Mid-Victorian Memories I.

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MATILDA BARBARA BETHAM-
EDWARDS

1837-1919.

A PERSONAL SKETCH BY MRS. SARAH GRAND.


IT is sad to think that the busy little hand which penned Mid-Victorian Memories will write no more, sad to think that the writer is numbered now herself among our "Memories."

    A melancholy interest attaches to the publication of a last book.  Ours is the disappointment of the author.  Delight in the doing consists largely in expectation of publication, the crowning moment of achievement.  It is hard to be robbed of that moment, and we feel it the harder in this instance because we know how much it would have meant to our friend.  She had so looked forward to the event!  It might have been her first book, she was so impatient to see it in print.  Or she may perhaps have had a presentiment that it was to be her last, and was anxious to lose no time.  She had none of the conceit which masks itself in affected indifference to the public reception of a book.  A sympathetic review elated, a spiteful one depressed her.  But these were passing effects.  What she treasured in her heart were the congratulations of her friends.  And she might well and did rejoice in a letter of thanks and approval from Mr. Frederic Harrison, Henry James, and other eminent friends—though not more than she rejoiced in the response of the undistinguished to whom she had presented copies, provided the undistinguished were dear to her.  In regard to the worth of criticism she was discriminating, but she valued cordiality for its own sake, as a measure of affection.  At eighty-two and still in harness, still keenly alive intellectually and with all her faculties intact, her record itself courted congratulations, of which she would have had good reason to be proud.  Alas! for those who loved her that it had to be not flowers at her feet, but funeral wreaths In Remembrance, and at heart the sorrowful sense of "Too late."

    She was wont to regret that she had not instantly recorded her own first impressions of the many interesting people she had met: "Don't make my mistake, or you will be sorry for it," she often advised.  "Think of Boswell!"

    But thinking of Boswell was not persuasive.

    A man's best work may soon be put out of date by his successors who improve upon it.  Generally speaking, fame lives longest on personality, and personality depends for its preservation on the biographer's power of presentation.  The tap-root of Johnson's fame is his personality; on that he still lives, and Boswell planted it.  If there had been no Boswell there would have been little left of Johnson by this time.  But who ever wants to be a Boswell?  Boswell himself was the enemy of Boswellism.  His own personality discounts the credit of his industry, and besmirches its character.  We are obliged to him, but we neither like nor respect him.  Still, most of us live to regret that we did not keep a modest diary of events.  It would have saved us remorse for lost opportunities.

    One deterrent is the difficulty of recognising in time among our many "lawful occasions," all so little different, which is an opportunity not to be lost.  Recording each as it occurred for fear of missing the one which will eventually prove to have been important, would make huge inroads on our precious time.  First meetings seem ordinary enough at the moment; it is subsequent events that make them memorable.  Usually they take place on social occasions, when nothing very arresting happens.  So-and-so, of whom we had heard, is casually presented, and is very much what we expected—or quite different.  Venerable cliché's are exchanged.  He or she may attract or may repel us.  Involuntarily we make mental notes, but attach no importance to them.  Memory deals capriciously with involuntary mental notes to which we have attached no importance; there is no counting on what it will single out for distinction and retain, or what let slip; its values are unexpected, and it plays us the oddest tricks.

    Glancing at a newspaper one day years ago I chanced to see a letter "To the Editor," signed M. BETHAM-EDWARDS.  The writer had mentioned me as "my friend, Sarah Grand."  Her name was familiar, but I had no recollection of ever having met her.  I took her friendliness to be the kindly recognition of a newcomer as a colleague by one looking down from the heights, and thought no more about it.  Then came a note from her.  She was staying at the Wellington Hotel, Tunbridge Wells, after an illness, to recruit, and had heard from her old friend Mr. Hale White ("Mark Rutherford") that I was at home, and she proposed to pay me a visit—"if it please you, and you will kindly name a convenient day and hour.  I always remember with pleasure our first meeting."

    I still thought she must be mistaken about our ever having met.

    Feeling it proper that I should first pay my respects to a distinguished woman of the previous generation, I went at once to leave a card on her, not expecting to be received, but she sent a messenger hurrying after me as I left the hotel, to call me back.  She was standing when I was shown into her sitting-room, and greeted me warmly, but with restraint.  Sincerity of feeling is like water, still on the surface when it runs deep.  There was no mistaking her "I am glad to see you" for conventional politeness.  She was genuine, that was my first impression.

    I can see the little lady as she looked at that moment, her abundant grey hair coiled high on the crown of her head, and cleverly arranged so as to conceal the too great height of her forehead, her grey eyes full of interest, a half smile on her lips; and I recalled my uncomfortable feeling in regard to my own height, as I looked down on her, that I was all out of proportion.  It seemed assuming, to be so much bigger in the flesh than a woman who was so much bigger than myself in a finer way.  The only detail of her dress on this occasion that I remember is the violet button she was entitled to wear as an Officier de I'Instruction Publique de France.

    Now that we were face to face I was sure that I had seen her before, but how and when and where?

    When she had seated me to her satisfaction on the only comfortable chair in the room—it took some little time, for I was so ill-advised as to dispute my right to it, not knowing then that a favoured friend whom she delighted to honour by forcing him or her (generally him) into the seat she should by rights have taken herself, was obliged heroically to endure to see her uncomfortably perched while he or she sat at ease, as the only way to please her,—when I had given in for the same reason, she effectively recalled the circumstance of our first meeting, and at the same time unwittingly made me feel ashamed of having thought nothing of an incident which she had so graciously cared to remember: "I have been hoping to see more of you ever since that memorable dinner when I sat next to you," she said.

    The words "memorable dinner" acted like pressure on the button of an electric bell—or was it thought-transference!  Anyway, there flashed into my mind as in a picture, the details of a complimentary public dinner-party in London, pillars and paint and gilding and mirrors; long tables loaded with plate and glass and cutlery and flowers and fruit; seated guests, jostling waiters; corks popping, wine fizzing and frothing; distracting clatter of knives, forks, plates, and musical instruments; the dominating roar of voices —and the little lady herself, seated beside me, placidly making the best of it.

    "I remember," I said.

    I remembered perfectly.

    The man who was to have taken her in to dinner had not been able to keep his engagement, so it happened that there was an empty chair between us.  It would be incorrect to say that she broke the ice, for she gave it no time to form.  I should have hesitated to speak first, partly out of respect for her age, but mostly because by that time I had been taught by sundry unpleasant experiences in London crushes not to take the liberty of speaking to unknown females met haphazard, even at private entertainments.  But she was well-bred.  She summed me up with a glance as she seated herself, then, leaning across the empty chair, she said easily, pleasantly, in the tone and manner of one who accepts her fellow-guests as equals for the time being and expects to be treated with the same courtesy, tapping the chair as she spoke: "Shall we have this obstruction removed?"  We had it removed and drew our chairs close together, and immediately it was as if I had met an old acquaintance, who, without being curious, was interested in all I chose to tell her concerning myself, and took it for granted that I should return the compliment.  I remember my reply when I was asked afterwards whom I had sat next "at the big feed": "A bonny-looking, little elderly gentlewoman, with all her wits about her.  Cultivated.  The real thing—'old-fashioned courtesy' and all."

    Even then courtesy, which makes the whole difference between grace and charm in social intercourse and the manners of a rabble, was called "old fashioned," and was beginning to attract the kind of attention that would be paid to a sedan chair in the street, or any other revival of an obsolete custom.

    She looked at me with a little enigmatical smile when I answered, "I remember," into which my conscience read, "I wonder if you do."

    "I couldn't think who you were," she proceeded; but I inquired and was told, after we parted.  Did you know me?"

    "No, but I know you now," I confidently plunged.  "You are My Brother's Wife, and a great many other things."

    "Apt in regard to My Brother's Wife, but wholly incorrect," she answered drily, and paused, then added, with a resigned little shrug: "'Twas ever thus!  You mistake me for my cousin Amelia Blandford Edwards.  Naturally.  I am moonlight to her sunshine.  Our two Bs—Blandford, Betham—caused confusion.  We each clung to her B, though we were advised to drop it, one of us.  Francis Power Cobbe used to say that we both had Bs in our bonnets.  I don't suppose Amelia was troubled with congratulations on being the author of my books.  It was monotonously the other way.  And I can't say I liked it.  Or like it even now."

    "Pity me, then," I said.

    "What for?"

    "It hurts to have hurt."

    "It hurts to have hurt," she repeated reflectively, questioning the statement, and paused; then, with a wince, "It does hurt," she confessed.

    "Then we are quits?" I suggested.

    Whereupon she decided to laugh.

    The little conscientious pause to make sure of what she thought of an unexpected proposition was habitual.  She was gleg enough at the uptake on occasion, but always, if she had to choose between sincerity and "smartness," the telling repartee promptly delivered or the homely truth on reflection, she reflected.

    "Quits then it is," I ventured.  "Now we are friends?"

    "Sportswomen, eh?"  She made a comical attempt to adapt herself to the genus.  "Well, I'm game—if that's the right jargon.  Here's my hand on it, and we'll wet the bargain."

    The bargain was wetted in tea.

    There was never any restraint after that, never the least disagreeable difference.

    To be met again and again, as she had been all through her career, by new acquaintances, with compliments intended for her showier cousin, when she had so good a right to be known for admirable work of her own, was enough to set up a chronic sore sufficiently painful to make her wince at a touch.  The wonder was that it had not changed her feeling for her cousin.  It had not.  She delighted in Amelia's beauty, her versatility, her achievements, and spoke and wrote of her to the last with the greatest affection.

    I had nothing subsequently to alter and little to add to my first impression of Miss Betham-Edwards.  She was always the same, courteous, responsive, gentle, punctilious, and essentially sincere, a typical English gentlewoman of the old school.  One would rather not date her so, but there is nowhere else to place such women in these rude times, when the conceit of education by promoting tawdry-minded self-assertiveness, and the decline of culture, too often combine in effect to produce so different a type.  It is an ugly phase, but only a phase surely.  The intrinsic value and beauty of the grace and charm of mind and manners which were the aim of culture in her day cannot be lost.  There will be a revival of taste eventually in favour of refinement, as in the case of treasures of art which have been rediscovered by successors to the generation that was insensible to their merits, and had cast them aside as of no account.

