had to remember that
the impossible has sometimes the trick of coming to pass to the
confusion of minds and often to the crushing of hearts.

Of the other papers I have nothing special to say. They are what
they are, and I am by now too hardened a sinner to feel ashamed of
insignificant indiscretions. And as to their appearance in this
form I claim that indulgence to which all sinners against
themselves are entitled.

J. C.




"I have not read this author's books, and if I have read them I
have forgotten what they were about."

These words are reported as having been uttered in our midst not a
hundred years ago, publicly, from the seat of justice, by a civic
magistrate. The words of our municipal rulers have a solemnity and
importance far above the words of other mortals, because our
municipal rulers more than any other variety of our governors and
masters represent the average wisdom, temperament, sense and virtue
of the community. This generalisation, it ought to be promptly
said in the interests of eternal justice (and recent friendship),
does not apply to the United States of America. There, if one may
believe the long and helpless indignations of their daily and
weekly Press, the majority of municipal rulers appear to be thieves
of a particularly irrepressible sort. But this by the way. My
concern is with a statement issuing from the average temperament
and the average wisdom of a great and wealthy community, and
uttered by a civic magistrate obviously without fear and without

I confess I am pleased with his temper, which is that of prudence.
"I have not read the books," he says, and immediately he adds, "and
if I have read them I have forgotten." This is excellent caution.
And I like his style: it is unartificial and bears the stamp of
manly sincerity. As a reported piece of prose this declaration is
easy to read and not difficult to believe. Many books have not
been read; still more have been forgotten. As a piece of civic
oratory this declaration is strikingly effective. Calculated to
fall in with the bent of the popular mind, so familiar with all
forms of forgetfulness, it has also the power to stir up a subtle
emotion while it starts a train of thought--and what greater force
can be expected from human speech? But it is in naturalness that
this declaration is perfectly delightful, for there is nothing more
natural than for a grave City Father to forget what the books he
has read once--long ago--in his giddy youth maybe--were about.

And the books in question are novels, or, at any rate, were written
as novels. I proceed thus cautiously (following my illustrious
example) because being without fear and desiring to remain as far
as possible without reproach, I confess at once that I have not
read them.

I have not; and of the million persons or more who are said to have
read them, I never met one yet with the talent of lucid exposition
sufficiently developed to give me a connected account of what they
are about. But they are books, part and parcel of humanity, and as
such, in their ever increasing, jostling multitude, they are worthy
of regard, admiration, and compassion.

Especially of compassion. It has been said a long time ago that
books have their fate. They have, and it is very much like the
destiny of man. They share with us the great incertitude of
ignominy or glory--of severe justice and senseless persecution--of
calumny and misunderstanding--the shame of undeserved success. Of
all the inanimate objects, of all men's creations, books are the
nearest to us, for they contain our very thought, our ambitions,
our indignations, our illusions, our fidelity to truth, and our
persistent leaning towards error. But most of all they resemble us
in their precarious hold on life. A bridge constructed according
to the rules of the art of bridge-building is certain of a long,
honourable and useful career. But a book as good in its way as the
bridge may perish obscurely on the very day of its birth. The art
of their creators is not sufficient to give them more than a moment
of life. Of the books born from the restlessness, the inspiration,
and the vanity of human minds, those that the Muses would love best
lie more than all others under the menace of an early death.
Sometimes their defects will save them. Sometimes a book fair to
see may--to use a lofty expression--have no individual soul.
Obviously a book of that sort cannot die. It can only crumble into
dust. But the best of books drawing sustenance from the sympathy
and memory of men have lived on the brink of destruction, for men's
memories are short, and their sympathy is, we must admit, a very
fluctuating, unprincipled emotion.

No secret of eternal life for our books can be found amongst the
formulas of art, any more than for our bodies in a prescribed
combination of drugs. This is not because some books are not
worthy of enduring life, but because the formulas of art are
dependent on things variable, unstable and untrustworthy; on human
sympathies, on prejudices, on likes and dislikes, on the sense of
virtue and the sense of propriety, on beliefs and theories that,
indestructible in themselves, always change their form--often in
the lifetime of one fleeting generation.


Of all books, novels, which the Muses should love, make a serious
claim on our compassion. The art of the novelist is simple. At
the same time it is the most elusive of all creative arts, the most
liable to be obscured by the scruples of its servants and votaries,
the one pre-eminently destined to bring trouble to the mind and the
heart of the artist. After all, the creation of a world is not a
small undertaking except perhaps to the divinely gifted. In truth
every novelist must begin by creating for himself a world, great or
little, in which he can honestly believe. This world cannot be
made otherwise than in his own image: it is fated to remain
individual and a little mysterious, and yet it must resemble
something already familiar to the experience, the thoughts and the
sensations of his readers. At the heart of fiction, even the least
worthy of the name, some sort of truth can be found--if only the
truth of a childish theatrical ardour in the game of life, as in
the novels of Dumas the father. But the fair truth of human
delicacy can be found in Mr. Henry James's novels; and the comical,
appalling truth of human rapacity let loose amongst the spoils of
existence lives in the monstrous world created by Balzac. The
pursuit of happiness by means lawful and unlawful, through
resignation or revolt, by the clever manipulation of conventions or
by solemn hanging on to the skirts of the latest scientific theory,
is the only theme that can be legitimately developed by the
novelist who is the chronicler of the adventures of mankind amongst
the dangers of the kingdom of the earth. And the kingdom of this
earth itself, the ground upon which his individualities stand,
stumble, or die, must enter into his scheme of faithful record. To
encompass all this in one harmonious conception is a great feat;
and even to attempt it deliberately with serious intention, not
from the senseless prompting of an ignorant heart, is an honourable
ambition. For it requires some courage to step in calmly where
fools may be eager to rush. As a distinguished and successful
French novelist once observed of fiction, "C'est un art TROP

It is natural that the novelist should doubt his ability to cope
with his task. He imagines it more gigantic than it is. And yet
literary creation being only one of the legitimate forms of human
activity has no value but on the condition of not excluding the
fullest recognition of all the more distinct forms of action. This
condition is sometimes forgotten by the man of letters, who often,
especially in his youth, is inclined to lay a claim of exclusive
superiority for his own amongst all the other tasks of the human
mind. The mass of verse and prose may glimmer here and there with
the glow of a divine spark, but in the sum of human effort it has
no special importance. There is no justificative formula for its
existence any more than for any other artistic achievement. With
the rest of them it is destined to be forgotten, without, perhaps,
leaving the faintest trace. Where a novelist has an advantage over
the workers in other fields of thought is in his privilege of
freedom--the freedom of expression and the freedom of confessing
his innermost beliefs--which should console him for the hard
slavery of the pen.


Liberty of imagination should be the most precious possession of a
novelist. To try voluntarily to discover the fettering dogmas of
some romantic, realistic, or naturalistic creed in the free work of
its own inspiration, is a trick worthy of human perverseness which,
after inventing an absurdity, endeavours to find for it a pedigree
of distinguished ancestors. It is a weakness of inferior minds
when it is not the cunning device of those who, uncertain of their
talent, would seek to add lustre to it by the authority of a
school. Such, for instance, are the high priests who have
proclaimed Stendhal for a prophet of Naturalism. But Stendhal
himself would have accepted no limitation of his freedom.
Stendhal's mind was of the first order. His spirit above must be
raging with a peculiarly Stendhalesque scorn and indignation. For
the truth is that more than one kind of intellectual cowardice
hides behind the literary formulas. And Stendhal was pre-eminently
courageous. He wrote his two great novels, which so few people
have read, in a spirit of fearless liberty.

It must not be supposed that I claim for the artist in fiction the
freedom of moral Nihilism. I would require from him many acts of
faith of which the first would be the cherishing of an undying
hope; and hope, it will not be contested, implies all the piety of
effort and renunciation. It is the God-sent form of trust in the
magic force and inspiration belonging to the life of this earth.
We are inclined to forget that the way of excellence is in the
intellectual, as distinguished from emotional, humility. What one
feels so hopelessly barren in declared pessimism is just its
arrogance. It seems as if the discovery made by many men at
various times that there is much evil in the world were a source of
proud and unholy joy unto some of the modern writers. That frame
of mind is not the proper one in which to approach seriously the
art of fiction. It gives an author--goodness only knows why--an
elated sense of his own superiority. And there is nothing more
dangerous than such an elation to that absolute loyalty towards his
feelings and sensations an author should keep hold of in his most
exalted moments of creation.

To be hopeful in an artistic sense it is not necessary to think
that the world is good. It is enough to believe that there is no
impossibility of its being made so. If the flight of imaginative
thought may be allowed to rise superior to many moralities current
amongst mankind, a novelist who would think himself of a superior
essence to other men would miss the first condition of his calling.
To have the gift of words is no such great matter. A man furnished
with a long-range weapon does not become a hunter or a warrior by
the mere possession of a fire-arm; many other qualities of
character and temperament are necessary to make him either one or
the other. Of him from whose armoury of phrases one in a hundred
thousand may perhaps hit the far-distant and elusive mark of art I
would ask that in his dealings with mankind he should be capable of
giving a tender recognition to their obscure virtues. I would not
have him impatient with their small failings and scornful of their
errors. I would not have him expect too much gratitude from that
humanity whose fate, as illustrated in individuals, it is open to
him to depict as ridiculous or terrible. I would wish him to look
with a large forgiveness at men's ideas and prejudices, which are
by no means the outcome of malevolence, but depend on their
education, their social status, even their professions. The good
artist should expect no recognition of his toil and no admiration
of his genius, because his toil can with difficulty be appraised
and his genius cannot possibly mean anything to the illiterate who,
even from the dreadful wisdom of their evoked dead, have, so far,
culled nothing but inanities and platitudes. I would wish him to
enlarge his sympathies by patient and loving observation while he
grows in mental power. It is in the impartial practice of life, if
anywhere, that the promise of perfection for his art can be found,
rather than in the absurd formulas trying to prescribe this or that
particular method of technique or conception. Let him mature the
strength of his imagination amongst the things of this earth, which
it is his business to cherish and know, and refrain from calling
down his inspiration ready-made from some heaven of perfections of
which he knows nothing. And I would not grudge him the proud
illusion that will come sometimes to a writer: the illusion that
his achievement has almost equalled the greatness of his dream.
For what else could give him the serenity and the force to hug to
his breast as a thing delightful and human, the virtue, the
rectitude and sagacity of his own City, declaring with simple
eloquence through the mouth of a Conscript Father: "I have not
read this author's books, and if I have read them I have forgotten
. . ."


