Skip to Content
Indiana University

Search Options

View Options

The Autobiography of Christopher Kirkland, Vol. 1. Linton, E. Lynn (Elizabeth Lynn), 1822–1898.
no next
page: 257


BY the end of the covenanted term I had accomplished my purpose and written my novel. It was an ambitious undertaking for a 'prentice hand, but it met with that kind of reception which means promise and opens the door to better things. It gave me no money. On the contrary, the publication cost me fifty pounds, which sum, advanced by Mr. King on the faith of my majority, was Mr. N—'s standing price for first books by young authors.

I shall never forget the day when I read the first favourable notice of my book, page: 258 which, strangely enough, was in the Times. I seemed to tread on air, to walk in a cloud of light, to bear on me a sign of strange and glorious significance. I felt as if I must have stopped the passers-by to shake hands with them and tell them it was I who had written the novel which the Times had reviewed so well that morning. I thought all the world must be talking of it, and wondering who was the unknown Christopher Kirkland who, yesterday obscure, to-day famous, had so suddenly flashed into the world of letters; and I longed to say that this veiled prophet, this successful aspirant, was I! I remember the sunset as I went up Oxford Street, to what was not yet the Marble Arch. For I could not rest in the house. I could not even go home to dinner. I felt compelled to walk as if for ever—not like that poor wretch, for penance, over a dreary and interminable plain, but through an enchanted garden of infinite beauty page: 259 —to damp down the glad fever in my veins. I could only breathe out in the open. I should have been stifled within the four walls of that house in Montague Place.

Since then I have watched with breathless emotion the opalescent skies of Venice; the westering light which streams like visible prayer through the windows of St. Peter's as you stand on the Pincio; the gorgeous sunsets of Naples, with that burning bar drawn all across the horizon, stretching from Vesuvius to infinitude; but I have never seen one to match the splendour of that sunset in London, on the evening of the day when I first achieved success. For the moment I was as a god among gods. My veins were filled with celestial ichor, not human blood; and my mind saw what it brought—the infinity of glory because of that intensity of joy.

I turned into the Park and sat down on a bench, looking at this resplendence which page: 260 was to me like a message—a symbol of my own strength and future lustre. Suddenly, as distinctly as if she had been there in the body, I felt the presence of Adeline Dalrymple. It seemed to me as if she stood before me, enveloping me in her personality as in the old days. I seemed to feel her arms about me—as if she drew me gently to her bosom; and I felt again her lips on my forehead and my eyes. Then she seemed to sit down on the seat beside me, and I heard the murmur of that marvellous voice, saying softly: ‘By the power of Love you have come to the possession of Fame!’

The full chord of divinest harmony was now complete. All my life and being were swept away as by one great rush and flood of rapture, unfathomable, irresistible. It was as if I heard the primal harmony whence all other music flows—as if I saw the archetype of all beauty, and felt the essence of all love and joy. For that brief page: 261 moment I was in what we mean by heaven; when a heavy hand was laid a little roughly on my shoulder, and a harsh voice said rudely:

‘Come, none of this now! You mustn't sleep here, you know. Or is it drunk you are?’

The angel with the flaming sword who turned me so unceremoniously out of Paradise was a park-keeper; and poor Icarus, my spirit, had a headlong tumble from the empyrean to the dust!

When the agreement between us came to an end, my father again wanted me to give up my present life, go to Cambridge, put away my foolish doubts and take Orders like a rational being. He ought to have known this last was impossible, granting me the very elements of honesty. But he was so convinced, for his own part, of the truth of Christianity and the perfectness of Anglican Protestantism, that he felt sure if page: 262 I read in the orthodox direction I should be also convinced. Thus he hoped that, by studying for the ministry, I should by force of better reasoning abandon my errors, and at one and the same time redeem my worldly position and save my soul.

