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Without Prejudice by Israel Zangwill

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unfair men should monopolise the bad language. I wonder the Women's
Rights women have not sworn about it. I have already suggested that
Wellington's "twopenny damn" be replaced by "I don't care a double-blank
domino." This gives a compound or twopenny sensation of the unspeakable,
combined with absolute innocuity, like a vegetarian chop or a temperance
champagne. A milder form (the penny plain) would be "a blank cheque." The
society ought to offer prizes for the best suggestions.


It is a notorious fact that critics are the most ill-read class in the
community. There are few occupations so laborious, exhaustive, and
inadequately remunerated, as reviewing; and who can wonder if the
wretched reviewer never finds time to read a book from one week's end to
the other. It is a cruel anomaly that men, some of whom may have souls as
much as we have, should be shut out from all the pleasures of literature,
and all the possibilities of self-culture that books contain. The poor
critic goes to his grave, picking up a smattering of cant phrases that
are in the air--"Zolaism,"--"Ibsenites," "Décadents," "Symbolism," "the
new humour," "the strong-man poetry," and what not--but to become
acquainted at first hand with the meaning or meaninglessness of these
phrases is denied him by the hard conditions of his life. Publishers
would greatly help the proposed society by sending out books cut.


"Mankind's available stock of admiration is not large enough for all the
demands made upon it," wrote Professor Bain, with the one flash of humour
I have noticed in his big treatises. If, as Wordsworth contends,

We live by Admiration, Hope, and Love,

a certain number of objects of admiration is indispensable. But the
surplusage of celebrities in this age is simply overwhelming. Celebrity
is cheap to-day. You may arrive at it by a million avenues. It is almost
impossible to keep your name out of the papers. Culture is so catholic
that celebrities who in the old days would have been monopolised by
esoteric cliques are common property. The paleographer and the
coleopterist claim a share of our admiration equally with the serpentine
dancer and the record-breaking cyclist, and the judicious editor prints
their "interviews" at equal length. We have an impartial acquaintance
with the tastes and views of cardinals and comic singers; and the future
of the papacy is given almost as much space as Little Tich's talent for
water-colour, and his fondness for the 'cello and his baby. Moreover,
that coil of cable which makes the whole world kin has burdened us with
the celebrities of the universe. When to these are added the celebrities
of the past, of every period, country, and variety, the brain reels. Too
many cooks spoil the broth, and too many celebrities numb our faculty of
wonder. The vivid feeling that is possible when heroes are few fades into
a faint reflection of emotion. The celebrity's name calls up not
admiration, but only a shadowy consciousness that admiration is due. We
never pause to get the emotion. I am afraid the first proceeding of the
society will have to be the suppression of the illustrated weeklies,
which manufacture celebrities artificially to fill up their pages, and,
in order to have pretty pictures, give every actress that makes a little
hit a prominence which Shakespeare did not deserve. If there is no
celebrity of the week it is necessary to create one, is the editorial
motto. If a man is a celebrity you interview him, and if you interview
him he is a celebrity.

You will not believe me (though I don't care a double-blank domino if you
don't, for it is true) when I tell you that an opposition society already
exists--a society for the manufacture of celebrities. Self-puffery has
always gone on in a sporadic fashion, most people sending their own puffs
to the papers, and rolling their own logs, on the principle that if you
want a thing done well you must do it yourself. But the idea of the
society is the organisation of self-puffery. It is done through an
association which undertakes (for a fee) to insert anything you choose to
send it about yourself in a hundred native papers, and a hundred
Colonial, Indian, and American papers, as well as to get special articles
written thereon, and to organise press receptions, luncheons, journeys,
dinners, etc., etc. _O tempora! O mores!_ What an exposure of the lower
journalism! Oh the crush of celebrities there will be when the society
has been at work a few years!


The begging-letters and circulars are enough to light your fires the
whole year, and it is a pity they are not sent to the poor, to whom they
would be of more value. Still, not to have the worry of receiving and
discriminating among these appeals is another of the many compensations
of poverty. There are a thousand varieties of Charity (some beginning at
a Home and others going abroad), and the most munificent can support only
a few, and perhaps will select the wrong few. And most of these Charities
are struggling along painfully, their resources taxed to the utmost by
the severe winter and the coal strike; many can scarcely make both ends
meet. There is nothing to prevent the weaker dying of want, and our
Charities suffering from a heavy mortality. And of course it will be the
best and most retiring Charities that will starve to death rather than
beg of the first comer, while the brazen Charities will perambulate the
streets with strident clamour, rattling full money-boxes.

Do we not therefore need another Charity? Nay, blaspheme not, nor clench
thy purse-strings. One other Charity--just one more--is a social
necessity. I would call it "The Charity of Charities." 'T is a central
bureau of beneficence, to which each doubting philanthropist should send
such sums as he knows not how to dispense. The bureau should inquire into
the circumstances of each Charity, and grant or refuse relief strictly in
accordance with its needs or merits. The Charity Organisation Society is
another affair altogether. Perhaps people are afraid of pauperising the
Charities assisted, but there is no reason why these should not continue
to be self-supporting as far as possible. Such as could not manage to
exist in this country could be assisted to emigrate, while every help
would be given to exiled or persecuted Charities to gain a sphere of
activity in this country. Fortunately, there are always large-minded men
among us who will receive any Charity, however despised, with open arms!
There would be visitation committees to call at the offices of the
Charities, to see that they were not pleading poverty when the officials
were drawing big salaries; a loan society to help them over bad times, so
as not to destroy their self-respect by doles in aid; while a cookery
school for accounts and a sanatorium for those that failed to keep their
balance might also be annexes of this grand institution.



[_This protest was dated Jan. 1, 1891. Things are rather better now._]

I am not a young person. Nothing ever brings a blush to my cheek except
the rouge-pencil or the exposure of my stealthy deeds of good I can read
the Elizabethan dramatists or Rabelais with equanimity, and the only
thing that mars my enjoyment of Juvenal is the occasional obscurity of
the Latin. I like the immoral passages in "Mademoiselle de Maupin," even
if I do not go so far as Swinburne and call it "the holy book of beauty."
Ibsen refreshes me like a tonic, and I even believe in Zola. And yet, if
I were State censor of the English stage--which fortunately I am not--I
should suppress half of our plays for their indecency. The other half I
should suppress for their fatuity. But that is another story.

That vice loses half its evil by losing all its grossness, is a maxim for
which the world cannot be too thankful to Burke; for though the point of
view be not true, an important aspect of the truth is undoubtedly
exhibited. Now, what we get on the English stage is the grossness without
the vice--or, to put it more accurately, the vulgarity without the open
presentation of the vice. You may mean anything, so long as you say
something else. Almost every farcical comedy or comic opera--to leave the
music-hall alone--is vitiated by a vein of vulgar indecency which is
simply despicable. The aim of the artist is not to conceal art--there is
none to conceal--but to conceal his indecencies decently, and yet in the
most readily discoverable manner. The successful stage-piece is too often
but a symphony in blue. What the English, with their fashion of spoiling
French importations, incorrectly term _doubles entendres_, are almost
indispensable items in the fare of some London theatres of good repute.
And the references to things sexual are usually as stupid as they are
superfluous to the development of the plot or the characters. There is
not the shadow of an excuse for their introduction. They are simply silly
accretions on the play, quite unimplicated with the spirit of the scene,
and losing all meaning in their effort to have two. One can enjoy the
sparkle of wit and the rich halo of comedy playing around situations
unaffectedly "improper"; even the farces of the Palais Royal amuse with
the broad foolery of their _esprit gaulois_; but the English endeavour to
make the best of both worlds, the English author who combines the prude
and the pimp--for these one can have nothing but contempt. And the
measure of one's longing for a sane and virile view and presentation of
life will be the measure of one's abhorrence of immorality which has not
even the decency to be indecent.

The French dramatist gives us characters living in "a state of sin" (one
of the United States not recognised at the Court of St. James's). The
English dramatist conveys the plot, conveys the situations which spring
out of the "state of sin," but leaves out the basis on which the whole
rests. Thus, instead of situations intelligibly indecent, we get
situations unintelligibly indecent. Eros, like an Indian conjuror, is
left suspended from nothing. As the English playgoer does not ask for
intelligible situations, he is satisfied with the residuum. The
dramatist's uneasy striving to account for the behaviour of his
personages only renders the latent character of the residuum more

The truth is, that everything depends on treatment and atmosphere. Lord
Houghton has treated the difficult theme of a mother's and daughter's
love for the same man with tenderness and grace; a foreign writer would
lay bare and anatomise with more of scalpel and less of sentiment. The
former satisfies our aesthetic instincts; the latter would, in addition,
appeal to our intellectual curiosity. To the English dramatist the whole
story would be _tabu_; but if the Continental man had got some striking
situations out of it, the Briton's soul would hanker after those
situations. So he would make the mother a maiden aunt, and give us the
familiar spectacle of the aged spinster languishing for matrimony, as
incarnated for the nonce in the person of her niece's lover. Miss Sophie
Larkin would play the part, and it would be intended to be a comic one.
There is more suggestiveness in the conventional stage figure of the
amorous old maid than in all Congreve's comedies. And yet what figure is
more certain to please, in the whole gallery of puppets? Scenes and
characters of this sort you may have by the dozen; but to build a moral
play upon an "immoral" basis is to court damnation. To construct a noble
piece of work on the basis of "improper" relations between your chief
characters is to show the cloven hoof. Once the initial scheme granted,
the rest may be as bracing as an Alpine breeze; but the critics will
scent brimstone. But to build an immoral play upon a "moral" basis--that
way gladness lies. Critics, who would rage at the delineation of a
character remotely resembling a human being's, will pat you on the back
with a good-humoured smile, and at most a laughing word of reprobation
for your azure audacities. Ladies, who, whether they are married or
unmarried, are in England presumed to be agnostics in sexual matters,
will roar themselves hoarse over farces whose stories could only be told
to the ultramarines. Ibsen may not untie a shoe-latchet in the interest
of truth, while English burlesque managers may put an army of girls into
tights. One dramatist may steal a horse-laugh by a tawdry vulgarity,
while another may not look over an ankle. It is the same with literature.
We look askance at "The Kreutzer Sonata," but tolerate the vulgar
anecdotal indecencies of the sporting journal. The artist's eye may not
see life steadily, and see it whole; but it is licensed to wink and ogle
at will from behind its blinker. If the artist's "immorality" is the
artistic embodiment of a frank Paganism, or is inspired by an ethical or
a scientific purpose, he is a filthy-minded fellow. Seriousness is the
unpardonable sin. Coarseness can be condoned, if it is only flippant and
frivolous enough. In short, the only excuse for indecency is to have

Unfortunately, practical considerations are so involved with artistic
that it may be imprudent to accord the artist as wide a charter as he
would wish. The ideals of sincerity and honesty may in the present social
environment be so potential for harm that it is for the common interest
that they should not be gratified. This may be so, though I do not
believe it. But whether it be so or not, of one thing I am certain,--and
that is that the half-hearted dallying with things sexual is wholly an
evil; that the prurient sniffing and sniggering round the subject is more
fraught with peril to a community, more debasing to the emotional
currency, more blighting to the higher sexual feelings of the race, than
the most shameless public repudiation of all moral restraints. Evil cures
itself in the sunlight; it grows and flourishes in the darkness. Vice
looks fascinating in the gloaming; the morning shows up the tawdriness
and the paint.



Love! Love! Love! The air is full of it as I write, though the autumn
leaves are falling. Shakespeare's immortal love-poem is playing amid the
cynicism of modern London, like that famous fountain of Dickens's in the
Temple gardens. The "largest circulation" has barely ceased to flutter
the middle-class breakfast-table with discussions on "the Age of Love"
and Little Billee and Trilby--America's "Romeo and Juliet"--loom large at
the Haymarket. Mr. T. P. O'Connor, forgetting even Napoleon, his King
Charles's head, is ruling high at the libraries with _réchauffés_ of
"Some Old Love Stories," and the "way of a man with a maid" is still the
unfailing topic of books and plays. One would almost think that Coleridge
was to be taken "at the foot of the letter"--

All thoughts, all passions, all delights
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.