The critical faculty hesitates before the magnitude of Mr. Henry
James's work. His books stand on my shelves in a place whose
accessibility proclaims the habit of frequent communion. But not
all his books. There is no collected edition to date, such as some
of "our masters" have been provided with; no neat rows of volumes
in buckram or half calf, putting forth a hasty claim to
completeness, and conveying to my mind a hint of finality, of a
surrender to fate of that field in which all these victories have
been won. Nothing of the sort has been done for Mr. Henry James's
victories in England.

In a world such as ours, so painful with all sorts of wonders, one
would not exhaust oneself in barren marvelling over mere bindings,
had not the fact, or rather the absence of the material fact,
prominent in the case of other men whose writing counts, (for good
or evil)--had it not been, I say, expressive of a direct truth
spiritual and intellectual; an accident of--I suppose--the
publishing business acquiring a symbolic meaning from its negative
nature. Because, emphatically, in the body of Mr. Henry James's
work there is no suggestion of finality, nowhere a hint of
surrender, or even of probability of surrender, to his own
victorious achievement in that field where he is a master.
Happily, he will never be able to claim completeness; and, were he
to confess to it in a moment of self-ignorance, he would not be
believed by the very minds for whom such a confession naturally
would be meant. It is impossible to think of Mr. Henry James
becoming "complete" otherwise than by the brutality of our common
fate whose finality is meaningless--in the sense of its logic being
of a material order, the logic of a falling stone.

I do not know into what brand of ink Mr. Henry James dips his pen;
indeed, I heard that of late he had been dictating; but I know that
his mind is steeped in the waters flowing from the fountain of
intellectual youth. The thing--a privilege--a miracle--what you
will--is not quite hidden from the meanest of us who run as we
read. To those who have the grace to stay their feet it is
manifest. After some twenty years of attentive acquaintance with
Mr. Henry James's work, it grows into absolute conviction which,
all personal feeling apart, brings a sense of happiness into one's
artistic existence. If gratitude, as someone defined it, is a
lively sense of favours to come, it becomes very easy to be
grateful to the author of The Ambassadors--to name the latest of
his works. The favours are sure to come; the spring of that
benevolence will never run dry. The stream of inspiration flows
brimful in a predetermined direction, unaffected by the periods of
drought, untroubled in its clearness by the storms of the land of
letters, without languor or violence in its force, never running
back upon itself, opening new visions at every turn of its course
through that richly inhabited country its fertility has created for
our delectation, for our judgment, for our exploring. It is, in
fact, a magic spring.

With this phrase the metaphor of the perennial spring, of the
inextinguishable youth, of running waters, as applied to Mr. Henry
James's inspiration, may be dropped. In its volume and force the
body of his work may be compared rather to a majestic river. All
creative art is magic, is evocation of the unseen in forms
persuasive, enlightening, familiar and surprising, for the
edification of mankind, pinned down by the conditions of its
existence to the earnest consideration of the most insignificant
tides of reality.

Action in its essence, the creative art of a writer of fiction may
be compared to rescue work carried out in darkness against cross
gusts of wind swaying the action of a great multitude. It is
rescue work, this snatching of vanishing phases of turbulence,
disguised in fair words, out of the native obscurity into a light
where the struggling forms may be seen, seized upon, endowed with
the only possible form of permanence in this world of relative
values--the permanence of memory. And the multitude feels it
obscurely too; since the demand of the individual to the artist is,
in effect, the cry, "Take me out of myself!" meaning really, out of
my perishable activity into the light of imperishable
consciousness. But everything is relative, and the light of
consciousness is only enduring, merely the most enduring of the
things of this earth, imperishable only as against the short-lived
work of our industrious hands.

When the last aqueduct shall have crumbled to pieces, the last
airship fallen to the ground, the last blade of grass have died
upon a dying earth, man, indomitable by his training in resistance
to misery and pain, shall set this undiminished light of his eyes
against the feeble glow of the sun. The artistic faculty, of which
each of us has a minute grain, may find its voice in some
individual of that last group, gifted with a power of expression
and courageous enough to interpret the ultimate experience of
mankind in terms of his temperament, in terms of art. I do not
mean to say that he would attempt to beguile the last moments of
humanity by an ingenious tale. It would be too much to expect--
from humanity. I doubt the heroism of the hearers. As to the
heroism of the artist, no doubt is necessary. There would be on
his part no heroism. The artist in his calling of interpreter
creates (the clearest form of demonstration) because he must. He
is so much of a voice that, for him, silence is like death; and the
postulate was, that there is a group alive, clustered on his
threshold to watch the last flicker of light on a black sky, to
hear the last word uttered in the stilled workshop of the earth.
It is safe to affirm that, if anybody, it will be the imaginative
man who would be moved to speak on the eve of that day without to-
morrow--whether in austere exhortation or in a phrase of sardonic
comment, who can guess?

For my own part, from a short and cursory acquaintance with my
kind, I am inclined to think that the last utterance will
formulate, strange as it may appear, some hope now to us utterly
inconceivable. For mankind is delightful in its pride, its
assurance, and its indomitable tenacity. It will sleep on the
battlefield among its own dead, in the manner of an army having won
a barren victory. It will not know when it is beaten. And perhaps
it is right in that quality. The victories are not, perhaps, so
barren as it may appear from a purely strategical, utilitarian
point of view. Mr. Henry James seems to hold that belief. Nobody
has rendered better, perhaps, the tenacity of temper, or known how
to drape the robe of spiritual honour about the drooping form of a
victor in a barren strife. And the honour is always well won; for
the struggles Mr. Henry James chronicles with such subtle and
direct insight are, though only personal contests, desperate in
their silence, none the less heroic (in the modern sense) for the
absence of shouted watchwords, clash of arms and sound of trumpets.
Those are adventures in which only choice souls are ever involved.
And Mr. Henry James records them with a fearless and insistent
fidelity to the PERIPETIES of the contest, and the feelings of the

The fiercest excitements of a romance DE CAPE ET D'EPEE, the
romance of yard-arm and boarding pike so dear to youth, whose
knowledge of action (as of other things) is imperfect and limited,
are matched, for the quickening of our maturer years, by the tasks
set, by the difficulties presented, to the sense of truth, of
necessity--before all, of conduct--of Mr. Henry James's men and
women. His mankind is delightful. It is delightful in its
tenacity; it refuses to own itself beaten; it will sleep on the
battlefield. These warlike images come by themselves under the
pen; since from the duality of man's nature and the competition of
individuals, the life-history of the earth must in the last
instance be a history of a really very relentless warfare. Neither
his fellows, nor his gods, nor his passions will leave a man alone.
In virtue of these allies and enemies, he holds his precarious
dominion, he possesses his fleeting significance; and it is this
relation in all its manifestations, great and little, superficial
or profound, and this relation alone, that is commented upon,
interpreted, demonstrated by the art of the novelist in the only
possible way in which the task can be performed: by the
independent creation of circumstance and character, achieved
against all the difficulties of expression, in an imaginative
effort finding its inspiration from the reality of forms and
sensations. That a sacrifice must be made, that something has to
be given up, is the truth engraved in the innermost recesses of the
fair temple built for our edification by the masters of fiction.
There is no other secret behind the curtain. All adventure, all
love, every success is resumed in the supreme energy of an act of
renunciation. It is the uttermost limit of our power; it is the
most potent and effective force at our disposal on which rest the
labours of a solitary man in his study, the rock on which have been
built commonwealths whose might casts a dwarfing shadow upon two
oceans. Like a natural force which is obscured as much as
illuminated by the multiplicity of phenomena, the power of
renunciation is obscured by the mass of weaknesses, vacillations,
secondary motives and false steps and compromises which make up the
sum of our activity. But no man or woman worthy of the name can
pretend to anything more, to anything greater. And Mr. Henry
James's men and women are worthy of the name, within the limits his
art, so clear, so sure of itself, has drawn round their activities.
He would be the last to claim for them Titanic proportions. The
earth itself has grown smaller in the course of ages. But in every
sphere of human perplexities and emotions, there are more
greatnesses than one--not counting here the greatness of the artist
himself. Wherever he stands, at the beginning or the end of
things, a man has to sacrifice his gods to his passions, or his
passions to his gods. That is the problem, great enough, in all
truth, if approached in the spirit of sincerity and knowledge.

In one of his critical studies, published some fifteen years ago,
Mr. Henry James claims for the novelist the standing of the
historian as the only adequate one, as for himself and before his
audience. I think that the claim cannot be contested, and that the
position is unassailable. Fiction is history, human history, or it
is nothing. But it is also more than that; it stands on firmer
ground, being based on the reality of forms and the observation of
social phenomena, whereas history is based on documents, and the
reading of print and handwriting--on second-hand impression. Thus
fiction is nearer truth. But let that pass. A historian may be an
artist too, and a novelist is a historian, the preserver, the
keeper, the expounder, of human experience. As is meet for a man
of his descent and tradition, Mr. Henry James is the historian of
fine consciences.