Naturally I resisted this plan; for I was more than ever in love with liberty and literature. And as there was really nothing in my choice injurious to my family nor derogatory to myself, I at last bore down my father's opposition and won his consent:—I am bound by truth to add, never his cordial approval. Still, he consented; and I was thus saved from the pain, as well as the disgrace and wrong-doing, of flat disobedience to his will; and my home-ties remained intact. And after my people had got rid of the daily irritation of my presence, and I myself had learned more self-control by contact with the world, and had also become less sore, because not so often wounded, we page: 263 were better friends than we had ever been before. My bi-annual visits to the dear old place were purely harmonious; which my life there had not been; and our mutual affection was strengthened, not weakened, by the loosening of the links and the lengthening of the chain.

My life, then, was finally arranged on the lines I had so long marked out for myself. Now I had only to show of what stuff I was made. For the rest, my future was in my own keeping.

The first necessity was to get steady employment outside my novel-writing, which was to be the sweet after the meat; and my ambition was that of most young writers not specialists—to get work on the press. This gradation of aim was the natural result of experience. From poetry to novel-writing, and thence to newspaper work—what an epitome of young ambition is here! I could not begin by reporting, as Dickens page: 264 and Beard and Kent and Hunt and, if my memory serves me, George Henry Lewes, had begun. I did not know shorthand—which yet was easily learned. But I was too ambitious to like the idea of work so unindividualized and a position so subordinate as are the work and position of a reporter. I wanted to be a full-fledged leader-writer at once. Wherefore I tried my hand at what was really a social essay rather than a leader, on the wrongs of all savage aborigines. This I sent down to the office of the —, with a letter stating the full presumption of my desires; and waited for the result.

Poor dear ‘Smithy’ had a bad time of it for the next few days. For that fatal quality of concentration which has intensified every feeling and action of my life was then more potent than it is even now; and there was nothing in heaven nor earth, the past, the present, nor the future, save the acceptance page: 265 or rejection of that essay. The four days which intervened between my letter and the answer were four days of restlessness amounting to agony—of alternate hope and fear rising into insanity. There was no treading on air nor walking in a cloud of light now! It was going through the Valley of the Shadow; with perhaps that fatal abyss at the end!

On the fifth day I had wrestled through my torment and come out into the upper air once more. My proof lay on my plate at breakfast; and with it was a letter from the editor, bidding me go down to the — office to-day, at four o'clock precisely.

I was punctual to the moment; and with a beating heart but very high head, went swinging up the narrow, dingy court into which the ‘editor's entrance’ gave; and then up the still narrower and still dingier stairs to a room whence I could not see the street for the dirt which made the windows as page: 266 opaque as ground-glass. Here I was told to wait till Mr. Dundas could see me. In about half an hour the messenger returned, and ushered me into the awful presence.

For in truth it was an awful presence, in more ways than one. It was not only my hope and present fortune, but of itself, personally, it was formidable.

A tall, cleanly-shaved, powerfully-built man—with a smooth head of scanty red hair; a mobile face instinct with passion; fiery, reddish-hazel eyes; a look of supreme command; an air of ever-vibrating impatience and irascibility, and an abrupt but not unkindly manner, standing with his back to the fire-place—made half a step forward and held out his hand to me as I went into the room.

‘So! you are the little boy who has written that queer book and want to be one of the press-gang, are you?’ he said half-smiling, and speaking in a jerky and un- unprepared page: 267 prepared manner, both singular and reassuring.

The little boy, by the way, was as tall as he—and that was two inches over six feet.

I took him in his humour and smiled too.

‘Yes, I am the man,’ I said.

‘Man, you call yourself? I call you a whipper-snapper,’ he answered, always good-humouredly. ‘But you seem to have something in you. We'll soon find it out if you have. I say though, youngster, you never wrote all that rubbish yourself! Some of your elder brothers helped you. You never scratched all these queer classics and mythology into your own numskull without help. At your age it is impossible.’

‘It may be impossible,’ I laughed; ‘at the same time it is true. I give you my word, no one helped me. No one even saw the manuscript or the proofs,’ I added eagerly.

On which my new friend and potential page: 268 master startled me as much as if he had fired off a pistol in my ear, first by his laughter, and then by the volley of oaths which he rolled out—oaths of the strangest compounds and oddest meanings to be heard anywhere—oaths which he himself made at the moment, having a speciality that way unsurpassed, unsurpassable and inimitable. But as he laughed while he blasphemed, and called me ‘good boy’ in the midst of his wonderful expletives, he evidently did not mean mischief. And I had fortunately enough sense to understand his want of malice, and to accept his manner as of the ordinary course of things.