But alas! suffer me to be as sceptical as Stevenson in "Virginibus
Puerisque." In how many lives does Love really play a dominant part? The
average taxpayer is no more capable of a "grand passion" than of a grand
opera. "Man's love is of man's life a thing apart." Ay, my Lord Byron,
but 'tis not "woman's whole existence," neither. Focussed in books or
plays to a factitious unity, the rays are sadly scattered in life.
Natheless Love remains an interest, an ideal, to all but the hopeless
Gradgrinds. Many a sedate citizen's pulse will leap with Romeo's when
Forbes-Robertson's eye first lights upon the Southern child "whose beauty
hangs upon the cheek of night like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear." Many
a fashionable maid, with an eye for an establishment, will shed tears
when Mrs. Patrick Campbell, martyr to unchaffering love, makes her
quietus with a bare dagger.

For the traces left by Love in life are so numerous and diverse that even
the cynic--which is often bad language for the unprejudiced
observer--cannot quite doubt it away. There seems to be no other way of
accounting for the facts. When you start learning a new language you
always find yourself confronted with the verb "to love"--invariably the
normal type of the first conjugation. In every language on earth the
student may be heard declaring, with more zeal than discretion, that he
and you and they and every other person, singular or plural, have loved,
and do love, and will love. "To love" is the model verb, expressing the
archetype of activity. Once you can love grammatically there is a world
of things you may do without stumbling. For, strange to say, "to love,"
which in real life is associated with so much that is bizarre and
violent, is always "regular" in grammar. Ancient and modern tongues tell
the same tale--from Hebrew to street-Arabic, from Greek to the
elephantine language that was "made in Germany." Not only is "to love"
deficient in no language (as _home_ is deficient in French, and _Geist_
in English), but it is never even "defective." No mood or tense is ever
wanting--a proof of how it has been conjugated in every mood and tense of
life, in association with every variety of proper and improper noun, and
every pronoun at all personal. Not merely have people loved
unconditionally in every language, but there is none in which they would
not have loved, or might not have loved, had circumstances permitted;
none in which they have not been loved, or (for hope springs eternal in
the human breast) have been about to be loved. Even woman has an Active
Voice in the matter; indeed, "to love" is so perfect that, compared with
it, "to marry" is quite irregular. For, while "to love" is sufficient for
both sexes, directly you get to marriage you find in some languages that
division has crept in, and that there is one word for the use of ladies
and another for gentlemen only. Turning from the evidence enshrined in
language to the records of history, the same truth meets us at any date
we appoint. Everywhere "'T is love that makes the world go round." It is
dizzying to think what would have happened if Eve had not accepted Adam.
What could have attracted her if it was not love? Surely not his money,
nor his family. For these she couldn't have cared a fig-leaf.
Unfortunately, the daughters of Eve have not always taken after their
mother. The statistics of crime and insanity testify eloquently to the
reality of love, arithmetic teaching the same lesson as history and
grammar. Consider, too, the piles of love at Mudie's! A million
story-tellers in all periods and at all places cannot have all told
stories, though they have all, alas! told the same story. They must have
had mole-hills for their mountains, if not straw for their bricks. There
are those who, with Bacon, consider love a variety of insanity; but it is
more often merely a form of misunderstanding. When the misunderstanding
is mutual, it may even lead to marriage. As a rule Beauty begets man's
love, Power woman's. At least, so women tell me. But then, I am not
beautiful. It must be said for the man that every lover is a species of
Platonist--he identifies the Beautiful with the Good and the True. The
woman's admiration has less of the ethical quality; she is dazzled, and
too often feels, "If he be but true to me, what care I how false he be."

"The Stage is more beholding to Love than the life of man," says Bacon.
The "Daily Telegraph" is perhaps even more "beholding" to it. The
ingenuity with which this great organ raises the cloyless topic every
silly season under another name, is beyond all praise. No conclusion will
ever be arrived at, of course, because "Love" means a different thing
with each correspondent, and it is difficult to lay down general truths
about a relation that varies with each of the countless couples that have
ever experienced it, or have fancied they experienced it. The set theme
of a newspaper correspondence always reminds me of a nervous old lady
crossing the roadway: she runs this way and that way, gets splashed by
every passing wheel, jumps back, jumps forward again, finds temporary
harbour on a crossing-stage under a lamp, darts sideways, and ends by
arriving in another street altogether. So that the heading of a
correspondence is scant guide as to what is being discussed under it; and
no one would be surprised to find a recipe against baldness under the
title of "The Age of Love." But then "The Age of Love" is an absurd and
answerless question. Experience shows that all ages fall in love--and out
again; so that, to quote the pithy Bacon again, "a man may have a quarrel
to marry when he will." Octogenarians elope, and Mr. Gilbert's elderly
baby died a _blasé_ old _roué_ of five.

Romeo's passion was a second, not a first, love: he had already loved
Rosaline. Juliet's first--and only--love came to her only eleven years
after she had been weaned, "come Lammas." Save that the "Age of Love" may
be said to be "Youth"--for Love aye rejuvenates--there is nothing to be
said. Wherefore the German gentleman who protested against the _clichés_
of novel-writers in the matter of the eternity of passion was well within
the wilderness of the subject. The _cliché_ metaphor, by the way, is
itself becoming a _cliché_, so stereotyped do we grow in protesting
against the stereotyped. Germans are, perhaps, not the best authorities
on passion: they are too sentimental for love and too domestic for
romance. Still, our German is justified in his complaint: the love-scenes
in our novels and dramas correspond very little to human nature. In works
of pure romance this is no drawback to artistic beauty; but in much
modern work purporting to mirror contemporary life, the love-making has
neither the beauty that springs from idealisation, nor that which springs
from reality. Property-speeches and stock-sentiments still do duty for
what really takes place in modern love-making. We have played with the
traditional puppets so long that we have come to believe they are alive.
They may have been alive once--when life was more elemental; they still
exist, perchance, in those primitive conditions which are really the past
surviving into the present. But in no field of human life is there
greater need of fresh observation than in this of love. The
ever-increasing subtlety and complexity of modern love have not yet found
adequate registration and interpretation in art. Art always seems to me a
magic mirror in which the shapes of the past are held long after they
have passed away. The author of to-day looks not into his heart--but into
the mirror--and writes. Primitive Love found its poet in Longus the
Greek, with his "Daphnis and Chloe"; but who has given us Modern Love?
Not Meredith himself, despite his sonnets; though "The Egoist" is a
terrible analysis of a modern lover, as saddening as the "Modern Lover"
of George Moore. The poets are ill guides to love. Their passions are
half-fantastic, if not of imagination all compact. Shelley's
"Epipsychidion" was the expression of a passing mood; Tennyson's "Come
into the Garden, Maud," a lyric exaltation that must have died down when
Maud appeared, and could in any case scarce have survived its fiftieth
rewriting; Rossetti's interpretation of "The House of Life" is as purely
individual as Patmore's "Angel in the House"; Swinburne sings of
phantasms; we can no more take our poets for types of modern lovers than
we can accept Dante or Petrarch as representatives of the mediaeval
lover. These poets used their goddesses as mystic inspirers. Dante was
not in love with Beatrice, the daughter of Portinari, but with his own
imagination: she married Simone as he Gemma, and thus he was still able
to worship her. The devotion of Petrarch to Laura did not prevent his
having children by another lady. If we turn to modern prose-writers, we
fail to find any really subtle treatment of Modern Love. Henry James
himself shrinks from analysing it, even allusively and insinuatingly.
Zola's handling of the love-theme is as primary as Pierre Loti's, for
Zola has the eye for masses, not for individual subtleties. Tolstoï,
informed by something of the rage of the old ascetics, is too iconoclast;
Maupassant's stories sometimes suggest a cynicism as profound as
Chamfort's or that old French poet's who wrote:

Femme, plaisir de demye heure,
Et ennuy qui sans fin demeure.

Ibsen is as idealistic as Strindberg is materialist. Shall we seek light
in the modern lady-novelist, with her demand for phases of passion suited
to every stage of existence? Shall we fall in with the agnosticism of
John Davidson, and admit that no man has ever understood a woman, a man,
or himself, and _vice versa_? 'T is seemingly the opinion of Nordau that,
after the first flush of youth, we do but play "The Comedy of Sentiment,"
feigning and making believe to recapture

That first lyric rapture.

And his friend Auguste Dietrich writes:

Se faire vivement désirer et paraître refuser alors ce qu'elle brûle
d'accorder ... voilà la comédie que de tout temps ont jouée les

Not quite a fair analysis, this: like all cynicism, it is crude. Juliet
for one did not play this comedy, though she was aware of the rôle.

Or, if thou think'st I am too quickly won,
I'll frown and be perverse and say thee nay,
So thou wilt woo.

Nor is it always comedy, even when played. Darwin, in his "Descent of
Man," recognizes a real innate coyness, and that not merely of the female
sex, which has been a great factor in improving the race. And, since we
are come to the scientific standpoint, let it be admitted that marriage
is a racial safeguard which does not exhaust the possibilities of
romantic passion. Nature, as Schopenhauer would say, has over-baited the
hook. Our capacities for romance are far in excess of the needs of the
race: we have a surplus of emotion, and Satan finds mischievous vent for
it. We are confronted with a curious dualism of soul and body, with two
streams of tendency that will not always run parallel: _hinc illae
lachrymae_. This it is that makes M. Bourget's "Cruel Enigme." Perhaps
the ancients were wiser, with whom the woman had no right of choice,
passing without will from father to husband. When the Romans evolved
their concept of the marriage-contract between man and woman instead of
between father and son-in-law, the trouble began. Emancipated woman
developed soul and sentiment, and when Roman Law conquered the world, it
spread everywhere the seeds of romance. Romance--the very etymology
carries its history, for 't is only natural that the first love-stories
should have been written in the language of Rome. Nor is it inapt that
the typical lover should recall Rome by his name:

O, Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou. Romeo?

Romantic Love is the rose Evolution has grown on earthly soil. _Floreat!_
Strange that Nordau, in his "Conventional Lies of Civilisation," should
echo this aspiration and gush over the Goethean _Wahlverwandtschaft_--the
elective affinity of souls--almost with the rapture of a Platonist,
conceiving love as the soul finding its pre-natal half. Surely, to his
way of thinking, scientific selection were better for the race than such
natural selection, especially as natural selection cannot operate in our
complicated civilisation, where at every turn the poetry of life dashes
itself against the dead wall of prose. The miracle has happened. Edwin
loves Angelina, and by a strange coincidence Angelina also loves Edwin.
But then come the countless questions of income, position, family. Adam
and Eve were the only couple that started free from relatives. Else,
perhaps, had their garden not been "Paradise." All later lovers have had
to consult other people's tastes as well as their own, and there has
probably never been a marriage that has pleased all parties unconcerned.
And even when the course of true love runs smooth, do the lovers marry
whom they were in love with? Alas! marriage is a parlous business: one
loves one's ideal, but the beloved is always real. The wiser sort take a
leaf out of Dante's book or Petrarch's, and retain their illusions. "The
poets call it love--we doctors give it another name," says a kindly old
character in one of Echegaray's comedies: "How is it cured? This very day
with the aid of the priest; and so excellent a specific is this, that
after a month's appliance, neither of the wedded pair retains a vestige
of remembrance of the fatal sickness."

There is a kind of scientific selection in the intermarriage of persons
of quality, which is at the bottom of their supposed superciliousness and
disdain of trade, though blood does not infallibly produce breeding.
There is the same tribal instinct in the aversion of Jews from exogamy,
and it is this sort of scientific selection which is subconsciously going
on when parents and guardians, sisters, cousins, and aunts, interfere
with the "elective affinities." Money, too, is really a security for the
due rearing of offspring. It is to be hoped there is a tear beneath the
sneers of Sudermann's comedy, "Die Schmetterlingschlacht," for the
sorrows of moneyless mothers with unmarriageable girls.

Doän't thou marry for munny, but goä wheer munny is,

said Tennyson's Northern Farmer--a sentiment which was anticipated or
plagiarised by Wendell Holmes as "Don't marry for money, but take care
the girl you love has money." Few people may marry directly for money, or
even for position, but few marriages are uncomplicated by considerations
of money and position. Little wonder if

Love, light as air, at sight of human ties
Spreads his light wings and in a moment flies.

