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Adventures among Books by Andrew Lang

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"'They are different; I know not why. They are constant,' said
Laura, and rising with an air of chagrin, she disappeared among the
boughs of the trees that bear her name.

"'Unhappy hearts of poets,' I mused. 'Light things and sacred they
are, but even in their Paradise, and among their chosen, with every
wish fulfilled, and united to their beloved, they cannot be at

"Thus moralising, I wended my way to a crag, whence there was a
wide prospect. Certain poets were standing there, looking down
into an abyss, and to them I joined myself.

"'Ah, I cannot bear it!' said a voice, and, as he turned away, his
brow already clearing, his pain already forgotten, I beheld the
august form of Shakespeare.

"Marking my curiosity before it was expressed, he answered the
unuttered question.

"'That is a sight for Pagans,' he said, 'and may give them
pleasure. But my Paradise were embittered if I had to watch the
sorrows of others, and their torments, however well deserved. The
others are gazing on the purgatory of critics and commentators.'

"He passed from me, and I joined the 'Ionian father of the rest'--
Homer, who, with a countenance of unspeakable majesty, was seated
on a throne of rock, between the Mantuan Virgil of the laurel
crown, Hugo, Sophocles, Milton, Lovelace, Tennyson, and Shelley.

"At their feet I beheld, in a vast and gloomy hall, many an honest
critic, many an erudite commentator, an army of reviewers. Some
were condemned to roll logs up insuperable heights, whence they
descended thundering to the plain. Others were set to impositions,
and I particularly observed that the Homeric commentators were
obliged to write out the "Iliad" and "Odyssey" in their complete
shape, and were always driven by fiends to the task when they
prayed for the bare charity of being permitted to leave out the
'interpolations.' Others, fearful to narrate, were torn into as
many fragments as they had made of these immortal epics. Others,
such as Aristarchus, were spitted on their own critical signs of
disapproval. Many reviewers were compelled to read the books which
they had criticised without perusal, and it was terrible to watch
the agonies of the worthy pressmen who were set to this unwonted
task. 'May we not be let off with the preface?' they cried in
piteous accents. 'May we not glance at the table of contents and
be done with it?' But the presiding demons (who had been Examiners
in the bodily life) drove them remorseless to their toils.

"Among the condemned I could not but witness, with sympathy, the
punishment reserved for translators. The translators of Virgil, in
particular, were a vast and motley assemblage of most respectable
men. Bishops were there, from Gawain Douglas downwards; Judges, in
their ermine; professors, clergymen, civil servants, writhing in
all the tortures that the blank verse, the anapaestic measure, the
metre of the "Lay of the Last Minstrel," the heroic couplet and
similar devices can inflict. For all these men had loved Virgil,
though not wisely: and now their penance was to hear each other
read their own translations."

"That must have been more than they could bear," said Lady Violet

"Yes," said Mr. Witham; "I should know, for down I fell into
Tartarus with a crash, and writhed among the Translators."

"Why?" asked Lady Violet.

"Because I have translated Theocritus!"

"Mr. Witham," said Lady Violet, "did you meet your ideal woman when
you were in the Paradise of Poets?"

"She yet walks this earth," said the bard, with a too significant

Lady Violet turned coldly away.

* * *

Mr. Witham was never invited to the Blues again--the name of Lord
Azure's place in Kent.

The Poet is shut out of Paradise.


The first name in romance, the most ancient and the most enduring,
is that of Argive Helen. During three thousand years fair women
have been born, have lived, and been loved, "that there might be a
song in the ears of men of later time," but, compared to the renown
of Helen, their glory is dim. Cleopatra, who held the world's fate
in her hands, and lay in the arms of Caesar; Mary Stuart (Maria
Verticordia), for whose sake, as a northern novelist tells,
peasants have lain awake, sorrowing that she is dead; Agnes Sorel,
Fair Rosamond, la belle Stuart, "the Pompadour and the Parabere,"
can still enchant us from the page of history and chronicle. "Zeus
gave them beauty, which naturally rules even strength itself," to
quote the Greek orator on the mistress of them all, on her who,
having never lived, can never die, the Daughter of the Swan.

While Helen enjoys this immortality, and is the ideal of beauty
upon earth, it is curious to reflect on the modernite of her story,
the oldest of the love stories of the world. In Homer we first
meet her, the fairest of women in the song of the greatest of
poets. It might almost seem as if Homer meant to justify, by his
dealing with Helen, some of the most recent theories of literary
art. In the "Iliad" and "Odyssey" the tale of Helen is without a
beginning and without an end, like a frieze on a Greek temple. She
crosses the stage as a figure familiar to all, the poet's audience
clearly did not need to be told who Helen was, nor anything about
her youth.

The famous judgment of Paris, the beginning of evil to Achaeans and
Ilian men, is only mentioned once by Homer, late, and in a passage
of doubtful authenticity. Of her reconciliation to her wedded
lord, Menelaus, not a word is said; of her end we are told no more
than that for her and him a mansion in Elysium is prepared -

"Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow."

We leave her happy in Argos, a smile on her lips, a gift in her
hands, as we met her in Troy, beautiful, adored despite her guilt,
as sweet in her repentance as in her unvexed Argive home. Women
seldom mention her, in the epic, but with horror and anger; men
never address her but in gentle courtesy. What is her secret? How
did she leave her home with Paris--beguiled by love, by magic, or
driven by the implacable Aphrodite? Homer is silent on all of
these things; these things, doubtless, were known by his audience.
In his poem Helen moves as a thing of simple grace, courtesy, and
kindness, save when she rebels against her doom, after seeing her
lover fly from her husband's spear. Had we only Homer, by far our
earliest literary source, we should know little of the romance of
Helen; should only know that a lawless love brought ruin on Troy
and sorrow on the Achaeans; and this is thrown out, with no moral
comment, without praise or blame. The end, we learn, was peace,
and beauty was reconciled to life. There is no explanation, no
denouement; and we know how much denouement and explanations
hampered Scott and Shakespeare. From these trammels Homer is free,
as a god is free from mortal limitations.

All this manner of telling a tale--a manner so ancient, so
original--is akin, in practice, to recent theories of what art
should be, and what art seldom is, perhaps never is, in modern

Modern enough, again, is the choice of a married woman for the
heroine of the earliest love tale. Apollonius Rhodius sings (and
no man has ever sung so well) of a maiden's love; Virgil, of a
widow's; Homer, of love that has defied law, blindly obedient to
destiny, which dominates even Zeus. Once again, Helen is not a
very young girl; ungallant chronologists have attributed to her I
know not what age. We think of her as about the age of the Venus
of Milo; in truth, she was "ageless and immortal." Homer never
describes her beauty; we only see it reflected in the eyes of the
old men, white and weak, thin-voiced as cicalas: but hers is a
loveliness "to turn an old man young." "It is no marvel," they
say, "that for her sake Trojans and Achaeans slay each other."

She was embroidering at a vast web, working in gold and scarlet the
sorrows that for her sake befell mankind, when they called her to
the walls to see Paris fight Menelaus, in the last year of the war.
There she stands, in raiment of silvery white, her heart yearning
for her old love and her own city. Already her thought is far from
Paris. Was her heart ever with Paris? That is her secret. A very
old legend, mentioned by the Bishop of Thessalonica, Eustathius,
tells us that Paris magically beguiled her, disguised in the form
of Menelaus, her lord, as Uther beguiled Ygerne. She sees the son
of Priam play the dastard in the fight; she turns in wrath on
Aphrodite, who would lure her back to his arms; but to his arms she
must go, "for the daughter of Zeus was afraid." Violence is put
upon beauty; it is soiled, or seems soiled, in its way through the
world. Helen urges Paris again into the war. He has a heart
invincibly light and gay; shame does not weigh on him. "Not every
man is valiant every day," he says; yet once engaged in battle, he
bears him bravely, and his arrows rain death among the mail-clad

What Homer thinks of Paris we can only guess. His beauty is the
bane of Ilios; but Homer forgives so much to beauty. In the end of
the "Iliad," Helen sings the immortal dirge over Hector, the
stainless knight, "with thy loving kindness and thy gentle speech."

In the "Odyssey," she is at home again, playing the gracious part
of hostess to Odysseus's wandering son, pouring into the bowl the
magic herb of Egypt, "which brings forgetfulness of sorrow." The
wandering son of Odysseus departs with a gift for his bride, "to
wear upon the day of her desire, a memorial of the hands of Helen,"
the beautiful hands, that in Troy or Argos were never idle.

Of Helen, from Homer, we know no more. Grace, penitence in exile,
peace at home, these are the portion of her who set East and West
at war and ruined the city of Priam of the ashen spear. As in the
strange legend preserved by Servius, the commentator on Virgil, who
tells us that Helen wore a red "star-stone," whence fell gouts of
blood that vanished ere they touched her swan's neck; so all the
blood shed for her sake leaves Helen stainless. Of Homer's Helen
we know no more.

The later Greek fancy, playing about this form of beauty, wove a
myriad of new fancies, or disinterred from legend old beliefs
untouched by Homer. Helen was the daughter of the Swan--that is,
as was later explained, of Zeus in the shape of a swan. Her
loveliness, even in childhood, plunged her in many adventures.
Theseus carried her off; her brothers rescued her. All the princes
of Achaea competed for her hand, having first taken an oath to
avenge whomsoever she might choose for her husband. The choice
fell on the correct and honourable, but rather inconspicuous,
Menelaus, and they dwelt in Sparta, beside the Eurotas, "in a
hollow of the rifted hills." Then, from across the sea, came the
beautiful and fatal Paris, son of Priam, King of Troy. As a child,
Paris had been exposed on the mountains, because his mother dreamed
that she brought forth a firebrand. He was rescued and fostered by
a shepherd; he tended the flocks; he loved the daughter of a river
god, OEnone. Then came the naked Goddesses, to seek at the hand of
the most beautiful of mortals the prize of beauty. Aphrodite won
the golden apple from the queen of heaven, Hera, and from the
Goddess of war and wisdom, Athena, bribing the judge by the promise
of the fairest wife in the world. No incident is more frequently
celebrated in poetry and art, to which it lends such gracious
opportunities. Paris was later recognised as of the royal blood of
Troy. He came to Lacedaemon on an embassy, he saw Helen, and
destiny had its way.

Concerning the details in this most ancient love-story, we learn
nothing from Homer, who merely makes Paris remind Helen of their
bridal night in the isle of Cranae. But from Homer we learn that
Paris carried off not only the wife of Menelaus, but many of his
treasures. To the poet of the "Iliad," the psychology of the
wooing would have seemed a simple matter. Like the later vase-
painters, he would have shown us Paris beside Helen, Aphrodite
standing near, accompanied by the figure of Peitho--Persuasion.