This pleased him; and after he had exhausted his momentary stock of oaths, he clapped me on the back with the force of a friendly sledge-hammer, and said:

‘You are a nice kind of little beggar, and I think you'll do.’

Then he told me to go into the next page: 269 room to write a leader on a Blue Book which he would send in to me. It was the report of the Parliamentary Commission on the condition of the miners relative to the ‘truck’ system.

‘I give you three hours and a half,’ he said, taking out his watch. ‘Not a minute longer, by —. By that time your work must be done, or you'll have no supper to-night! You must take the side of the men; but—d'ye hear?—you are not to assassinate the masters. Leave them a leg to stand on, and don't make Adam Smith turn in his grave by any cursed theories smacking of socialism and the devil knows what. Do you understand, youngster? I have had the passages marked which you are to notice, and so you need not bother that silly cocoanut of yours with any others. Keep to the text; write with strength; don't talk nonsense, and do your work like a man. And now be off.’

page: 270

To my great joy and supreme good luck, I seized the spirit of my instructions, and wrote a rattling, vigorous kind of paper, which pleased Mr. Dundas so much that he called me a good boy twenty times with as many different oaths, and took me home to dine with him. And from that day he put me on the staff of the paper, and my bread-and-butter was secure.

The next two years followed without any change in outward circumstances. I worked hard for very moderate pay; but I was young, strong, energetic, and temperate in my habits. To live was of itself good enough for me. I did not want the adventitious excitement of dissipation nor luxury. My work was my pleasure, and to do well was its own reward. I had that appetite for work which is the essential of success on a newspaper; and I was to be relied on at a pinch as well as for the day's steady routine. I filled the office of handy- page: 271 man about the paper—was now sent down to describe a fête; now given a pile of books to review; sometimes set to do the work of the theatrical critic when this gentleman was away; and given certain social leaders to write—but never the political.

For a young fellow as I was then, unfit for responsibility because wanting in experience, this was all that I could expect. And occasionally it was more than I was fit for. Twice I got the paper into trouble because of my unsound political economy, and the trail of the socialistic serpent, which made itself too visible for even the —; for all that this was one of our then most advanced Liberal journals. But, as I was a favourite with the irascible editor—to whom also I was sincerely attached, though I stood in wholesome awe of him into the bargain—my sins were forgiven. A sounder man than I was told off to reply to the attacks I had drawn page: 272 down on our heads; to explain away what could not be retracted; and to carry the — out of the fire. And I had nothing worse to bear than an outburst of imprecations which let off the steam and broke no one's bones.

All the employés of the journal did not come off so well when hot water was about; and some ran rough risks:—as, for instance, that poor fellow who brought in either a wrong or an unpleasant message—I forget which—at whose head Mr. Dundas hurled his heavy metal office-inkstand. The man ducked in time; but the door was cut and indented where the sharp edge had struck, and blackened by a stream of ink from the centre panel to the floor. Mr. Dundas showed me the place with a peal of laughter and a volley of oaths, in no wise disconcerted by this narrow escape from committing murder. He made it up to the man with a couple of sovereigns; and when the page: 273 door had been scraped and re-varnished, no more was heard of the matter. The men in the office were used to his ways, and dodged him when he let fly—waiting till the dangerous fit was over. All forgave his violence—some because they really loved him, and some because he paid them handsomely for their bruises.

Mr. Dundas was a bad writer and a poor classic, and not especially well-informed on any subject; but after Delane he was the best constructive as well as administrative editor of his time, and knew how to choose his staff and apportion his material with a discrimination that was almost like another sense. He was indefatigable in his office, and finally broke down his iron constitution by sheer hard work. What made the pity of it was, that this hard work was often more superfluous than necessary. But this minute attention to details was his point of honour, and he would not be beaten off it. page: 274 He used to wait at the — office till the first sheet was printed off—till five in the morning—and often he was so exhausted that he had to be almost carried down the stairs.