Lovers may thrust such thoughts into the background, but is not this
wilful blindness as much "The Comedy of Sentiment" as that which supplies
the theme of Nordau's novel? It weighed upon Walter Bagehot that
"immortal souls" should have to think of tare and tret and the price of
butter; but "sich is life"--prose and poetry intertangled. The cloud may
have a silver lining, but clouds are not all silver. Wherefore Nordau's
glorification of the love-match is curiously unscientific; it belongs to
silver-cloudland; it might work among the birds of [Greek:
Nephelo-kokkugia]. Loveless marriages may beget happiness, if not
ecstacy; and love-matches may be neither for the interest of the
individuals nor of the race. They serve, however, to feed Art, and one
real love-match will justify a hundred novels and plays, just as one good
ghost will supply a hundred ghost-stories. Considering how many dead
people there are, the percentage of those permitted to play ghost is so
infinitesimal as to be incredible _a priori_; nevertheless, how we snatch
at the possibility of ghosts! Even so we like to connect love and
marriage, two things naturally divorced, and to fancy that wedding bells
are rung by Cupid. But, after all, what is love? In lawn-tennis it counts
for nothing. In the dictionary it figures, _inter alia_, as "a kind of
light silken stuff." And, as Dumas _fils_ sagely sums it up in "Le
Demi-Monde": "Dans le mariage, quand l'amour existe, l'habitude le tue,
et quand il n'existe pas elle le fait naître."



It was with melancholy amusement that I read in the scientific journals
that sewer-gas was comparatively innocuous. After the hundreds of
sanitary tracts in which the deadliness of sewer-gas has been an axiom of
faith, after the thousand-and-one deaths from it in the contemporary
novel, it is grimly diverting to learn that sewer-gas may be welcomed
without fear to our hearths and homes. The same process appears to be
overtaking science with which we are familiar in the sphere of
history--all the bad gases are getting purified and the good spirits
vilified. The invincible solids are being liquefied, and the aëry
nothings are being given solid habitations. The Professor tells me that
liquid oxygen is obtainable only under great pressure, and at a colossal
cost. I beg respectfully to suggest to the millionaires the advisability
of laying in quarts of it for their dinner-parties. This sparkling
beverage--essence of oxygen, mark you--would not need to be iced, for the
North Pole is as a red-hot poker compared with it. Such a beverage would
make a sensation and provide paragraphs for the society journals and the
"Times" obituary. It is true the guests would not like it, but they would
be anxious to quaff it. Have you never noticed the innocent joy which the
pop and froth of cheap champagne gives to suburban souls? There is a
magic halo about champagne--an aroma of aristocracy--which sanctifies it
for people who would be happier with lemonade. Wherefore I doubt not
there would be a public to adventure on liquid oxygen, though it were
congealed in the attempt. The imbibition thereof might indeed replace
suicide and cremation--it would both kill and cure, and our frozen bodies
might be preserved in family ice-safes for the edification of scientific
posterity. I should not marvel if liquid air or oxygen became an article
of the euthanasian creed. As for sewer-gas, we may yet live to see it
manufactured artificially for the improvement of the public health, and
conveyed to our overcrowded drawing-rooms with all the paraphernalia of
pipes and the mendacious meter. Science has turned so many somersaults
even in my short lifetime that I am prepared for anything. I have even
serious doubts as to the stability of Darwinism, I have seen so many
immortal truths die young. I verily believe that the cocksureness of our
century is destined to be the amusement of the next, which may not
impossibly believe that the ape is descended from man by retrogression.

Our little systems have their day,
They have their day--and come again.

The science of medicine in particular seems to be always in a critical
condition, and the bacillus bobs up and down in a manner that is "painful
and free." Like Hamlet's father's ghost, it eludes our question: we know
not if it is "a spirit of health or goblin damned," angel or demon or
delusion. The microbe of to-day is the myth of to-morrow. Surgery is the
only department of medicine which has made real advances in our century.
The rest is guesswork and experiment on vile bodies. I do not know why
the Peculiar People should be persecuted for refusing vivi-injection.
Tolstoï, a friend of his told me, breathes fire and fury against the
doctors, and will have none of their drugs or their doctrines, and he is
not alone in believing that every tombstone is a monument to some
doctor's skill. "When doctors disagree," says the proverb. But do they
ever agree--unless they consult? I went to an eminent oculist once, who
anointed my eyes with cocaine in order to make the pupils dilate. But my
pupils refused to obey. He was dumfoundered, and said that such a refusal
was unheard of: it contradicted all experience and all the books. I felt
quite conscience-stricken. He tried again and again, but my pupils
remained obdurately small. I apologised for my originality, and he peered
at my eyes minutely, evidently expecting to find the new humour. So I
suggested he might try Horror, which I understood from the novelists made
the pupils dilate; but he replied that that would not be professional. He
told me, however, a fact which I thought well worth his fee. An erudite
scientist had devoted a monograph to cocaine, but failed to discover the
one fact about it which was worth knowing, and which had raised cocaine
to the first rank--to wit, that applied externally it was an anaesthetic,
so that if you put a drop on your tongue you might bite your tongue
without hurting yourself. Doubtless the poor man was ready enough to bite
his tongue when his book was spoilt by the discovery. But I cannot help
thinking that his case was typical of science--which is appallingly
exhaustive and self-satisfied, but seems just to miss the one essential

Have you heard the legend of the Marriage of the Angel of Death with a
mortal woman? He was aweary of his cheerless professional round, and
longed for domestic joys to brighten his scanty leisure. It did not
strike him to "domesticate the Recording Angel"; but one day, being sent
to despatch a beautiful woman, he fell in love with her instead, and
married her. But dire was the punishment of his disobedience. The
beautiful woman turned out a shrew, who made Death's life not worth
living, and as he had refused to kill her when her hour sounded, she was
now immortal. In despair he deserted her and her child, and would never
go near her, so that her neighbourhood was always healthy, and she
unconsciously made the fortune of several insanitary watering-places. In
course of time Death's son grew up, and with that curious filial
perversity (which has been especially remarked in the children of
clergymen) he became a physician. And his fame as a physician spread far
and wide, inasmuch as he knew the secret of Death, that uxorious and
henpecked Angel having revealed it to his wife in a weak moment. If the
Angel stood at the foot of the bed, he was only terrifying the patient;
if, however, he took up his position at the head of the bed, he was in
deadly earnest, and hope was vain. Inheriting sufficient of his father's
nature to see him when he was invisible to others, the physician was
naturally able to prophesy with undeviating accuracy, though the cunning
rascal made great play with stethoscopes and syringes and what not, and
felt pulses and thumped chests before he gave judgment, and was
solicitous in administering drugs when he foresaw the patient was
destined to recover. Now, it befell one day that the Princess of
Paphlagonia (of whom I have told elsewhere) fell grievously sick, and
none of the physicians could do aught to relieve her. So the king issued
a proclamation that whosoever could cure her could have her to wife. Now,
the fame of the beauty of the princess had travelled as far as the renown
of the mighty physician, so that desire was kindled in his heart to try
for the grand prize. And so Death's son set out and travelled over land
and sea, comforting the sick everywhere as he passed by, and curing all
those that were fated not to die. And at last he arrived in the capital
of Paphlagonia, and was received with great joy by the king and all his
court, and ushered into the sick-chamber. A great warmth gathered at his
heart as his eyes fell upon the marvellous fairness of the princess; but
the next moment his heart was turned to ice, for lo! he perceived the
Angel of Death standing at the head of the bed. After a moment of agony
the physician commanded all present to leave the chamber; then for the
first time he broke the silence his mother had imposed upon him.
"Father," he said, "have you no pity upon me--you who once loved a woman
yourself?" Then Death answered, in a hollow voice: "I must do my duty. I
disobeyed once, and my punishment was greater than I could bear."
"Father," pleaded the physician again, "will you not move to the foot of
the bed?" "Nay, I cannot," answered Death harshly: "I was commanded to
stay here, and here I must stay." "And thou wilt stay there whatever I
say or do?" asked the physician plaintively. "Yea," answered Death
stoutly. Then, wrought up to desperation, the physician called the
attendants in again and bade them turn the bed round, so that Death was
left standing at the foot. But the Angel, seeing himself outwitted,
rushed back to the head. The physician thereupon dismissed the attendants
and upbraided him with his broken promise, but Death stood firm. At last
the physician lost his temper and all his good bedside manner, and cried
furiously: "If you're not gone instantly, I'll send for mother!" And the
Angel of Death vanished in the twinkling of the bedpost.

Till we can marry off Azrael to a termagant, I do not believe we shall
ever really turn the tables upon him. Nothing is more surprising to a
reader of advertisement columns than that people still continue to die.
An army of alchemists has discovered the Elixir of Life, and retails it
at one-and-three-halfpence a phial. Paracelsus has turned pill-maker, and
prospers exceedingly, and sells out to a joint-stock company. But the
great procession gravewards goes on, the "thin black lines" creeping
along all day long, and there is no falling off in the consumption of
sherry and biscuits. The scythe of the Black Angel shines--_opus
fervet_--and it is always the mowing season. Sometimes he stands at the
foot of the bed, and then there is triumph for the pharmacopoeia;
sometimes he stands at the head, and then the bed becomes a grave and he
a tombstone. Alas! his marriage is but a pleasant myth, and his
infallible son a dream. Azrael is still a bachelor, and science is not
shrew enough to drive him away. Perhaps 't is as well the leeches cannot
avert him; perhaps 't is a blessing that they blunder, and the kindly
grass grows over their mistakes. As it is, too many people are an
unconscionable long time in dying. Their habit of procrastination is with
them to the last. They linger on--a misery to themselves, and a thorn to
those anxious to mourn their loss. They do not know how to retire
gracefully. The art of leaving a world should be taught as a branch of

An American philanthropist who died recently was in the habit of girding
at the arrangements of the universe, which did not seem to him organised
after the fashion of a bureau of beneficence. He was wont to regret that
he had not been present at the creation, so as to give a few hints.
"Well, what would you have advised?" a friend once challenged him to say.
"I would have advised," he retorted, "that health be made catching
instead of disease." At first hearing, this sounds taking, but its
plausibility diminishes under investigation. Health is the normal state
of an organism, the perfect working of its parts,--it is not something
superadded, as disease is. You might as well expect one watch to catch
the right time from another. The philanthropist would have been more
within the bounds of the reasonable if he had demanded that disease
should be more egotistic and less epidemic. Every organism ought to
consume its own smoke, and not communicate its misfortunes to its
neighbours. And this it does satisfactorily enough in organic disease; it
is only when those impish germs, microbes and bacilli, mix themselves up
with the matter that we get pathological socialism. I confess that the
whole germ business seems to me an illogical element in the scheme of
destruction, though 't is of a piece with the structure of things. And
yet there is a sense in which health _is_ catching. There is a contagion
of confidence as well as of panic, and the surest way to escape epidemics
is to disbelieve them. Radiant people radiate health. The mind is a big
factor in things hygienic. 'T is a poor medicine that takes no account of
the soul. We are not earthen receptacles for drugs, but breathing clay
vivified by thoughts and passions. And in the universe of morals, at any
rate, health is catching just as much as disease. We are ennobled by
noble souls, and uplifted by righteousness. We pattern ourselves
unconsciously upon our friends. Character is contagious, and emotion
epidemic, and good-humour has its germs; copy-book maxims are null and
void: packets of propositions leave us cold. Morality can only be taught
by object-lessons; they err egregiously who would teach it by the card. A
fine character in a play or a novel outweighs a sermon; and in real life
the preacher pales before the practiser. It is a great day when a man
discovers for himself that honesty is the best policy. Morality is a
matter of feeling and will, not of intellect. Handbooks of ethics may
edify the intellect, and "Cicero de Officiis" be the favourite reading of
rogues. I knew a university student who at his examination cribbed Kant's
panegyric of the moral law from a concealed text-book.

The legend of Death's marriage recalls to me that of John L. Sullivan's.
It is said that the famous bruiser was in like grievous plight. His wife
beat him, and he had to sue for a divorce on the ground of cruelty! There
is something deliciously pathetic about the insignificance of a great man
to his wife--his valet feels small at least on pay-day. "The Schoolmaster
Abroad" is a rampant divinity with a ferocious ferule; at home he is a
meek person in slippers. The policeman who stands majestically at the
cross-roads, waving the white glove of authority, nods in the
chimney-corner without a helmet. Bishop Proudie was not much of a hero to
Mrs. Proudie, and even a beadle is, I fear, but moderately imposing in
the domestic sanctum. That a prophet is not without honour save in his
own country, we know; but even if he travel abroad, he must leave his
wife behind him,--else will he never continuously contemplate his own
greatness. This is why so many great men remain bachelors. It perhaps
also explains why the others are so unhappy in their marriages. Perhaps
there ought to be a training-school for the supply of great men's wives.



