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And Even Now by Max Beerbohm

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me of their triumphs is the more rapturous because every time it
catches me unawares. One of the greatest emotions I ever had was from
the triumph of THE GIFT OF GIFTS. Of this novel within a novel the
author was not a young man at all, but an elderly clergyman whose life
had been spent in a little rural parish. He was a dear, simple old
man, a widower. He had a large family, a small stipend. Judge, then,
of his horror when he found that his eldest son, `a scholar at
Christminster College, Oxbridge,' had run into debt for many hundreds
of pounds. Where to turn? The father was too proud to borrow of the
neighbourly nobleman who in Oxbridge days had been his `chum.' Nor had
the father ever practised the art of writing. (We are told that `his
sermons were always extempore.') But, years ago, `he had once thought
of writing a novel based on an experience which happened to a friend
of his.' This novel, in the fullness of time, he now proceeded to
write, though `without much hope of success.' He knew that he was
suffering from heart-disease. But he worked `feverishly, night after
night,' we are told, `in his old faded dressing-gown, till the dawn
mingled with the light of his candle and warned him to snatch a few
hours' rest, failing which he would be little able to perform the
round of parish duties that awaited him in the daytime.' No wonder he
had `not much hope.' No wonder I had no spark of hope for him. But
what are obstacles for but to be overleapt? What avails heart-disease,
what avail eld and feverish haste and total lack of literary training,
as against the romantic instinct of the lady who created the Rev.
Charles Hailing? `THE GIFT OF GIFTS was acclaimed as a masterpiece by
all the first-class critics.' Also, it very soon `brought in' ten
times as much money as was needed to pay off the debts of its author's
eldest son. Nor, though Charles Hailing died some months later, are we
told that he died from the strain of composition. We are left merely
to rejoice at knowing he knew at the last `that his whole family was
provided for.'

I wonder why it is that, whilst these Charles Hailings and Aylmer
Deanes delightfully abound in the lower reaches of English fiction, we
have so seldom found in the work of our great novelists anything at
all about the writing of a great book. It is true, of course, that our
great novelists have never had for the idea of literature itself that
passion which has always burned in the great French ones. Their own
art has never seemed to them the most important and interesting thing
in life. Also it is true that they have had other occupations--fox-
hunting, preaching, editing magazines, what not. Yet to them
literature must, as their own main task, have had a peculiar interest
and importance. No fine work can be done without concentration and
self-sacrifice and toil and doubt. It is nonsense to imagine that our
great novelists have just forged ahead or ambled along, reaching their
goal, in the good old English fashion, by sheer divination of the way
to it. A fine book, with all that goes to the making of it, is as fine
a theme as a novelist can have. But it is a part of English hypocrisy-
-or, let it be more politely said, English reserve--that, whilst we
are fluent enough in grumbling about small inconveniences, we insist
on making light of any great difficulties or griefs that may beset us.
And just there, I suppose, is the reason why our great novelists have
shunned great books as subject-matter. It is fortunate for us (jarring
though it is to our patriotic sense) that Mr. Henry James was not born
an Englishman, that he was born of a race of specialists--men who are
impenitent specialists in whatever they take up, be it sport,
commerce, politics, anything. And it is fortunate for us that in
Paris, and in the straitest literary sect there, his method began to
form itself, and the art of prose fiction became to him a religion. In
that art he finds as much inspiration as Swinburne found in the art of
poetry. Just as Swinburne was the most learned of our poets, so is Mr.
James the most learned of our--let us say `our'--prose-writers. I
doubt whether the heaped total of his admirations would be found to
outweigh the least one of the admirations that Swinburne had. But,
though he has been a level-headed reader of the works that are good
enough for him to praise, his abstract passion for the art of fiction
itself has always been fierce and constant. Partly to the Parisian,
partly to the American element in him we owe the stories that he, and
of `our' great writers he only, has written about books and the
writers of books.

Here, indeed, in these incomparable stories, are imaginary great books
that are as real to us as real ones are. Sometimes, as in `The Author
of "Beltraffio,"' a great book itself is the very hero of the story.
(We are not told what exactly was the title of that second book which
Ambient's wife so hated that she let her child die rather than that he
should grow up under the influence of its author; but I have a queer
conviction that it was THE DAISIES.) Usually, in these stories, it is
through the medium of some ardent young disciple, speaking in the
first person, that we become familiar with the great writer. It is
thus that we know Hugh Vereker, throughout whose twenty volumes was
woven that message, or meaning, that `figure in the carpet,' which
eluded even the elect. It is thus that we know Neil Paraday, the MS.
of whose last book was mislaid and lost so tragically, so comically.
And it is also through Paraday's disciple that we make incidental
acquaintance with Guy Walsingham, the young lady who wrote OBSESSIONS,
and with Dora Forbes, the burly man with a red moustache, who wrote
THE OTHER WAY ROUND. These two books are the only inferior books
mentioned by Mr. James. But stay, I was forgetting THE TOP OF THE
TREE, by Amy Evans; and also those nearly forty volumes by Henry St.
George. For all the greatness of his success in life, Henry St. George
is the saddest of the authors portrayed by Mr. James. His SHADOWMERE
was splendid, and its splendour is the measure of his shame--the shame
he bore so bravely--in the ruck of his `output.' He is the only one of
those authors who did not do his best. Of him alone it may not be said
that he was `generous and delicate and pursued the prize.' He is a
more pathetic figure than even Dencombe, the author of THE MIDDLE
YEARS. Dencombe's grievance was against fate, not against himself.

"It had taken too much of his life to produce too little of his art
The art had come, but it had come after everything else. `Ah, for
another go !--ah, for a better chance.'... `A second chance--that's
the delusion. There never was to be but one. We work in the dark--we
do what we can--we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our
passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.'"

The scene of Dencombe's death is one of the most deeply-beautiful
things ever done by Mr. James. It is so beautiful as to be hardly sad;
it rises and glows and gladdens. It is more exquisite than anything in
THE MIDDLE YEARS. No, I will not say that. Mr. James's art can always
carry to us the conviction that his characters' books are as fine as
his own.

I crave--it may be a foolish whim, but I do crave--ocular evidence for
my belief that those books were written and were published. I want to
see them all ranged along goodly shelves. A few days ago I sat in one
of those libraries which seem to be doorless. Nowhere, to the eye, was
broken the array of serried volumes. Each door was flush with the
surrounding shelves; across each the edges of the shelves were
mimicked; and in the spaces between these edges the backs of books
were pasted congruously with the whole effect. Some of these backs had
been taken from actual books, others had been made specially and were
stamped with facetious titles that rather depressed me. `Here,'
thought I, `are the shelves on which Dencombe's works ought to be made
manifest. And Neil Paraday's too, and Vereker's.' Not Henry St.
George's, of course: he would not himself have wished it, poor fellow!
I would have nothing of his except SHADOWMERE. But Ray Limbert!--I
would have all of his, including a first edition of THE MAJOR KEY,
`that fiery-hearted rose as to which we watched in private the
formation of petal after petal, and flame after flame'; and also THE
HIDDEN HEART, `the shortest of his novels, but perhaps the loveliest,'
as Mr. James and I have always thought.... How my fingers would hover
along these shelves, always just going to alight, but never, lest the
spell were broken, alighting!

How well they would look there, those treasures of mine! And, most of
them having been issued in the seemly old three-volume form, how many
shelves they would fill! But I should find a place certainly for a
certain small brown book adorned with a gilt griffin between
wheatsheaves. THE PILGRIM'S SCRIP, that delightful though anonymous
work of my old friend Austin Absworthy Bearne Feverel. And I should
like to find a place for POEMS, by AURORA LEIGH. Mr. Snodgrass's book
of verses might grace one of the lower shelves. (What is the title of
AND OTHERS, by CAPTAIN SUMPH, would be somewhere; for Sumph did, you
will be glad to hear, take Shandon's advice and compile a volume.
Bungay published it. Indeed, of the books for which I should find room
there are a good few that bear the imprimatur of Bungay. DESPERATIN,
OR THE FUGITIVE DUCHESS, by THE HON. PERCY Popjoy, was Bungay's; and
so, of course, were PASSION FLOWERS and WALTER LORRAINE. Of the books
issued by the rival firm of Bacon I possess but one: MEMOIRS OF THE
POISONERS, by DR. SLOCUM. Near to Popjoy's romance would be THE LADY
FLABELLA, of which Mrs. Wititterly said to Kate Nickleby, `So
voluptuous is it not--so soft?' WHO PUT BACK THE CLOCK? would have a
place of honour (unearned by its own merits?). Among other novels that
I could not spare, THE GIFT OF GIFTS would conspicuously gleam. As for
POMENTS--ah, I should not be content with one copy of that. Even at
the risk of crowding out a host of treasures, I vow I would have a
copy of every one of the editions that POMENTS ran through.


Primitive and essential things have great power to touch the heart of
the beholder. I mean such things as a man ploughing a field, or sowing
or reaping; a girl filling a pitcher from a spring; a young mother
with her child; a fisherman mending his nets; a light from a lonely
hut on a dark night.

Things such as these are the best themes for poets and painters, and
appeal to aught that there may be of painter or poet in any one of us.
Strictly, they are not so old as the hills, but they are more
significant and eloquent than hills. Hills will outlast them; but
hills glacially surviving the life of man on this planet are of as
little account as hills tremulous and hot in ages before the life of
man had its beginning. Nature is interesting only because of us. And
the best symbols of us are such sights as I have just mentioned--
sights unalterable by fashion of time or place, sights that in all
countries always were and never will not be.

It is true that in many districts nowadays there are elaborate new
kinds of machinery for ploughing the fields and reaping the corn. In
the most progressive districts of all, I daresay, the very sowing of
the grain is done by means of some engine, with better results than
could be got by hand. For aught I know, there is a patented invention
for catching fish by electricity. It is natural that we should, in
some degree, pride ourselves on such triumphs. It is well that we
should have poems about them, and pictures of them. But such poems and
pictures cannot touch our hearts very deeply. They cannot stir in us
the sense of our kinship with the whole dim past and the whole dim
future. The ancient Egyptians were great at scientific dodges--very
great indeed, nearly as great as we, the archaeologists tell us. Sand
buried the memory of those dodges for a rather long time. How are we
to know that the glories of our present civilisation will never be
lost? The world's coal-mines and oil-fields are exhaustible; and it is
not, I am told, by any means certain that scientists will discover any
good substitutes for the materials which are necessary to mankind's
present pitch of glory. Mankind may, I infer, have to sink back into
slow and simple ways, continent be once more separated from continent,
nation from nation, village from village. And, even supposing that the
present rate of traction and communication and all the rest of it can
forever be maintained, is our modern way of life so great a success
that mankind will surely never be willing to let it lapse? Doubtless,
that present rate can be not only maintained, but also accelerated
immensely, in the near future. Will these greater glories be voted,
even by the biggest fools, an improvement? We smile already at the
people of the early nineteenth century who thought that the vistas
opened by applied science were very heavenly. We have travelled far
along those vistas. Light is not abundant in them, is it? We are proud
of having gone such a long way, but...peradventure, those who come
after us will turn back, sooner or later, of their own accord. This is
a humbling thought. If the wonders of our civilisation are doomed, we
should prefer them to cease through lack of the minerals and mineral
products that keep them going. Possibly they are not doomed at all.
But this chance counts for little as against the certainty that,
whatever happens, the primitive and essential things will never,
anywhere, wholly cease, while mankind lasts. And thus it is that
Brown's Ode to the Steam Plough, Jones' Sonnet Sequence on the
Automatic Reaping Machine, and Robinson's Epic of the Piscicidal
Dynamo, leave unstirred the deeper depths of emotion in us. The
subjects chosen by these three great poets do not much impress us when
we regard them sub specie aeternitatis. Smith has painted nothing more
masterly than his picture of a girl turning a hot-water tap. But has
he never seen a girl fill a pitcher from a spring? Smithers' picture
of a young mother seconding a resolution at a meeting of a Board of
Guardians is magnificent, as brushwork. But why not have cut out the
Board and put in the baby? I yield to no one in admiration of
Smithkins' `Fa‡ade of the Waldorf Hotel by Night, in Peace Time.' But
a single light from a lonely hut would have been a finer theme.

I should like to show Smithkins the thing that I call The Golden
Drugget. Or rather, as this thing is greatly romantic to me, and that
painter is so unfortunate in his surname, I should like Smithkins to
find it for himself.

These words are written in war time and in England. There are, I hear,
`lighting restrictions' even on the far Riviera di Levante. I take it
that the Golden Drugget is not outspread now-anights across the high
dark coast-road between Rapallo and Zoagli. But the lonely wayside inn
is still there, doubtless; and its narrow door will again stand open,
giving out for wayfarers its old span of brightness into darkness,
when peace comes.