For all his violent temper and frightful language, he was able to dominate himself with certain of his staff—two of whom are especially in my mind. They were men of very different calibre and standing. One was the publisher of the paper—an extremely timid man, who looked as if he would have died outright had he been brutalized in any way; but he remained in absolute peace with Mr. Dundas all the time the — lasted, and moved with him to those other offices where the great weekly paper was established; and the other was his co-editor—a sensitive, refined, cultured scholar, whose pride of gentlehood would not have brooked affront nor submitted to insolence. To neither of these, so different as they were but each so valuable, did Mr. page: 275 Dundas ever go beyond the nicest line of moderation; and the last, like the first, held with him to the end, and finally took the sole charge of that sharp-tongued Weekly, when the fiery spirit which had first ruled it was laid to rest under that melancholy monument on the Cornish coast he loved so well.

To me, younger and in some sort defenceless, I confess he was at times exceedingly brutal, though he was substantially kind and did what he could to give me work. But his oaths used to curdle my blood; his violence was at times appalling; and once he forgot forget himself so far as to shake his fist in my face. That was when trouble had come between us; and it may be easily understood that this day saw my last visit to the office. It was the rift which was never mended.

But this furiousness was his habit. He forgot himself in the same way even with page: 276 ladies—witness that well-known scene, when he ran along the platform as the train was moving out of the station, cursing and swearing with all his might at the women he then loved best in the world, because they would not do something he wished.

All the same, he had his grand good points. He was generous and affectionate; utterly devoid of all treacherous instincts; and he bore no malice. He was brutal, if you will; but the core of him was sound; and his fidelity to his friends was very beautiful. With so much that can be said less than laudatory of this fierce Boanerges of the press, it is pleasant to record that which makes for his renown and claims our more tender memories.

I remember two notable crowds in which I found myself in these early days. One was when my old friends the Chartists marched through London twenty thousand strong, and I followed—not as a special page: 277 constable. And the other was when Baron Rothschild addressed the people from the balcony on the day of his futile election. He began his speech by these words:

‘I stand here by the will of the people.’

From the dead silence of the dense throng rose a voice clear and strong:

‘So stood Barabbas!’

But, Barabbas notwithstanding, after a fight of years the Jews won the day; as the Roman Catholics had won theirs before them; and as Agnosticism will also win in the near future.

At this time I went much into society. My social place was that which naturally belongs to a youngster of good birth, who, if he has not quite won his spurs, may yet some day do great things—who knows?—and who has good names at his back. The tower of strength my grandfather the Bishop and my uncle the Dean were to me! What humiliating snobs we are! I became ac- acquainted page: 278 quainted with a few of the leaders of thought already established, and some who were still preparing for the time when they too should lead and no longer follow. Among others, I fell in with that notorious group of Free-lovers, whose ultimate transaction was the most notable example of matrimony void of contract of our day. But though those who floated on the crest of the wave, and whose informal union came to be regarded as a moral merit even by the strait-laced, had the more genius and the better luck, he who made personal shipwreck, and from whose permitted trespass the whole thing started, had the nobler nature, the more faithful heart, the more constant mind, and was in every way the braver and the truer man. The one whom society set itself to honour, partly because of the transcendent genius of his companion, partly because of his own brilliancy and facility, was less solid than specious. page: 279 The other whom all men, not knowing him, reviled, was a moral hero. The former betrayed his own principles when he made capital out of his ‘desecrated hearth’ and bewildered society by setting afloat ingenious stories of impossible ceremonies which had made his informal union in a certain sense sacramental, so that he might fill his rooms with ‘names’ and make his Sundays days of illustrious reception. The latter accepted his position without explanation or complaint, and was faithful to his flag, indifferent to selfish gain or social loss. And whether that flag embodied a right principle or a wrong, his steadfastness was equally admirable, and the constancy which could not be warped for loss or gain was equally heroic.

It must never be forgotten too that he who afterwards posed as the fond husband betrayed by the trusted friend, was, in the days when I first knew them all, the most page: 280 pronounced Free-lover of the group, and openly took for himself the liberty he expressly sanctioned in his wife. As little as he could go into the Divorce Court for his personal relief, because of that condonation and his own unclean hands, so little did he deserve the sympathy of society for the transfer which afterwards he put forward as his own justification and that friend's condemnation.