"Yes," said Marindin quietly, "they may say they write for Posterity, but
what living author besides myself does write for Posterity?"

This sounded so unlike Marindin's modesty that I wondered if the port and
the paradoxes of our Christmas dinner had got into his head at last. The
veteran man of letters had talked brilliantly _more suo_ of many things,
most of all perhaps of his dead friend, Charles Dickens. Who seemed more
surely to have been writing Christmas stories for Posterity? we had asked
ourselves musingly, as we discussed the change of temper since the days
when Dickens or Father Christmas might have stood for the Time-Spirit.
Many good things had Marindin said of Ibsen and Nietzsche and the modern
apostles of self-development who sneered at the Gospel of self-sacrifice,
and at all the amiable virtues our infancy had drawn from "The Fairchild
Family" with its engaging references to Jeremiah xvii. 9. But now he was
breaking out in a new way, and I missed the reassuring twinkle in his

"I think I may without arrogance claim to be the one author who really
has considerable influence with Posterity," he went on, drawing serenely
at his cigar and adjusting his right leg more comfortably across the arm
of his easy-chair. "Is there any one else whom Posterity listens to?"

I shifted uneasily in my own arm-chair. "What do you mean?" I inquired

"Don't you know I write for the unborn?" he counter-queried.

"But they don't read you--yet," I said, trying to smile.

"My dear fellow! Why, I'm the best-read man in Ante-land. The unborn
swear by me! My publishers, Fore and Futurus, are simply rolling in
promissory notes."

"You've become a Theosophist!" I cried in alarm, for that familiar
twinkle in his eye had been replaced by a strange exaltation.

"And what if I have?"

"Theosophy!" I cried scornfully--"Theology for Atheists! The main
contemporary form of the Higher Foolishness."

"The Higher Foolishness!" echoed Marindin indignantly.

"Yes, the Foolishness of the fool with brains. The brainless fool fulfils
himself in low ways--in alcoholic saturnalia, in salvation carnivals, in
freethought hysterics, in political bombs. The Higher Foolishness
expresses itself in aberrations of poetry and art, in table-rapping and
theosophy, in vegetarianism, and in mystic calculations about the Beast."

"It is you who are the fool," he replied shortly. "Theosophy is
true--that is, my form of it. Birth is but the name for the entry upon
this particular form of existence.

"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.

"The unborn pre-exist, even as the dead persist; and instead of
addressing Posterity posthumously and circuitously, I have anticipated
its verdict. I have written for the unborn, direct. I have been the
apostle of the New Ethics among the pre-natal populations, the prophet of
individualism among the unborn."

"What! You have propagated the teaching that free choice must be the
battle-cry of the future, that the only genuine morality is that which is
the spontaneous outcome of an emancipated individuality!"


"But what has free choice to do with the unborn?"

"What has it to do? Great heavens! Everything. The battle-cry of the
future will be Free Birth."

"Free Birth!" I echoed.

"Yes--this is what I have been preaching to the unborn--the choice of
their parents before consenting to be born! Compulsory birth must be
swept away. What! would you sweep away all checks upon the individuality
of the individual--once he is born would you tear asunder all the
swaddling-bands of our baby civilisation; would you replace the rules of
the nursery by the orderly anarchy of manhood and womanhood, and yet
retain such an incoherent anachronism as compulsory birth--a disability
which often cripples a man upon the very threshold of his career? Without
this initial reform the individualism of your Ibsens and Auberon Herberts
becomes a mere simulacrum, a hollow mockery. If you are to develop your
individuality, it must be your own individuality that you develop, not an
individuality thrust upon you by a couple of outsiders."

"And you have preached this with success?"

"With unheard-of success."

"Unheard-of, indeed!" I muttered sarcastically.

"In _your_ plane of existence!" he retorted. "In Ante-land the movement
has spread widely; scarcely a soul but has become convinced of the evils
of compulsion in this most personal matter, and of the necessity of
having a voice in its own incarnation. And it is I, _moi qui vous parle_,
who have sown the seeds of the revolt against our present social
arrangements. Too long had parents presumed upon the ignorance and
helplessness of the unborn and upon their failure to combine. But now the
great wave of emancipation which is lifting us all off our feet has
reached the coming race. And soon the old ideal will be nothing but a
strangled snake by the cradle of Hercules."

"Why, I never heard of such a thing in all my born days!" I cried

"Of course not; you are more ignorant than the babe unborn. You trouble
yourself about the next world, but as to what may be going on in the last
world, that never enters your head. But for the tyranny of outward social
forms you and I might have deferred our birth till a serener century.
Henceforth the dreamer of dreams will have only himself to blame if he is
born out of his due time and called upon to set the crooked straight. Job
himself would have escaped his misfortunes if he had only had the
patience to wait. In future any one who is born in a hurry will be a born

"What! Will the unborn choose the time of birth as well as their

"One is implicated in the other. Suppose the soul wished to be the son of
an American Duke, naturally it would have to wait till aristocracy was
developed across the Atlantic, say some time in the next century."

"I see. And is there a public opinion in Ante-land that regulates private

"Yes, but I have now educated it to the higher ethics. It used to be the
respectable thing to be born of strangers without one's own consent,
though at the bottom of their souls many persons believed this to be
sheer immorality, and cursed the day they were led to the cradle, and
became the mere playthings of the parents who acquired them--pretty toys
to be dandled and caressed, just a larger variety of doll. But all this
is almost over. Henceforth birth will be considered immoral unless it is
spontaneous--the outcome of an intelligent selection of parents, based on

"On love?"

"Yes; should not a child love its father and mother? and how can we
expect it to love people it has never seen, to whom it is tied in the
most brutal way, without a voice in the control of its destinies at the
absolutely most important turning-point of its whole existence?"

"True, a child should love its parents," I conceded. "But is not the
quiet, sober affection that springs up after birth, an affection founded
on mutual association and mutual esteem, better than all the tempestuous
ardours of pre-natal passion that may not survive the christening?"

"Ah, that is the good old orthodox cant!" cried Marindin, puffing out a
great cloud of smoke. "What certainty is there this post-natal love would
spring up? And, at any rate, a man would no longer be able to blame
Providence if he found himself tied for life to a couple for whom he had
nothing but loathing and contempt. Even the adherents of the old
conception of compulsory childship begin to see that the stringency of
the filial tie needs relaxation. Already it is recognised that in cases
of cruelty the child may be divorced from the parent. But there is a
hopeless incompatibility of temper and temperament which is not
necessarily attended with cruelty. Drunkenness, lunacy, and criminality
should also be regarded as valid grounds for divorce, the parent being no
longer allowed to bear the name of the child it has dishonoured."

"But who shall say," I asked sceptically, "that the new self-appointed
generation will be happier than the old? What guarantee is there that the
choice of parents will be made with taste and discretion?"

Marindin shrugged his shoulders impatiently.

"Come and interview the unborn," he said, and fixed his unsmiling eye on
mine, as though to hypnotise me. What happened then I shall never be able
to explain. I was translated into another scale of being, into the last
world in fact; and just as it is impossible to describe a symphony to a
deaf mute or a sunset to a man born blind, so it is impossible for me to
put down in terms of our present consciousness the experiences I went
through in that earlier pre-natal stage of existence. What I perceived in
Ante-land must needs be expressed through the language of this world, to
which in effect it bears as true and constant a relation as the vibration
of a violin string to its music. I soon gathered that, as Marindin had
claimed, his doctrines had made considerable incursions in the last
world, and, what was more surprising, in this. There seemed to be quite a
considerable sect of parents spread all through Europe and America,
pledged to respect the rights of the unborn, and it was in co-operation
with this enlightened minority--destined, no doubt, in time to become the
Universal Church--that the unborn worked. The sect embraced many couples
of wealth and position, and, as was to be expected, at the start there
had been a rush among the unborn for millionaire parents. But it was soon
discovered that birth for money was a mistake, that it too often led to a
spendthrift youth and a bankrupt age, and that there was not seldom a
legacy duty to pay in the shape of hereditary diseases, sometimes
amounting to as much as two pains in the pound; the gold rush was
therefore abating. Birth for beauty had also been popular till experience
demonstrated the insubstantiality of good looks as a panoply throughout
life. Gradually the real conditions of earthly happiness were coming to
be understood. Unborn preachers in their unbuilt churches tried in their
unspoken sermons to lead souls to the higher bodies or to save souls from
precipitate incarnation. Marindin's own unwritten books sustained Paley's
thesis of the essentially equal distribution of happiness among all
classes, and left it for the individual soul to decide between the
realities of toil and the unrealities of prosperity, Marindin took the
opportunity of our presence in Ante-land to pay a visit to his
publishers, Fore and Futurus, of whose honesty and generosity he spoke in
glowing terms. Fore received us; he seemed to be a thorough gentleman,
this unborn publisher. He showed us the design for a cover to a new
"Guide to the Selection of Parents," which he was about to bring out, and
which he hoped would become the standard work on the subject. I gathered
that these "Guides" were very popular as birthday presents, enabling, as
they did, those just about to be born to think once more before making
the final plunge. The feature of the Fore and Futurus "Guide" was the
appendix of contributions from souls already born, whose mistakes might
serve to benefit those still unattached.

"But how can there be a guide to such a frightful labyrinth?" I inquired
curiously. "Japhet in search of a father had a light task before him
compared with the selection of one. And it is not only the selection of a
father, but of a mother! To take the outside variations only: the father
may be handsome, good-looking, plain or ugly; the mother may be
beautiful, pretty, plain or ugly. Any of these types of fathers may be
paired with any of these types of mothers, which makes sixteen
complications. Then there is complexion--fair or dark--which makes
sixty-four, for you know how, by algebraic calculations, every new
possibility multiplies into all the others. If one turns to mental and
moral characteristics, one's brain swims to think of the new
complications incalculably numerous and all multiplying into the old
physical combinations. Multiply furthermore by all the combinations
arising from considerations of health, money, position, nationality,
religion, order of birth--whether as first, second, or thirteenth
child--and the strongest intellect reels and breaks down. Even now I have
not enumerated all the possibilities; for the total would have to be
doubled for the contingency of sex, since I presume birth would not be
absolutely free, unless it included the right of choosing one's sex.

"To take a concrete instance of the embarrassment which Free Birth would
bring, and of the invidious distinctions that would have to be made:
which is the better lot?--to be the third daughter of a
nineteenth-century, healthy, ugly, penniless, clever, middle-aged, moral,
free-thinking German Baron by a beautiful, rich, stupid, plebeian Spanish
dancer, with one child by a previous marriage, and a tendency to
consumption; or the second son of a twentieth-century American Duke,
unhealthy, uncultured, handsome, chaste, Ritualist, elderly and poor, by
an English heiress, ugly, low-born, Low Church, ill-bred, intellectual,
with a silly and only semi-detached mother? But this would be a problem
of unreal simplicity, bearing as much relation to actuality as the first
law of motion to the flight of a bird, for your choice would lie not
between one pair and another, but among all possible pairs."

"All existing pairs possible to you," corrected Marindin. "People manage
to choose husbands and wives, though according to your computation the
whole of the opposite sex would have to be examined and selected from. In
practice the choice is narrowed down to a few individuals. So with the
choice of parents--most are already snapped up, monopolised or mortgaged,
or contracted for, and you have either to choose from the leavings or
postpone your birth, and bide your time a century or two. But the problem
is greatly simplified by the P. C."

"What is the P. C.?" I murmured.

"The Parental Certificate, of course. Throughout the terrestrial branch
of our sect no one is eligible for parentage who does not possess it. It
is given only to those who have passed the P. D. or Parents' Degree
examination, and supplements the old P. L. or Parents' Licence, which was
openly bought and sold."

"And the qualifications?"

"Oh, very elementary. The candidate is required to pass an exam, (both
written and oral) in the training of the young, and to be certified of
sound mind in sound body. The P. L. itself has been transformed into a
licence to keep one, two or more children, according to means."

"You see our 'Guide' deals merely with the great typical pairs,"
explained the publisher. "What Aristotle did for Logic our author has
done for Birth. He only pretends to give general categories. Aristotle
could not guarantee a man shall properly reason, nor can any individual
be infallibly inspired to the wisest choice of parentage. Of course the
photographs of parents are of great service to the unborn who are
thinking of settling down."