Homer always escapes our psychological problems by throwing the
weight of our deeds and misdeeds on a God or a Goddess, or on
destiny. To have fled from her lord and her one child, Hermione,
was not in keeping with the character of Helen as Homer draws it.
Her repentance is almost Christian in its expression, and
repentance indicates a consciousness of sin and of shame, which
Helen frequently professes. Thus she, at least, does not, like
Homer, in his chivalrous way, throw all the blame on the Immortals
and on destiny. The cheerful acquiescence of Helen in destiny
makes part of the comic element in La Belle Helene, but the mirth
only arises out of the incongruity between Parisian ideas and those
of ancient Greece.

Helen is freely and bitterly blamed in the "Odyssey" by Penelope,
chiefly because of the ruinous consequences which followed her
flight. Still, there is one passage, when Penelope prudently
hesitates about recognising her returned lord, which makes it just
possible that a legend chronicled by Eustathius was known to
Homer,--namely, the tale already mentioned, that Paris beguiled her
in the shape of Menelaus. The incident is very old, as in the
story of Zeus and Amphitryon, and might be used whenever a lady's
character needed to be saved. But this anecdote, on the whole, is
inconsistent with the repentance of Helen, and is not in Homer's

The early lyric poet, Stesichorus, is said to have written harshly
against Helen. She punished him by blindness, and he indited a
palinode, explaining that it was not she who went to Troy, but a
woman fashioned in her likeness, by Zeus, out of mist and light.
The real Helen remained safely and with honour in Egypt. Euripides
has made this idea, which was calculated to please him, the
groundwork of his "Helena," but it never had a strong hold on the
Greek imagination. Modern fancy is pleased by the picture of the
cloud-bride in Troy, Greeks and Trojans dying for a phantasm.
"Shadows we are, and shadows we pursue."

Concerning the later feats, and the death of Paris, Homer says very
little. He slew Achilles by an arrow-shot in the Scaean gate, and
prophecy was fulfilled. He himself fell by another shaft, perhaps
the poisoned shaft of Philoctetes. In the fourth or fifth century
of our era a late poet, Quintus Smyrnaeus, described Paris's
journey, in quest of a healing spell, to the forsaken OEnone, and
her refusal to aid him; her death on his funeral pyre. Quintus is
a poet of extraordinary merit for his age, and scarcely deserves
the reproach of laziness affixed on him by Lord Tennyson.

On the whole, Homer seems to have a kind of half-contemptuous
liking for the beautiful Paris. Later art represents him as a
bowman of girlish charms, wearing a Phrygian cap. There is a late
legend that he had a son, Corythus, by OEnone, and that he killed
the lad in a moment of jealousy, finding him with Helen and failing
to recognise him. On the death of Paris, perhaps by virtue of the
custom of the Levirate, Helen became the wife of his brother,

How her reconciliation with Menelaus was brought about we do not
learn from Homer, who, in the "Odyssey," accepts it as a fact. The
earliest traditional hint on the subject is given by the famous
"Coffer of Cypselus," a work of the seventh century, B.C., which
Pausanias saw at Olympia, in A.D. 174. Here, on a band of ivory,
was represented, among other scenes from the tale of Troy, Menelaus
rushing, sword in hand, to slay Helen. According to Stesichorus,
the army was about to stone her after the fall of Ilios, but
relented, amazed by her beauty.

Of her later life in Lacedaemon, nothing is known on really ancient
authority, and later traditions vary. The Spartans showed her
sepulchre and her shrine at Therapnae, where she was worshipped.
Herodotus tells us how Helen, as a Goddess, appeared in her temple
and healed a deformed child, making her the fairest woman in
Sparta, in the reign of Ariston. It may, perhaps, be conjectured
that in Sparta, Helen occupied the place of a local Aphrodite. In
another late story she dwells in the isle of Leuke, a shadowy bride
of the shadowy Achilles. The mocking Lucian, in his Vera Historia,
meets Helen in the Fortunate Islands, whence she elopes with one of
his companions. Again, the sons of Menelaus, by a concubine, were
said to have driven Helen from Sparta on the death of her lord, and
she was murdered in Rhodes, by the vengeance of Polyxo, whose
husband fell at Troy. But, among all these inventions, that of
Homer stands out pre-eminent. Helen and Menelaus do not die, they
are too near akin to Zeus; they dwell immortal, not among the
shadows of heroes and of famous ladies dead and gone, but in
Elysium, the paradise at the world's end, unvisited by storms.

"Beyond these voices there is peace."

It is plain that, as a love-story, the tale of Paris and Helen must
to modern readers seem meagre. To Greece, in every age, the main
interest lay not in the passion of the beautiful pair, but in its
world-wide consequences: the clash of Europe and Asia, the deaths
of kings, the ruin wrought in their homes, the consequent fall of
the great and ancient Achaean civilisation. To the Greeks, the
Trojan war was what the Crusades are in later history. As in the
Crusades, the West assailed the East for an ideal, not to recover
the Holy Sepulchre of our religion, but to win back the living type
of beauty and of charm. Perhaps, ere the sun grows cold, men will
no more believe in the Crusades, as an historical fact, than we do
in the siege of Troy. In a sense, a very obvious sense, the myth
of Helen is a parable of Hellenic history. They sought beauty, and
they found it; they bore it home, and, with beauty, their bane.
Wherever Helen went "she brought calamity," in this a type of all
the famous and peerless ladies of old days, of Cleopatra and of
Mary Stuart. Romance and poetry have nothing less plausible than
the part which Cleopatra actually played in the history of the
world, a world well lost by Mark Antony for her sake. The flight
from Actium might seem as much a mere poet's dream as the gathering
of the Achaeans at Aulis, if we were not certain that it is truly

From the earliest times, even from times before Homer (whose
audience is supposed to know all about Helen), the imagination of
Greece, and later, the imagination of the civilised world, has
played around Helen, devising about her all that possibly could be
devised. She was the daughter of Zeus by Nemesis, or by Leda; or
the daughter of the swan, or a child of the changeful moon,
brooding on "the formless and multi-form waters." She could speak
in the voices of all women, hence she was named "Echo," and we
might fancy that, like the witch of the Brocken, she could appear
to every man in the likeness of his own first love. The ancient
Egyptians either knew her, or invented legends of her to amuse the
inquiring Greeks. She had touched at Sidon, and perhaps Astaroth
is only her Sidonian name. Whatever could be told of beauty, in
its charm, its perils, the dangers with which it surrounds its
lovers, the purity which it retains, unsmirched by all the sins
that are done for beauty's sake, could be told of Helen.

Like a golden cup, as M. Paul de St. Victor says, she was carried
from lips to lips of heroes, but the gold remains unsullied and
unalloyed. To heaven she returns again, to heaven which is her
own, and looks down serenely on men slain, and women widowed, and
sinking ships, and burning towns. Yet with death she gives
immortality by her kiss, and Paris and Menelaus live, because they
have touched the lips of Helen. Through the grace of Helen, for
whom he fell, Sarpedon's memory endures, and Achilles and Memnon,
the son of the Morning, and Troy is more imperishable than
Carthage, or Rome, or Corinth, though Helen

"Burnt the topless towers of Ilium."

In one brief passage, Marlowe did more than all poets since
Stesichorus, or, at least since the epithalamium of Theocritus, for
the glory of Helen. Roman poets knew her best as an enemy of their
fabulous ancestors, and in the "AEneid," Virgil's hero draws his
sword to slay her. Through the Middle Ages, in the romances of
Troy, she wanders as a shining shadow of the ideally fair, like
Guinevere, who so often recalls her in the Arthurian romances. The
chivalrous mediaeval poets and the Celts could understand better
than the Romans the philosophy of "the world well lost" for love.
Modern poetry, even in Goethe's "Second part of Faust," has not
been very fortunately inspired by Helen, except in the few lines
which she speaks in "The Dream of Fair Women."

"I had great beauty; ask thou not my name."

Mr. William Morris's Helen, in the "Earthly Paradise," charms at
the time of reading, but, perhaps, leaves little abiding memory.
The Helen of "Troilus and Cressida" is not one of Shakespeare's
immortal women, and Mr. Rossetti's ballad is fantastic and somewhat
false in tone--a romantic pastiche. Where Euripides twice failed,
in the "Troades" and the "Helena," it can be given to few to
succeed. Helen is best left to her earliest known minstrel, for
who can recapture the grace, the tenderness, the melancholy, and
the charm of the daughter of Zeus in the "Odyssey" and "Iliad"?
The sightless eyes of Homer saw her clearest, and Helen was best
understood by the wisdom of his unquestioning simplicity.

As if to prove how entirely, though so many hands paltered with her
legend, Helen is Homer's alone, there remains no great or typical
work of Greek art which represents her beauty, and the breasts from
which were modelled cups of gold for the service of the gods. We
have only paintings on vases, or work on gems, which, though
graceful, is conventional and might represent any other heroine,
Polyxena, or Eriphyle. No Helen from the hands of Phidias or
Scopas has survived to our time, and the grass may be growing in
Therapnae over the shattered remains of her only statue.

As Stesichorus fabled that only an eidolon of Helen went to Troy,
so, except in the "Iliad" and "Odyssey," we meet but shadows of her
loveliness, phantasms woven out of clouds, and the light of setting


To dream over literary projects, Balzac says, is like "smoking
enchanted cigarettes," but when we try to tackle our projects, to
make them real, the enchantment disappears. We have to till the
soil, to sow the seed, to gather the leaves, and then the
cigarettes must be manufactured, while there may be no market for
them after all. Probably most people have enjoyed the fragrance of
these enchanted cigarettes, and have brooded over much which they
will never put on paper. Here are some of "the ashes of the weeds
of my delight"--memories of romances whereof no single line is
written, or is likely to be written.

Of my earliest novel I remember but little. I know there had been
a wreck, and that the villain, who was believed to be drowned, came
home and made himself disagreeable. I know that the heroine's
mouth was NOT "too large for regular beauty." In that respect she
was original. All heroines are "muckle-mou'd," I know not why. It
is expected of them. I know she was melancholy and merry; it would
not surprise me to learn that she drowned herself from a canoe.
But the villain never descended to crime, the first lover would not
fall in love, the heroine's own affections were provokingly
disengaged, and the whole affair came to a dead stop for want of a
plot. Perhaps, considering modern canons of fiction, this might
have been a very successful novel. It was entirely devoid of
incident or interest, and, consequently, was a good deal like real
life, as real life appears to many cultivated authors. On the
other hand, all the characters were flippant. This would never
have done, and I do not regret novel No. I., which had not even a

The second story had a plot, quantities of plot, nothing but plot.
It was to have been written in collaboration with a very great
novelist, who, as far as we went, confined himself to making
objections. This novel was stopped (not that my friend would ever
have gone on) by "Called Back," which anticipated part of the idea.
The story was entitled "Where is Rose?" and the motto was -

"Rosa quo locorum
Sera moratur."