Of course, this is a general statement; but I don't think its truth
will be, or can be questioned. Its fault is that it leaves so much
out; and, besides, Mr. Henry James is much too considerable to be
put into the nutshell of a phrase. The fact remains that he has
made his choice, and that his choice is justified up to the hilt by
the success of his art. He has taken for himself the greater part.
The range of a fine conscience covers more good and evil than the
range of conscience which may be called, roughly, not fine; a
conscience, less troubled by the nice discrimination of shades of
conduct. A fine conscience is more concerned with essentials; its
triumphs are more perfect, if less profitable, in a worldly sense.
There is, in short, more truth in its working for a historian to
detect and to show. It is a thing of infinite complication and
suggestion. None of these escapes the art of Mr. Henry James. He
has mastered the country, his domain, not wild indeed, but full of
romantic glimpses, of deep shadows and sunny places. There are no
secrets left within his range. He has disclosed them as they
should be disclosed--that is, beautifully. And, indeed, ugliness
has but little place in this world of his creation. Yet, it is
always felt in the truthfulness of his art; it is there, it
surrounds the scene, it presses close upon it. It is made visible,
tangible, in the struggles, in the contacts of the fine
consciences, in their perplexities, in the sophism of their
mistakes. For a fine conscience is naturally a virtuous one. What
is natural about it is just its fineness, an abiding sense of the
intangible, ever-present, right. It is most visible in their
ultimate triumph, in their emergence from miracle, through an
energetic act of renunciation. Energetic, not violent: the
distinction is wide, enormous, like that between substance and

Through it all Mr. Henry James keeps a firm hold of the substance,
of what is worth having, of what is worth holding. The contrary
opinion has been, if not absolutely affirmed, then at least
implied, with some frequency. To most of us, living willingly in a
sort of intellectual moonlight, in the faintly reflected light of
truth, the shadows so firmly renounced by Mr. Henry James's men and
women, stand out endowed with extraordinary value, with a value so
extraordinary that their rejection offends, by its uncalled-for
scrupulousness, those business-like instincts which a careful
Providence has implanted in our breasts. And, apart from that just
cause of discontent, it is obvious that a solution by rejection
must always present a certain lack of finality, especially
startling when contrasted with the usual methods of solution by
rewards and punishments, by crowned love, by fortune, by a broken
leg or a sudden death. Why the reading public which, as a body,
has never laid upon a story-teller the command to be an artist,
should demand from him this sham of Divine Omnipotence, is utterly
incomprehensible. But so it is; and these solutions are legitimate
inasmuch as they satisfy the desire for finality, for which our
hearts yearn with a longing greater than the longing for the loaves
and fishes of this earth. Perhaps the only true desire of mankind,
coming thus to light in its hours of leisure, is to be set at rest.
One is never set at rest by Mr. Henry James's novels. His books
end as an episode in life ends. You remain with the sense of the
life still going on; and even the subtle presence of the dead is
felt in that silence that comes upon the artist-creation when the
last word has been read. It is eminently satisfying, but it is not
final. Mr. Henry James, great artist and faithful historian, never
attempts the impossible.


It is sweet to talk decorously of the dead who are part of our
past, our indisputable possession. One must admit regretfully that
to-day is but a scramble, that to-morrow may never come; it is only
the precious yesterday that cannot be taken away from us. A gift
from the dead, great and little, it makes life supportable, it
almost makes one believe in a benevolent scheme of creation. And
some kind of belief is very necessary. But the real knowledge of
matters infinitely more profound than any conceivable scheme of
creation is with the dead alone. That is why our talk about them
should be as decorous as their silence. Their generosity and their
discretion deserve nothing less at our hands; and they, who belong
already to the unchangeable, would probably disdain to claim more
than this from a mankind that changes its loves and its hates about
every twenty-five years--at the coming of every new and wiser

One of the most generous of the dead is Daudet, who, with a
prodigality approaching magnificence, gave himself up to us without
reserve in his work, with all his qualities and all his faults.
Neither his qualities nor his faults were great, though they were
by no means imperceptible. It is only his generosity that is out
of the common. What strikes one most in his work is the
disinterestedness of the toiler. With more talent than many bigger
men, he did not preach about himself, he did not attempt to
persuade mankind into a belief of his own greatness. He never
posed as a scientist or as a seer, not even as a prophet; and he
neglected his interests to the point of never propounding a theory
for the purpose of giving a tremendous significance to his art,
alone of all things, in a world that, by some strange oversight,
has not been supplied with an obvious meaning. Neither did he
affect a passive attitude before the spectacle of life, an attitude
which in gods--and in a rare mortal here and there--may appear
godlike, but assumed by some men, causes one, very unwillingly, to
think of the melancholy quietude of an ape. He was not the
wearisome expounder of this or that theory, here to-day and spurned
to-morrow. He was not a great artist, he was not an artist at all,
if you like--but he was Alphonse Daudet, a man as naively clear,
honest, and vibrating as the sunshine of his native land; that
regrettably undiscriminating sunshine which matures grapes and
pumpkins alike, and cannot, of course, obtain the commendation of
the very select who look at life from under a parasol.

Naturally, being a man from the South, he had a rather outspoken
belief in himself, but his small distinction, worth many a greater,
was in not being in bondage to some vanishing creed. He was a
worker who could not compel the admiration of the few, but who
deserved the affection of the many; and he may be spoken of with
tenderness and regret, for he is not immortal--he is only dead.
During his life the simple man whose business it ought to have been
to climb, in the name of Art, some elevation or other, was content
to remain below, on the plain, amongst his creations, and take an
eager part in those disasters, weaknesses, and joys which are
tragic enough in their droll way, but are by no means so momentous
and profound as some writers--probably for the sake of Art--would
like to make us believe. There is, when one thinks of it, a
considerable want of candour in the august view of life. Without
doubt a cautious reticence on the subject, or even a delicately
false suggestion thrown out in that direction is, in a way,
praiseworthy, since it helps to uphold the dignity of man--a matter
of great importance, as anyone can see; still one cannot help
feeling that a certain amount of sincerity would not be wholly
blamable. To state, then, with studied moderation a belief that in
unfortunate moments of lucidity is irresistibly borne in upon most
of us--the blind agitation caused mostly by hunger and complicated
by love and ferocity does not deserve either by its beauty, or its
morality, or its possible results, the artistic fuss made over it.
It may be consoling--for human folly is very BIZARRE--but it is
scarcely honest to shout at those who struggle drowning in an
insignificant pool: You are indeed admirable and great to be the
victims of such a profound, of such a terrible ocean!

And Daudet was honest; perhaps because he knew no better--but he
was very honest. If he saw only the surface of things it is for
the reason that most things have nothing but a surface. He did not
pretend--perhaps because he did not know how--he did not pretend to
see any depths in a life that is only a film of unsteady
appearances stretched over regions deep indeed, but which have
nothing to do with the half-truths, half-thoughts, and whole
illusions of existence. The road to these distant regions does not
lie through the domain of Art or the domain of Science where well-
known voices quarrel noisily in a misty emptiness; it is a path of
toilsome silence upon which travel men simple and unknown, with
closed lips, or, maybe, whispering their pain softly--only to

But Daudet did not whisper; he spoke loudly, with animation, with a
clear felicity of tone--as a bird sings. He saw life around him
with extreme clearness, and he felt it as it is--thinner than air
and more elusive than a flash of lightning. He hastened to offer
it his compassion, his indignation, his wonder, his sympathy,
without giving a moment of thought to the momentous issues that are
supposed to lurk in the logic of such sentiments. He tolerated the
little foibles, the small ruffianisms, the grave mistakes; the only
thing he distinctly would not forgive was hardness of heart. This
unpractical attitude would have been fatal to a better man, but his
readers have forgiven him. Withal he is chivalrous to exiled
queens and deformed sempstresses, he is pityingly tender to broken-
down actors, to ruined gentlemen, to stupid Academicians; he is
glad of the joys of the commonplace people in a commonplace way--
and he never makes a secret of all this. No, the man was not an
artist. What if his creations are illumined by the sunshine of his
temperament so vividly that they stand before us infinitely more
real than the dingy illusions surrounding our everyday existence?
The misguided man is for ever pottering amongst them, lifting up
his voice, dotting his i's in the wrong places. He takes Tartarin
by the arm, he does not conceal his interest in the Nabob's
cheques, his sympathy for an honest Academician PLUS BETE QUE
NATURE, his hate for an architect PLUS MAUVAIS QUE LA GALE; he is
in the thick of it all. He feels with the Duc de Mora and with
Felicia Ruys--and he lets you see it. He does not sit on a
pedestal in the hieratic and imbecile pose of some cheap god whose
greatness consists in being too stupid to care. He cares immensely
for his Nabobs, his kings, his book-keepers, his Colettes, and his
Saphos. He vibrates together with his universe, and with
lamentable simplicity follows M. de Montpavon on that last walk
along the Boulevards.

"Monsieur de Montpavon marche e la mort," and the creator of that
unlucky GENTILHOMME follows with stealthy footsteps, with wide
eyes, with an impressively pointing finger. And who wouldn't look?
But it is hard; it is sometimes very hard to forgive him the dotted
i's, the pointing finger, this making plain of obvious mysteries.
"Monsieur de Montpavon marche e la mort," and presently, on the
crowded pavement, takes off his hat with punctilious courtesy to
the doctor's wife, who, elegant and unhappy, is bound on the same
pilgrimage. This is too much! We feel we cannot forgive him such
meetings, the constant whisper of his presence. We feel we cannot,
till suddenly the very NAIVETE of it all touches us with the
revealed suggestion of a truth. Then we see that the man is not
false; all this is done in transparent good faith. The man is not
melodramatic; he is only picturesque. He may not be an artist, but
he comes as near the truth as some of the greatest. His creations
are seen; you can look into their very eyes, and these are as
thoughtless as the eyes of any wise generation that has in its
hands the fame of writers. Yes, they are SEEN, and the man who is
not an artist is seen also commiserating, indignant, joyous, human
and alive in their very midst. Inevitably they MARCHENT E LA MORT-
-and they are very near the truth of our common destiny: their
fate is poignant, it is intensely interesting, and of not the
slightest consequence.


To introduce Maupassant to English readers with apologetic
explanations as though his art were recondite and the tendency of
his work immoral would be a gratuitous impertinence.

Maupassant's conception of his art is such as one would expect from
a practical and resolute mind; but in the consummate simplicity of
his technique it ceases to be perceptible. This is one of its
greatest qualities, and like all the great virtues it is based
primarily on self-denial.

To pronounce a judgment upon the general tendency of an author is a
difficult task. One could not depend upon reason alone, nor yet
trust solely to one's emotions. Used together, they would in many
cases traverse each other, because emotions have their own
unanswerable logic. Our capacity for emotion is limited, and the
field of our intelligence is restricted. Responsiveness to every
feeling, combined with the penetration of every intellectual
subterfuge, would end, not in judgment, but in universal
benevolent neutrality towards the warring errors of human nature
all light would go out from art and from life.

We are at liberty then to quarrel with Maupassant's attitude
towards our world in which, like the rest of us, he has that share
which his senses are able to give him. But we need not quarrel
with him violently. If our feelings (which are tender) happen to
be hurt because his talent is not exercised for the praise and
consolation of mankind, our intelligence (which is great) should
let us see that he is a very splendid sinner, like all those who in
this valley of compromises err by over-devotion to the truth that
is in them. His determinism, barren of praise, blame and
consolation, has all the merit of his conscientious art. The worth
of every conviction consists precisely in the steadfastness with
which it is held.