"How do they get to see them?"

"Oh, as soon as a couple passes the P. D. and receives the P. C. they
appear in the illustrated papers--especially the ladies' papers.
'Graduates of the Week' is the heading. And then there is the P. T.--the
Pathological Tree."

I looked at the publisher in perplexity.

"Gracious! I forget this is your first visit to Ante-land," he said,
apologetically. "Look! Here are some P. Ts. my lawyer has just been
looking over for me, the property of parents whose advertisements for
children I have been answering. My friends are rather anxious I should

I surveyed the parchment roll with curiosity. It was a tree, on the model
of a genealogical tree, but tracing the hygienic record of the family.

"In our sect," said Marindin impressively, "it will become the pride of
the family to have an unblemished pedigree, and any child who gets
himself born into such a family will do so with the responsibility of
carrying on the noble tradition of the house and living up to the
sanitary scutcheon--_santé oblige_. When children begin to be fastidious
about the families they are born into, parents will have to improve, or
die childless. And, as the love of offspring springs eternal in the human
breast, this will have an immense influence upon the evolution of the
race to higher goals. I do not know any force of the future on which we
can count more hopefully than on the refinement resulting from the
struggle for offspring and the survival of the fittest to be parents.
Undesirable families will become extinct. The unborn will subtly mould
the born to higher things. Childlessness will become again what it was in
the Orient--a shame and a reproach."

"Yes," asserted the publisher, smoothing out the P. Ts.; "the old
unreasoned instinct and repugnance will be put on a true basis when it is
seen that childlessness is a proof of unworthiness--a brand of failure."

"As old-maidenhood is, less justly, to-day," I put in.

"Quite so," said Marindin eagerly. "In their anxiety to be worthy of
selection by Posterity, parents will rise to heights of health and
holiness of which our sick generation does not dream. If they do not, woe
to them! They will be remorselessly left to die out without issue.

"The change has begun; our sect is spreading fast. In the course of a
century or two physical and mental deformities will vanish from the
earth." His eye flashed prophetic fire.

"So soon?" I said, with a sceptical smile.

"How could they survive?" Marindin inquired scathingly.

"Is it likely any of us would consent to be born hunchbacks?" broke in
the publisher; "or to enter families with hereditary gout? Would any sane
Antelander put himself under the yoke of animal instincts or tendencies
to drink? Ah, here is a bibulous grandfather!" and he tossed one of the
P. Ts. disdainfully aside, though I observed that the old gentleman in
question had been an English Earl.

"But, Mr. Fore," I protested, "will all the unborn attach such importance
to the pathological pedigree as you do? What power will make them train
up their parents in the way they should go?"

"The greatest power on earth," broke in Marindin; "the power of
selfishness, backed by education. Enlightened selfishness is all that is
needed to bring about the millennium. The selfishness of to-day is so
stupid. Let the unborn care only for their own skins, and they will
improve the parents, and be well brought up themselves by the good
parents they have selected."

"But come now, Mr. Fore," I said; "the new system has been partially at
work, I understand, for some time. Do you assure me, on your word of
honor as an unborn publisher, that the filial franchise has been
invariably exercised wisely and well?"

"Of course not," interrupted Marindin. "Haven't I already told you there
has been much fumbling and experimentation, some souls being born for
money and some for beauty and some for position? But pioneers must always
suffer--for the benefit of those who come after."

"Certainly there have been rash and improvident births," admitted the
publisher. "Hasty births, premature births, secret births, morganatic
births, illegitimate births, and every variety of infelicitous intrusion
upon your planet. The rash are born too early, the cautious too late;
some even repent on the very brink of birth and elect to be stillborn.
But in the majority of cases birth is the outcome of mature deliberation;
a contract entered into with a full sense of the responsibilities of the

"But what do you understand by illegitimate birth?" I asked.

"The selection of parents not possessing the P. C. There are always
eccentric spirits who would defy the dearest and most sacred institutions
organised by society for its own protection. We are gradually creating a
public opinion to discountenance such breaches of the law, and such
perils to the commonweal, subversive as they are of all our efforts to
promote the general happiness and holiness. Even in your uncivilised
communities," continued the publisher, "these unlicensed and illegitimate
immigrants are stamped with life-long opprobrium and subjected to
degrading disabilities; how much infamy should then attach to them when
the sin they are born in is their own!"

"A lesser degree of illegitimacy," added Marindin, "is to be born into a
family already containing the full number it is licensed for. This
happens particularly in rich families, introductions into which are
naturally most sought after. It is still a moot point whether the birth
should be legitimatised on the death of one of the other children."

"But it is the indirect results that I look forward to most," he went on
after a pause. "For example, the solution of Nihilism in Russia."

"What has that to do with the unborn?" I asked, quite puzzled.

"Don't you see that the czarship will die out?"

"How so?"

"No one will risk being born into the Imperial family. I should say that
birth within four degrees of consanguinity of the Czar would be so rare
that it would come to be regarded as criminal."

"Yes, that and many another question will be solved quite peaceably,"
said the publisher. "You saw me reject a noble grandfather; the growth of
democratic ideals among us must ultimately abolish hereditary
aristocracy. So, too, the question of second marriages and the deceased
wife's sister may be left to the taste and ethical standards of the
unborn, who can easily, if they choose, set their faces against such

"You see the centre of gravity would be shifted to the pre-natal period,"
explained Marindin, "when the soul is more liable to noble influences.
The moment the human being is born it is definitely moulded; all your
training can only modify the congenital cast. But the real potentialities
are in the unborn. While there is not life there is hope. When you
commence to educate the child it is already too late. But if the great
forces of education are brought to bear upon the unformed, you may bring
all Itigh qualities to birth. Think, for instance, how this will
contribute to the cause of religion. The unborn will simply eliminate the
false religions by refusing to be born into them. Persuade the unborn,
touch _them_, convert _them_! You, I am sure, Mr. Fore," he said, turning
to the worthy publisher, "would never consent to be born into the wrong

"Not if hell-fire was the penalty of an unhappy selection," replied Mr.

"Of course not," said Marindin. "Missionaries have always flown in the
face of psychology. Henceforward, moreover, Jews will be converted at a
period more convenient for baptism."

"We hope to mould politics, too," added the publisher, "by boycotting
certain races and replenishing others."

"Yes," cried Marindin; "it is my hope that by impregnating the unborn
with a specific set of prejudices, they might be induced to settle in
particular countries, and I cannot help thinking that patriotism would be
more intelligent when it was voluntary; self-imposed from admiration of
the ideals and history of a particular people. Indeed this seems to me
absolutely the only way in which, reason can be brought to bear on the
great war question, for in lieu of that loud eloquence of Woolwich
infants there would be exercised the silent pressure of the unborn, who
could simply annihilate an undesirable nation, or decimate an offensive
district by refusing to be born in it. Surely this would be the most
rational way of settling the ever-menacing Franco-Prussian quarrel."

"I observe already a certain anti-Gallic feeling in Ante-land," put in
the publisher. "A growing disinclination to be born in France, if not a
preference for being made in Germany. But these things belong to _la
haute politique_"

"My own suspicion is," I ventured to suggest, "that there is a growing
disinclination to be born anywhere, and this new privilege of free choice
will simply bring matters to a climax. Your folks, confronted by the
endless problem of choosing their own country and century, their own
family and their own religion, will dilly-dally and shilly-shally and put
off birth so long that they will never change their condition at all.
They will come to the conviction that it is better not to be born; better
to bear the evils that they know than fly to others that they know not
of. What if the immigration of destitute little aliens into our planet
ceased altogether?"

Marindin shrugged his shoulders, and there came into his face that
indescribable look of the hopeless mystic.

"Then humanity would have reached its goal: it would come naturally and
gently to an end. The euthanasia of the race would be accomplished, and
the glorified planet, cleansed of wickedness at last, would take up its
part again in the chorus of the spheres. But like most ideals, I fear
this is but a pleasant dream." Then, as the publisher turned away to
replace the P. Ts. in a safe, he added softly: "Intelligence is never
likely to be so widely diffused in Ante-land that the masses would fight
shy of birth. There would always be a sufficient proportion of unborn
fools left who would prefer the palpabilities of bodily form to the
insubstantialities of pre-natal existence. Between you and me, our friend
the publisher is extremely anxious to be published."

"And yet he seems intelligent enough," I argued.

"Ah, well, it cannot be denied that there are _some_ lives decidedly
worth living, and our friend Fore will probably bring up his parents to
the same profession as himself."

"No doubt there would always be competition for the best _births_," I
observed, smiling.

"Yes," replied Marindin sadly; "the struggle for existence will always
continue among the unborn."

Suddenly a thought set me a-grin. "Why, what difference can the choice of
parents make after all?" I cried. "Suppose you had picked my parents--you
would have been I, and I should be somebody else, and somebody else would
be you. And there would be the three of us, just the same as now," and I
chuckled aloud.

"You seem to have had pleasant dreams, old man," replied Marindin. But
his voice sounded strange and far away.

* * * * *

I opened my eyes wide in astonishment, and saw him buried in an
easy-chair, with a book in his hand and two tears rolling down his

"I've been reading of Tiny Tim while you snoozed," he said



It seems only yesterday--and it is only yesteryear--since Walter Pater
sat by my side in a Club garden, and listened eloquently to my
after-lunch _causerie_, and now he is gone

To where, beyond the Voices, there is Peace.

You grasp that his eloquence was oracular, silent. He had an air. There
was in him--as in his work--a suggestion of aloofness from the homespun
world. I suspect he had never heard Chevalier. I should not wonder if he
had never even heard of him. He was wrapped in the atmosphere of Oxford,
and though "the last enchantments of the Middle Ages" in no wise threw
their glamour over his thought, there was a cloistral distinction in his
attitude. He reminded me of my friend the Cambridge professor, who, when
the O'Shea business was filling eight columns daily of the papers that
deprecate honest art, innocently asked me if there was anything new about
Parnell. Pater did not probably carry detachment from the contemporary so
far as that, but he was in harmony with his hedonistic creed in
permitting only a select fraction of the cosmos to have the entry to his
consciousness. A delightful, elegantly-furnished consciousness it was,
with the latest improvements, and with every justification for
exclusiveness. But there is in men of Mr. Pater's stamp something of what
might be termed the higher Pod-snappery. They put things aside with the
wave of a white-gloved hand: this and that do not exist, Mr. Podsnap
himself--O the irony of it!--among them. Like Mr. Podsnap, though on a
different plane, they take themselves and their view of life too
seriously. When I told Mr. Pater that there was a pun in his "Plato and
Platonism," he asked anxiously for its precise locality, so that he might
remove it. This I could not remember, but I told him I did not see why he
should remove one of the best things in the book. But my assurances that
the pun was excellent did not seem to tranquillise him. Now, why should
not a philosopher make a pun? Shakespeare was an incorrigible punster.
Why should a man's life be divided into little artificial sections, like
the labelled heads in the phrenologist's window? I do not want to see a
man put on his Sunday clothes to talk about religion. But a congenital
inelasticity is fostered in the atmosphere of common-rooms, there where
solemn-footed serving-men present the port with sacerdotal ceremonies,
and where, if the dons are no longer (in the classic phrase of Gibbon)
"sunk in port and superstition," the port is still a superstition. This
absence of humour, this superhuman seriousness bred of heavy traditions
peculiarly English, this sobriety nourished by sacerdotal port, give the
victim quite a wrong sense of values and proportions. He mistakes
University for Universe. His tastes become the measure of a creation of
which he is the centre. Hence an abiding gravity that is ever on the
brink of dulness. The Englishman cannot afford to be grave, the bore is
so close at hand.