The characters were--(1) Rose, a young lady of quality. (2) The
Russian Princess, her friend (need I add that, to meet a public
demand, HER name was Vera?). (3) Young man engaged to Rose. (4)
Charles, his friend. (5) An enterprising person named "The
Whiteley of Crime," the universal Provider of Iniquity. In fact,
he anticipated Sir Arthur Doyle's Professor Moriarty. The rest
were detectives, old ladies, mob, and a wealthy young Colonial
larrikin. Neither my friend nor I was fond of describing love
scenes, so we made the heroine disappear in the second chapter, and
she never turned up again till chapter the last. After playing in
a comedy at the house of an earl, Rosa and Vera entered her
brougham. Soon afterwards the brougham drew up, EMPTY, at Rose's
own door. Where WAS Rose? Traces of her were found, of all
places, in the Haunted House in Berkeley Square, which is not
haunted any longer. After that Rose was long sought in vain.

This, briefly, is what had occurred. A Russian detective "wanted"
Vera, who, to be sure, was a Nihilist. To catch Vera he made an
alliance with "The Whiteley of Crime." He was a man who would
destroy a parish register, or forge a will, or crack a crib, or
break up a Pro-Boer meeting, or burn a house, or kidnap a rightful
heir, or manage a personation, or issue amateur bank-notes, or what
you please. Thinking to kill two birds with one stone, he carried
off Rose for her diamonds and Vera for his friend, the Muscovite
police official, lodging them both in the Haunted House. But there
he and the Russian came to blows, and, in the confusion, Vera made
her escape, while Rose was conveyed, AS VERA, to Siberia. Not
knowing how to dispose of her, the Russian police consigned her to
a nunnery at the mouth of the Obi. Her lover, in a yacht, found
her hiding-place, and got a friendly nun to give her some narcotic
known to the Samoyeds. It was the old truc of the Friar in "Romeo
and Juliet." At the mouth of the Obi they do not bury the dead,
but lay them down on platforms in the open air. Rose was picked up
there by her lover (accompanied by a chaperon, of course), was got
on board the steam yacht, and all went well. I forget what
happened to "The Whiteley of Crime." After him I still rather
hanker--he was a humorous ruffian. Something could be made of "The
Whiteley of Crime." Something HAS been made, by the author of
"Sherlock Holmes."

In yet another romance, a gentleman takes his friend, in a country
place, to see his betrothed. The friend, who had only come into
the neighbourhood that day, is found dead, next morning, hanging to
a tree. Gipsies and others are suspected. But the lover was the
murderer. He had been a priest, in South America, and the lady was
a Catholic (who knew not of his Orders). Now the friend fell in
love with the lady at first sight, on being introduced to her by
the lover. As the two men walked home, the friend threatened to
reveal the lover's secret--his tonsure--which would be fatal to his
hopes. They quarrelled, parted, and the ex-priest lassoed his
friend. The motive, I think, is an original one, and not likely to
occur to the first comer. The inventor is open to offers.

The next novel, based on a dream, was called "In Search of Qrart."

What is Qrart? I decline to divulge this secret beyond saying that
Qrart was a product of the civilisation which now sleeps under the
snows of the pole. It was an article of the utmost value to
humanity. Farther I do not intend to commit myself. The Bride of
a God was one of the characters.

The next novel is, at present, my favourite cigarette. The scene
is partly in Greece, partly at the Parthian Court, about 80-60 B.C.
Crassus is the villain. The heroine was an actress in one of the
wandering Greek companies, splendid strollers, who played at the
Indian and Asiatic Courts. The story ends with the representation
of the "Bacchae," in Parthia. The head of Pentheus is carried by
one of the Bacchae in that drama. Behold, it is not a mask, but
THE HEAD OF CRASSUS, and thus conveys the first news of the Roman
defeat. Obviously, this is a novel that needs a great deal of
preliminary study, as much, indeed, as "Salammbo."

Another story will deal with the Icelandic discoverers of America.
Mr. Kipling, however, has taken the wind out of its sails with his
sketch, "The Finest Story in the World." There are all the marvels
and portents of the Eyrbyggja Saga to draw upon, there are
Skraelings to fight, and why should not Karlsefni's son kill the
last mastodon, and, as Quetzalcoatl, be the white-bearded god of
the Aztecs? After that a romance on the intrigues to make Charles
Edward King of Poland sounds commonplace. But much might be made
of that, too, if the right man took it in hand. Believe me, there
are plenty of stories left, waiting for the man who can tell them.
I have said it before, but I say it again, if I were king I would
keep court officials, Mr. Stanley Weyman, Mr. Mason, Mr. Kipling,
and others, to tell me my own stories. I know the kind of thing
which I like, from the discovery of Qrart to that of the French
gold in the burn at Loch Arkaig, or in "the wood by the lochside"
that Murray of Broughton mentions.

Another cigarette I have, the adventures of a Poet, a Poet born in
a Puritan village of Massachusetts about 1670. Hawthorne could
have told me my story, and how my friend was driven into the
wilderness and lived among the Red Men. I think he was killed in
an attempt to warn his countrymen of an Indian raid; I think his
MS. poems have a bullet-hole through them, and blood on the leaves.
They were in Carew's best manner, these poems.

Another tale Hawthorne might have told me, the tale of an excellent
man, whose very virtues, by some baneful moral chemistry, corrupt
and ruin the people with whom he comes in contact. I do not mean
by goading them into the opposite extremes, but rather something
like a moral jettatura. This needs a great deal of subtlety, and
what is to become of the hero? Is he to plunge into vice till
everybody is virtuous again? It wants working out. I have
omitted, after all, a schoolboy historical romance, explaining WHY
prize for a story of Queen Mary Stuart's reign. I did not get the
prize--perhaps did not deserve it, but my story ran thus: You must
know that Queen Elizabeth was singularly like Darnley in personal
appearance. What so natural as that, disguised as a page, her
Majesty should come spying about the Court of Holyrood? Darnley
sees her walking out of Queen Mary's room, he thinks her an
hallucination, discovers that she is real, challenges her, and they
fight at Faldonside, by the Tweed, Shakespeare holding Elizabeth's
horse. Elizabeth is wounded, and is carried to the Kirk of Field,
and laid in Darnley's chamber, while Darnley goes out and makes
love to my rural heroine, the lady of Fernilee, a Kerr. That night
Bothwell blows up the Kirk of Field, Elizabeth and all. Darnley
has only one resource. Borrowing the riding habit of the rural
heroine, the lady of Fernilee, he flees across the Border, and, for
the rest of his life, personates Queen Elizabeth. That is why
Elizabeth, who was Darnley, hated Mary so bitterly (on account of
the Kirk of Field affair), and THAT IS WHY QUEEN ELIZABETH WAS
NEVER MARRIED. Side-lights on Shakespeare's Sonnets were obviously
cast. The young man whom Shakespeare admired so, and urged to
marry, was--Darnley. This romance did not get the prize (the
anachronism about Shakespeare is worthy of Scott), but I am
conceited enough to think it deserved an honourable mention.

Enough of my own cigarettes. But there are others of a more
fragrant weed. Who will end for me the novel of which Byron only
wrote a chapter; who, as Bulwer Lytton is dead? A finer opening,
one more mysteriously stirring, you can nowhere read. And the
novel in letters, which Scott began in 1819, who shall finish it,
or tell us what he did with his fair Venetian courtezan, a
character so much out of Sir Walter's way? He tossed it aside--it
was but an enchanted cigarette--and gave us "The Fortunes of Nigel"
in its place. I want both. We cannot call up those who "left half
told" these stories. In a happier world we shall listen to their
endings, and all our dreams shall be coherent and concluded.
Meanwhile, without trouble, and expense, and disappointment, and
reviews, we can all smoke our cigarettes of fairyland. Would that
many people were content to smoke them peacefully, and did not rush
on pen, paper, and ink!


We have had a drought for three weeks. During a whole week this
northern strath has been as sunny as the Riviera is expected to be.
The streams can be crossed dry-shod, kelts are plunging in the
pools, but even kelts will not look at a fly. Now, by way of a
pleasant change, an icy north wind is blowing, with gusts of snow,
not snow enough to swell the loch that feeds the river, but just
enough snow (as the tourist said of the water in the River Styx)
"to swear by," or at! The Field announces that a duke, who rents
three rods on a neighbouring river, has not yet caught one salmon.
The acrimoniously democratic mind may take comfort in that
intelligence, but, if the weather will not improve for a duke, it
is not likely to change for a mere person of letters. Thus the
devotee of the Muses is driven back, by stress of climate, upon
literature, and as there is nothing in the lodge to read he is
compelled to write.

Now certainly one would not lack material, if only one were capable
of the art of fiction. The genesis of novels and stories is a
topic little studied, but I am inclined to believe that, like the
pearls in the mussels of the river, fiction is a beautiful disease
of the brain. Something, an incident or an experience, or a
reflection, gets imbedded, incrusted, in the properly constituted
mind, and becomes the nucleus of a pearl of romance. Mr. Marion
Crawford, in a recent work, describes his hero, who is a novelist,
at work. This young gentleman, by a series of faults or
misfortunes, has himself become a centre of harrowing emotion. Two
young ladies, to each of whom he has been betrothed, are weeping
out their eyes for him, or are kneeling to heaven with despairing
cries, or are hardening their hearts to marry men for whom they "do
not care a bawbee." The hero's aunt has committed a crime;
everybody, in fact, is in despair, when an idea occurs to the hero.
Indifferent to the sorrows of his nearest and dearest, he sits down
with his notion and writes a novel--writes like a person possessed.

He has the proper kind of brain, the nucleus has been dropped into
it, the pearl begins to grow, and to assume prismatic hues. So he
is happy, and even the frozen-out angler might be happy if he could
write a novel in the absence of salmon. Unluckily, my brain is not
capable of this aesthetic malady, and to save my life, or to "milk
a fine warm cow rain," as the Zulus say, I could not write a novel,
or even a short story. About The Short Story, as they call it,
with capital letters, our critical American cousins have much to
say. Its germ, one fancies, is usually an incident, or a mere
anecdote, according to the nature of the author's brain; this germ
becomes either the pearl of a brief conte, or the seed of a stately
tree, in three volumes. An author of experience soon finds out how
he should treat his material. One writer informs me that, given
the idea, the germinal idea, it is as easy for him to make a novel
out of it as a tale--as easy, and much more satisfactory and
remunerative. Others, like M. Guy de Maupassant, for example, seem
to find their strength in brevity, in cutting down, not in
amplifying; in selecting and reducing, not in allowing other ideas
to group themselves round the first, other characters to assemble
about those who are essential. That seems to be really the whole
philosophy of this matter, concerning which so many words are
expended. The growth of the germinal idea depends on the nature of
an author's talent--he may excel in expansion, or in reduction; he
may be economical, and out of an anecdote may spin the whole cocoon
of a romance; or he may be extravagant, and give a capable idea
away in the briefest form possible.