    In breeding, in culture, in appearance, and in refinement Miss Betham-Edwards was an Englishwoman of the best type—improved by a dash of French blood and intimate association with the French themselves in France.  She had none of the stiffness and angularity which so often make Englishwomen repellent.  She was delightfully French in her daintiness, her self-forgetfulness, her show of sympathetic interest in and habit of giving her undivided attention to the person she addressed.  And naturally.  She did not pose, did not affect to be French either by gesticulating or interlarding her conversation with French phrases—though she often wrote them.  She had no mannerisms, but she had little ways of her own and was "set in them" (as we say in the north), and one had to give in to them.  She would have things done regularly and in order, in the same order each time, and it did not do to upset it.  She was upwards of sixty when I first met her, with a neat figure, and tiny hands and feet.  One never thought of her as an old woman, she was so mentally alert, so wonderfully in possession of every faculty.  Judging by her early portraits she was one of those fortunate women whom age embellishes.  The years gave her more than they took.  They left her her delicate complexion and abundant hair, improved her mouth, made her eyes less brightly observant but more sympathetic, and softened her expression with kindliness.  She must always have been nice looking, and finally she was pretty.

    The instinct of self-preservation was marked in her.  She remained efficient to the last by resolutely economising her strength.  She tended her faculties like children, clothing them, feeding them, exercising them, and putting them to bed punctually.  The morning was her time for work, and of late years she limited herself to two hours a day.  It was astonishing how much she accomplished in this short time by strict regularity.  By the end of the year she had always more to show than younger and more vigorous writers of her acquaintance, who only worked by fits and starts when they felt in the mood.  Against "mood" she gave it as her own experience that l'appetit vient en mangeant, and instanced Anthony Trollope and Sir Walter Scott.  Excellent advice provided the writer who is favoured with flashes of inspiration destroys all that he writes when he is not feeling inspired.  Mood is naturally a vagrant, but amenable to discipline; let it rule you and there is no counting upon it; but put it into harness, break it in with whip and spur at your writing-table for a stipulated time every day, and it will end as an obedient servant, ready to respond when it should be on duty.  There is no exception to the rule which makes for production of any kind; it is always most haste least speed; bursts of energy culminate in exhaustion and are followed by prolonged intervals of idleness, and the tortoise wins the race while the hare is asleep.

    Miss Betham-Edwards lived by rule, and the result justified the habit.  She was Spartan in her self-denial, and would forego the pleasure of a visit to a friend if the arrangements to which she was accustomed could not be carried out.  Latterly her acceptance of invitations was frankly conditional.  She went yearly to stay with two French friends near Paris up to the time of their death, but after that the only visits she paid were to a friend at Oxford and to our mutual friend Miss Tindall at Tunbridge Wells.  This visit should properly have been to me, but when we came to consult about the little lady's entertainment, I felt bound to resign my prior right in consideration of the many advantages she would enjoy at Hollyshaw that could not be procured for her at my house in the town.

    I remember that before her first visit to Hollyshaw an acquaintance warned Miss Tindall that she was as exacting as a Royal Personage, and gave examples of her requirements with the comment that one experience of her as a guest would be enough.  But Miss Tindall was not to be daunted.  Indeed, it was rather with interest than with trepidation that she prepared for the visit.  She expected surprises, but she did not anticipate more trouble than it would be a pleasure to take for the comfort of a friend whom she loved and respected.  It may seem that the older acquaintance who warned her was justified, but she was wrong in her forecast of the result of the experiment.  Miss Tindall's hospitality survived the test, and the invitation was repeated as often as the necessary conditions for a visit could be made.

    Acting on the suggestion, Miss Tindall decided to prepare for that first visit as for a Royal Personage, by writing to ask what her expected guest desired for her entertainment and comfort; but Miss Betham-Edwards anticipated her, and their letters crossed.  The characteristic touches in Miss Betham-Edwards' letter are worth preserving.  She wrote:


VILLA JULIA, HASTINGS,

4/9/12.


DEAR RACHEL MARY,—I will arrive to-morrow with E. [Emily] in time (I hope) for tea, i.e. at Tunbridge Wells by 4.30, and both mistress and maid are looking forward to the visit.  Will you, in view of my age and infirmities, excuse me for asking you to let me have cotton, unlavendered sheets on my bed, and only well-worn blankets, the scent of new blankets being very trying to me, also the scent of lavendered sheets.

    Also may I ask for dark curtains to the windows, as I like to exclude every particle of light at night.  And again, as I should hardly like to bring it with me, may I say that the only wine I drink by medical orders is a glass of very light Chablis at lunch.

    And, lastly, will you excuse me if I cannot partake of any good things at your table, being only able to eat the plainest of plain nursery fare, no delicacies whatever.

    Pray forgive these particulars, it is on account of them that I have only been able to accept the hospitality of two old friends since my breakdown six years ago.  But I feel sure that you will understand how impossible it is for me to do as younger and less worn-out folks do.

    Kindest love to self and grand Sarah.  Yours ever, M. B.-E.


    The following is a Bill of Wants she furnished subsequently for her hostess's guidance:

Kindly asked for particulars of M. B.-E.'s wants:—

    "Chablis at dinner, (I always make dinner of other folks' lunch).

    "Cotton sheets and not linen on bed.

    "Dark curtains on windows.

    "Diet—of the nursery order, i.e. plainest of the plain, no kind of delicacies, and only plain and very stale cakes.

    "For supper a slice of cold mutton, lamb, or chicken.  Game I never touch, do. entrées, creams, etc., all taboo."

    "Isn't that considerate?" Miss Tindall remarked on these precautions.  "It would save me many qualms of doubt and anxiety on the subject of my guests' comfort if they would all tell me as frankly what they object to and would like."

    Immediately on their arrival Miss Betham-Edwards' beloved maid Emily (beloved by us all, for that matter, in gratitude for the years during which she smoothed the way for our friend by taking on herself every trouble in life of which it was possible to relieve her)—Emily had to set to work to arrange the room her lady had of necessity to occupy at Hollyshaw, to suit her taste,—a hard task considering the difference between the large apartment with its big bay window looking out upon tree-sheltered gardens and meadows, and the cloistered simplicity of the little bedroom at home which was her ideal of what a bedroom should be.  Brightness and tranquillity were what she had aimed at when she furnished it.  She had had it papered with golden yellow to give it brightness.  Neither pictures nor ornaments would she have, because they caught the eye and gave food for thought, which disturbed the mind.  Perfect uniformity, she held, was the secret of tranquillity.

    Emily did her best at Hollyshaw to prevent mental distraction by covering certain glossy articles of furniture and all the mirrors with shawls and rugs brought for the purpose.  What the servants thought of the room when she had done with it can be imagined.  It looked like a gipsy campment.

    Then it appeared that Miss Betham-Edwards was peculiarly sensitive to noise.  She could not endure a sound in the house from the time she retired to her room for the night until she was about again next day.  This difficulty was tackled at once and bravely overcome.  At 6 o'clock every evening shutters were closed, curtains drawn, doors locked, and all the racket of shutting up done for the night; and for the rest of the evening, every one playing up gallantly, not a voice was raised and only the stealthiest movements were made all over the house.  Next morning, much to the gardeners' annoyance, their usual early work of rolling the terrace beneath the lady's windows, mowing the lawns, and tidying up generally was stopped, while, indoors, shutters were not opened or curtains drawn until she was known to be awake.  Miss Tindall too, in the next room, denying herself the early morning freshness and sunshine, waited patiently in darkness for fear that the rattle of rings on curtain poles and the opening of windows to push back Venetian shutters, should disturb her guest: "And it was worth it," Miss Tindall said.

    For never did hostess have a more delightful visitor—she was such good company, so punctilious, so kindly considerate, so appreciative of the least little service.  After her visit she would send a message of thanks and a book to every member of that large household, not one was forgotten.  And at Christmas each again received a dainty little present from her.  She had that grace of nature which commands the heart, and, although "nobody had ever seen such goings on," the maids had vied with each other in their desire to please her, conforming as punctually and pleasantly as she did herself to all that was unaccustomed in the strict ritual prescribed for each day.

    When at Hollyshaw it was her habit to pay her respects to her hostess the first thing in the morning by sending Emily to deliver the formula: "Miss Betham-Edwards' love, and she would like to see Miss Tindall in her room, any time after half-past nine, if Miss Tindall is at liberty."  Miss Tindall made a point of being at liberty.  This was the time at which they had their most delightful talks together, for the dear old lady, strengthened by her night's rest and stimulated by her breakfast, was then at her best.

    The small lady had dignity, the dignity which is founded on self-respect and sustained by the respect accorded to it.  She "received" with a becoming sense of her own importance as sufficient to render her immediate surroundings of no account.  Not that there was anything in her surroundings that needed an apology.  The effect of the "gipsy encampment" was not disorderly but decorative.  The room was always well-aired, and the little fire, which she had to have whatever the time of year, brightened it and was appropriate as a finishing touch.  Everything about her was dainty and fresh, and she herself in the midst of it was like a little queen holding her court.  She would be attired in a beautiful wrapper, with her hair carefully dressed, and on her writing-table the materials for the work she was engaged upon, manuscripts or proofs, would be neatly laid out.  This was not a hint to be brief.  She liked to dilate upon what she was doing, to give the outline of a story, to read a proof aloud and consult about it.  She liked to hear what you thought; but she would have it her own way if your opinion differed from hers.

    One morning Miss Tindall was "received" in great perturbation.  Cows had been introduced into the meadow opposite the house!  During the night? . . . or since she came, Miss Betham-Edwards was sure.  But it must have been recently, for they had not disturbed her.

    The inference that she confidently expected to be disturbed by them reduced Miss Tindall to despair.  The cows were not under her control and she had no power to order them off.  But it turned out to be her rest that was broken—by dread of their lowing.  For the cows proved to be real ladies.  Miss Betham-Edwards herself acknowledged at the end of her visit that they were well-behaved cows, and had been most considerate.

    It may be mentioned as an instance of how much sensitive people can do to save themselves suffering by controlling their nerves instead of humouring them and insisting on having them humoured, till they are like children spoilt by being given too much of their own way,—that during her last visit to Hollyshaw, in 1917, Miss Betham-Edwards had evidently been relieved of a good deal of her nervous horror of noise.  It was a case of what can't be cured must be endured.  The war had obliged her to accommodate herself to a medley of strange sounds, and on this occasion she was able to bear, with at least outward equanimity, even the distracting din made by a party of buglers in training, all at the same time practising different notes and calls, a daily trial of patience calculated to wring expletives from a Christian martyr.