And yet, if one did not take oneself seriously, I suppose nothing would
ever be done. A kindly illusion about their importance in the scheme of
things is Nature's instrument for getting work out of men. "Don't you
think Flaubert took himself too seriously?" I heard a lady novelist ask a
gentleman practitioner. Certainly his correspondence with George Sand
reveals an anchorite of letters, who tortured the phrase and sacrificed
sleep to the adjective, and the brothers De Goncourt--themselves very
serious gentlemen--have recorded how he considered his book as good as
finished because he had invented the "dying falls" of the music of his
periods. But if Flaubert had sufficiently contemplated the infinities,
the immense indifference of things, if, like the astronomer in search of
a creed, he had concentrated his vision on the point to which the whole
solar system is drifting, French prose would have lost some of its most
wonderful pages; and had the late Mr. Pater been less troubled by the
rose-leaf of style and more by the thorns of the time, English prose
would have been the poorer by harmonies and felicities unsurpassed and
unsurpassable. This is to ignore Pater the Philosopher and Pater the
Critic. Of these persons there will be varying estimates. They have even
in a sense, through the extravagances of a disciple, been subjected to
the verdict of a British jury--a sufficiently ironic revenge upon the
fastidious shrinker from the Philistines; and though, of course, it was
not theories of art and philosophy that were being "tried by jury," yet
these side-issues contributed to prejudice the twelve good men and true.
But it is only congruous with the trend of democratic thought that
everything should come under the censorship of the crowd, and the only
wonder is that long ere this the vexed questions of our troubled time
have not been solved by _plébiscite_.

A leading New York paper is commended for its patronage of literature,
because it offers large prizes for stories, the prizes to be awarded by
the votes of its readers. If the crowd is capable of appraising
literature, there is no reason why it should not take science and art
similarly into its hands, nor why the counting of heads should not
replace the marshalling of arguments in philosophy and ethics. In
politics the mob has a right to be heard, because it has a right to
express its grievances. Could an aristocracy be trusted to do justly by
Demos, democracy would have no reason to be. But this right of the
many-headed monster to a control of the governmental agencies that affect
its own happiness, does not involve the ability to decide less selfish
problems; and when, as rarely happens, abstract problems find themselves
in the witness-box, then the "Palladium of British liberty" becomes a
mockery of justice. "Legal judgment of his peers," says Magna Charta; but
when an exceptional man blunders into the dock, is he ever accorded a
panel of his equals? Things are no better in France. When Flaubert was
arraigned for his "Madame Bovary," he did not get a box of men of
letters, though there is so much more sense of art in the citizens of
Paris, that even by the bourgeois jury he was acquitted without a stain
on the character of his book. The central figure of our English episode
had nothing so creditable as an immoral book to his charge, but
indirectly the relations of art and morality came into question, and he
declared that he followed Pater, the one critic he recognised, in
believing that there were no relations between art and morality, that a
book could not be immoral, but might be something worse--badly written.
Now, this is the favourite doctrine of Chelsea, and doubtless something
may be said for it; but to put it forth, as the doctrine of Pater is a
libel--almost a criminal libel--on that great writer. These young men who
live for the Beautiful have only understood as much of Pater as would
justify epicurean existence.

Let us examine this pretension of the prophet of the importance of being
flippant, to be a disciple of Pater.

No doubt Pater was something of an Impressionist in his philosophy of
life. An eloquent expounder of the Heracletian flux, [Greek: panta rei],
of the relativity of systems of thought and conduct, and of the duty of
seizing the flying moments--"failure in life is to form habits,"--he did
not omit, like his one-sided disciples, to consider the quality of those
moments. It was the _highest_ quality you were to give to your moments as
they passed; to fail to do this was "on this short day of frost and sun
to sleep before evening." ("The Renaissance.") "Marius the Epicurean" was
not an Epicurean in the sense in which the doctrines of Epicurus have
been travestied through the ages: he turned away sickened from the
barbarities of the gladiatorial combats, longing for the time when the
forces of the future would create a heart that would make it impossible
to be thus pleasured. If "_Carpe diem_" is Pater's motto, the hour is not
to be plucked ignobly; if style is his watchword in art, style alone
cannot make great Art, though it may make good Art. The distinction,
between good Art and great Art depends immediately _not on its form_ but
on its matter. "It is on the quality of the matter it informs or
controls, its compass, its variety, its alliance to great ends, or the
depth of the note of revolt, or the largeness of hope in it, that the
greatness of literary art depends, as 'The Divine Comedy,' 'Paradise
Lost,' 'Les Misérables,' the English Bible, are great art." ("Essay on
Style.") Your Chelsea manikin would never dream of these things as great
art: his whole soul is expressed in ballads and canzonets, in strange
esoteric contes, in nocturnes and colour-symphonies, in the bric-à-brac
of aesthetics. Furthermore let the _soi-disant_ disciples ponder this
explicit statement of the Master: "Given the conditions I haye tried to
explain as constituting good art,--then, if it be devoted further to the
increase of men's happiness, to the redemption of the oppressed, or the
enlargement of our sympathies with each other, or to such presentment of
new or old truth about ourselves and our relation to the world as may
ennoble and fortify us in our sojourn here, or immediately, as with
Dante, to the glory of God, it will also be great Art." Yes, if Pater
protested against "the vulgarity which is dead to form," he was no less
contemptuous of "the stupidity which is dead to the substance."
("Postscript to Appreciations.") If he fought shy of the Absolute, if he
denied "fixed principles," and repudiated "every formula less living and
flexible than life" ("Essay on Coleridge"), he could still sympathise
passionately with Coleridge's hunger for the Eternal.

So much for the literary art. But even in painting, where the
self-sufficiency of style is proclaimed somewhat more speciously, the
purveyor of Chelsea ware will find scant countenance in the adored
Master. Nowhere can I find him preaching "Art for Art's sake," in the
jejune sense of the empty-headed acolytes of the aesthetic. With him the
formula was for the _spectator_ of art; it has been misapplied to the
_maker_ of art. Pater's studies of the great pictures of the Renaissance
are, if anything, rather too much taken up with their intellectual
content, and their latent revelation of the temper of the time and the
artist. No, these young men are no disciples of Pater. In their
resoluteness to live in the Beautiful (which is not always
distinguishable from the Bestial), they have forgotten the other items of
the trinity of Goethe, they have lost sight of the True and the Whole. It
is Whistler who is the prophet of the divorce of Art from Life, of the
antithesis of Art and Nature. When Whistler said, "Another foolish
sunset," he spake the word that called into being all these "degenerate"
paradoxes, though I am not sure but what Mr. Sydney Grundy was before him
in creating a stage-manager who thinks meanly of the moons and the scenic
backgrounds of real life. It is a good joke, this of Nature paling before
Art, or reduced to plagiarising Art,--"Where, if not from the
Impressionists, do we get those wonderful brown fogs that come creeping
down our streets, blurring the gas lamps and changing the houses into
monstrous shadows?"--but as the basis of a philosophy of Art it palls.
The germ of truth in it is that metaphysically these effects may be said
not to have existed till artists taught us to see and to look for them.
But, after all, wise old Shakespeare has the last word:

Nature is made better by no mean
But Nature makes that mean: so o'er that Art,
Which you say adds to Nature, is an Art
That Nature makes.

But these things are not for the British jury. Pater, the literary
artist, however, one is more driven to praise than to appraise. This
exquisite care for words has something of moral purity--as well as
physical daintiness in it. There is indeed something priestly in this
consecration of language, in this reverent ablution of the counters of
thought, those poor counters so overcrusted with the dirt of travel, so
loosely interchangeable among the vulgar; the figure of the stooping
devotee shows sublime in a garrulous world. What a heap of mischief M.
Jourdain has done by his discovery that he was talking prose all his
life! Prose, indeed! Moliere has much to answer for. The rough,
shuffling, slipshod, down-at-heel, clipped, frayed talk of every-day life
bears as much relation to prose as a music-hall ditty to poetry. The name
"prose" must be reserved for the fine art of language--that fine art
whose other branch is poetry. It is a grammarians' term, "prose," and
belongs not to the herd. They do not need it, and it would never have
come into M. Jourdain's head or out of his mouth, had he not taken a
tutor. And yet the delusion is common enough--even with those to whom
Moliere is Greek--that prose is anything which is not poetry. As well say
that poetry is anything which is not prose. Of the two branches of the
art of language, prose is the more difficult. This is not the opinion of
those who know nothing about it. They fancy a difficulty about rhymes and
metres. 'T is all the other way. Rhymes are the rudders of thought; they
steer the poet's bark. He cannot get to Heaven itself without striking
"seven," or mixing up his meaning with foreign "leaven." His shifts to
avoid these shifts are pathetic to a degree. He flounders about twixt
"given" and "levin," and has been known to snatch desperately at
"reaven." Of all fraudulent crafts commend me to the poet's. He is a
paragon of deceit and quackery, a jingling knave. 'T is a game of _bouts
rimés_, and he calls it "inspiration." No wonder Plato would have none of
him in his Republic, even though Plato's poets were guiltless of rhyme
and slaves only to metre. But the metre of verse, too, is a friend to
thought, and its enemy. It is like wheels to a cart; not unsagaciously is
Pegasus figured with wings. He flies away with you, and you are lulled by
the regular flap, flap of his pinions, and his goal concerns you little.
The swing and the rush of the verse compensate for reason, and it is
wonderful how far a little sense will fly when tricked out with fine
feathers. Even in stately, rhymeless decasyllabics the march and music of
the verse help a limping thought along like a sore-footed soldier
striding to the band. But the prose-writer has none of these advantages.
He is like an actor without properties. His thoughts do not go along with
a flutter of flags and a blare of trombones. Nor do they glide upon
castors. They must needs lumber on after a fashion of their own, and if
there is a music to their ambulation it must be individual, neither in
common nor in three-eight time, but winding and quickening at will, with
no strait symmetry of antiphonal bars. There is nothing to tell you the
writer has made "prose"--as the spacing and the capital letters invite
you to look for poetry. He has to depend only upon himself. This is why
blank verse--which approaches prose most nearly--is so much more
difficult to write than rhymed verse, though it looks so much easier and
more tempting to the amateur. Are we not justified, then, in taking the
logical step further, and saying that prose, which strips itself of the
last rags of adventitious ornament, and which tempts the amateur most of
all, is the highest of all literary forms, the most difficult of all to
handle triumphantly? May we not compare the music of it--that music which
we get in Ruskin and in Pater--to the larger rhythms to which the savage
drum-beat has developed? Rhythm is undoubtedly an instinct, but
civilisation brings complexity. From the tom-tom to the tune, from the
tune to the symphony. In the vaster reaches and sweeps of the rhythm of
prose there is a massive music as of Wagnerian orchestras. Anybody can
enjoy the castanet-play of rhymes; half your popular proverbs clash at
the ends; "the jigging of our rhyming mother-wits" is on everybody's
lips. But for the blank verse of "Paradise Lost" there is only "audience
fit, though few"; and as for the music of prose, so little is it
understood that critics vaguely aware of it had to invent the term "prose
poet" when they found the stress of passion and imagination effervescing
into resonant utterance. On the other hand, there are those who do not
acknowledge Pope as a poet. The essence of the long-standing quarrel is a
confusion. From the point of view of form there is only one kind of
writer to be recognised--the artist in words. Of him there are two
varieties: the artist who uses rhyme and metre, and the artist
who--wilfully or through impotence--dispenses with them. From the point
of view of matter there is the artist with "soul" and the artist without
"soul." "Soul" is shorthand for that mysterious something the absence of
which urges people to deny Pope the title of poet. They feel the
intangible something is not there, "the consecration and the poet's
dream." But with the conventional distinctions, there is no name left for
Pope, if he is not a poet. The truth is that he was an artist in
words--as masterly as the Mantuan himself, though without that golden
cadence and charm which keep Virgil a poet by any classification. On the
other hand, Carlyle, who had such scorn of the rhyming crew, was himself
a poet to the popular imagination, though to us he will be an artist in
prose _plus_ soul. There are, thus, really two classes of writers:

I. Prose-Artists.
II. Verse-Artists.

Each of these splits up into two kinds, according as the writer has or
lacks "soul." Or, if you think "soul" the more important differentia, we
will say there are artists with "soul" and artists without "soul," and
that some of each sort work in prose and some in verse. But the
classification is a crass one, and the English language unfortunately
does not possess words to express the distinctions, while the ambiguous
associations of the word "prose" increase the difficulty of inventing
them. We do not even possess any equivalent of the French "prosateur,"
though I see no reason why "prosator" should not be used. Without
neologisms, and avoiding the ambiguous adjective "prosaic," and using
"poetic" to express "soulfulness" and not the handling of metres, we get

1. Poetic Verse-Artists. (Poets.)

2. Non-Poetic Verse-Artists. (Verse-Writers.)

3. Poetic Prose-Artists. (Prose Poets.)

4. Non-Poetic Prose-Artists. (Prose Writers.)

Keats is a verse poet, Pope a verse writer, Buskin a prose poet, and
Hallam a prose writer.

