Mid-Victorian Memories II.

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Chapter II.



WHAT a subject have I here, more than full enough for a volume, and only to be inadequately dealt with in a monograph, a paper suited to The Quarterly or Edinburgh Review.

    My intercourse, personal and on paper, with the last of the great Victorians and the doyen of letters throughout the Edwardian and Georgian periods until the present time, began more than fifty years ago.  Proudly, indeed, do I enter upon a record so full of interest to the general reader and so fruitful to myself.  At every stage I am brought face to face with momentous events and phases of thought, political, social, and religious problems long since solved, for better or for worse.  And the more closely I survey the delightful task before me, the more incompetent do I feel in dealing with it.  For I cannot aver of myself, as of my illustrious and, by five years, my senior contemporary, that I am still in the plenitude of bodily as of mental vigour.  Time, on the whole, has dealt very kindly with me.  In the diamond jubilee of my literary career—1857-1918—I enjoy entire immunity from "that which doth accompany old age," defective hearing, vision, and perception.  Nor can I complain of what is even worse to bear—namely, slights and oblivion.  No more generous body exists than the novel-reading public.  Newcomers, however brilliant their debut, however numerous their editions, do not hustle old favourites off the stage.  A novelist whose first work attains the rank of a classic, modest although it be and modest as may have been its author's emoluments, cannot arraign Fortune.

    Friendships equally with achievements make red letters in our calendar.  How I wish that I had put down in writing the exact date and precise circumstances of first encountering kindred and inspiring souls, those men and women who have straightway enriched life and opened new fields of thought and endeavour.  The aftermath is remembered, the spot on which fell the handful of seed is forgotten.  Fortunately, Mr. Frederic Harrison's memory is better than my own.  On referring the subject to him, he writes:

MY VERY DEAR MATILDA, — I am on holiday—at last—having read and passed for press within the last five to six weeks my book of 460 pp. and four Review articles, and written piles of MS. on various matters.  So I take a quarto page, a new pen, and my most amiable spirit to reply to your very grateful letters.  My memory holds out still, and I have a rough diary of mere incidents and movements posted up since the year 1829, the year in fact of my parents' marriage. (N.B.—From 1829 until 1847 these entries were from my father's books of accounts.  He entered every 6d. of expenses from setting up house, and I have those books now.  My wife, in The Cornhill Magazine, wrote a most interesting paper on the habits of an early Victorian household out of these diaries, and I used them in my own Autobiographical Memoirs, vol. i. ch. i.)  So your inquiry as to our first meeting.  It was in July 1890.  We were then passing the summer in our cottage—Blackdown Cottage, Haslemere, in Sussex, not in Surrey, an old cottage and farm on the Blackdown, which is 1030 feet high (not Hindhead, which is eight miles off in Surrey).  Our pretty old place stood 800 feet above sea, and had magnificent views over the Weald of Sussex, four miles from Haslemere Station, and one mile from Aldworth, Tennyson's summer house.  Why you wrote to me, and why you so kindly promised to visit us, you know better than I.  Anyhow, we were proud to have you as a guest.  We sent our man and carriage to fetch you from Haslemere.  Our coachman, Williams, after twenty-four years' service with us, is now driving a great motor omnibus in London.

    Yes, it was twenty-eight years ago when I had the happiness to hand out a bright and smiling lady who seemed to be on the right side of fifty.  It was love—i.e. lifelong friendship—at first sight, and we have been lovers, in the sense of close and intimate friends in thought, ever since.  We spent a happy day rambling about that timbered hill with our daughter, not quite four, and with Bernard, not quite nineteen, from his first year and the Studio in Paris.  How well I remember that visit!  Now for replies.

    As I said, my articles were in first numbers of the three Reviews, Fortnightly, Nineteenth Century, the third is The Positivist Review.  It (the P.R.) contains 32 pp. every month, words of wisdom—from others as well as mine.  In 1917, the Review contained each month my "Thoughts on Government," being a reissue of Part I. of my Order and Progress, 1875.  This present year, 1918, it contained my (new) "Moral and Religious Socialism," which began in May and continued up to August.  These two years contained a profoundly full summary of the entire political and economic synthesis according to the Gospel of Augustus Comte.  They were as lucid as they were philosophic, not from my own ability but from the truths of the Master.  I am only the phonograph.  But all this—purely gratuitous—indeed, was published at our own cost—was utterly unheeded, unknown, and buried.  Not even friends would spend their pennies in getting it.  Probably only two or three score people read it, and only two or three of these quite understood and accepted it.  All pure waste in our lifetime.  Yet by 2018 A.D., or say A.H. I, these little pieces will be held to be as well worth study as, say, Burke on the Revolution or his "Thoughts on the Present Discontents."  People will read any chatter, short stories at 6s., and will buy dozens of picture papers at 1s. each, but will not give 3d. [p.20-1] for real wisdom.  My life is spent in pouring out precious wine into glasses without bottoms, so that all runs into the sewer. [p.20-2] . . . My first visit to the East was from October 1 to November 1890—to Constantinople, Athens, and Rome.  Lectured on Homer at Newton Hall on November 2, the day after my return from sight of Troas; lecture almost extempore, now in my Among my Books, 1912, ch. viii.  On November 15 I lectured on Athens at Toynbee Hall.  This is now in my Meaning of History, 1894, ch. x., and it is one of the most suggestive things I ever wrote. (N.B.—John Morley was reading it in the train coming from London to Bath the other day, and highly praised it as real history.)  So that not everything I write passes like "bubbles in the air."  Theophano was in twelve numbers of The Fortnightly, and was written at intervals over a whole year from month to month.  But the tragedy of Nicephorus was written as a whole, and has a systematic plot and catastrophe, in form modelled on Alfieri and Goethe rather than Shakespeare, and without any attempt at poetic phraseology.  I intended Tree to play it, but he found it too big and costly, and, as Henry Arthur Jones told me, Tree saw that the woman's part would overpower him.  Mrs. Pat [presumably Patrick Campbell] has read it.  Well, here it is.—Yours always devotedly,

The play itself I give an account of farther on, and I here give a few extracts from these letters, not one without typical literary and, needless to say, personal interest, diversely written in French, English, and Latin.

BATH, Juin 12, 1913.
(Gerbert, [p21] 125).

Le volume est arrivé.  Admirable, mieux que jamais.

Comparable à George Sand.

I am not sure whether this high compliment was paid to my The Dream Charlotte or The Romance of a French Parsonage, both published some years before.

BATH, July 3, 1913.

    I have returned my little Introduction [to The Lord of the Harvest] marked for press without alterations in word or in letter.   I never correct a proof except to note printers' blunders.   Reading it in print, I like it as well as anything I ever wrote, and that because I enjoyed it.   You inspired me, and I trust I caught some flavour of your idyllic tone, and that I kept the "values true," as painters say.

    Everyone has his little vanities, and my vanity is fine calligraphy,—see what a lucid and artistic hand is this,—and my whim is never to alter a word in a manuscript or even in a letter.  I follow Pontius Pilate, a fellow of good sense, who has never been appreciated.  Quod scripsi, scripsi, said he, and so say I.

    I enclose you my MS. to show you how I write for the press—tout d'un trait.  I am sure that fifty years hence the MS. of your Lord of the Harvest will be secured for some library, and I wish that but one page of my little Foreword may be preserved, tacked to your copy.—Your aged friend and more than ever true admirer,

F. H.

March 8, 1914
(Thucydides, 126).

    I rejoice to hear of your literary success.  We both urge you to get your Suffolk Courtship put into "Everyman." . . . I find that I can read no new books—except yours.  I spent my afternoons [of a holiday sojourn with his wife near Bath] over Sophocles, Æschylus, and now Xenophon on Socrates.  [Oh, Mr. Harrison, Positive and anti-female Suffrage as you are, you might here have alluded to the accomplished woman scholar Elizabeth, whose translation of that famous book has long been a classic!] And I have just finished Tristram Shandy—my copy is first edition, 4 vols., 12 mo, 1765—and Don Quixote in a translation.  I find the Spanish difficult, but I can read The Positive Review of Mexico, which translates our Calendar month by month.  And I have Furtwängler's Masterpieces of Greek Sculpture—grand Greek sculpture is my only hobby.

    I entirely agree with you as to Bulwer [I believe re my admiration of his Last Days of Pompeii and Rienzi].  If you saw Bath forty years ago, you may be assured that it is almost the only city in England which has not been changed.  It has not grown and has no new buildings.  There is only one, the new hotel (a view of which I enclose).  (Shakespeare, "How many evils have enclosed me round!") The charm of Bath is its magnificent country round, its parks, gardens, and endless walks, etc., its mild climate, daily music, and agreeable society.  We know all whom we care to know, especially clerics, bishops, archdeacons, rectors, and the best houses within a motor drive.  I belong to the Philosophical Institute and to the Literary Club, and my wife works her Anti-Suffrage Committees.—With her love and mine, ever your


With regard to this letter I wrote suggesting that the Archdeacon and his new friend should change pulpits on Sundays, so refreshing and such a tonic to both congregations!

BATH, April 6, 1914.

    Many thanks for your letter and the kind words of Professor Hales, whom I well remember years ago as one of the F. D. Maurice men.  I am sure that your Lord [of the Harvest] will have a long reign.