    The next item of the day's ritual, after the morning reception, was the drive before lunch.  Punctually to the minute—the little lady was never a moment late for anything—she would come down ready dressed and be piloted across the slippery parquet of the hall by Emily to the carriage.  She begged that Emily might be allowed to accompany her, the drive would be such a pleasure to Emily, and what was good for the mistress was good for the maid.  She preferred to sit with her back to the horses, with Emily seated opposite, beside Miss Tindall, so that she could see them both.  She kept up a lively conversation.  Everything interested her, nothing escaped her.  She revelled in the beauty of the day, of the landscape, of dark fir woods, of giant forest trees, solitary survivors in the hedgerows, dominating the fields in splendid isolation.  But her enjoyment of the scenery did not blind her to the condition of insanitary cottages or evidences of the wasteful neglect of good land.  Miss Tindall remembers one specially dramatic occasion after an election when her guest's democratic gorge rose vigorously against aristocratic domination in general and iniquitous landlords in particular, who kept the peasantry in a state of serfdom mitigated by doles at Christmas.  Fortunately it did not occur to her as incongruous to use that particular carriage both for her own enjoyment and as a pulpit from which to denounce the extravagance and luxury of the rich; otherwise there might have been an end to the great benefit her health was deriving in a manner not consistent with her principles.

    When she had expended her eloquence and reduced herself to a temporary state of exhaustion she would say to Emily, "Now, Emily, say your little piece to Miss Tindall," and Emily would ask, "Which piece, ma'am?"  "Oh, you know," she was reminded, "the one about . . .," and the subject would be given, whereupon Emily obligingly complied.  "Very nice," she was invariably applauded, with a gracious little bow, accompanied by the enigmatical smile.

    At luncheon the little lady shone in conversation delightfully, as though the drive had sharpened her wits as well as her appetite.  One of the items on the list of "Kindly asked for particulars" was "Chablis at dinner (I always make my dinner at other folks' lunch)."  She drank her Chablis out of a little ruby-red tumbler of her own which she always brought with her.  Doubtless it had a history, but she never told us it.  What with slow eating and much talk luncheon was a lengthy function, but it did not seem so to us.  Some of her friends thought her conversation better than her books, yet she spoke as she wrote.  The difference was in the reading; she should be read as she spoke.  Those who knew her voice hear her in every phrase.  Her later style in writing was sprinkled with preciosity and became somewhat archaic.  Early impressions are sharpest, and hers prevailed in her later years.  The influences that formed her mind gradually became apparent in her style.

    "My first educators—could any of mortal born choose better?—were the Bible, Shakespeare and Milton," she tells us in her Reminiscences.  "Next after this triune splendour, this matchless trinity, come Walter Scott, the Spectator and Tatler, Don Quixote (Smollett's translation), the Arabian Nights, The Vicar of Wakefield, Gulliver's Travels, and Boswell's Johnson."  But her own charm graced their language as she spoke it and made all that she said seem pleasing and appropriate and natural.  "Her voice, too," as she herself wrote of a young Quakeress friend of her youth, "was one of uncommon sweetness and feeling, and she spoke with an ease, clearness, and precision that deserve the name of an accomplishment."  There was no mistaking "simplicity for baldness" in her case; she suggested more than she said.  And it deserves to be noted as a distinction rare in clever men and women, that she never bored one by "talking clever" all the time.  Any subject was grist to her mill, from Welt-politik to the last fad in dress.  When she talked about books she talked well, thanks to her excellent memory and extensive reading.  She cared more for human nature than for abstract ideas.  Men and women were more to her than their achievements.  The personality of the worker came first, and Herbert Spencer himself appeared in her conversation as of greater importance than Synthetic Philosophy.  She would soon pass on from the book that was under discussion to anecdotes about the author, or inquiries, if he were new to her.  She took his character and appearance into account to explain his ideas, as on one occasion when she trenchantly observed of a man whose works and ways she detested: "What better could be expected of a glutton who looked like a camel with a monkey's head."

    She would never monopolise the conversation; a fair give and take was her principle.  Her friends would rather have listened to her, but she was for drawing them out.  She had the gift.  And that other good gift too, in a listener, of making the speaker happy in the belief that she was finding what he had to say worth hearing.

    So the luncheon—her great meal of the day—was a rite to be enjoyed from start to finish.  It was as if conversation were the object, and eating an incident.  The leisurely consumption of the "Diet —of the nursery order, i.e., plainest of the plain, no kind of delicacy," was suspended when she spoke and only resumed as a profitable pastime in silent intervals, like a piece of work a busy woman ventures to "get on with" in company, because it does not distract her attention.  A congenial man added to the luncheon-party had a pronounce effect as a stimulant to mind and memory.  One such man, a budding author, young and good-looking, asked to meet her, thanked his hostess afterwards "for the treat."  "One does not often meet a woman so altogether charming," he said.  Her age had not affected him as in most cases it would have affected a young man in regard to a woman; like the rest of us, he had not thought of her as old.

    After luncheon she would retire to her room to rest until tea-time, for then she would reappear in drawing-room, herself with "only plain, very stale cakes," provided according to order.  Then I came on duty to take her for her afternoon walk on her favourite asphalt path.  There she enjoyed the shelter of the high hedge on the one hand and the view on the other—the old trees, the delicious green of a rich meadow sprinkled with flowers, a glimpse of gardens, and, beyond all, the hilly ground rising gently to the sky.  Often her eyes were lovingly turned to the prospect—the same prospect on which George Meredith's eyes once dwelt, doubtless as lovingly.  These were good times for me.  Sometimes she introduced subjects on which she knew that we differed, stating her own point of view dispassionately, for the purpose of hearing mine.  She had no desire to convert me.  She was one of the signatories of the first petition to Parliament for the enfranchisement of women, but afterwards changed her views and became a passive opponent of the movement.  Taking no part in public affairs herself, she had never come up against that bar to progress, "the dead brick wall," of which such great reformers as Josephine Butler, Frances Power Cobbe, Sophia Jex Blake, and her own particular friend Madame Bodichon, complained that it blocked the efforts of women in every direction, and would do so until they procured its only leveller, the vote.  Why exactly she had changed her mind she never explained.  The remarkable women who first headed the movement were her particular friends and had probably carried her along with them, and it may be that afterwards, when time and distance separated her from them, being no longer under their immediate influence and unhampered in her own personal work for want of the vote, her desire for the enfranchisement of women had lapsed insensibly into unfriendly indifference.  The friends she had cared for and respected most were among the prophets, but she had no vocation herself for the fate of a prophet in his own country.  The part of onlooker and impartial critic suited her best, though latterly, in regard to women, she was not impartial.  Probably, as her retrospect lengthened, distance had produced the usual effect, and recalling the picked women she had under close observation in her youth, she unfairly compared them, minus their faults, with ordinary modern women whose faults were still too prominently in evidence to be ignored.  At any rate, her opinion of women had changed for the worse in the course of time, and during the war the more proof women gave of their worth as citizens the less faith she had in them.  She acknowledged that women answer to expectation; but she argued that you could only expect what you had discovered in them, and that experience, by confirming her own views of their pettiness, made it impossible for expectation to remedy their defects.

    But it was not often that she argued about anything.  She disliked controversial subjects and disposed of them arbitrarily.  Her friends knew better than to persist, but strangers ventured and were summarily dealt with.  Her temper was quick, but under control, just a flash and over; but in that flash she got home a touch of caustic neatly.

    Her sense of humour was always on the alert and her laughter spontaneous, yet one was not "sure to enjoy a good laugh" in her company.  She was rather more apt to be quietly witty than to provoke laughter, in a tête-à-tête, but she was always interesting.  Naturally, when we were alone together, "shop" was a favourite topic.  The fertility of her mind seemed inexhaustible.  She carried any number of plans for work clearly arranged in her head—subjects for essays, plots for novels, short stories, and poems.  She could relate a short story she intended to write as though she were repeating it by heart.  Had it been taken down at the moment there would have been little or nothing to alter.  She expected as much of me—vainly.  Sometimes a halting attempt stirred her to help me.  She had been kindly interested in a book of mine which was designed to have a sequel, and one day on the asphalt path, by way of spurring me on to work, she gave me what she supposed would be my plot.  There was no resemblance.  It was like listening to some one who had been misinformed about the doings of friends with whom I had kept in close touch.  I knew she was mistaken, yet her circumstantial account implanted a doubt in my mind as to which of us were really the better informed.  In effect, it disturbed my certainty without convincing me of error, and the sequel was never written.

    At six o'clock she retired to her room for the night, and was no more seen, except by the invaluable Emily.  Her last simple meal—"For supper, a slice of cold mutton, lamb, or chicken.  Game I never touch, do. entrées, creams, etc., all taboo" was sent up to her.  She spent the evening in reading or in being read to by Emily.  Occasionally she would write an urgent letter or a post card, but she rigorously forbore even to look at the work she was engaged upon at the moment, once she had put it away for the day.

    Her reading was habitually determined by the quality of print and paper.  Small print or bad paper she would not look at.  "I have my eyes to consider," she said, and she had considered them to such good purpose that her oculist complimented her eyes at eighty on being as good as they were at sixty.  She was for having readers strike against bad paper and print for the sake of their eyes—"not to mention their poor brains, which become congested when their eyes are strained to close attention.  Middle-aged readers are the principal buyers of books, therefore too valuable an asset for the publisher to trifle with.  If only they would abstain from reading anything but good type, there would soon be an end of mean economy in print and paper."

    After a visit our little lady was wont to write to her hostess immediately on reaching home, another "old-fashioned" all but obsolete custom which had its uses and its beauties.  The following extracts from a letter written after her last visit to Hollyshaw are typical of the punctilious exactness of her acknowledgments:


VILLA JULIA, 11/9/17.