It is nothing by daylight, that inn. If anything, it is rather an
offence. Steep behind it rise mountains that are grey all over with
olive trees, and beneath it, on the other side of the road, the cliff
falls sheer to the sea. The road is white, the sea and sky are usually
of a deep bright blue, there are many single cypresses among the
olives. It is a scene of good colour and noble form. It is a gay and a
grand scene, in which the inn, though unassuming, is unpleasing, if
you pay attention to it. An ugly little box-like inn. A stuffy-looking
and uninviting inn. Salt and tobacco, it announces in faint letters
above the door, may be bought there. But one would prefer to buy these
things elsewhere. There is a bench outside, and a rickety table with a
zinc top to it, and sometimes a peasant or two drinking a glass or two
of wine. The proprietress is very unkempt. To Don Quixote she would
have seemed a princess, and the inn a castle, and the peasants notable
magicians. Don Quixote would have paused here and done something. Not
so do I.

By daylight, on the way down from my little home to Rapallo, or up
from Rapallo home, I am indeed hardly conscious that this inn exists.
By moonlight, too, it is negligible. Stars are rather unbecoming to
it. But on a thoroughly dark night, when it is manifest as nothing but
a strip of yellow light cast across the road from an ever-open door,
great always is its magic for me. Is? I mean was. But then, I mean
also will be. And so I cleave to the present tense--the nostalgic
present, as grammarians might call it.

Likewise, when I say that thoroughly dark nights are rare here, I mean
that they are rare in the Gulf of Genoa. Clouds do not seem to like
our landscape. But it has often struck me that Italian nights,
whenever clouds do congregate, are somehow as much darker than English
nights as Italian days are brighter than days in England. They have a
heavier and thicker nigritude. They shut things out from you more
impenetrably. They enclose you as in a small pavilion of black velvet.
This tenement is not very comfortable in a strong gale. It makes you
feel rather helpless. And gales can be strong enough, in the late
autumn, on the Riviera di Levante.

It is on nights when the wind blows its hardest, but makes no rift
anywhere for a star to peep through, that the Golden Drugget, as I
approach it, gladdens my heart the most. The distance between Rapallo
and my home up yonder is rather more than two miles. The road curves
and zigzags sharply, for the most part; but at the end of the first
mile it runs straight for three or four hundred yards; and, as the inn
stands at a point midway on this straight course, the Golden Drugget
is visible to me long before I come to it. Even by starlight, it is
good to see. How much better, if I happen to be out on a black rough
night when nothing is disclosed but this one calm bright thing.
Nothing? Well, there has been descriable, all the way, a certain grey
glimmer immediately in front of my feet. This, in point of fact, is
the road, and by following it carefully I have managed to escape
collision with trees, bushes, stone walls. The continuous shrill
wailing of trees' branches writhing unseen but near, and the great
hoarse roar of the sea against the rocks far down below, are no
cheerful accompaniment for the buffeted pilgrim. He feels that he is
engaged in single combat with Nature at her unfriendliest. He isn't
sure that she hasn't supernatural allies working with her--witches on
broomsticks circling closely round him, demons in pursuit of him or
waiting to leap out on him. And how about mere robbers and cutthroats?
Suppose--but look! that streak, yonder, look!--the Golden Drugget.

There it is, familiar, serene, festal. That the pilgrim knew he would
see it in due time does not diminish for him the queer joy of seeing
it; nay, this emotion would be far less without that foreknowledge.
Some things are best at first sight. Others--and here is one of them--
do ever improve by recognition. I remember that when first I beheld
this steady strip of light, shed forth over a threshold level with the
road, it seemed to me conceivably sinister. It brought Stevenson to my
mind: the chink of doubloons and the clash of cutlasses; and I think I
quickened pace as I passed it. But now!--now it inspires in me a sense
of deep trust and gratitude; and such awe as I have for it is
altogether a loving awe, as for holy ground that should he trod
lightly. A drugget of crimson cloth across a London pavement is rather
resented by the casual passer-by, as saying to him `Step across me,
stranger, but not along me, not in!' and for answer he spurns it with
his heel. `Stranger, come in!' is the clear message of the Golden
Drugget. `This is but a humble and earthly hostel, yet you will find
here a radiant company of angels and archangels.' And always I cherish
the belief that if I obeyed the summons I should receive fulfilment of
the promise. Well, the beliefs that one most cherishes one is least
willing to test. I do not go in at that open door. But lingering, but
reluctant, is my tread as I pass by it; and I pause to bathe in the
light that is as the span of our human life, granted between one great
darkness and another.


Beautifully vague though the English language is, with its meanings
merging into one another as softly as the facts of landscape in the
moist English climate, and much addicted though we always have been to
ways of compromise, and averse from sharp hard logical outlines, we do
not call a host a guest, nor a guest a host. The ancient Romans did
so. They, with a language that was as lucid as their climate and was a
perfect expression of the sharp hard logical outlook fostered by that
climate, had but one word for those two things. Nor have their equally
acute descendants done what might have been expected of them in this
matter. Ho^te and ospite and he'spide are as mysteriously equivocal as
hospes. By weight of all this authority I find myself being dragged to
the conclusion that a host and a guest must be the same thing, after
all. Yet in a dim and muzzy way, deep down in my breast, I feel sure
that they are different. Compromise, you see, as usual. I take it that
strictly the two things are one, but that our division of them is yet
another instance of that sterling common-sense by which, etc., etc.

I would go even so far as to say that the difference is more than
merely circumstantial and particular. I seem to discern also a
temperamental and general difference. You ask me to dine with you in a
restaurant, I say I shall be delighted, you order the meal, I praise
it, you pay for it, I have the pleasant sensation of not paying for
it; and it is well that each of us should have a label according to
the part he plays in this transaction. But the two labels are
applicable in a larger and more philosophic way. In every human being
one or the other of these two instincts is predominant: the active or
positive instinct to offer hospitality, the negative or passive
instinct to accept it. And either of these instincts is so significant
of character that one might well say that mankind is divisible into
two great classes: hosts and guests.

I have already (see third sentence of foregoing paragraph) somewhat
prepared you for the shock of a confession which candour now forces
from me. I am one of the guests. You are, however, so shocked that you
will read no more of me? Bravo! Your refusal indicates that you have
not a guestish soul. Here am I trying to entertain you, and you will
not be entertained. You stand shouting that it is more blessed to give
than to receive. Very well. For my part, I would rather read than
write, any day. You shall write this essay for me. Be it never so
humble, I shall give it my best attention and manage to say something
nice about it. I am sorry to see you calming suddenly down. Nothing
but a sense of duty to myself, and to guests in general, makes me
resume my pen. I believe guests to be as numerous, really, as hosts.
It may be that even you, if you examine yourself dispassionately, will
find that you are one of them. In which case, you may yet thank me for
some comfort. I think there are good qualities to be found in guests,
and some bad ones in even the best hosts.

Our deepest instincts, bad or good, are those which we share with the
rest of the animal creation. To offer hospitality, or to accept it, is
but an instinct which man has acquired in the long course of his self-
development. Lions do not ask one another to their lairs, nor do birds
keep open nest. Certain wolves and tigers, it is true, have been so
seduced by man from their natural state that they will deign to accept
man's hospitality. But when you give a bone to your dog, does he run
out and invite another dog to share it with him?--and does your cat
insist on having a circle of other cats around her saucer of milk?
Quite the contrary. A deep sense of personal property is common to all
these creatures. Thousands of years hence they may have acquired some
willingness to share things with their friends. Or rather, dogs may;
cats, I think, not. Meanwhile, let us not be censorious. Though
certain monkeys assuredly were of finer and more malleable stuff than
any wolves or tigers, it was a very long time indeed before even we
began to be hospitable. The cavemen did not entertain. It may be that
now and again--say, towards the end of the Stone Age--one or another
among the more enlightened of them said to his wife, while she plucked
an eagle that he had snared the day before, `That red-haired man who
lives in the next valley seems to be a decent, harmless sort of
person. And sometimes I fancy he is rather lonely. I think I will ask
him to dine with us to-night,' and, presently going out, met the red-
haired man and said to him, `Are you doing anything to-night? If not,
won't you dine with us? It would be a great pleasure to my wife. Only
ourselves. Come just as you are.' `That is most good of you, but,'
stammered the red-haired man, `as ill-luck will have it, I am engaged
to-night. A long-standing, formal invitation. I wish I could get out
of it, but I simply can't. I have a morbid conscientiousness about
such things.' Thus we see that the will to offer hospitality was an
earlier growth than the will to accept it. But we must beware of
thinking these two things identical with the mere will to give and the
mere will to receive. It is unlikely that the red-haired man would
have refused a slice of eagle if it had been offered to him where he
stood. And it is still more unlikely that his friend would have handed
it to him. Such is not the way of hosts. The hospitable instinct is
not wholly altruistic. There is pride and egoism mixed up with it, as
I shall show.

Meanwhile, why did the red-haired man babble those excuses? It was
because he scented danger. He was not by nature suspicious, but--what
possible motive, except murder, could this man have for enticing him
to that cave? Acquaintance in the open valley was all very well and
pleasant, but a strange den after dark--no, no! You despise him for
his fears? Yet these were not really so absurd as they may seem. As
man progressed in civilisation, and grew to be definitely gregarious,
hospitality became more a matter of course. But even then it was not
above suspicion. It was not hedged around with those unwritten laws
which make it the safe and eligible thing we know to-day. In the
annals of hospitality there are many pages that make painful reading;
many a great dark blot is there which the Recording Angel may wish,
but will not be able, to wipe out with a tear.

If I were a host, I should ignore those tomes. Being a guest, I
sometimes glance into them, but with more of horror, I assure you,
than of malicious amusement. I carefully avoid those which treat of
hospitality among barbarous races. Things done in the best periods of
the most enlightened peoples are quite bad enough. The Israelites were
the salt of the earth. But can you imagine a deed of colder-blooded
treachery than Jael's? You would think it must have been held accursed
by even the basest minds. Yet thus sang Deborah and Barak, `Blessed
above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall
she be among women in the tent.' And Barak, remember, was a gallant
soldier, and Deborah was a prophetess who `judged Israel at that
time.' So much for the ideals of hospitality among the children of

Of the Homeric Greeks it may be said that they too were the salt of
the earth; and it may be added that in their pungent and antiseptic
quality there was mingled a measure of sweetness, not to be found in
the children of Israel. I do not say outright that Odysseus ought not
to have slain the suitors. That is a debatable point. It is true that
they were guests under his roof. But he had not invited them. Let us
give him the benefit of the doubt. I am thinking of another episode in
his life. By what Circe did, and by his disregard of what she had
done, a searching light is cast on the laxity of Homeric Greek notions
as to what was due to guests. Odysseus was a clever, but not a bad
man, and his standard of general conduct was high enough. Yet, having
foiled Circe in her purpose to turn him into a swine, and having
forced her to restore his comrades to human shape, he did not let pass
the barrier of his teeth any such winged words as `Now will I bide no
more under thy roof, Circe, but fare across the sea with my dear
comrades, even unto mine own home, for that which thou didst was an
evil thing, and one not meet to be done unto strangers by the daughter
of a god.' He seems to have said nothing in particular, to have
accepted with alacrity the invitation that he and his dear comrades
should prolong their visit, and to have prolonged it with them for a
whole year, in the course of which Circe bore him a son, named
Telegonus. As Matthew Arnold would have said, `What a set!'

My eye roves, for relief, to those shelves where the later annals are.
I take down a tome at random. Rome in the fifteenth century:
civilisation never was more brilliant than there and then, I imagine;
and yet--no, I replace that tome. I saw enough in it to remind me that
the Borgias selected and laid down rare poisons in their cellars with
as much thought as they gave to their vintage wines. Extraordinary!--
but the Romans do not seem to have thought so. An invitation to dine
at the Palazzo Borghese was accounted the highest social honour. I am
aware that in recent books of Italian history there has been a
tendency to whiten the Borgias' characters. But I myself hold to the
old romantic black way of looking at the Borgias. I maintain that
though you would often in the fifteenth century have heard the
snobbish Roman say, in a would-be off-hand tone `I am dining with the
Borgias to-night,' no Roman ever was able to say `I dined last night
with the Borgias.'

To mankind in general Macbeth and Lady Macbeth stand out as the
supreme type of all that a host and hostess should not be. Hence the
marked coolness of Scotsmen towards Shakespeare, hence the untiring
efforts of that proud and sensitive race to set up Burns in his stead.
It is a risky thing to offer sympathy to the proud and sensitive, yet
I must say that I think the Scots have a real grievance. The two
actual, historic Macbeths were no worse than innumerable other couples
in other lands that had not yet fully struggled out of barbarism. It
is hard that Shakespeare happened on the story of that particular
pair, and so made it immortal. But he meant no harm, and, let Scotsmen
believe me, did positive good. Scotch hospitality is proverbial. As
much in Scotland as in America does the English visitor blush when he
thinks how perfunctory and niggard, in comparison, English hospitality
is. It was Scotland that first formalised hospitality, made of it an
exacting code of honour, with the basic principle that the guest must
in all circumstances be respected and at all costs protected. Jacobite
history bristles with examples of the heroic sacrifices made by hosts
for their guests, sacrifices of their own safety and even of their own
political convictions, for fear of infringing, however slightly, that
sacred code of theirs. And what was the origin of all this noble
pedantry? Shakespeare's `Macbeth.'