These ideas may come to a man in many ways, as we said, from a
dream, from a fragmentary experience (as most experiences in life
are fragmentary), from a hint in a newspaper, from a tale told in
conversation. Not long ago, for example, I heard an anecdote out
of which M. Guy de Maupassant could have made the most ghastly, the
most squalid, and the most supernaturally moving of all his contes.
Indeed, that is not saying much, as he did not excel in the
supernatural. Were it written in French, it might lie in my lady's
chamber, and, as times go, nobody would be shocked. But, by our
curious British conventions, this tale cannot be told in an English
book or magazine. It was not, in its tendency, immoral; those
terrible tales never are. The events were rather calculated to
frighten the hearer into the paths of virtue. When Mr. Richard
Cameron, the founder of the Cameronians, and the godfather of the
Cameronian Regiment, was sent to his parish, he was bidden by Mr.
Peden to "put hell-fire to the tails" of his congregation. This
vigorous expression was well fitted to describe the conte which I
have in my mind (I rather wish I had it not), and which is not to
be narrated here, nor in English.

For a combination of pity and terror, it seemed to me unmatched in
the works of the modern fancy, or in the horrors of modern
experience; whether in experience or in imagination it had its
original source. But even the English authors, who plume
themselves on their audacity, or their realism, or their contempt
for "the young person," would not venture this little romance, much
less, then, is a timidly uncorrect pen-man likely to tempt Mr.
Mudie with the conte. It is one of two tales, both told as true,
which one would like to be able to narrate in the language of
Moliere. The other is also very good, and has a wonderful scene
with a corpse and a chapelle ardente, and a young lady; it is
historical, and of the last generation but one.

Even our frozen strath here has its modern legend, which may be
told in English, and out of which, I am sure, a novelist could make
a good short story, or a pleasant opening chapter of a romance.
What is the mysterious art by which these things are done? What
makes the well-told story seem real, rich with life, actual,
engrossing? It is the secret of genius, of the novelist's art, and
the writer who cannot practise the art might as well try to
discover the Philosopher's Stone, or to "harp fish out of the
water." However, let me tell the legend as simply as may be, and
as it was told to me.

The strath runs due north, the river flowing from a great loch to
the Northern sea. All around are low, undulating hills, brown with
heather, and as lonely almost as the Sahara. On the horizon to the
south rise the mountains, Ben this and Ben that, real mountains of
beautiful outline, though no higher than some three thousand feet.
Before the country was divided into moors and forests, tenanted by
makers of patent corkscrews, and boilers of patent soap, before the
rivers were distributed into beats, marked off by white and red
posts, there lived over to the south, under the mountains, a
sportsman of athletic frame and adventurous disposition. His name
I have forgotten, but we may call him Dick Lindsay. It is told of
him that he once found a poacher in the forest, and, being unable
to catch the intruder, fired his rifle, not at him, but in his
neighbourhood, whereon the poacher, deliberately kneeling down,
took a long shot at Dick. How the duel ended, and whether either
party flew a flag of truce, history does not record.

At all events, one stormy day in late September, Dick had stalked
and wounded a stag on the hills to the south-east of the strath.
Here, if only one were a novelist, one could weave several pages of
valuable copy out of the stalk. The stag made for the strath here,
and Dick, who had no gillie, but was an independent sportsman of
the old school, pursued on foot. Plunging down the low, birch-clad
hills, the stag found the flooded river before him, black and
swollen with rain. He took the water, crossing by the big pool,
which looked almost like a little loch, tempestuous under a north
wind blowing up stream, and covered with small white, vicious
crests. The stag crossed and staggered up the bank, where he stood
panting. It is not a humane thing to leave a deer to die slowly of
a rifle bullet, and Dick, reaching the pool, hesitated not, but
threw off his clothes, took his skene between his teeth, plunged
in, and swam the river.

All naked as he was he cut the stag's throat in the usual manner,
and gralloched him with all the skill of Bucklaw. This was very
well, and very well it would be to add a description of the stag at
bay; but as I never happened to see a stag at bay, I omit all that.
Dick had achieved success, but his clothes were on one side of a
roaring river in spate, and he and the dead stag were on the other.
There was no chance of fording the stream, and there was then no
bridge. He did not care to swim back, for the excitement was out
of him. He was trembling with cold, and afraid of cramp. "A
mother-naked man," in a wilderness, with a flood between him and
his raiment, was in a pitiable position. It did not occur to him
to flay the stag, and dress in the hide, and, indeed, he would have
been frozen before he could have accomplished that task. So he

There was nobody within sight but one girl, who was herding cows.
Now for a naked man, with a knife, and bedabbled with blood, to
address a young woman on a lonely moor is a delicate business. The
chances were that the girl would flee like a startled fawn, and
leave Dick to walk, just as he was, to the nearest farmhouse, about
a mile away. However, Dick had to risk it; he lay down so that
only his face appeared above the bank, and he shouted to the
maiden. When he had caught her attention he briefly explained the
unusual situation. Then the young woman behaved like a trump, or
like a Highland Nausicaa, for students of the "Odyssey" will
remember how Odysseus, simply clad in a leafy bough of a tree, made
supplication to the sea-king's daughter, and how she befriended
him. Even if Dick had been a reader of Homer, which is not
probable, there were no trees within convenient reach, and he could
not adopt the leafy covering of Odysseus.

"You sit still; if you move an inch before I give you the word,
I'll leave you where you are!" said Miss Mary. She then cast her
plaid over her face, marched up to the bank where Dick was
crouching and shivering, dropped her ample plaid over him, and sped
away towards the farmhouse. When she had reached its shelter, and
was giving an account of the adventure, Dick set forth, like a
primeval Highlander, the covering doing duty both for plaid and
kilt. Clothes of some kind were provided for him at the cottage, a
rickety old boat was fetched, and he and his stag were rowed across
the river to the place where his clothes lay.

That is all, but if one were a dealer in romance, much play might
be made with the future fortunes of the sportsman and the maiden,
happy fortunes or unhappy. In real life, the lassie "drew up with"
a shepherd lad, as Miss Jenny Denison has it, married him, and
helped to populate the strath. As for Dick, history tells no more
of his adventures, nor is it alleged that he ever again visited the
distant valley, or beheld the face of his Highland Nausicaa.

Now, if one were a romancer, this mere anecdote probably would
"rest, lovely pearl, in the brain, and slowly mature in the
oyster," till it became a novel. Properly handled, the incident
would make a very agreeable first chapter, with the aid of scenery,
botany, climate, and remarks on the manners and customs of the red
deer stolen from St. John, or the Stuarts d'Albanie. Then,
probably, one would reflect on the characters of Mary and of
Richard; Mary must have parents, of course, and one would make them
talk in Scottish. Probably she already had a lover; how should she
behave to that lover? There is plenty of room for speculation in
that problem. As to Dick, is he to be a Lothario, or a lover pour
le bon motif? What are his distinguished family to think of the
love affair, which would certainly ensue in fiction, though in real
life nobody thought of it at all? Are we to end happily, with a
marriage or marriages, or are we to wind all up in the pleasant,
pessimistic, realistic, fashionable modern way? Is Mary to drown
the baby in the Muckle Pool? Is she to suffer the penalty of her
crime at Inverness? Or, happy thought, shall we not make her
discarded rival lover meet Dick in the hills on a sunny day and
then--are they not (taking a hint from facts) to fight a duel with
rifles? I see Dick lying, with a bullet in his brow, on the side
of a corrie; his blood crimsons the snow, an eagle stoops from the
sky. That makes a pretty picturesque conclusion to the unwritten
romance of the strath.

Another anecdote occurs to me; good, I think, for a short story,
but capable, also, of being dumped down in the middle of a long
novel. It was in the old coaching days. A Border squire was going
north, in the coach, alone. At a village he was joined by a man
and a young lady: their purpose was manifest, they were a runaway
couple, bound for Gretna Green. They had not travelled long
together before the young lady, turning to the squire, said, "Vous
parlez francais, Monsieur?" He did speak French--it was plain that
the bridegroom did not--and, to the end of the journey, that
remarkable lady conducted a lively and affectionate conversation
with the squire in French! Manifestly, he had only to ask and
receive, but, alas! he was an unadventurous, plain gentleman; he
alighted at his own village; he drove home in his own dogcart; the
fugitive pair went forward, and the Gretna blacksmith united them
in holy matrimony. The rest is silence.

I would give much to know what that young person's previous history
and adventures had been, to learn what befell her after her
wedding, to understand, in brief, her conduct and her motives.
Were I a novelist, a Maupassant, or a Meredith, the Muse, "from
whatsoever quarter she chose," would enlighten me about all, and I
would enlighten you. But I can only marvel, only throw out the
hint, only deposit the grain of sand, the nucleus of romance, in
some more fertile brain. Indeed the topic is much more puzzling
than the right conclusion for my Highland romance. In that case
fancy could find certain obvious channels, into one or other of
which it must flow. But I see no channels for the lives of these
three queerly met people in the coach.

As a rule, fancies are capable of being arranged in but a few
familiar patterns, so that it seems hardly worth while to make the
arrangement. But he who looks at things thus will never be a
writer of stories. Nay, even of the slowly unfolding tale of his
own existence he may weary, for the combinations therein have all
occurred before; it is in a hackneyed old story that he is living,
and you, and I. Yet to act on this knowledge is to make a bad
affair of our little life: we must try our best to take it
seriously. And so of story-writing. As Mr. Stevenson says, a man
must view "his very trifling enterprise with a gravity that would
befit the cares of empire, and think the smallest improvement worth
accomplishing at any expense of time and industry. The book, the
statue, the sonata, must be gone upon with the unreasoning good
faith and the unflagging spirit of children at their play."

That is true, that is the worst of it. The man, the writer, over
whom the irresistible desire to mock at himself, his work, his
puppets and their fortunes has power, will never be a novelist.
The novelist must "make believe very much"; he must be in earnest
with his characters. But how to be in earnest, how to keep the
note of disbelief and derision "out of the memorial"? Ah, there is
the difficulty, but it is a difficulty of which many authors appear
to be insensible. Perhaps they suffer from no such temptations.


It is a truism that the supernatural in fiction should, as a
general rule, be left in the vague. In the creepiest tale I ever
read, the horror lay in this--THERE WAS NO GHOST! You may describe
a ghost with all the most hideous features that fancy can suggest--
saucer eyes, red staring hair, a forked tail, and what you please--
but the reader only laughs. It is wiser to make as if you were
going to describe the spectre, and then break off, exclaiming, "But
no! No pen can describe, no memory, thank Heaven, can recall, the
horror of that hour!" So writers, as a rule, prefer to leave their
terror (usually styled "The Thing") entirely in the dark, and to
the frightened fancy of the student. Thus, on the whole, the
treatment of the supernaturally terrible in fiction is achieved in
two ways, either by actual description, or by adroit suggestion,
the author saying, like cabmen, "I leave it to yourself, sir."
There are dangers in both methods; the description, if attempted,
is usually overdone and incredible: the suggestion is apt to
prepare us too anxiously for something that never becomes real, and
to leave us disappointed.