* * * * *

The two great writers of our day who have sinned most against the laws of
writing are Browning and Meredith, the one in verse, the other in prose.
I speak not merely of obscurities, to perpetrate which is in
every sense to stand in one's own light, but of sheer fatuities,
tweakings-of-the-nose to our reverend mother-tongue, as either might have
expressed it. But what I am most concerned to suggest here is that the
distinction between prose and poetry (using prose to mean artistically
wrought language) will not survive investigation. The popular instinct
has long ago seen that the vital thing is the _matter_--that it is
profanity to call that "poetry" which is only verse; it remains to be
recognised that even the distinction of form rests only on the
non-recognition of the rhythm of "prose,"--a rhythm that is not metre in
so far as metre has the sense of regular measure, but may for all that
have laws of its own, which await the discoverer and the systematiser.

The affinity of prose-rhythms is, I have hinted, with the higher
developments of music, which, compared with the simple tunes of the
street, are as apparently lawless and unlicensed as is prose compared to
verse. And as it is not poets who follow laws, but precede them--as
trochee and iambic, alcaic and hexameter, are the inventions of
grammarians following on the trail of genius--so it behoves the Aristotle
who would discover the laws of the rhythm of prose to study the masters
of the art, masters by instinct and a faultless ear and the grace of God,
and endeavour by patient induction to wrest from their sentences the
secrets of their harmonies. Who will write the prosody of prose?

It is sad to have to declare that the bulk of contemporary writers lie
outside all these classifications. They are artists neither in prose nor
verse, and though they may have "soul," they cannot make it visible. For
"soul" may be expressed equally through painting and sculpture and music
and acting, audits dimly discerned presence can scarcely convert slipshod
writing into literature. No one would accept as art a picture in which a
gleam of imagination struggled against the draughtsmanship of the
schoolboy to whom arms are toasting-forks, or applaud an actor who might
be brimming over with sensibility but could command neither his voice nor
his face. No one has any business to come before the public who has not
studied the medium through which he proposes to exhibit his "soul":
unfortunately this is the age and England is the country of the amateur,
and in every department we are deluged with the crude. The fault lies
less with the amateur than with the public before which he presents
himself, and which, incompetent to distinguish art from amateurishness,
is as likely to bless the one as the other. Of all forms of art
literature suffers most; for the pity is, and pity'tis't is true,
everybody learns to talk and write at an early age. This makes the
transition to literature so fatally easy. _Facilis descensus Averni!_ To
paint, one must at least know how to mix colours and handle a brush; to
compose, one must be familiar with the meaning of strayed spiders' legs
on curious parallel bars, and there are strange disconcerting rumours of
"orchestration." But to produce literature you have simply to dip pen in
ink or open your mouth and see what God will give you. Hence particularly
the flood of novels, hence the low position of the novel; although, as
Theodore Watts has pointed out, it is practically the modern Epic. I have
met distinguished students of Greek texts who have never conceived of the
novel as a work of art, or as anything beyond the amusement of an idle
hour--something for the women and the children. One such told me he would
not read "The Mill on the Floss" because it ended unhappily. I must
conclude he has only read Aeschylus for his examinations. Acting stands
next to literature in its seductiveness. The actor's instrument is his
body, and everybody has a body. If, in addition to a "body," the creature
conceives himself to possess a "soul," the odds are there will be
laughter for the "gods." I tremble for the time when the popular
educationist shall have had his way and every child be seised of the
rudiments of drawing. We shall see sights then. At present, despite the
horrors of the galleries and the widespread ignorance of art, painting
cannot compete with literature as a misunderstood art. For the
public--which is the only critic that counts in the long run--does not
demand grammar, much less style; and the novel of the season may bristle
with passages that could be set for correction at examinations in
English. It is a little thing, but it seems to me significant, that the
announcement of terms of the local branch of Mudie's, in the little town
at which I am writing these lines, runs thus:

The subscription for one set entitles the subscriber to one complete
work at a time, whether in one, two, or three volumes, and can be
exchanged as often as desired.



Far-fetched as the idea seems that names and characters have any
interconnection, yet no great writer but has felt that one name, and one
alone, would suit each particular creation. The tortures and travels that
Balzac went through till he found "Z. Marcas" are well known. So is the
agony of Flaubert on hearing that Zola was anticipating him in the name
of Bouvard, which it had cost Flaubert six years' search to find. Zola's
magnanimity in parting with it deserves a _fauteuil_. Somebody in the
provinces told me that his minister had preached upon the subject of
names, laying it down that in every name lurked a subtle virtue,--or
vice; the former the bearer of the name was in duty bound to cultivate,
the latter to root out. Fantastic as this speculation be, even for a
minister, no one doubts that people's names may have an influence upon
their lives; and, in the case of the Christian name at least, children
ought to be protected by the State against the bad taste and the cruelty
of their parents. More certainly than the stars our names control our
destinies, for they are no meaningless collocation of syllables, but have
deep-rooted relations with the history and manner of life of our
ancestors. The Smiths were once smiths, the Browns dark in complexion;
and so, if we could only trace it, every name would reveal some inner
significance, from Adam (red earth) downwards. Why do publishers tend to
"n" in their names'? Some of the chief London publishers run to a final
"n"--Macmillan, Longman, Chapman; Hodder & Stoughton; Hutchinson & Co.;
Sampson Low, Marston & Co.; Lawrence & Bullen; Fisher Unwin; Heinemann.
The last, indeed, is nothing but "n" sounds; such a name could not escape
taking to publishing. I find also in the publishers' lists T. Nelson &
Co.; Eden, Remington & Co.; Henry Sotheran; John Lane; Effingham Wilson;
Innes & Co. (as fatal as Heinemann); George Allen & Co.; Osgood,
McIlvaine & Co.; Gardner, Darton & Co. Sometimes the "n" is prominent at
the beginning or in the middle, as in Henry & Co.; Ward & Downey;
Constable & Co.; Digby, Long & Co.; Arnold; G. P. Putnam's Sons; Kegan
Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. (wherein each partner boasts his separate
"n"); Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier (wherein there are at least three
"n"s); John C. Nimmo; Edward Stanford; Gibbings & Co.; Chatto & Windus;
Nisbet & Co. When the "n" is not in the surname, at least the Christian
contains the indispensable letter, as John Murray, Elkin Matthew.

Even when it can find refuge nowhere else the "n" creeps into the "and"
of the firm or into the "Sons." The very Clarendon Press has the
trademark. Who is the stock publisher of the eighteenth century? Tonson!
Who were the first publishers of Shakespeare? Condell & Heminge.

And while publishers run mysteriously to "n," authors run with equal
persistency to "r"--in their surnames for the most part, but at least
somehow or somewhere.

Who are our professors of fiction to-day? Hardy, Meredith, Blackmore,
Barrie, Rudyard Kipling, Walter Besant (and James Rice), George Moore,
Frankfort Moore, Olive Schreiner, George Fleming, Henry James, Hamlin
Garland, Henry B. Fuller, Harold Frederic, Frank Harris, Marion Crawford,
Arthur Conan Doyle, Rider Haggard, Miss Braddon, Sarah Grand, Mrs. Parr,
George Egerton, Rhoda Broughton, H. D. Traill, Jerome K. Jerome, Barry
Pain, W. E. Norris, Crockett, Ian Maclaren, Robert Barr, Ashby Sterry,
Morley Roberts, Mabel Robinson, F. W. Robinson, John Strange Winter, Du
Maurier (late but not least to follow his lucky "r"), Helen Mathers,
Henry Seton Merriman, etc., etc.

Who were the giants of the last generation? Thackeray, Charles Dickens,
Charles Reade, George Eliot, Bulwer Lytton, Charlotte Brontë, Trollope,

Who are our prophets and thinkers? Carlyle, Ruskin, Emerson, Darwin, John
Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, Froude, Freeman.

Who are the poets of the Victorian era? Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson,
Algernon Charles Swinburne ("r"-ed throughout), D. Gabriel Rossetti,
Christina Rossetti, Matthew Arnold, William Morris, Robert Buchanan,
Andrew Lang, Robert Bridges, Lewis Morris, Edwin Arnold, Alfred Austin,
Norman Gale, Richard Le Gallienne, Philip Bourke Marston, Mary F.
Robinson, Theodore Watts, etc., etc.

Who are the dramatists of to-day? Grundy, Pinero, Henry Arthur Jones, W.
S. Gilbert, Haddon Chambers, Comyns Carr, Carton, Raleigh, George E. Sims
(mark the virtue of that long-mysterious "r").

And who in the past have done anything for our prose dramatic literature?
Sheridan and Oliver Goldsmith, and, earlier still, Congreve, Wycherley,
Farquhar, and Vanbrugh. Nay, which are the mighty names in our
literature? Chaucer, Spenser, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Herrick, Dryden,
Alexander Pope, Butler, Sterne, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Walter
Scott, Robert Burns.

You may even look at the greatest names in the world's literature. Homer,
Virgil (Maro), Horace, Firdusi, Omar Khayyam, Cervantes, Calderon,
Petrarch, Rabelais, Dante Alighieri, Schiller, Voltaire, Rousseau,
Moliere, Corneille, Racine, Honore de Balzac, Flaubert, Victor Hugo,
Verlaine, Heinrich Heine.

Of course there are not a few minus the "r," as Milton, Keats, Goethe,
Swift, etc., etc.

There seems indeed to be a sub-species of "sons"--Ben Jonson, Dr.
Johnson, William Watson, John Davidson, Austin Dobson. Nevertheless there
is an overwhelming preponderance of "r" sounds in the names of the
world's authors. What is the underlying reason? Is there a certain rugged
virility in the letter, which made it somehow expressive of the nature of
the original owners? "N" is certainly suave and plausible in comparison,
and might well produce a posterity of publishers. What adds some colour
to the suspicion is that, when writers have chosen _noms de guerre_, they
have frequently--though all unconsciously--taken names in "r." This
explains why all the lady novelists run to "George." Publisher _versus_
author may now be expressed symbolically as N/R, N over R, the N of money
over the R of art.

With our artists I find a less strong tendency to "l's" as well as to
"r's," and it is therefore only appropriate that a Leighton should long
preside over the Royal Academy, a Millais be its chief ornament, and
finally its head, and a Whistler its chief omission; that constable and
Walker should be the glory of English art, that Reynolds should be our
national portrait-painter, and Landseer our animal-painter, and Wilkie
our domestic painter. Turner made up for his surname by the superfluity
of "l's" in his William Mallord, Raphael starts as an R. A., while
Michael Angelo, with his predominance in "l's," is rightly king of art.
The absence of "l" in Hogarth's name and the strong presence of "r" of
course denotes that the satirist was more of a literary man than an
artist. The "r" in Whistler, on the other hand, clearly indicates the
literary faculty of the author of "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies." And
if Du Maurier's real future was hinted in his orthography, Leech and
Tenniel and Phil May and Linley Sambourne have vindicated their "l's." So
have Luke Fildes, Alma Tadema, H. T. Wells, G. D. Leslie, John Collier,
Val Prinsep, Solomon J. Solomon, Frank Bramley, Phil Morris, Calderon,
Leader, Nettleship, Seymour Lucas, Waterlow, William Strutt, Albert
Moore, W. W. Ouless, C. W. Wyllie, Sir John Gilbert, Louise Jopling,
Onslow Ford, and even W. C. Horsley. There are only three foreign
Academicians at the time of writing, but they all boast the "l."

With musicians there is a tendency to "m's" and "n's," which sounds
harmonious enough, Mendelssohn, Massenet, Mascagni, Mackenzie, Schumann,
have both letters; Mozart but one. Haydn, Beethoven, Chopin, Saint-Saëns,
Sullivan, Charles Salaman, Edward Solomon, Frederic Cowen, run "n"-wards
with the unanimity of publishers, while Gounod, Stanford, Audran,
Sebastian Bach, Donizetti, work in the "n" otherwise, and Wagner has the
librettist's "r" in addition. Would you play the piano? You must have the
"n" of the piano, like Pachmann, Rubinstein, Rosenthal, Hofmann,
Frederick Dawson, Madame Schumann, Fanny Davies, Agnes Zimmermann,
Leonard Borwick, Nathalie Janotha, Sapellnikoff, Sophie Menter. Even for
other instruments, including the human voice divine, the "n" is
advisable. Paganini, Jenny Lind, Norman Néruda, Christine Nilsson--all
patronized it largely. Adelina Patti, Johannes Wolf, and many others make
a "Christian" use of it. If, on the other hand, you wish to manufacture
pianos your chance of founding a first-class firm will be largely
enhanced if your name begins with "b."