Except for his philosophy, which in the case of so consummate an
artist does not matter (unless to the solemn and naive mind),
Maupassant of all writers of fiction demands least forgiveness from
his readers. He does not require forgiveness because he is never

The interest of a reader in a work of imagination is either ethical
or that of simple curiosity. Both are perfectly legitimate, since
there is both a moral and an excitement to be found in a faithful
rendering of life. And in Maupassant's work there is the interest
of curiosity and the moral of a point of view consistently
preserved and never obtruded for the end of personal gratification.
The spectacle of this immense talent served by exceptional
faculties and triumphing over the most thankless subjects by an
unswerving singleness of purpose is in itself an admirable lesson
in the power of artistic honesty, one may say of artistic virtue.
The inherent greatness of the man consists in this, that he will
let none of the fascinations that beset a writer working in
loneliness turn him away from the straight path, from the
vouchsafed vision of excellence. He will not be led into perdition
by the seductions of sentiment, of eloquence, of humour, of pathos;
of all that splendid pageant of faults that pass between the writer
and his probity on the blank sheet of paper, like the glittering
cortege of deadly sins before the austere anchorite in the desert
air of Thebaide. This is not to say that Maupassant's austerity
has never faltered; but the fact remains that no tempting demon has
ever succeeded in hurling him down from his high, if narrow,

It is the austerity of his talent, of course, that is in question.
Let the discriminating reader, who at times may well spare a moment
or two to the consideration and enjoyment of artistic excellence,
be asked to reflect a little upon the texture of two stories
included in this volume: "A Piece of String," and "A Sale." How
many openings the last offers for the gratuitous display of the
author's wit or clever buffoonery, the first for an unmeasured
display of sentiment! And both sentiment and buffoonery could have
been made very good too, in a way accessible to the meanest
intelligence, at the cost of truth and honesty. Here it is where
Maupassant's austerity comes in. He refrains from setting his
cleverness against the eloquence of the facts. There is humour and
pathos in these stories; but such is the greatness of his talent,
the refinement of his artistic conscience, that all his high
qualities appear inherent in the very things of which he speaks, as
if they had been altogether independent of his presentation.
Facts, and again facts are his unique concern. That is why he is
not always properly understood. His facts are so perfectly
rendered that, like the actualities of life itself, they demand
from the reader the faculty of observation which is rare, the power
of appreciation which is generally wanting in most of us who are
guided mainly by empty phrases requiring no effort, demanding from
us no qualities except a vague susceptibility to emotion. Nobody
has ever gained the vast applause of a crowd by the simple and
clear exposition of vital facts. Words alone strung upon a
convention have fascinated us as worthless glass beads strung on a
thread have charmed at all times our brothers the unsophisticated
savages of the islands. Now, Maupassant, of whom it has been said
that he is the master of the MOT JUSTE, has never been a dealer in
words. His wares have been, not glass beads, but polished gems;
not the most rare and precious, perhaps, but of the very first
water of their kind.

That he took trouble with his gems, taking them up in the rough and
polishing each facet patiently, the publication of the two
posthumous volumes of short stories proves abundantly. I think it
proves also the assertion made here that he was by no means a
dealer in words. On looking at the first feeble drafts from which
so many perfect stories have been fashioned, one discovers that
what has been matured, improved, brought to perfection by unwearied
endeavour is not the diction of the tale, but the vision of its
true shape and detail. Those first attempts are not faltering or
uncertain in expression. It is the conception which is at fault.
The subjects have not yet been adequately seen. His proceeding was
not to group expressive words, that mean nothing, around misty and
mysterious shapes dear to muddled intellects and belonging neither
to earth nor to heaven. His vision by a more scrupulous, prolonged
and devoted attention to the aspects of the visible world
discovered at last the right words as if miraculously impressed for
him upon the face of things and events. This was the particular
shape taken by his inspiration; it came to him directly, honestly
in the light of his day, not on the tortuous, dark roads of
meditation. His realities came to him from a genuine source, from
this universe of vain appearances wherein we men have found
everything to make us proud, sorry, exalted, and humble.

Maupassant's renown is universal, but his popularity is restricted.
It is not difficult to perceive why. Maupassant is an intensely
national writer. He is so intensely national in his logic, in his
clearness, in his aesthetic and moral conceptions, that he has been
accepted by his countrymen without having had to pay the tribute of
flattery either to the nation as a whole, or to any class, sphere
or division of the nation. The truth of his art tells with an
irresistible force; and he stands excused from the duty of
patriotic posturing. He is a Frenchman of Frenchmen beyond
question or cavil, and with that he is simple enough to be
universally comprehensible. What is wanting to his universal
success is the mediocrity of an obvious and appealing tenderness.
He neglects to qualify his truth with the drop of facile sweetness;
he forgets to strew paper roses over the tombs. The disregard of
these common decencies lays him open to the charges of cruelty,
cynicism, hardness. And yet it can be safely affirmed that this
man wrote from the fulness of a compassionate heart. He is
merciless and yet gentle with his mankind; he does not rail at
their prudent fears and their small artifices; he does not despise
their labours. It seems to me that he looks with an eye of
profound pity upon their troubles, deceptions and misery. But he
looks at them all. He sees--and does not turn away his head. As a
matter of fact he is courageous.

Courage and justice are not popular virtues. The practice of
strict justice is shocking to the multitude who always (perhaps
from an obscure sense of guilt) attach to it the meaning of mercy.
In the majority of us, who want to be left alone with our
illusions, courage inspires a vague alarm. This is what is felt
about Maupassant. His qualities, to use the charming and popular
phrase, are not lovable. Courage being a force will not masquerade
in the robes of affected delicacy and restraint. But if his
courage is not of a chivalrous stamp, it cannot be denied that it
is never brutal for the sake of effect. The writer of these few
reflections, inspired by a long and intimate acquaintance with the
work of the man, has been struck by the appreciation of Maupassant
manifested by many women gifted with tenderness and intelligence.
Their more delicate and audacious souls are good judges of courage.
Their finer penetration has discovered his genuine masculinity
without display, his virility without a pose. They have discerned
in his faithful dealings with the world that enterprising and
fearless temperament, poor in ideas but rich in power, which
appeals most to the feminine mind.

It cannot be denied that he thinks very little. In him extreme
energy of perception achieves great results, as in men of action
the energy of force and desire. His view of intellectual problems
is perhaps more simple than their nature warrants; still a man who
has written YVETTE cannot be accused of want of subtlety. But one
cannot insist enough upon this, that his subtlety, his humour, his
grimness, though no doubt they are his own, are never presented
otherwise but as belonging to our life, as found in nature, whose
beauties and cruelties alike breathe the spirit of serene

Maupassant's philosophy of life is more temperamental than
rational. He expects nothing from gods or men. He trusts his
senses for information and his instinct for deductions. It may
seem that he has made but little use of his mind. But let me be
clearly understood. His sensibility is really very great; and it
is impossible to be sensible, unless one thinks vividly, unless one
thinks correctly, starting from intelligible premises to an
unsophisticated conclusion.

This is literary honesty. It may be remarked that it does not
differ very greatly from the ideal honesty of the respectable
majority, from the honesty of law-givers, of warriors, of kings, of
bricklayers, of all those who express their fundamental sentiment
in the ordinary course of their activities, by the work of their

The work of Maupassant's hands is honest. He thinks sufficiently
to concrete his fearless conclusions in illuminative instances. He
renders them with that exact knowledge of the means and that
absolute devotion to the aim of creating a true effect--which is
art. He is the most accomplished of narrators.

It is evident that Maupassant looked upon his mankind in another
spirit than those writers who make haste to submerge the
difficulties of our holding-place in the universe under a flood of
false and sentimental assumptions. Maupassant was a true and
dutiful lover of our earth. He says himself in one of his
descriptive passages: "Nous autres que seduit la terre . . ." It
was true. The earth had for him a compelling charm. He looks upon
her august and furrowed face with the fierce insight of real
passion. His is the power of detecting the one immutable quality
that matters in the changing aspects of nature and under the ever-
shifting surface of life. To say that he could not embrace in his
glance all its magnificence and all its misery is only to say that
he was human. He lays claim to nothing that his matchless vision
has not made his own. This creative artist has the true
imagination; he never condescends to invent anything; he sets up no
empty pretences. And he stoops to no littleness in his art--least
of all to the miserable vanity of a catching phrase.



The latest volume of M. Anatole France purports, by the declaration
of its title-page, to contain several profitable narratives. The
story of Crainquebille's encounter with human justice stands at the
head of them; a tale of a well-bestowed charity closes the book
with the touch of playful irony characteristic of the writer on
whom the most distinguished amongst his literary countrymen have
conferred the rank of Prince of Prose.

Never has a dignity been better borne. M. Anatole France is a good
prince. He knows nothing of tyranny but much of compassion. The
detachment of his mind from common errors and current superstitions
befits the exalted rank he holds in the Commonwealth of Literature.
It is just to suppose that the clamour of the tribes in the forum
had little to do with his elevation. Their elect are of another
stamp. They are such as their need of precipitate action requires.
He is the Elect of the Senate--the Senate of Letters--whose
Conscript Fathers have recognised him as PRIMUS INTER PARES; a post
of pure honour and of no privilege.

It is a good choice. First, because it is just, and next, because
it is safe. The dignity will suffer no diminution in M. Anatole
France's hands. He is worthy of a great tradition, learned in the
lessons of the past, concerned with the present, and as earnest as
to the future as a good prince should be in his public action. It
is a Republican dignity. And M. Anatole France, with his sceptical
insight into an forms of government, is a good Republican. He is
indulgent to the weaknesses of the people, and perceives that
political institutions, whether contrived by the wisdom of the few
or the ignorance of the many, are incapable of securing the
happiness of mankind. He perceives this truth in the serenity of
his soul and in the elevation of his mind. He expresses his
convictions with measure, restraint and harmony, which are indeed
princely qualities. He is a great analyst of illusions. He
searches and probes their innermost recesses as if they were
realities made of an eternal substance. And therein consists his
humanity; this is the expression of his profound and unalterable
compassion. He will flatter no tribe no section in the forum or in
the market-place. His lucid thought is not beguiled into false
pity or into the common weakness of affection. He feels that men
born in ignorance as in the house of an enemy, and condemned to
struggle with error and passions through endless centuries, should
be spared the supreme cruelty of a hope for ever deferred. He
knows that our best hopes are irrealisable; that it is the almost
incredible misfortune of mankind, but also its highest privilege,
to aspire towards the impossible; that men have never failed to
defeat their highest aims by the very strength of their humanity
which can conceive the most gigantic tasks but leaves them disarmed
before their irremediable littleness. He knows this well because
he is an artist and a master; but he knows, too, that only in the
continuity of effort there is a refuge from despair for minds less
clear-seeing and philosophic than his own. Therefore he wishes us
to believe and to hope, preserving in our activity the consoling
illusion of power and intelligent purpose. He is a good and
politic prince.