Examples of both methods may be selected from poetry and prose.
The examples in verse are rare enough; the first and best that
occurs in the way of suggestion is, of course, the mysterious lady
in "Christabel."

"She was most beautiful to see,
Like a lady of a far countree."

Who was she? What did she want? Whence did she come? What was
the horror she revealed to the night in the bower of Christabel?

"Then drawing in her breath aloud
Like one that shuddered, she unbound
The cincture from beneath her breast.
Her silken robe and inner vest
Dropt to her feet, and full in view
Behold her bosom and half her side -
A sight to dream of, not to tell!
O shield her! shield sweet Christabel!"

And then what do her words mean?

"Thou knowest to-night, and wilt know to-morrow,
This mark of my shame, this seal of my sorrow."

What was it--the "sight to dream of, not to tell?"

Coleridge never did tell, and, though he and Mr. Gilman said he
knew, Wordsworth thought he did not know. He raised a spirit that
he had not the spell to lay. In the Paradise of Poets has he
discovered the secret? We only know that the mischief, whatever it
may have been, was wrought.

"O sorrow and shame! Can this be she -
The lady who knelt at the old oak tree?"
. . .
"A star hath set, a star hath risen,
O Geraldine, since arms of thine
Have been the lovely lady's prison.
O Geraldine, one hour was thine." {11}

If Coleridge knew, why did he never tell? And yet he maintains
that "in the very first conception of the tale, I had the whole
present to my mind, with the wholeness no less than with the
liveliness of a vision," and he expected to finish the three
remaining parts within the year. The year was 1816, the poem was
begun in 1797, and finished, as far as it goes, in 1800. If
Coleridge ever knew what he meant, he had time to forget. The
chances are that his indolence, or his forgetfulness, was the
making of "Christabel," which remains a masterpiece of supernatural

For description it suffices to read the "Ancient Mariner." These
marvels, truly, are speciosa miracula, and, unlike Southey, we
believe as we read. "You have selected a passage fertile in
unmeaning miracles," Lamb wrote to Southey (1798), "but have passed
by fifty passages as miraculous as the miracles they celebrate."
Lamb appears to have been almost alone in appreciating this
masterpiece of supernatural description. Coleridge himself shrank
from his own wonders, and wanted to call the piece "A Poet's
Reverie." "It is as bad as Bottom the weaver's declaration that he
is not a lion, but only the scenical representation of a lion.
What new idea is gained by this title but one subversive of all
credit--which the tale should force upon us--of its truth?" Lamb
himself was forced, by the temper of the time, to declare that he
"disliked all the miraculous part of it," as if it were not ALL
miraculous! Wordsworth wanted the Mariner "to have a character and
a profession," perhaps would have liked him to be a gardener, or a
butler, with "an excellent character!" In fact, the love of the
supernatural was then at so low an ebb that a certain Mr. Marshall
"went to sleep while the 'Ancient Mariner' was reading," and the
book was mainly bought by seafaring men, deceived by the title, and
supposing that the "Ancient Mariner" was a nautical treatise.

In verse, then, Coleridge succeeds with the supernatural, both by
way of description in detail, and of suggestion. If you wish to
see a failure, try the ghost, the moral but not affable ghost, in
Wordsworth's "Laodamia." It is blasphemy to ask the question, but
is the ghost in "Hamlet" quite a success? Do we not see and hear a
little too much of him? Macbeth's airy and viewless dagger is
really much more successful by way of suggestion. The stage makes
a ghost visible and familiar, and this is one great danger of the
supernatural in art. It is apt to insist on being too conspicuous.
Did the ghost of Darius, in "AEschylus," frighten the Athenians?
Probably they smiled at the imperial spectre. There is more
discretion in Caesar's ghost -

"I think it is the weakness of mine eyes
That shapes this monstrous apparition,"

says Brutus, and he lays no very great stress on the brief visit of
the appearance. For want of this discretion, Alexandre Dumas's
ghosts, as in "The Corsican Brothers," are failures. They make
themselves too common and too cheap, like the spectre in Mrs.
Oliphant's novel, "The Wizard's Son." This, indeed, is the crux of
the whole adventure. If you paint your ghost with too heavy a
hand, you raise laughter, not fear. If you touch him too lightly,
you raise unsatisfied curiosity, not fear. It may be easy to
shudder, but it is difficult to teach shuddering.

In prose, a good example of the over vague is Miriam's mysterious
visitor--the shadow of the catacombs--in "Transformation; or, The
Marble Faun." Hawthorne should have told us more or less; to be
sure his contemporaries knew what he meant, knew who Miriam and the
Spectre were. The dweller in the catacombs now powerfully excites
curiosity, and when that curiosity is unsatisfied, we feel
aggrieved, vexed, and suspect that Hawthorne himself was puzzled,
and knew no more than his readers. He has not--as in other tales
he has--managed to throw the right atmosphere about this being. He
is vague in the wrong way, whereas George Sand, in Les Dames
Vertes, is vague in the right way. We are left in Les Dames Vertes
with that kind of curiosity which persons really engaged in the
adventure might have felt, not with the irritation of having a
secret kept from us, as in "Transformation."

In "Wandering Willie's Tale" (in "Redgauntlet"), the right
atmosphere is found, the right note is struck. All is vividly
real, and yet, if you close the book, all melts into a dream again.
Scott was almost equally successful with a described horror in "The
Tapestried Chamber." The idea is the commonplace of haunted
houses, the apparition is described as minutely as a burglar might
have been; and yet we do not mock, but shudder as we read. Then,
on the other side--the side of anticipation--take the scene outside
the closed door of the vanished Dr. Jekyll, in Mr. Stevenson's
well-known apologue:

They are waiting on the threshold of the chamber whence the doctor
has disappeared--the chamber tenanted by what? A voice comes from
the room. "Sir," said Poole, looking Mr. Utterson in the eyes,
"was that my master's voice?"

A friend, a man of affairs, and a person never accused of being
fanciful, told me that he read through the book to that point in a
lonely Highland chateau, at night, and that he did not think it
well to finish the story till next morning, but rushed to bed. So
the passage seems "well-found" and successful by dint of
suggestion. On the other side, perhaps, only Scotsmen brought up
in country places, familiar from childhood with the terrors of
Cameronian myth, and from childhood apt to haunt the lonely
churchyards, never stirred since the year of the great Plague
choked the soil with the dead, perhaps THEY only know how much
shudder may be found in Mr. Stevenson's "Thrawn Janet." The black
smouldering heat in the hills and glens that are commonly so fresh,
the aspect of the Man, the Tempter of the Brethren, we know them,
and we have enough of the old blood in us to be thrilled by that
masterpiece of the described supernatural. It may be only a local
success, it may not much affect the English reader, but it is of
sure appeal to the lowland Scot. The ancestral Covenanter within
us awakens, and is terrified by his ancient fears.

Perhaps it may die out in a positive age--this power of learning to
shudder. To us it descends from very long ago, from the far-off
forefathers who dreaded the dark, and who, half starved and all
untaught, saw spirits everywhere, and scarce discerned waking
experience from dreams. When we are all perfect positivist
philosophers, when a thousand generations of nurses that never
heard of ghosts have educated the thousand and first generation of
children, then the supernatural may fade out of fiction. But has
it not grown and increased since Wordsworth wanted the "Ancient
Mariner" to have "a profession and a character," since Southey
called that poem a Dutch piece of work, since Lamb had to pretend
to dislike its "miracles"? Why, as science becomes more cock-sure,
have men and women become more and more fond of old follies, and
more pleased with the stirring of ancient dread within their veins?

As the visible world is measured, mapped, tested, weighed, we seem
to hope more and more that a world of invisible romance may not be
far from us, or, at least, we care more and more to follow fancy
into these airy regions, et inania regna. The supernatural has not
ceased to tempt romancers, like Alexandre Dumas, usually to their
destruction; more rarely, as in Mrs. Oliphant's "Beleaguered City,"
to such success as they do not find in the world of daily
occupation. The ordinary shilling tales of "hypnotism" and
mesmerism are vulgar trash enough, and yet I can believe that an
impossible romance, if the right man wrote it in the right mood,
might still win us from the newspapers, and the stories of shabby
love, and cheap remorses, and commonplace failures.

"But it needs Heaven-sent moments for this skill."



"If any Gentlemen, and others, will be pleased to send me any
relations about Spirits, Witches, and Apparitions, In any part of
the Kingdom; or any Information about the Second Sight, Charms,
Spells, Magic, and the like, They shall oblige the Author, and have
them publisht to their satisfaction.

"Direct your Relations to Alexander Ogstouns, Shop Stationer, at
the foot of the Plain-stones, at Edinburgh, on the North-side of
the Street."

Is this not a pleasing opportunity for Gentlemen, and Others, whose
Aunts have beheld wraiths, doubles, and fetches? It answers very
closely to the requests of the Society for Psychical Research, who
publish, as some one disparagingly says, "the dreams of the middle
classes." Thanks to Freedom, Progress, and the decline of
Superstition, it is now quite safe to see apparitions, and even to
publish the narrative of their appearance.

But when Mr. George Sinclair, sometime Professor of Philosophy in
Glasgow, issued the invitation which I have copied, at the end of
his "Satan's Invisible World Discovered," {12} the vocation of a
seer was not so secure from harm. He, or she, might just as
probably be burned as not, on the charge of sorcery, in the year of
grace, 1685. However, Professor Sinclair managed to rake together
an odd enough set of legends, "proving clearly that there are
Devils," a desirable matter to have certainty about. "Satan's
Invisible World Discovered" is a very rare little book; I think
Scott says in a MS. note that he had great difficulty in procuring
it, when he was at work on his "infernal demonology." As a copy
fell in my way, or rather as I fell in its way, a helpless victim
to its charms and its blue morocco binding, I take this chance of
telling again the old tales of 1685.

Mr. Sinclair began with a long dedicatory Epistle about nothing at
all, to the Lord Winton of the period. The Earl dug coal-mines,
and constructed "a moliminous rampier for a harbour." A
"moliminous rampier" is a choice phrase, and may be envied by
novelists who aim at distinction of style. "Your defending the
salt pans against the imperious waves of the raging sea from the
NE. is singular," adds the Professor, addressing "the greatest coal
and salt-master in Scotland, who is a nobleman, and the greatest
nobleman who is a Coal and Salt Merchant." Perhaps it is already
plain to the modern mind that Mr. George Sinclair, though a
Professor of Philosophy, was not a very sagacious character.