    By way of rousing intellectual elements dormant in Bath, I resolved to read my Nicephorus in the old historic theatre here, before our friends and a lot of Bath people.  It has been adapted and translated into German for an opera, and is now being translated as a play in full.  And, in order to secure copyright "acting rights," it has to be produced in a public theatre.  So I took the title-rôle myself, and got the amateur dramatic society to read it in parts on the stage before an invited house.  They all said they heard—especially Nicephorus; and they seemed interested.  One lady who is deaf, and cannot hear a sermon in church, heard "every word" in the theatre.  [Quite naturally, for she was not sent to sleep by curate's twaddle-dum-dee!] . . . In any case, it was an event this première of tout Bath.

    I took this up partly to relieve my feelings about the awful public crisis.  We are going straight to the most horrible catastrophe in English history.  Ere this year is over, Britain will be in the throes of dissolution.  It is no use trying to make any more compromises.  I don't know which side is the most culpable.  But civil war is inevitable, and all without any real principle to fight for—and certainly nothing but generations of evil to follow on it.

    I am obliged to you for telling me about our Professor [the late Mr. Beesly].  I have [had] no correspondence with him for some time.  We are likely to differ so deeply that I fear to write and could not bear to open a discussion.  I can hear his snort of contempt if he ever heard of my playing in a theatre.  I am a Gallio, I know, but now a very sad one.

    Oddly enough, I should say, were not oddities so-called of daily, hourly occurrence, an early letter of Frederic Harrison has just come to hand.  I had taken up that striking Byzantine play, Nicephorus, 1906, to re-read, when out slipped a letter which ran as follows—we had not yet called ourselves by our baptismal names, nor had I as yet received one of his epistles in Ciceronian Latin.  These endearing privileges were to come.

April 14, 1914 (Archimedes, 126).

EAR MISS BETHAM-EDWARDS,—Many thanks for your letter and views and all.  If you really wish to read my tragedy, let me present you with an author's copy.  I prefer it as a work of art to the romance of Theophano [by himself.  Macmillan].  That was not written as a whole with a general plan at all.  It was taken up to give miscellaneous illustrations of the Byzantine world of the tenth century, which I had been studying for years.  It came out in the twelve numbers of the Fortnightly. . . . I am busy enough.  I am continuing my Last Thoughts, and have just finished my Commentary on the Common Prayer [Book?] and Catholic Missal.  My notes on our Calendar go on in the Pos. Rev., and next week I am writing a review of Bridges' Bacon.  I have promised to read a paper on R. Bacon at our Bath Literary Club, and I shall give a course of history lectures for the Bristol University branch at Bath.  So I have enough to do—after sweets, the sour!

    Your words about Ireland show me how unfit the ablest and best women are for politics.  They judge by their hearts, not their heads, and mistake vague ideals for observed facts.  [I fancy this refers to the Casement incident.]  Bloody war in Ireland, and possibly in England, will not transfer cottagers to Abergavenny Castle.  It will only keep Liberal policy out in the cold for a generation. —Yours always devotedly,


    Such a compliment I cannot omit, but blushingly set down.  Who so modest as the really great?  To think of F. H. thanking M. B.-E. for a word of praise!

April 25, 1914.

    "It is indeed a memorable compliment to me that you should take the trouble to read my play, and with such minute attention and such accurate memory.  Your note about Princess Theodora not being in the Dramatis Personæ had escaped me.  I think she was thrown in at the last moment to heighten the contrast between the callousness of the wife and the grief of the sisters of Romanus, and perhaps also to enable Tree to put on the stage another pretty girl (and Byzantine court robes. . . . Yes, there are too many Johns). [In the dialogue.]

July 2, 1914.

    Your letter reaches me here, but not the book.  We both left Bath on Monday, 22nd ult., with Olive for the first tour we have taken together for twelve years.  My wife's health has been so much improved at Bath that we felt moved to go to Paris, partly to see Bernard's three pictures [their eldest son] well placed in the Salon, to make acquaintance with his many friends in Paris—artists, connoisseurs, and patrons of his; secondly, to our Positivist Society, where I was asked to give them my personal reminiscences of Auguste Comte, being now the only survivor of those who saw him and talked to him in 1855.

    Our journey (broken at Dover) did my wife no harm, and though she did not attempt to walk in Paris, she was able to go to the Salon, the Studio, the Luxembourg, and the meeting in the new rooms of our Society.  The reunion was most interesting—about one hundred members, old and new.  The President said fine things of her and me, and I spoke for thirty minutes, reading parts of my presidential address to the Sociological Institute—the English form of which will be in the Positive Review for August. . . . The principal etcher in Paris has etched in colour two of Bernard's Italian landscapes, which G. Petit, the boss of painters (the G. Petit Gallery is an annual exhibition), has purchased.  So our visit was a business affair for B. of much value.  And our visit to the new rooms of the Society was greatly appreciated by them and enjoyed by us.  Bernard and I took Olive about to the various galleries, shows, to the Bois de Boulogne, Bagatelle; and B. took her to the theatre.  We did not go out but lived en pension.  After a week in Paris, which by Sunday got very hot, we came on the 30th to this place.  Our Bath doctor thought it would be of use to my wife. . . . Ouchy is my old favourite haunt, and I was really athirst to see the snow mountains once more—of course, we shall not go touring about here.  At present the Lake is not too hot, but 72º F. in my rooms—but we may go up to some place on the hills, the doctor insists not above 4000 feet.  At that, he thinks Switzerland will do her good.  She is wonderfully well in general health, and everyone says she looks twenty years under her age.  Only she has to be very careful not to stand or walk.

    As for me, I am quite well, I think.  I can walk for two or three hours uphill, and sleep well; but I hardly eat anything but eggs, and fricassees, and vegetable food.  I have brought some classics and some poets, and have been since 6 a.m. in our balcony reading Horace and Shelley at intervals, and looking across the Lake at the Dent-du-Midi and Savoy Alps, and dreaming of glacier excursions, and of Byron and Gibbon and all the memories of this centre of European traditions.  The regicide Ludlow, who lived and died at Vevey, inscribed on his door:

Forti omne solum patria.

I inscribe:

Sapienti—solum Helveticum—patria.

Our travelling abroad together for once all these years—our tour to Switzerland, for our last look at the Delectable Mountains—has been a bold experiment, but it has succeeded, as yet.  Outside, in France, in Europe, in the Balkans, in Ireland, I see nothing but chaos and battle.  I cannot write a word on it.—Yours always devotedly,

F. H

November 28, 1914.

    I have been much pleased with your little volume.  That bit about the Marseillaise is really most interesting and authentic, after Lamartine's gush.  And the account of Doré interests me much.  I had a Doré phase once myself.  Do you know his Rabelais?  Did I not once before ask you this question?  Do see Austin's new little book, The Kaisers War, with an Introduction of mine.  The Kaisertum is cracking up.  But I fear our Radical Pacifists will try to stop bringing the war to its proper end.  There will be a desperate effort to call uti possidetis, "as you are," a drawn battle about Easter.  Germany is still in Russia, France, Belgium.  Her borders are untouched.—Yours always,                                 F. H.

March 21, 1917.

Y VERY DEAR FRIEND,—I am indeed grateful to you for giving me news of yourself, and I wish you joy most heartily on the success of your new book [Twentieth Century France. Chapman & Hall].  It is a fine compliment from the great Frenchman. [p.30-1]  I must see it as soon as I am free of work.  I am now just finishing my memoirs of all I have lost in Her [his beloved wife], and have made a collection of her essays to make a volume, I trust, after the war.  In making a record of all her activities, I am amazed at the great mass of various tasks she took and completed in spite of her poor health and many domestic cares.  No one has any idea of what she did.  Our outreaching towards Humanity owed more to her than to any of us men.  Why am I left, the useless one?—and she who could have done so much more is gone.  Your beautiful "In Memoriam" [Westminster Gazette] I purpose to put as the motto of the volume, and her hymn, No. 58, [p.30-2] as the L'envoi. . . .

    I am re-issuing my "Thoughts on Government," 1874, in the current Positive Review.  I foresaw forty years ago the House of Commons pretending to govern.  And the French Chamber is as bad as ours . . .

    (Re Scott's novels.) I have always thought The Black Dwarf one of the very worst.  When I was at Ruskin's in 1899 he gave me to read in Scott's own MS. that he bought, a folio or quarto written about 2500 words every morning.  That beats you.

    I read no new book at all—I am now reading only tragedy: Sophocles' Antigone, the greatest of all tragedies; Corneille's Horace, Racine's Athalie, etc. etc. . . . I have been occupied every afternoon this month by Lord Rosebery, who comes to take me out in his car, or to take a walk with him in the parks and country.  He is a brilliant talker.—Affectionately yours always,                      F. H.

On November 6 of 1917 comes the following in Ciceronian Latin:

Fredericus Matildae suae S.D.

    Gratissimo sane animo recepi litteras tuas amabiles, anno aetatis meae sexto et octogesimo jam peracto.  Socii enim sumus et aequales in senectute, in litteris, in cogitationibus tam de rebus publicis quam de rebus divinis.  Nihil prorsus habemus, O sodalium meorum superstes unica, quod senectutem accusemus.  Anni quippe octogessimi corporibus nostril nihil intolerabile afferunt, dum mentibus nostris—gratias agamus Sanctae Humanitati—pauca certe detrahunt.  Hoc si incredibile videatur junioribus, qui nugis trivialibus vacare solent, monendum est nos—praesertim te amica mea venerabilis—e juventute prima animum totum dedisse in litteras vere humaniores, tam Graecas quam Latinos, tam in versu quam in sermons pedestri scriptas.  Quid dicam—non solum in litteras Anglican led in quidquid France et externae gentes optimum et celeberrimum tradiderunt.