"The majesty of justice is contained entire in each sentence
pronounced by the judge in the name of the sovereign people.
Jerome Crainquebille, hawker of vegetables, became aware of the
august aspect of the law as he stood indicted before the tribunal
of the higher Police Court on a charge of insulting a constable of
the force." With this exposition begins the first tale of M.
Anatole France's latest volume.

The bust of the Republic and the image of the Crucified Christ
appear side by side above the bench occupied by the President
Bourriche and his two Assessors; all the laws divine and human are
suspended over the head of Crainquebille.

From the first visual impression of the accused and of the court
the author passes by a characteristic and natural turn to the
historical and moral significance of those two emblems of State and
Religion whose accord is only possible to the confused reasoning of
an average man. But the reasoning of M. Anatole France is never
confused. His reasoning is clear and informed by a profound
erudition. Such is not the case of Crainquebille, a street hawker,
charged with insulting the constituted power of society in the
person of a policeman. The charge is not true, nothing was further
from his thoughts; but, amazed by the novelty of his position, he
does not reflect that the Cross on the wall perpetuates the memory
of a sentence which for nineteen hundred years all the Christian
peoples have looked upon as a grave miscarriage of justice. He
might well have challenged the President to pronounce any sort of
sentence, if it were merely to forty-eight hours of simple
imprisonment, in the name of the Crucified Redeemer.

He might have done so. But Crainquebille, who has lived pushing
every day for half a century his hand-barrow loaded with vegetables
through the streets of Paris, has not a philosophic mind. Truth to
say he has nothing. He is one of the disinherited. Properly
speaking, he has no existence at all, or, to be strictly truthful,
he had no existence till M. Anatole France's philosophic mind and
human sympathy have called him up from his nothingness for our
pleasure, and, as the title-page of the book has it, no doubt for
our profit also.

Therefore we behold him in the dock, a stranger to all historical,
political or social considerations which can be brought to bear
upon his case. He remains lost in astonishment. Penetrated with
respect, overwhelmed with awe, he is ready to trust the judge upon
the question of his transgression. In his conscience he does not
think himself culpable; but M. Anatole France's philosophical mind
discovers for us that he feels all the insignificance of such a
thing as the conscience of a mere street-hawker in the face of the
symbols of the law and before the ministers of social repression.
Crainquebille is innocent; but already the young advocate, his
defender, has half persuaded him of his guilt.

On this phrase practically ends the introductory chapter of the
story which, as the author's dedication states, has inspired an
admirable draughtsman and a skilful dramatist, each in his art, to
a vision of tragic grandeur. And this opening chapter without a
name--consisting of two and a half pages, some four hundred words
at most--is a masterpiece of insight and simplicity, resumed in M.
Anatole France's distinction of thought and in his princely command
of words.

It is followed by six more short chapters, concise and full,
delicate and complete like the petals of a flower, presenting to us
the Adventure of Crainquebille--Crainquebille before the justice--
An Apology for the President of the Tribunal--Of the Submission of
Crainquebille to the Laws of the Republic--Of his Attitude before
the Public Opinion, and so on to the chapter of the Last
Consequences. We see, created for us in his outward form and
innermost perplexity, the old man degraded from his high estate of
a law-abiding street-hawker and driven to insult, really this time,
the majesty of the social order in the person of another police-
constable. It is not an act of revolt, and still less of revenge.
Crainquebille is too old, too resigned, too weary, too guileless to
raise the black standard of insurrection. He is cold and homeless
and starving. He remembers the warmth and the food of the prison.
He perceives the means to get back there. Since he has been locked
up, he argues with himself, for uttering words which, as a matter
of fact he did not say, he will go forth now, and to the first
policeman he meets will say those very words in order to be
imprisoned again. Thus reasons Crainquebille with simplicity and
confidence. He accepts facts. Nothing surprises him. But all the
phenomena of social organisation and of his own life remain for him
mysterious to the end. The description of the policeman in his
short cape and hood, who stands quite still, under the light of a
street lamp at the edge of the pavement shining with the wet of a
rainy autumn evening along the whole extent of a long and deserted
thoroughfare, is a perfect piece of imaginative precision. From
under the edge of the hood his eyes look upon Crainquebille, who
has just uttered in an uncertain voice the sacramental, insulting
phrase of the popular slang--MORT AUX VACHES! They look upon him
shining in the deep shadow of the hood with an expression of
sadness, vigilance, and contempt.

He does not move. Crainquebille, in a feeble and hesitating voice,
repeats once more the insulting words. But this policeman is full
of philosophic superiority, disdain, and indulgence. He refuses to
take in charge the old and miserable vagabond who stands before him
shivering and ragged in the drizzle. And the ruined Crainquebille,
victim of a ridiculous miscarriage of justice, appalled at this
magnanimity, passes on hopelessly down the street full of shadows
where the lamps gleam each in a ruddy halo of falling mist.

M. Anatole France can speak for the people. This prince of the
Senate is invested with the tribunitian power. M. Anatole France
is something of a Socialist; and in that respect he seems to depart
from his sceptical philosophy. But as an illustrious statesman,
now no more, a great prince too, with an ironic mind and a literary
gift, has sarcastically remarked in one of his public speeches:
"We are all Socialists now." And in the sense in which it may be
said that we all in Europe are Christians that is true enough. To
many of us Socialism is merely an emotion. An emotion is much and
is also less than nothing. It is the initial impulse. The real
Socialism of to-day is a religion. It has its dogmas. The value
of the dogma does not consist in its truthfulness, and M. Anatole
France, who loves truth, does not love dogma. Only, unlike
religion, the cohesive strength of Socialism lies not in its dogmas
but in its ideal. It is perhaps a too materialistic ideal, and the
mind of M. Anatole France may not find in it either comfort or
consolation. It is not to be doubted that he suspects this
himself; but there is something reposeful in the finality of
popular conceptions. M. Anatole France, a good prince and a good
Republican, will succeed no doubt in being a good Socialist. He
will disregard the stupidity of the dogma and the unlovely form of
the ideal. His art will find its own beauty in the imaginative
presentation of wrongs, of errors, and miseries that call aloud for
redress. M. Anatole France is humane. He is also human. He may
be able to discard his philosophy; to forget that the evils are
many and the remedies are few, that there is no universal panacea,
that fatality is invincible, that there is an implacable menace of
death in the triumph of the humanitarian idea. He may forget all
that because love is stronger than truth.

Besides "Crainquebille" this volume contains sixteen other stories
and sketches. To define them it is enough to say that they are
written in M. Anatole France's prose. One sketch entitled "Riquet"
may be found incorporated in the volume of MONSIEUR BERGERET E
PARIS. "Putois" is a remarkable little tale, significant,
humorous, amusing, and symbolic. It concerns the career of a man
born in the utterance of a hasty and untruthful excuse made by a
lady at a loss how to decline without offence a very pressing
invitation to dinner from a very tyrannical aunt. This happens in
a provincial town, and the lady says in effect: "Impossible, my
dear aunt. To-morrow I am expecting the gardener." And the garden
she glances at is a poor garden; it is a wild garden; its extent is
insignificant and its neglect seems beyond remedy. "A gardener!
What for?" asks the aunt. "To work in the garden." And the poor
lady is abashed at the transparence of her evasion. But the lie is
told, it is believed, and she sticks to it. When the masterful old
aunt inquires, "What is the man's name, my dear?" she answers
brazenly, "His name is Putois." "Where does he live?" "Oh, I
don't know; anywhere. He won't give his address. One leaves a
message for him here and there." "Oh! I see," says the other; "he
is a sort of ne'er do well, an idler, a vagabond. I advise you, my
dear, to be careful how you let such a creature into your grounds;
but I have a large garden, and when you do not want his services I
shall find him some work to do, and see he does it too. Tell your
Putois to come and see me." And thereupon Putois is born; he
stalks abroad, invisible, upon his career of vagabondage and crime,
stealing melons from gardens and tea-spoons from pantries,
indulging his licentious proclivities; becoming the talk of the
town and of the countryside; seen simultaneously in far-distant
places; pursued by gendarmes, whose brigadier assures the uneasy
householders that he "knows that scamp very well, and won't be long
in laying his hands upon him." A detailed description of his
person collected from the information furnished by various people
appears in the columns of a local newspaper. Putois lives in his
strength and malevolence. He lives after the manner of legendary
heroes, of the gods of Olympus. He is the creation of the popular
mind. There comes a time when even the innocent originator of that
mysterious and potent evil-doer is induced to believe for a moment
that he may have a real and tangible presence. All this is told
with the wit and the art and the philosophy which is familiar to M.
Anatole France's readers and admirers. For it is difficult to read
M. Anatole France without admiring him. He has the princely gift
of arousing a spontaneous loyalty, but with this difference, that
the consent of our reason has its place by the side of our
enthusiasm. He is an artist. As an artist he awakens emotion.
The quality of his art remains, as an inspiration, fascinating and
inscrutable; but the proceedings of his thought compel our
intellectual admiration.

In this volume the trifle called "The Military Manoeuvres at
Montil," apart from its far-reaching irony, embodies incidentally
the very spirit of automobilism. Somehow or other, how you cannot
tell, the flight over the country in a motor-car, its sensations,
its fatigue, its vast topographical range, its incidents down to
the bursting of a tyre, are brought home to you with all the force
of high imaginative perception. It would be out of place to
analyse here the means by which the true impression is conveyed so
that the absurd rushing about of General Decuir, in a 30-horse-
power car, in search of his cavalry brigade, becomes to you a more
real experience than any day-and-night run you may ever have taken
yourself. Suffice it to say that M. Anatole France had thought the
thing worth doing and that it becomes, in virtue of his art, a
distinct achievement. And there are other sketches in this book,
more or less slight, but all worthy of regard--the childhood's
recollections of Professor Bergeret and his sister Zoe; the
dialogue of the two upright judges and the conversation of their
horses; the dream of M. Jean Marteau, aimless, extravagant,
apocalyptic, and of all the dreams one ever dreamt, the most
essentially dreamlike. The vision of M. Anatole France, the Prince
of Prose, ranges over all the extent of his realm, indulgent and
penetrating, disillusioned and curious, finding treasures of truth
and beauty concealed from less gifted magicians. Contemplating the
exactness of his images and the justice of his judgment, the
freedom of his fancy and the fidelity of his purpose, one becomes
aware of the futility of literary watch-words and the vanity of all
the schools of fiction. Not that M. Anatole France is a wild and
untrammelled genius. He is not that. Issued legitimately from the
past, he is mindful of his high descent. He has a critical
temperament joined to creative power. He surveys his vast domain
in a spirit of princely moderation that knows nothing of excesses
but much of restraint.