Perhaps if England were a bleak and rugged country, like Scotland, or
a new country, like America, the foreign visitor would be more
overwhelmed with kindness here than he is. The landscapes of our
country-side are so charming, London abounds in public monuments so
redolent of history, so romantic and engrossing, that we are perhaps
too apt to think the foreign visitor would have neither time nor
inclination to sit dawdling in private dining-rooms. Assuredly there
is no lack of hospitable impulse among the English. In what may be
called mutual hospitality they touch a high level. The French, also
the Italians, entertain one another far less frequently. In England
the native guest has a very good time indeed--though of course he pays
for it, in some measure, by acting as host too, from time to time.

In practice, no, there cannot be any absolute division of mankind into
my two categories, hosts and guests. But psychologically a guest does
not cease to be a guest when he gives a dinner, nor is a host not a
host when he accepts one. The amount of entertaining that a guest need
do is a matter wholly for his own conscience. He will soon find that
he does not receive less hospitality for offering little; and he would
not receive less if he offered none. The amount received by him
depends wholly on the degree of his agreeableness. Pride makes an
occasional host of him; but he does not shine in that capacity. Nor do
hosts want him to assay it. If they accept an invitation from him,
they do so only because they wish not to hurt his feelings. As guests
they are fish out of water.

Circumstances do, of course, react on character. It is conventional
for the rich to give, and for the poor to receive. Riches do tend to
foster in you the instincts of a host, and poverty does create an
atmosphere favourable to the growth of guestish instincts. But strong
bents make their own way. Not all guests are to be found among the
needy, nor all hosts among the affluent. For sixteen years after my
education was, by courtesy, finished-- from the age, that is, of
twenty-two to the age of thirty-eight, I lived in London, seeing all
sorts of people all the while; and I came across many a rich man who,
like the master of the shepherd Corin, was `of churlish disposition'
and little recked `to find the way to heaven by doing deeds of
hospitality.' On the other hand, I knew quite poor men who were
incorrigibly hospitable.

To such men, all honour. The most I dare claim for myself is that if I
had been rich I should have been better than Corin's master. Even as
it was, I did my best. But I had no authentic joy in doing it. Without
the spur of pride I might conceivably have not done it at all. There
recurs to me from among memories of my boyhood an episode that is
rather significant. In my school, as in most others, we received now
and again `hampers' from home. At the mid-day dinner, in every house,
we all ate together; but at breakfast and supper we ate in four or
five separate `messes.' It was customary for the receiver of a hamper
to share the contents with his mess-mates. On one occasion I received,
instead of the usual variegated hamper, a box containing twelve
sausage-rolls. It happened that when this box arrived and was opened
by me there was no one around. Of sausage-rolls I was particularly
fond. I am sorry to say that I carried the box up to my cubicle, and,
having eaten two of the sausage-rolls, said nothing to my friends,
that day, about the other ten, nor anything about them when, three
days later, I had eaten them all--all, up there, alone.

Thirty years have elapsed, my school-fellows are scattered far and
wide, the chance that this page may meet the eyes of some of them does
not much dismay me; but I am glad there was no collective and
contemporary judgment by them on my strange exploit. What defence
could I have offered? Suppose I had said `You see, I am so essentially
a guest,' the plea would have carried little weight. And yet it would
not have been a worthless plea. On receipt of a hamper, a boy did
rise, always, in the esteem of his mess-mates. His sardines, his
marmalade, his potted meat, at any rate while they lasted, did make us
think that his parents `must be awfully decent' and that he was a not
unworthy son. He had become our central figure, we expected him to
lead the conversation, we liked listening to him, his jokes were good.
With those twelve sausage-rolls I could have dominated my fellows for
a while. But I had not a dominant nature. I never trusted myself as a
leader. Leading abashed me. I was happiest in the comity of the crowd.
Having received a hamper, I was always glad when it was finished, glad
to fall back into the ranks. Humility is a virtue, and it is a virtue
innate in guests.

Boys (as will have been surmised from my record of the effect of
hampers) are all of them potential guests. It is only as they grow up
that some of them harden into hosts. It is likely enough that if I,
when I grew up, had been rich, my natural bent to guestship would have
been diverted, and I too have become a (sort of) host. And perhaps I
should have passed muster. I suppose I did pass muster whenever, in
the course of my long residence in London, I did entertain friends.
But the memory of those occasions is not dear to me--especially not
the memory of those that were in the more distinguished restaurants.
Somewhere in the back of my brain, while I tried to lead the
conversation brightly, was always the haunting fear that I had not
brought enough money in my pocket. I never let this fear master me. I
never said to any one `Will you have a liqueur?'--always `What liqueur
will you have?' But I postponed as far as possible the evil moment of
asking for the bill. When I had, in the proper casual tone (I hope and
believe), at length asked for it, I wished always it were not brought
to me folded on a plate, as though the amount were so hideously high
that I alone must be privy to it. So soon as it was laid beside me, I
wanted to know the worst at once. But I pretended to be so occupied in
talk that I was unaware of the bill's presence; and I was careful to
be always in the middle of a sentence when I raised the upper fold and
took my not (I hope) frozen glance. In point of fact, the amount was
always much less than I had feared. Pessimism does win us great happy

Meals in the restaurants of Soho tested less severely the pauper guest
masquerading as host. But to them one could not ask rich persons--nor
even poor persons unless one knew them very well. Soho is so uncertain
that the fare is often not good enough to be palmed off on even one's
poorest and oldest friends. A very magnetic host, with a great gift
for bluffing, might, no doubt, even in Soho's worst moments, diffuse
among his guests a conviction that all was of the best. But I never
was good at bluffing. I had always to let food speak for itself. `It's
cheap' was the only paean that in Soho's bad moments ever occurred to
me, and this of course I did not utter. And was it so cheap, after
all? Soho induces a certain optimism. A bill there was always larger
than I had thought it would be.

Every one, even the richest and most munificent of men, pays much by
cheque more light-heartedly than he pays little in specie. In
restaurants I should have liked always to give cheques. But in any
restaurant I was so much more often seen as guest than as host that I
never felt sure the proprietor would trust me. Only in my club did I
know the luxury, or rather the painlessness, of entertaining by
cheque. A cheque--especially if it is a club cheque, as supplied for
the use of members, not a leaf torn out of his own book--makes so
little mark on any man' s imagination. He dashes off some words and
figures, he signs his name (with that vague momentary pleasure which
the sight of his own signature anywhere gives him), he walks away and
forgets. Offering hospitality in my club, I was inwardly calm. But
even there I did not glow (though my face and manner, I hoped,
glowed). If my guest was by nature a guest, I managed to forget
somewhat that I myself was a guest by nature. But if, as now and then
happened, my guest was a true and habitual host, I did feel that we
were in an absurdly false relation; and it was not without difficulty
that I could restrain myself from saying to him `This is all very
well, you know, but--frankly: your place is at the head of your own

The host as guest is far, far worse than the guest as host. He never
even passes muster. The guest, in virtue of a certain hability that is
part of his natural equipment, can more or less ape the ways of a
host. But the host, with his more positive temperament, does not even
attempt the graces of a guest. By `graces' I do not mean to imply
anything artificial. The guest's manners are, rather, as wild flowers
springing from good rich soil--the soil of genuine modesty and
gratitude. He honourably wishes to please in return for the pleasure
he is receiving. He wonders that people should be so kind to him, and,
without knowing it, is very kind to them. But the host, as I said
earlier in this essay, is a guest against his own will. That is the
root of the mischief. He feels that it is more blessed, etc., and that
he is conferring rather than accepting a favour. He does not adjust
himself. He forgets his place. He leads the conversation. He tries
genially to draw you out. He never comments on the goodness of the
food or wine. He looks at his watch abruptly and says he must be off.
He doesn't say he has had a delightful time. In fact, his place is at
the head of his own table.

His own table, over his own cellar, under his own roof--it is only
there that you see him at his best. To a club or restaurant he may
sometimes invite you, but not there, not there, my child, do you get
the full savour of his quality. In life or literature there has been
no better host than Old Wardle. Appalling though he would have been as
a guest in club or restaurant, it is hardly less painful to think of
him as a host there. At Dingley Dell, with an ample gesture, he made
you free of all that was his. He could not have given you a club or a
restaurant. Nor, when you come to think of it, did he give you Dingley
Dell. The place remained his. None knew better than Old Wardle that
this was so. Hospitality, as we have agreed, is not one of the most
deep-rooted instincts in man, whereas the sense of possession
certainly is. Not even Old Wardle was a communist. `This,' you may be
sure he said to himself, `is my roof, these are my horses, that's a
picture of my dear old grandfather.' And `This,' he would say to us,
`is my roof: sleep soundly under it. These are my horses: ride them.
That's a portrait of my dear old grandfather: have a good look at it.'
But he did not ask us to walk off with any of these things. Not even
what he actually did give us would he regard as having passed out of
his possession. `That,' he would muse if we were torpid after dinner,
`is my roast beef,' and `That,' if we staggered on the way to bed, `is
my cold milk punch.' `But surely,' you interrupt me, `to give and then
not feel that one has given is the very best of all ways of giving.' I
agree. I hope you didn't think I was trying to disparage Old Wardle. I
was merely keeping my promise to point out that from among the motives
of even the best hosts pride and egoism are not absent.

Every virtue, as we were taught in youth, is a mean between two
extremes; and I think any virtue is the better understood by us if we
glance at the vice on either side of it. I take it that the virtue of
hospitality stands midway between churlishness and mere ostentation.
Far to the left of the good host stands he who doesn't want to see
anything of any one; far to the right, he who wants a horde of people
to be always seeing something of him. I conjecture that the figure on
the left, just discernible through my field-glasses, is that of old
Corin's master. His name was never revealed to us, but Corin's brief
account of his character suffices. `Deeds of hospitality' is a dismal
phrase that could have occurred only to the servant of a very dismal
master. Not less tell-tale is Corin's idea that men who do these
`deeds' do them only to save their souls in the next world. It is a
pity Shakespeare did not actually bring Corin's master on to the
stage. One would have liked to see the old man genuinely touched by
the charming eloquence of Rosalind's appeal for a crust of bread, and
conscious that he would probably go to heaven if he granted it, and
yet not quite able to grant it. Far away though he stands to the left
of the good host, he has yet something in common with that third
person discernible on the right--that speck yonder, which I believe to
be Lucullus. Nothing that we know of Lucullus suggests that he was
less inhuman than the churl of Arden. It does not appear that he had a
single friend, nor that he wished for one. His lavishness was
indiscriminate except in that he entertained only the rich. One would
have liked to dine with him, but not even in the act of digestion
could one have felt that he had a heart. One would have acknowledged
that in all the material resources of his art he was a master, and
also that he practised his art for sheer love of it, wishing to be
admired for nothing but his mastery, and cocking no eye on any of
those ulterior objects but for which some of the most prominent hosts
would not entertain at all. But the very fact that he was an artist is
repulsive. When hospitality becomes an art it loses its very soul.
With this reflection I look away from Lucullus and, fixing my gaze on
the middle ground, am the better able to appreciate the excellence of
the figure that stands before me--the figure of Old Wardle. Some pride
and egoism in that capacious breast, yes, but a great heart full of
kindness, and ever a warm spontaneous welcome to the stranger in need,
and to all old friends and young. Hark! he is shouting something. He
is asking us both down to Dingley Dell. And you have shouted back that
you will be delighted. Ah, did I not suspect from the first that you
too were perhaps a guest?