    Mirabile est quomodo stadia nostra in idem consentire videantur.  Libros illos quos hodie te legere mihi scribes, ego autem praecipue in menu habere soleo.  Nihil pusillum, nihil vulgare, nihil obscenum aut obsoletum in bibliothecam meam intrat.  Die noctuque verso praeclaras illas veterum tragedias et comedias—praesertim Aeschyli Septem.  Quippe τριλογίαυ Άτρειδώυ  censeo ingenii humane maximum partum fuisse, Swinburnius noster recce aestimavit.  Si quis velit Sophoclem—Graecorum omnium dulcissimum—senem ilium qui ad nonagesimum annum novas tragedias fecit—Aeschylo proxime accessisse, certe hoc erat in Άυτιγόυης suea τραγικωτάτη illa orations Virginis moriturae:

    Homeri, Aeschyli, Sophoclis et Aristophanis opera omnia recenter perlegi—Euripides non aeque mihi arridet, forsitan e memoria lugubre scholarium dierum.  Inter Latinos, Vergilius, Horatius, Catullus, Juvenalis, Plinius maxims me delectant.  Lucretium, Taciturn, Persium studere laboriose potius quam legere vacue fas est.

    Hic legendi meus est mos.  Mane, adhuc in lecto requiescens, cantica illa recito quae conjux mea in aeternum deploranda tanto studio et ingenio confecit.  Haec sunt preces matutinae.  Tum, quum epistolas receptas, actorum diurnas scriptural ephemerides illas perfecerim, converto me ad Ajacem Sophocleum cum commentariis optimis Ricardi Jebb, aut "Poetae" nostri W.S. aliquid, vel Idyllium quod Tennysonius noster e carminibus vetustis Med: Aevi elaboravit.  Tandem in cubiculum scandens Scotti nostri incomparabilis historian nonnullam mecum porto.

    Morem legendi tuum, precor, mihi quoque describere velis.

    Scribebam Bathonia die Vico.  Nov. A.D. 1917.

    If you want details and dates, turn to my Autobiographic Memoirs (Macmillan, 8vo, 2 vols., 1911).  It is the most veracious, shameless, naked, unveiling, disembowelling exposure of a man's inside ever seen in literature. [p.33]  In its 800 pages it tells almost everything I could remember and find recorded in letters, diaries, or books, even common trifles from October 18, 1831, down to October 18, 1911, when it was first published, ætat. 80.  But even if you read that through with all the huge bibliography, pp. 335-345, you would not know half what I have done, seen, and written.  Without that remarkable classic (as in the twenty-first century it will be) you would not know one per cent of my doings and writings.  People here in Bath have no idea of what I am or have done or written.  It is not a double life I lead, a Hyde and Jekyll [p.34-1] affair—it is a centuple life I lead.  I have been, seen, done, written fifty things they never heard of [dear harmless old ladies and gentlemen, how should they?].  There is almost nothing that I have not tried [p.34-2]—even stag-hunt, fox-hunt, hare-hunt.  I have ridden a race-horse on a race-course, and have been at all the great great races, at times driven in my dog-cart, and in a four-horse drag [carriage or coach, Thackeray], etc. etc.  I have often been on the top of every great mountain in Scotland, Wales, Cumberland, Alps, Pyrenees, Apennines, Austria, and Greece.  I have yachted in the Channel and in the Mediterranean.  I have been in every capital and great city in Europe barring Madrid and Seville, and also in the U.S.A.  I have worked in every museum in Europe barring Madrid, and have talked with nearly every famous politician and writer in Britain, France, Italy, U.S.A., Holland, Greece, Turkey, Scandinavia.  I have been down coal-mines, I am an enrolled member of two great Trades Unions.  I have been the guest and the host of many Labour leaders, including a visit to a prisoner in the Conciergerie [no explanation], and I witnessed the decapitation of an Italian officer in a riot.  I was present at the Italian vote in the Duchies for Victor Emmanuel and at the election of Tricoupis in Athens.  I have shaken hands with Gambetta, Mazzini, Victor Hugo, Garibaldi, and sat in the gallery of the House of Commons beside the Comte de Paris.  I have heard every great actor since Macready and every actress since Rachel and Grisi.  I have tried everything—have been an alderman, a J. P., an LL.D., D.C.L., Litt. D., a horseman from boyhood, a swimmer, a mountaineer, a waltzer, a card-player, a diner-out, member of a dozen clubs, a man about town, a Park revolutionary orator.  Only two things I have always barred: (1) Tobacco in any form and drink. (2) Sport, meaning killing of animals.  But I have been on the Alps with hunters and have walked over most moors in Scotland and Britain—indeed, have owned game preserves. . . . Well, I can't go on.  I only want to assure you that you will never get to the end of me. . . .

    I am really going to stop writing for the public now.  I am going to rest and read old books.  I have always had of late at my bedside Plato, and mystical stuff it is, and Malory's Mort d'Arthur, far finer than Tennyson's "fashion-plate" Idylls.  Now I am going to read through Plutarch's Lives.

    Glorious news!  Early victory.—Your devoted friend,               F

From a later note about the same time:

    I rejoice to hear that you are so cheerful and so busy.  We have just got home to Bath, having had three weeks at Lyme Regis, far the most interesting and pleasant of all Channel ports, a real old harbour of Plantagenets and Tudors—sent out ships to the Armada, keeps her old stone breakwater.  Read Persuasion.  I am wonderfully well. . . .

    Then follows a sentence on the quite imaginary indifference of the reading world to his own works.  He styles himself effete, passé, oublie, mort, as many others of his mental height in moments of depression have done before.

    "Will anyone read my novels when I am gone, doctor?" asked the great Dumas of his doctor when on his dying bed.  "We always give one to patients about to undergo an operation," was the retort.  "Straightway their own case is clean forgotten, and the ordeal is cheerfully met."


Chapter III.



IT was in the spring of 1867 that I first met the great woman novelist now known throughout the entire reading world.  Our acquaintance began in this way.  I had spent the winter in Algiers under the roof of that remarkable pair, Dr. Eugene and Madame Barbara Leigh-Smith Bodichon.  The doctor had won his titles of fame by valuable works on the colony, also by equally valuable medical services during visitations of malaria, and last, but not least, when Deputy of the Chamber, by his motion to abolish slavery throughout the French African colony, a measure which was straightway carried into effect.  Daughter of a landed proprietor, Benjamin Smith, M.P. for Norwich, his English wife before her marriage in 1857 had done much for education and the improvement of the legal status of her sex.  A charming water-colour artist, she never attained the position her gifts merited, too many objects occupying her ever-active mind.  With her husband she did much to improve hygienic conditions of the Algerian plain by vast plantations of the health-giving American Eucalyptus globulus.  A rich woman, her wealth was always spent upon great objects, and as the foundress of the first University for women (Girton College) in the United Kingdom, she has won for herself an imperishable niche in history.  Women are very disloyal to each other, and her biography yet remains to be written.  No Girtonian has troubled herself about her benefactress.

    This noble woman was my intimate friend, and at the date I mention we had returned together from a tour in Spain and a winter in Algiers, myself, for the nonce, being again her guest at 5 Blandford Square.

    On the morning after our arrival she said

    "Now, Milly" (that was what the French call the petit nom always used by my family and familiars), "put on your bonnet and go with me to the Priory.  I will ask Marian if I may present you."

    My heart leaped at the proposal, for I knew that Marian was the baptismal Mary Ann thus euphemised by George Eliot's closest friend.

    The Priory, that celebrated "gathering-place of souls," to quote our equally great Victorian poetess, was one of the many St. John's Wood villas almost to be called country retreats.  The comfortably proportioned two-storied residence, approached by a drive, stood sufficiently apart from the road as to ensure its inmates comparative quiet.  Here Mr. and Mrs. Lewes lived historic years; and although uncemented by legal ties, never was union more complete or more fruitful in blessing to both: wit and perennially youthful spirits on his part lightened the weight of thought on hers, and kept alive the all-saving grace of humour.

    Even her best friend could not introduce anyone without permission.  So I waited inside the gate till my hostess beckoned me, and there I was in the presence of a tall, prematurely old lady wearing black, with a majestic but appealing and wholly unforgettable face.  A subdued yet penetrating light—I am tempted to say luminosity—shone from large dark eyes that looked all the darker on account of the white, marble-like complexion.  She might have sat for a Santa Teresa.

    Unaffectedly cordial was my reception, but hardly had I recovered from one thrill when I was bouleversée, as the French say, by the glamour of another.  The conversation naturally turned upon Spain, when suddenly Mr. Lewes accosted the great woman with boyishly enthusiastic cameradeship.

    "Now, Polly, what say you to this?"

    Bishop Proudie in Trollope's immortal scene could not have been more thunder-struck at hearing "the wife of his bosom called a woman" than I was then.