M. Anatole France, historian and adventurer, has given us many
profitable histories of saints and sinners, of Roman procurators
and of officials of the Third Republic, of GRANDES DAMES and of
dames not so very grand, of ornate Latinists and of inarticulate
street hawkers, of priests and generals--in fact, the history of
all humanity as it appears to his penetrating eye, serving a mind
marvellously incisive in its scepticism, and a heart that, of all
contemporary hearts gifted with a voice, contains the greatest
treasure of charitable irony. As to M. Anatole France's
adventures, these are well-known. They lie open to this prodigal
world in the four volumes of the VIE LITTERAIRE, describing the
adventures of a choice soul amongst masterpieces. For such is the
romantic view M. Anatole France takes of the life of a literary
critic. History and adventure, then, seem to be the chosen fields
for the magnificent evolutions of M. Anatole France's prose; but no
material limits can stand in the way of a genius. The latest book
from his pen--which may be called golden, as the lips of an
eloquent saint once upon a time were acclaimed golden by the
faithful--this latest book is, up to a certain point, a book of

I would not mislead a public whose confidence I court. The book is
not a record of globe-trotting. I regret it. It would have been a
joy to watch M. Anatole France pouring the clear elixir compounded
of his Pyrrhonic philosophy, his Benedictine erudition, his gentle
wit and most humane irony into such an unpromising and opaque
vessel. He would have attempted it in a spirit of benevolence
towards his fellow men and of compassion for that life of the earth
which is but a vain and transitory illusion. M. Anatole France is
a great magician, yet there seem to be tasks which he dare not
face. For he is also a sage.

It is a book of ocean travel--not, however, as understood by Herr
Ballin of Hamburg, the Machiavel of the Atlantic. It is a book of
exploration and discovery--not, however, as conceived by an
enterprising journal and a shrewdly philanthropic king of the
nineteenth century. It is nothing so recent as that. It dates
much further back; long, long before the dark age when Krupp of
Essen wrought at his steel plates and a German Emperor
condescendingly suggested the last improvements in ships' dining-
tables. The best idea of the inconceivable antiquity of that
enterprise I can give you is by stating the nature of the
explorer's ship. It was a trough of stone, a vessel of hollowed

The explorer was St. Mael, a saint of Armorica. I had never heard
of him before, but I believe now in his arduous existence with a
faith which is a tribute to M. Anatole France's pious earnestness
and delicate irony. St. Mael existed. It is distinctly stated of
him that his life was a progress in virtue. Thus it seems that
there may be saints that are not progressively virtuous. St. Mael
was not of that kind. He was industrious. He evangelised the
heathen. He erected two hundred and eighteen chapels and seventy-
four abbeys. Indefatigable navigator of the faith, he drifted
casually in the miraculous trough of stone from coast to coast and
from island to island along the northern seas. At the age of
eighty-four his high stature was bowed by his long labours, but his
sinewy arms preserved their vigour and his rude eloquence had lost
nothing of its force.

A nautical devil tempting him by the worldly suggestion of fitting
out his desultory, miraculous trough with mast, sail, and rudder
for swifter progression (the idea of haste has sprung from the
pride of Satan), the simple old saint lent his ear to the subtle
arguments of the progressive enemy of mankind.

The venerable St. Mael fell away from grace by not perceiving at
once that a gift of heaven cannot be improved by the contrivances
of human ingenuity. His punishment was adequate. A terrific
tempest snatched the rigged ship of stone in its whirlwinds, and,
to be brief, the dazed St. Mael was stranded violently on the
Island of Penguins.

The saint wandered away from the shore. It was a flat, round
island whence rose in the centre a conical mountain capped with
clouds. The rain was falling incessantly--a gentle, soft rain
which caused the simple saint to exclaim in great delight: "This
is the island of tears, the island of contrition!"

Meantime the inhabitants had flocked in their tens of thousands to
an amphitheatre of rocks; they were penguins; but the holy man,
rendered deaf and purblind by his years, mistook excusably the
multitude of silly, erect, and self-important birds for a human
crowd. At once he began to preach to them the doctrine of
salvation. Having finished his discourse he lost no time in
administering to his interesting congregation the sacrament of

If you are at all a theologian you will see that it was no mean
adventure to happen to a well-meaning and zealous saint. Pray
reflect on the magnitude of the issues! It is easy to believe what
M. Anatole France says, that, when the baptism of the Penguins
became known in Paradise, it caused there neither joy nor sorrow,
but a profound sensation.

M. Anatole France is no mean theologian himself. He reports with
great casuistical erudition the debates in the saintly council
assembled in Heaven for the consideration of an event so disturbing
to the economy of religious mysteries. Ultimately the baptised
Penguins had to be turned into human beings; and together with the
privilege of sublime hopes these innocent birds received the curse
of original sin, with the labours, the miseries, the passions, and
the weaknesses attached to the fallen condition of humanity.

At this point M. Anatole France is again an historian. From being
the Hakluyt of a saintly adventurer he turns (but more concisely)
into the Gibbon of Imperial Penguins. Tracing the development of
their civilisation, the absurdity of their desires, the pathos of
their folly and the ridiculous littleness of their quarrels, his
golden pen lightens by relevant but unpuritanical anecdotes the
austerity of a work devoted to a subject so grave as the Polity of
Penguins. It is a very admirable treatment, and I hasten to
congratulate all men of receptive mind on the feast of wisdom which
is theirs for the mere plucking of a book from a shelf.

TURGENEV {2}--1917

Dear Edward,

I am glad to hear that you are about to publish a study of
Turgenev, that fortunate artist who has found so much in life for
us and no doubt for himself, with the exception of bare justice.
Perhaps that will come to him, too, in time. Your study may help
the consummation. For his luck persists after his death. What
greater luck an artist like Turgenev could wish for than to find in
the English-speaking world a translator who has missed none of the
most delicate, most simple beauties of his work, and a critic who
has known how to analyse and point out its high qualities with
perfect sympathy and insight.

After twenty odd years of friendship (and my first literary
friendship too) I may well permit myself to make that statement,
while thinking of your wonderful Prefaces as they appeared from
time to time in the volumes of Turgenev's complete edition, the
last of which came into the light of public indifference in the
ninety-ninth year of the nineteenth century.

With that year one may say, with some justice, that the age of
Turgenev had come to an end too; yet work so simple and human, so
independent of the transitory formulas and theories of art, belongs
as you point out in the Preface to SMOKE "to all time."

Turgenev's creative activity covers about thirty years. Since it
came to an end the social and political events in Russia have moved
at an accelerated pace, but the deep origins of them, in the moral
and intellectual unrest of the souls, are recorded in the whole
body of his work with the unerring lucidity of a great national
writer. The first stirrings, the first gleams of the great forces
can be seen almost in every page of the novels, of the short
stories and of A SPORTSMAN'S SKETCHES--those marvellous landscapes
peopled by unforgettable figures.

Those will never grow old. Fashions in monsters do change, but the
truth of humanity goes on for ever, unchangeable and inexhaustible
in the variety of its disclosures. Whether Turgenev's art, which
has captured it with such mastery and such gentleness, is for "all
time" it is hard to say. Since, as you say yourself, he brings all
his problems and characters to the test of love, we may hope that
it will endure at least till the infinite emotions of love are
replaced by the exact simplicity of perfected Eugenics. But even
by then, I think, women would not have changed much; and the women
of Turgenev who understood them so tenderly, so reverently and so
passionately--they, at least, are certainly for all time.

Women are, one may say, the foundation of his art. They are
Russian of course. Never was a writer so profoundly, so whole-
souledly national. But for non-Russian readers, Turgenev's Russia
is but a canvas on which the incomparable artist of humanity lays
his colours and his forms in the great light and the free air of
the world. Had he invented them all and also every stick and
stone, brook and hill and field in which they move, his personages
would have been just as true and as poignant in their perplexed
lives. They are his own and also universal. Any one can accept
them with no more question than one accepts the Italians of

In the larger, non-Russian view, what should make Turgenev
sympathetic and welcome to the English-speaking world, is his
essential humanity. All his creations, fortunate and unfortunate,
oppressed and oppressors, are human beings, not strange beasts in a
menagerie or damned souls knocking themselves to pieces in the
stuffy darkness of mystical contradictions. They are human beings,
fit to live, fit to suffer, fit to struggle, fit to win, fit to
lose, in the endless and inspiring game of pursuing from day to day
the ever-receding future.

I began by calling him lucky, and he was, in a sense. But one ends
by having some doubts. To be so great without the slightest parade
and so fine without any tricks of "cleverness" must be fatal to any
man's influence with his contemporaries.

Frankly, I don't want to appear as qualified to judge of things
Russian. It wouldn't be true. I know nothing of them. But I am
aware of a few general truths, such as, for instance, that no man,
whatever may be the loftiness of his character, the purity of his
motives and the peace of his conscience--no man, I say, likes to be
beaten with sticks during the greater part of his existence. From
what one knows of his history it appears clearly that in Russia
almost any stick was good enough to beat Turgenev with in his
latter years. When he died the characteristically chicken-hearted
Autocracy hastened to stuff his mortal envelope into the tomb it
refused to honour, while the sensitive Revolutionists went on for a
time flinging after his shade those jeers and curses from which
that impartial lover of ALL his countrymen had suffered so much in
his lifetime. For he, too, was sensitive. Every page of his
writing bears its testimony to the fatal absence of callousness in
the man.