But--I constrain you in the act of rushing off to pack your things--
one moment: this essay has yet to be finished. We have yet to glance
at those two extremes between which the mean is good guestship. Far to
the right of the good guest, we descry the parasite; far to the left,
the churl again. Not the same churl, perhaps. We do not know that
Corin's master was ever sampled as a guest. I am inclined to call
yonder speck Dante--Dante Alighieri, of whom we do know that he
received during his exile much hospitality from many hosts and repaid
them by writing how bitter was the bread in their houses, and how
steep the stairs were. To think of dour Dante as a guest is less
dispiriting only than to think what he would have been as a host had
it ever occurred to him to entertain any one or anything except a deep
regard for Beatrice; and one turns with positive relief to have a
glimpse of the parasite--Mr. Smurge, I presume, `whose gratitude was
as boundless as his appetite, and his presence as unsought as it
appeared to be inevitable.' But now, how gracious and admirable is the
central figure--radiating gratitude, but not too much of it; never
intrusive, ever within call; full of dignity, yet all amenable; quiet,
yet lively; never echoing, ever amplifying; never contradicting, but
often lighting the way to truth; an ornament, an inspiration,

Such is he. But who is he? It is easier to confess a defect than to
claim a quality. I have told you that when I lived in London I was
nothing as a host; but I will not claim to have been a perfect guest.
Nor indeed was I. I was a good one, but, looking back, I see myself
not quite in the centre--slightly to the left, slightly to the
churlish side. I was rather too quiet, and I did sometimes contradict.
And, though I always liked to be invited anywhere, I very often
preferred to stay at home. If any one hereafter shall form a
collection of the notes written by me in reply to invitations, I am
afraid he will gradually suppose me to have been more in request than
ever I really was, and to have been also a great invalid, and a great


One of the things a man best remembers in later years is the first
time he set eyes on some illustrious elder whose achievements had
already inflamed him to special reverence. In almost every
autobiography you will find recorded the thrill of that first sight.
With the thrill, perhaps, there was a slight shock. Great men are but
life-sized. Most of them, indeed, are rather short. No matter to hero-
worshipping youth. The shock did but swell the thrill. It did but
enlarge the wonder that this was the man himself, the man who--

I was about to say `who had written those inspired books.' You see,
the autobiographists are usually people with an innate twist towards
writing, people whose heroes, therefore, were men of letters; and thus
(especially as I myself have that twist) I am apt to think of literary
hero-worship as flourishing more than could any other kind. I must try
to be less narrow. At first sight of the Lord Chancellor, doubtless,
unforgettable emotions rise in the breast of a young man who has felt
from his earliest years the passionate desire to be a lawyer. One
whose dream it is to excel in trade will have been profoundly stirred
at finding himself face to face with Sir Thomas Lipton. At least, I
suppose so. I speak without conviction. I am inclined, after all, to
think that there is in the literary temperament a special sensibility,
whereby these great first envisagements mean more to it than to
natures of a more practical kind. So it is primarily to men very
eminent in literature that I venture to offer a hint for making those
envisagements as great as possible.

The hint will serve only in certain cases. There are various ways in
which a young man may chance to see his hero for the first time. `One
wintry afternoon, not long after I came to London,' the
autobiographist will tell you, `I happened to be in Cheyne Walk, bent
on I know not what errand, when I saw coming slowly along the pavement
an old grey-bearded man. He wore a hat of the kind that was called in
those days a "wide-awake," and he leaned heavily on a stick which he
carried in his right hand. I stood reverently aside to let him pass--
the man who had first taught me to see, to feel, to think. Yes, it was
Thomas Carlyle; and as he went by, looking neither to the right nor to
the left, my heart stood still within me. What struck me most in that
thought-furrowed face was the eyes. I had never, I have never since,
seen a pair of eyes which,' etc., etc. This is well enough, and I
don't say that the writer has exaggerated the force of the impression
he received. I say merely that the impression would have been stronger
still if he had seen Carlyle in a room. The open air is not really a
good setting for a hero. It is too diffuse. It is too impersonal. Four
walls, a ceiling, and a floor--these things are needed to concentrate
for the worshipper the vision vouchsafed. Even if the room be a public
one--a waiting-room, say, at Clapham Junction--it is very helpful. Far
more so if it be a room in a private house, where, besides the vision
itself, is thrust on the worshipper the dizzy sense of a personal

Dip with me, for an example, into some other autobiography... Here:
`Shortly after I came to London'--it is odd that autobiographists
never are born or bred there--`one of the houses I found open to me
was that of Mrs. T--, a woman whom (so it seemed to me when in later
years I studied Italian) the word simpatica described exactly, and
who, as the phrase is, "knew everybody." Calling on her one Sunday
afternoon, I noticed among the guests, as I came in, a short, stalwart
man with a grey beard. "I particularly," my hostess whispered to me,
"want you to know Mr. Robert Browning." Everything in the room seemed
to swim round me, and I had the sensation of literally sinking through
the carpet when presently I found my hand held for a moment--it was
only a moment, but it seemed to me an eternity--by the hand that had
written "Paracelsus." I had a confused impression of something godlike
about the man. His brow was magnificent. But the eyes were what stood
out. Not that they were prominent eyes, but they seemed to look you
through and through, and had a lustre--there is no other word for it--
which,' I maintain, would have been far less dazzling out in the
street, just as the world-sadness of Carlyle's eyes would have been
twice as harrowing in Mrs. T--'s drawing-room.

But even there neither of those pairs of eyes could have made its
fullest effect. The most terrifically gratifying way of seeing one's
hero and his eyes for the first time is to see them in his own home.
Anywhere else, believe me, something of his essence is forfeit. `The
rose of roses' loses more or less of its beauty in any vase, and
rather more than less there in a nosegay of ordinary little blossoms
(to which I rather rudely liken Mrs. T--'s other friends). The supreme
flower should be first seen growing from its own Sharonian soil.

The worshipper should have, therefore, a letter of introduction.
Failing that, he should write a letter introducing himself--a fervid,
an idolatrous letter, not without some excuse for the writing of it:
the hero's seventieth birthday, for instance, or a desire for light on
some obscure point in one of his earlier works. Heroes are very human,
most of them; very easily touched by praise. Some of them, however,
are bad at answering letters. The worshipper must not scruple to write
repeatedly, if need be. Sooner or later he will be summoned to the
presence. This, perhaps, will entail a railway journey. Heroes tend to
live a little way out of London. So much the better. The adventure
should smack of pilgrimage. Consider also that a house in a London
street cannot seem so signally its owner's own as can a house in a
village or among fields. The one kind contains him, the other
enshrines him, breathes of him. The sight of it, after a walk (there
should be a longish walk) from the railway station, strikes great
initial chords in the worshipper; and the smaller the house, the
greater the chords. The worshipper pauses at the gate of the little
front-garden, and when he writes his autobiography those chords will
be reverberating yet. `Here it was that the greatest of modern spirits
had lived and wrought. Here in the fullness of years he abode. With I
know not what tumult of thoughts I passed up the path and rang the
bell. A bright-faced parlourmaid showed me into a room on the ground-
floor, and said she would tell the master I was here. It was a
wonderfully simple room; and something, perhaps the writing-table,
told me it was his work-room, the very room from which, in the teeth
of the world's neglect and misunderstanding, he had cast his spell
over the minds of all thinking men and women. When I had waited a few
minutes, the door opened and' after that the deluge of what was felt
when the very eminent man came in.

Came in, mark you. That is a vastly important point. Had the very
eminent man been there at the outset, the worshipper's first sight of
him would have been a very great moment, certainly; but not nearly so
great as in fact it was. Very eminent men should always, on these
occasions, come in. That is the point I ask them to remember.

Honourably concerned with large high issues, they are not students of
personal effect. I must therefore explain to them why it is more
impressive to come into a room than to be found there.

Let those of them who have been playgoers cast their minds back to
their experience of theatres. Can they recall a single play in which
the principal actor was `discovered' sitting or standing on the stage
when the curtain rose? No. The actor, by the very nature of his
calling, does, must, study personal effect. No playwright would dare
to dump down his principal actor at the outset of a play. No sensible
playwright would wish to do so. That actor's personality is a part of
the playwright's material. Playwriting, it has been well said, is an
art of preparing. The principal actor is one of the things for which
we must be artfully prepared. Note Shakespeare's carefulness in this
matter. In his day, the stage had no curtain, so that even the obscure
actor who spoke the first lines (Shakespeare himself sometimes, maybe)
was not ignominiously `discovered.' But an unprepared entry is no
good. The audience must first be wrought on, wrought up. Had
Shakespeare been also Burbage, it is possible that he would have been
even more painstaking than he was in leading up to the leading man.
Assuredly, by far the most tremendous stage entries I ever saw were
those of Mr. Wilson Barrett in his later days, the days when he had
become his own dramatist. I remember particularly a first night of his
at which I happened to be sitting next to a clever but not very
successful and rather sardonic old actor. I forget just what great
historic or mythic personage Mr. Barrett was to represent, but I know
that the earlier scenes of the play resounded with rumours of him--
accounts of the great deeds he had done, and of the yet greater deeds
that were expected of him. And at length there was a procession:
white-bearded priests bearing wands; maidens playing upon the sackbut;
guards in full armour; a pell-mell of unofficial citizens ever
prancing along the edge of the pageant, huzza-ing and hosanna-ing,
mostly looking back over their shoulders and shading their eyes;
maidens strewing rose-leaves; and at last the orchestra crashing to a
climax in the nick of which my neighbour turned to me and, with an
assumption of innocent enthusiasm, whispered, I shouldn't wonder if
this were Barrett.' I suppose (Mr. Barrett at that instant amply
appearing) I gave way to laughter; but this didn't matter; the
applause would have drowned a thunderstorm, and lasted for several

My very eminent reader begins to look uncomfortable. Let him take
heart. I do not want him to tamper with the simplicity of his
household arrangements. Not even the one bright-faced parlourmaid need
precede him with strewn petals. All the necessary preparation will
have been done by the bare fact that this is his room, and that he
will presently appear. `But,' he may say, with a toss of his grey
beard, `I am not going to practise any device whatsoever. I am above
devices. I shall be in the room when the young man arrives.' I assure
him that I am not appealing to his vanity, merely to his good-nature.
Let him remember that he too was young once, he too thrilled in
harmless hero-worship. Let him not grudge the young man an utmost

Coming into a room that contains a stranger is a definite performance,
a deed of which one is conscious--if one be young, and if that
stranger be august. Not to come in awkwardly, not to make a bad
impression, is here the paramount concern. The mind of the young man
as he comes in is clogged with thoughts of self. It is free of these
impediments if he shall have been waiting alone in the room. To be
come in to is a thing that needs no art and induces no embarrassment.
One's whole attention is focussed on the comer-in. One is the mere
spectator, the passive and receptive receiver. And even supposing that
the young man could come in under his hero's gaze without a thought of
self, his first vision would yet lack the right intensity. A person
found in a room, if it be a room strange to the arriver, does not
instantly detach himself from his surroundings. He is but a feature of
the scene. He does not stand out as against a background, in the grand
manner of portraiture, but is fused as in an elaborately rendered
`interior.' It is all the more essential, therefore, that the
worshipper shall not have his first sight of hero and room
simultaneously. The room must, as it were, be an anteroom, anon
converted into a presence-chamber by the hero's entry. And let not the
hero be in any fear that he will bungle his entry. He has but to make
it. The effect is automatic. He will stand out by merely coming in. I
would but suggest that he must not, be he never so hale and hearty,
bounce in. The young man must not be startled. If the mountain had
come to Mahomet, it would, we may be sure, have come slowly, that the
prophet should have time to realise the grandeur of the miracle. Let
the hero remember that his coming, too, will seem supernatural to the
young man. Let him be framed for an instant or so in the doorway--time
for his eyes to produce their peculiar effect. And by the way: if he
be a wearer of glasses, he should certainly remove these before coming
in. He can put them on again almost immediately. It is the first
moment that matters.

As to how long an interval the hero should let elapse between the
young man's arrival and his own entry, I cannot offer any very exact
advice. I should say, roughly, that in ten minutes the young man would
be strung up to the right pitch, and that more than twenty minutes
would be too much. It is important that expectancy shall have worked
on him to the full, but it is still more important that his mood shall
not have been chafed to impatience. The danger of over-long delay is
well exemplified in the sad case of young Coventry Patmore. In his old
age Patmore wrote to Mr. Gosse a description of a visit he had paid,
at the age of eighteen, to Leigh Hunt; and you will find the letter on
page 32, vol. I, of Mr. Basil Champneys' biography of him. The
circumstances had been most propitious. The eager and sensitive spirit
of the young man, his intense admiration for `The Story of Rimini,'
the letter of introduction from his father to the venerable poet and
friend of greater bygone poets, the long walk to Hammersmith, the
small house in a square there--all was classically in order. The poet
was at home. The visitor as shown in.... `I had,' he was destined to
tell Mr. Gosse, `waited in the little parlour at least two hours, when
the door was opened and a most picturesque gentleman, with hair
flowing nearly or quite to his shoulders, a beautiful velvet coat and
a Vandyck collar of lace about a foot deep, appeared, rubbing his
hands and smiling ethereally, and saying, without a word of preface or
notice of my having waited so long, "This is a beautiful world, Mr.
Patmore!"' The young man was so taken aback by these words that they
`eclipsed all memory of what occurred during the remainder of the

Yet there was nothing wrong about the words themselves. Indeed, to any
one with any sense of character and any knowledge of Leigh Hunt, they
must seem to have been exactly, exquisitely, inevitably the right
words. But they should have been said sooner.


It is unseemly that a man should let any ancestors of his arise from
their graves to wait on his guests at table. The Chinese are a polite
race, and those of them who have visited England, and gone to dine in
great English houses, will not have made this remark aloud to their
hosts. I believe it is only their own ancestors that they worship, so
that they will not have felt themselves guilty of impiety in not
rising from the table and rushing out into the night. Nevertheless,
they must have been shocked.