    What the "this" referred to I forget, but very possibly to an idea afterwards carried out.  In the following year Mr. and Mrs. Lewes followed our footsteps south, their journey resulting in The Spanish Gypsy, a poem, despite the invention of its heroine's exquisite name and many fine lines, now all but forgotten.  As an hour later we passed out of the gate, my friend began:

    "Shall I tell you Marian's compliment to yourself? 'I congratulate you, dear Barbara,' she said, 'on possessing a friend who is without fringes.'"

    It is the only time that I have ever heard the word "fringes" used for "fads," [p.40] and the only time I ever received a commendatory one from the same lips.  How much more gratified should I have been had she expressed her pleasure at meeting the authoress of such and such a novel!  But I can understand her reticence.  What, indeed, would life have been worth had she once begun to receive the confidences and aspirations of youthful tyros?  Her lot would have been worse than Miss Mitford's.

    My hostess's invitation to dinner for the next day was accepted, and circumstances grave and gay made the occasion equally ineffaceable.  Quite sure of the great visitors' punctuality, we awaited them in the drawing-room.  True enough, the street bell rang on the stroke of seven.  What was Madame Bodichon's dismay when her incomparable parlour-maid threw wide the door with the announcement:

    "Captain and Mrs. Harrison."

    Then came a ripple of laughter—George Henry Lewes' hearty and unfeigned, George Eliot's slightly remonstrant.  The name was a joke.  It was beyond her competence to play the child.  In excellent spirits the simple but well-cooked dinner was partaken of, Madame Bodichon involuntarily ever acting upon a precept of Mahomet in the Koran—"Bestow not upon the rich."  The more opulent her guests, the plainer was their fare.

    But conviviality had no meaning for these two.  The dinner-table topic resolved itself into this problem: How and by what means would the world—that is to say, the terrestrial globe we inhabit—come to an end?  By combustion, submergence, gradual decay, and so on.  I seem to hear George Eliot's penetrating, pathetic voice:

    "Yet, dear Barbara, might not this come about—" Or, "Suppose that—"

    For myself, I was silent, overawed as some alumnus when Pericles and Aspasia held their court.


    Thenceforward I was invited to the famous Sunday afternoons at the Priory, and I well remember George Eliot's kindly attempt to set me at ease.

    The entry into such a circle was no trifling ordeal to a young country-bred, although already much-travelled, girl, and already having several novels to her credit, the first of these now celebrating its diamond jubilee. [p.42]

    There in the centre of the room, as if enthroned, sat the Diva; at her feet in a semicircle gathered philosophers, scientists, men of letters, poets, artists—in fine, the leading spirits of the great Victorian age.  Frederic Harrison, almost the only one left us of so memorable a group; Professor Beesly, Herbert Spencer, Browning, William Morris, that charming poet and self-styled "singer of an empty day"; Sir Frederick Leighton, Director of the National Gallery; Philip Gilbert Hamerton, author of French and English and cementer of Anglo-French friendship at a time when we seemed perilously, if not hopelessly, Germanised, to our certain moral, intellectual, and national abasement—these were only a few of the noteworthy figures caught sight of as, timidly enough, I advanced to the hostess.

    Despite her grand aloofness from conventionalities and an utter incapacity to overdo courtesy,—I will not use the word to flatter,—George Eliot, never, that I ever heard of, hurt people's feelings or pooh-poohed valueless admiration.  She could not have rebuked a naive worshipper with a Johnsonian, "Before you choke me with your praises, Madam, remember what your praises are worth."  Not that I should have ventured upon so much as an allusion to the masterpieces so dear and familiar, Adam Bede and the rest.  And seeing that she had nothing to fear from me on that score, as soon as a break in the discussion permitted, she withdrew from the group and chatted with me in the easiest, least bookish fashion possible.

    Madame Bodichon had naturally told her of my farming days, and that, having now lost my father and mother, I was entering upon a literary life in London.  Be this as it may, she immediately began to talk of her own early life and of her father.  Very tender was her voice as she touched on the sacred theme, and so full of tenderness were her large dark eyes that I quite understood Sir Frederick Leighton's enthusiasm.  For, our brief chat over, I fell back, and taking the first vacant chair, it happened to be next his.  We were old acquaintances, had walked and talked in Kensington Gardens, had set out in a bus for a Saturday Pop together,—as the celebrated week-end concerts at St. James's Hall were called,—and a most pleasant friend and neighbour he became.

    On this Sunday afternoon he seemed oblivious of everything around him, his eyes fixed on the priestess-like, rather Sybil-like figure opposite.  After a mechanically uttered phrase or two he burst out—a lover's voice could hardly have been more impassioned:

    "How beautiful she is!"

    After all, was not the artist right?  What is physical perfection compared to spiritual beauty, the inner radiance that transforms, etherialises features not flawless according to rule of thumb?  Meanwhile Mr. Lewes was doing everything to promote the general pleasure—acting, indeed, a dual part, relieving the hostess of all responsibility.  Who could help comparing the pair to Titania and Puck?—herself, queen-like, effortless, impassible; he, anticipating her behests, here, there, and everywhere, taking care that no guest should be neglected.  Naturally, the German element was never absent from these assemblages.  Was not the biographer of Goethe styled der Goetische Lewes by his country-people, and had not homage been paid to both in the so ironically called Fatherland?  He now brought up a quiet, gentlemanly-looking man, saying in German:

    "I have the pleasure of introducing to you Herr Liebreich, the discoverer of chloral." [p.44]

    I had already spent many months at Stuttgart, as many at Frankfort-on-the-Main, and had wintered in Vienna, so the question of language was not disquieting.  But a tête-à-tête with a scientist did seem rather dreadful.  My interlocutor, however, tried to talk down to me, and I tried to talk up to him, and soon the welcome clatter of cups and saucers relieved the tension.  There was a move towards the lower end of the room, Mr. Lewes presiding at the teapot.

    "To make tea, my friends," he said laughingly, "I hold is the whole duty of man."

    All now was comparative frivolity, gaiety, and persiflage; mirth and music replaced Socratic discussion and talk worthy of being Boswellised.

    "We have a singing bird here," said Mr. Lewes.  "She must charm us before departure."

    The fashionably dressed young lady in question, some Lady Clara Vere de Vere, did not deny the delicate imputation, and true enough, before the party broke up, those almost solemn precincts were ringing with just such a song as might divert the guests of any Belgravian drawing-room.

    Belgravia, indeed, had forced an entrance into the Priory, and, as we might expect, that intrusion was followed by an exodus.  More than one old friend and habitue, more than one distinguished guest dropped off.  The "gathering-place of souls" gradually changed its character.  Its doors had been thrown too wide, and "fools rushed in where angels feared to tread." [p.46]


    But I was soon to see George Eliot in intellectual and social undress, to enjoy her company for an entire week, perhaps the only person now living retaining such a memory.

    Madame Bodichon had rented a High Church vicarage in the Isle of Wight for the winter of 1870-71, myself being her guest throughout the period, and before Christmas she invited her great friends to join us.

    "Yes, dear Barbara," came a reply in the exquisitely neat handwriting of one who could do nothing flimsily—"Yes, dear Barbara, we will come and weep with you over the sorrows of France."

    They duly arrived, and a memorable week it was to the youngest of the quartet, doubtless her fellow-guests little suspecting that there was "a chiel among ye takin' notes."

    From the first Madame Bodichon monopolised Titania.  Puck had to put up with me, and from the first he gave us all a taste of his quality.  As we sat down to breakfast next morning, the sedate, middle-aged parlour-maid was greeted by "A merry Christmas to you, Ann, and a marrying New Year."  Too well-trained to giggle, and perhaps not displeased with the suggestion, Ann blushed like a sixteen-year-old and just managed to stammer out her thanks.

    With dinner-time came another display of irrepressible frolicsomeness.  Soup being removed, Mr. Lewes rubbed his hands with a well-affected Epicurean air.

    "You will, I know, dear Barbara," he said, "excuse the liberty taken by an old friend.  I have ventured to add a little delicacy to your bill of fare."

    Well tutored, Ann now removed the silver cover with a flourish, and as she did so the uninitiated three sprang back with a cry.  Lo and behold!  Instead of a rare dainty, an uncanny thing like a crayfish uncurled as if alive!  It was the scourge with which the rector flagellated himself, and which the temporary occupant of his sanctum had laid hands upon for our diversion.

    A week of glorious walks and talks followed.  Fortunately, the weather was fine, and every day, most often between lunch and tea, we paired off for long strolls, in what Swift would have described as a "walkable" country.  Sometimes we made little excursions, and of one I retain a pathetic remembrance.  At a village station I met a pleasant novelist, to-day, I fear, quite forgotten—by name, Georgiana M. Craik.  Now I had been cautioned by no means to disclose the name of Madame Bodichon's visitors to chance-met acquaintances.  But my conscience did afterwards reproach me for not having whispered in this one's ear, as the others sauntered up and down, "That lady in black is no other than the author of Adam Bede."

    Could persuasion, however, could anything have prevented the other from metaphorically falling on her knees before the Diva?  I should very likely have brought about mortification and got myself into a terrible scrape.  George Eliot was in her zenith, the gentle little author of Riverston and other tales had hardly popped her head above the horizon.

    During our walks Madame Bodichon would carry George Eliot in one direction, Mr. Lewes and myself taking another.  He generally talked the whole time of "Polly."  It delighted him to discover in me a whole-hearted admirer of Felix Holt, a work generally less admired than their great brethren.  How he laughed when I quoted that denunciation of his sex by Mrs. Transom's maid: "creatures who stand straddling and gossiping in the rain."