MY DEAR RACHAEL MARY,—Safe home and all the better for your kind hospitality—shall be all the (bodily) better for your most generous hamper of fruit.  I feel filled with the fine air of your woods and with the fine shifting harmonies of forest scenery.  Kindly destroy Nannie L. S.'s letter and—if you think well—hand on enclosed to lady reciter.  Best love to grand Sarah and on yr knees beg her to keep herself warm. . . . I will also send you—as you like the house decently found in books—one or two of mine in the nice per 3d. editions.  I shall try to act on your suggestion and arrange for 3/6 eds. of the best.  The difficulty is that the original publisher came to grief or the house changed hands . . . so that I have no interest on their part and no series into which the books would fall naturally. . . No more to-day except to add Emily's heartfelt thanks for all your kindness and also for the kind attention of your household.—Ever affectly yrs,                                                            MATILDA BARBARA.


    "The Nannie L. S." she mentions was Miss Leigh Smith, sister of Barbara Leigh Smith, the Madame Bodichon who figured with great distinction in the history of her times and in George Eliot's correspondence and Miss Betham-Edwards' Reminiscences.  The charm of Madame Bodichon's personality, so often lovingly dwelt on in the records of her friends, could be well imagined by those who had the pleasure of knowing her sister, Miss Leigh Smith, whose loss, alas! is being mourned as I write.  She was a great lady.  And good.  The "enclosed" mentioned in Miss Betham-Edwards' letter, which Miss Tindall was to "hand on to the lady reciter"—"if you think well"—was from Miss Leigh Smith, who was one of the party on the occasion, and unconsciously showed something of her lovely self worth preserving, in a few lines she wrote to "my dearest Milly" afterwards.  "Lovely" is here used in the American sense, but even in old age it applied to her physical no less truly than to her inward and spiritual grace.

    "Here I am," she wrote, "and up to the ears in duties—first a blind woman to provide for—and lots of other things, so forgive furious haste.

    "I send a clever poem, copied by Janet Crowe, which may please the gifted reciter who delighted us all on Sunday—if you will pass it on to her.

    "My best thanks to Miss Tindall for so kindly admitting me to her charming gathering—and also in allowing my Bernadine (her Italian maid) to have the delight of seeing her most beautiful garden . . . ."

    The "gifted reciter" was our friend Miss Marie Shedlock, who that day (as usual) had generously given us of her best both in French and English.

    Recollections of a friend stand not upon the order of their coming, and it is best to take them as they come.  There is less in life to be had for the satisfaction of the heart than of the intellect; the intellect is being catered for incessantly, but the heart, nowadays, is usually sent empty away.  And it is the heart that is all-important.  We owe more to our friends for their kindness than for their cleverness, and the friends of our hearts whom we lose remain more to us, in death as in life, than the works they leave to us.  In thinking of them it is the little distinctive traits which endeared them to us that recur most vividly.  The aim of this sketch is to be a portrait of the woman.  "Speaking likenesses" are composed of details, trivial in themselves, but necessary for the whole effect.  The method is to be defended in the interests of truth.  A few sweeping strokes give but a general impression which, like most generalisation, is as often as not erroneous; and the one-sided view of a profile suppresses too much that is of value to be the right kind of half which is better than the whole.  Cromwell was right to have his warts painted in; it would not have been Cromwell without them.  If the portrait fails of its effect it is not the method but the artist that is at fault, and his excuse may be that the attempt was worth while.

    The great moments of life are generally seized upon for a portrait.  They may be striking, but they are not representative.  Homely circumstances are the test of permanent character; exceptional occasions call for exceptional acts.  Habits differ from circumstances in that they may be the outcome either of character or of principle.  This makes it dangerous to be inexact in depicting them; there is the danger of giving a wholly wrong and unjust impression.  Miss Betham-Edwards' habits, in so far as they differ from the ordinary, were the outcome both of character and of principle.  It is a virtue to mind one's own business; her business was authorship, and she minded it consistently.  It is a virtue to be thorough, and she could only be thorough by living for her work on principle.  This necessitated rules of life.  She turned her instinct of self-preservation to account solely for the benefit of her work.  If she has been made to appear selfish in this she has been misrepresented.  The selfishness would have been in those who expected her, for their convenience, to be false to her principles by altering the habits which enabled her to live up to them.  As it was, she gave too generously of her strength to help and encourage others on occasion.  No one was ever a better, more satisfying friend.  She never failed one, never disappointed one, never lost touch with one.  To the end her interest in all that concerned a friend never flagged, and notes, post cards, and little presents constantly bore witness to her lively affection.  Her post cards (often signed "Base and degrading 'Tilda'") shamed the excuse of correspondents who profess to have "no time to write."  Time can always be had for the making.  One of her post cards would have more that was essential on it in the way of matter of interest and importance to the recipient than many people's longest letters.  Ill or well, she responded instantly and fully to letters, so long as she could hold a pen.  On her death-bed, when she could no longer write, she dictated answers to the letters she received, and with the last flicker of her mortal intelligence she sent a cheery message to comfort her friends.

    The dear little lady was very woman in her love of pretty things.  We always dressed in our best to please her.  If we had succeeded, Emily would immediately be called that she might as usual have a share of the pleasure—"Emily, I want you to come and look at the ladies"—and Emily's attention would be directed to the points her lady specially admired.  But we could never be certain of success beforehand, for her taste was capricious.  Expensive attempts, trophies of a trip to France, were sometimes not favoured with a second glance, while, on the other hand, a little something made at home by our Treasure of the Humble, who came out to work by the day, would delight her.

    The easy hour's journey from Tunbridge Wells to Hastings made it possible for us to spend long afternoons with her.  We never took her by surprise, or proposed ourselves.  It was understood that we should wait to be asked—or, as a friend laughingly put it, "until she held out the sceptre"—then we would be quite sure that she would be glad of a visit.  She shared her friends liberally by asking them to meet each other—or anybody whose acquaintance she thought it would please them to make.  There was a ritual for these occasions, so seldom varied that it became an agreeable habit.  The rules of procedure were precise.  We knew exactly the ordering of events, but never knew what to expect from the company collected for our entertainment, and this sufficed to vary the monotony both at the time and in anticipation.  Surprises awaited the kind of person who expected to be asked to meet only "the best people," in the matter of class, for she cared not in the least who anybody was by birth.  Social position made no impression whatever upon her.  The measure of her respect for her fellow-creatures was the measure of their character, what they were and their accomplishments.  She would delight in an intellectual baker, and be frankly bored by a stupid duke.

    It was a formidable climb up to her Villa Julia, the house at the near end of the row at High Wickham; but we took the precaution to order a taxi in advance to meet us at the station at Hastings.  Half-way up the hill we came in sight of her sitting-room window, and of her watching for us, handkerchief in hand, ready to respond to our signals.  We lost sight of her at the steepest bit of the hill—the bit that was so nearly the death of Henry James when he climbed it on foot to save the life of a cab-horse (why didn't he have a taxi?)—but when we rounded the turn she would be standing at the hall standing door, with Emily stationed at the little iron gate, waiting to open it.  Emily greeted, we ran up the flagged path and were welcomed from the steps with outstretched hands and cheeks presented to be kissed.

    Miss Tindall's offerings of home-produce, fruit, flowers, eggs and butter, were lovingly appreciated in the hall, then we were ushered up to the dear little lady's sitting-room.  It was frankly the workshop of a cultivated woman, who had no use for boudoir fal-lals.  The dado was bookshelves filled with standard works in several languages.  On top of it were crowded rare specimens of china collected in many lands.  Above, the walls were covered with pictures, each with a history, but there was only one portrait in the room.  She liked to have portraits of her "living friends," but kept them locked up, with the single exception of Dr. Dodson Hessey's, "my good friend and benefactor."  She might well make him the exception, for he had been to her what Dr. John Elliotson was to Thackeray, who dedicated Pendennis to him in recognition of it "constant care and kindness"; what Mr. Buckston Browne was to George Meredith, who called him "the ablest and one of the best of men," and dedicated Lord Ormont and His Aminta to him; what Sir Andrew Clark was to George Eliot, "the beloved physician."  Should the Roll of Honour kept in the hearts of grateful patients ever be published, Dr. Hessey's name would be found figuring large among the many gifted and generous men of his profession to whom authors and artists of all grades have owed their lives and more than their lives, namely, the preservation of the intellectual strength which made life worth having.

    In Matilda Barbara's sitting-room she loved to be called Matilda Barbara.  I shall never forget how her face brightened with surprise and pleasure the first time one of us ventured on it, in inverted commas, as it were.  The sound of her Christian name had become strange and was sweet to her, there were so few left who still called her by it, so few who came close enough to have a claim to the right.  Age is the lonelier for the formality with which it is treated.  In one corner of her sitting-room was a round table covered with the books, papers, and magazines she had in use at the moment; in the opposite corner her pianette stood away from the bookshelves, with the music on it—good music—bearing witness to her taste.  The little sofa on which she always sat stood up against the wall on a line with the window.  We were placed opposite with a little tea-table between us.  There was no escape for me from the one arm-chair close to the fire, but Miss Tindall had a footstool to compensate for the height of her seat.  As soon as we were settled in our places, Emily appeared with a tray, on which were two cups of delicious tea, a box of matches, and a miniature earthenware bowl for an ash-tray, and set it on the table, with the invariable formula: "Just to refresh the ladies after their journey, and madam must smoke her cigarette."

    Only two people were privileged to smoke in the house, the beloved physician, of course, because he required the rest and relaxation of a cigarette, and myself—a benign concession to a bad habit, in pity for the weakness of the flesh.  And smoke we had to, willy-nilly.  There is no satisfaction in a cigarette if one suspects that one's hospitable hostess is enduring rather than enjoying the smell of it.  I once tried the experiment of going unprovided, but never again!  The plea that I had brought none because it was good for me to go without was scouted as "rubbish," and Emily was dispatched on, the instant to borrow cigarettes from the "son of the cottage at the back."  His mother would know where he kept them if he was out at work.  His mother did know.  They were not the brand I usually smoked.