The French Revolution, judged according to the hope it was made in,
must be pronounced a failure: it effected no fundamental change in
human nature. But it was by no means wholly ineffectual. For example,
ladies and gentlemen ceased to powder their hair, because of it; and
gentlemen adopted simpler costumes. This was so in England as well as
in France. But in England ladies and gentlemen were not so nimble-
witted as to be able to conceive the possibility of a world without
powder. Powder had been sent down from heaven, and must not vanish
from the face of the earth. Said Sir John to his Lady, `'Tis a matter
easy to settle. Your maid Deborah and the rest of the wenches shall
powder their hair henceforth.' Whereat his Lady exclaimed in wrath,
`Lud, Sir John! Have you taken leave of your senses? A parcel of
Abigails flaunting about the house in powder--oh, preposterous!'
Whereat Sir John exclaimed `Zounds!' and hotly demonstrated that since
his wife had given up powder there could be no harm in its assumption
by her maids. Whereat his Lady screamed and had the vapours and asked
how he would like to see his own footmen flaunting about the house in
powder. Whereat he (always a reasonable man, despite his hasty temper)
went out and told his footmen to wear powder henceforth. And in this
they obeyed him. And there arose a Lord of the Treasury, saying, `Let
powder be taxed.' And it was so, and the tax was paid, and powder was
still worn. And there came the great Reform Bill, and the Steam
Engine, and all manner of queer things, but powder did not end, for
custom hath many lives. Nor was there an end of those things which the
Nobility and Gentry had long since shed from their own persons--as,
laced coats and velvet breeches and silk hose; forasmuch as without
these powder could not aptly be. And it came to pass that there was a
great War. And there was also a Russian Revolution, greater than the
French one. And it may be that everything will be changed,
fundamentally and soon. Or it may be merely that Sir John will say to
his Lady, `My dear, I have decided that the footmen shall not wear
powder, and not wear livery, any more,' and that his Lady will say
`Oh, all right.' Then at length will the Eighteenth Century vanish
altogether from the face of the earth.

Some of the shallower historians would have us believe that powder is
deleterious to the race of footmen. They point out how plenteously
footmen abounded before 1790, and how steadily their numbers have
declined ever since. I do not dispute the statistics. One knows from
the Table Talk of Samuel Rogers that Mr. Horne Tooke, dining te^te-a`-
te^te with the first Lord Lansdowne, had counted so many as thirty
footmen in attendance on the meal. That was a high figure--higher than
in Rogers' day, and higher far, I doubt not, than in ours. What I
refuse to believe is that the wearing of powder has caused among
footmen an ever-increasing mortality. Powder was forced on them by
their employers because of the French Revolution, but their subsequent
fewness is traceable rather to certain ideas forced by that Revolution
on their employers. The Nobility had begun to feel that it had better
be just a little less noble than heretofore. When the news of the fall
of the Bastille was brought to him, the first Lord Lansdowne (I
conceive) remained for many hours in his study, lost in thought, and
at length, rising from his chair, went out into the hall and
discharged two footmen. This action may have shortened his life, but I
believe it to be a fact that when he lay dying, some fifteen years
later, he said to his heir, `Discharge two more.' Such enlightenment
and adaptability were not to be wondered at in so eminent a Whig. As
time went on, even in the great Tory houses the number of retainers
was gradually cut down. Came the Industrial Age, hailed by all
publicists as the Millennium. Looms were now tended, and blast-
furnaces stoked, by middle-aged men who in their youth had done
nothing but hand salvers, and by young men who might have been doing
just that if the Bastille had been less brittle. Noblemen, becoming
less and less sure of themselves under the impact of successive Reform
Bills, wished to be waited on by less and less numerous gatherings of
footmen. And at length, in the course of the great War, any Nobleman
not young enough to be away fighting was waited on by an old butler
and a parlourmaid or two; and the ceiling did not fall.

Even if the War shall have taught us nothing else, this it will have
taught us almost from its very outset: to mistrust all prophets,
whether of good or of evil. Pray stone me if I predict anything at
all. It may be that the War, and that remarkable by-product, the
Russian Revolution, will have so worked on the minds of Noblemen that
they will prefer to have not one footman in their service. Or it may
be that all those men who might be footmen will prefer to earn their
livelihood in other ways of life. It may even be that no more
parlourmaids and housemaids, even for very illustrious houses, will be
forthcoming. I do not profess to foresee. Perhaps things will go on
just as before. But remember: things were going on, even then. Suppose
that in the social organism generally, and in the attitude of servants
particularly, the decades after the War shall bring but a gradual
evolution of what was previously afoot. Even on this mild supposition
must it seem likely that some of us will live to look back on domestic
service, or at least on what we now mean by that term, as a curiosity
of past days.

You have to look rather far behind you for the time when `the servant
question,' as it is called, had not yet begun to arise. To find
servants collectively `knowing their place,' as the phrase (not is,
but) was, you have to look right back to the dawn of Queen Victoria's
reign. I am not sure whether even then those Georgian notice-boards
still stood in the London parks to announce that `Ladies and Gentlemen
are requested, and Servants are commanded' not to do this and that.
But the spirit of those boards did still brood over the land: servants
received commands, not requests, and were not `obliging' but obedient.
As for the tasks set them, I daresay the footmen in the great houses
had an easy time: they were there for ornament; but the (comparatively
few) maids there, and the maid or two in every home of the rapidly-
increasing middle class, were very much for use, having to do an
immense amount of work for a wage which would nowadays seem nominal.
And they did it gladly, with no notion that they were giving much for
little, or that the likes of them had any natural right to a glimpse
of liberty or to a moment's more leisure than was needed to preserve
their health for the benefit of their employers, or that they were not
in duty bound to be truly thankful for having a roof over their
devoted heads. Rare and reprehensible was the maid who, having found
one roof, hankered after another. Improvident, too; for only by long
and exclusive service could she hope that in her old age she would not
be cast out on the parish. She might marry meanwhile? The chances were
very much against that. That was an idea misbeseeming her station in
life. By the rules of all households, `followers' were fended
ruthlessly away. Her state was sheer slavery? Well, she was not
technically a chattel. The Law allowed her to escape at any time,
after giving a month's notice; and she did not work for no wages at
all, remember. This was hard on her owners? Well, in ancient Rome and
elsewhere, her employers would have had to pay a large-ish sum of
money for her, down, to a merchant. Economically, her employers had no
genuine grievance. Her parents had handed her over to them, at a
tender age, for nothing. There she was; and if she was a good girl and
gave satisfaction, and if she had no gipsy strain, to make her
restless for the unknown, there she ended her days, not without honour
from the second or third generation of her owners. As in Ancient Rome
and elsewhere, the system was, in the long run, conducive to much good
feeling on either side. `Poor Anne remained very servile in soul all
her days; and was altogether occupied, from the age of fifteen to
seventy-two, in doing other people's wills, not her own.' Thus wrote
Ruskin, in Praeterita, of one who had been his nurse, and his
father's. Perhaps the passage is somewhat marred by its first word.
But Ruskin had queer views on many subjects. Besides, he was very old
when, in 1885, he wrote Praeterita. Long before that date, moreover,
others than he had begun to have queer views. The halcyon days were

Even in the 'sixties there were many dark and cumulose clouds. It was
believed, however, that these would pass. `Punch,' our ever-quick
interpreter, made light of them. Absurd that Jemima Jane should
imitate the bonnets of her mistress and secretly aspire to play the
piano! `Punch' and his artists, as you will find in his old volumes,
were very merry about her, and no doubt his readers believed that his
exquisite ridicule would kill, or his sound good sense cure, the
malady in her soul. Poor misguided girl!--why was she flying in the
face of Nature? Nature had decreed that some should command, others
obey; that some should sit imperative all day in airy parlours, and
others be executive in basements. I daresay that among the sitters
aloft there were many whose indignation had a softer side to it. Under
the Christian Emperors, Roman ladies were really very sorry for their
slaves. It is unlikely that no English ladies were so in the 'sixties.
Pity, after all, is in itself a luxury. It is for the `some' a measure
of the gulf between themselves and the `others.' Those others had now
begun to show signs of restiveness; but the gulf was as wide as ever.

Anthony Trollope was not, like `Punch,' a mere interpreter of what was
upmost in the average English mind: he was a beautifully patient and
subtle demonstrator of all that was therein. Reading him, I soon
forget that I am reading about fictitious characters and careers;
quite soon do I feel that I am collating intimate memoirs and diaries.
For sheer conviction of truth, give me Trollope. You, too, if you know
him, must often have uttered this appeal. Very well. Have you been
given `Orley Farm'? And do you remember how Lady Mason felt after
confessing to Sir Peregrine Orme that she had forged the will? `As she
slowly made her way across the hall, she felt that all of evil, all of
punishment, had now fallen upon her. There are periods in the lives of
some of us--I trust but of few--when with the silent inner voice of
suffering'--and here, in justice to Trollope, I must interrupt him by
saying that he seldom writes like this; and I must also, for a reason
which will soon be plain, ask you not to skip a word--`we call on the
mountains to fall and crush us, and on the earth to gape open and take
us in--when with an agony of intensity, we wish our mothers had been
barren. In these moments the poorest and most desolate are objects to
us of envy, for their sufferings can be as nothing to our own. Lady
Mason, as she crept silently across the hall, saw a servant girl pass
down towards the entrance to the kitchen, and would have given all,
all that she had in the world, to change places with that girl. But no
change was possible to her. Neither would the mountains crush her, nor
the earth take her in. This was her burden, and she must,' etc., etc.

You enjoyed the wondrous bathos? Of course. And yet there wasn't any
bathos at all, really. At least, there wasn't any in 1862, when `Orley
Farm' was published. Servants really were `most desolate' in those
days, and `their sufferings' were less acute only than those of
gentlewomen who had forged wills. This is an exaggerated view? Well it
was the view held by gentlewomen at large, in the 'sixties. Trust

Why to a modern gentlewoman would it seem so much more dreadful to be
crushed by mountains and swallowed by earthquakes than to be a servant
girl passing down towards the entrance to the kitchen? In other words,
how is it that servants have so much less unpleasant a time than they
were having half-a-century ago? I should like to think this
melioration came through our sense of justice, but I cannot claim that
it did. Somehow, our sense of justice never turns in its sleep till
long after the sense of injustice in others has been thoroughly
aroused; nor is it ever up and doing till those others have begun to
make themselves thoroughly disagreeable, and not even then will it be
up and doing more than is urgently required of it by our convenience
at the moment. For the improvement in their lot, servants must, I am
afraid, be allowed to thank themselves rather than their employers. I
am not going to trace the stages of that improvement. I will not try
to decide in what year servants passed from wistfulness to resentment,
or from resentment to exaction. This is not a sociological treatise,
it is just an essay; and I claim an essayist's privilege of not
groping through the library of the British Museum on the chance of
mastering all the details. I confess that I did go there yesterday,
thinking I should find in Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb's `History of Trade
Unionism' the means of appearing to know much. But I drew blank. It
would seem that servants have no trade union. This is strange. One
would not have thought so much could be done without organisation. The
mere Spirit of the Time, sneaking down the steps of areas, has worked
wonders. There has been no servants' campaign, no strategy, nothing
but an infinite series of spontaneous and sporadic little risings in
isolated households. Wonders have been worked, yes. But servants are
not yet satiated with triumph. More and more, on the contrary, do they
glide--long before the War they had begun gliding--away into other
forms of employment. Not merely are the changed conditions of domestic
service not changed enough for them: they seem to despise the thing
itself. It was all very well so long as they had not been taught to
read and write, but--There, no doubt, is the root of the mischief. Had
the governing classes not forced those accomplishments on them in
1872-- But there is no use in repining. What's done can't be undone.
On the other hand, what must be done can't be left undone. Housework,
for example. What concessions by the governing classes, what bribes,
will be big enough hereafter to get that done?

Perhaps the governing classes will do it for themselves, eventually,
and their ceilings not fall. Or perhaps there will be no more
governing classes--merely the State and its swarms of neat little
overseers, male and female. I know not whether in this case the sum of
human happiness will be greater, but it will certainly--it and the sum
of human dullness--be more evenly distributed. I take it that under
any scheme of industrial compulsion for the young a certain number of
the conscripts would be told off for domestic service. To every family
in every flat (houses not legal) would be assigned one female member
of the community. She would be twenty years old, having just finished
her course of general education at a municipal college. Three years
would be her term of industrial (sub-sect. domestic) service. Her
diet, her costume, her hours of work and leisure, would be
standardised, but the lenses of her pince-nez would be in strict
accordance to her own eyesight. If her employers found her faulty in
work or conduct, and proved to the visiting inspector that she was so,
she would be penalised by an additional term of service. If she, on
the other hand, made good any complaint against her employers, she
would be transferred to another flat, and they be penalised by
suspension of their license to employ. There would always be chances
of friction. But these chances would not be so numerous nor so great
as they are under that lack of system which survives to-day.