This I say with absolute knowledge of the whole series of facts, from the beginning. And I say it for sake of the truth and in the interests of justice—though it be but justice to the dead.

At the time when I first knew these people they were living in a kind of family communion that was very remarkable. Sisters and cousins and brothers—some of the women married and with yearly increasing families, to which they devoted themselves; others single, and of general domestic utility all page: 281 round—clubbed together their individually thin resources, and made a kind of family Agapemone which had its charm and its romance. Among them were some who practised no divergence in their own lives, and allowed of none in theory:—such as Samuel Lawrence, who was then vainly giving his strength to discover the Venetian method of colouring; and that handsome Egyptologist, George Gliddon, who might have thrown his handkerchief where he would, but who was true to his first love, and married her when her youth and beauty had long since gone, and only her truth and her lovely nature remained. These and some others went with the broad current of ordinary morality. But also there were, as I have said, certain Free-lovers mingled with the orthodox rest; and of these the most remarkable was that faithful and lovable man, that generous and patient, loyal and devoted friend, of whom I have just spoken, page: 282 and whose individuality many still living will recognise.

I also became as intimate as a son with a father with the most famous poet-scholar of our generation; the ‘old man eloquent,’ whose mind was more Greek than English, and whose hatred of political tyranny on the one side, was balanced by his aristocratic exclusiveness and personal pride on the other. He was of some use to me in helping me to polish my style; and he indoctrinated me with an enduring horror of slang. But the crowning misfortune of my character, intractibility, which has marred so much of my life, prevented my gaining as much as I might by his lessons. I could accept only such things as commended themselves to my own judgment. I could not accept them simply on authority—even his. I therefore profited intellectually by this friendship less than I should have done had my mind been more plastic and more page: 283 apt to subordination. But I gained all the same.

I always look back to the times when I visited Mr. Landor as the most valuable for lessons in self-control. I reverenced him so deeply and loved him so tenderly, and the difference between our ages was so great, that I should as little have thought of contradicting him as I should have thought of irritating a lion. If I did not accept all he said, I never presumed to oppose him; and his fiery temper subdued mine by the very force of my own love and respect. Had he declared that the stars shone at mid-day, I would have answered: ‘Yes, dear father, they do;’ and he would have returned, with his sweet smile: ‘My good Christopher!—my good son!’ Thus his temper, notoriously short in tether and leonine in its wrath as it was, was never once ruffled during the whole of our thirteen years of close and constant friendship; and the self-control I page: 284 was obliged to exercise was of incalculable service to me.

The affection between Mr. Landor and myself was very true and deep, and it began at first sight and through my own enthusiasm. His ‘Imaginary Conversations’ was one of my most cherished books. Edwin gave it to me when he came of age, and I loved it better than all else I had—save Adeline Dalrymple's ‘Shelley.’ When I was introduced to an ill-dressed and yet striking-looking old man—with unbrushed apple-pie boots; a plain shirt-front, like a night-gown, not a shirt; a wisp of faded blue for all kerchief round his neck; his snuff-coloured clothes rumpled and dusty—but an old man with a face full of the majesty of thought, with a compressed mouth capable of the sweetest tenderness, and an air of mental grandeur all through, and was told that he was Mr. Landor—WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR—I broke out page: 285 into an ardent exclamation of joy, and showed such boyish delight as pleased him, and, in a sense, took his heart by storm.

‘And who is this young fellow, who cares so much for an old man?’ he said, holding my hand, and perhaps not understanding what joy it was to me to see in the flesh one of the great gods of my intellectual world.

From that hour the thing was done. I became to him like his own son, and he was my father. And as he loved me in that I was his child as well as his scholar—and loved my love for him as much as he took interest in my professional career—and as we agreed in our abstract politics, and harmonized in our hatred of tyrants—we got on together, as I say, with perfect accord—to the surprise of everyone who knew my dear father-friend's peculiarities of impatience and my own natural indocility.