Mr. Sinclair professes that his proofs of the existence of Devils
"are no old wife's trattles about the fire, but such as may bide
the test." He lived, one should remember, in an age when faith was
really seeking aid from ghost stories. Glanvil's books--and, in
America, those of Cotton Mather--show the hospitality to anecdotes
of an edifying sort, which we admire in Mr. Sinclair. Indeed,
Sinclair borrows from Glanvil and Henry More, authors who, like
himself, wished to establish the existence of the supernatural on
the strange incidents which still perplex us, but which are
scarcely regarded as safe matter to argue upon. The testimony for
a Ghost would seldom go to a jury in our days, though amply
sufficient in the time of Mr. Sinclair. About "The Devil of
Glenluce" he took particular care to be well informed, and first
gave it to the world in a volume on--you will never guess what
subject--Hydrostatics! In the present work he offers us

"The Devil of Glenluce Enlarged
With several Remarkable Additions
from an Eye and Ear Witness,
A Person of undoubted

Mr. Sinclair recommends its "usefulness for refuting Atheism."
Probably Mr. Sinclair got the story, or had it put off on him
rather, through one Campbell, a student of philosophy in Glasgow,
the son of Gilbert Campbell, a weaver of Glenluce, in Galloway; the
scene in our own time, of a mysterious murder. Campbell had
refused alms to Alexander Agnew, a bold and sturdy beggar, who,
when asked by the Judge whether he believed in a God, answered:
"He knew no God but Salt, Meal, and Water." In consequence of the
refusal of alms, "The Stirs first began." The "Stirs" are ghostly
disturbances. They commenced with whistling in the house and out
of it, "such as children use to make with their small, slender
glass whistles." "About the Middle of November," says Mr.
Sinclair, "the Foul Fiend came on with his extraordinary assaults."
Observe that he takes the Foul Fiend entirely for granted, and that
he never tells us the date of the original quarrel, and the early
agitation. Stones were thrown down the chimney and in at the
windows, but nobody was hurt.

Naturally Gilbert Campbell carried his tale of sorrow to the parish
Minister. This did not avail him. His warp and threads were cut
on his loom, and even the clothes of his family were cut while they
were wearing them. At night something tugged the blankets off
their beds, a favourite old spiritual trick, which was played, if I
remember well, on a Roman Emperor, according to Suetonius. Poor
Campbell had to remove his stock-in-trade, and send his children to
board out, "to try whom the trouble did most follow." After this,
all was quiet (as perhaps might be expected), and quiet all
remained, till a son named Thomas was brought home again. Then the
house was twice set on fire, and it might have been enough to give
Thomas a beating. On the other hand, Campbell sent Thomas to stay
with the Minister. But the troubles continued in the old way. At
last the family became so accustomed to the Devil, "that they were
no more afraid to keep up the Clash" (chatter) "with the Foul Fiend
than to speak to each other." They were like the Wesleys, who were
so familiar with the fiend Jeffrey, that haunted their home.

The Minister, with a few of the gentry, heard of their unholy
friendship, and paid Campbell a visit. "At their first coming in
the Devil says: 'Quum Literarum is good Latin.'" These are the
first words of the Latin rudiments which scholars are taught when
they go to the Grammar School. Then they all prayed, and a Voice
came from under the bed: "Would you know the Witches of Glenluce?"
The Voice named a few, including one long dead. But the Minister,
with rare good sense, remarked that what Satan said was not

Let it be remarked that "the lad Tom" had that very day "come back
with the Minister." The Fiend then offered terms. "Give me a
spade and shovel, and depart from the house for seven days, and I
will make a grave, and lie down in it, and trouble you no more."
Hereon Campbell, with Scottish caution, declined to give the Devil
the value of a straw. The visitors then hunted after the voice,
observing that some of the children were in bed. They found
nothing, and then, as the novelists say, "a strange thing

There appeared a naked hand and an arm, from the elbow down,
beating upon the floor till the house did shake again. "The Fiend
next exclaimed that if the candle were put out he would appear in
the shape of Fireballs."

Let it be observed that now, for the first time, we learn that all
the scene occurred in candle-light. The appearance of floating
balls of fire is frequent (if we may believe the current reports)
at spiritualistic seances. But what a strange, ill-digested tale
is Mr. Sinclair's! He lets slip an expression which shows that the
investigators were in one room, the But, while the Fiend was
diverting himself in the other room, the Ben! The Fiend (nobody
going Ben) next chaffed a gentleman who wore a fashionable broad-
brimmed hat, "whereupon he presently imagined that he felt a pair
of shears going about his hat," but there was no such matter. The
voice asked for a piece of bread, which the others were eating, and
said the maid gave him a crust in the morning. This she denied,
but admitted that something had "clicked" a piece of bread out of
her hand.

The seance ended, the Devil slapping a safe portion of the
children's bodies, with a sound resembling applause. After many
months of this really annoying conduct, poor Campbell laid his case
before the Presbyters, in 1655, thirty years before the date of
publication. So a "solemn humiliation" was actually held all
through the bounds of the synod. But to little purpose did
Glenluce sit in sackcloth and ashes. The good wife's plate was
snatched away before her very eyes, and then thrown back at her.
In similar "stirs," described by a Catholic missionary in Peru soon
after Pizarro's conquest, the cup of an Indian chief was lifted up
by an invisible hand, and set down empty. In that case, too,
stones were thrown, as by the Devil of Glenluce.

And what was the end of it all? Mr. Sinclair has not even taken
the trouble to inquire. It seems by some conjuration or other, the
Devil suffered himself to be put away, and gave the weaver a
habitation. The weaver "has been a very Odd man that endured so
long these marvellous disturbances."

This is the tale which Mr. Sinclair offers, without mentioning his
authority. He complains that Dr. Henry More had plagiarised it,
from his book of Hydrostatics. Two points may be remarked. First:
modern Psychical Inquirers are more particular about evidence than
Mr. Sinclair. Not for nothing do we live in an age of science.
Next: the stories of these "stirs" are always much the same
everywhere, in Glenluce, at Tedworth, where the Drummer came, in
Peru, in Wesley's house, in heroic Iceland, when Glam, the vampire,
"rode the roofs." It is curious to speculate on how the tradition
of making themselves little nuisances in this particular manner has
been handed down among children, if we are to suppose that children
do the trick. Last autumn a farmer's house in Scotland was annoyed
exactly as the weaver's home was, and that within a quarter of a
mile of a well-known man of science. The mattress of the father
was tenanted by something that wriggled like a snake. The mattress
was opened, nothing was found, and the disturbance began again as
soon as the bed was restored to its place. This occurred when the
farmer's children had been sent to a distance.

One cannot but be perplexed by the problem which these tales
suggest. Almost bare of evidence as they are, their great number,
their wide diffusion, in many countries and in times ancient and
modern, may establish some substratum of truth. Scott mentions a
case in which the imposture was detected by a sheriff's officer.
But a recent anecdote makes me almost distrust the detection.

Some English people, having taken a country house in Ireland, were
vexed by the usual rappings, stone-throwings, and all the rest of
the business. They sent to Dublin for two detectives, who arrived.
On their first night, the lady of the house went into a room, where
she found one of the policemen asleep in his chair. Being a lively
person, she rapped twice or thrice on the table. He awakened, and
said: "Ah, so I suspected. It was hardly worth while, madam, to
bring us so far for this." And next day the worthy men withdrew in
dudgeon, but quite convinced that they had discovered the agent in
the hauntings.

But they had not!

On the other hand, Scott (who had seen one ghost, if not two, and
had heard a "warning") states that Miss Anne Robinson managed the
Stockwell disturbances by tying horsehairs to plates and light
articles, which then demeaned themselves as if possessed.

Here we have vera causa, a demonstrable cause of "stirs," and it
may be inferred that all the other historical occurrences had a
similar origin. We have, then, only to be interested in the
persistent tradition, in accordance with which mischievous persons
always do exactly the same sort of thing. But this is a mere
example of the identity of human nature.

It is curious to see how Mr. Sinclair plumes himself on this Devil
of Glenluce as a "moliminous rampier" against irreligion. "This
one Relation is worth all the price that can be given for the
Book." The price I have given for the volume is Ten Golden
Guineas, and perhaps the Foul Thief of Glenluce is hardly worth the

"I believe if the Obdurest Atheist among men would seriously and in
good earnest consider that relation, and ponder all the
circumstances thereof, he would presently cry out, as a Dr. of
Physick did, hearing a story less considerable, 'I believe I have
been in the wrong all the time--if this be true.'"

Mr. Sinclair is also a believer in the Woodstock devils, on which
Scott founded his novel. He does not give the explanation that
Giles Sharp, alias Joseph Collins of Oxford, alias Funny Joe, was
all the Devil in that affair. Scott had read the story of Funny
Joe, but could never remember "whether it exists in a separate
collection, or where it is to be looked for."

Indifferent to evidence, Mr. Sinclair confutes the Obdurest
Atheists with the Pied Piper of Hamelin, with the young lady from
Howells' "Letters," whose house, like Rahab's, was "on the city
wall," and with the ghost of the Major who appeared to the Captain
(as he had promised), and scolded him for not keeping his sword
clean. He also gives us Major Weir, at full length, convincing us
that, as William Erskine said, "The Major was a disgusting fellow,
a most ungentlemanlike character." Scott, on the other hand,
remarked, long before "Waverley," "if I ever were to become a
writer of prose romances, I think I would choose Major Weir, if not
for my hero, at least for an agent and a leading one, in my
production." He admitted that the street where the Major lived was
haunted by a woman "twice the common length," "but why should we
set him down for an ungentlemanly fellow?" Readers of Mr. Sinclair
will understand the reason very well, and it is not necessary, nor
here even possible, to justify Erskine's opinion by quotations.
Suffice it that, by virtue of his enchanted staff, which was burned
with him, the Major was enabled "to commit evil not to be named,
yea, even to reconcile man and wife when at variance." His sister,
who was hanged, had Redgauntlet's horse-shoe mark on her brow, and
one may marvel that Scott does not seem to have remembered this
coincidence. "There was seen an exact Horse-shoe, shaped for
nails, in her wrinkles. Terrible enough, I assure you, to the
stoutest beholder!"

Most modern readers will believe that both the luckless Major and
his sister were religious maniacs. Poverty, solitude, and the
superstition of their time were the true demon of Major Weir,
burned at the stake in April 1670. Perhaps the most singular
impression made by "Satan's Invisible World Discovered" is that in
Sinclair's day, people who did not believe in bogies believed in
nothing, while people who shared the common creed of Christendom
were capable of believing in everything.

Atheists are as common as ghosts in his marvellous relations, and
the very wizards themselves were often Atheists.