Servants would be persons knowing that for a certain period certain
tasks were imposed on them, tasks tantamount to those in which all
their coevals were simultaneously engaged. To-day they are persons not
knowing, as who should say, where they are, and wishing all the while
they were elsewhere--and mostly, as I have said, going elsewhere.
Those who remain grow more and more touchy, knowing themselves a mock
to the rest; and their qualms, even more uncomfortably than their
demands and defects, are always haunting their employers. It seems
almost incredible that there was a time when Mrs. Smith said `Sarah,
your master wishes--' or Mr. Smith said `Sarah, go up and ask your
mistress whether--' I am well aware that the very title of this essay
jars. I wish I could find another; but in writing one must be more
explicit than one need be by word of mouth. I am well aware that the
survival of domestic service, in its old form, depends more and more
on our agreement not to mention it.

Assuredly, a most uncomfortable state of things. Is it, after all,
worth saving?--a form so depleted of right human substance, an anomaly
so ticklish. Consider, in your friend's house, the cheerful smile of
yonder parlourmaid; hark to the housemaid's light brisk tread in the
corridor; note well the slight droop of the footman's shoulders as he
noiselessly draws near. Such things, as being traditional, may pander
to your sense of the great past. Histrionically, too, they are good.
But do you really like them? Do they not make your blood run a trifle
cold? In the thick of the great past, you would have liked them well
enough, no doubt. I myself am old enough to have known two or three
servants of the old school--later editions of Ruskin's Anne. With them
there was no discomfort, for they had no misgiving. They had never
wished (heaven help them!) for more, and in the process of the long
years had acquired, for inspiration of others, much--a fine
mellowness, the peculiar sort of dignity, even of wisdom, that comes
only of staying always in the same place, among the same people, doing
the same things perpetually. Theirs was the sap that rises only from
deep roots, and where they were you had always the sense of standing
under great wide branches. One especially would I recall, who--no,
personally I admire the plungingly intimate kind of essayist very much
indeed, but I never was of that kind, and it's too late to begin now.
For a type of old-world servant I would recall rather some more public
worthy, such as that stout old hostler whom, whenever you went up to
stay in Hampstead, you would see standing planted outside that stout
old hostelry, Jack Straw's Castle. He stands there no more, and the
hostelry can never again be to me all that it was of solid comfort. Or
perhaps, as he was so entirely an outside figure, I might rather say
that Hampstead itself is not what it was. His robust but restful form,
topped with that weather-beaten and chin-bearded face, was the hub of
the summit of Hampstead. He was as richly local as the pond there--
that famous pond which in hot weather is so much waded through by
cart-horses and is at all seasons so much barked around by excitable
dogs and cruised on by toy boats. He was as essential as it and the
flag-staff and the gorse and the view over the valley away to
Highgate. It was always to Highgate that his big blue eyes were
looking, and on Highgate that he seemed to be ruminating. Not that I
think he wanted to go there. He was Hampstead-born and Hampstead-bred,
and very loyal to that village. In the course of his life he had `bin
down to London a matter o' three or four times,' he would tell me,
`an' slep' there once.' He knew me to be a native of that city, and,
for he was the most respectful of men, did not make any adverse
criticism of it. But clearly it had not prepossessed him. Men and--
horses rather than cities were what he knew. And his memory was more
retentive of horses than of men. But he did--and this was a great
thrill for me--did, after some pondering at my behest, remember to
have seen in Heath Street, when he was a boy, `a gen'leman with summut
long hair, settin' in a small cart, takin' a pictur'.' To me Ford
Madox Brown's `Work' is of all modern pictur's the most delightful in
composition and strongest in conception, the most alive and the most
worth-while; and I take great pride in having known some one who saw
it in the making. But my friend himself set little store on anything
that had befallen him in days before he was `took on as stable-lad at
the Castle.' His pride was in the Castle, wholly.

Part of his charm, like Hampstead's, was in the surprise one had at
finding anything like it so near to London. Even now, if you go to
districts near which no great towns are, you will find here and there
an inn that has a devoted waiter, a house with a fond butler. As to
butlers elsewhere, butlers in general, there is one thing about them
that I do not at all understand. It seems to be against nature, yet it
is a fact, that in the past forty years they have been growing
younger; and slimmer. In my childhood they were old, without
exception; and stout. At the close of the last century they had
gradually relapsed into middle age, losing weight all the time. And in
the years that followed they were passing back behind the prime of
life, becoming willowy juveniles. In 1915, it is true, the work of
past decades was undone butlers: were suddenly as old and stout as
ever they were, and so they still are. But this, I take it, is only a
temporary setback. At the restoration of peace butlers will reappear
among us as they were in 1915, and anon will be losing height and
weight too, till they shall have become bright-eyed children, with
pattering feet. Or will their childhood be of a less gracious kind
than that? I fear so. I have seen, from time to time, butlers who had
shed all semblance of grace, butlers whose whole demeanour was a
manifesto of contempt for their calling and of devotion to the Spirit
of the Age. I have seen a butler in a well-established household
strolling around the diners without the slightest droop, and pouring
out wine in an off-hand and quite obviously hostile manner. I have
seen him, towards the end of the meal, yawning. I remember another
whom, positively, I heard humming--a faint sound indeed, but menacing
as the roll of tumbrils.

These were exceptional cases, I grant. For the most part, the butlers
observed by me have had a manner as correctly smooth and colourless as
their very shirt-fronts. Aye, and in two or three of them, modern
though they were in date and aspect, I could have sworn there was `a
flame of old-world fealty all bright.' Were these but the finer
comedians? There was one (I will call him Brett) who had an almost
dog-like way of watching his master. Was this but a calculated touch
in a merely aesthetic whole? Brett was tall and slender, and his
movements were those of a greyhound under perfect self-control.
Baldness at the temples enhanced the solemnity of his thin smooth
face. It is more than twenty years since first I saw him; and for a
long period I saw him often, both in town and in country. Against the
background of either house he was impeccable. Many butlers might be
that. Brett's supremacy was in the sense he gave one that he was,
after all, human--that he had a heart, in which he had taken the
liberty to reserve a corner for any true friend of his master and
mistress. I remember well the first time he overstepped sheer
formality in relation to myself. It was one morning in the country,
when my entertainers and my fellow guests had gone out in pursuit of
some sport at which I was no good. I was in the smoking room, reading
a book. Suddenly--no, Brett never appeared anywhere suddenly. Brett
appeared, paused at precisely the right speaking distance, and said in
a low voice, `I thought it might interest you to know, sir, that
there's a white-tailed magpie out on the lawn. Very rare, as you know,
sir. If you look out of the window you will see the little fellow
hopping about on the lawn.' I thanked him effusively as I darted to
the window, and simulated an intense interest in `the little fellow.'
I greatly overdid my part. Exit Brett, having done his to perfection.

What worries me is not that I showed so little self-command and so
much insincerity, but the doubt whether Brett's flawless technique was
the vehicle for an act of true good feeling or was used simply for the
pleasure of using it. Similar doubts abide in all my special memories
of him. There was an evening when he seemed to lose control over
himself--but did he really lose it? There were only four people at
dinner: my host, his wife, their nephew (a young man famous for
drollery), and myself. Towards the end of dinner the conversation had
turned on early marriages. `I,' said the young man presently, `shall
not marry till I am seventy. I shall then marry some charming girl of
seventeen.' His aunt threw up her hands, exclaiming, `Oh, Tom, what a
perfectly horrible idea! Why, she isn't born yet!' `No,' said the
young man, `but I have my eye on her mother.' At this, Brett, who was
holding a light for his master's cigarette, turned away convulsively,
with a sudden dip of the head, and vanished from the room. His
breakdown touched and pleased all four beholders. But--was it a
genuine lapse? Or merely a feint to thrill us?--the feint of an
equilibrist so secure that he can pretend to lose his balance?

If I knew why Brett ceased to be butler in that household, I might be
in less doubt as to the true inwardness of him. I knew only that he
was gone. That was fully ten years ago. Since then I have had one
glimpse of him. This was on a summer night in London. I had gone out
late to visit some relatives and assure myself that they were safe and
sound; for Zeppelins had just passed over London for the first time.
Not so much horror as a very deep disgust was the atmosphere in the
populous quiet streets and squares. One square was less quiet than
others, because somebody was steadily whistling for a taxi. Anon I saw
the whistler silhouetted in the light cast out on a wide doorstep from
an open door, and I saw that he was Brett. His attitude, as he bent
out into the dark night, was perfect in grace, but eloquent of a great
tensity--even of agony. Behind him stood a lady in an elaborate
evening cloak. Brett's back must have conveyed to her in every curve
his surprise, his shame, that she should be kept waiting. His chivalry
in her behalf was such as Burke's for Marie Antoinette--little had he
dreamed that he should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon
her in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honour, and of
cavaliers. He had thought ten thousand taxis must have leaped from
their stands, etc. The whistle that at first sounded merely mechanical
and ear-piercing had become heartrending and human when I saw from
whom it proceeded--a very heart-cry that still haunts me. But was it a
heart-cry? Was Brett, is Brett more than a mere virtuoso?

He is in any case what employers call a treasure, and to any one who
wishes to go forth and hunt for him I will supply a chart showing the
way to that doorstep on which last I saw him. But I myself, were I
ever so able to pay his wages, should never covet him--no, nor
anything like him. Perhaps we are not afraid of menservants if we look
out at them from the cradle. None was visible from mine. Only in later
years and under external auspices did I come across any of them. And I
am as afraid of them as ever. Maidservants frighten me less, but they
also--except the two or three ancients aforesaid--have always struck
some degree of terror to my soul. The whole notion of domestic service
has never not seemed to me unnatural. I take no credit for
enlightenment. Not to have the instinct to command implies a lack of
the instinct to obey. The two aptitudes are but different facets of
one jewel: the sense of order. When I became a schoolboy, I greatly
disliked being a monitor's fag. Other fags there were who took pride
in the quality of the toast they made for the breakfasts and suppers
of their superiors. My own feeling was that I would rather eat it
myself, and that if I mightn't eat it myself I would rather it were
not very good. Similarly, when I grew to have fags of my own, and by
morning and by evening one of them solemnly entered to me bearing a
plate on which those three traditional pieces of toast were solemnly
propped one against another, I cared not at all whether the toast were
good or bad, having no relish for it at best, but could have eaten
with gusto toast made by my own hand, not at all understanding why
that member should be accounted too august for such employment. Even
so in my later life. Loth to obey, loth to command. Convention (for
she too frightens me) has made me accept what servants would do for me
by rote. But I would liefer have it ill-done than ask even the least
mettlesome of them to do it better, and far liefer, if they would only
be off and not do it at all, do it for myself. In Italy--dear Italy,
where I have lived much--servants do still regard service somewhat in
the old way, as a sort of privilege; so that with Italian servants I
am comparatively at my ease. But oh, the delight when on the afternoon
of some local festa there is no servant at all in the little house!
Oh, the reaction, the impulse to sing and dance, and the positive
quick obedience to that impulse! Convention alone has forced me to be
anywhere a master. Ariel and Caliban, had I been Prospero on that
island, would have had nothing to do and nothing to complain of; and
Man Friday on that other island would have bored me, had I been
Crusoe. When I was a king in Babylon and you were a Christian slave, I
promptly freed you.

Anarchistic? Yes; and I have no defence to offer, except the rather
lame one that I am a Tory Anarchist. I should like every one to go
about doing just as he pleased--short of altering any of the things to
which I have grown accustomed. Domestic service is not one of those
things, and I should be glad were there no more of it.


It is a fact that not once in all my life have I gone out for a walk.
I have been taken out for walks; but that is another matter. Even
while I trotted prattling by my nurse's side I regretted the good old
days when I had, and wasn't, a perambulator. When I grew up it seemed
to me that the one advantage of living in London was that nobody ever
wanted me to come out for a walk. London's very drawbacks--its endless
noise and hustle, its smoky air, the squalor ambushed everywhere in
it--assured this one immunity. Whenever I was with friends in the
country, I knew that at any moment, unless rain were actually falling,
some man might suddenly say `Come out for a walk!' in that sharp
imperative tone which he would not dream of using in any other
connexion. People seem to think there is something inherently noble
and virtuous in the desire to go for a walk. Any one thus desirous
feels that he has a right to impose his will on whomever he sees
comfortably settled in an arm-chair, reading. It is easy to say simply
`No' to an old friend. In the case of a mere acquaintance one wants
some excuse. `I wish I could, but'--nothing ever occurs to me except
`I have some letters to write.' This formula is unsatisfactory in
three ways. (1) It isn't believed. (2) It compels you to rise from
your chair, go to the writing-table, and sit improvising a letter to
somebody until the walkmonger (just not daring to call you liar and
hypocrite) shall have lumbered out of the room. (3) It won't operate
on Sunday mornings. `There's no post out till this evening' clinches
the matter; and you may as well go quietly.