    But the crowning hour of the day came when dinner was over, lamps were shaded, and we gathered round the fire.  No recreations were in request; whist, chess, backgammon, billiards, would here have been the extreme of boredom.  High talk mingled with lighter topics have left golden memories.

    And may I be excused for mentioning a proud remembrance?  On two occasions the shy country girl was listened to by the great.  Once all three heard me with profound interest, and once I gave them the merriest moment of that especial symposium.

    It happened that a Socialist friend, Mr. Cowell-Stepney by name, had lately escorted me to a sitting of the International, presided over by Dr. Karl Marx, the founder of International Socialism, who more than any other man has influenced the Labour movement throughout the civilised world.  Now this sort of experience was quite out of Mr. and Mrs. Lewes's way.  Their world was the world of the intellectual élite, not of "the man in the street," the hewers of wood and drawers of water.  So to the least little particular I could give, all paid the utmost attention.

    I must not forget that during these evenings we sometimes enjoyed a musical treat.  George Eliot would sit down to the piano and very correctly, perhaps somewhat too painstakingly, give us a sonata of Beethoven from notes.  The charm of the performance was that it was done amiably and evidently in order to give us pleasure.

    "What shall it be, dear little boy?" she would ask, as she turned over the contents of the music-wagon, and the "dear little boy"—I love to hear these terms of endearment among the great—generally demanded Beethoven.  One sonata she played to us was Op. 14, No. 2, containing the slow, plaintive Andante in A minor, ever one of my favourites.

    For light holiday reading the wonderful pair had brought surely the strangest book in the world—namely, Wolf's Prolegomena, which, however, had one advantage.  It did not touch upon the tragedy of the time.  In this work the most gifted scholar and first critic of his age (1729-1824) unfolded with equal erudition and acuteness his bold theory that the Odyssey and Iliad are composed of numerous ballads by different minstrels, strung together in a kind of unity by subsequent editors.

    As I have mentioned, our rectory adjoined the church, and on Christmas morning, and in arctic weather, Madame Bodichon carried her friend off to hear the fine musical service—Mass would be the proper appellation.

    George Eliot listened with subdued rapture, the clear shrill voices of the choir, the swell of the organ evidently evoking a religious mood nonetheless fervent because unallied with formulary and outward observance.

    The midnight service had been proposed, but—

    "No, dear; on no account would I keep George up for me so late," said the great visitor, unlike her hostess in one respect, indeed in many.  Whilst Madame Bodichon could never have half enough of anything she loved, whether good company, aesthetic impression, or strawberries and cream—her abnormal energy craving more and yet more expansion—George Eliot's nature needed repose.  She did not, in French phrase, chercher des émotions.

    But why, oh! why did I neglect the seven days' wonderful opportunity?  With the unwisdom and self-assurance of youth, I neglected notebook and tablets.  It never occurred to me to set down the high talk of that Ventnor drawing-room.  Instead of binding them into a sheaf, I let the golden ears fall to the ground.

    Here are one or two, the topic being literary excellence and fame—perhaps I should rather say, recognition and the criterion of both.

    "There is the money test," George Eliot said, and paused, as she often did before continuing a train of thought.  [Would she have uttered that sentence nowadays, when novels reaching fabulous prices are clean forgotten before copies have become soiled in Mudie's?]

    Her next sentence even less commends itself to all lovers of literature:

    "Then there is the test of sincerity."

    A canon not unassailable either.  For of course the only, the final, test of literature, whether grave or gay, is duration, the ineffaceable seal of Time.  Was ever any book written with greater sincerity, for instance, than the Proverbial Philosophy of Martin F. Tupper?—a book that enriched the author and was for a time taken seriously.  Who reads poor dear Martin Tupper's twaddle-dum-dee nowadays?

    If George Eliot, naturally enough, held aloof from literary aspirants, Mr. Lewes never lost an occasion of helping them.  When the great week came to an end he said to me:

    "Now you will, I am sure, like your new novel to appear in the Tauchnitz edition.  I will write to the Baron, and as you say you are going to Germany in the spring, I will ask him to call upon you.  On arriving at Leipzig, you have only to send him your card."

    The German visit was carried out, and to Mr. Lewes I owed not only the satisfaction and profit of having all my books thenceforward published in the famous Continental series, but the warm friendship and hospitalities of the first Baron and the second, his son.


    Yet a few words more about one of the greatest figures in our national Valhalla, and one whose fame, if she ever troubled herself about fame, has surpassed any author's wildest dreams.  I am sorry that she died half a century before she had an enthusiastic following in Japan.  I can fancy Mr. Lewes's exuberance over the triumph, his "Well, Polly, after that I shall never venture an opinion of your books, that is quite certain."  Or, "Now, Polly, see if a Chinese translation of Adam Bede won't be the next pleasant surprise."  It was really beautiful, this absolute comprehension of a larger intellect and character by a lesser and less stable.

    A more agreeable walking companion could not be, but I sometimes wished that we had not invariably paired off.  There were, however, excellent reasons for this arrangement.  Although not admitted to the confidential tête-à-tête of our hostess and her visitor, I well knew what grave subjects would be discussed by them.

    The foundress of Girton College and the indefatigable pioneer of legal reforms regarding women had one subject even nearer her heart than even the educational, material, and social elevation of her sex.  Madame Bodichon entertained a passionate pity for her pariah sister, a horror of conditions accepted, not to say in a civilised but also in a Christian country.  Had she lived longer, she would have joyfully welcomed a growing repulsion in France and a spirit of revolt against the system which, in plain words and excused on behalf of the public health, legalises and supervises prostitution.

    If righteous indignation characterised the doer, the woman of action, I should call sensitiveness the other's leading quality.  I firmly believe that had George Eliot convicted herself of inflicting a grave injury on any living soul, remorse would have worn her out, killed her by inches.  Her super-sensitiveness in little things was painful to witness.  Here is an instance.

    During the week I was obliged to call in a surgeon, and have a finger lanced on account of a painful gathering.  Next morning, in shaking hands by the breakfast table, she pressed, or rather fancied she pressed, the injured part.

    "Oh!" she said, with a look of positive anguish, "I have hurt the poor finger. I am always doing this sort of thing."

    And it was with difficulty that I could reassure her.

    An instance of such sensitiveness was told me by Mrs. Hamerton, who in her husband's lifetime had occasionally attended the Sunday afternoon receptions.  On her reappearance after a year or two's absence, George Eliot asked news of her family and friends.

    "No gaps?" she said, with quite affectionate solicitude.

    Again, when the widow of Arthur Hugh Clough, the poet of the Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich and the subject of Matthew Arnold's fine elegy Thyrsis, called one Sunday with his little son, the hostess's first question was a pathetic, "What is his name?"  She always liked to call children by their names, she added.

    There is a suavity in sovereign natures.  These alone can discern the infinitely fine shades dividing simplicity from annoyance, real from affected admiration.  As a subtle writer of the last century has admirably written: "It is a rare perfection of the intellectual and moral faculties which allows all objects, great and small, to be distinctly perceived, and perceived in their relative magnitudes."  George Eliot was "a soul of the high finish" of which Isaac Taylor wrote.  Here is an instance.

    After that Christmas week I returned to 5 Blandford Square, and had a very severe bronchial attack.  So serious was my condition that on partial recovery I was summarily ordered a Mediterranean cruise, and with a friend sailed from Portsmouth to Gibraltar, thence to Malta and Alexandria, thence to Athens, and from Athens to Venice.

    On my return in March I ran up from Hastings, my abode from that period to this, to London.  On the way to Madame Bodichon's I called at the Priory, leaving with my card a bunch of violets, one of the cream cheeses formerly a Hastings speciality, also some pats of butter, golden of the golden, creamiest of the cream.  The unsophisticated, perhaps to ordinary folks impertinent, attention was charmingly acknowledged on the following Sunday afternoon.  Taking both my bands when I entered with my hostess, George Eliot said, with congratulations on my recovered health and a smile:

    "So, having recovered yourself, you are bent upon fattening your friends?"

    Little traits of quite other kind will, I am sure, be welcome.

    The two great friends would sometimes stroll along the streets together and look at the shops like other womenkind.

    One morning as they sauntered down Bond Street, pausing before each glittering display, George Eliot said: "How happy are we both, dear Barbara, that we want nothing we see here!"

    One point struck me.  The Priory knew no pets.  So intellectually and humanly full were the lives of both master and mistress that there was no room for cat, dog, bird, or goldfish.  Children, as has been mentioned, were occasionally admitted into the learnèd precincts, but no live playthings.  Did ever a dog wag its tail and therein ask a caress from hosts or guests?  I know not.

    Nor except at the door was anything seen or heard of Grace and Amelia, the two faithful middle-aged maids, who, as far as I ever learned, knew nothing of their great lady's writings except that they had made her famous.  To the perpetual disappointment of the worthy couple, Queen Victoria never drew up to the door, no royal visit filled their cup to overflowing.  Grace and Amelia little dreamed that their own names would live in the book of fame!  Such is the irony of life.


    To criticise the world's classics is to find fault with the Pyramids for not being round, with Shakespeare for not having been a novel-writer, with Victor Hugo for not having laid the scene of Notre-Dame between 1789-94, and made Madame Roland his hero instead of Esmeralda, and so on and so on.  How futile, indeed, is all criticism of the Immortals; how puerile are quibbling and cavilling at leading spirits, "whose names are written on the book of Time."