    This was the most delightful time, when we had the little lady all to ourselves, and we always wished it had lasted longer.  Sitting with her back to the light she beamed on us, happy as a hen with two erratic ducklings safely recovered from the pond.  Agèd eyes are kind to their friends; the ravages of time escape them.  She never looked at us through her spectacles, so to the last, even in the fifth year of the war, she remained happily unaware of any sorrowful change in us that would have distressed her.  When we were alone together she could be as young and merry herself as she thought us.  Once when we were talking about what we liked to do best for a diversion, capping an extravagance that had amused her, she said: "What would please me best on a fine summer day would be to be taking tea with a French officer on a Boulevard in Paris, in a new French bonnet."  We pictured the French officer proudly delighting in her company as in that d'une mère bien aimée; but we exclaimed, "O frivolous!  Qui peut tout dire arrive à tout faire," and inadvertently gave her a chance, for the phrase cuts both ways.  Qui peut tout dire when he aspired to do right, arrive à tout faire to further his purpose.  And gaiety went out in moralising, which culminated in Shelley's sigh:


"Alas! we know not what we do
 When we speak words!"


    Our audience was cut short by the arrival of the guests for tea, whom we were hurried down to meet in the dining-room.  She gave us "schoolroom teas," and it was pleasant to see her enjoying her own hospitality, as it were, in the appetites of the friends she collected round her table.  No "plain very stale cakes" for them.  The homemade best of everything was somehow provided, including those wonders in war-time, lump sugar and apricot jam.  The difficulty was to satisfy her that you had had enough.  It was wise to curb your appetite at lunch if you were going to have tea with Miss Betham-Edwards.  Seated in her own particular chair—the chair she describes in her notes upon Henry James—she kept her eyes open to everybody's wants and her ears to their conversation.  Should the doctor happen in, nothing would content her but that he should sit in her chair, while she, dethroned, took the first that offered opposite.  His predicament and his feelings in the circumstances were well understood by others of the party, and this may have helped to sustain him.  At all events he bore himself nobly.  Henry James doubtless accepted the distinction in the same spirit of self-sacrifice, and was rewarded in like manner by his hostess's gratification.  She had the eyes of a mother for the doctor, a mother with an only son on whose accomplishments she might well pride herself, allowing heredity to account for them.  Only once did we see the fair weather of her enjoyment of these occasions overcast, and then—oh, dictu!—it dictu!—it was the doctor himself who raised the wind and caused a squall—with the best intentions.  He had been specially asked to meet the author of a recently published book in which he had expressed an interest, the meeting being designed to give him an opportunity he desired to discuss the book; and, thinking to show his appreciation of the kindness by making the most of it, he devoted himself to the purpose of the interview.  The book was a long one, with controversial matter in it, and he picked up the points categorically, with the acumen and accuracy so conspicuous, as a rule, by their absence in the reviews of professional critics.  He differed from the author's views in several important respects, but that only relieved the discussion from insipidity.  There is help in an impartial difference of opinion, ably stated, for a writer whose only desire is to arrive at the truth; and the author was benefiting.  The rest of the party, interested in the animated discussion, were silently absorbed in listening, when from the other side of the table came the plaintive protest: "Never have you said so much about any one of my books!"

    It was the woman who spoke, not the authoress.  Give the woman your first consideration, and you may lavish your subsequent attention on whom you please—in a matter of the kind.

    Our authoress was a great little lady; there was nothing petty about her.  She delighted in the success of a colleague per se, even when she was not in sympathy with his views.  News of a fresh arrival kindled in her the friendliest interest.  It was a happiness to her to help on an aspirant to literary fame, and she grudged neither time, trouble, nor strength for the purpose.  She exerted herself to write to me just before the fatal stroke—her last letter—on the subject of a first book for which she was doing her best to help a new writer to find a publisher.  The news that the book had been accepted reached her on her death-bed, while she was still conscious enough to understand and show with a smile that she was glad.

    She did not show her interest in young writers by reading their books.  Her way was to set others to the task, and form her own opinion on a digest; and she was seldom out in her estimate.  She detected the brawling conceit of a shallow stream in one young man who was helping to "debase the moral currency."   If she had lived to hear of him loudly proclaiming to a companion in the street, for the information of the passers-by: "We are the only writers who have any style!" we should have had her dry little comment: "I thought so!"

    Vauvenargues was wrong in her case when he declared that "to praise moderately is a great sign of mediocrity."  She did not pay "handsome compliments," but she spoke with that "accent of truth " which makes a few words from those who have it worth treasuring for their weight and meaning.  Genuinely diffident souls, in whom extravagant flattery only suffices to inspire a passing gleam of self-confidence and hope, unwarmed by the careful restraint of her calm assurances, felt themselves sent empty away; yet her sober phrasing had not failed of its intended effect, as they eventually discovered—by finding the impression a lasting source of encouragement.

    If not one of the greatest, Miss Betham-Edwards was certainly one of the most remarkable of the group of distinguished women whom we now call Mid-Victorian, both in respect to her own interesting personality and for the long list of her achievements.  She had the high sense of the dignity of her calling, and of its moral responsibility common to the choicer spirits of her day.  The commercialising of literature, which is nowadays degrading the pursuit of it to the level of a sordid trade, was abhorrent to her.  To have tradesmen ordering the product of brains by the inch; to be requested to scamp an idea of its perfect expression in order to make room for advertisements of scented soaps; to place the work of genius itself as a mere adjunct to a display of the wares of enterprising shopkeepers, she rightly regarded as a triumph of vulgar materialism blind even to its own interests, which are best served by catering for the satisfaction of the spiritual needs of mankind.  She recognised the necessity of providing for others, which in some cases had subordinated the artist to the tradesman, and deplored it; but she despised mercenariness—the enslavement of mind to money—when the choice lay between that and poverty, with liberty for self-expression.  She had no reason to envy anybody their standing, nor did she—her own was secure.  Which is not to say that she was self-satisfied.  Nobody who has the power of growth still in them is self-satisfied, for growth is stopped when self-satisfaction sets in.  If she could not flatter herself with the assurance that she had done the best that could be done, she was at all events well entitled to rest contented in the certainty that she had conscientiously done her best.  And she had been fortunate.  Talent was not at a discount in her day as it is in ours, and she never suffered the blight of incessant rejection.  She came into her own when she was about seventeen, and was received with open arms—if Dickens may be called her own, for it was he who gave her her first five-pound note for a poem entitled The Golden Bee.  At twenty she succeeded as a novelist with her first work of fiction, The While House by the Sea; and at seventy, at the request of her publisher, Mr. Reginald Smith, she wrote a novel—entitled Hearts of Alsace—to celebrate the jubilee of her working life. In the meantime she had added to her fame by one novel after another. Mr. Frederic Harrison mentions Kitty, Dr. Jacob, John and I, as among her best, but considers that "A Suffolk Courtship, The Lord of the Harvest, and Mock Beggars' Hall have a special value, even as historic records of 'Old England' in Corn Law days, and they are worthy to stand beside those of Maria Edgeworth and Mary Mitford."

    In 1898 Miss Betham-Edwards wrote in her first series of Reminiscences: "Not to many comes the satisfaction of what may almost be called posthumous fame," little dreaming that she herself was to have the still greater gratification of being definitely ranked as a "classic" in her lifetime by the publication of her novel, The Lord of the Harvest (first published in 1889), in The World's Classics, in 1913.  Up to the present most of her novels have been reprinted again and again, and are still selling, but she herself reaped no great monetary benefit from them.  She accepted twenty-five copies in payment for The White House by the Sea, and never received a farthing of profit for it, though it is still in print.  Yet she defended the bargain as equitable "for a young writer."

    She was in her eightieth year when the Diamond Jubilee of her working life was celebrated in 1917.  In the long retrospect she had nothing to regret and very much which it must have been good to remember.  Her novels were but a light part of her output.  She had to her credit besides, in the solider parts, some of the best works ever written on French life, organisation, and character.  In 1891 the French Government, considering that her writings had materially helped to promote the sympathy and understanding which resulted in the Entente Cordiale, made her an Officier de l'Instruction Publique de France.  She was, I believe, the first English officer of the Order.  She was also awarded a gold medal for the nine volumes, published over a period of thirty-five years, which she exhibited in the Palace of Women's Work in the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908.  From the Government of her own unappreciative country she received no public recognition whatever; and she felt it, for in 1918 she wrote to me—with a wry smile, as it were—"My literary Diamond jubilee 1857-1918 won't, I fear, bring me my deserts, viz., the title of Baroness as accorded to Miss Burdett-Coutts.  Any lesser distinction I should refuse, as these are showered upon grocers, bakers, and candlestick makers."  Happily she had ample private tokens of respect and affection.  Among her regular visitors to the last were many distinguished men.  I never heard of any particularly distinguished woman paying her the same pretty attentions in her old age, but that would not strike her as worth mentioning, she so very much preferred the men.

    The gallant little lady escaped the trial so many who love their work have had forced upon them in their declining years, the trial of idleness.  We dreaded the effect of the war on her.  We feared her self-preservative detachment from public affairs—her attitude of merely interested onlooker—would not survive the din of battle, the incessant shock and jar and horror which must certainly invade even her seclusion.  Physically frail as she was there was no knowing what she might not attempt if she heard herself called in the cries for help to which hundreds of thousands of women were everywhere responding at no matter what cost of suffering to themselves.  Happily, from the height of her detachment she continued to look down serenely, as the gods look down, on the follies of men.  Her active work in the world was done, and she was mercifully left to the repose which had been awarded her on her Mount Parnassus.  Moments of anxiety she had for the safety of friends in the danger zone; moments of grief for the havoc wrought, as on one occasion when she wrote: "I weep for Rheims Cathedral as if a star had been darkened in the heavens"; moments of splendid wrath—short squalls these, which burst in vigorous language (generally on a post card), and were immediately succeeded by sunshine in the next paragraph.  In one example, dated "22/5/18," after tersely condemning the Huns to eternal perdition in Doric English, the sun shone (in French) on the prospect of seeing us soon again: "Enchantée par l'espoir de vous revoir ici aver la très chère R. M. T. sitôt que la jolie petite fiancée serait mariée.  Votre visite, vos visites je dois dire ici, seront des fêtes.  Tant d'amis et d'admirateurs viendraient vous rencontrer.  La fidèle E. all 'hop, skip, and jump,' at the thought, and the dear sofa-ridden at W. Croft will be so pleased."

    Her attitude in regard to the war was early determined, and, once determined, she mentioned it, as a rule, as we mention the sorrows of others when they do not personally concern us.  Except when isolated incidents poignantly affected her, she thought of it as we had been in the habit of thinking of remote wars, in China or Peru, her intellect alive to the tragedy, but her heart untouched—and that was right and best for her, at her great age—and a blessing to the friends whose own heavy burden of anxiety and sorrow was eased by knowing that her peaceful contemplation from her sitting-room window of the view she loved—the green slopes, the red roofs picturesquely huddled below, and the grey church tower outlined squarely against the changeful sea—was untroubled by a too vivid sense of the horrors that were being enacted out there, just beyond.