NOTE.--I have said that Scott himself had seen one ghost, if not
two, and heard a "warning." The ghost was seen near Ashestiel, on
an open spot of hillside, "please to observe it was before dinner."
The anecdote is in Gillis's, "Recollections of Sir Walter Scott,"
p. 170. The vision of Lord Byron standing in the great hall of
Abbotsford is described in the "Demonology and Witchcraft ." Scott
alleges that it resolved itself into "great coats, shawls, and
plaids"--a hallucination. But Lockhart remarks (" Life," ix. p.
141) that he did not care to have the circumstance discussed in
general. The "stirs" in Abbotsford during the night when his
architect, Bullock, died in London, are in Lockhart, v. pp. 309-
315. "The noise resembled half-a-dozen men hard at work putting up
boards and furniture, and nothing can be more certain than that
there was nobody on the premises at the time." The noise,
unluckily, occurred twice, April 28 and 29, 1818, and Lockhart does
not tell us on which of these two nights Mr. Bullock died. Such is
the casualness of ghost story-tellers. Lockhart adds that the
coincidence made a strong impression on Sir Walter's mind. He did
not care to ascertain the point in his own mental constitution
"where incredulity began to waver," according to his friend, Mr. J.
L. Adolphus.


As a humble student of savage life, I have found it necessary to
make researches into the manners and customs of boys. Boys are not
what a vain people supposes. If you meet them in the holidays, you
find them affable and full of kindness and good qualities. They
will condescend to your weakness at lawn-tennis, they will aid you
in your selection of fly-hooks, and, to be brief, will behave with
much more than the civility of tame Zulus or Red Men on a
missionary settlement. But boys at school and among themselves,
left to the wild justice and traditional laws which many
generations of boys have evolved, are entirely different beings.
They resemble that Polynesian prince who had rejected the errors of
polytheism for those of an extreme sect of Primitive Seceders. For
weeks at a time this prince was known to be "steady," but every
month or so he disappeared, and his subjects said he was "lying
off." To adopt an American idiom, he "felt like brandy and water";
he also "felt like" wearing no clothes, and generally rejecting his
new conceptions of duty and decency. In fact, he had a good bout
of savagery, and then he returned to his tall hat, his varnished
boots, his hymn-book, and his edifying principles. The life of
small boys at school (before they get into long-tailed coats and
the upper-fifth) is often a mere course of "lying-off"--of relapse
into native savagery with its laws and customs.

If any one has so far forgotten his own boyhood as to think this
description exaggerated, let him just fancy what our comfortable
civilised life would be, if we could become boys in character and
custom. Let us suppose that you are elected to a new club, of
which most of the members are strangers to you. You enter the
doors for the first time, when two older members, who have been
gossiping in the hall, pounce upon you with the exclamation,
"Hullo, here's a new fellow! You fellow, what's your name?" You
reply, let us say, "Johnson." "I don't believe it, it's such a rum
name. What's your father?" Perhaps you are constrained to answer
"a Duke" or (more probably) "a solicitor." In the former case your
friends bound up into the smoking-room, howling, "Here's a new
fellow says his father is a Duke. Let's take the cheek out of
him." And they "take it out" with umbrellas, slippers, and other
surgical instruments. Or, in the latter case (your parent being a
solicitor) they reply, "Then your father must be a beastly cad.
All solicitors are sharks. MY father says so, and he knows. How
many sisters have you?" The new member answers, "Four." "Any of
them married?" "No." "How awfully awkward for you."

By this time, perhaps, luncheon is ready, or the evening papers
come in, and you are released for a moment. You sneak up into the
library, where you naturally expect to be entirely alone, and you
settle on a sofa with a novel. But an old member bursts into the
room, spies a new fellow, and puts him through the usual catechism.
He ends with, "How much tin have you got?" You answer "twenty
pounds," or whatever the sum may be, for perhaps you had
contemplated playing whist. "Very well, fork it out; you must give
a dinner, all new fellows must, and YOU are not going to begin by
being a stingy beast?" Thus addressed, as your friend is a big
bald man, who looks mischievous, you do "fork out" all your ready
money, and your new friend goes off to consult the cook. Meanwhile
you "shed a blooming tear," as Homer says, and go home heart-
broken. Now, does any grown-up man call this state of society
civilisation? Would life be worth living (whatever one's religious
consolations) on these terms? Of course not, and yet this picture
is a not overdrawn sketch of the career of some new boy, at some
schools new or old. The existence of a small schoolboy is, in
other respects, not unlike that of an outsider in a lawless
"Brotherhood," as the Irish playfully call their murder clubs.

The small boy is IN the society, but not OF it, as far as any
benefits go. He has to field out (and I admit that the discipline
is salutary) while other boys bat. Other boys commit the faults,
and compel him to copy out the impositions--say five hundred lines
of Virgil--with which their sins are visited. Other boys enjoy the
pleasures of football, while the small boy has to run vaguely
about, never within five yards of the ball. Big boys reap the
glories of paperchases, the small boy gets lost in the bitter
weather, on the open moors, or perhaps (as in one historical case)
is frozen to death within a measurable distance of the school
playground. And the worst of it is that, as a member of the great
school secret society, the small boy can never complain of his
wrongs, or divulge the name of his tormentors. It is in this
respect that he resembles a harmless fellow, dragged into the coils
of an Anarchist "Inner Brotherhood." He is exposed to all sorts of
wrongs from his neighbours, and he can only escape by turning
"informer," by breaking the most sacred law of his society, losing
all social status, and, probably, obliging his parents to remove
him from school. Life at school, as among the Celtic peoples,
turns on the belief that law and authority are natural enemies,
against which every one is banded.

The chapter of bullying among boys is one on which a man enters
with reluctance. Boys are, on the whole, such good fellows, and so
full of fine unsophisticated qualities, that the mature mind would
gladly turn away its eyes from beholding their iniquities. Even a
cruel bully does not inevitably and invariably develop into a bad
man. He is, let us hope, only passing through the savage stage, in
which the torture of prisoners is a recognised institution. He
has, perhaps, too little imagination to understand the pain he
causes. Very often bullying is not physically cruel, but only a
perverted sort of humour, such as Kingsley, in "Hypatia,"
recognised among his favourite Goths. I remember a feeble foolish
boy at school (feeble he certainly was, and was thought foolish)
who became the subject of much humorous bullying. His companions
used to tie a thin thread round his ear, and attach this to a bar
at such a height that he could only avoid breaking it by standing
on tiptoe. But he was told that he must not break the thread. To
avoid infringing this commandment, he put himself to considerable
inconvenience and afforded much enjoyment to the spectators.

Men of middle age, rather early middle age, remember the two
following species of bullying to which they were subjected, and
which, perhaps, are obsolescent. Tall stools were piled up in a
pyramid, and the victim was seated on the top, near the roof of the
room. The other savages brought him down from this bad eminence by
hurling other stools at those which supported him. Or the victim
was made to place his hands against the door, with the fingers
outstretched, while the young tormentors played at the Chinese
knife-trick. They threw knives, that is to say, at the door
between the apertures of the fingers, and, as a rule, they hit the
fingers and not the door. These diversions I know to be correctly
reported, but the following pretty story is, perhaps, a myth. At
one of the most famous public schools, a praepostor, or monitor, or
sixth-form boy having authority, heard a pistol-shot in the room
above his own. He went up and found a big boy and a little boy.
They denied having any pistol. The monitor returned to his
studies, again was sure he heard a shot, went up, and found the
little boy dead. The big boy had been playing the William Tell
trick with him, and had hit his head instead of the apple. That is
the legend. Whether it be true or false, all boys will agree that
the little victim could not have escaped by complaining to the
monitor. No. Death before dishonour. But the side not so seamy
of this picture of school life is the extraordinary power of honour
among boys. Of course the laws of the secret society might well
terrify a puerile informer. But the sentiment of honour is even
more strong than fear, and will probably outlast the very
disagreeable circumstances in which it was developed.

People say bullying is not what it used to be. The much abused
monitorial system has this in it of good, that it enables a clever
and kindly boy who is high up in the school to stop the cruelties
(if he hears of them) of a much bigger boy who is low in the
school. But he seldom hears of them. Habitual bullies are very
cunning, and I am acquainted with instances in which they carry
their victims off to lonely torture cells (so to speak) and
deserted places fit for the sport. Some years ago a small boy,
after a long course of rope's-ending in out-of-the-way dens,
revealed the abominations of some naval cadets. There was not much
sympathy with him in the public mind, and perhaps his case was not
well managed. But it was made clear that whereas among men an
unpopular person is only spoken evil of behind his back, an
unpopular small boy among boys is made to suffer in a more direct
and very unpleasant way.

Most of us leave school with the impression that there was a good
deal of bullying when we were little, but that the institution has
died out. The truth is that we have grown too big to be bullied,
and too good-natured to bully ourselves. When I left school, I
thought bullying was an extinct art, like encaustic painting
(before it was rediscovered by Sir William Richmond). But a
distinguished writer, who was a small boy when I was a big one, has
since revealed to me the most abominable cruelties which were being
practised at the very moment when I supposed bullying to have had
its day and ceased to be. Now, the small boy need only have
mentioned the circumstances to any one of a score of big boys, and
the tormentor would have been first thrashed, and then, probably,

A friend of my own was travelling lately in a wild and hilly region
on the other side of the world, let us say in the Mountains of the
Moon. In a mountain tavern he had thrust upon him the society of
the cook, a very useless young man, who astonished him by
references to one of our universities, and to the enjoyments of
that seat of learning. This youth (who was made cook, and a very
bad cook too, because he could do nothing else) had been expelled
from a large English school. And he was expelled because he had
felled a bully with a paving-stone, and had expressed his readiness
to do it again. Now, there was no doubt that this cook in the
mountain inn was a very unserviceable young fellow. But I wish
more boys who have suffered things literally unspeakable from
bullies would try whether force (in the form of a paving stone) is
really no remedy.

The Catholic author of a recent book ("Schools," by Lieut.-Col.
Raleigh Chichester), is very hard on "Protestant Schools," and
thinks that the Catholic system of constant watching is a remedy
for bullying and other evils. "Swing-doors with their upper half
glazed, might have their uses," he says, and he does not see why a
boy should not be permitted to complain, if he is roasted, like Tom
Brown, before a large fire. The boys at one Catholic school
described by Colonel Raleigh Chichester, "are never without
surveillance of some sort." This is true of most French schools,
and any one who wishes to understand the consequences (there) may
read the published confessions of a pion--an usher, or "spy." A
more degraded and degrading life than that of the wretched pion, it
is impossible to imagine. In an English private school, the system
of espionnage and tale bearing, when it exists, is probably not
unlike what Mr. Anstey describes in Vice Versa. But in the
Catholic schools spoken of by Colonel Raleigh Chichester, the
surveillance may be, as he says, "that of a parent; an aid to the
boys in their games rather than a check." The religious question
as between Catholics and Protestants has no essential connection
with the subject. A Protestant school might, and Grimstone's did,
have tale-bearers; possibly a Catholic school might exist without
parental surveillance. That system is called by its foes a
"police," by its friends a "paternal" system. But fathers don't
exercise the "paternal" system themselves in this country, and we
may take it for granted that, while English society and religion
are as they are, surveillance at our large schools will be
impossible. If any one regrets this, let him read the descriptions
of French schools and schooldays, in Balzac's Louis Lambert, in the
"Memoirs" of M. Maxime du Camp, in any book where a Frenchman
speaks his mind about his youth. He will find spying (of course)
among the ushers, contempt and hatred on the side of the boys,
unwholesome and cruel punishments, a total lack of healthy
exercise; and he will hear of holidays spent in premature
excursions into forbidden and shady quarters of the town.