Walking for walking's sake may be as highly laudable and exemplary a
thing as it is held to be by those who practise it. My objection to it
is that it stops the brain. Many a man has professed to me that his
brain never works so well as when he is swinging along the high road
or over hill and dale. This boast is not confirmed by my memory of
anybody who on a Sunday morning has forced me to partake of his
adventure. Experience teaches me that whatever a fellow-guest may have
of power to instruct or to amuse when he is sitting on a chair, or
standing on a hearth-rug, quickly leaves him when he takes one out for
a walk. The ideas that came so thick and fast to him in any room,
where are they now? where that encyclopiedic knowledge which he bore
so lightly? where the kindling fancy that played like summer lightning
over any topic that was started? The man's face that was so mobile is
set now; gone is the light from his fine eyes. He says that A. (our
host) is a thoroughly good fellow. Fifty yards further on, he adds
that A. is one of the best fellows he has ever met. We tramp another
furlong or so, and he says that Mrs. A. is a charming woman. Presently
he adds that she is one of the most charming women he has ever known.
We pass an inn. He reads vapidly aloud to me: `The King's Arms.
Licensed to sell Ales and Spirits.' I foresee that during the rest of
the walk he will read aloud any inscription that occurs. We pass a
milestone. He points at it with his stick, and says `Uxminster. 11
Miles.' We turn a sharp corner at the foot of a hill. He points at the
wall, and says `Drive Slowly.' I see far ahead, on the other side of
the hedge bordering the high road, a small notice-board. He sees it
too. He keeps his eye on it. And in due course `Trespassers,' he says,
`Will Be Prosecuted.' Poor man!--mentally a wreck.

Luncheon at the A.s, however, salves him and floats him in full sail.
Behold him once more the life and soul of the party. Surely he will
never, after the bitter lesson of this morning, go out for another
walk. An hour later, I see him striding forth, with a new companion. I
watch him out of sight. I know what he is saying. He is saying that I
am rather a dull man to go a walk with. He will presently add that I
am one of the dullest men he ever went a walk with. Then he will
devote himself to reading out the inscriptions.

How comes it, this immediate deterioration in those who go walking for
walking's sake? Just what happens? I take it that not by his reasoning
faculties is a man urged to this enterprise. He is urged, evidently,
by something in him that transcends reason; by his soul, I presume.
Yes, it must be the soul that raps out the `Quick march!' to the
body.--`Halt! Stand at ease!' interposes the brain, and `To what
destination,' it suavely asks the soul, `and on what errand, are you
sending the body?'--`On no errand whatsoever,' the soul makes answer,
`and to no destination at all. It is just like you to be always on the
look-out for some subtle ulterior motive. The body is going out
because the mere fact of its doing so is a sure indication of
nobility, probity, and rugged grandeur of character.'--`Very well,
Vagula, have your own wayula! But I,' says the brain, `flatly refuse
to be mixed up in this tomfoolery. I shall go to sleep till it is
over.' The brain then wraps itself up in its own convolutions, and
falls into a dreamless slumber from which nothing can rouse it till
the body has been safely deposited indoors again.

Even if you go to some definite place, for some definite purpose, the
brain would rather you took a vehicle; but it does not make a point of
this; it will serve you well enough unless you are going for a walk.
It won't, while your legs are vying with each other, do any deep
thinking for you, nor even any close thinking; but it will do any
number of small odd jobs for you willingly--provided that your legs,
also, are making themselves useful, not merely bandying you about to
gratify the pride of the soul. Such as it is, this essay was composed
in the course of a walk, this morning. I am not one of those
extremists who must have a vehicle to every destination. I never go
out of my way, as it were, to avoid exercise. I take it as it comes,
and take it in good part. That valetudinarians are always chattering
about it, and indulging in it to excess, is no reason for despising
it. I am inclined to think that in moderation it is rather good for
one, physically. But, pending a time when no people wish me to go and
see them, and I have no wish to go and see any one, and there is
nothing whatever for me to do off my own premises, I never will go out
for a walk.


I have often wondered that no one has set himself to collect
unfinished works of art. There is a peculiar charm for all of us in
that which was still in the making when its maker died, or in that
which he laid aside because he was tired of it, or didn't see his way
to the end of it, or wanted to go on to something else. Mr. Pickwick
and the Ancient Mariner are valued friends of ours, but they do not
preoccupy us like Edwin Drood or Kubla Khan. Had that revolving chair
at Gad's Hill become empty but a few weeks later than it actually did,
or had Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the act of setting down his dream
about the Eastern potentate not been interrupted by `a person on
business from Porlock' and so lost the thread of the thing for ever,
from two what delightful glades for roaming in would our fancy be
excluded! The very globe we live on is a far more fascinating sphere
than it can have been when men supposed that men like themselves would
be on it to the end of time. It is only since we heard what Darwin had
to say, only since we have had to accept as improvisible what lies far
ahead, that the Book of Life has taken so strong a hold on us and
`once taken up, cannot,' as the reviewers say, `readily be laid down.'
The work doesn't strike us as a masterpiece yet, certainly; but who
knows that it isn't--that it won't be, judged as a whole?

For sheer creativeness, no human artist, I take it, has a higher
repute than Michael Angelo; none perhaps has a repute so high. But
what if Michael Angelo had been a little more persevering? All those
years he spent in the process of just a-going to begin Pope Julius'
tomb, and again, all those blank spaces for his pictures and bare
pedestals for his statues in the Baptistery of San Lorenzo--ought we
to regret them quite so passionately as we do? His patrons were apt to
think him an impossible person to deal with. But I suspect that there
may have been a certain high cunning in what appeared to be a mere
lovable fault of temperament. When Michael Angelo actually did bring a
thing off, the result was not always more than magnificent. His David
is magnificent, but it isn't David. One is duly awed, but, to see the
master at his best, back one goes from the Accademia to that
marvellous bleak Baptistery which he left that we should see, in the
mind's eye, just that very best.

It was there, some years ago, as I stood before the half-done marvel
of the Night and Morning, that I first conceived the idea of a museum
of incomplete masterpieces. And now I mean to organise the thing on my
own account. The Baptistery itself, so full of unfulfilment, and with
such a wealth, at present, of spare space, will be the ideal setting
for my treasures. There be it that the public shall throng to steep
itself in the splendour of possibilities, beholding, under glass, and
perhaps in excellent preservation, Penelope's web and the original
designs for the Tower of Babel, the draft made by Mr. Asquith for a
reformed House of Lords and the notes jotted down by the sometime
German Emperor for a proclamation from Versailles to the citizens of
Paris. There too shall be the MS. of that fragmentary `Iphige'nie'
which Racine laid aside so meekly at the behest of Mlle. de Tre`ves--
`quoique cela fu^t de mon mieux'; and there an early score of that one
unfinished Symphony of Beethoven's--I forget the number of it, but
anyhow it is my favourite. Among the pictures, Rossetti's oil-painting
of `Found' must be ruled out, because we know by more than one drawing
just what it would have been, and how much less good than those
drawings. But Leonardo's St. Sebastian (even if it isn't Leonardo's)
shall be there, and Whistler's Miss Connie Gilchrist, and numerous
other pictures that I would mention if my mind were not so full of one
picture to which, if I can find it and acquire it, a special place of
honour shall be given: a certain huge picture in which a life-sized
gentleman, draped in a white mantle, sits on a fallen obelisk and
surveys the ruined temples of the Campagna Romana.

The reader knits his brow? Evidently he has not just been reading
Goethe's `Travels in Italy.' I have. Or rather, I have just been
reading a translation of it, published in 1885 by George Bell & Sons.
I daresay it isn't a very good translation (for one has always
understood that Goethe, despite a resistant medium, wrote well--an
accomplishment which this translator hardly wins one to suspect). And
I daresay the painting I so want to see and have isn't a very good
painting. Wilhelm Tischbein is hardly a name to conjure with, though
in his day, as a practitioner in the `historical' style, and as a
rapturous resident in Rome, Tischbein did great things; big things, at
any rate. He did crowds of heroes in helmets looked down at by gods on
clouds; he did centaurs leaping ravines; Sabine women; sieges of Troy.
And he did this portrait of Goethe. At least he began it. Why didn't
he finish it? That is a problem as to which one can but hazard
guesses, reading between the lines of Goethe's letters. The great
point is that it never was finished. By that point, as you read
between those lines, you will be amused if you are unkind, and worried
if you are humane.

Worried, yet also pleased. Goethe has more than once been described as
`the perfect man.' He was assuredly a personage on the great scale, in
the grand manner, gloriously balanced, rounded. And it is a fact that
he was not made of marble. He started with all the disadvantages of
flesh and blood, and retained them to the last. Yet from no angle, as
he went his long way, could it be plausibly hinted that he wasn't
sublime. Endearing though failure always is, we grudge no man a
moderately successful career, and glory itself we will wink at if it
befall some thoroughly good fellow. But a man whose career was
glorious without intermission, decade after decade, does sorely try
our patience. He, we know, cannot have been a thoroughly good fellow.
Of Goethe we are shy for such reasons as that he was never
injudicious, never lazy, always in his best form--and always in love
with some lady or another just so much as was good for the development
of his soul and his art, but never more than that by a tittle. Fate
decreed that Sir Willoughby Patterne should cut a ridiculous figure
and so earn our forgiveness. Fate may have had a similar plan for
Goethe; if so, it went all agley. Yet, in the course of that pageant,
his career, there did happen just one humiliation--one thing that
needed to be hushed up. There Tischbein's defalcation was; a chip in
the marble, a flaw in the crystal, just one thread loose in the great
grand tapestry.

Men of genius are not quick judges of character. Deep thinking and
high imagining blunt that trivial instinct by which you and I size
people up. Had you and I been at Goethe's elbow when, in the October
of 1786, he entered Rome and was received by the excited Tischbein, no
doubt we should have whispered in his ear, `Beware of that man! He
will one day fail you.' Unassisted Goethe had no misgivings. For some
years he had been receiving letters from this Herr Tischbein. They
were the letters of a man steeped in the Sorrows of Werther and in all
else that Goethe had written. This was a matter of course. But also
they were the letters of a man familiar with all the treasures of
Rome. All Italy was desirable; but it was especially towards great
Rome that the soul of the illustrious poet, the confined State
Councillor of Weimar, had been ever yearning. So that when came the
longed-for day, and the Duke gave leave of absence, and Goethe,
closing his official portfolio with a snap and imprinting a fervent
but hasty kiss on the hand of Frau von Stein, fared forth on his
pilgrimage, Tischbein was a prospect inseparably bound up for him with
that of the Seven Hills. Baedeker had not been born. Tischbein would
be a great saviour of time and trouble. Nor was this hope unfulfilled.
Tischbein was assiduous, enthusiastic, indefatigable. In the early
letters to Frau von Stein, to Herder and others, his name is always
cropping up for commendation. `Of Tischbein I have much to say and
much to boast'--`A thorough and original German'--`He has always been
thinking of me, ever providing for my wants'--`In his society all my
enjoyments are more than doubled.' He was thirty-five years old (two
years younger than Goethe), and one guesses him to have been a stocky
little man, with those short thick legs which denote indefatigability.
One guesses him blond and rosy, very voluble, very guttural, with a
wealth of forceful but not graceful gesture.

One is on safer ground in guessing him vastly proud of trotting Goethe
round. Such fame throughout Europe had Goethe won by his works that it
was necessary for him to travel incognito. Not that his identity
wasn't an open secret, nor that he himself would have wished it hid.
Great artists are always vain. To say that a man is vain means merely
that he is pleased with the effect he produces on other people. A
conceited man is satisfied with the effect he produces on himself. Any
great artist is far too perceptive and too exigent to be satisfied
with that effect, and hence in vanity he seeks solace. Goethe, you may
be sure, enjoyed the hero-worshipful gaze focussed on him from all the
tables of the Caffe` Greco. But not for adulation had he come to Rome.
Rome was what he had come for; and the fussers of the coteries must
not pester him in his golden preoccupation with the antique world.
Tischbein was very useful in warding off the profane throng--fanning
away the flies. Let us hope he was actuated solely by zeal in Goethe's
interest, not by the desire to swagger as a monopolist.

Clear it is, though, that he scented fine opportunities in Goethe's
relation to him. Suppose he could rope his illustrious friend in as a
collaborator! He had begun a series of paintings on the theme of
primaeval man. Goethe was much impressed by these. Tischbein suggested
a great poem on the theme of primaeval man--a volume of engravings
after Tischbein, with running poetic commentary by Goethe. `Indeed,
the frontispiece for such a joint work,' writes Goethe in one of his
letters, `is already designed.' Pushful Tischbein! But Goethe, though
he was the most courteous of men, was not of the stuff of which
collaborators are made. `During our walks together'--and can you not
see those two together, pacing up and down the groves of the Villa
Pamphili, or around the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter?--little
Tischbein gesticulating and peering up into Goethe's face, and Goethe
with his hands clasped behind him, ever nodding in a non-committal
manner--`he has talked with me in the hope of gaining me over to his
views, and getting me to enter upon the plan.' Goethe admits in
another letter that `the idea is beautiful; only,' he adds, `the
artist and the poet must be many years together, in order to carry out
and execute such a work'; and one conceives that he felt a certain
lack of beauty in the idea of being with Tischbein for many years.
`Did I not fear to enter upon any new tasks at present, I might
perhaps be tempted.' This I take to be but the repetition of a formula
often used in the course of those walks. In no letter later than
November is the scheme mentioned. Tischbein had evidently ceased to
press it. Anon he fell back on a scheme less glorious but likelier to
bear fruit.