    One or two noteworthy estimates only of George Eliot, her life-work and character, I give here.  A great Victorian, one of the greatest, who knew her well, and who is happily yet among us, has said, "George Eliot was greater than her works."  But must not this be affirmed of creators in any field?  Is not the master ever greater than his masterpiece?  Do we adore a chef-d'œuvre in the same frame of mind as we adore a beautiful landscape or sunset?  The individual gift, the aspiration and achievement, cannot be ignored by the least reflective.

    Again, it is often urged that fame, adulation, and intercourse with the most brilliant wits, geniuses, and most renowned thinkers of her time were in her case a loss rather than a gain.  The idyllic charm, the raciness and spontaneity of Scenes of Clerical Life, Adam Bede, and perhaps of The Mill on the Floss, gradually gave way to a more laboured style and a more introspective psychology.  Romola—a midway production—is an historical novel worthy of comparison with Bulwer Lytton's ever-delightful Last Days of Pompeii, but Daniel Deronda, 1876, if not a dead-weight on her reputation, as was Count Robert of Paris on the great Sir Walter's, showed, as a judicial critic wrote, [p.58] "a marked falling-off in power, though many of the scenes are sufficiently rich in pathos, humour, and insight."

    In confirmation of my remark, another friend to whom, as to Barbara Bodichon, she was "Marian" always, herself a wife and mother, and by no means a commonplace writer—Madame Parkes-Belloc, wrote:

    "The truth is, dear Milly, after her early years, and especially after her installation as mistress of the Priory, she saw very little of life—that is, of family life."

    How could it have been otherwise?  What room was there in that Parnassian retreat for noisy bantlings?  But George Eliot had known childhood in earlier years.  She was not obliged, like Herbert Spencer, to borrow a friend's child or two in order to study the workings and development of the human mind.

    Although there were neither pets, human nor four-footed, nor games at the Priory, it was by no means a case of all work and no play.  The founder of synthetic philosophy must be referred to on this head.  The two ponderous volumes Herbert Spencer has devoted to his own life abound in references to his friend, hostess, and lawn-tennis partner!

    It is not surprising to find that one of George Eliot's characteristics was diffidence of her own powers, and the philosopher found it no easy matter in early days to persuade her that she possessed all the gifts of a novel-writer.  So sensitive was she regarding her own gifts, even after recognition, that Mr. Lewes used to put into a special drawer such reviews as were encouraging only.  Onslaughts and animadversions were rigidly excluded.  And did not Mr. Lewes once write to Spencer, "Marian is in the next room crying over the distresses of her young people."

    Here is a witticism at the expense of a certain Dr. A— who was remarkable for his tendency to dissent from whatever opinion another uttered.  After a conversation in which he had repeatedly displayed this tendency, she said to him:

    "Dr. A—, how is it that you always take your colour from your company?" "I take my colour from my company?" he exclaimed.  "What do you mean?"  "Yes," she replied, "the opposite colour."

    Here is another delightful story, but not referring to the great novelist.  Spencer used to attend the first Wagner concerts at the Albert Hall with friends.  One day he relates: "As we came downstairs the lady of the party was accosted by an acquaintance with the question, 'Well, how did you like it?' to which her reply was, 'Oh, I bore it pretty well,' a reply which went far to express my own feelings."

    How seriously, one might almost say how sacred, George Eliot regarded her calling the following story will show.

    Her great friend Barbara, handsome, rich, spirited, generous, was one of those fortunate individuals who could never for an instant imagine herself an intruder, never conceive it possible that she should be in anybody's way, least of all in the way of those who loved her.  One morning, with happy unconcern, she rang the Priory bell half an hour before lunch, and was admitted and announced.  Tender-heartedness itself, the novelist rushed out of her study, pale, trembling, agitated, her remonstrant "Oh, Barbara!" even more poignant than could have been Sir Isaac Newton's "Oh, Diamond, Diamond, thou little knowest the mischief thou hast done!"  And quite certainly Diamond did not droop his ears, wag his tail, and with his eyes plead for forgiveness so pathetically as, ready to cry, poor Madame Bodichon murmured excuses then.

    Ever on the alert where Polly's quietude and comfort were concerned, straightway Mr. Lewes emerged from his study and, as the culprit related, coaxed and soothed her as if she had been a child.

    This, I believe, is the single occasion on which the close friendship of these two noble and contrasted women was for a moment clouded.

    Contrasted they were physically and intellectually.  Barbara Bodichon, née Leigh Smith, was everything that George Eliot was not.  If the rare lot of supernumerary gifts ever fell to any woman, that one was the foundress of Girton College.  Not that she was an Admirable Crichton in petticoats.  Although half her life was spent in France and she married a Frenchman, she never mastered French grammar or idiom.  To the last she would speak of à ma maison instead of chez moi.  She could no more spell her own language than could Queen Elizabeth.  Although very fond of music, she never acquired sufficient facility to play the simplest of Haydn's easy sonatas.  Except, indeed, as a delightful artist in water-colours, and in that field regarded as an amateur, she might be described as the most unaccomplished member of a highly distinguished milieu.

    But she was destined to live among the great, and what in ordinary cases would have proved a disastrous upbringing developed her remarkable endowments of heart, wit, and brain.  Thus was exemplified Selden's famous saying: "Wit and wisdom are born with a man."  So suited to her was her early education—in a certain sense, we may say, lack of it—that when twelve years old everything she said was worth listening to; without an approach to precociousness, she talked well.  Later, alike in English and in French, despite utter disregard of grammar and syntax, she was a brilliant and suggestive talker.  I have heard Frenchmen extol her conversational powers, so full was it of wit, acuteness, and originality.

    And if she failed in perhaps the one personal object nearest her heart, if she is still regarded as an amateur by connoisseurs and the art-world generally, she has achieved a rare and enviable reputation.  What indeed do not two generations of English-speaking women already owe her in the matter of education, and to-day what do not her sex owe her?  To be one of the first, most intrepid, and most liberal advocates of parliamentary equality, at last has come posthumous triumph.  Let us hope that the newly enfranchised will prove themselves worthy of the privilege!

    To Mr. and Mrs. Lewes came years of almost seclusion, fabulous prosperity, alike intellectual and material, but the ambition of Grace and Amelia was not fulfilled.  No royal honours were showered upon the greatest novelist of the age by the sovereign characterised as "sour and unattractive" by another "illustrious Victorian." [p63-1]  No Order of Merit for women was likely to be instituted by a queen who said that suffragettes ought to be whipt. [p.63-2]  But George Eliot held the reading world in fee.  I have heard on excellent authority that Romola brought her a cheque for £8000 down.  And good fortune was wisely made the best of by both.  A pretty country house was purchased at Witley in Sussex, drives in their own carriage replaced the long walks of earlier days, Mrs. Lewes saying to her friend Barbara, who visited them in their new home:

    "Of course you did not acknowledge us till we kept a carriage."

    She could jest then, but the days of playfulness were short.  Their holiday had come too late for overworked brains and physiques of hardly normal robustness.

    Mr. Lewes died in 1878, and on the morning of May 6, 1880, Madame Bodichon received a note from her great friend saying that she was to be married that day to Mr. J. W. Cross.  I cannot do better that cite the following passage from Chambers's Encyclopædia, written by R. Holt Hutton:

    "After the death of Mr. Lewes, George Eliot, who was always exceedingly dependent upon some one person for affection and support, fell into a very melancholy state, from which she was rescued by the solicitous kindness and attention of Mr. John Cross, an old friend of her own and of Mr. Lewes's, and to him she was married on the 6th of May 1880.  Their married life lasted but a few months.  George Eliot died in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, on the 22nd of December of the same year, and is buried in Highgate Cemetery in the grave next to that of Mr. Lewes."

    Madame Bodichon outlived her by eleven years, but thrice happier for her had it been otherwise.

    Always endeavouring to crowd the activities and achievements of a dozen lives into one, both bodily and mental powers gave way under the strain.  Restfulness she never knew, and the close of a noble and fruitful life was of sad helplessness and invalidism.  The crowning monument to her memory is her College of Girton.

    Mr. Cross's biography of George Eliot is a classic, but it must not be forgotten that he is a noteworthy Dante scholar. [p.65]  We have read how among her last literary recreations were Dante studies under his guidance, and we can understand how she would glow over the lines:

"Light intellectual replete with love,
 Love of true good replete with ecstasy,
 Ecstasy that transcendeth every sweetness."

    How satisfactory the reflection that the biographer was in every respect worthy of his subject, as he had been of the love and confidence called forth by his devotion.

    Let me in conclusion allude, not to the creator of Hetty Sorrel or Silas Marner, of Mr. Casaubon, Dorothea, and Celia, but to the deep thinker on grave problems.  Is not genius prescient always, the poet ever a seer, the "greatly dreaming" man or woman ever a prophet?

    During one of those long talks in the Isle of Wight, 1870-1871, the subject of Governments came up.

    "A time will of course come, dear Barbara," said George Eliot, in her slowly enunciated, thoughtful way, "when royalties will disappear" (I believe the word "caste" was used also, but am not sure).  "Kings and queens will be pensioned off, with cushions for their feet."