    On a card to Miss Tindall, dated "1/3/15," which begins, "Do write that cleverly suggested paper—how the war affects individuals"— she goes on to say: "The war does not affect me either in mental or bodily powers—the reverse, for I look to it as a universal moral, religious, and intellectual purifier—the dawn (I may not live to see) of a new (lay) religion."

    That expression—"a new (lay) religion loosely used because she knew it was safe not to be misunderstood, may be thought to savour of materialism.  Judging from many passages in her works such an assumption would be incorrect.  Mr. Frederic Harrison, writing in the Positivist Review, February 1919, says:


Her close friendship with French Protestants and with leaders of the Voltairian parties made her an uncompromising opponent of the Catholic Church and of clerical teaching.  And she was hardly less tolerant of the Anglican Church and its schools.  For practical purposes she alluded to the principles which this Review maintains, and was in intimate fellowship with its founders and principal contributors.  At the same time, the Voltairian strain in her creed and sympathies withheld her from any formal co-operation with our body.  We often found her a zealous fellow-worker, and always a sympathetic friend, whilst she maintained a keen independence in judgment, held on to a passionate belief in her heroes and causes, and by temperament and training was averse to any type of religious organisation.


    This is admirably true of her as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough.  She quarrelled with the Established Church for being a political institution—"that branch of the Civil Service usually called the Church of England," Lord Houghton's witticism, she habitually quoted on subject—instead of being, as it should be, the Fountainhead of Pure Christianity.  Which is not to suggest that she would have belonged to it even if it had been her ideal of a religious body.  The nonconformity in her blood rendered her averse from organisations of every kind; but equally in her blood was Christianity itself—"Christianity, untravestied, unadulterated by Councils and Synods, St. Augustines and St. Athanasiuses."  "Theology and theologians have never possessed the slightest attraction for me," she says in her first published Reminiscences (p. 339).  But theology is not religion; neither is ecclesiasticism.  History teems with examples of religious evolution fettered by the tyrannous application of the shackles of dogma, and of the pursuit of truth barred by ecclesiastical intolerance at every step.  Religion so hampered is like a forest tree grown in a flower-pot, dwarfed and deformed.  Superstition has done its worst to impede in every department of life, but progress only in this, the most important of all, seeing that upon the enlightened conduct of it hinges the worth-while of all else—has superstition succeeded, by blocking inquiry, in checking the acquisition of knowledge and its sane application.  The fatal result is that the human race, grown out of the fairy tales which sufficed for its childhood and forbidden to replace them by the stronger pabulum for which it is ripe, is being spiritually starved by the restriction.  Miss Betham-Edwards expressed herself on this subject courageously: "No music ravishes my ears as that of the Salvation Army," she says.  "Those hearty strains, heard every Sunday, never fail to stir my pulse with purest rapture.  For do they not remind me of our hardly acquired religious liberty, the right enjoyed by every English subject to save or damn himself as he pleases, to regard his salvation, so called, as purely a personal affair as that of choosing a partner in life or a career!"

    She was not triumphing here in the special form in which "religious liberty" found self-expression, but in its escape from enslavement.  It is significant that, of all the influences she came under in her friendships with distinguished men of all shades of opinion, the following is the one she most gratefully acknowledged:


    "A millionaire, as I have always deemed myself in the matter of friendships, how was my capital diminished by the loss of this most beloved and worthily-beloved man!  Some of our friends embellish our lives, others build up, one or two beatify.  Neither a flower, melody, nor palmer's staff was the close friendship of Dr. Wilson; instead a Scripture, plain to read, bearing the incontestible stamp of finer spirits, souls, in the words of Plato and Spinoza, exempt from the lot of mortality."  She goes on to quote as the "keynote of Dr. Wilson's character struck in early life": . . . "Thank God, we have still a leaven of manly Christian devotion in the world's lump of vexatious vanity; we may yet hope to see our national worship in spirit and in truth within the walls of our churches, where, upon a broad level, rich and poor, old and young, learned and simple, may bow down as brethren in the presence of the God and Father of us all.  Here might be a reknitting of that bond of union which is the bond of strength in our social system, now bound by a rope of sand . . . the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of practical Christianity realised in our lives as professed upon our lips."—Reminiscences, pp. 335-6.


    This passage may or may not embody her own hopes.  She makes no comment on it.  But that was her way when she approved; it was when she disagreed that she had most to say.  Mysticism intrigued her mind, and intellectually she appeared to have the limited outlook of the scientific materialist; but spiritually she was better informed.  She could not have written her poems without having experienced "the delightful bathing of the soul in emotions which overpass the outlines of definite thought"—in which her great contemporary George Eliot's mind was washed clean of its doubts.  Essentially honest as she was, she would not have republished, towards the end of her life (1907), hymns full of childlike faith, if she had ceased to believe in the God to whom they were addressed


"In grief, perplexity, or pain
 None ever go to Thee in vain
 Thou makest life a joy again,
                     God of the weary,"


would have been ruthlessly deleted if it had ceased to be true of her personal experience.  The intellect may faithfully describe its acquirements in words, but spiritual perceptions, real as they are to the individual, transcend his powers of expression.  It is not an uncommon thing for this difficulty to be evaded by making no effort to subordinate intellectual experience, which consists in the acquisition of secular learning, with the spiritual intuitions with which the soul would have mankind value the product of their minds.  Advanced thinkers who are guilty of this evasion tell us sometimes naively that they have to keep their "faith" apart in a "separate water-tight compartment" or they would lose it.  There it remains unvisited, but at all events safe and intact; but its growth is stopped, so that, at the end of their lives, they are spiritually no further advanced than they were at their mother's knee.  Childlike faith is beautiful at any age, but


". . . his deserts are small,
 That dares not put it to the touch
 To gain or lose it all . . . "


is felt by the more courageous, probably because, in their own case, the effect of putting it to the touch was to prove that the danger was imaginary.  In too many instances there is reason to mourn the lack of enterprise in this direction which has resulted in the loss to the individual and to the world of all that must have accrued had he seen to it that his spiritual evolution kept pace with his intellectual development.

    Miss Betham-Edwards' religion was a natural secretion of her heredity and an integral part of her being.  Like the circulation of her blood, it performed its function without attracting special attention on her part to itself.  She was reticent on the subject, even to Dr. Hessey, to whom, if to any one, she was most likely to have expressed herself precisely if she had arrived at any precise conclusion.  His cultivated psychological sense may be trusted to have formed an accurate diagnosis of her spiritual state from fugitive symptoms, and he could only say, in answer to a question on the subject of her apprehension of a life to come, "I know that she had no fear of the future, though her ideas on the subject were extraordinarily primitive.  She would rarely talk on the subject, but sometimes she would lead me on, and then one had to walk warily."  Taking his "primitive" to mean the same as my "childlike," we agree in our main conclusion in regard to the faith of our friend.

    But if transcendentally her outlook was nebulous, ethically it was clearly defined.  She rejoiced in the belief "that one of the greatest changes of the Victorian era is a progressive moral standard."  She perceived that the advance of mankind depends not on scientific discoveries, mechanical inventions, artistic triumphs, or commercial success, but on the conquest of their misery-making propensities by the development of their sense of moral obligation.  In the conduct of her own life she set a courageous example.  In her childhood she had turned to the right, and she kept straight on to the end of her days, however toilsome the way.  Her rectitude is as apparent in her work as it was in her social relations.  She verified the smallest detail and scrupulously gave the name of every author to whom she was indebted, even for a phrase.  All her affairs were regulated with the same punctilious probity, and every obligation punctually met.  Decency and order were the rule of her life.  In her last will and testament she showed her habitual consideration for others by doing herself everything that she could do to save them trouble.  Her directions were explicit and had only to be carried out.  She guarded her dignity both in the disposal of her property and in the arrangements she made for the final disposal of her mortal remains.  Emily provided for, her one cause for anxiety was removed, and she could face what was to come in undisturbed peace of mind.  In her time she had been wiser than either ant or cigale.  One-sidedness had robbed the ant of pleasure in the present and the cigale of safety in the future.  Our friend, better balanced, had divided her time between work and play.  The one helping the other, she enjoyed both to the top of her bent, and at the same time laid in a rich store of pleasant recollections upon which to browse when strength failed for the continuous active pursuit of either.  It is good to think of her in the long precious hours she spent in happy contemplation, sitting out of doors, as we sometimes saw her, in summer, her face beautifully serene, with just that touch of melancholy upon it in repose which is proper to the autumn of life as to the autumn of the year.  Content with what she had, satisfied with what she had accomplished, still able to exercise the gifts she had used to such good purpose all her life, out of the crowd but surrounded by devoted friends, the sun may be said to have shone on her throughout the winter of her days till the last.

    She declined so gently that no great change in her was observable until 1918.  She had been ailing the previous year, but her mind was as active as ever.  The following post card is characteristic:


VILLA JULIA, HASTINGS,
19/11/17.


    Who wrote The Schönberg Colla Family, etc. etc., Mid-Victorian and a woman?  See the other side.  Will answer yr long letter soon.  But I have been in bed for several days with cold (or influenza), and only now get half-way downstairs, but hope to begin work to-morrow.  The Dr. all cheerfulness and devotion.  Yes, as Voltaire said, "Work drives away disease, crime, and ennui."  Shall look forward to your next.  Induce our friend to stick for the present to the petites nouvelles which she does so well.  Romans must be short, full of incident and cheerful nowadays, and not too conversational and philosophical, a rattling short story is the thing.  Puis-je être utile a elle re short story or novel.  I began H. J.'s [Henry James] "Middle Yrs," but as I am writing a short biographical novel (date 1864) . . . I am sending the book back unread to Mudie, fearful of catching that delightful (in his case) involved style but terrible if caught. . . . I find that it is H. James' "Sense of the Past" I tried to read and couldn't, and I remember now that I did read the passages about G. Eliot in "The Middle Yrs."