If some marvelled, others envied. Among these latter was John Forster—that literary page: 286 Ghebir who worshipped all the suns that shone, and grudged that any but himself should bask in their rays. He never forgave me my intimacy with the Samson who had already generously endowed him with the copyright of his books, and whose kindness, he was afraid, would be diverted to me. Probably he thought I was as self-seeking as himself. In the days to come he made me feel his enmity; and of all the queer things in my strange life, one of the queerest is the determination with which he, first, and then subsequent biographers of Mr. Landor, have agreed to ignore my friendship with him. This grudgingness has gone on to the end; and I was deprived of his bequest to me on a plea which was either a false pretence, or an act of selfishness.

In this fair city of palaces, where my dear ‘father-friend’ had made his home, lived a clever old lady who had once been a page: 287 schoolmistress and had written a very pretty little story. She was cleverer than her works; seeming to need the friction of conversation to bring out her own latent fire. She was a picturesque old lady, and always dressed in very light, soft grey with a profusion of white lace. After seventy, she said, all women should dress in light grey and wear much white lace; so, giving the sense of freshness and cleanliness. After fifty and before seventy they ought to wear black. She was a great friend of Mr. Landor's; but she one day offended his susceptibilities, and he broke with her, never to renew his acquaintance. Courteous as he was to women—taking them downstairs and standing bareheaded by the door of their carriages, according to the manners of the old school, and of Italy—he could be as vehement to them as to men when he was offended; and to affront him once was to lose him for ever.

page: 288

My first friend in the city was that learned and fastidious Dr. Devise, who had read too much for any good work of his own to be possible. He had, as it were, smothered his originality by the enormous mass of other men's thoughts with which he had loaded his brain. He was intent on writing a book which should demolish all religious superstition; and he had already been many years about it. The first chapter only was finished. This he had had printed as a ‘brick,’ for private circulation. I cannot say that I was impressed by it. Seeking to be comprehensive, it was wire-drawn and diluted. It read like a list of synonyms, or a catalogue of intellectual processes and in the matter of literary style it was singularly poor.

Dr. Devise was a man who had extreme fascination for some people. One of our greatest celebrities, when in the Ugly Duck stage of her existence and before she had page: 289 joined her kindred Swans, had wanted to dedicate her life to him. But too many other feminine interests were already established to allow of the introduction of an outsider; and the friendship came to a stormy end, after a more than ordinarily ardent beginning. His house was my first sojourning place in Bath; but I annoyed him too, by my confessed preference for the ‘Father’; and I fear he thought me both ungrateful and a fool.

Anyhow, he gave me one of those moral shocks which are the birth-hours of new experience to youth, when, one day, he gently chid me for loving Mr. Landor better than I loved him. Still gentle, but cynical as well as half-compassionate, he went on to remind me that Mr. Landor had no money to leave; that he had even given the copyright of his works to John Forster—as I already knew—and that his very pictures, of which he was so proud, were for the most part rubbish.

page: 290

I never forgave this insinuation. And it did not mend matters when he spoke of his own ampler means, and how he was able both to leave his family well provided for and to remember congenial outsiders into the bargain. I never cared for him after this. At no time of my life have I been self-seeking in friendship; and legacies have come into my calculations as little as the chance of a peerage or an offer of the Garter. And if this be so now, when I have learned the value of money, what was it then, when I was still too young and impulsive to calculate or foresee anything whatever? For all his learning and hospitality and undoubted qualities, there was ever in my mind after this a repugnance to Dr. Devise which lasted to the end.

But I liked his cheerful, patient, blind wife, with her graceful little courtesies, pretty flatteries, and craving for sympathy. And her energetic sister-in-law, with her page: 291 strong brain and heart of purest gold, was ‘Aunt Susan’ to me, as she was to some others. She was a passionate propagandist of freethought, and was never so happy as when giving away the small tracts and bigger books which were her artillery against the strongholds of superstition. Mr. Scott, of Ramsgate, found her a valuable auxiliary; and she welcomed every new light with almost youthful enthusiasm. She was one of the bravest of the morally brave; for she suffered keenly from that kind of local ostracism, consequent on her unorthodox opinions, which in a manner isolated her and reduced her society to a few—fit, if you will, but few all the same. Yet she never relaxed her propagandism, which was as much part of her philanthropy as was her more direct benevolence in the matters of food and flannel; and she dug her own social grave unflinchingly, if with some sighs and not a few heart-aches.

page: 292

Dr. Devise's soft-voiced, fair-skinned daughter was also one of my chosen friends at this time. Her charm lay in her marvellous power of sympathy and almost godlike strength of consolation. She was like a younger daughter of Demeter, in whose soft white arms the troubled might lie and be at rest. In my own dark hour, which came upon me a little later, she was of divine and infinite consolation. And others found in her the exquisite charm that was so patent and potent to me.