And now he suffers a little from other things. In truth it is not
the convulsed terror-haunted Dostoievski but the serene Turgenev
who is under a curse. For only think! Every gift has been heaped
on his cradle: absolute sanity and the deepest sensibility, the
clearest vision and the quickest responsiveness, penetrating
insight and unfailing generosity of judgment, an exquisite
perception of the visible world and an unerring instinct for the
significant, for the essential in the life of men and women, the
clearest mind, the warmest heart, the largest sympathy--and all
that in perfect measure. There's enough there to ruin the
prospects of any writer. For you know very well, my dear Edward,
that if you had Antinous himself in a booth of the world's fair,
and killed yourself in protesting that his soul was as perfect as
his body, you wouldn't get one per cent. of the crowd struggling
next door for a sight of the Double-headed Nightingale or of some
weak-kneed giant grinning through a horse collar.

J. C.


My acquaintance with Stephen Crane was brought about by Mr.
Pawling, partner in the publishing firm of Mr. William Heinemann.

One day Mr. Pawling said to me: "Stephen Crane has arrived in
England. I asked him if there was anybody he wanted to meet and he
mentioned two names. One of them was yours." I had then just been
reading, like the rest of the world, Crane's RED BADGE OF COURAGE.
The subject of that story was war, from the point of view of an
individual soldier's emotions. That individual (he remains
nameless throughout) was interesting enough in himself, but on
turning over the pages of that little book which had for the moment
secured such a noisy recognition I had been even more interested in
the personality of the writer. The picture of a simple and untried
youth becoming through the needs of his country part of a great
fighting machine was presented with an earnestness of purpose, a
sense of tragic issues, and an imaginative force of expression
which struck me as quite uncommon and altogether worthy of

Apparently Stephen Crane had received a favourable impression from
the reading of the NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS, a book of mine which
had also been published lately. I was truly pleased to hear this.

On my next visit to town we met at a lunch. I saw a young man of
medium stature and slender build, with very steady, penetrating
blue eyes, the eyes of a being who not only sees visions but can
brood over them to some purpose.

He had indeed a wonderful power of vision, which he applied to the
things of this earth and of our mortal humanity with a penetrating
force that seemed to reach, within life's appearances and forms,
the very spirit of life's truth. His ignorance of the world at
large--he had seen very little of it--did not stand in the way of
his imaginative grasp of facts, events, and picturesque men.

His manner was very quiet, his personality at first sight
interesting, and he talked slowly with an intonation which on some
people, mainly Americans, had, I believe, a jarring effect. But
not on me. Whatever he said had a personal note, and he expressed
himself with a graphic simplicity which was extremely engaging. He
knew little of literature, either of his own country or of any
other, but he was himself a wonderful artist in words whenever he
took a pen into his hand. Then his gift came out--and it was seen
then to be much more than mere felicity of language. His
impressionism of phrase went really deeper than the surface. In
his writing he was very sure of his effects. I don't think he was
ever in doubt about what he could do. Yet it often seemed to me
that he was but half aware of the exceptional quality of his

This achievement was curtailed by his early death. It was a great
loss to his friends, but perhaps not so much to literature. I
think that he had given his measure fully in the few books he had
the time to write. Let me not be misunderstood: the loss was
great, but it was the loss of the delight his art could give, not
the loss of any further possible revelation. As to himself, who
can say how much he gained or lost by quitting so early this world
of the living, which he knew how to set before us in the terms of
his own artistic vision? Perhaps he did not lose a great deal.
The recognition he was accorded was rather languid and given him
grudgingly. The worthiest welcome he secured for his tales in this
country was from Mr. W. Henley in the NEW REVIEW and later, towards
the end of his life, from the late Mr. William Blackwood in his
magazine. For the rest I must say that during his sojourn in
England he had the misfortune to be, as the French say, MAL
ENTOURE. He was beset by people who understood not the quality of
his genius and were antagonistic to the deeper fineness of his
nature. Some of them have died since, but dead or alive they are
not worth speaking about now. I don't think he had any illusions
about them himself: yet there was a strain of good-nature and
perhaps of weakness in his character which prevented him from
shaking himself free from their worthless and patronising
attentions, which in those days caused me much secret irritation
whenever I stayed with him in either of his English homes. My wife
and I like best to remember him riding to meet us at the gate of
the Park at Brede. Born master of his sincere impressions, he was
also a born horseman. He never appeared so happy or so much to
advantage as on the back of a horse. He had formed the project of
teaching my eldest boy to ride, and meantime, when the child was
about two years old, presented him with his first dog.

I saw Stephen Crane a few days after his arrival in London. I saw
him for the last time on his last day in England. It was in Dover,
in a big hotel, in a bedroom with a large window looking on to the
sea. He had been very ill and Mrs. Crane was taking him to some
place in Germany, but one glance at that wasted face was enough to
tell me that it was the most forlorn of all hopes. The last words
he breathed out to me were: "I am tired. Give my love to your
wife and child." When I stopped at the door for another look I saw
that he had turned his head on the pillow and was staring wistfully
out of the window at the sails of a cutter yacht that glided slowly
across the frame, like a dim shadow against the grey sky.

Those who have read his little tale, "Horses," and the story, "The
Open Boat," in the volume of that name, know with what fine
understanding he loved horses and the sea. And his passage on this
earth was like that of a horseman riding swiftly in the dawn of a
day fated to be short and without sunshine.


It is by his irresistible power to reach the adventurous side in
the character, not only of his own, but of all nations, that
Marryat is largely human. He is the enslaver of youth, not by the
literary artifices of presentation, but by the natural glamour of
his own temperament. To his young heroes the beginning of life is
a splendid and warlike lark, ending at last in inheritance and
marriage. His novels are not the outcome of his art, but of his
character, like the deeds that make up his record of naval service.
To the artist his work is interesting as a completely successful
expression of an unartistic nature. It is absolutely amazing to
us, as the disclosure of the spirit animating the stirring time
when the nineteenth century was young. There is an air of fable
about it. Its loss would be irreparable, like the curtailment of
national story or the loss of an historical document. It is the
beginning and the embodiment of an inspiring tradition.

To this writer of the sea the sea was not an element. It was a
stage, where was displayed an exhibition of valour, and of such
achievement as the world had never seen before. The greatness of
that achievement cannot be pronounced imaginary, since its reality
has affected the destinies of nations; nevertheless, in its
grandeur it has all the remoteness of an ideal. History preserves
the skeleton of facts and, here and there, a figure or a name; but
it is in Marryat's novels that we find the mass of the nameless,
that we see them in the flesh, that we obtain a glimpse of the
everyday life and an insight into the spirit animating the crowd of
obscure men who knew how to build for their country such a shining
monument of memories.

Marryat is really a writer of the Service. What sets him apart is
his fidelity. His pen serves his country as well as did his
professional skill and his renowned courage. His figures move
about between water and sky, and the water and the sky are there
only to frame the deeds of the Service. His novels, like
amphibious creatures, live on the sea and frequent the shore, where
they flounder deplorably. The loves and the hates of his boys are
as primitive as their virtues and their vices. His women, from the
beautiful Agnes to the witch-like mother of Lieutenant
Vanslyperken, are, with the exception of the sailors' wives, like
the shadows of what has never been. His Silvas, his Ribieras, his
Shriftens, his Delmars remind us of people we have heard of
somewhere, many times, without ever believing in their existence.
His morality is honourable and conventional. There is cruelty in
his fun and he can invent puns in the midst of carnage. His
naiveties are perpetrated in a lurid light. There is an endless
variety of types, all surface, with hard edges, with memorable
eccentricities of outline, with a childish and heroic effect in the
drawing. They do not belong to life; they belong exclusively to
the Service. And yet they live; there is a truth in them, the
truth of their time; a headlong, reckless audacity, an intimacy
with violence, an unthinking fearlessness, and an exuberance of
vitality which only years of war and victories can give. His
adventures are enthralling; the rapidity of his action fascinates;
his method is crude, his sentimentality, obviously incidental, is
often factitious. His greatness is undeniable.

It is undeniable. To a multitude of readers the navy of to-day is
Marryat's navy still. He has created a priceless legend. If he be
not immortal, yet he will last long enough for the highest
ambition, because he has dealt manfully with an inspiring phase in
the history of that Service on which the life of his country
depends. The tradition of the great past he has fixed in his pages
will be cherished for ever as the guarantee of the future. He
loved his country first, the Service next, the sea perhaps not at
all. But the sea loved him without reserve. It gave him his
professional distinction and his author's fame--a fame such as not
often falls to the lot of a true artist.

At the same time, on the other side of the Atlantic, another man
wrote of the sea with true artistic instinct. He is not invincibly
young and heroic; he is mature and human, though for him also the
stress of adventure and endeavour must end fatally in inheritance
and marriage. For James Fenimore Cooper nature was not the frame-
work, it was an essential part of existence. He could hear its
voice, he could understand its silence, and he could interpret both
for us in his prose with all that felicity and sureness of effect
that belong to a poetical conception alone. His fame, as wide but
less brilliant than that of his contemporary, rests mostly on a
novel which is not of the sea. But he loved the sea and looked at
it with consummate understanding. In his sea tales the sea inter-
penetrates with life; it is in a subtle way a factor in the problem
of existence, and, for all its greatness, it is always in touch
with the men, who, bound on errands of war or gain, traverse its
immense solitudes. His descriptions have the magistral ampleness
of a gesture indicating the sweep of a vast horizon. They embrace
the colours of sunset, the peace of starlight, the aspects of calm
and storm, the great loneliness of the waters, the stillness of
watchful coasts, and the alert readiness which marks men who live
face to face with the promise and the menace of the sea.

He knows the men and he knows the sea. His method may be often
faulty, but his art is genuine. The truth is within him. The road
to legitimate realism is through poetical feeling, and he possesses
that--only it is expressed in the leisurely manner of his time. He
has the knowledge of simple hearts. Long Tom Coffin is a
monumental seaman with the individuality of life and the
significance of a type. It is hard to believe that Manual and
Borroughcliffe, Mr. Marble of Marble-Head, Captain Tuck of the
packet-ship MONTAUK, or Daggett, the tenacious commander of the SEA
LION of Martha's Vineyard, must pass away some day and be utterly
forgotten. His sympathy is large, and his humour is as genuine--
and as perfectly unaffected--as is his art. In certain passages he
reaches, very simply, the heights of inspired vision.