    The early part of 1918 tried her, but in March she wrote buoyantly:


"Haven't been out of the house for months this yr.  Out once and then slipped down on wet cobble stones—no harm done but a little shaken.  Quite well now and just finishing a set of fire-eating short stories (autobiographical) of Germany and France.  If the Huns get here I shall be shot, that's certain.  Have you read the life of Wilkes—a terrible disreputable; but oh! to have half, a quarter, a grain of his never failing wit!"


    We saw her last in July 1918, and found a difference in her, but accounted for it hopefully as the temporary effect of the fall, which had been a greater shock than she pretended.  Her memory did not fail her, but it responded tardily to her calls upon it.  She had often to pause till the word or name or quotation she wanted recurred to her.  Loss of memory to this extent is a common experience during convalescence, we reminded each other.  She did revive afterwards, for our friends, Mr. and Mrs. Coulson Kernahan, had tea with her only a week or two before she was stricken, and Mr. Kernahan reported that they had "found her talking as animatedly, as shrewdly, and as wittily as talking ever.  When we threatened to report her to the Food Controller for the sumptuousness of her table, she retorted, 'When I can't afford to ask old friends to tea I'll invite them to morning prayers.'"

    We had the happiness of being her only guests on that last occasion, but all the usual dear little ceremonies were strictly observed.  Taxis being "off" on account of the war, we had thankfully taken to a little public omnibus known to us as "Black Maria," which plied at set times between the station and the foot of High Wickham hill.  When it was time to go the little lady parted from us on the doorstep, with a confident au revoir!

    As we walked down the green hill in front of the house we had one last glimpse of her standing at her sitting-room window waving her handkerchief and watching us out of sight.  There was a sorrowful foreboding in each of our hearts which made us determine to waste no opportunities we might have of seeing her again; but, alas for us! visits had to be postponed for one reason and another, to our abiding regret, until it was too late.  Her last card to "Dearest Rachel Mary" ends joyously:


"Lovingest greetings to both from
                            Base and degrading 'TILDA.


Mid-Victorian Memories out in June.  Diamond Jubilee Edition of The White House by the Sea, (1857-1918), forthcoming got up regardless of expense.

    "Emily's best love and duty to both dear ladies."


    She had corrected the proofs of Mid-Victorian Memories and begun a new novel, which she told us was to have "the ineffable title of Bitter Sweet"; and she had yet another novel projected with a title which was too thrilling to be confided to us in writing, but we were to hear all about it after Christmas, when, for certain, our promised visit was to have been paid.  Long before the date she had fixed for it, alas! little hope was left us of ever seeing her on earth again.  The fatal illness began with a stroke on the 8th December 1918.  On the 4th January 1919, at twenty minutes to four in the afternoon, she breathed her last.

    She faced death as she had faced life: "Tell my friends that I am quite cheerful, and tell the doctor that I never lose my good spirits.  I mean to keep them to the end"—were the last messages she sent us.  Her last words were "loving thanks" to Emily and Mrs. Ransome—her "two guardian angels," as she called them—for all they had done for her to smooth the last little bit of the way.  There were to have been "no flowers," but ours had been sent before we were told; and we were glad on Emily's account as well as our own, for it would have hurt to think the cloistered austerity of the room in which she lay was unrelieved by a single token of faithful affection.  Emily decided in the matter as she had been in the habit of deciding for the good of her lady in other matters in which they had differed.  "I had to give my dear lady your beautiful flowers," she wrote pathetically.  "She looks so sweet."

    When all was over Dr. Hessey wrote to Miss Tindall: "We shall all miss the dear little lady immensely.  It has been a great privilege to have known her so intimately.  Hers was an extraordinarily clear mind acting through a remarkable brain.  I feel I owe her much.

    "After her stroke, which affected her right arm and leg, she remained almost her usual self for some time and took a great interest in her letters, and was always pleased and interested in seeing me and Mrs. Darent Harrison—I did not allow any one else to see her—who went in to read to her occasionally, but gradually she failed, and during the last few days she was practically unconscious and gently faded away.  One cannot be too thankful that life here was not prolonged. . . . For her to have lived on with an enfeebled brain would have been a tragedy."

    A brave successful life ending in a brave happy death is good to think upon, and this is our comfort in the present.  We do "all miss the dear little lady immensely."  We do all "feel that we owe her much."  We grieve for that we have looked our last upon her in this earth-life, but we do not grieve as for one who is lost to us for ever.  She has only gone on before a little distance, for a little while; and when our time comes and we too pass on through the Gate of Death, we have no fear but that she will meet us on the Other Side, with little hands outstretched, and in her eyes the silent welcome of a great joy.


SARAH GRAND.


――――♦――――


 
MID-VICTORIAN MEMORIES

Chapter I.

COVENTRY PATMORE


"THE ANGEL IN THE HOUSE," the late Professor Beesly said to me a few years ago, "is a book that ought to be put into the hands of every young man on entering life."

    Could higher praise be coveted by any poet?  I am sorry that Coventry Patmore did not live to hear the compliment, all the more piquant coming as it did from a brand not to be snatched from the burning.  That is to say, was he or anyone else logical where theological matters lie nearest their hearts?

    Taking him all in all, my neighbour and intimate friend was far and away the most original figure in these memorabilia.

    From the crown of his head to the sole of his foot a rank mediævalist, he was born several centuries too late.  He ought to have been a contemporary of Saint Simeon Stylites, who spent thirty years on a pillar seventy-two feet high and four feet square at the top—a pretty tight residence for a lifetime!—or at least of Saint Francis d'Assisi five centuries later, who walked a whole day through a forest, forgetting all the time where he was; had he been told in a brickfield, he would of course have assented.

    More justifiably perhaps than Jean Paul Richter might Coventry Patmore be styled "the only one."  The German prose poet, after all, was not out of place in the eighteenth-century Fatherland.  The other seemed a contemporary of Dante, Calderon, even of the Troubadours; little indeed of the Victorian gentleman was there about him but his dress.  The Franciscan garb in which he chose to be buried symbolised medævalism of life and character.  With Don Quixote, Coventry Patmore had come into the world three hundred years too late.  Our epoch, so he perpetually lamented, possessed neither distinction, romance, nor magnanimous opportunity.  Sorry medium indeed for any child of song!  Yet so ruthless is the logic of facts, his best—may we not aver, his only enduring work?—belongs essentially to the modern spirit he repudiated!

    The writer who is not of his own epoch is identifiable with none.  Mysticism here had dried the springs of artless fancy.  A unique, a brilliant personality remained.  The sweet singer in Israel was lost to the world.

    It was in 1868 that the poet relinquished his post at the British Museum, married a rich woman, and settled at Hastings, in a house, as he told me, he had coveted all his life.  This was a fine mansion at the foot of the East Hill.  Built by the fourfold-wedded Lady Waldegrave, the house seemed a veritable shrine of matrimony, a roof-tree under Hymen's especial patronage.  The second Mrs. Patmore now installed as mistress was one of Cardinal Manning's wealthiest and most devout converts, who not only swallowed her new creed whole but would fain have had it of much stronger mediæval flavour, as the tragedy of her end will show.  Stepmotherhood was not field wide enough for the handsome, imperious mistress of old Hastings House.  She should have been an abbess of some convent famed for its asceticism.

    A noble old house it is, Georgian in date, its red brick frontage beautified by a trellised magnolia, stretching on the left and raised high above the road, possessing a spacious, well-wooded pleasaunce—garden hardly seems an adequately descriptive word.  Few such dwellings are to be found near a large town nowadays, and the new tenant of The Mansion, as it was then called, revelled in a sense of amplitude, retirement, and dignity.  Dignity, indeed, characterised the poet's household; distinction was the atmosphere that he brought with him.

    It was soon after the poet's settling-down that I was invited to a luncheon given in honour of the event.  On entering the drawing-room, my eyes immediately rested on a sumptuous woman standing in the centre of a group; she wore over her black satin dress a gold chain, not round her neck, but, doubtless with some fantastic meaning, encircling her waist.  But what at once struck observers was her beaming look of triumph.  Well, indeed, from her point of view, might she triumph!  Had not the Cardinal's convert been the means of bringing not only her poet, but those belonging to him, within the pale of Rome?  That beaming look was always there.  A cultivated woman of the world, an ardent dévote, she saw everything from one standpoint only.  Graciousness she was itself, and fond of society, as she frankly admitted.  Upon one occasion, when we had discussed theological questions, fearing that she had not made her meaning transparent, she wrote to me that same evening: "You will understand me when I say that I have more fellow-feeling with an ignorant, dirty old Breton peasant woman who belongs to my religion than with any outsider, no matter how gifted."  The word "timid" occurs in Mr. Gosse's three or four lines of characterisation. [p.4]  Never did any woman possess a more imperious will than the second Mrs. Patmore; never did any more completely wield "all the rule, one umpire."  Thus for many years Coventry Patmore submitted to both spiritual and domestic sway.  The autocratic rule of his household during that period was strictly a feminine one.

    Days of struggle, material and spiritual, were well over.  Wedded to a rich, handsome, and in every respect sympathetic wife, with herself, for once and for all, he became an ardent Romanist.  Coventry Patmore's lines were now cast in pleasant places.  But prosperous circumstances left him in one respect what he had ever been.  Like Shakespeare's Thersites, [p.5] he always loved to be "where wit was stirring."  To him, as to rare Ben Jonson, a keen wit was dear as his nutriment.  The Open Sesame of The Mansion was lively intellect, mental alertness, suggestiveness: rank, opulence, fashion could not turn the key.  Within its walls you breathed an atmosphere of literary eclecticism and simple refinement.

    Frank, informal hospitality characterised the fine old house with the magnolias.  One pleasant visit was made with a dear Scottish friend, the late Dr. Japp.  Just twenty years ago, when staying at Hastings, the co-editor of Good Words expressed a wish to make Coventry Patmore's acquaintance.

    On asking permission to introduce my guest, came an immediate invitation to lunch, or rather early dinner.  Much enlivening conversation we had at table, and much more doubtless had the two men after they had retired for a tête-à-tête and a pipe.  In a little volume of poems published for private circulation, I find that Dr. Japp commemorated the day, August 12, 1888, by writing two sonnets, in one of which occurs the line


"Sweet brotherhood, made one by sorrow's seal."


The duologue had perhaps turned upon subjects too sad and solemn for the family board.