    Are we not much nearer this period than we think?  Are not all thrones tottering, Habsburgs and Hohenzollerns trembling before Time and his hour-glass, inherited privileges, unearned prerogatives doomed to speedy and eternal disappearance?  Let us hope so.

    I add a note from Mr. Cross:

July 6, 1908.

EAR MISS BETHAM-EDWARDS,—Many thanks for your note, which has been forwarded to me here.  At this time of the year I am always more in London than in Tunbridge Wells.  It is indeed long since I have had the pleasure of seeing you, and I had never heard that you had been laid up.  But I am very glad to hear that you are now fairly well again.  I should very much enjoy coming over one afternoon for a chat, and I will try if I can manage it; but I am going away shortly to Switzerland, and my time is very much occupied in the meanwhile.  However, if I can't get to Hastings before going abroad, I will certainly come over when I return, as I should like to see you again and exchange views with you.—Yours very sincerely,


    Here is the only letter I ever received from George Eliot, and a charming one it is; her exquisite handwriting in itself a lesson to us all, scribblers that we are!

EGENT'S PARK, January 5, 1872.

Y DEAR MISS EDWARDS,—We have been to Weybridge for a few days, and I did not succeed in finding a few minutes to thank you for your letter on Monday morning before we set out.

    Any sign of remembrance from you will always be welcome, even without such sweet and encouraging words as you wrote about what I have done.

    I am rather a wretch just now, apt to be more conscious of a disordered liver than of all the better things in the world.  I hope you are freer than you were from such bodily drawbacks.  Madame Belloc assured me that you were, and that you looked unusually strong.

    Mr. Lewes and I often revive the memory of you with pleasure (it is about the anniversary of our acquaintance with you); he unites his wishes with mine that the year may bring you new blessings.—

                                         Always yours sincerely,                    M. E. LEWES.

    Yet a postscript more about the foundress of Girton College and George Eliot's most intimate friend.

    Long ago Madame Bodichon's writings ought to have been collected, edited, and published by some grateful beneficiary of her foundation.  Not a bit of it!  As I have before said, and I reaffirm it now, the disloyalty, ingratitude, and jealousy of women towards each other is flagrant and will ever with me remain an unanswerable objection to women's political advancement.

    Here is a list of these terse, lucid, admirably-written expositions, in so far as I know not one having been reprinted.  Most likely Girtonians have never heard of them, and if so, would very likely shake their heads over "poor, second-rate stuff."  See "On the Girl of the Period," Mr. Frederic Harrison, Fortnightly Review, February 1918, true as the satire is biting.

(i) A brief Summary in plain language of the most important Laws of England concerning Women, together with a few observations thereon, by Barbara L. S. Bodichon.  Third edition with additions.  Trubner & Co. London, 1869.  Price 1s.

(ii) Reasons for and against the Enfranchisement of Women, by Mrs. Bodichon.  Spottiswoode & Co. London, 1869.

(iii) Illustrations of the Operation of our Laws as they affect the Property, Earnings, and Maintenance of Married Women.  Edinburgh, 1867.  Price 1d.
(No name given, but undoubtedly the work of Madame Bodichon.  A marginal note points to a knowledge of French law, unlikely to be possessed by an Englishwoman.)

    A generation earlier, wrote Herbert Spencer (Autobiography, p.149), a conspicuous part had been played in public life by Madame Bodichon's father [p.69], Mr. William Smith, for many years Member of Parliament for Norwich. His were times during which immense sums were lost over contested elections, and he is said to have spent three fortunes in this way: not for the gratification of personal ambition, but prompted by patriotic motives.  For, himself a Unitarian, he was the leading representative of the much-oppressed Dissenters, and it was he who, by untiring efforts, finally succeeded in obtaining the abolition of the Test and Corporation Acts.  Various of his descendants have been conspicuous for their public spirit, philanthropic feeling, and cultivated tastes.  From the eldest son, his father's successor in Parliament, descended Mr. Benjamin Leigh Smith, whose achievements as an Arctic explorer are well known, and Madame Bodichon, of note as an amateur artist and active in good works.  One of the daughters became Mrs. Nightingale of Lea Hurst, and from her, besides Lady Verney, came Miss Florence Nightingale.

    Among the younger sons was Mr. Octavius Smith, who might be instanced in proof of the truth—very general but not without exception—that originality is antagonistic to receptivity.  For having in early life been somewhat recalcitrant under the ordinary educational drill, he was in later life distinguished not only by independence of thought, but by marked inventiveness—a trait which stood him in great stead in the competition which, as the proprietor of the largest distillery in England, he carried on with certain Scotch rivals.  Energetic in a high degree, and having the courage and sanguineness which comes from continued success, he was full of enterprises, sundry of them for public benefit.  Partly because of the personal experiences he had in various directions of the obstacles which governmental interferences put in the way of improvement, and partly as a consequence of the fact that, being a man of vigour and resource, he was not prone to look for that aid from State agencies which is naturally invoked by incapables, he was averse to the meddling policy, much meddling in favour then, and still more in favour now.  One leading purpose of Social Statics being that of setting forth both the iniquity and the mischief of this policy, a lady who knew Mr. Octavius Smith's views planned an introduction; and this having been made, there was initiated an acquaintanceship which afterwards grew into something more.

    I have been very fortunate in my friendships, and not the least so in that with Mr. Octavius Smith.  In later years I owed to him the larger part of my chief pleasures in life.

    The Member for Norwich was an original, and evidently loved to contravene social mandates, taking his little daughters out for drives on Sunday in their ordinary frocks and pinafores, and otherwise throwing the gauntlet at public opinion—even objecting to the shibboleth, as he regarded it, of baptism.

    How proud would he have been had he lived to see the fruition of his efforts!  How he would have gloried in Barbara's name and fame!  It was not to be.  But there is fortunately a prescience in the parental mind.  Doubtless as the old man lay dying with the map of Algeria on his pillow, reminder of that beloved child long since lost to him in a double sense—by a French marriage and by a thousand miles of sea—he felt that she would do more and more credit to his name as the years wore on, and that without vain gloriousness he could here take credit to himself.

    Here are a few samples of Madame Bodichon's wit, humour, and repartee.

    On high thought and small snobberies:

"I lunched the other day at the Deanery (with Dean and Lady Augusta Stanley) to meet Mr. Gladstone.  There was served a cut gooseberry pie.  That pie doing double duty is a standing lesson to my housekeeper, and now she has to bring to table pies that have been begun."

    On other snobberies:

"My leg-of-mutton dinners, as I call them, I began in Algeria.  Whenever rich people dined with me, I gave them just anything.  When poorly paid French functionaries were invited, I always provided a sumptuous repast."

(In London the leg-of-mutton dinners were also the rule, and not, perhaps, always accepted with a good grace.  When the table was set the hostess would also go round with a bottle of water, and well dilute the half-filled decanters of sherry and claret.)

    Madame Bodichon had a rough-and-ready way of treating practical details.  When travelling with her in Spain, she found me puzzling over pesetas, doubloons, and the rest.

    "Why trouble your little head about Spanish money?" she said, and bringing out her purse laid on the table an English shilling, a two-shilling piece, a half-sovereign, and a sovereign.  "Now," she added, poising each coin and its Spanish equivalent by turns on her finger, "the weight of gold and silver will tell you nearly enough what the money represents."  A neat and expeditious way of doing international sums, it seemed to me.

    Other travelling maxims were equally original:

"Always travel with plenty of luggage.  You are then sure to meet with attention and get the best of everything."

    Another maxim, appropriate nowadays to France as well as to the Spain of forty years ago, was this:

"Stand on the platform by your handbags, and look helpless."

    In many a provincial station to this day no porters appear: the traveller on arriving has to address himself to the stationmaster for help with hand luggage.

    An advanced Liberal, a warm advocate of social reform, a practical-minded thinker, this noble Englishwoman was not always keen-sighted either in political matters or judging character.

    "Thank Heaven," she said exuberantly, when John Bright's motion according votes to the agricultural labourer was passed, "we who are living now at least shall see no more Tory régimes in England."

    The Act was followed by twenty years of Conservative government!

    Misreading of character, or rather enthusiasm carried to the point of infatuation, would lead to cruellest disillusion.  Upon one occasion she was thus nonplussed.

    After a prolonged eulogy of some new protégée, whose numberless gifts and charms were to raise her to social and intellectual eminence,—who was, indeed, to set the world on fire in many places,—I asked mildly:

"What has this paragon, this feminine Admirable Crichton, achieved thus to raise your expectations?"

    She thought for a moment or two, and at last got out:

"Well, she has given birth to a beautiful baby."

"My dear friend," I retorted, she will not attain immortality by becoming the mother of a baby, however beautiful."

    Like Herbert Spencer, whom she knew well, she loved to propound questions.

    Thus, especially to younger friends, she would put the ethical problem:

"Would you rather possess beauty, or be the cause of beauty in others?"

    She said that with herself the latter choice would kick the beam, meaning that the gift of physical attractions and charm, of æsthetic gifts, opportunities, and surroundings, would be outweighed by the power of putting all these in some measure within reach of others not thus endowed.

    On men's choice of wives:

"What men like in women is something that smiles.  Many prefer little rags of women."

    On her sex's lot:

"Child-bearing is the battle-field of women."

    On a sentimental lady saying, after revisiting the scenes of her early youth, that she felt as if by a longer stay she should recover her "childish innocence":

"I hope you have not lost it, have you?"