He wrote before the great American language was born, and he wrote
as well as any novelist of his time. If he pitches upon episodes
redounding to the glory of the young republic, surely England has
glory enough to forgive him, for the sake of his excellence, the
patriotic bias at her expense. The interest of his tales is
convincing and unflagging; and there runs through his work a steady
vein of friendliness for the old country which the succeeding
generations of his compatriots have replaced by a less definite

Perhaps no two authors of fiction influenced so many lives and gave
to so many the initial impulse towards a glorious or a useful
career. Through the distances of space and time those two men of
another race have shaped also the life of the writer of this
appreciation. Life is life, and art is art--and truth is hard to
find in either. Yet in testimony to the achievement of both these
authors it may be said that, in the case of the writer at least,
the youthful glamour, the headlong vitality of the one and the
profound sympathy, the artistic insight of the other--to which he
had surrendered--have withstood the brutal shock of facts and the
wear of laborious years. He has never regretted his surrender.


In his new volume, Mr. Hugh Clifford, at the beginning of the
sketch entitled "At the Heels of the White Man," expresses his
anxiety as to the state of England's account in the Day-Book of the
Recording Angel "for the good and the bad we have done--both with
the most excellent intentions." The intentions will, no doubt,
count for something, though, of course, every nation's conquests
are paved with good intentions; or it may be that the Recording
Angel, looking compassionately at the strife of hearts, may disdain
to enter into the Eternal Book the facts of a struggle which has
the reward of its righteousness even on this earth--in victory and
lasting greatness, or in defeat and humiliation.

And, also, love will count for much. If the opinion of a looker-on
from afar is worth anything, Mr. Hugh Clifford's anxiety about his
country's record is needless. To the Malays whom he governs,
instructs, and guides he is the embodiment of the intentions, of
the conscience and might of his race. And of all the nations
conquering distant territories in the name of the most excellent
intentions, England alone sends out men who, with such a
transparent sincerity of feeling, can speak, as Mr. Hugh Clifford
does, of the place of toil and exile as "the land which is very
dear to me, where the best years of my life have been spent"--and
where (I would stake my right hand on it) his name is pronounced
with respect and affection by those brown men about whom he writes.

All these studies are on a high level of interest, though not all
on the same level. The descriptive chapters, results of personal
observation, seem to me the most interesting. And, indeed, in a
book of this kind it is the author's personality which awakens the
greatest interest; it shapes itself before one in the ring of
sentences, it is seen between the lines--like the progress of a
traveller in the jungle that may be traced by the sound of the
PARANG chopping the swaying creepers, while the man himself is
glimpsed, now and then, indistinct and passing between the trees.
Thus in his very vagueness of appearance, the writer seen through
the leaves of his book becomes a fascinating companion in a land of

It is when dealing with the aspects of nature that Mr. Hugh
Clifford is most convincing. He looks upon them lovingly, for the
land is "very dear to him," and he records his cherished
impressions so that the forest, the great flood, the jungle, the
rapid river, and the menacing rock dwell in the memory of the
reader long after the book is closed. He does not say anything, in
so many words, of his affection for those who live amid the scenes
he describes so well, but his humanity is large enough to pardon us
if we suspect him of such a rare weakness. In his preface he
expresses the regret at not having the gifts (whatever they may be)
of the kailyard school, or--looking up to a very different plane--
the genius of Mr. Barrie. He has, however, gifts of his own, and
his genius has served his country and his fortunes in another
direction. Yet it is when attempting what he professes himself
unable to do, in telling us the simple story of Umat, the punkah-
puller, with unaffected simplicity and half-concealed tenderness,
that he comes nearest to artistic achievement.

Each study in this volume presents some idea, illustrated by a fact
told without artifice, but with an elective sureness of knowledge.
The story of Tukang Burok's love, related in the old man's own
words, conveys the very breath of Malay thought and speech. In
"His Little Bill," the coolie, Lim Teng Wah, facing his debtor,
stands very distinct before us, an insignificant and tragic victim
of fate with whom he had quarrelled to the death over a matter of
seven dollars and sixty-eight cents. The story of "The Schooner
with a Past" may be heard, from the Straits eastward, with many
variations. Out in the Pacific the schooner becomes a cutter, and
the pearl-divers are replaced by the Black-birds of the Labour
Trade. But Mr. Hugh Clifford's variation is very good. There is a
passage in it--a trifle--just the diver as seen coming up from the
depths, that in its dozen lines or so attains to distinct artistic
value. And, scattered through the book, there are many other
passages of almost equal descriptive excellence.

Nevertheless, to apply artistic standards to this book would be a
fundamental error in appreciation. Like faith, enthusiasm, or
heroism, art veils part of the truth of life to make the rest
appear more splendid, inspiring, or sinister. And this book is
only truth, interesting and futile, truth unadorned, simple and
straightforward. The Resident of Pahang has the devoted friendship
of jmat, the punkah-puller, he has an individual faculty of vision,
a large sympathy, and the scrupulous consciousness of the good and
evil in his hands. He may as well rest content with such gifts.
One cannot expect to be, at the same time, a ruler of men and an
irreproachable player on the flute.


Converts are interesting people. Most of us, if you will pardon me
for betraying the universal secret, have, at some time or other,
discovered in ourselves a readiness to stray far, ever so far, on
the wrong road. And what did we do in our pride and our cowardice?
Casting fearful glances and waiting for a dark moment, we buried
our discovery discreetly, and kept on in the old direction, on that
old, beaten track we have not had courage enough to leave, and
which we perceive now more clearly than before to be but the arid
way of the grave.

The convert, the man capable of grace (I am speaking here in a
secular sense), is not discreet. His pride is of another kind; he
jumps gladly off the track--the touch of grace is mostly sudden--
and facing about in a new direction may even attain the illusion of
having turned his back on Death itself.

Some converts have, indeed, earned immortality by their exquisite
indiscretion. The most illustrious example of a convert, that
Flower of chivalry, Don Quixote de la Mancha, remains for all the
world the only genuine immortal hidalgo. The delectable Knight of
Spain became converted, as you know, from the ways of a small
country squire to an imperative faith in a tender and sublime
mission. Forthwith he was beaten with sticks and in due course
shut up in a wooden cage by the Barber and the Priest, the fit
ministers of a justly shocked social order. I do not know if it
has occurred to anybody yet to shut up Mr. Luffmann in a wooden
cage. {4} I do not raise the point because I wish him any harm.
Quite the contrary. I am a humane person. Let him take it as the
highest praise--but I must say that he richly deserves that sort of

On the other hand I would not have him unduly puffed up with the
pride of the exalted association. The grave wisdom, the admirable
amenity, the serene grace of the secular patron-saint of all
mortals converted to noble visions are not his. Mr. Luffmann has
no mission. He is no Knight sublimely Errant. But he is an
excellent Vagabond. He is full of merit. That peripatetic guide,
philosopher and friend of all nations, Mr. Roosevelt, would
promptly excommunicate him with a big stick. The truth is that the
ex-autocrat of all the States does not like rebels against the
sullen order of our universe. Make the best of it or perish--he
cries. A sane lineal successor of the Barber and the Priest, and a
sagacious political heir of the incomparable Sancho Panza (another
great Governor), that distinguished litterateur has no mercy for
dreamers. And our author happens to be a man of (you may trace
them in his books) some rather fine reveries.

Every convert begins by being a rebel, and I do not see myself how
any mercy can possibly be extended to Mr. Luffmann. He is a
convert from the creed of strenuous life. For this renegade the
body is of little account; to him work appears criminal when it
suppresses the demands of the inner life; while he was young he did
grind virtuously at the sacred handle, and now, he says, he has
fallen into disgrace with some people because he believes no longer
in toil without end. Certain respectable folk hate him--so he
says--because he dares to think that "poetry, beauty, and the broad
face of the world are the best things to be in love with." He
confesses to loving Spain on the ground that she is "the land of
to-morrow, and holds the gospel of never-mind." The universal
striving to push ahead he considers mere vulgar folly. Didn't I
tell you he was a fit subject for the cage?

It is a relief (we are all humane, are we not?) to discover that
this desperate character is not altogether an outcast. Little
girls seem to like him. One of them, after listening to some of
his tales, remarked to her mother, "Wouldn't it be lovely if what
he says were true!" Here you have Woman! The charming creatures
will neither strain at a camel nor swallow a gnat. Not publicly.
These operations, without which the world they have such a large
share in could not go on for ten minutes, are left to us--men. And
then we are chided for being coarse. This is a refined objection
but does not seem fair. Another little girl--or perhaps the same
little girl--wrote to him in Cordova, "I hope Poste-Restante is a
nice place, and that you are very comfortable." Woman again! I
have in my time told some stories which are (I hate false modesty)
both true and lovely. Yet no little girl ever wrote to me in
kindly terms. And why? Simply because I am not enough of a
Vagabond. The dear despots of the fireside have a weakness for
lawless characters. This is amiable, but does not seem rational.

Being Quixotic, Mr. Luffmann is no Impressionist. He is far too
earnest in his heart, and not half sufficiently precise in his
style to be that. But he is an excellent narrator. More than any
Vagabond I have ever met, he knows what he is about. There is not
one of his quiet days which is dull. You will find in them a love-
story not made up, the COUP-DE-FOUDRE, the lightning-stroke of
Spanish love; and you will marvel how a spell so sudden and
vehement can be at the same time so tragically delicate. You will
find there landladies devoured with jealousy, astute housekeepers,
delightful boys, wise peasants, touchy shopkeepers, all the COSAS
DE ESPANA--and, in addition, the pale girl Rosario. I recommend
that pathetic and silent victim of fate to your benevolent
compassion. You will find in his pages the humours of starving
workers of the soil, the vision among the mountains of an exulting
mad spirit in a mighty body, and many other visions worthy of
attention. And they are exact visions, for this idealist is no
visionary. He is in sympathy with suffering mankind, and has a
grasp on real human affairs. I mean the great and pitiful affairs
concerned with bread, love, and the obscure, unexpressed needs
which drive great crowds to prayer in the holy places of the earth.

But I like his conception of what a "quiet" life is like! His
quiet days require no fewer than forty-two of the forty-nine
provinces of Spain to take their ease in. For his unquiet days, I
presume, the seven--or is it nine?--crystal spheres of Alexandrian
cosmogony would afford, but a wretchedly straitened space. A most
unconventional thing is his notion of quietness. One would take it
as a joke; only that, perchance, to the author of QUIET DAYS IN
SPAIN all days may seem quiet, because, a courageous convert, he is
now at peace with himself.

How better can we take leave of this interesting Vagabond than with

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