A kind of outlying member of this remarkable group was a certain refined and thoughtful man who was in those days the ideal poet and student—as he is now the ideal scholar and philosopher. He was of all the men known to me one of the most graceful in mind, most cultivated in intellect, most modest in bearing, most accurate in learning, and of the purest kind of morale incarnate in human form. He was page: 293 then in Orders. Subsequently he broke his chains and came out into freedom and the light.

There were also two learned sisters who lived near my doctor friend, and carried to him a chilly worship like incense smouldering in a censer of ice. They awed me by their fearful superiority. They were women who had the most extraordinary power of dwarfing all other pretensions and degrading you both in your own esteem and in the eyes of others. And they used this power unsparingly. They had not lived down the softer follies and tender frailties of youth, for they had never had any to live down, being of the tribe of the ‘unco' guid’—the ‘prigs in petticoats’—from the beginning. Self-centred, bloodless, intellectual, sarcastic, unemotional, they had no sympathy with the sorrows which sprung from passion and no compassion for failure. They were like a couple of old Egyptian page: 294 goddesses shot through with Voltaire—Pasht for the one, the Sphinx for the other—while behind the mask of each peered the keen satirical and mocking face of the author of ‘Candide.’ They thought me abominable, and I thought them dreadful; and there was always war between us, such as Tieck or Hoffmann would have made between a couple of Ice-maidens and the Fire-king.

Here, I made the acquaintance of Mr. Empson, that pre-historic æsthete who did his best to create a taste for minor ornamentation by skilfully combined and original adaptations, and whose bric-à-brac shop was a favourite lounge with the best people in Bath. My dear old ‘father’ was frequently there, and I with him. Mr. Empson was eager for lengths of old brocades with which to line the covers of his more valuable books, or to drape as curtains about his statuettes. He was wonderfully sleek and silky in his page: 295 manners; but I saw the reverse of the polished medal when, one day, he turned on me with a sudden outburst of astounding ferocity, because I compassionated him for some rheumatic ailment of which he complained.

‘How can you, a strong young fellow in the beautiful morning of life, care for what an old man like me suffers? I hate humbug!’ he said savagely.

On which I fired up and told him that he was both impolite and inhuman, and that he had no right to question my sincerity unless he had found me already less than honest. But these sleek, silky, smooth-mannered people are so often savage when touched beneath the skin!

Then I knew the charming family of that delightful Irish actor who went down in the ill-fated President. The mother had a mania for birds and small dogs, and the girls were among the prettiest in Bath. page: 296 They were of three distinct types—‘petillante,’ statuesque, elfin—Rosina, Galatea, Fenella; and each was perfect in her kind.

There was also one man of whom I will only say that I thought him then, and I think him now, one of the Best I have ever known—one of those who make the honour of their generation, and who help to keep society sweet and pure, because entirely governed by principle. With him it was religious principle, which he translated into practical and vital morals. He and my brother Godfrey stand side by side under the measuring standard of human worth. The one has touched the heights by faith, the other by honour. The one has learned self-command by obedience, the other by self-respect. Neither could commit a dishonourable action, were the noose knotted and life to be the forfeit; but the one would gather his strength from religion, the other from heroism—the one would die page: 297 with the fervour of a martyr, the other with the fortitude of a Stoic.

All the same, differences of method notwithstanding, they stand shoulder to shoulder on the green plot of human nobleness; and no one can say that the one is higher than the other—the one better or braver or stronger than the other. They have come to the same point by different roads; and the modes of faith for which graceless zealots fight are emphatically of no account with such as these, whose lives are so eminently in the right.

no next