Actors, like authors, roll their "r's"; and if their names are
pseudonyms, so much the greater proof that some occult instinct makes
them elect for that virile letter. Who are our leading actors and
actor-managers? The double-r's: Henry Irving, Herbert Beerbohm Tree (two
pairs), Forbes-Robertson, George Alexander, Arthur Roberts, Edward S.
Willard, Edward Terry, Charles Brookfield, Wilson Barrett, Fred Terry,
Fred Kerr, Charles Warner, W. Terriss, George Grossmith, Charles Hawtrey,
Arthur Bourchier (two pairs). Scarcely any leading actor lacks one "r,"
as Charles Wyndham, Cyril Maude, Louis Waller, etc., etc. Those without
any "r's" may console themselves with the memory of Edmund Kean, though
Garrick--a name almost wholly compact of "r"--is the patron saint of the

The ladies follow the gentlemen. From Ellen Terry and Winifred Emery to
Ada Rehan and Mrs. Patrick Campbell, from Rose Leclercq and Marie
Bancroft to Marion Terry and Irene Vanbrugh, few dare dispense with the

But I have said enough. I have opened up new perspectives for the curious
and the philosophic, which they may follow up for themselves. Here is a
fresh field for faddists and mystagogues. Already I have proved as much
as many systems of mediaeval philosophy which strove to extract the
essence of things from the study of words and letters. Already I have
collected more evidence than the sectarians of the Shakespeare-Bacon.
Bacon write Shakespeare, indeed! A man without an "r" to his name,
pointed out by his "n" for a publisher, and, indeed, not without some of
the characteristics of the class. Seriously, the truth is that l, m, n,
and r are the leading letters in name-making; but still there does seem
to be more in the coincidence to which I have drawn attention than mere
accident explains.



It is done. The publishers have formed a League. The poor sweated victims
of the author's greed have at last turned upon the oppressor. Mr. Gosse,
on a memorable occasion, confusedly blending the tones of the prophet of
righteousness with the accents of the political economist, admonished the
greedy author that he was killing the goose with the golden eggs. And now
the goose has resolved to be a goose no longer. The Authors' Society, a
sort of trade union, has been answered by the creation of a Publishers'
Union, with all the delightful potentialities of a literary lock-out. It
is time, therefore, for a person without prejudice to say a word to both

With the spirit which prompted the creation of the Authors' Society,
Literature has nothing to do. To define Literature exactly is not easy.
To say at what point words become or cease to be literature is a problem
similar in kind to the sophistical Greek puzzle of saying at what point
the few become many. Perhaps we shall find a solution by looking at the
genesis and history of written words. Literature, we find, began as
religion. The earliest books of every nation are sacred books. Herbert
Spencer dwells on the veneration which the average person feels for the
printed word, his almost touching belief in books and newspapers. "I read
it in a book" is equivalent to saying "It is certainly true." The great
philosopher has failed to see that this instinct is a survival from the
times when the only books were holy books. The first book published in
Europe, as soon as printing was invented, was the Latin Bible--the
Mazarin Bible as it is called; and it is the Bible which is responsible
for the belief in print. Despite the degradation of the printed word
to-day, there is something fine in this tenacious popular instinct, as
there is something ignoble in all Literature which palters with it. The
Literature of every country is still sacred. The books of its sages and
seers should still be holy books to it. The true man of letters always
was and must always be a lay priest, even though he seem neither to
preach nor to be religious in the popular sense of those terms. The
qualities to be sought for in Literature are therefore inspiration and
sincerity. The man of letters is born, not made. His place is in the
Temple, and it is not his fault that the moneychangers have set up their
stalls there. But, in addition to these few chosen spirits, born in every
age to be its teachers, there is an overwhelming multitude of writers
called into being by the conditions of the time. These are the artists
whom Stevenson likened to the "Daughters of Joy." They are cunning
craftsmen, turning out what the public demands, without any priestly
consciousness, and sometimes even without conscience, mere tradesmen
with--at bottom--the souls of tradesmen. Their work has charm, but lacks
significance. They write essays which are merely amusing, histories which
are only facts, and stories which are only lies.

The capacity of the world for reading the uninspired is truly
astonishing, and the hundred worst books may be found in every
bookseller's window. Would that it were of books that Occam had written:
"Non sunt multiplicandi praeter necessitatem"! The men who produce these
unnecessary books perform a necessary function, as things are. Why should
they be less well treated than bootmakers or tailors, butchers or bakers
or candlestick makers? Why should they not get as much as possible for
their labours? Why should they not, like every other kind of working-man,
found a Labour Union? Indeed, instead of censuring these authors for
trying to obtain a fair wage, I feel rather inclined to reproach them for
not having more closely imitated the methods of Trades-Unionism, for not
having welded the whole writing body into a strong association for the
enforcement of fair prices and the suppression of sweating, which is more
monstrous and wide-spread in the literary than in any other profession
whatever. Such an organisation would be met by many difficulties, for
writing differs from other species of skilled labour by the immense
differences of individual talent, while from professions in which there
are parallel variations of skill, _e.g._, law and medicine, it differs by
the fact that there is no initial qualification (by examination)
attesting a minimum amount of skill. Not even grammar is necessary for
authorship, or even for successful authorship. Besides which, writing is
done by innumerable persons in their spare time--Literature is a world of
inky-fingered blacklegs. Thus, writing admits neither of the union-fixed
minimum wage of the manual labourer, nor of the etiquette-fixed fee of
the professional; so that the methods of the trade union are only
partially applicable to the ink-horny-handed sons of toil. But even the
possible has not yet been achieved, so that the current idea of an
organization of the writing classes, against which publishers have had to
gird up their loins to fight, has very little foundation. There is
nothing but a registered disorganisation. What the publishers are really
afraid of is not a Society, but a man, and that man a middle-man? no
other than that terrible bogey, the agent, who drinks champagne out of
their skulls.

So much for the author-craftsman. But what of the author-priest? Do the
commercial conditions apply to him? Certainly they do--with this
important modification, that, while with the author-craftsman the
commercial conditions may justly regulate the matter and manner of his
work, with the author-priest the commercial conditions do not begin until
he has completed his work. The state of the market, the condition of the
public mind--these will have no influence on the work itself. Not a comma
nor a syllable will he alter for all the gold of Afric[*]. But, the
manuscript once finished, the commercial considerations begin. The
prophet has written his message, but the world has yet to hear it. Now,
we cannot easily conceive Isaiah or Jeremiah hawking round his prophecies
at the houses of publishers, or permitting a smart Yankee to syndicate
them through the world, or even allowing popular magazines to dribble
them out by monthly instalments. But the modern prophet has no housetop,
and it is as difficult to imagine him moving his nation by voice alone as
arranging with a local brother-seer to trumpet forth the great tidings
simultaneously at New York in order to obtain the American copyright.
Even if he should try to teach the people by word of mouth, there will be
bare benches unless he charges for admission, as all lecturers will tell
you. People value at nothing what they can get for nothing; and, as
Stevenson suggested, "if we were charged so much a head for sunsets, or
if God sent round a drum before the hawthorns came in flower, what a work
should we not make about their beauty!" No, the prophet cannot escape the
commercial question. For, in order that his message may reach his age, it
must be published, and publication cannot be achieved without expense.

[* Transcriber's note: So in original.]

Tolstoï himself, who gives his books freely to the world, cannot really
save the public the expense of buying them. All he sacrifices is that
comparatively small proportion of the returns which is claimed by the
author in royalties; he cannot eliminate the profits of the publisher,
the bookseller, etc., etc. For between the message and its hearers come a
great number of intermediaries, many of them inevitable. We will assume
for the purposes of our analysis that our prophet is already popular. The
hearers are waiting eagerly. Here is the manuscript, there are the
readers. Problem--to bring them together. This is the task of the
publisher. Incidentally, the publisher employs the printer, bookbinder,
etc.; but this part of the business, though usually undertaken by the
publisher, does not necessarily belong to him. He is essentially only the
distributor. In return for this function of distribution, whether it
includes supervising mechanical production or not, the publisher is
entitled to his payment. How much? Evidently, exactly as much as is made
by capital and personal service in business generally. The shillings of
the public are the gross returns for the book. These have to be divided
between all the agents employed in producing the book--author, printer,
binder, publisher, bookseller, etc. This is not literally what happens,
but it is arithmetically true in the long run. How much for each?
Evidently just as much as they can each get, for there is no right but
might and nothing but tug-of-war. There is nothing absolute in the
partition of profits: infinite action and reaction. While the costs of
the mechanical part are comparatively stable, the relation of author and
publisher oscillates ceaselessly; and while the cautious publisher by the
multiplicity of his transactions may rely upon an average of profits,
like all business men plucking stability out of the heart of vicissitude,
the author has no such surety. Between merit and reward there is in
literature no relation. Just as the music-hall singer may earn a larger
income than the statesman, so may the tawdry tale-teller drive the
thinker and artist out of the market.

The artistic value of a book is therefore absolutely unrelated to the
commercial value; but such commercial value as there is--to whom should
it fall if not to the author? Like the other parties, he has a right to
all he can get. You will say it is very sordid to think of money; you
will speak of divine inspiration; you would rather see him go on the
rates; to save him from base reward you even borrow his books instead of
buying them; you cannot understand why he should prefer an honest
Copyright Act to a halo. Good! Put it that I agree with you. It is sordid
to sell one's muse. One should be like Mr. Harold Skimpole, and let the
butcher and the baker go howl. The thought of money sullies the fairest
manuscript. The touch of a cheque taints. Good again! _Only_, when the
great poem is written, when the great novel is done, _there is money in
it_! Who is to have this money? The author? Certainly not. We are agreed
his soul must be kept virgin. _But why the publisher?_ (Above all, why
the American publisher?) Why not the printer? Why not the binder or the
bookseller? Why not the deserving poor? None of these will be defiled by
the profits. Why should the money not be used to found a Lying-in
Hospital, or an Asylum for Decayed Authors, or a Museum to keep Honest
Publishers in? Why should not authors have the _kudos_ of paying off the
National Debt? If they are to be the only Socialists in a world of
individualists, let them at least have the satisfaction of knowing their
money is applied to worthy public purposes.

But I do _not_ agree with you. "The best work at the best prices" is no
unworthy motto. The Authors' Society, indeed, tries to put this non-moral
principle of valuation upon an ethical basis. It says, for instance, that
if the publisher reckons his office expenses in the cost of production,
then the author has a right to reckon his, even including any journeys or
researches he may have had to make in order to write his book. But this
right is not only an ethical fallacy: it is a politico-economical one,
because the economical question is only concerned with the _distribution_
of the work, and the money or the heart's blood that went to make it has
nothing to do with the question, while the publisher's office expenses
are of the essence of the question. Some authors also claim that the
publisher has no right to make successful books pay for unsuccessful. But
here again he has every right. The publisher is not a piece-worker; he
has to keep a large organization going, involving ramifications in every
town. It is the existence of this network, of this distributive
mechanism, that enables the successful book to be sold everywhere; and
the publisher, like every business man, must allow percentages for bad
debts and unprofitable speculations. Publishers have a right to capture
the bulk of the profits of authors' first books, because they largely
supply the author with his public. It is surprising how even good books
have to be pressed on an unwilling world, much as cards are forced by
conjurers. The number of people that select their books by their own
free-will is incredibly small. On the other hand, when a popular author
brings a publisher a book, it is he who improves the publisher's
distributing agency, by bringing him new clients, and even sometimes
strengthening his position with booksellers and libraries, by enabling
him, armed with a book universally in demand, to fight against deductions
and discounts throughout his business generally. And, just as the
publisher may rightly depress the profits of an unknown author, so the
popular author has a moral right to larger royalties--which right,
however, would avail him nothing were it not backed by might. It is in
the competition of rival publishers that his strength lies.

And here comes in the question of the agent. Publishers may rave as they
will, but authors have every right to employ agents to save them from the
unpleasant task of chaffering and of speaking highly of themselves. And
it is the author who pays the agent, not the publishers, their whinings
notwithstanding. The agent may indeed squeeze out larger sums than

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