`Latterly,' writes Goethe, `I have observed Tischbein regarding me;
and now'--note the demure pride!--`it appears that he has long
cherished the idea of painting my portrait.' Earnest sight-seer though
he was, and hard at work on various MSS. in the intervals of sight-
seeing, it is evident that to sit for his portrait was a new task
which he did not `fear to enter upon at present.' Nor need we be
surprised. It seems to be a law of nature that no man, unless he has
some obvious physical deformity, e~ver is loth to sit for his
portrait. A man may be old, he may be ugly, he may be burdened with
grave responsibilities to the nation, and that nation be at a crisis
of its history; but none of these considerations, nor all of them
together, will deter him from sitting for his portrait. Depend on him
to arrive at the studio punctually, to surrender himself and sit as
still as a mouse, trying to look his best in whatever posture the
painter shall have selected as characteristic, and talking (if he have
leave to talk) with a touching humility and with a keen sense of his
privilege in being allowed to pick up a few ideas about art. To a
dentist or a hairdresser he surrenders himself without enthusiasm,
even with resentment. But in the atmosphere of a studio there is
something that entrances him. Perhaps it is the smell of turpentine
that goes to his head. Or more likely it is the idea of immortality.
Goethe was one of the handsomest men of his day, and (remember) vain,
and now in the prime of life; so that he was specially susceptible to
the notion of being immortalised. `The design is already settled, and
the canvas stretched'; and I have no doubt that in the original German
these words ring like the opening of a ballad. `The anchor's up and
the sail is spread,' as I (and you, belike) recited in childhood. The
ship in that poem foundered, if I remember rightly; so that the
analogy to Goethe's words is all the more striking.

It is in this same letter that the poet mentions those three great
points which I have already laid before you: the fallen obelisk for
him to sit on, the white mantle to drape him, and the ruined temples
for him to look at. `It will form a beautiful piece, but,' he sadly
calculates, `it will be rather too big for our northern habitations.'
Courage! There will be plenty of room for it in the Baptistery of San

Meanwhile, the work progressed. A brief visit to Naples and Sicily was
part of Goethe's well-pondered campaign, and he was to set forth from
Rome (taking Tischbein with him) immediately after the close of the
Carnival--but not a moment before. Needless to say, he had no idea of
flinging himself into the Carnival, after the fashion of lesser and
lighter tourists. But the Carnival was a great phenomenon to be
studied. All-embracing Goethe, remember, was nearly as keen on science
as on art. He had ever been patient in poring over plants botanically,
and fishes ichthyologically, and minerals mineralogically. And now,
day by day, he studied the Carnival from a strictly carnivalogical
standpoint, taking notes on which he founded later a classic treatise.
His presence was not needed in the studio during these days, for the
life-sized portrait `begins already to stand out from the canvas,' and
Tischbein was now painting the folds of the mantle, which were swathed
around a clay figure. `He is working away diligently, for the work
must, he says, be brought to a certain point before we start for
Naples.' Besides the mantle, Tischbein was doing the Campagna. I
remember that some years ago an acquaintance of mine, a painter who
was neither successful nor talented, but always buoyant, told me he
was starting for Italy next day. `I am going,' he said, `to paint the
Campagna. The Campagna WANTS painting.' Tischbein was evidently giving
it a good dose of what it wanted. `It takes no little time,' writes
Goethe to Frau von Stein, `merely to cover so large a field of canvas
with colours.

Ash Wednesday ushered itself in, and ushered the Carnival out. The
curtain falls, rising a few days later on the Bay of Naples. Re-enter
Goethe and Tischbein. Bright blue back-cloth. Incidental music of
barcaroles, etc. For a while, all goes splendidly well. Sane Quixote
and aesthetic Sancho visit the churches, the museums; visit Pompeii;
visit our Ambassador, Sir William Hamilton, that accomplished man.
Vesuvius is visited too; thrice by Goethe, but (here, for the first
time, we feel a vague uneasiness) only once by Tischbein. To Goethe,
as you may well imagine, Vesuvius was strongly attractive. At his
every ascent he was very brave, going as near as possible to the
crater, which he approached very much as he had approached the
Carnival, not with any wish to fling himself into it, but as a
resolute scientific inquirer. Tischbein, on the other hand, merely
disliked and feared Vesuvius. He said it had no aesthetic value, and
at his one ascent did not accompany Goethe to the crater's edge. He
seems to have regarded Goethe's bravery as rashness. Here, you see, is
a rift, ever so slight, but of evil omen; what seismologists call `a

Goethe was unconscious of its warning. Throughout his sojourn in
Naples he seems to have thought that Tischbein in Naples was the same
as Tischbein in Rome. Of some persons it is true that change of sky
works no change of soul. Oddly enough, Goethe reckoned himself among
the changeable. In one of his letters he calls himself `quite an
altered man,' and asserts that he is given over to `a sort of
intoxicated self-forgetfulness'--a condition to which his letters
testify not at all. In a later bulletin he is nearer the mark: `Were I
not impelled by the German spirit, and desire to learn and do rather
than to enjoy, I should tarry a little longer in this school of a
light-hearted and happy life, and try to profit by it still more.' A
truly priceless passage, this, with a solemnity transcending logic--as
who should say, `Were I not so thoroughly German, I should be
thoroughly German.' Tischbein was of less stern stuff, and it is clear
that Naples fostered in him a lightness which Rome had repressed.
Goethe says that he himself puzzled the people in Neapolitan society:
`Tischbein pleases them far better. This evening he hastily painted
some heads of the size of life, and about these they disported
themselves as strangely as the New Zealanders at the sight of a ship
of war.' One feels that but for Goethe's presence Tischbein would have
cut New Zealand capers too. A week later he did an utterly astounding
thing. He told Goethe that he would not be accompanying him to Sicily.

He did not, of course, say `The novelty of your greatness has worn
off. Your solemnity oppresses me. Be off, and leave me to enjoy myself
in Naples-on-Sea--Naples, the Queen of Watering Places!' He spoke of
work which he had undertaken, and recommended as travelling companion
for Goethe a young man of the name of Kniep.

Goethe, we may be sure, was restrained by pride from any show of
wrath. Pride compelled him to make light of the matter in his epistles
to the Weimarians. Even Kniep he accepted with a good grace, though
not without misgivings. He needed a man who would execute for him
sketches and paintings of all that in the districts passed through was
worthy of record. He had already `heard Kniep highly spoken of as a
clever draughtsman--only his industry was not much commended.' Our
hearts sink. `I have tolerably studied his character, and think the
ground of this censure arises rather from a want of decision, which
may certainly be overcome, if we are long together.' Our hearts sink
lower. Kniep will never do. Kniep will play the deuce, we are sure of
it. And yet (such is life) Kniep turns out very well. Throughout the
Sicilian tour Goethe gives the rosiest reports of the young man's
cheerful ways and strict attention to the business of sketching. It
may be that these reports were coloured partly by a desire to set
Tischbein down. But there seems to be no doubt that Goethe liked Kniep
greatly and rejoiced in the quantity and quality of his work. At
Palermo, one evening, Goethe sat reading Homer and `making an
impromptu translation for the benefit of Kniep, who had well deserved
by his diligent exertions this day some agreeable refreshment over a
glass of wine.' This is a pleasing little scene, and is typical of the
whole tour.

In the middle of May, Goethe returned Naples. And lo!--Tischbein was
not there to receive him. Tischbein, if you please, had skipped back
to Rome, bidding his Neapolitan friends look to his great compatriot.
Pride again forbade Goethe to show displeasure, and again our reading
has to be done between the lines. In the first week of June he was
once more in Rome. I can imagine with what high courtesy, as though
there were nothing to rebuke, he treated Tischbein. But it is possible
that his manner would have been less perfect had the portrait not been

His sittings were resumed. It seems that Signora Zucchi, better known
to the world as Angelica Kauffmann, had also begun to paint him. But,
great as was Goethe's esteem for the mind of that nice woman, he set
no store on this fluttering attempt of hers: `her picture is a pretty
fellow, to be sure, but not a trace of me.' It was by the large and
firm `historic' mode of Tischbein that he, not exactly in his habit as
he lived, but in the white mantle that so well became him, and on the
worthy throne of that fallen obelisk, was to be handed down to the
gaze of future ages. Was to be, yes. On June 27th he reports that
Tischbein's work `is succeeding happily; the likeness is striking, and
the conception pleases everybody.' Three days later: `Tischbein goes
to Naples.'

Incredible! We stare aghast, as in the presence of some great
dignitary from behind whom, by a ribald hand, a chair is withdrawn
when he is in the act of sitting down. Tischbein had, as it were,
withdrawn the obelisk. What was Goethe to do? What can a dignitary, in
such case, do? He cannot turn and recriminate. That would but lower
him the more. Can he behave as though nothing has happened? Johann
Wolfgang von Goethe tried to do so. And it must have been in support
of this attempt that he consented to leave his own quarters and reside
awhile in the studio of the outgoing Tischbein. That slippery man
does, it is true, seem to have given out that he would not be away
very long; and the prospect of his return may well have been reckoned
in mitigation of his going. Goethe had leave from the Duke of Weimar
to prolong his Italian holiday till the spring of next year. It is
possible that Tischbein really did mean to come back and finish the
picture. Goethe had, at any rate, no reason for not hoping.

`When you think of me, think of me as happy,' he directs. And had he
not indeed reasons for happiness? He had the most perfect health, he
was writing masterpieces, he was in Rome--Rome which no pilgrim had
loved with a rapture deeper than his; the wonderful old Rome that
lingered on almost to our own day, under the conserving shadow of the
Temporal Power; a Rome in which the Emperors kept unquestionably their
fallen day about them. No pilgrim had wandered with a richer
enthusiasm along those highways and those great storied spaces. It is
pleasing to watch in what deep draughts Goethe drank Rome in. But--
but--I fancy that now in his second year of sojourn he tended to
remain within the city walls, caring less than of yore for the
Campagna; and I suspect that if ever he did stray out there he averted
his eyes from anything in the nature of a ruined temple. Of one thing
I am sure. The huge canvas in the studio had its face to the wall.
There is never a reference to it by Goethe in any letter after that of
June 27th. But I surmise that its nearness continually worked on him,
and that sometimes, when no one was by, he all unwillingly approached
it, he moved it out into a good light and, stepping back, gazed at it
for a long time. And I wonder that Tischbein was not shamed,
telepathically, to return.

What was it that had made Tischbein--not once, but thrice--abandon
Goethe? We have no right to suppose he had plotted to avenge himself
for the poet's refusal to collaborate with him on the theme of
primaeval man. A likelier explanation is merely that Goethe, as I have
suggested, irked him. Forty years elapsed before Goethe collected his
letters from Italy and made a book of them; and in this book he
included--how magnanimous old men are!--several letters written to him
from Naples by his deserter. These are shallow but vivid documents--
the effusions of one for whom the visible world suffices. I take it
that Tischbein was an `historic' painter because no ambitious painter
in those days wasn't. In Goethe the historic sense was as innate as
the aesthetic; so was the ethical sense; so was the scientific sense;
and the three of them, forever cropping up in his discourse, may well
be understood to have been too much for the simple Tischbein. But, you
ask, can mere boredom make a man act so cruelly as this man acted?
Well, there may have been another cause, and a more interesting one. I
have mentioned that Goethe and Tischbein visited our Ambassador in
Naples. His Excellency was at that time a widower, but his
establishment was already graced by his future wife, Miss Emma Harte,
whose beauty is so well known to us all. `Tischbein,' wrote Goethe a
few days afterwards, `is engaged in painting her.' Later in the year,
Tischbein, soon after his return to Naples, sent to Goethe a sketch
for a painting he had now done of Miss Harte as Iphigenia at the
Sacrificial Altar. Perhaps he had wondered that she should sacrifice
herself to Sir William Hamilton.... `I like Hamilton uncommonly' is a
phrase culled from one of his letters; and when a man is very hearty
about the protector of a very beautiful woman one begins to be
suspicious. I do not mean to suggest that Miss Harte--though it is
true she had not yet met Nelson--was fascinated by Tischbein. But we
have no reason to suppose that Tischbein was less susceptible than

Altogether, it seems likely enough that the future Lady Hamilton's
fine eyes were Tischbein's main reason for not going to Sicily, and

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