    On Victor Hugo's dramas:

"To my thinking they are as fine as Shakespeare's."

    On Zola and his school:

"Such stories are the reverse of realism.  They are non-realistic because they do not represent life as it is."

    On marriage (rather an unkind hit):

"Nothing delights me more than to hear of any man being refused by a woman.  Such experiences put men in their right place."

    On George Eliot:

"I suppose the time will come when all educated folks will write like George Eliot."

    Presumably her meaning was that slipshod futility would give way to well-thought-out utterances and expressions, also to strictly philosophic studies of life and human nature.

    To a friend who had given her a somewhat idealised photograph of herself—a quite anti-Aristotelian view, by the way, and suggestive of Cromwell:

"Take this back, and give me one with all your lines in it."

    To the students of her college of Girton: "You must make laws for yourselves."

    About herself and her unorthodoxy, alike voluntary and involuntary:

"I am a rich woman, and therefore when I die there will be no fuss about burying an unbaptized person in consecrated ground."

    On setting up in her own house a night-school for farming lads—the teacher being a Wesleyan, and the teaching non-sectarian:

"I need not fear clerical interference, because I am rich."

    Of novels:

"Folks must die in real life; why they should die in novels I never could see."

    Of friends:

"Some of our friends are roses, some are cabbages. Mrs.— is a first-rate cabbage."  To this a witty friend added: "And some are thorns!"

    In our Spanish travels I had excused extortion on the part of a guide because he was a very old man.  She retorted "Old age is no virtue."

    On French amiability:

"The reason of French good nature is that children in France are always allowed their own way, their tempers not being soured by perpetual crossing and nagging."

    On a prematurely agèd and beardless man:

"So-and-so looks like the mummy of a boy."

On a book of travel dealing with art galleries, written by one uninitiated in art:

"The point that struck me about the book was the skill with which the writer has concealed her ignorance."

    On a new novel by a friend:

"Your story has only one fault—there is no point in it."

    We can generally appraise folks—i.e. thinking folks—by their maxims.  A favourite citation with her was from the Koran: "If you have only enough money in your purse wherewith to buy flowers or bread, choose flowers and let the bread go."

    Yet, intense as was her love of beauty, she ever remained practical of the practical.  With her, in the words of the great Locke, "knowledge was seeing."  Holding a few wild flowers in her hand, she would make the uninitiated understand points of vegetable physiology not easily got at through books.

    And as there are limitations even in the highest developments of intellect and character, so was it here.  Herbert Spencer somewhere says that the proposition, two parallel lines can never meet, is unverifiable, because two parallel lines can never be followed infinitely.  With Madame Bodichon, knowledge was seeing, as far as it went; but there ever remained the beyond, the unverifiable.

    Had her brother, Benjamin Leigh Smith, as she fondly hoped, discovered the North Pole in 1870-71, her first query on his return would have been:

"Well, Ben, and what lies beyond?"

    Like the immortal Vathek of "England's richest son," she "wished to know everything; even sciences that did not exist."

    On the Grand Peut-être of Rabelais, the questions that have occupied philosophers and mystics since Plato's Phædo, she remained silent.  So beset was she, not by a sense of her rights, but of her duties, that, like Wilberforce, she "had no time to think about her soul."  Confident in the causes for which she had sacrificed so much, rationalist in the highest sense of the word, ardently believing that humanity was on the upward path, she accepted the inevitable with unswerving courage and calm.  Neither disillusion, broken health, pain, nor grief had power to shake that commanding spirit.  In a certain vital sense she was as unpractical as the most flighty-headed.  A woman of ardent faith in individuals and causes and of abnormal activities, Goethe's excellent maxim for intellectual workers, "unhasting, unresting," she could never take to heart, always trying to make twelve hours do the duty of twenty-four, always taxing her mental and physical powers to the straining point.

    I used to say to her: "My dear friend, excellently as you husband your material resources, in another and equally important sense you are ever on the verge of insolvency, without a pennyworth of reserve force to your credit."

    And, true enough, bankruptcy came upon her as a thief in the night.

    Barbara Bodichon was a spirited and convincing writer on the subjects she had at heart, but lacked one invaluable sense—she could not read character, could not understand that others were less generous than herself.  Thus we were chatting in her latter days, when she suddenly said:

    "Now, Milly" (my family pet name), "you must write my life."

    "Nothing easier, my dear friend," I replied, "nothing more to my mind; but remember one thing.  Rich women like yourself should make their wills long before, owing to mental and bodily failure, they fall into the clutches of toadies, sycophants, lick-spittlers, and other two-footed parasites whose names are legion in human form.  And in making your will trust only to the disinterested, the Man of Law."

    She did not take my advice, and what became of the many precious documents thus falling into parasitic clutches her oldest friends never learned.

    One or two would have straightway been returned to myself by any person possessed, say, of the faintest approach to honesty and self-respect.  The first was a most careful transcript I had made of Barbara's prolonged stay in the Slave States of America before the war—a most interesting piece of history.  Other papers of her own I had laboriously copied and revised.  Then there were very valuable letters of noteworthy people, English, French, and American; autographs that would fetch, and doubtless did fetch for the purloiner, large sums—all, all swooped upon as the carrion kite swoops upon her prey.

    As I have before insisted upon, women are very disloyal to each other.

    Will it be believed that in a long article on Women's Education in Chambers's invaluable Encyclopædia, and which is written by a woman, the name of Barbara Bodichon, the foundress of the first university for women in England, is not so much as mentioned?

    "Barbara Bodichon's portrait is in every European picture gallery," was wont to say an artist friend.  Titianesque, indeed, were her superb colouring, golden hair, blue eyes perhaps too prominent, perfectly shaped mouth, and features humanly, not classically, beautiful.  There was here no cold, stately classicism.  Life exuberant and exuberating to the very full emanated from her presence, an afflatus once calling forth Browning's ejaculation:

"Madame Bodichon, what a benediction to see you!"

    And a benediction to how many was her friendship!

    As I am now taking leave of George Eliot and her circle, I here interpolate an interesting passage from Herbert Spencer.

    In 1850 he writes (vol. i. p. 377):

    "Already I have mentioned the fact that in the spring of 1850 I met Mr. G. H. Lewes, and that in the course of a walk home from a soirée a conversation between us produced mutual interest.  When Social Statics came out he spoke highly of it, both privately and in public as literary editor of the Leader; and naturally, when we met again, a further step was taken towards intimacy.  As we had many tastes and opinions in common, the intimacy grew rapidly.

    "When the summer came there resulted country excursions together—the early ones being long Sunday rambles in Wimbledon Park, Richmond Park, etc., a companion on the first occasion being Mr. E. S. Pigott, now Licenser of Plays, and at that time interested in the Leader as one who subscribed part of the capital.  Later in the season our excursions took a wider range.  The longest of them was up the valley of the Thames—by railway to Slough and thence on foot to Cookham, where we slept; next day we went along on the Thames-bank by Marlow and on to Henley, where our day's walk ended; leaving there on the Monday we reached, by the help of a coach-drive, Pangbourne, and eventually Goring, where we stopped for the night; and next day we walked as far as Abingdon, whence we returned by railway.  The expedition was a memorable one for both of us; not only because of its enjoyments, which were great, but also because of its mental results.  It was to the impulse he received from the conversations during these four days that Lewes more particularly ascribed that awakened interest in scientific inquiries which is referred to in an extract from his diary published in George Eliot's Life.  And in me, observations on the forms of leaves set going a train of thought which ended in my writing an essay on 'The Laws of Organic Form,' an extended exposition of which occupies some space in the Principles of Biology.  Later in the autumn, Kent was the scene of another ramble, Gravesend, Maidstone, and Cobham being among the places on our route.  Lewes remarked at its close that the ramble had not been so rich in suggestions as the preceding one; but he had brought with him a volume by Milne-Edwards, and in it for the first time I met with the expression, 'the physiological division of labour.'  Though the conception was not new to me, as is shown towards the end of Social Statics, yet the mode of formulating it was; and the phrase thereafter played a part in my course of thought.

    "As a companion, Lewes was extremely attractive.  Interested in and well informed upon a variety of subjects, full of various anecdote, and an admirable mimic, it was impossible to be dull in his company.  Nowadays he is chiefly known by the contributions to philosophy in his Problems of Life and Mind; but his reputation was then mainly that of an extremely versatile man—a critic and writer on general literature, a novelist, a dramatist, an actor, an expositor of philosophy.  This last combination recalls a droll incident in his career.  He delivered a series of lectures on philosophy in the provinces, and, among other places, in Edinburgh.  There, after his last lecture had been given, the play-bills announced the Merchant of Venice, with Mr. Lewes in the part of Shylock.  The dramatic element in the performance was, I doubt not, good, and I dare say his dramatic faculty justified the thought which he at one time entertained of going upon the stage; but his figure was not sufficiently impressive for many parts, and his voice was not effective.

    "I knew nothing in those days of his domestic life, nor, indeed, of anything concerning him beyond that which our conversations disclosed.  But alike then and afterwards I was impressed by his forgiving temper and his generosity.  Whatever else may be thought, it is undeniable that he discharged the responsibilities which devolved upon him with great conscientiousness and at much cost in self-sacrifice, notwithstanding circumstances which many men would have made a plea for repudiating them."


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