No doubt the best security against bullying is in constant
occupation. There can hardly (in spite of Master George Osborne's
experience in "Vanity Fair") be much bullying in an open cricket-
field. Big boys, too, with good hearts, should not only stop
bullying when they come across it, but make it their business to
find out where it exists. Exist it will, more or less, despite all
precautions, while boys are boys--that is, are passing through a
modified form of the savage state.

There is a curious fact in the boyish character which seems, at
first sight, to make good the opinion that private education, at
home, is the true method. Before they go out into school life,
many little fellows of nine, or so, are extremely original,
imaginative, and almost poetical. They are fond of books, fond of
nature, and, if you can win their confidence, will tell you all
sorts of pretty thoughts and fancies which lie about them in their
infancy. I have known a little boy who liked to lie on the grass
and to people the alleys and glades of that miniature forest with
fairies and dwarfs, whom he seemed actually to see in a kind of
vision. But he went to school, he instantly won the hundred yards
race for boys under twelve, and he came back a young barbarian,
interested in "the theory of touch" (at football), curious in the
art of bowling, and no more capable than you or I of seeing fairies
in a green meadow. He was caught up into the air of the boy's
world, and his imagination was in abeyance for a season.

This is a common enough thing, and rather a melancholy spectacle to
behold. One is tempted to believe that school causes the loss of a
good deal of genius, and that the small boys who leave home poets,
and come back barbarians, have been wasted. But, on the other
hand, if they had been kept at home and encouraged, the chances are
that they would have blossomed into infant phenomena and nothing
better. The awful infancy of Mr. John Stuart Mill is a standing
warning. Mr. Mill would probably have been a much happier and
wiser man if he had not been a precocious linguist, economist, and
philosopher, but had passed through a healthy stage of indifference
to learning and speculation at a public school. Look again, at the
childhood of Bishop Thirlwall. His Primitiae were published (by
Samuel Tipper, London, 1808), when young Connop was but eleven
years of age. His indiscreet father "launched this slender bark,"
as he says, and it sailed through three editions between 1808 and
1809. Young Thirlwall was taught Latin at three years of age, "and
at four read Greek with an ease and fluency which astonished all
who heard him." At seven he composed an essay, "On the Uncertainty
of Human Life," but "his taste for poetry was not discovered till a
later period." His sermons, some forty, occupy most of the little
volume in which these Primitiae were collected.

He was especially concerned about Sabbath desecration. "I
confess," observes this sage of ten, "when I look upon the present
and past state of our public morals, and when I contrast our
present luxury, dissipation, and depravity, with past frugality and
virtue, I feel not merely a sensation of regret, but also of
terror, for the result of the change." "The late Revolution in
France," he adds, "has afforded us a remarkable lesson how
necessary religion is to a State, and that from a deficiency on
that head arise the chief evils which can befall society." He then
bids us "remember that the Nebuchadnezzar who may destroy our
Israel is near at hand," though it might be difficult to show how
Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Israel.

As to the uncertainty of life, he remarks that "Edward VI. died in
his minority, and disappointed his subjects, to whom he had
promised a happy reign." Of this infant's thirty-nine sermons
(just as many as the Articles), it may be said that they are in no
way inferior to other examples of this class of literature. But
sermons are among the least "scarce" and "rare" of human essays,
and many parents would rather see their boy patiently acquiring the
art of wicket-keeping at school than moralising on the uncertainty
of life at home. Some one "having presented to the young author a
copy of verses on the trite and familiar subject of the Ploughboy,"
he replied with an ode on "The Potboy."

"Bliss is not always join'd to wealth,
Nor dwells beneath the gilded roof
For poverty is bliss with health,
Of that my potboy stands a proof."

The volume ends with this determination,

"Still shall I seek Apollo's shelt'ring ray,
To cheer my spirits and inspire my lay."

If any parent or guardian desires any further information about Les
Enfans devenus celebres par leurs ecrits, he will find it in a work
of that name, published in Paris in 1688. The learned Scioppius
published works at sixteen, "which deserved" (and perhaps obtained)
"the admiration of dotards." M. Du Maurier asserts that, at the
age of fifteen, Grotius pleaded causes at the Bar. At eleven
Meursius made orations and harangues which were much admired. At
fifteen, Alexandre le Jeune wrote anacreontic verses, and (less
excusably) a commentary on the Institutions of Gaius. Grevin
published a tragedy and two comedies at the age of thirteen, and at
fifteen Louis Stella was a professor of Greek. But no one reads
Grevin now, nor Stella, nor Alexandre le Jeune, and perhaps their
time might have been better occupied in being "soaring human boys"
than in composing tragedies and commentaries. Monsieur le Duc de
Maine published, in 1678, his OEuvres d'un Auteur de Sept Ans, a
royal example to be avoided by all boys. These and several score
of other examples may perhaps reconcile us to the spectacle of
puerile genius fading away in the existence of the common British
schoolboy, who is nothing of a poet, and still less of a

The British authors who understand boys best are not those who have
written books exclusively about boys. There is Canon Farrar, for
example, whose romances of boyish life appear to be very popular,
but whose boys, somehow, are not real boys. They are too good when
they are good, and when they are bad, they are not perhaps too bad
(that is impossible), but they are bad in the wrong way. They are
bad with a mannish and conscious vice, whereas even bad boys seem
to sin less consciously and after a ferocious fashion of their own.
Of the boys in "Tom Brown" it is difficult to speak, because the
Rugby boy under Arnold seems to have been of a peculiar species. A
contemporary pupil was asked, when an undergraduate, what he
conceived to be the peculiar characteristic of Rugby boys. He
said, after mature reflection, that "the differentia of the Rugby
boy was his moral thoughtfulness." Now the characteristic of the
ordinary boy is his want of what is called moral thoughtfulness.

He lives in simple obedience to school traditions. These may
compel him, at one school, to speak in a peculiar language, and to
persecute and beat all boys who are slow at learning this language.
At another school he may regard dislike of the manly game of
football as the sin with which "heaven heads the count of crimes."
On the whole this notion seems a useful protest against the
prematurely artistic beings who fill their studies with photographs
of Greek fragments, vases, etchings by the newest etcher, bits of
China, Oriental rugs, and very curious old brass candlesticks. The
"challenge cup" soon passes away from the keeping of any house in a
public school where Bunthorne is a popular and imitated character.
But when we reach aesthetic boys, we pass out of the savage stage
into hobbledehoyhood. The bigger boys at public schools are often
terribly "advanced," and when they are not at work or play, they
are vexing themselves with the riddle of the earth, evolution,
agnosticism, and all that kind of thing. Latin verses may not be
what conservatives fondly deem them, and even cricket may, it is
said, become too absorbing a pursuit, but either or both are better
than precocious freethinking and sacrifice on the altar of the

A big boy who is tackling Haeckel or composing virelais in playtime
is doing himself no good, and is worse than useless to the society
of which he is a member. The small boys, who are the most ardent
of hero-worshippers, either despise him or they allow him to
address them in chansons royaux, and respond with trebles in
triolets. At present a great many boys leave school, pass three
years or four at the universities, and go back as masters to the
place where some of their old schoolfellows are still pupils. It
is through these very young masters, perhaps, that "advanced"
speculations and tastes get into schools, where, however excellent
in themselves, they are rather out of place. Indeed, the very
young master, though usually earnest in his work, must be a sage
indeed if he can avoid talking to the elder boys about the problems
that interest him, and so forcing their minds into precocious
attitudes. The advantage of Eton boys used to be, perhaps is
still, that they came up to college absolutely destitute of
"ideas," and guiltless of reading anything more modern than Virgil.
Thus their intellects were quite fallow, and they made astonishing
progress when they bent their fresh and unwearied minds to study.
But too many boys now leave school with settled opinions derived
from the very latest thing out, from the newest German pessimist or
American socialist. It may, however, be argued that ideas of these
sorts are like measles, and that it is better to take them early
and be done with them for ever.

While schools are reformed and Latin grammars of the utmost
ingenuity and difficulty are published, boys on the whole change
very little. They remain the beings whom Thackeray understood
better than any other writer: Thackeray, who liked boys so much
and was so little blind to their defects. I think he exaggerates
their habit of lying to masters, or, if they lied in his day, their
character has altered in that respect, and they are more truthful
than many men find it expedient to be. And they have given up
fighting; the old battles between Berry and Biggs, or Dobbin and
Cuff (major) are things of the glorious past. Big boys don't
fight, and there is a whisper that little boys kick each other's
shins when in wrath. That practice can hardly be called an
improvement, even if we do not care for fisticuffs. Perhaps the
gloves are the best peacemakers at school. When all the boys, by
practice in boxing, know pretty well whom they can in a friendly
way lick, they are less tempted to more crucial experiments
"without the gloves."

But even the ascertainment of one's relative merits with the gloves
hurts a good deal, and one may thank heaven that the fountain of
youth (as described by Pontus de Tyarde) is not a common beverage.
By drinking this liquid, says the old Frenchman, one is insensibly
brought back from old to middle age, and to youth and boyhood. But
one would prefer to stop drinking of the fountain before actually
being reduced to boy's estate, and passing once more through the
tumultuous experiences of that period. And of these, NOT HAVING
ENOUGH TO EAT is by no means the least common. The evidence as to
execrable dinners is rather dispiriting, and one may end by saying
that if there is a worse fellow than a bully, it is a master who
does not see that his boys are supplied with plenty of wholesome
food. He, at least, could not venture, like a distinguished
headmaster, to preach and publish sermons on "Boys' Life: its
Fulness." A schoolmaster who has boarders is a hotel-keeper, and
thereby makes his income, but he need not keep a hotel which would
be dispraised in guide books. Dinners are a branch of school
economy which should not be left to the wives of schoolmasters.
THEY have never been boys.


{1} "Mauth" is Manx for dog, I am told.

{2} It is easy to bear the misfortunes of others.

{3} In the third volume of his essays.

{4} "I remember I went into the room where my father's body lay,
and my mother sat weeping alone by it. I had my battledore in my
hand, and fell a-beating the coffin and calling 'Papa,' for I know
not how, I had some slight idea that he was locked up there."--
STEELE, The Tatler, June 6, 1710.

{5} Longmans.

{6} I like to know what the author got.

{7} Salmon roe, I am sorry to say.

{8} "Why and Wherefore," Aytoun.

{9} Fersitan legendum, "Help Thou."

{10} I know, now, who Miriam was and who was the haunter of the
Catacombs. But perhaps the people is as well without the knowledge
of an old and "ower true tale" that shook a throne.

{11} Cannot the reader guess? I am afraid that I can!

{12} Edinburgh, 1685.

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