    Coventry Patmore delighted to give people little shocks.  One day at table, all present being fellow-converts to Romanism but myself, he burst out with: "Nothing is a greater mistake than to think that religion makes folks happy: it makes them miserable.  Look at my own case.  I had planned a delightful little spree in town with X." (naming a boon companion).  "We were going to see this, that, and the other, and have a scrumptious lunch together at the Criterion, when lo! I discovered that the day fixed was Friday, a fast day!  So I had to telegraph to X. and mope at home over eggs and potatoes."

    He set as much store by genial intercourse as did Montaigne.  Whilst living at the beautiful old house at Hastings, a kind of a Harold Skimpole from America contrived to make the poet's acquaintance.  "I said to myself," he told me, "'My fine fellow, you are worth fifty pounds to me; beyond that I shall not go.'  He was very good company, and used to tell me most amusing stories of his own adventures in different parts of the world by the yard, not a word of any, I'll vouch for it, being true.  I paid some of his bills for him, but when he asked a loan of several hundred pounds I wished him good day.

    "That fellow was one of the cleverest I ever came across," Mr. Patmore continued.  "One day in the early part of our acquaintance he came to me for advice.  His wife had purchased a costume at one of the principal local drapers, but when an assistant was sent for to make certain alterations she packed it up and carried it back to the shop.  What should he do?  'Go to Z.,'  I said, naming my lawyer; and off he started.  'Summon the people,' said Z.; 'that is what you had better do.  But wait—have you paid for the dress?  If not, send a cheque and summon them afterwards.'  'On my word, I never thought of that,' exclaimed the other innocently; 'and as I don't happen to have my purse, just oblige me with your cheque for the amount.'  And I'll be hanged," added Coventry Patmore, chuckling, "if he didn't bamboozle the lawyer.  Instead of stepping over the way, he went straight home.  The dress was never paid for, and Z. never got back his money!"

    To the very last Coventry Patmore worshipped at the shrine of grace and beauty.  A few years before he died he was introduced to a charming young lady at my house, and whenever we met afterwards he became dithyrambic about her.  She married a little later, and I begged his autograph for a copy of his poems I had bought as a wedding gift.  He thus quoted himself under a pretty inscription:


"Nature to you was more than kind.
     What fond perversity to dress
 So much simplicity of mind
     In such a wealth of loveliness!"


But the compliment was felt to be overwhelming, and the volume did not appear with the other wedding gifts.

    "The waters of Shiloh that go softly" were to be rudely disturbed.  The Mansion had changed hands, and was wanted as a residence by its new owner.  All the heavier fell the blow because over against his much-loved home Coventry Patmore had raised a handsome church in memory of his second wife, thus creating a little Catholic centre, in which he naturally occupied a foremost place.  He had made many friends, too, among non-Catholics, and loved the quaint old seaboard town.  Hastings also regretted the loss of the poet.  Cassell's three-penny edition of The Angel in the House had popularised the poem among all classes.  The townsfolk would turn to gaze on the tall, attenuated, erect figure in black velvet with the striking countenance as he stalked along, holding by the hand a miniature of himself, the little son born of his third marriage.  There were keen regrets on both sides.  The poet forfeited an ideal abode: Hastings lost distinction.  But the thing had to be done, and after much painful journeying to and fro a suitable retreat journeying for one so fastidious was found at Lymington.  The house, flanked by an old-world garden, overlooked the Solent, and was roomy, irregular, and secluded—a very fair substitute for the Georgian mansion with the magnolia.  One drawback was the distance from the little church, which had to be reached by a ferry-boat.  Shortly after the family installation, I was invited for a few days, and memorable days they were.  Never had I found Coventry Patmore in livelier, more paradoxical mood, more thoroughly himself.  As good a listener as he was a talker, he always spurred on other folk's wits; and although a bottomless gulf of antipodean opinion divided us, we loved each other dearly.

    He would say to me when I was his guest, "Now come into my study, and have a pipe and a glass of beer."  The pipe and glass might be declined, but the tête-à-tête was, of course, irresistible.  A first-rate story-teller, full of literary reminiscence, an original and epigrammatic but wayward critic, Coventry Patmore only needed a suggestive remark or apt question, and his talk would flow in a brilliant unbroken stream.  As the blue tobacco fumes curled upwards, and the strange, lank, sardonic figure of the speaker became partly obscured, his listener would forget the man in the potency of the voice—a voice mysterious, penetrating, Dantesque, belonging not to one of ourselves, but to the olden time, an echo of the grand old days, "the days that are no more."

    Here are a few jottings, mere crumbs from the rich man's table, which may give some idea of his table-talk.  He had known Carlyle well, and was fond of talking about him.  "Why," I asked one evening, "should Carlyle have written his French Revolution in the chaotic, parenthetic style of Jean Paul Richter, every sentence being a Chinese puzzle?"  "Why?" he replied.  "Because to put all that he had to say in clear, matter-of-fact prose would have required twenty pages instead of one.  His book suited the theme: it is in itself a revolution!"

    "The lack of our age is distinction," he said at another time.  "What opportunity is there in these days for heroism, or in literature for really great work?  Writers cannot say what they would.  Some of the great books of the world are coarse.  Look at Othello, Dante, Calderon who in the present time could dare to write as freely?"

    Then, sadly enough, he went on to tell me that the manuscript of a mystical poem—his best work, he considered it—had lately been burnt.  "My spiritual adviser, Father—, disapproved of publication," he added, with a rueful face and deep-drawn sigh.

    It was in the modern novel that Coventry Patmore found mental recreation, not in stories written with a purpose, but in natural pictures of life.  The super-sensuous, psychological fiction now in fashion had not as yet supplanted former ideals, and would most assuredly have been anathematised by the poet.  With one or two startling exceptions, the lady novelists of the Victorian epoch were his favourite reading.  To the Brontë sisters he was whimsically antipathetic.  On the other hand, he once said to me, "I could name a hundred novels of our day each in its way as perfect as Paradise Lost," singling out for praise several women writers.  The authoress of The Atelier du Lys had his suffrages, among others.

    Coventry Patmore ever proved the inspiring and inspired in such a milieu.

    Who else could have thus paraphrased the second William's telegram to his spouse after Sedan?  Was Punch ever relished as was the number containing his famous parody of that pietistic monarch's message to his wife?


"Thank the Lord, my dear Augusta,
 We have fought the French a buster,
 Ten thousand Frenchmen sent below,
 Praise Him from whom all blessings flow."


    Like the fat boy in Pickwick, Coventry Patmore loved to make folk's flesh creep.  Thus I remember when a guest at the beautiful old house, his last home, near Lymington, a small dinner-party was given in my honour, the company consisting of neighbouring gentry, county families, as the phrase goes; that is to say, squires and squiresses of the most rigid gentility—dullish company, one would deem, for a poet and a wit.  As wine was being handed round, he blurted out:

    "After all that is said and done, the best drink out and out is gin and water."

    The horrification of his guests may be imagined.  Had he turned mad on the spot they could not have shuddered more.

    Despite his set resolve to live mentally in the Dark Ages—in other words, be a model convert worthy of his converter, rather I should say perverter—Coventry Patmore could not divest himself of his humour, savoir vivre, and chivalrous devotion to women and beauty.

    And here I cannot resist an amusing incident.  When meeting the poet at my house, my cousin, Amelia B. Edwards, after eyeing him front and back with a glance at his shoulders, asked, with well-affected disillusion, "But where are his wings?"  This reference to The Angel in the House pleased the poet mightily.  A most animated group were my guests, and many happy and witty good things they said, but as hostess I was too distracted to store them up.  For it is not every day that a most famous Egyptologist and a popular poet can be brought together, and I had gathered as many friends as my small drawing-rooms would hold, to share the privilege with me.

    "My second wife brought me so many thousand pounds" (I do not venture on figures), Patmore would confide to his friends, and the unkind and unspoken comment—at least of one listener—was that she was very dear at the money.  But her wealth, of course, did not alter by one jot the simplicity of home life.  With it was built and endowed the church of St. Mary Star-of-the-Sea, and doubtless increasing and cementing the small Catholic colony in the south coast.  But, zealous to set a personal as well as a public example of religious enthusiasm, the poor lady soon after fell a victim to excessive devotion.  On some special day in the Romish calendar, without breaking her fast she set out for St. Leonards, attending service in the little church there, a six-mile walk to and fro.  Reaching home, she dropped down in a faint, and her clothes had to be cut piecemeal from her lifeless body.

    A very agreeable woman of the world but for pietistic ostentation was the second Mrs. Patmore, and a still more engaging figure was her successor, who gave her husband a son in his old age.

    A curious pair they made as they sauntered along hand in hand, the little fellow a curiously old-looking child and the very image of his father, but an apt little chap, and he was very quick at putting two and two together.

    "Why, papa, you are half as bad as Henry the Eighth," he broke out with one day, and other sallies are recorded of him.

    Had the exquisite poem, "The Toys," any foundation in fact?


"My little Son, who look'd from thoughtful eyes
 And moved and spoke in quiet grown-up wise."


    Had he ever stirred his elderly father and boon companion to anger?  Those who saw them and knew them together cannot believe it.  Anyhow, "The Toys" is one of those simple effusions that few can read with dry eyes.  And that line:


"His Mother, who was patient, being dead,"


how it throbs with feeling and pathos!

    "You must pay us another visit in the summer," was Coventry Patmore's charge! as I quitted the hospitable house in the Solent.

    But before the summer came he was borne to his last rest in the monastic garb symbolising not the sweet story-teller in verse, but the mystic whose most cherished work had been condemned by priestly counsel to an auto-da-fé!

    If the gaiety of nations was not eclipsed by the death of Coventry Patmore, the town which he had distinguished by residence keeps his memory green.  Not, certainly, after the good French fashion.  With ourselves, little except military or naval history is inculcated by street nomenclature.  The poet's seaside home has as yet no street named after him, but an admirable likeness hangs in the local museum.

    A last word about my old friend, to whom in one sense I was anathema, a brand not to be snatched from the burning, in another a cherished friend and companion.

    If he drew tears from my eyes, I was happy in being repaid by smiles from his lips.  On a sixpenny edition of Kitty, I am proud to read on the first leaf this fine compliment of a poet whose opus magnum is no less alive:


    "Kitty is a classic.  I have read it over and over again.
                                                         COVENTRY PATMORE, 1907."



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